wrestling / Columns

Kevin’s Top 500 Matches Of The 2010s (#410 – 401)

July 16, 2021 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
Ronda Rousey Sasha Banks Royal Rumble

410. Cesaro vs. Finn Balor vs. Kevin Owens vs. Rusev – WWE Raw 7/25/16

The first Raw of the post-draft era was one of the greatest episodes in history. To start with a bang, Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon set up two fatal four way matches with the winners meeting in the main event and the winner of that facing Seth Rollins at SummerSlam for the Universal Title. This was the first of those matches and featured the main roster debut of Finn Balor. It got off to a hot start but soon saw Rusev and Owens take control of the faces. It was great to hear Owens shout instructions at Rusev since they’re both very entertaining personalities. Once their partnership ended, Finn got to run wild and hit his trademark dive outside. From then on we got a lot of great combinations of matches. Balor and Cesaro killed it, I always love Cesaro going at it with Rusev, the rekindling of the Owens/Balor feud from NXT, and even some Balor/Rusev stuff, which is a rivalry I’d love to see in the future. As this 20:26 match came to a close, each guy had at least one great chance to win and the suspense built. Finn hit the Coup de Grace on Rusev to score a huge first win in a great match. He then bested it with an even bigger win by cleanly defeating Roman Reigns to end the show. He’d also beat Rollins at SummerSlam to become the first Universal Champion, only to be derailed by a very unfortunate injury.

409. ROH Television Championship: Roderick Strong [c] vs. Tomohiro Ishii – ROH/NJPW Honor Rising 2016

I admittedly wasn’t a big fan of the ROH/NJPW partnership and much prefer the old ROH/NOAH deal. However, the best thing about was probably Roderick Strong’s matches with the NJPW guys. One of the guys I badly wanted him to face was Tomohiro Ishii and I got my wish in the main event of this show. The previous October, Strong ended Jay Lethal’s 400+ day reign with the TV Title and put it on the line against one of the best in the world here. Strong entered as the cocky champion but quickly realized that Tomohiro Ishii was a problem. He managed to find some openings, like pulling Ishii off the apron and into a backbreaker, which he then one-upped later with a backbreaker off the apron. They got into the battle of chops that I was hoping for the second this match was announced and it delivered. Strong seemed to be on the verge of a win until Ishii began to lean into shots and fire up. They went into a great back and forth battle that saw Ishii win the title at 20:07. While it wasn’t an upset, the result was surprising since Ishii didn’t work ROH and Strong was in the middle of a feud with Bobby Fish, giving this match an added bonus of shock value.

408. WWE Intercontinental Championship: The Miz [c] vs. Dolph Ziggler – WWE Backlash 2016

Talking Smack was a weekly highlight on the WWE Network and the biggest buzz from it came when the Miz cut a scathing promo on Daniel Bryan. That thrust the Miz and the Intercontinental Title into the spotlight and made this match feel like a big deal. We’d seen Miz and Ziggler wrestle a ton, even for this title a few years prior. This was different though. Dolph was rejuvenated after the draft (outside of a lackluster match with Dean Ambrose) and Miz had the best year of his career to that point in terms of performances. Miz did everything right here as they told a great story. He took time to mock Daniel Bryan’s taunts and even did some of his submissions. He expertly nailed all the little things, like asking “WHO’S THE COWARD?” while stomping on Dolph. Dolph brought his best too, playing up the desperation of not wanting to lose yet again. He came close on several occasions and they had the crowd in the palm of their hands. Maryse would play a major factor in the end, spraying Dolph in the eyes with a substance. Miz hit the Skull Crushing Finale and retained in 18:17. Up to this point, this was the best singles match of Miz’s career and one of Dolph’s best. It wasn’t the best finish, but it made sense and continued the idea of him using every trick to keep his title.

407. Ricochet vs. Will Ospreay – NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 5/27/16

It is the match that sparked a lot of conversation. It is the match that made Vader relevant again. It is one of the most controversial and divided match in recent memory. Ricochet and Will Ospreay are two of the most athletically gifted wrestlers in the entire world and you know what you’re going to get when they face off. Right off the bat, they flip and fly all over the place and come to a standoff that gets a huge ovation. A lot of people loathe this kind of thing. For some, it is the worst part about wrestling in this era and for others, it is the best. I’m not usually too big on it but I felt it made sense here. Yes, they were doing all sorts of flips but I took it as them trying to not just win a match, but prove who the more athletic guy was. Part of what Vader and the detractors of this match say is true. You don’t need the fancy acrobats to tell a great story. However, if you can add them in as part of the story, that’s fine with me. For 16:48, these two did breathtaking things. Some of them worked better than others but seeing them even attempt some of these things was crazy. Ospreay went on to win with the Oscutter but we don’t like to talk too much about him these days.

406. WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Ronda Rousey [c] vs. Sasha Banks – WWE Royal Rumble 2019

Long before Sasha Banks returned with a vengeance in the summer, she made sure to put on a banger of a singles match at the Royal Rumble. Ronda Rousey was also able to celebrate a year with the company by having another great match. A lot of the early goings saw Ronda do some of Sasha’s signature stuff like the Three Amigos suplexes. It was her way of proving to Sasha that she could indeed wrestle. Sasha responded by hitting her as hard as she could, showing she could hang in Ronda’s world. When Ronda punched the ring post by accident, it gave Banks a target. Ronda sold better in this match than in any other throughout her short career. Sasha looked incredibly dangerous here. At one point she applied an armbar that looked more violent than any I’ve ever seen from Ronda. It was tremendous and reminded me of how good Sasha can be when she’s putting in her best effort. I dug the desperation she showed. If she got a near fall, she would transition right into a submission. While there were some sloppy moments, it came across more like two exhausted warriors struggling than flat out mistakes. That’s important and something I actually like about a match. It makes things feel less scripted and more realistic. When it was all said and done, Ronda couldn’t win by submission. She used Piper’s Pit to retain in 13:48. Sasha was nearly too much for her. It felt different from the rest of her title defenses and was Ronda’s second best singles match ever.

405. Lucha Underground Championship Graver Consequences: Matanza Cueto vs. Mil Muertes – Lucha Underground 5/11/16

Mil attacked before the bell and continued to show that Matanza wasn’t invincible. Catrina hit Matanza with a chair, which he no sold. He grabbed her so Mil speared him from behind into a ton of chairs. Big spots came at a furious pace, including Mil hitting a Flatliner off the apron and onto two caskets.In a cool call back to the original Grave Consequences match, it is Mil that gets his mask ripped up this time. I loved the touch of Catrina holding up the stone, while Dario did the same with his key. Muertes used a damn lead glove on offense. In what might have been the coolest moment, Matanza nearly had it won but Mil’s hand burst through the coffin! Catrina finally got to strike Dario only for Matanza to hit her in the back with a chair! He took the stone from Catrina and threw it into a coffin. He carried Catrina and placed in the coffin with it. Mil took him out with a dive and nearly locked him in a coffin inside of the ring. Matanza fought him off though. He then powerombed Mil onto it and hit the Wrath of the Gods slam into it, ending the match in 14:46. That was pretty much the war I wanted it to be. It didn’t quite reach the level of the original Grave Consequences match, but worked as a good sequel to me.

404. WWE Universal Championship: Goldberg [c] vs. Brock Lesnar – WWE WrestleMania 33

Talk about a match that I wanted no part of. I came into this show still salty that Kevin Owens dropped the Universal Title to Goldberg just to set up another match with Brock Lesnar. Considering their WrestleMania XX outing sucked and their Survivor Series 2016 bout ended in about a minute, I wasn’t excited. However, as soon as the bell rang, I was so happy to be wrong. This was awesome. Lesnar immediately took down Goldberg who responded by firing off Spears, including one through the barricade. Even after that and a Jackhammer, Lesnar survived. Then Brock started throwing suplexes. The real kicker came when he cleanly jumped over Goldberg’s Spear attempt like a man half his size. He took home the win with the F5 in 4:45. It may be controversial but I love that match. It was the perfect case of playing to the strengths of two guys and riding that to deliver exactly what they needed to.

403. WWE Championship TLC Match: CM Punk [c] vs. Alberto Del Rio vs. The Miz – WWE TLC 2011

It’s the first pay-per-view title defense of CM Punk’s 434-day reign as WWE Champion. It was also Punk’s last PPV main event slot until the following September! With Punk being such a popular babyface, he needed great heels to combat him. Alberto Del Rio was a solid choice as he was pretty disliked for cashing in the Money in the Bank briefcase a few months prior. Of course, The Miz is the best heel in the business when he wants to be. That set the stage for Miz and Del Rio to team up on Punk but they didn’t overdo it. You got the sense that they didn’t trust each other either. Punk still had a lot to overcome including Ricardo Rodriguez interfering and being handcuffed to things on two separate occasions. That made for some creative spots before Punk eventually retained his coveted title at the 18:24 mark. One of the more underrated TLC matches in history.

402. WWE Championship TLC Match: AJ Styles [c] vs. Dean Ambrose – WWE TLC 2016

The James Ellsworth saga went on for too long in the eyes of many. He was a major part of the Dean Ambrose/AJ Styles rivalry and played into this match. After an incredible encounter at Backlash and a fantastic triple threat match at No Mercy, AJ’s string of great title defenses continued in his first TLC match. For most of the 31:01 runtime, this was bordering on being their best match. It started with Dean going right after AJ, which made sense given the angle. They used all the weapons creatively and though it went half an hour, it didn’t feel long. Dean’s massive elbow off a ladder through a table was insane but was topped by Styles’ springboard 450 splash to the outside and through at able. AJ had it won when Ellsworth showed up. That distraction allowed Dean to hit Dirty Deeds on steel steps. AJ got up (too quickly) but Dean still fought him off. It wasn’t until Ellsworth turned heel and knocked the ladder over, sending Dean through tables outside, that AJ retained. I would’ve liked a better finish though it made sense within the story. Delusional Ellsworth on Talking Smack right after was great too. Anyway, this was another great match for Styles and Ambrose with some wild moments but they both did better this year.

401. John Cena vs. Kevin Owens – WWE Money in the Bank 2015

The one thing missing from the incredible first match between John Cena and Kevin Owens was a hot crowd. In this, their second of three encounters, the Columbus crowd delivered where the Corpus Christi fans didn’t. Cena was in unfamiliar territory here, losing the first match of a feud completely cleanly. Owens seemed to have his number, even doing Cena’s own “five moves of doom” to him after countering the original attempt. Cena was his usual resilient self, refusing to stay down. However, Owens was doing the same thing. John Cena grew frustrated with the official before realizing he had to dig deep and try some new things to defeat Owens. He would counter the popup powerbomb with a hurricanrana and even bust out Yoshi Tonic, though it didn’t look too great. The fact that some of what they did wasn’t as crisp as it should have been and an overreliance on finisher kicks outs and near falls kept this from being better than their first match to me. Cena won with an Attitude Adjustment at 19:23 and showed respect after the bell. Owens wanted none of that and attacked, hitting an apron powerbomb and leaving with both the NXT and US Titles.