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July 2018: Our Top 5 Matches

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In this month’s edition of ‘Our Top 5 Matches’ we brought along YOSHI-HASHI’s number one fan, John Dinsdale, who may or may not have altered his list in order to not have any YOSHI-HASHI matches included. This month was dominated by the G1 Climax so we did our best (some better than others) to mention matches that may have slid under the radar. As always, feel free to tell us how wrong we are and suggest other matches we may have missed.

Rob’s Top 5
1. NOAH (Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya) vs BJW (Hideyoshi Kamitani & Takuya Nomura) – Riki Choshu Power Hall (7.10)
Given the magnificent title ‘Natural Born Warriors’, Riki Choshu put the young guns of the BJW Strong division up against a team who, at the time, were the GHC tag champions. I don’t have the time to watch much from either company so this was a water-watering treat that I couldn’t wait to unwrap. Boy, did it deliver. Nakajima has gone through a major transformation since his semi-rejected GHC title reign. He’s become the bully rather than the honorable upstart and that role worked perfectly against these BJW upstarts. Both Kamitani and Nomura took a whole lot of gruesome punishment from Nakajima but he was more than willing to allow them to do the same. The veteran versus upstart dynamic is one of the easiest and yet most satisfying stories you can tell in wrestling. These guys told the story perfectly. You could not have asked for more.

2. Jay White (c) vs Juice Robinson – NJPW G1 Special in San Francisco (7.7)
For me, this was one of those perfect storm matches. Not only was I live in the building but I also had my little brother there with me. He doesn’t follow any wrestling but was interested in going to the show anyway and despite having zero knowledge of the rivalry between these two, he came unglued. His excitement is what put me over the top on this match. Live, we had no clue if the JR spot was a work or shoot. We were forced to live in the moment and take everything as it came to us which resulted in one of my favorite wrestling moments. The next day I watched the match on TV but it wasn’t the same. How could it be? Taken into the context of living in the moment, I couldn’t have been more pleased with this match.

3. Kenny Omega vs Tetsuya Naito – NJPW G1 Climax 28 (7.15)
The best rivalry of the modern New Japan era. These two won ‘Match of the Year’ in 2016 and had one of the most criminally underrated matches of all time in 2017. Each time these two set foot in the ring together they produce magic that’s completely one of a kind. No other combination of two wrestlers can have a match quite like what we see out of Naito versus Omega. Their matches aren’t all about the moves but someone with zero context can still watch and understand what they’re seeing is magic. That’s what makes a great match legendary and each encounter between Omega and Naito has fit that bill.

4. Kota Ibushi vs Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW G1 Climax 28 (7.28)
Tell two bonafide show stealers that they only have fifteen minutes to produce a match and then watch them steal the show. They did all the moves you would have seen in a twenty-five minute match condensed into fifteen minutes and then shrugged on their way to the back. The sprint of all sprints. There was no time for rest spots, this was all systems go from start to finish, they had spots to fulfill. Absolute insanity in the most incredible ways possible. New Japan shot themselves in the foot for the rest of the show by not putting these two on last.

5. Hirooki Goto vs Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW G1 Climax 28 (7.21)
Two unmovable objects colliding until one manages to burst at the seams. That’s exactly what we saw between Goto and Ishii. In twenty minutes, not once did they leave the ring. They knew exactly what everyone wanted to see; two beefy dudes knocking shoulders until one finally fell. There were zero fancy spots. None. In this day and age where people try to dismiss wrestling as being all sizzle, no steak, this was 100% Grade A beef. I didn’t want this month’s list to be so G1 heavy but it would be a crime to leave this match off for the sake of diversity.

John’s Top 5
So in a month dominated by the G1 Climax Tournament, it’s safe to say an excessive amount of my time has been spent watching the stars of NJPW repeatedly put on amazing matches. That being said here are my top five matches that aren’t from NJPW as I have seen amazing matches from elsewhere too. Spoiler alert, three are from the same tournament as said tournament was amazing.
These matches are in no particular order, made the mistake of not specifying that last time.

1. Aleister Black vs Tommaso Ciampa (NXT July 25)
It feels like forever since we last seen a title defense on NXT TV. After weeks of waiting and trash talking and backstage attacks we finally got to see Black fight Ciampa. The match was every bit as competitive as you could imagine with plenty of back and forth. In fact it looked like the Blackheart was going to get the cheating win by attacking Black with the title when Gargano came out to try and make the save. Now everyone was expecting Gargano to get involved somehow but this went above my expectations of interference. Johnny Gargano meant well but he ended up helping Ciampa get the win after a struggle to get the belt off him resulted in him clocking Black in the head. Ciampa hits the finisher and that’s it we have Gargano’s worst enemy as champion. Excellent storytelling and an excellent match which makes me excited to see how the Gargano and Ciampa dynamic changes now.

2. El Phantasmo vs Mark Davis (Defiant Ringmaster Night 1)
I’ll say this now, the Defiant Ringmaster Tournament has been one of the best live wrestling experiences I’ve had to date. El Phantasmo was a name I recognized but a wrestler I’d never seen perform, by the end of this match I was a fan. He was brought in to replace Matt Riddle after travel difficulties. It seemed like he was a relative unknown to the crowd but pretty soon he had the whole venue cheering for him. That’s not to say Mark Davis didn’t split the crowd. As the powerhouse half of Aussie Open, this made for an extreme clash of styles with his vicious strikes mixing with ELP’s lucha style. There were so many near falls and daredevil spots that pushed this main event into five star territory. Both men gave it their all with Phantasmo eventually getting the win. Also a bit of advice, be careful if you try to get a high five from Mark Davis, it really hurts.

3. Moustache Mountain vs Undisputed Era (NXT July 11)
This was a match that deserved it’s five stars. It was a storytelling masterclass that offered the best heels vs faces match I’ve seen in years. These two teams fought two wars at the UK Tournament and brought that to the smaller screen for NXT. Moustache Mountain were looking to prove that their win at Albert Hall was not just a fluke. The problem was that Trent Seven had a knee injury that was ruthlessly exploited by O’Reilly and Strong. He was trapped in submissions and attacked before making a hot tag but eventually tagged himself back in when Tyler had also taken too much punishment. Every wrestler was driven to the limit and the eventual finish saw Tyler Bate relent and throw in the towel to save Trent Seven. Seven was refusing to tap and was risking his health by doing so. A conflicting Tyler gave up the titles to save his tag partner resulting in a bittersweet end to the match.

4. BT Gunn vs Bad Bones (Defiant Ringmaster Tournament Night 2)
The first semi-final match of the night. This is how you raise the stakes by putting two hard hitting guys in a match and letting them have at it. BT Gunn has some of the best strikes in wrestling and they were on display in this match. Bad Bones was doing an excellent job at keeping Gunn down though and wasn’t afraid of raising the brutality. He was also doing his best to rile up the crowd it would seem as he had already eliminated one fan favourite on night one and was determined to do it again. Bad Bones got the win eventually after hitting his finisher on Gunn after weathering Gunn’s comeback. This again was a match that oozed drama and character and it didn’t end until Bad Bones forced Gunn’s ICW stablemates to make a save on him after preparing to introduce him to a chair. This was amazing live and played to perfection by both men. The brutal strikes and excellent back and forth made it so much fun to watch and an excellent start to the semi-finals

5. Bad Bones vs David Starr vs Nathan Cruz vs El Phantasmo (Defiant Ringmaster Tournament Night 2)
A fatal four way elimination final of epic proportions. This is how you end a tournament. The four men had already fought one match that night but that didn’t stop any of them from giving it their all. It clearly meant a lot to all men and this instantly raised the value of the whole tournament. Everyone got a time to shine. It was Cruz to be eliminated first but would not take it lying down as he soon goes attacks David Starr. He crotches him by dragging him into a ring post which sets Starr up to be eliminated. This leaves El Phantasmo and Bad Bones as the last two. Here they take each other to the limit. There is a continuous mix of back and forth with false finishes galore. At several points the crowd, myself included, thought it was over. There were so many signature kick outs as these two went the distance. In the end though Bad Bones finally gets off his finisher and wins the tournament. El Phantasmo did amazingly considering he was a last minute addition and will no doubt have made a tonne of new fans. Plus he’ll forever have a chant set to Spandau Ballet’s Gold in Newcastle. Anyway Bad Bones won and I’m cannot wait to see him get his shot at the Defiant Championship.

Robert McCauley hasn't missed an NJPW show since the launch of NJPW World. Always be on the look out for his reviews where he shares results and gives his honest opinions on the goings-on of New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

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