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Welcome to the Silverdome. A place where one man looks at the wonderful and intricate world of Professional Wrestling.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Silver Report: May 2018

May was a busy month for yours truly. In between watching the insane amount of wrestling programming week-to-week, I made it out to a live show in my general area. The show was ROH's annual stop in the Great White North for War of the Worlds, ROH's joint tour with select wrestlers from New Japan.

As my third time going to the Toronto stop of the War of the Worlds tour, I knew what to expect in terms of quality, but what made it special this time around was going with my friends (two of which had never been to a ROH show before). As fun as it was see the Young Bucks and Super Smash Bros. tear the house down and how funny it was to watch Colt Cabana pick a fight with Darryl Jr., seeing my friends enjoy it with me made my night.

Well that and meeting Tetsuya Naito. I still can't believe I worked up the courage to meet him.

Lucky Number 12

Kazuchika Okada's fourth reign as IWGP Heavyweight Champion has broke a number of records for New Japan. At just shy of two years come June's Dominion supershow, Okada has the single longest reign in the championships' 31 year history, along with ousting Hiroshi Tanahashi for the top spot for total combined days as champion by 200 days. While those records are incredible, there's one record that New Japan's golden boy wanted to overcome — Tanahashi's 11 straight defenses as IWGP Heavyweight Champion.

When Okada tied the feat with a victory over Zack Sabre Jr. at Sakura Genesis, there was no way Tanahashi would just stand aside and let his greatest rival break the record that established his legacy. So, Tanahashi made the challenge for the title at May's Wrestling Dontaku. Wouldn't it be poetic for Tanahashi to end Okada's reign in Okada's 12th defense of the title, just like Okada did the same to Tanahashi in 2012?

The stage was set for Wrestling Dontaku. With the crowd in Fukuoka clearly behind Tanahashi, the former Ace hit Okada with everything he had from his signature Slingblade and High Fly Flow to Okada's own Tombstone Piledriver and Rainmaker lariat. Despite Tanahashi's best efforts, Okada overcame his offense to hot a single desperation Rainmaker for the win and Tanahashi's most cherished record.

Despite the heart-breaking loss, Hiroshi Tanahashi put on a phenomenal performance that showed to many newer New Japan fans, myself included, that he is truly as legendary as his "Once in a Century Talent" moniker proclaims. As for Okada, he's got one hell of a 13th title defense set for Dominion — a two out of three falls no time limit match against Kenny Omega. But I'll talk more about that match next month.

3,000 Times Better

Beginning on May 18, the Best of the Super Jr. 25 took up the last weeks of May and continued into early June. For those not familiar with New Japan, Best of the Super Jr. is a round robin tournament which pits 16 wrestlers from the Junior weight class (pretty much New Japan's Cruiserweight division) to determine the best of the division. The 16 competitors are broken into two blocks of eight wrestlers, and the two that score the most points in their respective block will compete in the finals for the Best of the Super Jr. trophy and a Junior Heavyweight Championship match at June's Dominion.

Considering the nature of these style of tournaments, there is a whole lot of wrestling to watch. 57 matches if you want to watch the tournament in its entirety. While it's understandable to not have the time to watch it all (I am currently halfway through at the time of writing), doing so paints a great picture of the talents on display. One phenomenal performance or a string of high-quality matches can raise anybody's stock.

This year's tournament saw some established stars, like Will Ospreay, Hiromu Takahashi, and Marty Scurll, solidify their positions on top of the Juniors, strong performances from foreign talent such as Chris Sabin, Flip Gordon, and Dragon Lee, a dangerous new threat in Taiji Ishimori, and two dark horses steal the spotlight.

These two dark horses, which I'd like to highlight, were Sho and Yoh of Roppongi 3K and what a tournament these two had. As their first time in singles competition since their return from excursion, these two showed that they are two to watch in the coming years. Sho, in particular, put on one intense bout with Dragon Lee that stole the show on the first night of B-Block competition. Plus, Yoh had a great match with Will Ospreay which came very close to being among the best of the tournament; it just needed a few more minutes of back-and-forth action in my opinion. Despite their current ties to the Junior Heavyweight tag division, both members of Roppongi 3K showed that one day they will be among the top of this division.

Must-See Matches of May

Wrestling Dontaku
Will Ospreay vs. Kushida
Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

Seth Rollins vs. The Miz

Jeff Hardy vs. The Miz

Epic Encounter II
Keith Lee vs. Tomohiro Ishii

War of the Worlds: Toronto
Young Bucks vs. The Super Smash Bros.

Pete Dunne, Oney Lorcan & Danny Birch vs. Undisputed Era

Best of the Super Jr. 25 Night 1
Will Ospreay vs. Taiji Ishimori

Best of the Super Jr. 25 Night 2
Dragon Lee vs. Sho

Best of the Super Jr. 25 Night 4
Kushida vs. Marty Scurll
Hiromu Takahashi vs. El Desperado

Best of the Super Jr. 25 Night 5
Will Ospreay vs. Yoh

Best of the Super Jr. 25 Night 6
Chris Sabin vs. Marty Scurll
Hiromu Takahashi vs. Dragon Lee

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Silver Report: April 2018

You can't talk about April without talking about the biggest weekend of the year for pro wrestling, WrestleMania Weekend. Thousands of wrestling fans descended upon New Orleans for a weekend full of wrestling, not only from WWE, but promotions across the world. There was so much wrestling going on that no normal person could watch everything available. Personally, I only got a chance to watch the main WWE shows and some of the ROH and RevPro matches highlighted on NJPW World.

But with so much variety, there was something for every type of wrestling fan.

Forever Fighting

With an insane ladder match for the new North American Championship, Roderick Strong turning on Pete Dunne to finally join the Undisputed Era, and Aleistar Black claiming the NXT Title in a great bout, NXT TakeOver: New Orleans was well on its way to becoming the best show of WrestleMania Weekend. Then the main event took the show to a whole new level.

The third five star match for WWE in 2018 (the second being the aforementioned ladder match) and the second for Johnny Gargano, this unsanctioned fight between Gargano and Ciampa was nothing short of perfection. Building off of the last two years of their WWE careers, Gargano and Ciampa clashed in an emotionally draining main event that referenced everything from their match at the Cruiserweight Classic to Gargano's sacrifice in their ladder match with the Authors of Pain to Ciampa's recent crutch attacks. Unlike the last five star TakeOver main event which was a fast-paced wrestling clinic, this match built slowly to its intensely emotional climax as Gargano locked in a crossface with Ciampa's knee brace for the win.

When all was said and done, Gargano and Ciampa delivered a match that lived up to immense hype and proved yet again why NXT is so special. In all honesty, we would never have gotten a feud this visceral and thoroughly planned out on the main roster with its short-term booking and ever-changing politics. Although this match felt like the blow off for this feud, Ciampa attacked and subsequently injured Gargano before his NXT Championship match against Black, meaning this personal war is far from over.

The End of the Elite?

Unfortunately, the Bullet Club Civil War couldn't compete with the emotionally draining NXT main event, which happened 30 minutes before. Although Cody and Kenny put on a very good bout that weaved in plenty of stories from Being the Elite, it just didn't live up to the hype in my opinion. Don't get me wrong, the story during and following the match was top-tier. Sadly, the in-ring action just didn't have the same emotional weight and fluidity as past bouts in this feud.

Despite my feelings on the match, Cody vs. Kenny served its purpose of moving the Bullet Club Civil War storyline forward. The most significant story beat happened at the end of the match when the Young Bucks went to superkick Cody only to accidentally hit Kenny. Immediately following the Bucks' interference, Cody would hit the Cross Rhodes for the win. Emotionally distraught by the Bucks being the ones to cost him the match, Kenny later told the Jacksons that there was no more Elite and that they're no longer friends.

This devastating break-up and Cody standing victorious with no Elite to stand with him to celebrate were the two somber moments that ended the landmark 100th episode of Being the Elite. As for when this story should continue, the Bullet Club Civil War was the focus of the first night of Wrestling Dontaku. Plus, April ended with the tease of Being the Elite coming back, but does this signify the reformation of the group or are things too far broken to fix?

Time for the Roman Reigns Experiment to Die

If you've followed WWE for the past few years, you know the story surrounding Roman Reigns. He's been pushed as the new face of the WWE since 2015, only to be rejected by the audience again and again. While Reigns has improved drastically since first being chosen by management, he's still seen as tainted goods by the audience despite WWE's best efforts to change said reaction. Long story short, it's been a trying few years following WWE's main event scene, which has been exasperated by everything that happened this past month.

Leading up to WrestleMania 34, WWE spent a full year building up Brock Lesnar as an unbeatable champion and the F5 as a one-hit KO in order for Roman Reigns to be the only person to kick out of the F5 and take the Universal Title from the self-proclaimed Beast. Well, one of those feats came true as Reigns kicked out of five F5s in the main event of WrestleMania 34. Surprisingly, Reigns fell to the sixth F5 in one of the most baffling decisions in wrestling history. In a mere three seconds, WWE wasted a year of build just to swerve their fans. How's that good storytelling? Plus, how does WWE expect us to get behind a top babyface that can never win the big one?

As bad as Roman's WrestleMania loss was, that wasn't the end of this lunacy. Three weeks later, Reigns got one more chance at Brock Lesnar and the Universal Championship in a Steel Cage match at the Greatest Royal Rumble. Although leaps and bounds better than their WrestleMania encounter, the match ended in one of the dumbest finishes in a long time. In the final moments of the match, Reigns speared Lesnar through the steel cage with Lesnar landed on the cage panel while Reigns rolled onto the floor. Instead of naming Roman (the rightful winner of the match) the new Universal Champion since his feet touched the floor, the ref called Lesnar the winner.

This controversial ending may have worked as the first or second match in a series, but not as the third and hopefully last match between these two. Just like the WrestleMania match, this finish did no favours for Roman. Although it has given WWE a new "uncrowned" champion angle to take Roman's character in, it didn't endear him to the audience as Roman's pleas come off as unjustified whining and complaining.

It may have taken three years, but WWE might have finally booked Roman Reigns into oblivion.

Must-See Matches of April

Sakura Genesis
Will Ospreay vs. Marty Scurll
Kazuchika Okada vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins

RPW Live @ WrestleCon 
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

NXT Takeover: New Orleans
Adam Cole vs. EC3 vs. Killian Dain vs. Lars Sullivan vs. Ricochet vs. Velveteen Dream - Ladder Match
Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa - Unsanctioned Match

Supercard of Honor XII
Adam Page vs. Kota Ibushi

WrestleMania 34
Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair

Road to Wrestling Dontaku
Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi vs. El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru

205 Live
Mustafa Ali vs. TJP vs. Drew Gulak vs. Tony Nese vs. Kalisto - Gauntlet Match

Greatest Royal Rumble
50-Man Royal Rumble Match

Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Silver Report: March 2018

Although the build to WrestleMania and all the big shows happening that weekend was a big part of March, tournaments were the flavour of the month.

205 Live continued its Cruiserweight Championship tournament with a stellar semifinals. Despite not watching it myself, ROH continued their Women's Championship tournament to great fanfare. But it was the 2018 New Japan Cup that stood tall with two weeks of high quality matches and one great star building performance which I will go into more detail a little later.

So let's get to it!

Do Something

I have to get something off my chest. I hate the build to John Cena vs. Undertaker for WrestleMania. It is redundant, annoying, frustrating, and any other negative adjective you can throw at it. 

It is insulting for WWE to think that their audience would believe that John Cena couldn't get a match for WrestleMania. This is John Cena we're talking about here — the face of this bloody company for over a decade — many would kill for a match with him on the biggest PPV of the year. So, WWE tell me why I should believe this premise when it has more holes in it than a pasta strainer?

If you can get past all the holes in the premise, the entire build for the last month has been nothing more than John Cena calling out the Undertaker to no response ... each ... and ... every ... bloody ... week. Maybe the payoff will make it all worth it in the end. Unfortunately, it is test of patience to sit through a 20-minute John Cena promo where he spews on about how a retired Undertaker should feel sorry for letting down the fans and being a coward because the Undertaker is retired. Not the fact that it hurts Cena's massive ego to be continually denied the match HE wants the most.

And that leads into my final point, the build has been so frustrating because of all the wasted potential. WWE could of easily built this match in a similar fashion to Shawn Michael vs. Undertaker from WrestleMania 26. You have the same story starting from the beginning of the year to Fastlane where Cena is desperate to main event one more WrestleMania, but you change the build from Fastlane onward.

Instead of the redundantly long promos, explore Cena's psyche and how Undertaker's silence affects him on an emotional level. Have other wrestlers, like Kane or Goldust, put aside the gimmicks and talk to Cena about his obsession with calling out the Undertaker. Hell, make mention that Undertaker is retired, so there is no way this match will happen. And when John Cena is at his lowest, the Undertaker answers the challenge. Not because he wants to fight, but to put Cena out of his misery.

Maybe I put far more brainpower into this feud than WWE ever did, but it's so frustrating to see WWE and namely John Cena do nothing to evolve his character after all these years. This reluctance to change has plagued WWE's main roster for a very long time now and this John Cena vs. Undertaker build is just another example of why it isn't working.

WWE should take Cena's pleas to the Undertaker to heart and actually "do something" next time.

The American Dragon Rises Again

March 20 was just a regular Tuesday. Well until WWE dropped a bombshell of an announcement in clearing Daniel Bryan for competition.

As the Internet exploded with pure excitement and elation, I felt conflicted. Seeing Bryan get a chance to finally wrestle again after all his trial and tribulations of the last few years made me feel so happy. At the same time, a part of me was worried that all his issues with concussions haven't fully healed even with his clearance. Also the selfish part of me was disappointed that we wouldn't see Bryan compete in the indies again.

All that worry melted away in the final segment of that SmackDown Live. After firing Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn for their assault on Shane McMahon the week prior, Bryan was forced to get physical with the two former roster members. Bryan fired off his signature kicks and corner dropkicks with such force and passion that it made me remember how much I missed watching him perform. Plus, the devastating apron powerbomb Bryan took at the end of the segment showed that WWE has faith in him to take big bumps again.

Bryan's return to the ring couldn't have come at a better time as it revitalized my excitement for this feud between Owens, Zayn, and SmackDown's authority figures, SmackDown Live, and even WrestleMania. It really seems poetic that the spot of Bryan's greatest achievement will be place he makes his triumphant return. Onward to New Orleans!

Just Tap Out!

Debuting just over a year ago for the company, Zack Sabre Jr. made a splash by aligning himself with Suzuki-gun and dispatching eventual 2017 New Japan Cup winner Katsuyori Shibata. Despite the immediate success in New Japan's heavyweight division, Zack didn't make much of an impact during the rest of 2017. While he did challenge for Hiroshi Tanahashi's Intercontinental Championship in September and got a few noteworthy wins in the G1 Climax, Zack was mostly used fill out a spot in tournaments and tag team matches.

Well that all changed this past March when Zack tapped out Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi, Sanada, and Hiroshi Tanahashi (some of the best wrestlers that New Japan's heavyweight division has to offer) on his way to winning the 2018 New Japan Cup. In just four unbelievable performances, Zack Sabre Jr. cemented himself as a viable contender to the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and a force among New Japan's heavyweights.

This major push came alongside a chance for Zack to build his character from a skinny British submission wizard to a sharp-tongued torturer. His post-match promos throughout the New Japan Cup were phenomenal, especially the one on Ibushi's recklessness. Add in Taka Michinoku as Zack's hype man for the Japanese crowd and you got one incredible package.

So like Taka exclaims before every match. "He is submission master! He is Z-S-J! He is ... Zack Sabre Jr.!" And New Japan locker room, he's coming to tap you out!

Must-See Matches of March

46th Anniversary Show
Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay

New Japan Cup Night 1
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Michael Elgin

New Japan Cup Night 2
Tetsuya Naito vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. John Cena vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn - Six Pack Challenge

205 Live
Cedric Alexander vs. Roderick Strong

New Japan Cup Night 7
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Juice Robinson

New Japan Cup Night 8
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Sanada

Matt Hardy vs. Bray Wyatt - The Ultimate Deletion

205 Live
Mustafa Ali vs. Drew Gulak

New Japan Cup Finals
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

Strong Style Evolved
Golden Lovers vs. Young Bucks

205 Live
Akira Tozawa vs. Buddy Murphy vs. Kalisto vs. TJP

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Silver Report: February 2018

With past Silver Reports, these introductions can get a little long-winded when summarizing a week or month of wrestling into a paragraph or two.

From the New Japan debut of Rey Mysterio to the launch of ROH's HonorClub streaming service to end of Johnny Gargano's NXT career, February was packed with huge developments in the world of pro wrestling. While I can't get to everything, I got three big stories to talk about in this month's edition of the Silver Report.

Tournament Breathes New Life into 205 Live

From its inception, it was an uphill battle for 205 Live. No matter the talent of its roster or the amount of quality matches it laid witness to, it was the home of a division that was poorly booked from the moment it debuted on Raw. Eventually, all that talent and quality match-ups gave way to redundant feuds of the cartoonish variety and silly theatrics.

Well that all ended this past January, when former Cruiserweight Champion Enzo Amore was fired due to sexual allegations he kept from WWE upper management. As January became February, 205 Live got its very first general manager in Drake Maverick (the former Rockstar Spud of Impact Wrestling fame), a new show runner in Triple H, and a tournament to crown a new Cruiserweight Champion.

For the first time since the Cruiserweight Classic, WWE's Cruiserweight division is must-watch television and it's all thanks to this tournament. From crazy spot fests to technical showcases to hard-hitting affairs, every match has been a delight to watch. Even the matches on the lower end of the spectrum are better than your average Raw/Smackdown match.

With new faces running the show and serious, more wrestling-oriented direction, 205 Live has finally found its footing after a year and a half on air. Now, fingers crossed that Triple H and company can keep this show on the right course. If so, 205 Live may be able to compete with NXT as WWE's best weekly program.

Monday Night Rollins, Sunday Night Strowman

One week. Two superstars. Two unbelievable performances.

It all started on the February 19th edition of Raw. WWE announced a Gauntlet Match featuring all seven men in the Elimination Chamber, but nobody expected the nearly two hour match we got.

Although Braun Strowman stood tall at the very end, it was Seth Rollins' iron man performance that left a huge impression. Lasting a total of one hour and five minutes, Rollins dispatched both Roman Reigns and John Cena in two hard fought matches (a feat comparable to Chris Jericho beating the Rock and Steve Austin in the same night back in 2001) before falling to a fresh Elias. Despite the loss, Rollins came out more over as a babyface than he has ever been.

The next incredible performance came from the very winner of that Gauntlet Match, Braun Strowman. While Strowman was the second last competitor to enter the Men's Elimination Chamber, he left the biggest impact. Adding to his long list of amazing feats, Strowman would go onto eliminate five men before losing the bout to Reigns. Which came after kicking out of a quadruple powerbomb, Attitude Adjustment, Curb Stomp, Coup d'Grace, and Frog Splash off the top of a pod! For lack of a better term, it was bonkers. Even with the formulaic Super Roman ending, Strowman looked like the true face of the company at the end of this match.

Bullet Club isn't Fine

After all the turmoil that January brought to the Bullet Club, things only got worse in February as Kenny and Cody's feud ravaged the faction.

The month started with the announcement of Kenny Omega vs. Cody for the leadership of the Bullet Club for ROH's Supercard of Honor show on WrestleMania weekend. From there, Cody planted seeds of dissension among the Young Bucks and Marty Scurll (the three members that were conflicted by Cody's power plays). By the end of the month, the conniving Rhodes convinced Scurll to break off and form the Villain Club. Plus, he slowly worked the Young Bucks into moving up to the heavyweight tag division and in the process, turning on Omega.

On the other side of this conflict, Omega made strides in renewing his relationship with Kota Ibushi. The two were featured in a mini-documentary on New Japan World, which gave fans an inside look at their first practice back as a team and built excitement for their first matches back as the Golden Lovers.

All this turmoil came to a head at NJPW and ROH's joint Honor Rising shows at the end of the month. The Golden Lovers faced the likes of Cody and Marty Scurll in the main event of both nights (first in a six-man tag with Chase Owens and in a regular tag match the next). Despite ending the weekend with a 1-1 record, the Golden Lovers showed the world that they haven't lost a step with their unbelievable tag team offence and high energy. Plus, the fans in Korakuen Hall showed their appreciation tenfold as their cheers were deafening.

Although the Golden Lovers were successful, they didn't leave Honor Rising unscathed. Cody continued his mind games with Omega by planting a kiss on Ibushi in the middle of their tag match. Plus, the Young Bucks cutoff the Lovers' celebration to officially announce their aspirations in New Japan's heavyweight tag division and challenged to the Golden Lovers to a match, which New Japan later booked for March's Strong Style Evolved show in Long Beach.

In summation, February was an insane month for this ongoing Bullet Club saga and March should be even crazier as tensions build to Strong Style Evolved and Supercard of Honor respectively. So if you want to follow the best storyline of 2018 so far, best to keep up with the latest and greatest episode of Being the Elite.

Must-See Matches of February 

205 Live
Roderick Strong vs. Hideo Itami

Sanity vs. Undisputed Era - Six Man Tornado Tag Team Match

New Beginning in Osaka
Will Ospreay vs. Hiromu Takahashi
Kazuchika Okada vs. Sanada

Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns vs. John Cena vs. Elias vs. Finn Balor vs. The Miz vs. Braun Strowman - Gauntlet Match

Andrade "Cien" Almas vs. Johnny Gargano - Title vs. Career

Honor Rising Night 2
Hangman Page & The Young Bucks vs. Jay White, Chuckie T & Yoshi-Hashi
Golden Lovers vs. "The American Nightmare" Cody & Marty Scurll

Elimination Chamber
Women's Elimination Chamber
Men's Elimination Chamber

AJ Styles vs. John Cena

205 Live
Roderick Strong vs. Kalisto

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Silver Report: January 2018

I started the Silver Report a good seven years ago as my weekly round-up and analysis on "all" (mostly WWE and TNA at the time) wrestling news. Over the years, it took on different forms and lengths, but it was always a nice outlet for my thoughts on professional wrestling.

Now as my taste in wrestling has matured and my knowledge of the industry has grown tenfold, I re-debut the Silver Report. Not just as an outlet for my thoughts and opinions, but to hopefully introduce newcomers to wacky world of pro wrestling while enriching the tastes of current fans.

One of the ways I hope to achieve that goal is through the brand new Must-See Matches section at the end of every Silver Report going forward. Must-See Matches will be my curated list of the best matches for the current month of discussion. So if you don't have the time to keep up with everything going on, these are the matches that will give you the most enjoyment for your time.

Naito! You Just Made the List!

January 4th and 5th had tons of great moments for New Japan from Minoru Suzuki shaving his head to Jay White declining an offer to join the Bullet Club, but nothing was bigger than the closing moments of New Year's Dash.

After Tetsuya Naito and his stablemates in Los Ingobernables de Japon (LIJ) dispatched Kazuchika Okada and Chaos in tag team action, Chris Jericho rushed the ring and attacked Naito. Although the attack was brief as Jericho was quickly pulled out of the ring, it was such a surprise to see Jericho since everybody thought his deal with New Japan was for just one match with Kenny Omega.

Starting this feud with Naito opens up the possibilities for Jericho to feud with more excellent New Japan talent like Ishii, Ibushi, Tanahashi, and even Okada! It's unbelievable to see the 47 year old Jericho on top of the wrestling world in 2018, but it is well deserved.

Almas and Gargano Steal Royal Rumble Weekend

It is rare to see any match in January eclipse the excellently crafted bouts of NJPW's WrestleKingdom supershow, but WWE did just that with the main event of NXT TakeOver: Philadephia. As the first WWE match in over six years to receive five stars from Dave Meltzer, Andrade "Cien" Almas vs. Johnny Gargano for the NXT Championship was nothing short of an instant classic.

Leading up to the match, it felt like such an unlikely main event. Almas had been dwelling in the obscurity of NXT's mid-card for most of his tenure, while Gargano seemed to be in a holding pattern as his feud with former partner Tommaso Ciampa was on hold until Ciampa had healed from injury.

Despite all the baggage these two had coming in, it all melted away when the match started. Almas and Gargano just work so well together as they chain their moves together like no one else in the business. The fast pace and smooth wrestling made the 32-minute long match fly by. When all was said and done, both Almas and Gargano solidified their positions as major players in the WWE for years to come.

Golden Lovers Reunite

Ever since "The American Nightmare" Cody joined Bullet Club at the end of 2016, tensions between him and leader Kenny Omega have been building. Those tensions would come to a head at the end of NJPW's second New Beginning in Sapporo event.

After Omega lost the IWGP U.S. Championship to Jay White in the main event, Cody made his move by hitting a Cross Rhodes on Bullet Club's leader. But before Cody could hit the finishing chair shot on Omega, Kota Ibushi made the save. After dispersing Cody and his fellow Bullet Club usurpers, Ibushi and Omega embraced each other in a surprising reunion of former tag partners.

While many suspected a Bullet Club implosion sometime in 2018, nobody thought it would be this soon. Plus, nobody thought we'd see Omega and Ibushi reunite as the Golden Lovers. Most of the rumour and scuttlebutt surrounding these two centered around them feuding instead of reuniting.

Although the story may end up with them fighting in the end, Omega's current ousting from the Bullet Club and his reunion with Ibushi opens up plenty of intriguing possibilities. Could we see the Golden Lovers vs. the Young Bucks in the not-so-distant future?

Tale of Two Rumbles

The 2018 Royal Rumble was an interesting show. It had arguably one of the best Royal Rumbles of all-time in the men's bout, one of the most disappointing in the first-ever women's bout, and a lot of disappointing finishes and average matches in between. While it was a better than average show, the position of the two Royal Rumble matches and their drastic difference in quality made for an uneven four plus hours.

First up, the men's bout was a high-octane affair with excellent storytelling, fun eliminations (especially Slater's elimination of Sheamus), nice surprise entrants, and an intense final 15 minutes. Its hour plus run time flew by because of how entertaining the match was. And to put the cherry on top, the right wrestler won in Shinsuke Nakamura.

On the flip side, the first-ever Women's Royal Rumble was another misfire in WWE's so-called "Women's Evolution." Although the right woman went over in Asuka, the match was full of sloppy wrestling, focused far too much on the nostalgic entrants, and criminally held its biggest surprise for the post-match theatrics.

Speaking of those post-match theatrics, what an awfully lame way to debut Ronda Rousey. Yes, it was done to protect both her and Asuka, but what was the point of her eclipsing Asuka's moment at the very end of the show? It undermined the preceding match while simultaneously teasing viewers of what we should've had.

In all honesty, I would take Asuka vs. Ronda Rousey as the final two in the Women's Royal Rumble over Rousey cartoonisly pointing at the WrestleMania sign any day.

Must-See Matches of January 

WrestleKingdom 12
Hiromu Takahashi vs. Kushida vs. Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay - Four Way Match
Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho - No DQ Match
Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito

205 Live
Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali

Johnny Gargano vs. Velveteen Dream

NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia
Aleistar Black vs. Adam Cole - Extreme Rules
Andrade "Cien" Almas vs. Johnny Gargano

New Beginning in Sapporo Night 2
Roppongi 3K vs. The Young Bucks

Royal Rumble
Men's 30-Man Royal Rumble

Asuka vs. Sasha Banks

Roderick Strong vs. Tyler Bate - No.1 Contender's Match for the UK Championship

Monday, January 22, 2018

Best Matches of 2017

It's been a very long time since I've written on here. Just under three years, in fact. A lot has changed in my life in the last three years, but the one constant I still have in my life — for better or worse — is professional wrestling.

2017 was one hell of a year for wrestling. Fans saw the return of an Olympic hero, the rise of the Monster Among Men, the dominance of the Rainmaker, and sheer brilliance of the Elite. It was a year of highs and lows, but those highs were among the finest wrestling has seen this decade.

In all honesty, the match quality on display throughout 2017 was nothing short of breathtaking. With so many phenomenal matches, there is no way to highlight every single match that blew away fans in 2017. So here is my list of the 12 best wrestling matches of 2017 in chronological order. If you are looking to check any of these bouts for yourself, I highly recommend subscribing to the WWE Network, NJPW World, and/or ROH's Ringside Membership.

Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada 

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 11

Four days into 2017 and wrestling fans witnessed the greatest match of all-time according to wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer — breaking his iconic five-star rating system. Although some might scoff at such high praise, Omega and Okada earned it with a 40-minute wrestling classic.

Starting with traditional mat-based techniques to feel each other out and slowly ramping up to the final leaping Tombstone and Rainmaker combination, it's hard for fans and casual observers not to be amazed by the titanic clash between arguably the two best wrestlers in the world today. Omega and Okada didn't just introduce jaded wrestling fans, myself included, to the glory of New Japan, it single-handedly changed the pro wrestling world as we know it. And for the better.

Pete Dunne vs. Mark Andrews 

WWE UK Championship Tournament Night 2

While the UK Tournament Finals between Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate gets more attention due to Bate's excellent performance as the injured underdog, this semifinal bout pitting Dunne and Andrews just edges it out in my opinion.

Dunne's gruesome joint manipulation and ground game paired perfectly with Andrews' high-flying offence and uncanny ability to reverse any move. This great clash of styles makes for a fast-and-furious 10-minute affair that easily showcased what WWE's UK Championship division can offer.

Kenny Omega vs. Tomohiro Ishii 

NJPW New Japan Cup Night 2

Although this list is very Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada-heavy, you cannot understate how great of a 2017 Tomohiro Ishii had. In terms of match quality, he put on incredible matches with the likes of Zack Sabre Jr., Tetsuya Naito, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe, and Keith Lee. But out of all of Ishii's matches, his surprise win over Kenny Omega in the first round of the New Japan Cup is his finest.

The match was everything you want from a New Japan main event — stiff strikes, crisp wrestling, and high stakes. Don't miss out on watching this diamond in the rough.

Kazuchika Okada vs. Katsuyori Shibata 

NJPW Sakura Genesis 2017

Despite this being Okada's best match with a wrestler not named Kenny Omega, it was sadly overshadowed by the tragic end of Katsuyori Shibata's wrestling career — due to a blood clot caused by a sickeningly stiff headbutt performed during the match.

After years spent redeeming himself in the eyes of the New Japan fans and wrestlers, Shibata finally earned a chance to challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Not letting this prime opportunity to dethrone New Japan's heavyweight ace Okada pass him by, Shibata brought it to Okada with stiff momentum-shifting strikes. Although Shibata's dominance eventually fell to Okada's Rainmaker finisher, Shibata won over the hearts of the wrestling faithful.

Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & The Addiction 

ROH War of the Worlds: Toronto 

Yes, I am a little biased since I saw this match live,but I can't understate how amazing it was. This six-man tag easily ranks among the best matches I've seen live and that includes the likes of Roderick Strong vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, #DIY vs. The Revival, and the 2016 Men's Traditional Survivor Series match.

From bell-to-bell, no one in Toronto's Ted Reeve Arena was sitting or silent. All six men put their all in one insane six-man tag that saw multiple Superkicks (poor Kazarian), Meltzer Drivers, High-Fly Flows, and V-Triggers. I highly recommend going out of your way to find this match — it epitomizes why pro wrestling is so much fun.

Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate 

NXT TakeOver: Chicago

Although the UK Championship division didn't takeoff in 2017 like WWE had hoped for, it consistently put on the best matches of any division in the company. One match that stood above the rest, especially in the WWE, was the second match between Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate.

A rematch of their showdown in the UK Championship Tournament finals, Bate and Dunne held nothing back. From debuting new moves to finisher kickouts, the two hit each other with everything and the kitchen sink.

If you need further proof of how great this match was, just watch the Chicago crowd. Despite starting out silent, the excellent action worked up the crowd into an absolute frenzy. They even got an American crowd to chant for another country!

Kushida vs. Will Ospreay 

NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 24 Finals 

Coming off of a humiliating two-minute defeat to Junior Heavyweight Champion Hiromu Takahashi, Kushida needed to win the 2017 Best of Super Juniors tournament in order to earn a chance to redeem himself. Unfortunately for the disgraced ace, Will Ospreay, one of the greatest high-flyers in the world today and the 2016 tournament winner, was in his way.

What resulted from this epic showdown was a match that in any other year would easily be Match of the Year. Sadly, it happened in 2017, but that shouldn't discount its greatness. Kushida and Ospreay put on a 30-minute classic that perfectly mixed high-flying risks with impressive submissions, innovative chain wrestling, and intense strikes.

Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada 

NJPW Dominion 2017

Going into Dominion, the anticipation for Omega vs. Okada II was through the roof. Everybody wanted to see how these two would top their six-star classic from Wrestle Kingdom — and they did just that.

Battling to a 60-minute time limit draw, Omega and Okada left everything in the ring that June evening. They perfectly built on their previous match with better wrestling, stiffer strikes, more drama, and unbelievable ring psychology. Although there was no definitive winner to the match, everybody watching knew that Omega and Okada put on the single best match of 2017 and possibly of all-time.

Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada 

NJPW G1 Climax 27 Night 18

For what this third encounter between Omega and Okada lacked in length, it certainly made up for in intensity. With only a 30-minute time limit to work with, Omega and Okada came out of the gates hitting each other with their most devastating offence and they didn't let up. The match was so fast-paced and crisp that it's hard to pull yourself away for even a second.

Although Omega didn't win the IWGP Heavyweight Title by dispatching Okada this time, he brought the greatest wrestling match trilogy since Ricky Steamboat vs. Ric Flair to a grand conclusion.

Kenny Omega vs. Tetsuya Naito 

NJPW G1 Climax 27 Finals

New Japan's annual G1 Climax tournament always delivers some of the best matches of the year and 27th iteration was no slouch. Although I do prefer Omega vs. Okada III, the finals between Kenny Omega and Tetsuya Naito was just as great.

Fighting for 35 minutes, Omega and Naito showed why they were the top stars under Okada by putting on one of the most high drama matches of 2017. Don't tell me you watched the piledriver off the announce table to the concrete floor or Omega DDTing Naito's head into the top of the ring post, and didn't lose your mind.

AJ Styles vs. Finn Balor 

WWE TLC 2017

As horrible as it sounds, thank you meningitis. If it wasn't for your viral infection rocking the Raw locker room, we would have never gotten the first and currently only encounter between the two former leaders of the Bullet Club. And what a match it was.

Getting just under 20 minutes, Finn Balor and AJ Styles showed up the entire WWE roster with a match so crisp and so smooth that it looked effortless. While it may not of had the emotional hooks or story-telling beats of the other matches on this list, it was joy to watch wrestling THAT good in a WWE ring.

Undisputed Era vs. Sanity vs. Authors of Pain & Roderick Strong 

NXT TakeOver: WarGames

Despite the WWE's changes to make the former WCW stipulation their own, the first WarGames in 17 years was one hell of an entertaining match.

The nine men which made up the three teams in the match gave it their all. Quite literally too considering the smashed tables, dented chairs, bruised bodies, and busted open heads left as result of all the carnage. While it wasn't the prettiest match on this list, the sheer craziness and spectacle of this car crash had me in tears from pure enjoyment.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Royal Rumble Fiasco

I am going to preface this by saying, I have watched professional wrestling for 12 years now and watched 15 Royal Rumble matches in that time.  In all my years watching, I have never seen a Royal Rumble as poorly booked as last night's match in Philly.  It's not just the fact that Roman Reigns won or Daniel Bryan was eliminated too earlier.  It's the pacing of the match, the handling of major eliminations and the need for a run-in by The Rock to "save" the match.

The match started out fine with a surprise entry of Bubba Ray Dudley and the Wyatt Family squaring off, but slowly lost its momentum when Bray Wyatt started dispatching people left and right.  While things got better when Daniel Bryan made his entrance, that only lasted 10 minutes as the moment Bryan was eliminated, the crowd and many fans at home turned on the match itself.  The atmosphere felt exactly the same as the end of last year's Rumble, but it lasted the majority of the match instead of 15 minutes.  The volatile atmosphere only got worse when Reigns came out as everybody knew he was hand-picked to win the match.  It didn't help that any of the guys people were invested in and should have been part of the final four (Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler) were nonchalantly dumped over the top rope by Kane and the Big Show.  No exciting eliminations or set-up for a WrestleMania feud, just dumped like a piece of trash by two guys that should be putting them over.  Weeks of build wasted in a matter of moments didn't help this match.

When the odds were stacked against Reigns, The Rock made a run-in to help his little cousin.  Something done to clearly win back the crowd did exactly the opposite as it made Reigns look inferior to The Rock.  Why should the audience believe in a babyface like Reigns to beat the indestructible Brock Lesnar when he needs help to eliminate Kane and the Big Show?  It's not that I'm against Roman Reigns winning the Royal Rumble at some point in his career.  Looking at his current in-ring ability and mic skills, Reigns isn't anywhere close to being the successor to John Cena at this point in time.  Reigns needs more time to learn, mature and organically come into the role.  Forcing him down people's throats much like WWE did with Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio and The Miz will only damage Reigns in the end.

A series of unforgivable creative decisions made the 2015 Royal Rumble the worst of all-time.  WWE understood exactly what they were getting into when they booked the Royal Rumble for Philadelphia, a city filled with hardcore wrestling fans.  It baffles my mind that WWE didn't learn from last year's debacle with Batista.  Yes, the product may be targeted for younger audience, but that isn't going to get buys for the WWE Network.  The people who will buy the Network are the passionate, hardcore, "Internet" fans that WWE despises and the target audience will eventually grow into.  As seen by the CancelWWENetwork hash tag running rampant on Twitter, it isn't smart to alienate the fans which are the lifeblood of your business going forward.  Guess we're in for an interesting WrestleMania season once again.