Best 2016 wrestling matches
Hard to believe 2016 is halfway over already. For wrestling fans, 2016 might be one of the all-time great years in terms of in-ring action. We’ve already had a ton of great matches from most of the big promotions. It was tricky but I managed to narrow the list down to the 10 best must-see matches so far.
Some clear MVPs asserted themselves in the conversation for Wrestler of the Year with four wrestlers appearing multiple times. It was a nice mix as WWE, NXT, Lucha Underground, New Japan and Ring of Honor were represented. Some territories like PWG I didn’t see enough of to make an educated decision. And there’s a few heavily buzzed matches I missed so I might have some more additions later on. TNA Impact had some really good matches and with their current stars on top I would be surprised if one doesn’t make the year-end list.
Sexy Star vs Mariposo
(Lucha Underground – May 4)
Lucha Underground keeps putting a fresh take on traditional gimmicks. In this No Mas (I Quit) match, two of LU’s fiercest females locked up in an unexpectedly brutal encounter. This isn’t the kind of match that would work all the time for female talent, but as the blowoff to the season long buildup, this was everything we needed in a super grudge match.
AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura
(Wrestle Kingdom 10 – Jan. 4)
Be prepared to see these names a lot. In one final big stage moment in New Japan, Styles and Nakamura delivered a tremendous send-off. The New Japan run completely reinvigorated Styles, who made a hard to argue claim about being Best in the World by the time he left. Styles had a slew of great matches, but his matchup with the King of Strong Style might have been his best. Competing in the rare role as challenger, Styles set his sights on Nakamura’s Intercontinental Championship.
Prince Puma vs. Mil Muertes vs. Pentagon Jr.
(Lucha Underground – March 9)
Triple Threat matches tend to play out in predictable fashion. Two wrestlers battle while the third spends an inordinate amount of time recovering. Not this time. All three luchadores were engaged throughout this matchup resulting in a fast-paced exciting clash of styles. Pentagon Jr. used his sadistic tactics to wear down his hated rivals while Puma kept the intensity going with his lightning quick moves. Muertes simply mauled his opponents attempting to defend his Lucha Underground Championship.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs Sami Zayn
(NXT TakeOver Dallas – April 1)
The match that needed no build whatsoever more than lived up to its dream match expectations. This was a symbolic meeting of the past and the future. Zayn, the longtime NXT fixture, was preparing for his full-time call up to the WWE roster while Nakamura was making his NXT debut. Dream match-ness ensued. In this clash of all-time NXT greats, the fans were treated to a classic that nothing on Wrestlemania could match.
Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte vs. Beck Lynch
(Wrestlemania 32 – April 3)
Given the added motivation of becoming the new WWE Women’s Champion, the three former NXT standouts stole the show at Wrestlemania. The NXT four-way with Bayley was better simply because it had a better finish than the overused Ric Flair interference that was a crutch for Charlotte’s early reign. Before that, the Wrestlemania crowd was treated to a major triple threat that was one of the best in Wrestlemania history. While the women’s division hasn’t been booked as well since this was the match that legitimately raised the question could women one day main event Wrestlemania.
War Machine vs. The Briscoe Brothers
(ROH Global Wars – May 8, 2016)
This battle of ROH’s dominant teams had a great storyline. War Machine wanted to legitimize their tag team title reign by defeating the standard bearer of the division. It wasn’t going to be easy as the teams faced off three times previously with the Briscoes being the only team to gain a decisive pinfall. Face vs face matches typically aren’t as good as a strong heel vs face dynamic, but the history between the teams provided that needed emotional boost to take it to the next level.
The Miz vs. Cesaro vs.
Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn
(WWE Extreme Rules – May 22)
This was one of those matches that most fans probably expected could be good, but the end result was better than anyone could have predicted. Four-way matches can get a little too crazy and overbooked at times, but this was a smooth, well-laid out encounter. All four men had issues with the dominant Zayn/Owens and Cesaro/Miz storylines taking center stage. This was a rare match where every competitor had a legitimate shot at walking away with the win. By the time it was over, the fans were spent from a thrilling surprisingly awesome match.
AJ Styles vs. Roman Reigns
(WWE Extreme Rules – May 22)
Despite being booked terribly as a main event threat, Styles made a strong case that he’s deserving of a WWE title reign. Stone Cold Steve Austin said Styles carried Reigns through this one and it’s hard to argue. Still, Reigns delivered what was needed. The match had some welcome storyline intrigue as fans weren’t sure of Styles’ intentions and his alliance with Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows. Reigns had his cousins, The Usos, watching his back leading to some wild brawling from all six men. The finish was too abrupt, but while it lasted this was one of WWE’s best matches.
Ricochet vs. Will Ospreay
(New Japan Pro Wrestling Best of the Super Juniors XXIII – May 27)
Arguably the most talked about match on this list, this clash of super juniors has everyone from Stone Cold Steve Austin, Jim Ross, Vader and Vince Russo weighing in on it. This isn’t a brutal, hard-hitting war like a Magnum TA vs Tully Blanchard where the selling and emotion is at a premium. This is two cruiserweight style wrestlers playing an extended game of anything you can do I can do better. It’s a high-flying spectacle. While it isn’t as technically sound as others on the list it’s an aerial stunt show you have to see to believe.
American Alpha vs. The Revival
(NXT The End – June 8)
Their first NXT Takeover match during Wrestlemania weekend was really good, but the rematch was even better. With the nerves and excitement gone, both teams turned in a tag team wrestling clinic. The Revival are 80s throwbacks and would have been just fine competing against the likes of The Rock N Roll Express, Fantastics and The Rockers. American Alpha could be the next classic all-time team provided WWE lets them have a lengthy run and continues finding strong opponents for them. American Alpha defended their titles against the former champions who were determined to prove their loss was a fluke. This match was a clinic in tag team wrestling by two of the best in the business.
Michael Elgin vs. Kenny Omega
(Ladder Match New Japan Dominion –
Omega and Elgin already had a strong contender for this list with their April 27 match, which I definitely recommend checking out, but then they went and topped it. As their feud intensified, Omega and Elgin took it to new heights with New Japan’s first ladder match for Omega’s Intercontinental Championship. It’s been ages since Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels’ Wrestlemania X ladder match clash. At times it seems like all the great ladder spots have already been done.
Omega and Elgin definitely proved that theory wrong. Beyond finding some inventive new spots, the match was smartly booked playing off of Elgin’s immovable object wrestling style and Omega’s crazed desperation to do whatever necessary to retain his title. Omega can be a tad over the top with his antics at times, but this might be the match that lands him a WWE job. This was one of the best ladder matches in years. Make sure to see this one.