2019 delivered to the wrestling world some of best stories and in ring action we have ever seen, as well as a year that changed the wrestling world. I provided my top 5 shows of the year, while every list is always subjective each show below has a strong argument. In effort to save time for each of you I only detailed #1 and #2, and #1 held the top spot for historical moments.
#5- NXT Takeover Chicago
First-ever Women’s WarGames Match
Team Ripley (Rhea Ripley, Candice LeRae, Tegan Nox & Dakota Kai) def. Team Baszler (NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler, NXT UK Women’s Champion Kay Lee Ray, Bianca Belair & Io Shirai)
Triple Threat Match – Winner to challenge NXT Champion Adam Cole at Survivor Series
Pete Dunne def. Killian Dain and Damian Priest
Finn Bálor def. Matt Riddle
Men's WarGames Match
Team Ciampa (Tommaso Ciampa, Keith Lee, Dominik Dijakovic & Kevin Owens) def. The Undisputed ERA (NXT Champion Adam Cole, NXT North American Champion Roderick Strong & NXT Tag Team Champion Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish)
WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match (Kickoff Match)
Tony Nese def. Buddy Murphy (c) - NEW CRUISERWEIGHT CHAMPION
Carmella won the WrestleMania Women's Battle Royal by last eliminating Sarah Logan
Raw Tag Team Championship Match
Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins def. The Revival (c) - NEW RAW TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS
Braun Strowman won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal by last eliminating Colin Jost
Universal Championship Match
Seth Rollins def. Brock Lesnar (c) - NEW UNIVERSAL CHAMPION
AJ Styles def. Randy Orton
SmackDown Tag Team Championship Fatal 4-Way Match
The Usos (c) def. The Bar, Shinsuke Nakamura & Rusev and Aleister Black & Ricochet
Falls Count Anywhere Match
Shane McMahon def. The Miz
WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship Fatal 4-Way Match
The IIconics def. The Boss 'N' Hug Connection (c), Beth Phoenix & Natalya and Nia Jax & Tamina - NEW WOMEN'S TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS
WWE Championship Match
Kofi Kingston def. "The New" Daniel Bryan (c) - NEW WWE CHAMPION
United States Championship Match
Samoa Joe (c) def. Rey Mysterio
Roman Reigns def. Drew McIntyre
No Holds Barred Match
Triple H def. Batista
Angle's Farewell Match
Baron Corbin def. Kurt Angle
Intercontinental Championship Match
“The Demon” Finn Bálor def. Bobby Lashley (c) - NEW INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION
Winner Take All Triple Threat Match for the Raw and SmackDown Women’s Championships
Becky Lynch def. Ronda Rousey (c) and Charlotte Flair (c) - NEW RAW & SMACKDOWN WOMEN'S CHAMPION
#3- Wrestle Kingdom 13
BUSHI and Shingo Takagi Defeated Kanemaru and El Desperado (c) vs Roppongi 3K vs - IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championship match
Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs Zack Sabre Jr. - RevPro British Heavyweight Championship matc
Sabre Jr. wins via submission
Guerillas of Destiny (c) vs EVIL and Sanada vs The Young Bucks - IWGP Tag Team Championship match
Evil and Sanada win via pinfall
Cody (c) vs Juice Robinson - IWGP United States Championship match
Robinson wins via pinfall
Kushida (c) vs Taiji Ishimori - IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship match
Ishimori wins via pinfall
Kazuchika Okada vs Jay White
White wins via pinfall
Chris Jericho (c) vs Tetsuya Naito - IWGP Intercontinental Championship match No DQ
Naito wins via pinfall
Kenny Omega (c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi - IWGP Heavyweight Championship match
Tanahashi wins via pinfall and becomes the new IWGP Heavyweight Champion
#2- TakeOver New York
While I was in attendance for this event, one of the biggest compliments that I can give is this crowd was the loudest crowd over 10 thousand that I have heard in a long time. Recap below by Ryan McClure
The show opened with a video package of TakeOver.
The War Raiders made their way to the ring in a very cool entrance.
Ricochet then made his way out to the ring, followed by Aleister Black.
The War Raiders vs Aleister Black and Ricochet for the NXT Tag Team Championships
Black and Rowe started the match, with the two exchanging in some chain wrestling. Rowe used his power to gain control but Black used his quickness to counter. The two bumped fists and then tagged in Ricochet and Hansen. Moments later, both teams did highlight moves before the Raiders took control. Rowe power-slammed Black then worked over his arm, leading into a tag to Hansen. The arm was continued to be worked on and tagged in and out before Black countered and tagged in Ricochet. He quickened the pace and did a shooting star press on Rowe.
This time, it was Black and Ricochet who worked over Rowe and kept him leveled on the mat and in their corner. Rowe got clearance and tagged in Hansen, who power-housed Black and Ricochet, running corner to corner on both men multiple times. Ricochet then lifted Hansen up and tossed him over in the ring. Both tags from the teams were made and Black and Rowe traded blows back and forth and then a sequence of knee strikes occurred before both men ended up on the mat. Tags were made once again and exchanges happened with Ricochet and Hansen.
Moments later, madness between all four happened and Black broke up a pinfall attempt. Black fought both Raiders off and did a fury of moves before Rowe hit a suicide dive on the outside. This followed by Ricochet hitting a corkscrew flip on Rowe. Hansen then went to the top-rope and delivered a flip on everyone to the outside. Before the count of 10, Ricochet and Rowe made it to the ring and traded blows. Black made a tag and cleared both men, hitting Rowe with a Black Mass, followed by a Shooting Star Press. Hansen broke up the pinfall for a two count.
The Raiders powered through, dropping Black outside, and delivering their double team leg slam on Ricochet for the pinfall.
The War Raiders defeated Aleister Black and Ricochet to retain the NXT Tag Team Championships
After the match, both teams shook hands and engaged in hugs in the center of the ring and they all bowed to each other.
Black and Ricochet stood in the ring and the two embraced in a hug as the crowd gave them all a standing ovation. The two bowed down to the crowd....
Up next, Velveteen Dream vs Matt Riddle.
Riddle made his way to the ring, followed by Velveteen Dream in a Statue of Liberty entrance.
Velveteen Dream vs Matt Riddle for the NXT North American Championship
Dream was worked over by Riddle until Dream hit a German Suplex on him. Riddle no-sold it and delivered a knee strike, followed by a suplex for a two count. Dream was kept down and hit punches down on him. Dream fought back with a sleeper but Riddle remained one step ahead. A triangle was applied and then a GTS/German combo was delivered for a two count. Riddle hit kicks but Dream Hulked up and hit a big boot, followed by a slam. He close-lined him over the top rope and continued the momentum. He went to the top rope and jumped but was hit with a knee. Matt picked him up but ate a Code Breaker.
Moments later Riddle locked an Ankle Lock in, but Dream fought out. A superkick was hit and then a DDT. Dream hoisted him up and hit the Dream Driver. He went for a Elbow but Riddle caught him with a arm-bar. Soon after, Riddle hit his moonsault for a two count.
Riddle then had Dream in a Bro Arm Lock but Dream reversed it into a pinfall.
Velveteen Dream defeated Matt Riddle to retain the NXT North American Championship
After the match, Riddle and Dream did a fist bump
Pete Dunne vs WALTER for the NXT UK Championship
The two locked up and WALTER tried to use his power but Dunne countered. Once again they took turns trading locks but WALTER finally used gained control with his power, hitting Dunne with a big boot. WALTER continued the attack and used his strength to stay in control. Dunne tried to fight back on the apron but was hit with a big boot to the outside. Dunne came back to the ring but was hit with a knee. Dunne fought back with some offense and hit a kick to the head that sent WALTER to the outside and was hit by Dunne with a moonsault. Dunne went back to the top-rope but was met by WALTER. Dunne flipped over and hit WALTER with a powerbomb.
WALTER rolled outside and Dunne went up top and hit a double stomp to the outside.
Back inside in the ring, WALTER gained control but Dunne fought back and the two traded blows. Dunne tried to bend WALTER's fingers but fought out. This ultimately ended up with both men on the mat. Dunne made it up first and jumped on the hands of WALTER. Seconds later the both ended up on the top rope and WALTER delivered an avalanche suplex on Dunne.
Dunne hit a fury of offense and got a two count on WALTER. The two went back and forth and the pace quickened. Dunne hit shots to the face while WALTER hit chops, eventually turning into a huge big boot by WALTER. He went to the top rope but Dunne met him and got a triangle hold. WALTER countered and delivered a powerbomb from the top. WALTER went back to the top and hit a splash for the pinfall.....
WALTER defeated Pete Dunne for the NXT UK Championship
Shayna Baszler vs Bianca Belair vs Io Shirai vs Kairi Sane for the NXT Women's Championship
All four women started brawling before Belair and Baszler ended up in the ring, which began brawling. Shirai and Sane ended up getting involved teaming up against Baszler and Belair, taking them out. The two ended up alone and went back and forth before the two got taken out once again. Baszler took over and stayed in control before Belair delivered a drop kick. They all went to the outside and Belair hit hard strikes on the other three women.
Moments later Baszler came back and took control, trying to choke out Belair on the top rope. Sane and Shirai got involved and hit a double powerbomb, with all women on the mat. Sane and Shirai continued to work together and took out Belair and Baszler before Belair came back with some offense.
Baszler made it back to the ring and all women ended up on the mat once again.
Soon after, Belair power lifted Shirai onto Sane and Baszler to the outside. Belair threw Belair in the ring but was got into a choke lock by Baszler. Belair fought back and countered with a slam for a two count that was broken up by Shirai.
Shirai hit some offense and delivered a moonsault on Baszler for a two count that Sane broke up. Sane took out Shirai and hit Baszler with an elbow drop for a two count and Shirai broke up. They traded strikes that Shirai gained control, but Sane hit a DDT on her. Belair intervened and whipped Sane. She grabbed Sane and Shirai and did her finisher on both women at the same time for a two count that Baszler broke out. She put her in a rear naked choke and Belair tapped out for the win.
Adam Cole vs Johnny Gargano for the NXT Championship
The two started with chain wrestling and Cole getting the upper-hand before the two went back and forth. The two took turns having locks, before Cole gained control.
Gargano tried to fight back and hit Cole with a head kick and a spear from the apron. Moments later the two continued to go back and forth before Cole hit a backstabber.
A little while later Adam Cole gained the first pinfall.
Cole ended up on the top rope but Gargano reversed it and suplexed Cole. He ended up hitting a DDT on Cole on the apron to the outside. The count started but Johnny wanted Cole on the inside. Cole gained control and brought him in the ring. Seconds later, Gargano put a face cross-face to tap Cole out to tie the falls 1-1.
The two faced to face, trading blows, back and forth, hitting hard. Johnny went for a kick to the head and missed, but Cole hit a knee to neck breaker for a two count. The pace quickened and the two kept hitting hard. The two did a double super-kick and they fell to the mat. Adam Cole hit a back driver but then Gargano hit a super kick.
Johnny then hit a springboard for DDT for a two count. The paced quickened once again and Cole hit a Sunset flip for a two count. The two ended up on the outside and Johnny fought back and threw Cole over the announce table. Cole then grabbed Gargano up and slammed him down without the table breaking. Cole then went in the ring for the count, but the ref only counted to nine.
The two hit super kicks but Gargao got a cross face in. The UE got involved and attacked Johnny when the referee was down. Cole went for the pin but he kicked out at two.
Johnny took out all of the UE at ringside but was hit with a shining wizard by Cole for a two count in the ring. He went for the wizard again but Gargano reversed it into the face lock once again for Cole to tap out. As Gargano and Candice went to the ramp, Tomasso Ciampa met them and hugged them to celebrate to close the show.
On May 25th, 2019, All Elite Wrestling showcased their star studded Double or Nothing pay per view event live from a sold out MGM Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Walking into the MGM Garden Arena took your breath away. An enormous LED chandelier adorned with high definition screens was the first thing your eye was drawn to. This was mirrored by two walk out tunnels, each a glow with LED lighting built in on each side and even more LED screens were affixed above. Screens aside, there were also colossal-sized (every bit of ten feet in diameter) Double or Nothing poker chips. This night, however, was not merely about the majestic new luminous stage and walkway, the belle of the ball was in the center of the arena. The twenty by twenty wrestling ring emblazoned with three words that have given wrestling fans so much hope, All Elite Wrestling, was truly the center of attention. “Double or Nothing’ was All Elite Wrestling's inaugural pay per view event under the newly formed AEW brand. It was not only a commercial success (the show sold out in four minutes of tickets being released) but also the culmination of an idea that wrestling could be more than just an advertisement for a new video game. The AEW Vice Presidents said they would "change the world," of professional wrestling, and on this night they may have just done that.
PC Credit Thomas Fenton
Standing next to the cameras I watched as fans began filing in. The building transformed from a pristine mausoleum of hope to a sea of humanity teeming with excitement. The sold out crowds’ “oohs” and “aahs” as they laid their eyes on the beautiful canvas, whereupon art would be performed this evening, grew exponentially with each fan entering the arena. Those oohs and aahs gradually escalated from a soft murmur to an all out ferver, this would shape the atmosphere for this era-defining event. By bell time every nook and cranny was filled with fans ready to be a part of something special, refusing to sit idly on their hands. Wrestling, at it’s best, engages the fans on an almost primal level, causing grown men to weep openly and to elicit those feelings of pure joy harkening back to the first time the pageantry and spectacle was exposed to you. On this night, with this crowd, reveling in the enormity of what they were about to behold, their collective passion helped to elevate Double or Nothing to something even bigger than could be expected.While some of the biggest names in the sport were on display this evening, egos were surprisingly left at the door, and the assemblage acted towards a mutual goal. President Tony Khan; alongside the Executive Vice Presidents of AEW, worldwide superstars Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes, Nick and Matt Jackson; were quoted as saying, "Fans want an alternative," and, "we want to give them the best professional wrestling product."As the pyrotechnics began to signal the beginning of the live pay per view broadcast, there were already thousands of AEW die hard fans screaming at the top of their lungs in anticipation. From the first toll of the iconic bell, you could not help but to think that you were seeing history being made in front of your very eyes. The pay per view opened with action and didn’t look back once eschewing the all too familiar breaks for popcorn, in favor of end to end spectacle. This show was AEW announcing to the world that athleticism, presentation, inclusivity and story-telling would be the rule not the exception. AEW on this historic night, not only delivered on these promises, but also left us all wanting even more.
Cody entered with bluster and bravado as only he can, accompanied by his dazzling bride Brandi, they passed by a throne that looked all to familiar to long-frustrated wrestling fans. A recreation of WWE COO Paul Levesque’s Wrestlemania trope of a Iron Cross Throne was placed at the top of the entrance ramp. Cody put the exclamation point on his entrance by smashing the WWE iconography with a sledge hammer loaded with catharsis. Dustin Rhodes followed next with his trademark face paint, this time with only half his face obscured in a red and black painted design. Somewhere up high you could feel that their legendary Hall of Fame Father Dusty Rhodes was looking down on his two sons and the journey they were about to embark on, and was no doubt overjoyed by their decisions to follow Dusty’s trail-blazing ways. Chants of, “DUSTY! DUSTY! DUSTY!” filled the air, bringing the proud brothers to a halt before the action could begin. With eyes still red from the emotion of the moment, the story was already being written better than we could of ever imagined.Cody and Dustin battled throughout this match with younger brother Cody having the upper hand for much of the exchange. However, in true Rhodes fashion, Dustin refused to quit and kept battling back. Dustin found himself bleeding in this one as if he were back in his historic ‘King of the Road’ match from 1995. The crowd willed Dustin to a fiery comeback, which Cody would dash to an end with a Disaster Kick, followed up with a Cross Rhodes, but was unable to pin his brother. Cody, reluctantly would lift up his bloodied and beleaguered older brother for another Cross Rhodes and the accompanying 1,2,3 of victory. With tears in their eyes fans looked on as Cody walked over and picked up a microphone. Cody told the crowd that he needed a partner for a future encounter with The Young Bucks, he gazed upon his older brother, battered and bloody and exclaimed, “I don't need a partner...I don't need a friend...I need my older brother!" The two brothers then embraced, amidst a ring decorated with their blood, sweat and tears. After the show Dustin expounded, “Vince better watch his ass," in reference to his long-time former employer and CEO of WWE Vince McMahon.
The Rhodes reunion would not be the only wrestling royal lineage on display this evening. A pink hue washed over the crowd, and Jack Whitehall informed the masses that a special guest was headed to the ring with the AEW Championship Title for it’s presentation. “The best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be, Bret Hart!” Bret Hart would make his way down the entrance ramp where twenty-six years prior to this Bret, defended his World Title in front of a capacity crowd at Wrestlemania in Las Vegas, he would return to Sin City and grace us all with the newly christened AEW World Championship Title.We later saw AEW's desire to reinvigorate and showcase tag team wrestling as The Young Bucks Matt and Nick Jackson battled The Lucha Brothers Pentagon and Fenix. The action of this match would rival anything in any sport or wrestling match this year. These four men not only showcased their amazing athleticism but their high flying abilities as well. The Young Bucks Matt and Nick Jackson were faced with knocking off the ring rust against the well-oiled Lucha Brothers. In the beginning, the brothers Jackson struggled to get on the same page. A few minutes into the match the Bucks looked to finally get on the same page, however it looked to be too little too late as both Young Bucks took a plethora of punishment up to this point. The Young Bucks, ever the showmen, paid tribute to the team they wrestled over one hundred times during the formative years of their careers, The Motor City Machine Guns, as the Young Bucks unleashed a Powerbomb Sliced Bread on Fenix. Shortly after this the Young Bucks, in an homage to their underground underdog compadre El Generico, would dole out a top rope Brainbuster on Fenix into the top turnbuckle. Not to be outdone, Pentagon while exchanging with Matt Jackson on the apron with dueling kicks, would fall back and then jump off of Fenix's back and hit a Canadian Destroyer on Matt Jackson to the most unforgiving part of the ring apron. During the ensuing maelstrom Fenix would spring onto the top rope and catch Nick with a spring-board Canadian Destroyer resulting in a two count for the ages. The final five minutes of this epic match would have these four phenomenal athletes spend more time in the air than on the canvas. Amidst the aerial artistry Pentagon had been targeting the shoulder of Matt Jackson, he then locked in the harrowing Hammerlock Arm Snap. Matt would have to battle back with one arm, he heroically lifted Fenix upside down while Nick Jackson leapt off the top rope at that same time for their iconic finisher the Meltzer Driver. With the bell ringing and the crowd going bananas, The Young Bucks battled adversity and found themselves winning not just a match but penning a statement as to what tag team wrestling could be.The crowd, high on spectacle and statements, was in store for another grand surprise. Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho would reprise their rivalry from Japan for a historic main event. Chris Jericho, a veteran of almost three decades, has continued to reinvent himself and his career over the last few years. Jericho paid homage to all of his past personas and tropes that have brought him to this point, this was a tremendous visual as it encapsulated Chris’s past to everyone watching, it also firmly stated that this is not the beginning of the end for him but it is simply a new beginning. Kenny Omega, the darling of those in the know and pound for pound one of the best on the planet, found himself battling Chris Jericho for the honor of being able to compete in the first ever title bout for the AEW Championship. These two titans of their industry battled in, out and all around the ring, early in the match Kenny Omega would break his nose making it increasingly difficult to breathe effectively for the remainder of the match. Jericho utilizing his new favorite maneuver, The Judas Effect, a viscous spinning back elbow, would be the final straw, landing squarely on the already broken nose of Kenny Omega. Jericho would summarily pin Omega, finding himself the victor of the main event of ‘Double or Nothing,’ Chris wasted no time in admonishing the fans for not showing him the respect he that was owed to him. Amidst this cacophony of anguish to finish what had been a triumphant and era-defining evening the oohs and ahhs returned. A familiar unhinged figure was making his way through the crowd, freed of a superfluous flak jacket, an unstable air took over the crowd. Jon Moxley, the former WWE World Champion, was making his way toward the triumphant Jericho. Legendary announcer Jim Ross would relay that the crowd noise was deafening even decibel record-setting for the surprise arrival of Moxley. Jon entered the ring and waylaid Jericho with a Double Armed DDT as the electric crowd erupted in sheer joy as they realized Jon Moxley had signed with AEW. Jon Moxley continued his arrival parade by attacking the referee with another Double Arm DDT. Moxley quickly turned his attention to the injured Kenny Omega, Moxley attempted a third rendition of the devastating DDT variant but Omega would manage to escape the same fate that had befallen Jericho. The two men would battle out of the ring and up the ramp. Bathed in the glow of the jaw-dropping chandelier the duo would climb the colossal tower of monikered poker chips where Moxley would throw Omega from the top and send him crashing to the floor below. The show would end and Moxley, not the victorious Chris Jericho, would be standing tall.
The story doesn’t merely end here, fan sentiment as the arena emptied was at an all time high. An excitement for a fresh alternative to the stale formula broadcasted five hours a week, was everywhere. This was perhaps the day the business of professional wrestling has changed. Fans leaving the arena could be heard saying "greatest show ever" and "I'm so happy pro wrestling is back." It has been a long time since I have left a professional wrestling event and the fans left buzzing with positivity, happiness, and pure excitement. One by one the fans walked out all grinning from ear to ear, safe in the knowledge that they were part of history. They left fulfilled knowing that they were appreciated by the company they had come out in droves to support. AEW in one evening managed to go from a fan service t-shirt selling pipe dream to a real bonafide product. Before heading back to the press area I just stopped and found myself awash in amazement. The AEW ring being carefully broken down, a ring that housed what could go down as this generation's most profound wrestling memory. Hogan slamming Andre, Shane Douglas throwing down the belt, Dusty realizing the American Dream and beating Harley, and now Moxley defiantly silencing Jericho.
When a few wrestlers decided to shock the system and say no, fed up with being marginalized, they found a better way for everyone. When these wrestlers declared it is not always about the money, it is about being happy and performing their art on the center on the canvas, and put their money where the mouth was something great happened. This day was the day a bonafide superstar from New York decided to leave a multi-billion dollar company and join some “pissants” in AEW. All Elite Wrestling sent their message to the world, and painted art on their canvas at Double or Nothing.