With all the hullabaloo of WrestleMania weekend, it took me a bit longer to finish this article than usual. These matches may feel like they took place forever ago, but March was another great month of pro wrestling in the books, featuring two fantastic tournaments.
If you want to participate in the voting, visit the Match of the Month forums and be heard! Voting was tabulated by @packerman120; you can follow me at @Lawsoncomedy89. I also have a wrestling podcast called “Talking Smark” on iTunes and a comedy special on my website Lawsonleong.com.
Now, let’s get to the matches!
10. Kazusada Higuchi & Daisuke Sekimoto vs. HARASHIMA & Naomichi Marufuji, DDT 3/25 (3 points, 1 vote)
Here at the Match of the Month column every vote truly does count! With the one first place vote this tag match gets into the top 10.
9. Absolute Andy vs David Starr, wXw 3/11 (3 points, 2 votes)
Of all the weekend ending main events I’ve seen recently in which the man we all thought would win kicks out of multiple F5’s before being pinned clean in the middle of the ring…this was the good one. We all thought The Jewish Cannon was going to come out of this on top, as he’s such a beloved babyface in wXw and practically a native at this point. Every kick out here was actually dramatic, because the fans are invested in David Starr, what a concept! No one ever thought an over the hill “good hand” like Andy would win. And then he did.
…And I’m still not sure why.
Despite that, this was a worthy tournament final and excellent way to conclude the incredible wXw 16 Carat weekend. A real nice touch at the end was on the final cover Starr tried to reach for the ropes, but they were just out of his grasp. It made for a really good visual to close the match on.
8. Jay Lethal vs Dalton Castle, ROH 3/9 (4 points, 2 votes)
I loved this match!
I’m really enjoying Castle’s title run. The main knock on him was he didn’t have a catalog of great matches, only some very good ones. This was his first match I would call truly excellent. Lethal deserves a ton of credit as well; the man always delivers on these big ROH shows. He’s one of the best performers they’ve had around the last few years, and he continues to produce despite not being the central focus of the company. Lethal was the perfect man for Castle to defeat in his first big defense, as not only did these two have a tremendous match, it pushed Castle’s limits on what he could do in the ring, and set the tone for his main event match structure. Watching someone new on top grow into their role is exciting, and castle definitely proved here that he can hang.
7. Zack Sabre Jr. vs SANADA, NJPW 3/18 (4 points, 2 votes)
SANADA was the first man in the tournament to attempt to grapple with Sabre, although it did not work out for him in the end. Sabre had all sorts of cool counters and reversals here, especially for the Skull End.
6. Kazuchika Okada vs Will Ospreay, NJPW 3/6 (5 points, 3 total votes)
This match was great but was held back by not being as competitive as it could have been. This was the story of a man standing up to his mentor, the most unbeatable pro wrestler on planet earth, in a weight class above him, to test his mettle. While I appreciate the story, the fact that Okada was so dominant meant that there was a lack of true drama.
There were still many cool moments, though. Ospreay reversed the Rainmaker with the debut of his float over powerbomb. Ospreay thinking of doing the Rainmaker pose before saying, “I’m my own fuckin’ man.” Ospreay mirrored Okada’s wrist clutch spot. My favorite was Okada dropkicking Ospreay out of midair on an attempted OsCutter. These are two of the best wrestlers of their respective generations and when they do have that epic clash down the line, we will look back on this match fondly as a chapter of their story.
5. Ilja Dragunov vs Walter vs David Starr vs Travis Banks, wXw 3/24 (6 points, 3 votes)
Hell yeah, this was my favorite match this month. I already got to write about it in my review for this show. This goes down for me as one of the greatest four-ways of all time, and I say that as someone who is not a huge fan of multi man matches; at least not for titles. It’s definitely the most physical fourway I’ve ever seen. The physicality here was off the charts.
Ilja won. Everyone died.
4. Kota Ibushi vs Zack Sabre Jr., NJPW 3/15(9 points, 7 total votes)
This match was awesome. This was my favorite Sabre match from the tournament. The sequences of offense each man put forth here connected to each other’s beautifully. Styles really do make match ups and it was incredibly evident here. After Sabre won this match I was convinced he would win the whole thing. Ibushi getting trapped and leading to the ref stoppage was a good finish to protect him as the only man not to actually tap out to Sabre in his path of conquest. An excellent contest.
3. Ilja Dragunov vs Walter vs John Klinger, wXw 3/10 (23 points, 11 total votes)
Ilja Dragunov is my favorite wrestler. The surprise of him returning to wXw legitimately brightened up my mood when I found out about it. I had worried I might never see this man wrestle again. But here he made his glorious return, which you have to watch for the crowd noise alone. It’s incredible.
They didn’t need to have this match. After that entrance Ilja could’ve just thrown Walter from the ring, hit Klinger with a Torpedo Moscow and pinned him in eight seconds. It would’ve accomplished the same effect. I wouldn’t have minded. But they did have a match, and it was a great one. I said it earlier about the four-way, but this is one of the better triple threats you’ll ever see, and again, I’m not a huge fan of multi man title matches.
Ilja was obviously the star of the match, all of the hot interactions revolved around him. There was a sequence where Walter and Klinger went at it by themselves and it was clearly the low period of the match to the audience. Ilja had to win here. Walter is my current wrestler of the year and his interactions with Ilja were the highlight, once again. I could watch those men fight forever. Ilja also had a huge score to settle with Klinger, the man he had been chasing for a year. Ilja won this match definitively, which was important considering the triple threat rules. He hit his move on each man, and added a nice touch of a Burning Hammer to Klinger, before finally pinning Klinger for the title.
One of my favorite title wins ever. Unbesiegbar.
2. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Zack Sabre Jr., NJPW 3/21 (32 points, 17 total votes)
Sabre used his new submission finisher to dethrone the Ace, “Orienteering with Napalm Death”, which is a reference to one of my favorite comedians, Stewart Lee.
Taka Michinoku was right the whole time: “just tap out.”
1. The Golden Lovers vs The Young Bucks, NJPW 3/25 (70 points, 25 total votes)
This was an epic emotional journey that many have already written a ton about. It will go down as one of the most memorable tag matches of this decade, I’m sure. As storytelling matches go, there are few that come to mind that can match it.
There were some hiccups in the action here and there, including some uncharacteristic botches from Ibushi. When the dust settled none of that mattered or will be remembered, though. In the continuously compelling Elite storyline this will always be looked back on as one of its high points. Matt Jackson putting himself into the One Winged Angel before telling Kenny to finish him is reminiscent of HBK/Flair, “I’m Sorry I Love You” for how much it compelled me emotionally. After these two teams threw everything they had at each other, Nick Jackson, sitting over his fallen brother saying, “What has this come to?” was like a scene out of a war film. His final futile flurry against the Lovers, filled with anger and sadness, led to the Lovers begrudgingly putting him down before mercifully finishing Matt off with the Golden Trigger.
This was a work of high art. It was physical poetry. On this night, these men accomplished what few wrestlers will ever get the chance to. So why no 5 stars from me? Well, besides the botches, which I usually don’t care much about (Punk vs Cena @ Money in the Bank is one of my favorite matches ever), I felt like the story held the first half of the match back a bit. Frankly, it’s not fun for me to watch a wrestler hold himself back from hurting his friends for as long as Kenny did. Now obviously, without that, we don’t get the amazing final 20 minutes that we got. And for the sake of character consistency, Kenny Omega did everything right. But it broke up the action for me along the first half. I’d be curious if others felt similarly.
All that said; I loved the heights this match reached. I’ll remember this match forever.
My Top 10
10. Timothy Thatcher vs Lucky Kid
9. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Juice Robinson
8. Ilja Dragunov vs Matt Riddle
7. Jay Lethal vs Dalton Castle
6. Kota Ibushi vs Zack Sabre Jr
5. Michael Elgin vs Tomohiro Ishii
4. Ilja Dragunov vs Walter vs John Klinger
3. Yoshi-Hashi vs Kota Ibushi
2. The Golden Lovers vs The Young Bucks
1. Ilja Dragunov vs Walter vs David Starr vs Travis Banks
Best of The Rest
- 3/6 Minoru Suzuki vs. Togi Makabe
- 3/25 Okada & Ishii vs. Suzuki & Sabre Jr.
- 3/25 Hangman Page vs. Jay White
- 3/31 Ren Narita vs. Tetsuhiro Yagi
- 3/9 Bobby Gunns & Bad Bones vs. WALTER & Mike Bailey
- 3/10 Bobby Gunns vs. Mike Bailey
- 3/6 Mustafa Ali vs. Buddy Murphy
- 3/20 Drew Gulak vs. Mustafa Ali
- 3/14 AJA Kong Rumble
- 3/25 Konosuke Takeshita vs. Shuji Ishikawa
- Masaaki Mochizuki vs. Ben-K, Dragon Gate 3/4
- LAX vs. The Lucha Brothers, Bar Wrestling 3/8
- Adam Page & The Bucks vs. SoCal Uncensored, ROH 3/9
- Daisuke Sekimoto vs. Hideki Suzuki, BJW 3/11
- Chuck Mambo vs. Sid Scala, PROGRESS 3/14
- El Barbario Cavernario vs. El Soberano Jr., CMLL 3/27