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Kevin’s Top 100 Matches Of 2020 (#70 – 61)

January 21, 2021 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
Charlotte’s Charlotte Flair WWE Royal Rumble 2020

70. Taichi vs. Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW G1 Climax 10/5/20

Their G1 Climax match last year was outstanding so I had high hopes for this one. At first, it seemed like Taichi would take the Jay White route and just kick back and relax for a while. Then, he came out with a kick that angered Ishii and let you know that this would be something of a war. It reminded me a lot of what they did last year and I mean that in the best possible way. I wanted more action like that and they gave it to me. It felt like Taichi was again out to prove that he was tougher and better than Ishii. It was only when they started to fail that he opted to go a different route. He hid behind the referee and hit a low blow but that was mostly it for his cheating. Ishii’s determination to never back down or go down remains incredible. Taichi doing what he could to match that was great. In the end, they traded big blows with Ishii finally scoring the win with the Brainbuster after 18:42. That proved to be great. A notch below last year’s outing but still one of the better tourney bouts. [****]

69. Hiromu Takahashi vs. Taiji Ishimori – NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 11/15/20

A rematch from the finals in 2018 and Summer Struggle in Jingu, where Taiji Ishimori evened the score and won the title. That finals match two years ago was an all-timer. As expected from these two, it started with a bang as Ishimori immediately charged and went for Bloody Cross early. You got the sense that he was dying to end this early, probably knowing that matches with Hiromu feature a high risk. Speaking of high risk, the insane wrestler that Hiromu is, he took a piledriver on the apron despite having a severely broken neck a while back. That’s nuts. They kept up their usual frantic pace from start to finish, delivering a match in the same vein of what I’ve come to expect from them. It’s what makes these two work so well together. Ishimori is one of the few guys who can keep up with Hiromu. The former champion survived a ton down the stretch before pulling out the victory with Time Bomb at the 20:06 mark. Their worst match together but still a great one. Lots of back and forth action at a wild pace. [****]

68. Women’s Royal Rumble – WWE Royal Rumble

The women of WWE have now had three Royal Rumble matches. Each of them has been spectacular. This year was once again in the conversation for being the best. It didn’t have the nostalgia of the first or the iconic moment of Becky Lynch winning like the second. However, it had a great blend of action and impressive performances. Bianca Belair looked like a star by lasting over 30 minutes and eliminating a ton of people. There was the fun Otis appearance. NXT girls like Dakota Kai, Tegan Nox, and Toni Storm got to have solid runs. There was Shayna Baszler showing up at the end and turning everything on its head. She dominated by tossing out nearly a third of the field in just about five minutes. Things were dampened at the 54:17 mark when Charlotte Flair was announced as the winner since the crowd didn’t dig it and it didn’t lead to anything of real interest. However, the action before it was top notch. [****]

67. WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship: Bayley and Sasha Banks [c] vs. The Kabuki Warriors – WWE Raw 7/13/20

It’s no secret that the Women’s Tag Team Titles have been a mixed bag since they debuted in early 2019. However, 2020 saw one of the high points during the rivalry between The Kabuki Warriors and Bayley and Sasha Banks. They had a handful of very good matches, including singles bouts, before this main event encounter. The four ladies went at it for 18:13 and put on one of the best matches on Raw all year long. This had all sorts of great back and forth action involving four of the best female wrestlers in the world. Kairi Sane was on the verge of getting ready to leave WWE, so she put in a strong performance. Banks was on a tear all year long, while Bayley and Asuka were strong throughout as well. Banks scored the win for her team, gaining momentum heading into Extreme Rules, by making Sane tap out to the Bank Statement. [****]

66. New Japan Cup First Round: El Desperado vs. Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW New Japan Cup 6/16/20

I was really excited about this. El Desperado has long been an underrated junior heavyweight (his matches with Hiromu are spectacular) and Tomohiro Ishii is in the conversation for the best in the world. Desperado quickly realized that he was outmatched in terms of size and strength so he opted to go after the leg. It’s smart work and the way he went after it made sense. It was all stuff that fit his character, including exposing the turnbuckle after wearing it down. Of course, Ishii responded by battering him at every opportunity. I liked Ishii firing up because he’s tough but then still getting kicked in the leg and having to take a breather. Desperado escaped some of Ishii’s best offense and hit Guitarra de Angel for an actual great near fall. Ishii blocked Pinche Loco twice, survived a big forearm, and hit a Brainbuster. Desperado shockingly survived that and got a rollup but then Ishii hit a lariat and Brainbuster to win in 20:17. That ruled. It wasn’t spectacular but it was great. They did a great job in making me believe Desperado might sneak out with the upset (early tourney nights are known for that), Ishii sold like crazy, and the late drama was superb. [****]

65. Gauntlet Eliminator: Bronson Reed vs. Cameron Grimes vs. KUSHIDA vs. Kyle O’Reilly vs. Timothy Thatcher – NXT 9/23/20

After Finn Bálor became NXT Champion and set himself up at the top of the brand again like it was 2015, he needed a new challenger. NXT has a loaded roster, so there were many options. Some fresh potential challengers were lined up for a Gauntlet Eliminator match. Two competitors began and every four minutes, a new one entered. Whoever was the last man standing would earn the shot. Kyle O’Reilly and KUSHIDA started, reliving their classic BOSJ matches from NJPW. Each other guy added something unique from Bronson Reed’s size to Cameron Grimes’ cunningness, and Timothy Thatcher’s technical skills. They laid this match out to move along briskly and never have any slowdown throughout the 27:50 runtime. KUSHIDA was protected, only losing because of a Velveteen Dream run-in and then there was O’Reilly. He was finally given the chance to shine on his own and went the entire length of the match before winning in the end to earn his first shot at the NXT Championship. One of the better TV matches all year long. [****]

64. AEW Women’s Championship: Hikaru Shida [c] vs. Thunder Rosa – AEW All Out

The women of AEW are talented but the booking team is ATROCIOUS at giving them the shine they deserve. Hikaru Shida is awesome, while Thunder Rosa was a treat in NWA. Props to Excalibur (and Schiavone. Really, AEW’s only bad commentator is JR) for saying that Shida spoke with CIMA for advice on facing lucha-style wrestlers. Those little things matter. The idea here was that Rosa did her homework. She had counters and answers for most of Shida’s signature stuff. She actually dominated a bit of this and was vicious throughout. The leaping shot off a chair and the ring post wrenching on Shida’s back looked great. The same goes for the apron DVD. Playing off of the CIMA reference earlier, Shida even hit one of his signature moves. Rosa kicked out of the Falcon Arrow at one, which should’ve been sold better by commentary. Only Excalibur hyped it. Rosa’s smile after was great. Shida had to find something new and dig deep to win. She did by hitting Tomashi at the 16:57 mark. It’s almost as if AEW would be a much better company if they actually used their women well. Give them time, book them as stars, and reap the benefits. I loved that. It was hard-hitting, both women looked fantastic, and they told a great story. [****]

63. WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Asuka [c] vs. Sasha Banks – WWE Extreme Rules

Their match on Raw the night after Royal Rumble 2018 was great (****). Almost immediately, they played off of it. Sasha countered a signature Asuka knee that wrecked her in 2018 and rolled through into the Bank Statement. Asuka pivoted and found a new way to hit that knee just a few minutes later. That was the trend as this match was just filled with smart wrestling and really cool spots from both. I dug the German suplex off the apron attempt and how it backfired on Sasha, only to then work out well for her. Sasha bumped impressively on some German suplexes, getting completely folded up and making Asuka look like a beast. They were a few flubs, like Sasha falling when trying a move off the top, though it played into the story as she had just landed on her knees to survive an avalanche German suplex. Kairi stopped an intervening Bayley but took a Bayley to Belly for it. Asuka and Sasha had a fantastic exchange before Bayley tried interfering again in a spot that just looked totally phony and goofy. It led to Asuka going for the mist and Sasha moving, only to catch the referee. That looked much better for a spot. Bayley hit Asuka from behind and put on the blinded referee’s shirt to count three. She demanded they ring the bell, which happened at the 20:10 mark. Confusing finish but the match before it was spectacular. I could watch these two wrestle all day. [****]

62. Jay White vs. Kota Ibushi – NJPW G1 Climax 9/23/20

Jay White feels different and has great heel character work which is the variety that this company DESPERATELY needs. Too many guys, despite being great wrestlers in NJPW, feel like copies of copies. He started this by dissing the crowd for not chanting and only clapping, getting major heat. That played into the match as White continued to mock the audience and talk trash to Ibushi. He came across like the cunning heel that I loved from the early Switchblade days. Not the Bullet Club leader who has his matches ruined by overbooking and interference. Instead, he had the upper hand by being cunning and smart. Of course, similar to their Finals meeting last year, it hit a point where Ibushi just manned up. White leveled him and he no sold it before firing off kicks and strikes of his own that floored White. The work White did on the knee helped set up a submission and even though that didn’t get him the win, it still managed to slow down Ibushi some. Gedo hopped on the apron and faked throwing in the towel but they didn’t overdo his involvement. After Ibushi knocked him off the apron, White scored with Blade Runner to win in 20:28. I really dug that. White is such a good jerk heel and Ibushi brought what was needed for the babyface role, all while never going too long or being overbooked. I might’ve liked that more than the G1 2019 Finals. [****]

61. NEVER Openweight Championship: Shingo Takagi [c] vs. Minoru Suzuki – NJPW Summer Struggle in Jingu

Oh, baby. This is right up my alley. We go from a fun match to one where two tough dudes are gonna beat the shit out of each other. Right on cue, they came out and went to war. I honestly don’t have a ton to say about the match because that sums it up. This was a war. Suzuki was doing his signature things to wear down the champion, like the sleeper hold and attacks outside. Shingo seemed to be in more trouble than usual and he started throwing out his best offensive moves seemingly out of desperation. Suzuki avoided the Last of the Dragon and Shingo didn’t have an answer. He fought hard and hit back and as hard as he was getting but Suzuki was seemingly on another level here. Suzuki hit the Gotch Style Piledriver to win the title in 14:56. That was a banger but the booking is confusing. Shingo shouldn’t have dropped the title here and there’s not much to gain out of a Suzuki reign unless it’s like the Nagata/Shibata NEVER Title situation from 2016. Hard-hitting stuff like I wanted, though. [****]