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Top 25 Matches of the First Trimester – 2023

Yo yo yo yo yo yo yo yo yo yo, I’m excited to be back with a special edition of my rankings. Now that we are a third of the way through 2023, I figured it’d be a good time to step back and take a look at the year in wrestling as a whole, so today I’ll be bringing you my Top 25 Matches of the First Trimester of 2023 — not a mouthful whatsoever! But before that, here are my Top 5 Shows of the Year Thus Far:

1. Stardom All-Star Grand Queendom
2. NJPW Sakura Genesis
3. ROH Supercard of Honor
4. AEW Revolution
5. WWE Wrestlemania Night 1

A nice mix of promotions there, and all six took place within a month-and-a-half of each other. It’s been a heck of a year in wrestling to date, but let’s not beat around the bush and get right into it.

25. Syuri vs Chihiro Hashimoto

Stardom All-Star Grand Queendom (4/23), Knockout or Submission Only

This was a classic case of the Irresistible Force meeting the Immovable Object, with Syuri dominating Stardom in 2022 as the World of Stardom Champion, against the absolute unit that is Chihiro Hashimoto, who came over from the SENDAI Girls promotion. These two threw absolutely everything at each other with hard strikes and brutal submissions, but in the end, Hashimoto stumbled at the count of nine and could not answer the 10 count. I suspect and look forward to another match this year between these two warriors.

24. Kenny Omega vs El Hijo del Vikingo

AEW Dynamite (3/22)

Vikingo’s American television debut, and the absolute perfect opponent in Kenny Omega to burst upon the scene against — and burst he did! For 17 minutes Kenny and Vikingo put on a beautiful display of PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING with some of the craziest spots you’ll see in America, execution to perfection. Despite the L, Vikingo proved that he belongs anywhere he wants, and this match certainly springboarded him to superstardom here in the States. 

23. Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) vs Bishamon (YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto)

NJPW Sakura Genesis (4/8), IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship

One of three matches so far this year that caused me to shed tears, Aussie Open finally reached the top of the mountain in New Japan with an incredibly emotional victory over Bishamon, who had built themselves into the Aces of the tag division. Fletcher busted his head open on a moonsault to the outside mere minutes into the match, which led to an incredibly hot crowd for this tremendous tag team match. Aussie Open is the FTR of 2022, and they’re on some kind of roll. The world is their oyster. 

22. Bishamon vs Kazuchika Okada & Hiroshi Tanahashi

NJPW 51st Anniversary Event (3/6), IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship

A double dose of Bishamon! Anyone who knows me, knows I’ve been so happy to see YOSHI-HASHI’s graduation from Jobber High into a key player in New Japan, especially in the tag division. This was the crowning win for Bishamon, as they proved that a strong tag team will (almost) always beat two great singles wrestlers (despite Okada and Tana teaming together on a number of occasions). Bishamon’s teamwork in this match was sublime, and ultimately too much for the Dream Team to overcome.

21. Will Ospreay vs Taichi

NJPW The New Beginning in Sapporo Night 1 (2/4)

Similar to YOSHI-HASHI, Taichi was a lower-rung guy when I started watching New Japan in 2017, and it warms my heart to see how great he is now. This is one of his best matches to date, with one more coming higher on this list. Taichi took Ospreay to his limits, and there’s no shame in losing to the best in the world. Taichi came out of this match looking like a complete badass, and it was in no way a carry job by Ospreay, who was as great as always. What a great fight this was. 

20. The Elite vs Death Triangle

AEW Dynamite (1/11), AEW World Trios Championship Series Match 7 — Escalera de la Muerte

Who doesn’t love a Game 7, or in this case a Match 7? I know some weren’t too high on this series, but I sure was, and this was an excellent culmination. I was hoping we’d be surprised and Death Triangle would take it, but the Elite reigned supreme as expected. This was an absolute car crash spotfest of a match, but I loved every second of it. This was 15 minutes of non-stop action with Omega hitting Fenix with a One Winged Angel from the top of a ladder to put an end to it.

19. Yuma Aoyagi & Naoya Nomura vs Kento Miyahara & Takuya Nomura

AJPW New Year Giant Series Night 5 (1/22), AJPW World Tag Team Championship

This was a throwback to the incredible tag team main events All Japan used to put on in the 90’s featuring the Four Pillars and other stars of the time. This was 22+ minutes of expert tag team wrestling with four of the biggest stars of All Japan today. It was centered around the Yuma/Kento rivalry, with Yuma getting the pin over Kento, something he still longs to do for the AJPW Triple Crown Championship. If you like great tag team wrestling, this match is certainly worth seeking out.

18. Claudio Castagnoli vs Eddie Kingston

ROH Supercard of Honor (3/31), ROH World Championship

Speaking of All Japan, this felt exactly like a vintage 90’s King’s Road style singles match that was a real FIGHT. The build to the match was excellent, and the vitriol between Claudio and Eddie was real adding that much more to the match. Both men were incredibly desperate and the urgency was off the charts from the jump. It was a very emotional, hard-hitting match with both men absorbing large amounts of punishment. Eddie had some dramatic nearfalls, but in the end, Claudio was just too much for him to overcome. Rematch later this year, please?

17. Hangman Adam Page vs Jon Moxley

AEW Revolution (3/5), Texas Death

What a fitting ending to this blood feud. Mox and Hanger took the violence to the next level in this one, and Hangman became the moniker literally hanging Moxley with a chain over the top rope to secure the victory. There was a fork, barbed wire, and a brick utilized, among other things. I’m not typically a big deathmatch guy, but when it’s two of my favorite wrestlers in the world fighting tooth and nail to prove who’s the toughest, sign me the fuck up. This was a wonderfully beautiful culmination to one of AEW’s best feuds. 

16. Darby Allin vs Samoa Joe

AEW Dynamite (2/1), AEW TNT Championship No Disqualification

The first of two matches on the list I had the pleasure of seeing live, and damn this was a great one to be in the building for. Just less than a month after Darby scored a surprising win over Joe to win his second TNT Championship, Joe got his revenge here in a brutal and violent contest. Darby wore a thumbtacked hoodie to the ring and bumped his ass off for Joe. There was plenty of weaponry, big spots, and they even took apart the ring to expose the wooden boards in one of my favorite matches I’ve ever seen live.

15. Mark Briscoe vs Jay Lethal

AEW Dynamite (1/25), Jay Briscoe Memorial

Another one I was fortunate enough to be in the building for, and I think I had tears in my eyes throughout the entirety of the match. It was one week following the tragic passing of Jay Briscoe on what would have been his 38th birthday, and Mark made his AEW debut against longtime friend of the Briscoe’s in Jay Lethal. I haven’t gone back and rewatched the match, and it was a tough one to rank, but it was an experience I’ll certainly never forget.

14. SANADA vs Kazuchika Okada

NJPW Sakura Genesis (4/8), IWGP World Heavyweight Championship

The SANADA shock! As the excellent New Japan commentator Kevin Kelly said, SANADA looked like he wasn’t very interested in pro wrestling anymore as the New Japan Cup was beginning. He was taking L’s, including in multi-man tags, until he was woken up by future JUST FIVE GUYS stablemate Taichi woke him up in the first round of the New Japan Cup, a tournament which SANADA would go on to win. He came to Sakura Genesis with a new look and new gear and pulled off the legitimately shocking upset over Okada in what was a damn good match that definitely got bumped up a bit because of the sheer surprise. But SANADA has answered the bell and truly performed and carried himself like a champion.

13. Taichi vs Shingo Takagi

NJPW Wrestling Satsuma no Kuni (4/29), NJPW KOPW Championship Takagi Style Triad

Despite losing to Shingo three times in KOPW Championship matches in 2022, our lord and savior Taichi finally gets his crowning moment, outlasting Shingo in over 43 minutes having to defeat him in three different ways (either pinfall, submission, countout, knockout or referee stoppage). It was a true slugfest and I was incredibly invested the whole way despite the length. All kudos to Shingo for turning the KOPW Championship from a joke into something serious with some very creative and fun stipulations. I can’t wait to see what Taichi does with it.

12. Hikuleo vs Jay White

NJPW The New Beginning in Osaka (2/11), Loser Leaves Japan 

This was a bit of a divisive match for some, but I absolutely loved it, despite Hikuleo not really getting much of a rub following the victory (winning the NJPW Strong Openweight Championship nearly three months later doesn’t count, sorry). There was so much real uncertainty going in, and Hikuleo and Jay White told an amazing story in the ring that had me compelled bell to bell. This was by far the best match of Hikuleo’s career, and he proved that he can go at a high level with the right opponent and story. Jay White was absolutely brilliant on the way out, ultimately giving in and accepting defeat with one final “too sweet.” I just wish Jay’s star wasn’t currently being wasted in AEW — use him right! 

11. Rhea Ripley vs Charlotte Flair

WWE Wrestlemania Night 1 (4/1), WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship 

What a battle this was, between two of the baddest women in WWE history. They had wrestled on number of occasions previously, but this was by far the best of the bunch. Rhea and Charlotte threw each other around and pummeled one another pillar to post for over 23 minutes in one of the best women’s matches in WWE history, and the best women’s match at Wrestlemania. Despite being not interesting for a couple years now, Charlotte turned it up to her best, and Rhea finally got the big moment she deserved — just tremendous stuff all around.

10. Gunther vs Sheamus vs Drew McIntyre

WWE Wrestlemania Night 2 (4/2), Intercontinental Championship Triple Threat

This wasn’t quite as good as Sheamus and Gunther’s IC Title classic last year at Clash at the Castle, but it was pretty damn close. To the shock of no one, it was supremely stiff and hard-hitting throughout the entire, concise 16:36. No flash, all substance as each man was at their best in this slugfest. My one small complaint was that Gunther was away (napping) for a little bit too long before he popped back in to get the victory. I also wanted to see Sheamus finally get his moment, but I certainly was not upset one bit to see Gunther’s reign continue. More of this, please.

9. Mina Shirakawa vs Saya Kamitani

Stardom All-Star Grand Queendom (4/23), Wonder of Stardom Championship

Another tear-jerker for me, as I couldn’t help but shed tears after Mina Shirakawa herself was bawling after finally overcoming Saya Kamitani to win the Wonder of Stardom Championship, ending Saya’s record-breaking reign at 480 days with 15 title defenses. Mina had challenged Saya last fall, and not only did it end with Mina losing, but she also suffered a broken face from a semi-botched Phoenix Splash from Saya (Check out my podcast, The Phoenix Splash!). AND, Saya had not attempted a Phoenix Splash after breaking Mina’s face — she had the yips! But in this very emotional match, Saya finally hit the Phoenix Splash again, although she mostly connected on Mina’s legs. If you’re a regular Stardom viewer and a fan of both women like I am, this had absolutely everything, and I absolutely loved it.

8. Roman Reigns vs Cody Rhodes

WWE Wrestlemania Night 2 (4/2), WWE Undisputed World Universal Championship

I had no words after the ref’s hand hit the mat for the count of three. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I was actually quite happy about it. Like SANADA’s aforementioned victory over Okada, when you can truly shock me I’m going to like it that much more. Everyone and their brother assumed Cody was going to go over, but as he has for nearly 1000 days, Roman finds a way. This match was the epitome of “big fight feel” and was such a great back-and-forth contest with a piping-hot crowd. I still hope Cody is ultimately the one to dethrone Roman because it would devalue this just a bit if not. 

7. Saya Kamitani vs Hazuki

Stardom Triangle Derby I ~Championship Battle~ (3/1), Wonder of Stardom Championship

While I correctly figured Mina Shirakawa would ultimately be the one to end Saya’s epic run with the White Belt, I’d be damned if I wasn’t pulling hard for Hazuki in this one. Her speed, relentlessness, and fighting spirit make her one of my favorites in Stardom, and this match had it all in spades from both competitors for 23 minutes. Both exhibited great selling, and there were many big moves and spots, and many outstanding nearfalls down the stretch. It was truly an epic match, but Hazuki still waits for her big singles moment in Stardom. I’m looking forward to a very strong 5Star Grand Prix from her this fall.

6. Tam Nakano vs Giulia

Stardom All-Star Grand Queendom (4/23), World of Stardom Championship

We enter the five-star zone with a match I’m still a bit salty about. After the dust has settled, I still feel it was too early to take the red belt off Giulia. Having said that, the match was absolutely incredible as expected, and the best to date in the amazing Tam/Giulia rivalry. It wasn’t quite Roman/Cody or SANADA/Okada levels of shock, but I was pretty damn surprised with the result. However, if anyone were to take it off Giulia this early, Tam definitely made the most sense. Per usual, these two set out to destroy one another, and even resorted to using each other’s moves. Tam hit a second massive Violet Screwdriver and crushed my dreams in the process. Although I didn’t like the result, I simply cannot deny the quality of the match.

5. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs The Usos

WWE Wrestlemania Night 1 (4/1), WWE Undisputed World Tag Team Championship

Main Event Jey Uso strikes again! But for real, this match most definitely lived up to the lofty expectations and main event slot. It was a perfect tag team match with a perfect storyline coming in, executed to perfection with Sami pinning Jey after multiple Helluva Kicks. Similar to Roman/Cody, this had an epic feel and there were a number of kickouts of finishers. It was high-octane action the whole way and the two teams had excellent chemistry, and the feel-good moment of Kevin and Sami getting their ultimate WWE moment was exactly what you want to see.

4. Yuji Hino vs Kazusada Higuchi

DDT Sweet Dreams! (1/29), DDT KO-Openweight Championship

Get out a Webster’s Dictionary and look up “meaty men slapping meat” and this match is what you’ll find. This was the rematch after their 30-minute draw in the D-Oh Grand Prix a couple months prior, where they chopped the shit out of each other for more than half of it. This match was more of the same, but with more urgency as it was for the top championship in DDT. And yet again (even though this was the first in the bunch), I was pretty damn surprised to not see my dad Higuchi kick out after the massive powerbomb from Hino. Higuchi’s run was unbelievable, and admittedly I have not been into DDT as much since he dropped it. But damnit, if you like a power match, go out of your way to watch this one. 

3. Kazuchika Okada vs Shingo Takagi

NJPW The New Beginning in Osaka (2/11), IWGP World Heavyweight Championship

Just two of the absolute best in the world doing it at the highest level in 32 minutes of work. These two have had several amazing singles matches, but this one was easily my favorite. This was Okada’s first title defense after defeating Jay White at Wrestle Kingdom, and he had a bit of a new heelish attitude that Shingo beat out of him. They pushed each other to new levels they previously had not been to together, and boy was it STIFF — just like I was watching it. In the end, badass Okada was just too much for Shingo to overcome, but by god this was a sight to behold.

2. MJF vs Bryan Danielson

AEW Revolution (3/5), AEW World Championship 60-Minute Ironman

What drama this was for 65 minutes between two of the best wrestlers in the world. That’s right, I said it — MJF is one of the best in the world, period. And what more is there to say about Bryan Danielson since he joined AEW? What a joy it’s been to see him perform at such a high level with consistency. It didn’t necessarily need overtime, but it all worked out with MJF’s usage of the oxygen mask, which led to him TAPPING OUT Danielson. Of course, I assumed MJF would retain, but damnit they got me late in the match when Danielson did the YES chants and hit the Busiko Knee. God damn, that was so good! Incredible stuff, and one of the best 60-minute ironman matches ever (Nakajima/Kenoh late 2021 in NOAH being the best, in my not-so-humble opinion).

1. Will Ospreay vs Kenny Omega

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 17 (1/4), IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship

Quite simply, one of the greatest matches of all time. Kenny’s first match in Japan in four years after losing the IWGP Heavyweight Championship to Hiroshi Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom 13, and I definitely did not expect him to win, let alone dominate a good 75% of the match. The God of Professional Wrestling (Why, Don, whyyyyy!!????) earned that moniker on this January 4 as he systematically decimated and broke the spirit of the world’s best wrestler in Will Ospreay. It was such a delight to see Kenny working heel, and the Japanese crowd is absolutely yearning for Ospreay’s crowning babyface moment at the Tokyo Dome. Trust me, it’s coming, and probably over Okada. I digress, but this was pro wrestling executed to perfection at the highest level imaginable. I do wish we would’ve gotten to see Kenny defend the belt in Japan, but unfortunately, he has not been back since. I expect the rematch to occur at ALL IN with Ospreay going over, and you better believe I can’t fucking wait for the sequel. 

Top 10 Matches of the Week – 5/1 – 5/7

Whatttttttttt upppppppppppp, ya nerrrrrrrrrrdddddddsssss!? Bretty’s back after a week off, with another piping HOT weekly top 10 in the wonderful world of professional wrestling. I’ll be back very soon with my Top 25 of the 2023 First Trimester, but until then, let’s dig in. Now can you dig that, sucker?

Let’s start at the top, with Jake Lee’s continued dominance since making the exodus to Pro Wrestling NOAH from All Japan Pro Wrestling. Despite Naomichi Marufuji turning back the clock with an incredible throwback performance, the Sith Lord Lee reigns supreme as GHC Heavyweight Champion. For his second consecutive title defense (1st – Katsuhiko Nakajima), Lee proved he can take inordinate amounts of punishment, ultimately using his size, strength, and sheer will to overcome his opponents. I was a big fan of the handful of Jake Lee matches I saw while he was in AJPW (mostly against Kento Miyahara), and I’m so happy to see he and the Good Looking Guys on a roll in NOAH. 

Elsewhere on the NOAH Majestic card, we got the shocking reunion of the Nakahima-Go Shiozaki tag team Axiz, just moments after Nakajima viciously defeated Go in his return match after several months away. Less than three years after Nakajima’s initial betrayal on Go to join KONGO, Nakajima flops back to Go and Axiz, much to the very strong dismay of KONGO leader and general mad man Kenoh. This is going to be fascinating to follow, and I’m very much looking forward to a Nakajima/Kenoh match in the near future (those two had my Match of the Year in all of wrestling in 2021). Oh yeah, and the six-man tag to set this up was delightful. Speaking of delightful, El Hijo del Dr. Wagner Jr. had another very strong defense of the GHC National Title over Hideki Suzuki (formerly Hachiman in WWE, but he never really wrestled). 

While New Japan’s Wrestling Dontaku wasn’t anywhere near the level of Show of the Year Candidate Sakura Genesis, it was still a very solid show complete with the shock ending of former young lion Yota Tsuji’s return from excursion laying out SANADA and Just Five Guys following SANADA’s defense of the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship over Hiromu Takahashi. Just like Shota Umino and Ren Narita before him, Tsuji gets (an even bigger) rocket up his ass upon his return to New Japan as they continue to build their next generation of superstars. Tsuji looked like an absolute killer and went straight to the top for the newly-minted IWGP World Champ. Not to mention, he teased his entry into Los Ingobernables de Japon and could be set up as its future leader whenever Naito hangs up the boots. SANADA looked great in his first defense against Hiromu, who got a couple of excellent nearfalls down the stretch, and looked every bit the part of a heavyweight in his second challenge for the big belt, and first time while the current Jr. Heavyweight Champ. 

BREAKING NEWS: Kazuchika Okada has finally won a championship in New Japan that was not the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, as he, Tanahashi and Ishii are the new NEVER Six-Man Champions, defeating Strong Style. This was an incredibly fun match carried by the Okada/Narita interactions, along with Ishii gaining Tanahashi’s trust as the match went along. I’m sad to see Strong Style’s run end so soon, but very intrigued to see what the Okada/Tana/Ishii trio can do with them because they already feel more important than they ever have. Zack Sabre Jr and Jeff Cobb fought to a 15-minute draw for the NJPW World Television Championship in their first singles match together in New Japan. It was a fun contrast of styles, with Sabre being forced out of his game, but Cobb unable to put him away within the time limit. I expect we’ll see a rematch at some point. Bring it on. 

Rounding out Japan with some Stardom, Mina Shirakawa completed her first defense of the Wonder of Stardom Championship in a slugfest against former Cosmic Angels stablemate Natsupoi. Poi gave Mina all she could handle, setting the tone early by slapping the shit out of Mina numerous times right out of the gate. This was hard hitting all the way, but Mina’s just too hot right now. Also, the new-look tag champs of MIRAI and Ami Sourei had an excellent first defense of the Goddesses of Stardom Championship over Fukuoka’s own Hazuki and Koguma. No bullshit from Koguma in this one, and it was a barnburner from the get go, with MIRAI and Hazuki really starring. 

Finishing this bad boy up with a very entertaining WWE Backlash show, and hats off to the Puerto Rico crowd for making the show better. They were scorching from the jump and never let up. They did their damndest to will IYO Sky to victory over Bianca Belair for the Raw Women’s Championship in what I thought was the match of the night. Like Marufuji in the NOAH show, IYO turned in a Stardom throwback performance of her own as she fed off the energy of a red hot crowd for her. Easily her best main roster match, and maybe best WWE match overall, and it was fun to see Bianca work a little heelish. Hopefully IYO’s time as a singles star will come soon. Let IYO cook! Just a notch below this match was the San Juan Street Fight between Bad Bunny and Damian Priest. Wow, this was great! Bad Bunny proves yet again that he’s one of the three best celebrity wrestlers ever (Logan Paul, Pat McAfee) as he launched a brutal assault on the leg of Priest, and got a little help from his friends the LWO, Carlito and Savio Vega, in what was some lovely fan service. I loved it despite not seeing the ring for probably five minutes. Bad Bunny is the man, and he looks like a man who’s been wrestling for 10 years. Credit to Priest for his excellent selling and helping guide Mr. Bunny along the way. High marks across the board for the show, as we enter the new WWE post-draft era. 

1Jake Lee vs Naomichi Marufuji (4.75)NOAH Majestic5/4GHC Heavyweight Championship
2SANADA vs Hiromu Takahashi (4.5)NJPW Wrestling Dontaku5/3IWGP World Heavyweight Championship
3Mina Shirakawa vs Natsupoi (4.5)Stardom Fukuoka Goddess Legend ~Sweet Stardom~5/4Wonder of Stardom Championship
4Bianca Belair vs IYO Sky (4.5)WWE Backlash5/6WWE Raw Women’s Championship
5Bad Bunny vs Damian Priest (4.5)WWE Backlash5/6San Juan Street Fight
6Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tomohiro Ishii vs Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado & Ren Narita (4.25)NJPW Wrestling Dontaku5/3NJPW NEVER Openweight Six-Man Championship
7Katsuhiko Nakajima, Kenoh & Manabu Soya vs Go Shiozaki, Kaito Kiyomiya & Yoshiki Inamura (4.25)NOAH Majestic5/4Six-Man Tag
8Zack Sabre Jr vs Jeff Cobb (4.25)NJPW Wrestling Dontaku5/3NJPW World Television Championship
9MIRAI & Ami Sourei vs Hazuki & Koguma (4.25)Stardom Fukuoka Goddess Legend ~Sweet Stardom~5/4Goddesses Of Stardom Championship
10El Hijo del Dr. Wagner Jr vs Hideki Suzuki (4)NOAH Majestic5/4GHC National Championship

Top 10 Matches of the Week – 4/17 – 4/23

Well, well, well, who’s ready to hear about some STARDOM baaayyyyyyyyybbbeeeeeeeee!? I’m saying this for the third time this month, but we may have seen the show of the year thus far with Stardom’s All-Star Grand Queendom with six of this week’s top seven spots coming from that show. All five titles changed hands! Check out my recap on The Phoenix Splash Podcast if you’re interested in hearing my very immediate and raw reaction to the show!

Let’s start right at the top with another very surprising result that I’m still reeling from, as Tam Nakano defeated her eternal rival (and my favorite women’s wrestler in the world) Giulia to win her first World of Stardom Championship. Giulia’s blank look after the match said it all, but as always, these two threw absolute bombs at each other the entire time, topping each other with big move after big move, and Tam finished her with a second Violet Screwdriver and I didn’t want to believe it when the ref’s hand hit the mat for the three count. It was an incredible match, and honestly, the fact that Tam got the surprising win — even though I didn’t necessarily want to see it — probably bumped it up to 5 for me. If you can catch me off guard, I absolutely love it, and it’s happened three times this month (see Reigns/Cody & SANADA/Okada).

Mina Shirakawa getting her revenge after Saya Kamitani broke her face last year to win the Wonder of Stardom Championship literally brought me to tears. It was an incredibly emotional match, which included Saya finally hitting Mina with the Phoenix Splash, after refusing to go for the move earlier in the match, as she’d had the yips after breaking Mina’s face with the move last year. It was incredibly satisfying to see her finally hit the move, but it would prove to not be enough to stop the fearless Shirakawa. It was a beautiful moment, and hats off to Saya for her incredible record-breaking 480-day run and 15 defenses of the white belt. 

Syuri vs Chihiro Hashimoto was a 16-minute war from bell to bell to crown the baddest bitch on the block. I was happy to see the Knockout or Submission Only stipulation added, and these two beat each other pillar to post and didn’t take their feet off the gas for one second. In the end, Hashimoto just barely failed to answer the 10 count, hopefully leading to another match between the two soon. Mercedes Mone’s brief run with the IWGP Championship has ended, as she fell to the icon Mayu Iwatani in a brisk 13 minutes, but it was outstanding work with the time they were given. I think Mercedes time with Stardom/NJPW has been an absolute home run, and I’m very intrigued to see who she’ll be facing at New Japan’s Resurgence in America. Now that she and Giulia are beltless, do we see the first-time Dream Match occur in the states? I’d love to see it. In the Artist of Stardom Championship, my favorites Prominence unfortunately dropped the belts to the UPstart REstart team of KAIRI, Natsupoi and Stardom newcomer (even though she was there in 2017) Saori Anou. The match ended with some excellent exchanges between Anou and Suzu Suzuki, with Anou scoring the flash pin and hopefully setting up a future singles match between the two.

Ohhhhhhh Himeka, I am so sad to see you go. Himeka has been one of my absolute favorites since I began following Stardom, but she has now completed her retirement road falling to her longtime tag team partner Maika. It was obviously an incredibly emotional match, but they left it all out there, and it was a fitting way for Himeka to go out. Additionally, Giulia and Syuri brought back their AliKaba tag team for one night to face Himeka and Maika, which was another incredibly fun and emotional match. Thank you, Himeka, for everything you’ve done to entertain us. I’m going to miss you dearly. Long live the Jumbo Princess!

And rounding out the list, a few non-Stardom matches, including an awesome six-man on Impact with Time Machine defeating the trio of Trey Miguel, Mike Bailey and Jonathan Gresham, who had recently faced off for the X-Division Championship at Rebellion; Konosuke Takeshita’s battle with Lee Moriarty on ROH, and The Miz showing some fire and proving he’s not joke against Seth Rollins. 

If I can leave you with one thing, WATCH STARDOM, WATCH STARDOM, WATCH STARDOM!!!!!!

1Tam Nakano vs Giulia (5)Stardom All-Star Grand Queendom4/23World of Stardom Championship
2Mina Shirakawa vs Saya Kamitani (4.75)Stardom All-Star Grand Queendom4/23Wonder of Stardom Championship
3Syuri vs Chihiro Hashimoto (4.5)Stardom All-Star Grand Queendom4/23Knockout or Submission Only
4Giulia & Syuri vs Himeka & Maika (4.25)Stardom in Korakuen Hall4/14Himeka Retirement Road
5Maika vs Himeka (4.25)Stardom All-Star Grand Queendom4/23Himeka Retirement
6KAIRI, Natsupoi & Saori Anou vs Suzu Suzuki, Risa Sera & Hiragi Kurumi (4.25)Stardom All-Star Grand Queendom4/23Artist of Stardom Championship
7Mayu Iwatani vs Mercedes Moné (4.25)Stardom All-Star Grand Queendom4/23IWGP Women’s Championship
8Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin & KUSHIDA vs Trey Miguel, Mike Bailey & Jonathan Gresham (4.25)Impact Wrestling4/20
9Konosuke Takeshita vs Lee Moriarty (4.25)ROH on Honor Club #84/20
10Seth Rollins vs The Miz (4)WWE Monday Night Raw4/17

Top 10 Matches of the Week – 4/10 – 4/16

Yooooooooooo yoooooooooo, glad to be back here on the BEN after a week off following my behemoth Top 25 from Wrestlemania Week. However, because I didn’t write about it last week, I do want to quickly recognize New Japan’s Sakura Genesis as my new favorite show of the year — quickly snatching the spot on the mantle from ROH Supercard of Honor the week prior.  

I had the shocking SANADA victory over Okada at 4.75, Mercedes Mone/Hazuki/AZM and Aussie Open/Bishamon at 4.5 (shed a tear after that one) and ZSJ/Shota and Hiromu/Eagles at 4.25. Not to mention a very entertaining undercard that featured David Finlay truly becoming the leader of Bullet Club and Naito getting DOUKI CHOUKI’d — just tremendous stuff all around.

Back to this past week, my top two matches both came from Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Green Journey in Sendai. El Hijo del Dr. Wagner Jr. and Jack Morris are two of the most improved in all of professional wrestling over the past nine months or so. They put on one hell of an entertaining and stiff match that had such a nice flow to it. I was absolutely locked in, and a bit surprised — albeit, happy — that the doctor retained. The main event went pretty much how I thought it would with Nakajima kicking the shit out of Jake Lee, largely controlling the match, but Lee finding a way to get the job done in the end. The crowd was incredibly hot for both of these contests, and NOAH has been on a nice roll to start 2023. 

New Japan had a couple of strong (pardon the pun) shows in the United States this weekend. Admittedly, I haven’t watched the entirety of the Philly show yet (there was so much damn good wrestling this past weekend, plus NBA playoffs, plus attending an indie wrestling show), but the DC was incredibly quality top-to-bottom, and I had three matches at 4.25 — highlighted by another wonderful Zack Sabre Jr TV title defense, this time against fellow grappling stalwart Tom Lawlor. These two had such great chemistry and I’d love to see them go at it again without the restriction of a 15-minute time limit. Tomohiro Ishii and El Desperado are two of my favorite wrestlers in the company who absolutely did not disappoint, and the main event was a mix of talent I never thought I’d see in a ring together, with Aussie Open besting the Motor City Machine Guns and the Dream Team of Okada and Tanahashi to become double New Japan tag team champions. Oh, and they defended those belts the following night against the awesome duo of Ishii and Lio Rush, in a match that I enjoyed the most of what I saw from both shows. Ishii and Rush made such an awesome combination that truly threw the AO boys off their game, but the champs — and current best tag team in the world — got the job done in the end.

I’ll admit my interest in Impact Wrestling has been waning since the injury of Josh Alexander. Shortly after, it was announced that Knockouts Champion Mickie James would also vacate her title. But, with their backs against the wall, Impact put on one heck of a show with Rebellion, which saw husband and wife Steve Maclin and Deonna Purrazzo come out as the company’s top two champions. Both matches were good, but I definitely preferred the women’s bout, and it was absolutely deserving of the main event slot. My favorite match of the show was the X-Division triple threat elimination between Trey Miguel, Mike Bailey and Jonathan Gresham, in what was 14 minutes of TOTAL NONSTOP ACTION. I’m so cool. Lastly, Vikingo defended his AAA Mega Championship in what I’m calling a four-way lucha fuckfest match. Very fun and entertaining, cool to see Swerve and Swann mix it up with those guys, but it definitely had some slop and felt forced at times. 

1El Hijo del Dr. Wagner Jr. vs Jack Morris (4.5)NOAH Green Journey in Sendai4/16GHC National Championship 
2Jake Lee vs Katsuhiko Nakajima (4.5)NOAH Green Journey in Sendai4/16GHC Heavyweight Championship 
3Aussie Open vs Tomohiro Ishii & Lio Rush (4.5)NJPW Collision in Philadelphia 4/16NJPW Strong Tag Team Championship 
4Trey Miguel vs Mike Bailey vs Jonathan Gresham (4.25)Impact Rebellion 4/16Impact X-Division Championship Triple Threat Elimination 
5Zack Sabre Jr vs Tom Lawlor (4.25)NJPW Capital Collision 4/15NJPW World Television Championship 
6Swerve Strickland vs Darby Allin (4.25)AEW Dynamite 4/12
7Aussie Open vs Kazuchika Okada & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Motor City Machine Guns (4.25)NJPW Capital Collision4/15NJPW Strong Openweight Championship 
8Tomohiro Ishii vs El Desperado (4.25)NJPW Capital Collision4/15
9Deonna Purrazzo vs Jordynne Grace (4.25)Impact Rebellion 4/16Impact Knockouts Championship 
10El Hijo Del Vikingo vs Komander vs Swerve Strickland vs Rich Swann (4.25)AAA Triplemania XXXI: Monterrey4/16AAA Mega Championship 

Top 25 Matches of the Week – 3/27 – 4/2

What up MARKS, what a hell of a week we’re coming off for us wrestling NERDZZZZZZZZ! For real, that was an all-timer. I had exactly 25 matches rated at four stars or better (11 at 4.5+!!!), so I figured why not do a Top 25 this week? I’m going to keep the write up brief, as I’m already late, but damnit, Wrestlemania was outstanding (especially Night 1), ROH Supercard of Honor is probably my favorite show of the year thus far, and Kota Ibushi came back! Among plenty of other wonderful shows and matches that occurred this past week.

Additionally, I attended my third AEW Dynamite of the year, which included a bonus ROH taping where I got to see the likes of Miyu Yamashita, Aussie Open and El Hijo del Vikingo live for the first time, PLUS getting to see my dad Shibata live and in person (not wrestling, however) for the second time in my life including Forbidden Door — what a treat. I still can’t believe he beat Wheeler Yuta, and you best believe I marked out HARD for that one. Anywho, here’s last week’s Top 25!

1Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs The Usos (5)WWE Wrestlemania 39 Night 14/1WWE Undisputed World Tag Team Championship
2Claudio Castagnoli vs Eddie Kingston (4.75)ROH Supercard of Honor3/31ROH World Championship
3Roman Reigns vs Cody Rhodes (4.75)WWE Wrestlemania 39 Night 24/2WWE Undisputed World Universal Championship
4Rhea Ripley vs Charlotte Flair (4.75)WWE Wrestlemania 39 Night 14/1WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship
5Gunther vs Sheamus vs Drew McIntyre (4.75)WWE Wrestlemania 39 Night 24/2WWE Intercontinental Championship
6Shingo Takagi vs Aaron Henare (4.5)NJPW Road to Sakura Genesis Night 24/2NJPW KOPW Championship Ultimate Triad
7El Hijo del Vikingo vs Komander (4.5)ROH Supercard of Honor3/31AAA Mega Championship
8Samoa Joe vs Mark Briscoe (4.5)ROH Supercard of Honor3/31ROH World Television Championship
9Katsuyori Shibata vs Wheeler Yuta (4.5)ROH Supercard of Honor3/31ROH Pure Championship
10Wes Lee vs Dragon Lee vs Ilja Dragunov vs JD McDonagh vs Axiom (4.5)NXT Stand and Deliver4/1NXT North American Championship Five-Way
11Lucha Bros vs Top Flight vs The Kingdom vs Aussie Open vs RUSH & Dralistico (4.5)ROH Supercard of Honor3/31ROH World Tag Team Championship Five-Way Ladder
12Kota Ibushi vs Joey Janela (4.25)GCW Joey Janela’s Spring Break 73/31
13Seth Rollins vs Logan Paul (4.25)WWE Wrestlemania 39 Night 14/1
14Mizuki & Yuka Sakazaki vs Maki Itoh & Miyu Yamashita (4.25)TJPW Live in Los Angeles3/31Princess Tag Team Championship
15Johnny Gargano vs Grayson Waller (4.25)NXT Stand and Deliver4/1Unsanctioned
16Kenny Omega vs Jeff Cobb (4.25)AEW Dynamite3/29IWGP United States Championship
17Bianca Belair vs Asuka (4.25)WWE Wrestlemania 39 Night 24/2WWE Raw Women’s Championship
18KUSHIDA vs Lio Rush (4)Impact/NJPW Multiverse United3/30
19Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Mike Bailey (4)Impact/NJPW Multiverse United3/30
20Rey Mysterio vs Dominik Mysterio (4)WWE Wrestlemania 39 Night 14/1
21Athena vs Yuka Sakazaki (4)ROH Supercard of Honor3/31ROH Women’s World Championship
22Indi Hartwell vs Roxanne Perez vs Gigi Dolin vs Zoey Stark vs Tiffany Stratton vs Lyra Vakyria (4)NXT Stand and Deliver4/1NXT Women’s Championship Six-Way Ladder
23Athena vs Emi Sakura (4)ROH on Honor Club #53/30ROH Women’s World Championship
24El Hijo del Vikingo vs Blake Christian (4)ROH on Honor Club #53/30AAA Mega Championship
25Heidi Howitzer & Max The Impaler vs Miu Watanabe & Shoko Nakajima (4)TJPW Live in Los Angeles3/31

Top 10 Matches of the Week – 3/20 – 3/26

Happy Wrestlemania Week, marks! It’s a youge week indeed for wrestling fans all around the world, as there will be a slew out great shows eminating from the Los Angeles area this weekend. AND, I’ll be attending my 11th (I think, I’ve lost count — which is tight) AEW Dynamite in St. Louis, which is looking like a stacked show headlined by Kenny Omega vs Jeff Cobb for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship.

Speaking of Kenny, the “Dream Match” with El Hijo del Vikingo certainly lived up to the billing. If you had never seen Vikingo wrestle prior to last week, he is arguably the best high flyer in the world, and does a myriad of moves you’ve likely never seen before, including the springboard 630 through the table outside — sheesh!  The spots and counters by both men were breathtaking, but it did lack a little psychology which prevented me from giving it the full five stars like everyone’s boy Dave Meltzer did. Incredible stuff overall, and an excellent introduction to Vikingo for the American television audience. I’m not going to be upset one iota if we see more of him in AEW going forward.

Over in the Land of the Rising Sun, the New Japan Cup culminated with a very solid final between two guys with the freshest coats of new paint on the roster — Just Five Guys’ SANADA & aspiring new Bullet Club leader David Finlay. The match was a brisk 20 minutes, and took a bit to get going, but the last 5-7 minutes were wonderful. Both guys came out of the tournament very much elevated, and SANADA gets the opportunity to rekindle his rivalry with Okada, with the pair having several excellent matches in 2019 and one in early 2018.

However, the best match on the show, and my favorite match from the entire New Japan Cup tour was Hiromu Takahashi successfully defending his IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship against Lio Rush. I’m as big a Hiromu fan as anyone, but I was pulling for Lio hard in the name of freshness — which is a lot of what this tour was — a nice reshuffling of the deck. Nevertheless, Lio put on a hell of a performance — easily my favorite match of his — and proved that he can more than hang at the top of the card. The speed, fighting spirit, and back-and-forth nature of the match was exquisite. It wouldn’t shock me one bit to see Lio win the upcoming Best of the Super Juniors, and ultimately the title from Hiromu — if he gets by the newly-minted-TMDK Robbie Eagles. I’m fired up for that one as well!

Elsewhere in Japan, DDT held their Judgement show, which they were calling the Longest 5 Hour Special in Korakuen Hall History. And the show was even longer than 5 hours. I watched about two-thirds of the show, and it was very, very quality. The main event was a hard-hitting battle of behemoths, which saw Yuji Hino successfully defend his KO-D Openweight Championship over Yukio Naya. MAO and Shunma Katsumata defended the KO-D Tag Team Championships against my father Kasuzada Higuchi and Ryota Nakatsu in a very entertaining and creative Falls Count Anywhere match, and lastly, Tetsuya Endo got his first taste of singles gold after being shoot knocked out by Katsuhiko Nakajima last year (and subsequently vacating the KO-D Championship) by defeating Naruki Doi for the Universal Championship in a match that was a bit of a bore in the first half, but damn they really turned it on and produced some great nearfalls and moments.

All Japan’s Dream Power Series Night 3 show featured a couple matches with wrestlers from Pro Wrestling NOAH, following things that transpired on the Keiji Muto retirement show. In fact, Kenoh and Manabu Soya from NOAH took the AJPW Triple Crown Tag Team Championships off Yuma Aoyagi and Noaya Nomura, who had recently showed up on a NOAH show themselves. The match was damn good, and I’m all for as much interpromotional activity we can get — in Japan and elsewhere. Additionally, Masa Kitamiya’s NOAH squad defeated the All Japan team led by AJPW Ace (and one of the best and most charismatic wrestlers in the world) Kento Miyahara — with their bad blood stemming all the way back to coming up together in Kensuke Sasaki’s Diamond Ring Promotion. Just awesome stuff all around here — love to see it.

Lastly, here in America, Ring of Honor continued its run of very quality programming since they began running weekly shows just four weeks ago. The big surprise was just how damn good the match between Aussie Open and Matt Sydal/Christopher Daniels was. Obviously, Aussie Open is one of the best tag teams in the world, but Sydal and Daniels looked ENERGIZED and significantly better than either had in recent memory. The match ruled, and they made me bite on more than one nearfall down the stretch, And damnit, I can’t get enough of Mark Davis’s piledriver. In NXT, Ilja Dragunov and JD McDonagh never miss when they tangle, and this recent installment was another banger. Both guys are experts at selling and really turn up the physicality every time they square off. If it had a clean finish, I would’ve probably bumped it up to 4.5, but this was just a wonderful piece of work by both men.

1Kenny Omega vs El Hijo del Vikingo (4.75)AEW Dynamite 3/22
2Hiromu Takahashi vs Lio Rush (4.5)NJPW New Japan Cup Night 123/21IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship 
3Yuji Hino vs Yukio Naya (4.25)DDT Judgement 3/21KO-D Openweight Championship 
4Ilja Dragunov vs JD McDonagh (4.25)WWE NXT 3/21
5Kenoh & Manabu Soya vs Yuma Aoyagi & Naoya Nomura (4.25)AJPW Dream Power Series Night 33/21AJPW Triple Crown Tag Team Championship 
6Aussie Open vs Christopher Daniels & Matt Sydal (4.25)ROH on Honor Club #43/23
7MAO & Shunma Katsumata vs Kazusada Higuchi & Ryota Nakatsu (4.25)DDT Judgement 3/21KO-D Tag Team Championship Falls Count Anywhere 
8SANADA vs David Finlay (4)NJPW New Japan Cup Night 123/21New Japan Cup Final
9Masa Kitamiya, Yoshiki Inamura & Kinya Okada vs Kento Miyahara, Yuma Anzai & Ryo Inoue (4)AJPW Dream Power Series Night 33/21Six-Man Tag 
10Tetsuya Endo vs Naruki Doi (4)DDT Judgement 3/21DDT Universal Championship 
HMNatsupoi vs HimekaStardom 3.10 in Korakuen Hall 3/10Himeka Retirement Road

Top 10 Matches of the Week – 3/13 – 3/19

I want to start this week’s Top 10 by mentioning that I goofed last week, and included the Mark Davis vs Will Ospreay match that should have been for this week. But, I also forgot a match from last week, and caught a match from last week this week that’s also on this week’s list. 

With that out of the way, I want to start with the two matches from last week. First, Chris Brookes vs Maya Yukihi, which literally took place in the middle of a small bar in Japan, and it was fucking riveting. There was a small mat, surrounded by approximately 30 fans, and Brookes jumped off the bar to hit a double foot stomp at one point. Yukihi kicked the shit out of Brookes, and multiple times they went flying into the patrons/fans. It was a stiff, and wonderfully awesome intergender match with a setting that must be seen to be believed. 

Along the same lines, Hagane Shinnou defeated Baliyan Akki to win the Super Asia Championship on ChocoPro #300 Night 2. During covid, ChocoPro began running shows in what was seemingly a one-room schoolhouse with a mat on the floor, and they returned to the “venue,” but this time with fans for the 300th show. Along with the Brookes/Yukihi bar match, this is just another example of how different, wacky and wonderful Japanese wrestling can be. And you sure as hell don’t need a ring to have a wrestling match.

(Skip to 1:03:30)

The New Japan Cup has been so good, fresh, and entertaining, and my favorite match of the tournament occurred last week, and that was Shota Umino scoring an upset win over Zack Sabre Jr. Shota showed the fire that was lacking during his recent big main event match with Naito, and Zack was a perfect opponent for him to look great. They tangled in an excellent back-and-forth match that went just north of 26 minutes, although it certainly didn’t feel like it. The David Finlay/Tama Tonga semifinal was another excellent match where both guys had something big to prove. And the other semifinal between the newly minted Just Five Guys (Burgers and Fries) SANADA and Mark Davis was a 13-minute hard-hitting sprint, which further cemented Davis as a singles star, alongside his Aussie Open brother Kyle Fletcher. New Japan needs to sign those guys immediately.

TJPW Grand Princess was one of the best and most fun shows of the year thus far, highlighted by the two singles championships being contested among tag team partners. In her 5th shot at the Princess of Princess championship, Mizuki got the best of Yuka Sakazaki, after Sakazaki was initially hesitant to take it to her partner, but damn it was an awesome, emotionally charged match. Rika Tatsumi scored a somewhat surprising win over the UNIT that is Miu Watnabe to become the first TJPW Triple Crown Champion in another excellent contest. Lastly, I’d be remiss to not mention ANDREZA GIANT PANDA, who may have made me laugh harder than I ever have watching wrestling by myself. 

NOAH Voyage 2023 in Yokohama was a mixed bag of a show that saw Jake Lee DOMINATE little bitch boy and former GHC Heavyweight Champion Kaito Kiyomiya, in what I’d call a 35-minute squash match. I also feel vindicated that I picked Lee to win, where most thought Kaito would have an extremely long reign. Also, the heavyweight tag team title match between Daiki Inaba and Masa Kitamiya against Kenoh and Manabu Soya was as rock solid and strong as tag team wrestling can get. Lastly, the trios trio match between the House of Black, The Elite and Jericho Appreciation Society was a great time, with a scorching hot crowd in favor of the hometown boys Omega and Jericho, but I’m glad House of Black retained. Another hell of a week in the landscape of professional wrestling!

1Shota Umino vs Zack Sabre Jr (4.5)NJPW New Japan Cup Night 83/15NJPW New Japan Cup Second Round
2Mizuki vs Yuka Sakazaki (4.5)TJPW Grand Princess3/18Princess of Princess Championship
3Chris Brookes vs Maya Yuhiki (4.25)Chris Brookes Produce ~ Baka Gaijin + Friends Vol. 33/7
4David Finlay vs Tama Tonga (4.25)NJPW New Japan Cup Night 113/19New Japan Cup Semifinal
5Hagane Shinnou vs Baliyan Akki (4.25)Gatoh Move ChocoPro #300 Day 23/12Super Asia Championship
6House of Black vs The Elite vs Jericho Appreciation Society (4.25)AEW Dynamite3/15AEW World Trios Championship
7Rika Tatsumi vs Miu Watanabe (4.25)TJPW Grand Princess3/18International Princess Championship
8Daiki Inaba & Masa Kitamiya vs Kenoh & Manabu Soya (4.25)NOAH Voyage 2023 in Yokohama3/19GHC Tag Team Championship
9Jake Lee vs Kaito Kiyomiya (4.25)NOAH Voyage 2023 in Yokohama3/19GHC Heavyweight Championship
10SANADA vs Mark Davis (4)NJPW New Japan Cup Night 113/19New Japan Cup Semifinal
HMSANADA vs Tetsuya Naito (4)NJPW New Japan Cup Night 93/17New Japan Cup Quarterfinal
HMDavid Finlay vs Shota Umino (4)NJPW New Japan Cup Night 103/18New Japan Cup Quarterfinal
HMTama Tonga vs Hirooki Goto (4)NJPW New Japan Cup Night 103/18New Japan Cup Quarterfinal
HMJon Moxley, Claudio Castagnoli & Wheeler Yuta vs Hangman Page, Evil Uno & Stu Grayson (4)AEW Dynamite3/15Six-Man Tag

Top 10 Matches of the Week – 3/6 – 3/12

Yo yo yo yo yo yo, I’m happy to be back!!! More than half of this week’s Top 10 is comprised of New Japan matches coming off their 51st Anniversary show and the New Japan Cup being in full swing.

The 51st Anniversary show also acted as Night 2 of the New Japan Cup, which included the newest member of Bullet Club, David Finlay, fully showcasing his new villainous persona against the legend that is Tomohiro Ishii. After Finlay’s awesome performance in last year’s G1, and his incredible U.S. title match last fall against Ospreay (that I went 5 stars on), I’m very happy to see him getting a push, and this match certainly did not disappoint. While it will take some getting used to seeing Gedo rocking the shillelagh, I’m fully on board with this. Finlay was my pre-tournament pick to win the Cup, so I was happy to see him advance after my other finals pick (Taichi) was eliminated in the first round. 

.However, the real treat of the Anniversary show was the main event, the surprising tag team championship between Bishamon and their faction-mate and IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi — the Dream Team as they’re known. It’s no secret that I’ve become a mark for YOSHI-HASHI as he’s shown DRAMATIC improvement since New Japan returned from their pandemic break in mid-2020, and damnit, I was so happy to see Bishamon retain here in their biggest and best match to date. The urgency was incredibly high, and Bishamon showed that the better TEAM will almost always get the best of two tremendous singles wrestlers, despite them being two of the greatest of all time. If you like heated tag team action, I urge you to check out this match.

Thus far, the New Japan Cup has largely been the United Empire show, as six of the final 16 combatants were United Empire members. It’s been especially awesome to see the Aussie Open boys of Mark Davis and Kyle Fletcher show how great they also are as singles competitors, in addition to being one of the best tag teams in the world. After Bishamon beat Aussie Open in the World Tag League Final at the end of last year, it was only a matter of time before the two teams tangled again. Fletcher had an opportunity at both, defeating YOSHI-HASHI before falling just short against Goto (coming off a first-round bye), but both matches were great. Fletcher’s got one hell of a brain buster too. 

Also, Mark Davis went to war with UE leader Will Ospreay, and came up just short after giving Ospreay nearly all he could handle. I always love seeing teammates or faction mates square off against one another, and this match certainly exceeded expectations. I can’t get enough of Davis’s insane catching piledriver — I need more of that in my life. Lastly, UE member Aaron Henare toppled Shingo Takagi in the first round, which has been the biggest upset of the tournament, and by far the biggest win and best match of Henare’s career. 

Ring of Honor had another excellent episode of television (?) in its second week with three matches I rated 4+ stars, headlined by the outstanding ROH Women’s World Championship match between Athena and Willow Nightengale. These two clicked so damn well, with Athena being an absolutely brutal heel and Willow an incredible babyface showing fighting spirit and getting the crowd behind her. I was hoping to see Wilow get the dub, but perhaps they’ll do a rematch at Supercard of Honor because I’d absolutely love to see it again. Elsewhere on the show, Wheeler Yuta retained his Pure Championship in an excellent mat-based contest against Timothy Thatcher, which further cemented Wheeler and the BCC as heels. I’m certainly not mad about it. And what do you know, Aussie Open had an awesome performance in their normal tag team slot against ROH stalwarts in Rhett Titus and Hot Sauce Tracy Williams. The match went just north of 10 minutes but was a fast-paced barn burner from bell to bell. I’m looking forward to seeing more from the new era of Ring of Honor with the first two shows being incredibly strong. 

1Bishamon (YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto) vs Kazuchika Okada & Hiroshi Tanahashi (4.75)NJPW 51st Anniversary Event3/6IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
2Athena vs Willow Nightingale (4.25)ROH on HonorClub #23/9ROH Women’s World Championship
3Will Ospreay vs Mark Davis (4.25)NJPW New Japan Cup Night 73/13New Japan Cup Second Round
4Aaron Henare vs Shingo Takagi (4.25)NJPW New Japan Cup Night 43/10New Japan Cup First Round
5Hirooki Goto vs Kyle Fletcher (4.25)NJPW New Japan Cup Night 63/12New Japan Cup Second Round
6David Finlay vs Tomohiro Ishii (4.25)NJPW 51st Anniversary Event3/6New Japan Cup First Round
7AMAKUSA vs Hi69 (HIROKI) (4)NOAH Star Navigation3/9GHC Jr Heavyweight Championship
8Kyle Fletcher vs YOSHI-HASHI (4)NJPW New Japan Cup Night 43/10New Japan Cup First Round
9Wheeler Yuta vs Timothy Thatcher (4)ROH on HonorClub #23/9ROH Pure Championship
10Aussie Open vs Rhett Titus & Tracy Williams (4)ROH on HonorClub #23/9

Top 10 Matches of the Week – 2/27 – 3/5

I’m thrilled to be making my official Bloodline debut, bringing back my Top 10 Matches of the Week! I started doing this in September 2022, and after a few month hiatus, I’m back bayyyyybeeeee! Additionally, I had previously published the first two parts of my 2022 Top 200 matches here and here and will be completing the Top 100 very soon. It’s been a grind, and life has been busy as I’m preparing to move this weekend.

What a week to come back, as I had 19 matches just last week rated at 4+ stars, including 10 at 4.25+. Two shows last week have staked their claim as potential Show of the Year Thus Far, and let’s start with the big one here in America — AEW Revolution.

MJF and Bryan Danielson put on a no-doubt 5-star match in the main event and one of the best matches in AEW history in their 60-minute Ironman Match for the AEW World Championship. Despite MJF being a rather predictable winner, these two had me on the edge of my seat and losing my mind for the last five minutes of regulation and throughout the sudden death period. The moment that got me most was Danielson finally embracing the YES! chants for the first time in AEW, followed up by the Busaiko Knee (which had previously won him a fall), for the nearest of nearfalls. How the hell was MJF going to get the job done?? Well, it turned out he used the oxygen tank while the ref wasn’t looking, and then got Danielson to tap out to the salt of the earth arm bar. What an unbelievable piece of storytelling it was, and I don’t want to hear anyone ever say again that MJF can’t wrestle. 

Elsewhere on the card, my two favorite AEW wrestlers put their feud to rest, as Hangman Adam Page became the moniker, and hung Jon Moxley dangling over the ropes with a chain to get the submission victory. I’d read that it was Moxley’s first submission loss in a singles match since a 2013 loss to Daniel Bryan in WWE. Dayum. The match was probably more violent than expected, with Moxley bleeding about three minutes in, and shortly after raking a fork across Hangman’s head causing him to spew blood. It was at times hard to watch, but these two laid it all on the line and put on one hell of an amazing death match. 

Additionally, we FINALLY got a meaningful victory for Malakai Black and the House of Black, who defeated The Elite for the AEW World Trios Championship in a high-octane contest. Seeing Kenny Omega against his more jacked doppelganger Buddy Matthews and Black was an absolute treat, and here’s hoping we can see singles matches for both. I love the part where the two units were about to square up, and Kenny chucked referee Rick Knox (I think) out of the way allowing the two teams to go at it. Despite being slightly cold going in, these two teams had outstanding chemistry, which made for great action throughout the incredibly fast-paced 18 minutes, damnit I’m so happy the House of Black won. Can we get Kenny back in singles action, and perhaps defending the IWGP U.S. Championship? Lastly, Jungle Boy Jack Perry and Christian put on a heck of an entertaining “Final Burial,” in which Christian played the absolute perfect shitbag heel, and Jack Perry continued his singles ascent.

The other Show of the Year Candidate thus far was Stardom’s Triangle Derby I Final the day prior to Revolution. The show stealer here was easily the Wonder of Stardom Championship match between Saya Kamitani and Hazuki. It was a return to form performance for the champion Kamitani, who hadn’t been quite as dynamic in her matches of late, securing her record 14th defense of the white belt. Hazuki absolutely brought it from the get-go, proving that Saya would really need to dig deep to retain, and she did. The selling from both was wonderful, and there were plenty of bombs and nearfalls late, including one from Hazuki on a brain buster that I was sure was going to score the victory. As much as I wanted to see Hazuki win, I was thrilled to see that fire from Saya again, and she’ll likely be finally dropping the belt to Mina Shirakawa, who came out to challenge after the match. 

Also, AZM and Starlight Kid battled in a rematch of one of the finest Stardom matches in 2022 for the High Speed Championship. While this match didn’t quite reach the heights of their 2022 contest, it was still a damn good match that saw AZM come out on top again. These two 20-year-olds are two of the finest women’s wrestlers in the world, and they again dazzled with their smooth counters, high flying and incredible mat work. Giulia defended her World of Stardom Championship for the second time against former Ice Ribbon foe, Maya Yukihi. It was clear that these two had previous history, and it was a stiff, wild brawl from the get go, that unfortunately ended in a double countout, but I’m not too upset about it as it made sense for the story. Giulia and Maya beat the hell out of each other, brawled on the outside quite a bit, put each other through tables, including Maya hitting a nasty tiger driver. I’m looking forward to the next time these two tangle. 

The New Japan Cup has begun, and one of my finals picks in Taichi was eliminated in the first round, one the first night, by his frenemy, SANADA. I loved that Taichi was shit-talking SANADA to bring the fire out of him, and it sure did work. I really hope this leads to SANADA joining Taichi’s Just Four Guys stable (although I guess they’d need a new name), and it will be interesting to see how things transpire with he and LIJ. It was a very good match, that will hopefully get SANADA back on track. Tetsuya Naito and El Phantasmo also had a good match on Night 1, clocking in at 4 stars and just off the list. But prior the New Japan Cup, NJPW collaborated with Mexican promotion CMLL to put on their Fantastica Mania series for the first time since COVID. I didn’t watch a ton of it, but there were definitely some fun matches with my favorite being LIJ’s Titan against CMLL up-and-comer Soberano Jr, in what was 12+ minutes of outstanding and high flying lucha libre action. 

And lastly, credit to Ace Austin and Chris Bey who defeated the Motor City Machine Guns to win the Impact World Tag Team Championships. Those two have been on a roll since the Super Junior Tag League in New Japan, and they essentially played the babyfaces in this match in Bey’s adopted hometown of Las Vegas. MCMG were excellent in this match showing heel tendencies and putting over the new champs clean. Heck of a match, and Impact is still crushing it after their incredibly strong 2022. 

1MJF vs Bryan Danielson (5)AEW Revolution3/5AEW World Championship 60-Minute Ironman
2Saya Kamitani vs Hazuki (4.75)Stardom Triangle Derby I ~Championship Battle~3/4Wonder of Stardom Championship
3Hangman Adam Page vs Jon Moxley (4.75)AEW Revolution3/5Texas Death
4House of Black vs The Elite (4.5)AEW Revolution3/5AEW World Trios Championship
5AZM vs Starlight Kid (4.5)Stardom Triangle Derby I ~Championship Battle~3/4Stardom High Speed Championship
6Giulia vs Maya Yuhiki (4.25)Stardom Triangle Derby I ~Championship Battle~3/4World of Stardom Championship
7Ace Austin & Chris Bey vs Motor City Machine Guns (4.25)Impact Wrestling3/2Impact World Tag Team Championship
8SANADA vs Taichi (4.25)New Japan Cup Night 13/5New Japan Cup Night 1
9Titan vs Soberano Jr. (4.25)NJPW Presents CMLL Fantastica Mania Night 52/27CMLL World Welterweight Championship
10Jungle Boy Jack Perry vs Christian (4.25)AEW Revolution3/5Final Burial

Top 200 Matches of 2022 | 200-101

Welcome to my Top 200 Matches of 2022! This was not necessarily an endeavor I was planning to undertake, but I diligently rated and tracked all matches I had at 4+ stars, ending with a staggering 624 matches, up significantly from 283 in 2021 – the first year I tracked this with such intent. This is for a variety of reasons – first, not having a day job and working mostly evenings and freelance in 2022 certainly gave me the freedom to watch so much wrestling. Not to mention, I started watching even more promotions with consistency, including Stardom, NOAH, DDT, TJPW, Impact (the most consistent American wrestling television product in 2022) and even came back to WWE for the first time since 2018 because Vince left. PLEASE DON’T COME BACK – I actually enjoy the product again. I also dabbled more in indie wrestling. And obviously, my two favorites in New Japan and AEW were front and center. I firmly believe that 2022 is the best year in the history of wrestling, because of all the insane things that happened, and the sheer match quality occurring all over the world. What a time. 

Without further ado, YOU JUST MADE THE LIST:

200. Yuki Ueno vs Cara Noir – DDT Who’s Gonna Top? (9/25), DDT National Championship

“The Black Swan” Cara Noir was probably my favorite men’s wrestler of 2022 that I had never seen prior to 2022. His gimmick is that of a ballet dancer with a beautiful, majestic entrance. But he was also trained by Zack Sabre Jr, so you know he can go in the ring, and he has the nastiest twisting sleeper hold you’ll ever see. He and Ueno – who I refer to as Baby Ibushi due to his striking resemblance to Kota Ibushi – had some fun and sensual moments together in a tag match before this battle for the DDT National Championship. This was a fast-paced, hard-hitting contest with great wrestling and athleticism that saw Ueno come out on top. Look for 2023 to be a breakout year for Cara Noir, in DDT and otherwise. 

199. Austin Theory vs Seth Rollins vs BIG BOB Lashley – WWE Survivor Series War Games (11/26), WWE United States Championship Triple Threat

The match that solidified the current rise of Austin Theory. While some could see it as a fluke win, I give all the credit in the world to the young upstart for smartly falling on Rollins following a spear from Big Bob – what a finish! Rollins hit a huge frog splash and an outstanding springboard stomp, and all three men worked incredibly well together. Theory losing the Money in the Bank briefcase feels like a distant memory as he got his revenge here.

198. Jordynne Grace vs Masha Slamovich – Impact Over Drive (11/18), Last Knockout Standing for the Impact Knockouts Championship

The first of several matches on this list that I attended live in 2022 was a brutal Last Knockout Standing rematch from their awesome match at Bound For Glory between Jordynne Grace and Masha Slamovich. These two threw everything at each other – including the kitchen sink – and Grace got the W with a massive Muscle Buster through a door on the outside. Masha Slamovich for Impact Knockouts Champion in 2023? I think so.

197. MJF vs Wheeler Yuta – AEW Dynamite Anniversary (10/5)

A nice little mini feud where Wheeler showed a ton of fire and exhibited his best microphone work to that point. MJF matches are rare, but always good, and this was no exception. This had an old-school feel, with both men employing great mat work with a hot crowd to boot. MJF showed respect to Yuta by not hitting him with the Dynamite Diamond Ring, and the post-match saw Regal tease the use of brass knucks on MJF, and well, we all know how that went.

196. David Finlay vs Will Ospreay – NJPW G1 Climax Night 10 (8/2)

What a 2022 for David Finlay. After years of toiling in New Japan’s midcard, Finlay absolutely broke out in this year’s G1. Despite losing his first match to the Pimp Yujiro Takahashi, Finlay rattled off three consecutive wins against his former tag team partner Juice Robinson, Shingo Takagi (!), and Will Ospreay!! Shingo and Ospreay both are guys who do not lose much, so New Japan management must see something in Finlay, And it’s warranted. While their rematch for the IWGP United States Championship ranks very highly on this list (spoiler, I gave it five stars), this was still an excellent match capped by the shock finish. 

195. Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi vs Fuminori Abe & Takuya Nomura – BJW Bloody Musou Tournament Opening Round (6/27), BJW Tag Team Championship

Big Japan is not a promotion I watch much, but seeing a high score for this match on, and it featuring two behemoths like Sekimoto and Okabayashi on the same team, I couldn’t pass it up. It took a bit to get going, but these two teams absolutely bludgeoned each other into oblivion before the 30-minute draw.

194. Tyler Bate vs Trent Seven – WWE NXT UK (9/1), NXT UK Championship

The battle of Mustache Mountain, and the final bout for the NXT UK Championship before it unified with the NXT Championship. This was great, hard-hitting, and as emotional as expected. A very fitting match to end the legacy of an awesome championship. Can we see more of Tyler Bate in 2023, please? Main roster perhaps? Wait, is Vince running things again? Shit, I don’t know. Did Trent Seven actually sign with AEW? I’m asking myself too many questions.

193. Takashi Sugiura vs Go Shiozaki – NOAH Higher Ground (1/27)

These two together are now must-see for me after their incredible 51-minute war for the GHC Heavyweight Championship in December 2020. Just over a year later these two tangle again, with Go Shiozaki in the midst of a losing streak during his comeback after nearly 10 months off. These two struck the hell out of each other in a much tighter match that saw The Killing Machine Sugiura pick up the dub.

192. CM Punk vs Jon Moxley – AEW All Out (9/4), AEW World Championship

A match that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons, obviously, but it was still a very good match, with Moxley embracing the extreme heat from the Chicago crowd. My vitriol for Punk has calmed down in recent months, but we’ll just leave it at that for now. 

191. Fenix vs Hijo Del Vikingo vs Bandido vs Laredo Kid vs Taurus – AAA Triplemania XXX: Tijuana, AAA Cruiserweight/Latin American Championship Five-Way

Just looking at the names in this match you can guess exactly how it went. Very fast and flippy with a million high spots. It was a blast to watch.

190. Shoko Nakajima vs Rika Tatsumi – TJPW Summer Sun Princess (7/9), Princess of Princess Championship

This was the first TJPW show I ever watched, and also the first show I watched from Japan that allowed cheering since the pandemic began. What a damn relief! This ended up being one of my favorite shows from 2022, and this was the main event for the biggest prize in TJPW. I was unfamiliar with Rika coming in, but she put on an excellent performance in just falling short to the Big Kaiju.

189. Baliyan Akki vs Minoru Fujita – Gatoh Move ChocoPro #200 Night 2 (2/13), Last Man Standing for the Super Asia Championships

During the pandemic, Emi Sakura’s ChocoPro ran shows in the most unique wrestling venue I’ve ever seen – it feels like a narrow one-room schoolhouse with a mat in the middle. I was more familiar with Akki as a ChocoPro ref or DDT commentator, but he absolutely brought the passion and emotion in this one, making me invested despite not knowing the story. Great stuff.

188. Kento Miyahara vs Yuma Aoyagi – AJPW 50th Anniversary Tour Sapporo Night 2 (5/15), AJPW Triple Crown Championship 

Admittedly, I’ve fallen out of All Japan recently (five Japanese promotions in addition to everything is finally too much), but Kento is awesome and Yuma is being groomed to succeed Kento as the next Ace. If the company is still around…But yeah, this match is still tight.

187. Seth Rollins vs Matt Riddle – WWE Clash of the Champions (9/3)

I came back to WWE slowly after Vince’s exit (and who knows how long I’ll stay now…) and this was one of the first feuds I really got invested in. It was personal, real, and executed properly week after week. And the match absolutely lived up to the billing for me, with this being the strongest of their trilogy.

186. Konosuke Takeshita vs Daisuke Sasaki – DDT Konosuke Takeshita 10th Anniversary (9/10)

I couldn’t be happier that Takeshita is catching fire with American fans, and DDT paid tribute to the man with a 10th Anniversary show (and he’s still only 27!). Sasaki is a guy I only started seeing more of lately. He comes across as a prick, and I’m a fan. I didn’t realize the history these two had, especially over DDT’s top prize – the KO-D Championship – but you could feel it here. 

185. Cara Noir vs Ilja Dragunov – Progress Chapter 131 (3/25)

Thanks to my boy Kyle from The Apron Bump for introducing me to Progress. I saw these two had a ton of previous history in Progress, but I decided to check out their 2022 match and it was everything I wanted – grace, brutal strikes, suplexes, and so much heart. I look forward to checking out their earlier Progress trilogy one day. 

184. Kazuchika Okada & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kaito Kiyomiya & Keji Muto – NJPW/NOAH Wrestle Kingdom in Yokohama Arena (1/8)

The two defining stars of New Japan’s modern area vs a New Japan star of old, and the current Ace (I guess) of NOAH in Kaito Kiyomiya. This was the main event, and it was quite hot, with Okada bullying Kaito at times. It ended with Kaito walking out in tears a la Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 9 after losing to Tanahashi. It’s not happening at this year’s NJPW/NOAH show, but hopefully, we can get a singles match between Okada and Kaito one day, and Okada shows him who’s boss again. 

183. Jon Moxley vs Tom Lawlor – Defy Wild Ones (4/30)

This was one I watched several months after it happened, and holy shit was it bloody! To be expected with Mox, but Lawlor was dumping buckets. This match absolutely ruled as expected, and I’d love to see these two battle it out on a bigger stage in 2023 (G1 perhaps?).

182. AZM vs Mei Suruga – Stardom Cinderella Tournament Final (4/29), Stardom High Speed Championship

I’ve grown to love Mei Suruga from her early appearances in AEW from the Japan Bracket of the Women’s Championship Eliminator Tournament in early 2021 to seeing her in ChocoPro, and finally making appearances in both Stardom and TJPW in 2022. And AZM is 20 years old and already one of the best women’s wrestlers in the world. This was High Speed through and through, and a wonderful back-and-forth contest with about a million pin attempts that saw AZM come out on top. I’d love to see a rematch one day.

181. Blackpool Combat Club (Jon Moxley, Claudio Castagnoli & Wheeler Yuta), Eddie Kingston & Ortiz vs Jericho Appreciation Society – AEW Dynamite Blood & Guts (6/29), Blood and Guts match

While I did like this match better than the first Blood and Guts, it’s clear that these matches should be on PPV, because the 57 commercial breaks definitely hurt the flow. It’s just tough to really sink in with so many commercial breaks, and so much key action occurring during them. Also unfortunate, Santana was injured during the match, and hasn’t been seen in AEW since. The finish was great with Claudio getting the tap out before Kingston on the top of the cage and Kingston was pissed. Oh, and Sammy also got chucked off the cage. Fun stuff, but let’s do it on PPV to give it the shine it deserves. 

180. Davey Richards vs Tom Lawlor – Warrior Wrestling 24 (6/26)

This was another match I saw live before attending Forbidden Door, a hop, skip, and a jump away from the United Center. Nothing much to say here, other than it was a technical masterclass by both men and an absolute treat to take in live. My first time seeing both guys in person. What an appetizer for Forbidden Door.

179. Tama Tonga vs Jay White – NJPW G1 Climax Night 18 (8/16)

In a G1 Climax riddled with upsets, this one took the cake as being the most impactful, as it cost Jay White a spot in the final four after being unbeaten in his first five matches. Tama Tonga got over like wildfire with the crowd after being turned on by Jay and Bullet Club, and they sure were happy to see this one. As was I – Tama deserves all the love – he’s been awesome. And this led to one of the best promos of the year from Jay:

178. Frankie Kazarian vs Speedball Mike Bailey – Impact Bound For Glory (10/7), Impact X-Divison Championship

The former “Elite Hunter” Frankie Kazarian had a heck of a run in his old home of Impact late in 2022, while Speedball was one of the best wrestlers in the world in 2022. This was a heck of an opener to an awesome Bound For Glory show, and Kaz proved he could still hang with a much younger, athletic wrestler in Bailey – and he got the surprise W. He would cash in Option C for a shot at the Impact World Championship in a match that’s much higher on this list. 

177. Syuri vs ASUKA – Hana Kimura Produce Bagus! (5/23)

No, this is not Asuka from WWE, but they might be better! This ASUKA also goes by the name VENY, and like Mei Suruga, I also saw them for the first time in the Japan Bracket of the AEW Women’s Championship Eliminator tournament. Syuri dominated Stardom in 2022, holding the World of Stardom Championship for essentially the entire year. This was a dream match of sorts at a Hana Kimura tribute show. The action was excellent, and I’d love to see these two tangle again on a bigger stage. 

176. Eddie Kingston vs Konosuke Takeshita – AEW Rampage (7/8)

There was a lot of “no selling” here, but I didn’t care – I loved it. These two beat each other pillar to post, and of course I’m always down to see Kingston fight Japanese guys – especially a stud like Takeshita. But yeah, nothing too glamorous here – just two warriors hammering each other.

175. Tomohiro Ishii vs Clark Connors – NJPW New Japan Road Night 5 (6/21), AEW All-Atlantic Championship tournament final

This match was to determine who would be the final entrant in the four-way match at Forbidden Door to determine the inaugural AEW All-Atlantic Champion. Ishii won the match, but suffered a knee injury and was pulled just days before and replaced by Connors. However, this was probably the best singles match of Clark’s career, and he also put on a very worthy performance at Forbidden Door (more on that later). But this ruled. Ishii doesn’t have bad matches.

174. Dax Harwood vs Cash Wheeler – AEW Dynamite (4/27), Owen Hart Cup qualifier

Remember the Owen Hart Cup? Yeah, I don’t either. But I do remember the battle of FTR! What an unbelievable year these guys had, and what a nice feather in their caps to have an awesome singles match. Dax had many in 2022, but Cash didn’t get as many singles opportunities. He certainly proved himself worthy here. This had a very old school face vs face feel and the crowd loved it. And we may never see it again. 

173. Eddie Kingston vs Chris Jericho – AEW Revolution (3/6)

This is the match that kicked off what turned out to be a pretty excellent in-ring year for Chris Jericho. His and Kingston’s feud was a bit up and down, but this match definitely banged to kick off Revolution. This was a brutal brawl from the get-go, and Kingston surprisingly tapped out Jericho. 

172. Kaito Kiyomiya vs Hideki Suzuki – NOAH N-1 Victory Grand Final (9/3), N-1 Victory Final

Hideki Suzuki – who was the criminally underused Hachiman in WWE – most definitely caught my eye in his run to the final of NOAH’s N-1 Victory. I had never seen him wrestle, and damn he’s a heck of a grappler who’s not afraid to stand and strike, and rarely shows emotion. I was pulling for him BIG TIME in this, but I figured the young ace Kaito would get the victory as he did. But Suzuki certainly made him work for it.

171. El Hijo del Vikingo vs Rey Fenix – AAA Triplemania XXX: Mexico City (10/15), AAA Mega Championship

This match was given 5 stars from Dave Meltzer, and while I don’t agree, it certainly was one heck of a spotfest, and Vikingo is always good to break out something wild, wacky and flippy that you’ve never seen. Easily two of the best high flyers in the world doing their thing. I preferred Vikingo’s next defense of the Mega Championship but this was great fun.

170. Will Ospreay vs El Phantasmo – New Japan Cup Night 6 (3/12)

Ospreay and ELP had a great feud in 2019 over the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship, and the IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championship, along with their partners Robbie Eagles, and Taiji Ishimori, respectively. This was their first singles match since October 2019, and they picked up right where they left off with great chemistry, counters, and nearfalls. I’d preferred this slightly to their G1 match later in the year. 

169. Will Ospreay vs Nick Wayne – GCW I Never Liked You (6/19)

Current Will Ospreay vs a young Will Ospreay cosplay. Nick Wayne is one of the brightest young prospects on the indie scene, and he signed an AEW contract at 16, although he can’t perform for them until he turns 18 and graduates high school (which I believe is later this year). But he looks and wrestles much like a young Will Ospreay, and Ospreay had to feel like he was looking in a mirror during this match. Incredibly fun stuff between two amazing athletes. I’m sure you’ll be hearing the name Nick Wayne for many years to come. 

168. Kazuchika Okada vs Lance Archer – NJPW G1 Climax Night 18 (8/16) 

Why isn’t Lance Archer used better in AEW!? Damnit, he was so great in this match largely dominating Okada. He busted out a big dropkick and a Rainmaker of his own to an audible pop from the crowd. Okada played the rare underdog role perfectly, as he was able to sneak away with the victory and secure his place in the G1 final four, en route to winning his 2nd consecutive. More of this Archer, please.

167. Shingo Takagi vs YOSHI-HASHI – NJPW G1 Climax Night 4 (7/23)

My boy YOSHI-HASHI has continued to impress in each of the past few G1 Climaxes, and damnit he came so incredibly close to slaying the dragon that is Shingo Takagi. YOSHI-HASHI hung right with him with striking, and got many believable nearfalls, only for Shingo to squeak by with the victory. YOSHI-HASHI is so tight – so happy for his improvement and usage over the past 2-3 years.

166. Daniel Garcia vs Wheeler Yuta – AEW Dynamite (9/7), ROH Pure Championship

Ahhh, the crowning Daniel Garcia babyface moment! Uhh wait, not really. For one night, Daniel Garcia was one of the biggest babyfaces in all of AEW in his hometown of Buffalo. While he was teasing a face turn and an exit from the Jericho Appreciation Society, Garcia got the biggest win of his career. Great emotion all around here, but unfortunately everything returned to status quo shortly after. 

165. Kazuchika Okada vs Taichi, New Japan Cup Night 8 (3/14)

Taichi always brings out his best against Okada (and Ishii), and their New Japan Cup contest was no different. This match went 24+ minutes and could’ve been cut down slightly, but Taichi came to play, Okada was his normal great self, and they pummeled each other down the stretch. Taichi fell just short, but he’s getting closer against the stalwart Okada.

164. Tomohiro Ishii vs Yota Tsuji – NJPW Royal Quest II Night 2 (10/2)

Yota Tsuji is a former New Japan young lion currently on excursion in England’s Revolution Pro Wrestling. I had not seen him since he went on excursion, and damn was he impressive here! He had a new look, new offense (the big man flipped out of the ring!) and stood toe-to-toe with Ishii, similar to the Clark Connors match earlier on this list. This definitely made me excited for Tsuji’s return to Japan to join his fellow young lions Shota Umino and Ren Narita in the near future.  

163. Jun Kasai & Tomoaki Honma vs El Desperado & DOUKI – JTO TakaTaichi Mania 2.5 (5/6), Tag Team Death

I caught portions of all of the TakaTaichi Mania shows in Taka Michinoku’s Just Tap Out promotion in 2022, and they were always great. The crowds were always raucous (as much as they could be), and they often featured at least one “death” match for lack of a better term. And they also introduced me to deathmatch legend Jun Kasai, and wow that guy is an absolute treat. Not to mention, these shows brought out a side of Tomoaki Honma that I’ve never seen. And of course, I absolutely love El Desperado and DOUKI, so this was just great beautiful violence.

162. MJF vs Ricky Starks – AEW Dynamite Winter Is Coming (12/14), AEW World Championship

MJF’s first defense of the AEW World Championship was excellent and built well in a short period of time. You’ve got two of the best talkers in all of AEW, and they proved they could equally go in the ring, delivering a very old-school heel vs face championship match with the crowd on the edge of their seat. While nobody bought Ricky actually winning, he had some compelling nearfalls, and his push has fortunately continued after this match. It’s going to be a big 2023 for Ricky Starks.

161. Ilja Dragunov vs Jordan Devlin – WWE NXT UK (1/27), NXT Championship Empty Arena match

Before transforming into JD McDonagh, the former Jordan Devlin had a great rivalry with former NXT UK Champ Ilja Dragunov. I’ll admit, I did not watch their Loser Leaves Town match a few months later, but the empty arena version was incredibly brutal and intense. They used the stipulation to their advantage, really showcasing the vitriol between the two. The ending was unique with Dragunov getting the win with the Torpedo Moscow with his hands tied behind his back.

160. Masato Tanaka vs Go Shiozaki – NOAH Step Forward Night 1 (2/9)

Another match in the Go Shiozaki losing streak to start the year, and this was the best one in my opinion. The last two years may be the strongest of the 49-year-old Tanaka’s career, as he still continues to amaze me, long after he burst upon the scene with his matches against Mike Awesome in ECW in the late 90’s. This was the first singles match between the two in nearly 10 years and it did not disappoint one bit with Tanaka coming out on top. 

159. Tomohiro Ishii vs Eddie Kingston – NJPW Capital Collision (5/14)

This was a first-time match between these two warriors, and the first of two singles matches they had in 2022. It’s always a treat to see Kingston fight with Japanese wrestlers, and these two gave us exactly what we wanted – an incredibly hard-hitting brawl featuring Strong Style vs King’s Road. Ishii got the victory here at New Japan’s show in Washington D.C., but Kingston would get his revenge back on AEW turf later in the year. 

158. Naomi Yoshimura & Kazusada Higuchi vs Tetsuya Endo & Jun Akiyama – DDT Road To Peter Pan (8/14)

This was building towards the Higuchi/Endo match for the KO-D Championship, but damn we got one heck of a tag match with these four. The Higuchi/Endo sequences were outstanding, and despite Yoshimura getting bludgeoned by Akiyama and Endo, he wound up scoring the pin over the legend Akiyama in one of the biggest moments of his career. Yoshimura is one of the most unique looking wrestlers out there, and I’m guessing he’s a future KO-D champion.

157. Jungle Boy Jack Perry vs Luchasaurus – AEW Full Gear (11/19), Steel Cage match

This was an excellent opener that really set the tone for Full Gear – my 2nd-favorite show of the year behind Forbidden Door. This match was exactly what the feud between the two former AEW Tag Team Champions needed. Luchasaurus looked like the monster he is, and Jack Perry continues to show flashes of being a star, highlighted by his huge diving elbow drop off the cage through a table.

156. Saya Kamitani vs MIRAI – Stardom Flashing Champions (5/28), Wonder of Stardom Championship

MIRAI joined Stardom in early 2022, initially as part of Donna Del Mondo, but she migrated to God’s Eye with Syuri, which was key for her development. Other than her match with Syuri in January, this was probably the biggest match of MIRAI’s career and I came away impressed. This was a bit different for Saya, who more often than not works underneath as the underdog, but she worked on top largely and looked great in doing so en route to victory.

155. Gunther vs Ricochet – WWE Smackdown (12/16), WWE Intercontinental Championship

Gunther and Ricochet are two guys who have benefited tremendously since HHH took over (please let it continue), and this match was certainly evidence of that. Ricochet won the Smackdown World Cup to get a shot at the man he lost the belt to in Gunther, who just so happens to be having one of the best and most dominant intercontinental title reigns in decades. Naturally, Ricochet bumped his ass off for Gunther, but also showed that he absolutely can hang with the big boys. Easily one of the best WWE television matches of 2022.

154. Hangman Adam Page vs Lance Archer – AEW Dynamite (2/9), AEW World Championship Texas Death Match

This was Hangman’s first title defense after the two incredible matches against Bryan Danielson, and for some reason, the first of two Texas Death matches he had during his reign. The stipulation definitely made sense here, and the match started with a bang as they began fighting backstage. Archer came across as a total monster (WHERE IS HE!!??), and Hangman expertly took the beating and bled buckets. It was brutal and hard-hitting with a fun finish as Hangman used the ref to hit the Buckshot Lariat on Archer through a table.

153. The Bloodline vs Kevin Owens, Drew McIntyre, Sheamus, Butch & Ridge Holland – WWE Survivor Series War Games (11/26), War Games

Survivor Series 2022 was the first time WWE brought the War Games concept to the main roster, and it was a smashing success. This match was all about the story going in of whether the Bloodline could trust Sami Zayn, or if he would turn his back on them to join forces with his best friend Kevin Owens. The match was executed to perfection as Sami Zayn crushed Owens with a low blow, followed by a Helluva Kick, and catching Owens as he fell, just like he did in their amazing match at Battleground 2016. This is one of the best stories WWE has told in years, and I am eagerly awaiting the conclusion, assuming Vincent Kennedy McMahon doesn’t get his grubby paws on it. 

152. Mayu Iwatani vs Starlight Kid – Stardom 5Star Grand Prix Night 20: Championship Battle (10/1)

The 21-year-old Starlight Kid is already one of the best women’s wrestlers in the world, and here she was going up against her former mentor and the icon of Stardom Mayu Iwatani. Starlight Kid absolutely took off after turning heel, and this was a classic heel vs babyface dynamic with so much history riddled throughout. Starlight Kid wants to reach the level of Mayu, but she must beat her to do so, throwing everything at Mayu in the process. Mayu realized how much SLK has improved since her departure from Stars to the nefarious Odeo Tai, and was pushed to her limit before grinding out the win. Whenever this match happens again it’s going to be absolutely fantastic, and hopefully, SLK gets that elusive win over the icon.

151. Katsuyori Shibata vs Ren Narita – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night 1 (1/4)

Shibata made his shocking return to a New Japan ring in a 5-minute exhibition match against Zack Sabre Jr in October 2021. This match was initially billed as Shibata vs a mystery partner in another exhibition match. Enter Ren Narita, Shibata’s star pupil and The Son of Strong Style, and then Shibata does the unthinkable and changes the rules to an actual match featuring strikes – the first time we’d see that from Shibata since his then-career brain injury against Okada in April 2017. I was just getting into Shibata at that point, and I was so sad to not be able to see him wrestle as he was seemingly still in his prime. But that made this match even more of a treat, because it’s something we never thought we’d see again. And what a moment for Narita, who was still a young lion here, and completely held his own and looked strong against his mentor. This brought out all of the emotions in me, and Shibata will do that again a couple more times on this list.

150. Roman Reigns vs Logan Paul – WWE Crown Jewel (11/5), WWE Undisputed Universal Championship

I’ll admit, like many, I was pretty down on this match when it got announced. And I was juuuuuust a bit buzzed while watching it (we watched later in the evening), but this ruled! Logan Paul had already earned my respect before this match, but this solidified him as an actually really good wrestler who can absolutely hold his own in a huge main event! Obviously, the lasting memory is Paul doing the huge jump through the table outside while filming himself, but he went toe to toe with Reigns and had some incredible nearfalls down the stretch. And he ripped up his knee mid-match. And of course, kudos to Reigns as well, who yet again delivered big time in a high-profile match. I’m very intrigued to see what’s next for Logan Paul, and I can’t believe I just said that. 

149. Giulia vs Saya Kamitani – Stardom 5Star Grand Prix Night 19 (9/24)

My two top women’s wrestlers of 2022 doing battle in a key match on the penultimate night of the Stardom 5Star Grand Prix, and it certainly did not disappoint. One thing I loved about this tournament was that all matches prior to the final had a 15-minute time limit, causing the wrestlers to have to change up their typical game plan. Giulia and Saya fought incredibly urgently and passionately with both on the doorstep of making the final. This was the first match I’d seen between the two, and they had outstanding chemistry and great counters. Not normally a submission artist, Giulia was able to wear Saya down and get the referee stoppage with merely 11 seconds left before the time limit. Great great stuff. Perhaps a future Wonder of Stardom shot for Saya after she drops the White Belt? I’d love to see it.

148. Cody Rhodes vs Seth Rollins – Wrestlemania Night 1 (4/2)

The worst-kept secret in wrestling since CM Punk’s return, but damn, this delivered in every way. It’s crazy that Cody’s defection to WWE is kind of buried amidst all of the insane things that happened in wrestling in 2022, but let’s not forget how big of a surprise this was. As someone who went to ALL IN, and been a huge AEW fan since Day 1, admittedly, Cody had grown incredibly stale in AEW. However, I still never fathomed he would go back to the place he literally laid the hammer down on. It didn’t make sense at the time, but in retrospect, it made perfect sense and was honestly for the best for all parties involved. The pop once Cody’s music hit was magnificent, and you knew he’d be wearing the emotion all over him during his entrance. Love it. And the match was obviously great, and just the beginning of what was to come between these two…

147. Trey Miguel vs Black Taurus – Impact Over Drive (11/18), Impact X-Division Championship

This is another match I was there for live, and this one is even more personal, as I started (I think) every cheer for Black Taurus, and they really caught on with the crowd! And even weirder, Trey Miguel turned heel by spraying Taurus in the eyes with spray paint to win the vacant X-Division Championship. This was so much fun, and you could tell Black Taurus was getting fired up by our cheers. It was also quite funny to be able to hear my voice on TV when re-watching the match. The action was fast, furious, back-and-forth, and featured some big moves, but unfortunately our guy Black Taurus got jobbed at the end. 

146. Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara & Minoru Suzuki vs Eddie Kingston, Wheeler Yuta & Shota Umino – AEW/NJPW Forbidden Door (6/26)

Back-to-back matches I was in attendance for! I was very fortunate to attend a lot of great wrestling shows in 2022, and Forbidden Door was at the absolute zenith. Despite the card getting ravaged late by injuries, the two companies put on an outstanding show that I’ll never forget. It was also a treat to meet a bunch of podcasting friends, one of which I started a new show with! This was a great opening match to the main card, and really served as a star-making performance for Shota Umino. He had prior history with Jericho, after Jericho put him in the Walls of Jericho during his match with Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 12, AND in front of his father, referee Red Shoes Unno. The interactions between Kingston and Suzuki were excellent, and Yuta and Sammy also played their parts admirably in this incredibly high-octane match.

145. Will Ospreay vs Shota Umino – NJPW/Stardom Historic X-Over (11/20), IWGP United States Championship

Speaking of the Shooter, this was his first match in Japan following his return from excursion, and what better opponent to match him up with than the best wrestler in the world. This was a rematch from New Japan’s Royal Quest II show in England the month prior, and this match exceeded that one. It also happened to be the semi-main event of New Japan’s first crossover show with Stardom, which was a smashing success in my eyes. Ospreay rocked some sick Hayabusa-inspired gear for this one. The story from their previous bout was that Shota’s father, and referee Red Shoes, called for the stoppage – and perhaps a bit too early in an effort to protect his son. But, Shota was determined to not let his father stop this one. He took a beating from Ospreay, but kept coming back for more. Shota eventually fell victim to the Storm Breaker, but you could certainly see Shooter’s future main event potential. Oh, not to mention, after the match, Kenny Omega appeared via satellite to challenge Ospreay for Wrestle Kingdom. That was pretty cool I must say. 

144. The Young Bucks vs Lucha Bros – AEW Rampage (6/3)

It’s always a treat anytime these two teams tangle, and this was their first match since their epic steel cage match at All Out 2021. This was also in the Bucks hometown of Ontario, California, so of course the crowd was at an absolute fever pitch. The match was as fast-paced and high-spot heavy as you’d think, with their normal cavalcade of great team maneuvers. I feel like this was one of their only matches without a title on the line, but it certainly didn’t matter, as the Bucks came out on top to please the home crowd.

143. Hangman Adam Page vs Konosuke Takeshita – AEW Dynamite (5/18)

The Konosuke Takeshita American coming out party. I first became familiar with Takeshita in DDT and 2019 and was immediately drawn to him. I was super pumped when it was announced he’d be coming to AEW for a handful of months in 2022. He debuted in a very good match in the main event of Rampage, falling to Jay Lethal. A couple weeks later, Takeshita would make his Dynamite debut against none other than AEW World Champion, and one of my favorite wrestlers in the world, Hangman Adam Page. And boy, oh boy, did they hit a home run. It was a 12-minute sprint, and one hell of a slugfest. What a perfect opponent and showcase for Takeshita to the American television audience. The crowd got behind him pretty quickly, and have remained so since then. And now he’s moved to America and signed to AEW full-time, and I think a big push, and potential alliance with Don Callis may be in the works. I’m salivating…

142. Sammy Guevara vs Cody Rhodes – AEW Dynamite Beach Break (1/26), TNT Championship Ladder Match

This was around the time AEW started unfortunately introducing the concept of interim championships, even though Cody was only gone for a few weeks. I believe this was the championship unification match, and these two definitely went all out for a television ladder match. The breathtaking Sammy cutter spot high off the ladder is certainly what will be most remembered from this match, but they had a handful of other insane spots. I thought it was a little clunky in the beginning, but this was damn good fun, and credit to both guys for putting their bodies on the line. This was one of the few bright spots over the last six or so months of Cody’s AEW career. 

141. Saya Kamitani vs Tam Nakano – Stardom World Climax: The Top (3/27), Wonder of Stardom Championship

This was a rematch from about three months prior where Saya took the white belt off Tam. The aggressiveness from both was on another level for this one, laying into one another pretty good throughout. Tam came in a bit overconfident as the former champ, feeling as if she was above Saya. But Saya proved she is legitimately one of the best women’s wrestlers in the world, and this was a huge match and result for her. And hell, she’s still holding the white belt to date, at 387 days and counting

140. Jonathan Gresham vs Bandido – ROH Supercard of Honor (4/1), ROH World Championship Unification match

This was supposed to be the main event of Final Battle 2021, but unfortunately, Bandido got covid just days before. So, it became the first Ring of Honor main event on Tony Khan’s watch, and it did not disappoint. Although this show will be remembered most for the first installment of the incredible FTR/Briscoes trilogy, Gresham and Bandido delivered a heck of a performance across 25 minutes. The crowd got pretty hot after Bandido turned down Chavo Guerrero’s offer to cheat to win, retaining his honor, and getting Chavo ejected in the process. Bandido holding Gresham in the air for a full minute before a vertical suplex was awesome, but in the end, the technical prowess of The Octopus was too much for the luchador.

139. Kazuchika Okada vs JONAH – NJPW Declaration of Power (10/10)

Not quite as good as their G1 contest which saw JONAH get the upset and the crowd GASP at JONAH’s big splash off the top, but this was still a great match that naturally saw Okada get his win back. Speculation was that the rubber match would occur at this year’s New Beginning event for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, but this unfortunately was JONAH’s final New Japan match as he returned to WWE as Bronson Reed. Let’s just do the rubber match at Wrestlemania. Why not?

138. Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) vs Aussie Open – NJPW World & Super Junior Tag League Night 17, World Tag League Final

It was awesome seeing Aussie Open more in 2022 – in Japan, AEW, Impact, etc. – because those guys RULE. You know who else rules? BISHAMON! Former laughing stock of New Japan, and my boy, YOSHI-HASHI, and wily veteran who could never win the big one, Hirooki Goto, have turned themselves into quite the tag team over the past couple years. I think most people thought Aussie Open would win this match to set up the rematch with FTR at Wrestle Kingdom, but alas, Bishamon was just too tough! It went an intense 28 minutes – although it didn’t feel like it – and was probably one of the best World Tag League finals ever.

137. Tomohiro Ishii vs Minoru Suzuki – NJPW Windy City Riot (4/16)

It’s always a treat to watch these two legends go to war, and this was no different. It was their first singles match since the 2020 G1 (which I loved), and they beat each other pillar to post here, much to the delight of the American fans. It was nothing flashy, but it was every bit as hard-hitting as you’d expect, and your classic strong style bout. Despite getting the victory, Ishii was stumbling his way from the ring after the match, while Suzuki beat up the young boys despite his loss. Eddie Kingston coming out to challenge Ishii after the match was a nice touch.

136. Roman Reigns vs Drew McIntyre – WWE Clash at the Castle (9/3), WWE Undisputed Universal Championship

Most thought this would be Drew’s true crowning moment in WWE, but unfortunately, it was not meant to be for the Scotsman. The match was every bit as epic as you’d want, and the UK fans were absolutely raucous throughout the 30+ minutes. There were a lot of extracurriculars, with Austin Theory attempting to cash in his Money in the Bank contract, only to be thwarted by Tyson Fury; and Solo Sikoa making his main roster debut to help Reigns retain. This was great stuff all around. At the time, I definitely thought Drew should have been the one to dethrone Reigns, but with everything that’s gone on with the Bloodline since, I’m glad this is the route they’ve gone. However, why on earth did they televise that BULLSHIT with Drew singing with Tyson Fury after the match? That was absolutely terrible and embarrassing after what should have been the most crushing defeat of his career. Aside from that, this was wonderful. 

135. Zack Sabre Jr, Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI vs Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer, El Desperado & Taka Michinoku – NJPW Road to Tokyo Dome Night 2 (12/23), Suzuki-Gun Final Match

It was definitely a bit bittersweet to see the end of one of the best factions in New Japan, but this was incredibly well done and emotional. Towards the end, Suzuki attacked each of the seven other men (including his teammates) one-by-one, which led each of them to attack Suzuki, with the finish coming after Taichi hammered him with the Iron Claw, followed by a Zack Driver from ZSJ, yelling “THANK YOU SUZUKI!” mid-move. It was beautiful – as was the snow falling in the ring thereafter. We’ve already seen former Suzuki-Gun members go their separate ways, but it’s been nice to see the likes of Taichi, DOUKI and Kanemaru stick together, as well as Suzuki and El Desperado – with Ren Narita! It will be intriguing to see how 2023 unfolds for all of the ex Suzuk-Gun’ers.

134. Taichi vs DOUKI – JTO TakaTaichiMania 3 (1/10)

Speaking of Suzuki-Gun, and emotional, this was an awesome match between faction mates. DOUKI wrestled incredibly valiantly as the underdog, and Taichi had a great heel performance in front of a limited, but hot crowd at Korakuen Hall. Milano Collection AT – one of DOUKI’s mentors – getting emotional on commentary made this even better. It’s easily the best singles match of DOUKI’s career, and a great exhibition of Japanese fighting spirit. 

133. Will Ospreay vs YOSHI-HASHI – NJPW G1 Climax Night 16 (8/12)

My boy YOSHI-HASHI had another awesome G1 this year, as he came incredibly close to taking down both Shingo Takagi, and Will Ospreay – falling just short on both occasions, but proving he absolutely belongs with the big boys. Ospreay viciously targeted YOSHI’s taped shoulder, and they chopped the hell out of each other throughout. There were great counters and sequences down the stretch from both men, as Ospreay barely squeaked by the very game and tough YOSHI-HASHI.

132. Alex Shelley vs Chris Sabin – Impact Wrestling (7/21), No. 1 Contender’s match for the Impact World Championship

The Motor City Machine guns had a wonderful 2022 – both in tag team and singles action – and this battle between Shelley and Sabin to determine the No. 1 contender for Josh Alexander’s Impact World Championship was at the heart of it all. Surprisingly, Shelley had never had even a shot at the Impact World Championship throughout his entire career, and Sabin held the title only once, and for only 28 days. This match was exactly as you’d expect from these two stalwarts, and a clinic in technical wrestling. The urgency was high throughout, and it was incredibly emotional down the stretch, as Shelley was able to get the best of his partner and earn his first shot at the Impact World Championship. More coming on that one later…

131. Speedball Mike Bailey vs Trey Miguel – Impact Against All Odds (7/1), Impact X-Divison Championship

This was Speedball’s first defense of 11 in his epic, only 110-day reign with the X-Divison Championship, and it was a certified banger. Both guys employed great legwork, and sold it impeccably. I feel like Speedball’s selling improved as the year went on – what a hell of a year that guy had. Bailey and Miguel always have excellent chemistry together, and this absolutely breezed by in 14 minutes. Just a great, heated, dramatic contest between two of the X-Division’s best. 

130. The Acclaimed vs FTR – AEW Dynamite (12/7), AEW World Tag Team Championship

Two of the best and most popular tag teams in the world just slugging it out in a babyface match for the AEW World Tag Team Championship. It began with some excellent technical wrestling, and evolved into a dramatic battle that was truly unpredictable. The crowd was smoldering, and unsure who to pull for, and there were so many great nearfalls from both teams. But in the end, Bowens was able to catch Cash with a roll up after exchanging clotheslines. If FTR decides to stay with AEW (I think they will), then you better believe we may be seeing this match again. It will be interesting to see how long The Acclaimed’s reign lasts – not too many heel tag teams on that roster right now. 

129. Jon Moxley vs Konosuke Takeshita – AEW Dynamite Fyter Fest Night 1 (7/13), AEW World Championship Eliminator

The first of two awesome matches between these warriors in 2022, although I slightly preferred their match in December to this one. It would have been tight to see Takeshita get his first big win to set up the rematch for the title, but alas, AEW is too predictable more often than not. And Takeshita is still searching for that big win six months later. But I digress, this was great, and both men put on a great performance hammering and suplexing one another. 

128. David Finlay vs Juice Robinson – NJPW G1 Climax Night 6 (7/26)

The former IWGP and Impact World Tag Team Champions Finjuice squared off in their first-ever singles match, and it certainly did not disappoint. A few months prior, Juice randomly joined Bullet Club (and becoming ROCK HARD in the process) leaving Finlay completely hung out to dry without confrontation. It was a passionate and emotional fight that got 24 minutes in the main event slot of Korakuen Hall, proving to be more than deserving. Finlay kicking out of Juice’s Pulp Friction was a surprise and got a big pop, and in the end, Finlay got his revenge on ROCK HARD getting the W kickstarting his breakout performance in the G1. 

127. Yukio Naya vs Kazusada Higuchi – DDT D-Ou Grand Prix in Korakuen Hall (11/18)

It’s no secret that Kazusada Higuchi was one of my favorite wrestlers in 2022 (and my father), and he ran roughshod throughout DDT this year, having not lost a singles match prior to this match on November 18. I was only vaguely familiar with Naya before this tournament, having seen him in a handful of tag matches. He’s a towering figure, standing at 6’7 and bearing a resemblance to Japanese wrestling legend Yoshihiro Takayama.I didn’t realize this at the time, but Higuhchi was Naya’s first tag team partner in DDT, and he had his first singles match against Higuchi. So, the stage was set for the main event on the final night of the Grand Prix. with Naya coming in at 3-1, and KO-D Champion Higuchi 3-0-1 – and a spot in the final on the line. It felt like Higuchi would relatively easily dispose of the large, young upstart. But the big man was having none of it, and took the fight directly to Higuchi with his powerful flurry of kicks. This was brutal, hard-hitting stuff, and proved to be by far the biggest win and best match of Naya’s career. I’d imagine we’ll see a title bout between these two soon, and 2023 will likely be a breakout year for Yukio Naya.

126. Will Ospreay vs Dax Harwood – AEW Dynamite Road Rager (6/15)

Another tremendous singles match from Mr. Harwood, which anyone with a brain knew that would be the case against the Commonwealth Kingpin. It was a masterclass in professional wrestling, and the crowd was on edge throughout the zippy 13+ minutes. They showcased great technical wrestling, amazing counters, and the cocky Ospreay knew when to bust out his high-flying offense. Dax proved yet again he can hang with the best in the world, although coming up short again in singles action. Orange Cassidy showed up after the match to challenge Ospreay for the IWGP United States Championship at Forbidden Door – a match that will rank very highly on this list…

125. Juice Robinson vs Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Jon Moxley vs Will Ospreay – NJPW Capital Collision (5/14), IWGP United States Championship Four-Way

A star-studded group here, and yeah, Juice belongs considering he’s a three-time IWGP United States champion and the winner of the match! The main event of New Japan’s show in D.C. was incredibly action-packed in a crisp 15:45. There were some great exchanges between Tanahashi and Moxley – including a spectacular High Fly Flow through a table – in what would be a prelude to their excellent match at Forbidden Door. Ospreay obviously showed out as well, and Juice played the perfect heel foil to the three megastars, and managed to escape with the win and his third U.S. title. 

124. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, SANADA, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI) vs KONGO (Kenoh, Katsuhiko Nakajima, Manabu Soya, Tadasuke & Aleja) – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom in Yokohama (1/8), Interpromotional 10-Man Tag

As someone who started getting into Pro Wrestling NOAH in 2020 during the lockdown time, I was quite excited about the prospect of a New Japan vs NOAH show. Although, it was a bit of a bummer to have only tag matches and no singles matches on the card. But it makes sense, given the politics surrounding who wins and loses. However, it still ended up a fun show, and this was easily my favorite match from it – a 10-man faction war between two of the best in LIJ and KONGO. They got plenty of time in 26:33 for everyone to get a nice showcase, and this was good fun from beginning to end, specifically the sequences between Naito/Kenoh and Shingo/Nakajima, ultimately building to singles matches to the joint show this year on January 21. LIJ got the dub here in a match that was just a good time.

123. Yuka Sakazaki vs Miu Watanabe – TJPW Tokyo Princess Cup Night 7 (8/14), Tokyo Princess Cup Final

Miu Watanabe was easily one of my favorite TJPW wrestlers after my introduction to the promotion in the middle of 2022. I’ve enjoyed the magical girl Yuka Sakazaki ever since her early appearances in AEW in 2019, and I figured this would be a captivating match to determine the Princess Cup winner, earning a shot at the Princess of Princess Championship – the top prize in TJPW. Watanabe was coming off one of the biggest wins in her career after taking down the ace of TJPW, Miyu Yamashita, in a very intense, strong-style match. And although Watanabe came up short here, her performance in the Tokyo Princess Cup proved she belongs in the upper echelon of joshi, and damn does the crowd love her! And Yuka Sakazaki most certainly held up her end of the bargain in victory, and ultimately went on to defeat Shoko Nakajima for the title.

122. Kazusada Higuchi vs Yukio Sakaguchi – God Bless DDT (10/23), DDT KO-D Championship

A battle of former tag team partners and stablemates, but you wouldn’t have known it (after some slight hesitation from Higooch) from the way they brutalized each other – as is the norm in a Higuchi match. Yukio used his familiarity with his foe in the early going to take control, but one can only “control” Higuchi for so long, as he eventually became unglued and unleashed the kraken. The finish was very emotional, as Higuchi had a tear in his eye as he hit Yukio with the Brain Claw slam for the victory.

121. El Desperado vs Hiromu Takahashi – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom Night 1 (1/4), IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship

The eternal rivalry between two of the top junior heavyweights in New Japan finally featured its first match at a Wrestle Kingdom. Coming off an awesome 30-minute draw in the Best of the Super Juniors in November 2021, El Desperado had yet to get that truly crowning win over Hiromu. They were deservedly in the penultimate match of the night, and rather than going a bit longer like expected, they charged out of the gate, and never stopped during this 16-minute sprint. This definitely had a different feel than all of their other matches, and Desperado finally got his first hallmark win against his generational rival.

120. Brawling Brutes vs Imperium – WWE Extreme Rules (10/8), Six Man Good ol’ Fashioned Donnybrook 

This was such a great rivalry on Smackdown throughout the fall, and this Good ‘ol Fashioned Donnybrook was the perfect way to open Extreme Rules, and easily the match of the night. This was an absolute FIGHT throughout the entirety of the 18 minutes, and you could feel the intensity and how much these two units absolutely despised one another. This came just one day after Gunther/Sheamus II – where Sheamus took another L – so there was no way the Brutes were going to fall in this one.

119. Gunther vs Sheamus – WWE Smackdown (10/7), WWE Intercontinental Championship

Speaking of Gunther/Sheamus II, it was hard to separate these two matches as they flowed right into each other. Of course, this couldn’t hold a candle to their absolute classic at Clash at the Castle, but this was certainly a worthy sequel. Sheamus was absolutely up to the task this time, and Gunther had to resort to using a foreign object to help put Sheamus down. I’m still hoping this rivalry will be rekindled, and Sheamus goes over Gunther for the Intercontinental title at Wrestlemania. 

118. Shingo Takagi vs Taichi – NJPW Golden Fight Series Night 7 (4/30), KOPW Championship 30-Count match

When the King of Pro Wrestling Championship was introduced in New Japan in 2020, it wasn’t presented as something too serious with Toru Yano as the inaugural champ and really carrying the banner for the title. However, Taichi and Shingo were able to take this championship to new heights, making it something to actually look forward to, and this match was the commencement. The stipulation here was you needed to get a total of a 30-count over your opponent, no matter how many pinfall attempts it takes. It was an incredibly unique stipulation that created an incredibly dramatic match, especially as things came down the stretch in the final few minutes. Shingo outlasted Taichi, and went on to have by far the most entertaining run with the KOPW trophy.

117. Jurassic Express vs ReDragon vs The Young Bucks – AEW Revolution (3/6), AEW World Tag Team Championship

Firstly, I miss Kyle O’Reilly. He was seemingly getting a nice push before his injury, and I hope he’s recovering well and we see him on our TV screens again soon. This was a very high-energy, chaotic three-way tag, with the story being the fracturing between the Young Bucks and ReDragon, which ultimately allowed Jurassic Express to retain the gold. It was the perfect combination of great action and storytelling, and this really solidified the tag team championship run for Jurassic Express.

116. Mayu Iwatani vs Utami Hayashishita – Stardom Goddesses of Stardom Tag League Night 1 (10/23), IWGP Women’s Championship Tournament Semifinal

Two of Stardom’s best fighting for the right to battle KAIRI to become the inaugural IWGP Women’s Champion, and Mayu and Utami put it all on the line. With the pace they worked, this felt like a match in the 5Star Grand Prix (all 15-minute time limit), as this unfolded into an awesome 15-minute sprint with incredibly urgency all around. Utami looked as beastly here as she did in all of 2022 perhaps, and Mayu employed her usual great selling and just could not be put down. Mayu got the win after not one, but two moonsaults and had a nice interaction with KAIRI after the match.

115. Eddie Kingston vs Tomohiro Ishii – AEW All Out Zero Hour (9/4)

It’s a shame this match was on the preshow, but I’m just happy we got to see it again. This felt like a natural progression from their first match in New Japan (but in America), and I enjoyed this one more – perhaps because AEW’s production is significantly better than New Japan in America. They got just shy of 14 minutes, but it didn’t matter – I could watch these two fight for hours. Again, nothing flashy or too different that their prior match, but the crowd was hot as hell and they beat the piss out of each other yet again – this time with Kingston coming out on top. I’d love to see a rubber match in Japan.

114. El Hijo del Vikingo vs Bandido – AAA Gira Aniversario XXX Noche De Campeones (12/28), AAA Mega Championship

Poor production from AAA aside, this match ripped. Vikingo did Vikingo things per usual, which means at least one or two wild high-flying things you’ve never seen before. In this one, he did an inverted 450 splash into a poison rana all in one fell swoop, and it was just absurd. This was obviously largely spotfesty, especially in the early going, but these two were throwing bombs at each other for the last several minutes. Bandido continually proves to me that he’s so much more than your high-flying luchador, although he came up just short to the dominant Vikingo. 

113. Bryan Danielson vs Daniel Garcia – AEW Dynamite (8/17), Best Two-Out-of-Three Falls

Bryan Danielson and Daniel Garcia had an awesome mini-feud/partnership in the summer and fall of 2022. This match was made after Garcia had upset Danielson a few weeks prior, and although it was fairly obvious Danielson would get his win back, this was still, obviously, a very awesome match. I did like their first contest better (love the rare upset in AEW), but the two-out-of-three falls stipulation worked well as these two had an old-school, knock-down, drag-out PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING match. This was another star-making performance by Garcia, who had certainly earned Danielson’s respect, further distancing Garcia from Jericho at the moment.

112. Will Ospreay vs Tomohiro Ishii – RevPro Uprising (12/17)

Surprisingly, this was only the second-ever singles match between two of the best wrestlers in the world – with the first occurring during the 2020 G1 Climax. This time it occurred on British soil, and while RevPro’s production always leaves something to be desired, you could watch these two wrestle in VHS quality with babies doing the commentary and it would still be a joy to watch. Also, Ospreay wasn’t even scheduled on this show, but when RevPro champ Ricky Knight Jr. was forced to miss the show just days in advance, Ospreay answered the call and put on another banger. Ishii let Ospreay have it throughout the whole match, and he also used a code breaker on Ospreay, which ruled. But Ospreay hit Ishii with a flying Hidden Blade (one of the best HB’s we’ve seen) off the ropes into the storm breaker for the W.

111. Chris Jericho vs Tomohiro Ishii – AEW Dynamite Thanksgiving Eve (11/23), ROH World Championship

I quite enjoyed Chris Jericho’s run with the ROH World Title, and really enjoyed the majority of his 2022 – easily his best year since his initial AEW Championship run in 2019-20. While he was initially fighting only former ROH World Champions, it eventually became just ROH champions of any kind, and up stepped former ROH TV champ Ishii, and little did I know that he and Jericho had history from the early 90’s in Genichiro Tenryu’s WAR promotion Japan. Jericho was wrestling as Lionheart at the time, and Ishii was “a young boy who carried my bags,” as Jericho trash-talked the week prior to the match. This was an absolute slugfest as expected, which saw Jericho get his chest busted open very early into the match. Jericho has proven he’s excellent in these strong style type matches, and Ishii is, of course, one of the best of all time at taking punishment and unleashing it all back onto his opponent. With Jericho being one of my favorites of all time, and Ishii one of my favorites in the last 5-6 years, this was a dream match for me, and they absolutely knocked it out of the park. Just legendary stuff all around here.

110. KAIRI vs Mayu Iwatani – NJPW/Stardom Historic X-Over (11/20), IWGP Women’s World Championship

An incredibly historic contest (as the name of the event says), featuring two of the most iconic Japanese women’s wrestlers of all time doing battle to become the first ever IWGP Women’s World Champion. They got just north of 25 minutes, and this was every bit as epic as it needed to be, and damnit I’m happy New Japan is finally having women’s matches (although the disrespectful six minutes KAIRI & Tam Nakano got at Wrestle Kingdom was ridiculous). KAIRI and Mayu were excellent choices for this historic match, although personally I would’ve liked to see Mayu win. But regardless, this had the “big fight feel” and great urgency throughout, with both performers absolutely killing it. The last 5-7 minutes were particularly awesome and emotional, as was the post-match exchange between the two. 

109. Bryan Danielson vs Hangman Adam Page – AEW Dynamite (9/7), Grand Slam Tournament of Champions Quarterfinal

What a way to rekindle the awesome rivalry from late 2021/early 2022 between Hangman and Danielson. While this match didn’t quite reach the heights of their previous two (the bar was so incredibly high), they picked up right where they left off and produced another banger. This was a six-man tournament of former AEW champions to crown a new AEW World Champion following CM Punk getting stripped of the title. The winner of this match would face Jericho (who got a bye), and the other side of the bracket featured Darby Allin vs Sammy Guevara with the winner to face Jon Moxley who got a bye. The tournament seemed set up for Bryan to get wins back over Hangman and Jericho and that’s exactly what happened. Hangman and Danielson showcased their excellent chemistry, which is among the best of any pairing in AEW. The drama and brutality escalated as the match progressed, with Danielson working the arm throughout, and Hangman selling it expertly. In the end, Danielson caught Hangman with a surprise rollup victory to move on and get his revenge over Jericho.

108. Jay White vs Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW G1 Climax Night 4 (7/23)

Dang, four of the last nine matches have been Ishii matches. Haha, he’s so awesome. And he’s largely had Jay White’s number throughout their contests, with a 3-1 record against him prior to this match, including playing spoiler for Jay to make the G1 final on the last night of the 2020 G1. However, Jay was not to be denied here coming in as IWGP World Champion. He employed his top notch trash talk and in-ring psychology here, and had that prick Gedo get involved as well. The latter part of the match showed off the great chemistry between these two with some great counters, striking and false finishes, but Jay got the expected win.

107. Jon Moxley vs Bryan Danielson – AEW Dynamite Grand Slam (9/21), Grand Slam Tournament of Champions Final for the AEW World Championship

This was a rematch from their brutal match at Revolution about six-and-a-half months prior, which had resulted in the AEW debut of William Regal and the formation of the Blackpool Combat Club. While this match obviously ruled, I think it was a small notch below that match with the freshness and story going in. It was cool to see these two destroy each other whilst being aligned for sure. The result here was truly in doubt, and while it would have been awesome and deserving to see Danielson as champ, it was even more deserving for Mox who carried the company throughout most of 2022. One issue with this was that MJF was up in a suite, and the camera cut to him FAR too much, taking away from the competitors in the ring. 

106. Bron Breakker vs Ilja Dragunov vs JD McDonagh – NXT Halloween Havoc (10/22), NXT Championship Triple Threat

This was such an excellent combination for a triple threat match, calling back to a rivalry between Dragunov and McDonagh from earlier in the year, while throwing in the powerhouse Breakker and the NXT Championship. I thought McDonagh and Dragunov were the stars of the match, but Breakker certainly held his own and was not outshined. McDonagh played the perfect cowardly heel, picking his spots, and avoiding confrontation as much as possible, and Dragunov brought his own brand of fighting spirit and physicality. Breaker certainly filled in the gaps with his strength and held his own as champion, retaining his title in the end.

105. Syuri vs Mayu Iwatani – Stardom World Climax: The Top (3/27), World of Stardom Championship

This came just one day after Syuri successfully defended her title against Giulia, due to Giulia and Mayu fighting to a 30-minute draw in their No.1 Contender’s match. Syuri went 27 minutes in a barn-burner with Giulia, and 29 minutes here in another incredibly hard-fought title defense over Mayu. This had a slower pace at the start, with Mayu primarily in control with Syuri dragging a bit due to her match the night before. But Syuri eventually started working over Mayu’s leg – with Mayu selling expertly per usual – and got her to tap out with a stretch muffler after an incredibly valiant fight by Mayu to get back to the top of Stardom.

104. Jordynne Grace vs Masha Slamovich – Impact Bound for Glory (10/7), Impact Knockouts World Championship

This was the co-main event of Impact’s biggest show of the year, and Jordynne Grace and Masha Slamovich went out there and produced one of the best women’s matches on American soil in all of 2022. They just battered each other throughout the 16 minutes in an awesome and brutal back-and-forth match with some big nearfalls down the stretch. Slamovich had yet to lose in Impact, and frankly, looked pretty unbeatable until she ran into the Juggernaut. Grace was more than up to the task, trading stiff bombs with Masha throughout, and getting the win after a huge Grace Driver off the top rope.

103. Kazusada Higuchi vs Tetsuya Endo – DDT Wrestle Peter Pan (8/20), DDT KO-D Openweight Championship

Higuchi’s first title defense of the KO-D comes against the man who never lost the belt, but had to vacate it after he was shoot knocked out by Katsuhiko Nakajima at the CyberFight Festival just over two months prior. Yeesh, that was brutal. Endo was more than game as the challenger, but Higuchi proved that he had leveled up and had become the standard bearer of DDT (he even brings out the flag!). Endo taking a massive Brain Claw on the apron was definitely a highlight, and this was an awesome clash of styles with the new champ out to show that he’s deserving of the spot. 

102. Swerve In Our Glory vs The Young Bucks vs Ricky Starks and Powerhouse Hobbs – AEW Dynamite Fyter Fest 1, AEW World Tag Team Championship Triple or Nothing

At the time, I thought this was a pretty surprising tag title win for Swerve In Our Glory, but they were awesome champions and had a wonderfully intriguing run. If anything, I thought Starks and Hobbs would maybe steal a win here. The Triple or Nothing stipulation calling for all six men to be in the ring at once, made this an incredibly chaotic and fast-paced affair, slightly different than the Bucks/Jurassic Express/ReDragon three-way earlier on the list. All three teams crushed it here with the Bucks steering the ship as by far the most experienced unit in the match. We had a fun moment with Starks posing with the Bucks, and already some doubt between Swerve and Lee, which would remain throughout the duration of their title reign. Excellent stuff all around here. 

101. Tomoka Inaba vs Suzu Suzuki – JTO 50th Anniversary For TakaTaichi Together ~ Last TakaTaichi (12/19)

This show snuck in at the end of the year, and was low-key one of the best shows of the year. And this match between the two 20-year old women was an absolute firecracker. As mentioned in Part 1, Suzu Suzuki was my favorite women’s wrestler of 2022 that I had never seen before the year. I hadn’t seen Inaba until she teamed with Syuri for their tag tournament, but she’s awesome and also has a very bright future ahead of her. These two youngsters let it rip for 15+ minutes in front of a piping hot crowd, per usual for JTO shows. This was so awesome and far exceeded my expectations. They worked fast and stiff, pummeling each other with strikes and featuring a ton of great nearfalls down the stretch. Inaba punished Suzu with brutal kicks and she earned the biggest victory of her career. And this surely is just the start between these two future joshi torch bearers. 

Weekly Top 10 Matches – 2022

Top 10 Matches of the Week – 1/1 – 1/7

1Kenny Omega vs. Will Ospreay (5)NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 171/4IWGP United States Championship
2Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White (4.5)NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 171/4IWGP World Heavyweight Championship
3Kaito Kiyomiya vs. Kenoh (4.5)NOAH The New Year1/1GHC Heavyweight Championship
4Yuka Sakazaki vs. Miyu Yamashita (4.25)TJPW Tokyo Joshi Pro ’231/4Princess of Princess Championship
5Hiromu Takahashi vs. Taiji Ishimori vs. El Desperado vs. Master Wato (4.25)NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 171/4IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship
6Satoshi Kojima & Takashi Sugiura vs. KENTA & Naomichi Marufuji (4.25)NOAH The New Year1/1GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
7Jon Moxley & Bryan Danielson vs Top Flight (4.25)AEW Rampage1/6
8Zack Sabre Jr vs. Ren Narita (4)NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 171/4IWGP World Television Championship
9Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. FTR (4)NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 171/4IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
10Austin Theory vs. Seth Rollins (4)WWE Monday Night Raw1/2WWE United States Championship

Top 10 Matches of the Week – 12/18 – 12/24

Hellllllllooooooooooooooooo, it’s been a big week! Not only because of Christmas — I hope your holidays have been merry and bright — but also because I hit my ludicrous goal of 600 4+ star matches in 2022! It’s a true achievement of nerdom and markdom, and couldn’t have been accomplished if I had a day job. Let’s be honest, I’ve put off getting a “real” job in order to absorb as much wrestling into my brain as humanly possible. I believe I have matches from 26 different promotions. Damn, it’s been an awesome year. Now I’ve shifted gears to rewatching a myriad of matches, because I’m going to do my first ever TOP 200 list (last year was 100). So buckle your ass up for that one, and stay tuned.

But! This past week in wrestling was quite strong, and included low key one of the best shows of the year — Just Tap Out 50th Anniversary For TakaTaichi Together ~ Last TakaTaichi. JTO is Taka Michinoku’s promotion, and he’s had several of these TakaTaichi events, which are always great. This one was no exception with three matches at 4.5+. Shingo/Taichi was an incredible final installment in their rivalry over KOPW 2022 — legitimizing that championship in the process. I went 4.75, but Dave Meltzer actually gave it 5. Props to Taichi, who is without a doubt one of the most improved wrestlers in New Japan since I started watching in 2017. 

Additionally, Minoru Suzuki and DOUKI took on deathmatch legend Jun Kasai, and always invigorated in JTO shows Tomoaki Honma, in a bloody, brutal war. It was an incredibly emotional match, just days before the Suzuki-Gun final — which was also just wonderful. Suzuki — who doesn’t bleed often — bled within mere minutes, setting the tone for what was to come. Suzuki and Honma had some brutal exchanges down the stretch as Suzuki-Gun got the W. Lastly, an awesome battle between two 20-year-old women — Suzu Suzuki and Tomoka Inaba. Damn, this was a fight, and both women left it out there. Suzu is perhaps my favorite wrestler of 2022 that I had never seen previously, and although I’ve only seen a handful of Inaba matches, she’s pretty damn great in her own right. The future of joshi wrestling is so incredibly bright it’s hard to even fathom.

Regarding the Suzuki-Gun final, talk about emotional — sheesh. But what a perfect sendoff. Towards the end, Suzuki attacked each of the seven other men (including his teammates) one-by-one, which led each of them to attack Suzuki, with the finish coming after Taichi hammered him with the Iron Claw, followed by a Zack Driver from ZSJ, yelling “THANK YOU SUZUKI!” mid-move. It was beautiful. As was the snow falling in the ring thereafter. It’s sad to see one of the most entertaining New Japan factions say goodbye, but it’s very intriguing to see what comes next. Taichi turn on Zack? Jake Lee coming in to take over? Strap me in, daddy.

Speaking of daddy’s, Satoshi Kojima continues to prove he’s still got a lot in the tank during his current NOAH run. He battled NOAH stalwart, and one of my top wrestlers from 2021, Katsuhiko Nakajima to a brutal 30-minute draw. It was the first NOAH show I saw this year that allowed cheering, and the crowd sure was fired up for this one. I can’t wait to see these two tangle again. Different show, but the NOAH crowd was also quite fired up for the GHC Jr Tag Championship match between Atsushi Kotoge and Seiki Yoshioka and YO-HEY and Kzy. I don’t pay super close attention to NOAH junior stuff, but I pop in from time to time. This was a very fun match that was elevated by the crowd, but NOAH has loved hot potato’ing their titles this year to a fault.

Coming back to America, Jamie Hayter had yet another outstanding match, this time with former AEW Women’s champ Hikaru Shida. Like Jamie/Toni, this also had a very joshi-like feel as they went to war, and featured many crisp counters and transitions. Just beautiful stuff. And I want to give credit to my friend BJ Whitmer, who is a backstage producer for AEW, and produced both of those matches, and a lot of the other recent women’s stuff sans Jade. The AEW women’s division feels as healthy as it ever has in the 3+ years of the company. 

Lastly, Speedball Mike Bailey stays hot with an awesome match against New Japan’s Yuya Uemura. Uemura is currently on excursion, but he keeps proving that he’s a big time talent that’s going to fit in like a glove once he gets called back to Japan. And on NXT, Carmelo Hayes and Axiom put on a fun, jumpy, smooth match. Carmelo has future NXT Champion written all over him, and I’d love to see Axiom get a run with the North American title.

1Shingo Takagi vs Taichi (4.75)JTO 50th Anniversary we For TakaTaichi Together ~ Last TakaTaichi12/19NJPW King of Pro Wrestling Championship Last Man Standing Lumberjack
2Minoru Suzuki & DOUKI vs Jun Kasai & Tomoaki Honma (4.5)JTO 50th Anniversary For TakaTaichi Together ~ Last TakaTaichi12/19No Disqualification Tag
3Jamie Hayter vs Hikaru Shida (4.5)AEW Dynamite Holiday Bash12/21AEW Women’s World Championship 
4Tomoka Inaba vs Suzu Suzuki (4.5)JTO 50th Anniversary For TakaTaichi Together ~ Last TakaTaichi12/19
5Zack Sabre Jr, Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI vs Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer, El Desperado & Taka Michinoku (4.25)NJPW Road to Tokyo Dome Night 212/23Suzuki-Gun Final
6Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Satoshi Kojima (4.25)NOAH Kongo Produce DIAMOND 512/18
7The Elite vs Death Triangle (4.25)AEW Dynamite Holiday Bash12/21AEW World Trios Championship Series Match 5 No Disqualification 
8Mike Bailey vs Yuya Uemura (4)Impact Wrestling 12/22
9Carmelo Hayes vs Axiom (4)WWE NXT 12/20
10YO-HEY & Kzy vs Atushi Kotoge & Seiki Yoshioka (4)NOAH N Innovation 12/23GHC Jr Tag Team Championship 

Top 10 Matches of the Week – 12/11 – 12/17

1Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI vs Aussie Open (4.5)NJPW World & Super Junior Tag League Night 1712/14World Tag League Final
2Gunther vs Ricochet (4.5)WWE Smackdown 12/16WWE Intercontinental Championship 
3Yuki Ueno & Toi Kojima vs Kazusada Higuchi & Yuki Ishida (4.5)DDT FREE – December 12/14
4MJF vs Ricky Starks (4.25)AEW Dynamite Winter Is Coming 12/14AEW World Championship 
5Jon Moxley vs Sammy Guevara (4.25)AEW Rampage 12/16
6Lio Rush & YOH vs Chris Bey & Ace Austin (4.25)NJPW World & Super Junior Tag League Night 1712/14Super Junior Tag League Final 
7Chris Jericho vs Action Andretti (4)AEW Dynamite Winter Is Coming 12/14
8Death Triangle vs The Elite (4)AEW Dynamite Winter Is Coming 12/14AEW World Trios Championship Series Match 4
9Dakota Kai & IYO SKY vs Liv Morgan & Teegan Nox (3.5)WWE Smackdown 12/16WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship
10Motor City Machine Guns vs Heath & Rhino (3.5)Impact Wrestling12/15Impact Tag Team Championship

Top 10 Matches of the Week – 12/4 – 12/10

Well well well, it’s great to be back for another week with TWO FIVE-STAR MATCHES! It is my third such week this year, and the first two both had two five-star matches on the same day (Okada/Ospreay & Hangman/Danielson – 1/5, Ospreay/Finlay & Higuchi/Takeshita – 9/25), and I’m up to 15 total five-star matches in 2022. And this past week’s were a pair of absolute wars, but in completely different ways: Josh Alexander vs Mike Bailey from Impact Wrestling, and The Briscoes vs FTR in a double dog collar match at Ring of Honor Final Battle.

Let’s start with FTR/Briscoes, which I consider to be a legitimate Match of the Year contender (along with their first match). I’m not sure if there’d ever been a double dog collar match before — I know I’d never seen one — and a small part of me hopes there isn’t another because this was so perfect. The culmination of the greatest tag team trilogy of all time, with some of the most heart-pumping, dramatic, beautiful violence you’ll ever see inside (and sometimes outside) the confines of the squared circle. All four men donned the crimson mask to perfection, and even referee Mike Posey got busted open after being clocked by a chain by Dax Harwood. Big kudos to Pose for that. 

It was non-stop, wild action from the bell until Dax passed out after 22:20. And it was heartbreaking seeing Cash do his damndest to break it up while being held back by Mark Briscoe. Speaking of those two, the spot where Cash whipped Mark off the top rope onto a pile of chairs on the floor was one of the most insane things I’ve ever seen. The stipulation made this feel like two different singles matches taking place in the course of a tag team match — it was wonderful. Maybe I would like to see it again. Anyway, there’s really not much else to say. Just watch it. Bravo, and thank you to everyone involved.

Now, onto two of the best wrestlers in the world going at it for nearly an hour on free television. Alexander and Bailey put on one of the most entertaining and well-paced hour-long matches I can remember (sans Omega/Okada, of course). The time seemed to fly by and the action never dragged. And it definitely strayed more towards hard hitting and striking as opposed to technical mat work. Both men put on a master class of selling, and this was a true war of attrition — and entirely unexpected. Although I did catch wind that Alexander went an hour with someone? because this match was taped in Louisville the day after we attended Over Drive. Unfortunately, the crowd kind of stunk for the match, but it didn’t really take away from it for me. Certainly a hotter crowd would’ve added to it, but it was just a brilliant match. The full match is on Youtube without commercials, so if you’re a fan of professional wrestling I think you’ll enjoy this. 

And damn, there was a slew of other great action this past week as well, as I had three matches at 4.5. FTR had another Top 5er in their long awaited AEW tag team championship challenge against The Acclaimed on Dynamite. The Acclaimed retained in an incredibly exciting face v face bout where I had no idea who was going to win. The nearfall with Bowens breaking up the pin at the last second after the Big Rig was tremendous. And on Rampage, Jon Moxley and Konosuke Takeshita had an excellent, brutal fight that I thought was better than their AEW title match earlier this year. I’ve said it before in this space, but Takeshita is so damn good, and I couldn’t be happier that the American audience is getting more and more behind him. Hard not to when you’re that freakishly good. Now that he’s moved to America and eating all the Cinnabon his big heart can desire, I hope he can start getting some big wins. Perhaps he could be the one to dethrone Orange for the All-Atlantic Championship? Moxley was brilliant as ever in this match taking a beating like the true champ he is, and even working a little heely again as the crowd was really getting behind Takeshita. The kickout at 1 after the Paradigm Shift made me hard. This was so great.

My other 4.5er was the inaugural men’s Iron Survivor match from NXT Deadline. I’m not a weekly watcher of NXT, but I was intrigued by this new match concept, and boy did they hit a home run with this one. I didn’t watch until Sunday and knew the result, but I was still quite riveted in this match. Everyone played their part so well, and Grayson Waller sneaking his way to three pinfalls, and playing a little cat and mouse at the end made for a fun result. Even though he had no falls, JD McDonagh is an absolute stud and has hit another level since his name/character change. Axiom and Carmelo Hayes continue to wow, and I’d absolutely love to see a singles match between the two. Heck, I was even impressed with Joe Gacy who I’ve never really cared about. Great stuff here and props to Shawn Michaels for the concept and execution. The women’s match was a ton of fun too. 

On the 4.25 line, we had the final of DDT’s D-Ou Grand Prix, which saw last year’s runner up Yuki Ueno (aka Baby Ibushi) get the win over the up-and-coming Yukio Naya, who came in off the biggest win of his life over my father and K-OD Openweight Champion (DDT’s top title) Kazusada Higuchi. This was a great hard-hitting contest where there was little doubt in the winner, but both guys busted their ass and Ueno bumped and sold so well to make Naya look like a big badass with the size advantage. Wheeler Yuta had another excellent chapter in their rivalry of swapping the ROH Pure Title. I liked how this one begun with both men using the close fists, and Garcia forcing Wheeler to burn his three rope breaks very early on. A great mix of technical and striking work per usual between these two, and I really enjoyed the finish.

For both Stardom and New Japan’s tag leagues, I kind of picked and chose which matches I watched. Stardom’s final which saw Nanae Takahashi and Yuu defeat Utami Hayashishita and Saya Kamitani was a lot of fun with a surprise winner for me. I haven’t seen a ton of Yuu but she definitely impressed with her power moves with Saya’s excellent selling as always. Utami looked like the strong beast that she is, and Takahashi also had a great performance. Great fun and many great moments down the stretch. 

Over to NJPW, Chris Bey and Ace Austin vs Alex Zayne and El Lindaman was a heck of a fun match and one of the best matches of both the junior and heavyweight tag tournaments. Both teams were standouts in my opinion, along with the jr champs TJP & Francesco Akira and YOH and Lio Rush. Very much looking forward to the final between Bey/Austin and YOH/Rush. On the heavyweight side, the United Empire battle between Aussie Open and Great O-Khan and Aaron Henare was a great fight between faction mates. United Empire manager Gideon Gray’s stock has risen drastically in my book, as he’s managed and introduced three teams across the two tournaments.  

1The Briscoes vs FTR (5)ROH Final Battle12/10ROH World Tag Team Championship Double Dog Collar
2Josh Alexander vs Mike Bailey (5)Impact Wrestling12/8Impact World Championship
3Jon Moxley vs Konosuke Takeshita (4.5)AEW Rampage12/9
4Grayson Waller vs Carmelo Hayes vs Axiom vs Joe Gacy vs JD McDonagh (4.5)NXT Deadline12/10Iron Survivor
5The Acclaimed vs FTR (4.5)AEW Dynamite12/7AEW World Tag Team Championship
6Yuki Ueno vs Yukio Naya (4.25)DDT D-Ou Grand Prix The Final12/4DDT D-Ou Grand Prix Final
7Wheeler Yuta vs Daniel Garcia (4.25)ROH Final Battle12/10ROH Pure Championship
8Nanae Takahashi & Yuu vs Utami Hayashishita & Saya Kamitani (4.25)Stardom Goddesses of Stardom Tag League Night 1012/4Goddesses of Stardom Tag League Final
9Alex Zayne & El Lindaman vs Chris Bey & Ace Austin (4.25)NJPW World & Super Junior Tag League Night 1312/7
10Aussie Open vs Great O-Khan & Aaron Henare (4)NJPW World & Super Junior Tag League Night 1212/5
HMClaudio Castagnoli vs Chris Jericho (4)ROH Final Battle12/10ROH World Championship
HMThe New Day vs Pretty Deadly (4)NXT Deadline12/10NXT Tag Team Championship

Top 10 Matches of the Week – 11/27 -12/3

Can I get a WHO DEY! What a thrilling win for my Cincinnati Bengals last night over Joe Burrow’s son Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Alright, with that out of the way, let’s talk a little wrasssssslin’, shall we?

I’m going to start in the land of AEW, as I attended Dynamite in Indianapolis — my 10th career AEW show and fourth of the year. I was fortunate to sit next to indie wrestler Brandon Prophet, who runs his own promotion in Indy. He had many great stories, and I’m excited to have him on the Brain Buster Boys next week! I also had a very brief encounter and conversation with Saraya, and she couldn’t have been more of a sheer delight. And MJF walked right in front of us as he exited after clocking Mr. Regal. Don’t want to get into it, but it’s pretty wild that it appears he’s headed back to WWE imminently. 

On to the action, and it’s no surprise that Bryan Danielson and Dax Harwood put together one heck of a professional wrestling match. And it really accelerated about halfway through as they upped the physicality and striking. Danielson is an actual wrestling god, and by god, what a year Dax has had. He’s a 4.25 machine with all his singles matches. And I loved the Elite/Death Triangle match starting with an extended brawl on the outside before the bell actually rang. As always, great action between those two teams. which was definitely a thrill live. The Elite got the expected win, although it was hard to tell from our vantage point, and for a second I thought the Death Triangle were up 3-0, haha.

Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling continues to roll in 2022 with yet another very strong show in All Rise. Miyu Yamashita and Millie McKenzie had a physical war over the Spirit of Eve Championship in what was my match of the week. Yamashita is oodles better than she showed in her match in AEW against Thunder Rosa, and I had yet to see Ms. McKenzie and damn was she impressive. I definitely look forward to seeing more from her. Another talent I saw for the first time on that show was 17-year-old New Albany, Indiana native Billie Starkz, who challenged Yuka Sakazaki for the Princess of Princess Championship in the main event…in Korakuen Hall…what an accomplishment for a 17-year-old. I was equally impressed with Billie who carried herself quite well in the high profile spot. She did some sort of snap One Winged Angel on the apron, followed by a flip onto Sakazaki that was sick! Good good stuff. Oh, and Mizuki and Arisu Endo put on one hell of a fast-paced and exciting 10-minute match.

On to HHH Land, and we had Prince Puma vs King Cuerno for the World Cup Final! Wait, I mean Ricochet and Santos Escobar — but I do love the Lucha Underground throwback matchup, and it was awesome. I knew the result before watching, but that was a damn good television main event. They threw everything at each other and showcased some excellent high flying work. I’m very happy HHH has featured both guys, and Zelina Vega is a natural fit with Legado. And the Bloodline is still cooking with two good matches, Kevin Owens vs Jey Uso, and Jey helping his new pal Sami Uso get the W over Sheamus. 

Lastly, New Japan’s tag leagues are hitting their stride, and on the heavyweight side, the teams of Bishamon (Goto & YOSHI-HASHI), Aussie Open and Naito & SANADA have definitely stood out above the rest in terms of match quality. 

1Miyu Yamashita vs Millie McKenzie (4.25)TJPW All Rise11/27EVE Spirit of Eve Championship
2Ricochet vs Santos Escobar (4.25)WWE Smackdown12/2World Cup Final
3Bryan Danielson vs Dax Harwood (4.25)AEW Dynamite11/30
4The Elite vs Death Triangle (4.25)AEW Dynamite11/30AEW Trios World Championship Series Match 3
5Kevin Owens vs Jey Uso (4)WWE Monday Night Raw11/28
6Mizuki vs Arisu Endo (4)TJPW All Rise11/27
7YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto vs Tetsuya Naito & SANADA (4)NJPW World & Super Junior Tag League Night 611/27
8Tetsuya Naito & SANADA vs Aussie Open (4)NJPW World & Super Junior Tag League Night 912/2
9Yuka Sakazaki vs Billie Starkz (3.75)TJPW All Rise11/27Princess of Princess Championship
10Sami Zayn vs Sheamus (3.75)WWE Smackdown12/2

Top 10 Matches of the Week – 11/20 -11/26

HELLLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOO, welcome to Shutdown Season, aka the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s where everyone’s brains are fried, and we’re all doing our best to coast through the holidays. However, wrestling does not sleep, and neither does my quest to have 600 4+ star matches in 2022. I’m currently at 564 and on pace for 622. Translation: I’m a loser and a psychopath.

But hey, I love it, and I can’t imagine I’ll ever hit this volume again unless I somehow get paid to do this nonsense full-time (t’would be the dream, obvi). And damn, this past week may have been the toughest time I’ve had ranking the top 10 since I started doing this. I had five matches at 4.5 stars, and the margin between them is incredibly razor thin for me. Additionally, the Men’s War Games and U.S. Title triple threat matches from Survivor Series were RIGHT behind those. 

Note: Surprisingly, this is the only time it’s happened, but I’m including two matches from DDT from the week prior because there’s been so much awesome wrestling of late that I’ve fallen a bit behind.

But let’s start at the top with the incredibly entertaining, fun and HISTORIC, New Japan and Stardom Crossover show. As you know if you’ve read any of these, I’ve been quite a large fan of Stardom this year, and New Japan has largely been my favorite promotion since 2017, so needless to say I was pretty excited about this one. KAIRI and Mayu Iwatani had a brutal and emotional battle to become the inaugural IWGP Women’s Champion. While I personally wanted to see Mayu get the W, KAIRI is also an excellent choice, and the two left it all in the ring in an outstanding match. 

In the semi-main, Will Ospreay and Shota Umino topped their Royal Quest match with an excellent contest over the IWGP United States Championship. The first match was stopped, somewhat controversially by referee Red Shoes — Shota’s father — and Ospreay was even more relentless this time around. The drama was there with Shooter refusing to let his father stop the match, but in the end, Ospreay was just too much. AND HOLY SHIT, then Kenny Omega popped on the video screen to challenge Ospreay for a U.S. Title match at Wrestle Kingdom!!! I’ll admit, I was pretty adamant that the match wasn’t going to happen yet, but boy I am so glad to be wrong. Lastly, all of the mixed tag matches were a blast to watch, and I couldn’t recommend this show more.

AEW had two very strong matches on Dynamite following up from Full Gear. The Elite fall to 0-2 in the Best-of-Seven series vs the Death Triangle — this time, with Penta using the dreaded hammer. It’s easily going seven, and it’s gonna be awesome. Speaking of awesome, the main event between Chris Jericho and Tomohiro Ishii was a sheer delight! Two of my favorites all time went to war, and Jericho’s chest was pouring blood the whole time from Ishii’s chops. He probably bladed, but who cares, it looked sick! I was initially unaware of Ishii being a “young boy” in Genichiro Tenryu’s WAR promotion while Jericho was there in the mid 90’s. I absolutely love that style of match and what a joy it was to see Jericho and Ishii pummel the hell out of each other.

I mentioned Survivor Series earlier, and damn, what a hell of a show! Naturally, I skipped Ronda/Shotzi, but I had all four other matches at either 4 or 4.25 stars. However, the men’s war games match gets ***** for storytelling, as Sami Uso sacrificed his best friend Kevin Owens to solidify his loyalty to The Bloodline, and finally winning over Jey Uso. It was brilliantly executed with the backstage segments beforehand, and the cherry on top was Sami catching Owens the exact same way after he hit the Helluva Kick in their legendary match at Battleground 2016. Just incredible stuff. As has been the last few weeks for Austin Theory, who improbably and smartly won the U.S. Title in an incredibly compelling and fast paced triple threat against Seth Rollins and BIG Bob Lashley. Also, both the women’s war games and AJ/Finn were very good, but I would’ve gone with opposite winners.

Rounding out this week in Japan, one of the most surprisingly damn good matches of the year belongs to GHC National Champion El Hijo Del Dr. Wagner Jr. and Yoshiki Inamura in Pro Wrestling NOAH. It was one of the first cheering crowds allowed in NOAH and they were HOT for Inamura. It was the best singles performance I’ve seen for both men and this was a beautiful big boy battle. New Japan’s World & Super Junior Tag Leagues have started, and the best match in the early going has been Junior Tag Team Champs TJP & Francesco Akira knocking off the random, but very fun team of YOH & Lio Rush. TJP & Akira are so tight and I love watching them. Lastly, the seemingly indestructible Kazusada Higuchi lost his first singles match in a year, surprisingly, to up-and-comer Yukio Naya, who will face the reigning runner up Yuki Ueno in the D-Oh Grand Prix Final in what should be an interesting contest. 

1KAIRI vs Mayu Iwatani (4.5)NJPW/Stardom Historic X-over11/20IWGP Women’s World Championship
2Chris Jericho vs Tomohiro Ishii (4.5)AEW Dynamite Thanksgiving Eve11/23ROH World Championship
3Will Ospreay vs Shota Umino (4.5)NJPW/Stardom Historic X-over11/20IWGP United States Championship
4El Hijo Del Dr Wagner Jr. vs Yoshiki Inamura (4.5)NOAH The Best11/23GHC National Championship
5Yukio Naya vs Kazusada Higuchi (4.5)DDT D-Ou Grand Prix In Korakuen Hall11/18
6The Bloodline vs Kevin Owens, Drew McIntyre & The Brawling Brutes (4.25)WWE Survivor Series War Games11/26War Games
7Austin Theory vs Seth Rollins vs BIG BOB Lashley (4.25)WWE Survivor Series War Games11/26WWE United States Championship
8Death Triangle vs The Elite (4.25)AEW Dynamite Thanksgiving Eve11/23AEW Trios World Championship Series Match 2
9TJP & Francesco Akira vs Lio Rush & YOH (4.25)NJPW World & Super Junior Tag League Night 111/21
10Yuki Ueno vs Daisuke Sasaki (4.25)DDT D-Ou Grand Prix In Korakuen Hall11/18
HMBianca Belair, Becky Lynch, Asuka, Alexa Bliss & Mia Yim vs Damage CTRL, Rhea Ripley & Nikki Cross (4)WWE Survivor Series War Games11/26War Games
HMAJ Styles vs Finn Balor (4)WWE Survivor Series War Games11/26

Top 10 Matches of the Week – 11/6 – 11/12

1Death Triangle vs The Elite (5)AEW Full Gear11/19AEW World Trios Championship
2Josh Alexander vs Frankie Kazarian (4.75)Impact Over Drive11/18Impact World Championship
3Jamie Hayter vs Toni Storm (4.5)AEW Full Gear11/19AEW REAL Women’s World Championship
4Syuri vs Utami Hayashishita (4.75)Stardom Gold Rush11/19World of Stardom Championship
5Chris Jericho vs Bryan Danielson vs Sammy Guevara vs Claudio Castagnoli (4.5)AEW Full Gear11/19ROH World Championship
6MJF vs Jon Moxley (4.5)AEW Full Gear11/19AEW World Championship
7Jungle Boy Jack Perry vs Luchasaurus (4.25)AEW Full Gear11/19Steel Cage
8Trey Miguel vs Black Taurus (4.25)Impact Over Drive11/18Impact X-Division Championship
9Eddie Kingston vs Jun Akiyama (4.25)AEW Full Gear: Zero Hour11/19
10Jordynne Grace vs Masha Slamovich (4.25)Impact Over Drive11/18Impact Knockouts Championship Last Knockout Standing
HMAustin Theory vs Dolph Ziggler (4)WWE Monday Night Raw11/14
HMSeth Rollins vs Finn Balor (4)WWE Monday Night Raw11/14WWE United States Championship

Well, well, well, what a week it was! Firstly, my podcast, Brain Buster Boys, celebrated its two-year anniversary and got to do so by attending two wrestling shows in Louisville, Kentucky: Monday Night Raw and Impact Over Drive. Oh, and not to mention AEW Full Gear and Stardom Gold Rush.

(Listen to part 1 of the Two-Year Anniversary Show here and part 2 here!)

I’ll start chronologically and say I really had a blast attending my first WWE show in over five years. It was big, bright, and loud all night, and we were treated to some good matches and storyline progression, mostly in the case of Austin Theory. He had an awesome backstage promo, followed by a great match with Dolph Ziggler, and he closed the show by attacking Seth Rollins and hoisting the United States Championship over him. They didn’t crack my top 10 because it was such a strong week, but I wanted to recognize the Theory/Ziggler and Rollins/Balor matches from Raw, because they were both damn solid and a treat to take in live.

Impact Over Drive was the third Impact special event I’ve attended this year, and they’ve all been so much fun, and great shows to boot. We opted for the general admission tickets this time, and we were posted up about 15 feet from the ring, parallel to the commentators, with a perfect view of the action. We made plenty of new friends and were starting cheers all night, specifically for Black Taurus. The first handful of matches were fine, but things really escalated with the X-Division Championship match, and our group was responsible for starting every single Black Taurus chant. He looked over at us in acknowledgment multiple times and you could tell our cheers were firing him up. He had an outstanding back-and-forth match with Trey Miguel with plenty of big moves, but that bastard Trey (seemingly) turned heel by spraying Taurus with spray paint to get the W. 

Jordynne Grace and Masha Slamovich rekindled their rivalry with an excellent Last Knockout Standing for the Knockouts Championship. It was a slight step below their amazing match at Bound For Glory, but the stipulation worked for this, and they put together an engaging, physical match, which saw Grace get the win by Muscle Buster’ing Masha through a door outside the ring. 

The main event saw yet another 2022 banger performance from Josh Alexander, and (probably not even) arguably the best performance and singles match of Frankie Kazarian’s career. They battled for nearly 33 minutes, throwing everything at each other, doing each other’s moves, grueling submissions, but Alexander outlasted Kazarian finally planting him with the C4 Spike. And then things got interesting when Bully Ray came out to challenge Alexander for Hard To Kill and proceeded to nearly piledrive his wife before Alexander handed over the Impact World Championship. I’ll admit, I wasn’t at all excited about the prospect of Bully Ray challenging for the title, but I’m definitely more intrigued now.

AEW IS BACK BAYYYYBEEEE! It’s certainly been an up-and-down 2022 for AEW, but they saved the best for last, and Full Gear is the ppv of the year in my opinion. Emotions started running high on the pre-show with Eddie Kingston getting to take on his hero (and absolute legend) Jun Akiyama. It went just over 10 minutes and was a battle of wills, chops, punches, and suplexes, but the best moment came after the match with the mutual sign of respect, and Kingston in tears on the microphone. That definitely set the tone for what would be an amazing night. 

The main card kicked off with a bang, as JACK PERRY (it’s weird) finally bested his old friend Luchasaurus in a thrilling steel cage match. Speaking of thrilling, holy shit that trios title match was LIVE. It was one of those special energies in the room when we were watching, and from the bell it was hot, heavy, wild, insane and never let up for a second. It was so great seeing the Elite back — especially Kenny — and their chemistry with Death Triangle is second to none. The storytelling here was tremendous with Fenix refusing to use the hammer initially, but eventually giving in to lead them to the W. It was my match of the night and match of the week. And me oh my, we’re going to get a best-of-seven series! I seriously cannot wait to see what these six cook up over the next couple months.

My 2nd-favorite match of the night was the Women’s World Championship (no interim tag here), which saw Jamie Hayter finally and rightfully claim the throne over old friend and roommate Toni Storm, in what was one of my favorite women’s matches to ever take place on American soil. These two absolutely slugged it out and left it all in the ring. The last few minutes were sublime with nearfalls, but Hayter was finally able to get it done (with the help of Britt Baker) and I certifiably lost my mind. What a moment, and no woman in the company deserves it more. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Hayter as champion. 

The fatal four-way for the ROH championship was such an exciting and well-executed matchup. There was obvious intrigue with the potential of stablemates squaring off, and the main story was when Sammy would break and he eventually did. I’ve given Sammy a lot of guff this year — and it was all warranted — but I’m glad he’s cut out the bullshit and stuck to wrestling. This was one of his best performances of the year. All the interactions between Danielson and Claudio were great, including the late nearfall with the bisiko knee. But the dastardly Ocho snuck in and retained. And of course, the main event which was full of drama, and finally saw the coronation of Maxwell Jacob Friedman as AEW World Champion. Like his match against Punk in Chicago, Mox embraced the full heel and beat MJF pillar to post for like 80% of the match. Although everyone and their brother expected Regal to turn and help MJF win, it was perfectly executed with Regal scolding MJF for attempting to use the Dynamite Diamond Ring, telling Mox to go get the ref, and sliding the brass knucks in perfectly for MJF to clobber Mox for the 1, 2, 3. It’s a new era, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store!

Lastly, Syuri and Utami Hayashishita had yet another incredible match in their rivalry, which saw Syuri defeat Utami in a 28-minute war, to set up her match with Giulia at Dream Queendom at the end of the year. Similarly to MJF, it’s Giulia’s time, and I’d be quite surprised if she didn’t take the World of Stardom Championship off her former tag team partner. That match will surely be wild!

Top 10 Matches of the Week – 10/30 – 11/5


That could be the article there. But wow, as a massive mark for both Shibata and Orange, this was a literal dream match — and I rarely use that incredibly overused term. Just over a year ago, Shibata shockingly appeared at the G1 Climax Final show and had a five-minute grappling exhibition with Zack Sabre Jr. It was incredible to see Shibata back in the ring grappling without any strikes or suplexes — given that he nearly died in the ring in April 2017. If that’s all we would be getting from Shibata for the rest of his career, I would have been more than happy. 

And then he was scheduled to have a mystery opponent in another exhibition match at Wrestle Kingdom 16 this past January. And who showed up, but none other than Shibata’s closest mentee, and now “The Son of Strong Style,” Ren Narita. Not only that, Shibata broke New Japan’s rule because he wanted a real match — he wanted to be hit. And I’ll admit, I got a little teared up seeing him and Narita blast each other in the Tokyo Dome. 

Shibata, aka “The Wrestler” became one of my favorites of all time AFTER his injury from going back and watching all of his old work. Nobody wrestles like him, strikes like him, and takes punishment like him (well, maybe Tomohiro Ishii) and he captivated me immediately. 

Fast-forward to June 26, Chicago, Illinois, the United Center, for AEW/NJPW Forbidden Door. I was in attendance, and despite all the injuries and late changes to the card, it was absolutely ELECTRIC. In a night full of incredible matches and moments, Shibata’s surprise appearance was without a doubt the moment of the night for me, and easily one of my favorite things I’ve ever seen in live entertainment. I sprinted to the bathroom after the conclusion of the wonderful Will Ospreay/Orange Cassidy match. I had just gotten to the urinal and pulled my hogg out, and I heard the riff. The only riff I could’ve heard at that moment that could get me to put my hogg away and sprint back out of the bathroom (fortunately the stream had not yet begun). And I went out in the arena and yelled, and screamed, and slapped hands with so many strangers, and cried. I couldn’t believe I got to see Shibata in the flesh, and I’m getting goosebumps as I write this now. The image of Orange putting his sunglasses on Shibata will forever be firmly implanted in my brain.

Shibata had not been since that wonderful summer evening in Chicago, until this past Wednesday. Orange Cassidy had just retained his All-Atlantic Championship in a fun match against Rey Fenix and Luchasaurus, and it had been billed that the winner would advance to Friday’s Rampage for the “Atlantic City Dream Match.” Never in a trilllllllllion years did I see it coming, but I was looking down at my phone, and THE RIFF! I let out an audible yell, my body was covered in goosebumps, and I think I kept yelling “YEAH” and “OH MY GOD” idk I think I blacked out. Orange gave Shibata the contract, and he signed it right there. It was legitimately shocking and wonderful.

The match itself wasn’t a 5 star classic, but it was a 10 star moment for me. There was definitely some rust from Shibata, but the joy of seeing him compete, let alone against one of my favorite wrestlers today, certainly outweighed the rust factor by a million. We got to see Shibata do the little kicks, hit the Orange Punch, hit a PK, and have the vintage sitdown strike exchange. It was all surreal. And yeah, I know people are upset Shibata lost, but did you really think Orange was gonna drop that belt yet? I get it, and Shibata’s rust can certainly be as good as any kayfabe reason for him to take the L. It was tough to rate, so I stuck with 4.5 stars, but it’s easily one of my personal favorite matches of the year.

Everything else this week seems secondary, but it was an awesome week of wrestling overall! Will Ospreay and Tetsuya Naito had a borderline 5 star banger for the IWGP U.S. Championship, and the entire NJPW Battle Autumn 16 show was strong. WWE Crown Jewel was mostly a strong and fun show, with the final two matches being by far the best. All props to Logan Paul, the man can go and is a freak athlete. Bianca and Bayley had one heck of an entertaining Last Woman Standing match as well.

Also, DDT’s D-Ou Grand Prix has begun, and my lover Kazusada Higuchi has kept his boiling hot streak going with two great performances to begin the tourney, including a 30-minute BRUTAL draw against Yuji Hino where each men voluntarily took chops and strikes from each other for pretty much the entirety of the match. If you like big hoss’s slapping meat, you don’t want to miss this one.

That’s more than enough for this week. Thanks for reading if you got here, and enjoy the list!

1Orange Cassidy vs Katsuyori Shibata (4.5)AEW Rampage11/4AEW All-Atlantic Championship
2Will Ospreay vs Tetsuya Naito (4.75)NJPW Battle Autumn Night 1611/5IWGP United States Championship
3Kazusada Higuchi vs Yuji Hino (4.5)DDT D-Ou Grand Prix 2022 In Yokohama Night 211/5
4Roman Reigns vs Logan Paul (4.25)WWE Crown Jewel11/5WWE Undisputed World Championship
5Syuri vs Maika (4.25)Stardom Hiroshima Goddess Festival11/3World of Stardom Championship
6Bianca Belair vs Bayley (4.25)WWE Crown Jewel11/5WWE Raw Women’s Championship
7El Desperado & Master Wato vs Hiromu Takahashi & Taiji Ishimori (4.25)NJPW Battle Autumn Night 1611/5
8Takashi Sugiura & Satoshi Kojima vs Kenoh & Katsuhiko Nakajima (4.25)NOAH Ariake Triumph – The Return10/30GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
9Tetsuya Endo vs Yuki Ueno (4.25)DDT D-Ou Grand Prix 2022 – The Beginning11/1
10Josh Alexander & Frankie Kazarian vs Aussie Open (4.25)Impact Wrestling11/3
HMSeth Rollins vs Austin Theory (4.25)WWE Monday Night Raw10/30
HMTJP & Francesco Akira vs BUSHI & Titan (4.25)NJPW Battle Autumn Night 1611/5IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag Team Championship

Top 10 Matches of the Week – 10/23 – 10/29

Well well well, Happy Rusev Day yet again! Where the heck is Miro anyhow? Shit, I’m tired of asking that question but heyyyyy, it’s your boy Bretty Spaghetti back for another installment of my 10 favorite matches from this past week in the wonderful world of wrestling and sports entertainment. I was telling a friend who is a very casual wrestling fan that I’ve been doing these weekly columns, and he couldn’t believe that I was doing a top 10 every WEEK, thinking it would be tough to find that many matches each week. To that I laughed, admitted I was a sicko, told him how blessed we are to be wrestling fans in 2022, and that I’m on my way to having 600+ matches from this year rated at 4 stars-plus. Like I said, sicko.

Let’s kick things off with New Japan this week, as they not only continued their World Television Championship Tournament but also held their Rumble On 44th Street show in NYC. Starting with the former, I think it’s no secret that Tomohiro Ishii vs The Son of Strong Style Ren Narita was the most anticipated first round match of the tournament, and holy hell did it deliver! Narita, or Baby Shibata as I like to call him, channeled the spirit of his mentor in this one, and it certainly called back to the Ishii/Shibata classic from the 2013 G1 Climax. These two went to war in front of a LOUD AND ABLE TO CHEER WITH THEIR MOUTHS crowd at Korakuen Hall, and boy it was an absolute joy to watch and everything I love about New Japan. Oh, and Narita is pretty much already a star. It’s free to watch on youtube, so do it: 

Rumble On 44th Street and The Night Before show both were incredibly entertaining and featured some unique matchups, including a fun 12-man tag that saw Kazuchika Okada and Jon Moxley on the same team. But, my favorite match of both shows was the New York City Street Fight aka Who’s Your Daddy part 2 between Shingo Takagi and El Phantasmo for the KOPW provisional trophy. What an exciting street fight filled with near falls, and I’m even more excited my “Shingo Is My Daddy” shirt arrived yesterday. Thank you again to Shingo for making KOPW not only relevant but incredibly fun, and ELP keep doing you, brother. Also, BIG HORN ENERGY Clark Connors returned from injury with an awesome performance against Murder Grandpa Minoru Suzuki. Clark put up a hell of a fight and gave Suzuki a lot of offense, and I continue to be impressed with Clark since his young lion graduation.

Staying in Japan, gotta shout out the man who stole my heart this summer, ace of DDT, Kazusada Higuchi, as he had another outstanding and emotional match against grizzled veteran and stablemate Yukio Sakaguchi. Higuchi has etched his way into my top 5 wrestlers of the year — he’s so great. Stardom had a nice week back with an outstanding match between Mayu Iwatani and Utami Hayashishita to determine who would face KAIRI to become the inaugural IWGP Women’s World Champion. Also, their Goddesses of Stardom Tag League has begun with two rippers — Starlight Kid and Momo Watanabe battling Syuri and youngster Tomoka Inaba to a thrilling draw, and the MAFIA BELLA team (what an entrance!) of the queen Giulia and the returning Toxic Spider Thekla took it to the champions Tam Nakano and Natsupoi — just great stuff overall here. 

Here in America, FTR and Swerve In Our Glory had an exciting match to determine the #1 contenders for the AEW tag team titles. It was an exciting back and forth affair where the winner was in doubt, but SIOG snuck by to set up SIOG/Acclaimed III, but why the hell did FTR even have to fight for this? They’ve been #1 contenders like all year! And they’ll have to wait their turn even longer, but SIOG/Acclaimed III should be tight. Also on Dynamite, Bryan Danielson and Sammy Guevara had a heck of a contest that saw Danielson pick up a much needed W, and damn it was nice seeing him beat up that loser. WWE didn’t have a match as fire as Sami’s Ucey segment, but JD McDonagh and Ilja Dragunov continued their hot feud on NXT with another banger of a match.

1Ren Narita vs Tomohiro Ishii (4.75)NJPW Battle Autumn Night 910/26NJPW World Television Championship Tournament First Round
2Kazusada Higuchi vs Yukio Sakaguchi (4.5)DDT God Bless DDT10/23DDT KO-D Openweight Championship
3Mayu Iwatani vs Utami Hayashishita (4.5)Stardom Goddesses Of Stardom Tag League Night 110/23IWGP Women’s Championship Tournament Semifinal
4Shingo Takagi vs El Phantasmo (4.25)NJPW Rumble On 44th Street10/28New York City Street Fight
5Swerve In Our Glory vs FTR (4.25)AEW Dynamite10/26AEW World Tag Team Championship No. 1 Contender
6Starlight Kid & Momo Watanabe vs Syuri & Tomoka Inaba (4.25)Stardom Goddesses Of Stardom Tag League Night 110/23
7Minoru Suzuki vs Clark Connors (4.25)NJPW Rumble On 44th Street10/28
8JD McDonagh vs Ilja Dragunov (4.25)WWE NXT10/25
9Giulia & Thekla vs Natsupoi & Tam Nakano (4)Stardom Goddesses Of Stardom Tag League Night 110/23
T-10Bryan Danielson vs Sammy Guevara (4)AEW Dynamite10/26
T-10Zack Sabre Jr vs David Finlay (4)NJPW Battle Autumn Night 1010/27NJPW World Television Championship Tournament Quarterfinal

Top 10 Matches of the Week – 10/16 – 10/22

Happy Rusev Day! You know what that means? It’s time for another installment of Loaf’s Top 10 Matches of the Week! It was a bit of a special week as I had the pleasure of attending AEW Dynamite in my home of Cincinnati. I actually live in Newport, KY but 10 minutes from the arena so you get the picture. 

It really had the makings of a special show, and there was a palpable energy in the building. The Trios Championship opener really set the tone, and the wild spotfest was a sheer delight to take in live. I love PAC’s continued heel behavior with Fenix preventing him from using that damn bell hammer yet again, as well as Orange Cassidy toting the All-Atlantic title in a backpack.

We were treated to a very nice face vs face match between Toni Storm and Hikaru Shida, as this is now turning into a bit of a Dynamite recap, but so be it. Riho’s return was outstanding as well, but easily the moment of the night was the MJF and William Regal promo. It’s hard to even describe what being in the building for that felt like, but that sure was a special one. MJF was treated as a legitimate babyface, as deserved, and as foreshadowed by MJF as he took to Twitter earlier in the day to say that Skyline Chili is indeed not mid. Regal was equally as great on the stick, and damnit I cannot wait to see where this goes. Does MJF beat Moxley clean or does he take the shortcut to get the job done?

It’s tough to follow a legendary promo like that, but Dalton Castle and The Boys easily got the crowd re-engaged. Chris Jericho continues his strong run of late, and this match was highly entertaining, including the Boys clowning with Jake Hager over the bucket hat. But shit, my two favorite wrestlers in AEW were tearing the house down in Moxley’s home arena before the incredibly scary and unfortunate injury to Hangman Adam Page. I’m very glad Hangman is okay, but it was a bit of a buzzkill to what could have been in the top tier of the 159 episodes of Dynamite. But boy oh boy I can’t wait for Mox/MJF at Full Gear.

Phew, in other news, NXT’s Halloween Havoc produced two very strong matches, with the triple threat NXT Championship match between Bron Breakker, Ilja Dragunov and JD McDonagh being my match of the week. The drama was high, and JD and Ilja were both tremendous in their face/heel roles, rekindling their great feud from NXT UK earlier this year. Breakker worked well in the powerhouse role, but Ilja and JD were on another level. Also, the North American Championship ladder match was a ton of fun with a bit of a surprise winner in Wes Lee.

Even though it took place last week, I’m including AAA’s Triplemania: Mexico City for this week because that’s when I watched it, and it’s my list! El Hijo Del Vikingo and Rey Fenix put on a hell of a display for the AAA Mega Championship, but I don’t agree with Dave Meltzer that it was 5 stars. Some of the spots and moves were utterly ridiculous, but it lacked the urgency and cohesion that I look for in a 5er. Also, Pentagon Jr had a nasty bloody war with Villano IV, defeating him in a Luchas de Apuestas and taking the 57-year-old’s mask — which is quite a big deal in Mexico. You could feel the gravity of the moment, and Penta is at his best when he’s just downright nasty. I wish we’d see that side of him more in AEW. And regarding Villano IV, hats off to ya for the performance, and I remember that guy as a jobbery part of the WCW Cruiserweight division in the late 90’s, so I’m glad I can now remember him for something better. 

Over in Japan, the Stardom portion of the IWGP Women’s Championship bracket began with a couple firecrackers between old-friends-turned-bitter-enemies Mayu Iwatani and Momo Watanabe, and a big, battering hoss fight between Utami Hayashishita and Himeka. More to come on that next week as we now know the finals matchup of that tournament and Stardom’s Tag League begins. Additionally, SANADA and Taichi renew their bromance/rivalry with easily the best NJPW World Television Championship tournament match yet. And even more thrilling, Taichi challenged his old mentor Kawada to a match while he was at ringside for commentary. Yeah he’s old, but it would be a true joy seeing one of the true GOATs of professional wrestling lace up the boots one more time against Taichi. Wrestling in 2022 is just the absolute best. 

1Bron Breakker vs Ilja Dragunov & JD McDonagh (4.5)NXT Halloween Havoc10/22NXT Championship Triple Threat
2El Hijo Del Vikingo vs Rey Fenix (4.5)AAA Triplemania XXX: Mexico City 10/15AAA Mega Championship 
3Wes Lee vs Carmelo Hayes vs Von Wagner vs Oro Mensah vs Nathan Frazer (4.25)NXT Halloween Havoc 10/22NXT North American Championship Ladder
4Mayu Iwatani vs Momo Watanabe (4.25)Stardom First IWGP Women’s Champion Decision Battle 1st Round10/22IWGP Women’s Championship Tournament First Round
5Death Triangle vs Orange Cassidy & Best Friends (4.25)AEW Dynamite 10/18AEW World Trios Championship 
6SANADA vs Taichi (4.25)NJPW Battle Autumn Night 310/16NJPW World Television Championship Tournament First Round
7Pentagon Jr vs Villano IV (4.25)AAA Triplemania XXX: Mexico City 10/15Ruleta De La Muerte Final Mask vs Mask
8Utami Hayashishita vs Himeka (4)Stardom First IWGP Women’s Champion Decision Battle 1st Round10/22IWGP Women’s Championship Tournament First Round
9Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Chris Ridgeway (3.75)NOAH Demolition Stage10/16
10Chris Jericho vs Dalton Castle (3.75)AEW Dynamite 10/18ROH World Championship 

Top 10 Matches of the Week – 10/9 – 10/15

Hellllllooooooooo marks, Bretty boy is back again with a fresh spread of wonderful professional wrestling matches. While last week was highlighted with majority American-based wrestling, this week we’re back to the Land of the Rising Sun…or England – as New Japan’s Royal Quest II show was FINALLY made available after two weeks. Unfortunately, a bit of the luster had worn off, but the buzz couldn’t have been higher for the FTR/Aussie Open match for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championships. And it sure delivered, sitting firmly in this week’s #1 spot. What a hell of a year for both teams, especially FTR.

Additionally, both squads opposed each other again on Royal Quest II Night 2 — with FTR teaming with Shota Umino, Gabriel Kidd and Ricky Knight Jr; and Aussie Open teaming with Will Ospreay, Great O-Khan and Gideon Grey — in an outstanding high-octane 10-man tag. Also on Night 2, New Japan fans were treated to the new Yota Tsuji — complete with new gear, new offense and a new attitude — in a war with Tomohiro Ishii. 

New Japan also held its Declaration of Power show on 10/10, which featured Match of the Night and my #2 of the week in the rematch between JONAH and Kazuchicka Okada. The Japanese crowd LOVES JONAH and I sincerely hope he doesn’t go back to WWE because he’s carved out a heck of a niche for himself in New Japan. Jay White got his revenge in defending the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship against Tama Tonga, but Tama has now cemented himself as a legit babyface main eventer. What a run he’s had in the past year-plus. Lastly, the WHO’S YOUR DADDY match between Shingo Takagi and El Phantasmo was hilarious and great fun. I really wanna get one of those SHINGO IS MY DADDY shirts — because he is indeed my father. 

Staying in Japan, Kazusada Higuchi continued his incredible run this year in DDT. After a grueling tag title match which saw he and Naomi Yoshimura retain their championships against the menacing Daisuke Sasaki and KANON, MMA legend Shinya Aoki cashed in his Anytime/Anywhere contract (essentially MITB) to challenge for Higuchi’s KO-D Championship. It was incredibly tense, but the Gooch was able to survive and pick up the win after a nasty headbutt. Tokyo Joshi Pro had yet another outstanding show, and I had four matches rated 4 or 4.25, with the Princess of Princess Championship match between Shoko Nakajima and Yuka Sakazaki cracking the list. TJPW has been a great surprise for me this year. 

It was a quieter week here in America. While WWE had some great television, it wasn’t their best week for matches. I don’t watch NXT weekly, but I had to watch the Best-of-3 series between Nathan Frazer and Axiom. All three matches were great, but they saved the best for last. Those two guys have amazing fast-paced chemistry and I could watch them in 12-minute matches all day. AEW had a strong Dynamite show, which saw Orange Cassidy finally getting his first piece of gold after besting his rival PAC to win the All-Atlantic Championship in a very exciting match. I also had the inaugural match between Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus also at 4 stars, but it just missed this week’s top 10.

Without further ado, here’s THE LIST!

1FTR vs Aussie Open (4.75)NJPW Royal Quest II Night 110/1IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
2Kazuchika Okada vs JONAH (4.5)NJPW Declaration of Power10/10
3Jay White vs Tama Tonga (4.25)NJPW Declaration of Power10/10IWGP World Heavyweight Championship
4Tomohiro Ishii vs Yota Tsuji (4.25)NJPW Royal Quest II Night 210/2
5FTR, Shota Umino, Gabriel Kidd & Ricky Knight Jr vs Aussie Open, Will Ospreay, Great O-Khan & Gideon Gray (4.25)NJPW Royal Quest II Night 210/210-Man Tag
6Nathan Frazer vs Axiom (4.25)WWE NXT10/11Best-of-3 Series Match 3
7Kazusada Higuchi & Naomi Yoshimura vs Daisuke Sasaki & KANON (4.25)DDT Get Alive10/12DDT KO-D Tag Team Championship
8Yuka Sakazaki vs Shoko Nakajima (4.25)TJPW Sun Princess III10/9Princess of Princess Championship
9Shingo Takagi vs El Phantasmo (4)NJPW Declaration of Power10/10Who’s Your Daddy? KOPW Provisional Championship
10Orange Cassidy vs PAC (4)AEW Dynamite10/12AEW All-Atlantic Championship
HMKazusada Higuchi vs Shinya Aoki (4)DDT Get Alive10/12DDT KO-D Championship

Top 10 Matches of the Week – 10/2 – 10/8

What’s up my DOGGGGGGGGGGGGs, Bretty back here with a unique week, in that I have zero matches from Japan in my Top 10. Stardom’s wonderful tournament has concluded, and I realized as I was making this week’s list that the Tokyo Joshi Pro (TJPW) show was on Sunday 10/9, which would be next week. Anyway, enough with the dumb housekeeping – let’s get to it.

All three maj American promotions featured ppv’s or “special” shows with Impact Bound For Glory, WWE Extreme Rules, and AEW Battle of the Belts IV – and yes, I do consider Impact maj because they’ve been CRUSHING it all year. And with that, Bound For Glory was my favorite show of the weekend, even with that geezer Bully Ray winning the Call Your Shot Gauntlet. But damn, it was a great night of wrestling, highlighted by the outstanding, hard-hitting and emotional main event which saw Josh Alexander defeat Eddie Edwards in my Match of the Week.

It’s a damn shame news has come out that a good chunk of Honor No More, Mia Yim, Chelsea Green, and Deonna Purrazzo all appear to be done with the company and likely headed to WWE. Honor No More was such a key fixture for Impact all year, but I have faith that they’ll be fine because their wrestling and storytelling has been top-notch this year. Speaking of, Jordynne Grace and Masha Slamovich had an absolute RIPPER that is one of the best women’s matches you’ll see all year, including my beloved Stardom. Speedball Mike Bailey’s awesome X-Division Championship reign was halted by the former Elite Hunter Frankie Kazarian in yet another excellent Mike Bailey match. And the likely WWE-bound OGK retained their tag titles against the Motor City Machine Guns in another spreadsheet worthy match.

I was excited for Extreme Rules as I had been for any WWE event in recent memory, as I’ve fully dived back in after four years away. The build was excellent, and it was only a 6-match card, as opposed to AEW’s recent 66-match card. The show was still quite good, but I think I gave it unrealistic expectations in my mind so it slightly underwhelmed. But damn, feed me as much Brawling Brutes/Imperium action until I’m about to explode because everything from that feud has gotten me incredibly horny. Bayley/Bianca adequately met expectations and was a very fun match, despite me wanting it to main event and Bayley win. Speaking of the main event, I definitely enjoyed the Fight Pit match between Riddle and Rollins, but given the personal nature of the rival, and the presence of UFC legend Daniel Cormier, I was hoping for a little more. DC seemed to do more harm than good, and was a far cry from Ken Shamrock’s inaugural UFC-guy-turned-WWE-ref performance at Wrestlemania 13 during the best WWE match of all time. 

More backstage drama at AEW – FUCK Sammy Guevara. It’s beyond go-away heat from me – I’d be so happy if I never had to see his dumb face on my television screen again. But unfortunately, that’s merely a pipe dream. The MJF/Yuta match was wonderful as expected, and I was thrilled to see Wardlow in a real match with Brian Cage, who definitely needs to be on our screens more, but the fact that JAS hoisted that loser Sammy on their shoulders to end the show is tone deaf and embarrassing. PAC pulling back-to-back double duty on Rampage/BOTB was great, as his heel behavior continues.

Welp, here is an incredibly rare Top 10 of all matches in America!

1Josh Alexander vs Eddie Edwards (4.75)Impact Bound For Glory10/7Impact World Championship
2Brawling Brutes vs Imperium (4.5)WWE Extreme Rules10/8Good Old Fashioned Donnybrook 6-Man
3Jordynne Grace vs Masha Slamovich (4.5)Impact Bound For Glory10/7Impact Knockouts Championship
4Gunther vs Sheamus (4.5)WWE Smackdown10/7WWE Intercontinental Championship
5MJF vs Wheeler Yuta (4.25)AEW Dynamite Anniversary10/5
6Frankie Kazarian vs Mike Bailey (4.25)Impact Bound For Glory10/7Impact X-Division Championship
7Bianca Belair vs Bayley (4)WWE Extreme Rules10/8WWE Raw Women’s Championship Ladder
8OGK vs Motor City Machine Guns (4)Impact Bound For Glory10/7Impact Tag Team Championship
9PAC vs Trent Beretta (4)AEW Battle of the Belts IV10/7AEW All-Atlantic Championship
10Matt Riddle vs Seth Rollins (4)WWE Extreme Rules10/8Fight Pit

Top 10 Matches of the Week – 9/25 – 10/1

Hey, Brett here – how on earth is it October? Anywho, it was another WILD week in wrestling, although I feel like I could say that most weeks these days because wrestling is so tight right now. BUT, I had two five-star matches on the same day from two different shows for the second time this year (1/5/22 – Hangman/Danielson – AEW Dynamite; Okada/Ospreay – NJPW WK Night 2). AND, we had the culmination of Stardom’s outstanding 5Star Grand Prix, which saw the coronation of my first Stardom love, Giulia. 

But before we get to Giulia’s banner week, let’s hit on these 5ers. David Finlay showed a new gear in his rematch against Will Ospreay after shockingly defeating him in the G1. This time it was for the IWGP U.S. Championship, and Finlay really turned up the intensity after cracking Ospreay’s hand with the shillelagh. Ospreay had another improbable and amazing underdog performance, and it was easily the best performance of Finlay’s career.

Fresh off his exciting excursion to the U.S., Konosuke Takeshita returned to his home promotion of DDT to challenge Kazusada Higuchi for the KO-D Championship. Higuchi has stepped up to lead DDT in the absence of Takeshita and Tetsuya Endo, who recently vacated the title after getting shoot knocked out by NOAH’s Katsuhiko Nakajima (which was wild). I expected a long, epic, brutal title match, but it was merely 19 minutes of some of the most incredible feats of athleticism and badassery that I’ve ever seen in a wrestling ring. 

Before taking home her first 5Star Grand Prix in a bonkers final against old rival Tam Nakano, Giulia outlasted Wonder of Stardom Champ Saya Kamitani by referee’s decision with 11 seconds before the time limit in one of my most anticipated matches coming into the tournament. And the same night of the final, earlier in the night, Giulia went to battle with former friend-turned-enemy in 20-year-old stalwart Suzu Suzuki, in which both competitors were fighting back tears prior to the bell. What followed was a 15 minute emotional war ending in a draw and leaving us all clamoring for more.  

Also in DDT, Cara Noir had his first singles match, falling to Yuki Ueno in challenging for the DDT Universal Championship. But boy oh boy, I absolutely love Cara Noir after just two matches, and have to believe he’ll be on a bigger stage sometime in 2023. He has such a unique gimmick, a beautiful entrance, and he was trained by Zack Sabre Jr so he can absolutely go in the ring. 

Here in America, Damian Priest and Matt Riddle had a banger of a match to close out a very good Raw, and Chris Jericho continues his hot streak of matches with a thriller against Bandido to retain the ROH World Championship. 

Speaking of Jericho, here’s who MADE THE LIST!

1Will Ospreay vs David Finlay (5)NJPW Burning Spirit Night 149/25IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship
2Kazusada Higuchi vs Konosuke Takeshita (5)DDT Who’s Gonna Top?9/25DDT KO-D Championship
3Giulia vs Tam Nakano (4.75)Stardom 5Star Grand Prix Night 20: Championship Battle10/1Stardom 5Star Grand Prix Final
4Giulia vs Suzu Suzuki (4.5)Stardom 5Star Grand Prix Night 20: Championship Battle10/1
5Giulia vs Saya Kamitani (4.5)Stardom 5Star Grand Prix Night 199/24
6Yuki Ueno vs Cara Noir (4.25)DDT Who’s Gonna Top?9/25DDT Universal Championship
7Mayu Iwatani vs Starlight Kid (4.25)Stardom 5Star Grand Prix Night 20: Championship Battle10/1
8Damian Priest vs Matt Riddle (4.25)WWE Monday Night Raw9/26
9Chris Jericho vs Bandido (4.25)AEW Dynamite9/28ROH World Championship
10AZM vs Hazuki vs Fukigen Death (4.25)Stardom 5Star Grand Prix Night 199/24Stardom High Speed Championship
HMKaito Kiyomiya vs Kenoh (4.25)NOAH Grand Ship9/25GHC Heavyweight Championship
HMHimeka vs Maika (4.25)Stardom 5Star Grand Prix Night 20: Championship Battle10/1

Top 10 Matches of the Week – 9/18-9-24

HEY YO! It’s actually Brett here this time in my 2nd installment of Top 10 Matches of the Week. This week was a bit crazy for me as I was out of town for a good portion, and have been fervently catching up on all the wonderful wrestling I missed. 

This week shredded from a match quality standpoint. I had 21 matches at 4+ stars, compared to last week’s nine. Just a note, my weeks will run Sunday through Saturday, so this doesn’t even include three shows on 9/25 from each of the big three Japanese men’s promotions (NJPW, NOAH, DDT – sorry All Japan). Also, I’m giving myself a little buffer if I miss matches from the prior week, so you’ll see a couple from last week. Both are from Stardom, and usually, it takes a few days for them to upload shows to Stardom World anyhow.

Speaking of Stardom, was another outstanding week for arguably the best promotion in the world as their 5Star Grand Prix is nearing its climax. In addition to their promotion-high four matches on my list this week, they had another 4.25 honorable mention, plus four other 4’s. Unfortunately, 10 of my 4’s didn’t make the list this week, including the likes of Rollins/Lashley, Jericho/Claudio, MCMG/Aussie Open, and the Maclin/Moose/Callihan Barbed Wire Massacre match. 

Jon Moxley and Bryan Danielson certainly lived up to the hype in a surprisingly bloodless Blackpool Combat Club battle on Dynamite Grand Slam, while Jungle Boy and Fenix had an excellent strike-filled inaugural singles match on Rampage. DDT held a 30th anniversary show for the LEGEND Jun Akiyama, and it was cool seeing him team with Yoshinobu Kanemaru, and Konosuke Takeshita teaming with Yuji Nagata on opposite sides of a 6-man tag. Additionally, Cara Noir made his DDT debut, and boy was I impressed. I had never seen but heard great things about the ballet dancer gimmicked man trained by Zack Sabre Jr, and I really enjoyed his work. Looking forward to his match against Yuki Ueno for the DDT Universal Championship, as well as Takeshita against Kazusada Higuchi for the KO-D Championship from their 9/25 show that I’ve yet to see.

Without further ado, here’s who MADE THE LIST!

1Jon Moxley vs Bryan Danielson (4.5)AEW Dynamite Grand Slam9/21AEW World Championship
2Suzu Suzuki vs Momo Watanabe (4.25)Stardom 5Star Grand Prix Night 169/18
3JD McDonagh vs Tyler Bate (4.25)NXT9/20NXT Championship No. 1 Contender
4Cara Noir, Chris Brookes & Masahiro Takanishi vs Yuki Ueno, MAO & Toj Kojima (4.25)DDT Jun Akiyama 30th Anniversary9/186-Man Tag
5Saya Kamitani vs MIRAI (4.25)Stardom 5Star Grand Prix Night 169/18
6Syuri vs Tam Nakano (4.25)Stardom 5Star Grand Prix Night 189/23
7Jungle Boy vs Rey Fenix (4.25)AEW Rampage Grand Slam9/23
8Mayu Iwatani vs Hazuki (4.25)Stardom 5Star Grand Prix Night 189/23
9Jun Akiyama, Tetsuya Endo & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs Yuji Nagata, Konosuke Takeshita & Shunma Katsumata (4.25)DDT Jun Akiyama 30th Anniversary9/186-Man Tag
10The Usos vs Brawling Brutes (4.25)WWE Smackdown9/23WWE Undisputed Tag Team Championship
HMStarlight Kid vs Natsupoi (4.25)Stardom 5Star Grand Prix Night 159/17

Top 10 Matches of the Week – 9/11-9/17

Thanks for checking out the inaugural edition of Brett Jager’s Top 10 Matches of the Week. Brett watches a variety of wrestling and will be dropping his 10 top matches of the week going forward, including where you can find the match, and the matches rating. You can find the top 10 matches of the week (9/11/22-9/17/22) below.

1El Desperado vs Jun Kasai (4.75)JTO Taka Michinoku Debut 30th Anniversary9/12Death
2Brawling Brutes vs New Day vs Hit Row vs Imperium (4.25)WWE Smackdown9/16WWE Tag Team Championship No. 1 Contender
3Giulia vs Mayu Iwatani (4.25)Stardom 5Star Grand Prix Night 139/11
4MIRAI & Maika vs Aoi & Tomoka Inaba (4.25)JTO Taka Michinoku Debut 30th Anniversary9/12
5Starlight Kid, Momo Watanabe & Saki Kashima vs Hanan, Hazuki & Koguma (4.25)Stardom 5Star Grand Prix Night 139/11Artist of Stardom Championship
6Bryan Danielson vs Chris Jericho (4)AEW Dynamite9/14Grand Slam Tournament of Champions Semifinal
7Suzu Suzuki vs Saya Kamitani (4)Stardom 5Star Grand Prix Night 139/11
8Johnny Gargano vs Chad Gable (4)WWE Monday Night Raw9/12
9Mayu Iwatani vs Suzu Suzuki (4)Stardom 5Star Grand Prix Night 149/12
10Mike Bailey vs Mascara Dorada (3.75)Impact Wrestling9/15X-Division Championship