My Favorite Things in Wrestling (February 2022)
Updated: Oct 25, 2022
While the wrestling scene wasn't as exciting as it was in January, February did give us a wide variety of quality programming. All around the world, but specifically in Japan and the states, wrestling companies both big and small continued to evolve storylines and hold exciting matches for their audiences.
Stardom, my favorite promotion in January, kept on chugging along and even announced that former NXT Women's Champion Kairi Sane was returning to the promotion. The Cyberfight companies (DDT, TJPW, and Pro Wrestling NOAH) all held highly recommended events, most notably DDT's annual Ultimate Tag League and TJPW's five tag team match inside a waterpark. Dragongate continued their exciting roster shakeup. AEW righted the ship as they approached their March 6th pay-per-view, Revolution. And WWE went to Saudi Arabia to hold a show that will not appear on this blog.
Just like how I did last month, down below I've listed my favorite wrestler, tag team, faction, match, show, and promotion. I've also included some honorable mentions. If you've not read my write-up from last month, that's totally okay, I've included last month's winners at the bottom of the page.
Without further delay, let's get this started.
Maxwell Jacob Friedman is a lot of things; he's a magnificent promo, he's clearly in tune with his character (if it even is a character), he's not afraid to push the envelope, and he's the owner of the most punchable face in all of wrestling. These things, and many more, made him the clear choice as my favorite wrestler in February, which is additionally impressive given how the Long Island native only wrestled once during the entire month.
The thing that put Max over the top for me was that he further improved his promo ability. Sure he cut your run-of-the-mill promos where he threatened CM Punk, Wardlow, and practically the entire AEW fanbase with ever-escalating acts of violence, but he also found ways through his promos to better explain why he's such a detestable sack of garbage. I was in attendance in Bridgeport, Connecticut when he cut what many are calling his supervillain origin story promo, and while it took some time for me to understand what he was trying to do at the time, by the end of his segment, I felt something I hadn't felt, that being sorry for the evilest man in AEW. If you haven't watched it, I'll add the video down below.
It's times like that, or when he's verbally eviscerating his bodyguard (ex-bodyguard now) Wardlow or finding a new creative way to call us fans names I will not repeat on this blog, that it dawns on me that even at a young age, he's already capable of being one of the best in the entire world. This guy is a total superstar and one whose movements in AEW are always interesting and often exhilarating. While this seems asinine right now, I have no doubt that one day Max will be a massive babyface one day, but for now, I'm enjoying hating this guy's guts.
Bryan Danielson (AEW)
Konosuke Takeshita (DDT)
FAVORITE TAG TEAM
Konosuke Takeshita and Yuki Ueno (DDT)
If there was one thing that the wrestling scene did better in February, it has to be when it comes to tag team competition. AEW led the way here in the states, as they usually do. Tokyo Joshi Pro held their incredibly on-brand tag team five-way match in an indoor water park, and last month's winners, Dragon Dia and Yuki Yoshioka, successfully defended their Open the Twin Gate titles during the entire month. But if you ask me, it was DDT that sported the best pure tag team wrestling, thanks in large part due to the excellent action throughout their annual Ultimate Tag League tournament.
Over a span of a few weeks, an interesting mix of DDT's trademark comedy wrestlers mixed with their more serious roster members to crown new tag team champions. And while I will always appreciate pairings like Burning's Tetsuya Endo and Jun Akiyama, the Calamari Drunken Kings, and Disaster Box's HARASHIMA and Naomi Yoshimura, the reason I even watched the tournament all was so that I could watch Konosuke Takeshita and Yuki Ueno on The 37Kamina team-up.
If you're not familiar with either of these guys, allow me to give you a super brief introduction. Konosuke Takeshita is the reigning and defending KO-D Openweight Champion, which is DDT's top championship. The 26-year-old is the ace, or top good guy, in the company, and one of the best wrestlers in the Japanese scene right now. His style is made up of a lot of suplexes and power moves, with a few Sami Zayn signature moves sprinkled in as well. Ueno, on the other hand, is your all-around junior heavyweight who can roll and grapple as well as leap and fly. If I was to compare him to anyone else, it would be a younger Kota Ibushi. He is also one of the best wrestlers currently in Japan.
So you can imagine that when these two incredibly talented young wrestlers team up in one of these major tournaments, they're going to bring out the best in each other, as well as their opponents, which they most assuredly did. If you have the time to watch even one of their matches from this past month, I'd highly recommend their clash with the aforementioned HARASHIMA and Naomi Yoshimura from the 27th. Additionally, I've also added another tag match they took part in, this time against Kazuki Hirata and Shuji Kondo.
Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly (AEW)
Dragon Dia and Yuki Yoshioka (Dragongate)
HARASHIMA and Naomi Yoshimura (DDT)
Hazuki and Koguma (Stardom)
House of Black (AEW)
For the second month in a row, I'm naming a newly established group as my favorite. Last month I gave this award to Prominence, a crew made up of five deathmatch Joshi wrestlers who've been tearing it up in the Japanese scene ever since they started up in early January, and this month I'm giving the nod to AEW's House of Black stable. A lot of my intrigue for this trio comes from its leader, the violent and macabre Malakai Black. Since debuting in AEW back in August, the man who's formerly known as Aleister Black, and Tommy End before that, has been on a warpath that's been covered in blood, broken bodies, and black mist. He's looked nearly unbeatable, so when he started to hint that he had found followers, I'm sure many of his rivals were starting to wonder if the already dominant Black was ever going to be stopped.
The subsequent debuts of said followers; first the intimidating and violent Brody King and then the wickedly talented Buddy Matthews, have all but made Black the most dangerous man in AEW, and someone who would be wary to find himself in his crosshairs.
As of the end of February, the House of Black has only just begun to infect the AEW roster with their influence. They haven't achieved any tangible success just yet, as they've become entangled with PAC and Penta Oscuro of the Death Triangle. If and when they are able to successfully get past these incredibly strong opponents, there's no telling as to how high Black, King, and Matthews can climb within the promotion.
Donna Del Mondo (Giulia, Syuri, Maika, Himeka, Natsupoi, MIRAI, and Thekla) - Stardom
Eruption (Yukio Sakaguchi, Kazusada Higuchi, Saki Akai, and Hideki Okatani) - DDT
The 37Kamina (Konosuke Takeshita, Yuki Ueno, Shunma Katsumata, MAO, and Toi Kojima) - DDT
AZM vs. Starlight Kid (Stardom Cinderella Journey In Nagaoka, 2/23)
While there was a lot of great wrestling as you can see from my honorable mentions listed down below, there was zero doubt that I was going to pick anything other than Starlight Kid's battle with her eternal rival AZM (pronounced Azumi) for Stardom's High Speed Championship from February 23rd. As someone who's watched and loved Stardom for a long time, I felt like this clash fulfilled a greater purpose than just being a match-of-the-year candidate. To me, this also marked a new era for two of Stardom's superstars on the rise.
You see, Starlight Kid and AZM have each been in Stardom for several years, SLK has been here since 2015 when she was 14 years old, and AZM has been around since 2013 when she was 11. And over that period of time, these two have matched up 97 times including in seven clashes for titles. Over those seven title matches, neither has lost a singles championship to the other, until this night. In a final stretch filled with picture-perfect Canadian Destroyers, quick roll-up attempts, and a lovely Michinoku Driver, AZM exorcised her recent demons and vanquished SLK to win the belt. She is now a two-time High Speed title holder and is one of only three women (Kaori Yoneyama and Natsuki Taiyo) to win the belt at least two times.
Beyond the incredible athleticism and peerless speed these two showed off during this 17-minute semi-main event, the thing that puts this over the top as my match of the month and one of my matches of the year was the intensity shown from both competitors. AZM is known for being very stoic and stern, but even she showed a fire that she's rarely displayed as of now. SLK, on the other hand, marinated and stewed in her newly found dark side and proved to be a perfect antagonist to AZM. If you haven't already, find the entire match and check it out. These two are a testament to Stardom's training center and are each must-watch competitors in the future.
Bryan Danielson vs. Lee Moriarty (AEW Dynamite, 2/16)
Natsupoi vs. Saya Kamitani (Stardom Cinderella Journey In Nagaoka, 2/23)
HARASHIMA & Naomi Yoshimura vs. Konosuke Takeshita & Yuki Ueno (DDT Ultimate Tag League 2022 The Final!!, 2/27)
Hikari Noa & Yuki Arai vs. Hyper Misao & Nodoka Tenma vs. Marika Kobashi & Raku vs. Miu Watanabe & Rika Tatsumi vs. Mizuki & Yuka Sakazaki (TJPW Midwinter Pool Wrestling On Wrestle Universe, 2/28)
Stardom Cinderella Journey In Nagaoka (2/23)
While this show started off a bit slow with some okay matches, including one somewhat underwhelming tag featuring both Momo Watanabe and Utami Hayashishita, two of the best female wrestlers on the planet, Stardom's pay per view in Nagoya from the 23rd was yet another fantastic show that further showcases the strength of the promotion's deep roster.
This event had a bit of everything for both longtime fans of the promotion as well as new converts. Former best friends turned rivals Mayu Iwatani and Tam Nakano teamed up in a victorious effort against the dastardly duo of Fukigen Death and Saki Kashima. The potential schism within Donna Del Mondo was teased a little bit as Giulia's led trio with MIRAI and Thekla fought Syuri's team with Himeka and Maika to a 20-minute draw. And my favorite women's tag team in wrestling, Hazuki and Koguma, had a fun clash with Mina Shirakawa and Unagi Sayaka.
But what made this show successfully overtake everything else and be named the show of the month were the final two matches for the High Speed and Wonder of Stardom championships respectively. As mentioned earlier, AZM and Starlight Kid for the High Speed belt was my match of the month and a must-watch for anyone who wants to experience two of the best young wrestlers in the world right now. And even if I felt like nothing Natsupoi and Saya Kamitani were going to do for the Wonder of Stardom belt would've put it above AZM and SLK's effort, they also had an exciting battle that was worthy of the main event spot. Kamitani further proved herself to be a great titleholder, and Natsupoi showed that she can mix it up with someone who doesn't do the high-speed style and have a really good match. All in all, I loved this show and give it my full recommendation.
AEW Dynamite #123 (2/9)
AEW Dynamite #125 (2/23)
DDT Ultimate Tag League 2022 The Final!! (2/27)
TJPW Midwinter Pool Wrestling On Wrestle Universe (2/28)
All Elite Wrestling
Given how underwhelming All Elite Wrestling was in January, it was genuinely refreshing to see them make a complete turnaround in February to the point where they became the easy choice for my favorite promotion of the month. AEW spent most of their time this past month to hype up their Revolution pay-per-view, which will most likely be something I bring up for my favorite show of the month at the end of March. From the aforementioned battle royales to determine Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus' opponents at the pay-per-view, the various verbal clashes between MJF and CM Punk, and the ongoing war between the House of Black and the Death Triangle, I believe that AEW's efforts on Dynamite and Rampage have been as consistently strong as they've ever been in their short history.
Some of my other favorite things AEW did in February included the following:
Keith Lee's debut and subsequent match against Isiah Kassidy
The beginnings of The Inner Circle's dissolution
Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley's promo battles on the path to their clash at Revolution
Adam Page vs. Lance Archer for the AEW World title
Roppongi Vice getting back together to face off with The Young Bucks
Jay White coming through the "Forbidden Door"
Bryan Danielson vs. Lee Moriarty (My AEW match of the month)
Buddy Matthews' debut
MJF's promo in Bridgeport
All in all, whether you enjoyed the content or you didn't, one thing is undisputed, and that is that AEW was anything but stagnant. Every episode in February had a "can't miss" energy to it, something that didn't really exist for any other promotion during the month. While there were still some things that didn't work for me, there were several more that absolutely hit their mark. No spoilers for March, but don't be surprised if Tony Kahn's promotion notches a second consecutive win in a few weeks.
January - Dragon Dia (Dragongate)
January - Dragon Dia and Yuki Yoshioka (Dragongate)
January - Prominence (Freelance)
January - Go Shiozaki vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima (NOAH The New Year, 1/1)
January - Stardom Nagoya Supreme Fight (1/29)
January - Stardom
Special thanks to WhoScored, Transfermarkt, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Fangraphs, Cagematch, and 1.02.JP for helping make me a more well-informed fan.
Featured Image Credit - Twitter.com
Contact me at AndrewSoS@protonmail.com if you'd like to write for Long Story Sport or if you have any general requests, questions, or comments.