wrestling / Columns

Leighty’s 2023 Countdown: The Matches of WWE Main Event

December 29, 2023 | Posted by Robert Leighty Jr.
WWE NXT Dolph Ziggler Image Credit: WWE

-This has become a yearly tradition for me since I took over reviewing this show in 2020 after the tragic loss of Larry. This column lets me look back on the year that was and each time I always think of Larry. Nobody could ever match his output so it took a small village to cover everything he did for this site. This and 205 Live/Level Up were my way of helping. Larry did columns where he ranked all the matches from WrestleMania weekend, various wrestlers matches at Mania, etc and I always enjoyed them. I always thought it was a great idea for a column and also, I am a sucker for Year End lists or anything that involves ranking matches, movies, television shows etc. So, I made the decision to do it for the shows I review on a weekly basis. This is the 4th iteration of Main Event’s Countdown and it was a year of change as the format had a switch with NXT stars getting a chance to work these matches before RAW. That had to be a HHH change as once Vince seemed to be back in power, it went back to the old way. Then Vince was told to back off again and we are back to NXT vs. RAW. As Larry always said with his columns like this: “The only rules are “have a take, be respectful, and don’t be a dick.””

102) Dana Brooke vs. Wendy Choo (02.16.23) DUD

101) Indus Sher vs. Akira Tozawa and Apollo Crews (08.10.23) SQUASH

100) Akira Tozawa vs. Sanga (07.27.23) SQUASH

99) Meta-Four vs. Indus Sher (11.09.23) 1/2*

98) Dana Brooke and Tamina vs. Candice LeRae and Mia Yim (02.23.23) 1/2*

97) Nikki Cross vs. Cora Jade (04.27.23) 1/2*

96) Kayden Carter vs. Indi Hartwell (09.28.23) 1/2*

95) Von Wagner vs. Edris Enofe (12.14.23) *

94) Indi Hartwell vs. Elektra Lopez (12.21.23) *

93) Tatum Paxley vs. Katana Chance (11.16.23) *

92) Indi Hartwell vs. Xia Li (10.05.23) *

91) Dana Brooke vs. Tegan Nox (05.25.23) *

90) Dana Brooke vs. Xia Li (08.03.23) *

89) Natalya vs. Xia Li (07.13.23) *

88) Bron Breakker vs. Akira Tozawa (02.16.23) *

87) Dana Brooke vs. Nikki Cross (01.05.23) *1/4

86) Nikki Cross vs. Dana Brooke (01.26.23) *1/4

85) Maximum Male Models vs. The OC (03.09.23) *1/4

84) Gigi Dolin vs. Elektra Lopez (12.07.23) *1/4

83) Xia Li vs. Nikki Cross (09.28.23) *1/4

82) Tegan Nox vs. Nikki Cross (05.18.23) *1/4

81) Mia Yim vs. Tamina (03.02.23) *1/2

80) Indi Hartwell vs. Nikki Cross (09.21.23) *1/2

79) Dexter Lumis vs. Joe Gacy (04.27.23) *1/2

78) Indi Hartwell vs. Dana Brooke (07.13.23) *1/2

77) Chelsea Green vs. Katana Chance (08.31.23) *1/2

76) Dana Brooke vs. Xia Li (06.22.23) *1/2

75) Akira Tozawa vs. Odyssey Jones (01.12.23) *1/2

74) Dexter Lumis vs. Akira Tozawa (06.01.23) *1/2

73) Bronson Reed vs. Akira Tozawa (09.07.23) *1/2

72) Trick Williams vs. Akira Tozawa (03.16.23) *1/2

71) Cedric Alexander vs. Dante Chen (03.16.23) *1/2

70) Bronson Reed vs. Nathan Frazer (03.23.23) *1/2

69) Nikki Cross vs. Emma (05.25.23) *3/4

68) Bronson Reed vs. Akira Tozawa (01.26.23) *3/4

67) Eddy Thorpe vs. Dexter Lumis (04.20.23) *3/4

66) Dana Brooke vs. Indi Hartwell (02.09.23) **

65) Nikki Cross vs. Kiana James (10.12.23) **

64) Bronson Reed vs. Dexter Lumis (04.06.23) **

63) Tegan Nox vs. Nikki Cross (08.10.23) **

62) Nikki Cross vs. Isla Dawn (04.20.23) **

61) Dana Brooke vs. Emma (05.18.23) **

60) Joe Coffey vs. Von Wagner (11.23.23) **

59) Nikki Cross vs. Kayden Carter (10.05.23) **

58) Natalya vs. Tegan Nox (06.15.23) **

57) The Viking Raiders vs. Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin (09.14.23) **

56) Xia Li vs. Candice LeRae (06.08.23) **

55) Tegan Nox vs. Candice LeRae (06.01.23) **

54) Nikki Cross vs. Natalya (08.24.23) **

53) Riddick Moss vs. Akira Tozawa (07.20.23) **

52) Xia Li vs. Tegan Nox (09.21.23) **

51) Natalya vs. Tegan Nox (08.17.23) **

50) Katana Chance vs. Xia Li (10.26.23) **

49) Odyssey Jones vs. Johnny Gargano (03.30.23) **

48) Apollo Crews. Vs. Bronson Reed (08.03.23) **

47) Rip Fowler vs. Shelton Benjamin (01.05.23) **

46) Apollo Crews vs. Myles Borne (11.23.23) **

45) Nikki Cross vs. Kayden Carter (07.27.23) **

44) Dana Brooke vs. Zoey Stark (01.29.23) **1/4

43) Akira Tozawa vs. Cedric Alexander (02.23.23) **1/4

42) Rick Boogs vs. Cedric Alexander (04.06.23) **1/4

41) Kayden Carter vs. Blair Davenport (11.02.23) **1/4

40) Natalya vs. Elektra Lopez (12.14.23) **1/4

39) Akira Tozawa vs. Nathan Frazer (10.19.23) **1/4

38) Apollo Crews vs. Tavion Heights (11.16.23) **1/4

37) Zoey Stark vs. Nikki Cross (04.13.23) **1/4

36) Riddick Moss vs. Tommaso Ciampa (09.07.23) **1/4

35) JD McDonagh vs. Akira Tozawa (07.06.23) **1/4

34) Damon Kemp vs. Shelton Benjamin (02.02.23) **1/4

33) Dana Brooke vs. Elektra Lopez (03.30.23) **1/4

32) Edris Enofe and Malik Blade vs. Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander (03.02.23) **1/4

31) Roxanne Perez vs. Emma (05.11.23) **1/4

30) Von Wagner vs. Mustafa Ali (01.12.23) **1/2

29) Dana Brooke vs. Piper Nevin (05.04.23) **1/2

28) The OC vs. The Creed Brothers (02.09.23) **1/2

27) Apollo Crews vs. Riley Osborne (11.30.23) **1/2

26) Chad Gable vs. Trick Williams (10.19.23) **1/2

25) Apollo Crews vs. Riddick Moss (06.15.23) **1/2

24) Katana Chance vs. Emma (06.29.23) **1/2

23) Apollo Crews vs. Javier Bernal (12.07.23) **1/2

22) Apollo Crews vs. JD McDonagh (07.20.23) **1/2

21) Ricochet vs. Riddick Moss (08.24.23) **1/2

20) Apollo Crews vs. Akira Tozawa (06.08.23) **1/2

19) Tyler Bate vs. Damon Kemp (10.26.23) **1/2

18) Brooks Jensen vs. Apollo Crews (12.21.23) **3/4

17) Dexter Lumis vs. Charlie Dempsey (01.19.23) **3/4

16) Riddick Moss vs. Apollo Crews (07.06.23) **3/4

15) Charlie Dempsey vs. Shelton Benjamin (03.23.23) **3/4

14) Akira Tozawa vs. Nathan Frazer (05.11.23) **3/4

13) JD McDonagh vs. Akira Tozawa (08.31.23) **3/4

12) Bronson Reed vs. Riddick Moss (09.14.23) **3/4

11) Carmelo Hayes vs. Akira Tozawa (03.09.23) **3/4

10) Wes Less vs. Akira Tozawa (11.02.23) **3/4

9) Ludwig Kaiser vs. Apollo Crews (11.09.23) **3/4

8) Akira Tozawa vs. Tony D’Angelo (02.02.23) ***

7) Duke Hudson vs. Charlie Dempsey (11.30.23) ***

6) Mustafa Ali vs. Akira Tozawa (05.04.23) ***

5) Apollo Crews vs. JD McDonagh (06.22.23) ***

4) Ricochet vs. Tommaso Ciampa (08.17.23) ***

3) Apollo Crews vs. JD McDonagh (06.29.23) ***1/4

-These two had a strong match last week with Crews getting the win. Let’s see if they can do it again! JD sticks and moves to start as he tries to fluster Apollo. Crews catches him and lands a heavy lariat! Whip to the corner and Crews tosses JD into the lights with a backdrop on the way out. JD bails to the floor to regroup and gets Apollo to chase, but Apollo suckers him in to missing an elbow drop. Back in the ring Apollo gets a delayed suplex as he holds JD up there for well over 20 seconds and uses one arm to show off his power. Standing moonsault gets a two count! JD grabs the ropes to stop a whip and gets in a boot to the face. They end up running the ropes and JD gets bounced off the ropes and mat thanks to a monkey-flip. Sweet! JD to the floor where Apollo misses a moonsault off the apron. JD doesn’t miss though and that sends us to our commercial break!

-Back with JD in control with a choke in the corner. Back breaker from JD and then he hooks a body scissors. Crews escapes and sling shots JD into the corner where he hits the post. Running boot from Crews followed by a leaping clothesline. Kip up from Crews and he hits a Stinger Splash in the corner. Apollo heads up and gets a crossbody for a two count. Crews to the middle rope, but misses though he bounces up with an enziguiri. Crews with a press, but JD goes to the eyes and turns it into a DDT for two. Nice! JD up top and he misses a moonsault, but catches Crews charging in with a running knee. JD back with a Spanish Fly for two! They are rocking it here again! “This is Awesome” chant from the crowd! JD off the top with a a rana, but Crews blocks and hits a sit-out powerbomb for two. Damn! JD escapes the Samoan Drop and gets a roll-up with a bridge where he grabs the bottom rope for leverage and that gets the pin at 9:06.

Winner: JD McDonagh via pin at 9:06
-I think we need a third match! This was another wonderful piece of business as they have great chemistry together. I think I liked this one just a little more than last week as they played off some of the things they did. Definitely check this one out and here’s hoping we see them face off again.

2) Axiom vs. Akira Tozawa (10.12.23) ***1/2

-More NXT vs. RAW! This could be fun! Axiom rolls out of an arm hold and we start fresh. Axiom takes Tozawa down by the leg, but Tozawa escapes and it’s another stalemate. Tozawa with a side headlock that Axiom rolls into a one count. Axiom floats over and gets a front facelock and then rolls over into another cover for one. Side headlock from Axiom and back to the mat where Tozawa gets a head scissors. Axiom escapes with a head stand and ties up the legs of Tozawa and tries a surfboard, but Tozawa floats over for a one count. They trade standing switches and Tozawa lands a strike, but gets caught with a backslide. Bull Hammer from Tozawa which pops Wade on commentary. Axiom back with a head kick that sends Tozawa to the floor. Moonsault by Axiom from the top rope to the floor! Crowd loved that! That sends us to our break at 3:00.

-Back at 5:20 with Axiom getting a Fisherman’s Suplex for two. Axiom heads back up top and gets caught on the way down with a dropkick. Tozawa with a heavy kick to the back followed by a slam and standing senton for two. Tilt-a-whirl backbreaker gets two for Tozawa! He then hooks a headlock as the crowd starts rallying Axiom. He fights back but gets slugged down by Tozawa. Heavy chop from Tozawa and another. Axiom returns fire and hits a sweet dropkick! Tozawa misses a clothesline and Axiom gets a German Suplex for two. They each start snapping off kicks that miss and Tozawa PLANTS Axion with a high angle German Suplex. Damn! Tozawa up top but Axiom meets him up there. SPANISH FLY FOR TWO! Tozawa back with a right hand and a spinning head kick. Tozawa heads up top and shoves Axiom off this time. Tozawa comes off with the Senton for the pin at 10:08.

Winner: Akira Tozawa via pin at 10:08
-This was fantastic as they hooked the crowd with this one and Axiom looked great. Tozawa played the heavy in this one and let Axiom fight from underneath which the crowd totally bought. Go and check this match out as Tozawa showed a little of what he can do when allowed and Axiom got to show off a bit as well.

1) Tyler Bate vs. Dolph Ziggler (04.13.23) ****

-Cool! Give them some time here! Lockup to start and we get a massive “Lets Go Ziggler” chant. Dolph works the arm and Bate starts rolling until he is able to escape and that draws an “ohhh” from the crowd. More mat wrestling as Dolph hooks a headlock on the mat, but Bate is able to reverse to one of his own. Bate flusters Dolph and gets a roll-up for two and then a cross-body for two. Dolph stomps the foot to gain an advantage and yells “this is wrestling” and the crowd pops. Seattle loves Dolph. Dolph trash talks Bate, so Bate points to the sky and Dolph falls for it and gets the taste slapped out of his mouth. Cool! A clothesline sends Dolph over the top to the floor and that takes us to our commercial break at around 3:00.

-Back with Dolph hanging Bate throat first on the top rope and then firing him into the corner. The crowd roars again. Jumping elbow gets two as Dolph flexes on the cover. Dolph is digging this love from the crowd! Ziggler with a side headlock on the mat and he does a headstand to show-off while keeping the hold. Bate punches his way out, so Ziggler drops him in the mat and then books a Bow and Arrow. Bate uses strength to reverse the hold which Dolph turns back on him. Bate escapes again and fires off some European Uppercuts. Dolph gets caught with a knee in the corner and Bate gets a back elbow off the middle rope. He lands a series of dropkicks, but runs into an elbow in the corner. Dolph charges and gets caught with an overhead release suplex. Standing shooting star press gets two! Dolph goes to the knee and misses a fame-asser, but hits it on the second try and that only gets two. The crowd would really like Ziggler to win this one and he preps for a Superkick. Bate catches it, but Ziggler punches him in the face. Bate gets a rebound lariat and then an AIRPLANE SPIN for two. Yo, these two are killing it! The crowd starts a “This is Awesome” chant and I don’t blame them. Tyler Driver 97 is escaped and Dolph gets a superkick and falls into the cover for the pin at 9:30.

Winner: Dolph Ziggler via pin at 9:30
-This match ruled and is easily one of the best Main Event matches I have seen in my 3 years of reviewing this show. The crowd was great Ziggler was fired up, and Bate was well, Bate. Definitely check this match out! I don’t know if anything is topping his for Main Event Match of the Year and we still have 7.5 months to go.

-Obviouly, nothing topped Ziggler/Bate and it’s kind of wild that Dolph Ziggler ended up being on Main Event and having the Match of the Year for the show. Congrats to Ziggler and Bate on a hidden gem that likely only a few people watched, but I appreciated the work they did. Thanks to everyone who followed along with my reviews and offered comments and takes. Thanks for reading!