Mount Rushmores of Wrestling is a series that breaks down the cream of the crop of professional wrestling in our quest to come to a consensus on the top 4 of any given category. In today’s edition we’re looking at the best matches of 2020.
Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena, Firefly Fun House Match (WrestleMania 36 – 3/26)
Darius: One of the very few good things to come out of there being a pandemic was the rise of cinematic wrestling matches, as multiple wrestling companies began using them early in the pandemic to break up the monotony of crowdless matches. Though they lost their magic a bit as we went through the Money in the Bank, Swamp Fight, and Tooth & Nail matches (all of which were still quite watchable), the early hits were amazing. The Boneyard match was a brutal western flick. The Stadium Stampede was a surreal action comedy.
The Firefly Fun House match was the format at its best, though.
A very rare meta self-critique of the WWE and specifically the John Cena character, The Fiend gained back a lot of the luster he’d lost through his Goldberg match when he attacked Cena during his entrance and wrestled him in his own jacked up mind palace. We got highlights such as the 2020 returns of both Doctor of Thuganomics AND trunks-wearing Ruthless Aggression Cena, the callbacks to WrestleMania 30 and embracing the hate, Vince McMahon saying “sh*t” on TV, and nWo John Cena! That whole match was a wild ride that, for me, is the most surprising and most rewatchable cinematic match of 2020.
Kenny Omega & Hangman Adam Page vs. The Young Bucks (Revolution – 2/29)
JJ: There’s four incredible matches discussed in this article, but in my mind this match stands alone atop the pyramid of 2020’s greatest matches. There’s a very good reason that Dave Meltzer awarded the match 6 stars and also dubbed it the greatest tag team match of all time. It’s because it very likely was.
While wrestling fans debate topics like this endlessly, sometimes a match comes along that just removes all room for debate and that’s what this match did for me as far as best matches of 2020 are concerned. In the thirty minutes that these two teams wrestled, I don’t think anything they did could be considered a wasted moment. Every move, taunt, and decision felt like it had a purpose and was part of the intricate plan that resulted in an absolute masterpiece in the ring. This was a love letter to tag team wrestling and how to tell a story.
The Golden Lovers vs. The Young Bucks in NJPW from 2018 (a 5 star Meltzer match) served as a template for this, with Hangman Adam Page being the new ingredient. The Bucks even attacked Omega with the Golden Trigger (finishing move of the Golden Lovers) to create one hell of an emotional moment. By the end of the match Page was without question the centerpiece, and not just because he captured the pin, but because of the story he told with the other three men in the ring. There was a conscious decision for unselfish wrestling to make one of these four men a star, and it resulted in one of the greatest wrestling matches I’ve ever seen.
WALTER vs. Ilja Dragunov (NXT UK – 10/29)
Darius: Before Roman Reigns was the head of the table and Kenny Omega was stealing the AEW Championship, I’ve always maintained that WALTER was the most must-see wrestler on the planet. Like a mixture of Vader, Minoru Suzuki, and Brock Lesnar, the moment I hear WALTER’s opera music there’s an aura in the arena that is unmatched and un-look-away-able. It was just a shame that, if you weren’t already in the know, many fans weren’t going to tune in to NXT UK to see what he was doing. But, at least for one day, WALTER and Ilja Dragunov changed that.
The two former-WXW stars just went out there and beat the absolute trash out of each other for 20+ minutes, wrestling in front of no crowd as if they were in front of a packed ‘90s AJPW crowd. The lack of crowd engagement was covered by the sounds of chops, and the visuals of Dragunov’s body reddening and being bent in half over a turnbuckle had to be watched through the gaps between your fingers. It was a mauling, but even so, the fact that Dragunov was the only person to date to pin WALTER in NXT UK meant you could always buy into the little unbreakable Russian walking away with the gold, especially as he kicked out of incredible kill-moves from the champion.
If you haven’t seen this match, I absolutely encourage you to seek it out. And just to ease your tension if you are about to watch it for the first time — no, the match doesn’t end with either of them dying. At least, not literally.
Best Friends (Chuck Taylor & Trent?) vs. Santana & Ortiz (Dynamite – 9/16)
JJ: While this match isn’t necessarily the absolute best wrestling match that happened in 2020, it’s without question my personal favorite. I think it’s really important to note that AEW’s Tag Team titles weren’t involved, the #1 contender spot wasn’t at stake, and this wasn’t a match that had been hyped up for weeks for one of AEW’s pay-per-view events. This match just happened on a seemingly normal episode of Dynamite, but the results were anything but.
Leading up to the match, I remember being kind of irked at AEW because but it felt like there were a lot more commercials than usual and I even saw a bunch of folks complaining about it on Twitter. Turns out, this was a deliberate choice by Tony Khan to ensure the main event was commercial free. Apparently TK knew something we didn’t that night.
Quite simply, Chuck Taylor, Trent, Santana, and Ortiz put on the greatest parking lot match in the history of wrestling. I mean that with no exaggeration or hyperbole, it was an instant classic that made wrestling history as the first match on a non-PPV episode of weekly live TV to receive a 5 star rating from Dave Meltzer. And god did they ever deserve it. There was brutal spot after brutal spot, blood, broken cars, broken glass, and so many insane things that I’ve never seen before in a wrestling match. But more importantly, it was an amazing display of creativity and innovation. People will be talking about this match for years to come and I’ll be one of them.
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