Saturday, January 30, 2016

NJPW: New Year Dash 2016 Review

Just 24 hours after their biggest event of the year, Wrestle Kingdom 10, New Japan Pro Wrestling delivered their yearly event, New Year Dash. It features the fall out from WK10 and the first title defense of the trios championships for the Briscoes & Toru Yano.

1) Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask IV, Komatsu, Cheeseburger, & Fujiwara vs. Yuji Nagata, Ryusuke Tagachi, Sho Tanaka, Manabu Nakanishi, & Shiro Koshinaka  

A huge variety of talent here as we've got a number of long time in ring veterans like Nagata & Fujiwara, but you also have some extremely fresh talent like Tanaka, Komatsu, & of course, Cheeseburger. Speaking of Cheeseburger, he was shockingly the highlight of this match as the crowd was on fire for him with the chants throughout the match. It really surprised me. Another highlight of this match for me was the team of Liger & Tiger, I've only seen them team a few times as of now, but they always impress me with their double team manuevers. This was a decent enough multi-man opener with a bunch of random characters who weren't on the main card of WK10 the night before. The team headed by Nagata came out on top much to the shagrin of the crowd who was in love with the ultra babyface unit of Liger, Tiger, & Cheeseburger.

Match rating - **1/4

2) Ricochet & Matt Sydal vs. Jay White & David Finlay Jr
This was so much fun. It only went around seven minutes which allowed them to trim all the fat and just have a nice exhibition. These guys are perfect for that type of match so it ruled. Sydal & Ricochet ran through all their stuff to wow the crowd. White & Finlay did get their moments to shine though and they looked good when they did. Double shooting star presses from Sydal & Ricochet earn them the victory.

Match rating - **3/4

3) Jay Lethal vs. Juice Robinson
Non title action for the ROH World Champion in his second ever NJPW match. He meets a fellow gaijin in the form of Juice Robinson, the former CJ Parker of WWE NXT. Much like the previous tag, this was another short but sweet match. In fact, I enjoyed this more than I did the Lethal/Elgin match from WK10, oddly enough. Looking back, they tried to pack way too much in the time they had whereas here, they did what they did and it was great. Some fun exchanges, cheap heat garnered by Truth Martini resulting in pop worthy moments like Lethal diving onto Juice out of nowhere and Juice getting his hands on Truth later on, and a sick finish with Lethal springing off the second turnbuckle with a Lethal Injection.

Match rating - **3/4

4) Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows, Tama Tonga, Yujiro Takashi, & Haku vs. Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Satoshi Kojima, Hiryoshi Tenzan & KUSHIDA
Anderson & Gallows are pissed about losing the IWGP Tag Titles the night before so they jump the babyfaces before the bell, a team featuring the new champions, Makabe & Honma. Haku is an honorary BC member for the night as he is Tama Tonga's father and he gets his moment as he delivers a piledriver to Makabe during the final few minutes of the match. This didn't last long at all and was straight to the point. The closing sequence was really good and saw Anderson get a pin over the men who took the titles from he & Doc at WK10. Looks like a rematch will be coming soon. Anderson & Gallows run their mouths on the way to the back and grab the headset from Kevin Kelly in the process. Machine Gun is phenomenal on the mic so that was quality stuff.

Match rating - **1/4

5) Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin, & Mascara Dorado vs. Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, & BUSHI
Awesome mix of talent here with American, Japanese, & Mexican wrestlers all involved along with a number of totally different characters. Of course, Naito's squad are the villains and the opposing trio are all beloved in their respective roles despite coming from different backgrounds so this was bound to be a lot of fun. The best part of this had to be the exchanges between Elgin & EVIL. After their past meetings combined with what they did in this match, I've come to the conclusion that they have a special chemistry. They did a tease with Elgin pulling EVIL off Tanahashi which led to a face to face showdown which made the crowd erupt. That led to both men getting the hot tag and going to war. In the end, it'd come to down Dorado & BUSHI who had an awesome lucha exchange before mist being spat in the eyes of Dorado allowed BUSHI to get the win for his team.

Match rating - **3/4

Post match, Los Ignorables all attack the babyfaces and have the gall to unmask Mascara Dorado. The beating & embarassment continue and KUSHIDA HITS THE RING TO MAKE THE SAVE! The junior heavyweight champion sadly meets the same fate after getting mist spat in his eyes as well. BUSHI grabs the mic and vows to take the junior title from KUSHIDA. YES! Looks like we're getting that match in the future and I'm stoked for it! Good way to start some new rivalries here. KUSHIDA/BUSHI and more Elgin/EVIL confrontations is what I'm hoping to get coming out of this.

6) AJ Styles & Kenny Omega vs. Shinsuke Nakamura & YOSHI-HASHI
This match will go down in history as the last match for AJ Styles in NJPW so it's a must watch for that reason alone plus the fact that power changed hands following the contest as Kenny Omega officially joined the heavyweight division and seemingly became the new leader of Bullet Club. With Nakamura heading to WWE soon, this will also likely be the closest we ever get to a Omega/Nakamura singles match and they worked it as such so you got all the fantastic counters, near falls, & false finishes you'd want from those two. Great stuff despite me watching it weeks after it happened, I can only imagine the suspense when watching it live as it happened. Omega pins Nakamura to get the victory.

Match rating - ***1/2

Most of the buzz around this came after the match as mentioned above, as Kenny Omega turned on AJ Styles as did the rest of the Bullet Club after they played opposum like they were there to help AJ. Omega is one of my favorite mic workers of the new age so I really enjoyed his promo after the match as he is entering a new era of his career thus transforming his character even further. Once Bullet Club finished their spill, AJ Styles took multiple bows to the crowd in an emotional moment that served as the perfect farewell. The crowd chanted Styles' name as he left and it was an awesome sight. Off to WWE goes the Phenomenal One!

7) Katsuyori Shibata, Hirooki Goto, Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish vs. Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Rocky Romero, & Trent Beretta
Tons of styles meshed into this match and bah gawd it made for loads of fun. I got one of my dream match confrontations in O'Reilly & Ishii and they gave me just what I wanted as they traded bombs which led to Kyle going for the NIGEL. Shibata & Ishii locked up multiple times which lit the crowd up thanks to their banger the night before at WK10. Seeing Okada work O'Reilly & Fish was cool as well even if it was momentary. This contest was mainly used to elevate Goto as the next challenger to Okada's title and while it did that, we got some really good action along the stretch as well. Solid eight man that sees the team of Meiyu Tag & ReDragon get the win. Goto calls out Okada post match and says he will take the IWGP Heavyweight Title from him.

Match rating - ***1/4

8) The Briscoes & Toru Yano (c) vs. The Young Bucks & Bad Luck Fale - NEVER Open Weight Six Man Tag Titles Match
The first defense of the trios titles has arrived. The Briscoes & The Bucks have locked up numerous times over the years so you knew this would be highly entertaining. This made up for the anti climatic inagurual six man title match that took place at WK10 although they didn't necessarily go all out here despite being in the main event. It's still a hot match worth watching though. They did an awesome spot in the finishing sequence with Matt flipping out of the Doomsday Device and nailing Jay with a superkick. The Bucks are on fire from that point forward which is always class, but Toru Yano stops them from hitting the Meltzer Driver which allows The Brisoces to capitalize and retain the belts. Good way to cap off this show.

Match rating - ***1/4

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

NJPW: Wrestle Kingdom 10 Review

New Japan Pro Wrestling - Wrestle Kingdom 10

January 4th, 2016

1) ReDragon (Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish) (c) vs. The Young Bucks vs. RPG Vice (Rocky Romero & Beretta) vs. Ricochet & Matt Sydal - IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match
This was much better than last year's four way tag opener. I was bummed that we didn't just get ReDragon against Ricochet & Sydal because I feared this would just be a clusterfuck like at WK9 and ReDragon/Ricochet & Sydal is a dream match. That's not to say the WK9 match was bad, but it was just too much, too fast, too early in the show. This gave you everything you wanted however it also left you wanting more which is what a good opener should do. It was a ton of fun from beginning to end with every team getting their moment to shine and hit their signature moves. In the end, Cody Hall would be the deciding factor as he caused a distraction which allowed The Young Bucks' to steal the victory and win their 4th IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles.

Match rating - ***1/4

2) Bullet Club (Tama Tonga, Bad Luck Fale, & Yujiro Takashi) vs. The Briscoes & Toru Yano - NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Title Match

Monday, January 11, 2016

2015 Pro Wrestling Truth Awards - Part 3: Independent / Alternative Wrestling Year In Review (ROH, PWG, AAW, Progress, Lucha Underground + more)

I'm going to be doing this year's Independent Wrestling Year in Review post slightly different than last year. You can probably already tell by the fact that it's title Indy/Alternative Wrestling Year in Review. 2015 saw promotions like ROH & Lucha Underground tow the line of independent and corporate. Both have TV deals, but neither as large as WWE by any means. Plus, many of the wrestlers on their programs still have independent contracts. This makes for a tough issue when it comes to clarification. On top of that, TNA is clearly not on the level of WWE anymore, if they ever were, and some don't even see them on the same level as ROH or Lucha Underground. So, instead of doing three extra posts for each company in question, I decided to lump them all into this one post and I think it will make for a fun venture.


What better promotion to start with than Ring of Honor? They basically started the independent / alternative wrestling movement when they formed in 2002. Since then they've earned a rabid following despite their growth happening gradually and not over night. ROH produced many of today's top WWE talents that you love such as Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, & Cesaro and was also the stomping grounds of names like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, & Chris Daniels.

I mention all this because 2015 was a year that ROH put forth an effort that I'd say is a culmination of their history as a company. You had the current stars like Michael Elgin, Kyle O'Reilly, Bobby Fish & ACH, but you also had veterans like the aforementioned AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, & Matt Sydal back in major roles. On top of that, you had veterans like Jay Briscoe, Roderick Strong, and Jay Lethal who have been around for the longest, still working at the top of the card on a high, consistent level. It's a great mix and if that wasn't enough, ROH's working agreement with New Japan Pro Wrestling allowed one of my favorite things about ROH to be put on display throughout the year as international talent came in on multiple occassions for dream matches of all kinds.

These dream matches allowed for men like Roderick Strong to restate why he is one of the best of the past 15 years by pulling out career performance after career performance. Roddy delivered one of his best years yet all across the board, but a core part of that was in ROH against names like Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, & Shinsuke Nakamura. Each of which, Strong produced an incredible match with. Those are just the start of his year though because we saw him form a new rivalry during the year as he and Jay Lethal waged war on a number of occassions as they vyed for championship gold.

It was a perfect match up when you look back considering they were the clear stand outs for Ring of Honor this year. Therefore, you know what we got when they wrestled - a series of classics. Jay Lethal was able to win the series and retain his ROH World Title on every occassions although he would lose his television championship later in the year. Speaking of that, we HAVE to talk about the year that Jay Lethal had because it would be a complete injustice if we didn't.

Lethal came into 2015 with the ROH World TV Title around his waist. A title that he had held for nearly a year at the time. He surpassed that year mark and would end up finding himself in a dream scenario. The #1 Contender for the ROH World Title while also holding the TV Title. This made for an epic clash with Jay Briscoe that saw Lethal make history and become the first double champion in ROH history. In the months past, he would defend the title against names like Roderick Strong & AJ Styles to prove himself as the best in the world, all the while flipping a finger and turning up his nose at anyone who got in his way. It was an unbelievable year for Jay Lethal.

Much like it was an unbelievable year for in ring competiton and considering that's what ROH prides itself on. I say we wait no longer to unveil the Top 10 ROH Matches of 2015 list, put together by yours truly!

Top 10 ROH Matches of the Year:

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2015 Elite 80 Wrestlers of the Year List

1) Roderick Strong (ROH, PWG, Indies) - 212 points

Who woulda thunk it? Roderick Strong taking the cake as Wrestler of the Year in 2015. I don't think anyone would have guessed it and even if I second guessed this result. Then, I went back and watched multiple matches of his and runner up, AJ Styles, to see if this was an accurate reading and sure enough, I felt like it was. Roderick Strong was simply on another level this year and when you go back to watch his matches, you still feel it. The way the crowd reacted to him, the feel of his matches, the atmosphere, it all clicked, even after the fact. Seeing this year unfold for Roddy is something I'll never forget as a wrestling fan. All over the board, he was working harder than ever and finally getting the due that he has deserved for so long. In PWG, he turned the corner as a character by becoming the complete dickhead of a World Champion, but also delivering some of the best matches in career & company history against the likes of Zack Sabre Jr and Mike Bailey. In ROH, he got opportunities to face NJPW all stars like Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, Shinsuke Nakamura, & KUSHIDA and knocked it completely out of the park in every single chance. On top of that, he went 60 minutes with World Champion Jay Lethal before delivering two more amazing matches with Lethal which resulted in him winning the Television title which Jay had held for over a year. All of that alone can qualify Roddy as wrestler of the year, but he has more to offer when considering him as a candidate as he competed in companies such as EVOLVE, Rev Pro, & Southside during the first half of the year prior to signing his exclusive ROH/PWG contract. In the aformentioned promotions, he delivered more memorable performances including a blow off feud with Drew Galloway, a second classic meeting with Zack Sabre Jr, a first time ever match with Will Ospreay, and the reunion of the Dojo Bros with Adam Cole & Eddie Edwards on two separate occassions. Roddy has been one of the most consistent and well conditioned athletes in pro wrestling for nearly a decade and I admit, I didn't even realize it until now. This year, he opened my eyes and made me a full fledged believer in his ability to be one of the best in the world. And in 2015, I don't think there was anyone better. Sure, you had the Shinsuke Nakamura's that produced two five star matches. Yes, you had AJ Styles continue to build his legacy and show persistence through injury. Yup, John Cena had one of his best years yet and won over many new fans. And who could forget the resurgence of Chris Hero & Matt Sydal to new heights? Despite all that, no one reached the level of Roderick Strong. When I think Wrestler of the Year, I think the year that Roddy had this year is the perfect example of what the winner of Wrestler of the Year and first place in a list like the Elite 80 should be. It was one hell of a ride and I have no clue how Roddy plans to top it in 2016, but one thing is for sure, after this year, I wouldn't dare doubt his ability to do just that!

Previous Rankings: #36 in 2014 

2) AJ Styles - 207 points

In 2014, AJ Styles re-emerged himself into legit Wrestler of the Year contention by adding a new fresh interest in his career when he left TNA for NJPW. AJ's time in TNA is not ANYTHING to be ashamed of by any stretch of the imagination, but the truth is that Styles left TNA at just the right time because it was sinking. He would win the IWGP Heavyweight Title three months into 2014 and become the leader of the Bullet Club, a stable that would rule the world of wrestling until the present day. With that in mind, you may say, how could someone follow that up? It was hard, but AJ did so in phenomenal fashion in 2015. Another IWGP Title run, outstanding matches against the likes of Kota Ibushi & Kazuchika Okada, great trios matches with The Young Bucks. The consistency, success, and overall excellence was the same amazing factor as in years past however this year we saw what AJ was truly made of as he fought through tough injuries yet still delivered some of the best performances of the year. An extremely consistent year by AJ Styles was punctuated by a jaw dropping performance against Jay Lethal on live PPV at ROH's year end event, Final Battle. AJ challenged for the World Title despite battling some real life injuries that caused NJPW to pull him from the World Tag League. This left many worried about how he would deliver in a main event slot and I'll be damned if he didn't prove them all wrong by providing fans with one of the best ROH matches of the year. The thrilling performance by an injured AJ Styles had me on the edge of my seat and reminded why AJ is such a class act and top notch performer. 15 years and counting and the phenomenal one doesn't look to be slowing down any time soon!

Previous Rankings: #3 in 2014, #17 in 2013

3) John Cena (WWE) - 194 points
Despite missing two months of action at the end of the year, John Cena still somehow managed to scoop up the WWE Wrestler of the Year award. His US Title reign helped him tremendously as he gained points for all the defenses plus the high quality matches that his open challenge produced week after week. This is the first time Cena has won this award in the Pro Wrestling Truth awards since 2007 and it really says something about how he's just gotten better as time has went on. 2015 will undoubtedly be looked back on as one of his best years yet. He delivered great match after great match, elevated one young talent after another, brought prestige back to the United States Championship, and proved himself to be an all time great in the world of pro wrestling. Many doubters and nay sayer were won over this year as John's talent that has often been questioned was put on full display and we saw why Cena has been the top dog in WWE for so many years. I look forward to what Big Match John will do in 2016!

Previous rankings: #2 in 2014, #2 in 2013, #4 in 2012, #2 in 2011

4) Seth Rollins (WWE) - 174 points

WWE Monday Night Raw Review - January 4th, 2016

First Raw of the year!

Stephanie McMahon enters the arena only to be interrupted by Roman Reigns' music mid entrance as the WWE Champion strolls down through the crowd. He comes face to face with Steph at the barricade and the two proceed to the ring. Roman calls out Vince, but Steph says he may as well get used to disappointment starting with the fact that Vince isn't at the arena yet. Reigns ends the segment with arguably his strongest and most well delivered line yet as he says that if there's any shenanigans, Steph will be picking up Vince from the hospital and not the jail house.

1) Kevin Owens vs. Neville
Rematch from last week and it rules. Dean Ambrose is on commentary to continue hyping his feud with Big Kev which is the best thing going in the E right now. Neville comes out firing on all cylinders. He looks amazing and even hits some new stuff we haven't seen before. A running flip into Owens into the barricade and a 450 splash off the apron to the floor, to be exact. Great hot flurries from Neville throughout the match and equally good control segment from Big Kev. In the end, a new version of the running cannonball into the corner followed by a pop up powerbomb gets KO the win. I love how every match Owens and Neville have is different than the other.

Match rating - ***

After the match, Owens starts kicking Neville again and Ambrose dives out onto him to break up the assault. The brawl escalates and Ambrose ends up elbow dropping Owens through the announce table as payback for last week. Nice visual with Ambrose grabbing Owens head and saying "if you want it, you know where to find it!" They face off for the IC title on Smackdown this week!

2) Titus O'Neil vs. Stardust

2015 Pro Wrestling Truth Awards - Part 2: Puroresu Year in Review (NJPW, BJW, Dragon Gate, & more!)

One of the beautiful things about pro wrestling is the variety. In the past two years, I've come to realize how much there is out there to explore and that resulted in me discovering puroresu, otherwise known as Japanese Wrestling. Looking at it on the surface, some may think, what? Is there a big wrestling company in Japan like WWE? Well, yes, there is. However, there's also a number of other large companies with a rich history. The great thing I've found about japanese wrestling promotions is that they're all unique. There's one clear leader of the pack, though...

And that would be none other than New Japan Pro Wrestling. You've likely heard of them due to the buzz they've gotten recently in America due partly to AJ Styles jumping ship from TNA to there in 2014, but also because of their working relationship with companies like ROH & GFW which has blossomed as time has went on. In 2015, NJPW kicked off the year in phenomenal fashion with Wrestle Kingdom 9 which saw arch rivals Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada tear the house down in another classic main event and Kota Ibushi prove himself as a heavyweight in a five star match for the Intercontinental Championship against Shinsuke Nakamura. As the year tredged on, so did the amazing matches. Tomohiro Ishii waged war with Tomoaki Honma in a epic match for the NEVER Openweight Title, a belt which he has become synonymous with. AJ Styles regained the IWGP Heavyweight Title from Tanahashi. Kyle O'Reilly and KUSHIDA delivered one of the best BOSJ final round matches ever. Kota Ibushi won the New Japan cup and went on to challenge AJ Styles for the heavyweight title in a dream match. Then came summer and thus came time for the almighty G1 Climax. It's the biggest tournament in NJPW and arguably in pro wrestling as a whole. This was a spectacle to watch unfold once again, just like last year. It was even more special considering it was the 25th annual edition of the tournament. The tournament would be won by Hiroshi Tanahashi which set the main event of WK10, which is days away as we speak, in stone. Tanahashi challenges Okada for the title as another chapter of their rivalry unfolds. So, in short, 2015 was another landmark year for NJPW all around. Consistently great matches and ground breaking partnerships made this one of NJPW's best years yet. I can't wait to see what 2016 holds for the mecca that is New Japan Pro Wrestling.


Top 10 NJPW Matches of 2015:

1) Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi - Wrestle Kingdom 9 - *****

2) Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi - G1 Climax 25 Finals - *****

3) Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tomoaki Honma - New Beginning In Sendai - ****3/4

4) KUSHIDA vs. Kyle O'Reilly - Best of Super Juniors Finals - ****3/4

5) Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada - Wrestle Kingdom 9 - ****3/4

6) Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi - G1 Climax 25 Day 1 - ****1/2

7) AJ Styles vs. Kota Ibushi - G1 Climax 25 Day 5 - ****1/2

8) AJ Styles vs. Kota Ibushi - Invasion Attack - ****1/2

9) Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kazuchika Okada - G1 Climax 25 Day 17 - ****1/2

9) Kazuchika Okada vs. Hirooki Goto - G1 Climax 25 Day 8 - ****1/4

10) Tomohiro Ishii vs. Hirooki Goto - G1 Climax 25 Day 14 - ****1/4

Big Japan Pro Wrestling (BJW)

One of my favorite promotions just so happens to be one that I just discovered this year, Big Japan Pro Wrestling. Around the spring, I heard people singing the praises of Daisuke Sekimoto and Yuji Okabayashi, a team collectively known as Strong BJ. Their singles and tag work was a highlight of the early part of the year for many so I decided to give it a shot. Needless to say, I'm extremely glad that I did because I found something that I latched onto quicker than I had to anything in several years. Being a mark for old japanese wrestling superstars like Kenta Kobashi who are known for their brutality and stiff chops, Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi were right up my alley. Beyond that, the entire premise of Big Japan was right up my alley as well.

Most people know Big Japan because of their death matches and while that is a key part of their shows, there's also another division in the company and that's the Strong BJ division which basically features a bunch of badass, mammoth men that like to fight. Plain and simple. It's the epitome of top notch heavyweight pro wrestling. Names like the aformentioned Sekimoto and Okabayashi plus Shuji Ishikawa, Kohei Sato, Hideyoshi Kamitani, Yuji Hino, and others make for a truly packed division.

This year, it was pretty much all about two tag teams in one way or another. Those teams being Twin Towers (Shuji Ishikawa & Kohei Sato) and Strong BJ (Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi). Between these four men, we got an array of amazing matches that are high on my list when it comes to my favorites from the year. For starters, the two teams had a must see three match series for the BJW Tag Team Titles, but to top that off, they also battled each other in singles competition for the BJW World Title. Ishikawa began the year as champion battling Sekimoto & Okabayashi in great contests, in one of which, Sekimoto was able to dethrone him. This led to Sekimoto defending the title against his partner in July which was of course, a sight to see. Any time these four were in the ring together in any form, it was magic.

So, if you like hard hitting strong style and/or death matches, you should undoubtedly give Big Japan Pro Wrestling a try. I look forward to following them in 2016 and seeing what the mighty Sekimoto, Okabayashi, Ishikawa, & Sato have in store after the astounding year they had in 2015.



Top 5 Big Japan Matches of 2015:

1) Twin Towers (Shuji Ishikawa & Kehoi Sato) vs. Strong BJ (Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi) - BJW Tag Team Title Match - 5/28/15 - ****3/4

2) Shuji Ishikawa vs. Daisuke Sekimoto - 3/31/15 - ****3/4

3) Twin Towers (Shuji Ishikawa & Kohei Sato) vs. Strong BJ (Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi) - 10/29/15 - ****1/2

4) Daisuke Sekimoto, Masato Tanaka, & Takashi Saguira vs. HARASHIMA, Yuji Okabayashi & Yuji Hino - 6/30/15 - ****1/2

5) Twin Towers & Yuji Okabayashi vs. Daisuke Sekimoto, Hideki Suzuki, & Hideyoshi Kamitani - 11/23/15 - ****1/4

Dragon Gate

I became familar with Dragon Gate when I discovered Akira Tozawa during his US excursion a few years ago. Last year, I watched miscellaneous matches from the promotion's past and present, but this year, I decided to go through with attempting to follow along throughout the year. It was quite the ride as I became fully familarized with the animal that is Dragon Gate Pro Wrestling. As said earlier in this article, what I've loved about digging through puroresu is that all the promotions in Japan are vastly different and unique. Dragon Gate is known for it's fast paced, spotty style and often criticized for it. However, what many ignore is the deep storytelling that is also intertwinded within the promotion. Numerous stables, which they call units, are a prime part of the programming. These units made for one of the best matches I've seen this year from any promotion as the Jimmyz battled Mad Blankey in a match in which the losing team had to disband. It had action, it had drama, and it had me on the edge of my seat. If you need a true introduction to DG, that's the match I'd recommend because you watch a story unfold before your eyes.

While the aforementioned units were a large part of Dragon Gate in 2015 like usual, I have to take the time to mention the man that brought my attention to the promotion, Akira Tozawa. I'm not just bringing him up because of my tie to him, I'm bringing him up because he's been one of the aces of DG all year. He kicked the year off in fabulous fashion by winning his first singles title, the Open the Brave Gate Championship. The title is a secondary/mid-card singles title and is quite the achievement for a guy who was seen as a joke several years back.

Another man that has to be mentioned is a long time MVP of Dragon Gate, Masato Yoshino. In 2015, he staked his claim as still being one of, if not THE #1 prospect in Dragon Gate. From his Open the Twin Gate Title matches, Open the Dream Gate Title victory, and numerous breathtaking matches, Yoshino never disappointed this year.

The year is closing out with Shingo Takagi and his VERSERK stablemates atop the mountain as he holds the Open The Dream Gate Title and Naruki Doi & YAMATO are still in the midst of a record breaking reign as Twin Gate Champions. YAMAdoi is another duo that had a phenomenal year and made their claim as one of the best tag teams in the world. With them and the power house Shingo running roughshod over DG with a whole group of back up behind them, it's gonna be interesting to see who will take them down in 2016. I think that's the question on the minds of many as we head into the new year.





1) Jimmyz vs. Mad Blankey - Elimination Match - Losing Unit Disbands - Dangerous Gate - 8/16/15 - ****3/4

2) Bxb Hulk vs. Uhaa Nation - Champion Gate In Osaka - 3/1/15 - ****1/2

3) Masato Yoshino & Shachihoko BOY vs. Jimmy Susumu & Jimmy Kagetora - Dragon Gate in Korakuen Hall - 4/9/15 - ****1/2

4) Masato Yoshino vs. T-Hawk - Kobe World - 7/20/15 - ****1/2

5) Naruki Doi & YAMATO vs. Ricochet & Matt Sydal - Kobe World - 7/20/15 - ****1/4

6) Shingo Takagi (c) vs. Masaaki Mochizuki - Gate of Destiny - 11/5/15 - ****1/4

7) Akira Tozawa (c) vs. EITA - Kobe World - 7/20/15 - ****1/4

8) CIMA, Matt Sydal, & Ricochet vs. YAMATO, Naruki Doi, & Masato Yoshino - 7/2/15 - ****1/4

9) Akira Tozawa vs. Dragon Kid - Open The Brave Gate Championship Match - Dead or Alive - 5/5/15 - ****

10) Akira Tozawa vs. Kzy - Open The Brave Gate Championship Match - 2/28/15 - ***3/4


1) Daisuke Sekimoto (BJW, DDT, ZERO-1) - 168 points
WHAT?! A NON NJPW STAR WINS PURO WRESTLER OF THE YEAR?! IN 2015?! Yes, indeed! It was by a very close margin, though, as you can see. He only beat out Okada by two points, but if you look at how often Sekimoto worked and pair that with how consistent he was, you will see just how/why he is the highest ranked japanese wrestler on this list. One half of the Strong BJ duo had an unbelievable year which saw him hold tag titles with Yuji Okabayashi in both his home promotion of Big Japan Pro Wrestling, as well as DDT. Even though they are partners, Sekimoto mixed it up with Okabayashi several times this year and it was epic each time. His tag team success & delivery plus his outstanding string of singles contests against Ishikawa, Masato Tanaka, & Okabayashi earned one of the hardest workers in Japan a well deserved award and a Top 10 ranking. Now is the time to check out Daisuke Sekimoto, if you never have. This year was my first exposure to him and I've already been digging into his past work. Lord knows what the man himself will accomplish in 2016!

2) Kazuchika Okada (NJPW) - 166 points
The Rainmaker began 2015 in bittersweet fashion. He delivered a classic performance yet he came up short and left the Tokyo Dome in literal tears in a moment that was watched by millions around the world. How can you rebound from one of the most embarassing moments of your career that took place at the hands of your arch rival? Fight back and win the IWGP Title. And that's exactly what Kazuchika Okada did. By the time that June rolled around, Okada was back to his old self as he defeated AJ Styles in an awesome match at Dominion to become the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. This put his rival Hiroshi Tanahashi at odds with him once again as he would go on to win the G1 Climax which meant the two would meet in the coming year for the IWGP Heavyweight Title. By August, the stage was set for another huge meeting in quite possibly the greatest rivalry of the past 10 years. Okada spent the entire final half of the year as IWGP Heavyweight Champion which virtually righted the wrong that happened in January, but once again all of that could be crushed to start out the new year if Okada can't manage to defeat Tanahashi at the biggest show of the year.

3) Hiroshi Tanahashi (NJPW) - 162 points
I pretty much covered the basis of Tanahashi's year in the above article about Okada so I'm going to take this time to explain why I chose Tanahashi as NJPW Wrestler of the Year ahead of Okada despite the Rainmaker having more points than him. First things first, some of the points earned were earned in matches outside NJPW, and admittedly, some of Tanahashi's were as well, but when you look at NJPW solely, Tanahashi had the better year. He won his biggest match of the year at the biggest show of the year thus retaining his title and making his most heated rival cry in defeat. He DID lose the IWGP Heavyweight Title a month later, but he would continue to have awesome matches as the year went on against the likes of Kota Ibushi, Katsuyori Shibata, AJ Styles and the man he had his second damn near five star match of the year with, Shinsuke Nakamura. To top that off, he won the 25th annual G1 Climax which is the most prestigious pro wrestling tournament going today. Tanahashi was the ace of NJPW in 2015 and there's no doubt about that.

4) Kota Ibushi (NJPW, DDT) - 159 points
For quite a long time during the year, Kota Ibushi was in firm control of the number one slot on this list. The young, exciting athlete killed it every single night. From the five star classic with Nakamura just four days into the year to his series with HARASHIMA in DDT over the KO-D Openweight Title to the NJ Cup Final Match with Hirooki Goto to his matches with AJ Styles, Ibushi was all over the place and looking phenomenal each time out. The exhausting performances ended up paying a toll however as Ibushi would end up sitting out the final three months of the year due to an injury. It's said to be quite serious and I'm very saddened to see it happen. Especially when he was having one of the best years of his career. One can only do so much, though. I feel like he will come back rested and better than ever whenever that may be, so, here's to the breathtaking performer that is Kota Ibushi! Get well soon!

5) Yuji Okabayashi (BJW, DDT) - 157 points
Yuji Okabayashi returned from injury in 2015 and needless to say, he blew the doors off of every promotion that he stepped foot in, most notably his home promotion of Big Japan Pro Wrestling. Whether it was teaming with Daisuke Sekimoto and ripping it up in a series of matches with Twin Towers or facing his own partner for the BJW World Title which led to him winning the title and being the reigning champion through the end of the year, Okabayashi never failed to deliver. In fact, he didn't just deliver, he knocked it out of the park. In singles, tags, six man's, in ever area he was hard hitting, precise, and left an impact. I'm new to BJW and other promotions like DDT in which Okabayashi frequents, but I'd venture to say that 2015 was one of, if not, THE best year yet for him. As said before, he and the rest of the Big Japan Big Four as I like to call them, were one of my favorite parts about wrestling this year.

6) Shinsuke Nakamura (NJPW) - 148 points
The King of Strong Style may have dropped from #1 to #6 on this list however he's still the same performer that he was last year. Nakamura produced the only to five star matches in the world this year (with Ibushi at WK9 and with Tanahashi at the G1 Finals) and reminded everyone why he's one of the very best in the world today. Aside from his high quality matches, Nakamura sometimes fell into a repetitive format which is what cost him a higher slot on this lost. The lower profile the match, the less eventful it is when it comes to Nakamura, but as long as keeps delivering these five star matches like he did this year, I won't be complaining. Nakamura found himself at home with the IC Title yet again this year as he traded it back and forth with Hirooki Goto in a good series of contests that he would end up winning ultimately as he regained the title in September and has it around his waist heading into 2016 with AJ Styles waiting for him.

7) Hirooki Goto (NJPW) - 129 points
It's been one hell of a sleeper year for Hirooki Goto. I don't think people realize how awesome of a run he had in 2015, one that rivaled that of the four aces of NJPW ahead of him on this list. Goto started the year as one half of the IWGP Tag Team Champions then went on to make it to the finals of the NJ CUP in a great match with Kota Ibushi. In the middle part of the year, Goto defeated Shinsuke Nakamura to win the Intercontinental Championship and would walk into the G1 Climax with the title around his waist. This led to a big champion vs champion meeting during the tournament which saw Goto pin the IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada to the mat for a three count. It was a massive victory and one of the best matches of the entire tournament. So, what's that? Victories over the two top singles champions in NJPW, Okada & Nakamura, a reign as IWGP Tag Team Champion and a reign as IWGP Intercontinental Champion? I'd say that's a damn good year and I think Goto would agree.

8) Masato Yoshino (Dragon Gate) - 109 points
Yoshino's position as the ace of Dragon Gate was put to the test multiple times the year and he not only solidified his position for another year, he went above and beyond to prove it. In matches against up & comers like T-Hawk, Yoshino stood his ground and won the King of Gate Tournament which led to him defeating BxB Hulk to become the Open the Dream Gate Champion. He would defend the title successfully against T-Hawk in the main event of Kobe World in July before dropping it to Shingo Takagi at Dangerous Gate in August. Before I go on though, I also have to mention his reign as one half of the Open The Twin Gate Champions with Shachihoko Boy which gave us one of the best tag matches of the year when they faced the Jimmys in April. None the less, Yoshino rebounded from his Dream Gate Title loss by teaming up with fellow stable mates, Akira Tozawa & T-Hawk, to win a tournament to crown new Open The Triangle Gate Champions. So, as a whole, Yoshino had each of the top three championships in Dragon Gate around his waist at some point this year PLUS he won the King of Gate tournament and delivered awesome matches all along the way. Enough said, Yoshino's 2015 was superb.

9) Akira Tozawa (Dragon Gate) - 103 points
Tozawa set his 2015 into perfect motion with a sensational victory over Kzy in February which gave him the first singles championship of his career, the Open the Brave Gate Title. The resident top babyface in Dragon Gate carried the title with pride throughout the year having several outstanding defenses, particularly his match with EITA at Kobe World in July. His reign came to a suprising end in November at Gate of Destiny where Kotoka somehow managed to win the belt. It was a disappointing moment for many fans, but Tozawa took the momentum he gained from that near 9 month reign as champion to rebound and win the Open The Triangle Gate Titles with Masato Yoshino & T-Hawk to close out the year.

10) Kohei Sato (BJW, Zero 1) - 99 points
Kohei Sato, one half of the Twin Towers tag team in BJW, had one hell of a year wrestling aside his partner Shuji Ishikawa. The duo ripped the tag division in Big Japan to shreds with outstanding matches in all forms from regular tags to trios. All along the way, they held the BJW Tag Team Titles, that is, until they lost them to arch rivals Strong BJ, Sekimoto & Okabayashi in the third match in their series. Outside of BJW, Sato had great matches in promotions such as Zero-1 where he held the Zero-1 Heavyweight Title for a number of months and he also currently holds the NWA Intercontinental Tag Team Titles with Daisuke Sekimoto!

Top 25 Puroresu Matches of the Year (All Promotions)
If you want an introduction to puro before trying to dive into any of the said promotions in 2016, these are the matches you need to see. This list also features some matches that didn't make the individual lists above.

1) Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi - NJPW: Wrestle Kingdom 9 - 1/4/15 - *****

2) Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi - NJPW: G1 Climax 25 Finals - 8/16/15 - *****

3) Twin Towers (Shuji Ishikawa & Kohei Sato) vs. Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi - BJW - 5/28/15 - ****3/4

4) Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tomoaki Honma - NJPW: New Beginning In Sendai - ****3/4

5) KUSHIDA vs. Kyle O'Reilly - NJPW: BOSJ Finals - 6/12/15 - ****3/4

6) MAD BLANKEY (Naruki Doi, YAMATO) vs. Jimmyz - Losing Unit Disbands Match - Dragon Gate: Dangerous Gate - 8/16/15 - ****3/4

7) Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada - NJPW: Wrestle Kingdom 9 - 1/4/15 - ****3/4

8) Shuji Ishikawa vs. Daisuke Sekimoto - BJW - 3/31/15 - ****3/4

9) Minoru Suzuki vs. Takashi Saguira - NOAH: Great Voyage in Osaka - 9/19/15 - ****1/2

10) Kota Ibushi vs. HARASHIMA - DDT - 4/29/15 - ****1/2

11) Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi - NJPW: G1 Climax 25 Day 1 - ****1/2

12) AJ Styles vs. Kota Ibushi - NJPW: G1 Climax 25 Day 5 - ****1/2

13) Twin Towers (Shuji Ishikawa & Kohei Sato) vs. Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi - BJW - 10/29/15 - ****1/2

14) Masato Yoshino & Shachihoko Boy vs. Jimmy Susumu & Jimmy Kagetora - Dragon Gate in Korukaeun Hall - 4/9/15 - ****1/2

15) Masato Yoshino vs. T-Hawk - Dragon Gate: Kobe World - 7/21/15 - ****1/2

16) Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kazuchika Okada - NJPW: G1 Climax 25 - ****1/2

17) Daisuke Sekimoto, Masato Tanaka, & Takashi Saguira vs. HARASHIMA, Yuji Okabayashi & Yuji Hino - BJW - 6/30/15 - ****1/2

18) Naruki Doi & YAMATO vs. Ricochet & Matt Sydal - Dragon Gate: Kobe World - 7/20/15 - ****1/4

19) Tomohiro Ishii vs. Hirooki Goto - NJPW: G1 Climax 25 Night 14 - ****1/4

20) Twin Towers & Yuji Okabayashi vs. Daisuke Sekimoto, Hideki Suzuki, & Hideyoshi Kamitani - BJW: 11/23/15 - ****1/4

21) Kazuchika Okada vs. Hirooki Goto - NJPW: G1 Climax 25 Night 8 - ****1/4

22) Akira Tozawa vs. EITA - Dragon Gate: Kobe World - ****1/4

23) Shingo Takagi vs. Masaaki Mochizuki - Dragon Gate: Gate of Destiny - 11/5/15 - ****1/4

24) Shuji Ishikawa vs. Yuji Okabayashi - BJW: 2/2/15 - ****1/4

25) Kazuchika Okada vs. AJ Styles - NJPW: Dominion - 7/5/15 - ****1/4

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2015 Pro Wrestling Truth Awards - Part 1: WWE Year In Review

When 2015 began, WWE was coming off one of it's most controversial and rocky years yet in the form of 2014. A year that saw the man that many saw as the company's lost hope, CM Punk, make his departure and a year that saw the also beloved Daniel Bryan suffer a heartbreaking injury immediately after the biggest moment of his career. In a position to deliver, WWE put the title on the Beast Incarnate Brock Lesnar and he more than delivered. To top that off, Daniel Bryan made his return at the Royal Rumble. Between those two, we got a number of fresh, outstanding match ups in the first quarter of the year. We also got negatives, though, as yet again, the Royal Rumble match was clouded in controversy with Roman Reigns getting booed out of the building with his win. Even with The Rock coming out to the ring to try to get his cousin a cheap pop. The hostile enviroment continued on the Road to WrestleMania and ultimately at the show itself as Reigns was shaken to the core by a crowd that just wasn't sold on him whatsoever. In a position where you have to deliver, Reigns did. He slugged it out with Lesnar and put up one hell of a fight. The crowd just wasn't having it however, and Seth Rollins took advantage of two beaten down man and lit the crowd ablaze as he cashed in his Money in the Bank contract. Rollins' reign as champion continued through the year as he skid past challengers like Brock Lesnar, John Cena, and Sting in some form or fashion. As interesting as that may sound, the most memorable thing from the mid-year came in the form of John Cena's US Title reign. His open challenges were the highlight of Raw weekly which says something about how mediocre the rest of the product was, but it also showed us how truly underrated of a competitor John Cena is by many fans worldwide.

By the time the fall rolled around, it felt like there was going to be no ultimate story told in this calendar year. The product got stale and barely watchable. Kevin Owens & Cesaro kept things interesting with their respective strengths being put on display weekly, but as a whole, there was not anything remotely interesting. Then, WWE decided to pull the trigger and give Roman Reigns the title on the December 10th episode of Raw. It felt like it came out of nowhere, but in the moment I realized how perfect of an ending to the year this was. It wasn't quite the fairytale story that came from storylines not going over as they were originally planned with Daniel Bryan last year, although it certainly came close.

A hot, promising start. A dull, uneventful middle. An exciting finish. That's this year in a nutshell however it's time to go inside of that shell and pick out the best moments, matches, & competitors from 2015 in WWE.

Top 10 WWE Stars of the Year

1) John Cena - 194 points

Despite missing two months of action at the end of the year, John Cena still somehow managed to scoop up the WWE Wrestler of the Year award. His US Title reign helped him tremendously as he gained points for all the defenses plus the high quality matches that his open challenge produced week after week. This is the first time Cena has won this award in the Pro Wrestling Truth awards since 2007 and it really says something about how he's just gotten better as time has went on. 2015 will undoubtedly be looked back on as one of his best years yet. He delivered great match after great match, elevated one young talent after another, brought prestige back to the United States Championship, and proved himself to be an all time great in the world of pro wrestling. Many doubters and nay sayer were won over this year as John's talent that has often been questioned was put on full display and we saw why Cena has been the top dog in WWE for so many years. I look forward to what Big Match John will do in 2016!

Previous rankings: #2 in 2014, #2 in 2013, #4 in 2012, #2 in 2011

Must see matches of the year:

vs. Kevin Owens - Elimination Chamber - ****1/2

vs. Cesaro - Raw - 6/29/15 - ****1/2

vs. Seth Rollins - Raw - 7/27/15 - ****

2) Seth Rollins - 168 points

Many people viewed Seth Rollins as the guy from The Shield who would be least likely to succeed however this year, Seth absolutely crushed these pre-conceived opinions by taking the biggest championship in the game on the biggest stage of the year at WrestleMania 30. Rollins cashed in his Money in The Bank briefcase on Brock Lesnar & Roman Reigns and became the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. This put Rollins on the bad side of most fans as he became The Authority's number one guy. They protected him at all costs and this made for a somewhat lackluster reign as champion. But the truth is, Rollins was one of the most consistent and fun to watch performers throughout the year and his reign was never even stopped as he got injured and was forced to relinquish the belt. Rollins earned victories over Brock Lesnar, Sting, John Cena, among others to retain the championship that he made his. Not to mention becoming a double champion by defeating John Cena to win the United States Title and retain the WWE Championship. It was a landmark year for the former ROH World Champion who has now staked his name into the history books of WWE forever.

Previous rankings: #4 in 2014, #7 in 2013

Must see matches of the year:

vs. Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena - Royal Rumble - ****1/2

vs. Dean Ambrose - Raw - 5/4/15 - ****1/2

vs. John Cena - SummerSlam - ****

3) Kevin Owens - 168 points