Month on the Mat: December

In this monthly recurring series, the residents of Wrestle Inn will offer you their recommendation 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!

Ethan Vieira recommends:
Suzu Suzuki vs Tomoka Inaba, TakaTaichi 50th Anniversary (JTO, December 19)
What if I told you that two 20 year old wrestlers put on one of the best matches of the year before 2022 ended? This is exactly what happened when Suzu Suzuki faced Tomoka Inaba the previous December and let me tell you that these 2 are way more than the future of joshi wrestling, they are already world class performers. For around 16 minutes these 2 threw high kicks, big suplexes and everything that they had in the tank at each other and it was brilliant. If you want a quick look at how the joshi wrestling scene will be for the next few years, then check out this match!

Ryan Dilbert recommends:
Yuki Yoshioka vs Masaaki Mochizuki, DG Fantastic Gate (Dragongate, December 6)
Take a classic student versus teacher story and infuse a seething ruthlessness and the music flesh on flesh makes. That’s Yoshioka vs. Mochizuki, a thriller for the Open the Dream Gate Championship. It’s a match filled with soul-cracking kicks and joint-ripping, a taut and crisp masterwork of nastiness. Plus, you get the best defense against a pin attempt in wrestling this year—a desperation punch to the face from Mochizuki. You do not need to know either of these men or know a thing about Dragongate to enjoy and understand their violent narrative. Dive in blind and immerse yourself in it.

Steve Howard recommends:
Pretty Deadly vs New Day, NXT Deadline (WWE, December 10)
This wasn’t the most critically acclaimed tag team match on that day, but for me, I preferred this to the ROH match. The in ring action was great but most of all the match was fun. From Pretty Deadlys’ outfits, to the twerk off and onto the four man ‘Lie, Cheat and Steal’ spot, it kept me entertained throughout. With the New Day as NXT tag team champions of the world, I expect great things from the eventual rematch.

Credit: TJPW

Finlay B-H recommends:
Full of Mizuki Battle Royal, Angel and Rabbit (TJPW, December 15)
If you’re a fan of comedy wrestling, vibrant characters or the classic adventure novel Watership Down then boy, do I have the match for you. TJPW celebrated the 10th anniversary of their resident “Popping Sugar Rabbit” by having six wrestlers dress in full Mizuki cosplay for this delightfully unhinged “Full of Mizuki” battle royal. Nowhere else will you find a rogue superhero interrogating a group of rabbits on their breakfast choices, or a perennial badass like Miyu Yamashita acting so disturbingly kawaii that it prompts the other participants to disqualify her from the bout. This is a taste of TJPW at its wonderfully absurd best.

Corey Michaels recommends:
Gunther vs Ricochet, SmackDown (WWE, December 16)
Gunther has been monumental for the mid-card, workhorse intercontinental scene on WWE’s blue brand with matches against the company’s veterans in Rey Mysterio and Sheamus, but his matches with Ricochet give such a great David vs Goliath vibe, with Gunther executing his roles to perfection (even when the booking decisions are silly), and Ricochet has breathed new life under the new regime, fighting like his life and career depends on every strike and flip. Gunther is going to be a monster of a world champion if and when Triple H puts the belt on him.

JJohnson recommends:
Minoru Suzuki & DOUKI vs Jun Kasai & Tomoaki Honma, TakaTaichi 50th Anniversary (JTO, December 19)
While not the highest rated match of the month (look now further than the Dog Collar between FTR and The Briscoes for that), this tag team bout from JTO is fantastic. Falling under the radar, it hasn’t got as much attention as it deserves for the violent, visceral and bloody spectacle it produced. This was intense from the first bell to the last – four warriors doing battle in the wrestling ring. It was a match filled with spots and visuals that will stand the test of memory. All in all, it was a piercing tussle. One of bloodshed. One of fighting spirit.

Trent Breward recommends:
Chris Brookes vs Drew Parker, Baka Gaijin + Friends Vol.1 (Self Produce Show, December 13)
Limitation breeds creativity. How do you manage to have a match when the allocated space to wrestle in is smaller than you are? That was the conundrum facing Brookes and Parker as they battled it out inside a Japanese pub. The mat was one Mei Suruga wide by one Chie Koishikawa long (they checked) but the two Brits managed to put on an absolutely fantastic show. They weaved in chain wrestling, fan participation and even found their way onto the roof of the venue, where the fans below watched them through the glass ceiling. The Gatoh Move influence was strong, but managing so much with such limitations is a testament to both their skill and ingenuity. Also be sure to stick around because the match then evolves into a tag match featuring Mao and Masa Takanashi. 

Kay Quinn recommends:
Shingo Takagi & BxB Hulk vs YAMATO & Madoka Kikuta, Final Gate 2022 (Dragongate, December 25)
Shingo’s return match to his original home promotion combined nostalgia and youth to very entertaining results. There were plenty of callbacks to Takagi’s past, as expected from a match in which he was teaming with one of his greatest rivals and battling another. But what truly made it great was the inclusion of Kikuta, the representation of the new generation carrying Dragongate forward in his absence. Even in defeat, the young wrestler looked absolutely fantastic against Shingo, with some of the most brutal strike exchanges I’ve seen this year and a nightmarish Rolling Elbow that genuinely made me believe he was going to pin the former IWGP champion for a second. To fans who are not familiar with Takagi’s history, I would still recommend watching this match for their confrontation alone.

Adam Ryan recommends:
Hikaru Shida vs. Jamie Hayter, Dynamite (AEW, December 21)
This had a big fight feel right from the entrances. Excalibur referenced All Japan Women’s on commentary and there was stuff that was very reminiscent of that legendary promotion. From the start, Shida took it right to Hayter with hard shots up against the ropes. The intensity ramped up from there. There were several big moves on the apron but my favorite was a wild, earth-shattering suplex down to the floor which gave me instant flashbacks to the famed Kobashi vs. Akiyama match in 2004. Nearfalls at the end had me biting on everything. If I had to nitpick, the only thing I didn’t like was the interference from Britt Baker towards the end but other than that, this was one of the best Dynamite main events of the year.