Category Archives: Monthly Wrap

February Wrap Up

The 5 Count
Five Takeaways from February

1.  Antonio Cesaro opened eyes within the WWE in February as he was placed in a semi-featured role due to his participation in the Elimination Chamber match and on the live NXT Arrival special.  As you will see below, he is heading to the pay window more than once this month.  If rumors of a big post-WrestleMania push are true, Cesaro might be getting the platform needed to put up a strong WOTY resume.

2.  Tag Team wrestling is not off to a very strong start in 2014.  For the second straight month, the best tag matches clearly lack behind the best singles and trios offerings.

3.  The WWE Network launched which is noteworthy in a blog about 2014 matches for a couple of reasons.  First of all, in February we got the first live special on the Network (NXT Arrival), first-run offerings of NXT, Main Event, and Superstars which were previously only available via less-convenient means, and for the time being, live airings of Main Event.  Like everyone else, I’ve also gone back and watched A LOT of historical stuff already (which we plan to use this site to write about as well) which gives you a little different perspective while sifting through 2014 matches.

4.  In a move that could be interpreted as pure stubbornness, the WWE spent the month of February continuing to build towards a Randy Orton/Batista World Championship match at WrestleMania that few people want to see.  The way they have handled the decision through acknowledging that the fans don’t like Batista, turning him heel, and running a heel versus heel WM title match has been downright odd.

5.  Multi-wrestler matches continue to be highlights of pro wrestling programming all over the world!  In February, there were good trios matches from CMLL, AAA and New Japan, plus the much anticipated showdown between the Shield and Wyatt Family at WWE’s Elimination Chamber.  There were also several strong multi-wrestler matches including the Elimination Chamber match itself, an IWRG cibernetico, and some WWE c-show eight and ten man tags.

The Pay Window
February’s Winners

Singles MatchKazuchika Okada vs. Hirooki Goto (NJPW – 2/11)

Also Watch: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (NJPW – 2/9); Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tetsuya Naito (NJPW – 2/11); Antonio Cesaro vs. John Cena (WWE – 2/17); Super Shisa vs. CIMA (Dragon Gate – 2/20); HARASHIMA vs. Masa Takanashi (DDT – 2/23); Antonio Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn (WWE NXT – 2/27)

On first watch, Okada vs. Goto stood out to me on the 2/11 NJPW show from Osaka as being superior to the perhaps more-hyped Ishii vs. Naito match that proceeded it.  Goto and Okada worked a tight, well-layed out main even match that would not have appeared out of place taking place in a WWE ring or anywhere in the world for that matter.  I tend to enjoy that type of match a bit more then a a near fall heavy match like Ishii & Naito put on, although that one is still worth watching.

The WWE’s two best singles outputs in February involved Antonio Cesaro, both of which were long, featured television matches.  The Cena match from RAW gets a little higher marks for me.

CIMA and Super Shisa continue to put on fun rope-break rules matches and while their February outing might be a notch below their February match listed here, it is still worth seeing.  The DDT match was unexpectedly great and look forward to seeing if it holds up.

Tag MatchReal Americans vs. Sheamus & Christian (WWE – 2/10)

Also Watch:  Katsuyori Shibata & Hirooki Goto vs. Kazuchika Okada & Yoshi-Hashi (02/09); (02/14) Soberano Jr. & Volador Jr. vs. Cavernario & Mr. Niebla (CMLL – 2/14)

Another barren month of tag matches or am I just not watching the right matches?

A Real Americans match once again takes the top spot via default, really.  Their RAW match versus Sheamus & Christian as a prelude into the Elimination Chamber main event was the kind of good, hard-hitting slug fest that is not very common in the WWE.  The finals of CMLL’s Gran Alternativa tournament were fun but nothing blow away.  Same with the New Japan tag that was a good setup match for Okada/Goto and Okada/Shibata but in a strong month wouldn’t have registered as a top tag match.

Elsewhere, the once red-hot WWE tag division has slowed down with the New Age Outlaws holding the titles and the brother duo of Cody Rhodes & Goldust marginalized recently.  I thought the Rhodes vs. NAO and Usos vs. NAO matches from February were alright, but nothing beyond that.

Part of the lack of quality tag matches recently does seem to be at least partially attributable to all of the trios and multi-man tags from all over the world this year.

Trios MatchWyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan & Luke Harper) vs. the Shield (Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns) (WWE – 2/23)

Also Watch: Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii & Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Hirooki Goto, Tetsuya Naito & Hiroshi Tanahashi (NJPW – 2/2); Titan, La Mascara & Rush (c) vs. Negro Casas, Felino & Mr. Niebla (CMLL – 2/18)

WWE’s two major trios teams (it is still weird that the WWE has major trios teams at all) squared off on PPV in a heavily hyped match that for the most part met the hype.  Wyatt Family versus the Shield probably seemed like the good bet for best trios match of February when the month began but the New Japan tag on the 2nd day of the month gave it a run for its money.  CMLL did not have as much in terms of quality trios matches as January, but the title switch on the 18th was fun.

Multi-Wrestler MatchGym Skyade (Aztlan, Destino, Jorge Kebrada, Kanon, Onix, Operativo X, Prodigo & Vertize) vs. FILL Gym (Alfa, Dragón Celestial, Fulgor I, Imposible, Omega, Power Bull, Seiya, Sky Ángel) (IWRG – 2/4)
Also Watch:  Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus vs. Christian vs. John Cena vs. Antonio Cesaro (WWE –  Goldust, Cody Rhodes, Los Matadores & El Torito vs. Ryback, Curtis Axel, Health Slater, Jindar Mahal & Drew McIntyre (WWE – 2/26)

The cibernetico between Skayde’s trainees and the IWRG (Black Terry) trainees gets the top nod.  What I want out of a multi-man match is a lot of quick action, quick switches in and out, and for everyone to get a chance to shine.  The cibernetico had that even if it was not always the prettiest or most refined match.  The 10-man from Main Event was as good of a six-minute match as I have seen in recent memory with great stuff from Torito and a good supporting cast.  Admittedly, I have not watched the Elimination Chamber match yet because it will be up on the Network soon and I figure I might as well wait one more week to see it in high quality, but I’ve read enough good things about it from people whose opinions I generally agree with so I’ll include it for now.

Most Memorable Angle – Chikara Returns (National Pro Wrestling Day – 02/01)

I’ve seen some people rag on this but I don’t get.  It is certainly arguable whether it was a prudent fiscal decision to not run real Chikara shows for nearly a year while running a confusing storyline that bored even some devoted fans of the promotion.  That makes sense to me.  I don’t get ragging on the return angle which I thought was well-executed (despite some low volume microphone issues).  It came off looking as large scale as anything in Indie wrestling does and most importantly got over HUGE with the modestly big live crowd.  Something that gets over that big and gets the genuine shrieking and yelling reaction like this angle did can’t be anything but good.  The fact that they are selling a bunch of tickets to their Pennsylvania and Chicago returns at least disputes the notion that the time off decreased interest in the promotion.  Maybe they won’t sustain it, but there is a lot of interest in the promotion now and this well-received angle was the start of that.

Wrestler(s) of the MonthKazuchika Okada
Match Resume: w/ Tomohiro Ishii & Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Hirooki Goto, Tetsuya Naito & Hiroshi Tanahashi (2/2); w/ Yoshi Hashi vs. Katsuyori Shibata & Hirooki Goto (2/9); vs. Hirooki Goto (2/11)

Antonio Cesaro
Match Resume: w/ Jack Swagger vs. Sheamus & Christian (2/10); vs. John Cena (2/17); vs. Sami Zayn (2/27)

Okay – second month in and I am already cheating a little bit by picking two guys. If pressed, I would go with Okada because I thought the Goto match was better than either of Cesaro’s big February singles matches (versus Cena and Zayn, respectively).  Both wrestlers had really strong months however, so you probably cannot go wrong either way.

Promotion of the MonthWWE

Sort of a toss up between WWE and New Japan this month in terms of events and matches, but my gut says I enjoyed first-run WWE matches in February a tad more.  I gave best singles match to New Japan, best tag to WWE, best trios to WWE, and best wrestler was a tossup between a WWE and New Japan wrestler (leaning towards NJPW) which also indicates that I thought WWE high-end stuff from this month was a smidge better.  WWE is not exactly rolling or anything but they had a decent month with two big shows that delivered (Elimination Chamber and NXT: Arrival) plus some good TV matches mainly involving Cesaro.

CMLL TV was a bit more all over the place this month and lacked any high-quality matches.  There was more watchable ROH in February on TV than perhaps ever in their Sinclair run, but that speaks more about where they came from then where they are now.

A Look Ahead
Top Matches on tap for March (what’s left of it)

First, for what has already happened in March.  New Japan ran their anniversary show on March 6th with a battle between the junior heavyweight and heavyweight singles champions (Ibushi and Okada, respectively) that turned out to be a quality match.  We got an Elimination Chamber re-match between the Shield and Wyatt Family on RAW and not much else from WWE so far.  Skayde and Black Terry had a singles match in IWRG that hasn’t popped up yet but hopefully will at some point.

Coming up later in the month, CMLL has the Dos Leyendas event headlined by a Shocker/Rush hair match.  Neither wrestler has ever lost their hair so there is intrigue there, plus Shocker is over big time as a rudo these days which should help the heat and it should at least be a decently wrestled match.  Casas gets the winner sometime in the future or presumably steps in if Shocker backs out at the last minute.  That same card will have the finals of the parejas incredibles tournament that is ongoing with Maximo and Rey Escorpion already in the finals.

AAA has Rey de Reyes on the 16th and it feels a bit underwhelming.  A couple of four ways (tag titles and Rey de Reyes final) that could be okay and a Blue Demon versus Chessman match that probably has the best chance of being a standout match.  IWRG has a pair of cage matches where the losers advances to a hair/mask match on the 16th involving some good guys in Skayde, Black Terry, Golden Magic, Trauma 1, and others so something good could fall out of that.

New Japan cup will star and conclude in the next couple of weeks.  Standout first round matches include Nakamura versus Davey Boy Smith Jr. (a re-match of their good first round match from the 2013 Cup) and Ishii vs. Naito in a re-match of their highly-toured February match.  Nothing much potentially on tap in the quarterfinals but the semi’s could be something like Nakamura/Goto and Naito/Shibata (although Suzuki stands a strong chance of advancing over Goto) both of which have some potential.  Nakamura probably needs to be rebuilt a bit after a back-to-back title match losses and making it to the finals would accomplish that.  Shibata is a favorite to win the whole thing so a Nakamura/Shibata final might be in the cards and should be good.

ROH is running Chris Hero versus AJ Styles in a couple of weeks.  I liked their SMASH match from January well enough that IF (big “if”) they build off of the good elements of that one, that could turn into something good (particularly by current ROH standards).  Who knows what TNA will have going on but a good chance none of it will be all that good.  Not much in NOAH, Dragon Gate, or All-Japan either.

WWE will likely be angle-heavy going into WrestleMania and with no PPV in March, there is not a whole lot on the horizon the next two and a half weeks for them as well.  Looks like a relatively quiet month for hyped matches before a busy start to April between WrestleMania, all of the adjoining indie shows that run that weekend, ECWA Super 8, a New Japan PPV, and more.

January Wrap Up

The 5 Count
Five Takeaways from January

1. Negro Casas was a busy man with a host of good trios matches and at least one major singles matches every week of the calendar month.

2. The two biggest shows of the month (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom and WWE Royal Rumble) delivered two very good big singles matches (Okada vs. Naito and Bryan vs. Wyatt, respectively).

3. Trios matches dominated the month with CMLL leading the charge, but WWE, IWRG, New Japan, and Dragon Gate chipped in a few good ones of their own as well.

4. Chris Hero and AJ Styles matches began popping up (with more no doubt to come) as they return to the US indie scene and the early results were pretty good.

5. CMLL had an incredibly busy and productive month adding five inter-promotional dates with NJPW in Japan mid-month to their already normally busy weekly schedule which produced a boatload of fun matches (with hopefully the two non-iPPV FantasticaMania events still to surface).

The Pay Window
January’s Winners

Singles MatchTitan vs. Virus (CMLL – 1/28)

Also Watch: Negro Casas vs. Titan (CMLL – 1/3); Tetsuya Naito vs. Kazuchika Okada (NJPW – 1/4); Mascara Doarada vs. Volador Jr. (CMLL – 1/19); Bray Wyatt vs. Daniel Bryan (WWE – 1/26)

A Virus singles match (particularly a title match) is always a good bet to be amongst the best matches of any particular month.  Virus’ bid for Titan’s Mexican National Welterweight Championship on January 28th at Arena Mexico was a very good match that surpassed my already heightened anticipation for it.  A great blend of quality mat work, submissions, high-flying, and near falls earns this match the top singles spot for January.

The match Bryan and Wyatt had to kick-off the Royal Rumble clicked on almost all cylinders – good heat, a nice build, some big time moves, and a satisfying ending. After only have one truly great singles match on pay-per-view in 2013, Bryan gets off to 2014 on a strong foot.

Casas and Titan produced a match that was notable largely for how incredibly solid it was, while Volador Jr. & Mascara Dorada stood out in Japan by doing almost the exact opposite with their exhausting but grossly entertaining exhibition of spectacular high flying on the final day of the FantasticaMania tour.

Naito and Okada – after being bounced from the main even position – delivered what was hands-down the best match on this year’s Tokyo Dome card. The first half was hit-or-miss but the final 15-minutes were very good and produced a bunch of good near falls.

Tag Match Real Americans vs. Brotherhood (WWE – 1/6)

Also Watch: Shinsuke Nakamura & Ultimo Guerrero vs. Rush & La Sombra (NJPW/CMLL – 1/14)CIMA & Chihiro Tominaga vs. Kotoka & Ryotsu Shimizu (DG – 1/18); Usos vs. Wyatt Family (WWE – 1/26).

Not the strongest month in terms of quality tag matches we have ever seen. The Real Americans and Brotherhood had a good television tag on Old School RAW in early January that wins top honors more or less by default. There were some others worth seeing including Rush & La Sombra vs. Nakamura & Ultimo Guerrero from the first FantasticaMania card, the Usos vs. the Wyatt Family form the 1/20 episode of RAW, and for a six-minute spring CIMA & Chihiro Tominaga vs. Kotoka & Ryotsu Shimizu was fine. There was nothing that I saw tag team wise that was truly very good in January.

I also wanted to make mention of (since I never wrote it up), that I thought there were some good parts to the 1/26 NAO vs. Brotherhood match from RAW. I particularly enjoyed Road Dogg being flabbergasted at even having to wrestle the night after winning the titles and spending the entire match doing his best stalling routine. Like most tag matches from January, it was really only okay though.

(Note:  PWG’s DDT4 tag team tournament was on January 31st so the footage won’t be available for a while.  It is possible there is a strong match within that tournament.  Rich Swann & Ricochet vs. AR Fox & Samuray del Sol was one of my favorite move-for-move flying matches last year.  Swann & Ricochet vs. Fox & ACH the 2104 DDT4 is getting rave reviews from live reports so I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up ahead of some of the matches mentioned above.)

Trios MatchRush, Titan & La Mascara vs. Terrible, Virus & Vangelis (CMLL – 1/21)

Also Watch: Rush, Stuka Jr. & Titan vs. Terrible, Rey Bucanero & Virus (CMLL – 1/7); Tanahashi, Naito & La Sombra vs. Okada, Ishii & Ultimo Guerrero (NJPW/CMLL – 1/18); Jimmy Susumu, Ryo “Jimmy” Saito, Mr. Quu Quu Tanizaki Naoki Toyonaka Dolphin (c) vs. CIMA, Masaaki Mochizuki, Dragon Kid (DG – 1/18); Atlantis, Delta & Guerrero Mya Jr. vs. Negro Casas, Puma & Tiger (CMLL – 1/26); Bryan, Sheamus & Cena vs. the Shield (WWE – 1/27)

January was a great month for trios matches with CMLL doing the lions-share of the work. However, there was also a really good WWE six-man and matches from IWRG and New Japan that fall into the category just below the matches listed above.

The 1/7 match had Rush hitting and kicking people hard in between very nice interaction between Titan & Virus. The 1/18 match from Korakuen was largely a vehicle to promote the Naito/Ishii feud and set up Guerrero/Sombra for the following day’s show, but had a lot of good work throughout including a fun Okada/La Sombra segment.

The Shield’s run – at least in its current incarnation – appears to be coming to an end but that didn’t stop them from delivering a classic six-man tag RAW main event the night after the Royal Rumble. Bryan’s great work off the hot tag and a hot finishing stretch were amongst the highlights.

Multi-Wrestler MatchEléctrico vs. Astral vs. Stukita vs. Shockercito vs. Último Dragoncito vs. Demus 3:16 vs. Mercurio vs. Pierrothito vs. Pequeño Olímpico vs. Pequeño Nitro (CMLL – 1/5)
Also Watch: Okada, Ishii, Yoshi-Hashi & Nakamura vs. Naito, Tanahashi, Captain New Japan & Goto (NJPW – 1/5); Royal Rumble (WWE – 1/27)

The CMLL minis churned out a match stuffed to the gills with cool high flying spots to take the top spot. The New Japan eight-man tag was a generally well-wrestled match that effectively set up the promotion’s big February match ups. The Royal Rumble will be remembered for the crowd turning on the finish, but until that point it was a relatively well-laid out Rumble and the best one in a few years.

Most Memorable AngleDaniel Bryan turns on Bray Wyatt following tag team cage match versus the Usos (WWE – 1/13)

It doesn’t matter if what happened was not in the WWE’s initial plans in regards to Bryan and the Wyatt Family. Even if they made a mistake and this was their fix, give credit to them for recognizing their error and rectify it with a very memorable angle. The crowd reaction in Providence was something else.

Wrestler of the MonthNegro Casas
Match Resume: vs. Titan (1/3); vs. Volador Jr. (1/10); vs. Blue Panther (1/21); w/ Puma & Tiger vs. Delta, Guerrero Maya Jr. & Atlantis (1/26)

Casas basically had one big singles per week this month. CMLL’s booking certainly set him up with the opportunity to have a great month. He delivered in all four of those singles contests, however, and was his usual stellar self in several January trios offerings, as well. I am not sure if any other wrestler was given the stage Casas was in January but even taking that into consideration, there are no other wrestlers particularly close to his production in January.  The Atlantis match from Arena Puebla is not even yet available.  It would likely only have strengthened Casas’ position.

Promotion of the MonthCMLL

CMLL has a ridiculously deep roster which I sometimes think might be as much of a hindrance as it is a benefit. You can see how it might be difficult to weed through the deep roster to come up with the best pairings and matches on a regular basis. There are so many capable wrestlers to account for that it is not always easy to place them in the best possible positions to succeed. It also means they sometimes do not ride the hot hand as much as they could in order to get everyone in the mix.

In January, the promotion pushed most of the right buttons. Sure, placing the red-hot Negro Casas front and center seems like a no-brainer but it has also been who they have paired him with. Casas’ feuds with Blue Panther and Atlantis have gotten great crowd reactions in Mexico City. His pairing with Puma, Tiger & Felino as the Four Fantasticos also feels a lot more fresh and exciting than his prior alliance with Peste Negra. Casas has been great but he also been booked in the right spots which is a credit to the promotion.

Add on the usual great Rush trios matches, Titan being featured in a pair of big singles matches (versus Casas and versus Virus), the Rush/Shocker issue that is heating up, and a good showing in Japan for FantasticaMania and it was a very good month for CMLL. Hopefully the momentum continues because a strong CMLL means the top promotions in three different countries (Mexico, Japan, and the US) all being relatively hot at the same time which is a great thing for wrestling fans.

A Look Ahead
Top Matches on tap for February

The Big 3 promotions (NJPW, CMLL & WWE) all had an eventful month of January, but February should be a tad slower.

New Japan runs just five shows during the month, but three are internet pay-per-views with “big” shows scheduled for the 9th in Hiroshima & 11th in Osaka. The Hiroshima show’s best bet for a great match is the main event rematch putting Shinsuke Nakamura versus Hiroshi Tanahashi. The Osaka event features a handful of title matches and good match possibilities including Kota Ibushi vs. El Desparado, Naito vs. Ishii, and Okada defending the IWGP Heavyweight Championship against Hirooki Goto.

CMLL will continue its build to its annual Homenaje a Dos Leyendas event in Match. The mere subtraction of the FantasticaMania events will mean a less busy month for the promotion. The promotion is seemingly building towards an Atlantis vs. Negro Casas mask vs. hair match and certainly a Shocker vs. Rush hair vs. hair match, but if either are to happen it will probably be at Dos Leyendas and not in February. Nonetheless, CMLL is on a bit of a roll match making wise right now so there will likely be more than enough good stuff to watch from them in the upcoming month,

The WWE hypes February as part of WrestleMania season, but truthfully it is a placeholder month until the real build can begin post-Elimination Chamber. The big February news for the promotion is the launch of the WWE Network, which could mean less time for matches on RAW (if they go into promotional overdrive mode which they will) but also means a special live NXT show on the 27th that already has two big matches sign (Cesaro vs. Zayn in a 2 out of 3 falls re-match and Bo Dallas defending the NXT Championship in a ladder match versus Adrian Neville). Elimination Chamber will have the Wyatt Family taking on the Shield in six-man tag action in what could be a special match.

Elsewhere, Ring of Honor runs three shows during the month with the big matches being Adam Cole title defenses versus Jay Briscoe (2/8 in San Antonio) and Chris Hero (2/22 in Philadelphia). National Pro Wrestling Day returns on 2/1 with an underwhelming announced lineup and no big time matches that stick out. EVOLVE/Dragon Gate USA has big shows line lined up as part of a New York double shot at the end of the month with potentially good matches already announced in Chris Hero vs. AR Fox and Roderick Strong vs. Johnny Gargano, plus the return of CIMA. AAA will continue taping television during the month as their Rey de Reyes tournament continues.