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Abe’s 2018 in Review (Part 1): Match of the Year Candidates



June has almost concluded which means we’re about halfway through the 2018 calendar year.  Let’s take a look at some of the best matches thus far and reflect on the highlights.  The candidates are listed below in chronological order with the winner being announced last.

Kenny Omega (c) v. Chris Jericho – Wrestle Kingdom 12 (1.4)

I was initially worried that Jericho was reaching a certain age and that he wouldn’t be able to keep up with Kenny.  What then happened was far from my assumption.  The No DQ stipulation really added to the match and the new environment brought Jericho into his comfort zone.  He made the most out of his new heel “Alpha” persona and delivered on all levels.  The Wrestle Kingdom card was loaded with great matches but this is the match that brought a whole bunch of fresh eyes on the New Japan product.  Even with all the hype surrounding the match, they surpassed my expectations by putting on my favorite match of the night.

Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) v. Minoru Suzuki – NJPW New Beginning in Sapporo (1.27)

Not enough people talked about this match because it wasn’t on some giant marquee show.  I showed it to a friend and a family member and they were incredibly impressed.  The friend even had a frozen expression on his face with mouth agape at the match’s conclusion.  Suzuki had injured Tana’s knee earlier in the month and was obsessed with exploiting it.  Add that with his already injured bicep muscle to Suzuki’s target of choice.  Minoru Suzuki worked the body parts for the whole match which isn’t to most fans’ liking but I thought it was riveting stuff.  The top villain of the company was setting an example at the expense of the top hero as the fans watched in agony.  The fans cheered Tanahashi on while the official urged him to save himself and give up but he refused.  I was captivated.  It happened Royal Rumble weekend and I genuinely didn’t think any WWE match was going to top it but then something happened…

Andrade “Cien” Almas (c) v. Johnny Gargano – NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia (1.27)

It was the instant classic that WWE has been searching for.  Every time I thought the match was near its conclusion, the competitors traded even more holds and near-falls.  It was the first WWE match that Dave Meltzer has awarded 5 stars since 2011 and I think it rightfully deserved it.  The showcase of technicians paired with the involvement of Zelina Vega and Candice LeRae gave us something all fans could enjoy.  Johnny has had such a big 2018 that this match already feels so far in the past.  I know a lot of fans wanted this to be Johnny’s crowning moment but I think the right man won.

The Young Bucks v. The Golden Lovers – NJPW Strong Style Evolved (3.25)

If you love storytelling then this is the match for you.  Some elements of the story date back about 8 years.  Newly realigned with his former lover, Kota Ibushi, Kenny Omega was forced to battle his two closest friends for the right of tag team supremacy.  You can visibly see the emotional thermometer fluctuate for all four men throughout the match.  Anguish, regret, aggression, passion, love – all of it.  It was truly a work of art.  The entire audience rose in unison at the sound of the final bell and delivered a standing ovation.  Many tears were shed that night.

Inside Pulse

The Night of Ladder Wars and Blood Feuds – ROH Supercard of Honor XII & NXT TakeOver: New Orleans (4.7)

Like many fans, I was labored with the first-world problem of choosing between NXT and Ring of Honor.  I ultimately chose NXT because I was a little more invested in those storylines going into Saturday night.  Of course I didn’t regret my decision because I ended up seeing an all-time great ladder match for the North American Title.  The guy next to me even called his friend twice during the match to make sure he was watching it.  While all of that was going on, the Young Bucks (and Flip Gordon) were putting on a classic ladder match of their own against SoCal Uncensored over in ROH.  Both cards also had the two hottest feuds of the wrestling world headlining: Omega v. Cody & Gargano v. Ciampa.  The Gargano and Ciampa match might be my favorite match I’ve ever seen live.  I’ll never forget the fans raining down expletives on Ciampa for several minutes straight during his entrance.  The perfect combinations of booking, storytelling, and brutality concluded the best show I’ve ever attended.  I had the ROH main event spoiled for me but I’m still glad I went back to watch it.  It was obviously entertaining and I’m incredibly excited for Cody’s and Kenny’s rematch for the IWGP Heavyweight belt next week.

Kurt Angle & Ronda Rousey v. Triple H & Stephanie McMahon – Wrestlemania 34 (4.8)

I couldn’t remember if I was more intrigued or nervous for this one.  Kurt and Triple H are at the tail-end of their careers, Steph hadn’t wrestled a match in years, and Ronda had never had a televised match ever.  This was Kurt’s return to the grandest stage and Ronda’s re-introduction to the world.  I just wanted desperately for everyone to do well because there were so many things that could have gone wrong.  When reflecting back on the event that night, I decided this was the match that left me the most entertained.  Keep in mind, I was sitting near the top of the Superdome.  I was physically far removed from the electricity of the match but it still kept my attention the whole time.  Also, being so high up means I can see everyone laying around the ring which gives me a chance to anticipate broken pinfalls and submissions.  Even with that advantage, I still had no idea which way the match was going to tilt on many occasions.  I don’t know if it was the spot on the card or everyone doing their job right but it was fantastic.  Ronda having the match of the night at Wrestlemania in her television debut is an impossible feat to accomplish.  You can tell they all worked really hard to put it together and I’m just so proud of all parties involved.


Hiromu Takahashi v. Taiji Ishimori – NJPW Best of the Super Jr. 25 Finals (6.4)

I wrote about this one in a past article so I wont go on for too long about it.  This match was the conclusion of the Best of the Super Juniors tournament and clearly the best bout of the whole thing.  The BOSJ Finals has a habit of providing a MOTY candidate and this one did not disappoint.  This match had everything: submissions, dangerous spots, fights in the bleachers, crowd energy – you name it.  With Hiromu being the fan favorite and Ishimori the newest member of the Bullet Club, NJPW’s junior heavyweight division is going to be in good hands for years to come.

Johnny Gargano v. Tommaso Ciampa II – NXT TakeOver: Chicago II (6.16)

When this one was over, my buddy and I were left laughing.  Not because it was bad.  It was executed so well that laughter was the only way we knew how to express our sheer joy and appreciation.  A lot of us were anticipating Candice to cost Johnny the match but the segment beforehand told us that wasn’t going to happen.  That was wise because then we went in with any expectations wiped clean.  The match featured references to the feud’s history with added moments like the one involving Johnny’s wedding ring.  As Ciampa was getting stretchered out, I was left wondering if they were ever going to incorporate the exposed ring canvas.  They made sure to answer that thought right away.

Pete Dunne (c) v. Zack Gibson – NXT UK Championship Special (Aired 6.26)

This one was taped last week and televised this week so it’s the most recent addition to the list.  It aired in the middle of the day in The States so not many fans have even seen it.  I was ready to write about the United Kingdom Championship Tournament Finals between Gibson and Travis Banks but then this one edged it out the next night.  Our favorite snarky heel, Pete Dunne was actually the babyface of this match which provided a refreshing dynamic.  The UK crowd was hot as usual and Zack Gibson solidified himself as a potential cornerstone for the future NXT UK brand.


MOTY: Kazuchika Okada (c) v. Kenny Omega – NJPW Dominion (6.9)

I didn’t forget about it.  I may have been running on zero sleep during the match but I didn’t forget.  I said the winner was going to be announced last, remember?  It was a 2 out of 3 Falls match that lasted over an hour with a storyline two years in the making.  What more could you ask for as a wrestling fan?  Some have said it’s the greatest match in the history of wrestling.  I’m not sure if I’ll go that far but I understand the sentiment.  I may not be ready to call it the best match ever but it’s going to be awhile before another match makes me jump up and down while hugging my best friend.  It was the total underdog story that provided me with one of my favorite memories of watching wrestling.  I can’t wait to see what Omega, Okada, and New Japan do to follow it.

I am fully aware I left off A LOT of great matches.  Seth Rollins, Aleister Black, Tetsuya Naito, Will Ospreay and the Undisputed Era are notable absences but I promise they all very narrowly missed the cut.  EC3 would want me to only include the top one percent of my favorites anyway.  The ultimate deciding factor was which matches left me feeling something at the end.  There is also a lack of female wrestlers.  I think the reason for this is some of the most talented women on the roster (Sasha, Bayley, Ember, Becky, Nattie) haven’t yet received the high quality storylines they’re accustomed to.  If Charlotte/Asuka and the women’s MITB match were each given 5 more minutes, they likely would have been on here.  The NXT women’s division is also rebuilding with fresher faces.  Shayna Baszler had stellar matches against Ember Moon and Toni Storm so I think she’s only going to get better.   The next parts of my Review will look at current MVPs of 2018 and things to look out for the rest of the year.


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Top 5 World Championship Reigns In The WWE Modern Era (1984 to Present)

See the lists developed by PC Tunney, Greg DeMarco, and Patrick O’Dowd as they determine the five best world championship reigns in the modern era of WWE!



Roman Reigns WWE Universal Champion

See the lists developed by PC Tunney, Greg DeMarco, and Patrick O’Dowd as they determine the five best world championship reigns in the modern era of WWE!

Wrestling is one of the most fun topics under which we can rank nearly everything. A simple Google search will reveal entire websites devoted to rankings–wrestling or otherwise.

PC Tunney devised an idea, and I developed a name. Thus, the Impromptu Wrestling Convo (aka, The IWC) was born. The first topic? Top 5 World Championship Reigns In The WWE Modern Era.

PC Tunney, Patrick O’Dowd, and myself each came up with our Top 5, and came together to reveal them on this special podcast (see it above, and below). Definitely give it a listen. But here you can also read our composite list, and see who ranked in our Top 5.

Grading Criteria:

  • Points were assigned for the rankings: 5 points for #1, 4 points for #2, and so on.
  • Ties would likely have been left as ties, but (luckily for me) there were no ties in the Top 5, making that part easy.
  • Any reign starting with Hulk Hogan’s first was eligible to be included.

And now, the list!

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Top 5 World Championship Reigns In The WWE Modern Era

5. Brock Lesnar, 2014

Starting with his dismantling of John Cena at SummerSlam (which was supposed to be Daniel Bryan), Brock Lesnar had a reign that included an incredible triple threat match with Seth Rollins and John Cena at the 2015 Royal Runble, and of course the WrestleMania 31 main event clash with Roman Reigns that ended in Seth Rollins’ iconic cash-in. This reign is mainly notable for how it starts and how it finishes, as there was but one bright spot in the middle.

4. John Cena, 2005

Not the longest John Cena world title reign, but Cena’s run as WWE Champion started at WrestleMania 21 and ended with the first ever Money In The Bank cash-in at New Year’s Revolution. This cemented Cena as the top dog in WWE, complete with a move to Raw in the draft, and the emergence of “Super Cena.”

3. CM Punk, 2011

454 Days that no one will ever forget, CM Punk dominated WWE television in a reign that was ultimately cut short by The Rock. Punk didn’t main event WrestleMania 28, facing Chris Jericho before the “Once In A Lifetime” clash between The Rock and John Cena. This ended at the following Royal Rumble at the hands of The Rock, who would go on to lose that title to Rumble winner John Cena at WrestleMania 29.

2. Roman Reigns, 2020

The present-day WWE Universal Champion nearly tops the list, but what remains to be seen is just how long he holds the title, and how it ends. Roman Reigns is on a monumental ride, with no signs of slowing down. We will see if the emergence of a new megastar ends this journey, or if Hollywood comes calling first. Either way, this will end up being acknowledged as one of the all time great championship reigns.

1. Hulk Hogan, 1984

Hulk Hogan began his 1,474 day reign as WWF Champion on January 23, 1984, defeating The Iron Sheik in Madison Square Garden. Hogan would kick off the Rock-N-Wrestling Era, launching WWE into a stratosphere not seen by any other wrestling company, ever. Outside of an 83 week stretch, no one could touch WWE, and that stretch was fronted by Hogan himself. His reign ended in controversy (something about Andre The Giant selling the championship to Ted Dibiase, evil twin referees, and a tournament at WrestleMania IV), but it still goes down as the greatest ever.

Others getting mentioned:

  • Jinder Mahal, 2016 (yes, that was mine)
  • Brock Lesnar, 2017 (by PC Tunney)
  • Randy Savage, 1988 (Patrick O’Dowd’s)
  • John Cena, 2006 (by Tunney)

To see how each talent was listed, and by who, I made this chart. Keep in mind, a “5” means they were #1 on that person’s list, a “4” is #2, “3” is #3, “2” is #4, and a “1” is #5.

What are your thoughts? Drop them in the comments below, or on social media! Also, give the podcast a listen, it’s streaming throughout this article.

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News From Cook’s Corner 1.17.22: Gory Self-Mutilation

AEW tried to catch lightning in a bottle for the second time. Did it work? What other news struck last week?



Hi, hello & welcome to News From Cook’s Corner! We’ve got a short column for you this week, which most of you were probably expecting when the Cincinnati Bengals actually on a playoff game. Nah, I didn’t party too much, just had an allergic reaction with my eye again. We’ve done this before. This time I’m pretty sure it had something to do with cleaning my bookshelf and rearranging my books. Hadn’t done that in awhile, so there was a ton of duct. Sitting down and looking at a computer screen sucks, so we have to limit it as much as possible.

There’s still a couple things that warrant discussion though, so let’s get to it.

WWE On The Offensive

Looks like this week’s top stories are about WWE trying to do things to undermine wrestling promotions. We start with Major League Wrestling, who has filed a federal anti-trust lawsuit against WWE claiming that WWE has interfered with their ability to make various media rights deals.

Some of the highlights:

-Former WWE executive Susan Levison allegedly warned an executive from VICE that Vince McMahon was “pissed” they were airing MLW programming. MLW claims that WWE had leverage over VICE due to the Dark Side of the Ring series often being focused on WWE subject matter.

-MLW alleges that when WWE found out about their agreement with Tubi, WWE threatened to stop doing business with Fox. The fallout from the Tubi agreement falling through led to a drop in ticket sales & event cancellations & delays.

-As an example of WWE’s anticompetitive behavior, MLW cited AEW being held out of two arenas in the Cincinnati market due to pressure from WWE. Jon Moxley wrote in his book that the Heritage Bank Center on Cincy’s riverfront refused to book AEW due to WWE influence. I don’t know the other, could be the BB&T Arena across the river on the campus of Northern Kentucky University where WWE has held house shows. AEW wound up running the Fifth Third Arena on the campus of the University of Cincinnati, and outdrew the Raw taping held at the HBC just prior.

-Apparently starting in early 2020, WWE started trying to poach MLW wrestlers that were under contract, and aired footage of an MLW wrestler without MLW’s consent. (Somebody would have to fill me in on this one, I haven’t the slightest idea who this would be.) MLW also claims that WWE sought to prevent wrestlers from working with MLW by refusing to hire wrestlers that had worked there, and that one MLW wrestler demanded to be released early from his contract so he could join WWE.

Do I think that at least some of these allegations are true? Having followed pro wrestling for over thirty years and having read up on the history of WWE…you betcha!

I don’t think there’s a question that WWE has resorted to any means necessary to drive potential competitors out of their market. They’ve been doing this since taking most of the territories’ top stars back in the mid-1980s. It’s been a monopoly for nearly two decades for a reason. The main question I have: Will a judge actually care, or will they throw it out of court because it’s silly pro wrestling?

How do you think WWE slips under the radar on things that other media companies & sports leagues actually have to deal with? People have been trained to not take WWE seriously. As much as people like us obsess over the rasslin’ business, people that don’t “get it” are happy to ignore it. Vince McMahon can do any darn thing he wants, and the reaction from folks outside the wrestling bubble will be non-existent. It’s wrestling! To outsiders, the whole damn thing is an outlaw mudshow.

AEW = Gory Self-Mutilation

The Toronto Sun did an article on All Elite Wrestling over the weekend, talking about their status as a competitor to WWE. They asked WWE for comment & got one:

“If you look at the gory self-mutilation that bloodied several women in the December 31 event on TNT, it quickly becomes clear that these are very different businesses. We had an edgier product in the `Attitude’ era and in a 2022 world, we don’t believe that type of dangerous and brutal display is appealing to network partners, sponsors, venues, children, or the general public as a whole.”

A few notes here:

1. I’ve been doing this stuff longer than I care to admit, and I never thought of asking WWE for comment on something. Should I start asking people for comments on topics I’m writing about? I doubt I’d get any answers, but it might be worth a shot.

2. This has been WWE’s strategy when asked about AEW for some time now. We remember Vince McMahon using the phrase “Blood & Guts” to describe the promotion on a conference call. They know that people get squeamish about blood, especially when it comes to blood coming from women. The Fabulous Moolah never busted anybody open on television, and she trained most of the women for years. People aren’t used to seeing it, and they often get uncomfortable with things they aren’t used to seeing.

3. Most people find other people bleeding pretty gross. There’s a reason why deathmatch wrestling is a niche produxct. People that love it really, really love it, but it’s a very small percentage of the marketplace.

4. WWE’s belief is that advertisers & media companies aren’t big on blood, so they make sure to mention AEW’s apparent lust for the red stuff whenever the subject comes up. Their hope is that advertisers will shy away from advertising with AEW, and media companies won’t give AEW big money when their current deal with WarnerMedia is up.

5. Thus far, whenever Tony Khan is criticized on something, he doubles down on it. So there’s a pretty good chance that we’re going to see even more matches with female bleeding. AEW’s female workers seem happy to do it.

6. WWE could be called out as being hypocritical on this front, but there aren’t many people that will hold them accountable.

It’ll be interesting to see how this goes. All I know for sure is that the smack talk between these two promotions and their fans is just beginning. Think it’s tocic now? Wait a couple of years.

Welp, that’s all for this week. Thanks for reading! Join me later in the week for some Divisional Round picks. Until then, keep your stick on the ice.

In Memoriam: Pete was a longtime reader from back in the day. From my dealings with him he was a kind person that knew how to use his head. When you’ve written things on the Internet as long as I have, you learn that’s a rare thing. From what I’ve read from people that knew him in real life, he was the same way off the computer. Sadly he passed away from cancer on Friday night. Pete was always about serving others, as he was a U.S. Air Force veteran & a regular blood donor. He will be missed.

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