Hi. I’m Dana. You guys hear me on the PTW podcast sometimes. I’ve been keeping a list of notable/great matches since the beginning of the year and wanted to share them with the collective internet.
These are 10 matches in no particular order that I’ve seen and that I like in this calendar year.
Jay White v Okada
NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 13
January 4, 2019
Wrestle Kingdom 13. New Japan’s WrestleMania. The one year anniversary of Switchblade’s NJPW debut. Gedo, previously having been at the side of Okada for six years, had turned on his former protege and found himself the captain of Team Switchblade.
The story here is paramount. The rise of Okada as a smarmy young villain six years prior is so similar to current-day White’s.
In his debut year, Jay White had pinfall victories over Okada, Tanahashi and Omega (He took the US belt off of Omega in January and had G1 victories over Okada and Tana). 2018 Okada, on the other hand, had come off of a 720 day title reign. In the process, he had cemented himself as one of the top IWGP Heavyweight Champions of all time. That loss gave birth to Kazu — that’s Kazuchika Okada if he dyed his hair red and grew an affinity for balloons and long pants. That was a real weird thing for a while.
This match was Jay White’s chance to prove that Gedo made the right decision dropping the Rainmaker and Breathing With The Switchblade. It was Okada’s chance to prove that he wasn’t on the downswing of his career and still had a lot left in the tank, brother.
After a decent back and forth with a sprinkle of Jay White’s heel bullshittery midway through, White pinned Okada in the middle of the ring after hitting Blade Runner.
- Okada taking his entrance gear off to reveal that he ditched his long pants for the iconic Rainmaker shorts that he had so many victories in. The crowd ate it up.
Zack Sabre Jr v Ishii (c)
RPW British Heavyweight Championship
NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 13
January 4, 2019
I’m going to compare Zack Sabre Jr to Ric Flair. It’s cool; I’m not an idiot, you can keep reading. Ric Flair gets criticized for having the same match over and over again, and it’s kinda true. He definitely had a certain style and a script he stuck to. I happen to subscribe to the Steve Austin Show argument: sure, some Metallica songs are better than others, but you know what you’re getting when you’re throwing on one of their albums. The same can be said about a ZSJ match. He works a body part. He straps on a submission. He sells his own neck while he’s stretching out his opponent, etc etc. Just like with a Ric Flair match, you generally either like Zack Sabre Jr bouts or you don’t. I happen to love them. And Ishii? Ishii is no slouch either. He is probably one of the most consistent, can-have-a-good-match-with-anybody guys that New Japan currently has, and this won’t be the last time you see him pop up on this list. Dude has the heaviest clotheslines and chops you’ve ever seen. Chest-caving.
This match is, as they say, a clash of styles. ZSJ is a torture machine and Ishii is the personification of a New Japan strong style brawler. Ishii came in as champion but Zack, like Jay White, was coming off of his own killer 2018. He won the New Japan Cup and almost went to the finals of (and eliminated Naito from) the G1. And while the rest of 2019 won’t be super kind to Zack, in this moment, after surviving the most brutal knife-edge chops and the stiffest clotheslines you’ve ever seen from Ishii, he got his belt back with one of his many pop-punk-adjacently-named finishing submissions.
- Zack jumping onto a standing Ishii to lock in a front face guillotine only to be belly to belly suplexed immediately by the deceptively strong Stone Pitbull
- Towards the end of the match, Ishii gets whipped to the ropes and Zack catches his clothesline with a front foot to the forearm. Zack then tries to deliver that same front kick and Ishii blocks it with his forearm. F*cking brutal and awesome.
- Zack powering through (read: no-selling) a top rope brainbuster to stand up and twist Ishii’s arms with his legs only to collapse right after.
- Kevin Kelly’s call of this particular finishing move by Zack — “Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than the Last; The Inexorable March of Progress Will Lead Us All to Happiness”
Shingo Takagi v Will Ospreay
NJPW Best of the Super Juniors
June 5, 2019
Since joining New Japan full time eight months prior to this match, Shingo Takagi has yet to be pinned. That’s 96 matches. 96 matches, nine in this tournament specifically that brought him to the finals to face Will Ospreay. Ospreay has already done the thing. He may not be unpinned going into this match, but The Pride of Essex won the Super Juniors tournament back in 2016 and was the first Brit-born to do it. This is familiar territory with an unfamiliar opponent.
Both these guys are barely even Juniors. Shingo was brought into New Japan as a Junior, but fans would have known him as multi-time Open the Dream Gate Championship, Dragon Gate’s top title. In the other corner you’ve got Will Ospreay, who has already held the NEVER Openweight title and declared himself as a Junior that wants to destroy heavyweights. The winner of THIS match gets the tournament trophy and a shot at Dragon Lee, the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion.
I was never a huge Ospreay fan. (My editor is currently rolling his eyes.) He’s real, real good, but that fast-paced, performance-orientated flippy style never really jived with me. However, since murdering Ibushi with the Hidden Blade (think Nakamura’s Kinshasa, but with the back of your forearm) and altering his style a bit, Ospreay is one of the best wrestlers in the world currently. Shingo Takagi in his own right is the heaviest 212 pounder you’ve ever seen. He’s got such a unique in-ring style — he’s one of those guys that could wrestle in an all black suit and a mask and you’d know immediately who you were watching based on movement alone.
The term “no wasted movement” is a wrestling cliche at this point, but that’s the theme for this match. Everything these guys do, from a simple chop to an Oz Cutter onto the apron to a wheelbarrow flip into the corner buckle, everything is done with purpose and nothing seems like filler.
This match is just a solid example of two technical, quick and super hard-hitting athletes up until the 20 minute mark. Then they just start murdering each other. Shingo has the stiffest clotheslines. Ospreay has the nastiest kicks. Finally, after a Hidden Blade, a top rope Oz Cutter and a Storm Breaker all in a row, Ospreay puts an end to Shingo’s undefeated streak and in the process wins the Best of Super Juniors for the second time, joining the ranks of other two-time winners Prince Devitt, Kushida and Jushin Thunder Liger.
Oh, and this was their first ever meeting in a wrestling ring.
- Ospreay reverses Shingo’s Pumping Bomber clothesline into a Liger Bomb
- Ospreay’s shooting star 630 senton to a standing hunched over Shingo, followed by a shooting star press, followed by a Robinson special followed by an Oz Cutter false finish. I’m barfing.
- F*ck it, everything after the 20 minute mark
War Raiders (c) v Aleister Black and Ricochet
NXT Tag Team Championship
NXT Takeover: New York
April 5, 2019
I stopped watching Ring of Honor regularly after NXT snatched up now-known-as Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. I was only adjacently familiar with War Machine before they came to NXT and became War Raiders (and subsequently the Viking Experience, and then the Viking Raiders…and had their first names changed…). I am also actively not really a fan of Ricochet (…so far so good, right?), and Black, while having one of the best entrances in the business currently, is not in my personal top ten. This match ALSO came at a super weird time in WWE when NXT performers were kind of randomly showing up on WWE TV and just kind of getting thrown together. With all of that being said, this was one of, if not the best tag team match of the year.
Aside from a brief 2-4 minute period of rest holds while security kicked somebody out of the arena, this match is packed full of pretty nonstop action that the crowd is super into. A bunch of real solid 2v1 and 1v1 spots reminiscent of late aughts Motor City Machine Gun/Beer Money/Young Bucks matches. Two things I usually do not like are big guys with the “I move like a little guy” gimmick and little guys that come off as performers and not as fighters, so on paper I should hate Hanson vs. Ricochet face-offs, but these two killed it. Everything is so natural and brutal looking.
After a real good false finish featuring a Black Mass and a HUGE shooting star press, War Raiders “folded up Ricochet like an envelope, sealing the deal.” (thanks Mauro!)
- Rowe pulling his punch followed by Black pulling his kick followed by the fist bump of respect to start the match
- Ricochet catching Hanson’s standing cross body to the corner and giving him an overhead slam. No, I didn’t mean that the other way around.
- Black and Rowe exchanging knees with Rowe screaming in Black’s face
- Mauro’s call of “what is life??” As Hanson does a top rope flipping senton to the outside
Cody v Dustin Rhodes
AEW Double or Nothing
May 25, 2019
In 2015, Stardust and Goldust curtain-jerked WWE’s Fastlane PPV. For as much hate as the Stardust character got, I always loved it. It was very ’90s wrestling, and Cody really went All In™️ with it. Stardust and Wade Barrett ruled as the Cosmic Wasteland. Stardust and The Ascension would have been cool feuding with Cesaro, but Cesaro got injured. The rumor was that Stardust, in true supervillain fashion, hated Cesaro because he was the Swiss “Superman.” Get it? Supervillain? Superman? Whatever. I’m a Stardust apologist, clearly. (I just got a text to make sure I made clear that these are my views and do not necessarily reflect the views of AIPT or their subsidiaries).
Past supervillain character work aside, Goldust was arguably coming off of some of the best matches of his career, notably when he tagged with his brother (as Cody, not Stardust) to fight The Shield. They had a great story to tell and the ball was metaphorically in their court to tell it. Well…for whatever reason that Fastlane match was trash, and if rumors are to be believed it was the reason why they never had their WrestleMania blowoff match together. This AEW match for all intents and purposes is their WrestleMania moment, complete with Earl Hebner officiating and Good Ol’ JR commentating.
The bloodshed, the double axe handle spot, Baby Earl throwing the manager out of the match, the bare ass getting whacked with the weight belt…this match is an old school romp and I love every second of it. Dustin bleeding like a sieve. Cody begging Earl for a three count. JR seemingly genuinely enjoying calling a match. Everything falls into place for these guys. Cody ends up taking the W with one last Cross-Rhodes to his limp-bodied brother. They end the match with a bloody embrace and it is beautiful.
- Cody’s bare bottom gets whipped with his own weight belt
- Dustin gets a face full of the bare steel of the turnbuckle, busting him wide open
- Dustin reverses the pressure of the figure four and channels Stone Cold’s WrestleMania 13 moment with Bret Hart
Shayna Baszler (c) v Io Shirai v Bianca Belair v Kairi Sane
NXT Women’s Championship
NXT Takeover: New York
April 5, 2019
The story isn’t necessary here. You could go into this bout completely cold and still enjoy it if you like wrestling. Shayna positions herself as the incumbent bully before the bell even rings. Kairi and Io are buddies, but willing to go for it when the match starts. Bianca is a cocky powerhouse that the crowd seemingly loves. This is all well established right after entrances.
Something that is usually overtly present in multi-person matches is the trope of the injury that lasts way too long: That thing that happens to make it so somebody can lay on the outside of the ring for a prolonged period of time while the other competitors have their turn in the ring. I did not notice that happening at all during this match. Like, it definitely happened, but it all felt very natural which, judging by a lot of other four way matches I’ve seen over the years, is very hard to do. Every single person had their time to look good. Io and Kairi has some great double team moves. Shayna always comes across so stiff and believable and this match is absolutely no exception. Belair is a straight beast during this entire match, and looks incredibly strong, figuratively and literally during the finish.
Shayna’s booking is so perfect for a cocky heel. She wins this match clean and Bianca taps out right in the middle of the ring. However, this is only after a long segment of taking each woman’s finish, getting pinned and seemingly the only reason it wasn’t a three count each time was because somebody else broke it up. That happens three times, all one right after the other. Belair is the last one in, she absolutely murders Sane and Shirai with a double KOD and then gets caught by Shayna with a kick in the face and a Kirifuda Clutch for the tap-out. This is each one of these women’s best matches in NXT and it’s in the conversation of best four way matches of all time.
- Kairi catches Bianca’s blown kiss, crumples it up, throws it to Io who knocks it out of the park
- Shayna uses Belair’s hair to whip her into the turnbuckle
- Io gives Kairi 10-fingers and launches her over the top rope as an offensive move
- Shayna takes a finish from each person, only to have another competitor stop the pin all three times
- Double KOD into Shayna’s Kirifuda Clutch
Jon Moxley v Kenny Omega
Unsanctioned Lights-Out Match
AEW Full Gear
November 9, 2019
I kind of struggled with whether or not this match deserved to be on this list. This isn’t a technical classic by any means. It’s not a submission clinic. It has two major things going for it: the buildup and the perceived violence.
Jon Moxley shocked the wrestling world when he debuted by murdering Kenny Omega and double arm DDTed him on a giant bundle of fake oversized poker chips. It sounds silly when you read it like that, but it came across as violent and cool. That moment set the pace for this feud and the story told was wonderful: Moxley tried to train for the match by going to Japan and competing in NJPW’s G1 tournament, something Kenny had already been victorious in doing. Kenny, on the other hand, was preparing for Mox by having a hardcore match with Joey Janela, something Jon had already been victorious in, and violently attacked Moxley with a barbed wire broom (see notable spots).
Finally, when they were supposed to meet at All Out, it was announced that Moxley had got an infection while competing in Japan and had to pull out of the match. In hindsight, that was the best thing that could have happened, because they both started cutting insane promos on each other. Moxley cut arguably the best promo since the beginning of his WWE run about being “unsanctionable” and Kenny cut a great promo about Moxley trying to copy him by going to Japan but not being able to cut it.
After months of them going after each other verbally and physically and having one of my favorite builds of the year, they had one of the most violent and entertaining matches I’ve seen in 2019. Chains, trash cans, barbed wire weapons, crawling through glass and a barbed wire bed. This. Was. Bananas. After a failed attempt at a top rope Phoenix Splash, Moxley takes the win. BUT, in official AEW canon, it doesn’t count because it was a Lights Out match, clearly foreshadowing that there will be more between these two down the road.
- Omega Phoenix Splashes onto the bare ring right before Moxley murders him with a lifting double arm DDT for the win
- All the stuff with the chain and glass
- This f*cking sh*t:
Team Ripley (Rhea Ripley, Candice LaRae, Dakota Kai and Tegan Nox) v Team Baszler (Shayna Baszler, Bianca Belair, Io Shirai and Kay Lee Ray)
War Games Match
NXT TakeOver: WarGames
November 23, 2019
Unlike Moxley vs Omega, this match is a no brainer to put on this list. This was touted as the first ever women’s WarGames match, so for better or for worse, these women are always going to be the first ever to do it. They all knocked it out of the park.
You’ll notice Mia Yim on the match card image. She was attacked during the pre-show and got kayfabe injured, so everybody’s favorite lovable NXT babyface Dakota Kai gets to take her spot. I’ll get to that in a bit.
The match starts with Candice and Io rehashing their feud from a few months back. They mesh so well together and carried what’s probably the toughest part of the match to carry: the 1v1 before the ish starts to hit the fan. There are great spots before what I’m about to mention, but the match starts to get real interesting when it’s Dakota Kai’s turn to join the fray. She gets let out of the holding cage where the competitors wait for their turn to enter, starts to go to the ring and then…turns around and beats the bag out of her best friend Tegan Nox, taking them both out of the match. For all intents and purposes, this match becomes a 2v4 with Rhea and Candice standing alone.
Rhea is a complete animal. After whipping a trash can at a flying Kay Lee Ray and then handcuffing herself to Baszler, she pump handle slams Shayna through some unfolded chairs for the win.
- Rhea suplexes Kay Lee Ray into the side of the cage
- Belair’s forearm into a triple powerbomb
- Io runs the ropes for what seems like a full 30 seconds to get to full speed to kick Candice in the face
- Say hello to the bad Kai
- Io’s moonsault off the cage
- Rhea murders Kay Lee Ray by throwing a garbage can at her during a top rope dive before the finish
Jon Moxley v Tomohiro Ishii
G1 Tournament Match
B-Block Night 6
July 19, 2019
I was real stoked to see Jon Moxley had entered himself into the G1 this year so soon after leaving WWE. Specifically, I was pumped to see Mox fight Tomohiro Ishii. Ishii is to New Japan Pro Wrestling as Randy Orton is to World Wrestling Entertainment in the sense that they are both the prototypical representation of their particular companies. Orton is a jacked, good looking dude that’s 6’5” and Ishii looks like he would honestly and seriously beat you up and drink your beer. This was going to be the first real test for Moxley: To see if he could hang with New Japan’s strong style or not. Spoiler alert: he can hang.
Tomohiro Ishii is the physical representation of New Japan’s Strong Style. Jon Moxley is a former deathmatch guy trying to prove that he’s not a watered down zany comedy act with a mop and a house plant. This match ends up being the perfect amalgamation of both of their styles. They trade brutal chops and forearms. They go into the crowd and throw chairs at each others’ faces. Ishii does a top rope plancha to a prone Moxley laying on a table outside of the ring for Christ’s sake.
In addition to being a pseudo interpromotional dream match realized, this fight does two things: It cements Jon Moxley as a major player in New Japan and it shows why since 2013, Tomohiro Ishii matches are always matches to be watched in the G1. Ishii doesn’t change his style to fight Moxley (except for that wild top rope plancha through the table). He bides his time, gets him back in the ring and starts headbutting and clotheslining the s--t out of him.
After two Death Riders (aka Double Arm DDT/Dirty Deeds/Paradigm Shift) Moxley officially shows that he can hang in New Japan by defeating the then-NEVER Openweight Champion clean in the middle of the mat.
- The pre-bell faceoff
- Moxley tosses a chair to Ishii to have a duel
- The gross headbutt spot
- Ishii goes to the top rope
Jay White v Kota Ibushi
G1 Tournament Finals
August 12, 2019
There was a theme to this year’s G1 B-Block. Jay White said he was going to take the whole thing. Then he lost to Hiroki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano in his first three matches of the tournament. But he never stopped talking. He still said he was going to take the whole thing even though he would have to win a borderline unprecedented seven matches in a row, including the finals. Then he beat Jeff Cobb, Shingo Takagi, Taichi, Jon Moxley, Juice Robinson and Tetsuya Naito all consecutively to bring him to the final match with the winner of the A-Block Kota Ibushi.
“The deck couldn’t be more stacked against Ibushi and now the odds heavily tilted towards Bullet Club and Switchblade.” Words uttered by Kevin Kelly as the entirety of Bullet Club accompanies Switchblade to the ring in this finals match. That sentence is the story to this simple match: Jay called his shot from the beginning and he wasn’t leaving anything up to chance. If Bullet Club is a tribute to nWo, then the booking of the beginning of this match is a tribute to the bullshittery that used to plague WCW. The referee Red Shoes luckily knows it isn’t 1997 and promptly throws all of Bullet Club from ringside.
The first segment in this match is White working on the hurt leg of The Golden Star. Chop blocks, kicks to the knee, etc. Over and over. Then they get in a strikefest. Ibushi gets some hard strikes in and looks like he’s going to take control of the match until a classic corner ref bump followed by a low blow by White. This entire match is about Ibushi almost getting it. And when he finally gets it, the crowd goes absolutely crazy for it.
This G1 Finals match is my match of the year. There is not a single wasted segment. There are dastardly heel tactics. There is the shittiest bad guy and the most believable good guy. There is a HOT crowd. The buildup was great. The stakes are super high. White is an expert heat seeker and Ibushi is an expert sympathizer. The false finish in to the real finish was flawless. After one of the best final three minutes in any match in 2019, Ibushi puts away Jay White with a huge Kamigoye…right after another huge Kamigoye…this match ruled.
- The entirety of Bullet Club comes to the ring with Jay White
- This is a cop out, but just maybe watch this whole thing. It’s worth your wrestling-watching time.
F*ck the world.
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