Welcome to a new series where I go over every match that I gave ****+ to in each month of the wrestling calendar. January 2018 was arguably one of the best months in the history of wrestling, so many of the future month’s lists will be half or even a third of the size of this one, I just really enjoyed a lot of the wrestling from promotions around the world this month. We have 55 matches from three continents and 26 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 January 2018 were.
Shows that I went back and watched in later months are in red and do not feature writeups.
#55 – From NOAH “Navigation to the Future Night 1” on 1/6 – Taiji Ishimori (c) vs Andrew Everett for the Impact X Division Championship – ****
I originally had only watched the main event from this show, but went back and watched this after I heard some good things about it, and this was a very enjoyable high flying affair. Everett played the cocky foreign heel role perfectly, and the pacing of this match is fantastic.
#54 – From WWE NXT “NXT 1/31” on 1/31 – Roderick Strong vs Tyler Bate for the WWE United Kingdom Championship #1 Contendership – ****
#53 – From SEAdLINNNG “Now or Never” on 1/14 – Arisa Nakajima vs Misaki Ohata – ****
#52 – From PWX “X16 Tournament 2018 Night 2” on 1/14 – Tracer X vs David Starr in an X16 Tournament 2018 Quarterfinal Match – ****
#51 – From RevPro “Live At The Cockpit 24” on 1/6 – Pete Dunne vs El Phantasmo – ****
#50 – From ROH “ROH on SBG 1/14” on 1/14 – Jay Lethal vs Will Ospreay – ****
#49 – From CMLL “Martes Arena Mexico 1/23” on 1/23 – Mephisto (c) vs Titan for the CMLL World Welterweight Championship – ****
#48 – From DDT “D-Ou Grand Prix 2018 in Shinjuku” on 1/5 – Jiro Kuroshio vs Konosuke Takeshita in a D-Ou Grand Prix 2018 Block A Match
#47 – From NJPW “The New Beginning in Sapporo Day 2” on 1/28 – Kenny Omega (c) vs Jay White for the IWGP United States Championship – ****
I seem to be the high guy on this match, but I thought that this was excellent. The crowd wasn’t into it as much as you would’ve liked, but this was a solid New Japan main event, and I am all aboard the bandwagon on the Jay White character. The commentary really helped this match, as did the surprise result.
#46 – From Beyond “Spirit of ’76” on 1/27 – David Starr vs Matt Riddle – ****
#45 – From EVOLVE “EVOLVE 98” on 1/13 – AR Fox vs Matt Riddle – ****
These two matched up really well stylistically, and I bought a lot of the near falls along the way, and it didn’t overstay its welcome, which I feel AR Fox matches sometimes do. Fox hit the Lo Mein Pain and the 450 splash for the victory and sets up a match with Keith Lee for the WWN Championship at EVOLVE 100 in February, which should be excellent.
#44 – From PWG “Mystery Vortex V” on 1/12 – The Chosen Bros (Jeff Cobb & Matt Riddle) (c) vs RINGKAMPF (Timothy Thatcher & WALTER) for the PWG Tag Team Championships
#43 – From DDT “D-Ou Grand Prix 2018 in Shin Kiba” on 1/14 – Keisuke Ishii vs Konosuke Takeshita in a D-Ou Grand Prix 2018 Block A Match – ****
#42 – From WWE NXT “Takeover: Philadelphia” on 1/27 – The Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) (c) vs The Authors of Pain (Akem & Rezar) for the NXT Tag Team Championships – ****
In what was a very good month for tag team wrestling, this match gets lost in the shuffle, but I thought it was great. Akam sold the knee the whole match and we got the story of the smaller heels just outsmarting the bigger babyfaces by attacking a body part. Best of all, Era won the match clean, which I love to see.
#41 – From AAW “The Art Of War 2018” on 1/20 – Besties in the World (Davey Vega & Mat Fitchett) (c) vs Keith Lee & Shane Strickland for the AAW Tag Team Championships – ****
#40 – From C3 “In The Mouth Of Madness” on 1/20 – LAX (Ortiz & Santana) vs Monster Mafia (Ethan Page & Josh Alexander) – ****
#39 – From BJW “New Year 2018” on 1/2 – Daichi Hashimoto (c) vs Ryuichi Kawakami for the BJW Strong World Heavyweight Championship – ****
#38 – From EVOLVE “EVOLVE 99” on 1/14 – Keith Lee (c) vs Chris Dickinson for the WWN Championship – ****
#37 – From PROGRESS “Live at the Dome #3” on 1/10 – Connor Mills vs Maverick Mayhew in a Natural Progression Series V Qualifying Match – ****
#36 – From NJPW “Wrestle Kingdom 12” on 1/4 – Cody vs Kota Ibushi – ****
I think this is one of the more overrated matches of the month, but I still thought it was very good, just not quite great. Cody played the heel role well, and the Cross Rhodes off of the apron was a brutal spot that really helped me get into this match, as did the somewhat surprising victory for Kota, who really needed a win.
#35 – From EVOLVE “EVOLVE 99” on 1/14 – Jaka vs Matt Riddle – ****
Is Jaka on an exclusive deal with EVOLVE? Because he delivers in match after match but you never really hear about him outside of EVOLVE. He is blossoming into an excellent singles wrestler, and in a back and forth affair, with some excellent near falls, Riddle picks up the win after losing the previous night at EVOLVE 98.
#34 – From PROGRESS “Chapter 61” on 1/14 – Adam Brooks vs Will Ospreay – ****1/4
Generally, I’m not a big fan of random exhibition matches with no stakes, but this match was too good to leave off of the list. It started out with some comedy and ended as an epic banger of a match. These two just spend the match trying to outdo each other, and the Canadian Destroyer on the apron was nasty. Ospreay hit the imploding 450 and the Oscutter to get the victory.
#33 – From FCP/ATTACK! “WrestleHouse ’18” on 1/26 – Team Calamari (Chief Deputy Dunne, Chris Brookes, Dan Moloney, Jordan Devlin & Mark Haskins) vs Team Sexy (Clint Margera, Millie McKenzie, MK McKinnan, Travis Banks & Trent Seven)
#32 – From PWC “The Wrestle Squanchers!” on 1/13 – Dick Riley vs Will Ospreay
#31 – From AJPW “New Year Wars 2018 Day 2” on 1/3 – Wild Burning (Jun Akiyama and Takao Omori) (c) vs Violent Giants (Shuji Ishikawa and Suwama) for the AJPW World Tag Team Championships – ****1/4
Great main event as the Violent Giants win their title match that they received by winning the Real World Tag League 2017. This was a brutal, hard-hitting clash that the crows really god into. Ishikawa and Suwama make an absolutely awesome team and AJPW made the right decision by putting the belts on the big men, who won with the Splash Mountain Bomb from Shuji.
#30 – From FCP/ATTACK! “WrestleHouse ’18” on 1/26 – Keith Lee vs Omari – ****1/4
#29 – From DDT “New Year Special 2018!” on 1/3 – HARASHIMA, Jiro Kuroshio & Kazusada Higuchi vs Konosuke Takeshita, Mike Bailey & Shuji Ishikawa – ****1/4
#28 – From DDT “D-Ou Grand Prix 2018 in Nerima” on 1/10 – Konosuke Takeshita vs HARASHIMA in a D-Ou Grand Prix 2018 Block A Match – ****1/4
#27 – From WWE “Royal Rumble 2018” on 1/28 – Adam Cole vs Aiden English vs Andrade Almas vs Apollo Crews vs Baron Corbin vs Big E vs Bray Wyatt vs Cesaro vs Dolph Ziggler vs Elias vs Finn Balor vs Goldust vs Heath Slater vs Hurricane vs Jinder Mahal vs John Cena vs Kofi Kingston vs Matt Hardy vs Miz vs Randy Orton vs Rey Mysterio vs Rhyno vs Roman Reigns vs Rusev vs Sami Zayn vs Seth Rollins vs Sheamus vs Shinsuke Nakamura vs Titus O’Neil vs Xavier Woods in the Royal Rumble Match – ****1/4
I’m already tired from typing all those names, but this was a fantastic rumble. It is really hard to rate battle royal matches, but as far as those go, this one has to near the top. The comedy bit with Slater was actually funny, they displayed Almas as a legit threat, and the old vs new standoff with Balor, Nakamura, and Reigns staring down Rey, Orton, and Cena worked for me. Also, the right guy won, so that’s a thumbs up from me.
#26 – From Stardom “7th Anniversary” on 1/21 – Queen’s Quest (AZM, HZK, Io Shirai, Momo Watanabe & Viper) vs Oedo Tai (Hana Kimura, Kagetsu, Kris Wolf, Natsu Sumire & Tam Nakano) in a Gauntlet Ten Women Tag Team Match
#25 – From Lucha Memes “Lucha Memes 1/7” on 1/7 – Ricky Marvin vs Keyra – ****1/4
#24 – From DDT “D-Ou Grand Prix 2018 in Shimizu” on 1/13 – Keisuke Ishii vs Tetsuya Endo in a D-Ou Grand Prix 2018 Block A Match – ****1/4
#23 – From WWE NXT “Takeover: Philadelphia” on 1/27 – Adam Cole vs Aleister Black in an Extreme Rules Match – ****1/4
This took a bit to get going, and I really disliked the run in (although at least it was short and made sense in storyline), but this was a fun plunder match. The spots in this match were crazy with Black being superkicked with a chair, off the top rope, through two tables, as well as Cole taking a nasty Ushigoroshi type move landing on the edges of two chairs back to back. Black won with the Black Mass to set up a match with Almas for the title at Takeover: NOLA.
#22 – From MLW “Zero Hour” on 1/11 – Penta El Zero M vs Rey Fenix – ****1/4
These two have probably wrestled hundreds of times throughout the years, and it showed here. The chemistry was off the charts, and the announcers built the match up as somewhat of a qualifier for the MLW Championship tournament, so it had some stakes. Tons of crazy spots and near falls in this one including a springboard Spanish Fly, and a second rope Canadian Destroyer. Pentagon won after snapping his brother’s arm and nailing the Pentagon Driver.
#21 – From TJP “Tokyo Joshi Pro ’18” on 1/4 – Reika Saiki (c) vs Miyu Yamashita for the TOKYO Princess of Princess Championship – ****1/4
This was my first time watching TJP, and it was great. The two trade kicks early, but Saiki ducks one and Yamashita hits the ring post. Yamashita sold the foot inconsistently throughout the match, and that is what keeps it from a higher rating, but at the heights of it, this match is awesome. Yamashita hits a knee to win the title. Great high impact stuff, just wish the selling was a little better.
#20 – From NJPW “Wrestle Kingdom 12” on 1/4 – The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) (c) vs Roppongi 3K (Sho & Yoh) for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships – ****1/4
Matt & Yoh injured their backs early on, and both sold well throughout. There was an awesome spot with Nick and Sho torturing the other’s partner with kicks as if it were a competition. The Young Bucks kept calling 3k “young boys” and taunted them with Boston Crabs. The Bucks hit a Meltzer Driver, and Nick locks in the sharpshooter on the injured back of Yoh and he taps. Fun opener.
#19 – From DDT “D-Ou Grand Prix 2018 in Shin Kiba” on 1/14 – Shuji Ishikawa vs Kazusada Higuchi in a D-Ou Grand Prix 2018 Block B Match – ****1/4
#18 – From NOAH “Navigation to the Future Night 1” on 1/6 – Kenou (c) vs Kaito Kiyomiya for the GHC Heavyweight Championship – ****1/4
This one told the story of Kenou’s brutality vs Kiyomiya’s fighting spirit. Kiyomiya kept getting back up every time Kenou sent him down, until Kenou hits a kicks to the head, and the referee calls for the bell. Knock Out finishes are very rare, but it worked here, as it shows that Kiyomiya never gave up. A great performance from both men, who will be there to stay in the heavyweight title scene.
#17 – From EVOLVE “EVOLVE 98” on 1/13 – Zack Sabre Jr. (c) vs Darby Allin for the EVOLVE Championship – ****1/2
This wasn’t an epic match from an in-ring perspective, but the story truly was five stats. Darby Allin was just a jobber who got over with the fans, and he finally got his title shot here… and lost, but he hung with the superior wrestler in Zack Sabre Jr. Darby Allin wouldn’t give up, he kicked out of the European Combination, but made a fatal mistake going for the Coffin Drop, Sabre countered into an arm bar, and transitioned into the Ode to Jim Breaks whilst continuously stomping on Allin, and the ref has to stop the match. Just epic, Allin never tapped.
#16 – From ZERO1 “Happy New Year 2018” on 1/1 – Masato Tanaka (c) vs Yusaku Obata for the ZERO1 World Heavyweight Championship – ****1/2
#15 – From DDT “D-Ou Grand Prix 2018 in Osaka” on 1/7 – Konosuke Takeshita vs Tetsuya Endo in a D-Ou Grand Prix 2018 Block A Match – ****1/2
#14 – From 3CW “Hysteria” on 1/27 – Keith Lee vs Justin Sysum
#13 – From EVOLVE “EVOLVE 99” on 1/14 – WALTER vs Zack Sabre Jr. – ****1/2
Really nice big powerhouse vs smaller technician match. It was fun to see Sabre fighting from the bottom for once, as he normally dominates his matches. Sabre tried to beat WALTER at his own game, and it burned him. Finish comes as WALTER counters the Triangle Choke, lifting Sabre into a powerbomb, and then a second, after Sabre kicks out of the first, gets the job done. This will hopefully set up a title match in the coming months.
#12 – From RevPro “High Stakes 2018” on 1/20 – Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate) (c) vs Suzuki-Gun (Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr.) for the RevPro Undisputed British Tag Team Championships – ****1/2
We rarely get to see WWE and NJPW wrestlers face off, but this was loads of fun. It started out with some comedy, but by the end of the match, it was a classic. An awesome finishing sequence with everyone trading moves ending with a Tyler Driver to Suzuki. Everyone staggers to their feet, and trade shots until Sabre locks Seven into the octopus, and Suzuki hits the Gotch Piledriver on Bate to win the titles.
#11 – From AJPW “New Year Wars 2018 Day 1” on 1/2 – Joe Doering (c) vs Zeus for the Triple Crown Championship – ****1/2
Just two big dudes wailing away on eachother. This was awesome. Joe Doering’s story is incredible, he beat cancer, and now is going on a crazy reign as Triple Crown Champion. The lariats these two threw were nasty, and Doering used his size well throughout the match. Doering hit Zeus with the Revolution Bomb in a match that put All Japan on the map as a promotion to watch this year.
#10 – From NJPW “Wrestle Kingdom 12” on 1/4 – Minoru Suzuki (c) vs Hirooki Goto for the NEVER Openweight Championship in a Hair vs Hair Death Match – ****1/2
Suzuki locked Goto in the sleeper hold early, and this move looked nasty, and Goto looked like he was legitimately out cold. After that, every time Goto would fire up, Suzuki would laugh it off with ease. Suzuki locked in a guillotine on the ropes, and Goto countered, hitting an ushigoroshi off the top, then hitting the reverse GTR, then the GTR proper to get the victory in an awesome underdog vs maniacal villain match.
#9 – From NJPW “The New Beginning in Sapporo Day 2” on 1/28 – Roppongi 3K (Sho & Yoh) (c) vs The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships – ****1/2
The rematch was even better than the original here. They went back to the back injury angle from their Wrestle Kingdom match, and Matt’s selling in this match was so believable. Crazy spots from the Bucks, Nick Jackson hits the assisted swanton, but back in and Matt can’t do the powerbomb because of the back so he locks in the sharpshooter, but the deeper he sinks it in, the more it hurts his own back. Awesome selling here. Matt finally has to let go and Yoh counters it into a roll-up as a callback to the Bucks vs Roppongi Vice match at Wrestle Kingdom 11.
#8 – From NJPW “Wrestle Kingdom 12” on 1/4 – Marty Scurll (c) vs Hiromu Takahashi vs KUSHIDA vs Will Ospreay for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship – ****1/2
This match surpassed my crazy expectations. Ospreay was positioned as a star coming out of this, and his moonsault off of a lighting rig looks crazier every time I see it. Takahashi kicked out of the imploding 450, then hit the Time Bomb, but Scurll pulled out the ref. Back in the ring, Ospreay recovers and nails Scurll with the Oscutter to win the title.
#7 – From DDT “D-Ou Grand Prix 2018 in Shinjuku” on 1/5 – Mike Bailey vs Shuji Ishikawa in a D-Ou Grand Prix 2018 Block B Match – ****1/2
The first night of the first DDT Grand Prix featured an absolute banger of a match between Ishikawa and Bailey. Ishikawa ragdolled Bailey around the ring for the beginning, but Bailey just would not stay down. Bailey fired up with kicks and hit his Shooting Star Kneedrop for a near fall. Shuji hits a lariat, followed by Splash Mountain to pick up the win. Must watch.
#6 – From DDT “D-Ou Grand Prix 2018 The Final” on 1/28 – HARASHIMA vs Shuji Ishikawa in the D-King Grand Prix Final – ****1/2
I haven’t heard a lot of hype for this one as a MOTY contender, but I thought this match was absolutely awesome. The video package before the match told the story of their previous encounter over a decade ago, and when these two got in the ring, it was awesome, anything with Ishikawa always is. Ishikawa won after a brutal match with tons of near falls.
#5 – From NJPW “Wrestle Kingdom 12” on 1/4 – Kenny Omega (c) vs Chris Jericho in a No DQ Match for the IWGP United States Championship – ****3/4
I’m a little bit lower on this match than some, but I still thought that this one was just awesome, and passed all expectations by leaps and bounds. I know a lot of people were able to look past it, but I’m not going to lie, the confusing rope breaks (after Jericho earlier said there were none) annoyed me, but it was the best Jericho match in years. I can not praise these two enough for over delivering on a spectacle match on the big stage. The table spot, the blood, the One-Winged Angel on the chair, it was all great.
#4 – From PROGRESS “Chapter 62” on 1/28 – WALTER (c) vs Timothy Thatcher for the PROGRESS Atlas Championship – ****3/4
Five of my top nine matches game from that weekend of the 27th and 28th, what a crazy weekend that was. This is also the second of five matches I have at ****3/4+. The brutality of this match was near unwatchable at times. WALTER chopped Thatcher so hard that Thatcher’s chest was bleeding at points. The fellow Ringkampf members laid into one another, and Thatcher’s fighting spirit got him over with the crowd. WALTER retains the title with a Tiger Bomb and the two shake hands after the match. The second of five matches I think you can realistically call Match of the Year contenders.
#3 – From NJPW “Wrestle Kingdom 12” on 1/4 – Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship – ****3/4
Originally I had this match lower, but on rewatch, it improves dramatically, maybe I was just angry about Naito losing. The story here was beautiful, as the “Tranquilo” Naito that had turned on the fans since losing the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 9 gave way to a little bit of the “Stardust Genius” Naito. Naito went for the stardust press and missed, but this is most notable in the closing sequence. Naito hits the Destino, but he listens to the crowd, and goes for it again, just to be sure, instead of playing it cool… and Okada makes him pay. Tombstone, Rainmaker, 1,2,3.
#2 – From NJPW “The New Beginning in Sapporo Day 1” on 1/27 – Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs Minoru Suzuki for the IWGP Intercontinental Title – ****3/4
So well done, Tanahashi sold tremendously, and Suzuki played the sadistic madman perfectly. This match didn’t have many nearfalls, and it was still great. Suzuki tortured the knee throughout, and when Tanahashi went for the High Fly Flow, he landed on he knee, making matters worse. The finish comes as Suzuki hits the Gotch Piledriver, but instead of pinning, he goes back to the knee bar. You would think the overconfidence would lead to his downfall as Tana crawled to the ropes, but Suzuki just reapplies the move in the middle of the ring, torquing on it further, and the referee stops the match.
#1 – From WWE NXT “Takeover: Philadelphia” on 1/27 – Andrade Almas (c) vs Johnny Gargano for the NXT Championship – *****
Five. Stars. Perfection. I’ll hear your case for any of the matches I have 2-5, but to me, this is the Match of the Year so far. It had a lovable babyface, and a maniacal villain, and it had one of the hottest crowds I had ever seen. The final ten minutes had me gasping for air as the two traded near fall after near fall. This match had Zelina Vega finally getting her comeuppance at the hands of Johnny’s wife Candice Michelle, and the only thing that would have made it better would have been if they gave Gargano the title. This match had more near falls I bit on than any other this year, and the post-match angle with Ciampa likely sets up a match between him and Gargano at Takeover: NOLA.
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) Shuji Ishikawa – 12 points
2) Minoru Suzuki – 10 points
3) WALTER – 9 points
4) Zack Sabre Jr. – 9 points
5) Konosuke Takeshita – 9 points
6) Will Ospreay – 8 points
7) HARASHIMA – 8 points
8) Andrade Almas – 7 points
9) Keith Lee – 7 points
10) Timothy Thatcher – 6 points