March proved to be a newsworthy month for Puroresu, as AJPW launched their new streaming service, Dragon Gate announced their own streaming service and New Japan made it’s return to America. Add in the big DDT Judgement show and a great New Japan cup and it was quite the month for Puroresu. Here’s just some of the matches worth checking out…
Union MAX Title
Isami Kodaka (c) vs. Tsutomu Oosugi
From Basara Vajra 61-Seishun Suikoden 3rd March
Kodaka is one of the more versatile wrestlers out there, in that he can work almost any type of match, whether its a flashy Junior sprint, hardcore deathmatch or a mat based affair. This is one of Kodaka’s slower paced matches here against Oosugi, but what it lacks in flash early on, it makes up for with simple, well done storytelling, that builds to a fun closing stretch.
Open The Dream Gate Title Match
Masaaki Mochizuki (c) vs. Ben-K
From Dragon Gate Champion Gate In Osaka 4th March
Much like he did last month against Kzy, Mochizuki does a great job of making his opponent look amazing here (not to take anything away for Ben-K though, who does his part in this) as once again he finds himself against an opponent who seems to have all the answers. The closing stretch is classic Dragon Gate action and edge of seat stuff.
Ikuto Hidaka & Yuko Miyamoto vs. Naomichi Marufuji & Shinjiro Otani
From Zero1 Dream Series 4th March
Yes this match has some silly spots and comedy and no it’s not a five star epic but if your looking for some great low-key puroresu then this match is a gem. Everyone is on form here, Otani gets the crowd involved, Hidaka and Miyamoto try to spoil the party (whilst also delivering some wildly fun offence) and Marufuji does what Marafuji does best and kicks people in the face. It’s all lighthearted fun but it sucks you in with close calls and shifts in momentum and suddenly your hugely invested in the outcome.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match
Minoru Suzuki vs Togo Makabe
From NJPW Anniversary Event March Makabe hasn’t really been featured in a big singles match outside of the G1 in some time, which is a shame because he reminds us all here that against the right opponent (and Suzuki is the right opponent) he can deliver the goods. Whilst the likes of Tanahashi and Goto have relied on their heroics to tackle Suzuki, Makabe is just a big fearless dude that belongs to the small list of men that will happily trade strikes with the worlds scariest psychopath, Suzuki. Yes these two men are getting on but your hardly going to watch this hoping someone does a 450 splash, nope this is all about grumpy men punching each other and it’s a lot of fun.
Okada vs Ospreay
From NJPW Anniversary Event March 6th
We get a peek into the potential of a future main event heavyweight Ospreay here and he makes the most of his opportunity to shine against one of the biggest names in the world. The story they tell is perfect for the pairing, Ospreay isn’t on Okada’s level yet but if he can put it all together for one night he might just pull off the upset. Okada meanwhile is the dominant champion who is intrigued by the kind of new challenge Ospreay poses and wants to tap into and bring out the very best in Ospreay. A well worked match that makes everyone involved look better then ever.
GHC Heavyweight Title Match
Kenou (c) vs. Takashi Sugiura
From NOAH The Great Voyage in Yokohama March 11th
This one is just a fight pure and simple, as two guys who respect each other but refuse to back down trade off in a good old “Fighting Spirit” epic. If you just want to see two guys kicking, punching and slapping each other into dust then this is a match for you. Has a great little piece of storytelling at the end to finish things off in a satisfying manner too.
Kota Ibushi vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
From NJPW New Japan Cup Night Six March 15th
You could feasibly put all of Sabre and Ibushi’s matches from the New Japan cup on this list, as they’re all worth checking out. This is the best of the bunch though with only the final competing for match of the tournament. The story to a Zack Sabre Junior match is often the same, he clings himself to his opponents and invents cruel new ways to torture them whilst they try to create distance. Some may say this gets boring but since he’s a one of a kind wrestler in the modern era, it’s not so bad to rinse and repeat the story because unless you only watch Zack Sabre Junior matches, it remains unique. Ibushi is the perfect victim for Sabre since there might not be anyone in world quite as likeable as him and as such, able to procure as much sympathy from the crowd. If your going to go back and watch one New Japan cup match, go watch the final. If your going to watch two then watch this one as well.
Dylan James vs. The Bodyguard
From AJPW Dream Power Series March 19th
These two were never going to have a twenty minute plus classic and no one wants to see them try. What we get here instead is everything that everyone does want to see from these two (chokeslams, bodyslams and lariats) compacted into under four minutes in a great little sprint. No it doesn’t hold a candle to anything else on this list, but this is recommended matches not just the best matches and this is worth the time it takes to watch the average youtube video for sure, so stop watching those cute cats and go watch this!
Zack Sabre Junior vs Hiroshi Tanahashi
From NJPW New Japan Cup Final March 21st
Like Suzuki did at New Beginnings, Sabre is suffocating in his style of offence and perhaps even more brutal, working over Tanahashi’s old injuries as the crowd does everything they can to try and will Tanahashi through. When Tanahashi makes space, his chances of success go way up and Sabre occasionally makes the mistake of moving away from his game plan, giving Tanahashi the opening he needs.
KO-D Six Man Tag Team Title Match
Shuten Doji (KUDO, Masahiro Takanashi & Yukio Sakaguchi) (c) vs. Koju Takeda, Kota Umeda & Yuki Ueno
From DDT Judgement 25th March
Now this is how you book your six man titles to mean something and push young talent. The champs are jerks (though not overbearingly so) to the younger opposition throughout, as separate entities they’re superior and they know it too. The youngsters want it more though and they’re a tighter union then the opposition. Still it seems unlikely they win here, till Umeda decides it’s a good night to make himself a star and fancies a fight with Sakaguchi in a great closing stretch.
KO-D Tag Team Title
HARASHIMA and Naomichi Marafuji (c) vs Daisuke Sekimoto and Kazusada Higuchi
From DDT Judgement 25th March
Oh man, big Chops and red chests all around here! Golden Lovers vs The young Bucks may steal all the headlines but DDT also offered up some great tag team action in a very well put together match. Marafuji is every bit the star we sometimes forget he is here, he doesn’t give a damn about how big and scary his opposition is, he’s going to kick those looks off their faces! Seikimoto and Higuchi refuse to be ignored though and they both bring their classic “Big Hoss” styles of offence. HARASHIMA is maybe the weak link but he makes his presence known late in the match. The only downside to this match is the closing stretch could have done with a couple minutes longer (which is refreshing since for most match’s these days they could do with some cutting late on) but don’t let that stop you watching this great piece of action.
KO-D Openweight Title
Konosuke Takeshita (c) vs. Shuji Ishikawa
From DDT Judgement 25th March
Takeshita has been champion for over a year but hasn’t been able to shake his “Ace-lite” status and against the ever-growing star that is the Grand Prix winner Ishikawa, he feels very much like the underdog. They play off the champs vulnerability well and while you know Takeshita is going to make some huge kick-outs, you know Ishikawa has got something bigger and more brutal lined up straight after. DDT’s Judgement was maybe the best overall show this month and this proved to be a very descent closer.
The Golden Lovers vs. The Young Bucks
From NJPW Strong Style Evolved 25th March
From a purely wrestling standpoint this match is maybe a bit too full, with enough big spots and moves to fill out an entire show. The drama, hype and storytelling however, will keep you hyped from bell to bell as the Young Bucks and the Golden Lovers offer up their unique vision of what pro wrestling could be. If you could envision a Shakespeare play, done entirely through the form of wrestling, it would likely look something like this (now get that image of Omega and Ibushi enacting Romeo and Juliet out of your head) as a story of love, hate and betrayal plays out in front of the adoring fans. Thankfully wrestling is a lot more fun then Shakespeare, so go give this a watch if you haven’t as these four men produce one of the most memorable tag matches of the decade.
As always there’s more great wrestling then just what made this list so feel free to add your favourite matches in the comment section below! Also don’t forget to like, share and follow on Twitter or through Email to keep up to date with the latest articles.