Half the year is complete and it's been alright hasn’t it. Nothing has gone completely wrong (knock on wood), all of us got tickets for All In, it feels like New Japan is back and we got two contenders for the Rushmore of wrestling matches.
So with June over, we will of course look at the best of June with AEW and NJPW joining forces for Forbidden Door, New Japan’s second biggest show of the year (if we’re discounting the G1) and AEW putting on big Dynamites but as a bonus we’ll look at the best that Money In The Bank offered on the first day of July.
Once again, I say the following words “Well, that's Major Show of the Year won” again.
Or has Forbidden Door won it for a second consecutive year?
When I write my Review of the 2023 Observer Awards in 8 months time, I will contend that any show that had the winner of biggest dumpster fire of 2023 (the 6-man) which is saying something considering Tottenham’s first 20 minutes against Newcastle United happened probably shouldn't win but away from that particular match, man, what a show.
Oops they did it again. *****
Kenny and Will only went and produced not only another MOTY contender but a contender for the Rushmore of GOAT matches.
Cagematch's Top 10 Matches of 2023
From the blood and Will being the aggressor this time round with the match being a brawl focusing on only a select few items to unleash the violence to Ospreay channelling his inner Shawn Michaels with the Maple Leaf flag, Will acknowledging the "You sick f**k" chants with a simple "yup" showed some terrific character work even if he couldn't help but live up to his "simpleton" reputation with his Crossface reference on the 16th anniversary weekend of that horrible period with the Toronto crowd dumping on it and kudos to the crowd for paying tribute to the victim of that sickening act of violence from you know who.
I talk about the kick outs from Kenny from the Stormbreaker and the One Winged Angel in our #AEWeekly roundtable in detail but what a moment that was.
The discourse of the Tiger Driver 91 has been interesting and because wrestling twitter the debate hasn't exactly been nuanced but it doesn't mean both sides aren't wrong.
As someone who is unashamed in his love for Kenny, the longer he's healthy, the better my experience as a modern day wrestling fan is. As a fan of Kings Road era of AJPW, seeing Mitsuharu Misawa taking the head drops he would take knowing what would happen in 2009 isn't a pretty watch. To be the counterpoint, Misawa did live a completely different lifestyle out of the ring than Kenny does and Misawa's overall health might have slightly contributed to his "decapitation" those head drops he took weakened him to the point that 13/6/2009 would be on of the darkest days in wrestling history.
While we don't want to be totalitarian and tell others how to wrestle and yes, accidents can happen in the most mundane spots (youtubers Savox's Most Horrific Moments on Live TV video include 4 incidents in wrestling and 3 of them came from simple spots gone wrong) not all members of the so-called "safety police" aren't being members because they are Helen Lovejoy cosplayers but some people have mentioned their worry about the Tiger Driver because they want Kenny to be in good health and OK down the line and as someone who is one of those people, I guess that makes me a member of the safety police.
Also, would the match have been ***** without that spot? In my eyes, yes.
Whilst NJPW, AJPW and NOAH working together on a show isn't a first time deal with a similar event happening a decade ago to raise money for the victims of the earthquake/tsunami in Tohoku, this time round it feels very different with All Japan talent heading to the N-1 tournament and Kaito Kiyomiya being in the G1. The main event of this match would see talents from all promotions compete in a 6-man and see Kazuchika Okada address one of his main enemies in Kiyomiya in what could be a dark horse for the WON Feud of the Year. Okada channelled his inner Jumbo Tsuruta once again with Kiyomiya being great in his need to get revenge for his humiliation in their match in February. The Okada interactions with Kento Miyahara, the current day AJPW ace was also fun.
As an All Star match it certainly felt more like a 90’s NBA All Star match than a current day offering from the National Basketball Association. ****1/2
The month of June would see two multi-man tags compete for the honour of being the second best match of June (or third if you really loved Danielson vs Okada)
In the delirium in the announcement of Danielson vs Okada at Dominion in the post-match activities, the match preceded it has already been forgotten. It was a match that hit.
We got Mox and Ishii butting heads literally, we got the latest edition of Okada and Shota firing rounds at each other, we got Claudio and Okada (which is a low-key dream match), we got Claudio and Ishii squaring off and we got Tanahashi and Umino (they need to have a singles match which Shota should win) this was a joyous experience for anyone watching.
This is probably going to be the final 5-star match we will get from Hiroshi Tanahashi whose knees are in worse condition than a pothole ravaged road and it feels like the end is nigh for the Ace unless he gets a major knee operation which in itself is going to take time out of Hiroshi's career.
Huh, I see that Will Ospreay is now the standalone No.1 in the Meltzer 5-star plus charts I'm sure twitter didn't overreact to that.
Pro Wrestling should be fun and matches like this are the definition of fun *****
But was this better than the Forbidden Door 10-man?
The word party match gets bounded about a lot. Well, this was the equivalent to blasting 90’s r’n’b tunes in your friends apartment dancing with the summer heat blaring through the window (I may have been dancing like Daniel Garcia that night)
The Takeshita/Ishii exchanges were unbelievable and left you wanting more, the Kingston/Moxley lore would continue (the small touch of all other 8 combatants getting off the apron during the chopping battle was magnificent), the forearm from Page to Konosuke and then the all-round chaos that flowed through he match made this another joyous contest in this month. *****
I wouldn't be surprised if both the Dominion 6-man and the FD 10-man were very close together in ranking in the Voices of Wrestling MOTY poll but for me, the Elite/Chaos/Kingston coalition vs The Blackpool Combat Club/Callis Family axis was the better match, just.
But if you think the NJPW trios match was better and the Cagematch voters and Meltzer are of that view, I’m not going to argue. If the NJPW match ranks higher on the MOTY polls, I won’t be giving out a shocked expression but as of now both matches are on my provisional Top 10 polling with the Forbidden Door match ranking higher.
But I think we can all agree that the fan who displayed a “Lazy Booking” sign at the start of the 10-man probably felt really stupid after the match.
MJF vs Cole was a really lovely professional wrestling match. The limb work on Cole’s arm complete with Adam’s selling (Adam’s sell of MJF’s table elbow is so good) with the ongoing story of MJF’s knee also slightly playing into the match. Cole really got to show what a great babyface he is. We are so used to seeing Adam as the heel during his critically acclaimed runs in ROH and NXT that he was a great good guy in the early bits of his career (get your hands on the Cole vs O’Reilly Hybrid Rules in ROH to see young face Adam Cole just being awesome)
With a new twist on the “Guerrero spot” and Bryce Remsburg catching MJF with the diamond ring, the story of MJF’s luck potentially running out played out brilliantly with the fact that it actually hadn’t.
Without wanting to sound like JR on his podcast but time limits in wrestling are brilliant. They are a great story telling device when done right and on this night it was done perfectly. You came out of this match with the wish that you get a rematch between the pair and even if we have to get through their Parejas Increible period of this story, the rematch will be great and hopefully will be at All In. ****1/2
Post-note: I actually want to see MJF and Cole win the Blind Eliminator after watching the 5th July Dynamite 1st round match and face and beat FTR for the tag titles in what will be the greatest Wembley moment in the stadium's history even beating England's World Cup victory.
HungBucks vs Moxley/Claudio/Yuta would end up being overshadowed by the angle afterwards with all the chaos afterwards being very similar to very early days of Dynamite but solely focusing on the match, it was a ****1/4 Dynamite match. It weirdly sounds like I'm criticising the match when I say that but I actually am not. It was really good but when Moxley and Claudio wrestle in two contenders for the MOTY Top Ten in June alone and the other four wrestled in one, comparing this match to the Dominion and Forbidden Door matches, this match is 0.75 shy of the pair of 5-star matches I mentioned above.
How many people in a Steel Cage Match is too many?
I think we found the answer out at Stardom Sunshine. Rating this as wrestling match, this was good. It was ****¼ good. But while watching this felt like something for the Stardom Lore Lovers and that's awesome. For a company like Stardom in which factions are such a heavy part of their storytelling device, this match would have been great in the Queen's Quest/Odeo Tai story but for this so casual that I only watch matches when Cagematch tells me to watch fan, this was 12 people having a cage match with stakes which were very important for those that follow the weekly goings on but was a struggle for me. NGL though the teased heel turn moment with Saya Kamitani and Utami Hayashishita which turned out not to be one was very “cinema”
Big meaty men doing big meaty men things. What was there not to like about this. Especially the Okabayashi/Ishikawa exchanges. While all four aren’t the spring chickens they were a decade ago with Okabayashi taking an extended break after this match, it was evident that they were having fun doing what they do best. Being big meaty men doing big meaty men things ****1/2
This Heavyweights vs Junior Heavyweights tag contest’s David vs Goliath match structure worked well with the bully/underdog dynamic being easy fodder for the Ota Gymnasium crowd to eat up. If Rising HAYATO doesn’t break out and become a big star then either AJPW has done something wrong (and with All Japan’s history with Junior Heavys, that is a good bet) or Rising has taken bad advice or is a very loyal soldier because you can see New Japan making a bid for HAYATO down the line. ****1/4
Great Atmosphere- Check
Logan Paul is in the match- Check
It wasn't the Women's MITB Match- Check
That's why this match got ****½ from Dave.
Seriously, next time you see Uncle Dave get yelled at by a @wordloadofnumbers account on twitter about being anti-WWE just show them Dave’s review of this match.
It was a WWE ladder match. Cool spots, people climbing slowly up the ladder and people being mad about who won and the decision makers of WWE playing into it with the finish. But unique to a WWE ladder match was something not going to plan. The Ricochet/Logan Paul table spot wasn't as talked about as that Tiger Driver mainly because the twitter discourse sucks but it's insanity was matched by how rubbish the seconds before the Spanish Fly were. The finish itself was good even though it was an exercise in trolling by the higher ups with the teasing of Knight winning but the eventual end getting heat. ***3/4
Going into the match the battle between fans and opinionators on whether it should be LA Knight or Logan Paul who should win, everyone forgot about the sensible storybeat pick in Damian Priest. The likely Judgement Day break up will see Priest’s briefcase play a part in the ongoing tensions between Priest and Finn Balor and while the lovechild of Steve Austin and The Rock is over like rover right now with WWE fans, the road map to a World Title match win for TAFKA Eli Drake feels like it's not at its final destination for the Yeah man and thats taking on the fact that he might not be actually a main event guy. A US Title win for LA sounds good though. Certainly would be a better option than Austin Theory. 99% of Planet Earth would be a better option tbf. Regards Logan Paul, I'm not saying his overness is lesser than it was around the time of Crown Jewel last year (or whatever the autumn Saudi show was called) but his Prime drink was so rarer to find than a date for yours truly that you could only find it in service stations in Altrincham back in October 2022 but you can now find Prime in Sainsburys and it's own brand pizza seems to be selling better judging by what isn't in my freezer right now. So yeah, Damian Priest was the right pick.
Just slightly inferior to the Men’s, mainly because it felt like it was wrestled at lesser mph than the men's. It's finish was creative and fantastic (even if Io had to do the “take it all in” moment instead of urgently climbing the ladder when she had the initiative) and there were some great performances (Zelina and Io deserve some dap) you also feel it was a lost opportunity with the Becky having to address her enemies with her former rivals Damage Control joining Trish and Zoe in the match and The Man having to rely on Zelina, someone she has had little interaction with in WWE to help her but of course it didn't happen because WWE and nuanced storytelling isn't a thing in Titanland ***3/4
Speaking of nuanced storytelling and people insisting things are nuanced storytelling.
London would be the host of BLOODLINE CIVIL WAR!!!!!! But after the longest half hour in pro wrestling history the Roman Reigns/Solo Sikoa vs Usos match felt more like Thor: The Dark World than any version of Civil War.
When Reigns got in with Jey, Paul Heyman said, “He’s trying to make it so your sons eat at his table.” Sikoa did the nerve hold on Jey. Reigns at one point said, “England is the dumbest place of all-time, a bunch of idiots.” Dave Meltzer
While Roman was channelling his inner Glenn McGrath with rants like the above, we would still get the “Divorce is a four letter word”-esque one man performance from Roman and while the final third of this match was quite good, the first two thirds were awful with Roman being the only thing keeping the match afloat with his pouting when the crowd were heckling him. ***¾
It would be the first pinfall loss for Roman since Baron Corbin pinned Reigns in December 2019 (if you told me that when the Usos and Roman were involved in that dog food angle with Baron that they would be involved in such a ratings draw I'd have asked for a drugs test to be administered) and that trivia fact is illustration to why it had to take Sami Zayn to save this angle. There have been moments when Roman should have pinned (Cody at Wrestlemania, the 6-man at Wrestlemania Backlash last year) and it ended up being something from inside the Anoa'iVerse that saw the first Roman loss from even before we had heard the words Coronavirus and to be fair, it was an big pop when Reigns finally got pinned but you have to put that pop on Zayn and his work in making the Bloodline story what it has been back in the autumn of 2022
So does that make Sami the WWE MVP?
July will see the start of the G1, the 3rd annual Blood and Guts and judging Cagematch I might need to review The Creeds vs The Schism as well.
I will be reviewing the G1 in a separate article so with wrestling’s no. 1 tournament and the Women's Football World Cup, sleep is going to be optional this July/August.