With July in the books and most of Britain staying indoors in the rain, saving money for All In weekend, going to Barbieheimer in the cinemas and watching the G1, a lot of wrestling away from wrestling’s top tourney exhilarated those that watched it.
So let’s look at the best of the best from July. If you’re wondering where the best G1 matches are on this list, I have done an in-depth look at the first 3 weeks of the G1 Climax which is on the site (and yes I'm going to review EVIL vs Shingo Takagi in my Week 4 recap)
Was 15/7/23 (or 7/15/23 if you insist on being weird about it) the greatest day in wrestling history? That would be a good case for a Top Ten. Just need to put that in the on deck circle along with Review of 1989, a look at Will Ospreay’s placing at the top of Most 5 star or more Ratings list and Summerslam 1992 in Star Ratings and also my G1 reviews.
With two *****¼ matches in 24 hours in two different companies in two different countries, it’s certainly in the conversation and the two matches were different in their structure which is why wrestling is so brilliant. While I have a type when it comes to wrestling, beauty can come in all forms and these two matches were simply gorgeous.
AJPW’s Kento Miyahara vs NOAH’s Katsuhiko Nakajima was everything you expect from the pair but the best version possible. Nakajima’s kicks were brutal but also not kicking for kicking sakes which can be a habit he gets himself into. Miyahara’s selling of the Nakajima onslaught was unbelievable. In an era where he have Okada, who makes his opponent look like he’s capable of winning when they are the underdog, Omega, who is so good and making injuries look it’s impeding his chances of winning and Ospreay, who gets the impact of a move over so well, Miyahara’s maximalist selling never gets talked about enough, then again Kento’s greatness never gets talked about. Kento in Kings Road All Japan would have been very interesting to watch and the fans in Korakuen know it with them favouring Kento even on a NOAH sanctioned show . WIth so much saved for a rematch which seems obvious after the post-match angle and chances it will be in a AJPW ring and hopefully in Korakuen because all wrestling held in Japan should be held in Korakuen Hall, it’ll be a hard act to follow the 15/7 match but I’ll be watching for sure. *****
If you bet on FTR vs Bullet Club Gold finishing with one of BCG tapping out to the Sharpshooter, your odds-on bet came off. It was Calgary, it was FTR, it was always going to happen. If they really wanted to do a Bret Hart tribute, Cash should have at least hit a Russian Legsweep at some point.
All tongue-in-cheek comments aside, this was really great. While this is another 5-star notch on FTR’s belt, their 6th ***** match from Dave (you guys don’t realise how tempted I am to make a joke about Dax briefing Dave about backstage shenanigans post-All Out right now) this match was a much needed reminder that Jay White is great and that Juice Robinson has found that magic formula to be an American wrestling television star.
Jay’s first three months in AEW hadn’t blown doors off and while I don’t want to use this article to push my theory that Jay was supposed to debut post-Double Or Nothing, the fact that he’s come out all guns blazing once Collision started makes that theory even truer in my mind. While Jay starting up the Gold wing of Bullet Club even though David Finlay kicked the guy out has George Costanza vibes all over it, Jay and the Bang Bang Gang (don’t type that into Google guys) have found their footing on Saturday Nights.
The match itself used it’s three part structure to deliver one of the finest 2 out of 3 fall matches of all time (its third on my list behind Omega/Okada IV and Flair/Steamboat in 1989)
Part 1 was an slightly inferior version of the match between the pairs the week before (which I would give ****¾) it was Part 2 that things kicked into high gear. FTR needing to equalize and hitting bombs but unable to get the leveller but then BCG almost getting the counter attack pin to get a 2-0 victory was just great wrestling and Juice taking his eye off the ball slightly costing his team the fall was a chefs kiss moment.
Part 3 with FTR being so desperate to get the win they resorted to trying to get the count-out to retain and and then the Sharpshooters attempted going awry due to fatigue and injury until Dax took his kneepad off to get more torque on his second attempt at the Shooter to get the win was awesome *****
My only pitnicks with the match were the weird placement of a advert when Dax was in a leglock during Fall 3 which was probably out of AEW’s jurisdiction and the lack of time calls with the only one being the out of nowhere with 5 minutes remaining one which kind of jarred to be honest but it’s on my Provisional Top 10 MOTY list at 9th with the Miyahara vs Nakajima match at 4th.
One aspect of the pair of matches that I would like to talk about is the roles Stewart Fulton and Ian Riccaboni played in their respective matches that they called. Stewart got the storyline of Nakajima and Miyahara and their days together as Masa Saito’s trainees and the rivalry ever since over to this casual watcher of NOAH. Ian had his breakout night in the tag title match. Underheard because he was the ROH lead commentator in the final years of the Sinclair era, in front of the biggest audience he had ever called a match, he hit a home run. With partners that aren’t helpful to their efforts, Stewart and Ian had the calls of their lives and are certainly interesting calls to break the Excalibur and Kevin Kelly Messi and Ronaldo-esque stranglehold on the Best Announcer Award in the year-end awards.
The 3rd annual Blood and Guts did exactly what it said on the tin (I think used that phrase when talking about the end of this match in my Moment of the Week) there was a lot of blood and everyone showed guts.
With things escalating quicker than an argument in the newsroom of the San Diego KVWN channel when Jon Moxley entered the B&G building after a standard beginning to the specialised steel cage match, the weapons entered the cage and became a focal point of the match dividing opinion.
To be honest, if you’re surprised and offended by weapons, however insane they are, maybe you should have paid attention to the marketing of this match. This was not going to be a trip to your local Botanical Gardens.
I enjoyed the match thoroughly but it had faults, some of them not the wrestlers fault. The necessary evil that is commercial breaks did hamper the flow for those not watching on Fite+, while I understand why they had the combatants enter through their entrance area of choice, it’s not “War Games” unless you have both teams at ringside like it was in this kind of match in WCW/JCP until 1996, the obligatory regrouping and fight was as expected as Jon Moxley bleeding and the end which saw Moxley surrender to save his teammate Wheeler Yuta felt clunky and didn’t hit even if it looked great on paper but the effort, guts and performances can’t be denied ****½
For me TJPW has been the Neo to Stardom’s All Japan Women for the few years it’s been on my radar, more so if they lose Miyu Yamashita who with Chihiro Hashimoto is the most must gets outside Stardom in joshi right now. Maki Itoh is the other shining light in TJPW. She has improved a lot since her last time in AEW even if her selling where she comes across as a little robotic still needs work and this match is an example of that. Her control was good, especially the Boston Crab portion with Mizuki working great in her role struggling to stay in the match. It’s 8.99 is a product of the diehard fans and those that love the TJPW style upvoting the match above it’s proper grade (sound familiar) but it’s certainly TJPW’s best singles of the year so far ****¼
Putting the 5 Star GP on at the same time as the G1 is like putting the Ladies Giro d’Italia on at the same time as Men’s Tour de France, it does the Joshi’s No.1 companies biggest annual tournament no good to be on at the same time as the No.1 Puro companies biggest annual tournament right now. Once the G1 is over, I’ll probably get my attention on the 5 Star GP but even then after 4 weeks and 19 events, getting a multitude of events in front of me after the G1 just feels exhausting, even more so with such a big weekend coming up in London late in August. The tournaments with a long lasting legacy have traditionally always held up better against the younger sibling and that has been the case of amount of eyeballs watching the G1 compared to the 5 Star GP
One of the reasons the FIFA Womens World Cup has been the hit it has even after the slow start hasn’t just been because three traditional powers were eliminated by countries that have long struggled to get footholds in the women’s game but also because it has it’s own window in the football calendar, well until the club season here in England starts, but you get my point.
With big hits galore, this match on opening night was fun. Syuri is great and Suzu Suzuki might be the best wrestler under 30 years old who isn't MJF no matter what Marc Raimondi can claim.
While the selling from both could have existed a little more, this sprint was a fun match ****1/4
Anyone else yell the word Jesus at the suplex from the ramp into the chairs spot?
Anou and Giulia did a better brawl round the arena than anything from a Gabe Kidd match at the G1 and once they got into the ring the intensity of the action didn't waver. The 15 minute time limit means matches like this and the Syuri vs Suzuki are on from the get go. ****3/4
The first ever women’s match to main event a ROH PPV lived up to the expectation built from their previous two matches in 2023. While many wanted WIllow to “finish her story” at Death Before Dishonor, beating Athena for the ROH Women’s Title without needing a pinning combination still being her Everest still feels the right play going forward.
The Willow we see in this match, brimming with confidence after winning the Owen after beating her rival in the process, now able to compete with the dominant champ, being able to supply answers to a conundrum that no-one else in ROH has been able to solve until Athena finds the level needed to win the match was a captivating story.
The tributes to those who have paved the way in not just ROH but independent women’s wrestling in a time where you could only find the biggest stage if you were a woman who was the head of talent relations type was nice to see even if it kind of jarred the tempo of the match to the point that Ian Riccaboni pointed it out but once that was out of the their systems, the third act is just fantastic with the crossface finish showing the face/heel formula that makes this rivalry a Top 10 feud for 2023 ****½
Jospeh Montecello does a great job in showing the similarities between the Athena vs WIllow series and Ember Moon vs Asuka series but unlike the best women’s rivalry on NXT that didn’t involve a Horsewoman, you get the feeling that the babyface in this current story will conquer her Everest.
When the votes come in for Women’s MVP in the Observer awards, Athena should be the cast-iron favourite. While others in Stardom and WWE have more complete bodies of work, they haven’t been as valuable to their circuit as Athena has been to ROH. Athena has been the only shining light of what has been another discarded toy of Tony Khan along with AEW Dark, Battle of the Belts and Rampage. WIthout Athena do we get the first one night PPV with a 10,000+ buy rate in North America to have a women’s 1 vs 1 match to main event since Hell In A Cell 2016 and the first womens singles match that was a non-gimmick match to headline.
Current day Rocky Romero might be known as the man that helped break down the Forbidden Door with his diplomatic skills and his regular appearances on Wrestling Observer Live to promote the NJPW Strong PPV’s but his work in CMLL this year has been nothing short of exemplary and this match didn’t differ.
While Larry Dallas’ claim on WOR last month that Mexico might be the last bastion of the old-school territory is a very correct one, you still can’t replace great heels to get the crowd riled up and Rocky knows how to do that with heel work that wouldn’t look out of place in the early years on AAA from Love Machine and Eddie Guerrero. Mascara Dorada 2.0’s exclusion from Marc Raimondi’s Top 30 under 30 list shows how rubbish that list is and while he earnt the Mexico chants from the crowd with his very good fighting from underneath performance, the star of the show was easily Rocky Romero ****¾
The eventual rematch will be required viewing. If only CMLL had not taken away the ability to watch their Friday night shows on YouTube live because as we know by now, the most likely person to hinder a promotion growth is the promotion themselves.
This was a very good Intercontinental Title match that happened to turn up on a NXT card and happened to be in the main event. While that sounds like a criticism, it is not. Had we seen matches like this in the IC Title division in the years before the pandemic, we wouldn't have needed Gunther to save it. But watching this match confirmed my belief that if Dragunov got promoted to the main roster, he would flop and that while Carmello has tons of upside which included getting Ilja to wrestle a proper match on this night, he still needs a couple of years to not get lost in the deep water of WWE upon arrival.
My other take is that those who chanted Fight Forever would combust upon watching the Misawa/Kobashi series. ****½
Including the North American Title match at Great American Bash, Dominik Mysterio had three **** matches from Meltzer in July. Next you’ll be telling me that Dave gave Tiffany Stratton vs Thea Hail over 3 stars
Whether El Hijo del Rey Mysterio getting three **** ratings from Dave Meltzer is proof that Dave overrates stuff in 2023 is a debate that is best served for discords and the like, what should be said is that Dominik’s best hits of July involved two tag matches with very good wrestlers in their holding his hand plus the NA Title match which was a Triple Threat which had Wes Lee and Mustafa Ali in it. To emphasise that point, Dominik’s highest Cagematch number in a 1 vs 1 match is a 7.53 in the Wrestlemania match against his father and every match above 6.0 in a singles environment from Dom has been vs either Sami Zayn, Rey, Seth Rollins and against Buddy Murphy.
The pair of matches themselves aren’t bad, they are good even if they were your basic formula WWE television tag matches.
The crowd helps Owens and Zayn vs Dominik and Priest even if a percentage of that heat is based on the fear that they are going to book Dom to beat very good wrestlers but credit to Sami/KO for their hot tag and especially Owens and how he is rather good at the hot tag ***¾
The match two weeks later with Seth Rollins replacing Kevin Owens due to Kevin’s injury was not as good. Overshadowed with the Money In The Bank exploits, which to be fair endorses the idea that Damian Priest was the right winner of the Ladder Match in London with the Judgement Day drama that has been a thread on RAW, some of the logic gaps that were obvious in Damian’s contemplation in cashing in during the match were detrimental to the contest ***¼
Next month, we might be looking at The SummerSlam (maybe a good Bret tribute from FTR is to call the upcoming Wembley PPV The All In) and probably a couple of events in London which I will be at (Rev Pro's Anniversary show and some event in Wembley which you might have heard about)