wrestling / Columns

Kevin’s Top 100 Matches Of 2020 (#80 – 71)

January 20, 2021 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
AEW All Out Jon Moxley MJF

80. Jungle Boy vs. MJF – AEW Double or Nothing

This was a case of two young guys looking to break out. While MJF has done really good character work, he was missing that standout great match. I liked how, early on, MJF was happy to match Jungle Boy with confidence. However, when he slapped Jungle Boy, he got his ass kicked. It was obvious that he was the one bringing the fire. Noticing that, he feigned an injury to get the upper hand back. MJF put the target on the arm and Jungle Boy sold the hell out of it. He combined that with great hope spots for some awesome moments. For example, catching MJF in a submission only to have to let it go due to injury was great. As cocky as MJF might be, you could sense his desperation as this went on. He was in trouble and couldn’t put Jungle Boy away. He finally did, but only by scoring with a clever rollup in 17:34. What a match. It was exactly what these two needed. MJF is such a smarmy heel and Jungle Boy is a great underdog, who killed it in terms of selling. [****]

79. The Butcher, The Blade, and The Lucha Bros vs. FTR and The Young Bucks – AEW Fyter Fest 7/8/20

Sometimes, all you want out of wrestling is to watch a bunch of people deliver non-stop action for 15:42. That’s just what happened on the second night of AEW Fyter Fest. The recently debuted FTR teamed with The Young Bucks (months ahead of their Tag Team Title program) to take on The Butcher, The Blade, and The Lucha Bros. It seemed like the Young Bucks went back to their PWG roots for this. You had a bit of everything here. The brutes in Butcher and Blade, FTR bringing tag team excellence, the Lucha Bros hitting hard and delivering big spots, and the Bucks flying all over the place. The Bucks and FTR worked seamlessly together, which added to the fun of seeing this go down. The Mexican Destroyer spot to the outside remains one of the wildest things I saw all year long. Seriously, it’s the kind of thing you have to see to believe. The result was a surprise as Dax took the pin following an assisted Package Piledriver. A ridiculous match in the best possible way. [****]

78. Minoru Suzuki vs. Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW G1 Climax 9/19/20

If you see Minoru Suzuki and Tomohiro Ishii on a card, you know they’ll deliver. That’s especially true against each other because they’re both prone to matches that are absolute wars. As you’d expect, they went right into it by hammering away at each other. There’s no wasting time with these two. They are there to beat the hell out of each other and go home. I love that mentality. This reminded me a lot of Suzuki’s New Japan Cup bout against Yuji Nagata in that it just felt angry. You got the sense that they disliked each other even if they don’t have a long history. There were points where they weren’t even hitting each other hard. They were just slapping and kicking each other as a way to talk shit. After tons of strikes, they moved into counters, blocking each other’s suplexes and such. Eventually, Suzuki used the Gotch Style Piledriver to win in 13:00. We’ve seen it a ton from these guys and together, they do it well. A sprint where two guys tried to murder each other. Look NJPW, just keep things short and sweet. [****]

77. The New Day vs. The Street Profits – WWE Survivor Series

Remember when AOP and The Bar disappointed in this champions vs. champions match a few years ago? Thankfully, these teams lived up to the hype. New Day was out in Gears of War attire to celebrate their inclusion in the game. Big E was with them. There was a friendly respect at the start between the teams. However, it quickly became clear that the more experienced New Day duo had the upper hand. They dominated at times. Kofi even stopped to pose with the Solo cup. Finally, Ford managed to make the hot tag and Dawkins turned the tide for them. I liked this New Day combo hitting Midnight Hour when that move usually needs Big E. Ford’s Frog Splash remains outstanding by the way.. He also busted out Trouble in Paradise on Kofi, which was sick. After Woods also got to deliver a sweet press slam, the Profits beat him with their Doomsday Blockbuster in 14:05. Tremendous. There was some stellar storytelling in there as you got the sense that New Day wanted to pass the torch of sorts. The action matched up to it and this delivered. [****]

76. Shingo Takagi vs. Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW G1 Climax 9/30/20

Their G1 match last year was my NJPW MOTY. Needless to say, I was hyped for this. They immediately came out tackling and hitting each other hard, so it was going to be that kind of Ishii match, which are the ones that I’m usually way into. They put on a show and I’m not going to recap it a ton because it was really just two dudes beating the shit out of each other. However, and I’m sure you’re over me saying this, but I felt this went on too long. There’s something about these two that I think would be ideal in a 15-17 minute setting. All of their matches have passed 20 minutes and this one hit 26:01, which I just didn’t think was needed. There was greatness here but it seemed like they were trying a bit too hard to deliver some kind of epic. NJPW has that problem from time to time and I think because last year’s G1 outing was stellar, they tried to recreate it and fell short. I don’t want this to sound like I disliked this because I really enjoyed it. It’s two of my favorite going to war in the main event and feeling like a true fight at times. The wild closing stretch saw Ishii finally get on the board with the Brainbuster. It also lacked some drama since I couldn’t’ see Ishii starting the tourney 0-4. Great but not the all-timer it could’ve been. [****]

75. AEW World Championship: Jon Moxley [c] vs. MJF – AEW All Out

For the most part, the win/loss records in AEW haven’t meant much in terms of storytelling. However, entering this, neither man had lost a singles match in AEW. If Moxley used the Paradigm Shift, he would lose the title. MJF had a plan, going after Moxley’s arm almost immediately. However, he was also not quite ready for the ass kicking that the champion was handing out. I loved that story. MJF is a prick but he’s never been booked as a tough guy. That means someone like Moxley should beat his ass when given the chance. MJF even got busted open, adding to the visual aspect of this encounter. When his best offense couldn’t keep Moxley down, MJF resorted to cheating. That meant using things like the Diamond Dozen (I don’t remember the exact name) ring, though Wardlow fumbled that. With the referee distracted, Moxley was able to nail the Paradigm Shift to retain after 23:49. Combined with his performance against Jungle Boy at the previous PPV, MJF proved his skills. The match lacked drama due to an earlier match because there was no way MJF/Lance Archer would be a title match, but the rest of this told a really good story and was highly entertaining. [****]

74. EVIL vs. Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW The Beginning in Sapporo

I love how the awesome tag from New Year Dash (more on that later) spawned the top two matches on another show. Tomohiro Ishii dominated the series against EVIL coming into this, being undefeated against him. Interestingly, this didn’t start with them going right after each other. It made for a fresh change of pace given their styles. However, EVIL quickly went back to the greatest hits. He brought out the hard hitting stuff, the steel chairs, and everything we know from him. It’s as if he got so frustrated that he opted to double-down on what he already does. On the flip side, you had Ishii who busted out new stuff like a pretty sweet spinning heel kick. He had more that he could dig down for, but EVIL didn’t seem to. The closing minutes were filled with huge lariats, near falls, and big spots. They saved the good stuff for then. Ishii finally kept EVIL down with the Vertical Drop Brainbuster after 21:14. About on par with what I’m used to from these guys. Great hard hitting action, though I preferred their Wrestling Dontaku match from 2019. [****]

73. Boneyard Match: AJ Styles vs. The Undertaker – WWE WrestleMania 36 Night One

There were some people who were originally not happy with the idea of The Undertaker facing AJ Styles in a Boneyard match. It seemed like a goofy gimmick and cinematic wrestling hadn’t been much of a thing yet. WWE was 100% right to go that route, though. The Undertaker hadn’t looked good in the ring in years outside of squashes against John Cena and tag matches where he didn’t have to do much. So, doing this negated that problem. Was it cheesy? Yes. Wasn’t that half the fun? Absolutely. I’d much rather watch a American Badass fight off The Club and have wackiness happen set to music than see him try to work a regular 20 minute match. This was all sorts of goofy and I loved it. The Undertaker pulled out the win in about 19:00 and it was basically everything you could want from this type of match. Honestly, that was a really good way for The Undertaker to go out if he’s indeed actually retired. [****]

72. G1 Climax Briefcase: Kota Ibushi [c] vs. Jay White – NJPW Power Struggle

I didn’t like their Wrestle Kingdom meeting this year but their two G1 matches were great. As usual, Jay White brought all of the heel tactics. There’s not a better jerk heel in wrestling right now (obviously, Roman Reigns is the best heel right now but he’s different type of villain). This was interesting from start to finish. It avoided the tropes of overly long heel control segments and babyface comebacks. Instead, this was a back and forth affair that was very well done, with both men playing to their strengths. A lot of Jay’s stuff came off really well here in terms of snap and looking good. My favorite part had to be the finish, though. Other than Yano, we don’t get many flash pins in NJPW and especially not as many dirty ones. Jay used a backslide and an old school bit of putting his feet on the ropes to steal the briefcase in 18:47. A hell of a match that featured some really good back and forth. It marked the first time that the Tokyo Dome title shot briefcase changed hands. [****]

71. NXT Women’s Championship: Rhea Ripley [c] vs. Bianca Belair – NXT TakeOver: Portland

Rhea Ripley entered 2020 as the hottest thing in wrestling. That’s not hyperbole or anything like that. She was legitimately on fire as NXT Women’s Champion. So, finding her first (and only) contender at a TakeOver event was tough. Surprisingly, it ended up being Bianca Belair. This was an interesting pairing as Ripley has shined as a powerhouse but Belair is possibly pound-for-pound the strongest person on the roster. That made for a very unique battle that was unlike the rest of what we get from the division. The whole thing lasted 13:32 and was kind of filled with action from the start. The biggest issue with this was that it never really felt like Bianca was a threat. She typically didn’t come through in big title matches and there was no way they were going to have Belair drop the championship ahead of her expected WrestleMania cast. Other than a lack of drama, this was tremendous. Ripley retained by hitting Riptide and proving that she remains one of the company’s top females. Belair is also in that category. [****]