Editorial Columns

Favourite Male Matches of The Decade (2010-2019)

George Geal gives his picks for the best wrestling matches of the decade.

This should be one of the hardest articles to write, how can you pinpoint the best matches between 2010-2019 from all outlets of professional wrestling.

This was harder for me when I’m mainly WWE and NJPW. Doing a mock of this list I had 13 off the top of my head, but I am restricted to just ten. Ten of the best matches since 2010, all in my own opinion so please don’t threaten to kill me in the comments or on Twitter. The three additional matches I had in the list, I’ll put in as honourable mentions.

First one is the brilliant No Holds Barred match from Summerslam 2013 between the Beast, Brock Lesnar, and the Best, CM Punk. They put on a fantastic match, and as I’ve said multiple times before, Brock works so well with guys smaller than him.

Secondly, Seth Rollins vs The Miz vs Finn Balor from Wrestlemania 34, the best opening match of a Wrestlemania in recent memory in the period where the Intercontinental Title was given the exposure it deserves.

Finally, my guy Buddy Murphy and his monumental win over Cedric Alexander at Super Showdown in Murphy’s home country of Australia. Unbelievable match, unbelievable scenes and one of the reasons I tout Murphy as WWE’s future.

With those mentioned rather honourably, let’s move onto the top ten. 

CM Punk vs John Cena – Money in the Bank 2011

This match feels like it was so long ago, more than just eight years. This was the beginning of the summer of Punk and on the backend of one of, if not the, best promo’s we’ve ever seen come from WWE programming, in the pipebomb, CM Punk’s character change centred around his desire to be recognised as the best due to his abilities exceeding those of John Cena, who was the main focus of his tirade. This match was the first WWE match to receive a ‘5 star’ rating from Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter since The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels battled inside a Hell in a Cell at Badd Blood in 1997.

The first incredible thing of the match was the fans before Punk even comes out, they are going ballistic for him, with the show taking place in his home town of Chicago. The opening riff of This Fire Burns hits and the crowd erupts, Cena comes out and is rained with boos. Uncharacteristically, Cena has the title around his waist instead of in his hands but he still did salute the fans, keeping his character even though he was so far deep into enemy territory, this was solidified after fans threw his t-shirt back at him.

The in-ring action was brilliant, both men trying to prove they are the best and attempting the upper hand, starting with Cena unable to control the fiery Punk before the playing field evened out. Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis made an appearance trying to recreate the Montreal Screwjob but is interrupted by John Cena who wants to win fair and square until he was hit with a GTS in the ring and got the three count. Punk grabbed the title and scarpered, after Vince tried to get Alberto Del Rio to cash in his briefcase. An unbelievable match in the midst of a storyline that continued for 400+ days that delved into a heel turn, a record-breaking title reign and the introduction of The Shield. CM Punk will go down as one of the best wrestlers in WWE history, and this match and feud with John Cena will be one of the largest factors.

Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker – Wrestlemania XXVI

The end of a legendary career and what a way to go out. Shawn Michaels had attempted to end The Undertakers reign the previous year but failed after his Moonsault was caught and turned into the Tombstone Piledriver. It turned Michaels into a psychopath, obsessed with one thing and that was a rematch with the Undertaker. At the time of the Royal Rumble 2010, Taker was the World Heavyweight Champion so the whole of the Rumble match revolved around Michaels trying to win and gain his second attempt against the Deadman. Obviously, Michaels failed as he was eliminated by Batista in one of the final eliminations. Michaels character work in this match was brilliant, his desperation to get that rematch overtook his body as he tried to renter the Rumble and also hit Charles Robinson with a Sweet Chin Music, who was trying to stop him.

The build continued at the Elimination Chamber after Michaels entered the Chamber from underneath and cost Taker his title which prompted Undertaker to accept the challenge but he upped the ante, Michaels must retire if he lost. As we know, he did and went out in one of the best Wrestlemania matches to date. Back and forth action, Michaels did control more of the match that Taker did as well as constant ‘on your edge’ action, the booking of the match gave the fans a horrible scenario; do we lost Michaels or do we lose Taker’s streak? Fans were split but ultimately, all that mattered from their perspective was the atmosphere they created, the buzz was unbelievable. It added more to an already fantastic match.

Will Ospreay vs Shingo Takagi – Dominion 2019

The final of the Best of the Super Juniors was one of the hotly anticipated matches of 2019 thanks to its finalists. On one side, we have one of the hottest young wrestlers in the business going against an undefeated competitor who’s matches were more brutal than the last. Before this match, I hadn’t seen much of Shingo but let me tell you, I went back and watched a tonne of his stuff because he is a delight to watch as evident in this match. It was hard hitting, brutal and a typical New Japan match but it’s the best Super Junior’s match I’ve watched but I have only been fully involved in NJPW for about three years.

Both competitors had an incredible tournament leading up to this competition and normally, competitions have one main focal wrestler but this actually focused on both men. Shingo was undefeated, he was feared by the other competitors having only debuted to NJPW the previous October. Whereas, Ospreay was focused on due to his stock rising massive amounts and his impending full-time move to Japan which he announced after this win. The ruling of the tournament was that the winner would receive a Junior Heavyweight Championship match, which Ospreay won against Dragon Lee at Dominion. This match was rated a 5.75 by Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, a worthy rating for this brilliant match.

WALTER vs Tyler Bate – NXT UK: Takeover Cardiff

Who doesn’t love a big man vs a small man match? Especially when they’re done right and that big man is as agile as WALTER. For a man his size, he should not be able to do half of the things he does. This match had it all, an incredible crowd because us Brits know how to do a wrestling event, a babyface star like Tyler Bate who is still only 22 years old and the absolute heel in the big Austrian. WALTER was bumping all over the shop for Bate, the size difference between them you think he shouldn’t be able to slam him but what does he do? Slam him, and shoulder tackled him out the ring. WALTER used his size and strength to ragdoll Bate for a lot of this match, hitting two powerbombs, one on the apron and the other against the ring post.

The fans did make this match brilliant chanting ‘please don’t die’ at Bate and calling WALTER a word I won’t use but rhymes with banker, putting more emphasis on each man as the heel and babyface respectively. Bate did brilliantly to hang in against the much larger man in a 42-minute match, frustrating WALTER to the point where he could’ve probably caved a hole in Bate’s chest with those chops. The build-up added even more babyface fire to Bate and heel hatred to WALTER after multiple attacks by Imperium to British Strong Style. I think we all knew that Bate wasn’t going to win this match but he gave it a bloody good go, the best match that has come out of NXT UK to date, and I also think both men needed a really long lie down after this match because those shots sounded absolutely brutal. 

Will Ospreay vs Marty Scurll – Sakura Genesis 2018

This match feels so long ago, despite it was only a year prior to me writing this. Marty Scurll has now departed NJPW fully and has been mainly focusing on ROH so that is probably the main reason why. The history between these two has been well documented, Ospreay has struggled to get the better of Scurll ever since their days on the UK wrestling scene but as expected, this match was unreal. They both know each other so well and every time they’re in the ring together, alone or with others, they put on instant classic after instant classic. I rewatched this match because I couldn’t remember if it was the bout between these two in which Ospreay nearly killed himself; I was right, it was this one.

Attempted a Spanish Fly on the apron, Ospreay didn’t fully rotate and landed with the back of his head smashing against the apron of the ring cutting himself open immediately. And that, added to this match. It added the grit and determination for Ospreay to win even more over the ‘Villain’ Marty Scurll and to also prove Ospreay was the best Super Junior in NJPW and in the whole wrestling world. If you have seen a match between Ospreay and Scurll, regardless of the promotion, you know it’s a banger and this match is no exception. They just bounce of each other, they’re both sarcastic and have a high ring IQ which lends itself to the final result of the match, everything Ospreay does, Marty ups him and vice versa. Ospreay did get the win in the contest and gave the fans a match they had been craving for a very long time, a rematch with Kushida, the person Ospreay beat for the title at King of Pro-Wrestling in October the previous year. This was the match that kept on giving and it’s why I believe, Will Ospreay is the best wrestler on the planet as I write this.

Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa – NXT Takeover: New Orleans

Ciampa was the biggest heel in the business at this point, his ring music was the boo of the crowds, that’s how much of a heel he was. He’d turned on Gargano the previous year and caused his life to be hell, to the point where Gargano was fired from NXT thanks to the interference of Ciampa in that match. This match was his way back in but was unsanctioned, the only match type that could fully let these two men express the hatred for the other. Other than their hatred for each other, their feud revolved around the brace on Ciampa’s right knee which was used as a weapon on multiple occasions, including in the win of this match. This match was the first in the trilogy they had against each and was the start of an incredible two-year storyline, and I do think this was the best of the trilogy, all three matches had hardcore stipulations but this had more implications. It also began the twisted turn of Ciampa that we all loved, from this to hunting for Goldie to being top dog in NXT.

No one can evoke such emotion like Gargano as the babyface in peril and this match was no exception, he was cheered constantly and to the point all the fans chanted at Ciampa was ‘f*** you, Ciampa’. This match was only the third NXT match to receive five stars from Dave Meltzer, the first was Gargano vs Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas and the second was the North American Championship ladder match from earlier in this show, The first match was actually the match that reignited this entire feud after Ciampa attacked Gargano so it was only fitting this match received those coveted five stars from Dave Meltzer.

Kazuchika Okada vs Kenny Omega – Dominion 2018

He finally did it, Kenny Omega had finally defeated Okada and won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in a brutal two out of three falls match. Okada was, and still is, the best in NJPW so for Omega to finally get the W over him was massive. Coming in at one hour and four minutes total, they put it all on the line in the best match NJPW put on this decade. It started out not in the style we expect from NJPW, but what we’d expect when they know they’re going one hour, a slow start trying to get the upper hand, we didn’t see the first fall until after the 25-minute mark when Okada countered a Sunset Flip and pinned Omega.

Both men attempted their finishers as often as possible, they’re two of the most protected moves in the business so as soon as one of those is hit, you know it’s a three count. 50 minutes into the match, Omega finally put Okada down and tied it up after hitting his patented V Trigger and One-Winged Angel. It got to desperation point, Omega hit a Styles Clash but to no avail, he hit a Phoenix Splash after advice from Kota Ibushi but failed to connect before a Tombstone put Omega down for a two count. They traded German Suplex attempts until Okada attempted the Rainmaker for it to be countered into a One-Winged Angel. One more V Trigger, one more One-Winged Angel and the title was Omega’s and Okada’s historic reign ended in spectacular fashion. The Young Bucks came down to celebrate with Omega and Ibushi where we go the reunion of The Elite and formation of The Golden Elite. Dave Meltzer awarded this match seven stars out of five, which is a ridiculous considering it was two stars over the maximum. Am I complaining? Absolutely not, it was fully deserved and gave such incredible exposure to NJPW to western viewers. 

Brock Lesnar vs Seth Rollins vs John Cena – Royal Rumble 2015

2015 was the rise of Seth Rollins, he had won the Money in the Bank and was the golden boy of the Authority. Lesnar was the beast, the undefeated champion, essentially the final boss of WWE. And Cena was, well he was John Cena, the colourful face of WWE that we all know and love. It’s hard for one of the heels to be dominant in a triple threat match when there is two, like this match with Lesnar and Rollins but Lesnar was just on a tear. Rollins avoided everything, hid from both men as well as utilizing J&J Security to take damage for him so he could get the upper hand. The upside for Rollins was his briefcase, he still had it in his possession so if he was to lose, which he did, he could cash in again on Lesnar after the bell had rang.

But, he didn’t, we all know when he cashed in and the moment it created. This was the most vulnerable we’d seen Lesnar since his return to WWE in 2012, he was being double teamed by the present face and future face of the company and couldn’t control both competitors. It wasn’t a ‘spot-fest’ but did create a couple of memorable images, the main one being Rollins’ Frog Splash from the top rope onto Lesnar through the announce table, the bounce Rollins’ took off Lesnar launched him into the air and just looked exquisite. The best thing about this spot was that it took Lesnar temporarily out of this match so when he came back into the ring and decimated both Cena and Rollins he looked like the absolute beast he is, picking Rollins up off a cover and into a German Suplex was sublime. The bad bit was he suffered legit rib injuries, but he still carried on. Machine. 

Seth Rollins vs Roman Reigns vs Dean Ambrose – Battleground 2016

If you know me, you know that I think The Shield is the greatest thing that has happened to WWE in a very long time. From the build to the destruction and to present, every reunion or battle has always been excellent. This match is no exception, but it also had additional factors to it. Ambrose, the champion trying to prove he wasn’t the weak link, Rollins recently back from injury trying to regain the belt he never lost and Reigns coming back from a Wellness violation and him trying to prove himself to the fans and his competitors. You also add in this was the final match before the brand split and the winner of the match took the title to their respective brands. All these factors add up to create a fantastic triple threat match between three men who know each other so well and all came up together in the WWE.

There was only one way to start this match and that was Rollins being the heel he is, trying to get a fist bump off the other two competitors keeping the storyline build off his turn on them and how they were determined to make Rollins pay. In WWE, long term booking isn’t evident in many storylines, but The Shield is an exception, they build it for six years to this point and continued to refer back to the early years. Seth and Dean hitting a Powerbomb through the announce table on Reigns to eliminate him from the mix, before Seth immediately grabs a chair and hits Dean in the back with a chair, harking back to the crack of The Shield two years prior. Each man got their offence in, hitting their big moves before Ambrose was the opportunist pulling Reigns off Rollins and hitting him Dirty Deeds for the three and securing the title exclusively to Smackdown which led to the creation of the Universal Championship. The match finished with Shane McMahon running laps of the ring and Daniel Bryan hitting the YES chant before the Smackdown locker room came down to congratulate the champion. It may not be up there on many peoples list, but the build ultimately made this match epic. 

AJ Styles vs Finn Balor – TLC 2017

A match that was given about 24 hours’ notice, originally built as ‘The Demon King’ Finn Balor vs ‘Sister Abigail’ Bray Wyatt before Bray was unable to compete due to an illness crisis that affected many on the roster. AJ was flown over from South America, where he was touring with Smackdown, to fill in and what a match it created. Two former leaders of Bullet Club, which was surprisingly referenced by Michael Cole, going head to head for the first time in a WWE ring creating one of the best matches I have watched in a long time.

They both have very similar styles, obviously adapted from their time in Japan, and it just gelled. They put on a brilliant match as expected because this was two of the best in WWE at the time who had never met as they were on different brands. Balor as ‘The Demon King’ controlled the match but AJ wasn’t to be walked over, he kept fighting back but did ultimately lose to Balor after the Coup de Grace. They ended the match with a sign of respect and hit that Too Sweet in the middle of the ring to a huge pop from the crowd in attendance. We thought this could be the rise of Balor, but he ended up being squashed the following night on RAW and never seemed to recover. If you’re looking to watch some of his best matches, this will be near the top of your list. 

The 2010’s has handed us fantastic matches, more than I can put into a list and it’s made life as a wrestling fan bearable through all of the issues we’ve had from social media. Looking at the forecast of this, the 2020’s are going to be absolutely phenomenal.

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