Today I'll be talkin' wrestling (What a shock), specifically the ten best PPV matches to have taken place in the month of May. WWE's PPV calendar has only included May for the past 20 years, but those two decades have yielded some veritable classics. I've also included multiple New Japan matches, from their annual May event Wrestling Dontaku. .....And that's enough of an intro. Let's get to it!
HM. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit - Judgment Day - 5.20.01
In 2001 the two best technical wrestlers in the WWF began a rivalry that would last nearly two years on and off. After a 14-minute gem at WrestleMania 17 and a 30-minute Submission match the following month, Angle and Benoit faced off at Judgment Day in a Three Stages of Hell match, where the first fall would be a standard match, the second would be submission-only, and the third would be a Ladder Match for Angle's Olympic Gold Medal. Benoit would quickly win the first fall (probably too quickly) but Angle came back to take the second and third (with help from Edge & Christian) in a tremendous match. The two would resume their feud in late 2002 and add several other classics to their respective resumes.
HM. Prince Devitt vs. Low-Ki - Wrestling Dontaku - 5.3.12
This Jr. Heavyweight Title match stole the show at the 2012 Dontaku PPV, starting out meticulously but gradually ramping up the intensity and high-risk offense. Both guys showed why they're more than just small spotfest wrestlers, as this match was full of drama and psychology. In the second half of the match they broke out the innovative offense and quick reversals, and after twenty minutes (not to mention both guys kicking out of each other's finishers) Low-Ki won with a Ki Krusher. One of several New Japan classics from the future Finn Balor.
10. The Shield vs. Evolution - Extreme Rules - 5.4.14
One of the best feuds of 2014 culminated in this enormous six-man tag at Extreme Rules, between the dominant anti-establishment trio known as The Shield, and Triple H's reformed stable of former WWE Champs, Evolution. This rivalry reminded me of the old Road Warriors vs. Four Horsement battles, and this match was a crazy melee that went all over the arena. The final moments of the match saw Seth Rollins leap off the loge entranceway onto his enemies, in the bout's most memorable moment. With four of the six men occupied outside, Reigns finished Batista back in the ring with the Superman punch/Spear combination to end a fantastic brawl.
9. The Elite vs. The Inner Circle - Double or Nothing - 5.23.20
2020 was the year COVID ravaged the world, and every wrestling company had to make major adjustments to stay afloat. AEW weathered this storm the most creatively, and in the process invented a new match type that was an absolute joy to watch. Where The Elite and the Inner Circle were slated to have a Blood & Guts match, instead the two teams faced off in an empty football stadium bout that featured wild brawling, death-defying high spots, and loads of hilarious moments. This mix of humor and brutality resulted in one of the most purely entertaining spectacles I can remember on a wrestling show. From Hangman Page and Kenny Omega beating up Jake Hager in a bar to the Young Bucks diving off stadium structures to Chris Jericho and Aubrey Edwards arguing over a call on the field, to Kenny's insane One Winged Angel off the hard camera platform to the entrance below, Stadium Stampede was an original new match type that would become an AEW signature.
8. Kenny Omega vs. Tomohiro Ishii - Wrestling Dontaku 2017
The highly anticipated rematch from the 2017 New Japan Cup tournament saw Omega and Ishii cut a furious pace from the outset, each man laying into each other during the opening stretch. Omega eventually took control, unleashing high-risk offense such as a stunning plancha off the top rope to the outside, and signature moves like his reverse 'rana. But Ishii began using Omega's own offense against him, astounding the crowd with his own versions of the reverse 'rana and the One-Winged Angel. After 24 minutes of dazzlingly crisp action, Omega finally avenged his earlier loss to get the win, vaulting him back into Title contention.
7. Sting's Squadron vs. Dangerous Alliance - WarGames - WrestleWar - 5.17.92
Probably the best or second-best all-time WarGames match took place in 1992, as Sting led the all-star team of Ricky Steamboat, Barry Windham, Dustin Rhodes and Nikita Koloff against the excellent Paul Heyman stable The Dangerous Alliance - Rick Rude, Steve Austin, Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton and Larry Zbyszko. The action in this match was non-stop and brutal, and as the cage filled up the offense got more and more creative. Eventually one of the turnbuckle bars came loose and Sting used it on Eaton's arm to get the submission. A wild, excellent multi-man brawl, and everything you'd want out of a WarGames match.
6. Will Ospreay vs. Kushida - Wrestling Dontaku - 5.4.18
The nearly unfollowable semi-main event of NJPW's 2018 May PPV was a breathtaking display of Jr. Heavyweight action, as perennial rivals Ospreay and Kushida engaged in a death-defying war. Ospreay's well-documented neck issues came into play repeatedly, Kushida targeting the area often. The scariest spot of the match involved Kushida springing off the floor to the apron and nailing a DDT back to the floor. The match raged for nearly 25 minutes before Ospreay eked out a win using his new finisher, a corkscrew neckbreaker known as Stormbreaker (surely a nod to Thor's new axe in Avengers: Infinity War). This match rivals their Best of the Super Juniors classic from 2017. Simply stunning.
5. Kurt Angle vs. Edge - Judgment Day - 5.19.02
An early MOTY candidate for 2002, this bout put both men's hair on the line and featured some spectacularly crisp wrestling, with loads of dramatic near-falls in the closing minutes. Edge then accidentally speared the referee, causing the official to miss his subsequent cover. Angle took advantage to slap on the anklelock, but Edge kicked Angle into the ropes and caught him on the rebound with a match-winning small package. This tremendous match kicked off Kurt Angle's era of baldness.
4. Kazuchika Okada vs. Minoru Suzuki - Wrestling Dontaku - 5.3.13
This was a masterful display of wrestling psychology, as the brash young Champion Okada ran into a salty, sadistic brick wall known as Suzuki. The veteran worked the crap out of Okada's arms for the first half of the match, twisting him into pretzels, and in the second half came within a hair of choking him out. Suzuki's overconfidence eventually cost him as Okada mounted a last-minute comeback, hitting two Tombstones (one with the Gotch cradle variation) and the dreaded Rainmaker for the win. Fantastic stuff.
3. Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi - Wrestling Dontaku - 5.4.18
One of the greatest rivalries of all time continued in 2018 as Hiroshi Tanahashi hoped to upset the seemingly unbeatable IWGP Champion and prevent Okada from breaking his record for consecutive title defenses. The crowd was amazingly pro-Tanahashi here, staunchly rooting against Okada making history. The 34-minute bout started off slow but gradually built to a fever pitch, with Tana withstanding multiple draping DDTs and nearly putting Okada away with his own Rainmaker. But Okada held on, determined to land his finisher despite repeated strikes to the face from Tana. Finally Okada leveled his greatest rival with the lone Okada Rainmaker of the match to retain and shatter the record. An epic battle from two of the all-time greats.
2. CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan - WWE Over the Limit - 5.20.12
In my opinion the best match of 2012 was this forgotten gem - Punk vs. Bryan for the WWE Title. These two were given a nice cushy 25-minute slot, and man did they deliver. Spectacular mat wrestling, counterholds, submissions galore, false finishes; everything you could ever want in a great wrestling match. This is the closest WWE has ever come to emulating the groundbreaking work these two routinely produced in Ring of Honor. Punk and Bryan would face each other twice more on PPV that year, but this was the standout of the bunch. A stunning display of classic pro wrestling.
1. Will Ospreay vs. Shingo Takagi - Wrestling Dontaku - 5.4.21
Night 2 of the 2021 Wrestling Dontaku PPV unfortunately suffered from a case of the COVIDs, as its semi-main event was cancelled entirely, leaving new IWGP Champion Will Ospreay and his beefy challenger Shingo Takagi to carry the load. And carry it they did, to the top of Mount Everest, with an absolutely breathtaking 44-minute war that saw both men destroy each other with every move in their respective arsenals (except Shingo's Last of the Dragon). NJPW is uncanny in its ability to make a 45-minute match feel like 25, and this was a prime example of that. Ospreay needed a signature match to cement himself as a worthy new top champion, and if any match has ever done so for a young titleholder, it's this one. Simply 45 minutes of pro wrestling perfection.