This year, at Voices of Wrestling, we are giving the illustrious Match of the Month column a much needed overhaul. I will be fronting the project from now. It is going to give me the opportunity to sample pro wrestling from all over the world. I spent one year reviewing Smackdown for VOW and a lifetime as a stringent WWE fan. I have been watching NJPW since Wrestle Kingdom 7 (religiously since Wrestle Kingdom 9) and have dabbled in the American indies and Lucha for the last several years. Every month I will take your nominations from the Voices of Wrestling Forums and will give the matches that deserve their due a space in this monthly column.
This is also going to be the debut of my innovative (and soon-to-be prestigious ) Wrestler Burgernomics Rating System. Having been a hamburger connoisseur and pro wrestling fan for longer than I can remember it is only right that I marry my two favorite things on earth.
A good wrestling match is comparable to a good hamburger is three ways:
- The build up to the match is the aesthetics of the burger. Is the burger picture perfect? The bun and toppings are what you see before eating the burger, how badly do you want to bite into that burger based on the way it looks – much the same, how badly do you want to watch that wrestling match based on the build up.
- The meat is, obviously, the most important aspect of the hamburger, likewise the match is the most important part of the…well, match DUH!
- You can’t have a good burger without a good pile of french fries and an ice cold soda. Just like you can’t have a good match without a great crowd. How hot was the crowd? Were they invested in the match?
January was chock full of great wrestling from a multitude of promotions. NJPW, CMLL, AWE, EVOLVE, and RevPro all hosted multiple matches that received nominations. There was a diverse group of wrestlers sewn throughout the nominations which goes to show the amount of talent the world of pro wrestling possesses today. All-in-all, if January is any indication of what kind of year 2016 will be for wrestling, I am excited to be the frontman for the Match of the Month project, as it is now my astute responsibility to watch the best of the best. Let’s get to the matches that ranked in my top five!
January Match of the Month
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Kazuchika Okada © vs Hiroshi Tanahashi
New Japan Pro Wrestling
Bun/toppings – Match build up: This match has the best build of any match we will likely see all year. These two battled in eight previous matches that all ranged between four and five stars. Hiroshi Tanahashi was the ACE of New Japan. The absolute pinnacle wrestler that put New Japan on his back during their darkest days and carried them to new heights of popularity. Kazuchika Okada at the age of 28 entered this match with one goal in mind, extinguish all doubt of him becoming the new ACE of New Japan by finally putting away Tanahashi on the grandest stage.
The Meat – The match: When you bite into a good burger your expectations are that what you saw on your plate matches what meets your mouth. My expectations for this match were a 10 on a 1-10 scale and when the match was over it nailed that 10 to the wall in the form of the prestigious five star rating. Okada was humbled by Tanahashi 365 days before this match and when he was brought down to earth he become better because of it. Okada became a smarter wrestler, a more cerebral wrestler, and a more complete wrestler. It showed in this match when Okada took everything Tanahashi had to throw at him and showed he is now a seasoned veteran that is better than Tanahashi. Okada proved that he is capable of being the ACE of New Japan and he capitalized on that notion with the most vicious Rain Maker we have ever seen.
Fries/Soda – The crowd/atmosphere: There has been a lot of talk about the attendance number for Wrestle Kingdom 10. 25,000 paid vs. 35,000 attended. Was it a disastrous number? I don’t get caught up in attendance figures, but what I do like to see is a hot crowd. The crowd for this match were like french fries right out of the oil. I was standing on my feet and ready to jump through my TV to join them. If there were only 25,000 people that paid to see Wrestle Kingdom 10 then those were 25,000 people were totally invested fans that would’ve crawled on their hands and knees through the streets of Tokyo to see the final chapter of Okada vs. Tanahashi.
Overall Burger rating: This was as good as it gets. This was a Five Guys level burger with mayo, mustard, onions, tomato, lettuce, and bacon with a bag full of hot French fries and a Cherry/Vanilla Coca-Cola out of that whacky 100 flavor drink machine they have.
The Rest of the Top Five for January
CMLL World Lightweight Championship
Dragon Lee vs. Kamaitachi
New Japan Pro Wrestling
Bun/toppings – the build up: These two competed against each other nine times in 2015. Sometimes they were lightning matches and other times masks or belts were on the line. This feud quickly became the Tiger Mask vs. Dynamite Kid of the modern era. Two guys with distinct backgrounds that clicked and made magic. The 10th battle between these two happened after Kamaitachi made his surprise return to Japan on a previous night of the tour to attack and then challenge Dragon Lee.
The Meat – The Match: This match was tremendous whether you had watched their nine previous matches (eight of which made tape) or this was your first exposure to this feud. This was the kind of match that made you forget you owned a cell phone for 30 minutes because you were too invested in the match to be scrolling through Twitter during rest holds.
Fries/Soda – The crowd/atmosphere: This match took place on one of the annual joint NJPW/CMLL FantasticaMania cards. The crowd had a different vibe than your typical NJPW crowd, but it was hot for this match — which means that either the typical NJPW fans are well aware of what’s going on in CMLL and react differently during FantasticaMania or this show drew a totally different group of fans that are CMLL fans.
Overall burger rating: A couple of years ago my lovely wife took me to the hipster side of Indianapolis (“Mass Ave” for tourists out there) to a place called Bru Burger. Going in I wasn’t quite sure if I’d like it, because I didn’t know much about it. Afterwards it turned out I loved Bru Burger and wanted to go back to eat the rest of their menu, much like after Dragon Lee vs Kamaitachi 10 I had to go back and digest the rest of their matches.
#1 Contender Match
Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay
Revolution Pro Wrestling
Bun/toppings – the build up: Scurll and Ospreay are two of the pinnacles of the emerging European independent wrestling scene. Prior to this match they wrestled each other four times in four different promotions. This match was not only a #1 contender’s match for the RPW British Heavyweight Championship, but also for the prestigious right to be the first wrestler in the Euro-indie scene to have an action figure made of them self. A point that the commentators annoyingly kept driving home.
The Meat – The Match: This match was 30 minutes of the most innovative wrestling offense you’ll see today. If you’re a wrestling fan who holds the art of selling under a magnifying glass, then you’ll want to avoid this one. At the ripe age of 22, Will Ospreay has proven to be a commodity as a wrestling act and it’s due to the insanity he puts on display with his acrobatic high flying. (If this guy doesn’t win “Best Flyer” in the Wrestling Observer awards this year it’ll be a crime.) The match was built around Scurll’s Crossface Chickenwing submission hold. At times Scurll would slap it on hap hazardly due to Ospreay’s tenacity fighting out of it, and there was even a time Ospreay sloppily applied the move to Scurll. Scurll was finally able to put Ospreay away with the Crossface Chickenwing applied properly with both hands firmly interlocked.
Fries/Soda – the crowd/atmosphere: The unique thing about the Euro-indies is the crowd. It’s just as hot as the hottest of American indie crowds, but it has the signature flavor you’ll see at a European soccer match. American fans will recognize this during the post-WrestleMania Raw crowd or more recently the NXT UK Takeover PPV.
Overall Burger Rating: This match was like one of those whacky burgers you see on the menu at an AppleBee’s that comes with guacamole or salsa. They’ll call it a “Fiesta Burger”, a burger with pizzazz while throwing the old school burger rule book out the window. And somehow those odd flavors blend well together into a surprising package despite the old school sensibilities taking a backseat.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Shinsuke Nakamura © vs. AJ Styles
New Japan Pro Wrestling
Bun/toppings – the build up: The build up to this match was created more in the minds of the fans then with the promotion itself. AJ simply came out and challenged Nakamura, but the fans were hyped about these two great wrestlers clashing as opponents for the first time ever.
The Meat – The Match: This match was like a burger cooked at that perfect “medium.” There’s not one thing you could change about it. These two put together a perfect bell-to-bell wrestling match that would’ve got that five star rating if only it had more emotion injected into it. If only we knew going into it that this would be the last high profile match either man would have in NJPW.
Fries/Soda – the crowd/atmosphere: The crowd in the Tokyo Dome was invested in this match. While the crowd wasn’t as hot as the aforementioned Okada vs Tanahashi that main evented after this match, but they were pretty hot in their own right.
Overall Burger Rating: I give this match the Culver’s Deluxe Burger rating. I always tell my wife when we go to Culver’s that their meal is just that perfect “hit-the-spot” meal. Everything tastes fresh, tastes great, and is perfectly proportioned to where you don’t feel bogged down afterwards. Oh! And that signature Culver’s Root Beer is the fist bump of respect that AJ and Nakamura gave each other during the post-match that just brought it all together.
EVOLVE Tag Titles First Round Tournament Match
Chris Hero & Tommy End vs. Zack Sabre Jr. & Sami Callihan
Bun/toppings – the build up: The build up of this match was constructed on the foundation of it being a first round match in the tournament to determine the first ever EVOLVE tag team championship. This match was also the first encounter between Hero and ZSJ since EVOLVE 48 when Hero defeated ZSJ. Timothy Thatcher was originally supposed to be ZSJ’s partner until Thatcher had to remove himself from the tournament due to a staph infection – enter returning indie star Sami Callihan.
The Meat – The Match: This was a solidly worked match with plenty of exciting spots. Chris Hero is a top notch worker, but his matches are starting to wear thin on me. Hero’s Rolling Elbow and Cyclone Kill are vicious moves that should finish off opponents, but seemingly never put anyone away, certainly not on their first strike. Maybe I’m becoming something of a curmudgeon, but the indie style with a lack of respect to finishers in every match and never actually finishing anybody is something I’m rapidly enjoying less and less. With my absolute butchering of this match over, this was a well worked match that I wouldn’t dare think to question anyone who loved it. I can understand the praise it received, it just wasn’t great in MY book.
Fries/Soda – the crowd/atmosphere: This match had plenty of exciting spots that played to the crowd revving them up to a high degree.
Overall Burger Rating: This match gets the McDonald’s Big Mac rating. Don’t take that the wrong way. The Big Mac is in the top echelon of my favorite burgers. Like this match the Big Mac doesn’t wow me, but it’s dependable and I know what I’m getting every time. It’s worth the money and goes down easy.
MVP of January: Kamaitachi – The first MOTM MVP award of 2016 goes to Kamaitachi! Kamaitachi not only had the great match with Dragon Lee, but he was involved in a hot angle that lead to that match, an angle in which took place within the voting period. Kamaitachi also was in a highly touted Lucha de Apuestas vs Maximo Sexy on the first day of the year that lead to Kamaitachi being forced to shave his head.
- January 1: Kamaitachi vs. Maximo Sexy / CMLL
- January 4 Tomohiro Ishii vs. Katsuyori Shibata / NJPW
- January 10: Johnny Gargano vs. Jimmy Rave / AWE
- January 13: Doi Darts / Dragon Gate
- January 16: AJ Styles vs. Zack Sabre Jr. / Revolution Pro Wrestling