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Kevin’s Top 500 Matches Of The 2010s: #280-271

October 6, 2021 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
AJ Styles Finn Balor WWE TLC

280. Matt Riddle vs. Will Ospreay – PROGRESS The Graps of Wrath 11/27/16

Two guys that stood out in 2016 were Matt Riddle and Will Ospreay. So when it was announced that they’d face off for the first time at PROGRESS Chapter 39, most people were rightfully excited. With no existing issues or rivalries, you might expect a standard match here. Riddle made sure it wasn’t by attacking Ospreay with a brutal knee during introductions. What followed was wall to wall action for 8:15. Ospreay got his highlights in as well, flying all over the place when getting an opening. He didn’t shy away from a strike battle with Riddle either, holding his own but still being slightly overmatched there. Though this match is short (the second shortest on this list), there was so much going on that it would be hard to mention it all. A great series of counters made it seem like Ospreay might win, only to have his Oscutter caught into the Bromission. Ospreay tapped out, giving Riddle a victory in his debut in the UK. A spectacular sprint between two guys who are now undesirable.

279. ROH World Tag Team Championship: The Kings of Wrestling [c] vs. The Motor City Machine Guns – ROH Supercard of Honor V

Man, it is not easy finding pictures of ROH shows from this time period. Honestly, this is one of those cases where I don’t even have to write a lot. All you have to do is look at the teams involved to understand just how great this was. Two of the best duos from the era going at it in a match that felt like the main event of the show. It wasn’t but it should’ve been. They threw everything in their arsenals at each other. It was on its way to arguably being a perfect tag team match but it does have a weak finish. Shenanigans led to the Briscoes arriving and causing a DQ after 21:14. Spectacular pro wrestling only somewhat marred by a cheap ending.

278. Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Yuji Nagata – NJPW G1 Climax 26 7/30/16

Yuji Nagata is obviously a veteran in the business and is an ageless wonder. Katsuhiko Nakajima had future star written all over him and he was arguably the MVP in his first-ever G1 Climax run. The NOAH star was a babyface but was actually at his best when playing up the cocky young heel role. He did that here, kicking Nagata during his entrance to get a jump on the legend. Nagata entered this match at 3-0 and a win here would not only give him his first loss, but it would vault Nakajima to the top of the standings, so there was a little extra on the line. Nagata brought the hard strikes throughout this 12:32 match, but Nakajima was more than willing to dish it right back out. The brash Nakajima even tried using Nagata’s own backdrop driver on him, but he only got a near fall with it. When Nagata got his armbar locked in, the crowd responded perfectly. The final exchange of chops and strikes from these two was among the best all year long. Nagata was so pissed that he even shoved the referee away during his assault. When it was all said and done, Nakajima used a penalty kick and Brainbuster to earn one of the biggest wins of his career.

277. Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Quarterfinals: #DIY vs. The Undisputed Era – NXT 3/6/19

It’s one of the ultimate NXT dream matches. Two of the best tag teams in NXT history getting the one chance to square off. Tommaso Ciampa entered as NXT Champion and had Johnny Gargano back at his side after he lost the North American Title. The idea was that Ciampa was the key to Johnny’s success. The reaction from the crowd when they stopped on their way to the ring and the old #DIY theme hit was special. With two teams of this caliber, the expectations could not have been higher. Yet they lived up to them and then some. This was a classic filled with incredible tag team wrestling. They blended in the smooth wrestling with the high spots and the dramatic close calls. It was beautiful. And it all went down in just 14:04. They put together something outstanding without ever overdoing it. This peaked at the right moment and ended with #DIY hitting their old Meeting in the Middle finisher. Despite not having teamed in over a year, Gargano and Ciampa didn’t miss a beat. And we all benefitted from it.

276. Cueto Cup Finals: Pentagon Dark vs. Prince Puma – Lucha Underground 8/23/17

The giant Cueto Cup Tournament came down to arguably the two biggest stars in Lucha Underground. Prince Puma was the first champion and the ultimate hero. Pentagon Dark epitomized the anti-hero, as his violent tactics made him a fan favorite. However, Puma had a transformation in season three and was crossing to the dark side. They met in season two, with some questionable finishes. This took what worked in those matches and built on it to make a great tournament closer. You won’t find many better sub-ten minute matches. It clocked in at 9:34 and was action from bell to bell. There was a sense of urgency in everything they did, adding to the importance of the Cueto Cup. Puma had been to the top before, but Pentagon just kept coming up short. After a barrage of wild offense, Puma connected on a super rana. He looked over to Vampiro, who gave a thumbs down signal. Puma finished Pentagon with the 630 and earned another Ultima Lucha main event. Pentagon failed again, watching his old mentor celebrate with his replacement protégé. Excellent action and a great piece of a larger story.

275. NXT Tag Team Championship: American Alpha [c] vs. The Revival – NXT TakeOver: The End

After winning the NXT Tag Team Titles at the previous TakeOver during WrestleMania weekend, American Alpha had their first televised defense in the Revival’s contracted rematch. The Revival just have this amazing chemistry with anybody put in front of them, but their work with American Alpha was some of their best. The pace of this was furious from bell to bell. American Alpha ran circles around the challengers at some points, so the Revival did what they do best and cut the ring in half. They played into their first match with similar spots but made sure to put a twist on them so it would be different. Chad Gable was a great face in peril, garnering sympathy and getting in great hope spots. Jason Jordan’s hot tag run was great as always. Since it was the first big defense for American Alpha, myself and a lot of others felt they would retain. As the match neared the conclusion at 15:51, the Revival got closer and closer. They went for a powerbomb/clothesline off the top spot but Gable caught Dawson with a massive belly to belly. The Revival cut off Grand Amplitude and hit the Shatter Machine to regain the titles in a surprising decision.

274. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. – NJPW G1 Climax 27 7/17/17

Two names were announced for the G1 Climax 27 that added intrigue. One was the returning Kota Ibushi and the other was Zack Sabre Jr., in his first G1. His G1 debut itself was even bigger, facing Intercontinental Champion and ace, Hiroshi Tanahashi. The daunting task didn’t matter to the brash Brit. For 17:18, he picked Tanahashi apart. Since Tanahashi came in with his arm taped, Sabre made it his target and attacked it mercilessly. The stuff he did looked like it came with relative ease, which was a brilliant way to establish him with unfamiliar fans. This was the guy who could come in and treat the seven-time IWGP Champion like a chump. Tanahashi got something going early, but stopped to taunt and Sabre caught him in another submission. He was just in the driver’s seat from the get go. Tanahashi’s comeback saw him work the leg, as expected. He hit High Fly Flow, but Sabre got his knees up on the second. He trapped Tanahashi in another submission, ripped off his arm tape and made the ace tap out in his G1 debut. It was the perfect way to book Sabre on his first show. There was excellent limb work and top notch selling. The rematch for the IC Title wasn’t as good, but we’ll always have this.

273. Ricochet vs. Velveteen Dream – NXT TakeOver: Chicago II

For this match, Velveteen Dream came out dressed like Hulk Hogan but with Prince Puma style pants. Yes, Prince Puma. Ricochet’s Lucha Underground character. Because The Velveteen Dream is amazing. I will admit that redoing the Rock/Hogan WrestleMania X8 faceoff was a bit heavy handed. The match also felt like it may have gone a bit long, clocking in at 22:10. With that out of the way, we can focus on the good, because there was a ton of that. NXT offers the best storytelling in wrestling and it’s honestly not even close. This match was built around the idea of “Anything you can do, the Dream can do better.” Dream isn’t known for his aerial ability, but with a point to prove, he added several to his arsenal here. He busted out some of Ricochet’s signature offense to show he could do it. It caught Ricochet off guard and he had to go the extra mile in his high flying stuff to truly remind everyone that he’s the king in that area. Trying to one up each other is what ultimately cost Dream the match. They each tried to hit a top rope move from a further distance. With Ricochet across the ring, Dream tried the Purple Rainmaker and missed. That put him in perfect position for Ricochet to nail the 630 splash and win.

272. AJ Styles vs. Finn Balor – WWE TLC 2017

Throughout the summer and fall, Finn Balor was mired in a completely garbage feud with Bray Wyatt. With the “Demon vs. Sister Abigail” billed for TLC, we were probably in for the worst of it. Then, viral meningitis happened and Bray couldn’t compete. To replace him, Raw borrowed AJ Styles to set up a battle of the first two Bullet Club leaders. They worked this first-time ever match like an NJPW main event. It was deliberately slow in the early stages, before building to the bigger spots. The atmosphere was tremendous. The crowd was into every little thing these guys did. Often, Finn doesn’t do enough to make the “Demon” different from his regular self. Here, he added small mannerisms and showed a more aggressive side at times, which was appreciated. For example, to break the Calf Crusher, he brutally smashed AJ’s head into the mat. We got to see them both do Pele kicks, which was cool, though I wish they both did Bloody Sundays. In the end, AJ missed the springboard 450, setting up Finn to use a flurry of offense to win. He capped it with the best Coup de Grace I can remember at 18:16. It was mostly two guys getting their signature stuff in, but that’s fine. They did this on short notice and delivered a high-quality match in front of a raucous crowd. I love that they didn’t go into a finisher kickout fest either. As good as this was, it felt like they had better in them, maybe with a story and AJ not being jetlagged.

271. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn – WWE Payback 2016

The rivalry between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn is among my favorite in wrestling. When they were a tag team on the indies, I was a massive fan. I still love both guys as singles competitors and they just fit as rivals. Sami is the perfect underdog babyface and Owens is a great brutal bully of a villain. Their fights have an animosity to them that a lot of big feuds lack these days. We totally buy into them hating each other. This only goes for 14:39 but it never stops. They fight in and around the ring, with both guys playing to their strengths. Sami is just so good at taking a beating, so everything Owens did just came off as even more vicious than normal. For example, a simple front suplex onto the top rope looked awesome because of how Sami sold it. Sami’s rally was full of fire and the fans completely wanted him to win despite Owens being very popular. They built to some great near falls on a Sami blue thunder bomb and a frog splash from Owens. Sami had two great counters for the Popup Powerbomb but Owens had a counter of his own for Sami’s tornado DDT. They just continued to build to bigger and better things. Owens stopped the Helluva Kick with a superkick and won with the Popup Powerbomb. These two are so good together that they would compete in an even better match together a few months later.