My Favorite Matches: January 2018

I thought I’d start keeping a log of my favorite matches throughout the year.  However, because I don’t watch EVERYTHING and sometimes end up watching things late due to only getting them on blu-ray (looking at you PWG) or just not knowing about it until later there will probably be additions throughout the year.  There will also be spoilers since these are matches that have already happened.

New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 12 01/04/18 – Junior Heavyweight Title Match:  Marty Scurll © v Will Osprey v KUSHIDA v Hiromu Takahashi

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Screencap from NJPWWorld.com

This match was a great showcase for some of the best Junior Heavyweights in the world right now.  Each man had opportunities to shine.  It’s pretty clear to me that Hiromu is SUPER over at the moment since he got a huge pop when he went on offense.  KUSHIDA was pretty great too, but I’m almost at the point where I’d like to see him try out the Heavyweight division.  I thought the ending was perfect because Osprey always loses to Marty so it was nice for him to finally get a victory over him on such a large stage.

New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 12 01/04/18 – United States Heavyweight Title Match (No Disqualification): Kenny Omega © v Chris Jericho

I’ve already written at length about the build and the match and it was a great way to kick off 2018.  A much different match than what I’m used to seeing from Kenny and a very ruthless Jericho made for a very fun match.

NWA Empty Arena Match 01/15/18 – Tim Storm v Jocephus

I wasn’t sure what to make of this one when it was announced.  I’ve been reeled in by the NWA relaunch and how low key it has been so far.  This was a fun brawl in the empty Impact Zone and I think it helped re-establish a good gimmick match type the NWA can use going forward.  The bump that Storm takes at the end is very painful to watch.  I’m hoping that more talent gets brought on board since it’s largely just been Storm, Jocephus, and current champion Nick Aldis.

New Japan Pro Wrestling New Beginning in Sapporo Night 1 01/27/18 – Intercontinental Title Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi © v Minoru Suzuki

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Screencap from NJPWWorld.com

Tanahashi came into this match pretty banged up and accepting the challenge of a sadist like Suzuki was probably a bad idea.  The match told the story of a champion that would not quit even though he probably should have.  Suzuki worked on Tanahashi’s bandaged arm and battered knee to the point where the referee had to stop the match because Tanahashi couldn’t break free of the submission hold he was in.  Suzuki cut a chilling promo while the Forever Ace of New Japan was stretchered out of the ring made for a very powerful image.

NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia 01/27/18 – Extreme Rules: Adam Cole v Aleister Black

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Photo courtesy of WWE.com

In my opinion this match told two stories:  Adam Cole can take a beating and Aleister Black doesn’t need weapons since he is one.  This was a pretty good “hardcore” match and Cole and Black meshed together well.  It had some pretty decent spots that seemed to make the notoriously blood thirsty Philly crowd happy (see above photo).  I’m not going to lie, but I popped when Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish showed up and hit Black with the Total Elimination finisher that The Eliminators used to do.  A very small ECW chant may have broken out in my apartment.

NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia 01/27/18 – NXT Championship Title Match: Andrade Almas © v Johnny Gargano

This is another that I’ve written more about, but I loved this match.  It followed the Cole/Black match, which was going to be a tough act to follow, and surpassed it.  I think Gargano is the best babyface that the WWE has right now and I loved how Almas has been salvaged after a very rocky start in his NXT run.

WWE Monday Night Raw 01/30/18 – Sasha Banks v Asuka

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Photo courtesy of WWE.Com

This felt like it could be an opening chapter of their rivalry.  Sasha struggling to remain relevant even though Asuka won the first women’s Royal Rumble and the appearance of Ronda Rousey could make for a compelling story.  Sasha wrestled this match with a chip on her shoulder and wanted to prove more to herself that she is still relevant.  This was my favorite Asuka main roster match and I thought their chemistry was good.  If WWE decides to call an audible and put the Raw Women’s title on Sasha and we get a rematch at Wrestlemania I would definitely be on board.  You’d have the story of Sasha Banks, who has never successfully defended the Women’s title after winning it, against the unstoppable inevitability of Asuka.  I can’t think of a bigger stage to tell that story.

The Future Is Now (Bay-Bay)

Adam Cole recently made his debut at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III flanked by Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly.  He made his intentions clear by laying a beat down on newly crowned champion, Drew McIntyre.  I recently wrote about Cole’s connection with O’Reilly for the PWSA.  I wasn’t always a fan of Cole though.  His first run in Ring of Honor was kind of bland following that match with his ex-Future Shock partner.  Don’t get me wrong it was decent, but he was just a standard babyface.  They gave him the ROH TV title, but nothing about that reign really stood out.  It wasn’t until the summer of 2012 when he posted a promo about being in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s prestigious Battle of Los Angeles tournament that I started to change my mind.  I was moderately aware that Cole wrestled heel in Combat Zone Wrestling earlier in his career, but this was the first time I saw the smug, arrogant prick that he’s so good at portraying.

Cole had been wrestling in PWG since the end of 2011, but never as a singles competitor.  He was always in tag-team matches with his Future Shock partner, Kyle O’Reilly.  This tournament would be the first time he wrestled solo in front of a PWG crowd and they can be notoriously smarky.  His first round opponent, El Generico, wasn’t going to make things any easier for him either.

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BOLA Night One: Adam Cole Vs El Generico

The match is a great showcase of how different Cole is as a heel.  He’s not above breaking the rules and he’s incredibly cocky.  He jumps Generico while he’s being introduced and any time that he goes for his standard offense, Cole is able to shut him down.  This is how Cole ultimately wins the match. When Generico goes into his finishing sequence Cole is able catch him in a small package and kept him down for the three-count.

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BOLA Night Two: Adam Cole Vs Eddie Edwards

After what many would consider an upset against the generic luchador Cole advanced to Night 2 of the tournament to take on a former tag partner, Eddie Edwards.  This one starts off with Cole getting in some stretches before locking up with Eddie.  Cole even gets the crowd to clap “We Will Rock You” before changing it to “Suck My Dick”.  Cole absorbs a decent amount of punishment in the match before he’s able to hit one of his finishers, Florida Key (it’s a German-Suplex where the opponent’s arms are crossed).

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BOLA Night Two: Adam Cole Vs Sami Callihan

Cole’s next opponent would be someone he had a lengthy and bitter rivalry with in Combat Zone Wrestling, Sami Callihan.  The match starts with the two of them yelling insults at each other before Sami charges Cole and starts kicking the hell out of him in the corner.  Cole takes more punishment from Sami’s lightning quick, high impact offense.  Eventually Sami makes a mistake and Cole works on Sami’s leg for a bit before locking in a figure-four leglock.  It’s too much for Sami and he taps out.

 

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BOLA Night Two: Adam Cole Vs Michael Elgin

For Cole’s last opponent he would have to break the unbreakable by going head to head with Michael Elgin.  Cole doesn’t seem to be as cocky as the contest starts since he knows Elgin won’t be an easy win.  The match quickly makes its way outside and they fight through the crowd.  Both men use every move that brought them to the final, but Cole is able to get the win by hitting a Destroyer, a pair of superkicks, and Florida Key in rapid succession.

After being presented with the trophy Cole calls out PWG champion, Kevin Steen.  Cole eventually kicks Steen low and clocks him with the PWG belt.  He takes his trophy and Steen’s belt and leaves.  This would set up the main event of the las PWG show 2012, Mystery Vortex.

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Bye Steen Bye

Steen and Cole would collide in a Guerrilla Warfare match, which means that there are no rules.  Both men made creative use of the stipulation.  Once Cole hits the ring he tries to lay out Steen again with the championship belt.  Steen avoids it and mauls Cole at ringside and crotches him on all four corners of the ring.  He follows this up by powerbombing Cole on all four sides of the ring apron.  Amazingly Cole would battle back from this onslaught.  Trash cans, ladders, chairs, and thumbtacks would all be introduced.  Somehow Cole would withstand Steen’s onslaught and win the PWG title.

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Mystery Vortex: Adam Cole Vs Kevin Steen (I’m not sure how anyone survived this either)

With Cole capturing the PWG championship he would start a reign of terror that lasted over a year.  He turned away challenges from Sami Callihan, Drake Younger, Kevin Steen, Johnny Gargano, and many others.  He would eventually start a faction with The Young Bucks and, surprisingly, Kevin Steen.  They would refer to themselves as the Mount Rushmore of Wrestling.  Cole would eventually be dethroned by his shadow, Kyle O’Reilly.

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He’s Been Through A Lot

I personally love this run a lot.  The matches are generally really good and you want to see someone eventually dethrone Cole the longer the title reign lasted.  It’s not that it was boring; it’s just that he was a little shit.  The crowd was always excited to see him, but they also hated his actions which is a tough thing for modern day heels to do.  They’re either boring (see Corbin, Baron) or they pander to the crowd too much and they may as well be faces at that point (see Owens, Kevin).  This run went a long way in cementing his credibility with fans  It also helped start a heel run in Ring of Honor that led to him being the only person to win ROH’s World title on three occasions.  During this time he joined New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Bullet Club.  His NXT debut may not have been much of a surprise, but the way they did it was.  He’s immediately looked at as a major player and there isn’t that awkward face run when indie guys first show up.  He’s way better as a heel and it’ll be fun to see how a new audience reacts to him, bay-bay.