Thursday, December 31, 2015

Kevin's Top 100 Matches of 2015: #70-61

70. Kyle O’Reilly vs. Roderick Strong – ROH Winter Warriors Tour 2/21/15

One of the top performers in all of 2015 was Roderick Strong. Whether he was working for ROH, PWG, Evolve or anywhere else, he consistently put on some of the best matches all year. Kyle O’Reilly was no slouch this year either. I only recently was able to check this match out and I came away very impressed. Some of ROH’s non-PPV events have actually been better than their PPVs most of the year. This show in Atlanta was among their best, with this match being the highlight. It’s one of those that didn’t need an angle behind it. Just two of the best competing, hold for hold. O’Reilly is the guy from ROH that stands out as a future star and performances like this solidify that. He beat the shit out of Strong’s arm for most of the match. Strong sold it well and barely used it the rest of the way, which is always appreciated. There were some really close calls and a great double countout tease as well. Strong was able to pick up the win after the sick kick and orange crush backbreaker after 16:31 of really great work from both men. ****

69. Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins – WWE WrestleMania 3/29/15

Like the rest of WrestleMania this year, nothing about the build to this match interested me. The fans wanted Randy Orton to return and rip Seth Rollins’ head off. Instead, he fake joined the Authority and wasted a few weeks playing terrible mind games. Also like most of the rest of WrestleMania, the match succeeded where the build failed. The video package beforehand spoke volumes about how Orton was once pegged as the future but that time passed and Seth was the now the future. The story of the match followed that idea. Seth had an answer for everything Orton did because he was a step or two quicker. The one thing Orton made sure to have scouted was the Curb Stomp, countering it twice. Each guy kicked out of the other’s finisher, which I dislike since it’s used so often in wrestling these days and would be my one major gripe with this. After having the Curb Stomp so well scouted, Orton countered one into a massive RKO to win at 13:15. It was honestly my favorite RKO ever, which is certainly saying something. Having Orton win was wise too, as it set up Seth’s first WWE Title program the month after. ****

68. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: reDRagon (c) vs. The Time Splitters – NJPW Destruction in Kobe 9/27/15

In my opinion, these are easily the two best teams in New Japan’s junior tag division. They’ve faced off a few times before with the best being at Power Struggle in 2014 and their least impressive effort coming at Final Battle 2014. This fell somewhere in the middle, but closer to their best. I’d consider this my second favorite straight up tag team match of the year. Both teams worked on a level playing field throughout the 16:17 runtime. They exchanged offense but neither could grab a prolonged advantage. There is something about these teams that just click. It’s like, they go through a lot of stuff but it never feels like a spotfest. reDRagon truly breaks up the monotony of the junior tag division. They played off their past matches, while showing remarkable chemistry. This also allowed us to get another glimpse at the fantastic Best of the Super Juniors finals match between KUSHIDA and Kyle O’Reilly, while not giving us too much, leaving room for their eventual rematch. At least I hope we get it again. The champions nailed Chasing the Dragon to not only retain, but move to a ridiculous 32-1 in straight tag matches in New Japan. Great tag team wrestling from two of the best teams in the world. ****

67. Pentagon Jr. vs. Zack Sabre Jr. – PWG Battle of Los Angeles 8/30/15

On the road to winning the 2015 Battle of Los Angeles, Zack Sabre Jr. wrestled three matches on the final night of the tournament. His first of the evening was easily the most intriguing matchup of the whole tournament. Pentagon Jr. was among my favorite people to watch in 2015, as was Sabre. Both guys are known for their arm submission finishers, making for an interesting situation. Submissions would be the theme of the match actually, with both guys just putting each other in some of the most innovative and painful looking holds I’ve ever seen. The commentary team did a good job in pointing out how different various submissions can be when it comes to the part of the world you’re from. Sabre and Pentagon would even release the holds on their own, trying to one up each other before actually going for the win. When things picked up, Pentagon dished out the strikes, looking like the badass that he is. My biggest gripe was that, after all of the submissions, Pentagon tapped out nearly instantly to Sabre’s Kimura as 12:29, giving this fun match an anti-climactic end. ****

66. AJ Styles and the Young Bucks vs. Kazuchika Okada and Roppongi Vice – ROH Global Wars 5/16/15

The crossover shows between ROH and NJPW are usually a good place to catch some dream matches that wouldn’t be possible in any other scenario. This doesn’t quite fit the mold, as all six men are regulars in New Japan. Still, this proved to be a very exciting and fun six man tag. It allowed for a preview of the Kazuchika Okada/AJ Styles Dominion match, while putting the two junior teams in that know each other very well. Look, it’s hard for me to know that my favorite male wrestler, AJ, teams with my least favorite male wrestlers, the Young Bucks, so frequently. Here, it wasn’t as grating as usual, even with Steve Corino shouting SUPERKIIIICK at every turn. Normally that’s enough to make me hate a match, but this was so fun that I was able to get past it. From the back and forth between Okada and AJ, which is always great, to the fast paced action involving the junior teams, this delivered. The finish to this was pretty nuts as Trent Barreta pretty much died after taking a flurry of high impact moves, capped by a Styles Clash, to end this at 17:25. Even if you’re not a fan of everyone involved, this was still a blast. ****

65. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Kenny Omega (c) vs. KUSHIDA – NJPW Dominion 7/5/15

You’ll notice a trend with New Japan junior matches on this list. They all involve KUSHIDA, who was easily the MVP of the division in 2015. This wasn’t his best match, but it was his crowning achievement. After winning the Best of the Super Juniors Tournament, he earned a shot at Kenny Omega and the Jr. Heavyweight Title. Both guys came in with a game plan. KUSHIDA clearly went after the arm, looking for his Hoverboard Lock. Kenny Omega attacked not one, but both legs. Both men sold this work like they should have. KUSHIDA was especially great in selling the leg, doing little things throughout the match and at times, even being unable to run the ropes. Omega struggled to do some of his key offense due to only having one working arm. The red hot Osaka crowd and a pre-match video package showing KUSHIDA as a kid further added to this, giving it an emotional jolt that a lot of juniors matches lacked. Omega was finally able to get KUSHIDA in position for the One Winged Angel, but KUSHIDA countered into the Hoverboard Lock, holding on and forcing Omega to submit after 20:44. It was a great win for KUSHIDA though he unfortunately dropped it back to Omega for some dumb reason a few months later. Still, it doesn’t take away from how great this match was. ****

64. Adam Cole vs. Kyle O’Reilly – ROH Final Battle 12/18/15

The former Future Shock teammates had some matches in the past but this time around, it was the most personal. Adam Cole lulled Kyle O’Reilly into a false rekindling of their friendship before costing him his ROH World Title shot at All-Star Extravaganza. This was billed as a grudge match and Kyle absolutely played into that from the start, taking Cole down. When Cole started to swing the momentum, he targeted O’Reilly’s leg. That was done to set up the figure four, which commentary reminded us was how Cole beat Kyle in their big match in New York in 2012. O’Reilly sold the leg issues rather well, but when they went into their back and forth near the end, this really picked up. Kyle kept going for the armbar, including one after an exchange of superkicks and a rebound lariat. He finally got it locked in seemingly for good, but Cole got his feet on the ropes and pinned O’Reilly to steal it. Kyle didn’t even care, just going after Cole and applying more armbars until officials broke it up. I thought the match was great. It played out like a grudge match mostly, had callbacks to their past and the finish sets up some rematches. ****

63. WWE Championship: Seth Rollins (c) vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Randy Orton vs. Roman Reigns – WWE Payback 5/17/15

For his first WWE Championship defense on Pay-Per-View, Seth Rollins beat Randy Orton in a rather dull affair. His title run wasn’t off to a good start, but that turned around on this night. Originally, this was supposed to be Seth against Orton and Roman Reigns. However, a few weeks earlier, Dean Ambrose pinned Seth and was added in. From the start, Seth was a marked man thanks to his history with all three men. Seth’s boys, J&J Security, would get involved though and tried to even the odds. Their interference was a bit much, as was Kane’s, which was the biggest negative about this. Other than that, this is fantastic. The former Shield members gave the crowd a great moment as they triple powerbombed Orton through a table like the old days. Of course, Dean and Roman didn’t forgive Seth, taking him out. Once this Shield moment happened, things kicked into second gear and included a great back and forth between Ambrose and Reigns. This was the match that gave me Austin/Rock/Triple H vibes for Ambrose/Reigns/Rollins. After the dust settled, Seth planted Orton with a Pedigree to retain at 20:42 in one of the most fun matches all year long. ****

62. ROH World Television Championship: Jay Lethal (c) vs. Roderick Strong – ROH Glory by Honor XIV 10/23/15

Jay Lethal’s ROH World Television Title reign was possibly the best title reign that anyone has had in a really long time. Lethal won the title from Tommaso Ciampa on 4/4/14 and proceeded to hold it for a record 567 days, spanning a ridiculous 36 successful defenses. That is something special. With him holding it along with the World Title, it was only a matter of time before he dropped the TV strap. Enter Roderick Strong. Strong went to a draw with Lethal before losing courtesy of some shenanigans in his next World Title shot. Knowing he had Lethal’s number, he was granted one more shot, but this time at the TV Title and nobody allowed at ringside. This was the shortest match of their trilogy at 16:48, but it was the best to me. The things they did were really smart, building to a phenomenal finishing run. When Strong kicked out of the Lethal Injection, the crowd went nuts and Jay sold the disbelief well. Strong finally got over the hump, unleashing an insane flurry including a knee, gut buster, sick kick and backbreaker before making Lethal submit to the Stronghold. The crowd lost their minds at seeing such a long title reign end. It rightfully felt like a huge moment and proved to be a great end to a really good rivalry. ****

61. RPW Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs. Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay – RPW Uprising 10/2/15

After seeing this match, it was clear that I had to make sure I could see more RPW in 2016. This was a very interesting combination of styles, pun intended. AJ Styles is the well-traveled industry veteran, Marty Scurll is pretty great at playing his villain role and Will Ospreay is one of the more athletic wrestlers on the planet. The first time around, I didn’t really see it, but Scurll just may have been the MVP. He just nails everything a villain should do. From eye pokes to trying to take advantage of the moves the other guys do, he just delivers. Ospreay didn’t do much for me during the Battle of Los Angeles, but he was really good in this match. There’s a sequence where he somersaults onto AJ, does a tornado DDT through the ropes and then a corkscrew shooting star press. It’s pretty breathtaking to watch. Styles also more than carries his weight but hangs back a bit to allow the other guys to shine. He retains his belt with a Styles Clash on Ospreay at the 18:22, capping a really fun outing in front of a hot crowd. ****