Welcome to the March edition of the Month In Star Ratings and with Wrestlemania taking place in the first two days of April, I have decided to include WWE’s biggest show of the year in this month’s writings and with two 5-star matches and a controversial end of the main event of Night 2 we have plenty to discuss.
Well, that’s Best Major Wrestling Show in the Observer sewn up then. (Note, I wrote this before watching Sakura Genesis)
Highest Rated Major Wrestling Cards (6 match minimum)
Hangman Page vs Jon Moxley
A fantastic use of the Texas Death Match rule set that has been adopted by AEW after its use in NJPW at Wrestle Kingdom 2020 for Moxley vs Archer saw Jon Moxley tap out after being hung by the Hangman making him the first to submit in this rule set tweak from the Last Man Standing rules usually seen in WWE. I talk about the finish in detail in our roundtable discussing Revolution so look for that in our archives.
The violence in this match is almost indescribable but it’s not violence for violence sake. Acts of revenge with Barbed Wire, Moxley going back to memories from assaults from rivals when used a curb stomp on a brick, a rivalry that is just as much about toxic masculinity than anything else saw Page and Mox go to the limit with the savagery thought up by both guys but it would be Hangman that proved that he was just as much a sick guy than his rival. *****
MJF vs Bryan Danielson
I said two months ago when writing about Omega vs Ospreay that if any match would be better that match it would contend to be one of the GOAT matches. Man, MJF/Danielson almost made it.
Let’s get the negative out of the way and it’s one small negative, while the exchange of a MJF low blow into two pinfalls that put Maxwell from 1-0 down to 2-2 was a really nice story point, the lack of communication i.e. no announcement from Justin Roberts leading to some initial confusion takes the match away from my S Tier and maybe even in my personal Top 10 ever, but this match is in my Top 20 ever and contends with the AEW Revolution 2019 match of The Young Bucks vs Hangman and Omega as the companies best match so far in my opinion.
The story told in this match is simple yet executed brilliantly. MJF with hate in his body for Danielson for not only for having something he pines for, a content family life but also the appreciation of being the best wrestler in the world. An insecure MJF who yells at the camera daring Meltzer to deduct a star on the match because he threw a drink at a kid and not vote for him to win Best Technical Wrestler (hot take but drinking tequila in the presence of your child does not seem to be Parent of the Year material) shows that he is a really wants to be seen as a great wrestler and he does show it even if he isn’t Danielson great.
The swigs of water, the dependence of oxygen showed a man struggling to keep up with one of wrestling’s greatest and with both on their knees in the ring with 5 to go, one was in tears , one had a smile as big as the Golden Gate Bridge but the one smiling would run out of time five minutes later.
MJF would take the short cut we all expected him to take. The schadenfreude we’re all waiting for will have to come another day but to see MJF get a 5-star match from Dave Meltzer was weirdly gratifying for me especially after his Meltzer star rating comment earlier in the match.
Kenny Omega vs El Hijo Del Vikingo
Despite the handicap of no-one knowing who El Hijo Del Vikingo was, according to Raj Giri, two of the best wrestlers in the world somehow pulled out one of the best matches of the year, getting the 5 star treatment from Dave Meltzer and a 9.00+ from Cagematch.
You can read my thoughts on the opening moments of the match in my Moment of the Week entry from two weeks ago about the power of the first impression and how it played a role in how the match works but what needs to be mentioned regarding this match is Kenny’s giving. ****3/4
Kenny helps Vikingo come across as the star he is to the portion of the audience that may not know Vikingo is. Taking the springboard poisionrana, the dragonrana to the outside and the 630 through the table, Kenny made his opponent look like the human highlight reel that us wrestling nerds were preaching to the casuals that Vikingo is and while Kenny won, Vikingo got the showing he deserved and with the AAA Mega Champion taking the loss, a rematch only makes sense with AAA being the best promotion being the……
Hang on, does that mean I might have to watch Omega/Viking II with the gnarly yellow backup with adverts annihilating the senses with commentary blasting over the PA drowning out the crowd noise from the paying spectators?
Saya Kamitani vs Hazuki
Kamitani and Hazuki had an excellent well-timed technically strong match that is generally considered as the best Stardom match, and by that token, the best women’s match so far this year
I agree with Meltzer’s writing regarding this match being the best women's match of the year so far. Kamitani and Hazuki did everything great from the chain wrestling early to the big moves/near falls and had my favourite strike exchange in a while. ****3/4
Shingo Takagi vs Aaron Henare- Ultimate Triad
I don't know what the bigger shock is. Aaron Henare is in this series, that the Vince Russo Title, Sorry I mean the KOPW Title has a second airing in this series or that this broke the scale?
In the midst of a WrestleMania weekend full of action and the event being a Road To..... event, you'd be forgiven for not yet taking in this match. When doing my twice a week check on Cagematch scores, my first two presumptions were that a) very good April Fools joke and b) there's a lot of Aaron Henare stans out there but with a new stipulation in which the winner is decided by getting all three of a pinfall, submission and knockout in any order, Henare and Takagi pulled out a very entertaining match building on the drama that such a ruleset can build.
The attritional nature of the match which Kevin Kelly did forecast early also helped the drama and Shingo Takagi might be a Top Five wrestler in the world just on the basis that he has made a title that made some fans believe that Gedo had turned into Vince Russo somewhat interesting.
My only faults with the match was the lack of use of the No-DQ aspect of the rules beside the crowd brawl early and the clichéd end of the 10-count finish.
My main takeaway of this match though was that I'd really like to see what Bryan Danielson could do with this ruleset ****1/4
The irony is that in WWE’s quest to monopolise the pro wrestling industry, they have inadvertently created a Glastonbury of pro wrestling in the shape of WrestleMania Weekend with the likes of GCW, Impact and RoH running shows on this particular weekend.
Unfortunately the advertised lineups would have to change with Will Ospreay (injury reasons) and Davey Richards (for being a scumbag reasons) pulling out of their bookings and their matches against Speedball Bailey and Jon Moxley no longer on the schedule. As I don't want to threaten to break my self-imposed word count limit below is a list of the best matches according to Meltzer and Cagematch voters.
Castagnoli vs Kingston felt like the grudge match it was built to be and while Eddie didn't get the chance to "finish his story", part of the Kingston charm is that Eddie Kingston may not know the end of his story yet.
El Hijo Del Vikingo's March ended with two crackers involving Komander with thoughts being that a rivalry with those two being a potential classic in the mold of Okada/Tanahashi.
The Reach For The Sky Ladder Match involving Aussie Open, Top Flight, Lucha Bros, The Kingdom and Dralistico/Rush would have got from me for being 5-stars had Dante Martin not suffered his horrific injury which put a cloud over the match.
Kota Ibushi's comeback was a highlight of The Collective but judging if Ibushi is back to being Ibushi should only be made when he faces people who are better than Joey Janela.
Whoa, whoa Wrestlemania (if you got that reference congratulations on being as old as me)
The Showcase of the Immortals
The Granddaddy of Them All
The Return of the Sex Pests
OK maybe the last one isn't real even if it should be. But in a Wrestlemania season more eagerly awaited than many in the last 10 years. WWE pulled out one last great album before Endeavour took the reins. Now let me watch Cody beat Roman before I fully write up all the highs of Wrestlemania 39
(40 minutes later) What the hell!!!!!!
Before I write about what was maybe the most insane booking decision in wrestling history, yes worse than EVIL winning the IWGP World Title. Let's talk about the plus points of the Wrestlemania 39
Charlotte Flair vs Rhea Ripley
It would have been the most physical match of the weekend had Gunther, Drew and Sheamus gone "hold my beer" the next night. While talk of it being the match of night 1 is not right considering the main event and with too many moments of NXT shocked face and NXT contemplating happening in the second half of the match, talk of Flair/Ripley II being the best women's match in main roster WWE history isn't far off the mark (my personal choice is Belair/Banks at WM 37) ****½
After the match, Flair was on the floor with a big smile on her face even though losing, I guess because she realized she was in a match with so much heat.
Or maybe Charlotte realised that it was her last day of work before going on a break.
With Charlotte missing seven of the last twelve months and it not because of an injury and she is apparently off on another break after Wrestlemania, you have to ask whether Charlotte's time in wrestling is nearing the end of the tunnel and if so where does she rank among the best east of the Pacific Ocean. Based on her performance on April 1, she has to under consideration for the S-Tier. Flair was majestic on this night. It was a performance that made you ask why Charlotte gets the criticism she does from some. Claims she is overpushed seems weird after nights like that. She may never live up to her dad's talents but Ric is one of many people's first picks for wrestling's Mt. Rushmore. Charlotte's abilities shouldn't be doubted when you look at her body of work with WrestleMania 39 Night 1 being some of her best work.
Usos vs Sami Zayn/Kevin Owens
One of the fun things with Babyface Sami is his lack of poker face on big occasions from his look of admiration at Shinsuke Nakamura before their NXT match to Sami's grinning face before the Mania tag match absorbing the moment they were about to be in.
While I probably didn't love the first half as much as others, the second half of the tag title contest once KO went through the announce table was the best tag team wrestling I've seen in a WWE ring with The Usos being brilliant bully heels and while Sami being a great face is as obvious as Tottenham Hotspur pressing the self-destruct button, KO doesn't get enough talk about being a fantastic babyface. Now they are champs, let's hope it stays like this for awhile and we get no betrayals for a long time yet. But Vince is back so probably not ****3/4
Gunther vs Drew McIntyre vs Sheamus
In a three way between an Austrian slapper and a pair of Banger Bros that didn't have my Google algorithm judging me for once, the three Europeans gave as a great match as you have seen in a WWE ring in the last decade even without the happy ending Irish and Scottish WWE fans wanted (This Englishman was very happy on the consideration that I really want Gunther to break The Honky Tonk Man's longest IC Title reign record)
As happy as I am that Gunther got what will be his biggest payday ever (especially since Endeavour are involved now) and wrestled in front of such a big live audience, never have I wanted a match to take place at The Electric Ballroom more than this match. It's minimalism is what makes this so freaking great
How hard hitting was it? How much fun was it to watch? It was for me the best Men's WWE match since the Roman/Brock/Braun/Joe 4-Way in 2017 and was so close to getting 5 stars from me but it didn't hit my perfect mark due to the moment where Drew pulled Sheamus out of the ring at the count of 2 and it was hinted that it was an act of betrayal when it just an act of a man trying to win a wrestling match. ****3/4
Roman Reigns vs Cody Rhodes
The Cagematch rating was the product of fans being pissed that Cody lost and Dave's rating is a product of him overrating the modern product (according to some) the honest truth was it's somewhere in the middle.
On one hand, this match was great, nice slow build to a the end, well paced. It wasn’t only the question of Reigns winning, but more this felt like the exact same thing they did with Drew McIntyre, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn with the ref bump and layers of interference. If you are comparing this to a book or movie, it would be doing the exact same chapter, with the exact same fight scene, just with different protagonists, over and over
Dave described this match better than I ever could. ****
Now let's talk the call of Roman winning
I said last month in this column that Sami Zayn had to lose because Cody had to win the Big Logo belt. How did that work out?
Life is about timing and the time was right for Roman to lose his titles at Sofi Stadium. During the week leading into Wrestlemania Cody would do the media tour promoting the event he was main eventing and he looked every bit the Champion that would carry the company on his shoulders post Mania. It makes the loss even more bizarre.
Some people have used the "getting your heart broken and then winning the big one" booking template to justify the decision for Roman to go over, but when was the last time someone lost the big title match and then won the belt a second time of asking and came out better for it?
The three WWE/F wrestlers in the Top 10 Box Office of All Time as adjudicated by Meltzer and Matt Farmer (Hulk Hogan, John Cena and Bruno Sammartino) all won the World Title at their first attempt when on the babyface side of the WWE roster. That's not a coincidence.
"Finish the story" was a theme for Cody Rhodes and his comeback from his injury and despite the insistence from Triple H and those in the wrestling media that refuse to criticise WWE that WrestleMania was not the end of the story even in the never ending story of wrestling the end of this chapter ended giving many a lack of appetite for next chapter. You kind of felt that Cody Rhodes is bit "Spursy" after WrestleMania and that's not what you want from your super babyfaces.