November in Star Ratings
It was a November to remember in professional wrestling with fans being treated to the once a quarter year occasion of an AEW PPV and one of the “big five” US WWE PPVs in the shape of Full Gear and Survivor Series.
Also add the Road to Wrestle Kingdom and many great matches from companies away from the big 3 and November was a busy month for those who rate and observe wrestling matches
November would be a weird month regarding the godfather of the star rating himself Dave Meltzer, who would go on vacation to the state of Hawaii during the month and would miss a week of publishing the Observer, the first missed week since September 2018 when he went to the city of Manchester to be a headline attraction at Wrestling Mediacon 2018. I'm guessing the weather in Hawaii was better, but does Hawaii have The Old Wellington?
So, let's look at the matches of November as per Cagematch and Dave Meltzer.
Tetsuya Naito vs Will Ospreay
In a year where the secondary titles have had a renaissance (ok, maybe not in AEW) Will Ospreay’s run as US champion has helped cement WIll as one of the best of the 2020’s and the main event of Battle Autumn helped cement Ospreay as one of Meltzer’s all-time favourites with the Naito match being Will’s 24th 5 star+ match just one off the leading total of Mitsuharu Misawa. With Will overtaking Misawa’s mark very likely barring anything insane happening, the question will be asked on whether Ospreay is the among the greatest to ever step into the squared circle.
As for the match itself, it’s great, not ***** great (****¾ from me) but something that deserves to be in contention for people's Top 10 MOTY lists when time comes for people to cast their vote next month, but it still didn’t stop Meltzer writing about Ospreay to sound like something from a Mills and Boon book.
After the match, Kyle Fletcher said that Ospreay was the greatest of all-time. Ospreay then said, “I’m so f***ing good” and the crowd clapped for him saying that.
No Dave, that was you clapping.
The weekend of the 19th/20th November saw Stardom do Stardom things not only on their own shows but on their brother companies show with Syuri and Utami Hayashishita producing another classic with KAIRI and Mayu Iwatani fighting it out for the IWGP Women’s title at Historic X Over
Syuri beat Utami Hayashishita in 28:14 to keep the World of Stardom title. This was an outstanding hard hitting very serious match. A lot of people have compared this series to Omega-Okada but it’s far more a harder hitting version of Brisco-Funk, and really the best comparison may be Tsuruta-Tenryu.
The parallels between Syuri/Utami and Tsuruta/Tenryu are interesting. Both series of matches are seen as generation shaping, maybe the hipster's choice and the right choice over something that had more eyeballs in the same period and maybe seen as the rivalry that changed the fortunes of the company they wrestled in.
KAIRI and Iwatani gave the IWGP women’s belt the start it deserved with a fantastic match and in doing so proved that KAIRI was wasted in her time in WWE.
While having to follow the in the footsteps of the great Banks/Bayley feud and Asuka’s memorable reign having to carry Shayna Bazler in her time in NXT, her time on the main roster saw her peak in the Performance Center portion of the Pandemic Era in hers and Asuka’s feud with Sasha Banks and Bayley. You feel after watching KAIRI wrestle this match that the “WWE playbook” holds back those that pass through the PC just like the England football team’s current generation is being held back by negative tactics (I typed this before the Senegal game so this might age well or badly)
With KAIRI’s win and the rumours that she’ll be spending time in the US defending the belt, with NJPW’s links with various US promotions, I for one am looking forward to seeing what KAIRI can do in this new phase of her career.
Logan Paul vs Roman Reigns
The second biggest sportswashing event of November 2022 saw Roman Reigns face Logan Paul in Saudi Arabia at the main event of Crown Jewel. The ****½ stars from Meltz saw this match as his WWE Match of the Month even though its 8.26 on Cagematch saw it at No.4 for the month regarding WWE matches.
*Fun trivia fact* The 4 and a half stars from Dave for this match means that Logan and Randy Orton now have the same amount of ****½ singles matches (1)
Paul came out with an energy drink in his hand so must have gotten a product placement deal.
Who had Dave Meltzer talking about Prime Hydration in the Observer (without actually knowing what it is) in their 2022 bingo?
Without wanting to move away from the subject of wrestling, I need to ask, are people who buy Prime Hydration for £15,000 on ebay marks? Especially when you can apparently get bottles of the drink from petrol stations in Altrincham for £2.99.
This is your typical Roman Reigns match. He's very good at being the larger-than-life tribal chief. He tells the story of the match great with his facials and his ring psychology is vastly underrated but like the majority of Roman Reigns matches since his heel turn in the summer of 2020 it feels like I watched this match in 0.75 speed (which was still faster than Jake Paul’s working punch) when in Roman’s control segment. Logan’s babyface fire turns the match back to normal speed and Logan is great in this match. Who had Logan Paul doing a particular wrestling move better than CM Punk in their 2022 bingo.
The main problem with this match is it falls into those bad habits that make the WWE style a difficult watch for me and others. Run-ins get entrance music, the AI-like crowd, the camera cuts which to be fair felt less seizure inducing than before Vince McMahon “retired”. It's very good but my metaphor about the WWE playbook feeling like the way Gareth Southgate sets up his England team feels even more true after watching this match. ****1/4
Usos vs New Day
When I saw the Cagematch rating for my mid-month prep without seeing the match beforehand, I got offended big style. “How has this match got a higher rating than The Rockers vs Orient Express match at Royal Rumble 1991” I thought and while after watching the match my reaction was this still isn't as good as the Rumble 91 match (seriously guys, watch this match) it's good just not 8.44 good. The match feels important with The New Day trying to prevent The Usos breaking their record of longest WWE tag title reign ever and their chemistry has always been good but even with a very neat out of nowhere finish it never feels like more than a ***3/4 star match in my eyes with the Hell in the Cell match between the pair of teams being better imho
(Rockers vs Orient Express- Royal Rumble 1991- ****½ if you're interested)
Brawling Brutes/Drew McIntyre/Kevin Owens vs The Bloodline
Team Belair vs Damage Control/Rhea Ripley/Nicki Cross
When Triple H took over as the head of creative after Vince McMahon’s “retirement” one of the most predictable things followers of wrestling and NXT in its prime expected to happen along with the rehire of Johnny Gargano and fights/attacks in parking lots was the emergence of the War Games match on main roster WWE.
With the NXT era of War Games ranging from good (Undisputed Era vs Team Ciampa) to great (Team Black and Gold vs Team 2.0) and the veterans in the match, expectations were high going into the night of Survivor Series. Unfortunately, the bell rang.
If you looked at my twitter during the Saturday of Survivor Series, you'd have seen me talk about my love of the 1991 and 1992 War Games matches and maybe watching those matches back-to-back in the afternoon of that day was akin to eating Tiger bread toast at the start of a breakfast, but the pair of War Games ended up feeling like eating supermarket brand porridge.
The Men's War Games match would have a storyline theme running through it enhancing one of the best storylines in wrestling in 2022 with Sami Zayn further pledging his allegiance to The Bloodline but would be held back by the babyface team of The Brawling Brutes having the man advantage (that’s not how you do War Games!) Online defence of this match layout included
“You had to have The Brutes have the advantage because of the Jey/Sami plot”
“Both matches with the heels having the advantage would have been repetitive”
“The Bloodline aren’t heels”
“Roman needed to be showcased as important entering last”
The problem with those arguments is that every good War Games has had the plot device of the babyfaces having to fight back and gain back momentum when they even the odds numerically and even with having Pete Dunne/Butch down and out on occasion to give The Bloodline the advantage it still felt off. If I was to compile a Tier List of War Games matches with 1992 on the S Tier, the Men’s 2022 match was on the lower end of B tier ***¾ (The 1992 War Games is ***** if you want a reference point)
And while the Men’s War Games had flaws aplenty, it could have been worse. It could have been the Women’s War Games match.
It was a match so bad; I watched the Team Hogan vs Dungeon of Doom War Games in 1995 as a palate cleanser. It was a match that put a magnifying glass on the faults of the women’s division of WWE in 2022. If watching the 1991 and 1992 War Games, full of intense babyface comebacks with the soundtrack of screaming fans was like a night out in the moshpit of a Korn concert then the Women’s War Games match was like an afternoon tea with the World’s Most Boring Priest Father Austin Purcell. The fact that the fans did not get into the match which was the opener of the night shows how not over the majority of the women in this match were and the overuse of weapons shows a) how little everyone trusted the audience to be into the heel control segments and b) how limited their brawling skills are. This War Games match nerd was not impressed at all **½
Tomohiro Ishii vs Chris Jericho
The Chris Jericho “Fountain of Youth” tour made its latest stop in Chicago for a match up with former ROH TV champ Tomohiro Ishii. In an adjustment to the Jericho vs former ROH World Champs story, former title holders of any ROH belt were added to the equation, probably to make sure we avoid seeing Jericho vs Matt Taven on our television screens (Jericho vs Iwatani should be great though). It would also mean we would get to see the likes of Ishii and Colt Cabana face Le Champion.
Ishii again would produce when needed to with the Thanksgiving Eve match being Ishii’s 108th match with a Cagematch rating of 8.00+ and the 77th with a Meltzer star rating of ****½ or over.
The match was an Ishii match. It’s two blokes hitting each other very hard. Ishii lands on his head a few times, he does something he’s never done before and then it gets a 8.00+/****½ rating. It was something out of a greatest hits album and with Ishii, his greatest hits are great. Ishii is one of my all-time favourites even if he isn’t Hall of Fame worthy (plug for my HOF ballot review series here) and watching the striking exchanges filled me with joy and I popped for the Codebreaker. Watching Jericho again give so much to an opponent is what makes Jericho so great and “The Fountain of Youth” tour so compelling. ****1/2
The Elite vs Death Triangle
Match 1 ****3/4 9.08
Match 2 ****1/4 8.33
Match 3 ****1/2 8.08
The return of The Elite, which to be honest from a character point of view was disappointing considering the vignettes that preceded it, has in-ring not been wayward.
The Full Gear match was wrestled in fifth gear, wrestled as if it was a one-off match with the feeling that the loser would have to work their way back up the rankings (or whatever criteria is used to signify who the next challengers will be) and it's worthy of the ****¾ rating from Dave Meltzer and the 9.08 rating from Cagematch which parallel to the ****¾ rating on the Meltzer scale.
The controversial finish, which you presume will be part of one of the underlining storylines for the December and January portion of the series, would lead to a Best of 7 series with The Death Triangle victory being retroactively added to the scoreboard, because Wrestling.
Match 2 would see what you presume would be the most unique environment of the series with the Chicago fans booing Omega and The Bucks for the heinous crime of being bitten by a backstage producer (let's see if Disco Inferno yells at us for that comment) While good, Match 2 feels overshadowed by The Elite and their mischievous sense of humour. While seeing the face/heels roles of the teams reversed made the match the estimated most unique amongst the expected seven matches, it in my eyes is the least best of the three so far but still ****¼ in my eyes.
Match 3 would see another diversion of match structure with the match coming across as a tornado rules match with the “party match” format that AEW has made its own in the past 3 years. While there was clunkiness at times (the moment when Kenny threw Penta into the ring to officially start the match felt weird for instance) the match woke up what was a very sleepy crowd in Indiana. The finish especially I enjoyed with the idea of The Elite pulling it out from what looked like an inevitable 3-0 deficit with Matt putting his feet up on PAC’s Black Arrow attempt and getting the pin on a knocked-out PAC. ****¾
December will likely be a quiet month with no WWE PLE, New Japan taking it easy before Wrestle Kingdom and AEW being dominated by the Match 4-6 of the Trios Best of 7 so we will be doing the first of some lookbacks to archive years in the history of wrestling starting with 1995 which happens to be the latest subject of the Wrestling Observer Yearbook, might skip King of the Ring 1995 in my research though