So last Sunday (at the time of writing) I saw my last wrestling card of 2017 – with PROGRESS Chapter 59: Whatever People Say We Are, That’s What We’re Not in Sheffield crowning off a year in which I’ve seen 14 shows over 6 companies (though, to be fair, technically was 13, as one show I was a roster member for). It seems a lot less than I thought I’d seen, but turns out I didn’t do much at the beginning of the year.
Interestingly, as a year for a whole, it’s been – strange. First off, the most shocking moment was when “The Word” Rudy Wynne made his long await, chubby bearded arse comeback at Britannia Wrestling’s Against the Odds 2. Considering the length of time since I last stepped foot in a ring, I didn’t embarrass myself I don’t think, and I was welcomed back with open arms by the very friendly and talented roster. I hope I didn’t stink up the joint!
Also, looking back, the match quality has been good. Great in fact. Better than last year. But I feel that to actually pick 3 matches that made me go crazy or jump out of a seat, with a few notable exceptions. The matches I list below are matches that I – as a jaded wrestling fan – enjoyed and became unglued to at certain points during 2017. My goal is to actually become a fan again, rather than rate on workrate or some sort of points scoring for artistic impression, the top 3 matches listed below are matches that all had me smiling, cheering and generally going crazy over at certain points during the match.
First off the Honourable Mentions though. These are matches that I thought that were good, and stood out on their respective cards. I’d highly recommend checking these out: South Pacific Power Trip vs. British Strong Style (PROGRESS Chapter 45: Galvanize), Soner Durson vs. Marc Morgan (BWP: Against The Odds), Mike Bird vs. WALTER (PROGRESS: Cologne), Laura Di Matteo vs. Toni Storm (PROGRESS Chapter 52: Vote Pies), The Band vs. Dan Evans & Natalie Wild (BWP: Summer Break) and literally the entire of PROGRESS Chapter 57: Enter Smiling.
Very, Very, VERY Honourable Mention Trent Seven vs. Wolfgang: ICW Fight Club on Tour – Manchester
If I was to be asked who my favourite wrestler is in 2017, I’d probably say Trent Seven. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him had a bad match, and probably PROGRESS Trent Seven is my favourite wrestler – the beard, the dad bod, he just seems – so achievable. Plus he’s older than me too so it gives me hope that there’s still a run left in me. His “Yeah, I’m basically WWE, deal with it” is brilliantly played, especially as a good guy, has me in stitches.
Up until recently, the main event of the first show of the year (and first ICW show) was in the top 3. The reason I enjoyed it? The match was so much different to what we are used to seeing in Manchester – a kind of Hybrid British Strong Style (no pun intended) of people being hit hard and dropped on their heads. This was more of a hardcore match, that was brutal for what was effectively a house show taping in Manchester in front of a smallish crowd on a Sunday night. This was very watchable and I suppose also being front row and having two big bastards fighting above you was an incredible sight. It was a very good match and an end to a decent show.
3. Adam Chase vs. Chris Ridgeway – PROGRESS Chapter 59:Whatever People Say We Are, That’s What We’re Not
Last year, I picked James Drake vs. Fabien Aichner as my third favourite match of the year, beating Adam Cole vs. Will Ospreay at PROGRESS Chapter 40: Intercepted Angel. The reason being is that it was so unexpected. A match that comes out of nowhere to impress me kind of engrosses me more than when two seasoned veterans put on a match.
So fast forward to PROGRESS Sheffield, and some background. First off, Britain was in the middle of a snowstorm that engulfed pretty much half the country. This meant that people couldn’t get to Sheffield, including some of the wrestlers. This included the entire of British Strong Style, Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster. 4 WWE UK guys and a participant in PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles. So quite a few heavy hitters.
A few wrestlers though stepped up, and one that did was a Spanish wrestler by the name of Adam Chase. He stepped in against Chris Ridgeway at such short notice and had an incredible match. To go from a lukewarm polite applause to having the entire of the o2 Academy in Sheffield on their feet in 5 minutes was very impressive, and after 10 or so minutes of cracking action Ridgeway won. This match was so unexpected, but announced that Adam Chase belonged in PROGRESS. It was great, and I enjoyed it immensely.
2. Travis Banks vs. Matt Riddle – PROGRESS Chapter 52: Vote Pies
A lot of PROGRESS has been the Travis Banks show this year, his rise to the World Championship has (for right or wrong reasons) dominated a large amount of the stories surrounding PROGRESS. This was after his Super Strong Style 16 victory for Banks and the story was Banks and PROGRESS Champion Pete Dunne putting together each others matches. Whilst Banks gave opportunities to Dunne’s opponents, Pete Dunne usually put Banks in difficult matches. This I believe was the first or second match for this.
What followed was two of PROGRESS’ brightest stars of the year that weren’t in British Strong Style legitimately beating the living bejesus out of each other. This was simple, and even though it had a screwy finish the first 10 minutes of the match which had me jumping and screaming made it my favourite singles match of 2017.
1. wXw – Shortcut To the Top Match
It is hard to do Royal Rumbles. I should know, I bloody agented one not a million years ago. Having 30 men queued up, keeping an eye on cues and generally making sure everything goes well (clue: it usually doesn’t) is hard work. So I have a lot of respect even for the terrible Rumbles WWE put on occasionally.
But when it goes right, oh does it go right.
I travelled to Cologne for the PROGRESS/wXw double header, but whilst I went for the PROGRESS, the better show was the wXw one. The weekend culminated with a cracking rumble that had 30 top stars from all over Europe, a few surprises, a few fun eliminations, and a genuinely brilliant story told from #1 all the way through to the end. Furthermore, it was the culmination of a great weekend, where I met some great people, and whilst it may not be at the top of many lists, everything about that weekend was perfect. After all, wrestling is meant to be fun.
Those are my three top matches for 2017, what are yours? Please leave them in the comments below!
Also published on Medium.