“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/
Wrestling as we know it ended in March 2020.
It took an extended sabbatical that it has not yet returned from. As I’m writing this at the beginning of 2021, most promotions and wrestlers have fallen into a “comfortable” groove. AEW has its small crowds, Japan has clap crowds, and the indies… have carried on like normal. The great unknown has become known, at least a little bit.
March was different.
The COVID world hit fast, and in the blink of an eye, everything changed. No one knew what to do or how to react or what was happening next. We all just knew that something bad was happening, new regulations and rules were applied every day, and lives that had been built for decades were suddenly shattered and thrown into disarray. Normal things like going to the supermarket were suddenly a luxury. Roads were empty. Entire industries, gone. On a personal note, I was displaced from my old living situation due to COVID concerns.
Every day, I woke up anxious and nervous. We were entering unchartered territory, and it was hard to cope. The number one form of entertainment that I previously used as an escape, wrestling, was at best a shell of what it used to be, if it even existed at all. Companies were scrambling to figure out how to keep going. Some, like NJPW, were able to take a break. Most others, especially in Japan, were not as lucky.
NOAH was one of those companies. After canceling a big show March 8, the four title matches from that show were moved to a Korakuen Hall show later in the month. This included the GHC Championship match between Go Shiozaki and Kazuyuki Fujita.
The match was being built with a lot of fury. Expectations were high. After Fujita’s recent NOAH run, speculation ran rampant about what type of match would it be: would it be a fast sprint playing to Fujita’s strengths or a longer, more traditional NOAH-style match? A massive curveball was thrown when it was announced that no fans would be allowed into the building. A GHC title match would be held in an empty Korakuen.
My interest in new wrestling was sapped as soon as the shutdown happened. I turned to old wrestling as an escape, but current wrestling was a cold reminder of the stark reality of a new pandemic. Still, the NOAH show was a bigger event when most of those were canceled, and it started at a decent hour on the East Coast, so I watched live.
Shiozaki and Fujita both entered the ring, intense stares on their faces. The bell rang… and they continued to stare. A minute went by, nothing. Two minutes, three minutes. Nothing. It was silly at first. I get it, you’re ready for the match, you want to intimidate your opponent. I understand. Five minutes went by. The silence of the empty building reverberated until it was deafening, the only sound the click of photographer’s cameras capturing the lack of action. Seven minutes, eight minutes, nine minutes, still nothing. Slowly, my humor turned to curiosity. I was looking for any movement, any clue to what would happen. What would happen? 15 minutes elapsed. The slightest arm movement or repositioning would catch my attention. Was it a hint?
Were they ever going to move? Lock up? Hit each other? How long was the match going to go?
Finally, Fujita suddenly, slowly walked from one corner to the other, followed only by Go’s gaze. This was major. They moved! They walked! 20 minutes, 25 minutes, more of the same. The anticipation, the anxiety, it just kept building and building. WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN? A half-hour goes by and Fujita again walks to a new corner. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Would they do anything at all, or would they stare for a full 60 minutes?
Finally, at around 32 minutes, they did. Fujita shot in for a takedown, Shiozaki went for a guillotine, Fujita got side control, and they grappled for a while. There wasn’t a big explosion, there wasn’t a frantic exchange of strikes, just methodical groundwork. Somehow, it was appropriate. After all of that time, the viewer still wasn’t completely rewarded. Fujita was winning the psychological game all around.
Finally, the match turned into a ringside brawl. Fujita, in his haste, created one of the greatest wrestling moments of the year—he took a giant swill of hand sanitizer, spit it out in disgust, filled his mouth with more and spit it in Go’s face. It was an incredible spot that worked perfectly at the peak time when hand sanitizer became the most sought-after commodity in the world.
Fujita dragged Go around the building, almost sending him down Korakuen’s elevator and off of the upper balcony. They eventually returned to the ring, the match clocking in around 45 minutes at this point. The match finally kicked into the next gear. How long would it actually last? How could this thing actually end? Fujita laid some absolutely nasty punts and kicks right to Go’s head, the empty room amplifying each echoing strike. Go hit a giant lariat on Fujita, collapsing in exhaustion at first contact. Fujita countered Go’s next attempt with a shocking flying head scissors. Still, Go survived. He took everything Fujita had, both mentally and physically, and wouldn’t stay down. Mouth bleeding, he still hit lariat after lariat until, finally, Fujita couldn’t kick out anymore. He overcame.
I’ve seen some call this a great match, or an artistic masterpiece. I can’t go that far. I can’t tell you this was a great match. I’m not even sure it’s good. I don’t know what grand point they were trying to make. Unlike every other match in this series, I’m not even sure I can recommend watching it. But that misses the charm. It was one of the most interesting and weird live wrestling watching experiences I can ever remember. For one night in March, while the world was stopped, two men also stopped for 30 minutes, creating a match that could only happen at that exact moment. The world became dark and dreary, wrestling became a shell of what we were used to, but these two decided to think outside the box and turn their disadvantages around.
What we were left with was one of the most unique and memorable wrestling experiences of 2020, and a match that will finish in my top 10 of the year.