wrestling / Columns

Kevin’s Top 100 Matches Of 2020 (#60 – 51)

January 22, 2021 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
Seth Rollins Drew McIntyre Money in the Bank

60. NXT Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair [c] vs. Io Shirai vs. Rhea Ripley – NXT TakeOver: In Your House

Charlotte was more than happy to let the other two handle the action early. Once she got involved, she kind of took charge and proved why she’s at the top of the division. That was followed by Io getting a segment to shine and then one for Rhea. They kept things moving along at a good pace. I thought it was over when Io got hit with Natural Selection but she ultimately kicked out. I loved how they started using the set to their advantage. Charlotte threw Io through a window and Rhea threw a plant at Charlotte. Io climbed to the top of the IYH set and dove off with a cross body. Rhea hit the avalanche Riptide that won her the title but Io broke up that pin. Realizing she was in trouble, Charlotte just got a kendo stick and wailed on both ladies. As she put the Figure Eight on Rhea, Io came off the top with a moonsault and pinned Rhea to win the title in 17:34. I popped hard for that because Io absolutely deserves the championship. She has been incredible since her gimmick change. The match itself was very good, though that finish kind of fell flat. [****]

59. NXT Women’s Championship Number One Contender’s Elimination Match: Candice LeRae vs. Dakota Kai vs. Mia Yim vs. Tegan Nox – NXT Great American Bash 7/1/20

It’s a really simple formula. Take four of the most talented ladies in the world’s best women’s division and let them do their thing. An opportunity at Io Shirai and the NXT Women’s Title was on the line and the elimination rules made this unique. Candice LeRae was still relatively fresh into her heel run and was feuding with Mia Yim, while Dakota Kai and Tegan Nox had their own rivalry. I loved how Candice and Dakota took powders to start, letting the babyface fighters go at it instead. However, Candice was the first one eliminated in this 20:31 encounter after taking a flurry of offense. Yim and Nox had a very good exchange before Dakota snuck in to rollup Yim. That left the former best friends to clash. That was the high point of the match, with the two delivering a fantastic effort. It was a dramatic conclusion, with Nox hitting the Shiniest Wizard to win and gain a measure of revenge on Kai in one of the year’s best feel good moments. [****]

58. WWE Championship: Drew McIntyre [c] vs. Seth Rollins – WWE Money in the Bank

Seth’s promo stuff leading up to this was tremendous. I liked how this started. Seth could talk all he wanted but once in the ring, Drew was too much for him. That’s when Seth used his brains and went after Drew’s knees. Since he’s really good, his heat segment was mostly entertaining. A miscalculation by Seth led him to crash into the table and set up McIntyre getting back on the offensive. I really liked Seth working on the knee to neutralize the Claymore and I dug Drew busting out Future Shock. Drew survived a Curb Stomp and avoided a second by hitting the Glasgow Kick. He took a superkick and bounced off the ropes with a Claymore to retain in 19:23. That was a hell of a match and the best thing on the show to this point. The whole thing was smartly wrestled, entertaining through, and had some great. The spider German suplex was the high point for sure. [****]

57. New Japan Cup First Round: Minoru Suzuki vs. Yuji Nagata – NJPW New Japan Cup 6/17/20

When these two face off, you just know it’s going to be two men beating the tar out of each other. That’s just what they delivered and it’s all I ever ask for from them. Coming into this, their record against each other in singles action was apparently 5-5. You got the sense that it played a part as their pride wasn’t about to let either of them come up short. There were some absurd forearm exchanges and some vicious strikes delivered by both men. Meanwhile, Suzuki going nuts in an empty arena came off really well. They ultimately progressed into their bigger offense and it remained as snug and violent as ever. Suzuki made a crucial mistake near the end. He had the sleeper in but instead of getting the submission, he let got and went for a pin. Nagata kicked out and got his second wind, hitting the Backdrop Hold to secure an upset in 20:35. Hell yeah. Two warriors doing what they do best and putting on something must-see. [****¼]

56. NXT Women’s Championship: Io Shirai [c] vs. Tegan Nox – NXT 7/15/20

At NXT’s presentation of The Great American Bash, Tegan Nox earned an opportunity at the NXT Women’s Championship. The talented lady had been through so much thanks to two knee surgeries since signing with WWE, including one that was incredibly heartbreaking. She took on Io Shirai in a huge NXT main event that was given 23:00 to really breathe and develop. There was also no BS or anything like that. Just a straight up match between two of the best in the world. Shirai threw everything at Nox from start to finish and the challenger had to showcase the resilience that got her through her two injuries. She survived everything thrown at her and came close to toppling an stoppable champion on several occasions. The Lady Kane Chokeslam and Molly Go Round spots were two of the best moments of the match. Alas, Shirai cut off the Shiniest Wizard with a perfectly sold Shotei and then hit the moonsault to retain. [****¼]

55. Kota Ibushi vs. Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW G1 Climax 9/27/20

This was kind of the Ishii G1 special. It was two guys hitting each other hard and trying to prove who the tougher man was. I liked that it felt like a true fight at times. You got the sense that Ishii was desperate to not fall to 0-3 and Ibushi wasn’t about to lose two straight on his road to a possible third straight finals appearance. It never felt like it fell into the slow start/hot finish formula, as it was a war from the opening bell. Ibushi hitting his own brainbuster was pretty rad. The fact that they were wailing on each other allowed for the bigger offensive moves to really hit home and get a pop. My favorite spot might’ve been Ishii chopping Ibushi in the throat, only for Ibushi to punch him there in response. The finish saw Ishii fall to some knee strikes and Kamigoye after 15:41. That felt like a true struggle, didn’t overstay its welcome, and was just what I want from these two. [****¼]

54. Parking Lot Fight: Best Friends vs. Santana and Ortiz – AEW Dynamite 9/16/20

Matches in parking lots are rare but have happened several times. They sometimes work wonders like John Cena vs. Eddie Guerrero in 2003 and sometimes they fail like the one between Adam Cole and Velveteen Dream in 2020. However, the best one ever is this one between Best Friends and Santana and Ortiz. This did a wonderful job of mixing in the intensity of the rivalry with the goofy stuff Best Friends are known for. That included an appearance from Orange Cassidy and the hilarious cameo from Trent’s mom as she flipped off the Inner Circle tandem. There were plenty of big spots as well to keep the violence level up, helping to really make this a standout bout. The whole thing didn’t overstay its welcome either, lasting 13:10 in total, with Best Friends coming out on top in the end. It was one of the better tag matches from AEW, who is a company that thrives on that division. [****¼]

53. Jay White vs. Taichi – NJPW G1 Climax 10/7/20

White beat him in last year’s G1 and it wasn’t good. However, this got off to a tremendous start as Jay White sat in a corner and clapped along to Taichi serenading him. MOTY. The best thing about these two is that they’re both just two dudes trying to be shitty to their opponents. That made for a match where each guy tried to out-heel the other. I loved this. It was so refreshing and different from the rest of the G1. Guys can trade offense for 10-15 minutes and it gets repetitive in a tournament like this. However, these two use their character work and it makes for something unique. Sure, there were quality exchanges but I’m all about them just being dicks to each other. Gedo got involved, there were low blows and in the end, White won with Blade Runner after 15:16. I was in dire need of a change of pace during the G1, where everything feels so similar so I really enjoyed that. [****¼]

52. EVIL and Shingo Takagi vs. Hirooki Goto and Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW New Year Dash

It’s another case of Big E’s favorite thing in wrestling and something I love too. BIG MEATY MEN SLAPPING MEAT! A lot of the focus on this New Year Dash event was meant to honor the retirement of the legendary Jushin Thunder Liger. However, these four manly men stole the show. EVIL and Shingo Takagi were a great Los Ingobernables de Japon duo due to how hard hitting their matches are. Hirooki Goto and Tomohiro Ishii represent the same kind of style from CHAOS. They got put together and spent 16:28 putting on a show that was arguably better than 95% of what was seen at Wrestle Kingdom the two prior nights. They brawled and threw bombs at each other, setting up two future feuds for later in the year. The finish saw Shingo pin NEVER Openweight Champion Goto with Last of the Dragon in a great bout that was overlooked by too many. [****¼]

51. NXT Women’s Championship: Rhea Ripley [c] vs. Charlotte Flair – WWE WrestleMania 36 Night Two

Quite for the choice for the opener. Lots of hype for this. Rhea was out in her WrestleMania whites. Charlotte started this with a ton of trash talk as she outwrestled Rhea at every turn. Rhea swung the momentum by getting aggressive and firing up. It was too much for Charlotte to handle at times. Charlotte capitalized on one mistake that put a target on Rhea’s previously damaged leg. Classic work from a heel with a leg submission. Rhea did a hell of a job selling, as even her offense was stunted due to the bad leg. Whenever Rhea got momentum, Charlotte just cut her off and worked the leg. It was simple, classic strategy. The finishing stretch was pretty great, as they went back and forth with some great exchanges, drama, and close calls. Charlotte won with the Figure Eight after 20:28. I don’t agree with the result but that was a banger. Charlotte is one of the best big match wrestlers in the world right now. If only there was a payoff to this booking decision. [****¼]