And here we are, another year is ending. This year seems to have flown by, but I feel like I say that every year. 2017 has been a year full of very good, very bad, and everything in between. It was the first full calendar year I was married. Being married to my beautiful wife is an adventure and our first year together has been great. I was (and still am) a little dumbfounded that I am married but it’s been wonderful. I also started writing again, which has been so great. I really missed it and though I don’t post as much as I would like, it is a thrill to write for The Newplex. 2017 has been a big year for the site and 2018 is shaping up to be even bigger. I can’t wait to let you all in on our plans, it’s going to be a ride you want to get on and stay on.
Wrestling in 2017 hit a lot of peaks and had some amazing moments. Can you believe the first Omega/Okada match was allllllll the way back in January? It seems like 10 years ago. That is how we kicked this year off and I tell you, it would get even better than that.
I have loved wrestling for a long time but I can honestly say 2017 has been my favorite year to be a fan yet. That’s supported by the fact that I saw more live wrestling in 2017 than in any other year. I have to give love to my hometown promotion here in Cleveland, AIW, for putting on great shows. Each and every time I go to one of their shows, I always see something new, something shocking, and something that makes me jump out of my seat. If you have live wrestling anywhere near you, you must go and see it. Supporting local independent wrestling is so important and it’s just a blast.
I also expanded my horizons when it came to styles of wrestling. Before this year I knew that the UK had a scene and there was some buzz around it, but by the end of 2017 I have become such a massive fan of all things British wrestling. Though WWE will always be my ‘home base’, they are actually the ones responsible for my new love (borderline obsession) for UK wrestling.
So I thought I would do what I am know for; make a list. I have to say this is my list. This isn’t a definitive list, and this certainly isn’t Meltzer’s breakdown. These are my top five wrestling moments of 2017 (in no particular order).
5. The WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament
All the way back in January, WWE put on a two-day tournament in Blackpool that has totally changed how I view wrestling. I didn’t know anything about 98% of the guys in it – they were all new faces to me, save Trent Seven and Tyler Bate. I am a big Chikara fan and Moustache Mountain had been around a bit. To think that I started this year not knowing Pete Dunne… I am almost ashamed of myself.
I watched both days live and was blown away. Having Nigel McGuinness on the commentary team was a treat but I have to say Michael Cole was fantastic. Not having Old Man Vince screaming in his ear, making him repeat the same stupid lines over and over, let him show why he is one of the best in business. The intimate setting of Blackpool’s Empress Ballroom was always a great move. It let the British fans really showcase why they are some of the most rowdy but fun folks to perform in front of.
The tournament itself was so fun and had some fantastic match-ups. Of course the first match (of the now epic trilogy) between Tyler Bate and Pete Dunn was a great way to end it, but we saw so many great matches in between.
Danny Burch vs Jordan Devlin in the first round was a great tone-setter. It really was an example of the British strong style of wrestling. I really took a shine to Wolfgang and his showing made me look into ICW and man, I’m super happy about that. Then there’s Mark Andrews… what a fun guy to watch work! Each match brought something interesting and new. It was such a great two days and really set up the year well for me and my renewed love of wrestling.
4. Progress Wrestling
As I mentioned, the WWE UK Tournament really opened me up to British wrestling. As soon as I heard about the tournament I had to learn more about the wrestlers, and a great number of them had worked for Progress.
So I went to YouTube and I unlocked a world that just made me so happy.
Everything about this company makes my soul smile. Take Jim Smallman, one of the owners and the ring announcer. He is a stand-up and it shows. He is extremely funny, charismatic, and the perfect host of the outrageousness that is Progress. The very intimate setting of the Electric Ballroom, the Progress HQ, is so wild and fun, you can’t help but wish with all your heart you could be there. I love live events and each show looks like the crowd is having more fun that should be allowed by law.
Right now I am watching Chapter 41 (all Progress shows are “chapters”) and FSU (Eddie Dennis and Mark Andrews) came out to Party Hard by Andrew W. K. and the entire crowd is singing along, dancing and are just all giddy as fuck. I love it! The crowd has chants for every single worker and they are clever, funny, and just smile-making.
When you get past all the trappings of the presentation, you get to the wrestling and my god, it’s amazing. Progress has a roster of the best wrestlers in the world. From the three lads of British Strong Style – Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate, and Trent Seven – to the current Progress Champ Travis Banks. Their Atlas Champ (a title you need to be over 205lbs to fight for) Walter is a mega-star in waiting. Matt Riddle makes a number of shows. And their women’s title picture is outstanding. Toni Storm can make anyone a fan of hers with one match.
Progress has turned my love for wrestling up to 11 and I can’t go back. Oh, and Progress only has one rule. It’s a very simple but a lovely one… Don’t be a dick!!
3. NXT Chicago
NXT has been consistently the best wrestling in WWE and it’s not even close. The main roster have been playing catch up for a while now and after Chicago, they could do nothing but sit back watch the ‘NXT Kids’ steal the weekend. Again.
The absolute highlight of the show happens to be my favorite match and what I consider the match of the year, the rematch for the UK Championship between champ Tyler Bate and the challenger, the Bruiserweight Pete Dunne. Yes, it’s the third time I have brought them up in this list. For my money, it was the best professional wrestling match I saw all year. And before the hate comes, yes… I saw all the Okada/Omega matches. Those were great. But this was better.
These two young men had the entire building in their hands and they made an entire building in Chicago, Illinois chant “THIS IS PROGRESS” because my friends, it was. It showed people that the WWE Universe can and will crave great in-ring product over dumb, unimaginative storylines. I have watched the match at least 15 times and with each viewing I find something else I love about it. It was magic.
We also have a fantastic ladder match for the NXT Tag Team titles between DIY and the Authors of Pain. It was a spectacular match but the ending, the heel turn… I am still in shock. It was by far one of the best heel turns I have seen. The look in Ciampa’s eyes, it was haunting. It was amazing and I was heartbroken when it came out that Ciampa was hurt. But I can tell you this, when he comes back and the feud can restart, and it will light NXT on fire.
We also got a great three-way dance for the NXT Women’s belt with Asuka taking on both Ruby Riot and Nikki Cross. All three are outstanding and I cannot wait for Cross to make the main roster.
Rounded out with good matches from Roddy Strong taking on Eric Young and a NXT Title match with Bobby Roode fighting Hideo Itami, it was my favorite PPV of the whole year. If for some reason you haven’t seen it, go now!
2. The Mae Young Classic
Wow. I have to say this was a surprise and a treat. When I heard the WWE was going to put on a women’s tournament, I was reminded of all the awful things the company had done to women in the past. I know we are in a golden age in WWE for women at the moment, but we are not so far removed from the dark days of Divas and the awful garbage that was shoved down our throats on a weekly basis.
So I was nervous but hopeful. And I was rewarded with a great field of some of the best female workers in the world. Toni Storm became a worldwide star and Abbey Laith had one of the best showings of the whole tournament in the first round. I am so happy that a number of the women have been signed and I can’t wait to see more get involved in NXT and the main roster.
1. The Newplex
Yes, I had to add this on my list. Writing for this site has really made me a happy guy. I love to write but I didn’t have a proper outlet for the longest time. I am part of a lot of wrestling Facebook groups, I have a Twitter that is filled with my takes on the graps, but I needed a place to put my thoughts into proper words and to explore my creative side. I know I am not the best writer*, in fact I know there are much better writers on the staff here. But I love the feeling of sending my pieces over to Jads and sharing them with the world. I do wish I got more feedback from my readers, as I want to get better and feedback is the best way to do so. If you are reading this, please, leave a comment and tell me what you think. I want to grow and be even better in 2018.
We here at The Newplex have big plans. We are going to expand and makes strides into new media this year, and I am so excited to be along for the ride. I also have to say that the group of lads are the best. I am very honored to have been welcomed here and I hope to keep growing in my role for this site.
Happy New Year!
So there you have it. I could have made this list 100 times longer, because there were so many amazing things to talk about this year. And yes, were there things I didn’t like? Sure. Were there things I hated with the passion of a thousand suns? Jinder. But I tend to stay on the positive side of things. I am excited for what 2018 holds for me and for wrestling.
I will be going to see live wrestling again in 2017, right before the end of the year. I will report back with thoughts. But until then, remember, you’re the tops!