It is that time of year where everyone compiles all of the best and worst stuff of the year. In this case, I'm talking about wrestling and I am no different from every other wrestle dork on the inter-web. I take a slightly different approach than most because more often than not, I don't keep up with current wrestling. So, I can't provide a match of the year (MOTY) or anything like that...even though I saw a couple of ROH matches that I thought were great. I'm pretty sure those aren't ending up on folks lists though
Anyhow, I'm doing my Best Match Watched list for 2019 which are the best matches of any year that I've watched in the past 365 days. This probably won't be the longest list since I started the blog since we were moving this year and had to sell our house BUT I've got some matches that I haven't blogged about that I think are worthy contenders so, I might surprise myself. So, to start let's go back to the half way point of the year and recap from my June post:
-Hans Schmidt vs Yukon Eric - Chicago Wrestling (circa 1958): Simple, brutal wrestling - the ropes break, part of the ring breaks. Classic shit.
-Wahoo McDaniel vs Greg Valentine - JCP (1977): Near classic hard-hitting bout and angle.
-Rick Martel vs Nick Bockwinkel - AWA (1984): The in-ring work, the story, this is a classic.
-AKIRA vs Kenny Omega - NJPW Best of the Super Jrs. (2010): Another 'not a classic but great match.'
-Prince Devitt vs Gedo - NJPW Best of the Super Jrs. (2010): Simple match layout but, the swearing/intensity of this match was lights out awesome.
-Finlay vs TAJIRI - Smash - Final Show (2012): A near-classic emotional and physically punishing bout. Fans of either guys need to watch this!
-Daniel Bryan vs CM Punk - Money in the Bank (2012): Great
-Michael Elgin vs Roderick Strong - ROH Summer Heat Tour (Cincinnati 2014): Classic ROH title fight.
-Jeff Cobb vs Ricochet - PWG Battle of Los Angeles (2016): Great match! 12-14 minute barn burner
-Zack Sabre Jr. vs Tomohiro Ishii - Wrestle Kingdom 13 (2019): Inoki Strong Style lives! Great match at least but, a near-classic to me.
Not a bad list so far...let's see what the 2nd half of 2019 has for us...Starting with Starrcade matches...
Jack & Jerry Brisco vs Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood (1983): A great action-packed match. Maybe people don't think that can happen in 1983 here we have it! There were tons of double team moves from both sides. Angelo Mosca is the ref and played his role perfectly. This felt like a real battle in the unreal realm of pro-wrestling!
Roddy Piper vs Greg Valentine (1983): A madhouse type of match where they're just wailing away on each other with abandon. So many visually remarkable moments involving the chain...man they just did it right. A brutal and bloody affair. A classic match.
Tully Blanchard vs Magnum TA (1985): This was violent from the very start... Visceral barbaric wrestling...this did not disappoint. An all-time classic without a doubt. If this is your thing, go see this match.
Road Warriors vs Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard (1987): This is perhaps the best Warriors match I've seen. I loved this match- it was all about selling and timing and it comes off beautifully! Near classic match.
Ric Flair vs Lex Luger (1988): This is a classic match with a simple story and layout. They never go too complicated in the moves department and therefore never mess anything up. Then, you're riding on charisma and selling in order to get the match over with the fans. Here they truly excel. Flair is a given but, Luger at this time seemed to have even God on his side. Never was I a Lex fan until I saw him from this era. And, man! Did he have "it" for a few years? The physique and the power are on full display and it really seems like Ric is facing his replacement for the 90's in this match.
Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara vs Masa Chono & Shinya Hashimoto (WAR 10/01/93): Ten minutes of solid ass-kicking. Hash (IWGP champ) gets on the mic before the bell and talks some trash that kicks off this intense sprint-fight. As much as I love a smooth wrestling match (like above), I love a rough non-cooperative slobber knocker just the same. All four guys use their simple offense and great selling to put on a near-classic match. Don't believe me? Watch for Tenryu's chops on Chono...that should get you going...
Tanaka, Kuroda & Koji Nakagawa vs Kanemura, Hido & Hosaka (FMW - Exploding Barbwire match - 09/01/96): Fourteen plus minutes of brutal, dramatic deathmatch wrestling. The fighting was top notch and the barbwire and bomb spots were extremely meaningful in terms of the drama. Seriously, this was one of the best FMW matches and the best deathmatches that I've seen. Classic match and a must-see for Masato Tanaka fans.
Hayabusa vs TAKA Michinoku (FMW 11/16/96): Dives, counters, springboard moves, and big signature offense - it wasn't a classic but, dang! It was a great match. Right up there with the Joshi match.
Megumi Kudo vs Shinobu Kandori (FMW 12/11/96): Kandori submission attempts and Kudome heart and head drops make this a good match just on paper. Here they throw in all kinds of teases & fake-outs. It made for a really exciting Joshi match (which I haven't seen in ages). Plus their timing and chemistry were fantastic. I would have to say this fits right alongside AJW stuff from '96 and probably better than many of the overlong bouts that Toyota had that year.
Strong BJW vs Get Wild (Omori & Manabu Soya) (AJPW 11/29/2011): This is my jam! BJW are tag champs and damn! do they look it here. Omori and Soya can only hope to slow down the juggernaut team. Of course, the AJ team finds a way but, you know Sekimoto and Okabayashi are not going down without a fight! If you're into Choshu/Hashimoto/WAR/Kensuke type stuff then, you must watch this 20-minute RWTL match. It is so simple from a move/sequence perspective yet, the physicality is remarkable. That's what really keeps you hooked and what moves the story along. Matches like this feel like a battle in the true sense of the term. There are ebbs and flows, bits of luck, acts of courage and desperation - This was a classic match to me.
Bennett & Taven vs Ciampa & Hanson (ROH Winter Warriors Dayton 2015): This all kinds of chaos! I love this type of stuff A simple story of the bearded babyfaces getting revenge on the shit-talking, good looking heels, and babe. The energy was there, the pacing was there, and everything just clicked. Great match and a fantastic segment if you count the match before.
Alberto El Patron vs Roderick Strong (ROH Winter Warriors Dayton 2015): This was a fantastic physical match between two veteran wrestlers. Alberto was going after Roddy's injured arm; hoping to secure the cross armbreaker. Roderick was trying to break down El Patron's body as only he can. The fans were psyched to see this match up and so was I. Alberto, Regal, and Danielson were two guys I would watch in the WWE so, it was great to see the former Dos Caras Jr. in a ring where he could show US fans what he's about. It was a shame they couldn't bring him in for more shows but, I'm glad we got this one. A great match, maybe a near-classic that was everything it needed to be.
From ROH - Conquest Tour 2015 - Hopkins MN
Roderick Strong vs Silas Young - This is a good match just on paper. You know they're going to hit hard and keep the pace up so, I was confident this bout would get things back on track. And I was not disappointed. This bout felt like a genuine struggle which is much appreciated in 2019. They had answers for each other's tricks & traps and I think that helped make this a great match. In fact, I wouldn't sneeze at anyone who would rate this **** 1/4. Great finish and MOTN thus far.
Briscoes vs War Machine - The tag team equivalent of the above match. Physical and surprisingly quick match. Now its not like the Young Bucks were facing off against Jay & Mark but, War Machine hustled like a couple of Young Vaders. Another great match where **** 1/4 would totally be acceptable.
Now for some that weren't covered on the blog:
Jun Akiyama vs Katsuyori Shibata (Wrestle -1 (not Mutoh) 08/04/05): A very stiff BattlARTS type of match. It was great although its no surprise that Shibata, who based his career on these types of bouts, is now retired. If you're a fan of either, really go watch this now...
Sabu vs Rob Van Dam (ECW Guilty as Charged 2000): A controversial choice since most folks on the PWO match discussion archive thought this was just "good" at best. It was perhaps their best single match with one another to me. In that regard, this match was superior to many similar move centric hardcore matches a few years later in ROH and certainly beyond. They did not go for overkill & empty their tanks and that IS why this is a great match. It felt like an athletic competition (in the ECW world) and not moves for moves sake.
Now for some I'd only written in my notebook but are ABSOLUTELY worth talking about now:
Miracle Violence Connection (Williams and Gordy) vs Misawa & Kawada (AJPW 12/06/91 RWTL Final Match): Holy crap is Gordy intense! The MVC gameplan is to divide and conquer. The Japanese team knows this and make frequent tags and hit the Americans high & low. The trick is to endure Miracle Violence's onslaught though...and what an onslaught it is! Near classic encounter with those little unexpected moments that make this era of AJPW so great.
Kurt Angle vs Yuji Nagata (TNA/NJPW Wrestle Kingdom II): Saw this around when it happened and thought it was great but not classic stuff. I re-watched this a couple of months ago and damn was I wrong! This was a freaking intense wrestling match. If you're down for guys working submissions and escapes and selling through facial expressions - this is a match for you. I will go on to say this was an extension of Inoki Strong Style and belongs in that upper echelon. I know more about Nagata now than 11 years ago and understand the nuances of this bout so, I really can appreciate this as puro as a combat sport. Classic match
Samoa Joe vs Kurt Angle (TNA Lockdown 2008): I remember the hype for this match and the clips from Impact and the DVD ads and I thought this looked amazing. I was right...took me more than a decade to see it but, it was worth the wait. Like the above Nagata match, this was puro as combat sport. Perhaps even more so as this was during Angle's MMA training/Frank Trigg period, we have a hexagonal cage, and this was around UFC's break-through period of mainstream acceptance with their Ultimate Fighter show also on SPIKE. Anyhow, these two agreed to go stiff where it reminded me of Joe vs Kobashi for a moment or two. Seriously that lariat! Are you kidding me? Add that in with excellent build and pacing and we end up with a true classic and perhaps an all-time must-see classic encounter when you take into consideration their history and the build-up to this battle. This is certainly top tier for TNA and "puro" in America type matches as well as Inoki Strong Style in the 2000's.
Samoa Joe vs Austin Aries (TNA Slammiversary X - 2012): Well, hot damn! These guys still have it 8 years after their Final Battle classic. In fact, the similarities are uncanny...is this the same match just 8 years later? No...can't be...regardless they still brought the intensity and I cannot find any fault here. I loved this match and thought it was a classic especially for TNA fans.
Magnus (Nick Aldis) vs KAI (TNA/Wrestle-1 Global Impact 2014): This is for the TNA World title and I certainly had my reservations going into this. Thankfully, we get 15 minutes of simple snug wrestling. It felt very similar to WCW vs NJPW stuff in Japan. This was excellently paced, well worked with some stiffer than expected moves, and an emphatic finish. I truly can't find a fault with this match, great stuff.
Rush & Dragon Lee vs Briscoe Brothers (ROH TV Summer 2019): This was a PPV level match for free. Jay and Mark still have that crazy streak so this was all action - blood, chair assisted moves, double teams. Plus both teams have a personality which is something I think ROH does lack at this time. (I like Taven but, don't get what they're doing with him btw).A few more minutes and this would have been a classic but, this was a great match nonetheless. Look for this one somehow!
SO LET'S ORGANIZE THIS! What is the cream of the crop?
I think I'm going to go with an emotional pick and choose Samoa Joe vs Kurt Angle (TNA Lockdown 2008) as the Best Match Watched. The other top 5 matches are classic matches with timeless moments etched into my brain and it took me a long time to rule them out as the top of the top. The Joe vs Angle match plays off my nostalgia from 2008 and watching TNA Impact every week. In that regard, I can legitimately say they are two of my favorites of the 2000's and to see them truly have the all-out war that they only showed hints of in 2006 was an unbelievable pay-off to me. The Nagata match with Kurt was a precursor to the Lockdown match and although that was a classic in its own right, it helped bolster the drama of the Joe match. I don't know if this was intentional or what but, it totally worked on me.
I think Tully vs Magnum is a known all-time classic and I don't know what one more person agreeing with that sentiment is going to do for its prestige. You know what I mean? It is required viewing without me saying so
I think Piper vs Valentine is a precursor to that match and for that reason should be on your must-watch list. I don't think it gets the love it deserves perhaps because people think of the WWF versions of the guys and think it can't be as intense as people say. I would leave it from the top spot just because its finish cannot match the Tully vs Magnum finish...not much can though!
The Schmidt vs Yukon and Martel vs Bockwinkel bouts are ones that I had never really heard of but, certainly deserve more recognition. I understand folks not wanting to go back to 1958 but, I really recommend watching pre-1970s wrestling at least a couple times every year. It gets harder and harder since we get further and further away from it...trust me. The AWA title match with Rick & Nick was one of those things I found online that I just wanted to explore as I'm always trying to find more good "wrestling" from them. I've seen damn near 80% of their ESPN show but, always want to see more of the era before they went out of business. Martel and Bock are two in particular that I was looking for and to see this title match was great...little did I know it would be a masterpiece.
All that being said, I go back to my emotional bias for the Joe vs Angle Lockdown fight being the reason I say it’s the Best Match I watched in 2019. I also think it’s probably an arguable match to consider a classic and an objective "better match" than those mentioned above. Thing is I'm not going to argue against that...The point is that the Lockdown match was ticked off every box for me...I was invested in the outcome, I was surprised and entertained, my 11-year-long expectations were exceeded, and I'm a fan of both wrestlers. So, I'm much happier giving some love for a match that many might overlook because of when it was and who it was wrestled for (TNA) than telling you something you already know like with the I Quit or Dog Collar match. OK explanation over Let's do the rest of the year award type things next post. Thanks for reading!