This year we have seen some of the best wrestling in recent memory. There is so much great talent all over the world, and so many good matches that it is hard to pick just ten. Now some of you might disagree with my list, but these are my personal favorite. I watched many hours of wrestling this year, not just WWE, and I was able to come up with this list. Here you go.
1. AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura (IWGP Intercontinental Title Match) Wrestle Kingdom 10
This was my match of the year. If there is one match that you need to make time to see, it is this one. Something worth noting is that before this match took place, everyone knew that Styles and Nakamura were leaving to WWE. Despite this, Nakamura and Styles gave the New Japan faithful one last performance that would become the first and best five star match of the year. The story of this match was that Styles had an injured back and Nakamura would work on it throughout the entire match. Styles was in pain, but that would not keep him down. He would fight back with his aerial offense. At one point he even hit a Bloody Sunday, an homage to the first leader of the Bullet Club Prince Devitt, and hit a one armed Styles Clash. Nakamura would kick out of all this punishment. Styles couldn’t believe, so he would now go for his home run, an avalanche Styles Clash from the second rope. Nakamura would fight out of this and hit Styles with a Bombaya. Nakamura was not finished, he hit Styles with one more Bombaya to make sure he would stay down. Nakamura went for the pin and picked up the win to retain his Intercontinental Title. After the match, both men were on their knees after going to war, they stared at each other and they both bowed down to each other in a show of respect. This match was amazing. This match was the match of the year. This match showed why these two men are the best wrestlers on the planet right now. Since then, both men have reached the top of WWE. Nakamura is the current NXT Champion, and Styles is the current WWE Champion. It might be a while until we see both men face each other again, but we can always go back and watch this classic.
2. Kenny Omega vs Hirooki Goto (G1 Climax 26 Final)
At the beginning of the year Kenny Omega was the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Champion. He later lost the belt and moved up to the heavyweight division while at the same time becoming the new leader of the Bullet Club, ousting former leader AJ Styles. Omega then won the IWGP Intercontinental title, and began to prove that he was a serious contender for the upcoming G1 Climax. Omega lost the Intercontinental title later that year, but that didn’t sidetrack him from his goal, winning the G1 Climax and challenging for the heavyweight title at the next Wrestle Kingdom. After weeks of grueling matches including a semi-final match up with Tetsuya Naito, Omega made it to the finals of the G1 Climax 26 against Hirooki Goto. Many wondered if Omega could deliver another five star performance, well according to Dave Meltzer and myself he certainly did. This match was one of the hardest hitting matches in the entire Climax. Omega at the beginning of the match was toying with Goto, showing him little respect. Goto had enough and began to target Omega’s knee. The action went to the outside, where Omega took advantage with a moonsault off the outside railing and began to work on Goto’s back. The action returned to the inside where Goto regained the advantage and started to work on Omega’s neck. The match became a standstill where both men started to give each other their best chops and strikes. Both men were begging the other for more. The action picked up with Goto locked in a sleeper on Omega, and began to hit several big moves on Omega’s neck including an avalanche Yoshi Karoshi. Goto thought he had it won, but Omega would not stay down. Omega then retook the advantage and began to work multiple knee strikes to head and multiple full nelson suplexes on Goto, but Goto would not stay down as well. Goto then set Omega up for a maneuver, but Omega countered into a Bloody Sunday, an homage to the original Bullet Club leader Prince Devitt aka Finn Balor. Omega followed that up with a Styles Clash, another homage to former Bullet Club leader AJ Styles, Omega went for the pin but Goto was able to kick out. Omega did not wait one second, he followed the Styles Clash with his finisher, the One Winged Angel. Omega hit every finisher of every Bullet Club leader, and in the end the One Winged Angel was able to keep Goto down for the three count. Kenny Omega became the G1 Climax 26 winner. The first non-Japanese to ever win this tournament. After the match he received the G1 Cup trophy and the G1 flag. Omega celebrated with his fellow Bullet Club members in the ring, but instead of waving the G1 flag, he waved the Bullet Club flag. Omega made history this year, and in 2017 he can continue to solidify his name if he defeats Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight title at Wrestle Kingdom 11.
3. Kenny Omega vs Tetsuya Naito (G1 Climax 26 Semi-Final)
This match pitted the leaders of arguably the two most popular factions in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Kenny Omega representing the Bullet Club and Tetsuya Naito representing Los Ingobernables de Japon. This match featured my two favorite wrestlers in all of NJPW, and when the bell rang they delivered a memorable performance that even Dave Meltzer had to give it five stars. The match started the way you expect two heels are expected to start, showing no respect by spitting on each other and using all the underhanded tactics they could use. Once that was out of the way the match started to develop a beautiful story. Naito worked on Omega’s knee throughout the match. Naito worked on it so well that it made it hard for Omega to use his knee strikes and pick him up for his finisher, the One Winged Angel. Omega gained the advantage when he started to work on Naito’s neck. Omega took advantage on the outside when he put Naito through a table, and followed it up with a Tupe Koriho to the outside into the crowd. The action returned to the ring where Naito started to attack Omega’s injured knee again. Naito was able to lock in several submissions that took a heavy toll on Omega’s knee. Omega did a beautiful job selling the knee. There were times that it felt that Omega was going to tap. Omega regained the momentum, sucked up his pain, and began to hit Naito with several knee strikes. Omega went for a One Winged Angel, but couldn’t pick Naito up. Omega went for his finisher again, but Naito reversed it into a Destino. Unfortunately, Naito couldn’t make the cover. The match then shifted into a higher gear where both men started to get multiple near falls on each other. Omega was able to catch Naito with two knee strikes to the face, and then two knee strikes to the back of the head. Naito was groggy, so one last time Omega went for his One Winged Angel. Omega was able to pick him up and he finally hit the One Winged Angel to pick up the win and move on to the final of the G1 Climax against Goto. This match was just amazing. I was on the end of my seat the entire time. I really enjoy both men, but I knew one of these guys had to lose. In the end Naito lost, but in my opinion they both won after that spectacular performance. I really recommend the readers to watch this match.
4. #DIY vs The Revival (NXT Tag Team Title Match 2 out of 3 Falls) NXT Takeover Toronto
In a night of Perfect 10s, Gloriousness, returns and dominance, this match for the NXT Tag Team championships was the one that stole the night. Earlier this year #DIY challenged The Revival for the tag titles at NXT Takeover Brooklyn II. #DIY was unsuccessful that night. After weeks of brawls and the Revival ducking and costing #DIY opportunities, both these teams would finally collide at Takeover Toronto. The Revival early in this match had #DIY scrambling. Despite all this #DIY gained the advantage when Gargano tagged in and started taking it to the Revival. As Gargano gained momentum, the Revival took out Ciampa, but this despite this Gargano kept control. Gargano went for a second rope slingshot spear, but Dash and Dawson caught Gargano midair and hit their finisher, the Shatter Machine out of nowhere. Dawson hooked Gargano’s leg, and put The Revival up 1-0. The Revival did not wait for Gargano to recover and started to attack him. Gargano eventually got separation and was able to get in Ciampa. Ciampa started to beat down on Dawson, but Dash kept interfering illegally. While the referee was distracted Gargano and Ciampa took this opportunity to hit their knee/superkick combination finisher behind his back. Ciampa covered Dawson and tied the match one fall to one fall. It then came down to the last fall, and #DIY was in full control. Dash and Dawson knew they were in trouble, so Dash brought one of the tag team titles in the ring. Ciampa took out Dash, and while the referee was preoccupied with them, Dawson used the title to injure Gargano’s leg. Dawson then used a reverse figure four leg lock to work on Gargano’s leg. This part had me on the edge of my seat. It looked like Gargano was legit going to tap, the selling was beautiful. Gargano crawled and fought and made it to the bottom rope. The match then went to a higher gear with multiple pinfall attempts. Dash and Dawson tried to hit Gargano with his own finisher, but missed. This lead to #DIY hitting the Shatter Machine on Dash. Gargano went for the win, but Dawson broke it up. Gargano and Ciampa then locked in two submissions in the middle of the ring on Dash and Dawson. During this sequence Dash and Dawson were holding hands, imploring to each other not to tap. That was awesome. In the end Dash and Dawson could not take the pain anymore and they had to tap out. Gargano and Ciampa became the new NXT Tag Team Champions after securing the second fall. After months of having to deal with The Revival, #DIY did what they said they were going to do, become the tag team champs. After the match they went into the crowd to celebrate with the fans.
5. Sami Zayn vs Shinsuke Nakamura (NXT Takeover Dallas)
In one of the most anticipated debuts in recent memory this match stole the show Wrestlemania weekend. Shinsuke Nakamura decided to come to WWE to see if he had what it took to be successful in the biggest wrestling company in the world. Sami Zayn who was pretty much the heart and soul of NXT, who helped built what NXT is today, wanted to prove that he was best NXT had to offer. This was it, who would come out on top that night. When Zayn made his entrance he was showered with fans singing his theme music and chanting “Thank You Sami.” Everyone knew this was his last NXT match we all knew who was going to win, but we didn’t care because we were about to see two of the best wrestlers go at it for the first time ever. The lights went out and we heard Nakamura’s entrance music, and then we saw his name on the titantron. He was here. The fans were hypnotized by this man, and when he entered the ring he gave his famous, “YeahOh!” The entrances were finished, Zayn and Nakamura were staring across to each other, the fans were ready, they were ready, it was time. This match was everything we thought it would be. We saw Nakamura implement his Strong Style that made him famous in Japan. We saw Zayn’s never say die attitude, who weathered the storm and was able to fight back despite Nakamura’s brutal hits. There was a point Zayn looked like he might upset the King of Strong Style. Near fall after near fall, both men would not stay down. The fans were in such a frenzy. They even started to chant “Both these Guys and “Fight Forever.” Eventually Nakamura was able to gain control, and was able to nail Zayn with a Kinshasa to pick up the win. After the match, both men shook hands in a sign of respect. Nakamura left the ring to let Zayn take in the adoration of the NXT faithful. Zayn walked up the ramp and waved to the NXT Universe one last time. Zayn’s NXT run came to an end, but the era of Strong Style began as well.
6. Kota Ibushi vs Cedric Alexander (Second Round of CWC)
In a competition that had many match of the year candidates, this match was the one that took the prize as the best one. In one of the hardest hitting matches all year, this match had fans in a frenzy. The match started with both men pretty much even, countering each other and showing each other respect, Alexander gained the upper hand after Ibushi missed a moonsault hitting hard on the floor. Ibushi made his comeback with a series of hard kicks and hitting a top rope moonsault to Alexander on the outside. What followed next was some of the most exciting five minutes in the entire match. Both men kept trying to hit their finishers on one another, but both men kept countering each other. Alexander gained the advantage by hitting a brainbuster on Ibushi for a nearfall. Alexander quickly followed this up with a spinning back kick to the head which Ibushi barely kicked out of. Alexander went to the top rope for a double stomp attempt from the top rope but missed, Ibushi quickly capitalized with a snap German Suplex. Ibushi quickly followed this up with a huge head kick. Ibushi then put Alexander in position for the Golden Star Powerbomb and he hit it to pick up the win. Despite Alexander losing this match he won regardless because after the match the fans thanked him and chanted “Please sign Cedric.” While Alexander was taking his final bow in the CWC, Triple H came out and shook his hand and gave the fans a thumbs up. It all worked out in the end for Alexander as he is now part of the WWE’s Cruiserweight division.
7. The Miz vs Cesaro vs Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn (Fatal 4 Way Intercontinental Title Match) Extreme Rules.
This was one of the most exciting matches of the year, and in my opinion the match that made the Intercontinental Title important again. You had three challengers who are some of the best workers in the entire company, and a champion in The Miz who is much underrated. The match started out with a bang, when Zayn hit a Helluva Kick to take out Owens. The match then had the spots you usually see in a jammed pack match: Tower of Doom, all the competitors hitting their moves and finishers on each other, and nearfall after nearfall. In the end, the hatred between Zayn and Owens cost them the match as Miz was able to pin Cesaro while they fought each other on the outside. Say what you will about The Miz, but he knows when to pick his spots and take advantage. For me, this was the match that changed my mind on The Miz, and in my opinion he had one of the best Intercontinental title reigns in recent memory.
8. Sami Zayn vs Kevin Owens (Battleground)
In what was billed as the last encounter between Zayn and Owens, these two men left it all in the ring a match that had the audience give them a standing ovation in the middle of the match. Zayn started off quickly with a Helluva Kick attempt right from the get go, but Owens rolled out of the ring. The fight later spilled to the outside where Zayn gained the advantage. Zayn went for a springboard moonsault on Owens, but he didn’t get the full rotation and landed on his shoulder on the apron and barely grazing Owens. Owens saw this and started working on the shoulder by ramming it into the steel post and locking in a crossface. Owens was in complete control of the match, until Zayn made his comeback and hit a series of half and half exploders, but Owens kept kicking out. Zayn went for another Helluva kick, but Owens hit a pop-up powerbomb. The referee started to count, but before the three count the referee saw Zayn’s foot on the ropes. Owens started to yell at Zayn, “Why won’t you stay down. Don’t make me do this.” Owens began to slap Zayn, but Zayn would return the favor and also did their usual fists of fury spot. Zayn eventually regained the advantage and hit the corner exploder. Zayn then paused, stared at Owens and hit the Helluva kick. Zayn then held Owen’s lifeless body and it seemed he was going to show some compassion towards Owens, instead he set up Owens for another Helluva Kick. Owens dropped to the mat and Zayn after years of having to deal with his former best friend, finally got one over him. All I can say is, “Fight Forever.”
9. AJ Styles vs John Cena (Summerslam)
This match stole the show. In a feud that had been building up for months, it was finally going to come to an end at Summerslam. This match did not start out slow as usual, both men were hitting their moves early. Styles and Cena hit their finishers early on as well, but both men would not stay down as expected. There was a point in the match where both Cena and Styles tried to make each other tap with their respective submissions. Neither men would give up. Both men started to pull out every tool in their toolbox, Cena in particular: from a tornado DDT, to the patented legdrop, a Code Red, and even an avalanche AA. Styles kept kicking out. At one point Cena had a bewildered look on his face, he couldn’t believe Styles would not stay down. Cena attempted to go for another AA, but Styles reversed it into a Styles Clash. Styles was not done, as he went to the outside he stared at Cena with a face of “you’re finished.” Styles then hit a Phenomenal Forearm and pinned Cena CLEAN. After the match Cena left his “Never Give Up” armband in the ring and walked up the ramp after going to war with the Phenomenal One.
10. Charlotte vs Sasha Banks (RAW Women’s Title Match) RAW after WWE Draft
In my opinion the best match these two women had this year. On the first RAW after the brand split, we saw Sasha Banks finally get her Women’s title match against Charlotte after months of Charlotte ducking her. During the early of this Banks tried to end this early by locking in the Banks Statement, but Charlotte was able to get out of it. Charlotte eventually took control, and started to work on Banks’ leg with the Figure Four leg lock. Charlotte did everything she could to put Banks down: from Dana Brooke getting involved (who got ejected from ringside after Banks pulled an Eddie Guererro), to hitting a top rope moonsault, to even hitting a Natural Selection. Banks would not stay down. Banks threw everything in her arsenal at Charlotte including a Tupe Suicida that look like Banks almost broke her neck and back. Charlotte towards the end of the match yelled at Banks that she would never beat her. Banks would not take this trash talk, and seized her opportunity by hitting a backstabber and locking in the Banks Statement. Charlotte was trapped and nowhere near the ropes, after a few moments she had no choice but to tap out. Sasha Banks after months of chasing Charlotte, finally won her first WWE Women’s Championship. The first new champion of the “New Era.”
Honorable Mention: The Miz vs Dolph Ziggler (Intercontinental Title Match) No Mercy
In a match that saw Ziggler put his career on the line for one last chance at Miz’s Intercontinental title, this match just missed my top ten, but just barely. Miz did everything in the heel book to retain the title: from using an exposed turnbuckle, to Maryse spraying Ziggler in the face with perfume, and even having the Spirit Squad get involved. All of this could not keep Ziggler down who was even able to survive two Skullcrushing Finales. It was not until the referee sent Maryse and the Spirit Squad to the back when Ziggler capitalized and hit a superkick to put Miz down for the three count. Ziggler became a five time Intercontinental Champion, but most importantly, remained in the WWE. In my opinion, Miz and Ziggler was the rivalry of the year.