What an incredible year it has been. To try and whittle the conveyor belt of five-star matches 2018 has gifted us down to just a select few is a daunting task, but somehow, I’ve managed it. Please remember: these are just my own opinions influenced by my own personal tastes and experiences, and I can’t include matches that I haven’t watched from this year, so if something is missing, please let me know and I’ll try and check them out.
Also, just as a rule, I’ve decided not to include more than one match featuring the same set of opponents, unless there are additional competitors involved (e.g. only one singles/tag match allowed but a multi-man/team match that involves others is eligible).
With that being said, here is part one of my Top 30 Best Matches of 2018.
Hiromu Takahashi vs. Will Ospreay – NJPW Dominion
Alpha Club vs. Bullet Club – Chris Jericho Cruise
Ringmaster Finals – Defiant Wrestling Ringmaster Tournament
Kazuchika Okada vs. Marty Scurll – All In
Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton – WWE Hell in a Cell
Buddy Murphy vs. Mustafa Ali – 205 Live
Meiko Satomura vs. Killer Kelly – Mae Young Classic
Moustache Mountain vs. Aussie Open – Riptide Wrestling: Brighton Championship Tournament Night 2
Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi – Fighting Spirit Unleashed
Kairi Sane vs. Shayna Baszler – NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn
Jimmy Havoc vs. Will Ospreay – PROGRESS
Minoru Suzuki vs. Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW Strong Style Evolved UK
Kenny Omega vs. Penta El Zero M – All In
Buddy Murphy vs. Kalisto – 205 Live
Undisputed Era vs. Lorcan and Burch – NXT TakeOver: Chicago
Tetsuya Naito vs. Tomohiro Ishii – B Block: July 19th
LAX vs. The OG’z – Bound for Glory
Hangman Page vs. Joey Janela – All In
Kazuchika Okada vs. Minoru Suzuki – A Block: August 2nd
Over the Budget Battle Royal – All In: Zero Hour
Will Ospreay vs. ACH – NJPW Best of Super Juniors Day 3
Marty Scurll vs. Kazuchika Okada – All In
No Regrets Rumble – Defiant: No Regrets
Dragon Lee vs. Hiromu Takahashi – NJPW Best Of The Super Juniors Day 6
Will Ospreay vs. Flip Gordon – NJPW Best Of The Super Juniors Day 13
Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky vs. Flip Gordon, Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson – ROH Supercard Of Honor XII
Hirooki Goto vs. Minoru Suzuki – Wrestle Kingdom 12
Jeff Cobb vs. Hangman Page – ROH Final Battle
Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya Naito – B Block: August 4th
Hiromu Takahashi vs. El Desperado – NJPW Kizuna Road
Jinny vs. Jimmy Havoc – Riptide Wrestling: Riptide Rumble
Charlotte vs. Asuka – WrestleMania 34
Jimmy Havoc vs. Paul Robinson – PROGRESS: Hello Wembley
Kenny Omega vs. Zack Sabre Jr. – B Block: Wednesday August 1st
Hangman Page vs. Kota Ibushi – ROH Supercard of Honor XII
WALTER vs. PCO – Joey Janela’s Spring Break 2
Gauntlet Match – WWE Raw
Takashi Sugiura vs Naomichi Marufuji – NOAH Navigation With Breeze 2018 Day 10
Hiromu Takahashi vs. Will Ospreay – NJPW Dominion
The Miz vs. Seth Rollins – WWE Backlash
Ricochet vs. Velveteen Dream – NXT TakeOver: Chicago
Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose vs. Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler – WWE Hell in a Cell
Squad Goals vs. The Deserving – Pro Wrestling EVE: Wrestle Queendom
Buddy Murphy vs. Cedric Alexander – WWE Super ShowDown
Kota Ibushi vs. Hirooki Goto – B Block: Wednesday August 1st
KUSHIDA vs. SHO – NJPW Best of Super Juniors
Will Ospreay vs. Marty Scurll – NJPW Sakura Genesis
Kenny Omega vs. Cody – ROH Supercard of Honor XII
Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle vs. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon – WrestleMania 34
Women’s Money in the Bank Match
Cody vs. Kota Ibushi vs. Kenny Omega – NJPW King of Pro Wrestling
Will Ospreay vs. Marty Scurll vs. KUSHIDA vs. Hiromu Takahashi – Wrestle Kingdom 12
Men’s and Women’s Royal Rumble Matches
Hirooki Goto vs. SANADA – B Block: July 15th
Mike Bailey vs. WALTER – Riptide Wrestling: International Waters
Ringkampf vs. Violence Unlimited – PWG All Star Weekend Night 1
Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Aleister Black – NXT TakeOver: New Orleans
Charlotte vs. Ronda Rousey – WWE Survivor Series
Tetsuya Naito vs. Chris Jericho – NJPW Dominion
Kenny Omega vs. SANADA – B Block: July 28th
These were so close to making the list
WALTER vs. Timothy Thatcher – PROGRESS
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tomohiro Ishii – B Block: July 26th
Moustache Mountain vs. Undisputed Era – NXT
Shuji Ishikawa vs. Mike Bailey – DDT Grand Prix Night 1
Sami Callihan vs. Jimmy Havoc – IMPACT vs. The UK
Tomasso Ciampa vs. Velveteen Dream – NXT TakeOver: WarGames
Adam Cole vs. Ricochet – NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn
The Golden Lovers vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi and Will Ospreay – NJPW Road to Tokyo Dome
Adam Cole vs. Ricochet vs. Pete Dunne – NXT
30. WALTER vs. Bad Bones vs. Ilja Dragunov – wXw 16 Carat Gold
As is the case with any WALTER match, there were a lot of chops in this one. Within five minutes, Dragunov’s chest was bleeding – that’s the level of artistic violence employed in this bludgeoning. With Ilja acting as the underdog everyone in that building demanded to see as champion, Bad Bones playing the cowardly heel role perfectly, and WALTER being the unstoppable, destructive force that he is, this WxW match became the triple threat of the year.
Raw energy emanated from the emotional crowd throughout, which was the key to this violent war’s appeal. Whilst not the best match from a technical standpoint compared to others on this list, the story and passion from fans make this a spectacle that’s hard to forget.
29. LAX vs. CCK – PROGRESS Chapter 80
You’ll be hard-pressed to find two better teams out there these days than LAX and CCK, and you’ll also find it difficult to find two teams that have better chemistry together than these two. During the PROGRESS USA Tour, LAX vs. CCK was the talk of everybody who saw it, and for very good reason. Then in the final month of the year, they went at it again in yet another, arguably even greater brawl.
I had the pleasure of interviewing LAX back in September for Calling Spots Magazine, in which they said they’d love to face CCK again, especially if Kid Lykos is involved, and judging by the quality of these two matches, I hope so too. Do yourself a favour and head over to Demand PROGRESS and check out two of the best tag team matches of the year as soon as you can. (Also, check out Gods and Monsters by I Am Kloot, the album that inspired the name of PROGRESS’ Chapter 80. I particularly recommend the song Over My Shoulder. Okay, cool.)
28. Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi vs. Tomohiro Ishii and Will Ospreay – NJPW Road to Destruction
For those unfamiliar with New Japan Pro Wrestling, Road To shows are the company’s way of building up a small amount of hype for upcoming bigger, more important marquee events. Road To shows are almost exclusively filled with tag team matches that lay and build upon foundations for rivalries, offering pretty standard matches with little to get excited about. But back in September, the Road to Destruction gifted us this absolute gem of a bout out of nowhere.
Without question, this has got to be the best match on a Road To show we’ve ever seen. Regardless of which combination of these four wrestlers were in the ring, magic occured. Fans got a glimpse of the amazing chemistry between Ospreay and Ibushi, and we instantly wanted more. Plus, whenever Omega and Ishii face against each other, it can never be less than pure brilliance.
These two teams went above and beyond what was expected from them on that night, and proved why they are some of the best around today.
27. SANADA vs. Kota Ibushi – B Block: July 26th
The battle of the handsome boys with teenager haircuts.
Along with SANADA, another competitor who had an outstanding G1 was Kota Ibushi, one of the best in the world today. The fact that this bout was the first time these two have ever had singles match together is unbelievable considering how well they gelled together. Showing immediate chemistry, SANADA and Ibushi exchanged strikes and holds from start to finish in exciting fashion.
It was an impressive display between two of the best athletes in New Japan trying to display their technical prowess against the other, matching speed and fluidity throughout. It really felt like two of the best wrestlers in the world trying to prove who was the greater athlete. Playing to a hometown crowd, this was arguably SANADA’s greatest ever performance in a wrestling ring, and certainly shows extremely high promise for the LIJ member for the the future.
26. Kenny Omega vs. Hirooki Goto – B Block: July 19th
When Hirooki Goto is in the ring with the right person, he can have an absolutely fantastic match (just look at his match against SANADA in the first B Block show). When Kenny Omega is in the ring with anyone at all, he can have an absolutely fantastic match. Put these two together, and what do you get? A five-star epic.
Following on from their incredible 2016 finals match, and their 2017 G1 encounter, Omega and Goto shot out of the gate intent on gaining 2 points in any way possible. Clearly inspired by his fellow Golden Lover’s insane performance earlier in the night, Omega wasn’t going to be out-crazied, so he responded by slamming his opponent onto the wooden bleachers in the crowd, climbing up the stands, and hitting an incredible moonsault onto Goto and some very unlucky young lions. This match is certainly much more than one crazy spot, yet this best bout is worth watching for that athletic spectacle alone.
Goto put up a great showing against the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, hitting a reverse GTR with Kenny dropped on the ropes, yet Omega once again bested the first ever man to win this prestigious tournament in his debut attempt.
25. WarGames Match – NXT TakeOver: WarGames
When a match has Undisputed Era, War Raiders, Ricochet and Pete Dunne in it, how can it not be one of the best of the year?! It was brutal, it was imaginative, it was crazy, and it was entertaining.
24. CCK vs. Aussie Open – RevPro: Summer Sizzler
Once this match took place, it seemed as though my entire timeline was full of anyone lucky enough to witness this live talking about how brilliant it was. Two of the best teams the U.K. scene has to offer facing off against each other with brilliant results.
Aussie Open and CCK have a special sort of chemistry together. Whether they’re pulling off hilarious comedy bits or just blowing the roof off with absolutely fantastic pro wrestling, I will never get sick of watching these two go at it.
23. Pentagon Jr. vs. Sami Callihan – IMPACT Slammiversary
This may just be the most brutal match I’ve ever seen from a mainstream wrestling company, at the very least in the last decade.
Rather than your typical hardcore match, this was a spectacle of personality and brutality. Filled with gushes of crimson, interesting psychology, an atmosphere of pure hatred, and freaking spikes to the head, this is one of the better hardcore matches of the year with plenty of storytelling still intact. If you’re yet to give this and IMPACT in general a chance, I highly recommend you check it out.
22. Brock Lesnar vs. Daniel Bryan – WWE Survivor Series
Given that there was only a five day period between Daniel Bryan being brought into this bout and the fight itself taking place, and also the very high chance that Brock could be booked to completely destroy his comparatively undersized opponent, there was some concern over the Survivor Series main-event, but also plenty of excitement.
As Bryan approached the ring, you could tell he was tackling this match differently to every other he had before. When the bell rung, thus began a torrent of uncomfortable domination and punishment for well over five minutes. Brock Lesnar decimated Daniel Bryan with a barrage of suplexes and throws. Reminiscent of his SummerSlam 2014 match against John Cena, Brock had complete control, with no offence being allocated to the WWE Champion.
Now, although my many years of fandom were telling me that Bryan would get in that classic underdog comeback only to lose in the end, I couldn’t help but completely lose myself in his performance. My heart was pounding and my stomach was spinning in ways no other match this year could manage to do. As soon as Bryan hit that first low blow, I leapt forward with anticipation.
What proceeded was a primal torturing of Lesnar by Bryan, who managed to harm The Beast Incarnate in ways we had never seen anybody of his size do before. All logic was saying that Lesnar would have to win, yet my preconceived thoughts vanished when I saw the sight of Bryan’s performance. It was a true testament to how good of a pro wrestler Daniel Bryan is, and also how when used properly, Brock Lesnar can play his part perfectly in a main-event classic.
21. The Golden Lovers vs. The Young Bucks – NJPW Strong Style Evolved
During the ‘Bullet Club is Fine’ period this year, things got so bad within the BC ranks that long-time best friends Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks broke apart on different sides of a civil war. The bad blood between these former allies came to a head when Matt and Nick moved up to the heavyweight division in order to face Omega and his partner, Kota Ibushi, to decide which duo really is the best in the world.
At Strong Style Evolved, these four bonded by both love and hatred battled in an emotional and brutal war. Full of dangerous spots, moments of inner conflict, a string of incredible counters, and a stunningly painful table spot, this instantly set the benchmark for tag team matches in 2018.
20. Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kazuchika Okada – NJPW Strong Style Evolved UK
Now, I’m not quite sure how well this one translated on screen for viewers on NJPW World, but for those that got to see it live like myself, it was a wonderful experience. Even after hours of being encased in a swelteringly warm skating rink on a July day, the crowd managed to be even hotter for this bout.
The home-country hero and hopefully future Prime Minister, Zack Sabre Jr., faced the godly Kazuchika Okada in a great, technical affair. The constant trading of counters and holds from ZSJ created a tense and exciting atmosphere, culminating in a shock victory over the former IWGP Heavyweight Champion, much to the delight of every fan in the room.
It may not be on most people’s lists, yet for me, this bout was an experience I will never forget.
19. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte – WWE Evolution
In the latter half of 2018, Becky Lynch became arguably the hottest person in WWE thanks to her captivating personality, wrestling ability, character, and promos. When she held her SmackDown Women’s Championship above her crimson-smothered face after a bloody in-ring brawl on Raw, she established herself as a major star.
Becky Lynch is presenting herself and placing herself in situations and story lines in a way we’ve rarely seen from female talent in WWE. Case in point: her ferocious battle from WWE Evolution against Charlotte.
Utilising the Last Woman Standing stipulation to great effect, Lynch and Charlotte gifted us all with possibly the most violent women’s match seen on the WWE main roster. Fuelled by a well-told story, heated emotions, savage weapon shots, and well-executed spots, this was the gem from one hell of a good show.
18. Tomohiro Ishii vs. SANADA – B Block: August 11th
For many, Tomohiro Ishii was the MVP for this year’s G1. Even when he had nothing to gain from a match other than pride, as was the case with this final day bout, he still threw his stone, fridge-like body into everything. When he clashed with SANADA, an insane athlete who put on a star-making performance throughout the tournament, he ended his incredible G1 journey with yet another MOTY candidate.
17. Zack Sabre Jr. vs. A-Kid – White Wolf Wrestling: Total Rumble 8
WARNING: Watching this match may make you reflect on how little you’ve done with your life when you realise how good A-Kid is such a young age.
Taking place when he was just twenty years old, A-Kid became the youngest person ever to be involved in a singles match that received five stars from WON. Despite the Spanish wrestling scene being quite obscure in the worldwide community, the wrestling world slowly built buzz for this match over a period of months, to the point where it reached the attention of some of the biggest names in wrestling journalism.
It took place back in April for White Wolf Wrestling, but didn’t start getting this insane amount of attention until many months later. I think that’s a testament to how good the match is that despite not taking place in a major company, people couldn’t help but talk about it. And all of that praise is thoroughly deserved.
A-Kid and ZSJ go hold-for-hold from bell-to-bell, excuting a series of counters and a flurry of spectacular moves. The match is free to watch on YouTube, so if you haven’t already seen it, you owe it to yourself to check it out.
16. Tyler Bate vs. WALTER – PROGRESS: Hello Wembley
For an independent wrestling company to run a show inside Wembley Arena to much success is a phenomenal achievement, and when that event has a main-event as good as this, well that’s just the cherry on the cake.
WALTER vs. Bate is a fine example of dominating behemoth vs. plucky underdog. The PROGRESS Champion displayed his physical presence throughout whilst the Big Strong Boi tried to overcome his larger foe and display how powerful he actually is.
The match had a consistent, well-paced build throughout which just improved the fight more and more by the minute. If the historic value of PROGRESS’ Hello Wembley show isn’t enough to convince you to check it out, then you need to check it out just for this big strong bout alone.
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