wrestling / Columns

Kevin’s Top 500 Matches Of The 2010s (#270 – 261)

October 20, 2021 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
WWE No Mercy 2017

270. New Japan Cup Semi-Finals: Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW New Japan Cup 3/17/17

It’s the only pairing in wrestling that I’ve given ***** (G1 Climax 23), ****¾ (WK10), ****½ (New Beginning 2016) and ****¼ (KOPW 2013), without going any lower. Their last encounter saw a trip to the New Japan Cup Finals on the line. Usually, they go right at each other, but it was more subdued early on. They knew each other well enough to not make the first mistake. But by subdued start, I meant the hard hits took about three minutes to kick in, so it wasn’t like this was slow in any way. In between the strikes, Shibata threw in some submission attempts, just like he did in their New Beginning match last year. The strikes were as vicious as ever, with some close ups really accentuating how violent this was. At one point, they just sat down and slapped each other. Knowing it would take more than usual to beat Ishii, Shibata hit the PK and went back to the sleeper. Ishii fought his hardest, but eventually passed out after 22:34. When these two get together, you can expect a war and they always deliver.

269. Kazuchika Okada vs. Satoshi Kojima – NJPW G1 Climax 27 7/27/17

Coming into the tournament, Okada noted how he felt legends like Yuji Nagata and Satoshi Kojima shouldn’t be in the G1 Climax, because they’re old and had no chance of winning. What a jerk! He played into it perfectly here, feeding into the boos and going so far as to attack Kojima’s partner at ringside, Hiroyoshi Tenzan. His cockiness opened the door for Kojima to light him up with Mongolian chops. Kojima came close to winning after a Koji Cutter and Brainbuster, but it takes more than that to keep Okada down. He avoided two Rainmakers, blocking the second with a lariat of his own for one of the coolest moments of the entire tournament. That was his last stand, as Okada got hot and won with a successful Rainmaker in 15:26. I loved this because it didn’t follow typical Okada formula. It showed that he doesn’t need to work overly long 25+ minute outings to be great. Kojima was awesome, Okada was at his smug best and it was my third favorite Okada match of 2017.

268. WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Cedric Alexander [c] vs. Buddy Murphy – WWE Super Showdown 2018

When I think about the two best and most consistent junior heavyweights/cruiserweights in the world my mind doesn’t go to KUSHIDA, Will Ospreay, Marty Scurll, or even Cedric Alexander. The top two in 2018 were Hiromu Takahashi and Buddy Murphy. Yes, that same Buddy Murphy who was most known for a short NXT Tag Title run and being in a relationship Alexa Bliss. When he got his chance to shine on 205 Live, he made the most of it, having fantastic matches on a weekly basis. He lost in a great title match against Alexander in Cedric’s hometown earlier in the year. He earned another shot with the tables turned, now in his hometown of Melbourne. That instantly took the previously unbeaten in 2018 Alexander off his game. He wasn’t used to not being the favorite. For 10:33, these two just threw everything at one another. They emptied their arsenals to give us a phenomenal sprint. Alexander’s avalanche Michinoku Driver was one of the best spots of the year. When Murphy kicked out of the Lumbar Check, the fans erupted and Alexander was at a loss. Murphy cut off his springboard attempt and hit Murphy’s Law. The Juggernaut won the title in a tremendous match in front of his hometown. What a moment.

267. Katsuyori Shibata vs. Kazushi Sakuraba – NJPW Dominion 2015

These are two of the baddest dudes I’ve ever seen in a wrestling ring. As expected when it comes to these two, they didn’t do much wrestling. This was absolutely a fight. It was hard hitting and stiff for the entire 11:48 runtime. Throughout this match, there were multiple little things that helped it stand out. In order to break a submission where his arms weren’t free, Katsuyori Shibata resorted to biting the second rope for a rope break. Kazushi Sakuraba threw off his ankle brace before kicking Shibata at another point. The men had a history together, as a tag team and as mentor and mentee from what I’ve looked up. From what I gather, Shibata was never able to beat Sakuraba in their MMA fights, so this was a chance to kind of surpass his mentor in the pro wrestling world. This was exactly the kind of match that it needed to be and Shibata got the victory, gaining momentum before a great showing in the G1 Climax. Just a great fight, especially if that style speaks to you.

266. WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship: The Usos [c] vs. The New Day – WWE Battleground 2017

WWE managed to produce several tremendous tag matches in 2017. The rivalry between The New Day and The Usos was the high point. Though their first match was at Money in the Bank, this was where it really got going. Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston represented New Day, allowing for more speed, which they showcased right from the start. After getting a hot tag, Kofi performed a dive onto the Usos, only to get caught and planted with a brutal powerbomb on the outside. Left alone, Woods fought valiantly. He survived everything the Usos threw at him. It led to one of the best spots in any company this year, as Woods did tried his rope walk elbow, only to get drilled with a sick midair superkick. It was the best superkick since Shawn Michaels and Shelton Benjamin, bar none. Somehow, that wasn’t the finish and neither was an Uso splash. That made it clear that new champions would be crowned, which happened after Trouble in Paradise and a Woods elbow at 13:46. The pace was wild and it made for one of the best tag matches all year. It turns out they were just warming up.

265. NXT Women’s Championship Last Woman Standing Match: Asuka [c] vs. Nikki Cross – NXT 6/28/17

I know everyone raved about the Asuka/Ember Moon matches, and rightfully so, but this was the best WWE women’s match at the time since the Sasha/Bayley series in 2015. A Last Woman Standing Match was the perfect idea for the dominant champion and the one woman crazy enough to possibly do enough to dethrone her. They got violent from the start. Nikki was slammed onto a pile of chairs and got hit with a bunch of kicks while in a trash can. Asuka took a brutal back suplex onto that same pile of chairs and a powerbomb onto another pile outside. Nikki threw every wacky idea her wild mind could come up with, but Asuka wouldn’t stay down for the ten count. When the finish finally came, it felt earned. A ladder was set up by the announce table. Both women fought atop, with Asuka winning out and nailing a superplex through the table. They were both down, but it was Asuka who got up just the count of ten, retaining her title in an insane 18:46. I feel like this is getting forgotten when it comes to the great women’s matches but it shouldn’t.

264. NXT Championship: Adrian Neville [c] vs. Sami Zayn – NXT 11/13/14

Everyone remembers the incredible match these two had at TakeOver: R-Evolution in December of 2014. Sami Zayn put his career on the line and finally overcame Adrian Neville. Due to that being so good, people have forgotten the gem they had a month prior. Zayn and Neville delivered arguably the best match in NXT TV history. Realizing his title was in jeopardy, Neville feigned an injury. Ever the good guy at the time, Zayn let up and Neville used that to his advantage to retain the title. The story told was masterful and set up their final encounter expertly.

263. Lucha Underground Championship Career vs. Career Match: Prince Puma [c] vs. Pentagon Dark – Lucha Underground Ultima Lucha Tres

Ultima Lucha Tres was scheduled to end with Prince Puma vs. Johnny Mundo, which was also the main event of the first ever Lucha Underground show. Puma’s career was on the line and he overcame the odds to win his second Lucha Underground Championship. His celebration was cut short by Dario Cueto. He announced that Pentagon Dark was cashing in his Gift of the Gods Title for a shot at Puma. Dario threw in the added twist of both their careers were on the line. Like their Cueto Cup Finals meeting, this was kept short. It went just 8:26, but was packed with non-stop action. Pentagon broke Puma’s arm early on, but a desperate Puma popped it back into place and taped it up to keep going. They had some incredible exchanges before Puma hit the Benadryller. He went for the 630, but Vampiro pulled Pentagon out of the way. Pentagon then won with the Package Piledriver, finally capturing the title that eluded him for so long. The match was a blast but the story was even better. Vampiro and Pentagon had a long history and Vampiro spent this season manipulating Puma, all to turn on him and side with Pentagon in the end.

262. IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Tetsuya Naito [c] vs. Juice Robinson – NJPW Wrestling Toyonokuni 2017

In 2015, Juice Robinson left a cozy little spot in NXT as CJ Parker to bet on himself in NJPW. He spent a little over a year working in multi-man tags on the undercard. He showed fire, but didn’t seem like he was in line for anything big. 2017 was a banner year that changed all that. He had a singles match in the Tokyo Dome, shots at the NEVER, Intercontinental and US Titles, main evented two shows and pinned guys like Kenny Omega, Hirooki Goto and Tetsuya Naito. By virtue of that last win, he got a shot at Naito’s IC Title on this night, and with it, his first main event. The battle went outside early on, where Naito just destroyed Juice’s knee. The knee became the story of the match. Naito relentlessly went after it, while Juice sold the hell out of it. He slipped on the selling once or twice, but mostly excelled at it. Juice’s struggle in the knee bar was great. The fans totally sympathized with him. He came close to victory a few times, but fell to Destino at 26:42. A simple, but effective story that hammered home how great of a plucky underdog Juice is. He didn’t win, though it accomplished the goal of solidifying Juice as a star.

261. WWE Raw Tag Team Championship: Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins [c] vs. Bar – WWE No Mercy 2017

At SummerSlam, these teams nearly stole the show in an awesome match that saw Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose capture the titles. On that night, they managed to surprise Sheamus and Cesaro, but the element of surprise was gone this time around. The challengers had a plan, bullying their opponents. Cesaro swinging Dean into the ring steps was a great spot, even with Dean’s delayed selling. Ambrose got isolated, until hitting a slingshot that saw Cesaro land face first on the ring post. It was so brutal that it pushed his front teeth 4mm up into his gums. But Cesaro’s a tough bastard and didn’t miss a beat. Both Dean and Seth took heat segments, leading to one of the best near falls in years. They teased doing the finish from SummerSlam again, but Cesaro and Sheamus had it scouted. Sheamus hit White Noise on Dean, before Cesaro super powerbombed Seth onto Dean. Once the champs survived that, they retained with a ripcord knee into Dirty Deeds at 15:55. This was even better than their SummerSlam outing. The Bar were positioned as the better team, but Dean was resilient and Seth got to bust out his high octane offense to combat them. The hot crowd, callbacks to past matches and Cesaro’s injury all added a lot to this.