TOP FIVE LIST: The Top Five Matches in January 2017 including Omega vs. Okada, Styles vs. Cena, Dunne vs. Bate, more

By Joey Galizia, PWTorch Specialist

Shinsuke Nakamura (art credit Travis Beaven © PWTorch)

SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

It’s only January and we already have 2 MOTY (one perhaps of the decade) contenders. Here are JG’s top 5 Matches of the Month.

Seth Rollins vs. Sami Zayn – Raw – Jan. 23, 2017

The path towards Wrestlemania may have come to an unfortunate halt for The Architect. After recovering from a vicious knee injury that made him miss the “Show-of-Shows” last year, Seth’s recent reinjuring of said knee (FINGERS CROSSED) could keep him on the bench again for Orlando. The worst part is that it throws a wrench into one of the longest and most popular storylines the WWE have been working on between Triple H and his first protégé NXT champion. WITH ALL THAT SAID:

Let’s flash back almost two weeks ago to Monday Night Raw in Cleveland Ohio. Sami Zayn and Seth Rollins faced-off against each other for Seth’s spot to enter the Royal Rumble and fight for a chance to headline Wrestlemania. While this formula has been done before, never has a “throwaway” match seemed so important and by GOD did these two work as if that final spot meant they could be champion. While these guys have always been praised as two of the best workers on the current roster their chemistry together calls for them to eventually have a show-down on a much bigger stage. Until then, we can go back and watch the highlights of this one which include some of the crispest chemistry and LOUDEST superkicks you’ll ever witness.

Roode vs. Nakamura – NXT Takeover San Antonio

The phrase “This Takeover Card isn’t as exciting” needs to be exited from your vocabulary. These events have consistently delivered on all aspects: match quality, storytelling, smart-booking, and production value.

The main event for the NXT Title between Shinsuke and Bobby is a prime example. The hype for this particular bout was much smaller in comparison to previous Takeovers and while the two ooze of charisma this didn’t seem like a blood feud that’s been the motto of NXT.

And it didn’t need to be. This was as simple as it gets. A #1 contender facing off against the current champion in order to become the new face of the promotion. Entrances alone put this one over the top, with Roode shooting an exclamation point on his playboy attitude and Nakamura gliding in like a goddamn Dragon Ball Z character. In terms of ring-work, the meshing of Nak’s strong-style and Roode’s wear down psychology complimented each other fantastically. Bobby avoiding all of Shinsuke’s major spots gave it that “well scouted” sporting feel and details like that make these fights stronger in both story and action.

The ending was a work of genius. Nakamura hits Roode with a Kinshasa to the outside but severely damages his leg in the process. A long-stoppage of time occurred which normally riles up fans, but in this case it was used to put-over how bad Shinsuke’s leg was. When Shinsuke manned up and re-entered the match, Bobby (LIKE THE MASTERMIND HE IS) immediately took advantage, hitting his inverted-ddt for the closest near-fall of the night before finally scoring the major upset and claiming his spot at the top. GLORIOUS.

Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne – UK Tournament Day 2

The Cruiserweight Classic was a work of beauty from WWE, but if there is one thing it lacked it was angles. While it was exciting to watch the work-load of guys like Kota Ibushi and Zack Sabre Jr. the tournament was much more athletic based then it was story-based. The UK tournament on the other hand was the exact opposite.

After the first day of matches William Regal (He’s a Lord to some of you) brought out the remaining 8 superstars to hype the fights for day 2. Pete Dunne, aka the Bruiserweight, aka I need a dentist, took that opportunity to attack his opponent Sam Gradwell and make the statement “I’ll do whatever it takes to win.” It may not have been pretty, but his gameplan did get him to the finals.

Tyler Bate on the other-hand fights with his heart and his spirit, and immediately won over the UK crowd with his stiff Euro-Style and loving smile. After defeating Wolfgang in the semi-finals (How f#$king cool was Wolfgang) he played to the crowd when he was blind-sided by you guessed it…Pete Dunne. Bate would have some time to recover, but the message was sent.

When the match finally occurred, the buzz was vibrating. In two short segments Dunne vs. Bate was as strong a rivalry as Michigan vs. Ohio State, and the England fans (as well as the entirety of the WWE Universe) were anxious to see these two have it out. The match itself was as hard-hitting and well paced as anything you’ll see all year. Both Pete and Tyler have incredibly diverse and expansive move-sets, and seeing them bust out all of that plus more really cemented these two as future stars and it was capped off by Bate (who is 19 BEE TEE DUBS) overcoming that devious heel Dunne and capturing the first ever United Kingdom Championsip. Whether the UK television program works out or not, this tournament should certainly be considered a success.

John Cena vs. A.J. Styles – Jan. 29 – Royal Rumble

There will never be enough positive things to say about John Cena vs. AJ Styles. Anytime one of them steps into a ring the crowd around them is electric, but when it’s both of them together? INSANITY. (Not the stable…stay with me) The question was could they possibly top their previous performance at Summerslam? To quote my good compadre Luke Harper: “YEAH YEAH YEAH.”

Big-move big-move nearfall nearfall. That is the quickest way to describe to an important John Cena match, but it wouldn’t do it the service it deserves. While the story of this feud hasn’t really changed the relevance of its meaning has. AJ Styles is champion now, and Cena has waited a long time to make history.

What the fans in the Alamo-Dome witnessed was the most fluid exchanges these two have had up-to-date and the uniqueness of some of the transitions into big-moves was so original that at no point were the fans able to predict what would happen next, because that happens. The smarter fans have watched enough of the product to predetermine how certain things could go, so when a calf-crusher is reversed into a figure-four we lose our minds because “HOW DID THEY THINK OF THAT?” It should be noted that the best aspect of this match is that the crowd was involved and attentive from the very beginning, and no dangerous or unnecessary spots were needed to win them over because star-power was enough. Cena hitting an AA and then immediately rolling into another one will be a moment of in-ring action that should never be forgotten.

Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega – Jan. 4 – WrestleKingdom 11

Just thinking about this match makes the hairs on my belly stick up. If you still haven’t watched even a portion of it you are truly doing yourself a disservice. I was certain that nothing would top Okada and Tanahashi’s EPIC encounter at last years WrestleKingdom but this match took that match out behind a barn and put it out of its misery. (THAT’S MURDER IF YOU’RE SCORING AT HOME)

Let’s get right to it. Whether you agree with the star-rating or not this match is one of the greatest of all time. I’m sorry, but I’m NOT sorry. What a statement it would be for the Bullet Club if their fearless leader Kenny Omega could walk out of the biggest NJP show of the year with the IWGP Heavyweight Title, and dethrone the Rainmaker at his home field. HE SURE AS HELL TRIED. Here are just some of the spots that this match had:

Spring-Board Moonsault over the barricade from the top rope, back body drop from the ring through a table, German Suplex from the top-turnbuckle…and those were just SOME of the spots HOW ARE THESE GUYS STILL ALIVE? The answer is that they probably won’t be for very long. This bout had everything the Cena and Styles bout had but with the addition of those OMG moments and it is in those moments that this match gets elevated to GOAT status.

There was also the classic psychology game going on. During the beginning there was a long slow build of Omega slowly working over the neck of Kazuchika to set him up for the One-Winged Angel. When the match reached its crescendo in the final 8 minutes we saw Okada counter Omega’s deadly finisher multiple times, each time getting a louder reaction from the crowd. Never…ever…have I seen a crowd pop for a move that DID NOT happen. That is having a crowd in your hand. Add that to the stiffness in strikes, the unpredictability, and Okada overcoming the well-favored Kenny Omega and you have yourselves the best match of the month of January, and possibly of all time.

So there you have it. The top 5 for this month. Do you agree or disagree? Comment below on our desktop site and mobile users can sound off @RamJam89 and @pwtorch.

3 Comments on TOP FIVE LIST: The Top Five Matches in January 2017 including Omega vs. Okada, Styles vs. Cena, Dunne vs. Bate, more

  1. I know I’m in the minority, but I was not a big fan of Cena-Styles. I’m not writing this to be a malcontent, but rather because I’m genuinely curious in how you saw things. First I’ll explain what I saw. I liked the beginning of the match. However, because I expected them to execute more than four finishers, I didn’t buy into any of the nearfalls. So the match had almost no suspense for me.

    But the biggest problem I had with it was that I didn’t think the storyline was good. Previously we saw Cena leave his armband in the ring, which seemed to hint at some type of story of Cena pondering retirement or doubting himself. But that was followed up with him saying that he’s still the man and telling Styles that he let him be champ. So the story of this feud became “I could’ve beat you whenever I wanted, I just chose not to beat you before”?

    Not only does this make Cena sound super cocky (what an awesome babyface trait), but it frankly sounds stupid. If Cena could hold the title whenever he wants, why wasn’t he holding it sooner? He didn’t care about it a two months ago? Three months ago? Cena said that Styles is below him and basically that he didn’t care about the title until now. And I’m supposed to be interested in him competing to win it?

    So what I’m curious about is how did you see it? Were you surprised they kicked out of multiple finishers or did you not care that you knew what was going to happen? And did you see the story differently than I did?

    • Hey Jared!

      I can totally understand why this match was not your cup of tea (or coffee depending on what you drink). In fact you make a lot of interesting points that I generally agree with.

      To answer your question I think this feud was rushed. Cena has obviously been gaining a stronger status as an entity outside of the wrestling business. He’s been starring in movies, appearing on SNL, and hosting a television show and his rise to fame will only continue to make his schedule busier. This is the type of match that 100% should have happened at Wrestlemania. I’ll go as far to say that it should have headlined.

      Unfortunately, that’s not what happened because Cena will be departing yet again to pursue outside projects so this story needed to be fast-tracked. However here is where I disagree.

      Cena’s cockiness is apparent, and you are correct in stating that it is not very “babyface” of him to be doing such things. We are also living in a time where fans (myself included) are cheering the guys that we like (Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe) even though they are clearly the “bad guy” in the storyline. It didn’t really bother me that Cena was leaning on these traits because in terms of his character arc, it’s a fresh take. He’s John f$%king Cena. He can do what he wants.

      While I wasn’t a fan of him making AJ seem like “just another guy” history has shown that Cena usually comes out on top of these types of feuds. It’s comforting to know that AJ pinned him 3 times and even made Cena doubt that he can still keep up, which is something that literally no one has made him do.

      In-terms of in-ring action as I explained in the article, this had all the qualities of a typical WWE match, but specifically a typical John Cena match. Big-move near-fall, big-move near-fall. While I agree that there are times that the pinfall is obviously not going to be the deciding one it’s necessary (in my opinion) for those to happen in order to advance the story of the match along, and while I believe they could have cut about 10 of them (seriously there were almost 25 combined pin-attempts) you cannot deny that the live crowd in the Alamo-Dome was fully invested in every single one.

      Now I say all of these things being a NOT very big John Cena fan. I don’t dislike him, in fact since 2015 he has been a consistent joy to watch, but there are guys/gals I would prefer to watch over him. Again, you are correct in thinking this story seems a little confusing given that Cena and Styles have already faced each other four previous times before the Rumble, but knowing the outside reasons helped me suspend my disbelief. I hope this was helpful. Please continue to comment or ask questions in the future because engaging in these types of conversations is one of the greatest joys of being a wrestling fan.

      Also were there matches that you thought should have been on this list that weren’t? Let me know!

  2. Thanks for the response Joey! I appreciate your perspective. I do have a couple of follow-up points. If John Cena was actually going to portray an “I can do what I want” attitude, then I agree it would be a fresh character. But I don’t sense that’s the case. I don’t expect this to be an evolution, because it didn’t evolve to this place. It’s not like Cena doubted himself and then re-dedicated himself and set out to prove he wasn’t washed up. He said he was never washed up and could’ve beaten him if he wanted to. He didn’t build on the story they seemed to be telling. He undercut it by saying it never happened.

    As far as the actual match, it’s not just the idea of big-move near-fall that I’m not that big a fan of, but rather specifically the use of finishers. I believe they hit a combined four or five finishers. And since I expected that, the first few (including the AA off the ropes) may as well have been a DDT. At least to me. Like you said, the crowd obviously bought into it, but I didn’t think there was even a one percent chance of that being the end. So instead of building anticipation, it basically took it away for me.

    Anyway, thanks again for the response. I agree that these types of discussions are fun. As far as other matches, none come to mind.

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