The Voices of Wrestling Match of the Year balloting has been posted over the course of this week, and I once again received a ballot. Since the results don’t specify who voted for which matches, I decided to post my full ballot, along with the write-ups I did for each match (none of which were used) for YOU, the HEAT reader.
10. Enzo Amore & Colin Cassaday vs. Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson (NXT 12/16/2015)
This was my favourite tag team match of 2015. A team with the level of mega-charisma of Enzo and Cass against a grimy southern heel team like Dash & Dawson in front of a molten crowd? Aw yeah.
9. John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins (WWE 01/25/2015)
Three adult humans wrestled a match like they were in a video game. It was exactly as ridiculous as that sentence makes it sound, and as a result it was unbelievably fun. They must have been saving up Specials for weeks.
8. Yuji Okabayashi vs. Daisuke Sekimoto (BJW 7/20/2015)
Take two sides of raw beef and slam them into each other over and over. That’s this match, and it’s great. I mean, come on, Okabayashi busts his nose during the OPENING LOCK-UP. Madness.
7. John Cena vs. Kevin Owens (WWE 5/31/2015)
John Cena’s US Open Challenge storyline was my favourite thing WWE did in 2015. I feel like John Cena is underrated, which is just… is it possible for the top guy in wrestling to be underrated? I certainly wouldn’t have believed that he could wrestle like he was in a PWG main event, but then he did. Repeatedly. Oh, and that Kevin Owens guy is preeeeeeetty good. Pretty, pretty good. Their first two matches were both excellent, but the surprise of Owens beating John Cena in his first match was a much more satisfying ending than Cena getting his win back a month later.
6. Dragon Lee vs. Kamaitachi (CMLL 12/4/2015)
Kamaitachi wrestles like he’s conducting a scientific experiment about how much abuse the human body can take and continue to function. The best part of this match is that Dragon Lee buys into that philosophy, and they have a contest of “let’s see which one of us dies first” spots. What puts this match ahead of the others in their series, for me, is Kamaitachi’s (and to a lesser extent, his mom’s) reaction to the third fall. He goes from pure elation at finally vanquishing his rival to unbridled rage at having the match restarted. Watching Kamaitachi beat the shit out of Maximo while his mother screams encouragement from the front row was almost as good as the match itself.
5. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (NJPW 08/16/2015)
These two guys have so much chemistry that the ring mat should have a periodic table printed on. I love the idea that they went through a gruelling G1 Climax tournament, scraping and clawing to the top of the leaderboard, only to the spend the finals seeing who can be the bigger dickhead. The closing stretch, while hot as per usual in a New Japan main event, has a unique quality; both guys come to the conclusion “oh, right, this guy is pretty good. I’d better try to beat him instead of fucking around.”
4. Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tomoaki Honma (NJPW 8/12/2015)
HONMA WINS! HONMA WINS! HONMA WINS!
Honma finally scoring a G-1 win, and on his arch-nemesis/fellow karate movie henchman Ishii, was such a powerful emotional moment. Watching Honma and the 2,000 people in Korakuen Hall share the joy of the lovable loser finally validating the fans’ faith in him is something I’m going to remember for a long time.
3. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley (NXT 08/22/2015)
Everything I love about wrestling exists in this match. Above the great offence and brilliant incorporation of Bayley’s injured hand, the character work on display here was on another level. Sasha Banks’ face told the story of the match, as her confidence was slowly drained away by Bayley’s refusal to die, even when Sasha tried to grind her hand into powder. Each time Bayley’s shoulders came off the mat, Sasha saw her championship slip just a little further away. At the same time, each kickout steeled Bayley’s resolve, and by the end of the match she seemed a completely different wrestler than the one who entered amidst flailing tube men.
2. Shingo Takagi vs. Masaaki Mochizuki (Dragon Gate 11/01/2015)
I love everything about how this match builds. Mochizuki’s blitz at the beginning, knowing he needs that advantage if he’s going to stop the juggernaut, sets the pace for the bout, which never really slows down. Both guys try to take away their opponent’s most powerful weapons, but once they realize it’s not going to work, the match turns into an arms race; instead of trying to take away their opponent’s weapons, they unload their own often and as brutally as possible. Mochizuki’s emotional final stretch, where he wills himself off of the mat in a final act of defiance before succumbing to Last Falconry, ends the story beautifully. He gave everything he had, but after Shingo kicked out of the combo that finished him in 2005, all that Mochi had left was to make Shingo kill him.
1. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada (NJPW 1/4/2015)
The feeling I had watching this match was the feeling I got watching the pillars of ’90s All Japan. The storytelling was immaculate. Smug young prick Okada weathered Tanahashi’s offence looking for the chance to kill him dead with a Rainmaker… and then completely broke down when the move that had beaten everyone else didn’t beat Tanahashi. Okada continuing panicked Rainmaker attempts while Tanahashi picked him apart was brilliant, and the final High Fly Flow might be the most painful-looking splash I’ve ever seen. 2015’s best match, and an all-time classic.