wrestling / Columns

Pantoja’s Top 100 Matches Of 2022 (#100-91)

January 23, 2023 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
Image Credit: WWE

The time has arrived for my Top 100 Matches of 2022. This is my eighth year of compiling this list. Of note, I had more work to do away from wrestling this year so some of these write-ups aren’t new and just slightly edited from my original reviews. I also only included WWE, NJPW, and AEW/ROH. I started getting into Stardom this year but hand’t seen the year-end Dream Queendom show or about half of the 5Star Grand Prix at the time of making this list so they aren’t included..

This was a loaded year with over 130 matches cracking ****, meaning there are plenty of honorable mentions to list before we officially get started.

Honorable Mentions (Matches that I gave **** but didn’t make the list

WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship: The Usos [c] vs. The New Day – WWE Day 1
ALEJA, Katsuhiko Nakajima, Kenoh, Manabu Soya & Tadasuke vs. BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16
AEW TNT Championship Ladder Match: Cody Rhodes vs. Sammy Guevara – AEW Beach Break
NXT North American Championship: Carmelo Hayes [c] vs. Cameron Grimes – NXT Vengeance Day
AEW TNT Championship: Sammy Guevara [c] vs. Darby Allin – AEW Dynamite 2/16/22
IWGP United States Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi [c] vs. SANADA – NJPW New Years Golden Series 2/19
IWGP World Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada [c] vs. Tetsuya Naito – NJPW New Years Golden Series 2/20
NXT United Kingdom Championship: Ilja Dragunov [c] vs. Roderick Strong – NXT UK 4/7/22
IWGP World Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada [c] vs. Zack Sabre Jr. – NJPW Hyper Battle
Owen Hart Foundation Men’s Tournament Quarterfinals: Kyle O’Reilly vs. Rey Fénix – AEW Dynamite 5/18/22
Jungle Boy vs. Ricky Starks vs. Swerve Strickland – AEW Dynamite 5/25/22
AEW World Championship: Hangman Page [c] vs. CM Punk – AEW Double or Nothing
The Lucha Brothers vs. The Young Bucks – AEW Rampage 6/3/22
Andrade El Idolo vs. Rey Fénix – AEW Rampage 6/24/22
Chris Jericho, Minoru Suzuki and Sammy Guevara vs. Eddie Kingston, Shota Umino and Wheeler Yuta – AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door
ROH Pure Championship: Wheeler Yuta [c] vs. Daniel Garcia – ROH Death Before Dishonor
Donnybrook Match: Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus – WWE Smackdown 7/29/22
WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Bianca Belair [c] vs. Becky Lynch – WWE SummerSlam
Hirooki Goto vs. Zack Sabre Jr. – NJPW G1 Climax 8/6/22
The Great-O-Khan vs. Jay White – NJPW G1 Climax 8/6/22
Drew McIntyre vs. Kevin Owens – WWE Raw 8/15/22
G1 Climax Finals: Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay – NJPW G1 Climax 8/18/22
Damian Priest vs. Edge – WWE Raw 8/22/22
AEW World Championship: Jon Moxley [c] vs. CM Punk – AEW All Out
ROH World Championship: Claudio Castagnoli [c] vs. Dax Harwood – AEW Rampage 9/9/22
Chad Gable vs. Johnny Gargano – WWE Raw 9/12/22
WWE Intercontinental Championship: Gunther [c] vs. Sheamus – WWE Smackdown 10/7/22
WWE Undisputed Tag Team Championship: The Usos [c] vs. The New Day – WWE Smackdown 11/11/22
Francesco Akira and TJP vs. Lio Rush and YOH – NJPW Super Jr. Tag League 11/21/22
Match #2 In Best Of Seven Series: Death Triangle vs. The Elite  – AEW Dynamite 11/23/22
War Games: Alexa Bliss, Asuka, Becky Lynch, Bianca Belair & Mia Yim vs. Bayley, Dakota Kai, IYO SKY, Nikki Cross & Rhea Ripley – WWE Survivor Series
Alex Zayne and El Lindaman vs. Lio Rush and YOH – NJPW Super Jr. Tag League 12/4/22
AEW Women’s World Championship: Jamie Hayter [c] vs. Hikaru Shida – AEW Dynamite 12/21/22

100. Erick Redbeard, PAC and Penta Oscuro vs. House of Black – AEW Revolution

Image Credit: AEW

It’s wild that Erick Redbeard has found himself part of so many great matches. Whether it was the Shield vs. Wyatt series or the Team Cena vs. Team Authority Survivor Series match, that dude is always involved in some kind of standout multi-man match. That was the case again when he joined PAC and Penta Oscuro to take on House of Black at Revolution. He made for a strange replacement for Fénix but it worked out well enough. This 17:22 match was one of the best things on a great PPV. Redbeard hit his spots and mostly let the other guys go wild, which was perfect. PAC and Penta are always great but I loved how seamlessly the House of Black worked together. They looked like they had been teaming for years. This was full of action and saw the House of Black win after Redbeard got misted and Brody King put him down with a pildedriver. [****]

99. NXT UK Championship Tournament Finals: Trent Seven vs. Tyler Bate – NXT UK 9/1/22

Image Credit: WWE

Not many people paid attention to NXT UK down the stretch and that was totally understandable. Of course, the news that the finals of the tournament to crown a new champion would consist of Trent Seven and Tyler Bate should’ve been enough to make folks tune in. To be fair, even if you avoided spoilers, you still saw Bate show up on NXT with the title, giving away the result. So though this lacked drama, it was still great. Given 20:30, Seven and Bate made the most of their time. With their history as Moustache Mountain, it made total sense that these two had great chemistry. Trent used his experience to gain control, especially given how much he taught Bate over the years. He knew him better than anyone. Of course, Bate is basically a freak of nature who was able to turn things around simply with raw talent. Trent survived the Tyler Driver and hit one of his own, adding to the idea of how well he knew his opponent. I also loved Trent snapping fingers and trying Bitter End, paying homage to their British Strong Style brother. Alas, Bate used bop and bang before nailing the Tyler Driver again to become the only two time NXT UK Champion. The show lasted a few years with a low of down moments but it ended with a bang. [****]

98. Owen Hart Foundation Men’s Tournament Qualifying Match: Dante Martin vs. Rey Fénix – AEW Dynamite 5/4/22

Image Credit: AEW

If you see these two penciled in against each other, then you want to see high flying action. They gave us that. Right off the bat, they were doing athletic things in an attempt to one-up each other. I could watch these two do this shit all day. Right when one guy would get the advantage, the other would snap off a move from out of nowhere to turn the tide. The spot where both landed on their feet on a top rope flip was sick though I didn’t like how Fénix just stood there looking around after. Dante sold it well with aggression on his face and Fénix should’ve had shock or anger as well instead of just having a blank face. The Double moonsault was countered and Fénix won with a sitout piledriver in 9:37. I love all kinds of wrestling. Epics, high flying affairs, technical clinics, brawls, and everything in between. When done right like this, an aerial outing of one upping each other can be a blast. [****]

97. WWE Championship: Brock Lesnar [c] vs. Bobby Lashley – WWE Royal Rumble

Image Credit: WWE

The MEATIEST OF MEN SLAPPING MEAT. There was a big fight feel to this and these guys delivered. Bobby showed no intimidation of Brock and went toe to toe with him. He even delivered a German suplex that Brock bumped on like he was in an Ibushi/Naito match. Brock looked impressed and that set the tone for a match where the two guys were hitting each other hard and throwing one another around. It was just what I wanted from these two. They did things like the barricade spear spot that everyone knows, though Bobby missed and crashed through on his own. Soon after that, Brock started in with the German suplexes but Bobby responded with his own offense and applied the Hurt Lock. Brock trying to escape led to a ref bump and we got another on the next move. That brought out Roman Reigns to Spear Brock and then have the WWE Title handed to him by Paul Heyman. SWERVE, BRO. Roman clocked Brock with the title and Bobby covered to win in 10:16. Another banger with another not great finish. [****]

96. NXT & NXT UK Championships: Bron Breakker [c] vs. Tyler Bate [c] – NXT Worlds Collide

Image Credit: WWE

The opening exchanges saw them match each other for power but Bate took control with his technical skills. He overwhelmed Bron early with some simple yet effective offense. Bron got going for a bit with some impressive stuff but it always felt like whatever Bate did was always a bit more impressive. The powerbomb counter of the Frankensteiner attempt was madness. I loved that Bate paid homage to Johnny Saint and Bron paid homage to his dad. I also dug Bron taking a kick out right into an offensive move, which showed smarts. Bate survived an onslaught from him and started in with some of his signature stuff. He’s scary good. The bridge into the Tyler Driver ’97 near fall was madness. The closing stretch was phenomenal with several close calls but never overdoing it. Bate went for the springboard clothesline a second time and ate a Spear giving Bron the win in 17:13. A great main event that was Bron’s best match and reminded everyone of how great Bate is. Now just use him more, please! [****]

95. Taichi vs. Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW G1 Climax 7/17/22

Image Credit: NJPW

I loved that while this opened with a strike exchange, it saw Ishii get knocked to the mat first. That is a great reminder that Taichi may do goofy shit but he’s a bad man when he wants to be. Even when Ishii was laying into him, Taichi stepped right up to meet him with shots of his own. I appreciated Taichi being a disrespectful little shit by throwing his trousers at Ishii’s face. Again, it’s the character stuff that I’ve come to appreciate in New Japan because without it, everyone is just having the same matches over and over. They eventually started bringing bigger offense than just strikes with Ishii doing a stalling superplex and Taichi getting two on a stiff powerbomb. They went back to hitting each other hard late and Taichi pulled out the win with Black Mephisto after 15:21. I am always here for Ishii and someone else beating the hell out of each other for 15 minutes and that’s just what I got here. [****]

94. NXT North American Championship Ladder Match: Carmelo Hayes vs. Nathan Frazer vs. Oro Mensah vs. Von Wagner vs. Wes Lee – NXT Halloween Havoc

Image Credit: WWE

This was exactly the kind of wild ladder match you’d expect. Guys like Frazer and Lee flew all over the place and I always like including a big man in a match like that. Wagner isn’t someone I’m overly impressed with but he played the role of the bruising big man well in this match. Hayes got some help from Trick and every single time I see Hayes, I’m blown away. The dude has IT and he’ll be a big star. Mensah nearly got taken out when he landed rough as Trick turned the ladder over on him, sending him onto everyone. That set up a fun interaction where he raced Mr. Stone up the ladder. The biggest spot saw Wagner LAUNCH Lee from the ring onto the announce table. It was like Bigelow throwing Spike Dudley into the crowd but way more vicious. After a bunch of other big spots, Hayes had it won until Lee cut him off with a springboard move and Meteora. He retrieved the title at the 16:03 mark. A hell of a ladder match and though a few things looked a bit off at times, it was a blast. The main thing that I liked was that this was logical and not just setting up spots for the sake of it. [****]

93. Hiromu Takahashi vs. YOH – NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 5/25/22

Image Credit: NJPW

The big rematch from last year’s finals. In that tournament, Hiromu beat him in a mere 4 minutes in the tournament and then again in an epic finals that went nearly 40 minutes. Hiromu won again when they met earlier in 2022 at Wrestling Dontaku. Almost immediately, YOH went after Hiromu’s leg, which got hurt the previous night. If Hiromu tried getting something going, YOH could just dropkick the knee and cut him off with ease. That was basically the story here and it’s one that worked. YOH has been mentioned as a guy who can’t win the big one but having a hampered Hiromu could open the door for him to get that monkey off of his back. YOH was able to cut a Hiromu hot streak off with a dragon screw and applied a leg lock that Hiromu sold as if he was really going to tap. He made it to the ropes, setting up a good back and forth to close things out, including YOH coming incredibly close on the Five Star Clutch. He finally got over the hump by using a Butterfly Suplex to win at the 17:57 mark. I was surprised that move ended it but this was a hell of a match that told a good story, with Hiromu selling his ass off. [****]

92. NXT Championship: Bron Breakker [c] vs. Ilja Dragunov vs. JD McDonagh – NXT Halloween Havoc

Image Credit: WWE

The match made sense from the start and you know how important logic is to me in a wrestling match. Dragunov and Breakker took turns wailing on JD but then went after each other and JD took advantage. That worked because the story coming in was how JD pit them against each other and continued to do so. He might not be able to match them in strength or toughness but he could be smarter than them. That set the tone for the story and the guys made it work with big action like some innovative JD offense and Dragunov’s coast to coast dropkick. At one point, JD applauded the other two beating the hell out of each other, which only set him up to get his ass kicked. It’s simple stuff and yet that’s often what works best. Down the stretch, JD was taken out and Dragunov cut off Bron’s Spear with a knee that looked great. The finish saw JD fail at crushing Dragunov’s ankle with the steel steps and eat a Torpedo Moscow, only for Dragunov to eat a Spear inside. That ended this in 23:50. An action-packed match that made sense and used everyone well without every dragging. [****]

91. El Desperado vs. Wheeler Yuta – NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 5/22/22

Image Credit: NJPW

This was probably that match I was most excited for in the tournament. We got a feeling out process to start where Yuta showed that he wasn’t going to be a pushover. Desperado is the star here and he took control by working the knee to set up his Stretch Muffler later. Even when Yuta got going with things like a tope suicida, Desperado could just go back to the leg and snuff out his momentum. Yuta survived Guitarra del Angel and then Desperado kind of pushed him to match him in strikes. That led to a hard hitting section where Yuta fired up and came close to winning with some big offense. Desperado got free of the elbows and won a series of counters by hitting Pinche Loco. He went for a second that saw Yuta counter and get some believable near falls. Desperado hit a second Pinche Loco to improve to 3-0 after 15:44. As expected, they delivered. A hell of a back and forth affair with lots of action and drama. Yuta looked great in defeat and Desperado remains arguably the company’s MVP in this era. [****]