Sunday, 13 December 2015
30. Tomohiro Ishii vs. Yujiro Takahashi - NJPW King of Pro Wrestling
Why is Tomohiro Ishii the wrestler of the year? Probably because he seems to be able to put on a great match against just about anybody. Yujiro Takahashi is far from a bad wrestler, but on NJPW's stacked and super talented roster, he's probably one of the companies weakest links. This didn't stop Ishii from putting on another great performance though, as he showed just how versatile he is as a wrestler.
At the King of Pro Wrestling event, both guys put on a great back an forth contest that had Tomohiro's fingerprints all over it - Stiff action, nice psychology, and nearfalls galore. And to Takahashi's credit, for more than 20 minutes the Bullet Club member was able to keep up with him.
There was something infinitely entertaining about Cena vs. Lesnar, a match that wasn't really supposed to be entertaining. It was a match that didn't serve to really get fans out of their seats, or get them that emotionally involved in it - and it's because of that aspect of the match that makes it quite a surreal spectacle.
Going in to the match everyone wanted Brock Lesnar, who was pretty much off the heels of beating The Undertaker at WrestleMania, to go in and destroy John Cena completely, and surprisingly, that's exactly what we got. John Cena got practically nothing in on this match. Instead, it was Brock Lesnar giving Cena suplex after suplex after suplex, all more vicious looking than the next, before capping it off with an F5. And that was it - pure domination.
Cena vs. Lesnar at Extreme Rules 2012 was original in the sense that we were seeing MMA vs. pro wrestling. Two years later both guys put on a match just as original, as two guys at the top of the WWE ladder battled it out in the most one-sided main event you'll see in a WWE ring. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't exciting, it wasn't entertaining. But at the same time, it was all of those things.
28. AJ Styles vs. Kyle O'Reilly - ROH Death Before Dishonor XII: Night 1
When SBG took over Ring of Honor the company started going into new areas of the US to showcase their product. Some of the markets they've delved into have been good (Texas, Ohio), and some not so good (North Carolina, Baltimore). The best new place they've landed in though has been the city of Milwaukee, and since debuting there it has proven to be a real gem of a place for the company to perform.
At Death Before Dishonor weekend, the Milwaukee fans inside the dingy Turner Hall Ballroom showed why their such a good crowd to wrestle in front of, as they were in full approval of one of ROH's best matches of the year, Styles vs. O'Reilly.
Both guys put on an excellent exhibition, with submission moves, reversals, and exciting sequences being the stand out aspects of the match. Styles' return to the company has been a bit hit-and-miss, but here O'Reilly was the perfect opponent to showcase his skills, and vice versa.
27. Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito - NJPW King of Pro Wrestling
While it can be considered that Kazuchika Okada can work a good match with pretty much anyone, when it comes to his matches with Tetsuya Naito everything just seems to click. At King of Pro Wrestling this past October, the two squared off one-on-one for the third time this year, and put on a terrific match that surpassed the lot.
After a less than stellar first half of the year, Okada came back from a very impressive G1 and brought that into the later stages of the year. This match against Naito had everything you'd want, and pretty much expect from these two, with a highly engaging 20 minute contest, and a brilliant closing sequence.
26. The Young Bucks vs. reDRagon - ROH All Star Extravaganza VI
The Young Bucks have had an amazing year. From tearing it up in Reseda every month to breaking through into Japan, the Bucks have solidified themselves as the best tag team in the world.
Some of their finest matches have come from Ring of Honor though, where they faced off against reDRagon in a trio of matches that showcased both teams insane chemistry with each other. Their last encounter came at All Star Extravaganza VI where both teams faced off in a 2-out-of-3 Falls tag team match to settle it all. The result was a hugely exciting match that had everything you'd want to see from these four men - a fast pace, high flying, near falls, O'Reilly arm bars, and SUPER KICKS galore. While not the best match of the series (actually the weakest), this match was just a ton of fun.
25. The Young Bucks vs. Time Splitters - NJPW Dominion
The Young Bucks have helped breath some life into the junior heavyweight tag team scene in New Japan. Of all the consistently fun tag team matches that they had, their match against the always impressive Time Splitters at June's Dominion PPV was the best of the lot.
Even with the likes of Kushida in them, junior tag team bouts don't always get the biggest reactions from fans. Whether it's because of their place on the card, or the fact that there's so may gaijins involved is up for debate, but it's something that's always been kind of noticeable. The Young Bucks vs. Time Splitters match at Dominion was a big exception though, as the crowd gradually got more and more involved as the bout went on.
For around 15 minutes both teams put on a highly entertaining match that great spots, fluid sequences, and some fantastic near falls in the final few minutes. It's one of those cases where both teams just click together, and the crowd ate it all up.
24. Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn - WWE NXT ArRVAL
Despite only winning the NXT Title a few weeks ago, Sami Zayn has been the guy in NXT over the past 12 months, and has consistently put on some very good matches in that time. Sami's best match last year came against Cesaro when the two faced off in an excellent 2-out-of-3 falls match.
This year, both men topped themselves at ArRIVAL, when they battled it out in a gripping contest that showcased both of these men greatest strengths in the ring. The big, skilled powerhouse vs. the gutsy high flyer is the kind of dynamic that just suits these guys so well. There's a certain amount of chemistry that's hard to come by, but both Cesaro and Zayn have it.
Besides the great action, both men also told a great story in the ring as well, as Sami Zayn pulled out all the stops, only to fall short at the power and size of Cesaro. While NXT has been lauded for its great in-ring action, it's their simple and effective storytelling that makes it such a fun product to watch. And this match exemplifies all of that.
23. Kazuchika Okada vs. Hirooki Goto - NJPW The New Beginning in Osaka
When he's champion, there's no one in the world who can keep up with his level of quality in terms of title defenses. It almost seems effortless at times, but Okada always seems to put on a good to great title defense, no matter who he's against.
Earlier in the year at The New Beginning in Osaka, Okada put on the best title defense of his latest reign when he took on Hirooki Goto in a brilliant bout. Filled it a great pace, nice psychology, and a great closing stretch, this match featured everything that's special about Okada. Goto also complimented Okada's work very well, and more than held his own to produce some excellent sequences throughout the match.
22. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Shinsuke Nakamura - NJPW Invasion Attack
Every match between Tanahashi and Nakamura this year have all had a different aspect to them that's made them great. Their last encounter at Invasion Attack was arguably the best, both for its action, and original structure of the match.
When you have two of you top guys pitted against each other you're normally going to get a pretty contest where the opponents cancel each there out a lot. With this match though, it was so different.
For most of the match we had Tanahashi working over Nakamura for most of the match, preventing his opponent from getting anything in. It was such a fresh approach to such a high profile match, and really made for a very engaging bout. It's these kind of aspects that make Tanahashi such a great wrestler, as he's able to structure matches in so many different ways
21. reDRagon vs. The Young Bucks - ROH Raising the Bar: Night 2
This was both teams' first encounter in 2014, and a real hidden gem from them as well. While ROH house shows, and the Chicago market in general aren't anything special anymore, this match between reDRagon and The Young Bucks from the Frontier Fieldhouse proved to be one of the best matches from the company this year.
Not only did this match show the two teams stellar chemistry with each other, it also showed something that not many people thought, which is that The Young Bucks can put on a pretty great non-spot fest type of match.
Using Matt Buck's legitimate broken wrist as focal point in the match, both teams told a great story of the wrist being a target of reDRagon's, and later a weapon of The Bucks in the later stages of the match. Between all that there was some terrific selling from Matt Buck, some nice submission based moves from O'Reilly and Fish, and of course some exciting Super Kick-heavy sequences in the last few minutes of the bout. it had all the fun moves you'd expect from these two teams, and a good story to it to top it all off.
20. Kota Ibushi vs. Tomohiro Ishii - NJPW Back in Yokohama Arena
It's kind of amazing how good Tomohiro Ishii is considering he has such a limited move set. Such a situation would hold most wrestlers back in terms of putting on different types of matches with different types of wrestlers, but with Ishii he always finds a way to make it work.
At Back in Yokohama Arena, he faced off against Kota Ibushi, someone who such a different style to Ishii's. That didn't stop him from incorporating his style into the match though, nor did it stop him from allowing Ibushi's high flying into it either. Right from the bell everything just clicked between them, and throughout the match they displayed some tremendous spots, and exciting near falls that had the fans invested in every moment. Both styles meshed perfectly, and nothing looked out of place.
It's a credit to Ishii that he's able to get these pretty young wrestlers with their ridiculous hairstyles and make them look like total bad asses.
19. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Katsuyori Shibata - NJPW Destruction in Kobe
Some of the best feuds in wrestling are those with real life animosity, and the feud that Tanahashi and Shibata had this year was about as real as it gets.
Their second, and final, one-on-one encounter took place at Destruction in Kobe, in what was easily the most physical match of the year. Tanahashi almost played by Shibata's rules as the two traded stiff looking blows for 18 minutes. Neither man held back, and as the bout went on things only seemed to get more intense between the two.
Some will argue that they were too stiff, others will argue that it wasn't as bad as they made it look. Whatever the viewpoint though, there's no denying that this was a gripping contest that ended the half-decade long grudge in perfect fashion.
18. Adam Cole vs. Zack Sabre Jr. - PWG Battle of Los Angeles: Night 2
This year's Battle of Los Angeles played host to many debutants, but none more impressive than Zack Sabre Jr. Having seen very little of him before (one random match from Noah to be exact), the British style he brought in front of the Reseda crowd was a breath of fresh air, and quite simply just a joy to watch.
The best thing PWG did during that triple header was pit Sabre Jr. against Adam Cole in some capacity, and he proved to be the perfect opponent during the tournament. Everything both men did just gelled together so well, and they're singles match on night 2 of BOLA had so much to enjoy.
You had Sabre schooling Cole on the mat on numerous occasions (with terrific Adam Cole mannerisms that made him look even better), Cole catching him out with some of his signature moves, and an excellent closing stretch which had both of them combined. Everything they did came off as smoothly a you like.
17. Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan - WWE WrestleMania XXX
It was an emotional, gut wrenching, annoying, confusing, roller coaster of a ride for Daniel Bryan, but at WrestleMania XXX the 'Yes' man finally got what he deserved, a World title win on the grandest stage of them all
While the crowd were very much subdued due to the shock result of Lesnar vs. Undertaker, there seemed to be a willingness on the fans part to give Daniel Bryan his moment. And even though many were just kind of waiting for Daniel Bryan to get his hand raised in the end, it didn't stop them from getting behind every moment in the match as well, which certainly added to the drama.
The match itself had everything to you'd expect from a match with an abusive authoritative figure storyline behind it. Dirty tricks, interference's, and near falls galore can easily ruin a match, but in this case it made sense, and ultimately added some great drama to it.
Everyone played there part well, from the underdog challenger Bryan, to the egotistical heel due Orton and Batista, to the power couple Triple H and Stephanie, making for an exciting championship match that was all sorts of crazy, emotional, and fun. Whatever happens to Bryan in the future (and already it's been frustrating and unlucky), this was a fitting end to his story.
16. Kota Ibushi vs. Ricochet - NJPW Dominion
It's been a great year for Ricochet, who, after being turned down by WWE at the start of the year has gone on to win PWG's Battle of Los Angeles, New Japan's Best of Super Junior's, and land himself a leading role of sorts in Robert Rodriguez's Lucha Underground.
His best stuff this year has arguably come from Japan, even though his stint was short lived due contractual obligations with Lucha Underground. After a very impressive showing in the Best of Super Juniors tournament Ricochet went on to face Kota Ibushi at Dominion for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.
The match was about as good as you're going to get in terms of pure athleticism, as both men put on a terrific back and forth match with some awe inspiring, ridiculously innovative moves spots that you won't see anywhere else. It was a showcase of two of the best high flyers in the world today going to to toe, and the result was pretty great.
15. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Katsuyori Shibata - NJPW G1 Climax 24: Day 4
There's an image before the bell which brilliantly sets the tone for this match, and perfectly describes both men that no other image could. There's Tanahashi, the charismatic, and exuberant face of the company with a rockstar persona that sets him apart from everyone else. And then there's Shibata, the deadly, no nonsense fighter who just likes to get the job done. Both polar opposites, both guys that hate each other.
At this years G1 Climax tournament, both guys faced off in a grueling, and exciting bout that highlighted both men's personalities, styles, and traits in excellent fashion. Shibata looked to knock Tanahashi off his stride with hard strikes, while Tanahashi kept to his strengths trying to catch him out with his explosive offense.
It was a match that told a superb story of two guys colliding, both stylistically, and mentally. For 15 minutes it was two wrestlers letting their hatred for each other out, with terrific call backs to their previous encounter, stiff shots, and great sequences in between. A truly great match that highlights both men's disdain for each other in excellent form.
AJ Styles as had a resurgence since leaving TNA, with some of the finest work in his entire career unsurprisingly coming from New Japan. At this summer's G1 Climax, AJ showed just how versatile a wrestler he can be, putting on different matches of equal quality almost every night.
On day 4 of the tournament, Styles faced off against Tetsuya Naito in a fantastic match that seems to have fallen under the radar due to that night's (and the tournament as a whole) stacked card.
Both men told a great story in the match as Styles went after the open wound on Naito's head, which he received the previous day. On a personal note, seeing blood inside a New Japan ring for the first time brought and "oh shit" reaction out of me, and that reaction stayed throughout most of the match as AJ viciously and methodically worked his match around Naito's bloodied face. AJ has never been a great heel, but in this match he brought a certain mean streak to his game that complimented Naito's gutsy underdog look perfectly, which made for an excellent dynamic in the match. Coupled with a very good pace and great spots throughout, this all made for a terrific match.
13. Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tomoaki Honma - NJPW G1 Climax 24: Day 8
Shortly before G1 Climax 24, Kota Ibushi suffered an injury, putting him out of the tournament. The spot was later filled by Tomoaki Honma, a bit part player who's been in and out of New Japan for a few years. The replacement didn't look very good on paper, but Honma soon proved to be the most entertaining wrestler in the entire tournament, losing every single match in his block, yet becoming one of the most over people in the process.
Tomoaki Honma approached every match the same. Go out full force with quick flurry of strikes, lariats, and (often unsuccessful) headbutts, and try to pick up the win. It was an approach that often times became repetitive, but not once did it becoming anything but awesome.
Honma brought this tactic into his match against Katsuyori Shibata, which made for a superb contest with both men going all out for 10 minutes. The action was fast, the strikes were stiff, and the near falls towards the end of the match were fantastic. Honma's fearless approach matched with Shibata's no bullshit approach made for vigorous results. Everything about this match was explosive.
12. The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family - WWE Elimination Chamber
At the start of the year The Shield and The Wyatt Family were put into what was essentially a filler feud before WrestleMania. The result, however was far from filler, as it ended up being one of the most fun feuds from WWE this year.
At Elimination Chamber, both teams took part in a highly entertaining 6-Man Tag Team match that showcased every single person exceptionally well. While some have gone on to greater things in singles action since then, this was a match that's structure highlighted everyone's strengths.
The tornado tag rules enabled the likes of Rollins and Harper to fly recklessly around the ring and ringside, the chaos enabled Ambrose, Wyatt, and Rowan to brawl everywhere without any overbooking pulling them down, and the multi-man stipulation enabled Roman Reigns to appear in short bursts with his explosive offense. Everything in this match had something for every man to shine off, which made for a special match that was a ton of fun from start to finish.
Tomohiro Ishii is arguably at his best when he's fired up, hitting lariats, powerbombs, and brainbusters in back and forth exchanges. At Day 4 of the G1 Climax, Ishii had the perfect opponent to do that against.
Like in his match against Katsuyori Shibata, Tomoaki Honma brought his fearless, fast paced approach at Tomohiro Ishii, looking to put him away as quickly as possible. But while Shibata looked to tame Honma more than anything, Ishii went out with the same game plan as Honma's, which made for a terrific story that in many ways represents what the G1 Climax is all about.
For 12 minutes both guys put on an exhilarating bout that was fought at a tremendously fast pace from bell to bell. Some matches can be hard to take in all at once, and this match didn't give you a second to take anything in. And that's what was so special about it. One cool spot was met with another one straight afterwards, the near falls were quick and sudden, and every exchange ended with no clear winner. Both men threw everything at you in such a short amount of time, but managed to spread it out brilliantly.
10. The Young Bucks vs. World's Cutest Tag Team - PWG Eleven
PWG matches don't always hit their mark. Some spot fests drag out for too long, some comedy routines fall a bit flat, and sometimes the wrestlers don't quite have the chemistry together. When all of those things click inside Reseda's American Legion Hall though, there's nothing more fun to watch in all of wrestling.
The Young Bucks vs. World's Cutest Tag Team at Eleven perfectly represents everything that's great about PWG. A hot crowd, fast pace, silly comedy spots, "holy shit" moments, and Superkicks aplenty. Both teams combined all of those things excellently, which made for a fantastic back and forth match that had everything you could want from a Guerrilla Warfare.
More than anything though, this was a breakthrough performance from Candice LeRae, who put in a gutsy display in front of the approving Reseda crowd. Matched with an underrated partner in Joey Ryan, and perfect opponents in The Young Bucks, everything between these two teams came off brilliantly.
9. Hirooki Goto vs. Tomohiro Ishii - NJPW Power Struggle
In many ways Goto vs. Ishii from Power Struggle was this year's Shibata vs. ishii from 2013. It was two guys trading blows, looking to see who falls first. Simple concept, hard in execution.
Hirooki Goto and Tomohiro Ishii are two of the best wrestlers in the world for these types of matches. They're two popular guys who hit hard, and aren't afraid to put their bodies on the line. The exchanges between these two men were highly intense, with both guys trading lariats, kicks, headbutts, and neckbreakers in dramatic fashion. Ishii and Goto don't have the most diverse move set (Ishii especially), and the moves used in the this match don't sound that exciting, but it's the pure intensity that both guys bring to them that makes it so entertaining.
For 17 minutes both men simply destroyed each other. The manner in which they exchanged blows was almost exhausting to watch, with the pace of the match never slowing down for a second. For pure brutality, there's been no match this year like it.
Tomohiro Ishii has had a fantastic year. Over the course of this year he's reminded people just how versatile a wrestler he is, with short bursts against the likes of Tomoaki Honma, lengthy bouts against the likes of Yujiro Takahashi, and wars against the likes of Hirooki Goto. His most impressive performance came at The New Beginning in Osaka when he took on Tetsuya Naito in a tremendous match full of excitement.
Ishii's best matches are generally those when his opponent wrestles to his strengths, and that's exactly what Tetsuya Naito did when he took the fight to Ishii for over 20 minutes. The story of Naito standing to-to-toe was excellent, as he engaged in some great exchanges involving headbutts, lariats, sweet reversals.
Some matches can suffer from an over reliance on near falls for drama, but in this case the close two counts simply added to the already terrific action throughout. Every kick out was met with a thunderous roar from the Osaka crowd, with each one getting more and more engaging as the bout went on. Between the good story, dramatic near falls, and excellent action, everything between these two men just fell into place.
7. Adrian Neville vs. Sami Zayn - WWE NXT R Evolution
Despite not winning the NXT Championship until the end of the year, NXT in 2014 was all about Sami Zayn. His climb to the title was one of the bright sparks on the brand throughout the year, and his chase came to a brilliant conclusion against Adrian Neville at R Evolution.
There's not many wrestlers on the WWE roster (if any) that truly represent a good babyface, but Sami Zayn is one of them. Sami is the gutsy underdog who always wants to do things the right way, and at R Evolution that was highlighted so well. One of the best parts of this match was the story that it told. Zayn’s ‘good guy’ personality costing him so many times in the past was a great call back, and really helped intensify the drama in the match.
On top of all that, the action itself was fantastic, with both guys pulling out awesome moves, and exchanging in some great spots. This match hit all the right boxes in the finale of their exciting feud.
Despite a short stay in NJPW, Ricochet took part in some highly exciting matches for the promotion, with the best coming against Kushida at the Best of Super Juniors Finals in Tokyo. The pace at which these two wrestled each other was terrific, and the moves they hit were about as fluid, graceful and athletic as you’re going to see in 2014.
The manner in which Kushida looked to lock in the Kimura Lock made for an exciting element of the match, and made way for some great reversals and sequences throughout. Everything between these two men just clicked, and added with a hot crowd that were behind every moment, this was an excellent match from start to finish.
5. Kazuchika Okada vs. Minoru Suzuki – NJPW G1 Climax 24: Day 11
While the praise was mostly focused on AJ Styles and Kazuchika Okada post G1 Climax, one of the wrestlers that fell under the radar in some respects was the ever consistent Minoru Suzuki. And on day 11 of the tournament, he showed just how great a performer he still is when he put on a fantastic match against Okada.
Suzuki can be one of the best in New Japan when it comes to working on a body part, and Okada is equally one of the best when it comes to selling an injured body part as well. This made for a great dynamic as Suzuki relentlessly went after the right arm of Okada, restraining much of his offense throughout.
While a few matches from the tournament helped make Okada look like the angry, driven challenger that was ready to take back the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, this one arguably did the best job of doing that, as he used the story of his hurt arm to put on a fiery and exciting comeback in one of the companies finest matches of the year.
4. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H – WWE WrestleMania XXX
Seeing my favourite wrestler growing up take on my favourite wrestler today was special in itself, and the fact they delivered in such a great manner made it all the better for me. I was slightly worried that the match would be more of a brawl given the storyline behind their match, but after just a few minutes it became clear that they were intent on putting on a more technical matchup, much to my delight.
The story of this match was really great as the veteran looked to tame Daniel Bryan by working on his injured shoulder, forcing Bryan to take more risks to help get back into the match. When working on a body part Triple H’s technical attributes really shine through, and the work he did on Bryan’s shoulder was fantastic. And while Bryan didn’t get the same sort of offense in, his flurry of strikes were very well placed throughout the match, and added some great moments throughout the match. This match had everything I wanted to see between these two men.
3. The Young Bucks vs. reDRagon – ROH War of the Worlds
Both of these teams had a fantastic 2014. The Young Bucks tore it up in ROH, PWG and NJPW, winning all three companies Tag Team Championships at one point, while reDRagon proved to be the brightest part of ROH throughout the year, and an exciting addition to NJPW. It’s no surprise that their best stuff came when they faced off against each other.
Their match at War of the Worlds was undeniably the best tag team match in 2014. For little under 13 minutes both teams but on an exhilarating match with brilliant spots and a rapid pace from start to finish. Every move was crisp and fluid from all four guys, and every great spot transitioned into another great spot with such ease. The chemistry these two teams have together is unmatched from any other team around the world, and this match showcased their immense ability perfectly.
2. AJ Styles vs. Minoru Suzuki – NJPW G1 Climax 24: Day 7
While a great match from New Japan, no matter who it’s from, should never come as a surprise, the excellence of Styles vs. Suzuki sort of came out of nowhere. Suzuki was stuck in a dull feud with Sakuraba, Styles was still sort of finding his feet in the company (despite his success). At the same time though, when you think of who was in the match, maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise.
Both guys put on a classic match that simply had so much to admire about it. I loved how Styles, the supposed mean leader of the intimidating Bullet Club, was totally shut up from the grizzled badass Suzuki for the majority of the match. This match had such a great dynamic as Styles looked to gain control of the match, but always seemed to be caught out from the veteran, whether it was from ring smarts or straight out cheating (such as the closed fist) from Suzuki.
With all of that, as well as great sequences, reversals and a terrific finishing stretch, this match was pure brilliance.
1. Kazuchika Okada vs. Shinsuke Nakamura – NJPW G1 Climax 24: Day 12
Amongst all the great matches, Okada vs. Nakamura was the best match from the G1 Climax, and also the best match from anywhere in 2014. Some matches are helped by the hype they have behind them, and when they do live up to the hype it’s hard to find anything better.
Okada vs. Nakamura was an excellent showcase between two guys at the top of their game. Having never faced each other before it was hard to say how good their chemistry was going to be, but on the night it proved to be as good as any. The pace was great, the exchanges were top notch, and the action all round was just so much fun to watch.
A lot of matches in 2014 had moves or moments that made me pop out of my seat, and this match consisted of two of those – the Rainmaker attempt reversed into a cross arm breaker from Nakamura, and Okada’s vicious hat-trick of Rainmaker’s. While the best of matches need those great elements of psychology and storytelling behind them, sometimes they just need those awesome moments to make them stand out. And this match was full of them.
Thursday, 2 January 2014
Adam Cole vs. Michael Elgin vs. Jay Briscoe
- ROH Final Battle
I won't be alone in saying that it hasn't been a very good year for Ring of Honor, but on their final show of the year, Final Battle, which happened a few weeks ago, the company capped the year off with a bang after a great main event in the Hammerstein Ballroom.
World Champion Adam Cole, who's been on a decent roll since claiming the title, took on the always consistent Michael Elgin and returning Jay Briscoe in a match filled with drama, nearfalls and and really fun heel work from the champion, who seemed to use everything in the book to regain the gold.
It may have helped with my rating that following this match saw the returning Chris Hero enter the fray, but in terms of bell-to-bell action this undeniably holds up as being one of the best ROH matches of the year.
The Young Bucks vs. The Dojo Bros
- PWG All Star Weekend 9: Night 2
In many ways this match exemplifies Pro Wrestling Guerrilla - fast paced, explosive, balls to the wall fun. This applies especially to Reseda's finest The Young Bucks, who put on a really good match against the team of Eddie Edwards and Roderick Strong.
Those two men have had a pretty quiet year compared to previous ones, with their singles matches being less-than-stellar for the most part, but as a team they're incredibly fun to watch. They throw caution to the wind and kick and chop the shit out of anyone in front of them - and against the Superkick frenzied Buck brothers, a really fun match is expected of them.
This is exactly what we got here between these two teams. Hard-hitting action, nice tag team moves, fluid sequences and Superkicks galore - and all packed into roughly 15 minutes of fun.
Kassius Ohno vs. William Regal
- WWE NXT 10/4
It's sad to think of all the opponents Kassius Ohno could have faced in WWE, before being abruptly (to some) released in November. Despite all the dream match-ups though, we were at least treated to a real gem earlier on in the year as Ohno faced off against the veteran William Regal. And what a match it was.
It was exactly what you'd hope from two such intelligent wrestlers. The scientific wrestling was a joy to watch as both men tried to garner control on the match, and the stiffness of both men's offence was a breath of fresh air inside a WWE ring. Every shot had a purpose, every rest hold was nicely placed and the story of a young gun trying to knock off the veteran was told very well. Great stuff from both men.
Kyle O'Reilly vs. Sami Callihan
- PWG All Star Weekend 9: Night 2
Kyle O'Reilly has proven a lot in 2013, one of which being that he can get the best out of just about anyone. This was the case at PWG's All Star Weekend, when he put on a really good match against a guy who I'm not even the biggest fan of, Sami Callihan.
Right from the opening bell Sami's stiff style was instantly matched by O'Reilly, who for the whole match delivered some great strikes and perfectly executed moves. And while most PWG matches consists of move after move after move, with this match it seemed a little different. The spots were nicely panned out throughout the match, with the bits in between consisting of welcomed resting periods (by PWG's standards anyway).
The indie scene in 2013 belonged to Kyle O'Reilly, and in March's All Star Weekend 9, he was only starting to show the best of him.
Paul London vs. Roderick Strong
- ROH Glory By Honor XII
Paul London returned to the independent scene in 2013 after a long break away from the wrestling world, and at Ring of Honor's annual Glory By Honor event, he had his best match of the year against an on-game Roderick Strong.
While Roderick Strong's a mile a minute style can come across rushed and weak, in this match Paul London seemed to get the best out of that, creating very solid chemistry between the two. The shots were hard, the spots for the most part came off very well, and London's speed and quickness complimented Strong's energetic approach.
Sometimes two styles such as these can be a bit of a mess, but in this bout everything just seemed to click.
Kevin Steen vs. Johnny Gargano
- PWG Battle of Los Angeles: Night 2
Much like the Strong/London match above, this is another match that featured two guy's styles meshing very well. On one corner we had the bruising powerhouse Kevin Steen, and on the other the smaller, yet quick and fiery Johnny Gargano. Of course, both men have a lot more to them than that, but in this match that's what these two men focused on, and it worked extremely well.
This was a great back-and-forth contest which had Kevin Steen deliver some brutal looking moves, but Gargano constantly coming back and trying to execute that one move to get him the victory. In the end both tactics collided, with the end result being one of the best reversals I've seen this year (which you can see here).
Sami Zayn vs. Antonio Cesaro
- WWE NXT 21/8
Thanks in much part to the match being taped a few weeks before being aired, this was one of the most talked about matches of the year. The worry for me, and I'm sure a lot of people, was that it then had a lot to live up to. Thankfully though, it did live up to the billing (taking into consideration that it almost certainly wouldn't be MOTY quality) and both men put on a terrific 2-out-of-3 falls match.
Given the stipulation, both Zayn and Cesaro made the most out of not being given a lot of time, and wrestled their match at a wonderful pace. The first two falls were slow, yet fun to watch, and definitely set the tone for the final fall, which burst into action. That final fall saw great nearfalls and sequences which had the fans on their feet. Sami Zayn can't get called up to the main roster soon enough.
Prince Devitt vs. Low Ki vs. Kota Ibushi
- NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 7
On New Japan Pro Wrestling's annual January 4th show in the Tokyo Dome, Prince Devitt, Low Ki and Kota Ibushi were three men who stood out in a packed card, when they faced off in a really exciting Triple Threat match.
For 15 minutes all three guys worked a fast paced match that didn't slow down for a second. The action was swift and fluid, the moves delivered perfectly and nearfalls aplenty. In many ways this is New Japan's WrestleMania (and thus why Low Ki is dressed up as the guy from Hitman - an annual tradition some follow), It's the show where everyone wants to make an impact, and all three here made sure that each one of them did. It'd be hard to find a better Triple Threat match in 2013 than this one.
Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
- NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 7
New Japan's Wrestle Kingdom proved to have a lot of diversity, and easily the most brutal and hard-hitting match on the card was the fantastic match between Kazushi Sakuraba and Shinsuke Nakamura.
While the Triple Threat match above showcased extreme athleticism and fast paced action, this match took the roll of a more hybrid rules match-up, with former MMA fighter Kazushi Sakuraba tussling it out with the equally tough Shinsuke Nakamura in a grueling contest. Both men looked to get the victory straight away with Sakuraba trying to apply his Arm Bar, and Nakamura trying to hit one of his viscous knee strikes - and all the while hitting each other with some of the stiffest shots you'll see all year.
In many ways this was a controlled frenzy. The action was rough, but also tightly wrapped up in a flowing scuffle.
Kyle O'Reilly vs. TJ Perkins
- PWG Ten
As much as people like to say, PWG isn't always the host of more technical based match-ups, but on their tenth anniversary show, Kyle O'Reilly and TJ Perkins put on a great technical showcase.
TJ Perkins is someone who doesn't always have the right opponents in PWG, as the scientific wrestling he's well capable of doing is generally substituted for a move high flying approach to suit his who ever he's facing. With O'Reilly though, TJ was able to boast the technical side of his game against the equally technically sound Kyle O'Reilly.
The match was as fluent as you'd expect from these two, with both guys exchanging in some wonderful chain wrestling, submission holds and reversals. The high-octane moves were still brought out of course, and contributed greatly with the mat based style to bring off a very good balance. Finally TJ Perkins found the perfect opponent.
reDRagon vs. The American Wolves
- ROH Supercard of Honor VII
One of the finest matches to come out of WrestleMania weekend in April was the ROH World Tag Team Title match between reDRagon (Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish) and The American Wolves.
This match had everything you could really ask for in a tag team match, with both teams on top form. The match started off with a nice steady pace, before both teams kicked it into an other gear, right until the very end of the match. The chemistry between both teams was evident, as every move and sequence came off very smoothly. The crowd were also fully behind everything they did as well, which made the match as a whole just feel that much better.
reDRagon have easily been one of the more brighter sparks in ROH since forming, so it's no surprise that they were involved in the best match from ROH this year.
Kota Ibushi vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
- NJPW G1 Climax 23: Day 4
This year's G1 Climax from New Japan has been labelled one of wrestling's greatest ever tournaments. While I've only (kind of) started watching NJPW this year, and only watched the most talked about matches from G1, I can still see where people are coming from. The action was consistently excellent, and one of the best matches to come from this year's tournament was from Kota Ibushi and Shinsuke Nakamura.
Not every match from the G1 Climax is given much time, but on this occasion both guys where given time to flourish. The different styles meshed instantly, with the stiff hitting Nakamura trying to slow down the quickness and all round athleticism of Kota Ibushi. It led to the high flyer Ibushi standing toe-to-toe with Nakamura, as both guys exchanged in some excellently hard-hitting and fun sequences.
Matches that consist of wrestlers changing their styles to match their opponent can be hard to do, but in this one it was done effortlessly.
Hirooki Goto vs. Katsuyori Shibata
- NJPW Dominion
- NJPW Dominion
In NJPW, there's so many matches that feature all out action of the highest order. Some don't come off quite as well, but those that do are very fun to watch. Katsuyori Shibata is quite good at this style of wrestling, and at New Japan's Dominion show this past June, he toughed it out against Hirooki Goto.
Before the bell even rang the action was underway with Goto pouncing on Shibata, and from there it never really slowed down that much. The kicks and chops were wicked, the very real headbutts were barbaric, and every power move seemed to leave behind a large exclamation mark. As well as that, the urgency behind their actions also works greatly, as it brings off the illustration of two tough men wanting to deliver as much pain as possible to avoid it.
Daniel Bryan vs. Antonio Cesaro
- WWE Raw 20/7
For many weeks during this past Summer, many episodes of Raw could easily have been labelled 'The Daniel Bryan Show'. This was true on the 20th of July edition of Raw, when Daniel Bryan took part in a Gauntlet match against Jack Swagger, Antonio Cesaro and Ryback. And in that pack, it was his tussle against the Swiss star that garnered the most praise, as both men took part in a great match-up.
The many great things about Daniel Bryan is how he can work against anyone and any size. When facing people much bigger and stronger than him he can still control the match and make it look ordinary. He did this here against Antonio Cesaro, who could (unsurprisingly) hang with him during the technical side of things and also when it burst into action.
When it did kick into another gear things got even better, as the contest became back-and-forth, and with the crowd firmly behind every single move. The result ended with an excellent reversal, which quite fittingly summarized how good this match was.
Davey Richards vs. Kyle O'Reilly
- PWG Is Your Body Ready?
After Kyle O'Reilly and Davey Richards' match from ROH's Defy or Deny 2 (which didn't quite make the cut), I had high hopes when the same match-up was announced for PWG's show Is Your Body Ready? Those hopes were matched when the two faced off again, as PWG hosted its best technical based match of the year between two of the best technical wrestlers on the independent scene.
The manner in which both guys worked on a body part was a big welcome inside a PWG ring, as well as the numerous chain wrestling parts throughout. And while that was a pretty big part of the match, they weren't shy in dishing out the crowd pleasing spots to their game, as both Davey and Kyle took part in some really good exchanges and sequences.
They did't go overboard with it all of that though (which Davey Richards especially can do at times) and always rooted back to the technical side of things right until the very end.
CM Punk vs. The Undertaker
- WWE WrestleMania XXIX
The Undertaker's condition was somewhat under caution heading into WrestleMania XXIX, with a lot of people wondering how he'd cope in yet another very demanding match. In the end though, nobody had anything to worry about, as the Deadman put on another excellent match on the Grandest Stage of Them All.
Also heading into the show it was clear that the former WWE champion probably wanted a bigger gig (which was kind of stupid considering he was facing the freakin' Undertaker), but any worries that he wouldn't be up for it were laid to rest come WrestleMania, as he looked fired up and eager to put on a classic.
The end result saw two men from two different generations gel instantly and put on a match that was filled with nice psychology, drama, action and believable nearfalls. I think it's fair to say that no one will ever beat The Undertaker's undefeated streak, but at WrestleMania XXIX CM Punk convinced people that he could pull off the upset. That's something you've got to commend both men for.
ACH vs. Kyle O'Reilly
- PWG Battle of Los Angeles: Night 2
Not only was PWG's second night of Battle of Los Angeles one of the best shows of the year, it featured the best match from PWG this year as well, when ACH took on Kyle O'Reilly.
While pretty much everyone in PWG is eager to impress, these two men seemed to be the most hungry. ACH is the young up and comer who's quickly been making a name for himself on the indie scene, while O'Reilly has steadily been doing the same on a greater scale, as he's been making a name for himself as the best worker on the indie scene right now.
The result was two men going all out to put on a great match - and they certainly did that. ACH's amazing athleticism coincided very well with O'Reilly's precision and agility, and for the entire match the action never really dipped. The spots were flawless (especially from ACH who seriously does some awesome moves), the exchanges were great to watch, and the pacing was kept at the perfect level.
The Reseda, California crowd are generally rowdy anyway, so it's a testament to both men when they had all 400+ in the venue going absolutely nuts in the final few minutes.
CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar
- WWE SummerSlam
Seeing Brock Lesnar's next opponent always seems like a big deal, and when CM Punk was chosen to face The Beast during the Summer it created a bit of a buzz. That buzz lived up to the billing as Brock Lesnar and CM Punk put on a fantastic match on what was easily WWE's best PPV of the year, SummerSlam.
The mixture of MMA and stiff style with WWE's hectic drama filled booking doesn't look good on paper, but when it came to the actual bout it worked extremely well. The action was rough and aggressive, and the inclusion of Paul Heyman spiced things up a bit to make it a thoroughly entertaining bout that had so many aspects to enjoy.
Whatever you watch wrestling for, this match seemed have it. And both Punk and Lesnar worked well enough under every condition of the match.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito
- NJPW G1 Climax 23: Day 9
After an G1 Climax excellent tournament it was then left to two in the final - Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito. What's both interesting and important to take into account is that these two men wrestled for 9 days straight, with the final day consisting of 3 matches for the finalists. So, the fact that both were able to put in such a great effort in the final is something you have to tip your hat off to.
This great effort paid off as well, as the tournament capped with with a brilliant final between two of New Japan's finest. The story of both men just going all out really worked for the match. No real tactics or resting periods, just straight out action right until the very end.
That's what made this match so much fun to watch. The way they threw caution to the wind and went right at it, resulting in great sequences and nearfalls, was tremendous, especially since I didn't see it going that way. A fitting end to such a great tournament.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Prince Devitt
- NJPW Kizuna Road
It's actually a pretty nice feeling when a match lives up to your expectations, and that's what happened here when Kazuchika Okada defended his World Title against Bullet Club leader Prince Devitt.
Devitt himself hasn't had the best year wrestling-wise, as his new heel faction gets involved a bit too much during his matches, and thus ruining the flow of it all. Thankfully though, with this one it wasn't the case. The Bullet Club made their presence known in the match, but for the most part Kazuchika and Devitt were left alone to do their stuff, which helped things greatly. At New Japan's Kizuna Road, they seemed to get the balance right with regards to interference.
With that, the action itself was top notch. Both men wrestled at a very nice pace, which made
every spot easy to take in, and the fluency of their submission moves and exchanges seemed completely effortless. The climax of the match is also a fantastic watch, with almost graceful reversals taking place every second as both men looked to end the match. A truly great bout.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tomohiro Ishii
- NJPW G1 Climax: Day 2
You wouldn't really think it when you look at him (or maybe you would), but there's a lot more to Tomohiro Ishii than just stiff brawling. The man is very versatile, and from what I've seen can work pretty much any kind of match.
This was particularly when he faced off against Hiroshi Tanahashi at G1 Climax. The realistic, ground n' pound style was still there in this match, but the drama and pure engagement that he created with Tanahashi was a great sight. Both men battled it out in a terrific back-and-forth contest that had all the big moves that you'd think would put one of them away. Nearfall after nearfall after nearfall was produced, and while something like that can be overdone at times, on this occasion it sucked you in more and more.
And this was all under what was a pretty short time limit as well, considering all that happened. Yet straight from the start of the bell they were able to fit in so much and not make it feel rushed on bit. No matter if you know both guys or not, it's a match that once you start watching you can't help but get invested in.
CM Punk vs. John Cena
- WWE Raw 25/2
For a good while now it's been evident that John Cena and CM Punk have immense chemistry. For two such different styles and statures, both guys just seem to click. So when both Punk and Cena faced off on the 25th February edition of Monday Night Raw, nothing short of a solid match was expected of them.
The match was certainly that. And then some. What looked like a standard Raw main event soon turned into a classic, and one of their best matches together. The two former WWE champions had the crowd in the palm of their hands as they want back and forth, producing nearfalls and unleashing new moves to their arsenal. The story of both men wanting to go onto face The Rock at WrestleMania was crystal clear, as they both pulled out all the stops to get the victory.
It's almost a shame that we didn't see another series of matches between the two like in 2011 and 2012, but at least we were treated to this fantastic match. A match that's arguably the best in Raw history.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Togi Makabe
- NJPW Dominion
A crowd can pretty much make or break a match in many ways, and at New Japan's Dominion PPV this past June they certainly made it. IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada faced off against Togi Makabe, who right from the opening bell had this fans right behind him.
This made for a great spectacle as Togi Makabe, a guy who going into the match wasn't really a threat to the title, somehow made it look like he could take the gold off of Okada. Every bit of offence seemed to be met with a rousing reception from the fans in attendance. This led to some really great moments throughout the match, particularly near the end when every nearfall looked like Okada was going to keep the gold, or Makabe was going to pull off the upset.
Both men worked an excellent match, and the fans were invested in every bit of it. When you have those two things coincide with each other, you have a pretty special match.
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tomohiro Ishii
- NJPW G1 Climax 23: Day 4
You can try and find a more brutal and barbaric match in 2013 than Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tomohiro Ishii from from the G1 Climax, but you simply won't. There have been of course been some very stiff matches over the past 12 months, with some reaching the top 30 list, but this one here reached another level.
The pre-match announcements before the bell in many ways sums up this match, as both Shibata and Ishii flustered around their corner of the ring, with the crowd anticipating what they were about to witness. The result was an all-out war that somehow kicked into another gear after every passing minute. Every strike was dealt with such viscous intent, which in turn created a great story of two guys who knew they had to beat each another down until one of them was unable to get back up.
I'm not normally a fan of wrestlers literally taking turns hitting each other, but on this match it just worked. It was a test of endurance to see you could last withstand the most pain, with the winner of that test almost gaining the upper hand. From there it was just a see saw of strikes of every form. Forearms, chops, lariats, and of course some ferocious headbutts to go along with it.
Shoot fight style of wrestling executed perfectly.
John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan
- WWE SummerSlam
Although Daniel Bryan was already a former World Champion going into this match, this was still the pinnacle that he was aiming towards for all these years. Headlining a big PPV against the face of the company, for the WWE Championship, a title much more prestigious than the World Title.
The hype leading up to this match set the stage for what was possibly going to be a classic encounter. Despite outside interactions from Triple H and Randy Orton looked like they could tamper such a match-up, thankfully Bryan and Cena were left alone to put on their match before everything that followed. This proved to be a great decision in the end, as both men put on an excellent 30 minute bout that had the wrestling do the talking, and not any booking shenanigans.
The face vs. face dynamic worked wonderfully the most as both guys took turns controlling the match, which of course isn't always easy to pull off well. Bryan and Cena are two big match players though and under all the hype, and no matter the situation, they can always pull off the goods.
The clean-cut approach to the match still had a lot more to it do. The 'wrestler' Daniel Bryan putting the 'Entertainer' John Cena through different holds and obstacles created a good story for the match, and the pacing was controlled perfectly from start to finish. This, coupled with a very hot crowd and an unexpectedly fantastic finish made this a classic encounter, particularly for Daniel Bryan fans who've seen him go through so much hardship in his career.
Whatever about what happened afterwards (which I did like), the match itself delivered on all counts.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Karl Anderson
- NJPW The New Beginning
As far as I know, this was sort of a throwaway main event from New Japan's The New Beginning PPV. Yet, like Okada vs. Makabe from Dominion, it turned into a match that had the crowd totally engaged, and uncertain of the outcome.
I don't really know how Tanahashi does it, but he can somehow make himself look like an underdog in matches, despite all the success he's had. That's what here did here when he faced off against Karl Anderson, as he made the now member of the Bullet Club look like a credible threat to his IWGP World Heavyweight Championship.
Credit must also go to Anderson himself of course. He's someone that helped make this B PPV main event into a classic bout, that told a great story and consisted of many nearfalls that had fans on the edge of their seats. Thanks in part to Tanahashi's selling as well, for the last 10 minutes every move looked like it could be the last, which created some tremendous drama as the champion looked like his reign was coming to an end.
Creating that kind of drama and excitement for a match like that can be hard to do, yet Tanahashi and Anderson did it with ease. The instant chemistry, solid storytelling and fine action made this one of the best matches of the year.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada
- NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 7
If 2013 is to be remembered anything by, it should be the year that Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi tore the house down every time they went head-to-head. Reading back on some previews of this match it was clear that their was a lot of hype surrounding this Wrestle Kingdom 7 main event. Having already put on all-time classic at Dominion 2012, there was hope that they could reach those heights again.
Crazily enough, this was actually their worst match together in 2013, yet still the 4th best match of the year in my eyes. They were to out do themselves again, but regardless of that, their main event match at Wrestle Kingdom 7 in Tokyo Dome was an excellent match that showcased each man's immense talent, and their amazing chemistry together.
Each of their matches seem to follow a certain structure, and in this match it was no exception. The challenger Okada focused on the neck of Tanahashi, while the champion focused on Okada's leg for the most part. This resulted in some engaging in-ring psychology that later flowed into the final few minutes of the match extremely well.
The action was incredibly crisp throughout the whole match, and featured the kind of excitement and drama fitting enough for the big spectacle in the Tokyo Dome.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada
- NJPW G1 Climax 23: Day 8
Having this take place during the G1 Climax tournament gave this match another aspect for each man to explore, as neither man had a title to defend, but rather something they both had to fight for. This different dynamic created something different in their match-up, and both Okada and Tanahashi took advantage of that.
With both men needing the win to progress in the tournament, this led to both men throwing caution to the wind a little bit more. This created a great story of exhaustion playing a huge part in the match, as the shorter time limit meant that they both had rush into their offence a bit more. The psychology aspect was still there of course, but the manner in which they worked different body parts was more hurried, which in turn created some more brilliantly hectic exchanges.
Th final few minutes of the match are particularly fantastic as the fatigued wrestlers looked for that one killer blow before time ran out. The end result both made sense and came across a lot better than such an ending generally would thanks to the great storytelling and psychology both formed throughout the match.
In arguably the best wrestling tournament ever, it's almost no surprise that these two produced the stand out match.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada
- NJPW Invasion Attack
I was never that intrigued about New Japan Pro Wrestling. From 2011 onward I watched a few matches from fellow Irishman Prince Devitt, but apart from that I wasn't interested in watching anything else. Following a bit of buzz surrounding this match though, which seemed to get 5 star reviews everywhere, I thought about giving this match a watch. For some reason I wasn't expecting myself to like it as much as others, but I was certainly ready to be open about what I was about to watch. In the end, this match more than lived up to my expectations. What I witnessed was an absolute classic, and one of the best matches I've ever seen.
What's so special about this match is Okada and Tanahashi's ability to say so much with their wresting. I had never seen anything from either man before, and yet while watching this match I was able to pick up on what each man was trying to do, and what they were about. Okada worked on the neck of Tanahashi. Tanahashi worked on the arm of Okada. The psychology was as calculated as you like, and the storytelling was outstanding.
Eventually I saw the bigger and final picture as Okada hit the Tombstone on Tanahashi. The reason why he was working on his neck - check. Then, he went for his finishing move the Rainmaker, a variation of the lariat. Tanahashi blocked the move though, thanks to the damage he did to opponents arm. The reason why he went after the arm in the first place - check. The work from both men was so immaculate that I was able to gather their styles and tactics without having seen them wrestle before. That's how good these two guys are.
For roughly 30 minutes I was glued to the screen as Okada and Tanahashi put on a wrestling clinic. Simply put, this is an amazing match, and no matter if you've seen New Japan before or not, well worth going out of your way to see.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
- NJPW King of Pro Wrestling
Somehow, after all the excellence of their match at Invasion Attack, Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi out did themselves again when they faced off for a 6th time at King of Pro Wrestling.
Everything about this match was simply flawless. The manner in which Tanahashi subtly heeled things up by playing possum on a leg injury, showboating at his trickery, and viciously going after the arm of Okada was brilliant to watch. On Okada's side then, the manner in which he sold the hurt right arm was incredible, and one of the finest pieces of psychology and storytelling you'll see around.
The result of this match was a bit more certain than on other occasions, yet for so many parts throughout the match it looked like Okada's reign as champion was coming to an abrupt end. It wouldn't be fair to pick out one man as the result of that kind of storytelling, as both men did an excellent job of doing that, feeding off each other through every move and mannerism.
For all that talk though, everything that went along with it was also exceptional. The drama, the sequences, the numerous nearfalls - it was all stellar. Not many matches can live up to the hype after so many encounters prior, yet Okada and Tanahashi found a way to top it yet again. One of the best matches ever, that's part of one of the best wrestling series in history. Quite simply, wrestling perfection.