WHAT IS A HOOT: A Journey Of Hoots Through The Years

Sam DiMascio
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[A hoot is] a match that breaks the conventional logic and structure of a wrestling match, and is good. – Skylar

Skylar is half right which is better than usual. I have never felt a hoot was just one thing. My gut says that a hoot is a match that surprises and delights you. There is a bit of shock to the whole thing. I started using hoot over a decade ago not for matches that were unequivocally great but more for matches that hit that pleasure center in a certain way. Often making me drool, my brain shutting off, tapping into my more primal instincts in what is fun and cool.

That’s not science though. That isn’t exactly backed up by any facts. Luckily, a group of individuals has designated a list of hoots of the Year from 2015-2018 and 2023. I’ll be going year by year to see 1) what are some core elements of the matches selected and 2) has the meaning of hoot changed over time. Attempting not to go into this exercise believing any certain way with how this will go

THROUGH THE YEARS

2015 (Always Bury Tanners)

  1. Joe Gacy vs. Nick Gage (GCW 5/16/15)
  2. Doc Gallows vs Kota Ibushi (NJPW 3/5/15)
  3. Speedball vs. Danny Cannon (Beyond 7/26/15)

Hard to start here. We cover some of the main variety of hoots off the bat. 

#3 is a Super Indy sprint that featured someone who was becoming That Dude in Speedball Mike Bailey (still on the rise himself) and then the coming out party for someone who came and went like a shooting star in Danny Cannon. And that is part of the rub, hoots I consider to exist in context a lot more than even how I would approach matches. The set-up alone of Danny Cannon being a complete novelty is essential. 

Next, we have Doc versus Ibushi, sure! Big against little is an easy-hoot formula. You have someone who can take bumps and someone who can dish it out. I wonder what Krule could pull off in NJPW. Would that send them to a new boom period? Doc has the “I throw good punches” boots on which, once again, easy way into hearts and minds. This sort of match happening in the first round of the New Japan Cup, not something you see coming. 

The winner is deserved strictly because it is a fun match at a music festival that features a Portajohn spot. A match (or match structure I guess) happening in a promotion you don’t expect is one thing, but when it happens in a location you don’t expect, using the environment in a specific way, that has hoot written all over it.

Hard to come out of this first year with huge insights. Feels like it is a trio of matches I would serve up to show how hoots can have variety.

2016 (Formerly Known As Always Bury Tanners)

  1. Alabama Doink vs. Heidenreich (AWF 5/21/16)
  2. Joey Lynch vs. Gunner Miller (SCI 8/6/16)
  3. James Ellsworth vs. AJ Styles (WWE 11/22/16)

James Elseworth being outed as a creep notwithstanding, the ladder match is wacky. All-time great, AJ Styles, wrapping up his first year in WWE feuding with indie wrestling nobody from the DMV, James Elseworth, on national TV. And we get this tight little smoke and mirrors match. You can’t hide that Elseworth isn’t terribly good (someone is going to lie and say he was actually good at being pathetic but that’s a state of being for him, not a skill) but you can try and avoid engaging with it.

Then we get to a genre of hoot that I think we probably overvalued throughout the years. The high-energy sprint. I love it as a genre of match but going through everything so far, all these other matches still surprise me. Time has treated them well with the novelty factor. Sprints? That’s good wrestling but maybe not a hoot. The case at the time was that Gunner Miller shat the bed on night one of the Scenic City Invitational when this was supposed to be his coming out weekend. And this match undoes all the baggage and probably benefits from how shitty his opening-round match went. That is where I can see the angle of surprise and delight sentiment. You couldn’t reasonably expect this dude still early in his wrestling career to have any sort of confidence to not fuck up this tightly tuned match. But he doesn’t and Joey Lynch bumps like a freak to make sure that he does everything in his power to make this moment stick.

Alabama Doink and HEIDENREICH might be the ultimate hoot. Every aspect of this match feels plucked out a fever dream. Mid-2000s WWE wrestler who has ramped up the racism from his previous gimmick? Check. Local wrestler, who is one of the 100s of people who have stolen the Doink gimmick but has become known as Alabama Doink through sheer internet force of will? That’s a check. Does the match feel like it is a parade working its way down Main Street? Check from the goddamn heavens. It is an impossible match that bashes at every sense of your brain. No part of this match attempts to fall into Great Match Theory. It is a match for the people.

In hindsight, Joey versus Gunner stands out as the most “product of its time”. That Scenic City Invitational is one of the best wrestling tournaments ever, and this was a pivotal match in how that whole tournament felt. Multiple folks on the panel were live for the match so I suppose I can’t blame us too much for the hoot factor. Live, coming off a night of diner food, sure that match fries your brain. Lumped in with the Elseworth ladder match and Doink against Heidenreich, hard to see it standing out truly.

2017 (Formerly Known As Always Bury Tanners 3)

  1. Drew McIntyre vs Oney Lorcan (NXT 4/12/17)
  2. Iron Kid vs. Demus (Lucha Memes 6/18/17)
  3. Tank vs. Matt Riddle (SCI 8/4/17)

Sorry in advance, this year is going to get the shaft. The first couple of years I think give us the framework of a hoot, and everything from here is essentially me putting things into those types of buckets. This year more than the others doesn’t have the hoopla, the pizazz, the fireworks, the smoke and mirrors, the sauce that the other years have. All these matches are good to great. The hot take is that Drew is one of the best sub-10-minute wrestlers since he debuted. That itself doesn’t make a hoot though. Demus versus Iron Kid has The Spot, so I’ll give it a pass. Honestly, The Spot of Demus catching Iron Kid on a tope and tossing him into a pole might be a case of using odd structures in a match helping the hootness. Refer to this later for science.

Then there is Tank versus Riddle. In the “oh he sucks as a person” and the “oh he sort of never captured that aura”, I don’t think this would place anywhere near the list now. Deathmatch legend and a former UFC fighter is an on-paper hoot. Huge in the hoot discourse is Styles Make Fights. When you get a Boxer vs. Puncher match, that’s a Lenny Lenard stamp of approval type hoot. As a match…it doesn’t capture that same vibe. Riddel was starting to turn into a more typical Good Wresler at this part and lost the edge of still learning on the job. 

None of the matches break the formula, but also not enough variety to say we are zeroing in on things. Tank versus Riddle at least on paper gives the impression that opposing ideologies with wrestling help produce hoots. Maybe.

2018 (Formerly Known As Always Bury Tanners 4)

No matches for 2018 were available legally, free, and in full
  1. Marko Stunt vs Kyle The Beast (GCW 8/17/18)
  2. Masashi Takeda vs Kazusada Higuchi vs Konosuke Takeshita vs MAO (DDT 7/3/18)
  3. Joey Lynch vs PCO (SCI 8/4/18)

I get where our heads were at…but it doesn’t feel right. Bad mouthfeel here. 

It is absurd but do PCO and Joey Lynch put together a hoot? A couple of wacky bumps, weird structure, and out within ten minutes. I was there live so maybe in 2018 I was in the damn bag for this one. Maybe I should blame the clearly biased Dylan Hales. The moonsault segment is quirky. I haven’t completely turned on the match, some didn’t like it at all at the time, but it doesn’t align with my core hoot values.

The DDT 4-way is tough. I think it clears on what we have learned so far. Oddball mix of talent that clicks, hitting someone with a van, and literally showing ass. Did I mention fireworks? Fireworks too.

We’ve seen enough hoots on these lists were throwing heaters has led to hoot rankings that Higuchi does his part to bomb away at folks. Only issue is it’s long. Not only are there not any down moments but with MAO involved there is no way you could make any logical conclusions on where the match goes. I’m being an idiot. This clearly is a hoot, there are too many gags that work to not be one.

The winner reeks of rose-colored glasses. Sure, Stunt and KTB is a fun match. A minor hoot all in all though. GCW felt like a promotion of the moment, everything felt hot. You have Stunt getting the Good Brother praise off of SCI weekend, might as well outright say grade on a curve. I’m a fan of weird bodies so there is something about Stunt being stuck in a child’s body for the rest of his life. Do we not ask better of hoots?

Only giving the DDT match the pass this year, I don’t think the other matches actually say anything other than we do not shy from bias but also do not acknowledge them as much as we should.

2023 (Formerly Known As Always Bury Tanners 5)

  1. Savio Vega vs. Pedro Portillo III (IWA: PR 12/6/23)
  2. Le Soudeur Fou vs Amos Deen vs Jack Sans-Nom vs Mojito vs Skaar vs Rafael Belmont (Rixe 07/15/23)
  3. Jon Moxley & Claudio Castagnoli vs. Michael Nakazawa & Brandon Cutler (AEW 4/12/23)

Listen to How We Got Here

The freshest of years. Tanner said it was our best top 3 ever. Not sure I agree with it but certainly captures the feeling from those first two years. Not to say the top 3 need to have variety, the top hoots are the top hoots after all…but maybe a little forced variety ain’t so bad. 

A bloody top guy heel beatdown of the lackey pals of their enemies on national TV. hoots often rise up via the situation. Put this type of match in GCW or even TNA, doesn’t carry as much weight. There needs to be that feeling of “Oh this isn’t supposed to happen here”. hoots need that surprise factor.

Weirdly for that reason, this Rixe match might not hold up nearly as well in a few years as a Hoot of the Year. Not saying it isn’t sick as all get out, but this worked for us all in part because we know such little about Rixe. A junkyard match in Zona23 is just a match, in Rixe (or more importantly in France), it is something different. The only reason that this might hold up even as we all dig deeper into these sick freaks who cave each other’s heads in on windshields is that there is a car driving spot. I have on good authority that a car driving spot skyrockets your chances to become a hoot.

The winner of this year though…it is a Doink versus Heidenreich level of pure hoot. Put this one right in your veins and lose your sense of reality. Former WWF star Savio Vega who was and continues to be a big name in his home promotion of IWA: Puerto Rico. Not the size of the crowd that Vega got at Backlash but it will certainly do as these fans are here for the love of wrestling.

There are buckets of blood which is always helpful here, that said the real thing is the sphere. Talked about with a few matches but once you introduce a weird structure into your match and effectively use it, you move to the top of the list. This isn’t just using something that is there though. I want to see an Eric Bischoff talking about the Elimination Chamber type video on this sphere. This mass of metal that has no issues fitting a couple of wrestlers in there with a surplus of bullshit to hit each other with inside. They maximized the inside use of the space and then go to the top to spit fire??? If you attempt to say a bad word about this match I will end you.

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED

Did we learn a damn thing here? Five years, fifteen matches, what do they share? It still mostly boils down to a shock and awe factor. Surprise and delight. That is too simplistic though for all of this. I’ve essentially boiled this down to four buckets. I’ve cheated slightly as some matches exist in multiple buckets. I only think that goes to show you can achieve salvation through multiple means.

No Fat

  1. Speedball vs. Danny Cannon (Beyond 7/26/15)
  2. Joey Lynch v.Gunner Miller (SCI 8/6/16)
  3. Iron Kid vs. Demus (Lucha Memes 6/18/17)
  4. Drew McIntyre vs Oney Lorcan (NXT 4/12/17)
  5. Jon Moxley & Claudio Castagnoli vs. Michael Nakazawa & Brandon Cutler (AEW 4/12/23)
  6. Joey Lynch vs. PCO (SCI 8/4/18)
  7. James Ellsworth vs AJ Styles
  8. Marko Stunt vs Kyle The Beast (GCW 8/17/18)

This one is simple. A match that is so straightforward a literal baby could make heads or tails of the thing. Forget about nuance, everything is on the box here. That might mean going 100 MPH or a story that is as simple as sugar. No matter what they got to be short, under ten minutes the goal. Over half the matches fit in this bucket. Anyone who knows anything is not surprised by this. It certainly helps toward hootness when the mind doesn’t have a second to wander.

Styles Make Fights

  1. Doc Gallows vs Kota Ibushi (NJPW 3/5/15)
  2. James Ellsworth vs. AJ Styles (WWE 11/22/16)
  3. Marko Stunt vs Kyle The Beast (GCW 8/17/18)
  4. Tank vs. Matt Riddle (SCI 8/4/17)
  5. Joey Lynch vs. PCO (SCI 8/4/18)

When wrestlers that at their core are diametrically opposed to one another get in the ring, you might just have a hoot on your hands. Whether that mean Boxer vs. Puncher, Deathmatch wrestler vs. Mix Martial Artist, or even All-Time Great Talent vs. Barely any talent at all. 

This type of hoot needs to go beyond typical match structures. Things like Big vs. Little, that’s a dime a dozen. The wrestlers have to throw a little something extra to crack into the territory. At that point, something about their character needs to be different. Something about their wrestling upbringing has to feel. That’s where something like a Stunt and KTB can make a dent here. Sure it is big against little but Marko comes from out of nowhere to take on a mid-tier GCW/JCW mainstay who never got above their lot in life. There is a little of that tension of seeing someone leapfrog another in real-time.

Joey Lynch and PCO is probably the most fringe case which I accept. There was something about PCO coming to the SCI that felt unnatural and the Lynch match felt like he brought the southern wrestler into his world like he was Maximillion Pegasus or something.

Finding a Hoot in a Hootless Place

  1. Jon Moxley & Claudio Castagnoli vs. Michael Nakazawa & Brandon Cutler (AEW 4/12/23)
  2. Le Soudeur Fou vs Amos Deen vs Jack Sans-Nom vs Mojito vs Skaar vs Rafael Belmont (Rixe 07/15/23)
  3. Alabama Doink vs. Heidenreich (AWF 5/21/16)
  4. James Ellsworth vs. AJ Styles (WWE 11/22/16)
  5. Doc Gallows vs Kota Ibushi (NJPW 3/5/15)

Sorry, this might get a little cringe. These matches take place in the most unexpected of places in a way you would not expect. Gallows vs. Ibushi is not a match you would expect, certainly not in NJPW. This isn’t about the contestants but the type of match they deliver to this specific audience. Same reason why the AEW tag match hits here, hard not to feel like that match could exist on the weekly TV program of a hot territory.

The cringe part. These also take place in more literally unexpected places. Like a Golden Corral parking lot in Alabama or some junkyard in France. There is a joy to finding unique types of wrestling in geographies you wouldn’t begin to expect to find them. Right now, the Softground Wrestling Uganda, that’s promotion with hoot all over it. You can’t quantify that feeling of discovery. 

Putting these two together because either way it is a sensation of seeing a match you feel like you shouldn’t. These matches challenge your idea of what types of wrestling can exist in which places/promotions.

Pureness of the Game

  1. Joe Gacy vs. Nick Gage (GCW 5/16/15)
  2. Alabama Doink vs. Heidenreich (AWF 5/21/16)
  3. James Ellsworth vs. AJ Styles (WWE 11/22/16)
  4. Masashi Takeda vs Kazusada Higuchi vs Konosuke Takeshita vs MAO (DDT 7/3/18)
  5. Savio Vega vs. Pedro Portillo III (IWA: PR 12/6/23)

Some matches have hoots in their vein. These matches are self-evident. Usually some cars or free-standings structures should not exist in a wrestling context. Yet there they are. With wrestlers who only want to spark joy through shock and awe. No one here is going for a Great Match. They are going for something singular. If you don’t understand why these matches are hoots. I can’t help you.



You’ve seen the work, you’ve seen the results. Hoots are not perfect science. They are a series of gut feelings more than anything. There are certainly specific parts of a match that can help elicit those feelings a little more. What they are is so much purer than a MOTYC. MOTYCs aren’t always striving solely to be Great but they almost always feel like their purpose is not as pure as top end hoot.

That’s also where the process I laid out falls flat. I only looked at the tippy top of each year. There are plenty of minor hoots (hoot-nannies if you will) that fit in the buckets with some massaging. Today, I don’t have time for that dive to see how far I can stretch a hoot.

Today I can only give you the most accurate definition of a HOOT based on what the research says. Will let you know if we see any new developments.

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sam-d


Co-Founder of Violent People, Host of Talking Tourneys, We Don't Know Wrestling, Desert Island Comp.