Category: Love

Wrestlers We Loved 2012

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And now, our favorite wrestlers from last year. Again we’re joined by our friends Thomas Holzerman from The Wrestling Blog, Jamie from Dramatic DDT, T.J. Hawke from Free Pro Wrestling,  Ciara Reid of Angry Marks, Jae of iheartDGAlyssaAlexBenjamin, and Senor LariatoBy Leslie, GregChris C.Chris J.SonnyAoikougeiSarah (and her brother), Steph, and Martin.

Matches We Loved: Part IPart II

ACH

ACW, AAW, SLA, ROH, DGUSA, CHIKARA, Resistance Pro

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Thomas: This man busted out of Austin in a big way this year. Dragon Gate USA only had the bright idea to book him at the end of the year. Ring of Honor had the chance to blow the doors off the arena in Chicago, but instead he was a sacrificial lamb for Kyle O’Reilly. I certainly didn’t love the treatment he got from promoters who apparently “know” wrestling, but this isn’t a gripe-fest. It’s a love-fest. What ACH was able to do this year was nothing short of revolutionize what wrestling was all about.

Whether as the standard bearer in ACW, a man who helped make Cleveland a destination for wrestling in AIW, or the forever-frustrated rival of Mark Angelosetti in Chikara, he did things only thought possible by dreamers who wrote matches for e-feds. Four-fifty splash from the second rope? Easy. Texas Cloverleaf big swing? Pfft, don’t trifle me with your doubts, son. He went 30 minutes with AR Fox, warred with Johnny Gargano, clashed with Willie Mack, and even helped put eyes on Kansas City through an excellent series with Jeremy Wyatt.

If ACH isn’t on your radar, you don’t watch enough wrestling, and if you watch enough wrestling and aren’t impressed by ACH, then good lord, man, you’re made of stone.

Photo Courtesy Joel Loeschman

Adam Cole

ROH, PWG

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Ciara: I can’t think of anyone else in Ring of Honor that has stood out for me in 2012 besides Adam Cole. Earlier last year, Future Shock disbanded with Kyle O’Reilly joining Davey Richards and Adam Cole aligning with Eddie Edwards. At ROH’s 10th Anniversary Show in March, Adam Cole scored an upset as he pinned then ROH World Champion Davey Richards with a Crossbody during a tag team match. Cole would go onto to defeat Kyle O’Reilly in a Hybrid Rules Match and defeat Roderick Strong for the ROH Television Championship in June. Cole has successfully retained his championship against Eddie Edwards and Mike Mondo and defeated Matt Hardy in a non-title match.

Adam continued his success over in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla as he won the 2012 Battle of Los Angeles Tournament to earn a shot at Kevin Steen’s PWG World Championship. In November, Cole defeated Caleb Konley for the Premiere Wrestling Xperience Heavyweight Championship. Adam has since won the PWG World Championship from Kevin Steen and formed the Dojo Brothers with Eddie Edwards and Roderick Strong. I was already aware of Adam Cole’s work in Combat Zone Wrestling, but this past year he has really stepped it up and became one of my favorites.

AR Fox

Dragon Gate, DGUSA, Evolve, CZW, Beyond Wrestling, AIW, ISW

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TJ Hawke: AR Fox is the surest bet in wrestling for getting an entertaining match right now. I’ve watched him in a variety of promotions, on tape and in person, and he always kills himself to put on the best match possible. Putting AR Fox on a card automatically makes me interested in said show.

In DGUSA and Evolve, Fox stepped up and delivered some of the best matches of the year with some of the best wrestlers in the world. In CZW, he became one of their best pushed talents, having a series of great matches with a variety of opponents. In Absolute Intense Wrestling, Fox had two thirty minute Iron Man matches with ACH. Both matches received rave reviews for their excitement and innovation.

In 2012, Fox became one of the most exciting wrestlers in all of wrestling. Over the next five years, I expect him to grow so much that people start referring to him as one of the best wrestlers in the world.

Photo courtesy Marvin Cespedes

Ayako Hamada

SHIMMER, WAVE

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Leslie: Ayako Hamada is Wrestler of the Year, Every Year. It’s redundant to talk about how great she is at this point, you just need to watch her. Watch her in Mexico. Watch her in Japan. Watch her in in the states (especially her SHIMMER match against Kana). Watch her, year after year, effortlessly put on amazing matches. Ayako Hamada is an international treasure and the best of her generation.

Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi

BJW, AJPW 

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Lariato: In the first half of 2012 especially, Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi marked themselves as one of the best tag teams on the planet with a series of amazing matches in AJPW and home promotion BJW. Both guys are freakishly strong and I never tire of watching them in matches against other heavy hitting teams like Get Wild of Manabu Soya & Takao Omori.

Click here to watch 5 hours of Sekimoto & Okabayashi matches.

Dash Chisako and Sendai Sachiko

Sendai Girls, JWP, CHIKARA

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Sonny: The Kanari sisters slowly emerged from the humongous shadow of Meiko Satomura in 2012, showcasing their great tag team skills versus a wide variety of opponents.

In May they debuted in CHIKARA, and defeated The Bravado Brothers. On June 25, they defeated Manami Toyota and Kyoko Inoue. In September they teamed with Meiko Satomura in CHIKARA’s King of Trios to defeat Green Ant, Red Ant and AssailAnt. In round 2 they defeated Jigsaw, Manami Toyota and Mike Quackenbush. In round 3 they lost to the team of The Young Bucks and Mike Bennett in what may have been the best match of the entire weekend.

Drake Younger

PWG, BJW, CZW

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Alex: Drake Younger’s 2012 has been a powerful journey to be able to watch, one that made him one of the best wrestlers of the year. A resolution to clean himself up led to him getting in the best shape of his life. That then led to a renaissance for Younger as a wrestler. In 2012 he delivered some of his strongest matches, including wars with Sami Callihan, B-Boy, Rickey Shane Page, Roderick Strong, and MASADA, peaking with an awe inspiring Iron Man with Sami Callihan.

Moving out to Los Angeles and finding another home with PWG turned out to be a great move for him, allowing him to show new audiences what the Combat Zone faithful already knew: Drake Younger is one of the most well rounded wrestlers in the world, able to deliver with a wide variety of opponents. An inspiration, in ring and out, making him a clear choice for this write up.

Ben: Forget the broken glass and death matches, Drake Younger can do it all, and regularly does. To me, he is the definition of a hybrid wrestler, and I love the diversity this brings.

Having changed his life this year (in more ways than one), and moved to California, a whole new horizon has opened up for him, including PWG, where he continues to have increasingly fantastic matches to sit alongside 2012 classics such as 60-minute Iron Man vs Callihan.

As I type this, he is completing his 4th tour of Japan, and has already signed a contract for his 5th tour. Every time he returns to the States following one of these tours, he seems to have grown again. It’s a pleasure to watch someone so humble, positive and joyful about their chosen craft, and long may it continue.

Leslie: I didn’t see any Drake Younger matches this year, but I saw this photo in a issue of Weekly Pro Wres. He’s earned a mention. Continue reading

Matches We Loved 2012: Part II

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Part II of our list of our favorite matches from 2012. Again we’re joined by our friends Thomas Holzerman from The Wrestling Blog, Jamie from Dramatic DDT, T.J. Hawke from Free Pro Wrestling,  Ciara Reid of Angry Marks, Jae of iheartDGAlyssaAlexBenjamin, and Senor Lariato. By Leslie, GregChris C.Chris J.SonnyAoikougeiSarah (and her brother), Steph, and Martin.

Matches We Loved Part I

CHIKARA: ACH vs. “Mr. Touchdown” Mark Angelosetti

The Ring of Wax – August 18th, 2012

Chris: Myself and DDS’ resident Amazonian Warrior made the trip down to Indianapolis to take in a CHIKARA show featuring the last match in the annual Young Lions’ Cup tournament. These two up and comers are what the tournament is all about and they delivered in spades. This was a battle of superhero proportions, a real life Spider-Man vs. Venom (I can hear Touchdown calling me a nerd for that one already), complete with ACH cracking wise and getting touchdown to go long for a pass until he ran into a wall.

The story of this match was one of athleticism and heart and it came down to which one had just a little more of both at the end. While the good sportsmanship of Dasher Hatfield left the lovely but conniving Veronica in a trash can, ACH and Touchdown left it all in the ring. The Gridiron Grappler managed to withstand a Guile Flash Kick from the Last Hero and came up with the win and the trophy, which, unfortunately gave the W to evil that day. In spite of that, though, there’s really only two words to sum up this candidate for Match of the Year: “It’s good.”

DDT: Kota Ibushi vs. Kenny Omega

Budokan Peter Pan 2012 – August 18th, 2012

Jamie: Simply spectacular. For DDT’s biggest show in its 15 year existence, the main event could not have been anything else. We had to wait four years for Ibushi versus Omega to happen again but it was worth the wait. Both were on the top of their game and they pulled out all the stops to make this a match to remember. There were some amazing high risk spots that were worth doing because of how important the match was for DDT. After all, this wasn’t some small show at Shin-Kiba. This was the main event of Budokan Hall!

RPW: Kyle Matthews vs. Masked Assailant

Sizzlin’ Summer Bash – August 26th, 2012

Thomas: It’s the most effective story in professional wrestling, David vs. Goliath. In this case, David, Kyle Matthews, was the Champion, defending his title against a masked Goliath in the masked man who’d be revealed after the match as the former Luke Gallows. It was the latest in a scheme by the managerial conglomerate opposite of Matthews trying to wrest the belt from him. Gallows worked “big” better here than he did previously, and Matthews took it in stride with a good hope spot towards the end. Even in defeat, Matthews was able to embody heart, and that’s the sign of a great good guy. Continue reading

Matches We Loved 2012: Part I

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Another year of DDS, and another year of great wrestling that we enjoyed and shared with you. This begins our second annual recap of all the things we loved in pro wrestling. This time joining DDS staff are our friends Thomas Holzerman from The Wrestling Blog, Jamie from Dramatic DDT, T.J. Hawke from Free Pro Wrestling,  Ciara Reid of Angry Marks, Jae of iheartDG, Alyssa, Alex, Benjamin, and Senor Lariato.

By Leslie, Greg, Chris C., Chris J., Sonny, Aoikougei, Sarah (and her brother), Steph, and Martin. Photo courtesy Pro AC.

Empress: Ayako Hamada vs. Aja Kong

Bull Nakano Produce “Empress” – January 8th, 2012

Leslie: This started off as light-hearted fair between teacher and student until both teacher and student realized they’d spent over a decade trying to kill each other and Bull Nakano’s retirement is no reason to stop trying. Individually, Aja Kong and Ayako Hamada are nearly incapable of putting on a bad match. Together, they guarantee greatness.

REINA: Hailey Hatred vs. Ayumi Kurihara

REINA 24 – January 15th, 2012

Leslie: “I had a real good six months and then a really bad couple of weeks,” Hailey Hatred said about her slide from 6 crown champ to 2 crown champ in late 2011/early 2012. This match was her trying to stem the tide by taking Ayumi Kurihara‘s CMLL women’s title. I thought she had done it when, fairly early on, she dropped and pinned Ayumi with a monstrous lariat. However, this was lucha rules, which meant 2 out of 3 falls, which meant the real match was just beginning.

ACW: Portia Perez vs. Robert Evans

Guilty By Association 6 – January 15th, 2012

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Leslie: Going into 2010′s Guilty By Association 5, Portia Perez and Robert Evans ruled ACW. Portia was the reigning Queen of Queens and American Joshi Champion. Evans was the ACW Heavyweight champion The evil, hot pink sporting Canadians seemed unstoppable together. However, Portia lost her title in a savage dog collar match to Lady Poison, and Evans lost his title in quit match where Matthew Palmer threatened to set him on fire. Then, things really got bad. Love tore them apart. Where Evans saw a potential relationship with Portia, Portia just saw some dead weight she needed to get rid of to reach the next level in her career. She broke the news to Robert by breaking his jaw with a Superkick. This situation would not really be settled, though, until a full year after their separation.

Portia has spent the year telling everyone who will listen that she’s the best in the world. Evans spent the year showing everyone who will watch that he deserves consideration as well. The added emotion of their personal issue aside, these two former ACW Heavyweight Champions were guaranteed to put on a fantastic match.

What started out as a love story ended as an unforgettable Pro Wrestling match. One would think Evans and Portia could have worked out their differences with a phone call or perhaps a friendly dinner, but having an epic match seemed to suit them better. Where romance is dead wrestling lives. Continue reading

Promotions We Loved: 2011

Love is back again. This time we talk about some of our favorite promotions from last year, with all our friends: Brandon Stroud from With Leather, Thomas Holzerman from The Wrestling Blog, Mary from Honour Magazine, Steven from ROH World, and Charles from Puroresu SpiritEnjoy!

Love Series: Matches We loved Part I, Matches We Loved Part II, Wrestlers We Loved

Photos Courtesy:  Wayne Palmer (2)

Absolutely Intense Wrestling

Amanda: This honor absolutely has to go to AIW. I’ve only been to a handful of shows so far, but AIW has something that just not every company has. I don’t know what it is. It’s not just that they put on spectacular matches, I’ve seen spectacular matches lots of places (like DGUSA, for example!) so I know that isn’t all. It has to be something about the atmosphere, the people. The crowd at AIW is the epitome of a raucous wrestling crowd, which is absolutely the way it should be. If people aren’t chanting something loud and probably offensive, something is wrong. It’s just… fun. It’s a good time. It’s a great big loud obnoxious wrestling party, and that’s the best thing.

All Japan Pro Wrestling

Charles: It was definitely a strong year for All Japan, tons of good matches, and a break out year for new generation wrestlers. Two of my favorite matches of the year came from All Japan and there could easily be more I could add. Sadly, the promotion was not at the end of controversy in late May, but they bounced back and tried to move forward. If you have not paid attention to what has been going on in the past couple years I definitely recommend that you go out of your way and check out the aforementioned matches and give them a shot.

Anarchy Championship Wrestling

Brandon: Austin’s Anarchy Championship Wrestling saved wrestling for me.

Well, not directly, but hear me out … four years ago I was living in Cleveland, which had eight competing pro wrestling organizations in town (nine if you counted WWE, ten if you counted TNA, which I don’t).  From there I moved to Washington, D.C. and was in driving distance of Philadelphia, where wrestling on the independent circuit more or less lives.  My girlfriend’s employers suddenly relocated her to Austin, Texas, and my first thought was, “Oh God, it’s gonna be nothing but Bubba Dumplins and I’m 25 years removed from World Class”.

I found ACW here, and with it I found some of the best wrestling happening in the country.  It dares to treat women like human beings, giving gender-nonspecific spotlight roles to talented (and beautiful) performers like Rachel Summerlyn, Portia Perez, Jessica James and Athena.  It dares to treat lighter wrestlers like threats, giving an air of legitimacy to unbelievably talented wrestlers like Davey Vega, Matt Palmer and ACH.  It also provides a little something for everyone, from actually funny comedy (Pierre Abernathy, I’m looking in your direction) and ultraviolence.  I’m not a huge fan of the last one, but SOMEBODY is, and wrestling shouldn’t just be for me, it should be for that somebody, too.

I love ACW, whether it can save wrestling or not.

Leslie: 2011 was undoubtedly the Year of Anarchy. If you weren’t following ACW, you weren’t following the most interesting, creative, and relevant wrestling in the world. The progressive spirit of Austin manifests itself in everything from the entrance themes to the storylines to the match stipulations to the design of the title. They brought that spirit in well over a dozen shows throughout the year, and not one felt small. You never knew who was going to win a title or have their break-out match or put on a MOTYC, or fight or cry or bleed their heart out for Pro Wrestling. In 2011 ACW gave us ACH redefining the term “5 Star Match” against Matthew Palmer and Chris Hero. They gave us the best women’s tournament show since the days of ChickFight. They even gave us a second chance at Prom.

ACW had tons of great wrestling, but then it also seemed a like it was more than just a great wrestling show. It’s an event that holds its own running side by side with Lykke Li or James Marsters or anyone in-between. Every month when ACW came around you just knew you had to be there, to see it, to feel it, to understand; because if you ever miss an Anarchy show you are missing something special.

Big Japan Pro Wrestling

Charles: Big Japan Pro Wrestling is also a promotion worth mentioning, I know what you are going to say “I don’t care for deathmatch wrestling”. Well truth be told, there is much more to BJW than Deathmatches. With Daisuke Sekimoto building up a lot of the new generation talent, there seems to be a split in a way of classical style wrestling and death matches. Lots of new talent are finding a home in BJW and the future is looking pretty bright for them.

CHIKARA

Chris: CHIKARA has been consistently growing in popularity since its inception and in 2011, they finally crowned their first singles champion after a year-long tournament. What I enjoy about CHIKARA is that, despite the increasing audience, they continue to remember to have fun. They also have no issue treating wrestlers of either gender as equals, as evidenced with the work of Sara Del Rey and Manami Toyota in the company. Perhaps most importantly, CHIKARA held the Joshimania post-season event, which brought a number of Japanese female wrestlers State-side, many for the first time, and exposed them to a whole new audience.

Thomas: In 2010, CHIKARA was inwardly focused and intensive on telling a story with its own roster members surrounding one central angle and several satellite tales. The results were sublime. In 2011, rather than go back to the well and do it again, they went out and recruited the best guest stars, put on the best wrestling exhibitions and rained fanservice from the rafters like it was Pacman Jones throwing dollar bills at the strip club. It too was sublime.

There were some that didn’t get what CHIKARA tried to do this year, who preferred the introverted nature of the ninth season. I loved it too, but then again, when a promotion is as artistically forward as CHIKARA, I think I might have been a tad disappointed if they tried to do it again in consecutive years. They took it as a challenge to be the best promotion in the country again but do it in a wholly different manner. While the ninth season was focused around an invading faction, the tenth was about crowning a Champion, wowing the crowds and most importantly, honoring a friend. They paid the same attention to detail in that regard as they did prior.

Many wrestling companies struggle to do one thing right. CHIKARA does so many things right that I almost feel like it’s unfair to compare them to other companies. Still, the amount of happiness they bring to me as a wrestling fan is immeasurable, and in 2011, they kept me awash in a wave of fan euphoria that no other company can come close to doing.

Dragon Gate

Martin: The year of the unit war… and it was done so right. The early part of 2011 was spent establishing the Blood Warriors, the evil union of CIMA’s Warriors group and a faction of wrestlers led by Naruki Doi. Three other groups – Masato Yoshino’s WORLD-1, Shingo Takagi and YAMATO’s Kamikaze, and the Veteran Army led by Masaaki Mochizuki – struggled to contain this new force, and it was eventually decided that each group would disband to form a new super group, Junction Three. This group would be led by Open the Dream Gate Champion Mochizuki, and would be the power of good to counteract the Blood Warriors’ evil. But there would be one further betrayal, as on the night of Junction Three’s formation, BxB Hulk would turn on Shingo, and join Blood Warriors. A further shock would come that night, as Akira Tozawa returned from his year long stay in the United States to also join Blood Warriors. The war was on.

As both units were so stacked with talent, there were great matches up and down the card on each major show. Dragon Gate’s weekly TV show, Infinity, was the most consistent and great hour of wrestling television in the world in 2011. Whilst on the surface the war seemed never-ending, there was a story told, as over the course of the year, all four of the promotion’s titles migrated over from Junction Three to the Blood Warriors, culminating at Final Gate on Christmas Day, as CIMA finally completed the set by defeating Mochizuki for the company’s major title, the Open the Dream Gate Championship. All this with tours throughout the year in both the United States and the United Kingdom made this the biggest year in the company’s history, and the start of 2012 has already carried it on.

Ice Ribbon

Pumi: Ice Ribbon is one of my favorites from last year. I don’t mean they just had the best matches or their production was the best. It is just because the promotion can touch my heart. For some fans, Ice Ribbon is still very new in this sport, but I recommend you all see them. I think the promotion made many girl’s dreams come true. Ice Ribbon made a huge impact on Joshi with young wrestlers, some under 10 years old and also some older wrestlers. This is a place they can all fulfill their dreams. For example, I’m Thai and I’ve wished everyday since I was young to be a wrestler, but I know there is no chance to do because we don’t have any promotions here. So, I understand the feeling that when you have of dream and you need some place to fulfill it. They showed us clearly how good wrestling is and how much it means to life. I love Ice Ribbon!

New Japan Pro Wrestling

Martin: 2011 was the Hiroshi Tanahashi show. Not since Místico in 2006 had one man completely dominated a year in professional wrestling. Tanahashi carried New Japan on his back with a year long IWGP Heavyweight Championship reign that saw him make an incredible ten defences of the title in 2011, against such names as Yuji Nagata, Shinsuke Nakamura, Hirooki Goto and Tetsuya Naito, amongst others. Tanahashi came through all his defences with flying colours, and was beloved by the fanbase, everything the face of the company should be.

That’s not to say, however, that 2011 was only about Tanahashi. 2011 proved a great year for the company in other areas, such as the Best of the Super Juniors, where outsider Kota Ibushi won the tournament in a legendary match with Ryusuke Taguchi, and proceeded to win the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title from Prince Devitt, only to have to surrender the title three months later due to injury. There was also the biggest and most spectacular G1 Climax in history, featuring 20 wrestlers and lasting two weeks, which culminated in a fantastic final at Sumo Hall, where Shinsuke Nakamura defeated the plucky Tetsuya Naito, who had a major breakthrough year. Yuji Nagata, Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima proved that there was still new life in old dogs, as they all had great years. Prince Devitt continued to prove himself as one of the best junior heavyweight wrestlers in the world. And there was even room for Montel Vontavious Porter, who was so happy to be able to have fun wrestling again in his dream promotion. Add that to the dominant year of Bad Intentions, and you had the best major promotion of 2011.

Pumi: The “King of Sports” still one of the best promotions in the business with so much history and so many top wrestlers! No words can explain how awesome NJPW was last year.

Pro Wrestling Guerrilla

Martin: The most consistent professional wrestling organisation of 2011. Whilst they only run from one building – American Legion Post #308 in Reseda, CA (with the exception of their Kurt Russellreunion shows once a year in Los Angeles) – everything that happens inside that building turns to pure gold. Starting from the local talent, including the RockNES Monsters, the Fightin’ Taylor Boys, Joey Ryan, Scorpio Sky, Willie Mack, Peter Avalon and Candice LeRae, to major independent talent such as Kevin Steen, El Generico, Davey Richards, Eddie Edwards, Roderick Strong, The Young Bucks, Akira Tozawa, Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli, you will never see a bad match on a PWG show, and it’ll always be rowdy. And if you can’t make it to Reseda, the DVDs offer the best commentary in wrestling, with Excalibur and his pals offering their silky smooth punditry… and mostly random things about other stuff – baseball if you’re Joey Ryan.

2011 was the year of Steen in PWG. Whilst mostly exiled from Ring of Honor, “Mr. Wrestling” made his home in Reseda, and tore through the competition, mostly for the early part with Akira Tozawa by his side. So much show that on the nine shows he appeared on, Steen wrestled an incredible 16 matches, including winning the PWG World Title from Claudio Castagnoli, before losing it in an insane and brutal Ladder Match to his eternal rival El Generico. The year also included the best tournament of 2011, DDT4, where the team of Steen and Tozawa battled past the Briscoe Brothers and the Kings of Wrestling, before falling in one of the best wrestling matches of 2011 to the Young Bucks. Steen Wolf in October was another of the best shows of the year, as other than the aforementioned Ladder Match, the Bucks were taken to the limit by Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly. Oh, and a certain Mr. Super Dragon returned after three years of retirement, and proceeded to tear shit up like the good old days. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Go to PWG’s website and get all the good stuff there. It’s well worth it.

Pro Wrestling WAVE

Leslie: When NEO closed at the end of 2010, there was a question of which surviving or new promotion would step into their role of leading Joshi promotion. The answer? Well, all of them really. 2011 was a great year for Joshi on the whole, but Gami’s Pro Wrestling WAVE really stood out for me. The company has traditionally been (too) heavy on comedy, but that took a backseat for much of last year (save the amazing Sakura Hirota, who is amazing at everything). The rise of Black Wave (massive villainous faction lead by Yumi Ohka and a reborn Misaki Ohata), a greater focus on the Triple Tails (Kana, Mio and formerly Io), dashes of Ayako Hamada, and Toshie Uematsu’s retirement run have brought a lot of new school Joshi greatness to the world. Make sure to check out the insane Kana vs Ayumi Kurihara match from last October for a taste of the new-look WAVE.

Aoikougei: The number of customers has increased steadily and WAVE is now the most interesting Joshi company.

Ring of Honor

Steven: I know it might sound obvious from somebody who runs a Ring of Honor website but the promotion I loved in 2011 is ROH. When I found ROH a few years ago, I was running out of patience with wrestling (or should I say sports entertainment…) and was ready to give up. Thankfully I persevered and ROH has served me well ever since. Even though they lost several big names in 2011, ROH continued to put on some fantastic wrestling shows that made me proud to be a wrestling fan – that is why I love Ring of Honor.

SHIMMER

Chris: This is essentially a no brainer answer for me. The première all female wrestling company in the Western hemisphere, SHIMMER gets better and better every year. With a multitude of debuts in 2011, a plethora of great matches, and an incredible roster, SHIMMER put on some of the most entertaining shows of the year. Madison Eagles, Cheerleader Melissa, Serena Deeb, Kana, LuFisto, Sara Del Rey, the Canadian Ninjas, the list goes on of the top quality talent on display in this promotion in 2011. Really, there isn’t much more I need to say about it.

Mary:  I think that’s a given.  A company that brings in talent world-wide and is always exposing fans to lesser known talent.  The focus remains on in-ring storytelling, though there are occasionally promos to help convey the intended out-of-the-ring story.  The company has probably the best commentary of an all women’s fed around, because of the fact that Perez and Prazak treat the competitors like just that, competitors.  Not women, not sexual objects, not girly wrestlers.  They help enhance the in-ring talent and not take away from it.  SHIMMER has helped make a lot of their talents’ careers and I can only hope they will continue to do so in the coming years.  That, and one day land a lucrative TV deal!

Pumi: This is the place for top women wrestler from all around the world. America, Canada, Europe, Asia! SHIMMER made many of my wishes come true such as Kana and Ray in America. I love women’s wrestling and want to make fans in America know that good wrestling is so close to you, you don’t have to settle for less. I can see a bright future for SHIMMER and I’ll support them as always!

SMASH

Sonny: Unfortunately, SMASH closed its door a few weeks ago. But for last year, SMASH put on very reputable shows and, while holding its own in Japan with their men’s matches, they truly shined by showcasing the women. Kana’s battles with Serena Deeb were first-rate, and Tomoka Nakagawa came into her own. SMASH has been an awesome promotion, bringing fun and excitement to the masses.

Charles: SMASH held a few solid shows over the year and definitely earned themselves a strong spot in the market. Even with the news that SMASH was closing in 2012, there was no need to worry as it seems it will not be the end of what they built with Wrestling New Classic opening soon.

Aoikougei: Perfect shows! All talent were respected. New wrestlers were introduced with great promo videos. Matches were convincing to the last move. The atmosphere of the hall was great.

Leslie: No promotion kept me as engaged between shows as SMASH did. It’s over-the-top storylines (see: Triple Tails threatening to castrate TAJIRI or Syuri’s complete and utter freak out1), best-in-wrestling promo videos, and heavy doses of Serena Deeb and other foreign tars made it easy for even non-Japanese speakers to follow along. It was sad to see it all end, especially after spending time with the staff and fans an its ultra fun after parties. However, Wrestling New Classic is taking SMASH’s place and it’s already nearly selling out it’s first show. Arigatou, SMASH!

WSU

Mary: I give WSU a great deal of credit.  In the early years, there were a lot of issues that needed to be addressed, and they’ve continued to fix any problem and move forward, stronger than before.  Whereas SHIMMER is more wrestling based, WSU has a strong presence in the story-line department.  There are factions, there are pairings, there are off and on rivalries, and a lot of passion in the competitors, whom all want to turn the heads of their fans.  A lot of WSU’s roster are up and comers, and I think that’s what makes the fed very interesting.  These women are hungry and are eager to continue to improve their craft and show you what they can bring at every booking.  The company is always evolving, and that’s what keeps my attention most of all.

Wrestlers We Loved: 2011

We’ve talked about some of our favorite matches from 2011, so here are just a few of our favorite wrestlers. Again we’ve been helped by a few friends. Again, this is just a handful of all the wrestlers we loved and appreciated, so please make sure to tell us who your favorites were either in the comments or on Twitter with #ddslove. Enjoy!

With help from Brandon Stroud from With Leather, Thomas Holzerman from The Wrestling Blog, Mary from Honour Magazine, Steven from ROH World, and Charles from Puroresu Spirit. Photos Courtesy: Youji (1, 7), Martin (2), Hong Kong Wrestling Fans Society (3), Ring of Honor (4), Himajin Yone (5), Snapmare.com (6),Greg (8, 10), IWGPnabe.com (9)

Matches We Loved Part I
Matches We Loved Part II

ACH

Anarchy Championship Wrestling, St. Louis Anarchy, Beyond Wrestling, AAW, Absolute Intense Wrestling

Amanda: I had no idea who ACH was until Beyond started a campaign to bring him to their company. And even then I was like, eh. Then they showed us AR Fox vs. ACH and I spent a great deal of that match in awe with my jaw agape. Then I had the rare and fortunate joy of seeing him in real life (at AIW, natch) and I’m going to go on record and tell you that this kid is going to set the world on fire in 2012. I can’t wait.

Leslie: ACH is not a human being. Perhaps he’s Super Saiyan or Kryptonian or a Replicant, but it’s just not possible for humans to wall run, Flash Kick, or jump and in the air and hit someone 3 times before landing. But supernatural athletic ability alone doesn’t make for a great wrestler. Fortunately for fans in ACW, St. Louis Anarchy, and a growing list of promotions, ACH is the complete package. He’s as good on the mat as he is on his feet as he is on the top-rope, and possesses one of the most dynamic offensive arsenals in wrestling. If that wasn’t enough, ACH is gifted with a natural charisma that wins over fans before he even makes it to the ring.

ACH began 2011 as a local highlight for Austin’s ACW. With numerous top level matches against the likes of Akira Tozawa, Mia Yim, Davey Richards, Colt Cabana and Chris Hero, his emotional win of the ACW title, and an unprecedented crowd-sourced campaign that brought him to Beyond’s Tournament for Tomorrow, he ended 2011 as one of the most buzzed about wrestlers in the US. He enters 2011 wrestling almost everywhere that matters, including a just announced stint at upstart Resistance Pro.

Akira Tozawa

Dragon Gate, Dragon Gate USA, ACW, Pro Wrestling Guerilla, CHIKARA, AIW

Martin: 2011 was a tale of two halves for Akira Tozawa, and both halves were amazing. January to June was spent on the second half of his year long excursion to the United States, and what was meant to be a learning period became a claim to being one of the best wrestlers in the country. Whether it was fighting alongside the mad man Kevin Steen in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, entertaining the Philly and New York crowds for Dragon Gate USA, having fun with CHKARA at King of Trios (and going to war with Eddie Kingston in the process), or getting up to all sorts of mayhem in Austin with the boys and girls of Anarchy Championship Wrestling, barely a week went by without Tozawa making waves somewhere in America. His farewell from PWG in particular was a sight to behold – no crowd took to a foreign wrestler who could barely speak any English quite like Reseda took to Tozawa.

And then came Tozawa’s return to Dragon Gate, and there was a marked transformation from the fun loving, screaming, cursing Tozawa we thought we knew, into a sadistic, arrogant, conniving Tozawa, the newest member of the Blood Warriors. Tozawa fit back into the Dragon Gate environment perfectly, having great matches nearly every time, including his return at World against Shingo Takagi, and his shot at the Dream Gate Title against Masaaki Mochizuki. Tozawa also formed a great team with BxB Hulk, winning the Summer Adventure Tag Team Tournament, and then eventually winning the Open the Twin Gate Titles in a decision match with Susumu Yokosuka and KAGETORA. The year finished off with an incredible title defence at Final Gate against Shingo and YAMATO. The promises Tozawa showed in late 2010 flourished in 2011, and 2012 has already started even bigger for him..

Brandon: There is no wrestler I enjoyed more in as many places as Akira Tozawa.

I was fortunate enough to see the bulk of his U.S. tour in Austin through ACW, and every time he stepped through the curtain (or walked down the steps) — be it against MASADA, ACH, Gary Jay, whoever — he delivered. I personally watched him tear the roof off of a roofless building on at least four occasions. I sat in the second row at CHIKARA’s King of Trios tournament and watched him do it again in both his trios match and in full-on “kicking Eddie Kingston‘s head off” form in singles action. I didn’t get a chance to see him live in PWG, but I’ve seen his matches, and they’re never less than stellar. I don’t know how many episodes of Infinity I’ve downloaded by now.

Tozawa is the man. My 2011 wouldn’t have been 10% as fun without him.

Ayumi Kurihara

SHIMMER, Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling WAVE, Joshi-4-Hope, SMASH, Oz Academy

Mary: Just when you think Kurihara’s become such an amazing competitor, she’s able to elevate herself even higher. How can such a seemingly sweet girl be such a hard hitting, determined wrestler? She continues to add more and more accolades every month, it seems like. And her wrestling itself continues to astound me. The teaming with Ayako Hamada in SHIMMER makes for a unique pairing, as does her partnership with rival Kana. There’s also the unfinished business with Syuri in a soon-closing SMASH. And more challengers ahead in Mexico, who seek to take her CMLL Women’s Title.

Cheerleader Melissa

SHIMMER, Resistance Pro, River City Wrestling, All Japan Pro Wrestling

Leslie: Melissa curbstomped her way across the scene with elegant savagery in 2011, but that’s her usual. One of wrestling’s most consistently good performers, Melissa gave us another year of top-tier, most notably in SHIMMER and NCW: Femmes Fatales. She achieved her long-time goal of winning the SHIMMER Title by facing and defeating both Kana and Madison Eagles on the same day. While Melissa found new ways to mangle people with chairs and guardrails, she also opened new avenues to represent women’s wrestling. She appeared on All Japan’s first Taiwan shows across from Makoto. She also starred in a music video for The Smashing Pumpkins.

Repeat: one of my favorite wrestlers starred in a video for my favorite band. 2011 was pretty rad, thanks in large part to Melissa.

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Matches We Loved 2011: Part II

Here’s even more of our favorite matches from 2011. Thanks again to our guest contributors for this report: Brandon Stroud from With Leather, Thomas Holzerman from The Wrestling Blog, Mary from Honour Magazine, Steven from ROH World, and Charles from Puroresu Spirit. Be sure to visit their sites for more on great wrestling.

The response to Part I was overwhelming, please keep sharing the link! Tell all your friends that you are still in love with Pro Wrestling, and these are the reasons why.

Photos courtesy: Snapmare.com (1), Wayne Palmer (2), Verse (3), TexasAnarchy.com (9)

JWP: Kaori Yoneyama vs. Hailey Hatred

Pure Slam – August 7th, 2011

Mary: Best Friend vs Best Friend.  Tag Partner vs Tag Partner. Both women know each other inside and out. The back history between the two made you realize what a big match this was. Hatred was turning heads, racking up titles and still wanting more and more competition. I think they really tore down the house. The shots by both women were nasty, and I think Hailey was able to take herself to an even higher level than before. The ending sequence was really great, and I loved how the fans were torn between the competitors.  The ovation at the end was stellar.

PWO: Matt Cross vs. Johnny Gargano vs. Josh Prohibition

Wrestlelution 4 – August 7th, 2011

Alex: The major players of PWO’s first few years, and three of my favorite wrestlers, all met in one ring. The three guys just knew each other so well, and perhaps that’s why this match just clicked. I really can’t put words to how incredible this match was. I was in that crowd, and we were enthralled in their every motion from the hot start to to the incredible finish. It was Matt Cross’ way of reminding his home crowd that he’s more than the reality TV guy, and anyone who didn’t know before realized it with the beautiful Shooting Star Press at the end.

NJPW: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Tetsuya Naito

G1 Climax Final – August 14th, 2011

Pumi: After his momentum got derailed by some stupid Jersey Shore promotion champion at the Dome Show in January, I wanted to see how Naito could bounce back from such a terrible situation. He started the G1 Climax with losses and was stuck at bottom of the table. Then, he did his best to rebound and go through to the Finals, which made me very impressed (similar to Seiya’s trip to the finals of the Champions Carnival). So it was Shinsuke Nakamura, who had yet to win the G1 tournament versus Naito, whom no one expected to make it to the finals! In the end, we not only saw Nakamura win the tournament but we also got Naito as the new beginning and future ace of New Japan!

Hanan: The ‘pro wrestling genius’ finally living up to his name. Bonus: Match ending in tears. Very emotional.

WAVE: Kana vs. Ayumi Kurihara

Like a Virgin 1224 East Japan WAVE 4th Anniversary ~ Sail A Way ~ – August 28th, 2011

Leslie: Kana and Ayumi Kurihara are two of the most talented, beautiful, popular, well-liked, hard-hitting, aggressive, unhinged, psychotic women in Joshi Puroresu. They’ve been friends and rivals, and in 2011 they reformed their KanaAyu tag team to become the first WAVE Champions. Here, though, they just tried to fucking tear each other apart in the finals of the Catch the WAVE tournament. Like all their bouts, it’s a fantastic display of great wrestling, and untreated psychopathy.

PWWA: Madison Eagles (c) vs. Jessie McKay vs. Nicole Matthews – SHIMMER Title

PWWA - September 3rd, 2011

Martin: It says a lot when I sat down and tried to think of a great three way match of this sort of quality in the last five years, and struggled. Three ways by rule are usually bland and formulaic – it’s a singles match, with one other wrestler having a rest, then taking their turn, then all three converge to do the big stuff. Not this one.

Eagles, McKay and Matthews constantly combined with awesome double teams, including an unlikely McKay/Matthews alliance given their history, and peppered the match with fantastic moves and high intensity. There was barely a moment when any of the competitors took a rest. Eagles eventually proved that she was the fighting champion she claimed she was, whilst McKay and Matthews proved themselves again as major players on the world stage.

Anthony: (From our live report) I started to write notes for this match, and then I intentionally threw down my notepad and just watched, and cheered, and jumped out of my seat. All three women showed up in the best shape of their respective careers and each woman fought with more heart and soul than they may have even realized they possessed. This was, for me, the most intense, hard-fought SHIMMER title match I have ever seen (and I’ve seen my fair share). I’m not even a huge fan of multi-person title matches, especially when they are not under “elimination” rules, but none of that even mattered. It was a full on sprint, from start to finish, and it was phenomenal. All three competitors pulled “S-class” moves out of their arsenals, that they normally do not use, for this bout; I’m talking Spider German suplexes, top rope double stomps, and reverse hurricanranas! I would have been satisfied with any one of them walking away with the title, because they all fought as true champions. In the finale however, and in grand fashion, the dark heroine Madison Eagles retained, and extended her glorious title reign. This match proved that Eagles, Matthews, and McKay are true stars, and could be in the main event of any show, in any country. Legit.

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Matches We Loved 2011: Part I

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!

Photos Courtesy: TexasAnarchy.com (1,2, 4), Chistopher Mudd (3), Snapmare.com (4), Rix Pix (10)

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.

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