Re: The 2013 MOTYC Thread
Belatedly catching up with some last-year misses before this year really gets crowded...
KENTA & Takashi Sugiura vs. Naomichi Marufuji & Shinsuke Nakamura (NOAH, 8/24)
★★★★ Much more fun than NOAH usually gets these days, thanks almost entirely to Shinskay and the dynamic he has with the NO MERCY badasses. Character dynamics are pretty strong throughout, actually, but you don't really get excited about KENTA/Marufuji action, or even Marufuji/Sugiura action, the way you used to be able to. In the interpromotional setting, though, and especially against this duo, even Nakamura's goofiest mannerisms play like his vintage late '09-'10 swag -- and Sugiura trying to mock it is the best thing he's done since, like, the first year of his GHC heavyweight title reign.
Eddie Edwards vs. Taiji Ishimori (ROH, Border Wars 2013 [5/4])
★★★½ Great action, simple story, neither guy overdoes anything. They could've had this exact match at Korakuen with the title on the line and it wouldn't have disappointed.
King of Gate 2013 quarterfinal match
Dragon Kid vs. Jimmy Susumu (Dragon Gate, Infinity 296 [5/17])
★★★¾ I actually could've gone as high as ★★★★ if Kid didn't completely disregard some early leg work by Susumu the second he got back on offense. As it is, this had pretty much everything you want in a D-Gate main event: nifty exchanges, flawless execution, a crowd that was into everything. Best match of the tournament, IMO.
World Heavyweight Championship match
Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. Alberto Del Rio (WWE, Payback [6/16])
★★★★¼ I actually saw and reviewed this one when it first happened; it holds up really well. The much-ballyhooed (at the time) double turn was always a little overstated; Del Rio was never that solid a babyface against anybody other than Jack Swagger, and way too much of the crowd was already into Ziggler to say that his "valiant hero" status at the end of the match was a 180 transformation from the beginning. The match still holds up, though. Dolph's all-too-human hero performance, in contrast to the more overblown superhero stuff we traditionally get in WWE main events, was genuinely stirring, and Del Rio brought a simulated aggression, and with it a genuine sense of trying to put over his offense as dangerous, that you hardly ever see out of WWE in the overly injury-phobic "Performance Center" era. I get why this got lost in the shuffle, with the various Shield/Team Hell No & partner six-mans still fresh in the memory when it happened, Cena/Bryan and Punk/Lesnar coming fairly quick on its heels, and the Shield/Rhodes brothers tags coming so soon after that, but this is still one of WWE's top contributions to 2013.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship match
Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Naomichi Marufuji (New Japan, 10/14)
★★★¾ Marufuji starts this one off like he's trying to match Nakamura swag-for-swag. It's exactly as fun as it sounds, and it stays great from there. Marufuji's neck-work is almost Okada-like in its focus; not only does it make sense from him, given that he favors "drop you on your head" finishers, but it sidesteps the problem of Nakamura disregarding work done to his legs so he can hit his offense. And it's always wonderful to see somebody in a Marufuji match understand that, unless it's a tag match and his partner is holding you in place, there's no damn reason to ever be in position for his sliding dropkick from the floor.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tomohiro Ishii (New Japan, 11/9)
★★★★¼ I loved this as a follow-up to their G1 match, with Tanahashi coming into this one not necessarily believing Ishii to be his equal, but knowing that he can take his best shots and still come back to win. He still feels comfortable taking an air guitar break after he gets off to an early advantage, though -- giving Ishii the perfect opportunity to lay him out with a lariat. Not quite as good as the G1 match, but good in the same way and built off it beautifully.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship match
Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Karl Anderson (New Japan, 11/9)
★★★★ Another great defense for Okada, whose Best In The World claim, unimaginable just two years ago, gets stronger every time out. I've avoided the Tanahashi/Devitt feud due to the negative reviews for the Bullet Club's general MO, but it didn't bother me here; if anything, it enhanced the match by making Okada look like a total ace for fighting them all off before roaring back to put away Anderson -- and speaking of the Machine Gun, more people should be taking note of how unrecognizably he's improved himself from where he was when he started in Shin Nihon.
My Ratings System
DUD/No Stars = I hated it.
★ = I didn't like it.
★★ = Eh. It was there.
★★★ = I liked it.
★★★★ = I loved it.
★★★★★ = This is as good as wrestling gets.