Month on the Mat: January

Isn’t it a pain when you get to the end of the year and you see everybody posting their opinions on match of the year contenders? By the time December comes around, and those lists take over social media, January seems more like it’s 11 years away rather than a mere 11 months! People are listing off matches from February meanwhile you can’t remember what you had for lunch just yesterday!

In this monthly recurring series, the residents of Wrestle Inn will offer you their recommendation’s for a single match you should seek out from the last month. We might not always highlight the “best” match, perhaps we’ll pick a hidden gem instead, or a match that you may not have heard of from a promotion different to what you usually watch. But, we can guarantee that all of these picks will be more than worth your time!

CiaranRH recommends:
Shingo Takagi vs Jeff Cobb; Wrestle Kingdom 15 (NJPW, January 4th)
ShinGodzilla vs King Cobb, two absolute behemoths clashing in one of the most destructive and monstrous matches in Wrestle Kingdom history. Never before had we seen Shingo manhandled like this, Cobb pulling out heavy-hitters such as the Black Tiger Bomb, and a standing moonsault powerslam that still boggles my mind. How the hell did Jeff Cobb do that?! The Dragon Shingo was not to be slain within the Tokyo Dome though, his fighting spirit every bit the equal to Cobb’s inhuman strength, even withstanding Tour of the Islands: the fire of a Pumping Bomber and Last of the Dragon leaving Cobb’s championship dreams in ashes. An instant five star classic in every possible way.

Corey Michaels recommends:
Shinsuke Nakamura vs Jey Uso; SmackDown (WWE, January 15th)
Coming off the heels of his heart-pounding performance in the gauntlet match on the January 8th episode of SmackDown, I had been wondering if Nakamura would maintain his momentum going forward. My expectations were kindly met with knowing his dirty loss the week before would be avenged within his fight against Jey Uso, cousin of Roman Reigns, both of whom had cost him the gauntlet match. While not anything wild, the match served as a precursor to what may come from a now-motivated Nakamura in his face turn. In the weeks that followed, it looks as though Nakamura is ready to fight his way to the title picture once more. 

BeMcCooley recommends:
Konosuke Takeshita, Yuki Ueno, MAO & Shunma Katsumata vs Keisuke Ishii, Akito, Shota & Kazuki Hirata; DDT New Year Special 2021! (DDT, January 3rd)
I wrote in depth about my favorite match of January earlier in the month but let’s take a look at another. DDT produced a spot-filled sprint on January third that saw partners launching their teammates across the ring into codebreakers and landing splashes by jumping off each other’s shoulders. You had guys like MAO hitting split-legged moonsaults and a top rope suplex by Takeshita immediately followed by three different frog splashes by his team onto poor Shota. Clocking it at just over fourteen minutes, all eight of these guys threw everything they had at each other and never gave the audience a chance to breathe.

Credit: WWE

Scotland Underwood recommends:
AJ Gray vs Hoodfoot Mo Atlas; Fight Forever: For The Culture (GCW, January 29th)
All eyes were fixated on GCW Fight Forever as they ran for 24 hours to donate and giving back to the wrestlers that were featured on the show. During the “For The Culture” block, we saw intense competition between two of the best in their profession. I watched this match twice to absorb, what felt like, a shift in the guard of independent wrestling. Gray and Atlas held nothing back in a match that resembled a 2003 Pro Wrestling Noah contest that featured devastating suplexes and chops that would make Kenta Kobashi blush. Both men emerged as true warriors and we are at the top of the list for the most sought wrestlers of the year.

Dave McAdam recommends:
Hiromu Takahashi vs El Phantasmo; Wrestle Kingdom 15 (NJPW, January 4th)
There’s two things I love to see at Wrestle Kingdom; my favourite wrestlers, and the stars of the near future. No match better satisfies both those needs than Hiromu vs. El P this year. The junior heavyweights never fail to impress, and these two exemplify everything great about the division. A mixture of acrobatics and high impact action, with all the flair and bravado you could expect from these two. Hiromu has become one of my favourites to watch over the last few years. I wouldn’t be the most constant New Japan viewer but Hiromu is one of a few NJPW stars I will always turn out to watch. El P is a name I’ve been hearing for a while, but after Wrestle Kingdom he’s become a name I won’t soon forget. This match was a star-making performance for the Canadian cruiserweight, and I cannot wait to see what he does next. Also Hiromu came to the ring wearing his duvet, what more could you want in life.

Katie Rose recommends:
Sasha Banks vs Reginald; SmackDown (WWE, January 22nd) 
Let me just say, I love intergender matches! I know they’re not for everyone, but I could watch them all the time! This match was one to really impress me this month. Sasha had been in a heated feud with Carmella for a little while now. Carmella’s sommelier, Reginald, has recently been getting involved in her and Sasha’s matches. So Sasha promised Carmella a title shot if she could first wrestle good old Reggie. Their match started out with him presenting her a rose, which she of course declined with her fist (which he blocked), followed by her other fist! They flowed together smoothly; Reggie displaying his insane athletic ability using acrobatics and Sasha using her impressive move set. Soon enough, Reggie couldn’t dodge Banks’ fluid arm drags and eventually tapped out to the Banks Statement, all while a bewildered Carmella sat ringside. With Banks victorious, this set up her and Carmella’s title match at the Royal Rumble. 

Credit: IMPACT Wrestling

Thumbly Squeezed recommends:
Kenny Omega & The Good Brothers vs Rich Swann, Chris Sabin, & Moose; Hard To Kill (IMPACT Wrestling, January 16th)
This match had a lot riding on it as the first in-ring enactment of the shocking partnership between AEW & IMPACT Wrestling. It delivered on all possible fronts. Rich Swann showed off his fast-paced style, and his getting offense in on the invading Kenny Omega presented the IMPACT champ on equal footing which is huge for raising the company’s profile. Meanwhile, Moose had likely his best match yet in his career despite being a last-minute replacement for Alex Shelley, showing crazy top-rope athleticism to go with his brute strength. Gallows & Anderson responded in-kind, further reminding a growing IMPACT audience of their credibility as a top tag team that can deliver in the ring in addition to their fun promos. In the end, the newfound ruthlessness shown by Omega and co. to deliver hard-hitting spots and take the win showed that 1) this new Cleaner attitude is here to stay, and 2) that’s a very dangerous thing if you’re not the ones on the receiving end of his #TooSweets.

JJohnson recommends:
Shingo Takagi vs Hiroshi Tanahashi; New Beginning in Nagoya (NJPW, January 30th) 
The genesis of 2020 has already been a great time for the ‘Dragon’ Shingo Takagi; with his January framed by two stellar IWGP NEVER Openweight title defences. The second of which was against New Japan company ‘Ace’ Hiroshi Tanahashi. Given its lofty main event billing in Nagoya, the match was expected to send the wrestling world into a frenzy. And it sure did that. I would go as far as to say, this match redefined what the NEVER Championship stands for. Whilst it gleefully fulfilled the heavy-hitting, all-action, strike exchange packed quota of any NEVER title fight, it also delivered the grandeur of an early Match of the Year contender. The emotional journey this match takes you on is utterly spellbinding, making you live or die by every impactful moment it serves up (and there are plenty of those).

Molly Belle recommends:
Raquel Gonzalez vs Rhea Ripley – Last Woman Standing; NXT (WWE, January 6th)
This was the culmination of a long heated feud, serving to bid farewell to one superstar while elevating the other. This match was absolutely brutal from the jump: with weapons, stiff shots, and creative violence never lacking. The intensity and fire both women brought to the table were palpable and it served them well in a gimmick match that demands an unwavering commitment to total destruction. That’s exactly what we got, as hardly a second went by from bell to bell that these badass women didn’t drive each other to their limits. With two larger than life characters like Rhea and Raquel, the expectations were high, and a Last Woman Standing match set them even higher, but they delivered and then some. This January highlight from NXT is an absolute must!