(by PHIL RIPPA)
Star ratings are a terrible flawed and unreliable method to determine if one will get enjoyment out of a wrestling match and if you live and die by them than I pity you. HOWEVER, they are a wonderful thing to use when you are looking for your next piece in this project. I had originally planned on doing something around “obvious choices” but this worked better.
These are all clearly based on Dave Meltzer’s ratings out of the Wrestling Observer. There are HUGE flaws with the system and honestly his ratings don’t bother me. I am bothered by all the metrics that people try to assign to pro wrestling to use when determining “greatness” that are all based around Dave’s star ratings. Oh gee – I can’t imagine why WWE and New Japan wrestlers dominate this list when those are the only thing that Dave rates. There is a reason that pretty much every single Lucha match as already been picked. Oh and that there is an enormous gap in years from the mid-90s to the mid-00s.
Two other things
- I was going to label the matches I knew Meltzer saw live just so you could factor that in when you do your yelling and screaming about how unjust everything is but then I realized I didn’t hate myself THAT match.
- All the matches that I don’t link directly to can easily be found via Google. Like I mean within the first coupe of results. There are just certain things I am trying to keep more on the down low.
276) STAN HANSEN/BRUISER BRODY vs. DORY & TERRY FUNK – ALL JAPAN REAL WORLD TAG LEAGUE 1984 (12/08/84)
Terry Funk and Stan Hansen are both top of my all time faves. I don’t hate Brody nearly as much as all the cool kids do now. And… well… Dory takes up space. Still this is wild and crazy and just dudes beating the hell out of each other. I will say this a couple of times throughout this that I am not sure how something gets 5 stars when it doesn’t have a finish but this is so enjoyable.
277) TIGER MASK II (Mitsuharu Misawa) vs. KUNIAKI KOBAYASHI – ALL JAPAN (03/09/85)
I guess this would be Misawa’s first “5 star match”. And Kobayashi continues to hate anyone in a Tiger Mask mask. I spent far too long trying to find the right match to link since far too many people have mashed up the info on all the various matches. Y’all need to stop stealing each other’s uploads. Stupid internet.
278) JUMBO TSURUTA/GENICHIRO TENRYU vs. RIKI CHOSHU/YOSHIAKI YATSU – ALL JAPAN (01/28/86 (Taped), 02/01/86 (Aired) – NWA International Tag Team Title)
The pinnacle of the feud between these two teams. Boy did they not like each other. This might have been the match that made me fall in love with Jumbo and Tenryu. Fuck all of you who hate them. Via la tag team wrestling.
279) THE SHEEPHERDERS (Luke Williams/Butch Miller) vs. THE FANTASTICS (Bobby Fulton/Tommy Rogers) – NWA CROCKETT CUP 1986 (04/19/86)
The Sheepherders and Fantastics bring their hatred to Jim Crockett Promotions. So much blood. So much terrible David Crockett. Another in the shitty finishes gets a perfect rating match but if I was there live (which Dave was) seeing what was basically a Puerto Rico match in North Carolina – I might have gone the full monty too.
280) KEIJI MUTOH/SHIRO KOSHINAKA vs. NOBUHIKO TAKADA/AKIRA MAEDA – NEW JAPAN (03/20/87 – IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship)
Baby Muta and not so baby Koshinaka go at it with two of the pillars of UWF. This won’t be for every as if you aren’t really down with the shootstyle you probably won’t be as into this. Also, this is the better of the two matches these teams had during this week.
281) JUSHIN LIGER vs. NAOKI SANO – NEW JAPAN (01/31/90 – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship)
Oh nothing to see here but Sano beating the ever living hell out of Liger. Blood and hate and more blood and mask ripping and a pissed off Liger throwing titles down. Fuck you Shane Douglas! This might need to turn into another “Remedial Wrestling” if I can find all the parts.
282) ATSUSHI ONITA/TARZAN GOTO/EL HIJO DEL SANTO vs. NEGRO CASAS/HORACE BOULDER/TIM PATTERSON – FMW/UWA/WWA (05/16/92)
If you ever find a Sporacle quiz that asks “guys who had a 5 star match” – I have a feeling you are going to struggle with naming Horace Boulder and Tim Patterson. Insane match that might not necessarily age well by it was a thing at the time. Santo and Casas doing their amazing thing in the ring while all the FMW guys brawl all over the fucking place in a random high school in California before a molten crowd.
283) STING’S SQUADRON (Sting/Nikita Koloff/Dustin Rhodes/Ricky Steamboat/Barry Windham) vs. DANGEROUS ALLIANCE (Arn Anderson/Bobby Eaton/Steve Austin/Larry Zbysko/Rick Rude) – WCW WRESTLEWAR 1992 (05/17/92 – WarGames)
The WarGames format at it’s absolute finest. If you haven’t watched this yet – shame on you.
284) CAN-AM EXPRESS (Dan Kroffat/Doug Furnas) vs. KENTA KOBASHI/TSUYOSHI KIKUCHI – ALL JAPAN (05/25/92 – All Asia Tag Team Championship)
“Kenta Kobashi & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi won the All-Asian tag team titles from Dan Kroffat & Doug Furnas on 5/25 in Miyagi in a match said to be one of the greatest tag team matches ever held (now doesn’t that set expectations at an unrealistic level?).” – Dave Meltzer
285) MANAMI TOYOTA vs. TOSHIYO YAMADA – ALL JAPAN WOMEN (08/15/92 – IWA World Title, Hair vs. Hair)
“Best match – Manami Toyota vs. Toshiyo Yamada in a hair vs. hair match on the 8/15 All Japan women’s show. If the match itself wasn’t good enough, and it was, the post match scenario where Yamada got her hair shaved put it over the edge. Yamada should also get a nod for best individual performance, working a 20 minute tag team match that was four stars and coming back five minutes later for a 20 minute singles match that was easily five stars. After Yamada was pinned to lose the match and the barber came in, Toyota suddenly had a change of heart and didn’t want her regular tag partner to get her head shaved. She begged the ref to allow Yamada to not have her head shaved. When the barber got the scissors and started on Yamada’s hair, Toyota grabbed the scissors away and started cutting her own hair. She kept jumping to keep the barber (who nearly ruined this scenario by not “selling” it right) from cutting Yamada’s hair until she was held back and started crying as she watched their haircut while the women in the audience (which only made up 10 percent of the crowd, more on that later) cried with her. I’ve seen more emotional scenes in wrestling and things that give you more goose bumps but this was still a super performance all the way around.” – Dave Meltzer
286) REY MYSTERIO JR/SUPER CALO/WINNERS vs. PSICOSIS/HEAVY METAL/PICUDO – AAA (01/29/93)
“The 1/29 match with Psicosis & Heavy Metal & El Picudo vs. Rey Misterio Jr. & Super Calo & Winners which ended in a double DQ (Misterio and Metal simultaneously dropkicked each other and caught each other in the groin and couldn’t continue) was probably the best Lucha match I’ve ever seen. This is a five-star must-see match with great spots, some of the best dives you’ll ever see in one match, great crowd heat, great ring entrances and even good dancing. I felt it was considerably better than the Santo & Guerrero tag match against Espanto Jr. & Jerry Estrada from the previous week’s show or last February’s Huracan Sevilla vs. Bestia Salvaje match that was generally considered the best lucha match of 1992.” – Dave Meltzer
287) JUSHIN LIGER vs. GREAT SASUKE – NEW JAPAN J CUP (04/16/94 – Semifinals)
The first Super J Cup was my wrestling generation’s wet dream. New Japan basically just let Jushin Liger do his thing and he went “Well I am going get Great Sasuke way the fuck over.” This semifinals match is sometimes forgotten because the Finals with Chris Benoit is equally great. The entire tournament was a huge success for New Japan so yeah, Jushin Liger – greatest booker ever.
288) MANAMI TOYOTA vs. AJA KONG – ALL JAPAN WOMEN BIG EGG UNIVERSE (11/20/94 – V*TOP Five Star Tournament)
For those of you who don’t know – Big Egg Universe was the biggest card in women’s wrestling history. The show featured 23 matches and lasted 10 hours in front of 42,000 fans. It had a entire tournament, a WWF Women’s Title match, 4 shoot matches and some midgets. The show basically told folks in Japan that (at least at that moment) “Hey – we cane make a lot of money on these women’s matches.” At the time (and possibly still now) – the opening round match of Aja vs. Manami was considered the best match on the card.
The Nov. 28, 1994 WON gives you everything you wanted to know about the show.
289) MITSUHARU MISAWA/JUN AKIYAMA vs. STEVE WILLIAMS/JOHNNY ACE – ALL JAPAN (06/07/96 – Double Tag Titles)
A different mix-up of teams for those not as deep into the Japan game (say only used to Misawa teaming with Misawa and Doc only teaming with Gordy). It was really hard to not at least be entertained in some way by All Japan tag matches in the 90s. Also for story marks – this is a good mile post in the journey that goes all the way to the Tag League later that year.
290) SHAWN MICHAELS vs. UNDERTAKER – WWF BADD BLOOD 1997 (10/05/97 – Hell in a Cell)
Personally – I am not sure who one rates a match 5 stars when the finish is one participants dead brother coming down and ripping the door of the cage and interfering. Still – in Michaels/Taker spectacles – I will watch this one a 1000 times over the Mania matches. Also significant for being the first Hell in a Cell match. (With the specter of another significant moment surrounding the event with the death of Brian Pillman.) Dave called it “an absolute classic must-see match” and “one of the greatest cage matches in the history of wrestling”.
291) KENTA KOBASHI vs. JUN AKIYAMA – NOAH (07/10/04 – GHC Heavyweight Title)
(English commentary: https://youtu.be/XzOXMjmq-68)
We have fully moved into a different era for both Kobashi and Akiyama here and if folks have never watched their evolution as workers – this NOAH match isn’t the worst place in the world. Also helpful that they had the motivation of it being NOAH’s biggest card to date, their first Tokyo Dome show. I would listen to arguments that this is the best match in NOAH’s history (though I probably wouldn’t agree with you.)
292) SAMOA JOE vs. CM PUNK – RING OF HONOR (10/16/04 – ROH World Title)
(VQ is Terrible)
For those keeping track at home – this is Joe/Punk II. Y’all fight among yourselves what you think the best of the three matches in this series was. For frame of reference – Meltzer gave the 1st and 3rd matches both **** 1/4.
293) KENTA KOBASHI vs. SAMOA JOE – RING OF HONOR (10/01/05)
Often considered the best match in Ring of Honor history. God – I wish folks would have realized how crazy over Misawa and Kobashi and… oh everyone else… would have been in the states sooner. Anyway – another in the “probably should watch just to say you watched it even if you don’t like it” category.
294) CIMA/MASATO YOSHINO/NARUKI DOI vs. DRAGON KID/GENKI HORIGUCHI/RYO SAITO – RING OF HONOR “SUPERCARD OF HONOR” (03/31/06)
Because of the nature of what Meltzer does and does not give star ratings too – this might be the only time that a Dragon Gate match will have gotten 5 stars. Your mileage will definitely vary as a lot will depend on your feelings towards the normal style of match you are used to seeing from first Toryumon and then Dragon Gate.
295) JOHN CENA vs. CM PUNK – WWF MONEY IN THE BANK 2011 (07/17/11 – WWE Title, Cena is fired if he loses)
I am at the point where this is going to be a Savage/Steamboat or Flair/Steamboat match for the younger generation in that it will become a stock answer to “what was your favorite match growing up?” Oh, I am all sure you were shocked – SHOCKED – when the WWE blew the good thing they stumbled into in the span of a week.
As for what Meltzer said – find the July 25, 2011 Observer. There is A LOT of comparing Punk to Brian Pillman.
296) MICHAEL ELGIN vs. DAVEY RICHARDS – RING OF HONOR (03/31/12 – ROH World Championship)
If you look around, a popular opinion is that this the “worst 5-star match” around (The Bret/Owen Cage match is the other one).
“The biggest positive was the main event on the second show, an ROH title match where Davey Richards retained the title beating Michael Elgin in what was among the best matches in the history of the company, and with all respect to Undertaker vs. HHH and the Dragon Gate trios match, the best match of the weekend. Not only was it a great match, but it was a breakthrough match as well, at least to those who saw it.” – Dave Meltzer
297) HIROSHI TANAHASHI vs. MINORU SUZUKI – NEW JAPAN (10/8/12 – IWGP Heavyweight Championship)
“The King of Pro Wrestling show on 10/8 from Sumo Hall in Tokyo featured IWGP heavyweight champion Hiroshi Tanahashi retaining his title against Minoru Suzuki in a match that not only was the best match of this year, but a match at a completely different level from anything this year. Tanahashi, the best in-ring performer in the industry today, always delivers on a big show, but in this case he had to completely adjust his style. Suzuki, the former Pancrase champion works a unique style and the two worked body parts and delivered an unreal level of selling and made every move count. While not the same style, the closest thing I can compare it to where the Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Toshiaki Kawada matches in the 90s.” – Dave Meltzer
298) HIROSHI TANAHASHI vs. KATSUYORI SHIBATA – NEW JAPAN “DESTRUCTION IN KOBE” (09/21/14)
“The top match on 9/21 was Tanahashi vs. Shibata, which to me, reminded me of Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin for its sense of realism and feel of being an epic match. It was far more physical, which I don’t necessarily take as a positive, and part of me takes as a strong negative. There’s a line between physical entertaining wrestling that tells a story, and just hitting each other as hard as you can and not having them block it. This crossed way over that line. Still, if they had hit each other half as hard and done the same match, it would have still been a match of the year candidate, because of story telling, pacing and execution.
It felt as real and as gripping as any match this year, even being left with serious remorse and guilt after watching it. It’s the exact style that Tanahashi criticized in his autobiography, saying that you can get the crowd with those kind of matches, but then you’ve set a standard that you can’t top. He also noted that while it does appeal to a certain part of the audience, he felt it limited its appeal to that one part of the audience. He favored a more artful style of athletic and psychological wrestling which he felt had more widespread appeal. But the match did also contain those elements, making it a complete classic, topping their G-1 match which was among the best matches of the year.” – Dave Meltzer
299) HIROSHI TANAHASHI vs. KAZUCHIKA OKADA – NEW JAPAN WRESTLE KINGDOM 10 (01/04/16 – IWGP Heavyweight Title)
Almost lost in the swirl that was early leaving New Japan to go to the WWE, Tanahashi/Okada had what might have been the final chapter in their story with Okada FINALLY getting his big win over Tanahashi.
“Over the next four years, the Tanahashi vs. Okada program became the standard of what fans of a generation in Japan will look back at as the legendary rival of the era, like Mitsuharu Misawa against Toshiaki Kawada, Jumbo Tsuruta against Genichiro Tenryu, Tatsumi Fujinami against Riki Choshu, Antonio Inoki against Stan Hansen, Jack Brisco against Dory Funk Jr., Giant Baba against Gene Kiniski and Rikidozan against The Destroyer were remembered in previous generations.
The two elevated the business outside the ring, and the standard of a main event championship match inside the ring. But nothing lasts forever.
Going into Wrestle Kingdom 10, it was clear that even though there had not been a singles match between the two in one year, this was like the closing stretch of Brisco-Funk or Austin-Rock, where they went out there, no doubt still very good, but the peak was over. Most feuds are only strong for a few months, and this was four years as the two top guys in the promotion.
This was a classic on par with the Tanahashi vs. Nakamura G-1 final match.”
300) KENNY OMEGA vs. TETSUYA NAITO – NEW JAPAN G1 2016 (08/13/16 “Day 18”, Block B Finals)
Kenny Omega’s rise to main player on the New Japan roster (with the goal of him taking AJ Styles spot as top foreigner) occurred during this year’s G1 Climax. The culmination being this match and the Finals against Hirooki Goto the next night. Meltzer described this match by saying “Omega vs. Naito was an amazing match… it should go down as one of the greatest bouts in G-1 history.”