wrestling / Columns

The 411 Wrestling Year-End Awards (Part Nine) – The Best Matches of 2020

January 11, 2021 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Hangman Page Kenny Omega AEW Revolution

Welcome back to Part Nine of the 411 Wrestling Year-End Awards of 2020! The Year-End Awards have been out for a couple of years but they’re back, and here’s how they work. For the next couple of weeks, we will present our top choices for a particular topic relating to wrestling in 2020. All the writers here on 411 will have the ability to give us their Top 5 on said topic and the end, based on where all of the votes rank on people’s list, we will create an overall Top 5 list. It looks a little like this…

1st – 5
2nd – 4
3rd – 3
4th – 2
5th – 1

Once everyone’s had their say, we will tally the scores and get our overall top 5. Tonight we’re looking at the Best Weekly Show of the year. Let’s get right to it…

Before we hop directly into the voting, 411’s Andy Perez has a new video in which he looks at the best matches of 2020, which includes special guests Blake Lovell, Steve Cook, and Andrew Thompson of POST Wrestling. Steve also provided a written top five which is below, and I have included Blake and Andy’s lists in the calculations for the final results. You can check out the video to see their explanations for their picks:

Rob Stewart

5. Hangman Page & Kenny Omega vs. The Young Bucks (Revolution)
4. NXT North American Title Ladder Match (Takeover XXX)
3. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley (Hell In A Cell)
2. Io Shirai vs. Rhea Ripley (NXT TV)

1. The Amalgam Money In The Bank Ladder Match[es] – I just… give me this. We are unlikely to ever have a match like this again, with both the men’s and women’s matches occurring simultaneously. A lot of it was comedy, a lot of it had decent action. King Corbin tried to murder people and it was hand-waved away. I watched this match over and over more than any other in 2020 because it genuinely brought me such joy. It was dumb, chaotic fun. You might have hated it, but I was a fan. Too bad that the follow up in regards to the men’s match was SO BAD, and the women’s follow up did not result in any actual cash in attempts or teases. But I’ll always be able to rewatch this and smile.

Jeffrey Harris

5. Kenny Omega vs. Jon Moxley (AEW Dynamite – Winter Is Coming)
4. FTR vs. Young Bucks (AEW Full Gear 2020)
3. Jon Moxley vs. Minoru Suzuki (New Beginning in Osaka)
2. Kazuchika Okada vs. Kota Ibushi (Wrestle Kingdom 14 Night 1)

1. Kazuchika Okada vs. Testuya Naito (Wrestle Kingdom 14 Night 2) – These two always make magic when they get in the ring together. I think we finally got the finish here we really should’ve gotten two years earlier. Regardless, the match played out great, and it was special to see Naito finally get it done.

Steve Cook

5. Undertaker vs. AJ Styles (WrestleMania 36 Boneyard Match)
4. WALTER vs. Ilja Dragunov (NXT UK)
3. Kazuchika Okada vs. Kota Ibushi: NJPW WrestleKingdom 14 Day 1))
2. Kenny Omega & Hangman Page vs. Young Bucks (AEW Revolution)

1. Best Friends vs. Santana & Ortiz (Parking Lot Brawl) – A lot of people opt for workrate when thinking of the best match of the year, and a lot of my choices excel in that area. The most important factor to me is the story told, and there wasn’t a better story in 2020 than that of Chuck Taylor & Trent defending the honor of Trent’s mom in a Parking Lot Brawl. Those four guys went balls to the wall in a uinique environment with action that we aren’t accustomed to seeing on television these days. It felt more like a Tournament of Death match than a TV main event. Some people frown on such things, me, I love them. With proper context, which this match had. For my money, there isn’t a better way to end a wrestling show than Trent’s mom flipping the camera off as she drives into the night.

Len Archibald

5. Team Candice vs. Team Shotzi (NXT Takeover War Games)
4. Will Opsreay vs. Hiromu Takahashi (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 Night 1)
3. Kota Ibushi vs. Kazuchika Okada (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 Night 1)
2. Kenny Omega & Hangman Page Vs. The Young Bucks (AEW Revolution)

1. 1- WALTER vs. Ilja Dragunov (NXT UK 10/29) – I imagine that if someone actually decided to conceptualize Alien vs. Predator as a WWE match, the end result would be the deliciously violent WWE UK Title match that pitted the absolute dominant champion WALTER (then at a stupid impressive 571 day streak as champ) against the…well, the basically bastshit mad Ilja Dragunov who was the only one in NXT UK to hold a victory over said dominant champion at the time. Over the past few years, I have come to appreciate the nuances and violent tropes from the UK wrestling scene, but this match…frankly shocked the fuck out of me for how barbaric it was. Every action had a sense of urgency from the immediacy of Dragunov attacking WALTER right from the bell to the number of ways he had to fight out of a frightening sequence where the imposing champ is devising new ways of putting Dragunov to sleep (How WALTER has been built up as WWE’s Michael Myers is impressive). In this new weird world we’re sharing, things were still feeling a little sanitized in the professional wrestling world, but this empty-ish arena war forced us to hear every painful grunt and every blood-soaked chop and brought the rawness back to wrestling we had not seen since we had crowds back at the beginning of the year. This was fist pumping, non-stop violence – the closest thing we’ll ever get to George Miller directing a wrestling match (after the Firefly Inferno Match, I suppose…) and a great catharsis for the collective shit we as a planet have all been experiencing.

Jake Chambers

5. GHC Title Match: Go Shiozaki vs. Takeshi Sugiura (NOAH – December)
4. NXT UK Title Match: WALTER vs. Ilya Dragunov (NXT TV)
3. WALTER & Alexander Wolfe vs. Ilya Dragunov & Pete Dunne (NXT TV)
2. Tyler Bate vs. Jordan Devlin (NXT UK Takeover Blackpool II)

1. The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever: Randy Orton vs. Edge (WWE Backlash) – Two things I love about pro-wrestling: long matches and ambition, and those two factors pretty much sum up this fantastic epic. When a match is given 45 minutes, in a PPV main event spot, with wrestlers of this caliber and standing, it’s a rare WWE guarantee of in-ring move-based storytelling instead of the illogical flows, spotty selling and finisher-spamming we normally get. In a longer paced match, Orton writes the headlock as a clear story beat that pays off in the effects of superplex later in the match. These are pro-wrestling standards that anyone reading this already understands, but what we should appreciate is how expertly Edge and Orton made these simple things matter compared to what we usually see on a typical PPV, RAW or Smackdown 20-minute main event.

And then when you’re hitting the 40-minute mark of a match this long, where every move and punishment has been earned, the finisher kick-outs have a weight that more clearly link to the elimination game of a sports narrative these late match theatrics should be patterned after. Someone is going to lose. And after all the work that’s been put in, that’s going to suck.

As far as the subtitle of the match, I loved it. I mean, a “Street Fight” isn’t anything like you’d see on a street, a “Pure Wrestling” match isn’t like collegiate-style hooking, and even a “Ladder Match” can’t qualify as such since no one ever climbs a ladder in that frustratingly slow way. Calling this the “Greatest Match Ever” before it even happened made for an interesting watch because you knew they were attempting to do something excellent at the least or the greatest ever at best. Opinions on the outcome may vary, but for me it was the best experience I had watching a professional wrestling match in 2020.

Ian Hamilton

5. Lee Moriarty vs. Daniel Makabe (SUP – 10/9)
4. El Desperado vs. Hiromu Takahashi (New Japan – 12/11)
3. Will Ospreay vs. Hiromu Takahashi (New Japan – 1/4)
2. Kota Ibushi vs. Kazuchika Okada (New Japan – 1/4)

1. Mike Bailey vs. Bandido (wXw – 3/7)

Kevin Pantoja

5. Ilja Dragunov vs. WALTER (NXT UK 10/29)
4. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito (NJPW G1 Climax)
3. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks (WWE Hell in a Cell)
2. El Desperado vs. Hiromu Takahashi (NJPW BOSJ Finals)

1. Finn Bálor vs. Kyle O’Reilly (NXT TakeOver 31) – Okay, so maybe this isn’t the exact order that you’ll see on my Top 100 Matches of 2020 list because I didn’t want to give that away. Regardless, the MOTY is a toss-up. In fact, this was the first year since 2012 that I didn’t give any match the perfect ***** rating. Anyway, I went with Finn Bálor vs. Kyle O’Reilly because I do cover NXT for 411Mania and it’s a great choice. This was incredibly hard hitting, with both men leaving with injuries due to the intensity of the fight. Finn retained the title, while Kyle proved that he could be a major player as a singles guy in NXT.

Jeremy Thomas

5. Kazuchika Okada vs. Testuya Naito (NJPW WrestleKingdom 14 Night 2)
4. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley (WWE Hell in a Cell)
3. Hangman Page & Kenny Omega vs. Young Bucks (AEW Revolution)
2. Kazuchika Okada vs. Kota Ibushi (NJPW WrestleKingdom 14 Night 1)

1. WALTER vs. Ilja Dragunov (NXT UK 10/29) – I enjoy NXT UK, but it’s not a show that I catch on an incredibly regular basis just because I don’t have time in the week. WALTER vs. Dragunov was a match I made absolute sure to check out because…well, because it’s WALTER vs. Ilja Dragunov. And I was not disappointed. There was a lot of hype for this match, but man did these two deliver in a big way. WALTER has been built up as NXT UK’s unstoppable monster in a way that arguably even Brock Lesnar doesn’t match, at least in terms of their positions on their respective rosters. And he and Dragunov just beat the holy hell out of each other in one of the few matches that has actually been enhanced by the empty arena setting. I didn’t expect this to be atop my list of the best matches of 2020 before I saw it, but once it was done it was there with a bullet and nothing was able to knock it out of the pole position.

AND 411’s TOP 5 Matches of 2020 ARE…

T-4. Kazuchika Okada vs. Testuya Naito (Wrestle Kingdom 14 Night 2)8 points

T-4. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley (WWE Hell in a Cell)8 points

3. WALTER vs. Ilja Dragunov (NXT UK 10/29/20)15 points

2. Hangman Page & Kenny Omega vs. Young Bucks (AEW Revolution)21 points

1. Kazuchika Okada vs. Kota Ibushi (Wrestle Kingdom 14 Night 1)23 points