wrestling / Columns

Kevin’s Top 100 Matches Of 2020 (#90 – 81)

January 19, 2021 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
Kenny Omega Hangman Page AEW Full Gear

90. Jeff Cobb vs. Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW G1 Climax 10/10/20

Ishii is 3-0 against Cobb but I’ve only seen their G1 29 outing, which was fantastic. Do you guys realize what this is? It’s a good old fashioned hOSS FIGHT and goddammit do I love it. They gave me exactly what I wanted. It was similar to last year’s match in that they just went right at one another. Some of the chops and strikes thrown out during this were downright vicious. One floored Cobb to the point where Ishii couldn’t even pick him up. Dude was dead weight. Of course, Cobb started to get going and suplexed Ishii all over the place. Ishii continues to bump and sell very well for a guy his size. In the end, Cobb finally broke his streak of losses to Ishii when he delivered the Tour of the Islands after 14:57. That was awesome. I liked last year’s a bit more and some of those headbutts were worrisome but this was a great hoss battle. [****]

89. Alexander Wolfe and WALTER vs. Ilja Dragunov and Pete Dunne – NXT UK 10/15/20

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Wrestling is simple. Just put talented people in there and let them have great matches. That’s just what NXT UK did on this particular episode. Former United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne teamed with Ilja Dragunov to take on current United Kingdom Champion WALTER and his Imperium buddy Alexander Wolfe. It’s great because it combined two stellar matches from recent memory in Wolfe/Dragunov and Dunne/WALTER. I don’t even really have to describe this match because if you know these four wrestlers, you know what this was. There were stiff shots and great action. It did get off to a slow start but once it picked up, it didn’t stop. By the time this reached its end after 19:02, you were almost as exhausted watching it as they were in the ring. Dragunov became the first man to pin WALTER in NXT UK. This worked to build their eventual title match and as something of a sendoff for Dunne, who’d show up in NXT later that month. [****]

88. NEVER Openweight Six Man Championship Tournament Finals: Kazuchika Okada, SHO & Toru Yano vs. Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI – NJPW Summer Struggle 8/9/20

EVIL turning heel on Tetsuya Naito and joining the Bullet Club was one of the bigger shockers of the year. That was taken to the next level when EVIL won the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Titles from Naito. With him away from Los Ingobernables de Japon, EVIL had to relinquish the NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Titles since he wasn’t down with his partners anymore. A short tournament was formed and this was the finals. It was an interesting setup because both teams were made up of members of the CHAOS stable. In a great, fast-moving battle that lasted 24:18, the two teams showcased their chemistry in a highly engaging and entertaining match. In the end, the win for Goto, Ishii, and HASHI meant a ton because it marked the first championship win for YOSHI-HASHI. He went from longtime company geek to an actual champion in one of the more underrated feel good moments of the year. [****]

87. Eliminator Tournament Finals: Hangman Page vs. Kenny Omega – AEW Full Gear

For most of 2020, Kenny Omega and Hangman Page were a stellar tag team. You’ll them as a duo often on this list. By this point, they had somewhat split and now clashed with a title shot on the line. Shoutout to the graphic boys for listing Hangman as a “Focused Yee Haw Man.” I really liked the fact that these two played up their history. They know each other as former partners, so it led to some great counters and even each guy trying to steal offense from the other. There’s also a heated past so it was a slugfest at times. In the end, the finish was a bit abrupt, though it did feel like Omega was just too much for his lesser-experienced opponent. A few V-Triggers and a One Winged Angel put down Hangman after 16:16. Great match and I appreciate that they didn’t try to put on a marathon or anything like that. An efficient use of time that told a great story with plenty of action. It does feel like they have something better in them, which we most likely will see in 2021. [****]

86. El Desperado vs. Hiromu Takahashi – NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 11/18/20

I love this pairing. In 2018, they put on two classics. As usual, these two threw a lot at each other and had one of their famously wild matches. It wasn’t just a case of two guys one-upping each other, either. There was a sense of disdain. The opening few minutes of this were glorious violence and I dug it. El Desperado targeted the leg, looking to set up the Stretch Muffler I believe. Plus, it prevented Hiromu Takahashi from being as wild as he might want to be. That caused Hiromu to resort to strikes, which he does quite well. However, he could still be stopped by a simple kick to the legs. It was great work from both men at that point. Hiromu survived the submission and countered Pinche Loco into the Dynamite Plunger. Alas, we got a referee bump that opened the door for Desperado to use a chair on Hiromu’s leg. He put Numero Dos back on and Hiromu had to submit after 23:10. Leave it to Hiromu to put on back to back bangers to start the tournament. Not quite as good as their previous outings but still fantastic. [****]

85. Stadium Stampede: The Elite and Matt Hardy vs. The Inner Circle – AEW Double or Nothing

I really do love the way cinematic wrestling has become a thing. Lucha Underground was ahead of its time. This was being held in the Jacksonville Jaguars stadium. They got awesome football style entrances, with cheerleaders, sporting numbers, and everything. Boo on the Elite boys for not wearing football stuff. Everyone charged at each other with weapons like a war. No Page to start but then he came in RIDING ON A HORSE! Jim Ross was in his wheelhouse here. He got to talk all the football nonsense he shoehorns into every match and have it somewhat make sense here. He still didn’t do a good job, though. The guys fought in the ring for a bit, which is the best place to take spots, though they did well to try out other creative things. One example would be a field goal post moonsault. There were some really funny moments, like fighting into the a tiny pool and Ortiz complaining that he can’t swim. Then, as they tried to drown Matt, he reappeared as Matt Hardy Version 1! We even got the Matt Facts on screen and the guys competing could even see it. I loved how Page stopped to get a drink at the bar and was even casually joined by Hager at one point. Of course, they ended up fighting. When Jericho got a near fall, he threw a red flag and challenged the play. The end zone dance and penalty was also good, as was the callback to Sammy running from the golf cart. Omega eventually used a massive One Winged Angel to win in 34:00. That was another home run in terms of cinematic wrestling. It as a blast with some awesome callbacks and comedic moments, as well as mostly good action.[****]

84. AEW Tag Team Championship: Hangman Page and Kenny Omega [c] vs. SCU – AEW Dynamite 2/12/20

Admittedly, I’m not a huge Kenny Omega fan. However, there was a stretch around February where he was putting on stellar matches almost every week. One of them was here, as he and Hangman Page defended their AEW Tag Team Titles against the team they dethroned for them, SCU. This was an early indication of how big of a deal Page would be. It was Omega who was isolated by the veteran tag team. They used their experience to completely cut him off. When he finally made the tag, Page was electric. He arguably had the best hot tags in all of wrestling in 2020. Since this whole thing only lasted 13:14, it was filled with action from bell to bell, with next to no slow down. The final few minutes were the highlight and they saw the champions retain by hitting their V-Trigger/Buckshot combination. 2020 seemed like it lasted four years, so the Omega/Page team feels like it was forever ago. They were fantastic. [****]

83. Damian Priest vs. Finn Balor – NXT TakeOver: In Your House

Finn exploded out with a dropkick before the bell. Priest quickly turned the tide and did some interesting stuff like a sidewalk slam off steel steps and onto the apron. Though he wore down Balor, this didn’t really hit a slow spot. They kept the pace moving rather nicely. Balor was back to his old babyface days of working from under and bringing fire. He does it well, so that made this click. Priest was more aggressive than usual, even hitting a Razor’s Edge onto the apron. Priest cut off the Coup de Grace with an avalanche Chokeslam but was too hurt to cover instantly. He went for a Razor’s Edge onto steel steps but Finn got free and knocked him onto the steps, which was a vicious looking bump. The Coup de Grace inside finished it after 13:08. The breakout match Priest has needed for a while. He looked great here and they had a match with some non-stop action and impressive violence. [****]

82. Chris Jericho vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 Night Two

This was one of the earliest looks at a possible partnership between NJPW and AEW. Had Tanahashi won, he would’ve earned a shot at the AEW Title. Jericho came out wearing it but “Judas” was dubbed. Most of this match felt like the rest of Jericho’s run in New Japan. It was a brawl worked at a methodical pace. I’m not saying that like it’s a bad thing, by the way. They lifted the DDT on the announce table spot from the Naito match and Tanahashi sold it like a champ. Tanahashi is a great opponent for Jericho because he can work at his slow pace. Guys like Okada and Naito get going when things are quickened but Tana is a master who can do it all. The pacing here was key, as Tanahashi seemed to lay it out expertly so the big spots came at the right moment. He really is the Ace. The tension down the stretch with the Boston crab stuff worked well. Jericho turned one into the Liontamer to win in 22:24. I thought this was great and just what I wanted from them. Two of the best to ever do it just had a smart match that told a good story. [****]

81. NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship: BUSHI, EVIL & Shingo Takagi [c] vs. Hirooki Goto, Robbie Eagles & Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW Road to the New Beginning 2/6/20

Every year, the “Road to” shows in NJPW go overlooked. That’s understandable as they aren’t major events and mostly feature rematches. That being said, there’s usually a gem or two to be found in some of them. This edition of the Road to The New Beginning delivered just that with a NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Title bout. Those championships shine on these shows. What made this work so well is that you had a very good group from Los Ingobernables de Japon against three strong CHAOS members. Robbie Eagles is wildly underrated and made for a great addition here. The match was built around continuing the EVIL/Ishii and Goto/Shingo rivalries, as well as the one that blossomed between BUSHI and Eagles. In the build, Eagles kept beating him but here, BUSHI bested him with MX after 21:44. Tremendous action and paced out incredibly well. [****]