wrestling / Columns

Kevin’s Top 500 Matches Of The 2010s (#30-21)

March 11, 2022 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
WWE SummerSlam Image Credit: WWE

30. No Disqualifications Match: Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk – WWE SummerSlam 2013

Image Credit: WWE

Up to this point in his WWE return, Brock lost to Cena (in an excellent match) and had a shit feud with Triple H that spawned three matches. They began with a slugfest and Brock was too much. Punk used Brock’s arrogance against him and the crowd was rabid for Punk. He got going but was distracted by Heyman and Lesnar took back over. Brock tossed Punk over the table and hit a belly to belly outside. He and Heyman belittled Punk in between the onslaught. Punk got in some hope spots, but Brock always had an answer due to his power. Brock went all Eddie Guerrero with the Three Amigos for a near fall. A chair was brought into play, adding to the violence. Brock tried the F5 but Punk grabbed Heyman to block. That allowed Punk to hit the GTS but Heyman broke up the count. Heyman’s reaction to realizing he was alone with Punk was perfect. Punk chased him, only to walk right into an F5 attempt. Punk countered into a tornado DDT in an awesome moment for another near fall. Punk slapped on the anaconda vise and Heyman brought a chair in. Punk broke the hold and hit Heyman before putting the submission on him. Brock MURDERED him with a chair shot. A lifeless Punk took an F5 onto a steel chair for the finish in 25:14. They told the David vs. Goliath story so well and had the kind of match Brock needed. He looked like a monster, while Punk was a great underdog babyface. His offense and comeback all made sense. This was stellar and the best singles Brock match of the decade.

29. NEVER Openweight Championship: Tetsuya Naito [c] vs. Tomohiro Ishii- NJPW The New Beginning In Osaka 2014

Image Credit: NJPW

After his failed run to the top of NJPW in late 2013, Tetsuya Naito was in trouble in 2014. His first big match after Wrestle Kingdom 8 saw him back in the NEVER Openweight Title division, where he defended against Tomohiro Ishii. The issue was that this show was in Osaka, where he was hated, while Ishii was a cult favorite. That made for a pretty wild atmosphere that was unmatched all night. Thankfully, Naito is a smart guy and used it to his advantage, working somewhat heel and giving a preview of who he’d be in the future. Both guys sold their injuries well, including Ishii’s damaged shoulder and Naito’s banged up knee. You got the sense that one of these guys would break and give in before the other, resulting in the finish. In the end, Ishii hit the Brainbuster to put down Naito at the 23:41 mark and win the title in what felt like an instant classic.

28. WWE Championship: Brock Lesnar [c] vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins – WWE Royal Rumble 2015

Image Credit: WWE

At Hell in a Cell in 2014, John Cena beat Randy Orton to become the number one contender and then retained that right against Seth Rollins at TLC. This set the stage for yet another Brock Lesnar/Cena match that I and many others didn’t care to see. It seems like the WWE realized that too, deciding to add Rollins to the mix. That added dimension took the good Lesnar/Cena matches into classic status. Brock was the beast you’d expect, suplexing everything in sight, including J&J Security at the same time. Cena and Seth, rivals for the past few months, had to team up to try and take out the unstoppable beast. They accomplished it when Seth pulled a Shawn Michaels and elbowed Brock through the announce table. Cena and Seth then went at it, having their best exchange ever, including their feud later in the year. When medics come down to check on Brock, the fans completely begin to buy into everything Cena and Seth do to each other in the ring. Brock would get up, kick ass and win with an F5 on Seth at 22:42. It was matches like this that showed Seth absolutely belonged at the top of the card. This was the best main roster WWE match all year long.

27. NEVER Openweight Championship: Tomohiro Ishii [c] vs. Katsuyori Shibata – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 10

Image Credit: NJPW

Most of the Wrestle Kingdom 10 card lacked in a way that Wrestle Kingdom 9 didn’t. It wasn’t until this match, the seventh of nine on the card, that the show picked up. As I mentioned earlier in the list, I love the rivalry between Tomohiro Ishii and Katsuyori Shibata. It’s a manly feud featuring two guys beating the hell out of each other. Just like their G1 Climax 23 match (which I gave five stars), they came out and went to war from the opening bell. This was a prideful tight fight. There was a point where they literally asked for harder strikes from their opponent. The things they normally do seemed like it wouldn’t be enough so we had moments like Ishii busting out a missile dropkick. Both men collapsed to the mat in exhaustion a few times because they were giving everything for the title. I saw so many stiff strikes and headbutts here that I can’t believe they went so hard for the entire 17:19. It felt like two guys willing to kill each other and that’s a great quality in a title match. After tons of great moments, Shibata won with the Penalty Kick to capture his first singles title in NJPW. He got his moment on the biggest stage possible and it was awesome. NEVER Title matches feel so different from IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Title matches in the best way. Shibata and Ishii embody what that title has become and I could watch them beat the shit out of each other until the end of time.

26. AJ Styles vs. John Cena – WWE SummerSlam 2016

Image Credit: WWE

Their first match at Money in the Bank was marred by interference from Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows. With them on Raw after the draft, AJ Styles wanted another match with John Cena to prove that he was better. No excuses. Like their first encounter, AJ was confident and shouted “WE’VE BEEN THROUGH THIS BEFORE, YOU CAN’T STOP ME!” when getting the early upper hand. That overconfidence cost him a bit and Cena turned things around, leading to a fantastic back and forth display. They did go deep into the finisher kickout barrage, which I don’t always love, but they didn’t go overboard here. My favorite thing about this was that it was a straight up wrestling match. No nonsense, no bull. Just two of the best ever trying to see who the better man was. Cena’s middle rope Attitude Adjustment, which has beaten AJ before, failed. I totally bought that as the finish. Cena sold the disbelief perfectly. It was as if he realized, right there, that AJ was indeed better. AJ avoided another AA and hit the Styles Clash followed by the Phenomenal Forearm to end it at 23:10. An incredible match by two incredible performers. Their chemistry is off the charts and this did wonders for AJ. For all the guys that Cena never properly put over (Bray, Owens, Rusev, etc.), they got it completely right with AJ. He beat Cena clean and went on to win the WWE World Title. This was everything I want a dream match to be and more.

25. Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega – NJPW G1 Climax 27 8/12/17

Image Credit: NJPW

Kazuchika Okada won the first match, they went to an hour draw in the second and this would determine the winner of the B Block. Their first two matches were certainly impressive, but I felt they didn’t deserve nearly the amount of praise they got. Without a need (or possibility) to go 47 or 60 minutes, they got to cut some of the fat from their other matches. They threw bombs instantly, bringing a sense of urgency here. Omega not stopping for his Terminator taunt before a tope was a nice touch. He wasn’t wasting time, because he knew Okada was vulnerable with his neck and back taped up, but also because he was desperate to finally beat this man. Okada gave one of his best selling performances. When he took a rana on the outside, you’d have thought he died. That was followed by a snap dragon suplex on the apron and Kenny preventing the doctors from checking on Okada. Okada began a comeback, but couldn’t sustain anything because he was too hurt. He did hit three Rainmakers and had a fourth countered (no surprise there). After some more big offense, Omega finally hit the One Winged Angel, for the first time in their trilogy, to win at 24:40. I loved this. It’s HANDS DOWN their best match. Since they didn’t have to go long for the sake of it, everything mattered. The pace was incredible, Kenny’s focus on the neck was perfect and Okada sold at a level we hadn’t seen all year long. This was what I wanted from the two of them.

24. Hell of War: Dante Fox vs. Killshot – Ultima Lucha Tres

Image Credit: Lucha Underground

Hell of War was basically a Three Stages of Hell match. The first fall was held under First Blood rules, the second was No Disqualifications and the final was a Medical Evac match (Ambulance). On paper, those stipulations may not sound like anything special, but these guys did stuff with it that I couldn’t even dream of. To go over each insane spot or moment in this match would take up way too much space. You just need to understand that they mixed in barbaric spots with stellar storytelling that was fitting of their heated rivalry. Fox won the first fall by back dropping Killshot through a glass pane, which cut up his back. It was cool because it was different from your typical First Blood finish. Killshot tied it with Storm Cradle in a second fall that saw ladders, chairs and barbed wire. The final fall literally saw a piece of Fox’s flesh left behind on a stretcher. It was brutal. Killshot won it all at 25:13 by breaking a bottle over Fox’s head and sending him crashing through an absurd structure of chairs and glass. He placed him in the ambulance to win what might’ve been the most violent match I’ve ever seen. It’s also in contention for the greatest match in Lucha Underground history.

23. Chicago Street Fight: Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa – NXT TakeOver: Chicago II

Image Credit: WWE

I could literally just write, “Take what worked about their New Orleans match and amplify it” and that would be fitting. But, I’m here to write, so I’ll go into more detail. They hit each other harder this time around. They added more story elements from their history. The drama and emotion were kicked up a notch. It’s insane to work a stipulation so similar to the previous match, yet deliver something so different. While they still used weapons that fit their storyline, this fight revved things up and brought others into play like the steel steps, trash cans, and the exposed ring. But this truly took off because of the callbacks. This being in Chicago, where Ciampa first turned on Johnny, they redid that moment by the stage. Then, you had Ciampa removing Johnny’s wedding ring to spit at it, only for Johnny to hit him with the Air Raid Crash off the stage, similar to what Ciampa did a year earlier. Incredible. Just when it seemed like the medics and officials would take Ciampa out on a stretcher, Gargano snapped and brought him to the ring for more of a beating. It was violent. He was a man possessed. It ultimately cost him, as he took a surprise DDT from Ciampa onto the exposed part of the ring at 35:27. They somehow bested their last match with one filled with emotion and drama.

22. WWE Universal Championship: Brock [c] vs. Braun vs. Reigns vs. Samoa Joe – WWE SummerSlam 2017

Image Credit: WWE

Sometimes, a match gets announced and you know exactly what you want from it. That was the case here. I wanted to see four badass wrestlers go to war and that’s just what happened. For 20:52, Brock Lesnar, Braun Strowman, Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns engaged in a chaotic affair. Joe, Reigns and Brock were all great, but this felt like the Strowman show. He murdered Brock with three table spots, causing the champ to be taken out on a stretcher. I didn’t love the overdone stretcher job and return spot, but I get that Brock had to come back. Either way, it was great to see Brock sell that much for someone on the current roster. I also wish Joe did a bit more. Other than that, this was all kinds of phenomenal. Braun threw chairs, we got the broken guardrail spot, Strowman looked like a star and the action never slowed down. The multi-man match doesn’t always work for the WWE, but they pulled it off as well as they ever have here. Brock ended up retaining by hitting Reigns with the F5 to win this absolute spectacle. Some may find this preposterous, but this is in the conversation for best SummerSlam main event of all-time. I loved it.

21. NXT Women’s Championship: Sasha Banks [c] vs. Becky Lynch – NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable

Image Credit: WWE

I love this match. There have been better and there are some I love more, but dammit, there’s something about this one that I truly enjoy. I wrote an article about this being a masterpiece and months later, it remains the case. Everything about this was so well done. Becky Lynch, who was in her first singles TakeOver match, came out amped and was very jumpy. Sasha Banks, the champion, was as cool as the other side of the pillow because she knew she belonged. The match didn’t begin as something too physical because they respect each other and the prestigious NXT Women’s Title. As the match progressed, it got more intense and both girls worked the arm. They didn’t do so and randomly forget about it, instead making sure every offensive attack involved it. Masterful selling from both women throughout and after the match. Sasha made Becky submit to the Bank Statement at 15:33, but in no way did Becky look like a loser. In fact, this showed you how far Sasha had come. Just three months into her reign, she helped make Becky with the NXT crowd, who sung Becky’s theme in honor of her after the bell.