Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Top 10 Wrestlers of 2017 Honorable Mentions, Part One

Every year we get more and more votes in our year end Top 10, and every year that means dozens of talents get recognized by our voters, but don't quite make it to our final list. So here are some of the other vote getters.

Image credit: Chris Grasso.
Joey Janela: The former starman probably will never be the most technically proficient talent or the best high flyer. He certainly doesn't have the size of Vince's favorites. But the Jersey native oozes charisma and shows a willingness to do things no sane human would ever do. He also put on maybe the best show of Wrestlemania weekend, Joey Janela's Spring Break, where he fought Marty Jannetty in an absolutely insane match.

War Machine (Hanson and Raymond Rowe): Hanson and Rowe made a name in the New Japan tag team division while also dominating ROH. They finished their run with ROH at Final Battle and all indications are they will finish up with New Japan during the first week of January. Once the pair hits WWE, they could be hugely over hosses in the tag division... or they could join The Club as forgotten talent.

Finn Balor: Balor spent a lot of the year injured and even upon his return suffered from creative still angry about his injury during his win to become the first Universal champion. He's meandered around the upper midcard putting on solid if uninspired matches. Rumors WWE has no interest in a continued push for him seem fueled by Balor on social media, but it remains to be seen if he really will become a solid unspectacular midcarder or break out into a new storyline.

Charlie Haas: The former WWE and ROH tag star is still active on the Texas independents and gets attention from several voters in that area.

Image credit: ROH

Dalton Castle: The results of Final Battle came out during the voting period, but Dalton was vastly overshadowed this year by Bullet Club in ROH. Even as he enters 2018 as a world champion, it remains to be seen if the bookers of ROH will ever truly embrace him as the unique heroic figure he's been for years. As much as I love Castle, this win feels two years too late.

The New Day: The biggest tag team of the last two years only received votes from a single correspondent. Stuck in a rut by a WWE that refuses to push them as anything but a combined entity, they now seem to suffer the same inattention they received as singles stars as a unit. It's a sad step down for Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods. The return of the Bludgeon Brothers and the recent title win by Gable and Benjamin have opened up the Smackdown tag division again, but it remains to be seen if WWE will ever let the trio re-define themselves in the weeks and months ahead.

Bobby Roode: He held the NXT title for much of the year, but Roode still hasn't really excelled in WWE. He's a great talent when given the time to shine but on the cramped Smackdown roster he may never get it. A solid run with the United States title could define him, but hopefully WWE realizes he could be a solid main eventer before his bump card runs out.

Mustafa Ali: Ali has quietly became one of the best stars of the Cruiserweight division even as WWE seems to treat him as little more than a third man in most storylines. With strong fan reactions, he may eventually get more attention as a 205 Live main eventer, but with Cedric Alexander, Enzo Amore and Drew Gulak dominating that place he may have to continue a patient wait.

Baron Corbin: Perhaps the most natural heel in the business, Corbin is a guy that could be huge if given a chance to look like a dominant force. Unfortunately, he spends too much of his time being treated like a chump or a fool. I predicted big things for Corbin on the main roster, but now it is questionable if he's too far damaged to ever amount to much more in WWE.

Image credit: Shimmer Womens Athletes
Nicole Savoy: I have been a big backer of the Mae Young Classic competitor and Shimmer's current top champion since I first saw her as part of the ChickFight Tournament on Shimmer Volume 71. Since that time she won the inaugural Heart of Shimmer championship and defended it for over a year. Following her two matches in the MYC, she ascended to the top of Shimmer by beating her former stablemate Mercedes Martinez to take the dominant spot in Shimmer. She's got a huge upside for 2018, although her MMA style offense probably means she won't see a WWE contract anytime soon with her other former tag partner, Shayna Baszler, already signed and Ronda Rousey rumored as a potential new recruit for the company.

Other talents receiving votes: Becky Lynch, Dean Ambrose, Dirty Andy Dalton, Gino Tiht, Jeff Hardy, Jerome Daniels, and Seth Rollins.

All images are credit:, unless otherwise mentioned.

Friday, December 29, 2017

A monster at #8: Braun Strowman joins the Top 10!

Since the brand extension, we've seen several major pushes. AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Jinder Mahal and (of course) Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar have all got heavy amounts of screen time in the last year and a half. But no man can topple the literally biggest star WWE has created in that time.

His name is Braun Strowman.

Image credit:
Strowman is a beast by any standard. The 6' 8", 385 pound former strongman competitor skipped NXT television entirely. Debuting as a new beast of the Wyatt Family to replace an injured Erick Rowan. His push would be solid there, but it wasn't until he was separated from the Wyatts during the brand extension that he truly started to show signs of greatness.

Because while Braun is a great big man in the Vince McMahon vein, he's also a pretty darn good in ring worker. His psychology is impressive and his promos have turned into something far greater than golden boy Reigns could ever hope to accomplish.

But it was Reigns that really put Braun on the map in early 2017. Their feud was nothing short of epic. While Braun technically came out on the losing end when it was finished, he won far more fans. Hardcore and casual wrestling fans started to heavily cheer the Monster Among Men, especially when he destroyed Reigns repeatedly in the feud.

A shoulder injury barely derailed his push and he came back as a solid tweener on the roster. Beatings of Samoa Joe and Enzo Amore drew more fan support, but it was his turn on Triple H at Survivor Series that cemented him once and for all as a face. As 2018 dawns he will get another shot at Brock Lesnar's title, although the triple threat with Kane will likely end without him ascending the mountain top. But it seems only a matter of time before the Monster Among Men becomes the Champion Among Mere Mortals.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Alexa Bliss: the baddest bliss in the business at #9

"You're welcome."

Alexa Bliss delivered the phrase this Monday on Raw. But as the most decorated female wrestler of WWE in 2017, she deserves the accolade.

Image credit:
She opened the year as Smackdown Women's Champion, just six months into her tenure on the main roster. The Smackdown women's division revolved around her until she jumped to Raw. She almost immediately entered the title picture there. Having already beaten Becky Lynch for the title on her previous show, she took out two more of the Four Horsewomen to take her titles on Raw.

With victories over every Horsewomen but Charlotte, she seemed to be cemented as the top woman of Raw. As 2018 opens, the looming presence of the undefeated Asuka clearly puts her in danger, but no one can argue she spent the year defining what it meant to be a top wrestler in her division.

The interesting part of Alexa's career is just how much better she fit on the main roster than the microcosm of NXT. She never made it far on that roster, only getting a lackluster title match against Bayley that showed the Full Sail crowd at their worst. With her sudden arrival as a force to be reckoned with on the main roster, she's opened up huge storytelling possibilities in the years to come. Even with a Raw roster with Nia Jax, Bayley, Sasha, Mickie James, Asuka and all of Absolution, she still seems poised to be a top talent for years to come.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Tetsuya Naito: the ungovernable #10

For the first time in this list's history, half the talents on it are not WWE exclusive talents. New Japan Pro Wrestling invaded America in a huge way in 2017 with people seeking out the show on AXS or signing up for NJPWWorld to watch live events streamed with commentary by Kevin Kelly and Don Callis. A few names can be pointed out as the reason for this sudden rise, but perhaps the one with the most chance to soar up this list in 2018 is Tetsuya Naito.

In the biggest run of his career, Naito couldn't look more relaxed.
Image credit: NJPW.
It's hard to believe that eight years ago, Naito was one half of the IWGP Junior Tag Team champions as he made his international run on TNA television. He debuted there (alongside Yujiro Takahashi) in a handicap match loss to way past his prime Kevin Nash during the Main Event Mafia push. Unlike Kazuchika Okada later in TNA's relationship with New Japan, they did get something of a push. Aligned with Sheik Abdul Bashir and Kiyoshi, they formed an effective tag team in the heel faction. It would also be the last time Naito played the heel for several years.

Naito came back to New Japan with fanfare, but after No Limit broke up and Yujiro joined the Bullet Club, his push to the main event floundered. He won his first G1 Climax in 2013, but fans weren't wowed by the thought of Naito versus Okada in 2013. A fan vote put the Intercontinental championship match into the main event with Hiroshi Tanahashi facing Shinsuke Nakamura in yet another match of their endless feud.

Ultimately, it would take another excursion for Naito to find his true calling. A trip to CMLL brought him into the stable Los Ingobernables (The Ungovernables). Lead by La Sombra (now Andrade "Cien" Almas), the stable were a bunch of tweeners in a wrestling culture known for strict heroes and villains. But with them, Naito shed his nice guy image as the "Stardust Genius". When he returned to Japan it was with a new demeanor and a legend was born.

Naito made his presence felt in the 2015 G1. And that presence made it clear he didn't give a shit what the fans thought. Even hated Bullet Club members were cheered in their matches against Naito. He would bring in more wrestlers to join his evil alliance: Bushi, EVIL, Sanada and Hiromu Takahashi. In a matter of a year, he would take reigns as both IWGP Intercontinental and IWGP World Heavyweight champion. Naito made it clear that he would not let the chosen of NJPW, Tanahashi and Okada, dominate the field with him around.

The first half of 2017 was built around Intercontinental title defenses, with victories at Wrestle Kingdom 11 over Tanahashi, Michael Elgin and Juice Robinson. He would drop the title to Tanahashi at Dominion, but that would just set up a huge run for Naito in the G1 Climax. He would win his block in the world's biggest tournament, then defeat Kenny Omega in the finals to win his second G1 Climax and his second five star match of the year. (The first was against Elgin.) He continued on a winning streak from there, even as his allies in Los Ingobernables won Junior Heavyweight and Six Man Tag Team gold. As 2018 dawns, Naito takes his place in the main event of another Wrestle Kingdom, but even with Omega vs. Jericho on the card, Naito's place at the top of the card is solid.

Naito proved he was ready to hang with the biggest talents in wrestling during 2017, but 2018 could be even bigger. It remains to be seen if he can end Okada's year and a half long reign as he did once before. But wherever the year takes him, it seems likely that Naito will remain a dominant force in New Japan and professional wrestling for years to come.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Your chance to vote in the year end Top 10 is almost gone!

Voting for the year end Top 10 ends the night of December 24th at midnight Central time. You have less than 72 hours to get in your votes for the best wrestlers of the year!

Who will join 2015 winner Sasha Banks and 2016 winner Broken Matt Hardy
as the best wrestler of 2017?  
As in previous years, the process is simple. All you have to do to vote is to send me your list of the top wrestlers from anywhere in the world. Your list can be as short as one or as long as 25, but it needs to be ranked in order of worst to best. Send your choices to wwfmegs{at}yahoo{dot}com (or leave them in the comments below) and I will tally the fan choices as well as my own top ten to give a full list of the top stars of 2017.

The only requirement for a wrestler to be eligible for the list is if they were active in the calendar year 2015 as an in ring worker. Promotions, gender and age are not limited, just as long as they wrestled a match at some point in the year 2017. Wrestlers should be rated on quality of match rather than out of match promos or shenanigans, all though those can be taken into account as an overall reason for your choice. Television programs recorded previous to the year but aired in 2017 also count to the calendar year. Tag teams and units must be listed separately on this list. If you feel they had equal levels of performance in your list of twenty, please put them one after another.

Though it is not required, any commentary on the wrestlers you chose and why you chose them would be appreciated, as it will be included as thoughts on the wrestler in the final Top Ten list.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

For your consideration: 5 under the radar talents to look at for the 2017 Top 10

Every year I write a new lists of the Top 10 wrestlers of various promotions, but when the year comes to an end, I ike to remind folks of some of the great unsung talents as they start their own voting for the year end wrestlers. So here's a few talents I think may have flew under the radar but deserve recognition in 2017.

The days of Solomon Crowe are gone.

Sami Callihan. The former Solomon Crowe was Cody Rhodes before Cody Rhodes. He left WWE under his own volition and started to blow up independent wrestling with great match after great match. He's traveled around the world in 2017 and put on great matches in Lucha Underground (as Jeremiah Crane), New Japan, CZW, AAW, AIW and a lot of other acronyms.

Same goofy grin, though. 
Juice Robinson. The former CJ Parker was Cody Rhodes before Sami Callihan was Cody Rhodes. Juice left NXT because he saw the writing on the wall. His initial indie run post-NXT was lukewarm. But Juice took an invitation from New Japan, agreed to start again in their dojo and in a matter of a few short months started wrestling the best matches of his life. His 2017 was stupendous and I suspect his 2018 will be even better. Juice could prove to be the next Kenny Omega level gaijin talent in New Japan.

The Black and The Brave Academy's first graduate deserves a ton more recognition by the wrestling world. 
Connor Braxton. I hoped Iowa's own Braxton, a trainee of Seth Rollins and Marek Brave, would break out a bit more in 2017. An SCW regular locally, he's wrestled for WWN, House of Hardcore and AAW on a semi-regular basis. With great size, a great moveset and a good look he can be a huge star if he finds the right extra bit to get him more star attention. (I don't think the hoverboard will do it.)

Impact Wrestling still gets a few things right...
Mia Yim. Jade's career ended in TNA, but Mia continued to tear it up on the independent scene. Though she didn't go as deep in the Mae Young Classic as I would have liked, she still put on an impressive showing. Out with an injury now, she should have a strong 2018 on her return where hopefully the big boy promotions all start bidding for her services.

Jeff and his evil alter ego... together?
Jeff Cobb. A hoss is a hoss, of course, of course. Cobb may not be the biggest wrestler ever, but he's one of the strongest. Guam's resident star took the indies by storm in 2017, going from PWG and California indies to wrestling pretty much everywhere in the world. Most of his exposure might come under a mask and a blood soaked jumpsuit, but as Matanza or as a 2004 Olympic wrestler turned pro, he's one of the most talented guys in the game. And the Slamfest may be one of the most impressive moves in professional wrestling.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

We're back... to close out 2017 with a new Top 10, voted on by you!

I am over here dusting the Wrestling Weekday homepage off. This site will get something of a face lift over the next year as it will feature some long form works and almost certainly, a name change. But none of that matters, the relaunch starts in the last week of the year. That means it is once again time for the year end Top 10.

And I need your help to determine the ten best wrestlers of 2017.

As in previous years, the process is simple. All you have to do to vote is to send me your list of the top wrestlers from anywhere in the world. Your list can be as short as one or as long as 25, but it needs to be ranked in order of worst to best. Send your choices to wwfmegs{at}yahoo{dot}com (or leave them in the comments below) and I will tally the fan choices as well as my own top ten to give a full list of the top stars of 2017.

The only requirement for a wrestler to be eligible for the list is if they were active in the calendar year 2015 as an in ring worker. Promotions, gender and age are not limited, just as long as they wrestled a match at some point in the year 2017. Wrestlers should be rated on quality of match rather than out of match promos or shenanigans, all though those can be taken into account as an overall reason for your choice. Tag teams and units must be listed separately on this list. If you feel they had equal levels of performance in your list of twenty, please put them one after another.

Though it is not required, any commentary on the wrestlers you chose and why you chose them would be appreciated, as it will be included as thoughts on the wrestler in the final Top Ten list.

All votes must be received by December 24, 2017, at midnight Central time. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

WWE exists in an endless cycle of one step forward, two steps back

WWE's worst booking decision in a series of abominable booking decisions.
Image credit:
WWE has made its share of announcements in the last week, but nothing they can do will overcome the bad blood many fans feel after the debacle that was the first ever women's Money in the Bank match. James Ellsworth won the match for Carmella, basically showing exactly how much WWE management really cares for its supposed women's revolution.

Let's be honest: Tuesday's Smackdown wasn't originally booked the way it was booked. Damage control was in full effect, as even major news outlets started to notice the ill fated storyline WWE produced on Sunday night. Vince lives in a world where exposure is always a good thing, but even he can't fix that problem.

Coupled with the ongoing problematic players still in positions of powers (folks like John Bradshaw Layfield and Michael Hayes) creating hostile work places, all while WWE pushes its anti-bullying narrative, the company seems divided between a newer generation of management that wants to take the company into the 21st century and Vince's old boys club.

Mauro is back... in a role far from the auspices of JBL and
Vince McMahon. Image credit:
Don't get me wrong. WWE has tons of bright points in the last week. Braun Strowman, arguably the biggest new star the couple actually developed in house since John Cena, made an impactful return on Monday night. Abbey Laith, better known to indie fans as former Chikara Grand Champion Kimber Lee, will make her debut in the Mae Young Classic. And perhaps the biggest news of all: WWE has signed a deal to bring Mauro Ranallo back into the company as the new play by play commentator of NXT (opening Todd Grisham to be Smackdown's lead full-time.)

However, while the Mae Young Classic has announced several great talents in the likes of Laith, Tessa Blanchard, Sarah Logan and Jazzy "Alpha Female" Gabert, the competition also has already added two homegrown WWE talents with almost no wrestling experience. Lacey Evans has worked a series of uninspiring job matches while MMA veteran Taynara Conti has exactly one match under her belt, and a battle royal no less. It again leaves a lot of wrestling fans disappointed to see amazingly talented females left by the wayside while WWE pushes unknown stars instead. It's entirely contrary to the hopeful spirit created by the Cruiserweight Classic.

WWE's booking on both main brand shows remain a complete mess as well. Mike and Maria Kanellis debuted at Money in the Bank, but barely blipped on Smackdown. Roman Reigns continues to be pushed over all others, though at least WWE seems to be letting him embrace his heeldom at last. The Raw tag division continues to be a complete mess despite a half dozen great teams on its roster. 50/50 booking and Orton's continued challenges against Mahal (seemingly for no reason after two straight losses) threaten to neuter the drawing power of names like Kevin Owens, AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura, all of which are arguably bigger draws than Randy Orton has ever been in his career.

I love to look on the bright side, but in the last two months I have felt zero urge to renew my WWE Network subscription. With the advent of the Mae Young Classic this summer, my opinion might change, but for now WWE still has a logn way to go to earn back my eight dollars a month.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Best of the Indies: AR Fox Open Invitational Scramble

Most of the time I'll use this feature to just focus on any exemplary match in the world of wrestling. Sometimes though, I'll use it to focus on a local promotion featuring some amazing talent. Pro Wrestling Revolver is easily the biggest thing to hit Iowa in years. Sami Callihan's little engine that could has put on some amazing events, but one of the first matches on their first card was this doozy of a match pitting AR Fox against multiple opponents, Dave Crist, recent Impact signee Dezmond Xavier, Zachary Wentz, Curt Stallion, KLD and Iowan regulars Chainsaw King (who has an uncanny resemblance to Deucalion of Chikara's Horde) and SCW regular Connor Braxton. It is an absolutely crazed match and definitely worth a watch to see these men throw everything out into the ring.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Adam West and The King

Adam West died over the weekend. He left a lasting legacy, most notably his decades connected to Batman. And through his long and storied career, he made millions of public appearances. But for wrestling fans, there's one notable moment: when he encountered the nefarious Jerry "The King" Lawler on an episode of Memphis television. Check out this wonderful moment from wrestling history.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Best of the indies: Sami Callihan & OI4K vs. Shane Strickland, Dezmond Xavier and Lio Rush

Today, we keep things simple as I start a new video sharing post just looking at some great modern independent wrestling matches. We start with action from Texas's Wrestle Circus promotion, a company with some controversy behind it but the ability to bring in some amazing talents. they put on this amazing match featuring the team of Sami Callihan, Dave Crist and Jake Crist, who have torn up the indies as a unit. Their opponents are an interesting cross section of Lucha Underground, Impact and EVOLVE stars in the form of Shane Strickland (a.k.a. Killshot), X division newcomer (and midwest indie darling) Dezmond Xavier and Lio Rush. Check it out. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, June 5, 2017

What do Lucha Underground and Wrestling Weekday have in common?

Much like the best hour of wrestling every week, The Wrestling Weekday finally returns after too long a hibernation. And while Lucha Underground went off the air to extend Season Three throughout 2017 to stretch out the show's run (and possibly several talents' contracts), this site disappeared while I worked on other projects, from a Kickstarter to a move from my house of too many years.

But with the return of Wednesday night's top show (sorry, NXT), it felt like the perfect time to bring out a few thoughts on the big return.

And it certainly was a big return: the second ever All Night Long (a.k.a. Iron Man Match) between Lucha Underground champion Johnny Mundo and a man that once was fired from WWE before he could make a single appearance: The Mack. The man sometimes known as Willie Mack showed why WWE failed miserably by letting him go as despite his size and build, he put on an epic battle with the leader of the Worldwide Underground.

Of course, Morrison used his fair share of cheap shots, weapons and his allies in the Worldwide Underground. The Mack gained some aide from the Underground's foe Son of Havoc and his friend (and former champion) Sexy Star, but Mack's own need to destroy Mundo ultimately lead to a draw... and potentially a second All Night Long match in a row.

Image credit: Lucha Underground.
But really what the match, no matter how overbooked it may or may not have been (and what kind of 40 minute LU match isn't overbooked?), it served to prove why Mundo and Mack deserve all the success they have received in this promotion. Mundo and Mack are world class competitors and I for one am glad to see them get a forum for their talents.

This is far from the end for either men's careers. Here's hoping either in Lucha Underground or elsewhere both these men get all the accolades they both deserve for many years to come.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Headlocked: The Hard Way has only hours left on Kickstarter!

I interviewed Michael Kingston way back when for The Pro Wrestling Roundtable. That one was a Kickstarter or two ago, but his amazing wrestling comic Headlocked continues onward. This is easily the best wrestling comic on the market today or any day, so I highly recommend giving it a read. The Kickstarter has about 8 hours left from when I post this, but it is also the only way to get several of the exclusive stories, including tales by "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair, Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega and Penta el 0M (better known to most folks as Pentagon Jr.)

Don't miss out on this one, folks! Back it!

Monday, April 10, 2017

WWE needs to grow up: JBL and bullying

As of today, all indications are that Mauro Ranallo will sit out the remainder of his WWE contract with no hope of renewal in August. It's a far shot away from the enthusiasm he clearly felt for his WWE run when he joined the Smackdown announce team on its move to USA Network in January of last year.

Image credit:
Before WWE, Mauro made no secret of his mental health issues. He dealt with them very publicly at times. I was already a fan of Ranallo from his days as the voice of Elite XC and Strikeforce as well as his amazing work as the American play by play commentator of New Japan's World Pro Wrestling (better known in the US as NJPW on AXS.) He was easily the biggest get for WWE on commentary since Joey Styles in 2005.

And it all came to an end weeks ahead of Wrestlemania and all reports were that JBL was the cause.

If this was the first report about John Bradshaw Layfield acting like a bully in the locker room it would be one thing. But JBL makes no secrets of his history with hazing and bullying. He and former tag partner Ron Simmons have even laughed about it at two straight WWE Hall of Fame shows.

Maybe in the 80s and 90s such things were still considered okay, but the world is a very different place in 2017 than it was in the Attitude Era. And let's be honest: for all the greatness of that time in wrestling, the horror stories far outweigh the highs of the ratings. And backstage, JBL was a key figure in torturing several workers, often to the point they quit the company and wrestling entirely.

The rumors of JBL's personal attacks on Ranallo (several of which could be seen on JBL's twitter before the rumors about the situation came to light) have snowballed in recent days as CBS Sports, Mauro's employer as the continued voice of Showtime's combat sports, have went on record that Ranallo would not be returning to WWE.

The release of former WWE announcer Justin Roberts book doubles down on these stories as he discusses frequent bullying from JBL during his twelve years with the company. JBL took to Twitter to say Roberts' claims were false, only for Johnny Mundo to in turn confirm the story as written.

In the heat of this, former WWE commentator and current ESPN Sports Center host Jonathan Coachman, a man that has regularly brought WWE workers onto the world's largest sports network, has announced he will no longer cover WWE product on Sports Center. Even if WWE manages to maintain their relationship with ESPN, the loss of a man so related to the WWE product only makes them look worse in public eyes.

And as I write this, more and more sports sites are picking up on the story.

At this point, WWE pretty much has one way to save face in this situation. It is time to release John Bradshaw Layfield from his contract. In a world where Jim Cornette and Bill DeMott have been excised from developmental for much the same behavior, WWE cannot afford to have an employee like JBL on the roster anymore.

His era is done. This kind of behavior, whether physically or verbally, has no place behind the scenes of WWE. And it is insane that a company that spends millions of dollars on the Be a Star campaign would ever let this continue for so long.

I am but one lonely wrestling blogger in a world of millions of wrestling fans. I have already taken to Twitter to let WWE know my WWE Network subscription is on its last month should JBL remain as a voice of Smackdown Live. I encourage everyone else out there to do the same. Let WWE know this kind of continued behavior will hurt their pocketbooks in the long run.

It's time for them to make the change. Or we will.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Looking back at Wrestlemania XXXIII

It's hard for me to look back objectively at this year's Wrestlemania. Why? Because so much of it seemed to be booked by executive committee rather than through good storytelling or in a lot of cases, even great wrestling.

This is as close as I'll come to mentioning the awful tag line this year.
Image credit: WWE.
Don't get me wrong. The show had great bits. I think it was superb after weeks of weeks of Austin Aries talking about it on commentary that Neville beat Aries through a poke to the eye. Brilliant. Mojo Rawley winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal worked wonderfully too. Mojo may be reviled by a lot of smarks but he's really building a following with his pseudo-Warrior gimmick and a chance for him and Gronk to shine together is a true Wrestlemania moment.

That was the pre-show. Unfortunately, the main card didn't deliver nearly as well as the free giveaway across platforms.

AJ Styles and Shane McMahon did what they could with who they were. Owens and Jericho wrestled a decent match, but it seemed wanting from two talents as good as they are, probably because it was meant as just a first match in a series. Neither women's title match was allowed to shine as well as they could, especially with less than twenty minutes on the show devoted to them combined.

Rollins / Triple H and Orton / Wyatt were both pretty much what anyone expected, all though I had held out a vague bit of hope that Bray Wyatt might retain. Brock Lesnar and Goldberg gave exactly the match they needed to give with a initial punch of offense from Goldberg before Lesnar dismantled him with Suplex City.

And for the second year in a row, the main event was absolute crap built to force feed us Roman Reigns. Sure, this time he played the heel a bit more in the lead up, but he's still not a heel in any practical way. The booking was beyond asinine and as a final match for Undertaker, it just felt like an insult. Reigns just isn't capable of putting together a great match with anything less than a true mat genius in their prime and he just wasn't able to give Undertaker the great sendoff he deserved. The final moments of the night were moving, sure, but unlike so many others I could not embrace the somberness of them after the twenty minutes of garbage that came before it.

Instead, the real Wrestlemania moments of the show were nestled right in the middle of the card. The point of the Cena-Nikki and Miz-Maryse feud were made clear when John proposed in the center of the ring. It was a touching moment and truly a unique bit of Wrestlemania history.

But the true highlight was the return of the Hardy Boyz (complete with a Z) in the tag team ladder match. While working as a weird combination of their classic gimmicks and Broken Matt / Brother Nero, they put on a solid showing in what was their second ladder match in as many days. (Jeff Hardy looked exactly as banged up as he should have after the reportedly insane ladder match with the Young Bucks the previous day.) They took home the tag titles that night in a great welcome home. Interestingly, it was the first time the titles changed hands since the best Mania of all time, Wrestlemania X7, where they lost the belts to Edge and Christian in TLC II.

The best description I can give Wrestlemania is a slog. For seven hours of entertainment, it was far from the caliber the biggest company in the world should be able to deliver on their grandest stage ever year. And the sacrifice of great matches made at Takeover the night before just made the weekend feel rather bland.

In almost everything, Wrestlemania 33 felt like paint by numbers WWE, but so has much of the booking since January. Hopefully with the big show of the year out of the way, Vince can fade back into the shadows and the company can return to putting on some of the absolute stellar shows they put on over the last six months of 2016.

Later this week, I'll talk about the actual best show of the weekend, one which is about as far removed from huge WWE extravaganza as you can imagine.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Check out my contributions to The Wrestling Blog's TWB 100

Every Wrestlemania season The Wrestling Blog counts down the Top 100 wrestlers in the United States. I've participated for three years with my selection of top talents in my viewpoint and this year is no different.

While I had a few picks in the bottom 40, my first pick with words from yours truly comes at #57, as the man I ranked as the second best wrestler of the year makes his appearance. So check out numbers 60 through 41 as the list continues to tick down.

I have a feeling you will find it... delightful.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The monumental importance of Manami Toyota

Manami Toyota is one of the best wrestlers in the world today, even if she barely gets any attention in the internet wrestling community. Even at 46, she is still one of the most accomplished tacticians in the business. When she announced her plan to retire last weekend, the news sadly came to the world with little fanfare, even if those in the know about joshi wrestling know how monumental that announcement truly is. She innovated several moves and her Ocean Cyclone Suplex is still one of the meanest looking moves in professional wrestling, whether it came from her, Al Snow, Rey Mysterio or Elix Skipper.

And of course, she's recognized as the purveyor of more five star matches than any other female wrestler, all despite making her United States wrestling debut in 2010, nearly twenty-four years into her career. She made that debut in Chikara, where she wrestled off and on for two years, putting on matches that perhaps weren't as great as her classic All Japan Women's battles, but were still impressive for a forty year old talent. As far as this writer knows, Chikara remains the only United States promotion where Toyota plied her trade. It seems likely it will remain the only one as well, as it seems unlikely she will make any US appearances elsewhere between now and her retirement on November 3rd.

If you have never watched her wrestle before, you're in luck because many of her five star matches are available on Youtube. Here are a pair of her best to get you started. I'll give the complete list from Meltzer at the bottom of the page.

The list:

  • (1991) with Etsuko Mita vs Aja Kong and Bison Kimura on January 5
  • (1992) with Toshiyo Yamada vs Yumiko Hotta and Suzuka Minami on March 7
  • (1992) vs Kyoko Inoue on April 25
  • (1992) vs Toshiyo Yamada on June 21
  • (1992) vs Toshiyo Yamada (IWA, Hair vs Hair Match) on August 15
  • (1992) with Toshiyo Yamada vs Dynamite Kansai and Mayumi Ozaki on November 26
  • (1993) with Toshiyo Yamada vs Dynamite Kansai and Mayumi Ozaki on April 2
  • (1993) with Toshiyo Yamada vs Dynamite Kansai and Mayumi Ozaki on December 6
  • (1993) with Akira Hokuto vs Toshiyo Yamada and Kyoko Inoue (Tag League, Round Robin) on December 10
  • (1993) with Akira Hokuto vs Toshiyo Yamada and Kyoko Inoue (Tag League, Final) on December 10
  • (1994) with Toshiyo Yamada vs Takako Inoue and Kyoko Inoue on September 10
  • (1994) vs Aja Kong on November 20
  • (1995) vs Kyoko Inoue on May 7
  • (1995) vs Aja Kong on June 27
  • (1995) vs Mima Shimoda on July 23
  • (1995) with Sakie Hasegawa vs. Kyoko Inoue and Takako Inoue on August 30
  • (1995) vs. Akira Hokuto on September 2

Monday, March 13, 2017

How many reboots is this for Impact Wrestling?

Thursday night TNA Impact Wrestling went through yet another of the company's many many reboots. Now firmly under the Anthem regime, they've bled several of their bigger talents due to late contracts, losing Drew Galloway, Mike Bennett, Maria and the Broken Hardys, five individuals that drove much of the storytelling for Impact for the last two years. This left The Wolves, EC3 and Lashley as the credible main eventers in the promotion, although Cody could easily be moved into that role if he was willing to commit to more television time.

This would of course be a great spot to build on existing talent. So the company of course brought in a former WWE star, and one that's damaged goods at best. While Alberto El Patron is certainly capable of great matches, he's not a guy to build a company around. Impact has two men for that role already: the World Champion Lashley and the leader of The DCC and criminally under-utilized talent James Storm. Hope springs a bit with Storm as The DCC seem to be at odds after losing a lackluster tag match to the debuting (and equally lackluster) Reno Scum.

But with a show dominated by arguments between lead announcer Josh Matthews and new third man on commentary Jeremy Borash distracted from the entire program. They do much to ruin a rather pointless X Division match and do more to hurt Rachael Ellering's debut than help her.

The most pushed storyline on the first episode of the new Impact.
Image credit: Impact Wrestling Twitter.
Prolonged chat sessions from Bruce Pritchard and Dutch Mantell don't really help the program get far either, but they did encourage yet more references to WWE programming. I've seen the words WWE mentioned less on episodes of NXT and 205 Live than on this episode of Impact Wrestling.

Dutch has to be the one that thinks Make Impact Great as a slogan is good as well, right? Because only someone that portrayed a racist right winger on television for over a year could think a reference to the current divisive President's campaign slogan is a way to bring in viewers. I can see a good section of the potential audience automatically turned off just by that phrase, never to give the new Impact another chance.

But the women's match was solid as was the main event between the debuting Patron and Lashley, at least up until yet another Dusty finish from a company absolutely obsessed with them. Cody's search for Moose (supposedly in Japan for NOAH despite not having that NOAH match until after the tapings) were superb promo segments, but they were devoted to a part time star prioritizing New Japan over the company.

And the brawl between Richards and Edwards as well as Decay's magic theft of the Broken Hardys' titles were both pure agony.

There's hope in the new Impact Wrestling, but is it an improvement over the last year, where TNA had actually started to solidify a decent project? I'm not so sure. Only the coming weeks will show us for sure.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Smackdown Top 10 for February

After the events of Elimination Chamber, the stars of Smackdown Live edge closer to the lineup for Wrestlemania. With no matches official yet for the biggest show of the year, everything seems up in the air with the men and women of the blue brand. But even with as many questions as answers left, The Wrestling Weekday takes a look at the top ten superstars or teams of the brand.

Just a reminder about the numbers at the end of each entry. The first number is the wrestler's rank from the last list. The second is the number of months they have been ranked on the list.

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  1. American Alpha: I've got to be honest; I wish I could rank the Smackdown Tag Team Champions a lot higher than the number ten spot. But while Chad Gable and Jason Jordan are infinitely talented, their booking has been one of the weakest part of Smackdown Live. A feud with The Usos looks to be in the cards, but already this team seems hungry for new challengers. (10/5)
  2. Dolph Ziggler: His heel turn came about a year too late, nor will a feud with Apollo Crews or Kalisto really help him move up the ladder. An entourage would actually be a great thing for him right now, but WWE seems unlikely to make that happen. For now it seems Dolph is destined to play the perennial midcard talent until the end of time. (7/3)
  3. Dean Ambrose: Dean's push has faltered post-WWE title reign quite a bit. As Intercontinental Champion, he feels like he's mostly treading water, even as he seems destined to be thrown into the annual seven way ladder match for that belt at Wrestlemania. It's a far cry from the solid and steady booking of Reigns and Rollins, which is a true shame for (IMHO) the most talented of the former Shield members. (8/12)
  4. Alexa Bliss: The former Women's Champion took a tough loss at Elimination Chamber. But even though she lost her belt, it is hard to argue that Alexa has had one of the fastest rises on the main roster of any star post-draft. Even without the title, she is still arguably the top dog of the women's division, with battles with Becky Lynch and Naomi to continue in the future. (4/3)
  5. Baron Corbin: The Lone Wolf has cemented himself as a dominant force on the WWE main roster post-Survivor Series. With a series of strong wins and a pair of near misses for the WWE title, he seems clearly poised to enter the main event scene post-Wrestlemania. I still suspect he lost his position for that show to Orton, but even if his push has been slowed, he clearly will be one of WWE's top stars in the years to come. (9/2)
  6. John Cena: The face that runs the place won his record tying sixteenth world title, only to drop it two weeks later. Going into Wrestlemania, his future seems unclear but with his time divided between Hollywood and WWE, he will likely pop on and off this list frequently. (U/1)
  7. AJ Styles: The former WWE champion has made a huge splash in his year with WWE. Though he's lost the title and seems clearly out of that picture for Wrestlemania, he clearly has a strong future on the blue brand in the coming months. (1/2)
  8. Randy Orton: His push from Survivor Series to Royal Rumble has been astronomical, but the fan reaction to his sudden rise to the top of the card has been less than stellar. Though he could be destined for a stellar match at Wrestlemania, the situation between him and the current WWE champion is far from clear as of this writing. (3/2)
  9. Naomi: Few wrestlers have deserved a major run with the women's title as Naomi. She is a natural talent and showed great promise back to her earliest days in FCW, but the Funkadactyls gimmick hampered her rise in WWE's women's division. After her last push was halted by the arrival of Paige, she floundered until recent weeks when the writers saw fit to move her to the top of the Smackdown women's division. Hopefully she can retain a presence there, but with a multi-woman match at Wrestlemania likely in her future, she could face more contenders than she could handle very soon. (U/1)
  10. Bray Wyatt: In the last few months, Bray Wyatt has won his first two titles in his four years as a WWE star. Now as WWE champion, he's finally arrived at the pinnacle of the blue brand. The position is well deserved, but whether or not he will hold on to it for more than a few weeks remains to be seen. But with Wyatt as champion, it seems clear he will have the fans eating from his hand for some time to come. (3/2)
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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Top 10 Stars of NXT, Post-Dallas Edition

It has been seventh months since the last NXT Top 10, so an update to the list seems more than overdo. Seven of the ten entries on that list are no longer NXT wrestlers, now regularly plying their talents on the Raw and Smackdown brands. The other three return to the list, but you will just have to see who and when a bit down the page.

As always, the wrestlers all have a pair of numerical entries behind their profile. The first number represents their last place on the list. The second represents the number of repeated Top 10 lists each wrestler has been on. Got it? On to the list!

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  1. Billie Kay and Peyton Royce: The bad girls of NXT have been working their way around the roster for years now. But these leggie Aussies are finally getting their do as they try to establish their dominance of the NXT women's roster. Of course, they have several other dangerous talent to contend with, including Ember Moon and the other two women on this list. (U/1)
  2. The Revival: Injuries and storylines have limited The Revival's NXT appearances in the weeks leading into Dallas. But never underestimate Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder. The old school beatdown they bring make them two of the most dangerous men on the roster and with two NXT Tag Team titles in their history, even the current champions should be wary of the pair. (8/4)
  3. #DIY: Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano may have dropped their tag titles, but it is hard to argue that they've secured their place as the show stealers of NXT. They put on amazing match after amazing match, even against talents greener than they (such as the new tag champions.) Both men should have solid main roster careers in the near future, whether on 205 Live or the main brand. (U/1)
  4. Roderick Strong: Strong still suffers from the same problem he had in ROH: lack of a strong gimmick or personality to match his amazing in ring abilities. NXT is a great place to help round Strong off to a world class performer. And if they're looking for gimmicks, may I suggest frat boy whose cruel to midgets? (U/1)
  5. Authors of Pain: It's amazing to see how far the new NXT Tag Team champions have came in in ring proficiency. They are slowing turning into talented monsters and the presence of Paul Ellering continues to lend legitimacy to their dominating run. While I am not as sure they will be as dominant now that they hold the titles, I suspect both men to have a solid run in NXT and a huge showing on the main roster in years to come. (U/1)
  6. Nikki Cross: While the rest of Sanity seems almost directionless, focused pointlessly on Tye Dillinger joining their cause, the completely insane Nikki Cross has in just a matter of a couple matches established her place as one of the top threats to the NXT Women's Champion. She has a huge upside ahead of her in the months to come. (U/1)
  7. Shinsuke Nakamura: A big loss at Takeover: Dallas cost Nakamura his NXT title and left him with an injured leg, but he is still one of the biggest stars the promotion has to offer. Even a roster as stacked as NXT is hard pressed to match up with the former New Japan star. (1/2)
  8. Tye Dillinger: It is hard to believe that a year ago "The Perfect 10" was barely a jobber on the NXT roster. After making his Royal Rumble debut, he seems intent on staying in NXT to continue his feud with Eric Young. While I suspect his days in NXT are numbered, with a call up to Smackdown coming by the post-Wrestlemania season, he still has a lot to offer the brand especially as he settles into the role as the company's most likable star.  
  9. Bobby Roode: Not since the days of Bo Dallas could I argue a wrestler wasn't established enough to take the NXT title. But despite years in TNA, Roode still seems less than established in NXT. I suspect he will have a "Glorious" reign as NXT champion however and cement himself as something of a Triple H like figure on the brand. It will be especially interesting if his spot on the top of the card might mean a face turn for his old rival Eric Young and Sanity. 
  10. Asuka: She is now the longest running champion in NXT history. It seems unlikely she will lose the NXT Women's title until at least Takeover: Orlando. Even against three other women, she showed her total dominance in Dallas. With Royce, Kay, Cross and Ember Moon in the wings, she has plenty of challengers, but I suspect Asuka will continue her dominance of the NXT women for several more months. (3/4)
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Thursday, January 26, 2017

The inaugural Impact Wrestling Top 10

I have written several unique Top 10 lists in the last couple years of producing The Wrestling Weekday. But somehow Impact Wrestling has always escaped my coverage. Considering the year end Top 10 featured a long time Impact star now in WWE at #2 and an actual Impact star at #1, it seems the time is ripe to feature the first ever list of Impact talents!

Image credit: Impact Wrestling. 
  1. Ethan Carter III: While it currently feels like EC3 is treading water a bit at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, he is cemented as a perennial main eventer on the Impact roster. He could still make huge moves in the year ahead, especially if the company decides to play off the loss of his storyline aunt from the roster. 
  2. Drew Galloway: I am not a fan of Galloway as a heel. He made one of the best faces the company had to offer, while as a heel he feels like just another bad dude in a sea of bad dudes. But he has definitely made waves since his in ring return and looks to have a solid run as Grand Champion. 
  3. Decay: After Total Nonstop Deletion, Abyss and Crazzy Steve are in a bit of a random space, but they continue to be one of the best units on Impact Wrestling, even if it seems unlikely they will challenge for the tag titles much this year. 
  4. Davey Richards: Davey's path upon his return seems clear. After a short uniting of the Wolves for a few weeks, he will take a heel turn against his former partner. Hopefully, Impact uses Angelina Love as his mouthpiece during his heel run, because while Davey can go in the ring, he is still one of the worst talkers on the Impact roster.
  5. Jade: If Impact is smart, they will start to build a major part of their promotion around Jade. The perennial #1 contender to the Knockouts title, the former Mia Yim has to be on WWE's radar now. She has the potential to be a game changer in the world of women's professional wrestling and Impact would be wise to market on that. 
  6. Moose: Unlike Mike Bennett, Moose was smart to make the jump from ROH to Impact. Impact not only gets him in front of more eyes, but it also helps him develop more attention on his career as it continues to grow. He might still have a future in WWE, but with a more solid place on Impact, he can develop the same kind of following that has helped names like Styles, Roode and Samoa Joe in WWE.
  7. Eddie Edwards: He finished 2016 as TNA World Heavyweight Champion, but his obvious impending feud with Davey makes the continuation of his reign seem unlikely, especially with Lashley after him this week. But Eddie has cemented himself as a growing star for the company, and arguably far more valuable than Davey.
  8. Lashley: It seems likely Lashley will win the title just a few hours after this posts. Outside the #1 pick, no one on this list did as good a job as reinventing themselves in 2016 as Donald Trump's former wrestling buddy. His dominant work week in and out on Impact Wrestling builds upon his goal of making professional wrestling seem credible and he does a great job of that even when he's warring with Eddie Edwards at the Hardy compound. I never thought I'd say it, but I've became a big fan of this man in the last year. 
  9. Rosemary: The Knockouts Champion is easily one of the most over talents on Impact television. With a compelling character, a unique in ring style and a propensity to do things in the ring to make a true impact, the former Courtney Rush is a figure a company could be built around. Along with Jade, she makes a strong case for Impact to double down on the Knockouts side of the roster. 
  10. The Broken Hardys: Broken Matt Hardy was the top wrestler of 2016 as chosen by the readers of The Wrestling Weekday and the staff of the ESO-PRO podcast. But Brother Nero did his own reinvention in the second half of the year and even freed from his obsolescence, he still is in a much better place in his career in 2017. No tag team is as in demand in 2017 as the Hardys. The twenty year veterans look to make a huge mark with international matches that will likely be rebroadcast on Impact Wrestling broadcasts, even as they continue to push the boundaries of storytelling in the year ahead. 

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Monday, January 23, 2017

It's about time... about damn time!

I am more than glad WWE finally realized they had a major name well deserving of a return to the company and a place in the WWE Hall of Fame.

But while looking back on his career this weekend, both in and out of WWE, I hope Kurt will also be the first wrestler to turn a Hall of Fame position back into a return to the ring. While I don't think he needs to work a bunch of shows, he would make an excellent part time in the company.

I mean, look back at this and think about how much bigger WWE could make a rematch between these two men.

Nuff said.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Top 10 Wrestlers of the Lucha Underground midseason break

Season Three of Lucha Underground went on hiatus last week, sending fans such as myself into aching fits of pain at the thought of four or five months without weekly lucha action. But with the show going into reruns for the next several weeks, reportedly due to tapings for Season four being delayed until late 2017 or early 2018, it seems like a fine time to look at the top ten wrestlers in Lucha Underground as the break hit.

Image credit: Lucha Underground. 
  1. (tie) Dragon Azteca Jr. / Pentagon Dark: It was incredibly difficult to choose a number ten spot on this list. But two wrestlers have made great strides this year in Lucha Underground at the hands of a massive defeat. Both Dragon Azteca and Pentagon Dark were written off by brutal attacks. Azteca went through the bleachers for a several feet fall while Pentagon suffered broken arms from both Black Lotus and Azteca. Both men seem likely to come back with a stronger push later in season three. (Pentagon: 8/2)
  2. Cage: Winning the best of five series cemented Cage as a man to watch in Lucha Underground and even succeeded in setting Texano on a new path. His gauntlet and his ongoing possession by the dark god held within may be the most unique wrestling story currently on television. (6/2)
  3. Mil Muertes: He has continued to have brutal matches in Lucha Underground, but the present of Puma has left him more vulnerable than ever before. But he still possesses immense destructive capability. Just ask Vampiro. (10/2)
  4. Snake Tribe: The Trios title seems to slowly be heading towards the chosen title for the rising seven Aztec tribes in the promotion. The most dominant of these tribes is clearly the Snakes as Kobra Moon has led Pindar and Vibora into devastating wins. With Drago clearly swayed by her power, they may prove unstoppable in coming months. (-/0)
  5. Sexy Star: It is hard to look as good in defeat as Sexy Star. Although she didn't regain the title, she clearly is positioned as one of the top babyfaces in the company in the coming months. (2/2)
  6. Matanza Cueto: The Monster is still the most dominant wrestler in the ring, but he clearly has shown he's got a weakness to one man. (4/2)
  7. Jeremiah Crane: His wins may be coming due to storyline reasons as much as anything else but Crane clearly is being positioned for an important role in the ongoing Lucha Underground storyline, especially with his history with Catrina and Mil Muertes still coming to light. (-/0)
  8. Rey Mysterio: He just returned on the final episode from the break but his domination of Matanza post-match clearly marks him as a massive star in Lucha Underground's continued success. (-/0)
  9. Johnny Mundo: Mundo has been the most dominant figure in Lucha Underground storylines this year, but it has come at the expense of making him even a dirtier player than ever before. But his three victories over Sexy Star mark him as the man to beat and his in ring endurance will again be tested by an All Night Long match when the show returns. (1/2)
  10. The Mack: He won the Battle of the Bulls tournament and has put a massive hurting on the entire Worldwide Underground. Not since Stone Cold Steve Austin has someone stuck it to the powers that be quite as hard as The Mack is in his storyline against Mundo. He might not win the title when the show returns, but he's cemented himself as one of the strongest babyfaces in professional wrestling today. (7/2)

Image credit: Lucha Underground.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Broken Brilliance of 2016's Greatest Wrestler

"Wrestling Weekday, I knew you'd come!"

In 2017, TNA could not even make the list of the Top 10 Wrestlers of the year. But as the promotion puts their first star on the list, he comes in as the greatest star of the year.

Image credit: Matt Hardy.
Matt Hardy started 2016 with his second reign as TNA World Heavyweight Champion. But strangely, that might have been the low point of the year for him. His reign came with a heel turn and a new enforcer in Tyrus, but it never quite worked. The reign ended just a few weeks later with Matt's loss to Drew Galloway.

From there, he started a feud with Jeff Hardy and the true brilliance started to come forth. After two straight brutal losses to his brother, it seemed like Matt might be done with wrestling. But just a few weeks later, Jeff's old alter ego Willow appeared in the ring despite Jeff already being present. But after beatings at the hand of three different Willows, Matt revealed himself as the mastermind of the false form. He declared himself broken, a shadow of his former self obsessed only with the deletion of Jeff, a man he would now only refer to as Brother Nero.

He lost two more matches against Brother Nero, but Matt had one more battle in mind with his brother. The war would continue at Matt Hardy's personal compound, in a battle Matt dubbed "The Final Deletion."

And in one night, the wrestling world would change forever.

From there, the Broken Brilliance finally started to shine. Now the sole owner of the Hardy name, he brought the now "obsolete" Brother Nero into his fold. From there, the tag titles became their target, but it seemed clear this was still Matt's show. From appearances on just about every wrestling podcast still in character to promo after promo to premonition after premonition.

Over the course of the year, Matt became the biggest star in TNA by leaps and bounds, and arguably the most talked about wrestler in the world. He made King Maxel, Senor Benjamin, Vanguard 1 and even The Dilapidated Boat famous names in the wrestling world. An epic feud with Decay started the path to Delete and Decay.

He ended the year with Total Nonstop Deletion and the Tag Team Apocalypto. But Hardy's Great War is far from over.

"Delete! Delete! Delete!"

Thursday, January 12, 2017

AJ Styles: #2 in the Top 10 Wrestlers of 2016

Last year, I rated AJ as the eleventh best wrestler in the world on my personal list. Through his second year in New Japan Pro Wrestling, he completely reinvented himself as an exciting star after years of mediocre booking in TNA, where he was arguably the biggest star in the company despite TNA's seeming desire to focus on anyone but him much of the time. Two IWGP Heavyweight Championship did far more for his career than any of the five world championships he won in TNA.

Then 2016 happened.

Image credit: WWE.
Opening the year against #5 wrestler on this list in front of 25,000 fans in the Tokyo Dome couldn't have been the worst way to kick off a year. While he didn't beat Shinsuke Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental title there, he did manage to steal the show even as he prepared to leave New Japan for greener pastures.

The 2016 Royal Rumble continued a streak of rumble matches lacking in well thought out booking, but the one thing it got right was Styles debut as the third man in the match. While it did no favors for Roman Reigns as the newcomer already had far more cheers than the supposed top babyface of the company, it cemented Styles as an important new player in WWE. He continued his battles with names on this list, battling #7 Chris Jericho in a series of show-stealing matches yet again.

From there, WWE showed they finally understood what they missed for all the years they didn't sign AJ to the promotion. Over the spring and summer, he feuded with the company's top two stars, barely losing to Roman Reigns in two title matches then turning heel on John Cena. Alongside The Club, he would go on to pick up multiple wins over "The Face That Runs the Place." When he finally beat Cena and Dean Ambrose for the WWE World Heavyweight Title, he even chose to mock Cena, dubbing himself "The Champ That Runs the Camp."

Since SummerSlam, AJ has dominated Smackdown's programming. It is hard to argue he's the best booked talent in the company today. He's been so impressive on the roster that he even was able to eat three straight losses to James Ellsworth without a bump in the step of his run on top of the WWE mountain.

While AJ turns forty later this year, he's barely lost a step in the wrestling ring since he was a young up-and-comer in the final days of WCW. One of the most seasoned stars in professional wrestling, if he stays healthy he could have an equally impressive 2017 with a place on the top of the Smackdown card very likely. Even if he should drop the title pre-Wrestlemania, AJ still has the potential to have an epic spot at that card, with rumors of Shawn Michaels coming out of retirement for one last match against "The Phenomenal One".

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Asuka: #3 in the Top 10 Wrestlers of 2016

116 matches. 0 losses.

In sheer dominance, no one holds a candle to the woman once known as Kana. She has dominated the women's division of NXT since the year began. Not even Bayley's road to glory could slow her down. She dominated Bayley, Nia Jax, Alexa Bliss and Mickie James over the course of the year. She handed multiple talents losses in under a minute.

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And let's get this out of the way: Goldberg never looked this good as he dominated his way through WCW.

For while Asuka's win streak in NXT is impressive, perhaps it is her uncanny in ring acumen that should really get the most talk here. You can count on one hand the number of WWE talents as gifted as she is in striking and technical prowess. She can even pull out high flying moves when necessary although with her kicks and the Asuka Lock, she rarely needs to even think about the ropes.

At 35, she's older than almost every other woman on WWE's roster. (Only Tamina and the recently re-signed Mickie are older.) But though she's wrestling for over a decade, she's always worked a far more limited schedule than a regular WWE talent. Mixed with a style that looks aggressive but is built to limit much of the wear and tear a wrestler faces in the ring, she still has a lot of years ahead of her. With few injuries in her background, she seems built to be a dominant player in WWE well into her 40s.

Of course, when she arrives on the main roster will be anyone's guess. But in the mean time, expect her to be dominant on NXT until she's ready to be called up. And even if she loses the title, don't expect it to be by pinfall. WWE has triple threats and fatal four ways specifically to keep characters like Asuka dominant for many more months to come.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The 2016 Honorable Mentions List, Part Two

Tomorrow, we will return with the first of the top three, but today we take a look back at everyone else that made an impact in 2016. These figures all received multiple votes in our awards, but didn't quite earn enough to make it into the Top 10.
Image credit: WWE.
  • Alexa Bliss: I would make a strong argument that Alexa earns a "Most Improved" award for the year. She showed tons of character on Smackdown Live and pretty much made that women's division competitive. Her feud with Becky Lynch has been nothing short of epic, and I look forward to her continuing her dominance in 2017. 
  • Rosemary: TNA's resident mistress of decay has combined epic character work with her already capable in ring style, honed by years on the Canadian indies and in SHIMMER (where she played a very different character.) Joe Crowe sums her up wonderfully, saying, "She spews different colors of mist. And she, unlike almost all other big-league female wrestlers, has a character that goes beyond 'Lady who wrestles.'"
  • Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson: It's no surprise there's crossover between the people that voted for The Revival and those who voted for Charlotte. Both of them have a lot of old school nostalgia at their base, but I personally think The Revival currently have a stronger game than the Raw Women's Champion.
  • Seth Rollins: I can think of only a few big returns as bungled as WWE bringing back Seth Rollins. From his return as a heel to his turn against Triple H that hasn't shown any story progression (because that feud can't start until Wrestlemania season) to a series of so-so matches with Kevin Owens, he just could not get off the ground with Raw's weak booking. 
  • Bobby Roode: Roode had a good first few months of the year in TNA as one half of Beer Money, but I doubt anyone voted for him for that. His Glorious arrival in NXT has revitalized his career. His song has inspired a great new character for him and he looks to have a strong 2017 in a feud with Shinsuke Nakamura. Of the names on this list, he's the one I suspect will rise the most on next year's list.
  • Dean Ambrose: Dean seems like he'll never quite make this list. He's a solid in ring worker, but his gimmick and his go to spots have become stale as a babyface. Only Roman Reigns more desperately needs a heel turn in WWE. 
  • Becky Lynch: Becky finally received a title in WWE, but her run as inaugural Smackdown Women's Champion was dwarfed by the rise of Alexa Bliss. As a babyface, she makes a far better underdog than she does a top dog which hopefully will mean a feud with La Luchadora in the coming weeks will give her some good in ring time without immediate rematch after rematch against Alexa.
  • Sasha Banks: Last year's number one had some more great matches in 2016, but her year just couldn't compare to the previous. After a great Wrestlemania match, several of her matches with Charlotte were good but none seemed to be the game changing bouts she had with Bayley in the previous year. Still, Sasha could have a huge run in WWE still ahead of her, especially if she could make a move to the blue brand. 
  • Tetsuya Naito: The leader of Los Ingobernables De Japon had one of the best years of any wrestler in New Japan. He won both the World Title and the Intercontinental Title, which he continues to hold as of this writing. While the return of Suzukigun might make Los Ingobernables play second fiddle for a bit, he's still cemented himself as a top star in the promotion and arguably a suitable replacement for Nakamura at the main event. Additionally, he has put up some of the best matches of any NJPW star in ROH where he's wrestled a great feud with Jay Lethal. 
Naito does evil like no one else. Image credit: NJPW.
That's the complete list of everyone that fell below the Top 10 line. With it, you may be able to determine your guesses for the top three wrestlers of the year. Any ideas? Share them in the comments below!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Charlotte: #4 in the Top 10 Wrestlers of 2016

Full disclosure: Charlotte is the highest ranked wrestler on this list I didn't vote for myself. While she was dominant in the Raw Women's Division through 2016, I didn't feel her in ring work was really as good as it could have been. If anything, I still feel like Charlotte has regressed since moving from NXT to WWE.

Charlotte very rarely was seen without Dana in her corner in 2016.
Image credit:
But this vote isn't just about me. Every other person that voted gave her a rating, most within their top five wrestlers. After just falling outside of the top ten last year, a strong argument could certainly be made for Charlotte's inclusion in the 2016 list. She wrestled at every single Raw or dual brand pay-per-view of the year. Her only pay-per-view loss was a tag match against Bayley and Sasha Banks, and even then Dana took the pinfall instead of her. And while she traded the title with Sasha on multiple Raw matches over the year, she's remained undefeated in singles competition on pay-per-view.

Of course, like all Raw heel champions, she depends solely on shenanigans to pick up the majority of her victories. While I don't hate the idea of heels cheating by any means, often Raw champions start to feel like Russo booked events with their endless need for cheap endings.

Contributor Joe Crowe—who ranked Charlotte as the top wrestler of the year—might best describe her success in the list. "For a wrestling history geek, it's just neat to see a legacy wrestler do well. But Charlotte doesn't try to be cool, she tries to be an old-school heel. I dig it."

Clearly, Joe was far from alone and that's why Charlotte deserves her place on the Top 10 Wrestlers of 2016.

The Top Ten returns next week with the top three wrestlers of the year, starting with the highest ranked female wrestler on the list!