5. FINN BALOR vs JORDAN DEVLIN – NXT UK TAKEOVER BLACKPOOL (JANUARY, 12)
The story: Devlin claimed he was the Irish Ace. Out of nowhere, Balor showed up. After that, we had a creator/creature match, where we had to find out who was the best at the end. It was nice that Devlin dominated the match for the most part, and, for a moment, we thought the monster was about to defeat the doctor. In the end, Finn went over, though, proving he is still a little above Devlin.
The style: They didn’t do much, that’s true. You could call it a TV match, but you also have to understand that they were focused on telling a story over doing a lot of insane spots.
The stakes: There wasn’t much to it, and you can say that, in the end, Finn buried Devlin. I don’t see things that way, though. If they do things the right way, this can be Tsuruta/Kobashi, where the new guy didn’t win against the veteran because he’s not ready yet although he’s destined to great things.
4. JAY WHITE vs KAZUCHIKA OKADA – NJPW WRESTLE KINGDOM (JANUARY, 4)
The story: Jay White turned on Okada in one of last year’s hottest angles. After that, alongside Gedo and Jado, he took over Bullet Club and started a new era. Meanwhile, broken was trying to find a way to recover from his loss against Kenny Omega, and what a better place than at the Kingdom.
The style: This match wasn’t the fantastic spectacles we are used to when it comes to Okada. It was more like a story-based battle, slow-paced focused on showing exactly what types of characters these men were.
The stakes: Okada was trying to get back to the top. White was trying to establish himself as a main eventer. At the end of the day, the latter succeeded.
3. CHRIS JERICHO vs TETSUYA NAITO – NJPW WRESTLE KINGDOM (JANUARY 4)
The story: The invader Jericho took the belt from Naito last year. Y2J then faced EVIL to retain the belt. However, he and Naito have been trading insults since last year’s Kingdom with both trying to show the other that they were the best wrestler.
The style: I don’t think anyone in their right state of mind would think Chris Jericho would reinvent himself and become the best brawler in the world by 2019. Truth is, these matches he’s involved with are always different. They are brutal, they are old school, and, the most important thing, they are great. And, of course, Naito is awesome, and he will deliver when he cares.
The stakes: The Intercontinental belt served as a symbolic prize to a real honor fight. Naito’s win put him back at the top of the promotion.
2. PETE DUNNE vs JOE COFFEY – NXT UK TAKEOVER BLACKPOOL (JANUARY, 12)
The story: Two behemoths faced each other to prove who was the better one. Every move here was brutal and told that story nicely.
The style: As I said, brutality was the name of the game in this match. Even the botches worked well here because they showed how much they wanted to win.
The stakes: The WWE UK belt was on the line and no one ever got that close to taking it away from Dunne than Coffey. Several times during the match it looked like Joe was about to win, and it added to the drama. Dunne retained though, and he still is the best British wrestler on the planet.
1. HIROSHI TANAHASHI vs KENNY OMEGA – NJPW WRESTLE KINGDOM (JANUARY, 4)
The story: The old vs the new. The traditionalist vs the man who wanted to change the world. The ace of the last generation vs the new foreigner ace. Few times in your life you will see such a simple story turned into such a masterpiece. It was the case with this match.
The style: This was all-time New Japan. It was all combined into a beautiful epic to never be forgotten.
The stakes: Tanahashi got back to the top of the mountain with his win here. He is the IWGP champion in 2019, and he still got it. It’s not one of those tribute title reigns, he proved he was better. He proved he can still be the ace.