wrestling / Columns

Csonka’s Top 12 Matches of 2019 (So Far): Gargano vs. Cole, Shingo vs. Ospreay, More

July 8, 2019 | Posted by Larry Csonka
NXT Takeover: New York Adam Cole Johnny Gargano

WELCOME back, back to the column that makes lists and hopes that you enjoy them. This week’s column will look back the first six-months of 2019 and will share my top 12 matches of 2019 so far. In order for a match to make the list, it had to have taken place sometime between January 1 and June 30 of 2019, and had to rate on my list at least ****¾. I am trying to create a best of playlist here with the idea behind it being for the person who has watched no wrestling in 2019 and are looking for the best things they missed. One thing that I have realized over the past few years as I have constantly upped the quantity of wrestling that I have been watching from all over the world, is that since 2014 or so, things have constantly been getting better and better. In terms of in ring quality, we’re really in a golden age with some spectacular performers putting on bigger, better, and more amazing matches and it’s an absolute joy to cover. Remember, this is just one man’s opinion; I hope that you enjoy, and feel free to share your thoughts and or list. It’s wrestling, we love it and will disagree. The only rules are “have a take, be respectful of other’s opinions and don’t be a dick.”

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12. From NXT Takeover Phoenix: Ricochet vs. Johnny Gargano [****¾]: This match was an absolutely beautiful piece of business, and was in the clubhouse as WWE’s match of the year at the time. These are two of my absolute favorites in wrestling, Ricochet is one of the best highfliers who keeps evolving and Gargano is one of the best overall in the business. To me this was a tremendous battle of one upsmanship, that escalated nearly perfectly into a closing stretch that to the match to the next level and led to the title change.

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11. From Dragon Gate Truth Gate – Pac vs. KZY [****¾]: Since his WWE departure, Pac hit the ground running, returning home to Dragon Gate, having great matches, and traveling all while boosting attendances for all involved. He’s a name people wanted unleashed, and they are willing to pay to see him. It has all going to plan for him, but he was missing that one top tier performance to make him an elite player. This match, in concert with KZY, was that performance. This was 25-minutes (it never overstayed its welcome) and mixed in beautiful and athletic in ring action along with extremely strong character work, a main event anywhere in the world in front of a hot and invested crowd. The near falls really delivered as the crowd was almost willing KZY to survive and win the title. He didn’t, he failed, but proved in that failure that he has what it takes to be a champion and big time player for the promotion.

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10. From NJPW WrestleKingdom 13: Kenny Omega vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi [****¾]: This was an overall excellent piece of business, with the ruthless youngster trying to viciously take out the veteran that he feels is taking his spot. When Omega was locked into a more heel mode the match really thrived, but it felt a bit wishy-washy at times, not fully committed. But they rallied, the story was beautiful overall, the work was excellent, and one more time, the ace rides again.

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9. From Whitewolf Wrestling Total Rumble 9: A-Kid vs. Will Ospreay [****¾]: A-Kid started gaining more fame and popularity last year when he had what many considered a five star match against Zack Sabre Jr at Total Rumble 8. He looked to follow that up in a match with big Willie the banger machine. This was an absolutely amazing match, with an insanely invested and hot crowd, that created one of those atmospheres where everything felt like it mattered and that they were hanging on their every move. This is 30-minutes of amazingly paced wrestling, and one that shows how good Ospreay is and that can instantly make you a fan of A-Kid. The pacing, the near falls, the crowd living and dying with A-Kid throughout was just so great and while A-Kid failed in the end, he lost absolutely nothing as his stock continues to grow with efforts like this. Take the time to catch this for free on Youtube.

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8. From NJPW BOSJ 26 (Night 8): Will Ospreay vs. Bandido [****¾]: Up and to this point, Bandido has had a very understated tournament… that was until this match. This was an absolutely amazing, must-see match that actually surpassed the Mania weekend effort. Everything clicked and they had an amazing crowd; the action was great, with some tremendous change of pace moments and some excellent drama in the second half that did an excellent job of making you question who would win. This ruled hard, and is in the clubhouse for match of the tournament right now. These fellsas are good.

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7. From OTT WrestleRama III: WALTER vs. David Starr [****¾]: These two have had a rich rivalry spanning many countries and promotions, and with WALTER losing his OTT Title to Jordan Devlin (an awesome match), Starr was looking to get into title contention by beating WALTER here after failing in MANY attempts. I though that the match smartly played off of past meetings but excelled through Starr’s character work as well as trying a new gameplan to finally beat the Big Daddy, and while it largely worked, it was Starr’s arrogance that ended up costing him as he tried to win via DQ with the Eddie Guerrero belt spot, only for Devlin to put a stop to that bullshit. Starr’s insistence on attacking Devlin led to his ultimate downfall as WALTER choked him out after an absolutely tremendous and emotionally charged match and effort from both men. If you aren’t watching these two in 2019, you’re really missing out.

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6. From OTT Scrappermania V: WALTER vs. Jordan Devlin [****¾]: This was a rematch of their previous MOTY candidate, and the crowd was absolutely amazing before the bell even started, setting the stage for an electric match. The crowd loved Devlin, and absolutely loathed anything and everything WALTER did. Everything just clicked, from the effortless work, the amazing crowd, and the story of Devlin trying to slay the beast and win the title. The fans were living with every success of Devlin and dying anytime WALTER took control and started hurting their guy. Devlin finally defeated the monster with the package piledriver and the crowd reaction was just unreal. The match had emotion, a passionate crowd, and ended the way it needed too with the hero standing tall. It was beautiful.

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5. From ROH/NJPW G1 Supercard: Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya Naito [****¾]: The chemistry between these two remains unreal and they killed it again. Ibushi finally wins gold in an amazing match with a molten crowd. This was exactly the kind of high caliber/phenomenal match that the show needed, and more importantly, it was the major win that Ibushi needed to be seen at that next level. People know that he’s a great wrestler, but he needed that major title win to not only live up to his Gods in Tanahashi & Nakamura, but to finally bee seen at that that main event level. Naito doesn’t need the title and I was thrilled to see they didn’t go 50/50 with the booking here.

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4. From NJPW Dominion 2019: Will Ospreay vs. Dragon Lee [****¾]: This was an amazing and insane match, with Ospreay coming off of the MOTY contender against Shingo and making the most of his BOSJ win by winning the championship here. Both guys were absolutely great here, and Lee may have lost, but looked great in doing so, putting in another top notch effort. A mix of tremendous pacing, ambitious athleticism, and just two guys working extremely well together allowed this to be a complete success, and finishes Ospreay’s BOSJ tournament run and sets up his first title match with Eagles, who beat him in the BOSJ. Ospreay’s case for most outstanding performer of 2019 continues to grow.

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3. From NJPW NJ Cup (Day 3): Tetsuya Naito vs. Kota Ibushi [*****]: Ibushi vs. Naito is a perfect example of two guys that always bring out the best in each other. Ibushi not only moves on, but also lays claim to an IC Title shot in the future (and is getting it at the G1 Supercard). This was an absolutely amazing match, filled with fire, aggression, a molten crowd and two of the very best in the world delivering a match that could main event any show in the world. This is a must see MOTY contender.

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2. From NXT Takeover New York: Johnny Gargano vs. Adam Cole [*****]: While he didn’t get to beat Ciampa, Gargano finally completed his journey and won the title, overcoming the odds, the numbers and again, solidifying his place as Mr. Takeover. This crowd was amazing and added so much to the match, and while I tend not to like the run-ins and ref bumps, they saved it to the end, and most importantly, Gargano overcame it to complete the journey and fulfill his underdog story. I thought that this was an overall incredible match and a great culmination to Gargano’s journey and featured an absolutely tremendous effort from both men. It’s not always about the moves or the story so much, of course it helps, but when you have a crowd that hot and emotionally invested, it’s an absolute triumph.

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1. From NJPW BOSJ 26 Finals: Will Ospreay vs. Shingo [*****]: This was a battle of two of the very best in the world delivering in the main event spot and maybe even surpassing the lofty expectations many had for this. This was an amazing match, and if Shingo had to lose, this was the way to do it as Ospreay had to empty his entire arsenal and then some just to keep up with him and survive long enough to have a chance to win. They obviously have huge plans with Ospreay and Shingo loses nothing after that amazing effort, and still has a title shot in his pocket due to beating Lee during the tournament. The pacing was tremendous, the drama was great and the crowd added a ton to this match. It was a match that had such high expectations that it could have disappointed in some way, but these two said not today and just destroyed each other in a beautiful war that constantly got better the longer it went along. This was absolutely off the charts and a more than fitting end to what is the best BOSJ tournament I’ve ever covered. This is in the clubhouse for my MOTY right now.

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The 411 on Wrestling Podcast returns to the 411 Podcasting Network for episode 34. On the show, the good brother, Jeremy Lambert, joins 411’s Larry Csonka; the guys will breakdown and review the NJPW G1 29 Night One in Dallas & Impact Slammiversary 2019 events, plus talk about MLW heading to PPV. The show is approximately 111-minutes long.

* Intro
* NJPW G1 29 Night One in Dallas Review: 10:50
* Impact Slammiversary 2019 Review: 48:15
* MLW is Heading to PPV: 1:29:39

You can subscribe and listen to the 411 on Wrestling Podcast via the above player on Transistor, or on the following platforms:

* iTunes
* Spotify
* Stitcher
* Google Play

– End scene.

– Thanks for reading.