The 50 Best Matches Of 2018: Part 2 (#25-#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)

To recap the first 25 of the Best 50 Matches of 2018, head here!

#25. No Ropes, Barbed Wire: Joey Janela vs David Starr, Beyond AmericanRana ’18 

Photo: Beyond Wrestling

This feud between “The Ace” of Beyond Wrestling and “The Bad Boy” reached its peak in a special Barbed Wire encounter with no ropes. This match couldn’t feel any more like classic ECW and in the best way possible. This match didn’t receive nearly enough buzz for the physicality and sheer brutality – Janela was Irish whipped into the barbed wire and his back absorbed the barbs like a pincushion. Starr etched his name at the very top of Beyond Wrestling after sending Janela head-first into cinder blocks with a DDT.
Rating: *****

#24. IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Marty Scurll (c) vs Will Ospreay vs KUSHIDA vs Hiromu Takahashi, NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12

Photo: NJPW

All of the four best Juniors collided in one match at Wrestle Kingdom 12 for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship and it left everyone breathless, with a finish suitable to the champion. KUSHIDA showed the most heart in the match and the champion, “The Villain”, evened the odds with his nefarious ways but Will Ospreay would be the one to stop “The Villain” in the end. After a flurry from all four, Scurll went for a bag of powder but had it thrown into his own face and Ospreay hit the Os-Cutter on his rival for the title win.
Rating: *****

#23. Last Man Standing: David Starr vs Jurn Simmons, wXw #wXwFan Oberhausen

Photo: wXw

Jurn Simmons turned on his tag team partner in the team Massive Product at the wXw World Tag League in 2018. A bitter feud ensued and they ended up being even better rivals than friends, with Jurn Simmons displaying some of the best heel work in the business. The fight went from the ramp to the crowd early in the match with Starr jumping off the stage for a Crossbody block. Simmons took a steel chair to “The Product” and ravaged the back of Starr but that would not even result in a ten-count. Both battled on the top rope after the wood was exposed on the ring frame and Starr landed hard from an avalanche Spinebuster. Neither man could make the final count in one of wrestling’s finest Last Man Standing matches ever.
Rating: *****

#22. G1 Climax 28 Finals: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kota Ibushi, NJPW G1 Climax 2018 Finals

Photo: NJPW

Kota Ibushi is a former New Japan Cup winner but it’s the IWGP Heavyweight Championship that must elude Ibushi throughout his innovative career. Ibushi is the faster of the two and that was the story of the match. By the finish, Tanahashi proved he could still mix it up with the best of them despite nagging injuries and age catching up. “The Golden Star” tried everything including the Last Ride Powerbomb, but it was Tanahashi that had the keys to victory with the High Fly Flow.
Rating: *****

#21. Matt Riddle vs Will Ospreay, OTT Scrappermania IV

Photo: OTT

One of the best matches out of Ireland last year, Will Ospreay and Matt Riddle wrestled at such a pace that Ospreay had to take a breather under the ring before the finish. Riddle stunned Ospreay with deadly combos like a Powerbomb followed up by a knee strike to the face. Riddle had Ospreay down with stomps to the head but it put a new fire under Ospreay and Riddle was pinned by The Stormbreaker.
Rating: *****

#20. The Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi) vs The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson), NJPW Strong Style Evolved

Photo: NJPW

There are so many near falls and jaw-dropping moments during this NJPW main event on American soil that some journalists and fans alike proclaimed it was one of the best tag team matches of all time. A dream match that only happened once, The Golden Lovers unleashed the double Triangle Moonsault but The Young Bucks are the kings of aerial tag team wrestling. Matt Jackson’s bad back is the only issue for The Young Bucks and they paid for it, Ibushi sent Matt Jackson through a table with a Powerbomb. Omega hesitated to finish Matt with One-Winged Angel but he does anyway and it’s a close near-fall. After almost forty minutes of tag team innovation, Nick Jackson is pinned by the Golden Trigger.
Rating: *****

#19. GHC Heavyweight Championship: Kenoh (c) vs Takashi Suguira, NOAH The Great Voyage In Yokohama

Photo: NOAH

Kenoh is one of the stiffest wrestlers in the world so it’s only fitting he faces the veteran challenger in the “Reborn” aggressive company. Some strikes in this match could make any viewer cringe. Kenoh lost the title here but he fought like he would be champion for a very long time. The challenger became the new champion after stiffing Kenoh with an elbow to counter a huge kick and a rolling neck-lock puts Kenoh to sleep. Their rematch at Navigation With Emerald Spirits is just as justifiable to make the list.
Rating: *****

#18. Keith Lee vs “Speedball” Mike Bailey, OTT Homecoming

Photo: OTT

Not nearly enough buzz and praise was given to this OTT barn-burner. Completely different styles from both, Lee was almost chopped down like a tree by rapid-fire “Speedball” kicks all over his body. The ever-underrated Bailey kicked out of one of the biggest Spirit Bombs ever hit in a ring. Bailey went for his trademark offense but it was one too many, the Shooting Star Kneedrop is caught by Ground Zero for the three-count.
Rating: *****

#17. 2 Out Of 3 Falls: Will Ospreay vs Jimmy Havoc, PROGRESS Chapter 75: These Violent Delights Have Violent Ends

Photo: PROGRESS

Jimmy Havoc and Will Ospreay finally settled a years-long feud in the United Kingdom with a Two-Out-Of-Three Falls bout that proved to be the wildest match they have ever had against each other. Havoc earned the first fall with an Acid Rainmaker and Ospreay picked up the second fall but that’s when everything turned to chaos. Referee, Paul Robinson, sided with his former Swords Of Essex tag team partner once an axe was brought into the match and Jimmy Havoc is pinned by the Stormbreaker after thumbtacks and leaps from the stage are all involved.
Rating: *****

#16. GHC Heavyweight Championship: Takashi Sugiura (c) vs Katsuhiko Nakajima, NOAH Global Junior League 2018

Photo: NOAH

The story told by Nakajima is outstanding here, making his heel run complete by decimating the champion with several stiff kicks and refusing to take the win even though he’s worked his whole career to become champion. Nakajima started the match by lying down for Sugiura but that wasn’t going to happen, this is about respect. Nakajima went flat-out vicious with a punt kick to the head. Nakajima had Sugiura pinned in one instance with his foot on the champion’s chest, but Nakajima took his foot off before the three-count, stunning fans with his arrogance. Nakajima would kick out of the Olympic Slam but the Ankle Lock would prove to be too much for the challenger.
Rating: *****

#15. IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Will Ospreay (c) vs Hiromu Takahashi, NJPW New Beginning In Osaka

Photo: NJPW

Hiromu Takahashi and Will Ospreay are almost made to clash for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship – their chemistry is so smooth that both know big moves before the opponent even does. No feeling-out process here as Ospreay takes a German Suplex on the floor. Takahashi kicked out of the imploding 450 Splash for a wild near-fall. The pacing is so intense that “The Ticking Time Bomb” kicks out of an avalanche Poison Hurricanrana right away. A shooting star press to Hiromu draped on the ropes and the Os-Cutter keeps the title around Ospreay’s waist until the superb Dominon rematch.
Rating: *****

#14. OTT Championship: Jordan Devlin vs WALTER, OTT WrestleRama 2

Photo: OTT

The best promo package from all of 2018 featuring WALTER slugging opponents like he was Mike Tyson, resulted in one of the best title matches of the year from Dublin, Ireland. Devlin was defending his crown as the king of Irish wrestling but many attempts at offense on the goliath were shut down. Devlin gets thrown with a German Suplex trying a Springboard. Devlin hit a massive headbutt but WALTER came back with the Kirifuda Clutch as David Starr nearly threw in the towel at ringside for Devlin. Devlin went to the top for a beautiful Moonsault but WALTER would become the new OTT champion with a spike Fire Thunder Driver after locking in the Rear-Naked Choke.
Rating: *****

#13. NXT Championship: Andrade “Cien” Almas vs Johnny Gargano, NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia

Photo: WWE

Gargano proved to be one of the very best in all of WWE with this match and Almas showed everyone the hype is real. Almas hit a spinning back elbow and lands on his feet from a Moonsault only to land a standing Moonsault. Almas kicked out of a Slingshot DDT on to the floor. A lawn dart to Almas almost finished it until Zelina Vega distracted Gargano. Almas had to rake the eyes of the challenger to claw out of the Gargano Escape. Candice LaRae assists her husband as Gargano gets his shoulder up after the Hammerlock DDT. The action is on fire but Gargano is finally finished by charging knees against the post and The Hammerlock DDT ends this main event.
Rating: *****

#12. Kenny Omega vs Tomohiro Ishii, NJPW G1 Climax 28 

Photo: NJPW

Omega and Ishii had previously battled in 2017 in a hard-hitting trilogy so there was no doubt this would be one of the best of the G1 Climax tournament. Omega entered his first tournament as the IWGP heavyweight champion so he was too cocky, smacking Ishii and bringing even more intensity to Tomohiro Ishii’s strikes. Omega went for a Snap Hurricanrana but Ishii caught it with a Powerbomb as both exhausted their arsenals. Lariats are met with V-Triggers as the crowd is behind Ishii all the way. Omega stole Ishii’s Brainbuster but Ishii kicked out at one and pinned Omega, bleeding mouth and all, with his own Brainbuster.
Rating: *****

#11. Non-Sanctioned: Johnny Gargano vs Tomasso Ciampa, NXT TakeOver: New Orleans

Photo: WWE

A thirty-seven-minute long war that could very well be the best NXT match ever, rematches included. Ciampa got the upper hand as the rivalry raged on but Gargano getting his due was certainly an unforgettable moment after a classic match. Ciampa received the ultimate payback when his back smacked off the unprotected floor with a Powerbomb. Ciampa tried to finish his former best friend in DIY fashion to get under the fans skin but “Johnny Wrestling” would not stay down. Both men fight while tied together by wrist tape in an amazing moment of symbolism. Gargano trapped Ciampa in an STF while using Ciampa’s own crutch to send New Orleans into a frenzy.
Rating: *****

#10. IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Will Ospreay (c) vs Marty Scurll, NJPW Sakura Genesis

Photo: NJPW

NJPW gave these long-time rivals plenty of time, just over thirty minutes, to settle the score. Scurll attacked the champion with a rebound Lariat and a Tombstone Piledriver on the floor. Ospreay didn’t land the way he wanted to on a Spanish Fly to Scurll and Ospreay takes a bad bump on his neck. Scurll kicks out of a corkscrew shooting star press. The best moment in their entire series of matches occurred when “The Villain” snapped two of Ospreay’s fingers, Superkicked him and stomped on his head repeatedly. Ospreay fights out of the Chickenwing and the Os-Cutter connects on Scurll.
Rating: *****

#9. Kota Ibushi vs Tomohiro Ishii, NJPW G1 Climax 28

Photo: NJPW

Kota Ibushi was arguably the MVP of this tournament but so was “The Stone Pitbull”, beating the best and laying it all on the line. Ibushi was in full main event mode, performing an outstanding Moonsault from the balcony on Ishii into the crowd. Ishii tried to smoke out the younger and more agile competitor with big strikes but it would be Ibushi’s new finisher that would be the match ending blow. The Kamigoye ends Ishii’s night as Ibushi went to the Finals of the G1 Climax tournament but not before Ishii delivered the Kamigoye to Kota himself.
Rating: *****

#8. OTT Championship: WALTER (c) vs Will Ospreay, OTT Fourth Year Anniversary

Photo: OTT

Ospreay is Powerbombed onto the stage minutes into the match and the monster champion pummels Will with chops and big boots. Will Ospreay is absolutely sensational in this match, going for everything including almost hitting WALTER with the title but choosing against it. Hook kicks stop WALTER in his tracks and the Os-Cutter is only two. Ospreay is driven down with the Fire Thunder Driver after giving the fans a performance that shouldn’t be forgotten any time soon.
Rating: *****

#7. Triple Crown Championship: Kento Miyahara (c) vs. Naomichi Marufuji, AJPW Power Series 

Photo: AJPW

A dream match between “The Ace” of AJPW against “The Ace” of Pro Wrestling NOAH. They had another match in 2018 that was equally exciting but Miyahara came off as a true star in this match, a culmination of hard work and respect earned. Both attempt knee strikes and their knees collide but Miyahara comes out on top with the bicycle knee strike. Blackout knees and the Shutdown German Suplex finish Marufuji.

Rating: *****

#6. Tomohiro Ishii vs Hirooki Goto, NJPW G1 Climax 28

Photo: NJPW

So much old-school flavor to this match, a give-me-your-best-shot match between two friends in the CHAOS faction. Goto lands spin kicks but they trade lariats before long. Both collapse from the strikes. Goto takes a delayed Superplex for a near-fall. Goto busts out the old Shouten Kai for another hot near-fall. Ishii escapes the GTR and their heads collide from headbutts as strong style is alive and well. The Brainbuster puts another in the win column for Ishii as this tournament proves to be an embarrassment of riches.
Rating: *****

#5. Wrestle Kingdom 13 Briefcase: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kazuchika Okada, NJPW Destruction In Kobe

Photo: NJPW

A feud that has changed the careers of both and helped to change the landscape of NJPW as a whole continued in 2018. Their match at Dontaku 2018 when Okada was the IWGP heavyweight champion was also a near five-star classic. Tanahashi landed badly on a plancha and Okada attacked Tanahashi’s knee like “The Rainmaker” of old. Tanahashi’s briefcase is in serious jeopardy as Okada tortures Tanahashi with the fans getting more reeled in by the minute. Tanahashi hits the High Fly Flow but lands on his knee and can’t properly follow up for the pinfall. Okada hit a Tombstone and went for an avalanche Tombstone Piledriver but Tanahashi palm strikes Okada and lands High Fly Flow to a falling Okada. Another High Fly Flow pins Okada for the first time in four years for “The Ace.”
Rating: *****

#4. Best Of The Super Juniors Finals: Hiromu Takahashi vs Taiji Ishimori, NJPW Best Of The Super Juniors Final

Photo: NJPW

The longest Final match in the history of the twenty-five years of the Best Of The Super Juniors tournament, clocking in at thirty-four minutes. The speed from both is just jaw-dropping to watch especially in this main event setting with all the cards played out for a very memorable match. Ishimori is sent flying by a running dropkick in the stands and then Hiromu is sent tumbling down the stairs of the arena. Both fired with the big guns, unleashing back to back reverse Hurricanrana’s on each other. Ishimori came close to grabbing the trophy many times but the Time Bomb would send the crowd into an astonishing reaction for Hiromu Takahashi.
Rating: *****

#3. Kenny Omega vs Kota Ibushi, NJPW G1 Climax 28 Semi-Finals

Photo: NJPW

What makes this match an absolute spectacle is the fact this is exactly what you would expect from this long-awaited rematch, big moves meant to be kill shots, even though these two are best friends. It’s just not their style to chain wrestle and have a ho-hum affair. Omega drilled his tag team partner with a Jig’n’tonic on the apron that was just utter insanity. Omega doesn’t hold back with V-Triggers, attempting to knock Kota loopy for the finish. Ibushi lands on his feet from an attempted avalanche Snap Dragon Suplex and drops Omega with a wind-up Lariat. The Last Ride and Kamigoye only get two-counts unbelievably. A super One-Winged Angel is stopped by Ibushi’s double-stomp to Omega on the top rope. A super Tiger Driver and another Kamigoye put Kenny Omega down for the count.
Rating: *****

#2. PROGRESS Atlas Championship: WALTER (c) vs Timothy Thatcher, PROGRESS Chapter 62: Fear No More, Come To Dust

Photo: PROGRESS

The feeling in the room for this January match was unlike any other match this year, fans genuinely winced at the strikes as both waged the most brutal chess match of them all for the PROGRESS Atlas Championship. Thatcher decided not to shake the hand of his fellow Ringkamf friend and WALTER seemed to take it personally, bloodying Thatcher’s chest with blistering chops. Thatcher had a great game plan, smacking WALTER’s hand against the ring post and suplexing him on the wooden floor. Thatcher went after the hand and then applied an Armbar which had WALTER barely reaching for the bottom rope. Thatcher is chopped across the face hard and the crowd gasps. Thatcher is put away by a Lariat and a Powerbomb but Thatcher would eventually pin WALTER in wXw later in 2018.
Rating: *****

#1. IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada (C) vs Kenny Omega, NJPW Dominion

Photo: NJPW

The culmination to a legendary modern-day rivalry in NJPW with an ending fitting for the matches that ensued previously. It took twenty-nine minutes for Okada to pin Omega for the first fall with a victory roll. For every dropkick that Okada had in mind, Omega had a V-Trigger answer. Okada took a dangerous reverse hurricanrana onto the floor but the One-Winged Angel is countered by a Tombstone Piledriver. Okada kicks out of a Jay Driller but the One-Winged Angel gets Omega his first fall to tie the match with a fall apiece. The way both are able to think on their feet in the most heated of situations is nothing short of remarkable, Omega hit Okada with Styles Clash but Okada fired back with a Gotch Tombstone Piledriver. The Rainmaker is stopped by a pair of One Winged Angels and Omega is crowned the new IWGP heavyweight champion after a seventy minute classic.
Rating: *****

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