In an incredible twist of fate, this round-up isn’t too late! Now, that comes with the caveat that I completely missed December’s, but that was because I had a lot to do. If you don’t know, I went to Japan and watched a lot of wrestling, can’t remember if I mentioned it anywhere. A decent amount of said wrestling makes this list, so let’s get on with it.
The two Maki matches on this list (which nicely come one after the other, it’s almost like I planned it that way) can be treated as two halves of the same story. This was the half in which poor Natsumi got taught a lesson, as Miyu took her apart with a lethal display. Maki showed all the heart in the world, but Yamashita was just too good, and this was an incredible example of two wrestlers playing their roles to perfection.
Meanwhile, this was the first half of that pairing and the one that saw Natsumi return from injury to face her close friend Sareee. Much like in the second half, she would lose, but this was a much more competitive affair. While it was still stiff and hard-hitting, it was also wrestled in friendship, with two people pushing each other to do better rather than one trying to punish the other. The reason it pips the Miyu one in this list? I was there live. Simple as that.
After an epic first reign where he held the title for over a year, Kiyomiya finally fell to the veteran Go Shiozaki. There was no shame in it, however, and it could be argued he had the best match of his run at the end. These two went to war, Kaito trying to take out Go’s arm, but the big man proving to be too powerful and battling through the pain. Exciting things are going down in NOAH, and if they keep delivering matches like this, they’ll keep coming.
The year started with two big fuckers beating the living shit out of each other. By the end, Hino was bleeding from his eye, but it did nothing to lower the intensity. If you like to watch bombs being thrown, then this is the match for you.
The chaotic genius of Mayu Iwatani vs the drilled brilliance of Momo Watanabe. There is a strong argument to be made that this is the biggest main event Stardom can put out, and that is backed-up by the standing room only Korakuen that watched on. Unsurprisingly, they dazzled under the spotlight, pulling off my favourite moment of the year so far when Mayu leapt back into a Poison Rana. This won’t be the last time we see this match, and on this evidence, that’s a good thing.
I’m still not quite sure what this was. What I do know is that it perfectly walked the line between wild fever dream and outright disaster as Brookes and Matsumoto put together something that was one part farce, one part horror. There is a good chance that we won’t see something like this again, but then again with what goes on in Miyacoco’s head, I wouldn’t bet against her topping it.
Isn’t it nice to have Hiromu back? He wandered out for his first singles match post-injury at Wrestle Kingdom and very quickly made it clear he hadn’t missed a step. People talk about Will being everyone’s best opponent, but Takahashi is his, as he brings the inventive streak out of Ospreay, pushing him to put together a death-defying showcase of everything they can do. Welcome back, Hiromu. I missed you.
You can throw two random wrestlers from any promotion in the world into a ring, and they can have a great match. However, for me to love it. For me to hang on every moment and burst into tears when the bell goes, I need that emotional hook. This was a match all about the emotional hook as Kagetsu said goodbye to Stardom, going out being what she’s always been, brilliant. Fuck, I’m going to miss her, but I’m so glad I got to see her before she went.
The sound of Kota Ibushi’s fist thudding into Okada echoed around the Tokyo Dome. In an arena that struggles to retain sound, that is quite the achievement. It was also the moment where Kota snapped, unleashing on his opponent in a frenzy of vicious blows and sparking the flame that turned this from a good main event into a legendary one.
It was never going to be anything else, was it? The moment where Naito finally did it, defeating Okada in the main event of the Tokyo Dome and getting that monkey off his back, is one that will stay with me for, well, ever. It was the culmination of a lifetime’s work and came after a match that had the Tokyo Dome hanging on every near fall. It was wrestling at its best, and I still can’t quite believe I was there.