The 50 Best Matches Of 2018: Part 1

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Every month, our own Dan Niles compiles his personal 20 Best Matches list from around the world, from North America to Europe to Japan. Now he recaps the 50 Best Matches of the entire year that’s come and gone. 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)

#50. WrestleCircus Ringmaster and Women’s Championship: Tessa Blanchard vs Brian Cage, WrestleCircus The Show Must Go On

Photo: WrestleCircus

Tessa Blanchard entered a whole new phase of her career with this match, it’s a showcase of how intergender wrestling should be done. Brian Cage lifted Blanchard with ease but quickly found out he had much for that he bargained for. Tessa came off the top rope multiple times for Senton’s and one even took Cage out in the crowd. Brian Cage was lifted for Go To Sleep and The Magnum only put “The Machine” down for a two-count. Brian Cage delivered a massive deadlift Superplex and won this very special match with a Drill Claw.
Rating: ****

#49. EVOLVE World Championship: Matt Riddle (c) vs Keith Lee, EVOLVE 105

Photo: EVOLVE

Keith Lee and Matt Riddle also had an explosive encounter in PWG this year but this match was the blow-off to a long-standing feud, billed as The Final War, to see who is the best in EVOLVE Wrestling. Riddle used Lee’s own Ground Zero on him but Lee did the same, stealing Riddle’s Tombstone Piledriver. Riddle kicked out at one from a Spirit Bomb in a shocking moment of defiance. The big man was taken down by Ripcord knee strikes and a final knee to the back of the head gave Riddle the three-count.
Rating: ****

#48. ROH World Championship, Iron Man Match: Jay Lethal (c) vs Jonathan Gresham, ROH TV

Photo: ROH

Jonathan Gresham has been one of the worlds most underrated wrestlers for years now so Ring Of Honor Wrestling (ROH) put Gresham in the main event for the World title in a rare Thirty-minute Iron Man match to prove it. Gresham- attacked the arm and earned an early fall by submission. Lethal had a hard time fighting back after that but Figure-Four Leglock to the challenger evened the score. The match went into a couple minutes overtime where Gresham used his masterful strategy to nearly wrestle the title away from the stalwart. Gresham kicked Lethal’s arm when Lethal went for the Lethal Injection. Gresham snagged Lethal in a sleeper but the champion caught Gresham in a backpack Cutter and the Lethal Injection kept the title on Lethal’s shoulder.
Rating: ****

#47. The Great Sasuke vs Joey Janela, Joey Janela’s Spring Break 2

Photo: GCW

The Great Sasuke was the chosen legend to face Joey Janela at his very own event streamed live from New Orleans, and No DQs made this match one of the craziest to watch out of any company all year. Game Changer Wrestling (GCW) has no shortage of weapons and Sasuke used them even if it was to his own detriment. Sasuke attempted a Swanton Bomb but landed head first through a ladder. Sasuke is still somehow every bit the wild performer he was in his best years but the hardcore rules caught up to The Great Sasuke as a top rope double stomp won Janela the main event.
Rating: ****

#46. Wonder Of Stardom Championship: Io Shirai (c) vs Momo Watanabe, Stardom Queens Fest

Photo: Stardom

Io Shirai even had to catch her breath ringside trying to keep up with the new Ace of Stardom in Momo Watanabe. Io as caught by a kick when attempting a Suicide Dive and it busted open To Shirai’s nose. A spike Tornado DDT and Code Red on the apron put Shirai in even more danger. A Crossface Chickenwing and a Straightjacket German Suplex still couldn’t put Shirai down. Io Shirai retained the Wonder Of Stardom Championship with a Tombstone Piledriver and Moonsault.
Rating: ****1/2

#45. Tomohiro Ishii vs SANADA, NJPW G1 Climax 28

Photo: NJPW

Junior Heavyweight veteran and manager to Roppongi 3K, Rocky Romero, was on commentary for this tournament bout and Romero was as blown away as much as the audience, screaming “what a match” by the final ring of the bell. SANADA showed how much he has learned over the years, matching Ishii hold for hold and almost winning the match with the Skull End. Once it came to the finishing stretch, SANADA was no match for the brutal headbutt’s of “The Stone Pitbull.” A Brainbuster ended a memorable G1 Climax 28 encounter with a bang.
Rating: ****1/2

#44. CHAOS (Will Ospreay and Tomohiro Ishii) vs The Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi), NJPW Road To Destruction

Photo: NJPW

One of the most memorable tag team main events in recent history, the tag team combinations by Ishii and Ospreay were not only brand-new but it added a completely new dynamic with the brawler and Junior Heavyweight sensation teaming up to face the innovative, Golden Lovers. Ospreay used Ishii’s back as a Springboard for a Shooting Star press but it would be Ibushi and Omega that would have the tag team chemistry to win the match. The double Golden Triangle Moonsault was as amazing as it has ever been. Ospreay was pinned by the Golden Trigger.
Rating: ****1/2

#43. ROH World Championship: Jay Lethal (c) vs Will Ospreay, ROH Death Before Dishonor

Photo: NJPW

Will Ospreay received an ROH World championship match in September live on Pay Per View in a rematch from ROH TV earlier in the year against Lethal. Ospreay put his hands behind his back to receive stinging chops to show the heart of a champion. Ring announcer, Bobby Cruise, took an accidental Superkick from Lethal on the floor and that’s when the match went into the next gear. Ospreay was sent down hard onto a ladder as the result of a sunset flip bomb. Ospreay blasted Lethal with a wild kick combination and the Os-Cutter only netted a two-count. Jay Lethal retained the ROH World title with an avalanche sit-out Powerbomb and the Lethal Injection.
Rating: ****1/2

#42. PROGRESS World Championship: WALTER (c) vs Tyler Bate, PROGRESS Chapter 76: Hello Wembley

Photo: PROGRESS

A true modern day David vs Goliath battle, Tyler Bate has lifted up the big Austrian before but it was even more impressive in this setting when the nerves and exhaustion sets in. Bate tried to throw everything at WALTER but it didn’t work, a Suicide Dive was caught into a back Suplex onto the apron. Bate showed so much fire in this match, hitting the champion with two rebound Lariat’s in a row only to be flattened by a WALTER lariat. Bate kicked out of a shotgun dropkick and Powerbomb follow up. WALTER climbed to the top rope with Bate on his back in a sleeper hold and fell backwards. Bate nearly won the title with Tyler Driver ’97 but the defiant young challenger was finished by the Fire Thunder Driver.
Rating: ****1/2

#41. RevPro British Heavyweight Championship: Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs David Starr, Rev Pro Uprising

Photo: RevPro

A special Cruiserweight champion vs British Heavyweight champion main event from Rev Pro from David Starr’s behest and that’s what made this match all the more exciting. Starr performed like it was his last night in the business, proving to be just as good as every one of his many monikers and nicknames. Starr matches Lariat’s with Ishii and nearly pinned Ishii with the Blackheart Buster. Starr never took the cheap way out even though he could have, Ishii survived an assault and left the victor after a Brainbuster.
Rating: ****1/2

#40. Shingo Takagi vs WALTER, PWG Battle Of Los Angeles 

A dream match for anyone that loves a Heavyweight show stealer, this is the third meeting between these two but only the first singles match. Shingo Takagi is such a suave veteran that he side-stepped the Shotgun Drokick and landed a sliding Lariat. WALTER almost put Shingo away with a massive chop you could hear outside the building and the Sleeper Choke. WALTER then transitioned like he was classic Samoa Joe with a Boston Crab into an STF and finally into a Hangman’s Clutch. Shingo mustered up the strength to power up WALTER for a Death Valley Driver and the Pumping Bomber Lariat ended WALTER’s Battle Of Los Angeles tournament.
Rating: ****1/2

#39. The Young Bucks vs Super Smash Bros (Player Uno and Stu Grayson), NJPW/ROH War Of The Worlds: Toronto

Photo: ROH/NJPW

Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson had the opportunity to choose their opponents for ROH’s return to Toronto, The Young Bucks figured what better opponents than a team they used they face many years ago in ROH. Stu Grayson was so inventive, flying around the ring with ease and using his partner to assist in big tag team moves like the Cannonball in the corner. This is a real crowd pleaser from any angle, the action never stops until The Meltzer Driver.
Rating: ****1/2

#38. Triple Crown Heavyweight championship: Zeus (c) vs Kento Miyahara, AJPW Raising An Army Memorial Series

Photo: AJPW

A classic encounter this year from All-Japan Pro Wrestling, Zeus didn’t hold the Triple Crown Heavyweight championship for long but he made for more than a formidable defending champion against the ace of AJPW. Miyahara used headbutt’s to combat chops and Lariat’s early until Zeus landed on his head on the ramp from a DDT. Miyahara landed some of the most hard-hitting knee strikes in pro wrestling, even one in the corner to the back of Zeus’ head couldn’t finish the match. Miyahara kicked out of the Jackhammer before putting Zeus away with the Shutdown German Suplex.
Rating: ****1/2

#37. WALTER vs PCO, Joey Janela’s Spring Break 2

Photo: GCW

The full-throttle return of fifty-year-old Pierre-Carl Ouellet (PCO) to marquee pro wrestling matches, the former Quebecer has gone from facing Bret Hart to waging war with WALTER in New Orleans with no rules. WALTER slugged away at PCO until his chest went purple from chops. PCO gave it everything he had including a split-legged moonsault and a senton off the top rope to win the match.
Rating: ****1/2

#36. WWE Smackdown Live Women’s Championship, TLC Match: Becky Lynch (c) vs Charlotte vs Asuka, WWE TLC

Photo: WWE

There are so many moments in this Tables, Ladders and Chairs match that make one say “oh my god”, that the story of the match leans more towards how far will these women go to become champion instead of a mass of spots. Asuka powerbombed Charlotte off a ladder, sending her through a table early in the match. The Smackdown Live women’s champion dropkicked Asuka off a ladder and took matters into her own hands with a steel chair to both women. Charlotte was thrown into the barricade by Asuka’s exploder Suplex but Charlotte returned the favor by sending Asuka through the barricade with a Spear. Women’s wrestling in WWE has never been better as Charlotte somersault’s Lynch through a table but Rousey shoves Charlotte and Becky off a ladder, allowing Asuka to claim the gold she had desired for the past year.
Rating: ****1/2

#35. Tomohiro Ishii vs WALTER, Rev Pro Summer Sizzler

Photo: RevPro

It’s too bad this match was only fourteen minutes but on the other hand, it left no room for these heavy-hitters to waste a second. Ishii powerslammed all 310-pounds of WALTER but it takes two Lariat’s to get WALTER back down. Ishii was almost finished by a Powerbomb and a Brainbuster stolen by WALTER. Nothing but headbutts and chops followed until WALTER was pinned by Ishii’s powerful Brainbuster.
Rating: ****1/2

#34. Hair vs Mask: Sami Callihan vs Pentagon Jr, IMPACT Wrestling Slammiversary XVI

Photo: IMPACT

Callihan is everything a heel should be in 2018, calling himself “The Draw” while spitting in opponents faces and showing no sympathy for anyone, even his own friends. Pentagon Jr has been THE opponent for Callihan for a couple years now, since a blood feud in AAW Pro, Pentagon Jr put his mask on the line to gain revenge. A railroad spike is driven into Callihan’s head and then both spike each other. Callihan uses a Cactus Jack-style Piledriver that only gets a two-count. Superkicks set up Pentagon Jr’s arm-break on Callihan and Fear Factor ends the brutality.
Rating: ****1/2

#33. Keith Lee vs Tomohiro Ishii, Rev Pro Epic Encounter

Photo: RevPro

All the big bombs are thrown in this match and literally, Powerbombs and huge strikes are thrown in a Heavyweight clash not to be forgotten from Rev Pro. A rematch where both came in even more fired up than the last time, Ishii got his shoulder up at one after Ground Zero. The ring somehow stays intact after a Superplex but Ishii pops right back up. Lee is finished by a Brainbuster in a war.
Rating: ****1/2

#32. IWGP Intercontinental championship: Kenny Omega (c) vs Chris Jericho, Wrestle Kingdom 12

Photo: NJPW

Chris Jericho played such a great heel in this match that he even locked in a Liontamer on referee Hiroyuki Umino’s (Red Shoes) own son right in front of him on the floor, the referee’s son is a Young Lion. There were some terrific counters from both Canadians in Japan, Jericho countered a Snap Hurricanrana with the Walls Of Jericho. Sooner than later though, Jericho’s endurance could not keep up with Omega as Snap Dragon Suplexes wore him down. One Winged Angel on a steel chair looked like an especially brutal end to Jericho’s IWGP United States Championship chase in this Alpha vs Omega dream match.
Rating: *****

#31. wXw Unified Interim championship: Ilja Dragunov vs Bobby Gunns, wXw World Tag League

Photo: wXw

Quite possibly the loudest crowd with the longest chant for any match in pro wrestling, the crowd was beyond excited to watch this Interim championship match that went back and forth until the fantastic finish. Ilja Dragunov charged into a Guillotine on the floor but both men landed into the chairs amongst the insane crowd. Gunn started a vicious attack on the arm of Ilja and landed a Backdrop Driver. Ilja fired back with a left-arm Lariat but the damage was done as Gunn’s locked in an armbar. Both traded some of the most sickening looking Saito Suplexes all year long and they both took each other down with Lariats. Ilja went Coast To Coast but a Powerslam on the apron took the air out of Dragunov. Gonna threw a middle finger at Ilja but had that finger snapped and the Torpedo Moscow put Gunn’s away.
Rating: *****

#30. Zack Sabre Jr vs Matt Riddle, PWG Time Is A Flat Circle

Photo: PWG

A technical clinic, Sabre and Riddle knew counters to each other’s counters they are so well-adept at mat wrestling. They have faced each other several times in other promotions but this is their best match, hands down. The transitions were incredible, Sabre had an Octopus Stretch and Dragon Sleeper locked in but Riddle escaped by hitting a Brostone Piledriver. Sabre even took advantage of Riddle’s bare feet and locked in a toe-lock. The finish is a masterpiece as Riddle pops up from a Penalty Kick, catches a bridge into a choke but succumbs to the European Clutch.
Rating: *****

#29. Will Ospreay vs Adam Brooks, PROGRESS Chapter 61: Don’t Touch Me….. Don’t…….Touch Me

Photo: PROGRESS

Adam Brooks has followed Ospreay to the United Kingdom after a very memorable rivalry in Australia for MCW, that feud continues and Ospreay still proves to be that much better. Lots of big moments in this match, Ospreay took some major bumps like a faceplant off the top rope after a hurricanrana and a Canadian Destroyer on the apron. Brooks is a magnificent heel to play off of Ospreay, using a Ripcord Lowblow to almost win the match. Decapitator Elbow and 450 Splash don’t finish “The Loose Ledge” but the Os-Cutter does. The chemistry and flawlessness should make this match get endless rematches.
Rating: *****

#28. Tetsuya Naito vs Kota Ibushi, NJPW G1 Climax 28

Photo: NJPW

An absolutely all-out spectacle as always from these two, they faced each other last year in another must-see G1 Climax tournament match. Naito was too cocky to start and Gloria was reversed into a Half-Nelson Suplex. Ibushi’s neck was taken to the test as well by a wheelbarrow transitioned into a Piledriver. Ibushi lands on his feet from a Super Hurricanrana and Naito kicks out of an avalanche German Suplex. Destino is only a two-count as Naito gets dropped on his head attempting a second Destino. Ibushi uses Shinsuke Nakamura’s Bombe Ye for only a two-count but the Kamigoye seals the deal.
Rating: *****

#27. Hair vs Title, NEVER Openweight Championship: Minoru Suzuki vs Hirooki Goto, NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12

Photo: NJPW

A near-perfect culmination to a classic modern NJPW rivalry. Everything about this felt so old-school with hard strikes and fighting spirit exudes from both until Suzuki finally goes down to the GTR. Suzuki’s facial expressions are the best in pro wrestling, viewers and forced to feel a certain way whether Suzuki is in control or in unlikely peril. Suzuki chooses to shave his own head after the match, per the stipulation, and both wrestlers left the match looking way better than they did before the bell.
Rating: *****

#26. Kenny Omega vs Tetsuya Naito, NJPW G1 Climax 28

Photo: NJPW

The third five-star bout in a year between Omega and Naito in the annual G1 Climax tournament from NJPW. Twenty-three minutes to prove who’s best, to prove what faction means more and who is the real new leader to the company. Both mocked each other to start the match but Omega would take advantage after a Springboard crossbody over the barricade. The Snap Dragon Suplex and V-T-Triggers set up Omega’s finisher all too well but Naito counters a neckbreaker with Destino. Omega kicks out of another Destino and counters a third one with a sit-out Tombstone Piledriver. The double-underhook Piledriver amazingly only get a two-count from the referee so the One Winged Angel ends Naito’s second night in the tournament.
Rating: *****

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