Now that the final WWE pay-per-view of 2016 is in the books, it seemed like a good time to look back at some my favorite matches from the past year.
But before we get to my picks, we asked Justin “Juice” Wallace, vocalist for IMS favorites Handsome Prick, for his favorite matches of the past year. Check out their debut full-length Enlarged to Show Texture here while checking out what he had to say:
5. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn – WWE Battleground
I was really torn between whether this match or the A.J. Styles/John Cena match from SummerSlam would take the last spot on this list, but the edge went to Owens and Zayn, largely because of my niece and nephew (ages 9 and 13 respectively). They wandered in while I was watching Battleground, and even though neither of them had ever watched WWE programming before, within about two minutes they had completely figured out the story of the match and which wrestler was the babyface and which was the heel, and they were jumping out of their seats for every big spot and near fall for the rest of the match. And to top it off, my niece asked me for a Sami Zayn shirt for Christmas, and my nephew asked for a Kevin Owens one. This match turned them both into wrestling fans.
4. Will Ospreay (c) vs. Marty Scurll – ROH World Television Title match, Reach for the Sky tour, London, England 11/20
Will Ospreay is a name that’s probably familiar to most wrestling fans at this point, but my guess would be that fewer American fans (unless they’re into PWG) know much about his fellow Brit ‘The Villain’ Marty Scurll. Hopefully he gets a good run with the Ring of Honor Television Title, because he’s one of my favorites – a old-school, dastardly sort of heel, he’s known for whacking his opponents with an umbrella when the ref isn’t looking and for his crossface chickenwing finisher. This match was a really nice mixture of ring psychology and big spots (a few of which were repeated in their three-way match with Dragon Lee at Final Battle), including an impressive chain of about 25 moves to open the match.
There aren’t even highlights of their ROH match online, but here’s a very similar match from this past September in WCPW.
3. Kota Ibushi vs. Cedric Alexander – WWE Cruiserweight Classic
If you only watch one match from the Cruiserweight Classic, it should be this one. Kota Ibushi is rightly considered one of the best wrestlers in the world, and Cedric Alexander more than held his own in this absolute thriller of a match that had the Full Sail crowd chanting “Please sign Cedric” after he lost the fall. Honestly, Alexander might have been the most over wrestler of the entire CWC, which makes the way he’s been booked since the tournament really disappointing. If he was that over in a losing effort, imagine how big he’d be if they booked him to win every once in a while. Instead, they’ve jobbed him out on NXT and put him in an on-screen relationship with Alicia Fox that doesn’t seem to be helping either of them (particularly since they have no chemistry at all).
2. #DIY (Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano) vs. The Revival (Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder) (c) – NXT Tag Team Title match, NXT Takeover: Toronto
I could have just as easily put their match from Takeover: Brooklyn in this slot, but since I’m a total mark for #DIY I’m going with the match where they won the straps. These two teams have tremendous in-ring chemistry, and both of their Takeover matches were instant classics. Here’s what I said about the match in a previous column:
Much like SummerSlam weekend, #DIY and The Revival were not only the highlight of NXT Takeover: Toronto, they probably put on the best match of the entire weekend. The third fall alone would have been enough to make this an instant classic, but the whole match was damn near flawless in its pacing, execution, and in-ring storytelling, and the double submission spot that ended the match was a particularly inspired piece of booking. I was actually pretty worried that there was going to be some sort of swerve in this match, because even though all signs seemed to be pointing to #DIY finally becoming the ‘top guys,’ it’s not like Gargano and Ciampa need the belts to get over. I’m glad they were booked not only to go over, but to do so with a clean finish. If only all feuds ended this well.
1. The Addiction (Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian) (c) vs. The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) vs. Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin) – Ladder War 6 for the ROH Tag Team Titles, All-Star Extravaganza 8
Yeah, it was a spot-fest, as Bucks matches tend to be. But it was an incredibly entertaining spot-fest that also managed to tell a compelling story. What everyone will remember most is probably the finish with that insane table/ladder Meltzer Driver spot on Frankie Kazarian, but the MVP of that match was unquestionably 46-year-old Christopher Daniels. After cutting the promo of a lifetime on ROH TV about how life without the tag titles wouldn’t be worth living, he went out and bumped like a man half his age, bled all over the ring, and drove home every word of that promo. It was a career-defining performance, and it gave the match the emotional center it needed to be more than just a crazy TLC match.