It’s July, which means 2016 is halfway over. The NZPWI Staff bring you our thoughts on the matches that should be in the running for “match of the year” polls thus-far.
In addition to our regular contributors, we’re joined by “That Young Warrior” Paul Sayers.
Sayers shares his thoughts on all the week’s talking points, from the NJPW G1 Climax to Brock Lesnar and CM Punk’s impending UFC fights to the WWE Cruiserweight Classic.
Join us for this week’s Gimme Five.
1. It’s July, which means 2016 is halfway through. What are your early picks for match of the year, both at home and abroad?
Great question to start with. Overseas, you cannot look past Zayn and Nakamura from NXT TakeOver: Dallas. Two of the best ever in this business going at it—that’s going to stay as the best match this year—it’s going to be hard to touch it. At home is a tricky one. I’ve been around a lot this year and seen a lot of matches. Rufguts vs. Scarlett from Maniacs United is a standout and a great match to sit back and watch but Brook Duncan vs. Josh Shooter takes the cake for me so far this year. With so much going on in NZ wrestling I’m sure we’re bound to have a big list of possible match of the year contenders.
Abroad? That’s a bit difficult. I would have said Cena/Styles, but the ending prevented it from being such. As much as I hate to put The Miz in a top ranking, I think his fatal four-way victory at Extreme Rules over Owens, Cesaro, and Zayn would be my pick. I know there’s been a lot in Japan which could probably overtake my pick (and I’ve seen a few of them), but the Extreme Rules match was just some of the most enjoyable wrestling I’ve seen.
A few come to mind as just great matches that I liked so far this year: The Royal Rumble Match (Royal Rumble), Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns (Fastlane), Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match (WrestleMania 32), and AJ Styles vs. Roman Reigns (Payback).
There have been a lot of great matches so far in 2016. One happened when the new year was barely a few days old – Okada vs. Tanahashi at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 10. A match filled with great wrestling and a lot of history. Will Ospreay vs. Ricochet from NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 23 was the kind of high-flying spotfest that I love. I’d also throw in Lucha Underground Aztec Warfare II, although it’s a contentious pick because it was taped in December 2015 and aired in March 2016 (so it somewhat qualifies). In terms of pure storytelling (something Lucha Underground does better than any other company) this one-hour match was close to perfection.
I’ve really enjoyed AJ Styles’ battles with Roman Reigns, and Kushida vs. Will Ospreay from NJPW Invasion Attack. However, like Clint, I’ve got to go with Okada vs. Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom 10. Closer to home, The Dapper Agents vs. The FIST in a TLC match for the IPW Tag Team Championships had just about everything I could ask for as a fan.
2. Roman Reigns is serving a 30-day suspension due to end mere days before WWE Battleground. Should he still be part of the WWE Championship main event?
He’s been advertised, he should be there. He’s done his time, so why not? Let him in the match. It’s the follow-on from Battleground that I’m most looking forward to. Where to for Reigns from here?
Subjectively? No. Objectively? Still, probably not. The simple fact is many people have been punished much worse for the same thing. William Regal was on his way to a WWE Championship match after his King of the Ring victory, but that was nixed after his violation and he never made it back to that level. However, business is business. McMahon has decided that Roman is the next big guy and, as such, they must continue investing in him. In the end, it depends how you look at it really.
Yes, for the sake of The Shield triple threat pay-off.
Sure, why not. It’s his first offence and he’s done everything WWE has asked of him over the past couple of years. He’s also been looking better in the ring, so I say give him a chance to redeem himself.
I’ve no problem with Reigns taking part in the Battleground main event. If Brock Lesnar was allowed to skip months of action as WWE Champion and walk back into a pay-per-view main event just a couple of years ago, what’s 30 days for Reigns – a man who doesn’t even hold the title any more.
3. The blocks for this year’s NJPW G1 Climax have been announced. Which matches have piqued your interest? And who’s your early pick to win and go on to the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 11?
Anything with Omega and Shibita always looks good. In saying that, everything NJPW is doing at the moment just looks like the coolest thing. I’m predicting a curve-ball with Naito taking it out this year.
I can’t say I really keep an eye on the Japanese product, but looking at the brackets, the two matches I’m mostly interested in come from Block A: Fale/Okada and Fale/Tonga. The first I find interesting because it includes New Zealand’s own Underboss as well as the incomparable Rainmaker. The second I find interesting because it is a fight between Bullet Club members.
I’m going to pick Kenny Omega to win for his antics at the Street Fighter tournament. As for matches I am looking forward to: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada, and Tetsuya Naito vs. Kenny Omega.
To be honest I’m not too amped about this year’s G1 Climax. There aren’t too many matches that have my interest. I’ll still watch it and hope for some good matches, but I think it’s one of the weakest line-ups in years.
This could be Katsuyori Shibata’s year. Finally! Obviously Block B is no walk in the park, but Block A is stacked even moreso than usual with the likes of Marufuji, Okada and Tanahashi. I’m very excited to see any combination of those three do battle, and then (hopefully) one of them meet Shibata in the final.
4. Brock Lesnar will fight at UFC 200 next week, and CM Punk is scheduled to make his Octagon debut at UFC 203. Do you consider yourself a UFC fan now these high-profile WWE names are part of the organisation?
I’m the most casual fan of the UFC but a big fan of social media, so if there is buzz around it I’ll care and try and learn as much as I can beforehand to spit some banter around some beers while watching the show.
I’m beginning to follow a bit more closely, but I definitely don’t consider myself a fan. I enjoy it from time to time, but I’m a wrestling fanatic through and through.
I watch the occasional UFC fight from time to time; that isn’t going to change. I’m going to watch both of those fights, but not the entire card, so it doesn’t change my habits at all. Also, I expect both of those ex-WWE Superstars to lose their matches.
I’ve been a UFC fan since day one (yep, way back in the days of Ken Shamrock, Tank Abbott, and Dan Severn), although my interest has been on and off over the years. I’m intrigued to see CM Punk fight and am amped for the Brock-Hunt fight (Go Hunt!), but no more than I am to see the likes of Jon Jones fight.
Brock Lesnar got me interested in UFC during his first run with the company, and I’ve since gone back and sought out many of their early events featuring the likes of Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn – also wrestlers, coincidentally enough. I’m nervous about both Lesnar and Punk’s fights but I’ll be watching live on pay-per-view with the same enthusiasm I’d have for an NJPW or WWE event.
5. Competitors have arrived in Orlando and taping has begun on the first-ever WWE Cruiserweight Classic. Who’s your pick to take out the tournament?
I feel like a lot of people will want Zack Sabre Jr to win this but I really hope not. I’m picking Kota Ibushi—it’ll be good to keep the feel of the international flare in NXT—either him or my home boy Rich Swann. On a side note, I am so excited for the Cruiserweight Classic; it’s the closest I’ll get to any form of PWG stuff in the ‘E.
A part of me feels like I should be somewhat patriotic of the Anzac connection, like I should be cheering Damian Slater. However, its two other wrestlers I’ll be cheering for throughout: Kota Ibushi and Tommaso Ciampa.
Zack Sabre Jr. I don’t know many of the competitors, so I am going off of indie sizzle reels and the introductions. I was very impressed by a lot of the guys though and am really looking forward to seeing it play out.
I’ve said before that I’m a huge fan of Zack Sabre Jr, who I consider the best wrestler going around today. So naturally I hope that he wins the tournament. If he doesn’t get the chance, Kota Ibushi would be my next pick.
Kota Ibushi seems tailor-made for the Cruiserweight Classic. That said, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa have got all the tools as well. I go back and forward between these three on almost a daily basis, changing my mind, but for right now I’m sticking with Ibushi.