It’s a bit of an understatement to say that 2018 was weird… unexpected collaborations, partnerships, and an in-ring quality of wrestling that we’ve not seen for decades, if ever. So, just like last year, how’s it turned out numerically?
6288 Matches Watched: Another asterisk is needed this year as there’s a lot of stuff we’ve watched but haven’t reviewed (things like WWE PPVs, NXT, 205 Live, and a whole bunch of indy stuff for the irregular Odds & Sods columns).
13 ***** matches: Starting with Naito vs. Okada at WrestleKingdom, and ending with the perhaps-flippant full-five we gave Gunns vs. Ilja at World Tag League. That’s up two on last year, which sure shoots holes in the narrative I’d been building that “2018 has been a little behind year-on-year…”
- Those full fives, then: Tetsuya Naito vs. Kazuchika Okada (New Japan, WrestleKingdom 12), Timothy Thatcher vs. WALTER (PROGRESS Chapter 62), Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas (NXT Takeover: Philadelphia), Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kazuchika Okada (New Japan, Sakura Genesis 2018), Tommaso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano (NXT Takeover: New Orleans), WALTER vs. Ilja Dragunov (wXw Superstars of Wrestling), Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada (New Japan, Dominion), Tetsuya Naito vs. Kenny Omega (New Japan, G1 Climax Night Two), Kota Ibushi vs. Tomohiro Ishii (New Japan, G1 Climax Night Ten), Kota Ibushi vs. Kenny Omega (New Japan, G1 Climax Night Eighteen), Kota Ibushi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (New Japan, G1 Climax Night Nineteen), Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (New Japan, Destruction in Kobe), Bobby Gunns vs. Ilja Dragunov (wXw, World Tag Team League Night Two) There’s a lot of Ibushi there…
21 matches came close: in no way are these bad matches, but these fell just short of the full five snowflakes in our mind.
- Those ****3/4s then: Jericho/Omega (WrestleKingdom 12), Minoru Suzuki vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (New Beginning in Sapporo), WALTER vs. “Bad Bones” John Klinger (c) vs. Ilja Dragunov (wXw 16 Carat Gold – Night Two), Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (New Japan Cup Final), Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) vs. Golden☆Lovers (Kota Ibushi & Kenny Omega) (New Japan Strong Style Evolved), Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay (Sakura Genesis), Will Ospreay vs. Matt Riddle (Mercury Rising), Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada (New Japan Wrestling Dontaku), Zack Sabre Jr. vs. WALTER (wXw We Love Wrestling: Hamburg), Matt Riddle vs. Will Ospreay (OTT ScrapperMania 4), Taiji Ishimori vs. Hiromu Takahashi (New Japan, Best of Super Junior Final), Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kazuchika Okada (Strong Style Evolved UK Night Two), Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kota Ibushi (New Japan, G1 Climax Night Two), Tomohiro Ishii vs. Hirooki Goto (New Japan, G1 Climax Night Six), Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kenny Omega (New Japan, G1 Climax Night Fourteen), Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (New Japan, G1 Climax Night Seventeen), WALTER vs. Jordan Devlin (OTT WrestleRama 2), Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kenny Omega (New Japan, Destruction in Hiroshima), Will Ospreay vs. WALTER (OTT Fourth Anniversary Show), Zack Sabre Jr. vs. WALTER (PROGRESS Chapter 77), Hiroshi Tanahashi & Will Ospreay vs. Golden☆Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi) (New Japan, Road to Tokyo Dome Night Two)
1 – We had no “minus five star” matches this year, but our worst was Martina vs. Veda from the Shotgun that was recorded over 16 Carat Gold weekend. Luckily it was saved a little in editing… coming close were these sub zero outings: Torey Payne vs. Jaylee from OVW, Bad Luck Fale vs. Togi Makabe from this year’s G1, and Justy vs. B-Cool in that abominable Justy-Jitsu match at OTT’s Redemotion show.
74 – Shows we’ve seen live in person. That’s… not the “calming down” that we expected, although the wXw festival weekends really bumped up the totals. This year saw us take in not so many new promotions, with OTT and Fight Factory Pro in Ireland being our only “new” groups… what will 2019 bring? With any luck, some returns to old favourites and perhaps some new discoveries?