After Chris Jericho had his first match rated five stars by Dave Meltzer at the age of 47 back in January, curiosity got the better of me and I had to find out who the oldest wrestlers to ever be in a five-star classic were (a list which you can read here). Naturally, once I’d spent hours of my life working out pro wrestlers’ ages down to the very day, channelling my inner professor Scott Steiner, something began to bug me – what about those at the other end of the scale? Who managed to earn this honour in the earliest days of their career? Well, once again, curiosity got the better of me, and I had to brush up once more on my Steiner mathematics, so here it is – the Top 20 Youngest Wrestlers That Were in a Dave Meltzer Five-Star Match.
Before we begin, I must state that it is difficult to get a definite list of the youngest participants in a five-star match. Although they are widely discussed in the modern day, five-star matches weren’t quite as well examined in the 80s and 90s, especially considering not all of these matches were broadcast on television, or have since been made available to watch. Plus, this is not a celebration of the man behind the ratings, but an acknowledgement of the wrestlers involved in this much discussed scale.
Due to the obscurity of some of these early bouts praised by The Observer, it’s hard to get an exact list of every five-star match that’s ever been (although I spent hours looking through webpages and archives to get the most definitive list I possibly can). In fact, some of these matches are so obscure, some of the participants’ dates of birth aren’t available anywhere, so they couldn’t be considered for a ranking. With that being said, I believe I’ve put together the most accurate list possible, but if you think I’ve missed somebody out, let me know in a comment below or over on Twitter @HairyWrestling.
Now, at the time of writing, I am 23 years old. When I first started researching this list, I was expecting just a few of the following twenty to be younger than I am, but NOPE – all twenty are below 23 years of age! As depressing as that is, it’s fascinating nonetheless. Interestingly, only two of the ten matches in the following list took place outside of Japan, and they all took place before 1997, which shows how the landscape of pro wrestling, and how rookie wrestlers are treated, has changed in the last twenty years.
As some of these twenty wrestlers were involved in the same match when they got their first five-star rating, I’ve decided to rank this list by the 10 matches that these twenty wrestlers appeared in – each match will be ranked by the youngest member involved.
If you just want to see the complete overall rankings in order of oldest to youngest, scroll down to the bottom.
10. Hikari Fukuoka – 22 (20th Youngest): Dynami Kansai, Cutie Suzuki, Mayumi Ozaki and Hikari Fukuoka vs. Aja Kong, Sakie Hasegawa, Kyoko Inoue and Takako Inoue – JWP, July 31st 1993
Take the majority of cool moves used on the indies today – chances are the majority of your favourites were invented by a joshi (Japanese female) wrestler. Take our first entry on the list, Hikari Fukuoka, inventor of the Moonsault Double Stomp, and the beautifully devastating Rider Kick (had to include a gif of this one).
With her pioneering offence (combined with the fact this match contained some of the best joshi wrestlers Japan had to offer at the time), it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Hikari was able to clinch the full five stars at the sprightly young age of 22. I can’t state how fantastic Japanese female wrestling was in the 1990s (you’ll be seeing a lot more of it on this list), and continues to be today with the likes of Io Shirai. You owe it to yourself to check these five star joshi classics out.
9. Toshiyo Yamada – 22 (18th Youngest): Toshiyo Yamada vs. Manami Toyota – All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling June 21st 1992
Two months before their iconic five star hair vs. hair match in August 1992 (which you can read about here), Toshiyo Yamada, as well as Manami Toyota, both had their first-ever singles match to be given five stars by Dave Meltzer. Toyota and Yamada were linked throughout their careers, either as rivals on several fantastic occasions, or as a dominating tag team together. At just the age of 22, Yamaha had the first of many five-star matches with her closest friend and rival.
8. Kazuo Yamazaki – 22 (17th Youngest) UWF Kazuo Yamazaki vs. Nobuhiko Takada – UWF, December 5th 1984
And now for one of the first ever five star matches. All the way back in 1984, just two years after his professional debut, 22 year old Kazuo Yamazaki wrestled Nobuhiko Takada in the now defunct Universal Wrestling Federation. If you’re a fan of mat wrestling, you will absolutely adore this match as 90% of it is spent horizontally. In my opinion, this certainly does not deserve five stars, or anything close for that matter, but in the eyes of a much youngER Dave Meltzer, it was worthy, and that’s all that matters.
7. Chigusa Nagayo – 22 (16th Youngest): Chigusa Nagayo vs. Lioness Asuka – All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling, February 26th 1987
Considering he once described her as “the most popular woman wrestler of all-time”, it should come as no surprise that Dave Meltzer gave a few five-star match ratings to Chigusa Nagayo during her illustrious career. In a career that includes starring in a BBC documentary, multiple top 10 pop songs, appearing in WCW during the height of its popularity, and starting her own wrestling promotion, it all began in All Japan Pro Wrestling, where in 1987, she had her first five-star match against a woman her career would forever be linked to. In the early 80s, Chigusa Nagayo and Lioness Asuka formed The Crush Gals, a duo so ridiculously popular that they expanded beyond pro wrestling.
Despite having a highly successful music career together, The Crush Gals in-ring work was not affected. They were drawing record TV ratings on AJW’s weekly television show, and inspired so many future Japanese female wrestlers in the process. In 1987, the two partners faced off together in a five-star epic. Even at this early stage in her career, Nagayo had achieved more mainstream and critical success than most wrestlers could ever dream of, and she was only 22 years old. Simply amazing.
6. Lioness Asuka – 22 (15th Youngest): Jaguar Yokota vs. Lioness Asuka – All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling, August 22nd 1985
And speaking of The Crush Gals….it’s only fitting that the next entry on the list is Nagayo’s long-time partner – Lioness Asuka. Two years before their five-star match together, Lioness Asuka competed in the first All Japan Women’s match to be given WON’s most well-known distinction. This battle between a lioness and a jaguar featured multiple suplexes, a brutal running sit-out piledriver, and a raging hot crowd to accompany it. It may be over 30 years old, but this is one classic that’s still more than worth your time.
5. Juventud Guerrera – 21 (10th Youngest): Rey Misterio Jr. vs. Juventud Guerrera – ECW Big Ass Bash Night 2, 9th March 1996
The Juice is loose!
During their highly popular and influential time spent as the third biggest promotion in the US, ECW managed to change Western wrestling, garner up a cult-like following, and showcase some of the best technical and hardcore wrestling in the world. Extreme Championship Wrestling caught the attention of fans and promoters around the world through innovation, crazy antics, and creative violence, yet as beloved as this Philadelphia-based promotion continues to be, even after their demise and a very unsuccessful reboot we must never speak of, only one match rated five stars by Dave Meltzer took place inside an ECW ring.
Fun fact: this match has the youngest combined age of any singles match rated five stars by Dave Meltzer (yes, I actually bothered to work that one out). Before his notable run in WCW, his decent run in TNA, and his quite racist run in WWE, Juventud Guerrera was putting on classics at a very young age with his peers from AAA. At just 21 years old, Juvi competed in his first and only five-star match, which was technical, high-flying, and of course, extreme. Although personally I believe there are other memorable ECW bouts more deserving of this prestigious rating (such as Mysterio vs. Psicosis and Jerry Lynn vs. Rob Van Dam), it’s still a fantastic exhibition of skill and excitement.
4. Manami Toyota – 19 (5th Youngest), and Aja Kong – 20 (7th Youngest): Manami Toyota and Etsuko Mita vs. Aja Kong and Bison Kimura – All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling, January 5th 1991
Without question, Manami Toyota is one of the greatest competitors in pro wrestling history, regardless of gender. I’ve written multiple times about my love for Toyota’s in-ring style, and for very good reason. At the impressively young age of nineteen, Toyota was involved in her first five-star match, and over the course of her career, she would be a part of sixteen more of them (two of which even happened on the same night at the same event), the fourth highest overall. Also competing in this match was the then twenty year old Aja Kong, who would become known for inventing the Package Piledriver, having a run in WWF, being one of the hardest-hitting joshi wrestlers of the 90s, and overall, being absolutely fantastic to watch.
Both of these women would go on to have more five-star matches throughout their careers, including two incredible singles matches against each other in the mid-90s. If you’ve never seen either of these women do what they do best, you’re missing out on two of the best of all time.
3. Gran Naniwa – 19 (3rd Youngest): Teioh, Dick Togo, Shoichi Funaki, TAKA Michinoku and Shiryu vs. Super Delfin, Gran Hamada, TIger Mask IV, Gran Naniwa and Masato Yakushiji – Michinoku Pro, October 10th 1996
Yes, Funaki, Smackdown’s greatest announcer and all-around legend, was once in a five-star match! But unfortunately, we’re not here to discuss the most beloved man in the history of wrestling, we are here to talk about a man obsessed with crabs.
Gran Naniwa was a comedic wrestler known for his crab-like mask and his crab-like mannerisms inside the ring, most notably his Crab Walk Elbow off the middle rope, which was immortalised in the fantastic N64 classic, WWF No Mercy. At the age of only 19, Naniwa was involved in his first and only five-star match in Michinoku Pro, along with legends such as Tiger Mask IV, Gran Niniwa and of course, Funaki. Sadly, Gran Naniwa passed early at the tragically early age of 33, yet his comedic antics will live on for far longer.
2. Etsuko Mita – 18 (2nd Youngest), Kazue Nagahori – 19 (3rd Youngest), Mitsuko Nishiwaki – 20 (6th Youngest), Yumi Ogura – 20 (8th Youngest), Yumiko Hotta – 20 (9th Youngest), Mika Suzuki – 21 (13th Youngest): Lioness Asuka, Mika Komatsu, Kazue Nagahori, Mitsuko Nishiwaki, Etsuko Mita, and Sachiko Nakamura vs. Chigusa Nagayo, Yumiko Hotta, Mika Takahashi, Mika Suzuki, Yachiyo Hirata, and Yumi Ogura- All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling, December 6th 1987
Right, now this is where things get a little complicated. You’ve probably never heard of this match before, right? Well, that shouldn’t come as any surprise as it’s now impossible to watch in full. Of the approximately fifty minute match length, only seventeen minutes of footage remains of the entire twelve-woman tag. In fact, this five-star bout is so obscure, I couldn’t find out the date of birth of some of those involved in this match, so although they could potentially be in this top twenty list, without any way of giving them a definitive ranking, they can’t be included. But out of those that are eligible, six of the twelve women are some of the twenty youngest wrestlers to be involved in a five-star match, with the youngest, Etsuko Mita, being just eighteen years old at the time.
Due to the lack of footage, it’s difficult to really comment on the quality of this match, other than the surviving segment of the match is absolute chaos, in a good way. What’s more, it’s practically impossible to tell who most of the members in this match are, unless you speak Japanese of course. Don’t let these negatives fool you though, this match definitely got the full five-stars, and Meltzer even quoted as saying in The Observer: “The main event was by far the greatest match I’ve ever seen live. In fact, I’d say without question it was better than any match ever held in the United States in the history of this business.” Not bad going for a group of competitors only just into their adult years. If this match really is as wonderful as Dave said it was, it seems like an absolute crime that we will never be able to watch it in full ever again.
1. Rey Mysterio – 18 (Youngest Wrestler to ever be in a Five-Star Match), Winners – 21 (11th Youngest), Psicosis – 21 (12th Youngest), Super Calo – 21 (14th Youngest), and Heavy Metal – 22 (19th Youngest): Psicosis, Heavy Metal and El Picudo vs. Rey Misterio Jr., Super Calo and Winners – AAA, 29th January 1993
At just eighteen years and one month old, future-world heavyweight champion, Rey Mysterio, was a part of his first five-star match, a six-man tag involving four of the other youngest competitors to earn this honour (sorry, El Picudo). Amazingly, Mysterio wasn’t a fresh young rookie straight of training in this match, he’d already been competing professionally for four years by this point. Over twenty years later, he is still going strong, and moving faster and smoother than I could ever hope to, despite multiple knee surgeries and almost thirty years in the business.
When Meltzer reviewed this match in 1993, he dubbed it the greatest lucha libre match he had ever seen, and given the talent that’s involved, that shouldn’t be hard to believe. Obviously the likes of Mysterio and Psicosis have been in far more high profile great matches in their times, yet this was their first taste of major critical acclaim. Personally, I’d definitely recommend the matches these two had against each other in ECW way more than this six-man tag, but that doesn’t stop it from having its place in history.
Rey Mysterio has accomplished an incredible amount of things in his pro wrestling career, from being the smallest world heavyweight champion of all time, to spending the longest time in a single Royal Rumble match (which he also won) – being the youngest wrestler to be in a Dave Meltzer five-star match is just another achievement in a very long list for this bonafide legend.
OVERALL RANKINGS (OLDEST TO YOUNGEST)
20. HIKARI FUKUOKA – 22
19. HEAVY METAL – 22
18. TOSHIYO YAMADA – 22
17. KAZUO YAMAZAKI – 22
16. CHIGUSA NAGAYO – 22
15. LIONESS ASUKA – 22
14. SUPER CALO 21
13. MIKA SUZUKI – 21
12. PSICOSIS – 21
11. WINNERS – 21
10. JUVENTUD GUERRERA – 21
9. YUMIKO HOTTA – 20
8. YUMI OGURA – 20
7. AJA KONG – 20
6. MITSUKO NISHIWAKI – 20
5. MANAMI TOYOTA – 19
4. GRAN NANIWA – 19
3. KAZUE NAGAHORI – 19
2. ETSUKO MITA – 18
1. REY MYSTERIO – 18