As an avid fan of the WWE, I can say that it’s been quite a surprising year. We’ve seen the end of Asuka’s streak, the first all-female PPV, the return of Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns finally becoming Universal Champion, and many other memorable moments. There have also been some not-so-great moments, like the dream match between AJ Styles and Nakamura being ruined, Samoa Joe’s rivalry with AJ Styles didn’t earn him the WWE Championship, and many talented superstars not being booked properly. However, there still managed to be some incredible matches. Given that we’re only a few weeks away from the end of 2018, I decided to look back and reflect on my favorite matches of the year in no specific order.
1. Aleister Black vs Andrade “Cien” Almas – NXT Title Match at NXT Take Over: New Orleans
It would be a travesty to not include this match on my list. This match marked the start of Aleister Black’s reign as NXT Champion. Both Almas and Black took each other to the limit. Black had been undefeated at an NXT Take Over event since his arrival. It was an intense match with too many near falls. Almas proved that he was born to be in the main event picture and that he was ready for the main roster. Black let the world know that he was ready to be the face of NXT. This match made me an even bigger fan of both of these superstars.
2. North American Championship Ladder Match – NXT Take Over: New Orleans
On the March 28th episode of NXT, General Manager William Regal announced that a ladder match would take place at NXT Take Over: New Orleans to crown the inaugural NXT North American champion. On the same night, it was announced that EC3, Adam Cole, Ricochet, The Velveteen Dream, Killian Dain, and Lars Sullivan would be the six participants in the match.
I’ve watched a lot of ladder matches during my time as a wrestling fan, but this match easily takes number five on my all-time favorite ladder matches. All the superstars involved showed just how talented they are. This is one of those matches that I’ll happily show to anyone who asks me why I’m still a fan of pro wrestling.
3. Becky Lynch vs Charlotte – Smackdown Women’s Title Last Women Standing Match at Evolution
Before I even break down why this match is an obvious choice on my list, I just have to say that this should’ve been the main event at Evolution. As for the match itself, the build-up for this was incredible. Lynch used the momentum of their previous match and managed to still get people to cheer for her despite being a heel character. This would’ve been a great way to conclude their feud, but I’m glad it’s still going on.
No other female wrestlers on the main roster had competed in a last man standing match. The mere fact that the company chose these two superstars for a first-time match tells you a lot about the star power that they have. Both continue to demonstrate that they are the future of the women’s division and certified future Hall-of-Famers. Matches like these show me that WWE really does care about women’s wrestling.
4. Tommaso Ciampa vs Velveteen Dream – NXT Title Match at NXT Take Over: War Games II
At just 23 years old, The Velveteen Dream was in the main event of Take Over: War Games II fighting against Tomaso Ciampa for the NXT title. The Dream’s attire was an homage to WWE Hall-of-Famer Hulk Hogan when he was in his Hollywood persona and even did some of his signature moves. A lot of fans, including myself, saw this match as the end of Ciampa’s reign.
The Dream came out with such swagger and charisma. It’s honestly an awing experience every time he enters that ring. Tomaso has continued to grow as a heel. They’ve been able to book him well and his promos are always on point. Both of these superstars took each other to the limit. There were so many nears falls that had me on the edge of my seat. Ciampa won the match, which was genuinely upsetting. It’s not every day that a match’s outcome upsets me. That just proves to me that they put everything into this match to make it incredible.
5. Johnny Gargano vs Aleister Black – Grudge Match at NXT Take Over:
This match would’ve made the inner 10-year-old wrestling fan in me lose my mind. It’s a perfect example of a hard-hitting match where both superstars put everything on the line. There wasn’t a single boring moment throughout the entire match. The build-up to this was fantastic. A mysterious figure attacking Black during a backstage segment, having this mysterious figure be teased for several weeks, and then revealing that it was Gargano?
It looks like a simple story, but the way they were able to sell it was genius. It was the best way to transition Johnny into a heel character without ruining his momentum. You could just feel the anger that both of these wrestlers had. Few people can sell emotions like these two. The athleticism of both Gargano and Black always surprises me. I wish someone could erase my mind so I could experience this match all over again.
6. Ricochet vs Velveteen Dream – NXT Take Over: Chicago II
I would consider this match as one of those I never knew I needed to watch until it was announced. Both of these men have already come up in my list not just because they’re some of my favorite wrestlers, but because they can put on quality matches. Once again, The Dream’s attire was an homage to Hulk Hogan, which he definitely pulled off. Ricochet wanted to prove that he was just a guy who does flips while The Dream wanted to increase to his already tremendous reputation in NXT. Near fall after near fall, impress high-flying moves, and hard-hitting offensive moves made this match a must-see. It’s incredible seeing these two stars putting on quality matches that seem very scarce in a lot of the main roster PPVs. When they’re moved up to the main roster, these two men will change the landscape in a major way.
7. Ricochet vs Adam Cole – North American Title Match at NXT Take Over:
Having just captured the NXT North American championship, Adam Cole was looking to prove he was a worthy champion. What better opponent for him to fight than Ricochet. Both Cole and Ricochet had built up incredible careers in the indies, meaning that this match had a big fight feel to it. It was a brutal match, with each superstar giving it everything they had.
During one particular moment, Ricochet was going for a springboard moonsault but Cole countered it with a superkick as Ricochet was falling. The entire crowd in that arena went berzerk. It’s very rare that these kinds of moments happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being other people’s favorite match of the year. Ricochet picked up the win, but Cole showed the world that he was a worthy fighting champion.
8. The Undisputed Era vs Pete Dunne, Ricochet, and War Machine – War Games Match at NXT Take Over: War Games II
Speaking of hard-hitting matches, no other match came close to being as hard hitting that this year’s War Games match. The Undisputed Era has been a dominant faction since they arrived and have added the talented Roderick Strong to their team. War Raiders, Ricochet, and Pete Dunne all had issues with the Undisputed Era. General Manager William Regal gave both teams the opportunity to settle their scores inside the War Games match.
Originally a match developed by Dusty Rhodes, WWE implemented this match into NXT and developed an entire PPV around it. Last year’s match was brutal and probably my favorite match from NXT. This year’s match completely blew that match out of the park. I can’t pick a favorite moment since the entire match had unbelievably phenomenal moments. I’m having a hard time picturing how they could top this match at next year’s War Games event.
9. Becky Lynch vs Charlotte Flair vs Asuka – Smackdown Women’s Title TLC Match at Tables, Ladders, and Chairs
Even though this match just happened, I knew that it would make it on this list. After having her nose broken by Nia Jax, Lynch was ready to use this match to get back on track. She wanted to remind the world why she was still “The Man.” Flair wanted to prove that she was better than Lynch, having just sent a message after brutally beating Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series.
Asuka managed to win a match and gain the opportunity to join this already historic match. No other female superstars had competed in a TLC match. These three women just proved than anyone in the women’s division could take part in these type of matches. I was rooting for Asuka to win since she didn’t manage to win the Smackdown Women’s title at Wrestlemania. I was excited to see her standing on top of the ladder, holding the title proudly. On top of that, the fact that Ronda got involved in the match only increases my hopes for a 4 Horsewomen of WWE vs the 4 Horsewomen of MMA match. I’m hoping we get to see that match soon.
10. Johnny Gargano vs Tomaso Ciampa (Parts 1-3) – Unsanctioned Match, Chicago Street Fight, and Last Man Standing
Every so often, there are matches that have display perfect storytelling components. Those components evolve into incredible feuds that will remain in the minds of many fans of wrestling. Some of those feuds include The Rock vs Austin, The Rock vs Hulk Hogan, John Cena vs Edge, and the feud between Gargano and Ciampa. Once best friends and tag team partners, Ciampa betrayed Gargano and has tormented his life in NXT.
They’ve put on three incredible matches, two of which Ciampa has won. Ciampa shocked the world when he betrayed Johnny and undertook this new persona known as “The Blackheart.” Gargano and Ciampa have proven time and time again that they belong in the main event scene. I have no doubt that this feud will carry over to the main roster once they’re called up. I cannot wait to see these two continue their rivalry. I’m getting chills just thinking about the matches that these two have put on. Feuds like this are why I still love pro-wrestling.
There were many other matches I wanted to include, but I feel like these captured the essence of why I’m still a major fan of pro wrestling. I only hope the WWE continues to deliver fantastic matches like these.