A little over a year ago, DDS was started to talk about the Pro Wrestling we love and only the Pro Wrestling we love. Since that time we’ve given live reports from over 20 different promotions (in seven states, five countries, and three continents), interviewed dozens of wrestlers, and posted over 10,000 photos. In celebration of those great moments and the men and women who brought them to us, we’ll be doing a series of articles looking at all the things we loved in 2011.
First, we present a small selection of some of the matches we most enjoyed from last year. We invited some of our friends to talk about the matches they loved as well, including Brandon Stroud from With Leather, Thomas Holzerman from The Wrestling Blog, Mary from Honour Magazine, Steven from ROH World, and Charles from Puroresu Spirit.
With so much great wrestling going on all over the world, there’s no way to watch it all (though we wish we could). If there were any matches you saw in 2011 that you loved but we didn’t talk about, be sure to mention them in the comments or send them to us on twitter (#ddslove). Here’s part one covering January to July 2011. Enjoy the videos we’ve posted, and consider purchasing the DVDs we’ve linked: they are worth your time, money, and love!
ACW: Rachel Summerlyn vs. Athena – 10,000 Thumbtacks Match
Guilty By Association 5 – January 16th, 2011
Leslie: Whether these two women were using the thumbtacks, or the barbwire board, or diving, or just plain wrestling, everything was unutterably intense. You could feel the bad blood between the two, then see it as it dripped out of their wounds. Even the small details like Rachel going back to her old school gear and Athena arrogantly wearing a brand new outfit, as if she wasn’t going to ever touch a thumbtack, were great. Each went into the tacks, full on, multiple times. Each dived at each other to the floor and generally destroyed themselves and the venue in an early effort to show that 2011 would be the Year of the Woman.
ACW: Robert Evans (c) vs. Matthew Palmer – ACW Title I Quit Match
Guilty By Association 5 – January 16th, 2011
Leslie: I’d never seen a match like this. I’ve never seen a match like this. That’s not a bad reaction to start the year with. Describing it in detail would be like spoiling a great comic or an episode of Dexter. The sidekick surpassing the Superhero story here was told perfectly, from Evans’ early bravado (‘I am Batman, and you are Robin’), to him then begging for mercy, to Palmer then taping Robert’s mouth shut so that he couldn’t give up, even if he wanted to. On a show called the most violent in ACW history, it was the mere threat of violence that proved most shocking. This match should have earned 5-stars in Wizard.
Chris: Murder in the wrestling ring isn’t Okay. Apparently, Matthew Palmer didn’t get that memo. The lengths these wrestlers went to, not only for ACW gold, but out of the pure hatred between the two of them, were astounding. What Palmer did in this match walked the line between insanity and passion (and crossed either side of the line a couple of times as well) which is what it seems like ACW is all about.
IPW: The American Wolves (Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards) vs. the Irish Airborne (Jake & Dave Crist)
Showdown in Naptown – January 1st, 2011
Alex: This is my favorite match from either Wolf. The match that drove me to order my first IPW dvd. It was the kind of athletic match you could expect from either man, of course, but I got more of their personalities from this match than any other. Like the way they would use double team maneuvers on Dave Crist, yet Richards was beyond insulted when Jake tried to help his brother without a tag. They didn’t necessarily break the rules, but they did whatever it took to win, and it works so well for them. It helped that Dave Crist is one of the most magnetic personalities in wrestling, someone you want to see succeed in escaping. And Jake Crist has done everything on his power to become one of my favorites, and this was no exception. His exchanges with either Wolf were feasts for the eyes.
The match ended with the Wolves suggesting maybe we would see a rematch, perhaps in ROH. And I hope so, because the Irish Airborne should be doing their thing in front of the biggest audience possible.
WSU: Nikki Roxx vs. Jessicka Havok
The Final Chapter – January 22nd, 2011
Mary: This An Uncensored Rules match that really made viewers take a closer look at Jessicka Havok, for the first time, as a singles competitor. And what better opponent than Nikki Roxx to really make Havok look like more of a beast than she already is? I think these two have a very natural chemistry and I hope they have a chance to go at one another again and again. Roxx is a much underrated talent, and Havok’s a rising star. The blows they exchanged proved just how much they wanted to put on a great match for all of the fans. The flow of the match was flawless and everything worked. They were able to convey a great story, and it really took Havok to the next level while showing why Nikki Roxx is a former WSU champion.
NOAH: Kotaro Suzuki vs. Eddie Edwards (c) – GHC Junior Heavyweight Title
First Navigation 2011 – January 29th, 2011
Amanda: Excerpted from earlier review ”Oh my goodness…fabulous…craziest-looking submission move I’ve ever seen…Hold on to your butts…I don’t even know what that was but holy crap that’s awesome…both dudes go backflipping over the ropes onto the floor…Suzuki almost breaks his shoulder…huge missile dropkick…suicide dive between the ropes..facebuster on the apron…I-don’t-even-know-what-that-was-but-holy-shit onto the floor…’Holy shit, what did I just see?!’ …glorious…heart-stopping…giant powerbomb…two words…Holy. Shit. I absolutely promise you it’s worth your time.”
NCW: Femmes Fatales: LuFisto (c) vs. Ayako Hamada – NCW: Femmes Fatales International Championship Match
Femmes Fatales V – March 12th, 2011
Anthony: A match that everyone, including the wrestlers themselves, had been waiting well over a year for. Both women showed great respect and wrestling skills during the beginning portion of this match, but no ring can contain these two and they brawled all over the building. At one point Ayako violently buried LuFisto under a stack of chairs. When the champion was finally able to emerge, she was covered in blood. It didn’t stop there. Hamada hit one her amazing top rope moonsaults to the floor. LuFisto nailed a sick, high angle side suplex on to a high angle steel ramp. Just as Ayako looked to seal LuFisto’s fate (via moonsault while holding a chair), LuFisto countered, and ended the match with a Burning Hammer. Both challenger and champion showed an unmatched amount of heart, soul, and class that night. Before LuFisto began wrestling she watched Ayako’s matches and dreamed of one day being as good as her. That night she was better, and Ayako wrapped the championship title around LuFisto’s waist.
ROH: Roderick Strong (c) vs. Eddie Edwards – ROH World Title
Manhattan Mayhem – March 19th, 2011
Steven: This was a terrific match that had tons of drama. You could feel the sense of belief in the crowd building during the match as they started to think that Eddie could become champion and that’s exactly what he did.
Leslie: When he won the match, Eddie Edwards trended on Twitter, without the benefit of live TV or a promotion begging fans to hash tag him. You know, he trended in a way that actually meant something and showed how much ROH and its title means to fans.
AJP: es (Seiya Sanada & Manabu Soya) vs. Strong BJ (Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi) – All Asia Championship Match
Pro Wrestling Love in Ryogoku Vol.11 – March 21st, 2011
Charles: Probably one of my most favorites tag team bouts in recent memory. The moment I saw this match I knew it was going to be one of the most solid contenders for Match of the Year and it has still stood up to me watching again here recently. Great back and forth action and it was all around a fun match, then you add the fact that they had this match on multiple times this year. All very solid, but their match from 3/21 stands out to me as the one you have to see.
Hanan: WAR! Absolutely one of the best matches that I saw last year. The mere fact that you have four large, powerful individuals looking like a million bucks in that ring is enough to make you want to watch it, and they’re all great individually and when facing each other. This match has been built off a feud between the two teams, they’ve faced before in two 30 min draws with the same result: Team ES not getting pinned and subsequently retaining their titles. You can just feel the tension, and the rage the BJW guys. One of the best matches of this year from these, very talented, beasts. The future of Puroresu is here!
Ice Ribbon: Hikaru Shida vs. Syuri
March Ribbon – March 21st, 2011
Pumi: As Ice Ribbon’s commentator, I’ve seen many of Shida’s matches from her early career. She’s changed so much since then to become one of the Joshi wrestlers today. As for Syuri, I first saw her in a match against Kana for SMASH and was impressed by her kicks. This match is great for fans who want to see a wrestler who has full confidence in her strikes against who marks herself as the best mixed martial arts and most powerful wrestler in the company. This is my favorite Joshi match from 2011.
SHIMMER: Ayako Hamada & Cheerleader Melissa vs. Sara Del Rey & Madison Eagles
Volume 39 – March 27th, 2011
Mary: In this follow-up to the greatness that was the Shimvivor Series match, these four really showed how epic a tag team encounter can be, given prior history and build-up. Every match between Cheerleader Melissa and Sara Del Rey, who have been wrestling each other for a decade, oozes intensity and one-upmanship Add in Ayako Hamada and Madison Eagles and you’ve got a surefire hit. Everything about this match clicked. Even the ending was fresh and teased at another possible scenario. There’s a reason why these four women should always be in the main event.
CHIKARA: Archibald Peck vs. Colt Cabana
King of Trios 2011: Night Two – April 16th, 2011
Leslie: Night two of CHIKARA’s massive multi-man tag team tournalment festival started with a fantastic singles match between Mr. Archibald Peck and Colt Cabana. Peck, who may or not have spent 2011 making waves in ROH as Barrister R.D. Evans and terrorizing Portia Perez in ACW as Robert Evans, is the complete pro wrestling star. Much like Cabana, he holds any audience in the palm of his hand as soon as he steps to the ring. Whether he’s making the laugh at his antics, making the cheer for his athleticism, or making them boo his dastardly and diabolical actions, Marchie Archie is embodies everything people love about the sport. This show-stealer of a match forced all the top-tier talent that followed to step their game up, which says a lot when Dick Togo and Manami Toyota faced off on the show.
CHIKARA: El Generico vs. 1-2-3 Kid – Rey de Voladores
King of Trios 2011: Night Three – April 17th, 2011
Thomas: Sean Waltman donned the tights that made him famous in the mid-’90s for this match, but he may as well have been called the Comeback Kid. After a decade-plus of debauchery, running afoul of the law and terrible personal choices, the man who was once considered among the best wrestlers in the world came to the pinnacle of American indie wrestling and Lucha Libre to see if he still had it during King of Trios weekend. The first night, he was involved in a trios match where he spent scant little time in the ring, looking old and tired but still enthusiastic. The second night, he participated in an eliminator match in the Rey de Voladores tournament where he looked better and more in shape. The third night, he would go in the finals of that tournament against a man who might as well be the successor to his wrestling mantle from the ’90s in this decade, El Generico.
Any ring rust that Kid showed in the first two nights was gone. Who knew all he’d need was two days to work himself back into game shape? He shrugged off every bomb Generico threw at him and lobbed back with equal firepower. He ping-ponged around the ring like a man 20 years younger and 20 years more reckless. He fought valiantly until the end, but that end wasn’t kind to him. Generico would ascend the turnbuckles, grasp the Kid and drive his head into the top turnbuckle with his signature BRAINBUSTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH! to end the match. While his wasn’t the hand raised by referee Bryce Remsburg, it was he who got the adoring chants of the crowd (and of his opponent) afterwards. It was the best combination of pure wrestling ability and feel good emotion in any match all year, and it proved that maybe old lions do have what it takes to keep up with the men they influence.
Leslie: From Our Live KOT Report ”Match of the Night/Weekend/Year possibly was the The 1-2-3 Kid vs El Generico. Yes, really. It was a match that brought the exhausted crowd to their feet. It wasn’t because of Waltman being a ‘name,’ nor was he graded on the curve of nostalgia. He and Generico simply put on an overwhelming performance that stands up to any match you’ll see anywhere in any company. If this turns out to be Waltman’s last match, as he hinted in an emotional speech, I really can’t imagine a better way to go out as it may have been the best match either has put on. Props to CHIKARA, Generico, and The Kid for delivering much more than anyone expected.”
Chris: My early wrestling memories are very vague, I do however remember that I liked the 1-2-3 Kid when I was young. Can’t tell you a match that I saw him in, just remember I liked him. So, I was pretty interested in seeing this match between an apparent childhood favorite and a current favorite. When I heard the hype about the match as it happened, I was curious to see if the DVD lived up to the talk, after all, the Kid isn’t, well, a kid anymore. I was very happy to find out that it was indeed worth the praise. Generico is one of the best wrestlers in the world and you saw that in this match and 1-2-3 brought everything he had and more to the ring. I don’t think I need to remember any of those matches from when I was little seeing as I have this one.
RCW: Sara Del Rey vs. Mia Yim
Supremacy – April 23, 2011
Leslie: This is the match I watched the most times in 2011. Philosopher Thomash Hobbes, while writing on why life outside the bounds of traditional society was less than ideal, also managed to describe what made this match so perfect: “continual fear…danger of violent death…nasty, brutish, and short.” Sara and Mia both try to kill each other as brutally as possible and as quickly as possible, and I have yet to get tired of watching it.
REINA: Amapola vs. Marcela
REINA 1 – May 8th, 2011
Aoikougei: They brought to Japan style of the matches that take place in Arena Mexico. I actually got to see them in Arena Mexico a few years ago, first hand. Japanese fans were surprised at the skill & techniques of the luchadoras.
NJPW: Prince Devitt vs. Fujita “Jr” Hayato
Best of the Super Juniors – May 29th, 2011
Hanan: I got to ask Prince Devitt about this match, in our interview with him:
Q: Fujita “Jr” Hayato is a wrestler that has turned a lot of heads recently. Fans were very excited about you two facing in this year’s BOSJ and it was quite a hard-hitting match. What’s your impression of him and how far do you think he can go?
A: Yes, and he turned my head when we squared off two weeks ago. He is a good solid wrestler with a bright future in my opinion.
Enjoy the best of Junior Heavyweights in the world right now! Hard hitting from start to finish!
NJPW: Prince Devitt vs. Kenny Omega
Best of the Super Juniors – June 5th, 2011
Leslie: Prince Devitt also commented on this match via twitter, stating he really could have used a hug afterwards. The “Golden Lover” Kenny Omega wasn’t giving any of his lovin’ to Devitt, just kicks, dives, and ladders. Omega was able to bring a bit of the “Anywhere Match” DDT style to the traditional halls of New Japan, and IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Devitt was just barely able to survive the dynamic onslaught.
NJPW: Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Hirooki Gotoh - IWGP Title
Dominion – June 18th, 2011
Hanan: This is another one of Gotoh’s majorly hyped matches where NJPW went to great lengths to make him look dangerous (he returned from an excursion in Mexico with a new entrance theme, new ring gear, new finishing move), only for him blow it once again and let Tana get the upper hand. Nevertheless, one of the great matches of 2011, and highly recommended, regardless of the outcome.
ACW: Amanda Fox vs. Serena Deeb
American Joshi Queen of Queens Tournament – June 26th, 2011
Leslie: There was lots of hatred, anger, and intensity in this match, and much of it coming from wrestling’s sweetheart, Serena Deeb. Amanda had claimed for months that she was “Serena Deeb’s Worst Nightmare,” and decided to drive the point home by spitting in her face to open the contest. After that, it was an all out war on every level of the battlefield. Fox tried several times to achieve a Danielson like stoppage by locking Deeb into holds and repeatedly striking her. Serena countered with her spirit, speed, and an unbelievable spear off the apron. Amanda probably could have taken this one fair and square but chose to use a shortcut (her faction mate Highroller Haze) and sully what was the best match of the night, and her career, for the pinfall.
Unfortunately, it does not look like Serena will have a chance at revenge, as Amanda retired from wrestling a few months after this match. Here’s hoping that this wrestling prodigy does eventually return and, when Serena returns from her injury, they bring this bitter feud to a glorious end.
AIW: Rickey Shane Page vs. Vincent Nothing
Absolution VI – June 26th, 2011
Alex: Emotion like this can’t be replicated. In one night, Vincent Nothing retired and Christian Faith ‘died’ to be reborn as Rickey Shane Page. The former ‘Faith in Nothing” tag partners threw everything they had at each other, including some ladders, light tubes, and tables, not because they hated each other, but because they loved each other. Vincent gave Page the win and the confidence he needed, but not easily. Page put to rest his Christian Faith persona as a way to honor Nothing. Amazing.
Oh, and to see loud mouth commentator Aaron Bauer, once Faith in Nothing’s manager, stunned to silence by the match was the best possible testament to the spectacle.
ROH: Eddie Edwards vs. Davey Richards
Best in the World – June 26th, 2011
Steven: This will probably go down as one of the best matches in ROH history. Not only did this match put on a great story and include some brilliant action, but it was also very emotional. That’s something you can’t manufacture; it’s either there or it isn’t. Richards finally accomplished his dream of becoming ROH World Champion and it’s a moment that will last long in my memory.
[Editor's Note: Above, probably the best promo video of the year, and it was fan made.]
NOAH: Takashi Sugiura (c) vs. Go Shiozaki - GHC Heavyweight Title
Great Voyage 2011 in Tokyo Vol.3 – July 10th, 2011
Hanan: This would have been Sugiura’s record breaking 15th defense. Shiozaki was trying, for the third time, to win the title from Sugiura. Shiozaki showed a lot of personality in this match, and demonstrated how much he had improved from his first title reign. Also keep in mind that Shiozaki was already injured, and hadn’t given his body any rest, hence Sugiura concentrating on his damaged rib area of Shiozaki. And holy crap, was Sugiura was extra aggressive! Shiozaki endured and got himself back in the game with a suplex off the apron, and a running knee to the face. At one point, Sugiura speared Shiozaki through the metal barriers. From there, it got really brutal.
Great fight! If you’re not convinced after this one, that Shiozaki is a deserving champion, then something is wrong with you! Shiozaki fought through two broken ribs in this match, and proved that he is indeed the ace of NOAH.
ACW: Scot Summers (c) vs. Rachel Summerlyn – Anarchy Televised Title
From Innocence to Insanity – July 17th, 2011
Leslie: I knew I had to be at this show when this match was announced. The top male competitor in ACW against the top female competitor. Both known for their size, strength, submissions, and love of violence. And it was for a title: The Anarchy Televised Championship. A title which instantly makes you, the face of the company, since all of the defenses are put on YouTube (hence why you can watch this high-level match for yourself for free). This match was going to be special no matter what, but it surpassed all expectations, especially the end
After tossing Rachel ringside, Scot wasted valuable seconds contemplating whether he should go after her. The violence in Scot won out and he decided to dive head first at Rachel. The hesitation cost him, dearly, as Rachel was ready and tossed a chair at him. A chair that split the top of his head wide open. The gash, which required 44 stitches, poured and poured until his face, the apron, and Rachel herself were covered Scot’s blood. He did not stop fighting and, half blind, managed some offense on Rachel. Ultimately, inevitably he succumbed to a brutal rear naked choke and passed out as the referee called for the stop. Then in a transcendent moment Rachel, like ‘an angel covered in blood,’ rose and claimed her new title as the face of Anarchy Championship Wrestling. Simply one of the most amazing moments of 2011.
ACW: ACH vs. Chris Hero
From Innocence to Insanity – July 17th, 2011
Leslie: Chris Hero, one of the best wrestlers in the world, took on ACH, who wants to prove he belongs on that list. They put on a once-in-a-lifetime type match. Back and forth action, top-notch athleticism, strikes, grappling, high-flying, close calls, shocking reversals, it had everything you’d hope for. The ACW atmosphere is always unique, and this was that atmosphere at its highest level. The entire ACW locker room lined up on the balcony to watch the match along with the fans, who were out of their seats. Everyone screamed “A-C-H” “H-E-R-O” and “You Can’t Beat Him” “Yes He Can” until they were hoarse, then screamed more and more all the way to the end.
Chris: When you read that match-up on a card, you immediately know you’re in for a treat. These are two of the most athletic, versatile, and intense wrestlers going and that all showed between bells. This is one of those rare matches that will put you on the edge of your seat when you’re sitting at home watching it on DVD and leave you exhausted afterward. Anyone that’s a fan of professional wrestling should see this match and see the real electricity created between these two stellar athletes and the crowd who had the privilege of seeing them.