Friday, December 30, 2016

Top 10 Wrestling Matches of 2016

Before we begin, these are strictly my opinion for what entertains me. I would love to hear anyone's opinion on my list, along with what their list is for the 2016 calendar year. I am not focusing strictly on the WWE, and this list will not be strictly singles matches. I also have not watched every match from every company, so if I'm missing something you believe is clear cut, there may be a chance that I did not see the match.

Top 10 Wrestling Matches of 2016

2016 was a very incredible year for professional wrestling, in mainstream promotions like WWE and New Japan Pro Wrestling, to independent promotions like EVOLVE and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. British professional wrestling promotions Revolution Pro Wrestling and newly formed What Culture Pro Wrestling have been a refreshing spark in the European scene and have since seen prominence in WWE's Cruiserweight Classic (CWC) and upcoming United Kingdom Championship Tournament.

See the list after the break.

10. The Miz vs. Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn

This Fatal 4-Way from WWE's Extreme Rules was one of the best Fatal 4-Way matches the company has ever had. Sure, we've had matches with bigger names and bigger spots, but these four did exactly what was needed in 2016—have a great wrestling match. Hardcore wrestling fans know that Kevin (Steen) Owens, Sami (El Generico) Zayn, and Cesaro (Claudio Castagnoli) were already very familiar with each other from the independent scene. The Miz was the outsider, and in the midst of a heated on-screen, out-of-the-ring feud with Danielson, Bryan, yet managed to weave his own story into this match that fans should not forget anytime soon.

Image courtesy of WWE,

9. Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa

The story was incredible. Gargano & Ciampa joined NXT almost at the same exact time, and from the very beginning were slotted as tag team partners, who struggled to get over the hump. Leading up to the match, both men said they would do anything to win. The psychology of the match was wrestling at its finest. When things started to get physical, the crowd got more attached. Ciampa's hesitation is what did him in, and post-match was the moment that turns great matches into top matches.

Image courtesy of New Japan Pro Wrestling, @njpw1972

8. Kenny Omega vs. Hirooki Goto

The G1 Climax Final was as physically and emotionally draining for the audience as it was for the competitors. And while later in this list I have another match from the G1, I believe the schedule is what took away from this match just enough to drop it multiple spots. I would love to see Omega vs. Goto again, both fresh. But while I believe the schedule knocks the actual match, the story is what brought it into this list in the first place.

7. Will Ospreay vs. Ricochet

Their match in New Japan's Best of the Super Juniors XXIII is professional wrestling. All of the "flippy shit" that occurred? Spots between two high flyers. Sure, you can argue that they made it more of a ballroom dance, but watching the match as two high flying talents who know each other? The counters make sense. The setups make sense. Suspend your disbelief and enjoy two of the greatest athletes, not just in wrestling but on the planet. This match is wrestling because it got talked about and created more!

6. The Revival vs. American Alpha

I know their match from Takeover: The End got rated higher in a lot of people's books. But their match at Takeover: Dallas was a better match, with more energy, and perhaps the best tag team match in the world in years. From even before the opening bell, the action set the tone and the entire wrestling world tuned in was electric. Bell to bell, there wasn't better action in a tag team match in 2016.

Honorable Mentions:

Cedric Alexander vs. Kota Ibushi

This match in the WWE CWC was insane. Not just the in-ring action, but the audience—both "live" and at-home—bought in 100%. Wrestling is most fun when you can get lost in the moment, and what a moment we were treated to. Fans begged WWE to sign both guys, and gave Alexander a huge ovation following his loss. It was far from the only great match in the tournament to that point, but the match had every up-and-down fans needed at that very moment to be drawn in completely.

Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks

Monday Night RAW, October 3. Yes, the match when Charlotte hit a twisting moonsault from the top turnbuckle to the outside of the ring.

Marty Scurll vs. Zack Sabre, Jr.

Their match at PWG Mystery Vortex IV was fantastic. These two are really close friends and their in-ring chemistry is something to be admired.

Cody Rhodes vs. Chris Hero

Their match at EVOLVE 67 in New York was outstanding. They fought in the ring, on the bar area of the gym at the church they were wrestling in, through the crowd (and I almost personally died by Chris Hero himself), back into the ring. The interference bumps this match off of the top 10 list, but not by a whole lot. It was very close to edging in.

5. Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

Their match at Wrestle Kingdom 10, New Japan's version of WrestleMania, was fitting of the spotlight. We're talking the two biggest stars in Japan, and two of the biggest in the world of professional wrestling. If you're not familiar with New Japan, Okada, and Tanahashi, you're probably one of those Americans who don't know a thing about soccer other than that "foreigners" call it football and that pisses you off. The names alone made this match. The action lived up to the hype and popularity of each man. It was truly a spectacle.

Image courtesy of WWE,

4. John Cena vs. AJ Styles

Now, they had a couple of matches this year, but their match at SummerSlam was one of the most incredible matches of the year. The story was clear. The crowd was hot. And the right man went over. Love him or hate him... if they tell Cena to do the job, he does the job. Styles kicked out of an Attitude Adjustment, and not just any old Attitude Adjustment, but an A.A. from the middle buckle! WWE let AJ Styles take the ball and run with it, and he has not looked back.

3. Will Ospreay, Ricochet, Matt Sydal vs. The Young Bucks & Adam Cole

This bonus match from PWG's Battle of Los Angeles was absolutely insane. If you have an opportunity at all to watch BOLA, do so. Please. Find a way. It's a must if you're a wrestling fan. Watching this match was every bit as energizing to me as a fan watching a DVD as I'm sure it was to fans live in attendance and to the talent performing in the match. The story of "Team Flippy Shit" or whatever they wanted to be called live made sense. It wasn't just a typical flippy shit match, or a typical Young Bucks match. Elements of all made their way into the match, and the counters and high spots all told a great story. There's a reason it got five stars from Dave Meltzer (who was in attendance in the front row) and it's a very agreeable five stars.

2. Kenny Omega vs. Tetsuya Naito

As I said earlier, there would be another match from the G1 Climax, and it was from the night before the Final. Omega and Naito put on one of the most brilliant matches of the year. Technically, it was more sound than Omega vs. Goto, but you could argue we're splitting hairs in a top 10 list. Watching the match, there was more emotion and grit by both competitors in this match than Omega/Goto, at least that is how it felt.

Image courtesy of WWE,

1. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn

Sami Zayn was the heart of NXT. Finn Balor brought it to new heights, but Zayn was the constant from the very beginning. His whole story since he won and lost the NXT Championship brought us to this moment when he was selected to be Nakamura's opponent at Takeover: Dallas. The crowd was hot, and got hotter as the match went on. Shinsuke Nakamura's WWE debut was special, but the action was the best part of the match. When the crowd chanted "Fight Forever", it wasn't a gimmick chant. It was sincere. It was genuine. Everything you could ask for out of a great professional wrestling match, occurred in this match.

So, there's my list. Let me know what you think down below in the comments, or over on Twitter.


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