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WWE.com's Top 25 Matches of 2016

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It’s been quite the year. We got a Brand Extension, five new championships, a brand-new show, Heath Slater got his above-ground pool and those good brothers from Japan finally made their way to WWE. But before we ring in 2017, it’s time to take stock of the year that was and review the best competition WWE had to offer. WWE.com editors (and Superstars) present our picks for the 25 best matches of 2016, all of which you can see for free on the award-winning WWE Network.


25

Triple H vs. Dean Ambrose — WWE Championship Match (WWE Roadblock)

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WE SAID: Dean Ambrose is dangerous enough when he improvises, but watching him go into a match with a plan is something else entirely. At WWE Roadblock — mere weeks before WrestleMania 32 — The Lunatic Fringe battled The Game not only for the WWE Championship, but also for the opportunity to change the landscape of The Show of Shows. Methodically focusing his attack on the left leg of the champion, Ambrose nearly dethroned The King of Kings more than once. Were it not for an ill-timed elbow drop onto the announce table, WrestleMania 32 just might have emanated from The Ambrose Asylum. — JAMES WORTMAN

THEY SAID: “Maybe my favorite match of the year. It was old-school. And it was at a special Live Event pay-per-view in a smaller venue. Not as much lights, set or anything and it was only a couple weeks before WrestleMania, which is all about spectacle and craziness, but this was just about two guys doing the dance in the ring under the lights. Not a lot of people can do that style of match. To be there in that kind of scenario and test myself against Triple H and go toe-to-toe and hold-for-hold was very personally rewarding.” — DEAN AMBROSE

24

 Team Raw (Kevin Owens, Roman Reigns, Chris Jericho, Seth Rollins & Braun Strowman) vs. Team SmackDown LIVE (AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, Shane McMahon, Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton) — 5-on-5 Traditional Survivor Series Men’s Elimination Match (Survivor Series)

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If there was a WWE equivalent to a big-budget summer popcorn flick this year, it was undoubtedly the Survivor Series main event. The heavily hyped battle between Raw and SmackDown LIVE was so packed with marquee stars, high stakes and even comic relief (thanks to Team Blue mascot James Ellsworth) that you wouldn’t have been surprised to find out it was directed by Joss Whedon. The nearly hourlong (!) affair — which saw Roman Reigns almost hospitalize Shane McMahon with the ugliest Spear of 2016, The Shield Triple-Powerbomb AJ Styles through an announce table and Randy Orton & Bray Wyatt walk out as survivors — left us slack-jawed, breathless, and asking one question: When’s the sequel? — RYAN MURPHY

23 

The New Day vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson — Raw Tag Team Championship Match (Raw, Sept. 26)

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WE SAID: Much like their record-setting Raw Tag Team Title reign, The New Day’s defense against Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson was a testament to their ability to survive. Gallows & Anderson were at their punishing best, cutting off the ring and dismantling Kofi Kingston at length. Big E eventually powered his way into action, but that didn’t stop Gallows from rushing Kingston into the ring steps, a collision that lacerated his face. Still, Kingston survived and even scored the winning fall despite his crimson countenance. — JOHN CLAPP

THEY SAID: “There’s nothing that will enrage you more or hype you up more than seeing and feeling your own blood on your face. We know what it does to us, but we know what it does to the crowd, who knows this injury has occurred and this man is continuing to perform. But for me, the coolest part of the match was finishing the match and cradling Kofi as though he were my infant child, wiping the blood away and seeing this huge smile on his face like he was the happiest kid of the planet. You can tell in that picture what it meant for us.” — XAVIER WOODS

“That was the first time I’ve ever bled like that. We sacrifice everything for each other. We go all out for each other. The culmination of us cradled around each other, we’re literally blood brothers.” — KOFI KINGSTON

“When they induct Kofi into the Hall of Fame — when, hopefully, we get an opportunity to induct him — it should be in the package to show the grit and determination this man has. A lot of people sleep on Kofi, but he’s in the discussion for greatest of all time. And people sleep on him! Put this man in first-class! Why doesn’t this man have first-class travel to every town?! That’s another discussion, but we’ll talk.” — BIG E

22

Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho vs. Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn vs. Alberto Del Rio — Money in the Bank Ladder Match (Money in the Bank)

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WE SAID: If there is such a thing as a glass ceiling, Dean Ambrose had been slamming his head against it for a solid year leading up to this star-making match for The Lunatic Fringe. But to only highlight Ambrose’s ultimate Money in the Bank victory — and subsequent cash-in — would do a disservice to the magnificent performances of Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, Cesaro, Sami Zayn and Alberto Del Rio, all of whom laid their bodies on the line in the most inventive fashion possible to reach the proverbial next rung. Ambrose’s victory was sweet, to be sure, but anybody here would have been a worthy champion-in-waiting. To quote one of the participants: Drink it in, man. — ANTHONY BENIGNO

THEY SAID: “I hate Ladder Matches. If I’m never in another Ladder Match again for the rest of my life, I’ll be happy. But on that night I had a job to do. Had to get up that ladder, get that briefcase. The way I figure it, every time we step in the ring, it’s some kind of gamble. So if you’re gonna roll the dice with your body and your safety, you might as well go all in and go for the big money all in one night in Las Vegas.” — DEAN AMBROSE

21 

Chris Jericho vs. AJ Styles (Fastlane)

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You can’t have a ranking of the greatest matches in 2016 without including AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho. The difficulty was trying to decide which of their dream matchups was greatest. It’s like trying to pick your favorite episode of “Seinfeld.” Ultimately, The Phenomenal One and The Ayatollah of Rock ’n’ Rolla’s then–rubber match at WWE Fastlane stood out as the best among the bunch. With one win apiece, both proud competitors were battling for bragging rights. And although only Styles’ hand was raised in the end, the WWE Universe reaped the rewards. — SCOTT TAYLOR

20 

Asuka vs. Bayley — NXT Women’s Championship Match (NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II)

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WE SAID: Saying goodbye is never easy, but Bayley’s NXT swan song was made especially difficult by the unwavering desire of her opponent, NXT Women’s Champion Asuka, to kick her head in. The undefeated champion looked supremely confident, but somewhere between the multitude of kicks and Asuka’s increasingly patronizing demeanor, a switch turned inside Bayley. Gone was the huggable, doe-eyed optimist, replaced by a warrior seeking to trade fire with a premier striker. The strategy didn’t work, and Asuka won after a near-KO blow, but nobody could question whether Bayley’s heart was in the right place: the NXT ring. — JOHN CLAPP

THEY SAID: “It’s my match of the year because it was my last match with NXT, which was very bittersweet. [Going to Raw was] something I’d been waiting for since I was a kid. But having to say goodbye to the NXT Universe was very tough for me. I wouldn’t have had it any other way, and I’m glad that my last one was in Brooklyn with everybody there and against somebody like Asuka.” — BAYLEY

19

The New Day vs. Y2AJ — WWE Tag Team Championship Match (Raw, March 7)

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WE SAID: Chris Jericho and AJ Styles nearly snuffed out The New Day’s rainbow on the March 7 episode of Raw, when Y2AJ faced Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods for the WWE Raw Tag Team Titles. The crowd erupted for Styles, who had debuted less than two months earlier. The Phenomenal One lived up to his moniker, executing a springboard moonsault into a reverse DDT as well as a 450 Splash. His efforts would not be enough, however, as interference from Woods helped New Day to victory. The loss also earned Styles three Codebreakers after the match and signaled the demise of Y2AJ. — GREG ADKINS

THEY SAID: “It’s cool to see my brethren have that quality of match with those quality performers and know that we are on the level of guys that are considered top-tier on the planet. Everybody in the match was on fire. It feels good to be able to put on a show like that.” — XAVIER WOODS

“I’d say that was definitely our best TV defense. You can argue Jericho’s in contention for G.O.A.T. all around, and AJ, from a purely technical perspective, is phenomenal.” — BIG E

“I see what you did there. Every time we step out there it’s a test. We want to prove ourselves every single time, and we want to go up against the best competition. The competition doesn’t really get much better than Jericho and AJ on the same team, and we were able to go out there and hang, proving, once again, that we are the greatest tag team of all time.” — KOFI KINGSTON

18

Dolph Ziggler vs. Triple H (Raw, March 14)

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WE SAID: Of all the tests that plagued Dolph Ziggler’s Sisyphean 2016, none were as seemingly pre-ordained as a long-brewing showdown with Triple H on Raw. Animosity had lingered between The Game and The Showoff’s for some time, but their meeting in the ring was a measured, disciplined showcase that left nobody in doubt as to their mutual respect, to say nothing of their skills: One was living legend, and the other was hot on his heels. — ANTHONY BENIGNO

THEY SAID: “It was cool being in the ring with Triple H not being in my first year of wrestling. In The Spirit Squad, I got to be in the ring with Triple H, Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair on a nightly basis, and that’s where I learned the most. It was kind of cool to have a chance to apply those skills I learned from the best ever. Sadly I lost, but it was still a hell of a fight, which, all my matches are.” — DOLPH ZIGGLER

17

Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins — WWE Championship Match (Money in the Bank)

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WE SAID: Nearly seven months after Seth Rollins went down with a devastating knee injury, The Architect battled his one-time Shield brother-in-arms, Roman Reigns, for WWE’s greatest title at WWE Money in the Bank. Both Superstars fought tooth-and-nail, but Rollins finally countered The Big Dog’s Spear by hitting a miraculous mid-air Pedigree for the win. Before Rollins could celebrate, however, the third Shield member, “Mr. Money in the Bank” Dean Ambrose, emerged and cashed-in his contract to take the title just like that. — MIKE BURDICK

THEY SAID: “For me, that was six-and-a-half months off, first pay-per-view match back and trying to get a championship against Roman Reigns. A lot of nerves going in, a lot of uncertainty. But it was like riding a bike. Roman and I know each other so well. Very competitive back-and-forth match. A lot of heart from both sides, and to be able to come out on top was pretty awesome for me, [because] I wanted that badly. I wanted to prove I was still the same guy I was before surgery and rehab. At the end of the day, even though Ambrose walked out of Money in the Bank with the championship, I still proved I was The Man.” — SETH ROLLINS

16 

The Miz vs. Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens — Fatal 4-Way Intercontinental Championship Match (Extreme Rules)

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The Fatal 4-Way Match at Extreme Rules 2016 did not just put Cesaro, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens in contention for The Miz’s Intercontinental Title. It also put a quartet in the same ring after weeks of meddling in each other’s business, capping a rivalry which had been boiling over since Owens and Zayn inserted themselves into a WWE Payback 2016 battle between The Miz and Cesaro. This foursome wanted to humble and humiliate each other at Extreme Rules as much as they wanted to leave as Intercontinental Champion. They blitzed each other with clotheslines, European uppercuts and Blue Thunder Bombs. They broke up nearly every pinfall attempt, brawled all over ringside. In the end, The Miz somehow escaped with his coveted title in as dramatic a Fatal 4-Way Match as any you’ll ever see. — MATTHEW ARTUS

15

Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte Flair — Hell in a Cell Raw Women’s Championship Match (Hell in a Cell)

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WE SAID: How would the first-ever, history-making, Women’s Hell in a Cell main event between Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks for the Raw Women’s Championship begin? How about a raucous brawl that sprawled outside of the cell itself, onto the floor and even into the WWE Universe. The match was nearly over before it began as Sasha was carted off after getting put through a table, but she rose from the ashes to Just. Keep. Going. Flair and Banks showed no fear, tenaciously trailblazing as they painted a brutal masterpiece that was equal parts beauty and grime. History is what we were promised. History is what we got. — RYAN PAPPOLLA

THEY SAID: “Being in Boston, Sasha’s hometown, for the first-ever Women’s Hell in a Cell Match and the first-ever Women’s [WWE pay-per-view] main event was surreal in itself, but I’ll never forget standing across the ring from her and the Cell coming down. It was probably the most nerve-wracking, exhilarating experience I’ve ever had in WWE.” — CHARLOTTE FLAIR

14 

Finn Bálor vs. Seth Rollins — WWE Universal Championship Match (SummerSlam)

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WE SAID: The Demon King emerged from the depths to clash in a WWE ring for the first time at SummerSlam this year. And although Seth Rollins was initially dismissive when it came to Finn Bàlor’s eerie alter-ego, The Architect was definitely a believer after the bout. Bàlor showed incredible tenacity in his quest to become the inaugural WWE Universal Champion, not even letting a serious shoulder injury hinder his ascent to the Raw mountaintop. Fighting through pain after a damaging powerbomb into the barricade, The Demon King ultimately rallied back to finish off “The Man” with a history-making Coup de Grâce. — JAMES WORTMAN

THEY SAID: “That one was difficult. A long weekend for everybody, the fans in Brooklyn included. They got their first glimpse at the red WWE Universal Championship. Obviously, that was an obstacle we had to overcome, and I had never been in the ring with Finn. At the end of the day, it’s a testament to him and how gutsy he is to continue the match with his arm dangling free and come out on top. It wasn’t my best day, but overall, an incredible experience. That was the first match we ever had, but it won’t be the last, and it won’t be the last for the WWE Universal Championship. I’m sure of that.” — SETH ROLLINS

13

The Revival vs. American Alpha — NXT Tag Team Championship Match (NXT TakeOver: Dallas)

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WE SAID: American Alpha’s meteoric rise to the top of NXT’s tag team division was destined to end with them capturing the NXT Tag Team Titles. Reigning kingpins The Revival wanted nothing more than to put an end to Jason Jordan & Chad Gable’s ascension. The self-proclaimed “top guys” pulled out every dirty trick and double-team in the book to try and hold onto their titles in Dallas, but there was no stopping the mat mavens’ ascension. American Alpha thwarted The Revival at every turn and caught Scott Dawson off-guard with Grand Amplitude to capture the titles. — BOBBY MELOK

THEY SAID: “It was our shot at redemption. Chad, being an Olympian, wound up finishing ninth place and came up short from what his goals and his dreams were. I was in the NCAA Division I nationals and came up short from a national championship and All-American status. [This match] was something we needed as a tag team to solidify how good we felt we were.” — JASON JORDAN

“Being emotionally invested along with the fans is what made it special. A lot of them knew the story of how we came together. Things weren’t working out for Jason for a long time; he’d been in NXT for a long time. People understand trying stuff and stuff not clicking, but when you get hold of that one thing and it starts working, they can see it. When they saw it all come to a head and finally work out for somebody, they can identify that and really feel like they’re a part of it with us.” — CHAD GABLE

12

Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles — Extreme Rules WWE Championship Match (Extreme Rules)

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WE SAID: Extreme Rules’ eponymous main event contained the sort of mind-bending athleticism and otherworldly reversals you’d expect to see in an overly imaginative video game, not real-life competition. AJ Styles rattled off Phenomenal Forearms from every perch imaginable, including the Kickoff announce desk and, later, from the top rope through a table on the floor. Roman Reigns launched Styles into barricades, through tables and onto steel chairs. By the time The Big Dog countered yet another Phenomenal Forearm attempt with a perfectly timed Spear, even hypothetical video game developers had to throw up their hands in disbelief. — JOHN CLAPP

THEY SAID: “There’s a lot of reasons [why it’s on this list] other than the fact that it was a pretty awesome match, but the story going into it was pretty important. Emotions were going everywhere, but despite not knowing who to root for, you knew you were in for something special.” — AJ STYLES

11

Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa (Cruiserweight Classic, Aug. 3)

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WE SAID: They say that good friends make better enemies. Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa proved that was more than true in the final first round match of the inaugural WWE Cruiserweight Classic. Just weeks before they would challenge for the NXT Tag Team Titles, the members of #DIY left it all in the squared circle. Ciampa showed his ruthless side, battering his partner into a daze, and Gargano fought through the brutal beatdown. “Johnny Wrestling” survived every blow his best friend threw his way and stunned Ciampa with a surprise rollup to advance in the CWC. — BOBBY MELOK

THEY SAID: “The Cruiserweight Classic was a big turning point in our careers. Not only did it bring us closer together but I think we can thank that match for where we are in our careers. When that match happened, the fans didn’t know the brackets yet. There were 16 first-round matches and we were No. 16. As the night progressed, there was a buzz going around that Johnny may be wrestling Tommaso. It was a really cool atmosphere when I came out first and then Tommaso came out.” — JOHNNY GARGANO

“There was a hush when the crowd realized it was going to be Johnny and Tommaso. It was a long night for the fans to stay active and attentive, [but] when we heard that hush we just thought, ‘This is gonna be special.’ And it was.” — TOMMASO CIAMPA

10

The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler — Title vs. Career Intercontinental Championship Match (No Mercy)

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WE SAID: In one corner, you have The Miz, the reigning Intercontinental Champion and self-proclaimed “Hollywood A-lister” who constantly criticized everyone who questioned his accomplishments to date. In the other corner, you have Dolph Ziggler, a challenger so frustrated with his career trajectory that he elected to risk it all for one last chance at championship glory. Each Superstar fought with equal parts intensity and desperation, knowing full well that their Title vs. Career Match at No Mercy 2016 was guaranteed to change at least one of their fates. Despite Miz’s resiliency and interference by Maryse and The Spirit Squad, Ziggler kept the battle in the ring. He didn’t stop fighting until he emerged victorious in a match that will always be remembered as one of The Showoff’s best, and there’s some stiff competition there. — MATTHEW ARTUS

THEY SAID: “Miz and myself, for maybe three or four years off-and-on, have had hundreds of matches. The sad thing is that even when they were for titles, they meant almost nothing and no one remembers them. And then, Miz had a rebirth, and I found myself finding a voice on the microphone that I hadn’t allowed myself to be a part of in a really long time. And all of a sudden, people went from, ‘Ugh, Miz and Dolph again: Boring,’ to, ‘I can’t wait to see what happens next week.’ It became the focal point of SmackDown [LIVE], when it wasn’t supposed to be.” — DOLPH ZIGGLER

9

John Cena vs. AJ Styles (SummerSlam)

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WE SAID: “Let’s go, Cena!” … “AJ Styles!” … “Let’s go, Cena!” … “AJ Styles!” And so the thunderous back-and-forth reverberated throughout Brooklyn’s Barclays Center from the opening bell as the 15-time World Champion and The Phenomenal One squared off. The crowd was hot — five-alarm chili hot — for this SummerSlam spectacle. Rightly so. John Cena suffered a Styles Clash and modified Attitude Adjustment. For his part, Styles endured a Tornado DDT and Attitude Adjustment from the second rope. Having defeated Cena at Money in the Bank earlier that summer, though, Styles continued his winning ways, finally besting his opponent with a Phenomenal Forearm that brought down Cena — and the house. — GREG ADKINS

THEY SAID: “John Cena. Wow. SummerSlam. One of the biggest pay-per-views in WWE and I get to be in it against John Cena. That match was gonna be great, and I knew it even before we stepped into the ring together. There was something special and magical about that match. And despite what anybody thinks about John Cena, the guy’s a Clydesdale. He knows his stuff, he knows what he’s doing in the ring. That match had whatever makes matches special before we even stepped into the ring. And on top of that, we delivered.” — AJ STYLES

8

Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch — Triple Threat WWE Women’s Championship Match (WrestleMania 32)

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WE SAID: In a year full of groundbreaking moments for the women of WWE, the one that started it all was the Triple Threat Match between Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch for the then–WWE Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 32. With the eyes of the Universe — both WWE and otherwise — on them, a new title to usher in and an old moniker to set aside, the Generals of the Women’s Revolution refused to leave the field until the show was stolen … and they did just that. “Divas” were gone, but these Superstars? They were just getting started. — RYAN PAPPOLLA

THEY SAID: “Considering we were having that same Triple Threat Match a year earlier in Lakeland, Fla. in front of 22 fans, and then 101,000 the following year as one of the headliners for WrestleMania, I guess you could say it was the most special moment I’ve had in WWE. And having my dad walk me down to the ring, I don’t know if that’s ever happened. That’s what he spent his whole life doing, and walking his daughter, not his son, down the aisle at WrestleMania? That’s history in itself.” — CHARLOTTE FLAIR

7

Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins – No Disqualification WWE Universal Title Match (Raw, Nov. 21)

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Seth Rollins famously bristled when the WWE Universe disparaged the look of the WWE Universal Championship in its debut, claiming that “more important than a title’s appearance is what it represents for the men fighting over it.” He then went and showed just how much it meant to him, taking Kevin Owens to hell and back in a No Disqualification challenge that was so intense, they broke the tables during the commercial break. For Owens, it meant risking his body and his honor, riding an assist from Chris Jericho to retain his prize against The Architect and cap off a top-tier (literally — Rollins swooped down from off a ledge in the arena) match that nobody saw coming. Suffice it to say, that title was looking pretty good by the end, to say nothing of the men fighting over it. — ANTHONY BENIGNO

6

AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose vs. John Cena — Triple Threat WWE Championship Match (No Mercy)

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No Mercy’s Triple Threat WWE World Title Match was unique from the word go as it was the very first pay-per-view main event in history to open the show. John Cena was out to tie WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair’s record by claiming a World Title for the 16th time, Dean Ambrose was looking to regain the title taken from him just one month earlier and WWE World Champion AJ Styles was determined to cement his place as “The Champ that Runs the Camp.” Let the free-for-all commence! In the end, Styles took advantage of the anything-goes rules of a Triple Threat Match, clobbering Cena with a steel chair to hang on to the WWE Championship. Phenomenal. — MIKE BURDICK

Kota Ibushi vs. Cedric Alexander (Cruiserweight Classic; Aug. 10)

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WE SAID: It’s no exaggeration to say that this match got Cedric Alexander signed: Even in defeat, the Cruiserweight Classic dark horse put in such a showing against the renowned Ibushi that the audience broke into a chant of “Please sign Cedric” and Triple H himself emerged from behind the curtain with one response: "All right.” A whip-fast classic that packs emotion and athleticism into every second, it’s the kind of match the Cruiserweight division was built to showcase. And given that Ibushi has yet to follow his CWC contemporaries to Raw and 205 Live, it remains one-of-a-kind in every sense of the word. — ANTHONY BENIGNO

THEY SAID: “Everyone had it in their heads that Ibushi was gonna win and I was just a guy for him to run through. You can ask Ibushi, he didn’t run through me. He struggled. And to be quite honest, that match was what put me in the eyes of the WWE Universe as one of the best Cruiserweights in the world. And the sheer shock of Triple H himself acknowledging my hard work was probably one of the best moments of my entire life next to the birth of my daughter. So of course it’s No. 1! In my opinion it’s the match of the century. [Laughs]” — CEDRIC ALEXANDER

 

4

Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens (WWE Battleground)

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WE SAID: Dubbed their final showdown, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens left their best for last. This is quite the remarkable feat when considering the classic matches these best friends turned bitter enemies produced previously. What transpired at WWE Battleground was every bit as brutal and personal as expected, right down to the final Helluva Kick that felled Owens. Even a sports-entertainment novice can watch this battle and become immediately hooked by Zayn and Owens’ story of betrayal. That it ended up not being their final match is more of a blessing than a curse: We really will get to see them do this forever. — SCOTT TAYLOR

THEY SAID: “It was a matter of this match having been done hundreds of times over the last 15 years, and still it felt fresh, which was the amazing thing to me. That’s the thing about my rivalry with Kevin that truly blows my mind: that it has managed to stand the test of time. No matter how many times we’ve done it, it’s always fresh. It’s a testament to our growth individually as performers. As we grow, so, too, does the match.” — SAMI ZAYN

3

Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks — WWE Women’s Championship Match (Raw; July 25)

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WE SAID: No disrespect to either of their other Monday night title fights (both of which were Raw main events), but the tentpole moment in the ever developing classic conflict between Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks was their WWE Women’s Championship Match from the July 25 episode of Raw. After a grueling contest that had just about everything you could want out of a wrestling match, Banks finally broke through, capturing her first WWE Women’s Championship to seal, in the opinion of many, Raw’s match of the year. — RYAN PAPPOLLA

THEY SAID: “Even I didn’t really see it coming. To be on Raw and win a WWE championship, you only really imagine those things on pay-per-views. I just remember that crowd being truly amazing. From that match to the one after, where I won it again in Los Angeles and we were in the main event, I feel like Charlotte and I just keep topping ourselves. It’s legit insane. 2016 was the year of The Boss and the Flair.” — SASHA BANKS

2

Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (NXT TakeOver: Dallas)

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WE SAID: In the same way music purists still debate the birth of punk rock, sports-entertainment historians will look back at The New Era of WWE and argue over when the sea change took hold. Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura will always have a place in that debate. Matches like this used to happen in the shadow of whatever stadium WrestleMania was emanating from, and guys like Zayn and Nakamura weren’t even on the roster. Now the best match of the biggest weekend in sports-entertainment was happening between a bristling redheaded Canadian-Syrian and a Japanese glam rock surfer under a WWE banner. Who saw that coming? This wasn’t just a match. This was a movement. — RYAN MURPHY

THEY SAID: “It was my debut match in WWE. I had to prove myself. Who is Shinsuke Nakamura? What is King of Strong Style? That match, for me, required concentration. [Zayn] knows how to take rhythm, pace with a Japanese wrestler. But I know how to wrestle, how to prove, how to show myself. Both of us were great.” — SHINSUKE NAKAMURA

1

The Revival vs. #DIY — 2-out-of-3-Falls NXT Tag Team Championship Match (NXT TakeOver: Toronto)

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WE SAID: The Revival like to refer to themselves as “top guys doing top-guy things.” Well, there was nothing more “top guy” than this match, which saw the NXT tag team bulldozers go head-to-head against perennial challengers #DIY in the most grueling stipulation that didn’t involve a steel cage of some kind. The result didn’t just see The Revival cement themselves as one of the premier tag teams in the whole world, it saw Gargano & Ciampa rise to meet their level and earn the hardware to prove it. Come to think of it, that’s a top guy thing, too. — ANTHONY BENIGNO

THEY SAID: “Winning the titles, obviously, is super meaningful. But it’s what happens sometimes behind the scenes that can stay with you forever. Seeing people like William Regal and so many countless others that put their faith in us and trusted us and gave us an opportunity and seeing how proud they were. Even now, it’s like making mom and dad proud.” — TOMMASO CIAMPA

“It was vindication, really. It was vindication not just for everything we’ve gone through, but vindication for 12 years of hard work. You always dream of your moment. In Toronto, #DIY had their moment. It’s something that will never go away.” — JOHNNY GARGANO

 

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