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Kevin’s Top 500 Matches Of The 2010s (#150 – 141)

December 29, 2021 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 2017

150. Super Strong Style 16 Quarterfinals: Jeff Cobb vs. Matt Riddle – PROGRESS Chapter 49: Super Strong Style 16

The Chosen Bros explode! Matt Riddle and Jeff Cobb are buddies and partners, but were matched up to meet in the excellent Super Strong Style 16 tournament. Riddle won his first round match in six seconds with a knockout knee. He went for that here, but Cobb was wise and knew to avoid it. There was a great moment where Riddle used Cobb’s own rolling gutwrench suplex spot. It was an impressive show of strength from Riddle, but then Cobb countered and threw him around like nothing. That signaled the pace picking up, as the rest of the 13:39 saw them throw non-stop bombs. Cobb survived a Bro to Sleep, before hitting a huge Tombstone. Riddle was so hurt, he could only instinctively kick out. It was incredibly weak. Think Sami Zayn at TakeOver: Rival. They got a standing ovation after Riddle hit a series of fisherman busters and an even louder one when Cobb hit a Canadian Destroyer followed by a ridiculous popup German. Somehow, that wasn’t the finish. Riddle escaped Cobb’s next move and used that knockout knee to advance to the semi-finals. An absolutely absurd match in the best possible way.

149. Hirooki Goto vs. Katsuyori Shibata – NJPW Dominion 2013

These two have a long history of friendship and as partners. They had a match a few months earlier that ended in a double knockout. Right at the bell, Hirooki Goto charges and lays out Katsuyori Shibata with a big lariat, setting the tone. Shibata turns the tide with some of his vicious kicks. He applies a figure four that sees Goto sit up and just lay into him with slaps. Shibata seems to urge him to hit harder. Shibata continues with hard strikes until Goto lifts him for a stalling back suplex. This leads to both guys hitting those on each other, getting up nearly instantly. Goto stops that with a lariat to the back of the head but before falling, Shibata gets in a Pele like kick. When both men get up, it’s an exchange of strikes. The final blows being stereo slaps that send both men to the mat. The fans applaud the fact that they can just stand up. Shibata hits a kick and headbutt that both sound incredible painful. The headbutt brings a double KO tease that the crowd comes alive for. Goto scores a near fall on a signature move that the fans bite on. Shibata now brings the big offense with a Death Valley Driver and then uses Goto’s own neckbreaker on him. The sleeper and Penalty Kick put Goto down for the count after 13:16 This is pretty much the Shibata special. Give this man 12-15 minutes and you’re almost guaranteed a tremendous hard hitting match. These guys know each other well enough for things to move along smoothly. The fact that both men were able to walk out after is amazing considering the sheer brutality of this match. There’s something about Shibata matches that just feel more real than anything else in wrestling.

148. Hair vs. Hair Match: Ethan Carter III vs. Rockstar Spud – TNA Impact 3/13/15

Ethan Carter III was one of the few things TNA did right around this era. Along with Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens, he was the best heel in wrestling of the time. His former little buddy Rockstar Spud met him in this main event match. The atmosphere in England was electric, as the crowd was firmly behind the home country underdog in Spud. This was well laid out, with them building to bigger things that the crowd ate up. They got Tyrus and Mr. Anderson involved, which made sense given the feud coming into this match. Jeremy Borash also got in, hitting a low blow, which again played into the rivalry. Carter would use his arm brace to bust Spud open, giving the rest of this contest a great visual. Seeing Spud take a beating, only to rally with a crimson mask, completely added to this. It was the kind of star making performance for both men that the company could use more often. After 17:03, Carter won but had a concerned look on his face. He seemed to cut a positive promo about Spud, only to stay in full heel mode and turn it right back around on him, attacking him. He’s such a dick and it’s wonderful.

147. RevPro British Heavyweight Championship: Katsuyori Shibata [c] vs. Will Ospreay – NJPW New Beginning in Osaka 2017

I’ve made my feelings on Will Ospreay well known in this list. However, he was at his very best in 2017 on this night. With their penchant for high octane stuff, you’d expect them to go after one another like Shibata and Ishii usually do. Instead, Ospreay played it smart, knowing he’d get his ass handed to him if he went at Shibata. After a bit of grappling, they picked up the pace and it was pure insanity. With that style taking over, Ospreay gained enough confidence to steal Shibata’s signature taunt and do his corner dropkick. When he lost the strike battle, he found ways to combat it, like kicking Shibata’s head into the ring post. Ospreay even went for his own version of the Rainmaker (with Okada watching on commentary), but nothing he could do was enough to keep Shibata down. Shibata was too much and he used the sleeper/PK combo to retain the title after an awesome 13:51. Other than his matches with KUSHIDA, this was probably the best Ospreay outing I’ve seen. He gave it his very best, it just wasn’t enough on this night. An excellently paced match that was an incredible first time outing.

146. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada – NJPW G1 Climax 23 8/10/13

The stakes are high as the two top guys in New Japan face off and with a loss, either guy would be eliminated from winning their block. These two have traded the IWGP Heavyweight Title for a little over a year at this point. Their feeling out process is fun since they know each other so well. It’s great watching them try to outmaneuver the other with something that they haven’t brought to the table yet. Okada grabs the first real advantage, hitting a rope hung DDT in the corner. He comes close to a countout victory, which he would love to take. Okada wears down Tanahashi in the ring. It’s as if Okada, who just won the belt from Tanahashi a few months earlier, has Tanahashi’s number. Ever resilient, Tanahashi starts a rally and connects on High Fly Flow to the outside. He mercilessly goes after Okada’s leg, hitting a dragon screw and then just stomping on it relentless. They get into a battle of strikes that has the crowd on the edge of their seats. Okada’s arm is busted as he calls for the Rainmaker, which Tanahashi avoids. Tanahashi goes back to the leg with more dragon screws and a cloverleaf. Tanahashi does his own Rainmaker pose but Okada sends him over, where he skins the cat back in and nails slingblade. He misses High Fly Flow however. Okada tries for the tombstone but his arm gives out, so he goes with a dropkick. This time, the tombstone connects, but Tanahashi counters the Rainmaker into one of his own! Near falls from both men come as we reach a boiling point. Tanahashi hits the Styles Clash, a sign of things to come, but Okada gets his knees up on High Fly Flow. They continue to go at it and Okada scores on a dropkick. Tanahashi manages to again avoid the Rainmaker as time expires at 30:00. It’s pretty much impossible for these two to have a bad match. I’ve loved all but one of their matches and this was excellent. It did start a bit slow, but it made sense given their history. When things got going, it really was incredible. Such good and forth, with some top notch selling and great counters. Add in the drama of the clock winding down and the desperation of both men needing this win and you’ve got a classic.

145. Juice Robinson vs. Tetsuya Naito – NJPW G1 Climax 28 7/21/18

In 2017, Juice Robinson pinned Tetsuya Naito in a tag match, but ultimately lost an Intercontinental Title shot at him. That match ruled (****¼) and was one that helped solidify Juice as a star in NJPW. The tables had turned here, though. Juice was now the man holding championship gold and on something of a hot streak even though he dropped his first two G1 matches. He also came in with a heavily bandaged hand that was broken a few weeks prior. Naito honed in on it. He was vicious in attacking it. Naito’s assault went so far, he got booed in Korakuen Hall. This isn’t 2013. Getting the crowd to boo Naito, the most popular star in Japan, is no easy task. The combination of his brutal offense and Juice’s babyface fire made for one hell of an atmosphere. Naito would modify his signature offense to specifically target the hand. It was genius. When Juice fired up and got going, Naito spat at him, hoping to entice him to use the cast as a weapon and get disqualified. Super good guy Juice refused to give in. He came close to pulling out the huge win on several occasions and even survived Destino. However, he couldn’t get up from a second, losing after 16:38 of incredible action.

144. WWE Championship: Daniel Bryan [c] vs. Kevin Owens vs. Mustafa Ali – WWE Fastlane 2019

You know those times when something is announced for a match and it seems like a disaster? That was nearly the case here. Scheduled to be Kevin Owens vs. Daniel Bryan, this was announced to be a Triple Threat match at the last minute. Following the events of Elimination Chamber, the fans wanted Kofi Kingston to be the third man. Mustafa Ali getting the spot was a great idea, especially since he never got his chance at the chamber. However, the fans greeted him with “we want Kofi” chants. It had all the makings of a debacle where the crowd turns on a match and gives them nothing. They booed loudly as soon as the bell rang. I appreciated how commentary didn’t try to act like things were good. They pointed out how Ali usually got energy from the crowd but that wasn’t the case here. At least, not early on. After a few minutes, that negative reaction was gone. Ali, Owens, and Bryan put on a match that was too engaging to ignore. For 18:39, we were captivated by these three having one of the greatest Triple Threat matches in history. In the end, Ali had a moonsault countered into the Busaiku Knee. An incredible match. Ali showed how great he was with a stellar performance that brought the crowd back from the dead. Owens showed babyface fire that helped propel his later face run and Bryan was perfect in his role.

143. Shingo Takagi vs. SHO – NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 5/13/19

Every year, there are a handful of matches in the Best of the Super Juniors that stand out above the rest. In 2019, it was clearly this opening night contest. In fact, I was more pumped for this than anything else in NJPW last year by a wide margin. It was built so well. Shingo Takagi was the undefeated unstoppable junior monster. SHO was an underrated powerhouse himself. Their exchanges in tags leading up to this had everyone salivating. SHO was out to prove he could match Shingo in strength. When he couldn’t, Shingo reminded us why he was unlike the rest of the division. He didn’t go high risk. He worked it at his pace and played to his strengths. SHO couldn’t hit a spear because his power waned from a beating but it worked later after he wore down Shingo. The little things matter in wrestling. SHO continually had to resort to try new offense and he did some impressive things. He also survived the best Shingo could throw at him. What really made this match was how it affected Shingo. After months of dominating, he got trapped in an armbar and panicked. His desperation to reach the ropes really sold how much trouble he was in. SHO finally stayed down at the 25:07 mark after getting hit with Last of the Dragon. An absolute war from the two of the best. It never felt long and told exactly the story it needed to for their feud.

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

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.

141. Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Katsuyori Shibata – NJPW G1 Climax 26 7/24/16

When the G1 Climax blocks were announced, this was instantly my most highly anticipated match. Katsuhiko Nakajima is my favorite NOAH guy and, while Katsuyori Shibata is only my second favorite NJPW guy, I knew their styles would make for a great match. It’s two guys that hit and kick hard and they don’t hold anything back. Shibata started with stiff shots, but Nakajima gave them right back, including to Shibata’s taped shoulder. Shibata sold it well, rolling back outside to rest right after Nakajima brought him in. Nakajima began to do some of Shibata’s offense, playing the brash youngster heel role. That was actually when he was at his best in this tournament. They would pop up after offense from the other to show how evenly matched they were. Despite Shibata firing up and kicking ass, Nakajima found himself in control down the stretch. He got too big for his britches though because when he tried to win with Shibata’s Penalty Kick, Shibata caught it. He withstood shots from Nakajima, slapped on the sleeper hold and won with the PK at 14:09. I know people loved a lot of the last few days of the G1, but this was my favorite G1 match this year. Shibata has earned that distinction two straight years now.