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Kevin’s Top 500 Matches Of The 2010s (#490 – 481)

June 26, 2021 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
WrestleMania 35 Becky Lynch

490. WWE Cruiserweight Classic Second Round: Johnny Gargano vs. TJ Perkins – WWE Cruiserweight Classic 8/24/16

When the Cruiserweight Classic participants were announced, a lot of people felt like the guys signed to WWE contracts, like Rich Swann and Johnny Gargano, would go very far. This was the second round and after beating his tag team partner Tommaso Ciampa, Gargano found himself up against Evolve standout TJ Perkins. Not many people gave Perkins a chance to get past this round. This bout started with both guys showing that they’re evenly matched. Though this was taped weeks in advance, commentary discussed Gargano injuring his knee at TakeOver: Brooklyn. They brilliantly worked it into the match and Gargano banged it on the ring bell table on a dive outside. It was done in a way that made sense to those of us watching after seeing TakeOver, while also being something the live fans could buy into. Just brilliant work from both guys throughout the entire 12:19. Gargano sold the hell out of the leg, falling when attempting the lawn dart, though he got it on the second attempt in brutal fashion. Perkins would kick out and go back to attacking the knee. He countered Gargano and finally got the knee bar locked in, which made Gargano tap. The crowd was surprised and Perkins moved on to the quarterfinals on his road to winning the entire thing.

489. WWE Raw and Smackdown Women’s Championships: Charlotte Flair [c] vs. Ronda Rousey [c] vs. Becky Lynch – WWE WrestleMania 35

There were some women’s matches that didn’t make this list that were better from a technical standpoint. However, none meant more. The women of WWE often talked about main eventing a WrestleMania and most doubters called it a pipedream. They said it could never happen. Except it did. And it wasn’t just to say it happened. It was done because the women earned it and their match was the most anticipated. The undefeated MMA star in Ronda Rousey, the top woman of the decade in Charlotte Flair, and the hottest act in the business in Becky Lynch. They had the tough task of closing out a ridiculously long show in front of a tired crowd. The battle itself was pretty intense with some great dramatic moments and a few clever spots. It had a few sloppy moments here or there but it mostly worked. It came down to Becky against Ronda, which is what everybody wanted. Becky won with a questionable pin after 21:27. An incredibly important match that cemented Becky as the company’s top star.

488. WWE Tag Team Championship Two Out of Three Falls Match: The New Day [c] vs. Tyson Kidd and Cesaro – WWE Payback 2015

My favorite WWE tag team match of 2015. Tyson Kidd and Cesaro formed as a team on December 1st, 2014 and found instant chemistry that some teams of a few years could only dream of. The New Day struggled to get over as faces, but once they turned heel and got to let their personalities shine, they took off. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a heel turn save someone as much as it did for New Day. They dethroned Kidd and Cesaro in a solid match at Extreme Rules the month before this one. They upped the ante for the rematch, throwing in the Two out of Three falls stipulation. The first fall saw Cesaro and Kidd run absolutely wild. They did some things that wowed me, which you wouldn’t expect considering how often I’ve seen them work. They won the first fall before Kidd started to play the face in peril. They did a good job in seeming like the hot tag would come, only for Cesaro to not be there because he was taken out by Big E. That led to New Day evening the score. The third fall played back into Kidd and Cesaro’s strengths, but Xavier Woods snuck in and got three on a roll up to win at 11:55 despite not being involved in the match. The finish was the worst part about this as it just made the referee look like a fool.

487. Mae Young Classic First Round: Killer Kelly vs. Meiko Satomura – WWE Mae Young Classic 9/5/18

I am a massive Killer Kelly fan. From what I’ve seen of her, she’s pretty tremendous. This was her biggest stage and getting to face Meiko Satomura was a huge deal. Considering how big of a deal Satomura is, making Kelly her first opponent meant a lot. Kelly more than up to the challenge. You could see her smile when this started, though as she was clearly relishing in the opportunity. Meiko busted out some sweet offense like her cartwheel kick. Kelly came right back at her, delivering some vicious strikes. The fisherman suplex near fall was spectacular and the hanging dragon sleeper was arguably the best spot of the entire tournament. Satomura ultimately won after 7:39 with a Death Valley Driver in what was one of my favorite matches of the decade, even if there were plenty that were better all-around.

486. NXT Championship Last Man Standing Match: Tommaso Ciampa [c] vs. Johnny Gargano – NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn IV

The story told between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa ranks near the top in all of wrestling over the past few years. Hell, in the entire history of wrestling. After wars in New Orleans and Chicago, they had their rubber match with higher stakes. This time, the NXT Championship was on the line after Ciampa captured it a few weeks earlier. Also, this wouldn’t involve pinfalls or submission, instead having the Last Man Standing stipulation. They brought the intensity we’ve come to expect from the rivalry, throwing everything at each other. It wasn’t just violence, though. You could tell the story behind each and every shot. Are their spots a bit overdramatic? Sure, but I’ll take overdramatic storytelling over a battle of who can do more fancy moves any day of the week. The idea that Ciampa is a sadistic bastard and Gargano was willing to do whatever it took to get revenge and the title played into pretty much everything they did. I appreciated how they found ways to give us some creative spots while playing off their past. Near the end, they got to the point where Johnny handcuffed Ciampa by the stage. The acting and drama did go overboard here, but I liked the finish. Johnny was obsessed with hurting Ciampa and it cost him. He messed up and flew off the stage, hurting his knee. All while the man he cuffed was able to roll off the stage and barely onto his feet, retaining in 33:38. It had some diminishing returns from their previous similar matches, but still had a lot working for it. The storytelling was top notch and it was brutal.

485. Dragon Lee vs. SHO – NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 5/15/19

During the 2018 Best of the Super Juniors, I was pleasantly surprised by the banger these two put on. They went out trying to best it this time around. Their growth was clear. Now, Dragon Lee came in as the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion, while SHO was challenging the likes of Shingo Takagi in the division. A win over Lee would be huge for SHO’s career, while Lee didn’t want to be a champion who started the tournament 0-2. With that in mind, both men entered this with a level of intensity that you didn’t see from many BOSJ contests. There was a little extra snap behind each offensive maneuver. Within the first ten minutes of this 27:10 encounter, they had both been battered beyond belief. That wasn’t a normal 10 minutes. It was taxing. Though they both had their arms targeted, they found ways to remain in this. SHO would still bust out impressive feats of strength and Lee would take him to the mat. That’s an underrated aspect of Dragon Lee’s game by the way. When they heard that time was winding down, they started throwing their best offense at each other. You could feel the desperation from two men who didn’t want to start 0-2. Lee avoided it by hitting Desnucadora to win.

484. NXT Tag Team Championship: #DIY [c] vs. The Authors of Pain – NXT TakeOver: San Antonio

At TakeOver: Toronto in November 2016, #DIY won the NXT Tag Team Titles in my person pick for, not just match of the year, but best tag team match I’ve ever seen. On that same show, the Authors of Pain won the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. That set these teams on a course for this title match. Known for their heart, #DIY didn’t back down from their large challenge. It started hot and stayed that way. Even when Gargano took the heat segment, the fans were engaged. Ciampa’s hot tag ruled, as he busted out Germans on both challengers. There was a great callback when the stereo submissions #DIY won the titles with were locked in. It wasn’t enough, though, signaling that something was changing. #DIY’s finisher was countered into the Super Collider in a great spot. A Last Chapter later and new champs were crowned at 14:26. #DIY just “got” tag team wrestling. They played to the Authors’ strengths and it made for an awesome start to a series of matches that only got better. Like Sami Zayn as NXT Champion, #DIY losing the titles in just two months was fine. Their story was more about the journey, while AOP got to play dominant champions and have a great 2017.

483. Number One Contender’s Match: Pete Dunne vs. Trent Seven – WWE UK Championship Special 5/19/17

British Strong Style! Though he didn’t win the WWE UK Championship Tournament in January, Pete Dunne came out as a major star. Willing to do anything to get the title he believed belonged to him, Dunne attacked Trent Seven a night prior, injuring his arm. I popped at Dunne coming out with the PROGRESS Title, by the way. These two are actually former PROGRESS Tag Team Champions. Early on, Seven wrestled awkwardly because he needed to protect his right arm. It was great work. Dunne kicked it, twisted it and used the steel steps on it. Each time Seven gained momentum, Dunne was there to cut it off by going after the arm. It’s so simple, yet so effective. He finally got a big opening with a great dragon suplex on the apron. When he hit the big lariat, it wasn’t enough because the bad arm kept him from getting all of it. That was his last real shot, as Dunne finished him off with the Bitter End in 14:44. Brilliant work. The arm stuff was the focus, was sold well throughout and made sense. Seven was great, using his left arm for signature moves out of desperation, but just not having enough to win. Dunne nailed every piece of character work, while putting on a great match. I love British wrestling.

482. IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Tetsuya Naito [c] vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – NJPW Dominion 2017

On January 4th, 2017, Tetsuya Naito finally got a big Wrestle Kingdom victory by defeating Hiroshi Tanahashi and retaining the Intercontinental Title. Naito held the title since September and treated it like garbage. He kicked it around, slammed it on the steps and by the time this show came around, it was broken. Naito wanted to destroy and retire the title, while Tanahashi was out to restore its honor. Knowing Naito’s style, Tanahashi turned the tables on him and attacked before the bell. Naito’s disrespect for the title was too much for him. Tanahashi was aggressive, spitting at Naito and laying into him with punches. Naito went after Tanahashi’s partially torn biceps, while Tana responded by attacking the leg. I appreciated that Naito working the arm was smart and different from a lot of his matches, since he typically worked the leg. Tanahashi couldn’t bump on some spots as well as he would if he were 100% healthy, but he made up for it with his desperation. He knew a loss would mark the end of the IC Title and possibly his time as a top star. When High Fly Flow wasn’t enough, Tanahashi used a cloverleaf to win the title via submission in 25:56. An unexpected finish that played into their next match, though it felt anti-climactic. This was the worst of their trilogy in 2017, yet it still ruled and was what it needed to be given their characters and story up to this point. Plus, it freed up Naito to win the G1.

481. IWGP Tag Team Championship: TenKoji [c] vs. War Machine – NJPW Sakura Genesis 2017

On a recent podcast, Big E said that one of his favorite things in wrestling is big meaty men bumping meat. That’s just what this tag match was. Japan loves hoss gaijins (teams like Killer Elite Squad and stars like Vader, Hansen, etc.), so War Machine fit right in. These two teams went right to war and wrestled the kind of match I was hoping for. It was like two teams trying to see who was manlier. TenKoji’s veteran savvy combated the raw power of the challengers, making for an even contest. When War Machine managed to take control, they showcased their best offense, which the Sumo Hall crowd ate up. TenKoji weathered the storm and Kojima hit a massive lariat that led to the fans chanting his name. In a passing of the torch of sorts, War Machine captured the titles at 14:06, in the best IWGP Tag Team Title match I’ve seen.