Every year, VoicesofWrestling.com does an annual worldwide match of the year poll. They summon wrestling pundits and outlets from all over the internet and ask them to submit their 10 best matches of the year. It’s not a simple multiple choice thing where everything is laid out for you, you must provide an explanation for why that match is in your top ten.
All the responses they receive create a 100 to 1 countdown with the best responses getting used to describe the match. This is my first year submitting a ballot because I’ve watched more wrestling this past year than probably ever. It’s not a perfect list, but I feel really great about all these matches, and every match on this list moved me to the point where I wrote about each of them from memory. I was honored to receive an invite to submit a ballot on behalf of my contributions to SocialSuplex.com Without further ado, here are my 10 best matches of 2018 in order.
- Kenny Omega vs Chris Jericho 1/4 ( NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12)
The question going into this was, “Can Chris Jericho roll out of bed and compete at the main event level in New Japan?” The answer was an emphatic yes. It was the best version of what an attitude era brawl would look like with Kenny Omega added into it. Jericho’s characterful performance that night let the world know he would NEVER be outperformed no matter how old he is by anyone. This was Omega’s second of 3 dome classics in a row, and he felt like he reached another level of superstardom in this match. This match was a key in almost everything we’ve seen business wise outside of WWE since.
- Matt Riddle vs Will Ospreay (4/7 WWN Supershow)
This is the only match I was fortunate enough to see in person. WE THOUGHT WILL OSPREAY DIED! There are a sea of red SCL SPLX (Social Suplex) shirts in the background of this match where my group of friends marked out left and right as Riddle and Ospreay fooled everyone in the building with their fall from the top rope. Riddle launched into FINISH HIM, killer instinct mode after that and Ospreay matched him at every step. These were two of the 3 guys that just OWNED New Orleans over WM weekend, the other being Zack Sabre Jr. With WWE, AEW, NJPW, & ROH snatching up every indy star they can find, this match between super duper stars of the circuit is likely to be one of the last of a dying breed.
- Andrade Cien Almas vs Johnny Gargano – (1/27 – NXT Takeover Philadelphia)
Going into this, there were questions about Andrade Cien Almas, who won the NXT title in a shocker. Leaving this match, fans had not a word to say because their mouths were stuck agape. In a rematch of their NXT Takeover Brooklyn 3 match, Gargano and Almas took it to another level, submitting arguably the greatest regular rules match in WWE history. It helped burgeon the growing legend of Johnny Gargano at NXT Takeover events and birthed another in Andrade. Just incredible, no ECW.
- Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa (4/7 – NXT Takeover New Orleans)
I’ve gone on record to say I thought this was the best match in WWE history. It was Hart/Austin except with betrayal driving the hatred. Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa were never hotter than this point, and I don’t know if they’ll ever reach that level again. It was a match that made idiots out of people that parrot fallacies such as “good guys can’t get cheered 100 percent” and “you’ll just cheer for the bad guys.” It was the true main event of Wrestlemania 34 weekend much in the way Sami Zayn vs Shinsuke Nakamura was in 2016. Two great wrestlers who hate each other’s guts, and get the right reaction. WWE should rip this off until the end of time.
- Kazuchika Okada vs Hiroshi Tanahashi 5/4 NJPW
Hiroshi Tanahashi felt like that all-time great that wanted just one more championship. It felt like Magic Johnson in 1991 against Michael Jordan and The Bulls. The crowd wanted it for him, but he was faced with Kazuchika Okada, and deep down everyone knew that IT WAS NOT HAPPENING. But Tanahashi somehow reeled fans in to make them forget what they knew in this match. This is one of the most emotional matches I’ve ever seen, and at the time we didn’t know this would be the opening chapter of what I’ve nicknamed the “The Belt, The Block, & The Briefcase; referencing their 2018 rivalry. It felt like the epilogue in the battle for The Ace of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Okada was just that damn great as he finished off Tana with a single Rainmaker.
- Golden Lovers vs Young Bucks 3/25 – (NJPW Strong Style Evolved)
If I only picked one tag team match to be on this list, this was it no question. The storyline going into the match added to what was a lock to be an athletic marvel. This was a tag match that didn’t have a single guy that was a bad tag. It showed the right tag team main event could be a credible headline act and was the peak of the Bullet Club civil war.
- Kota Ibushi vs Tomohiro Ishii (7/28 NJPW G1)
Sometimes, classics don’t need to be 35 minutes of an emotional drama. Two guys can use near falls, striking, danger, and no selling to create a moment that is so gripping, you’re sucked into a vortex of time and when it’s over you realize only 16 minutes have passed. The most under-appreciated in Tomohiro Ishii took on perhaps the most talented in Kota Ibushi, and this was a masterpiece that any wrestling fan should go out of their way to see. Anytime the two best guys of the of the best G1 Block I’ve ever seen get together, their entry to this list is automatic.
- Kota Ibushi vs Kenny Omega (8/11 – NJPW G1 B Block Final)
Lovers became enemies, and Budokan Hall was home to what was said to not be the full version of what these guys could do with each other. In 22 minutes, Ibushi and Omega beat each with aggressive malice from the second the bell rang while showcasing chemistry and timing that made this dream match well worth the wait. I don’t know if a rematch will ever happen, or what company it will be in but we’ll always have this one to point to.
- Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kota Ibushi (8/12 – NJPW, G1 Final)
Take off the blazer, loosen up the tie, step in the G1 final, THE ACE IS ALIVE! When Hiroshi Tanahashi walked through the vicious slaps of Kota Ibushi, he was walking through 3 years of doubt, 3 years of injuries, and 3 years of searching for the ACE inside him. He emerged on the other side looking at a man who admired him who was fresh off a god like B Block performance in Ibushi. However, on this day, Ibushi’s god, Tanahashi reached into a place we didn’t know he had any more to ride again.
- Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada (6/9 – NJPW Dominion)
Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada will forever be linked by this match. I’m not entirely sure it’s possible for anyone to surpass this performance. They took a dated concept, 2/3 falls and had 3 classics in 64 minutes, showing a level of wrestling moves, psychology, athleticism, callbacks, and flat out greatness that two elite athletes at the peak of their powers rarely if ever reach.
Often greats miss one another due to time, and age. This was the best champion I’ve ever seen against the most driven to have a great match guy I’ve ever seen. From WK 11 to Dominion 2018, this saga was the zenith of the genre and a perfect way to cap off what could be the end of an era within itself. It’s the greatest match of all time.