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NXT Minus 6: The Best Of 2018

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Tommaso Ciampa Johnny Gargano NXT Takeover

A lot of people are doing recaps & best of lists. Where else are you going to find Canadian of the Year and the MAMMA MIA Award?  The NXT Minus 6, that’s where!

NXT in 2018 had one of the best years of any promotion in the history of American wrestling. Takeovers were consistently outstanding. The weekly show was consistently good to great. So many wrestlers deserve recognition. It was hard to whittle it all down to the best, but I do like a challenge. Here it is: the best of NXT from 2018.   

Canadian of the Year: Kyle O’Reilly

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I’m not sure how many superstars qualify for this honor, but I could not do a best of the year list without including everybody’s favorite member of the UE. Dude is a workrate monster & future Intercontinental Champion.    

The MAMMA MIA!!!: Ricochet’s flip

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This award goes to the one move I watched over & over & lost my mind every time. It was completely unexpected. He absolutely nailed the landing, an Olympic 10. The cherry on the top was Velveteen Dream’s reaction; his face said what we were all thinking.

Burn of the year: Velveteen Dream at Ricochet, Takeover Chicago

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“You belong in a bingo hall.”

The Cool Runnings Award: Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch, Takeover Chicago

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The crowd was blazing hot for Undisputed Era. Nobody gave Lorcan & Burch a chance, so they proceeded to turn the curtain jerker into main event quality. Team 1&2 gave everything they had but came up short. They still received a standing ovation from the crowd, proving that wrestling fans are human after all.

Breakout star for 2019: Matt Riddle

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Ask me next week, it could be Keith Lee. Or Bianca Belair. Or Dijakovic. It’s safe to say that no matter who it is, we’re all winners.

PPV of the year: Takeover War Games

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This was the hardest award to choose. There were 4 matches in 2 ½ hours & not once did it feel long or flat, which gave it a slight edge over New Orleans and Chicago. It started with what I believe to be the best NXT women’s match of 2018. It followed with a 6 star match and a 5 star match. It ended with one of the most glorious car crash spotfests you will ever see. Less is more. In a year of phenomenal PPVs, War Games was the most.

Feud of the year: Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa

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Feud of the year. Feud of the Decade. Feud for the ages. It started with one of the best heel turns ever. It gave us 3 MOTY candidates. It jump started another epic heel turn. It sets the stage for evil DIY reunion. You know Gargano is eventually going to come back for his title shot & pound of flesh. This is the feud that keeps on giving.

The Most NXT match of the year: North American Title match at Takeover New Orleans

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This is not the best match of the year. It is the match that best showcases what NXT is all about. This could have main evented any PPV on the entire E calendar. Instead, it was the opener. Are you kidding me? Six guys went out there, busted their asses in one of the best ladder matches ever and sent a message to everyone in the back: There’s your bar, now top that. THAT is how you kick off a show.     

Female wrestler of the year: Nikki Cross

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More than anybody else in the entire E universe, Nikki feels totally unscripted. I truly believe not even she knows what she’s going to do when she hits the ring. Her role in the Black saga was a tasty scoop of nutty. Her character work is so good, it’s easy to forget she had top notch matches with Baszler, Belair and the triple threat with Lerae & Sane. Wrestling needs more Nikki Cross.

Wrestler of the year: Johnny Gargano

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He’s too small. Wrong. He’s just a tag team guy. Wrong. He’s a pure babyface. Wrong. Gargano spent all year proving us wrong. He had 5 star matches as a face and a heel. His slow descent into madness has been a masterclass of long term storytelling. Johnny Freaking Wrestling, Johnny Bad Ass, Johnny Takeover, is on the short list for best wrestler in the world. I have no idea what he can do in 2019 to top what he did in 2018, but I’ll be watching to find out.

That’s right. I said it.


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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Revealing The Asian Pacific Independent Promotions: Part 2

Shawn is back with a deeper look at the Asian Pacific Independents!

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Singapore Pro Wrestling Asian Pacific

Shawn is back with a deeper look at the Asian Pacific Independents!

I covered the major promotions in part 1 of this series.  It is easy to see the contributions each made to create the current atmosphere. Those contributions to establish Asian wrestling would not have succeeded without the support of the following promotions.

Gatoh Move Pro Wrestling Thailand

GMPW was established in 2012 by Legendary Japanese women’s wrestler Emi Sakura (2009 NWA Women’s Pacific Champion).  If Ho Ho Lun represents the father of modern professional wrestling in Asia, than Emi Sakura has earned the legacy of mother.  Emi’s footprint can be found not only in Thailand, but also Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines.

  • First, her connections with previous Japanese promotions Ice Ribbon, Ryukyu Dragon, DDT Pro Wrestling, and All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) provide much needed talent into Asia.  
  • Secondly, Emi tours throughout Asia providing in ring experience to much younger talent.
  • She took on the role of mentor to several women’s wrestlers as they became trainers for their respective promotions.  
  • Emi is still in her prime as a wrestler and continues to tour internationally.

Malaysia Pro Wrestling (MYPW) Malaysia

Originally created as a fan club, transformed into a wrestling club after the WWE/WCW wars ended. In 2014, MYPW was established by Mr. Ayez Shaukat Fonseka.. Without an actual trainer, Mr. Fonseka traveled to the United States and studied under Rick Drasin (product of Mae Young) and Dr. Tom Prichard.  Prichard became a mentor to Shaukat and has helped in the early stages of the company. I recently interviewed MYPW and more details will be provided once the article is published. Fans interested in viewing matches can go to YouTube.

Singapore Pro Wrestling (SPW) Singapore

SPW is the oldest promotion in Southeast Asia.  Established in 2012 by a marketing agent Andruew Tang.  His partner Vadim Koryagin (Pro Wrestler).  Vadim Koryagin established the first professional wrestling promotion in Russia and is credited with training over 300 wrestlers.  Koryagin and Tang met during a town hall meeting to determine the value of expanding into Singapore. SPW was the first to go through the growing pains of exposing local fans to live events.  The promotion struggled until 2016 as shows began growing in attendance. Today the promotion has several hundreds in attendance on a regular basis and attracts popular wrestlers from around the world.  Local talent is also shared with the other promotions in this article. Tang and Koryagin also one of a few promotions in the region pushing women’s wrestling. Fans interested can find some matches on YouTube.

Pacific Region Powers New Zealand

Much like Japan and Australia, the promotions in New Zealand play a unique role in Asia.  Close enough to southeast Asia, these promotions offer European and American style experiences that Japan fails to provide.  IPW and SPW both host frequent international wrestlers from all over Europe and the United States, therefore providing vast exposure to new wrestling styles, matches, and audience participation.  New Zealand promotions provide larger talent which many Asian promotions rarely encounter. New styles of matches like hardcore, tables and ladders, 2 out of 3 fall, and gauntlet matches take place frequently exposing Asian wrestlers to expand their experience levels.  IPW and SPW enjoy the benefit of large numbers of independent wrestlers passing through on tour, providing booking opportunities for local fans. New Zealand is the introduction locale for such talents before they enter the unique wrestling scene in Asia.


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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SANADA, From Breakout Performance To Breakout Year ?

Valentin brings us some thoughts of the up and coming SANADA. If you haven’t watched the match between Minoru Suzuki and SANADA, go back and do that.

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SANADA applying Skull End on Minoru Suzuki

Valentin brings us some thoughts of the up and coming SANADA. If you haven’t watched the match between Minoru Suzuki and SANADA, go back and do that.

You know, tournaments are always full of surprises. From upsets you never saw coming, to matches you never thought would be as good as they are. Sometimes, as the matches happen, you see some things develop which you were not expecting.

Today, I will take a look at one of these things, as March 17th saw SANADA had one of his best, and possibly most important matches in his New Japan career.

This year’s New Japan Cup has been filled with interesting turn of events and some participants, already eliminated or not, can be considered breakout stars of this tournament so far. One of them is Los Ingobernables de Japon member SANADA, who has now defeated both Hirooki Goto and Minoru Suzuki, to advance in the tournament. The first thing to note is that out of the three L.I.J members originally participating, SANADA is the only one left, and even considering who eliminated Naito and EVIL in the first round, this is quite impressive.

The biggest feat so far for SANADA, of course is his performance against Suzuki. Not only did he win, but as you possibly know, not all wins weight the same, and we are talking about a big win here. After losing to Suzuki in Sapporo, this match was SANADA’s chance to redeem himself. The match itself being built to focus on SANADA’s ability to out wrestle his opponent and endure some unbearable amount of pain. Suzuki being a master at inflicting pain, you knew this was the perfect match-up to build SANADA up. From some of the usual vicious attacks to Suzuki to an intense battle of submissions full of reversals, SANADA landed Keiji Mutoh’s trademark moonsault for the win, as he received possibly the biggest crowd support he has ever gotten, even by Koruaken Hall standards. Speaking of crowd reaction, rewatch the submission sequences and listen to the crowd chanting for SANADA. Only the top performers in New Japan will get this type of response, and, as well as winning the match and in which fashion, this is the last ingredient for a star making performance.

Of course, having such a performance under your belt isn’t enough. With New Japan’s landscape being filled with opportunities for guys to shine, things cannot just stop there. As SANADA will have to face Colt Cabana, and possibly the winner of Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Zack Sabre Jr in the semifinals, what can we expect from the Cold Skull now ?

Outside of eventually finishing as New Japan Cup’s breakout star alongside Will Ospreay, SANADA can be in for a big year, as a singles wrestler. Let’s take a quick look at L.I.J.

So far, only Tetsuya Naito has had true singles success as a heavyweight, and both EVIL and SANADA have yet to really get a grasp of it, outside of good performances in previous G1 Climax tournaments, and a quick NEVER Openweight championship run for EVIL. There is a spot to fill as the second top heavyweight behind Naito, and while Shingo Takagi adds even more complexity to the mix, as of now, why can’t SANADA reach that level ? He certainly keeps proving he has the ability, so all is needed now for him to reach it, is to keep scoring big wins. Making it to the New Japan Cup semifinals would be a big deal, but after the Suzuki match, capping things off by going to the tournament’s finals would be a huge step. Even bigger if SANADA eliminates last year’s winner in ZSJ, which he is currently tied with in singles matches. However, defeating Tanahashi would be as big of an accomplishment.

The last subject to tackle is what is next after the New Japan Cup. Ultimately, who knows, but with SANADA looking like he will be one of the wrestlers to come out of the tournament very strong, expect more singles matches outside of the G1, and possibly a championship match before that. Speaking of the G1 and championship matches, do not be shocked if SANADA ends up being a trump card in the tournament, and maybe even more. SANADA has always scored 8 points in his three participations, and while EVIL has been the one to stand out the most in the tournament the last few years, SANADA has been consistent and has managed to grab big wins, like against Tanahashi in 2016, or Ibushi and Sabre last year. With the possibility of seeing SANADA on the rise, do not be surprised if he ends up pinning one of the champions in the same block as him, and expect him to reach at least 10 points for the first time, meaning he would rank quite high in the block he is in. He could even finish the year with his first singles championship win.

Whatever happens, let me say that 2019 might be SANADA’s breakout year in New Japan, and you should look forward to it.

In times where New Japan needs to build up more wrestlers as threats for the diverse championships, SANADA seems to benefit the most from this year’s New Japan Cup, as an opportunity to climb up the ranks. Now tell me, what are your expectations concerning the man we will ultimately have to stop referring as Keiji Mutoh’s student ?


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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