Independent Wrestling: Best matches of March 2018
NJPW and wXw dominate this month’s compilation of the best matches outside of WWE in March of 2018.
March was a spectacular month for wrestling. With great matches all over the world almost every show producing a genuine match of the year candidate. But what were the best matches to happen outside of the WWE.
Ilja Dragunov vs WALTER vs John Klinger – wXw 16 Carat Gold Day 2 – 10th March
Our top match this week had a little bit of everything. Much like the Golden Lovers vs Young Bucks the story here was amazing. Taking place in the main event of day two of the 16 Carat Gold event. The match was originally slated to be a battle of the figureheads of the company for the biggest title in the company. WALTER, the ring general was challenging John “Bad Bones” Klinger for the wXw Unified championships. The ultimate face against the hated heel. On it’s own this match was billed as the biggest match in the companies history, and what happened next may just have cemented that fact.
WALTER had won the right to pick the stipulation for the match on the road to 16 Carat and before the match could get underway he took to the mic, telling Klinger that he owed a favour to somebody, so he was making the match a three-way. Bringing out Ilja Dragunov along with possibly the biggest pop in Independent wrestling. Dragunov had won last years 16 Carat but had failed in his attempts to become champion. After losing to Klinger at Decembers 17th Anniversary show he disappeared from the company. With rumours abound that he may be retiring, his return here brought a crowd reaction unrivalled by any other Independent promotion. Dragunov was back, and he wanted his belt.
The match itself was almost perfect. The two figureheads of the company colliding with the future. It was everything wrestling should be. The match started with the interference from Klingers RISE teammates, who were quickly dismissed by WALTER and Dragunov. Things soon turned into a chopfest, with WALTER and Dragunov exchanging a vicious flurry of skin breaking chops which turned Dragunovs chest into mulch. Klingers involvement was the icing on the cake. His heel antics being the perfect foil for his much loved opponents. The crowd was ecstatic throughout, loudly cheering and eating up everything they were given as the three men in the ring tried to destroy each other.
Dragunovs unique intensity was evident throughout and after hitting a blue thunder bomb followed by the Torpedo Moscow on Klinger, the young Russian had finally done it. Raising the title high as the crowd went nuts with emotion. Ilja Dragunov, a year after the biggest win in his career was finally on top of Europes biggest promotion.
It was incredible. It was hard hitting. It was compelling, and by god it was emotional.
Zack Sabre Jr. vs Kota Ibushi – NJPW New Japan Cup Night 6 – 15th March
Zack Sabre Jr. went on a great run this month with his victory in the New Japan Cup. Having brilliant matches in every round, it was his much anticipated quarterfinal match against Kota Ibushi that really stood out. These two have history. Many looked forward to a match between the two in the Cruiserweight Classic two years ago before they both turned down contracts and were eliminated in the semifinals. They finally met in last years G1 Climax, with Ibushi picking up the victory and when the brackets for the New Japan Cup came out many fans salivated at the thought of another match between the two.
The match is a clash of styles, with Zack using his technical mastery to ground and reverse Ibushi’s high risk craziness. Zack as always took things to the mat, systematically working over the limbs of his opponent and stopping Ibushi from finding any rhythm. Everything was smooth and even without Ibushi taking to the skies this was incredibly exciting throughout. Kota’s strong kicks were grounded by Zack, with his twisting and pulling on the legs in ways that no leg should ever bend.
David Finlay mentioned on Commentary that Zack had an answer for everything that Ibushi threw at him and this was certainly true. Zack countering and reversing move after move in a variety of crazy and painful looking submissions. It was eventually too much for Ibushi and the referee stopped the match to give Sabre the victory in what was a fantastic and incredibly exciting match.
The Golden Lovers vs The Young Bucks – NJPW Strong Style Evolved – 25th March
Everybody has heard about the implosion of the Bullet Club, stemming mostly from Kenny reuniting with Kota Ibushi and the infighting between Kenny and Cody as they battle for the leadership. It has been a fascinating story. Seeing it slowly unveil in New Japan, ROH and on Being The Elite, there is almost nothing in the business right now as compelling as this story and this match further built things from the get go.
It’s hard to imagine a more anticipated match than The Golden Lovers vs The Young Bucks. The biggest tag team in the business against two of the biggest singles stars main eventing New Japans return to the States. It’s an Indy fanboy dream match and it certainly delivered.
The match itself included everything you would expect. Superkicks, dives and high paced action throughout but it almost didn’t matter. For it was the story here that made this match special. Kenny reluctantly fighting his friends while Matt Jackson goaded him throughout, almost daring his friend to hit him and begging Kenny to hit him with the one winged angel when Omegas seemed reluctant to do so. The match had almost everything you could ask for, with multiple kickouts towards the end further adding to the excitement of the crowd who were electric throughout, loving every single moment which only added to the excitement of the match, and even with the rather lacklustre AXS commentary and production this was still one of the most exciting matches of the year so far.
The Golden Lovers eventually came out on top after nearly 40 minutes after hitting the Golden Trigger on Matt for the pin. It almost didn’t matter though. For at the risk of sounding cliché, the real winner were the fans who got to witness a truly exceptional contest.
Juice Robinson vs Hiroshi Tanahashi – New Japan Cup Night 7
Bobby Gunns vs Mike Bailey – wXw 16 Carat Gold Night 2
Toni Storm vs Melanie Gray – wXw 16 Carat Gold Night 2
Daisuke Harada vs HAYATA – NOAH Navigation for the Future
WALTER vs Rampage Brown – Progress Chapter 65
Show of the Month
wXw 16 Carat Night 2
wXw 16 Carat Gold tournament is always a weekend of great shows and this year continued that trend. A three days 16 man tournament, over 1000 fans packed the Turbinehalle in Oberhausen to see a some of the best wrestlers from not just Europe but around the world. With big names such as Matt Sydal, Keith Lee and Matt Riddle on show this years line-up was top notch.
Day 2 in particular was the stand out show this year. With the quarterfinal matches of Timothy Thatcher vs Lucky Kid, Absolute Andy and Matt Riddle being the standouts of the tournament matches, it was the non tournament action that really blew everything away. Starting with the viscous match for the Shotgun title between Bobby Gunns and Mike Bailey to Toni Storm and Melanie Gray having a contender for the best women’s match in wXw history. It was the main event that really stole the show. Ilja Dragunov finally getting his hands of the wXw Unified Championships in the main event.
Every match was great, with the quality getting better with every match. wXw have really outdone themselves this year.
Wrestler of the Month
Zack Sabre Jr.
I think it’s fair to say that few wrestlers have had as big a breakthrough in such little time. ZSJ has long be seen as one of the best wrestlers in the world but he had never really had that big moment in New Japan. His incredible run through the New Japan Cup field caught many off guard and cemented him as a major player in New Japan almost over night. Picking up wins over New Japan stars Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi and SANADA, before beating the Ace of the company in the final, Zack blew everybody away with his almost flawless technical and submission based style of wrestling. With almost every match being a match of the month contender.
Outside of New Japan he had great matches against Matt Riddle for PWG, Chris Ridgeway at Riptide and El Phantasmo at Rev Pro. While the performances of WALTER for wXw and Progress certainly puts himself in contention, it is hard to argue that Zack Sabre Jr. is the wrestler of month for March.
What did you think were the best indie matches this month? Let us know in the comments below!