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January 2018: Our Top 5 Matches



We kicked off 2018 with one of the greatest months in the history of professional wrestling. It all began with yet another classic Tokyo Dome show on January 4th and was followed with some more incredible wrestling from all around the world.

You can check out Robert and Dave’s top five matches of the month below and feel free to share yours in the comments section or connect with us on social media @WrestlingDesk

Robert’s Top 5

1. Andrade Almas vs Johnny Gargano — NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia — 1/27
Let me start off by saying that in my humble opinion, this is the greatest match I’ve ever seen produced by WWE. Coming into the match they had two major obstacles that they needed to weather. One being an exhausted crowd after the insane Aleister Black versus Adam Cole match. The other, a lukewarm reigning champion. No one in the building or anyone watching live thought that Gargano and Almas stood a chance of topping the match between Black and Cole. That’s what made the match even more special, it exceeded everyone’s expectations. Despite the heel champion winning by hook or by crook, people couldn’t help but be amazed by what they had just witnessed. The last of the doubters either of these wrestlers had were silenced at the end of the night.

2. Kazuchika Okada vs Tetsuya Naito — Wrestle Kingdom 12 — 1/4
Unlike my #1 match, people did end up caring about the winner of this one, the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 12. Going into the match nearly everyone was already sure that this was Naito’s night. He’d overcome and claim his spot at the top of New Japan. This didn’t end up happening. Instead, Okada retained in what many already see as a title reign that has surpassed its expiration date. Maybe this was just a case of subverting my expectation, but I loved this match. Immediately my brain goes into overdrive about who could possibly beat Okada if not Naito? New Japan were in a no lose situation; either give the fans what they all expect and want or build to something even more impactful. This match was magic because it went against everyone’s expectations.

3. Kenny Omega vs Chris Jericho — Wrestle Kingdom 12 — 1/4
The amount of hype surrounding Alpha versus Omega didn’t feel as if it could be met. Jericho is 47 years old and has been wrestling only in the WWE system the last eighteen years, no way could he keep up in a match of this magnitude. This was yet again another example of expectations being exceeded. They had an absolutely brutal match. The amount of punishment they were taking from the very beginning let you know that you were in for something special. As it went on, the more brutal the match became. You cannot not respect Chris Jericho after watching this one.

4. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Minoru Suzuki — The New Beginning in Sapporo (Night One) — 1/27
For men this age to put on a performance this physically demanding, while at the same time tell a story so dramatic, further proves that these two are legends. To have a thirty-two minute match where nearly half of the closing stretch was in a submission, and still manages to keep your interest in 2018, you cannot say that’s not a feat in and of itself. At their respective ages of 41 and 49 you must take your hats off for these two men as they gave what was something truly special.

5. Aleister Black vs Adam Cole — NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia — 1/27
You don’t see matches this creative in WWE anymore. There may be many variables to that, one of which being fatigue of the road. Whatever the case may be, matches like these are a welcome sight in the WWE. Brutal, yet smart; dramatic, but macho. This is just about as hardcore a match you’ll see from WWE in 2018.

Dave’s Top 5

1. Andrade Almas vs Johnny Gargano — NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia — 1/27

Over the past couple of years, it seems like the match of the year had already been cinched in Tokyo on January 4th. This year, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who would argue against it taking place in Philly on January 27th. It may not hold up for the rest of 2018, but Almas versus Gargano certainly went beyond setting the proverbial bar. This was easily the best main event, scratch that, best match in TakeOver history—and there have been a lot of great ones. 

2. Minoru Suzuki vs Hirooki Goto — Wrestle Kingdom 12 — 1/4

This match was all about the little moments for me. From 43,000 strong screaming ‘Kazi Ni Nare’ during Suzuki’s entrance all the way to him smacking the chair provided to him with the one he picked out to shave his head on his own terms. There were so many memorable scenes provided by these two performers and at just under twenty minutes they didn’t give us a chance to really catch our breath. 

3. Kenny Omega vs Chris Jericho — Wrestle Kingdom 12 — 1/4

I wouldn’t even know where to begin. By not trying to have a five-star match, Kenny Omega just went ahead and had a five-star match. Both guys did such a good job at making this once in a lifetime “fight” seem so important. Jericho, who reinvented himself yet again, looked like he was having the time of his life as an unhinged psychopath. Masterful is the only word I can think of to fully describe what took place here from the day it was announced until the closing bell. Actually, I lied, the word perfection also comes to mind. 

4. Men’s Royal Rumble Match — Royal Rumble — 1/28

Growing up, the Royal Rumble was always the event I looked forward too most when it came to those “Big 4” WWF pay-per-views. Somewhere along the way, they just got kind of watered down; they didn’t have that same special feeling. This one recaptured just that. I absolutely loved this match. Every character was used to absolute perfection, even the bit players like Heath Slater and Elias. The staredown between the new and the old guard at the end felt important even though it doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere with it, at least not right now, and in the end—the right guy won. I can’t remember the last time I had the immediate desire to rewatch one of the recent Royal Rumble matches. This year, I rewatched both immediately after the event was over and enjoyed them just the same.

5. Marty Scurll vs Hirmou Takahashi vs Will Ospreay vs KUSHIDA — Wrestle Kingdom 12 — 1/4

The four most dynamic performers in the Junior division hooked up here to put on an instant Wrestle Kingdom classic. Honestly, if there was a New Japan starter kit to help convert casual wrestling fans, this would be the first match I would show. Takahashi and Scurll’s theatrical entrances really kicked things off on a high note. The in ring match work was flawless, as expected, which doesn’t make it any less special. Plus, Ospreay finally got a big win over Scurll which made for a feel good moment on the show. This was the match that really tied together another legendary January 4th Tokyo Dome card. 

Along with providing show reviews from across Japan, Robert McCauley is also an editor for WrestlingDesk.