Recommended Puroresu for January 2018

There was a crazy amount of good puro to enjoy this January. NJPW obviously takes the headlines with the Tokyo Dome and the first of the New Beginnings tour underway, but we also had the DDT Grand Prix to enjoy as well as many other promotions starting the year off with a bang. Here’s a look at the most must-watch Puroresu from the month of January…

ZERO1 World Heavyweight Title Match               

Masato Tanaka (c) vs. Yusaku Obata 

From Zero1- Happy New Year at Korakuen Hall- 1st January

One day into 2018 and we have one of our first match of the year candidates. This has a little of everything. They start with the basic grappling before Tanaka decides “nah! lets do this in the crowd”. What follows is a chaotic brawl complete with mad table dives and insane chair shots. This is more then just some hardcore brawl though and it soon settles into a hard hitting puro match with an awesome closing stretch. If you like pro wrestling you should give it a watch.

AJPW World Junior Heavyweight Title Match 

TAJIRI (c) vs. Kotaro Suzuki 

From AJPW- New year wars- 2nd January

Tajiri isn’t far off his 50’s, looks in his thirties, wrestles like he’s in his 20’s and dresses like an outcast teen, it’s incredible really. Both he and Suzuki rule from a technical standpoint and they use this to slowly build towards a hard hitting closing stretch, with Suzuki seeming to have worked out how to dismantle the champion. It may not be as flashy as the NJPW or the NOAH junior matches you see these days, but in many ways it showcases what those matches often lack with its brilliant pacing and psychology. The finish will put some people off but it’s actually kind of cool when you look at it. Some people have gone completely off Tajiri but this is a good showing for him.

Triple Crown Title Match 

Joe Doering (c) vs. Zeus                         

From AJPW- New year wars- 2nd January

Nothing fancy here just two bulls smashing into eachother. Joe establishes early that he’ll win in a straight up striking exchange and there’s a great moment in the match where the realisation seems to dawn on Zeus and his face tells the story. With his hand forced, Zeus throws caution to the wind in an attempt to take out the bigger man. Every bump feels big and every lariat feels stiff, all adding up to a great main event to bring AJPW into the new year.

AJPW World Tag Team Title Match 

Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori (c) vs. Shuji Ishikawa & Suwama 

From AJPW- New Year Wars- 3rd January

Nothing flashy or fancy at all here, just four guys slapping, kneeing and power bombing each other into oblivion. The build is slow and things sort of just plod along at times. These four make up for it though, in brutality and a great closing stretch, in which there are multiple believable endings.

TOKYO Princess Of Princess Title Match 

Reika Saiki (c) vs. Miyu Yamashita

From TJP  Tokyo Joshi Pro ’18

It’s a battle between Miyu’s Karate and Reika’s kickboxing, and as you might expect this match is full to the brim with stiff (like really damn stiff) kicks. Like DDT, TJP loves the silly stuff, but also like DDT, when it comes to the big main events it’s all business, and while this lacks variety at times, it’s worth a watch for sure. Did I mention the stiff kicks?

IWGP Tag Team Championship

Ropongi 3K (c) vs the Young Bucks

From NJPW- Wrestle Kingdom 12 4th January

The Bucks are chasing their 7th IWGP Junior Tag Titles here with Ropongi 3K now taking the place of their usual rivals. This match is a spinal practitioner’s nightmare with both teams essentially each losing a member early on to back issues. The rest of the match essentially builds upon this story with both teams doing an awesome job of selling. No amount of back pain is gonna stop them doing some crazy spots mind. Awesome opener to this year’s Tokyo Dome show

Cody Vs Kota Ibushi 

From NJPW- Wrestle Kingdom 12 4th January

Cody’s “sports entertainment” style and tactics give him huge heat in NJPW but to this point he hadn’t had any standout matches. Ibushi on the other hand is the prototypical NJPW star and fan favourite, so this match provides the purest heel vs face match on the card. Cody does a lot of his dastardly heel stuff but brings the goods when needed, including an apron cross-rhodes that is just completely devastating. The crowd are super-hot for the beloved Ibushi as he desperately tries to fight back, and this feels every bit like a big main-event match as a result. There’s a great underlining Kenny Omega subplot too. It’s a big shame this doesn’t go on very long but considering some people thought it would be a dud, this overachieves in many ways.

Never Openweight Championship, Hair vs Hair Match 

Minoru Suzuki (c) vs Hiroki Goto         

From NJPW- Wrestle Kingdom 12- 4th January

Goto had a very quiet 2017 where he went from lower end main eventer who couldn’t quite get the big one to a complete afterthought. Here he’s down to only having his hair left to offer. Suzuki straight up dominates Goto here. He beats him up, chokes him out and just breaks Goto down piece by piece. He also pulls out a dropkick Okada would be proud off and a vicious headbutt in reference to Goto’s pal Shibata. He’s just completely vicious, which is what you want from Suzuki. As for Goto, who knows what they want from him in 2018, what you get though is a lot of what we’ve seen before which is the only real downside here. Great stuff and obviously the post-match is interesting too

IWGP JR Heavyweight Championship Match

Marty Scrull (c) vs Will Ospreay vs Hiromu Takashi vs Kushida 

From NJPW- Wrestle Kingdom 12- January 4th

Oh yeah, it’s time for some flips. Marty Scull officially wins the Tokyo Dome’s best entrance gear competition. He also does a great job as the clever heel avoiding trouble and picking his moments to strike. He’s literally got a bag (ok well a box) of tricks waiting to unleash on the opposition too. Of course everyone produces some crazy cool spots but they never fall into the junior match pitfall of looking choreographed. Nobody ever seems like their waiting for a spot or wandering into the right position. There’s a few moments late in the match where things clearly don’t go quite to plan but nothing unrecoverable. For those who love their high flying action and big spots this was essentially match of the night, though it doesn’t quite match up to some of the previous singles match combinations between these four. Still a must watch mind.

IWGP United States Championship, No DQ Match

Kenny Omega (c) vs Chris Jericho

From NJPW- Wrestle Kingdom 12- January 4th

A full blown all out brawl. Some thought this would be a very WWE style match, but really this is neither WWE nor NJPW in style. The best matches make you forget what you’re watching is fake and they achieve that here. There’s still plenty of big spots, but nothing feels too choreographed. Has a bit of an old school Japanese inter-promotional invader feel to it, thanks to the sheer hate these two show for each other. The sheer chaotic intensity of this makes it worth multiple viewings.

IWGP World Heavyweight Championship Match

Kazuchka Okada (c) vs Tetsuya Naito

From NJPW- Wrestle Kingdom 12- January 4th

People practically demanded that this be the greatest match of all time, and against those lofty expectations, some felt let down. Take those expectations away though and give this another viewing because it’s perfect storytelling and a great match. Naito has waited years for this moment, but he struggles to keep his cool and stay ‘tranquilo.’ Okada meanwhile is the dominant champion, with an ultimate end of game boss feel to him. Its the two biggest guys in the company, climaxing (perhaps?) a multi year feud in a Tokyo Dome main event, what more could you possibly want?

Mike Bailey vs. Shuji Ishikawa

From DDT- D-Ou Grand Prix 2018- 5th January

The match that had a lot of DDT fans talking and easily stole the show on night one of the Grand Prix tournament. This David & Goliath tale looks like it might turn into at squash early on, but Bailey fights back with his speed and innovation to put a hurting on the (much) bigger Ishikawa. Credit to both of these guys for making this match work as well as it did.

GHC Heavyweight Title Match 

Kenou (c) vs. Kaito Kiyomiya

From NOAH- Navigation for the future- 6th January

Kiyomiya is 21 years old and has only two years of experience behind him. In reality he doesn’t have any business being anywhere near this match. He sure makes the most of it though, as Kenou leads the youngster through to a strong showing. They play off the fact it’s somewhat of a mismatch early on, but Kiyomiya builds momentum as things progress. They don’t try to make it anything it’s not and the match is better for it. Cool finish to boot.

Shuji Ishikawa vs Kazusada Higuchi

From DDT- D-Ou Grand Prix 2018- 14th January

What’s that? You like watching big dudes beat each other up? Well then you need this match in your life! Nothing fancy here, just big chops, lariats, powerbombs, piledrivers and all that good hearty stuff. Higuchi had a good if mostly quiet tournament, but he’s one of the most underrated guys out there on the Japanese Indies and he puts in a star performance here.

Dezmond Xavier & Zachary Wentz vs. Flamita & Bandido 

From Dragon Gate- Open the New Year Gate- 16th January

If your in need of some crazy flippy action to get you through those winter blues, then you can’t do much better then this. Xavier & Wentz are getting a lot of Ricochet, Ospreay and Sydal comparisons, and while they’re far from finished products they put on a heck of a show here. Even if you not into this style of match, its still worth a viewing.

Loser Leaves Unit Gauntlet Match

Oedo Tai (Hana Kimura, Kagetsu, Kris Wolf, Natsu Sumire & Tam Nakano) vs. Queen’s Quest (AZM, HZK, Io Shirai, Momo Watanabe & Viper)

From Stardom 7th Anniversary Show 21st January

Heavy stakes, personal issues and a hot crowd make for one of the greatest gauntlet matches you’ve ever seen. The booking is perfect, with the order of entrants and eliminations building the drama perfectly. Of course you know when Lo Shirai and Kagetsu get in there things are going to step up a gear quick, but (almost) everyone puts in great performances to make this must-see.

IWGP Intercontinental Title Match
Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Minoru Suzuki 
From NJPW- New Beginnings In Sopparo- January 27th

NJPW produce their second real MOTY candidate and it’s only January! Tanahashi has defeated Suzuki before but he’s enters with months worth of injuries. Suzuki’s psychopathic tendencies hit an all time high, as he goes for the leg. Like at Wrestle Kingdom against Goto, Suzuki wants to brake Tanahashi, but whilst at Wrestlekingdom most people just enjoyed watching Suzuki put a beatdown on Goto, here you feel great sympathy for Tanahashi. Tanahashi sells amazingly, some guys will sell an injury only for it to magically disappear when they make their comeback, but not Tanahashi. It’s painful and even a little sad to watch at times, but ultimately provides a gripping story. A must see.

DDT Grand Prix Final 

HARASHIMA vs. Shuji Ishikawa

From DDT- D-Ou Grand Prix 2018- 28th January

HARISHIMA needs to create space to stand a chance against Ishikawa, pity for him the ropes are in a state of disrepair, and Ishikawa is in top form. HARISHIMA’s heart keeps him in it but despite everything he throws Ishikawa’s way, Ishikawa just keeps on coming like some horror movie villain. HARISHIMA’s facial expressions sell the story towards the end in this brilliant tournament finale.

What Puroresu matches were your favourite from January 2018? Leave a comment below! Also don’t forget to like and share if you enjoyed reading.

By @mikegrindle





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