Welcome to the first CKNF monthly match rundown! Each month, members of the team will provide their favourite matches from around the world, alongside a short explanation.
January was always going to be a good month, with New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom and WWE’s Royal Rumble providing the two pieces of bread that make up the excellent wrestling sandwich. So, let’s get into things!
Tamura Hayato vs Masato Tanaka – ZERO1 1/1
My first time watching ZERO1 did not disappoint – this was an excellent championship match. A simple yet compelling narrative was built from the beginning, with the veteran Tanaka going straight to work on his adversary’s leg with brutal efficiency. Despite holding less experience than many of his peers, Hayato’s selling left little to be desired, putting on an excellent performance built around Tanaka’s consistent attacks on his leg; started by the use of a table in the early stages of the match.
Great pacing, an accessible 21-minute runtime and a great closing sequence. An enjoyable introduction to the work of Hayato for me, accompanied by yet another standout performance from the seemingly ageless Masato Tanaka.
Oni no Kanabo vs Best Friends – SEAdLINNNG 11/1
While the rematch didn’t quite reach the levels of their tag title affair at Shinkiba in November, the two teams put on an enthralling back-and-forth contest that kept me entirely invested from start to finish. Nakajima and Sareee were once again highlights; it’s a real shame that we’re not going to get a singles rematch. Yoshiko and Fujimoto were also good, with the latter providing us with an impressive springboard off the back of the former. A tad contrived for some, I’m sure, but I enjoyed it a lot.
A great 15 minutes (or there abouts) led to a captivating closing sequence, with Arisa Nakajima (somewhat surprisingly, I might add) getting the fall over the WWE-bound Sareee and setting up a rematch for the tag belts.
I don’t think you could ask for more from a modern tag team match. Head drops, stiff strikes, creative spots and a compelling story; this match had it all. Wonderful stuff.
Taiji Ishimori vs Hiromu Takahashi – Wrestle Kingdom 15 Night 1 – a highlight of a rather unappealing Wrestle Kingdom show. Not as good as the other two matches in their trilogy, but a solid title match nonetheless.
Maki Itoh vs Miyu Yamashita – TJPW Tokyo Joshi Pro ‘21 – An enjoyable sprint of a match that saw Itoh attempting to make a statement at the expense of the Stoic, no-nonsense ace Yamashita. The finish caught me off guard somewhat (both in terms of its timing and the nature of it), but this was a highly enjoyable contest that allowed me to fully buy into Maki Itoh as a legitimate wrestler – not just a charismatic character.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Shingo Takagi – New Beginning in Nagoya
I didn’t want to dive into this too much as there are other pieces available on the site that explain everything great about this match.
Tanahashi remains New Japan’s greatest asset, despite his gradual decline, so it was came as no surprise when he put on an instant Match of the Year contender against Takagi. Of course, The Dragon has been one of New Japan’s biggest highlights since making his arrival in 2018, and his run with the NEVER title has raised the profile of the title in a way that very few before him have.
Both guys were at their very best here, providing an excellent contest that built up to a dramatic, emotional final stretch. The result, while somewhat surprising, has brought me right back into NJPW. The prospect of a main event run for Takagi and a long-term run for Tanahashi with the NEVER belt are two mouthwatering prospects on paper – let’s hope that New Japan gets it right.
This is a list of matches that we have enjoyed, and considered the best, to us. There is no match I watched this January that I have liked as much as this one. That is what it ultimately comes down to.
I watched this match live, as part of my first full TJPW show since discovering the promotion. After watching it on January 4th, I watched it a second time three days later. I watched it a third time a week after that. I have watched it a fourth time this week. The rest of my list, I have only watched a second time to confirm there position on my list. I think if a match makes you think about it when it’s not on, and that you want to watch it again, there’s definitely merit to that.
It is a continuation of a story told, that Maki Itoh has been unable to defeat Miyu Yamashita one-on-one, ever since she debuted against her. A match that was more sizzle than steak in 2016, by 2021 has transformed into the company’s most popular personality, giving it literally all that she had to try and beat the company’s ace.
- Shingo Takagi vs Jeff Cobb – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom Night 2
- Hiromu Takahashi vs Taiji Ishimori – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom Night 2
- Jay White vs Kota Ibushi – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom Night 2
- Dax Harwood vs Jungle Boy – AEW Dynamite 27/1/21
Maki Itoh vs Miyu Yamashita – TJPW Tokyo Joshi Pro ’21
For me Miyu Yamashita vs Maki Itoh is my favorite match of the month. Another excellent chapter in the rivalry of these two.
It was Yamashita who was Itoh’s opponent in her first singles match. It was Yamashita who was the champion when she made her first challenge for the Princess of Princess Championship – Itoh lost both times.
These two go out and steal the show, coming away with a true MOTYC. The tone is set straight away when Yamashita goes for a handshake and Itoh slaps her.
They packed a lot of great stuff into this match. Itoh was pretty serious, not pulling her usually comedy schtick and the match was better for it. Itoh was the scrappy underdog refusing to give up; while Yamashita was the Stoic dominating ace. There was a point in the match where Itoh was dominating Yamashita, much to the surprise of both the viewers and Yamashita. The dynamic worked so well. The finish of the match was awesome and fitted the tone of the match completely.
Highly recommended from me.
- Yuji Okabayshi vs Yasufumi Nakanoue – BJW 2/1
- Yusuke Okada vs Yuki Ueno – DDT – 23/1
- ASUKA/Shota vs Keisuke Ishii/Shigehiro Irie – Ganbare 17/1
- Daisuke Harada vs Hajime Ohara – NOAH – 10/1
Kota Ibushi vs Jay White– Wrestle Kingdom 15
Both Jay and Ibushi are amazing performers, so the two of them meeting on the grand stage of the Tokyo Dome was bound to be a classic. They certainly didn’t disappoint, either. Ibushi and Jay put on a 48-minute thriller, the longest match to ever main event Wrestle Kingdom. While longer matches are typically a drag for me to watch, personally, this one felt like it was as long as it needed to be. This is mainly because of the numerous story beats the wrestlers had to hit. As great of a wrestler as Jay White is, his greatest strength in my opinion is undoubtedly his storytelling ability. Of course, it helped Jay tremendously to have a partner as talented as the Golden Star in the ring with him. The match’s storytelling put it over the top for me from a great match to an amazing one.