Here’s even more of our favorite matches from 2011. Thanks again to our guest contributors for this report: Brandon Stroud from With Leather, Thomas Holzerman from The Wrestling Blog, Mary from Honour Magazine, Steven from ROH World, and Charles from Puroresu Spirit. Be sure to visit their sites for more on great wrestling.
The response to Part I was overwhelming, please keep sharing the link! Tell all your friends that you are still in love with Pro Wrestling, and these are the reasons why.
JWP: Kaori Yoneyama vs. Hailey Hatred
Pure Slam – August 7th, 2011
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Mary: Best Friend vs Best Friend. Tag Partner vs Tag Partner. Both women know each other inside and out. The back history between the two made you realize what a big match this was. Hatred was turning heads, racking up titles and still wanting more and more competition. I think they really tore down the house. The shots by both women were nasty, and I think Hailey was able to take herself to an even higher level than before. The ending sequence was really great, and I loved how the fans were torn between the competitors. The ovation at the end was stellar.
PWO: Matt Cross vs. Johnny Gargano vs. Josh Prohibition
Wrestlelution 4 – August 7th, 2011
Alex: The major players of PWO’s first few years, and three of my favorite wrestlers, all met in one ring. The three guys just knew each other so well, and perhaps that’s why this match just clicked. I really can’t put words to how incredible this match was. I was in that crowd, and we were enthralled in their every motion from the hot start to to the incredible finish. It was Matt Cross’ way of reminding his home crowd that he’s more than the reality TV guy, and anyone who didn’t know before realized it with the beautiful Shooting Star Press at the end.
NJPW: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Tetsuya Naito
G1 Climax Final – August 14th, 2011
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Pumi: After his momentum got derailed by some stupid Jersey Shore promotion champion at the Dome Show in January, I wanted to see how Naito could bounce back from such a terrible situation. He started the G1 Climax with losses and was stuck at bottom of the table. Then, he did his best to rebound and go through to the Finals, which made me very impressed (similar to Seiya’s trip to the finals of the Champions Carnival). So it was Shinsuke Nakamura, who had yet to win the G1 tournament versus Naito, whom no one expected to make it to the finals! In the end, we not only saw Nakamura win the tournament but we also got Naito as the new beginning and future ace of New Japan!
Hanan: The ‘pro wrestling genius’ finally living up to his name. Bonus: Match ending in tears. Very emotional.
WAVE: Kana vs. Ayumi Kurihara
Like a Virgin 1224 East Japan WAVE 4th Anniversary ~ Sail A Way ~ – August 28th, 2011
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Leslie: Kana and Ayumi Kurihara are two of the most talented, beautiful, popular, well-liked, hard-hitting, aggressive, unhinged, psychotic women in Joshi Puroresu. They’ve been friends and rivals, and in 2011 they reformed their KanaAyu tag team to become the first WAVE Champions. Here, though, they just tried to fucking tear each other apart in the finals of the Catch the WAVE tournament. Like all their bouts, it’s a fantastic display of great wrestling, and untreated psychopathy.
PWWA: Madison Eagles (c) vs. Jessie McKay vs. Nicole Matthews – SHIMMER Title
PWWA – September 3rd, 2011
Martin: It says a lot when I sat down and tried to think of a great three way match of this sort of quality in the last five years, and struggled. Three ways by rule are usually bland and formulaic – it’s a singles match, with one other wrestler having a rest, then taking their turn, then all three converge to do the big stuff. Not this one.
Eagles, McKay and Matthews constantly combined with awesome double teams, including an unlikely McKay/Matthews alliance given their history, and peppered the match with fantastic moves and high intensity. There was barely a moment when any of the competitors took a rest. Eagles eventually proved that she was the fighting champion she claimed she was, whilst McKay and Matthews proved themselves again as major players on the world stage.
Anthony: (From our live report) I started to write notes for this match, and then I intentionally threw down my notepad and just watched, and cheered, and jumped out of my seat. All three women showed up in the best shape of their respective careers and each woman fought with more heart and soul than they may have even realized they possessed. This was, for me, the most intense, hard-fought SHIMMER title match I have ever seen (and I’ve seen my fair share). I’m not even a huge fan of multi-person title matches, especially when they are not under “elimination” rules, but none of that even mattered. It was a full on sprint, from start to finish, and it was phenomenal. All three competitors pulled “S-class” moves out of their arsenals, that they normally do not use, for this bout; I’m talking Spider German suplexes, top rope double stomps, and reverse hurricanranas! I would have been satisfied with any one of them walking away with the title, because they all fought as true champions. In the finale however, and in grand fashion, the dark heroine Madison Eagles retained, and extended her glorious title reign. This match proved that Eagles, Matthews, and McKay are true stars, and could be in the main event of any show, in any country. Legit.
SMASH: Ayumi Kurihara & Ray vs. Syuri & Makoto
SMASH.21 – September 8th, 2011
Leslie: While all eyes were on the 3rd bout between Kana and Serena Deeb (to crown the first ever SMASH champion), it was these four Joshi that stole the show. Well, two really. See, Makoto and Ray were there and they were their usually awesome selves, but they were sort of shoved to the side as Ayumi and Syuri got into increasingly nasty exchanges that could just barely be called professional wrestling.
The back story here was that, on the SMASH show prior, Ayumi came out and declared herself the “Ace” of Joshi Puroresu. She was loudly booed by the pro-Syuri crowd. One can only assume that Syuri was in the back, violently rocking back and forth, bashing her head against the wall, and bawling uncontrollably. Yes, Syuri likes to cry. She also likes to maniacally flip out. She also, really, likes to hurt people. She made Ayumi (and the ref) feel her pain here, and I think Ayumi (whom, we’ve already decided, is completely fucking insane) liked it.
SHIMMER: Sara Del Rey vs. Yumi Ohka
Volume 41 – October 1st, 2011
Sonny: The Queen of Wrestling once again showed her dominance in the sport, defeating Ohka with the Royal Butterfly. Ohka was representing Joshi 4 Hope, and is the ace of Pro Wrestling WAVE, and she brought everything she had to the table for this match. It was back and forth, and Ohka pushed Del Rey to the limit. I am a big fan of Ohka, and it was definitely one of the better matches of her career. She proved that she could hang with someone the caliber of Del Rey, and SDR proved once again that she is the best in the world.
Beyond Wrestling: Johnny Gargano vs. Davey Richards
Back in Flesh – October 2nd, 2011
Amanda: This was one of my favorites for many reasons, not least of all the fact that it was Johnny Gargano and Davey Richards. It was my first live show after a ten-month hiatus and really reminded me why exactly I love wrestling. It was also the first time I’d seen Gargano wrestle in real life, and it absolutely cemented as a huge fan.
Plus, Johnny Gargano and Davey Richards.
SHIMMER: Serena Deeb vs. Portia Perez – No Holds Barred
Volume 43 – October 2nd, 2011
Greg: This match was 10 volumes in the making. Portia had been a thorn in the side of Serena from the day she returned to SHIMMER competition. They faced off numerous times since then, however you never got the feeling that anything was ever settled. At Volume 42, Serena finally had enough, and vowed to end it in a No Holds Barred match on Volume 43.
Following an intense pre-match stare down, and offsetting interference from Nicole Matthews and Davina Rose, it was on. Sitting front row, I saw first hand all of the brutality (and I have the photos to prove it). Trash can lids, directly on the head. Sudden kicks, square on the neck. Chairs, stairs, slaps and chops, and even a table. And don’t forget referee Brian Gorie, who gets an honorable mention for being an equal-opportunity crooked ref* by helping each wrestler set the table up to their specification. And to top it off, a spear off a table to the mat, for the win, once and for all.
*[Editor’s Note: In non-traditional match-ups the referee is allowed, if not encouraged, to assist either competitor in destroying their opponent and/or themselves with inanimate objects when seconds are not available. Also, Brian Gorie is awesome.]
SHIMMER: Britani Knight vs. Saraya Knight – No Disqualification Match
Volume 44 – October 2nd, 2011
Martin: The Knight Dynasty made its way across the pond to the Berwyn Eagles Club in 2011, and terrified nearly everyone in it… well, apart from all the British fans who knew what they were all about. However, it got to the point that Saraya was so scary and evil, even her own daughter was frightened of her. So much so that when the additional pressure of a contract offer from another company was made to her, the weight of the world was suddenly placed on poor Britani, and it began to affect her confidence. The fact that her mother was scolding her for everything she did was not helping. Finally, after a loss on Volume 43 to Jessie McKay, something snapped. Britani would not cower to her mother any longer, and she decided to fight back. The ensuing brawl was the most epic ever seen in SHIMMER history, with many employees still not having recovered from it to this day.
The solution to this issue was to set mother and daughter against each other in a No Disqualification Match, and the results were inspired. Britani suddenly had her swagger back, and had no problem at all beating her mother from pillar to post all over the Eagles Club. Everyone was on their feet throughout the war – even Colt Cabana was glued to the action from what I could see of him on the other side of the building. Britani and Saraya had many battles like this back home in the UK, but nothing quite like this. The intensity was turned up way past 11, and only ended when Britani hit the Knight Light on her mother for the win. A fantastic crazy roller-coaster ride that left both Knights battered and bruised. Talk about domestic violence.
SHIMMER: Madison Eagles (c) vs. Cheerleader Melissa – SHIMMER Title Match
Volume 44 – October 2nd, 2011
Chris: There was an energy with this match that doesn’t happen often. The crowd was an explosive charge just waiting for a three-count, ready to blow during every pinfall. The crowd was on edge for the entire match up until Melissa managed to counter the Hellbound into a pinfall. I distinctly remember the roar as everyone in the crowd leapt up, even the few, like myself, that were hoping Eagles would retain. It’s moments like that, moments when the entire crowd genuinely cares, where I’m reminded why I became a fan in the first place.
Leslie: It took six years, 17 tapings, and 45 matches for Cheerleader Melissa, the most loved woman in SHIMMER, to finally win the title she was always destined to hold. As a longtime fan of Melissa’s, this felt like the crowning achievement of her 12 year career. We’ve seen her travel from the UK to Canada to Mexico to Japan and beyond, facing, beating, and sometimes dominating the best everywhere she went. We’ve seen her in SHIMMER always being caleld upon to put on the toughest, most grueling, highest caliber matches. We’ve seen her after the match, or two, or four in one weekend, sit bruised, battered, in obvious pain, nursing an injury and still putting on a smile for her many supporters. We’ve seen her be underused and under appreciated by other, irrelevant, companies. We’ve seen her, undeterred, continue to improve in all aspects as a wrestler. And finally, after an amazing bout with the incredible champion Madison Eagles, we saw it all culminate. We saw Melissa, exhausted and in tears, being handed the SHIMMER title in what was certainly the pinnacle of both her career and the companies’ history. It was a truly touching and beautiful moment, the kind that makes you fall in love with wrestling all over again.
And then Nicole Matthews ruined it all, by attacking Melissa and posing with the belt herself, because she’s a total dick.
CHIKARA: Kana vs. Sara Del Rey
Klunk In Love – October 8th, 2011
Brandon: I’m not a staffer for Dirty Dirty Sheets, so I don’t get to hang out with Kana all the time. But hey, my parents live in Bristol, Tennessee, about 20 minutes from a random CHIKARA show in the middle of nowhere that advertised SARA DEL REY VS. KANA, so I got on a goddamn airplane and flew to see it.
I love wrestling, and this was it. I watched an armory full of people who’d never considered women could compete like this (including my mother and father) go from “I don’t care what you say, I just don’t like watching women wrestle!” to “Wow, that was really great”, in 15 minutes. Kana kicked the crap out of Sara, Sara kicked the crap out of Kana, and they were both nice and cognizant enough to shake hands with the people who hadn’t believed in them, but would suddenly never forget them.
And, uh, some nerds who fly around to CHIKARA shows.
NCW:FF: LuFisto (c) vs. Kalamity – Femmes Fatales International Title Match
Femmes Fatales VII – October 8th, 2011
Leslie: LuFisto and Kalamity are small, tough, violent mirror images of one another. Whenever they face off it always makes for a great match. However, the stakes here were higher than their previous bouts as LuFisto looked to further establish her dominance of FF champion and Kalamity, after a strong debut in SHIMMER, hoped to finally prove she was no longer the student, but the master.
Kalamity came with her usual, stylish aggression from leg kicks to various cross-arm chokes to her always stunning “Diving K” corner elbow. LuFisto answered with aggression she hand not shown since her death match days. She wailed on Kalamity with an indescribably loud chair shot, and then another. This shockingly managed to draw shouts of, “Pourquoi?!” from the Lufi loving crowd (her answer, “Because I want to win!”).
Miss Murder wasn’t done as she dragged the Kalamity onto the apron and participated in one of their classic kick/chop/elbow/punch battles. The defending champ eventually came out on top and used the advantage to set up Kalamity for a crushing corner double stomp. A Mangalizer followed that looked to put an end to things but Kalamity somehow managed to kick out. She gave LuFisto her own finisher but she kicked out as well! Fans sensed that it was time for an Ultimate Technique, but instead of LuFisto’s Burning Hammer, Kalamity pulled out a Spike Fisherman Michinouku Driver (Kalamityville Horror 2K11, go with it) for the biggest win of her career. A special match, with a special moment after as LuFisto wrapped the belt around Kalamity’s waist passing the torch to her protege.
NJPW: Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito – IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match
Destruction ’11 – October 10th, 2011
Charles: Tanahashi, the current ace of New Japan, and Naito, who is looked at as the next generation ace for promotion. Both guys share a similar background in their idols being Keiji Mutoh and both share almost the same styles, at least if you look back into Tanahashi’s career a few years. Both are high flyers that can lock submissions out of nowhere, and back it up with ring awareness. This match came down to experience versus hunger. Tanahashi looked to retain his status in the promotion and Naito looked to take the big leap forward as the go to guy in NJPW. In the end, the match was very solid and Naito even had the best of the current champion on more than one occasion. Definitely one to see from the year and definitely not an end to their feud which could possibly see a rematch in 2012.
AJP: Suwama (c) vs. Jun Akiyama – Triple Crown Title
Pro Wrestling LOVE in Ryogoku Vol.13 – October 23rd, 2011
Pumi: This was the epic moment for all Akiyama’s fans around the world. Suwama reign was so great and he’s one of the best guys. in All Japan now! In my view, after the King’s road era, Akiyama’s career needed only one thing to fulfill his dream. Not the GHC title, nor the IWGP title, but the Triple Crown! This was his chance, and maybe his last chance as a wrestler still in top form. It was an unforgettable moment, and deserves to be my favorite match of the year.
Charles: A great match with a lot of history riding behind it. Akiyama had always looked to be in line to win the Triple Crown Championship a little over 10 years ago, but due to the All Japan/NOAH split Akiyama would never get to hold the belt. Almost 12 years later, Akiyama appeared in All Japan, and the buzz began to swirl with Akiyama aiming for the title that had eluded him for years. The big issue, though, stood with the reigning champion Suwama who is the definitive ace of the promotion and a very strong competitor. Suwama already took out one of the strongest outsiders in Yuji Nagata months earlier, showing how hard Suwama would fight to keep the belt in All Japan. There was a lot of emotion going into this match that continued through the bout. For someone like me who has been a big fan of Akiyama since he was in All Japan this was something that was long overdue.
ACW: ACH vs. Matthew Palmer
Beyond Good and Evil – October 23rd, 2011
Leslie: From Live Report: This needs to be said a lot when you’re covering good wrestling, but I’m not sure if it’s ever been more necessary: There are not words to adequately describe this match. It was hard-hitting, fast paced, innovative, high-flying, technically sound, and everything in between and outside and beyond that. The knuckle lock sequence in the opening minutes was as fresh as almost anything else I saw last year. Yes, the knuckle lock. That was just a start of what was the match of the night, possibly year, possibly eternity. That’s how it felt in that moment, at least. Wrestlers gathered on the balcony to watch with all the fans as everyone knew something special was happening.
As the back and forth “Let’s Go Centerfold!” “A-C-H” filled the streets of downtown Austin, Palmer climbed the far wall of the venue and invited ACH to join him for something amazing and reckless. However, as soon as ACH made his way up Palmer quit the match, telling the fans he doesn’t appreciate them at all (it was ACW’s Fan Appreciation Night), and disappeared into the night. Everyone was left shocked, confused, and mostly angry after being robbed of a conclusion to what could have been a timeless match (but probably still is).
Dragon Gate: Masaaki Mochizuki, YAMATO, Shingo Takagi, Masato Yoshino & Gamma vs. CIMA, Naruki Doi, Akira Tozawa, BxB Hulk & Cyber Kong – Yagi Bread Survival Loser Leaves Unit Match
Crown Gate – November 4th, 2011
Martin: The participants may have been selected in a whacky segment involving referee Takayuki Yagi’s home grown loaves of bread, but it brought about a phenomenal 10 man tag team match with serious repercussions: the loser of the fall would have to leave their stable. With that stipulation on the line, what resulted was 40 minutes of pure insane Dragon Gate style action.
Whilst a battle to ensure a member of the opposing team had to leave, the match was wrestled in an attempt to make sure each man wasn’t the man who had to go. There were brawls, double teams, high flying, fast running, exchanges, everything you could ask for in a whole card’s worth of wrestling, never mind one match. The finish was incredible, with each kickout more desperate than the last. You got the feeling many times that one man in particular would be the man to lose, only for the momentum to suddenly turn. In the end, Junction Three’s YAMATO would gain revenge for losing his hair the previous month by making Cyber Kong pass out in a sleeper hold, forcing him out of the Blood Warriors. Massive multi-wrestler Dragon Gate matches usually never fail, but this one was a success above all others of that kind in 2011.
DGUSA: YAMATO (c) vs. Johnny Gargano – Open-The Freedom Gate Title
Freedom Fight – November 13th, 2011
Amanda: I watched that PPV in my basement like a stereotype. The whole show was obviously quite good, but this match was brilliant in ways I’m not sure I can describe. We’ve already covered the fact I’m a fan of Gargano’s, but I’ve also been a fan of YAMATO since somebody first directed me to Dragon Gate. It was hard to root against him, but I was dead-set on Johnny to win. It would be the biggest win of his career to date. It needed to happen for him.
At one point, YAMATO had Johnny locked in a hold smack in the middle of the ring and I am not ashamed to tell you guys that I started yelling at my computer. “DON’T YOU TAP, JOHNNY. DON’T YOU DARE TAP. IF YOU LOSE THIS MATCH, YOU LOSE TO A PIN AND THAT IS ALL. YOU ARE NOT GOING TO LOSE BY SUBMISSION, YOU ARE BETTER THAN THAT.” Johnny was able to get out of it. Phew.
But then. The ref got knocked out by accident and Johnny got YAMATO in a pin for a fair three-count, had the ref been there to count it. Uh oh. I know where this is going. And lo, Chuck Taylor, who had stolen the belt the night before, comes to the ring. He goes to hit YAMATO with the belt but hits Johnny in the face instead, who drops like a stone. And then… there is the ref. Well, shit. I’ve seen enough wrestling to know where this is going. YAMATO has Johnny down for the pin. One. Two. Thr– WAIT A MINUTE HE KICKED OUT IT WAS ONLY TWO OH MY GOD WHAT. And then. Johnny Gargano. Got YAMATO in a hold. And YAMATO tapped. I screamed. I can’t even lie about that. I screamed like a little girl.
And because winning the DGUSA equivalent of the World Heavyweight Title — via submission — wasn’t enough, he then got on the mic to make a very passionate heartfelt plea to Chuck Taylor to convince him to give the belt back. Which he did. It was all-around completely fantastic.
Beyond: AR Fox vs. ACH
Tournament For Tomorrow – November 19th, 2011
Leslie: When Beyond Wrestling put on the Tournament for Tomorrow, featuring many of the top prospects in all of wrestling fighting it out in the ultra-competitive Beyond environment, reports said it was the best Beyond show to date. Which meant, of course, that they decided to give it away entirely for free online. This was the first match from the show and featured current ACW Anarchy Champion ACH taking on multi-promotional sensation AR Fox. Both men are known for their confidence, charisma, and next-level athleticism. The match they put on is simply mind-blowing. Tournament of Tomorrow, Wrestlers of Tomorrow.
WSU: Team WSU (Brittney Savage, Alicia & Mercedes Martinez) vs. The Midwest Militia (Sassy Stephanie, Allysin Kay & Jessicka Havoc) – War Games
Breaking Barriers II – November 19th, 2011
Leslie: Before the match even started you could feel the air thicken with thoughts of blood and death as the Militia made their way to the ring, wearing skulls and screaming for flesh. Everyone knew something terrible and violent was going to happen. Both groups swore to “kill” each other multiple times prior to the show. Still, in spite of all the promises, warnings, and threats, everyone was left aghast at what actually transpired.
The match was, of course, a war. A long, hate-filled war of attrition. From Allysin Kay getting wiped out by a running boot whilst hanging upside-down from the cage, to a Powerbomb/Diving neckbreaker combo from the ropes, to Alicia using her best-in-the-business running hip attack on both Stephie and Kay in the corner, to Mercedes uncharacteristically flipping off the Militia before wiping them all out with a dive, everyone poured their hearts out, and Havok her blood, in one of the best matches of 2011.
The end came when Mid-West Militia threatened to stab an unconscious Mercedes with a the massive, razor sharp blade. Alicia and Brittney were handcuffed to the ropes. Knowing they were helpless to stop it, save for screaming “I quit,” they grudgingly gave the Militia what the wanted and saved possibly saved Mercedes life.
A sick end to a sick match. Havok posed with the title as EMT’s were called to the venue to help Mercedes. Doomsday for Team WSU. Total victory for the Mid-West Militia.
AAW: Silas Young (c) vs. Dan Lawrence vs. J. Miller vs. Sami Callihan vs. Johnny Gargano – AAW Title Match
Windy City Classic 7 – November 26th, 2011
Chris: This huge match stemmed from an earlier 8 man elimination tag match where the remaining team of wrestlers would advance to face Dan Lawrence and Silas Young in the elimination style main event title match. Miller, Callihan, Gargano, and Gregory Iron pulled a clean sweep of Austin Mannix, Shane Hollister, Louis Lyndon, and Matt Fitchett, so all advanced to the title match. Shane Hollister attacked Gregory Iron during his entrance, and left him unable to compete in the main event. Fortunately, the remaining 5 wrestlers were more than capable of delivering a great match.
The great thing about this match was that it was the AAW up and comers in Miller, Callihan, and Gargano who stole the spotlight rather than the established vets in Lawrence and Young. Young ended up retaining, but the AAW fans hardly felt cheated after this match, atypical for the rule-breaking Silas Young who schemed his way through a lengthy title reign through 2011.
Greg: The night began with a modern day dream team, as four of wrestling’s fast rising stars (Gargano, Callihan, Miller, and Gregory Iron) were paired together as part of a Wild Card eight-way elimination match. And just like in 1992, it was total domination, as they made quick work in eliminating Austin Mannix, Mat Fitchett, Shane Hollister, and Louis Lyndon, whom were impressive in their own right. Their victory gave them the right to join Silas Young and Dan Lawrence in an elimination match for the AAW World Heavyweight Championship later that night. And while Iron would be unable to compete due to some general tom foolery from Hollister, we were still in for a treat.
It was just constant action from all five competitors. Dives, kicks, and submissions galore, with barely a moment to rest. Everyone was giving it their all, hoping to win arguably the biggest prize in the Midwest. And, on several occasions, the challengers were close to finally dethroning the dominant champion. Alas, it was not to be, as Silas Young barely retained the heavyweight gold. But there’s no denying that the stars were shinning bright in Berwyn, and the stars of Gargano, Callihan, and Miller have and will get even brighter.
NOAH: Go Shiozaki (c) vs KENTA – GHC Title
Great Voyage 2011 In Tokyo Vol. 4 – November 27th, 2011
Hanan: Besides spending the year leading his stable NO MERCY, KENTA also took 2011 to prove that he belongs with the heavyweights of NOAH. Notably, he introduced his new GAME OVER submission and used it to make it to the finals of the Global League. He also took out prior Junior turned Heavy turned GHC champ Sugiura to earn the #1 contendership for the title. KENTA came to prove that he belongs with the big guys, and he did that and more in this match. It was KENTA and Go, so it was brutal and the crowd was great. One of the best Hevayweight versus Junior matches you’ll see.
CHIKARA: Aja Kong, Tsubasa Kuragaki, & Mio Shirai vs. Manami Toyota, Sawako Shimono & Hanako Nakamori
JoshiMania Night Three- December 4th, 2011
Leslie: And then there was that time Tsubasa Kuragaki destroyed New York. When it was announced this six woman tag match seemed like it would be about Toyota and Kong going at it once more. Instead, it was about all six putting on a 30 minute epic. Everyone in the match gave their all. The young Hanoko Nakamori and younger Sawako Shimono had their best JoshiMania performances. There were no other options as Kong and Toyota battled like it was 1995, stage diving, piledriving, and avalanching each other as if they were back in the Tokyo Dome. Mio Shirai was as “Dangerous, Cheeky, and Foxy,” as her T-Shirt advertised. At the end, though, it was Tsubasa Kuragaki who stood alone on top the pile of broken bodies and smoldering ashes that used to be the Highline Ballroom. The crowd gave her a standing ovation and begged her to return to CHIKARA once again. If Tsubasa wasn’t an elite level Joshi when she came to America, she was when she left.
ROH: Kevin Steen vs. Steve Corino
Final Battle – December 23rd, 2011
Steven: This was a match that gave me goosebumps just thinking about it and it turned out to be an all out war. This was just awesome on so many levels and was a perfect way to end a great year in Ring of Honor.
Leslie: It took a year for Kevin Steen to talk, tweet, and fight his way back into Ring of Honor. The excitement he built for himself and the company made his time away worth it, and the crescendo came here against his former mentor. The crafty veteran Corino tried to kill the monster he helped create, and failed. The level of violence Steen unleashed on everyone who made eye-contact him was an unforgettable way for ROH to end 2011.
And, to settle the debate, Jimmy’s too tight ref tank top was rad.
JWP: Hailey Hatred (c) vs. Tsubasa Kuragaki – JWP Open-Class Title
Climax – December 23rd, 2011
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Leslie: Hailey Hatred doesn’t lose in Japan. Ssince she began touring their years ago no one had managed to pin her. Well, no one except Tsubasa Kuragaki. But that was a Tag Team match, so it didn’t count, right?
When the two beloved, top-level Joshi stars waged war in front of a split crowd Hailey was determined to prove that she really was the unbeatable foreign monster. It looked like it, as Hailey survived Tsubasa’s devastating Metal Wing. On the other hand Tsubasa, fresh off a massive US tour, needed to prove that JWP was her company and the previous pin wasn’t a fluke. She managed to kick out of a top rope Exploder and Hailey’s unsurvivable running Lyger Bomb. In the end, Tsubasa was forced to pull out a new S-Rank Michinoku Driver variation to win the JWP title for a second time and end Hailey’s historic six month reign. It capped off an amazing year for Hailey and began the new era of Kuragaki in JWP.
Ice Ribbon: Tsukasa Fujimoto (c) vs. Hikaru Shida – ICEx60 Title Match
Ribbonmania – December 25th, 2011
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Leslie: Ice Ribbon’s young aces Tsukasa Fujimoto and Hikaru Shida are former tag team partners, and two of the women the company sent across the world to lead their global expansion in 2011. They found themselves back in Japan on Christmas Day fighting for the companies’ top prize in the main event of Korakuen Hall in perhaps the final great match of the year. Shida and Fujimoto fought their young hearts out to see who would lead Ice Ribbon in the post-Emi Sakura era. The two women, who entered wrestling via acting gigs, put on a title match as worthy as any in wrestling last year. Shida won, using her signature Falcon Arrow from the top rope, driving her good friend into the mat.
As the belt was wrapped around her for the first time Shida sobbed, the crowd cheered, and everything in Ice Ribbon, if not pro wrestling, was as it should be. Bull Nakano came out to offer Hikaru a spot in the main event of her retirement show. A massive honor, and hugely symbolic as a great of the past showed her respect for a great of the future.
And those were the matches we loved in 2011. Tell us yours here, or on Twitter with #ddslove.