Last year, I theorized that August 2013 was the best in-ring month in professional wrestling history. Using personal preference, my thoughts, feedback from readers and Dave Meltzer’s star ratings, I came to the conclusion that yes, last August was indeed the best month in wrestling history.
With another fantastic New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Climax in the books, another standout SummerSlam and a handful of additional stand-out matches from across the world, I have to ask: is August 2014 the greatest month in pro wrestling history?
We’ll start by looking at Meltzer’s star ratings for this year as compared with our previous winner. Last August, Meltzer rated 20 matches above 4* for the month of August:
|Ishii vs. Shibata||NJPW||5|
|Ishii vs. Tanahashi||NJPW||4.75|
|Nakamura vs. Ibushi||NJPW||4.75|
|Tanahashi vs. Okada||NJPW||4.5|
|Naito vs. Tanahashi||NJPW||4.5|
|Lesnar vs. Punk||WWE||4.5|
|Bryan vs. Cena||WWE||4.5|
|Ibushi vs. Naito||NJPW||4.25|
|Makabe vs. Okada||NJPW||4.25|
|Kojima vs. Tanahashi||NJPW||4|
|Goto vs. Okada||NJPW||4|
|Goto vs. Kojima||NJPW||4|
|Tanahashi vs. Davey Boy Smith||NJPW||4|
|Naito vs. Suzuki||NJPW||4|
|Devitt vs. Tanahashi||NJPW||4|
|Makabe vs. Ishii||NJPW||4|
|Suzuki vs. Ibushi||NJPW||4|
|Naito vs. Anderson||NJPW||4|
|Kojima vs. Okada||NJPW||4|
|Tanahashi vs. Shibata||NJPW||4|
Now if you’ve read my work from last year, you’ll know instead of strictly using Dave’s star ratings, I also utilized respected internet wrestling personality (that sounds so lame but it’s true) Alan Counihan’s thoughts. The biggest reason why was Meltzer didn’t rate each and every G1 match, he rated a number of the big matches on big nights but many of the in-between shows didn’t receive ratings from the Observer editor.
That’s not to say any of those matches would’ve been on his 4* radar, as I believe if they were, he would’ve sought them out and rated him, but for fairness I didn’t think it was right to merely go with his rankings.
So as a supplement, I used Alan’s ratings which gave 45 matches in the month of August 4* or better. Equipped with these ratings, historical Meltzer star ratings as well as reader feedback, the choice was clear, August 2013 was the best in-ring month in wrestling history.
Now, let’s get back to the present, does August 2014 have a legit claim? It seems ridiculous at first, but let’s dig a little deeper.
My initial thought would be no and for one huge reason: the new G1 Climax format. Specifically, the 2014 tournament not being held exclusively in August but instead starting in July. This would have major ramifications simply in the raw number of matches held in August. More than that, NJPW’s format switched ensured the G1 Climax wouldn’t be the crazy, insane, every night is an event of the year contender we had last year.
For many of us, we considered this the end of G1 as we know it, cementing August 2013 was the undisputed best month ever.
Turns out, G1 was just as good, if not better than last year’s event. While all the great matches weren’t contained within as small of a window as 2013, the tournament as a whole was just as great. The stories were better, the crowds were better, the matches were as a whole, better (though you can certainly argue the opposite) but were they good enough to unseat the current leader?
Let’s first look at Meltzer’s star ratings. As mentioned previously, Dave rated 20 matches 4* or above last August. This year, Dave rated 22 matches 4* or above:
|Styles vs. Suzuki||NJPW||4.75|
|Nakamura vs. Ishii||NJPW||4.75|
|Shibata vs. Honma||NJPW||4.75|
|Okada vs. Nakamura||NJPW||4.75|
|Tenzan vs. Goto||NJPW||4.5|
|Nagata vs. Shibata||NJPW||4.5|
|Tanahashi vs. Nakamura||NJPW||4.5|
|Okada vs. Goto||NJPW||4.5|
|Ishii vs. Nagata||NJPW||4.5|
|Okada vs. Suzuki||NJPW||4.5|
|Makabe vs. Naito||NJPW||4.25|
|Ishii vs. Davey Boy Smith||NJPW||4.25|
|Goto vs. Naito||NJPW||4.25|
|Tanahashi vs. Styles||NJPW||4.25|
|Lesnar vs. Cena||WWE||4.25|
|Rollins vs. Ambrose||WWE||4.25|
|Suzuki vs. Makabe||NJPW||4|
|Anderson vs. Naito||NJPW||4|
|Styles vs. Makabe||NJPW||4|
|Davey Boy vs. Tanahashi||NJPW||4|
|Shibata vs. Goto||NJPW||4|
|Reigns vs. Orton||WWE||4|
By raw number of highly rated matches, August 2014 unexpectedly pulls ahead of August 2013. It also does so on average as ‘13 averaged 4.25 among those 20 matches, whereas ‘14 came in just above at 4.34.
As mentioned, one of the huge issues with ‘13 was Dave did not have ratings for every single G1 match, this year he did, which could explain the slightly higher number.
Last year, Alan had 45 matches marked 4* of better, this year that number dropped all the way to 33.
So where does that leave us? Dave and Alan are split, so it’s time for me to add my thoughts.
I don’t think anything can touch August 2013, ever. There was such a confluence of talent in all the major promotion, all at the same time and as we’ve mentioned numerous times both on this website and in podcasts, 2013 was a special year for wrestling. It was the “Just Right”/Goldilocks situation that may never be replicated again.
In WWE alone, you had Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Alberto Del Rio and Christian as regular contributors — jump ahead a year and all four of them are either out-of-action, retired or no longer with the company. In August specifically, Daniel Bryan had a masterful main event performance with John Cena that still ranks as one of my favorite WWE matches of all time. Brock Lesnar and CM Punk had a fantastic SummerSlam match, as did Alberto Del Rio and Christian. While I loved this year’s SummerSlam and called it the best ever, it didn’t have three spectacular matches like last year’s did. It was a more complete, better show in my opinion but outside of Cena vs. Lesnar, nothing could touch last year’s.
You also had what was my favorite NXT match until these two met again at NXT ArRival: Sami Zayn vs. Antonio Cesaro in a spectacular 2 out of 3 falls match.
Yeah, that’s just WWE by the way. Japan should speak for itself. Again, while I believe this year’s G1 Climax was a better overall tournament due to a number of factors, last year’s may be untouched as far as all-time great matches. Alan gave three of last year’s matches 5* (Kota Ibushi vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tomohiro Ishii and Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tomohiro Ishii) while Dave rated one (Shibata vs. Ishii) at 5*.
It’s tough for me to argue any of those, I especially have a fondness for Ibushi vs. Nakamura and Shibata vs. Ishii, the former being my 8th best match of the year and the latter coming in at 10th. Below those two are a huge list of what I would consider 4* or above matches from the tournament.
Included within Japan was a great Okada vs. Ibushi match from DDT’s annual Peter Pan show. While this year’s Peter Pan was an entertaining show, none of the matches (at least in my opinion) were nearly as good as Okada vs. Ibushi from ‘13.
While I think Dragon Gate had some good shows this year, I thought their overall package from last year was far superior including a solid World-1 International vs. Mad Blankey elimination match (a follow-up to my #3 match of the year between the two teams at Kobe World).
August 2014 was great, I rated Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena 5* and think it was one of the best constructed wrestling matches I’ve ever seen, I loved the G1 and a few of the matches including Minoru Suzuki vs. AJ Styles will be at the top of my match of the year list, but sorry, it’s not August 2013. As mentioned, Dragon Gate and DDT both failed to live up to their 203 counterparts and while the American independent scene has had a resurgent year in 2014, there’s not nearly enough to unseat August 2013.
It was close, August 2014 definitely has a case as one of the top five in-ring months in wrestling history, but, like all others before it and probably all others after, August 2013 reigns supreme.