? Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore…

Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow ?

Those lyrics to Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas sure do hit home in 2020, huh? It’s that time of year. A year of reflection and, well, supposedly celebrating. It’s been a rough year for pretty much the entire world in some way. But hopefully, over the next two weeks, we can help bring some cheer back into your life and we welcome the holiday season and emphatically wave goodbye to 2020.

Now an annual tradition at Voices of Wrestling, we present VOW Secret Santa!

The brainchild of JR Goldberg (@wrestlingbubble), VOW Secret Santa sees all participating website contributors giving the greatest gift of all to their fellow VOW friends: a pro wrestling match.

All VOW contributors that wanted to participate were entered into a randomizer and given the name of another contributor for which to gift a wrestling match to. Each gift giver has a different objective with their match selection: some choose to be naughty, others choose the be nice, some go out of their way to find a match that the recipient has never seen before while others gift matches of great importance to themselves. This year—probably due to YOU KNOW—everyone was a little nicer so you’ll see less funny, unique or ironic pro wrestling matches in this year’s list and more kickass wrestling that you may have never seen or haven’t seen in years.

At the end of the day, the goal is for you, the reader, to experience the joys of the season along with us while also watching some wrestling matches!

Writers were encouraged to review the match however they wanted so there will not be a universal review style or rating system throughout the series. Also, we asked each reviewer to try and guess which VOW contributor gave them their gift. -Rich Kraetsch

VOW Secret Santa Archives: voicesofwrestling.com/category/vow-latest/columns/vow-secret-santa/

John Cena & The Rock vs. The Miz & R-Truth
November 20, 2011

Reviewed by Griffin Peltier (@HiImGriffinP)

Gifted by Suit Williams (@SuitWilliams

As soon as The Rock’s music hit, I got more chills than a cold snowy winter’s night. This was The Rock’s first match in seven years (and if you want a quick note of how much WWE has not changed, 2021 marks seven years since CM Punk’s last match) and the crowd at Madison Square Garden were absolutely buzzing for the return of the “People’s Champion”. The Rock was God during this match and had the crowd in the palms of his hands the entire time. The storytelling between John Cena and The Rock as partners ahead of their big “Once In A Lifetime” match a few months later laid the groundwork for the psychology of the match: reluctant partners who had to work together to beat the two guys who were running roughshod on the entire company. 

The always rowdy New York crowd gave Cena crap for everything he did – which prompted Cena to change up his moveset for a quick second before trolling the crowd with the 5 Moves of Doom! The Miz and R-Truth played their roles perfectly as foils but I feel like the extended beatdown they did on John Cena was a tad too long and a tad too boring. The Rock showcased that he still had it and finished the match by planting Miz with a picture-perfect Spinebuster followed up with a monstrous pop earning People’s Elbow for the one-two-three. After exchanging taunts to get the Boo-Yay contrast, The Rock planted Cena with a Rock Bottom to send the crowd home early. This was the perfect match to get Rock back in action without wasting his return in a singles match. 

This was The Rock’s night and it was a ton of fun to watch a live crowd (I know, right?) buzz with everything he did. This gets ???? from me. I want to thank my Secret Santa for such a fun gift! I think Andrew Rich is my Santa this year.

King Of The Mountain – NWA Heavyweight Title
Chris Harris vs. Ron Killings vs. Jeff Jarrett vs. AJ Styles vs. Raven
June 2, 2004

Reviewed by Jeri Evans (@TheJerriest_Jer

Gifted by Andrew Sinclair (@AMSinclair97)

What a wonderfully wacky and wild clusterfuck of a gift. I’ve never seen it before so I get to watch this unfold in front of my eyes with much wonder and joy. The anticipation of putting this piece of TNA-NWA history on was the equivalent of the time I got so excited about Santa coming I threw up all over the family Christmas gifts (It was caught on video camera and it was shown every Christmas for years. Also, I’m in therapy now). Okay, that’s hyperbole, but I was uncharacteristically giddy about seeing the birth of a concept that has never really been given high praise.  Is this a great match? I’d call it great like I’d call all the fruitcake I’ve ever received great in my life. With a fake smile and bogus nod because behind the person who wants my approval is my Mom with a stern look and a wooden spoon. There are ladders, and penalty boxes, and Vince Russo oh my. You got quite the mixture of wrestlers mixing it up and tussling about. You got rules that aren’t as confusing as I was led to believe but also convoluted all the same. 

This isn’t a match I’m interested in candy cane ratings, or pecan sandie ratings or whatever Christmas theme rating I could use. It’s a match where I just heat up some hot chocolate sit back and just watch with a goofy smile on my face because it’s a high level of convoluted clusterfuck chaos that at the very least is never boring. The rational brain says it is not a great match. The childlike Christmas spirit wonder in you tells that brain to fuck off and sit in unexplainable giddiness as you take in all the pure TNA of it all. I had more fun with this slice of tomfoolery then I have three fourths (if not more) of WWE this year! It’s not a great match but, fuck me, just like my Dad watches bad Kevin Costner movies on Christmas, this might become my Holiday tradition. What 3000 miles to Graceland is to him, this might become to me. Merry Fucking Christmas. Kelly Harrass? I have no fucking clue. But you put a holiday fudge eating grin on my face. 

Stan Hansen vs Terry Funk
April 14, 1983

Reviewed by Ed Grsevinsky (@FosterDisbelief)

Gifted by Paul Volsch (@Darth_Dragon

The most important facet of my childhood wrestling fandom wasn’t the duct tape repaired WWF ring for my annoyingly posed WWF action figures. It wasn’t the cardboard “titles” I would attach to a belt and wrestle for against my giant stuffed bear. It wasn’t even the actual wrestling I watched on television, though every weekend at 6:05 you could find me glued to the television, with my archnemesis bear close by if I needed to act out something I just witnessed. For me everything revolved around the “Apter mags;” The Wrestler, Inside Wrestling, and Pro Wrestling Illustrated.

Living in a small central Pennsylvanian city, the opportunities to see live wrestling were few and to be honest, so bad that they put me off attending live shows for years. PPV, when it even existed, was not an option for me, and the wrestling on television, other than the rare Saturday Night’s Main Event, did not show matches of consequence. Other than Wrestlemanias, it wasn’t until we finally got a VCR that I could watch the matches they built on television each week.

What I did have, however, were the “Apter mags.” Always a voracious reader, my mother would park me at the magazine rack when we went grocery shopping, and pick me up there when she was ready to check out. I could always pick one magazine to purchase, but I read them all. That’s how I learned there was more to wrestling than the WWF and NWA.  I learned of the AWA, of countless regional promotions, and of wrestling far away in Japan. I could read about the matches I couldn’t watch and see pictures that made me want to watch them even more. Sure, it was ridiculously kayfabe and always months behind, but it fed my love of wrestling and I am sure the matches I imagined after reading about them were much better than the matches actually could have been.

I do not believe I ever read a story in an “Apter mag” about this match, but I’d be surprised if I didn’t see a picture of a blood covered Terry Funk in one of them. As I hit play on this match, it took me back to my childhood, standing in front of the magazine rack at Shop & Save, looking at a picture of Abdullah the Butcher carving up someone’s forehead with a fork. That alone is worth 3 Christmas trees or whatever festive holiday item I decide to use to rate the match.

This is a mauling. You’re not going to see any one-man Spanish Flys, and there are no 2 count heavy, urgent finishing stretches, but that doesn’t make this any less great. They start off normal enough, with both gaijins over to superstar levels with the molten Japanese crowd. As Terry Funk attempts to get Stan Hansen to submit to the ludacris looking to 2020 eyes Spinning Toe Hold, Hansen fights back with stiff-looking punches to the forehead, eventually knocking Funk to the ground. It’s at this point that I think Funk quickly blades before rising and reapplying the STH, but the punches looked stiff enough to leave open the possibility of it being hard way. The visual is amazing, with Funk standing over him, trying to hold on to the STH while raining blood onto Hansen’s chest. The match takes on a different feel at this point, with Hansen knowing his prey is wounded, and Funk knowing as well, desperately holding the STH, futilely trying to force the submission until a weak kick and blood loss drop him to his back. The two trade punches on the ropes, but Funk is woozy and losing energy fast. Funk’s selling in this match is incredible. Hansen whips Funk into the ropes for a Lariat to finish things off, but Funk ducks out of the way and grabs the leg for another attempted STH, only for Hansen to kick him off, into the referee who bumps out of the ring. Funk grabs a headlock, but Hansen lifts him up and deposits him crotch first on to the top rope, then out of the ring.  From this point on it is just violence; magnificent, dramatic, vicious violence, as Hansen attempts to murder Funk with the bullrope. At one point Hansen bites Funk’s blood-covered forehead. Finally a suit and tie clad Dory Funk Jr. appears to chase off Hansen and save his brother from any further harm. Since the referee was bumped out for all of the bullrope shenanigans, Hansen was awarded the victory by disqualification due to interference, but at least Terry lives to fight again. 4 1/2 Golden Rings!

As for who filled my stocking with this, the age of the match really leaves me clueless. Classic match, well-known wrestlers, it could be anyone at VoW, but I’ll go with our Captain All-Japan, Gerard Di Trolio.

Gavin McGavin vs. Julian Ward
October 2018

Reviewed by Steve Case (@coachcase44)

Gifted by Kevin Chiat (@kevinchiat

EPW gives me peak PROGRESS vibes when it comes to production, and I mean that as a compliment. Julian Ward looks like a cross between Jerry Lynn and Adam Cole. McGavin looks like a bulked-up Sabre Jr in Lionheart tights. Let’s see how a Last Man Standing match goes in EPW, shall we?

We get started hot out the gate, with Ward hitting a tope on McGavin during his entrance. McGavin is clearly the cocky heel, coming out with his plaque as if it were Owen Hart’s Slammy. We get some pretty good action in and out of the ring off the bat. This leads to a double clothesline spot that causes both to roll out of the ring and meet each other back in the middle with kendo sticks. Ward gets some shots in at first, but eventually, McGavin begins to WEAR HIM OUT, even getting hard way blood on Ward’s bicep.

Ward would remain control and bring a chain in the mix. This would lead to a real sick spot where McGavin put the chair over Ward’s neck ala EVIL setting up the swinging chair spot. Instead, he sweeps the legs so Ward falls back with the chair landing on four legs. Yeeeeeeeesh. The two brawl on the outside, where Ward regains control with a suplex on the entrance ramp. He then introduces a table to the ring. With the table leaning in the corner, the two trade moves until McGavin throw the chair at Ward as he’s attempting a springboard. A hangman’s DDT on top on the chair and a few headshots later, McGavin is screaming at the crowd while the ref begins his first ten count on Ward.

Ward, in an act of defiance and bleeding from the head, flips off McGavin. McGavin is getting tremendous heat from the crowd and pummels Ward, at one point even showing Ward’s blood on his fists to the crowd. McGavin goes for a rana, but Ward catches him ad powerbombs him through the table for the second ten count. This would eventually lead to McGavin hitting Ward with a tool box and burying a screwdriver in Ward’s bloodied head.

McGavin tried to chloroform Ward, but luckily that didn’t last long at all. The two battled on the apron for a bit until McGavin, with Ward on the apron, would flip over to Ward’s back and German suplex him from the outside through a table. McGavin, ever the smart and devious heel, would then tie Ward to the ring post to try and get the ten count, causing Ward to take off his boot. McGavin would then destroy Ward’s lower leg with a chair from the ropes and an ankle lock. Still, wouldn’t stay down.

McGavin would start yelling at Ward to stay down, which you buy after all the punishment he’s dished out. Ever the defiant babyface, Ward flipped off McGavin causing him to charge, a drop toe hold into a chair and a Death Valley driver into a chair later, Ward regained an advantage. The kendo stick came back into play, as Ward would wear out McGavin with it, then hit a Juvi-driver type move on McGavin. McGavin would use the ref to barely make the ten count, and immediately fall right back down like a chicken shit.

Ward introduces another table and places McGavin on it. Ward would go to hit a moonsault, but McGavin would get up and hit Ward with a kendo stick. He would bring back the chloroform at the top rope, this time applying it enough where both fell backwards through the table. McGavin is able to roll out to the floor to his feet just before the ten count and Ward is unable to use a chair to get up in time, giving the match to the shithead McGavin.

This was a brutal war with the hated heel outsmarting the valiant babyface. McGavin came across like a smart, devious ass-kicker and Ward looked like a tough as nails, never say die hero. I loved this. No bullshit, no melodrama, no meaningless ten counts. Just two dudes beating the hell out of each other and doing everything they can to win. As for my violent, generous Santa Claus, my guess would be Kelly Harass due to the tasteful deathmatch elements of this. I give this match four and a half Christmas cookies. Merry Christmas to me!