Every month, Ring Post Radio's Scott Edwards writes his favorite five matches that he watched and believes everyone should go out of their way to see. Here's a look at the "Must-Sees" of January 2022.
Katsuhiko Nakajima (c) vs. Go Shiozaki for the GHC Heavyweight Championship (NOAH The New Year, 1/1/22)
To kick off the new year was Pro Wrestling NOAH, who had been riding some momentum at the close of 2021 with a new champion in Katsuhiko Nakajima leading the way. Nakajima was fresh off a 60-minute draw with his Kongo stablemate, Kenoh, and was looking to show why he was the man to lead NOAH into the future. Then stepped in the man who embodies Pro Wrestling NOAH, Go Shiozaki. Shiozaki had been out with injury since March and made his comeback to get the title that he had lost in his final match before leaving. The stage was set and they managed to live up to that hype.
Whether it was the echoing chops of Shiozaki or the breath-taking kicks of Nakajima, there never seemed to be a moment that these two let up on each other. They traded for nearly 30 minutes of this match before Nakajima was able to successfully defend his title, but the pace of the match made it feel as though it didn't come close. Not only was this a must-see for the month but will go down as one of the must-sees for the entire year.
Miyu Yamashita (c) vs. Mizuki for the Princess of Princess Championship (TJPW Tokyo Joshi Pro '22, 1/4/22)
The first of many Joshi matches to be featured on these lists moving forward was the Princess of Princess Championship match between Miyu Yamashita and Mizuki. Really, it was the perfect match to kick off the new year for the promotion as well. Yamashita is the most dominant ace in all of professional wrestling. Mizuki, on the other hand, is one of the wrestlers at the top of the list when it comes to those who are deserving a world title reign. The cards meshed for these two to go at it with the real possibility that Mizuki would finally achieve her moment against Yamashita.
Unfortunately for Mizuki, that was not the case but she sure made it seem that it would be. If you watched this one live, you felt the emotion and drama as the match came down to the final minutes. There was no sign of which way it would go so when that final bell sounded, you had to take a break to understand what you had just witnessed. Even if you don't watch it live, it will live up to the hype as one of the best matches in January.
Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Will Ospreay for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16, 1/5/22)
When will Kazuchika Okada get back to what made him a first-ballot Wrestling Observer Hall of Famer? Ah, glad you asked. It was at Wrestle Kingdom 16. And not only was Okada back to being great, but he was so great that he did it back-to-back nights. On night one of the show, Okada defeated Shingo Takagi to win the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship in what was a match that just missed the cut for this very list. But night two? That was the best of the month and so far this year.
Will Ospreay made his grand return to NJPW proper, wrestling for the championship that he never lost. Not only did he return but he put on a show with Okada that put their Wrestle Kingdom 15 match to shame. Ospreay channeled his days as a junior heavyweight in this one, pulling off a picture-perfect moonsault that you need to see to believe. Ospreay even kicked out of the Rainmaker for the first time in his career, but he didn't have enough to live up to "Tokyo Dome" Okada. "The Rainmaker" showed why it was his time to reign again over NJPW in this match as he laid to rest Ospreay's claim to the world title. It was the best Okada match since Wrestle Kingdom 14.
Hangman Page (c) vs. Bryan Danielson for the AEW World Championship (AEW Dynamite, 1/5/22)
Hangman Page and Bryan Danielson wrestled for 60 minutes at Winter Is Coming, not being able to find a winner. So how were they able to follow that up? A match that was more brutal, more vicious, and simply better. Danielson walked into AEW and showed why he very well might be the best wrestler in the world right now but that wasn't going to scare AEW World Champion, Hangman Page. It was, instead, going to drive him more as we saw in this match.
Undefeated up until this point, Danielson managed to make Page feel like the underdog. The story they told between the ropes showed that feeling unfold as Page looked answerless and became a bloody mess for the second straight battle against Danielson. By the end, however, Danielson was also a bloody mess and walked out title-less. Hangman Page rose to the occasion to show that "The American Dragon" could not overcome "The Cowboy." It was a match that makes professional wrestling amazing.
Mayu Iwatani vs. Giulia (Stardom Nagoya Supreme Fight, 1/29/22)
Turning a negative into a positive can be incredibly difficult. Especially when the negative happens on the day of the show. A match that was originally scheduled to be a triple threat was changed when Tam Nakano could not compete due to being deemed as "poor physical condition. This led to two of Stardom's best in Mayu Iwatani and Giulia wrestling in the semi-main event of Stardom's first PPV of the year. What happened after the bell rang was 30 minutes of magic with Iwatani being the real shining star.
If you listen to Ring Post Radio, follow me on Twitter, or pay attention to any of the other content I create, you would know that Mayu Iwatani is the best wrestler in the world when she feels like it. Well at Nagoya Supreme Fight, she sure felt like it. This was the masterclass performance by "The Icon," taking all the abuse and destruction that Giulia executed to Iwatani and turning it all back onto her opponent. Iwatani was in the zone and brought every last bit of her to the table to try and take down Giulia, clawing back to the World of Stardom Championship in the process. Alas, it was not enough for Iwatani to get the win even with two moonsaults in the closing minutes.
If you want to get an idea of what Stardom and Joshi are all about, watch this match right now. It was one of the best in January and will be in the conversation at year's end as well.