Another month has come and gone in the pro wrestling world, and that means that it's time to go through what I enjoyed the most from what ended up being an excellent past 30 days of action. April is generally the most exciting month in the pro wrestling calendar as it marks WrestleMania season. Not only does WWE put out all the stops and usually holds a show that matches the pageantry and drama that WrestleMania deserves, but other companies in the states usually end up holding multiple shows in and around wherever Mania is held, this time in Stone Cold Steve Austin's backyard in Dallas, Texas.
Additionally, this month marked the unofficial start of a new era at Ring of Honor, which was previously sold to AEW owner Tony Kahn earlier this year. We'll get into how they did a little later on, but suffice to say that the future of at least one American promotion not named AEW is bright.
On the other side of the world, the Japanese scene continued to chug along and hold their generally great programming. Stardom held their annual Cinderella Tournament, All Japan did their Champion Carnival, Dragongate said goodbye to K-Ness after a tremendously emotional final match, DDT held a wacky tournament to crown the "King of Street Wrestling", NOAH did... NOAH things, and Ice Ribbon was forced to contemplate their future after their two biggest stars announced that they would be leaving.
The whole pro wrestling scene is doing great things right now, if you look for them, and I hope that this write-up proves just that. Without any more delay, let's get into this!
FAVORITE MALE WRESTLER: Wheeler Yuta (AEW)
We start this month as always with a look at my favorite male wrestler from the past month. Because there was so much good wrestling, particularly around WrestleMania time, there were many potential choices for this selection. Guys like Biff Busick, Jonathan Gresham, Shane Strickland, and Kevin Owens were all fantastic, but they couldn't even make my expanded honorable mentions list. Additionally, the guys who did make my honorable mentions list included some pretty shocking names, not least of which being "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, who hadn't wrestled a match in 19 years, but gave us a wonderful main event at The Showcase of the Immortals.
But none of those guys could take the title this month from my selection, AEW's newest superstar on the rise, Wheeler Yuta. The 25-year-old came into April with two goals on his mind. First, he was gunning for Josh Woods' Ring of Honor Pure Championship, which he was able to successfully attain on April 1st at Ring of Honor's Supercard of Honor show. While the match itself wasn't one of the peak highlights from that fantastic show, his win certainly gave him an immediate boost in profile.
Secondly, he was trying to earn his way into AEW's newest faction, William Regal's Blackpool Combat Club. And after somehow surviving a hellacious battle of attrition against Jon Moxley on April 8th, during which he bled ALL over the place, the former IWTV World Champion finally earned the respect of the BCC's members and became the third full time wrestler in the stable.
Since then, his stock both within the company and with the fan base has only increased. He's getting excellent crowd reactions on every show. His intensity has increased 10 fold inside the ring. And he's even winning matches for his team.
May also looks to be an exciting month for Wheeler Yuta, as New Japan announced that he will be heading to Japan to compete in their Best of the Super Juniors tournament, which by the way, is going to be excellent. If he is able to flow well with the wrestlers over there, he could very well make an appearance on next month's post as well.
"Speedball" Mike Bailey (Impact/Freelance)
Minoru Suzuki (NJPW/Freelance)
Cody Rhodes (WWE)
Jon Moxley (AEW)
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin (WWE)
Seth Rollins (WWE)
FAVORITE FEMALE WRESTLER: AZM (Stardom)
Two months after she was a part of my favorite match of the month back in February, we return here in April to throw more flowers at the feet of Stardom's High Speed Champion, the awesome AZM. The 19-year-old only had seven matches this past month, but her output was so strong, that it seemed wrong for me to choose anyone else for this award. Even Syuri, Stardom's world champion and leader of the promotion's newest faction, couldn't quite overtake the "High Speed Bomb Girl".
AZM has done two things in April to solidify herself as the Queen of April. She further established her tag team with fellow Queen's Quest stablemate Saya Kamitani with two key wins, and she continued her reign with the High Speed title with a phenomenal defense against Mei Suruga on April 29th. This latest defense was her second so far, and possibly her best ever title defense with the strap over her two reigns.
If you've never watched an AZM match, or it's been a couple years, allow me to try and explain what makes her a fun watch. Needless to say, as she's the High Speed Champion, but AZM is very fast in the ring. She might not hit the same furious speeds as a Natsupoi, but she can keep up with anyone Rossy Ogawa throws at her. Additionally, AZM is quite the technician as well. As often as she'll beat you with a Fujiwara Armbar, she can roll you up with an Azumi Sushi to clinch the pin. For such a young person, AZM has the intellect of a highly seasoned veteran of the squared circle. After all, she started her career at the age of 13 and has frankly grown up on screen.
AZM has been on a roll in 2022 and if she continues her pace, I think she'll be at the top of list when it comes to my favorite female wrestler of the year when it's all said and done. Looking to the immediate future, the Queen's Quest general will be in the middle of two pretty important storylines. It's been reported that all the members of QQ, except for Miyu Amasaki, will fight at some point in the future to finally christen a new leader of the faction after Momo Watanabe defected to join Oedo Tai last year, and AZM will once again defend her High Speed belt against Stardom's resident bear woman, Koguma, down the road as well. I'm sure that both of those clashes will be excellent watches, and here's hoping that the teenage sensei of Stardom will come out on top in both matches, no offense to the other members of QQ.
Here's hoping that AZM has many more years of dominance left in the tank, and many more title reigns as well!
Asahi (Ice Ribbon)
Bianca Belair (WWE)
Hikari Shimizu (COLORS)
Tsukasa Fujimoto (Ice Ribbon)
FAVORITE TAG TEAM: FTR (Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood - AEW)
So far in 2022, I have given out 12 10/10 rated matches. Out of those 12, two have been between tag teams, and both featured Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood from FTR. While we'll discuss one of those matches later in this write up, I'm going to take my time here to try and fully articulate why this duo is not only the best tag team from April but perhaps the best tag team in the world this year.
According to our friends at Cagematch, the boys formerly known in WWE as "The Revival" have wrestled together 10 times across four different promotions in 2022. Aside from their usual booking in AEW, where they are the crown jewel of the best tag team division in pro wrestling, even if they're not always booked that way, they've also had spots in AAA, where they are their tag team champions, Ring of Honor, which again we'll get to, and Big Time Wrestling, where they battled the greatest American tag team in history, the Rock 'n' Roll Express.
If you watch an FTR match, you'll instantly feel like you are watching something special. These two embody the spirit of classic 80s southern tag team wrestling while also infusing some modern conventions so that they don't stick out like a weird throwback act like the VaudeVillians. These two can work, and this month they were rewarded with some high profile clashes that they were able to sink their teeth into. Besides their match with the Briscoes that we'll get into a little later, this month saw Cash and Dax battle the Young Bucks in another really strong tag team bout, which I gave a 10/10 rating, and they also hinted at potentially making the full turn to babyface. I'm not so sure if that'll work for the long term, but based on the fact that it's next to impossible to boo them, this move might make sense for right now.
Cash and Dash finished this month in fascinating fashion when they battled each other in an Owen Hart Invitational qualifying match on April 27th. While it could be argued that they took a few too many spots from Owen Hart's classic WrestleMania 10 match with Bret Hart, who is unsurprisingly a big fan of the duo, this was yet another love letter to wrestling as an art form. Here's hoping Dax does well in the tournament.
Looking forward to the near future, Dax Harwood will probably be spending most of his AEW time preparing for and competing in the Owen, and the duo will be getting ready for another dream match, this time against Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards of The American Wolves at an ASW show on June 11th. Additionally, FTR are perhaps overdo for another AAA World Tag Team title defense in Japan, possibly against The Lucha Brothers.
Black Desire (Momo Watanabe and Starlight Kid - Stardom)
Briscoe Brothers (Jay Briscoe and Mark Briscoe - Freelance)
Cosmic Angels (Mina Shirakawa and Unagi Sayaka - Stardom)
galaxyPunch! (Hikari Shimizu and SAKI - Ice Ribbon)
FAVORITE FACTION: Blackpool Combat Club (AEW)
Well, I called it!
Last month in my March writeup, I said that I wouldn't be surprised if the newly christened group of Bryan Danielson, Jon Moxley, and William Regal would win my favorite faction for April if they added a new full-time wrestler to their lineup. And low and behold, on April 8th, Wheeler Yuta, drenched in blood, earned his spot in the lineup after going through medieval torture against MOX on Rampage.
Since then, the trio has been nothing short of perfect on AEW programming. They've had four matches together as of writing, including three in April, and remain undefeated. In their wake, they have dismantled mostly lower card fare, but their individual cache can match up with every other trio in All Elite Wrestling. Suffice to say that, in my opinion, they could beat any other trio right now.
Additionally, William Regal has been cutting some of his best promos in years. He's perfectly crafted his club's lore as being the most violent crew, not only in AEW, but perhaps in the entire "Forbidden Door" Universe (that being AEW, NJPW, IMPACT, AAA, DDT, and ROH). The time he mentioned that their goal is not only to beat, but to maim their opponents, was especially devilish.
Looking forward, it appears that AEW are set to introduce trios belts to the company. If they do, look for the BCC to challenge for, and potentially win the titles whenever they are created. I know that I'd personally love to see Danielson, Moxley, and Yuta hold the inaugural straps.
Death Triangle (Penta Oscuro, Rey Fenix, Pac - AEW)
God's Eye (Syuri, Ami Sourei, MIRAI - Stardom)
Prominence (Risa Sera, Suzu Suzuki, Akane Fujita, Mochi Natsumi, Hiragi Kurumi - Freelance)
Queen's Quest (AZM, Utami Hayashishita, Saya Kamitani, Lady C, Miyu Amasaki, Hina - Stardom)
FAVORITE MATCH: FTR (Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood) vs. The Briscoes (Jay and Mark Briscoe) (4/1)
This was by far the easiest decision I had to make on this month's blog. This match between the Briscoe Brothers and FTR from Ring of Honor's Supercard of Honor show on April 1st illustrated why I believe tag team wrestling is the best form of wrestling when it's at its best. These four men went to war for 27 minutes and showed an undying devotion to the profession that they are in. And the crowd in Garland, Texas responded to their display with the admiration and love that fit the match.
What was up for grabs were the legendary Ring of Honor tag team titles, a pair of belts that have been held by some of the greatest tag teams from the past 20 years, including The Kings of Wrestling, El Generico and Kevin Steen, reDRagon, The American Wolves, The Addiction, The Guerrillas of Destiny, The Broken Hardys, and The Young Bucks. The champions were Jay and Mark, the Briscoe Brothers, a pair of Delaware boys who were in the middle of their 12th reign with the gold. Over their dozen times as champs, they had spent 1,375 days with the straps.
Challenging their claim as champions were Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood of FTR, a team that came into the match with some gold of their own, the AAA World Tag Team Championships, which they had won back in October. To many in the scene, FTR are the pinnacle of tag team wrestling on Earth right now, and have been since they were having exciting clashes in NXT. In their careers, the Carolina boys have won the WWE NXT Tag Team titles, the RAW and SmackDown Tag Team titles, and the AEW Tag Team titles. If you ask me, they should win all the tag titles.
The Briscoe Brothers played the perfect hometown heroes. They were as connected to Ring of Honor as any other humans have ever been, so you know that no matter what, "Dem Boys" would be cheered. And aside from some boos throughout the match, you just know that the crowd had a hard time booing FTR, as they are simply too talented at tag team wrestling to not be cheered.
The psychology involved between these two masterful duos told most of the story here. Sure, there were some high spots, but most of what you'll see if you watch the match down below is good old fashioned mental gymnastics, particularly from the heel FTR duo. FTR's beatdown on Jay Briscoe in particular was so nasty and evil that once Mark Briscoe came in for the hot tag, they earned the mammoth pop from the crowd.
Jon Moxley vs. Wheeler Yuta (AEW Rampage, 4/8)
Minoru Suzuki vs. Tomohiro Ishii (NJPW WIndy City Riot, 4/16)
AZM vs. Mei Suruga (Stardom Cinderella Tournament 2022 Final, 4/29)
Hideki Suzuki and Takashi Sugiura vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima and Kenoh (NOAH Majestic, 4/30)
FAVORITE SHOW: ROH Supercard of Honor (4/1)
While there were a lot of great wrestling shows from this past month, not least of which at WrestleMania Saturday, there were really only three that truly set themselves apart from all the rest. While not listed in the honorable mentions, AEW's Rampage show from April 8th did feature a superstar-making performance from my male wrestler of the month, Wheeler Yuta, who fought Jon Moxley. Additionally, New Japan's Windy City Riot show featured a slobber knocker between Minoru Suzuki and Tomohiro Ishii, as well as Mox's other excellent match from this past month against Will Ospreay.
Yet not even those two excellent shows could hold a candle to Ring of Honor's effort from the first of the month. ROH's Supercard of Honor was promised to wrestling fans even when they announced that they would be shutting down for multiple months. This decision left a lot of people to wonder aloud if this show was even going to happen, and if it did, would it be any good.
Well in this guy's opinion, which is made all the more important because I'm writing these monthly writeups now, this show was to steal a word from Vince McMahon, stupendous. It might not have reached the same level as AEW Revolution as my show of the year so far, but it did host some fantastic action that is indicative of Ring of Honor's spirit as the best work rate promotion in this country (sorry AEW).
Swerve Strickland and Alex Zayne started things strong with their flippy fest before Brian Cage came out as ROH's newest monster to obliterate new NOAH junior, Ninja Mack. Connecticut's own Mercedes Martinez dispatched the loveable Willow Nightingale to become the (at the time) Interim ROH Women's Champion. The Briscoe Brothers failed to defend their ROH Tag Team Titles against F.T.R. in a match I've already gushed about earlier. Minoru Suzuki murdered Rhett Titus to capture his first title on American soil. Wheeler Yuta kick-started his incredible month with a win over Josh Woods for the ROH Pure Title. And Jonathan Gresham not only successfully defended his ROH World Championship against Jay Lethal, but he all but stole Lethal's claim as Mr. ROH in the process.
I left this show looking forward to what Tony Kahn and the ROH brain trust have in store for this promotion in the future. They've got a solid roster already with Gresham and Martinez at the helm, and with some additional help from the AEW roster, including Yuta, Swerve, and Lee Moriarty, I'm sure they could help make this beloved promotion a hot ticket in town once again.
WWE WrestleMania 38 - Saturday (4/2)
Stardom Cinderella Tournament 2022 Night 1 (4/3)
DDT King of Street Wrestling (4/10)
NJPW Windy City Riot (4/16)
FAVORITE PROMOTION: Stardom
I was just about to complete my write up for the month with Ice Ribbon listed as my favorite promotion, but after some deep reflection, I came to the conclusion that it wouldn't be intellectually honest if I didn't give the award to Stardom, as they clearly had a stronger month than their Joshi rivals. While Ice Ribbon did do a ton for me to finally become interested in following their easy-to-watch product more closely, they simply didn't have the overall output of exciting content that Stardom did.
April in Stardom's universe was all but taken over by two things; the creation and growth of Syuri's new faction called God's Eye, which only lost out to Blackpool Combat Club as my faction of the month by a hair, and the Cinderella Tournament, which is a single-elimination tournament where the winner of the competition is allowed to make one wish, usually in the form of a title match at a subsequent show.
While I'm not as big a fan of the Cinderella Tournament as I am for either of their other major annual tournaments; the 5STAR Grand Prix and the Goddesses of Stardom Tag League, I thought that this year's edition was fun and interesting. Some highlights included Tam Nakano and Utami Hayashishita eliminating each other, AZM defeating Momo Watanabe, Himeka and Syuri also eliminating each other, with Himeka later challenging Syuri to a red belt match later that month, and of course, Saki Kashima taking out company ace Mayu Iwatani with a roll-up in 17 seconds. The goodwill with this year's tournament continued on to the last day when MIRAI took out Koguma in the final to etch her name in the history books as Stardom's eighth winner of the event and the fifth woman to challenge for the white belt, which she'll be doing on May 28th against Saya Kamitani.
There's more I could go into to further illustrate just how good Stardom was in April, but I feel like I'd be simply repeating myself. Stardom is my favorite promotion to watch by far right now and while some other companies seem poised to take the crown from them in May (*cough* New Japan *cough*), it'll have to take a lot for any of them to do so. Nevertheless, congratulations to Stardom for being the first promotion to win this award twice!
All Japan Pro Wrestling
FAVORITE KORAKUEN HALL SHOW: Korakuen Hall 60th Anniversary Festival - Joshi Pro-Wrestling Dream Festival
I decided I'd finish this month's write-up with a nod to professional wrestling's greatest arena, Korakuen Hall, as it celebrated its 60th birthday back in mid-April. For those of you who don't know, Korakuen Hall, located right next to the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan, has hosted more pro wrestling events than any other arena on God's green Earth. According to Wrestling Data, it has hosted 5,593 shows (as of 5/9/22), from just about every promotion that has ever mattered, including All Japan, New Japan, NOAH, DDT, Dragongate, Big Japan, FMW, Osaka Pro, Pancrase, Stardom, Ice Ribbon, Tokyo Joshi Pro, All Japan Women, AAA, Ring of Honor, IMPACT, ECW, wXw, WCW, and WWE. Even Lucha Underground, a television show that ventured out of their television studio exactly 10 times, held a show there.
So to celebrate 60 years of unforgettable moments and matches, the venue's owners announced that they would hold a two-show extravaganza. And while the second night would feature dream matches featuring competitors from the granddads of puroresu, New Japan, and All Japan, the first night's action would serve to showcase Joshi talent only. Wrestlers from Stardom, Ice Ribbon, SEAdLINNNG, OZ Academy, WAVE, Marvelous, Sendai Girls, and many more came together and put on what I thought was a great show, and the winner of this bonus category, which could very well become its own category down the road.
Barring a boring main event that pitted Stardom's Starlight Kid, OZ Academy's Mayumi Ozaki, and freelancer Maya Yukihi against WAVE's Nagisa Nozaki, Marvelous' Takumi Iroha, and COLORS' SAKI, this show was at its strongest when it was showcasing some of the younger Joshi talents who are quickly rising up the ranks within their own promotions. Special shoutouts from this show go out to Marvelous' Ai Houzan and Sendai Girls' Yurika Oka, who each looked excellent when they took on the great tag team of Arisa Nakajima and Tsukasa Fujimoto, as well as Stardom's Mina Shirakawa and Unagi Sayaka, who looked fantastic against Haruka Umesaki and Rin Kadokura.
As someone who's always looking ahead to who's rising up the Joshi scene, this show utterly succeeded. I can only hope that Korakuen Hall holds shows like this more often.
January - Dragon Dia (Dragongate)
February - MJF (AEW)
March - MALE - Zack Sabre Jr. (NJPW) FEMALE - KAIRI (Stardom)
April - MALE - Wheeler Yuta (AEW) FEMALE - AZM (Stardom)
January - Dragon Dia and Yuki Yoshioka (Dragongate)
February - Konosuke Takeshita and Yuki Ueno (DDT)
March - Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley (AEW)
APRIL - Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood (AEW)
January - Prominence (Freelance)
February - House of Black (AEW)
March - Donna Del Mondo (Stardom)
APRIL - Blackpool Combat Club (AEW)
January - Go Shiozaki vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima (NOAH The New Year, 1/1)
February - AZM vs. Starlight Kid (Stardom Cinderella Journey In Nagaoka, 2/23)
March - Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Will Ospreay (New Japan Cup 2022 Night 13, 3/21)
APRIL - F.T.R. (Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood) vs. The Briscoes (Jay and Mark Briscoe) (ROH Supercard of Honor, 4/1)
January - Stardom Nagoya Supreme Fight (1/29)
February - Stardom Cinderella Journey In Nagaoka (2/23)
March - AEW Revolution (3/6)
APRIL - ROH Supercard of Honor (4/1)
January - Stardom
February - AEW
March - NJPW
APRIL - Stardom
March - CM Punk's entrance at AEW Revolution (Favorite Entrance)
April - Korakuen Hall 60th Anniversary Festival - Joshi Pro-Wrestling Dream Festival (Favorite Korakuen Hall Show)
Every Match of the Year Candidate in 2022 from April 2022 (9/10s or higher)
(Note: Italics means it was my match of the month)
4/1 - Alex Shelley vs. Speedball Mike Bailey (Impact Multiverse of Matches)
4/1 - Bandido vs. Jonathan Gresham (ROH Supercard of Honor)
4/1 - F.T.R. vs. Briscoe Brothers (ROH Supercard of Honor)
4/2 - Cody Rhodes vs. Seth Rollins (WWE WrestleMania 38 - Saturday)
4/6 - F.T.R. vs. Young Bucks (AEW Dynamite)
4/7 - Dragon Kid and KZY vs. K-ness and Susumu Yokosuka (Dragongate The Gate Of Passion 2022 ~ Final Burst Out! K-Ness Forever Night 4)
4/8 - Jon Moxley vs. Wheeler Yuta (AEW Rampage)
4/13 - Minoru Suzuki vs. Samoa Joe (AEW Dynamite)
4/13 - Kento Miyahara vs. Takuya Nomura (AJPW Champion Carnival Night 4)
4/16 - Minoru Suzuki vs. Tomohiro Ishii (NJPW Windy City Riot)
4/16 - Jon Moxley vs. Will Ospreay (NJPW Windy City Riot)
4/29 - AZM vs. Mei Suruga (Stardom Cinderella Tournament 2022 Final)
4/29 - Syuri vs. Himeka (Stardom Cinderella Tournament 2022 Final)
4/29 - Arisa Nakajima vs. Tsukasa Fujimoto (SEAdLINNNG Golden Moment)
4/30 - Hideki Suzuki and Takashi Sugiura vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima and Kenoh (NOAH Majestic)
4/30 - Go Shiozaki vs. Kaito Kiyomiya (NOAH Majestic)
Featured Image Credit - Twitter.com
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