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The Riren 100 2010 Part 3

Posted in In My Head by Jack at 02:25, Jan 01 2011

By John Wiswell

49. Claudio Castagnoli, ARE$ & Tursas Vs. Mike Quackenbush, Hallowicked & Frightmare (March 21) ? Chikara Pro: Dead Men Don?t Laugh
This BDK trio may be the best bully squad in Chikara history. With Castagnoli?s slick timing and athletic offense (and Tursas?s ridiculous juggernaut act) even their domination periods were varied and entertaining. To their credit, Team Frightning had two great whipping boys. Quackenbush played Senior Whipping Boy, getting more counters and keeping the non-Tursas opponents on their toes, while Frightmare took a hellacious beating and sold it for some of the best sympathy this side of Jigsaw. The beatings on Frightmare seeded his brave comeback and the even more brutal conclusion. At its slowest, Castagnoli covered with character and the good guys worked their frustration, rather than just sitting in holds like most of the good guys in most of the matches that same night. At its best it worked at a solid clip with a variety of styles, from power strikes to Frightmare and Hallowicked?s great tandem offense.

48. KENTA Vs. Atsushi Aoki (August 22) ? Pro Wrestling NOAH: New Navigation in Tokyo
You expected KENTA to kick him around, or perhaps wrestle an even match. Instead, it was barely like a standard KENTA singles, with both being unyielding in early grappling, slapping and striking away at each other with no semblance of when a sprint or purely dominant period would pop up. When it was time for him to bring it, Aoki?s execution was as on as it has ever been, in snapping off a Back Suplex, reeling his neck to deliver wide-wangle headbutts, or simply stomping on KENTA with a furvor he?s almost never showed. You watched KENTA do his corner-to-corner charging boot, then watched Aoki sprint to reciprocate and Aoki looked even faster and more intense. We?ve seen people Hurricanrana out of the Go 2 Sleep, but Aoki?s Jujigatame reversal was even slicker. Not only was it a career-building story, but a career-building performance.

47. Takashi Sugiura & KENTA Vs. Takeshi Morishima & Go Shiozaki (August 4) ? 2/3 Falls Match from Pro Wrestling NOAH: 10 Years After
The two-falls system allowed them to do something a lot of puro matches beg for, getting an actual fall off of the opening blitz. Morishima was the best suited of anyone in NOAH to roll the champion from the bell, and the two sold it like a serious battle for advantage. Afterwards you had Sugiura and KENTA as the super-babyface team having to fight from behind. While they built their story of abusing the champ, KENTA was possibly the best possible partner, serving primarily in a series of hot tags. KENTA loves to tag in and sprint against people, especially heavyweights he can kick, though he took as much as he gave when Morishima caught him during the second fall and later in exchanges with Go. When Sugiura fought back they built quality exchanges against both Go and Moroshima, though the animosity was stronger against Morishima in moments like their tussle on the outside. The second fall was heroic and decisive, setting the stage for Sugiura and Morishima to circle each other one more time at the bell ? the kind of character work that would make a heck of a GHC title defense. Once KENTA had worn him down, it was a sick pleasure to watch Morishima thrown around by Sugiura, including the German Suplex into the turnbuckles. If Morishima isn?t to play the juggernaut, then that curiously vulnerable but resilient bigman is the best role for him, something that worked so well in his ROH run ? capable of turning a second German Suplex into a Senton in mid-air. That third fall wasn?t a classic, but Morishima flying for Sugiura kept things special.

46. Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley Vs. James Storm & Robert Roode (July 11) - TNA: Victory Road
You knew this was going to breakdown like a Tornado Match. The teams earned it, though, with punches on the apron and legal but degrading tandem offense like the snap onto Roode's arm. They were smooth in one-on-one sections, with Roode staying ring aware and the slowest points still keeping essential motion to make this feel like a struggle. When it boiled over into mayhem, the Guns turned motion into momentum for a series of creative counters and offensive flurries worthy of the two teams' previous big tag match (which also made the Riren 100). The Catapult/Chinblower combo by Beer Money and the Skull and Bones by the Guns were both grand false finishes. While you can complain about the sixty-second restart match, it essentially played out the veracity of the Guns' big finisher in minutes instead of months like it would have in the old days. Seeing the Guns finally take gold was a moment all its own.

45. Davey Richards Vs. Tyler Black (August 28) ? ROH: Tag Wars 2010
I like Eddie Edwards a lot, but watching his match with Black at Champions? Challenge back-to-back with this showed why Richards is a more effective wrestler. Especially in the first fifteen minutes, Richards was always aggressive, always seeking for or cinching in holds and strikes to take Black apart. His facial expressions and body language were predatory. When he got a hold like the Trailer Hitch, he looked to lean up or arch his back to add pressure. And when Black caught him with something, he was always stunned, or reeling, or helpless in pain, making every moment when he wasn?t on attack sensible. It?s a basic approach that, when I see it, I can?t imagine why most wrestlers don?t do it. This is how wrestling can work even without dangerous topes and headdrops. Black had to fire up out of his more cowardly character with stuff like the Machinegun Chops setup for his Ong Jack Stomp to hold in there against him. The mid- and late-match portions were marked by all the moves Richards has built as potential finishers. The Kawada and Executioner Kick combo, DR Driver, the Texas Cloverleaf and Ankle Lock have all won him matches. While it would be nice for him to have one world-beating move, his routine hasn?t gotten stale for virtue of burning through so many finishers. Instead he makes them all seem at a certain level, any of them could win a match, but they?re so varied that he can believably remix their applications for drama. The best usages appeared here, like capturing Black?s Pele Kick with another Ankle Lock. Like their Death Before Dishonor 8 match, it took an amazing sustained wave of offense to keep one of them down, but this time it was Richards who managed to unload it, having prepared so many more dangerous weapons than he?d had previously. Their TV match simply couldn?t stand up to this par.

44. Mike Quackenbush, Jigsaw & Hallowicked Vs. Masato Yoshino, Naruki Doi & BxB Hulk (July 25) ? Chikara Pro: Chikarasaurus Rex
Hulk always brings his A-game to America. It can be said for most of the Dragon Gate guys, who always seemed to try harder in PWG than in their own company, but Hulk is even slicker at execution here, and his motivation may be part of why (or come from why) he was made DGUSA?s first champ. Everybody looked forward to Quackenbush and Yoshino having exchanges, but Hulk was just as nimble against the Chikara founder, as well as crisp in derailing Jigsaw with things like his legsweep combo. His normal offense didn?t seem as canned, even though he wasn?t innovating. He plugged himself in like a star. That was excellent alongside Quack, Doi and Yoshino acting like the stars they definitely are, forcing Jigsaw and Hallowicked to step up. Hallowicked seemed particularly excited to trade with the big Dragon Gate guys, bumping around and slamming his offense as smoothly as ever. The match had little tangible slowness; when they paced downward, guys like Quackenbush worked holds or Doi overpowered someone. And when they exploded, it was sprint glory.

43. Shawn Michaels Vs. Rey Mysterio (aired January 29) ? WWE: Smackdown
Maybe the only time Mysterio has played the heelish aggressor in his entire U.S. career. He wasn?t a heel ? he was the antagonist, though. He picked at Michaels and got some legit heat on him, which might have been impossible for Mysterio against anyone but Michaels. Mysterio is so small, so explosive and fun to watch, that he simply can?t be a bad guy. Michaels was just close enough in size and good enough at performing to get sympathy, in what was still an even contest. Brilliant match, outstripping their encounter at the Eddie Guerrero Tribute Raw. The ending might have been even better than the amazing Benjamin Superkick finish. It was certainly as sharp, and one of the best endings from WWE all year.

42. Davey Richards Vs. Masaaki Mochizuki (taped January 23) ? Dragon Gate USA: Fearless
If you like kicks, this is the match for you. They wanted to build a match with big potential submission holds, primarily leg holds like the Ankle Lock from Mochizuki, and primarily arm holds like the Kimura from Richards. Being a prime match, they didn?t go straight to it but had to fill time and mount intensity. So they kicked the crap out of each other. The sheer brutality of the kicks was mesmerizing, and upon secondary viewing it?s particularly interesting how they made certainly blow (Roundhouses and kicks to the head) different from ones meant to weaken (wild kicks and those aimed at the chest). Mochizuki and Richards have a lot of experience in timing, and paced out the strike battle well, while seeding a vulnerability in one of Richards?s legs and in one of Mochizuki?s arms. That allowed them to switch back into submission-mode whenever there was an opening. Richards was particularly smart in how he went for the Kimura, out of kickouts and even when Mochizuki bridged imperfectly after a German Suplex. They played off the ludicrous toughness Richards established in earlier DGUSA matches with Shingo Takagi and YAMATO, with the debuting Mochizuki getting established as a threat by standing up to him.

41. Takashi Sugiura Vs. Takeshi Morishima (December 5) ? Pro Wrestling NOAH: Joe Higuchi Memorial Show
One of my favorite match-openings of the year, Morishima shrugging off the champ?s shot, Lariating him for a two-count and scaring him so badly with a tease of his finisher that Sugiura bailed from the ring entirely. Morishima returned from injury in the best shape since his NO FEAR days, but with all of the explosiveness that marked his best performances from 2008-on. Clubbing at Sugiura?s head, pulling knock-out Lariats from nowhere, and his willingness to both take big spills and big dives would have made this dramatic against a blow-up doll. With Sugiura?s guts, surviving the onslaught and his own botched Hurricanranas to try and suplex the giant into submission, you had something that harkened back to their great 2008 match. Sugiura cribbed the best bits of his title reign, like the hammering shots in the corner he used on Go, and the Takayama-like Kneestrike blitzes. I?ve read criticism weighing the botches against the match. However, these particular ones helped it. Sugiura was a stocky, exhausted guy trying athletic Hurricanranas against an opponent almost twice his mass. The two spills on his head were hideous, but wound up underscoring his outrageous toughness. Whenever Morishima proved to be equally tough, like standing straight up after the first Olympic Slam, it felt like a clash of the titans.

40. John Morrison Vs. Sheamus (December 19) ? Ladder Match from WWE: TLC
I?ve never seen a Ladder Match quite like this. Sheamus focused on the leg, using hardcore offense to hinder Morrison, and it had longterm consequences. People have seeded injuries into the stories of Ladder Matches before, but that was the story here. Morrison took some of the scariest leg attacks, especially when Sheamus would drive his knee into the mat with the ladder on top of it. He couldn?t submit and was in no danger of being pinned, so all this normally match-ending violence continuing made sense: Sheamus was doing it to stop Morrison from pursuing him. Then Morrison kept coming back with novel attacks, like using full-body torque to kick or just grabbing Sheamus?s ankles on the ladder. Obviously Morrison took most of the risks, to his legs and to his back in several of the other big spills, and he sold it all, limping on offense and generally showing huge struggle in every camera shot on his face. Sheamus took one huge fall, one that I and everybody I watched with expected Morrison to take, and to his credit he didn?t even have the tape showing him where the ladder would break like Edge did years back for the precursor to this spot. It could have ended right then, and continuing to go gave the match that last level of drama. You had to worry for Morrison against what Jerry Lawler appropriately screamed was ?the Terminator.? Sheamus coming back after all over Morrison?s comebacks and eventually successful offense made him seem tougher than anything he?d done against legit main-eventers. The match made them both into top-shelf guys. Whether or not WWE uses them like that, we?ll have to wait to 2011 to see.

39. Shingo Takagi Vs. Dragon Kid (aired November 12) ? Dragon Gate USA: Untouchable 2010
Shingo is not actually that large. He?s under six feet tall. But in the land of Dragon Gate, he is arguably the best power wrestler in the world. Here he got to play the immovable object even more than usual, shrugging off Dragon Kid?s strikes with a smile and sending the smaller man flying. He put on some of the most impressive offense of his career, like the Spinning Cobra Clutch and countering the 619 with the slam on the apron. In the grounded segments Shingo drilled his best-looking strikes, including some brutal knees that were paced just enough to remain interesting while still making Dragon Kid?s speed (when he broke out) impressive. Of course Dragon Kid was at his sharpest too, getting height on nearly ever move and throwing in counters at his most desperately. For a title contender, he looked vulnerable, in need of a miracle against this brickhouse of a bully, folding up like an achordian for a Lariat. So you got Shingo shrugging off a Chinbreaker and going straight into the Full Nelson Slam, able to convince that he was that tough with a simple roar. Both of them took picture-perfect falls for nearly everything, making crisp delivery look even better. They were so innovative while being so into the characters of the simple dynamic that it became infinitely watchable.

38. Chris Jericho Vs. Edge (April 25) ? Cage Match from WWE: Extreme Rules
There was a moment near the end when Edge was taunting Jericho, allowing him to approach the door. Edge then cut him off and began punching at the man?s face. Jericho couldn?t move enough to avoid the punches. He could move just enough, though, to stick his leg out the cage door. In some part of his mannerisms, you could see the plan to somehow escape out the door once he interrupted Edge. Edge saw it and slammed the door on Jericho?s ankle. It was the same body part Jericho attacked on Edge week after week, but even if it wasn?t, this would have been a great moment. It showed so much character in a way that wasn?t forced. I?d be tempted to put this match for that alone. Lucky for me, the whole thing was a fantastic blow-off.

37. Masato Yoshino & Naruki Doi Vs. Genki Horiguchi & Ryo Saito (taped August 24) ? Dragon Gate Infinity 188
Doi somehow managed to both wrestle in and bask in this match. Watch it and you know that?s a feat, as the other three men get obliterated. But Doi finds the time to pace for a few seconds and grin at the amazing stuff that is colliding all around him. It was not the match Speed Muscle expected. Horiguchi & Saito were the B-Team for Warriors, and while they worked exceptionally hard in the second half of 2010, they weren?t on the level of CIMA & Gamma or Speed Muscle. And then, they were. Even if you doubted them before the finals of the Summer Tag League, watching Horiguchi go step-for-step with Yoshino was breathtaking, and Saito nearly getting the better of Doi in strike exchanges was mindboggling. This was at that stage where Speed Muscle was good, but drifting apart, appearing more like Speed & Muscle, wrestling two halves of a match, while Horiguchi & Saito generally backed each other up or bailed each other out. So Saito baited the opponents so Horiguchi could make a dive, or more helpful to their establishment as a top team, Speed Muscle would have to blitz both of them even when they just wanted to focus on one. The brightest moment was Doi stealing Horiguchi?s Backslide from Hell.

36. CIMA, Gamma & Genki Horiguchi Vs. Naruki Doi, PAC & Naoki Tanisaki (taped July 20) ? aired on Dragon Gate Infinity 180
Tanisaki looked more like he belonged in a big match than ever before in his career, cutting people off with heavy knee strikes and spinning out of pin attempts. Any silliness of ?tights on the head? trick was overcome by his final stretch against Horiguchi, equally earning the cheap move and getting things so hot that it didn?t matter. CIMA and Doi didn?t slow down at all, keeping a high standard and letting the younger lion earn his spot. Tanisaki?s best opponent on the night was Horiguchi, in the middle of his babyface renaissance, for several noteworthy exchanges including all the pin attempts that led to the close. Everyone kept their participation smart, getting out of the ring long enough to keep their wind, and using big spots as general breathers, like Gamma?s big cane shot to one poor soul?s crotch.

35. Tyler Black Vs. Chris Hero (April 24) ? ROH: Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies 2
After all the complaining about Tyler Black as champion, this was the sort of defense that would make critics sad to hear he signed with WWE. Hero stepped up as a challenger with a rare combined strength, weight and height advantage, at points even rivaling Black on agility. One of the best moments saw Black fumble an attempted Powerbomb on the guardrails ? or did he? For seconds later Hero reversed and they entered an intricate sequence of two failed Moonsault attempts. Was it planned or improvised? Either would fly in the face of Black?s haters. They had several ingenious sequences, like the Buckle Bomb/Back Suplex/Rolling Elbow/Superkick combination that easily could have ended things and warranted a re-match. Where many fans likely expected to watch Hero bounce Black?s head around the ring as he did to Lynn in 2009, instead they built a very even story toughness and agility, both men trying out both traits. Hero mouthing off at the champion, both about his credentials and supposedly better men, got into Black?s head enough to add a great personal touch, and Black screaming back at him before the dive made it one of the best moments of the bout. Similarly Black gave Hero not so much dominance, but sympathy in struggling and shrinking in things like the Cradle Cravate, which his seldom looked so painful.

34. YAMATO Vs. Masaaki Mochizuki (taped May 13) ? Dragon Gate Infinity 177
Mochizuki can lag in some big matches, but he came swinging from the bell, going after YAMATO?s arm with serious holds. When that technical approach devolved into the two trying to gut out Leg Scissors and Ankle Locks, YAMATO rose right up to Mochizuki?s level. YAMATO has his own levels, though, and showed great character in moments like the attempted Figure Four count-out and their later strike battles. He has ability, but is also a jackass. That persona lets him hide match plotting, so you don?t expect how he struggled for a perfect Galleria, or how well Mochizuki kicking out of one will go over. They culminated in blows to the head and big head drops, the emphasis to the area making attempted Sleepers by both men seem more plausible closes.

33. Kensuke Sasaki Vs. Go Shiozaki (July 27) ? Pro Wrestling NOAH: New Navigation in Osaka
This had the sense of struggle Go/Tanahashi lacked. With Sasaki roaring and wrestling to part Go?s hands from a simple Chinlock, you had the brute meeting his next generation foil. In addition to strength and striking ability, though, Go brought his thinking game again, something missing from several of his 2010 singles matches. You could tell he was planning in the first half when he sampled Tanahashi?s Frog Splash onto the leg (something Tanahashi had used to soften him up earlier that month) and eyeing Sasaki for errant chops to catch and counter. Eventually his ability to out-think or rise up to Sasaki?s physical challenges got to the veteran, and Sasaki tossed him in the corner for the first of the Kobashi-style Machine Gun Chops. While not terribly cerebral, Sasaki?s responses like hammering on the back of Go?s head on the mat, or Lariating his arm nearly out of the socket, or his stalwart position in the late-match chop battles were some of the fiercest all year. The two were so uncooperative that when they botched the top turnbuckle move, it didn?t hurt the match ? it fit in. When Sasaki finally felled him with three Lariats and the Northern Lights Bomb, you?d seen Go?s most sympathetic and hard-fought singles effort since his career-maker against Kobashi years ago. Complaints against the match for being too much like the 2005 Kobashi/Sasaki missed the key points ? both the point of the first half of the match, and how much Go was proving while his mentor looked on from the commentary table.

32. Undertaker Vs. Chris Jericho Vs. John Morrison Vs. Ron Killings Vs. CM Punk Vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. (February 21) ? Elimination Chamber Match from WWE: Elimination Chamber
It seems like every year there?s a certain Elimination Chamber match. It happens so early in the year that nobody remembers it (guaranteed to continue now that there?s an actual PPV dedicated to them that time of year). Yet when you see the line-up, you concede that yes, it was probably great. Look at this one: Jericho, Punk, Mysterio and Morrison in a cage with plenty of things to jump off of? They saved Undertaker for most of the match, letting healthier guys structure the story. Punk was golden in the opening segment, eliminating a guy and lecturing the crowd. Jericho playing predatory opportunist always works in these scenarios, and Morrison got a pleasantly surprising amount of offense until he was destroyed in the very end. The Michaels run-in was expected and a little pat (shouldn?t those floor sections be secured?), but everything clicked together for this year?s best WWE cage outing.

31. Davey Richards Vs. Kota Ibushi (January 16) - Evolve 1
Their 2007 match in ROH was sterile. They were crisp and choreographed to the point of losing the spirit of a fight, even in a sprint fight. It was nonetheless very fun to watch the guys bust through so much offense with flawless execution, but now in 2010 they were able to bring that same flawlessness to a match with a sense of gravity. You would not have seen this ending in the 2007 ROH match ? Richards unable to get the submission, rolling out of the Kimura to hammer on the back of Ibushi?s head until there was no fight left in him. In a way it was ugly, but it was also genuine in a necessary way. It looked all the more impressive because both men are so fluid that they rolled into and out of the hammer blows in a way that looked too slick to escape, making flawless execution enhance their moments. The aesthetic excellence of Ibushi?s opening match Springboard Dropkick and Richards?s big kicks wound up feeding into a structure: Richards dominating the thinner man until Ibushi would psych up for his usually (and best) role as the resilient underdog, established by high-caliber offense appearing early on to give the match more atmosphere while tiring both men out enough for them to wrestle evenly towards the end. The only complaint I can lodge is that neither man wound up coming back to Evolve after doing the company the discourtesy of laying out its best match.

30. CIMA Vs. YAMATO (aired January 20) ? Dragon Gate Infinity 163
I watched this with my college friend Randall Nichols (http://themojowire.blogspot.com ), and we both complained that we were pretty much done with crowd brawling. Dragon Gate crowd brawling is particularly uninspired, going to places and doing things just to pad out the length of the match. Yet the crowd brawling wasn?t too long and couldn?t take away from the growing intensity of the match. They had sharp exchanges early on, slowing down as YAMATO tried to put CIMA to sleep, the tactic that got him a big upset victory in 2008. CIMA had several cool counters prepared that knocked the wind out of the younger wrestler, but still had to psych himself up to get into any significant exchanges (or luck into them, like the Galleria reversal). YAMATO preparing the Guillotine Choke counters to how CIMA lifts people for the Schwein was inspired, and his general dozen ways to get into a choke or sleeper worked superbly for flowing around CIMA?s power offense. With YAMATO outlasting or evading so much of CIMA?s big offense, they set him up as a great challenger for Doi, and ultimately outperformed the eventual title match.

29. Yuji Nagata & Koji Kanemoto Vs. Go Shiozaki & Atsushi Aoki (November 10) ? NJPW: Destruction 2010
When Kanemoto opened by slapping and abusing Aoki, with Aoki only teasing blocking some of his holds and standing up for himself, they set a certain bar for how this match was going to go. A puro fan should logically have expected it to build and explode late, like the KENTA/Kawada tag last year. But then they tagged in Nagata and Go. Nagata came in full of vigor, glowering at the NOAH contingent and wailing on either man who was foolish to come at him. He was the captain of New Japan again, not even seeming to enjoy laying into Go. It was simply his duty to kick him in half. Aoki had to jump on Nagata?s back, and as angry as Kanemoto was at being disrespected, he similarly could only hinder Go. Go and Nagata were there for a war, not a battle. NOAH teams have fought outsiders (or like this, have played outsiders) in matches in which one of them has magic against one opponent. What brought this up was Aoki and Kanemoto being so competent, still aggressive and trying to throw each other down ? only getting overshadowed by the big gun in Go and the legendary gun in Nagata. It was Kanemoto who got to grin and bask in the abuse when his team was winning, but his cockiness wasn?t allowed to go unchecked like it did when he and Tiger Mask 4 won the tag titles. Trying to kick and slap Go out of a submission hold only invited a beating. In this way, Go seemed more like a main event ace for his company than he has in most of his big singles matches there or abroad.

28. CIMA, Gamma & Dragon Kid Vs. Naruki Doi, Masato Yoshino & BxB Hulk (taped March 27) ? Dragon Gate USA: Mercury Rising
Perhaps there?s something wrong with me, but I have never enjoyed the American Dragon Gate trios tags as much as the general wrestling public. Maybe it?s that I watch regular Dragon Gate and get to see them do this stuff more often, including those rare times when it?s vastly superior. This year the trios tag on Infinity 167 was certainly smoother and higher in energy than its American counterpart. At the same time, they seem to try their hardest in America, as though there?s more to prove here. Gamma had the most to prove and played to the rowdier American crowd like a Dudley Boy; his big cane shot drove them wild. Doi & Yoshino complimented each other in classic fashion, at some points following up each other?s offense in ways we don?t see regularly in Dragon Gate anymore, like Yoshino flying in with a twisting cover after the Bakutare Sliding Kick. Hulk shone as a victim, not merely a whipping boy but getting setup for cut-offs and the sickest offense of the match (like a pair of Reverse Hurricanranas). While it is not necessarily the best trios tag of the year, it?s well worth going out of your way to see.

27. Davey Richards Vs. Roderick Strong (April 10) ? PWG: Titannica
One of the most aggressive matches of the year. It wasn?t pure Strong Style, Kings Road or whatever ? it was simply as aggressive an approach as the two guys could take. Strong would shove Richards as though to setup a pop-up or Back Body Drop, and Richards would rebound immediately grabbing a Guillotine. Strong would kick to the outside, Richards would catch it and spin him, Strong would resist and Richards would desperately drag him into a raw-looking DDT on the floor. Plenty of indy matches feature great counters, but these were all done in a brute minimalism, neither man wanting to give anything to his opponent. In that vein they were also highly prone to going from strikes into strong grounded holds (including the actual Strong Hold), forcing the other man to climb to the ropes and over. The Headscissors, Boston Crabs and Texas Cloverleaves were about exhausting someone more than making him tap out. That naturally was shrugged off in the adrenaline of the final minutes, though they kept reminding us of the toll by nearly passing out after pin attempts. That made the finishing stretch slower than usual for a Strong match, but with all the resistance and battering, it made more sense than nearly any slower paced ending he?s had, and they earned so much crowd excitement that it worked as well as most of his rapid-nearfall sequences. Had this aired at Final Battle, you?d have even more people heralding Strong Vs. Richards as Match of the Year. But this, on a smaller stage, exceeded it with flawless execution.

26. Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi Vs. Dick Togo & Gedo (April 20) ? NJPW: New Japan Brave
It was a little slower than it might have been in DDT, but better for it. They soaked in the bigger NJPW audience, allowing them to stay with the pace throughout the beginning while still studding the action with eye-popping offense like the Double Moonsaults or Tandem Arm Flip. It was even slower when Togo and Gedo led things, but they used smart tactics, their despicable charisma, and weren?t purely boring, throwing in abusing exchanges like the Basement Superkick or Togo?s taunting slap battle. Throughout the abuse period, scrawny Ibushi was thrashed by the veteran bullies, a role he?s much better at than playing the tough top dog on the indies. They still pulled their best shtick from the indies, like Omega?s beautiful Tope, but Togo and Gedo set it up by beating on Ibushi on the outside, giving them a much better reason for being in place when Omega fell than you?d usually see. When it was their turn, Togo and Gedo ate offense and took everything, even Omega?s preposterous Double-Victim Hurricanrana and Hadoken, as well as any team in the world has ever done. They complimented each other from setups to timing and execution beautifully.

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