Welcome to another installment of the Top 5 Matches of the Week. Last week, we had a much closer vote than I was anticipating. NXT: Takeover War Games Aleister Black vs Velveteen Dream barely edged out the actual War Games match. If people didn’t already have enough reason to watch NXT, that should just add to the bullet points.
The holiday weekend put a crunch on my free time, so I wasn’t able to watch as much as I’d like, but this should be a fair assessment of things.
5. Dragon Gate: Memorial Gate in Sendai: Open the Owari Gate Championship Match: Ryo Saito vs “Hollywood” Stalker Ichikawa
This is Jim Cornette’s least favorite concept in the world. That’s because Owari is the Japanese word for Comedy, so there is an entire belt and division built around pure comedy spots. Hell the winner of the match doesn’t matter, because the end is voted upon by the audience. So the champion is the person with the most audience approval.
This match was wonderfully ridiculous, and had most comedy spots that even the Western fan are used to. The ref gets involved, there’s obvious cooperation for comedic effect and even moments when the two competitors applaud or show support for the other’s efforts.
Ryo Saito ends up going over with a very goofy bunny hop, dead fish belly flop/splash after an assist by the referee. He even wins the audience approval, so even though Ichikawa is an Enzo level wrestler, he is the most decorated Owari Gate champion, so you’d have to figure this is seen as an upset of sorts.
Not everyone’s cup of tea, but most of the DDT Pro Wrestling clips see some viral fame, so this falls right in line with that kind of thing. It’s not good wrestling, but it’s great entertainment if you can remove the “old school” precepts of a worked fight.
Ranking: Silver I
4. Dragon Gate: Memorial Gate in Sendai: Ben-K vs Susumu Yokosuka
In a rather inconsequential mid card match, this one really sticks out. The entire card was multi-man matches except this, and the comedy match we previously covered.
This was what you would expect from a Japanese style match. It starts off slow and deliberate, but ends with a lot of very stiff and very big moves. Ben-K went for his finisher Ben-K Bomb a few times, but just couldn’t pull it off. After a nice strong style spot, Yokosuka hits a high impact sliding lariat for the win out of no where.
At just under 15 minutes, match wasn’t terribly long, but it felt like it built nicely and there was no one wasted movement. For people that don’t like multi-man matches much, this was a bright spot and shows that Ben-K is a star of the future for Dragon Gate.
Ranking: Gold IV
3. New Japan: World Tag League Day 8: Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay vs Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi
Well this doesn’t bode well for the Tag League, when the main event isn’t a tag league match…and blew all of them out of the water this day.
This match is to help build the tension for the respective Tokyo Dome matches at Wrestle Kingdom 12, and as long as you’re partially aware of the storyline, this match definitely moved things along nicely. Naito openly mocked Okada, and disrespected Ospreay and his manager Gedo. As for the story between Hiromu and Will, it was a lot of both of them posturing to try and prove they were the elite junior heavyweight.
Every wrestler got most of their moves in, and each wrestler had multiple counter moves, establishing all four as top guys in the two divisions. We see the match end with Hiromu and Naito dumping Okada to the outside, Hiromu distracts Ospreay and Naito hits a beautiful running Destino. He then does one more Destino for good measure while Hiromu keeps Okada away and Naito picks up the pinfall.
While this is well below the level we’ll see at Wrestle Kingdom, the match was still good and very entertaining. As a harbinger of things to come, this is a beautiful warning sign.
Ranking: Gold III
2. Raw: Intercontinental Championship Match: Roman Reigns vs The Miz
The whole segment leading up to this was fantastic. Regins being the one to comment about the crowd’s Miz flavored chant as well as Roman acting dejected that he might not be a Shield member with a championship and Seth points out ever so positively “look, Miz has one”.
Even though the build wasn’t traditional, the crowd was white hot for both wrestlers. If the rumors are true where Miz will be off TV soon to go film The Marine 6, he’s gonna have to come back as a face or at least tweener with how over he’s been the last few months. But the real story is Houston loves Roman Reigns, and it really helped to make the match more enjoyable. People will be hard pressed to hate on the match when the work was solid and the crowd was popping off for both guys.
Reigns going over is nice since a lot of people complained he never worked his way up and was just gifted the WWE Title because of his bloodline. Roman has been doing better character work this year and as long as he remembers to bring the Intercontinental Belt with him, this reign could be something nice. I’m looking forward to Champion vs Champion at WrestleMania 34, ala WrestleMania VI.
1. NXT: UK Championship Match: Pete Dunne vs Johnny Gargano
Neither of these two put on a terrible match, but the question really arises with Gargano’s direction. Are they just trying to build him up as the typical underdog face to get the fans to sympathize with him?
Well that question gives away the finish, but the match was still very well worked. The match psychology was nice where it got over the fact that Dunne is a heel (with the biting the fingers spot) and Gargano, even though his a babyface, he’s not above taking legal advantage of a situation (when he realized Dunne’s mouthpiece was out and super kicked him in the jaw).
Dunne looks like a vulnerable, but resilient champion who will find a way to win. He got clever to Gargano’s stuff and cut him off to hit his Bitter End finisher. It wasn’t as good as Dunne’s matches with Tyler Bate, but in this weird week, it was good enough to top the rankings.
Ranking: Gold II
Hopefully this is a list that most people can find something to enjoy, and aside from the Dragon Gate matches, the rest are pretty easy to find. My choice for match of the week goes to Roman Reigns vs The Miz for the IC Title, hot crowd with the belt on the line and good work, hard for me to overlook it. Plus it made Roman Reigns are WWE Grand Slam champion…so it’s even more historic, in a sense.
The rest of The Chairshot personalities get to weight in on these matches, so let’s see what happens. We might get another super close vote like last week.