Throughout the week leading into December 31st, we'll take you back to some of Dave Meltzer's top-rated matches of the past year, starting with the five star matches and ending up with a seven star classic.
15 matches got the five star treatment while six matches garnered ratings above that level.
What follows is an edited version of Dave's writeup from the match from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, available in full for subscribers. Also, we want to give a big shoutout to Cagematch.net who makes research for this list ridiculously easy.
Hiromu Takahashi vs. Taiji Ishimori
NJPW Best of the Super Juniors Finals | June 4, 2018
"Takahashi and Ishimori had what could be argued was the year’s best match, and definitely the greatest finale in the long history of the Best of the Super Juniors tournament, on 6/4 at Korakuen Hall.
It was not only the best match of the tournament, but one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. Emotionally, physically and mentally, it would be in the handful of matches, five so far, that I’d give ****** to. The only negative is not wanting to reward too much dangerous activity as Takahashi has such a lack of looking at his future, which makes him incredible today, but pro wrestling is a marathon, not a sprint. Ironically, his opponent, the current IWGP jr. champion, is becoming the ultimate historical sprinter, compared to both the brilliance and self-destructive long-term performances of the Dynamite Kid.
Considering the performance Takahashi put on in the Ishimori match, and consider that was only the No. 2 match of his current run, and now he’s facing Ospreay at Dominion, who tore it up every night himself, and they’re facing each other on what is New Japan’s second biggest event of the year, the goal would be to have the greatest match of the year, or die trying. But they do not have the pressure on that Okada and Omega have. They can have the 10th or 15th best match of the year and people will rave about it.
So in the first big spot, Takahashi went for his sunset flip power bomb and Ishimori did a backflip out of it. They hit hard elbows on the foot back and forth. They ended up in the bleachers and Takahashi ran from one side of the arena to the other in the walkway and hit Ishimori with a dropkick on the floor. He then went to power bomb Ishimori down the stars, but Ishimori turned that into a huracanrana sending Takahashi rolling down an entire staircase. Ishimori threw him into the post and gave him an amazing sliding German suplex. Takahashi finally came back hitting the sunset flip power bomb to the floor.
After working his safest big match of his life with Kushida, Takahashi decided to make up for it here. Takahashi followed with a wheelbarrow pancake on the floor and then a dropkick off the apron. Ishimori came back with a dynamite plunger and a crossface and then the bloody cross. He had him in he submission and the ref was about to stop it and just then Takahashi made the ropes. The timing of reading the crowd and the ref and getting to the ropes at the peak point was perfect here. Takahashi’s selling her was fantastic. Takahashi did a belly to belly into the corner and hit the dynamite plunger for a near fall. Takahashi did a front rolling cradle bomb off the middle rope for a near fall. Ishimori did a reverse huracanrana and Takahashi got up and did a reverse huracanrana and both collapsed. Ishimori landed badly on the second one. They teased a double knockout but both got up before ten.
They did a big elbow exchange and Takahashi went down. Ishimori did a jumping knee and killer clothesline but Takahashi kicked out at one. Ishimori did a Woo dropkick and running double knees, followed by a tombstone into double knees for another near fall. Ishimori used a bloody cross and Takahashi reversed into an armbar and Ishimori power bombed him, and then Takahashi got the triangle on for the first time. Ishimori tried a power bomb but Takahashi blocked him. But Ishimori was able to power bomb him into the turnbuckles. Ishimori used a uranage and then went for the 450, but Takahashi got his knees up. Takahashi was then selling his knee. Ishimori went for a huracanrana but Takahashi reversed back into a triangle. Ishimori got out with a power bomb. Takahashi used a double arm piledriver and followed putting on the triangle again. Ishimori made the ropes. Ishimori came back with the bloody cross but Takahashi powered out and gave him a Death Valley bomb into the turnbuckles and followed with the time bomb for the pin.
Takahashi then did an interview and said he doesn’t want to be called the Best of the Super Juniors winner, and the goal is the title and challenged Ospreay. Ospreay came out and said, “Well done. We’re all so proud of you.” Then Ospreay showed his belt and said that this proves he’s the junior heavyweight champion of the world and noted he’s beaten Takahashi twice. He said he’d see him in Osaka for Dominion. Takahashi then said that this is our Super Junior tournament and the whole building was on its feet clapping for him including Liger and Milano Collection A.T. at ringside. He said that five years ago he was right here at Korakuen Hall and his dream was to win the IWGP jr. title and bring it back here to Korakuen Hall. Naito, Evil, Sanada and Bushi came out to congratulate him.
The trophy he got broke in the celebration."