Listen, its the end of the year. You have seen a million of these lists and you will see a million more. Why read this one? I think you’ll see some matches you will not expect to see on this list given the general consensus. When looking back, the matches that stick out most for me are not the best work-rate or the limb work. I think of the matches I had the most fun watching in the moment. People take these lists very seriously, looking at the little details. No, forget that. What are the matches that create that fist-pumping adrenaline rush? Here are the ones that stuck out for me this year:
5. WrestleMania Night 1- Men’s Tag Team Showcase Match
“What,” You might ask, but please, for your sake and mine, go watch this again. I watched this in a room full of friends that don’t watch wrestling, but all come together for PLE’s once a month. If this could get an entire room of early-20s college kids to lose their minds (which it did just that), I think it hit the mark. This was a perfect Mania undercard match. A PWG-esque sprint with Braun Strowman is not something you’d ever expect, but it was perfect. Don’t even get me started on that shooting-star-press from Ricochet. Mind-blowing moves, fun characters, and a hot crowd; This match had it all.
4. AEW Dynamite- 6/14/23: MJF vs. Adam Cole
I don’t know why, but I have probably rewatched this match more times than any other match this year. This shouldn’t have worked as well as it did. Adam Cole was just coming off of a dud with Chris Jericho. MJF was getting pelted with insults as not being up to par with previous champions. The match went 30 minutes and people were begging Cole to stop doing his overly long NXT main events.
This was anything but that. Adam Cole was surprisingly conservative in this match and sold better than I had ever seen him sell. The crowd was hot and the work was crisp. What else could you ask for? I’m not typically into a long, slow-build style match, but this was paced incredibly. This was the first time in a while that a Dynamite main-event felt like a true “main-event”. Both men wrestled this like veterans and took their time in creating a match that will go under the radar for most people given their Wembley match. “5 more minutes” still rings in my head as I type this.
3. WWE Elimination Chamber- Roman Reigns vs. Sami Zayn
Again, this is probably a biased inclusion given my watching experience with a bunch of friends, but it felt like everyone in that room and everyone in the world was rooting for Sami this night. In an era where wrestling fans can never agree, it felt like everyone came together to support Zayn on his climb to the mountain-top.
Unfortunately, the result did not go his way, but he put in a babyface performance for the ages. A lot of people would call this boring, but I argue that if Zayn won this would be remembered as an all-time great match. Another unexpected inclusion for me given its slower pace, but I have never rooted harder for a babyface despite knowing they had no chance of winning. Zayn had a career performance (one of many), but without Roman this story would not have been as impactful. Not many people are going to talk about this one, but the atmosphere for this match is one I will never forget.
2. AEW Dynamite- 4/22/23: Kenny Omega vs. El Hijo Del Vikingo
This style will not be for everyone, but it sure was for me. Fast paced action, insane high-flying, and brutal looking strikes made this match one of my favorites of this year. While watching, I felt like I was seeing wrestling evolve in front of my eyes. Many fans prefer a more realistic, grounded approach to wrestling, but I ask: “Why not just watch MMA?”.
Vikingo is a comic book hero come to life and did some things I couldn’t even believe were possible. The 630 through the table caused me to make sounds I don’t think I could recreate if I tried. This was an incredible sprint that had restored my faith in the future of luchadores in American wrestling. Kenny was no slouch, either, playing a great bully-type heel adding some much needed structure to this match. This was the perfect introduction of Vikingo to American audiences and I couldn’t have asked for anything else.
1. AEW Full Gear: Swerve Strickland vs “Hangman” Adam Page
I’m not even a huge fan of hardcore wrestling, but this match did something to me. I turned into a primal version of myself during the course of this match. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this feeling before so its pretty hard to describe but it must have been how the Romans felt in that coliseum. I wanted Swerve to win going into this show, but the moment Hangman brought the staple gun out something changed.
I had to look away when he tried to staple his child’s drawing to Swerves cheek only to look back and see he failed and simply began stapling it to his other cheek. This was the moment my caveman brain kicked in. I wanted blood. I wanted Hangman to get revenge. Then Page drank Swerves blood. Oh *my god*. I turned to my partner and said “Yep that’s the guy, right there”. This was the closest I have ever seen to a Horror villain get his comeuppance in a wrestling match and it was incredible. Its not even an exaggeration to say this as an all-time great pro wrestling match. *Chefs Kiss*