Last year was an amazing year for professional wrestling, and that’s a fact. New Japan had their best year ever, NXT continued to deliver some of the best action in the world, ROH saw their business going up there with Cody as their figurehead, AJPW and NOAH went through a sort of resurrection, the Japanese indies offered awesome wrestling, and the Australian and New Zealander scenes become something to talk about.
However, one promotion still faced some problems, and the reason why it’s such a big deal is that they still are the number 1 promotion in the world. WWE started 2017 with another awfully booked Royal Rumble, a forgettable Wrestlemania, and went through a year so full of terrible things, that it is impossible to mention everything bad that happened at Uncle Vince’s Wonderland. We had to witness Randy Orton’s worst year, Bray Wyatt’s unbearable bullshit, and Jinder Mahal as WWE champion. So, it was only logical to expect nothing from 2018, right?
Thank God for January
I’ve started watching wrestling regularly back in 2012, and I’ve never seen such a great month. The last weekend, particularly, was so great that it was impossible to believe. As of February 1st, we already have two five star matches by Dave Meltzer. Last year, at this very moment, we had only one, and, by the end of the year, we had ten. However, what makes things really impressive is that Dave still has a couple of big New Japan main events to rate. We may witness a historic month with up to four 5 star matches, and that proves that 2018 is probably going to be even better, wrestling-wise, than 2017.
We started the year with the classic Tokyo Dome show, promoted by New Japan Pro-Wrestling. After last year’s amazing performance, the hype for the show has been huge since last year. It got even higher when Jericho vs Omega was announced as the semi-Main Event for the show. And, to no one’s surprise, the show delivered once again. The New Japan Rumble was their best yet, with great booking, and a sense of storytelling we didn’t see at the previous editions. The junior tag team match showed that the Young Bucks can fucking sell their asses off. Cody had the best match of his career against Ibushi. The junior heavyweight fatal 4 way gave everybody a little glimpse of the best division in the world. The highlight of the night, though, was the Omega/Jericho match. Y2J had the best match of his career, and Omega was Omega, great as always. The Wrestle Kingdom show was, once again, unforgettable.
My Star Ratings
New Japan Rumble – ***
Young Bucks vs Roppongi 3K – ****1/4
NEVER Six Men Gauntlet – **3/4
Cody vs Kota Ibushi – ***1/2
SANADA & EVIL vs Killer Elite Squad – **3/4
Hirooki Goto vs Minoru Suzuki – ***
Hiromu Takashi vs KUSHIDA vs Marty Scurll vs Will Ospreay – ****
Jay White vs Hiroshi Tanahashi – ***
Chris Jericho vs Kenny Omega – ****1/4
Tetsuya Naito vs Kazuchika Okada – ***3/4
The trend continued the following night. This time, however, New Japan focused on great angles to establish future matches. At New Year Dash, we saw the rebirth o Suzuki as the most menacing wrestler on the planet as he attacked Tanahashi, and instantly became the #1 contender for the Intercontinental championship. Also, we got closer to the end of the Bullet Club as we know it with Ibushi playing a huge part in it. At the same time, Jay White recovered from a disappointing Wrestle Kingdom performance as he refused to join the Club and attacked Omega. By the end, we also had the chance to see Chris Jericho attacking Tetsuya Naito, proving that Y2J will stay around and already have his next opponent.
My Star Ratings
Roppongi 3K & Cheeseburger vs The Elite – ***1/4
Leo Tonga, Chase Owens, Marty Scurll, Yujiro & Cody vs David Finlay, Juice Robinson, KUSHIDA, Ryusuke Taguchi & Kota Ibushi – ***1/4
Killer Elite Squad, Zack Saber Jr. & Minoru Suzuki vs War Machine, Michael Elgin & Hiroshi Tanahashi – ***
Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI, EVIL, SANADA & Tetsuya Naito vs Will Ospreay, Hirooki Goto, Gedo, YOSHI-HASHI & Kazuchika Okada – ***
Using the momentum set by New Japan, a lot of other Japanese promotions also had their New Year’s shows. Also, Riki Choshu produced a very fun show full of legends and established stars.
My Star Ratings
Yusaku Obata vs Masato Tanaka (ZERO1) – ****
Zeus vs Joe Doering (AJPW) – ***3/4
Daisuke Sekimoto & Hideki Suzuki vs Twin Towers (BJW) – ***1/2
Daichi Hashimoto vs Ryuichi Kawakami (BJW) – ***3/4
Masashi Takeda vs Takumi Tsukamoto (BJW) – ****
Masa Kitamiya & Masato Tanaka vs Naomichi Marufuji & Shingo Takagi (Choshu) – ***1/4
Daisuke Sekimoto, TAKA Michinoku & Tatsumi Fujinami vs Gota Ihashi, Kota Ibushi & Riki Choshu (Choshu) – ***1/4
Kaito Kiyomiya vs Kenou (NOAH) – ***3/4
As the month moved on, we had another match by NWA. This time it happened at Impact Zone. The Empty Arena wasn’t great at all, but it helped to showcase the incredible talent of Jeremy Borash, what resulted on a WWE contract offer later on.
Also, NJPW helped promote another CMLL FantasticaMania that took place, once again, in Japan, with some very fun bouts. It was a great chance for those who don’t watch Lucha to get to know some very interesting wrestlers.
My Star Ratings
Tim Storm vs Jocephus (NWA) – **3/4
Gedo, Kazuchika Okada & Ultimo Guerrero vs Atlantis, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Mistico (NJPW/CMLL) – ***
Niebla Roja vs Gran Guerrero (NJPW/CMLL) – ***1/4
Volador Jr. vs El Barbaro Cavernario (NJPW/CMLL) – ***3/4
We’ve finally got to the end of the month, and if you thought this was already a fantastic period, you’d be even more impressed with the weekend that followed.
NJPW promoted two nights of the New Beginning show. First, we had a series of matches building up future feuds. At night 1, however, the main event was the highlight. Suzuki & Tanahashi had the best singles match of the weekend, and I think Minoru just became my current favourite wrestler in the world. Suzuki destroyed the Ace in every way possible and, right now, it seems like only Brock Lesnar could beat the leader of Suzuki Gun.
Night 2 also provided good matches and even better angles. The Bucks showed, once again, that they can sell their asses off when they want to in another match against RPG3K. Omega also proved why he is one of the best wrestlers in the world helping to establish Jay White as a superstar in the process. And, by the end of the show, we saw the implosion of the long built Bullet Club crisis. After Kenny lost his belt to White, Adam Page came down to challenge for the U.S. championship. He took the belt only to be shoved aside by Omega who gave the title back to White in a sign of respect. That resulted in Cody and the rest of the Club coming to ring and starting an argument. In the heat of the moment, Kenny pushed an injured Matt Jackson to cause even more intrigue to the story. As everybody left the ring and things seemed to be, once again, alright, Cody turned on Omega and beat the hell all of him, trying to get Page to join him. However, there came the help in the shape of Kota Ibushi. The Golden Lovers were reunited, the Bullet Club was in pieces. Long-term storytelling paying off in one of the greatest angles in the history of professional wrestling.
My Star Ratings
Adam Page, Marty Scurll & Cody vs Juice Robinson, David Finlay & Kota Ibushi – ***1/4
Will Ospreay & YOSHI-HASHI vs Hiromu Takahashi & Tetsuya Naito – ***1/2
Gedo, Hirooki Goto & Kazuchika Okada vs BUSHI, EVIL & SANADA – ***
The Elite vs Jay White & Roppongi 3K – ***1/4
Minoru Suzuki vs Hiroshi Tanahashi – ****1/4
The Young Bucks vs Roppongi 3K – ***3/4
Jay White vs Kenny Omega – ****
As New Japan set a high standard at the very beginning (no pun intended) it was only logic for WWE to do their best and keep the momentum going, right? Well, if you’ve been watching their product lately you wouldn’t be so sure, what made things even more surprising when they, actually, delivered.
Of course, we all expect NXT to be great, we’re used to it. And they were. We had another great tag team match with the Authors of Pain involved, what makes me think this may be their year to become the best tag team in the world. Also, Cole and Black tore the house down in an Extreme Rules match.
To me, however, the greatest disappointment of the evening was the women’s match. The structure of the match was terrible, the booking was awful and Moon vs Baszler is a Worst Match of the Year contender for me.
The main event, however, set new standards. I’m not as high as most people on the match, but I still think it was an awesome match. There’s one little problem that hurt the match to me, and that was the non-use of Tommaso Ciampa. Ciampa was the perfect reason to justify Gargano’s loss. Don’t get me wrong, I love myself a good clean finish, but, in this case, the story demanded the interference. The heat would be out of this world. Almas would move as the champion who uses other people to get his wins, and he could get his clean win later on against another opponent to establish him as a great champion. I wanted to be left with the feeling that Gargano should be champion right now, and the only reason he was not was Ciampa. I think I got myself into a work there.
My Star Ratings
The Authors of Pain vs Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly – ***3/4
Shayna Baszler vs Ember Moon – **
Aleister Black vs Adam Cole – ***3/4
Andrade Almas vs Johnny Gargano – ****1/4
And, then, we got to the scariest moment of the year: the Royal Rumble. I haven’t had fun with a Rumble since 2012, and that is more than enough to justify how scared I was before this started. Yes, this time we also had the Women’s Royal Rumble just in case the Men’s sucked, but I was still scared. The idea of Roman Reigns winning another Rumble still gives me nightmares. My fears, however, did not become reality. WWE delivered their best big event in I don’t know how long despite the terrible matches aside from the rumbles. Also, they presented what’s probably the best Royal Rumble match ever. They have set a dream match in AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura. They pushed Asuka to the moon. They debuted Ronda Rousey. They brought us the nostalgia acts we all love and gave some NXT stars the chance to shine in a mainstream environment. You know, this makes you realize: it’s not that hard, Uncle Vince!
My Star Ratings
Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs AJ Styles – ***
Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin vs The Usos – ***
Men’s Royal Rumble – ****1/2
Kane vs Braun Strowman vs Brock Lesnar – ***1/4
Women’s Royal Rumble – ***1/4