While New Japan Pro Wrestling has been the standard of excellence for in-ring wrestling in recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic hit them hard. What appeared to be another hot start to the year came to a screeching halt in February. When they returned in June, the lack of crowds and then lack of crowd noise greatly hurt the product.
That being said, many of 2020’s best matches still came from New Japan. Whether it be their stellar first two months or their very good G1 Climax, New Japan showed why they can still claim to be the best wrestling promotion in the world.
Now that 2020 is reaching its end, we can look back on the year that was. Here are the top 10 New Japan Pro Wrestling matches of 2020.
10. Jon Moxley vs. Minoru Suzuki – New Beginning In Osaka
The first match on this list is one of my personal favourite matches of the year. Jon Moxley was enjoying a violent run as IWGP United States Champion to start the year and his reign culminated with a dream match with Minoru Suzuki.
The two clashed at New Beginning in Osaka and they had one of the year’s most physical matches. Moxley and Suzuki wrestled like they were made for each other with both men fighting to prove that they were tougher than the other.
What resulted was a masterpiece of violence. This was not clean and polished. Rather it was dirty and rough. In short, it was a fight. If you want to see two tough SOBs beat the hell out of each other, this is the match for you. Personally, I cannot recommend it enough.
9. Hiromu Takahashi vs. Tomohiro Ishii – New Japan Cup Day 7
When New Japan Pro Wrestling returned in June, they did so with no fans. For a while, nothing seemed to match the level of quality people expected from New Japan as the lack of a crowd really took the energy out of most matches.
That lasted until Hiromu Takahashi faced Tomohiro Ishii in the quarterfinals of the New Japan Cup. Being from two different weight classes, Ishii and Takahashi would normally never wrestle one-on-one. This being special circumstances, we were treated to this match and what a match it was.
Hiromu and Ishii could not be more different in terms of styles. Hiromu is a risk-taker while Ishii is a brawler who could legitimately be made out of granite. When they fought, it was a perfect blend of styles. Hiromu was the underdog but fought in a way that was believable.
Ultimately, Hiromu pulled off the upset victory, a shocker as juniors almost NEVER beat heavyweights. Hiromu was one of the MVPs of New Japan in 2020 and this was a prime example of why.
8. Tetsuya Naito vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – G1 Climax Day 2
The B-Block of the G1 Climax peaked with the main event of their first show. Hiroshi Tanahashi battled IWGP Double Champion Tetsuya Naito, reignited their fantastic rivalry from 2017. They picked up right where they left off, having one of the best matches of the tournament.
Tanahashi did not get many chances to shine in 2020, a ridiculous decision considering his ability even at his advanced age, and this match showed why he is still one of the best in the world. Naito also got to prove why he is a proper IWGP Champion after the pandemic derailed his reign earlier in the year.
Together they had an excellent back-and-forth match. Naito showed tremendous growth in his character, no longer allowing his burning hatred of Tanahashi to throw him off his game. While Tanahashi may still be The Ace, Naito would not be phased and came out on top in a strong start to his G1 Climax campaign.