A little housekeeping first.

The Best of the Month series is now officially making its home on my website, after spending a little over year as a part of BIG EGG. Colette and I are working on offering some new exclusive benefits for all our paid subscribers, so I highly suggest subscribing to the newsletter if you haven’t already. We’re close to 1000 subscribers and Colette’s offering a bonus Triple H review if we hit that goal soon.

As for what this will look like on my site moving forward, I’m starting now as keeping up with individual match reviews in the last two months of the year and January is always a little trickier given I focus all my efforts on the year ender in that time. I may or may not go back to give some of these full reviews later on, and in subsequent months, I may include matches that I have already reviewed on the site and just link back. We’ll still figure out what shape and format all this will take on my site in the months to come, so thanks for your patience in that regard.

Also, “best” is a loose term here. While you’ll almost always see my highest rated matches for each month on this list, the other picks are almost certainly more vibes-based. I may choose to highlight something that doesn’t have as many eyes on it, or that I just feel like I have more to say about compared to other “better” matches. Keep that in mind, and remember, you can always see my full list of recommended matches here.

Now onto the wrestling.

Becky Lynch vs. Nia Jax (WWE Raw: Day 1 1/1/24)


I’ve always generally enjoyed Nia Jax’s work. At her best, she’s a really focused bruiser monster that forces creative strategies from her opponents to take her down. There’s a certain charm to having a wrestler that doesn’t appear to have the kind of starry eyed ambition to have “workrate”-leaning matches, and instead commits to a role that suits her natural. That’s exactly what Nia brings to this match, focusing on her size and power as a massive obstacle. As a result, Becky Lynch has to approach this with a little more cleverness and creativity. She’s working twice as hard to not only evade Nia but also find ways to knock her down. She’s also adding small touches on the defense that I love to, like being knocked into the corner turnbuckles from a powerful Nia kick out. It’s very traditional pro wrestling storytelling, but when carried out with as much energy and thought as these two bring, it rocks so much. Also, how sick is that last punch Nia nails to lead into the finish? Fucking great.

Rating: ****

Darby Allin vs. Konosuke Takeshita (AEW Dynamite 1/3/24)


Yet another entry in the Darby Death category, one of wrestling’s most viscerally satisfying genres of match. This one gets by through sheer intensity and nuttiness of bumping. It’s really a perfect stylistic marriage here, Soup excels at being a power-based bomb thrower, and Darby will risk any injury to life and limb to put stuff over. A match wrestled for all the big spots and bumps, which I have no trouble indulging in. It’s loud, it’s relentless, it’s Darby Death and Soup Murder.

Rating: ****1/4

Bryan Danielson vs. Kazuchika Okada (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 18 in Tokyo Dome 1/4/24)

Even before the arm break, the Forbidden Door bout between these felt muted and contained compared to what we got in the Tokyo Dome. Okada approaches this match with the kind of cocky arrogance that has defined so much of his best work in the past: smugly goading Dragon from the moment the bell rings. That’s enough to set a more emotionally charged tone here compared to their previous match and, if we’re being honest, compared to many Okada epics of the last five years or so.

Where the match really excels is when Danielson gets the opportunity to humble Okada, if only for a while. The arm work in this is predictably wonderful, brutal and complex in ways that don’t really show up in New Japan’s house style outside of someone like a Zack Sabre Jr. Danielson brings a laser focus to this match that brings out the best in Okada, who in turn responds with greater aggression: not only going after Danielson’s neck but also going at his recently injured eye and orbital bone. Okada’s no Morishima in there, but it’s enough to add spice to what’s already the best Tokyo Dome match since 2020. Would I prefer that Danielson got the win here? Definitely. But we make our compromises to get the good we have.

Rating: ****1/2

Soberano Jr. vs. Templario (CMLL Super Viernes 1/12/24)

In wrapping up Soberano Jr’s 2023, I noted that I felt he still had some work to do in bringing his rudo act together. I think with this singles performance against Templario, he takes a step closer to finding the ideal version of that. A lot of the character quirks he’d already figured out are refined and on display here: ripping at the mask, keeping his hoodie on to deny the ladies of Arena Mexico the privilege of his body, only to shed the hoodie later just for the chance to choke Templario with it. But even better, the actual in-ring decisions are coming together too, more violent and urgent than before. Notably, Soberano Jr bashing Templario into the barricade. Templario’s also offensively one of the most well-rounded luchadors on the CMLL roster so when the bombs start dropping, he makes the most of the opportunity as well. Stupid sexy Soberano Jr does it again.

Rating: ****

Eddie Kingston vs. Gabe Kidd (NJPW Battle of the Valley 1/13/24)


After spending a full year exorcising his demons, Eddie Kingston runs head first into a dark reflection of his past. Much as Eddie did in his younger years, Gabe Kidd has a massive chip on his shoulder and has been lashing out at his competition with violence. Kidd’s the first person in months to properly rattle Kingston, attacking him at the ramp and forcing a brawl on the floor that disrupts Eddie’s winning strategies of controlling the center of the ring and dominating the space. It’s really only when the action gets back into the ring that Eddie’s able to settle into a more comfortable rhythm. He even slaps the famous lion mark before making his comeback too: he excels when he remembers he has something to defend. I love that Gabe Kidd’s irritating enough to shatter the inner peace that Eddie built up through the end of 2023, another troubled, angry young man threatening to ruin everything for a flawed veteran seeking contentment. In a perfect world, this becomes the feud of the year, but for now the match itself is well-worth the watch.

Rating: ****

Sareee vs. Chihiro Hashimoto (Sareee-ISM Chapter III 1/16/24)

Sareee and Chihiro clash yet again, but this time with the former having shaken off the fed rust that I felt limited last year’s bout. Now, everything feels just right, with the constant sense of struggle permeating all the action. Even the early feeling out and grappling on the mat feels a lot richer, with Chihiro really making Sareee work for everything she can get, and the two finding small ways to stymie each other and seize control. I also prefer that unlike Sareee’s match with Arisa from last year, there’s no real attempts at limbwork here so that nothing can really distract from when the truly delicious bombs start dropping in the back half. Chihiro getting Sareee up for a powerbomb and the latter headbutting her way free is the kind of sicko action I love from this side of the joshi world, and it makes the closing the moments a real thrill ride. Tense, tightly contested, and violent, all the best things one wants from pro wrestling.

Rating: ****1/4

Samoa Joe vs. HOOK (AEW Dynamite 1/17/24)

Lee South

There’s a few things at play here. First, there’s cold hard reality crashing down on HOOK. After being presented for much of his AEW career so far as a sort of super rookie, with this real singular charismatic vibe to him, HOOK finally runs into a real honest to god test. He’s good for his age, perhaps, but now, HOOK finds himself against greatness itself. Samoa Joe cuts off HOOK’s youthful enthusiasm with awesome violence. The back elbow in the ring, the gruesome uranage into the announce table, the powerbomb on the apron. Joe’s literally strutting through the match, and as with any good heel, it’s that arrogance that ends up getting in his way. Joe takes his sweet time with that Muscle Buster and the cover into it and HOOK kicking out at one is a beautiful moral victory. If you’re going to kill me, do it properly.

HOOK was never going to win on this night, and that was likely obvious to everyone involved. The victory for him is in making Samoa Joe work for it in those closing minutes. An honest to God starmaker, some of the best television AEW’s ever put together.

Rating: ****1/4

Demus vs. Lunatic Xtreme (ZONA 23 Angeles y Demonios 1/21/2024)

Sourced from @DemonioDemus

Once again, Demus delivers for all the sickos of the world. The action starts hot with immediate dives to the floor and within seconds, Demus is carving up poor Lunatic Xtreme with shattered beer bottles. I sort of take it for granted that the bottles Demus and his ilk use in these matches don’t appear to be gimmicked (at least to my knowledge) and that it’s really just sharp glass digging into the skin to slice up and get the blood flowing. There’s a great shot of the blood just dripping immediately from Xtreme’s head. There’s so much great shit on this from the punches both men throw, to Xtreme headbutting himself into a car window, even taking bumps on the hood and windshield of said car as well. Delightful chaos as only Demus can really bring.

Rating: ****1/4

Mad Dog Connelly vs. 1 Called Manders (SLA Gateway to Anarchy 1/26/24)

An early favorite for American indie match of the year. As with all the Manders/Mad Dog matches to this point, this one’s a rough around the edges brawl filled with a lot of stiff shots and closed quarter violence. Everything has a general air of uncooperative struggle to it that makes it all the richer. There’s a few flaws I could point out here, like I wish both men bladed a little sooner and the blood flowed a little more, or that the commentary’s never quite my cup of tea, but there’s a rawness on display here that really transcends most of these problems. It’s how much they’re able to get out of relatively little that really impresses me.

For example, when Manders calls back to the past matches by attacking Mad Dog’s foot, it’s a consistent strategy for him through the match, not only hobbling Mad Dog in the moment, but also offering a target for him to exploit to escape further damage. Or later, when Mad Dog takes a tumble off the ropes, he clings on to the chain to drag Manders down throat first over the top rope. That latter moment really stands out because for the life of me, none of it looked planned in the slightest, and it made everything all the more violent and spontaneous for it. The finish is gruesome too. Visually, it can’t help but recall the finish from Mox/Hangman, and while this doesn’t quite have that same energy, there’s something to be said about Manders slowly having the life choked out of him. If one looks at the chain too, it doesn’t look like that man has much slack around his throat and I could very much buy that the life was truly draining from him real quick.

Rating: ****1/4

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