In what is easily the most unprecedented thing to happen this year, I’m combing all my year-end listicles into one! This was the inevitable outcome of TV and video games taking up a lot more of my time and interest than movies, with cinema dying on its arse thanks to COVID-19.
So now you get the privilege of getting all my very valuable opinions in one place, starting with films.
- Jingle Jangle: One of three new Christmas movies out on Netflix this year, Jingle Jangle has a good cast (Forest Whittaker, Keegan-Michael Key) but little else, with really grating songs and a predictable plot.
- The Christmas Chronicles 2: Two of three new Christmas movies out on Netflix this year, Christmas Chronicles 2 is a wholly disappointing follow-up to the very likeable original. Kurt Russel as Handsome Santa is still fun to watch, but the film succumbs to “Minion Syndrome”, doubling down on the CGI, Gremlin-like elves from the first movie which dominate everything.
- Holidate: Three of three new Christmas movies out on Netflix this year, Holidate is a very by the numbers rom com based on two people so desperate not to appear alone at their families many and various holiday get togethers that they agree to appear as a fake couple. YoU’Ll NeVeR gUeSs HoW iT eNdS!!!1! It did at least spark this gem of a Pitch Intense episode.
- The Secret Garden: This is a written article bonus, because I only remembered it the day after we recorded the podcast version of this list. And it’s because this movie is a void. Nothing happens. NOTHING happens. At all. This isn’t bad because it has nothing good, it’s bad because it’s devoid of anything. I can’t tell you a plot point other than “there is a garden”.
Worst Film of 2020 - Hubie Halloween
Pixar had a solid if unspectacular year, releasing Onward theatrically and Soul on Disney+. Both feel destined to become middle of the road efforts from the lauded animation studio, outdone in what they are trying to do (explore death) by previous Pixar masterpiece Coco. Big Daddy Disney also put Hamilton on Disney+, which I am thankful for just for introducing me to “You’ll Be Back”.
I threw Netflix under the bus above, but they also brought out Enola Holmes, a great showcase of just how good Millie Bobby Brown is outside of Stranger Things. I also want to give a shout out to Bill and Ted Face the Music for sticking the landing better than most long gestating comedy sequels do.
Finally, Tenet. As much as there is to admire technically, it is undeniably a movie far too far up its own arse to be likeable. Movies shouldn’t leave you with headaches.
Blurb - Several young mutants are rounded up and put in a facility that seemingly wants to “help” them, but all isn’t what it seems.
Reasons - As I mentioned on the recorded version of this list, everything outside of the top 3 is on a level and completely interchangeable. So what did New Mutants get the nod? Why lie - I have a bias towards the X-Men, and why start apologising now?! I do genuinely like this movie, and the fact it was the first movie I watched after lockdown may have played into that. But the biggest praise I can give it is that I’m genuinely disappointed this won’t get a sequel - the character dynamics and interesting setup were ripe for further exploration.
Best Bit - I mean it’s exactly as funny as I hoped to see Cannonball flying around in this otherwise sombre, serious movie.
Blurb - Sega’s famous mascot makes his big screen debut, solving all problems by running really quite fast.
Reasons - The upward trajectory of this film is quite something - the first abomination of a trailer made it seem this was going to be as bad as all other Sonic media since the early 90s. But the finished product is a big surprise. It doesn’t do anything new, but a committed Jim Carrey will get any movie most of the way there in my book anyway.
Best Bit - Dr Robonik first meeting Sonic and just screaming at him, which is the most realistic reaction anyone in the movie has.
Blurb - Investigative journalist Lloyd (Matthew Rhys) is sent to interview famous kids TV presenter Mr Rogers (Tom Hanks) to see if he is as sweet and innocent as he appears.
Reasons - I think we all breathed a sigh of relief at the end of this film when the question of “Is Mr Rogers all he seems?” was a nice, straight forward “Yes” - God knows there are plenty of kids TV show hosts who wouldn’t come out looking as rosy under similar scrutiny. But as it turns out, Mr Rogers is a secondary character in his own film, as the real person undergoing examination of Matthew Rhys’ Lloyd.
We see how the simple teachings in Mr Rogers’ Neighbourhood resonate with more serious issues that are taking place in Lloyd’s real life, running parallel to his profiling of the beloved kid’s entertainer. It’s a very heartwarming film about the power of positivity, and remembering no one is perfect - an unexpectedly poignant message considering the year we just had!
Best Bit - Mr Rogers explaining why he doesn’t shy away from tougher subjects on his show.
Blurb - Jojo is a dyed in the wool member of the Hitler Youth in the dying days of WW2, sticking to his nazi ideals even as he finds a Jewish girl hiding in his attic who keeps disarming him.
Reasons - That blurb admittedly doesn’t sound like a great setup for a comedy, but Jojo Rabbit is very adept at playing its concept up for both laughs and gasps. It revels like all good parody movies do in the tunnel vision of its characters, from young Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) and his childish interpretations of Jewish people, to Stephen Merchant’s overly bureaucratic member of the Gustapo, all the way up to Taika Waitit’s over the top Hitler.
And yet it does that wonderful thing that Four Lions does - you allow yourself to believe this is just a silly comedy, and then you are clattered over the head with a realisation of where you are, namely in the middle of Nazi Germany. That is what elevates up this high - striking that balance deserves a lot of praise.
Best Bit - Anything with Yorki in, as it answers the question “What if Milhouse was a nazi”.
Blurb - Two soldiers are given an urgent mission to save a whole battalion from falling into a trap. Cardio ensues.
Reasons - I do believe that, even in a normal year, this wouldn’t have been dislodged from the top spot it has held onto since January 10th. A brilliantly devised “one shot” set up that, far from just being an impressive storytelling medium, allows for both fantastic action and acting. The tension is never removed, only increasing and decreasing as Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) and Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) trek across war torn France to deliver their message.
It’s easily the best war movie since Saving Private Ryan, and feels primed to become just as revered, used as an example of both the horrors and heroism of war for years to come.
Best Bit - Thanks to the continuous nature of the film, I could by rights say “all of it”, but instead I’ll plug for the minutes immediately following the boys being told what their mission is. The juxtaposition of the fearful Scofield chasing after the utterly focussed Blake is excellently conveyed with hardly any dialogue.
Watching awful TV is something of a rarity in my house, as I have the sacred “3 episodes” rule - if something doesn’t grab you in the first 3 episodes, you are more than within your rights to walk away. This means, unlike films, I don’t have a long list to choose from here (hence the lack of honorable mentions).
But undoubtedly this is the worst show I’ve watched all year. This Al Pacino fronted “Nazi Hunters in the 70s” show had a lot of promise, and has a blinding opening scene with Dylan Baker’s US politician / deep cover nazi agent. But it starts rolling down hill pretty quick after that.
It’s gradual at first - like the “Staying Alive” musical scene being interrupted by a nightmare vision of a Jewish POW. But slowly but surely the groan-inducing moments get worse, culminating in a gameshow scene so awfully unsubtle that it was enough for me to stop the episode immediately and never look back.
Put it this way - after a scene showing Nazis using Jewish people as human chess pieces, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum criticised the show for making the Nazis - the NAZIS - TOO evil, saying the depictions where “dangerous foolishness and caricature”, and laid the groundwork to potentially welcome “future deniers”.
On my last count, I finished 25+ series this year. It’s been a blessing that TV stepped up when it needed to. And the variety of good content helped too. Sports documentaries were all the rage this year, particularly those chronicling endings - The Last Dance was an all encompassing cataloging of Michael Jordan’s last season with the Chicago Bulls, while The Last Ride was a warts-and-all documenting of The Undertaker and the unending chase of “the perfect last match”.
Keeping with non-fiction, Race Across the World was a return to the kind of reality TV I like (see one of my all time favourite hidden gems, the 2007 BBC series Last Man Standing, for a similar globe trotting adventure), following several pairs of people as they race from Mexico City to the bottom tip of Argentina in a genuinely tense contest. And I have to give a huge shout out and thank you to pandemic MVP John Oliver, whose Last Week Tonight series was one of the few shows that maintained its quality when the studio audience was dropped.
It wouldn’t be right to not mention New Amsterdam, AKA Jesus Hospital, at this point. It’s second season was actually a bit of a downturn from season 1, but it was never a high quality affair to begin with - I’m in it for the schlock, which it still had in excess. Faring better in their second seasons were What We Do in the Shadows (the “Jackie Daytona” episode may be my favourite of the year), surprisingly good silly comedy Ghosts, and His Dark Materials, which I enjoy despite not really knowing what is going on.
Blurb - The “Riches to Rags” Rose family are on the verge of finally moving out of Schitt’s Creek.
Reasons - I was only introduced to this Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara fronted show in 2019, but it didn’t take long before it became a favourite. It’s strength isn’t necessarily in its jokes, which are still pretty good, but in the way it engraciates its characters to you. There are a lot of resolutions in this final series, but they don’t all end in cliché ways, which speaks to a show that wants to make it’s characters feel like real people rather than stereotypes.
Best Bit - Moira Rose’s pope costume.
Blurb - The only family capable of taking up more focus than the Skywalkers, the Pearson family continue to find ways to make first world problems seem dramatic.
Reasons - If New Amsterdam is passable schlock, This Is Us is super-premium schlock. Taking the fairly tried and tested family drama template and adding in the quirk of jumping between different points in the past, present and future, This Is Us works because of its delicate balance of drama, comedy and warmth, and it’s very strong cast. This vote is more for season 4 though, as season 5 is only half done and off to a so-so start, so there is a chance it won’t be back on this list next year.
Best Bit - The reveal of the future awaiting baby Jack.
Blurb - Following some major revelations at the end of season one, Billy Butcher and the boys are back to make sure the super “heroes” don’t have it all there own way.
Reasons - As with another series on this list, I had the benefit of watching both season 1 and season 2 of The Boys in 2020. Thankfully there isn’t a “weaker” series between them, especially with S2 ramping up the set pieces to help offset the loss of novelty with the status quo set up in S1.
The action is bigger, the stakes are higher, and yet the character work is still stellar. Antony Starr in particular is unbelievably good as Homelander, and is reason enough to watch the show before we get to the rest of the very talented cast.
Best Bit - The Deep and the Whale
Blurb - After being sent back in time to avoid the apocalypse, the scattered members of the Umbrella Academy must find each other and get back to 2020 (they may have wished they didn’t bother).
Reasons - This was soooooo close to top spot. There is barely anything in it. Because Umbrella Academy S2 picks right up where S1 did, both in terms of story and quality. Again, it’s a super strong cast that carries the most weight.
Every character gets the most out of the switch to the 60s, from cults to activists groups. It again balances comedy and emotion, and sets up another good hook for season 3 with the last scene.
Best Bit - The 5 on 5 fight.
Blurb - The Continuing Adventures of the Baby Yoda, and Those Who Assist the Baby Yoda. . . Contines.
Reasons - It was on a knife edge between this and Umbrella Academy . . . right up until the last episode. And that’s almost unfair to Umbrella Academy because no matter what it does, it doesn’t have 30 years worth of nostalgia to tap into, which is all it took for The Mandalorian to pip it at the post.
That’s not to say that The Mandalorian is just nostalgia porn though. S2’s biggest strength is its variety - we get monster hunting on Tatooine, Mandalorian culture clashes, Seven Samurai in space, and about 7 soft launches for future Star Wars TV shows.
But it never loses sight of it’s core story of a man and his “son”, and doing what’s right no matter the cost.
Best Bit - Ooooo that last bit oooooo.
Thankfully, I didn’t play any bad games this year, which is always a positive! By default, Super Mario 64 would be bottom of the list thanks to its inclusion on Super Mario 3D All-Stars, but that’s being unfair to a game that will turn a quarter of a century old next year. That said, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy have stood the test of time!
For once I also got caught up in a hot topic game, which is a rarity for Foul Entertainment as a whole. But Fall Guys was hard to ignore, and as a “time to kill” game it was hard to beat. I’m ashamed to say I never got an overall win, but that petty reason isn’t what is keeping it out of the top 5 - it’s the fact that it burnt out its welcome pretty quick. But still, what a flash in the pan!
At time of writing, I’m still yet to play two games I got for Christmas - Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity and Immortals: Fenyx Rising. Both would likely trouble at least place #5 on the following list, based on the demo I’ve played of Hyrule Warriors, and Mike calling Immortals “The most Darren Gutteridge game ever made”. So keep your eye on Twitter to see if they can dislodge. . .
Blurb - Set after Return of the Jedi and the destruction of the second Death Star, you play as a pilot for both the Rebels and the crumbling Empire. The Rebels are building a super weapon of their own, and the Empire is out to stop them.
Reasons - Being more in the vein of the much maligned Battlefront series than the recent Fallen Order game, I was a little concerned about this latest offering from EA, especially as it went on sale pretty quickly after release. But safe to say it holds up pretty well, thanks to a surprisingly intricate flying system. You are locked into first person, but this is largely to help immerse you in the cockpit controls, which you have to constantly switch between shields, weapons and speed.
I can’t comment on the story just yet as another game on this list meant I had to halt progress just before the last few missions, but this is a worthy successor to the likes of Rogue Squadron on the Gamecube.
Best Bit - Hearing those engines fire up as you shoot into hyperspace after a battle is done.
Blurb - The sequel, AND THE ONLY ONE NO MATTER WHAT ELSE YOU HEARD THANK YOU, to the original Crash trilogy on PS1, Crash 4 sees the Crash and Coco team up with four new masks to take down N Trophy alongside some unlikely allies.
Reasons - God it’s good for Crash to be back. This is an ideal sequel, perfecting the tried and tested core gameplay whilst also adding new welcome additions to it via the masks. All 4 new twists - anti-gravity, slowed time, infinite spinning and phasing - blend in seamlessly, adding to the levels without outstaying their welcome. Also, the (optional) removal of the lives system is fantastic, encouraging experimentation when trying to get past a tricky spot.
The only thing keeping it outside the medal positions is the shaky “guest” character levels. The Tawna levels, introducing a grappling hook to proceedings, are fine, and the simple minded destruction of the Dingodile levels have some charm, but the Neo Cortex levels are just awful, the exact opposite of the tight controls and level design seen everywhere else.
Best Bit - The New Orleans level, Off Beat, may be the best thing in gaming in 2020.
Blurb - Jin Sakai, samurai and nephew to the ruler of the Tsushima provenance, survives the first onslaught of Mongol invasion of Japan, and has to retake his homeland from them, even if it means compromising his ideals.
Reasons - The last of the PS4 first party exclusives, Sony have added yet another 5 star franchise to their ranks in Ghost of Tsushima. Sucker Punch have put out an airtight game that finally gives us the Japanese set Assassin’s Creed game that Ubisoft seemingly don’t want to make. Everything is in service of the overall theme, from the very grounded character portrayals to the stance based combat. There isn’t an ounce of fat on it, with even the side quests that include haiku writing and hot spring meditation feeling 100% authentic.
It really is a toss up between this and the game above over which is better. The major downfall this game has is that its stealth gameplay is abysmal. Jin is a samurai, not a ninja, but its a key plot point that he is abandoning his samurai ideals and being more sneaky. A sequel can sort that all out though, and I for one can’t wait.
Best Bit - The fight against Khotun Khan, in the rain, on a bridge, is straight out of classic samurai cinema.
Blurb - We’re off to Medieval England for the latest in Ubisoft's world/time hopping adventure, as Eivor the viking looking to be the friendly, virtuous settler who also finds time to pillage monasteries.
Reasons - I’ve been nothing but outwardly cruel to this game for the most part. From pointing out how backwards it is to base an entry in the ASSASSIN’S Creed series on the Vikings, not known for their sneaking, up to the awful “circle of birds” graphics that signify synchronisation points. This doesn’t even cover all the semi-frequent bugs in the game that have happened during my playthrough, which started in late October and halted progress on Star Wars Squadrons.
And yet, I sit here 80 hours in, still hungry for more. For all of its flaws, this game gets a lot right. The pacing is really well balanced, with a sprawling storyline concerning Eivor and his Raven Clan (their colours are blue and silver, and there are ravens everywhere, so safe to say we know which Hogwarts house Eivor would be pledging) forging alliances across England. It’s much more character focussed than the disappointing AC: Odyssey, and the side quests are a lot more interesting, often veering into parody and farce - feeding honey to a friendly bear called Winifred for example.
Ghost of Tsushima is a much tighter game technically, and the stealth in Valhalla is just as bad, which should really be a blight on an AC game, but we left stealth behind in Black Flag so I’m kind of used to it. However, I’ve undeniably had more fun playing Valhalla, which has a ridiculous amount of content (entire vision quests featuring full maps of Asgard and Jotunheim are hidden in a random side quest) that I am still obsessively powering through.
Best Bit - Daggering Dag.
Blurb - Picking up a few years after the first game, we find Ellie and Joel living in relative comfort in the hills of Wyoming. However, consequences for their previous actions are catching up with them.
Reasons - I’ve mentioned a few times how much I respect The Last of Us. It wasn’t a game of dizzying levels of “fun”, but it was unbelievably well made, setting new standards of graphics, atmosphere and storytelling. And 6 years later, Part 2 does something very similar.
It pulls no punches in it’s story, which really examines Ellie and her motivations, portraying her choices as both toxic and understandable. It also gives incredible insight into the “antagonist”, who I can’t discuss without spoilers. Naughty Dog have also made improvements to gameplay, removing some of the annoyances of the first game to make it much more enjoyable moment to moment.
The Last of Us seems destined to be a swansong game for whatever system it is on, but that means Sony consoles may be destined to always go out on an artistic highpoint, with a game that showcases everything brilliant about the generation about to be left behind.
Best Bit - The open plan Seattle section really needs to be expanded on in the sequel, as it’s easily the high point of the game.
It’s been a WEIRD year, which for a predetermined sport that features an undead wizard, a demon from hell and vampires is quite a statement. Unfortunately, it’s been the bad kind of weird for the most part.
You may not have been aware that wrestling has been carrying on during the pandemic (if the WWE’s move to BT Sport and ratings collapse is anything to go by). But continue it did, without missing a single week. WWE managed this by getting declared an “essential business” by the state of Florida, where the company has been running empty arena shows out of its Performance Centre near Orlando. In other unrelated news, Vince McMahon’s wife Linda, who is part of the Trump Administration, sanctioned $18.5 million worth of spending in Florida in the same week. I’m sure these two things have nothing to do with each other.
All of that meant that WrestleMania 36 took place as scheduled, albeit split over two nights and without fans. It was a strange spectacle, but it saw several major happenings, including the Undertaker’s last match, the surreal Firefly Funhouse match that saw John Cena essentially deleted from wrestling, and the first British WWE champion crowned, when Drew McIntyre defeated Brock Lesnar.
Things were dodgy (there were several coronavirus outbreaks that were hushed up) but normalising for a while after. In fact, some wrestlers saw their personal stock rise a little thanks to extra time to devote to services like Cameo and Twitch. But far from wanting their wrestlers to earn extra money during a pandemic that saw touring shows stop and merchandise sales drop, WWE told everyone to wrap up everything on 3rd party platforms or face the consequences, on the basis that they owned the wrestler names they were using on these platforms. And also claimed to anyone using their real names that they owned them too. Again, top work.
But they weren’t done plumping the well of awful just yet! WWE also let go of dozens of wrestlers and other behind the scenes employees on the same day, as a “cost saving exercise”. That’s understandable, lots of businesses had to do this during the pandemic. But then most businesses don’t go on to announce record profits just a few weeks later. Again, top, TOP work.
We therefore have to look for positives elsewhere, and the good news can be found in the wider wrestling world. There has never been more places for people to work on a national stage, thanks in no small part to the continued rise of All Elite Wrestling. They too had to stop having fans in attendance, and move to a permanent location, in this case a small amphitheatre called Daily’s Place attached to the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL stadium, owned by AEW owners the Khan family (they also own Fulham football club).
In the last few months, they seem to have called the banners in the fight against the WWE, forging relations with Impact wrestling (formerly TNA), the rejuvenated National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), and maybe even New Japan Pro Wrestling. This kind of synergy has never been seen in the usually tribalistic world of wrestling, so it’s going to be very interesting to see how far it goes.
Really quick, here are 5 stand out matches this year, followed by my complete list of matches worth giving a watch this year. Please excuse the lack of AEW matches - I've not got to the point where I'm invested enough to shell out on their PPVs yet, but some of their tag matches (Young Bucks vs. Page and Omega, Young Bucks vs. #FTR) are apparently out of this world.
This is a multi part entry for Bray Wyatt, who has had a year of ups and downs in his Fiend gimmick. Basically, Bray Wyatt used to be a cult leader character, who hailed from the swamps of Louisiana and wore Hawaiian shirts. He went away for a while and came back as two separate characters - Bray Wyatt the kids TV presenter, very much in the vein of Mr Rogers, and The Fiend, a horror movie monster who is only unleashed for special occasions.
He started the year with a great strap match against Daniel Bryan at the Royal Rumble, before losing the Universal Title to Goldberg in one of the worst matches of the year in Saudi Arabia, which did seem to derail the momentum Wyatt built up over 2019. But then he had a match with John Cena at WrestleMania, called the Firefly Funhouse match, which was essentially an abstract drama production rather than a match. They did a complete teardown of the John Cena character, and WWE at large, pulling no punches in a meta self-criticism for harsh it’s hard to believe it got past the pitching stage, let alone took place at WrestleMania. It needs to be seen to be believed.
Bray went on to be the poster child of 2020’s newest fad - cinematic matches. He would enter into a feud with his former cult member Braun Strowman, who beat Goldberg for the Universal title at WrestleMania. This feud saw a trio of matches, starting with a match against “Mr Rogers” Bray complete with puppets, followed by a swamp fight where Bray reverted back to his cult leader persona, before a final showdown between Strowman and the Fiend at Summerslam.
He finished the year with a Firefly Inferno match against Randy Orton at TLC, which was a decent match right until the last few moments, when a prone Friend was swapped out for a very obvious dummy, which was then set on fire. As I said, it’s been an up and down year, but it certainly hasn’t been dull!
The Women’s division is still going strong in WWE (in fact, AEW’s Women’s division has been it’s only consistent downside), with several strong matches across Raw, Smackdown and NXT in 2020. This was the highlight though, the culmination of a feud years in the making between Bayley and Sasha. At one point in 2020 when they were still best friends, they held every main roster women’s title, only for it all to fall apart after Bayley turned on Sasha, just in time for them to enter Hell in a Cell. They’ve had better matches, including my favourite women’s match of all time at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn (a match I praised so much I made it onto the Wikipedia page for it), but this is still a belter.
Sami Zayn had a fantastic year as the cowardly, conspiratorial IC champion, taking advantage of real life circumstances after being stripped of the title for refusing to work during the first few weeks of the pandemic and turning it into a 6 month run of claiming everyone was “out to get him”. AJ Styles had one the vacated belt, and was then defeated by Hardy just as Sami returned from his hiatus, leading to this decisive three way at Clash of Champions.
It’s a brilliantly worked match, but mainly for Sami operating at peak levels of dickheadedness, working his magic via the medium of handcuffs. He uses the first pair to handcuff Hardy’s pierced earlobe to a ladder, before cuffing himself to Styles as he tries to climb the ladder. He quickly cuffs Styles to the ladder as well, before climbing up and pulling down “his” title. It’s one of the best ladder matches in years between 3 future Hall of Famers, and well worth a watch.
For years, Roman Reigns was the target of scorn from the hardcore fans of WWE. Much like John Cena before him, he was booed heavily, despite being booked as a good guy, because he was perceived to be an “office favourite” and always booked to look nigh-on unbeatable. It really started to be detrimental to the product, but the hate fell by the wayside when in 2018 he was diagnosed with leukemia.
He thankfully made a full recovery, and returned to action in 2019, but he decided to take time off in the initial months of the pandemic, owing to his recent health issues and having newborn twins at home. Everyone thought he would come back unchanged as the incorruptible babyface he has been for years.
We were wrong. Reigns came back as a heel, and it’s hard to express how much better he has been in the last 6 months. He’s taken on a “tribal chief” character, where he is assuming responsibility for his famous wrestling family (which includes people like Rikishi and The Rock). The Uso brothers are also part of this family, and Jey Uso stepped up to face his cousin at Clash of Champions. Roman feigned happiness for his cousin, right up until he beat him up on the Smackdown before the show saying he should just lie down for him at the PPV.
Jey doesn’t, and Roman makes an example of him. Using the silence of the arena to their advantage, Roman and Jey are talking through out, with Roman demanding respect and telling his cousin to acknowledge him as the head of the table, and Jey being defiant. In the end, Jimmy Uso has to throw the towel in for his brother. They followed this up with another match inside Hell in a Cell a month later, which was even more brutal and ended with Jey finally falling in line with his cousin. It’s been the best run of Reigns’ career, and he’s now the most must-see wrestler in the world.
NXT UK was born out of a boom period for UK wrestling, but the industry was rocked by a speaking out movement over the summer that highlighted really bad behaviour from several wrestlers on the brand. The show was off the air at the time, so when it came back, pressure was on to not only get people interested but to wash the bad taste out of people’s mouth.
That pressure fell largely on the shoulders of NXT UK champion Walter, a dominant Austrian who had an iron grip on the title, and Ilja Dragunov, an upstart Russian with pure Rasputin energy. They had history on the independent scene, but this was their first meeting on TV, and had been set up before the lockdown so anticipation had been building for months.
And what we got was the most brutal match possibly in WWE history. It wasn’t violent in the same way that hardcore matches are - there were no chairs, tables or ladders to be found. Instead this was violent like a bare knuckle boxing match. These two beat the tar out of each other. Ilja’s chest starts bleeding from blunt force trauma alone. It’s borderline unwatchable at times, but the realism is what burns it into your memory. NXT UK may not be long for this world after the year it endured, but it can at least say it played host to the best match of 2020.
- Cinematic Matches
- Undertaker vs AJ Styles, Boneyard Match [WM36]
- “Climb the Corporate Ladder” Money in the Bank matches [Money in the Bank]
- Gargano vs. Ciampa, One Final Beat [NXT TV]
- Cameron Grimes vs. Dexter Lumis, Haunted House oh Horrors [Halloween Havoc]
- Men’s Royal Rumble
- Any Keith Lee vs. Dominik Dijakovic match
- Adam Cole vs. Keith Lee, NXT Title vs. NXT North American Title [NXT TV]
- Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins [WM36]
- Edge vs Randy Orton [Backlash]
- Timothy Thatcher vs. Matt Riddle in a Fight Pit [NXT TV]
- Best Friends vs. Santana and Ortiz [AEW TV]
- NXT North American title ladder match [NXT Takeover 30]
- Candice LeRae vs. Io Shirai, NXT Women’s Title ladder match [Halloween Havoc]
- Finn Balor vs. Kyle O’Reilly, NXT Title [NXT Takeover 31]
- Becky Lynch vs Asuka, Raw Women's Title [Royal Rumble]
- Both War Games matches [NXT Takeover War Games]
- Imperium vs Undisputed Era [World’s Collide]
- UE vs Broserweights [NXT Takeover Portland]
- Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre [Survivor Series]