WrestleMania Weekend: The Recommended Matches.
In the interest of full disclosure, here is a list of all the shows I saw over WrestleMania weekend:
- GCW Presents Matt Riddle’s Bloodsport
- Beyond Lit Up
- Evolve 102
- Joey Janela’s Spring Break II
- WWN Supershow: Mercury Rising
- Shimmer 100
- NXT Takeover NOLA
- Style Battle
- WrestleCon Supershow
- Evolve 103
- WrestleMania 34
- ROH Supercard of Honor
- Rev Pro
- Monday Night RAW
Also RVR had reports of The Crash and Impact vs. Lucha Underground shows and nothing on either of those shows topped ****. In addition to that I’ve not seen Kaiju Big Battel yet or the Revolver “Pancakes & Piledrivers” show. I’m reliably informed, by people who’ve seen them, that nothing cracks ****. So that just leaves the two Progress NOLA shows and they’ve not dropped as of now. So here is a list of all the recommended matches from NOLA weekend complete with star ratings.
- Matt Riddle vs. Anthony Henry (Style Battle) ****
Style Battle was a surprisingly good little show, taking place at the same time as NXT and ROH so nobody saw it. All the tournament matches were solid but the final match was the best.
- Matt Riddle vs. Zack Sabre Jr (Evolve 102) ****
Is this going to be just a list of Matt Riddle matches? Possibly. Riddle had a great bout with Sabre although it was a touch below expectations. There were those who had this penned as a possible best match of the weekend and it didn’t pan out that way. Still an excellent match playing off two previous bouts.
- Will Ospreay vs. Shane Strickland vs. Sammy Guevara vs. Adam Brooks (WrestleCon Supershow) ****
The WrestleCon Supershow was one of the best of the weekend. This was a feature match for the flips and the craziness. Even an injured Ospreay turned up here and it was Sammy Guevara’s best moment of the weekend.
- Zack Sabre Jr vs. Munenori Sawa (WWN Supershow) ****
It was lovely to have Sawa over for the weekend. Until he reappeared in the woods for DDT wearing a suit Sawa had been AWOL for 7 years. You would never know it from his performances. This wasn’t just Sabre being Sabre as Sawa was good in all his matches this weekend.
- Will Ospreay vs. AR Fox (Evolve 102) ****
This was the first match I saw from Ospreay over the weekend and I was surprised at how mobile he was after the injury in NJPW. I figured he was completely fine and the injury was an exaggeration…only to hear reports that he was really struggling all weekend. It’s testament to Will that I figured he was fine and just selling really well in this match.
- David Starr vs. Mike Quackenbush (Joey Janela’s Spring Break II) ****
The Janela show is mainly about throwing together wacky pairings and doing crazy shit. The one exception to that rule was Starr vs. Quack. Mike has said he’s not got many matches left so Starr politely requested one. Then proceeded to batter Quack’s concussed head to the disgust of Drew Cordero and WALTER who were doing commentary on the show. He was genuinely emotional about winning but oblivious to how he came off in the process. It’s the most David Starr match ever.
- Matt Riddle vs. Daisuke Sekimoto (Evolve 103) ****
Riddle had an incredible weekend. His floor is so high and it’s not just Riddle doing Riddle things (no selling German suplexes, spamming everything) he’s genuinely developed different personas and spent Mania weekend unleashing various versions of Riddle. The one here was the same as against Minoru Suzuki at Bloodsport. Almost overcome by a powerful opponent only to break out the resilience in defence of a championship he spent years chasing.
- Aleister Black vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas (NXT Takeover NOLA) ****
I honestly didn’t enjoy this live, apart from the finish, and had to rewatch it. My hatred of one spot (the tree of woe double stomp) meant I ignored the ten great spots around it. Zelina Vega was terrific in this. Her timing was nearly perfect. El Idolo came across as a true champion and Ally Black did strikes the way he does. It was a very good match but only fourth best on Takeover! What a show that was.
- Will Ospreay vs. Dezmond Xavier (CZW Welcome to the Combat Zone) ****
Ok, this was one of the sneaky good matches from the weekend. Ospreay came in with a bad neck and despite also being a flippy dude Xavier got booed by the crowd, who didn’t seem to see this as a ‘dream match’. So he took it out on Ospreay’s neck, leaving Will to struggle from underneath to overcome his opponent. Ospreay’s selling, combined with Xavier’s aggression made it very memorable. They could have gone the ‘duelling flips’ route and I’m pleased they didn’t. Xavier, along with his tag partner Zachary Wentz, are ones to watch in 2018.
- Shayna Baszler vs. Ember Moon (NXT Takeover NOLA) ****
This was a nice little story with flashbacks to their previous match and Baszler’s dickish attitude since arriving full time in NXT. Plus the selling, counters and big moments in the match all landed. I loved Ember going after Shayna’s arm after all the arm attacks Shayna had done. I also love Shayna doing the Lethal Weapon spot of putting the ‘dislocated’ shoulder back. I also love how she couldn’t use her arm on the finish and had to use one arm to choke Ember out. Great stuff.
- Pierre Carl Ouellet vs. WALTER (Joey Janela’s Spring Break II) ****
This was some people’s match of the weekend and I totally get that. PCO, nearly 50 years old, came out here and turned back the clock. He busted his ass. He got his chest destroyed. He bled. He flew. He fought and he overcame WALTER. For a man of his advancing years (who I grew up watching, nicking Bret’s jacket in the early days of RAW) it was an astonishing performance against one of the bets in the world. It might only rank at #14 on my list but I’ll be remembering it for a long time.
- Ringkampf vs. Daisuke Sekimoto & Munenori Sawa (Evolve 102) ****1/4
At one point this was my favourite match of the weekend. Man, that seems like such a long time ago.
- Daisuke Sekimoto vs. Keith Lee (WWN Supershow) ****1/4
They’ve had this match before, in XWA in London, and it was great then. It was great now. Two big boys doing big boy power offence and throwing each other around. It was a thing of beauty.
- Kota Ibushi vs. Hangman Page (ROH Supercard of Honor) ****1/4
Massive kudos to Hangman Page for coming out on the ROH show and just hanging with Kota Ibushi like he was something he did every weekend. Apparently he’s been getting sneaky good for a year and it just flew under my radar. One of the best performances on the ROH show and gave Kota one of his best moments over the weekend. Although when he was in there with a real megastar in Will Ospreay it was telling how different the reaction was. Welcome to the big leagues Hangman!
- Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka (WrestleMania 34) ****1/4
I’ve heard extensive criticism of the booking here but Vince clearly thinks that Charlotte is the Guy of the women’s division and has built around her since the big NXT call up session with Sasha and Becky Lynch. I was still a little surprised she won but the match was fantastic. Arguably the best technical bout on the Mania card, easily outshining AJ-Nakamura and anything else that was expected to be good. Increasingly women’s wrestling is getting the main roster respect that it had in NXT three years ago. Charlotte is a big part of that and Asuka helped her to one of the best matches of the night and one of the best women’s matches at WrestleMania, ever.
- NXT US Championship Ladder Match Scramble (NXT Takeover NOLA) ****1/4
I didn’t quite like this as much as everyone else and there’s two reasons for that. 1. Adam Cole. 2. The big old spotfest is something I really enjoy but the more pre-planned, furniture moving, the big spots are the less into it I get. I appreciate the efforts of all the guys in this and they did an excellent job of having a mixture of flppy guys, power guys and characters out there. Everyone killed it and Adam Cole won. You can’t have everything.
- Tomohiro Ishii vs. Jeff Cobb (WrestleCon Supershow) ****1/2
The worst part of this is it was a generic paint-by-numbers Ishii match where two guys just beat the shit out of each other. The best part of this is it was a generic paint-by-numbers Ishii match where two guys just beat the shit out of each other.
- Will Ospreay, Chuck Taylor & Rocky Romero vs. Kota Ibushi, Shane Strickland & Flip Gordon (Rev Pro) ****1/2
The interaction between Ospreay and Kota in this match was magical. They’ve met before at Mania weekend but Ospreay is even better now. It showed. Plus they did a grand job of having CHAOS as a unit and running a lot of comedy and disruptions before finally unleashing the Ospreay-Ibushi magic. Flip Gordon was fantastic here. He’s had a big weekend on the sly. It’s telling he didn’t get a good reaction against the Golden Lovers but he’s been grand in everything else.
- Matt Riddle vs. Will Ospreay (WWN Supershow) ****1/2
When I saw this I figured it would be a shoo-in for my top five matches so it’s telling how great Mania weekend was that it just missed out. Riddle and Ospreay were the two best in-ring performers for consistency over the course of Mania weekend. Both delivering in big matches consistently. When they met at the WWN Supershow Riddle played a new character, the champion desperate to remain so by any means. This involved him creaming Ospreay and the spot where Will landed on his neck off the top was absolutely sickening. Then Riddle followed in and targeted the injury. Two guys at the top of their game having a great match. Hopefully it won’t be their last.
- SoCal Uncensored vs. Young Bucks & Flip Gordon (ROH Supercard of Honor) ****1/2
ROH know how to throw out a crazy spotfest. I’ll probably get some flack for putting this above the NXT match but I thought it was better planned and better executed. If it wasn’t for the horrendous Kingdom run-in/booking it might have pushed for match of the weekend like Bucks vs. Hardyz did last year. Matt Jackson killed it with his selling in this match, again. Chris Daniels controlled the pace. Frankie Kazarian turned back the clock. Flip Gordon took one of the craziest bumps I’ve ever seen; back bumping neck first onto the top of the ladder while standing on it. How he walked away after that I don’t know. Everyone was great in this.
- Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle vs. Stephanie McMahon & Triple H (WrestleMania 34) ****1/2
If you told me before the weekend started that a match featuring a woman who’d never had a match before, tagging with a retired guy against a non-wrestler and another retired guy would steal the show at WrestleMania I’d have laughed in your face. Everyone knew AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura was the match to bet on for MOTN right? Wrong. Hell, Kurt Angle was terrible in this and Steph wasn’t much better, although her timing was sublime on occasion. Ronda Rousey absolutely killed it. One of the most outstanding debuts I’ve ever seen. No doubt she’s been rehearsing and training for this match alone for months so it’s hard to say how good she’ll be in regular matches but they did a fantastic job of creating a new star here (albeit one Dana White already created).
- Tomohiro Ishii vs. Zack Sabre Jr (Rev Pro) ****1/2
These two guys have had a couple of bangers for New Japan so it wasn’t a surprise that their match in Rev Pro was great. The surprise was Ishii winning the belt. With Sabre losing the Evolve title the same weekend he looks entirely focused on NJPW going forward. Which is great for him and a huge loss for British wrestling and Evolve. Seeing Ishii stand tall as British Champion reminded me of how thrilled I was when Shibata won the same title. Ishii has been over for Rev Pro more than any other New Japan talent because he’s always great. He always kills it. Now he’ll kill it as champion.
- Rey Fenix & Rey Horus vs. Flamita & Bandido (WrestleCon Supershow) ****3/4
First things first, if you missed the WrestleCon Supershow then get a Highspots subscription and go and watch it. It was tremendous professional wrestling in front of a hot crowd. Secondly this match. This fucking match. Oh my good giddy god. When lucha is good, when it’s executed right, it is the most thrilling fucking wrestling in the world. Incredible action all through this. Rey Fenix is one of my favourite wrestlers anywhere in the world. Every time I see him I’m blown away. I rarely ever approach imports at the merch table but I went to buy his shirt because I felt I owed him money when I saw him wrestle live. No wonder the NOLA crowd were throwing money into the ring after this match. These guys were incredible. Almost, and so very nearly, best match of the weekend. Watch it you won’t be disappointed.
- Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa (NXT Takeover NOLA) ****3/4
I had to go for this as match of the weekend, as I’m sure everyone else has done. Gargano’s journey of revenge against his former best friend has been a story for the ages. Hampered by Ciampa’s injury they’ve worked around it, having Johnny lose focus because of Ciampa’s presence and build to a stunning battle with Gargano’s very NXT career on the line. I’m especially pleased with the finish, echoing their ‘we’re still mates’ sit down during the Cruiserweight Classic. It might have looked weird to some viewers but for people who saw the CWC it made perfect sense. And for Johnny to be prepared for the eventual assault made sense too. The storytelling in the match was as good as the feud’s key beats dating back to the middle of last year. Johnny Gargano might be a Top 5 in the world right now. NXT is brimming with top level talent and he still stands out. Hence him headlining the biggest NXT show of all time. Wonderful stuff.
So that was my weekend. How was yours? RVR are recording a podcast tonight so that’s next. Then I might be taking a little breather. I hope you’ve enjoyed RVR’s WrestleMania coverage. It’s been a pleasure to watch a shit load of wrestling over four days. As you can see, the quality has been quite high.