Hey, folks. Happy 2018 and with the New Year comes a new format for Match of the Month! Jack Beckmann (@packerman120 on Twitter) has organized a poll in our forums and so from now on the Match of the Month can not only be nominated by you, but voted on as well! I’ll share my own personal Top 10 at the end of the article for those interested. Hooray for democracy as Match of the Month continues to evolve! Let’s take a look at the votes.
10. Darby Allin vs Zack Sabre Jr., EVOLVE 1/13
4 Points, 2 votes
I’m a little surprised this cracked the top 10 but I’m glad it did, this match was great. It told such a perfect story of Darby trying to beat Zack at his own game, and being completely and utterly unable to do so. I loved how much wrestling Darby did here. He didn’t try to jump off things and kill himself; he was trying to outpace Sabre hold for hold on the mat. And at times his speed would give him an opening, but ultimately, Sabre would reverse everything Darby tried, into a hold that was twice as painful as what Darby was attempting. Sabre was at his best here, as he usually is when he can bully grapple his opponents. This match was perfect for what it was trying to convey: Darby’s all heart, but not ready for the champ.
9. Hiromu Takahashi vs Will Ospreay vs KUSHIDA vs Marty Scurll, NJPW 1/4
4 Points, 3 votes
I’m happy this made the top 10. Fatal fourways are difficult matches to construct and execute. This may have been the best fourway of all time. Considering the talent in this that’s not at all surprising. I’m glad this match got as much time as it did, everybody got their chance to shine. This match had the most movez of any match on the list. And it was exactly what I wanted it to be. They even managed to convince me at several points that each of the four men were about to win. This was a whole lot of fun.
8. Roppongi 3K vs The Young Bucks, NJPW 1/28
5 Points, 2 votes, 1 1st Place vote
I’m happy to see this match getting some love. The Young Bucks continue to show why they’re way more versatile than many previously thought, having an excellent southern style tag match here against my tag team of the year so far, RP 3K. I love Sho and Yo; I’m into everything they do. They are shiny new toys and I never want to put them away. This match was their most complete performance to date. The continued story of Matt selling his back was executed perfectly. And it played into the finish, which I greatly enjoyed.
7. Zeus vs Joe Doering, AJPW 1/2
6 Points, 4 votes, 1 1st Place vote
Hell yeah, some AJPW representation! Joe Doering beat cancer and is now the AJPW Triple Crown champion, AND just had the sixth best match of January 2018. What a comeback story. What a man.
This match was great. Zeus is one of the most improved wrestlers of the last couple of years. These men threw bombs at each other in a battle of manly wills. Zeus has some really cool inventive power spots, and though Doering doesn’t have a ton to his moveset, his offense looks great. Joe Doering is so reminiscent of Stan Hansen and Steve Williams. Keep laying them in, boys.
6. Timothy Thatcher vs WALTER, PROGRESS 1/28
10 Points, 4 votes, 2 1st Place votes
Big lads wrestling coming in hot! By far the highest voted indie match and very well deserved. This will go down as one of PROGRESS’ greatest matches of all time, and probably one of the best indie matches of the year. I nominated this match for February as that was when this show was released, and it will be interesting to see how many votes it gets for that month; I’m leaving it on the table.
As for the match itself, it is unequivocally the best Thatcher match I’ve ever seen. WALTER was next level awesome. If you’ve followed this column at all, you know how much I love this man. He is arguably the best in the world. These men killed each other. As a non-Thatcher fan, I felt so much sympathy for him during this contest. Walter chopped him to death. No one gets more out of their chops than Walter. The man only has a few moves, but it’s all he needs. He is my favorite person to watch right now. I liked this more than anything on Wrestle Kingdom. Seriously go out of your way to watch this.
5. Hirooki Goto vs Minoru Suzuki, NJPW 1/4
13 Points, 8 votes, 2 1st Place votes
I must say, this surprises me a little. This new format’s interesting because I actually didn’t think this match was THAT good, so while in the past MOTM was just me gushing about everything perhaps now I can be more critical.
I’ll start positive. The opening of each man striking the other off balance was cool. Suzuki was compelling working from the top. They were able to get the crowd to rally behind Goto. The closing moments were great. The post-match was terrific.
Here were my issues. After Suzuki choked Goto out, why did the match continue? I get they were trying to have Goto overcome, but that made no sense to me. And after that happened, the match stops completely cold, and just had to justify its own continuation. Then Goto has to keep fighting as a man who was already actually beaten. From there all the way up until the avalanche neckbreaker, I wasn’t really much into anything Goto did. So overall I thought the match was good, but not as good as the voters seemed to think.
4. Chris Jericho vs Kenny Omega, NJPW 1/4
19 Points, 10 votes, 1 1st Place vote
I suspected this may finish higher but this is certainly a respectable place to end up. I feel like this match was as good as it possibly could have been. This was arguably the greatest Jericho match ever, and considering his age, you could argue it was his best performance. One thing age hadn’t slowed down was Jericho’s character work, which was magnificent the entire match. From putting the young lion in the Liontamer, to taking an angry selfie, Jericho remained entertaining throughout.
Kenny Omega went out there and had a different style of match. He brawled. I really appreciate how Omega challenged himself here. On his biggest stage of the year he went out there and tried something new. And it really did work out. Omega’s V trigger knees were sick as usual, there were some great bumps and this match got the most out of a chair being wedged in a corner than any match I’ve ever seen. We even got us some color!
I really loved the finishing sequence that all revolved around the use of a chair, and the One Winged Angel on top of it sealed the deal.
3. Minoru Suzuki vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, NJPW 1/27
23 Points, 13 votes, 4 1st Place votes
This was just shy of reaching the #2 match on this list, which says a lot. Sometimes pro wrestling doesn’t have a happy ending, filled with air guitar encores and a man telling you that he loves you. No, sometimes pro wrestling is a sociopath destroying your hero in front of you. That’s what this was. And it was high art.
Minoru Suzuki tore our Japanese hero apart, limb by limb, until there was nothing left. It was a calculated, systemic destruction. There was tons of drama in these submission spots, because Tanahashi in his older age was no longer the unbeatable Superman. He was banged up. Suzuki was the perfect man to implement a game plan to destroy him. The fact that he hit Tanahashi with the Gotch piledriver, and didn’t cover him, opting instead to wrench at Tana’s legs even more, really got across everything you needed to know here. Suzuki may have lost his hair, but he’s still the sadistic badass we’ve always known. And he’s here to kill our heroes.
2. Tetsuya Naito vs Kazuchika Okada, NJPW 1/4
27 Points, 13 votes, 5 1st Place votes
Though not as critically acclaimed as recent Tokyo Dome main events, no surprise at this ranking as high as it does. While I would probably call this the weakest Dome main event since Wrestle Kingdom 8’s bout between Tanahashi and Nakamura (ironically this very title match was the semi-main of that show), this was still an excellent match.
This is a match that gets better on repeated viewings. Initially, with how over Naito was and how big this match was, I was left a bit deflated by the ending. Not even just the outcome, but by how Okada didn’t seem to need anything new to defeat Naito. I found everything else up to that point to mostly click.
On a repeated viewing it struck me just how great Naito was in this match. Okada was good, as usual, but Naito was the heart and soul of the match. Tetsuya Naito was, undoubtedly, THE most over person I’d ever seen make a Tokyo Dome entrance since I’ve been following NJPW. The story of him getting lost in the moment and going for the Stardust press, the joy and effervescence on his face as he amped up the crowd…the little boy in Naito was showing.
This was a classic NJPW main event style match done by two of the best on the biggest stage.
1. Johnny Gargano vs Andrade Cien Almas, NXT 1/27
53 Points, 21 votes, 13 1st Place votes
This match lapped the field this month, and can anyone be surprised? Discussions about this match range from “greatest NXT match ever” to “greatest WWE match ever” and that’s a hell of a lot of history for Johnny Wrestling and the former La Sombra to make.
Gargano was a next level babyface in this match. His selling, both physical and facial, was elite. I very much appreciate good pure babyfaces, because they’re hard to come by these days. As I’m writing this Sami Zayn is a heel and there’re rumors that Bayley may turn as well. In a world of dying babyfaces Gargano stands atop the heap. You couldn’t take your eyes off him in this match; you couldn’t help but root for him as hard as you could. You couple that with his unique, smooth offense and transitions and you have one of the best babyface performances in WWE history.
Almas, not to be forgotten, was also terrific here. These two had shown great chemistry, as I feel it was Almas’ initial match with Gargano which had set him on this string of excellent performances he’s been having.
Selina Vega was great. Candice Lerae was great. Everything here clicked. If WWE has a match this year that beats this I’ll be surprised.
My Top Ten
(Thatcher vs Walter is on my February list)
- Kaito Kiyomiya vs Kenoh, NOAH 1/6
- Zeus vs Joe Doering, AJPW 1/2
- Yusaku Obata vs Minoru Tanaka, Zero1 1/1
- Minoru Suzuki vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, NJPW 1/27
- Will Ospreay vs Travis Banks, PROGRESS 12/30
- Tetsuya Naito vs Kazuchika Okada, NJPW 1/4
- Connor Mills vs Maverick Mayhew, PROGRESS 1/10
- Walter vs Zack Sabre Jr., EVOLVE 1/14
- Chris Jericho vs Kenny Omega, NJPW 1/4
- Johnny Gargano vs Andrade Cien Almas, NXT 1/27
- Daichi Hashimoto vs. Ryuichi Kawakami, BJW 1/2
- Mike Bailey vs. Yukio Sakaguchi, DDT 1/11
- Arisa Nakajima vs. Misaki Ohata, SEAdLINNNG 1/14
- Shuji Ishikawa vs. Mike Bailey, DDT 1/5
- Candice LeRae vs. Joey Ryan, Bar Wrestling 1/18
- Mephisto vs. Titan, CMLL 1/23
- Masashi Takeda vs. Takumi Tsukamoto, BJW 1/2
- Tetsuya Naito vs. Taichi, Taka/Taichi Produce 1/23
- Yumi Ohka vs. Misaki Ohata, WAVE 1/20
- Daniel Makabe vs. B-Boy, 3-2-1 Battle! 1/26
- Dragon Lee, Hirai Kawato, Star Jr. & Satoshi Kojima vs. BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, Tetsuya Naito & Rush, NJPW 1/19
- Reika Saiki vs. Miyu Yamashita, Tokyo Joshi Pro ¼
- Roppongi 3K vs. The Young Bucks, NJPW 1/4
- Dinosaur Takuma, Kazumi Kikuta, Kotaro Yoshino & MAO vs. Togo, Ito, Takagi & TAKA, Kaentai Dojo 12/31