The Best of 2023: February | Cagematch 9+ Matches with In-ring Statistics/Analysis.
Welcome back to our stock-piling of The Best matches from 2023, this time adding and looking at February's offerings. The year's matches are all ranked via their Cagematch rating and qualify if they achieve a Cagematch rating of 9+ after 100 votes.
Due to his influence on the audience's watching habits and the attention he receives after every rating, you will find the 9+ rated matches from this list cross-referenced with their WON rating as rated by Dave Meltzer below:
1. Kenny Omega vs Will Ospreay - Wrestle Kingdom 17
Cagematch - 9.78
WON - 6.25*
GRAPPL - 4.91 (Highest rated match on the app)
The greatest match of all time? Probably not, but it does sit at number one on GRAPPL; although only 395 people have voted on it compared to the 1652 that have voted on Omega/Okada 1 on GRAPPL. Additionally, it sits at number 7 in Cagematch with 879 votes. So it may drop over time, if GRAPPL can get it's users voting as much as they once did.
I've written about Omega vs Ospreay in a separate article here, where I discuss my confusion around why I didn't experience this as one of the greatest matches on all time in the manner which the vast vast majority of viewers did.
2. Kazuchika Okada vs Shingo Takagi - NJPW New Beginning '23
Cagematch - 9.43
WON - 4.75*
GRAPPL - 4.61
This was a well received match that really peaked towards the end in true Okada-style. It's also a big part of the 2023 Okada-story that is seeing him adopt a less patient approach to his challengers, instead he is wrestling in a more aggressive and dismissive manner. This match combined that with a traditional Okada closing stretch where the two top-tier athletes struggled for dominance, what was special about this match's closing stretch is that it lasted 10 minutes.
Our In-ring Statistics and Analysis highlight the large chunks of the match that were Takagi-driven; in fact Okada did not get the most offence in three consecutive minutes of this match at any time. His attitude and hard hitting offence, when he was hitting his offence, meant that he could take loads of offence from Takagi and still seem strong.
3. Kento Miyahara/Takuya Nomura vs Naoya Nomura/Yuma Aoyagi - AJPW Giant Series
Cagematch - 9.4
WON - 4.75*
GRAPPL - 4.46
This match rocks, and I say that as somebody whose most recent All Japan match that they have watched is from the late 90s. I'm not up to date with the wrestlers or the storylines but I found this match to be a very welcome breath of fresh air in my wrestling viewing.
It's an incredibly action packed; strike and strikedown heavy, match built around a furious exchange of reversals and tide changes. Neither team spends extended time selling for their opponents. Instead, both teams sell in short bursts before exploding back onto offence, creating an intense struggle for dominance that sees a dramatic face-off between Aoyagi and Miyahara.
4. Bryan Danielson vs Rush - AEW Dynamite: 8th February '23
Cagematch - 9.08
WON - 4.75*
GRAPPL - 4.36
The sole AEW match on the list thus far and what a match it was. AEW are yet to have a PPV this year so it needs a special match to break through the confines of TV wrestling and compete with less constricted PPV matches. This match had stakes via Danielson needing to beat Rush to earn his match with MJF at Revolution.
When looking at the stats, you will notice that there is not a huge amount of variation in how the wrestlers fought; it was very strike heavy with a small smattering of grapples and dives. This allowed the match to stand out as different in itself, but it was the intensity and the manner of the match that elevated it. Rush's viscousness, intensity and brutality coupled with Danielson's fire, tenacity and blood were the key to this match's greatness.
5. Kaito Kiyomiya vs Kenoh - NOAH The New Year 2023.
Cagematch - 9.06
WON - 4.5*
GRAPPL - 4.35
The return of NOAH to critically acclaimed in-ring brilliance? I certainly how so but reports of a giant contract being offered to Hiroshi Hase, could be seen as a sign that the 61 year old may be the next nostalgia cash cow for NOAH. Hopefully the company realises that doing so so soon after the Mutoh retirement tour may be a bit much.
This was a match that built big moments such as big dives and that Top-rope Falcon Arrow onto the apron built around strong strike exchanges. This was a strongly contested match where both men had periods of advantage, Kenoh got more in overall but Kiyomiya took control at the end and very much put Kenoh away strongly.
6. Kazuchika Okada vs Kaito Kiyomiya - NOAH Keiji Muto Grand Finale
Cagematch - 9.03
WON - 4.75*
GRAPPL - 4.33
This match was performed in a way that was much closer than most people felt after viewing. Okada may have made a mockery of Kiyomiya at the beginning and then completely demolished him at the end of the match, however Kiyomiya got the best of Okada for most of the middle ten minutes of the match. This led to a 52-48% split in total offence in Kiyomiya's favour.
This was a short match, relatively speaking, showcasing Okada's disdain towards Kiyomiya. Kiyomiya's response was explosive seeing him use 15 strikedowns which was an almost 40% Strikedown Rate. Okada's superiority over Kiyomiya was characterised by using powerful grapples, the kind of offence that leads to the viewer remembering such powerful spots.
In short this was a short 16 minute match, that was unusual in structure and character, that achieved a lot.
This is a monthly series, check back in for our March edition in a month's time. You can check what the list looked like in January here, but all the content of that list is included in the article above.
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