Hawke’s Top 20 Matches from the 2017 Wrestlemania Week
Wrestlemania week in 2017 was actually ten days of shows in the Orlando area. There was a lot of fucking wrestling. I watched as much of it as I possibly could. I found 20 really good matches. I found a lot of solid matches. I found a lot of “meh” matches. I also found some BAD and UGLY matches. This column is about the really good matches.
The UGLY: Triple H vs. Seth Rollins, Rey Fenix vs. Will Ospreay, Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Bobby Roode, Michael Elgin vs. Zack Sabre Jr., Ricochet, AR Fox, Sami Callihan, Dezmond Xavier, & Jason Cade vs. Will Ospreay, Drew Galloway, Marty Scurll, Lio Rush, & Ryan Smile, AR Fox vs. Shane Strickland, Michael Elgin vs. Dave Crist, Bobby Lashley vs. Jeff Cobb, Lio Rush, Matthew Palmer, & Shane Strickland vs. Sami Callihan, Nick Pesky, & Mike Everest
The Meh: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler, John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. Maryse & The Miz, Low Ki vs. Shane Strickland, Keith Lee vs. Jeff Cobb, David Starr vs. Sami Callihan, Alexa Bliss vs. Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James, vs. Naomi vs. Carmella vs. Natalya, Fred Yehi vs. Dezmond Xavier, Rey Fenix vs. Sami Callihan vs. Dave Crist vs. Jake Crist, Kassius Ohno, Roderick Strong, Ruby Riot, & Tye Dillinger vs. SAniTy, Aleister Black vs. Andrade Almas, Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Pentagon Jr., Sami Callihan vs. Jay White
The *** Parade: AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon, Oney Lorcan vs. Rich Swann, Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho, Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin, Bayley vs. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte vs. Nia Jax, ACH, Keith Lee, Michael Elgin & Guevara vs. Sami Callihan, AR Fox, Dave Crist, & Jake Crist, Jon Davis vs. Martin Stone, AR Fox vs. John Silver, AR Fox vs. Arik Cannon vs. Caleb Konley vs. Davey Vega vs. Jason Cade vs. Joey Janela vs. Lio Rush vs. Serpentico vs. Trevor Lee vs. Trey Miguel vs. Zachary Wentz, Shayna Baszler vs. Santana Garrett, Shotzi Blackheart vs. Nicole Matthews, Michael Elgin vs. Anthony Henry vs. Scorpio Sky vs. Zachary Wentz, Matt Riddle vs. Dan Severn, Sami Callihan & Brian Cage vs. Pentagon Jr. & Fenix, Keith Lee vs. Lio Rush, Lio Rush vs. Jaka vs. Jason Kincaid, Dominic Garrini vs. Curt Stallion
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20. Asuka vs. Ember Moon – 4/1/2017
This was for Asuka’s NXT Women’s Championship.
This was a solid match that told a really good story even if they lost steam and excitement along the way.
From the get go, Asuka treated Ember like a genuine threat, and Ember proved to be up for the challenge. She took it to Asuka right away, and this felt like a star-making match for Ember.
Ember did eventually get cut off, and Asuka dominated her for a good while. Ember made a valiant comeback though, and it seemed like she had a genuine chance to win.
Asuka betrayed everyone though and utilized the referee’s body to crotch Ember. A simple kick to the face finished Ember from there.
Asuka’s heel turn was very well done here, and it hopefully will lead to some cool stuff on future TakeOvers. Ember Moon’s chase to the title should be the big story in the women’s title scene for the rest of the year. (***1/4)
19. Matt Riddle vs. Donovan Dijak – Beyond Wrestling – 4/2/2017
This was a fun match. Dijak was looking for revenge for Riddle’s dishonorable path to ending Dijak’s undefeated streak in Beyond. Riddle was Riddle. They worked a good pace. They packed in some quality action. They did not go too long. In other words, they did what makes these two stand out as two of the best in the world. (The Canadian Destroyer sequence at the end though was ass.) Riddle won cleanly via Bro-mission. (***1/4)
18. Matt Riddle vs. Fred Yehi – Evolve – 3/31/2017
This was a fun match despite the mid-level effort. Yehi and Riddle are two of the best in the world so them going at it at half-speed is going to be more enjoyable than the majority of wrestling in the world.
There was a good sense of physicality and competition which helped to make up for the cold environment and slower than expected pace.
The decision to have Yehi go over is probably just to set up Riddle eliminating him in the WWN title match. Yehi won cleanly via Koji Clutch. (***1/4)
17. Mercedes Martinez vs. Candice LeRae – SHIMMER – 4/1/2016
This was for Mercedes’ SHIMMER Championship.
This was a really effective and fun main event for SHIMMER on their most high-profile showcase of the year. Mercedes is a great dominating, heel champion. Candice plays the underdog challenger very well. They did a really nice job of timing all of Candice’s comebacks so that she had great momentum down the stretch.
The closing sequence was a bit unsatisfying with all the shenanigans, but they did at least not ruin the match. It did however seem like a silly idea to that kind of thing during a show where you are probably getting the most exposure to non-regular fans though. Mercedes put Candice away eventually with the fisherman buster. (***1/4)
16. Lio Rush vs. Drew Galloway – Evolve – 3/31/2017
This was a good match obviously. You have two of the hardest working wrestlers in the country doing a big vs. small story. It was basically a lock for being good. It was however missing a bit of a spark though that some of the best matches from guys tend to have. It just never quite reached the level that it was capable of getting to as a result. Galloway won cleanly. (***1/2)
15. Ricochet vs. AR Fox vs. David Starr vs. Jason Cade – CZW – 4/1/2017
This was a first round match in the 2017 Best of the Best Tournament.
This was the second straight really successful four-way for this year’s BOTB. They packed in plenty of action, and it all flowed really well together. Fox winning did seem weird though given how often he’s advanced in this tournament in years past. Regardless, this was too fun to nitpick the match over that. (***1/2)
14. Lio Rush vs. Joey Janela vs. Shane Strickland vs. Dezmond Xavier – CZW – 4/1/2017
This was a first round match in the 2017 Best of the Best Tournament.
This was a really good start the show. Everyone came off well. There was a great flow to the action. Nothing felt rushed. The action was absolutely awesome. GOOD STUFF. This tournament is already improved immensely by not having the elimination component to the match. Swerve won via MUSCULAR BOMB. (***1/2)
13. Catch Point (Chris Dickinson & Jaka) vs. South Pacific Power Trip (TK Cooper & Travis Banks) – WWN – 4/1/2017
This was match #2 in an EVOLVE vs. PROGRESS series.
This really ended up being one of the most fun and satisfying matches of WWN’s 2017 Wrestlemania weekend. It was a true case of four wrestlers benefiting greatly just from pure hard work in the ring winning over a crowd. There was excellent energy and urgency to the whole thing, and one could not help but get sucked in.
They did of course do way too much down the stretch and did start to lose some steam. They at least ended on a high note though, as the crowd exploded for Dickinson doing a one-count spot only to then to be immediately killed to give SPPT the win. GOOD match. (***1/2)
12. Zack Sabre Jr. vs. ACH – Evolve – 3/30/2017
This was for Zack’s Evolve Championship.
This match really overachieved by aiming lower (yes, that makes perfect sense). Instead of forcing an epic battle for the AGES or some shit, they just worked a really simple contest that put a premium on logical decision making and competitive action.
Zack started targeting the left arm. ACH fought back. No man was able to dominate the other for longer than a few sequences or really maintain a significant advantage. Eventually, ACH got caught in a triangle in the middle of the ring, and then Zack tied up all of his limbs in knots until ACH was forced to submit. Good stuff.
The post-ROH run for ACH has not been particularly good, but this was hopefully a turning point for him. Zack continues to be much more consistent in 2017 than 2016. These are all positive things. (***1/2)
11. The Hardy Boys vs. The Young Bucks – ROH – 4/1/2017
As you would expect, this was a very fun and entertaining spectacle. It felt like a balance of the Hardys ladder matches of old with the more nutty Bucks ladder matches of now.
The match suffered though in part due to its overly choreographed nature at times. Some of the more spectacular moments felt very labored and contrived unfortunately.
The good news was that the match overcame that on a larger level. This match after all was not really about specific moments or even this “feud.”
This match was about the most beloved tag team from one generation going at it with the most beloved tag team of the current generation in the most popular tag teams stipulation. Thankfully, they did it quite well. The Bucks won somewhat anti-climatically with a stereo superkicks sending the Hardys from ladders to the mat. (***1/2)
10. Baron Corbin vs. Dean Ambrose – WWE – 4/4/2017
This was a STREET FIGHT
for Dean-o’s Intercontinental Championship.
This was such an effective plunder match. They were running around like they were trying to murder each other and did a really nice job of spacing out the plunder spots and using a good variety of plunder. Plunder! We love the plunder. Baron managed to win cleanly with End of Days which did admittedly seem a bit anti-climatic. (***1/2)
9. Volador Jr. & Will Ospreay vs. Dragon Lee & Jay White – ROH – 4/1/2017
This was exactly what it needed to be in every way. It was a great showcase for high-flying action. It was an effective introduction of Volador Jr. for ROH/US audiences (not that ROH will follow up on that). And most importantly, the match was pretty much fun from beginning to end (beyond Ospreay’s moments of assaulting everyone with his personality early on). Everyone should check out this very random yet satisfying match. (***1/2)
8. Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar – WWE – 4/2/2017
This was for Goldberg’s WWE Universal Championship.
This was exactly what it needed to be, and it was quite fun as a result. Brock came storming out of the gate with Germans. Bill fought right back with a spear and then a spear through the barricade. Brock survived a jackhammer, then hit a million Germans in the ring, and finished Bill with an F-5. This was loads of fun and was a very successful conclusion to an exceptionally odd six month story in WWE. (***1/2)
7. #DIY vs. Authors of Pain vs. The Revival – WWE – 4/1/2017
This was for AoP’s NXT Tag Team Championship.
This match came off incredibly well. You would think that they would have tried to probably do a compact match, but instead they went for epic and basically pulled it off as well as one could have reasonably expected.
The main story of the match ended up being The Revival and #DIY realizing they really needed to work together to have a chance to take down AoP. It all led to this great extended sequence where the teams did in fact work together. They had some very creative and wild ideas, and the fans absolutely ate every single moment up.
The Revival lost sight of the goal though and eventually broke ranks. They didn’t act like cartoon heels about it though. They simply miscalculated how long they needed to work with #DIY. That allowed AoP to easily eliminate #DIY.
From there, The Revival seemed like dead meat. That’s exactly what they ended up being as the AoP finished them off without *too* much trouble. They probably should not have done an elimination match if that was going to be the finish. Everything came off very flatly after it became crystal clear that The Revival had no chance in the final minutes. This was still a very good and unique match that the show really needed. (***3/4)
6. Matt Riddle vs. Drew Galloway – 3/30/2017
This was such a good way to kick off Evolve’s Wrestlemania weekend. These guys delivered such a strong and fun sprint brawl here that worked out so well. Both guys were just tearing into each other, but Galloway in particular was on another level here. He was working with a “Take No Prisoners” attitude, and he was clearly willing to kill Riddle in order to keep him down. That led to an Emerald Flowsion on the apron and then a Rhyno piledriver through a table. That last move in particular really ended things with Riddle, and Galloway then able to finish him shortly thereafter with a Future Shock/piledriver combo. (***3/4)
5. The Hardys vs. The Club vs. Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Enzo & Big Cass – WWE – 4/2/2017
This was a ladder match for The Club’s Raw Tag Team Championship.
This was such a fucking great moment. New Day teased that they were entering the match as a surprise team. The Hardys of course returned here instead, and it was a genuine goosebumps moment.
The reaction to them coming out was electrifying. It led to a wild sprint of a ladder match. It beautifully built to Jeff doing yet another wild fucking stunt while Matt grabbed the belts. This match completely washed over me.
I have no idea what happened in it. I’ll have to watch it again at some point. All I know is that The Hardys were forever the underpushed act that got themselves over like stars over and over again. They pulled it off one final time in 2016 and made themselves of value to the WWE once again. They earned this. They deserved this moment. (****)
4. Matt Riddle vs. Jon Davis vs. Timothy Thatcher vs. Fred Yehi vs. Tracy Williams vs. Parrow – WWN – 4/1/2017
This was an elimination match to crown the first WWN Champion.
This was just a wonderfully executed match that was compelling and fun from beginning to end. The key was that every wrestler was presented well, and each elimination organically came about. That made the whole match seem more important.
Parrow needed a million shots and had to be quintupled teamed for minutes before he went down. The Thatch Man getting eliminated early on was a good thing due to his very long Evolve title run. Jon Davis’ WWN redemption push was continued here nicely as he survived the first two eliminations before it took three guys to finish him off.
From there, the match became about the Catch Point explosion. Yehi and Hot Sauce initially teamed up against Riddle. Hot Sauce determined that enough damage had been done that he no longer needed Yehi. A surprise fruit roll-up finished off the latter.
The match concluded with Hot Sauce trying to defeat Riddle. Hot Sauce clearly had a chip on his shoulder and was looking to prove something to the fans and himself. Riddle is more talented though and survived it all. He survived long enough in fact to submit Hot Sauce.
These giant multi-person elimination matches have a small margin of error, but this was one of the better ones produced on the indies in quite some time. Despite this match clearly from the onset being set up as a coronation for Matt Riddle and despite the odd/illogical path the booking took to get to this match, there was no question that the right person one and that the final product was fun as fuck. Check this out. (****)
3. Ethan Page vs. Darby Allin – Evolve – 3/31/2017
This was an anything goes match.
The in-ring success of Ethan Page and Darby Allin is one of the great stories going on right now in wrestling. (Not the actual storyline mind you.) These are two guys who clearly try so hard to be good every time out there, and they totally earned this chance to main event one of the biggest Evolve shows of the year (especially after their fantastic battle in February).
Darby Allin has done all the wrong things to get attention and to make a name for himself in the past twelve months. He has taken the stupidest bumps on the smallest of shows. He came across like a desperate idiot who had no idea what he was doing. Those (like me) were the fools though. It worked, and Darby is now very much one of the most over acts in Evolve.
Ethan Page has been one of the most frustrating wrestlers on the indies for a good few years now. This dude clearly cares so much. This dude clearly tries so hard. He’s just SOOOOO bad so often in singles matches. He also has often been put in a position to fail by being treated completely seriously as a singles main eventer. Every wrestler has a role in a company. Page is never going to be The Guy for your company.
That leads us to this feud and their blowoff here. This feud has been a classic case of emphasizing wrestlers’ strengths and then putting them in a position to succeed. Darby Allin has been allowed to rely on taking massive beatings and then doing a handful of stunts per match. Ethan Page has really found his niche in Evolve as the midcard plunder wrestler who takes himself too seriously.
Their feud concluded here in absolutely tremendous fashion. It was one of the few times in recent indie wrestling history that felt like a series of matches between two guys really organically progressed to the point that an epic presentation of a match felt totally earned. These guys busted out everything they had in their arsenal for this one, and it came off so well. Kudos to both guys and Evolve for overcoming the odds by producing one of the most compelling and unique main events all year. Darby finished the match and the feud with a death-defying splash off a giant ladder that put Page through a table. (****)
2. Keith Lee vs. Ricochet – Evolve – 3/30/2017
Watching Keith Lee for the past year has been a strange experience. In places like Beyond Wrestling, he was positioned as a tremendous professional wrestler who was already capable of greatness. In ROH, he was an undercard tag wrestler in a company that was in desperate need of genuine greatness.
While it was great that a place like Beyond gave Keith a fantastic platform to showcase his true potential, ROH misusing him for so long was clearly the bigger story. How could a company that was on the verge of bleeding talent and truly in need of a massive shakeup miss the ball on Keith so badly?
ROH’s failure has been Evolve’s gain though. (And as Evolve’s 2017 Wrestlemania weekend will prove/has proven, ROH’s failureS will be Evolve’s gainS.)
Keith Lee proved here that he is already one of the best wrestlers in the world, and that he has all the tools to become a major star. He has the charisma. He has the personality. He has the size. He has the ability to dominate a match in a truly compelling manner.
Here, he spent most of the match effortlessly destroying Ricochet. The issue for him though was his overconfidence. He didn’t have that killer instinct needed to just finish Ricochet then and there when he clearly had the chance.
That gave Ricochet an opening, and Ricochet took full advantage of it. He needed every move in his arsenal, but it was enough. A 630 finally kept Keith Lee down to give Ricochet the win.
While it was beyond questionable to give Ricochet a win over Keith Lee given the context of their careers in Evolve, there was no doubt they told an amazing story here and put on a legitimately great match. (****)
1. Donovan Dijak vs. Keith Lee – Evolve – 3/31/2017
This was a fucking statement match if there ever was one. After this match, pro wrestling will have no choice but to feast their eyes and bask in the glory of Donovan Dijak and Keith Lee. These are two of the best going today, and they give the fans their best effort almost every single time out.
In this one, they delivered yet another great heavyweight battle in what will hopefully be their never-ending series. They threw bomb after bomb at each other, and the match progressively got more and more exciting. They managed to suck in a quiet crowd as well and whipped them into a frenzy. Just fantastic professional wrestling in every way. Only the most incompetent people in business could manage to make these two seem like meaningless undercard geeks. (****1/4)