Welcome to a new series on PWMusings in which we look at one of the most divisive talking points on wrestling twitter, star ratings. This should be fun
If you're reading this, you'll know that the man who has cornered the market on star ratings in wrestling is a man by the name of Dave Meltzer. He is the man behind the Wrestling Observer, a newsletter that in the last 40 years has shaped the discussion of wrestling and has also made famous the star rating system used in pro wrestling. In future editions of this series, we will be looking into the evolution of the system invented by Norm Dooley and how Meltzer popularised star ratings and how wrestling's version of imdb, Cagematch.net compares to Dave's reviews but as September ends, let's look at what Meltzer and the readers of Cagematch see as the top matches of the month.
*NOTE* All ratings are as of 30th September 2022.
Before we start, we should look at how we can correlate the ratings on Cagematch to the ratings given out by Dave Meltzer. I have devised a comparison for how average ratings on Cagematch can be compared to star ratings.
***** - 10-9.50
Just two matches in the month of September were rated 9.50 or above and neither were wrestled in any of the three big companies in wrestling (AEW, WWE, NJPW)
Kazusada Higuchi vs Konosuke Takeshita (DDT) - 9.54
El Desperado vs Jun Kasai (JTO) - 9.50
Desperado vs Kasai could be etched up into the column of word-of-mouth matches. Aired on NJPW World thanks to the link with promoter of the show Taka Michinoku, word got out of the deathmatch and the uber-violence that took place in the Yoyogi National Gymnasium and word would get to Dave Meltzer with the following written by Dave in the 15/9/22 edition of the Observer Newsletter.
"The work with both guys was tremendous. I’ll just say I hated this match but there’s no way to give it less than ****3/4 or deny it was an incredible bout"
Honestly, I wish I hated a movie/TV show/book/wrestling match so much that I gave it ****3/4.
Meltzer traditionally has hated death matches being similarly critical of the Jon Moxley vs Kenny Omega Lights Out match but would reward the match with ****1/2 and refusing to rate FMW matches in their peak of popularity in the mid 90s even if he rated Atushi Onita's contributions to the business enough to put him in the inaugural class of the Observer Hall of Fame. However there has been a subsection of voters on Cagematch that have given marks to death matches from all over the globe with Isami Kodaka vs. Masashi Takeda in a Light Tubes, Giga Ladder & Glass Board Death on June 20, 2018, the highest scoring deathmatch with a mark of 9.55.
Desperado vs Kasai has ended up second on the list of deathmatches on Cagematch’s ratings which makes it one of the most beloved matches in the history of the genre. So, a worthwhile watch if you’re into that kind of thing. I'm personally not. Pete’s rating ****
While the Summer of Mox has been one of the stories of 2022, Konosuke Takeshita has been a sub plot that many fans will remember from this bizarre year. His short stay in AEW saw belters every time he appeared on Dynamite or Rampage with great matches with Lee Moriarty and Mike Bailey on the US independent scene in-between and while we were disappointed to see him leave the States it was never a case of goodbye with the wonders of modern technology and those with access to Wrestle Universe would see Takeshita face Kazusada Higuchi in the main event of DDT’s latest show Who’s Gonna Top? which would see Dave Meltzer give the match ****½ in this past Observer.
While the Top match of Konosuke’s career according to Cagematch, Meltzer has rated Takeshita higher this summer with the Bailey and Castagnoli match a quarter mark shy of the magic 5 stars. For those interested the two matches just mentioned are rated 8.84 and 9.05 respectively. When 2022 wraps up Jon Moxley will be expected to wrap up WOTY honors but Takeshita Top 5 placing is not in doubt based on his American Summer.
AEW Matches of the Month
Acclaimed vs Swerve In Our Glory- 9.18
Of all the reasons to be mad at CM Punk's attempt to pour gasoline and set fire to AEW in the media scrum at All Out, one of the more underrated ones was that it took away from a fantastic match that we saw from The Acclaimed and Swerve In Our Glory. With a rating of 9.18, it is the highest rated match on an AEW card in September. What was there not to love about this match? I mean, 10,000 people singing “Scissor Me Daddy” to the tune of Seven Nation Army is why wrestling is so great, but it was a classic old school control segment from SIOG and the dynamic final stretch that made this match so great with the sprinkling of crowd involvement that made this one of the best matches of September and one of the best tag matches of 2022. Pete’s rating- ****1/2
Dave Meltzer's AEW Match of the Month
(6-way tie at ****1/2)
Bryan Danielson vs Jon Moxley- 21/9
Bryan Danielson vs Chris Jericho- 14/9
Adam Page vs Bryan Danielson- 7/9
Eddie Kingston vs Tomohiro Ishii- 4/9
Dark Order vs The Elite- 4/9
Swerve In Our Glory vs The Acclaimed-4/9
It's an AEW PPV, you know what that means.
Dave Meltzer's three 4 and a half star ratings in one night would make All Out 2022 the fifth consecutive AEW PPV with 3+ ****½ matches with 24 matches in those PPV’s with that mark or higher.
Add three other 4 and a half star matches in the rest of the month and it was a solid consistent month for AEW from Dave and his stars.
While the news that Dave Meltzer has highly rated AEW matches might not have been the most shocking moment in the month of September in wrestling, when compared to the ratings on Cagematch Meltzer’s rating seems fair and in the case of two tag title matches, Dave might have even rated them low.
Meltzer's AEW Matches of the Month as per rated by Cagematch
Danielson/Jericho II- 8.34
Dark Order/Elite- 9.15
For me, Danielson/Jericho II was the AEW Match of the Month at ****¾. A tremendous match that left me wondering how the heck they couldn't get to that standard on the PPV. Some people didn’t agree with the ****1/2+ ratings though.
[7.0] "This was a well-worked but slow and not too athletic match. Actually, it was probably one of the least physically taxing matches you'll see in AEW, as Jericho tries to have great matches with as little physical work as possible. They came short of an awesome bout again, but this was still very good. ***3/4"
There is an argument that the above paragraph shows the culture shift from 2019 AEW to 2022 AEW and how some might be struggling to like the shift but that is the beauty of wrestling in my opinion. There are a lot of different ways to bake a cake and the same can be said for wrestling. There are a lot of different ways to construct a great professional wrestling match and just because something is slow doesn’t mean it’s just very good. Speaking of different ways to construct a great match.
WWE Match of the Month
Gunther vs Sheamus- 3/9
For the first time since 1997, Dave Meltzer has given 5 stars to two WWE main roster matches in a calendar year with Gunther vs Sheamus joining the Cody Rhodes vs Seth Rollins Hell in A Cell match in getting five stars.
This would be Gunther/Walter's fifth 5-star match making him the 29th wrestler to have 5 or more ***** matches with Sheamus becoming the third Irishman to get the maximum mark.
Cagematch's mark of 9.17 makes this match joint first on WWE's list for 2022 with the other 9.17 match being Tyler Bate vs Trent Seven, the final ever match on NXT UK that aired on September 1st. But if two wrestlers have a match in a near empty BT studio does anyone actually watch it?
The question is does this match belong in the 5-star club along with the Kings Road classics and the Okada-Tanahashi series?
My answer is no. The IC Title match is great but doesn't hit that beat like many Gunther matches did in his previous guise as WALTER. WALTER/Dragunov II, The Ospreay match at OTT and the Tyler Bate match at NXT:UK Takeover are matches that deserve membership of the five-star club, not this particular match. Pete’s rating ****½
In the week after Clash/All Out weekend, lost in the madness that was the Gripebomb was the discourse on what was the better match, Gunther/Sheamus or Kingston/Ishii.
I put a poll up on my twitter (@PeterEdge7) earlier in this week while prepping for this article asking that question and the poll was the following
Kingston/Ishii- All Out 37.5%
Gunther/Sheamus- Clash 62.5%
A twitter poll isn't the final statement for what is the better match but with the star ratings and Cagematch agreeing that the better of the strike heavy contests took place in Cardiff rather than Chicago, it seems that history will remember the Intercontinental Title match as the greater contest.
For what it's worth, I preferred Kingston/Ishii as did my dad which is the more important opinion. Why did I prefer Kingston/Ishii? For me the All Out Zero Hour match is just more fun to watch. While the Cardiff crowd was very into the match, in the Millenium Stadium and the high roof that encompass' it, the sound of the crowd felt louder in the NOW Arena in Chicago with the fans sounding like they were being into every strike compared to the fans in Cardiff in the more intimate arena. The commentators at All Out sounded like they were enjoying their match more than those in Wales maybe that's my anti-Corey Graves bias seeping through though. The selling from Ishii and Kingston was better (don’t get me started on Sheamus’ back sell when he went for the Brogue Kick) even with the “botch” halfway through the match, Kingston made it work by doing a "playing possum" moment with his shoulder. Kingston/Ishii just hit better ****½
NJPW Match of the Month
Will Ospreay vs David Finlay- 25/9
Would it surprise you that Dave Meltzer has a Will Ospreay match as his NJPW match of the month?
This was a near match of the year candidate, the best match Finlay has ever had, and as the saying goes, for Ospreay, it was just Sunday.
I wish someone would look at me the way Dave Meltzer looks at Will Ospreay.
As September ends, Will Ospreay has 15 matches rated at ****¾ or higher with 3 ***** in a week in a week in late August. Compare this with the amount of 9.00+ matches on Cagematch (8) and the Dave Meltzer overrates modern day wrestling argument gets loud in certain circles.
But Cagematch with its 9.12 rating agrees with Dave on his rating. For me, I give the match ****½. It's great but I've seen better from Ospreay in 2022 with the Okada matches, the 6/8 match vs Takagi, both trios matches with Aussie Open in the AEW Trios tournament and the Orange Cassidy match at Forbidden Door better than the Finlay match. Another Sunday, another ****1/2+ Will Ospreay match
We now enter October and with a Gunther/Sheamus rematch and Danielson/Jericho III to come, Halloween Month will be interesting for sure in Pro wrestling, but will the sequel/trilogy matches to come be more Army of Darkness than Exorcist 2? We’ll find out in a couple of weeks' time.