We’re winding down on the year here, but we saw the major events deliver some great ones this month. The Rev Pro shows each produced a classic and WXW had an excellent show as well. Let’s dive in!
Aleister Black vs Velveteen Dream, WWE 11/18
(My Rating: ****, Meltzer Rating: ****)
If Velveteen Dream becomes any kind of star, we’re all going to look back at this match with even more fondness than we do now. I had faith that Dream could produce a high quality match given the time and opponent, based solely on his athletic ability and how much he seemed to already “get it”, but it was up to him to deliver… and deliver he did.
We all knew already how great Aleister Black is, and he might be one of the few indie stars I can say has been improved by NXT molding his character. The clashing of personas is what gave this match such heat. The character work, storytelling and coming out party for Dream are what made this match stand out more than just the work alone. In the end the right man won, but as Nigel McGuinness correctly asserted on commentary, “both men won.”
War Games: Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly vs Alexander Wolfe, Killian Dane, Eric Young, vs Akam, Rezar & Roderick Strong,
(My Rating: ****1/4, Meltzer Rating: ****1/2)
Arguments about whether or not this was War Games or improved War Games don’t interest me, I didn’t live through the old War Games and have no attachment to it. I wanted to watch a great match and that’s what I got. My podcast/life partner and fellow comic Benel Germosen (@Benel_Germosen on twitter) called this, “Escalation: The Match”. That’s truly what this was. This was a spotfest that continued to escalate to that insane superplex off the cage. The high spots were innumerable.
Adam Cole and Killian Dane were the stars, but a standout for me was Alexander Wolfe, that guy’s great. He’s the Luke Harper of Sanity. While not everything went smoothly there was so much action in the back half of the match that that they accomplished the chaotic and destructive feeling they were going for here.
Andrade Cien Almas vs Drew McIntyre, WWE 11/18
(My Rating: ****1/4, Meltzer Rating: ****)
I loved this match, it felt like a classic world title match. I’m hoping that Drew McIntyre is the man to save us from the endless Reigns push. Drew’s got it all now. He’s the right size, he can talk and he can work. And his finisher is one of my favorites in the company; the Claymore kick looks absolutely devastating.
Almas was undoubtedly the star here, though. He was on another level than usual. Zelina Vega was also great, everything clicked beautifully…until Drew got hurt at the finish. The finish itself was so surprising I didn’t notice Drew’s injury at first. Almas then had the best title celebration ever. This was my favorite NXT title match since Kevin Owens vs Finn Balor is Japan. I wish Drew speedy recovery #SaveUsDrew.
Travis Banks vs Keith Lee, PROGRESS
(My Rating: ****1/4)
The sequel to the indie dream match was nigh as good as the first. Banks lost to Lee the first time on his road to Ally Pally, so this booking just made sense. The excellent David vs. Goliath story they told, of the valiant newly crowned champion Travis Banks overcoming the charismatic behemoth Keith Lee, is an example of how indie wrestling is not all flipz, movez and high spots; there are strong narratives as well. This was the more serious, determined Keith Lee. Travis Banks had his breakout year this year, and it’s a pleasure to watch him in these main events. These are two of the best workers in the world today, and they delivered a classic main event title contest.
AJ Styles vs Brock Lesnar, WWE 11/19
(My Rating: ****1/4, Meltzer Rating: ****1/4)
A bigger stage version of the above-mentioned David/Goliath match; this match had people once again calling AJ Styles, “Best in the World”. It almost felt like the final propulsion for him to enter the WON hall of fame. As someone who’s been advocating for Styles since 2005, I’ll share my victory lap with him. While Styles was incredible here once again, I do feel like many people don’t give brock the credit he deserves. And I get it, he’s a part timer, modern fans want to see the champion all the time, he only does suplexes and F5’s etc. I get the complaints. But no one makes a match feel special like Brock Lesnar. He is undoubtedly one of the elite big men in the history of pro wrestling. Lesnar’s early match beatdown is as believable a beatdown as you’ll see all year. And it made Styles’ comeback that much better. Styles’ comeback is probably the best WWE comeback of the year; I remember every part of it. They didn’t even really do that much, but everything MATTERED.
Kenny Omega vs Beretta, NJPW 11/5
(My Rating: ****1/2, VOW Rating: ****1/2, Meltzer Rating: ****1/2)
I always knew Trent could do it. Beretta is a guy I liked even during his WWE days, when they did nothing with him. It’s fitting that his best in ring year to date would feature his best singles match to date towards the back end of it. And it had to be, because this was the biggest match of his career. Beretta put on a show the best way he has been all year, selling his ass off.
Perception in wrestling is a funny thing. Omega and Beretta are pretty much the same size. But this match put over how Omega is a class above, while also establishing Beretta as a true threat down the line. It was similar to Okada vs EVIL in that way. Beretta worked from underneath the whole time. Omega dominated and destroyed Beretta throughout, but Beretta showed great heart and resolve. It really shows how great Omega is as well. He’s able to take 75% of a match and still make his opponent look good. Omega is truly worthy of all the praise heaped at him. In a lot of ways, this was my favorite match this month because a guy I’ve been following for years got his first big shot. And it only adds to the incredible year of Kenny Omega.
David Starr vs Walter, WXW 10/28
(My Rating: ****1/2, VOW Rating: ****3/4)
I got into WXW just in time. Walter is a low key wrestler of the year, and as I’ve said numerous times, he’s our Chris Hero now. David Starr has improved leaps and bounds in the last couple of years; I really enjoy his work in every promotion. This was the best match I ever saw him have. The third singles match between the two in WXW, David Starr just can’t seem to beat Walter. Walter in WXW is like the Undertaker, so not many can. But Starr needs to get to that next level. Starr’s fiery comebacks and Walter’s domineering offense made for another excellent spectacle. Walter has become one of my absolute favorite wrestlers to watch. Everything he does is simple, but it all works so well. He’s as good a strong style wrestler as anyone in Japan. The David Starr/Walter feud is quickly becoming can’t miss.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kota Ibushi, NJPW 11/5
(My Rating: ****1/2, VOW Rating: ****1/2, Meltzer Rating: ****3/4)
The third match between these two, making up another classic trilogy. These two empties their respective offensive tanks against each other. Ibushi’s inside out German superplex is one of my favorite spots in wrestling. The striking exchanges down the line were intense, and Ibushi went beast mode as I expected he would. Ibushi’s free spirit won’t allow him to win, but he’s as elite a wrestler as any. And Tanahashi, even at his age, capped off another incredible year with this performance.
Will Ospreay vs Zack Sabre Jr., Rev Pro 11/10
(My Rating: ****3/4, Meltzer Rating: ****3/4)
This match deserved way more hype than I saw it getting. Ospreay was absolutely incredible in this match, in every facet of the game. This match had some of the most layered and involved wrestling sequences I’ve seen all year. They couldn’t have told a clearer, “flyer vs technician” story. These men were smooth as silk together, clearly knowing each other very well. Ospreay knew just when to fire up and make comebacks, and Sabre was as good as I’ve seen him all year. Sabre working from the top as a heel is arguably when he’s at his best. These two both went out there and grabbed this match by the throat. Two of the best performances I’ve seen all year, in one match.
Tomohiro Ishii vs Keith Lee, Rev Pro 11/9
(My Rating: ****3/4, VOW Rating: *****)
This is why Tomohiro Ishii is my favorite wrestler. He always delivers, with any opponent. Keith Lee is awesome as well, and Ishii knew exactly the kind of story to tell and match to have. Ishii made Lee even better than usual here; he brought it out of him. And the match was so simple. Ishii tried to chop down the giant. That was it. But the journey was so incredibly thrilling and satisfying. Both men’s selling was on point and their fire up spots were perfectly timed and executed. Ishii gets so much out of everything he does. You can’t talk about the best wrestlers in the world without talking about this man. I truly think he’s one of the best workers of all time.
- 11/19 The Shield vs The New Day
- 11/19 The Bar vs The Usos
- 11/22 Pete Dunne vs Johnny Gargano
- 11/5 Roppongi 3K vs Super 69
- 11/5 Will Ospreay vs Marty Scurll
- 11/18 Juice Robinson/Sami Callihan vs EVIL/Sanada
- 11/24 Best Friends vs War Machine
- 11/30 Best Friends vs Michael Elgin/Jeff Cobb
- 10/28 Ilja Dragunov vs Mark Haskins
- 10/28 Travis Banks vs John Klinger
- 11/12 Keith Lee vs Flash Morgan Webster
- 11/19 Kenoh vs Go Shiozaki