wrestling / Columns

Kevin’s Top 500 Matches Of The 2010s (#70 – 61)

March 2, 2022 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
Kevin Owens John Cena WWE Elimination Chamber 2015 Image Credit: WWE

70. Evolution vs. The Shield – Extreme Rules – WWE Extreme Rules 2014

Image Credit: WWE

It was so surreal to see Evolution back together in 2014. There was certainly a big fight feel in the atmosphere. As expected, a brawl started this and the Shield cleared the ring of Evolution. From there, the whole thing was as wild as you’d want. The crowd brought every near fall. As the fight went on by the timekeeper’s table, Ambrose rand across the announce tables and jumped onto Orton and HHH, taking them out. That’s the perfect spot for the nutcase himself. Things get very Attitude Era like as those three and Seth fought through the crowd, which led to Rollins hitting a CROSS BODY OFF A BALCONY! Sick! Inside, Batista nailed a spinebuster on Roman, but before he could hit the Batista Bomb, Reigns nailed the Superman Punch. The spear followed and this was over after 19:51. It’s hard to live up to the hype sometimes, but these six men did just that. The Shield had an incredible run in 2014 before their split and this was no different. We got a ton of high spots, each guy got a chance to shine and Seth’s dive is still fondly remembered and should be for years to come. This is how you make a team look like a million bucks.

69. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Katsuyori Shibata – NJPW G1 Climax 24 7/26/14

Image Credit: NJPW

Up until just before seeing this, I had no clue that there were issues here. Tanahashi had some negative things to say about Shibata in his autobiography. There seemed to be a buzz in the air for this that other matches in the G1 didn’t have. Tanahashi was surprisingly the first person to bring the strikes but had to scurry when Shibata tries to murder him. Shibata followed out and beats the hell out of Tanahashi. It’s like Shibata’s goal in this match was to just obliterate Tanahashi. Pretty much anytime that Tanahashi looked to gain traction, Shibata just took his offense and came back with something that looked vicious. When Tanahashi finally attacked the leg, it made sense because he doesn’t want to get kicked into oblivion anymore. He hit High Fly Flow, but his second attempt is stopped by Shibata’s knees. They went into a strike exchange where Shibata just DESTROYED Tanahashi with one particular blow. That’s part of an excellent finishing stretch that sees Shibata hit a go to sleep and the PK to hand Tanahashi his first loss of the tournament in 16:16. This was more Shibata’s style than Tanahashi’s, which worked for the better. The atmosphere was electric as the fans seemed to know that there was tension between the two men and they just went out and made sure to show it during the match. This was intense and worked in a great way.

68. WWE Cruiserweight Classic Second Round: Cedric Alexander vs. Kota Ibushi – WWE Cruiserweight Classic 8/10/16

Image Credit: WWE

Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa easily had the best match of the first round of the Cruiserweight Classic. It was here, in the second round, where things were taken to the next level. The hype surrounding this after it was taped was enormous. Sometimes that doesn’t translate well since the live atmosphere adds a lot. It was all justified here though. This was two guys putting on incredible performances and creating magic. They put the crowd in the palm of their hands early and only got them more invested at the match went on. At times, Cedric Alexander made you believe he would pull off the upset. He had Kota Ibushi well scouted, avoiding kicks and the triangle moonsault, following up with a tope con hilo. They even made you believe that it could end in a time limit draw for a moment. Cedric’s near fall after a sick brainbuster and then another after a kick to the head were perfectly done. The one on his incredible snap Michinoku Driver was great too. Kota avoided a diving double stomp, snapped off a German suplex, hit another kick and won with the Golden Star powerbomb after 14:59 of grueling action. Not only was this a phenomenal match, it was a coming out party for Cedric. After ROH wasted him, he appeared all over, having damn good matches and this was his crowning moment. The “please sign Cedric” chants afterwards led to him joining the cruiserweight division, though they’ve failed to capitalize on the main roster. Kota may have won but Cedric gained more from this. I’m dying to see a rematch.

67. IWGP Heavyweight Championship: AJ Styles [c] vs. Kazuchika Okada – NJPW Dominion 2015

Image Credit: NJPW

Headlining a stacked Dominion show, the main event between IWGP Champion AJ Styles and Kazuchika Okada had to deliver. It did exactly that as, in my opinion, it was the best part of the card. A lot of Bullet Club matches feature an overabundance of interference. Early on, this seemed to be headed down that path, but Red Shoes ejected them and even hit them with a classic “SUCK IT!” Once they were booted, the match really started to click. Styles went from extremely cocky to seemingly vulnerable and worried. He knew that one on one with Okada, he was in trouble. The chemistry between them has become so great over time that their exchanges are effortless. There are some near falls in this that are incredibly close. Okada nails the Rainmaker, a very protected finish, and immediately goes for a second. AJ counters this one and it looks like Okada may have blown his chance. They continued to counter each other, making for a tremendous closing stretch that came to an end after another Rainmaker at 26:16, giving Okada his third IWGP Heavyweight Title. Styles and Okada are two of the greatest wrestlers alive and this was their best encounter together.

66. Kevin Owens vs. John Cena – WWE Elimination Chamber 2015

Image Credit: WWE

Sami Zayn answered John Cena’s US Title Open Challenge, only to get injured before losing. Kevin Owens, Sami’s former best friend and ultimate rival, didn’t take too kindly to this, wanting the credit for injuring Sami. Owens would come out for an Open Challenge and attack Cena, leading to this match. There was pretty much no bigger match for Owens’ main roster debut. Even a WWE Title match wouldn’t have meant what this did. Some of the best Cena feuds in recent memory have seen him take on an “indy darling” like CM Punk or Daniel Bryan. That was the case here. Both guys brought their “A” games and had almost instant chemistry. Everybody knew that John Cena could deliver on the big stage, but Kevin Owens showed that he was a Superstar. My only major issue with this 20:47 match was that the Corpus Christ crowd wasn’t great. There were a few finisher kick outs, which I usually don’t like, but I’m okay with it in a situation like this. This was a big match that deserved something like that and it only took Owens to popup powerbombs to win. The biggest thing about this was that Owens beat Cena cleanly. In his debut. That’s insane. Their next two matches were good, but couldn’t capture the magic of this first night. Unfortunately, the rest of this feud went the typical way of Cena feuds, as he beat Owens the rest of the way, but for one night, this was glorious.

65. Kenny Omega vs. Tetsuya Naito – NJPW G1 Climax 26 8/13/16

Image Credit: NJPW

People were pissed at my original rating for this match. Granted, I still don’t believe it’s five stars but I have bumped up the score after watching again. On the final night for the B Block, it all came down to this match. Kenny Omega had to win here to take the block, while a win or tie would put Naito in the finals. Omega can be very goofy at times and it hurts his character. He came into this 100% serious and it made everything better. Early on, Omega tweaked his knee and did a great job of selling it throughout. He’d pull up lame, limp and have trouble hitting key moves. Naito did a great job of targeting the knee while selling Omega’s power advantage. Omega hit a powerbomb into the crowd and then took a big bump by somersaulting into the front row onto Naito. Omega hit a bridging tiger suplex and was wise enough to lift his injured leg off of the bridge, which may have cost him the pin. Naito went into his offense and hit Omega with nearly everything he had. He countered the One Winged Angel into his patented knee bar for a great close call. Just went it seemed like Omega had it won, Naito again counted the One Winged Angel, this time into Destino. Omega’s legs just weren’t strong enough to finish until he finally mustered enough strength to hit the One Winged Angel and win at 26:17. The back half of this match is ridiculously good. It’s the second best heel vs. heel match I can recall (Styles/Suzuki from the G1 24 is first). This was, far and away, the best performance of Kenny’s career. I still say Naito deserved this win way more but that’s not an argument I feel like getting into anymore.

64. War Games: Team Rhea vs. Team Shayna – NXT TakeOver: War Games 2019

Image Credit: WWE

By this point, the women of WWE have competed in almost every gimmick match. Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber, Money in the Bank, etc. This year, they added War Games to the mix. And as usual, they outclassed the men. Team Shayna comprised of Shayna Baszler, Io Shirai, Bianca Belair, and Kay Lee Ray. Team Rhea was Rhea Ripley, Tegan Nox, Candice LeRae, and Dakota Kai, who replaced Mia Yim after she was attacked earlier in the night. The match got off to a hot start. Shirai and LeRae renewed their incredible rivalry before Ripley and KLR brought the weapons into play. The match took a wild turn when Dakota entered, only to turn around and brutally attack her best friend, Tegan Nox. It was one of the best heel turns in recent memory. That left Rhea and Candice in a 4-on-2 situation. No help came either. They had to do it alone. And it was done in a way that made total sense. They never looked like they got “superman” booking. Their hope spots felt realistic. Shayna trapped Rhea in the Kirifuda Clutch and it looked like the end. But Rhea found a way to counter by handcuffing herself to Shayna. From there, she hit Riptide onto a pile of chairs to win in 29:37. One of the best finishes all year ending one of the best matches.

63. WWE Championship Elimination Chamber: John Cena [c] vs. AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz – WWE Elimination Chamber 2017

Image Credit: WWE

Here, we had the debut of the new look Elimination Chamber. The padded mats didn’t look great, but allowed for a lot more freedom. This was great as soon as Bray stopped to stare down and intimidate each person in a pod during his entrance. Two weeks after a classic at the Royal Rumble, John Cena and AJ Styles were back at it to start this match. I liked that this wasn’t just a match with big spots. Granted, there were plenty of those, but there were multiple stories told. Dean and AJ reignited their rivalry, Cena and AJ continued theirs, and Dean got a new one started with Baron Corbin when he rolled him up to eliminate him. Corbin attacked Dean after, setting up their Mania match, and allowing Miz to eliminate him. Miz went next and surprisingly, the WWE Champion himself, John Cena, was out next. That left things down to Styles and Wyatt in a fresh matchup. Allowing Bray and AJ to go at it for a stretch at the end was the best decision. After some great back and forth, Bray caught a Phenomenal Forearm into Sister Abigail to win his first WWE Title in 34:25. Unfortunately, the WWE Title picture peaked in interest for 2017 on this night. Still, this was fantastic and is neck and neck with the original as the best Chamber match ever.

62. IWGP Jr. Championship: Hiromu Takahashi [c] vs. KUSHIDA – NJPW Dominion 2017

Image Credit: NJPW

At Wrestle Kingdom, these two had one of the better Jr. Heavyweight Title matches in a long time. At Sakura Genesis, KUSHIDA got his rematch and was promptly squashed in two minutes. He won the Best of the Super Juniors to get one more shot. It was the one Wrestle Kingdom rematch I was pumped for. Hiromu was in KUSHIDA’s head and his antics triggered KUSHIDA to be more aggressive and reckless. For example, he pulled a Sabu with a springboard move off a chair. Not your typical KUSHIDA. Everything they did looked like it had an extra bit of hatred behind it. The pace was insane and full of great spots. KUSHIDA took a particularly brutal bump on the apron sunset flip bomb. He nearly won with an avalanche Back to the Future, but was too hurt to cover. KUSHIDA won a strike battle and stomped on Hiromu’s head to a bunch of boos. The Hoverboard Lock made Hiromu tap and KUSHIDA was champion again at 19:12. Their best work together. I was sad Hiromu lost, but the story they told worked. KUSHIDA had to do things he usually doesn’t to beat his new rival. Hiromu broke him in every single way and KUSHIDA had to dig deep to put the pieces back together and overcome.

61. Aztec Warfare II – Lucha Underground 3/23/16

Image Credit: El Rey Network

Aztec Warfare is three for three in producing great matches. Season two’s edition was not just the best so far, it was also a top three Lucha Underground match ever. The reigning Lucha Underground Champion Fenix entered at one and the Temple came unglued when Rey Mysterio Jr. debuted at number two. That set the stage for a match filled with awesome moments. This match had a little bit of everything. Famous B at ringside scouting potential clients was hilarious, Joey Ryan being sleazy and handcuffing himself outside to avoid competing was perfect character work, the debut of Mysterio was handled expertly and several feuds were furthered. For example, Drago and Jack Evans continued their beef, while former champion Mil Muertes was taken out almost instantly thanks to interference from his rival Pentagon Jr. Pentagon wasn’t allowed to compete thanks to Mil’s manager Catrina, since she was running the Temple at the time. After all twenty participants entered and Mil (#20) was taken out, Catrina’s night got worse when Dario Cueto returned to take back his Temple. He brought out a 21st entrant, his debuting brother “The Monster” Matanza Cueto. Matanza proceeded to eliminate every remaining competitor in an incredibly dominant display before defeating Mysterio in the end to capture the title. When a match goes 52:49 (with commercials) and has non-stop action, while being an absolute blast, continuing existing stories and setting up future ones, you know you have something special. Even with everything I covered, there are still plenty of things I didn’t mention. This match was that awesome.