Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Top 100 Matches of 2017 #70-61

70. War Games: The Authors of Pain and Roderick Strong vs. SAnitY vs. The Undisputed Era – NXT TakeOver: War Games 11/18/17

When it was announced that War Games was coming to a WWE stage for the first time ever, there was a lot of excitement. There was also concern to see if they could pull off the magic of some of the original matches. With the three team format, no roof on the cage and the idea that two men would enter at a time after the first three opened things, it was clearly going to be different. And yet, it worked very well. War Games works as a series of hot tags. Undisputed Era got the men advantage first, which made sense as the heels. I was surprised Authors of Pain came in next to help Roderick Strong, as I thought they’d be the final big blow. Boy, was I wrong. SAnitY joined last and brought weapons into the match. That final segment of the match was ridiculous in the best possible way. I saw a man bleed buckets, creative uses of the two rings, a super German suplex through two tables and a superplex off the top of the cage onto six people in the ring. Adam Cole got the win for his guys with a shining wizard into a chair at 36:32. This didn’t feel that much like War Games, but that didn’t matter. It was violent, never felt long, had wild spots and continued the ongoing stories among the competitors. I wrote all this and still probably didn’t scratch the surface of everything they did. [****¼]

69. Number One Contender’s Match: Big R Shimizu vs. Masaaki Mochizuki – Dragon Gate Scandal Gate 9/5/17

Masaaki Mochizuki is one of Dragon Gate’s best ever. Big R Shimizu was arguably their top performer in 2017. During their annual King of Gate tournament, Shimizu beat the champion, YAMATO, in stunning fashion in under four minutes. On this night, they met for a shot at the company’s top title. This opened with Mochizuki taking out Shimizu with a springboard dropkick and the greatness didn’t stop for the 14:48 duration. Mochizuki knew that Shimizu’s Shot Put Slam was a devastating finisher, so he had a plan to attack the arm and take that move away. The arm work was great and sold even better by Shimizu. He had bursts of offense and withstood some of Mochizuki’s vicious array of kicks, but barely had use of his arm. There was a great moment when Mochizuki countered the Shot Put Slam, so Shimizu responded by hitting it with his other arm. He was unable to fully take control, opening the door for Mochizuki to continue his brutal offense. He eventually pulled back on Shimizu’s arm with a great looking submission to earn the shot at the Open the Dream Gate Championship. In contention for the best Dragon Gate match all year and certainly the company’s best singles match of 2017. [****¼]

68. RPW British Heavyweight Championship: Katsuyori Shibata [c] vs. Matt Riddle – RevPro High Stakes 1/21/17

I miss Katsuyori Shibata. This was during his run as British Heavyweight Champion. He faced Matt Riddle in a battle of two bad dudes. Riddle offered a handshake that Shibata declined. Riddle had to earn his respect. This got off to a bit of a slow start as they took to the mat to get a feel for one another. Thanks to their MMA backgrounds, the chain grappling and submission attempts are fantastic. Though it’s a slow start, it’s highly entertaining. Things were turned up a notch when Riddle fired off a series of strikes. Their battle of forearms and kicks was breathtaking. Shibata sold Riddle’s stuff great, at first. Then, he fired up and dismissed Riddle’s stuff in incredible fashion. Shibata was so good at that. They graduated to even heavier blows, like suplexes. Riddle nearly shocked everyone after stealing Shibata’s sleeper and Penalty Kick. That angered Shibata, who showed him how it’s done and made Riddle tap out to his sleeper at 15:10. He got no handshake before the match, but Riddle got a show of respect from Shibata afterwards, having earned it. A terrific match that played to their strengths. [****¼]

67. New Japan Cup First Round: Kenny Omega vs. Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW New Japan Cup 3/12/17

Fresh off his first Wrestle Kingdom main event, Kenny Omega looked to rebound and win the New Japan Cup. A tournament win would earn him another shot at Kazuchika Okada the following month. In his way stood Tomohiro Ishii in a first time ever meeting. Omega looked to take it right to Ishii. That was a mistake, as he got rocked with strikes. A reverse rana outside put the momentum in Omega’s favor and from there, he targeted the shoulder. Things got really crazy when Ishii busted out a goddamn super rana. I didn’t even know what I was watching at that point. They just went into a barrage of great back and forth for the remainder of the match. I got a kick out of seeing Ishii pull out his own V-Trigger. There was a great spot where Ishii fought off the One Winged Angel, so Omega turned it into a massive German suplex. Ishii had the best counter for the One Winged Angel when he turned it into a stunner. He finally used a Brainbuster to win in 29:46 They continued the story of nobody kicking out of Omega’s finish, Ishii sold everything like a champ and the exchanges were wild. It didn’t need to go half an hour, though. [****¼]

66. Donovan Dijak vs. Keith Lee – PWG Battle of Los Angeles 9/3/17

Two nights prior, these guys teamed as the Monstars. Anyone who loves Space Jam can’t help but love that. I went into this after hearing tons of praise, seeing Dave Meltzer give it five stars, and knowing that they had two bangers earlier in the year in Evolve. These are big lads and they did big lad things. The early spots saw them showcase their athleticism, doing freakish things that shouldn’t be possible given their size. I’m not lying when I say that more than a few spots made me legitimately worry if the ring would break. There were a few spots they didn’t hit cleanly, though it can be excused somewhat because a lot of it had a high difficulty degree. Lee landing on his feet on a monkey flip and Dijak’s springboard corkscrew dives were just some of the standout moments. They both kicked out at one, at different points, to standing ovations. Finally, Lee scored the win after 21:42 to advance to the semi-finals of BOLA. A lot of the appeal of their matches is seeing big dudes do wild shit. Some of that shine wears off after you’ve seen it already, so I do prefer their first Evolve outing, but this was better than their second Evolve match. An absolute spectacle. [****¼]

65. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. – NJPW G1 Climax 7/17/17

Two names were announced for the G1 Climax that added intrigue. One was the returning Kota Ibushi and the other was Zack Sabre Jr., in his first G1. His G1 debut itself was even bigger, facing Intercontinental Champion and ace, Hiroshi Tanahashi. The daunting task didn’t matter to the brash Brit. For 17:18, he picked Tanahashi apart. Since Tanahashi came in with his arm taped, Sabre made it his target and attacked it mercilessly. The stuff he did looked like it came with relative ease, which was a brilliant way to establish him with unfamiliar fans. This was the guy who could come in and treat the seven-time IWGP Champion like a chump. Tanahashi got something going early, but stopped to taunt and Sabre caught him in another submission. He was just in the driver’s seat from the get go. Tanahashi’s comeback saw him work the leg, as expected. He hit High Fly Flow, but Sabre got his knees up on the second. He trapped Tanahashi in another submission, ripped off his arm tape and made the ace tap out in his G1 debut. It was the perfect way to book Sabre on his first show. There was excellent limb work and top notch selling. The rematch for the IC Title wasn’t as good, but we’ll always have this. [****¼]

64. JML vs. The South Pacific Power Trip – PROGRESS: Orlando 3/31/17

The South Pacific Power Trip have been a highlight on any show they’re on. JML consists of Sami Callihan and Shane Strickland. I love Strickland, Banks and Cooper, while Callihan has been the best I’ve ever seen him as Jeremiah Crane in Lucha Underground this year. This was not for tag team traditionalists. It was a wild 13:12 sprint, featuring big spots and tons of action. I don’t think there was a “legal” man at any point. Everyone got in dives, there was brawling around the ring and stiff kicks throughout. Some of the best spots saw JML hitting a sick double stomp/powerbomb combo and an exchange of kicks involving everyone that came off great. The highlight saw Strickland hit a spider German on Cooper as he hit a superplex on Sami, with Banks coming off instantly after to take him out with a coast to coast dropkick. Incredible action. Banks and Cooper won with an elevated spike DDT, capping arguably the craziest match of WrestleMania weekend. SPPT is one of the best teams in the world because of their versatility and matches like this showed why. [****¼]

63. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi – NJPW G1 Climax 8/1/17

In the G1 Climax two years ago, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi had a banger of a match that saw Tanahashi pick up the victory. This time, Ibushi was in his hometown and had the crowd firmly behind him. That reaction opened the door for heel Tanahashi, which I love. Instead of giving clean breaks, he’d throw in cheap shots. He’d spend time talking smack or stopping to play some air guitar. It was as if he felt Ibushi, who never committed to NJPW, was beneath him. Each time Ibushi got something going, the fans ate it up. Tanahashi targeted the leg and neck, vigorously going after them at every turn. Ibushi finally got going and hit his deadlift German suplex, which looked like it nearly killed Tanahashi. The desperation Ibushi showed when he went for the pin was magnificent. Not only would a win over Tanahashi mean a ton, but a loss would mathematically eliminate Ibushi from the G1. The Last Ride got him a great near fall, before a brutal knee got him the win at 20:40, which set him up for a shot at Tanahashi’s Intercontinental Title a few months later. They told a compelling story to give us one of the better G1 main events. [****¼]

62. Ben-K, Big R Shimizu and Kotoka vs. Eita, Kaito Ishida and Takehiro Yamamura – Dragon Gate Scandal Gate 8/8/17

Since 2007, Dragon Gate ran the Summer Adventure Tag League in the summer. However, that tournament wasn’t always a bright spot. This year, it was replaced with the 5 Unit Survival Race League, where the five major DG factions (Jimmyz, VerserK, Over Generation, Tribe Vanguard and MaxiMuM) competed in a series of matches. The two teams that did the worst would meet and that loser would be forced to disband. This match was part of the tournament, with Over Generation (Eita’s team) against MaxiMuM. Dragon Gate has mastered the multi-man tag and this was the best of the year. Though it only ran 11:53, there was more action than most 30+ minute outings. We got some great callbacks to the awesome Shimizu/Yamamura match from February. An incredible pace saw so many moving parts, yet everything working so fluidly. Eita, a favorite of mine in the company, picked up the win for his guys by making Kotoka tap after a furious final few minutes. The best part was knowing that these hungry young guns were killing it. The oldest guy in the match was a mere 27 years old. The future of Dragon Gate is in great hands. [****¼]

61. AJ Styles vs. Brock Lesnar – WWE Survivor Series 11/19/17

It’s hard to get excited about Brock Lesnar matches these days. He tends to give little to no effort. So, when AJ Styles won the WWE Title and got put in Jinder Mahal’s place for this match, I was concerned. I expected a short, underwhelming outing. Luckily, Brock decided to bring the effort. He dominated Styles for a big early chunk of this 15:19 match. It was reminiscent of the Brock squashes we’ve gotten in recent years. AJ bumped like a madman, making Brock’s already brutal offense look even better. When AJ started his comeback, it felt earned. It was realistic. He didn’t just power up and turn things around. He continued to sell, while hitting his offense out of desperation. It led to the fans totally biting on a Phenomenal Forearm near fall. AJ went for a second, only to get caught in an F5 that finished him off. The starting run wasn’t exciting, but it did a masterful job in building the sympathy for Styles. Other than a horribly botched DDT spot, everything clicked in this match. I loved it. [****¼]