wrestling / Columns

Kevin’s Top 100 Matches Of 2019: #70-61

February 5, 2020 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
Cody Chris Jericho AEW Full Gear

70. AEW Heavyweight Championship: Chris Jericho [c] vs. Cody – AEW Full Gear

It’s an episode of WWE Main Event circa 2013! I’m kidding. When this was first announced, I wasn’t interested at all. Even though I like Cody, it didn’t sound interesting. But they got to building it and they hooked me. Cody’s great promo work, Jericho being an ass, and the stellar segment where they brawled in the back all got me sucked in to this story. The match itself managed to live up to the expectations. It had an old school feel to it. Jericho stalled a lot early and when he got on offense, things were slowly paced. Cody tried to pick things up but made a mistake when he missed a dive and busted his face open on the ramp. It was a gruesome cut that added a lot in terms of intensity to the contest. Jericho used every veteran trick in the book. Jake Hager interference, cheap shots with the title, etc. Cody survived it and rallied like the ultimate babyface fighting through his crimson mask. All the while his mother watched from ringside. Talk about emotion and drama. Despite Cody’s best efforts, Jericho locked in the Lion Tamer and MJF threw in the towel for the finish after 29:36. I never expected this to be as great as it was. I’m so glad it delivered. [****]

69. WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Ronda Rousey [c] vs. Sasha Banks – WWE Royal Rumble

Long before Sasha Banks returned with a vengeance in the summer, she made sure to put on a banger of a singles match at the Royal Rumble. Ronda Rousey was also able to celebrate a year with the company by having another great match. A lot of the early goings saw Ronda do some of Sasha’s signature stuff like the Three Amigos suplexes. It was her way of proving to Sasha that she could indeed wrestle. Sasha responded by hitting her as hard as she could, showing she could hang in Ronda’s world. When Ronda punched the ring post by accident, it gave Banks a target. Ronda sold better in this match than in any other throughout her short career. Sasha looked incredibly dangerous here. At one point she applied an armbar that looked more violent than any I’ve ever seen from Ronda. It was tremendous and reminded me of how good Sasha can be when she’s putting in her best effort. I dug the desperation she showed. If she got a near fall, she would transition right into a submission. While there were some sloppy moments, it came across more like two exhausted warriors struggling than flat out mistakes. That’s important and something I actually like about a match. It makes things feel less scripted and more realistic. When it was all said and done, Ronda couldn’t win by submission. She used Piper’s Pit to retain in 13:48. Sasha was nearly too much for her. It felt different from the rest of her title defenses and was Ronda’s second best singles match ever. [****]

68. WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar [c] vs. Seth Rollins – WWE SummerSlam

The build for this match was atrocious. After Seth Rollins beat Brock Lesnar in a few minutes at WrestleMania, Brock won back the title by cashing in the Money in the Bank briefcase. Brock spent the following weeks abusing the former champion at every turn. Seth looked like a joke and fans were left wondering what the plan was. Needless to say, expectations were low coming into this title fight. Rocking the DDP tape on his ribs, Rollins came in with a target that Brock went after. Then Rollins showed fire with an early Curb Stomp that let us know how this would go. They were going to throw everything at one another. Rollins found his biggest opening after Lesnar hit the ring post and he then put him through a table with an insane frog splash. Lesnar survived a bit more but then Rollins hit enough Curb Stomps to keep him down after 13:19. This was one hell of a contest that played to both of their strengths. Despite the lackluster build, the crowd was completely into it. It had drama, memorable moments, and was a shining performance in an up and down year for Rollins. [****]

67. NXT North American Championship: Roderick Strong [c] vs. Dominik Dijakovic vs. Keith Lee – WWE NXT 10/23/19

The rivalry between Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic has kind of become the stuff of legend. They have met across various promotions including EVOLVE, PWG, and now NXT. Some of their past matches have even made this list before. When a shot at the North American Title was put on the line during one of their matches, champion Roderick Strong interfered. It backfired as he was forced to defend the gold against both behemoths. He proved to be that little something extra to freshen up their wars. We still got to see the ridiculous feats of strength and athleticism from Lee and Dijakovic. But Strong was always around to change up the formula just enough. The Tower of Doom spot where everyone nearly died was one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen in a wrestling ring. At one point, Strong was taken out of the equation to allow for the traditional Lee/Dijakovic stuff. But he returned at the most opportune moment, sweeping in and stealing this after a super bomb by Lee to retain the title in a fantastic 18:21. The North American Championship has been a gold mine for great matches since its inception. [****]

66. WWE Raw Tag Team Championship: The Revival [c] vs. Aleister Black and Ricochet vs. Bobby Roode and Chad Gable – WWE Fastlane

Oh, look. It’s WWE tag team division delivering yet again. They aren’t the best written division but they consistently entertain. These six men proved that. Aleister Black and Ricochet once again showed why they were one of the best random pairing in wrestling history. The Revival reminded the world that they’re one of the greatest teams alive. Chad Gable and Bobby Roode proved that both men are at their best in the tag team setting. This was easily the best Roode has looked in years. The match only went 10:49 and they packed so much action into it. Ricochet flying around. Aleister lighting people up with strikes. The Revival showcasing tag team excellence. At one point, Ricochet jumped clear over the turnbuckle in one of the better spots you’ll see anywhere. Shortly after that, Gable got hit with the Shatter Machine and the Revival retained. It was an outstanding tag match featuring stellar teams and stuffed into a gloriously compact package. You would have been hard pressed to find better tag team wrestling anywhere in the world at this time. [****]

65. Gauntlet Match: AJ Styles vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Randy Orton vs. Samoa Joe – WWE Smackdown 2/12/19

This is really where KofiMania began. With Mustafa Ali out of the Elimination Chamber match, a member of New Day replaced him. The trio selected Kofi Kingston and it wasn’t official until he stepped in the ring for this match. The winner would earn the final entry in the Chamber. Kingston started against WWE Champion Daniel Bryan, previewing their WrestleMania clash. Most fans probably expected Bryan to make quick work of Kofi. He was an afterthought, after all. But Kofi fought through it all and pinned the WWE Champion, giving us one of the year’s earliest shockers. Following that, Kofi eliminated Jeff Hardy but then was faced with getting past the vicious Samoa Joe. When all hope seemed lost, Kofi countered the Coquina Clutch into a pin to stun Joe. The run for Kofi finally ended when AJ Styles made him submit to the Calf Crusher. It was the first of many standout performances for Kofi. It came down to Styles against Randy Orton. And all Orton had to do was sneak in with an RKO out of nowhere to win the whole thing after 60:58. It protected the AJ/Orton Mania match, so it was a perfect ending. As great as that was, this was all about Kofi Kingston and he shined.[****]

64. WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship: The Usos [c] vs. Aleister Black and Ricochet vs. The Bar vs. Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura – WWE WrestleMania

I know people harp on WWE’s tag team division and I admit it is far from perfect. But they often put on great matches. Especially for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. It happened again with this WrestleMania. The Bar were consistently good, Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura worked better as a team than you’d expect, and the Usos are the best tag team of all-time. And then there’s the Aleister Black/Ricochet pairing. I recall people complained that they were a team but they were incredible together. Every single second of this 10:04 was fantastic. It was the ideal multi-man sprint. Each person was given a highlight or two. Cesaro swinging Ricochet as Sheamus beat on everyone for about a minute was a highlight, as was everything Ricochet did. Dude is seriously something special. When he hit the 630, I thought it was over but everyone broke up the pin. That really showed the desperation each team felt. The Usos retained with stereo splashes soon after, capping one of my favorite matches all year. There were clearly plenty that were better but this is a personal favorite. I loved it. [****]

63. Two Out Of Three Falls Match: Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio – WWE Smackdown 1/22/19

One of the best things to come about Rey Mysterio’s return to WWE this year was his rivalry with Andrade. The two put on an instant classic in their first meeting a week prior to this one. It was so well-received that a Two Out of Three Falls rematch was booked here. Could they recreate the magic? Not quite but dammit if they didn’t try. While their first meeting built to bigger stuff, this one was kind of nuts out of the gate. Rey was trying Code Reds in the opening couple of minutes. I liked it because some matches with this stipulation get off to slow starts but they weren’t holding back. Andrade’s first fall victory on a super powerbomb was outstanding, as was Mysterio tying things up with a sick modified Destroyer. For the third fall, both men still had their finishers in their back pockets. The exchanges were great but it was like neither could hit it. Andrade added to the emotion by doing an Eddie Guerrero style taunt at one point. Unfortunately, we were kept from getting a clean finish to this one. Samoa Joe ran in and attacked both men, resulting in a disqualification at 22:14. Up until that point, this was tremendous. [****]

62. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Dragon Lee [c] vs. Taiji Ishimori – NJPW Wrestling Dontaku

At the G1 Supercard in Madison Square Garden, Dragon Lee became IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion. He dethroned Taiji Ishimori but there was a caveat. It was a Triple Threat match and Lee pinned the third participant, Bandido, to become champion. With the Best of the Super Juniors on the horizon, Ishimori got a one on one shot to regain the title he technically never lost. They were given a big opportunity, headlining the first night of Wrestling Dontaku. The Jr. Heavyweight Title hadn’t had that honor in just shy of three years. Like everything involving Dragon Lee, this moved at a ridiculous pace. It’s a style that suits Ishimori as well so it is kind of a match made in heaven. Think Hiromu Takahashi vs. Dragon Lee but not quite as crisp. There was an odd moment where Lee had his leg damaged when he crashed into the guardrail and it didn’t come into play during the match. It just ended up feeling out of place. Outside of that, we got to see some of the coolest moves you’ll find anywhere. And they weren’t just moves for the sake of it. There was a sense of intensity to the late stuff that you need from an important title match. After 25:53, Lee retained by hitting Desnucadora. The late near falls were among the best of the year. [****¼]

61. NXT North American Championship: Velveteen Dream [c] vs. Pete Dunne vs. Roderick Strong – NXT TakeOver: Toronto

You ever just look at a match and realize how unbelievably talented the WWE roster is? That’s the case here. Roderick Strong is one of the best wrestlers of the past decade and a half. Pete Dunne is brilliant and helped popularize British wrestling. Velveteen Dream is the complete package, mixing outstanding character work with great wrestling. And they met on the big stage for the North American Championship. I loved how each guy was used here. Strong got annoyed that the other two kind of overlooked him, so he started throwing backbreakers. Dream did everything with a little bit of flair, which this match needed since Dunne and Strong are no frills kind of guys. And Dunne was just happy to beat on anyone in sight. There were great spots up and down this match, from a triple slugfest to a double Strong Hold. You couldn’t turn away from the action because you were almost guaranteed to miss something awesome. The drama was high at the end as Strong and Dream kept hitting big moves on Dunne and tossing each other over the top. It was Dream who finally hit the Purple Rainmaker to retain after a fantastic 17:24. [****¼]