December wasn’t as quiet as I thought it would be then. The run up to Christmas saw some unexpected surprises with the third instalment of the FTR/Briscoes trilogy and expected greatness in the Elite vs Death Triangle Best of 7 series but with so much variance in the quality of pro wrestling in the final month of the year with eight promotions supplying matches with a Meltzer rating of ****¾+/9.00+ on Cagematch this month. It has been one of the most interesting months of the year.
The 5 (or more) star matches (and the one that wasn’t)
FTR vs Briscoes III - 10th December
As expected in a pro wrestling match in 2022, we got a “This is awesome” chant from the fans in attendance but while on frequent occasions that particular chant is overrating the match in question, on this occasion it actually underrated this match. This was mesmeric. An absolute spectacle which never let up from opening bell to the final bell with Dax and Mark the MVPs of this match. Everything held the attention of the watcher and listener with a commentary that fitted, even if the wondering if a Briscoe had died after falling onto the stack of chairs to the outside wasn’t needed in my opinion. *****
The Final Battle between the teams of 2022 and maybe ever concluded a trilogy which saw all 3 matches get the five star treatment from Dave Meltzer making it the third time three matches from the same pair of opponents got maximum stars (the others being Flair vs Steamboat in 1989 and Omega vs Okada in 2017)
If you are into a bloodbath type of match, this was a must-see match. If you’re not, then you probably shouldn’t see it. But for what they were attempting to do, it was incredible, easily among the best matches of the year, the best chain style match ever and among the top tier tag team matches ever.- Dave Meltzer
Takagi vs Taichi- 19th December
Yes folks, Taichi now has a DM five star match on his resume. Fun fact, AJ Styles and Taichi now have the same amount of ***** matches from Dave Meltzer.
The question now is how did this match get 5-stars when it’s 8.74 on didn’t even put this in the top 5 for the month on Cagematch (it finished 8th behind the Men’s Iron Survivor match on NXT)
The rules set for this match was akin to the old-school Texas Death Match that dominated the territories era of American wrestling with wrestlers needing to answer a 10-count after losing a pinfall to his opponent, something that was adapted to the Last Man Standing Match that we see today. Dave would look back nostalgically at the old Texas Death Match in the WOR shows in the days after this match so a part of me thinks that days from Dave’s childhood figured into his rating of the match.
Giulia vs Syuri- 29th December
A match so heralded that it forced me to beg friends to find me a link to watch it (don’t tell anyone I wrote that) The last contender for MOTY, the pair put on an intense, high impact match with a great final stretch which benefited from the 30 minute time limit that is a feature of their World of Stardom matches which is a downgrade from the 60 minute time limit in the 3WA Title matches in AJW. It’s the kind of match that you know those in power in certain wrestling companies pre-”women’s revolution” would have despised when you read stories of how Aja Kong’s week in WWE got others in the office there to react to her style and that’s why it’s so great. It got 5 stars from me. But it was Meltzer’s star rating that set Joshi twitter alight.
Dave’s ****¾ rating might have upset those on Joshi twitter but Dave might have the same problem that I struggle with when it comes to rating matches especially Stardom. I’m a fan of mid 90s All Japan Women and I have been watching 1995 AJW for a future project and to be honest comparing Manami Toyota to Stardom today is difficult especially when you love what the Fab Five of AJW of Toyota, Inoue, Hokuto, Nakano and Kong were doing then. I’ll be honest, I was comparing what I was seeing on my phone to what I watched from AJW 27 years ago. Is that wrong? Maybe but it’s a thing. Had it not been for the final five minutes, I’d given it ****¾ as well and Dave as one of the biggest boosters of AJW in its two golden eras in the mid 80s and 1990-1995 might have those same biases that I do.
It also shows how relevant the star rating in wrestling has become when not getting the coveted 5-stars is seen as a big deal. It’s still the best women’s match of 2022 according to Dave’s ratings and Cagematch, which is the consensus opinion among everyone. Well, apart from this bloke on Cagematch.
EvPOz wrote on 01.01.2023:
[2.0] "Completely empty match. No build, no psychology, nothing they did made any sense. Giulia doesn't know how to sell. The outside stuff was just a joke, they have no idea how to make anything seem heated so you might suspend your disbelief even for 5 seconds. The finish was the worst, just spam every finisher you can think of and kick out of everything until Syuri stays down because that's what they laid out."
Is there a way to strip this guy of his Watching Wrestling licence
Hayter vs Shida- 21st December
Not only the AEW women's match of 2022 surely, not only the best in the Western world in this year but a contender for women's match of the year in the world that wasn't Giulia vs Syuri.
Hard hitting as it comes with a fantastic final stretch, the conclusion that comes from this contest is that a) the women's division can rightfully claim its spot in the main event when Britt Baker isn't in the ring and b) Jamie Hayter can in a division with Saraya and maybe a certain free agent coming in on January 11th end up the female ace of AEW. She has the look, the charisma and the skills to be the ace in the hole for AEW and let's not forget about Shida. Her 10 singles matches in AEW rated at 7.50+ on Cagematch since January 2020 is the high mark in women in North America. The conversation for the Top Ten of the 20's so far needs to include Hikaru Shida
Matches over 7.50 in the 2020's
Moxley vs Takeshita- 9th December
Two of the Top Ten WOTY list for 2022 solidified their placing in said list with a great match. As much as Moxley has become one of the most beloved wrestlers thanks to his comeback from rehab, on this night after Konosuke Takeshita kicked out of the Death Rider, the fans were desperate for a win for the Japanese native and it wouldn't surprise me to see not only a Takeshita won over Mox in 2023 but maybe a TNT Title win in his 2023. Takeshita is our website “One to Watch” for 2023 in our awards list (spoiler alert) and on this showing its easy to see why. ****½
FTR vs Acclaimed - 7th December
While it was another ****½+ match on Dax and Cash’s 2022 resume I'll use this write up to show some love for The Acclaimed. While FTR have shored up the Tag Team of the Year victory with their trilogy against the Briscoes and their cracker against the Young Bucks, the Acclaimed have the case to be in the Top 3. While the crowd turned a really good Acclaimed/Swerve In Our Glory match into an unforgettable event, it wasn't an anomaly for Max and Anthony. The Acclaimed hold their own and then some in this match. Bowens’ hot tag was really good which set off the final stretch which was unbelievable. Major dabs to both teams ****½
The Elite vs Death Triangle Games 4-6
The Best of 7 series for the AEW Trios Titles continued into December and would see the two teams wrestle three times in the month. The reaction online, negative more than positive, to such a frequency of matches answers and asks a lot of questions. First the basketball/ice hockey/baseball crossover to wrestling may not be that big and previous Best of 7’s like Dusty vs Koloff and Benoit vs Booker T would have flopped in 2022 because the quality of this Best of 7 is so much better than any other in wrestling history.
Game 4 would see AEW play into the basketball theme to the point where the Winter Is Coming Dynamite opened up with the old NBA on NBC theme song (how many British fans wondered “what the hell is that music”) and the match itself played out with Nick Jackson playing the role of Willis Reed (look it up on Google British people). A very neatly structured match playing off the numbers advantage The Death Triangle would gain from Nick’s trip backstage with a cool ending which saw Nick hot tag completely cut off thanks to a hammer and a heel hook ****¼
Game 5 was a disappointment for me. I like a multi man tag no-dq match but this just didn't hit the right notes for me. Whether it was the Christmas tree and tinsel being used as weapons (especially the tinsel) or the lack of emphasis on Fenix using the hammer when he had been reluctant to use but had to to get out of jams he had been in during the series, this just didn't work for me. As Christmas themed no-dq matches go I preferred the Smackdown Miracle on 34th Streetfight for all its stupidity at times more than this. ***¾
Game 6 was everything Game 5 should have been. I have to admit I’m a sucker for “all hell breaking loose” Falls Count Anywhere matches. Meltzer and I are probably the only two to have given the Super Elite vs Jurassic Express/Christian Full Gear match in 2022 five stars and this match in my eyes was no different in my eyes but actually so in Dave’s who marked a quarter shy of the maximum
To quote the head of this website Craig William in a twitter thread about this match
“These matches are like spinning plates while cycling a unicycle and solving mysteries at the same time.”
That’s a detective show I’d definitely watch by the way.
With Fenix doing Fenix things and some great near falls with a fantastic finish this is the Dynamite MOTY and my personal AEW MOTY. *****
Gunther vs Ricochet- 16th December
Gunther has so much believability in his style and Ricochet did much more fighting than usual. Punches aren’t his strong point but his intensity in his brawling was great and the match built so well. - Dave Meltzer
Gunther’s one man mission to make the IC Title relevant again might be one of the underrated stories of 2021.
After the 5-star classic that actually wasn't a 5-star classic against Sheamus in Cardiff (****1/2 from me), Gunther achieved the unthinkable and got an above **** match out of post-2017 Shinsuke Nakamura and on his final singles match of the year beat Ricochet in a ****½ match.
A lot was made of TAFKA Walter’s move to the main roster and how he would adapt to the quims and eccentricities of Vince McMahon and his outlook on wrestling. You can imagine Vince going “goddamn pal, why is he hitting him so hard” on his first look at the Austrian and the worst was feared when because WWE, Walter had his name changed to Gunther Stark and then had the surname removed because of a unsavoury namesake to just become Gunther which Friends fans like me couldn't help but notice and remark on but when Vince had to “retire” from WWE duty, things perked up for Gunther and while the WWE playbook is still there to see in the IC Title match on 15/12 with the slow start which the quiet crowd testified to, once he and fellow beneficiary of Vince leaving Ricochet hit the final stanza of the match, the crowd were in the pairs palms. The pop when Ricochet kicked out of the Gunther powerbomb was the perfect example of this.
While the WWE play book can be still be seen in WWE Gunther matches especially when you compare the Ricochet match to those you see of Walter on the WWE Network in WXW and Progress, under the new head coach of WWE Triple H, we should see a great 2023 from Gunther and also Ricochet.
AAA and IMPACT
El Hijo Del Vikingo vs Bandido- 28th December
When you get El Hijo Del Vikingo and Bandido in the same ring you know you are going to get more air miles than a showing of Snakes On A Plane and the match on AAA's final show of 2022 was great which what you expect from both (that poisonrana) but it's faults are there to see and it isn't the performers fault. Hearing the commentators over the loudspeaker isn't just jarring but also takes away from the watching experience. You can barely hear the crowd over the announcers (who watches something from WWA and goes, that's a good idea?) and while the sensory overload isn't as high as it was at TripleMania, the only other place you can see this amount of yellow is in Springfield and the revolving adverts are still dominant and this pertains to why while CMLL has its faults its the better product than AAA in 2022. ****3/4
Josh Alexander vs Speedball Mike Bailey- 8th December
Taped in November but escaping onto our screens in December, upon screening it was heralded by many, instantly getting 9.00+ on Cagematch and almost immediately after the telecast of the match, IMPACT announced that the full contest without ad breaks would go up on YouTube in the days after and in his write-up of the match, Dave didn't give the match a rating offering an explanation for why in the most Dave way possible.
Narrator: He hasn't yet given the match a star rating.
So, if Dave isn't giving the match a rating, I might as well.
I liked the match and it's structure. I'm really curious to see who produced the match because for a near hour long match it flowed perfectly and the finish plays into the long held mantra of "it's gone more than 40 mins, it surely has to end as a draw, right?", but yet it showed off the flaws of the company and Bailey.
I wished I could have seen this match in the Impact Zone from the companies "glory days". The atmosphere would have so much better than it was Louisville and maybe this is a problem with yours truly but the OSW Review fan in me watching Mike Bailey and his vocal selling gave me Lex Luger vibes and took a bit away from the match for me but Josh Alexander is just awesome a genuine shout for a placing in the WOTY Top Ten list. ****1/2
SUZUKI-GUN EXPLODES!!! 23rd December
First off, I just want to state for the record that something was in my eye at the end of this match and I wasn't crying ok.
Suzuki-gun was my team in NJPW, Bullet Club is so 2017, Chaos are Chaos and LIJ while fun doesn't have Minoru Suzuki in it so watching the final match of Suzuki-gun was an experience. I can't even give this match a rating because it was something different, something for those who love Suzuki-gun to remember them by, like the final single from a boy-band that was so beloved by so many. So slightly paraphrase the best boyband of them all, a1’s final song, on this final night Suzuki-gun did Make It Good.
The aftermath of this show saw news come out that Minoru Suzuki will be appearing in All Japan Pro Wrestling. Now all we need is a time-machine so we can get Minoru vs 1989 Tenryu.
January will be busy with Wrestle Kingdom on January 4th, AEW’s January 11th Dynamite expected to be newsworthy and the Royal Rumble (surely it won’t be as bad as last years) so expect fireworks in the next four weeks and a packed edition of January in Star Ratings