Month on the Mat: December

We made it! Every month a selection of Wrestle Inn team members highlighted a single match you should seek out from the last month. By the time December came around fans were politely (loudly) suggesting (insisting) that their favourite match is the best of past year, harking back to matches from January which felt more like 11 years away rather than a mere 11 months!

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!

Ryan Dilbert recommends:
Miyu Yamashita vs Yuki Arai, Hustle! Wrestle! Nagoya Castle! (TJPW, December 18th)
Yuki Arai, a rookie less than two dozen matches into her career, stepped up to the ace of Tokyo Joshi Pro and tried her damndest to survive the kind of slugfest Yamashita is famous for. Arai’s heart and guts dazzled here. While Yamashita carried the load offensively, TJPW’s promising new star provided the taut matchup’s connective tissue. We get big kicks, mucho emotion, and post-match tears to boot in this main event.

JJohnson recommends:
Konosuke Takeshita vs Yuji Okabayashi, Nevermind in Yoyogi (DDT, December 26th)
A very (very) late match of the year contender from DDT, as their Ace, Konosuke Takeshita endured a war of attrition with the beast they call Yuji Okabayashi. They duelled in a thrilling D-Oh Grand Prix encounter a few weeks prior, but this KO-D Openweight Championship clash outdid their previous, amazingly. It’s easy to call a wrestling match a “war”, but this one truly deserves that moniker; intense passion and hard-hitting, wince-inducing, bruising strikes. Not for a second did they let up, they went tooth and nail to pound each other with strikes resonating deep in the wrestling soul. If I was to dream up a pro wrestling match, it would probably look something like this. A true gem!

Corey Michaels recommends:
Hangman Page vs Bryan Danielson, Winter is Coming (AEW, December 15th)
This was a polarizing match, as most time-limit draws are, but this is one of my favorite matches that has this type of finish. Someone who fully believes in himself against someone holding an air of arrogance with a chip on his shoulder. Danielson needs to accept people are on his level now, and the Anxious Millennial Cowboy may be one of those people. But, we know the power that the ecstasy of gold holds over those that contest themselves in the squared circle.


Trent Breward recommends:
Saya Kamitani vs Tam Nakano, Stardom Dream Queendom (Stardom, December 29th)
What a way to finish the year! All eyes were on the main event between Utami and Syuri, but Tam and Saya came out on a mission. The best match of Tam’s reign and the best match of Saya’s career, this was a fantastic showcase of the emotional storytelling that has been present in Tam’s title defences while featuring a faster pace through Saya’s high risk offence. These two have always had strong chemistry together, but they took it to another level with the lights shining brighter than ever inside Ryogoku Hall.

ThumblySqueezed recommends:
Tay Conti & Anna Jay vs The Bunny & Penelope Ford, New Year’s Smash (AEW, December 31st)
Take a lesson, kids, sometimes it pays to procrastinate (#SlothStyle). This brutal, bloody blow-off match again reminded us what AEW’s women’s division can do with a proper stage to tell a story. There were chairs, trash cans, brass knuckles, glass bottles, and a top-rope table spot (how Penelope didn’t break her neck in such close quarters was insane) – all in the first 2 minutes! The match properly breathed from there but did not drop an ounce in intensity. Ford and Bunny got their best spotlight to show off their in-ring talent to date, while Anna Jay re-established herself as a compelling figure to be reckoned with. Jay one-upping the heels’ thumbtacks by wrapping herself in barbed wire for her Queenslayer finisher is an indelible image that will live on in AEW packages for years and launch her back into the stratosphere.

Credit: AEW

Steve Howard recommends:
Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano, Pete Dunne & L.A. Knight vs Bron Breakker, Carmelo Hayes, Grayson Waller & Tony D’Angelo, War Games (NXT, December 5th)
NXT 2.0 had been hit and miss so going into this event, leading to lower than usual expectations for a NXT special. This main event was billed as the NXT veterans Team Black and Gold versus the NXT new breed Team 2.0, a battle of eras. Filled with high spots and drama, this enjoyable match provided a brief DIY reunion and the elevation of Team 2.0. Breakker and Waller in particular look destined to be the top stars of the 2.0 era.   

Hey_Brian recommends:
The Lucha Brothers vs. FTR, Rampage (AEW, December 10th)
I love tag team wrestling. FTR and the Lucha Brothers have faced off several times in 2021 in some very good matches, but there was always something missing. This match had it. Watching it in person, this match featured the hottest crowd of the entire night (among both Dynamite and Rampage). The offset styles and personalities of the two teams were really played up to great effect and the drama was wonderful and engaging.

CiaranRH recommends:
Gabriel Kidd vs Jonathan Gresham, Detonation (NJPW Strong, December 11th)
A technical wrestling fan’s dream. There is a slow, methodical break-down from technical sportsmanship and one-upmanship that escalates into a bitter fight, telling a fantastic story that manifests into an even better match. This was Kidd’s first match in more than 6 months, and not only did he fit right back in, he looked better than ever. Gresham proved to be the perfect opponent for Kidd to showcase his ability, but the young Brit was caught out by Gresham’s in-ring intelligence in the end.