Month on the Mat: February

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? People are listing off matches from February meanwhile you can’t remember what you had for lunch just yesterday! 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!

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!

JJohnson recommends:
Giulia vs. Starlight Kid, Go to Budokan! Valentine Special (STARDOM, Feb 13th)

Stardom are heading into their biggest show ever – Budokan Hall, on March 3rd – with many a great match on the route to the major event. The pick of these match-ups was Giulia’s spectacular Wonder of Stardom title defence against Starlight Kid. Despite this match not being my highest rated match of the month, it is definitely my favourite, as my strong 4.25* rating for the match speaks to the story, meaning and consequences of this main event affair. Giulia has gone from strength to strength this past year, becoming one of the best wrestlers in Joshi. Whilst her opponent Starlight Kid offered the greatest showing of fire and passion I have seen in Kid’s young career. The match was built around Giulia striving to “expose [Starlight Kid’s] naked face” (by removing her eye-catching mask), with the emotion this brought being key to its top quality. All in all, it was a stellar title defence.

Ryan Dilbert recommends:
Jun Akiyama vs. Tetsuya Endo, DDT Kawasaki Strong (DDT, February 14th)
Jun Akiyama’s pursuit of the KO-D Openweight Championship, his challenge against a man 22 years his junior, is a viscerally appealing story. Akiyama, of All Japan and NOAH fame, strives to prove he belongs at the top of a whole new kingdom and that at 51 years old he can still fight his way past someone as talented as Tetsuya Endo. The bald, sneering warrior must limp and wince his way through much of the battle. Endo has the more varied and artistic arsenal while Akiyama relies on old man strength, sheer relentlessness, and knee to the face after knee to the face. The result is a legit early MOTY contender

Thumbly Squeezed recommends:
Tay Conti vs. Nyla Rose (All Elite Wrestling, February 22nd)

AEW’s Women’s Eliminator Tournament has been a spotlight for many talents, but this match with former Women’s Champion Nyla Rose felt like a bit like a coming out party for Tay Conti as she battled a main event level foe and held up her end of the bargain in a match unlike a lot of others in the division to date. Working without a hugely frenetic pace or high-flying exchanges (both common in AEW’s women’s action), both women showed off impactful offense. Conti successfully used her IRL judo background to showcase strikes, throws, and attempted holds on top of a ring-shaking DDT. Rose returned in kind with big shots and slams, ultimately winning with her signature Beast Bomb. Most importantly, together these ladies got extended time and successfully used it to tell a compelling story of a game smaller competitor using skill and sheer fight to nearly overcome an overpowering force. A strong statement that AEW women’s roster deserves more TV time more often and can handle it – and they were just getting started!

Credit: AEW

Molly Belle recommends:
Serena Deeb vs. Riho, AEW Dynamite (All Elite Wrestling, February 17th)

The AEW Women’s Eliminator Tournament provided an opportunity to showcase the strong ladies of the division with the cuffs largely removed. When the bracket was finally revealed, the match that stood out to me most featured a returning Riho and the NWA Women’s champion herself, Serena Deeb. Two of the most technically proficient and seamless wrestlers on the AEW roster, the two were exemplary from bell to bell and complemented each other perfectly. The match was physical and sprawling, hard hitting and fast paced, and exceeded expectations, which were already high. The two women left it all in the ring – as we all expected them to do – and left an impression that won’t soon be forgotten. While many may only look at his match as a launching pad for more like it in the future, and it certainly can be that, I place this match among the best in AEW Dynamite history.

Scotland Underwood recommends:
Trish Adora vs Tony Deppen, The Iron Match (Beyond Wrestling, February 14th)
History is a rarity in today’s market of wrestling as it seems that everything has already been accomplished, but that was proven false as Beyond Wrestling hosted the first intergender sixty-minute Iron Match between Tony Deppen and Trish Adora. It was a technical masterclass that went for top position as the clock went deep into the fourth quarter in the match. Adora, already forging a legacy as the Pan-Afrikan World Diaspora Champion, continues to prove that she is one of the pound-for-pound best in the world against a savvy technical workhorse like Deppen. All you need is an hour of your time and an appreciation for the art of wrestling.

Credit: NJPW

BeMcCooley recommends:
Keisuke Ishii, Kouki Iwasaki & HARUKAZE vs ASUKA (VENY), Hagane Shinno & Shinichiro Tominaga; Ganbare Pro Cliffhanger 2021 (Ganbare Pro, February 21st)

Nine year veteran, HARUKAZE, won her first ever wrestling championship on February 7th. In a celebratory moment, Ganbare Pro owner, Ken Ohka, came out after the match to congratulate the team as they hoisted HARUKAZE up and flung her into the air. The 32-year-old achieved a career milestone only for everything to be ripped away from her just two weeks later during the trio’s first defense. The challengers employed every cheap trick in the book to make sure the feel good story of the year was tarnished. Ganbare Pro is out here teaching us lessons about cherishing the moments that matter most.

CiaranRH recommends:
Chris Dickinson vs Ren Narita, New Japan Strong (NJPW, February 26th)
This was a pure NJPW match, a fiery fight that would have had a Korakuen Hall crowd exploding, an enticing glimpse at how perfectly Dickinson is going to mesh with the NJPW roster. The missing-in-action Narita was able to show deep spirit that put him on equal footing against the much larger and menacing Dickinson, a volley of piercing palm strikes filled the match, and in less than 8 minutes they offered something special. Fans have watched this show for the attraction that was Jon Moxley vs KENTA, but it’s matches like Narita vs Dickinson that will keep fans coming back for more.