The 10 best matches of 2020 (so far)
2020 has brought the WWE Universe a slew of unforgettable matches, many of which were contested in environments we'd never seen before. From Fight Pits to the roof of WWE Headquarters to Boneyards and of course, the good ole squared circle, WWE.com is counting down the 10 best matches of 2020 so far.
Matt Riddle vs. Timothy Thatcher – First-ever NXT Fight Pit (NXT, May 27)
When the first-ever NXT Fight Pit was announced, the WWE Universe had no idea what to expect. But what we got was a one-of-a-kind, sports-entertainment spectacle that was just as innovative as it was brutal.
In an environment where WWE Hall of Famer and Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle was the only person conceivably capable of keeping order as the guest referee, Matt Riddle and Timothy Thatcher’s implosion as a tag team and subsequent falling out reached a heavy-hitting crescendo with the competitors surrounded by chain link and scaffolding, one of the most unique structures in WWE history.
And The Original Bro and Thatcher delivered highlights galore in this unforgettable encounter, from both Superstars trading strikes high above the mat while teetering the towering scaffolding, to Riddle soaring through the air with the Floating Bro from high above. And let’s not forget Riddle’s showtime kick — Thatcher certainly won’t after losing his teeth.
But Thatcher emerged victorious, instantly establishing himself as one of the most savage competitors in NXT and treating fans to a memory they wouldn’t soon forget. — JORDAN GARRETSON
Keith Lee vs. Adam Cole – Winer Take All (NXT Great American Bash, July 8)
The main event of the second week of NXT’s Great American Bash was so much more than a title vs. title match.
In one corner, you had Adam Cole. A braggadocios yet tenacious champion who held NXT’s top prize for 403 days and competed in many of the best matches in NXT history. In the other, you had a man who was carrying the weight of his legacy on his shoulders. Mourning the loss of his trainer, “Killer” Tim Brooks, and his grandmother, NXT North American Keith Lee was poised to put an Undisputed reign to rest.
The 20-minute match brought out all the emotions and physicality, and at the end of it, Lee stood tall with the NXT North American Title and the NXT Championship. You have to give credit to Cole, who elevated the prestige of the championship and gave his all in those 403 days, but there is something poetic and hopeful in seeing a proud and triumphant black man holding two championship titles as celebratory confetti flies through the air.
In this new era of NXT, we are all basking in the glory of Keith Lee. — DEBORAH WECKSELL
Men’s and Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Matches (Money in the Bank, May 10)
This year’s Money in the Bank Ladder Matches were certainly the most unique ever, not only because it was the first time the Men and Women competed at the same time, but it was contested at WWE World Headquarters.
The Superstars clashed in the gym, the cafeteria and even Mr. McMahon’s office to try and reach the roof where their respective briefcases hung above the ring. Otis was as shocked as anyone when the men’s briefcase literally fell into his hands, giving him the unlikely victory. But the biggest surprise was revealed the next night on Raw when Asuka learned she didn’t win a guaranteed championship match at a time of her choosing. Rather, her victory secured her the Raw Women’s Championship, vacated by Becky Lynch. — MATT ZIMMER
Rhea Ripley vs. Charlotte Flair – NXT Women’s Championship (WrestleMania 36, April 5)
It was a historic battle for many reasons. It was the first time a Royal Rumble winner opted to challenge for an NXT championship on The Grandest Stage of Them All, the first time one of the black-and-gold brand’s titles was on the line at WrestleMania, and Rhea Ripley’s Show of Shows debut.
Under the bright lights of WrestleMania, Ripley shone like the Superstar she is, bringing the fight to one of the most decorated female Superstars in WWE history. But despite The Nightmare’s brute force, Charlotte Flair proved why she can lay claim to the title “Ms. WrestleMania.” Ripley took Flair to the limit in a star-making performance, but The Queen stood tall, dethroning The Nightmare and recapturing the NXT Women’s Championship for the first time in five years. — BOBBY MELOK
Drew McIntyre vs. Seth Rollins – WWE Championship (Money in the Bank, May 10)
Let’s face it: 2020 has been a total swerve on all levels. Thankfully, though, a few silver linings beamed down inside the squared circle — most notably, this tour de force between Drew McIntyre and Seth Rollins at WWE Money in the Bank. At a time when an escape was very much in high-demand, these two titans provided just that in a jaw-dropping showdown.
McIntyre, in his first WWE Title defense since setting his Drew world order in motion at WrestleMania 36, was dealt the challenge of authenticating his reign against a battle-tested Rollins, who is no stranger to that coveted burden and, in that moment, seemed transfixed on bearing it again.
The result was a bullheaded battle of wills. Rollins operated in pure Super Saiyan form, relentlessly torpedoing McIntyre with every offense in his arsenal, including a thunderous superplex/Falcon Arrow combination that nearly spelled doom for the champion. Ever the warrior, though, McIntyre absorbed it all and stood tall with a defining Claymore that punctuated the long road that led him to the mountaintop. Still, there was no denying the sheer will of these Superstars — a display that seemingly captured the essence of everything surrounding that evening. In that moment, an escape was needed, and these two delivered on all levels. — RALPH BRISTOUT
Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles – Intercontinental Championship (SmackDown, June 12)
The WWE Universe was thrilled throughout this past year with matches in boneyard, swamps, and even dreams. But at the end of the day, nothing compares to the true spectacle of good, old-fashioned wrestling. When AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan engaged in a marathon battle for the Intercontinental Title, the highest skill the sport offers was on display.
The match spanned nearly half of SmackDown that night, but there was never a second you could take your eyes off the action. Like any great artistic display, there was no wasted motion. Each man strategically attacked his opponent, as Bryan used an array of submissions while Styles found counters at the most opportune moments. The Intercontinental Championship is often referred to as “The Working Man’s Title,” and on this night, the work paid off. It was amazing, it was Phenomenal, it was wrestling — in the truest sense of the word. — BRAD ZAK
Men’s Royal Rumble Match (Royal Rumble, Jan. 26, 2020)
The Royal Rumble is all about the moments, those images that are permanently engrained into your memory, and this year’s over-the-top extravaganza was chockful of them.
Brock Lesnar was a one-man demolition crew, even by his own lofty standards. Though he was already the WWE Champion, The Beast voluntarily entered at the No. 1 position and eliminated a record-tying 13 Superstars.
His dominance lasted until he was met with the ice-cold stare and imposing figure of Drew McIntyre, who finally took The Beast out of contention with a cathartic Claymore Kick that sent Lesnar flailing over the top rope to the floor, much to the delight of the WWE Universe.
Also… EDGE!!!!!! Yes, The Rated-R Superstar made his jaw-dropping return from what was thought to be a career-ending neck injury nine years ago. After almost Spearing Dolph Ziggler out of his boots, Edge competed for more than 23 grueling minutes and nearly pulled off a miraculous win, as he was one of the final three Superstars in the ring.
Though Edge and Randy Orton were at each other’s throats in the weeks and months to follow, a brief Rated-RKO reunion was still an incredible sight.
The King of Claymore Country claimed the victory, however, and it put the Scotsman on the path to complete his journey from air guitaring in 3MB to slaying The Beast and winning the WWE Championship in WrestleMania’s main event. — JON CHIK
Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley vs. Io Shirai – NXT Women’s Championship (NXT TakeOver: In Your House, June 7)
Io Shirai survived a war. Three of WWE’s best Superstars came together to battle over the NXT Women’s Title, and they put each other through hell — from Rhea Ripley’s top-rope Riptide to Charlotte Flair throwing Shirai through a window.
The Genius of the Sky dazzled with a leap off the roof of the In Your House entrance to topple both of her opponents in a moment that will play on every NXT highlight reel for the next decade.
The ending fit the back-and-forth energy of the entire bout, with Shirai breaking up the Figure-Eight Leglock with an awe-inspiring moonsault to steal the win and the NXT Women’s Title in stunning fashion. — JEFF LABOON
Edge vs. Randy Orton (Backlash, June 14)
Howard Finkel’s legendary voice is a lot to live up to whether a match is pre-labeled as the “greatest ever” or not. But Edge and Randy Orton’s match at Backlash was called The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever ahead of time and did feature Howard’s Hall of Fame voice, as well as literal sights and sounds that celebrated the history of sports-entertainment.
So, ya know, no pressure in the slightest.
In “The Day Of: Backlash” on the WWE Network, Edge says, “How do you even contemplate calling this The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever unless you have Howard Finkel introducing it?” Howard’s voice set the tone for a match that The Rated-R Superstar calls a “love letter to wrestling,” with the WWE Universe being treated to everything from Charles Robinson rocking an old school referee outfit, Edge and Randy both busting out with maneuvers that paid tribute to icons of the industry and the two going at it at an unbelievable pace for over 40 minutes before Orton put a stop to it all with a Punt square to Edge’s dome.
Does all that equal The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever? That really comes down to personal preference. Unbelievably great wrestling match, though? Yes, 100 times over. One that elicited cheers from fans, respect from legends and, somewhere, the warmest of smiles from The Fink. — RYAN PAPPOLLA
Undertaker vs. AJ Styles – Boneyard Match (WrestleMania 36, April 4)
In an era where the cinematic match has unexpectedly become a new normal, the Boneyard Match between Undertaker and AJ Styles that closed out the first night of WrestleMania 36 became the gold standard.
From the first bang of the drums in Metallica's "Now That We're Dead,” the sight of Undertaker riding toward the battlefield on a motorcycle immediately had the WWE Universe jumping for joy in their living rooms and on Twitter. The instant nostalgia coupled with the extremely personal nature of this rivalry made for WrestleMania magic in a way that nobody initially anticipated.
This match had everything, from Undertaker having to take on an army of druids, to the unforgettable visual of The Deadman suddenly appearing behind The Phenomenal One atop a tractor, and the thunderous Chokeslam to Styles off a rooftop that spelled the end.
The Boneyard Match was the perfect blend of everything that has made Undertaker so captivating for nearly three decades — a legacy that was made even richer through WWE Network's "Undertaker: The Last Ride" documentary series. And if this battle was indeed Undertaker's last ride on The Grandest Stage of Them All, it's only fitting it would be in yet another Match of the Year candidate. — STEVE BARILE