Kevin’s Top 100 Matches Of 2020: (#10 – 1)

10. #DIY vs. Moustache Mountain – WWE Worlds Collide

Talk about a dream match. This gave us an extended Tyler Bate/Johnny Gargano exchange. I need that singles match. There were some un exchanges between Ciampa and Seven that surprised me. Johnny getting in on Ciampa’s signature spots was a lot of fun and fit perfectly for their history. Seven had a great run during the middle of this. He got to showcase a side we don’t often see since Bate typically gets the hot tag sprints of the team. The back half of this match was absolutely ridiculous. There were some incredible exchanges and moments. Ciampa and Bate going at it leading to a Tyler Driver ’97 near fall was great. The spot where #DIY had Meeting in the Middle cut off by a tandem Bop and Bang was unbelievable. The Spiral Tap accidentally onto Seven led to a fantastic near fall. A wild barrage late saw Bate jump into a superkick and knee. That left Seven alone to eat Meeting in the Middle and that was a wrap at around 22:51 (I had some stream issues). Spectacular pro wrestling. Just two great tag teams doing incredible things. [****½]

9. Men’s Royal Rumble – WWE Royal Rumble

When it was announced that Brock Lesnar would join the Royal Rumble as the first entrant, there was cause for concern. However, it turned out remarkably well. He dominated like nobody in history, tossing out 13 people. It was marvelous to watch. From tossing out guys like Cesaro with ease to dancing when MVP’s theme hit to his reaction when he saw Keith Lee, it was absurdly entertaining. That made his elimination at the hands of Drew McIntyre all the more impressive. It got a thunderous pop for a reason. Speaking of a huge ovation, there was the unexpected return of Edge. Talk about something special to experience. Throw in the fact that the action involved throughout was great and this was one of the best Rumble matches in history. Seriously, it was that good. McIntyre winning after 59:34 was also fantastic as it was a case of the right person going over. [****½]

8. WWE Universal Championship Hell In A Cell I Quit Match: Roman Reigns [c] vs. Jey Uso – WWE Hell in a Cell

Right off the bat, they picked up where they left off, with Reigns battered Jey. One thing I love about the new environment is getting to hear some of the trash talk. Things like Roman telling Jey that in 5-10 minutes, he’ll wish he had quit was a great addition. Reigns started delivering Spears and demanding that Jey quit. Not using the constant referee, “DO YOU WANNT QUIT?” gimmick was beneficial. Jey’s “YOU BOUT TO GET THIS WORK TOO” was also tremendous. I liked how he was the one to resort to things like the strap because he has to do more to put him down. It became something of a strap match on top of the cell and I Quit stipulations. I loved Jey almost making Reigns pass out, Heyman pleading with Jey to quit, and Roman using the guillotine. When Jey didn’t quit, Roman Drive-By dropkicked the steel steps into his head. The ref wanted to call for the bell but Roman stopped him. Officials came out to stop it but Roman simply locked them in the cell too. He went to crush Jey with steel steps until Jimmy came out and begged him to stop. He got real, telling Roman he didn’t have to act this way. Roman cried as he said he didn’t know who he was anymore. He seemed genuinely sorry but then grabbed Jimmy in a guillotine. Jimmy grabbed Jey’s hand as he was being choked out, which shook him out of it. Seeing his brother in that position, Jey quit at 29:08. The range of emotions Roman went through were nuts. Fantastic acting. A brutal match with top-notch storytelling. Roman is on another level right now. Nobody in wrestling can touch him, regardless of company. Jey was fantastic at drawing sympathy too. [****½]

7. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito – NJPW G1 Climax 30 Night Two

I still say that these two had a better trilogy in 2017 than the more-hyped one between Okada and Omega. This got off to a slower start as it was both a case of Naito doing Naito things and this being two guys who know each other so well. They understand not to get caught in the traps of the other. Naito got the upper hand but Tanahashi had counters ready for things like his corner dropkick. Again, the experience and history comes into play. That turned the tide and put Tanahashi in control. Considering Tanahashi’s age, things like his High Fly Flow to the outside take on extra meaning. You can tell that it kills him but he needs stuff like that against the likes of Naito. The entire match felt like a true battle with each guy having to dig deep to outwit a classic rival. In typical NJPW fashion, the closing minutes were filled with tremendous counters, close calls, and more. The difference between this and other NJPW matches is that the early stuff never felt like filler and it all mattered. The crowd exploded for that final segment before Naito won with Destino in 27:16. A spectacular main event that overdelivered. I know they’re capable of great but you sometimes expect them to play the hits for a pop. Instead, they had one of their best matches ever that I’d rank only slightly behind the G1 27 meeting. [****½]

6. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Will Ospreay [c] vs. Hiromu Takahashi – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14

Their previous two Jr. Heavyweight Title meetings were split and I gave them ****¼ and ****½. I’m so excited to see Hiromu back in singles action. Ospreay came in wildly confident. He’s dominated the division, competed with heavyweights, and Hiromu is coming off of a career-threatening injury. Ospreay played the role of the asshole and it’s one he needs to tackle more often. The guy is an unlikable prick in real life so let him play into that. His work in this felt more natural than ever. There were some bonkers sequences like the Sasuke Special/German suplex series. It’s insane, crisp, and could only be pulled off by a handful of competitors. Ospreay targeting the neck was savage and uncomfortable at times. It did make underdog Hiromu come off better. I loved the Hidden Blade collapse as it sold Hiromu as being done. The crowd cheering for him just sent Will off the deep end. There were too many wild moments to even count in this. I was blown away at times. Will hit arguably his best Hidden Blade but Hiromu survived and kept countering Storm Breaker. Time Bomb didn’t get the job done so Hiromu debuted a modified Emerald Flowsion to win the title in 24:33. Spectacular. Hiromu hasn’t missed a beat and reclaims his spot as the best junior heavyweight in the world. This was the best I’ve ever seen Willy. Seriously, the unlikable douche role is PERFECT for him. They had a wild match that told a great story, stopped just shy of diminishing returns, and delivered on high expectations. [****½]

5. AEW Tag Team Championship: Hangman Page and Kenny Omega [c] vs. The Young Bucks – AEW Revolution

I may not be a big fan of anyone in the match but this has been built really well over the past few months. This got off to a traditional, somewhat respectable start. Then Page spit in Matt’s face and that turned things ugly. They began to slug it out and was right up the alley of the storyline coming in. I still appreciate the way that Matt Jackson has been selling the lower back since Wrestle Kingdom like four years ago. The Bucks ultimately turned the tables and started isolating Kenny Omega. This was set up well because the Bucks, as the tag experts, kept cutting off the hot tag. Matt spat at Page when cutting one off, playing off of the earlier spot. When Page got the tag, it was a big deal. The crowd was also firmly behind him, which added to the atmosphere. After Page’s hot run, he threw Nick to the corner and demanded Matt. It was personal. A few spots in this felt a bit to contrived (like Nick’s Destroyer from the aisle to the inside) but it was mostly smooth sailing. They made sure to include plenty of big spots and callbacks, like Page busting out the Marty Scurll chicken wing. I like Matt’s trio of northern lights suplexes but it doesn’t make much sense when your back hurts. I get adrenaline pumping enough for one but three seems like a bit much. After taking Page out with an Indytaker outside, the Bucks hit Kenny with the Golden Trigger. Rude. He kicked out at one and the fans erupted. Page returned to save his buddy and then Matt kicked out of the Buckshot/V-Trigger combo. Matt survived Page hitting his own One Winged Angel but then Page nailed each of them with a Buckshot Lariat to win in 30:08. Not in the conversation for GOAT tag match like I’ve seen some people say but still tremendous. The action was obviously great but what made this special were the storytelling details sprinkled in throughout. From Page having something to prove to the Bucks going more heel as this progressed, it ruled. Arguably the best AEW match so far. [****½]

4. WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship Hell In A Cell Match: Bayley [c] vs. Sasha Banks – WWE Hell in a Cell

Imagine not putting this as the main event. The story indicates a Sasha win here but after the Charlotte feud in 2016 (and the Alexa one in 2017 and the Becky one in 2019), that’s not a thought process I have anymore. Like Roman and Jey, the heel wore black and the face wore white. Bayley came out with her chair, only for Sasha to knock it out of her hands and out of the cell before the cage lowered. Still, once they started battling, Bayley brought out things like tables and kendo sticks. Sasha running up the table for a Meteora into the cell was splendid. A few of their spots felt a bit contrived but there were some brutal ones that evened it out. The sunset flip bombs into the cage and steel chair were both vicious. They were making the most out of the environment. Bayley laid out Sasha across a ladder propped up on two chairs but missed her move off the top. Sasha responded with a Bayley to Belly of her own onto a ladder but that still wasn’t enough. The finish was outstanding and as brutal as it needed to be. Sasha put on the Bank Statement with the chair around Bayley’s head and stomped on it until she tapped at the 26:28 mark. Similar to Roman/Jey in that it was everything it needed to be. They had a violent match with tremendous callbacks to their history and left it all out there. Outstanding. [****½]

3. NXT United Kingdom Championship: WALTER [c] vs. Ilja Dragunov – NXT UK 10/29/20

I’ve said it before on this list and I’ll say it again. I am an easy viewer to please when I watch wrestling sometimes. I tend to enjoy when two competitors go to war over a championship and that’s just what NXT UK gave me on this episode. The build for Ilja Dragunov’s shot at WALTER had been going on for months and it was finally here. They did not disappoint. WALTER has been successful at overwhelming his opponents, particularly against Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate. Dragunov was different though. While he was overwhelmed, he found ways to power up and hit WALTER back as hard as he was getting hit. It made for a match that truly felt like an epic and not like they were trying to hard to do that. You got the sense that neither of them were willing to walk out without the title in tow and that made for a special atmosphere even without a live crowd in attendance. There were no fancy dives, contrived spots, or complicated sequences. It felt like a true fight and that’s honestly so refreshing. Some of the late near falls were exhausting in a good way. WALTER finally won after 25:09 due to ref stoppage when putting Dragunov in a sleeper. WALTER might be the best wrestler on the planet right now. [****½]

2. NXT Championship: Finn Bálor [c] vs. Kyle O’Reilly – NXT TakeOver 31

People who have read my reviews for a long time know that I love Kyle O’Reilly. He was my guy in EVOLVE, ROH, NJPW, and wherever else he wrestled. In NXT, he has shined as a tag wrestler but was finally being given a shot at a major singles run. The build for this wasn’t great but once the bell rang, it was on. This is the best that I have ever seen Finn Bálor look. I’m including his original NXT run and his time with NJPW. He was absolutely vicious and Kyle was there to give it right back to him. Something about this felt like Bryan Danielson era ROH and that’s some of my favorite wrestling ever. This came across like a legitimate fight as they avoided gimmicky spots or things like that and instead opted for hard strikes, grappling, and things like that. The fact that Finn came away with a broken jaw is really all you need to know about this war. Coming in, Finn retaining was obvious but they totally made me buy into some of the close calls as if Kyle might pull off the absurd upset. Alas, he couldn’t and he was put down by Coup de Grace after an incredible 28:29. The best singles match of either man’s career and I know that’s saying a lot. [****¾]

1. Best of the Super Juniors Finals: El Desperado vs. Hiromu Takahashi – NJPW Best of the Super Juniors Finals

Oh, baby. Despy beat him in the BOSJ 2018 (****½) and this year (****), while Hiromu beat him in a title match in 2018 (****¼). Most of their past matches have been wild brawls. But as a lengthy main event, they went for a slower start. It made sense here due to the high stakes and their history. Neither guy wanted to make the first mistake. There was a sense that Desperado was out to prove that he belonged in this Budokan main event and that the division was more than just Hiromu’s star power. He was confident as he wore down Hiromu’s leg. Whenever Hiromu got something going, you felt the match pick up with big spots like a sick rana off the apron or a corner belly to belly. Hiromu survived everything that Desperado could throw at him. At the 20 minute mark, he was trapped in the Stretch Muffler and things looked dire. The fact that Hiromu could counter that into a Destroyer was absolutely nuts. That marked a true turning point for Hiromu, who got vicious and ripped away at Desperado’s mask. Then, in one of the most awesome moments of the year, Desperado got pissed and RIPPED OFF THE REST OF THE MASK HIMSELF! He was here to murder someone! They just started throwing shots at each other with a ridiculous level of intensity. The drama down the stretch was outstanding, with both men picking up near falls that felt like the end without ever going into overkill or too many finisher kickouts. After Time Bomb got a near fall, Hiromu added a second to officially win the tournament at the 30:14 mark. Remarkable pro wrestling. The intensity was off the charts and it’s certainly in the conversation, if not in the lead for Match of the Year. Hiromu Takahashi is arguably the best in the world and Desperado proved how fantastic he is. [****¾]

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