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Dave Meltzer's 2019 5-star matches: Okada, Ospreay, Moxley

12 matches earned Dave Meltzer's five star rating in 2019, dominated by (you guessed it) New Japan Pro Wrestling.

In chronological order, here's what made the list including some notes from the corresponding Wrestling Observer Newsletter. We'll focus on the nine matches that cleared the five star rating in another post.

Okada vs. SANADA | New Japan Cup Finals
March 24, 2019 

"Kazuchika Okada captured the 2019 New Japan Cup and as expected, will headline Madison Square Garden on 4/6 and challenge Jay White for the IWGP heavyweight title. Okada won the biggest and best New Japan Cup tournament in history, and also had what was voted the two best matches of the tournament in his semifinal and final match. Okada scored consecutive wins over Michael Elgin, Mikey Nicholls, Will Ospreay, Tomohiro Ishii and Seiya Sanada to win the 32-man tournament for the second time in his career. He had previously won the 2013 tournament, in its former 16-man form, with wins over Lance Archer, Karl Anderson, Toru Yano and Hirooki Goto.

This match was a classic and fantastic climax to the tournament, which wasn’t easy since the semifinals were so great and the every round had great matches."

Will Ospreay vs. Bandido | New Japan Super Juniors Tournament
May 23, 2019

"To me, this was the match of the tournament so far. It was even better than their New York match, and that was, to me, the match of Mania weekend. The big pop was when Bandido finally got his 21 plex on Ospreay, he landed on his feet and hit a Spanish fly."

Dustin Rhodes vs. Cody | AEW Double or Nothing
May 25, 2019

"The match was probably the most emotional match in North America since maybe the Atlantis vs. Ultimo Guerrero mask match at the 2014 CMLL anniversary show. Blood is very much a debatable issue today. Blading, largely removed from major promotions today as an anachronism of the past, did work big for this audience and is still effective when used judiciously. I’m not a fan of it, but when not overdone it can be effective in getting matches and certain storylines over.

The audience was crying multiple times during the match. Even though Cody was the spiritual leader, his working heel style worked for the match because for it to work, Dustin had to be the sympathetic character. Cody won, but it wasn’t over. Dustin started taking off one of his boots while a loud “Thank you Dustin” chant started. Cody, who had left, returned, and told him that he doesn’t get to retire now, and that a long time back he had signed an open contract for a tag team match in Jacksonville against The Young Bucks. Cody then said, “I don’t need a partner, I don’t need a friend, I need my older brother.” That was it. The whole building was in tears in a way that may happen every few years in Mexico, on occasion in Japan, but hasn’t happened in the U.S. for a match in decades. When it was over, I thought the show should have ended, because nothing could top that."

Dragon Lee vs. Will Ospreay | New Japan Dominion
June 9, 2019

"Ospreay beat Lee to follow his Super Juniors tournament win with an IWGP jr. title win, clearly making him the star of the division. This was one of the best matches of the year. But they had an absolutely insane spot where Ospreay was sitting on the barricade when Lee hit him with a tope and both went flying over the announcers table, talking former wrestler Milano Collection A.T out with them. Because of the set up, that was incredibly dangerous as well.

Not only has Ospreay been the best performer in the world for the past several weeks, but New Japan is presenting him as a landmark junior heavyweight, breaking Takagi’s streak, winning the title as well as being a contender for every heavyweight."

Kota Ibushi vs. Will Ospreay | New Japan G1 Climax
July 18, 2019 

"The story here is both were injured legit. So from a crazy athletic standpoint, it was not as good as their Tokyo Dome match, but for drama and story telling it was much better."

Jon Moxley vs. Tomohiro Ishii | New Japan G1 Climax
July 19, 2019

"I think this was the first time I ever saw a match where at the 17 second mark I already felt it was going to be a **** match".

Black Taurus/Laredo Kid/Puma King vs. Bandido/Flamita/Rey Horus | PWG 16th Anniversary Show
July 26, 2019

"The 7/26 show still drew a sellout crowd of more than 600 fans and featured an incredible match that some were talking was the best in the history of the company with Bandido & Flamita & Rey Horus beating Laredo Kid & Black Taurus & Puma King. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but would say it was the best PWG match I’ve seen since The Young Bucks & Adam Cole vs. Will Ospreay & Matt Sydal & Ricochet many years back, and would be among the best U.S. bouts of the past decade. This was nothing but big moves like futuristic Lucha Libre. Tons of dives and moves that nobody had ever seen before."

Okada vs. SANADA | New Japan G1 Climax
August 3, 2019

"This broke the record-setting G-1 unbeaten streak of 13 matches dating back to last year. It was an incredible match that, because of the timing of the pinfall and the drama of using the time, made a great match classic. The emotion of Sanada beating Okada when everyone was convinced they were going to a draw was evident as they showed the fans in the front row and women all had tears in their eyes. This was the best show so far in G-1 and one of the best shows of the year."

Shingo Tagaki vs. Tetsuya Naito | New Japan G1 Climax
August 4, 2019

"This match was so physical. The idea was to tease going the 30:00 but at no point was this telegraphed or did they slow down to pace or stall for a long match. Naito used a brainbuster but Takagi came back with a sick lariat. He went for last of the dragon, but Naito countered with a Canadian Destroyer and the running destino for a near fall. Naito got the pin with Destino and afterwards praised Takagi and said that some time we have to do this again."

Kazuchika Okada vs. Kota Ibushi | New Japan G1 Climax
August 10, 2019

"Then, in what was the spot of the tournament, Ibushi ran in with the Bom Ba Ye and out of nowhere, Okada dropkicked him. Okada escaped from the kamigoye and used the same cradle he used to beat Jericho and Omega, but Ibushi kicked out. Ibushi got the pin after two Kamagoyes."

Bandido vs. Dragon Lee | PWG BOLA Night 2
September 22, 2019

"Having been in the same spot nearly 31 years earlier for the famous Flair-Steamboat match in Chicago, where, at the finish, everyone around us proclaimed it as the greatest match they had ever seen, when this was over, my reaction was, it was better than Flair-Steamboat in every way except the historical aspect of seeing a “real” world title change in an era when that meant something.

This was about as good of a 12:00 match as you could possibly see. It had super wrestling, super flying, insane spots, two super charismatic guys, and a crowd going nuts. I’d call it the best singles match I’ve seen since going to PWG and aside from the Young Bucks & Adam Cole vs. Will Ospreay & Ricochet & Matt Sydal match a few years back, and maybe the six-man tag this summer, one of the three best overall."

David Starr vs. Jordan Devlin | OTT
October 26, 2019

"Between the fantastic video building the match where Starr champions the independent scene against Devlin having signed with WWE, and Devlin taunting back saying that Starr has attended multiple WWE tryouts and only has this attitude because WWE won’t take him. The heat was some of the most amazing you’ll ever see, which isn’t unusual in that building. It was like a cross between PWG with the brutality of one of the A-Kid classics in Spain.

I’d go ***** for this one and I think it’s the rare kind of a match that will appeal to every kind of fan except the ones who need great production values or they won’t accept it. But it felt like a match that viewed live would be one of those matches that you would never forgot that you were at. It would be better knowing the story because it was a story match. But it was so good with the fight feel that you would love the match not knowing the background, like the pro wrestling version of Corrales/Castillo (one of the great boxing fights ever which was one of those fights that even people who didn’t know either fighter ended up in awe of) or Zombie-Leonard Garcia in MMA. The crowd was molten."