Since 1983, Dave Meltzer has been reviewing professional wrestling matches through his publication, The Wrestling Observer Newsletter, using the most famous rating scale in the sport. After over 35 years of sharing his opinion through the medium of stars, Meltzer’s opinion has gained a lot of respect from certain fans. Although it is just one man’s opinion, that opinion is high profile, and brings attention to incredible matches, and thus introduces more fans to great pro wrestling, which we can all agree is a great thing. Some of the greatest matches of all time have been awarded the famous five stars (and in some cases, five just wasn’t enough), and at the other end of the scale, some of the biggest abominations+ in wrestling have been victim to a review less than zero.
So with almost four decades of history to look at, plenty of trivia has been created through a simple star rating system. Here are 25 Five-Star Facts About Dave Meltzer’s Match Rating Scale.
The Youngest Person to be in a Five-Star Tag Team Match is Rey Mysterio (18)
All the way back in 1993, almost a decade before he made his WWE debut, Rey Mysterio was competing in the Mexican promtion, AAA. 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 described by Meltzer as the best lucha libre match he had seen at that point. 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.
The Youngest Person to be in a Five-Star Singles Match is Manami Toyota (21)
To put on a one-on-one match this good at such a young age is incredible, but should come as no surprise for anybody who’s a fan of Manami Toyota. Manami had plenty of five-star matches in her career (more on that later), and even had a five-star tag match at the age of just 19, yet by 21, she was already talented enough to put on an incredible show with an opponent with no help necessary. If you’ve never watched a Manami Toyota match before, make that your top priority.
The Oldest Person to be in a Five-Star Tag Team Match is Giant Baba (56)
Dave Meltzer once described Giant Baba as “a skeleton with skin stretched over it” – incredibly he also ended up giving this man a five-star rating. For those that don’t know, Giant Baba was the founder of All Japan Pro Wrestling. At the time, Baba’s gigantic stature was enough of a spectacle to turn him into one of the most popular and recognisable people in the whole of Japan. It didn’t matter that he could barely move in the ring, people paid for the privilege of seeing him tower over his opponents.
Giant Baba earned himself these stars by standing on the ring apron throughout the whole match, as he was barely able to move properly by this point. It was the other men involved that earned every bit of that high praise, including the galaxy-earning legends Misawa, Kobashi, Kawada, and Taue. Whilst it will always have an asterisk next to it, it’s still a perplexing and surprising piece of trivia nonetheless.
The Oldest Person to be in a Five-Star Singles Match is Chris Jericho (47)
After nearly three decades in the wrestling industry, and despite not having a match in six months or having worked with his opponent Kenny Omega before, Chris Jericho was finally involved in his first match ever to be given five stars by Dave Meltzer. He didn’t hide behind younger teammates to earn this one, he went one-on-one to craft this masterpiece. In many people’s eyes, it’s Jericho’s finest work, the crowning glory of his career that deserves every bit of praise it has been given…..but who says he doesn’t have another five-star match left in him? Yes, it took him over 27 years to earn the first one, and he may be almost 50, but clearly Jericho is showing no signs of slowing down just yet.
The Youngest Combined Age of Any Five-Star Singles Match is 43 – Manami Toyota vs. Toshiyo Yamada, June 21 1992
Now, in the past I was lead to believe this fact actually belonged to a match between Juventud Guerrera and Rey Mysterio in 1996, and when I tweeted that as a fact it was retweeted by Meltzer himself which I believed to be confirmation that it was correct, however, after a lot of research, and despite how many websites report it as a five-star match, it actually got a 4.75 rating in WON. I guess you can’t expect one man to remember every rating he’s given out…
So, I can now report that this piece of pointless trivia actually goes to Manami Toyota and Toshiyo Yamada, who were 21 and 22 respectively when they had their first five-star match together. This bout was overshadowed by their legendary hair-vs-hair bout that took place one month later, and also got five stars, yet this one is still well-worth checking out.
The Oldest Combined Age of Any Five-Star Singles Match is 85 – Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk: NWA Clash of Champions IX
Flair and Funk, 40 and 45 respectively when this war took place, had a five-star match in 1989, becoming the oldest competitors to put on a five-star singles match, a record which hasn’t been broken in almost thirty years. Both legends went on to have careers that spanned decades afterwards, won several championships, and cemented legacies that go far beyond match ratings.
Five Matches Have Been Given the Worst Rating Possible from WON
Stars aren’t always positive, the scale extends to the other end of the galaxy. That’s right, since 1983, Meltzer has given the full minus five stars to five matches. As you can expect, these are some of the worst, most insulting pro wrestling bouts of all time, matches that are so awfully bad, that they can’t even be enjoyed for comedy value or ironically. Save yourself the trouble and do not venture to this end of the rating system (because I’ve already done it for you.
The Bushwhackers are the Only People to Have Had a Five-Star and a Minus Five-Star Match
YES, The Bushwhackers once had a five-star match! When they were known as The Sheepherders, the two future Bushwhackers earned the highest praise WON gave at the time when they faced The Fantastics in a tag team tournament. Perhaps in hindsight this would be a critique that Dave would like to amend, but the fact still remains that as shocking as it may seem, they were a part of the fifth ever fight to be given five out of five.
Fast-forward to 1999, at the infamously terrible Heroes of Wrestling event, The Bushwhackers put on an absolute shambles against Nikolai Volkoff and The Iron Sheik. All four men involved in this bout were extremely out of shape, and had a collective age of over 200, hence why they all desperately avoided taking bumps as much as possible, and when they did bump, they were more like clumsy wobbles to the floor. What’s more, there’s no entertainment value to it whatsoever. At no point will you laugh or smile at how pitiful it is, you’ll just sigh and look at your phone until it ends. This match is only just over eight minutes long, but it never seems to end.
The Only People to Have Two Five-Star Matches in the Same Night are Manami Toyota, Akira Hokuto, Kyoko Inoue and Toshiyo Yamada – And They All Achieved it on the Same Show
In the final show of the AJW Tag League in 1993, a round-robin tournament based on points rather than single elimination, Manami Toyota and Akira Hokuto fought Kyoko Inoue and Toshiyo Yamada in the final qualifying match of the tourney. Inoue and Yamada defeated Toyota and Hokuto in a five-star match, which gave them enough points to advance to the finals and face the point leaders of the tournament……which just happen to be the exact same team they had just faced. Both teams returned to their corners, the bell rung again, and these four women had back-to-back five-star matches on the same night, an achievement no other group of wrestlers have yet to replicate.
Only Three Shows in History Have Had More Than One Five-Star Match on the Same Card
Expanding on that last fact, the AJW Tag League show in December 1993 is one of only three shows to have two five-star matches in the same night.
The first was AJW Dreamslam in April 1993, which featured what many consider to be one of the greatest joshi matches of all time, Akira Hokuto vs. Shinobu Kandori (which was originally given 4.75 stars, however the rating was amended to 5 at a later date, so it technically still counts), as well as Cutie Suzuki and Mayumi Ozaki vs. Kyoko Inoue and Takako Inoue, another five-star clash. Fast-forward all the way to April 2018 where NXT TakeOver: New Orleans became the first show in almost 25 years to achieve the same honour, with the North American Championship Ladder Match and Gargano vs. Ciampa.
The Oldest Person to be Involved in a Five-Star WWE Match is Bret Hart (39)
Widely considered as one of the best Wrestlemania matches in history, this brawl features an amazing switch between face and heel, and the image of Austin’s screaming face covered in crimson is etched into every adult pro wrestling fan’s memory for life. With such a strong positive reaction from fans and critics alike, it was no surprise Meltzer gave this five stars, despite Bret being on the verge of the big 4-0.
The Youngest Person to be Involved in a Five-Star Match in WWE is Velveteen Dream (22)
At just 22 years old, Velveteen Dream is already one of WWE’s most promising young talents. His physical abilities, as well as his impressive grasp on character and psychology, has already rewarded him with a huge fan following, and several accolades. In April 2018, he became the youngest man to be involved in a five-star WWE match when he took part in the North American Ladder Match at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans. Whilst this rating can’t solely be attributed to Dream, he was still a part of it, and contributed far more to this five-star match than Giant Baba did to his.
Smackdown’s #1 Announcer, Funaki, was Once in a Five-Star Match
Yes, Funaki, Smackdown’s greatest announcer and all-around legend, was once in a five-star match! Back in 1996, in the Michinoku Pro promotion in Japan, Funaki was involved in a five-star 10-man tag match which involved TAKA Michinoku, Tiger Mask IV, and a man that acted like a crab. It’s just a shame that Funaki is yet to receive the WON Greatest Commentator of All Time Award that he rightfully deserves.
The Promotion with the Most Matches to get Five or More Stars is All Japan Pro Wrestling (35)
During the 1990s, nobody loved All Japan Pro Wrestling more than Dave Meltzer. Legends like Misawa and Kobashi were putting on five-star epics on a very regular basis, and even the first-ever six-star, scale-breaking bout, to the point where All Japan amassed 35 five or more star matches from 1984 to 1997. Amazingly, despite being the promotion with the most of these honours, the company hasn’t been able to replicate this success in over twenty years now. It seems as though NJPW is Meltzer’s new favourite best-bout machine, and I’m sure it won’t be long until New Japan the overall top scorer.
A 12-Woman Tag Team Match was Given Five Stars in 1987, Described as the Greatest Match Dave Had Seen Live at That Point, However it is now Impossible to Watch
At the end of 1987, a twelve-woman tag team match took place in All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling that blew the mind of WON journalist, Dave Meltzer. He was quoted as saying, “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.” Sounds great, right? Only problem is, you can’t watch it.
Of the approximately fifty minute match length, only seventeen minutes of known footage remains of the entire twelve-woman tag. In fact, this five-star bout is so obscure, hardly any information is available for a lot of those involved. From the grainy footage available, it’s fair to say this match is absolute chaos, and if this clash 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.
Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada Are Tied at Five for Most Matches to Get More Than Five Stars
Omega and Okada have engaged in some of the greatest matches of all time together, with each battle getting at least six stars for their efforts, including their recent seven-star epic at Dominion, so this one should come as no surprise. Separately, they’ve both had an extra epic that achieved more than the full five, with Kenny getting the slight edge over Okada, with an extra quarter of a star. Okada had a 5.5 star match against Tanahashi earlier this year, whilst Omega had an incredible contest with Naito during the G1 Finals in 2017.
We truly are all lucky that wrestlers of this incredible calibre are all converged into one promotion at the moment, acting as a hotbed for the best pro wrestling in the world today. If you’re not watching New Japan Pro Wrestling, you’re seriously missing out.
The First-Ever Five-Star Match was Dynamite Kid vs. Tiger Mask in NJPW from 1983
Initially starting out in college, Dave Meltzer has now been reviewing wrestling for over forty-five years, yet the Wrestling Observer Newsletter wasn’t started until 1983, the year the now infamous star rating system was born, and with it, the first five-star rating was awarded to two of the most influential junior heavyweight wrestlers of all time.
In one corner was one half of the British Bulldogs, in the other, an actual character from a 1968 manga series come to life – the perfect ingredients for a legendary fight. Plenty more matches have received this honour ever since, with some even breaking the scale beyond those famous five, but there can only ever be one originator, which will cement this classic match for years to come.
Prior to 2012, New Japan Pro Wrestling Didn’t have a Five-Star Match for 15 Years
As previously mentioned, New Japan Pro Wrestling is practically a factory for high star ratings these days, so it may be hard for newer fans to believe that one of the hottest companies in the world today once went through a serious dark period. Financially and critically, NJPW went through a lengthy period of worryingly low attendance figures and viewership numbers in comparison to their past popularity. It was thanks to stars like Hiroshi Tanahashi that brought people back in to watching the promotion, and it’s also thanks to Tanahashi, along with Minoru Suzuki, that the promotion got their first five-star rating in a decade and a half.
Now this is where the importance of Meltzer’s ratings becomes apparent. When it comes down to it, this is just one man’s opinion. It is not the gospel when it comes to wrestling quality, yet when you’ve been reviewing matches using the same scale for thirty-five years, your opinion does garner some interest. Many people couldn’t care less for Meltzer’s opinions, and that’s totally understandable, yet if his word gets more people interested in watching incredible wrestling matches, that’s a fantastic thing.
And it’s because of people like Dave talking about the increasing quality of New Japan since 2012 that has helped it become so popular today. We need people with such public opinions to make others aware of where great pro wrestling is, which I believe is the biggest positive of the galaxy of stars WON has produced over the years.
From 1983 to 1997, NJPW Had 6 Five-Star Matches – In 2017 Alone, They Had 6 Five Stars, and Four Matches Get More Than Five Stars
It’s up to your opinion whether this is down to an improvement in the New Japan product or Meltzer being more generous in his later years, yet there’s no denying that New Japan are producing some of the greatest matches of all time these days. Meltzer has stated that his favourite ever year in pro wrestling was 2017, which is apparent by the number of five-star+ matches he handed out in those twelve months. We’re living in an amazing time for pro wrestling, and by the way 2018 is going so far, it’s fair to say the quality of modern matches isn’t slowing down any time soon.
The Female Wrestler with Most Five-Star Matches is Manami Toyota (17)
Regardless of gender, Manami Toyota is one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. From the age of 19 onwards, Manami was knocking out five-star performances like it was no big deal whatsoever. When it comes to both tag team and singles wrestling, very few can come close to the ability she had. Whether you’ve never seen her work or you’ve watched her a million times, do yourself a favour and go and watch a Manami Toyota match whenever you get the chance.
The Male Wrestler with Most Five-Star Matches is Mitsuharu Misawa (25 and 1 Six-Star Match)
As stated earlier, Meltzer was completely obsessed with All Japan Pro Wrestling during the 1990s, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that one of the company’s top stars during that time earned a ridiculous amount of stars for his epic encounters. And of course, Misawa had the first match to officially break the scale, something that wouldn’t be done for another two decades. Misawa’s style isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste, but you owe it to yourself to check out this puroresu icon’s work at least once.
Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat Had 3 Five-Star Matches Against Each Other Within the Space of 3 Months
Meltzer has stated that he witnessed Flair and Steamboat have even better matches together at live events during this time, but as they weren’t televised the ratings were never recorded. Despite that though, Steamboat and Flair did main-event three NWA pay-per-view shows between February 20th and May 7th 1989, earning themselves a total of fifteen stars for their efforts.
Few performers can develop the chemistry that Flair and Steamboat had together. Even if they tried to, they were incapable of having a bad match. A match trilogy as epic as this wasn’t seen until 2017’s Okada vs. Omega series, yet for two performers to have three matches as great as these across three consecutive shows without multiple months between to build excitement and story development is extremely impressive.
The Only Promotion Other Than New Japan or NXT in the Last Five Years to Have a Five-Star Match is PWG
PWG prides itself on selecting only the greatest indie talent available to perform on their shows, so it shouldn’t too surprising that they’ve been the home to three five-star matches since 2016. That famous, uncomfortable, tiny hot box of a venue may have only held a few hundred people when packed to the rafters, and could possibly be the smallest building to be home to a five-star match, yet when the quality of wrestling is this high, being half-cooked alive is totally worth it.
The Wrestling Observer Newsletter Was Not the First Publication to Implement a Star Rating System for Wrestling Matches
Although it is certainly the longest-standing publication to do so, and all that implement a star rating system these days do it in honour of WON, they certainly were not the originators.
Back in 1979, Jim Cornette of all people suggested to his friend Norman Dooley, who ran a publication that documented wrestling match results in the Louisville area, that he should start rating matches using stars just like TV guides do with movies and TV shows, as he was reviewing shows he had seen in such detail. Dooley loved the idea, and introduced it the next week.
Over the next few years, the majority of wrestling publications began using their own star rating system, including the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Through Meltzer’s ability to amass a large, nationwide following, and the fact he’s been using the same system consistently for so long, the star ratings have now become synonymous with him, despite not being his innovation.
The Longest Gap Between Five-Star Matches is Over 5 Years – March 31st 2006 to July 17th 2011
Five-star matches were once not as common as they are today. After an exhilarating spot-fest six-man tag from ROH Supercard of Honor on March 31st 2006, Meltzer did not give five or more stars for another five years, until the epic Cena vs. Punk from Money in the Bank 2011 broke the dry spell. Although this is just one man’s opinion, the contrast in the number of high match ratings given out today compared to a decade ago is a good indication of how incredible the quality of pro wrestling is today.