Friday, December 25, 2015

Kevin's Top 100 Matches of 2015: 100-96

In recent years, I kind of stopped watching many indy promotions and stuck to only the WWE. Not because I didn't like the indies, but because I was pressed for time. However, entering 2015, I made it a point to watch as much wrestling as I could. I got back into some indies and saw some Japanese wrestling for the first time. With all of the wrestling I watched, I've compiled a lengthy Top 100 Matches of 2015 list, spanning the WWE, NJPW, ROH, TNA, PWG, Evolve, LU, RPW, Dragon Gate and Pro Wrestling NOAH. Normally, I wouldn't make a list this large, but, after focusing on mainly WWE only the past few years, I made it a point to watch as much wrestling as possible in 2015. This year just so happened to have TONS of great matches and enough that I could make a Top 100, featuring so much greatness.

100. WWE Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match – WWE WrestleMania 3/29/15

We open with the most randomly, and poorly, booked match on this list. Instead of trying to build an Intercontinental Title match with some intrigue, the WWE chose to throw seven guys into a match simply because they had nothing for them though still felt they were above the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. R-Truth, Stardust, the champion Bad News Barrett and Luke Harper joined the three most popular faces not named John Cena at the time, Daniel Bryan, Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler. While the lead into this was a clusterfuck in a bad way, the actual match was a clusterfuck in a good way. Everybody got at least one moment to shine, even if it was small like Truth’s spot. There some nice little personal moments in like Stardust getting out his own personal ladder only for Barrett to break it. We saw some big spots, namely Ambrose taking a powerbomb through a ladder, but they didn’t overdo it. It came down to Bryan and Ziggler, both very hot with the fans at the time, as they battled with right hands and headbutts atop the ladder. Bryan won out and pulled down the belt at 13:47 to become Intercontinental Champion one year after winning the WWE Title. ***¾

99. Jay Lethal and Shinsuke Nakamura vs. reDRagon - ROH Field of Honor 8/22/15

Here we have a tag team main event from Ring of Honor’s Field of Honor show, which took place in a baseball stadium. The event featured top talent from both ROH and New Japan Pro Wrestling, headlined by this tag team match. ROH World and Television Champion Jay Lethal teaming with Shinsuke Nakamura to face, in my opinion, the best tag team in pro wrestling, reDRagon. Lethal and Nakamura played opposites, which made things fun. Lethal was being a dick, so Nakamura let him get his ass kicked, before hilariously hugging him as a form of an apology. There was some great back and forth here from everyone. With Kyle O’Reilly set for a World Title shot against Lethal, they did a good job in showing that he was a legit threat. A highlight came when Nakamura countered Kyle’s rebound lariat into a gorgeous armbar. Lethal won for his team with Lethal Injection on Bobby Fish at 21:28 in a match that I would certainly describe as fun. ***¾

98. Michael Elgin vs. Tomoaki Honma - NJPW G1 Climax 8/1/15

When Michael Elgin was announced for the G1 Climax, myself and a lot of others groaned. I remember hearing rumors of Roderick Strong being in and I like him a lot more than Elgin. However, Elgin seemed to love working in Japan. Not only that, but the G1 style works very well for him. It allows him to work 10-15 minute bursts where he can do the things that he does well instead of trying to work a 25 minute classic and getting lost. Tomoaki Honma has also had some great 10-15 minute matches in the past two years in the G1. That made for a very good pairing in this one. Since its Honma, the crowd was very into everything that happened in this one. For those unaware, Honma competed in the G1 last year and went completely winless, but won over the fans with his efforts and performances. At this point, he was still winless this year. From cheering for him to being wowed by some of Elgin’s feats of strengths, they reacted to everything as they should have. Honma is so good at playing the underdog, which was perfect here since Elgin came off looking like a beast in the G1. There were some close calls but Honma would have to wait a little longer before getting his first G1 win, losing to a flurry of powerbombs from Elgin after 9:55. ***¾

97. Taiji Ishimori vs. Zack Sabre Jr. -  NOAH Global League Finals 11/8/15

After seeing Zack Sabre Jr. and Taiji Ishimori have a pretty great exchange in the Jr. Tag League match that I watched, I was eager for more. Enter the Global League Tournament Finals show. Sabre and Ishimori competed in a number one contender’s match with the winner getting a GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title shot. As a nice added touch, both guys got pre-match interviews, with Sabre hyping them as rivals, though he’s never beaten Ishimori. That got me more invested in the match, which turned out to be exactly what I expect from a Sabre match. Good old fashioned technical expertise. He went after the arm relentless and Ishimori sold the work done to it well. I didn’t have a dog in the fight, but found myself clutching my remote, growing tense at the thought of a Sabre loss. I wanted him to beat Ishimori for the first time. Alas, Ishimori would not be denied after 11:13. With a bit more time and a Sabre win, this would have ranked higher. ***¾

96. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: KUSHIDA (c) vs. Ricochet - G1 Climax Finals 8/16/15

Here we have an IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title match. I’ve gone on record and stated that the junior division in New Japan is among my least favorite things about the promotion. The talent is mostly there, but the booking is incredibly shoddy. There also needs to be some variety but I digress. The best thing about the division in 2015 was easily KUSHIDA. After winning the Best of the Super Junior Tournament and dethroning Kenny Omega for the strap, his first defense was scheduled against Ricochet. Ricochet beat KUSHIDA in the finals of the 2014 BOTSJ, giving him an edge in this match. KUSHIDA went after the arm, looking for the Hover Board Lock. Ricochet, being one of the better high flyers in the world, wanted to quicken the pace and this was their struggle throughout the match. Some of the things they did were breathtaking and their chemistry is just so good that it was all seamless. Ricochet would miss the 630 before submitting to the Hover Board Lock at 17:00. With them tied at 1, Ricochet made note that a tiebreaker was needed. Unfortunately, KUSHIDA dropped the belt back to Omega in a stupid decision about a month later. ***¾

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