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Dave Meltzer's 2019 top-rated matches: Cole-Gargano, G1 tourney

Cole vs. Gargano

While 12 matches earned Dave Meltzer's legendary and controversal five star rating in 2019, nine matches scored marks above that in the last 12 months, a mix of New Japan, NXT, AEW, and even an AEW match.

The nine matches that scored above five stars is up three up from 2018 and up five from 2017. 

In chronological order, here's what made the list including some notes from the corresponding Wrestling Observer Newsletter:

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kenny Omega | New Japan Wrestle Kingdom 13 | *****3/4 
January 4, 2019

"Live I went *****½, and most of the feedback was in that range (mostly *****1/4 to ******) but I need to be able to watch it without interruption to give a fair rating. In the building, this was maybe the best live match I ever saw. I thought it was better than the Toyota vs. Yamada hair match, but it didn’t have the screaming girls heat. It was not as emotional as the famous Tsuruta vs. Misawa match, but it was a much better worked match. It was well above any Flair-Steamboat and I saw two of the best Flair-Steamboats in history.

Because of the attention to detail, the match was significantly better on second viewing, particularly since everything built to the end result. It was a great overall presentation in an arena where that is expected, and where the succession and memories of matches are such that the big matches can’t just rely on your greatest moves formula."

Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano (2/3 falls) | NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn  | *****1/2
April 5, 2019

"They had one of the greatest crowds for a big show in WWE major show history, ranking with the 1997 Calgary PPV and some of the Chicago shows. The show looked great going in on paper and every match lived up to, or significantly exceeded expectations, notably the Johnny Gargano win of the vacant NXT title over Adam Cole, which I’d call the greatest match in WWE history.

What was interesting about this match was it was all about the peak. While watching the match, it just felt like very good match after the first two falls. But it just exploded in the third fall. It was helped by the great crowd. "

Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano | NXT TakeOver XXV | *****1/4
June 1, 2019

"Adam Cole won the NXT title in the main event over Johnny Gargano in a match that I’d consider one of the greatest matches in WWE history. On the positive, Gargano could end up with more five-star matches than everyone else in WWE combined historically as long as he remains in the main event position here. The downside is that they had promoted the NXT title situation around Gargano’s long quest for the title, which he finally won at the last Takeover in Brooklyn. There’s nothing worse for a babyface to do the long chase, win, and then lose right away. 

The two followed their two of three fall match with a one fall match that went 31:45, ending with Cole winning clean. The first time I heard about Cole and the NXT title was years ago, when he was in ROH and WWE wanted to bring him in but he still had a long time left on his ROH deal. That led to the Sinclair tampering charges which saw everyone from ROH have to wait until long after their contracts expired before WWE would make a solid contract offer. But that period ended.

Gargano is easily on the best run of matches of anyone in WWE history. Gargano has now had 14 Takeover matches, with the last nine being singles matches. He’s averaged 4.83 stars per singles match. He’s been voted the best match on seven of the last eight Takeover shows, and best match on a Takeover show is not like best match on a WWE PPV show, since the standard is so much higher."

Shingo Takagi vs. Will Ospreay | New Japan Best of the Super Juniors |  *****3/4
June 5, 2019

"This year’s Best of the Super Juniors tournament, besides generally considered the greatest ever, was built from the start on the idea of Ospreay and Shingo Takagi meeting in the finals. Takagi was pushed as unbeatable, not having lost a fall in New Japan since signing in October. He went 9-0, beating Taiji Ishimori in the deciding match on 5/31 in Ehime.

Even though Takagi is Japanese, the story of the tournament was about Ospreay as the come-from-behind guy trying to be the dragon-slayer. Takagi was positioned as the unbeatable Dragon. To say they had a great match does this a disservice. Ospreay is just a different level. And his promos in their own way are completely compelling."

Okada vs. Will Ospreay | New Japan G1 Climax | *****3/4
July 20, 2019

"I’d go so far as to say had Ospreay beat Okada, and it was that night where when watching it felt special and the time to do it, it would have been the best match of the year. With Okada winning and not having what would have been this incredible emotional ending, it simply challenged for the top spot. This was an all-time classic match."

Shingo Takagi vs. Tomohiro Ishii | New Japan G1 Climax | *****1/2 
August 8, 2019

"To show how much the audience knows who is really good and who isn’t, they were up for this when it started like it was an Okada vs. Tanahashi match with a guy who is 4-3 and another who is 2-5. Just the most brutal hard hitting match you’ll see. It was incredible and by the latter stages, you were just in awe of both guys. Kevin Kelly screamed how these two aren’t human. On the flip side, this match was everything Tanahashi used to warn against. When a match is built on just how hard you can hit each other (more or less in safe places but still) and stand up to it and take it, it becomes a point of no return. Then again, a lot of modern top level pro wrestling is past the point of no return to the previous generation.

But Ishii walking to the ring looks like his head may be ready to fall off his shoulders, and then he comes out and does another performance like this? And he’s 43, so the argument that this may shorten his career falls apart because few guys in history have been as good as he is at this age and many are done being effective, plus he’s 5-foot-4 and has developed a style where everyone thinks he’s a powerhouse and nobody ever says he’s too small." 

Jay White vs. Kota Ibushi | New Japan G1 Climax | *****1/2
August 12, 2019

"Kota Ibushi defeated Jay White in one of the best G-1 Classic finals in history on 8/12 at Budokan Hall, ending what is largely conceded to be the greatest tournament in pro wrestling history. The finale was the perfect ending of a five week journey. Ibushi had established himself as the ultimate face, and White, with his entourage, as the worst kind of heels."

Walter vs. Tyler Bate | NXT UK TakeOver | *****1/4 
August 31, 2019

"The 8/31 NXT U.K. Takeover show featured one of the best matches in company history with Walter retaining the NXT title in the main event over Tyler Bate. It was a classic big-man, little-man match, but telling the story that the little man has enormous strength. Of course from a logic standpoint it’s backwards in the sense his attempts at using strength failed early, and then his back was worked on, but they worked late. But that’s pro wrestling babyface psychology to elicit pops. The two went 42:11 before Walter got the pin with a running clothesline."

The Young Bucks vs. The Lucha Bros (ladder match) | AEW All Out | *****1/4
August 31, 2019

"The show featured arguably the best ladder match in history, a series of car crashes where Pentagon Jr. & Fenix retained the AAA tag titles over The Young Bucks.

Fenix and Nick were climbing and Matt had Pentagon in a tombstone position for a Meltzer driver but it was broken up. Nick was climbing, Pentagon shoved him off the ladder, Nick caught his foot on the top rope, tripped a little and went face first into two tables on the floor. That was not planned to go that way and he was lucky it was his forehead that hit the tables first, but that was the one spot that looked the most dangerous. Matt unmasked Pentagon. Fans booed that. Matt was about to get the belt when Pentagon, while covering his face, tipped the ladder over and Matt took a scary bump. They used a package piledriver by Pentagon with Fenix’s double foot stomp off the top rope spike, the zero fear, on Matt outside the ring onto a ladder bridging the apron and barricade. With both Bucks done, Fenix & Pentagon climbed up to get the belts to win."