HEAT and the 2016 Match of the Year: How My List Stacked Upon January 28, 2017 at 5:41 am
The annual Voices of Wrestling Match of the Year poll has been conducted, and I thought that instead of just posting my list in full, I’d compare my list to how the overall voting shook out. Instead of going through a 1-10 list, I’m going to reorganize my list based on where the matches ended up after all hundred-and-whatever voters cast their ballots, and add some comments as to where the match finished.
First, a quick explanation of my voting mentality. I sit down and start thinking about what I liked from the year, and typically the matches that have managed to stick in my memory are the ones that make the list. If I run out of matches that really jump out at me, I dig through match listings to see if I remember anything. Sometimes I’ll see something from a promotion I don’t follow that has buzz, and I’ll watch that, but I only rewatch matches if I need to refresh myself on what happened so I can write a blurb about it. Otherwise, if I don’t remember the match, I can’t have thought it was THAT good.
The first category is for matches that didn’t make the top 100, which is most of them. Personally, I had two matches end up in Sadness Village.
1 Point Matches – 10. Michael Richard Blais vs. Marky – PWA Fright Night (10/22/2016)
I’ll be shocked if any of the voters even saw this, let alone voted for it, but it currently holds the position of the best match I’ve ever seen live, let alone in 2016. Here’s what I wrote about it for Voices of Wrestling: (http://www.voicesofwrestling.com/2016/11/08/pwa-fright-night-2016-october-22-results-review/)
I’m not going to describe this match a whole lot, because it would mostly be “OH SHIT AND THEN THEY DID (spot).” Suffice to say, it’s the best match I’ve ever seen live, and will probably end up in my top 10 matches at the end of the year. These two have wrestled many, many times over the past decade or so, which informed the story of the bout. Blais knows that Marky uses the fans’ support to gut his way through extraordinary amounts of damage. Therefore, clearly Blais needs to kill Marky as quickly as possible. So that’s what he tried to do. A hot opening sequence built to MRB hitting a Death Valley Driver on the apron… from the TOP ROPE. I believe my exact quote in reaction to that spot was “WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT!?!?!?” After a count out tease designed to give time to reanimate Marky’s corpse, Blais took over but couldn’t find a move strong enough to overcome the PWA Original. Some Daniel Bryan chest kicks just pissed off Marky, and sparked his comeback. A bunch of attempted murders happened, and eventually Marky landed his top rope leg drop finisher after several failed attempts. It looks killer. I don’t know if describing a leg drop as looking mean makes any sense, but it looked mean.
Comments: This match ended up exactly where I thought it would. I knew I was going to be the only vote for it, as like 400 people saw it, tops. I just wanted to give a shout out to the best match I’ve seen live thus far.
5 Point Matches – 6. Strong BJ vs. Big Guns – AJPW New Explosion (11/27/2016)
Go to your local grocery store and slam steaks into each other and the floor for half an hour. That’s a pretty accurate recreation of this match. The “beefy guys clobber each other” subcategory of hoss fight is my favourite, but this match added some extra touches that put it past the others and into my top 10. Big Guns finally overcoming Strong BJ, finally hitting the Doomsday Device (and almost killing Sekimoto, which was gnarly), and finally, the smallest touch – Strong BJ was doing a great job running interference to prevent their pins and submissions from being broken up by the illegal Big Gun early in the match, but as the match wore on, Zeus and the Bodyguard starting figuring them out. This led to a fiery finishing stretch full of near falls where it was a legitimate question whether the illegal partner would be able to break it up.
But really, all the details are just there to underscore the roaring and beef-smashing.
Comments: I thought this one might make the top 100, but there were so many great Strong BJs that votes got split up. Phrasing? Naturally, the two longest blurbs I wrote didn’t get used. Also, this blurb is why my word processor started suggesting “beef-smashing” when I type “be.” That’s not a joke, that actually happened.
Shockingly, none of my matches ended up in the #100-76 category, so we’re on to…
#54 – 7. Michael Elgin vs. Tetsuya Naito (G1 Climax 26 Night 4) (7/24/2016)
This is my favourite under-the-radar match from 2016. Elgin’s selling of his knee was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen in terms of limbwork effecting a wrestler’s offence, in part because Elgin is so strong that he could purposely screw up power moves without endangering himself and Naito. He sure kept trying to get them right, though, and it ended up biting him. Or, more accurately, smashing his head into the mat. Pete Dunne wasn’t around, so there was no actual biting.
Comments: This was my first blurb to be used in the VOW list. Out of every match on my ballot, the placement of this one shocked me the most. I almost bumped it because I didn’t think anyone would vote for it, but my voting strategy is to go with the most memorable matches, and this is one I still think about. I was certain that it was going to end up in Sadness Village, or maaaaybe get another vote and crack the top 100. I was shocked to learn that not only had it nearly made the top 50, I wasn’t even CLOSE to being the highest vote for it! It’s heart-warming to know some strangers on the internet have good taste.
#38 – 5. Kazuchika Okada vs. Naomichi Marufuji (G1 Climax 26 Night 1) (7/18/2016)
The first G1 main event saw Naomichi Marufuji do to Kazuchika Okada what every teacher has wanted to do to some smug, punk-ass kid who keeps pissing them off in class. Every time Okada mounted an offence and started to get cocky, Marufuji reminded him “I beat Misawa, you little shit” and kicked him right in his smirking mouth. I love the grumpy veteran trope in Japan, and Marufuji was the GRUMPIEST.
Comments: By this section of the list, I’m realizing that my taste is more in line with the mainstream of VOW voters than I had expected it to be, as 7 of the 10 matches on my ballot have made the top 50. I expected more people would vote for the King of Pro Wrestling rematch, which they did (it ranked #30), but I was pleased to see that somebody voted this match #1 overall. Thus far in the list, I haven’t been the high man on any of my matches in the top 100 (I was the highest and only vote for both of my Sadness Village picks). Once again, this is my only match in this section of the list, which means 6 out of my 10 matches made the top 25.
#15 – 3. Cedric Alexander vs. Kota Ibushi – Cruiserweight Classic Episode 5 (8/10/2016)
Instead of analysis, I’m going to give you a transcript of me watching this match. “Hey, I bet this will be decent. Oh man, this is pretty good. Oh, shit. OH. Shit. OH SHIT. OH SHIT OH SHIT OHSHITOHSHITOHSHIT.”
Comments: This blurb was used in the VOW list, and I kind of wish everyone had written their blurbs to be funny instead of just praising matches I probably didn’t watch (I probably saw less than half of the matches that were mentioned). This is also the first match in the top 100 that I was the highest vote for. No regrets, I fucking love this match. It helped turn my friend Dougie into a wrestling nerd.
#14 – 4. The Revival vs. #DIY – NXT Takeover Brooklyn II (8/20/2016)
The Revival spent 2016 reminding us all that tag team wrestling in WWE can be good, if you don’t stick rigidly to their stale formula. The Brooklyn match between the Revival and #DIY was my favourite of their two Takeover bouts because I think a one fall match emphasizes what the Revival are good at: chaotic scrambles where every near fall seems like the end, and every kickout seems like hope is alive in the world.
Comments: For the first time since Sadness Village, I have two matches in the same section of the list! Not only that, but they finished in the order I placed them, right next to each other. Just, y’know, 10 and 11 places farther down. While I feel that this was the better Revival/#DIY match, I’m not surprised that the more recent one where the babyfaces won got more votes. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but most of the internet treats their favourite wrestlers like sports fans treat their favourite team, while often also being derisive of real sports.
#11 – 8. John Cena vs. AJ Styles – WWE Summerslam (7/21/2016)
Since his wonderful US Open Challenge run, John Cena has turned into a video game wrestler, and I fucking love it. He’s the closest a human being can get to being the Incredible Hulk and yet he busts out Yoshi Tonics. He’s taken the WWE big match formula and turned it into a video game match where everyone stores up finishers until they’ve got about 17, and then exchange them for 10 minutes. This was the best time that happened this year, because AJ Styles was part of it, and that man can do no wrong in WWE.
Comments: I was very close to having half of my top 10 list make the overall top 10 list, which is bonkers to me. I’m surprised this one didn’t crack the top 10, as I remember hearing some “five stars” buzz when it happened. Seeing that it was only one point out of the top 10, I kind of wish I had swapped its placement with the Big Guns/Strong BJ AJPW match. It would have also gotten a WWE main roster match into the top 10.
#7 – 9. Will Ospreay vs. Ricochet – BOSJ Block match (5/27/2016)
There are like 35 blurbs for this match, aren’t there? You’re definitely skimming by now, aren’t you?
This was peak FLIPZ with a great story. Everyone saw it. Everyone loved it. Or has bad taste.
Comments: I thought this one was going to rank in the top 5, but apparently a lot of people were like me and put it in the back half of their list. It was the most important match in terms of buzz, and I think I gave it a very good rating when I watched it, but 2016 was a craaaaazy good year, and it ended up making my list on importance more than straight quality.
#4 – 2. Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura – NXT Takeover Dallas (4/1/2016)
Sometimes a match doesn’t need a story, or a reason to happen. Sometimes it just needs to be CRAZY GOOD. This match made me flail my arms in excitement like Kermit the goddamn Frog while I was watching it, because this match was a perfect explosion of charisma and face-kicking.
Comments: I’m guessing when the stats breakdown comes out, this is going to be the highest ranking match from people who only watch WWE. It’s also the last time Shinsuke Nakamura did anything worth watching in 2016. I did enjoy watching the hype train as fans who don’t watch NJPW climbed all over his dick, then realized he wasn’t the five star match machine they thought he was – he’s a guy with a superstar aura, a really high ceiling and a really low floor. In important matches, like his debut against Sami Zayn, he comes off like the best wrestler in the world. In less important matches, or with lesser opponents, like a past-his-prime Samoa Joe? He’s fine.
#2 – 1. Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – Wrestle Kingdom 10 (1/4/2016)
Kazuchika Okada went from shitting the bed with Yoshi-Hashi to being the best big match wrestler in the world in the span of 4 years. As a pair, Okada and Tanahashi have been incredibly helpful to me, personally, over the years, as they’ve been my number one match in the VOW poll every year that I’ve participated. It makes it so much easier to fill out the ballot when the most important slot doesn’t require any thought. Okada and Tanahashi are both all-time great pro wrestlers, but together they become super wizards of the mat, casting spells of… I’m tired of this analogy, but you get the point. They’re great. They have great matches. Match of the Year.
Comments: This match not being first overall is criminal. Kenny Omega vs. Tetsuya Naito from the G1 Climax tournament finished first, and while that was an excellent match, I feel like the Kenny Omega hype train after his Wrestle Kingdom match with Okada gave his top end 2016 matches a push. I will fully admit, though, that Omega is very much like Nakamura for me, in that I am consistently lower on him than the general populace of the wrestling internet that I interact with. Anyway, Okada vs. Tanahashi is the best feud of the 2000s, and the only reason I didn’t have BOTH of their big matches from 2016 on my list was because I didn’t want to double up on anything (otherwise I would have had 4 spots taken up by Okada/Tanahashi and #DIY/Revival).