Twenty albums, ten films and three matches. Why? Nobody knows, and it is certainly not from a lack of options. This has been a hell of a year for wrestling. Sure, the big boy has been a bit shit, but the rest of the world is stepping up, and even WWE had a few crackers. Wrestling is on top form right now, and it’s a joy to watch.
Alongside all my usual disclaimers I would like to point out that I am one person and I can only watch so many promotions. This list is slanted in a certain direction because of that. I hope to get into even more promotions in the future, but there are only so many hours in the day. Anyway, let’s get on with it.
3. Donovan Dijak vs Keith Lee – BOLA (3/9/2017)
The only match on this list to take place outside of New Japan and one that needs to be seen to be believed. I get all the criticisms thrown PWG’s way, but when they put on matches like this, there really is nothing better.
Because Donovan Dijak and Keith Lee can do things in a wrestling ring that shouldn’t be possible. They are two huge men and yet they move like dancers. I can’t imagine the trust they must have in each other. They are always there to catch the other one when he flies. It’s an outstanding example of what two athletes working in tandem can do.
This would be Dijak and Lee’s last match before Dijak made his way into WWE and it was a fitting conclusion to one of 2017’s most entertaining feuds. If there’s any justice in the world, we’ll see it again someday.
2. Kazuchika Okada vs Katsuyori Shibata – Sakura Genesis (8/4/2017)
This match is hard to watch with the benefit of hindsight. The injuries that Shibata sustained in it have quite likely ended his career and might have come close to taking his life. It’s a scary reminder of how dangerous wrestling can be.
However, you’d be lying if you didn’t admit that the narrative that situation created was kind of beautiful. Shibata was a man who wrestled on the edge. Who put his body on the line both in kayfabe and reality. For perhaps the biggest match of his career, the one where he became within inches of being the man, to also be the one that ended it? If you’d written the story it wouldn’t have been better.
I’m not saying that I wanted Shibata to be injured. I would have taken a one-star stinker and a million more of them from him if it meant he could still do what he loved. That’s not what we got though. We got an astonishing pro-wrestling match and one that saw Shibata literally give his all.
1. Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada – Dominion (11/6/2017)
There are a lot of 60-minute draws that wrestling fans love to praise. Whether it’s Flair vs Steamboat, Hart vs Michaels or Punk vs Joe, folk love a broadway. However, if we’re honest, most of those matches are a bit dull. Incredible feats of endurance and athleticism, but not that fun to watch.
Which is what makes Omega vs Okada II so special. There’s a version of this list made up of all three of their matches – and it’s not necessarily wrong. However, Dominion is the one for me. Those two men wrestled for an hour and I never once looked away. It was a battle between the two best wrestlers in the world, and it is one of the rare examples of a match living up to that billing.
Omega and Okada created something that came close to wrestling’s utopia. Two men apparently at war but actually working together to create something that was as close to perfect as we might ever get. Match of the year? This might just be the best match ever.