2019 was an absolutely amazing year for matches, perhaps the greatest of all time in professional wrestling history. From AEW to NJPW to NXT, all three companies delivered some of the most incredible matches you’ll ever see, but who dominated the field? Here are the best matches, in my opinion, of 2019.
10. Tyler Bate VS. WALTER, WWE United Kingdom Championship, NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff – August 31st, 2019, Cardiff Motorpoint Arena – Cardiff, Wales
This was a classic David VS. Goliath match, perhaps the greatest match of this style of all time, and one of the greatest matches in WWE history. It started out with the bigger man in WALTER beating on and dominating the smaller man in Bate forcing him to fight and use his quickness from underneath. You had WALTER powerbomb Bate, first on the apron, and then on the ring post which just looked vicious. This continued until Bate was able to deliver a body slam to WALTER. This took the match to second gear. The story was WALTER continually targeting and working on the back of Bate but Bate continually fighting back with his “Big Strong Boi” moves. Bate used an airplane spin to an awesome reaction, an exploder, and an insane Burning Hammer on WALTER. Although his selling wasn’t always the best or most logically, the Cardiff crowd was super into all Bate’s offense. Like how he won the championship against Pete Dunne, WALTER used a big splash off the top rope for a great near fall. The match was highlighted by some just incredible near falls. The finish saw a choke suplex, a series of his signature chops, and a powerbomb on Bate from WALTER for one last near fall, before hitting a Burning Lariat for the win. Just a classic David VS. Goliath match.
9. The Lucha Brothers (Pentagón Jr. & Rey Fénix) VS. The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson),AAA World Tag Team Championship Escalera De La Muerte, AEW All Out – August 31st, 2019, Sears Centre Arena – Hoffman Estates, Illinois
This may arguably be the greatest ladder match of all time, if not, it was undoubtedly one of the craziest. But could and would have you expected anything less from these two teams? Perhaps the two best tag teams in the world today, the number of crazy spots in this match is too many to list. All four guys were just amazing from start to finish, it was literally just insanity for 24 minutes, in particular Fénix and Nick were just incredible with their athleticism. The match was highlighted by one of the craziest spots of all time, with Pentagón delivering a Canadian Destroyer to Matt off the top of a ladder through a table. The finish saw The Lucha Brothers hit Matt with a combo Package Piledriver (Fear Factor) and Double Foot Stomp through a ladder bridging the apron and the barricade, before climbing up to get the belts, retaining their titles for the win. Just an incredibly insane match.
8. Jon Moxley VS. Tomohiro Ishii, NJPW G1 Climax 29 Day 6 – July 19th, 2019, Kōrakuen Hall – Tokyo, Japan
You knew this was going to be awesome when the first thing Jon Moxley did when he got in the ring was go straight ahead and nose-to-nose with Tomohiro Ishii, the intensity was palpable right from the start. What continued for the next 20 minutes was something very reminiscent to a classic Abdullah The Butcher VS. Bruiser Brody wild brawl. These two just brawled all around Kōrakuen Hall. At one point, Moxley was just literally bashing Ishii’s head into the wall. Just a crazy spot. The craziness continued when both men had chairs in their hands and essentially had a sword fight. There were big chops, elbows, strikes. In the words of Moxley himself, it was “beautiful, glorious violence.” The match was highlighted by Ishii hitting Moxley with a big splash off the top rope through a table on the outside. Just a crazy visual. The finish saw Moxley hit a Death Rider for a big near fall, before hitting a Regal Knee, and an elevated Death Rider for the win. Easily the best match in the career of Jon Moxley, and one of the best matches of 2019.
7. Shingo Takagi VS. Tomohiro Ishii, NJPW G1 Climax 29 Day 16 – August 8th, 2019, Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium – Yokohama, Japan
This was one of the most anticipated matches of the NJPW G1 Climax 29, and to say it didn’t disappoint would be an understatement. This was one of the best matches of the entire tournament, and just like the Okada VS. Ospreay and the Finals, that’s the highest of praise, considering the level of quality in the tournament. This match was just a brutal, classic hoss match. On one side you had Shingo coming into his first G1 Climax off the momentum of an awesome showing in the Best of the Super Juniors 26 capped off with an incredible Finals VS. Will Ospreay (more on this match later), now having to prove himself as not just a dominant powerhouse amongst the junior heavyweights, but someone that can bring it to the best of the heavyweights. On the other side you had Tomohiro Ishii. Need I say more? This was just insane. It was basically two guys going in there trying to see who could hit who the hardest. It was filled with hard chops, elbows, and strikes. It was also filled with some just absolutely sickening headbutts, which although there should really be no place for in professional wrestling ever, undeniably added to the incredible intensity of this match. The match was highlighted by Shingo hitting Ishii with a Pumping Bomber for a one count, then Ishii hitting Shingo with a huge lariat for only a one count as well. The finish saw both trying to hit one another with their own lariats to no avail with both staggering, before Shingo hit one huge lariat, followed by another Pumping Bomber, and the Last Of The Dragon for the win. Just one of the most brutal back and forth matches you’ll ever see.
6. Kota Ibushi VS. Jay White, NJPW G1 Climax 29 Finals – August 12th, 2019, Nippon Budokan – Tokyo, Japan
Pure wrestling at its best. This was one of the greatest pure babyface VS. pure heel matches of all time. On one side you had Kota Ibushi, one of the best pure babyfaces in wrestling today, able to evoke emotion and sympathy from the audience through his incredible facials and selling like few others. On the other side you had Jay White, one of the best pure heels in wrestling today, able to evoke anger and ire from the audience through his dastardly antics and tactics like few others. Add in the fact that Kota Ibushi is one of the greatest wrestlers of this generation, perhaps of all time, and Jay White is one of the best characters and in ring workers, it’s no surprise that this was one of the best G1 Climax Finals of all time. The story was all the odds being stacked against Ibushi. If the already dastardly and evil Switchblade wasn’t enough, you had the rest of Bullet Club at ringside and White’s sneaky second in Gedo. Oh, and Ibushi was coming into this match with a pseudo shoot/pseudo worked ankle injury, which White had attacked the previous evening and became his focus in the Finals. But despite all this, Ibushi was able to overcome all the adversity through a beautiful display of perseverance. The match was highlighted by some amazing back and forth sequences. The finish saw Ibushi reverse a Bladerunner and hit two big knees and a Kamigoye for one final near fall, before hitting a decisive second Kamigoye to win his first G1 Climax. Just pure wrestling at its finest.
5. Cody VS. Dustin Rhodes, AEW Double or Nothing – May 25th, 2019, MGM Grand Garden Arena – Las Vegas, Nevada
The concept of brother vs. brother is one that historically has not worked in professional wrestling, however, at All Elite Wrestling’s inaugural pay-per-view event Double of Nothing, Cody and his brother Dustin Rhodes proved that this is not always the case. Whether it was righting the wrong of their only other match against one other in WWE, or going out there to have a match their late father would be proud of, both Cody and Dustin had the best match of both their respective careers that night in Las Vegas. One of the bloodiest matches in North America in recent memory, in particular Dustin was just covered. In a lot of ways, it was interestingly very reminiscent to a classic Ric Flair VS. Dusty Rhodes match, in terms of presentation and in-ring psychology. Cody was the arrogant, cocky younger brother against the grizzled, sympathetic veteran older brother Dustin. Also, one of the most emotional matches in North America in recent memory, the drama and emotion in this match was something from another era. From the opening bell, the atmosphere was emotional, the crowd chanting “Dusty”, brought both brothers to tears. The match was highlighted by just classic, old school wrestling drama, emotion, and psychology throughout. The finish saw Cody hit Dustin with an emphatic Cross Rhodes for the win. Just like the brothers before the start of the match, by the end of the match the crowd was brought to tears from what they had just witnessed. And the post-match with Cody embracing with and saying he needed his older brother back was one of the most emotional, real moments of the year in wrestling.
4. Adam Cole VS. Johnny Gargano, NXT Championship – Best 2/3 Falls, NXT TakeOver: New York – April 5th, 2019, Barclays Centre – Brooklyn, New York
Adam Cole VS. Johnny Gargano from NXT TakeOver: New York may arguably be the greatest match in WWE history. But it’s also a match that wasn’t even originally supposed to happen. Following his neck injury and subsequent surgery, NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa was forced to vacate the championship and delay what was seemingly going to be the blow off match in his incredible feud with Johnny Gargano, which led to Adam Cole VS. Johnny Gargano in a Best 2/3 Falls match for the vacant title. The amazing thing about this match is how well both Cole and Gargano were able to suck in the crowd into what was essentially a replacement match. Even though it was not from Ciampa, the NXT faithful were dying and ready to see Gargano become NXT Champion. Though already a very good match after the first two falls, it was the third fall that took this match to another level, and will go down as one of the most electric and heated crowd reactions to a final stretch of any match in history. In the third fall, both men began to exchange big move after big move at a fast and furious pace. The rest of the Undisputed Era would try to get involved to assist Cole, but this only fired up the crowd more into Gargano, and he was eventually able to fight them all off. The match was highlighted by Johnny Gargano kicking out of all Adam Cole hit him with – Canadian Destroyers, Superkicks, Last Shots – with the crowd becoming more electric and hotter after each near fall. The finish saw Gargano duck a Last Shot and apply a Gargano Escape on Cole, forcing him to tap out for the win. Being there in attendance live for this match, I was in awe of what I had just been fortunate enough to be a part of to witness, and all I could do was put up five fingers to signal this as a true five-star classic. And the post-match with Johnny Gargano embracing with his wife Candice LeRae and Tommaso Ciampa was a beautiful, full circle way to cap off an incredible match and story.
3. Kenny Omega VS. Hiroshi Tanahashi, IWGP Heavyweight Championship, NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 13 – January 4th, 2019, Tokyo Dome – Tokyo, Japan
Kenny Omega VS. Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 13 was one of the best matches in Tokyo Dome history. But it also had one of the best and most unique builds of any match in history. Not a traditional babyface VS. heel feud, this was a feud built on a clash of styles, not in-ring styles, but rather an ideology clash. A clash in both men’s approach to professional wrestling, their beliefs in professional wrestling, and what they believe professional wrestling should be. On one side you had Kenny Omega, an amazing athlete who builds his matches around his athleticism and drama through his big moves, who represents the new school of professional wrestling. On the other side you had Hiroshi Tanahashi, himself a great athlete but one that is beginning to get up there in age and whose body is beginning to break down that relies more on his in-ring psychology and storytelling, who represents the old school of professional wrestling. And although not a traditional babyface VS. heel feud, Tanahashi was the babyface of all babyfaces in this match, playing the sentimental and sympathetic veteran, against the extremely cocky champion Omega. Omega went at Tanahashi early, brutalizing him hard strikes, kicks, and power moves, and focusing on his back. Omega eventually tweaked his knee and this became the focus of Tanahashi from that point on. The match was highlighted by call backs and key spots. Tanahashi attempted to hit Omega with a High Fly Flow through a table on the outside, but Omega moved and Tanahashi crashed through the table, with the idea being Tanahashi had to abandon and violate his approach, beliefs, and what he believes professional wrestling should be in order to beat Omega. The finish saw one of the best final stretch of any match, ending with Tanahashi reversing a One-Winged Angel with a Sling Blade, followed by another Sling Blade, and the High Fly Flow for the win, in one of the most dramatic and emotional storytelling matches of all time.
2. Kazuchika Okada VS. Will Ospreay, NJPW G1 Climax 29 Day 7 – July 20th, 2019, Kōrakuen Hall – Tokyo, Japan
NJPW capped off three consecutive nights of the G1 Climax 29 at Kōrakuen Hall with each night featuring amazing main events. Day 5 had the latest match in the Kota Ibushi VS. Will Ospreay series. Day 6 had the #8 match on this list, Jon Moxley VS. Tomohiro Ishii. But it was this match on Day 7 that was arguably the best match of the entire tournament, and that’s the highest of praise, considering the level of quality in the tournament. This was actually the fourth singles match between the two, but completely different than their previous matches. Whereas their first match in Revolution Pro Wrestling (RPW) was basically the match that got Ospreay into NJPW, and their second and third matches were essentially big brother VS. little brother stories, this match was both men competing on equal levels. It started out with both establishing how well they knew the other through chain wrestling and a sequence of counters and reversals. Okada played the arrogant, cocky heel that was “bullying” Ospreay throughout the match, forcing him to fight from underneath. This led to an incredible, outstanding spot where Okada was no selling a series of chops from Ospreay, before being brought to his knees by one wicked chop. The match was highlighted by amazing counters and reversals, in particular Ospreay reversing a Rainmaker attempt into a Spanish Fly. The finish saw Okada reverse a Stormbreaker and hit two decisive Rainmakers for the win. Although this match could and would have been better had Ospreay been able to beat and get the win over Okada, this was still an all time classic, and undoubtedly one of the best matches of 2019.
1. Shingo Takagi VS. Will Ospreay, NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 26 Finals – June 5th, 2019, Ryōgoku Kokugikan – Tokyo, Japan
Incredible. Simply incredible. That’s the best way to describe this match. The NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 26 was arguably one of the greatest in the history of the tournament, and it seemed right from the start that the Finals would come down to Shingo Takagi VS. Will Ospreay. Shingo came into the tournament undefeated in singles matches and unpinned since his debut in NJPW at King of Pro-Wrestling 2018. Pushed as the unbeatable Dragon throughout, he ran the gauntlet in A Block, going 9-0. Ospreay came into the tournament looking to re-establish himself as the best junior heavyweight in the world. Pushed as the come-from-behind underdog, he had incredible matches throughout B Block, going 7-2. And even with this match being on a card that had the debut of Jon Moxley and the return of Hiroshi Tanahashi, this was the match the Sumo Hall crowd came to see. From the opening bell, the atmosphere was electric, and it stayed that way for the next 33 minutes. An amazingly athletic and brutally physical match with incredible storytelling. You had Shingo Takagi as the unbeatable Dragon, the power junior with the strength. You had Will Ospreay as the come-from-behind underdog, the Aerial Assassin with the agility. The story was Shingo as the dominant monster trying to gain the advantage by overpowering Ospreay but Opsreay continually fighting back and having a counter for all of Takagi’s big moves. The match was highlighted by breathtaking near falls building in drama one after another. The finish saw Ospreay execute the Super Top Rope OsCutter for the first time and then the Stormbreaker, slaying the Dragon, and handing Takagi his first pinfall loss in NJPW. Just simply incredible.