Welcome back to the 20 for 2020: AEW series, where we will take a look at the diamonds in the rough that almost made the cut to the final list. These are all spectacular matches in their own right but didn’t quite crack the top tens This time we will be taking a look at the tag division and the great matches that deserve revisiting. Once again this will be in no particular order, but it is more a representation of the elusive greatness that is the top 20.
This will be a four-part series as I have separated the top 20 to reflect AEW’s clear focus on tag-team wrestling by giving that its own an individual top 10 and honorable mentions. With how good these tag matches are, separate lists weren’t just warranted. They were necessary to tell the story of AEW in 2019.
Here are the few that almost cracked the top list:
Honorable Mentions (Tag Division):
SCU vs. Jurassic Express (AEW All Out)
This excellent 6-man tag encounter brought together the established veterans of SCU and pitted them against the young rising stars of Jurassic Express in an energetic, frenetic lucha libre inspired match to officially kick off the stacked AEW All Out card.
Full of counters, springboards, frequent tags, and crisp timing, this match showcased each of the six men beautifully. An early tag to Luchasaurus sent the crowd into a frenzy. Then he played his role of dominant big man slash team player big brother figure perfectly by getting Marko involved early as well.
Numerous suicide dives including a crowd popping one from Luchasaurus got the crowd firmly behind Jurassic Express after SCU’s early momentum prior to the tags.
This fluid teamwork spoke to what exactly each member’s roles would be going forward. Simultaneously SCU showed their early signs of being the top dogs in the tag ranks by coming from behind after a flurry of offense as well. The psychology and back and forth drama were exactly what the crowd was hungry for and everybody executed their role flawlessly.
Christopher Daniels manned the ship as SCU’s captain, constantly keeping his teammates in the match with quick tags and relentless offense. But even with the dynamic offensive combination of Scorpio Sky and Frankie Kazarian constantly firing off tandem maneuvers alongside him, Jungle Boy stayed in it long enough to make the hot tag to the giant dinosaur.
Popping the crowd into a roar this time Luchasaurus cracked out stiff kicks, flapjacks, shining wizards, kip ups, and an unbelievable chokeslam to moonsault combination. Crafting videogame-like combos the crowd was on their feet chanting his name with a ferocity.
Never one to take the spotlight for too long though, he involved his two smaller framed friends which would ultimately prove to be their demise. SCU using their tact and veteran ring presence eliminated Luchasaurus first by all attacking him, then isolated the smaller duo of Jungle Boy and Marko Stunt by stacking them both onto Kazarian for a BME.
Marko then took the pinfall at the hands of Kazarian for the end to a dramatic, blood pumping contest. This is all you could ask for both in an opener and in a match that features both youth and veterans looking to get over and prove their worth. This ticked all the boxes and set the tone for big things to come for both sides.
Private Party vs. TH2 (Angelico and Jack Evans) (All Out Buy-In)
Playing a similar role just before the previously mentioned matchup, this came prior to it on the card as well to end AEW All Out’s “Buy-In”. The similarities don’t end there, as the same veterans versus youth dynamic was presented and once again the wrestlers maximized each other in the roles they played. This time around the youth took the victory, however.
Hitting on all cylinders from the get-go, Angelico and Isiah Kassidy both showed great chemistry in their early exchange leading to some flashy counters and impressive one-upmanship in favor of Kassidy.
Evans and Quen tagged in for an exchange of flashy and crisp counters leading into handspring backflips out of hurricanranas and a rolling arm drag respectively. Once again, the younger man took advantage and got his partner into the ring to “take some shots” with Evans. TH2 then took their turn with the momentum, hitting some innovative and high flying tag offense of their own. Quen was able to find an opening after a beating though and springboarded to a beautiful hot tag to Kassidy.
This was the beginning of the end as Kassidy unleashed a flurry of high flying feats that firmly planted the momentum in Private Party’s corner. Despite Evans taking ridiculous move after ridiculous move, he had enough to kick out and then lead to a fight over the top ropes between the two teams.
After a jaw-dropping back and forth of poisonranas and hurricanranas by Private Party, they hit the Gin and Juice for the pin. Both teams left it all in the ring, and the crowd responded to every spot and tag showing how well the psychology was executed. This got Private Party a high flying breakneck speed contest right in their wheelhouse that put them over nicely.
And bonus points for TH2 making sure to stay heel and turn the respectful handshake into a beatdown to capitalize on the high the crowd was left on from the match. This fed off the ravenous Chicago crowd very well, and if the cohesion and spots were just a tad crisper between both sides it would’ve been a perfect showcase of what AEW’s tag division feels like. But despite that, it was an excellent contest and only makes you want to see these two face off again in the coming year.
SCU vs. Strong Hearts (Cima, T-Hawk, and El Lindaman) (AEW Double or Nothing)
A breath of fresh air to start the night for AEW Double or Nothing, the trio from OWE brought a decidedly international feel to the beginning of Double or Nothing. Christopher Daniels and CIMA started things off slowly with some technical grappling exploits and some counter heavy fluidity. They also traded arm drags before coming to a stalemate as they both hit the same maneuver and brought in Kazarian and T-Hawk.
Similarly, fast-paced high-intensity wrestling followed between the two as they each traded momentum back and forth before Scorpio Sky involved himself and started to deliver offense of his own. But Strong Hearts weren’t to be denied, and the struggle for control started to intensify.
A lightning-quick pace ensued, with fast tags, tag and triple team moves, and reversals leading to huge momentum swings to either side.
Before long, chaos ensued and bodies were flying just as quickly as the stiff strikes and knees could land. Constantly involving one another, each side showcased how to keep a six-man interesting with all sorts of unique uses of their numbers. Eventually, everybody would start leaking into the ring and exchanging bumps and near falls aplenty. However, SCU would finally calm the chaos and cultivate just enough of an opening to hit the BME to cap off a breathtakingly exciting opening match.
Proving the worth of SCU as the eventual top dog of the division whilst also introducing Strong Hearts to American audiences was an excellent introduction to the night. And it also proved the concept of what could eventually be a very successful six-man tag division down the line similar to the way it has a home in many promotions south of the border. But for now, honorable mentions seem fitting until it has a division to call its own.
Young Bucks vs. The Brotherhood (Cody and Dustin Rhodes) (Fight for the Fallen)
A master class in the art of traditional tag wrestling, ring psychology, and storytelling, this match was electric from the moment AEW announced and it was quick to prove why.
Slowly building with a purpose, the Rhodes brothers slowly built their chemistry whilst at times being bested by the more experienced (as a tag team, anyway) Jackson brothers leading to some surprising cockiness displayed by the Bucks, including a rejected handshake early on.
This lead to a prolonged period of dominance and offense by the heel-for-a-night Young Bucks that isolated Dustin and lead to a reverse crossbody off the ropes on the pair for the much-needed injection of Cody into the contest. Securing his own team whilst also reinvigorating the crowd, this moment is where the tide turned.
The Rhodes brothers then started picking apart the Jacksons much in the way they had been previously victimized.
Isolating Matt in the center of the ring for a series of slow and methodical moves targetting and weakening his arm set up one more hot tag, this time to Nick Jackson. Coming in hot with a flurry of kicks, he encapsulated the crowd on their side and got them to cheer them on as faces once more. Then came trading signature tandem offense in a mirror-like simultaneous precision, which would become a calling card of the match sparking various chants of approval from the audience.
Eventually, after a ref bump, the Rhodes brothers would each hit the Shattered Dreams and continue their share of the control. Nothing they had was quite enough to keep the Bucks out though and after a Cross Rhodes didn’t quite do it, the Meltzer Driver was delivered and the Jackson brothers claimed the victory in a gruelingly difficult showcase of their abilities to tell a story.
The only issue with this match was in its length. Running for almost 31 and a half minutes hurt what was an otherwise great storytelling match at its core. The psychology and storytelling were so on point but the all-out nature of the match being stretched so far ended up making this still fall short of the potential it had to live up to.
But once again, this is something that could easily be revisited and cleaned up to make one of the instant classics of AEW’s upcoming cards. Time will surely bring these four back into the ring before Dustin decides it’s his time to stop lacing his boots for good.
The Elite vs. Lucha Bros and Laredo Kid (AEW Fyter Fest)
Yes, The Elite came out as Street Fighter characters. Yes, they hit a Hadouken at one point. No, it isn’t for every wrestling fan. But if none of that deterred you thus far, then this match was just a lot of fun.
Feeding into the unsanctioned match (essentially making this the pre-main event) this match took that challenge. The pacing was enough to make you need an inhaler to watch it, and everybody was firing off as much aerial offense as they could fit in. Tope con hilos, bouncing off the ropes, top rope theatrics, and more all broken up by vicious bumps from suplexes and stiff strikes to keep the action fresh.
This is one of the AEW matches that the commentators couldn’t call properly, and this writer struggles to find fitting words to write about it.
The match was an overbooked high-intensity exhibition of skills in the best way. Sure, the six men in the ring were used a little too liberally without the ref’s help. Sure, at times you started to lose sight of the rivalry or have it fade in the background between the Jacksons and Lucha Bros.
But still, for the sheer spectacle of what this match delivered it deserves a place amongst the best of the year. You don’t pop out of your chair as if you sat on a thumbtack unless the action is really brilliant, and this match will make you do that. If you’re into this type of tag wrestling of course, which if you’ve watched AEW by now you know what their brand looks and feels like. This was a great mix of that style, with brief comedy spots, stereo superkicks, triple/tag maneuvers you’d never even think of, and enough flying bodies to make Jim Cornette send an angry tweet.
This was one of the most complete and beautifully executed six-man tag match in AEW history thus far. But ultimately, due to the nature of how many great duos exist (Lucha Bros and Young Bucks very much included) and the competitive nature of the division’s top matches, the added two men just made it too tough to include in a field of so many of the top contending contests.
As stated with SCU vs. Stronghearts before it, maybe one day the six-man match will have its own titles and division in AEW. But for now, this will serve as the prime example of what that can look like at its peak.
Until Next Time…
That is all for now, as the honorable mentions are now through and the real top AEW 20 for 2020 can begin. Now, we just need them to “double down” in 2020 much like they did with their tag team division in 2019!
What were your favorite 20 matches of AEW’s rookie season? Make sure to reach out to me on Twitter, or drop a comment below to let your opinion be heard! And of course make sure to check out the next two parts, coming right here on Pro Wrestling Post. But, as always, until next time…