Looking at year-end award lists in any medium—wrestling, movies, albums—they tend to gravitate towards the nice round Top 10. However, we can all admit that picking 10 of the best is a completely arbitrary number.
VOW’s Match of the Year Top 10 is no exception.
If you only look at the Top 10 in this year’s countdown, you would miss out great matches that ranked 11-13 and were all close to the Top 10. You’d also lose matches that many would consider every bit as good as some of the Top 10. With that thought in mind, I went through the top ranks of the VOW Match of the Year poll in an attempt to separate it all into tiers.
I looked at the point totals to find examples of clear delineations between matches, so that I could find a place where one can clearly say – “these matches were great, but once you get here, then they are next-level stuff.” I used a simple calculation of subtracting the point total of one match from the match immediately behind it to get the difference in points between matches, and then went looking for where big jumps occurred.
For example, the Miyahara/Nomura match from AJPW 9/3 at #13 was 21 points ahead of the Ishii/Moxley match at #14 – a clear distinction. With a little inspiration from Bill Simmons, who used a gimmick similar to this occasionally in his columns and in his Hall of Fame Pyramid in the “Book of Basketball”, I have also given each tier an interesting name. “Sadness Village” and the muddle of lower point total matches were not included.
The “Beginning of Consensus” Tier
#84. Brock Lesnar vs. Finn Balor (1/27) 14 points to #64 Sami Callihan vs. Tessa Blanchard (7/7) 23 points
This tier starts right after #85 (Moxley/Darby) which is a match that received 14 points off of one first-place vote. So everything in this tier received at least 14 points and 2 votes, giving it the minimum for a true match of the year consensus. These 21 matches are only separated by nine points, and as you go up there is never more than a one-point total increase.
The “It’s Starting to Get Good” Tier
#63 Violence Giants vs. Strong BJ (1/13) 23 points to #47 Ben K vs. Masaaki Mochizuki (10/8) 32 points
While this tier starts with the same point total as Sami/Tessa, it begins the part of the list where all matches received at least four total votes, and therefore I decided to have it start a new tier. Sami/Tessa got three votes, while VG/Strong BJ got five, bumping it up a spot. The previous tier was mostly matches with 2-4 total votes and now we move into 5-8 total votes territory, though there are a few outliers with four. Again, these are all very close to each other with 0-1 points separating them, with the exception of the Joshi matches at #53 and #54 tied at 29 points, 2 above PAC/Cara Noir.
The “Solid as a Rock” Tier
#46 Hanson and Rowe (Viking War Raider Experience) vs. Aleister Black/Ricochet (4/5) 37 points to #26 Okada vs. SANADA (8/3) 62 points
Now we start the steady climb into greatness with our first true separation. The TakeOver NY tag match ends up five points ahead of Ben K/Mochizuki, the first time in the list that more than two points have separated a match. The overall point total is truly starting to increase now and there is a much bigger distance between the beginning and end of this tier, however, going from match to match it is a nice smooth curve with only 1-3 points between matches. There is one four-point differential between Ibushi/Okada from the G1 block final over Laredo Kid/Hijo del Vikingo. That could have been used to create a new tier, however, there is a clear distinction going into the top 25 that makes it a much better option.
The “Diverse Greatness of 2019” Tier
#25 Cole vs. Gargano (6/1) 76 points to #14 Ishii vs. Moxley (7/19) 105 points
Remember when I started out saying things like a top 10 are arbitrary and I was going to do this whole exercise to find a better way to separate this list? Well, the data just laughed in my face here as we get a 14 point difference between #26 (Okada/SANADA G1) and #25 (Cole/Gargano from Takeover XXV). The first double-digit separation, and in fact the first one over five points in the whole list. In this tier the matches are between 1-3 points between each other, so still quite close. The only exception is #17 PAC/Kzy being 6 points ahead of #18 Lucha Bros vs. Young Bucks from All Out. I guess I could create “sub-tiers” but shortly after this is another strong inflection point. I named this tier the “Diverse Greatness of 2019” because it has a little bit of everything – the tag match and Dragon Gate match I just mentioned, the highest-ranked DDT match (#15 Takeshita/Endo from Peter Pan), the highest-ranked Joshi match (#19 Arisa Nakajima vs. Nanae Takahashi from SEAdLINNNG), a BJW strong match (#22 Takuya Nomura vs. Yuji Okabayshi), a “blood and guts” match with Omega and Moxley from AEW at #24 and a shoot-style match from Bloodsport featuring Josh Barnett and Minoru Suzuki at #22.
One of the most popular memes in 2019 was how truly insane pro wrestling got, and this tier is a great representation of that.
The Beginning of the Best
#13 Kento Miyahara vs. Naoya Nomura (9/3) 126 points
#12 Shingo vs. Naito (8/4) 137 points
Our smallest tier so far with only two matches. As we go forward the tiers will continue to be small like this as points begin to accumulate and the truly great matches of 2019 pull away from each other. With 21 points separating #13 Kento vs. Nomura and #14 Ishii vs. Moxley this is a big line in the sand. It is the first separation over 20 points and only the second in double digits. In fact, looking at the list, this is truly where the “match of the year” begins in my opinion. If you want a list of the greatest matches of 2019, doing just a top 10 would be a disservice as these 13 matches are a cut above the rest and it all starts with these two.
The Brutal Tier
#11 WALTER vs. Tyler Bate (8/31) 160 points
#10 Dr. Wagner Jr. vs. Blue Demon Jr. (8/3) 170 points
#9 Shingo vs. Ishii (8/8) 177 points
Three examples of the highest caliber brutality in 2019 wrestling featured the forearm exchanges, chops, bleeding, hammers, and cinder blocks that brought the violence in a truly beautiful way. 23 points separate this from the previous tier, the biggest jump so far, but only two points higher than the last separation point. We also reach a few milestones in this tier with Shingo/Ishii being the first match to receive over 30 votes, as it received 34 total. Also of note, Wagner/Blue Demon tied for third with Omega/Tanahashi for most first-place votes with 7.
The “Culmination of Greatness” Tier
8. Kofi Kingston vs. Daniel Bryan (4/7) 195 points
7. Kota Ibushi vs. Jay White (8/12) 215 points
6. Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay (7/20) 232 points
5. Johnny Gargano vs. Adam Cole (4/5) 233 points
An 18 point increase creates this next tier, which with the exception of Okada/Ospreay, share a similar storytelling vein with the culminating triumph of a beloved babyface. While Okada/Ospreay doesn’t fit that narrative, it does have the distinction of the first match to break the 40 vote threshold with 45 total votes. The distance between matches starts to widen even more now, as the matches in this tier are 17-20 points apart, with the exception of the narrow 1 point difference between five and six. But the separation is all relative, as at this point in the voting the totals are getting big enough that a 20 point difference is not all that great in actuality. Now a 131 point difference, that is pretty noticeable…
The Elite Tier
4. Kenny Omega vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (1/4) 364 points
3. Cody vs. Dustin Rhodes (5/25) 387 points
Yes, a whopping 131 points are the distance between Omega/Tanahashi and Cole/Gargano NY. Prior to this, the biggest point differential was 23 points. We now have a tier with a distance almost six times greater than that, leading us into the matches that are truly elite. I mean, I had to use the pun at some point right? Cody/Dustin also become the first match over 50 total votes as it received 55 overall.
The Clear Runner Up
2. Jordan Devlin vs. David Starr (10/26) 529 points
Calling this match “the clear runner up” feels a bit like a disservice, but when the gold medal winner has lapped the field there should be no shame in being a silver medalist with considerable distance between yourself and the bronze medal winner. There was a 142 point gap here which is fairly similar to the last tier’s 131. Devlin/Starr’s 59 total votes also were similar to the 55 from Dustin/Cody, but where it truly made its mark was with 19 first-place votes. With that, it again is a clear runner up and comfortably ahead of the seven votes for Omega/Tanahashi and Blue Demon/Wagner, and Dustin/Cody’s six.
THE Undisputed Match of the Year
1. Shingo Takagi vs. Will Ospreay (6/5) 1023 points
What more is there to say about this match? By now you have read the praise and the statistical breakdown of its dominance. It won MOTY in not only this VOW poll, but in the VOW-adjacent Super J Cast Awards and Wrestle Omakase Award. It has a massive 494 point lead ahead of Devlin/Starr. The largest separation other than that was the 142 between Devlin/Starr and Cody/Dustin and this is more than 3 times greater than that. That 494 point difference by itself would be good enough for 3rd place in this poll. It of course also dominated the second-place match in total votes (93 to 58) and first-place votes (47 to 19).