wrestling / Columns

Kevin’s Top 500 Matches Of The 2010s (#100 – 91)

February 26, 2022 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
Jon Moxley Tomohiro Ishii NJPW Image Credit: NJPW

100. NEVER Openweight Championship: Katsuyori Shibata [c] vs. Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW The New Beginning in Osaka 2016

Image Credit: NJPW

People can give all their praise to the Tanahashi/Okada rivalry, but for my money, this is the best rivalry I’ve ever witnessed in terms of pure in-ring quality. I’ve watched all their matches since 2013 and have never gone lower than ****¼ on one. Though they had a match I gave the full five to back in 2013 (in this same city no less), their two matches this year were among the best they’ve ever done. After stealing a show a month earlier at Wrestle Kingdom, this was Tomohiro Ishii getting his rematch for the NEVER Title. Ishii and Shibata know what works for them and they deliver it each time. For 18:47, they beat the living hell out of each other for our enjoyment. They follow a similar pattern but each time out feels unique. For example, this time around, there was an emphasis on submissions as they built to the climax. At one point, Shibata hit a spinning back fast that made me gasp loudly. They’re known to trade big strikes so they upped the ante and traded brainbusters. They’re that insane. The closing moments were nuts and Shibata finally hit a shot hard enough to knock Ishii loopy. He used the sleeper hold and penalty kick to retain the title in another fantastic war between two incredible wrestlers.

99. PWG Championship Ladder Match: Kevin Steen [c] vs. El Generico – PWG Steen Wolf

Image Credit: PWG

“You and I are destined to do this forever.” That has never been more true in wrestling than with Kevin Steen and El Generico. From teaming on the indies to brutal feuds there to their NXT run together to main roster matches, and somehow even all the way to WrestleMania. Watching something like their PWG Title match at Steen Wolf will make you wonder how they even still have careers at this point. This was brutal and they took some bumps that are even hard to watch at points. It’s the kind of thing that needs to be seen to really be believed. They went all in for 26:54 and blew away pretty much everyone. The only thing that I didn’t really like about this was the interference from The Young Bucks. While it helped set up the next angle, I think it took a bit away from this. Generico’s win was a true feel good moment.

98. WWE World Championship: Dean Ambrose [c] vs. AJ Styles – WWE Backlash 2016

Image Credit: WWE

After beating John Cena cleanly at SummerSlam, the next logical step for AJ Styles was to challenge for the WWE World Championship. Styles and Dean Ambrose had a simple but effective buildup to this match and it worked. This felt like a big fight. Like the matches against Cena, Styles was in control for a good chunk of the 24:56 outing. AJ nailed every cocky mannerism as he just continued to be a step above everyone else in the world. Dean more than held his own though and his wild offensive style made for a great contrast to AJ. There were some scary moments in this, like a super back suplex spot and AJ taking a ridiculous bump into the ring post. I’m honestly surprised he didn’t injure himself on it. AJ worked the leg to set up some great Calf Crusher teases, though Dean’s selling of it could have been slightly better. Both guys busted out the big spots, from AJ’s springboard 450 splash to Ambrose’s diving elbow into the crowd. The final few minutes of this were among the best in WWE all year. Styles hit the Pele and Dean answered with the rebound lariat. Some people didn’t like the finish but I loved it. Sure Styles used a low blow before winning with the Styles Clash, but it wasn’t like he came off as a weak heel who needed it. It felt like he was capable of beating Dean and was a cunning enough competitor to take advantage when he found one. AJ’s win cemented his legacy. Everywhere he goes, he reaches the top. TNA Champion. IWGP Heavyweight Champion. WWE World Champion. Phenomenal is more than just a moniker for him.

97. Royal Rumble Match – WWE Royal Rumble 2010

Image Credit: WWE

Keeping this one short and to the point, the first Royal Rumble match of the decade was easily one of the best ever. Sure, it only lasted less than 50 minutes (47:25 overall) but it was packed to the brim with great moments. CM Punk entered #3 and dominated while giving straight edge sermons. Shawn Michaels, desperate to win and earn a shot at The Undertaker, had a heroic effort in his final Rumble. Beth Phoenix made a rare appearance. The real kicker came right near the end though. Chris Jericho was floored when Edge arrived at #29, returning early from an injury to get revenge on Jericho. Batista got rid of Michaels in a heartbreaking moment before Edge ended up winning, putting a bow on a stellar Rumble and a smile on the faces of fans everywhere.

96. Kenny Omega vs. Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 2017

Image Credit: NJPW

Upset with his loss to Tomohiro Ishii in the opening round of the New Japan Cup, Kenny Omega looked to even the score. However, it was Ishii who came out firing, overwhelming Omega with a flurry of offense. Kenny battled back as the match kept a pretty frantic pace throughout. Commentary continued the trend of selling the One Winged Angel as a big deal. Omega hadn’t hit it in his last two big singles matches (both losses), but beat Ishii with it in a tag. Kenny got a little overconfident, leading him to a strike exchange. That’s a battle he simply can’t win against Ishii. Kenny resorted back to aerial offense and keeping a quick pace. There was a cool spot where Ishii hit his own version of a One Winged Angel for a great near fall. Ishii also busted out a reverse rana One Winged Angel counter because he’s a madman in the best possible way. Omega got another big near fall by using Ishii’s own Brainbuster, before hitting the One Winged Angel to pick up the win at 23:55. The Ishii/Omega trilogy was a highlight of 2017 and the best for both men (above Omega/Okada and Ishii/Naito). They played off their first meeting well, worked at a wild pace and had some great moments throughout. It was their best outing together, which is saying something.

95. WWE Raw Women’s Championship Hell in a Cell: Becky Lynch [c] vs. Sasha Banks – WWE Hell in a Cell 2019

Image Credit: WWE

With their Clash of Champions match ending in disqualification, you knew this was coming. Sasha Banks would step inside Hell in a Cell for the second time in her career against Becky Lynch for the Raw Women’s Title. It felt like the most important women’s match since WrestleMania. By now, we have seen over 40 Hell in a Cell matches. That makes it difficult to give us something new. Sasha and Becky did a good job of bringing in some innovative spots to go with their already impressive chemistry. You got the sense they were willing to do whatever it took to walk out as champion. Some of the spots during this 21:23 runtime were flat out brutal and way more weapons were used than I expected. Some of the moments involving chairs and kendo sticks were really cool. Sasha brought in a bunch of chairs but it backfired on her in the end. Becky delivered a huge avalanche Bexploder onto the pile of chairs before locking in the Dis-Arm-Her to retain her title. It was the highlight of Becky’s title reign and Sasha’s best singles match since the Ronda Rousey war at Royal Rumble.

94. WWE Championship: CM Punk [c] vs. Daniel Bryan – WWE Over the Limit 2012

Image Credit: WWE

Considering their backgrounds, a major PPV Title match between these two was pretty much a dream. They started by trying to outwork each other on the mat a bit. It slowly progressed into something more. Bryan brought an old lariat spot to WWE from his matches with Nigel McGuinness. Punk hit the elbow, which I believe beat Bryan earlier in the year, but it’s not enough here. Bryan relentlessly drove knees into Punk’s ribs as the aggression picked up. Punk tried the knee strike/bulldog combo only to get countered into the Yes Lock. Punk rolled over onto Bryan and gets a three count, though he tapped out right after the bell rings at the 23:58 mark. A tremendous match and the pinnacle of CM Punk’s title reign from an in-ring standpoint. Also a top five Bryan WWE match off the top of my head, especially at the time. Great back and forth as they were played to be equals. They kept the crowd invested, sold well for one another and wrestled a very smart match.

93. Jon Moxley vs. Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW G1 Climax 29 7/19/19

Image Credit: NJPW

When Jon Moxley’s G1 Climax entry was announced, more than a few potential matches stood out. This was right near the top of the list. Both men came in with 2-0 records and both were champions at the time. Before the bell, they came face to face for an intense staredown that set the tone for a ridiculously wild match. I’m talking about a match where they wrestled all over Korakuen Hall, battered each other with chairs, headbutted each other like the Junkyard Dog, and Ishii busted out a splash off the top through a table. As good as the G1 Climax usually is, it is often the same kind of match over and over. Variety is welcome (which is why I love Toru Yano in it) and this gave us that. There was nothing else in the tournament like it. This was right up the alley of both men and they made it work by giving us something unexpected. Ishii kicked out of the Death Rider, which I didn’t love, but they made up for it when Moxley added the Regal Knee. An elevated Death Rider later and Moxley secured the win after an incredible 20:36.

92. IWGP Heavyweight Championship Two Out of Three Falls Match: Kazuchika Okada [c] vs. Kenny Omega – NJPW Dominion 2018

Image Credit: NJPW

After giving their first match six stars, breaking his own scale, and killing his limited credibility, Dave Meltzer continued to up the ante for matches between Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega. This one got seven stars. I’ll start by getting the reason why it’s not a perfect match out of the way. The one time Kenny beat Okada was when he overwhelmed him with a quick pace in the G1 Climax. Considering he never beat Okada at a slower paced game and how he bragged about having the stamina advantage, it would make logical sense for him to bring that high energy right off the bat. Instead, they didn’t play enough off their G1 meeting and that didn’t make sense. With that out of the way, let’s praise this match. In the first fall, Omega kept having Okada’s usual formulaic stuff scouted. He understood his opponent in that sense. Knowing he beat Okada the one time he hit the One Winged Angel, Omega went for it too often and Okada countered into a rollup to take the first fall in 28:47. Okada became cocky, knowing he had barely been pinned in two years, so getting pinned twice in one match seemed unlikely. Omega tried new things out of desperation before tying it with the One Winged Angel at 47:47. The final fall beautifully showed how exhausted these guys were. They were dazed, would fall over after moves, and looked to be way out of it. Omega hit two more One Winged Angels to finally end Okada’s reign at the 64:50 mark. It isn’t the greatest match ever, but it’s a fantastic one. Great callbacks, exceptional pacing, quality action, and they didn’t try to go overly long and set some kind of record for the sake of it. Neck and neck with their G1 outing for their best work.

91. NXT Championship Two Out Of Three Falls Match: Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano – NXT TakeOver: New York

Image Credit: WWE

This was supposed to the final chapter for Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. An injury to Ciampa halted that and this was what we got instead. The top heel against the top babyface, Two out of Three Falls, with the NXT Championship on the line. The first fall featured some stellar wrestling. Hold for hold, crisp exchanges, counters, etc. That sort of thing. There was a lot of well-crafted drama as they went for flash pins and came close to stealing a 1-0 lead. It was cool because a lot of these matches opt for the quick first fall and work from there. After Cole won that fall, he came out swinging in the next. He could smell the victory and it showed. Gargano had to play on the defensive. It looked like he made the ultimate mistake of pride by breaking out the chance to tie it up via countout. However, he managed to pull Cole into the Gargano Escape to even the score. That final fall was just two desperate men throwing bombs at each other. Cole was willing to win by countout but Johnny survived that and interference from the Undisputed Era. He eventually used Gargano Escape to finally capture the title after a grueling 38:10. When this happened live, I was moved by Gargano’s win but felt it went overboard on the late kickouts. I do still feel that way but I’ve grown to like the match more. It felt like an epic title fight culminating in a wonderful moment. Their follow up matches couldn’t touch it.