The 45 Best Matches of February 2018

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Welcome to a new series where I go over every match that I gave ****+ to in each month of the wrestling calendar. February 2018 wasn’t as good as January, but there was still a lot of fun stuff. We have 45 matches from three continents and 21 different companies. I’ll also have my top ten wrestlers of the month down at the bottom of the article. Alright, time to see what the best matches of February 2018 were.

Shows that I went back and watched in later months are in red and do not feature writeups.

{SPOILER WARNING}

#45 – From AJPW “Yokohama Twilight Blues Special 2018” on 2/3 –  Joe Doering (c) vs KAI for the Triple Crown Championship – ****

A classic story of the foreign big man destroying the smaller babyface. Doering dominated most of this match and won in the end with the Revolution Bomb, but KAI showed good fight throughout this match, and I’m excited to see what he can do in the Champion’s Carnival in April as part of what is one of the most loaded tournaments of the year.

#44 – From NOAH “Navigation for the Future 2018 Day 9” on 2/2 –  Kaito Kiyomiya vs Naomichi Marufuji – ****

#43 – From NJPW “Fallout Down Under Tour 2018 Day 4” on 2/19 – Cody vs Robbie Eagles vs Will Ospreay – ****

#42 – From AAW “The Chaos Theory 2018” on 2/3 –  Rey Fenix (c) vs ACH for the AAW Heavyweight Championship – ****

#41 – From PROGRESS “Chapter 63” on 2/11 –  The Broduct (David Starr & Matt Riddle) vs British Strong Style (Pete Dunne & Trent Seven) – ****

#40 – From STARDOM “Kyoto Max” on 2/4 –  Io Shirai (c) vs Nicole Savoy for the Wonder of STARDOM Championship – ****

#39 – From PROGRESS “Chapter 64” on 2/25 – Jonah Rock vs Zack Sabre Jr. – ****

#38 – From WWE “205 Live 2/6” on 2/6 –  Kalisto vs Lince Dorado in a WWE Cruiserweight Title Tournament First Round Match – ****

#37 – From STARDOM “Queen’s Fes 2018” on 2/8 – Meiko Satomura vs Toni Storm – ****

#36 – From WRESTLE-1 “W-Impact Tour 2018 Day 1” on 2/14 –  Takanori Ito (c) vs Jiro Kuroshio for the WRESTLE-1 Result Championship – ****

#35 – From PWG “Neon Knights” on 2/16 – Flip Gordon vs Zack Sabre Jr. – ****

#34 – From PWR “#NaitoTakesDayton” on 2/16 – Michael Elgin vs Tetsuya Naito – ****

#33 – From WWE “205 Live 2/6” on 2/5 –  Hideo Itami vs Roderick Strong in a WWE Cruiserweight Title Tournament First Round Match – ****

The first great match from the new 205 live, and I hope we see more to come. This was a great match with hard-hitting action, and ended with an upset that I didn’t see coming as the NXT call-up beat the veteran. This 205 Live tournament has already produced some great matches and I hope to see many more in the coming weeks as we head towards Wrestlemania.

#32 – From EVOLVE “EVOLVE 100” on 2/17 –  Keith Lee (c) vs AR Fox for the WWN Championship – ****

Great big man vs high flyer match here, I have really enjoyed AR Fox since he made his return to EVOLVE. His match with Matt Riddle last month made my list too. This match for the title had an awesome closing sequence, I actually believed Fox would win the title at points, but in the end Keith Lee hit ground zero to retain his title.

#31 – From Dragon Gate “Kotoka Road to Final Day 5” on 2/8 –  MaxiMuM (Ben-K, Masato Yoshino & Naruki Doi) vs Tribe Vanguard (BxB Hulk, Flamita & YAMATO) vs ANTIAS (Eita, El Lindaman & T-Hawk) in an Elimination Match – ****

#30 – From WWE NXT “NXT 2/21” on 2/21 –  Andrade Almas (c) vs Johnny Gargano in a Title vs Career Match – ****

This couldn’t hold a candle to their five-star classic last month, by any normal metric this was a really good match until Tommaso Ciampa attacked Gargano while the referee was knocked down. It will be interesting to see if NXT goes back on the stipulation that if Gargano loses he can never compete in NXT again, although I’m guessing that they will find a way around that.

#29 – From NJPW “Road To the New Beginning 2018 Day 7” on 2/6 –  Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) (c) vs CHAOS (Hirooki Goto & Kazuchika Okada) for the IWGP Tag Team Championships – ****

A lot of people have forgotten about this match when making their lists for the best matches of February, but I thought this one was really underrated. It helped build to the two title matches at the New Beginning and had some really fun moments like when Okada ate a rainmaker from SANADA. The LIJ team retained their titles with a magic killer and the EVIL STO on Goto.

#28 – From FCP “A Tribute to Francois Trebec” on 2/23 –  Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) vs Jonah Rock & Travis Banks – ****

#27 – From NJPW/ROH “Honor Rising Night 1” on 2/23 –  Chase Owens & The Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi) vs Bullet Club (Cody, Hangman Page & Marty Scurll) – ****1/4

The first night of the Golden Lovers was awesome. They saved a lot of it to keep everything fresh, but gave us enough to be one of the most memorable matches of the month. From an in-ring perspective, it wasn’t awesome, but furthered the Golden Lover’s story, Marty Scurll’s hesitation, and helped further Hangman Page’s push for a US Title Match with his pinfall win over Owens.

#26 – From WAVE “Valentine WAVE” on 2/12 –  Misaki Ohata (c) vs Arisa Nakajima for the Regina di WAVE Championship – ****1/4

#25 – From ROH “Honor Reigns Supreme” on 2/9 –  Jay Lethal vs Jonathan Gresham – ****1/4

The standout match from Ring of Honor’s free Honor Reigns Supreme show. Both men sold well, and Gresham, while coming up short in the end, looked to hang with the ace of Ring of Honor, who is still Jay Lethal. The limb work was good, and this was a surprisingly very well worked technical match that certainly over delivered on my expectations.

#24 – From OTT “Homecoming – Dublin” on 2/3 –  Jordan Devlin (c) vs Timothy Thatcher for the OTT No Limits Championship – ****1/4

#23 – From Riptide “Deep Six” on 2/2 – Mike Bailey vs Travis Banks – ****1/4

#22 – From PROGRESS “Live at the Dome 4” on 2/7 –  Kyle Fletcher vs Mark Davis in a Natural Progression Series V Qualifying Match – ****1/4

We will get to more from Mark Davis a little later, but here he faced his tag team partner in a qualifying match for the Natural Progression Series. I heard almost nothing about this match, but it was awesome. Both men worked fiery as they wanted to prove they were the better half of the tag team. There was some nice high flying stuff from Fletcher, but in the end Davis got the win and advanced to the Natural Progression Series.

#21 – From WWE “205 Live 2/13” on 2/13 –  Drew Gulak vs Tony Nese in a WWE Cruiserweight Title Tournament First Round Match – ****1/4

Most people will say it is Itami-Strong, but this is my favorite match of the new 205 Live so far. It was a completely different style from the stereotypical high flying stuff, and it reminded me of an EVOLVE style match. Gulak’s aggressive mentality was awesome, and he looked great, having to have the referee pry him off of Nese when he had the dragon sleeper applied.

#20 – From EVOLVE “EVOLVE 100” on 2/17 –  James Drake vs Matt Riddle in a No Rope Break Match – ****1/4

The best match from EVOLVE’s 100th show came from who else but Matt Riddle. Riddle put in an awesome performance here, and Drake stepped up big time in the first big singles match of his career. There were times where I bought that Drake could pull the upset, but in the end, Riddle picked up the TKO win. The no rope breaks stipulation led to some cool near falls in the ropes. These two over delivered and had the match of the night.

#19 – From OTT “Homecoming – Dublin” on 2/3 – Travis Banks vs Zack Sabre Jr. – ****1/4

#18 – From WWE “Raw 2/19” on 2/19 –  Braun Strowman vs Elias vs Finn Balor vs John Cena vs Miz vs Roman Reigns vs Seth Rollins in a Gauntlet Match – ****1/4

One of my favorite things about doing what I do and parachuting into companies around the world is that I don’t have to spend hours watching a weekly television show, but that’s exactly what I did with this nearly two-hour long match on WWE Raw. I was not excited about it at the beginning, but Seth Rollins’ matches with Roman Reigns and John Cena immediately made me forget all about that. I will not lie, after Rollins was eliminated, the second half of the match did drag a little, but his performance over the first hour was enough to push it to four and a quarter.

#17 – From PROGRESS “Chapter 64” on 2/25 –  Travis Banks (c) vs Matt Riddle for the PROGRESS Championship – ****1/4

I was really excited when Travis Banks won the PROGRESS title a few months ago, but it has not lived up to my expectations. There certainly was a “big fight feel” in the Electric Ballroom for this match though, and when Banks kicked out of Riddle’s top tope tombstone, the reaction was insane. Banks scored a fluky rollup, and they did the thing where Riddle was left standing but as the loser. Honestly, I’m not big on Travis as the fluky underdog, I hope he turns heel soon.

#16 – From PROGRESS “Chapter 64” on 2/25 –  Chris Brookes vs Eddie Dennis vs Mark Andrews vs Flash Morgan Webster vs Pete Dunne vs TK Cooper vs Trent Seven vs Tyler Bate in the Thunderbastard Match to become #1 Contender for the PROGRESS Championship – ****1/4

Lots and lots of fun story stuff here, from Eddie Dennis, who was competing in his final match before leaving to take surgery, being denied a chance to fight his arch-rival Mark Andrews thanks to a TK Cooper rollup as Andrews was walking down the aisle, to the British Strong Style story that unfolded throughout. I was not a fan of the finish, as Vickie Haskins distracted the ref while Morgan Webster was being pinned. FMW caught Bate in a fluke pin to win the match, but Bate refused to shake hands after the match.

#15 – From DDT “Into The Flight 2018” on 2/25 –  Daisuke Sekimoto & Shuji Ishikawa vs HARASHIMA & Konosuke Takeshita – ****1/4

#14 – From STARDOM “Queen’s Fes 2018” on 2/8 –  Io Shirai (c) vs Momo Watanabe for the Wonder of Stardom Championship – ****1/4

Momo Watanabe is still in high school and she is already one of the greatest women’s wrestlers on the planet today. Her and Shirai put on an epic encounter, with Watanabe wanting to prove that she would walk into her graduation ceremony with the white belt on her shoulder. She really expanded her offensive arsenal here, eating away at Shirai with kicks. The best women’s match of the year thus far.

#13 – From PROGRESS “Chapter 63” on 2/11 – Mark Davis vs WALTER – ****1/4

This was nasty. Davis and WALTER got into a chop battle, and as you might expect, WALTER prevailed. Big Daddy has the best chops in the business, and by the end of the match, Davis’ chest looked like a murder scene. This was absolutely disgusting. WALTER pounded down on Davis and then locked on the Gojira Clutch for the finish.

#12 – From NJPW/ROH “Honor Rising Night 2” on 2/24 –  The Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi) vs Bullet Club (Cody & Marty Scurll) –  ****1/4

This was the first two on two match since the reunification of the Golden Lovers, and it lived up to my expectations. I’m finally starting to join the Cody bandwagon. His heel work these past few months has been tremendous. In-ring, this match was very good, and Ibushi and Omega’s new finisher, the golden trigger, looks awesome. They used it to finish off Marty.

#11 – From wXw “Dead End XVII” on 2/9 –  John “Bad Bones” Klinger (c) vs Mike Bailey for the wXw World Wrestling Unified Championship – ****1/4

The last stop before we get into 16 Carat mode for wXw was a good one, as John Klinger and Mike Bailey fought over the wXw title. Klinger, the leader of the RISE faction, would have lost his leadership with a loss, but a crossface forced Bailey to submit in the middle of the ring. Mike Bailey is starting to feel like an international sensation, he had a great January with the DDT Grand Prix, and this match was lots of fun too, WALTER vs Bad Bones at 16 Carat will blow the roof off the place.

#10 – From OTT “Homecoming – Dublin” on 2/3 – Keith Lee vs Mike Bailey – ****1/2

#9 – From BJW “BJW 2/27” on 2/27 –  Daichi Hashimoto (c) vs Yasufumi Nakanoue for the BJW World Strong Heavyweight Championship – ****1/2

#8 – From FCP “A Tribute to Francois Trebec” on 2/23 – David Starr vs WALTER – ****1/2

#7 – From PROGRESS “Chapter 63” on 2/11 –  Tyler Bate vs Zack Sabre Jr. – ****1/2

This didn’t quite meet WALTER and Timothy Thatcher from Chapter 62 in January, but it was another PROGRESS classic in a completely different way. Both men had vicious strikes throughout, but the chain wrestling was superb, and the finish was excellent. Sabre countered the Tyler Driver ’97 into a triangle and then transitioned into the Young Boy Killer (which the announcers renamed “Hyper Normalisation”) for the win. A brutal submission finished an awesome match.

#6 – From NOAH “Navigation for the Future 2018 Day 9” on 2/2 –  Kenou (c) vs Yuko Miyamoto for the GHC Heavyweight Championship – ****1/2

NOAH was awful for a while, but Kenou’s title reign has been the best thing to happen to the promotion, practically every title defense of his cracks four stars. Miyamoto focused on the neck early, and Kenou’s selling was really good. Miyamoto put up a good fight, but Kenou hits a dragon suplex on the apron followed by a double foot stomp through a table. Another double foot stomp in the ring finishes it.

#5 – From NJPW “Fallout Down Under Tour 2018 Day 3” on 2/18 –  Bullet Club (Cody, Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) vs CHAOS (Jay White, Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay) – ****1/2

#4 – From PWG “Neon Knights” on 2/16 – Keith Lee vs Matt Riddle – ****1/2

#3 – From Dragon Gate “Kotoka Road to Final Day 5” on 2/8 –  Masaaki Mochizuki (c) vs Kzy for the Open the Dream Gate Championship – ****1/2

I’m not the biggest Dragon Gate fan, but this match might have converted me. The veteran champ Mochizuki brutalized Kzy with disrespectful strikes for the opening sequence of this match, getting the crowd completely on the underdog’s side. Kzy fired up, hitting elbows and kicks. The two went back and forth, and they got me when Kzy had Mocchy in the Skayde Schoolboy. Kzy had pinned him with it in the buildup to this match, but here Mochizuki got his shoulder up at the last second. Mochizuki caught Kzy in a flash pin of his own for the win.

 #2 – From NJPW “The New Beginning in Osaka 2018” on 2/10 –  Will Ospreay (c) vs Hiromu Takahashi for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship – ****1/2

These two have such good chemistry. It’s honestly unbelievable. Ospreay was always the favorite to walk out of Osaka with the title, but Takahashi did enough throughout this match to convince me that he had a chance. This match was crazy fast paced with cyclone kicks and Essex Destroyers galore. My personal favorite spot was Takahashi countering Ospreay’s attempt at a Time Bomb into a nasty looking destroyer for a near fall. Ospreay retained his title with the OsCutter after a tremendous match.

#1 – From NJPW “The New Beginning in Osaka 2018” on 2/10 –  Kazuchika Okada (c) vs SANADA for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship – ****3/4

Am I the high man on this match? Probably, but after two months, this still ranks as my #4 match of the year so far. Okada was the cocky prick champion, and SANADA was the underdog no one believed could win until he almost did. SANADA countered the Rainmaker at one point and hit a rainmaker of his own for an awesome near fall, followed immediately by Okada countering the Skull End into one of his own. Okada fired up, went and went for the Rainmaker, but SANADA countered into a Skull End, and I honestly believed SANADA was going to win the title. SANADA released the hold, hit a moonsault, but then went up for a second moonsault, and Okada got his knees up. Okada hit a Rainmaker, then a second, but SANADA countered the third, again I bought it as the ultimate comeback, but Okada was able to hit a German Suplex and his tombstone before a third and final rainmaker… wow.

WRESTLER OF THE MONTH

This is simple, five points for a ***** match, four for a ****3/4, three for a ****1/2, two for a ****1/4, and one for a ****, with your highest rated match as a tiebreaker.

1) Kazuchika Okada – 8 points
2) Matt Riddle – 8 points
3) Cody – 8 points
4) Will Ospreay – 7 points
5) Keith Lee – 7 points
6) Zack Sabre Jr. – 7 points
7) Mike Bailey – 7 points
8) Travis Banks – 7 points
9) SANADA – 5 points
10) Tyler Bate – 5 points

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