Sunday, January 14, 2018

Kevin's Top 130 Matches of 2017: #120-111

120. Juice Robinson vs. Kenny Omega – NJPW G1 Climax 8/5/17

In his G1 Climax debut, Juice Robinson beat the legendary Satoshi Kojima. Unfortunately for him, five straight losses followed. That left the 1-5 Juice to take on the 5-1 Kenny Omega, fresh off becoming the first ever IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion. Juice fought hard in all his losses, but they took their toll and he entered most matches, including this one, limping. In the early stages, they took this outside and Kenny busted out the ring post figure four, which will always make me mark out. The leg work continued and Juice sold like a champ. Juice’s comeback had a lot of fire. He excels at that. They both had counters ready, with Kenny blocking Pulp Friction and Juice blocking the V-Trigger. They also countered each other’s finishers, before Omega connected on a reverse rana and V-Trigger. However, Juice turned the One Winged Angel into a cradle to score the upset and biggest win of his career at 15:36. An awesome moment to cap a great match. I love that it didn’t follow the typical Omega big match formula, he didn’t have to throw a million V-Triggers and they kept it short. The post-match reactions added a lot, with Juice shocked and amazed, while Omega was frustrated at possibly blowing the tournament. [****]

119. WWE Championship: AJ Styles [c] vs. Jinder Mahal – WWE Clash of Champions 12/17/17

I never got behind the Jinder Mahal push. When it started, I felt he wasn’t ready and I still hold that position today. His feuds with Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura were pure shit (though I attribute part of it to Shinsuke and Randy putting in lackluster efforts). However, it was the AJ Styles feud that helped turn some stuff around. Their match in the UK where AJ captured the title was very good and they bested it here. Styles understood the best way to work as Jinder’s opponent. He allowed Jinder to use his power and control a good portion of the match. AJ bumped and sold the ribs very well, making Jinder’s heat segment better than most others would have. When the Singh brothers got involved, it made sense and wasn’t overdone. It also didn’t lead right to the finish, which happened too often in prior Jinder matches. Jinder teased using the Styles Clash, but AJ countered into the Calf Crusher to retain after 22:57. The best match of Jinder’s career and it proved that he could deliver rather well in the right setting. [****]

118. Gauntlet of the Gods Elimination Match: Cage vs. Jeremiah Crane vs. Mil Muertes – Ultima Lucha Tres 10/18/17

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t care for Sami Callihan. But, Jeremiah Crane is a different story. He’s the definition of a guy who works better in the Temple setting. This match stemmed from Cage winning the Gauntlet of the Gods. With a weapon that wields such power, Catrina wanted it, which got Mil Muertes involved. Crane got involved because he’s been in love with Catrina since they were kids. There’s more to it than that, but I’m not gonna spend a ton of time on the angle. The match itself was the wild one I hoped for. Crane was overmatched and got busted open within minutes, so he brought weapons into play. He still took the first big bump, getting chokeslammed through a table. Mil and Cage hossed it out, though Mil busted out a tilt-a-whirl headscissors that had me jumping out of my seat. The best part was Cage superplexing Crane to the outside through two tables that Mil was laid out on. Pure insanity. Cage eliminated Crane with Weapon X shortly after, leaving the hosses to do battle. Unfortunately, their exchange lacked and didn’t last long, with Mil hitting a Flatliner on a chair to win in 14:04. Despite the finish not being great, this was a rad, violent brawl. [****]

117. PWG Tag Team Championship: The Young Bucks (c) vs. Fenix & Penta El Zero M vs. Matt Sydal & Ricochet – PWG Nice Boys (Don’t Play Rock n’ Roll) 3/18/17

For a while, the PWG tag division has been the Young Bucks and a revolving door of indy teams. Ricochet and Matt Sydal and The Lucha Brothers were more consistent fixtures than others, making for an intriguing match. I enjoy Pentagon, Fenix and Ricochet, but not the other three. This was insane and there’s no other way to describe it. Early on, the wild pace led to some timing issues on a few spots. That, and a comedy spot of “CERO MIEDO vs. SUCK IT” that went on WAY too long, were a few negatives in this one. However, this was the perfect match for the audience it catered to. A wild 20:02 of action that saw such madness as Ricochet doing a goddamn apron Canadian Destroyer and an SSP with such height that he hit a light fixture. He’d be my pick for the MVP of this one. There was a great moment where Fenix and Pentagon used a superkick barrage on the Bucks, which is how the Bucks beat them during BOLA weekend last year. They used a package piledriver into a spinning destroyer on Ricochet to win the titles, ending the Bucks’ 631 day reign as champions. This isn’t typically a style I love, especially when it involves the Bucks, but this was too much fun to ignore. [****]

116. No Disqualifications Match: Pastor William Eaver vs. Sebastian – PROGRESS Chapter 44: Old Man Yells At Cloud 2/26/17

One of PROGRESS’ best qualities is their long-term storytelling ability. The Eaver/Sebastian rivalry spanned 11 chapters. Sebastian cost Eaver the PROGRESS Championship at Chapter 33. Eaver finally got revenge at Chapter 36, but since it didn’t happen in a match, Sebastian threatened to sue him, blackmailing him to become his pawn. During that time, Sebastian stole a PROGRESS Title shot from him and became the most hated man in the company. Eaver had enough and attacked him at Chapter 43. On this show, Eaver found out that since it had been past 150 days, Sebastian could no longer press charges, so this impromptu match was booked. What followed was 11:33 of pure hatred and violence. Sebastian took a gross looking chair throw and was Crucifix Bombed into the audience. He crucified Eaver in return, and just wrecked him with kendo stick shots that ripped his back apart. He fired up and bested Sebastian with a lariat to win an awesome, bloody brawl. Perfect feud ender. [****]

115. NXT Championship: Bobby Roode (c) vs. Hideo Itami – NXT TakeOver: Chicago 5/20/17

Hideo Itami was the most excited I was for an NXT signing, other than Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. More than Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, Asuka, or even Samoa Joe. I first saw him as KENTA in 2006 and I’ve been a big fan since. So, watching him get overshadowed by other guys and get injured right as he seemed to right the ship following a rocky start was hard. His second big injury didn’t help. Finally, Itami got an NXT Title shot and it would be in his first TakeOver match in 27 months. Personally, I haven’t loved Roode’s matches in NXT, so I wanted to see a great showing from both guys. They delivered. We got a wise GTS tease to pop the Chicago crowd early. Unlike the tired formula worked in Roode’s matches with Nakamura, Itami was the aggressor here and even took to taunting the champ. When Roode tried taunting back Itami leveled him with a slap. Itami was the better wrestler, but Roode was smarter. When he did get hit with the GTS, he rolled outside to avoid the pin. That was Hideo’s best shot, as Roode avoided the GTS twice more and hit two Glorious DDTs to retain in 17:43. The best match of either man’s WWE run. [****]

114. Fenix, Flamita and Penta El Zero M vs. Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks – PWG Battle of Los Angeles 9/2/17

I was weary going into this match. It was the main event of night two of BOLA and last year’s night two main event got a TON of hype, only to wind up average. This got a lot of hype as well, but had much better participants. Omega is about a thousand times better than Adam Cole, while the lucha trio on the other end absolutely exceeds the trio from 2016. Anyway, the improved participants were the main reason why this was much better than the year prior. Just seeing Omega and Penta face off was something special. The action was incredibly fast throughout this match. Dives, kicks, huge offensive maneuvers and comedic moments were all sprinkled into a wild 27:06. Due to technical issues, this was filmed in one continuous camera shot. It was fine, but led to us missing a few things that other camera angles would’ve caught. I popped for Fenix and Pentagon’s double stomp/Package Piledriver combo, but it wasn’t the finish. That came after an IndyTaker and One Winged Angel. This match pretty much encapsulated PWG. Lots of big names, fast paced action and comedy spots. [****]

113. IWGP Tag Team Championship: TenKoji (c) vs. War Machine – NJPW Sakura Genesis 4/9/17

The New Japan tag team divisions are quite dire. The titles change hands frequently, the matchups are mostly stale and nothing seems to matter. That being said, this was the first time I think I’ve ever been excited about an IWGP Tag Team Title match since I started watching NJPW. Japan loves hoss gaijins (teams like Killer Elite Squad and stars like Vader, Hansen, etc.), so War Machine fit right in. These two teams went right to war and wrestled the kind of match I was hoping for. It was like two teams trying to see who was manlier. TenKoji’s veteran savvy combated the raw power of the challengers, making for an even contest. When War Machine managed to take control, they showcased their best offense, which the Sumo Hall crowd ate up. TenKoji weathered the storm and Kojima hit a massive lariat that led to the fans chanting his name. In a passing of the torch of sorts, War Machine captured the titles at 14:06, in the best IWGP Tag Team Title match I’ve seen. Tenzan’s match with Ishii last year might’ve been his final great singles match, but this proved there are still some high quality tags left in him. [****]

112. Number One Contender’s Match: Pete Dunne vs. Trent Seven – WWE UK Championship Special 5/19/17

British Strong Style! Though he didn’t win the WWE UK Championship Tournament in January, Pete Dunne came out as a major star. Willing to do anything to get the title he believed belonged to him, Dunne attacked Trent Seven a night prior, injuring his arm. I popped at Dunne coming out with the PROGRESS Title, by the way. These two are actually former PROGRESS Tag Team Champions. Early on, Seven wrestled awkwardly because he needed to protect his right arm. It was great work. Dunne kicked it, twisted it and used the steel steps on it. Each time Seven gained momentum, Dunne was there to cut it off by going after the arm. It’s so simple, yet so effective. He finally got a big opening with a great dragon suplex on the apron. When he hit the big lariat, it wasn’t enough because the bad arm kept him from getting all of it. That was his last real shot, as Dunne finished him off with the Bitter End in 14:44. Brilliant work. The arm stuff was the focus, was sold well throughout and made sense. Seven was great, using his left arm for signature moves out of desperation, but just not having enough to win. Dunne nailed every piece of character work, while putting on a great match. I love British wrestling. [****]

111. EVIL vs. SANADA – NJPW G1 Climax 7/20/17

Los Ingobernables de Japon explodes! This was one of the more intriguing matchups in this year’s G1 Climax. I’d like to credit Don Callis for pointing out something that made the match stick out more for me. He noted that while EVIL is Tetsuya Naito’s go to guy, SANADA is more like his project. I got the sense they came out here vying to solidify themselves as the official number two in LIDJ. SANADA played the de facto babyface, with the crowd loving his athleticism and offense, while EVIL was more than happy to use chairs and a few more underhanded tactics. Still, SANADA did just enough to stay somewhat heel. They brought the big offense, including SANADA hitting a super cutter to the floor, nearly winning via countout. That led to some great exchanges, which showcased just how evenly matched Naito’s buddies are. When SANADA couldn’t win with the Skull End, he resorted to a moonsault to win in 15:46. This was another in a long line of matches to show just how much of a star SANADA will be. They did the little things and delivered the goods in a match I had high hopes for. [****]