Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 3rd Trimester Review

This post is a brief overview of the world of professional wrestling in the United States for the last four months of the year (September through December).

2011's 1st Trimester Review

2011's 2nd Trimester Review

Singles MVP: Kevin Steen, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and Ring of Honor
When trying to decide who the MVP of each trimester is, the biggest factor for me is determining which performer made me care about his matches the most.  For the last four months, Kevin Steen has made me care more about two matches (vs. Generico at Steen Wolf and vs. Corino at Final Battle) than any other wrestler has made me care about any other number of matches.  Steen has only really had three singles matches that I have seen since September (the other was a really strong match against Davey in PWG), but I am all about quality instead of just quantity.  Kevin Steen had an unbelivable 2010 in ROH after he turned on El Generico, but it's arguable that he was even better in 2011 even with his limited prominent independent appearances.  Kevin Steen is exactly the kind of dynamic character and performer that makes pro wrestling so much fun and I can't wait to see what he does in 2012 in PWG and ROH.
Runner Up: El Generico, PWG, ROH, and Chikara

Most Valuable Tag Team: The Young Bucks, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla/Ring of Honor/Chikara
Since September, The Young Bucks have been a standout tag team for PWG, ROH, and Chikara.  In Chikara, the Bucks defeated Tim Donst and Tursas, wrestled for the winning Cibernetico team, and then lost an excellent match to The Colony to open Chikara's first iPPV.  In ROH, the Bucks lost only one match and secured a tag title shot in 2012 (that will hopefully come at the next iPPV).  While the Bucks have been great in Chikara and ROH, they're best matches have been in PWG against The Dynasty, Future Shock, and Appetite for Destruction.  The Young Bucks have been on a tear since returning to the independents full time, and they have established themselves as the most consistently great tag team in North America.
Runner Up: Briscoe Brothers of Ring of Honor

Best Promotion: Pro Wrestling Guerrilla
PWG has produced 10 shows this year and 9 of them have been great.  In the last four months, I have seen two of the three shows PWG has produced: The Perils of Rock 'n' Roll Decadence and Steen Wolf.  Perils was a great show that perfectly got better and better as the show went along (the ideal show structure from my point of view).  Steen Wolf has been considered by many (including me!) to be one of the best Indy shows of the year (and I go in greater detail about that show below).  PWG's Fear featured the return match of Super Dragon in what was considered another fantastic PWG show by the live crowd.  This company makes me love pro wrestling like no other company at the moment.  It was the runaway winner of this award.
Runner Up: Chikara

Best Singles Match: Kevin Steen(c) vs. El Generico (PWG Title, Ladder Match), PWG Steen Wolf
Kevin Steen and El Generico were two of the best wrestlers in the world in 2011.  They make fans care about everything they do like few other wrestlers at the moment.  PWG capitalized on their great ROH feud in 2010 by placing these two against each other in several matches this year and all the matches were great.  Their best match was their Ladder Match at Steen for the PWG Title, and it was also my pick for best indy match of the year.  Every company should be booking these two as often as possible.
Runner Up: Mike Quackenbush vs. Eddie Kingston (Chikara Grand Championship), Chikara High Noon

Best Multi-Man Match: Briscoes vs. All Night Express (Ladder War), ROH Death Before Dishonor
While ROH has been very frustrating at points in the last 4 months, the conclusion to the best 2011 ROH in-ring rivalry took place at the September iPPV.  ANX and the Briscoes had many great matches throughout 2011, and their best match definitely happened here.  As with most of the best ladder matches in wrestling history, these men treated the match like a street fight as opposed to just a spot fest.  This match is definitely worth going out of your way to see.
Runner Up: The Young Bucks(c) vs. Future Shock (PWG Tag Titles), PWG Steen Wolf

Best Show: PWG Steen Wolf
Steen Wolf delivered one of the best overall cards of the year and was the runaway winner of this award.  The show has an excellent double main event (Young Bucks vs. Future Shock for the tag titles and Generico vs. Steen in a ladder match), but the rest of the show was incredibly entertaining as well.  Chuck Taylor and Ricochet delivered another excellent chapter in their rivalry, Davey Richards and Willie Mack delivered a fun match, and the extremely hot opener featured the PWG debuts of Famous B, Chris Kadilak, Ray Rosas, and Freddy Bravo who will hopefully be a part of PWG's foundation for years to come.  And of course, the end of the show featured the return of PWG legend, Super Dragon.  This was an historic PWG show, and everyone should go out of their way to buy it right now.
Runner Up: Chikara High Noon

A Brief Look at all the Promotions I am Following Closely Right Now.  (There are plenty of great wrestling promotions around the world that I don't watch, but these are the ones I am paying attention to closely now)

I have to admit, I have mostly stopped watching WWE, with the exceptions being Survivor Series and the Daniel Bryan vs. Mark Henry Cage match on Smackdown.  I've decided that instead of being frustrated week in and week out by WWE, I will just keep my ear to the ground and wait for them to go on another hot streak of angles and/or shows.  Royal Rumble through Extreme Rules is usually a good series of shows, and I am looking forward to them.

WWE does deserve credit for pushing new guys at the moment, but I have real issues with how they are being pushed.  For example, Daniel Bryan and Zack Ryder both have titles at the moment, but how their runs to the title left a lot to be desired.  WWE is in a dire need for new stars to join Cena, Orton, and Punk (and ratings suggest he is not a star like them), and I hope WWE reevaluates how they present rising talent.

The last four months have been a very frustrating time for me and many other ROH fans.  ROH needs to look no further than the Final Battle buyrate to know that whatever they are doing, it is not working.  In June, with zero television build, ROH sold out the Hammerstein Ballroom and got 2,000+ iPPV buys for Best in the World.  With 3 months of television build, ROH did not sell out the Hammerstein Ballroom and had 2,000 iPPV buys for Final Battle.  Both events featured Davey Richards vs. Eddie Edwards in the main event.  That is not about the holiday season, the limits of the iPPV format, or whatever excuse someone can up with.  That is a referendum on the stories ROH is telling and the lack of excitement for the product right now.  ROH needs to refocus their television on stories and characters that wrestling fans can connect to.  I'm not mad at ROH for trying something different with the Dan Severn story (although I thought it was always stupid and a waste of money), I will be mad if ROH doesn't realize how the last three months were completely wasted by the promotion and that things need to change.

PWG proved why they are the best promotion in America over the last four months.  They produced one very strong DVD (Perils of Rock 'n' Roll Decadence), a show of the year candidate (Steen Wolf) and their December live event (Fear) got rave reviews from the live fans.  Pushing Kevin Steen and El Generico to the moon has produced greatness for PWG, and we can only hope that other companies (COUGH**ROH**COUGH) follow their example.  Not much else needs to be said.  Spend your money on PWG now.

Chikara had a very strong last third of the year, which was clearly highlighted by their iPPV debut, High Noon.  Chikara spent 7+ months (and really 9+ years) building to this show and the well thought-out build paid off tremendously (both creatively and financially based on the buy rates and live gate).  At the show, Eddie Kingston was crowned the first Chikara Grand Champion, and it happened, as Kingston and Mike Quackenbush put on one of my favorite matches of the year (and one of the best matches I have ever seen in Chikara).  If the last four months (and last 12 months really) are any indication, Chikara is the promotion ready to be accepted more readily in 2012 by the hardcore internet wrestling fans (who are not necessarily prone to watch independent wrestling).

DGUSA had two triple-shots in the last four months, and the shows were the usual mixture of great action and strange booking decisions.  The biggest storyline during this time was the rise of Johnny Gargano as he defeated Yamato to win the Open the Freedom Gate Title on the last show of 2011 (Freedom Fight).  This storyline represents everything that has been great with DGUSA and everything that frustrates me.  DGUSA has created a legit, independent wrestling star in Johnny Gargano.  Gargano defeating one of DG Japan's best main eventers to the win the DGUSA Title is a big deal, but it could have been handled so much better. Gargano had 6 singles matches in 2011 before being awarded a Freedom Gate Title shot, and he lost four of those matches.  To me, that doesn't make any sense.  Also, on the show before Gargano won the belt, their was a "false" title change to Chuck Taylor that distracted from Gargano's eventual title win.  While this promotion frustrates me a lot, they still produce a lot of great matches and those are worth checking out.

Evolve ran no shows in the last third of 2011.  Evolve 10 was cancelled and has been rescheduled for January.  That show was to feature the last American match of Munenori Sawa (a match I was greatly looking forward to).  The biggest news for the company by far was the announcement that Evolve and DGUSA have officially merged.  I am somewhat skeptical of the significance of this announcement, but I am obviously willing to keep an open mind about it going forward.  I still think Evolve has a lot of potential as a promotion, and I hope that it is able to fulfill it in 2012.

Beyond Wrestling

Beyond Wrestling is a small promotion that I have started to watch a ton of in the last couple of months.  Beyond offers their (mostly young) wrestlers full creative freedom on their shows, and it is a treat to watch artists create art the way they want to.  Not every match is a home run, but there is a lot of fun to be had in this promotion and I hope you check out their stuff.  They have LOADS of free matches available on Youtube.  Personally, I recommend that you start by watching the Tournament for Tomorrow.

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