Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Young Bucks - The Wrestling Observer Tag Team of the Decade & My Favorite Tag Team Of All Time

Just yesterday, The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) were awarded the prestigious honor of being named the Tag Team of the Decade by Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer Newsletter. As someone who's been a fan of them for the better part of the past decade, I was ecstatic to hear this news. I can't think of any team who has been more consistent or made equal or close to the impact of Matt and Nick.

With that in mind, I felt super compelled to share a few words about The Young Bucks and what they've meant to me as a wrestling fan.

Around 2008-2010, I got completely uninvested in wrestling. I was in that weird spot of being a kid/pre-teen that still "believed" and being a teen/young adult that understood but still appreciated what I was watching. Around 2011, CM Punk came along and shocked the wrestling world and effectively re-peaked my interest into wrestling and this time, I dove deep.

After researching where Punk came from, I learned about the Independent Wrestling scene and soon discovered a company called Pro Wrestling Guerrilla in/around 2012. And through discovering Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, I discovered the Young Bucks and I was hooked.

Through every canal on the internet, The Bucks were praised so when I finally got to see them, expectations were there, but I can firmly say that they were met and exceeded. I had never seen such fluidity, creativity, and such a unique showcase of charisma. I was mesmerized. I soon began keeping up with PWG and the Young Bucks regularly through the years 2013-2015 along with backtracking and watching all that I had missed from my new favorite tag team.

This also was a time in my life where I was very lost and depressed, having just graduated high school and had no real direction in life. It was also around the time I started reviewing stuff on this blog and all related outlets. And needless to say, having wrestling and The Young Bucks/PWG in particular is what kept my head afloat because every month or so, I had the joy of awaiting the next PWG announcement, result, and ultimately the DVD of the show I had just spent weeks trying to find more and more info on. This is where The Young Bucks impacted me on a personal level because on every one of those shows, they were a focal point and blew me away/made me mark out all over again.

To top it all off, I began watching shoot interviews they did with friend and fellow wrestler Kevin Steen (Owens) and soon came to discover how cool & genuine of people they seemed to be. This made the admiration I had for them grow further and watching Bullet Club blow up and them eventually become the biggest thing in pro wrestling and making it into Hot Topic, etc - felt like watching two people I knew personally despite never meeting them or speaking to them in my life. And to me, I feel like that's part of what makes wrestling so special.

None the less, fast forward to March of 2019, with rumors of The Bucks helping front a new wrestling company to go live on national television, they were also embroiled in a feud in NJPW with two of my other top favorites - Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi. And with this already being a dream match, I had for many years, all the backstory that went along with it just topped it off completely. I'll go into more details later, but this match was perfect in my eyes. And although I'm no acclaimed wrestling critic, this was the first match I went the full five on since Cena/Punk at MITB 2011. It was that freaking good and it was then where I thought to myself after looking back at their prior body of work and where they are now, that The Young Bucks truly are my favorite tag team of all time and possibly the greatest tag team of all time.

And the fact that even after that moment they've went on to form All Elite Wrestling with Tony Khan and Cody Rhodes which has been a definite success and continues to grow, I don't think anyone can take an argument like that lightly. AEW is the first company to rival WWE on national television with this much prominence since WCW and to think that The Young Bucks own a share and had a massive part in that tops off their already illustrious catalog of great matches and accomplishments.

The Young Bucks changed wrestling and deserve all the recognition that they are getting.

With all that in mind, I tried to keep the first part of this pretty short & to the point because the crux of this column is naming down my Top 10 Favorite Young Bucks matches. Ten that I love and will re-watch forever and hopefully show my kids one day and ten that I feel like solidify them as the best tag team of the past 10 years.

This list was very hard to make. It is completely personal so I'm sure some people will have objections and that's totally cool. That's what makes wrestling and things fun! But I tried to pick half based on my personal preference and also tried to do a list that would showcase all their different aspects/roles over the years that make them so versatile and GREAT. And no, I didn't organize this list solely by my star ratings, so there will be some that are higher with lower ratings than the one before it and vice versa.

10) The Young Bucks vs. The Hardys - Ladder War - ROH: Supercard of Honor - April 1st, 2017

Starting things off with this dream match. The Bucks and The Hardys had several matches around this time period, but this was my favorite and the highest of stakes. WrestleMania weekend. ROH Tag Title Match. The Jackson's and The Hardy's. It's glorious. Jeff & Matt had long endorsed The Bucks as the leaders of the next generation of tag team wrestling so to see them go at it was epic every time and is something that every fan should go out of their way to see if they haven't already.

My rating - ****

9) The Young Bucks (c) vs. Kevin Steen & El Generico - PWG World Tag Team Title Match - PWG: DDT4 2013 - January 12th, 2013

Now, this one was tough. The Bucks had many awesome matches with Steen & Generico over the years, but my favorite took place in 2009 at the Battle of Los Angeles so I felt it would be unfair to the point of this article to put it on here. So, I "settled" for a match that is totally different from the BOLA 2009 match that I love so much. That match was balls to the wall hatred. This was deeper. This had hatred and was balls to the wall on several occassions, but this meant something more. El Generico was on his way out the door of PWG. For years, his biggest rivals (besides Big Kev) were The Young Bucks. They bullied him and took every chance they could to embarrass him. So on this final night, Generico found the common ground with former partner and more recently, rival, Kevin Steen to go after The Bucks and their tag team titles in PWG's DDT4 Tag Team Tournament. In the final round, destiny fell as it ended up being Steen & Generico somehow co-existing to challenge The Bucks in heart-wrenching battle for the good guy to go out on top. The Bucks were the perfect cocky, cheap heels that made you want to see them get their ass kicked. Generico was beloved and to see him go out losing was absolute heartbreak. This match ruled and showcased yet another facet to what makes The Bucks so great. The emotion in the building from the fans to referee Rick Knox to Excalibur on commentary complimented the story told in the ring perfectly.

My rating - ****1/4

8) The Young Bucks (c) vs. Ricochet & Matt Sydal vs. Lucha Bros (Pentagon Jr & Rey Fenix) - PWG World Tag Team Title Match - PWG: Nice Boys Don't Play Rock N Roll - March 18th, 2017

I think this pick may get the most questions or flack. The Bucks have had matches with these two teams, especially the Lucha Bros, that were on a higher scale and got more rave reviews, but this to me is the perfect example of good ol' Young Bucks tag team PWG fun. I remember first watching this and brought me back to the 2009-2013 prime days of PWG except with some new faces to freshen things up a bit. Non stop action, a hot ass crowd, and The Young Bucks being The Young Bucks. I think this one deserves it's spot on this list and deserves a watch (or re-watch) if you've never seen it.

My rating - ****1/4

7) The Young Bucks vs. Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley vs. Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian (c) - Ladder War for the ROH World Tag Team Titles - ROH: All Star Extravaganza 6 - September 30th, 2016

Back to the character work brilliance of the Young Bucks here. Much like in the previously covered Bucks/Steenerico match, The Bucks are the shit eating grin heels going against the tag team that influenced them tremendously and pioneered the style they perfected (MCMG) and the defending champions whom stated how important this match was to them in pre-match promos. Chris Daniels in particular knocked the entire build and match itself out of the park. He was the veteran that was scraping and clawing to keep his titles and relevance. The Bucks are the perfect, cocky young gun counterparts for that. This was absolutely fucking nuts and filled with crazy action and emotion. Everything a quality tag team wrestling ladder match should be and then some. This also belongs here because like I said, MCMG were the predecessors to the Bucks on the Indies and much like The Hardy's match, this is a dream match of sorts where past meets present. And although Bucks/MCMG have had other two on two matches that highlight their feud/chemistry better, the whole story told here I felt superseded all of that. Classic that I feel is often overlooked.

My rating - ****3/4

6) The Young Bucks (c) vs. El Generico & Paul London vs. Dustin & Brandon Cutler - Ladder Match for the PWG World Tag Team Titles - PWG: SEVEN - July 30th, 2010

Speaking of forgotten matches, here we have a GEM. 2010 Pro Wrestling Guerrilla was some shit. Bucks were nose deep in their schtick at this point with the PWG fans recently turning on them thus forcing them to embrace the character traits that made them who they are. Generico & London are the biggest babyfaces in the promotion and The Cutlers trained with the Bucks but have now become their rivals. I'll never forget watching this and seeing Generico do his signature flying DDT over the fucking bar and into the crowd. This was just absolute bonkers & fun and I feel like one of the most important matches in early prime PWG. I first saw this on the PWG Sells Out 3 DVD comp when I began backtrack binging PWG so it holds a special place in my heart like everything on that compilation.

Match rating - ****1/2

5) The Young Bucks vs. Adam Cole & Kyle O'Reilly vs. Super Smash Bros (c) - PWG Tag Team Title Ladder Match - PWG: Threemendous III - July 21st, 2012

This is the classic. If you hear about PWG or The Bucks, you've heard about this one. To me, it's the match that put both parties on the map big time and over delivered on being a successor to the Bucks/Generico & London/Cutlers Ladder Match buzz from 2010. SSB (now known as Dark Order) were on a super hot run fresh from Canada wowing American audiences for the first time. Southern California/PWG in particular is where they wowed people the most though and matches like this are why. And then you had Cole & O'Reilly who were super young and loved by the fans (Cole... loved by the fans... baby face... imagine that so savor this one). And of course, The Bucks were the only despised ones in the bunch, but the audience couldn't help but cheer in moments like Nick turning a ladder tipping over to the outside spot into a fucking springboard plancha to the floor.

Match rating - ****3/4

4) The Young Bucks & Adam Cole vs. Candice LeRae, Rich Swann, & AR Fox - PWG: BOLA 2013 Night Two - August 31st, 2013

This is another one that holds a special place in my heart. But I also feel like it is a classic standing on it's own regardless. In this match, they solidified a partnership between The Bucks & Cole that would come forth later in the night with the formation of the Mount Rushmore stable. Something that was foreshadowed phenomenally here. Plus, this is the match that took Candice LeRae from "that one woman that wrestles on PWG shows sometimes" to the literal most popular wrestler in the entire promotion who would dominate the storylines for nearly the next entire calendar year. Not to mention, how much it boosted Cole's stock and depth by partnering with the Bucks. It made the audience fully invest in hating the Panama City Playboy. I will never ever get tired of re-watching this match and what would take place at the end of this show.

Match rating - ****3/4

3) The Young Bucks (c) vs. Adam Cole & Kyle O'Reilly - PWG Tag Team Title Match - PWG: Steen Wolf - October 23rd, 2011

My oh my. This was the first PWG match that blew me away. The first show I ever bought was Steen Wolf and this was the co-main event. It was my first time seeing The Bucks and also my introduction to Cole & O'Reilly. I was mind blown on every front. With The Bucks move-set and in-ring presence and with Cole & O'Reilly insane hybrid style of offense. All of these things combined with the super hot crowd that was super eager for something new outside of the Young Bucks popping hard for Cole & O'Reilly made this an easy must-see match that I think holds up to this day and will always be high on any match list of my own.

Match rating - ****1/2

2) The Young Bucks vs. Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi - NJPW/ROH: Strong Style Evolved - March 25th, 2019

For years and years, I dreamed of seeing The Young Bucks vs. The Golden Lovers. And when Omega joined Bullet Club, I almost gave up hope on seeing that. Especially when he partnered with The Bucks to form The Elite. Then they pulled one of their magical cards like always and proceeded to develop the most intriguing storyline in wrestling arguably since Punk/Cena. The dissension of the Bullet Club and the Elite had it's ups and downs, but this was a definite high point that was knocked out of the park. All the layers and call backs and build from Omega costing Ibushi the belt in 2015, to Ibushi being injured and Omega making his rise while he was gone only to fall at the 2017 G1 Finals and find his old lover and friend backstage waiting for him only to brush him off. And from that moment, every segment that built more and more towards Omega knowing where his home was.. with Ibushi. Cody manipulating the Bucks into turning on Omega and making this personal and almost a traitor like issues. The jealousy and battle for supremacy. This was epic in every sense of the word. Omega hoisting up Matt mid-match for the one winged angel and hesitating with sadness in his eyes only for Matt to put Kenny's hand in place and yell "just give it to me, Kenny" - that is a moment that I will remember forever. This is a match that will live on for years and years to come and I believe anyone could be shown this and get emotionally invested. A true work of art and The Young Buck's finest offering to date.

My rating - *****

1) The Young Bucks vs. Kenny Omega & Hangman Adam Page (c) - AEW Tag Team Title Match - AEW: Revolution - February 29th, 2020

Okay, so this match just happened so it's a liittle weird reviewing it again without saying the same stuff that I already said. But to me, this is almost the perfect Young Bucks match? With that in mind, I initially had this at #2 bc of my love for Bucks/Golden Lovers, but after much thought and re-watch, this can't be anything less than #1. And I say that for a litany of reasons. The Bucks have become enough of an attraction where they aren't necessarily heel or face, which can sometimes be tough to pull off, but they kill it every time and in this case, they turned their heel side up more so than being tweeners and got the crowd to boo them from bell to bell because of how much Hangman Page is beloved right now. There were so many pieces of story told in this. Callbacks to the Golden Lovers, the teasing of a Page turn, and so much more. This was just a masterpiece of storytelling and the epitome of how versatile the Young Bucks have become. Almost like their final form, so to speak. To me all the matches on this list made this match so spectacular. All the roles and experiences and moments that made The Young Bucks into the best tag team in the world today and into what you saw in this match. And what you saw in this match was just that - the best tag team in professional wrestling in their prime. Five stars.

My rating - *****

Thank you to Matt & Nick for the past 10 years and beyond. It's been a rollercoaster ride of joy watching you grow into the best tag team that wrestling has possibly ever seen and I'm proud to call you my favorite tag team of all time.

Thanks for reading and be sure to follow me on twitter @ethvnlxwis and this blog @thepwtruth <3

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