wrestling / Columns

Kevin’s Top 500 Matches Of The 2010s (#380 – 371)

July 31, 2021 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
Becky Lynch Royal Rumble

380. WWE United States Championship: Sheamus [c] vs. Cesaro – WWE Night of Champions 2014

THEY DON’T SET THE BAR, THEY ARE THE BAR! Their 2016 match at Clash of Champions gets more love than this. It ended their Best of Seven Series and led to the tag team but this is a better match for my money. There was no long backstory or anything really behind this. It was a simple case of two tough dudes beating each other up over a title. The entire thing only goes 13:06 and considering how hard they were hitting each other, it felt like it belonged in the G1 Climax. What was it that Big E said? He watches wrestling to see “BIG MEATY MEN SLAPPING MEAT,” and that’s just what this was. There was a point where Cesaro literally just slapped Sheamus like 15 straight times. Sheamus demanded more violence and caught Cesaro off guard with a Brogue Kick to retain in one of the hidden gems from the decade.

379. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Kenny Omega [c] vs. KUSHIDA – NJPW Dominion 2015

Kenny Omega’s run as a junior heavyweight is often forgotten about in NJPW. To be fair, it wasn’t great but he did have this banger. After winning the Best of the Super Juniors Tournament, KUSHIDA earned a shot at Omega and the Jr. Heavyweight Title. Both guys came in with a game plan. KUSHIDA clearly went after the arm, looking for his Hoverboard Lock. Kenny Omega attacked not one, but both legs. Both men sold this work like they should have. KUSHIDA was especially great in selling the leg, doing little things throughout the match and at times, even being unable to run the ropes. Omega struggled to do some of his key offense due to only having one working arm. The red hot Osaka crowd and a pre-match video package showing KUSHIDA as a kid further added to this, giving it an emotional jolt that a lot of juniors matches lacked. Omega was finally able to get KUSHIDA in position for the One Winged Angel, but KUSHIDA countered into the Hoverboard Lock, holding on and forcing Omega to submit after 20:44. It was a great win for KUSHIDA though he unfortunately dropped it back to Omega for some dumb reason a few months later. Still, it doesn’t take away from how great this match was.

378. WWE Tag Team Titles: The New Day [c] vs. AJ Styles & Chris Jericho – WWE Raw 3/7/16

Whenever the WWE goes to Chicago, you can usually expect something memorable. This particular episode of Raw wasn’t, but this match certainly was. The Chris Jericho/AJ Styles rivalry was a strange one. They feuded in matches that were good but not great before teaming up. That led to a short program with New Day and this Tag Team Title match. The poorly named Y2AJ came out of the gate on fire and took out their opponents with stereo splashes to the outside. New Day worked the heat on Jericho in their highly entertaining way. AJ’s hot tag was great. Kofi sold the springboard moonsault reverse DDT better than anyone else in the WWE and the crowd ate it up. There were some tremendous false finishes including one where AJ took the Big Ending and one where Big E saved Kofi from AJ’s springboard 450 splash. Jericho caught Trouble in Paradise into the Walls of Jericho for yet another close call. Even when Big E tagged in, they didn’t go the obvious route of just having him break up the Walls. Jericho caught him but Big E blocked the Walls. In an awesome finish, Big E then countered the Codebreaker into the Big Ending to retain at 11:48. After the match, Jericho attacked Styles to break up their short-lived team and set up a final encounter at WrestleMania. Easily the best main roster tag team match in 2016.

377 NXT Women’s Championship: Asuka [c] vs. Ember Moon – NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III

Over three months prior, Ember Moon came closer to dethroning Asuka than anyone else. Watching this live, I gave it ***¼, and people weren’t pleased. Looking back, I don’t know why I couldn’t get into it, because I thought it was great on the second viewing. Asuka is special. I’ll come into a match thinking I’m okay with her losing and then I see her entrance and am like, “KILL ASUKA KILL!” Onto the match, Ember felt she had Asuka’s number and dropkicked her instantly, not letting the champ get out of the gate. Even when Asuka managed to take control, Ember fought valiantly and it felt like her life depended on winning this match. Asuka wisely targeted Ember’s shoulder, which she injured in between the two matches. In their first meeting, Asuka shoved the referee to the ropes to avoid the Eclipse. This time, Ember hit it and the crowd bought it as the end of Asuka’s run. The reaction to Asuka kicking out was insane. At a loss, Ember went for it again and Asuka used a slight referee distraction to get an opening. She survived a superkick, frustrating Ember more, and then retained via Asuka Lock at 14:46. Way better than I remembered.

376. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Katsuyori Shibata – NJPW Destruction in Kobe 2014

The history between Hiroshi Tanahashi and Katsuyori Shibata is one of the most interesting in NJPW history. I’ll get more into it when their other match on this list appears. This is a rematch from their G1 24 outing and was given the full five by mister Dave Meltzer. I prefer the G1 match and wouldn’t rate this one at nearly a five but it’s still really good. It was a lot of what worked in that previous match, though. From Tanahashi and Shibata being disrespectful to each other to Tanahashi trying to step up to him to Shibata wrecking him with various strikes. That included a ridiculous backfist that basically destroyed Tanahahi’s life. Still, the “Ace” rallied and came back to win this in a terrific 17:57.

375. Women’s Royal Rumble – WWE Royal Rumble 2019

The inaugural women’s Royal Rumble in 2018 proved to be one of the most fun matches of the year. It was filled with fun surprise entrants and blasts from the past. The 2019 iteration chose to focus on the present and future of the women’s division. It got off to a rocky start with several awkward exchanges between Natalya and Lacey Evans. But once other entrants started coming out, things picked up. The Naomi/Mandy Rose rivalry played a factor. The IIconics worked as a team. NXT guests like Candice LeRae, Xia Li, Kairi Sane, Io Shirai, and Rhea Ripley all added some flair to the match. Kacy Catanzaro had one of the best moments in Royal Rumble history with the incredible way that she staved off elimination. It was better than anything previously done by Kofi Kingston. There was a really bad sequence involving Maria Kanellis and Alicia Fox that was easily the low point. The Hornswoggle appearance was random and cleverly done. Beyond all of the fun was the main story of Becky Lynch taking the spot of the injured Lana at the tail end of the match. It fittingly came down to her and Charlotte Flair, with Becky winning out after a grand total of 71:24. And it was so much fun.

374. WWE Tag Team Championship: The Shield [c] vs. The Usos – WWE Money in the Bank 2013

We kind of take it for granted these days but there was a time when The Usos weren’t anything special. It’s not that they weren’t good. It’s just that they hadn’t connected with the fans yet and spent about three years toiling away on Superstars and shows like that. Things began changing in 2013 and it was on this night that they truly seemed to breakout and have that star-making performance everyone needs to reach that next level. People don’t talk about it enough because it was on a Kickoff Show but it’s proof that matches on these shows shouldn’t be skipped. It was spectacular all around. The Shield kept cutting off the hot tag in ways that felt fresh. They worked through two commercial breaks and after the second, this got taken up to the next level with some special stuff. The closing stretch is outstanding and The Usos looked close to pulling off the upset before a Roman Reigns Spear ended them in 14:18. In my opinion, the greatest tag team in WWE history was made on this night, even in defeat.

373. Asuka vs. Sasha Banks – WWE Raw 1/29/18

Sasha Banks was on fire in 2015. She had a strong 2016, but then really fell off the map in 2017. She returned to form in early 2018 thanks to this post-Royal Rumble banger. At the Royal Rumble, Sasha entered first and lasted 54 minutes, but it was Asuka who won it all. A confrontation to start this episode of Raw set them on the path to this match later in the evening. This bout kind of came out of nowhere and they gave us one of the best women’s matches of that year. Despite being their first time against each other, their transitions and exchanges were smooth. Sasha found creative ways to pull Asuka into the Bank Statement. Asuka delivered brutal strikes. Both women took nasty spills to the outside that turned the tides at different points. While the outcome was never really in doubt, they gave us a lot to enjoy during this 14:32 encounter. It also had one of my favorite finishes of the year. Asuka, trapped in the Bank Statement, reached for the ropes. Sasha kicked the rope and rolled away, as she’s done in the past. Asuka did her homework and was ready, countering that into the Asuka Lock to remain undefeated for the time being.

372. IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi [c] vs. Kazuchika Okada – NJPW The New Beginning 2012

It is the first chapter in one of the greatest rivalries in wrestling history. Kazuchika Okada had just returned from a TNA stint and had a middle of the card match at Wrestle Kingdom, but challenged the champion, who entered in the midst of a 404-day reign. Nobody took Okada seriously. Tanahashi took the youngster to school in the early stages. Okada showed his heel tendencies by choking Tanahashi on the guardrail outside. Though Okada took control for a while, Tanahashi still had moments where he was one step ahead. Tanahashi had to sell the leg as he prevented a Rainmaker but Okada got his knees up on High Fly Flow. Okada went into his offense but Tanahashi continues to have the Rainmaker well scouted. In the end, he ducked one but Okada ducked his shot and finally nailed it to become champion. This seemed like a match booked so the young guy could hang with the top star and show his worth. You can’t underestimate Gedo’s love for Okada though as he put him over in shocking fashion. This was a great first chapter in their rivalry. At times, Okada looked overmatched and at others, he was rightfully cocky. It isn’t a patch on their best work was much better than their worst (Wrestle Kingdom 10).

371. WWE Intercontinental Championship: Dolph Ziggler [c] vs. Cesaro vs. Tyson Kidd – WWE Smackdown 11/14/14

The absolute definition of a hidden gem. Also, a rare situation where WWE gave fans an elimination rules Triple Threat match. Dolph Ziggler was on the verge of a huge showing at Survivor Series 2014. Cesaro had been on the cusp all year long. Tyson Kidd was fresh off of a stellar run with NXT. The three combined to put on of the better Intercontinental Title matches in recent memory. They came up with so many fun spots. For example, Cesaro was trapped in the Sharpshooter and used his power to drag Kidd over so he could cover a battered Ziggler. Surprisingly, Cesaro was first eliminated as Kidd stole the pin from Ziggler. That set up a rare Kidd/Ziggler duel that was pretty great. Ziggler scored the win in an incredible 17:38. A lot of fans didn’t see this because it was on a Smackdown in London but it absolutely needs to be seen because it’s fantastic. It might be why Cesaro and Kidd were put together as a team the following month.