2018 Popcorn Matches

So this is a new concept I’d like to explore. Often there are matches I’d love to recognize in some form on this blog but don’t have much to say about, maybe 20, 30 words, a couple of sentences, maybe even less. It’s sort of not worth the bandwidth to make individual pages for each of those reviews unless it’s more of a joke review but I’d still like to draw attention to them for one reason or another, so here’s a compromise. These “popcorn reviews” are short little reviews of matches that have a good chance of ending up on my MOTY list or are interesting in some form or are exceptional in a particular way but don’t warrant one of the more fleshed-out reviews I like to do these days. As I find more of these throughout the year I’ll update the list, so be sure to check back every once in a while.

[last updated: 12/07/2018]


Ryuji Ito & Abdullah Kobayashi (c) vs Masashi Takeda & Takumi Tsukamoto

BJW Tag Team Championship

BJW

taped 01/25/2018, aired 02/04/2018

Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan

(reviewed 10/13/2018) Nothing stellar within the realm of high end Japanese deathmatches this year, but if nothing else this delivers a lot of endearing Abby action and great usage of a stack of forks.


Rey Fenix (c) vs ACH

AAW Heavyweight Championship

02/03/2018

Knights of Columbus Hall, LaSalle, Illinois, United States

(reviewed 10/14/2018) Not nearly so good as some of ACH’s later AAW title bouts this year, thanks largely due to Fenix’s hatred of anything approaching a cohesive match, but if you’re looking for more of ACH’s sweet, sweet selling there’s plenty of it here. Along with that I GUESS there’s a few cute spots, if you’re into that sort of thing.


Fuerza Guerrera vs Demus 3:16

IAP

02/04/2018

Centro Civico Nueva Aragon, Ecatepec, Mexico

Watch

(reviewed 06/24/2018) You never want to see a 64 year old man get hurt unless he’s, like, a war criminal or something. Fuerza Guerrera’s been in some wars over the years but I don’t think he fits the bill. All the same he takes his lumps against one of the best bloody brawl-oriented luchadors going today and they both manage to avoid life-altering damage despite what they do here, so I consider that a victory.


Shane Strickland vs Brody King

MLW World Heavyweight Championship Tournament First Round Match

MLW Road to the World Championship

02/08/2018

Gilt Nightclub, Orlando, Florida, United States

(reviewed 07/12/2018) It’s not often that you see guys who are usually pretty lethargic and/or contrived manage to bring a believable level of animosity to a match but these two do it here with a fun slugfest. Those earlier qualities prevent this from being truly great but hey, it’s one of the better 1-on-1 singles matches I’ve seen from either of these men.


Jeff Cobb vs Matt Riddle

MLW World Heavyweight Championship Tournament First Round Match

MLW Road to the World Championship

02/08/2018

Gilt Nightclub, Orlando, Florida, United States

(reviewed 07/12/2018) Lately we’ve seen a lot of matches between guys with combat sports or amateur wrestling backgrounds that are based around oneupsmanship and switching control constantly. This is one of those and it’s not a bad one. Strange to see Riddle’s exuberance and bumping holding a match together but that’s what you get when a golem like Cobb is involved.


Sami Callihan vs Darby Allin

MLW Road to the World Championship

02/08/2018

Gilt Nightclub, Orlando, Florida, United States

(reviewed 07/12/2018) You know what you’re getting with these two. A few fiery dives, some weak crowd brawling, and some “RAWR XD” character work.


Fred Yehi vs Dominic Garrini

EVOLVE 100

02/17/2018

La Boom, New York City, New York, United States

(reviewed 11/09/2018) Great grappling from gregarious guys. It’s nothing world-shattering but these two always manage to make their efforts feel spirited and meaningful and when I’m catching up on a lot of subpar wrestling this late in the year, that stands out to me.


Tracy Williams vs Anthony Henry

EVOLVE 100

02/17/2018

La Boom, New York City, New York, United States

(reviewed 11/09/2018) Solid, scrappy little match with two slim guys who pack a surprising punch duking it out. This isn’t quite as focused as I’d like to see but it’s plenty of fun to watch as it unfolds in a somewhat wacky fashion.


Ricky Marvin vs Dr. Cerebro

IWRG

03/11/2018

Arena Naucalpan, Naucalpan, Mexico

WATCH: LuchaTV or IWRG

(reviewed 11/27/2018) Way more my speed than their first match. Whereas the first meeting revolved around lethargic hold-trading, this is far more malicious and full of chops, dives, and whips into the corner post, as well as more focused limb work. Not the biggest match in the world but something that hopefully bodes well for their apuestas match after this.


Shuten Doji (KUDO, Masahiro Takanashi, & Yukio Sakaguchi) (c) vs Kota Umeda, Yuki Ueno, & Koju Takeda

KO-D Six Man Tag Team Championship

DDT Judgement 2018

03/25/2018

Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo, Japan

(reviewed 11/21/2018) High-end okay.


David Starr & Keith Lee vs Ringkampf (WALTER & Timothy Thatcher)

PROGRESS Chapter 66

04/06/2018

Pontchartrain Convention & Civic Center, Kenner, Louisiana, United States

(reviewed 10/02/2018) Nothing at all exceptional, but if you like these four guys it’s a perfectly acceptable midcard tag.


Jimmy Havoc, Mark Haskins, & “Flash” Morgan Webster vs Keith Lee, David Starr, & Matt Riddle

PROGRESS Chapter 67

04/07/2018

Pontchartrain Convention & Civic Center, Kenner, Louisiana, United States

(reviewed 10/02/2018) Like the Ringkampf vs Starr/Keith match the day before but more so, with a lot more charm too. The often-annoying Havoc and Haskins crew doesn’t have time to get into the “grrr we’re tough” shtick and instead have to be clever to take down an indie superteam. The match is far better for it.


Ricochet vs Fabian Aichner

NXT

taped 04/11/2018, aired 04/18/2018

Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida, United States

(reviewed 06/14/2018) You know, I really, really, really like a good standing shooting star press. They’re not as hard to pull off as the top rope variation, of course, but I feel like they’re more enjoyable. They have a snap to them, a fluid fullness that’s so inexplicably satisfying. It’s like watching a machine shave off metal in an industrial line. You know the kind. Like from the Twin Peaks intro.

Anywho Ricochet hits a great standing shooting star press here, along with many other delightful moves. Very fun spotfest.


Cam Carter vs Billy Buck

ACTION Wrestling

04/27/2018

Roger Spencer Community Center, Tyrone, Georgia, United States

(reviewed 07/20/2018) Straightforward match with a young highflyer taking on a larger veteran with cronies on the floor. On top of some great 450s Carter uses this transition into a rana that I’ve never seen before and is probably worth watching this show to see all by itself.


Cedric Alexander (c) vs Kalisto

WWE Cruiserweight Championship

WWE Greatest Royal Rumble

04/27/2018

King Abdullah Sports City Stadium, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

(reviewed 10/23/2018) Real tight and fun. It’s nothing that I’m going to remember in two weeks but there’s plenty of well-executed spots here that got me going. 205 Live in a nutshell.


Rory Gulak vs John Silver

Beyond Wrestling Welcome Home Day 1

04/28/2018

Wrestle Factory, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

(reviewed 07/13/2018) Great little clash of styles. Silver’s surprisingly good on the mat but can’t handle the amazing antics of Gulak, which leads him to play to his physicality and unload a bunch of his favorites strikes. Unsurprisingly it’s real fun to watch.


Jonathan Gresham vs Puma King

Beyond Wrestling Welcome Home Day 1

04/28/2018

Wrestle Factory, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

(reviewed 07/13/2018) Not nearly so good as Gresham’s last dream match in this building but a very enjoyable match in its own right. It’s nothing that jumps off the page but two talented technicians rolling around and teeing off on each other for the first time is a nearly foolproof formula and this delivers on that promise.


Josh Briggs vs Matt Riddle

Beyond Wrestling Welcome Home Day 1

04/28/2018

Wrestle Factory, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

(reviewed 07/13/2018) A weird situation where Briggs is doing some of his best big man offense yet and Riddle’s bumping and selling for it is solid but none of these qualities are quite aggressive or appealing enough to result in a good match. A lot of that comes down to a timid, tiny crowd but a distinct lack of fire between the ropes doesn’t help either.


Nick Gage vs Chuck Taylor

Beyond Wrestling Welcome Home Day 1

04/28/2018

Wrestle Factory, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

(reviewed 07/13/2018) There’s been a lot of talk about memes in wrestling lately and what the value and effects of ironic fandom might be. As fun as this cute bonus main event might be, it’s hard to not see these two guys as central figures in that irony-poisoned issue. Still, a wise-crackin’ sneak doing what he can to survive a hardcore match against a fired-up deathmatch king is, jokes aside, real enjoyable and I hope people can appreciate that without throwing up gang signs on Philly’s south side.


Bill Carr vs Shockwave the Robot

Beyond Wrestling Welcome Home Day 2

04/29/2018

Electric Haze, Worcester, Massachusetts, United States

(reviewed 07/13/2018) Bill’s great. Straight up one of my favorite wrestlers to watch. On top of being probably the best big man highflyer in the world, he’s incredibly funny and charismatic. Throw that in there with one of the better-executed comedy gimmicks this side of Mecha Mummy and you’ve got yourself some quality slapstick.


Ace Romero vs Maxwell Jacob Friedman

Dog Collar Match

AAW Day of Defiance 2018

05/05/2018

Knights of Columbus Hall, LaSalle, Illinois, United States

(reviewed 07/12/2018) I described the first match these two had as having 80s sensibilities and hoped that would carry over into this dog collar match. Sadly, instead of a grittier quality to the wrestling this match has replicated the soulless vapidness of Reaganomics and New Kids on the Block. Imagine if Donnie Wahlberg bladed after shouting “WE’RE ROUGH” and that’s what you get.


Buddy Murphy vs Mustafa Ali

WWE 205 Live

05/08/2018

Royal Farms Arena, Baltimore, Maryland, United States

(reviewed 10/24/2018) Y’all like moves? We got plenty of moves in this bad boy. Y’all like callbacks that don’t amount to anything and forced drama? Well, we got plenty of that too. Check this one out if you like awesome tornado DDTs but not much else.


The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, & Roderick Strong) vs Oney Lorcan, Danny Burch, & Pete Dunne

NXT

taped 05/09/2018, aired 05/16/2018

Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida, United States

(reviewed 06/15/2018) Quite a spicy little six man tag here. I’ve talked before about how Roddy’s recent heel turn has been a breath of fresh air and I’ve discussed Oney’s intense appeal at length over the last year, so it’s no surprise that when you put both those men in a tight tag match it makes for a fun time. Everyone’s on their best behavior here as 11 minutes spread between six men leaves little room for error. Sometimes they get a little too cute for their own good with the car crash spotfest action, but it’s never in service of emotional drama or an appeal for San Jose snowflakes so it doesn’t turn me off all that much.


Ricochet & The Velveteen Dream vs Lars Sullivan

Handicap Match

NXT

taped 05/09/2018, aired 05/23/2018

Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida, United States

(reviewed 06/15/2018) Man this sort of ruled. Very simple match wherein two flashy guys who are feuding with each other try to coexist long enough to take out a rampaging monster that has interrupted their conflict. It’s nothing special on its own but the format helps to rein in some of the worst habits of Ricochet, Dream, and NXT in general while also supplying tons of Sullivan’s great offense and selling as well as the best elements of his two opponents. In no way surprising but a hell of a TV main event on a show about bigger and better things.


Ricochet vs Chris Dijak

NXT

taped 05/09/2018, aired 05/30/2018

Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida, United States

(reviewed 06/15/2018) In a sport that is constantly focusing more and more on moments that don’t really mean anything, I’m usually not one for matches that are clearly designed around a handful of GIFable spots, as fun as they might be. What really pisses me off about this one, though, is a commentator referring to one of the wrestlers as a “walking meme”. Do better, guys.


Brody King vs Darby Allin

AAW Take No Prisoners 2018

05/25/2018

Logan Square Auditorium, Chicago, Illinois, United States

(reviewed 07/12/2018) Far better than their EVOLVE match a few months back. How much of that is due simply to Brody beating THE SHIT out of Darby and giving him a few PROFOUNDLY stupid moves here? A lot, ok? Leave me alone. I’m working through some shit.


Joey Janela vs WALTER

Beyond Wrestling All Day

05/27/2018

Electric Haze, Worcester, Massachusetts, United States

(reviewed 08/22/2018) WALTER beats the shit out of Janela. No, you don’t understand. He beats the shit out of him.


Jonathan Gresham vs Joey Janela

Super Indy 17 Semi-Finals

IWC Super Indy 17

06/09/2018

Court Time Sports Center, Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, United States

(reviewed 07/16/2018) Some great selling from the Octopus and an awesome superplex set this one apart. Worth watching if you’re checking out the show for one of the more hyped matches.


Bad Bones vs Josh Briggs

EVOLVE 106

06/23/2018

Saint Finbar Catholic Church, Queens, New York, United States

(reviewed 06/24/2018) Mechanically fine but emotionally vacant, in that Bones’ best stuff happens with a beloved babyface and Briggs’ developing monster shtick doesn’t pair well with that. Hopefully Briggs gets to find his much-needed attitude before someone big snatches him up and fails to instill in him what he needs to succeed.


Jon Davis vs Jarek 1:20

EVOLVE 106

06/23/2018

Saint Finbar Catholic Church, Queens, New York, United States

(reviewed 06/24/2018) A big smashmouth veteran beating the tar out of a meme magician. What more could you want?


DJ Z vs AR Fox

EVOLVE 106

06/23/2018

Saint Finbar Catholic Church, Queens, New York, United States

(reviewed 06/24/2018) There was definitely a time in which I’d be endlessly impressed by a match like this, in which two flippy dudes hit every wacky move you could think of as various members of Brockhampton look on from ringside. I mean shit, I used to think that Jody Fleisch vs Jonny Storm from BOTB II was the greatest match ever. Thankfully I’m no longer 14. If some part of you still is, you might like this.


Killer Kelly vs Toni Storm

PROGRESS Chapter 73

07/15/2018

O2 Academy Birmingham, Birmingham, England, United Kingdom

(reviewed 10/03/2018) Pretty good, in that this match gets physical and gritty in a way you don’t see enough of from women’s wrestling in the west. It ain’t perfect since Kelly’s still fairly inexperienced and Storm’s not the type to throw hands, but they keep it lively enough to smooth over anything too wonky.


Keith Lee vs Marcel Barthel

NXT

taped 07/18/2018, aired 08/08/2018

Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida, United States

(reviewed 08/16/2018) Workshopping catchphrases and subpar pounces keep this from being really good but all in all this is a nice little double debut that does well to introduce both men. Marcel’s real stuffy and aggressive, Keith’s all power and charisma, and Full Sail is real into both. Hope it’s not all downhill from here for these guys.


Roderick Strong vs Tyler Bate

NXT

taped 07/18/2018, aired 08/15/2018

Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida, United States

(reviewed 08/16/2018) Roddy’s uber-tight approach to everything brings the best out of a young prodigy in a real simple match. Bunch of strikes and slams and while it won’t blow anyone away, it’s great stuff.


Daisuke Sekimoto & Kazuyuki Fujita vs Okami (Daichi Hashimoto & Hideyoshi Kamitani)

BJW Osaka Suprise 38 ~ Strong World 2018

taped 07/21/2018, aired 07/31/2018

EDION Arena Osaka #2, Osaka, Japan

(reviewed 10/18/2018) FUJITA SQUASH PUNY WEAKLINGS. The puny weaklings in question also manage to get some good shots in for once, but mostly IT’S ALL ABOUT FUJITA, BABY.


Eddie Osbourne (c) vs Darby Allin

ECCW Canadian Championship

ECCW Ballroom Brawl X

07/21/2018

Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

(reviewed 07/24/2018) Big dude who looks like the long-lost third member of Da Hit Squad batters Darby Allin in a midcard title hardcore match with plenty of the usual from the skinny young man. Priscilla Kelly gets in on the action too and it all culminates with a big table bump and my favorite move in wrestling, the fire thunder driver. What else could you ask for?


Nicole Matthews (c) vs Cat Power

ECCW Women’s Championship

ECCW Ballroom Brawl X

07/21/2018

Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

(reviewed 07/24/2018) Sometimes I like it when things are self-evident. It’s comforting when you see an actor walk onto the stage and you know from jump street that they’re the shithead who’ll try to stab the mayor in Act III. They just have that twinkle in their eye. That’s what this match is like. Cat Power’s this uber-intense, intimidating-looking but ultimately virtuous person whereas Matthews is the self-assured, jovial, capable veteran who won’t shy away from outright cheating to retain her title. Toss those two clear-cut characters together in a match and let ‘em whirl. It might not have the cleanest execution, the most believable acting, but sometimes it’s nice to have something that doesn’t throw curve balls at you.


Omari (c) vs WALTER

Infinity Trophy

FCP Big Strong Bois

07/27/2018

Starworks Warehouse, Wolverhampton, England, United Kingdom

(reviewed 10/17/2018) A very inconsistent but altogether enjoyable match. Omari’s mostly sputtered out after his impressive rookie year(s) and the majority of WALTER’s matches these days strike me as quite uninspired, but the former’s charm and the latter’s aggression is just enough to make for a good match here.


Ike Cross vs Marko Stunt vs Cyrus the Destroyer vs Matt Lynch vs AC Mack vs Shaggy

Scenic City Rumble 2019 Qualifying Match

Scenic City Invitational 2018 Day 2

08/04/2018

Soddy-Daisy High School, Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, United States

(reviewed 08/22/2018) The thing you look for in time-filling multi-man matches on the last day of a tournament weekend is a bunch of silly spots. Well guess what, folks, you got ‘em here! Shoutout to Mack’s right hand, Cyrus’ giant swing, and Cross’ goddamn spears for being varying flavors of crazy.


Kacy Catanzaro vs Rhea Ripley

Mae Young Classic 2018 Second Round Match

WWE Mae Young Classic 2018 #5

taped 08/09/2018, aired 10/03/2018

Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida, United States

(reviewed 10/28/2018) One of the better representations of what I consider a ‘popcorn match’ that I’ve seen this year. Kacy’s still exploring what she can do in the ring (not to mention what actually looks any good) and Rhea’s got a few bad selling habits, but together they’ve got more than enough athleticism and charisma to make for a fun little thing that shows promise for their respective futures.


Lars Sullivan vs Raul Mendoza

NXT

taped 08/23/2018, aired 09/12/2018

Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida, United States

(reviewed 11/11/2018) LARS SMASH. I’ve not been terribly impressed by Mendoza the way some people have but he does real well here in getting smashed by and fighting against one of wrestling’s best monsters today. If you’re at all a fan of dudes getting tossed around like toys, give this a watch.


The Besties in the World (Davey Vega & Mat Fitchett) (c) vs WRSTLING (David Starr & Eddie Kingston)

AAW Tag Team Championship

AAW Destination: Chicago

08/30/2018

Logan Square Auditorium, Chicago, Illinois, United States

(reviewed 10/14/2018) Super fun tag here, something that manages to be fast and bomb-heavy without feeling overwrought or overlong. Fitchett unloads maybe the best hot tag of the year here, which is worth seeing all on its own.


CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Will Ospreay) vs Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi)

NJPW Road to Destruction 2018 Day 2

09/07/2018

Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan

(reviewed 10/11/2018) If you don’t like NJPW tags (or their main event scene, really) you won’t like this. However if you can stomach the antics this is among their better matches of the year, complete with a fair bit of the meanness that makes Ishii’s stuff shine.


Timothy Thatcher vs WALTER

wXw Broken Rules XVIII

11/17/2018

Kraftwerk Mitte, Dresden, Germany

(reviewed 12/04/2018) I might be well past the point of enjoying most anything WALTER does anymore but I am always, always down to watch my man Thatcher struggle through a physical match. And hey, even if the dude throwing ‘em is a bore, there’s plenty of good slaps and chops here.

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One thought on “2018 Popcorn Matches

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