- excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements.
- the quality of being worthless or futile
- A worthless or futile vote for a match that one has excessive admiration for in the Voices of Wrestling Match of the Year poll. Often, the voter has excessive pride in voting for this match.
One of the best things about the Voices of Wrestling Match of the Year poll is the unique terms and verbiage that has developed around it. Things like “sadness village” and “superstan matches” have, to various degrees, been popularized in our own little circle of wrestling nerds, err, I mean enthusiasts.
“Vanity pick” is likely the most famous one of all. Essentially, it means choosing a match for your final ballot that isn’t necessarily one of the 10 “best” matches of the year – but one that means a lot to you and one that you particularly want to give recognition to. When you are putting together your ballot, you may have five or six (or more) other matches with higher “star ratings” – but there’s one match that just has a special place in your heart for some reason, and you feel compelled to include it.
Some voters do not like the vanity pick, and I understand that. It, along with some other concepts like strategic voting (voting a match higher or lower based on your assumption of what other people are going to be voting for) – goes against the goal of the Match of the Year poll to be as objective of a ranking as possible of the very best matches in the world. But wrestling is only objective to a point. There’s obviously a lot of subjectivity in what one enjoys in any form of art or entertainment, and that holds true in pro wrestling – especially with the wide variety of performers, styles, and companies out there.
The vanity pick also points out and fights against the deficiency in how we, as a community, rate and discuss matches at this time. We commonly use the 5-star scale with the built-in bias that a main event style epic (such as Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada) is the goal. This misses that some matches can still be “perfect” without being like that. Matches that achieve exactly what they set out to accomplish can still be “perfect” – but few will rate them as highly as a Kenny Omega showcase. For example – the 2020 squash of Marko Stunt by Lance Archer as five stars, though it accomplished everything it should have. It just makes people deeply uncomfortable.
So that’s where the vanity pick comes in.
Giving recognition to something that you think is important or personally impactful that may not otherwise get it. Yes, it’s vain. It’s inflating your sense of what’s important or good and saying that it overcomes other matches that may conventionally be considered better. But who cares? This is a fun hobby, and throwing a few vanity picks in your top 10 rankings makes it even more fun! I love seeing some unique and out-there matches get a point or two in the poll and know that a few people in our wrestling community really had a moment with that match.
Along those lines, I think the vanity pick is also great when looking at the Voices of Wrestling Match of the Year poll as a historical document. It may seem presumptuous (or maybe even vain…) to think of it like that – but it can’t be denied that people will look back on these Match of the Year polls as a guide to see what matches are important from a given year and what they should watch to get a feel for wrestling at that moment in time. This is why things like the Hall of Fame and Awards are important. When a wrestling fan in 2048 looks back at 2023, they are going to need some sort of reference. Similar to how, if I want to start watching some 1982 wrestling, I’ll probably start by looking at the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Awards for that year and find some footage of Ric Flair, Stan Hansen, and Ole Anderson tag matches, Roddy Piper promos and Tiger Mask/Dynamite Kid matches.
This year, my Vanity Pick was AEW’s Parking Lot Fight II, featuring the Blackpool Combat Club of Jon Moxley and Claudio Castagnoli against the Best Friends of Chuck Taylor and Trent Berreta. It took place on the August 4 episode of AEW Rampage and ended up tied for 265th with two total votes and three total points. One of them was my tenth-place vote.
I’ll admit right off the bat – I’m a huge fan of the Best Friends, which makes sense, given that this is a vanity pick. In fact, I wrote a whole ass article about how great Best Friends and Orange Cassidy have been in AEW.
This Parking Lot fight only added to their list of great moments, and in 2023, it was one of my most enjoyable wrestling-watching moments of the year.
When AEW Rampage started one of the talking points was that it could become the WCW Saturday Night for AEW. It could be the show where Tony Khan could just put cool, unique, and maybe even weird wrestling matches on that didn’t even have to fit into the storylines of the company. It wouldn’t be appointment viewing or even regular DVR viewing, but if you happened to be home on a Friday night and put it on – it could be an enjoyable hour. And that’s exactly what happened with me and Parking Lot Fight II.
It was an uneventful Friday night, and for some reason, I was able to tune into Rampage at just the right time. And I am so glad I did. I was able to see Trent and Moxley go insane, as one would expect, and take all sorts of crazy bumps. I was able to see Claudio fit fantastically into hardcore environment with his impressive strength and physicality. And then Chuck Taylor siphoned gas out of a car to set a barbed wire 2×2 on fire! I hope Cactus Jack was proud. We got run-ins from Wheeler Yuta, Orange Cassidy, and, of course, Trent’s mom, Sue!
Having the match occur in Daily’s Place’s parking lot was a great touch for many reasons. Obviously, it called back to the first Parking Lot Fight between Best Friends and Santana/Ortiz. But also – it was just some nice nostalgia to be back at Daily’s Place for a special match like this. It seems weird to call this incredibly violent match a “nice surprise” – but really, that’s what the whole thing was. In addition, it was a great communal experience. I was able to watch along live while chatting in the Voices of Wrestling Discord with fellow fans as we all freaked out and enjoyed the match. It was similar to the amazing experience I had with the first Stadium Stampede Match in May 2020. God bless Chuck Taylor.
And that’s my Vanity Pick for 2023.
Looking back on my previous match of the year ballots, my other vanity picks have included the Nick Jackson vs. Matt Jackson “cinematic match” from Being the Elite episode 200 (wait…what’s this? Another whole ass column? Why yes, it is!)
In 2021, it was Emi Sakura vs. VENY (ASUKA) as part of AEW’s YouTube-exclusive Japan bracket of the Women’s Eliminator Tournament. Even though it was an empty arena match in 2021, this contest – and that entire tournament was a highlight of my enjoyment in 2021 and deserved to be recognized. In 2022 I would say I had two vanity picks – Darby vs. Brody King – Coffin Match – AEW, August 10, 2022, (#270, 3 points, 1 vote, highest 8th) was the firsr. The second showed a continuing pattern from my other picks, as it was a match freely available on YouTube. That match was Takumi Fujiwara vs. Dragon Dia from Dragongate on March 5, 2022 (#233, 5 points, 3 votes, highest 9th).
Looking over the 2023 list, I see several likely vanity picks that catch my eye. First up are two of the four “retirement” matches from Keiji Muto that made the list. Yes, that’s right, four of his “last” matches made the list – what a freakin worker. The “Great Muta final bye-bye” six-man tag with Darby Allin and Sting got a single 10th-place vote. And then his true “final match” against Masahiro Chono actually got two points on a single 9th-place vote. It was written about by our very own Ewan Cameron.
Other notable matches in the Vanity Pick/Sadness Village territory with 1-2 points included two matches from West Coast Pro (Titus Alexander vs. Nick Wayne, Titus Alexander vs. Starboy Charlie) and a Wrestling Revolver appearance from Jon Moxley (vs. Jake Crist, May 6) and a Premier Promotions match from ZSJ (vs. Jordan Breaks, December 29).
Bryan Danielson appears three times with his TV matches against Bandido (January 18), Swerve Strickland (October 10), and Brody King (December 16) – further showing his insanely high hit rate in 2023. Almost every match Danielson wrestled last year ended up on the list.
The Knockouts tribute multiwoman tag from Impact Episode 1000 (September 21) featuring Gail Kim and Awesome Kong got 1 point, as did AEW’s Blood and Guts match with Kota Ibushi. Some big-time matches that only got 1-2 points include Shingo Takagi vs. Will Ospreay from RevPro on All In weekend (August 26), the great Samoa Joe vs. Mark Briscoe ROH TV title match (March 31), and Aussie Open vs. Bishamon for the IWGP Tag Team Titles (April 8).
I’m glad all these matches got a little love and ended up on the final list. The beauty of this poll and its ever-expanding voter list is in the variety of tastes and experiences that the voters bring. It may be vain to think putting a match in 10th place on your list will make sure that it’s not lost to history. But goddammit – be vain! Putting too much thought, time, and effort into this is what makes fandom great and enjoyable for so many of us. It’s what makes this poll great.
And with that, I leave with one last vanity pick – freely available on YouTube for your viewing pleasure. In fact it’s part of a series of matches recently discussed on the Flagship Podcast as these two just had a Dog Collar Match that will likely end up on the 2024 list. Going back to 2023 though, here’s Mad Dog Connelly vs. 1 Called Manders from Saint Louis Anarchy (SLA), July 28, 2023.