Updated: Mar 16
The shortest month of the year produced some big matches and some interesting content with opinions all over the place coming out of contests from New Japan, All Japan, TJPW, Pro Wrestling NOAH, AEW and WWE so lets look at the best matches from Japan and the US in the month of February.
Okada vs Takagi
Was the best thing to happen to Okada Kaito Kiyomiya kicking him really hard in the head?
Okada sneering, using tactics that heels are very happy to use. This is the most interesting Kazuchika has been for 3 years and while we did see the Moneyclip twice, three times too many if you ask me, this has been the best we’ve seen Okada perform since Covid-19 shut the world down and maybe just maybe, the crowd being able to make noise again has reinvigorated Okada.
Credit to Takagi for being Takagi and showing that he is better than being in the "Vince Russo Division" better known as the KOPW Title but Okada is back.
The match layout is great with some wonderful transitions with the fight to be in the right position to exert dominance was captivating to watch. *****
Will Ospreay vs Taichi
There were quite a few things I liked about this match (The match being centred around levels of quality of the wrestler, the counter exchange with the Os Cutter that ended in the Hidden Blade) but 3 things put me off (The match stopping to have a kick to the head exchange, the crowd sounded like it was from RAW at times maybe because they knew hometown hero Taichi was losing and the sight of the stupidest move in wrestling history, the Gonzo Bomb) and in that it just felt the weakest match from Big Match Will in awhile which is a shame because of the interesting character work from Ospreay at New Beginning. ****¼
Will Ospreay pinned Taichi in 22:47. This was super, but in a different way then you’d expect. Instead of doing the style you’d expect, these two for most of the way tried to transform themselves into it being 1993 in an All Japan Budokan Hall main event. - Meltzer
So that explains the head drops and the Gonzo Bomb
Hiromu Takahashi vs YOH
Meltzer’s ****¾ feels like a good example of the belief that Uncle Dave is overrating modern day wrestling.
The Jr. Heavy Title match at New Beginning was technically good and YOH looked like someone who’ll finish second in his block annually in the Best of the Super Juniors (that isn’t a derogatory remark trust me) but it had ****¼ written all over it and a runtime which gives meaning to the phrase why go 29 minutes when 20 will do.
Hiromu Takahashi retained the IWGP jr. title over Yoh in 29:42. Super match.
Someone watched the Superbowl before writing about New Beginning weekend.
Maki Itoh/Mayu Yamashita vs Hyper Misao/Shoko Nakajima (11/2)
A debut for TJPW which is a part of the CyberFight stable of promotions and while it was too much to ask Dave Meltzer to watch and rate this match, 88 people on Cagematch did and the 9.00 made it worthy enough for my attention.
The 9.00 could be a factor of many things. Miyu Yamashita being great and maybe the actual most underrated wrestler in the world, the innovative limb work in Misao and Nakajima’s control segment on Yamashita, Itoh’s big improvement in the last few years and maybe Nakajima’s tail ****¼
Kento Miyahara vs Yuji Nagata (19/2)
Yuji Nagata added another title to his resume with the Triple Crown. A month after the great tag title match, Aogoyi wasn't the guy to pin Kento Miyahira falling short a couple of weeks before Nagata’s victory.
As a match I would give it ****½. It was very good but I didn't see that match the way Dave Meltzer or my colleague @PatrickEireWres did who both gave it a mark of a quarter shy of the full 5.
It’s notable that when outsiders have come into All Japan and NOAH over the years and won the big belt, it usually draws better and the hardcore fans of the promotion hate it, with the idea of a New Japan prelim guy and 54-year-old-legend coming in and beating their ace- Meltzer
Dave is right. The show that Nagata vs Miyahara headlined was the better drawing show than Miyahara vs Yuma Aogoyi which came off the back of the tag team match that got a lot of eyeballs on the company post the ****¾ rating it received and judging by Dave’s writing this doesn't feel like a transitional reign. Is that a good thing? Yes.
Let's be honest, AJPW needs a shot in the arm. They are sixth on the totem pole right now and Nagata might give them a boost fiscally and they can build stars or try to at least while Nagata is the champion. But you do understand why the AJPW die-hard fans are suspicious of this. If a 54-year old who hasn't won a singles title for seven years is now your champion and it doesn't look like a transitional title reign, what does that say about the abilities of anyone bar Kento to hold All Japan's big belt in 2023.
Kazuchika Okada vs Kaito Kiyomiya (11/2)
The Okada Is Back tour made its latest stop at Pro Wrestling Noah and Kaito Kiyomiya was the latest opponent for the early front-runner for 2023 WOTY. With the awesome angle at the NJPW vs NOAH show and as mentioned above Okada’s character work being so captivating as of late. On a night when we said bye to Keiji Mutoh, we said hello to the new Okada.
The match was what you expect from Okada and Kiyomiya, it was great, but what interested me was Okada just being a dick not only to Kiyomiya but Pro Wrestling NOAH from the no-show at the press conference to his overdog performance on the night of the match and to end the contest with not just a pull up of Kaito after the Rainmaker but then finish him off with his Inoki tribute enzuguri Mitsuharu Misawa's Emerald Flowsion was a troll move of the S-Tier quality and the walk off after the match to add to everything. Kaito and NOAH was not on Okada’s level, tbf not many are based on W-L records in NJPW but Okada being so blatant in his contempt for both NOAH and its champion in their biggest night since their Dome show in 2005 was a chefs kiss of a heel move. ****3/4
Bryan Danielson vs Rush (8/2)
With Bryan Danielson once again winning The Bryan Danielson Award for Best Technical Wrestler in the Wrestling Observer Awards, it affirmed Danielson’s placing as the greatest technical wrestler that has ever lived. But on nights like Danielson vs Rush, you realise how good of a brawler Danielson is. Danielson looks like he is fighting for his life in this match, which in my eyes makes great brawling not the deathmatch stuff you see. Also add Rush who is a Top 5 brawler in wrestling t the moment and it’s one of the best brawls in a long time. ****¾
Compare the 9.08 (33rd in Danielson’s all-time list on Cagematch) rating for this to the 9.38 for Danielson/Morishima’s Fight Without Honor match (15th on that same list) and you feel that for the merits and strengths of Cagematch as a resource of information that the pro-ROH bias and anti-AEW bias from voters is obvious here.
Men's Elimination Chamber
For me the best WWE match since Cody/Rollins in Hell In A Cell, the 2023 Men’s Elimination Chamber also entered my Chamber Rushmore along with 2005, 2017 and 2002.
While succumbing to one of my least favourite tropes of a Chamber Match with no eliminations before all 6 wrestlers had entered the match (at least the eliminations were more sporadic than the Women’s match, once again showing that Paul Levesque is treating the Women’s division as a vastly inferior division than the Men’s) the action was fun and also all six were showcased in a great way. Gargano looked the best he has since his return, Jona… I mean Bronson Reed looked great in his fire segment coming out of his chamber and looked strong in his elimination and Montez Ford looks like a potential great singles star in his performance. The A-Town Down is the most meh finisher in wrestling right now though****1//2
Roman Reigns vs Sami Zayn (18/2)
It was a Roman Reigns match ****1/4
Sorry, you want detail?
Meltzer’s 4.75 stars is high but understandable. It feels like Punk vs Cena at MITB 2011 where the Chicago crowd helped drag the match to the ***** it got from Dave when the match was actually 4 ½ when you take the crowd out of it and the Montreal crowd drag this to 4 ¾. Yes the match was built to get the most from the crowd and the crowd make the match what it is (It is funny that WWE fans in the RAWs after Elimination Chamber watched the PLE, paid money and thought "lets sit on our hands") but when you strip the match apart it’s a Roman Reigns match.
Roman’s control segment is him walking around the ring doing one person theatre to the point that I was expecting him to yell “In life, there are no intermissions!” and “Divorce is a four letter word”. The teases for Jey Uso’s potential decision were good and I’ve really missed Sami’s babyface fire over the last 5 years but it’s a Roman Reigns match.
The question to be asked at the end was going to be, was Roman winning the right call?
Did Sami losing “kill the town”? If Survivor Series 1997 didn’t kill Montreal as a town that WWE can make profit from then nothing ever will.
Should Sami have won the title? No. While the atmosphere in Montreal was a case of “right time, right place” for Sami’s being a PLE main eventer it was a case of “wrong time, wrong place” for his chances of winning the Big Logo belt. Some of the arguments from the likes of Dave Meltzer and especially Bryan Alvarez that Zayn should have won the belt don’t hold water when you look at the evidence of history.
Spoiler Alert time. Cody Rhodes is beating Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania 39. I’m saying that because the similarities between Cody’s road to glory is similar to Triple H’s road in 2002 and considering who the CCO of WWE is, I’m confident in my prediction of a Cody win
Roman Reigns has been the man in WWE since August 2020 when he won the Universal Title, the main title on Smackdown with his title reign being booked to be one of the GOAT reigns and by design the moment when he loses the belts is going to be a big moment and it’s going to be at Wrestlemania.
“But they’ve changed the World Title in February before”
When they did the Rock/Mankind title swaps in 1999 it was Vince Russo with the pencil. In 2001, Rock beating Angle was to get to Rock vs Austin which was the biggest match possible. Eddie Guerrero winning in 2004 was in the first of the two World Titles era and Benoit vs Triple H vs Michaels and Undertaker vs Kane were bigger matches at Mania 20 than the eventual Guerrero vs Angle match and anything booked in 2021 and 22’s Road To Wrestlemania shouldn’t be used as good examples.
“Roman could win the championship back”
So Sami has a glorious coronation to only lose the belt back to Roman and then Roman loses it to Cody therefore negating the point off the impact of Cody beating Roman. Feels like Vince Russo booking here.
We can have Sami vs Cody for the title.
It was obvious when WWE signed Cody that they were putting their eggs in the American Nightmare basket and then when he won the Rumble, it looked like WWE were putting a deposit on a Cody mortgage. If Cody beats Sami to get to the top of the WWE mountain, we might as well turn Cody heel in the process.
Folks, Cody beating Roman is the way.
With AEW Revolution this weekend and Wrestlemania weekend coming up with the New Japan Cup and Stardom in Yokohama in-between, the next edition will have busy. Let's see if MJF and Bryan Danielson going the hour, Cody vs Roman or something Will Ospreay does during March hits the 9.00+/ ****3/4 mark.