Here is my list of the best matches that I watched this year. Again, this isn't a MOTY list but, is more of a year in review for me AND a guide for folks looking for wresting to check out.
So first is my January to May list:
- Inoki/Sakaguchi vs Thesz/Gotch (NJ 1973)
- Strong BJW vs SUWAMA/T. Soya (AJ 11/26/11)
- Onita/Tarzan Goto vs M. Kurisu/Dragon Master [Kendo Nagasaki] (FMW 04/01/90)
- Jun Kasai vs Takeshi Iizuka (TAKA Prod. 01/28/18)
- Roderick Strong vs Kyle O'Reilly (ROH 02/21/15)
- Briscoe Bros. vs Mike Bennett/Matt Taven (ROH 02/21/15)
- Tomasso Ciampa vs Johnny Gargano (NXT: New Orleans)
- Kurt Angle/Ronda Rousey vs Triple H/Stephanie McMahon (WWE WrestleMania)
- Shinjiro Otani vs Masato Tanaka (Z-1 07/31/02)
- Masato Tanaka vs Yuji Nagata (NJ 03/19/11)
- Chris Hero vs Big Van Walter (wXw 2010 16 Carat Gold Final)
- Masato Tanaka vs Daisuke Sekimoto (Z-1 08/02/15)
- Shuji Ishikawa vs SHINGO (AJ 04/29/18)
June 1st to Dec 31st
- Naomichi Marufuji vs Jun Akiyama (AJ 04/25/18 CC)
- Sakuraba vs Nakamura (NJ 01/04/13 WK7)
- Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Masato Tanaka (NJ 08/15/09 G1)
- Nakamura, M. Tanaka, Takahashi & Naito vs H. Tanahashi, Makabe, Nagata & W. Inoue (NJ 12/04/10)
- KENTA vs Naomichi Marufuji (NOAH 01/22/06) (I left off 10/29/06 because everyone already knows of that)
- KENTA vs Kenta Kobashi (NOAH 03/05/06)
- Misawa vs Takeshi Morishima (NOAH 03/05/06)
- Misawa vs Naomichi Marufuji (NOAH 12/02/06)
- Choshu, Koshinaka, Hoshino, Sasaki & Kobayashi vs Super Strong Machine, Hamaguchi, Kurisu, Tatsu Goto & Hiro Saito (NJ 06/26/90 2/3 Falls)
- Hase & Sasaki vs Koshinaka & Iizuka (NJ 12/13/90)
- BxB Hulk & YAMATO vs Ben-K & Big R Shimuzu (DG 07/22/18)
- BxB Hulk vs Shingo Takagi (DG 12/28/14)
- Shingo Takagi vs YAMATO (DG Kobe Wrestle Fest 2016)
- reDRagon vs The Briscoes (ROH 05/11/13 11th Anniv. Show)
- Eddie Edwards vs Matt Taven (ROH 06/01/13)
- Eddie Edwards vs Kyle O'Reilly (ROH 07/12/13)
- Michael Elgin, Jay Lethal, Caprice Coleman & Cedric Alexander vs Adam Cole, Matt Taven & reDRagon (ROH 10/26/13 Glory by Honor XII) see: https://forums.prowrestlingonly.com/blogs/entry/693-enter-the-redragon-part-4/
- Kevin Steen & the Young Bucks vs Michael Elgin & the Briscoes (ROH 03/07/14 Raising the Bar Nt. 1) * not yet reviewed*
There's a month worth of classic wrestling right there. I'm really not sure what the Best Match I watched is...damn. I go through and think of different reasons I like one over another. OR there's some that I cannot recall as clearly as others. A few of these are known as great or classic matches already so, I won't pick those. I mean, hopefully many of these are matches you've only heard a little about...or maybe nothing at all. That's really what I want to do - expose people to different stuff and let them know that there is really awesome wrestling to be found where others may have said it does not exist. So with that I'm going to pick Eddie Edwards vs Kyle O'Reilly (ROH 07/12/13) as the Best Match Watched. Frankly, I'm pretty strong on that point even without those qualifiers. Some may not like it just because of the participants or the company. OK that's fine. Others may see it derivative or formulaic but, I disagree. I feel it builds off of classic styles and encounters while adding its own flair. Plus it tells a great story, is excellently performed, intense as hell, and I just love that finish. It's really quite perfect in my book Recency bias is totally acknowledged. Before I move on, I'm going to hype up Masato Tanaka here Shinjiro Otani vs Masato Tanaka (Z-1 07/31/02), Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Masato Tanaka (NJ 08/15/09 G1), Nakamura, M. Tanaka, Takahashi & Naito vs H. Tanahashi, Makabe, Nagata & W. Inoue (NJ 12/04/10), Masato Tanaka vs Yuji Nagata (NJ 03/19/11). DAMN SON!
Now let's see who gets cheers and jeers:
Standout Wrestler: Daisuke Sekimoto, Atsushi Onita, Masato Tanaka, Shingo Takagi, Naomichi Marufuji, Eddie Edwards, Jay Lethal, The Briscoes, reDRagon, Roderick Strong, The Young Bucks
- The Winner: Tanaka had the early part of the year for sure. Eddie Edwards has the very end with his re-invigoration of the GHC belt and 2013 ROH matches. The winner is Naomichi Marufuji though. The 09-10 NJ Jr. stuff was pretty great but, along with Shingo, he stole the show at the 2018 Champion Carnival. What put him over the top was his 2006 in NOAH. From his start with KENTA in the 01/22 to the amazing title fight vs Misawa, 2006 was Marufuji's. He may not have the quantity of classic matches that Tanaka accrued this year but, he had his share along with a bevy a great ones with a variety of opponents in different promotions and years. Probably not a popular pick again but, I know what I saw and the dude killed it.
Surprise of the Year: Early FMW Onita, SHINGO & Marufuji and the 2018 Champion Carnival, 2010's ROH, Yoshi Yatsu in 87-89 AJPW, WWE 205 Live, digging WWE Women's division. Finding out the greatness of YAMATO, Matt Taven & Togi Makabe. Akira Taue still had it in 2006 as he knew how to play his older broken down/comedy character but still be aggressive and serious when called upon (similar to 1989 Giant Baba). Realizing that '89-90 JCP/NWA Muta was awesome especially when considering his 90's NJ stuff. Weekly ROH TV reminding me of WCW Worldwide in a good way.
- The Winner: The Maufuji pick is kind of the Surpise of the Year because I really did not think that going into this post. But, overall - I'm going to say Early FMW & Onita. Onita and FMW were some of my first experiences with Japanese wrestling but, to circle back around 20 years and find something really awesome was a heck of a surprise. Not only were the matches a blast (no pun intended) but, finding out about the history was really interesting as well. The late 80's and early 90's are a really neat time & place to visit in Japanese wrestling and FMW at that time should not be missed.
Favorite Project: FMW 89-92, Post ECW Tanaka, Hayabusa in AJPW, NOAH 2006, reDRagon/2013-14 ROH, and NJ vs CHAOS in 2010
- The WInner: CHAOS vs NJ because I never heard anyone talk about it despite it scratching that old school night in-night out feud itch. It was so much fun to watch these house show matches that felt like Jumbo vs Misawa, or M-Pro vs Kaientai DX.I gained a lot of respect for Tanahashi here and found something from the NJ 2010's that I could wholly dig!
Disappointment of the Year: Munenori Sawa in wXw 2010 could have been better, Brock vs Roman at WM, Nakamura...Ballshot Expert, Kobashi vs Marufuji '06, American Wolves vs reDRagon not living up to its potential save Edwards vs O'Reilly
- The Loser: Wolves vs DRagon because it was THE reason the Wolves re-united and reDRagon was formed but, it felt too much like WWE or TNA than ROH. Or at least the ROH I was used to. It was inconsistent and did not feels as big & epic as ROH was making it out to be. ReDRagon would go on to be so much better without the Wolves feud.
Never got around to: Getting deeper into FMW past 92- the two big Youtube channels that had a ton of FMW footy were removed so that was a big blow to that project. 2010's NJ Jr project- I wanted to look into the phenomena that got the NJ hype train going - Apollo 55 & Golden Lovers. This is something I do want to get around to soon.
Looking forward to watching in 2019: David Starr, Jonathan Gresham, getting back to 2010's AJPW, 88-90 NJ/AJPW (my massive DVD set is still waiting), more ROH & PWG from 3-5 years ago Also, want to check out early 80's Gran Hamada pretty soon here.
Thanks for reading! I hope I gave you some ideas! Happy New Year