wrestling / Columns

Kevin’s Top 100 Matches Of 2020 (#40 – 31)

January 24, 2021 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
Matt Jackson AEW Full Gear

40. AEW Tag Team Championship: FTR [c] vs. The Young Bucks – AEW Full Gear

I’m sure plenty of folks had five stars penciled in before this began. For many, it’s a dream match. With a better build, this could’ve headlined a PPV. Right off the bat, many little things were right. I dug FTR rocking Celtics green against the Bucks in their Lakers colors. Given the history of those franchises, the teams wearing these colors made sense. Matt came in with a bad leg that was obviously targeted, while Dax’s hand proved to be a huge problem for the champions. I appreciated that these guys weren’t just doing tag moves of old teams. They used the tandems that inspired them. You had offense from the newer generation (Dudleys/Hardys) by the Bucks, while FTR did the Hart Attack and Steiner Bulldog. That plays perfectly into what makes these two teams who they are. They’re built on such different styles. I’ll admit, though, I popped when FTR did #DIY’s finisher. In the end, Cash attempted a 450 splash, going with flips over fists, and it cost him. He fell to a superkick in 28:41. There was a lot of great things to like here from the action itself to the storytelling and selling. I do think it lacked some drama due to the unnecessary “Bucks never challenge again” angle and it went a bit long for what they did. As tremendous as it was, I preferred Bucks/Omega & Page, as well as FTR’s work with the likes of #DIY. [****¼]

39. WWE Universal Championship TLC Match: Roman Reigns [c] vs. Kevin Owens – WWE TLC

The build to this was fantastic. Kevin Owens jumped Roman Reigns before the bell, doing something we haven’t seen yet. Jey Uso put up a fight but KO hit Roman in the mouth and put him on the defensive. He even sent Paul Heyman scurrying and beat up an interfering Jey Uso. That still allowed Reigns the opening to get going as he started beating the hell out of KO. Similar to their Royal Rumble match back in 2017, this was brutal and was a case of two guys going to war. Owens fought hard but Jey Uso remained involved, making this a 2-on-1 situation. I loved that because it makes sense for Jey to get involved in a match with no DQs. He had to take Jey out with a table spot to combat him. Of course, that just pissed off Roman even more. He brutalized Owens. It followed the storyline of Owens not staying down no matter how much was thrown at him. They also made it so whenever Owens got a chance, it didn’t feel like he was Superman or something like that. He avoided a Spear that sent Roman through a guardrail and caught him with a flash Popup Powerbomb through a table. Owens nearly had it won but more Jey Uso interreference stopped him. Roman put him down once more to finally grab the championship after 24:44. Roman Reigns is better than your favorite wrestler. He’s on another level right now and nobody is touching him. That’s yet another PPV banger. They had an absolute war that played into the storyline and even the Jey Uso stuff worked beautifully. [****¼]

38. NXT UK Women’s Championship: Kay Lee Ray [c] vs. Piper Niven vs. Toni Storm – NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool II

As much as I enjoy the NXT UK women’s division, I was still waiting on them to have a TakeOver banger. Rhea/Toni and KLR/Toni both underwhelmed. I’ve enjoyed the story of this including their friendship, Niven’s desire for a big opportunity, KLR pulling the strings, and Toni’s obsession with the title. It all works. Those concepts played into the match. Toni attacked KLR at the bell to set up a hot start, though Niven quickly took control. You got the sense that Toni was being the aggressor, KLR was willing to lay back and let them beat each other up, and Niven kept coming in to try and steal the show. I loved the moment of Niven saving her friend, despite their differences, from KLR injuring her with a chair. Again, it fit the roles they had coming into this, especially with Toni possibly using the chair on Niven right after. Down the stretch, they started in with the bigger spots and this got better as it went on. Toni stopping the refereeing from counting three was another perfect moment for her. The Destroyer from Niven was insane and Toni trying to immediately steal it with Storm Zero after made for a fantastic near fall. Toni resorted to a frog splash late, only for KLR to superkick her and steal the pin, retaining in 13:11. They delivered. That was fantastic. I loved the way it played into their characters coming in, it had great action, and phenomenal late drama. My only real issue is that the finish is overdone in this kind of match. [****¼]

37. Eliminator Tournament Quarterfinals: Penta El Zero M vs. Ray Fenix – AEW Dynamite 10/21/20

One of the things I’ve taken issue with regarding AEW is the treatment of the Lucha Bros. Ray Fenix and Pentagon are two of the company’s best wrestlers and certainly one of their best tag teams. Despite that, they hovered around .500 with their record and were mostly afterthoughts. They were finally given a big opportunity on this episode of Dynamite, headlining the show in singles action as part of a tournament for an AEW World Title shot. The action was fierce, harkening back to their Lucha Underground days. They went at it for 14:21 and showed the entire world just how great they are. There were some ridiculous sports, counters, and exchanges throughout. The stuff blew minds and ended up trending on Twitter. Fenix came out on top in the end but got injured and couldn’t compete in the next round. [****¼]

36. Finn Balor vs. Johnny Gargano – NXT TakeOver: Portland

Long before Finn Balor won back the NXT Championship and even before Johnny Gargano turned to the dark side, they met in what was at least Johnny’s best singles match of 2020. When Balor returned to NXT in late 2019, he shockingly turned heel by attacking Gargano and putting him on the shelf. It took months for them to clash and they delivered when the time came. Balor was more vicious than usual, showing that his new villainous edge was a successful one. Gargano countered with his trademark resiliency, never giving up and fighting back even when he seemed to be finished. They threw in callbacks to their rivalry, which are always appreciated in matches like this. Gargano fought hard but in the end, he fell victim to the Coup de Grace and Bloody Sunday after an excellent 27:23. [****¼]

35. NXT Title No. 1 Contender’s Match: Kyle O’Reilly vs. Pete Dunne – NXT 12/16/20

As soon as Kyle O’Reilly geared up for his opportunity at the NXT Title at TakeOver 31, he stepped up to become one of the company’s best wrestlers. I’ve known how fantastic he is in singles competition for years but now NXT fans could see too. One of his best showcases came on this episode of NXT where he clashed with Pete Dunne for a shot at the NXT Championship. This was vicious, hard hitting, and unlike most of what was happening on weekly TV. For 22:47, these two went to war and had a brutal encounter that was one of the best televised matches of the year. Pete Dunne also got to remind people of how fantastic he is after he missed most of the year during the pandemic. Kyle O’Reilly earned another shot at Finn Balor with a hard fought victory in this TV classic. [****¼]

34. WWE Universal Championship: Roman Reigns [c] vs. Jey Uso – WWE Clash of Champions

The build for this was spectacular. ROMAN GOT THE TITTIES OUT! TITTIES ROMAN > THIGH MEAT OKADA! Jey was a bit cocky, stopping to dance at the start. Once Roman started in on offense, he dominated and got irritated that his cousin was kicking out. Jey would get in a hope spot only for Roman to bring the ass kicking again. He’d also talk trash and question Jey for even trying this fight. The close calls for Jey were well done, like on a rollup and the splash. I loved how Reigns kicked out of the splash by low blowing Jey. Reigns hit the Spear and demanded that Jey call him the chief. When Jey declined, another Spear came. Jey refused again so Roman added more of a beating. Even when the referee tried to stop the match, Roman said he’s been doing this his whole life. Jimmy Uso came out to throw in the towel but Jey pleaded with him not to do it. Roman added more right hands until Jimmy did the deed, ending this in 22:57. Holy shit. That was spectacular from a storytelling perspective. The action itself was strong but that story put it over the top and I’m a big sucker for that kind of stuff. Hell yeah. Big Dog. [****¼]

33. Edge vs. Randy Orton – WWE Backlash

THE GREATEST WRESTLING MATCH EVER! This was done with “enhanced audio,” which meant piped in crowd noise. Charles Robinson was even in an old school ref shirt with a bowtie and they used Fink’s voice for the intro. The idea of the match is that Orton has been wrestling for years while Edge has been hurt. It made sense that Orton could best him with the simplest of things. For example, he just stopped short to avoid an arm drag and it worked to perfection. As this progressed, it got more aggressive. Orton got busted open and Edge kept the pressure on. As this neared the 30 minute mark, you could tell that it was a pretty great wrestling match. The stuff done by Orton and Edge was actually quite good but the added-in crowd noise and weird angles made it hokey. I really liked them resorting to moves from those close to them like Edge using the Killswitch and Orton hitting the Pedigree. They went overboard with the kickouts late, as Edge survived multiple RKOs and Orton kicked out of a bunch of Spears. Orton finally took it home with a low blow and the Punt after 44:47. That’s a great idea for the ending as Orton, who bragged about being the better wrestler, resorted to underhanded tactics. That was fantastic overall. They went too far with the false finishes late and the presentation was odd but everything else worked wonderfully. [****¼]

32. AEW TNT Championship: Cody Rhodes [c] vs. Darby Allin – AEW Full Gear

The Nightmare Family seems to now also include Lee Johnson and The Gunn Club. Cody has his last name back officially. Darby clearly learned from their past. He used his quickness to frustrate Cody and even slapped him in the back of the head at one point. It’s a small thing but one of my favorite aspects of Arn Anderson being there is when Cody goes to him for advice and they use the clipboard to hide it. A pissed Cody got vicious with the hammerlock toss to the outside. That put the champ in the driver’s seat and they kind of built this around the hammerlock, so you know Cody watched some old ass match with similar psychology and was inspired. Darby sold the hell out of the arm and Cody got more heelish throughout. He wouldn’t end this mercifully and then teased using the weight belt. The resilient Darby kept coming at Cody and then scored a surprise three count after a series of pin counters in 17:09. That was so very much my shit. Building the match around the hammerlock was tremendous, as was Darby’s selling and Cody playing his role expertly. Darby proved he could be the face of TNT and finally got his moment. [****¼]

31. Street Fight: Dakota Kai vs. Tegan Nox – NXT TakeOver: Portland

My five favorite female wrestlers in WWE are Sasha Banks, Dakota Kai, Sonya Deville, Io Shirai, and Tegan Nox. Having two of them in this match was lovely. It also helped that they had yet to get their opportunity to shine on a TakeOver and the heated nature of the feud and it became arguably my most anticipated NXT match of the year. I loved that these ladies came out in gear for a street fight and not a traditional wrestling match. That’s so important for something as heated as this. Dakota attacked before the bell, setting the tone. She would take any cheap way out that she could, while Tegan wanted revenge. They told a remarkable story and blended it with the brutality from this kind of match. They used plenty of weapons but never went overboard. After an outstanding 13:26, Tegan seemed to have it wrapped up. However, Raquel Gonzalez showed up and chokeslammed her off the top and through a table. Dakota covered to win and align herself with Raquel. I loved that these two got the chance to deliver on a big stage and succeeded. [****¼]