Which match was the best match of the weekend?
Last Saturday, wrestling fans had to either pick and choose from a lot of great wrestling to watch, or try to watch it all. If you know this website, you know that we tried to watch it all.
I asked the folks in our Fight Game Podcast Facebook group which match they liked best and asked them to argue for it in prose.
The three matches that we ranked as best match of the weekend were the following:
– Tyler Bate Vs Walter from NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff
– Kazuchika Okada Vs Minoru Suzuki from Royal Quest
– Young Bucks Vs Lucha Brothers in a ladder match at All Out
Two people argued for the UK NXT match and one each argued for the other matches. Judge John LaRocca will come in at the end and put a bow on what match was the best of the weekend.
Tyler Bate Vs Walter from NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff
— NXT UK (@NXTUK) August 31, 2019
I haven’t been following wrestling to the same extent recently that I have in the past. As of late, I have found my attention drawn to sports, combat or otherwise, rather than the simulated world of professional wrestling. I had been turned off of professional wrestling by a lack of two key ingredients that sports always deliver: realism and unpredictability. It is for these reasons that for me the NXT UK match was the greatest of the three.
The ladder match had one jarring spot where a referee was positioned underneath a ladder on the floor, between the legs and seemingly holding it in place. He was there as clear as day drawing my attention with his garish shirt. The referee was positioned to hold the ladder steady so that Fenix could leap over it and onto those assembled below. This match failed the realism test right there.
The NJPW match, whilst great, was never unpredictable. Okada was always going to win. The combatants, whilst putting on a respectable show and a match that I gave four stars to on the Grappl app, never managed to convince me that maybe Minuro Suzuki would walk out IWGP champion at the end of the night’s major spectacle.
Walter and Tyler Bate however had me hooked. The dreaded phone was banished to half an hour of inactivity. I sat up in my seat and willed on Tyler Bate to recapture the WWE UK Championship despite not being able to tell you before the show began (through inattention to the product) that these two athletes would be main eventing the show in Cardiff. These two men, by the craft of their art, made me really care about the outcome of their bout. Is that not the whole point of the sport?
Tyler Bate would not die.
There is something to be said about all the match of the weekend candidates that validates their nomination. Kazuchika Okada, the current IWGP Heavyweight champion and challenger Minoru Suzuki faced each other; one in his prime and the other a grizzled veteran. Yet both took each other to the limit in a match with a backstory that was compelling enough to believe Suzuki had the smallest glimmer of hope, even though ultimately it was to conclude in the place we all knew was the plan. And then, a tag team ladder match where every move you’ve dreamed of seeing, but their battle did not have the feel of a high stakes environment, with titles that weren’t really of consequence to the promotion itself. It’s not at all to discount the stakes of that match for it justified the move set that these men threatened their bodies with to assure victory over their opponents.
But Tyler Bate would not die.
The sheer simplicity of the build to Walter, current NXT UK champion and Tyler Bate, the first NXT UK champ, was that Tyler was no threat to Walter. Walter psychologically and physically assaulted Bate so that when the time came, Bate would be like a lamb led to slaughter. A tale that goes back to David and Goliath, we saw two beings: a Goliath and a mere man fight each to a standstill. Where Walter dished out every punishment he knew in order to break Bate, Tyler fought like an animal. He deadlifted the 300-pound man with ease, suplexing him off his feet, and taking him to the limit to the point that at 41 minutes, after Walter devastated him with another power move, Bate courageously kicked out at one. Walter, with all the force he could muster, hit one last lariat to put Tyler Bate away.
Walter won the match but he lost his ultimate goal. He failed to convince anyone, including Tyler Bate, that Bate was just a boy. Tyler Bate was a man the crowd rallied toward because they knew that Tyler Bate knew who he was that day and the only one who left with fear in that ring was Walter.
Because Tyler Bate would not die and it’s as simple a story as that.
Kazuchika Okada Vs Minoru Suzuki from Royal Quest
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) September 3, 2019
Okada versus Suzuki was going to be good, I knew that, but I didn’t think it’d be the best match of this weekend. It was modern top-shelf pro wrestling, it induced wild heat from the crowd, and Suzuki’s performance was beyond masterful. He’s always one of the most charismatic people on a New Japan show, but in England, he’s an actual demigod, and he knew that so he leaned into it hard during this match. His over-the-top contempt for Okada, the way the crowd would come to pin-drop silence when Suzuki order’d them to so that he could blast Okada with elbows and palm strikes, it wasn’t only impressive but it felt organic, like you couldn’t immediately poke holes into the match structure or booking.
And I haven’t even spoken on Okada yet. Listen, we all knew there wasn’t a way Suzuki would walk out of London the IWGP World Heavyweight champion, but for moments in this, Okada made it seem like Suzuki had crushed his soul, making his dropkick-outta-nowhere that much more special, or more meaningful. These are the things I love about a great wrestling match, and while I saw flashes in Tyler Bate versus Walter and the Lucha Brothers versus the Young Bucks ladder match, both matches had less substance than Okada and Suzuki. Bate and Walter came close, but you had the sense that they desperately wanted to have the best match of the weekend and forced an epic rather than just having one. The Bucks and the Bros was fun to watch, but was all spectacle to me; Pentagon was the only one trying to connect with the crowd while the other guys stayed focused on landing spots.
I could keep nitpicking, but at the end of the day Okada and Suzuki from London had everything I wanted out of a great wrestling match, and I was satisfied. The two other matches mentioned were terrific as well, but I found the NJPW match to be the least flawed of the three; it told the best story, it used the crowd to its fullest extent to enhance match quality, and it was booked so that you’d at least for few minutes believe that Suzuki could walk out of the Copper Box Arena as new IWGP World Heavyweight champion.
Young Bucks Vs Lucha Brothers in a ladder match at All Out
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEWrestling) September 1, 2019
The essence of pro wrestling is comprised of two things: doing cool moves and acting like a badass. The raw creativity and badassery of The Lucha Brothers and The Young Bucks in a ladder match guarantees a plethora of cool moves and plenty of opportunities to act like a badass. It’s really that simple!
Some out-of-touch people would tell you that it’s bad that you lost track of how many cool moves these teams did, but that’s wrong. Good wrestling makes you feel something in the moment, and I sure as shit bet that Matt Jackson shrugging off a Canadian destroyer off a top rope through a table made you feel excited. That’s why nobody in a promotion for British minor leaguers or an old guy who’s coolest move is a forearm could never touch these great men.
It’s time for Judge LaRocca to make the ruling.
My pick of who won the best match of the August 31st would be Walter versus Tyler Bate from NXT UK TakeOver. That took top spot for me because I was so into the dramatic story they told inside the squared circle. It featured a great champion defending his title against a young gun who was fighting with all his heart and through the pain to gain a victory. Both men were phenomenal and created one of the my favorite matches of 2019. It was truly the magic of pro wrestling all coming together to create a great and memorable match. The crowd was invested has heavily as I was. It was genuine emotion from the crowd as they wanted to see the beloved babyface Tyler Bate win the championship.
Kazuchika Okada versus Minoru Suzuki came in a very close second. This match had a bit of a different feel from their previous clashes as the London crowd took Minoru Suzuki as the babyface. Suzuki was on fire during this match and since we didn’t see in the G1 tournament, he looked fresh. That played into the story of the match as well. Both men were great as usual, but still, I had to give the slight nod to Walter and Tyler Bate because I was on that roller coaster ride.
A distant third place was the Young Buckles versus The Lucha Brothers Ladder match from AEW’s All Out PPV. It was a stunt show, plain and simple. There were some mouth dropping moments for sure, but it was never a dramatic match. I was watching it waiting to see what crazy stunt they would pull off next instead of being caught up in the drama of who would win. There were times when they went to retrieve the belts hanging above the ring, but most of the time it was just setting up stunt after stunt. People are going to overrate this match big time, simply because they did a lot of dangerous stunts. Hats off to them (and they have some serious balls), but it wasn’t a dramatic wrestling match. The best match on the AEW show was actually the championship match between Chris Jericho and Adam Page. That match will unfortunately will be underrated because of inexperience of match placement by AEW in which they put this ladder match before the World title match. If it was me, the ladder match would’ve opened the show.