Of all the companies in North America, no one held their audience better than AEW. When the pandemic hit they immediately presented by far the best atmosphere in empty arena wrestling by having wrestlers and crew in the audience to create noise for the matches. That little touch added so much to the overall presentation and made the matches on my list so much better. Since we have seen the last big match of 2020, lets countdown the top 5 AEW matches of the year:
5. Santana & Ortiz vs The Best Friends in a Parking Lot Fight (Dynamite, 9/16)
Santana and Ortiz proved for years in IMPACT that they were capable of main event level performances and on this night they were finally given the chance. These two teams had an extremely hard hitting and fun battle that many pundits rated 5 stars. The Best Friends shed their mid-card comedy label for one night and captivated one of the largest audiences of the year for Dynamite.
4. Stadium Stampede (Double or Nothing)
Double or Nothing was AEW’s first PPV since the beginning of the Pandemic. Many talents had missed the previous 6-8 episodes due to travel restrictions, including the Young Bucks. This was the first night where the band was almost 100% back together and the main event was a 10 Man No-DQ match set at TIAA Stadium, where the Jaguars attempt to play football most Sundays, filmed cinematic style less than 24 hours before the PPV went on the air. The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, Adam Page, and the companies recent signee Matt Hardy took on the Inner Circle (Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara, Jake Hager, Santana, and Ortiz) in a 45 minute masterpiece that literally had everything.
It was filled with action, drama, and actually funny comedy. There were high risk spots, amazing displays of athleticism, and comedic timing typically reserved for main stream TV. The match is exactly what we needed at the time, an escape from the realities of the chaos we were all living at the time. COVID-19 and all the uncertainties kept us in fear and this match allowed us to forget those fears for nearly an hour.
Not sure its worth me listing all the great moments in the match, which if you ask Chris Jericho, is so great that if you didn’t like it you have no soul, because it would take forever. Just watch the link above if you haven’t seen it. If cinematic matches aren’t your thing, they aren’t mine either, but this match one me over so much that it made my top 5.
3. Cody Rhodes vs Brodie Lee, Dog Collar Match for the TNT Title (Dybamite, 10/7)
In typical Cody Rhodes fashion, the Rhodes-Lee Dog Collar match was a throwback to the 80’s blood baths reminiscent of The American Dreams greatest matches. This one in particular mirrored the infamous Dog Collar match between Roddy Piper and Greg Valentine which took place at the very first Starrcade in 1983, an event in which Dusty named and was a big part of behind the scenes.
The Rhodes-Lee match was a beautifully violent bloodbath between two outstanding main event talents that could have headlined the Greensboro Coliseum in 1986 on PPV, but instead we got to see it live on TNT. We typically do not get to see violent matches like this on network TV but I am thankful we got it. Unfortunately this was the last match of Brodie’s before he tragically died.
2. The Young Bucks vs FTR (Full Gear)
The Young Bucks vs FTR was a love letter to the history of tag team wrestling. It was almost as perfect a match as you can get with a simple yet creative finish that should be studied in wrestling schools all over the world. For years, FTR used the moniker of “No Flips, Just Fists”. They chastised teams for taking unnecessary risks and performing worthless high spots. They positioned themselves as the new versions of Arn and Tully, even hiring Tully as their manager. The two teams performed tag team moves from Power and Glory, The Road Warriors, Hart Foundation, The Rockers, RnR Express, The Midnights, etc. Every move failed and pinfall thwarted until in an act of desperation and arrogance, Cash Wheeler attempted a beautiful springboard 450 splash to Matt Jackson, who moved and hit his signature superkick to win the AEW tag team titles for the very first time. Can not wait til these two teams tango again.
1. The Young Bucks vs Kenny Omega and Adam Page (Revolution)
AEW Revolution took place just weeks before the pandemic shut the world down and was the last major event for the company with a building full of fans. Looking back on this match it feels like we were living in a completely different world just 11 months ago. The crowd was hot for this match and these four men gave them what many have said is the greatest tag team match of all time. The two teams went 40 minutes and hit every move imaginable with some of the most athletic and dramatic storytelling you will ever see. People think wrestlers these days do not sell, and they are completely wrong. The selling made this match what it was. They had the audience on their feet the entire team and took us all at home for a ride. I remember watching this match at 4 am the next morning due to traveling the night before, barely awake I bit on many nearfalls and the excitement of the match kept me on the edge of my seat. Go out of your way to watch this one.