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.
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!