Every month, our own Dan Niles compiles his personal 20 Best Matches list from around the world, from North America to Europe to Japan. Some are obvious best matches choices, some are dark horses, but they’re always fun to find some matches you may have missed the previous month! (DISCLAIMER: This list is subjective and is compiled exclusively by Dan Niles; there will obviously be matches he may have missed that you may feel deserve credit – we encourage you to list some of your best matches of the month in the comments section below to help add to the list! In regards to videos, we only show FULL MATCHES that are authorized by the promotions; video highlights are used where possible; we encourage you to seek out these matches through promotions VOD or streaming networks)
#20. Future Of Stardom Championship: Starlight Kid (c) vs Utami Hayashishita, Stardom New Year’s Stars
Starlight Kid is a masked wonder under the age of twenty but she already has such a great grasp on all facets of the game that she’s become a champion in Stardom. Utami ended that title reign as she made a very impressive climb up the card while collecting championships, Utami also pinned Viper this month. Starlight Kid made the most of the opening minutes by attacking the legs of the challenger and locking in a Figure Four Leglock. Utami takes a 619 and a Standing Moonsault. Starlight Kid follows that up with a twisting Frogsplash for a two-count. Utami won the title by getting overly aggressive and forcing the champion to tap out to a Torture Rack.
#19. IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: KUSHIDA (c) vs Taiji Ishimori, Wrestle Kingdom 13
KUSHIDA wrestled for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship one last time and he came into the match as the champion but the momentum shift was in the air before the bell rang. Taiji Ishimori went to the finals of the Best Of The Super Juniors tournament last year but lost to Hiromu Takahashi, the Bullet Club Junior would have his arm taken to the test at the biggest show of the year from NJPW. Ishimori had his arm punted right away but Ishimori was able to counter the Hoverboard Lock with a Crossface. KUSHIDA is so smooth that he caught Ishimori’s 450 Splash into an Armbar. Back To The Future would connect but the IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion could not follow through. A running double-stomp and The Bloody Cross end KUSHIDA’s record breaking title run.
#18. Ilja Dragunov vs Timothy Thatcher, PROGRESS Chapter 83: Remove Child Before Ironing
There aren’t many as super intense as both of these competitors, both start the match by trading uppercuts and lariats. Thatcher attempted an Armbar but it was too early and Dragunov fought out and hit a huge top rope senton. Truly spectacular moment when Thatcher drove a European Uppercut unto Dragunov’s face in mid-air to counter Coast To Coast. Both send each other down hard with backdrop drivers. Ilja Dragunov is folded by palm strikes but Thatcher was too confident in victory and the Torpedo Moscow drops Thatcher for the three-count.
#17. Kazuchika Okada vs “Switchblade” Jay White, Wrestle Kingdom 13
Kazuchika Okada busts out the trunks to a huge ovation, planting seeds in the mind that we were witnessing the return of “The Rainmaker.” What makes this match that much more sweet is the finish, White becomes the new young prospect in the main event like Okada was just five years ago only as a Gaijin from New Zealand. Both trade smacks to show the distain from both and Okada unleashes classic offense with a Crossbody over the barricade, avoiding the cheap shots from former manager, Gedo, all the while. White avoids the Rainmaker and lands a Flatliner followed by a German Suplex. Saito Suplexes and the Kiwi Crusher have Okada kicking out at the last second. White is down after a Tombstone Piledriver and a third dropkick sets up Okada for the comeback finish. Only “Switchblade* knows what’s coming and The Blade Runner ends Okada’s Wrestle Kingdom.
#16. NXT Tag Team Championships: Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong (c) vs War Machine (Raymond Rowe and Hanson), NXT Takeover: Phoenix
War Machine came to the ring with a terrific Viking entrance that gave them the fire needed to take it to the long-running NXT tag team champions. Ray Rowe slammed his own partner off the apron onto Undisputed Era on the floor early in the match. Rowe was trapped in a triangle choke by submission master, O’Reilly, but Rowe flipped Kyle O’Reilly over his back and delivered a knee strike. O’Reilly kicks out of a double team pop-up-powerslam that pinned Kyle O’Reilly when these two teams faced each other in AAW Pro two years ago. Hanson kicks out of a diving knee drop and the High-Low total elimination combination! War Machine win their first titles in WWE after The Fallout on Kyle O’Reilly.
#15. PAC vs David Starr, DEFIANT Loaded 6
PAC made his long-awaited return to New Castle but the crowd was solidly behind both. Starr had built a great reputation in the UK as being able to wrestle anybody and have a great match and it’s no different here for DEFIANT Wrestling. “The King Of Taunts” sent the former king into a rage after mocking PAC so Starr gets thrown into the barricade. PAC executes a perfect Moonsault to the floor and a Superplex nets a two-count. David Starr showed he can be flashy and effective too, performing a handstand into a back elbow and a Lariat. Starr avoids The Black Arrow and locks in a Crossface but PAC gets his foot on the bottom rope to break the hold. Starr is backdropped into the referee and PAC sees his opening. A low-blow and The Black Arrow pin “The Product.”
#14. WWE Smackdown Live Women’s Championship: Asuka (c) vs Becky Lynch, WWE Royal Rumble
Becky Lynch came into this match confident and cocky as ever while Asuka was as cold and calculating as always to kick off the Royal Rumble. Asuka was thrown into the barricade by an exploder Suplex but Lynch takes a roundhouse kick back in the ring. Lynch landed a top rope exploder Suplex but Asuka moved away from the top rope Legdrop. Both transition on the mat into stealing each other’s finishing holds until Asuka manages to execute a super Asuka Lock that was a variation of the Cattle Mutilation for the submission victory.
#13. British Heavyweight Championship: Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs Zack Sabre Jr., Wrestle Kingdom 13
Rev Pro received it’s biggest press to date by having it’s Heavyweight Championship on the line at Japan’s biggest event of the year and the UK star came out on top. This was short but sweet with Ishii thinking he can put away Sabre with sheer aggressiveness but Sabre’s technique is what won the title. Sabre promised to tap out “The Stone Pitbull” in twenty seconds but that didn’t happen, instead, Ishii is woken up by holds and kicks. Sabre takes a vicious throat chop! Ishii landed a Superplex but Sabre rolled through and gave Ishii and arm breaker with his legs! Sabre kicks out of a Lariat and a Powerbomb to the awe of the crowd. Ishii avoids the Zack Driver and kicks out of the European Clutch. Ishii is finally wrestled down to the mat by an Octopus Stretch and Hurrah forces Ishii to tap out, making Sabre one of the only competitors to ever submit Ishii not once but twice.
#12. NXT UK Tag Team Championships: Mustache Mountain (Trent Seven and Tyler Bate) vs The Grizzled Young Vets (Zack Gibson and James Drake), NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool
The first ever NXT UK tag team champions were crowned in an unforgettable title match with more twists and turns than the tournament before it. Bate performed a double airplane spin on The Grizzled Young Vets and then landed a shooting star press of the apron. The action became non-stop when Gibson hit Helter Skelter to set up Drake’s 450 Splash but Seven kicks out! Mustache Mountain earn a near fall from a rebound Lariat into a dragon Suplex on Gibson! Drake flies out of the ring for a suicide dive to Bate off of Gibson’s shoulders on the floor, Doomsday Device style. Seven tries a suicide dive of his own and Drake cuts him off with a dropkick in mid-air! Ticket To Mayhem pins Seven in a breathless tag team encounter from small UK halls to the WWE Network.
#11. NXT Championship: Tomasso Ciampa (c) vs Aleister Black, NXT Takeover: Phoenix
A twenty-seven minute war that saw both take each other to the absolute limit for the NXT championship. Black tweaks his knee early from a Moonsault and Ciampa attacked the bullseye. Black was Suplexed into steel steps and driven onto the apron with The Tower Of London, a tribute to commentator Nigel McGuinness. Ciampa had great success with knee strikes but it wasn’t enough to put away “The Dutch Destroyer” so Ciampa exposed the concrete floor ringside. Black instead would hit a meteora onto the exposed floor. Black is placed onto the second rope for a draping DDT and it takes four Fairy Tale Endings to end Black.
#10. IMPACT Tag Team Championships: LAX (c) (Santana & Ortiz) vs The Lucha Bros (Rey Fenix & Pentagon Jr), IMPACT Homecoming
The Lucha Bros wasted no time at all by making blind tags and hitting double Buzzsaw kicks and a top rope double-stomp from Pentagon Jr to Santana is a close call! This match was promoted as a battle between the best tag teams in the world and these teams lived up to that billing. Both teams execute perfect dives to the floor until Pentagon Jr has to break up a pin by jumping off Ortiz’s back and hitting a Canadian Destroyer to Santana! Everybody is down after all the chaos, Pentagon Jr hits Fear Factor with Fenix’s double-stomp assist but the pin is broken up by Ortiz. Pentagon Jr takes the Street Sweeper but Rey Fenix breaks the pin up with a springboard dropkick. Fenix is finally taken out by a rolling cutter, lungblower and double reverse Suplex for three.
#9. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs KUSHIDA, NJPW Road To The New Beginning
A very special match and a technical showcase, it’s just too bad it’s taken so long for KUSHIDA to receive big singles matches outside the Junior Heavyweight division. The IWGP heavyweight champion attacked the legs of KUSHIDA, forcing KUSHIDA to get right in the face of “The Ace” for a palm strike face-off. KUSHIDA made some magnificent transitions go in his favor like landing on his feet from a Moonsault only to take Tanahashi down with a German Suplex. KUSHIDA came running with a corner dropkick to Tanahashi’s arm to set up the Hoverboard Lock. Tanahashi reverses Back To The Future with Twist And Shout and a Sling-Blade. The High Fly Attack connects but the High Fly Flow does not. Back To The Future gets a massive near-fall for KUSHIDA and KUSHIDA submits to the Texas Cloverleaf.
#8. Two Out Of Three Falls: Almas vs Rey Mysterio, WWE SmackDown Live
Mysterio faced Almas on another episode a couple weeks previous to this Two Out Of Three Falls encounter, both are a couple of the finest matches on Smackdown arguably in the last couple years only Zelina Vega was not at ringside to help Almas this time. Almas turned up the heat after he lost the first fall and the pace was amazingly fast for Mysterio being several years older than Almas. Mysterio went to the top rope for a Hurricanrana but an Avalanche Powerbomb pinned the masked legend. The West Coast Pop got a massive pop but Almas became one of the only superstars ever to kick out of that move. A Hammerlock DDT floored Mysterio but a foot on the rope stopped the pinfall. Samoa Joe runs in for interference to set up the Royal Rumble, making this a No Contest but surely a stipulation rematch will also tear down the house.
#7. GHC Heavyweight Championship: Kaito Kiyomiya (c) vs Kenoh, NOAH Navigation For The Future 2019
Kaito further establishes his reign as the GHC heavyweight champion against the man lost that title one year ago. Kenoh made sure to bring the fight to Kaito but it was the heart of the champion that endured and moves like the Crossface Chickenwing helped to subdue Kenoh from doing further damage. Lethal kicks stun the champion until Kaito hits Made In Japan for a near fall. Kenoh somehow kicks out of an avalanche reverse DDT as both become exhausted by the back-and-forth action. Kenoh takes a dropkick to the back of the head, another dropkick to the face and the Tiger Suplex for the finish.
#6. NEVER Openweight Championship: Kota Ibushi (c) vs Will Ospreay, Wrestle Kingdom 13
It doesn’t get much more hyped than this one and it lived up to it despite being an opening match. Both attempted their finishers right away. Ibushi went for the Golden Triangle Moonsault but Ospreay kicked Ibushi in the chest in mid-air on the way down! Ospreay was flattened by Shinsuke Nakamura’s Bombe Ye from Ibushi and the Last Ride results in only a near fall! Ospreay saw the Phoenix Splash coming but not a double stomp on the top rope! Will Ospreay lands on his feet after a top rope German Suplex in a perfect call-back to their previous tag team encounters. Ospreay has to fight nasty to win like Don Callis says on commentary and that’s exactly what he does, knocking out Ibushi with a forearm to the back of the head and winning the NEVER Openweight title with the Stormbreaker.
#5. Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship: Kento Miyahara (c) vs Kai, AJPW New Year’s Wars
Kai emerged as the top contender the Triple Crown heavyweight title and provided yet another Miyahara main event that shows AJPW has plenty to offer to fans of all wrestling, especially the enduring strong style. The champion missed a knee strike into the post and Kai attacked with headbutts. Grappling slowed down the pace when Miyahara’s triangle choke was countered to a Figure Four Leglock. Miyahara took a DDT on the top rope but fired back with a top rope hurricanrana. Kai kicked out of a Brainbuster at a one-count! Miyahara landed some serious bicycle knee strikes and a sit-out Tombstone Piledriver but it’s not enough! The Straightjacket German Suplex finish Kai’s excellent effort.
#4. IWGP Intercontinental Championship, No Disqualification’s: Chris Jericho (c) vs Tetsuya Naito, Wrestle Kingdom 13
Chris Jericho likes to get right to the point at this stage of his career during his matches and it makes sense, Jericho may not be able to quite keep up with Naito athletically but he can bend the rules and make it a fight. Naito takes out his frustrations on losing the IWGP Intercontinental Championship to Jericho at Dominion in June right away by sending Jericho on his head on the ramp due to a Piledriver. Naito got too flashy though and went for a corner dropkick and the Walls Of Jericho was applied. A kendo stick was used on both and Naito kicked out of two Codebreakers. Jericho brought in about a dozen steel chairs but Jericho wound up on the receiving end of a German Suplex onto the chairs. Jericho desperately tried one last cheap shot by using the title belt as a weapon but Naito send the champion into a steel turnbuckle and Destino ended this No Disqualification’s war.
#3. NXT North American Championship: Ricochet (c) vs Johnny Gargano, NXT Takeover: Phoenix
This is the epitome of what wrestling in 2019 looks like: exceptionally athletic, thrilling and providing plenty of reasons to enjoy both competitors in the ring with providing plenty shades of grey. Gargano had the fans in the palm of his hand for this showcase, both former indie main eventers went hold for hold and counter for counter. Gargano had Ricochet scouted in some moments but Ricochet saw what was coming as well, avoiding a slingshot spear and countering the Gargano Escape. Ricochet landed on his feet from a top rope Hurricanrana and a Springboard 450 Splash is only a two-count! Gargano put the match into another gear with a DIY Superkick and reverse hurricanrana onto the floor. Gargano thought about using the exposed concrete floor earlier in the match and he had to do it to win the match. Ricochet lost the NXT North American championship due to a Brainbuster on the floor and a second slingshot DDT after twenty-three minutes.
#2. NXT UK Championship: Pete Dunne (c) vs Joe Coffey, NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool
The unpredictability of the outcome of this match made the action that much more intense but the length of this match is what puts this over the top as a memorable clash to main event NXT UK’s very first Takeover. Coffey absorbed Dunne’s stiff elbows early in the match but he would eventually fall prey to the elbow after a mid-air strike from the Fall From Nebula. Both exchanged headbutts in a Roman knuckle lock! The Bitter End and Lariat from Coffey only result in two counts. Coffey busted out an electric chair into a German Suplex like Coffey is Kenny Omega performing Coyt’s Wrath. Both take a spill from the top rope into the barricade. Coffey modifies The Bitter End into a Powerslam but the champion kicks out again! A third Bitter End and Coffey’s fingers bent back is enough for Dunne to retain after thirty-five minutes.
#1. IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kenny Omega (c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, Wrestle Kingdom 13
A classic for the IWGP heavyweight championship between two wrestlers of completely different ideologies and at two very different stages in their careers. Kenny Omega stole the Sling-blade and Hiroshi Tanahashi made the rare mistake of attempting to one-up the challenger with a daredevil move of his own. Omega introduced a table early in the match and Tanahashi tried to use it for a High Fly Flow on Omega but Omega moved and “The Ace” tasted nothing but table. Tanahashi was worn down by Snap Dragon Suplexes and V-Trigger’s but the One Winged Angel was countered every single time. Omega tried his finishing move that nobody has kicked out of one too many times and Tanahashi pinned Omega after a second High Fly Flow. Omega was able to kick out of the first High Fly Flow but not the second as the title goes back to “The Ace” while Omega takes some time off.
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