2019 Popcorn Matches

Short form reviews of matches that I want to talk about, but not to the same degree as with my other, longer reviews!

[last updated: 12/29/2019]


Koji Iwamoto (c) vs Yusuke Okada

AJPW World Junior Heavyweight Championship

AJPW New Year Wars 2019 Day 1

01/02/2019

Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan

(reviewed 03/22/2019) Average little juniors match. Iwamoto does his thing and that’s great but Okada’s still too rough around the edges to hook me like he wants to. He’s got some decent fire but awful bumping habits and not nearly enough decent offense to convince me of his competitiveness. Better luck next time, champ.


Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan vs Marcel Barthel & Fabian Aichner

NXT

taped 01/03/2019, aired 01/23/2019

Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida, United States

(reviewed 03/03/2019) Jesus H. Christ, what a profoundly stupid match. I kinda love it. If you want to watch the motherfucking dude Oney Lorcan kick some ass and some other guys do some hilariously dumb dives and combos, give this a go.


Eddie Kingston vs PACO

Glory Pro Above the Law

01/06/2019

Collins Club, Collinsville, Illinois, United States

(reviewed 03/18/2019) Solid, in the way that almost all Kingston matches are solid. I don’t think PACO’s endearing enough as a character or tight enough in his selling to win me over as this fiery underdog but King’s got more than enough to spare so that I’m not left wanting. He ain’t perfect here, letting PACO get shots in on him that feel out of character, but all in all it’s a good buildup for a bigger match later on.


Ayame Sasamura (c) vs Millie McKenzie

Sendai Girls Junior Championship

Sendai Girls

taped 01/06/2019, aired 01/14/2019

Shinjuku FACE, Tokyo, Japan

(reviewed 03/23/2019) Lovely little undercard match, real crisp and snug. They start with some surprisingly adept grappling that slowly graduates up into big rope-running highspots that feel exciting without surpassing its station on the card. These two are still young enough that not everything they do is perfect, but I’ll forgive a wonky kick to two when they’re connecting with killer spears or busting out great transitions on the mat.


Nia Jax vs Sasha Banks

Number One Contendership

WWE RAW

01/07/2019

Amway Center, Orlando, Florida, United States

(reviewed 02/25/2019) Figured I’d enjoy this match a lot but it really underwhelmed me, feeling languid and lifeless even by WWE standards. I imagine they’ve told Jax to slow down and play to the crowd more since she really turned heel but this felt glacial in comparison to what she was doing just six months ago. Sasha doesn’t help either, as she either strolls through stale sequences or pulls out something that doesn’t land at all, like the finish and the apron rana.


Dean Ambrose (c) vs Seth Rollins

Falls Count Anywhere Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship

WWE RAW

01/07/2019

Amway Center, Orlando, Florida, United States

(reviewed 02/25/2019) This ain’t a bad little hardcore match but boy is it neutered by being in WWE. Any of the gruffness or viciousness found in its brawling gets undercut by frenetic editing or muting crowd audio for long stretches of time, not to mention a dull-as-dirt finish. Story of Dean’s run, I guess. Sand off the edges of anything interesting and dip it in shit so it looks like everything else on the show.


Lifeblood (“Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams & Mark Haskins) vs Jay Lethal & Jonathan Gresham

Tag Wars 2019 First Round

ROH Road to G1 Supercard 2019 Day 1

01/24/2019

Gilley’s Club, Dallas, Texas, United States

(reviewed 12/12/2019) Two teams of guys who work well together do everything they can to keep the other side down, building and building to a finishing stretch that really bangs. Simple stuff but enjoyable as hell. If people gave about tag team wrestling at all this would be getting all sorts of snowflakes.


Jordan Devlin vs Drew Gulak

Worlds Collide Tournament Quarter-Finals

WWE Royal Rumble Axxess 2019 Day 2

taped 01/26/2019, aired 02/02/2019

Phoenix Convention Center, Phoenix, Arizona, United States

(reviewed 12/15/2019) Disappointed by how inconsistent this is as well as how willing it is to resort to cheap antics but if nothing else I appreciated Gulak’s work here. He did a great job of bringing the heat and cutting Devlin off whenever he refused to do the same, illustrating the all-too-rare adage that you can’t look good if an opponent who doesn’t look good is beating you down.


Craig Mitchell vs Louis Lyndon vs Daniel Makabe vs Alex Zayne vs Rickey Shane Page vs Flip Kendrick

Scramble Match

Freelance Wrestling Sleepless in Chicago

02/01/2019

Logan Square Auditorium, Chicago, Illinois, United States

(reviewed 03/18/2019) Hey man, you like spots? This match got some motherfuckering S P O T S.


Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kazuchika Okada vs Bullet Club (Jay White & Bad Luck Fale)

NJPW New Beginning in Sapporo 2019 Day 1

02/02/2019

Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center, Hokkaido, Japan

(reviewed 03/16/2019) Too goofy to be good, I think, but boy is this fun. The very definition of a crowd-pleasing B-level show main event, with fan favorites who are uncharacteristically cohesive and cartoonish villains pulling out every trick in the book.


Blue Demon Jr vs Dr. Wagner Jr

Street Fight

AAA

02/10/2019

Auditorio Amado Nervo, Tepic, Mexico

(reviewed 12/15/2019) Not nearly so transcendental as their apuestas match but fun in the same way. Wagner’s selling continues to be one of the more endearing and exciting things in wrestling today.


Aramis vs Aero Boy

MDA/Super X Sangre vs Fuerza

02/17/2019

Centro Deportivo y Cultural, Azcapotzalco, Mexico

Watch: YouTube

(reviewed 08/09/2019) Dives. Dives? Diiiiiives. Some good dives in this one. Lots of the other stuff ranges from clunky to uninteresting but boy howdy are the dives here killer.


Hiroshi Tanahashi & Yoshitatsu vs Kento Miyahara & Daisuke Sekimoto

Giant Baba 20th Memorial Show

02/19/2019

Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo, Japan

(reviewed 03/20/2019) Mostly this is a big silly supershow main event that doesn’t try to do anything too interesting BUT Kento hits a few gruesome headbutts on Yoshitatsu and that’s enough to make me happy. If you’re in the market for that or big stars aligning when they usually don’t, give this a go.


Mia Yim vs Shayna Baszler

NXT

taped 02/20/2019, aired 02/27/2019

Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida, United States

(reviewed 03/07/2019) You know what I love about Shayna? How natural and believable she is in her viciousness. You know what this match largely isn’t? Natural and believable. Cool finish and all but good god, the rest of this thing.


David Starr vs Jay Skillet

wXw Inner Circle 7

03/07/2019

wXw Wrestling Academy, Essen, Germany

(reviewed 03/13/2019) Oh my god, so much fun. Skillet’s been good as a heel for a while but here he is just vile, doing everything he can to avoid Starr’s wrath and acting like a cartoon supervillain to turn things around when he is finally made to pay for his crimes. It’s a little silly all things considered but when it has a guy putting tons of effort behind something as simple as an Irish whip and making it feel meaningful, I think I can overlook that.


Ringkampf (WALTER & Timothy Thatcher) vs Yuki Ishikawa & Shigehiro Irie

wXw Inner Circle 7

03/07/2019

wXw Wrestling Academy, Essen, Germany

(reviewed 03/13/2019) The Thatcher/Ishikawa interactions here are awesome awesome awesome, even more fiery than the stuff in their singles match a few days later. All the other matchups aren’t nearly so good, though they’re far from bad, and listening to Thatcher walk WALTER through defending a cross armbreaker because he doesn’t know how is great stuff. Fuck that big lug.


Jaxson Ryker vs Oney Lorcan

NXT

taped 03/13/2019, aired 04/03/2019

Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida, United States

(reviewed 07/28/2019) You won’t be surprised that Oney couldn’t get much out of a big lunk like Ryker but, per usual, he managed to slip in some interesting work by himself. I liked him wrenching at Ryker’s beard and jaw to try and escape a bearhug and whenever he got the room to run he managed to hit the dude real hard. All I can ask for, I guess.


Dean Ambrose vs Drew McIntyre

Last Man Standing

WWE RAW

03/25/2019

TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, United States

(reviewed 08/07/2019) Hey, surprise surprise, I liked a Last Man Standing match. Lots of people find Ambrose’s WWE work (or work in general, maybe) to be corny and I find most of McIntyre’s work to be dull in a similar way. Thankfully the LMS stipulation actually puts their cartoonishness to good use, helped along by some emphatic spots and some of the best WWE camerawork I’ve seen in a long while.


The New Day (Big E Langston & Xavier Woods) vs Shinsuke Nakamura & Rusev vs The Bar (Cesaro & Sheamus) vs The Usos (Jimmy Uso & Jey Uso) vs Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows vs Daniel Bryan & Rowan

Gauntlet Match

WWE Smackdown

03/26/2019

Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, United States

(reviewed 08/08/2019) Good like Kofi’s gauntlet match the week before, just less focused. Really loved Big E’s selling toward the end, especially in regards to his reaction to the Usos’ forfeit and his tipping over of the commentary booth.


Caristico (c) vs Barbaro Cavernario

Two out of Three Falls Match for the NWA World Historic Middleweight Championship

CMLL Martes Arena Coliseo Guadalajara

04/09/2019

Arena Coliseo Guadalajara, Guadalajara, Mexico

Watch: YouTube

(reviewed 09/22/2019) Don’t let a Tuesday show deter you from watching two of the best doing their thing together. Great brawling from Cav, great flying from Caristico, and great fun for the whole family.


KUSHIDA vs Drew Gulak

NXT

taped 05/01/2019, aired 05/29/2019

Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida, United States

(reviewed 08/12/2019) Weirdly tame. I get that they’re still onboarding KUSHIDA but humdrum matches like this fail to establish how slick, exciting, and endearing he can be. Hope the submission match improves on that.


Rocky Romero vs Robbie Eagles

Best of the Super Juniors XXVI Block B Match

NJPW Best of the Super Juniors XXVI Day 2

05/14/2019

Sendai Sun Plaza, Sendai, Japan

(reviewed 08/01/2019) Good! Knee Work Bob does his knee work, using creative means to get the leverage he needs to cut down a capable opponent. Rocky sells real well and works as an effective babyface. Everybody plays their role and does cool things and it’s all real fun.


Thomas Santell vs Juan Francisco de Coronado

Discovery Gauntlet Match

Beyond Wrestling Uncharted Territory Episode 7

05/15/2019

Electric Haze, Worcester, Massachusetts, United States

(reviewed 12/18/2019) Cute little grappling match playing up the outlandish gimmicks these men have and the natural implications those have on the crowd, the platonic ideal of a crowd-pleasing popcorn match.


Shingo Takagi vs Jonathan Gresham

Best of the Super Juniors XXVI Block A Match

NJPW Best of the Super Juniors XXVI Day 11

05/29/2019

Nagoya International Conference Hall, Nagoya, Japan

(reviewed 08/01/2019) Good but pretty nondescript, as is sadly often the case with Gresham’s bigger matches like this. As enjoyable as it is, there’s just nothing that differentiates this from most of the other BOSJ matches. Still, if you like these guys and want to see them doing what they do best with a new opponent well outside their wheelhouse, this sure ain’t bad.


Thomas Santell vs Travis Huckabee

Discovery Gauntlet Match

Beyond Wrestling Uncharted Territory Episode 11

06/12/2019

Electric Haze, Worcester, Massachusetts, United States

(reviewed 12/18/2019) It’s good! Lots of sharp technical work that feels like it matters because these guys aren’t just doing it to fill time. Imagine that—submission holds that have an effect on the people they’re applied to.


Akito (c) vs ASUKA

IPPON Fluorescent Lighttube Deathmatch for the DDT Extreme Championship

DDT Wrestle Peter Pan 2019

07/15/2019

Ota Ward Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan

(reviewed 10/10/2019) Two good wrestlers do everything they can to not be the one to break a single light tube. Not exactly surprising but tons and tons of goofy fun.


Masahiro Takanashi & Chris Brookes vs Moonlight Express (MAO & “Speedball” Mike Bailey)

DDT Wrestle Peter Pan 2019

07/15/2019

Ota Ward Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan

(reviewed 10/10/2019) Fun little tag with a pair of tricky, charming teams. The MX guys are obviously more polished and cohesive but you can never count out the slick efforts of the two sleazebags.


Jushin Liger vs Caristico vs Negro Casas vs Ultimo Guerrero

Relevo CMLL

CMLL Super Viernes

07/19/2019

Arena Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico

Watch: YouTube

(reviewed 12/15/2019) Cute little thing befitting the situation at hand. Everyone plays to their strengths, which includes more heeling from UG than I’d have expected. None of it’s all that stellar but it’s fun and breezy and everybody’s glad to see it happen. Couldn’t ask for anything more.


Tony Nese vs Akira Tozawa vs Jack Gallagher vs Kalisto vs Oney Lorcan vs Ariya Daivari

Number One Contender’s Match

WWE 205 Live

08/06/2019

Little Caesar’s Arena, Detroit, Michigan, United States

(reviewed 12/11/2019) Stilted and suffering from a few clunky dullards in true WWE multi-man tradition but, all in all, this is real fun and colorful. Everybody approaches the usual dives, submissions, and such with their individual styles and it’s quite enjoyable.


Juice Robinson vs Jay White

G1 Climax 29 Block B Match

NJPW G1 Climax 29 Day 16

08/08/2019

Yokohama Bunka Gymnasium, Yokohama, Japan

(reviewed 10/11/2019) Not nearly so good as their blowaway great match last year but more quality stuff from these two. Jay uses Bullet Club distractions to go after Juice’s knee, Juice grimaces and grunts through the pain, and they both play their roles well as a sleazy coward heel and goofy upstanding babyface.


Julian Pace vs Daniel Makabe vs CIMA vs Brent Banks

wXw Toronto

08/09/2019

Midtown Event Theatre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

(reviewed 10/11/2019) Pace is really fast and exciting! Makabe is intense and mean! CIMA is the most charming man in the world! Brent Banks is there too! Fun match.


Cameron Grimes vs Jordan Myles

Breakout Tournament Finals

NXT

taped 08/10/2019, aired 08/14/2019

Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

(reviewed 12/11/2019) Hey, shocker, this isn’t nearly as big and exciting as their broadway last year but it’s still fun and emphatic in the way you expect from these two. This match features what I’d call the best use of Trevor’s Spanish fly reversal gimmick.


CIMA vs Daniel Makabe

OWE Toronto Day 2

08/10/2019

Midtown Event Theatre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

(reviewed 10/11/2019) Things I Never Thought I’d See Part 2578. Glad to see CIMA have an excuse to bust out his extensive llave abilities for the first time in a while and glad to see my man Dan get an unbelievable dream match.


Yuji Okabayashi (c) vs Kohei Sato

BJW Strong World Heavyweight Championship

BJW Death Mania VII

taped 08/25/2019, aired 09/01/2019

Nagoya International Conference Center Event Hall, Nagoya, Japan

(reviewed 12/14/2019) Kinda wish I didn’t know the finish of this thing going in but even if you do, I’m sure you’ll still find this to be real solid. Two of BJW’s stalwart heavyweights engage in some good and proper bash-em-ups, hitting each other about as hard as you’re gonna see anyone get hit in 2019. I’ll forgive them for not doing much else when they’re as good as they are at doing that.


Zack Sabre Jr (c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi

RPW Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship

NJPW Royal Quest

08/31/2019

Copper Box Arena, Hackney, Greater London, England, United Kingdom

(reviewed 12/12/2019) Unsurprisingly this ends up being a “playing the hits” sort of match, appealing to a raucous international crowd who will cheer for anything, but even if this isn’t quite as sharp as some of their other matches there are a few slick sequences and reversals of reversals that I liked a lot.


Mia Yim vs Io Shirai vs Bianca Belair vs Candice LeRae

Number One Contender’s Match

NXT

09/18/2019

Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida, United States

(reviewed 12/13/2019) Big fun spotfest. NXT women’s division has been great about these TV bangers for a long time now and I’m glad this one got a pretty prominent position, being the opener on the first live episode on USA.


Alex Zayne vs Christian Casanova

Beyond Wrestling All Hands on Deck

09/22/2019

Paddy’s Beach Club, Westerly, Rhode Island, United States

(reviewed 12/19/2019) Two of the better spotfest workers today do their thing in a fun-filled match befitting of a beach show.


KTB vs Cabana Man Dan

Pizza Party Wrestling Grapple Picking

09/28/2019

The Wrestle Factory, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

(reviewed 12/26/2019) Just what I’m looking for from this matchup. KTB is real big and wrestles like it, CMD makes use of effective strategies for a guy so small, etc etc. Wish they built to something a little bigger in the end but I’m still happy with what we got.


O’Shay Edwards vs 1 Called Manders

SUP You’re Next

10/06/2019

The Basement East, Nashville, Tennessee, United States

(reviewed 12/25/2019) Fun little match between two of the better ass-kickers on the Southern indies today. Wish these guys weren’t so insistent on exploring said ass-kicking through silly-looking spots but whenever they’re actually swinging hard on each other it’s great.


Dakota Kai vs Bianca Belair

NXT

10/09/2019

Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida, United States

(reviewed 12/13/2019) Two feisty ladies start butting heads and make each other pay for it! Don’t mean to describe this match like a porno but it’s simple and good. Finish looked quite painful.


Sareee (c) vs Chihiro Hashimoto

Sendai Girls World Championship

Sendai Girls Joshi Puroresu Big Show in Sendai 2019

taped 10/13/2019, aired 10/25/2019

Sendai Sun Plaza, Sendai, Japan)

(reviewed 12/27/2019) More of the same from these two. Doesn’t reach the sort of frantic level of their first two matches but even the third-best match from two of the best women in Japan is worth something.


Kris Statlander vs Mercedes Martinez

Beyond Wrestling Uncharted Territory Episode 25

11/14/2019

The White Eagle, Worcester, Massachusetts, United States

(reviewed 12/24/2019) Straightforward banger between a pair of women who do a great job of playing to their above-average size. Wish there was more of a hook to this one, something I feel like I’ve been saying a lot with Martinez lately, but even without that this is quite good.


Meiko Satomura (c) vs Nicole Savoy

PROGRESS Women’s Championship

Wrestle Summit 2

11/30/2019

Washington Hall, Seattle, Washington, United States

(reviewed 12/17/2019) Not the blowaway classic I dreamt of this match being but all the same it’s a quick, hard-hitting match between a pair of women I’m a big fan of, so that’ll be enough.


Matt Riddle vs Kassius Ohno

NXT

12/04/2019

Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida, United States

(reviewed 12/16/2019) Bite-sized version of the great stuff these guys always get up to. Riddle doesn’t look like half the world-beater he did at the beginning of the year but it almost doesn’t matter when you’re in there with a guy like Ohno.

 

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