On Tuesday, we took a look at the month by month data relating to our Match of the Year Poll. Today, we dive into the Promotion data, with a little scoop of location on the side. Let’s dig in.
This year, likely due to COVID-19 preventing many promotions from running most of the year (or at all), we saw a small downtick in promotions represented in the Match of the Year poll. Counting all of WWE’s offerings as one promotion, 2020 saw sixty-five promotions garner votes, down from last year’s sixty-nine.
Of those sixty-five, eighteen had at least one First Place vote. Nearly 28% percent of the promotions garnering votes made it into that elite class where one of our voters bestowed on them the title “Match of the Year”. The list of those eighteen promotions is as interesting as ever, Mainstays including NJPW, WWE, and Dragongate made their appearances, which was to be expected. In AEW’s first full year of business, they managed to land seven different matches on the list, tied for first with NJPW. Of course, along with the promotions you would expect to see, there is the odd H20, Lucha Strong, and Synergy Pro Wrestling thrown in. It speaks to the diversity of the Voices of Wrestling poll.
The points tell the story of yet another dominant year from New Japan Pro Wrestling. Even with crowds limited to clapping and a title picture that heavily featured Dick Togo in the Year of Our Lord 2020, no one came close to touching NJPW. Of course, a large part of this is Wrestle Kingdom producing three separate matches that any reasonable person could call the Match of the Year. In fact, if you split the three Wrestle Kingdom matches out, the numbers are eye-opening.
|Wrestle Kingdom?||Matches||Points||First Place||Total Votes||Avg Points||MOTYs|
Sure, forty-three of NJPW’s matches happen outside Wrestle Kingdom’s two nights, but 64% of the promotion’s points came from those three matches on those two evenings. 88% of its First Place votes came from the event. Nearly half of all NJPW votes were for one of those three matches. Yet still, without January 4 and 5, New Japan still would have scored more points in the poll than every other company besides AEW. Pretty impressive!
When we look at the number of matches each company contributed, the results are similar. That’s not to say there aren’t a few surprises. For one, Gatoh Move shocks the world by surpassing Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling in matches registering votes in the poll. NOAH also confirms a pretty great year by not just having a good amount of points, but a good amount of matches, as well. I, for one, am probably going to try to watch more NOAH this year.
Another big surprise for me is WWE surpassing AEW in total matches. It’s no secret that WWE had a rough 2020. Between record low ratings for RAW and Smackdown, a series of lackluster pay per views, and boatloads of Fiend magic, I did not expect WWE to make as strong a showing here.
“But Jeremy,” you may be thinking, “you’re forgetting about NXT. The match total there includes RAW, Smackdown, NXT and NXT UK.” Here’s the strange thing about that: it’s not carried solely on the shoulders of NXT.
Yes, NXT has more matches in the poll, but only by a single match! WWE’s main roster still put fifteen matches in the poll. If we break up WWE, the main roster is still good for fifth place in total matches. I think that speaks to the value of the WWE brand. Even in a down year, they’re still going to draw so many eyeballs just merely by existing.
This year we had twelve Joshi or all-women promotions/spot shows make appearances in the polls, lead by Stardom as is the norm in our poll. Seven of those promotions contributed more than one match. Three of them: Stardom, Gatoh Move, and TJPW received First Place votes, Stardom and TJPW placed in the top ten for points, while Stardom and Gatoh Move placed in the top ten for matches.
The last story we’ll look at from the data is the absolute dominance of Japanese wrestling promotions in our poll this year. Now, yes, a large part of this is from NJPW, but that’s by no means the whole story. When it comes to total matches, Japan smokes the rest of the world.
As you can see, over half the matches in the poll come from Japan. That’s not all, in every category except for promotions, Japan has a lead against the rest of the world.
|Location||Promotions||Matches||Points||Avg Points||First Place||MOTYs|
|Rest of World||39||131||3939||30.07||62||21|
Matches? Ahead by twenty-five. Points? Nearly doubled. Average points? Got ‘em. First Place votes? Forty-five more. Matches voted Match of the Year? Even ahead there. In every category, Japan takes the cake.
By winning total matches, it shows that we’re not just talking about a few high ranking matches that skew the numbers. By winning points and average points, we see that they do have those high ranking matches, so the quality is there. First Place votes tells us that our voters were more likely to choose a Japanese match than any other. The Match of the Year total shows that it wasn’t just a couple high-profile matches, but a larger swath of top-end Japanese matches than the rest of the world mustered together.
As a limousine-ridin’, jet-flyin’ son of a gun once asked, “What is causing all this?” On one hand, Japan tends to do extremely well in our poll, so this is in keeping with tradition to a degree. There are also some other factors that I think are playing a role, though.
COVID, again, can’t be ignored. It’s indisputable that Japan managed the epidemic better than much of the world, including specifically the US. This lead to audiences being back in various forms far earlier, as we’re still waiting for that to really be a commonplace thing here. Sure, the crowds were diminished and couldn’t yell or chant, but it makes a difference.
Coupled with that, but also separate is the collapse of the indies in the US. They couldn’t run for most of the year, of course, even though companies like GCW were finding ways to do so. It’s safe to say they didn’t run as much as they’d intended. Even had they been able to, however, the talent just isn’t there in the way it has been in previous years. By the time someone’s work gets to the level where they are able to produce a match of the caliber that it would make this poll, they’re scooped up by WWE’s Performance Center beast or AEW, or even New Japan. If I had to bet money on an indie wrestler making the poll next year, my money is on Nick Gage. In previous years, it could have been Chris Hero, Keith Lee, or Ricochet. The indies are different.
Another factor that can’t be ignored, lamentable as it is, is #SpeakingOut. Many UK and US companies had wrestlers or other personnel accused of sexual crimes as victims bravely came forward to finally share their stories. Later we also saw regrettable interviews, tweets, and promos unearthed that were wrong at the time but look horrendous in the light of the current day. There are notable wrestlers from last year’s poll that make no appearance in this year’s and likely never will be heard from again.
How does that relate to Japan? Somehow, #SpeakingOut never really touched Japan. No Japanese wrestler, to my knowledge, was accused. I don’t believe any statements were made about any foreigners from any of the Japanese companies. In Japan, it seems it was as if the whole thing never happened. Thus, no wrestlers just go suddenly missing from the data and thus, there is no visible impact on the results.
Despite all the challenges thrown at us in 2020, Japanese wrestling proved to be dependable. If you’ve made it this far and you’re not watching any of the Japanese companies, I highly recommend you do. No matter what you’re into, it can be found in Japan. From the sport-based styles of NJPW and NOAH, to the violent deathmatches of BJW and FREEDOMS, to the abject silliness of DDT, to the fast-paced action of Dragongate, to the best women’s wrestling in the world with Stardom and TJPW, Japan has it all. That’s why they’re on top.
|Promotion||Matches||Points||First Place Votes||MOTYs||Avg Points||Location|
|3 Count Wrestling Academy||1||4||0||0||4||UK|
|Gake No Fuchi||1||1||0||0||1||Japan|
|Impact Pro Wrestling Australia||2||10||0||0||5||Australia|
|Kagetsu Retirement Show||1||11||0||0||11||Japan|
|Michinoku Pro Wrestling||1||4||0||0||4||Japan|
|Pro Wrestling Eve||2||8||0||0||4||UK|
|Ring of Honor||2||6||0||0||3||USA|
|St. Louis Anarchy||2||47||0||0||23.5||USA|
|Synergy Pro Wrestling||1||14||1||1||14||USA|
|United Pro Wrestling||3||24||1||1||8||Australia|
|Venom Pro Wrestling||2||6||0||0||3||Australia|
|Wide Bay Pro Wrestling||1||6||0||0||6||Australia|