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 iheartDG, Alyssa, Alex, Benjamin, and Senor Lariato. By Leslie, Greg, Chris C., Chris J., Sonny, Aoikougei, Sarah (and her brother), Steph, and Martin.
Matches We Loved: Part I, Part II
ACW, AAW, SLA, ROH, DGUSA, CHIKARA, Resistance Pro
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
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.
Dragon Gate, DGUSA, Evolve, CZW, Beyond Wrestling, AIW, ISW
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
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
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
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.
PWG, BJW, CZW
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