135. Will Ospreay vs Zack Sabre Jr (NJPW New Japan Cup 2022)

There was one NJPW Meltzer-rated 5* match I hadn’t seen from 2022…Yet another Will Ospreay match, his bout against Zack Sabre Jr at the New Japan Cup tournament. Would it fall short of 5* perfection, as I feel most Ospreay matches do? Or would Sabre Jr temper William’s excesses?

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134. Will Ospreay (c) vs Kenny Omega (IWGP US Championship, NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 17)

Wrestle Kingdom 17 has been and gone…and the only match people are talking about is Will Ospreay vs Kenny Omega for the IWGP US Championship. Of course, this dream match was the bout to put bums on seats. Forget White vs Okada; that was old hat with an obvious outcome. Every wrestling fan I talked to suddenly had an interest in NJPW. It’s a bout that would bring in every type of wrestling fan. Could they live up to the lofty expectations? Almost…almost…

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132. Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs Minoru Suzuki (IWGP Championship, NJPW King of Pro Wrestling 2012)

For ten years, there was a hole in my soul. For ten years, I was without a monthly wrestling magazine. I loved Power Slam back in the day, and no other wrestling mag would do. In 2021, I happened to be browsing the shelves of WHSmith and found Inside The Ropes, the spiritual successor to the hallowed Power Slam. Finally, that hole in my soul was slowly being healed with every issue that I purchased (handily, you can even buy a PDF version, so you don’t even have to leave the house to buy it! What a world we live in…).

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131. Zack Sabre Jr vs Shingo Takagi (NJPW New Japan Cup 2022)

So here it is…the last on Meltzer’s list of NJPW’s 5* rated matches! I haven’t managed to watch any AEW/ROH 5* matches, but I can watch WWE/NJPW ones!!! The clash between Zack Sabre Jr. and Shingo Takagi at New Japan Cup 2022 was the last one to strike off my list. And, unfortunately, I thought it was just an average match, not a patch on Sabre Jr’s earlier clash against Will Ospreay at the same event.

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124. Will Ospreay (c) vs Tetsuo Naito (IWGP US Championship Match, NJPW Battle Autumn 2022)

Stop the press! Pencil in the date: on January 4th, 2023, at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 17, Will Ospreay will go one on one with…Kenny Omega!!! A dream match, and one will no doubt be awarded a million stars by Dave Meltzer. This year alone, Ospreay has been a part of six 5* (and 5*+) matches as rated by Meltzer. His latest one came at NJPW Battle Autumn 2022 against Tetsuo Naito. Of course, I had to watch it. And while a high 4* match, it never reached the heights to call it a truly great match…

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122. FTR (c) vs Aussie Open (IWGP Tag Team Championship, NJPW Royal Quest II 2022)

The Revival was my favourite tag team in the original NXT (well, alongside DIY). Of course, as soon as they reached the main roster, they were soon misused and forgotten about. After being released by WWE, they soon regained all the potential that Vince McMahon squandered. This year, they’ve had three 5* matches, as rated by Dave Meltzer. Their latest 5* match took place at NJPW Royal Quest, in good old England! I caught it on NJPW World, although I would have loved to have been there.

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114. Antonio Inoki vs Hulk Hogan (NJPW IWGP Championship League 20/6/1983)

During scrolling through NJPW World’s list of ‘Recommended’ Antonio Inoki matches, I came across (yet another?) dream match: Inoki vs Hulk Hogan. Yes, you read that right: one of the biggest names in Japanese pro wrestling against one of the biggest names in American pro wrestling. Not only that, but it was for an early version of the IWGP Championship! Being a Hogan match, I didn’t expect much from it…and it met my low expectations.

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113. Antonio Inoki vs Bruiser Brody (NJPW Big Fight Series II 18/4/1985)

NJPW World’s ‘Recommended’ section is full of Antonio Inoki matches, to mourn the passing of the wrestling legend and creator of NJPW. I skimmed through the line-up, and settled on Inoki vs Bruiser Brody. I’ve never seen Brody in action before, and after the insanity that was Inoki vs Great Antonio (click here for my review), I hoped for a decent match to view. And Inoki vs Brody was far more than decent!

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112. Antonio Inoki vs Great Antonio (NJPW 8/12/1977)

Rest in Peace, Antonio Inoki. One of pro-wrestling’s true legends, Inoki assed away today at the age of 79. He did it all: formed his own wrestling promotion, became a multiple time World champion (and unacknowledged WWF champion!), fought Muhammed Ali, headlined a show in North Korea that holds the highest attendance for a wrestling show in history, became elected to the Japanese House of Councilors…oh, and is a member of the WWE Hall of Fame. Those are just a few of his accomplishments. NJPW World’s ‘Recommended Section’ is full of Inoki’s most famous matches. But I wanted to watch one of his most infamous matches against the Great Antonio.

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111. Tomohiro Ishii vs. Shingo Takagi (NJPW G1 Climax 30)

After watching the first G1 Climax clash between Tomohiro Ishii and Shingo Takagi at G1 Climax 29 (click here for my review), I just had to watch their second clash at the following year’s G1 Climax…and that following year just happened to be the year that Covid changed the world. So this took place in front of a very small, masked-up crowd at Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, a venue with a maximum of 2000 spectators. Would the two assemble a cracker of a match like they did a year before? Or would this sequel reap diminishing returns? The latter, I’m afraid.

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