Originally published on Fanbyte as “Konosuke Takeshita’s Amazing American Run Continues: Fanfyte’s Best of June 2022, Part 1” on July 12, 2022 and “Mox vs. Deppen for the GCW Title: Fanfyte’s Best of June 2022, Part 2” on July 13, 2022

Featured image by @2ndgunny

Matt Tremont vs. SLADE (GCW 6/4/22)

SLADE is a fascinating case. More than any other wrestler working right now, the quality of SLADE’s matches depend almost entirely on the abilities of his opponent. That’s not at all to say that SLADE’s an incapable wrestler who requires carrying though; quite the opposite, in fact. Rather, I find that there’s a certain inflexibility to SLADE’s aura. He creates a sink or swim atmosphere for his opponent. One either meets it head on and rises to the challenge, or one flounders and pretty much dooms the match from the get go.

You can guess which kind of opponent Matt Tremont is.

Tremont’s a mainstay of the American deathmatch scene, and it’s not hard to see why. There’s a real down-to-earth, blue collar charm to the guy that radiates through the screen. Despite his proclivity for violence, he never comes across as overly malicious or sadistic. He’s just a hardworking man toiling in a difficult field. A big part of that is his selling, which grounds so many of his matches. There’s an old school quality to his selling — it’s big and expressive. Tremont always plays to the cheap seats, no matter the size of the crowd.

There’s nothing too over the top violent in this. Most of it is pretty standard fare for deathmatch fans, but it’s the relentless pace that these two approach the material with that elevates it. SLADE and Tremont move with a certain recklessness which intensifies the innate violence of the genre. There’s hardly a whiff of cooperation to any of this, both men crash head on with this continuous struggle through every spot.

My personal favorite moment would be Tremont just walloping SLADE’s head with a whiffle bat studded with thumbtacks. The tacks burst in such a beautiful way before dotting SLADE’s head for the rest of the match. As far as American deathmatches go, I don’t think there’s been a better one this year.

“Speedball” Mike Bailey vs. Konosuke Takeshita (West Coast Pro 6/10/22)

Coming to America has been the best thing for Konosuke Takeshita. The start of Soup’s year saw him be present in many very good to great matches but rarely be the drivers in any of them. On top of that, his KO-D Openweight Title match hadn’t been able to deliver in the ring for me. Cinnabon and national TV have reinvigorated Takeshita. Stripping back his opportunities to straightforward, more compact matches play exactly to his best strengths.

And really, if you want to have a good match in 2022, you do it with Mike Bailey. These two already have history, having worked together in DDT in the late 2010s, and I think that comfort and familiarity shows. Soup sticks to all things he does well like big power spots and stunning athleticism while cutting away some of what dragged down his most recent run in Japan like his Plus Ultra submission finisher. Bailey, for his part, is reliable as ever. He’s gotten so good at structuring a match around big spots that escalate neatly towards the finish. Another notch in Bailey’s belt of great indie matches, and a promising sign of Takeshita’s revitalized energy in the States.

Minoru Tanaka & Yu Iizuka vs. Takanori Ito & Seichi Ikemoto (GLEAT 6/11/22)

As far as shoot style in 2022 goes, this is what I want to see. All four of the wrestlers involved have been a key part of GLEAT’s UWF division over the last couple of years. GLEAT’s use of the UWF ruleset has been a neat little selling point that help them stand out against their larger competitors in Japan, and this match illustrates all the best qualities that style brings. It’s a very simple, airtight match filled with slick chain wrestling on the mat and meaty striking.

In my opinion, Ikemoto’s the standout here as everything he did looked fantastic whether on the ground or on his feet. Really though, it’s splitting hairs to select a best performance as all four men shine. Whether it’s Tanaka’s steady veteran presence, Iizuka’s youthful determination, or Ito’s no nonsense kicks, everyone brings something to the party here.

As with much of GLEAT’s catalogue, this is free to watch on YouTube so give it a chance if modern shoot style interests you at all.

FTR vs. The Wolves (ASW 6/11/22)

It’s been a little over a decade since I’ve actively looked forward to a match featuring The Wolves. I don’t think that’s an unfair take — most people who know their work would probably agree that they peaked in the early 2010s during their ROH run. And as Eddie Edwards continued his solo career in Impact Wrestling while Davey Richards took time off from the industry, their cache as a team only dropped further.

But I’ll watch pretty much anyone against the best tag team in the world right now, so I sought this out. FTR deliver on everything you want from them. Weighty, crisp pro wrestling that leans heavily on old school tag tropes. The latter works especially well in this smaller setting, a darkened arena that can call to mind days long past. Any time Dax and Cash get into the ring, both leave me with the impression that I’m watching two of the best wrestlers on the planet.

All that’s what you expect from FTR but what stood out for me is how much I enjoyed The Wolves in this. Davey Richards, in particular, was a bit of a standout here. I’ve been hot and cold on Davey’s recent run of singles matches, but here he turned in my favorite performance of his since coming back to wrestling. Instead of leaning on grappling and stiff strikes, Davey becomes an old school stooge heel. He takes a gigantic bump out of the ring and over the barricade, just a classic pratfall to set the tone of the match.

FTR and The Wolves don’t reinvent the wheel here, but the classics are the classics for a reason.

Kazusada Higuchi, Daichi Hashimoto, & Yuma Aoyagi vs. Daisuke Sekimoto, Shuji Ishikawa, & Yuji Hino (Fortune Dream 6/15/22)

Looking at those names, the first thing that comes to mind would be a standard Japanese hoss fight. One expects a lot of big beefy striking and solid blows — lariats, elbows, chops. This match delivers on that promise well, of course. Of particular note is the near full minute of pure violence between Kazusada Higuchi and Shuji Ishikawa where they trade some killer blows including a crazy headbutt exchange.

What makes this stand out though is the tone. There’s a very lighthearted nature to this whole thing despite how hard everyone’s hitting each other. In that regard, Higuchi puts in a really strong performance. He moves seamlessly between borderline comedic reactions and selling to the most gruesome offense you might see on any given day.

The match is a bit long in the tooth going to a 30-minute draw, but there’s just too much charm in this to deny its merits.

Villano IV vs. Psycho Clown (AAA 6/18/22)

The punches!

I can’t lie to you, that’s the highlight of this match for me. Even amidst AAA’s questionable production choices, those punch exchanges cut right through. There’s really nothing quite as invigorating as two very pissed off luchadores just teeing off on each other. Multiple times in this match up, things broke down into these very gritty and heated punch offs that helped put over the significance of the match.

On that end, AAA laid the groundwork well. Psycho Clown is part of the famed Brazo family, a dynasty of luchadores that Villano IV’s family unmasked decades long ago. The video packages before the match set up that dynamic well, and the two wrestlers build on that history with their fight here. Definitely one of my favorite matches out of Mexico this year.

Jon Moxley vs. Tony Deppen (GCW 6/18/22)

For one reason or another, I haven’t loved Jon Moxley’s reign as GCW World Champion. Its initial momentum was stalled by Moxley’s time in rehab, but even upon his return it never felt like Mox’s work as champion ever hit the same heights he achieved elsewhere in the world. The reign has felt like an odd misstep for someone who is otherwise the best wrestler going today.

Thank God for this match then. Moxley attacks this with the kind of focused viciousness that has characterized this fantastic year of his. He presents himself as the most important wrestler in the entire world, fully cognizant of the fact that he is a mountain to climb. Everything he does look good, and he’s gritty and violent in all the best ways.

Of course, that’s just what you’ve come to expect from Moxley in 2022. To take this match up a notch, there’s Tony Deppen. This might be the best I’ve ever seen Tony Deppen. He starts the match by getting right up into Mox’s face, refusing to be looked down upon as just another challenger. It’s a perfect tone setter for the massive task he’s taken on, trying to defeat the best wrestler in the world.

Deppen doesn’t just come in with a fiery demeanor, he also has a plan. That plan is to go after Moxley’s arm. It’s effective to a point, but then Deppen makes a fatal error in the closing moments of the match. Intentional or not, at one point, Deppen slaps on a Triangle Choke but hooks Mox’s good arm instead. Mox doesn’t stay in the hold for long and digs his fingers into Deppen’s mouth to escape the hold. The champion’s victory is set from there.

I couldn’t tell you whether that’s a mistake Tony Deppen the character or the performer made. What matters is that it fit the story of a hungry challenger making a simple slip up that allowed an all timer to take full advantage.

Adam Priest vs. Travis Huckabee (SUP 6/19/22)

Adam Priest has to be one of the most exciting and must-watch talents on the American independents right now. Every match, he demonstrates a real grounded and snappy approach to professional wrestling that just ticks every box in my mind. Beyond his mechanical excellence though, there’s a real strong charisma that he’s demonstrated can go either direction on the babyface/heel spectrum.

As for Travis Huckabee, he’s secretly the guy on the indies who helps make all the best indie darlings of the last couple of years. Wheeler YUTA, Lee Moriarty, Matt Makowski, all these men had excellent matches last year under the guiding hand of Huckabee. He’s an unsung star-maker and one of the best technicians on the indies today.

A match like is pretty much made for me, and given the names involved, it was always meant for greatness. I’m happy to report that I think they more than lived up to expectation here. This is a match filled with a lot of sharp, snappy offense. Slick chain wrestling exchanges, crispy striking, and even some charismatic character work from both men. Priest continues rising, Huckabee gets another top-level match against a new indie darling.

Mio Momono & Rin Kadokura vs. Takumi Iroha & Chikayo Nagashima (Marvelous 6/24/22)

I’ve written previously about how Mio Momono is one of the best women’s wrestlers in Japan. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much opportunity to expand on that as she’s spent this past year on the shelf with a back injury. Luckily, she’s back and her return match places all her best abilities on full display.

Momono is one of the most exciting and dynamic babyface wrestlers anywhere in the world. She has an instantly likeable demeanor that’s complemented by a fast and furious style that positions her as a scrappy fighter. It just felt so good watching her run circles around both Iroha and Nagashima in this match, searching for any opening to get the victory.

Of course, much of this gets built around Momono’s bad back getting worked over. In this, Momono shines with her sympathetic selling, and her keen sense of timing means that her comebacks always feel earned and explosive. It’s notable that working with Momono brought out the best in Iroha who put in one of her better domineering champion performances in this. The finishing stretch with Momono and Nagashima scrambling for a decisive win is the real highlight though. I bit on every fall, even though I knew the result was never really in doubt.

Kevin Ku vs. JD Drake (Southeast First 6/27/22)

If you’ve been following this monthly series, it might seem like there’s just a guaranteed spot for Kevin Ku on every edition. That’s not the case, it just so happens that he’s one of the best pro wrestlers on the planet working in independent promotions that don’t always get the most coverage. Quite simply, if you’re not keeping an eye on Kevin Ku’s work in 2022, you’re missing out.

Despite all that, I’d written previously about how his recent run on Southeast First Uncharted Territory has felt like a bit of a misstep. Even when paired against potential slam dunk opponents like Anthony Henry or Cole Radrick, something about Ku in the TWE Chattanooga arena didn’t feel right.

In this match against JD Drake, Ku solved the puzzle of this crowd. It finally felt like Ku had a real, earnest connection to the fans in attendance and that they truly cared to see him succeed. For his part, Ku puts in a great babyface performance here. It’s really a marvel that Ku’s so good at playing the undersized hero here as him and tag partner Dominic Garrini are so often cast as the dominant destroyers. Here, Ku milks the crowd’s sympathy for all its worth and when he finally makes his comebacks, the crowd is with him the entire way.

As for JD Drake, none of this is new to him. Much like Huckabee who I discussed earlier, JD Drake’s the guy who can help new generations of indie favorites to unlock their true potential. Drake is just such a confident, assured hand at pro wrestling. He’s brash and charismatic, he hits hard, and he’s an experienced hand at structuring compelling matches. He puts all that to use here, being the massive bully knocking down Ku at every turn.

A predictably great match from two of the best doing it today.

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