Sunday, June 7, 2015

Month in Review: May 2015 - Kevin Owens' Rise, ROH/NJPW shows, + more

What a month it's been! Four ROH/NJPW joint shows, DDT4, BOSJ, two WWE PPV's, the WWE debut of Samoa Joe, Kevin Owens feuding with John Cena, and that's just for starters! I've been saying we were on the verge of a boom period for nearly a year now and I think this month was the next step towards that as so much stuff happened including ROH announcing a national TV deal on the same network as TNA. The moment it was announced, the internet broke as everyone rejoiced over the news. Wednesday night is officially the new Monday night as now ROH, TNA, Lucha Underground, AND NXT will all be airing on that night. It's certainly an amazing time to be a wrestling fan and I see it only getting better with GFW on the horizon. None the less, this is about the month of May and I don't want to get ahead of myself so let's get started by discussing the true stars of the month.

WWE Star of the Month - Kevin Owens
Honestly, who else could this go to? Kevin Owens had quite possibly one of the biggest months in recent pro wrestling history. The former ROH & PWG World Champion and current NXT Champion debuted on the main roster of WWE by confronting John Cena on Monday Night Raw. This led to Owens dropping Cena on his back with a pop up powerbomb after scolding him for attempting to give him "veteran advice". Followed by this, Owens absolutely destroyed Sami Zayn in an NXT Title defense before coming face to face with the debuting Samoa Joe in a moment that fans will never forget. That's two unforgettable moments in a matter of weeks and Owens was just getting started. He went on to Elimination Chamber and delivered a phenomenal match with John Cena and DEFEATED him cleanly. In this one month, Owens made his stock as well as NXT's stock SKYROCKET. After this, the sky is the limit for Mr Wrestling in WWE. I shudder to think what Owens will do next considering everything he accomplished in the past three weeks. It's going to be a wild ride having him on Raw & Smackdown every week!

Last month's winner: Neville

Independent Wrestler of the Month - Trevor Lee

After months of coming up just short, Trevor Lee really busted out a noteworthy month in May by earning multiple huge victories. He kicked the month off by defeating Matt Hardy & CW Anderson to become the new OMEGA Champion. As if that wasn't big enough, he headed out to Southern California for PWG's DDT4 Tag Team Tournament where he teamed with Andrew Everett. The dynamic duo from North Carolina defeated Matt Sydal & Mike Bailey in the first round, Ricochet & Rich Swann in the second round, and The Beaver Boys in the final round to win the tournament and become the new PWG World Tag Team Champions. These are titles that have been held by the WWE Superstar of the Month for May, Kevin Owens, current NXT star Sami Zayn, Neville, and The Young Bucks among others. After a year of wreaking havoc on Reseda, Lee was finally able to gain some major ground in the form of a tournament win & a championship victory. I also can't forget to mention how he & Everett stole the show early in the month in a one on one match at CZW's Proving Grounds event. 2015 continues to be a big year for Trevor Lee.

Last month's winner: Mike Bailey

Female Wrestler of the Month - Candice LeRae (PWG, SMASH)

It was only a matter of time before arguably the top female on the Indies earned herself this award. This comes as a bittersweet month for her though as she took a massive leap in her singles career by defeating Brent Banks, Biff Busick, Trevor Lee, Tyson Dux, and Matt Cross (Son of Havoc) to win SMASH Wrestling's Gold 2k15 Tournament. That's two top Indie guys, a top LU competitor, and two of the best that Canada has to offer all in one night. That alone earns the lady who took intergender wrestling to the next level last year this award. Her singles success didn't carry over to tag team competition though as she & Joey Ryan lost their PWG World Tag Team Titles after 10 months of holding them. It was a bit screwy though as good old Roddy Strong attacked Candice and it ended up costing them the belts. The fact that the PWG World Champion took time out of his night to cost Candice a match just shows her importance in the promotion and the Indies as a whole. This award has been dominated by Santana Garrett all year, but if anyone can give her a run for her money when it comes to the Top Female Wrestler of the entire year, Candice just may be able to do it if she keeps delivering months like this.

Last month's winner: Santana Garrett

Puroresu Star of the Month - KUSHIDA (NJPW, ROH)

I'm really stoked to be able to recognize KUSHIDA as the japanese wrestling star of the month because he's been so underrated for way too long. One half of the Time Splitters kicked off the month with a MOTY candidate bout with Roderick Strong on the first night of the ROH/NJPW joint shows in Philly. After performing on all four nights of those events, he returned to Japan where he took the BOSJ tournament by storm once again by taking an early lead in the rankings that, as we now know, would end up earning him a spot in the finals once again. As of this writing, he's kicked off June in phenomenal fashion by finishing his awe inspiring BOSJ run with a victory over Kyle O'Reilly in the finals. I think we can officially say that we're witnessing the ascension of KUSHIDA to the next level!

Last month's winner: Kota Ibushi

Workhorse of the Month - Roderick Strong (ROH/NJPW, PWG, EVOLVE, Progress) 

This is a first time award that may be a one time award until someone is able to duplicate the hard work & dedication that Roderick Strong exemplified this month. Hell, for that matter, he's exhibited it the entire first half of this year. This month saw him be the MVP of the ROH/NJPW shows by having undoubtedly the best matches of all the shows. Whether it be his involvement in the ROH All Stars/Bullet Club match, his high quality encounter with KUSHIDA, his bloody battle with Hiroshi Tanahashi, or his hard hitting affair with Shinsuke Nakamura - Roddy delivered every single night. To top that off, he headed back to Reseda to defend his PWG World Title successfully against Brian Cage & Chris Hero while also laying waste to Candice LeRae for no real reason other than because he wanted to. Roddy also headed overseas this month where he wrestled for PROGRESS Wrestling and prepped to enter RevPro's Summer Sizzler tournament in June. Strong closed out the month with a memorable contest against arch rival Drew Galloway for the EVOLVE Title on the 31st. I'd argue to say that 2015 has been Roderick's best year yet and if he keeps it up, it will be something I remember forever because he is absolutely ripping the world of pro wrestling a new one and reminding us all of what a phenomenal talent he is.

Top 15 Matches of the Month

1) John Cena vs. Kevin Owens - WWE: Elimination Chamber
2) ROH ALL STARS vs Bullet Club - ROH/NJPW: Global Wars Night One
3) Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose - WWE: Monday Night Raw - 5/3/15
4) Johnny Mundo vs. Alberto El Patron - Lucha Underground - 5/6/15
5) Roderick Strong vs. KUSHIDA - ROH: War of the Worlds Night One
6) AJ Styles vs. Adam Cole - ROH: War of the Worlds Night One
7) Akira Tozawa vs. Shingo Takagi - Dragon Gate: King of Gate - 5/8/15
8) Angelico, Ivelisse, & Son of Havoc vs. The Crew - Ladder Match - 5/20/15
9) Roderick Strong vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi - ROH: War of the Worlds Night Two
10) Fenix vs. Mil Muertes - Death Match - Lucha Underground - 5/27/15
11) Mike Bailey vs. TJ Perkins - Evolve 43
12) Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards vs. Austin Aries & Bobby Roode - TNA: Impact - 5/29/15
13) New Day (Big E & Kofi Kingston) vs. Cesaro & Tyson Kidd - 2/3 Falls Match - WWE: Payback
14) Fenix vs. Cage vs. Mack vs. Pentagon Jr vs. Sexy Star vs. Killshot - Lucha Underground - 5/13/15
15) John Cena vs. Neville - United States Championship Match - WWE: Raw - 5/11/15

TNA Star of the Month - Eric Young
TNA has continued it's trend of having major ups and downs this year. So much so that I didn't even pick a TNA Star of the Month in April because no one really stood out in my eyes despite Kurt Angle continuing his reign as champ with a great title defense against Lashley. None the less, this month I felt the need to recognize Eric Young's continued tremendous efforts. In a world where many episodes of TNA feel unenthusiastic, EY continues to give 100% in his work and I love it. He's such an insane character that it cracks me up at times when watching Impact which may not be the biggest compliment, but in reality it is because it gives me a reason to tune in because he's entertaining. The laughter does go away in moments however because after all EY is a serious competitor with a mean streak at the time and he illustrated that by crossing lines and ripping off the prosthetic leg of Chris Melendez early in the month. It caused some slight buzz on social media and got some riled up. Young had several matches with Kurt Angle this month and while they weren't all out of this world, they were enjoyable and produced some funny segments. Most notably, Eric Young running towards Kurt Angle with a car which led to them brawling in it and in the parking lot. EY's past calendar year has been great as we've seen his character variety put on true display as he went from comedy to valiant face champion to vicious heel. Here's to Eric Young!

MOMENT OF THE MONTH - Samoa Joe debuts in WWE on NXT

JOE IS GONNA KILL YOU! JOE IS GONNA KILL YOU! I never thought I'd hear that chant on a WWE promoted program, but IT HAPPENED! I was the notorious guy that everyone hammered afterwards because I predicted that he wouldn't debut due to having future Indie dates booked. Well, I was wrong and I'm glad I was because what took place is something I'll never forget. We saw Samoa Joe come out to confront Kevin Owens after he beat the ever loving hell out of Sami Zayn. It was an epic moment that gave me chills even though I didn't get to watch it until after I had already heard about it. Samoa Joe has officially left his mark on the world of pro wrestling this year by being the only person to compete for WWE, TNA, AND ROH in a span of three months. Beyond that, he's got a one of a kind contract that still allows him to work ROH and other Indies. Well, for now, atleast. Rumor is that they recently signed him to a legit full time deal after being impressed with his merch sales and performances at NXT tapings. Either way, it's HUGE for the Samoan Submission Machine. Who would've thought several years ago that Samoa Joe would have the career resurgence he's having? I'm so glad he's finally getting the chance once again to be the star that he was in 2004-2007. All I have left to say is JOE! JOE! JOE! JOE!

Last but certainly not least, I'd like to announce a new system I'm using to help create my Elite 80 Wrestlers of the Year list. For those who don't know, it's a list I began making during my year end awards last year where I rank the top 80 wrestlers of the year. Instead of having to go through and pick who I think deserves to be where like I've done in the past, I've developed a points system that I'm using to keep score throughout the year. Wrestlers get points for three star, four star & five star matches, winning titles, title defenses, memorable moments, social media trends, and for being awarded as a star of the month or being involved in a bout picked as the match of the month.

With that being said, I'll be releasing a list of who's in the Top 10 and how many points they have at the end of every Month in Review going forward. It begins now so wait no more, here's the first ever Elite 80 snap shot. These standings are as of May 31st so they very well could have already changed, but they still give you a good idea of who's in the lead.

1) Kota Ibushi - 97 points
2) John Cena - 85 points
3) Seth Rollins - 79 points
4) Roderick Strong - 75 points
5) AJ Styles - 69 points
6) Akira Tozawa - 60 points
7) Dean Ambrose - 59 points
8) Josh Alexander - 58 points
9) Hirooki Goto - 56 points
10) Daniel Bryan - 55 points

Originally, John Cena was leading the pack as Wrestler of the Year. His reign as US Champion with weekly defenses has helped him tremendously as he gets points for title defenses as well as quality matches almost every single week. THEN, I began catching up on Puro and watched as Kota Ibushi skyrocket to the top of this list after I recognized many of his matches with a four star rating or higher. That combined with his NJCup & DDT Title victories plus THREE Puro star of the month awards has made him the man to beat at the mid-year mark. He leads by a stout 12 point margin over John Cena. Seth Rollins is currently holding steady at third with Roderick Strong close behind. IWGP Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles rounds out the Top 5 with 69 points. With three of the men in the top five being world champions, they could easily knock Ibushi out of his top spot due to having title defenses however thus far, Ibushi has been producing as many quality matches as champions have title defenses so who knows!

The latter part of the Top 10 is extremely close with only five points separating the entire bunch. Dragon Gate's Open The Brave Gate Champion Akira Tozawa is holding down the #6 slot with Dean Ambrose's constant entertainment factor & match quality earning him the #7 spot only one point behind Tozawa. At #8 we have a groundbreaking athlete as Josh Alexander is the only man in the Top 10 who doesn't wrestle for a major promotion like WWE, ROH, TNA, or NJPW. It just goes to show how dominate and talented he is for him to be up there with such great company. The current IWGP IC Champion Hirooki Goto finds himself at #9 after defeating Shinsuke Nakamura for the belt at Invasion Attack and at #10 we have Daniel Bryan who will sadly continue to drop as the year goes on. It's such a bummer that he's unable to compete. He only wrestled for four months of this year and didn't even wrestle in the month of May yet he's still hanging on to a Top 10 ranking thanks to everything he did in the four months he was active. Get well soon, DB!

Final thoughts: Thanks for reading! I'm continuing to try and expand this column to make it more informative and cover as much pro wrestling as possible. In the end, I want it to be the place someone who's been behind on wrestling can come, catch up, and know what they need to check out from the month. Feel free to tweet me your thoughts on this month's piece as well as my new points system. When would you like updates on the rankings? Every month? Weekly? Does it interest you? Follow and tweet us on Twitter @ThePWTruth and let us know!

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