What a year 2019 has been. If you had told me back in 2018 about half of the things that were going to happen during this crazy year, I would have never believed you. Within the midst of new major promotions starting up, wrestlers swapping sides to other companies, shocking title victories, and Toru Yano releasing curry products, we had some incredible pro wrestling matches.
Sadly, I have nowhere near enough time to watch all of the fantastic content we have been gifted in the first half of the year, but of all the bouts I’ve had the pleasure to watch in 2019, these are my favourites. These are my Top 35 Matches of 2019 So Far.
Please note: this is all my own personal opinion and all rankings are completely subjective. I may have completely different tastes to you or certain critics so keep that in mind. Plus, don’t take the rankings too seriously: there’s so much top quality wrestling to look back on, it’s impossible to definitively say exactly what order these matches should be in, it would probably change in my mind on a day-to-day basis. Just know that if I’ve ranked it or even included it as an honourable mention, it means I think it’s worth watching.
For this list, I’ll only be including matches I’ve actually watched, so if I’ve missed out one of your favourites, chances are I haven’t had time to watch it (feel free to recommend them to me). Also, I’ll only be including one match per rivalry in the top thirty. With that being said, let’s get started.
Honourable Mentions (Sorry, there’s a lot)
Aja Kong, Emi Sakura and Yuka Sakazaki vs. Hikaru Shida, Riho and Ryo Mizunami – AEW Double or Nothing
Adam Cole, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa vs. Aleister Black, Ricochet and The Velveteen Dream – WWE Halftime Heat
Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio, 2/3 Falls – WWE SmackDown
Tessa Blanchard vs. Rickey Shane Page – Wrestling Revolver: Pancakes and Piledrivers 3
Gabriel Kidd vs. Joe Hendry, 30 Minute Iron Man Match – Defiant Wrestling
PAC vs. Pentagon Jr. – TNT Super Extreme
Extreme Rise Rumble: – RISE Underground: Teesside Hardcore
John Klinger vs. Mil Muertes – Wrestle Gate: Open Gate
Matt Riddle vs. Roderick Strong – NXT TakeOver: XXV
Orange Cassidy vs. Gentleman Jervis – Wrestle Circus: Encore
Big Grizzly vs. Hari Singh vs. LJ Heron vs. Los Federales Santos Jr. vs. The OJMO vs. Visage – Wrestling Resurgence: This is Spinal Graps
Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega – AEW Double or Nothing
AJ Styles vs. Seth Rollins – WWE Money in the Bank
A-Kid vs. Airwolf – CHIKARA: Once Upon a Beginning
Josh Barnett vs. Minoru Suzuki – Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport
PAC vs. Will Ospreay – RevPro: High Stakes
Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks vs. Lucha Bros and Laredo Kid – AEW: Fyter Fest
Amir Jordan vs. Session Moth Martina – NORTH Wrestling: NCL 15
David Starr vs. WALTER – wXw: 16 Carat Gold
TK Cooper vs. Chuck Mambo – Riptide Wrestling: Riptide Rumble
PAC vs. Robbie X – Defiant Wrestling
Akira Tozawa vs. Drew Gulak vs. Humberto Carrillo vs. Oney Lorcan – 205 Live
Honor Rumble – G1 Supercard
El Phantasmo vs. Rey Fenix – TNT Super Extreme
Riptide Rumble Match – Riptide Wrestling: Riptide Rumble
Daniel Bryan vs. Kevin Owens vs. Mustafa Ali – WWE Fastlane
Aussie Open vs. Swords of Essex – PROGRESS: Chapter 87
Falls Count Anywhere Five Way Tag Team Match – DDT: Pool Pro Wrestling
Session Moth Martina vs. Charli Evans – NORTH Wrestling: NCL 18
Matt Riddle vs. Velveteen Dream – NXT TakeOver: New York
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kota Ibushi – NJPW: Sengoku Lord
Kylie Rae vs. Orange Cassidy – Beyond Wrestling: Uncharted Territory
Tyler Breeze vs. Velveteen Dream – NXT TakeOver: XXV
Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio – WWE SmackDown
Bandido vs. Will Ospreay – WrestleCon Mark Hitchcock Memorial SuperShow
Kazuchika Okada vs. SANADA – NJPW: Wrestling Dontaku
Jordan Devlin vs. WALTER – OTT Scrappermania 5
Jeff Cobb vs. Will Ospreay – G1 Supercard
MAO vs. Sanshiro Takagi – DDT Coming to America
Strong Hearts vs. SCU – AEW Double or Nothing
Timothy Thatcher vs. Yuki Ishikawa – wXw: AMBITION 10
Shigehiro Irie & Yuki Ishikawa vs. Timothy Thatcher & WALTER – wXw: Inner Circle 7
Jungle Kyona vs. Momo Watanabe – Stardom World In Nagoya
Kzy vs. PAC – Dragon Gate: Truth Gate
Johnny Gargano vs. Adam Cole – NXT TakeOver: XXV
BUSHI and Shingo Takagi vs. SHO and YOH – NJPW: Road to Wrestling Dontaku
Lucha Bros vs. LAX – IMPACT: Rebellion
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jay White – NJPW: New Beginning in Osaka
Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya Naito – G1 Supercard
Marty Scurll vs. Nick Aldis – NWA Crockett Cup
WALTER vs. Pete Dunne – NXT TakeOver: New York
35. Callum Newman vs. Harrison Bourne vs. Joe Lando vs. Maverick Mayhew – Wrestle Gate: Open Gate
I’m giving my first ranking to four young talents that were given a spotlight on Wrestle Gate’s first ever show back in January, and they absolutely smashed it. Watching four teenagers put on the performance they did and display how insanely talented they all are was an absolute treat for me. It was a brilliant display of frantic action, yet what earns it my #35 spot is how excited it made me feel post-match.
Once the bell rang, the entire audience stood up to give them a standing ovation. To see these relative rookies go out and have the best match of the night filled me with excitement for the future of British independent wrestling. It was this match that gave me the inspiration to start listing my favourite free agents in pro wrestling today, something which I have now made a regular feature on my website.
These Frontline Puro rookies are something special, and I expect you all to know their names within the next few years.
34. MAO vs. Sanshiro Takagi – DDT Coming to America
When I went to see DDT live in New York, I thought the Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship match would easily be my favourite piece of ridiculousness of this show, but my god I had so much fun watching this one. The concept of the match was that every minute a new weapon was introduced. I won’t spoil it all in case you want to watch it all for yourself, but this was a DDT match, so it was obviously insane. Let’s just say a man got DDT’d into an actual toilet and leave it at that. Go and watch this whole show, it was a blast.
33. Will Ospreay vs. Rysuke Taguchi – NJPW BOSJ
Starting off in somewhat foolish fashion, it was clear Ospreay wasn’t taking his opponent all too seriously in this block-deciding bout as he wiggled his hips and consistently tried to use his butt as a weapon, or perhaps Ospreay was just trying to bring out the seriously talented side of Rysuke Taguchi.
Despite the silly start, the tension built to an epic conclusion worthy of the final match of BOSJ block competition. The last five minutes were a phenomenal thrillride that felt like it could go either way. Once again, Ospreay showed that he really is one of the best in New Japan today, whilst Taguchi reminded everyone that he is certainly much more than just a top quality butt wrestler.
32. WWE Championship Elimination Chamber Match
Easily one of my favourite ever Elimination Chamber matches – not because of any ridiculous high spot or brutal moment, it was for the final closing minutes of pure wrestling. In the week leading up to the event, Kofi Kingston was added to the bout, and put on the performance of his life in a gauntlet match on SmackDown. This one bout made fans instantly gravitate towards the New Day veteran, crying out for him to be awarded the championship he so rightly deserved after many years of service.
Come the WWE Championship Elimination Chamber match, we saw four participants eliminated in entertaining style, yet when it was down to just Kofi and Daniel, we got a thrilling, gripping exhibition between champion and challenger that alone could have been an MOTY contender. I sat in excitement at the slightest chance of Kofi actually winning the big one. It had me gripped and was a perfect example of how to do a final two in any multi-man elimination match.
31. Meiko Satomura vs. Sareee – Sendai Girls
I have a problem with pro wrestling at the moment: there is so much content readily available from great promotions around the world that nobody can physically watch all that is worth watching. That is an absolutely wonderful problem to have, yet it also means I miss out on awesome matches featuring the likes of Meiko Satomura.
Every time I take the time out to watch Sendai Girls, a promotion owned and operated by the Mae Young Classic competitor, I really enjoy what I see, I just sadly don’t have enough time to follow it properly at the moment. This may not even be Meiko’s best match of 2019 so far for all I know, there could be a hidden gem out there I’ve yet to see for myself, she is heralded as the greatest wrestler in the world by the likes of Zack Sabre Jr. and Chris Brookes after all, yet Satomura vs. Sareee is still a fantastic brawl nonetheless.
If you enjoy people having their souls kicked out of their body and having boots almost completely wipe their faces off, I’d highly recommend checking this one out.
30. El Phantasmo vs. Kyle Fletcher – NORTH Wrestling: NCL 16 Let the Canons Fly!
I’ve never laughed more at a live pro wrestling match than I did with this one. On paper, ELP vs. Kyle Fletcher is a high-flying, fast-paced battle full of high spots and unreal athleticism. What we got that night at NORTH Wrestling was one of the most entertaining comedy matches I’ve ever seen. Featuring slow motion, partial nudity, and even a bit of stripping, this was comedy gold throughout.
29. Benji and Visage vs. SCC – Defiant Wrestling: Built to Destroy
Benji is somebody I’ve watched for a couple of years now go from a local talent to a favourite in Defiant Wrestling. 2019 has seen a rise in popularity for Benji, culminating in this awesome match. As unlikely of a team as they were, Visage and Benji took the fight to SCC in a truly barbaric ladder match. Every thirty seconds or so the audience was treated to another sick sequence involving the three ladders at their disposal.
Each competitor in this tag team bout had their moment, and received their fair share of punishment. To see it end with two people I’m big fans of, both as performers and as people, that made me rise to my feet in applause, putting a huge smile on my face. I really hope we see Defiant return later in the year because I need more from this unique duo.
28. Konosuke Takeshita vs. Daisuke Sasaki – DDT Coming to America
After experiencing so much ridiculousness during DDT’s first show outside of Japan, which also happened to be the first show during my trip to New York, it was great to finish things off with one hell of a traditional wrestling match. After witnessing Joey Ryan’s dickflip, a naked man run through a crowd, a DDT directly into a toilet, and a blow up doll winning a championship, this was a fantastic contrast of style that blew me away.
It was a lengthy, impressive and at times chaotic brawl to the finish that gripped everyone inside that venue, myself included. Easily one of the best main-event matches I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing in person to date.
27. Chris Jericho vs. Tetsuya Naito – Wrestle Kingdom
2019 started out with a straight up brawl. Featuring a brutal DDT on an announce table and a piledriver that took out a chunk of Jericho’s scalp, these two went to war over the IWGP Intercontinental Championship on January 4th with very entertaining results. Naito was flying all over the place as the veteran Jericho threw him around the Tokyo Dome. It was a simple, violent, old school style battle, and it was great.
26. Shingo Takagi vs. Taiji Ishimori – NJPW BOSJ
Best of the Super Juniors 26 will be defined by the performance of Shingo Takagi. The undefeated beast made history by gaining the most points in any single BOSJ tournament. His impressively dominant run of the A block culminated in one of his best NJPW matches to date. Taiji Ishimori showed what an insane athlete he is, displaying his impressive strength, explosiveness and speed, however whatever Ishimori managed to throw at The Dragon, Takagi had an even more devastating response for him.
At one point, Ishimori hit a running Canadian Destroyer, and Takagi used the momentum from being dropped on his head at high speed to immediately pop back up, bounce off the ropes, and hit a beautiful Pumping Bomber. This match is worth watching for the lariats thrown by both men alone. By the end of it, it was clear why both combatants were brought into New Japan in 2018 with so much fan fair: two of the very best that I cannot wait to see collide again.
25. Grizzled Young Veterans vs. Moustache Mountain – WWE NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool
The first NXT UK TakeOver kicked off in incredible fashion as two of the greatest teams this country currently has to offer collided in one hell of a match. A nuclear hot crowd provided the backing track to this display of top level tag team wrestling. These two teams have faced each other plenty of times before, yet when given their biggest stage to fight so far, they definitely pulled out their best work, particularly that ridiculous suicide dive Doomsday Device on the outside. This match alone made me excited for more NXT UK TakeOver’s in the future.
24. War Raiders vs. Undisputed Era – WWE NXT TakeOver: Phoenix
In my opinion, NXT has the best tag team division in the world right now. When given the opportunity to show everyone just how good they are, the then named War Raiders pulled out everything to display their wonderful chemistry and prove their place at the top of the game. Here’s hoping we can get back to this level of badass for the Viking Raiders, especially if it means they can once again be called Hanson and Rowe.
23. Will Ospreay vs. Kota Ibushi – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom
Without question, this was a great match, how could it not be? Two insanely talented athletes beating the crap out of each other will always be entertaining to me. It’s an exhibition that not many performers could match… I just think they could have done even better.
As brilliant as this was, I still don’t think we’ve seen close to the best from Ospreay vs. Ibushi. Thankfully, we’ll get that rematch during the G1 Climax, where we should hopefully get a second MOTY contender for 2019.
22. War Raiders vs. Aleister Black And Ricochet – NXT TakeOver: New York
I saw Aleister Black and Ricochet wrestle four times while I was in New York, and I never once got sick of watching them. This was one of the best tag team matches I’ve ever seen featuring four incredibly talented guys, capped off by an emotional goodbye from Black and Ricochet. NXT has the best tag team division in the world.
21. Johnny Gargano vs. Ricochet – NXT TakeOver: Phoenix
Johnny Gargano may just be the greatest wrestler signed to WWE right now, maybe even the greatest wrestler in North America. In simple terms, Johnny Gargano could have a great match with anyone, so it’s no surprise that when he was put in the ring with an inhuman athlete like Ricochet that the two pulled out an absolute classic encounter. Each man got to exhibit their greatest strengths, complimenting each other’s style in the process. While I don’t think I enjoyed it quite as much as many others seem to have done, it was still my favourite match of Royal Rumble weekend nonetheless.
20. Tomohiro Ishii vs. Yugi Nagata – NJPW New Japan Cup
It was clear from the main event of the very first show of the New Japan Cup that we were in for one hell of a tournament.
Tomohiro Ishii seems to have chemistry with everyone he comes into contact with, being able to adapt to a multitude of styles and sizes. When he goes up against Yuji Nagata, you know they’re going to deliver a pure slug fest, and this first round match may just be the best encounter they’ve ever had.
Going back-and-forth with a multitude of stiff strikes and shots from bell to bell, Nagata and Ishii beat the absolute crap out of each other in the most entertaining way possible. Two ultra tough veterans determined to exhibit their stone-hard wills and burning hot fighting spirit, neither willing to stay down without one hell of a fight.
If you love physical, brawling fights, you absolutely need to watch this. The crowd explodes throughout marveling at these two warriors physically brutalizing each other, and you can’t help but get swept up by it. No doubt we will still be talking about this one at the end of the year.
19. Rocky Romero vs. Will Ospreay – NJPW BOSJ
BOSJ 26 was the greatest performance of Rocky Romero’s career. The fighting spirit he showed, the moves he kicked out of, the moves he brought out himself, it was a seriously impressive showing. The willingness of Rocky to stay in the match and continue to bring the fight directly to Ospreay in this CHAOS encounter is what made it such compelling viewing, helped in part by the perfect reactions from his colleagues on the commentary team enhancing the excitement and tension of the story.
As good as Rocky is on commentary, he showed exactly why he shouldn’t have been sat behind a desk during BOSJ and why he deserved to be in that ring.
18. Jon Moxley vs. Juice Robinson – NJPW: BOSJ Finals
Formerly known as CJ Parker and Dean Ambrose respectively, Juice and Moxley have known each other for eight years, dating back to their days in FCW, the predecessor to NXT. As noted by Juice in one of his spectacular promos, Moxley was like a mentor to him: he would invite him out for beers and give him advice on his character and ring work as he was much more experienced.
Fast-forward to 2019, a mysterious video targeting Juice Robinson began to air during every New Japan show showing a man sat at a bar wielding a knife. For weeks, the identity of the challenger went unknown despite much speculation, repeatedly telling Juice that his “Time’s Up”. Finally, not long after his appearance at Double or Nothing, the man sat at the bar was revealed to be Jon Moxley to much excitement.
By this point, the video had gotten into Juice’s head, feeling angry and disrespected by the constant targeting, the weeks of mystery, and the fact that Moxley was planning to make his New Japan debut at Juice’s expense, and take his IWGP United States Championship in the process. When his first post-WWE match came, Juice and Moxley ripped each other apart in one of the most violent melees seen in NJPW this year.
Brawling all over ringside, Moxley brought out a viciousness never seen in Juice before, forcing him to bust out moves not usually in his repertoire, and take risks never before considered, such as a dive from the top of the entrance structure. As much as Juice managed to push Mox to the limit, his brutal efforts proved to be ineffective as the result ended with a Moxley win and a brand new champion, taking away Juice’s pride and his most prized possession along with it.
With this one brawl, I was excited about Jon Moxley again. I was left wanting more, so now with the announcement of Moxley in the G1, including another match against Juice on the final day of block competition, I’m seriously looking forward to some more MOTY candidates from the reinvigorated former WWE Champion.
17. Jay White vs. Will Ospreay – NJPW: 47th Anniversary
Immediately after it had taken place, I knew it was my favourite Jay White match I’d seen so far. After having a great showing in ROH a couple of years prior, Ospreay and White met once again, this time in the main-event of NJPW’s 47th Anniversary show. Things just seemed to click well in this bout: Jay White showed off his ever-improving heel style inside the ring, and Ospreay was just, Ospreay. Starting off very strong, the match didn’t quite carry the same momentum right through to the end, but it was a delight to watch regardless.
16. Cody vs. Dustin Rhodes – AEW Double or Nothing
Bodily fluids poured throughout this bout, both from the cut on Dustin’s forehead and from the eyes of the fans. On a show filled with unreal athleticism and world-class high-flying action, the Rhodes brothers broke up the craziness with a good old fashioned bloody brawl reminiscent of a 1980’s NWA main event.
It was all very simple, and that’s all it needed to be. Cody vs. Dustin was pro wrestling as an art form, which made it all the more appropriate that they painted the canvas with buckets of Dustin’s blood. AEW’s debut show brought us the match WWE thought not worthy of WrestleMania, and it proved to be an emotional, violent battle coloured in crimson.
15. Lucha Bros vs. The Young Bucks – AEW Double or Nothing
The sheer amount of talent overflowing from these four men is astounding. As individual tag teams, Lucha Bros and Young Bucks have a special chemistry which can only come from being blood relatives. Throw both duos in together, and you’ve always got something special.
With Young Bucks suffering from ring rust due to barely competing leading up to the launch of AEW, the story of the match was their miscommunication and bad timing throughout, with Lucha Bros capitalising at every opportunity. It was a masterfully planned out match excelling in tag team maneuvers and top tier feats of athleticism. Plus, it further confirmed to me that Fenix cannot be human.
Best two-on-two tag team match of 2019? It very well could be.
14. Kazuchika Okada vs. SANADA – NJPW: New Japan Cup Finals
Going into this match, it was pretty much a guarantee Okada would walk out the victor, yet the false finishes in this epic definitely had us all questioning.
Although the first ten or so minutes of this match were a little slow, it built and built into a thrilling conclusion. The story told was that after being dominating by the former world champion Okada, the up-and-comer SANADA suddenly got the better of The Rainmaker and forced him to the brink of losing.
Given how praised and accomplished he is, it’s hard to claim any part of Kazuchika Okada’s wrestling ability is underrated, yet if there is any skill that doesn’t quite get the credit it deserves, it’s definitely his selling ability. Okada made SANADA look like he was so close to winning on several occasions. After being locked into the Skull End multiple times, Okada lifted his shoulder directly before the three count with so much exhaustion. It was one of the most lackluster pin escapes I can recall seeing, making it seem like Okada had used his last speck of energy to keep the match alive.
As SANADA went to hit another moonsault, Okada lightly grasped his opponent’s boot in an attempt to stop him, but did not have the energy to capitalize on it. As he took each step, The Rainmaker’s hands kept trying to pull him back, even resorting to holding onto the shoelaces in his boot. It was simple yet beautifully visual storytelling which elevated this match to another level.
The finals of the 2019 New Japan Cup helped remind us of just how incredible of a pro wrestler Kazuchika Okada is, and also how we’re in for a future world champion very soon with SANADA. An amazing end to a great tournament.
13. Will Ospreay vs. Dragon Lee – NJPW Dominion
Following on from an epic BOSJ finals match (we’ll get to that later), Will Ospreay went on to have yet another barn-burner in the very same week against Dragon Lee. Easily this was the best match of Dominion, an event with a history for have MOTY contenders, and maybe even the greatest match of Dragon Lee’s career.
Chaos reigned as the two juniors battled and flew in and outside of the ring, all in an effort to win their division’s championship. It was an erratic brawl that was painful just to watch, let alone be a part of. Ridiculous isn’t good enough to describe the talent of both Dragon Lee and Will Ospreay, and it’s clear by this match that they need to combine their skills in a rematch in the very near future.
12. Street Profits vs. Lorcan and Burch vs. Undisputed Era vs. Forgotten Sons – NXT TakeOver: XXV
My god this match was pure chaos. A manic array of human flesh darting around the ring in a constant series of barbaric attacks and falls. There was nothing complex about it, just four teams absolutely killing their opponents and destroying their own bodies along the way. Once Street Profits pulled down those title belts, I felt exhausted just from watching that human demolition derby. It was violent, it was anarchic, and it was amazing.
11. Robbie Eagles vs. Will Ospreay – NJPW Southern Showdown
The latest chapter in arguably Australian wrestling’s most globally known rivalry saw possibly their greatest match yet.
Robbie Eagles was put on the map because of his matches with Will Ospreay, and were practically the reason why he was brought into New Japan in the first place, so there were certainly a lot of eyes looking towards this, especially after their great match during Best of the Super Juniors In May.
In front of a home country crowd for Eagles, the Australians in attendance turned against the usually popular Ospreay. With a hot, one-sided audience providing the backing track, these two top junior heavyweight wrestlers constructed a masterpiece that ran for over half an hour.
Although it was filled with its share of very flashy, big moves, including a sick Reverse Shiranui from Eagles, the key to this match’s brilliance was the storytelling. The history and relationship between these two was on full display as they aggressively fought. Add in the wildcard of El Phantasmo on the outside of the ring, and we got a rare instance of interference not taking away from a match, but definitely adding to it.
As commentator Don Marnell put it once the bell rang, this match asked more questions than it answered, and it certainly left me wanting to see more.
10. EVIL vs. Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW: Wrestling Dontaku
Two absolute units beating the crap out of each other – that’s as simple as it gets. Thanks to some excellent commentary from Kevin Kelly and the team, this match was made to feel important, like it was a career breakthrough moment. Winning that bout was perceived to be the push into the main event echelon of New Japan that both men have been looking for throughout their careers, and it made for an all the more exciting spectacle. Plus, when EVIL decided to use the Scorpion Deathlock to disrespect Ishii’s trainer Riki Choshu, it made the brawl even more personal.
Ishii and EVIL had a strong style slug fest this May that had me audibly bursting with excitement, particularly the final five or so minutes. It may not be to everyone’s tastes, yet for me, I enjoy very few things more than watching Tomohiro Ishii dish out and receive an absolute beating.
9. A-Kid vs. Will Ospreay – White Wolf Wrestling: Total Rumble 9
A-Kid is special. At such a young age, he’s quickly become one of my favourite competitors to watch, both live and on television. His combination of hard strikes, technical mastery and utilization of high-flying when required is always a delight to watch for me. Not only that, on a personal level, A-Kid is a genuinely great and really interesting person, so to see him having absolutely fantastic matches such as this is made all the better.
First off, this bout gets extra points for being inside such an awesome looking venue. During any brief moments of down time in the bout, I found myself looking in the background at the signs and decor surrounding the ring. As cool as that room was though, the action in the ring was far greater. Despite having a combined age of less than fifty, A-Kid vs. Ospreay is one of those bouts where you just want to watch it several times. There’s an overflowing amount of chemistry between them both which makes me crave another battle as soon as possible.
The match begins with the two squaring up, attempting to out-wrestle the other and show who is the best, yet their skills are clearly equally matched. It was simple but definitely effective. Half way through the bout, the pace is stepped up massively, and thus begins a serious of ridiculous moves and amazingly paced sequences. Ospreay takes control and attempts to put the younger A-Kid away, yet no matter what he did, the White Wolf star found a counter or managed to lift up his shoulder before three. Sometimes, so many big moves in a match can take away from the story, but thankfully in this case, it only added to the drama.
It was intense, indulgent in visual pleasures, told a great story, and left me starving for more. To think that both men are capable of a match like this at the ages they are is staggering. Imagine what kind of bout we could get from them both in a few years time.
8. SHO vs. Shingo Takagi – NJPW BOSJ
We knew we were in for one hell of a tournament when we saw one of the best matches of the year on the very first night.
Roppongi 3K member SHO impressed many during last year’s BOSJ tournament. Known predominantly as a tag team wrestler, it was SHO’s opportunity to display what he could be as a singles wrestler for the first time since returning from excursion, and he definitely took advantage of that opportunity.
SHO had some great matches during that tourney, particularly a bout against KUSHIDA, and it was during that event where he began to gain a reputation as a powerhouse in the junior division.
October 2018: Shingo Takagi entered New Japan. The new absolute unit of the junior heavyweight division. Since he debuted in NJPW, Takagi has not been pinned or submitted thanks to his overpowering size and strength within his division. Much like SHO in 2018, this year’s BOSJ is Shingo’s first opportunity to compete regularly as a singles wrestler, and SHO was obsessed with facing him.
Although he wanted it to be in the finals, SHO got his wish to face Shingo one-on-one on the first night of the tournament. It was powerhouse vs. powerhouse, CHAOS vs. LIJ, and it was impeccable.
At points, it seemed like neither man could suffer a defeat thanks to some extremely convincing false finishes. Just when it appeared Takagi’s size was too much to handle, SHO would kick out from the brutality and fight back to bring excitement out of the audience and the commentary team.
Once the bell rung on this one, I wanted NJPW to create a new tournament: BOSS – Best of SHO and Shingo. That’s how good this was. I need more matches between these two, but sadly that probably won’t happen until next year’s BOSJ, unless both of their tag teams disband. But if they ever do meet again some time soon, they will have a major task trying to top this one.
7. Kofi Kingston vs. Daniel Bryan – WrestleMania 35
If I’m honest, it’s hard to remember specifics from what this match was like. I know it was a fantastic match, I’m certain of that, I just can’t remember many details purely because I was so swept up in the emotion of it all. Sat in my seat inside Met Life Stadium, the culmination of a seriously well pulled off WrestleMania build payed off before my eyes.
As good as the in-ring action was, the match was all about the result. It was there to deliver a genuine WrestleMania moment, an emotional pay off after over a decade of hard work. The moments that followed that bell ringing were so special and emotional that what came before it was completely overshadowed. For the first time ever, a pro wrestling match made me shed a tear. Without question, Kofi celebrating inside the ring alongside his family and friends was my favourite moment of my entire trip to New York.
6. Rocky Romero vs. El Phantasmo – NJPW BOSJ
In his first main-event inside Korakuen Hall in 14 years, Rocky Romero brought the fire to ELP in an effort to once again prove why he still belongs to take off his headset and step foot inside the ring. The story was an undefeated, cocky stud trying to better a veteran that refused to fall. Some doubted Rocky returning to BOSJ as a competitor when he’s mostly sat behind the commentary desk these days, but his matches throughout BOSJ 26 certainly put those doubts to rest.
In the longest match of BOSJ, the crowd came alive to will Rocky on to a shock victory. But the most energy came from the commentary team, with all three men practically screaming for Rocky to pull out the win. The enthusiasm from everybody inside that venue was infectious, you couldn’t help but be pulled in by this fantastic main event.
Going into the match, you were expecting another notch on the undefeated streak of El Phantasmo, as was ELP when he stated this was going to be his easiest match before the tournament started, but the longer this match went, the more Rocky made it feel believable that he could be the first to put away ELP, until eventually right before the 30-minute time limit, he managed to make ELP tap after a sensational war. A great story capped off by an emotional celebration with the rest of Roppongi 3K.
5. Johnny Gargano vs. Adam Cole – NXT TakeOver: New York
For some, it was a bit too overbooked, for others it was the greatest NXT match of all time. For me, it’s one of the best bouts I’ve ever seen live that paid off a journey I’ve been witness to for almost four years.
The crowd at NXT TakeOver was blazing hot. To finally experience one of those famous gatherings of passionate fans was worth the trip alone, but to hear everyone getting so involved in the main event took it to another level.
Top to bottom, TakeOver was the highest quality show of the weekend, capped off by an epic main event. To see Johnny absorb so much punishment and still kick out was evidence of how hard he’d worked to get to that spot, and how much he adores professional wrestling. It didn’t feel like overkill to me, more like a representation of his amazing underdog spirit, paid off with a well-deserved title victory many years in the making. A perfect way to cap off a near-perfect show.
4. Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White – G1 Supercard
When Okada walks into an arena, the atmosphere changes. It’s something that I’ve not really experienced with anybody else, not to this degree anyway. You can actually feel a difference in the air, it’s magic. Okada is basically a wrestling god, and you can see that from how fantastic this match was.
In that moment, during the main event of the first non-WWE wrestling show inside Madison Square Garden since 1960, the crowd couldn’t have been hotter for Okada, and as much as I am a fan of White, as were many others inside that arena, we all couldn’t help but reign boos down upon him. In true NJPW fashion, Okada and White crafted an epic main event match that told a great story. Okada finally overcome the biggest thorn in his side and recaptured the title that he has become so synonymous with.
I’m not sure if this was anyone else’s favourite match of the weekend, but as it was happening live in front of me, I couldn’t have been more invested. It made me feel a level of excitement that I don’t think I reached at any other point during the trip as I was watching this match (except maybe for when Great Muta walked out).
I packed in so much wrestling in such a small period of time during Mania week that it’s hard to really rank my top matches from that weekend definitively, but all I know is that judging by those that made their way onto this list, I picked a damn good year to head over for the biggest wrestling event of the year. It’s an experience I will never forget.
3. Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kazuchika Okada – NJPW New Japan Cup Semi-Finals
New Japan’s stable system has benefits and disadvantages. On one hand, it keeps fantastic wrestlers from facing each other on a regular basis, but on the other, it makes it all the more special when they end up clashing with each other. Case in point: Ishii vs. Okada.
Known for having one of the best G1 Climax matches of all time, these two CHAOS members have incredible chemistry together. They punish each other to an inhuman degree, and then beg for more. This match was a constant exchange of strikes and counters fueled by a red-hot crowd, gifting us with one of the best Rainmaker counters ever seen.
Tomohiro Ishii was the true MVP of this year’s New Japan Cup, with his performance culminating in this masterpiece of a match. After seeing these two go at in the semi-finals, it’s a serious shame they won’t be in the same block during the G1 – we need to see them bludgeon each other once again immediately.
2. Kenny Omega vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 13
If you’re on your way out, may as well leave them with an incredible match for fans to remember you by. In what we can assume is his final NJPW match for quite a while, Kenny Omega battled Hiroshi Tanahashi in an epic Wrestle Kingdom main event. It was more than just a standard wrestling match, it was a battle of ideologies, the past vs. the future. It was personal, and the hatred igniting between the two could be felt throughout.
Facing one of the most legendary New Japan wrestlers of all time forced Kenny to bring out some heelish tactics. His gameplan was to punish the beaten up veteran with a brutal barrage of V-Trigger knee strikes to great effect. Even when Tanahashi targeted Kenny’s limbs in an attempt to eliminate the V-Trigger, yet The Cleaner visibly fought through the pain and kept to his plan, leaving Tanahashi in a battered heap.
But of course, the legendary fire of Tanahashi burned through, flowing new life through his body. Tanahashi clawed his way back much to the delight of the Tokyo crowd in attendance that night, and ended up winning in one of the best Wrestle Kingdom main events ever.
- Shingo Takagi vs. Will Ospreay – NJPW BOSJ Finals
The Best of the Super Juniors tournament couldn’t have ended in much better fashion than it did with this epic final clash between the winners of each block. Takagi vs. Ospreay is not only the best match of BOSJ 2019, it’s probably the best match of the entire year thus far. Both men brought out tricks and moves in their repertoires that we’ve never seen in New Japan, some of which nearly had me falling out of my seat through pure amazement.
It was a physical brawl helped along by fantastic commentary provided by Kelly, Gambino and Charlton, with each man adding their own layers to develop the story and excitement. Takagi came out looking like a devastating final boss of the juniors that hits harder than any other member of the division, and Ospreay continued to show why he’s heralded as one of the best.
I cannot describe how much brilliance took place within these 33 minutes and 36 seconds. By the end of 2019, I can easily see this being in my top three bouts of the year. I seriously hope we don’t have to wait until the next BOSJ to see Takagi and Ospreay destroy each other once more, their chemistry was instant and overwhelming. What an incredible end to one hell of a tournament.
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