Short work weeks, and long weekends make for a nice way to recharge. Let’s see what matches Andrew managed to fit into his holiday schedule for the Top 5 this week.
Well folks in the States had Thanksgiving this past week, and the shows kinda proved it. Some generally uninspired or at the very least, average shows just kinda made the whole week feel like a food coma. Thankfully I enjoy Japanese wrestling and they don’t need no stinkin turkey, so what I watched of those shows still satiated my need for good wrestling.
Slowly getting to the end of the year, we added one more match to the November pool. Unsurprisingly, NXT Takeover dominated the votes but, Tommaso Ciampa vs Velveteen Dream, edged out the other matches.
Now let’s see what made the Top 5 this week.
5. MLW Heavyweight Championship Match: Shane Strickland vs Low Ki (c)
After dealing with Sami Callihan’s Death Machines for WarGames and general dismay the last few months, Shane finally gets his rematch. There’s the report that came out a little while ago that Strickland is being targeted by WWE, so this makes sense to get out of the way now.
It takes a little bit of time to get the match started since Salina de la Renta and Martinez are skulking about outside of the ring. The match was very much a game of cat and mouse. Shane tried to string some offense together, but Low Ki used ring positioning and rolling outside to his advantage.
Shane does manage to catch Low Ki when he was on the top rope and he falls forward headbutting the referee and knocking him out. Strickland jumps on the opportunity, lays out Low Ki, hits the Swerve Stomp, but there’s no ref. Shane looks towards the back, and a replacement ref eventually comes out, counts to 2 and then Low Ki kicks out. Martinez hops up to the apron to distract the referee, and Low Ki grabs Shane by the hair, ragdolls him a bit, pulls out some hair and cradles him for the pinfall victory.
The match wasn’t really what you’d expect, but this new thread of Low Ki trying to maim opponents before pinning them is unique.
Winner: Low Ki via Referee Distraction
Rating: *** 1/4
4. NXT UK: Toni Storm vs Jinny
Whether it’s the Lightning from Down Under or the Fierce Fashionista, The Mosh Pit Kid, Rhea Ripley, waits for the winner in the finals. How will the finals of this historic tournament take form after tonight?
The bell rings and fans sing for Storm. Toni and Jinny tie up and go around and around the ring. Jinny puts Toni in the corner, but backs off at 4. They circle again and tie up. Fans still sing for Toni as she and Jinny go around again. Jinny arm-drags but Toni holds on. They break as fans chant “Aussie Aussie Aussie! OI OI OI!” Toni and Jinny tie up again, and Toni gets a waistlock. Jinny resists as Toni lifts. Jinny breaks free to get a wristlock. She brings Toni down, but Toni gets up. Fans rally as Toni gets a headlock and takeover. Jinny endures the wrenching and rolls Toni over. TWO as Toni lets go. Toni goes after the facelock, but Jinny works her way out of that, back to a wristlock. Toni spins, bridges, rolls and reverses! Jinny endures as Toni wrenches more.
Jinny spins and throws a big forearm. Toni is rocked, and Jinny brings her in for a headlock. Toni powers out and things speed up, Toni boots Jinny down! Cover, TWO! Toni goes after the legs, for a deathlock STF! Fans chant for Jinny to tap but Jinny endures. Jinny works against the hold but Toni wrenches back hard. Jinny comes close, but grabs Toni’s hair. Toni wrenches Jinny more, but Jinny crawls for ropes. Toni rocks back and forth, but Jinny gets the ropebreak. The ref counts and Toni lets Jinny go, but with stomps! Toni stomps Jinny to a corner, then drags her up for big EuroUppers. Fans fire up with Toni as she runs in, but Jinny boots her away! Jinny gets Toni with the Japanese arm-drag, into buckles! Cover, TWO! Toni gets to the corner, but Jinny stomps a fashionable mudhole into her.
Fans rally up but Jinny keeps on Toni with a double chop. Jinny stomps another mudhole into Toni in another corner. She stops at 4, but whips Toni corner to corner. Toni falls short and face first. Jinny is on her with more stomps, then drags Toni up. Snap suplex and float over, TWO! Jinny grows frustrated, but she puts Toni in an armlock with chinbar. Jinny thrashes Toni around as fans rally up. Toni gets up but Jinny throws her down by her hair. Cover, ONE! Jinny seethes as she clubs away on Toni’s back. “This is MY NXT!” Jinny goes back to the armlock and chinbar, but fans rally up again. Toni fights her way back up, and arm-drags Jinny off! Jinny fires off strikes, but Jinny chops! Toni headbutts, they both go down!
Fans fire up and chant for “NXT! NXT!” Then fans rally up as the two stir. Jinny is on Toni with a forearm. Toni throws a forearm back. Jinny hits, Toni hits. They brawl to their feet, back and forth. Toni gets the edge, then blocks Jinny’s kick, for a trapped-leg German! Jinny crawls to a corner and Toni fires up. Toni runs in, big hip attack! Then Perfect Plex! Cover, TWO!! Jinny survives but Toni isn’t stopping. Toni climbs up, but Jinny stops her with a high roundhouse! Jinny climbs but Toni headbutts her away. Jinny hits back, then climbs up. Toni forearms Jinny and sends her down with another headbutt. But Jinny dropkicks Toni’s legs out, then hits a draping facebuster! Cover, TWO!! Toni survives and Jinny is at a loss for words.
Jinny rains down rights on Toni, then drags her up. Jinny slaps Toni, then reels her out, but Toni dodges and underhooks. But Storm Zero is denied by Jinny’s rolling ax kick! Cover, ROPEBREAK! Jinny is furious, and she stomps away on Toni. Fans sing for Toni as Jinny runs in. Toni goes up and over, gets Jinny with the German! Then STORM ZERO! Cover, Toni wins!!
Winner: Storm via Storm Zero
Rating: *** 1/4
3. NOAH Global League: Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Masa Kitamiya
Well this match decided who wins Block A. If Nakajima could beat his former teammate, he’d win, or if he loses, Naomichi Marufuji wins Block A. These two are also the last two challengers for the GHC Heavyweight Championship, so that adds something to prove.
Nakajima tries to play head games early with Kitamiya, but he eventually gets sick of his shit and just goes after him. Nakajima kept his patented grin on his face for most of this match. Bobbing and weaving with some well placed kicks and trying to stay away from the power of Kitamiya.
Right when the match looks like Nakajima’s to win, he lights up Kitamiya, goes to the corner for a big Penalty Kick, but gets hit with a huge Spear from Kitamiya. Kitamiya tries the Jailhouse Lock, but Nakajima manages to get the ropes. Kitamiya hits a few chops blocks and tries for a Saito Suplex, but Nakajima counters out of that.
As he still nurses his knees, Nakajima tries to put together some offense, but gets caught, grounded and stuck in the Jailhouse Lock one more time, and that’s all it took. The cocky Nakajima was knocked out by the tag partner he thought he was better than.
Winner: Kitamiya via Jailhouse Lock
Rating: *** 1/2
AJPW Real World Tag League: Takao Omori & Manabu Soya vs Jake Lee & Ryoji Sai
Winner: Omori via Axe Bomber
Rating: *** 1/4
NOAH Global League: Mitsuya Nagai vs Kenoh
Winner: Nagai via Nagai Lock
Rating: *** 1/4
Impact: Eli Drake’s Gravy Train Turkey Trot: Eli Drake, Glen Gilbertti, Katarina, Jake Crist & Rohit Raju vs Fallah Bah, KM, Alisha Edwards, Kikutaro & Dezmond Xavier
Winner: Fallah Bah via Bonzai Drop on Gilbertti (Disco has to wear the Turkey Suit)
205 Live: Gran Metalik vs TJP
Winner: Metalik via Sunset Flip Pin
NXT UK: Rhea Ripley vs Dakota Kai
Winner: Ripley via Rip Tide
2. DDT Pro Special 2018 KO-D Openweight Title Match: Daisuke Sasaki (c) vs Masahiro Takanashi
Well this is one of those situations where I was just looking for something and found this. I’m not overly familiar with DDT, but I figured I’d give it a watch.
Sufficed to say, it was a good thing to randomly watch this. DDT is known as the comedy place where Kota Ibushi and Kenny Omega wrestled a blow up doll, but this match was pretty damn solid.
Takanashi has some interesting technical transitions for a Rings of Saturn submission, as well as, a few other interesting moves. He also seems to be a big fan of the Code Red, trying it from the apron, the top ropes and the normal style in the middle of the ring a few times before finally hitting one for a near fall.
Daisuke’s moveset is amusingly reminiscent of WWE wrestlers. Elbow Drop Macho Man Style, Pedigree and a Crossface all were busted out at some point, but to no avail. After Takanashi hit a Satellite Crossface, Daisuke worked through it and then hits a Huricanrana (an actual one, not a Frankensteiner) for the pinfall victory.
Much better than what I expected. A few transitions and spots were clunky, so they tried them again instead of moving away, so that dropped it down a little rating wise for me. But it was still enjoyable.
Winner: Sasaki via Huricanrana
Rating: *** 3/4
1. AJPW Real World Tag League: Kento Miyahara & Yoshitatsu vs Jun Akiyama & Daisuke Sekimoto
Well YoshiKen finally got a win on the show before this, which hopefully turns around their early run of bad luck. Akiyama and Sekimoto haven’t wrestled as many matches as everyone, but have looked very good so far.
The fun part of this match, was the fact it looked like Uncle Jun was shooting a bit on Yoshitatsu. We have to keep in mind, Akiyama was trained in Baba’s All Japan and was a protege of the Four Pillars of Heaven, so he’s cut from a different cloth. A lot of stiff strikes, no selling, walking through moves and just lighting Yoshitatsu up, made the tone of the match shift.
Both teams pulled off their tandem moves, the Codebreaker/German Suplex from YoshiKen got a near fall. But the best spot is Sekimoto grabbing Akiyama while he’s trying the Exploder Suplex someone, German Suplexing Akiyama to help “assist” the Exploder. I don’t know if they have a name for it, but it definitely feels like the “I’m Helping” Tandem Suplex.
Kento tries his best to drag the team back, laying out Jun with a Blackout knee strike, but Yoshitatsu can’t make a tag and Sekimoto sends them both spilling to the outside. Jun hits the Wristclutch Exploder to give a heavily favored team their third loss. In a tournament where each team gets 10 matches, 3 losses isn’t a death knell, but it doesn’t leave much wiggle room.
Winner: Akiyama via Wristclutch Exploder
Rating: **** 1/4
We had a somewhat uneventful week, but hey it was a holiday, so I’m okay with it. However, the AJPW Real World Tag League Match, that is one of the best matches of the tournament so far. So I wouldn’t feel right to pick anything else over that one.
Should be interesting to see how people vote, since a lot of what’s on the Top 5 isn’t exactly heavily followed.
Stone Cold Fever: Is Kevin Owens the Next Big Thing in WWE?
Is this rendition of KO Mania real?
Kevin Owens is quickly becoming the hottest Superstar in WWE. The former Universal champion is embarking on a war with Shane McMahon and while that war is only just beginning, KO is already reaping the benefits.
Owens is getting over and there’s no denying that. Many fans believe that this is just the beginning of something epic for KO and it’s hard to argue that point. But as with everything in WWE, Owens’ future depends on his booking and how much the company truly wants to invest in him. So will Kevin Owens be the next big thing in WWE?
It’s as if WWE suddenly flipped a switch and activated this new KO. The man that so many felt was on his way to superstardom in the company has always been just on the verge of greatness, but he always seemed to fall just short. It’s been through no fault of his own however as Owens has consistently always delivered, both in the ring and on the mic.
But despite how much he’s accomplished, there always seems to be an asterisk by his name. The same is true of other potential main event stars as well, like Finn Bálor and Braun Strowman. All three men have excelled on the worldwide stage but for whatever reason, none of the three have truly achieved legendary status in WWE.
While the men involved may not be too concerned with such positioning, the fans have been all too consumed with it. In their minds, the time for these talents and many more, is now. Why wait, when the business is experiencing such a resurgence in popularity? The time to strike seems to be now, so why not move ahead and make a massive impact with guys that can handle the pressure?
Perhaps that is exactly what the WWE faithful are seeing right now with Kevin Owens. Owens is capable of rising to the occasion and he’s done it many times before. Maybe there’s no better time for him to prove what he can do and maybe the company finally recognizes that.
But nearly every time fans depend on “maybe,” they wind up disappointed. WWE has not always been the most reliable company when it comes to doing right by hardworking talents, especially those who deserve a shot at the next level. Owens has been counted among those talents for far too long and now he’s getting a chance to finally step up.
The good news is that so far, it’s working. The live crowds are loving what he’s doing and no one can do it quite like he can. The comparisons to Stone Cold Steve Austin are coming like never before and KO, as well as WWE, obviously see that. The fact that Owens uses the Stunner as much as he does is proof that the entire angle is a tip of the cap to The Texas Rattlesnake.
It’s not that Owens needs to use anyone else’s finisher, just as he doesn’t need to mimic anyone else’s gimmick. KO can succeed based on his own merit and everyone knows that. But he’s saluting Austin and in doing so, reminding a legion of fans why they fell in love with WWE in the first place. There is no way to really revive The Attitude Era, but that’s not the point.
Kevin Owens is bringing back a taste of the past and making it relevant to his cause, as well as to the company’s current climate. The Stunner is as much of an anti-authority move as the middle finger, both of which keep Stone Cold on the minds of fans who love him for what he did in the business.
So is WWE truly headed for a new era of relevancy in the industry? Vince McMahon’s company has always been at the forefront of the business and for many fans, they’ve been the only game in town for a very long time. But with the rise of New Japan, Ring of Honor, as well as various promotions around the world, the wrestling world is becoming a much bigger place.
Of course much of the focus on the business right now is due to the birth and evolution of AEW. Cody Rhodes’ fledgling company is making waves and turning heads, just as everyone knew it would. But AEW has also captured WWE’s attention, despite any belief to the contrary. If Owens’ new run is a result of WWE going against the grain and trying something familiar, yet new, then that’s definitely a good thing.
But the bad news is that this is still WWE, which can change plans at a moment’s notice. Things can fluctuate at any time and when they do, an entire storyline can either twist in a different direction, or end altogether. Could this happen with KO versus Shane McMahon?
Much of what happens from here depends on just how long WWE can keep the fans invested in this angle. The live crowds are connected and the same is true of the audience at home. Everyone seems truly intent on following this story and they’re all rooting for Kevin Owens to keep rising higher on the card. If KO continues to get hot and if the company really gets behind him, then the entire landscape of WWE could change.
Kevin Owens is not the next Stone Cold Steve Austin and he surely does not want to be. KO has fought his entire career to be the best he can be and this new storyline is just the latest avenue for him to rise up. Maybe it will only go up from here and maybe Kevin Owens will finally realize his potential in the company that desperately needs the next big thing.
Andrew’s G1 Climax 29 Ratings & Analysis: Night 7 A Block
KENTA and Okada may start pulling away in A Block! Who falls first? The Rainmaker or The NOAH Outsider?
KENTA and Okada may start pulling away in A Block! Who falls first? The Rainmaker or The NOAH Outsider?
Aside from the big names being stuck in the middle of the pack, we’ve got poor little Zack Sabre at zero points. Can he twist Fale into a pretzel and figure it out?
Then we have Okada facing a banged up Ospreay, while KENTA takes on a rising EVIL.
Do we still have any undefeated participants in A Block after today?
- Yota Tsuji & Juice Robinson vs Jon Moxley & Shota Umino: Shooter wins via Boston Crab @3:55 – ** 1/4
- Taichi, Minoru Suzuki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs Toru Yano, Hirooki Goto & Yuya Uemura: Kanemaru wins via Deep Impact @8:50 – ***
- Yujiro Takahashi, Chase Owens & Jay White vs Jeff Cobb, Tomoaki Honma & Toa Henare: Chase wins via Package Piledriver @9:50 – ** 1/2
- Shingo Takagi, BUSHI & Tetsuya Naito vs YOSHI-HASHI, Ren Narita & Tomohiro Ishii: BUSHI wins via MX @7:35 – **
- A Block: Zack Sabre Jr vs Bad Luck Fale: Sabre wins via Countout @6:30 – ** 1/4
- A Block: Lance Archer vs Hiroshi Tanahashi: Tanahashi wins via Victory Roll @12:00 – ** 1/2
- A Block: KENTA vs EVIL: KENTA wins via Go 2 Sleep @15:05 – *** 1/2
- A Block: Kota Ibushi vs SANADA: Ibushi wins via Kamigoye @19:15 – *** 3/4
- A Block: Will Ospreay vs Kazuchika Okada: Okada wins via Rainmaker @21:55 – **** 1/2
Still a lot of heat from their NXT past and Moxley’s debut match in NJPW. Juice and Mox don’t face each other until the end of their block schedule, but if this needed more heat…well this was gasoline. Juice and Mox stay on each other, brawl to the back while the Young Lions fight, but Mox apparently gets the best of the brawl. He returns to the ring to help Shooter, hit their Hart Attack tandem move and Shooter sinks in the Boston Crab.
There’s history between Taichi and Goto centering around the NEVER Openweight Title, Yano and Suzuki have fun history and it looks like Uemura is stepping up to Suzuki. So there’s a lot of fun moments, Uemura has a death wish trying to fight Suzuki, but it’s still fun. A lot of moving pieces in this one that kept it very entertaining.
Honma got put through the paces, Jay White got tossed around a little bit by Jeff Cobb, but the Bullet Club tag partners proved to be more useful than Cobb’s. Chase has picked up a few wins in the tag matches, so he might get some kind of push coming soon.
BUSHI continues to pick up pinfalls in these tag matches, and this sort of builds for Ishii and Naito, but not a ton happens. YOSHI-HASHI is there, Shingo looks like a million bucks and BUSHI wins the match, LOL. This was very paint by numbers.
Sabre jumps all over Fale at the start and tries a plethora of submissions to no avail. A kendo stick shot from Jado pushes the action to the outside. Fale and Bullet Club look to have an advantage, but Sabre dodges some double team tactics, grounds Fale with a Triangle Arm Bar, and then races to the ring to beat the 20 count. Fale couldn’t make it back fast enough, so Sabre gets the first Countout win of this year’s tournament.
Tanahashi is really showing the age and injuries this year, so all of these flukey wins just come off as forced. The match was slow, had moments of being interesting, but Tanahashi not even being 50% of what he used to be makes these hard to watch at times. Archer is getting over well, but Tanahashi winning at this point does hurt the credibility a little. I get the story they’re telling, but unlike last year where Tanahashi could push through injuries, this year, they are much more obvious, and he’s much more hampered.
EVIL took the fight to KENTA and then they went to the outside. Through the back and then into the crowd area next to the ramp. EVIL went for Darkness Falls on a bunch of a chairs, but KENTA stopped him and suplexed him onto said chairs. When it got back in the ring, EVIL tried to weaken the legs and KENTA went after EVIL’s upper body to mitigate the power advantage. Heavily booed, KENTA played up heel nicely (I guess WWE did help for something), and eventually he gets the best of EVIL and lets him take a nap. KENTA moves to 4-0.
We get a solid match between two guys who are right on the precipice of the Main Event scene. Kota outsmarts SANADA early by not going for the stupid dueling Dropkick spot, and from then on it was an interesting struggle. Between fan support and the general “anything you can do, I can do better” pacing, this was entertaining, yet slow and felt too long in some spots. Both looked pretty good, but this could’ve been told faster and SANADA’s perpetual struggles are a little frustrating for anyone who is a fan of his.
Okada and Ospreay were expected to blow the roof off, and well I’d say this was a damn good shot. Ospreay is obviously dinged up, but he fought through the pain and pulled off numerous flipping counters and found a few different ways to hit the Os-Cutter. They both let their personalities fly and this was a lot of fun to watch. Okada always has this older brother aura since he’s the one that brought Ospreay to New Japan and Chaos, so whenever they get together, it’s very much like two siblings trying to outdo the other. Ospreay had a great flurry at the end, flipping through a Rainmaker attempt, to try his Stormbreaker, but Okada flipped through that and hit a short arm lariat. Rolling Rainmaker and a normal Rainmaker later, Okada edges out the little brother. Great match.
Overall Score: 7/10
Well this night struggled cause the first two Block matches were really weak. The next two amped-up the intensity a little, but fell short of a memorable match. The main event was fantastic, but generally speaking this felt like it was slow, plateau’d for a while and only picked up at the end. Nothing out right awful, but a lot of matches that could’ve been a little better.
Still a solid enough night if you’re following it all, but only the main event is worthy of seeking out individually. It is nice to see that everyone is on the board with some points. So if Okada and KENTA stumble a little, the rest of the block could plausibly catch up.
Block A Standings:
- Kazuchika Okada: 4-0 (8 Points)
- KENTA: 4-0 (8 Points)
- Lance Archer: 2-2 (4 Points)
- EVIL: 2-2 (4 Points)
- Kota Ibushi: 2-2 (4 Points)
- Hiroshi Tanahashi: 2-2 (4 Points)
- SANADA: 1-3 (2 Points)
- Will Ospreay: 1-3 (2 Points)
- Bad Luck Fale: 1-3 (2 Points)
- Zack Sabre Jr: 1-3 (2 Points)