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Mathew’s Top 25 Matches of 2018 #5-1

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Mathew brings you the last set in his 25 Best Matches of 2018! What matches topped his list?

Welcome back to my list as we have reached the final countdown and I’m not talking about the song, as we now talk about the final five matches off of my list. This one was difficult to position to see which one of these five did I like more compared to the others, but all five of these matches were worthy for the Top 5 spot.

I’ll also be providing links for the previous twenty for those that missed any of them or are just catching up now and I recommend you check them out before continuing forward. So who makes the cut for the final five? Let’s find out.

#25-21
#20-16
#15-11
#10-6

 

5. Zeus vs. Kento Miyahara (AJPW Raising an Army Memorial Series 2018 10/21/2018)

– Bet you were wondering when Kento Miyahara was going to make it to this list, huh? Well, it’s no surprise that he’s in the top five with the series of matches he’s had this year and once again proving why he should be on peoples watch list. Around sometime in July, Zeus defeated Kento Miyahara to win his first Triple Crown Championship which was long overdue and the two would fight in a rematch after Kento won the Oudou Tournament to earn this opportunity in one of the top billed matches for the year.

This match brought back the King’s Road style of Japanese Wrestling and what is King’s Road style, you ask? King’s Road is a combination of their Japanese style mixed with Southern wrestling from the ’70s and ’80s due to the partnership they had with NWA at the time. Both Kento and Zeus represented it in such a well matter that they proved that they’re the top two guys in the company right now and that they could lead the company to new heights. Kento defeated Zeus to reclaim his belt to become a four-time Triple Crown Champion and I do wish Zeus had a longer and more successful reign with this run due to it being the first one, but Kento is the ace of the company for a reason and Zeus is at the point of his career that he can be bigger than the belt due to how popular he is. Kento told Zeus after the match that they’ll both lead AJPW to a better tomorrow and they’ll do it together as they shook hands and the crowd would chant for not the two of them, but All Japan. Such a great moment for the company and a great match to top it off.

 

4. WALTER vs. Timothy Thatcher (PROGRESS Chapter 62: Fear No More, Come To Dust 1/28/2018)

– First, I wanna say congratulations to WALTER for being the only one to make it on the list three times and I normally keep it to just two for the most part but it’s hard to deny that WALTER had a phenomenal year and he had a much better match then the two previously mentioned on this list and it was against his Ringkampf partner, Timothy Thatcher. The two would fight off at PROGRESS for the Atlas Championship to start off the year and if you wanted to see a brutal fight, then look no further since this delivered. Remember when I said WALTER just shows no mercy to his opponents? Well, he would take it to an extra level in this match and to his own partner no less, hate to see how it would go if they were enemies instead. At the same time, this is probably how they would want it due to the amount of respect they have for each other that they didn’t wanna hold anything back.

Ch.62

The match has mat wrestling and just the two beating each other up any chance they get with WALTER mostly chopping him down as many times as he can like he does with many of his opponents, but why change it since his chops are deadly and very effective since they show results. Timothy is someone that is great in the ring and has so much knowledge to give to fellow wrestlers with how intelligent he is that he’d be a great coach whenever he decides to retire. Even when Timothy took a big beating throughout the match, he would have an even match with WALTER as the match got closer to the end but WALTER would retain the championship in my favorite UK match. The bruises left on Timothy after the match would just tell the story for you.

 

3. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi (NJPW G1 Climax Finals 8/12/2018)

– Last year, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi would have a near classic at Power Struggle and now they’ll deliver another classic along with being my favorite New Japan match this year. Instead of them fighting for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, they would fight at the finals for the G1 Climax where the winner will fight Kenny Omega for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at the Tokyo Dome. Just even the entrances were a great moment where you see Kenny Omega walking with Kota Ibushi to the ring and on the other one, you have Hiroshi Tanahashi being accompanied to the ring by Katsuyori Shibata, which alone was a fantastic sight itself to see.

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So what makes this match so good? The storytelling in the ring is top notch, the wrestling was crisp, the emotion in the match was unreal, and the atmosphere of the ring was breathtaking. This was also the best Tanahashi has been in a couple of years and it’s no surprise why he won the MVP of the year during the Tokyo Sports Awards, plus he also showed he can still go despite his body still being broken. Tanahashi would do what people didn’t think would happen as he won the G1 Climax once again when he defeated Ibushi and was carried by Shibata after the match to make another great moment while Kenny stared up at his future opponent. Another big part of this was Ibushi does see Tanahashi as a god of professional wrestling and no matter how good he’s gotten since the last time they fought, he still couldn’t be able to defeat him when it mattered. We got Hiroshi Tanahashi taking on Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 13 where it’ll be tradition vs evolution in the match, but will Kenny be able to do what his Golden Lover couldn’t do or will both of the Golden Lovers fall to Tanahashi? It’s a match I’m looking forward to and we wouldn’t have gotten it if we didn’t have this incredible match to set it up.

 

2. Tommaso Ciampa vs. Velveteen Dream (NXT Takeover: Wargames II 11/17/2018)

WWE NXT Takeover War Games Tommaso Ciampa Velveteen Dream NXT

–  What was not to love about this match? This match had that old school feel that paid homage to that type of wrestling you would see back in the NWA glory days but they would evolve it in a way to adapt to how wrestling is now and guess what? They were able to make it work. This was also Velveteen’s first shot at the NXT Championship who has been on fire lately since last year when he fought Aleister Black at the last War Games Takeover, so kinda ironic how a match of his with the same show name made it back on the list and higher no less. Velveteen’s charisma is off the charts and he would always find ways to make each Takeover he’s apart of win or lose, but he puts his name in people’s mouths for doing stuff like this and that’s his ultimate goal, to get people talking about him and we hear him loud and clear.

I was also worried about the direction of Tommaso Ciampa after his rivalry with Johnny Gargano since I didn’t want it to be like he would be forgotten or dropped down on the card after his feud, but I’m glad that wasn’t the case since he’s still the top heel in the brand and he has a legit opponent for his next title defense. The mind games they played at the beginning were great, the wrestling was spectacular, the overall story of the match went exactly how it should go. There was one moment in the match where I thought Velveteen was going to win the title when he hits the Purple Rain Maker after hitting a move to the outside as the crowd was getting ready to get off their feet, but Ciampa still found a way to kick out. The near falls while a little bit too much also had the right timing for the ones that needed it the most but Ciampa would retain the title and another classic is in the books. Ciampa would even call Velveteen a prodigy of sports entertainment and I would like to say that he is too, so that’s a great compliment given to The Velveteen Dream. The perfect balance of both professional wrestling and sports entertainment, what more can you ask for?

 

1. Kento Miyahara vs. Naomichi Marufuji (AJPW Champions Carnival 4/30/2018)

–  Once I saw this match live when it happened, I knew this was my match of the year and was going to have a difficult time being topped for a lot of reasons. This match also had a lot of concern for the All Japan locker room due to Naomichi Marufuji being apart of Pro Wrestling NOAH and if you know the history between the two promotions, still some bad tensions there and Jun Akiyama, the current president and booker of All Japan Pro Wrestling of all people was the one who invited him to come to this year’s Champions Carnival despite him working for the other promotion. So why did Jun invite him? I think it’s more of trying to find peace or a middle ground between NOAH and AJPW, and he fought the way to do that was to invite him to their biggest tournament to show that there could be some unity between the two promotions. Marufuji would even fight Jun at the final day of B Block and the story of that match was unbelievable as it should be seen by everyone who knows the history of these two promotions or even just a fan of these two wrestlers. To everyone’s surprise, Marufuji would win his match to advance to the final round and he would now fight the winner of A Block and Triple Crown Champion, Kento Miyahara.

I thought this was another incredible chapter to the AJPW/NOAH storyline that they had panned out for this Carnival and for Marufuji, his performance was like how he was when he wasn’t all battered and bruised since he showed he can still fight on a top level and he had the perfect opponent for him to take him to that level. This match is mostly on here for the storytelling between the two promotions but the wrestling in this one itself is also a sight to behold as everything was just crisp and the strikes they did to each other were deadly with each move done to them. Marufuji would be the winner of this year’s Champions Carnival to many surprises as well since I’m sure a lot of people expected Kento to win his first carnival, but it was Marufuji and NOAH for that matter that won the tournament. I thought it was a great move as Marufuji is a fantastic wrestler and I felt like it was needed to mend that bridge between the two and was a step in the right direction. The two would have a rematch a month later for the Triple Crown Championship this time and while a great match, their first encounter was hard to top and still holds the best bout for their year and since Kento did defeat Marufuji that time around, they’re tied one and one, so I hope a rematch can happen soon for 2019. Can AJPW and NOAH finally make peace with each other and work together more often? Only time will tell with what they wanna do next. Incredible story, incredible match, the history is all you need to be invested, and my favorite match of 2018.

I wanna thank you all for following me on this journey of me counting down my favorite matches of the year!

I’m sure some of them surprised you while some were expected but not in certain positions you’d be expecting. 2018 was still a great year for professional wrestling and I hope to see the ball still running for 2019. Tune in all I’ll be providing more Stardom content, the return of my Wrestling Quickies, and more of the promotions I cover along with some new ones if there’s time. Hope you all have a Happy New Year!


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The Paradox of the Wrestling War in 2021

The IWC has been talking about a certain Friday Night and what numbers matter. Tommy Starr chimes in with his perspective on this “war”.

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wwe-vs-aew-war-logo

“War is peace… freedom is slavery… ignorance is strength.”  These are among George Orwell’s key three slogans in his novel 1984, which exemplify the ideology that when one has the power to lull individuals into false senses of security, they will blissfully ignore truth and reality to serve a perpetual agenda.

Since the inception of AEW, wrestling media has insisted on this idealistic narrative of a born-again “Monday Night Wars” comparative to that of a bygone era of professional wrestling that has not been seen since and will never be seen again.  For one reason or another, modern wrestling fans have bought into this impractical religious doctrine hook, line, and sinker, despite statistical evidence that contradict this ideology.

To put this in perspective, if there is a genuine wrestling “war” in the wrestling market today, it is not merely a war of the companies of AEW vs. WWE, rather it is a frivolous war between the oppositional fans of AEW and WWE.  The center of authority that continues to drive this animosity amongst the opposing fan bases rests at the helm of the wrestling media and the individuals within the business itself.  The manipulative narrative of the wrestling media and wrestlers in the business have managed to perpetrate a falsified creed that AEW and WWE are “at war.”  It is interesting to note that this blanket statement hedges the particular element of what both companies are at war with. The common implication is the war of competition, particularly competition for viewership.  And while this narrative carries some validity, it misses the key detail of what this abstractive war revolves around.  It is a waging fight among AEW and WWE fans to try and claim superiority over the other, despite the apparent truth that both sides are failing to expand beyond their niche audiences.  Hence, neither party can credibly claim any form of superiority.  In essence, this religious irrationality to suggest that one company is directly “winning” over the other continues to miss the essential endgame of what winning a war truly looks like.

In the business world, “smart companies” understand and invest in long-term strategies of acknowledging that when they lose small battles, they allow their opposition to enjoy those smaller victories; meanwhile, they do not allow those battle losses to obstruct their long-standing progress.  So contextually, AEW would be wiser to accept that their Friday night edition of Rampage show running head to head with SmackDown lost in overall viewership numbers by approximately 288,000 viewers, despite the fact that not only was SmackDown running on a different network due to Fox coverage of the 2021 American League Championship Series, but that AEW Rampage had actually gained viewership from the previous week by about 15.14%.  Instead, wrestling media continues to propagate that overall viewership is subordinate to what truly matters in this equation, that being the key male 18-49 demographic.  What this discounts is that when one analyzes actual numbers, both shows essentially tied in the target 18-49 demographic at a 0.24.

A strategic business owner obsessed with “winning wars” understands his opposition’s leader and avoids engaging in projecting irrational and petty beliefs in order to stir up his or her army.  Rather, it would be wiser to quietly and cautiously observe the opposition’s decision-making to effectively counter-program and capture the attention of potential consumers.  This does not bode well for Tony Khan when he engages in social media warfare with the opposition to try and stoke a fire that merely exists in a metaphorical fantasy.  All the while, the rival niche audiences partake in nonsensical arguments over which organization “won” a war that has not, does not, and will not exist, despite a genuine hope that professional wrestling will ever reach that level of popularity again worth necessitating a war.

A true and authentic wrestling war in today’s culture should be the fight to reassemble a lost and/or new audience. Per discussion of a lost audience, that insinuates both parties fight for the admiration and trust of disgruntled audiences that have since tuned the product off from their habitual consumption.  Arguably, this can be seen as a lost cause, considering most of these wrestling fans have long since distanced themselves from professional wrestling. However, a business that can successfully earn back that trust of disassociated consumers is a fruitful investment. Catering to loyal and clinging fan bases may be short-term goals, but they are not expansive business strategies.  And based on the weekly viewership numbers, ratings, and key demos for both parties, AEW and WWE continue to cater short-term appeal to their niche audiences instead of investing in long-term strategic outreach to new audiences.  The art of mastery on this level is a war worth fighting for.

Sources:

  • Casey, C. (2021, October 18). Who won Friday night’s ratings battle between WWE smackdown and AEW Rampage? WWE. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://comicbook.com/wwe/news/wwe-smackdown-aew-rampage-oct-15-ratings-war-who-win-tied-demographic-smackdown-wins-audience/.
  • Feloni, R. (2014, August 14). 33 war strategies that will help you win in business. Business Insider. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://www.businessinsider.com/war-strategies-to-win-in-business-2014-8.
  • Thurston, B. (2021, January 15). Key demo and total audience: What are they and how much do they matter? Wrestlenomics. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://wrestlenomics.com/2020/07/14/key-demo-and-total-audience-what-are-they-and-how-much-do-they-matter/#:~:text=With%20a%20new%20head%2Dto,advertisers%20to%20the%20programs’%20networks.


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Steve Cook’s Fave Five: October 2021

From the Head Of The Table to the Future Head Of The Table, and more, Steve Cook has his Fave Five for October!

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Bron Breakker

From the Head Of The Table to the Future Head Of The Table, and more, Steve Cook has his Fave Five for October!

We’re more than halfway through October, and you know what that means! It’s time to make a list of my five favorite wrestlers! It’s either do this or write about the latest wrestling news, and as fun as it is to talk about television ratings, this seems more productive at the moment.

5. Mercedes Martinez

It’s considered impolite to discuss age. At least it used to be. I’m not sure anything’s considered impolite anymore based off of what I read on the Internet & see on television. People have pitched manners out the window as they’ve become accustomed to not worrying about getting punched in the face. There’s a point I’m trying to get to here, and that point is that it’s nice that women’s wrestling has arrived at a place where I can write about somebody that’s been wrestling about as long as I’ve been an online wrestling journalist, and they’re kicking ass & taking names. Makes me feel a bit less creepy.

Martinez’s return to the indies & emergence in Impact Wrestling has gone well. What Impact is doing with her isn’t exactly rocket science: have Mercedes Martinez destroy everybody in her path to a title shot, and make people believe that whoever the champion will be between Mickie James & Deonna Purrazzo will have a difficult test on their hands. Simple, right? Throw in the incoming debut of the IInspiration, and it’s pretty easy to get excited about the Knockouts Division & where it’s headed.

4. Bron Breakker

Yes, the name is pretty awful. Yes, NXT 2.0 isn’t exactly setting the world on fire after a few weeks. But it’s tough to deny the talent of the son of Rick Steiner. Dude has the physicality & the speaking tone of his father & uncle. Not quite the size of Rick or Scott in later years, but if genetics are any indication he’ll get there. It won’t be long before he’s NXT Champion, heck, I’m kind of surprised he didn’t get drafted to Raw or SmackDown already. He’s got money written all over him.

As for that pesky name issue…names aren’t as big of an issue as we like to think they are. Dolph Ziggler would have been future endeavored years ago if bad names held talent back. You also have to keep in mind that WWE will probably change his name before he gets to the main roster. No need to sweat the small stuff here. This guy will be a star somewhere under some name. Probably for the best the longer he holds off using the Steiner name, given how the wrestling business works.

3. Junior Dos Santos

If you’ve followed mixed martial arts for any length of time, you know that most fighters’ careers don’t end in a blaze of glory. Fighters want to keep fighting, and even if the losses keep stacking up they still think they’re one win away from getting back to the top. Young fighters are looking to make their names, and beating the brakes off of fighters with track records is a good way to do that. At age 37, JDS has entered that phase of his MMA career. He’s lost four straight fights, all via TKO, all to younger fighters looking to make a name. He could keep doing that, or he could move on to something else while his name still has value.

Why not pro wrestling? Granted, I seem to be one of the few people writing words on wrestling websites that actually like AEW’s angle with American Top Team & Dan Lambert, but JDS is the perfect fit for something like this. He’s a large human being, wrestling fans by & large know who he is, and he has the type of athletic ability that should transition well to pro wrestling. He’s lost a few fights, but the people he lost to are doing pretty well in UFC’s heavyweight division. I’m willing to give it a chance. Also, when the inevitable AEW vs. WWE shootfight rumble happens, AEW’s going to need him around.

2. Roman Reigns

It’s like we said years & years ago: Turn Roman Reigns heel and people will start to like him. I don’t know why the idea took so long to enact, but WWE finally turned Roman Reigns heel and people have started liking him. How about that? Amazing how these things happen. Roman’s charisma has become much more apparent in his role as the Tribal Chief, Head of the Table, Big Dog, Island of Relevancy or whatever else they’re calling him this week. The interactions between Roman & Brock Lesnar have made for good television, so good that I think even Patrick O’Dowd is on the Paul Heyman bandwagon these days.

That all being said, I think I’m enjoying his off-screen character more than his on-screen character these days. Reigns has taken the baton from Seth Rollins & become Mr. WWE Defender, and does it in a way that’s less whiny than what Seth used to do. Perhaps a bit delusional, but much more convincing. Who would win in a shootfight between Roman & CM Punk is completely irrelevant, as last I checked none of these people were shooting in WWE or AEW rings, but he managed to make people care about it somehow. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

1. Bryan Danielson

I know we’re supposed to care first & foremost about what company somebody works for these days. So I’m sure there are some of you out there that have decided that the man formerly known as Daniel Bryan has to be washed up and no longer one of the best wrestlers in the world. Or he’s unfairly putting his life on the line outside of the welcoming bosom of WWE. Nah, it’s probably just the easy “B+ player” talking point that most of the same folks went with when Bryan was still with WWE.

Me, I just care about what’s going on in the ring. Whether other people like it or not has never been one of my main problems. As I’ve pointed out before: I don’t get paid by any of these companies, and I don’t get paid by other people to shill for them. All I know is that it’s a joy to have Bryan Danielson back on my television, and his matches have been as good as expected. It really doesn’t take all that much to make me happy, just good wrestlers doing good things.


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