The Riren 100
By: John Wiswell

Part 1: Introduction

This was the hardest 100 to date. Two weeks ago my “short list” was 138 matches long. More great stuff appeared in December than in any previous year, despite most indies and internationals still having yet to do their releases. If some of your favorites are missing, that’s a good thing. That means this year was so good that a hundred other matches were noteworthy. Props to TJP in Evolve, Yuji Nagata’s phenomenal G1, and Shinsuke Nakamura’s best year in a while – but a lot of things simply couldn’t make the list.

This annual list began out of one thing: bitching. Wrestling fans complain too much. We backseat drive companies on hearsay and accentuate negatives that we’ll never fix. I’ve been guilty of it. It’s inescapable in a fandom. But writing about the hundred best matches in a year forces you to embrace why you tune in and pay, the primal positive for partaking of pro wrestling at all. Every week WWE puts between 4-6 hours of wrestling on free television, plus their Pay Per Views, plus TNA Pay Per Views and their additional 2-3 hours per week, plus ROH’s weekly show and their DVDs, and those of every other indy. Add to that any international wrestling you watch. I’ve consumed a great deal of Puro, but little European or Mexican wrestling, because I like to spend at least a few hours a week outside. Regardless, if there weren’t a hundred matches you’re glad you watched this year, you should re-evaluate watching modern wrestling. It’s a hobby with a lot of great performances on an annual basis.

This list doesn’t determine who the best wrestler is. I don’t believe there is a single “best in the world.” Davey Richards has more matches on this year’s list than Shawn Michaels. That doesn’t make him better. Nor do the Motor City Machine Guns having more matches higher than the Kings of Wrestling make them inherently a better tag team. Nor do I endorse any one style: there are technical clinics, hardcore matches, strike-heavy stuff and plenty of high-flyers. There’s even one comedy match that made my sides hurt. There are many ways to have a great match, and going beyond the Top 5 or Top 10 lets you reflect on that.

If you’d like to contact me with gripes, praise or job offers, hit me up at riren100@gmail.com. It’s established especially for the 100 column. You can also catch my non-wrestling writing at http://johnwiswell.blogspot.com.

I hope this helps you reflect on a great year of in-ring action. Cheers.

Part 2: Countdown and Reviews

100. Ric Flair Vs. Mick Foley (July 10) – Last Man Standing Match from TNA: Impact
Ric Flair transformed into every bit the madman Cactus Jack ever was, especially with his eyes wide and face covered in blood. After his last WWE run it was no longer surprising that Flair would take a Backdrop into thumbtacks or a barbed wire board to the face, he still channeled it into the gruesome theme of two veteran brawlers tearing into each other. Only a performer of Flair’s class could beat up a writer with his own book and make it seem completely cheese-free, though credit also went to Foley for taking a couple of very loud shots from that book. Of course Foley had a career of sickening falls and fiery comebacks, and uncorked both. At this stage in his career it was cringe-inducing to see Foley fly off the stage and through the table, though you couldn’t have choreographed it better with the plume of DVDs shooting into the air upon impact. By the fifteen-minute mark they were clearly exhausted from the physical toll and bloodloss, having waged a sort of brawl that most wrestlers imitate today, but don’t actually perform. The ending cheapened things – Flair clearly made it back to his feet, and no matter how classic his flop is, that still should have negated the count. But compared to everything else near the 100-spot in 2010, that can’t knock these two off the list.

99. Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley Vs. Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli (May 8) – ROH: Supercard of Honor 5
Hero and Castagnoli usually define the offense of their matches by virtue of being so large and powerful. It was interesting to watch a match where smaller wrestlers distinctly defined the offense. While the Kings of Wrestling had moments of pure superiority, the Guns overwhelmed them with speed and scouted counters for their intricate moves, like catching Castagnoli in his first attempt at the UFO. Cutting off their big offense also added anticipation for when the Kings did finally land those moves, and drove the crowd wild in appreciation even though many of them were still pulling for the Guns. It was a great play on traditional heel/face dynamics that gave heat to the challengers while getting the ROH crowd to enjoy the villains. In many ways both teams were antagonists, and their ways of picking on each other were just as entertaining as their sprinting, like Sabin ticking off Castagnoli so often that he charged the corner to kick him, and Sabin continually dodging and posing to rile him further. It is a huge shame that TNA and ROH couldn’t agree on an ending and I won’t defend the Briscoes’ run-in. Two men could Piledriving a woman in place of a legitimate ending was atrocious. It did not, however, damage it so badly that what the two teams did should be disregarded.

98. Hiroshi Tanahashi Vs. Tetsuya Naito (August 8) – NJPW: G1 Climax 20th Anniversary Day 3
It was slow from the start as Tanahashi played with the younger lion and deceived people into thinking this would follow the normal NJPW match formula. But as Naito survived leg attack after leg attack and avoided Tanahashi’s Cross-Arm German Suplex, things spilled over. At the fifteen-minute point Naito managed to turn the ground attack around on Tanahashi, using some excruciating leg holds, and when they went to the floor it was Tanahashi whose leg was smashed into the guardrails. Every time Naito had to land something he had impressive execution, like his high German Suplex or late-match fast Dragon Suplex. They gradually turned the match into a story of equals and upsets, earning that time limit draw not just as a way to add drama to the tournament, but establishing Naito as an emerging singles star. Tanahashi failing to land the Frogsplash twice, and then going for it again just before the bell rang, was a strong touch of pathos for a guy who had either wasted time in the match or had met somebody who was going to give him trouble in the future.

97. Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli Vs. Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas (September 11) – ROH: Glory By Honor 9
Everybody worked hard, but Castagnoli tried the hardest to make his point. From the opening lock-up with Benjamin that went all over the ring he was jockeying for position more than usual and kept getting into very physical exchanges with both guys until mid-match. Hero set him with some great little moments that let his energy play into the match, like the early Front Facelock on Haas that let Castagnoli Schoolboy him for an attempted flash ending. It was up to Wrestling’s Great Tag Team to one-up them, like Benjamin finding incredibly athletic ways to turn the advantage against his opponents. I mentioned that Castsagnoli was in very physical exchanges until mid-match, when Haas seemed to spiritually tag in and take over with things like the big German Suplex and Slingshot assist into Benjamin’s Samoan Drop. Haas seemed equally as driven as Benjamin, which was essential given how much more highly most fans regard the latter man. Nobody took the match off. It was to both teams’ credit that they didn’t just execute smart or athletically impressive offense, but flew to make each other look impressive. Castagnoli did not have to fly that high off of Benjamin’s Monkey Flip, but he did and it made Benjamin look formidable in the strength dimension and it kept the crowd excited.

96. Chris Jericho Vs. Evan Bourne (June 20) – WWE: Fatal Fourway
Leave it to a match not hijacked by external angles to deliver. Also leave it to Jericho and Bourne. Topping their Superstars encounters from 2009, this featured some brilliant little exchanges, like Jericho softening his landing on the Double Knees to float into a Walls of Jericho. Though Jericho took a noticeable number of pauses to direct Bourne around the match, the pace never suffered and Bourne never actually looked out of his element. He looked half-dead some of the time, but that was by virtue of bumping and selling like a crash test dummy. They topped the earlier Raw match’s Codebreaker spot by a rope break instead of a kickout and Bourne flying like he’d been in a crash. This was not the half-hearted kind of upset that WCW vets gave Jericho back in the day; they built a scintillating upset for Bourne.

95. Mike Quackenbush & Jigsaw Vs. CIMA & Super Crazy (taped January 23) – Dragon Gate USA: Fearless
CIMA usually has an attitude, but rarely does he look like this kind of a punk. He was petty in all his gestures to Quackenbush, while Super Crazy seemed almost like a brute. Those are unusual characters for them, and they were surprisingly good at it. It helped that their mat attacks against Quackenbush were slick and creative (wrestling Quack helps there), and that Jigsaw is a superior whipping boy. Super Crazy was actually bigger than his opponents, and his facial expressions locked in that angry aggressor role. From those characters, the four were able to spring into beautiful and downright neat offense, building on Jigsaw’s weakness with the heroic Quackenbush eventually making his hot tag for a play on the classic Southern style tag match type.

94. Rob Van Dam Vs. AJ Styles (May 16) – TNA: Sacrifice
You expect a match like this to have some great exchanges, and it delivered them. Van Dam going from his knees to his feet and into a spinning kick all before Styles could react was amazing. So was the Moonsault exchange near the opening. So was Van Dam shuffling across the ropes for a kick. But plenty of matches have great exchanges. What kept this match special was the story of Styles testing a veteran who was so much like himself, getting one-upped occasionally, and occasionally doing things even Van Dam couldn’t or couldn’t prevent (like the flipping Reverse DDT that Jerry Lynn taught him). Going slower or faster, they kept to a level of crispness and charisma that most athletically gifted wrestlers don’t fully grasp. Ric Flair was a champ for the whole match, from getting thrown out for blatant interference, to his ranting about greatness on commentary, and concluding when Jay Lethal put him in his place. The whole experience was more entertaining for his presence, even if he wasn’t actually in the match.

93. Claudio Castagnoli & Chris Hero Vs. El Generico & Colt Cabana (September 10) – ROH: Fade to Black
For a team forged in a bloodfeud, Generico & Cabana might be the sunniest team in ROH history. Harassing the Kings of Wrestling with antics like Cabana’s wacky roll-ups and Generico’s mounted corner punches against both opponents at the same time set this off as a totally different defense. It wasn’t going to have dozens of deadly nearfalls or the Kings’ normal underhanded offense. Instead Hero & Castagnoli had to play catch-up from behind two guys were very sound, always ready to make up for the other guy’s shortcomings, and overwhelmingly unorthodox. Moments like Generico flying over Cabana and into a Hurricanrana on the staggered Hero, or Generico’s High Cross Body on Castagnoli that knocked him into Cabana’s Sunset Flip, simply couldn’t happen in any other match for the champs, and even if they were attempted, wouldn’t work as well. This wasn’t hardcore offense, but mildly lighthearted stuff that was still effective enough to almost cost them. In that way, they guys built a totally different tag match than we typically see in ROH, set at a main event level of competition while still having a sense of humor.

92. Jimmy Jacobs Vs. Jon Moxley (October 29) – I Quit Match from Dragon Gate USA: Bushido: Way of the Warrior
If this was the end for Jimmy Jacobs in hardcore, it was a great end. He planted several signature elements and had novel applications in mind. For instance, Jimmy Jacobs has been tied up in at least five big matches. You’d think by now he’d find a way to evade it. Not so – but he was prepared to throw on a Guillotine Choke while his hands were bound. And Jacobs retrieving the spike in the middle of an Irish Whip segment, he was putting that weapon to one of its most clever uses in his career. For his part Moxley was a solid goon, mugging and getting in all the proper positions, getting things turned on him more than being an overpowering brute. When he was in control, though, he pulled out frightening offense, like his Running Powerbomb into the steel guardrail. Going into this I thought I simply didn’t care for bloody hardcore wrestling anymore. I left thinking otherwise – I just don’t see it done like this very often.

91. Masato Yoshino Vs. Dragon Kid (May 7) – 2/3 Falls Match from Dragon Gate USA: Open the Northern Gate
Yoshino and Dragon Kid’s best DGUSA match regrettably appeared in their least-watched venue, the non-PPV DVD. They had the speed and slickness of the their first match, channeled into three reasonable falls. While Yoshino had once been a step behind Dragon Kid, he had since geared up into a title contender and was on page with high-impact counters, not just his standard offense but things he could only pull off against a smaller opponent like the swift Powerbomb. After going down 0-1, Dragon Kid’s rebound with Headscissors-centric offense and pulling out the Bible Pin for a rare appearance in DGUSA weren’t just fun, but urgent. Of course it went to a third fall, but that fall had few lulls and set itself at the level of the best exchanges from their first two matches.

90. Meiko Satomura Vs. Aja Kong (April 9) – SENDAI Girls: Sendai Zepp
As the match progressed Satomura desperately hung onto key holds, trying to either choke the giantess out or get her tired enough to reach the time limit. That rule that if the lighter Satomura made it to a time limit she’d automatically advance in the tournament turned things more in her favor than perhaps she’s ever had against Kong. Kong showed the pressure by immediately charging her with a metal tin and going for both weapons and heavy offense throughout, not creating the vicious atmosphere of 2008’s Joshi stand-out, but definitely delivering the best match of the tournament. Even when Satomura was trapped in something like a Single Leg Crab she fought with grit for the ropes or some semblance of leverage, keeping the idea of struggle that makes any match interesting.

89. Chris Hero Vs. Bad Bones (March 5) – Westside Xtreme Wrestling: 16 Carat Gold Tournament 2010 Day 1
A largely methodical match that actually worked. Randy Orton wrestles slow but not methodical. Watch Hero diving to regain his Chinlock, leaning across Bad Bones’s shoulders to apply more pressure and wrestling to keep his grip. That’s methodical. They used a lot of simple holds and strikes, but applied them at angles and largely kept in motion. The result was a feeling of novelty and energy in a plodding match. When Hero busted out something like a rebound Moonsault, it was suitably shocking – to the crowd and to Bones. As opposed to Hero’s wXw matches in previous years that took too long for few good reasons, here he continued to display his growth by building up to a fever pitch of knockout blows. Bones was a great antagonist in his own right, taunting Hero the instant he finished a face rake and catching him with power offense. They needed to wrestle at the speed they did because their opponents were formidable, and they would turn the match around at any moment to remind the audience of that. It was the same formula for all of Hero’s matches in the 16 Carat Gold tournament, only ironically done the best the first time.

88. K-Ness & Susumu Yokosuka Vs. CIMA & Gamma (taped July 8) – aired on Dragon Gate Infinity 182
CIMA & Gamma took a super-push over the last year as a tag team and so they rolled into this match against the champions as total aggressors. Gamma shone as an utter prick, squatting over K-Ness or posing to let his team’s dominance sink in. It was slower than the sprint tags you expect from Dragon Gate, but with K-Ness’s Steamboat-like timing for counters and small offensive comebacks, and just how formidable the WARRIORS team came across, it built into a compelling story. That swinging kick from K-Ness and Susumu’s flash cradle came across as equal parts skill and luck in letting the champions escape with a victory going into the PPV. It was more dramatic than most moments in any of K-Nesuka’s actual title defenses.

87. El Generico Vs. Roderick Strong (April 23) – ROH: Pick Your Poison
Very similar in structure to Generico’s match with Hero at Epic Encounter 3 in March, which is not a bad thing. Strong is not as vibrant or convicted a character, even in the bully role, as Hero, and so the body of the match wasn’t as convincing. He was still able to brutalize the masked man with chops, power moves and grueling holds like the Bodyscissors, tormenting him and giving him things to fight through. That suited Generico’s story in ROH, particularly in the second half where he came back with even more fire than he’d had against Hero. Between the Tope and Coast-to-Coast Dropkick, he not only rallied counters but heavy offense that could have won him the match. Continuing to come up short in big singles matches wasn’t necessarily the best way to play his division from Steen, but if you’ve seen much Generico you knew his eventual story rally would drive crowds wild.

86. El Generico & Colt Cabana Vs. Kevin Steen & Steve Corino (April 24) – Street Fight from ROH: Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies 2
These matches are unfashionable today. We’ve seen enough crowd brawling, fears of concussions are so great that there is a wide anti-chairshot sentiment, and for a long stretch of the year Ric Flair was singlehandedly trying to make blood seem unfashionable by sheer overuse. I admit that I watched one moon-faced white guy with blood on his face Irish Whip another moon-faced white guy with blood on his face, the effect was lessened. But as the first encounter in Generico and Steen’s eponymous bitter feud, this match was wrestled in the right direction. Generico climbing the scaffold to face his ex-partner felt momentous, and the Michonuku Driver up there warranted the two-on-one advantage it created better than nearly any tag match has set such a scenario up in recent memory. Cabana was surprisingly less of a factor than expected because Generico came so alive, when he came to the rescue and for the rest of the match. For the long tease of Generico being unwilling to attack Steen, they gave no half-measures in the match. Generico ultimately beating Corino into unconsciousness was superb plotting, revenge against the mastermind who cost him his friend and testimony that he had far more in him than Steen gave him credit. Steen’s expression, even obscured by gore, was perfect. He knew something had gone wrong.

85. John Morrison Vs. Jack Swagger (aired April 23) – WWE: Smackdown
Reminiscent of the Punk/Morrison matches from 2009 – both in that they were above the champion’s average level of match quality, and that Morrison had a shocking upset. They also shared the biggest disappointment – that Morrison’s victory didn’t turn into a big title challenge against that champ, as he was soon shipped to Raw. But within the match Morrison again showed why he belonged in top title pictures, bumping and going with all of Swagger’s offense, making it look especially effective thanks to his size. Swagger pulled out less common moves like the Wheelbarrow Suplex, brutalizing the other man, while Morrison saved up for passionate comebacks. Even though the escape from being pinned after a Gutwrench Powerbomb was formulaic, it was shocking because they didn’t wrestle like Morrison should have survived there. That was the great test of the match: wrestling something special and highly competitive without tipping their hand.

84. Davey Richards Vs. Kenny King (April 3) – ROH: The Big Bang
King’s first stand-out singles match in ROH. They built great false finishes, like Richards’s comeback at mid-match in which, by the German Suplex, any move Richards hit seemed like a viable match-ender despite not being his finisher-offense. Similarly they teased running the ropes and going for knockout kicks so many times that when Richards finally blasted King with one and then went for the Ankle Lock, the pacing was there for it to end. Every time King looked better every time he countered, kicked out or escaped. The match was a fine example of how Richards can elevate people once he’s established as a main eventer, as he gave King plenty of offense and let him dodge so many knockout kicks and elbows, and counter so many times when he ran to the ropes. By giving King a little resilience and a lot of responses, the match kept him strong even when Richards finally caught him in the Texas Cloverleaf.

83. Naomichi Marufuji Vs. KENTA (June 6) – Pro Wrestling NOAH: Navigation With Breeze
Once they announced it, you knew there was no better opponent for KENTA’s return. Marufuji is one of the best in Japan and has such a storied history with him. Since his visits to New Japan, he’d also delved back into his scummier character, which made him an even better target for face-kicking. The match was as far from their 2009 draw as these two could probably get: rather than sprinting as rivals, Marufuji targeted KENTA’s leg and abused the injury for dominance. The opening exchange was fun, especially for the Dragon Screw that KENTA shrugged off to kick Marufuji’s face in. Yet the injury let them do a slower match, better for a guy returning to televised wrestling from so long on the shelf, and he was creative in his attacks, like dropping the knee onto the apron, or using a variant of his Neck Twist on the leg in a Figure Four. Marufuji has developed like Bryan Danielson, not in approach or how he carries himself, but in his ability to use technical wrestling and striking to abuse people who aren’t particularly good on defense and have it be highly engaging. Around that they created an opening and built a closing sequence that reassured fans that KENTA could still go.

82. Naomichi Marufuji Vs. KENTA (December 5) – Pro Wrestling NOAH: Joe Higuchi Memorial Show
So when Marufuji returned from injury in December, KENTA was the perfect opponent for him. It was retaliation for Marufuji punking out KENTA on his return, and the story was a proper foil: now KENTA was at full speed and ease in the ring, able to see all of Marufuji’s trademarks coming, catching him and kicking him around the ring. One or two smart moves, like his Somersault Dropkick in the corner, didn’t earn him dominance like it did over the summer. In his role Marufuji often looked visibly lost or shaken, a different human being from the one who dominated the NJPW Juniors division this same year. As he had to, KENTA carried the match as a predator, stalking him, grinding his foot into his chin and grabbing things like the Hangman’s DDT as threateningly as anyone ever has. KENTA was perennially ready, and Marufuji didn’t have the resilience to keep up, needing to drop heavy bombs like the Apron Brainbuster out of sheer lucky timing simply to stay competitive. That built up Marufuji’s late-match flurry, things like responding to the boot with a Spinning Heel Kick that you hadn’t seen before, or hadn’t seen in so long you forgot he could do them, exactly the kind of offense necessary against his biggest rival. He was so vulnerable that when he yanked on the guardrail, the entire audience buzzed with anticipation that he’d actually try to fly that far. KENTA forcing Marufuji into an Octopus Hold to keep him still and wear him out, becoming afraid this guy was back to his old self, was just great. Ending it after a single Go 2 Sleep established that Marufuji was weaker, just as KENTA had been on his comeback, and that someday they’d need a new rubber match.

81. Christopher Daniels Vs. Frankie Kazarian Vs. Amazing Red Vs. Brian Kendrick (March 21) – Ladder Match from TNA: Destination X
Daniels has great timing and a mind for innovative gimmick match offense, but in this match he shone for setting himself up to fail. At multiple points he went on a role only for the Amazing Red and Kazarian to cut him off and look like total cruiserweight dynamos. It didn’t hurt that Red’s amazing (pun unintended, but embraced) agility was very well-suited to scaling ladders and sending other men flying. Kazarian was just as sharp using more power-based offense like the Powerbomb off one ladder and onto the other. Kendrick responding to all their athleticism by sneaking in behind them, including literally trying to steal the match in the opening minutes, provided a second kind of foil, while still flowing well with the other guys when it came time for things like Kazarian’s Complete Shot sequence.

80. Mike Quackenbush & Jigsaw Vs. Naruki Doi & PAC (taped May 8) – Dragon Gate USA: Uprising
They know their audience. In most parts of the U.S. if you isolated and abused a man like Jigsaw the way Doi and PAC did, it would turn the crowd against you. But in this company, doing the appropriately impressive offense, it got the crowd excited positively. So when Quackenbush and Jigsaw turned the tables and gave PAC the same treatment with amazingly impressive offense, the crowd was still buzzing happily. With Doi’s impact and the agility of the other three, they were the right men to wrestle for that environment, trading control rapidly until the match boiled with cheers. PAC especially helped make himself for the U.S. audience, most of whom probably already knew him but couldn’t help losing their minds for his Twisting Moonsault to the outside. It’s difficult to praise any one man for his timing because all four were nimble and seemed to know exactly when to jump in without making it seem too choreographed, though PAC impressed the most in things like his Shooting Star to break up Jigsaw’s German Suplex. Was that choreographed? Almost certainly, but all the men moved at just the right time to avoid the appearance. They have the slickness that makes thought-out sequences click.

79. Undertaker Vs. Rey Mysterio (January 31) – WWE: Royal Rumble
To see this match when the men were in their primes… Unfortunately, instead we got it when Undertaker was fresh off knee surgery. The Tombstone immediately went out the window, so they planted two huge Last Ride Powerbomb counters to build up that move in its place. By the time Mysterio escaped the Last Ride attempt on the outside, the crowd had no necessity for a Tombstone anymore. Mysterio, hardly in good health himself, hustled for the both of them, though Undertaker had his moments, like one big Clothesline that took them both off of their feet. The match was also a testament to allowing occasional blood in WWE, and the hypocrisy of their bleeding policy; when Undertaker bled, nobody was going to pause the match on him. With that, he looked more vulnerable, raising Mysterio’s stock, which was already high based solely on how beloved he was.

78. Kota Ibushi Vs. Prince Devitt (June 13) – NJPW: Best of the Super Juniors 17 Finals Night
This is incomparably more complex than their earlier match in the tournament, and between the added material and buzzing crowd, was on a significantly higher level. Devitt played his fatigue to the crowd, pausing when he knew he had them and delivering his big moves like the Back Superplex just when they’d climax. Like the first, Devitt was frustrated with how much pounding Ibushi could sustain. But Ibushi didn’t rest on resilience, coming up with some great plays on Devitt’s finishers, like the somersault out of his favorite “Brainbuster.” They built and built until Ibushi’s unfortunate injury, at which point calling the audible for one big counter was necessary. It prevented the match from being a BOSJ classic, but couldn’t break the fact that it was great while it lasted.

77. John Cena Vs. Dave Batista (March 28) – WWE Wrestlemania 26
Upon re-watching it I was struck by how sensible kicking out of each other’s finishers actually was. The two had a very slow and low-impact start to the match, throwing each other around much less frequently than their Summerslam encounter, leaving both men reasonably fresh enough to struggle out of or even kick out of the big moves. Cena kicking out of the Super Spinebuster felt more like his superman act, but that had purpose in showing him overcoming the guy he was supposedly unable to beat and rising after the move (or a very similar move to the one) that broke his neck. Most of the match rode on their collective showmanship, reacting in big ways to sell things like the headbutt struggle on the top turnbuckle. And in the end the two deserved a medal just for attempting that finish.

76. Bryan Danielson Vs. Munenori Sawa (September 11) – EVOLVE: EVOLVE 5 – Danielson Vs. Sawa
The Danielson Indy Tour continued! But it was Sawa who stood out with this speed and kicks so unusual even Danielson hadn’t seen them before. Almost running in place while lifting each foot to kick Danielson in the spine could have been comical (and has been for Sawa in Japan), but instead made him look like an unorthodox challenge, especially contrasting with Danielson relying on very established heavy kicks that the audience recognized and adored. They took the right bits from indy formulas, going even in several strike and grapple exchanges to help establish Sawa, but when it came time to trade bigger moves, Sawa’s slickness kept him right in the mix. Even just holding an ankle, feeling each other out for what holds were possible, they kept studying each other and tensing in preparation. It was the sort of detail work you can’t expect in half-hour matches, and so this was actually stronger for lasting less than fifteen minutes. They were able to go after each other’s legs, set up dangerous holds, have several moments of one guy coming back and not burn anything out.

75. Jay & Mark Briscoe Vs. Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards (July 22) – ROH: Bluegrass Brawl
I spent most of the first viewing trying to figure out why this was so much better than all their other encounters. I wanted to love the original Briscoes/Wolves feud. But all the cheap attacks and all the times the Briscoes chewed up Edwards and Richards made the Wolves seem second rate, and when they were eventually supposed to be on the Briscoes’s level their pacing wouldn’t click or there was a funky ending. This time, removed from the animosity of bloodfeud, they simply wrestled as equals in front of an atypical ROH crowd that wholeheartedly got behind wanting to see the Southern jocks rip into the jerks in blue tights. Of all the ways ROH guys hammed it up for the OVW-regular crowd, Richards flipping his opponents the bird and constantly taunting the illegal man only to bump as hard as he possibly could whenever he was caught with comeuppance was the best. Edwards looked sounder as a technician than any time previous, picking at the Briscoes’s legs and often rolling the hold to set up assists from his partner. Usually it’s Richards who looks like the maestro, but Edwards was his comfortable equal. The Wolves couldn’t be bullied and thrown around, they avoided their other classic pitfall of hitting a great pace, and within that pace they created some great moments. Edwards hoisting Jay for a Powerbomb in the corner, and Mark climbing up behind them so Richards wouldn’t see his flying attack coming was actually clever. The American Wolves had never looked so good in dominance or vulnerability, leaving me saddened that they were now heading to singles emphasis.

74. Masato Yoshino & Naruki Doi Vs. CIMA & Ricochet (aired November 12) – Dragon Gate USA: Untouchable 2010
The best structured match to accentuate a new star that I’ve seen from Dragon Gate in some time. Arguably Naoki Tanisaki and Akira Tozawa have had showings in trios tags that topped this, but they went right back down the card, where this was clearly establishing Ricochet as the first American of Warriors International. He wasn’t a superman, but rather CIMA’s second, and so CIMA started out with his fun holds and blitzes, Ricochet only substituting in when Speed Muscle proved too much for the veteran. Even then Ricochet had some slick moves, but Doi cut him off and tossed him around. CIMA had to step back in for things like his Venus Palm out of nowhere, giving his younger partner just enough of an edge to stay on offense. And on offense, Ricochet was amazing. He orbited the ring, pulling out some novel throws, but largely relying on flying moves that were as crisp as anything PAC had been doing. The immaculate sprinting artists of Speed Muscle pulled him into sequences where he never did too much and could still shuffle with CIMA, eventually even saving the big guy. With all the cut-offs nobody stayed on offense too long, and all four guys being competent kept all the action riveting – but that had another layer of impression, because Ricochet was hanging in with them. It bubbled until he got to put Dragon Gate’s premiere team away with the most amazing move of the entire match, topping three guys who are all famous for their athleticism. CIMA’s post-match jabbering about how much Ricochet had rotated was hilarious, but also warranted.

73. Chris Hero Vs. Akira Tozawa (September 5) – PWG: Battle of Los Angeles Night 2
You don’t usually see a bully like Hero’s character here met with a much smaller natural underdog who stares him down and gives no quarter. Tozawa grinning through his mouthguard after taking such a loud chop was one of the highlights of the entire tournament. He was such a pug, perhaps the best at that role in PWG aside from Davey Richards, relying on a few moves he knew he could do like Counter Shining Wizards and his Everest German Suplex, fighting back against an overwhelming powerhouse who could just as easily manipulate him on the mat. And as unyielding as Tozawa turned out to be, Hero made things work on all the fundamental levels, from palming his face on an early cover all the way to gawking in disbelief at a one-count in the final minute. Both men dug into the dynamic and fought with utter heart, almost bringing Tozawa to the level of a top guy. If only this Tozawa could be transposed to Dragon Gate.

72. Ayako Hamada Vs. Cheerleader Melissa (taped April 11) – SHIMMER: Volume 32
Hamada’s finest SHIMMER match. No tables or chairs, just the intensity of catch-is-catch-can and a few dangerous moves both competitors struggled to avoid. Seeing her Moonsault through tables, it’s easy to forget how detail-oriented Hamada is. When she deadweighted out of the Kudo Driver she didn’t spring to her feet like most would, instead landing straight down and into the next motion in the realistic approach to wrestling motion that Joshi wrestlers often grasp better than anyone else in the world. In several of her failed pin attempts, Hamada would draped over Melissa and try to brute force her way into a fall, including their roll-up series which she fell out of and simply shoved down on her opponent. It wasn’t sloppy. It was simplicity. When it came to aesthetics, both ladies produced half a dozen impressive holds, like Melissa’s high Trailer Hitch variation. Hamada was the striking queen, but fed into Melissa’s big move counters so that it never went to lopsided, and she ate as grotesque a Curb Stomp as anybody could ask. The best all-around SHIMMER match I’ve seen since Amazing Kong tortured MsChif.

71. Giant Bernard & Karl Anderson Vs. Yuji Nagata & Wataru Inoue (September 26) – NJPW: Circuit 2010 G1 Climax Special
Raise your hand if you thought it would be this good. Nagata made his 2010 a year of unexpectedly sincere performances, and this was among his best. He charged at the other corner, taking no crap, barking encouragement to his younger partner and never backing off of the giant gaijin. Nagata is reliably fun against Bernard because he’s so established that, despite the size difference, Bernard can struggle for power moves or (like he did in the G1) try to go technical. Here Bernard marshaled Anderson into some sensible tandem offense, but frequently had to intercede to prevent Nagata from steamrolling too much. Inoue was competent, not exceptional or particularly impressive, simply fitting into the formula and going after Anderson. It was Anderson that impressed, hustling on his feet and acting the miniature powerhouse under Bernard. Anything Bernard did, Anderson would cover, whether it meant hitting a Neckbreaker out of an opening, or neutralizing Nagata on the outside to help maintain dominance over Inoue in the ring. He was completely acclimated, mouthing off to the ref and abusing his opponents like the Mini Bernard many fans joke about. But being as good as Bernard on a smaller level is a great thing in New Japan.

70. Daniel Bryan Vs. Dolph Ziggler (October 24) – WWE: Bragging Rights
Many wrestling journalists preferred the following night’s Raw match, but it didn’t have everything this one did. I was perplexed to hear people describe the next night’s crowd as livelier. Both nights were hot, but the PPV audience was rabidly behind Bryan from the outset. This also had the distinctly superior opening, setting up Bryan’s vault over Vickie Guerrero and into the Apron Knee Strike. It was flashy without being too dangerous and denied Ziggler any cowardice. He had to be aggressive to keep up with Bryan, bringing the best out in him. While I agree that Ziggler may bump and hit too hard for his own safety, it helps his intense matches like this one, where he seemed to take more damage than Bryan, a wrestler who excels at emphasizing weakness. Every combination they put together shone from execution, even the vintage double Crossbody Block spot that legitimately looked like it took the wind from them. They built up to the more established Ziggler losing his temper, with Bryan wisely scouting the Sleeperhold and grabbing that one opening for his LeBell Lock. In fifteen minutes the two of them turned in the best PPV opener of the year.

69. Yuji Nagata Vs. Go Shiozaki (August 10) – NJPW: G1 Climax 20th Anniversary Night 4
Go thought he was Kenta Kobashi, trying to throw evenly with the veteran striker and tossing him into the corner for Machine Gun Chops. During those chops you could tell Nagata was thinking, after swallowing the pain, that he wasn’t going to let this bastard treat him the way Kobashi did in his GHC title match. Nagata thought this guy was like Hirooki Gotoh, which is more reasonable given how similar they are, right down to them being suckers for leg-based offense. When Nagata softened up Go’s knee, you knew eventually we was going to use that cut-off kick that always crumpled Gotoh, and sure enough it nearly dislocated the young man’s kneecap. Just like Nagata’s best matches against Gotoh, the weakness in Go’s leg opened up a lot of offense and hope for the veteran, and with someone as big as Go made it more reasonable that they would throw evenly later in the match.

68. Nick & Matt Jackson Vs. Jay & Mark Briscoe (April 10) – PWG: Titannica
Most Briscoes/Bucks matches have lacked an essential spark. There was never enough animosity for the Briscoes’ approach, they aren’t big enough to play Legion of Doom even against scrawny opponents, and the Bucks’ insane flying didn’t mesh against the Briscoes the way it might have back in 2006 or 2007. This was the night when they finally clicked. The Bucks began by jumping them and showboating, and inside of a minute had the tables turned and were beaten around the building. Both sides avoided any plodding, with the Bucks gradually pulling out more effective offense to stay up with the challengers, and Mark Briscoe in particularly sparking in resistance. Mark has gotten crowds rowdy for his Red Neck Fu, but his Palmstrike has never been so deserving a nearfall. The Bucks cheating again in the end was suitable enough, uninspired but not so bad as to ruin the whole outing, especially since they’d established their character throughout without throwing the vibe of the match off until then.

67. AJ Styles Vs. Doug Williams (December 5) – TNA: Final Resolution
One of the most rock solid matches in TNA all year. Both men were perpetually in aggressive character, not necessarily fighting out of holds but decidedly working and responding to each other. They were on an entirely different level from every other pair of wrestlers on the show, tensing their bodies for every kick and taking hard spills when it was time. If any match showed Kurt Angle’s positive influence on AJ Styles, it was this one, though this match also evaded something that marred the Styles/Angles matches of the same year. Those (which some will gripe about being absent from this list) went too deep into overkill and wore out their finishers. But in this match Williams was legitimately afraid of the Styles Clash, and Styles was desperate to avoid every varied attempt at the Chaos Theory. When Williams finally caught him with the Chaos Theory on the floor, Styles was simply done. They could have blitzed into a series of crazy kickouts, but instead Styles sold the big offense on the floor and was unable to defend himself, even against having his own move stolen. It was a humiliating loss that did the most it possibly could to establish Williams as a legitimate player.

66. John Cena, Bret Hart, Chris Jericho, Edge, John Morrison, R-Truth & Daniel Bryan Vs. Wade Barrett, Skip Sheffield, Justin Gabriel, David Otunga, Heath Slater, Darren Young & Michael Tarver (August 15) – Elimination Tag Match from WWE: Summerslam
Complaints about the ending distracted from how well this match was structured. This wasn’t just good. It was a great match with one team consisting of rookies, and only three of the fourteen competitors being regular main-eventers in the last decade. My biggest gripe was how they eliminated Bret Hart (you’d think he’d be smart enough to not use a chair), but it was a safe way to write him out of the match, and his punches and Elbow Drops were sharp. They started things off hot with Daniel Bryan’s return and the quick elimination of Darren Young, plugging him back in throughout the match to help build him as a star while not devaluing the key members of Nexus. Of everyone, Skip Sheffield came across as a total beast, resisting opposition like a brickwall and taking high-end offense from three opponents to go down. Barrett stayed back like a mastermind, and they reserved Gabriel for his executioner-like 450 Splash, while Team WWE disintegrated on longstanding issues with Edge, Jericho and Cena. Most of the match was the transparent result of guys doing multi-man matches on house shows, but everyone had their role and stuck to it safely. It went so well that it was actually surprising WWE didn’t use Nexus more following Summerslam, given they looked so much more reliable than expected. Altogether it was a cleaner plot than most Chikara Ciberneticos see, which is an achievement in itself for WWE booking.

65. Naomichi Marufuji Vs. Kenny Omega (July 25) – DDT: Ryogoku Peter Pan 2010
Ibushi’s injury was a great disappointment, but Omega was probably the best replacement DDT could have provided. It was a match-up ROH would have given us had the history of recent years gone differently. Omega charged in, perhaps too exuberant, and the guys traded offense that almost seemed too big and too plentiful so early on, only slowing after the Apron Piledriver. Marufuji was not his mendacious NJPW self, rather trying to destroy this indy guy with rare indy offense. After a mid-match lull, Omega tried some of the most hair-raising offense of his career, including the Super Croyt’s Wrath that, while impressive, I’d be happy to never see again for the safety of everyone involved. The same went for whatever Marufuji used to knock him out at the end. When it counted they reacted superbly to each other, like Omega’s backflip off of a Basement Superkick, but you had to wonder if their chemistry wouldn’t improve with ensuing matches.

64. Koji Kanemoto Vs. Hayato Fujita Jr. (May 30) – NJPW: Best of the Super Juniors 17 Night 1
That Edward Cullen-looking kid can kick. New Japan imported that hot commodity match-up from the Japanese indies, and Kanemoto kindly let Fujita Jr. play equal rather than building him up. A build-up match would have been quality, but enough fans new the younger wrestler and they’d wrestled often enough to know how to present him as serious. They went blow for blow, even grabbing a Rocky moment and having both men tumble to the mat. By going even so often with the smaller, younger guy, Fujita Jr. came across as seriously tough, and when they went even in grapples, he seemed like the true successor to Kanemoto (sorry Mochizuki). Like with Kota Ibushi the previous year, Kanemoto brought his A-game in intensity and speed, and packed together a great outing in only fifteen minutes.

63. Naomichi Marufuji Vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru (July 10) – Pro Wrestling NOAH: Summer Navigation Part 1
I could watch Marufuji Superkick Kanemaru for hours. Kanemaru was arguably in the best performance space of his life (his title defense against Delirious came very close to making this list). His greatest improvement is timing, knowing when to tense up and counter opponents as well as give into them. That was best displayed with his cat-like Apron Brainbuster reversal to Marufuji’s Apron Shiranui – a reversal that was Marufuji-like in its deftness. His biggest weakness, not investing enough emotion when he goes all spotty, remains, but Marufuji is the king of masking and streamlining that. In that match, Marufuji was always in motion or scheming, adding that layer where Kanemaru usually doesn’t have it. Marufuji lost little face after putting on such a match and the conclusion hinging on the two in such an uncertain struggle on the top rope. It still came off as a huge defense for Kanemaru with the eventual triumph of his Brainbuster (even if it took five or six tries).

62. Larry Sweeney, Eddie Kingston, Stigma, Jigsaw, Mike Quackenbush, UltraMantis Black, Hallowicked & Icarus Vs. Pinkie Sanchez, Claudio Castagnoli, AR$S, Tursas, Tim Donst, Sara Del Ray, Daizee Haze & Delirious (October 23) – Torneo Cibernetico Match from Chikara Pro: Dark Ciberknetico
By breaking the premise they produced the best Cibernetico yet. This year the whole thing was driven by a story, of the heroes fighting the monolithic B.D.K. The drama was much higher than for the typical partner-versus-partner dynamic, and it prevented the flow-breaking lulls when familiar people encountered each other. Everything was moderated, so the evil on the outside’s interference wasn’t too obtrusive, the BDK’s antics weren’t too absurdly unchecked (Castagnoli even got himself disqualified eventually), and the guys who could go stayed in the longest and played out some fabulous pairings. When familiar wrestlers squared off it was as dramatic as ever, like the former members of Incoherence in Delirious and Hallowicked fighting it out, or Ultramantis Black trying to put his old drone down. Other wrestlers strove to create great moments or put on their best showings, particularly Icarus who hasn’t look like this in years, as a pure flyer getting manhandled through spots by Castagnoli. Quackenbush focused on Tursas as usual, showing off how unstoppable the giant is supposed to be and further setting him up for the finishing run with Kingston. Kingston was the golden boy, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Sweeney at the outset and knocking around the badguys when they got too much of an advantage. For people like me who were annoyed at having to watch Del Rey and Haze’s stilted offense bowl over larger men, seeing Kingston nonchalantly Backfist to the Future one of them while the other had him in a Sleeper Hold was a delight. The highlight was the ending, when Kingston finally knocked Tursas down, only to get a one-count. The crowd went from ecstatic to silent fear. I will say, though, as someone who likes the little things, Kingston getting his shoulder up because Tursas kept failing to cover him correctly made me just as happy.

61. Claudio Castagnoli Vs. Ricochet (September 4) – PWG: Battle of Los Angeles 2010 Night 1
The best one-sided beating since Umaga Vs. Spanky on Raw in 2008. Call it a glorified squash, but every moment of the match was worth watching. As Quicksilver put it, Castagnoli was “using technical wrestling in an extremely violent manner,” staying in motion, wrenching and forcing Ricochet into increasing uncomfortable positions even in simple holds. When they locked up, Castagnoli absolutely engulfed him and forced him into the corner. Ricochet was left in awe of this force, sometimes trying to out-think him or use something amazing like the early escape from the Powerbomb and the late-match jump from Castagnoli’s shoulders to the turnbuckles. Because Ricochet was so nimble in all of his moments, it managed to keep a little more spirit, but the bulk was carried by effortlessly sound and strong Castagnoli carried himself. You had the guy who was incredibly light and adept at flying, and the guy who could toss him to the rafters if necessary, pulling out feat after feat, and never flinching from character. Though far from the most complex or dramatically plotted match, I would rather watch this three times in a row than most of the half-hour matches this year just once.

60. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Ryusuke Taguchi Vs. Go Shiozaki & Atsushi Aoki (June 26) – Pro Wrestling NOAH: Rusher Kimura Memorial Show
You watch some Japanese tag matches and wonder why the partners are there. In this case Taguchi trying to attack Aoki’s leg wasn’t bad, but utterly paled in comparison to the animosity between Go and Tanahashi. From their opening exchanges and how Tanahashi reeled with the chops, to their mid-match flurry of minimalist counters, to their brutal final exchanges, in one outing they established what could have been the feud for the year. Given that this was a glorified commercial for the Go/Tanahashi singles match at the PPV, that was a good idea. To Tanahashi’s credit he built a couple of moments in for Aoki to attack his arm that actually made him seem like a star, but otherwise the match was all about two guys who could carry their respective companies battling for brand glory. Their partners seemed more like official seconds than most Heavyweight/Junior tags, not in the traditional fashion of getting kicked around by the heavier guys, but playing supportive roles under their own heavies. Even the ending was only made possible by Taguchi sneaking up behind Aoki and setting up the Frog Splash.

59. Davey Richards Vs. Roderick Strong (April 24) – ROH: Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies 2
There hasn’t been a better instant when the bell rang in an ROH draw in years than when Richards threw a knockout kick at Strong’s face, leaned in preparing to drop for a cover only to hear the bell go off behind him. If this match is on the lower side of the Strong/Richards matches, it’s only because these two men bring out such intensity from each other. It’s the best of the Pearce Era time limit draws, for where Strong and Black always have fun throwing each other around in the clinch, Strong and Richards went at it from the beginning, stretching each other in trying holds. In retrospect a the TKO-count tease and count-out tease should feel like padding in a time limit draw, but the men went at it so furiously that when they were incapacitated it was earned and the crowd reflected it.

58. YAMATO, Shingo Takagi & KAGETORA Vs. Masato Yoshino, Naruki Doi & PAC (taped May 28) – Dragon Gate Infinity 177
Like the Haagen-Dasz Five of trios tags – just the elements you want, none of the garbage, and a small container. Randall Nichols of http://mojo-wire-productions.blogspot.com/ joked to me that Doi selling for KAGETORA like this was like Cena selling for Miz – the deserving newcomer getting over at the expense of the eternal face. Shingo did similar work for PAC, particularly in their late exchange where his power counters were re-countered and he wound up wiped out on the floor. PAC and KAGETORA both deserved this sort of treatment, moving briskly and showing just as much polish as the four more established men. That was no small feat, given Speed Muscle’s crispness and YAMATO’s charisma. Seeding in Yoshino chasing the champ and knocking him off to set up a future title match sealed it off as one of the best trios tags of the year.

57. Bryan Danielson Vs. Kaval (February 7) – Florida Championship Wrestling TV
They’re the sort of wrestlers who deserve half an hour, but their most impressive match might be this ten-minute one. They approached each other with such seriousness, Danielson studying Kaval for openings. Kaval responded to the attacks with tangible pain, his facial expressions having come along drastically in the last few years. Another change from recent years was how light on striking they went, trading the old big exchanges for fewer blows that were highly brutal, punctuating their holds. Danielson exploring how much he could torque and abuse Kaval’s arms translated his indy technician character sharply into a WWE developmental match, keeping the holds novel while working them just fast enough that he could carry this against any major player above. Throughout it remained so tight, so on focus, even when the two were reeling in pain, that it was as good as any half-hour story told in the ring this year. I joked afterwards that it would be nice if these two were the future of WWE. At the end of the year, both were on WWE TV. Maybe we’ll get lucky and this aggressive technical style will flourish.

56. Naomichi Marufuji Vs. Prince Devitt (June 19) – NJPW: Dominion
You knew this was Marufuji’s farewell. Who else was going to challenge him? KUSHIDA? Taguchi for a second time? AKIRA, when Kanemoto failed? Ibushi, who was injured and lost the BOSJ? If Devitt went down for the third time, even New Japan’s loving audience would have to discount him. He had to win, and luckily for New Japan, the crowd wanted him to. They started things off playing up the obvious title change, setting Devitt as a dynamo who now could out-maneuver Marufuji on the mat and in Irish Whip counters. After his big dive, he had it in the bag. And then Marufuji kicked him off the apron. Sneakiness had sort of been there in their second match, with Marufuji continually having to plan several steps ahead. This time he looked for traditional lulls, like Devitt’s showboating after his death defying dive. It was a challenger-like approach to a match he was destined to lose, and rather than hurting things, felt like it belonged. It belonged even more with leg-based offense that echoed the torture Kanemoto had put Marufuji through in that defense. While this slowed the match dangerously close to the Marufuji/Kondo zone from 2008, Marufuji kept returning to the leg in clever ways to keep the match alive until they’d built up Devitt’s explosive responses.

55. Kurt Angle Vs. D’Angelo Dinero (July 11) – TNA: Victory Road
A spartan match to follow up the fireworks of Guns/Beer Money, but Angle and the Pope were rock solid. It went methodically because Pope kept catching Angle, preparing basic offense and counters like his Hip Tosses or the mid-match Suplexes. Also a little uncharacteristic for Angle, but he treated Pope as the superior striker. Angle tends to act like a total superman and will usually out-punch people. In this match they barely struck at all, but when Pope (who has a legitimate boxing background) punched, Angle was stunned. What might have been dull pacing in other matches helped the story of a difficult opponent for the veteran, and because it was a big Angle match, built up to some big payoffs like the Top Turnbuckle Throw and Angle Slam false finish. If TNA were more competently run, this would have elevated Pope. As it was, they still managed to wrestle his best singles match to date, control the crowd after the tag title match had shown them everything, and not burn the crowd out for the main event (while still being better than that main event). What they did in their spot on the show is noteworthy on its own.

54. Daniel Bryan Vs. The Miz Vs. John Morrison (October 3) – Triple Threat Submissions Count Anywhere Match from WWE: Hell in a Cell
Everybody was so ready for it to be terrible based on the convoluted stipulation that even after it was the best match on the show, they complained about it. Yes, it had a bad one-week build and the stipulation was weird. But that’s where proper criticism ends. The bell rang and all three men delivered. They started in the ring and built to roaming, with interesting spots set up including Miz’s Dragon Clutch in the handrail and the sequence with the equipment case next to the entrance. Most of the sequences were exceptionally paced and set up, like when Bryan and Miz struggled over Leg Scissors and Heel Hooks, kicking at each other and accidentally flailing into position for Morrison’s Starship Pain. Morrison impressed for his submission attempts, relying on the athletically impressive like the Tarantula and a Single-Leg Haas of Pain that looked slick and that he synched in at high angles. Naturally when they moved outside submission attempts slowed down as they were out of their environment and trying more to injure each other. I can nod at the complaint of Morrison going for the giant dive so soon after the Skullcrushing Finale on the floor, but the wrestlers were so engaged, and he looked unsteady enough (for him) that it hardly hurt the match. Instead it was arguably the best wild-style match WWE had all year.

53. Chris Jericho Vs. Edge (March 28) – WWE: Wrestlemania 26
The build made us expect a very simple match with a big Spear and the returning good guy getting his revenge. Instead these guys got a lot of time and used the Spear as a gateway to a bigger story. Jericho avoided Edge’s big offense and found an opening with Edge’s leg. He picked it apart so well that the Single Leg Boston Crab actually seemed like a legitimate submission hold, where generally it’s just been a supportive hold for years no matter who turned it into a finisher. They put enough action into the match with big counters like the Codebreaker response to a later Spear attempt, while making Jericho a legitimately vicious aggressor.

52. Rey Mysterio Vs. Jack Swagger (July 18) – WWE: Money in the Bank
Mysterio is the optimal opponent for many types of wrestlers, and Swagger hits most of the vectors: big, strong, athletic and with an amateur background. Mysterio had previously shown how to get the most out of such opponents against Angle, Lesnar and Benjamin. They furthered the Swagger/Angle comparisons by sampling even more of Angle’s offense, like the charge up the turnbuckles into a throw. To Swagger’s credit he pulled off nearly everything well, and when something went wrong like the Pop-Up Powerslam, it still looked brutal. He abused Mysterio both with power game and technique, going after the injured leg early but realizing he’d need a varied game when the attack didn’t succeed at the outset. Naturally Mysterio bumped like a madman, though Swagger also took Mysterio’s comebacks smoothly. All the legwork built up brilliantly in just ten minutes for Mysterio to borrow his old friend’s loose boot trick and survive the title defense. While Mysterio is out of Eddie Guerrero’s shadow, it was a great reference and the best possible response to the ankle injury storyline. It was only a shame, then, that they squashed his reign moments later with Kane’s run-in.

51. Christopher Daniels Vs. Tyler Black (September 10) – ROH: Fade to Black
I bow to every complaint about this. A half hour time limit in the main event of an ROH show is weird, and when it leaves the total DVD with a runtime of two hours it’s weirder, and when the story of the match was Black investing more and more into wanting to defeat this guy, ending with him walking out instead of giving “five more minutes” is cheap. But I try to give a fair viewing to the wrestlers within their match. They did not decide that there would be a half-hour or a non-finish, and the match they fought within that timeframe was excellent. Daniels had the fire of a twenty-year-old, buzzing through Black with slick offense and complicated pin attempts, almost scaring him to the back. When Black tried to bail and berated the audience, Daniels snuck behind the curtain and blindsided him mid-escape. And as Daniels poured more and more into the match, Black got rightly angry. He’d already wrestled this guy to one draw, and now he’d leave without being one-upped? So he went from some of his best petty antics, like the John Cena references, to burning through all his high-caliber offense and dropping Daniels to the floor multiple times to keep this guy down. At one point he would settle for a countout, but by the end he was hunting for a pin. “Five more minutes” would have made a much more suitable ending, even if Strong arrived to ruin the overtime. In terms of draws, I grasp the complaints. But the match wrestled stands. Both guys were so “on” for those thirty minutes that you shouldn’t dismiss it.

50. Chris Hero Vs. El Generico (March 20) – ROH: Epic Encounter 3
Physically, Hero should win this match one hundred times out of a hundred. He’s taller, heavier, stronger, and maybe as fast as Generico. With confidence in his knockout power and after scouting all of Generico’s key offense (clued to by catching him in a Moonsault, interrupting the Yakuza Kick and counting the Brainbuster), he came into the match expecting it to be easy. If Hero weren’t so charismatic, and Generico weren’t such a superb whipping boy, it would have been boring. He bullied Generico from the start, then struggled to keep him down, gradually losing his cool. After the near-countout, Hero stomped on his back and yelled for him to “Stay down! Stay down!” They never flinched from their characters and built in the spottier-but-still-Steamboat-like comebacks that have helped Generico remain so relevant, including an amazing series of escapes and counters on the outside that led to Generico getting tossed into the barricade. The traditional story wasn’t as exciting as McGuinness/Black I from 2008, but built up to a comparable series of exciting kickouts. It was the sort of story that Generico should have won, but given what they were booked to do, it was a great match.

49. Claudio Castagnoli, ARE$ & Tursas Vs. Mike Quackenbush, Hallowicked & Frightmare (March 21) – Chikara Pro: Dead Men Don’t Laugh
This BDK trio may be the best bully squad in Chikara history. With Castagnoli’s slick timing and athletic offense (and Tursas’s ridiculous juggernaut act) even their domination periods were varied and entertaining. To their credit, Team Frightning had two great whipping boys. Quackenbush played Senior Whipping Boy, getting more counters and keeping the non-Tursas opponents on their toes, while Frightmare took a hellacious beating and sold it for some of the best sympathy this side of Jigsaw. The beatings on Frightmare seeded his brave comeback and the even more brutal conclusion. At its slowest, Castagnoli covered with character and the good guys worked their frustration, rather than just sitting in holds like most of the good guys in most of the matches that same night. At its best it worked at a solid clip with a variety of styles, from power strikes to Frightmare and Hallowicked’s great tandem offense.

48. KENTA Vs. Atsushi Aoki (August 22) – Pro Wrestling NOAH: New Navigation in Tokyo
You expected KENTA to kick him around, or perhaps wrestle an even match. Instead, it was barely like a standard KENTA singles, with both being unyielding in early grappling, slapping and striking away at each other with no semblance of when a sprint or purely dominant period would pop up. When it was time for him to bring it, Aoki’s execution was as on as it has ever been, in snapping off a Back Suplex, reeling his neck to deliver wide-wangle headbutts, or simply stomping on KENTA with a furvor he’s almost never showed. You watched KENTA do his corner-to-corner charging boot, then watched Aoki sprint to reciprocate and Aoki looked even faster and more intense. We’ve seen people Hurricanrana out of the Go 2 Sleep, but Aoki’s Jujigatame reversal was even slicker. Not only was it a career-building story, but a career-building performance.

47. Takashi Sugiura & KENTA Vs. Takeshi Morishima & Go Shiozaki (August 4) – 2/3 Falls Match from Pro Wrestling NOAH: 10 Years After
The two-falls system allowed them to do something a lot of puro matches beg for, getting an actual fall off of the opening blitz. Morishima was the best suited of anyone in NOAH to roll the champion from the bell, and the two sold it like a serious battle for advantage. Afterwards you had Sugiura and KENTA as the super-babyface team having to fight from behind. While they built their story of abusing the champ, KENTA was possibly the best possible partner, serving primarily in a series of hot tags. KENTA loves to tag in and sprint against people, especially heavyweights he can kick, though he took as much as he gave when Morishima caught him during the second fall and later in exchanges with Go. When Sugiura fought back they built quality exchanges against both Go and Moroshima, though the animosity was stronger against Morishima in moments like their tussle on the outside. The second fall was heroic and decisive, setting the stage for Sugiura and Morishima to circle each other one more time at the bell – the kind of character work that would make a heck of a GHC title defense. Once KENTA had worn him down, it was a sick pleasure to watch Morishima thrown around by Sugiura, including the German Suplex into the turnbuckles. If Morishima isn’t to play the juggernaut, then that curiously vulnerable but resilient bigman is the best role for him, something that worked so well in his ROH run – capable of turning a second German Suplex into a Senton in mid-air. That third fall wasn’t a classic, but Morishima flying for Sugiura kept things special.

46. Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley Vs. James Storm & Robert Roode (July 11) – TNA: Victory Road
You knew this was going to breakdown like a Tornado Match. The teams earned it, though, with punches on the apron and legal but degrading tandem offense like the snap onto Roode’s arm. They were smooth in one-on-one sections, with Roode staying ring aware and the slowest points still keeping essential motion to make this feel like a struggle. When it boiled over into mayhem, the Guns turned motion into momentum for a series of creative counters and offensive flurries worthy of the two teams’ previous big tag match (which also made the Riren 100). The Catapult/Chinblower combo by Beer Money and the Skull and Bones by the Guns were both grand false finishes. While you can complain about the sixty-second restart match, it essentially played out the veracity of the Guns’ big finisher in minutes instead of months like it would have in the old days. Seeing the Guns finally take gold was a moment all its own.

45. Davey Richards Vs. Tyler Black (August 28) – ROH: Tag Wars 2010
I like Eddie Edwards a lot, but watching his match with Black at Champions’ Challenge back-to-back with this showed why Richards is a more effective wrestler. Especially in the first fifteen minutes, Richards was always aggressive, always seeking for or cinching in holds and strikes to take Black apart. His facial expressions and body language were predatory. When he got a hold like the Trailer Hitch, he looked to lean up or arch his back to add pressure. And when Black caught him with something, he was always stunned, or reeling, or helpless in pain, making every moment when he wasn’t on attack sensible. It’s a basic approach that, when I see it, I can’t imagine why most wrestlers don’t do it. This is how wrestling can work even without dangerous topes and headdrops. Black had to fire up out of his more cowardly character with stuff like the Machinegun Chops setup for his Ong Jack Stomp to hold in there against him. The mid- and late-match portions were marked by all the moves Richards has built as potential finishers. The Kawada and Executioner Kick combo, DR Driver, the Texas Cloverleaf and Ankle Lock have all won him matches. While it would be nice for him to have one world-beating move, his routine hasn’t gotten stale for virtue of burning through so many finishers. Instead he makes them all seem at a certain level, any of them could win a match, but they’re so varied that he can believably remix their applications for drama. The best usages appeared here, like capturing Black’s Pele Kick with another Ankle Lock. Like their Death Before Dishonor 8 match, it took an amazing sustained wave of offense to keep one of them down, but this time it was Richards who managed to unload it, having prepared so many more dangerous weapons than he’d had previously. Their TV match simply couldn’t stand up to this par.

44. Mike Quackenbush, Jigsaw & Hallowicked Vs. Masato Yoshino, Naruki Doi & BxB Hulk (July 25) – Chikara Pro: Chikarasaurus Rex
Hulk always brings his A-game to America. It can be said for most of the Dragon Gate guys, who always seemed to try harder in PWG than in their own company, but Hulk is even slicker at execution here, and his motivation may be part of why (or come from why) he was made DGUSA’s first champ. Everybody looked forward to Quackenbush and Yoshino having exchanges, but Hulk was just as nimble against the Chikara founder, as well as crisp in derailing Jigsaw with things like his legsweep combo. His normal offense didn’t seem as canned, even though he wasn’t innovating. He plugged himself in like a star. That was excellent alongside Quack, Doi and Yoshino acting like the stars they definitely are, forcing Jigsaw and Hallowicked to step up. Hallowicked seemed particularly excited to trade with the big Dragon Gate guys, bumping around and slamming his offense as smoothly as ever. The match had little tangible slowness; when they paced downward, guys like Quackenbush worked holds or Doi overpowered someone. And when they exploded, it was sprint glory.

43. Shawn Michaels Vs. Rey Mysterio (aired January 29) – WWE: Smackdown
Maybe the only time Mysterio has played the heelish aggressor in his entire U.S. career. He wasn’t a heel – he was the antagonist, though. He picked at Michaels and got some legit heat on him, which might have been impossible for Mysterio against anyone but Michaels. Mysterio is so small, so explosive and fun to watch, that he simply can’t be a bad guy. Michaels was just close enough in size and good enough at performing to get sympathy, in what was still an even contest. Brilliant match, outstripping their encounter at the Eddie Guerrero Tribute Raw. The ending might have been even better than the amazing Benjamin Superkick finish. It was certainly as sharp, and one of the best endings from WWE all year.

42. Davey Richards Vs. Masaaki Mochizuki (taped January 23) – Dragon Gate USA: Fearless
If you like kicks, this is the match for you. They wanted to build a match with big potential submission holds, primarily leg holds like the Ankle Lock from Mochizuki, and primarily arm holds like the Kimura from Richards. Being a prime match, they didn’t go straight to it but had to fill time and mount intensity. So they kicked the crap out of each other. The sheer brutality of the kicks was mesmerizing, and upon secondary viewing it’s particularly interesting how they made certainly blow (Roundhouses and kicks to the head) different from ones meant to weaken (wild kicks and those aimed at the chest). Mochizuki and Richards have a lot of experience in timing, and paced out the strike battle well, while seeding a vulnerability in one of Richards’s legs and in one of Mochizuki’s arms. That allowed them to switch back into submission-mode whenever there was an opening. Richards was particularly smart in how he went for the Kimura, out of kickouts and even when Mochizuki bridged imperfectly after a German Suplex. They played off the ludicrous toughness Richards established in earlier DGUSA matches with Shingo Takagi and YAMATO, with the debuting Mochizuki getting established as a threat by standing up to him.

41. Takashi Sugiura Vs. Takeshi Morishima (December 5) – Pro Wrestling NOAH: Joe Higuchi Memorial Show
One of my favorite match-openings of the year, Morishima shrugging off the champ’s shot, Lariating him for a two-count and scaring him so badly with a tease of his finisher that Sugiura bailed from the ring entirely. Morishima returned from injury in the best shape since his NO FEAR days, but with all of the explosiveness that marked his best performances from 2008-on. Clubbing at Sugiura’s head, pulling knock-out Lariats from nowhere, and his willingness to both take big spills and big dives would have made this dramatic against a blow-up doll. With Sugiura’s guts, surviving the onslaught and his own botched Hurricanranas to try and suplex the giant into submission, you had something that harkened back to their great 2008 match. Sugiura cribbed the best bits of his title reign, like the hammering shots in the corner he used on Go, and the Takayama-like Kneestrike blitzes. I’ve read criticism weighing the botches against the match. However, these particular ones helped it. Sugiura was a stocky, exhausted guy trying athletic Hurricanranas against an opponent almost twice his mass. The two spills on his head were hideous, but wound up underscoring his outrageous toughness. Whenever Morishima proved to be equally tough, like standing straight up after the first Olympic Slam, it felt like a clash of the titans.

40. John Morrison Vs. Sheamus (December 19) – Ladder Match from WWE: TLC
I’ve never seen a Ladder Match quite like this. Sheamus focused on the leg, using hardcore offense to hinder Morrison, and it had longterm consequences. People have seeded injuries into the stories of Ladder Matches before, but that was the story here. Morrison took some of the scariest leg attacks, especially when Sheamus would drive his knee into the mat with the ladder on top of it. He couldn’t submit and was in no danger of being pinned, so all this normally match-ending violence continuing made sense: Sheamus was doing it to stop Morrison from pursuing him. Then Morrison kept coming back with novel attacks, like using full-body torque to kick or just grabbing Sheamus’s ankles on the ladder. Obviously Morrison took most of the risks, to his legs and to his back in several of the other big spills, and he sold it all, limping on offense and generally showing huge struggle in every camera shot on his face. Sheamus took one huge fall, one that I and everybody I watched with expected Morrison to take, and to his credit he didn’t even have the tape showing him where the ladder would break like Edge did years back for the precursor to this spot. It could have ended right then, and continuing to go gave the match that last level of drama. You had to worry for Morrison against what Jerry Lawler appropriately screamed was “the Terminator.” Sheamus coming back after all over Morrison’s comebacks and eventually successful offense made him seem tougher than anything he’d done against legit main-eventers. The match made them both into top-shelf guys. Whether or not WWE uses them like that, we’ll have to wait to 2011 to see.

39. Shingo Takagi Vs. Dragon Kid (aired November 12) – Dragon Gate USA: Untouchable 2010
Shingo is not actually that large. He’s under six feet tall. But in the land of Dragon Gate, he is arguably the best power wrestler in the world. Here he got to play the immovable object even more than usual, shrugging off Dragon Kid’s strikes with a smile and sending the smaller man flying. He put on some of the most impressive offense of his career, like the Spinning Cobra Clutch and countering the 619 with the slam on the apron. In the grounded segments Shingo drilled his best-looking strikes, including some brutal knees that were paced just enough to remain interesting while still making Dragon Kid’s speed (when he broke out) impressive. Of course Dragon Kid was at his sharpest too, getting height on nearly ever move and throwing in counters at his most desperately. For a title contender, he looked vulnerable, in need of a miracle against this brickhouse of a bully, folding up like an achordian for a Lariat. So you got Shingo shrugging off a Chinbreaker and going straight into the Full Nelson Slam, able to convince that he was that tough with a simple roar. Both of them took picture-perfect falls for nearly everything, making crisp delivery look even better. They were so innovative while being so into the characters of the simple dynamic that it became infinitely watchable.

38. Chris Jericho Vs. Edge (April 25) – Cage Match from WWE: Extreme Rules
There was a moment near the end when Edge was taunting Jericho, allowing him to approach the door. Edge then cut him off and began punching at the man’s face. Jericho couldn’t move enough to avoid the punches. He could move just enough, though, to stick his leg out the cage door. In some part of his mannerisms, you could see the plan to somehow escape out the door once he interrupted Edge. Edge saw it and slammed the door on Jericho’s ankle. It was the same body part Jericho attacked on Edge week after week, but even if it wasn’t, this would have been a great moment. It showed so much character in a way that wasn’t forced. I’d be tempted to put this match for that alone. Lucky for me, the whole thing was a fantastic blow-off.

37. Masato Yoshino & Naruki Doi Vs. Genki Horiguchi & Ryo Saito (taped August 24) – Dragon Gate Infinity 188
Doi somehow managed to both wrestle in and bask in this match. Watch it and you know that’s a feat, as the other three men get obliterated. But Doi finds the time to pace for a few seconds and grin at the amazing stuff that is colliding all around him. It was not the match Speed Muscle expected. Horiguchi & Saito were the B-Team for Warriors, and while they worked exceptionally hard in the second half of 2010, they weren’t on the level of CIMA & Gamma or Speed Muscle. And then, they were. Even if you doubted them before the finals of the Summer Tag League, watching Horiguchi go step-for-step with Yoshino was breathtaking, and Saito nearly getting the better of Doi in strike exchanges was mindboggling. This was at that stage where Speed Muscle was good, but drifting apart, appearing more like Speed & Muscle, wrestling two halves of a match, while Horiguchi & Saito generally backed each other up or bailed each other out. So Saito baited the opponents so Horiguchi could make a dive, or more helpful to their establishment as a top team, Speed Muscle would have to blitz both of them even when they just wanted to focus on one. The brightest moment was Doi stealing Horiguchi’s Backslide from Hell.

36. CIMA, Gamma & Genki Horiguchi Vs. Naruki Doi, PAC & Naoki Tanisaki (taped July 20) – aired on Dragon Gate Infinity 180
Tanisaki looked more like he belonged in a big match than ever before in his career, cutting people off with heavy knee strikes and spinning out of pin attempts. Any silliness of “tights on the head” trick was overcome by his final stretch against Horiguchi, equally earning the cheap move and getting things so hot that it didn’t matter. CIMA and Doi didn’t slow down at all, keeping a high standard and letting the younger lion earn his spot. Tanisaki’s best opponent on the night was Horiguchi, in the middle of his babyface renaissance, for several noteworthy exchanges including all the pin attempts that led to the close. Everyone kept their participation smart, getting out of the ring long enough to keep their wind, and using big spots as general breathers, like Gamma’s big cane shot to one poor soul’s crotch.

35. Tyler Black Vs. Chris Hero (April 24) – ROH: Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies 2
After all the complaining about Tyler Black as champion, this was the sort of defense that would make critics sad to hear he signed with WWE. Hero stepped up as a challenger with a rare combined strength, weight and height advantage, at points even rivaling Black on agility. One of the best moments saw Black fumble an attempted Powerbomb on the guardrails – or did he? For seconds later Hero reversed and they entered an intricate sequence of two failed Moonsault attempts. Was it planned or improvised? Either would fly in the face of Black’s haters. They had several ingenious sequences, like the Buckle Bomb/Back Suplex/Rolling Elbow/Superkick combination that easily could have ended things and warranted a re-match. Where many fans likely expected to watch Hero bounce Black’s head around the ring as he did to Lynn in 2009, instead they built a very even story toughness and agility, both men trying out both traits. Hero mouthing off at the champion, both about his credentials and supposedly better men, got into Black’s head enough to add a great personal touch, and Black screaming back at him before the dive made it one of the best moments of the bout. Similarly Black gave Hero not so much dominance, but sympathy in struggling and shrinking in things like the Cradle Cravate, which his seldom looked so painful.

34. YAMATO Vs. Masaaki Mochizuki (taped May 13) – Dragon Gate Infinity 177
Mochizuki can lag in some big matches, but he came swinging from the bell, going after YAMATO’s arm with serious holds. When that technical approach devolved into the two trying to gut out Leg Scissors and Ankle Locks, YAMATO rose right up to Mochizuki’s level. YAMATO has his own levels, though, and showed great character in moments like the attempted Figure Four count-out and their later strike battles. He has ability, but is also a jackass. That persona lets him hide match plotting, so you don’t expect how he struggled for a perfect Galleria, or how well Mochizuki kicking out of one will go over. They culminated in blows to the head and big head drops, the emphasis to the area making attempted Sleepers by both men seem more plausible closes.

33. Kensuke Sasaki Vs. Go Shiozaki (July 27) – Pro Wrestling NOAH: New Navigation in Osaka
This had the sense of struggle Go/Tanahashi lacked. With Sasaki roaring and wrestling to part Go’s hands from a simple Chinlock, you had the brute meeting his next generation foil. In addition to strength and striking ability, though, Go brought his thinking game again, something missing from several of his 2010 singles matches. You could tell he was planning in the first half when he sampled Tanahashi’s Frog Splash onto the leg (something Tanahashi had used to soften him up earlier that month) and eyeing Sasaki for errant chops to catch and counter. Eventually his ability to out-think or rise up to Sasaki’s physical challenges got to the veteran, and Sasaki tossed him in the corner for the first of the Kobashi-style Machine Gun Chops. While not terribly cerebral, Sasaki’s responses like hammering on the back of Go’s head on the mat, or Lariating his arm nearly out of the socket, or his stalwart position in the late-match chop battles were some of the fiercest all year. The two were so uncooperative that when they botched the top turnbuckle move, it didn’t hurt the match – it fit in. When Sasaki finally felled him with three Lariats and the Northern Lights Bomb, you’d seen Go’s most sympathetic and hard-fought singles effort since his career-maker against Kobashi years ago. Complaints against the match for being too much like the 2005 Kobashi/Sasaki missed the key points – both the point of the first half of the match, and how much Go was proving while his mentor looked on from the commentary table.

32. Undertaker Vs. Chris Jericho Vs. John Morrison Vs. Ron Killings Vs. CM Punk Vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. (February 21) – Elimination Chamber Match from WWE: Elimination Chamber
It seems like every year there’s a certain Elimination Chamber match. It happens so early in the year that nobody remembers it (guaranteed to continue now that there’s an actual PPV dedicated to them that time of year). Yet when you see the line-up, you concede that yes, it was probably great. Look at this one: Jericho, Punk, Mysterio and Morrison in a cage with plenty of things to jump off of? They saved Undertaker for most of the match, letting healthier guys structure the story. Punk was golden in the opening segment, eliminating a guy and lecturing the crowd. Jericho playing predatory opportunist always works in these scenarios, and Morrison got a pleasantly surprising amount of offense until he was destroyed in the very end. The Michaels run-in was expected and a little pat (shouldn’t those floor sections be secured?), but everything clicked together for this year’s best WWE cage outing.

31. Davey Richards Vs. Kota Ibushi (January 16) – Evolve 1
Their 2007 match in ROH was sterile. They were crisp and choreographed to the point of losing the spirit of a fight, even in a sprint fight. It was nonetheless very fun to watch the guys bust through so much offense with flawless execution, but now in 2010 they were able to bring that same flawlessness to a match with a sense of gravity. You would not have seen this ending in the 2007 ROH match – Richards unable to get the submission, rolling out of the Kimura to hammer on the back of Ibushi’s head until there was no fight left in him. In a way it was ugly, but it was also genuine in a necessary way. It looked all the more impressive because both men are so fluid that they rolled into and out of the hammer blows in a way that looked too slick to escape, making flawless execution enhance their moments. The aesthetic excellence of Ibushi’s opening match Springboard Dropkick and Richards’s big kicks wound up feeding into a structure: Richards dominating the thinner man until Ibushi would psych up for his usually (and best) role as the resilient underdog, established by high-caliber offense appearing early on to give the match more atmosphere while tiring both men out enough for them to wrestle evenly towards the end. The only complaint I can lodge is that neither man wound up coming back to Evolve after doing the company the discourtesy of laying out its best match.

30. CIMA Vs. YAMATO (aired January 20) – Dragon Gate Infinity 163
I watched this with my college friend Randall Nichols (http://themojowire.blogspot.com ), and we both complained that we were pretty much done with crowd brawling. Dragon Gate crowd brawling is particularly uninspired, going to places and doing things just to pad out the length of the match. Yet the crowd brawling wasn’t too long and couldn’t take away from the growing intensity of the match. They had sharp exchanges early on, slowing down as YAMATO tried to put CIMA to sleep, the tactic that got him a big upset victory in 2008. CIMA had several cool counters prepared that knocked the wind out of the younger wrestler, but still had to psych himself up to get into any significant exchanges (or luck into them, like the Galleria reversal). YAMATO preparing the Guillotine Choke counters to how CIMA lifts people for the Schwein was inspired, and his general dozen ways to get into a choke or sleeper worked superbly for flowing around CIMA’s power offense. With YAMATO outlasting or evading so much of CIMA’s big offense, they set him up as a great challenger for Doi, and ultimately outperformed the eventual title match.

29. Yuji Nagata & Koji Kanemoto Vs. Go Shiozaki & Atsushi Aoki (November 10) – NJPW: Destruction 2010
When Kanemoto opened by slapping and abusing Aoki, with Aoki only teasing blocking some of his holds and standing up for himself, they set a certain bar for how this match was going to go. A puro fan should logically have expected it to build and explode late, like the KENTA/Kawada tag last year. But then they tagged in Nagata and Go. Nagata came in full of vigor, glowering at the NOAH contingent and wailing on either man who was foolish to come at him. He was the captain of New Japan again, not even seeming to enjoy laying into Go. It was simply his duty to kick him in half. Aoki had to jump on Nagata’s back, and as angry as Kanemoto was at being disrespected, he similarly could only hinder Go. Go and Nagata were there for a war, not a battle. NOAH teams have fought outsiders (or like this, have played outsiders) in matches in which one of them has magic against one opponent. What brought this up was Aoki and Kanemoto being so competent, still aggressive and trying to throw each other down – only getting overshadowed by the big gun in Go and the legendary gun in Nagata. It was Kanemoto who got to grin and bask in the abuse when his team was winning, but his cockiness wasn’t allowed to go unchecked like it did when he and Tiger Mask 4 won the tag titles. Trying to kick and slap Go out of a submission hold only invited a beating. In this way, Go seemed more like a main event ace for his company than he has in most of his big singles matches there or abroad.

28. CIMA, Gamma & Dragon Kid Vs. Naruki Doi, Masato Yoshino & BxB Hulk (taped March 27) – Dragon Gate USA: Mercury Rising
Perhaps there’s something wrong with me, but I have never enjoyed the American Dragon Gate trios tags as much as the general wrestling public. Maybe it’s that I watch regular Dragon Gate and get to see them do this stuff more often, including those rare times when it’s vastly superior. This year the trios tag on Infinity 167 was certainly smoother and higher in energy than its American counterpart. At the same time, they seem to try their hardest in America, as though there’s more to prove here. Gamma had the most to prove and played to the rowdier American crowd like a Dudley Boy; his big cane shot drove them wild. Doi & Yoshino complimented each other in classic fashion, at some points following up each other’s offense in ways we don’t see regularly in Dragon Gate anymore, like Yoshino flying in with a twisting cover after the Bakutare Sliding Kick. Hulk shone as a victim, not merely a whipping boy but getting setup for cut-offs and the sickest offense of the match (like a pair of Reverse Hurricanranas). While it is not necessarily the best trios tag of the year, it’s well worth going out of your way to see.

27. Davey Richards Vs. Roderick Strong (April 10) – PWG: Titannica
One of the most aggressive matches of the year. It wasn’t pure Strong Style, Kings Road or whatever – it was simply as aggressive an approach as the two guys could take. Strong would shove Richards as though to setup a pop-up or Back Body Drop, and Richards would rebound immediately grabbing a Guillotine. Strong would kick to the outside, Richards would catch it and spin him, Strong would resist and Richards would desperately drag him into a raw-looking DDT on the floor. Plenty of indy matches feature great counters, but these were all done in a brute minimalism, neither man wanting to give anything to his opponent. In that vein they were also highly prone to going from strikes into strong grounded holds (including the actual Strong Hold), forcing the other man to climb to the ropes and over. The Headscissors, Boston Crabs and Texas Cloverleaves were about exhausting someone more than making him tap out. That naturally was shrugged off in the adrenaline of the final minutes, though they kept reminding us of the toll by nearly passing out after pin attempts. That made the finishing stretch slower than usual for a Strong match, but with all the resistance and battering, it made more sense than nearly any slower paced ending he’s had, and they earned so much crowd excitement that it worked as well as most of his rapid-nearfall sequences. Had this aired at Final Battle, you’d have even more people heralding Strong Vs. Richards as Match of the Year. But this, on a smaller stage, exceeded it with flawless execution.

26. Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi Vs. Dick Togo & Gedo (April 20) – NJPW: New Japan Brave
It was a little slower than it might have been in DDT, but better for it. They soaked in the bigger NJPW audience, allowing them to stay with the pace throughout the beginning while still studding the action with eye-popping offense like the Double Moonsaults or Tandem Arm Flip. It was even slower when Togo and Gedo led things, but they used smart tactics, their despicable charisma, and weren’t purely boring, throwing in abusing exchanges like the Basement Superkick or Togo’s taunting slap battle. Throughout the abuse period, scrawny Ibushi was thrashed by the veteran bullies, a role he’s much better at than playing the tough top dog on the indies. They still pulled their best shtick from the indies, like Omega’s beautiful Tope, but Togo and Gedo set it up by beating on Ibushi on the outside, giving them a much better reason for being in place when Omega fell than you’d usually see. When it was their turn, Togo and Gedo ate offense and took everything, even Omega’s preposterous Double-Victim Hurricanrana and Hadoken, as well as any team in the world has ever done. They complimented each other from setups to timing and execution beautifully.

25. Davey Richards Vs. El Generico (February 13) – ROH: 8th Anniversary Show
It’s funny to praise the little things in a match where people risk death doing dives. Still, some of the highlights were Richards countering Generico’s Turnbuckle Armdrag into a Fujiwara Armbar, and Generico kicking Richards’s face before he could kiss his feet. In the latter case, it exemplified how they cut out unnecessary or annoying material from other matches. In the former case, though, they exemplified how the guys knew each other and were on the lookout. The former was also one of Richards’s many vicious attacks on the arm that made the ending work so well. In MMA the Jujigatame ends fights all the time; in wrestling, not so much. Savaging Generico’s arm with spots like that or dropping his shoulder on the apron helped get the crowd into the idea of arm submissions outside of his existing Kimura. Being a big Richards match, it also featured amazing gutsy spots and big throws, but these were mostly framed to be more meaningful, like the guys struggling to avoid receiving top-rope moves near the end, leading to the sick modification of Richards’s Super German Suplex. Because it was Generico, the timing on all those counters and series of offense was almost peerless, like when he set up and ran to execute the Springboard Van Terminator. Because it was Richards, it usually looked like murder, like that Super German. This was their best outing yet.

24. Jun Akiyama Vs. Kensuke Sasaki (April 10) – Pro Wrestling NOAH: Spring Navigation at the Tokyo Korakuen Hall
With such a storied history and so many veterans slowing down or disappearing, I guess Akiyama and Sasaki decided to prove why they belonged in this match. It wasn’t match of the year, but definitely the match of the Global League until the final day. They worked at a brisker pace than was scene against nearly any other opponents and worked holds in ways I wish more people their age would. Minus some of the stiffness, this style would fit fine in the WWE main event scene, with Sasaki trying various ways to strike out of a Leglock early on, or Akiyama collapsing for a nearfall in Sasaki’s Armlock late in the match. They even had that back and forth pacing that the likes of HHH fetishize, but their facial expressions and physical struggling kept the holds appearing dangerous, getting the crowd buzzing for when one of them would bust out a rarer move like Akiyama’s diving attack off the top rope.

23. Jun Akiyama & KENTA Vs. Yuji Nagata & Ryusuke Taguchi (July 27) – Pro Wrestling NOAH: New Navigation in Osaka
Up to that point it was the most heated of the NOAH/NJPW matches on NOAH soil, with Nagata playing the 2010 answer to 2009’s Kawada for KENTA. Nagata and KENTA didn’t rip into each other because they never gave each other the chance to do it. They had such physical animosity that half the time they wouldn’t even try what they wanted to do, and when KENTA threw an angry kick, Nagata refused it and nearly dragged him into a Back Suplex. KENTA’s lax and disrespectful kicks to save Akiyama late in the match only instigated more hatred against Nagata. Nagata was similarly vicious against Akiyama, picking at him and relishing when he was finally weakened enough to abuse. On offense or in neutral, Akiyama played a similar curmudgeon to Taguchi, refusing to go down or stay down for his holds and tossing him around mercilessly in the final stretch. The unyielding attitude of both veterans and their seconds made the company rivalry feel as heated as any Nexus/WWE sneak attack, but for the duration of a match.

22. Davey Richards Vs. Christopher Daniels (October 16) – ROH: Richards Vs. Daniels
I was among those who thought waiting so long for a non-title match to happen after a pretty explicit challenge made little sense. Well, it was month the wait. Daniels peppered the match with expressions of effort, whether it was whispering to himself (just in range of the microphone) that this “bastard” kicks hard, or snapping “Dammit!” after a kickout. He earned that emotion by wrestling with incredible intelligence, throwing in small touches like covering once Richards was baited into Palmstrikes, and primarily getting into contests (like the Kawada Kicks/Palmshots strike battle) when he was in danger of looking decidedly inferior. It all fit for a match between the company vet and the new hardnose who were legitimately fighting to see who was the best. It started very slow, succeeding on Richards’s intensity and Daniels’s minutia: Richards wrangling into his Tequila Sunrise Cloverleaf looked vicious, but Daniels immediately propping himself up for an escape looked brilliant. When rolled into a pinning predicament, Daniels reached for the ropes, couldn’t get them, and in a splitsecond shot his shoulder up, all the while investing his thought process in his face. Daniels showed fear and frustration, while Richards covered the fire, and so you got most of the emotional spectrum available in an athletic contest. They built to several of the best sequences and counters anywhere – striking sequence leading to the failed Solebutt and Daniels’s Angel’s Wings might be my favorite of 2010, and as someone who’s annoyed with Richards’s use of the Shooting Star Press as a regular nearfall and never a finisher, Daniels changing it into the Koji Clutch was even more delightful.

21. Shingo Takagi, YAMATO & Cyber Kong Vs. Naruki Doi, Masato Yoshino & BxB Hulk Vs. Dragon Kid, Genki Horiguchi & Ryo Saito (taped July 8) – aired on Dragon Gate Infinity 182
Dragon Gate trains guys to be fluid and watch their spots, but it was still remarkable that this match never became a mess. Guys often flooded the ring but they came with direction, like Horiguchi & Saito relying on old tandem offense, or Doi & Yoshino perennially watching each other’s backs. When KAMIKAZE interjected it was generally for YAMATO to be a jerk (like abusing Horicughi’s hair) or Shingo or Kong dropping pure power over the more cruiserweight-style opponents. Most frequently they relied on the puro tag pairing system: if Shingo and Saito climbed in, then they did something focused against each other (in one case, a Shoulderblock contest) before a third man would cut them off and change the pace. That was made impressive by how seamlessly the shifts in pace and offensive style clicked – you could have YAMATO getting humorously scrunched in the turnbuckles ten times, then swap to WARRIORS trying to hit their finishers on Saito with no loss of crowd buzz or sense of flow. That segmented style also paced things out for the performers, such that every man who came in would be rested enough to hit his spots crisply. Perhaps no match this year used that formula so well.

20. Davey Richards Vs. Chris Hero (July 30) – PWG: Seven
A total pleasure. The slow opening ten minutes were full of great details, like Richards grapevining his legs around Hero to try and drag him down, or Hero failing to out-technique Richards and so simply muscling him up and slamming him out of a hold. When Richards tried his favorite Sitting Surdboard, Hero managed to force his way out and slap the same hold on him thanks to sheer size. They channeled raw feelings about Hero’s title situation into their snub-nose style, struggling for holds and going for the hardest hits. They went so tight that when Richards completely overshot a Snap Sunset Flip attempt, they went right into the next move without any awkward pause. And where Richards might out-strike Roderick Strong or El Generico, he was not going to do the same to ‘That Young Knock Out Kid.’ He also couldn’t rely on pure speed, and eventually had to grab and pursue Ankle Locks, finding ways back into the hold time and time again, the way he put Shingo away in DGUSA last year. The one thing he could rely on was personal toughness, surviving bomb after bomb from here. While they could have just sprinted through the latter half, they inserted several clever references to the way sprints work – so Hero delivered a Yakuza Kick, Richards flew onto his back, roared back to his feet like he was going to mount an adrenaline-fueled comeback, only to eat a second Yakuza Kick and go down. You could not rely on this match to simply follow big-indy style, even though they delivered the great highs that style can deliver.

19. Dolph Ziggler Vs. Evan Bourne Vs. CM Punk Vs. JTG Vs. The Great Khali Vs. Beth Phoenix Vs. Zack Ryder Vs. HHH Vs. Drew McIntyre Vs. Ted DiBiase Jr. Vs. John Morrison Vs. Kane Vs. Cody Rhodes Vs. MVP Vs. Carlito Vs. The Miz Vs. Matt Hardy Vs. Shawn Michaels Vs. John Cena Vs. Shelton Benjamin Vs, Yoshi Tatsu Vs. The Big Show Vs. Mark Henry Vs. Chris Masters Vs. R-Truth Vs. Jack Swagger Vs. Kofi Kingston Vs. Chris Jericho Vs. Edge Vs. Dave Batista (January 31) – Royal Rumble Match from WWE: Royal Rumble
Ziggler and Bourne started things off with quick exchanges, both giving something athletically impressive and setting up Punk’s run. Punk was a superb bastard, eliminating them while they were distracted and wiling around for the next several entries, finding new ways to lecture the crowd. While people complained about HHH being the one to eliminate him, I actually loved it – HHH was the definite executioner, a role only Undertaker or a babyface Batista could fulfill. He was physically overwhelming, brooding, highly established, had the perfect entrance music, and essentially every necessary element to get the crowd wild after all of Punk’s underhanded antics. In-between, we got one of my all-time favorite eliminations in Beth Phoenix kissing Khali out of competition. The match pushed on much better than 2009’s, never clotting around too many guys, instead accruing the bigger faces, giving HHH all the exposure he needed before Michaels dropped him. The story of MVP hunting Miz slipped in simply and properly – it’s only a shame their ensuing feud was a dud. Once Michaels finally arrived they teased his desperate pursuit of the title shot, finding ways around HHH, Cena, Batista and the giants. Edge’s late entry was both exhilarating and worrying, teasing the audience for him being back while his return also jeopardized Michaels’s mission. For plot threads and twists, this was one of the best Rumbles in recent years.

18. Davey Richards Vs. Kenny Omega (March 20) – ROH: Epic Encounter 3
Their first ROH outing was one of the late-comers I wished I could have seen in time for 2009’s Riren 100. This was better, only missing the trait of surprise the first one had. Then, it was a shock to see them go at it so hard in the middle of a card. This time it was the main event, with no surprises and all the pressure. They answered in the first minute, with a vintage Japanese-style hot intro that ended with Richards doing a Tope Con Hilo. That should probably never open a match again, but this time? Wow. They went to heavy moves and strikes early so as to get into the middle-match territory sooner, which graduated them to fatigue and wear sooner, and so got the high-struggle in record time. And captured in a sense of struggle, Omega’s counters looked even better than usual. He’s crisp when he’s on a roll, but in countering here he’d stagger a little, forcing him to cover it up with inventiveness shone (like in the Croyt’s Wrath out of the Jujigatame). With Richards’s conviction in everything he threw, even some of the mid-match roll-ups looked like they might end it, while the actually finishing stretch was one of the best of ROH’s entire year.

17. Tyler Black Vs. Kevin Steen (July 24) – ROH: Salvation
In 2008 when Black was having a career-making feud with Nigel McGuinness (TNA’s Desmond Wolfe), it was surprising to see El Generico have a better match against the champ than any of Black’s. Generico simply played that vigorous underdog better and made the match formula his own. In 2010, when Generico was having a career-revitalizing feud against Kevin Steen, it was just as surprising to see Tyler Black make their match formula his own and have a better singles match than any of Generico’s against that same rival. Steen was on a roll for much of the year, embracing despicable (and sometimes disgusting) characteristics, throwing guys around with his weight, trying to bully men who often turned out too formidable to bully. Black was his best target, most suited to being too formidable to bully as champion, but also showing how much Steen’s venom got to him. From the opening takedown Black threw better punches than usual, and Steen squirmed like someone who deserved it. As blood began to flow Steen became even meaner-spirited, throwing on torturous holds like the Sharpshooter and Crippler Crossface, and screaming insults into Black’s bloody face. I disagreed with Dave Prazac’s commentary of Steen trying to get into Black’s head – he was winning and didn’t need the advantage. It was his pettiness, his need to feed his ego, that bully nature that made him stand out as one of ROH’s best antagonists. Black’s big comebacks were some of the best of his ROH career, not mere underdog fire like he’s shown in 2008, but with established high-end offense just to survive. It became increasingly personal as they dropped more high-end offense, with Black both having to and desiring to hit the Double Stomp through the table. They managed to maintain the physicality while reaching the emotional pitch as Steen stole some of Black’s offense, setting up Black stealing the Sharpshooter to keep the bully down.

16. Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley Vs. Max Buck & Jeremy Buck (March 21) – Ultimate X Match from TNA: Destination X
Generation ME was so on-task in this match. They jumped at the bell to blitz the more established team, and after a few minutes of almost solid sprinting Jeremy Buck grabbed a Knucklelock and ran the turnbuckles as though he was going for some super-move, only to bound to the top rope while his brother tripped up Shelley. On top of showcasing some of the smoothest sprinting in any company all year, it was great to watch ME aggressively seek out goals in the match. When it became obvious they weren’t going to steal this match the two teams fell into remarkable cruiserweight offense, both for the innovation on display and how they executed it. One Buck would go through three moves in perfect planning, not mere choreography, but reacting to the proper positioning. Before they went wire-heavy they were innovative; when they climbed, they had phenomenal ideas. As opposed to a normal X-style match, this one moved briskly because of the poise of the teams, dodging artificiality and the lulls that expose other cruiserweights’ weaknesses. Heck, those are weaknesses that hurt their Full Metal Mayhem match later in the same year, and the equally popular (on the indy scale) cluster match from PWG’s Seven. Here they were at their very best, only going into lulls in the wake of a crescendo. They played it brilliantly.

15. Takashi Sugiura Vs. Jun Akiyama (May 2) – Pro Wrestling NOAH: Spring Navigation at the Budokan Hall
Akiyama almost ensured that they either fought for moves or came up with a sudden counter at the right times, never letting Sugiura dominate too much. Akiyama’s Kobashi-GHC-defense-like bump on the outside and near-countout was an utter blast. Sugiura, happy to be in a big building and big match, was at the top of his execution, whether it was throwing boots in the opening strike exchanges or rolling around for better footing on the Ankle Lock late in the match. The match was all about struggle, so while thousands of Japanese matches end in apparent exhaustion, these guys earned how they slowed down or became dazed, and every time they tried to fight through it (like the Suplex-exchange semi-sprint) was richer for it. Akiyama went out of his way to validate Sugiura, going even with him so often and letting him win things like the late-match Palmstrike battle, but when it was Sugiura’s turn to have an “I’m screwed” look as Akiyama twisted his arm to set up the Wrist-Clutch Exploder, Sugiura returned the favor. They couldn’t book a better advertisement for a title fight than by making it a rematch to this. It’s only a shame the title fight was a pale imitation.

14. Kurt Angle Vs. Jeff Hardy (September 5) – TNA: No Surrender
I thought they would rein the match in or even call it off after the sickening Powerbomb. Hardy came down so sharply that you worried for a severe concussion or worse. That they could regroup, and that he would even try all of the Swanton attacks within the next fifteen minutes was a tremendous gut check. That real life gut check was a good counterpoint for Angle’s drive, as he chased Hardy through the match, particularly towards the first “ending” and through the first five minute overtime. He hammered desperately on his back and picked at the ankle every way he could, fighting for his career with a desperation that was lacking in most of the Top Ten series. While I groaned at a title tournament match having only twenty minutes, the brief overtimes and Angle’s cut made the eventual termination of the match very reasonable. They couldn’t go any further without risking the health of a wrestler. In terms of the existing storyline for Angle to voluntarily retire if he lost, this was a great motivation for him to return.

13. Bryan Danielson Vs. Shingo Takagi (taped July 24) – Dragon Gate USA: Enter the Dragon 2010
In ways this exploited and exposed Shingo’s greatest weakness, which is that because of all his strength and toughness he hasn’t expanded his game and so is vulnerable to versatile offense from a guy who is at his level. Danielson frequently got free palmstrikes and elbow shots, and towards the end of the match Shingo couldn’t shrug them off anymore, particularly when he collapsed during his attempted Powerbomb out of the Triangle Choke. It’s not a real flaw, but a deliberate flaw in Shingo’s game that worked very well here because Danielson could fill in all those openings with the best technical dominance out there. On its own that could have been too simple a story, so they built in some amazing moments, like Shingo firing up within the Elbow Barrage to hit his Stay Dream, and towards the end they went through a series of Danielson’s finishers ala his best period in ROH, making this strongman look like a juggernaut. That sort of material made Shingo’s game seem inherently adequate; you’d understand why he approached matches the same way all the time, because he could overwhelm just about anybody that way. They also introduced a few things, like Danielson landing out his feet out of the Bloodfall for a big head kick, showing up shortly before this did in every other Shingo match (and Shingo’s expression of horror before the kick was probably his best in any iteration of the counter). After everything Danielson poured onto him, he pulled off the most painful LeBell Lock to date, with Shingo’s mouth hanging open just beneath Danielson’s clasped hands. Wrestling doesn’t get much better than those closing moments.

12. El Generico Vs. Kevin Steen (December 18) – Fight Without Honor Match from ROH: Final Battle 2010
A rare case where a storyline justified going so over the top. Usually matches with gratuitous action self-justify, because it’s rare for bloodfeuds to feel like they warrant going as far as some wrestlers do in their matches. It’s left to the performers to do outrageous things in character and make them feel right (something both Steen and Generico had done many times before). But in this case, no extreme was unbelievable for the story. It was the greatest betrayal in ROH history and was a year in the making, with several increasingly bloody skirmishes along the way. They both arrived deeply in character, Steen seeming at his most depraved, licking blood and happily burying Generico in guardrail covers. And as silly as it is to throw floor mats or guardrail covers on top of someone before doing a move, El Generico turned it into a strong moment by gasping and reeling under their edge. Generico walked in with purpose, deadly serious and driving Steen out of the ring with a great modified version of his usual Yakuza Kick, but when it was time for the bully to beat him, it was one of his most sympathetic performances. Generico gasping for air as Steen tore his mask and ripped open his forehead was legitimately disturbing and necessary for Generico to come back. The overarching story was Generico persevering, over hardcore abuse, bloodloss, and eventually losing a series of referees. Steen tricking him into booting Todd Sinclair, and then deciding to take out the replacement too when he still couldn’t keep Generico down for three was inspired. You had a match where Steen was wobbling between all the major influences of a bully: he wanted to beat down Generico, pin him, and when he kept failing to win, trying to escape back into punishment. Generico finally rose up as the better man, standing over Steen with the chair in the best ending of a match all year, and in a style only comparable to Shawn Michaels’s string of recent Wrestlemanias. It was so much more personal, with Steen finally flinching, holding up his arms and Generico’s old mask. For a moment you could wonder if Generico was going to take him back, like a sad and battered wife, before he dropped it and declared his independence with a chairshot that echoed how the whole feud began.

11. Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley Vs. Robert Roode & James Storm (aired August 12) – 2/3 Falls Match from TNA: Impact
All I heard for the next week was that this should have been the main event. Not even that it was actually good or anything specific about it, just that it should have ended the show. Allow me to say: this should have been the main event, and here is why. There is nothing that Fortune and EV2 could do that (or did do) that would be as innovative as this. Beer Money chained their best power and simple offense, foiling the Guns’ fast-paced game while accentuating how impressive their substance is. The Guns were as crisp as ever, and they set up big spots like the Cross Body/Tope combination brilliantly. Beer Money are great crash test dummies, knowing exactly when and how to get things turned on them. Here, they were always in the right position, which deflated any complaints I’d tolerate about the Guns coming off as too mechanical. Sabin was on his maestro game, nearly directing Roode and Storm to their demise at several points, managing to seem like he was struggling even as he came off as sterling. This was all passion, and it bled through to a crowd that was excited for a rare episode of Impact. On top of their innovation and delivery, they built a competition. Beer Money got the first fall, but the Guns didn’t languish and fight for fifteen minutes from behind like an old Southern team; they came right back, and they should have. As the culmination of a Best of Five series, neither team could be ahead for long. To sustain any kind of advantage they had to destroy each other with their highest offense, like Shelley sampling Kaval/Low Ki’s old Tree of Woe Stomp and Sabin’s phenomenal Springboard DDT. In the end Shelley wiggled out of the Powerbomb/Neckbreaker combination and Storm survived one Skull and Bones, a simple testament to how much they could survive. The last Skull and Bones was just enough overkill to end the rivalry and prove that the Guns should be on top of TNA.

10. Shingo Takagi & YAMATO Vs. Don Fuji & Masaaki Mochizuki (taped August 5) – aired on Dragon Gate Infinity 186
When YAMATO tried to open with a chop battle, Fuji struck him square in the neck. When Mochizuki tried to scale the turnbuckles, Shingo immediately caught him and Powerbombed the sense out of him. The second time Shingo tried to pull Mochizuki into a Made in Japan, Mochizuki kneed him unmercifully in the forehead. They gave each other no quarter for almost all of the seventeen minutes, not countering into a bunch of highspot sprints, but pulling everything into submission holds and dangerous power moves. Don Fuji was firing at a personal best, getting agitated in every strike battle and trying to interrupt KAMIKAZE’s tandem stuff with constant focus. YAMATO was the star of his team early on, getting great exchanges (and his head knocked off), but Shingo rose up in the second half as just as energetic a powerhouse. The result was a tag match that looked very little like typical Dragon Gate, getting hot off of passions running between the teams and their desire to either choke out or knock out the other team. One-upping last year’s Mochizuki/Nakajima tags was a difficult task, but it’ll be far harder to top this one next year.

9. Davey Richards Vs. Kenny Omega (February 27) – PWG: As The Worm Turns
We wanted Omega to define his type of title match, but that wasn’t to be. For practical reasons Omega had to lose the title, and so they went out and had the best PWG-style match they could The Omega fan service mostly ended with the hilarious Mexican Standoff and the champ stroking his own horns suggestively. The horns let them do a little humor to soften the crowd, keeping them from expecting just how intense they were going to get. By mid-match they were going through amazing exchanges in routine, Richards pulling nothing from his strikes, being shorter but more physical against Omega’s agility and variety of offense. As things rose to sprints, Richards seeded in a few devastating arm holds in, which Omega sold dramatically, leaving it believable when he would eventually tap out to them. It seemed like it had to end in pinfall – but it also seemed like Omega had to win the first defense of his reign. With the severe holds built in and the surprise of a title change, they nearly matched the electricity of Danielson/Hero from Guerres Sans Frontieres. That alone was a feat.

8. Naomichi Marufuji Vs. Koji Kanemoto (March 5) – NJPW: 38th Anniversary Series
The early ropes rebound exchanges were classic psychology and comedy, establishing Kanemoto as every bit as clever as the outsider, and maybe moreso. Afterward Marufuji was fighting from behind taking a methodical beating from the veteran striker while still playing the crowd’s split emotions. When Marufuji finally got to turn things around, he did it with an interesting mix of novel holds and high impact, adding more to the dynamic of an outsider the crowd should root against but admired, and feeding into the drama when Kanemoto inevitably caught him. Kanemoto’s quickness in counters and evasions painted him as an unusual force for Marufuji, who even in later defenses had an easier time outthinking or outpacing opponents. The sheer punishment Kanemoto dumped on him, from embarrassing Tree of Woe Palmstikes to the nasty Steiner Screwdriver to his furious attempts at the Ankle Lock, made him look like the kind of legend that could recapture the title for New Japan. When Marufuji escaped all the attempts and beat him, he helped further establish his stardom.

7. Shingo Takagi, YAMATO & Akira Tozawa Vs. CIMA, Dragon Kid & Gamma (aired February 27) – Dragon Gate Infinity 167
The temptation is to write, “This is how you do a trios tag,” but you can’t expect this even semi-regularly. The guys went at top pace and took hard falls that you simply cannot do every night on a demanding Dragon Gate tour. Dragon Kid gets bashed for being lazy, yet here he was as fast as Masato Yoshino. CIMA continued his streak of great performances, not showing his bad knees at all, bursting with full charisma and choreographed grace. Gamma served as the contrast character, being hilariously disgusting and giving his teammates a few breaks, though also keeping pace as the match picked up. Ironically, Warriors 5 largely shone against Akira Tozawa, who spent the entire match trying to prove he belongs on the top stage, embarrassing himself with his attempted splash, and getting smacked around by CIMA, spit on by Gamma, and somehow remaining a believable competitor against all the more established opponents and offense that should have destroyed him. You’d expect Shingo and YAMATO to carry the match, but this was a test for Tozawa, leaving his Kamikaze teammates in supporting roles. They’re two of the best in the company, perfect at interrupting aerial antics like those of Dragon Kid. Especially on re-watches, the match becomes even more impressive for how good it is when Shingo and YAMATO didn’t dominate nearly as much as they could have. It was largely Tozawa taking everything with character and firing on desperate comebacks that were as slick as a young CIMA’s.

6. Kurt Angle Vs. Ken Anderson (April 18) – Cage Match from TNA: Lockdown
Complain all you want about the booking of the feud (I’ll help – it was silly that they had a televised blow-off more than a month before Lockdown and just kept going). But when it came time for them to wrestle a big story match, Angle and Anderson had one of the best blow-off bouts of the year. Anderson was in this for self-promotion, running to unlock the door frequently at the early going, and setting up multiple comeuppance scenarios for Angle. Angle was in it for revenge, driven to destroy himself so long as it hurt Anderson. Nothing is more indicative of Angle’s mindset than the disgusting Moonsault from the top of the cage, but it was obviously throughout in how sharply he snapped off Suplexes, and how he would charge up the ropes to throw Anderson back into the ring. Within their struggle of a vengeful athlete and a talented coward, they built brilliant twists. I questioned using a Ladder Match to build up a Cage Match, but they used that prize to show Anderson’s mentality and built to Angle tossing the key out the cage, which was almost as big an emotional moment as the Moonsault. In all of it, Anderson was a world-class character, with exaggerated facial expressions of glee or worry, and desperately trying to piss Angle off at the end so he wouldn’t walk out and win. When it was time for it, Angle was a great predator, like making an almost cocky gesture for Anderson to charge him after he threw the key out and locked them in together.

5. Shingo Takagi Vs. BxB Hulk (July 11) – Dragon Gate: KOBE World Pro Wrestling Festival 2010
A lot of Japanese matches open on Mexican Standoffs, but the early exchanges were all about Hulk fearing he couldn’t counterbalance Shingo’s power. No dodged kick was as revealing as Hulk’s expression. Some folks (including the friend I originally watched it with) disliked the early part for its pacing, but Shingo used the pace to mug over Hulk and deliver Knee Drops and other offense so deliberately that it clicked into the story of animosity. He was proving himself at his weaker rival’s expense. And then there was the last half hour. Hulk took that bump into the ring post like no other man; usually such things look underwhelming or trite, but he flew like a crash test dummy. The Back Superplex to the floor felt absolutely hazardous even though many riskier things happened in Japan this year. Hulk would fight back at the peek of his career’s charisma, only to have Shingo become even more brutal. Around the time I took in this show, I watched several Tyler Black ROH title defenses. Every time Black would go too long, regardless of whether the crowd was into it or the series of kickouts and counters flowed, so that there his extra nearfalls deflated the ending. This match could have gone the same way, but because Shingo was so intense and Hulk was fighting so hard from behind they wound up earning even their biggest series of overkill. Shingo knowing he had it won at the end and extending it to give Hulk one last move in front of everyone was pure bastard. For one moment, Shingo was the worst person in the world.

4. Naomichi Marufuji Vs. Prince Devitt (January 30) – NJPW: New Japan Ism
In major Puro promotions if someone gets a second straight titleshot, it’s very likely they’ll win. Otherwise you could seriously hurt them as contenders for the rest of their careers. They used that in the middle of their rematch, giving Devitt some fabulous false finishes that looked perfect for the upstart rebounding and bringing the title back to New Japan. Even the Back Superplex, which Devitt doesn’t normally win with, was positioned after so many escalating false finishes and counters that the crowd was livid with excitement for a title change. That excitement, and smart references to their first match from December 2009, helped elevate both the story and the crowd reactions. Devitt remembering things like Marufuji’s corner counters, or his Springboard Dropkick when Devitt returned to the ring avoiding a count-out in 2009, made Devitt not just a gutsy performer, but a smart one. Then it was up to Marufuji to think yet another step ahead, or to get caught. They mixed up who had thought ahead in various circumstances until, if you were watching it live, there was no way to predict who was taking this.

3. YAMATO Vs. Shingo Takagi (May 5) – Dragon Gate: Dead or Alive
What a change. Earlier in the year YAMATO looked scared of ascending to the top against Doi and essentially wrestled the champion’s style of match. Here, in his first title defense, he wrestled his own style. No half-dozen head drops to keep the opponent down, but a smart attack on the arm that he came back to at the least expected points, including a great moment when Shingo tried to hoist him for a Suplex. The finishing combos, of Guillotine Choke to Sleeper Hold to Jujigatame, and that last inverted armhold, were outstanding technical wrestling. Throughout they avoided most of the tropes of Dragon Gate singles main events. Unlike Doi and CIMA’s masturbatory championship match mat work, YAMATO and Shingo tested each other in small grabs and adjustments, even making Knucklelocks seem tense. Their old rivalry boiled up until Shingo simply jacked the champ in the mouth. Shingo throws good jabs, but that one was his best-timed and best-placed yet. Attacking the arm also made sense as Shingo had recently won so many tournament matches with his perfected Lariat, so aside from something YAMATO could go after when he was off his game, it hurt Shingo’s chances at a knock-out. I’ve read complaints that the match was too slow and never kicked into high gear. Those are not quite apt criticisms because this was not a standard Dragon Gate match. Doi as champion would open his matches with the same empty holds over and over at a boring pace; these two worked slowly, but used expressions and small motions to fill the time. They worked holds like nobody in Dragon Gate seems to know how to. Even Masato Yoshino goes through the motions of resistance, preferring to go from submission to submission. They struggled for leverage, pounded on joints or their opponents seeking release, reversed into novel holds or even ones built in story. Shingo entered the heavy-bomb phase for some great moments, and YAMATO met him there with some classic “invincible prick” exchanges and his own major moves, but he didn’t stay at that level. He went to his own level instead. It was exactly what the new champion needed to do.

2. Tyler Black Vs. Davey Richards (June 19) – ROH: Death Before Dishonor 8
In many matches that night somebody beat down his opponent with intensity, then slowed to mug for the cameras and crowd. In every other match it hurt the flow. Here, Davey Richards prowled around the ring with such attitude that it felt like I was still watching action. It didn’t hurt that his burning expressions were followed up by loud kicks against Black’s chest. Black has always been a good victim for striking-based offense, reeling and flailing, but in no match before this did he bump quite so appropriately for somebody’s blows. Where Strong and Richards are unyielding against each other, Black was vulnerable, sagging under the Texas Cloverleaf and making such situations seem even more dire. When it came time to counter, like following an O’Connor Roll attempt by deadlifting Richards and dumping him over the top rope, his execution was incomparably fluid. Many Black matches call for that sort of execution, but this was the one where it was always there. When they entered the count-out tease section of the match they slowed down dramatically – not in a bad way, but in one that was legitimately dramatic, the Van Daminator-style Superkick and the Double Stomp both seeming like they might cost Richards this shot. The sustained beating Richards took would up making me reflect on overkill. Many of his best matches contain double-digit nearfalls, but they rarely come off as “too much.” Why? It is at least partially because he carries himself with such conviction, psyching up and firing back like someone who legitimately needs to be drilled into the mat to stay down. I’d just watched the Cutler Brothers, who are excellent athletes, but who lacked the appearance of focus and toughness to pull off manic nearfalls. With Richards, that is never a question. Like the classic against Shingo Takagi last year, he earned the extraordinary lengths he went to. Going so far that the crowd jeered Black with chants of “You Can’t Beat Him” was a highlight of the wrestling year, and Black polishing him off to disprove it was the perfect ending for that stage in the match and his career.

1. The Undertaker Vs. Shawn Michaels (March 28) – No Disqualification Streak Vs. Retirement Match from WWE Wrestlemania 26

Undertaker returned from knee surgery too soon at the Royal Rumble and still showed lingering weakness at the beginning of this match. They wisely slowed things down with Michaels’s frequent attacks on his legs, giving Undertaker better reasons to hobble around, though he still hustled and even got surprising height on the final Tombstone Piledriver. With the technical base that could slow the match down whenever they wanted, they went about building references not only to the previous Wrestlemania but their entire careers. Michaels went for his Asai Crossbody only to be caught and Tombstoned onto the floor, ala how Undertaker once knocked Jake Roberts out of the WWF. Michaels’s leg attacks alluded to his tricks in past Submission Matches, borrowing from the likes of Flair, Angle and Benoit. And just as they prepared big offense, they prepared big counters, like Michaels’s floatover reversal to the Hell’s Gate that nearly pinned the Dead Man in his own killer submission. Bryan Alvarez came away criticizing that he knew the Last Ride and the first Superkick wouldn’t end match, but they managed to slip in new things, like the Table Moonsault, so as not to rely only on finisher kick-outs. And even if some of the false finishes were predictable, they rolled into a momentum that led to the perfect ending. When you watched Michaels slash his own throat and demand Undertaker keep fighting, you couldn’t begrudge them any prior kickouts. As soon as it was done, there was no other way it should have ended. Like the ending of Flair’s WWE career a couple of years earlier, they plotted something memorable to say farewell for Michaels.

Part 3: The List

1. The Undertaker Vs. Shawn Michaels (March 28) – No Disqualification Streak Vs. Retirement Match from WWE: Wrestlemania 26
2. Tyler Black Vs. Davey Richards (June 19) – ROH: Death Before Dishonor 8
3. YAMATO Vs. Shingo Takagi (May 5) – Dragon Gate: Dead or Alive
4. Naomichi Marufuji Vs. Prince Devitt (January 30) – NJPW: New Japan Ism
5. Shingo Takagi Vs. BxB Hulk (July 11) – Hair Vs. Hair Match from Dragon Gate: KOBE World Pro Wrestling Festival 2010
6. Kurt Angle Vs. Ken Anderson (April 18) – Cage Match from TNA: Lockdown
7. Shingo Takagi, YAMATO & Akira Tozawa Vs. CIMA, Dragon Kid & Gamma (aired February 27) – Dragon Gate Infinity 167
8. Naomichi Marufuji Vs. Koji Kanemoto (March 5) – NJPW: 38th Anniversary Series
9. Davey Richards Vs. Kenny Omega (February 27) – PWG: As The Worm Turns
10. Shingo Takagi & YAMATO Vs. Don Fuji & Masaaki Mochizuki (taped August 5) – aired on Dragon Gate Infinity 186
11. Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley Vs. Robert Roode & James Storm (aired August 12) – 2/3 Falls Match from TNA: Impact
12. El Generico Vs. Kevin Steen (December 18) – Fight Without Honor Match from ROH: Final Battle 2010
13. Bryan Danielson Vs. Shingo Takagi (taped July 24) – Dragon Gate USA: Enter the Dragon 2010
14. Kurt Angle Vs. Jeff Hardy (September 5) – TNA: No Surrender
15. Takashi Sugiura Vs. Jun Akiyama (May 2) – Pro Wrestling NOAH: Spring Navigation at the Budokan Hall
16. Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley Vs. Max Buck & Jeremy Buck (March 21) – Ultimate X Match from TNA: Destination X
17. Tyler Black Vs. Kevin Steen (July 24) – ROH: Salvation
18. Davey Richards Vs. Kenny Omega (March 20) – ROH: Epic Encounter 3
19. Dolph Ziggler Vs. Evan Bourne Vs. CM Punk Vs. JTG Vs. The Great Khali Vs. Beth Phoenix Vs. Zack Ryder Vs. HHH Vs. Drew McIntyre Vs. Ted DiBiase Jr. Vs. John Morrison Vs. Kane Vs. Cody Rhodes Vs. MVP Vs. Carlito Vs. The Miz Vs. Matt Hardy Vs. Shawn Michaels Vs. John Cena Vs. Shelton Benjamin Vs, Yoshi Tatsu Vs. The Big Show Vs. Mark Henry Vs. Chris Masters Vs. R-Truth Vs. Jack Swagger Vs. Kofi Kingston Vs. Chris Jericho Vs. Edge Vs. Dave Batista (January 31) – Royal Rumble Match from WWE: Royal Rumble
20. Davey Richards Vs. Chris Hero (July 30) – PWG: Seven
21. Shingo Takagi, YAMATO & Cyber Kong Vs. Naruki Doi, Masato Yoshino & BxB Hulk Vs. Dragon Kid, Genki Horiguchi & Ryo Saito (taped July 8) – aired on Dragon Gate Infinity 182
22. Davey Richards Vs. Christopher Daniels (October 16) – ROH: Richards Vs. Daniels
23. Jun Akiyama & KENTA Vs. Yuji Nagata & Ryusuke Taguchi (July 27) – Pro Wrestling NOAH: New Navigation in Osaka
24. Jun Akiyama Vs. Kensuke Sasaki (April 10) – Pro Wrestling NOAH: Spring Navigation at the Tokyo Korakuen Hall
25. Davey Richards Vs. El Generico (February 13) – ROH: 8th Anniversary Show
26. Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi Vs. Dick Togo & Gedo (April 20) – NJPW: New Japan Brave
27. Davey Richards Vs. Roderick Strong (April 10) – PWG: Titannica
28. CIMA, Gamma & Dragon Kid Vs. Naruki Doi, Masato Yoshino & BxB Hulk (taped March 27) – Dragon Gate USA: Mercury Rising
29. Yuji Nagata & Koji Kanemoto Vs. Go Shiozaki & Atsushi Aoki (November 10) – NJPW: Destruction 2010
30. CIMA Vs. YAMATO (aired January 20) – Dragon Gate Infinity 163
31. Davey Richards Vs. Kota Ibushi (January 16) – Evolve 1
32. Undertaker Vs. Chris Jericho Vs. John Morrison Vs. Ron Killings Vs. CM Punk Vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. (February 21) – Elimination Chamber Match from WWE: Elimination Chamber
33. Kensuke Sasaki Vs. Go Shiozaki (July 27) – Pro Wrestling NOAH: New Navigation in Osaka
34. YAMATO Vs. Masaaki Mochizuki (taped May 13) – Dragon Gate Infinity 177
35. Tyler Black Vs. Chris Hero (April 24) – ROH: Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies 2
36. CIMA, Gamma & Genki Horiguchi Vs. Naruki Doi, PAC & Naoki Tanisaki (taped July 20) – aired on Dragon Gate Infinity 180
37. Masato Yoshino & Naruki Doi Vs. Genki Horiguchi & Ryo Saito (taped August 24) – Dragon Gate Infinity 188
38. Chris Jericho Vs. Edge (April 25) – Cage Match from WWE: Extreme Rules
39. Shingo Takagi Vs. Dragon Kid (aired November 12) – Dragon Gate USA: Untouchable 2010
40. John Morrison Vs. Sheamus (December 19) – Ladder Match from WWE: TLC
41. Takashi Sugiura Vs. Takeshi Morishima (December 5) – Pro Wrestling NOAH: Joe Higuchi Memorial Show
42. Davey Richards Vs. Masaaki Mochizuki (taped January 23) – Dragon Gate USA: Fearless
43. Shawn Michaels Vs. Rey Mysterio (aired January 29) – WWE: Smackdown
44. Mike Quackenbush, Jigsaw & Hallowicked Vs. Masato Yoshino, Naruki Doi & BxB Hulk (July 25) – Chikara Pro: Chikarasaurus Rex
45. Davey Richards Vs. Tyler Black (August 28) – ROH: Tag Wars 2010
46. Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley Vs. James Storm & Robert Roode (July 11) – TNA: Victory Road
47. Takashi Sugiura & KENTA Vs. Takeshi Morishima & Go Shiozaki (August 4) – 2/3 Falls Match from Pro Wrestling NOAH: 10 Years After
48. KENTA Vs. Atsushi Aoki (August 22) – Pro Wrestling NOAH: New Navigation in Tokyo
49. Claudio Castagnoli, ARE$ & Tursas Vs. Mike Quackenbush, Hallowicked & Frightmare (March 21) – Chikara Pro: Dead Men Don’t Laugh
50. Chris Hero Vs. El Generico (March 20) – ROH: Epic Encounter 3
51. Christopher Daniels Vs. Tyler Black (September 10) – ROH: Fade to Black
52. Rey Mysterio Vs. Jack Swagger (July 18) – WWE: Money in the Bank
53. Chris Jericho Vs. Edge (March 28) – WWE: Wrestlemania 26
54. Daniel Bryan Vs. The Miz Vs. John Morrison (October 3) – Triple Threat Submissions Count Anywhere Match from WWE: Hell in a Cell
55. Kurt Angle Vs. D’Angelo Dinero (July 11) – TNA: Victory Road
56. Naomichi Marufuji Vs. Prince Devitt (June 19) – NJPW: Dominion
57. Bryan Danielson Vs. Kaval (February 7) – Florida Championship Wrestling TV
58. YAMATO, Shingo Takagi & KAGETORA Vs. Masato Yoshino, Naruki Doi & PAC (taped May 28) – Dragon Gate Infinity 177
59. Davey Richards Vs. Roderick Strong (April 24) – ROH: Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies 2
60. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Ryusuke Taguchi Vs. Go Shiozaki & Atsushi Aoki (June 6) – Pro Wrestling NOAH: Rusher Kimura Memorial Show
61. Claudio Castagnoli Vs. Ricochet (September 4) – PWG: Battle of Los Angeles 2010 Night 1
62. Larry Sweeney, Eddie Kingston, Stigma, Jigsaw, Mike Quackenbush, UltraMantis Black, Hallowicked & Icarus Vs. Pinkie Sanchez, Claudio Castagnoli, AR$S, Tursas, Tim Donst, Sara Del Ray, Daizee Haze & Delirious (October 23) – Torneo Cibernetico Match from Chikara Pro: Dark Ciberknetico
63. Naomichi Marufuji Vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru (July 10) – Pro Wrestling NOAH: Summer Navigation Part 1
64. Koji Kanemoto Vs. Hayato Fujita Jr. (May 30) – NJPW: Best of the Super Juniors 17 Night 1
65. Naomichi Marufuji Vs. Kenny Omega (July 25) – DDT: Ryogoku Peter Pan 2010
66. John Cena, Bret Hart, Chris Jericho, Edge, John Morrison, R-Truth & Daniel Bryan Vs. Wade Barrett, Skip Sheffield, Justin Gabriel, David Otunga, Heath Slater, Darren Young & Michael Tarver (August 15) – Elimination Tag Match from WWE: Summerslam
67. AJ Styles Vs. Doug Williams (December 5) – TNA: Final Resolution
68. Nick & Matt Jackson Vs. Jay & Mark Briscoe (April 10) – PWG: Titannica
69. Yuji Nagata Vs. Go Shiozaki (August 10) – NJPW: G1 Climax 20th Anniversary Night 4
70. Daniel Bryan Vs. Dolph Ziggler (October 24) – WWE: Bragging Rights
71. Giant Bernard & Karl Anderson Vs. Yuji Nagata & Wataru Inoue (September 26) – NJPW: Circuit 2010 G1 Climax Special
72. Ayako Hamada Vs. Cheerleader Melissa (taped April 11) – SHIMMER: Volume 32
73. Chris Hero Vs. Akira Tozawa (September 5) – PWG: Battle of Los Angeles Night 2
74. Masato Yoshino & Naruki Doi Vs. CIMA & Ricochet (aired November 12) – Dragon Gate USA: Untouchable 2010
75. Jay & Mark Briscoe Vs. Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards (July 22) – ROH: Bluegrass Brawl
76. Bryan Danielson Vs. Munenori Sawa (September 11) – EVOLVE: EVOLVE 5 – Danielson Vs. Sawa
77. John Cena Vs. Dave Batista (March 28) – WWE Wrestlemania 26
78. Kota Ibushi Vs. Prince Devitt (June 13) – NJPW: Best of the Super Juniors 17 Finals Night
79. Undertaker Vs. Rey Mysterio (January 31) – WWE: Royal Rumble
80. Mike Quackenbush & Jigsaw Vs. Naruki Doi & PAC (taped May 8) – Dragon Gate USA: Uprising
81. Christopher Daniels Vs. Frankie Kazarian Vs. Amazing Red Vs. Brian Kendrick (March 21) – Ladder Match from TNA: Destination X
82. Naomichi Marufuji Vs. KENTA (December 5) – Pro Wrestling NOAH: Joe Higuchi Memorial Show
83. Naomichi Marufuji Vs. KENTA (June 6) – Pro Wrestling NOAH: Navigation With Breeze
84. Davey Richards Vs. Kenny King (April 3) – ROH: The Big Bang
85. John Morrison Vs. Jack Swagger (aired April 23) – WWE: Smackdown
86. El Generico & Colt Cabana Vs. Kevin Steen & Steve Corino (April 24) – Street Fight from ROH: Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies 2
87. El Generico Vs. Roderick Strong (April 23) – ROH: Pick Your Poison
88. K-Ness & Susumu Yokosuka Vs. CIMA & Gamma (taped July 8) – aired on Dragon Gate Infinity 182
89. Chris Hero Vs. Bad Bones (March 5) – Westside Xtreme Wrestling: 16 Carat Gold Tournament 2010 Day 1
90. Meiko Satomura Vs. Aja Kong (April 9) – SENDAI Girls: Sendai Zepp
91. Masato Yoshino Vs. Dragon Kid (May 7) – 2/3 Falls Match from Dragon Gate USA: Open the Northern Gate
92. Jimmy Jacobs Vs. Jon Moxley (October 29) – I Quit Match from Dragon Gate USA: Bushido: Way of the Warrior
93. Claudio Castagnoli & Chris Hero Vs. El Generico & Colt Cabana (September 10) – ROH: Fade to Black
94. Rob Van Dam Vs. AJ Styles (May 16) – TNA: Sacrifice
95. Mike Quackenbush & Jigsaw Vs. CIMA & Super Crazy (taped January 23) – Dragon Gate USA: Fearless
96. Chris Jericho Vs. Evan Bourne (June 20) – WWE: Fatal Fourway
97. Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli Vs. Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas (September 11) – ROH: Glory By Honor 9
98. Hiroshi Tanahashi Vs. Tetsuya Naito (August 8) – NJPW: G1 Climax 20th Anniversary Day 3
99. Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley Vs. Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli (May 8) – ROH: Supercard of Honor 5
100. Ric Flair Vs. Mick Foley (July 10) – Last Man Standing Match from TNA: Impact