Monday, February 15, 2016

Top Five 1/8/16-1/14/16

1) Katsuyori Shibata: At Wrestle Kingdom 10, Katsuyori Shibata and Tomohiro Ishii had my early match of the year pick. Shibata won the NEVER Openweight Title from him, earning his first singles title. Shibata's first defense came this week at the New Beginning in Osaka against Ishii. They only went and nearly bested their performance from WK10. They just had another tremendous match. I honestly can't think of a combination that puts on better matches than these two. Okada and Tanahashi were the best but their WK10 match really hurt their overall performances for me. I've never given Shibata/Ishii less than ****1/4. Shibata retained the gold and is 2 for 2 in great singles matches in 2016. This could be another spectacular year for one of the best in the business. Watch this match, I only have it behind their first outing, Dragon Lee vs. Kamaitcahi and Styles vs. Nakamura for the year.

2) Kenny Omega: One of the biggest moments this year came at the New Year Dash show when Kenny Omega turned on AJ Styles, becoming the new leader of the Bullet Club and kicking Styles out. With a pinfall over Shinsuke Nakamura, Omega declared that he was now a heavyweight. Nakamura left the company before they could meet for the Intercontinental Title so instead, Omega faced Hiroshi Tanahashi for the vacant strap. They main evented the New Beginning in Niigata show and put on a great match. I'd say it was the third or fourth best that I watched in a pretty damn good week. Omega, with tons of help from the Bullet Club, defeated Tanahashi to become the IC Champion. If he can get some clean wins and a strong showing in the G1, it will go a long way to solidifying him as a serious heavyweight threat.

3) KUSHIDA: I said it a ton in my Top 100 Matches of 2015 list; KUSHIDA is, far and away, the MVP of the New Japan Jr. Heavyweight division. Kyle O'Reilly is the only one that I would even consider putting in his class. This week, KUSHIDA had his first defense of the gold that he won at Wrestle Kingdom. He faced BUSHI, of Los Ingobernables. BUSHI was injured for most of 2015, so he worked as a fresh face for this match. I was mostly confident that KUSHIDA would win but man, they had me buy into some near falls here. This wasn't high spot after high spot like most junior matches. This was a dramatic in a way that the division rarely sees. KUSHIDA withstood interference and two blasts of mist from BUSHI to retain. That KUSHIDA guy is really, really great.

4) Jimmy Susumu: Also something that I noted on my Top 100 Matches of 2015 list was that I would be following other promotions more closely. One of those companies was Dragon Gate. Their top champion since a great match last year, was Shingo Takagi. Earlier in the week, Jimmy Susumu was able to capture the Open the Dream Gate Championship. I haven't been able to see much of him in the past, but I'm looking forward to this match considering I'm a fan of Shingo's work. Winning this title is a pretty big deal, but since I don't know much about him, I can't write much.

5) Matt Sydal and Ricochet: At the New Beginning in Osaka event, the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles changed hands once again. That's not surprising. They change hands more often than any other belt I can think of. After the Young Bucks won them at Wrestle Kingdom 10, they dropped them to the new tandem of Matt Sydal and Ricochet. There was literally no point to the Bucks reign. Anyway, Sydal and Ricochet have shown some solid chemistry and their stereo shooting star press finish is a thing of beauty. They don't add much versatility to the division, but I hope they add some much needed stability to the straps.