Welcome to In Your Head! Wrestling podcast, news and community!
Welcome to In Your Head! Wrestling podcast, news and community!
Part 1 of 2: Matches 100-51
By ?Riren? John Wiswell
Section A: Introduction
This is probably the longest column in In Your Head history, and possibly the longest in the internet wrestling community in general. It weighs in at 19,700 words, so my recommendation is to print it out for bathroom reading this holiday season. It should keep you company while you use the can as an excuse to avoid your relatives.
This section is an explanation of my approach to listing these matches. If you just want the list, skip to Section B. Section C is a countdown from 100 to 1, with a review of each match. Most of those thoughts were written months apart as I watched the individual shows. Writing all this in one weekend would probably kill me, but taking a few minutes to write about a great match is a wonderful way to reflect on our collective hobby, especially in this period when so many people have mistaken ?criticism? to mean ?stuff I hated.? Each match in both Section B and C list the wrestlers, the date, the company and the show name, so if you?re interested or reminded of a good match, you can track down the episode or DVD it was on. More than any grade system, I?d like this to be a reminder of the highpoints of the year.
This list was inspired by In Your Head?s own One Inch Biceps. During my first call to the show in December 2006, he made a New Year?s wish: for wrestling to stop sucking. TNA may have had an abysmal year, and WWE?s programs have had their ups and downs, but wrestling has been pretty good. To prove this, I compiled the one hundred best matches I?ve seen. No top 5 or 10 could evidence that a year was good; even the worst year in wrestling saw five good matches happen somewhere on the planet. But triple digits ought to show our pastime hasn?t gone totally rotten.
Here I cover WWE, ROH, PWG, TNA and Pro Wrestling NOAH. I?ve seen some Dragon Gate, AJPW, NJPW, Chikara and IWA:MS, and each company has at least one match on here, but I haven?t had the time or money to follow these companies too closely ? I?ve seen less than ten shows from each of these companies. Similarly, I?ve seen lamentably little Canadian, Mexican or European wrestling (perhaps my resolution will be to order a channel that carries lucha ? and people with the Fight Network don?t know how good they have it).
One thing I need to make clear is that a wrestler not appearing on this list or not appearing often does not mean they aren?t good. Fit Finlay only has two matches on here, but I consider him one of the best in the world. Week-to-week, against some unenviable opponents, he puts on quality performances. A match doesn?t have to stand out as one of the best of the year to be good or to be appreciated, and during any given week Fit Finlay is a better bet for a good performance than some of the men who appear more frequently on this list. In an interview with Bryan Alvarez at f4wonline.com, Bryan Danielson (who has eleven matches on this list) said it wasn?t fair to compare him or other top indy guys to WWE talent ? someone in WWE works more days per week on a harder road schedule. They may get more experience in a year, but they also have a greater toll on their body and an unknowable amount of imput from agents and writers. In truth, a fan can?t know whether an indy wrestler is better than a WWE guy ? you can only compare one match to another. That?s what I?ve tried to do here.
There isn?t a rubric for all great matches. Not every tag match has to have a Ricky Morton character selling his way up to the hot tag under the oppression of the Midnight Express. Not every great singles match needs to be a Hart Dungeon technical clinic. The formula or story wrestlers try to tell is just as important as how they tell it, and a variety of things can succeed. For instance, not every match requires deep, sympathetic selling; if you watch real sports, you see competitors suck it up, hide and overcome injuries all the time. An Olympic swimmer with a pinched nerve isn?t going to show it in every backstroke. Shawn Michaels can make a match more compelling by showing an injured leg in every motion he makes, while Samoa Joe can make a match just as compelling in a different way by ignoring pain. The psychology of how and what to show in response to an opponent?s offense is just one of many factors that can make a match shine. The way moves are executed, the kinds that are used, how they?re pulled together, the characters that are established, the physical chemistry, how they play the audience, general audience participation, how sympathetic or convincing selling is, the tenacity shown by someone who fights against injury or physical limitations, the story that is told, how the performance resonates with the style of the company? everything is important, and nothing is always more important than everything else. Rather, it?s how things work, and what qualities come together that make a match, and they can come together in many different wildly entertaining ways. One match can be great for its characters and comedy, while another builds around brawling and death-defying highspots.
How are we supposed to compare matches without a rubric? Usually I hate comparing matches, and generally avoid the practice except in this annual column. How the Hell are you supposed to judge a Ladder Match against a technical wrestling clinic? A comedy tag against hardcore war? The truth is that one match is seldom truly better than another. One match does certain things that another doesn?t, or does those things better. Especially in comparing your favorite matches of a year, you?ll find one match does some things better than the other, but the other does other things better. One has more fluid technical wrestling and and a perfect ending, one has more passion and more amazing highspots. Usually the best match of the year is the one that did the best at the things you care for the most. And in that spirit, I admit that most of these rankings are intuitive and based on personal preferences. I?ll also accuse that every other list is, too. The goal really isn?t to determine #1, #2 and #3, but to gather a hundred matches I loved and hope it resonates with others.
Given that this is list has a hundred matches, I?m sure you?ll disagree with at least one being ahead of another. And even though there are a hundred, I?m sure there?s at least one match I didn?t include that you think is more worthy. If you have a gripe, or your own list (even just a Top 3), or if you have other matches you want to see praised, I encourage you to drop by the inyourheadonline.com forums. If this sparks a little discussion then it?s more than worth my time. I hope it helps you relive the greatest parts of 2007, and maybe gets you to rewatch a few things.
Section B: The List
Jay & Mark Briscoe Vs. Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin (April 2 - ROH: Good Times, Great Memories
Bryan Danielson Vs. Nigel McGuinness (June 9) ? Appearing on ROH: Driven, taped at ROH: Domination
CIMA, Susumu Yokosuka, Ryo Saito & Dragon Kid Vs. Austin Aries, Rocky Romero, Claudio Castagnoli & Delirious (March 30) - Dragon Gate Rules Match from ROH: All Star Extravaganza 3
Samoa Joe Vs. Takeshi Morishima (February 16) - ROH: Fifth Year Festival: New York
Takeshi Morishima Vs. Claudio Castagnoli (August 10) ? ROH: Death Before Dishonor 5 Night 1
Mark Briscoe Vs. Jay Briscoe (March 4) - ROH: Fifth Year Festival: Finale
Naomichi Marufuji & Kota Iifushi Vs. KENTA & Taiji Ishimori (July 15) ? Pro Wrestling NOAH: NTV Cup, Tokyo Nippon Budokan
Shawn Michaels Vs. John Cena (April 23) - WWE: Raw
The Royal Rumble Match (January 2 - WWE: Royal Rumble
Hiroshi Tanahashi Vs. Hirooki Goto (November 11) - NJPW: Destruction 2007
Jay & Mark Briscoe Vs. Kevin Steen & El Generico (August 10) ? Boston Street Fight from ROH: Death Before Dishonor 5 Night 1
Shingo Takagi, BxB Hulk & Cyber Kong Vs. Magnitude Kishiwada, Masato Yoshino & Naruki Doi Vs. Susumu Yokosuka, Ryo Saito & Dragon Kid (June 5) Dragon Gate Infinity: TV 65
Jay & Mark Briscoe Vs. El Generico & Kevin Steen (September 15) - Ladder War from ROH: Man Up
Takeshi Morishima Vs. Bryan Danielson (November 3) - ROH: Glory By Honor 6 Night 2
Bryan Danielson Vs. El Generico (July 29) ? PWG: Giant Size Annual #4
The Undertaker Vs. Dave Batista (April 1) - WWE: Wrestlemania 23
Takeshi Morishima Vs. Shingo Takagi (April 2 - ROH: Good Times, Great Memories
Yuji Nagata Vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (April 13) - NJPW: Circuit 2007 New Japan Brave Tour
Jack Evans Vs. Roderick Strong (March 30) - ROH: All Star Extravaganza 3
Mark Briscoe Vs. Roderick Strong Vs. Matt Cross Vs. Shingo Takagi Vs. Claudio Castagnoli Vs. Pelle Primeau (February 23) - ROH: Fifth Year Festival: Dayton
Shingo Takagi, CIMA & Susumu Yokosuka Vs. Dragon Kid, Ryo Saito & Masaaki Mochizuki (March 31) - Dragon Gate Rules Match from ROH: Supercard of Honor 2
Jimmy Jacobs Vs. BJ Whitmer (March 31) - Steel Cage Match from ROH: Supercard of Honor 2
Samoa Joe Vs. Davey Richards (February 23) - ROH: Fifth Year Festival: Dayton
Jay & Mark Briscoe Vs. Kevin Steen & El Generico (August 25) ? 2/3 Falls Match from ROH: Manhattan Mayhem 2
Yuji Nagata Vs. Minoru Suzuki (April 1) - NJPW/AJPW Supershow
D-Lo Brown & Bull Buchanan Vs. Naomichi Marufuji & Takashi Sugiura (October 27) ? Pro Wrestling NOAH: Autumn Navigation
Shawn Michaels Vs. Edge (January 22) - Street Fight from WWE: Raw
Takeshi Morishima Vs. Roderick Strong (June 9) - ROH: Domination
John Cena Vs. Umaga (January 2 - Last Man Standing Match from WWE: Royal Rumble
Rocky Romero Vs. Roderick Strong (April 7) ? PWG: All Star Weekend 5 Night 1
Takeshi Morishima Vs. Austin Aries (April 27) - ROH: Battle of St. Paul
Yuji Nagata Vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (August 12) - NJPW G1 Climax, Day 6
Bryan Danielson Vs. CIMA (May 19) - PWG: Dynamite Duumvirate Tag Team Title Tournament Night 1
Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama Vs. Yoshihiro Takayama & Kenta Kobashi (December 2) - Pro Wrestling NOAH: Winter Navigation '07
Davey Richards Vs. Low Ki (April 7) ? PWG: All Star Weekend 5 Night 1
Takeshi Morishima Vs. Brent Albright (August 11) - ROH: Death Before Dishonor 5 Night 2
Jay Briscoe, Erick Stevens & Mark Briscoe Vs. El Generico & Kevin Steen (April 14) - ROH: Fighting Spirit
Bryan Danielson Vs. Takeshi Morishima (September 15) - ROH: Man Up
Jack Evans, Austin Aries & Roderick Strong Vs. Delirious, Davey Richards & Shingo Takagi (January 27) - ROH: Battle of the Icons
Bryan Danielson Vs. Takeshi Morishima (August 25) ? ROH: Manhattan Mayhem 2
The Hardy Boys Vs. Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas (June 3) - Ladder Match from WWE: One Night Stand
El Generico Vs. CIMA (May 20) ? PWG: Dynamite Duumverate Tag Team Title Tournament Night 2
Naomichi Marufuji Vs. Claudio Castagnoli (November 3) - ROH: Glory By Honor 6 Night 2
Colt Cabana Vs. Delirious (April 13) ? ROH: This Means War 2
Brent Albright Vs. BJ Whitmer (February 16) - Tables Are Legal Match from ROH: Fifth Year Festival: New York
Christian Cage Vs. Samoa Joe (March 11) - TNA: Destination X
BJ Whitmer Vs. Jimmy Jacobs (March 4) ? Falls Count Anywhere Match from ROH: Fifth Year Festival: Finale
Chris Harris Vs. James Storm (May 13) - Texas Death Match from TNA: Sacrifice
Takeshi Morishima Vs. Jun Akiyama (September 9) - Pro Wrestling NOAH at the Tokyo Nippon Budokan
Samoa Joe Vs. Christian Cage (October 14) ? There Must Be a Winner Match from TNA: Bound For Glory
Jun Akiyama & Takeshi Rikio Vs. Takashi Sugiura & Yoshihiro Takayama (April 2 - Pro Wrestling NOAH: Spring Navigation (Tokyo Nippon Budokan)
MVP Vs. Chris Benoit (May 20) - 2/3 Falls from WWE: Judgment Day
Claudio Castagnoli Vs. Mike Quackenbush Vs. Chris Hero Vs. Nigel McGuinness (June ? ROH: A Fight at the Roxbury
Jay Briscoe, Mark Briscoe & Naomichi Marufuji Vs. Matt Sydal, Ricky Marvin & Atsushi Aoki (July 16) ? ROH: Live in Tokyo
El Generico Vs. CIMA Vs. Roderick Strong (September 2) ? Elimination Threeway from PWG: Battle of Los Angeles 2007 Night 3
Bryan Danielson Vs. Austin Aries (October 5) ? ROH: Honor Nation
Jay & Mark Briscoe Vs. Claudio Castagnoli & Matt Sydal (June 22) ? 2 out of 3 Falls Match from ROH: United We Stand
Low Ki Vs. Samoa Joe (April ? PWG: All Star Weekend 5 Night 2
Ken the Box Vs. Mecha Mummy (February 1 - Chikara Pro: Trios Tournament 2007
Yuji Nagata Vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (October ? NJPW: Explosion 2007
Jay & Mark Briscoe Vs. Kevin Steen & El Generico (August 24) ? Steel Cage Match from ROH: Caged Rage
Claudio Castagnoli Vs. Matt Sydal (June 23) ? ROH: Driven
Jay & Mark Briscoe Vs. Naruki Doi & Shingo Takagi (March 3) - ROH: Fifth Year Festival: Liverpool
Bryan Danielson & Nigel McGuinness Vs. Takeshi Morishima & Naomichi Marufuji (June 22) - ROH: United We Stand
Naomichi Marufuji Vs. El Generico (September 14) - ROH: Motor City Madness 2007
Amazing Kong Vs. Ms. Chif (April 7) - SHIMMER: Volume 9
Christian Cage Vs. Kurt Angle Vs. AJ Styles Vs. Samoa Joe Vs. Chris Harris (June 17) - King of the Mountain Match from TNA: Slammiversary
Kevin Steen & El Generico Vs. Jigsaw & Mike Quackenbush (June 9) ? ROH: Domination
Jay & Mark Briscoe Vs. Ricky Marvin & Kotaro Suzuki (January 21) ? Pro Wrestling NOAH: First Navigation 2007
Jay & Mark Briscoe Vs. Kevin Steen & El Generico (June 23) ? ROH: Driven
Roderick Strong & Davey Richards Vs. Naruki Doi & Shingo Takagi (March 4) - ROH: Fifth Year Festival: Finale
Ric Flair Vs. Fit Finlay (July 6) ? WWE: Smackdown
Shawn Michaels Vs. John Cena (April 1) - WWE: Wrestlemania 23
El Generico Vs. PAC (April 7) ? PWG: All Star Weekend 5 Night 1
Bryan Danielson & Davey Richards Vs. Rocky Romero & Atsushi Aoki (June 1) Pro Wrestling NOAH: Tokyo Differ Ariake
Delirious Vs. KENTA (May 11) - ROH: Reborn Again
Takeshi Morishima Vs. Nigel McGuinness (April 14) - ROH: Fighting Spirit
Austin Aries Vs. Roderick Strong (March 31) ? ROH: Supercard of Honor 2
Kaz Hayashi Vs. PAC (April ? PWG: All Star Weekend 5 Night 2
Delirious Vs. Matt Sydal (March 3) 2/3 Falls Match from ROH: Fifth Year Festival: Liverpool
Naomichi Marufuji Vs. Rocky Romero (May 12) ? ROH: Respect is Earned
Naomichi Marufuji & Takeshi Morishima Vs. Mitsuharu Misawa & KENTA (November 2) - ROH: Glory By Honor 6 Night 1
Alex Shelley Vs. Roderick Strong (September 2) - PWG: Battle of Los Angeles Night 3
Kurt Angle Vs. Jay Lethal (September 9) ? TNA: No Surrender
CM Punk Vs. John Morrison (September 4) ? WWE: ECW on Sci Fi
Claudio Castagnoli Vs. Mike Quackenbush (July 2 ? ROH: Race to the Top Tournament Night 2
Alex Shelley Vs. Tyler Black (August 31) - PWG: Battle of Los Angeles 2007 Night 1
Bryan Danielson Vs. Austin Aries (November 2) - ROH: Glory By Honor 6 Night 1
Samoa Joe Vs. Homicide (March 4) ? ROH: Fifth Year Festival: Finale
CIMA Vs. PAC (September 2) - PWG: Battle of Los Angeles Night 3
Low Ki Vs. Roderick Strong (May 1) ? IWA: MS: HURT 2007
Mike Quackenbush Vs. Matt Sydal (July 27) ? ROH: Race to the Top Tournament Night 1
Austin Aries Vs. Davey Richards (September 15) - ROH: Man Up
Umaga Vs. Jeff Hardy (July 22) ? WWE: Great American Bash
Matt Classic Vs. Kikutaro (March 4) ? PWG: All Star Weekend 5 Night 1
Eddie Kingston Vs. Chris Hero (September 29) ? Last Man Standing Match from IWA:MS Ted Petty Invitational Night 2
Shuji Kondo Vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima (February 17) - AJPW: Pro-Wrestling Love in Ryogoku
Claudio Castagnoli Vs. El Generico (July 2 ? ROH: Race to the Top Tournament Night 2
HHH, Rey Mysterio Jr., Jeff Hardy & Kane Vs. Umaga, Ken Kennedy, MVP, Fit Finlay and Big Daddy V (November 1 - Survivor Series match from WWE: Survivor Series
Bryan Danielson Vs. Go Shiozaki (July 16) ? ROH: Live in Tokyo
Section C: Countdown and Reviews
100. Bryan Danielson Vs. Go Shiozaki (July 16) ? ROH: Live in Tokyo
Probably Go Shiozaki?s best singles match to date, and the best match he?s been in since his breakout tag quite some time ago. Everything he did was still very plain or simple, and he isn?t at a level of character where he can make that special ? the way his opponent from that night can. But Danielson framed his offense very well, and the two held a very oldschool contest that would have fit perfectly into NJPW and probably would have gotten Shiozaki wild praise in a big NOAH show. Compared to his matches with KENTA and Takeshi Morishima from this same year, Shiozaki showed more aggression, but it was really Danielson?s framing of the offense that pulled it together.
99. HHH, Rey Mysterio Jr., Jeff Hardy & Kane Vs. Umaga, Ken Kennedy, MVP, Fit Finlay and Big Daddy V (November 1 Survivor Series match from WWE: Survivor Series
Say what you want about Big Daddy V, but people screamed in response to his Elbow Drop finisher. V and Umaga were great giants in this match, making things as little as a stomp meaningful. I can?t wait for the day we get an Umaga/Rey Mysterio Jr. feud (unless Umaga?s late 2007 streak of spending half of every match in nerve holds continues). No match with this many guys can go perfectly, and it was a little weird to see the good guy team stand on the apron rather than break up pinfall attempts as their four-man team was whittled down to two, but the atmosphere made things like that negligible. They made the 5-on-2 situation as interesting as possible in-between the heroes? slow comeback, with somebody constantly in motion whenever the action in the ring was slow. If MVP had Jeff Hardy in a headlock, then HHH was jawing with the referee. That sort of thing kept the crowd hot for their inspired comebacks. The only shortcoming was that the end came too quickly and they didn?t get as much action out of the final stretch as you might have expected. But for what it was, even that was very entertaining.
98. Claudio Castagnoli Vs. El Generico (July 2 ? ROH: Race to the Top Tournament Night 2
Similar in several ways to HHH and Orton?s Last Man Standing match at No Mercy, Generico and Castagnoli were two exhausted men looking for reliable, match-ending offense. Like the No Mercy match from WWE, this wasn?t just a self-contained match but the climax to the tournament, and it pulled out amazing fireworks, several of which could have been the conclusion. However Castagnoli and Generico timed a lot of this offense better than Orton and HHH, making their nearfalls more believable than the 9-counts of that WWE match, and with a much better sense of timing reversals and shifts in momentum. In particular, the counter to the Ricola Bomb and the kickout from the Super Alpamare Waterslide were amazing false finishes in context, and the final minutes were a testament to the entire tournament?s success and raising the stock of both men.
97. Shuji Kondo Vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima (February 17) - AJPW: Pro-Wrestling Love in Ryogoku
Shuji Kondo is one of AJPW?s shining lights, and had many memorable matches with the Junior Heavyweight title. Nakajima was a huge opponent for him, and while he was more flash than substance, Kondo managed to channel his flash into an exciting match.
96. Eddie Kingston Vs. Chris Hero (September 29) ? Last Man Standing Match from IWA:MS Ted Petty Invitational Night 2
Kingston is one of those wrestlers who has such a firm character that he can?t help but talk during his matches, and his delivery on lines, even something as uninspiring as, ?I?m going to choke you,? draws you in like most great wrestlers do with silence. They had to trash-talk in this match, and Kingston showed a good sense of when to give and take early on, while Hero took some really good spills on the outside. Everything from Hero?s chair-halo neckbreaker and on was very well done. Kingston made a couple of questionable motions before his adrenaline-rush comeback, but this was solid use of a neck injury without making it the focus of the attack. The control Hero exuded, particularly in using the guardrail, was despicable and warranted the final comeback like most matches don?t. What really separates this from a lot of indy grudge matches is that it only has seconds of overkill or questionable logic within a compelling brawl, whereas most are almost total nonsense.
95. Matt Classic Vs. Kikutaro (March 4) ? PWG: All Star Weekend 5 Night 1
If WWE won?t let Colt Cabana play his normal wacky character in the big leagues, they should seriously consider letting him play Matt Classic. This old school comedy character was sorely underutilized in WSX, and if WWE liked the retarded wrestling savant this guy would be totally up their alley. Classic?s comments on Kikutaro, his old school parody offense and his default pause (rather than a wrestling stance) were perfect up against Kikutaro?s usual play-with-the-ref, yell-for-the-crowd and imitate-a-legend schtick.
94. Umaga Vs. Jeff Hardy (July 22) ? WWE: Great American Bash
Few people can dominate a match like Umaga. He has two formulas that he can switch between, often at the drop of a hat ? he can dominate in an almost face-like fashion that?s wildly entertaining in the vein of Vader or Goldberg, or he can play the monster losing control, constantly give his opponent just enough to keep the audience hoping and anticipating a shift. He worked both at the Great American Bash. Jeff Hardy?s almost uncanny popularity got the crowd into it all the more, and his amazing offense and ragdoll-like bumping and selling made him a prime underdog. Hardy seems to find specific opponents (Johnny Nitro at the end of 2006, Ken Kennedy in mid- and late-2007) and find ways to have amazing series with each of them. Umaga was simply the best opponent, the natural predator against Hardy?s style ? and this was their best confrontation. After this no one could object to seeing them rematched over and over again on pay-per-views and Raws.
93. Austin Aries Vs. Davey Richards (September 15) - ROH: Man Up
Austin Aries brought more passion to this one match than he did in his entire TNA career. Both he and Richards were so technically sound that everything they did looked crisp, and they brought an athletic energy to everything from stock offense to reversals to innovations. It was particularly fun to see them catch or avoid each other's trademark offense, leading to them thinking two steps ahead at the end. Aries' soccer kick after the backslide was every bit as satisfying as the following 450 Splash.
92. Mike Quackenbush Vs. Matt Sydal (July 27) ? ROH: Race to the Top Tournament Night 1
A mix of fluid technical wrestling and acrobatic athleticism that rarely boils down to jumping off of or over the top rope. A total delight to watch that made Quackenbush, who had only been with the company a few months and hadn?t gotten any substantive push, seem like he had just as good a chance of winning as Sydal, who had been with the company for years and had already held a title. Their exchanges were so crisp and effortless that I spent that morning re-watching this instead of progressing in the tournament.
91. Low Ki Vs. Roderick Strong (May 1) ? IWA: MS: HURT 2007
You don?t usually see Low Ki (on the indies or as Senshi) looking this vulnerable for so long, and Strong doesn?t usually look this good while dominant when he?s not stretching Jack Evans. This was a dream match in ROH that never came to be, until IWA:MS pulled it out for the delight of its fans. The striking was frighteningly stiff, and the big moves had a greater sense of impact than either man usually produced. The two had an interesting chemistry that will hopefully be explored in the future, in whatever company Low Ki goes to now.
90. CIMA Vs. PAC (September 2) - PWG: Battle of Los Angeles Night 3
I don't know why CIMA doesn't wrestle this way in Dragon Gate. In America he tends to be a step faster and wrestle more aggressively. He doesn't mug any less for the fans or display any less character, so it's not that he's holding back for the sake of showmanship. Perhaps he can't keep this up on his regular schedule and cuts loose in PWG and ROH to make a good impression, but regardless, his showing at the Battle of Los Angeles put his Dragon Gate main events to shame. PAC brought his part, too, with fluidity, quickness, and a flexibility that is only rivaled by Jack Evans. They traded every kind of offense under the sun in the quintessential indy spectacle match, right down to the quintessential indy spectacle top rope version of a finisher at the end, but it was staggering in execution.
89. Samoa Joe Vs. Homicide (March 4) ? ROH: Fifth Year Festival: Finale
Joe?s last match in Ring of Honor was also his best match against Homicide in a long time, thankfully outstripping their match from Battle of the Icons. The hot English crowd definitely helped, showing emotion and appreciation for both men ? much better than a couple of noisy old ladies. They worked within the aura of a farewell match, summoning some of the best moments from their long feud, and executing some of their personal spots far better than usual ? Homicide?s Tope Con Hilo was certifiably crazy. A big problem with the Battle of the Icons match is that they actually were hitting each other as hard as they could (Joe?s post-match interview showed off some grotesque welts to prove it), but it didn?t look like they were, so people mistakenly called them lazy. In this match they emphasized the impact more, so that every hard blow registered with the audience. It provided the necessary final touches to a memorable last match in a promotion that Joe helped build and keep alive.
88. Bryan Danielson Vs. Austin Aries (November 2) - ROH: Glory By Honor 6 Night 1
The opening segment is little dry even for my tastes, less creative than their Honor Nation bout. It didn't feel like they were playing it safe in a Match-3 situation, either. However, it was good technical wrestling, and the match really took off after Aries' amazing counter and escape from the Tree of Woe. Once again most of the big things in this match were little things, like Danielson setting Aries up for a Tiger Suplex, but only rolling him back onto his shoulders rather than throwing him, knowing that a throw at this point in the match would guarantee Aries overshooting and escaping. I love their sense of counter-throwing and counter-striking within grappling; it's complex wrestling that's beautiful to watch and easy to follow. It could have gone a lot longer, and never hit the emotional top gear that a lot of ROH matches do for a finishing stretch, but it was a great match regardless.
87. Alex Shelley Vs. Tyler Black (August 31) - PWG: Battle of Los Angeles 2007 Night 1
My problem with Alex Shelley in PWG was that too often he was a step too slow for the moves and reversals he went for. For some reason his opponents fell to the same problems, and while he was never bad, that awkwardness made the matches feel cloyingly artificial. That was not the case at the Battle of Los Angeles. Every noticeable pause was the dramatic kind that gave you a split-second to wonder if Black was going to pull off a reversal or if Shelley was really going to drop him on his head. They had a very well-paced opening section, and everything built to a great rolling finish that left me guessing when it would end without ever feeling like overkill. Post-match, Shelley said this was his favorite place to wrestle. Well, he put on some great farewell performances to show.
86. Claudio Castagnoli Vs. Mike Quackenbush (July 2 ? ROH: Race to the Top Tournament Night 2
Quackenbush was just big enough and just strong enough to stand up to Castagnoli, while at the same time, was small and agile enough to perform some amazing feats, like a somersault escape from a Tombstone Piledriver. Meanwhile, Castagnoli has phenomenal speed for a man his size, and so he kept up admirably with Quackenbush?s pace, keeping the match from lapsing into the syndrome of tiny awkward pauses that hinder a lot of other athletically competitive inter-weightclass matches. While it couldn?t be as spectacular as their Ted Petty Invitational 2006 bout, it was studded with amazing moments, threaded together with an entertaining fluidity that didn?t require the usual heel/face dynamic. You could sympathize with either man, and even in later viewings, I?ve found myself rooting for both guys in their comebacks. Its ending is abrupt (particularly considering the big offense they kicked out of beforehand), but up until then it is a simple pleasure to watch.
85. CM Punk Vs. John Morrison (September 4) ? WWE: ECW on Sci Fi
The most dramatic of all their encounters, this really belonged on Summerslam. That show ended a half an hour early, so I don?t understand why the PPV match had to be a seven-minute spotfest. However, that crowd wasn?t like this crowd. This was the most excited crowd I can remember at any WWE-ECW event outside of the early One Night Stand shows. Punk and Morrison took advantage of that energy, pulling out some amazing moves, some great exchanges, and a really exciting final stretch. I don?t know what keeps WWE from getting these kinds of matches to represent ECW on PPV (though it?s obvious live PPV audiences sit on their hands for ECW matches because most of them don?t watch ECW on Sci F in the first place), but the company should seriously start pushing for this sort of drama.
84. Kurt Angle Vs. Jay Lethal (September 9) ? TNA: No Surrender
Much better than the usual underdog match, Lethal looked very strong early on and made overused spots like the enziguri and big reversal DDT seem fresh. Angle used the excuse of this being his second match of the night to even the odds rather than playing his usual superman role, allowing for an athletically competitive match that weekly TNA viewers couldn?t have expected. The multiple flash pins from Lethal and brutal moves from Angle in the final minutes teased perfectly for the shocking finish.
83. Alex Shelley Vs. Roderick Strong (September 2) - PWG: Battle of Los Angeles Night 3
Methodically-paced with explosive moments, Alex Shelley and Roderick Strong structured a very logical and entertaining match. The opening segment teased a dozen different moves, promising what we might see later, displaying how well they knew each other, and how darned talented they were at countering. The slower holds and simpler strikes in the middle were totally logical when you consider how difficult it was for either man to land big offense. Essentially they were both so advanced at their craft that they forced each other to go back to basics. That same difficulty of landing big offense led to some interesting, intuitive innovations, like Strong's Tower-of-London-style gutbuster. Going to the top rope when they did was a very bold move, with Strong teasing a super-version of his finisher before he'd hitten the regular version, but it made the final moments much less predictable and much more exciting. The two release Tiger Drivers were brutal and a totally believable way to close out a match that meant everything to these guys, putting over the importance of the tournament rather than throwing stuff out there for the sake of looking cool.
82. Naomichi Marufuji & Takeshi Morishima Vs. Mitsuharu Misawa & KENTA (November 2) - ROH: Glory By Honor 6 Night 1
I don't know how ten minutes can be slow and still not feel like ten minutes, but that's the case for the first ten of this match (the passage of time was announced over a house microphone). I don't know how a half hour draw can feel too short or not even feel like thirty minutes. My DVD player definitely reported thirty minutes passing. I guess there was something special about this Pro Wrestling NOAH tag in Ring of Honor that warped time in both directions. Outside of the NOAH environment, Misawa felt special again. Considering he's one of the great wrestlers of all time, that was refreshing. He's far from peek condition, but in this match he could seem special, especially with Marufuji playing the borderline-humorous heel and Morishima playing hungry contender against him. As anticipated, KENTA handled the big action, packing in exciting little exchanges of strikes with Morishima and holds with Marufuji. All Misawa had to do was throw elbows, and boy did he ever. His performance was on par with most of his big matches in NOAH this year, without so many high spots to blow, while KENTA, Marufuji and Morishima stepped up their game with more passion (and feeding into the passion of the crowd) to make the most of a half-hour tag with a highly-anticipated guest. It was still an imperfect match. Like a lot of long NOAH tags, this had phases of boring holds that aren't even disguised as technical wrestling, and the crowd couldn't have been happy to see most of them occuring while Misawa stood idly on the apron. There was at least one time when Misawa tagged out for no good reason. It didn't have a long, death-defying sprint finish. But it didn't need one. It was what it was, which was one of the best special appearance matches of the year.
81. Naomichi Marufuji Vs. Rocky Romero (May 12) ? ROH: Respect is Earned
These guys were so impressive that they made a lot of people forget that BJ Whitmer Vs. Takeshi Morishima actually kicked off Ring of Honor?s first pay per view offering. Romero and Marufuji put on a heck of an exhibition, fast-paced and full of little series of moves that were sometimes stilted, but mostly beautiful and furious ? a couple of kicks really looked like they would have taken Marufuji?s head off if he hadn?t dodged. It harkened back to the exhibitions in ECW and WCW?s cruiserweight division, with flashy submission holds, quick exchanges and some eye-popping original highspots, like Marufuji?s great little springboard dropkick to Romero while Romero was on the apron.
80. Delirious Vs. Matt Sydal (March 3) 2/3 Falls Match from ROH: Fifth Year Festival: Liverpool
Their best encounter since Suffocation in 2006 saw Sydal embrace his heelish aspects without sacrificing his amazing athletic ability. It wasn?t insanely fast or full of flying, but based on sound fundamental wrestling and building emotion from appreciative crowd, with more competitive spirit in the little things than usual for either man. When they got to their big spots it paid off in spades.
79. Kaz Hayashi Vs. PAC (April ? PWG: All Star Weekend 5 Night 2
A small California indy was home to a match between a British high flyer and a Japanese technician. Why the heck not? Hayashi was one of the best possible opponents for PAC, able to frame his amazing aerial moves with an offbeat style that left both men looking very impressive.
78. Austin Aries Vs. Roderick Strong (March 31) ? ROH: Supercard of Honor 2
For something so well-paced, this match went by really fast. I had to re-watch it twice just to grasp everything they fit into it, yet it was miles from the anathema ?indy spotfest.? Live it only felt ten minutes long. They worked a logical pace for two men who hate each other, going for little things, bitterly trying to show each other up in the trademark offense, until the big guns come out. Aries? fall through the table is scary, and the finish is as sickening as a non-hardcore match can get.
77. Takeshi Morishima Vs. Nigel McGuinness (April 14) - ROH: Fighting Spirit
Lariats are fun. Nigel McGuinness loves fun. Therefore, he lariats people. A bunch. Then he?ll get the heck beaten of him, rebound with lariats, and either win or lose the match. It?s a simple formula that people love, especially fans of crazy stiffness that probably ought not to be encouraged. This match had that kind of crazy stiffness in spades ? not just from McGuinness, but from Morishima. When it?s this bad on the wrestlers, even a concerned smark fan can mark out. The crowd sure did. This was the first real example of Morishima?s viciousness as a champion, making up for disappointing outings against Homicide, Rave and Whitmer.
76. Delirious Vs. KENTA (May 11) - ROH: Reborn Again ? Delirious showed once again how his lovable, bizarre character can adapt to serious matches, creating some great sympathy against KENTA. A lot of KENTA?s showcase matches boil down to entertaining spots, but Delirious threw variety into the mix. Probably KENTA?s best performance on a pure entertainment level (as opposed to purely athletic level) in ROH this year.
75. Bryan Danielson & Davey Richards Vs. Rocky Romero & Atsushi Aoki (June 1) Pro Wrestling NOAH: Tokyo Differ Ariake
One of the best technical tag team matches of the year, almost curiously grounded for a Japanese Juniors match. It was Davey Richards? dream to make it to NOAH, and while he wouldn?t be booked for success, he clearly gave it his all. Danielson made Aoki look the best he?s looked all year with what looked like minimal effort. Danielson and Richards made a formidable team that should be put together more often in at least one of the companies they both work for.
74. El Generico Vs. PAC (April 7) ? PWG: All Star Weekend 5 Night 1
PAC rules in PWG. PAC rules against El Generico. When PAC wrestles El Generico in Pro Wrestling Guerilla, you might as well buy the DVD. As expected, they did insane things to each other. Their match from 2006 might have raised expectations beyond a healthy level, but this was still a balls-out crazy match that fans of innovative flying should seek out.
73. Shawn Michaels Vs. John Cena (April 1) - WWE: Wrestlemania 23
This benefited from an exceptional storyline. Shawn Michaels loudly told Cena to calm down mid-match, which was kind of silly considering that the story going into this should have made Cena go buck-wild on him. Similarly, it was probably a mistake for Michaels to go after the leg in a big-time match like this where his opponent?s offense was based entirely around power and being able to spring across the ring when, as it turned out, they obviously didn?t have anything planned for Cena to do offensively once he started to sell the leg. It was no surprise to anyone around me in the stadium that Cena disregarded the legwork later on. But drawing on the story coming into the match, they built a really passionate second half that was worthy of Wrestlemania. Everyone in my area wanted to get up and leave to beat the traffic, but no one would leave their row because they wanted to see who was going to come out on top.
72. Ric Flair Vs. Fit Finlay (July 6) ? WWE: Smackdown
Maybe JBL went too far in calling this a clash of ?legends,? but considering how good Finlay has been since his return to the ring, I didn?t mind it. This was an especially interesting match for those people who knew Flair had avoided wrestling Finlay in WCW. This was not a ridiculously stiff match like Flair might have feared years ago, but then again, Flair relies more on stiff chops and punches these days than he used to. This was a match based on great technical wrestling with both men going after the legs, telling a good story. People may have hated the finish, having Flair submit to a hold that Matt Hardy had gotten out of, but given Flair?s age and the use of an illegal weapon, this made sense. It would have been better if they?d had a rematch or (preferably) and outright feud as a result. Then we?d have enjoyed more quality wrestling from these two ring veterans, and that unpopular ending could have served a greater purpose. Instead, Finlay went on to be slapped around by Kane and Batista, and Flair gave the company his notice.
71. Roderick Strong & Davey Richards Vs. Naruki Doi & Shingo Takagi (March 4) - ROH: Fifth Year Festival: Finale
Strong and Richards briefly poked their heads into the tag title picture for a great impromptu clash with the champions. Doi and Takagi came in with unexpected momentum, and Shingo really seemed to carry that momentum into the ring with him. Very fast and engaging for an ROH tag that didn?t have the Briscoes in it.
70. Jay & Mark Briscoe Vs. Kevin Steen & El Generico (June 23) ? ROH: Driven
On my first viewing, I thought this match was total overkill. The second time I watched the clock, and was surprised to find the first ten minutes just flew by. They built the overkill of the finish, and had several highly passionate moments on the way, but time really gets away from this match. On my initial viewing the final five minutes were a breakneck pace; it was funny to see Steen tease the Package Piledriver, or Generico psych up the crowd for the Yakuza Kick on a second time through. Some of the stuff (like the table spot) does come out of nowhere, but overall this is a very intelligently worked out match for two incredibly competitive teams. They worked in all of the touchstones of the feud, with Steen deriding Generico, Mark looking for revenge for them targeting his concussion previously, both Briscoes wanting to make a point as soon as possible, and their overall competition carrying them away until each man was risking his neck to take out another. It still lacked a certain something, but considering they had at least three more matches ahead of them, anything lacking was probably held back for later performances.
69. Jay & Mark Briscoe Vs. Ricky Marvin & Kotaro Suzuki (January 21) - NOAH: First Navigation 2007
This set the bar for the year of Juniors Tag matches in Japan. Some of the exchanges, particularly Marvin and Suzuki?s mid-air counter to a Briscoes Doomsday move, were eye-popping. Marvin was at the top of his game, as though he was auditioning for every American company, and Suzuki kept up better than usual. The Briscoes weren?t as charismatic as usual, and several parts of the match were uneasily slow or awkward, but the general energy and physicality earned it all those ?Early Match of the Year? accolades tape traders lavished on it.
68. Kevin Steen & El Generico Vs. Jigsaw & Mike Quackenbush (June 9) ? ROH: Domination
ROH did not have much planed for Jigsaw and Quackenbush in the early part of 2007 (or the mid-part, for that matter). But what might have been pitched as a squash match to help Steen and Generico rise as title contenders became a phenomenal fifteen minutes of back-and-forth where even the least important piece of the puzzle looked like a blue-chipper (pun intended, dammit). Generico is a great babyface, Steen is a great heel, and they are an amazing act as a tag team. Something about their dynamic stands out more in ROH than any other company, and I can?t put my finger on it. Perhaps it?s the shades of Punk and Cabana, or perhaps it?s just that pairing a miserable excuse for a human being with a goofy good guy was the way to truly to get a heel over in ROH where all the great heel/heel teams couldn?t draw the proper reaction as often as they needed. Steen still got wild cheers (and deserved them), but particularly on this night, against two exciting Chikara guys, it all clicked.
67. Samoa Joe Vs. Christian Cage Vs. Kurt Angle Vs. AJ Styles Vs. Chris Harris (June 17) - King of the Mountain Match from TNA: Slammiversary
This match gets blasted every year for its contrived rules, but they?re really not that bad. You pin somebody, then go play with the ladder. Anybody who can?t play with the ladder yet will try to stop you. This instance of the King of the Mountain Match was easy enough to follow. Chris Harris wrestled admirably as a substitution, and really went at it with those guys, leading to a crazy spear off the cell. Harries, along with Joe and Styles, really carried a very entertaining spotty gimmick match. The wrong guy won (as Angle was neither the most deserving hero in the match, nor the most dastardly badguy upon his turn a short while later), but it was still a fun match.
66. Amazing Kong Vs. Ms. Chif (April 7) - SHIMMER: Volume 9
Ms. Chif?s line before the match, ?Do you doubt me, Bayless?!!? is better than most entire interviews by male wrestlers. Kong is an amazing power wrestler, better at bumping and exuding attitude than many of her male counterparts. Ms. Chif was the perfect opponent, able to sell sympathetically and contort for submission holds, while also slithering around her bigger opponent for some cool spots I?ve never seen anywhere else. Lex Luger damn sure never made anyone kick themselves in the head while stretching them in the Torture Rack.
65. Jay & Mark Briscoe Vs. Naruki Doi & Shingo Takagi (March 3) - ROH: Fifth Year Festival: Liverpool
On each of Ring of Honor?s four shows in England, the Briscoes have always gone nuts. ROH?s roster works harder than usual for England in ways they didn?t in Japan, and the four English shows (two in 2006, two in 2007) are all absolutely worth the money ? the Briscoes just contributed the most value for your dollars. At Unified they gave Aries and Strong their best tag team title defense, at Anarchy in the U.K. they had the best match Sydal and Richards had all year, they went insane against each other in singles competition at Fifth Year Festival: Finale, and on this show they picked up the slack against competition from Dragon Gate. With the singles World Champion away, they tried to be as physical and fast-paced as possible, creating an exciting match that Shingo could sink his teeth into. In 2006 and 2007 Shingo really developed as a brilliant big man for tag matches, picking his spots and showing surprising speed, and he picked that role right back up here. Doi wasn?t at his sharpest, but still brought a strange charisma and agility that complimented his partner. The final minutes built great suspense even though no one thought the Dragon Gate guys could win ? and when they did, the only disappointment was that the rematch couldn?t be this good (though Mark Briscoe almost killed himself trying).
64. Naomichi Marufuji Vs. El Generico (September 14) - ROH: Motor City Madness 2007
This was the match when Marufuji started to treat Ring of Honor like a playground. He tried to steal hats from the fans, imitated Generico's poses and "Olay" chant, and worked a headlock in some of the wackiest and most unexpected ways this side of Colt Cabana. Generico worked his butt off, largely following Marufuji's aggressive lead with some very sympathetic selling and good babyface comebacks. In particular the way Generico sagged or fell to his knees in the headlocks really showed the toll it was taking. The number of blows Generico took to the head might be too much for some people's suspension of belief, but if he could overcome those frightening welts, he might be able to suck anything up. After Generico got his foot on the ropes following a Shiranui, they made it seem like anything was possible in this match.
63. Bryan Danielson & Nigel McGuinness Vs. Takeshi Morishima & Naomichi Marufuji (June 22) - ROH: United We Stand
Any time Marufuji and Danielson are in the ring against each other you?re guaranteed something worth watching. This match got the added benefit of containing one of the hottest interactions between McGuinness and Morishima from their entire feud, and drawing the rest of their work into a story that was essentially a refined version of the Respect is Earned main event.
62. Claudio Castagnoli Vs. Matt Sydal (June 23) ? ROH: Driven
Castagnoli was so agile for a man at 6?4? that he could bump and move like a cruiserweight, but everything he did would be that much more impressive. At one point he was charging near the ropes and had his legs kicked out from under him, causing him to sail out of the ring in a fall that was both beautiful and scary ? and twice as impressive for someone of his size. He is also a magnificent foundation for smaller flyers to work off of, and just like in the Dethroned tag match from 2006, Matt Sydal made the most of him, pulling out innovative offense and breathtaking acrobatics that didn?t only rely on the ropes or dives, but on working with his opponent. This created state-of-the-art highspots that are only really comparable to Castagnoli?s match with Mike Quackenbush at last year?s IWA:MS Ted Petty Invitational tournament. The inventions never felt forced or gimmicky, just pulse-pounding action that amazed to the last insane reversal.
61. Jay & Mark Briscoe Vs. Kevin Steen & El Generico (August 24) ? Steel Cage Match from ROH: Caged Rage
The brawl outside the cage to open the match captured the creativity and intensity of their Death Before Dishonor Street Fight before bringing it into the steel confines and slowing things down a bit. This feud needed to slow down, so that was fine, especially since the new pacing made the repeated teases of the finish all the more meaningful. The only real weak point is that they had a habit of pairing off and ignoring what the other two were doing, when in a real fight you?d expect them to watch each other?s backs more. While ROH is inconsistent with cage matches having or not having escape rules, not having the escape rule this time definitely helped as they played with keeping one guy out of the cage effectively at least twice.
60. Yuji Nagata Vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (October ? NJPW: Explosion 2007
Not quite up to the standard of their April title match, but this was still one of the better Japanese big spectacle matches of the year. Nagata worked more offense and dominance than the G1 Climax bout, with the wildly entertaining (and often, downright sick) suplexes and reliable arm-work you expect from a good Nagata match. People complain that Tanahashi ?forgot? to sell his shoulder, but that Superman attitude was absolutely necessary here. The story of the match was all about the birth of a new top star. Some may consider all the Frogsplashes at the end to be overkill, but the final sequence was poetry in physicality.
59. Ken the Box Vs. Mecha Mummy (February 1 - Chikara Pro: Trios Tournament 2007
Ken the Box is a tree. Don?t let anyone tell you different. His best friend is a bird, who lives on his shoulder. He has a unique disability for a pro-wrestling ? he cannot climb in the ring. Mecha Mummy is a diabolical cyborg zombie with a drill for an arm, which he can fire like a projectile. One embodies naturalism, while the other is a perversion of science. They collided in a battle between good and evil, the likes of which mankind has never known. You heard me. Anyone who has ever been a fan of Kaiju Big Battle, Chikara, Power Rangers or rubber-suit anime needs to see this match. It will save your soul.
58. Low Ki Vs. Samoa Joe (April ? PWG: All Star Weekend 5 Night 2 ? Quite possibly their best encounter since Ring of Honor?s first Glory by Honor event, but very different. That was more realistic, ending on a clubbing blow to the back of the head. Here the two men drew on the offense they?d made famous on TNA television, even in Joe?s traditional setup for the Muscle Buster, something you never would have seen then. The roles were also reversed; Low Ki was once the invincible warrior that Joe set out to test, but here Joe was the mountain that Low Ki had to try to move. Very physical but never over the top, with some very impressive feats of athleticism and some of the most satisfying strike battles you?ll find in any 2007 match, this was a worthy cap to PWG?s All Star Weekend. Anybody watching TNA who is interested in PWG should pick up this DVD to see Joe and Ki in a great match that would certainly fit in the X-Division (and would easily be the match of the year for that division in 2007), while also getting a look at all of PWG?s home talent on the undercard.
57. Jay & Mark Briscoe Vs. Claudio Castagnoli & Matt Sydal (June 22) ? 2 out of 3 Falls Match from ROH: United We Stand
While lacking the drama of a match that would actually go to three falls, the two falls of this match were still packed with action and excitement. It was essentially two shorter versions of the Respect is Earned match, which was a very good thing.
56. Bryan Danielson Vs. Austin Aries (October 5) ? ROH: Honor Nation
Since 2004 I?ve said that if I could only watch two wrestlers face each other for the rest of my life, I?d pick Bryan Danielson and Austin Aries. These guys have wrestled so often and created so many great matches. They know each other well enough to experiment with the little things like very few opponents are comfortable doing. For instance, they saw how slow they could go, a welcome change from the failed attempt at a blitz and sprint at ROH: Motor City Madness in 2006. They paced themselves, knowing that this match could go very long and they would need to be as rested and aware as possible to reverse each other?s plethora of dangerous holds and knock-out strikes. Danielson also played with weight and sandbagging, which is a really logical response to Aries? power offense that nobody has used quite this well outside of monster opponents, like Takeshi Morishima. They were never boring and never succumbed to the insipid fake-hatred others use to spark crowd reaction. Instead they told a heck of a story about two guys going through technical wrestling to break each other down to the point where high-octane offense might land. It culminated in an absolutely killer finish, with Aries? flurry of kicks leading perfectly into the visual logic of the rapid knees in his new Horns of Aries submission hold, which is itself the coolest new finisher since Danielson?s markedly similar MMA Elbows.
55. El Generico Vs. CIMA Vs. Roderick Strong (September 2) ? Elimination Threeway from PWG: Battle of Los Angeles 2007 Night 3
I?m not sure why I didn?t hear more about the finals of this tournament, considering all the hype earlier matches received. Maybe people overlooked it as a generic finals bout, but it was far from that ? it was the best finals to a tournament I?ve seen in years. They went for the big offense early and often because it had to end soon. Everything fed into the importance of winning this, of picking up an elimination and the toll of the road to the finals. The repetition of moves in a desperate attempt to win with whatever worked between Strong and CIMA was particularly good, building to an exciting and totally followable finishing stretch. It was simply too fun to be overkill; the guys put such emotion into it that they had the crowd buying a sunset flip as a potential end to the tournament. Until he was put down, Generico was completely on and I was deeply disappointed to see him go, as he was crisper and more sympathetic than ever. But even without PWG?s 2007 MVP, the match roared to the final pinfall attempt.
54. Jay Briscoe, Mark Briscoe & Naomichi Marufuji Vs. Matt Sydal, Ricky Marvin & Atsushi Aoki (July 16) ? ROH: Live in Tokyo
Since mid-2006 Marufuji has greatly improved in exuding character, and in this match he showed a strange mixture of superiority to his partners and enthusiasm to be among them. The simple idea of Naomichi Marufuji wanting to be a Briscoe makes this one of the great experiences of the year, and he should absolutely team with them in future trios matches if ROH starts to run dry on singles matches for him. Mavin and Sydal kept up the action for their part of the bargain, and you can always rely on the Briscoes to deliver.
53. Claudio Castagnoli Vs. Mike Quackenbush Vs. Chris Hero Vs. Nigel McGuinness (June - ROH: A Fight at the Roxbury
A much more dynamic multi-man match than usual, and what more four- and six-ways should aim at. Nigel McGuinness was the one main-eventer who made Hero and Castagnoli more credible by selling for them. Hero and Castagnoli got into conflict, leaving them open to be picked apart by Quackenbush. Well-paced and creative, never disintegrating into mindless spots, this was one of the fresher matches from Hero and McGuinness in a while.
52. MVP Vs. Chris Benoit (May 20) - 2/3 Falls from WWE: Judgment Day
I thought long and hard before including this match. Whether he was severely brain damaged, insane, or just evil, I?m not comfortable celebrating Chris Benoit. However, this match deserves to be included for MVP. If not for the Benoit tragedy, this would be the match that MVP?s fans could look back on in years to come and remember as the night he broke out. Head and shoulders above both the Wrestlemania and Backlash matches, not only was MVP put over by the story, but he showed a great sense of the little things, his execution was tighter, and he showed a there-before unknown versatility in his offense, on top of his usual solid heel character work. This was where his huge push began, allowing his impressive stuff with Ric Flair and Matt Hardy later in the year, and was also when he showed the confidence and ability to deserve his chance.
51. Jun Akiyama & Takeshi Rikio Vs. Takashi Sugiura & Yoshihiro Takayama (April 2 - Pro Wrestling NOAH: Spring Navigation (Tokyo Nippon Budokan)
Newcomers to NOAH probably wouldn?t guess that Sugiura was a junior heavyweight from the way he carried himself and the way his opponents treated him. He fit in perfectly, and it paid off with the biggest win of his career. The match surrounding that momentous finish was one of the best heavyweight tags NOAH has seen in a long time, with Rikio picking up his game and Takayama showing signs of life.
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