What was the best of the best in August? With NJPW’s G1 Climax in full swing, a couple big WWE shows and with myself attending some live wrestling events, what matches did I include for August’s Match of the Month? We’re kicking it old school (old as in 2017) with me giving you my picks (no polls or voting this month) for the best bouts of August. Turns out, this month ruled!
House cleaning first. You can follow me @Lawsoncomedy89, my Ace Jack Beckmann @packerman120. My wrestling podcast Talking Smark, my Naruto podcast Talking Naruto, and my website Lawsonleong.com for your comedy needs.
Let’s get to the matches!
10. WALTER vs Tomohiro Ishii, Rev Pro 8/17
My personal dream match came to life here in Rev Pro. Two men that epitomize their ideals in pro wrestling, who embody strength, grit, determination and struggle. It did not disappoint. The physicality was full force, the sense of struggle was real, and the story of Ishii trying to out tough the final boss of European wrestling was as compelling as I’d hoped. Ishii is the wall who will not break, and WALTER is the grizzly bear smashing onward, full-bore. The mountains that do not move of their respective worlds, it took a massive amount of offense to put down the other. Eventually, Ishii actually got WALTER up for the Brainbuster, cementing himself as the #1 contender.
9. Kenny Omega vs Kota Ibushi , NJPW 8/11
Is it possible to be disappointed in a match that is the ninth best match you saw in the best month of pro wrestling of a given year? The answer is yes, because I was a little bit. This match was excellent, but when we heard it was happening, I think a lot of people thought this would end up being #1 on this list. And it’s a stacked month, but even so, it’s a clear step below the best this month had to offer. Omega and Ibushi clearly saved some stuff for their next match, which is fine by me.
That said, this still ended up being excellent, better than any match many companies will have all year. The double stomp to the back of Omega’s head while he was perched on the top rope was something else. The drama in the final few minutes was palpable. This will go down as the setup match in the series, but it was still a great setup.
8. Ilja Dragunov & David Starr vs Ringkampf (Timothy Thatcher & WALTER), wXw 8/31
Right under the wire! This was a hot tag match from a very good wXw show. The last several sequences elevated this from just a match with big names to a truly memorable, exhilarating bout. Bodies were flying all over the place as these men exchanged big moves and strikes and absolutely dismantled each other. This was truly wild and the crowd rose to meet the match as it escalated. Every time you thought a sequence of moves was over, there’d be one more move than you’d expect. This was as good a tag match as you’ll see anywhere all year.
7. Kota Ibushi vs Tetsuya Naito, NJPW 8/4
These men killed each other. They always seem to have a knack to. There were several dangerous looking head drops. These two men bump around as well as any two men in wrestling, and they amped it up to 11 here. This contest was as good as their insane encounter last year and was a worthy main event considering the incredible spectacle it had to follow. But more on that later. This was one of the elite matches of a G1 with plenty of high end stuff to offer.
6. Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate) vs Undisputed Era (Roderick Strong & Kyle O’Reilly) WWE NXT 8/18
This was everything I want out of a modern day tag match. The pace was hot from start to finish. There was never a lull in the action. They never had to “slow it down”, and yet, I (and the white hot crowd) was able to follow every step of the match. Even though these teams got plenty of time, they never took their foot off the gas and ran through their match with a constant sense of urgency. It didn’t feel rushed; it felt like both teams badly wanted to win as fast as possible. There were callbacks to their previous matches and multiple false finishes as Kyle O’Reilly survived every move under the sun. Modern tag wrestling at its finest.
5. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kazuchika Okada, NJPW 8/10
Here we go again. The feud that brought me not only into NJPW but into Japanese wrestling overall: The Ace vs The Rainmaker. It was a perfect match; I don’t even know what else to say. I liked it more than their Dontaku match and the new atmosphere and setting for this encounter, the Budokan, made it feel even more special. I’m never disappointed to see these two wrestle to a draw. There was high drama, crisp action with intricate wrestling sequences, innovative counter wrestling…I don’t know how they do it. These two men were built to wrestle each other.
4. LAX (Santana & Ortiz) vs CCK (Jonathan Gresham & Chris Brookes), PROGRESS 8/7
This was the best live match I’ve ever seen and the first live match I went full snowflakes on. The cat and mouse game between Santana and Gresham in the early goings of the match made for a great juxtaposition to the frenetic pace down the stretch. Santana and Gresham were the standouts here, no question. Each played babyface in peril for their respective teams while Ortiz and Brookes played the aggressors. Gresham is without a doubt one of the more under-hyped wrestlers in the business. LAX went from being a fun pick up for TNA to being legit contenders for best team in the world in my eyes. The structure of this contest was brilliant as each team absolutely destroyed the other team’s lighter member with successive tag moves, but neither team would break. The combination moves and hot nearfalls in the back half of this had me leaping from my seat and questioning if LAX could actually win. This was a breakout performance from LAX if there ever was one.
3. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kota Ibushi, NJPW 8/12
This was a beautiful and triumphant display of passion, athleticism, heart, fortitude and the human spirit. This was everything a Japanese wrestling match should be. In most years, this would be the MOTY and we’d be grateful to even have it. In 2018, it’s my number 3 IN THE MONTH OF AUGUST. If you don’t think wrestling in 2018 is awesome, you’re not watching the right stuff. The swings of momentum in this match were exhilarating, the striking was out of this world, and both men had possibly their best performances of their careers here against each other. This was quite possibly the best tournament final of all time. Not just G1 final, but final of any pro wrestling tournament.
2. WALTER vs Jordan Devlin, OTT 8/18
This was a work of art. When it comes to the video package, the atmosphere, and the match itself…I would bet there’s been nothing in history that’s delivered all 3 to this degree. MAYBE Rock/Austin at Wrestlemania 17 or the Omega/Okada showdown this year at Dominion (pretty good company). But I would say the atmosphere of this contest was truly more unique than those. The only match I could compare it to in terms of atmosphere is the Kobashi/Kikuchi vs Furnace/Kroffat tag from 1992.This was
the perfect David vs Goliath match. In fact, it was even better than the biblical tale from which the storytelling trope is derived. Jordan Devlin was the greatest babyface hero you’ve ever seen here. WALTER was the most unstoppable final boss there’s ever been. The crowd was living and dying by every near fall Devlin got; every chop WALTER connected with. The crowd watched as their champion valiantly defended their title, but WALTER on this day was too much for any man, no matter how skilled. They were forced to watch their warrior king be dethroned right in front of them. Starr and Thatcher at ringside only added to the drama as they reacted to every step of the action. The finish was abrupt yet perfect, and left the crowd in stunned silence reminiscent of when the Undertaker’s streak ended. A thrilling encounter from start to finish.
This may have been the best match I’ve ever seen out of Europe.
1. Kenny Omega vs Tomohiro Ishii, NJPW 8/4
There’s been no other match this year that made me feel like I felt watching this. Watching the unbeaten champion, mouth bloody, struggling to put down the perennial, never been pushed in a G1, tough guy mid carder, Tomohiro Ishii…was something I’ll never forget. Omega was on top of the world. He had conquered the unbeatable Okada and seemingly inherited his powers. He was the top dog of pro wrestling. Ishii was what he always is: consistently there. A stone wall of guts, grit and fighting spirit. Omega had blown past people who could have beaten him in Naito & Sabre and the other champions in the block in Goto and Juice. Ishii should be no problem. But he was. Ishii was the biggest problem; just as in last year’s NJ Cup, Ishii was the wall Omega could not break. Omega put a hurting on Ishii that would’ve fallen any other man in the block. But Ishii’s granite chin persevered and he was able to stop the champion’s unbeaten streak.
There were a couple hiccups during the match but I could care less about that when a match affects me the way this one did. Besides the hot pace and intensity I weirdly don’t even remember a ton about it, when it comes to specific moves and sequences. It’s like Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
This match made me feel.
Fenix vs Brian Cage, 8/30
Fenix vs Sami Callihan, 8/16
KUSHIDA vs Shane Strickland, 8/18
Tomohiro Ishii vs Juice Robinson, 8/18
Scotty Davis vs Juice Robinson, 8/19
Sanada vs Tomohiro Ishii, 8/11
Kazuchika Okada vs Minoru Suzuki, 8/2
Kota Ibushi vs Hirooki Goto, 8/1
Matt Riddle vs Darby Allin, EVOLVE 8/11
Marko Stunt vs KTB, GCW 8/17
Mark Haskins vs Jay Lethal, ROH 8/19
Mark Haskins vs Hangman Page, ROH 8/18
Ricochet vs Adam Cole, 8/18
Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa, 8/18
Buddy Murphy vs Kalisto, 8/28
Lucha House Party vs Murphy/Nese, 8/21