“For Your Consideration is a number of columns from our writers here at Voices of Wrestling talking about their favorite matches of 2020. These matches don’t have to be their number 1 match of the year, and in fact, don’t even have to necessarily be in their top 10 for the MOTY poll that this series will lead in to. These simply have to be matches that each particular writer thought were important enough to write about and highlight. I hope you enjoy this look back at what are likely to be some of the hidden gems and standout matches of 2020. I hope it is able to make 2020 just a little bit better or a least help your MOTY list be a little more complete. At the very least it should get you looking forward to Match of the Year season and hopefully get you looking forward to where some of these may place in the VOW MOTY poll in the next few months.”
VOW MOTY 2020 For Your Consideration Archives: voicesofwrestling.com/category/vow-latest/columns/2020-match-of-the-year/for-your-consideration/
Nick Jackson vs. Matt Jackson
Being the Elite #200
April 20, 2020
Nick Jackson vs. Matt Jackson in the 200th episode of Being the Elite is the definitive match of 2020. In the future, when wrestling fans and historians look back at the year and want to understand what the landscape of the sport was like, this will be the match they watch.
When thinking of what matches define a specific year in wrestling, typically I would think of what the important aspects of the wrestling world were that year. What companies rose to prominence? What wrestlers made an impact? What feuds drew money and inspired fans around the world? Very rarely would I also pull in current events from the outside world to play an important role in determining this. If you read the intro to the For Your Consideration series, you know that I took my inspiration from the campaigns many film studios run for their Oscar hopeful films. Once again, I look to the Academy awards and film as my muse. In the discourse surrounding the Best Picture race there is often an argument in some circles that the movie chosen as Best Picture should not simply be the highest quality cinematic achievement of that year – but rather a film that can represent a specific year in a historical context. Often that will give movies that touch on current events, whether directly (such as 2010’s The Social Network) or indirectly (such as 2014’s Selma) extra relevance to their supporters. They want films that strike the zeitgeist. They take the awards seriously as historical markers, knowing that in 50 years people will look back at those award winners to see which films to watch. And when people do that they don’t want them to just say “that was a great movie” they want them to understand the time and place that great movie came from.
In a typical year, I do not think I would follow this strategy in determining the defining match of a year. But 2020 is not a typical year and in 2020 there was no escaping COVID. If I went back to choose the defining match of 2016, I would focus on the rise of NJPW, Bullet Club, and Kenny Omega in determining the defining match much more than I would use the current events at the time, such as the rise of Donald Trump and his shocking election. However, in 2020 the definitive match of the year must touch on COVID in some way, because the year of professional wrestling was defined by it, just as everything else in our world was. It affected whether there were any fans present for the matches at all – or if they were present, what kinds of noises they were able to make. It affected which wrestlers were able to travel to take part in our favorite promotions around the world. It affected whether many of our favorite promotions ran at all, and whether some even continued to exist at all. And of course, it lead to the rise of the cinematic match.
The battle of the Young Bucks in Being the Elite’s 200th episode (from now on to be referred to as BTE 200) may not even be the best example of the cinematic match this year. Of course that depends on what you are looking for in a cinematic match, what you even consider a cinematic match, and whether you enjoy them in the first place. For my money the match that this battle on BTE 200 was leading to, the Stadium Stampede on AEW’s Double or Nothing PPV, takes the trophy for “Best Cinematic Match”. However, I am not here to find simply the best of 2020, but the definitive of 2020. I am looking for a match that contains numerous aspects of pro wrestling, as well as references to life in general that were unique to this hellacious year.
In BTE 200 we have just that. We have two brothers quarantining at home in Rancho Cucamonga, California and having a match that sprawls all across the property of this home that they are stuck in – referred to throughout their web series as the BTE Compound. They wrestle on tennis courts, basketball courts, lawns, driveways, weight rooms, and in pools – among other things. I don’t know if they Young Bucks have ever mentioned that they make a lot of money, but from the look of the BTE Compound, I’d say they are doing pretty well for themselves.
April 20th, 2020 was the premiere date on YouTube for BTE 200. Before that, the Buck’s last match in AEW was the Revolution tag title match against Hangman Page and Kenny Omega on 2/29/20. The last Dynamite the Buck’s were on before this match was 3/11/2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah – which was the last show prior to the COVID shutdown of touring. So, at the time of BTE 200, Nick and Matt Jackson had been off the road and AEW TV for over a month, and hadn’t wrestled in an AEW match for nearly two months – something that is hard to imagine happening outside of the context of COVID and 2020.
Earlier I mentioned the cinematic match, a match type that while not beloved by many, is a defining feature of 2020. The fact that BTE 200 is match filmed in an abnormal location, rather than in a wrestling ring for many would put it into the cinematic match category. But what really puts BTE 200 over the top as a defining cinematic match of 2020 in the section of the match where Nick uses his Merch Freak character’s “magic” enter a dream sequence of sorts and recreate the famous barbershop window spot between Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty. The Buck’s humor is often at its best when parodying and tongue-in-cheek making fun of this business that they love. The entire BTE 200 match is full of this great style of Buck’s humor and mannerism, and this obvious parody of one of 2020’s most infamous cinematic matches – the Firefly Funhouse Match from Wrestlemania, is the icing on the cake.
The very fact that this match happened on Being the Elite, for free, on YouTube is also an indication of it’s “2020-ness.” Now obviously, BTE has been happening for 200 episodes and YouTube has been around for a while, but the COVID era has really forced many wrestling companies to change their distribution methods. With ticket sales being difficult and/or impossible depending on the local COVID situation, and the economic uncertainty the pandemic has lead to – we are seeing more and more empty arena shows or matches being featured on free platforms such as YouTube. Recent examples include NWA coming back with its “Shockwave” program (featuring the heralded Thunder Rosa vs. Priscilla Kelly match on Episode #2) and GCW’s “Slime Season” show. Prior to that we had AAA’s “Lucha Fighter” tournament, Fred Yehi vs. Jeremy Wyatt in an Iron Man Match with St. Louis Anarchy and Journey Pro (which was highlighted in the intro to this series and can be read about here), and the evolution of Gatoh Move into ChocoPro – a regular live streaming YouTube show.
And then you have the two men involved in the match – Nick Jackson and Matt Jackson, The Young Bucks. They are a tag team that some people (potentially even people on this very site) will argue are the greatest tag team of all time, even before this year. And in the year 2020, the Young Bucks were pivotal to the wrestling world, just as much as this year was a landmark one in their own career. 2020 was the first full year of AEW’s existence. 2020 was the year the Buck’s faced Omega and Hangman at the February Revolution PPV and had a legitimate Match of the Year Contender, arguably one of the greatest tag team matches of all time, and what will likely go down as the popular choice for the greatest Young Bucks match of all time. 2020 was also the year that the long-awaited Bucks and #FTR (The Revival) feud finally happened in real life. And while the storyline and build was disappointing to most, it culminated in a great match and the crowning of the Young Buck’s as the AEW Tag Team Champions for the first time at Full Gear in November.
So ultimately you have two of the most important wrestlers of 2020, stuck at home in “quarantine”, wrestling a cinematic match with clear allusions to other matches of its ilk from that year, airing free on YouTube – all as part of an ongoing web series. A web series that helped elevate the careers of these two wrestlers and others so much that it led to the creation of a new wrestling company whose first calendar year of existence was 2020. And this cinematic match ultimately was in service of and built to an even more epic and ridiculous cinematic match as the main event of this new wrestling company’s pay per view one month later. Yeah, I think that’s the definition of pro wrestling 2020 right there.
And outside of defining 2020, this was a fun, athletic, and extremely enjoyable match. It features the Buck’s suplexing and dropping each other onto hard surfaces left and right. They dive off of nearly every elevated surface imaginable on the BTE compound. One brother tries to drown another in a pool and moments later there’s a freaking Canadian Destroyer into the pool. Call back spots happen left and right – the best being the use of the Buck’s most brutal custom weapon, the thumbtack covered sneaker.
All of that is what is expected in any Young Buck’s match. What wasn’t expected was how well built this match would be and how personally invested I would be in it. Recently on the Voices of Wrestling Flagship Podcast, Joe and Rich talked about the importance of when you watch a match. That if you watch something at just the right time and place, it can hit you in just a certain way and be just the thing you need. In March and April 2020 the world was shut down trying to figure out how to deal with COVID (…or how to not deal with COVID I guess). NJPW wasn’t running at all. AEW was running empty arena shows without The Bucks, SCU, Hangman Page, or any overseas talent you would typically see on Wednesday nights. Personally, we were all going through a lot adjusting to these strange times.
The episodes of BTE prior to the Nick vs. Matt match feature a number of short matches on the BTE compound with SCU, Brandon Cutler, Peter Avalon, and a local team known as Team High Risk with a ring set up on a tennis court. The overarching story with the Bucks was Nick Jackson trying to get back to 100%. The last we had seen him on Dynamite, he had his head crushed by the Inner Circle in a large garage door. Originally this was to take him off the air for the birth of his child and some paternity leave. But then COVID hit, Blood + Guts got canceled (remember Blood + Guts, that was going to be a thing!), AEW had to stop touring, and both Bucks went off the road. The BTE matches lead to an “Under the Limit Battle Royal” in which the winner got to choose a match of his liking. Nick won the match, and chose to face his brother, to prove he was back to full strength. It wasn’t anything special – but at the time the simple storytelling and solid wrestling on the easy to consume YouTube shows was a welcome break from the early days of quarantine and COVID uneasiness. It was just what I needed.
They also made it feel special, both in the build and in the match itself, as they should in a brother vs. brother match where long time tag team partners face off. From what I could find, this is only the third time Nick and Matt Jackson have faced off against each other in a one on one match up (some jokers named Max and Jeremy Buck fought each other in Orlando in a pair of 4 minute matches in 2011 for what it’s worth). The previous two were both in tournaments, first in the Inland Title Series with the EWF and NWA in Covina, California on 12/12/2008 and then as part of wXw’s 16 Carat Gold on 3/7/2010. I hope there are more matches to come in the future, and the matches are used much like the Briscoe Brother’s matches in ROH have been over the years – sparingly, and in big spots. With the much talked about shift to big matches on Dynamite special events, what would be a better Dynamite main event than Nick Jackson vs. Matt Jackson – perhaps even for the TNT title if I can pick up my fantasy booking pencil for a second.
When I think back to professional wrestling in 2020 there will be a lot of things that come to mind. The incredible start to the year with the two Wrestle Kingdom main events of Kota Ibushi vs. Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito vs. Kazuchika Okada, as well as the rest of the incredible New Japan matches through the first two months featuring a resurgent Hiromu Takahashi, Will Ospreay, ZSJ, Shingo, Goto, and KENTA – as well as a great Chris Jericho vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi match in the Tokyo Dome. Yes that actually happened, it happened this year, and it may go down as Chris Jericho’s last great match. I will of course remember the Revolution Tag Match, Jon Moxley’s great reign as AEW champion, and Eddie Kingston getting a chance to show the world his all time microphone skills on TNT every week.
But is greatness something that is timeless, or something that is distinctly of its time? In all actuality, it is both. But in looking to define a time we are not looking for greatness alone. To define something, we have to take the good with the bad. We must take the whole – warts and all. So when looking to find the definitive match of 2020, I can’t just pick the best match or my favorite match, I have to pick something that encompasses the spirit of 2020. The pandemic-spreading, quarantine-sitting, economy-roller-coastering, craziness-increasing, presidential election-consuming year that was 2020. But on a hopeful note, one small thing that I can take away from BTE 200, is that even in the midst of all of that – and in all honesty because of all that – something truly great was able to be created.
As we’ve seen in this series with the WALTER-Ilja match in front of no fans, the aforementioned Fred Yehi vs. Jeremy Wyatt Ironman Match, and with upcoming pieces on ChocoPro and more – the wrestling world, just like all of us have been doing through 2020 have been making the best out this (say it with me now) unprecedented situation. I wish us all the best through the remaining days of 2020 and hope that next year when I look to find the defining match of 2021 we have been able to make the progress that we need to move beyond many of the things that defined 2020.
Kenny Omega vs. PAC
AEW Dynamite #21
February 26, 2020
When this project was first brought up, to bring to the forefront matches that should be in the conversation for the Voices of Wrestling match of the year, this was the first match I thought of. A 30+ minute televised epic of professional wrestling by two masters of the craft that has largely been forgotten not only in the grand scheme of 2020 professional wrestling, but within its own promotion’s match guide.
Since this match took place in late February in front of a hot crowd in Missouri, AEW has turned out four pay per views, several television specials, and headline grabbing matches and angles. There’s also been a global pandemic, throwing not only wrestling staples like Wrestlemania and the G1 for a loop, but professional sports, the Olympics, and elections. This is why I wanted to bring this match back to the forefront. For my money, this match is the best match in AEW’s history and it deserves to be remembered and talked about amongst the year’s best.
This match opened this episode of Dynamite, and has to be the greatest opening match in television wrestling history, and one of the greatest show openers period. This match took place during the tremendous build to the tremendous Revolution pay per view, so Kenny was joined by the Bucks but not his partner Hangman Page, who was trying to distance himself from the Elite. Its a shame because Hangman was starting to really FEEL like a big deal. He still is and I have no doubt they can build him to the top star he’s meant to be, but the pandemic really stunted that ascension.
The crowd is ready for this, evident by their detestment of PAC and adoration of Kenny. We get some solid feeling out in the opening minutes, but they really get going very soon after the start when Kenny goes for a One-Winged Angel, which PAC counters into a Brutalizer attempt. Soon after Kenny does his beautiful tope con hilo, all before five minutes have gone, and we know we are in for something special. These two are so good at flying around the ring and throwing absolute bombs with such high energy and intensity, without it feeling like a spotfest. There are stakes, there’s a purpose, and you can feel the intensity coming off the screen. At one point late in the first ten minutes of the match, the two struggle at the top of the ropes. Kenny shoves PAC off, but PAC recovers to scale up to the top and hits a huge top rope brainbuster. Everything PAC does has a snap and a certain amount of disdain behind it, and Kenny sells it all like he’s being bounced from truck to truck on the highway.
Into the second ten minutes, PAC continues to focus on Kenny’s neck, to a chorus of, “You’re a bastard!” from the crowd. Kenny would finally get a desperation front kick in to stop the onslaught, which PAC sells by flying halfway across the ring. The two would exchange strikes with chops, kicks, germans, and knees, until Kenny hits a Tiger Driver for a near fall. Kenny gets PAC in the One Winged Angel for a second time, but as PAC fights out of it, Kenny drops PAC from his shoulders but catches him in a great feat of strength to a huge german. This gets a huge nearfall.
From here, these two start trading huge bombs. A counter at the top leading to a powerbomb by PAC, V Triggers from Kenny lead the two to the outside. Out of frustration, the bastard PAC uses a chair to get disqualified, giving Kenny the first fall. That said, it allows PAC to hit a gorgeous Black Arrow allowing him to not only tie Kenny at one fall each, but maintain a huge advantage. He would open the third ten-minute segment by hitting a nasty falcon arrow on Kenny from the apron to the floor.
As Kenny struggles to get up, PAC hits a dropkick to Kenny from the ring, knocking out the doctor and referee. He then sets up a table with Kenny on it. The Bastard takes his time getting his balance, then hits a perfect shooting star press chest to chest on Kenny, destroying the table. PAC is able to beat the ten count, but Kenny barely is able to get back to the ring (so close so, that if they wanted to make that into a gripe by PAC, they could have). PAC goes for another Black Arrow to finish off Kenny, but Kenny gets his knees up to finally regain control.
Kenny starts to spam V Triggers as we get under five minutes. For a third time Kenny goes for a One Winged Angel, which PAC counters with a gnarly poison rana. A few seconds later PAC hits a spinning DDT and transitions it into a Brutalizer. Kenny struggles for a bit before getting into the ropes. The two struggle on the mat, PAC trying to secure the Brutalizer and Kenny fighting. He finally secures it with a minute to go, but Kenny continues to fight. He counters to a pin, rakes the eyes, but Kenny won’t quit as the crowd counts to zero. These two competitors have wrestled to a draw.
Incensed, PAC pushes the referee. Justin Roberts then says we are going to sudden death, and Aubrey Edwards comes into the ring as the bell rings. Kenny, seemingly with a second, third or fourth life, hits PAC with V Triggers and even brings out the kamigoye from his long-lost partner of the past, but only for a nearfall. The Bastard won’t stay down. From there, Kenny is finally able to get PAC into the One-Winged Angel for the three count.
This match was a masterclass in pro wrestling. I think I enjoyed it more during this rewatch than I did when it happened live. The time between and all that entails probably helps that, but also two of the best wrestlers in the world at the peak of their powers in front of a hot crowd beautifully beating the ever-loving shit out of each other helps too.
Where would this have led post Revolution? Surely PAC would have had a gripe not only with the overtime, but Kenny “making” the ten count. Perhaps an Elite vs. Death Triangle feud through the spring and summer? Alas, not a month later, the world shuts down and PAC is back home for 8 months as AEW finds its way through these difficult times, like we all have. That aside, I can’t heap enough praise on this match. Only now, even as what many may call an “AEW mark” fan, do I feel like AEW is getting as hot of a promotion as it was during this period around this match. A sure-fire match of the year contender that everyone should absolutely revisit before turning in their ballots.