The 20 best pro wrestling matches of January 2017

Hey, CageSide! 2017 has already started off strong for professional wrestling as there have been plenty of events that have taken place in the month of January. WWE held their United Kingdom Tournament to crown the first ever UK Champion, New Japan's Wrestle Kingdom show had the entire wrestling world buzzing, the Royal Rumble is behind us and we've just got started on the Road to WrestleMania.

With so much wrestling for fans to watch these days, it's difficult to keep up to date with all of the content available. Therefore, there's a ton of great matches that you might have missed. So, in order to give you an easy place to find some matches that are worth watching in your free time, I've compiled a list of the top matches from the month of January across a ton of promotions in the world, in chronological order (no star ratings here). Let's get started!

1. Sami Zayn vs. Braun Strowman - Last Man Standing Match: Raw, Jan. 2

The feud between Sami Zayn and Braun Strowman was one of my favorites in 2016. It was one of the few things I kept up to date with when I stopped watching Raw regularly (the other was Sasha & Charlotte). The feud had a simple premise, Braun Strowman had dominated local talent for weeks and demanded better competition. Out comes Sami Zayn to answer Strowman's challenge and to possibly put an end to his path of destruction. It gave Zayn a storyline after wandering around aimlessly on Raw since his feud with Kevin Owens and it gave Strowman his first test to see how far he's progressed as a singles competitor.

After Zayn survived 10 minutes with the monster at Roadblock, Stephanie booked a Last Man Standing match between the two for the first Raw of 2017. I was excited to see the match when it was announced and after watching it, they delivered. I loved Zayn taking it to Strowman early on with weapons, trying everything to even the odds. Braun used his size/strength advantage to beat down the plucky underdog and control the majority of the match. There were some great spots, such as the cross body from Zayn onto Strowman putting him through a table and the running powerslams on the floor from Strowman. It had great selling from Zayn and Strowman, good action around the arena and great drama/excitement throughout. It was basic wrestling storytelling executed incredibly well and both men looked good after it was over.

Watch Sami Zayn vs. Braun Strowman on the WWE Network.

2. KUSHIDA (c) vs. Hiromu Takahashi - IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match: Wrestle Kingdom 11, Jan. 4

It's New Japan's biggest show of the year, Wrestle Kingdom. If you're a fan of professional wrestling, then WK should be on you're must watch list. While there's been a recent trend of the undercard being skippable, you're at least guaranteed 2-4 matches in the end that are worth watching. It's no different here as the last four matches were the most acclaimed coming out of the show.

When it was announced that KUSHIDA would be defending his junior heavyweight title against Hiromu Takahashi (aka Kamaitachi), you knew there were going to be some crazy stuff in their match. Takahashi is one of the best high-flyers in the world right now. He can go at 100 mph and hit maneuvers with great precision. KUSHIDA is also great in his own right. Not only can he do high-flying, but some strong technical wrestling as well. It's an interesting dynamic when pitted against each other and the possibilities for these two are endless. This was one match I was excited to see.

What I always enjoy in wrestling is when a wrestler attacks their opponent before the bell rings. It sets the tone of the match and grabs your attention right away. Here, we had a hot start with Takahashi jumping KUSHIDA and going for his diving senton. KUSHIDA managed to recover before being planted on the floor when Takahashi jumped over him and delivered a sunset flip powerbomb minutes later. It was insane to see Takahashi execute that powerbomb on the floor nearly perfect. The match then shifted towards KUSHIDA working over Takahashi arm to set up for his Hoverboard Lock submission, while Takahashi continued throwing more high risk moves, trying to put KUSHIDA down quickly. The bumps were brutal and high spots were executed well (minus one minor botch). A great match with some really good storytelling and action. One of the best junior heavyweight contests in quite some time.

Watch KUSHIDA vs. Hiromu Takahashi on NJPW World.

3. Katsuyori Shibata (c) vs. Hirooki Goto - NEVER Openweight Championship Match: Wrestle Kingdom 11, Jan. 4

Katsuyori Shibata is currently my favorite wrestler in New Japan. He consistently outputs entertaining matches, even if he can sometimes fall into some bad habits. His numerous NEVER title defenses have delivered some hard-hitting matches against a wide variety of opponents. Hirooki Goto has a bunch of cool looking moves, but is totally uninteresting as a wrestler. So, I was a bit surprised when it was announced that Goto was going to be Shibata's next challenger for the title at WK. My expectations were low and on my first viewing, I wasn't that high on the match. After repeated viewing, I enjoyed it much more than I did initially.

It's what you've come to expect out of a NEVER title match these days, which is two dudes beating the absolute shit out of each other until one of them is left standing. The story of the match was that Shibata was clearly superior than Goto. He was always one step ahead of Goto, controlling the majority of the match. Shibata was constantly ramping up the punishment, while Goto had to endure and fight back from underneath. There were a lot of stiff strikes, especially from Shibata as he was hammering Goto with forearms and kicks. While there were some no-sell spots, there weren't as egregious as usual and in no way hampered the match. Shibata may frequently do these no-sell spots early in his matches, but he more than makes up for it in his long-term selling. He would look like went through a war after his matches are done. I loved the finish where Goto performed a reverse GTR after a series of headbutts to Shibata's neck, before capping off with a regular GTR for the win. An incredibly physical match with increasing intensity and brutality.

Watch Katsuyori Shibata vs. Hirooki Goto on NJPW World.

4. Tetsuya Naito (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi - IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match: Wrestle Kingdom 11, Jan. 4

This was another match I was looking forward to seeing on the show. Tetsuya Naito was coming off a big year where he was really a breakout star for New Japan. He's massively over with the Japanese crowd, with LIJ merchandise being a big presence in the audience. He's the most interesting act in the company and should be pushed towards the main event this year. Hiroshi Tanahashi, at 40 years old, is trying to prove the he can still hang with the new generation of wrestlers in New Japan. These two have faced each other in the past, but are now far different wrestlers than before and winning was important for both Naito and Tanahashi.

This match was all about the legwork. Naito continued his path of destroying the legs of the entire NJ heavyweight roster by targeting Tanahashi's leg early on. While Naito isn't blow away in the ring, he more than makes up for it with strong character work. His slow walk towards the ring, spitting in the face of Tanahashi, trying to get on his nerves is always good stuff. The legwork he's been recently doing is a good step towards making his matches more interesting, as he's finding creative ways to attack his opponent's leg and apply submissions. Tanahashi is also known for his legwork so he fought fire with fire. He even got down and dirty by pulling on Naito's hair, no clean breaks and mocked his signature pose. The selling from both men was good as well. They built towards the finishing stretch with good near falls. The crowd was hot for the match all the way through, which is always a plus in wrestling. A strong, methodical match with great limb work and storytelling.

Watch Tetsuya Naito vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi on NJPW World.

5. Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Kenny Omega - IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match: Wrestle Kingdom 11, Jan. 4

It's been the most talked about wrestling match so far in 2017. I've seen people call this the greatest match in the history of pro wrestling. Big Dave Meltzer gave it 6 stars. It's guaranteed to end high on many people's Match of the Year lists. While there are some glaring issues that prevent me from calling Okada/Omega an all-time classic (the length, no build towards spots and Okada's overall performance being unmemorable), I still think this is a very good match with certain aspect that I don't enjoy, but I'm sure that you'll like more than me. Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega were not only fighting for the heavyweight title, but for who would lead the company into the future. The stage was set for them to deliver a big match.

Omega delivered one of the best athletic performances I've ever seen. He really carried the second half of the match with his explosiveness and energy. He was bumping like a madman for Okada's offense, such as launching himself to the turnbuckle after a dropkick. He had some great high spots in the match, such as his triangle moonsault over the guardrail, which was beautifully executed. The backdrop out of the ring through the table was an all-time great table spot. Omega got some serious height and somehow managed to land on that tiny Japanese table without seriously injuring himself. One of my favorite things about Omega is that he has some kick ass knee strikes. They are fast and look vicious, especially in the last portion in some of his matches where he's throwing them with a sense of urgency and desperation. This was by no means perfect and this match will mostly be remembered for it's closing stretch. Watch this match and form your own opinion about it. It's a spectacle of a match with plenty of spots and near falls that are sure to amaze you.

Watch Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega on NJPW World.

6. Fred Yehi vs. Anthony Henry - First Round Match: WWN Style Battle S1:E1, Jan. 7

If there's one guy to watch out for in 2017, it's Fred Yehi. He is so entertaining to watch and an incredibly unique technical wrestler. He has quick and smooth execution, but very gritty when attacking body parts. It's fun to watch him stomp or smash any part of his opponent's anatomy. You can check out most of his work at EVOLVE, on FloSlam or on WWNLive. My sample size for Anthony Henry is very low, but he's a guy with tons of potential. Having him face a guy like a Fred Yehi can help build his credibility and showcase his talent.

These two had a 30-minute draw that started slow and escalated very well. The mat work early on was well done from both men. There is no wasted movement with Yehi, as everything he does is with the intent to hurt. He has so many different ways he can stomp on a body part. They did a good job of selling each strike and move as important, knowing that one misstep can be the difference between winning and losing. As time was winding down, Yehi and Henry started hitting each other with bombs, trying to secure the victory and advance in the tournament. The draw was a good way to protect Fred Yehi from a loss and established Henry as a big deal in the promotion. The match also indicated that time limit draws could happen at any time in Style Battle. They were given 30 minutes to succeed and both men delivered a good performance.

Watch Fred Yehi vs. Anthony Henry on FloSlam.

If you want to check out more Fred Yehi, I'd recommend his match against Teddy Stigma at #FyeahFIP Everything Burns, also available on FloSlam. It shows how great Yehi is by being able to get a really good match out of a limited performer.

7. American Alpha (c) vs. The Wyatt Family - SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match: SmackDown LIVE, Jan. 10

American Alpha haven't made the splash on the main roster that most people had hoped for. They've been sitting quietly in the background, missing important TV time to develop their characters. They also haven't been able to connect with the crowd solely on their in-ring work. On the other hand, The Wyatt Family have been on a hot streak. Their storyline with Randy Orton has added newfound life to the group and an intrigue that they've been lacking for a long time. After claiming the tag team titles in dominant fashion, it was a surprise to see them drop the titles to Alpha so soon. While their feud was short lived, they at least gave us some really good tag matches in that time.

This was the best Alpha has looked on the main roster so far. They were able to showcase what made their matches so enjoyable in NXT. Gable is a good face in peril and Jordan is a great hot tag. Him running around the ring and suplexing everything in sight is never not fun. The Wyatts looked vicious as ever here, cutting off every attempt for Alpha to make tags and beating them down. Bray's offense looked fast and explosive. Orton was great here, his chinlocks and Garvin Stomps are way better for tag matches rather than his singles matches, along with his slick looking suplexes off the ropes. The match was well-paced and built well to the finish, which was to further the tension between Orton and Harper. A very good television match and a fine showcase for both teams.

Watch American Alpha vs. The Wyatt Family on the WWE Network.

8. #DIY (c) vs. The Revival - NXT Tag Team Championship Match: NXT, Jan. 11

DIY and Revival are my two favorite tag teams in wrestling right now. Their matches at Brooklyn and Toronto were absolute classics, the latter being my 2016 Match of the Year. Their feud was easily the best program in NXT last year, when the quality of the show was considerably down. What makes them so good is how incredibly well they play their roles in the ring. The Revival are the best tag team in the world, adding clever twists to old school tactics and garner heel heat better than anyone. Johnny Gargano is probably the best face in peril at the moment and Tommaso Ciampa is an awesome hot tag. Put these two teams together and magic will happen in the ring.

No surprise here, they had another great match. These guys have awesome chemistry. The leg work is always stellar from Dash & Dawson, along with Gargano's selling. The Revival understand what good heel work is. They aren't here to get cheered or pop the crowd, everything they do is to ensure the crowd boos them. Whether that's cutting off the babyfaces, using underhanded tactics, or just viciously targeting a body part, they want to be as unlikable as possible. It's effective and something all heel teams should adopt. The match was well built, with some great action and some callbacks to their previous encounters. The ending was awesome as The Revival had exhausted every trick in their arsenal to win, but none of them succeeded. Accepting defeat, they hugged in the center of the ring as DIY hit the death blow to retain their titles. It was a satisfying conclusion to their feud and gave the faces a decisive victory over a credible tag team. An overall great TV title match.

Watch #DIY vs. The Revival on the WWE Network.

9. Rachael Ellering vs. Chelsea Green: SHINE 40, Jan. 13

I'm a mark for women's wrestling and it's a great time to be a fan of women's graps. The feud between Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair, despite its flaws, showed that women can be main event attractions in the WWE, while SD's women's division have great on-going storylines and utilize all of their talent to the best of their abilities, along with some great talking segments to boot. There's also a ton of talented women on the independent scene that have yet to sign with WWE. One of the promotions where you can watch them in action is Shine Wrestling.

This was the "Lance Storm Special," since both women trained at his wrestling school. Rachael Ellering is awesome and rapidly improving as a wrestler. Her adopting this aggressive, hard hitting style is so much fun to watch (Please sign her, Hunter!). Chelsea Green (aka Laurel Van Ness) is a work in progress, but she played her role in the match well. They had a relatively short, but sweet match with a fun dynamic between the arrogant, Mean Girls-esque character from Chelsea versus the no-nonsense attitude from Rachael. It was simple and the execution was good. Rachael also delivered possibly the greatest line in the history of women's wrestling. After a bit of back and forth, she screamed "Hit me, Barbie! Come on!" Wonderful stuff. A really fun match and the highlight of what was an overall decent show.

Watch Rachael Ellering vs. Chelsea Green on FloSlam.

10. Pete Dunne vs. Mark Andrews - Semi-Final Match: WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament Day 2, Jan. 15

The first night of WWE's United Kingdom Tournament was a solid show that set up a ton for the second half of the tournament. Pete Dunne had been built up as a ruthless heel who wants to hurt people and was willing to do anything to get ahead. He jumped his quarterfinal opponent, Sam Gradwell, at the end of the first show and finished him off in their match to advance in the tournament the next night. Mark Andrews had suffered some damage to his neck at the hands of Joseph Connors in their quarterfinal match earlier in the night. It was going to be a tough battle for Andrews as he had a giant obstacle in front of him in the form of Dunne.

These two had previously faced each other at last year's Battle of Los Angeles event. Comparing the two matches, their match at the UK Tournament was miles ahead of their PWG bout. This one was roughly 10 minutes long, but they packed enough storytelling to make it great. Mark Andrews was a nice last minute pick-up for the tournament and his performance here proved why. He is such a good seller and times his hope spots and comebacks very well. Pete Dunne really shined here with his aggression and brutality, which I felt he really lacked in matches I've seen from him prior to the tournament. The counters and nearfalls in the match were great, especially the sequence where Andrews countered the Bitter End into a hurricanrana. The ending was brutal with Dunne suplexing Andrews into the turnbuckle (playing to the injured neck) before hitting the X-plex followed up by the Bitter End. This was an excellent match where both men looked great when it was all said and done.

Watch Pete Dunne vs. Mark Andrews on the WWE Network.

11. Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne - WWE United Kingdom Championship Match: WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament Day 2, Jan. 15

To continue the tournament wide storyline with Pete Dunne, he came out and attacked Tyler Bate after his match with Wolfgang and damaged Bate's left shoulder. WWE really made Dunne look like a star for the whole tournament and he backed that up with his performance last month. Bate, at 19 years old, has tons of potential. If he continues the great work he delivered here at the UKCT, he could be a star. The addition of his injured shoulder gave Bate another obstacle from him to overcome in the finals and would make his victory even more satisfying.

This was a excellent match to cap off the tournament. It started slow, but escalated very well with awesome storytelling and action. Dunne obviously targeted the injured shoulder of Bate early on, but the execution was what made it interesting. Dunne knew he had the advantage over Bate, so he bided his time until he saw an opening to strike. Once Dunne took control, Bate had to go big if he wanted any chance to win. He hit Dunne with a deadlift powerbomb, a Fosbury Flop and a 450 splash. The emotion was high in this match, as Bate's determination got the crowd fully behind him. The finishing stretch was will done, with Bate kicking out of the Bitter End giving us a very good false finish, along with Dunne's facial expression really selling how shocked he was. The selling of Bate's arm was also on point. His first attempt at the Tyler Driver, but his arm giving out under pressure was a nice detail. It was a great tournament final which put over both men very well and an overall great show from top to bottom..

Watch Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne on the WWE Network.

12. Arik Royal vs. Andrew Everett: CWF Mid-Atlantic Worldwide, Jan. 18

Technically, this match along with Lee/Attitude were taped for CWF's Battlecade X7 event in December, but they were uploaded on YouTube for CWF Worldwide, so I'm including them on the list anyways because they're really good matches. CWF Mid-Atlantic is a promotion that I've seen people praise on Twitter a few times. You might recall the 105 minute long match between Trevor Lee and Roy Wilkins last year getting quite a bit of buzz last year (The length of the match seems intimidating, but it's worth a watch if you've got time to kill). It's one promotion I'm looking to delve into more in 2017 and this is a good place to start.

I've seen a bit of Andrew Everett before in TNA and the indies. Arik Royal is someone I'm not familiar with, but he was very impressive here. Everett used his speed early on to hit three dives to the outside. Royal had the size and strength advantage, so Everett had to try and end the match quickly. Royal isn't slow, so he was able to counter Everett's offense and take control of the match. It's classic big man versus small man storytelling as Royal dominated the match while Everett tried to mount a comeback. Everett bumped well for Royal's offense, even if it did get a bit ridiculous at times. The finish was excellent as Everett tried to go big by jumping up to the ceiling for a high risk move, but Royal caught him in a powerbomb on the way down before hitting a massive pounce for the victory. A really good match with smart storytelling and an awesome finish.

Watch Arik Royal vs. Andrew Everett on YouTube.

13. Trevor Lee (c) vs. Brad Attitude - CWF Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship Match: CWF Mid-Atlantic Worldwide, Jan. 18

Trevor Lee is a really good wrestler. He really hasn't been able to properly showcase what he can do in TNA. He's 23 years old and has a bright future ahead of him. Haven't seen any of Brad Attitude's work, but like Royal, I was impressed by what what I saw. The feud between Lee and Attitude had been going on for over a year. It's really cool seeing a promotion do these long-term feuds, especially at an indie promotion where that's extremely rare. The lads at CWF made a video chronicling the history between the two, which is available on their YouTube channel for those who need the recap. Their blow off match was the main event of CWF's Battlecade X7.

This match had a number of stipulations. It was a No Disqualification match for the challenger, Attitude, but not for the champion. If Lee were to get DQed, he would be forced to relinquish the title. The match had a 30 minute time limit and if the match ends in a draw, then Lee would have to relinquish the title. Lee was at a clear disadvantage and he conveyed that from the moment he walked in to the ring. Winning was his only goal. Early on, Attitude tried to goad Lee into disqualifying himself, which failed. Attitude later then took advantage of his no disqualification privileges and pummeled Lee with chair shots and kendo sticks. It was a brutal beat down from Attitude as Lee had to scratch and claw his way to a comeback. It then escaltated to both men recklessly throwing bombs at each other, just trying to desperately finish each other off as the time began to run out. A great match with excellent storytelling, drama and brutal action.

Watch Trevor Lee vs. Brad Attitude on YouTube.

14. Katsuyori Shibata (c) vs. Matt Riddle - RPW British Heavyweight Championship Match: RevPro High Stakes, Jan. 21

Dream match! These two are perfect for each other in terms of how they wrestle a similar style. Both have mixed-martial arts backgrounds and heavily focus on strikes and grappling. Personality wise, they're very different. Shibata is a no-nonsense bad ass, while Riddle is more cool and relaxed. It's interesting to see Shibata in these different environments and hopefully we can see more of him outside of New Japan. Riddle is massively over wherever he goes and it's amazing to see the connection he has with the crowd. Whenever he finally comes to the WWE, he's going to be a massive star.

No surprise here, they had an enjoyable match. Riddle went for a handshake in the beginning of the match, but Shibata ignored him. Riddle had to prove himself against Shibata in order to gain his respect. Shibata was in control for a majority of the match. He is so good at conveying himself as the toughest man on the planet. Such as shrugging off a couple of Riddle's chops to chest and then beating him down. Riddle has one of the best comebacks today. He shows so much fire and displays some great urgency. The closing moments of the match was good as they started beating the piss out of each other. Riddle tried beating Shibata with his own Sleeper Hold/Penalty Kick combo, but was unsuccessful. Shibata's striking ability was put over well in the match as it only took a few hard shots to knock down Riddle for good. After the match was over, Shibata and Riddle showed their respect towards each other in a nice moment. A really fun match between two of the best.

Watch Katsuyori Shibata vs. Matt Riddle on RPW On Demand.

15. Matt Riddle vs. DUSTIN - No Disqualification Match: EVOLVE 77, Jan. 28

Matt Riddle is amazing. It's incredible to see how good he is despite being in the business for about 2 years now. He really hasn't shown any sort of negatives in his work so far and has all the qualities to succeed in wrestling. DUSTIN is an average wrestler, but rather enjoyable in these gimmick matches. Riddle has had great matches with so many different opponents and had a really good No DQ match against Timothy Thatcher last year. So, it was interesting to see what he can do with DUSTIN.

This was a great match which didn't go too long and was focused all the way through. The action was great and both wrestlers made good use of the stipulation. They sold the hatred and animosity from each other very well. There were some really good spots such as DUSTIN's tope on Riddle putting him through a table and Riddle suplexing DUSTIN on top of some stacked chairs. They looked incredibly brutal and they paced the match well to ensure each big spot had enough time to sell the impact and for the audience to digest them before the next spot. The match never got too excessive, it kept things simple and that's what I like. The Bro delivered once again and DUSTIN impressed as well in a very fun match.

Watch Matt Riddle vs. DUSTIN on FloSlam.

16. Chris Hero vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: EVOLVE 77, Jan. 28

It was Hero's last weekend on the indies before returning to the WWE as Kassius Ohno and there's no way I'm not including him on the list. He is one of the best wrestlers in the world, constantly delivering good matches across many promotions around the world. His last two matches in EVOLVE were quite the sendoff befitting of the Knockout Artist. He managed to persevere through the top and middle ring ropes breaking and deliver a really good match with the debuting Keith Lee at EVOLVE 76. To cap off his weekend, he had another barn burner with arguably his greatest rival in EVOLVE, Zack Sabre Jr.

They worked pretty much my favorite type of Chris Hero match, which is him being just a big bully towards a smaller guy. He's so good at imposing his will and inflicting pain with elbows and big boots. They timed Zack's comebacks incredibly well to maximize the excitement from the crowd. Zack worked with some urgency and aggression in this match, trying to finally beat his long time rival. They played off their previous matches very well, countering each of their moves. Their only goal in mind was to win in order to prove who's the best in the world. They went for over 20 minutes but the time flew right by due to awesome and engaging storytelling. A great sendoff for Chris Hero and another great match to add in their series.

Also be sure to check out Hero's farewell speech on WWN's YouTube channel.

Watch Chris Hero vs. Zack Sabre Jr. on FloSlam.

17. #DIY (c) vs. Authors of Pain - NXT Tag Team Championship Match: NXT TakeOver: San Antonio, Jan. 28

NXT TakeOver: San Antonio definitely over delivered. This was probably the least anticipated TakeOver show in recent memory, yet they managed to deliver an overall entertaining show. DIY had really grown over the past year and their first big test as champions were to face the Authors of Pain. It's one thing to have a great match with The Revival (you have to be a special kind of bad to not have a good match with The Revival), it's another story to get a great match out of a very limited tag team in AOP and DIY did that.

They told a classical tale of David v. Goliath here executed extremely well to keep things fresh. DIY are just great babyfaces and perfect foils for large dudes like AOP. The execution of the shine, heat segment and comeback was great. Johnny is awesome at taking a beating and building sympathy from the crowd and Ciampa's hot tag is one the best. Running wild with knee strikes and suplexing the big guys. AOP are still very inexperienced, but they played to their strengths very well in the match. They kept it simple and were more cautious when performing their big moves. The callback to DIY's victory at Toronto with the dual submissions, only for AOP to break free was so good. Both teams exceed expectations and the Authors won the tag titles on a high note.

Watch #DIY vs. The Authors of Pain on the WWE Network.

18. Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Bobby Roode - NXT Championship Match: NXT TakeOver: San Antonio, Jan. 28

Well, what a surprise this match was. Once this match was announced, the general consensus from folks I've seen and talked to was that this match was going to be awful. Even the build towards the match was fairly mundane. Shinsuke's run as champion has been underwhelming and his in-ring work been inconsistent, while Roode is an average wrestler at best. So, it was a shock that these two had the best NXT Championship match since Zayn/Neville.

Knowing that the crowd would be hot for this match, it was smart for them to not do much in the early portions and just stall for a bit. Roode played up his character to ensure the stalling wasn't completely boring. Roode then started targeting Nakamura's leg, which played into the finish of the match. Roode really over delivered. Even though the prospect of Bobby Roode as NXT Champion doesn't sound all that appealing, he sold me on his performance here. Nakamura was good as well. He even sold the injured knee really well! Roode playing dead after Nakamura's Kinshasa to bait him in was good and gave us a nice false finish. The finish to match was also well done as it made Roode look like a opportunistic heel while protecting Nakamura from a clean defeat. Really impressive stuff from both guys.

Watch Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Bobby Roode on the WWE Network.

19. Kevin Owens (c) vs. Roman Reigns - WWE Universal Championship No Disqualification Match: Royal Rumble, Jan. 29

This year's Royal Rumble pay-per-view was an enjoyable show. The undercard matches were solid and the two world title matches were really good. Raw's main event scene after SummerSlam was probably one the blandest in recent memory and one of the reasons why I stopped watching Raw entirely. Seth Rollins face turn was completely botched, the comedy duo of KO and Chris Jericho belonged in the mid-card rather than the focal point of the entire show and WWE are still mishandling Roman Reigns' push. The matches had also been incredibly dull with the combination of these four. So, my expectations for another Reigns/KO match were incredibly low.

This was a really fun match and the best out of all their previous matches. Most fans still don't want to admit it, but Roman Reigns is a fantastic wrestler. At worst, he's Top 10 in the company. Kevin Owens is an entertaining character, but his in-ring work has been considerably lacking. He's been unbearable with the chinlocks and more concerned with popping the crowd with high spots, rather that working proper heel. He's much more enjoyable in these gimmick matches. They had good energy and violence, which was need considering their past matches lacked any heat and were slow and meandering. They used kendo sticks, chairs, tables and even brass knuckles. There were some good spots such as KO frog splash onto Reigns putting him through a table, Reigns Superman Punching KO into a stacked pile of chairs and powerboming him through the announce table. Fun match with both guys delivering.

Watch Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns on the WWE Network.

20. AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena - WWE Championship Match: Royal Rumble, Jan. 29

Simply put, this match was awesome. This is my pick for Match of the Year, not just in WWE, but everywhere. It'll be difficult for any match to top this. Two of the best in the world delivering at a big stage. AJ Styles had a great debut year in the WWE, carrying the SmackDown brand in John Cena's absence. If there was a time to take the title off of him, this was the way to go. Styles was put over huge in defeat, as it took Cena everything but the kitchen sink to put him down.

I'm usually not a fan of matches that have a ton of finisher spams and near falls, but this match is a perfect example of how to execute that style properly. The story going in was AJ is the better wrestler. In order for Cena to get that 16th world title reign, he needed to be better than Styles. He couldn't just power his way through like before. The match conveyed that beautifully, with Cena trying to overwhelm Styles with brute strength but it wasn't enough. Cena needed to dig deeper than ever before, to be at his absolute best to finally put Styles down. One AA wasn't going to defeat Styles, he needed to throw multiple AAs along with a few new tricks to get the job done (he even hit a perfect Code Red!). Great action, amazing storytelling, exciting nearfalls and an electric crowd, this was pro wrestling at its best.

Watch AJ Styles vs. John Cena on the WWE Network.

There you have it...

Any other matches from January you think people should check out? Leave them in the comments below and share them with us. Discussion is always welcome, so leave your thoughts on any of the matches on the list. Until then, thank you for reading and I'll see you guys later!

The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.