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10 OF THE BEST- WWE Matches of the Year 2023

By Mick Robson

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We're piling up the content here in the silly season, and it's around that time where a lot of fans, critics, whoever put together their lists of top 10 matches of the year. So I thought we'd do the same on The Arena Media!

It's changed a little from my original vision. I was going to do "Top 10 International Matches" alongside 'Top 10 Aussie Matches"- with "international" generally meaning WWE and AEW. I'm only one man and there's so much wrestling in the world today. But it occured to me that both companies churn out so many amazing matches- critique storylines and booking all you want, bell to bell, everyone's killing it these days- that it didn't seem fair to lump the companies together. So as we come to the end of 2023, I'm writing the WWE one, and the AEW one will come in the first few days of 2024- they have a PPV called World's End tomorrow, so I'm reluctant to write theirs just yet in case we get a last second banger.

Disclaimer: 10 OF THE BEST isn't a series in strict order. It's just, as it says in the title, 10 of the best in a particular category.

Let's do this!


10- San Juan Street Fight- Bad Bunny vs. Damian Priest (Backlash 2023)

When I was a kid, one of the very first matches I remember watching was Stone Cold vs. Dude Love from Over The Edge 1998. It was chock full of weapons and interference, and some might call it overbooked. But dammit, it was fun. And I feel a very similar way about this craziness! Bad Bunny is a major celebrity who clearly loves WWE as much as we all do and takes the job very seriously. To be willing to dive off the top rope to the outside, take Broken Arrows through tables and generally put himself through hell for our entertainment- you gotta respect that. And Priest was the ring general helping Bunny look like a million bucks- which probably went a way towards him securing the MITB briefcase a couple of months later.

And of course, shout out to the Puerto Rico crowd at Backlash. They helped make Bunny's entrance an absolute spectacle, and lost their mind through most of this street fight, especially with the surprise appearances of Carlito and Savio Vega! Beautiful chaos, absolute magic.

9- WWE United States Championship- Elimination Chamber Match- Austin Theory vs. Johnny Gargano vs. Bronson Reed vs. Montez Ford vs. Damian Priest vs. Seth Rollins

I'm gonna be real, there's a little bias in this pick. Well, of course, it's my personal list, there's technically going to be some levels of bias all over the place, as much as I try to be objective. But I loved this Chamber match largely because I read a lot of negative comments online about the re-hiring of Bronson Reed in late 2022. Here, in early 2023, Bronson showed why he was a valuable hire, serving as an absolute monster in there doing some devastating stuff.

But really, everyone in the match had plenty of opportunities to shine. Johnny Gargano looked back to his NXT best after an underwhelming start on the main roster. Montez Ford got to show why many regard him as a future major singles star. Theory got to look credible for once. Priest presented as a dangerous force. And Rollins was his usual excellent self, complete with building hype for his WrestleMania match as Logan Paul creatively interfered in the match while the Chamber door was opened to take an eliminated competitor out, allowing the social media megastar to cost Rollins the title. A brilliant half hour of wrestling that effectively highlighted six stars at once.

8- NXT Championship- Carmelo Hayes vs. Ilja Dragunov- NXT No Mercy

Carmelo Hayes has always been a flashy, smooth competitor, while I know Dragunov as a more rugged wrestler who has gone to war with GUNTHER. In this battle, Dragunov brought out Hayes' gritty side, and it was a joy to watch. I also found the result a little surprising- I thought Melo was in for a long NXT title reign as the standard bearer of the brand. That said, with recent appearances on Smackdown in the US title tournament, Melo might be properly main roster bound sooner rather than later.

NXT is finally finding its feet in its current iteration. It's not at the heights that NXT Black And Gold rose to- but after the growing pains of NXT 2.0, the product is now something that can comfortably sit amongst the best wrestling WWE has produced all year. Carmelo, Ilja, take a bow.

7- Steel Cage Match- Becky Lynch vs. Trish Stratus (WWE Payback)

With all the "end of year" talk floating around social media, I've seen a bit of a push for Becky vs. Trish as Feud of the Year. I don't know. To me, the feud dragged too long without being that interesting beyond Trish's initial heel turn and bringing back some of those iconic early 2000s looks (look, I'm a simple man, alright?).

But if you judge the feud by its final match, I do see why Becky vs. Trish would rate so highly. They had a vicious encounter inside the steel cage, kicking off the PPV and promptly stealing it in the process. Trish took risks and did things that she had no business doing at this stage of her life and career, and Becky brought the intensity and crispness that has really defined a low-key banner year for The Man. Granted, it's a short list to choose from, but this is easily the best women's Steel Cage match of all time.

6- Rey Mysterio vs. Dominik Mysterio (WrestleMania 39- Night 1)

Putting this here as a way to give Dominik Mysterio his flowers. I was the biggest hater of the guy since his Summerslam 2020 debut. He was too green, unnatural, uncharismatic, a nepotism hire.. and then he turned heel and worked his ass off, and now he's one of the best things going in WWE.

It started here with his WrestleMania match with his dad. It was a great storyline built up over months, and the pay-off came on the Grandest Stage of Them All. From the elaborate entrances befitting the grandeur of WrestleMania, to Rey whipping his son with a belt, to a sick alley oop bomb that Dominik busted out, to the cathartic ending where the legendary dad beats the disrespectful son, this was storytelling and spectacle with an immense in-ring pay-off.

5- Men's Iron Survivor Match- Trick WIlliams vs. Dijak vs. Bron Breakker vs. Josh Briggs vs. Tyler Bate (NXT Deadline)

This was an interesting, exciting concept when it was introduced last year, but I did wonder if I was just blinded by bias, seeing my boy Grayson Waller being crowned the Iron Survivor. But this year, with Waller gone and me not really even being a diehard NXT fan at this particular time, this was even better. We had big meaty men slapping meat in Briggs, Dijak and the freight train that was Bron Breakker. We had the "big strong boi" Tyler Bate holding his own and reminding everyone why he was the first UK Champion.

Then there was the comeback by Trick. That might have been what elevated this match from "great" to "instant classic". With literal seconds left in the 25 minute match, Trick went from having no falls/points on the board to gaining 4 straight with impeccable timing to claim the title of Iron Survivor, and the title shot, which he gets at New Year's Evil. I don't expect him to win, but with the roll Trick has been on lately, you can never be completely sure. WHOOP THAT TRICK!

4- Smackdown Women's Championship- Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley (WrestleMania 39- Night 1)

Rumours flew around when the match order for WrestleMania floated around the Internet, that Charlotte and Rhea were pissed about not being the Night 1 main event. Whether true or not, they certainly wrestled like it, with one of, if not THE most hard-hitting match I've seen in WWE's women's division.  It reminded me of Batista vs. Undertaker from WM23, in the sense that it felt like they were both saying, "F*** you, follow that!" Rhea, ever the powerhouse, dumped Charlotte with some brutal looking German suplexes, including one from the top rope!

Charlotte deserves a ton of credit, because after taking all that abuse and busting up her face, she still threw caution to the wind and hit a moonsault to the outside. She brought her A+ game here, but it wasn't enough, as Rhea hit a Super Riptide to win the big one. Am I over seeing Charlotte in big title matches? Yes. But did she have the best women's match of the year? Also yes.

3- WWE Undisputed Universal Championship- Roman Reigns vs. Sami Zayn (Elimination Chamber)

Coming into this match, Sami Zayn was the most over babyface in the company. After months of comedically revitalising the Bloodline stable as the "Honorary Uce", things got deadly serious when Sami turned on Roman and the Bloodline at the Royal Rumble, to defend his best friend of decade, Kevin Owens. The resulting title match would have been electric in any venue in any location, but this went down at the Bell Centre in Montreal- Zayn's hometown. On the Smackdown before the PLE (also in Montreal), Sami apparently said, "you're in our "f**king house" in French. Brilliant.

The actual match was magic. Logical convention said that Reigns was retaining, especially on the PPV before WrestleMania, but Zayn is such an amazing wrestler and the consumnate underdog, that he allowed everyone to suspend their disbelief a few different times with nail-biting near-falls. The kicker too- Reigns' matches as Tribal Chief/undisputed champ had been often influenced by the Usos, but due to prior legal troubles, it was thought they wouldn't be allowed in Canada. They got over the border though, and ultimately Reigns held onto the gold in a thriller.

2- Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship- The Usos vs. Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens (WrestleMania 39- Night 1)

The previous match was indeed a thriller, and the results and post-match shenanigans lead to to this. The Usos had held onto the tag gold for a record-setting title reign, and Kevin Owens appeared after the Elimination Chamber match to fight them. Sometimes best friends, sometimes bitter enemies, Owens and Zayn got back on the same page to fight the Usos in the Night 1 main event of WrestleMania 39.

Owens' WM gear was a tribute to the long and layered past he had on the indies with his tag partner, with PWG-inspired logos and Michael Cole even referencing El Generico on commentary. We seemed primed for a feel-good story here, and thankfully, Booker of the Year Triple H pulled the trigger. The Usos were excellent in defeat, and both sides hit all their biggest moves, including the highly protected 1D finisher, which was kicked out of for the first time ever. And finally, after the journey his character has been on, it HAD to be Sami, landing that final Helluva Kick and seizing the tag gold from the longest reigning champs.

(I don't think the follow-up title reign of Owens & Zayn was as great as it could have been. But that doesn't detract from how magical this match and final moment was)

1-  Intercontinental Championship- Gunther vs. Sheamus vs. Drew McIntyre (WrestleMania 39- Night 2)

While the previous two entries were about what happens when amazing multi-layered storytelling meets sublime in-ring action, this final entry is about what happens when you let three amazing wrestlers loose and say, "do whatever you want out there, just don't kill each other". Okay, I don't know if that was said backstage, but that sure reflects how this match was wrestled!

Gunther was in the midst of an epic title reign- that, at the time of writing, he's still in- as Intercontinental Champion. He did so much to restore and elevate the prestige of that title, with a particular highlight being his hard-hitting war with Sheamus at Clash At The Castle. Well, this Mania match was more of the same, only with extra Drew McIntyre. All three men made mincemeat out of each other's bodies, especially the chests as chops were exchanged. The triple threat format meant the match never slowed, and also elevated the drama as dominant champion Gunther could lose the title without being pinned. That wasn't the case, but what WAS the case- even though Night 1 was stronger than Night 2 at WM39, Gunther vs. Sheamus vs. Drew was the best match across both nights.

Honourable Mentions

Here's where I try and avoid getting yelled at in the comments by including some of the other great WWE matches that didn't make the top 10. I know some will find a way regardless...

Roman Reigns vs. Cody Rhodes (WM39)- result and predictable way of doing it aside, it was fantastic up until then.

Becky Lynch vs. Tiffany Stratton (NXT No Mercy)- just unreal action. Missed out on the list by the narrowest of margins. Easily one of the best matches Becky's ever had, and with someone as inexperienced as Stratton... amazing!

Royal Rumble Matches- they were both pretty great this year. The men had that awesome final 2 mini-match of Cody vs. Gunther and the women had Rhea and Liv going coast to coast.

Men's War Games (Survivor Series)- I thought this was really, really good, but to me fell short of the elite status of the others in the list. However, the final stretch once Randy Orton makes his return is immense, and I know a lot of people had that in their end-of-year lists. Plus that little post-match bit where that CM Punk guy returned...

Gunther vs. Chad Gable (Raw)- Speaking of falling short... sorry. As a guy who MAYBE has an inch on Gable, I shouldn't be throwing stones in my glass house. But this might have been the WWE TV match of the year, where Gable gave everything he could, spurred on by his family, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Ring General.

Until next time, take care.


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Who's Behind The Blog
Image of Mick Robson, founder of The Arena Media

Mick Robson is a freelance writer from Australia. A lifelong fan of pro wrestling and MMA, he endeavours to bring that passion through his coverage in news, reviews and opinion pieces.

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