10 Best Wrestling Matches Of 2023

The best of the very best.

Bryan Danielson vs Zack Sabre Jr. - WrestleDream
Bryan Danielson vs Zack Sabre Jr. - WrestleDream

2023 has been yet another fantastic year in the world of pro wrestling. Not only have we seen the long-fantasied return of CM Punk to WWE but we’ve also been treated to a plethora of top-quality in-ring action. As always, it’s been hard to narrow this list down to just ten matches. From Christian Cage to Carmelo Hayes, so many individuals have had standout years both inside and outside of the squared circle, but these ten bouts really shined to me personally as some of the greatest wrestling on the planet.

So if you haven’t already treated yourself to these 5*+ encounters, sit back and enjoy the pinnacle of modern excellence, curated by generational talent that will undoubtedly be headlining stars of 2024.

10. Ilja Dragunov vs Dijak – NXT Battleground

Ilja vs Dijak
Source: WWE

A slight dark horse in terms of the night’s booking. Ilja Dragunov and the artist formerly known as T-Bar put together a brutal, hard-hitting affair at NXT Battleground. This was truly a coming-out party for both gentlemen as their Last Man Standing match showcased exactly why they should be considered in the upper echelon of talent on the NXT roster.

Dragunov has since gone onto capture the NXT Championship from Carmelo Hayes in a match that could have also found itself a place in this list. But in terms of the storytelling and innovative hardcore spots, this match just trumps it for me personally. Ilja was on a mission to make the audience wince and cringe and Dijak was the perfect opponent to help him create a bloody masterpiece.

Dijak deserves a great deal more than he’s been given coming out of this feud. If this is the standard that he can create with an opponent who’s willing to bump like crazy, then he should certainly find himself in the NXT title picture sometime in the next year. Genuinely, check this one out, for a sleeper contest this really delivered and then some.


9. Tetsuya Naito vs Will Ospreay – G1 Climax Day 18

Naito vs Ospreay
Source: NJPW

It almost pains me to put this match so low on the list. Naito and Ospreay are easy go-to guys when it comes to the top standard of wrestling in NJPW. The G1 is a perfect place for these pairings to randomly face off with a reason, and provide fans with an absolute barn-burner while they’re at it.

Tetsuya Naito has almost become a bit of an unsung hero in New Japan, often finding himself in the mid-card but putting together matches that would rival the main-event standard of quality. This year, Naito went on to win the G1 Climax and is finding himself in the main-event of Wrestle Kingdom in January. Watching matches like this reminds you of just how awesome the leader of LIJ can be in the ring and I’m hoping this performance leads to a world title reign in the near future.

It goes without saying that ‘The Aerial Assassin’ will feature heavily on this list, his matches are unparalleled when it comes to in-ring drama and this match was no exception. This match really allowed Ospreay to sink his teeth into the Japanese style of wrestling and provide his most brutal contest to date. The term ‘worked-shoot’ gets thrown around a fair bit but this match genuinely felt like it was dipping into legitimate brawl territories at times.

Definitely give this one a watch if you haven’t already and while you’re there, why not the rest of the G1 as well. You won’t be disappointed.


8. Hangman Adam Page vs Swerve Strickland – AEW Full Gear

Swerve vs Page
Source: AEW

Where do we even start with this match? If someone were to tell me that I’d see Hangman Adam Page drip-feeding himself with the blood of his bitter rival this year, I’d send you straight to the DSOTR episode featuring Abdullah the Butcher. Alas, here we are a few weeks removed from one of the most extreme and bloody matches this side of CZW.

For those who are fans of the deathmatch style of wrestling, you absolutely need to get on this match. With the Texas Death Match stipulation in place, Page and Swerve damn near killed each other with all sorts of crazy spots. Watching the duo spill buckets of blood over a story which kind of faded into the background of things on AEW programming, really helped sell their feud at the very last minute. Swerve came out of this match looking like an absolute star and likely set himself up for a huge title match in the near future.

I’m still reeling from the sight of barbed wire being caught in between the teeth of Adam Page whilst being perched on the top rope. It was brutality at its very best.


7. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs The Usos – WrestleMania 39

Zayn & Owens vs Usos

From the conclusion of one tale to that of another, the finale of WrestleMania’s Night One card saw the best-friend-turned-enemy-turned-friend team of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn finally putting down the Bloodline and capturing gold. It was a toss up between this and the incredible World title match between Zayn and Roman Reigns in Montreal, both matches were highlights of a year-long narrative, but for me this one just topped the Elimination Chamber main by a hair.

Although the rallying support behind Sami Zayn in his hometown made that particular event feel like WrestleMania, the spectacle of the legit Mania made this tag match one of the all-time greats. The Usos are second to none in WWE as far as Tag wrestlers go, and this match, coupled with the obvious chemistry between Zayn and Owens will go down as one of the very best of the year.

The crowd were naturally hot for Sami Zayn’s big win over the Bloodline and the teases throughout the match were masterful. Zayn has kind of fizzled out as the year has gone on, no thanks to a mediocre feud with the Judgement Day, but fans of Sami will forever have this moment in Hollywood. What a finish to the first half of a fantastic Mania.


6. Bryan Danielson vs Ricky Starks – AEW All Out 2023

Bryan Danielson vs Ricky Starks
Source: AEW

This match was pure horror, blood and gore at all points. Bryan Danielson really leaned into the ‘BCC’ side of his persona and dismantled the young Starks throughout the course of the match. Unlike the aforementioned Texas Death Match between Page and Swerve, this match featured blood in a very different way. It was used as a tool to incite bloodlust, a war-cry for Bryan to generate support throughout the match. Fans wanted to see Danielson rip Ricky to shreds and the upping of brutality throughout the match really helped make this a match to remember.

Typically, strap matches fail to connect with the live audience, unless of course you’re a Rhodes. However, this particular example has managed to set the bar in the modern era. Bryan came out of this match looking like a total monster and Ricky the perfect foil for the fans to see being dismantled. This felt like a call-back to the likes of Terry Funk, Ric Flair and Dusty himself. It was a valiant effort on both sides of the ring.


5. FTR vs Jay White & Juice Robinson – AEW Collision

FTR vs Jay White & Juice Robinson - AEW Collision
FTR vs Jay White & Juice Robinson – AEW Collision | Source: AEW

AEW Collision was originally a vehicle to reinsert CM Punk into the fray. However, with the drama following AEW’s first UK show at Wembley Stadium, Collision was up for grabs among the remaining ‘roster’ that had been set aside to appear on Collision. Among that talent was FTR and Bullet Club Gold. ‘Switchblade’ quickly became the rising star of the Collision roster, starting with a series of bangers against the then-AEW tag champs.

FTR have followed on from an impeccable 2021-2022, finally winning the tag titles in AEW and having some instant classic tag matches to boot. Between this particular match and the Wembley battle against The Young Bucks, FTR held things down on the tag front and continued to prove that they are the tag team of this era.

FTR and BCG capitalised on the lingering hype surrounding AEW’s new show and put together a phenomenal 2-out-of-3 falls match for the titles. It was a pure back-and-forth affair between both teams, meshing in-ring psychology and FTR’s mastery of tag wrestling, this set the bar for the international tag wrestling scene to meet.

This mini-feud helped propel Jay White and his cronies into the main event scene, most recently competing for the AEW World Championship at Full Gear. White may be at risk of being lost in the fray following that title fight, but if these matches are anything to go by, we won’t be lacking in great ‘Switchblade’ content.


4. Gunther vs Drew McIntyre vs Sheamus – WrestleMania 39

Gunther vs Drew vs Sheamus
Source: WWE

WrestleMania has seen its fair share of hard-hitting affairs but none have ever quite matched the physicality of the Intercontinental triple threat match at this year’s grand stage. Gunther has been a dominant champion, going undefeated throughout the course of 2023 and this match really acted as the exclamation mark on his reign.

Many believed Mania to be the end of his streak and title run but when that final three count was scored, fans suddenly realised that WWE were willing to go the whole hog with ‘The Ring General’. Having already put on a banger with Sheamus in Cardiff, the natural next step was to add in ‘The Scottish Warrior’ and allow all three lads to go nuts on each other.

With plenty of chops, forearms, knees and beet-red chests to please any striking fan, this triple threat will forever go down as an instant classic and the reintroduction of the IC belt into the annals of WrestleMania history.

Those beers were well earned post-match.


3. MJF vs Bryan Danielson – Revolution

MJF vs Bryan Danielson
Source: AEW

You want to talk about going the distance? MJF and Bryan Danielson exceeded all expectations with their 60-minute Iron Man match at the top of AEW’s PPV calendar. To me, this match truly sold me on MJF as a top champion, not that I was a doubter, but this really hit the nail in me realising just how talented he is.

In the final leg of this emotional rollercoaster, it was hard to determine exactly where AEW were going to go with the victor. Both Danielson and MJF held the fans in the palm of their hands as the dynamics of the match switched back-and-forth. MJF’s soon-to-be babyface persona was born from a never-say-die fight against Danielson’s submission offense.

We also had a revisit of the classic ‘overtime’ spot, at which point fans were roaring and desperate for another broadway performance. Both men sold the results of this match to perfection, with MJF’s post-show promo adding extra credit to the damage sustained throughout the match and the tenacity he had shown.

Honestly, this was a genuine masterclass in how to perform in a longer match. Full credit to all involved, this was perfection.


2. Kenny Omega vs Will Ospreay – Wrestle Kingdom 17

Omega vs Ospreay
Source: NJPW

Speaking of perfection, what more could you ask for from a stacked NJPW show, than pitting two of the absolute best wrestlers in the world against each other after years of anticipation. This dream match met all expectations and beyond, with both men putting their craft above all else to prove that they are the heart and soul of the wrestling world.

Ospreay and Omega’s series of matches in 2023 were all spectacles in their own right, but nothing could top the first encounter. Both competitors were given a chance to shine and work off each other’s physical style. Ospreay, the heel, managed to win over the New Japan fans as he did his very best to take down the legendary gaijin.

The story couldn’t have been more perfect and it really helped elevate (heh) Ospreay to that pinnacle he’s been aspiring to. With 2023 now wrapped, Ospreay can safely say that he’s had a career year, wrestling phenomenal matches across the world and ending up in a full-time contact with AEW.


1. Bryan Danielson vs Zack Sabre Jr. – WrestleDream

Source: AEW

If there is one match that made me genuinely rise from my seat in ovation, it was this one. A technical masterpiece from start to finish, this dream bout between two of the most critically acclaimed technical wrestlers in history did not fail to deliver.

Danielson and Sabre Jr. had been flirting with the idea of this match for the best part of two years, with the original encounter being palmed off due to injury. With so much riding on this match, it had to be big, and it had to live up to every bit of expectation put into it. Boy did it do that. For those fans of chain grappling and the pseudo-MMA hybrid style, then this match will absolutely whet your whistle and fill your appetite for years to come.

This match highlighted the ‘professional’ in pro wrestling. The master-strategies employed by both wrestlers were very obvious and apparent throughout, not being substituted for any big spots or blood and gore. This was a very different match for AEW and it felt different. Fans appreciated taking a step back into ‘ye olde days’ of carny and territory wrestling with two stars doing what they do best and more.

Discipline, patience and skill. All at its absolute finest.

You might disagree with me here, and with me for the entire list for that matter. But I would go as far as saying that this was one of the very best matches we will ever see in this generation of wrestling. Please, give it a go, even if you’re not a fan of the greco-MMA style. Watch. This. Match.

READ NEXT: 5 Matches That Should Be Booked For AEW All In: London 2

Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site. We cover gaming news, movie reviews, wrestling and much more.