5. Aleister Black vs. The Velveteen Dream: NXT Takeover: War Games; Meltzer Rating: Not yet released
This was tough. I was going back and forth between including Black vs. Dream or the War Games match on this list. This match gets the nod, though, mainly due to the War Games match having a less compelling story. The Velveteen Dream went into this match craving acknowledgment from the stoic Aleister Black. Easily, this was the best feud in NXT going into Takeover: War Games. A similar story to the Black vs. Itami feud, the Dutch Destroyer saw the Velveteen Dream “as a child throwing a fit.” This made sense because Black is a seasoned indy veteran and Dream is only 22 years old. Remember what I said about matches to be named later that created stars? The Velveteen Dream was made a star at Takeover: War Games. Firstly, Velveteen Dream had the best gear of the weekend with the Rick Rude throwback tights. Secondly, anything a modern fan would want in a match, they got from these two performers. The match began with Black out-wrestling the Velveteen Dream, which weirdly morphed into a somewhat mentor/mentee relationship in the middle of the match. Dream learned from Black as the match went on, which is a hard story to tell in the ring. They used each other’s taunts against one another in the second act of the match (which was very psychological). Then the match really got cooking when the two started hitting their big spots. I have no idea what to call it, but that reverse Sister Abigail swinging spike DDT thing that Dream hit was sold beautifully by Black and looked DEVASTATING. As always, Aleister Black finished Dream off with Black Mass for the win. The Dutch Destroyer won the match, but the Velveteen Dream came out of the other side looking the best. Cheers to both men for an amazing match.
4. Finn Balor vs. AJ Styles: TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs; Meltzer Rating: 4.25/5
OK…this is where the ordering of these matches is really starting to become difficult. This match right here is the product of WWE’s best booking decision of the year. The Demon King was all set to face Bray Wyatt as “Sister Abigail” at TLC in what probably would have been the blowoff match of a failed feud. Not that Finn and Bray didn’t have good matches, the story was just terrible. A case of the mumps, however, changed all that. Bray Wyatt was ruled out of TLC due to the illness just days before TLC. WWE could have inserted Finn into the TLC match with the Shield (because Roman Reigns was also suffering from the illness), but they did not. They pulled the trigger on a bona-fide Dream Match. Two former leaders of the Bullet Club finally going head to head as the two top babyfaces and top in-ring performers in the biggest wrestling company in the world. A true testament to the skill of both men, the two delivered a PHENOMENAL match on such short notice telling the simple story of “Who’s the best?” A technical masterpiece turned into an athletic spotfest and then turned into an all out brawl. Finn hit an absolutely crushing Coup de Grace for the win in a match that is just a small taste of what the two can do on a stage like WrestleMania with a proper build. The Too Sweet at the end as a sign of respect was the perfect icing on the cake.