In the second of two parts, Zach looks at the remaining five matches in the AEW Top Tag Matches of 2019. To read part one please do so here.
5. Proud-N-Powerful (Santana and Ortiz) vs. Young Bucks (AEW Full Gear)
Another example of the Young Bucks trying to put over every tag team they face with career-defining matches was the first tilt they had with Santana and Ortiz of the AEW Top Tag Matches. Coming in hot debuting at All Out, the former LAX attacked the Young Bucks after another standout performance of theirs. They declared the first shot fired from the Inner Circle and set sights the Young Bucks for an immediate first target. This all paid off to begin the main card at Full Gear with style.
They boasted chemistry as if they’d faced each other hundreds of times. The new blood kept pace with the figureheads and even dominated at certain points. Moments and spots of this match were all Santana and Ortiz. They showed the vision of the Jacksons putting over this division and not just themselves. Examples such as PnP’s brilliant double submissions stick out as the crowd popped at the unique brand of tag offense they were delivering with electric energy.
But a major surprise of this match that stole the show was the selling job of Nick Jackson.
Attempting an early superkick as is customary in his arsenal, he missed Ortiz and struck the ring post instead. Showing not only that the Bucks were overzealous but also that Proud-N-Powerful had been doing their homework on their rivals. All unspoken words, but the story was told none the less. And that ring psychology has long been criticism against the Bucks, so it was very apropos to be delivering this type of performance to kick-off (pun intended, forgive me) the night.
Hitting plenty of their own moves, there were some excellent spots from the Jacksons as usual as well. A Street Sweeper countered into a Spanish Fly, a northern light suplex party, and sliced bread powerbomb combination; these were crazy moments. There was even momentary impromptu Tae Kwon Do/Kung Fu lesson from the Bucks. Carl Douglas would have found it a little bit frightening. But they fought with expert timing. All these moments stick out in my mind as highlights that the crowd responded to very well, but you could say that about a lot of them really.
And the selling job of Santana and Ortiz put all of the Bucks offense over great here as well. All but maybe one fish flopping superkick was sold nicely. There was an exchange of momentum, exchange of tandem offense, and even exchange of gum in this match. To say it had it all and then some would be understating the obvious.
This match put the tandem of Santana and Ortiz on everybody’s radar. They took the win here, Simultaneously, the Bucks continued their path of anti-WCW style booking. Albeit, the heels did win here but the idea of allowing only the elite (and literally The Elite) to win was clearly not their idea for how this division would go.
4. SCU vs. Lucha Bros (AEW Dynamite 10/30/19, AEW World Tag Team Championship Finals)
Piggybacking off the idea from the last entry, this further proved that the Jacksons weren’t interested in being in the spotlight within the AEW Top Tag Matches. Instead, for the inaugural crowning of the AEW Tag Team Championships, we got to see this gem of a contest. SCU’s Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky and Rey Fenix and Pentagon Jr. faced off. Of course, SCU took the victory here, showing a bit of a nod of respect from the Young Bucks. They let their befriended veterans of the California scene they frequented for so long be the first to touch gold.
This was just as crazy as advertised with these two teams being involved. They pushed each other to their limits here. Ebbing and flowing with consistency, the only real sure thing was that it wasn’t a sure thing for either team. Fenix hit his signature brand of exceptional offense. He executed tight rope kicks and springboard maneuvers, including one arm drag that defied gravity. Pentagon mixed in a Canadian Destroyer, a powerbomb through a table, and superkicks aplenty. None of that was quite enough to put away the SoCal duo.
Firing back with some brilliant offense of their own, SCU was not to be outdone whatsoever. Springboard leg drops, diving hurricanranas, neck-testing german suplexes were plentiful. Kazarian busted out Angel’s Wings and much more to keep them neck and neck throughout. The action was so frenzied and consistent. It felt like these men were in a two out of three falls match and not a regular contest. So many near falls and with the pacing and story they were telling, the crowd bought into every single one.
This made the finish all the more brilliant as well, despite using my most hated move in all of wrestling: the roll-up.
This is the most overdone and overpowered move in all of the modern wrestling by a large margin. However, when used correctly, it just fits so well. Such was the case here; after this hard-fought match, Sky managed to just squeeze out a victory. Kazarian watched his back as the ref’s hand hit for three. They left it all on the line, so having this end it and make both teams look like the gatekeepers of this division was the exact right move to make here.
It also sets up the inevitable rematches to come, and that could definitely one up this match if given the chance. For as great as this was, we have seen better matches from both teams as this list will show. But that doesn’t really speak to the match itself as much as it speaks for the rest of them. Get these two teams back in the ring in 2020 with even more familiarity and chemistry, and they’ll be instant magic. Guaranteed.
3. Best Friends vs. Private Party vs. SCU (AEW Fyter Fest)
Cheating just a bit from my internal rules, I had to include a pair of triple threat tag team matches within AEW Top Tag Matches. This was due to their sheer exceptional quality. Despite not being a traditional tag match (including very little actual tagging, admittedly) these two contests were such spectacles. As a result, ignoring them in a list like this would’ve felt blasphemous.
The second of the two exceptions to the rule came at Fyter Fest with the Best Friends taking on Private Party and SCU. And this was even better than the Full Gear contest, with cohesion and chemistry adding to an already big match. Fighting for a first-round bye in the tag tournament for the AEW World Tag Team Championships, this one had a simple big fight aura from the opening bell.
It also served as the coming-out party for THE Private Party.
The young duo’s every ounce of their combined weight of 24 ounces of vodka and cranberry was poured into this one, and it showed. A signature, maximum hangtime shooting star press from Quen got the crowd going early. This was just one of many other highlights from these two. More unique uses of the trio dynamic were shown. For example, Quen reversed an avalanche german suplex into a hurricanrana/cutter combination.
SCU and the Best Friends were no slouches in this either. They have veteran experience and subsequent wear and tear that is supposed to come with it. They would need to contend with the much more youthful pairing. Thus, they fought as if they were experiencing a rapid (and curious) case of Benjamin Button disease. They fought with a pace and creativity that made them so beloved on the indies. Seeing it on a larger scale stage was a refreshing breath of air, especially after the momentum of AEW’s tag division at Double or Nothing. This was a shining example of the wealth of depth it had in store.
This was easily the best triple threat tag team match I’ve witnessed in a very long time. It has a special place in the heart of a fan who grew up watching (obsessively, some might say) the Hardy Boyz, the Dudleys, and Edge and Christian go to war. This is very much in line with that level of action. This won’t be the last time that comparison will be fitting.
2. Proud-N-Powerful (Santana and Ortiz) vs. Young Bucks (Texas Street Fight, AEW Dynamite 12/11/19)
With all the boiling hot tension built up over so long, we knew this would be intense among the AEW Top Tag Matches. But I don’t think anybody other than the four men in the ring knew what we had in store. This match was set to blow everybody’s expectations and minds in a simultaneous explosion. Fitting that this was the best tag match of Dynamite for the year.
This didn’t even need a ring to get started. The battle going on between these two turned to war immediately. Santana and Ortiz attacked the Bucks as they made their way to the ring. This made much more use of the Texas Street Fight name than just starting there.
Chairs, tables, kendo sticks, Dallas Cowboys helmets, and trashcans were included. These teams were definitely harmed in the making of this classic.
To try to quantify exactly what these men put each other through in a word format is a challenge, to say the least. 450 splashes onto trash cans, superkicks into chairs, and much more were seen. Ultimately, a Meltzer Driver to a chair led to the finish. And that’s not even mentioning the hardware store inventory emptying they did for the tables in this match. There was more broken wood in this match than your average tree farm.
This level of intensity probably could’ve warranted a spot on a pay-per-view, some may argue. But the fact we got this type of action on television is something I will never personally be able to complain about. I want to see good wrestling every time I watch, call me crazy.
The Bucks and PnP equally matched each other’s insanity every single step of the way. Thus, both teams were at a world-class level this night. This match simply had everything going right for it. A great feud with an equally great build-up, mixed with all the talent and creativity, and throw all of that into a good stipulation match and you get an instant classic. And this was nothing short of that.
1. Lucha Bros vs. Young Bucks (Escalera De La Muerte, AEW All Out)
The penultimate example of these two top teams, they have deservedly dominated this list of the AEW Top Tag Matches. It was only fitting that this insane take on the ladder match would define the year. And with how damn good this was, it also worked to define the careers of all those involved as well.
This instantly began harkening memories of October 17th, 1999’s edition of No Mercy. Back then, The New Brood ditched Gangrel and defined themselves as The Hardy Boyz. That first tag team ladder match in WWE’s history would go on to define their careers. It would also set the tone for the eventual wars that would go down when the ladders were put up. AEW’s first tag team ladder match of their history stacked up favorably as a modern version of that coming out party. Poetically, it came just over 20 years and a month past the original. And it all ironically began with a spear.
This was a car crash spotfest in all the best ways possible. If you grew up loving the TLC matches of old, this was exactly up your alley. Personally having watched those matches to death from the time I was a youth, this match had me jumping out of my seat and marking out. I’m not ashamed to admit it, either. That is what great wrestling will do to a wrestling fan, after all. We want to turn the clock back. We want to have those moments the sport had before get retold and redone in new inventive ways. And that is what these teams delivered at All Out.
You could argue there was a lack of selling and psychology on display, but it really didn’t matter.
The spots and pace more than made up for that every step of the way. The ridiculous frenetic nature of the moves firing at every turn only served to make the crowd get more into it as the ante was constantly raised. Tables were being broken left and right, bodies flying, and caution is thrown out the window. This was comparable to a sort of Beethoven-like over-indulgence. It served to tell the symphony’s story that much more clearly. It had a lot going on because it necessitated it for the drama of building to the finish properly.
This was a wrestling masterpiece, painted by artists doing exactly the work they wanted to create. Was it spotty at times? Sure. Could you argue it could have used more selling? Perhaps. Did it make the Jim Cornette types of the world very angry? Absolutely. Was it dangerous and career risking almost to a fault? Definitely.
But none of that matters because the ultimate question still is as follows: was it still the best match of 2019 for AEW’s tag division? Without question, in my book. And as this list has shown, that is no easy feat. These were among the best AEW Top Tag matches of the year.
We will likely be looking back at this match for years to come. Perhaps one day, much like the Hardy Boyz before them, we will look back and say this was only the beginning of a road to a truly special once-in-a-generation type of tag team career. Fenix and Pentagon Jr. could certainly say the same. Being the Edge and Christian of that equation is certainly far from an insult.
Expect these two to similarly continue to blow our minds, much like those pairs started to do 20 years before it. With this example 20 years later, and the 2020s roaring on, this may just be a taste of what brilliance is coming.
But for now, it stands alone on the throne as the top of the 20 for 2020 in the tag team division.
Until Next Time…
It is more than safe to say that tag team wrestling is a huge part of AEW’s mission to revolutionize the sport. Taking their core values of undesirable to undeniable, there is no greater proof of concept of it than this division. Long ignored in the land of singles superstars, AEW saw an opportunity to give back to that community of wrestlers as well as the community who support it.
One needs to look no further than Matt Hardy’s recent (and unfortunately most of his) treatment there to understand how tag teams work in WWE. One becomes the star and gets a single’s push. The other team member becomes un-pushable when the other is not around. AEW is looking to be a home for those lost souls. They have succeeded in proving they have built a solid house for the job. Now we all get to be the house guests in their beautiful home, and what a house warming party 2019 has been.
But that is all for now. Now, the top 10 for the best of the singles division can begin. With so many one-on-one wars throughout the year, there is plenty to dive into.
What were your favorite 10 tag team and singles 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 finale of this series, coming right here on Pro Wrestling Post. These were the top AEW Top Tag Matches of 2019. But, as always, until next time…