Here are two of the very few things I know for sure in this world: New Japan Pro Wrestling promoted a lot of great matches in 2018, and late December is the time to reflect and publish Best Of [Current Year] lists on the internet. These two phenomena have combined to bring you this article!
If you read With Spandex’s Best and Worst of NJPW column, you already know I thought so many matches in this company this year were awesome. To thin that herd down for this article, I considered a few criteria:
- Was the match technically well-executed?
- Did it tell a story?
- Was it engaging/entertaining?
- Did this all happen in a way that made sense?
- Would someone think, “Wow, that ruled,” or however they express gut-level enthusiasm about wrestling after watching this match?
Even following these guidelines, there were so many runners up and so many great wrestlers who didn’t end up on this list. (There’s also a galaxy brain version of this article in my head with at least three Toru Yano matches on it.) As much as it almost physically pained me to narrow this down to only ten entries, here are the top ten NJPW matches of 2018, links included.
10. Kota Ibushi vs. Tomohiro Ishii, G1 Climax 28
When Ibushi and Ishii went forehead-to-forehead in the preview tag match for their G1 bout, everyone could tell it was going to be something special, and it was. People sometimes forget that Ibushi can shift into this hyper-violent alien gear. It’s something he didn’t get to do that much in a year in which he spent so much time in the less prominent half of a romance storyline and getting victimized by Cody. But Ishii brings that out of the Golden Star here, the old school, insanely tough guy provoking Ibushi to unleash his inner, also very tough guy to defeat him.