In my last two in-depth looks at the Voices of Wrestling 2019 Match of the Year Poll I broke down the top matches into tiers in order to truly separate the best from the best, and then dove into the state of women’s wrestling worldwide in the year 2019. 

Today I will continue the trend started with the women’s wrestling article by ordering the VOW MOTY Poll into various categories to try and get a feel for the wrestling landscape in 2019. With the launch of AEW as a major network TV promotion, it is no hyperbole to say that this was the most important year in US wrestling in nearly two decades. The competition between AEW and WWE will be at the forefront of this breakdown, but it will also give us a chance to check in on the independent wrestling scene in the USA, which has been in flux ever since the WWE started to sign up indie talent left and right, and more or less directly compete for the same fanbase with NXT. 

I discussed a bit in my previous article that creating a strict category in wrestling can be difficult given how many companies tour internationally and the free flow of international talent between all companies. For the sake of comparison this article will compare matches in the poll that took place on events promoted by predominately US-based companies. 

Overall USA Match of the Year

  1. Cody vs. Dustin Rhodes 5/24 AEW (#3)
  2. Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano 4/5 NXT (#5)
  3. Kofi Kingston vs. Daniel Bryan 4/7 WWE (#8)
  4. Lucha Bros vs. Young Bucks 8/31 AEW (#18)
  5. Joey Janela vs. David Starr 7/28 Beyond (#20)
  6. Josh Barnett vs. Minoru Suzuki GCW Bloodsport (#23)
  7. Jon Moxley vs. Kenny Omega AEW 11/9 (#24)
  8. Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano 6/1 NXT (#25)
  9. Laredo Kid, Black Taurus, Puma King vs. Bandido, Flamita, Rey Horus 7/26  PWG (#32)
  10. Viking Raiders vs. Ricochet/Aleister Black 4/5 NXT (#46)

The top three for the overall best match in the USA in 2019 as voted in the VOW poll interestingly includes a match from each of the three “major league” promotions in this list – those being AEW, NXT, and WWE. Obviously NXT is a part of WWE but in my opinion, there was enough of a distinction between NXT and main roster WWE to point this out. As my “tiers” column demonstrated, Cody vs. Dustin Rhodes blew away the competition below it, making it the clear USA match of the year. It formed the “Elite” tier with Tanahashi/Omega which was 131 points ahead of Cole/Gargano, a tier which also featured Kofi/Bryan. 

Continuing down the list, the variety of matches involved stands out. This isn’t a list that is dominated by a single wrestler, a single company, or even a single style. After the “big three” we have representation from US indies Beyond Wrestling, GCW, and PWG. The violent matches from AEW stood out, including the bloody Cody/Dustin match, the ladder match between the Young Bucks and Lucha Brothers, and the “blood and guts” deathmatch-lite Omega/Moxely showdown. The list also included a 60-minute iron man match (Janela/Starr), a shoot-style match (Barnett/Suzuki from Bloodsport), and a lucha trios match from PWG. Likely the most surprising match was the NXT: Takeover: NY tag match between the War Raiders and Black/Ricochet. However, I would not say it is a fluke that this match made the top 10, as it was the beginning of my “Solid as a Rock” tier and was 5 points ahead of the previous match, the first time in the list that more than two points separated a match. 

Looking at the list, something that jumped out at me, and something that was mentioned in the build-up to the list’s reveal by Joe and Rich is the lack of WWE main roster matches. Now, I know I spent a decent amount of time on the negative aspects of WWE women’s wrestling in my previous article, but it’s almost impossible to avoid talking about 2019 without mentioning the way WWE has continued to alienate hardcore wrestling fans. The high placement of Kofi/Bryan and the two Cole/Gargano matches; however, show that when WWE gets it right they can still deliver in a big way, which at times only makes it more frustrating with they fail to do so with consistency. To look at this I will begin with a list of the “Major US Matches of the Year” which basically includes WWE, NXT, and AEW. I included Impact as well, because I’m not really sure where to put them. I wouldn’t say they are an “indie” but not sure if they are “major” either – so I will just include Impact this and later in my independent matches also. 

“Major” USA Match of the Year 

  1. Cody vs. Dustin Rhodes 5/24 AEW (#3)
  2. Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano 4/5 NXT (#5)
  3. Kofi Kingston vs. Daniel Bryan 4/7 WWE (#8)
  4. Lucha Bros vs. Young Bucks 8/31 AEW (#18)
  5. Jon Moxley vs. Kenny Omega 11/9 AEW (#24)
  6. Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano 6/1 NXT (#25)
  7. Viking Raiders vs. Ricochet/Aleister Black 4/5 NXT (#46)
  8. Women’s War Games Match 11/23 NXT (#60)
  9. Johnny Gargano vs. Ricochet 1/26 NXT (#62)
  10. Sami Callihan vs. Tessa Blanchard 7/7 Impact (#64)
  11. Brock Lesnar vs. Finn Balor 1/27 WWE (#84) 
  12. Darby Allin vs. Jon Moxley 11/20 AEW (#85)

I ended up going with a top 12 here, as that is what I had to do in order to get both another main roster WWE match and an AEW match onto the list, which is dominated by NXT  from #6-9. The Brock/Finn match is important as I used it as the cutoff for the “Beginning of Consensus Tier” with the following explanation: 

“This tier starts right after #85 (Moxley/Darby) which is a match that received 14 points off of one first-place vote. So everything in this tier [which coincidently went from Lesnar/Finn to Callihan/Blanchard] received at least 14 points and 2 votes, giving it the minimum for a true match of the year consensus.” 

So that gives us 2 WWE main roster matches in the Top 11 “Major US Promotion” list and top 100 overall. To get a true look at the WWE main roster performance in 2019 it looks like I will have to make like an Inception meme and go a little bit deeper. 

WWE Main Roster

  1. Kofi Kingston vs. Daniel Bryan 4/7 (#8)
  2. Brock Lesnar vs. Finn Balor 1/27 (#84) 
  3. Sasha Banks vs. Beck Lynch 10/6 (#104)
  4. Men’s Elimination Chamber 2/17 (#133)
  5. Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar 8/11 (#162)
  6. Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade 1/15 (#175)
  7. Seth Rollins vs. AJ Styles 5/19 (#195)
  8. Seth Rollins vs. The Fiend 10/6 (#260)
  9. Women’s Tag Team Championship Elimination Chamber 2/17 (#260)
  10. Becky Lynch vs. Asuka 1/27 (#260)

Ok, there we go. The Top 10 main roster WWE matches as voted in the VOW MOTY Poll. I ultimately chose a top 10 because…well actually I didn’t choose it, I just ran out of matches. Yes, there were only 10 total WWE main roster matches on the list of 290 matches. Three of those matches were part of “sadness village” with 1 point in a tie for last place (#260). Within the top 100 overall there are only 2 matches, within the top 150 only four, and within the top 200 only seven. For comparison, within the Top 84 (as I used for my “tiers”) article, NJPW has 21 matches, and AJPW, DDT, and Stardom have 4 matches. In the overall list of 290 matches, AAA had 8, AJPW had 13, CMLL had 10, DDT had 12, Dragon Gate had 12, Gatoh Move had 7, and GCW had 13, in comparison to the WWE main roster’s 10. As a personal anecdote summing up the state of WWE main roster, I can say, as someone who only peripherally follows WWE through news and podcast, I cannot tell you a single thing about the Men’s Elimination Chamber match that came in #133 overall and was the 4th highest ranked main roster match in the poll. 

Of course, the major comparison for WWE is the new “competition” of All Elite Wrestling. In its six months of being active in 2019, AEW outperformed WWE main roster (which had a full year of monthly PPVs and five hours of weekly TV) by having 13 matches make the VOW MOTY Poll. 

AEW

  1. Cody vs. Dustin Rhodes 5/24 (#3)
  2. Lucha Bros vs. Young Bucks 8/31 (#18)
  3. Jon Moxley vs. Kenny Omega 11/9 (#24)
  4. Darby Allin vs. Jon Moxley 11/20 (#85)
  5. Chris Jericho vs. Cody 11/9 (#112)
  6. Nyla Rose vs. Riho vs. Yuka Sakazaki 6/29 (#162)
  7. Chris Jericho vs. Darby Allin 10/16  (#177)
  8. PAC vs. Hangman Page 11/9 (#195)
  9. Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega 5/25 (#195)
  10. Lucha Bros vs. Young Bucks 5/25 (#216)
  11. Riho vs. Nyla Rose 10/2 (#219)
  12. Hikaru Shida vs. Shanna 10/30 (#219)
  13. Cody vs. Darby Allin 6/29 (#260)

AEW landed four matches in the top 100 compared to WWE main roster’s two and nine in the top 200 compared to WWE main roster’s seven. A pretty decent start for a T-shirt company. Now, while AEW fairs pretty well against the main roster, we all know the real competition takes place during the weekly Wednesday War Games (shout out to the podcast, @wargamespod). So, here’s a list of the best TV matches between AEW and WWE in 2019. 

AEW vs. WWE – TV Match of the Year 

  1. Darby Allin vs. Jon Moxley 11/20 AEW Dynamite (#85)
  2. Aleister Black, Ricochet, Velveteen Dream vs. Adam Cole, Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa 2/3 NXT Halftime Heat (#128)
  3. Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade WWE Smackdown 1/15 (#175)
  4. Chris Jericho vs. Darby Allin 10/16 AEW (#177)
  5. Roderick Strong vs. Keith Lee vs. Dominik Dijakovic 10/23 NXT (#177)
  6. Asuka/Kari Sane vs. Tegan Nox/Dakota Kai 10/30 NXT (#195)
  7. Angel Garza vs. Lio Rush 12/11 NXT (#195)
  8. Riho vs. Nyla Rose 10/2 AEW (#219)
  9. Hikaru Shida vs. Shanna 10/30 AEW (#219)
  10. Rhea Ripley vs. Shayna Baszler 12/19 NXT (#237)

To make it a little more interesting, I expanded beyond Wednesday Nights, as the “Halftime Heat” NXT six-man tag scored well at #128 overall, and the Mysterio vs. Andrade match from Smackdown 1/15 at #175 proved to be the only RAW or Smackdown match that made the list at all. As for the Wednesday Night Wargames, AEW Dynamite had the clear #1 match with Darby vs. Moxley, but after that NXT had a strong showing in the middle before AEW makes a brief comeback at the bottom of the list. Lastly, if it weren’t already clear that Darby Allin is a professional wrestling TV star in the making, look no further than his 1st and 4th place finish in the list. 

Now, enough of this so-called “major league” talk – there are other wrestling TV shows right? What about Impact you say? Well, the former TNA had a total of three matches on the list (Sami vs. Tessa #64, LAX vs. Lucha Bros 1/6 #195, and Elgin vs. Brian Cage 7/7 #260) but all were from PPVs, not television. Honestly though, a good question to ask is what even constitutes a “wrestling TV show” in 2019? Does the YouTube series NWA Powerrrr count? I believe it should, as “TV” should probably be taken out of the equation and we should think of it more as “weekly wrestling programming” or “episodic wrestling.” 

US “TV” Match of the Year

  1. David Starr vs. Mercedes Martinez 10/17 Beyond Uncharted Territory (#49)
  2. Joey Janela vs. Kris Statlander 6/12 Beyond Uncharted Territory (#75)
  3. Darby Allin vs. Jon Moxley 11/20 AEW Dynamite (#85)
  4. Aleister Black, Ricochet, Velveteen Dream vs. Adam Cole, Johnny Gargano, Tommasso Ciampa 2/3 NXT Halftime Heat (#128)
  5. Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade WWE Smackdown 1/15 (#175)
  6. Chris Jericho vs. Darby Allin 10/16 AEW Dynamite (#177)
  7. Roderick Strong vs. Keith Lee vs. Dominik Dijakovic 10/23 NXT (#177)
  8. Asuka/Kari Sane vs. Tegan Nox/Dakota Kai 10/30 NXT (#195)
  9. Angel Garza vs. Lio Rush 12/11 NXT (#195)
  10. Riho vs. Nyla Rose 10/2 AEW Dynamite (#219)
  11. Hikaru Shida vs. Shanna 10/30 AEW Dynamite (#219)
  12. Rhea Ripley vs. Shayna Baszler 12/19 NXT #237
  13. Tim Storm vs. Nick Aldis 9/30 NWA Powerrrr (#260)
  14. Akira Tozawa, Gentleman Jack, Humberto Carrillo, Swerve Scott, Oney Lorcan vs. Angel Garza, Daivari, Drew Gulak, Mike Kanellis, Tony Nese 8/20 205 Live (#260)


When we expand beyond AEW, NXT, and WWE programming, we get a nice bookend of matches at the beginning and end of the list. A surprisingly impressive showing from another newcomer on the scene – Beyond Wrestling’s Uncharted Territory easily took the top 2 spots on the list with the intergender matches of David Starr vs. Mercedes Martinez and Joey Janela vs. Krist Statlander, easily surpassing the best AEW Dynamite and NXT had to offer. On the back end of the list, in “sadness village” we find the Tim Storm vs. Nick Aldis NWA World Title Match from the first episode of NWA Powerr and a multi-man tag match from 205 Live. Yeah, “sadness village” sounds like the right place for 205 Live (sorry Tozawa). 

The critical acclaim for Beyond Wrestling brings us to our last list – the best US independent wrestling matches of 2019. After a peak of quality from ROH in the 2000s to PWG and EVOLVE in the 2010s, the past few years have been a bit of a struggle for the US indie scene. So while the “super indies” may not be as noteworthy as they had been in the past, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of great wrestling and innovation happening in the US independents. 

“Independent” USA Match of the Year

  1. Joey Janela vs. David Starr 7/28 Beyond (#20)
  2. Josh Barnett vs. Minoru Suzuki 4/4 GCW Bloodsport (#23)
  3. Laredo Kid, Black Taurus, Puma King vs. Bandido, Flamita, Rey Horus 7/26 PWG (#32)
  4. David Starr vs. Mercedes Martinez 10/17 Beyond (#49)
  5. Sami Callihan vs. Tessa Blanchard 7/7 Impact (#64)
  6. Daniel Makabe vs. Timothy Thatcher7/12 321 Battle (#66)
  7. Dominic Garrini vs. Joshua Bishop 4/4 AIW (#70)
  8. Boomer Hatfield vs. Dasher Hatfield 5/26 CHIKARA (#71)
  9. Masashi Takeda vs. Jimmy Lloyd 4/5 GCW (#72)
  10. Joey Janela vs. Kris Statlander 6/12 Beyond (#75)
  11. Ophidian, Laredo Kid, Arez vs. Black Taurus, KTB, Gringo Loco 8/30 BLP/GCW (#80)
  12. Brett Ison vs. Allie Kat 6/2 SUP (#85)
  13. Masashi Takeda vs. Jonathan Gresham 4/4 GCW Bloodsport  (#92)
  14. Invisible Man vs. Invisible Stan 4/5 GCW (#96) 
  15. Daniel Makabe vs. Jonathan Gresham 4/19 321 Battle (#97)

Again, I included Impact in here, because I just don’t know what to do with them. Anyway, looking at the list it gives support to the lack of a dominant independent wrestling force in the US, as there are a variety of companies represented – from the more well-known GCW, Beyond, PWG, and CHIKARA to the smaller AIW, 3-2-1 Battle, and Black Label Pro (BLP). The presence of two lucha trios matches in the top 11 show the emergence of a potential draw in the US indies with lucha libre, something that is also seen by the crowning of Bandido as a major star in PWG and the push of Bandido and other lucha stars such as RUSH, Dragon/Ryu Lee, Flamita, and Rey Horus in ROH with the hopes of rebuilding that company. Speaking of ROH, they don’t make the top 15 here, but they do in fact exist. They had 3 matches make the list: Briscoes vs. PCO/Brody King 3/15 (#133), the Taven vs. Scurl vs. Jay Lethal ladder match from MSG at #162, and Briscoes vs. GOD 8/9 at #177. Deathmatches have also started to become more prominent in the US indies, and that is seen with a Takeda/Jimmy Lloyd match at #9. 

A single wrestler that stands out is the man at the top of list in David Starr. The main who champions the entire idea of independent wrestling comes in a number 1 in his epic match with Joey Janela and at #4 with his Mercedes Martinez match, both from Beyond. Because this is solely focused on US wrestling, it doesn’t include David Starr’s worldwide independent work, such as his highly ranked matches in Ireland’s OTT, possibly the biggest independent wrestling company in the world right now. For completeness sake, that includes Starr’s matches against Jordan Devlin (#2 and #43 overall) and WALTER (#36 and #78 overall). Lastly, the list shows some hints at a future indie star in Daniel Makabe as the “Wrestling Genius” has two matches from the Seattle based 3-2-1 Battle! in the top 15 of US indie matches and top 100 overall. 

While the US wrestling scene will continue to be dominated by the behemoth that is the WWE and its 300 person roster of “independent” contractors, as well as the growth of AEW in their first full calendar year, there will still be plenty of hidden gems on the indies and other areas. I look forward to finding those diamonds in the rough in the 2020 VOW MOTY Poll. Until then, have a great year everyone.