wrestling / Columns

Kevin’s Top 500 Matches Of The 2010s (#440 – 431)

July 5, 2021 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
CM Punk vs Chris Jericho WWE Extreme Rules 2012

440. WWE Championship Chicago Street Fight: CM Punk [c] vs. Chris Jericho – WWE Extreme Rules 2012

Going with the alcohol related storyline for this rivalry was an odd decision. From the lame sobriety test to the illogical angle that a WWE Champion could lose the title if drunk (when Stone Cold was a star), it didn’t work. The WrestleMania match between these two was very good but kind of disappointing. All of that was mostly fixed this go around. In CM Punk’s hometown of Chicago, they had a street fight that ruled. For starters, I loved that both men wore street clothes. That’s such a small but important piece of a match like this. They had a brawl fitting of the story, including a moment involving Punk’s sister in the front row. There were big spots, some violent moments, and ultimately a victory for Punk after a grueling 25:13. And to think, this was only the third best match on this show!

439. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: KUSHIDA [c] vs. BUSHI – NJPW The New Beginning in Niigata 2016

BUSHI missed nearly a year with a neck injury but returned and joined Los Ingobernables de Japon. The prominence of the group allowed BUSHI to get major opportunities, with this being the first big one. He delivered. A few minutes into this, BUSHI’s stablemates Tetsuya Naito and EVIL strolled down to ringside. They got involved when EVIL used a chair on BUSHI and Naito beat up the young lions, but none of their interference ever felt overdone. We got a great MX (Codebreaker) counter into a Hoverboard Lock but LIJ distracted the official to keep things going. BUSHI spit the green mist at KUSHIDA and it led to some incredibly close near falls for the challenger, including one on a second rope MX that I bit on hard. Each time KUSHIDA looked to have momentum, LIJ derailed him. Finally, perennial junior good guy Ryusuke Taguchi helped and, along with the young lions, held Naito and EVIL back while BUSHI tapped to the Hoverboard Lock at 16:32. Instead of being about moves, this was based around drama, which was a great change from most junior matches. BUSHI would eventually be the man to end KUSHIDA’s nine-month reign as champion at Destruction in Tokyo.

438. Mae Young Classic Second Round: Mercedes Martinez vs. Meiko Satomura – WWE Mae Young Classic 10/3/18

Three of Meiko Satomura’s four matches under the WWE banner were included on this list. That’s quite the run she had through the Mae Young Classic. In this second round battle, she faced Mercedes Martinez, a semi-finalist from the first iteration. This was two incredible veteran female wrestlers who hit hard getting the chance to strut their stuff. Sometimes, that’s all you need to deliver something great. They went out and had a banger of a match that featured stiff shots, great drama, and intense action. The two women managed to pack a great amount in a mere 11:31 and they delivered arguably the best match in the history of the tournament. If you haven’t seen this yet, go out and do so because you might not find a more vicious women’s match in WWE history.

437. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. SANADA- NJPW G1 Climax 26 7/18/16

Outside of his matches at Wrestle Kingdom and the New Beginning in Niigata, Hiroshi Tanahashi took it easy up to this point in 2016. He battled injuries and wrestled a lot of multi-man tags. This was the G1 Climax though. This is where Tanahashi steps his game up every year. His first opponent was SANADA, a 28-year-old rising star from the Los Ingobernables de Japon stable. It isn’t a new story but it almost always works. The great babyface veteran against the up and coming heel youngster. Early on, Tanahashi was one step ahead of SANADA at every turn. Once they went outside though, SANADA targeted the recently injured arm of Tanahashi, which was smart. As always, Tanahashi sold this very well and did his own work to SANADA’s leg. I liked the layers of this match, including the story that both men were students of Keiji Mutoh. SANADA’s finisher, the dragon sleeper, is Tanahashi’s old finisher. SANADA would apply the dragon sleeper but Tanahashi, knowing it well, was able to survive. He fired up and went into his offense, but couldn’t put SANADA away. SANADA then countered High Fly Flow with an RKO OUTTA NOWHERE! Two moonsaults and another dragon sleeper made Tanahashi tap out at 19:28. Easily the biggest win and best singles match of SANADA’s career to that point.

436. Johnny Mundo vs. Prince Puma – Lucha Underground 10/29/14

When a new company hosts its first show, it’s crucial that the main event delivers. It should be more than just a great match, though. It needs to also capture what the promotion will be about. It’s safe to say that Lucha Underground hit the nail on the head. They put on a hell of a first main event when they pitted their biggest name, Johnny Mundo, against the guy positioned to be their top star, Prince Puma. The two went out and had a match filled with great spots, wild athleticism, and some memorable moments. It wasn’t the perfect match at all but it was pretty perfect for what it needed to be. Mundo pulled out the win in 12:31, starting a pretty key rivalry for the company.

435. Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk – WWE Payback 2013

I’ve always said that you don’t need a great storyline to have a great match. The tale behind this Chris Jericho/ CM Punk meeting was really a lot of nothing. It was just about Punk returning for the first time in a few months and doing so in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. That made for an incredible atmosphere. Jericho and Punk went on to have a match that was better than their much-hyped 2012 meetings. It had some really good back and forth action throughout. I didn’t like how they overdid the Go to Sleeps and finisher kickouts. However, I did love Jericho catching him with a huge leaping Codebreaker. It was how Jericho beat him during the 2008 King of the Ring tournament. He couldn’t cover quick enough here, so Punk was able to survive.

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

Even if you weren’t heavily invested in the outcome, one could still appreciate great tag team wrestling, which is just what we got here. The Revival are a real old school style team that just gets it. They do the traditional stuff, like cutting the ring in half and working a body part, but here they really nailed the little things. Dash crawling under the ring to sneak up on Jason Jordan and prevent a hot tag was just expert stuff. They played the crowd perfectly and worked a throwback style tag team match while sprinkling in some cool newer age spots. I loved the finish too, with Jordan blind tagging in, hitting a running shoulder thrust and tagging Gable for the Grand Amplitude and the title win at 15:11. It was great to see a classic tag move, like a blind tag, used against a team that does it so well.

433. Andrade Almas vs. Roderick Strong – NXT TakeOver: San Antonio

Here’s a match that is kind of lost to time. Since it happened, Roderick Strong has become an NXT North American Champion and a key part of the company’s best stable. Meanwhile, Andrade had one of the best NXT Title runs ever and now shines on the main roster. At this point in early 2017, though? Neither guy was lighting the world on fire. The crowd response to this early on was tepid at best. Almas put the target on the arm, while Strong looked at the back. Given who they are, those tactics made sense. After a few minutes, you could tell that this was going to be really good. The crowd started getting into it, wowed by the hard-hitting action the two were putting together. Eventually, Strong won with the Sick Kick in 11:43. This might’ve saved Andrade’s WWE run as he was flopping until this match. Soon after, he got Zelina Vega on his side and the rest is history. As for Roddy? The dude just always delivers.

432. Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tetsuya Naito – NJPW G1 Climax 25 7/24/15

Two guys that I became huge fans of during the G1 Climax 25 were Katsuyori Shibata and Tetsuya Naito. Despite not finishing with tons of points, both guys were standouts for different reasons. Shibata’s hard hitting style and penchant for great outings made me a fan, while Naito’s tremendous heel persona, combined with really good matches, was just so highly entertaining. On the third night of the tournament, they faced off and proved to be a great combination. Naito is known for coming out in a full suit and stalling but Shibata was having none of that, attacking quickly. It forced Naito to work the first few minutes with his suit still on. When he turned things around, he looked to neutralize Shibata’s vicious kicks by targeting the leg. Their back and forth was pretty great, but Naito made a crucial mistake late. He decided to slap Shibata, which fueled a Shibata barrage of strikes. He locked in the sleeper hold and used a Penalty Kick to get his first two points of the G1 after 12:11. In other words, don’t piss off Shibata by slapping him or he’ll kick your ass. They would have a rematch in September that didn’t quite reach this level.

431. AJ Styles vs. John Cena – WWE Money in the Bank 2016

The moment AJ Styles walked through the curtain at the Royal Rumble 2016, dream match ideas started pouring in now that they were a possibility. For a lot of people, this was number one with a bullet. Styles and John Cena had electricity from the crowd the second they shared the ring and though Styles turned heel that night, things still felt like a huge deal once the bell rang on this night. For most of this 24:11 match, Styles was out to prove that he was better than WWE’s golden boy and he outwrestled him at several moments, pausing to make sure and brag. Styles was always one step ahead, even cutting off Cena’s “five moves of doom” multiple times, hammering home that he just might be better than Cena. The brilliance of Styles was clear though because, for all his early dominance, he still bumped like a madman to make Cena’s offense look great. Even when AJ messed up to give Cena an opening, he was still mostly in control. The match eventually became a back and forth battle and it was great. Unfortunately, we got a ref bump and Club interference, as a Magic Killer put Cena down and got AJ a tainted win. A shit finish to an otherwise excellent match that they would top two months later.