wrestling / Columns

Kevin’s Top 500 Matches Of The 2010s (#310-301)

September 10, 2021 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Tomohiro Ishii NJPW G1 Climax 24

310. Hirooki Goto vs. Katsuyori Shibata – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 8

The history between Katsuyori Shibata and Hirooki Goto goes back pretty far. They’re friends from way before their days in New Japan. Coming into Wrestle Kingdom 8, there was an opportunity for them to go to war on the biggest stage in the Tokyo Dome. Of course, with these two, they weren’t just going to have a typical match. They beat the stuffing out of each other for a wild 18:33. In fact, on a card that featured Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito, and Kota Ibushi vs. Prince Devitt, it was these two who stole the show. Goto won this back and forth encounter with Shouten Kai and everyone thought it meant something huge for him. Alas, he just got into the title picture to take more big losses. I preferred this to the Goto/Shibata battle at Wrestle Kingdom 11 that most people loved.

309. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW G1 Climax 24 8/1/14

CHAOS buddies! By this point in the greatest G1 Climax ever, Tomohiro Ishii had surprised with six points, while Shinsuke Nakamura had eight. A win here would move Nakamura into sole possession of first place. They went into a fun exchange early on. When Nakamura gave a clean break, he offered a handshake but ate a slap instead. Both men missed their finishers early and had a bit of a staredown. Nakamura took control and kind of toyed with Ishii, which is obviously a mistake. When Ishii fired back at him, he hit him so hard that Nakamura was coughing like he had the flu. Nakamura went for the Boma Ye a while after but Ishii was ready and stopped it with a dropkick. The near falls that Ishii picked up were all heavily bought into by the fans, including one on a huge lariat. He had one lariat countered into an armbar, which was cool. The finish came when they went into a string of vicious strikes before Nakamura hit Boma Ye, only for Ishii to kick out at 1. That got a huge pop. Nakamura hit another one that ended things after a great 15:14.

308. The Revival vs. The Undisputed Era – NXT 11/20/19

Survivor Series didn’t turn out to be a stellar show on its own. However, it did provide us with some great moments (like Shayna Baszler’s staredown with Becky Lynch) and dope matches. This was easily the best of them all. The Revival and the Undisputed Era have strong cases to be made as the best tag teams in all of wrestling. It was the kind of dream match that we didn’t expect to get, especially when New Day won the Smackdown Tag Team Titles from the Revival and replaced them in the Survivor Series match. Thankfully, this episode of NXT saw the Revival return to where they started. The match was just 24:49 of pure tag team excellence. It was like watching a masterclass as two teams showed us how you do tandem wrestling. It was beautiful. The Revival played the de facto babyfaces and didn’t miss a beat. Everything was seamless and smooth, making for one of the best straight-up tag matches all year long. The final few minutes feature incredible drama, a hot crowd, and some fantastic close calls. Scott Dawson fell to the high/low combo from the Undisputed Era to end something special.

307. Number One Contender’s Match: WALTER vs. Zack Sabre Jr. – PROGRESS Chapter 67: Bourbon Is Also A Biscuit

I love WrestleMania weekend. It’s basically wrestling Christmas. There’s so much great stuff happening over the course of a handful of days. This match may have been the best of the entire weekend in 2018. We all appreciate a well-told long term story, but there are times when you can just throw two great wrestlers in the ring and let them do their thing. With a shot at the PROGRESS World Title on the line, they had that added intrigue as well. It opened with traditional grappling until Sabre chose to slap WALTER. That’s something you just don’t want to do. WALTER responded by destroying him with a barrage of brutal chops. Sabre kept coming for them, causing WALTER to question his sanity. Sabre caught one and kicked the arm into the guardrail. It became his target and you could see him smile a bit as the chops began to have less sting behind them. However, WALTER could still chop with his other hand and Sabre was in trouble again. He remained a defiant jerk until he grew desperate. He attempted several pinning combinations but then had one countered into a rear naked choke. Sabre tapped immediately, losing in 12:51. I think a more dramatic ending would’ve helped this, but it was still some top-notch wrestling from two of the best in the world.

306. WWE Cruiserweight Championship Tournament Semifinals: Cedric Alexander vs. Roderick Strong – WWE 205 Live 3/13/18

If you weren’t watching 205 Live in 2018, you missed out on a TON of great wrestling. This tournament was a huge step in the right direction for the brand. Cedric Alexander came into the tourney as a favorite, while Roderick Strong was the Cinderella story as he was an NXT guy who wasn’t a regular part of the roster. Both men worked as babyfaces, meaning this was built as a match between two guys who had respect for one another, but progressed into one between two desperate men. Strong is the more polished technician, while Alexander has the athletic upper hand. It made sense for Roddy to ground Cedric and wear down his back with a barrage of backbreakers. The biggest saw Cedric viciously dropped onto the top turnbuckle. That helped add to the sense of urgency this match had. Strong was willing to do something brutal and take a countout win because all that mattered was the Cruiserweight Title and a spot on WrestleMania. Both men only survived the finisher of the other because they got a foot on the ropes. As they went into more aggressive strikes, Cedric managed to cradle him into a surprise pin to advance to Mania after a fantastic 14:54. Two great wrestlers having an urgent match where you could feel how much it mattered.

305. IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship: Jay White [c] vs. Juice Robinson – NJPW G1 Special in San Francisco 7/7/18

A little less than a month before this match, Jay White broke Juice Robinson’s left hand. That’s Juice’s dominant hand. On the shows leading up to this, Jay attacked that hand every chance he got. That meant Juice entered at a disadvantage, couldn’t use his cast as a weapon, and was in a match that he “couldn’t” win. See, Juice had already lost two NEVER Title matches, an Intercontinental Title match, and a match for this title. He couldn’t win the big one. Though Juice came out aggressive, the champion quickly found himself in control. Jay continued to nail the character stuff, mocking Juice and being aggressive throughout. There was the infamous moment where Jay knocked Jim Ross over by throwing Juice into him. That caused Josh Barnett to get up from commentary and threaten Jay. Whether it was real or staged, it added something to the match and the crowd was hot for the rest of it. With the intensity revved up, Jay hit a low blow, so Juice responded by using the illegal left hand to a huge pop. Though Pulp Friction didn’t end it, he countered Blade Runner into a rollup to finally win the big one in 23:22. A great match filled with emotion and intensity, capped by a feel good moment.

304. Antonio Cesaro vs. William Regal – NXT 12/25/13

Honestly, this one came from out of nowhere. Sure, everyone knew that William Regal was an all-time great who could have fantastic matches. However, nobody expected him to deliver one in 2013. He stepped into the ring with Antonio Cesaro on this Christmas episode of NXT. It started a bit slow as Regal worked his stuff to get a rhythm ahead of this 15:30 encounter. Once Cesaro got going, this hit another level. He was vicious and Regal took a beating but he kept on coming back for more. In fact, you got the sense that Regal was emptying the tank himself as he gave Cesaro everything he had and more. The sense of desperation from Regal was outstanding. Cesaro stomping on his head was sickening. He seemed to not want to finish off Regal but then went through with it, winning via Neutralizer and paying his respects to a legend in his final match.

303. Kazuchika Okada vs. Kota Ibushi – NJPW 42nd Anniversary Event

Most fans today will tell you about Kazuchika Okada and Kota Ibushi meeting in the G1 Climax 29 and 30, or at Wrestle Kingdom 14. All good matches indeed but this one came first and was actually the best. At NJPW’s Anniversary Event, it has become tradition for the IWGP Heavyweight Champion to meet the Jr. Heavyweight title holder. Here, that meant Okada against Ibushi. This was before Okada formula became a thing, so it was fresh and not easy to predict, even if the outcome was obvious. Okada isn’t a traditional heavyweight so he could hang with Ibushi’s quickness. Even as a junior, Ibushi’s strikes were too much for Okada at times. That’s how good he is. Of course, Okada put him down after 18:41 but it was an early indication that Ibushi had a very bright future ahead of him in New Japan, which has become evident with two straight G1 Climax wins in 2019 and 2020.

302. Kenny Omega vs. Tetsuya Naito – NJPW G1 Climax 28 7/15/18

Rubber match, baby! They met in the previous two G1s in important matches. Here, they headlined the first B Block show with Kenny as IWGP Heavyweight Champion. They started this out by playing up their character work. Little things like Naito stealing Kenny’s gun taunt and both men being cocky. We saw them play up their history with callbacks to the other G1 matches. They had each other well scouted. I particularly liked Omega dropping to one knee for Naito’s corner sweep spot. Naito remained one step ahead of Kenny throughout and it felt like Kenny was getting outwrestled. He switched gears and brought out a wild dropkick spot that turned the tides. Combine that with Naito being a bit too tranquilo and the playing field was leveled. Once they built to the final minutes, this kicked up into the next level. So many breathtaking counters. Both men were looking for the death blow, yet the other was always ready for it. In the end, Kenny turned Destino into a STEINER SCREWDRIVER OF SORTS! A V-Trigger and One Winged Angel later and Omega wrapped it up in 23:19. Awesome match. They played so well off their past, it had a big fight feel with a crazy hot crowd that made for a unique atmosphere, and it had some dramatic final moments.

301. Two Out of Three Falls Match: Sami Zayn vs. Samoa Joe – NXT 3/9/16

A little over a month prior, Sami Zayn and Samoa Joe both made Baron Corbin submit in a number one contender’s match. Unsure about the true top contender, William Regal put Joe against Zayn two weeks before this and it still ended in a draw. This was their final battle to determine who would face Finn Balor at TakeOver: Dallas. With so much at stake, Joe and Zayn did what they do best and wrestled for an entire episode of NXT. Including commercials, it lasted 42:44. There was a relatively slow start, with neither guy wanting to make a mistake. Zayn held a slight advantage until Joe went to striking. Zayn sold Joe’s offense like he was on the verge of death. Despite that, it took Joe over twenty minutes to win the first fall because Sami just wouldn’t quit. I loved the touch of commentary saying there were more matches to come even though this was the entire show. About ten minutes after the first fall, Sami tied it by making Joe tap to the Koji Clutch. In the final fall they displayed their exhaustion. There was a great contrast of Sami not wanting a countout win, but Joe being more than willing to take it. Finally, after taking one hell of a beating, Sami fell to the Coquina Clutch. He didn’t even tap out though. The referee was forced to stop the match. Sami played the perfect resilient underdog (a role he is better than everyone at) to Joe’s monster. Sometimes long matches are pointless but everything here made sense and resulted in a great marathon battle.