Of course, it’s natural to want matches you love to place high in year-end lists. It feels nice to have one’s taste validated by others, doesn’t it? Who among us can deny we feel tiny fireworks of dopamine when we see a match we loved place so highly? Who of us has never grumbled and moaned about a match that BY ALL NATURAL RIGHTS did not deserve to place so low? For those of us who vote in Voices of Wrestling’s Match of the Year even start to strategize how to get more people on your side. Fool! You should have been planting those seeds all year long, casually dropping hints into Twitter conversations and obscure wrestling forums. You dip your toe into the shark-infested waters of wrestling discourse, hoping that your bait is caught. “Well of course Go Shiozaki has had many candidates, but I think the Fujita match deserves to place highly,” you say with a knowing wink. “Take your change and leave please,” says the shopkeeper and you realize that you may be far too deep into wrestling ballots.
Wrestling end of the year polls are all a big work. We don’t even have to get into arguments about what “good wrestling” is and whether it’s a matter of technique or effect to realize that it’s a popularity contest. A Gatoh Move match, no matter how good it is by any metric, is never going to place in the top ten (prove me wrong future wrestling fans!) as it’s simply not watched by as many people as NJPW, WWE or AEW.
But no worries, one thing I love about the Voices of Wrestling Match of the Year is the sheer variety of matches and there’s no better place to see this than in the matches that fall outside the 100.
No tactical voting here, this is the land of hidden gems and overlooked sparkles. Big matches in small promotions you have never heard of and quiet matches in big promotions you thought you were sick of. More than stubbornness or even hipster contrarianism, these matches represent the sheer variety of wrestling out there and a desire for us fans and writers to give these performers, if not a top ten placing, then a tip of the cap and a nod of respect.
So it is with a certain bemusement to me that this collection of matches outside the top 100 has been given the negative moniker of “sadness village”.
First, a brief word from the creator of the Sadness Village moniker, Wrestling Omakase host John Carroll:
Hey folks, it’s your pal/frenemy/enemy John here. It was so many years ago now (and of course the last year alone feels like it was ten years packed together) that I honestly barely even remember why I first came up with this term. I think I was surprised that a match I had expected to do decently well instead ended up well outside of the top 100, and thus for me, these “honorable mentions” became a place where my hopes of a high finish for a beloved match came to die. A village of sadness, if you will. But if you have zero expectations of your match picks being liked by a single other human then I can see why this moniker might seem kind of silly. Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled column!
As we noted at the outset, our egos may take a minor blow to the fact that our choices stand-alone, but seen from another angle, they are not standing alone but standing together. This is not a collection generated by wrestling fans with poor taste, no, this is the collection of those who took a stand, of balloteers put their foot down on and said “I don’t care if no one else votes for this, this match needs to be in print!” The celebratory outweighs the sadness here.
As the Voices of Wrestling Match of the Year grows each year, as it rightfully should, the number that unique first ballots (matches that were only voted for by one person and in that person’s first place) occupy will move up. Soon someone’s favorite match of the year will enter the sadness island. I say they have entered the Rebel Island.
Come on in, the water’s lovely.