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Pop Break’s Best of Year: The 2022 Match of the Year

Photo Credit: All Elite Wrestling

Match of the Year! Match of the Year! It’s a phrase that’s chanted throughout arenas and venues around the world multiple times a year. Pop Break got together some good brother and sisters to talk about their 2022 Match of the Year picks.

The Match: Jon Moxley vs Wheeler Yuta
The Show: AEW Rampage 4/8/22
Chosen By: Kimmy Sokol

I have seen SO MUCH wrestling live this year, from Wrestlemania, Summerslam, Ric Flair’s Last Match (which is anything but a MOTY nominee), Grand Slam, Full Gear, Wresltecade’s Supershow (featuring Dax Harwood vs “Speedball” Mike Bailey), Wrestlecon’s Supershow (Mia Yim’s first match back since getting released and “Speedball” Mike Bailey vs Bandido), Bound for Glory, and New Japan’s Capital Collision. As you can see this was anything but an easy decision for me and I often went back and forth on a lot of matches. Ultimately it came down to one thing, what was the match that made me feel the most and this match between Moxley and Yuta had everything.

This match made people believe Wheeler Yuta can be one of the future top wrestlers in AEW. Last year we saw him hanging around the Best Friends not really doing anything, but because of this match we have seen him do a lot. He has become ROH Pure Champion, competed in multiple MOTY candidates, and become a part of one of the top AEW factions this year the Blackpool Combat Club. When Moxley came back from rehab we saw a whole other side of him and this match proved that. He has had stellar matches throughout the year and quite arguably is a lot of wrestling fan’s wrestler of the year. He helped put younger talent over such as Wheeler Yuta and MJF and has carried AEW on his back all year.

This match had everything fans could hope for. Hard hitting moves, crazy bumps, a lot of blood, and just overall fun. This match could have easily been a pay-per-view main event, but lucky for us we got this on free tv. Now I do not know what lies ahead for Yuta and Moxley going into 2023, but if this match proved anything it is that the sky’s the limit for both of these men.


The Match: CM Punk vs. Jon Moxley
The Show: AEW All Out 2022 – 9/4/22
Chosen By: Steven Miller

I teach a course at Rutgers University entitled “Critical Issues in Sports Media.”  When students ask me what it’s about I tell them we discuss and study everything that goes on in Sports except what happens on the court and field. It’s what happens in the back offices, board rooms, and City Halls that really determine what you see from the players. To the owners, the results of the game to game don’t truly matter, except when they are counting the receipts at the end of the night.

This is the same reason why I chose Punk vs Moxley II. This was supposed to be the coronation of the returning hero.  AEW was finally going to strap the rocket onto Phil Brooks’ back and he was going to take the company to the next level.  Despite all the backstage drama, the lawsuits with Colt Cabana, and everything that follows him everywhere Punk goes, Tony Kahn was saying his prayers, taking his vitamins, and preaching the demandments that Punk was going to make his last run historic and drive the ratings through the roof in an effort to impress the new corporate owners and a increasingly disappearing fan base.

The match itself was fine. Punk showed his toughness in battling through another devastating injury and had his hand raised in the middle of the ring. Your new AEW Champion: Larry’s dad.

But, it was at the post-show press conference that this became the most important match in Professional Wrestling for 2022. This is where Mr. Pipebomb exploded and attempted to lay waste to everything Tony Kahn, the EVPs, and everyone else based out of Jacksonville had been trying to build for the last few years. He didn’t just bite the hand that fed him; he mauled it.  This childish, unrepentant riff led to a backstage brawl involving the biggest and most entertaining stars this company had and blew everything up. The residual damage from his explosion set the company’s reputation and ratings back a number of years and, at the same time, put a halt to any thought it may have a chance of catching up to the Northern Titan. The body is moving, but the carcass has been stripped and the vultures are circling above.

What had once been a dream for those opposed to the cartoon-like, PG rated Sports Entertainment company is now a WCW-like nightmare with its overspending, in-fighting, and lack of direction. It turns out that the most important match wasn’t inside the squared circle. It was the battle that was taking place in Phil Brooks mind.

The Match*: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Kevin Owens
The Show: Wrestlemania Night #1
Chosen By: Bill Bodkin

How dare I, dyed in wool AEW fan Bill Bodkin chose something from WWE? Well, notice that asterisk? That’s because this wasn’t really a match. This was a spectacle. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin coming out of retirement to just have a wild ass brawl with Kevin Owens was the match I knew I wanted and it’s exactly what I got. This wild, fun and just pure old school wrasslin’ double juice fisticuffs. You know, everything WWE isn’t anymore. As someone who watched Steve Austin then “Stunning” Steve Austin wrestle in the Sportatorium against the late “Gentleman” Chris Adams on ESPN when he a kid, this was an absolute blast to watch Austin in his element, having a hell of a time. Him taking bumps was a hell of a surprise. This was pure wrestling joy, something I wish WWE would be going forward.


The Match: FTR v. Briscoe Brothers 2
The Show: Death Before Dishonor
Chosen By: Christian Wagner

*Adjusts Jim Cornette glasses*

The trio of matches that FTR and Briscoes did for tag team wrestling will never get the true credit they deserve for two main reasons: (1) ROH does not get the exposure and circulation that WWE, AEW, and NJPW get; and (2) tag team wrestling is typically overshadowed by singles competition.

The current climate of programming in this realm is very polarizing and varied. Professional wrestling fans place a high value on big spots, flips, dives, and other flashy maneuvers. Sports entertainment fans prefer the drama and storylines where the matches simply extend the story that’s furthered via non-wrestling segments.

The Briscoes and FTR do not fall into either of these categories. This 2 out of 3 falls match was about 45 minutes and there wasn’t a second that had you looking away but it wasn’t because there was big spot after big spot. It told a story of two teams trying to prove they are the best tag team in the world. When the crowd is on its feet and there’s an air of tension before the wrestlers lock up, you knew this was going to be special.

More than anything, their styles and auras complement each other so well where they act as foils to each other. The story writes itself. The Briscoes are rough around the edges longtime ROH legends who have maintained a level of excellence that is almost unparalleled, especially in the tag team division. FTR are the proverbial “outsiders” – polished, old-school, and smooth. This match was a well-paced, hard hitting, believable contest. It looked like these guys wanted to (and did) beat the crap out of each other without doing any flips, blatant leg slaps, or taking the suspension of disbelief away from the match.

Walking away from this, you know they left everything out there on the mat to tell a fantastic and unforgettable story. The only shortcoming with the FTR and Briscoes trio of matches is that it will forever go under-appreciated because ROH’s reach does not equal that of WWE, AEW, NJPW, and the like.

The Match: Gunther vs Sheamus
The Show: WWE Clash at the Castle
Chosen by: “Mr. Perfect” Mike Mueller

In a wrestling landscape that has been taken over by smaller athletes doing incredible aerial stunts, there’s something beautifully simple about two meaty men slapping meat. In this day and age, we often forget about the spectacle that professional wrestling was built upon: “Pay money to see two guys, who could absolutely squash everybody in the audience like a big, beat the hell out of each other.”

This is exactly what Sheamus vs Gunther delivered at Clash at the Castle. It was brutal. It was, at times, difficult to watch. It cemented both of their legacies. Gunther proved he could have a match of the year with a little guy two years prior with Ilja Dragunov, and now proved he could do it with a big guy in Sheamus. Sheamus, meanwhile, added another chapter in his first ballot hall of fame career. If anybody was somehow still sleeping on either of these two, they woke them up and knocked them off their feet harder than a Gunther chop. This is a match that could impress wrestling fans of any taste or era. It was truly transcendent, and that’s why it deserves to be the match of the year.

The Match: Dan Champion vs. Max the Impaler
The Show: Lehigh Valley Athletic Comission (LVAC) “Let’s Hang Out”
Chosen by: Kenny Pete

At this point in this article , you should have read about the epic tag matches in ROH by The Briscoes & FTR and hopefully someone told you about the spectacle on the grandest stage of them all, Wrestlemania ™ as critically acclaimed superstar of stage & screen Johnnie Knoxville and the tour de force performance put on by the most can’t miss superstar in the business right now Sami Zayn. Because you’ve already read about those amazing matches you should definitely go out of your way to check out if you haven’t already.

I’m here to tell you a pro wrestling story as old as time that originates in the Christmas city of Bethlehem PA. Where a few times a year, a few punk rockers and some pro wrestlers come together to Hang Out under the banner of the Lehigh Valley Athletic Council (LVAC) within the comfortable confines of National Sokol’s Lounge #93 where the beers are cheap, the vegan food is delicious and a good time is had by all. The Story? Oh yeah.  The story as old as time in professional wrestling, The Impossible Force vs The Immovable Object.

On a crisp October night , a few hundred people gathered to see one of the biggest matchups in Allentown PA since Bam Bam Bigelow was in the territory back in ’93.  I’m talking about home-town hero (hero?!) “Big” Dan Champion as he took on international sensation, the non-binary nightamre known as Max The Impaler aka “They Are Max”.  This one started out with a HUGE standoff & big body shoulder block trade everyone loves to see.  The action spilled out of the ring at one point & Max shamashed Dan with a full trash can as hard as possible.

Bottles, debris and vegan hot dog wrappers scattered the area and Max looked on with absolutely no remorse as they had their way with Dan Champion as they brawled amongst the crowd, some in halloween costumes as it was that time of year, adding to the fun chaotic vibe of the night.  In the end it was Max The Impaler getting their hand raised in victory , then rolled out of the ring to the merch table , where the real winnings went down as the line for their merch & a photo with “The Non Binary Nightmare” wrapped around the building. You can check out this match via downloadable mp4 here or via DVD straight from the source at the next LVAC show.

The Match: Dax Harwood vs. Will Ospreay
The Show: AEW Dynamite “Road Rager” — 6/15/22
Chosen by: Michael Dworkis

Another year has flown by, and with it countless wrestling matches from more promotions than the year before. While WWE, NXT, ROH, and New Japan have all put on their fair share of memorable matches, I once again must turn to AEW for my difficult pick for match of the year. 

My pick for the 2022 Match of the Year, is Dax Harwood vs. Will Ospreay from The Dynamite Road Rager episode on June 15th. Close to 15-minutes of non-stop wrestling action. It had a beautifully unique blend of Dax’s  old school wrestling style versus Ospreay’s modern-mat wrestling and high-impact and fast-paced maneuvering. It’s rare to see a match such as this, which is highlighted by further proof of how good Dax Harwood can, and likely will be as a future singles wrestler. 

This match is also significant as it featured the post-match staredown between Ospreay and Orange Cassidy leading to their match at Forbidden Door. 

It was close. I narrowed a field of ten down to a few, including Eddie Kingston vs. Tomohiro Ishii from the pre-show at All-Out, Eddie Kingston vs. Jun Akiyama which was the headliner for the Full Gear pre-show, and even Daniel Garcia vs. Bryan Danielson from Fight for the Fallen. 

While Dax vs. Ospreay is my match of 2022, one can’t forget a memorable moment if you will, a single image burned into the minds of all who watched it live, and certainly earns a title of “Moment of the Year” as zombie-like Eddie Kingston staggers to the ring during the Anarchy in the Arena match at Double or Nothing. Torn shirt, blood, a gas can in-hand, and a look of death. 

Yeah, you all know I wanted to get Eddie into the “best of…” column. 

The Match: Toni Storm vs. Jamie Hayter
The Show: AEW Full Gear
Chosen By: Bill Bodkin

There were so many great matches that happened in AEW this year that I’m sure I’ve called something a “match of the year” and completely forgot about it. Orange Cassidy vs. Will Ospreay, PAC vs. Trent, The Elite vs. United Empire, Dax Harwood (single & tag) vs. anyone, Swerve in Our Glory vs. The Acclaimed (All Out), CM Punk vs. MJF in a dog collar, anything from Forbidden Door…the list goes on and on. And up until a month or so ago CM Punk vs. MJF was my slam dunk pick. It’s an incredible, all-time match. Go watch it. However, I want to select a match that I truly believe is a turning point for AEW — Toni Storm vs. Jamie Hayter for the AEW (then Interim) Women’s World Championship.

While the match wasn’t as high profile as Dr. Britt Baker, DMD vs. Thunder Rosa in the cage for the title earlier this year, this match — to me — was not just 10x the wrestling match, but a definitive turning point for the much criticized women’s division. Toni Storm and Jamie Hayter came into this match, both having organically gotten white hot over with the audience because of their in-ring work, and rocked the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. These two, as the old timers would say, “laid their shit in” and beat each other bloody. The crowd LIVED AND DIED with every near fall — something we haven’t seen in a women’s title match, maybe ever in AEW. This is a 7 stars in Japan, throwback to a bygone era of Japanese Women’s Wrestling most of us only hear whispered about on the corners of the internet. Now, as a champion Hayter has already had a complete banger with Shida, and we now have a women’s world champion that embodies that kind of smash mouth, wrestling first mantra AEW fans love.

Pop-Break Staff
Pop-Break Staffhttps://thepopbreak.com
Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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