wrestling / Columns

Kevin’s Top 500 Matches Of The 2010s (#200 – 191)

December 13, 2021 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
NXT Takeover: Rival

200. World Heavyweight Championship: Randy Orton [c] vs. Christian – WWE Over The Limit 2011

The story coming into this was great. Christian finally won the World Title after 17 years and then lost it to Orton cleanly in five days. Here, he was trying to win it back. This started slowly but in a way that made sense. Christian had a game plan and he was going to wear down Orton knowing his explosive nature. When they started throwing bigger offense at each other, Orton got the upper hand. I liked how Orton was going for flash pins, as he was totally happy to just beat Christian on a whim. As they got near the end, Christian went for the move that lost him the title, only to fake out Christian and then use a sunset flip for a very close near fall. Great storytelling. Orton could’ve won with the Punt but had a change of heart due to not wanting to hurt Christian, which set him up to eat a Spear for a great near fall. That led to a great closing stretch where Orton hit the RKO after a series of counters to retain in 16:49. Incredible match that delivered and didn’t go overly long. They told a hell of a story, featured great in-ring action, and their chemistry was remarkable. Plus, no Cole and Lawler was a bonus.

199. Team Authority vs. Team Cena – WWE Survivor Series 2014

Team Cena kind of dominated for the first five minutes until the undefeated Rusev entered. Ryback had spent the prior few weeks being built back up, only to be the first guy eliminated for his team. He fell to a Curb Stomp and Machka Kick. Then came a lengthy segment without an elimination. Ziggler took the heat until Cena got the hot tag and the match broke down into a brawl. Rusev cleared off the announce tables and looked to put Ziggler through one. However, Dolph moved and Rusev crashed through on his own, getting counted out. The match remained hectic as we got former teammates Harper and Rowan as the legal men. Rightfully, it was Harper who won out (with help from Seth) using a lariat to beat Rowan. Then, the twist of the century came. That was sarcasm, because it was Big Show knocking out Cena to cause his 572197th alignment turn. Seth pinned Cena. Show, who seemed to have struck a deal with the Authority, walked away to get counted out. That left Ziggler alone down 3-on-1. Team Authority played with their food, taunting Dolph for being alone. Dolph was getting dominated, yet found a way to hit a desperation Zig Zag and eliminate Kane. Again, out of desperation, Dolph survived some Harper shots and rolled him up to even the score. It was down to him and Rollins. Dolph nearly pulled out more upsets with rollups but Seth survived. Triple H sold the hell out of each near fall. When Dolph hit the Zig Zag, HHH pulled the referee out and clocked him. That set up shenanigans with the Authority throwing everything at Dolph, including J&J Security. When a new ref showed up, HHH also took him out. HHH attacked Dolph and hit the Pedigree. He draped Seth over Dolph and brought out crooked ref Scott Armstrong. Before Scott could count, a crow sound was heard and for the first time in WWE history, STING HAD ARRIVED! I remember seeing this and losing my mind. It was such a surreal moment. He and HHH had a LONG staredown before Sting hit the Scorpion Death Drop. He then placed Dolph over Seth to end the match at 41:07. A great match that I overhyped on my initial viewing because I was going nuts about Sting. It’s still damn good, with plenty of emotional highs and lows. Dolph’s last stand was great and the Sting appearance was a stellar surprise. However, it was odd to just have Dolph and Seth out for several minutes leading to the finish. There should’ve been a move or something to punctuate Dolph’s win.

198. NXT Championship: Kevin Owens [c] vs. Finn Balor – WWE Beast in the East

Beast in the East was unlike any other show in the WWE this year. Besides the fact that it was broadcast live from Japan, this just felt so different. The production, presentation and even commentary was all so refreshing. Finn Balor and Kevin Owens met for the NXT Title earlier in the year, though it was rather disappointing. This time, Finn had home field advantage due to his history in Japan, and he also brought out the “Demon.” There was a big fight feel to this one and the streamers thrown into the ring by the crowd just added to that. Using the emotional upper hand, Finn attacked from the bell, trying to overwhelm the champion and maybe even score a quick win. Owens weathered the storm, slowing the match to a pace that he liked. Owens was phenomenal here, doing all of the little things that he needed to do as a hated heel. From smack talk to purposely doing rest holds to stealing John Cena’s signature moves and more, Owens was on point. They didn’t overdo the false finishes, with Balor not even taking a popup powerbomb, protecting that move. It did take him two Coup de Graces, but it earned him the NXT Title in 19:25. A great, feel good moment capping a great match.

197. Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey vs. Stephanie McMahon and Triple H – WWE WrestleMania 34

The definition of a spectacle. As soon as Triple H and Stephanie McMahon came out on motorcycles and did dual water spit spots, I was hooked. Everyone has praised Ronda Rousey for her debut performance here and it’s certainly granted. She was fantastic. But more love needs to go to Stephanie. She was perfect in this. Right at the start, she slapped Ronda and got in several cheap shots before bailing. She was an expert heel, causing fans to salivate at the chance to see Ronda destroy her. They made everyone wait, but once we got it, Ronda delivered. Not only did she get her hands on Stephanie, but the fans erupted when she squared up to Triple H. It was nuts. Angle and HHH were more in there to play ring generals and kind of lead this thing, but it was all about the women. They did go a bit overboard in having Stephanie be able to counter and avoid the armbar, as that felt super unrealistic. Other than that, this was brilliant storytelling. Ronda was tough, but got outsmarted by her wrestling savvy opponents. She shined against excellent heels. Seeing her beat up HHH and then hoist him onto her shoulder was wild. She finally got Stephanie in the armbar to win after 20:37. Probably the smartest worked match of 2018.

196. WWE Championship Elimination Chamber: Randy Orton [c] vs. Cesaro vs. Christian vs. Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena vs. Sheamus – WWE Elimination Chamber 2014

A fantastic Elimination Chamber. One of the best in history as everyone did their part well. I just wish that Randy Orton was booked a bit stronger. He played his role right, but the role should have allowed him to look better. Still, an absolute scorcher with big spots, good wrestling, cool moments and they took the crowd on an emotional roller coaster. For my full writeup, you can find the review at 411mania.com/wrestling/random-network-reviews-elimination-chamber-2014/.

195. Extreme Rules Match: Adam Cole vs. Aleister Black – NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia

When Adam Cole was first brought into NXT, I was very negative about it. I thought his work in ROH, PWG, NJPW, and everywhere else was mediocre at best. However, he’s been great in NXT and though he had a strong showing near the end of 2017, it was this match that truly solidified him for me. You wouldn’t expect it, but Cole is fantastic in hardcore matches and this may have been his best. The weapons were brought into play early and often, yet they still managed to gradually use them. It wasn’t just wailing on each other for the sake of it. The spots got bigger as the match progressed, with each man attempting to find a new way to overcome the other. Cole took huge bumps onto a ladder and the tops of two steel chairs, while Aleister Black got superkicked and fell through two tables. Neither man was holding back. The Undisputed Era and SAnitY got involved in a sensible way that added to the match, rather than take away from it. With the odds evened up, Black was able to find the opening he needed to win. All it took was a Black Mass and it was over in 22:03. One of the best Extreme Rules matches in history.

194. Lucha Underground Championship All Night Long Match: Prince Puma [c] vs. Johnny Mundo – Lucha Underground 6/17/15

On the first ever episode of Lucha Underground, Prince Puma and Johnny Mundo were the main event. Then, to crown the first ever Lucha Underground Champion, the Aztec Warfare match came down to Mundo and Puma, with Puma coming out on top. There was respect between the two rivals, which changed after Mundo turned heel. Dario Cueto, the best authority figure in wrestling since Vince McMahon, liked this new attitude and put them in the first ever All Night Long match. I wouldn’t really consider this an Ironman match since there was no set time, but they were basically given Ironman match rules. For the entire duration of an episode of Lucha Underground, Mundo and Puma would compete and the winner would be the man to win the most falls in that time. The entire thing ran for 38:35 and almost never stopped. It was one of, if not the smartest worked match in Lucha Underground history. Mundo used a lot of tricks to take a commanding 4-1 lead. While he was cunning enough to take the lead, his ego was too big to be wise the rest of the way. He wanted to hurt Puma and set up some tables. This would cost him as both men went through it and Puma cut the lead to 4-3. Mundo realized he made a mistake and started to be smart, running away to let the clock expire. Alberto El Patron returned and attacked Mundo, leading to the tie score. With three minutes remaining, both guys tried many pin attempts until finally, Puma was able to score on the 630 and retain. Keeping viewers completely enthralled throughout is a testament to both men and how the match was laid out.

193. NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler [c] vs. Rhea Ripley – NXT 12/18/19

This match was gloriously built up. Shayna Baszler had been champion since the previous October. And outside of a short two or so month reign by Kairi Sane, you could go back to the previous April to see Shayna’s time as champion begin. She beat Dakota Kai, Candice LeRae, Io Shirai, Mia Yim, and everyone thrown in front of her. She even beat Bayley and Becky Lynch in the main event of Survivor Series. Meanwhile, Rhea Ripley quickly became the hottest thing in wrestling. She was scorching hot following wins at TakeOver: War Games and Survivor Series. Their singles meeting main evented a huge episode of NXT and more than lived up to the hype. Shayna’s usual tactics failed because Rhea wasn’t intimidated. She resorted to help from Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke but that wasn’t enough. Nearly taking Rhea out by injuring her arm still wasn’t enough. It seemed like the unstoppable champion would still prevail when she trapped Rhea in the Kirifuda Clutch. However, Rhea fought through and survived to the crowd’s approval. The avalanche Riptide that ended it in 20:50 was spectacular and led to one of the best moments of the year. Rhea Ripley is the future of wrestling. And yes, I purposely didn’t just say “women’s” wrestling. She’s that good.

192. WWE Tag Team Championship Two Out of Three Falls Match: The Usos [c] vs. Erick Rowan and Luke Harper – WWE Battleground 2014

Many consider this to be the straight-up tag that Harper and Rowan had. I’d have to agree. Their Money in the Bank match the previous month was also a banger. The first fall was relatively quick paced, with Harper and Rowan overwhelming The Usos with their size and strength. You got the sense that they learned from the loss at the prior PPV. In fact, Harper scored the first fall in mere minutes, really putting The Usos on the defensive. I wish the second fall had a bit more to it to really show The Usos fighting from behind. Still, it was cool that they tied it up without fully coming back. It was basically luck. The final fall was absurd, filled with tremendous close calls and near falls without ever overdoing it. Stopping the discus lariat with a superkick only for Harper to hit the lariat anyway is the stuff of legend. It’s so goddamn good. The champions finally retained with a double splash on Harper after 18:50. Tag team wrestling needs more love in WWE. This was spectacular and ended up being the only good thing on the entire show.

191. NXT Championship: Sami Zayn [c] vs. Kevin Owens – NXT TakeOver: Rival

The story of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens is one of my favorites ever, dating back to Kevin Steen vs. El Generico. After finally winning the NXT Title at R-Evolution, Owens turned on his best friend, setting the stage for this match. Despite only being in NXT for a short time, Owens goaded Sami into putting the belt on the line here. An angry Sami came out firing but made some mistakes and fell victim to just how vicious and brutal Kevin Owens can be. He beat Sami from pillar to post, prompting Corey Graves to compare it to the Brock Lesnar/John Cena beating from SummerSlam 2014. Sami is the best at playing the face in peril though and made some spirited rallies to the crowd’s delight. He blocked the apron bomb that took him out in the past and hit a moonsault, but his head snapped back onto the steel ramp. That made him too dizzy to do some things and he ran into a popup powerbomb. Sami would kick out, so Owens relentlessly pummeled him and hit four more powerbombs causing the referee to stop the match at 23:27. A fantastically told story that solidified Owens as a dominant heel, while keeping Sami as the resilient babyface.