While people have been writing article after article about WrestleMania rumours and their predictions for Daniel Bryan and the Wyatt Family, I decided that I would put the spotlight on the wrestling part of wrestling. This week, WWE ended the year with an interesting Monday Night Raw while NJPW kicked off 2014 with their biggest event of the year, Wrestle Kingdom 8. Some great matches happened this week, so let’s get into our top ten matches of the week. Firstly, I would like to say that Wrestle Kingdom 8 was my first experience with Japanese wrestling, so if I get some information wrong I apologize in advance.
#10. Daniel Bryan vs. Luke Harper (WWE Raw)
Over on Monday Night Raw, Daniel Bryan was put into a gauntlet match of sorts against the Wyatt Family. The first member he would face would be Luke Harper, a man who he has had many great matches with in the past. While it wasn’t as good as some of their previous encounters (most likely due to the time constraint), Bryan and Harper still put on a pretty good match before Bryan moved on to face Erick Rowan. While Wyatt is definitely the character stand-out in the Family, I think it’s safe to say that Luke Harper has become the wrestling stand-out. His imposing size and power mixed with his surprising speed makes him a must watch whenever he is in the ring. Daniel Bryan would defeat Harper after hitting him with the Solid Knee Plus, but only after enduring all the powerbombs and big boots that Harper could throw at him.
#9. The Brotherhood (c) vs. The Wyatt Family (WWE Smackdown) – WWE Tag Team Championship Match
Over on Smackdown, the WWE Tag Team Championships were on the line as the title holders Cody Rhodes and Goldust defended against Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. Although I’m a little adamant about having the Rhodes Brothers take on the Family so many times (since I’m assuming that the Wyatt’s will take the gold from them soon or later), these two teams manage to put on a great match every time they face each other. Cody Rhodes was as great as always and Goldust continues to show us that he’s getting better with age. Erick Rowan is even starting to impress with me, as his power-heavy move-set is beginning to expand. The finish came when Goldust rolled up Erick Rowan after sneaking a tag on Cody. Not sure how I feel about having the Brotherhood defeat the Family cleanly, but it was still a fairly entertaining match nonetheless.
#8. K.E.S. (c) vs. Bullet Club (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 8) – IWGP Tag Team Championship Match
In the second match of Wrestle Kingdom, former WWE stars clashed as the IWGP Tag Team Champions Davey Boy Smith and Lance Archer defend their championships against Bullet Club members DOC Gallows and “Machine Gun” Karl Anderson. I was already a big fan of Davey Boy, DOC, and Anderson before watching this match, so when I saw those three make their way to the ring I had pretty good expectations for their match. However, I have never been a big fan of Lance Archer. Not gonna lie to you, it’s 100% because of his tramp stamp. Anyways, in a somewhat short match, Bullet Club would end up defeating Smith and Archer after an entertaining ten minutes of wrestling. This match stood out on the card because every wrestler in the match had a more powerful smash-mouth style of wrestling, which was a great way to change the pace of the show. Anderson was as good as ever, but unfortunately DOC didn’t seem to get too much ring time. Can’t say that Archer impressed me during the match, but like I said before, he probably won’t be able to impress me until he gets that stupid tramp stamp removed.
#7. CM Punk vs. Seth Rollins (WWE Raw)
While the match had it’s hiccups early on, it definitely wasn’t as garbage as out favourite crabby straight-edge wrestler made it out to seem. To start off Monday Night Raw, CM Punk continued his feud with the Shield by facing fellow indy-grown superstar Seth Rollins, a match that made a lot of the internet fans drool when it was announced. Unfortunately, the match started off a little bit uncoordinated. It looked like their were a few occasions where Punk and Rollins didn’t communicate properly, which lead to some awkward looking spots. But after a while, Punk and Rollins were back to their normal awesome selves and finished the match strongly. Punk would pick up the victory with the GTS after sending Rollins flying into his team mates, creating a little more tension between the Shield. Hopefully we’ll get to see Punk and Rollins square off again so they can have another chance to give us the classic match we know they can give us.
#6. Kofi Kingston vs. Damien Sandow (WWE Main Event)
Over on the often forgotten WWE Main Event, the internet’s two favourite under-utilized stars opened the show in a fantastic twenty minute contest. Kofi Kingston pulled off some great high flying spots, a few which I don’t think he’s done on Raw or Smackdown yet. Damien Sandow continued to show us that he isn’t just a good mic worker, as he also pulled off some great moves that I haven’t seen him do before. The match was a great back and forth and featured a ton of good near-falls. The crowd seemed to be really into it too, but that could’ve just been the edited audience reactions. Damien Sandow would up the win after hitting Kofi with his full-nelson slam, a finisher that is a little too underwhelming for my taste. Sandow did lock on and Edgecator on Kofi during the match, so maybe he can adopt that as a submission finisher.
#5. Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 8) – IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match
In the Wrestle Kingdom 8 main event, IWGP Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura defended his championship against Hiroshi Tanahashi. While the match was pretty good, it was a little disappointing because it wasn’t as great as a lot of the matches that went before it. Still, it was a fun match that featured a lot of stiff moves and a good back and forth. Tanahashi would win the IWCP Intercontinental Championship after landing the Frog Splash on Nakamura, but as someone who had never seen these two wrestle before, Nakamura definitely left a better impression on me. He sure knows how to knee somebody in the face!
#4. Hirooki Goto vs. Katsuyori Shibata (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 8)
I didn’t need to understand Japanese to know that these two guys have history. The story telling in this match was absolutely fantastic, with each blow they gave to each other having a intense amount of force behind it. Every move was stiff and every bump they took looked agonizing. The story told within the ropes could not have been better. On the technical aspect however, it was a little strike heavy and featured very few grapples, but that’s just a minor complaint. Hirooki Goto would go over Shibata after hitting him with a Hellavator, but only after enduring a ridiculous amount of blows to the head.
#3. Prince Devitt (c) vs. Kota Ibushi (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 8) – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match
This match could’ve easily been number one if hadn’t been so muddled by interference early on. After Prince Devitt entered the ring from a coffin with carnage make-up on, about seven minutes of the match were spent with Devitt’s fellow Bullet Club members beating the crap out of Kota while the ref wasn’t looking. When the ref finally sent them away, that’s when the match got good. I had heard a lot about Devitt recently with the rumblings that he may be headed to WWE, and every good thing I heard about him was seen in his match. His timing is impeccable, is in-ring psychology is great, and his move-set is solid. Kota Ibushi was great too, and his style contrasted Devitt’s nicely. Kota would defeat Devitt to win the title after hitting a Phoenix Splash. The last half of the match was so good, it’s a shame that the first half was over-complicated. Seeing as Prince lost the championship, could this be a sign that he is indeed heading to WWE?
#2. Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 8) – IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match
In the co-main event of the night, Kazuchika Okada successfully retained his championship against Tetsuya Naito. This was an awesome match which had great pacing, and the final sequence of Okada finally hitting the Rain Maker after several failed attempts was awesome. The first half of the match was a great contrast to quicker paced last half, as it mostly featured Okada wrecking Naito in some gruesome looking way. Having a match somewhat one-sided like that is a hard thing to pull off, but they managed to do it really nicely. Like most Japanese matches, it was stiff as hell, and you could almost feel the pain yourself whenever someone elbowed another in the face. While Naito was great, I think Okada could easily be considered one of the best Japanese wrestlers, and after doing some reading, I think that he is considered that.
#1. The Young Bucks (c) vs. Forever Hooligans vs. Suzikigun vs. The Time Splitters (Wrestle Kingdom 8) – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match
I’m sure a lot of you will disagree with me on this one, and I completely understand. I chose a spot-fest opener over more technical and story-driven matches. Why? Because this match was jaw dropping to me. I am completely aware that it was basically just a short spot fest to get the crowd hot, but I enjoyed it more than anything else on the Wrestle Kingdom 8 card. Maybe I’m just a mark for the Young Bucks? Who knows, but all I know is that eight person suplex was one of the most interesting spots I’ve seen in wrestling. Also, Taichi and TAKA made a fan out of me. Why didn’t they let TAKA do that stuff when he was in WWE?
Agree? Disagree? Tell my why in the comment or on Twitter @SmarkInProgress.