wrestling / Columns

Csonka Ranks The 102 WrestleMania Weekend Matches He Watched

April 11, 2018 | Posted by Larry Csonka
Johnny Gargano Tomasso Ciampa NXT Takeover: New Orleans WrestleMania

WELCOME back to the yearly tradition unlike any other, my big old list of WrestleMania weekend matches. Today’s column will look back at the WrestleMania weekend matches I watched or reviewed, ranking them from worst to first. I hit 102 this year, the most ever. I always hear a lot of people saying that they can’t decide what to watch because they do not have enough time to follow everything, so maybe this will help those of you short on time find some stuff to check out. Have fun, and always, thanks for reading. You can check out reviews of WrestleMania 34 here, NXT Takeover here, ROH Supercard of Honor here, SHIMMER 100 here, Matt Riddle’s Bloodsport here, EVOLVE 102 here, EVOLVE 103 here, Mercury Rising 2018 here. Joey Janela’s Spring Break 2 here and Impact vs. Lucha Underground here.

EDIT: It’s 103, I forgot one

102. From GCW Matt Riddle’s Bloodsport: MASADA vs. Martin Stone [DUD]
101.From Joey Janela’s Spring Break 2: THE CLUSTERFUCK [DUD]

100. From Style Battle Finals: Matt Riddle vs. Keith Lee [NR]
99. From WrestleMania 34: Undertaker vs. John Cena [NR]

98. From WrestleMania 34: Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal [*]
97. From Mercury Rising 2018: LuFisto vs. Holidead @ 6:00 via pin [*]
96. From WrestleMania 34: Braun Strowman & Nicolas the Kid Fan vs. Champions The Bar [*]
95. From ROH Supercard of Honor: : Champion Dalton Castle vs. Marty Scurll [*]
94. From Impact vs. Lucha Underground: Scott Steiner & Teddy Hart vs. OVE (Dave & Jake Crist) [*]
93. From GCW Matt Riddle’s Bloodsport: Dominic Garrini vs. KTB [*]

92. From Mercury Rising 2018: James Drake & Anthony Henry vs. Tracy Williams & Dom Garrini & The End []
91. From Beyond Wrestling Lit Up: The Rumblebees (Solo Darling & Travis Huckabee) vs. Joey Ryan & Laura James []
90. From Beyond Wrestling Lit Up: Jessicka Havok vs. Jimmy Havoc []

89. From ROH Supercard of Honor: Sumie Sakai vs. Kelly Klein [**]
88. From WrestleMania 34: Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss [**]
87. From ROH Supercard of Honor: Silas Young vs. Champion Kenny King [**]
86. From GCW Matt Riddle’s Bloodsport: Eddie Kingston vs. Tracy Williams [**]
85. From Impact vs. Lucha Underground: Trevor Lee vs. Marty The Moth [**]
84. From Impact Wrestling 4.05.18: Champion Allie vs. Su Yung [**]
83. From Joey Janela’s Spring Break 2: Joey Janela vs. Great Sasuke [**]
82. From Joey Janela’s Spring Break 2: Matt Riddle vs. James Ellsworth [**]
81. From EVOLVE 103: FIP World Heavyweight Champion Austin Theory vs. WWN Champion Keith Lee [**]

80. From WrestleMania 34: Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton vs. Bobby Roode vs. Rusev [**½]
79. From SHIMMER 100: Kimber Lee vs. Samantha Heights @ 7:10 via pin [**½]
78. From WrestleMania 34: The Bludgeon Brothers vs. New Day vs. The Usos [**½]
77. From EVOLVE 103: Timothy Thatcher vs. Dominic Garrini [**¼]

76. From GCW Matt Riddle’s Bloodsport: Dan Severn vs. Chris Dickinson [**½]
75. From Beyond Wrestling Lit Up: Josh Briggs vs. Davienne [**½]
74. From Impact vs. Lucha Underground: Brian Cage vs. Eli Drake [**½]
73. From Impact vs. Lucha Underground: Jeremiah Crane vs. Eddie Edwards [**½]

72. From ROH Supercard of Honor: Kelly Klein vs. Mayu Iwatani [**¾]
71. From SHIMMER 100: Leva Bates & Delilah Doom vs. Lufisto & Hudson Envy @ 9:25 via pin [**¾]
70. From WrestleMania 34: Shane McMahon & Daniel Bryan vs. Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens [**¾]
69. From Impact vs. Lucha Underground: Matanza vs. Moose, Matt Sydal, Caleb Konley, Jack Evans, and Chavo Guerrero Jr. [**¾]
68. From EVOLVE 102: Chris Dickinson & Jaka vs. The End (Parrow & Odinson) vs. James Drake & Anthony Henry vs. Tracy Williams & Dom Garrini [**¾]
67. From Impact Wrestling 4.05.18: Eli Drake vs. Moose [**¾]
66. From SHIMMER 100: Charli Evans & Jessica Troy vs. Chelsea Green & Britt Baker @7:15 via pin [**¾]
65. From EVOLVE 103: Chris Dickinson vs. Mark Haskins [**¾]
64. From EVOLVE 102: DJZ vs. FIP Champion Austin Theory [**¾]
63. From Beyond Wrestling Lit Up: Matt Riddle vs. Deonna Purrazzo [**¾]

THE GOOD
62. From Beyond Wrestling Lit Up: Janelope (Joey Janela & Penelope Ford) vs. Orange Cassidy & “Session Moth” Martina [***]
61. From Impact vs. Lucha Underground: Allie vs. Taya Valkyrie [***]
60. From WrestleMania 34: AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura [***]
59. From WrestleMania 34: Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns [***]
58. From ROH Supercard of Honor: Sumie Sakai vs. Tenille Dashwood [***]
57. From ROH Supercard of Honor: Chuckie T vs. Jonathan Gresham [***]
56. From SHIMMER 100: Mia Yim, Kay Lee Ray, & Rhia O’Reilly vs. Kellyannne, Veda Scott, & Zoe Lucas @ 15:10 via pin [***]
55. From SHIMMER 100: Cheerleader Melissa vs. Shotzi Blackheart @ 7:25 via pin [***]
54. From Impact Wrestling 4.05.18: Johnny Impact vs. Ishimori [***]
53. From Beyond Wrestling Lit Up: Tracy Williams vs. Lee [***]
52. From Beyond Wrestling Lit Up: Mia Yim vs. Tessa Blanchard vs. Wheeler Yuta vs. Maxwell Jacob Friedman [***]
51. From Beyond Wrestling Lit Up: Twisted Sisterz vs. Doom Patrol [***]
50. From Joey Janela’s Spring Break 2: Nick Gage vs. Penta El 0M [***]
49. From WrestleMania 34: WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal [***]
48. From EVOLVE 103: AR Fox vs. DJZ, Jason Kincaid, and Chris Brookes [***]
47. From ROH Supercard of Honor: Champions The Briscoes vs. Jay Lethal & Hiroshi Tanahashi [***]
46. From ROH Supercard of Honor: Cody vs. Kenny Omega [***]
45. From Impact Wrestling 4.05.18: Cage vs. Lashley [***]
44. From Style Battle Finals: Anthony Henry vs. Jason Kincaid [***]
43. From Style Battle Finals: Snoop Strikes vs. Matt Riddle [***]
42. From Style Battle Finals: Keith Lee vs. Nick Gage [***]

41. From GCW Matt Riddle’s Bloodsport: Nick Gage vs. Timothy Thatcher [***¼]
40. From Joey Janela’s Spring Break 2: Eli Everfly vs. DJZ vs. Tony Deppen vs. Gringo Loco vs. KTB vs. Teddy Hart [***¼]
39. From Mercury Rising 2018: AR Fox, DJZ & Trey Miguel vs. Austin Theory, Travis Banks & Zachary Wentz [***¼]
38. From Style Battle Finals: AR Fox vs. Tracer X [***¼]
37. From WrestleMania 34: Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali [***¼]
36. From Style Battle Finals: AR Fox vs. Anthony Henry [***¼]
35. From EVOLVE 102: Champion Keith Lee vs. Darby Allin [***¼]
34. From Beyond Wrestling Lit Up: EYFBO vs. Jordynne Grace & LuFisto [***¼]

THE VERY GOOD
33. From Beyond Wrestling Lit Up: Karen Q vs. Jonathan Gresham [***½]
32. From EVOLVE 103: Munenori Sawa vs. Jaka [***½]
31. From GCW Matt Riddle’s Bloodsport: Minoru Suzuki vs. Matt Riddle [***½]
30. From NXT Takeover: Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly and Adam Cole) (champions) vs. Pete Dunne and Roderick Strong vs. Authors Of Pain [***½]
29. From GCW Matt Riddle’s Bloodsport: WALTER vs. Tom Lawlor [***½]
28. From Impact vs. Lucha Underground: Pentagon Jr. vs. Austin Aries and Fenix [***½]
27. From Impact vs. Lucha Underground: King Cuerno, Drago, & Aerostar vs. Andrew Everett, Dezmond Xavier, & DJZ [***½]
26. From SHIMMER 100: Shazza Mckenzie vs. Tessa Blanchard @ 12:14 via pin [***½]
25. From SHIMMER 100: Nicole Savoy vs. Mercedes Martinez @ 13:02 via submission [***½]
24. From ROH Supercard of Honor: Punishment Martinez vs. Tomohiro Ishii [***½]

23. From Beyond Wrestling Lit Up: Toni Storm vs. Timothy Thatcher [***¾]
22. From Impact vs. Lucha Underground: Tag Team Champions LAX vs. Killshot & The Mack [***¾]
21. From EVOLVE 102: Timothy Thatcher & WALTER vs. Daisuke Sekimoto & Munenori Sawa [***¾]
20. From EVOLVE 103: WALTER vs. Tracy Williams [***¾]
19. From SHIMMER 100: Toni Storm vs. Nicole Matthews @ 12:22 via submission [***¾]
18. From Joey Janela’s Spring Break 2: David Starr vs. Mike Quackenbush [***¾]

THE GREAT
17. From Mercury Rising 2018: Chris Dickinson & Jaka vs. WALTER & Timothy Thatcher [****]: I really loved this, it was a great mix of great tag team wrestling and violence without using any weapons. Just four dudes looking to hurt each other, and telling a violent story along the way; WALTER & Timothy Thatcher were game, but the boys from Catch Point continue to dominate, and retained with better team work and surviving WALTER’s onslaught.

16. From Joey Janela’s Spring Break 2: Carl Pierre Oulette vs. WALTER [****]: This ended up being really great. Oulette is 50, he was dead tired, and almost died on a moonsault, but rebounded and this was an insane hard-hitting match with a molten crowd that just delivered.

15. From Mercury Rising 2018: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Munenori Sawa [****]: This was a great display of counter wrestling and submission work. Both guys were really great here as they worked effortless transitions and counters.

14. From SHIMMER 100: Madison Eagles vs. Deonna Purrazzo @ 11:01 via pin [****]: This was a GREAT scientific wrestling match, that kept the crowd the whole time and had overall excellent execution. These two rule, and Eagles looks like she hasn’t missed a step. This was easily the best thing on the show so far.

13. From Mercury Rising 2018: Daisuke Sekimoto vs. Keith Lee [****]: Much like Sabre vs. Sawa, this was great as they played to their strengths and just worked an all out hoss fight. It was exactly what it needed to be, hard-hitting, gritty, and two big lads doing big lad things. It was everything I wanted it to be.

HERE IS THE EDITNXT Women’s Title Match: Champion Ember Moon vs. Shayna Baszler: Shayna Baszler has received a lot of shit from WWE fans, simply labeled as “Ronda’s friend,” she’s never given any credit during her run. I think she plays her character very well, and comes across as a legit bad ass, that still has a lot of top shelf potential match wise, judging from what I’ve seen from her outside of WWE. The match actually went longer than I had hoped, I was really hoping for Baszler to steam roll Moon, looking like an absolute beast ahead of winning the title. But what they did here was very, very good. Moon’s run has been disappointing, her character isn’t as strong as it should be, and she has failed to take off in the post Asuka era. Moon barely escaped her first meeting and ran wild with shock and awe early on, trying to end things as quickly as possibly to avoid the submission work of Baszler. Moon showed great fire, but Baszler survived the initial onslaught, and was able to take control with her striking game. They easily improved on their previous match, telling a good story with nice callbacks to their previous encounters, and Moon showing a vicious side, as she attacked the arm of Baszler by playing Baszler’s game. Baszler pulling a Martin Riggs and “popping her shoulder back in” was great. In the end, Baszler countered the ellipse, not falling for it this time, and locked in the choke with one good arm, forcing the ref to stop the match as Moon passed out; we have a new champion, and Moon’s likely off to the main roster. This ended up being a great match, setting up Baszler well for her run, and she has great babyfaces in Sane, LeRae, and Kai to challenge her coming up next.

12. From WrestleMania 34: Seth Rollins vs. The Miz vs. Finn Balor [****]: This was a great opener, and exactly the right way to kick of the main show, with an all action match and a hot crowd. They all were great here, and delivered one of the best Mania openers of all time.

11. From ROH Supercard of Honor: Kota Ibushi vs. Adam Page [****]: This was a great back and forth match, and a really high level performance by Page, who came off on Ibushi’s level. The work was simply great and the crowd added a ton to the match as they were into everything.

10. From EVOLVE 102 – Will Ospreay vs. AR Fox [****]: Despite coming into the match banged up, Ospreay delivered. They had a great match that would have been better without the distraction spots, which didn’t add anything to the match. But both guys delivered, and considering the circumstances, Ospreay was on another level.

9. From WrestleMania 34: Champion Charlotte vs. Asuka [****]: I have no idea where this Charlotte has been this year, but she needs to stick around as she was really great here. This was a very good and focused match, with the surprise finish. They delivered.

8. From EVOLVE 103 – Matt Riddle vs. Daisuke Sekimoto [****]: This was a great match, playing into the 15-minute window that Riddle thrives in, and they kept it simple, playing to their strengths. The action was great, consistent, they got the crowd into things and delivered a hard-hitting title match, that was easily the best match on the card overall. I love Riddle declaring all EVOLVE title matches no rope break matches, as it plays into his matches coming into the weekend. The finish came off very well, thanks to the work leading into it, and the crowd completely buying into the stoppage on Sekimoto.

7. From EVOLVE 102 – Matt Riddle vs. Champion Zack Sabre Jr. [****]: They had a great main event, meshing their styles well and playing off of their past matches, with the counters and finish teases. Sabre continues to have a great 2018, Riddle brought it and won the title as I expected he would. It may not have been a MOTYC, but it was a great way to close the show.

6. From WrestleMania 34: Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey vs. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon [****]: . I think it went a bit long, but it was an extremely well laid out match, with a wild and hot crowd and right finish. It was way better than I thought it would be, and was extremely entertaining. They over delivered for sure, it was really great, and I don’t think you could have booked a better match for Rousey’s debut as they did a great job of hiding the various weaknesses.

THE MUST SEE

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5. From NXT Takeover: New Orleans – NXT Title Match: Champion Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Aleister Black [****¼]: Almas has had a great run as NXT champion, and his paring with Vega has been money. Almas was solid, but floundering until the pairing, but once they hooked up, we got the man many had been waiting for as he’s had some excellent performances. Black is the guy on the rise, running wild on the roster, winning all of his Takeover matches, and has been one of the more protected guys on the roster. He’s been made to look important, has delivered, and the title shot made complete sense and was coming at the right time. These two delivered once again on a Takeover, continuing their streaks of great matches. They worked a great match with really great pacing, laying out the peaks and valleys really well while mixing in great athleticism and drama. Interference spots are way over done in wrestling still to this day, but there is s proper way to do it without taking away from a match and making the fans feel rewarded as the heels get punished for their shenanigans. I loved the story/psychology of having Vega constantly try to help Almas, but ultimately being the reason he lost after successfully helping him so many times during their run. That’s how you do interference spots and pay it off properly. In all aspects, Vega has been the reason for Almas’ success, so it’s only right that she was eventually his downfall. Also, Black coming full circle, facing and beating the man he beat this time last year to accomplish the NXT title win. He has been great over the past year, and while Almas has been great as champion, it felt like the right time to change the title especially with rumors of an Almas call up. I really hope Vince doesn’t sign Del Rio, because he already has a better Del Rio under contract in Andrade “Cien” Almas, and there is no reason (yes I know, shitty creative) that his pairing with Vega shouldn’t thrive on the main roster; they are an absolutely amazing act.

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4. From ROH Supercard of Honor: ROH Six-Man Tag Team Titles Ladder Match: Champions SoCal Uncensored vs. Flip Gordon & The Young Bucks [****½]: This was an excellent ladder match, with great teases, great big bumps and just great work from the two teams. It really felt as if they were on thier way to another absolutely classic ladder match, but the stuff with the Kingdom hurt that. The only real good thing about their interaction is that they got put through table, and they could have done the belt-stealing angle without it. Still, this was beautiful insanity, with the Bucks, Daniels, and Kaz continuing their long history of working extremely well together. Those four guys know themselves so very well, and the interactions between the four come off as almost effortless. Sky and Flip also played their roles very well, and this was the chaotic spectacle that you likely expected from this match; it flat out delivered.

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3. From Mercury Rising 2018 – Matt Riddle vs. Will Ospreay [****½]: THIS… THIS is what I had been waiting for, we’ve had a lot of good, and very good, and even great this week so far, but we’ve been missing that outstanding match and finally got it here. This was an excellent match. The story was simple, Riddle was coming in on the championship high, he just beat Sekimoto and Sabre, and the match was under his rules. On the other hand, Ospreay was coming in all banged up and he knew that. He attacked right away, shock and awe, looking to win the match as quickly as possible. It was a great plan, but his reckless nature is what allowed Riddle to take control, and he focused on that neck. This match had the most heat of anything on the WWN shows this week, by a wide margin. Riddle was awesome, showing a ruthless side here, while Ospreay played the resilient babyface, doing his all to overcome. The homestretch was amazing, with excellent near falls, and a real feel that Ospreay could actually win here. This fucking ruled.

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2. From NXT Takeover: New Orleans – NXT North American Title Ladder Match: EC3 vs. Adam Cole vs. Velveteen Dream vs. Lars Sullivan vs. Killian Dane vs. Ricochet [****¾]: While there is only one winner here, the best part about a ladder match like this is that no one person takes a loss. While your winner obviously gets elevated, and in this case wins a championship, if you properly book and lay out the match, you can make everyone look good and get stars over big time. This diverse lineup, in front of a traditionally hot Takeover crowd, was the perfect place to do that. The match not only gave us the first NXT North American champion, but was also the first step in a new division for the NXT brand. You had monsters (Dain & Lars), a gifted highflier (Ricochet), an up and comer (Dream), a returning star (EC3), and a guy NXT sees a lot in (Cole). I had to review ROH first tonight so that we had live coverage of both shows, and had just watched a pretty awesome ladder match. I loved the ROH ladder match, it was excellent and insane, but the booking of that match (interference bullshit) really held it back. I absolutely loved this match, the monsters did monster things, Ricochet got to do Ricochet things in WWE (which still feels wild), Cole continues to thrive in gimmick matches, Dream got to shine once again as he continues to grow as a performer, and EC3 felt right at home in his WWE return. I thought that they played to the stipulation extremely well, save us some spectacular and memorable spots and delivered one of the best matches of the Mania weekend and 2018 as a whole. Once they realized that they kept cutting each other off, they essentially went murder death kill in order to try and win. We have a new champion, everyone looked great and is now more over after that match and it was simply awesome stuff; mission accomplished. The match was everything I wanted, and way much more. When all is said and done, this may end up as one of the best PPV openers in WWE history.

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1. From NXT Takeover: New Orleans – Unsanctioned Match: Tommaso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano [*****]: I think that it’s absolutely possible to have excellent matches based purely on skill and ring work as long as you can make the crowd hot for the action, but I think to achieve pure greatness, you need to have a great story and emotional hook. So far the best matches (in my opinion) this year are Gargano vs. Almas & Golden Lovers vs. The Bucks. They were both amazing pieces of in ring work, truly excellent; but they both had back-stories and took you on a pure emotional journey during that excellent in ring work. Ciampa & Gargano had that back-story, a friend betraying a friend, ruining his life at every turn and trying to take his career from him in the process. Ciampa was a pure bastard, the heel with no redeeming qualities, while Gargano is not only the hero, he’s the chosen man of the people. Ciampa coming out to no music and simply basking in the heel heat was a tremendous call. Both guys are in great shape, maybe the best of their careers; Ciampa looks like he hasn’t even looked at a carb in 12 months. They had a great stare down and immediately went crazy fists. They didn’t fuck around as Gargano ran wild and was a man possessed. They immediately set the right tone for the match, which is vital when working a stipulation like this for such a heated feud, so many matches like this lack that. I have said it numerous times, but Gargano is such an amazing babyface, and his work to start off was so great, not only looking for revenge, but to also win and get back into NXT. Ciampa’s ruthlessness played perfectly against Gargano, as he was purely looking to hurt Gargano and make his life even more miserable than he’s already made it. The work here was absolutely tremendous, completely filled with hate from both men. They captured the tone perfectly, a credit to both men as they fed off of the crowd, who was awesome here, and completely into the action and story. The sick look from Ciampa as he stole crutches from a fan was amazing, and his attempt to use them was a great call back to his previous attacks on Gargano. It’s those little things that add so much. The crowd willing Gargano to fight and chanting “you deserve it” when Gargano powerbombed Ciampa to the floor was amazing, they not only wanted Gargano to overcome and win, they wanted that bastard Ciampa to pay for his sins. Gargano getting payback with the crutch shots and the reaction to that was further proof. Ciampa calling back to the DIY finish was tremendous, he’s just a pure asshole, and there is nothing likeable about the man from a character standpoint. The spot with the wrist tape, both men holding on as they traded strikes, signifying their link together, was a tremendous visual. The near fall on the super project Ciampa was amazing. The home stretch was just amazing, with great near falls and drama; the crowd was locked in and reacting to every thing like it mattered so mush, it’s amazing that when you tell great stories and let great wrestler do their thing that this happens. And yet after all of this, after all Ciampa had done, and with Ciampa prone to attack, Gargano had the crutch but pulled up, giving his former friend one last chance to repent and make things right. Gargano even sat by him like in the CWC, but Ciampa was a bastard and Gargano used the knee brace and locked in an STF, getting revenge and winning his way back into NXT. This was amazing, it was everything I thought it could and hoped it would be. And was easily worth staying up to 5 AM to watch, and it never felt long to me. I love my fucking job.

– End Scene.

– Thanks for reading.

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“Byyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyye Felicia!”