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My Ten Favorite Matches of 2015
Hey kids; it's me! I bet you thought that I was dead. But when I fell over I just holy shit I'm actually typing out that song the clown sings in Billy Madison. What can I say; this long, two week layoff I've been on since my laptop's motherboard decided to give me the finger for the third time in four months has left me rested and perhaps a tad deranged. Do you know what it's like to go without writing or being on the internet regularly for two weeks? Better yet, do you know how good it feels to go without it?! I haven't felt this free since I turned off Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and realized I could go back to doing things that were fun again. I'm telling you, the only thing more of a letdown than that film is New Years Eve. A day that can be summed up in pretty much one Forest Gump picture.
But enough about truthful things being captured by the human maggot known as Gary Sinise, it's time to get back in the saddle again. And well, seeing as it's going to be a new year in...19 minutes, I thought it be a good time to roll out my ten favorite wrestling matches of this year. I'll be honest, I was hoping to do make this column a series featuring 30 to 50 matches in total (what can I say; I'm a wrestling nerd), but my computer's issues have led to me shortening it to just the cream of the crop. That said, this is still a pretty cool cream, featuring matches from CMLL, WWE, NXT and, shocker of all shocker's Lucha Underground. In short, this list is pretty good; I'd personally give it a 9.6. But don't take my word for it; read it yourself and learn about these pretty rad matches. You might even discover a thing or two. Or three. Or whatever. Man, I got to lay off the Sunkist. ON WITH THE SHOW!
10. Dragon Lee vs. Kamaitachi (CMLL, Homenaje a Dos Leyendas, 3/20/15)
You could make the argument that this list should be the ten best matches involving Dragon Lee and Kamaitachi. That's how freakin good that feud was this year! Alas, only two matches from their highly acclaimed saga made the cut, the first being their mask vs. mask doozy back from March. It doesn't quite pack the emotional punch that some of the later matches had (including their best match, which you'll be reading about soon. SPOILER ALERT!), but the action is top quality (duh, it's Dragon Lee-Kamaitachi) and you know the stakes are going to be Cecil B. DeMille sized when masks are on the line. The greatest accomplishment of this match though? The fact that it turned a feud based on athletic competition and turned it into one man's diabolical quest to humiliate his enemy the way he was humiliated. Dare I say the Bleach to a certain other match's Nevermind?
9. Chris Hero vs. Timothy Thatcher (PWG, Battle of Los Angeles Night 2, 8/29/15)
Imagine the fight scene from Kill Bill: Volume One, only with two men beating the shit out of each other with their fists and heads instead of swords. That was this match, the highlight of one of the best show's of the year on a night where PWG could do no wrong. Seriously, Great Khali and Hayden Christensen could've worked a match on BOLA Night 2 and it would've came out like Shadow of Colossus. More impressive than the physical beating each man delivered to the other, the match served as a great dueling story of the veteran Hero having to overcome his overconfidence to best the spaghetti western esq intensity of Thatcher, who became a star with his performance here. Get ready for Thatcher wrestling world; the guy is going to be bigger and badder than the second Death Star.
8. The Crew vs. Ivelisse, Angelico and Son of Havoc (Lucha Underground, Trios Championship, 4/22/15)
A match that was less about the moves and all about the story of three dysfunctional rejects banding together to defeat the minions of Dario Cueto. Oh, there was also a bad ass woman fighting for victory through a serious injury and Angelico becoming a star by getting a running start off El Jefe's roof. As Seth Green famously said in the cinematic barn fire known as Rat Race, gravity did the rest.
7. Prince Puma vs. Johnny Mundo (Lucha Underground, All Night Long, 6/17/15)
The best iron match of the year, while also simultaneously being the best iron match of the year you've never heard of. All due respect to the Boss and the Renegade of Hug (I'll see myself out), the Wednesday Night Delight and the dude who totally, TOTALLY isn't Ricochet took full advantage of the one hour (and one full show) they were given to deliver a classic that any wrestling company would be happy to have. Add the fact that these two had been building to this match all throughout season one, and you couldn't ask for more from an Iron Man match. Also note that this may have been the last great moment of Alberto El Patron's career. I kid, I kid. Please WWE fans, don't come at me with pitchforks!
6. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley (NXT, Takeover: Brooklyn, 8/22/15)
The only thing more unfathomable than how great this classic was at the NXT event of the year was the fact that Sasha Banks went from receiving a nuclear pop to receiving nuclear disinterest in the same building four months later. That should tell you two things; WWE still hasn't quite figured out how to get the main roster women's division going and hot damn did NXT get that story right back in August. The Boss (one of the top five wrestlers alive, period) couldn't have been a better heel, and Bayley couldn't have been a more heroic, inspiring figure if she changed her name to Sami Zayn or Son of Havoc. There were women's matches involving both Sasha and Bayley that were better from an in ring perspective (looking at you Sasha-Becky Lynch), but no bout was as gripping or as well told as this one.
5. Atlantis vs. La Sombra (CMLL, 82nd Anniversary Show, 9/18/15)
It's that damn mask vs. mask stipulation again! Like Community, Jason and Matt Hardy circa 2005, it never dies and never stops being interesting (alright, maybe Hardy doesn't apply to that last one). What makes this match special is the contrast in wrestlers; there was the young, Godfather obsessed La Sombra looking to come of age (likely a poor choice of words seeing as he was already one of the most beloved young luchadors in Mexico) and there was the legendary, seemingly ageless Atlantis looking to remind the world of his greatness while adding another mask to his growing collection. Their individual stories were the layer this match needed to put it over the top; the flawless in ring action and emotional climax and aftermath took care of the rest. Really, didn't both men win here? Atlantis likely solidified himself as the most underrated luchador of all time (seriously, when are we going to admit how great this dude is?!), while La Sombra likely got hired by WWE thanks to this contest. That's power there.
4. Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan (WWE, Fast Lane, 2/22/15)
Here's a confession no one will be surprised to hear; I don't give a flying saucer about Roman Reigns. Does he have talent? Yes. But the guy is about as interesting to me as Meet the Spartans, and the fact that he's being pushed not because of his talent but his look (and don't deny it; if he looked like Cesaro, he'd be putting over Baron Corbin right now) makes my blood boil. Despite all of that, his match here with Bryan was, to me, the most redeemable thing the WWE did all year. Were there other great main roster matches? Certainly. But this one was on another level, even compared to the battles between Cena and Owens or the underrated, sadly forgotten triple threat match from last year's Royal Rumble. There was no prototypical WWE formula, no finisher after finish bullshit (well, there was to some degree, but still!); it was just two guys who you believed didn't like each other doing everything they could to annihilate the other. It also serves as proof that Reigns can indeed go and that Bryan is truly a fucking artist. Do yourself a favor; turn the volume down, put on the Fury Road soundtrack, and enjoy yourself.
3. Mil Muertes vs. Fenix (Lucha Underground, Grave Consequences, 3/18/15)
Let's be real; this match was going to make the top ten one way or another. I mean, it took a gimmick match that hadn't been interesting since The English Patient was winning Oscars and turned it into the greatest thing in the history of the western hemisphere. I haven't seen something improve that much since Maggie Gyllenhaal replaced Katie Holmes in The Dark Knight.
As much fun as two men throwing a casket at each other can be though, what made Grave Consequences such a rocking good time was the fact that it, stop me if you've heard this before, featured two men with great dueling stories. For Mil Muertes, it was about getting medieval on the man who had stolen his woman and ruined his life. For Fenix, it was about proving he could stand toe to toe with the most diabolical hater since Beautiful and cementing his place as a top Lucha Underground star. Put that together with the casket as a weapon motif, add some biting, mask ripping and a whole lot of Catrina playing things close to the chest (I expect my buddy Pen to have a joke for me regarding that last line) and you have the best match of the year. Except it's not. Which just goes to show you the next two matches are like the Titanic and Ben-Hur of wrestling in 2015.
2. Dragon Lee vs. Kamaitachi (CMLL, Super Viernes, 12/4/15)
If the mask vs. mask match was the beginning of a Kill Bill quest for revenge, this bout between Lee and Kamaitachi for the CMLL World Lightweight Championship was one extended five point exploding heart technique. You could also maybe say it was Kamaitachi's Last Stand, but that's only if you're into Zeppelin I guess. In any event, this match (not even a month ago) was a masterpiece, taking the enormous chemistry built between these two all year, combining it with Kamaitachi's quest to finally get the better of his rival and turning it into a Splash Mountain esq ride. It's also further proof that every match should feature one fan who the camera continuously focuses on while their emotions take more twist and turns than Bill Paxton's body after Adrian Pasdar rammed him with that semi in Near Dark. Can you imagine if WWE hired someone to act all nervous and excited during a Reigns match? All his problems would be solved right there (not really, but most would be).
1. Vampiro vs. Pentagon Jr. (Lucha Underground, Ultima Lucha, 8/5/15)
It take a special kind of match, a special kind of story to top the greatness that was Dragon Lee and Kamaitachi. On August 5th, during Lucha Underground's Ultima Lucha (one of the three best show's of the year), Pentagon Jr. and Vampiro did just that. Make no mistake; this bout isn't a classic in the same vein as Savage-Steamboat, Flair-Steamboat or pretty much anyone-Steamboat. You won't find technical wrestling, death defying risks or anything that reminds you of a Daniel Bryan or a Zack Sabre Jr. What you will find however is, in my opinion, the best story of the year; a balls to the wall clash between a young man searching for approval from a mysterious master and a lucha legend looking to have one final great day. Put that altogether with an incredible level of violence that highlighted both men's desperation and an outstanding twist ending that even Shyamalan couldn't have screwed up, and this my friends is my holy grail of wrestling matches in 2015. Everyone got what they wanted from this; Pentagon Jr. became a star. Vampiro had his one last day in the sun. And Lucha Underground got its Rock-Hogan match, only with florescent light tubes.
That'll do it guys and gals. I'll be back sooner than you think; what can I say, hiatus has me all rested up and ready to go! Till then, Happy New Year! Oh, and beware of the machines. You never know when the Y2K thing is going to go into effect years later!
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