wrestling / Columns

Kevin’s Top 500 Matches Of The 2010s (#260 – 251)

November 1, 2021 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
WWE Night of Champions 2012

260. AJ Styles vs. Tetsuya Naito – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 9

Since my knowledge of New Japan Pro Wrestling wasn’t very high coming into Wrestle Kingdom 9, I wanted to see this match more than any because it involved AJ Styles. Seeing it for the first time, I thought it was great. Later in the year, I went back and saw their G1 Climax 24 match, which was better, before going back and re-watching this. The second time around, I appreciated and enjoyed this more. While their first match was centered on Naito’s eye injury and a vicious AJ, this was focused on the Styles Clash. AJ had broken Yoshi Tatsu’s neck with the move and there was an aura around it as something dangerous. Naito had it well scouted, countering or blocking it at every single turn. When I saw this with Jim Ross and Matt Striker on commentary, it helped as they really built the Styles Clash as something to fear. In the end, the one Styles Clash that Naito couldn’t counter was one from the second rope, finishing him at 14:25. Once the match ended, officials ran in to check on Naito, further selling the Clash.

259. Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW King of Pro Wrestling 2013

Just like their previous matches, this starts with both men charging at each other because they are badass dudes. They just beat the hell out of each other and at one point, literally ask the other guy to hit them harder. It’s a pretty crazy thing to see. It’s great to see that both guys are billed as equals throughout. Every time Shibata does something, Ishii can do it back and vice versa. They call back to their previous G1 match with some big time near falls of one counts, despite big moves. Ishii hits a lariat at one point that would have ended a normal match but Shibata actually stays on his feet. He fights through and wins with the Penalty Kick.

258. Number One Contender’s Match: Adam Cole vs. Aleister Black vs. Matt Riddle vs. Ricochet vs. Velveteen Dream – WWE NXT 3/20/19

Just when we thought we were getting another Johnny Gargano/Tommaso Ciampa match for the NXT Title, Ciampa had to vacate the gold due to injury. Gargano still kept his shot at TakeOver: New York, but he needed an opponent. Enter this match booked by Triple H. it featured the five top male stars in NXT not named Gargano or Ciampa. The hot new commodity in Matt Riddle, North American Champion Velveteen Dream, top heel Adam Cole, and a tag team killing it on the main roster in Aleister Black and Ricochet. For 14:43, these five men put on a show with non-stop action. People moved in and out of things seamlessly despite there being so many moving parts. I loved the little moments like Black and Ricochet working together only to have to fight each other immediately afterward or past rivalries (Dream/Ricochet, Black/Cole, Dream/Black, etc.) being reborn. The final few minutes were breathtaking to the point where you might find yourself out cold the way all five men were. I saw countless moments where you thought it was over. When Ricochet had it won, Cole laid him out with Last Shot and pinned him to earn the title shot and start his rivalry with Gargano. An outstanding battle of five talented guys.

257. WWE United States Championship: Samoa Joe [c] vs. Andrade vs. R-Truth vs. Rey Mysterio – WWE Fastlane 2019

Considering he had about 25 reigns as the 24/7 Champion, you might have forgotten that R-Truth also held the United States Title in 2019. He lost it to Samoa Joe shortly before Fastlane. WWE decided to combine their issues with the ones involving Andrade and Rey Mysterio to give us a surprising US Title match. I love when those kind of matches end up being great and that’s just what this did. This only went 10:51 but was filled with about 25 minutes’ worth of action. So much happened, yet it all felt smart, crisp, and exciting. You would think they had weeks to come up with some of the spots they pulled off. Andrade and Rey were given shine for their feud, Joe was the bruiser we know him to be, and R-Truth hit us with the comedy he’s known for. They even made sure to include Carmella and Zelina Vega in the action. Joe would force Mysterio to pass out in the Coquina Clutch to retain, bringing one of the most fun matches of the year to a close. It fantastic minutes featuring four guys who are highly enjoyable to watch and two great female characters doing their thing at ringside. It all came together for something special.

256. WWE Championship: CM Punk [c] vs. John Cena – WWE Night of Champions 2012

The rivalry between John Cena and CM Punk was one of the best of the 2010s, even if it only spanned about a year and a half. By this point in 2012, it was over a year since their epic at Money in the Bankand Punk was closing in on the anniversary of his WWE Title reign. Cena proved to be a major roadblock for him. Now a heel, Punk was more willing to do whatever it took to retain his title. That being said, he played this mostly straight, not resorting to too much and wanting to prove that he was simply better than Cena. They went for an epic fight feel with a slow burn and plenty of finisher kick outs down the stretch. A German suplex off the middle rope where both men had their shoulders pinned down led to a screwy finish and a draw after 26:54. It’s not a great ending, which holds it back from ranking higher, but it’s still a great match.

255. New Japan Cup First Round: Kenny Omega vs. Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW New Japan Cup 3/12/17

Fresh off his first Wrestle Kingdom main event, Kenny Omega looked to rebound and win the New Japan Cup. A tournament win would earn him another shot at Kazuchika Okada the following month. In his way stood Tomohiro Ishii in a first time ever meeting. Omega looked to take it right to Ishii. That was a mistake, as he got rocked with strikes. A reverse rana outside put the momentum in Omega’s favor and from there, he targeted the shoulder. Things got really crazy when Ishii busted out a goddamn super rana. I didn’t even know what I was watching at that point. They just went into a barrage of great back and forth for the remainder of the match. I got a kick out of seeing Ishii pull out his own V-Trigger. There was a great spot where Ishii fought off the One Winged Angel, so Omega turned it into a massive German suplex. Ishii had the best counter for the One Winged Angel when he turned it into a stunner. He finally used a Brainbuster to win in 29:46 They continued the story of nobody kicking out of Omega’s finish, Ishii sold everything like a champ and the exchanges were wild. It didn’t need to go half an hour, though.

254. NXT Championship: Adam Cole [c] vs. Matt Riddle – NXT 10/2/19

With the debut of AEW Dynamite on October 2nd, WWE had to combat it with a huge episode of NXT. And they delivered. The episode turned out to be an all-timer and it started with a hell of a bang. Adam Cole defended his NXT Championship against Matt Riddle. This isn’t a matchup we had seen before unless you randomly watched a PWG show from 2017. But with how smoothly this all went, you’d think they had wrestled tons of times before. Nearly every exchange was crisp and came off great. They wowed the audience for 13:49, packing more action into that timeframe than a lot of people could in triple that amount. It felt like something we’d get on a TakeOver. This was two guys unloading their entire arsenals on one another in an attempt to be champion. And sometimes that’s all you want in a match. That made the title feel important. The closing five minutes were about as good as you’ll see anywhere. With a molten hot crowd and this level of action, you couldn’t have asked for a better way to start the show. Cole retained with the Last Shot, adding another feather in the cap of his great run as NXT Champion.

253. AJ Styles vs. Katsuyori Shibata – NJPW G1 Climax 25 7/20/15

Coming into 2015, I had never seen Katsuyori Shibata, but had heard great things. After seeing him have a fantastic match at Dominion, I started to like him. Seeing him matched up against my personal favorite, AJ Styles, to kick off the G1 Climax, had me pretty stoked. When I first saw this, I thought it was good, but not great. Upon further review, I grew to love it. Shibata came in with a legit hand injury and I expected AJ to target it. I assume it was too hurt to really work, so they wisely found a way around it. Shibata kicked the crap out of AJ, forcing AJ to go after the leg, which also help establish his Calf Killer submission. Shibata took it to AJ with some stiff shots throughout, doing what he does best. In the most infamous moment of the match, AJ was close to breaking Shibata’s sleeper. With only one good hand, Shibata chose to bite down on his good hand to keep the hold. He would miss the PK and fall victim to the Styles Clash after 13:36. I can’t believe I left this off of my top ten G1 Climax 25 matches earlier this year. Brilliantly worked match.

252. Flash Morgan Webster, Jimmy Havoc and Mark Haskins vs. Pete Dunne, Trent Seven and Tyler Bate – PROGRESS Chapter 44: Old Man Yells at Cloud 2/26/17

If any member of the Webster/Havoc/Haskins team scored the pin, they’d get a PROGRESS Title shot, but if any of them got pinned, they couldn’t have a shot for six months. High stakes. The British Strong Style trio hit pre-match low blows and went for Pedigrees, but they were countered to officially start the match. The dynamic of the face team all wanting the pin for themselves came into play early, but they put it aside to hit a bunch of dives. British Strong Style worked better as a team since they are an established unit. We got a cool moment where Dunne and Haskins trapped their opponents in double submissions while slapping each other. There was so much action packed into this 15:06 that it would take too much to write it all. The teams started doing moves in stereo, including the face team stealing Bate’s signature “bop and bang” spot and hitting a trio of Canadian Destroyers, while BSS got in some Pedigrees. When it looked like Dunne was about to beat Webster, Havoc entered the picture and pinned the PROGRESS Champion with an Acid Rainmaker to earn the title shot. There was zero down time here. It was wall-to-wall action and the awesome kind of main event you want your show to close with. Lots of great individual character moments mixed in with wild action.

251. Andrade Almas vs. Johnny Gargano – NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III

I admit I’m probably giving a biased opinion here because Almas and Gargano were my two favorite wrestlers in NXT. Even without that, I also think they’re the best guys there. This had most of the elements I look for in a great match. It was the perfect choice to open TakeOver: Brooklyn. Gargano is the best babyface the company has left and the crowd ate up everything he did. Almas was in the midst of an angle where his new manager, Zelina Vega, was making sure he focused to turn his win/loss record around. There were elements of Almas reverting back to his old form with tranquilo taunts, and it would cost him. When he finally got serious, he was right on Gargano’s level. Some people didn’t like the finish, but I thought it was perfect. Just when Gargano had things in hand, Vega threw a #DIY shirt at him. That distraction allowed Almas to win at the 13:13 mark. It worked so well because it helped establish Vega’s presence as a valuable valet, protected Gargano, got Almas a much-needed win and added to the #DIY split angle. Gargano had been ignoring it since returning, but here it was, thrown in his face to cost him his first big singles match since the split. Spectacular work by the two best guys in NXT.