Last week’s match to receive the most votes, is actually a first since we’ve been doing this article. It really says something, that people who normally have no love for Impact, still recognized that Redemption was something special. Winner of our vote last week, Heavyweight Championship Triple Threat: Austin Aries vs Pentagon Jr vs Fenix @ Redemption.
This week we have the two Block deciding days for All Japan, as well as the Road to Wrestling Dontaku shows. Some familiar names still managed to squeak in to the Top 5 though. Let’s see what we’ve got to work with this week.
5. ROH Bound by Honor Tag Team Titles: The Briscoes (c) vs Motor City Machine Guns
Well the Briscoes are the most decorated tag team in ROH, and after winning the titles last month, this is the Guns rematch.
The match starts off with Sabin saying that he knows this match can go either way, but if the Guns fall short, that may be the end of the team. Crowd reaction was strongly in support of the MCMG and didn’t like Sabin’s declaration. From that point forward, we had a really solid match, that you would expect from two veteran teams that know each other a bit.
Shelley gets beat up for a good portion of the match, and Sabin gets the hot tag. The momentum is shifting nicely to the Guns, but then we have a sequence where both teams go back and forth stopping the tandem finishers. Made in Detroit got blocked, as well as a Doomsday Device.
As we hit the ending sequence it was a little odd with Mark holding Alex Shelley at bay, even when Sabin started to fight back a little. But eventually Jay lands the Jaydriller on Sabin, while Mark has Alex stuck in a submission.
So this could be the beginning of the end for the Motor City Machine Guns.
Rating: *** 3/4
4. WWE Greatest Royal Rumble Cruiserweight Championship: Cedric Alexander (c) vs Kalisto
Kalisto benefited from being the last one to enter the Gauntlet Match on 205 Live, to get the win, to qualify for this title shot.
This was one of those matches, that recently reminds you that Kalisto doesn’t suck (except maybe on the mic). Cena and Hunter got the crowd going in a very deliberately paced match, and this revved up the energy quite a bit. Numerous fun high spots, including a Seated Springboard Spanish Fly from the corner.
The finish was surprising, because it was a beautifully countered Salida del Sol into a Lumbar Check. So Cedric barely retained his title, and Kalisto continues to put on fairly high level matches.
3. AJPW Champion Carnival: Shingo Takagi vs Shuji Ishikawa
Shingo was looking at winning this match, to have a chance at the Finals. Whereas, Shuji was looking at this match, purely to play spoiler.
They stepped on the gas immediately and never really slowed down. Big lariat exchanges, a few spots on the outside, and even a big Tope con Hilo from Shingo, showed how much both men wanted this match.
It was the definition of Strong Style, with many forearm exchange spots, big power moves and both men kicking out of the other’s signature moves. Two Thunder/Fire Bombs and a Splash Mountain couldn’t put down Shingo, and conversely, three Pumping Bombers coupled with a Last Falconry didn’t get the job done against Shuji either.
Now there were a couple sloppy spots, or spots that took a little too long to set up, but that’s purely nitpicking. There wasn’t decades of history in this match like with Akiyama vs Marufuji, but for a tournament match it was entertaining as hell. Ishikawa eventually pulls out the win after a Kamigoye knee strike and Giant Slam.
Rating: **** 1/2
NJPW IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Tetsuya Naito vs Minoru Suzuki (c)
Rating: *** 3/4
WWE Greatest Royal Rumble WWE Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura vs AJ Styles (c)
Rating: *** 1/2
WWE Greatest Royal Rumble: Triple H vs John Cena
Rating: *** 1/4
ROH Bound by Honor: Cody vs Punishment Martinez
Rating: ** 3/4
2. NJPW IWGP United States Title: David Finlay vs Jay White (c)
The two Young Lions that came up together, teamed together and have a long standing rivalry.
When everyone saw Finlay challenge Jay White, no one was excited. Finlay has accomplished nothing in his time since graduating from being a Young Lion, while White went on excursion and found a lot of success in ROH followed by two immediate title shots once he returned. This definitely added a layer to the match, where Finlay had a lot to prove, and it showed.
This match was fast paced, hard hitting and showed an aggressive side to Finlay that hasn’t really been seen. During the spots when White was in control, he mocked Finlay, saying he was still a Young Boy and not in his league. But every time he did that, seemed to just fire up Finlay more and more.
Finlay threw everything except the kitchen sink at Jay White, but he wouldn’t stay down. When it looks like we might see an upset, White counters into the Blade Runner, and gets a very hard fought victory. White even acknowledges that Finlay stepped up in his post match promo, but he’s still not in his league. Their personal record is 10-1, with White only losing once, back when they were Young Lions, about 3 or 4 years ago.
Rating: **** 1/2
1. AJPW Champion Carnival: Naomichi Marufuji vs Jun Akiyama
WOW! This is history everyone. Marufuji beat Akiyama for his first GHC Championship over in NOAH, which also made him the first person to gather all the GHC titles. Akiyama was a protege of Mistuhara Misawa, as well as one of the bigger names that left NOAH after Misawa’s death. So this not only decides who wins B Block, it’s All Japan vs NOAH, a battle for Misawa.
Akiyama pulls a couple quick tricks early to establish his veteran cunning, but one of the more poignant moments early is Marufuji delivering chops to Akiyama against the ropes. Marufuji grit his teeth and had this look in his eye of betrayal and anger, and Akiyama’s body language was very accepting, almost like he felt he deserved it. We then get a quick exchange of Akiyama no selling Kawada kicks, getting fired up and flinging out Marufuji. Naomichi however takes a page out of Akiyama’s book, and as soon as Jun goes chasing, Marufuji slides back in, to catch him with a big drop kick on the way back into the ring.
One of Akiyama’s nicknames is Sterness, judging from the fact his expression rarely changes, but it’s always stern looking. Akiyama manages to get the advantage next time they go to the outside, catching Marufuji with a knee after an attempted plancha. A big apron draping knee drop and spiking DDT, gives Akiyama a little breathing room while Marufuji stands on his head (literally).
We get nice exchanges, including Akiyama countering one Shiranui and when Marufuji finally lands one, it’s too close to the ropes so Akiyama grabs the bottom rope. Marufuji then goes for a Fisherman Flowsion which is an homage to Misawa’s Emerald Flowsion, but Akiyama counters it and begins to get a second wind.
It’s at this point the stubbornness and urgency picks up. Akiyama trying a flurry of knees and exploder suplexes, just for Marufuji to kick out. Then we have Maurfuji go into his own flurry of knee strikes and kicks, just for Akiyama to kick out. So in a very telling moment, Marufuji goes to the corner, pulls down the leg of his pants to expose a tapped up and battered knee, just to hit Akiyama with one last Ko-Oh. Finally, a pinfall happens, and the crowd, who was electric the entire time, roared in support of Marufuji.
It’s worth noting that whatever bad blood may have still lingered, seemed to leave with Marufuji and Akiyama sharing an understanding knuckle touch, before the battered warrior was helped to the back. Marufuji moves on to the Finals, after what could’ve been Akiyama’s last Carnival match, and there’s no more fitting way in my opinion.
Now this comes as no surprise but I will be voting for, Naomichi Marufuji vs Jun Akiyama. It’s not based purely on rating, and it’s not a Japanese bias. It’s because the match carried more weight than just two guys trying to win a tournament. For anyone who doesn’t know, read Hisame’s article (here).
I always appreciate when something seemingly as trivial as professional wrestling, has historical meaning and can evoke such strong emotion.
As per usual, comment, complain, agree or set the world afire, just make your opinion known.