NJPW have been one of the best promotions in the world this year, putting on some of the best matches in all of wrestling in 2023.
Their year started with Wrestle Kingdom 17 in the beginning of January 2023. This was their “WrestleMania” equivalent, and saw the biggest matches of the year taking place.
After that, the company had various big events with some of the best matches of 2023, featuring big stars like Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, SANADA and Will Ospreay (to name but a few).
In this article, we’ll take you through the best NJPW matches of 2023, ranking them from the worst to the best (although they are all fantastic bouts).
7. Claudio Castagnoli, Jon Moxley & Shota Umino vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii
In what was a first five-star match for two members of this match, this six-man match had all the makings of a modern-day classic.
The Blackpool Combat Club were joined by Shota Umino to take on the NEVER Six-man tag team champions. Okada, Tanahashi and Ishii are one of the most star-studded trios in wrestling today, and as such had a big target on their back.
All six men in the match worked it perfectly, and fully deserved the five-star match rating awarded by Dave Metlzer.
6. Master Waton vs Titan (NJPW Best Of The Super Junior 30)
Master Wato picked up his first five-star matches in his career during the final of the Best of the Super Juniors 2023.
In the match, he took on Mexican star Titan, and what proved to be a star-making performance for the high-flying Japanese star.
The match has been called one of the best in 2023 by fans of New Japan. The pair put on a classic BOSJ final match that had the crowd on their feet the entire time.
Master Wato won the bout and the BOSJ tournament for the first time in his career.
5. Tetsuya Naito vs Kazuchika Okada (G1 Climax 33)
Tetsuya Naito turned back the years to show the world he was still one of the best, with a G1 Climax Final victory over Kazuchika Okada
The LIJ leader bounced back from an injury in the semi-final, pushing Okada to limit to inflict a rare loss on the Rainmaker.
Avoid any attempt for Okada to hit his finishing moves, Naito outsmarted the former winner, hitting three Destinos to win his third G1 Climax.
This match was rated 5.25 stars by Dave Meltzer, making it one of the best NJPW matches of 2023.
4. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kaito Kiyomiya & Kento Miyahara vs. Kazuchika Okada, Kenoh & Yuma Aoyagi (NJPW/AJPW/NOAH All Together Again)
This cross-promotion match was somewhat of an exhibition, but provided some fantastic action for fans of all three top Japanese promotions.
The novelty of the six-man tag team match kept the crowd engaged, as did the great action between the stars. It also helped further the feud between Okada and Kiyomiya, which could lead to a match next year at Wrestle Kingdom.
The storytelling in this match was nuanced and intricate. Every spot felt like a highlight and everyone came out the match looking brilliant.
3. Kazuchika Okada vs Shingo Takagi (NJPW The New Beginning In Osaka 2023)
This match was one of the best matches of 2023, and probably the best bout between Shingo Tagaki and Kazuchika Okada.
Okada knew he was the fan-favourite in this match, so worked more heelish than you’d expect to take down the incredible Shingo Tagaki.
It was an intense encounter, which each strike looking incredibly brutal with every single blow.
With some great near falls, high impact moves and a crazy hot crowd, this match is certainly one of the best NJPW matches of 2023.
2. Will Ospreay vs Tetsuya Naito (G1 Climax 33)
In a match that has been rated 6-stars by Dave Meltzer, Tetsuya Naito defeated Will Ospreay in an incredible G1-Climax semi-final
Naito controlled the pace early on, using his Tranquilo style to slow the pace down and frustrate the British star.
He locked Ospreay in a series of submission to apply torque to his shoulder, trying to nulifiy his variety of finishing moves that rely on it.
Naito even tried to hit the Stardust Press, after feeling the admiration coming from the crowd. Of course, he did not hit it, but this did set up the chance that he could use the move to beat Okada in the final.
The final stretch of the match was incredible, but saw Ospreay accidentally knock Naito out with a kick that Naito failed to dodge.
Instead of avoiding the kick, a miscommunication lead to Testuya Naito leaning into the kick. Ospreay’s boot hit Naito’s head with a clunk, and he collapsed three times trying to continue with the match.
Every the professional, Will Ospreay took control of the match and loudly handed instructions to Naito on how to finish the match.
In the end, he ended up doing various versions of the Destino to himself, with the dead weight of Naito not knowing where he was while perched on Ospreay’s shoulders.
It was a scary ending to a wonderful match, that is already gaining plaudits as one of the best matches in this year’s G11 Climax.
1. Kenny Omega vs Will Ospreay (Wrestle Kingdom 17)
I don’t think anybody could argue against Will Ospreay vs Kenny Omega being NJPW’s best match of the year.
In fact, the only real argument to be made is whether this was the best match of all time.
Yes, it was that good.
Kenny Omega is one of the best of all time, and made magic when he connected with Will Ospreay in the ring for the IWGP United States Championship.
The match itself was incredible. Brutal strikes and fantastic counters saw a fast-paced match between two all-time greats march into “Match of the Year” contention just four days in.
Kenny Omega picked up the win after paying tribute to Kota Ibushi with a Kamigoye, before launching a bloodied Ospreay into the match with a One-Winged Angel. He won the IWGP United States Championship for the second time, indicating he will be staying in NJPW for some time now.
Ospreay took some punishment from his Canadian opponent. A double foot stomp through a table (followed by Omega’s reference to The Shining) could have been the end of it.
With Ospreay falling from the top rope, smashing his face on the apron and pouring blood all over Tokyo also looked like the spot where Red Shoes would end the match – yet he continued.
He simply could not keep Omega down, however. Kicking out of a hidden blade, multiple Oscutters and a Stormbreaker, The Best Bout Machine seemed invincible. It was star making, seemingly face turn by Ospreay, who stayed defiant until the end.
Ospreay spat in the face of Omega before being hit by Kota Ibushi’s (Omega’s long-time partner and best friend) Kamigoye and Omega’s unstoppable finisher – the One Winged Angel – and pinned for the three count.
What is your favourite NJPW match of 2023? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.