Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Top Five 1/4/16-1/10/16

1) Katsuyori Shibata: It was a busy week for pro wrestling, but my list is going to be heavily dominated by New Japan Pro Wrestling. At Wrestle Kingdom 10 this past Monday, the show was going along and honestly, it was disappointing. Nothing was bad, but nothing was really great either. Then the NEVER Title match came on. Kastuyori Shibata and Tomohiro Ishii have had some classics in the past (including a five star performance in the G1 Climax 23), but this was right up there. This was a MANLY fight. Shibata has been one of the best that New Japan has to offer for the past few years, but has never managed any singles gold. That changed here as he bested Ishii on the big stage to win the NEVER Openweight Title. This was a great moment to close out a match that I honestly think will still be in my top three when 2016 ends. His win wasn't the biggest of the week, but it was one of them and it came in the best match in my opinion. He followed it up by participating in a really fun eight man tag at New Year Dash, teaming with his Meiyu Tag partner Hirooki Goto and the best tag team in the world, reDRagon. It's kind of a dream team for me. Shibata wasn't able to win it for his guys, but Goto did, making Shibata 2-0 in a really great week for pro wrestling.

2) Shinsuke Nakamura: Here we have a name that has been absolutely making waves starting off in 2016. Shinsuke Nakamura is part of a group of New Japan stars that have been in the news this week because they are reportedly coming to the WWE. The main reason he makes the list though is for his match with AJ Styles at Wrestle Kingdom. They were the two top guys in NJPW that were kept separate. We saw tons of incarnations of Tanahashi against Nakamura, Okada and AJ; AJ against Okada and Tanahashi and so on. This felt like a massive deal and like a dream match. They went out and managed to live up to the hype, producing a fantastic match that was my second favorite of the show. It was two of the five best wrestlers on the planet having a classic. Nakamura retained his Intercontinental Title and giving AJ a fist bump as a show of respect afterwards. Both men seem to be on their way to Stamford but this was a fitting final Wrestle Kingdom for Nakamura.

3) Kazuchika Okada: Honestly, Kazuchika Okada should have topped the list this week. He retained the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 10. There was no bigger win. However, the match quality of the guys ahead of him this week is the big difference. I didn't like Tanahashi/Okada nearly as much as the other two. It's been a polarizing match. I've seen some people go the full five for it and I've seen it rated as low as two stars. I'm somewhere in between. It wasn't a bad match to me, but it got overshadowed on the card and was the worst outing between the two. Okada was able to not only retain the belt, but he overcame his biggest obstacle by finally beating Tanahashi on the biggest stage and cementing himself as the ace of New Japan.

            4) Ethan Carter III: This past week, TNA made it's debut on yet another network, this time for POP Television. Their World Title Series has been pretty poorly planned out and the wrestlers have had a fair amount of time away from the ring, meaning they were pretty rusty coming into this show. However, they finally finished the tournament with the Semi-Finals and Finals. Ethan Carter III, the man who lost the title at Bound for Glory to Matt Hardy, defeated Lashley in the Semis. That set up a one on one Finals meeting with Hardy. The match itself was the worst of anybody on the list this week, but EC3 was able to beat Hardy and win the title once again.

5) AJ Styles: Yes, I know that he lost at Wrestle Kingdom and yes I know that was a pretty big deal. Still, I can't not give him praise this week. AJ Styles not only competed in a match of the year candidate at Wrestle Kingdom, but he also won a pretty good tag team match the next night. Then, he got attacked by Kenny Omega and the Bullet Club, signaling his departure from the company. In one fell swoop, Styles not only helped make Omega into a major player, but he got a standing ovation from the Japanese faithful. For a guy who showed up in NJPW to little fanfare and didn't get great reactions until a few months in, he had them giving him a standing ovation as he left the company. Now, Styles is rumored to be on his way to the WWE, where his name continues to just be all over the news.