My Favorites of Wrestling from 2017

As I said in my last post, I only really watched three promotions regularly last year: CWF Mid-Atlantic from North Carolina, the National Wrasslin’ League from Missouri, and Impact Pro Wrestling from Iowa. I’m going to look at each group separately and pick my favorites.

CWF Mid-Atlantic

I’m pretty sure I watched every episode of CWF WorldWide in 2017.

Favorite Babyface: Trevor Lee

Dominant champion. Longest-reigning Mid-Atlantic Champion in history. Long matches, but that plays into his character. Despite being on top for so long, the crowd seems far from turning on him. The only downside to his dominance is that it’s hard to believe anyone can beat him. If you’ve only seen Trevor on TNA/GFW/IMPACT, you’re missing the boat just like their creative department is.

Favorite Heel: Cain Justice

I hated this guy. He’s such a snide little jerk, yet he wins more often than not. He doesn’t look like much – pasty skin, stringy hair, not a lot of muscle mass – but his character has been so dickish and he’s been so talented between the ropes with his Judo and submissions, it’s hard to pick anyone above him. I just wish his little fan club that seems to be in the audience would get with the program and boo him like the rest of us.

Favorite Tag Team: Caprice Coleman & Darius Lockhart

They really only tagged twice that I can remember, but I thought they were great together. Nothing against the Dawsons’s work; they were dominant and ended the Sandwich Squad’s long title reign. But I enjoyed watching Coleman and Lockhart more and wish they would come back as a regular team and have a run at the titles.

Favorite Feud: Dirty Daddy vs. Cain Justice

I hate the Dirty Daddy’s name, but he’s over with the Mid-Atlantic crowd and his gimmick – a territories wrestler who was blackballed until recently and had to start over as a rookie – is amusing. His program with Justice over the Rising Generation League title was heated and did a good job of making DD a more serious wrestler. He lost the title to Cain, who seemed to be his kryptonite. It all boiled down to a title match where the loser wouldn’t be allowed to challenge the winner again. Even though the match was a little anticlimactic in its brevity, it was good to see DD finally get the monkey off his back.

Favorite Match: Trevor Lee vs. Chip Day (03/25)

Trevor’s title defenses generally felt pretty epic last year, but this one got a ton of hype before it aired. For the most part, it’s pretty similar to most of Trevor’s other title defenses (at least as far as I can remember, which is not that far). It goes long, the announcers talk about how someone might finally have solved the Trevor Lee puzzle, both guys survive a lot, and Trevor pulls it out. The big difference is that Day keeps it a stalemate from the beginning until a ways in. I probably like watching Chip Day more than anyone else Lee defended against last year, so even if the match followed the same general beats, I’d probably choose it as my favorite anyway.

NOTE: After finishing this section of the article, I discovered breaking news that commentator and booker Brad Stutts has been fired from CWF Mid-Atlantic due to “inappropriate behavior.” This news does not factor into my review.

 

National Wrasslin’ League

I think I only skipped a few episodes on NWL TV throughout the year.

Favorite Babyface: Blaine Meeks

“Captain KC” is actually from Texas, but he became a de facto hometown hero in his slow-burning feud with Dak Draper and his chase for the title (which still eludes him). There were other babyfaces I whose matches I liked better, but Meeks had the most endearing personality for me and I really wanted him to win the big one. I’m curious to see what they do with him now that he’s returned under his old name, Bolt Brady.

Favorite Heel: Dak Draper

Again, I liked a couple other heels in the ring more, but as far as character and booking, Dak is an easy choice for NWL wrestler of the year. He trolled the fans of Kansas City like no other, defending his NWL KC title against a midget and wearing a Jamal Charles Denver Broncos jersey as soon as it was available, and no one seemed able to knock him off his high horse. He also had the best entrance music in the NWL. It looks like he turned face before the end of the year (not every show has aired yet), so maybe he’ll make this year’s list in another field.

Favorite Tag Team: The Besties in the World

Davey Vega and Mat Fitchett are well-known throughout the Midwest scene. They’re probably the highest-profile regulars in the NWL outside of maybe Gary Jay and Marti Belle. Even when they were working under different names in the first half of the year, their tag team chemistry was obvious, and the fans knew who they were. They really kicked it up a notch once they went back to their old names and embraced the cheers of the Kansas City crowds. They always had good matches, and I hope they get to work with the Royal Blood again this year.

Favorite Feud: Major Baisden vs. Matt Jackson

The NWL started with a Kansas City vs. St. Louis model, and I didn’t really like that, but I had to admit that it was a creative idea. They ditched that and their NWL STL brand around summertime, and NWL STL general manager Matt Jackson (not the Young Buck) became an on-screen antagonist for NWL owner Major Baisden. Both blamed the other for NWL STL’s failure. It seemed like they and their in-ring representatives were going to go to war, but then everything seemed to just blow over, and most of Jackson’s wrestlers turned face. I thought this was odd and hurt the booking continuity. But then Jackson turned on the Besties, sided with the Foundation, and gave this interview to explain everything. It was at this point that they won me over. Jackson went on to gain control of the NWL after his team won a Survivor Series-type match. I’m not big on the overdone heel GM character, but it seems to be working for the local crowd, and I’m eager to see were it goes.

Favorite Match: Jeremy Wyatt vs. Jack Foster – Dog Collar Match (10/28)

Chain matches are great gimmick matches for indies to put on, which is probably why they were a staple of some of the Missouri promotions I used to follow. Wyatt and Foster went to war and literally tore the ring up. Love the spot where Wyatt disappears behind the curtain, Foster yanks the chain, and a chair flies out and hits him. Easily the best gimmick match I saw all year.

 

Impact Pro Wrestling

I watched select matches from IPW, as they don’t have any sort of episodic programming.

Favorite Babyface: James Jeffries

This guy’s a fighter. He’s not a super-small guy, but he’s not that big, either. He does some flips, he has a Rocker kind of look, and he was champion at some point. He also sent local veteran Tony Sly on his way.

Favorite Heel: Mattie Star

He looks kind of like a pudgy pretty boy, and he calls his move the selfie kick, but his personality is pretty miserable. He seems to really resent that the fans don’t support him, but he doesn’t give them much reason to with his in-ring actions. He recently won the IPW title in cheap fashion, which won’t do much for his reputation.

Favorite Tag Team: The Fight and Flight Connection

One guy does the flips. One guy throws the suplexes. They complement each other well, and the crowd digs them.

Favorite Feud: The Fight and Flight Connection vs. The Legend Killers

Their matches have been great. Such fire and energy. Their feud is all about the in-ring action and shenanigans. No 20-minute promos or backstage sketches needed.

Favorite Match: The Legend Killers vs The Fight And Flight Connection (01/21)

This one goes bonkers from the beginning, then slows down a bit, then gets wild again. They really busted their butts here, and honestly…it might be my favorite match of the year from any promotion!

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My Wrestling Habits of 2017

I haven’t watched very many promotions regularly this past year. I almost never watch WWE, NJPW, ROH, or any other big organizations you can think of. WWE rarely produces the type of wrestling I want to watch these days on their main shows. I like what I’ve heard about NXT, the Cruiserweight Classic, the UK Tournament, etc., but I don’t make a lot of money, so I don’t feel that subscribing to the WWE Network is a wise decision for me. Likewise, I like what I hear about New Japan, but NJPW World is also out of my price range. And while it seems that Ring of Honor has had a good year financially, their show seems to basically be all about The Young Bucks and Cody Rhodes, and I’m just not that into the Bullet Club.

Thankfully, lots of promotions put out free stuff on YouTube. The three main promotions I’ve followed throughout 2017 have been CWF Mid-Atlantic, the National Wrasslin’ League, and Impact Pro Wrestling.

I’ve been watching CWF religiously for a couple years now. I watched the first few episodes of their WorldWide show, then took a break, but I came back after a couple months and haven’t quit since. I greatly enjoy their style, their booking, their characters, and their consistency. Brad Stutts and Cecil Scott are my favorite commentary team in wrestling right now. They really know how to put the stories and characters over and keep the viewer in the loop as to what’s going on. Plus, they don’t fall into that trope of insisting on having a heel color commentator, which is refreshing.

The NWL just started running at the beginning of 2017, and I watched their TV show on a  delay when it was put on YouTube (except when I was visiting the States last August and was able to DVR it). They hit a few little bumps in the road last year, particularly as it relates to their St. Louis division, but they’ve had consistently good attendance for their Kansas City area shows, and they’ve really pulled things together creatively since the summer. I’m digging Gary Jay’s push, Dak Draper’s development, and the new struggle between the babyface roster and the Matt Jackson regime. Their shows don’t go online as consistently as CWF’s, and they run so many live shows now that the TV is a bit behind, but I’m definitely back to watching it regularly again.

Iowa’s IPW doesn’t have a TV or online show. Midnight Guthrie has been uploading matches to his YouTube channel, usually at staggered intervals. They’re not the best video quality, and some are downright dark, but what do you want for nothing? At least they include Guthrie’s commentary and a lot of hungry young talent most people have never heard of outside of Iowa. Their shows and stories are fairly straightforward, and that’s a positive. They seem to draw good crowds who really get into the matches.

I recently heard that Booker T’s Reality of Wrestling has been producing some good TV-style shows on their YouTube channel, so I may be adding them to my slate in 2018. From what I’ve seen, their production quality seems top-notch, and yet they feature almost zero names I’ve heard of. That might actually make them more appealing.

In my next post, I’ll list my favorite wrestlers, matches, etc. from 2017.

CSW: War Games Match (December 16, 2006)

I’ve always enjoyed the War Games match, and I think it’s because it has a little bit of everything in its stipulations. It’s got faction wars like in the Survivor Series, staggered entrances like in the Royal Rumble, a steel cage, and all the chaos of the final battle of a feud. And the double ring gimmick is cool when you can get it (though a lot of indies can’t).

I’m excited to see what NXT does when they bring back War Games this month. Hearing about it reminded me that I once had the chance to see a War Games match live, but for reasons I can’t remember, I passed. It was a single-ring, single-cage version put on by the now-defunct Central States Wrestling promotion. CSW was my “hometown” indy fed for a sew years, and I constantly looked forward to going to their shows, so it’s kind of a bummer that I missed this one. I’ve since been able to see it via the video above, which is from the official DVD release, and now seems like an opportune time to write about it.

The match commentary and pre-match promos will fill you in on some of the details, but local favorite Michael Strider had been feuding with Steven J. Girthy and his Girthy Management Group for a while. I forget the inciting incident, but the GMG and Strider’s group, Project Aggression, were pretty bitter rivals, so a big team-based cage match seemed like a proper way to resolve things. Girthy had “The Rebel” Jeremy Wyatt (before he was “The Belt Collector” or “The Monarch”), the oddly-popular-despite-being-a-heel Hype Gotti, and Harley Race trainee Wade Chism in his charge, while Strider was partnered with “Superstar” Steve Fender (another race trainee) and Ace Steel (CM Punk’s friend and trainer). But someone took Ace out before the show, leaving Project Aggression one man down. Strider approached former rival Derek Stone to fill the spot, but due to their previous issues, Stone refused on principle.

On to the match (which starts at the 7:17 mark, by the way)!

It’s set up as three-on-two, which may upset some purists who remember the old matches with teams of four or more, but with only one ring and cage available, things would probably be too crowded with more than five or six guys in the ring.

Strider starts with Jeremy Wyatt, and Steve Girthy is on the outside. They spend the whole three-minute period trying to ram each other into the cage. Strider finally hip tosses Wyatt into it as the countdown for the next entrant is going on.

Hype Gotti is out next since the villains won the coin toss earlier. Strider takes advantage of his headstrong entrance and gets some shot in before Wyatt catches him from behind. The heels work over Strider, making a point to push and slam him into the cage.

Steve Fender comes in like he just got the hot tag, running wild on both opponents. He pairs off with Wyatt while Strider battles Gotti, and even though the heels get a few moves in (including Wyatt’s lightning spiral, a future finisher for him), the faces are on the advantage when the countdown ends.

Wade Chism is the last entrant on the Girthy side, and he goes right for Steve, clubbing him with clotheslines. Steve fights back but can’t maintain any momentum due to being outnumbered. Chism pounds on him and dares him to fight back. Strider, meanwhile, is bloodied up from being raked against the cage, and now he’s being double-teamed by Wyatt and Gotti.

The countdown for the final man comes and goes without anyone entering at first. The fans chant “We want Stone.” Finally, Derek Stone does come out, dressed in bunkhouse attire and brandishing a chair. He squares off with all three members of the GMG, perhaps teasing a “swerve,” but then he blasts them all in the heads with chair shots. Then he pulls out a trio of forks and hands one each to Strider and Steve.

As someone who was used to seeing Superstar Steve and Wade Chism at family-friendly World League Wrestling shows, seeing them in a match involving forks on foreheads is a bit surreal. It gets even weirder once a barbed wire bat and board are introduced, and Chism takes a couple unprotected chair shot to the head.

From the introduction of the forks, the match gets increasingly violent. Girthy beats up a referee* at ringside so he can get the barbed wire bat in through the door. Every wrestler except Steve bleeds. Five of them brawl outside so Strider can jump off the cage onto them. Wyatt gets locked out of the cage, so he tries to climb in, but he gets put through the barbed wire board with a tower of doom spot. Finally, Gotti is pinned after a piledriver from Stone and a big elbow from Steve while he’s trapped under the barbed wire board.

The crowd loved this match. It gave them all the violence they could’ve wanted, plus the joy of seeing their heroes win and the novelty of being the first War Games match in Kansas. I enjoyed it, too. I thought they made good use of their means to put on a memorable War Games match despite having small teams and only one ring. I also thought it was a good end to the feud, until…

After the match, Strider puts over the toughness of Wyatt, Gotti, and Chism, and tells them to stand up and leave the cage like men. He then says that the war is over. In a backstage promo, Girthy says that the war is over when he says it’s over. Also, Strider thanked Stone, and Stone said he did the right thing for the right reason.

Where Are They Now?

Michael Strider feuded with Jeremy Wyatt in CSW and Metro Pro, even coming out of retirement to battle him one last time. He’s currently a member of The Foundation in the National Wrasslin’ League and holds the tag team championships with Ace Steel.

Steve Fender continues to wrestle for World League Wrestling and currently holds their tag team titles with Brandon Espinosa.

Derek Stone has been a trainer at the NWL Training and Performance Center and makes occasional appearances on NWL shows to break up fights. He’s also going to be wrestling in a handicapped match this weekend for Gateway Elite Wrestling.

Jeremy Wyatt collected a lot of belts and briefly retired in the latter days of Metro Pro, but now he’s also a member of The Foundation with Strider and Steel.

Hype Gotti wrestles a lot for Pro Wrestling Phoenix in Iowa and Nebraska. He was retired for a bit, but he seems to be back now.

Wade Chism doesn’t seem to have wrestled since 2008, so I’m guessing he’s retired.

 

*The ringside referee, Adam, was actually a fan with whom I hung out at several CSW shows and pay-per-view watch parties. Fun times.

Quick Update

I’m very busy at work this week, and next week, the wife and I are flying to the U.S. to visit for almost a month. Therefore, keeping up with all the NWL matches can’t be a priority for now. I don’t know how much I’ll watch or write about during this time, but I’m thinking my best course of action will be to watch at my leisure and only review the matches that I actually like or that are easy to write about.

Thus, I hope to watch everything eventually, but I’m not likely to write about every single match, and I probably won’t write much until late August or September.

Keep supporting the NWL KC & STL, or whatever your local indy is.