With the 2010s over half finished, the first 6 years of the decade have shown off some great matches in the WWE; there have been some lackluster matches but we aren’t going to put a spotlight on the negatives, instead focusing on the most memorable matchups. The WWE has been under lots of criticism throughout the wrestling industry as being too polished and too gimmicky especially with the rise of the indie scene thanks to the Internet. Those keyboard warriors are pretty quick to criticize wrestlers like John Cena, Roman Reigns, and Eva Marie for being boring and not being able to wrestle 5-star matches on the regular. However, the company has pulled off some amazing matches worthy of full marks.
The best matches can usually be found at WrestleMania or any of the other Big 4 Pay Per Views, but when the stars align themselves just right with the correct talent working together you can get an amazing outcome. The term “instant classic” usually gets attached to matches like Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin or Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H; the 2010s have so far had a plethora of them, as these best matches cannot be ignored and must be watched by all fans of wrestling.
15. SummerSlam 2013 – Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena
If you’re a wrestling fan the term John Cena and great wrestling don’t usually go together, however big match John has had some admiringly great matches whether the argument is that he was being carried by his opponent. When 2013 came along the support for Daniel Bryan by the fans was unheard of before the fact, especially when it looked like Triple H was on his side to win the big one and become the WWE champion. The match itself was excellent with the slapping bit being one of the key ingredients to an already good match. With one of the best sell jobs of John’s career, when Daniel Bryan hit him with the knee for the win it was the best cap for a stellar match. Even though Daniel Bryan lost the title 2 mins later when Triple H turned his back on him, you can’t negate the fact that Daniel Bryan had one of the best matches of his WWE career with John Cena.
14. WrestleMania 32 – Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match
In 2016, the WWE was at the beginning of the New Era where they are giving more superstars better chances at having their moment s to shine. This ladder match was arguably the best match of the night for WrestleMania 32 and it was all due to the excellent work of all parties involved, including Sami Zayn whom had an excellent match the night before on the TakeOver show in which you may see later on this list. With Sami flying through the ladder then running to give Kevin Owens a tornado DDT through the ropes, it was an excellent match worth watching. The biggest shocker was when Zack Ryder, the man that got himself over with his internet show and was being underused for countless years won the match and finally had his WrestleMania moment.
13. NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn – Finn Balor vs. Kevin Owens
With the momentum of winning the NXT championship and making a surprise appearance on Raw to an unsuspecting John Cena, Kevin Owens was flying high going into this ladder match against Finn Balor. With the two future faces of Monday Night Raw going at it in this NXT classic at one of the best TakeOvers in NXT’s history, it was nothing less than amazing. When Finn Balor won the belt it started his historic 292 day reign as champion, and was an appropriate send off for Kevin Owens whom was going to the main roster to have his feud with John Cena.
12. WrestleMania XXVIII – Triple H vs. The Undertaker
The rivalry between Triple H and The Undertaker is a rather underrated rivalry considering the great matches they have put on together. With their legendary match at WrestleMania X-Seven far in the past, there was the added moniker of this being an “end of an era”. This was The Undertaker and HHH, the end of a rivalry being set off in the best way possible, inside Hell in a Cell with HBK as special guest referee, with Undertaker being victorious and making his record 20-0 at WrestleMania. This was without a doubt their best match and the ending really solidified that fact with The Undertaker breaking kayfabe and embracing HHH on the ramp before going backstage; this was huge as The Undertaker VERY rarely breaks character.
11. NXT – Finn Balor vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
This was a match that had pay per view written all over it, two of the biggest names in NXT and 2 of the best overall performers were going to have a match that was also a sendoff match for Finn. When it was first announced the entire wrestling world was abuzz for this match because everyone knew it was going to be an excellent affair. The match itself didn’t let the fans down as the NXT crowd was half behind Shinsuke and half behind Finn, with so many good spots in the match and showing off both superstars’ athleticism and showing how the King of Strong Style is here to stay. With Nakamura picking up the win the wrestling world wasn’t disappointed as it was an excellent sendoff for Finn Balor whom would see himself being drafted to Monday Night Raw.
10. WrestleMania XXVIII – CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho
The man they call CM Punk has always needed to fight his way onto a pay per view main event slot, this match for the WWE championship allowed him to do so. The most intriguing part of this rivalry was the “realness” factor in which Jericho would take the Straight Edge superstar down a few pegs by accusing him of being drunk and high, and also going after his father being a real life alcoholic. The match itself did not disappoint where both Punk and Jericho really clicked together not only on the microphone but also in the ring. With this match being overshadowed by the “Once in a Lifetime” match between The Rock and John Cena, it isn’t very hard to see how just 2 years later CM Punk would depart the WWE.
9. NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn – Bayley vs. Sasha Banks
Oh how the women’s division has had some great moments in the past year, with the Women’s Revolution (formerly Divas Revolution) in full swing. It all came to a head at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn. The match of the year was with two of the top women’s wrestlers in the world, with one of the best rivalries that NXT has ever seen. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks would be the co-headliner for the best TakeOvers to date. The match was full of emotion and that hurricanrana from the top rope that set up Bayley for the eventual win and Women’s Championship was a thing of beauty. The match was so great that it got worldwide attention and made the women’s division more legit. It was only made better with the next TakeOver where Bayley and Sasha would become the first women to main event a wrestling pay per view with their epic 30 minute Iron Man match.
8. WrestleMania 29 – CM Punk vs. The Undertaker
One thing that you can be certain with this list is that WrestleMania is home to some incredible matches, even when the match is better than the main event. This rivalry was requested by The Undertaker, who wanted to work with CM Punk. This however would be the most taboo rivalry in recent memory with the addition of the unfortunate passing of William Moody otherwise known as Paul Bearer; Punk would use this to his advantage in having the urn that contained the ashes of Bearer in his possession. The taboo part was the fact that CM Punk and Paul Heyman week in and week out would mock the Deadman’s former manager. This would all come to an end when The Undertaker had his best match in years against punk and how it looked very likely that CM Punk would beat the streak with spots like his elbow off the top rope onto a prone Undertaker on the announce table. The Undertaker however would gain the upper hand and added to his winning streak at WrestleMania in a gruelling match that is one of the best of the 2010s.
7. NXT TakeOver: Arrival – Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn
When it comes to NXT there are a few names that are thrown around on the main roster as “jobbers” – Bo Dallas, anyone? With the first NXT special event, the card was stacked with some great matches. The one that stands out in everyone’s mind is the match between Antonio Cesaro and Sami Zayn. It was one of those matches where both men were extremely talented and were both clicking at the same time to make magic in the ring. We still have many people and wrestling experts talking about this match with all the different spots put on by two of the best pure athletes to ever come through NXT. With Cesaro picking up the win, it was a signal that he would be someone to look out for, and that came true when he went on to win the inaugural Andre the Giant Battle Royale. Both men are now on the main roster, and they have had their fair share of matches together since Arrival – expect to see more of these two in the future as they are both poised to be champion at some point.
6. SummerSlam 2013 – CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar
With anything to do with wrestling, there has to be some controversy, right? This will be considered a controversial pick in many ways; however, the point of this match being on this list is because it is purely and wholeheartedly underrated. The reason why it’s underrated is because it was overshadowed by the events that transpired later that SummerSlam. It was the best match of that night, there was a lot of emotion for the match called ‘the Best vs. the Beast’ and rightfully so because it was highly emotional because of the recent betrayal of Paul Heyman towards CM Punk. The constant kickouts and spots in this match make it deserve more recognition, especially since it would only be a few months after this where CM Punk would leave the WWE.
5. Money In The Bank 2016 – AJ Styles vs. John Cena
When AJ Styles arrived on WWE grounds at the Royal Rumble, there was a lot expected of him with his terrific pedigree of international work and being dubbed Mr. TNA. With 2 main events and a WrestleMania match under his belt already, there is a lot to expect out of the Georgia native. Along came big match John Cena into the picture. With Cena coming back from a bad injury, it was expected that he would be used to try and get over a new talent. Out cames AJ and the match was set. The match was excellent from start to end, with AJ not giving in to Cena’s usual banter and moves when it comes to his matches; countering everything from the AA to the 5 Knuckle Shuffle, it was clear that this wouldn’t be a normal John Cena match where you can predict the outcome from a mile away. However, the ending of the match wasn’t as great as many fans will tell you, while AJ got the win, many feel it was tainted with the interference of the Club. With the brand extension, AJ is now separated from the Club and is expected to go over Cena at SummerSlam and do what he loves to do: #beatupjohncena.
4. WrestleMania XXX – Daniel Bryan vs. Batista vs. Randy Orton
The match that wasn’t supposed to happen, soemthing that the fans forced to happen, this is the match that made WWE and Vinny Mac start listening to the audience rather than their investors. The original match was supposed to be Batista vs. Randy Orton in a singles match, with Batista to have a short run with the title; however things changed once the audience started rejecting the big man. When it came time for the Royal Rumble, everyone knew who was going to win because Batista had returned a few weeks before hand; when Daniel Bryan was eliminated early, the booing was relentless. This was the fact until WWE changed the storyline into one of the most magical nights in recent memory; the match was set for Mania and would see Daniel Bryan beating HHH to be placed in the main event. When Daniel Bryan made Batista tap to the YES Lock, the entire wrestling community exploded for the underdog. It would be the best moment in Daniel’s career; unfortunately 2 years since that moment, he would be forced to retire from in ring competition.
3. Money In The Bank 2011 – CM Punk vs. John Cena
There wasn’t a bigger match feeling than this main event of possibly the best Money in the Bank in WWE history. CM Punk was set to leave the WWE due to contract disputes, leading to Punk’s very real pipe bomb promo against everything that Punk hated about WWE in John Cena. This match created more fans of wrestling due to the realness behind it, with McMahon in the fold trying to screw Punk out of the title and quite possibly the most hostile crowd since the RVD vs. John Cena crowd only a few years earlier. The two men put on an incredible match with so many spots and kickouts of their respective finishers; it definitely deserves its 5 star rating given by Dave Meltzer. When CM Punk won and blew McMahon the kiss and ran out of the arena, it was a classic moment that will always be remembered.
2. WrestleMania XXVI – Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker
This is, in my opinion, the best match of this long-standing rivalry, this was the match that left everyone in awe, and it was billed as The Streak vs. The Career. When Shawn Michaels made the challenge to The Undertaker it was the second year in a row that HBK wanted to end the streak, however The Undertaker would make the match only if HBK would put his illustrious career on the line. The match was incredible with a no DQ stipulation added it only made the feel even better. When The Undertaker pinned HBK we all saw the career of quite possibly the greatest performer in wrestling history’s career finish, many fans were left speechless and tears in their eyes to see their hero having his last hurrah.
1. NXT TakeOver: Dallas – Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn
This is without a doubt not only the best WWE/NXT match of the year, it is also an early contender for the match of the year in all of pro wrestling. Sami was leaving NXT for the main roster and Shinsuke was the hot new signing that WWE made from NJPW and the fans were eager to see exactly what all the hype was about. These two men did not disappoint the fans whatsoever, with the slug fest in the middle of the match, the crowd chanting ‘fight forever’ and the introduction to the King of Strong Style – it was a work of art. The best part of the match was the fact that the WWE was able to keep all of Shinsuke’s moveset in, which WWE is notorious for ruining good stars from different promotions. When Shinsuke pinned Sami for the 1-2-3 it was clear that he would be a big part of NXT for the months and possibly years to come. With the brand extension and with him set to face Samoa Joe at TakeOver: Back to Brooklyn, it’s hard to say how long it will take for the King of Strong Style to make his way to either Raw or SmackDown.
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