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June 2018: Our Top Five Matches

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Robert’s Top Five (@BeMcCooley)

1. Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Kenny Omega for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship — Dominion 6.9 in Osaka-jo Hall — 6/9

The culmination of a historic 720 day reign and an eighteen month quest in the ultimate payoff which caught the attention of the entire wrestling world. No other story in wrestling was as hyped as Okada versus Omega IV and with the expectations at an all-time high, they managed to go far and beyond what anyone could have imagined. These two brutalized not only themselves but also the fans with their over-the-top physicality accompanied by high-level storytelling. You can safely mark this one down as a match of the year contender.

2. Hiromu Takahashi vs Taiji Ishimori — Best of the Super Juniors — 6/4

Thanks to Okada and Omega, this match only had the opportunity to sit atop my ‘Match of the Year’ list for a grand total of five days. This is about as perfect as it gets when it comes to mixing top-tier psychology with high-impact move sets. As opposed to matches that look downright deadly in order to garner a reaction, you could tell this was as safe as possible considering what these two hit on one another. You can show this to any wrestling fan without providing background and they’ll walk away understanding why this is a great match.

3. Roderick Strong & Kyle O’Reilly (c) vs Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan for the NXT Tag Team Championship — TakeOver Chicago II — 6/16

NXT receives plenty of well-deserved praise but it can’t be said enough that when it comes to tag team wrestling, no one is better. They seem unable to fail when it comes to their tag matches and add this as just another example. Despite the crowd being heavily behind the champions, after the match it was the challengers who received the standing ovation. An impressive feat considering most of them were likely unfamiliar with the challengers going into the match. A lot can be argued about in wrestling but as far as tag team wrestling goes, NXT is at the forefront by a wide margin.

4. Shigehiro Irie (c) vs Kazusada Higuchi for the KO-D Openweight Championship — What Are You Doing 2018 — 6/24

If you have been following me on Twitter you’re bound to have seen me spamming your timeline talking about DDT this month. After a couple of years only watching their big shows, I’ve taken the plunge into their wacky world and what I came away with is that Kazusada Higuchi is the best kept secret in wrestling today. Higuchi is an ex-sumo wrestler with great size and incredible strength but rather than relying on his background, Higuchi takes himself to the next level by always looking to dive through a table. If you don’t know Shigehiro Irie, he’s another big, athletic man and these two just threw their big boy bodies at each other in what was one of the more impressive matches I’ve seen this year.

5. Michael Elgin (c) vs Hirooki Goto for the NEVER Openweight Championship — Kizuna Road— 6/17

Speaking of matches consisting of big boy bodies, here is another one that I loved. I’m a sucker for two big dudes running full steam at each other over and over again until one of them finally collapses. While I’m normally very critical of Hirooki Goto, he was on absolute fire here, giving us his best performance in years. Showing shades of his past self by hitting Michael Elgin with both the Kaiten and Shouten Kai, Goto, for one night, made me a fan again. For my money, there’s nothing better in wrestling than seeing big dudes bump chests. Big thumbs up for the big bodied boys.

David’s Top Five (@DW_Reno)

1. Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Kenny Omega for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship — Dominion 6.9 in Osaka-jo Hall — 6/9

The greatest IWGP Heavyweight Championship run ended exactly as it should, with Okada’s most formidable opponent defeating him in a 2 out of 3 falls match that went over an hour.

Like Batman and The Joker. Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega are destined to do this forever. The definition of being invested is watching a pro wrestling match for 64 minutes and 50 seconds and thinking that another hour or two would’ve been just fine. That said, the overall satisfaction factor after watching this one was off the charts. 

This feud has been perfectly built. They leave us with just enough time in between matches not to over saturate it and the matches overall have been beyond masterful. This is the professional wrestling’s perfect rivalry.

The great debate will be which match out of these four (and the ones that we’d be fortunate enough to have in the future) is your favorite. Despite however many stars whomever is tossing out to these matches decides to give, it’s really just a matter of how you took it in at the time. Everything is situational.

When it’s all said and done, just give me every minute of these matches with a commentary track starring Omega, Okada and Gedo. That’s all I ask. 

2. Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa — NXT TakeOver Chicago II — 6/16

How could Gargano and Ciampa possibly top their Unsanctioned match at TakeOver New Orleans? Whether you think this one did or not (I personally do) you can’t deny that we aren’t in the midst of the best rivalry on WWE programming since, I don’t know, forever?

Like Okada-Omega, there were some intricate storytelling throwbacks here that rewarded the fans who have been following this feud from the beginning. The Ciampa victory was the right call to allow us a 3rd and potentially final chapter (inside of the NXT ring at least) this summer in Brooklyn.

The wedding ring/table/stretcher and the DDT onto the exposed wooden board spots were things of beauty.

3. Hiromu Takahashi vs Taiji Ishimori — Best of the Super Juniors — 6/4

Whoaaaaa. How crucial has the addition of Ishimori been to the already loaded Junior division in New Japan. That’s a rhetorical question, we already know the answer.

It was a bold move introducing Ishimori as the ‘Bone Soldier’ after a little bit of time away but it has certainly paid dividends due to his out of this world-class work ethic and ability to put on matches like this one – an instant classic – opposite a red-hot Takahashi.

This year’s Best of Super Juniors tournament was one for the ages and this match will be the one that we’ll remember it by for years to come. This is how you save the best for last.

4. WALTER vs. Darby Allin — Evolve 106 — 6/23

This was David vs. Goliath with a delicious side of chops.

The Austrian powerhouse and the high-flying hardcore stylist put on what in my opinion turned out to be the best match of Evolve’s loaded 106 and 107 weekend. 

WALTER just rag-dolled Darby Allin throughout this one until Allin was able to mount a comeback by targeting that murderous right hand of the Austrian with some stomps and ring post utilization. There were some insane transitions here that were visually stunning due to the size difference and the overall delivery. I love the final result and I love that WALTER left Darby with a boot to the face to keep the door open on what could be an ongoing indie rivalry for the ages. Go watch this match if you have yet to do so. 

5. Ricochet vs. Velveteen Dream — NXT TakeOver Chicago II — 6/16

Kicking this off with the Hogan-Rock WrestleMania X8 throwback was brilliant. I can’t think of two better guys to pull this off. I still believe Ricochet has ways to go when it comes to the microphone but you just can’t deny how special he is inside of the ring; the sky is literally the limit. As far as Velveteen goes, his character work is second to none right now. 

As much as I loved this match, I truly believe that they can top it again and again for years to come. The first one will always be special, but these two can do so much better. And that’s a compliment.

Honorable mentions to the Women’s MITB match and th Janela vs. Theory vs. DJZ three-way at Evolve 107.

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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