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The Best WWE Match Every Year For The Past 10 Years, According To Dave Meltzer

TheSportster logo TheSportster 8/16/2022 Andrew Kelly
© Provided by TheSportster

WWE has had some up and down years over the last decade, with certain ups such as 2014 and 2016, with several downs too, with 2018 and 2019 being years to forget for the main roster, for example. However, within that time WWE has housed some of the top stars and in-ring talents on the planet, meaning that even amongst bad booking and poor storylines, there can be some good matches.

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Even in the worst of years, there can be one match which stands out above the rest, and Dave Meltzer’s star ratings are a good way to see which match during a year is better than the others.

2021 – Walter Vs Ilja Dragunov, NXT Takeover: 36 (5.25 Stars)

Following an insanely long run as NXT UK Champion, Walter finally met his match in one of the purest and best examples of the classic David vs Goliath trope. Dragunov withstood brutal and physical offense, refusing to be beaten, with a breathtakingly courageous display.

The stiffness of the strikes, the impact of the moves, and the raw emotion in both men was enough to surpass Dave Meltzer’s 5-star system, by being rated 5.25 stars.

2020 – Walter Vs Ilja Dragunov, NXT UK (5 Stars)

There was no ThunderDome nor any performance centre stand-ins at ringside, making this a completely silent building aside from the sounds of kicks, elbows, chops, and bodies hitting the mat.

Walter and Dragunov managed to pull off the impossible by completing a 5-star match in an empty venue, somehow managing to tell a story whilst also giving a performance which felt authentic and painful.

2019 – Adam Cole Vs Johnny Gargano, NXT Takeover: New York (5.5 Stars)

After Tommaso Ciampa received an injury, ruling him out of action, Johnny Gargano instead battled Adam Cole for the vacant NXT Championship. Even though Gargano’s victory was somewhat predictable, the pair managed to produce countless of the best near-falls in NXT history.

The wrestling was fluid, there were an unthinkable number of counters, and Gargano would pick up his fairy-tale victory in one of the most emotional and heart-warming NXT Championship wins of all time.

2018 – Andrade Cien Almas Vs Johnny Gargano, NXT Takeover: Philadelphia (5 Stars)

NXT produced a few 5-star matches in 2018, but this was perhaps the best one. Even though this stretched for around half an hour, Andrade and Gargano managed to keep the audience on the edge of their seats the entire time, hardly ever letting up the pace in this electric title match.

The big moments were spread out wonderfully, with a lot of fantastic sequences, and brilliantly timed near-falls too. Preventing Gargano from winning the belt here was the correct choice, as it set up him for a wonderful journey to the top.

2017 – AJ Styles Vs John Cena, Royal Rumble (4.75 Stars)

This WWE Championship match between AJ Styles and John Cena received huge acclaim due to how unique it was, with the pair not leaving the ring for the entirety of their 24-minute match.

The pair once again showcased marvellous chemistry with one another, with it taking Cena several finishers to finally put down Styles, which made the former champion look great, even in defeat, with Cena taking his tally up to a record-equalling 16 world titles.

2016 – Sami Zayn Vs Shinsuke Nakamura, NXT Takeover: Dallas (4.5 Stars)

From the moment Shinsuke Nakamura made his entrance, it was clear that this was going to be something special. Nakamura’s atmosphere and presence was insane, with he and Zayn bringing notoriety to the now more common chant of ‘fight forever’.RELATED: 10 Best Kevin Owens Vs Sami Zayn Matches, According To Dave Meltzer

Their match had everything, from wonderful spots to stiff blows to class near-falls, even with it being fairly obvious that the newcomer, Nakamura, was walking out as the victor.

2015 – Brock Lesnar Vs John Cena Vs Seth Rollins, Royal Rumble (4.75 Stars)

In terms of triple threat matches, this is up there with the very best in WWE. Brock Lesnar was made to look like a complete monster, overcoming several finishers, double teams, and after taking a big splash through the announce table.

Seth Rollins made his presence known as a future main eventer, and John Cena added even more star power to proceedings, though he very much felt like the third man, which was a good thing. This match had such an electric pace and was set out perfectly.

2014 – Adrian Neville Vs Sami Zayn, NXT Takeover: R Evolution (4.75 Stars)

Sami Zayn was the face of NXT, and this match told a wonderful story of him not giving into any demons to gain the NXT Championship, instead using his heart and soul to win the belt and cleanly defeat Adrian Neville.

The reaction to him winning was magnificent, producing one of NXT’s best ever moments. Neville played his role as a babyface champion with an aggressive edge, making it unclear whether he would also dig deep into his demons to keep hold of the belt. In the end, both men embraced in a great moment.

2013 – CM Punk Vs John Cena, Raw (4.5 Stars)

The chemistry between CM Punk and John Cena is one of those things which can’t be taught, and from a purely in-ring perspective, this may be their best ever match. The main event spot at WrestleMania 29 was on the line, and they put their all into making it feel like the most important prize in the world.

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Each man dug deep into their arsenals to try and put the other away, with Cena sensationally hitting a hurricanrana, and Punk defying WWE’s rules by hitting a piledriver. In the end, it was Cena who was victorious, but both men and the fans were winners after this.

2012 – The Undertaker Vs Triple H, WrestleMania 28 (4.75 Stars)

The emotion in this match drove it to being one of the most intense and captivating spectacles in WrestleMania history. After four years of battling, The Undertaker, Triple H, and Shawn Michaels completed their story together inside Hell in a Cell.

It was a physical match with countless chair shots, finishers, and big moments, all spread out in a masterful way. This match also featured perhaps the greatest near-fall of all time, when Undertaker kicked out of a Pedigree and Sweet Chin Music. Ultimately, he would continue his undefeated streak, with the three men embracing following the match.


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