Independent Wrestling: Best matches of February 2018

What were the best matches to happen outside of WWE in February?

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With the standard of wrestling outside of WWE right now at the highest it’s been for a long time, it’s almost a given that every week there will be a new candidate for match of the year. This year already there have been a number of matches that have blown the minds of fans everywhere. 

So, with so many great matches we at Real Sport have looked at some of the best matches to happen in February outside of the WWE. 

Jay Lethal vs Jonathan Gresham – ROH Honor Reigns Supreme – 4th February

Ring of Honor recently launched their Honor Club streaming service with a new show Honor Reigns Supreme, which aired for free on their website at the beginning of the month. With stars such as The Young Bucks, Cody and Dalton Castle all on the show it brought a lot of new eyes to the company. Surprisingly, the match that stole the show was the mid card contest between Jay Lethal and Jonathan Gresham.

A straight up old school wrestling match between the old and new guard. This was a slow and methodical contest that relied on actual mat based grappling. Gresham having to use his incredible technical ability to systematically breakdown Lethal by working over his left arm. Lethal countered this by working on the injured left leg of Gresham, eventually using this to his advantage by making Gresham tap out to the figure four leg lock. 

This was a great match and was so different from the usual fast-paced, high-flying style you so often see in Ring of Honor. Proving that the old school fundamentals of working a body part can still work in today’s wrestling climate. A massive match from Gresham, who really impressed a lot of people with easily his best match in Ring of Honor to date.

The match can be found on their website.

Kazuchika Okada vs SANADA – NJPW New Beginning Osaka – 10th February

The main event of the Osaka show, Kazuchika Okada made the 10th defence of his IWGP Heavyweight Championship against a man many have pegged as a future star, SANADA. This was the 600th day of Okada’ record-breaking reign as he defended against a man who has all the promise in the world but had never quite had that break out match. Until now.

The match itself had a slow start that gradually built up to where you actually thought the title could change hands, which is something that outside of Okada’ defences against Omega and Naito has never really been on the cards. Both men are amongst the most athletic wrestlers in the world and at times SANADA showed that he may even eclipse the champion when it comes to athleticism. 

The fans were very much behind the challenger as the match went on, which may just be a sign of joy that he was finally showing us he is capable of competing with the best in the business. He came close to picking up the win here with the skull end only for Okada to show the same resilience that has helped him hold onto the title for so long. The champ eventually came out on top after close to 40 minutes with the rainmaker to take him only one defence away from equalling Tanahashi’ record of 11 consecutive defences. 

A top-notch match where SANADA finally showed the world exactly how good he could be. The match is available to watch on New Japan World.

Matt Riddle vs James Drake – Evolve 100 – 17th February

Since becoming a wrestler, former UFC fighter Matt Riddle has made a name for himself as one of the hardest hitting competitors anywhere in the world of wrestling. Well, at Evolve 100 he certainly met his match in the most unlikely of opponents. 

James Drake had come into Evolve as part of a tagteam with Anthony Henry, winning the tag titles in their debut at Evolve 88 this was only his second singles match with the promotion and while he has impressed in the tag division, I don’t think many were expecting much from him here. 

How wrong we all were.

A hard-hitting chop fest, it wasn’t long before Riddles chest was busted open from a series of chops from Drake. Few people can out strike Riddle but I think it’s fair to say that Drakes name can now be added to that list. He also showed he was much more than just a big man with a huge moonsault from the top rope which almost brought him the victory. Riddle eventually came out victorious after hitting Drake with a series of heavy forearms, causing the referee to stop the match. 

Even though he lost, Drake earned the admiration of the crowd and was met with a standing ovation as he left the ring. This was a fantastic performance from James Drake and was a real breakthrough moment for the big man. The match is available to watch here.

Honourable Mentions

Austin Aries vs ACH – MLW: Road to the World Championship

WALTER vs Mark Davis – Progress: Chapter 63

Zack Sabre Jr. vs Austin Theory – Evolve 100

Masaaki Mochizuki vs KZY – Dragon Gate: Kotoka Road

Hiroki Goto vs Beer City Bruiser – NJPW/ROH Honor Rising Night 1

Show of the Month

Evolve 100

Evolve wrestling celebrated their 100th show this month at La Boom nightclub in New York. With great matches from start to finish, Evolve put on arguably their best show in recent memory. The hard hitting contest between Matt Riddle and James Drake stole the show, along with the double main event of Keith Lee vs AR Fox and Zack Sabre Jr successfully defending the Evolve championship against Austin Theory. There wasn’t a bad match on the card and add into that the great atmosphere of La Boom and this was a great show.

 Even if you are unfamiliar with Evolve, this show is certainly worth checking out and is available to watch on WWN Live.

What did you think were the best indie matches this month? Let us know in the comments below!

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