We worked my boy Jack Beckmann to the bone and so we soldier on with Match of the Month, but without the voting aspect as my totalitarian regime is reinstated. Below are my picks for the best matches of September in what was arguably the slowest month of the year. We still ended up getting some great wrestling, though.
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Let’s dive into the matches!
10. Drew McIntyre & Dolph Ziggler vs The Shield, WWE 9/16
Even a broken clock has a great tag match every now and then. Some people overrated this match because of the hot, creative finish and some people underrated this match because they’re over WWE tag tropes. Mark me down right in between because both contingents are right. The pace and furious action at the finish here felt actually novel, maybe because the hot crowd was going with it and living and dying with every nearfall. It almost felt like an indy or NXT show in that way. But the first half of this absolutely falls into WWE tag trope land and drags for me, keeping this from being a truly top tier tag match in a year that’s full of them. Still, we haven’t had many WWE matches listed all year and with this being a slower month, #10 feels appropriate for this match.
9. WALTER vs Will Ospreay, Defiant 9/14
The first meeting of the two frontrunners for Wrestler of the Year (in my opinion) took place in a promotion that a lot of the time feels like an E-fed. That can be either a good or a bad thing, but in this case it gave us greatness, as the best high flyer met the best final boss in wrestling for a terrific David vs Goliath contest. Walter’s chops were out in full force as Ospreay had to throw his body at Walter repeatedly just to maintain any offensive momentum. There were high expectations for a match between these two and this didn’t disappoint.
8. Calamari Thatch Kings vs Aussie Open, PROGRESS 8/27
Although I think the formation of the Brookes/Thatcher team was nonsensical it did end up giving us one of the better tag matches of the year. The recently muscled up Kyle Fletcher and his hoss partner Davis took it to this makeshift team heavily but were unable to put them down for good. The exchanges between Thatcher and Davis were especially thrilling; I’ve said before that Davis is one of the best heavyweights in the world and he backed up my praise here in spades. The mirroring of Fletcher and Brookes was also a fun dynamic and Aussie Open adds another high mark to their impressive resume this year.
7. Will Ospreay vs Marty Scurll, NJPW 9/30
Ospreay missed Wembley to have this match and while that soured me a bit when it was announced at least I can say we got a Match of the Month out of it. These men don’t have bad matches with each other and their continued narrative of Ospreay being unable to beat Scurll reared its head again here. Ospreay always puts in exceptional performances and Scurll is at his best when facing him. This match started with a standing Spanish Fly and the pace didn’t let up. Ospreay may have supplanted the Bucks as the best all action, fast paced act in the business. The tiger suplex off the top was especially memorable and scary. Some things in life are certain: Death, taxes and Ospreay and Scurll having a great match.
6. Tyler Bate vs Mark Haskins, PROGRESS 8/27
At a certain point I get weary from yelling about how underrated Mark Haskins is. He’s undoubtedly the best unsigned talent in the world at the moment. He’s a more capable and complete wrestler than 80% of most major league rosters and this match showcased him deeply in his element. And as great as Haskins is, Bate is scarily even better. This was the battle to determine who would main event Wembley and both men fought like it was their shot at immortality. This felt like a war between the best Europe had to offer. While not even the main event of the show (Will Ospreay and Jimmy Havoc had their would-be Wembley match in the main), this match stole it and reminded everyone how ungodly talented Tyler Bate is and how consistently great Mark Haskins is.
5. Kenny Omega vs Tomohiro Ishii, NJPW 9/15
My least favorite match of their series is still good enough for #5 this month. At a certain point these guys were going to run out of ideas for each other and this in some ways felt like that match. It was still great, with hard hitting and fast paced action throughout, but both men used a lot of their tropes on each other and the freshness didn’t quite feel the same. We still got a double stomp from the ring to a table outside the guardrail, which was nuts. The back and forth was well timed and delivered, but unlike their previous matches, I didn’t feel as surprised. Still, Ishii’s guts and heart dragged me into the atmosphere and I felt reconnected after he hit a top rope Frankensteiner. From there I was quite engaged and the work was too good to ignore, even if the outcome was never in doubt.
4. Will Ospreay vs Jay Lethal, ROH 9/28
Ospreay worked this match very differently than he does most of his matches. The pace was more deliberate and he worked like a true heavyweight brawler, relying less on his speed and flips than he has in the past. This was one of his more unique performances as there was still a lot of great action, but the structure and tone of his performance felt completely fresh. Lethal played his part as the company Ace and defending champ and these two had an excellent world title match that felt main event worthy and helped to prop up the mediocre show it took place on.
3. Tomohiro Ishii & Will Ospreay vs Golden Lovers, NJPW 9/27
Tag team wrestling in 2018 has been pretty great. This was a super tag match if ever there was one, and yet another tease for that Ospreay/Ibushi match that we’ve all wanted for years. These are four of the best pro wrestling has to offer in 2018 and the hot action and teamwork throughout this match showed us exactly why.
2. Golden Lovers vs Tomohiro Ishii & Kazuchika Okada, NJPW 9/30
More great tag team wrestling! Honestly, a lot of this match is a blur to me. There was so much going on and every pairing of these men, much like the former match, was special and incredible in its own way. Because this match had no narrative behind it, as it was just a super tag match to close out a show, none of the spots really stand out to me; all I remember is how it made me feel: thoroughly entertained.
1. Kazuchika Okada vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, NJPW 9/23
Their third clash this year, this was my favorite of their 2018 bouts. This was the legendary feud that brought me into NJPW in 2013, and this was yet another chapter of their epic rivalry. This match progressed Tanahashi to making his full comeback as well as regressed Okada into being the broken former champion. Everything in this match clicked. Would you believe me if I told you this had a dramatic, back and forth closing stretch?
I loved this match, went full ***** on it. Somehow these men continue to tell different stories and weave different narratives and structures into every one of their contests. It’s truly remarkable. I don’t know if I will ever witness a feud that has the depth of greatness that this one has had. I think we will see them wrestle each other again, but we may see something even more novel before that…a team up?