Every month, our own Dan Niles compiles his personal “20 Best Matches” list from around the world, from North America to Europe to Japan. Some are obvious match ups, some are dark horses, but they’re always fun to find some matches you may have missed the previous month! (DISCLAIMER: This list is subjective and is compiled exclusively by Dan Niles; there will obviously be matches he may have missed that you may feel deserve credit – we encourage you to list some of your favourite matches of the month in the comments section below to help add to the list! In regards to videos, we only show FULL MATCHES that are authorized by the promotions; video highlights are used where possible; we encourage you to seek out these matches through promotions VOD or streaming networks to see the best matches!)
20 Best Matches Of The Month: February 2018
#20. Maxwell Jacob Friedman, Ace Romero and Moose vs. Ohio Is For Killers (Sami Callihan, Dave Crist, Jake Crist), Rockstar Pro Wrestling: Naito Takes Dayton
MJF is the best heel in pro wrestling today and he was paired with Impact Wrestling star Moose and the massive Ace Romero in a team known as Team Tiger Blood. Rockstar Pro Wrestling booked a wild six-man tag team match here with a brawl to start, “Acey Baby” even hit a Cannonball to the floor on OVE. Ace would hit another one into a steel chair later in the match but Calling and company wouldn’t back down. The fast pace ended after ten minutes when MJF went off the shoulders of Ace Romero but Jake Crist caught Friedman in mid-air with a cutter for the three-count.
#19. Drew Gulak vs. Tony Nese, WWE Cruiserweight Championship Tournament, WWE 205 Live
Drew Gulak and Tony Nese were challenged by new 205 Live general manager Drake Maverick to show their real talents in the ring and get off the microphone. It was a breath of fresh air in the tournament to crown a new WWE Cruiserweight champion because Gulak is one of the finest technical wrestlers in the whole world despite how good he may be as the patriarch of the “No Fly Zone.” Both have wrestled before in EVOLVE Wrestling and have a history together so the match was very even and it did a lot to further establish their WWE in-ring careers. Tony Nese was in control until he was sent crashing into the announce table on the floor. Gulak followed up with consecutive deadlift Powerbombs and the Gu-Lock Dragon Sleeper with leg-scissors finished Nese’ title hopes in a nasty way.
#18. Flip Gordon vs. Hiromu Takahashi vs. KUSHIDA, NJPW/ROH Honor Rising Night 1
Flip Gordon has impressed so much in Ring Of Honor Wrestling and several other companies that he has made it to NJPW in only two years in the wrestling business. A three-way is a rare occurrence in Japan but this was a joint show with ROH so they put all three amazing Junior Heavyweights together in one match. KUSHIDA was able to lock the Hoverboard Lock on both men but couldn’t follow through. Flip Gordon hit big moves like the Samoan Pop but Hiromu had the moment of the match when he sent KUSHIDA flying into Gordon in the corner off a belly to belly suplex. Flip Gordon pinned Hiromu Takahashi with a 450 Splash and even commentary was shocked by the victory. Expect Flip to appear in this year’s NJPW Best Of The Super Juniors tournament after this performance.
#17. Broduct (David Starr and Matt Riddle) vs. British Strong Style (Pete Dunne and Trent Seven), PROGRESS Chapter 63: Take Me Underground
Big exchanges in this tag team especially when things broke down by the end but the wildest moment was when Pete Dunne caught Matt Riddle’s kick and bit his bare foot! Matt Riddle and David Starr have become friends since a great match in CZW for the PROGRESS Atlas Championship one year ago and they made for a very formidable team against British Strong Style. Riddle came off the top and hit a knee version of the Doomsday Device. Matt Riddle managed a double German Suplex on Seven and Dunne. Starr was almost pinned after a punt kick/Piledriver combo but Riddle broke it up with a top rope bro-ton! Dunne put the match away with the Bitter End to Starr in a hot, exciting tag team affair.
#16. No Holds Barred (Non-Title) Match: Keith Lee (c) vs. Tracy Williams, EVOLVE 101
Keith Lee has been the WWN Live champion now for several months but “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams and Catch Point manager Stokely Hathaway have been a thorn in Lee’s side since “Limitless” Lee debuted in in EVOLVE Wrestling. In this fourth meeting between the two it was made No Holds Barred Match, so when Tracy Williams used a ladder to apply a Crossface and Lee made it to the ropes it didn’t matter. Lee was able to fight out but he sustained massive damage from the ladder. What’s astounding is how even this match is always so even though Williams isn’t even half the size of Keith Lee. Williams is smart enough to take down Lee and use his smarts like when he threw the ring bell at Lee just to hit a low dropkick to the knee. Tracy Williams took a Pounce into a ladder and Ground Zero finished Williams for good.
#15. British Heavyweight Championship: Zack Sabre Jr. (c) vs. Trent Seven, RevPro Live At Portsmouth
Trent Seven doubled up on his offense to fight the insanely tight grip of Zack Sabre Jr on the British Heavyweight championship but it still wasn’t enough. Sabre was smart enough to roll out of the ring when he took a second Piledriver. These men have met before in a very memorable encounter in Fight Club Pro and they did a similar sequence here. Seven was on his knees challenging Sabre to kick him and Sabre did time after time. Seven kicked out of the soccer kick but he would be trapped in the Octopus Hold with his arms behind his back and it was over for Trent Seven on this night and Sabre retains again.
#14. Sami Callihan vs. Tetsuya Naito, AAW Showdown
Sami Callihan is the biggest brawler in maybe all of wrestling but AAW fans know they are always in for a fight and this time Naito came for a first time match. Naito took an exploder Suplex into a steel chair in a company that has no rules, being “Wrestling Redefined.” Callihan played to his submission strengths and applied the Stretch Muffler, modified crab and an STF. Naito fought out but took a shoulder breaker from a tiger driver position. Callihan made one mistake and went for a reverse DDT but took Destino for the three-count.
#13. Title vs. Title Match: Tessa Blanchard (Sideshow Champion) vs. Brian Cage (Ringmaster Champion), WrestleCircus: The Show Must Go On!
Brian Cage and Tessa Blanchard had maybe the best intergender match I have ever seen with Tessa having many big moments where it looked like she would actually pin the big man with top rope Sentons. Cage would be hit by a Senton on the floor and a pair of Magnum’s (Lungblower off the ropes) and it wouldn’t stop Cage from overpowering the much smaller Blanchard. This match had such ferocity with Tessa giving everything she had and still getting thrown on the apron with an F-5. Blanchard somehow kicked out of a Discus Lariat and used the ropes to counter Weapon X. Brian Cage would finish Tessa with the Drill Claw (Steiner Screwdriver) in a match that would impress anyone, even non-fans of professional wrestling. Tessa could not become “Tessa three belts” but she earned a lot more respect in return.
#12. WWE UK Championship: Pete Dunne (c) vs. Roderick Strong, WWE NXT TV
Roderick Strong has always been one of the biggest work horses in any promotion but now WWE gets new dream matches like this first time match for the WWE United Kingdom championship. Dunne has been on a roll, not being pinned since he captured the WWE UK title and he had to suffer several Backbreakers if he wanted to retain the gold. Dunne even took a Backbreaker on the apron but the ground game kept Roddy preoccupied for much of the match. Strong faced the Bitter End in a great effort, this makes the WWE Network worth your dollar.
#11. Tetsuya Naito vs. YOSHI-HASHI, NJPW New Beginning In Sapporo
Many surely thought Naito would stomp all over his opponent at New Beginning In Osaka but YOSHI-HASHI took out Naito on the ramp instead and hit his own Tranquilo pose! The advantage quickly shifted to Naito when he softened up the neck for Destino but YOSHI-HASHI would return the favor with a neckbreaker on the entrance way. The fire from “The Headhunter” was really on display with palm strikes and a Liger Bomb. Naito even had Destino countered but Naito reversed Karma himself into a German Suplex. A super Hurricanrana, dragon suplex and Destino ended Yoshi-Hashi’s night.
Best Matches of February Top 10
#10. Tetsuya Naito vs. Michael Elgin, Pro Wrestling Revolver: Naito Takes Dayton
“Big Mike” received a very negative reaction but he always has a terrific performance amongst the turmoil, commentary said it best: “As much as they hate Elgin, they are going to be blown away.” Elgin delivered his trademark heavy forearms to start but Naito would be a step ahead of the heavyweight. Elgin almost caught Naito with a super Elgin Bomb but took a hurricanrana instead. These guys were made to wrestle each other and it’s a rematch from one year ago in NJPW for the IWGP Intercontinental championship. Naito would hit the rolling kick only for Elgin to respond with a lariat. Naito hit a tornado DDT on the floor and Destino but a second one was countered into a Powerslam! Naito eventually won with a second Destino.
#9. PROGRESS World Championship: Travis Banks (c) vs. TK Cooper vs. Chris Brookes, PROGRESS Chapter 63: Take Me Underground
You would be hard pressed to find a more crazy three-way dance with every man in this match knowing each other all too well from being tag team partners. Dives to the floor start the match but things started to get very savvy when everyone’s finishing move was stolen by a different opponent. Brookes locked in the Calamari Catch Clutch (Octopus Hold) on both Banks and Cooper at the same time. Banks stomped both from the second rope at the same time. TK Cooper took the “Sick F’N Tag Move” and Brookes got a massive near-fall after the Mantis Bomb (Tiger Driver). Banks took out TK Cooper with Slice Of Heaven and retained the PROGRESS World championship when Brookes was forced to tap out to The Lion’s Clutch Crossface.
#8. The Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi) vs. Cody and Marty Scurll, NJPW/ROH Honor Rising Night 2
Years have gone by since the Golden Lovers have been in action and it became a Bullet Club war as NJPW waited just long enough to bring Omega and Ibushi back together. “The Villain” took the Golden Trigger double knee from Omega and Ibushi in the end but Cody was as good of a heel as any in this match. His ability wasn’t on par with the other three in the ring and he landed hard on the floor from a springboard crossbody attempt. Still, Cody is the perfect foil in this situation in a terrific tag team match.
#7. Zack Sabre Jr vs. Tyler Bate, PROGRESS Chapter 63: Take Me Underground
It doesn’t get much better than this, a couple of the most talented young athletes meeting in a rare one-on-one match in front of a smoking hot crowd. Sabre would lock Bate in a cravate version of the STF to show off his technical acumen. Bate had his arm trapped in a dragon screw leg whip which might be a first. Things got more physical when the chain wrestling got very aggressive with Bates punches to the head. Sabre turned up the heat and applied a standing omoplata but Bate turned that into a Gotch Tombstone Piledriver! Bate would go for the Tyler Driver only to be transitioned into a triangle choke and the double armbar for the submission victory towards “The Technical Wizard.”
#6. Mark Davis vs. Kyle Fletcher, Natural Progression Series Qualifying match, PROGRESS Live At The Dome 4
Fletcher and Davis are a part of the tag team, Aussie Open, but that didn’t stop them from taking each other to the limit in a qualifying match for the Natural Progression Series tournament. The intensity was really brought in the form of chops and Davis using his size advantage. “The Aussie Arrow” is younger and more agile but he didn’t have the endurance of his partner on this night when Davis won with a deadlift Piledriver.
Best Matches of February Top 5
#5. Jay Lethal vs. Jonathan Gresham, ROH Honor Reigns Supreme
You know a match is outstanding when you think this is what classic ROH action was ten years ago. Gresham sold his leg perfectly in this match and reminds you all matches don’t have to be a thousand miles per hour. Lethal had his arm worked over and even had his arm kicked out from under him on a Lethal Injection attempt! Gresham used the LaBelle Lock to no avail and got faked out with a savate kick and the Hail To The King elbow drop followed up with the Figure Four Leglock finished Gresham.
#4. Walter vs. Mark Davis, PROGRESS Chapter 63: Take Me Underground
A match this stiff is hard to come by and won’t be forgotten any time soon, Davis’ chest was bleeding just a couple minutes into the match. Every time Davis tried to fire back he would be thrown to the mat with brutal chops and clubs. A suicide dive from Davis brought the fans even more into the action but Walter hit the hardest powerbomb I’ve ever seen for a near-fall. Davis hits a huge Lariat but Walter put down Mark Davis with a choke. This wasn’t for the Atlas title due to Davis being in the Natural Progression Series but this was on-your-feet brutality.
#3. NXT Championship: Andrade “Cien” Almas (c) vs. Johnny Gargano, WWE NXT TV
Gargano and Almas wrapped up a tremendous rivalry in a fourth match for NXT’s biggest surprise. Another classic transpired and Gargano have everyone believing he would win it all instead of having to pack his bags per the match stipulation. Candice LaRae, Gargano’s girlfriend, chased Almas’ manager Zelina Vega to the back but Almas would beat Gargano for a fourth straight time with a Hammerlock DDT, this time off the top rope for ever bigger impact.
#2. IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. SANADA, NJPW New Beginning In Osaka
SANADA had to prove he was a main event player or at least had that potential and he took Okada to the limit. Okada suffered a Rainmaker from SANADA and was worn down more than most opponents against the champion. Much better than their G1 Climax encounter last year with SANADA coming so close to winning the IWGP heavyweight championship with a Muta Moonsault and the Skull End. Okada wouldn’t let it happen and a Rainmaker ended a thirty minute match of the year Contender.
#1. IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Will Ospreay (c) vs. Hiromu Takahashi, NJPW New Beginning In Osaka
Hiromu Takahashi and Will Ospreay have the ability to do just about anything they want to agility-wise and they can out-perform any Junior Heavyweight competitor so this was a match that even exceeded expectations. Amazing sequence when Hiromu had Ospreay on his shoulders only to take a Canadian Destroyer. This was so high octane but it went for twenty minutes and could be a main event rematch if booked properly. “The Ticking Time Bomb” kicked out of an Essex Destroyer and imploding 450 Splash! The Time Bomb was countered and the Os-Cutter ended a spectacular IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship match. This match will be absolutely making it to the best matches of the year awards.
We’ll see you in mid-April for Dan’s 20 Best Matches of March 2018!