March turned out to have the biggest volume of matches in 2016, doubling the amount of nominations we received in the forgettable month of February. This month also had the largest diversity of match with 10 promotions having representation and zero wrestlers appearing more than once on the list.
When we close the book on 2016 and look back, I can only see the top two matches from March receiving recognition in MOTY polls. The rest of the nominations deserve some looks, but they won’t compel you to add them to your already extensive MOTY catalog.
NJPW – New Japan Cup Night 2
New Japan Cup
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tetsuya Naito
Won H2H 85.6%
The Build: There wasn’t a build to this match between these two per se, it was more the journey that each man was embarking upon throughout the New Japan Cup. These previously had a short feud over the NEVER Openweight Championship back in 2014 that included two MOTYC’s. This was the first match between these two since Naito debuted the Los Ingobernables persona at the G1 Climax 26 last summer.
The Match: These two have a strange chemistry with each other for being two guys wrestling different styles. That chemistry was even heightened here with the meshing of Ishii as the ultimate tough guy and Naito’s radically anarchist attitude. Despite being the most interesting character in wrestling today, there is a knock on Naito for not being able to eclipse that four star match range since becoming ungovernable. It safe to say that after developing this persona for six months he is evolving into having better matches.
The finish was fantastic with Ishii attempting to put Naito away with the Brainbuster, Naito shaking loose, and then Ishii nails Naito with an Enzuigiri. Ishii then goes for another Brainbuster only for Naito to counter into the Destino for the win.
The Voting: This match was firmly cemented at the No. 1 match throughout the entire voting period. This wasn’t my number one match of the month despite these being two of my favorite active wrestlers in very good match.
The rest of the top 5
CMLL – Super Viernes
World Super Lightweight Championship
Dragon Lee vs. Kamataichi
Won H2H 79.7%
The Build: This feud is transcending the world of Lucha Libre. There is a palpable buzz on Wrestling Twitter every time these two have a match, and for good reason. When this pairing finished in 2nd place in the January MOTM polls I referred to this feud as the modern day Tiger Mask vs. Dynamite Kid, and that is still the best way I could describe them. Two wrestlers of different ethnicity and different backgrounds that have an unmatched chemistry.
The Match: This is now the eleventh 1-on-1 match that these two have had in the last 16 months. It showed in this match as both have learned spot for spot everything their opponent has in their arsenal. This has created an exciting slew of reversals that can only be fully appreciated if you’ve watched their entire catalog of great matches.
Every time you watch a Dragon Lee vs Kamataichi match it becomes a slam dunk competition of Lucha Libre to where each guy is trying to outdo the other. And boy, do they make use of the ramp connected to the ring in Arena México, running down it and diving over the ropes for a Hurricanrana or Dropkick. Go out of your way to watch the YouTube playlist thecubsfan has put together of this feud, you’ll thank me later.
The Voting: This was the MOTM for March, in my opinion. The polls didn’t shake out that way, and I can’t blame people for enjoying Ishii vs. Naito more, which finished almost 6 percent higher in H2H voting than this match.
Johnny Gargano vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Won H2H 69.4%
The Build: Sabre Jr. is tired of hearing he’s the “Best Technical Wrestler” in the world, or that he “puts on great matches”, because he wants to win championships, dammit! (Dolph Ziggler take note, your career depends on it) Sabre Jr. is on a journey to prove that he is the “Best in the World”, and he is doing that by taking on the best wrestler of every type. Sabre Jr. wants to beat the best high flyer, best technician, his biggest rival, and in this match it was the WWN Live Legend, Gargano. Gargano has been in the WWN Live system longer than most anyone else and has survived through EVOLVE changing their core style a number of times. This is a great storyline that places Sabre Jr. in the upper mid-card without having to surround a championship around it. A diverse way to book a card of matches. Gabe Sapolsky, everybody!
The Match: Sabre Jr. is the ultimate thinking man’s wrestler. Sabre Jr. will meticulously and methodically break down your body (most of the time your arms), to easily wrap up his victory with a neat bow in the form of some unique submission hold. And Gargano is a great chameleon wrestler that can instantly mold his style to match his opponent. You’ll be hard pressed to find a wrestler that has a bad match with Gargano. This match showed all of that with Sabre Jr. forcing Gargano to tap out, thus strengthening the idea that he is a submission master.
The Voting: This match was planted firmly in the No. 3 spot for the duration of the voting period. It tied for most times it was passed on in the voting meaning not many people watched this match. I would say it would’ve benefited from more people seeing it, but there’s no way I put this match ahead of the No. 1 or No. 2 match from this month.
NJPW – Road to Invasion Attack – Night 1
NEVER Openweight Championship
Katsuyori Shibata © vs. Satoshi Kojima
Won H2H 64.0%
The Build: The NEVER title is being taken in a different ride than when Tomohiro Ishii was dominating the “division.” Shibata won the title at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in January and since has been challenged by the grizzled veterans of New Japan. Kojima along with Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Yuji Nagata have taken upon themselves to challenge the young punk, Shibata, and teach him a lesson or two. This has created an interesting dynamic surrounding the NEVER Openweight title and also serves as a way to build Shibata up as an eventual main eventer.
The Match: Kojima entered the ring, with Tenzan and Nagata ring side, to not only teach Shibata a lesson, but also to prove that he is still every bit as good as he was when he was winning the Triple Crown & IWGP Championships. Shibata as the no-nonsense perennial badass of New Japan came into this match like he does all of his matches, this was just another fight in the park for him.
There’s a great point in the match where Kojima is delivering elbow strikes to Shibata and actually backing away as Shibata no sells each one. It was as if Kojima was realizing with each strike that he can’t beat this man and maybe his time has passed.
The finish is another great piece of storytelling as Shibata slaps on the Sleeper Hold to prepare Kojima for the Penalty Kick that has finished every opponent that has been hit with it. Kojima refuses to go down to the Sleeper Hold as a last act of defiance in the face of his disappearing youth. Shibata lets go of the Sleeper Hold and connects with an Enzuigiri and Leg Lariat, then goes back to the Sleeper Hold to which Kojima can no longer fight. Shibata finishes off the first veteran of this journey with the violent Penalty Kick.
The Voting: This was an interesting match in the H2H rankings. After two days of voting it was 12th in the polls and then climbed up to 4th over the next two days. This was a very good match for people who are invested in Shibata as a wrestler, but to casual New Japan fans it might have just been a good match. In a stronger month I wouldn’t expect this match to make the top 5.
wXw – 16 Carat Gold Night 1
16 Carat Gold First Round Match
Will Ospreay vs. Shane Strickland
Won H2H 60.3%
The Build: This was a first time ever match between Ospreay and Strickland. Ospreay has been killing it all over Europe in 2016 and the 16 Carat Gold tournament in Germany wasn’t going to be any different. Strickland has quietly growing a following over his time in CZW and Lucha Underground (I won’t ruin Christmas by telling you which mask he is under).
The Match: This match was just absolutely fantastic. Will Ospreay is putting together an incredible catalog of matches across a multitude of different promotions and he is just getting started.
Early on there is a dance battle between the two to the tune of Uptown Funk (a generic hip hop song was dubbed over the VOD, but you can find the original number on YouTube), which is just incredibly fun and didn’t take away from the match at all. It created a fun, dance party atmosphere for the crowd that added variety to the show overall.
After the dancing was over these two got straight to more serious matters, like making it into the second round of the tournament. Ospreay and Strickland hit each other with strikes that got progressively stiffer as the match wore on while also proceeding to battle in a chess match of high flying maneuvers that will make your brain melt. Ospreay couldn’t put Strickland away with the Rainmaker into the Spanish Fly, so he topped it off with a 630 Senton for the win.
The Voting: This match finished a full 1 percent ahead of Neville vs. Finn Bálor in H2H voting to sneak it’s way into the top 5. March wasn’t the strongest month for definitive matches, but it was certainly a diverse list that made for a toss up in the five spot.
MVP for March: Tetsuya Naito
This was the largest voting pool of matches that we have had in 2016 so far, but the first time we haven’t had a single wrestler appear in multiple matches. This made it difficult to pick a definitive MVP, but I’m giving it to Naito whose match was voted as the definitive number one and also cut the most compelling promos all month. Follow Chris Charlton (@reasonjp) on Twitter for the translations. Naito has been talking people into the building leading up to his match with Kazuchika Okada at Invasion Attack. Naito’s attitude of “of course I won the New Japan Cup”, mixed with his cynical approach to NJPW politics has made for some fantastic reads.
|NXT: Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura [2016-04-01],361,22,22,405,94.3||,1|
|EVOLVE: Will Ospreay vs. Zack Sabre Jr. [2016-04-01],246,43,58,346,85.2||,2|
|NJPW: Will Ospreay vs. KUSHIDA [2016-04-10],291,51,37,379,85.2||,3|
|NJPW: Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito [2016-04-10],256,93,43,392,73.3||,4|
|EVOLVE: Will Ospreay vs. Ricochet [2016-04-02],218,92,58,367,70.4||,5|
|NXT: Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe [2016-04-01],210,129,33,372,61.9||,6|
|WWNLive: Will Ospreay, Marty Scurll, & Tommy End vs. Kota Ibushi, TJ Perkins, & Johnny Gargano [2016-04-02],171,107,61,339,61.4||,7|
|WrestleCon: Will Ospreay vs. Marty Scurll [2016-04-02],161,105,73,339,60.5||,8|
|NJPW: Kenny Omega vs. Michael Elgin [2016-04-27],176,127,46,349,58.0||,9|
|WWE: Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch [2016-04-03],178,156,39,373,53.2||,10|
|NXT: Bayley vs. Asuka [2016-04-01],161,159,47,367,50.3||,11|
|NXT: American Alpha vs. The Revival [2016-04-01],154,173,47,373,47.1||,12|
|SGPW: Aja Kong vs. Meiko Satomura [2016-04-08],98,154,87,339,38.9||,13|
|ROH: Adam Cole vs. Kyle O'Reilly [2016-04-02],82,129,85,296,38.9||,14|
|WWE: Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Zack Ryder vs. The Miz vs. Sin Cara vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Stardust [2016-04-03],108,170,59,337,38.8||,15|
|ROH: Kyle O'Reilly vs. Matt Sydal [2016-04-01],87,155,94,336,36.0||,16|
|BJW: Hideyoshi Kamitani vs. Shuji Ishikawa [2016-04-10],77,150,101,328,33.8||,17|
|ROH: Jay Lethal vs. Lio Rush [2016-04-01],80,164,90,333,32.7||,18|
|AJPW: Daisuke Sekimoto vs. Zeus [2016-04-24],73,153,93,318,32.2||,19|
|LLE: Caristico vs. Volador Jr. [2016-04-06],54,155,90,299,25.8||,20|
|NJPW: KUSHIDA & Katsuyori Shibata vs. Jushin Thunder Liger & Yuji Nagata [2016-04-23],73,221,63,357,24.8||,21|
|JWP: Mayumi Ozaki vs. Arisa Nakajima [2016-04-03],28,165,109,302,14.5||,22|
|CWF Mid-Atlantic: Trevor Lee vs. Jesse Adler [2016-04-13],27,178,92,296,13.0||,23|
|SHIMMER: LuFisto vs. Nicole Savoy [2016-04-02],25,190,83,297,11.4||,24|
|CZW: David Starr vs. Jonathon Gresham [2016-04-09],17,168,123,308,9.2||,25|