- SUWA vs. Owashi – 9/8/02 Toryumon vs. T2P
The battle of Torymon’s BIG MEN, that is both in terms of being over as ass stomping rudos and physically speaking with Owashi looking like the love child of Tenryu & Hashimoto. A great brawl that has the crowd in a frenzy (this was the most requested match of the summer for Toryumon as voted by the fans) and really delivered, establishing Owashi as a credible threat (as if the recent KO powerbomb on YOSSINO didn’t do that already), not even a no contest finish can taint the goodness in this match.
- Kobashi/KENTA vs. Misawa/Suzuki – 9/1/02 NOAH
This match I saw clipped to about half length, but that was enough to it on this list. Kobashi and Misawa go full speed, heavy handed and bring the head drops as well. Their junior partners show off their toughness and quickly improving ability (definite positive sign for NOAH in terms of their Jr. Title especially if Marifuji returns to the mix next year). Suzuki may be the next breakout junior for NOAH and just getting a taste of Misawa/Kobashi makes me look forward to their next singles meeting.
- Dragon Kid/Tiger Mask IV/Great Sasuke vs. Darkness Dragon/Onryo/GOEMON – 8/28/02 WMF Debut
I thought this was the highlight of the debut WMF show in the ring (though Sasaki & Garuda put on a strong FMW style match in the main that deserves honorable mention) while the definite emotional high point of the show was Hayabusa’s return speech and incredibly standing up from his wheel chair. This match delivered some really cool sequences including some mask stealing/swapping from Dragon Kid & Darkness Dragon building towards their mask vs. mask match on 9/8/02, getting to see Onryo work with Tiger Mask IV and feeling the fresh mix of talent translate/motivate the fluid in ring action. A great match to help bolster a fledgling promotion.
- Hidaka vs. Ishii – 8/15/02 MPro Tohoku Jr. Title Tourney
The Far East Connection explodes! A great match (best of the Jr. Title tourney that I saw) with Ishii pulling out some great offense including a WAR special transitioned into a tiger suplex which punctuated a beautiful chain of offense traded by both combatants, and Hidaka blazing with energy, taking a beating like a man before taking the victory – must see!
- Nagata vs. Nishimura – 8/8/02 NJPW G-1 Climax
This ended in Nishimura’s third 30 minute draw of this year’s G-1 Climax (taking both Nakanishi and Chono to the time limit on the nights one and two) and was a vast improvement from the Nagata/Nishimura singles match last fall (where Nishimura wrestled very cautiously and was defeated). Nishimura was much more confident in this match and worked with fire in his eyes as he knew going in, he had shot to get to the final four (and did as a result of his efforts). Some absolutely beautiful mat and submission work by Nagata and Nishimura, building towards the hot draw finish.
- Takayama vs. Tenzan – 8/4/02 NJPW G-1 Climax
A match that had a hot start, with Tenzan attacking Takayama from behind as he entered the ring and hitting the diving headbutt early. This was much more a wrestling match than a slugfest (which the night before definitely had been), but both men still really laid into each other heavy. New Japan did a good job of building this match up (with the G-1 special tag match from 7/20/02 which I recommend seeing as it goes just short of 30 minutes and has some great distrust spots before Nishimura steals the fall on Tenzan) and made the greatness they delivered all the more meaningful.
- Takayama vs. Sasaki – 8/3/02 NJPW G-1 Climax
I hate Kensuke Sasaki, I’ll admit right out front, so what in god’s name is one his matches doing on this list? Well, there is one type of match where Sasaki excels – an all out slugfest (like his Dome battle against Kawada) and against Takayama, how could anyone expect any less? These two redefine the term clubberin’ (as Dusty would say) and you need to see it!
- Otani vs. Tanaka – 7/31/02 Zero-One Fire Festival
Two old rivals hook it up once again with brilliant results. Otani busts open Tanaka early (re-opening Kanemura’s handy work from the show before where Tanaka had bled buckets) with super tight boot scrapes in the corner. The stiffness and pace just accelerate from there with Tanaka taking the fall this time out. A legitimate MOTY contender, and the best match of the Fire Festival 2002.
- Tenryu vs. Kea – 7/20/02 AJPW
This is the payoff match as Kea has been chasing Tenryu for nearly 2 years in search of victory. I think the heat was really turned up in this match from the Kea/Miyamoto vs. Tenryu/Araya tag match from 4/27/02 where Miyamoto gets his nose broken early and face punched/kicked repeatedly for the rest of the match by the grumpy WAR team until making hot tags where Kea writes some extra tight receipts (and by the end of the match one has to wonder if he and Tenryu were doing business anymore – note Tenryu’s quick exit as the match ends with chairs and bodies flying). Needless to say, they bring it stiff, nasty and the crowd is white hot as this brutal match builds to the finish. Best All Japan style match I’ve seen this year.
- Eddie Guerrero vs. Edge – 9/28/02 WWE – No DQ
While the WWE continues to go down the toilet for the most part, Smackdown and Velocity still occasionally produce a tight, wrestling based show under the guidance of Paul Heyman. This feud has been building since Guerrero and Benoit came to Smackdown (done in more the style from the WWF days gone by where I program could last 3 or 4 months, not just PPV to PPV) and what a way to finish it off. A great job of building a match while sucking in the crowd before getting to the big (and I mean some really sick) bumps that maintained early psychology and taking it home with hardway blood and all. Eddie is a master, and Edge has shown he can be a good babyface holding up his end of a match. The crowd showed both men a large amount of much deserved respect post match as they turned San Diego on its’ ear.