2016 Brass Ring Awards Day 5 (Top 25 Matches of the Year #10-1)

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Top 25 Matches of the Year (25-21) (20-11)

10. Dragon Gate Dead or Alive 2016

No Caption Provided

Wrestling Thread Rating: 5

Where to watch: The Internet

(written by @hadoken101)

Dead or Alive is Dragon Gate’s yearly event where 6 competitors compete in an elimination cage match where the loser is shaved bald (or loses their mask if they have one) and will not be allowed to grow their hair back for a full year. Throughout the PPV leading up to the match, a series of matches determine who will be the Dead or Alive participants’ delegates who face similar punishment if their assigned wrestler loses the match without freeing them. Before someone can escape the cage and save themselves, they must first score a pinfall or submission to free their delegate. Beyond that, the delegates outside of the cage can do anything they want to ensure their man wins: firing soccer balls out of a pitching machine, pies to the face, rocket punches, anything is legal.

If that all sounded super confusing, welcome to Dragon Gate. And despite that all sounding completely wacky and silly, the back half of this match is actually one of the most emotionally investing stories I’ve seen all year.

This year’s competitors were 6/7 members of VerzerK (Mondai Ryu managed to get out by winning a match) the major heel faction in the company. In the months leading up to this match, tension had been building VerserK’s leader Shingo Takagi and YAMATO. This divide in the faction had split the faction with Naoki Tanizaki and Naruki Doi siding with YAMATO and Shingo being backed by Kotoka and Cyber Kong.

The first half of this match is fun with a mix of DG’s “LuchaResu” blend of Mexican and Japanese styles of wrestling along with the absurd and often hilarious interference from the delegates. However, once it gets down to Kotoka, Doi, Shingo, and YAMATO, the match takes a turn in tone.

At one point, YAMATO has a chance to escape but, seeing his long time tag partner Doi getting beat down by Shingo and Kotoka, decides instead to climb back down and save his best friend. From there, things start to go downhill for him. Through the rest of the match, both Tanizaki and Doi turn on YAMATO, leaving him betrayed, without a faction, and on the verge of losing the match. In an equally shocking turn, members of the roster begin coming out to help YAMATO, including BxB Hulk returning from injury.

The post match promo from YAMATO brings it all together, with him swearing vengeance on his former best friend Doi and the rest of VerseK as well as delivering a tearful apology to the crowd and his three saviors for being the villain he was for the past three years, admitting he was wrong in calling himself the Almighty and that he really didn’t know anything. It’s one of the best and most well earned face turns I’ve seen in years and absolutely makes this one of the best matches of the year.

9. Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (NXT Takeover: Dallas)

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Wrestling Thread Rating: 4.96153846

Where to watch: WWE Network

(written by @milkman)

It would be hard to blame anyone for being nervous when the WWE signed Shinsuke Nakamura in January. The WWE’s track record with Japanese stars is poor, to say the least. It alleviated some of those fears to see Nakamura having his debut match against someone like Sami Zayn. It seemed appropriate that Zayn, who during his time at the brand was the face of NXT, would pass the torch to a new face in his final match. If there was any doubt that NXT would be good hands with Zayn gone, those doubts were dissipated by the end of the match. From the moment Nakamura’s music hits, the atmosphere in the arena is off the charts with the crowd absolutely losing their minds for both men before they even lock up. Nakamura’s charisma instantly shows that it will translate perfectly to the WWE style, a special gift that allows Nakamura to eliminate much of the same hurdles that were a death sentence for many Japanese wrestlers in the WWE in the past. Nakamura speaks the language of professional wrestling better than just about anyone in the world, which can easily break down any language barrier. Zayn, to his credit, has no problem looking like he belongs across the ring from one of the very best wrestlers in the world and matches him move for move. Zayn is never better than when he’s wrestling desperate as he does in the final minutes of this match, throwing everything he’s got at Nakamura to no avail. In the end, it’s Nakamura who gets the win and takes the throne at the top of NXT but Zayn had one more classic performance in him before he walked out that door.

8. Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito (NJPW Dominion)

Wrestling Thread Rating: 4.428571

Where to watch: NJPW World

(written by @drdarkstryfe)

Naito’s win over Okada at the Invasion Attack event was the exclamation point on Naito’s return to New Japan. With the title win over the golden boy of NJPW, Naito’s popularity soared as he become the top guy in a promotion that overlooked him time and time again. Okada was given his rematch at the Dominion event in June. Unlike the match in April, this showdown was not punctuated by constant interference by the rest of Naito’s Los Ingobernables stable mates, but was more personal fight.

The start of the match had Naito send back the rest of Los Ingobernables to the locker as Okada taunted Naito into a one on one battle. From the bell ring, it was a high impact match that saw the two trying to outdo the other with the fight spilling outside of the ring several time.

As the match wore on, the ever growing threat of interference was there, but it never came. Okada was able take advantage of Naito trying to hit a second Destino to reverse the momentum to a win.

7. Cedric Alexander vs. Kota Ibushi (CWC)

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Wrestling Thread Rating: 4.75

Where to watch: WWE Network

(written by @milkman)

Looking back, it’s a miracle that the Crusierweight Classic happened at all. There’s really no good reason why the WWE of old would bring in a bunch of indie wrestlers from around the world, let alone a bunch of indie wrestlers who are under 210 pounds. But 2016 was the year where wrestling stopped making sense so of course, the singles match of the year in WWE was between a slimmed down Cedric Alexander and an un-signed Kota Ibushi. Beyond the obviously great wrestling that takes place, what elevates the match to a cut above the other matches in the CWC is the real life stakes attached to it. Alexander gave up a Ring of Honor contract and dropped about 25 pounds in order to enter the CWC but entry into the tournament didn’t come with the guarantee of a contract after it was over. Alexander had two matches to earn a contract and justify walking away from guaranteed money from ROH. By the end of his match with Ibushi, he had Full Sail chanting “Please Sign Cedric”, a live co-sign from Triple H and soon after the CWC, a roster spot on Raw. Fair to say, he justified the risk. Up against the favorite to win the entire tournament, Alexander had the match of his life and elevated himself from another solid indie wrestler to one of the very best cruiserweights on the planet.

6. Kazuchika Okada vs. Tomohiro Ishii (NJPW G1 Climax Night 13)

Fire is the exact description for this match.
Fire is the exact description for this match.

Wrestling Thread Rating: 4.90909091

Where to watch: NJPW World 2:13:00

(written by @aronleon)

Before we begin there is one thing you should know about Tomohiro Ishii, even tho he looks like he doesnt care about anything and might have killed before the truth is he is the biggest bro in Chaos(the faction he and Okada are part of) you see every single time any member of Chaos was ambushed the only one that ever comes out to help is Ishii, when you need a helping hand you can count on him.

Knowing this you already made the an idea of how this match will go, it could be ok but your head is saying we all know who is winning this, that idea last for 48 seconds trust me I counted, then Ishii reminds you that HE DOES NOT FUCK AROUND after a very normal clean break Okada gets a lariat that almost takes his head off, on this night at this very moment Tomohiro Ishii is not fighting his pal and leader from Chaos, he is fighting the current IWGP Champion and has every intention to prove he is a worthy contender, after the initial shock Okada knows this will not be easy, both men go all out trading moves with so much intensity and ferocity you could swear they hated each, hearing the crowd loose their minds adds to this insane match, after what it feels like a damn war Ishii finally takes the victory and when you get Jushin Thunder Liger on his feat claping you know it was a special match, let this be a reminder that if you ever find yourself face to face with the Stone Pitbull he will BITE U.

5. Mount Rushmore vs Matt Sydal, Ricochet, & Will Ospreay (PWG BOLA Night 2)

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Wrestling Thread Rating: 5

Where to watch: BOLA Night 2 DVD

(written by @hadoken101)

Many times The Young Bucks have been asked how they would describe their flavor of wrestling and every time the answer is the same: they want to go out there and create a party atmosphere, giving the audience the chance have as much fun as they are having in the ring. This mentality has created a very divisive split amongst wrestling fans with some preferring a more classic realistic style. This progressed to wrestlers like the Bucks, Ricochet, and Ospreay coming under fire recently from veterans of the business saying that they’re ruining wrestling by making it seem “fake”. The main event of BOLA Night 2 was a culmination of all of this and one giant middle finger to wrestling traditionalists.

After first watching the match, the best way I could describe it was as the Mad Max: Fury Road of professional wrestling; it’s got a barely-there story to tie together the magnificent, mind-blowing action. The Young Bucks & Adam Cole as Mount Rushmore have been together since 2013 as the primary heel force in the company and this match was yet another chance to take them down a peg. Beyond that, this match is simply a series of sequences that are almost impossible to believe you’re seeing performed live, and the crowd loves absolutely every second of it.

Besides one noticeable botch early on (that is covered up and hand waved impressively well with some quick thinking), everything in the match is spectacular. These guys (Ospreay, Ricochet, and the Bucks in particular), have absolutely mastered their high energy style and they display their creativity in full force here. I could easily just sit here and name off cool moments from the match but I’d be here for at least a page and a half. From when Ricochet had me feeling like a child believing in superheroes again when he pulled out an insane 1v3 series that looked like it could have come out of The Raid, to the absolutely unreal finishing sequence that had the whole room on their feet screaming, the whole experience was a full on adrenaline rush.

Special shout out to Chuck Taylor and Excalibur on commentary for simultaneously making jokes about the people in the match like MST3K and absolutely losing their minds when the crazy stuff started happening. The levity they brought in the commentary perfectly set up the feeling of watching crazy dumb action movies with your friends.

4. Will Opsreay vs Ricochet (NJPW Battle of the Super Juniors Day 6)

Wrestling Thread Rating: 5

Where to watch: NJPW World 2:09:00

(written by @ht101)

As we move into the fourth best match of the year, I wanted to write about this one specifically for a couple of reasons. The first is that this was one of the first matches that introduced me to New Japan Pro Wrestling. In my life, I have only watched WWE and Lucha Underground(LU), with a little bit of mid 2000s TNA from time to time. Because of this, I was ignorant of wrestling that took place around the world. I knew it existed but I had no way to search it out so I left it alone. This year, I started to watch wrestling with other like minded people here on Giant Bomb and they opened my eyes and my mind to wrestling around the world. This brings us to the match.

To set the stage, let’s talk about the two people involved in this match. Ricochet is a wrestler I was familiar with because he is also Prince Puma in LU. I have loved watching him the past two seasons and feel his is one of the best wrestlers in the world. The other man, Will Ospreay, is someone I had never heard of before this year but I would see a lot of him as the year went on.

They start off reversing and countering each other for a good 4 minutes or so and this builds to the most insane reversal/counter/show off sequence of the year. This is what got people talking about this match and it was amazing enough that I had to search this match out for myself. I can’t really describe how it was, so here is a video of that sequence:

After that sequence, they start trading off moves that are slowing beginning to grow in both impact and look. You realize that they are going to try and oneup each other and continue to go for bigger and bigger moves. The other thing that leads to this being an amazing match is that the crowd chants during the match. Crowds in Japan are normally some of the most polite fans in all of wrestling. When a crowd that is normally quiet with some polite clapping and cheering reacts like this, you know that you are watching a seminal match from that year.

The match comes to an end after Ricochet goes for his 630 Splash but misses. Before this, there are two different times he hits a suplex and then deadlifts Ospreay for another suplex. After the miss, Ospreay then took over and finally beat him. Ospreay also went on to win this tournament so this match was one of his toughest contests on his way to the trophy.

The biggest thing to come out of this match was the controversy of some people, most notably Vader, came out and said this was not a wrestling match. They likened it to more of a gymnastic match and that it had too much “flippy shit” in it. The other thing brought up was that there was no story told during the match. Those people, I believe, are wrong and here is why: these guys played to their strength to help tell the story. They are super athletic and decided to use that in order to tell the story: two men who are super athletic and confident in their abilities to help them win the match. They decided they had to show they were the best and this was by doing crazy move upon crazier move until they either won or messed up. Ricochet messed up first and Ospreay won because of it. This was not the way stories are normally told in wrestling but it was how THIS story had to be told.

3. DIY vs The Revival NXT Takeover: Toronto

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Wrestling Thread Rating: 4.70588235

Where to watch: WWE Network

(written by @gorillamopena)

After failing to capture the NXT tag titles #DIY and their Do It Yourself #brand were given one last shot (or at least as much as anything in wrestling is) at the Revival’s tag team championships at NXT Takeover: Toronto in a ⅔ falls match.

The first fall of the match ends with Dawson catching Gargano out of a slingshot spear for the Shatter Machine. A display that despite all the underhanded tactics that the Revival uses, that they can also prove that they can be just a better unit than any other team.

The second fall is the struggle of Gargano desperately trying to tag out of the match and the Revival pulling every single trick they have to prevent him. Including one sequence where Dawson cuts between Gargano and Ciampa, Garano fights off both members of the Revival, only to have Wilder scramble underneath the ring to hold Ciampa. And even when Gargano fights off the Revival one more time to finally make the tag, Wilder is able to distract the ref so he doesn’t see it. The entire gorgeous sequence ends with with the Revival, wearing their pink and black ring gear in Canada, delivering a Hart Attack to Gargano for a near fall. One of the better sequences of the year where all the participants, including the ref, just flowed freely from spot to stop to chain together the sequence.

The final fall for the most part is a throwback to the #DIY vs Revival match from NXT Takover: Brooklyn II where Gargano attempts to survive on a damaged leg after kicking the title held up by Dawson. Surviving that and a chop block to his other leg, #DIY was able to get over the hurdle that ended them at NXT Takeover Brooklyn II. And send with Gargano and Ciampa locking submissions on both Revival members as the Revival hold hands trying to come up with anything else to save their titles before ultimately tapping out at the same time.

All three falls of this match told their own small story within the grander tale of this feud. The entire match, but especially the second fall, had an pace and spots that all build on to top of each other. The match propelled #DIY and their #brand to the top of the NXT tag division while also showing that Revival are the true top guys in wrestling.

2. Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (NJPW G1 Climax Night 17)

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Wrestling Thread Rating: 5

Where to watch: NJPW World

(written by @aronleon)

By this point the G1 tournament has had some of the best matches in the whole year but you might be wondering how is the same match twice on this list, well im glad you asked this match has been descrived as the perfect match not only for the in ring quality but the way it was handle, a lot is riding on this match who ever wins takes A Block and goes on the to finals, its also a very anticipated rematch from WK and finally who ever wins this match will prove if their first match at the start of the year was fluke or not.

Unlike the championship match this has a 30 minute time limit that makes things go faster than usual both men know they dont have much time to waste and they need to use every second, once the match start they each pic a spot to work as much damage as posible to take the victory, Tanahashi recently healed shoulder and Okada´s leg will take a lot of punishment before this is over. For most of this match it feels the match is very even and could end at any point but once we start to get near the end the tide turns in Tanahashi´s favor however Okada is not going down just when you think a second High Fly Flow might end it Okada kicks out and its then that the bell rings signaling the end of the match in the end neither was able to put the other one down making Hirooki Goto the winner of A Block.

In any other circustance this ending could have been a disapointment but the story of how both men gave their all and how a single 30 minute match is not enough for this 2 feels earned and thats how this match became the only other 5 star rated match to feature the same wrestlers on the same year a testament on how important in ring storytelling can be and how its our number 2 match of 2016.

1. Kenny Omega vs. Tetsuya Naito (G1 Climax Night 18)

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Wrestling Thread Rating: 5

Where to watch: NJPW World

(written by @turboman)

At the beginning of 2016, the big news of AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura leaving NJPW for WWE came out of nowhere. All of the sudden, there was two spots vacant in the top four promoted wrestlers in the company (often referred to as the “Aces” of New Japan). Tetsuya Naito was going to be the first guy who was picked to fill a spot, already coming off of an extremely successful 2015(We gave him the “Most Improved” award last year). It seemed pretty easy to use that momentum and turn him into one of the permanent fixtures of the main event scene by the end of Spring this year.

The second person was going to be Kenny Omega (who turned out to be our favorite Wrestler of the Year). Omega solidified himself later in the year as a current day Ace of the company by winning the G1 Climax in a finals match against Hiroki Goto (which ended up being our #15 match of the year). Before Kenny Omega gets Goto, he has to defeat Tetsuya Naito in the semi-finals.

The crowd is immediately on fire for this fresh matchup. It’s somewhat obvious that whoever is going to win this match is most likely also going to win the finals as well over Hiroki Goto and the crowd knows it. The early parts of the match has Naito attacking Omega’s knee. There are glimpses of Omega comebacks, but Naito continuously cuts him off with a knee strike and contains Omega for the opening 15 minutes. And then Omega finds a way to hit a desperation combination of moves together to turn the momentum: a powerbomb through the announcers table followed by an incredible springboard flip from the ring to outside the guard rails.

After this moment, the lid really comes off and both guys just go back and forth. It’s really incredible to watch two wrestlers look so natural in the ring. One of the key things to note is that the night before Tanahashi and Okada went to a 30 minute draw which eliminated both of them, so the possibility of a draw was really present in the match and added another layer of excitement. The match did end at 28 minutes with Kenny Omega coming away as the victor. This was the first out of hopefully many that we’ll see out of Omega and Naito, and it paved the way for the first ever matchup of Kenny Omega and the current top Ace of the company, Kazuchika Okada.

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2016 Brass Ring Awards Day 4 (Top 25 Matches of the Year #20-11)

Credit goes to @papercut for the Brass Ring design
Credit goes to @papercut for the Brass Ring design

Day 1

Wrestling Thread Moment of the Year™: Matt Hardy fucking up Jeff Hardy's yard

Best Weekly Show: Cruiserweight Classic (WWE)

Show of the Year: Battle of Los Angeles Night 2 (PWG)

Breakout / Rookie of the Year - Jeff Cobb / Matanza Cueto

Day 2

Most Improved: Matt Hardy

Best Tag Team: The Revival

Worst Match: Shelly Martinez vs. Rebel

Biggest News: Daniel Bryan's Retirement

Day 3

Wrestler of the Year (Male) - Kenny Omega

Wrestler of the Year (Female) - Asuka

Top 25 Matches of the Year

25. Trent? vs. Chuck Taylor (PWG Thirteen)

24. Sexy Star vs. Mariposa - No Mas! (Lucha Underground)

23. Kyle O'Reilly vs. KUSHIDA (NJPW Battle of Super Juniors Day 1)

22. Team Liger vs. Team Ciampa (PWG BOLA Night 3)

21. Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens (WWE Battleground)

20. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Naomichi Marufuji (NJPW G1 Climax: Day 13)

No Caption Provided

Wrestling Thread Rating: 4.7272727273

Where to watch: NJPW World (2:38:00)

(written by @drdarkstryfe)

Let’s get this out of the way first. This year’s NJPW’s G1 Climax event was simply outstanding, and quite possibly the best G1 Climax ever. Like the Battle of the Super Juniors, it is an event that has wrestlers compete in one of two pools in round robin competition. The winner of the pools compete in a final match, with the winner of the match earning the right to face the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at the biggest show of the year for NJPW, Wrestle Kingdom.

You will see many mentions of it throughout the entire Brass Ring Award writings, and for good reason, but one of the highlight matches was much more than simply a fight for points.

Hiroshi Tanahashi has been the face of NJPW for well over a decade. He was elevated to top star of the company at a time when New Japan was struggling, and helped raise the promotion to the second largest promotion in the world behind WWE. He is the record seven-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion, and has defended the title more and held the title for most days than any wrestler in history. For an entire generation of fans he is the walking embodiment of Japanese professional wrestling.

Naomichi Marufuji’s rise was something different. Originally a part of All Japan Pro Wrestling, Marufuji joined the exodus from the company when the legendary Mitsuharu Misawa created Pro Wrestling Noah. Marufuji would become one of Noah’s premier Jr. Heavyweight aces and would become the only man to win the Jr Heavyweight title in the three premier Japanese promotions; Noah, New Japan, and All Japan.

Every submission looked like a limb was being torn off. Tanahashi spent the first half of the match trying to hurt Marufuji’s dangerous knees and legs. Midway through the match, the two went on a two minute chop spree that drew blood on Tanahashi’s chest. Marufuji damn near took Tanahashi’s head of with a series of kicks and knees. It was two men who started in the business at the same time not giving an inch to the other. Tanahashi was able to finally put down his opponent after hitting his finisher, the top rope dive known as High Fly Flow, twice to get the pinfall.

Day 13 was the moment that this year’s G1 Climax went from being really good, to becoming an all time great tournament. It was one of the best days of professional wrestling in 2016, with another match that will be talked about later in this list.

19. American Alpha vs. The Revival (NXT Takeover: Dallas)

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Wrestling Thread Rating: 4.2173913

Where to watch: WWE Network

(written by @turboman)

Tag Team wrestling has evolved over the past decade to usually be much more chaotic and fast paced than it used to be many years ago, but there’s been a revelation this year in NXT: The old stuff still works. A lot of American Alpha and The Revival’s success should be credited to them watching tapes of the top 70’s and 80’s tag teams and being able to resurface a lot of sequences from years ago.

This match was the opener for NXT: Takeover Dallas and it was in front of a very pumped WrestleMania weekend crowd. Jason Jordan and Chad Gable came into the match as the hottest team in WWE, but the match was a real coming out party for The Revival (at this point in time the crowd was still chanting “Which one’s Dawson/Which one’s Dash?”). Throughout the match the heel team tried to use every single dirty tactic in the book to try and maintain advantage of the technically better babyface team. The Revival’s attack is methodical and fun to watch. There’s a giant fuck up in the middle of the match when The Revival try to do a double team move and completely miss, this could potentially ruin most matches but the way Scott Dawson brushed it off and played to the crowd would make you think that he’s been wrestling in front of arenas for decades.

Chad Gable finally gives Jason Jordan a hot tag and Jason Jordan just knows how to connect to big crowds off of hot tags. He just runs in and finds limbs to get a hold of and tosses guys around like they’re nothing. It’s a really cool spectacle every time you see it. There’s an inspired moment of selling where Dash Wilder is holding Scott Dawson’s feet on the ropes with a towel and when Jason Jordan kicks out the towel goes flying into the floor seats. The match ends with American Alpha winning their first NXT Tag Team Championship, and the post match promo that Jason Jordan gives being thankful for where he’s at now in the company after years of struggling within NXT makes him(and Chad Gable) stand out as a team that has an unbelievable amount of potential in WWE for years to come.

18. Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa (CWC)

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Wrestling Thread Rating: 4.53333333

Where to watch: WWE Network

(written by @ht101)

Gargano and Ciampa are the best of friends and this match is a test of that friendship. Ciampa wants to win this match and shows how far he is willing to go throughout the match. Gargano wants to see if he can survive what his friend is going to do and pull a win out.

Tommaso has the upper hand for most of the match but he shows his care for Gargano when he holds up from finishing him off and Gargano surprises him with a giant superkick right to the face. We see the conflict on Tommaso’s face before deciding not to truly hurt his friend and you really feel the emotional connection between them. The main thing from Gargano in this match is that he takes a hell of a beating but wins after a minute long sequence of reversals and counters.

This is how a match like this should be done. Brothers battled it out and in the end, their love for each other was still intact. However, when the bond between them breaks, it will be that much more emotional and heartbreaking for us. I never want them to break up but I know they will. When it does happen, I know that I will be an emotional mess and will hate whoever turns on the other. The only thing I will be able to look forward to will be their reunion, which will make the break-up hard but not unbearable. That is what makes a good match become one of the best matches of the year.

17. AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 10)

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Wrestling Thread Rating: 4.71

Where to watch: NJPW World

(written by @commisar123)

It’s rare that you get two of the best in a chosen field to meet each other and work together in their prime, especially in sports, but that’s exactly what we got in Shinsuke Nakamura vs. AJ Styles: two of the best wrestlers in the world working their craft on one of the biggest stages pro wrestling has to offer. This match was my introduction to both of these men, and considering how much praise was heaped on them before the match even started, you would think there was no way their first match together could live up to the lofty expectations established for it.

Somehow it did. This was the last major match that both guys would have in New Japan and they certainly went out on a high note. It was a bit of a slow start with both men feeling each other out, but from the bell we could tell that they were evenly matched. This feeling continued throughout the entire match. It was basically twenty minutes of momentum swings and it was incredibly exciting. The smoothness and ease with which Nakamura and Styles moved was incredible. Every spot lead perfectly into the next. It’s one the most organic pro wrestling match I’ve ever seen.

There were tons of memorable spots in here too. My favorite is when Styles pretended to shoot Nakamura and Nakamura just grabbed the bullet out of the air, ate it, and spat it out. It was such a great little moment of character. There was also a sick back breaker early in the match, Styles turned an armbar into a Styles Clash, and of course some fantastic knees from Nakamura. Styles did an excellent job of selling his back. Prior to the match it had been reported that Styles had some pretty serious back problems that had left him out of action for a few months. The blending of reality and fiction is one of my favorite parts of pro wrestling and both performers perfectly mixed the two.

16. Brian Kendrick vs. Kota Ibushi (CWC)

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Wrestling Thread Rating: 4.84615385

Where to watch: WWE Network

(written by @turboman)

When the list of wrestlers was announced for the Cruiserweight Classic, both Kota Ibushi and Brian Kendrick stuck out for different reasons. Kota Ibushi is without a doubt one of the best high fliers we have seen in the past decade, he’s deceptively strong and all of his striking moves look devastating. He’s the prototype wrestler in an ideal Cruiserweight division in 2016 and was one of the early favorites announced for the tournament. And then for Brian Kendrick, he was a name that was relevant within WWE for a couple of notable stints, but nothing more. Brian Kendrick was thought of as just an older name in the tournament whose only purpose was to lose to a younger guy in the early rounds and continue work as a trainer within WWE’s developmental system.

And his character also reflected this. He came into the tournament just grateful that he’s getting one last shot to make a name for himself in the WWE. He doesn’t even feel like he belongs there to begin with, but he wins a couple of matches in the tournament and he gains a lot of self confidence, but his next opponent is the favorite to win it all Kota Ibushi. Kendrick knows that he stands no chance against Ibushi in a regular match, so he’s only going for desperation wins early through trying to win by countout against Ibushi. Kota Ibushi dominates most of the match early on.

The tides turn when Kendrick is able to execute a neckbreaker across the turnbuckle steel and damage Kota Ibushi’s surgically repaired neck. This makes the match much more evenly fought and from here we go a little bit insane with the moves. First, Kota Ibushi does his rarely seen deadlift german suplex from the second rope. After that Brian Kendrick gives Kota Ibushi a Burning Hammer. Mind you, this is in a room with a few hundred people in it, not the Tokyo Dome. The overall match is a joy to watch and tells an excellent underdog story.

15. Hiroki Goto vs. Kenny Omega (NJPW G1 Climax Finals)

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Wrestling Thread Rating: 4.75

Where to watch: NJPW World(3:45:00)

(written by @commisar123)

Kenny Omega was my favorite wrestler this year and this match was a big part of that. It’s not a perfect match, but the storytelling and the ending make it one of the more spectacular and memorable matches of the year. The match has a great intensity and energy to it and a lot of that is thanks to a crowd that is extremely invested in what’s happening in front of them. Every near fall takes on much greater significance with the crowding losing their minds.

That of course is a testament to how good Omega and Goto are. The match has your standard chain wrestling start but it soon begins to tell its own story. Goto worked Kenny’s knee at the start of the match, a call back to how it had been heavily damaged by Naito the night before. Omega did his own reference to the previous night when he teased power bombing Goto into the crowd like he did to Naito the night before. Instead he slams him onto the apron (the hardest part of the ring). There was also a lovely little moment where Omega kissed the G1 statue in the middle of the match and then moonsaults onto Goto. It perfectly demonstrates his brashness and lack of respect.

After the beginning though the match slows down for a bit and becomes a fairly standard wrestling match. Things really picked up near the end though, when Omega broke out of a sleeper hold by falling off the top rope. It doesn’t sound that crazy, but the brutal simplicity of it was pretty remarkable. From then on the match is hot fire. Omega uses everything finishing move he can think of to put Goto away, Kota Ibushi’s Last Ride power bomb, Prince Devitt’s Bloody Sunday, AJ Styles’ Styles Clash, some very Shinsuke Nakamura looking knees, and even Goto’s own signature moves. Goto refused to give up and it took Omega’s finisher to keep him down for good.

The image of the first ever foreigner winning the G1 with the crowd going wild is exciting no matter how many times you look at it. It’s certainly one of the most significant and historic matches of the year, but that doesn’t give enough credit to the amazing show that both Goto and Omega put on.

14. Kenny Omega vs. Michael Elgin (NJPW Dominion)

Wrestling Thread Rating: 4.66666667

Where to watch: NJPW World

(written by @drdarkstryfe)

The WWE raid of New Japan talent was one of the biggest news stories in wrestling in 2016. Seemingly overnight, NJPW lost Shinsuke Nakamura, AJ Styles, Karl Anderson, and Doc Gallows.

Nakamura’s departure was the most difficult. He was the IWGP Intercontinental champion, a title that has become synonymous with the King of Strong Style, and there was no major show on the schedule before his departure at the end of January. It was decided that he would vacate the title at his last show with the company, leading Kenny Omega to come out to verbally assault the departing Nakamura and wanting the title, officially leaving the Jr Heavyweight division and entering the main card. Kenny was stopped by Hiroshi Tanahashi, and the two would be booked to compete for the vacant title at the next big show, The New Beginning in Niigata.

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Even though he was nursing an injured shoulder, Tanahashi would go on to fight Omega in Niigata, only to lose to Omega. Tanahashi would demand a rematch, only for Kenny to decline, saying he would only to fight Tanahashi “American style” in a ladder match. Tanahashi would agree, but due to his injured shoulder, had to step away from the match to recover.

This opened the door for Michael Elgin to take his place. A friend of Tanahashi ever since Elgin first showed up in New Japan, he would take Tanahashi’s place in the ladder match.

Gimmick matches are few and far in-between in New Japan. The last ladder match was in 2007, coincidentally also featuring Tanahashi, and the concept of gimmick matches usually go against New Japan’s approach of wrestling as a sport. Unlike most ladder matches, Omega and Elgin spent a considerable part of the match competing without resorting to ladders for moves. It built anticipation for the ladders, and added a real sense of escalation when ladders and other objects were in play.

The match contained the usual interference that you expect from a Bullet Club match, but it just helped to add to Elgin’s struggle. He was just a replacement in this match, and was never expected to defeat a fire hot Omega. When he was handcuffed to the rope by the rest of Bullet Club, it was a foregone conclusion that the match was over.

But Big Mike is not going to let a pair of handcuffs stop him. Tearing free from the ropes, he lifted the ladder with Kenny at the top, knocking him out of the ring and on top of the rest of Bullet Club, and climbed the ladder and claimed the title for himself. Elgin became only the second American to win the IWGP Intercontinental title, the first since MVP was the inaugural champion.

This was one of the most unlikely outcomes to a match in 2016. It was one of those matches that I tell to myself “I know what the outcome will be, but I just hope it’s a good match to watch.” It is a feeling that seems to permeate WWE’s almost by-the-numbers booking that the result is long written in stone. New Japan is not WWE, and they prove it time and time again by truly shocking the audience.

13.Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (WK 10)

Wrestling Thread Rating: 5

Where to watch: NJPW World

(written by @aronleon)

Last year we talked about how the idea of pasing the torch has always been there for wrestling such a simple idea yet it carries so much at the same time, by this point Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada had have some of the best matches in the world 6 of those have been for the IWGP beltwith making this match a little more special, its even more amazing that this same match has been the main event of 3 of the last 4 Wrestlekingdoms but one thing never seemed to change no matter what Tanahashi was always number #1, he won the last 2 matches on WK7,WK9 and when it came time to decide the "real" main event on WK8 the fans decided that Tanahashi vs Nakamura was more important than Okada vs a pre Tranquilo Naito. Seemed no matter what Okada was always going to be nothing more than a shadow but then 2015 happen Okada did what Tanahashi could not he beat AJ for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, the same man who took everything from him was defeted in many ways The Rainmaker was reborne, of course Tanahashi didnt like this idea he was now done so he goes and wins the G1 Climax for a second time to get another chance at glory.

Pride vs Revenge, Ace vs Rainmaker, Old Guard vs New Guard the stage was set and what follows is a match that will talked about for a long time. At the start of the match you see that Okada is taking things at his own pace stoping Tanahashi ofensive and keeping things cool but that doesnt last for long Tana begins a vicious comeback delivering some really nasty looking dragon screws and an insane high fly flow to the outside cause he is a crazy man, just when it looks like history will repeat itself Okada fights back with everything his got he will not go down not this time and at moments it does feel like it could end at any point, in one of my favorite moments of the year after taking a suplex Tanahashi slaps Okada to escape the Rainmaker but Okada holds on to Tanahashi´s hand he is not letting it go no matter what this is his time, 3 Rainmakers later Kazuchika Okada can finally say he is NJPW #1 Star, Krazy to think this 2 could an even better match right?

12. Ladder War 6 (The Addiction vs The Young Bucks vs Motor City Machine Guns ) (ROH All Star Extravaganza 8)

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Wrestling Thread Rating: 4.66666667

Where to watch: ROH iPPV

(written by @drdarkstryfe)

The Ladder War is the pinnacle of Ring of Honor gimmick matches. A normal ladder match in design, it has been the decider in some of the all-time great feuds in the history of the company. The Briscoes, Kevin Owens, and Sami Zayn are just some of the wrestlers that have competed in this exceptionally rare match.

The three teams that competed in this year’s Ladder Wars fought for more than the ROH Tag Team Championship. These are three teams that have been together for years, and their careers have criss-crossed all around the globe.

Nick and Matt Jackson, The Young Bucks, are considered one of the best tag teams in the world. Their list of accolades can be compared with some of the all-time greats in the industry, but they continue to push themselves to put on the best show possible. While they tend to wrestle a style that is part-comedy, and part-Attitude Era throwback, the Bucks enter a different level when the stakes are high. They lobbied hard for Ladder Wars 6 to be a reality, because they know

The Motor City Machine Guns got back together in Ring of Honor in early 2016. Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley have been a team for the better part of a decade, but took a break when Shelley went to Japan and teamed with KUSHIDA. The long anticipated reunion came when Sabin turned on Christopher Daniels, helping Shelley beat him in a singles match. THey have been feuding with The Addiction since, falling short of winning the belts several times.

Christopher Daniels saw The Addiction’s latest tag title reign as the last chance to keep his legacy. In an emotional promo, Daniels declared that he be measures his life by the tag title that he and Frankie Kazarian holds. Daniels is 46 and Kazarian 39. These are two men that are in the final stages of their long careers, and holding onto that last bit of legacy means everything.

The match itself is one of the greatest gimmick matches of all time. It is difficult to put into words just how much the six men placed their bodies on the line to get tossed from incredible heights, got slammed with all manners of objects, and escalated the violence as the match went on. The finishing move was one of the most brutal looking spots seen in a wrestling ring in the US as the three teams added a bullet point to their already impressive resumes.

11. Tomohiro Ishii vs. Katsuyori Shibata (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 10)

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Wrestling Thread Rating: 4.81

Where to watch: NJPW World

(written by @turboman)

If you have seen a Tomohiro Ishii vs. Katsuyori Shibata match before, then you knew exactly what this match was going to be. It was going to be Ishii and Shibata kicking/chopping/elbowing/punching/headbutting the hell out of each other. The only difference to note was that this time it was going to be in the Tokyo Dome instead of being in the middle of the G1 Climax.

And that’s the match we got. There is no lock up or early match “feeling out” process. Both of these guys are immediately trying the hurt each other and are continually going back and forth daring each other to hit them harder. It’s like watching two wild animals fight to the death. You can only do this type of match once or so a year or else it would be considered barbaric.

The ending sequence of the match involves both men putting all of their momentum into headbutts towards each other, resulting in a sickening thud every time they do it. In 2016 where unprotected chair shots to the head are pretty much banned everywhere and now wrestling is starting to take concussions much more seriously today than in years past, these headbutts are extremely brutal looking, and somewhat out of place. You'll either love or hate this match due to the headbutts, but either way you have to respect both wrestlers for putting their bodies through the hell they went through in front of the Tokyo Dome.

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2016 Brass Ring Awards Day 3 (Best Wrestlers of the Year / Best Matches #25-21)

Credit goes to @papercut for the Brass Ring desig
Credit goes to @papercut for the Brass Ring desig

Day 1

Wrestling Thread Moment of the Year™: Matt Hardy fucking up Jeff Hardy's yard

Best Weekly Show: Cruiserweight Classic (WWE)

Show of the Year: Battle of Los Angeles Night 2 (PWG)

Breakout / Rookie of the Year - Jeff Cobb / Matanza Cueto

Day 2

Most Improved: Matt Hardy

Best Tag Team: The Revival

Worst Match: Shelly Martinez vs. Rebel

Biggest News: Daniel Bryan's Retirement

Wrestler of the Year (Male) – Kenny Omega (NJPW)

No Caption Provided

Previous Winners: 2015 - AJ Styles | 2014 - Sami Zayn

(written by @milkman)

To properly understand who 2016 Kenny Omega is, you first need to understand who 2011 Kenny Omega was. Always a fan favorite among internet wrestling fans for his anime and video games references (he used a Mega Man techno remix as his entrance msuic in DDT), Omega was always “our guy” among wrestling dorks online. In 2016, Kenny Omega was still our guy but he became their guy too. The most incredible part of Omega’s meteoric rise through New Japan Pro Wrestling in just a years’ time is that he never had to change who he was. Omega was still the same goofy video game and anime obsessed nerd that he was when he was having matches against nine year old girls five years ago. The truth is the difference between 2016 Kenny Omega and 2011 Kenny Omega is negligible at best. His playground just got his bigger.

After WWE poached Shinsuke Nakamura, AJ Styles, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson from NJPW following Wrestle Kingdom 10, the company looked as if it was in dire straits. Two of their biggest superstars were gone along with the three core members of their most popular group, Bullet Club. It would be easy to argue that NJPW turned to Omega out of pure desperation but regardless of the reason, this outlier of a junior heavyweight was suddenly thrust into the role as leader of the Bullet Club. In just over a month’s time, Omega had graduated into the heavyweight division and defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi to become NJPW Intercontinental Championship. This was noteworthy in and of itself for a guy who was in the same company that regularly has a blow-up doll as one of their champions but Omega ascent didn’t stop there. In August, Omega entered NJPW’s annual G1 Climax tournament for the first time. A near month long marathon of a tournament, winning the G1 Climax is the highest accomplishment in NJPW outside of becoming IWGP Heavyweight champion. Omega won the tournament, having the best match of his career against Tetsuya Naito in the semi-finals along the way, becoming the first non-Japanese winner in G1 Climax history. In less than a weeks’ time, Omega will move up another rung on the ladder to wrestling immortality and main event NJPW’s biggest show of the year, Wrestle Kingdom 11 against IWGP World Heavyweight champion, Kazuchika Okada. Win or lose, Omega will have done it his way with Terminator stomps, Hadoukens and anime villain promos. Perhaps the most satisfying feeling for any wrestling fan is seeing someone you believe in, someone you know is great but isn’t getting the rightful recognition that you know they deserve finally get their due. No one in wrestling gave their fans that feeling of satisfaction more in 2016 than Kenny Omega.

Runners Up: AJ Styles, Tomohiro Ishii, Kazuchika Okada, Ricochet/Prince Puma

Wrestler of the Year (Female) - Asuka (NXT)

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Previous Winners: 2015 - Sasha Banks | 2014 - Charlotte

(written by @drdarkstryfe)

The NXT women's roster was gutted in 2016. While the division lost Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch in 2015, NXT still had a considerable roster that was centered around long-time fan favorite Bayley and enough depth to continue to entertain in 2016.

The roster started to thin when Dana Brooke was called up to the main roster in May, and the WWE announced their brand split in July; making it a point that there would be several NXT call-ups to help fill out the Raw and SmackDown roster. During the draft, Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, and Carmella were drafted, and in October, Bayley was promoted to Raw.

As the roster thinned the past year, and the next generation of NXT women’s talent was still getting used to the new exposure, there has been one constant in 2016 that helped keep the division afloat.

Enter Asuka.

Spending the first part of 2016 outside of the title picture, Asuka has impressed crowds with her charismatic personality and a Strong Style wrestling technique that is rarely seen in the US. Watching Asuka, and you get a sense that she is having fun when she competes. When she strikes her opponent, or tries to tear their arm off, there is a wide smile on her face.

At NXT Takeover Dallas, Asuka defeated Bayley for the NXT Women’s Championship; winning via TKO when Bayley passed out from the Asuka Lock submission. She would then go on to successfully defend the title against Nia Jax, a rematch with Bayley, and against former WWE Divas champion Mickie James. As the year progressed, Asuka became a dominating force in the division, and more importantly, knows that she is the best and carries herself as much. She has become cocky in her style, going so far as to not respect her opponent after the match.

It is a stark difference compared to what we have seen in WWE’s main roster this year. Raw has been in a long holding pattern with Flair and Banks dominating the exposure, and SmackDown trying to do their best with a roster that is less talented. The Women’s Revolution of 2015 has become a token angle.

Asuka’s presence elevates NXT Women’s division. She has become a “final boss” for the promotion, and acts like it.

Runners up - Kairi Hojo (Stardom), Io Shirai (Stardom), Becky Lynch (WWE), Taya (Lucha Underground/AAA)

Top 25 Matches of the Year (25-21):

25. Trent? vs Chuck Taylor (PWG THIRTEEN)

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Wrestling Thread Rating: 4.25

Where to watch: PWG THIRTEEN DVD

(written by @hadoken101)

The story of Chuck Taylor and Trent? is one that had been brewing for over a year by the time this match was announced. In PWG they teamed as The Best Friends for a couple years to a fair amount of success, even going so far as winning DDT4 (PWG’s tag tournament) in 2014. However, in 2015, Trent had gotten the opportunity to work in NJPW as Rocky Romero’s partner in Roppongi Vice, leaving Chuckie T without his best friend and less work opportunities.

Over the months, the banter between the two continued on Twitter with Chuck saying that Trent ruined his life. PWG, being home for all the weird inside jokes and meta humor in the American independent wrestling scene, set up a match between the former Best Friends at their Thirteenth anniversary show, aptly titled THIRTEEN.

At first, it seemed like the match would be just a light fun comedy match between the two, given the matches they generally have in PWG. They started with some standard chain wrestling and countered each other’s anti-climactic springboard attacks, even hugging each other like they used to.

Then it all took a hard left and Trent? whipped a chair at Chuck’s face.

The ref allows the match to continue once Trent screams “BEST FRIENDS DON’T NEED RULES” in his face and from there, it becomes a full on hardcore match with chairs, a ladder, and even thumbtacks being pulled out. It’s an almost comedic (if it wasn’t so brutal) level of escalation. Of course, despite beating the shit out of one another for 15 minutes, they still manage to hug it out after the pinfall, showing that Best Friends are forever and not even chairs to the face can stop that.

24. Sexy Star vs. Mariposa - No Mas!

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Wrestling Thread Rating: 4.46153846

Where to watch: Lucha Underground's Youtube Channel

(written by @turboman)

In storyline, Sexy Star was kidnapped by the super creepy Marty “The Moth” and was tortured by his sister Mariposa at the end of Season 1 of Lucha Underground. During some point of Season 2 Sexy Star escapes but is haunted whenever she’s in the presence of Marty and/or Mariposa. This builds up for a while and Dario realizes what happened to Sexy Star and motivates her to take her revenge on Mariposa. And thus, we get the first ever “No Mas” match!

Take a look at Mariposa, she’s dressed like a female version of Mankind. One of Mankind’s most famous matches is the vicious “I Quit” match against The Rock at WWF Royal Rumble 1999 where he took 11 unprotected steel chair shots to the head. So going into this match you have some sort of an idea that there is going to be a certain amount of brutality between the two during the match.

The match starts out simple enough, and I feel like it’s important to say this: Sexy Star isn’t a great wrestler. In most matches she needs to be put with someone who is great enough of a wrestler that they are able to carry her through a watchable match. However, in this match type you can get away with complete smoke and mirrors and have a match filled out of the ring brawling and weapons. There’s an incredibly creative spot fairly early in the match where Sexy Star wedges a steel chair in between Mariposa’s legs and then hammers another chair in there so hard that Shelly Martinez could feel it. From there they brawl all around the temple and even up to the rafters at some point. Sexy Star is busted open up here and starts dripping blood on the fans below.

Once they get down from the rafters, the brawl continues around the arena and Sexy Star has an amazing babyface comeback towards the end of the match. Mariposa puts Sexy Star in a submission hold, and the ref asks if Sexy Star is ready to say “No Mas”. Sexy Star replies by screaming “FUCK YOU!” followed by one of the most insane crowd reactions you’ll see in 2016. Within the past ten minutes, Sexy Star goes from being a mediocre wrestler at best to being a crowd favorite in the company by the end of the match. After this match she carried the momentum and was able to be the first female Lucha Underground Champion in the company by the end of the year. It’s a match that is never going to be viewed as a technical masterpiece by anybody, but it was extremely effective in catapulting a new wrestler in the main event position within the company.

23. Kyle O'Reilly vs. KUSHIDA (NJPW Battle of Super Juniors Day 1)

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Wrestling Thread Rating: 4.57142857

Where to watch: NJPW World

The Best of the Super Juniors is New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) annual showcase of their Jr Heavyweight division. Similar to other New Japan events, the competitors are put into one of two pools where they compete in a round robin. The top score in each pool faces off in a final match, with the winner gets a shot at the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship. Day one of the event was highlighted by a rematch from the 2015 Brass Ring Award seventh best match of the year; Kyle O’Reilly vs KUSHIDA.

Since winning the title last year KUSHIDA has gone on to become one of the biggest stars in NJPW and face of its Jr Heavyweight division. He spent his 2016 defending the title in feuds with Kenny Omega, Bushi, ACH, and Jushin Thunder Liger.

Kyle continued to tag with Bobby Fish and competed in NJPW’s Jr Tag division as reDRagon; competing against The Young Bucks and Roppongi Vice.

This year’s BOSJ match was almost a copy from last year’s exhibition, with the exception being that KUSHIDA spent the majority of the match on the offensive, attacking O’Reilly’s arm throughout to weaken it for his Kimura Lock finish. This was a high octane match where even the holds and submission attempts took a huge physical toll on the two.

The highlight of the match, and one of the best moments of the year, came when KUSHIDA, sitting dazed on a chair outside of the ring, catches a diving O’Reilly and applies an armlock.

Kyle would end up coming out on top and get a measure of revenge for his loss in last year’s finals. While neither of these two would win the tournament, they put one of the best matches of the entire event.

22. Team Liger vs Team Ciampa (PWG BOLA Night 3)

Wrestling Thread Rating: 4.923076

Where to watch: BOLA Night 3 DVD

(written by @hadoken101)

Wrestling is an inherently silly thing that can sometimes take itself too seriously. Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and remember that Pro Wrestling is an entire art form and not a singular genre. While it can be used to tell strong, emotional stories such as Zayn/Owens over the years or Sasha/Bayley in NXT, it can also be a vehicle for absolutely bizarre comedy and fan interaction.

Such is the case in PWG’s now annual Battle of Los Angeles 10 man tag match; a match that fully embraces how fun and dumb wrestling can be. As soon as the bell rings, Chuck Taylor makes a call back to the previous years’ matches by yelling at Ciampa “If you stick your thumb in my ass I swear I’ll kill you!” which is far from the most absurd thing shouted in the match but all the same sets the stage for the match that’s about to happen.

Early on it’s pretty standard fare for a match of this size, with everyone pairing 2 at a time to show off their stuff. A particularly great moment comes when Jeff Cobb and Matt Riddle tag in and receive the biggest pop for basic amateur wrestling ever. Eventually, it cycles back around to Chuck and Ciampa and when Chuck gets set up for the aforementioned “Thumb in the Rear” Jushin Thunder Liger intervenes.

And then things get weird......

It’s worth mentioning that in addition to Jushin Liger, one of the greatest high flyers of all time and certified legend of wrestling, the prestige of many of the other participants is staggering, especially when viewing the match just a couple months after the fact. You’ve got: A man who competed in the 2004 Olympics, a former UFC fighter, one half of the current NXT Tag champs, 2 standout performers of the CWC (one who would go on to win the Cruiserweight Title about a month after this match), and the PROGRESS Champion who is being heavily featured for WWE’s upcoming UK Championship tournament.

It also can’t be overlooked how much the rowdy crowd adds to the atmosphere of the match. Everyone in the room plays along with all of the absurd hijinks without anybody taking away from the wrestlers, from reacting and chanting in slow motion with all of the action in the ring to joining in an R Kelly sing along. Simply put, this match is the best comedic match of the year and just an absolute joy to watch.

21. Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens (WWE Battleground)

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Wrestling Thread Rating: 4.7222222

Where to watch: WWE Network

(written by @milkman)

There’s few rivalries in the modern day wrestling that feel as special as Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens. Every time these two have shared a ring for the past seven years has felt like an important moment. And their most high profile meeting yet came at WWE Battleground this year. In what was billed as an at least partial finale of the rivalry, Zayn believed that he need to exorcise Kevin Owens from his life in order to properly move on with his career. With the WWE Draft looming, Battleground felt like his final chance to finally put Owens in his rear view for good. Of course, this is the WWE so they never actually followed up on that and both guys ended up being drafted to the same show. But WWE’s inability to tell a coherent story aside, Owens and Zayn are still masterful storytellers in their own right. The Battleground match joins their Fight Without Ladder, multiple ladder wars and NXT championship meetings as classic matches in the pantheon of one of the greatest wrestling rivalries in the modern era. You have to believe it’s only a matter of time before they add another classic to their ever growing list.

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2016 Brass Ring Awards Day 2 (Most Improve / Best Tag Team / Worst Match / Biggest News)

Best Tag Team of the Year – The Revival

Previous Winners: 2015 - The New Day | 2014 - Miz & Mizdow

(Written by @milkman)

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There’s currently a certain generational and cultural divide among modern wrestling fans. The usually older generation of wrestling fans longs for the days where a DDT meant something and when a finisher actually finished a match. On the other hand, there’s a more hedonistic wrestling fan who believes that if it feels good, you should do it. If you can do a springboard 630 splash to the outside of the ring, why not do it? Pleasing both sides of the fence has proven to be a near impossible task but one of the very few to pull that off in 2016 was The Revival. With their “No Flips, Just Fists” slogan, Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson played the role of the curmudgeon old guard against the flip happy indie invasion of NXT. With no notable independent wrestling career to speak of for either men, the Revival started in a pretty big hole in the context of modern NXT where anyone with any indie experience is instantly more over than just about any performance center acolyte. But they slowly but surely gained the respect of the fans and kept having great matches until they were impossible to ignore and the “which one is Dash again?” jokes weren’t all that funny anymore. With old school heel tactics that would make even Jim Crockett take notice, the Revival ruled the NXT tag division in 2016 and even more impressively, did it while pleasing just about everyone. The older fans loved the old school smash mouth style while the newer fans had a true villain to root against that wanted to stomp a mudhole in all their favorite indie darlings but still could keep with anyone in the ring.

Runners Up: The Young Bucks, DIY, Johnny Mundo/Jack Evans/PJ Black/Taya, The Hardy Estate

Worst Match of the Year - Shelly Martinez vs. Rebel

Previous Winners: 2015 - WWE Royal Rumble | 2014 - Naomi vs. Carmella

(Written by @turboman)

After the last two years, there was definitely a feeling that giving out an award for “Worst Match of the Year” was silly and maybe the category should be cut. Last year’s winner was the Royal Rumble, which was a fine match but was terribly laid out. The year before we gave it to Cameron vs. Naomi, which was a terrible match (it was the one that featured Naomi trying to pin Cameron with Cameron facing the wrong way), but it was far from a “MINUS FIVE STARS” match you would want to give an award to. The problem with a “Worst Match of the Year” award is that most wrestlers on TV are at least competent at worst, or if they aren’t people know how to protect themselves and wrestle a safe boring match.

However, this year gave us Shelly Martinez vs. Rebel: A train wreck. Shelly Martinez comes out dressed in Day of the Dead makeup (in March) and an outfit that looked like a chunk of my shower curtain. The match itself started out just fine. There’s a solid arm drag, a section of the match featured some submission wrestling that looked like a standard match, no complaints. And then Rebel puts Shelly Martinez in a stretch that pulled her legs apart from each other. This causes Shelly to scream “MY VAG!”. This was the exact moment that the match took a turn. The TNA crowd of 50 people for this match was stunned silent at this moment, and you could hear one person in the crowd reply back with “Wait, what did you say?”.

The match concludes with Shelly setting up a suicide dive to the outside of the ring onto Rebel. The spot clearly is supposed to be that Rebel was supposed to hit Shelly in the middle of this dive and interrupt the move, but Rebel just… forgot I guess? This made Shelly pause her momentum of 2 miles per hour running to the outside and just stop on the ropes. Rebel then proceeds to just get this nightmare over with by rolling Shelly up in the ring and pinning her. The most amazing part of this match was that it was pre taped and nobody decided to just cut it from airing.

Runners Up: Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose (Extreme Rules), Knockout Gauntlet Match, Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker (WrestleMania), Roman Reigns vs. Triple H (WrestleMania)

Most Improved- Matt Hardy

Previous Winners: 2015 - Tetsuya Naito | 2014 - Tyson Kidd

(Written by @recroulette)

Ask wrestling fans and a lot will tell you that wrestling has never been better. New Japan is still on top, Lucha Underground is still going strong, and of course even the WWE has a ton of great talent. However, my favorite wrestling material of the year came from the perennial laughingstock known as TNA. The saga of the House of Hardy has easily been the best stuff in wrestling for me, and it is all spearheaded by Broken Matt Hardy.

The Final Deletion, Delete or Decay, Delete or Treat, The Great War, Total Nonstop Deletion. Matt Hardy has been the mind behind some of the best stuff TNA has put out in years if not ever, and easily the best stuff of the year. His wrestling ability…still isn’t great. But his new character combined with the amazing segments he wrote did the unthinkable. They made TNA worth watching. At the beginning of the year, if you told me that not only was Matt Hardy the best part of TNA, but TNA in general actually had decent material? I would have laughed you out of the building (Don’t get me wrong, the rest of TNA is still terrible!). Matt Hardy went from completely irrelevant to one of the best performers of 2016. If you watch a wrestling show and hear DELETE! DELETE! DELETE! DELETE!, this is why.

Runners Up: The Miz, SANADA, The Revival, Cedric Alexander

News of the Year - Daniel Bryan Retirement

Previous Winners: 2015 - Hulk Hogan's racist rant being leaked

(Written by @boom_goes_the_dynamite)

One year ago this February one of this thread’s favorite wrestlers was forced into retirement. Daniel Bryan, after dealing with injuries to the neck and concussion-like symptoms announced his retirement on the February 8th episode of Raw. As a huge Daniel Bryan fan I was hoping for the swerve, that this was all one big lie, imagine Bryan in the salmon-colored suit, ala Mark Henry. But alas it was not to come and Bryan was forced to step away from in-ring competition, in what was to me one of the best wrestling retirement speeches ever. I know for others their favorite is Ric Flair or Edge, but Bryan got me back into wrestling in a way I never had before.

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Daniel Bryan was my favorite wrestler and I’ll admit he wasn’t the greatest promo, but I feel like he is one of the best at making you feel something when he can speak his own words. His retirement speech is great evidence to this. Throughout the whole 15+ minutes, you can tell how much retiring hurts him and how much he truly loves to put on a great performance in the ring. The problem is that drive may have contributed to his early retirement and that just makes it all sting the more. It is knowing all this that makes you tear up when you watch his retirement speech. You know you don’t want it, he doesn’t want it, the WWE probably doesn’t want it, but you know it’s for the best. Bryan didn’t wrestle the safest style but it was crazy entertaining, and maybe that’s why he became so beloved wherever he went, putting it all out there and leaving the crowd entertained. Hell, I thought his match with Kane after his WrestleMania 30 win was great in so many different ways, even though I recognize most thought it was crap.

The retirement of Daniel Bryan receives News of the Year for reasons beyond Bryan being one of the “Greatest of All Times” (my opinion there for sure), but also for the impact he made on the business as well as what his retirement marked. If it weren’t for Daniel Bryan and CM Punk I don’t think we would see so many guys in NXT and on the main roster who came up from the Indies. Do we really think AJ Styles would be main eventing WWE PPVs if it weren’t for guys like Daniel Bryan changing minds in the WWE front office? Guys like Samoa Joe, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, etc would probably be in TNA or the indies if it weren’t for Bryan and Punk changing opinions on the smaller wrestler.

Bryan’s retirement feels like an end of an era. Today guys like Punk and Bryan aren’t wrestling anymore and Cena is now a part-timer, although you could argue a lot of this change over happened much earlier, Bryan’s retirement really feels like the time things drastically changed. In many ways this new era is off to a better start than the last, I mean who would have known that Smackdown would be one of the best shows they put out? However, it is really bitter sweet that Daniel Bryan isn’t wrestling in it, but at least we get him being the best ever on Talking Smack, so that’s something at least.

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Oh and he's going to be a father too! Imagine Daniel Bryan being your dad.

PS: Bryan is still the most over guy in the whole main roster, that either speaks to how good he was, how bad WWE is at making new stars, or a combination of the two.

Runners Up: The Slow and Painful Death of TNA, NJPW Talent Going to WWE, Brand Split, and Paige and Del Rio Drama

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2016 Brass Ring Awards Day 1 ( Best Show / Rookie / Moment of the Year)

Credit goes to @papercut for the Brass Ring design
Credit goes to @papercut for the Brass Ring design

Brief Introduction:

If you are reading this, congratulations. You have made it to the other side of 2016 still alive. Much like video games this year, Pro Wrestling has had an incredible year despite the rest of the world sucking. Our humble little thread has gathered and is collectively going to shine a light on the best things about Pro Wrestling this year... from dumb awards to the Top 25 best matches of 2016 to check out. Please feel free to comment in the thread and start discussions with us, we won't bite.

With that being said... let's start!

Wrestling Thread Moment of the Year™ - Matt Hardy Fucking Up Jeff Hardy’s Yard

Previous Winners: 2015 - Shoot Dragon | 2014 - The Hemme Hole

(written by @turboman)

The Wrestling Thread Moment of the Year just might be the most prestigious award that this little thread offers every year. In the first year we documented the night where EVERYTHING CHANGED when Christy Hemme escaped a steel cage through the cut out hole on the side of the cage for cameras to use (thus effectively calling it the “Hemme Hole” from then on). Last year it was given to the moment where Lucha Underground turned from “Solid showcase of today’s lucha talent” into a show where morphing into an actual dragon was possible.

This year, it features the masterpiece that was “The Final Deletion”. TNA is a company with no money left. It’s hard for them to shoot TV when they have to rent out a building, bring in and pay a bunch of wrestlers, pay their TV staff, and put on a show in front of zero paying customers. So instead of doing that, they sent some cameras up to Matt & Jeff Hardy’s house and hoped for the best.

The segment begins with Maxel Hardy’s first birthday. Matt Hardy has one gift to give to Son, and that is to restore honor to the Hardy name by “Deleting” Jeff Hardy. We then cut to an overhead shot of Jeff Hardy’s house (which is next door to Matt Hardy’s house, mind you). Jeff Hardy is just finishing working on his yard. You can tell that Jeff Hardy treats his yard like it is a work of art, cutting out designs similar to all of his imagery on his merchandise and tattoos. You can tell that Jeff Hardy must spend hours working on this yard every week. It must mean a lot to him that this yard is cut with this much attention to detail. Jeff Hardy decides after a long hard day of work, he goes inside and takes a load off by playing his acoustic guitar. Today is a great day for Jeff Hardy.

Matt Hardy then sends a small army of drone robots to Jeff Hardy’s house. The main drone sends a message to Jeff Hardy challenging him to a fight on the property line that night. Jeff immediately tries to take the drones down by swinging his guitar at them, but one gets away. Jeff Hardy tries to chase down this annoying drone on his motorbike. But it was all a trap… a ruse… a diversion!

While Jeff Hardy is away from the house chasing down the drone, Matt Hardy drives up to Jeff Hardy’s house on his own lawnmower with very evil intent in mind. Matt Hardy proceeds to drive straight through the middle of Jeff Hardy’s lawn, ruining everything that Jeff Hardy had put work into for the day. The sense of satisfaction on Matt’s face as his diabolical plan works out is flat out hilarious.

And thus, this set up a fight to the death between the two Hardy brothers which featured a lot more dumb shit. This skit was extremely successful (very briefly) for TNA, and really revitalized Matt & Jeff Hardy for the rest of the year. We live in a backwards world now where the hottest fued in ROH is The Hardy Brothers vs. The Young Bucks and at every WWE show during a bad segment the audience is chanting “DELETE” like we live in the Roman Empire or something (no pun intended).

Runners Up: The Legendary Asshole of Jushin Liger, Glorious Bombs, Teijo Khan, Glow In The Dark Nunchuck Bathroom Fight

Weekly Show of the Year - Cruiserweight Classic (WWE Network)

Previous Winners: 2015 - Lucha Underground | 2014 - NXT

(Written by @drdarkstryfe)

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In February 2014, the WWE announced the creation of the WWE Network. Through this ambitious streaming service, the WWE had goals to provide an incredible amount of content to the wrestling fan of the 2000’s; consumers that are “cutting the cord” in favor of on-demand content services like Netflix. While the biggest selling point of the Network was access to WWE’s monthly PPV’s for only $9.99, there was also promise in original programming that would only appear on the Network.

The Cruiserweight Classic is the result of that promise of Network exclusive content.

Announced in June, the Cruiserweight Classic (CWC) would feature 32 of some of the best talent in the world that weighed at/under 205 lbs.The initial announcement from WWE contained a who’s who of not just some of the best cruiserweights in the world, but some of the pound for pound best performers in the industry today. Stars from independent promotions including Kota Ibushi, Rick Swann, Zack Sabre Jr and Akira Tozawa joined current and former WWE superstars like Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Tajiri, and Brian Kendrick.

The 32 man, single elimination tournament, played out over the course of four months with a weekly show that aired on the WWE Network on Wednesday. Unlike most of WWE’s live programming, this was simply a competition of the best in the world applying their trade without the baggage of a story written in a writers room. Personalities were allowed to shine as wrestlers like Jack Gallagher and Cedric Alexander became household names, and international stars were given their first, big, North American exposure.

Complementing the weekly show was a two man announce team with Mauro Ranallo doing play-by-play, Daniel Bryan providing color commentary, and Corey Graves in front of a green screen. Mauro and Bryan did an outstanding job giving the event a voice and drove home the importance of the event.

The event was considered a huge success. The cruiserweights were slotted into Monday Night Raw on the main roster, given their Network exclusive show, and the Cruiserweight title has been defended at every Raw brand PPV since its introduction. The WWE is also looking into having a similar tournament for women sometime in 2017.

Runners up - Talking Smack (WWE Network), Lucha Underground (El Rey Network), CMLL Super Friday (CMLL YouTube), NXT (WWE Network)

Show of the Year - Battle of Los Angeles Night 2

Previous Winners: 2015 - Ultima Lucha (LU)

(Written by @ht101)

PWG is an American based independent promotion based in Reseda California. This promotion is very much a fan friendly promotion. The shows take place in a super small American Legion Hall that is hot, stinky and very cramped. You would think that the fans would be surly, shitty and some of the worst in the country. That is not the case. Whenever you talk with someone who has gone to a PWG show, they talk about how nice the fans are, what a great experience is and how you are a part of a wrestling family.

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Night 2 of the 2015 BOLA was one of the honorable mentions last year and this year, Night 2 came through and blew all of us away. The tournament matches were all solid to great. Some of the stand out matches were the opener between Dalton Castle and Tommaso Ciampa which was a comedy match at times but it also was an excellent way to warm up the crowd with Ciampa pulling out random WWE finishers to get some heat. While science says the best tournament match of the night was Cedric Alexander/Mark Haskins, I loved Kyle O’Reilly/Matt Riddle more. That match had an amazing slow burn that showed how much O’Reilly hates feet and hands and how Riddle is going to be a humongous star in the future. Both guys went all out and brought the crowd into the match with them.

The reason this show was the best of the year though was because of the two tag team matches that night. The first tag match was between Pentagon Jr/Fenix and Chris Hero/Tommy End. Everyone in the match was at their best and it showed throughout the match. The biggest and most insane spot was when Fenix jumped onto his brothers shoulders and then backflipped off of them onto Hero and End outside of the ring. The main event of the night was the best match of the night as well. We saw Ricochet, Will Ospreay and Matt Sydal take on Adam Cole and The Young Bucks. This match is what a young child would say their ideal wrestling match would be. It’s people flying around, doing insane moves and making the crowd and announcers freak out. There are so many moments that make this match amazing but here is the best one. The biggest and coolest move was when the Young Bucks went for a Meltzer Driver but Ospreay countered it into one of the best cutters I have ever seen then Sydal and Ricochet hit a no big deal Shooting Star Press Meltzer Driver.

For a show to be the best of the year, you need to have matches that you care about, matches that pull you in when you don’t think they’ll be good and matches that blow you away with how great they are. Battle of Los Angeles Night 2 had all of those things and more. Buy this Blu Ray from PWG’s website and see why it’s the best of the year.

Runner Ups: G1 Climax Night 17, NXT Takeover: Dallas, ROH Final Battle, Wrestle Kingdom 1

Breakout / Rookie Of The Year - Jeff Cobb / Matanza Cueto

Previous Winners: 2015 - Chad Gable | 2014 - Alexa Bliss

(Written by @turboman)

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The first season of Lucha Underground featured a year long build of Dario Cueto’s brother, Matanza Cueto. Matanza was a monster who was locked in a cage, and whenever Dario needed to murder any of his wrestlers he would feed them to his Brother. It was (like a lot of Lucha Underground) extremely whacky, but it did help make you imagine what this guy could possibly look like and wonder how he would fit in to the rest of the show. Was he over seven feet tall? If he was as big as you would imagine, how would it be entertaining watching him fight with luchadores who were known for their acrobatics?

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In the 20 man Aztec Warfare match, Matanza Cueto made his debut as the surprise entrant at #21. The man himself is only 5’9”, but he is built like a tank and was able to show off his complete moveset which featured many different types of suplexes and was able to throw around the smaller Luchadores as if they weighed nothing. Matanza won the Lucha Underground Championship on the night of his debut and he continued to hold the title for the remainder of the second season. It was an incredibly effective debut for a new wrestler that made for a great first impression.

It only took a few months after the initial exposure of Matanza before we started to see more of Jeff Cobb. Cobb represented Guam in the 2004 Olympics in amateur wrestling, so him mixing his amateur wrestling abilities and using his size is always extremely fun to watch. By the end of 2016 Jeff Cobb is being featured frequently on popular independent promotions PWG, Evolve, and RPW along with being signed to a contract for Lucha Underground. After his first year it’s easy to see that he is going to be a big name in wrestling for years to come.

Runners Up: Jack Gallagher, Matt Riddle, No Way Jose, James Ellsworth

1 Comments

The Mario Party Party Tracker (MPP7 Updated)

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The Mario Party Party Tracker

(MPP7 UPDATE: New graphs and tables below, and new updated sections for each of our players. I added in stats to dice rolls throughout the game for MPP7. Enjoy?)

Hello everyone, and welcome to my insanity.

We are currently falling head first into the remaining four Mario Party Parties in the next couple of months while Dan is still on the west coast, so I thought it would be fitting to compile ALL of the data of the past couple of years and assemble The Mario Party Party Tracker.

The main function of the tracker to me personally is a way to show who's winning the overall game of Mario Party Party(MPP). As we all know Dan is ahead of his competition in terms of wins in Mario Party, having 3 wins out of the 6 games that have been played so far. The ultimate problem with the Giant Bomb series would be if Dan managed to get two more wins before Mario Party 10 and make it mathematically impossible for anyone else to catch up. If that happened, the all-important narrative of the series would dissolve into nothing.

The solution of this would be to track the overall game a little bit differently. With the MPP Tracker, the overall positions are tracked by the percentages of stars and coins owned by each competitor. For example, at the end of the first Mario Party, Dan owns 7 stars (and 16 coins) out of the possible 13 stars (and 70 coins) that was on the board by the end of the game, so his percentage number of owned stars/coins ended up being 53% of the board. These stats are carried over from game to game.

I wanted to factor in coins to the overall percentage owned on the board, so I started at one star being equivalent to 30 coins. However, I wanted the standings of every Mario Party to be congruent with my Tracker. So I had to adjust the value of the coins on the tracker until I got my desired results. If you look at MPP 4, you can see that each of the competitors had an absurd amount of coins, making the value of the coins go down (616 coins on the board at the end). So the best value for the coins I could get without any of the results being wonky would be 160 coins to one star.

Quick note: if you want to make it simpler for yourself, you can just focus on the total number of stars owned. And if we manage to end in a tie, then you can factor in the rest.

With all of that out of the way, let's see where our current standings are in regards to the MPP Tracker:

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Current Standings
PlayerPosition% OwnedBehindStarsCoinsMini-Game AwardCoin AwardHappening AwardMario Party Wins
Dan Ryckert139.18%Leader526495234
Jeff Gerstmann224.87%-14.31%325731320
Drew Scanlon322.14%-17.04%302691122
Brad Shoemaker413.80%-25.38%182800121
  1. Dan Ryckert

With Mario Party Party 7, Dan continues to prove his point: Mario Party is a game of skill. Dan increases his lead in the overall meta game, and currently has twenty more stars than anyone else. At this rate, Dan can probably tank if he wanted to and still come away with the highest amount of stars & coins.

In MPP7, Dan made great use of the Boo orb that steals his opponent's stars, trapping other players 5 times. He also came away with the most mini-game victories with 9 solo wins, and was on the winning side of a game 25 times total (Dan gained coins from mini games over 50% of the time).

Dan's late game in MPP7 was down right inspirational. On turn 41, Dan used a flutter orb to gain a star and rolled a dice to gain another star in one turn. Two turns later he had another two star turn via his Boo steal orb. Two turns after that, he had a three star turn because of two more boo steal orbs that were laid out on the board.

2. Jeff Gerstmann

Jeff has still not won a game of Mario Party, however he is clearly the most consistently good player of Mario Party whether he wants to admit it or not.

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After trailing Drew by a very small margin, Jeff has finally moved forward into second place in the overall meta game of Mario Party Party. Outside of Dan, Jeff also gained a lot by using his Boo steal orbs, stealing three stars throughout the game.

3. Drew Scanlon

Drew... had a pretty rough game. The only reason he came out ahead of Brad was because of a star awarded to him in the "Bullshit Finale" 51st turn for him using the most orbs out of everyone else. However, it should be noted that even though Drew didn't have a good outing, there are some good things to say about his performance. Most notably the VICIOUS use of the Pirhanna Orb, which trapped his opponents a whopping six times in MPP7. He was also a lot better at the Gondola ride than Dan was.

  1. Brad Shoemaker

Brad finished in last again, making this his fourth time. However, he did have the second most wins in mini-games. Unfortunately, Brad didn't make good use of his orbs. In fact, he made zero use of his orbs, since no other players fell on any of his traps.

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If you want to take a look at the stats for yourself and missed the link at the top, here it is again:

The Mario Party Party Tracker

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Mario Party Party Tracker update (Unfinished)

The Mario Party Party Tracker

My goal is to be done with this thing and to be able to write a somewhat compelling report by the time Mario Party Party 7 is scheduled to happen (which I'm guessing would be live at PAX West in a few months). The way the main charts are graphed is to show who is in the lead by the percentage of Stars/Coins that are owned that's available on the board. Stars are of course weighted to be the most important thing to have.

To make the graphs work, I'm currently saying the value of coins is 1/160th the value of stars. I got that number because the results of Mario Party Party 4 wouldn't make sense if Brad wasn't the winner in the end.

So, I've come a long way and I currently like the way everything is laid out so far. There's some interesting narratives that can be found out of these results (one being that despite never winning, Jeff isn't THAT far behind Drew for overall second place in the metagame that can be played out).But, I'm definitely not done yet. If there are some suggestions of things that needs to be added, please throw them out there. I know that I will need to be working more on a better formula to come up with an "Excitement Index", as well as to add a better way to show the "big swings" since the percentage changes didn't quite give me what I wanted in big plays (I need to have amount of stars changes instead of percentage changes).

Anyways, enjoy looking through my insanity.

5 Comments

Brass Ring Awards 2015 Day 4

Day 4 - The Top Ten Matches of 2015

Today, we will be taking a look at the top ten matches of 2015. This includes all matches from all promotions and all genders. Because I don't want to break any of the rules set by Giant Bomb, I am not going to post the matches in here. Most of the matches on this list except for three are pretty easy to watch legally for pretty cheap. WWE Network is $9.99 a month and NJPW World is a little bit cheaper when you convert Yen to Dollars. Here is an easy guide to follow to subscribe to NJPW World and have access to their library.

Of course, there's also a lot of wrestling that has been uploaded through the internet via common streaming services. So there's that option if you want to go to that route.

Anyways, here's our top ten matches of 2015. It's been a blast to make this list and I want to thank everybody who was involved.

If you'd like to join in on our discussions on this thread, please feel free with your favorite matches of this year.

10. WWE - Royal Rumble - Brock Lesnar (c) vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins

(written by @recspec)

The important thing to understand about this match from Royal Rumble 2015 is that Brock Lesnar was a monster from an old hollywood movie. He ended the streak at Wrestlemania last year and absolutely dominated John Cena. Two things we thought we would never see, both accomplished by the same person. Naturally, a triple threat makes sense for him to lose the belt, because he can lose without being pinned. The big question is how do you remove the beast from the equation? In the end we get a triple threat match between three of the best people in the company, and it was a lot of fun.

Because of how insanely dominant Brock Lesnar was, we get to see a bunch of goofy stuff that we would call ridiculous if someone else did it. We bemoan the amount of finishers that get kicked out of in PPV matches, but when Brock does it, we are okay with that. Kicking out of an AA at 1? Sure. Kicking out of three AAs in a row and a curb stomp? Okay, sure. That sounds really dumb on paper, but it worked at the time. The only thing that slowed him down was getting hit by the stairs, and getting destroyed by an insane diving elbow from the top rope through the spanish announce table by Rollins. That is how you kill a monster.

Cena and Rollins have decent match for awhile after that, making the most of triple threat rules. J&J Security (remember them?) help Rollins escape the STF, and they triple-powerbomb Cena, only for Cena to be Cena and overcome the odds. A particularly neat spot has him giving the AA to both Mercury and Noble at the same time. Eventually we get to our ending, which is amazing.

Rollins hits Cena with the Curb Stomp, Cena kicks out at 2. So what does Rollins do next? Gets on the top rope and lands a goddamn phoenix splash. It was his old finisher in Ring of Honor, and the first time we see him land one. But before you can even process what just happened, Brock appears out of nowhere and suplexes Rollins. When you think Brock is going to end it there, Rollins continues to surprise, hitting Brock with the MITB briefcase twice, and goes for a curb stomp on top of it. Brock rises again! Catches him in midair, ballgame.

This match wasn't the most technical masterpiece out there, but it was a lot of fun. Brock being a movie monster is goofy as hell, but it works. Rollins gets to look like a star for maybe the first time since The Shield broke up. Cena gets to be there making you worried the whole time because Cena can always win. This match was a blast.

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9. Stardom - 5★Grand Prix 2015 Finals - Io Shirai & Mayu Iwatani Vs. DASH Chisako & Sendai Sachiko

(written by @aronleon)

Tag Team matches were plentiful this year from the Young Bucks to The New Day there were a lot to pick from but one match rise above them all, Stardom is one of the top Joshi promotions in Japan, house to some of the best and upcoming talent, Thunder Rocks (Io and Mayu) had been on a roll since winning the tag titles early in the year making it clear they were the team to beat but their biggest match was to come. The Jumonji sisters(Chisako and Sachiko) were taking every tag title available (JWP,Sendai,WWWD) and soon Stardom was next, they manage to beat Thunder Rocks on a house show so a match for the titles was to follow.

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The match shows the best of each team, from the amazing tag moves the sisters make to Io and Mayu aerial moves, each team has something to prove, Io shows why she is the Ace of the company while Mayu reminds us that she is only getting better, the sisters prove they are not to the be taken lightly with move that are made to be seen over and over, start to finish this match had everything and more to make to number 9.

8. Dragon Gate - Gate of Destiny - Shingo Takagi vs. Masaaki Mochizuki

(written by @milkman)

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When Shingo Takagi captured his third Open the Dream Gate Championship in August, he turned his back on his Monster Express stablemates and made it his mission to purge who he thought was the weak members of the Dragon Gate roster. Part of this was putting the old guard of the promotion out to pasture so this meant setting his sights on one of the oldest members of the Dragon Gate roster, Masaaki Mochizuki. Nearly 46 years old, Mochizuki is one of the few remaining members of the Dragon Gate roster who wrestled in Toryumon, the original promotion founded by Ultimo Dragon that would eventually become Dragon Gate. For Mochizuki, it was one last shot on the big stage to prove that he could still hang with the aces of the company. For Takagi, it was his chance to take Mochizuki behind the woodshed and put him out of his misery.

In the end, Takagi was simply too young and too strong, defeating the old timer but not before Mochizuki put on one of the most amazing displays of heart and fighting spirit that the company (and wrestling as a whole) has ever seen. Wrestling a man nearly 13 years his junior, Mochizuki went blow for blow with Takagi every step of the way, taking an unbelievable amount of punishment but continuing to fight back relentlessly to the bitter end. On this night, age was truly just a number as Mochizuki turned back the clock with the performance of his career in what will likely be his final one-on-one main event shot in Dragon Gate. Time takes us all one day but for one night, Masaaki Mochizuki was truly immortal.

7. NJPW - Best of the Super Jr. Final - KUSHIDA vs. Kyle O'Reilly

(written by @drdarkstryfe)

Different promotions approach wrestling from different angles. Companies like WWE and Chikara choose to promote the story aspect of the industry and the strugle of good guys and bad guys. For New Japan Pro Wrestling, they approach wrestling as if it is a sport and competition.

A way they do this is with annual tournaments and events that highlight different segments of their roster. One of the tournaments is the Battle of the Super Junior's; a showcase of the talant that competes in the Junior Heavyweight divsion of NJPW. The structure of the compeition has two blocks of wrestlers competing. The winner of the blocks face off in the finals, with the victor earning a spot to compete for the IWGP Jr Heavyweight title.

This year's final for the Battle of the Super Jr. was between KUSHIDA vs Kyle O'Reilly.

The thirty minute match was a clinic on in-match storytelling and was told in three parts.

The first part of the story was a back and forth that showed off the wide variety of mat wrestling talent the two men have. KUSHIDA and O'Reilly began the match exchanged holds and moves as they attempted to gain an upper hand. The two showed off an impressive and constant barrage of locks and reversals at a blazing pace.

The second part of the match saw O'Reilly gain the significant advantage when he was able to injure KUSHIDA's left arm on a top rope move. This slower paced poriton of the match showed off O'Reilly's wide variety of submission moves, and KUSHIDA's ability to make the impact of the moves look real and brutal.

The final part of our story is KUSHIDA regaining control of the match, and throwing everything he can to finish off O'Reilly. Regaining the advantage with a brutal suplex on the edge of the ring, momentum shifted back to KUSHIDA as he did everything he could to win the match. He hit Kyle O'Reilly with both his tag team parter Alex Shelley's finisher the Sliced Bread #2, and his own finisher the Corkscrew Moonsault, only for O'Reilly to kick out of both. It took KUSHIDA to reverse a move into a Kimura armlock to finally get O'Reilly to tap out and earn a show at the champion Kenny Omega.

Incredible athleticism and the ability for the two men to tell a story through their actions help make this match stand out as one of the best matches of 2015.

6. NJPW - Wrestle Kingdom 9 - Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada

(written by @milkman)

It’s a story as old as wrestling itself. There’s a top guy in a company and there’s countless other wrestlers trying to take that spot. 99% of them fail before they even get close but once in a while, another guy comes along who threatens to take the throne away. Hiroshi Tanahashi is the undeniable top ace of New Japan Pro Wrestling and it’s been that way for a long time. Going into Wrestle Kingdom 9, Tanahashi had not only main evented the Tokyo Dome four years in a row but he had won the match every year. Enter Kazuchika Okada, the fastest rising star in Japan who at just 27 years old was already a two-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Okada is undoubtedly the biggest threat to Tanahashi’s reign as the true ace of New Japan. Tanahashi had already successfully defended his IWGP Heavyweight Championship against Okada two years prior at Wrestle Kingdom 7 but after winning the G1 Climax for a second time, Okada found himself face to face with Tanahashi yet again in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 9. This was Okada’s chance. Defeating Tanahashi in the Tokyo Dome would mean that New Japan was now his company.

Don't cry Okada, you'll get another chance to beat that Tanahashi jerk at next year's Wrestle Kingdom.
Don't cry Okada, you'll get another chance to beat that Tanahashi jerk at next year's Wrestle Kingdom.

In the early goings of the match, it looked like Okada would do just that, controlling the bout hitting a hanging DDT the floor as well as connecting with Heavy Rain on the entrance ramp. Momentum shifted as Tanahashi injured Okada’s leg with a dragon screw legwhip and then after using Okada’s own Tombstone piledriver against him before hitting two High Fly Flows, his finishing maneuver. Under normal circumstances, that would have been the end of the match but on this night, it wasn’t enough. Okada kicked out of the second High Fly Flow as doubt began to seep into the mind of Tanahashi that this guy really could be the one who would finally take his spot. From there, Okada would attempt to hit his own finisher move, the Rainmaker, four different times but Tanahashi was there to counter it every single time. Three High Fly Flows later and the match was over. Tanahashi successfully retained his IWGP Heavyweight Championship and perhaps more importantly, retained his status as the true ace of New Japan. After the match, Tanahashi reminded Okada of what he surely already knew, that this was still his company and Okada was still far from taking it from him. A broken, weeping Rainmaker retreated having lost the battle but not the war. The story continues in just a few days at Wrestle Kingdom 10 where Tanahashi and Okada will again face off in the main event at the Tokyo Dome, however, this time with Tanahashi as the challenger and Okada as the champion in what likely be their final battle on this stage and potentially the official passing of the torch.

5. NJPW - Power Struggle - Tomoaki Honma vs. Tomohiro Ishii

(written by @turboman)

Do you like Head-Butts? If you do, you'll like this match. There's 32 of them here. I know because I counted them.

Before being a regular in NJPW, Tomoaki Honma used to be involved in death matches. Tomohiri Ishii looks like he might have killed a man once in his life. Both of these guys are tough motherfuckers. 80% of the match is stiff forarms to the head or head-butts, but whenever one of these guys do hit a move it's usually done in the most grand way possible. For example there's a moment where both of these guys are struggling to lift each other up for a suplex, and Honma is able to deadlift Ishii into a suplex. Ishii hits Honma with a delayed superplex that looks impressive as hell. Honma headbuts Ishii and knocks him out of the ring and proceeds to do a diving head-butt from the top turnbuckle to the floor because Honma is a CRAZY MAN.

Both of these guys head-butt/forearm/clothesline/chop the hell out of each other and it's a thrill to watch. Japanese crowds also get hype as hell whenever these two match up because they know that they're in for something special every single time and this was no different.

4. Stardom - Galaxy Stars - Kairi Hojo (c) vs. Meiko Satomura

(written by @aronleon)

Stardom had its ups and downs in 2015 but one of the best things was the rise of Kairi Hojo, before she was mainly known as a tag wrestler but once the main title was up for grabs she never looked back, there was the question if she was good enough to fill the shoes of past champions like Io Shirai and Nanae Takashi, seeing how you are reading this now I think you know the answer. Every good champion needs a good rival what better way to test the new champ than industry veteran Meiko Satomura. To describe this match the word that comes to mind is War, this start hard and only keeps turning up the volume, Satomura is know for her kicks but Hojo will be known for her backfists, seeing both give their all is nothing short of amazing from Hojo´s beautifull Diving Elbow Drop to Satomura´s fantastic Death Valley Bomb I could say more but words can only go so far, this match will keep you on the edge of your seat for that reason and many more its our pic for number 4.

3. Lucha Underground - Grave Consequences - Mil Muertes vs. Fenix

(written by @turboman)

Lucha Underground had a handful of great matches this year, but there's only one that stands above the rest. After weeks of Dario Cueto hyping up this match by just saying "GRAVE CONSEQUENCES" and not exactly explaining what the hell that even means, we're finally introduced to the match with several people dressed up as skeletons carrying a casket to the ring with roses on top (and a sick skull face painted on the front).

What happened after was a brutal ending to the first chunk of Fenix vs. Mil Muertes' feud. The match starts off quick with dives and planchas over the top rope to the outside, and the pace abruptly turns into a brawl once Mil Muertes hits Fenix with the casket as Fenix attempts a suicide dive. Fenix is busted up and in one of the grossest things I've ever seen in wrestling Mil Muertes starts to rip off Fenix's mask, bites the wound, and then spits out Fenix's blood. Mil continues his assault while Vampiro is talking about his time in Vampire cults on commentary (which by the way is a real thing that Vampiro is into in real life).

In fact, here's a couple of excellent lines from Vampiro on commentary during this match:

  • "Shit!"
  • "God Damn!"
  • "He's Gonna Kill Him!"
  • "Oh Shit!"

The match continues as Mil continues to attack the wound with bites and chair shots while Fenix gets spurts of offense through dives and moonsaults off of the fan guard rail. There's a ton of big moves that happens throughout the Lucha Underground Temple as well as slams that happen on top of the coffin that dents it. The only problem that I have with this match is its sudden finish that doesn't have a great build up (it's the reason it's not higher on this list), but the whole match is just a fun ride to sit through and it makes me happy to see the feud continue as we head into Season 2 of Lucha Underground.

2. NJPW - Wrestle Kingdom 9 - Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi

(written by @recspec)

A year ago, I only watched the main program of WWE and some of NXT, pretty safe stuff. I've heard people talk about New Japan before but never felt compelled to watch it myself. Fortunately New Japan worked out a deal with Jeff Jarrett to have an english friendly version of Wrestle Kingdom 9, and I decided that was good enough for me to take the plunge. The overall show was okay, some really good matches, but nothing really hooked me personally. Then this match happened.

The first thing that blew my mind was Shinsuke Nakamura's entrance. Amazing stuff that gave me chills the first time I watched it. The actual match tells the story of the young guy trying to claw into the upper tier of the company against the veteran, and was a brawl with both wrestlers disrespecting each other. Ibushi doesn't want to wait until his turn in the spotlight, he wants it right now. He stole Nakamura's pose during the match. He stole his finisher! he was just plain disrespectful, and it was cool as hell. Nakamura is the King of Strong Style for a reason though, and he fought back. For major parts of the match Ibushi and Nakamura were just slugging each other, and it was captivating. You could feel the disdain these two had for each other.

There are some amazing spots in this match. Ibushi made everyone's jaw drop when he stood on the top rope and suplexed Nakamura over. Nakamura's last Boma Ye to Ibushi to put him away for good was savage, overall a brilliant technical match. Shinsuke Nakamura instantly became my favorite wrestler in NJPW, and Ibushi looked to have a bright future (sadly as of this writing he is injured). I do not have the years of experience that other wrestling fans in the thread do when it comes to NJPW, but at a time where the only thing I watched was WWE, that match spoke to me in a way wrestling hasn't since I was in high school. Two wrestlers giving it everything they had and stealing the show. Easily my favorite match of the year.

1. NXT - Takeover: Brooklyn - Sasha Banks (c) vs. Bayley

(written by @milkman)

For years, the WWE audience has been conditioned to see women’s wrestling as bathroom breaks and cool downs. That thing you stick on the card that no one really cares about to let the crowd catch its breath before they get back to the stuff that really matters. In 2015, that changed. Though the treatment of the women’s division on the WWE main roster was very far from perfect, the conversation was no longer “why are we wasting time with these wannabe models pretending they’re wrestlers?” Instead, it was “why are these clearly talented wrestlers not getting the treatment they deserve?” Fans knew now what these women actually deserved and what they’re capable of because in NXT, they got it. Women’s wrestling in NXT was not treated as a side show or an excuse to see some girls roll around in their underwear. These are wrestlers and they’re damn good ones too. Where the “Divas Revolution” of the main roster told you to care without giving you any good reason to, NXT’s women’s revolution showed you why you should care. It wasn’t a switch that got flipped at some point, it was a process and it was earned. And if there was one moment, one match, that defined this “revolution”, it was this.

Sasha Banks had won the NXT Women’s Championship in February at NXT Takeover: Rival in the first match where the women of NXT really stole the show, establishing what would then become the norm for NXT events. As champion, Banks quickly established herself as not just the best women’s wrestler in the history of NXT but perhaps one of the best to ever wrestle in WWE. As arrogant as she is talented, The Boss truly came into her own at the top of the NXT women’s division. On the flip side, there was Bayley. Forever just happy to be here, Bayley had been taken advantage of and deceived by seemingly everyone in NXT. When the time came for the women of NXT to make their debuts on Raw, Banks, Charlotte and Becky Lynch were all there while Bayley stayed in Full Sail. While Sasha rattled off title defenses, Bayley languished in irrelevancy with a string of loses and a hand injury that put her out of action for two months. Feeling left behind by her other three “horsewomen”, Bayley was determined to finally prove that she belonged, declaring her championship aspirations and then defeating both Charlotte and Lynch to earn a title shot at NXT’s biggest event ever, Takeover: Brooklyn.

In the Barclays Center, Sasha Banks vs. Bayley was not the last match of the night but it was the main event. The electricity from the opening bell was undeniable and unprecedented for a match involving two women in the WWE. Banks spent much of the earlier portions of the match, toying with and mocking Bayley, clearly still not taking her as a serious threat and still treating her as the little sister of the Four Horsewomen. There is a certain technical brutality to Banks’ offense that was first showcased in her match earlier in the year with Becky Lynch and is certainly on display here as well. Ripping off the brace and working over the previously injured hand of Bayley, Banks is meticulous and surgical showcasing her in control, detached style that got her the championship. In contrast, Bayley wrestles with pure emotion, complete with Dusty Rhodes tribute bands on her wrist, feeding off the energy of the crowd and willing herself through the pain. The turning point of match comes when Banks has the Banks

Statement locked on in the center of the ring and while Bayley desperately reaches out for the rope break, Banks viciously stomps on the injured hand of Bayley. Still refusing to give in, Bayley again reaches for the ropes when Banks decides to instead use the ropes to roll her back in the middle of the ring to reapply the submission hold. In this split second, Bayley counters, flipping the hold into a submission of her own. With a desperate champion now out of options, the momentum clearly shifts in favor of the challenger. A jaw dropping top rope reverse hurricanrana followed by a Belly to Bayley is what finally ends Bayley’s two year long championship journey, proving to everyone that not only does she belong but so does women’s wrestling.

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Brass Ring Awards 2015 Day 3

Day 3

(Warning: All wrestling highlight videos include terrible music. Sorry, it is what it is.)

Most Improved - Tetsuya Naito

(written by @milkman)

Tetsuya Naito has struggled his entire career to belong in New Japan. Constantly attempting to enter the upper echelon of wrestlers with Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada and Shinsuke Nakamura, he was never able to garner enough fan support to be seen as any of their equals. This is all culminated at Wrestle Kingdom 8 where Naito suffered his biggest embarrassment, losing his main spot at the Tokyo Dome via a fan poll. This year, however, Naito fully embraced his inability to fit in. After a Mexican summer excursion in CMLL, Naito returned to New Japan with a new persona, attitude and rallying cry, LOS INGOBERNABLES. Complete with a slow trot to the ring that would make Undertaker say “jeez, dude really?”, Naito seemingly became the master of Bored Style as he seemed generally disinterested with beating up his opponents or getting his ass kicked himself. In 2015, no referee, camera man or young boy was safe from Naito as he became arguably the most entertaining aspect of a relatively disappointing second half of the year for New Japan. With the help of his stablemates EVIL and Bushi, he silenced all detractors who said that he would only ever be a vanilla B-tier level babyface by rejecting everything and everyone that gotten him to this point in his career. LOS INGOBERNABLES

Runner Ups: Roderick Strong, Xavier Woods, Baron Corbin, Samoa Joe's Theme Music

Tag Team of the Year - New Day

(written by @turboman)

At the beginning of the year, New Day was a new group that was failing miserably. Kofi has not been involved in anything in years, Xavier Woods never had a chance to impress anybody, and Big E's stock was plummeting after a pretty good debut year in 2014. The crowd shortly turned on New Day (it honestly never had a chance) and it was honestly borderline offensive at times.

WWE was forced to turn The New Day heel. Most teams would probably flounder right here, but Xavier/Kofi/Big E took the ball and completely ran with it. Every week would have a New Day promo that was more upsurd than the week before. Xavier Woods' trash talk throughout matches was incredible, Kofi finally showed life as a character, and we finally got to see Big E's comedic chops come through on TV after years of showing it on his Twitter accounts.

Then they bought a trombone at some point... And then they started to sell Unicorn Horns as WWE Merchandise... at some point Xavier Woods gained magical powers?

Honestly, the only reason to watch WWE for the majority of this year was because of The New Day. That is not a lie or an exageration. The only watchable thing on WWE television was this Tag Team. That's why no other tag team was close in 2015 for this catagory.

Runner Ups: Young Bucks, Chad Gable & Jason Jordan, Unlikely Trio, Enzo & Big Cass

PPV/Show of the Year - Ultima Lucha

(written by @recspec)

It has been said many times, but Lucha Underground transcended wrestling this year. It wasn't only a great wrestling show, it was a great television show. Ultima Lucha is Lucha Underground's big finale (so big it was aired over two weeks, but because it was recorded as one show live we are counting it as one show). The in-ring stuff was amazing from start to finish. What everyone thought would be a ho-hum starting match between The Mack and Cage turned into a brutal war that ended with someone being curbstomped through a cinder block, at that point everyone knew that this show was going to be something special, even for Lucha Underground. Aside from a short dull match with Blue Demon Jr (which still pushed a story forward), every match was great, and covered a variety of matches. One of the biggest highlights was the Cero Miedo match between Pentagon Jr and Vampiro, which was probably the hardest to watch because of the pure violence in the card. Light tubes got used as weapons and someone got lit on fire, stuff normally tucked away into the shady side of the internet was on television for all to witness.

Great ring action aside, the major thing about Ultima Lucha is that it the end of a lot of stories that have been told all season. What's up with that monster that killed a guy? Who is Pentagon Jr's master? Can the champion Prince Puma defeat Mil Muertes, the personification of death? Even though this show is the best of the year, a major reason this won was because it was the end of an amazing journey. Watching this show on it's own would still be great, but would be the equivalent of watching a season finale of Breaking Bad or 24. Speaking of endings, the cinematic montage that ended Lucha Underground was a perfect ending to this amazing season. Fortunately we are getting a second season, but if we didn't. That would have been a beautiful goodbye.

Runner Ups: NJPW WrestleKingdom 9, NJPW Dominion 2015, NXT Takeover Brooklyn, PWG BOLA Night 2

Best Female Wrestler - Sasha Banks

(written by @milkman)

No wrestler, male or female, ruled 2015 more than Sasha Banks. There was no story among fans bigger than the rise of NXT’s women’s division this year and the one constant name in the middle of the discussion all year was The Boss. After winning the NXT Women’s Championship on February 11 at NXT Takeover: Rival, Banks began a reign that would re-write what it means to be a women’s wrestler in the WWE. Starting at Rival, the women of NXT stole the show at just about every single Takeover the rest of the year until NXT had no choice but let them main event and Banks was every step of the way. Whether it was alongside Becky Lynch in her star making performance at Takeover: Unstoppable or playing the villain to Bayley’s years long championship odyssey at Takeover: Brooklyn or finally, in her NXT swan song at Takeover: Respect, where her and Bayley became not only the first women to have an Iron Man match in WWE but also the first women to main event a WWE PPV event. The Boss did it all in 2015 and even though her call-up to the main roster is worrying to say the least, at just 23 years old, you have to believe that she’s just getting started.

Runner Ups: Kairi Hojo, Bayley, Io Shirai, Asuka

Best Male Wrestler - AJ Styles

If you were to describe AJ Styles in 2015 in one word, it’d be “consistent”. Whether he was at the packed Tokyo Dome for Wrestle Kingdom or in front of a couple hundred people during Chikara’s King of Trios tournament, Styles reliably delivered fantastic matches throughout the year. The first half of the year saw him putting on amazing singles matches against the likes of Okada, Tanahashi, and Ibushi for the IWGP Heavyweight title, as well as traveling all over the world to defend the title in other independent promotions. After losing the title back to Okada in July, he proceeded to have an awesome run in the G1 Climax tournament, as well as put on completely bonkers tag matches alongside the Young Bucks in both Chikara and Ring of Honor.

With reports of back issues starting to catch up to him, as well as past interviews saying he’d like to stop once he hits 40, it’s entirely possible that AJ will be completely done within a couple of years. If that’s the case, he’ll be going out on a truly great run and this past year he’s proven that he deserves his nickname “Phenomenal”

Runner Ups: John Cena, Zack Sabre Jr, Chris Hero, Roderick Strong

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