Top 20 Of 2016

Graphic by Salwinder Singh.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

 

“It.” “Delete.” “Obsolete.” “The List.” “10.” “The Champ That Runs The Camp.” “Stupid Idiot.” “Glorious.” “Too Sweet.”

The list above describes a fiesta of phrases commonly found in pro wrestling jargon that made 2016 possibly its best year ever.

The one below describes select moments that help seal that argument and make us forget about things like The Titus Brand, The Cruiserweight Division, Raw’s Third Hour, WWE’s overloaded Pay-Per-View schedule, TNA’s X-Division and Matanza Cueto.

If you want to remember that bad stuff, check this out.

 

 

 

 

 

20) Samoa Joe Captures NXT Championship At NXT Live Event 

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We like NXT for the same reason most do – thinking outside of what’s normally expected in professional wrestling, especially WWE’s main roster. We got the first hint that NXT wasn’t afraid to shock people at their live events, where things like appearances from Triple H himself have gone down. It was Apr. 21, as Samoa Joe was in a feud a few months old with Finn Balor. It was Balor who Joe originally turned heel on. Joe was unsuccessful in his two attempts to uncrown “The Demon” of his NXT Championship at NXT TakeOver: London and NXT TakeOver: Dallas. When it appeared that their feud might fizzle out, social media buzzed with news that Joe won the NXT Championship at the live event from Lowell, Massachusetts. There’s a common “unspoken rule” that Titles don’t change hands at house shows. NXT spits in the face of expectations clearly. This was a good time to make the switch, as it freshened their feud for a few more months. It’s still probably Joe’s Muscle Buster of his career and it didn’t air on the WWE Network. Figure that.

 

 

19) The Sami Zayn-Kevin Owens Feud 

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sami Zayn-Kevin Owens feud began long before WWE, most notably in Ring Of Honor, where the former tag team partners engaged in bloody battles aplenty. When both came to WWE, they reunited as Owens embraced Zayn after he won the NXT Championship at NXT TakeOver: R-Evolution only to turn in sudden brute fashion. An Apron Powerbomb incapacitated Zayn and it wasn’t long before Owens took his Title. The Zayn-Owens main roster feud didn’t take shape until Royal Rumble, when they traded fists upon first sight. They took part in a few multi-man matches afterwards, but we got to the good stuff when they finally went one-on-one at Payback (following the Enzo Amore concussion to wake Chicago up) and Battleground, the latter where Zayn finally got his “revenge” in a true classic. No belts were on the line sadly, but they took two guys who hated one another, played up their friendship history, had excellent chemistry, knew how to work a crowd to anticipate moments and let them rip. It’s not perfect, but sometimes, it’s all you need. Sadly, it took some months for Zayn to gain storyline relevance, but Owens’ rest of the year was historic.

 

 

18) Dean Ambrose Vs. Kevin Owens (Royal Rumble, 1/24/16) 

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The year was a few weeks old and many people spoke highly of this Last Man Standing match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship between Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens. Rightfully so. These were two guys who knew how to work the “hardcore” style from the independent scene and incorporated it within the WWE confines, blasting through seated chairs, barricades and even stacked tables to end it all. This opened the show too no less, as they went ahead and stole it. Owens hit his second rope spinning suplex through a table, among other extreme spots as Owens was restless to get back his old belt, but to no avail. The match’s finish was one of the year’s most memorable, as Ambrose pushed Owens off the top rope and through two stacked tables outside to keep him down for 10. An early Match Of The Year candidate, others came and overshadowed it, but we’ll still give it its props.

 

 

17) Chris Jericho Reinvents Himself

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Jericho has had the ability to adapt different characters in various eras and still remain at the top of the card. In the Attitude Era, his edgy sexual insults towards Stephanie McMahon settled right in with fans. He knew  how to be the “Codebreaker To Save Us” when he needed to. When that character grew stale, he wore a suit and acted self-righteous in a timeless classic feud with Shawn Michaels which spawned the PG Era. His 2012 persona involved silence and a jacket that lit up. Four years later, Jericho was still relevant and it was all because of his new catchphrases. Y2AJ was a short-term idea, but it allowed Jericho to be a pesky heel again who called everyone “stupid idiots.” He began to wear expensive scarfs and carried himself like an antagonistic rock star, letting everyone drink in “The Gift Of Jericho.” Some of the year’s funniest moments came with this gimmick, as one can look to his backstage segments with Tom Phillips. When he became “Best Friends” with Owens, he adopted “The List” to put all the “Stupid Idiots” on. How many catchphrases could a man come up with in 2016? Jericho’s the prime example of that. Just when his in-ring work begins to slip, he tweaks his character to deliver some of his best mic work yet.

 

 

16) Daniel Bryan’s Retirement Speech (Raw, 2/8/16

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daniel Bryan’s main roster time was criminally short, but he made the most of it with an undying attitude, defined charisma and being the closest thing to a genuine underdog WWE could ever mold. His 2015 in-ring return saw him win the WWE Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 31 to become the sixth WWE “Grand Slam Champion,” but his accomplishment list ended there. Serious injuries kept him away from WWE television as fans chanted his name endlessly. WWE doctors wouldn’t clear him to compete, despite second opinions that said different. It was Feb. 8 and Raw came from Seattle, Washington (his home state) as we saw Bryan come out in a plaid button-down, with shorter hair and a trimmed beard. The crowd hung on every word as Bryan spoke up wrestling’s importance to him and gave the news that he needed to retire at the risk of further danger to his health. A heartbroken crowd turned celebratory as he led one of history’s biggest “Yes!” chants. The entire WWE roster stood onstage, led by Mr. McMahon, did the same in unison. Wrestling’s greatest when it strikes an emotional chord and they took a legitimate thing and gave Bryan the proper sendoff. Or so we thought.

 

 

15) AJ Styles Debuts In The Royal Rumble (WWE Royal Rumble, 1/24/16) 

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AJ Styles might’ve had the time of his life between December 2015 and February 2016. He competed in ROH’s Final Battle main event against Jay Lethal for the ROH World Championship, had a classic encounter with Shinsuke Nakamura on Jan. 4 at WrestleKingdom 10 and debuted in WWE as number three in the Royal Rumble match. He made an instant impression, as diehard fans popped and casual fans began to warm up to him. His performance was a bright spot, as he lasted almost 29 minutes before Owens eliminated him. Many won’t forget the moment as he stood onstage, camera flashed on Roman Reigns’ confused expression. This also meant that Styles was brought to the main roster right away, either good or bad where you look. Either way, WWE was about to get more “phenomenal.”

 

 

14) Finn Balor Vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (WWE NXT, 7/13/16

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One fortunate occurrence of Nakamura’s NXT stint was that it came at the time where Finn Balor was still on the roster. One had to know a showdown was eventual and a smart way for Balor to put him over before he went up to the main roster. The challenge was made, as Nakamura needed to beat an “Icon” to cement himself as one of the best and Balor needed to know what was next for him. Based off both men’s history, they had a lot to play off of. The dream match was now a reality on the Jul. 13 edition of NXT, as Full Sail University was treated to a fantastic 20-minute contest. The two battled it out and took everything out of one another. Late drama with near-falls on both sides teased the pendulum in both directions before Nakamura pulled out the win. A logical way to set Nakamura up for a nearby NXT Championship Title shot and a great sendoff for Balor.

 

 

13) Kevin Owens Becomes WWE Universal Champion (WWE Raw, 8/29/16

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balor’s unfortunate SummerSlam shoulder injury cut his inaugural WWE Universal Championship reign short to less than 24 hours. A new Champion was needed and it was decided that a Fatal Four-Way Elimination match would happen between Owens, Seth Rollins, Big Cass and Reigns. In one of the year’s biggest angles, we had a thriller main event with a crazy finish. Triple H emerged in the second half and helped Rollins (longtime Authority associate) eliminate Reigns from the match. With Owens left, we saw Triple H stand in between a standing Rollins and Owens who reeled in the corner. Suddenly, Trips turned on Rollins with a Pedigree and nodded at Owens, who covered him for the pinfall of his life. In an instant, we got the seeds planted for a Rollins babyface turn, a Rollins-Trips feud and a chance to see Owens as a premier main event talent. Despite the angle’s brilliance, the followup was horrendous. Rollins’ babyface struggles came from this, as he essentially complained that Trips didn’t cheat to help him win, not the most honorable behavior. Trips also didn’t appear on WWE television again, so we got no explanation. Instead of being cast as a new “Authority”-handpicked Champion like Rollins was in 2015, he went the solo cowardly heel route, only adding to his act when he became “Best Friends” with Jericho.

 

 

12) “No Mas!” (Lucha Underground, 5/4/16)

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucha Underground’s second season took a step backwards from the previous innovative one, as new characters were introduced and quickly forgotten about as they constantly lost. There also wasn’t that same awesome feeling with the main events. Easily, season two’s highlight was the Sexy Star-Mariposa “No Mas!” match. This stemmed from season one’s rivalry where the feisty Sexy Star was abducted by the creepy Marty “The Moth” Martinez. His sister Mariposa was introduced in season two, while we saw Sexy Star form an unexpected friendship with The Mack. The “No Mas!” match was the angle’s payoff and was it ever incredible. This was possibly the most violent women’s match in a long time. It was gritty, rough around the edges and even went around the Temple. The fans were amped as Sexy Star defiantly shouted, “Fuck you, Mariposa!” while in a submission hold. Martinez/Mack also made appearances to defend their counterparts. Before long, Mack subdued Martinez with a Stunner and Sexy Star put Mariposa in a submission that made her utterance of “No Mas!” feel like a metaphorical weight lifted off Sexy’s shoulders. This was Sexy Star’s career bout and it was a great night for Season one fans as we got those unpredictable feelings once more.

 

 

11) Career Vs. Title (WWE No Mercy, 10/9/16

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’ve been a WWE fan in the latter decade, then you’ve seen The Miz and Dolph Ziggler work together countlessly. When their feud was recycled for SmackDown Live, we were initially skeptical. However, Miz was in the time of his career as WWE Intercontinental Champion. He elevated his heel act when he united with his wife Maryse and told off General Manager Daniel Bryan in one of the year’s best promos on “Talking Smack.” After an unsuccessful attempt to gain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at SummerSlam, Ziggler needed a resurgence. Him/Miz had a great match at Backlash for the IC Title, but Ziggler lost when Maryse sprayed a foreign substance into his eyes. The feud intensified as Ziggler begged for another chance with the catch that if he couldn’t win, he’d retire. Miz brought in a psychological advantage when he played up on Ziggler’s notorious career failures in a mockumentary package and even gained allies with Kenny/Mikey from The Spirit Squad stable where Ziggler came from originally. With everything against him, it was Ziggler’s eleventh hour at No Mercy. The two had the match of their careers, as they did everything right and played off everything in the storyline. Just when Ziggler gained an advantage, he had to deal with Maryse. When he got past Maryse, The Spirit Squad came down to try to cost him the match. There were a few close teases on both ends as the fans were stirred into a frenzy. Finally, with all the momentum on his side, Ziggler hit an emphatic Zig Zag to keep his career and become new Champion. Sadly, Ziggler’s reign ended after 37 days, but he’ll always have this moment.

 

 

10) Dean Ambrose Cashes In Money In The Bank (WWE Money In The Bank, 6/19/16)

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of WWE’s biggest (and last) pre-draft storylines involved all the former Shield members. Seth Rollins returned from injury after seven months and was immediately cast as a heel despite heavy cheers against Reigns, the babyface still booed. Ambrose played the wild card in the middle, who threatened both Champion/challenger that he’d win the Money In The Bank briefcase and cash it in. It was set, as Rollins defeated Reigns cleanly to give him his first singles pinfall loss and regain his Title. However, the reunion lasted mere seconds, as Ambrose came to the ring from behind to cash in. He walloped Rollins with the briefcase and hit Dirty Deeds to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion in the most Ambrose way possible. This was a great payoff for Ambrose fans, who wondered if his big Champion days would ever come. It also worked out brilliantly in how each Shield member was Champion at one point in the same night. Sure, some criticized the decision to have Rollins win the Title and lose it so quickly as they squandered any momentum he had, but they dropped the ball on him when they cast him as a heel upon his return. The MITB cash-in has been done countless times, but when wrapped in Shield drama, it gave us a great moment.

 

 

9) Ladder War VI (ROH All-Star Extravaganza, 9/30/16

Photo courtesy of Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Addiction felt supremely confident at the top of the ROH Tag Team Division ladder (which they physically described in a segment) with other teams like The Young Bucks and The Motor City Machine Guns vying for their gold. Their brash attitudes led Matchmaker Nigel McGuinness to use their words against them, as he made them defend the gold at All Star Extravaganza in Ladder War VI. ROH played up how big this was, as there were only five Ladder Wars before this in the company’s 14 years. A big hype highlight came with an emotionally charged Christopher Daniels promo as he fought to prove his legacy. Perhaps inspired by the WWE TLC classics with The Hardy Boyz, Edge/Christian and The Dudley Boyz, the three teams sought for ultimate destruction. Bodies collided through wooden tables and harsh steel ladders all for the gold. Just how crazy would it get? YB hit an Indy Taker on Frankie Kazarian off the top of a ladder through a table below, among other insane spots designed for chaos. In the end, YB emerged new Champs and combined with Adam Cole as ROH World Champion, Bullet Club succeeded their goal to get whatever gold they could.

 

 

8) Women’s Wrestling Steals WrestleMania (WWE WrestleMania 32, 4/3/16)

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With a Women’s Division branded as the “Divas Division” for the longest time, WWE opted for pretty faces, low wrestling abilities and more Bra And Panties matches than we could recall. The PG era stripped away the sexuality, but still lacked the exceptional wrestling. Once the NXT “Four Horsewomen” in Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Bayley made their names in 2015, main roster call-ups were imminent. All except Bayley were brought in and it only made sense to have the trio battle it out in front of 101,000 at AT&T Stadium. Not only that, during the pre-show, they had Lita unveil the new WWE Women’s Championship to replace the WWE Divas Championship. Gone were the feminine butterflies and in was a different color version of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. They’d finally give women’s wrestling the proper attention it deserved. When the product had the most eyes on it, we got a flashback to NXT when the ladies went all out to deliver something memorable. It was also WrestleMania, so we got grand entrances, as Snoop Dogg accompanied his cousin to the ring. Banks also paid tribute to the late Eddie Guerrero with her red attire based off the night he won the WWE World Championship at No Way Out 2004. This bout was chock-full of classic spots like the “chop circle” and Charlotte’s flawless top rope moonsault to the floor. The end called for Charlotte to resume her run as Champion as her father Ric Flair interfered multiple times to help her out, holding Banks down as Charlotte had Lynch in the Figure Eight, which she tapped out to. In a WrestleMania that lacked true “WrestleMania moments,” the women stole the show.

 

 

7) The Cruiserweight Classic 

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While WWE’s Cruiserweight Division has been a holy hell of mismanagement, WWE gave us one of wrestling’s best tournaments during the summer of 2016. 32 men from 16 countries all under 205 pounds took part to prove their worth, as we’d finally see talent like TJ Perkins, Kota Ibushi, Cedric Alexander, Zack Sabre Jr., Drew Gulak and more on a WWE platform. Also mixed in were NXT competitors like Rich Swann, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. We also had some veterans like Brian Kendrick and Tajiri compete. With Daniel Bryan and Mauro Ranallo at the helm of broadcast expertise, each episode brought us closer to see who’d end up the inaugural WWE Cruiserweight Champion. With careful attention to high-flying spots, technical prowess and smart wrestling, the stage was set for many bouts to steal the year. Look no further than classics like Ibushi-Alexander (that caused fans to cheer for Alexander to be signed, as Triple H came out to escort him backstage with a wink), Ibushi-Perkins and Gargano-Ciampa. While fans expected Sabre Jr. and Ibushi to make it to the end, they came to the Semifinals. It was Perkins and Gran Metalik (who also made a name for himself with outstanding performances) in the Finals. Perkins emerged victorious and became the first Cruiserweight Champion. It was a career resurgence for Perkins, who was homeless at a young age and mismanaged in TNA for a long time.

 

 

6) Shane McMahon Returns (WWE Raw, 2/22/16)

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stephanie McMahon was set to receive a “Legacy Of Excellence” award from her father when we heard, “Here Comes The Money” boom across the arena, as the Detroit crowd was set into a frenzy. Shane McMahon did his trademark dance across the stage as he rocked a blue suit and Nike Dunks. The best sign of all was that his presence meant that we’d get a shake-up of the tired McMahon-Authority angle. While some of us out there were subdued by yet another McMahon family angle headed into a WrestleMania, this one served a purpose. Shane offered to run Raw, which set his father to give him that chance, if he could defeat The Undertaker at WrestleMania in a Hell In A Cell match. In the end, this didn’t matter, as Shane lost at Mania and would run the show anyways and ultimately be SmackDown Commissioner by summer. The angle succeeded in a “Give us a marquee WrestleMania match” moment however and that pop, oh yes, the pop.

 

 

5) AJ Styles Turns On John Cena (Raw, 5/30/16

Photo courtesy of Wrestling News.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the first few months on the main roster, Styles endeared himself to the fans, as he was brought into the World Title picture after a feud with Jericho at WrestleMania. He brought out good matches from Reigns, with the tease that he’d align with The Club’s Luke Gallows/Karl Anderson, his friends from Japan. In a “Will He Or Won’t He?” angle, Gallows/Anderson repeatedly interfered in Styles’ Title matches, which angered him to the point to call for a “professional separation.” It was Memorial Day Raw and John Cena was set to return. We got a huge moment as Cena/Styles shared the same ring, with loud dueling chants for both men. The Club came out and threatened to cause trouble, as it appeared that Styles/Cena would team up to take them on. In a sudden swift, Cena riled the crowd up and walked into a vengeful fist from Styles. It became clear it was all a ruse for The Club to ambush Cena. Styles solidified his heel status and alliance with Gallows/Anderson simultaneously. Even better, this kickstarted his feud with Cena, which would dominate the summer. Styles silenced critics with outstanding in-ring performances, especially in the year’s second half when he adopted this heel persona. This moment made it all possible.

 

 

4) The Revival-#DIY Feud 

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the Women’s Division lit up NXT in 2015, 2016 was all about tag team wrestling. The Revival – old-school aggressive heels who’d break the rules whenever possible – led the Division until they were challenged by #DIY (Gargano/Ciampa) in a rivalry about who the “Top Guys” were. The four men had a chemistry like no other. #DIY had the athletic edge and could throw up some stiff kicks when needed. Revival were scrappy and targeted body parts for ultimate destruction. The two teams battled at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II and damn near stole the show, as everyone was on the edge of their seats in anticipation of #DIY finally getting the gold. Gargano was caught in a kneebar and inches away from the ropes, but the pain forced him to tap out and fans around Brooklyn’s Barclays Center let out a great groan for the result. Revival avoided any more encounters with #DIY to keep their Titles, even to the point where Scott Dawson feigned a knee injury to forfeit their match in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament. That only allowed them to cost #DIY the trophy when they attacked them and The Authors Of Pain advanced instead. With unsettled tensions in the air, General Manager William Regal booked a Best Two-Out-Of-Three Falls bout for NXT TakeOver: Toronto. They took what they gave us in Brooklyn and amplified it, all for the purpose of excellent storytelling. They traded victories to even the score and repeated key spots from Brooklyn with excellent near-fall teases down the stretch. In perhaps one of the best finishes ever, Gargano/Ciampa each had Dawson/Dash Wilder in respective submission holds across from one another. Revival locked hands to avoid tapping out but eventually gave in simultaneously. A main roster call-up for Revival seems logical, while #DIY have challengers in AOP in the wings.

 

 

3) The Sasha Banks-Charlotte Feud 

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While women’s wrestling stole WrestleMania, it was the intense, emotional and groundbreaking feud between Banks and Charlotte that gave us the new generation’s Trish Stratus Vs. Lita. The two ladies came up together from NXT where they were once BFFs (Beautiful Fierce Females) and “The Four Horsewomen.” They were on opposite ends in the “#DivasRevolution” and began to explore competition in 2016’s first half, but after the draft, little did we know what we were in for. Let’s see – the WWE Raw Women’s Championship changed hands seven times between Jul. 25 and Dec. 18 between the two. Through it all, Charlotte retained her undefeated streak at Pay-Per-Views (nicknamed herself “The Queen Of PPV”) and dropped the Title during their Raw encounters. Banks dropped the Title during their PPV encounters. Through it all, they partook in matches women weren’t expected to – a Raw main event, a Hell In A Cell PPV main event, Falls Count Anywhere and a 30-Minute Iron Man match. Each time it felt as if the feud would fade, they’d go out and steal the show. When you have chemistry, nothing else matters. While Banks’ babyface persona wasn’t the most endearing, Charlotte’s much-improved heel “Queen” gimmick made her easy to root against. This feud’s highlights could easily include Charlotte’s corkscrew moonsault to the floor, Banks’ first Championship victory, Charlotte’s announce table moonsault and Banks’ steel railing Bank Statement to win the Title again. The feud got its payoff at Roadblock: End Of The Line with perhaps the year’s best video package that played up the competition angle rather than Ric Flair’s involvement. Luckily, the match exceeded expectations and it felt like the “end of an era.” While many criticisms came about for the excessive Title changes and that the feud handicapped other women on the Raw roster like Bayley, WWE knew they had money with these two and the feud actually elevated the Title’s status. It’ll probably be a while before we see them in one-on-one matches again, but if you need that fix, play back any of their 2016 encounters.

 

 

2) Matt Hardy And His “Broken Universe” 

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While on the topic of character reinvention, this list would be an “obsolete mule” if we were to omit the oh-so “Broken Brilliance” of Matt Hardy/Brother Nero. In quite possibly the best device of longterm storytelling and imaginative concepts of how pro wrestling can be presented on television, we saw Matt evolve from his classic “Stronger Than Death” look through a few transformations. TNA’s Impact Wrestling boasted many satisfactory storylines in 2016 that ranged from Bobby Lashley’s utter dominance (Three Titles at once to be exact), The Miracle/Maria’s debut, Allie’s rise as a lovable hero to “Grand” development for Aron Rex/Jessie Godderz. Easily the biggest one involved Matt, which from the get-go took us for a spin. They pulled off a flawless double turn angle during a Last Man Standing match for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship as Matt resorted to sadistic actions and Ethan Carter III wouldn’t give in, even when his bodyguard Tyrus also turned on him. The “Iconic” Matt Hardy character was a take of his ROH heel persona and the Matt Hardy Brand ran roughshod for a few months as EC3 had his first face obstacle. In another twist, Rockstar Spud turned on EC3 with a cage door to the face. At the time, Jeff disagreed with Matt’s ways. A chaotic brotherly feud commenced and culminated in an “I Quit” match where Jeff hit a Swanton Bomb from high up in the Impact Zone to put his brother down. Matt’s behavior became more bizarre as he spoke in a British accent, donned a bright red Renaissance-esque jacket and poofed his hair up Ronald McDonald-style with blonde highlights. He began to be obsessed with “Deleting” his brother and making him “Obsolete.” This led to “The Final Deletion” where they battled it out in their Cameron, North Carolina home complete with fireworks and chaos. Matt defeated Jeff to own his likeness. An abduction angle eventually became a quest for Matt to make Jeff earn his way to the Tag Team Championships himself. The gimmick became so popular that Matt slowly turned face. The Hardys battled with Decay in “Delete Or Decay” and “The Great War,” the latter of which where they won the belts. For the longest time, Matt was overshadowed by Jeff but finally, the “Broken” gimmick made him an internet darling and “Delete” and “Obsolete” began to be chanted at WWE events. Matt’s wife Reby and his son, “King Maxel” even adopted the style. Add a drone named Vanguard 1 and the drunkly clever Senor Benjamin to the act, there was no stopping this crew. While Lucha Underground first introduced the concept of cinematic cutscenes, it was the “Broken Universe” that enhanced it, as lasers, fireworks, volcano eruptions and tombstones became the norm for a Hardy match. The gimmick was so over that an entire Impact episode was filmed at the Hardy Compound. The Hardys also accomplished the tough task of bringing positive publicity to Impact Wrestling, as they removed negative connotations the company previously dealt with on a regular basis. Yes, any further criticisms shall be “deleted.”

 

 

1) Sami Zayn Vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (WWE NXT TakeOver: Dallas, 4/1/16)

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more than a year, Sami Zayn had earned fans’ respect to the point where he was regarded as the “Heart And Soul Of NXT.” Nakamura made big waves with the WK10 match with Styles when news broke that he was WWE bound. Zayn fought valiantly with Samoa Joe to earn an NXT Championship match at NXT TakeOver: Dallas, but came up short. Wondering what was next for him, he got his answer when Regal “scouted the globe for competiton” and Nakamura’s face lit up across the LED screen and Full Sail University went nuts. “Holy shit!” chants echoed around the place as TakeOver: Dallas now had its dream marquee bout – Zayn Vs. Nakamura. Huge expectations went in. We wondered how Nakamura would fit in to NXT. The good thing was that these two would get ample time on the NXT platform to do everything they wanted. The fans were restless even before the bell rang, as Nakamura’s signature violin theme played and Zayn soaked it all in as he sat in the opposite corner. We got strapped in for a ride. Nakamura established his stiff kicks early and they almost induced cringes. Zayn battled back with his own and some chops for good measure. He even motioned for Nakamura to “bring it.” The two furthered things with intense athleticism and near-falls for the ages. The now overused “Fight Forever!” chant was introduced here and was appropriate. We just didn’t want it to end, as Nakamura hit a spinning heel kick to finally pin Zayn and let the wrestling world take a collective sigh of relief. Described by some as the best wrestling match they’ve ever seen, we’re hard-pressed to find many that gave us goosebumps like this one. Great sportsmanship came after the bell and it was clear that WrestleMania would have its work cut out, Zayn had his proud NXT sendoff and Nakamura settled in fine.

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About Nicholas Jason Lopez

Just a 25 year-old Brooklynite. Nothing more, nothing less. Currently Freelancing for The Bensonhurst Bean website in Brooklyn, he has also been published on sites such as Review Fix, College University of New York Athletic Conference, Dying Scene, Brooklyn News Service, All Media NY, BrooklynFans.com and Yahoo Voices. He has also interned for The Home Reporter/Brooklyn Spectator based out of Brooklyn, NY.

Posted on March 26, 2017, in Lucha Underground, NXT, ROH, TNA, WWE and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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