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Thread: Ed's Top 25 Matches of 2021

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    Ed's Top 25 Matches of 2021


    Golden shovels and fire weren't enough to get Cody on the list this year, but maybe he can politic his way into a match with Bryan in 2022.

    2021. A year we all moved on from the COVID-19 pandemic and it's effects on the wrestling industry...


    Ok maybe not, Japan in particular was stuck with clap crowds for the whole year rendering countless promotions almost unwatchable and Europe hasn't recovered from it's demise either. That left the majority of what was good about pro wrestling in 2021 up to North America and there was plenty going on stateside last year. CM Punk returned to wrestling after 7 years away to show up at AEW, Bryan Danielson and Adam Cole jumped ship also, two black women main evented Wrestlemania, Roman Reigns held the world title all year, while Hangman Page beat Kenny Omega to bring his 2 year journey to becoming World Champion to an end. Sting, Christian Cage and Katsuyori Shibata all came out of retirement to wrestle again, while Ring of Honor may have run their final ever show. We had dolls coming to life, A box like structure, Eddie Kingston pretending a sparkler killed him, miz battling zombies, professional dancers and a vampire from the 90s, and the biggest firing spree you've ever seen as Nick Khan's position in WWE continues to grow while Triple H gets written out of the will.

    Inbetween all that, there were some great matches in the year, just enough to get me to 25 matches again. So here we go.

    ---



    #25 - July 18th
    AJ Styles and Omos Vs Viking Raiders - WWE Money in the Bank

    Maybe my hoot of the year. I worry about the future of Omos as a singles guy and how much effort is going into him when he doesn't really have the agility, the charisma or the presence of Braun and WWE couldn't get Braun right. The launched rana is the spot of the year.



    #24 - December 22nd
    CM Punk, Sting and Darby Allin Vs MJF and FTR - AEW Dynamite

    Nah, scratch that. This is the hoot of the year. Sting has been a tonne of fun all year with his father/son type tag team with Darby Allin and teaming up with CM Punk to form this super babyface trio was a great Christmas present from Tony Khan for the holiday episode of Dynamite. Just a blast to watch.



    #23 - November 12th
    Barbaro Cavernario Vs Hechicero - CMLL

    My favourite Lucha match of the year. It is also one of two lucha matches I watched all year with the other being Kenny Omega Vs Andrade, so my opinion on the scene ain't worth a dime Great to see these two brilliant wrestlers in action though.



    #22 - February 14th
    Finn Balor Vs Pete Dunne - NXT Takeover Vengeance Day

    Maybe Triple H should have got his marching orders when he came up with 'Vengeance Day' as a show name. This match feels like it was years ago, but it honestly wasn't that long ago that Finn Balor was doing some of the best work of his career as champion of NXT. Some trademark silly Pete Dunne strikes aside, this was great.




    #21 - April 8th
    Josh Barnett Vs Jon Moxley - GCW Josh Barnett's Bloodsport 6

    The pandemic stopped this from happening in 2020, but thankfully we got it in 2021. Jon Moxley returns to Bloodsport for a main event against Josh Barnett and my god did this deliver on expectations. Brutal match that was easily the most interesting thing Mox was booked in during the year.



    #20 - January 6th
    Finn Balor Vs Kyle O'Reilly - NXT New Years Evil

    Again, another terrible name for a show by Triple H, but another great title match from Finn Balor. This one a well worked rematch from their highly regarded 2020 Takeover match. Comes in a shorter than that match, but they don't let up on the intensity and psychology and has an unique angle of working a jaw injury into the match.



    #19 - November 13th
    MJF Vs Darby Allin - AEW Full Gear

    A battle between two of AEW's self appointed four pillars. This was a hot opener to start AEW's final PPV of the year and it made me eat my words as I have had a history on here of saying MJF was average in the ring ('mid' to use MJF vocab) and here he went toe to toe with Darby Allin who I consider one of the very best in the world. Now, I'd have preferred it if there wasn't so much cooperated spots to give this an exhibition vibe to start off this heated match, but I'll let that slide for proving me wrong.



    #18 - September 5th
    Miro Vs Eddie Kingston - AEW All Out

    I'd say this was the best AEW opener since Full Gear 2020 with Hangman/Omega. Loved the story of Kingston going for Miro's neck, they beat the shit out of each other and even though Miro technically cheated, I didn't think he came off like a chicken shit heel



    #17 - March 26th
    Jonathan Gresham Vs Dak Draper - ROH 19th Anniversary Show

    I really don't want to come across like a Gresham mark who just says his matches are the MOTN every show, but god damn this match just kept getting better and better until it ended up being great by the end. I have no idea who Dak is, so I was going in cold to everything and on face value I thought he looked an odd choice for a Pure title guy with how tall he was, he didn't look a technical wrestler. It resulted in a really good story of Gresham trying to chop down this tree with both men playing their roles really well. I loved the finish of the suicide dive into a sleeper, the tease of Dak fighting back out of it once he's in the ring, and then failing as he had no more rope breaks left



    #16 - September 5th
    CM Punk Vs Darby Allin - AEW All Out

    CM Punk's return to the ring after seven years away and I thought this was a really intriguing opponent to put him against. Seven years is a long time for the wrestling landscape to change, so Punk facing off against one of the more unique, unpredictable and relentless of wrestlers of this generation gave him a very challenging return to action. A welcome reminder on his first match back that Punk is one of the best storytellers there is in the ring. Also, Darby fucking rules.



    #15 - April 7th
    WALTER Vs Ciampa - NXT Takeover Stand and Deliver Night 1

    Walter shows up for one of his few matches of the year and continues his perfect batting average. Great match, two guys beating the shit out of each other and the best Ciampa has looked in ages. I think my favourite moment was the constant clotheslines by Ciampa on Walter trying to knock him out the ring, it would be so easy for that to come off like no selling, but Walter sells every shot with how wobbly his legs are and just finds enough to fire back.



    #14 - June 26th
    Kenny Omega Vs Jungle Boy - AEW Dynamite

    The type of match Kenny hadn't had much of since becoming champion because being a heel means Tony Khan just books him to win via interference. When he wins like this through only his ability, it makes him feel more of the champ and gives his opponent more of a rub for taking him to the limit. Really great showing from Jungle Boy, he didn't choke on his big opportunity and this was where he won me over.



    #13 - February 21st
    The Smackdown Elimination Chamber Match - Elimination Chamber

    It's Bryan, Cesaro, Owens, Zayn and Jey Uso (I'm a high man on his singles run) in my favourite match stipulation ever. There was no way I wasn't going to love this match even with Baron Corbin as the sixth man. Bryan wrestled the entire 35 minutes in what would be the first of many matches going that length for him in the year. The match was great, but the storytelling was spot on too with this match moving Kevin Owens away from the title picture and putting the focus on Cesaro and Bryan as the next two main challengers. The finish with Roman coming out to have the title match straight away was *chefs kiss* superb heel work.



    #12 - December 29th
    Utami Hayashishita Vs Syuri - Stardom Dream Queendom

    I was really impressed with their highly regarded June match, so when I heard they were having another title match to close out the year, I had to watch it. I didn't think this reached the heights of their previous match, most notably due to Syuri not using her strikes as much, but this was 35 minutes of great action that I'm sure I'd have loved even more if I wasn't an outsider and knew and cared about the storytelling leading up to this match.



    #11 - September 5th
    The Young Bucks Vs Lucha Bros - AEW All Out

    I thought it was fantastic and the best Lucha Bros match in god knows how many years. Great job with the cage design to allow them enough room to still do everything they wanted to do on the ropes. I've seen way too many dull escape the cage focused matches in my time so to have this match where the action doesn't stop and the teams don't go for the easy win was so sweet to watch. Props on no Elite interference as well.



    #10 - June 12th
    Utami Hayashishita Vs Syuri - Tokyo Dream Cinderella

    It takes a lot for me to watch a modern day Puro match, but I was hearing so much about this match I figured I needed to give it a whirl. I don't want to hear New Japan's problems blamed on clap crowds, that excuse applies to every Japanese company, they stink because of their booking. This match from Stardom went to a 30 minute draw, and then 13 minutes of overtime, and didn't once feel like the clap crowds were dragging it down. Utami's been a top act on Stardom for a while, but Syuri's UFC background gave her a fresh challenge to overcome with her striking game and arsenal of submissions. In the end, neither woman could gain the win, setting up their rematch for later in the year to decide who the best wrestler in Stardom is. I didn't care much for the restart angle, so if this was just the 30 minutes with the intensity of the overtime in the last 5 minutes, I think this would have been even higher for me.



    #9 - October 29th
    Bryan Danielson Vs Eddie Kingston - AEW Rampage

    This was great and a perfect response from Kingston after his match with Archer ended in a wet fart. He was fired up and everything he did looked like it was brutal. Sometimes Eddie can go for these Kings Road tribute spots and they come off both forced and lacking sizzle, but every chop connected like a gunshot and the suplexes hit hard too. This was his best AEW performance to date, even better than the Miro one. Bryan was Bryan, took the beating like a champ and all his strikes were great too. Love the ongoing story with Bryan being able to win with numerous submissions.



    #8 - April 30th
    Roman Reigns Vs Daniel Bryan - Smackdown April 30th

    Maybe slightly down from their Fastlane match because of the commercial breaks, but they didn't bother me and for all the people wishing Roman would just win a match clean without Jey's help, you got your wish. Loved the targeted limb work by Bryan and Roman sold it tremendously. Big fan of the double ground and pound into powerbomb spots from Roman. With this loss, Daniel Bryan waved goodbye to WWE and I might as well wave goodbye to the company too because the strike rate of WWE shows delivering something great drastically goes down with Bryan gone.



    #7 - May 12th
    Darby Allin Vs Miro - AEW Dynamite

    We got an appetizer into how good Darby defending the title against a powerhouse could be in the Brian Cage match, but against a more talented opponent, it's no surprise it reached higher heights. Miro felt like a monster, he was aggressive and unrelenting and tossed Darby around like a doll. I'd go as far as to say this is his career best match. They fucked up the first 6 months or so of his AEW run with too much comedy and bad sports entertainment stuff, but early in the year he flipped the switch and became a serious guy with a vicious streak. Darby's comebacks and hope spots were good, even if the Sting bro fist was a little corny. I LOVED the little touch of Darby pinching the nose of Miro when he had the sleeper locked on the outside to hamper his breathing. I also like that they didn't go completely down the route of Ethan and Scorpio costing Darby the title, they avoided cheapening the title win for Miro.



    #6 - April 10th
    Sasha Banks Vs Bianca Belair - WWE Wrestlemania Night 1

    Thankfully delivered in both quality and pulling the trigger on Bianca - that's what the main event of Wrestlemania should be about, crowning the next star. I can never take my eyes off a Sasha match because she always goes at it 100% and has something crazy planned and when things don't go smoothly, it still adds to her matches like a Sabu quality, but I loved how this was all about Bianca and how Sasha, now in a vet role, was struggling to fight against the tide of this next big thing. The Bianca show-off spots were all great from the walking up the steps gorilla press, to the delayed vertical suplex (which Sasha was great in trying to escape). I thought Bianca had one of the great escapes ever from a submission when she rolled backwards from the Bank Statement to build up momentum to roll immediately forwards to reach the ropes. The hair whip was such a cool moment too because it paid off Sasha going to the hair too often to stop bianca in her tracks so it was a good pay off, plus they nailed it and it sounded fantastic. And then I loved the struggle and counter attempts for Bianca's finish, really nice ending to the match (the network might have edited Cole out of mine because I didn't notice the botch). I would of loved it even more if Bianca didn't have that WWE trope shocked face for the 450 not getting the pin when it's not even her finisher, but that's nit-picking - best womens match of the year, best mania main event since Brock/Reigns in 2015, and best womens match in mania history. Just a shame they dropped the ball with Bianca halfway through the year.



    #5 - December 15th
    Hangman Page Vs Bryan Danielson - AEW Winter is Coming

    This is going to be funny to talk about because I do think the rematch earlier this month was better and would probably make this match feel a little weaker on the rematch, but my thoughts at the time was that this match was a masterpiece. The balls of Tony Khan to do a sixty minute time limit draw on national TV are pretty big, but his faith in Danielson and particularly Hangman paid off. Bryan's Bryan, he's the greatest wrestler to ever live, and wrestling fans are invested in Hangman Page more than anything else at the moment but 60 minutes are a test for anyone's patience. This could have gone wrong. But it didn't. This was paced beautifully, and played off all the setups so well with Hangman surviving all the multiple finishers Bryan had used since joining the company, and turning the match on it's head when the cowboy decided HE was going to kick Bryan's fucking head in. To quote Larry David trying his hand at being a car salesman, 'this is a fucking work of art'



    #4 - March 21st
    Roman Reigns Vs Bryan Danielson - WWE Fastlane

    I thought it was fantastic. Both guys played their roles so well, Reigns has matured as a performer since their last match 6 years ago and I thought the story they told was excellent. Bryan IS the best wrestler in the company, that's the story they are telling that in a fair fight, for as intimidating as Roman is he gets out-thought and doesn't have an answer for Bryan's technical ability to tie him into a submission at every turn. Bryan has no fear of Roman, he's played this game before 7 years ago against The Authority, and you can see that in the opening moments where Bryan's smiling and has a lively, giddy attitude to getting to face Roman for real this time. It's actually Roman this time that sells the fear, he knows he's screwed if Bryan gets him down to the mat because with Edge watching on it's harder to take the cowards way out again. The nuts and bolts of the match were great, they had a deliberately slow pace in the early goings because they knew they were going 30 minutes, but they filled it with interesting stuff. The Yes lock counter from the Spear down the stretch was so good I punched the air. Bryan's the GOAT and it's always great when WWE let him loose to have the top tier matches he's capable of having



    #3 - August 22nd
    WALTER Vs Ilja Dragunov - NXT Takeover 36

    This match absolutely ruled. RULED. The match in 2020 was about Walter dominating and Ilja surviving, this time however Ilja had way more of the match and it was Walter's time to survive as much as he could. From the first beat, Ilja is the one that fires off the first chop and Walter kicks the bottom rope in frustration and it sets the stall out that Ilja is going to be an even tougher challenge than he was before. The match is a hell of a fight and never lets up the pace, even when they do some grappling in the opening minutes and Walter throws in some lunging knee strikes while on the mat. There's that one clunky moment right towards the end of the match where they do a top rope sleeper thing and it doesn't come off well, but for me that just adds to the exhaustion of the match that these two guys aren't executing moves smoothly, and Ilja goes straight back on the attack anyway with rapid elbows rather than let the dodgy moment linger. Ilja was a man possessed and I can't think of a better performance by a Walter opponent ever to convince me that Walter was beatable than the Russian pulled off here. He was relentless and varied in his offence, flying and striking at Walter anyway he could and when the Torpedo Moscow failed to get the win, he poetically went for a strategy that has won Walter so many matches in his career - the sleeper - the move that finally lost him the previous title match back in 2020. I fucking love this finish with Ilja determined to make this sleeper work, and when Walter battles out, he just fires off with more strikes and locks it in tighter. The quick tap out surprised me as I thought they were going for Walter passing out, but I think it helped create a bigger moment.



    #2 - October 9th
    Kenny Omega Vs Bryan Danielson - AEW Grand Slam

    Bryan in his promos asked for the 'best bout machine', not the shithead that hangs out with Don Callis, and that's exactly what we got as Omega produces the most reigned in performance of his title run with his worst mannerisms kept to a minimum and these two delivered on their dream match build. The match was well laid out with a great story, the strikes were strong and clean, the crazy bumps were there, Omega's offence looked killer, there were hints of classic ROH Danielson with the Cattle Mutilation, they never once went for the cheap out with Elite interference - there was nothing not to love here. We all knew the draw was coming, but it doesn't come off as disappointing because it's the right booking call and the match was a breeze to watch at 30 minutes. I really enjoyed how the match didn't fall into the trope of having someone 2 seconds away from victory when the time limit comes - Bryan and Omega were locked in a brawl of punches as the match ended with no clear indication of who would have won with more time on the clock. I love that, and I'm more interested in a rematch because of it. The end result is the best television match of 2021, and arguably the best wrestling match in AEW history - that's what Bryan Danielson gives you and what AEW have been missing, someone that doesn't need bells and whistles and weapon pops to have a main event level match. I think my favourite thing about the match was that for what felt like the first time in 10 years, Bryan wasn't presented as an underdog. He was presented as someone who is best in the world level who could go toe to toe with AEW's almost year long world champion. That was so refreshing to see and got me pumped up even more for this next chapter of his career.



    #1 - November 13th
    CM Punk Vs Eddie Kingston - AEW Full Gear

    Maybe in a years time if I watch this again it might not hold up the same because I know nothing comes of this match, Punk moves onto his feud with MJF and Kingston has to slum it down the card with 2.0 and Daniel Garcia, it's a shame but it is what it is. Watching live this however felt like I was watching the biggest fight of the year on a level above anything else I'd seen. Most of this list is title matches and main events where it's a given that things will feel like the biggest thing on a show, but this non-title match with a couple of weeks build behind it, stuck in the middle of a PPV that was losing steam felt more captivating than anything else I've watched all year and that's why it was the easiest choice of what should be #1 on my list. The reason is simple, CM Punk and Eddie Kingston are two all-timer level talkers and personalities and they make wrestling feel like the coolest thing in the world, even in one of the bleakest years for wrestling. A non-wrestling fan could watch the promo set up, and this match and say 'I get it'. This is pro-wrestling at it's simplest and it's finest. Two guys have beef with one another, so they brawl it out. And it was a hell of a brawl too with no second wasted and crammed full of easter eggs for nerds like us with the Cena tribute spots. Eddie Kingston was a cult hero on the indies for over a decade and nearly retired because he thought his chance at making it big would never come; to see him sign with AEW and have big matches like this on a big stage is a true joy. This might be as good as it gets for Eddie, but that seemed a long way off 2 years ago.
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    Re: Ed's Top 25 Matches of 2021

    Cool list. Mine would probably look quite similar, though I don't think I even caught the WWE tag match and Chamber this year. Danielson all over the Top 10, what a shocker.

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    Re: Ed's Top 25 Matches of 2021

    Quote Originally Posted by King Steventon View Post
    Cool list. Mine would probably look quite similar, though I don't think I even caught the WWE tag match and Chamber this year. Danielson all over the Top 10, what a shocker.
    You'd like both matches I think. Chamber has Cesaro and Bryan wrestling the entire match so there's always someone solid in the match. I thought the tag match was a better version of the AJ and Omos mania tag if you enjoyed that one.

    And yeah, some wrestler that Danielson.
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    Re: Ed's Top 25 Matches of 2021

    Bold choice to go with CM Punk vs. Eddie Kingston as your number one. Understand why though.

    Forgot how good Reigns vs. Danielson was, just went back and rewatched that and the Chamber match you picked as well.

    Nice to see plenty of Miro and Darby Allin as well. Expecting them to have big years in 2022.
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