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Mishal’s Top 5 WWE Matches Of The New Millennium

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Hollywood Hulk Hogan The Rock WWE WrestleMania 18

So WWE is once again up to their same old marketing tricks to sell their next big show (Backlash) to us the audience. Almost every major show of theirs has a selling point of some kind, be it a special stipulation, a big match featuring highly valued competitors, the return of a big name or a ‘Once in a Lifetime’ contest that we may never see again (but based on the track record, likely will), the company always has a tendency to try and buff up each of their respectful cards.

The strategy surrounding Backlash this year is one I personally fail to understand & find equally hilarious at the same time.

Backlash will mark the official in-ring return of Edge to a WWE ring after almost a decade away in retirement. Granted his Last Man Standing match at WrestleMania is considered to be his big comeback, that match was more of a widespread brawl as opposed to a test of the man’s abilities in the squared circle for me. Edge will have a lot to prove here, going up against one of the very best this generation has to offer in Randy Orton, a rematch that tones down the personal vendetta the two had for one another in their initial bout & instead, making this a test of who’s simply the better bell to bell.

I, like most, have no issue with this necessarily, even though there are a dozen other opponents I’d rather see ‘The Rated R Superstar’ face-off against, the quarrel really comes in with the tagline this match carries; ‘The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever’.

WWE has been known for absurdity in their marketing, their recent string of shows in Saudi Arabia is a solid example of this, the biggest possible sell of a match (or series of matches) so over-the-top that they always fail to live up to the hype. Look at the ‘Best in the world’ tournament won by Shane McMahon, ‘The Greatest Royal Rumble’, the unnecessary reunion of DX against the Brothers of Destruction or even the company quite literally naming a show ‘Great Balls of Fire’ back in 2017. The track record isn’t exactly non-existent, they’ve always pushed the boundaries in selling their product to be the grandest it can be, only this time it feels almost too forced to buy into.

As neat as the concept of an Edge vs Randy Orton wrestling match may or may not be to some, this is a hard sell, an impossible one to almost live up to because the reality is, the bar for the ‘greatest’ of anything in the wrestling industry is an insurmountable task to climb & match up to. In a way the marketing for this match is almost comical because of how odd the placement of this tagline is considering there’s been no audience to react to any of it, instead it’s making this whole debacle feel like an incredibly desperate attempt to push a sub-par rematch.

A lot of this has got me thinking, that this opportunity is an ideal time to spotlight the matches that, at least in my opinion, fit the mold of truly being ‘The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever’.

For this list, I decided to stick to matches taking place under the WWE banner since the new Millennium rather than all of history since there are simply too many matches I’d want to list from a span of time that wide. Each match on here can hold the mantle of being the ‘greatest’, whether that be from an in-ring standpoint, storytelling standpoint or the influence that it’s had on the business since. There are a plethora of NJPW, ROH & TNA matches I’d love to be on here, but that’s for a later date.

Honourable Mentions

Chris Benoit vs Triple H vs Shawn Michaels – Wrestlemania XX

  • Everything a main event level match should be. Not a single moment wasted, it combines multiple storylines perfectly & resulted in one of the most genuine, emotional moments in wrestling history to close off a show.

Sami Zayn vs Shinsuke Nakamura – NXT Takeover: Dallas

  • Arguably the best in-ring debut of the last two decades. Not just the perfect sendoff for Sami Zayn at the end of his NXT run, but the ideal match and environment to debut an international superstar in.

‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin vs The Rock – WrestleMania X-Seven

  • The best bell-to-bell Championship Match in WrestleMania history. It’s wild, brutal, showcased at a ridiculous pace & contains one of the most controversial endings to a show in history.

Brock Lesnar vs Eddie Guerrero – No Way Out 2004

  • The ultimate feel-good match, the perfect underdog story & to this day one of the most incredible crowd reactions to a match I’ve ever seen that cemented both Brock Lesnar & Eddie Guerrero as legends.

The Undertaker vs Triple H – WrestleMania XXVIII

  • I can’t think of a better way to cap off the end of an era than this match. It embodies the product at the height of the industry, the action is physically punishing, it follows the previous year’s events perfectly & the storytelling is off the charts. If the match doesn’t make you cry, the post-match embrace will.

5. Sasha Banks vs Bayley – NXT Takeover: Brooklyn

Women’s wrestling has always had a bad reputation behind it until fairly recently. The WWE had long treated women as ‘inferior’ to some extent, resulting in less in-ring time, subpar storylines, a focus on looks over talent & nothing of true substance to get them to that next level they so deserve.

And then comes NXT Takeover: Brooklyn, where the reputation and focus of the division shifted almost entirely on its head in one single evening. The atmosphere in Brooklyn that evening is unlike any we’d seen from two female talents up to that point, as Sasha Banks defended her title against Bayley, arguably the hottest star in the company at that point in a match that to me, is the defining women’s match of this generation. Both women were polar opposites on a character level and being two of the Four Horsewomen made this encounter all the more special.

It features everything wrestling fans want, incredible action, fantastic storytelling, insane high-spots which will stand the test of time & most importantly, Bayley finally finding her way to the top of the mountain in NXT with every fan in the arena on their feet. There’s always quality in wrestling, but to see an entire sold-out arena on their feet in unison for a match isn’t as common as you’d think, because there wasn’t a single fan who wasn’t screaming at the top of their lungs by the matches end. To see the women reach the heights they’re at right now is a genuine relief to anyone who values their talents, but it’ll be a long time until something topples this absolute masterpiece.

4. ‘Hollywood’ Hulk Hogan vs The Rock – WrestleMania X-8

There’s loud, there’s wild, there’s insane & then, there’s The Rock vs ‘Hollywood’ Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania X-8.

In terms of dream matches, you’d be hard-pressed to find one with a bigger fight feel or cross-generational appeal that has the scope behind it that both Rock & Hogan brought to their match at WrestleMania X-8. It’s everything a dream match should be in my eyes, and in its execution ended up being even better than I’d hope it would be. Being live as part of the audience for this encounter must have been the most surreal experience a wrestling fan could have had at that point in time, there isn’t a single moment of this match that isn’t deafening to the ears, not a moment that doesn’t feel like this isn’t the biggest event that sport had ever put on for its fans.

Stylistically none of this would be considered a ‘mat classic’ by any means, all of it was about one thing, the characters. WWE never intended this match to be a showcase of in-ring ability, this was two of the biggest draws from the biggest generations in both company & sports history colliding in a fight to decide who truly stood out as the very best. It was more of a brawl in its execution, both Rock & Hogan delivered everything that made their characters so memorable & their finishing moves have never felt larger than they did on this evening in Toronto. Taking two of the most charismatic individuals to step into a ring at that point and have them do battle was only something we could imagine would be as great as we wanted it to be in our heads, this was one of those rare occasions when our expectations weren’t just met, but surpassed.

How this wasn’t the headline match is a decision that to this day baffles my brain.

3. CM Punk vs John Cena – Money In The Bank 2011

Money in the Bank 2011 will always hold a special place in my heart. I remember waking up at 3 am to watch this show, not having to go to school the next day because my parents were actually letting me sleep in that morning & watch what is widely considered one of the best shows of the last two decades. And despite it being a phenomenal show in its own right, much of the praise hinges on the main event, which is an example of how good WWE can be when it allows itself to be.

John Cena vs CM Punk was positioned as the ‘authority’ vs the rebel, the outsider & the dawning of a new generation on the industry. Punk, to me, represented a modern-day take on Steve Austin (albeit, without the copious amounts of consumed alcohol) taking on the establishment who wanted to hold someone like a John Cena in his position (whom you could replace with an early 2000’s Triple H, I guess) for the well-being of the product. All of this was only fueled by CM Punk publicly announcing his deal with the company was coming to an end and he fully intended to walk out with Cena’s prized WWE Championship in his hands, in his own hometown no less.

The match was the boiling point at the end of a red-hot night of wrestling, packed with fantastic matches, perfect storytelling & one of the rare times where the momentum of a WWE show never halted, not even once. Cena vs Punk capping off the night made it all the better, with the Chicago crowd ferociously supporting their hometown anti-hero. From an in-ring perspective, it’s difficult to deny this as arguably both Cena & Punk’s best across the board since neither of them missed a beat. Their in-ring chemistry was on display in full force, and with Cena’s style not fully expanding itself out yet having an in-ring talent as intelligent as Punk was the perfect counterbalance, resulting in the best non-WrestleMania main event the main roster has arguably put on since the 2000s rang in.

From the action to the unhinged crowd, to the performances of both men & the involvement of Vince McMahon, this was wrestling at its finest & a match that to this day holds up against the plethora of excellent work we get on an almost weekly basis now.

2. The Dudley Boyz vs Edge & Christian vs The Hardy Boyz – WrestleMania 2000

Easily, and without question the most innovative, defining match on this list in my opinion.

There isn’t much I can say about the first-ever Triangle Ladder Match that hasn’t already been said by every other fan that’s ever uttered a word about it. It’s one of this generations defining matches, from its unique style & risk-taking offence that left our jaws on the floor, to the ability of six young men to all at once wedge their names in the history books with a match that is still talked about to this very day.

At the time tag team wrestling certainly had taken some risks & routes to be more ingenious, none compared to what occurred here. Every moment of this contest was a thrill to behold, every move garnered a reaction, the use of all three weapons brought a different element out of each team which they went on to implement throughout their careers afterwards & each distinct trait of the team’s arsenal brought something unique to the table. None of the teams aimed to win through simply climbing the ladder, there was always a sense of them doing what they know best as opposed to following a set formula, and it makes the pacing & intrigue of this match so difficult to critique.

Regardless of how relevant tag teams are in current-day WWE, this is proof of how, when given the freedom, this style of wrestling can tear the house down & even define a generation.

1. The Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania XXV

Picking between both their WrestleMania XXV & XXVI matches is a near-impossible task because both carry a legacy behind them that I can’t for the life of me select a favourite out of without feeling some sense of guilt. Both matches stand as not just my favourite WrestleMania matches, but my favourites of all-time.

Undertaker & Shawn Michaels are two of the best storytellers the business has ever seen, period. Without them, WrestleMania just wouldn’t be what it is, they’ve turned in some of the best storylines & performances on the ‘Grandest Stage of Them All’ & having them collide at the 25th Anniversary of the event was poetic, almost perfect to experience as a fan. It was the story of two men who couldn’t be more different yet possessed in-ring chemistry so incredible it drops my jaw to the floor every time I re-visit these incredible spectacles.

For myself, I list their WrestleMania XXV match on here just because it’s the first of the two, and because of the need it gave fans to see the two icons go at it so badly one more time it would result in a rematch a year later, in the final match of Shawn Michaels storied career. Their initial encounter, however, was the equivalent of a young fan smashing his dolls together for 30-minutes on end, just with the very best example of how to use a character to tell a timeless story.  It was the collision of the two oldest warriors in the game, two gun-slingers & two icons that built the very ring they fought in, and it delivered on every ounce of hype behind it, with so much more to offer.

The action started slow for the opening moments but surges into a world of its own. Packed with gigantic moves from out of nowhere, a moonsault that looked like it broke Michaels’ knee, a suicide dive that should have in-fact killed someone, a superkick so loud it could be heard in the rafters, a Tombstone Piledriver kickout that still gives me chills & Jim Ross providing some of the most memorable lines of commentary I’ve ever heard. Undertaker & Shawn Michaels didn’t just create the best match in the history of WrestleMania, they defined what the show represents on the evening we were witnessing its celebration. Michaels may have lost this, and the subsequent encounter the year following in heartbreaking fashion, but he eventually ended his career on the highest note a wrestler could ever imagine, crafting one of the greatest spectacles in the sport, with the greatest player in it that will stand the test of time for decades to come.

I know I started off this list saying it was impossible to name ‘The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever’, Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels from either WrestleMania is the strongest contender I can think of to carry that mantle on its own. Without a doubt my all-time favourite series of matches & a true standard-bearer for how we define the ‘greatest’ when it comes to matches in this industry.


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Cook: Don’t Bet Against Greatness

It’s a mistake that’s easy to make, but it’s an equally important lesson to remember. As Steve Cook says: don’t bet against greatness.

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Tom Brady Super Bowl Trophy

It’s a mistake that’s easy to make, but it’s an equally important lesson to remember. As Steve Cook says: don’t bet against greatness.

It would take at least a thousand columns like this one to explain the biggest mistakes we pundits make. I use the phrase “we” because I’ll never sit here and tell you I’m infallible. I make more mistakes than I care to remember. Today, we’ll talk about one that I’m guilty of pretty often.

Too often, we don’t give greatness the benefit of the doubt.

We jump to quick conclusions when the greats of a genre do things that don’t seem in character, or are different from what we’re used to. We don’t consider the idea that maybe these people, who have already accomplished many things in life, might actually have a better idea what they can do to improve their future than we do.

Hard to believe, I know. This past weekend saw great success for two of the most successful people in the world of sports & entertainment. They serve as perfect examples of my hypothesis.

Example 1: Tom Brady

Tom Brady

For years, I have resisted the idea of calling Tom Brady the Greatest Quarterback of All Time. I never like crowning current stars the greatest of anything, as it disrespects the people that came before them. Unless they just accomplish so damn much that it’d be silly to deny them the honor. Sometimes, people get GOAT status that don’t really deserve it. They seem to be on pace to get there, but never make the jump.

Tom Brady made that jump a long time ago. There isn’t really a metric people can use to sell him short at this point. He’s at or near the top of every significant passing category in league history. There’s also the number of Super Bowls won, and number of rings/titles/championships always wins any sports argument, regardless of the sport. It can’t really be denied at this point.

The one thread people had to hang on to? Bill Belichick. The Patriot Way. Brady & Belichick formed a dynasty together. The other players & assistant coaches always changed, but Tom & Bill were always there. Which provided a bit of drama over the past few years whenever we needed something to talk about. Who was responsible for the success? The answer was obviously a little bit of both, but it was always a big debate.

Brady went to Tampa, and some folks thought it might not work. Many talking heads went on about how Tom was just going to Tampa because he wanted out of the cold weather. He just wanted to have fun for the last couple years of his career. They didn’t think that he could do these things and also win championships.

He’s one game away from doing just that. Are you going to bet against him? I’m not!

Example 2: Vince McMahon

Vince McMahon Laughing

How many articles have you read questioning McMahon’s mental acumen? Especially over the past several years as he’s advanced in age? It seems like everybody has dismissed the old man as a fossil that needs to step aside and let the kids run things.

We think we have evidence for this theory from WWE television. I’ll admit it, Raw most weeks is thoroughly unwatchable. You may disagree, but I’m the one typing this thing up. SmackDown is a little bit better, but Raw’s ineptitude overshadows it for the most part. Then there’s NXT, which most people seem to agree goes downhill the more that Vince pays attention to it.

A good percentage of the Internet wishes that Vince would step aside and not be all over everything.

This places us on the opposite side of most investors, who don’t watch the shows religiously, if at all, and don’t get inside knowledge from the dirt sheets & message boards. What they know is that Vince McMahon is the most successful promoter in wrestling history, and that he knows how to make a lot of money. Which, most would argue, is a lot more important than the quality of the shows one produces.

McMahon has shown an ability to make the right business moves at the right time. 1984 was the right time to go national and wipe out the territories, cable television expanding wrestling program reach made it only a matter of time. Vince was the first one to jump.

The late 1990s when the company was at a mainstream acceptance high was the right time to go public. You didn’t see him trying it in the early 1990s when he was fighting off various scandals and the company was at a mainstream acceptance low. Once people forgot about the steroid & sex stuff and saw how popular the Superstars of the time were, it was time to buy in.

Streaming was the wave of the future when WWE Network started becoming a thing. It was the culmination of nearly thirty years of Vince McMahon collecting nearly every bit of wrestling footage he could. He wanted to own wrestling & create his own history, then he wanted to get everybody else’s history too. He got most of it. There’s stuff sitting in the WWE archives that still hasn’t seen the light of day, and maybe it never will. Everybody and their brother has some kind of streaming service now. WWE was there before most, and now they got the chance to cash in from a media company trying to bolster their own streaming service.

Now, McMahon’s business record isn’t perfect. We know about the WBF & the XFL (twice). We remember how WWE wasn’t the original name. The early 90s scandals have been mentioned. And as major UFC and boxing events have shown, Vince was too quick to give up on pay per view. Left some money on the table there.

Every businessman makes mistakes. Its how they recover from those mistakes that matters. McMahon always comes out of his smelling like roses. There’s never really a long-term negative effect afterward. Vince got Dwayne Johnson to buy the XFL. His attempt to compete in bodybuilding led to no hard feelings. We all eventually got used to saying & writing “WWE”.

All those things we get mad at about Vince? They don’t keep most of us from watching his programming. Which is why WWE is so valuable to media companies. WWE has an audience that it can’t scare away, no matter what it does. People will follow them from USA to Fox to Spike TV to the WWE Network, whatever’s got some of that sweet content.

So the next time somebody wants to tell you that Old Man Vince is out of touch and doesn’t get it anymore…ask that person the last time they deposited a billion dollar check. If it was sometime in the last week, then they might have a point.

I might not be in love with most of the wrestling Vince McMahon produces these days. Are you going to bet against him making money off of it? I’m not!

Do not bet against greatness. More often than not, you will lose.


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Andrew’s Top 5 Matches: Week Ending 1/24/2021

Well even on a quiet-ish week, all of the bigger NA companies get a version of representation and even AJPW found their way into the Top 5! Let’s see what we’re working with!

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Well now, we didn’t have much that really stood out on North American television, but we did get a few additions from All Japan Pro Wrestling!

Last week’s voting was pretty cut and dry, NXT UK: NXT UK Championship: Walter (c) vs A-Kid, managed to control the voting narrative. Now we get this week, and it’s definitely a little more interesting.

Which match will get the most support? Let’s find out!

Quick Top 5:

  1. AJPW New Year Wars Final Round: Triple Crown Championship: SUWAMA (c) vs Shotaro Ashino
    Rating: **** 1/4
  2. AJPW New Years Wars Final Round: World Junior Championship: Fuminori Abe vs Koji Iwamoto (c)
    Rating: *** 3/4
  3. WWE Raw: Ricochet vs AJ Styles
    Rating: *** 3/4
  4. IMPACT! Private Party w/Big Money Matt Hardy vs Beer Guns (James Storm & Chris Sabin)
    Rating: *** 1/2
  5. NXT: Fight Pit: Tommaso Ciampa vs Timothy Thatcher
    Rating: *** 1/2

 

Honorable Mentions:

  • NXT UK: Dave Mastiff vs Rampage Brown
    Rating: *** 1/4
  • NXT: Imperium vs Lucha House Party
    Rating: ***
  • WWE Raw: Asuka vs Alexa Bliss
    Rating: ***
  • AEW Dynamite: MJericho vs Sammy Hager vs Santana & Ortiz
    Rating: ***
  • NXT: KUSHIDA & Leon Ruff VS The Way
    Rating: ***

4t. NXT: Fight Pit: Tommaso Ciampa vs Timothy Thatcher

From Mitchell’s Coverage:

The ref checks on Thatcher but Thatcher grabs at Ciampa over the ref’s back! Ciampa uses the leverage for WILLOW’S BELL!! But Ciampa can’t win off a cover, he wants to know if that knocked Thatcher out! The ref starts a count, Thatcher is still conscious but he has to get up before 10! The count is 5, then 6! Thatcher uses the cage and drags himself up at 9.9! But Ciampa CLOBBERS him, underhooks, but Thatcher spins out to throw EuroUppers! Ciampa forearms, they’re brawling back and forth with fury! The fans are fired up as Ciampa CHOPS but Thatcher tackles him into steel!

Ciampa throws elbows, has a facelock, and he RAMS Thatcher into steel! FAIRYTALE ENDING!! And then a SLEEPER HOLD!! Ciampa wants Thatcher to pass out, but Thatcher fights up! And scoops Ciampa to RAM him into the steel! Thatcher gets Ciampa in a sleeper hold of his own, but Ciampa uses the corner to go up! Thatcher shoves Ciampa into the corner! Thatcher CLUBS Ciampa over and over and over, then has the leg trapped in the girder! HANGING STRETCH MUFFLER!! Ciampa shouts in pain, he TAPS! THATCHER WINS!!

Winner: Thatcher Hanging Stretch Muffler

 

4t. IMPACT! Private Party w/Big Money Matt Hardy vs Beer Guns (James Storm & Chris Sabin)

From My Results:

Fast paced as expected, but early on we see Tony Khan and Jerry Lynn walk out to sit at ringside and watch the match. Storm didn’t slow down too much, which is surprising since aside from his brief stint back in Impact at the end of 2020, we saw him tagging with Eli Drake in much slower, less workrate dependent matches.

Private Party were their usual high flying, fun having, break dance inspired flourishes to some offense we’ve seen for years. Beer Guns had a cool tandem move with Sabin Sunset Flipping from outside in, Quen rolled right into the Backstabber from James Storm. Lots of signature spam, a few dives, highlighted by a nice Fosbury Flop from Quen.

Sabin looked to be setting up for the finish, when Jerry Lynn hops the familiar guardrail, grabs Sabin’s foot while Matt Hardy distracted the ref; and Private Party hit Gin & Juice for the heel tactic upset! Interestingly, Private Party still comes off as great babyface kids who are being swindled by scummy adults. So they aren’t playing heel, but everyone around them is doing it for them.

Winner: Private Party via Gin & Juice

 

2t. WWE Raw: Ricochet vs AJ Styles

From Mitchell’s Coverage:

Ricochet is frustrated but Omos is relieved as Styles survives. Ricochet fireman’s carries but Styles fights out. Ricochet mule kicks a leg then back flips into the DEAD LIFT GERMAN! Bridging cover, TWO! Ricochet grows further frustrated but he watches Styles stand. Ricochet runs out from the corner but Styles dodges. Styles runs in, Ricochet elbows back, QUEBRADA into a LARIAT! Styles gets Ricochet up, SNAP BRAIN BUSTER!! Cover, TWO!! Styles fireman’s carries Ricochet for USHIGOROSHI! Cover, TWO! Omos says it’s alright but Styles is still surprised Ricochet survives!

Styles goes to a corner, goes to the apron, and takes aim. Styles springboards, but Ricochet hits the RECOIL!! Both men are down, Ricochet crawls to the cover, TWO!! Styles survives and Ricochet is beside himself! Ricochet goes to the corner, climbs up top, but Styles trips him up! Ricochet lands hard on his stomach and flops to the apron! Omos coaches Styles as Ricochet drags himself up. Styles goes to the corner, brings Styles up, but Ricochet hotshots! Ricochet aims, slingshots, but into Styles’ suplex, that rebounds off the ropes! Into the STYLES CLASH!!! Cover, Styles wins!

Winner: AJ Styles via Styles Clash

 

2t. AJPW New Years Wars Final Round: World Junior Championship: Fuminori Abe vs Koji Iwamoto (c)

Iwamoto has finally started to blossom as the Ace of the current Junior Division. Fuminori Abe on the other hand, is a freelancer who can do anything and everything. This should be a great test for the Junior Ace, since Abe can hit you from every conceivable angle.

There’s a brief period of feeling out we saw the versatility of Abe. He delved into a little bit of his comedic side with the long set up on a Penalty Kick to the back, but he also snapped off some great Frankensteiners and high spots. He also worked over the upper body well to try and go for his signature Octopus Hold, but Iwamoto was able to get the rope break.

Iwamoto’s saving grace was his Judo background. A few Dropkicks to get distance and just catching Abe with multiple Judo Throws, set up beautifully for the Koko no Geijutsu, because it is also a fast snapping Judo Throw, but he uses the ropes for the added momentum to make it a finish.

Smooth as butter, and only rated under a 4 because of how fast the match was. If it had a longer build or another back and forth, this could’ve been epic. But it was still a damn great match.

After the match Cima challenged via video.

Winner: Koji Iwamoto via Koko no Geijutsu

 

1. AJPW New Year Wars Final Round: Triple Crown Championship: SUWAMA (c) vs Shotaro Ashino

Suwama’s hand picked opponent because of their similarities. Ashino being the former ace of Wrestle-1, a disciple of Keiji Mutoh and an accomplish amateur style wrestler; this all rings true with Suwama. So we get part two of the Mutoh’s favorite son challenge!

This match did have a few of the same issues as their first one, since a slower mat based style doesn’t resonate well with no crowd or a muted crowd. Suwama did keep up with Ashino for the most part, and the match had many similar elements as the first match. Ashino worked over the Ankle and went for the Ankle Lock; where Suwama showed he could counter most of it and apply his own submissions.

Smartly, Ashino did his best to avoid the Last Ride Powerbomb, which is how he lost his first challenge, and force Suwama to dig deeper. Ashino was explosive with German Suplexes, but he fell into the SANADA trap. Ashino drags Suwama to position him from the corner, even commentary is confused since Ashino is no high flier, but Ashino goes for the Mutoh Moonsault, and hits nothing!

After the miss it felt like Ashino was looking for something he didn’t have to take down Suwama. Suwama did have to pull off numerous Backdrop Drivers and finally the Backdrop Suplex Hold to retain the title. A very solid defense that built off the previous matchup, and would’ve been much better if the mat wrestling didn’t feel like it dragged because of the world situation.

Kohei Sato comes out after to challenge.

Winner: Suwama via Backdrop Suplex Hold

 

Thoughts:

Now I’m really intrigued at how this vote will shake out. A few matches from the lesser view AJPW, a match from Raw, a crossover with AEW & Impact and a gimmick match from NXT.

My vote personally will go to Private Party vs Beer Guns, because this is the first interaction that really does feel interesting for the invasion/war/crossover/takeover whatever story. Great use of former Impact talent, great screwjob and ideally should lead to bigger things. Plus it’s nice to see a younger/undercard team like Private Party getting their star elevated a bit.

Do I think any of these matches touch the first week of the year? No, not at all. But they weren’t stinkers, so let’s make the month interesting before Royal Rumble!


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