wrestling / Columns

Kevin’s Top 500 Matches Of The 2010s (#50 – 41)

March 5, 2022 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
Kenny Omega Hiroshi Tanahashi Image Credit: NJPW

50. Death Match: Jimmy Havoc vs. Mark Haskins – PROGRESS Chapter 55: Chase the Sun

Image Credit: PROGRESS

I remember feeling that this rivalry didn’t feel big or personal enough to warrant such a stipulation. Even if that was the case, they went out and had an absolutely barbaric match that stole the show on the biggest event in PROGRESS history. Jimmy Havoc brought out a fucking axe. Just think about that. This was his wheelhouse, but Mark Haskins controlled a lot of it. When Havoc did get going, he used paper cuts and salt to add so much violence to his offense. A paper cut on a man’s tongue is something I can never watch without cringing. Mark’s wife, Vicky, got involved and convinced him to use a barbed wire baseball bat instead of a chair. That’s a good woman right there. Thumbtacks were also brought into play, leading to a tremendous spot where Jimmy dropkicked Haskins into a barbed wire board and landed on the tacks, sacrificing himself. However, Mark put the brakes on, making it all for naught. Havoc hit his best moves, but Haskins refused to stay down. He finally did at 23:08 after taking an Acid Rainmaker with the barbed wire bat. Incredibly brutal, while telling a masterful story. Haskins got as violent as Jimmy in some parts, but wasn’t able to beat the death match king. It all led to them teaming up, which has been the highlight of the chapters following this.

49. Kota Ibushi vs. Shinsuke Nakamura – NJPW G1 Climax 23 8/4/13

Image Credit: NJPW

This was insane. Shinsuke Nakamura was a jerk early on, putting G1 newbie Kota Ibushi in his place. He hit some vicious shots that I thought would end Ibushi, but Ibushi fought back with a vengeance. It was one of the earliest times where Ibushi looked like he could truly hang with heavyweights and hit as hard as them. He came out of this looking like a million bucks. The timing of Ibushi kicking out at one after a Boma Ye was masterful, bringing the electric crowd to their feet. I can’t say enough about this match. They would top it in the Tokyo Dome in 2015, but this was spectacular and put Ibushi on the map. Nakamura used a second Boma Ye to put him down after an incredible 19:18.

48. NXT North American Championship Ladder Match: Adam Cole vs. EC3 vs. Killian Dain vs. Lars Sullivan vs. Ricochet vs. The Velveteen Dream – NXT TakeOver: New Orleans

Image Credit: WWE

NXT TakeOver: New Orleans is honestly the best top to bottom wrestling show I have ever seen. Four of the five matches were ****+. It all began with this. Give six talented guys a bunch of ladders and let them crown the first ever North American Champion. There was a lot to juggle here. You had the red hot Velveteen Dream and Adam Cole. The monsters in Killian Dain and Lars Sullivan. And two guys making their debuts in EC3 and Ricochet. They made it all work. Ricochet was given plenty of room to show off his aerial offense, while EC3 may have taken more bumps than anyone. The big guys destroyed people. Everyone played their part perfectly. And this wasn’t just guys doing spots. They all spent early moments going for the title, but kept getting cut off. From there, it was clear they needed to take each other out to win, which set up the bigger offense we eventually saw. It’s a brilliantly layered match. There were just so many action filled moments, great character stuff, and some truly creative spots. I’d be here forever if I tried listing them all. Just know there were a ton and this match was madness. It seemed like Ricochet had it won, only for Cole to sneak in and knock him off, pulling down the title after 31:16. An absolute war and one of the greatest ladder matches of all time.

47. Katsuyori Shibata vs. Kota Ibushi – NJPW G1 Climax 25 7/29/15

Image Credit: NJPW

There is just so much to love about this match. It is absolutely must-see and one of my all-time favorite matches already. Katsuyori Shibata and Kota Ibushi are two of my favorite New Japan performers and putting them together just made magic. Shibata is known for his hard hitting style, while Ibushi is not one to shy away from that kind of fight. That’s exactly what this was. Two guys having a fantastic war of strong strikes. The things they do in the match are all smartly executed. Ibushi does a Penalty Kick, which pisses off Shibata, who responds with a loud kick of his own. Ibushi again amazes with his effortless ability to blend strong style with his high flying athletic skill. One minute he’s laying into Shibata and the next he’s hitting a standing corkscrew moonsault. This was similar to the phenomenal Ishii/Shibata wars in the past, but had its own identity to differentiate it. Shibata would deliver a ridiculous slap before applying the sleeper hold and winning with the Penalty Kick. At 13:25, it is the second best under 15 minute match that I’ve ever seen (Ishii/Shibata from the G1 23 is the best) and is one of the matches you should instantly watch when signing up for New Japan World. If this would have happened in Korakuen or in front of the Osaka crowd, it could have elevated it to the full five stars.

46. IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kenny Omega [c] vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 13

Image Credit: NJPW

Remember Kenny Omega in New Japan? That was a thing that happened. In 2019, no less. He and Hiroshi Tanahashi got to headline the Tokyo Dome and they put on the best Wrestle Kingdom main event since I began watching the company in 2015. This whole match was built on the idea of old vs. new. Omega had the Young Bucks in his corner, while Tanahashi had the New Japan Dads in his. Even things like bringing out a table were done to build this. It was like Omega did that to say his style of wrestling was superior. After Omega took rough landings on his knees, Tanahashi targeted them. It’s his bread and butter. Tanahashi also reached deep into his bag of tricks, even pulling out a Styles Clash. There’s a lot behind that move when you consider Styles’ history with both men in NJPW. I think the best moment came when Tanahashi tried to beat Omega at his own game and missed High Fly Flow through a table. Omega remained a jerk throughout, using some of Tanahashi’s moves only for the challenger to kick out at one. He eventually captured the title after 39:13. GO ACE! There were a few moments of overkill but this still rocked.

45. PROGRESS Atlas Championship: WALTER [c] vs. Timothy Thatcher – PROGRESS Chapter 62: Fear No More, Come To Dust

Image Credit: PROGRESS

These guys are tag team partners as part of Ringkampf. Most fans assumed this would be friendly competition for a championship. But, as soon as Timothy Thatcher refused a handshake at the opening bell, you could feel the energy change in the room. Right there, we all understood that these guys were just going to lay into each other. Within minutes, Thatcher’s chest was bloodied. Thatcher found his opening when he ducked a chop outside and WALTER hit the ring post. That changed everything because it negated WALTER’s best weapon. What would he do now? He’d have to use his brain. Thatcher was in control, but WALTER would do something small like shift his weight on a belly to belly to land on Tim, or stop him in his tracks with a brutal lariat. And something like that lariat was a believable near fall because of who WALTER is. His left handed chops were still tough, but nowhere near the right handed quality. He sold Thatcher’s armbar like his title reign was over, but managed to escape. In the end, Thatcher got his hands up to block a chop, so WALTER just CHOPPED HIM IN THE FACE INSTEAD! That was one of the wildest things I saw all year. Shortly after, WALTER ended this with a powerbomb after 21:39. I love that this didn’t rely on near fall shock value as there were barely any until the end. They knew it would take a lot to beat their partner. Violent, dramatic, and the best match in PROGRESS history.

44. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Hiromu Takahashi [c] vs. Dragon Lee – NJPW The New Beginning in Osaka 2017

Image Credit: NJPW

While on excursion in CMLL, Hiromu Takahashi developed a rivalry with Dragon Lee that is among the best in wrestling. Their matches always have a ridiculous pace and this was no different. After a wild start, Hiromu proved to be a dastardly champion by going after Lee’s coveted mask. Lee responded with an insane rana off the apron and tope con hilo. Of course, everything they did was incredibly crisp, but also very violent. Hiromu hit a damn belly to belly off the top to the outside. Lee caught a leaping Hiromu with a powerbomb on the floor and Hiromu did one of his own onto the apron. I swear they were out to kill one another. Hiromu also delivered his absurd senton to the outside, because he’s a wild man. They moved into the big near falls, including one after Hiromu completely removed Lee’s mask and another on a Takahashi Destroyer that was among the best I’ve ever seen. Hiromu retained after hitting the Time Bomb at 18:23, in what was the best match I’ve seen between the two, which is some of the highest possible praise.

43. Lucha Underground Championship: Mil Muertes [c] vs. Fenix – Lucha Underground 3/16/16

Image Credit: Lucha Undrground

The highest rated Lucha Underground match on my list in 2015 was between Fenix and Mil Muertes. They did it again in 2016. This wasn’t a stipulation match like last year, but it had the added high stakes of being for the Lucha Underground Championship. Despite being at a size disadvantage, Fenix traded blows with Muertes. These two are tailor made for one another. The “Man of 1,000 Deaths” against the Fenix that always rises from the ashes. In a callback to season one, Mil ripped away at Fenix’s mask. He brought a chair into play and busted Fenix open before again calling back to their past and powerbombing him on the announce table. Fenix rallied and, in a great twist of fate, ripped Mil’s mask. Catrina, Mil’s manager, was excellent at ringside, nailing every facial expression and emotion throughout. Fenix used Mil’s power against him, using the chair to block a punch and then used the chair himself. He found a way to chop the monster down to size. Fenix busted out a sweet German suplex and a 450 splash but Mil wouldn’t stay down. The champion got back in control and went for his trademark Flatliner only for Fenix to counter into a clutch rollup for the three at 13:38. As a standalone it may not be on the level of some other matches here. But it had the perfect amount of violence and storytelling and when adding in their history and the emotion of Fenix winning the big one, this was Lucha Underground at its finest. ****¾

42. Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn – NXT Arrival

Image Credit: WWE

There was no better way that NXT could have “arrived” on the WWE Network. Cesaro and Sami Zayn are both amazing performers who not only put on an incredible athletic performance, but also told a compelling story. They played off previous encounters perfectly, hit each other hard throughout and Sami takes a beating better than almost anyone in wrestling. Some of the spots they pulled out were truly breathtaking. Even more than just having the compelling match people want and expect from them, this takes it to the next level by being so important. People who had just signed up for the WWE Network saw this as their first look at NXT and it proved that there was something special going on with the brand. Sami gave Cesaro everything he could handle and even kicked out of a sick popup uppercut at one when some thought the match would be over. Sami’s survival didn’t last much longer, falling to the Neutralizer in 22:55.

41. Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya Naito – NJPW G1 Climax 27 7/17/17

Image Credit: NJPW

Since I first started watching NJPW, these two stood out as my favorite wrestlers there. They had some bangers in 2013 and 2015, but this was their biggest match. It was Ibushi’s big return and Naito was in the middle of an incredible hot streak. Naito went after Ibushi’s surgically repaired neck. There was a great spot where Ibushi had Naito’s corner dropkick scouted, so Naito resorted to sweeping him and hit the dropkick to the back of the neck. Great work. Ibushi responded with some brutal kicks, an absurd lawn dart and the dead lift German. In one of the most ridiculous spots all year, Ibushi delivered a middle rope piledriver. It provided a tremendous near fall, helped by the fact that it was night one of the tournament, where anything could happen. Naito weathered a storm of offense and used two Destinos to win in an incredible 24:41. It was easily the most highly anticipated match of the tournament for me and they still exceeded my expectations. The fans were invested in everything, making for a great atmosphere. The neck work was brilliant and I’m so glad they didn’t overdo the finisher barrage or kickout spots. What a match.