Part II of our list of our favorite matches from 2012. Again we’re joined by our friends Thomas Holzerman from The Wrestling Blog, Jamie from Dramatic DDT, T.J. Hawke from Free Pro Wrestling, Ciara Reid of Angry Marks, Jae of iheartDG, Alyssa, Alex, Benjamin, and Senor Lariato. By Leslie, Greg, Chris C., Chris J., Sonny, Aoikougei, Sarah (and her brother), Steph, and Martin.
Matches We Loved Part I
CHIKARA: ACH vs. “Mr. Touchdown” Mark Angelosetti
The Ring of Wax – August 18th, 2012
Chris: Myself and DDS’ resident Amazonian Warrior made the trip down to Indianapolis to take in a CHIKARA show featuring the last match in the annual Young Lions’ Cup tournament. These two up and comers are what the tournament is all about and they delivered in spades. This was a battle of superhero proportions, a real life Spider-Man vs. Venom (I can hear Touchdown calling me a nerd for that one already), complete with ACH cracking wise and getting touchdown to go long for a pass until he ran into a wall.
The story of this match was one of athleticism and heart and it came down to which one had just a little more of both at the end. While the good sportsmanship of Dasher Hatfield left the lovely but conniving Veronica in a trash can, ACH and Touchdown left it all in the ring. The Gridiron Grappler managed to withstand a Guile Flash Kick from the Last Hero and came up with the win and the trophy, which, unfortunately gave the W to evil that day. In spite of that, though, there’s really only two words to sum up this candidate for Match of the Year: “It’s good.”
DDT: Kota Ibushi vs. Kenny Omega
Budokan Peter Pan 2012 – August 18th, 2012
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Jamie: Simply spectacular. For DDT’s biggest show in its 15 year existence, the main event could not have been anything else. We had to wait four years for Ibushi versus Omega to happen again but it was worth the wait. Both were on the top of their game and they pulled out all the stops to make this a match to remember. There were some amazing high risk spots that were worth doing because of how important the match was for DDT. After all, this wasn’t some small show at Shin-Kiba. This was the main event of Budokan Hall!
RPW: Kyle Matthews vs. Masked Assailant
Sizzlin’ Summer Bash – August 26th, 2012
Thomas: It’s the most effective story in professional wrestling, David vs. Goliath. In this case, David, Kyle Matthews, was the Champion, defending his title against a masked Goliath in the masked man who’d be revealed after the match as the former Luke Gallows. It was the latest in a scheme by the managerial conglomerate opposite of Matthews trying to wrest the belt from him. Gallows worked “big” better here than he did previously, and Matthews took it in stride with a good hope spot towards the end. Even in defeat, Matthews was able to embody heart, and that’s the sign of a great good guy.
STARDOM: Dark Angel vs. Kyoko Kimura
5 Star GP Tournament – September 17th, 2012
Leslie: Kyoko Kimura and Dark Angel, who were both looking pretty diesel, had an outstanding brawl that Stock narrowly won. Sarah had tons of crowd support during the show, and afterwards in the merch line. Having been to Japan a half-dozen times or so, an extended tour of Stardom for it’s 5*Star tournament was certainly a good call. Kyoko being positioned as the promotion’s Big Bad, with Hailey Hatred as head minion, was another brilliant idea and it gave us this brilliant match.
ICE Ribbon: Mio Shirai vs. Hikaru Shida
Kinights of Ribbon 2012 – September 23rd, 2012
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Leslie: Mio Shirai was already one of the most interesting people in wrestling when last year started, but she managed bring the level of her wrestling up to the level of her jokes and trash talk, a feat that earned her second place in the Tokyo Sports Joshi Grand Prix voting. It goes without saying now, but Hikaru Shida is a beast. One that was unfortunately outfoxed in this very good title bout.
IPW: Jake Crist vs. Davey Richards
IPW Renascence – September 30th, 2012
Alex: Insanity Pro Wrestling returned from a hiatus with Renascence, capped off with a beautiful match between champion Jake Crist and Davey Richards. The Irish Airborne/American Wolves match from 2011 made my list, and I noted that the exchanges between the younger Crist and Richards were a highlight- the proper match was that magnified. Both men are noted for being intense in the ring, and perhaps that’s why they brought something great out of each other that night, each strike feeling more personal and brutal. The two went to war, and the crowd created an incredible atmosphere for them. With the importance of the show, and the hunger of the crowd, Crist and Richards were in the perfect environment to tear the roof off. Photo courtesy Rich Morgan
NJPW: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Minoru Suzuki
40th Anniversary Show – October 8th, 2012
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Larioto: I’m a huge fan of Minoru Suzuki and while the booking of Hiroshi Tanahashi wore thin in 2011, he’s undeniably one of the best performers in the world today. This match is a perfect example of that and, in terms of storytelling alone, is the best match of 2012 as far as I’m concerned. They didn’t need a bunch of near-falls or head drops to keep the crowd enthralled, just Suzuki’s arrogant attitude, Tanahashi’s innate charisma and some excellent grappling from both guys.
Early on Tanahashi hit a big dropkick to Suzuki’s leg, but Suzuki managed to take control, and worked over Tanahashi’s injured arm until Tanahashi saw his opportunity and went back to the leg. The moment when Tanahashi applied the figure four was particularly amazing, with Suzuki screaming at Tanahashi, telling him to break his leg. The build to the match was great also, with Suzuki identifying Tanahashi as everything that’s wrong with New Japan and questioning his ability against a fighter like Suzuki, which paralleled the hardcore audiences opinion of Tanahashi. Hiroshi’s self-awareness really added something too, as he pleased his fans and taunted his detractors as he played air guitar while holding Suzuki in an abdominal stretch.
Chris J: …
AAW: Michael Elgin vs. Sami Callihan
War is Coming – October 26th, 2012
Lariato: 2012 was definitely a breakout year for Michael Elgin, but it was also a year that saw Sami Callihan mature as a performer and become one of the best on the scene today. Elgin and Callihan put on a great match at PWG’s ‘Threemendous III’ this year, but for my money their encounter in AAW was a step above, benefiting from being the main event of an excellent show, ‘War is Coming’, one of AAW’s best from 2012. The match itself was indeed a war, a very tough fought, hard-hitting affair that saw both guys beating the tar out of each other for a good 20 minutes and the crowd going nuts for every example of Elgin’s freaky strength, every instance of Callihan’s never say die attitude. Real fun stuff.
Note: Above match from Infinity Pro’s Cinco De Mayo, May 5th, 2012
Warzone: Adam Pearce vs. Colt Cabana
Warzone 14 – October 27th, 2012
Sarah: I can’t really pick a particular match out of them, but the whole concept being their series was perfect. They were trying to bring prestige back to the NWA title and they generated a buzz around the belt that has not been present for years. With Adam Pearce and Colt Cabana being the big names that they are, everyone was on board with their series, except the NWA board. I just wish there was a better ending to their feud then the belt being vacated which was beyond their control , as it would’ve been a perfect ending to a perfect series. Here’s hoping we see more of things like this in 2013.
PWG: Michael Elgin vs. Eddie Edwards
Failure to Communicate – October 27th, 2012
Lariato: Eddie Edwards is one of the more under-appreciated guys in wrestling this past year. While he hasn’t had as eventful year as he did in 2011, he has been involved in some amazing matches, especially in PWG. This would easily be my favourite of them. More so than any other opponent Michael Elgin has faced this year, save maybe Kevin Steen, I felt that Edwards had a real chance of causing an upset by defeating the big man, and he really takes it to Elgin in this match with some brutal chops and kicks. Elgin’s freaky strength is on full display here, as he holds Edwards in a vertical suplex for 65 damn seconds. A great story is told throughout the match with Eddie trying forestall the inevitable and hit that one big move that might be able to put Elgin away.
SHIMMER: Kana vs Ayako Hamada
Volume 50 – October 28th, 2012
Benjamin: Someone else will probably pick this, and more than likely be able to describe the emotion and outstanding display of dexterity showcased in this match better than I can, so I will just make this simple statement: This was one of the greatest professional wrestling matches I have ever seen.
Chris: SHIMMER fans had been waiting for this one the moment Kana was announced to make her debut, and I would be surprised if I was the only one to mention it for this article. I can’t properly put into words the awe of sitting in Berwyn, Illinois, of all places, watching this match happen before my eyes. Intense, hard-hitting magic is the best I can do to describe this bout and never have I seen a 15 minute match go by so fast. The embrace of respect after the battle was over is the stuff standing ovations were made for.
Greg: It was a milestone volume for SHIMMER, worthy of two main events. What better way to highlight the international impact of the roster than to put two of the best wrestlers from Japan against each other, and letting them go at it. I can still feel the sting of those kicks.
NJPW: Shinsuke Nakamura vs Karl Anderson
Power Struggle – November 11th, 2012
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Leslie: In 2012 Karl Anderson quietly became one of the baddest motherfuckers on the planet. With his Tag Team partner leaving New Japan for an ill-suited career as a lingerie model, Machine Gun was left as the most legit foreign heavyweight on the roster. His stellar runs in the New Japan Cup and G1 tournaments saw him defeat multiple IWGP Champions, including Shinsuke Nakamura in April.
Fast forward to November and Karl’s been seconds away from earning his first IWGP Heavyweight title shot (losing both times to Okada). For a massive consolation prize, he got to take on Shinsuke again, this time for the IWGP Intercontinental title. Nakamura spent the second half of the year building up the prestige of the newest IWGP championship, by swagging like Michael Jackson and kneeing people in the face. This match provides plenty of both. Fast-paced, creative, and brutal work from two of the year’s best.
NOAH: KENTA vs. Takeshi Morishima
Global League 2012 – November 20th, 2012
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Leslie: KENTA and Takeshi Morishima make perfect opponents. The Junior whose kicks and knees have no respect for weight limits and the angry babyfaced beast get together a couple of times a year to kick the shit out of each other. It’s a feud that’s kept the ark afloat in the troubled waters of recent years.
This match was the prequel to KENTA’s recent GHC Heavyweight title win (you should watch that too). The reports of NOAH’s death will continue to be exaggerated if these two keep it up.
AIW: Johnny Gargano vs. Michael Elgin
Hell on Earth 8 – November 23rd, 2012
Alex: Absolute Intense Wrestling’s stellar year peaked at Hell on Earth, led by a dream match between Cleveland’s favorite son Johnny Gargano and wrestling’s newest darling Michael Elgin. And boy, did the dream match deliver. Gargano’s speed and Elgin’s feats of strength were both put on display, perfect foils for each other, as Elgin stopped the momentum Gargano tried to build with slams and backbreakers. It would be feats of strength that would lead to Elgin’s downfall, as he lifted and held Gargano on the top rope for just a bit too long. The Jack and the Giant story is an old one, but used to a great effect here, creating one of the finest matches of the year. Both men had the crowd eating out of their hands the entire stretch.
Photo courtesy Wayne Palmer
FCP: Trent Seven vs Clint Margera
Infinity Tournament 2012 – December 7th, 2012
Benjamin: When the match that preceded this finished, the sublime MK McKinnan versus Eddie Edwards Ladder match, surely a UK MOTY contender in it’s own right, we stood around the outside of the cage and questioned how it could ever be followed. Well, it was followed by the hardest hitting professional wrestling match I’ve ever witnessed. Honestly, I have no idea how they did this, I’m convinced the average person would be dead after these strikes, or hospitalized at the very least. And just for the record, as much as I loved it – I’m not sure I ever want to see a piledriver from the apron to a concrete floor ever again.
CZW: Robert Anthony vs. AR Fox
Cage of Death 14 – December 8, 2012
Alyssa: When Robert Anthony was taken off the CZW roster in March of 2012, it came as a shock. A sudden departure with no chance left for fans to adjust to his absence. So when AR Fox demanded a strong competitor for his Wired TV title at Cage of Death 14, the Flyers Skate Zone erupted with cheers when Robert Anthony’s music began to play. It felt like Anthony had returned “home.” However, as the slew of insults tossed in the fan’s and Fox’s general direction showed, “The Ego” had grown even more self-centered in his time away. The match that followed the verbal attacks was a war. High-risk maneuvers off the turn buckle, the ring apron, and even through the guardrails into the audience. Brawling not just for the title, but to prove each other as the better man.
When Anthony tried to slow the pace, it was Fox who continually brought the challenge and ultimately left still the reigning champion. The most emotional part of the match was after Fox left, with Anthony still in the ring. The Ego showed a change of heart for the audience who has loved and praised him. And while the crowd chanted a strong, “PLEASE COME BACK!” his eyes welled as he shook his head silently, waving. The former CZW Heavyweight Champion managed to find some closure with the CZW faithful.
Photo courtesy Lyle C. Williams
DDT: El Generico vs. Kenny Omega
Never Mind 2012 – December 23rd, 2012
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Leslie: During the Winter Break/Japanese Pro Wres Palooza all the talk on Twitter and Facebook was about this match. In an alternate universe Kenny Omega versus El Generico happens at the Hammerstein for the ROH title. In this one, it was in Korakuen for the DDT KO-D title, in the promotion’s first ever all-foreigner main event. A stellar performance from two stars whose massive work in Japan has been greatly underappreciated.
JWP: Emi Sakura vs. Arisa Nakajima
JWP Climax – December 24th, 2012
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Aoikougei: Emi Sakura dictated the direction of JWP all year round. Arisa Nakajima returned from retirement this year, her professional wrestling did not impress a blank. Sakura said to me at a certain time “Nakajima has something that contemporary woman wrestlers do not have.” It was not the match of wonderful offense and defense, but I felt like the opening of a new era.
ICE Ribbon: Nanae Takahashi & Natsuki*Taiyo vs. Hikaru Shida & Tsukasa Fujimoto
RIBBONMANIA 2012 – December 31st, 2012
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Leslie: 2012 was a year of massive flux for ICE. Multiple departures of top names left dual aces Hikaru Shida and Tsukasa Fujimoto to carry the company. This was the match that showed they could take ICE Ribbon, the fans, and all of Joshi on their backs if they had too. They proved themselves capable of going head to head with the J-Pop juggernaut that is STARDOM. On the last day of the year, ICE Ribbon proved they were still an extremely relevant force in Joshi, and that they have two of the most talented young wrestlers in the world leading them forward.