LONG STORY SPORT

My Favorite Things in Wrestling (July 2022)

Updated: Oct 25

Another month has come and gone, which means that it's once again time to dive into some of my favorite things to happen in wrestling. July featured some excellent action in rings both here in America and over in Japan, and it's time to go over what I felt was the best of the best.


Before we get to the biggest story from July, here are a few other major events from this past month. Both Bushiroad companies, New Japan and Stardom, each began their annual round robin tournaments, the G1 Climax and 5STAR Grand Prix respectively. Tokyo Joshi Pro held their greatest show of all time. Dragongate concluded the month with their biggest two-night event of the year in Kobe. Claudio Castagnoli won the Ring of Honor Championship on the same night FTR and The Briscoe Brothers followed up their classic from April with another banger. And Ric Flair had his "final match."


But of course the biggest story not only from July but the whole year was that Vince McMahon hung up this headset and retired from WWE after serving more than 40 years as the man in charge. In his wake, Stephanie McMahon and Triple H are now in charge, thus making WWE a worthwhile product to watch once again.


For any new readers, this blog will feature winners in the following categories.

  1. Favorite Male Wrestler

  2. Favorite Female Wrestler

  3. Favorite Tag Team

  4. Favorite Faction

  5. Favorite Match (Male)

  6. Favorite Match (Female)

  7. Favorite Show

  8. Favorite Promotion

All categories will feature "brief" explanations as well as some honorable mentions. Remember that these decisions are entirely subjective, which means that your opinions are just as correct as mine.


So without further delay, we're going to kickstart this blog in the same way we always have since I started this series, with my choice for my favorite male wrestler of the month. Let's get to it.

 

FAVORITE MALE WRESTLER

Claudio Castagnoli (AEW/ROH)
Photo Credit: Ring of Honor

Ever since he made his AEW debut against Zack Sabre Jr. back in June, Claudio Castagnoli has been nothing short of perfect. The four-time recipient of The Wrestling Observer's "Most Underrated" award has seemingly shed that title, as he's been consistently booked to look like one of AEW's most dominant wrestlers, which culminated late last month when he beat Jonathan Gresham to win the Ring of Honor Championship.


A member of the dream stable, the Blackpool Combat Club, Claudio's was swiftly thrust into the main event scene on AEW television. His first television match in AEW was the "Blood and Guts" match against the Jericho Appreciation Society. Claudio was arguably the MVP when it was all said and done, and he secured the victory for his squad.


While he's not been in the ring too often since returning, Claudio has maximized every minute he's been given. He gave Jake Hager maybe his best singles match of his career on July 13th, and as mentioned earlier, he became the new Ring of Honor Champion on ROH's Death Before Dishonor show. He's the perfect person, in my opinion, to hold that belt, not only because he's a freakish athlete capable of making even the most cold hearted wrestling fan happy, but also because he's a genuine international star who can believably lead a roster and a card.


I can't wait to see how this man continues to develop his story both in AEW and ROH. The thought of him teaming up with the likes of Jon Moxley and Bryan Danielson excites me more than just about anything in wrestling, as does his upcoming run with the ROH Belt. While part of me is still a little bummed out that he was never given the opportunity to compete in main events in WWE, that's all in the past and it's time to Claudio to finally get what he deserves.


Honorable Mentions:

  • Cash Wheeler (AEW)

  • Dax Harwood (AEW)

  • Fujita Hayato (Michinoku Pro)

  • Tomohiro Ishii (NJPW)

  • Yuki Yoshioka (Dragongate)

 

FAVORITE FEMALE WRESTLER

Natsupoi (Stardom)
Photo Credit: @n_poi07 on Twitter

Other than working on these monthly posts, which I mostly do for me so that in 10 years I can look back on what I was enjoying back in the day, I work on an ongoing series called "Stardom 101", where I do everything I can to make everyone in the world a fan of Stardom, my personal favorite promotion for the past year. I guess you could say that without Stardom, I wouldn't be writing about wrestling, let alone watching most of it.


Nevertheless, last month I had to update two of my blog entries covering the Donna Del Mondo and Cosmic Angels stables. That's because on July 9th, Natsupoi shocked the world when she turned on DDM leader Giulia to join her former arch-nemesis Tam Nakano. It was a brilliant climax to their phenomenal three-match series. The two had Stardom's first ever cage match, which Nakano won, and then Natsupoi shockingly grabbed a victory on a later Korakuen Hall show back in late June.


The third match was to be a five on five faction warfare match. The winning team wouldn't win anything but bragging rights, at least that's what we all thought. Instead, Cosmic Angels won the match and a ninth member, making them the largest faction in all of Stardom. Looking at where they were last year when they had only three members to today, it's been a great story that I hope to write about in more detail. But suffice to say that Natsupoi's involvement in this storyline completely changed how I view her both in the hierarchy of Stardom, but also as an overall performer.


I've always liked Natsupoi as the high speed fairy woman who can do things that don't look real in the ring, but her recent work with Nakano had me seeing her as a genuine star. it's one thing to cry after a highly physical match, but it's a whole other thing to show complete contempt and hatred for your opponent all without saying one word. It's hard to say when, but I could see Natsupoi as a future Wonder of Stardom Champion, and perhaps a future stable leader.


She's lifted her profile so much within Stardom in such a short period of time. She went from the mascot of Donna Del Mondo to a bonafide number two behind Tam Nakano in the hottest stable in the company. Not only that, but while she has yet to have her first match int he 5STAR Grand Prix as of writing, she and Nakano have been dominant as a tag team, and she even had the honor of teaming with KAIRI on July 31st in a tremendously fun sprint.


I know this might sound like hyperbole, but whenever Tam Nakano decides to hang up her boots and fly into the cosmos, I can see Natsupoi take the mantle as the go to "storytelling" master in Stardom. Nakano has held that mantle for a number of years now, and I think that Natuspoi could become something like that, just with more high speed elements. If there was an award for "greatest momentum boost of the month", it would go to Natsupoi, end of story.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Bianca Belair (WWE)

  • Hazuki (Stardom)

  • Miyuki Takase (Freelance)

  • Suzu Suzuki (Freelance)

  • Tam Nakano (Stardom)

 

FAVORITE TAG TEAM

FTR (Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood - AEW)
Photo Credit: @DaxFTR on Twitter

In perhaps the least surprising decision I've had to make for this post, the best tag team in the world once again blasted past all their competition to win my favorite duo in the sport. And what makes it all the more impressive is that these boys did it while only featuring in two matches, one of which I haven't watched yet.


We'll get to that match I did watch a little later on in this blog, but I think that FTR's case to win this award yet again rides on their stellar character work, particularly on the mic. These two have completely blossomed as bonafide babyface champions, and are among the most likable humans in the sport. Dax Harwood's "Fight like a 8-year-old girl" promo was a masterclass. He seamlessly weaved a personal story about his family with their upcoming match against the Briscoe Brothers a few days later.


Everything about this duo works. Their in-ring wrestling is unbelievable. They can reliably work with just about everyone. They're tremendous apart and together. They're believable champions and stars. They can talk better than most on the AEW roster. They're eternally likable. Their music is the best in the company. And they always give 110 percent in everything that they do. In a company that has a lot of excellent wrestlers right now, no one is as spectacular right at this moment than Dax and Cash.


FTR is so far and away the best tag team in the world that I'm almost at the point where I might need to disqualify these two only so that I can talk about other tag teams in this section.


Honorable Mentions:

  • Briscoe Brothers (Jay Briscoe and Mark Briscoe - ROH)

  • Cosmic Angels (Natsupoi and Tam Nakano - Stardom)

  • Swerve in our Glory (Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland - AEW)

  • The Usos (Jey Uso and Jimmy Uso - WWE)

 

FAVORITE FACTION

Blackpool Combat Club (AEW/ROH)
Photo Credit: AEW

The Blackpool Combat Club continued to be the gift that kept on giving in July, much to no one's surprise. The four active wrestlers, along with William Regal, continued to bring their own special blend of blood and violence across AEW, ROH, New Japan, and beyond, all the while being a part of some excellent matches.

  • Wheeler Yuta successfully defended his Ring of Honor Pure Title against Daniel Garcia at ROH's Death Before Dishonor.

  • Claudio Castagnoli showcased his incredible ability in strong efforts against both Jonathan Gresham and Jake Hager and also won Ring of Honor's World Title.

  • Bryan Danielson returned to action after two months and main evented Dynamite against Daniel Garcia.

  • And Interim AEW World Champion, Jon Moxley, had a busy month where he took on the likes of Brody King, Konosuke Takeshita, and El Desperado.

But in addition to all that, the BCC continued to engrain themselves as perhaps the most dominant faction in all of American wrestling. They've got gold in both AEW and ROH, and they're consistently booked to look like the coolest and toughest guys around. While they have yet to find themselves in the tag team scene, I think that's coming.


I'm definitely biased as I love all these guys, but given all the gold they've been snagging, and they've collective talent and charisma, I couldn't pick anyone else to win this month. Long live the BCC.


Honorable Mentions:

  • Bloodline (Jey Uso, Jimmy Uso, Paul Heyman, Roman Reigns - WWE)

  • Cosmic Angels (Hikari Shimizu, Mina Shirakawa, Natsupoi, Rina Amikura, SAKI, Tam Nakano, Unagi Sayaka, Waka Tsukiyama, Yuko Sakurai - Stardom)

  • M3K (Masaaki Mochizuki, Mochizuki Jr., Susumu Mochizuki, Yasushi Kanda - Dragongate)

 

FAVORITE MATCH (MALE)

FTR vs. The Briscoe Brothers (ROH Death Before Dishonor, 7/23)
Photo Credit: AEW

Back in April, FTR and The Briscoe Brothers had one of the best matches of the entire year. It was celebrated by just about everyone in the wrestling community, including by me, as I gave it my favorite match of the month back then. Three months later, FTR and the Briscoe Brothers had their sequel match in the main event of Ring of Honor's "Death Before Dishonor" pay-per-view, the second of its kind under the Tony Khan era. And just like with their first meeting, these two teams once again had a match of the year contender, so good that these four have once again won my favorite match of the month.


It's hard to adequately describe this match without comparing it with the first. But luckily, these two classics were pretty different from one another. The first meeting was a frenetic affair with many high spots and one fall. The second was a technical masterpiece that was best two out of three falls. In more simplistic terms, the first match felt like the ultimate Briscoes' match while the second felt more like the ultimate FTR clash.


The beauty of that is that both of these tag teams are masters at tag team wrestling. I've sung my praise for Dax and Cash of FTR once already on this blog, but it needs to be known that the Briscoes are also one of the best tag teams from the past two decades. The only reason why they've never been given enough respect is because they've never wrestled on the big stage, so to speak. While FTR have wrestled on television for over half a decade, "Dem Boys" have been toiling in Ring of Honor, New Japan, and most recently, IMPACT. Luckily for them, fans of those promotions all know and respect them as tag team legends.


If you love tag team wrestling, or just want to witness a wildly brilliant technical match featuring all the good stuff you want from these four men, I implore you to check this match out if you haven't already.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Fujita Hayato vs. MUSASHI (Michinoku Pro Tokyo Conference Vol. 1, 7/1)

  • Eddie Kingston vs. Konosuke Takeshita (AEW Dynamite, 7/8)

  • Kaito Kiyomiya vs. Keiji Mutoh (NOAH Destination, 7/16)

  • Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar (WWE SummerSlam, 7/30)

  • Jacky Funky Kamei and Jason Lee vs. Shun Skywalker and Diamante (Dragongate Kobe World 2022 ~ Ultimo Dragon 35th Anniversary, 7/30)

 

FAVORITE MATCH (FEMALE)

Bianca Belair vs. Becky Lynch (WWE SummerSlam, 7/30)
Photo Credit: WWE

Winning my favorite female match from this past month was the tremendous clash between two of the biggest stars in all of WWE, Bianca Belair and Becky Lynch, at SummerSlam. These two kickstarted their year long rivalry one year ago during last year's SummerSlam show, and over the past year, these two have been a part of some really great matches. Their match at WrestleMania a few months ago was acclaimed by many in the community, as was their three-way with Asuka at Hell in a Cell.


One of the main reasons I loved this as much as I did was thanks to the physicality both showed here. These two knew that they had to open up SummerSlam with a bang, and they surely didn't disappoint. It was fun to see how Lynch was able to draw heat with all of her underhanded tactics outside the ring, particularly around the turnbuckle. And it was equally impressive to watch Belair find a way to draw almost infinite sympathy and support from the thousands inside Nissan Stadium


Another reason this match has come out on top this month was that it told an easy to grasp story. Lynch slowly realizes during the 15 minute clash that even with her cheating at times, Belair is simply too strong and too driven to lose to her. This would crescendo after the match, and subsequently on RAW, when she would finally show respect to her rival and become a beloved babyface again.


Unfortunately, this new babyface Becky Lynch character won't be seen for a while, as she suffered a dislocated shoulder and will miss some time. Luckily, however, the RAW women's division was bolstered following Lynch and Belair's tremendous match, as Bayley returned to action after almost a year on the shelf. And Bayley didn't come alone, as Io Shirai, now known Iyo Sky, and Dakota Kai, both came out to aid "The Role Model". Suffice to say, we're in good hands until Becky Lynch returns.


I'm pretty sure most of you have already seen this match, but if you haven't already and you love physical grudge matches, then I don't think there's a better one to watch right now. Belair has finally rid herself of her greatest foe, and has even become allies with her at the same time. I'm excited to see what's next for the "EST" of WWE.


Honorable Mentions:

  • Shoko Nakajima vs. Rika Tatsumi (TJPW Summer Sun Princess '22, 7/9)

  • Suzu Suzuki vs. Miyuki Takase (WAVE Catch The Wave 2022 Final, 7/17)

  • Hazuki vs. Giulia (Stardom 5STAR Grand Prix 2022 Night 1, 7/30)

  • MIRAI vs. Mayu Iwatani (Stardom 5STAR Grand Prix 2022 Night 1, 7/30)

  • Utami Hayashishita vs. Syuri (Stardom 5STAR Grand Prix 2022 Night 2, 7/31)

 

FAVORITE SHOW

WWE SummerSlam (7/30)
Photo Credit: WWE

July was filled with many exciting events, some of which are listed down below in the honorable mentions section, but leave it to Triple H and WWE to sneak up in the 11th hour and steal the win with their strong SummerSlam show. While it wasn't quite as strong in the in-ring action, per se, it was easily the month's most memorable thanks to some incredible moments sprinkled in during the card.


The show started with the aforementioned match between Bianca Belair and Becky Lynch for the RAW Women's Championship. Bianca retained, but was barely able to celebrate before being interrupted by a returning Bayley, who was joined by Io Shirai, now known as Iyo Sky, and another returning wrestler in Dakota Kai. This post-match moment not only came off great during the show, but it has subsequently breathed new life into Monday night's women's division.


While there were some notable highlights following that first match, including Logan Paul's strong showing in his first career singles match against The Miz and The Usos' solid defense of the Undisputed Tag Team titles, the show reached a whole new level once the main event started.


By the time you're all reading this, you've probably all seen what went down during the main event clash between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns for both the WWE and Universal Championships. The two had a highly entertaining brawl filled with strong ground work, plunder galore, and most notably, Brock Lesnar's gigantic tractor.


Not only was it these two best singles match since their classic at WrestleMania 31 back in the distant year of 2015, but it was a genuine Match of the Year candidate, which is something I wouldn't have expected in a million years.


All in all, Triple H and the crew put on an excellent event, easily the best they've put out all year. Check it out if you haven't already.


Honorable Mentions:

  • TJPW Summer Sun Princess '22 (7/9)

  • NOAH Destination 2022 (7/16)

  • ROH Death Before Dishonor 2022 (7/23)

  • NJPW G1 Climax 32 Night 4 (7/23)

  • Stardom 5STAR Grand Prix 2022 Night 1 (7/30)

 

FAVORITE PROMOTION

WWE
Photo Credit: WWE

It is amazing what a month can do.


At the end of June, WWE was off my radar, thanks to their shows being overly long, uninspired garbage all the while featuring wrestlers who had been beaten down into monotony by the worst booker in the world, Vince McMahon. The old man had proven for several years that he didn't care, or like, wrestling, so why would I care about his awful product?


Fast forward a month later and my view on WWE has completely changed. Vince McMahon is gone, and not a moment too soon. Turns out that he had just as much respect in inter-office "relationships" then he did in the crummy content he was peddling week after week. He "retired", or in other words, was forced to get lost, and was subsequently replaced by three people, Stephanie McMahon, Tony Khan, and Triple H. McMahon and Khan will be leading the charge from the business side moving forward, and Trips has ascended to head booker, much to my delight. Finally, the man who was responsible for creating the wonderful NXT boom period in the 2010s was allowed the chance to write for RAW and SmackDown.


To say that I'm optimistic about the future of WWE's programming is an understatement. Without the creative black hole Vince McMahon in charge, Trips can finally see out his vision. That alone is reason for me to watch. And while it's only been a couple weeks, the energy on these shows since Trips has taken over has been so much better. Triple H loves wrestling and booking wrestling shows. And what's better is that he's really good at it! The commentary was sharper and more energetic. The wrestlers seem to have a lease on life for the first time in a long time. And based on his history in NXT, you know that he'll respect the audience way more than Vince ever did.


For the first time in many years, I think that WWE is not only worth watching, but perhaps even must watch now. I personally can't wait to see what Trips does in the future. Long live Triple H and long live this new WWE.


Honorable Mentions:

  • NJPW

  • Ring of Honor

  • Stardom

  • TJPW

 

PREVIOUS WINNERS


Wrestler(s)

  • January - Dragon Dia (Dragongate)

  • February - MJF (AEW)

  • March - Zack Sabre Jr. (NJPW) and KAIRI (Stardom)

  • April - Wheeler Yuta (AEW) and AZM (Stardom)

  • May - El Desperado (NJPW) and ASUKA/VENY (Freelance)

  • June - Will Ospreay (NJPW) and Miyuki Takase (Freelance)

  • July - Claudio Castagnoli (AEW/ROH) and Natsupoi (Stardom)

Tag Team(s)

  • January - D'Courage (Dragon Dia and Yuki Yoshioka - Dragongate)

  • February - 37KAMIINA (Konosuke Takeshita and Yuki Ueno - DDT)

  • March - Blackpool Combat Club (Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley - AEW)

  • April - FTR (Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood - AEW/ROH)

  • May - F.W.C. (Hazuki and Koguma - Stardom)

  • June - FTR (Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood - AEW) (SECOND)

  • July - FTR (Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood - AEW) (THIRD)

Faction

  • January - Prominence (Freelance)

  • February - House of Black (AEW)

  • March - Donna Del Mondo (Stardom)

  • April - Blackpool Combat Club (AEW)

  • May - God's Eye (Stardom)

  • June - Natural Vibes (Dragongate)

  • July - Blackpool Combat Club (AEW) (SECOND)

Match

  • 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 (NJPW New Japan Cup Night 13, 3/26)

  • April - FTR vs. Briscoe Brothers (ROH Supercard of Honor, 4/1)

  • May - El Phantasmo vs. Robbie Eagles (NJPW Best of the Super Juniors Night 9, 5/26)

  • June - Will Ospreay vs. Orange Cassidy (AEW/NJPW Forbidden Door, 6/26) & Miyuki Takase vs. Miyu Yamashita (DPW No Pressure, 6/5)

  • July - FTR vs. Briscoe Brothers (ROH Death Before Dishonor, 7/23) & Bianca Belair vs. Becky Lynch (WWE SummerSlam, 7/30)

Show

  • 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)

  • May - Hana Kimura Produce "Bagus" (5/23)

  • June - AEW/NJPW Forbidden Door (6/26)

  • July - WWE SummerSlam (7/30)

Promotion

  • January - Stardom

  • February - All Elite Wrestling

  • March - New Japan Pro Wrestling

  • April - Stardom (SECOND)

  • May - New Japan Pro Wrestling (SECOND)

  • June - Pro Wrestling WAVE

  • July - WWE

 

Every Match of the Year Candidate in 2022 from June (9/10s or higher)

(Note: Italics means it was my match of the month)


7/1 - Fujita Hayato vs. MUSASHI (Tokyo Conference Vol. 1)

7/8 - Eddie Kingston vs. Konosuke Takeshita (AEW Rampage)

7/9 - Shoko Nakajima vs. Rika Tatsumi (TJPW Summer Sun Princess)

7/16 - Kaito Kiyomiya vs. Keiji Mutoh (NOAH Destination)

7/16 - Kenoh vs. Satoshi Kojima (NOAH Destination)

7/17 - Suzu Suzuki vs. Miyuki Takase (WAVE Catch The Wave 2022 Final)

7/20 - Hirooki Goto vs. Tetsuya Naito (NJPW G1 Climax Night 3)

7/23 - Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood vs. Jay Briscoe and Mark Briscoe (ROH Death Before Dishonor)

7/13 - Rush vs. Dragon Lee (ROH Death Before Dishonor)

7/23 - Shingo Takagi vs. Yoshi-Hashi (NJPW G1 Climax Night 4)

7/23 - Jay White vs. Tomohiro Ishii (NJPW G1 Climax Night 4)

7/30 - Jacky Funky Kamei and Jason Lee vs. Shun Skywalker and Diamante (Dragongate Kobe World 2022 ~ Ultimo Dragon 35th Anniversary)

7/30 - Bianca Belair vs. Becky Lynch (WWE SummerSlam)

7/30 - Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar (WWE SummerSlam)

7/30 - Jon Moxley vs. El Desperado (NJPW Music City Mayhem)

7/30 - Hazuki vs. Giulia (Stardom 5STAR Grand Prix 2022 Night 1)

7/31 - Rey Fenix vs. Bandido vs. Laredo Kid vs. Black Taurus (JCP Ric Flair's Last Match)

7/31 - Utami Hayashishita vs. Syuri (Stardom 5STAR Grand Prix 2022 Night 2)

 

Special thanks to WhoScored, Transfermarkt, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Fangraphs, Cagematch, and 1.02.JP for helping make me a more well-informed fan.


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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.

 

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