LONG STORY SPORT

My Favorite Things in Wrestling (March 2022)

Updated: Oct 25

Following a month that was somewhat underwhelming, especially from an in-ring perspective, pro wrestling companies from around the world really picked up their collective game in March. From AEW holding their illustrious "Revolution" event, to New Japan stealing the show with a thrilling "New Japan Cup" tournament, and Stardom holding a fabulous two-night event at the legendary Sumo Hall, I think it's safe to say that picking the winners for this past month was a difficult task.


Overall, March saw my first 10/10 rated show of the year, which I will get into a bit later on, as well as 21 "match of the year" candidates, all of which are listed at the bottom of the page with my other MOTY options from the first quarter of 2022.


If this is your first time reading one of these, allow me to explain how this is organized. Down below, I've listed my favorite wrestler, tag team, faction, match, show, and promotion. I've also included some honorable mentions for each selection, which will be listed after a brief explanation for each respective winner. For the first time, I've also decided to split the wrestler category into two separate sections; male wrestler and female wrestler, that way I can showcase more great stuff from the scene.


Without further ado, let's start off with my favorite male wrestler of March 2022!

 

FAVORITE MALE WRESTLER

Zack Sabre Jr. (NJPW)

Photo Credit: Twitter

After completing the New Japan Cup just a few days ago, I came to the conclusion that if I picked anyone other than the technical wizard Zack Sabre Jr., I would be crazy to do so. What this man did over the past month is nothing short of incredible. Of his six matches in the NJ Cup, all of them fully displayed the English man's brilliant in-ring psychology and unique fighting style. There is no wrestler on the planet who wrestles like ZSJ, and he should be celebrated as often as we have the chance.


Looking at his three Match of the Year candidates from March, you'll notice that each of these clashes pitted Sabre against an opponent who wrestles a different style. With Will Ospreay, which we'll get into a little later on, Sabre saw himself battle a man who knows him better than anyone else in the entire scene. Against Shingo Takagi, Sabre displayed how proficient he is at fighting underneath as a massive underdog and still finding a way to come out on top. And in the final against the great Naito, ZSJ proved how he's yet another New Japan roster member who seems to only get better when the lights shine the brightest. It is that final trait that makes him one of the world's best.


With his shocking victory in the New Japan Cup final, the Dangerous Tekker is slated to challenge the legendary Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship on April 9th at Hyper Battle. And while I'm not particularly convinced that he'll actually win the belt off the Ace of Japanese wrestling, I have little doubt that the match we're about to witness is going to be doubleheadera classic. Who knows? Maybe the vegan boa constrictor will find himself on this blog yet again in April.

Honorable Mentions:

  1. Bryan Danielson (AEW)

  2. CM Punk (AEW)

  3. Hiromu Takahashi (NJPW)

  4. Shingo Takagi (NJPW)

 

FAVORITE FEMALE WRESTLER

KAIRI (Stardom)
Photo Credit: Twitter

While there were plenty of women who could've been bestowed my first favorite female wrestler of the month award, there was only one who had any chance of actually winning, and that was the Pirate Princess herself, KAIRI. After Stardom announced that the former World of Stardom and NXT Women's Champion was going to make her return to the best wrestling promotion in the world on both nights of the "World Climax" doubleheader, news outlets finally found a reason to talk about Stardom, even though if I was in charge of a dirt sheet, I'd be trying to get all my readers to watch the promotion every chance I could. Heck, I guess I'm doing that with these blogs.


For those of you who don't know, KAIRI started her career in Stardom back in the early 2010s where she saw much success before jumping ship to join Triple H and William Regal over at WWE's NXT brand. There, "Kairi Sane" further showcased her incredible ability and found even more success, winning the NXT Women's title off of Shayna Baszler. She later moved up to the main roster, where she won the women's tag titles with Asuka and was horrifically injured by Nia Jax at least one time. She would all but retire from in-ring competition in 2020 and subsequently moved back home in Japan to live with her new husband and work for WWE's Japan office for about a year.


Following the closure of WWE Japan in 2021, Kairi all but left the wrestling industry and started plans to open up a 24/7 gym in the city of Shonan, which came to fruition earlier this year. However, partially due to Stardom's meteoric rise over the past two years, I always felt that a move back to her home promotion was almost certainly going to happen. Along with Mayu Iwatani and NXT's Io Shirai, KAIRI is Stardom's greatest homegrown talent, and if she's going to be in the country, she might as well compete there on occasion.


Well, the day finally arrived on March 26th when she teamed up with Iwatani against Tam Nakano and Unagi Sayaka. They had a wonderful clash that ended with KAIRI hitting her patented elbow drop, which in my opinion is the greatest elbow drop in wrestling history since the Macho Man, Randy Savage. The next day, KAIRI had what turned into a Match of the Year candidate with the evil Starlight Kid, during which KAIRI reportedly ruptured an eardrum before clinching the victory with yet another elbow drop. Hopefully that injury won't inhibit her future plans with the promotion, as she proved that she's still one of the best female wrestlers on the planet.


Now please enjoy her elbow drop.


Honorable Mentions:

  1. Aoi (Just Tap Out)

  2. Shoko Nakajima (Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling)

  3. Syuri (Stardom)

  4. Tam Nakano (Stardom)

(Shoutout to @bigwillieisms on Twitter for the GIF)

 

FAVORITE TAG TEAM

Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley (AEW)
Photo Credit: Twitter

Let me start out by saying that this team-up was something that I never thought I wanted, but am overjoyed that it has. Jon Moxley has solidified himself to me as one of the most believably violent and unhinged wrestlers since he left WWE in 2019, and Bryan Danielson is quite simply my favorite of all time. Mix them together, and you have the potential for some real magic.


The story between these two started a month prior to their conclusive match at AEW Revolution, when Danielson started to goad Moxley to start a brutal faction where they would attempt to train some of AEW's most promising young talents. Moxley told Danielson that he would only agree if they first bled together in a match.


Well on March 6th, the two former WWE Champions did just that. Mox and "The Goat" went to war for over 20 minutes and both of them bled all over Orlando, Florida. Moxley clinched the victory in the end, yet it seemed for a moment that Danielson wasn't willing to accept the loss at the hands of the former AEW World Champ. It seemed for a moment that the agreement was about to go up in flames as the two behemoths started jaw-jacking and shoving each other.


At the precise moment where it seemed all was lost, something extraordinary happened. Coming from the backstage area, the legendary William Regal stormed to the ring to confront the two warriors. For those of you who don't know, Regal is one of the most respected and beloved figures in wrestling. He's spent decades as a hard-hitting grappler, a patriarchal leader both on-screen and behind it, and was one of the architects of the golden era of NXT in the 2010s. To say this man knows wrestling is a gross understatement.


Over the weeks following Revolution, Regal took his former star pupil Danielson and his former archnemesis Moxley and made them a well-rounded tag team force on a roster with some other wonderful teams. Regal has additionally solidified himself as one of AEW's best promos and perhaps the most believable guy on the roster next to CM Punk and Taz.


I could legitimately go on and on about this pairing, but I think I'll save that for next month, because spoiler alert, I'm convinced that this team will feature on my next write-up.


Honorable Mentions:

  1. Black Desire (Momo Watanabe and Starlight Kid - Stardom)

  2. Guerillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa - NJPW)

  3. Magical Sugar Rabbits (Yuka Sakazaki and MIZUKI - TJPW)

  4. reDRagon (Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly - AEW)

 

FAVORITE FACTION

Donna Del Mondo (Stardom)
Photo Credit: Stardom

This might be the first and last time I'm able to give some much-deserved love to one of my favorite factions going today; Stardom's "Donna Del Mondo". Started by former Wonder of Stardom champion Giulia and former Taka Michinoku student Maika in January 2020, the "Women of the World" have been the most definitively dominant faction in Stardom over the past two years. Members of the stable have held every title in the promotion at one point as well as both singles tournaments (Cinderella and 5STAR), while also remaining one of the more stable groups. Until March 26th, no member had ever left.


For those of you not in the know, allow me the opportunity to introduce to you the women who make up this excellent crew. As mentioned earlier, the leader is former Wonder of Stardom and 2020 Cinderella Tournament winner, Giulia. She's been a constant threat for Stardom's top prize, the World of Stardom title, yet she's been unable to clinch it as of right now. Her first compatriot in DDM, Maika, has been a Future of Stardom champion, as well as Goddesses of Stardom tag champ and is currently one-third of the Artists of Stardom trios tiles with Himeka, the Jumbo Princess, and Natsupoi, who's a former High-Speed title winner.


Completing the crew as of March 31st are the Austrian-born Thekla, the up-and-coming Mai Sakurai, and MIRAI, who used to wrestle for Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling as Mirai Maiumi and might not be in the group anymore (wink, wink).


DDM used to have another member, the reigning and defending World of Stardom champion, and former UFC fighter, Syuri, but she elected to leave the group to start her own faction with new Stardom roster member Ami Sourei. Syuri and Giulia held the Goddesses of Stardom tag belts for 280 days last year and were equal parts best friends and arch rivals.


Their placement here as my favorite faction this past month was a pretty simple decision as they featured heavily in two massive storylines in Stardom, Syuri's title defenses on March 26th and 27th, and DDM's war with Prominence. Additionally, Natsupoi earned an opportunity to fight for the High Speed championship once again, and Giulia and Syuri teamed up for the final time in what was an excellent clash against Mayu Iwatani and Saya Iida.


Who knows what the future will hold for Donna Del Mondo, but if this past month was the last great boom for them, it was quite a fun ride.


Honorable Mentions:

  1. Burning (Jun Akiyama, Tetsuya Endo, Yusuke Okada, Yuya Koroku - DDT)

  2. House of Black (Malakai Black, Brody King, Buddy Matthews - AEW)

  3. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, Hiromu Takahashi, Sanada, Bushi - NJPW)

  4. Oedo Tai (Natsuko Tora, Saki Kashima, Konami, Rina, Ruaka, Fukigen Death, Starlight Kid, Momo Watanabe - Stardom)

 

FAVORITE MATCH

Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Will Ospreay (New Japan Cup 2022 Night 13, 3/21)
Photo Credit: Twitter

As I mentioned earlier, March was filled to the brim with stellar matches. In fact, this month sported the most Match of the Year candidates (21), as well as the most 10/10 matches I graded on Cagematch.com (that being four) in 2022. And while I could've gone with many other clashes like CM Punk vs. MJF in a dog collar match at AEW Revolution or Saya Kamitani vs. Tam Nakano at Stardom's March 27th event, I decided that I'd spotlight this technical masterwork between Zack Sabre Jr. and Will Ospreay from the quarterfinals of the New Japan Cup from March 21st.


According to Cagematch, Ospreay and Sabre Jr. have fought each other 16 times in singles competition dating back to 2014. Of those 16 clashes, I've seen most of them including their early battle from the 2016 wXw 16 Carat Gold tournament, their fun styles clash from Revolution Pro event in 2017, and their Match of the Year candidate from last year's New Japan Cup. This latest chapter of their rivalry might very well be the best work they've ever done together, mostly because it combines the ferocity of their most recent graps with the small detail that Sabre Jr. actually defeats Ospreay this time.


The thing that makes this matchup so good practically all the time is thanks to two key details. The first is that Ospreay and Sabre Jr. have each separately improved their craft over the years. Ospreay has changed from the full embodiment of the flippy wrestler archetype to a more strong-style focused striker while Sabre Jr. has gone from the skinny boa constrictor, to a less skinny boa constrictor who is also one of the best pure strikers in the scene. It's their collective evolutions that has made each one of their subsequent clashes feel different.


The second aspect that always makes this matchup a fun watch is that these two have some of the best chemistry in the sport today. Speaking for this most recent clash, there was no time during the 23 minute runtime where it felt like they were just throwing moves at each other. Every single second of this match felt important, so it was easy to gravitate to the work from bell to bell.


If you have a New Japan World account and you haven't watched this match already, I implore you to check it out. These two are the best gaijin currently wrestling in Japan, and NJPW is genuinely lucky to have these guys here right now.


Honorable Mentions:

  1. CM Punk vs. MJF (AEW Revolution, 3/6)

  2. Tetsuya Endo vs. Konosuke Takeshita (DDT Judgement, 3/20)

  3. KAIRI vs. Starlight Kid (Stardom World Climax - Night 2: The Top, 3/27)

  4. Saya Kamitani vs. Tam Nakano (Stardom World Climax - Night 2: The Top, 3/27)

 

FAVORITE SHOW

AEW Revolution (3/6)
Photo Credit: Twitter

And now we get to the moment I've been waiting for, my pick for March's show of the year. From the moment Revolution concluded with Hangman Adam Page hoisting the AEW World Championship up high after successfully defending it against Adam Cole, I knew that it would take some incredibly special to steal the spot from this one. And while multiple promotions held events that almost reached the same heights as this event, nothing was able to do so in the end.


From a statistical perspective, this event was truly special on its own. As you'll see down below, Revolution had four "match of the year" contests, including one 10/10 match. Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus defeated reDRagon and The Young Bucks to retain their AEW Tag Team titles in a classic three-way tag team war. Jon Moxley and Bryan Danielson bled all over the ring in a wonderful match that also saw the arrival of the legendary William Regal, who has since become the duo's manager as they decided to team up and create the Blackpool Combat Club. Adam Cole and Adam Page had a really strong main event where Page continued his strong world title run. And finally, CM Punk and MJF had a brutally personal war in a dog collar match that nearly won this month's Match of the Month.


Additionally, Eddie Kingston carried Chris Jericho to the Ayatollah's best match in his AEW career, Wardlow became AEW's newest superstar as he won the "Face of the Revolution" ladder match and then later turned on the evil MJF to help Punk solidify his own victory, Shane Strickland made his AEW debut to sign his contract with the company, and the Icon Sting dove from a balcony. All of these little moments interspersed with fantastic wrestling made this show fun to watch from start to finish.


If you haven't already, I strongly recommend you all check out this show.


Honorable Mentions:

  1. TJPW Grand Princess '22 (3/19)

  2. DDT Judgement 2022 - DDT 25th Anniversary Show (3/20)

  3. Stardom World Climax - Night 2: The Top (3/27)

  4. GCW Josh Barnett's Bloodsport 8 (3/31)

 

FAVORITE PROMOTION

New Japan Pro Wrestling
Photo Credit: Google

While there were quite a few nominees this past month that could've won this award including AEW, Stardom, and Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling, only one promotion was able to solidify itself as the winner, and that was New Japan Pro Wrestling. NJPW's case for my promotion of the month was always going to revolve around one event, that being the New Japan Cup. Over 15 nights, "the Lion" held its annual single-elimination tournament, and while some nights were better than others, the overall outlook of the NJ Cup was a success.


For one thing, New Japan might have stiff competition in this regard, but they remain the company with the best in-ring wrestlers. From guys like Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Zack Sabre Jr., and Shingo Takagi to even lower level guys like Tama Tonga, Great O Khan, and even Chase Owens, New Japan is one of the few promotions that can hold a tournament as large as this year's NJ Cup. AEW might be the only other company that can do this.


Additionally, head booker Gedo did a pretty great job with picking the winners this go around. I was really happy, for instance, to see CIMA and Hiromu Takahashi each make it to the quarterfinals. And the final four consisted of Naito, Takagi, Okada, and Sabre Jr. was pretty great. I think the only guy I'd switch out was ironically Okada, the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, if only because I would've loved to see someone like Ishii or Jeff Cobb make it farther.


Whenever I have a problem selecting my favorite promotion of the month, I always turn to one key area, that being in-ring wrestling, something that New Japan did very well in March. This past month, they accounted for seven "match of the year" candidates, good for 1/3rd of said matches rated 9/10 or above in March. While NJPW might be struggling in many regards thanks largely to the pandemic, there's still no doubt in my eyes that when Gedo lets his guys wrestle, they're still the very best in the world.


Honorable Mentions:

  1. All Elite Wrestling

  2. Dynamic Dream Team (DDT)

  3. Stardom

  4. Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling

 

PREVIOUS WINNERS


Wrestler

  • January - Dragon Dia (Dragongate)

  • February - MJF (AEW)

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

Tag Team

  • January - Dragon Dia and Yuki Yoshioka (Dragongate)

  • February - Konosuke Takeshita and Yuki Ueno (DDT)

  • March - Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley (AEW)

Faction

  • January - Prominence (Freelance)

  • February - House of Black (AEW)

  • March - Donna Del Mondo (Stardom)

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

Show

  • January - Stardom Nagoya Supreme Fight (1/29)

  • February - Stardom Cinderella Journey In Nagaoka (2/23)

  • March - AEW Revolution (3/6)

Promotion

  • January - Stardom

  • February - All Elite Wrestling

  • March - New Japan Pro Wrestling

 

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

1/1 - Kaito Kiyomiya vs. Kenou (NOAH The New Year)

1/1 - Go Shiozaki vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima (NOAH The New Year)

1/4 - Katsuyori Shibata vs. Ren Narita (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night 1)

1/4 - Shingo Takagi vs. Kazuchika Okada (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night 1)

1/4 - Miyu Yamashita vs. Mizuki (TJPW Tokyo Joshi Pro '22)

1/5 - Risa Sera vs. Miyako Matsumoto (Gake No Fuchi Joshi Pro Wrestling)

1/5 - Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night 2)

1/8 - Jonathan Gresham vs. Chris Sabin (IMPACT Hard to Kill)

1/8 - Los Ingobernables de Japon vs. Kongo (NJPW/NOAH Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night 3)

1/8 - Kaito Kiyomiya & Keiji Muto vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kazuchika Okada (NJPW/NOAH Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night 3)

1/9 - Hazuki & Koguma vs. Giulia & Syuri (Stardom New Year Stars 2022 Night 2)

1/29 - Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns (WWE Royal Rumble 2022)

1/29 - Mayu Iwatani vs. Giulia (Stardom Nagoya Supreme Fight)

1/29 - MIRAI vs. Syuri (Stardom Nagoya Supreme Fight)

2/9 - Adam Page vs. Lance Archer (AEW Dynamite)

2/23 - AZM vs. Starlight Kid (Stardom Cinderella Journey in Nagaoka)

2/27 - HARASHIMA & Naomi Yoshimura vs. Konosuke Takeshita & Yuki Ueno (DDT Ultimate Tag League 2022 The Final!!)

2/28 - 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)

3/2 - Kazuchika Okada vs. El Desperado (NJPW New Japan Cup Night 1)

3/6 - Jurassic Express vs. The Young Bucks vs. reDRagon (AEW Revolution 2022)

3/6 - CM Punk vs. MJF (AEW Revolution 2022)

3/6 - Jon Moxley vs. Bryan Danielson (AEW Revolution 2022)

3/6 - Adam Cole vs. Adam Page (AEW Revolution 2022)

3/7 - Shingo Takagi vs. Tomohiro Ishii (NJPW New Japan Cup Night 3)

3/13 - Hiromu Takahashi vs. Minoru Suzuki (NJPW New Japan Cup Night 7)

3/19 - Miu Watanabe and Rika Tatsumi vs. Yuka Sakazaki and Mizuki (TJPW Grand Princess '22)

3/19 - Shoko Nakajima vs. Miyu Yamashita (TJPW Grand Princess '22)

3/20 - Tetsuya Endo vs. Konosuke Takeshita (DDT Judgement 2022 - DDT 25th Anniversary Show)

3/21 - Hiromu Takahashi vs. Shingo Takagi (NJPW New Japan Cup 2022 Night 13)

3/21 - Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Will Ospreay (NJPW New Japan Cup 2022 Night 13)

3/26 - Shingo Takagi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (NJPW New Japan Cup 2022 Night 14)

3/26 - Giulia vs. Syuri (Stardom World Climax - Night 1: The Best)

3/27 - Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tetsuya Naito (NJPW New Japan Cup 2022 Night 15)

3/27 - KAIRI vs. Starlight Kid (Stardom World Climax - Night 2: The Top)

3/27 - Syuri vs. Mayu Iwatani (Stardom World Climax - Night 2: The Top)

3/27 - Saya Kamitani vs. Tam Nakano (Stardom World Climax - Night 2: The Top)

3/30 - Bryan Danielson vs. Wheeler Yuta (AEW Dynamite)

3/30 - Biff Busick vs. Jon Moxley (GCW Josh Barnett's Bloodsport 8)

3/31 - Bandido vs. Speedball Mike Bailey (WrestleCon Mark Hitchcock Memorial Super Show)

 

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 - NJPW


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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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