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31 Days of Wrestling (12/13/18): A Dream Ricochets


Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies and gentlemen. Once again, we're at that point where we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling 2018 produced for us.

What happens when an enigmatic, eccentric competitor crosses paths with a tight-lipped Tony Jaa-esque athlete inside the squared circle? Delicious carnage is what happens, chap.

The year 2018 has definitely been a blessing for the art of professional wrestling, and NXT can be called beyond blessed in that regard. Every episode and TakeOver special never failed to amaze us and get us out of our seats with the athleticism, psychology, and storytelling of each and every member of the NXT roster. It gave us one of the hottest rivalries of this year in Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa vs. Aleister Black, but this article's match is not in any way significantly below that.


We all know that The Velveteen Dream's ever-present message to the WWE Universe is that he is the hottest WWE commodity today, and that no one can take the spotlight away from him. Although he has taken losses from some of the main players like Aleister Black, Johnny Gargano, Lars Sullivan, and Tommaso Ciampa, he has nevertheless proved through his oozing charisma and wrestling prowess that he remains in the upper part, if not the top, of the NXT food chain.

But earlier this year, NXT signed a new competitor who he saw was trying to take away his spotlight and his name was Ricochet. The high-flying wrestler, who has gained critical acclaim around the world, set foot on the Dream's "territory," and was booked in a TakeOver special for his first televised match. Both battled it out in a six-man ladder match for the NXT North American Championship, of which Adam Cole came out the victor. Even though it was every man for himself in that bout, Dream knew at the back of his mind that Ricochet would soon rise above the opposition—and maybe rise above him.

The following weeks saw Dream giving Ricochet a piece of his complicated mind, the underlying message being "Anything that Ricochet can do, the Dream can do better." Ricochet wasn't fazed by the display of bravado, but instead left a quick but powerful message to Dream by performing a bloody front flip to the outside of the ring, landing on his feet, and replying, "Then show me."


It was a personal battle for both of these promising competitors, as they wanted to show to the world that they weren't just some pushover wrestlers—they were here to stay. The Chicago air was dry, not of boredom, but because both of them already soaked in the whole ring atmosphere. Ricochet came in with his usual ring gear, but Dream stepped his wardrobe game a notch higher: he wore a Hulk Hogan-like bandana and donned the Prince Puma tights as a form of psychological warfare to its previous wearer.


As the match began, the audience felt a sense of familiarity, like they'd watched something like this before, but didn't know where or when. It was after the bout that one Reddit user pointed out that the first 10 minutes of the match was almost, beat by beat, the same 10 minutes as the Rock vs. Hogan match at WrestleMania X8. Talk about a surprising symbolic "passing of the torch!"


The match was surely a gritty one, which kept people at the edge of their seats. There was showmanship, athleticism, brute violence, emotions, insults—everything you could ask for in a wrestling match. False finish after false finish erased the notions of face and heel; the audience only wanted to watch the fight to its glorious end, as the current clash eventually was the way they both earned their respective stripes as battle-hardened veterans in their own regard. It wasn't until an ill-advised coast-to-coast version of the Purple Rainmaker late in the match that a glimmer of hope appeared for Ricochet. Painstakingly climbing the top turnbuckle, he performed his 630 senton onto the Dream's back, which garnered him the pinfall victory.


I can say with confidence that this match left the Chicago crowd exhausted and satisfied. If there is one match in 2018 that I was allowed to chant "Fight forever!" for minutes after the match had ended, this would definitely be it. Moving further, this match molded the both of them to be successful in their future battles: at TakeOver: Brooklyn IV, Dream would win his match against EC3, and Ricochet would then take the North American title from Adam Cole.


***
31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2018.

Read our previous entries:

1. Winnipeg Boys Conquer the Tokyo Dome (Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho, No DQ match for IWGP US Heavyweight title, Wrestle Kingdom 12)
2. Roman Reigns Finally Becomes Universal Champion (Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns, SummerSlam 2018)
3. The Man Is Last Woman Standing (Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch, Last Woman Standing match for SmackDown Women's title, Evolution)
4. Kenny Omega, Finally IWGP Heavyweight Champion (Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega, 2-out-of-3 Falls match, Dominion 6.9 in Osaka-jo Hall)
5. The Resurrection of Daniel Bryan (AJ Styles vs. Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship, WWE SmackDown Live 11/13/18) 
6. Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa, Unsanctioned match (NXT TakeOver: New Orleans)
7. The Lightbringer Has Arrived (Ralph Imabayashi vs. Quatro for the PWR Championship, PWR Live: Homefront)
8. The First Ever Women's Royal Rumble (Royal Rumble 2018)
9. To Surpass God (Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi, G1 Climax 28 Finals)
10. Wreck It, Rowdy (Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle vs. Stephanie McMahon & Triple H, WrestleMania 34)
11. Pentagon Dark vs. Marty "The Moth" Martinez (Ultima Lucha Cuatro)
12. King in the North (America) (6-Way Ladder match for NXT North American title, NXT TakeOver: New Orleans)

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