The recent rise of New Japan Pro Wrestling has found new popularity in North America with a huge expansion. NJPW was also a relevant promotion as the top company in Japan going all the way back to their working relationship with WCW. Legendary names like Mitsuharu Misawa, Jushin Liger and The Great Muta have memorable moments there along with touring young stars Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio at different points.
Recent years have seen NJPW deliver matches on another level from anything else in the industry. Finn Balor creating the Bullet Club started to make the company popular in North America. Names like AJ Styles, Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks helped it grow to the current status. We will look at the history of great matches to take place in the promotion. All the bouts featured here are must-see for any wrestling fan. These are the top ten matches in NJPW history.
10 Shinsuke Nakamura vs AJ Styles (Wrestle Kingdom 2015)
The success of Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles in New Japan led to each man getting big contract offers from WWE to jump ship in 2016. Both men faced off one year prior at New Japan’s version of WrestleMania called Wrestle Kingdom in January 2015.
Nakamura and Styles had an instant classic in their first-ever singles meeting. Both men lived up to the dream match billing to give the fans a must-see match. The rematch in WWE took place at WrestleMania 34 and was unfortunately nowhere as good as this one.
9 Chris Jericho vs Kenny Omega (Wrestle Kingdom 2018)
The wrestling world started to witness many changes in 2018 with talents finding appeal in working in new places. Chris Jericho ended his old rule of never working outside of WWE when the dream match of facing fellow Winnipeg star Kenny Omega was pitched for Wrestle Kingdom.
Many pundits claimed this was the best match of Jericho’s career so late into it. Omega and Jericho had tremendous chemistry battling for over a half-hour with the use of weapons, fists and just great professional wrestling. This was so fun for Jericho that it helped create the momentum to work for AEW when the idea was coming together.
8 Vader vs The Great Muta (G1 Climax 1991)
One of the toughest matches to find in New Japan history took place in 1991 when Vader faced The Great Muta. Vader had a great career in North America due to his time spent in WWE and WCW, but many fans preferred his NJPW run most for the incredible matches.
Wrestling pundit Dave Meltzer made this match between Vader and Muta one of his first “five star” classics that made it worth seeking out to fanatics. Muta was arguably the top star in Japan at the time to have such a match with Vader during the G1 Climax. Unfortunately, this match is hard to find with few videos made available of it throughout the years.
7 Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay (G1 Climax 2019)
The recent G1 Climax created some of the best matches in New Japan history. One match that stood out on a different level from the rest featured Kazuchika Okada facing Will Ospreay. Okada has been the face of NJPW for a few years now as the currently IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
Ospreay has been delivering countless classic matches in the junior division of NJPW, but the company allowed him to compete against heavyweights in the G1 Climax. The match between Ospreay and Okada was a work of art that showed how exciting the tournament of the summer was for NJPW.
6 Kenny Omega vs Tetsuya Naito (G1 Climax 2017)
Kenny Omega started to develop a reputation for the best wrestler in the world around 2017. This G1 Climax match against Tetsuya Naito helped his case as both men were at the top of their game. NJPW would put them in the finals with a world title shot on the line.
Omega and Naito told a beautiful story of pure athleticism and fight as each man wanted to give his all for the prize. The G1 Climax is always an important tournament for NJPW and this match helped ensure fans would remember the 2017 tournament for the rest of their lives.
5 Kazuchika Okada vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (Wrestle Kingdom 2016)
The rivalry between Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi would see them have quite a few matches always delivering classics. Tanahashi was the face of NJPW for many years before Okada started to take his spot. Both men were always counted on in the important matches.
Wrestle Kingdom in 2016 would see Okada and Tanahashi face off in an action-packed main event. The emotion involved featured a mix crowd of fans rooting for their favorite with all their hearts. NJPW showed the magic of having your two top stars face off in the main event of the year’s biggest show.
4 KUSHIDA vs. Will Ospreay (Best of the Super Juniors 2017)
The juniors division of New Japan presented the smaller wrestlers with their own concepts. NJPW created the Best of the Super Juniors tournament to give their roster the chance to have their own classics like the heavyweights would in the G1 Climax.
Will Ospreay and KUSHIDA faced off in the finals of the 2017 tournament. Both men were considered the top stars in the division and showed it with this five-star classic. Ospreay flew all around the ring while KUSHIDA also provided the best performance of his career.
3 Shinsuke Nakamura vs Kota Ibushi (Wrestle Kingdom 2015)
The Wrestle Kingdom 2015 event was one of the first major shows for New Japan that was broadcasted for the United States audience to watch online. Shinsuke Nakamura and Kota Ibushi faced off in the semi-main event and completely stole the show.
Many new fans of NJPW were born this night as this match made them fall in love with the product. Nakamura was still in his prime as a legitimate Japanese wrestling icon while Ibushi was breaking out at the next big star. Both men created magic on this night with this match still standing the test of time today.
2 Dynamite Kid vs. Tiger Mask (Sumo Hall Show 1983)
The chemistry between Dynamite Kid and Tiger Mask created arguably the greatest rivalry in New Japan history. Dave Meltzer’s first five-star match would see them face off here in a 1983 classic. Dynamite Kid was developing a reputation for being the best in-ring performer in the world.
Tiger Mask was not that far behind them and their styles meshed perfectly for a few classics. This one stood out most to get the flawless rating. Many NJPW historians suggest seeking out matches between Tiger Mask and Dynamite Kid to understand the history of the promotion.
1 Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada (Wrestle Kingdom 2017)
Wrestling fans were in awe at Wrestle Kingdom 2017’s main event when Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada had an absolute classic. Omega was the first non-Japanese wrestler to land a main event spot at Wrestle Kingdom challenging Okada for IWGP Championship.
This match had everyone in the audience and watching at home taking a deep breath as the action reached the territory of a special attraction. Dave Meltzer broke his own star-rating system giving the match six stars instead of the usual five because it was that good. Omega and Okada created a new rivalry that helped NJPW expand in North America following this legendary bout.