(by PHIL RIPPA)
This update is all about the year that just closed – 2015. If you are still complaining that wrestling doesn’t entertain you based on what you are seeing on Monday nights than wrestling really isn’t for you any more since there is plenty of wrestling out there that happened this year that is worth your eyeballs. (Including stuff from the E.)
My “rules” for these picks (to go along with the normal guidelines I use)
- I selected 5 matches from each month (so 60 total for those of you bad at math). This doesn’t mean that when this is all said and done more matches from 2015 won’t make the 1001. (Partly because I haven’t seen everything yet.) I just needed a gimmick.
- I really would have preferred to pick only things online but between New Japan, Sky TV and the US Indies desire to generate DVD sales that is virtually impossible (I mean I WOULD watch a list of just 60 lucha matches but I know you wouldn’t). Everything can be purchased (or found) somehow. Maybe make some friends to lend you log-ins/DVDs. I only linked to Youtube or Dailymotion.
- Notice that I have not used the word “best” so far. This is not to be taken as a “Best Of” list for this year. Especially when you want to scream at me that 209 New Japan matches should be on it.
- Everything SHOULD be in chronological order. I used (whenever possible) the taping date instead of the air date. Of course – that kinda dicked me over in a few months when matches happened two months earlier than they actually aired.
- Please wait till all 4 parts are up to scream about what matches I didn’t pick. I was very intentional in trying to provide a variety of matches (if not in style than at least from the promotions presented.)
No I didn’t pick Styles/Okada. Deal with it.
141) KUSHIDA VS. KENNY OMEGA – NEW JAPAN (July 5, 2015 – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title)
I was really shocked how much I enjoyed this (and obviously I liked it more than Styles/Okada from the same show.) Maybe 2015 truly was the year of KUSHIDA not irritating the shit out of me. And Kenny Omega SO isn’t my cup of tea but he is really fucking perfect in his role. I also develop a nervous tick when I see the Young Bucks (or the Bullet Club as a whole) but they were just there. The video of KUSHIDA basically recreating his childhood as he always dreamed of being the champ is aces. Plus there is whole thing of someone needing to stop Omega’s dickish reign of terror. I will never be as high on the match as others since we do get a little too deeply into… well a typical New Japan Jrs. match but y’all can watch it an call me a fool. It is probably a good idea to get familiar with Omega before his mega 2016 push takes off.
“There’s something so endearing about seeing Kushida (all grown up) sitting on the floor of his child hood bedroom. Flashing cuts of video of him as a child practicing wrestling moves on a DIY wrestle buddy, flipping and diving onto make shift crash pads. I’m not exactly sure how he manages to pull off a Marty McFly-time traveler gimmick, but they play it perfectly. This sentimentality is quickly “cleaned up” and replaced with the sleaze and grime of Kenny Omega. This match was good vs. evil in its most simple form.” – Blake Goodman
142) ZACH SABRE JR. VS. RODERICK STRONG – EVOLVE (July 10, 2015)
Here is a match between two guys that a lot of the IWC said were wrestlers of the year. I REALLY don’t like Strong so his once every decade goodness took me a long time to get behind. I can get behind two guys rocking it on the mat though.
“This is one of the rare matches from the independent scene in the last few years that makes me think there can be still be greatness to be had with the “long, indie dream match” formula. They worked an extended match that combined compelling storytelling, a great pace, and fantastic action. A lot of matches have tried to do that formula in the past five years or so and artistically fell short (if not failed altogether). This one succeeded on all levels.” – TJ Hawke
143) ULTIMO GUERRERO VS. REY ESCORPION – CMLL (July 17, 2015 – Hair Match)
For the “I don’t get lucha crowd” – this is two guys in a match where the loser has their head shaved so they punch each other in the face to keep. So there. Plus you get blood and high flying and the world’s biggest Rey Escorpion fan running around. I don’t deserve you lucha.
“The opening was fucking bonkers with both guys unloading with over hand slaps, with Rey Escorpion slipping in a straight right hand, he then delivers some nasty stomps in the corner, finally leading to them trading shoot punches right into each others face. It looked like Hashimoto v. Ogawa or something, and UG comes up with a bloody and swollen nose, his facial damage kind of served the same dramatic purpose as a blade job, adding some pop and pizzazz to the match. The work itself was really great, with UG breaking out a bunch of cool dives, including a stage dive style plancha off the top rope to the floor, and off the apron, and Escorpion laying in some cool powerbombs.” – Phil Schneider
“For all of the times you’ve seen lucha camerawork take away from a moment, the up close shots of these punches really added to things. Cameras don’t get this close even in UFC. This is a fight, filmed like pro wrestling. UG added his jumping hip attack a year ago and here he threw out several variations of it, crashing into Escorpion off the rampway, apron, into the crowd, off the top rope. All of that early drama really marked it, really said that “this match is a big deal” and it hooked me the whole way through. Love these guys.” – Eric Ritz
144) SATANICO VS. BLUE PANTHER – CARA LUCHA (July 25, 2015)
I acknowledge that I might be the only person who wants to see this but it is Blue Panther and Satanico putting on a fucking clinic in the year of our Lord 2015. Fuck everything else.
145) KAMUI VS. DAISUKE MASAOKA – FREEDOMS (July 29, 2015 – Street Fight Death Match)
At one point Dean called this the Garbage Match of the Year. I think he is a boob. Watch and decide. (You definitely want to see the end.)
“I love this match. I forced my two sons to watch it and they liked it- and they haven’t been impressed by anything since I showed them the Onita exploding barbed wire matches a few months back… So I forced them to watch the end of this and they were stoked as any boy would be when seeing people doing really stupid things in dangerous situations. SO I share this with you, fellow lover of Japanese people doing hilariously psychotic acts of violence in postmodern industrial approximations of the apocalypse.” – DEAN
Man oh man was August an amazing month of wrestling. There were probably 15 matches I could have picked and I didn’t even factor in BOLA.
146) CRAZY STAR/ FELINA METALIKA vs LUDARK SHAITAN/ KEIRA – CARALUCHA PROMOTIONS (8/6/2015)
“Another wrestler I follow is Ludark Shaitan who was trained by Silver King and who actually has a Cagematch profile. I fucking LOVE it when one of her matches show up on my YouTube feed because she is a lot like HASEGAWA in that she will wrestle fucking ANYWHERE. The upside is that sketchier places in Japan are kind of like Big Lots parking lots and county fairs. Sketchy places in Mexico are sketchy places in FUCKING MEXICO so it’s truly awesome… The bear mauling of the poor technicas continues and you don’t dig this- really.- go fuck yourself. AT EXACTLY 12:00 IS THE PINNACLE OF LUCHA LIBRE IN 2015! Holy shit, do I love this… SOOOOOOO MOTHERFUCKING GREAT. 8 ZILLION STARS” – DEAN
147) TOMOAKI HONMA vs TOMOHIRO ISHII – NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING (8/12/2015)
Yup – out of all the Honma/Ishii matches this is the one I picked. There are times wrestling gets things right. This is one of those times.
“One wonders why still tries after missing 85% of the time. WHY! HE NEVERS WINS BECAUSE HE NEVER HITS THAT AND THAT IS THE BEGNNING OF HIS DOWNFALL EVERY TIME HE LOSES! Then he misses a headbutt to the corner and so Ishii pelts him with elbows and a Stiffest Lariat of 2015… Honma then channels the entire offense of Koshinaka but places his ass on his shoulders! The headbutt running off the ropes! The butt-butt but with his head there instead of his butt! The total Iceman King Parson’s Cocoa Butt but with his head there instead his head! Wait…Total Iceman King Parsons Cocoa Butt! AND THEN….. Honma actually hits the fuckin toprope HEADBUTT! HOLY SHIT! HONMA WINS A MATCH OVER ISHII! Honma is now the finest Guy Who Will Put Over The Guy Who Is Being Pushed! The crowd goes totally apeshit for the Honma win. He goes total Onita postmatch and the crowd backs his play 100%. Children want his wrist tape! What a moment!” – DEAN
“Have you ever latched onto a lovable loser knowing full well you probably shouldn’t? Honma will never win the big one is something we would tell ourselves to deal with his inevitable failure. Why would anyone think he could pick up a victory in the 2015 version? Enter Korakuen Hall. Enter Stone Pitbull. Enter Kokeshi=Happiness. What unfolds is two men brutalizing each other with a conclusion even the most cynical of wrestling fans could love. It might not be a title win but for a perennial underdog, it’s the best thing ever.” –Rob Barry (@RobsBrutalWorld)
148) TREVOR LEE VS. BRAD ATTITUDE – CWF MID-ATLANTIC (August 19, 2015)
Is it possible to be the breakout star of the year and still have no one know who you are? I feel that is where we are at with Trevor Lee as he is tremendous but he has the habit of working in the places that 100 people watch. CWF Mid-Atlantic. PWG. Jarrett’s stupid fed. TNA. For the record – this is my indy match of the year. Two guys doing their thing in a building that was clearly 2000 degrees (they work in water breaks in something that needs to be done in every match) and they work a match where two friends slowly get more and more frustrated with each other (the ability to hear the little quips they hurl at each other as the friendship goes out the window is #1 and the best.) There is no reason to not be watching CWF Worldwide as it is clearly the best indy TV show going right now (or at least until I remember another show). This would be the type of match we would have driving to North Carolina for. Sorry if you hate it because it doesn’t have 97 superkicks and Kevin Kelly screeching. Seriously – if I did a ballot this match and the next would have been 2 and 1.
149) BAYLEY VS. SASHA BANKS – NXT TAKEOVER: BROOKLYN (8/22/15 – NXT Women’s Title Match)
I can’t talk about this match rationally. I think that is known by this point. It is pretty much my 2nd favorite match ever and clearly my favorite match in the last 30 years. I picked this one over the Iron Man Match because without this match there is no Iron Man Match. If you watch a single match from this entire project – make it this one.
“While the so-called Divas Revolution may be failing to connect with WWE audiences, down in NXT, Bayley and Sasha Banks showed exactly why expectations are so high. These two wrestlers had me emotionally invested in a WWE match, thanks to their a straight-forward, character driven build up, and both girls delivered an exciting, dramatic match that left me highly entertained. With Bayley oozing sympathy as the ultra-underdog and as Banks played her role as bully antagonist to perfection, this match had me glued to the screen, something many WWE feuds/matches have failed to do in recent times and it gives me hope that this kind of entertainment will eventually transfer into the Main Rosters Diva Division.” – Joey O’Doherty (@AwesomeoJoe)
“In Sasha Banks and Bayley’s title match in New York, all three delivered in a big way. I felt like I knew and understood both characters. Their conflict had been presented in a concise, logical way which allowed me to become invested in it (those two elements, in fact, worked so well that I could even argue in favor of each woman’s view of things, and defend their actions and choices). And they delivered an awesome fake fight…one that told a physical version of their tale, but also enhanced it, that displayed some cool big spots and nifty little touches.” – Sean Rueter
150) CANIS LUPUS/DR WAGNER JR/PAGANO VS. TRAUMA I & II/L.A. PARK – IWRG (August 23, 2015)
So Dean wrote on the board “Just got around to watching this. 8 minutes in and it is on the way to being my match of the year. I shall review this Monday!” and then promptly never reviewed. Did it become his MOTY? MYSTERY~! (I mean it’s IWRG and it’s got Park and the Traumas so I am going to watch it every day of the week and twice on Sundays. How about you?)
As good August was, September was just a weak. It took a bit of work to pick 5 matches. Granted part of this was my own rules working against me.
151) SETH ROLLINS VS. ROMAN REIGNS – WWE HOUSE SHOW (Sept. 11, 2015 – Double Titles Match from somewhere in Canada)
Fancams are starting to make their glorious return and I felt that they should be rewarded somewhere from the year. In this case it is Reigns and Rollins – who both suck. The internet said so – having a dandy Street Fight (well a WWE version of a street fight) in front of the fine folks up North. They both bump like absolute freaks for really no particular reason. Rollins does the great heel gimmick of constantly shit talking on the house mic mid match. Since Rollins clearly is poopy and isn’t a good wrestler he does a whole bunch of things someone really shouldn’t be doing on a House show. Oh like the Phoenix Splash into the Superman punch. Or getting speared through a table. And of course – since it is a street fight – they can even continue their political hit on Reigns. Good times.
152) HUDSON ENVY VS. IO SHIRAI – STARDOM (Sept. 13, 2015)
This was part of Stardom’s 5 Star Grand Prix. This may or may not be the Finals of one of the blocks (The video says blue. Kevin says red. CATS AND DOGS ARE LIVING WITH EACH OTHER PEOPLE!) My match sucks. This match does not. Hudson Envy really was born in the wrong era and if this was 15 years ago I would have been yammering about Ivy the same way I yammer about Cheerleader Melissa. Kevin Wilson will tell you that Io is the best wrestler in Japan right now. I will back his play… if we are taking Meiko Satomura out of the equation. I enjoy it when people beat the hell out of each other for my entertainment. I don’t enjoy it when the camera doesn’t move to follow them. So I will warn you that there is a chunk of time when Envy and Io clearly go to Orange Julius or something and we are left to wonder. Everything else is awesome though.
“If you’re going to start checking out Hudson Envy, or Io Shirai for that matter, this is not a bad place to start. There are other really fun matches featuring both of them but this match is where you really get to see Hudson Envy raise her game up, so checking out her earlier stuff isn’t such a bad idea. Hudson has charisma, she has a great look and a great deal of talent complimented by athleticism that shines through in most of her matches…. It is a really good match. I already knew Io Shirai was good, so thi match basically put Huson Envy on my “Must Watch” list for the future.” – James Harris
153) ATLANTIS VS. LA SOMBRA – CMLL (Sept. 18, 2015 – Mask vs. Mask)
When Sombra started working NXT shows (working under his really name of Manny Andrade) there was a lot of “I DON’T KNOW WHO THIS MANNY GUY IS BUT HE IS AWESOME!!!” from the special Florida snowflakes. Personally – I have these matches to remind me of these facts. Man – it is is easy to love so quality mask vs. mask action. This is so beyond easy to love it isn’t funny. Just imagine if CMLL actually could plan something more than like a month in advance. This would have made this list just for Sombra’s suit.
“Atlantis bumped like a madman and pulled out multiple highspots. Sombra was on a whole different level than many of his peers not just in CMLL but the world. Beautifully timed near falls, brilliant submissions and the greatest pro wrestling crowd in 2015-no debate whatsoever. In a match with high stakes and barely any build these two modern masters had grown men, women and children visibly weep. Wrestling can be beautiful and art, Sombra and Atlantis proved it in one of the greatest apuesta matches of all time.”–Rob Barry (@RobsBrutalWorld)
“Lucha has always been a big blind spot for me, but I enjoyed this. You could feel the stakes here even more so than in other Mascara vs. Mascara matches I have seen.” – Chaos
154) MINORU SUZUKI VS. TAKASHI SUGIURA – NOAH (Sept. 19, 2015 – GHC Heavyweight Title)
This was sold on the board as “If you like two guys elbowing each other in the face, then this is the match for you.” You sirs, have my attention. It takes a little while to get going since it is obvious they are going for a bit. Or it could be that they were waiting for the press-on decal on Sugiura’s ass to fully dry. Again – most folks are ignoring NOAH these days but Minoru Suzuki continues to be a force of nature.
155) BIFF BUSICK VS. EDDIE EDWARDS – BEYOND WRESTLING (Sept. 26, 2015 – Greatest Rivals Round Robin Finals)
Beyond ran a show where Busick, Edwards, Drew Gulak and Timothy Thatcher worked a round robin. As you can imagine – there was a lot of quality work done that night. Factoring in the one match per rivals for this project – it was easy for me to skip pretty much every matchup until later. However – I singled out the Finals due it turning out to be Busick’s last match before going to NXT (so the ending is super emotional and shit) and it showcases Edwards minus his terrible tiny partner. And free range Edwards is SOOOOOO much better than what you normally see.