|Colt Cabana showed that funny was equal to money, at least in the ring|
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
75. Colt Cabana
Highest Vote Received: 18th Place (Frank McCormick)
Last Year's Placement: 38th Place
Frank McCormick: Colt Cabana is deceptive. Sure, he's a "comedy wrestler," but the dirty little secret Jim Cornette isn't smart enough to realize is that a lot of comedians are actually very good wrestlers, period. He is particularly noteworthy for his World of Sport/British wrestling style, which he combines with his comedic skills to create some of the most unique and entertaining matches in wrestling today. His match on the last Wrestling is Art show with Drew Gulak, another major proponent of the British style on the indie scene today, still sticks out to me nearly six months after seeing it. And the truth is that Colt Cabana is just likable and rootworthy, both the very embodiment of the Spirit of Independent Wrestling, and as a performer in the ring.
74. Davey Richards
Highest Vote Received: 12th Place (Brock Lutefisk)
Last Year's Placement: 40th Place
73. UltraMantis Black
Highest Vote Received: 4th Place (De O'Brien)
Last Year's Placement: 57th Place
TH: Mantis' mastery of the macabre and occult translates into pure entertainment in the ring. Much like his brethren in the Spectral Envoy, I didn't catch much of him outside of tags and trios matches, but luckily, he thrives in those settings. His Fire Pro-inspired offense always came off stiff and effective-looking, and he excelled in double team offense. As the point man for the Envoy, he always rose to the occasion.
De O'Brien: 2013 is likely going to rank as the most confusing year in the history of Chikara after the promotion’s abrupt closing in June, but that isn’t to say that the roster folded without a fight. UltraMantis Black, in particular, struck out with visions of dominance in other federations, and succeeded in winning the AIW Absolute Championship in November of 2013. Between his willingness to assert the reach of the Envoy in other federations and his victory over Ethan Page to secure that title, UltraMantis proved that while you can take the company away from the great and devious leader of the Spectral Envoy, you can’t make the great and devious leader of the Spectral Envoy stop trying to conquer other companies out there.
72. Davey Vega
Highest Vote Received: 5th Place (Danielle Matheson)
Last Year's Placement: 68th Place
TH: Vega is the best pure babyface wrestler on the indies right now, and his 2013 barnstorming tour helped solidify that reputation. Whether he was doing face in peril in tags with Mat Fitchett in Metro Pro, getting the crowd hype with whirling dervish singles offense in other various promotions, or being the rock for less seasoned wrestlers in the Wrestlings Are, Vega was a sure thing no matter where he went.
Rob Pandola: The most underutilized wrestler out there not named Hallowicked. His work is top notch, he can create real emotion in the viewer as a high-flyin' babyface or a prick heel like in ACW or St. Louis Anarchy, and can get over wherever he goes. Had a great showing in last year's J-LIT that was not talked about enough by people.
Brandon Stroud: The single most underrated, underappreciated performer in the business. Vega can wrestle circles around at least half this list.
Highest Vote Received: 5th Place (De O'Brien)
Last Year's Placement: 46th Place
TH: The biggest shame of the year was the injury she suffered at the first WSU secret show in August. The boo-boo cost her a set of SHIMMER tapings, the final WSU show of the year, and the rest of the slate of ACW shows. Still, she put in some major work before going out, enough to put her in the top part of my ballot. She went to war against Jessicka Havok at the first WSU show of the year. While she's more known for her electric O-Face finisher, her bona fides as a brawler have come into focus in the last two calendar years as a competitor. This past year, she and Havok tore down the Flyers Skate Zone and then some. She also ruled at the Queen and King of the Ring with three great performances. I expect nothing but great things from Athena this year if she stays healthy.
Rob Pandola: Check out her second match with Jessicka Havok and her run in the Queen and King tournament for WSU. In the Queen and King of the Ring, she got to show off her versatility against a verity of opponents and styles. She was great in her showings in SHIMMER that year, specifically against a great opponent like Madison Eagles. One of the most promising talents in wrestling today. Also, O-Face. Never forget about the O-Face.
Frank McCormick: My inclusion of Athena on the ballot is based on two very simple facts: 1) The O-Face is one of the best finishers going; 2) Every match I've ever seen Athena in has stolen the show it was on. It's really just that simple.
Brandon Stroud: A game-changer. If you can sit still when she drops an O-Face on somebody, you should check to make sure your heart's still beating.
|The absolutely charming Joseph Park was a hoot in the ring|
Photo Credit: ImpactWrestling.com
Highest Vote Received: 10th Place (Rich Thomas, Brandon Stroud)
Last Year's Placement: 95th Place
Brandon Spears: Honestly, I don't think Park's ever had a great match, let alone a good one. But every time he was in a ring I was enthralled. I'll never get over the way he holds a chair upside down with that goofy, deer-in-the-headlights look on his face. Loses points for having to revert back to the Abyss.
Brandon Bosh: “Do more with less.” These words should be posted on every arena marquee, every locker room door, every curtain and crate and cheap backstage prop in sight, week after week, until wrestlers start to smarten up. The story of Joseph Park is at once inspirational and vaguely depressing. Inspirational, because so many backyarder geeks could find their salvation in it; depressing, because so few of them ever will. Imagine if Mick Foley, upon turning from Mankind into Dude Love, had replaced his penchant for masochistic self-mutilation with bravura physical comedy and Three Stooges-style pantomiming, all based on the premise that he had no idea how to wrestle. Thousands of Foley wannabes could’ve been spared few million shards of light-tube glass. Instead, the lesson came from TNA, and maybe 25 people got the message.
As a dollar-store Mankind more affectionately known as Abyss, Chris Parks made a career out of doing less with more. In his youth, he was unusually agile despite his remarkable height and heft. He could’ve been a perfectly capable ring hand, putting on unexpectedly solid matches with TNA’s impeccable mid-‘00s roster, but he took the easy route for rapidly diminishing returns. He competed in countless “Monster’s Ball” brouhahas, subjecting himself to untold punishment from folding chairs, barbed wire, and, most famously, several hundred gallons of thumb tacks. TNA diehards became desensitized, as wrestling fans will, but the sideshow continued unabated for years.
Then, one week in 2012, we were introduced to Chris Park(s)’s brother, Joseph, a guileless attorney on the search for his missing brother. Because TNA Impact is ostensibly a wrestling show, Joe Park soon found himself between the ropes, training diligently and fighting for family pride. The matches were admittedly one-note, but for a couple of months they were revelatory; all of a sudden, Park revealed himself to be an enormously gifted physical comedian, capable of putting on succinct ten-minute matches that defied all classifications of quality wrestling but were undeniably entertaining. A typical Joe Park match probably featured between three and five maneuvers, at least two of which came from Park’s opponent. None of that mattered, though, because Park elevated stalling to an art form, glancing around for the crowd’s approval, feverishly trying to figure out the mechanics of an armdrag. Make no mistake, Joseph Park is a wildly unorthodox selection for a list compiling the 100 best professional wrestlers in North America last year (not least because accrediting TNA with a genuinely good creative decision is a gamble unto itself). That doesn’t mean he should be, though; I’d argue the greatest threat facing pro wrestling is the notion that only one style or type is acceptable. In order to grow and evolve, wrestling needs variety, flavor, all-around newness. It also needs fewer dead wrestlers, and a comedic dive from the bottom turnbuckle is unquestionably safer than a corkscrew moonsault onto the floor.
Besides, let’s not kid ourselves about the “importance” of the wrestlers who’d be eligible for such a makeover. In WWE and TNA, the midcard has become utterly inconsequential; its perennial players and cardboard belts lost any semblance of gravitas ages ago. To put it another way: casual fans already treat the midcard as a joke. We might as well make sure the joke is funny.
69. "Mr. Touchdown" Mark Angelosetti
Highest Vote Received: 8th Place (Dave Kincannon)
Last Year's Placement: 28th Place
68. Candice LeRae
Highest Vote Received: 8th Place (Joey Splashwater)
Last Year's Placement: Not Ranked
Rob Pandola: Since her return to PWG at TEN, she had some decent trios matches, and it was kind of a feel good story. There was fire in her comebacks, but you never felt like anything big would happen with her. Then the end of BOLA night 2 happened, which led to the best tag match of 2013, Candice and Joey vs. The Young Bucks. That match led me to two conclusions. One was that, without question, she was going to be the highest ranked female on my list, which she is. The second conclusion? If she wants it, she is the heir apparent to Ricky Morton. That's how good she was in ONE MATCH!!! Her baby face fire is second to none, and her rise up the card was a highlight and a great story to add to one of the best years in PWG history.
Joey Splashwater: Candice was incredible for PWG last year. For a female to become as popular as she has in PWG is a huge feat and her work in the ring is the reason why. Seeing her go at it with Adam Cole in some tag matches especially showed her shine most.
67. Jay Briscoe
Highest Vote Received: 17th Place (Rich Kraetsch)
Last Year's Placement: 58th Place
66. Austin Aries
Highest Vote Received: 5th Place (Brandon Bosh)
Last Year's Placement: 6th Place
65. The Big Show
Highest Vote Received: 4th Place (Samuel DiMascio)
Last Year's Placement: 13th Place
TH: Between storyline limbo and vacations presumably due to injury, Show had a lower-key year in the ring in 2013. When he did make appearances, however, he showed why he belongs in the conversation for best in-ring big man ever. Most of his key performances came in the beginning of the year against Alberto del Rio, but that series, especially the last man standing match where del Rio win the World Heavyweight Championship, punctuated a strong January for WWE.
Scott T. Holland: Once again, Big Show was a world title contender in 2013, engaging in a memorable series of matches with Alberto Del Rio. He also challenged Randy Orton for the WWE Championship at Survivor Series and, with Rey Mysterio, had a chance to win the tag team titles at TLC. He also served as a suitable foil for the ascendant Shield on and off throughout the year, including at WrestleMania 29. As often is the case with Big Show, his in-ring contributions were more about the overall story of a match than his individual prowess, but there’s something to be said for a workhorse whose presence in many ways positively influences the flow of combat.
64. Gail Kim
Highest Vote Received: 12th Place (Cewsh)
Last Year's Placement: Not Ranked
Joey Splashwater: I could argue she's the best wrestler in TNA. Much like her husband's show Restaurant: Impossible where chef Robert Irvine saves failing restaurants, Gail Kim saves failing wrestling matches.
|Drake Younger piledrove the competition in PWG|
Photo Credit: Devin Chen
Highest Vote Received: 5th Place (Alex Torres)
Last Year's Placement: 96th Place
Alex Torres: From deathmatch ambassador to the MVP of PWG, and it couldn't have happened to a better person.
Joe Roche: At the Battle of Los Angeles Night 1, Younger took on Joey Ryan in a match that involved Legos. That's a thing that happened, and it was wonderful and it remains one of my favorite 2013 wrestling memories. The reinvention of Drake Younger throughout 2013 from hardcore, ultra-violent legend into accomplished technical wrestler, WWE style sports entertainer was amazing and deserves to be recognized. Drake is beloved in PWG which alone is enough to garner him some votes, his matches with Adam Cole throughout 2013 were awesome and it's devastating that he'll leave the independent's without having held the biggest prize in PWG.
Rob Pandola: Drake, in PWG, is the perfect babyface for that crowd. He earned their respect through hard work and a hybrid high flying/brawling style that works perfectly in that building. In the ring, he's all action. Never a dull moment. You almost get the feeling he's putting his body on the line way more than he ever did when he was in death matches.
62. Bobby Roode
Highest Vote Received: 11th Place (Cewsh)
Last Year's Placement: 12th Place
61. Kofi Kingston
Highest Vote Received: 11th Place (Dan McQuade)
Last Year's Placement: 52nd Place
Scott T. Holland: Kofi Kingston will one day be appearing at your neighborhood VFW hall, cleverly escaping elimination in a battle royal. That said, his 2013 Royal Rumble “crafty save” moment of using a desk chair as a pogo stick is probably his worst entry in this particular canon.
60. Robert Evans/RD Evans/Archibald Peck/Big Bad Quentin
Highest Vote Received: 14th Place (Frank McCormick)
Last Year's Placement: 33rd Place
Ryan Kilma: Peck/Evans offered slightly subdued less shenanigans year. However, behind the bells, whistles, and birds in neck-braces hides a rather nifty pro wrestler. Although he has a Goofy-esque physique, Evans has been able to keep up with the athletes in ROH, and cement his position as Best "Robert Evans" on the roster. Guys with below-average bodies that are adverse to pull-ups like Peck and Mick Foley are so good at capturing the lunancy of pro wrestling through storytelling that it's easy to forget they'd still great without any additional hoopla; I think his match with Eddie Kingston proved that.
The big question remaining is whether Peck actually spend a majority of 2013 in the year 2013.
Rob Pandola: I placed him high on my list for one specific reason: as a wrestler, this was his best year. Look no further than his matches with Tim Donst and Eddie Kingston in Chikara for proof. Yes, he's the leader of the band, and his comedy style will always take president over anything else, but when he wants to turn it on, he can TURN IT ON! I would play back-up Tuba for him any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Frank McCormick: Archibald Peck shouldn't be a terribly convincing pro wrestler. Not because he's a "vanilla midget" (have you seen the indies lately? Or the main event of Wrestlemania? Suck it, Nash!), but because he's a beanpole, all flailing limbs and ectomorph chest. Yet few wrestlers delight me as much as he. Much of that has to do with things outside of the scope of TWB 100 criteria, but his performance in the ring doesn't detract. He has a knack for connecting with the audience
Highest Vote Received: 11th Place (Robot Hammer)
Last Year's Placement: 67th Place
Rob Pandola: In the beginning of 2013, the sun would rise in the morning, set in the evening, and Icarus was a heel. And then something changed. His in-ring style started to change, becoming more of a hybrid of baby face show off and heel scumbaggery. By the time he got to Never Compromise, he had transformed into a full-fledged baby face, and it felt natural. When people cheered for him, it felt natural. And that was because of his work in the ring. A transition like that, almost over-night, just doesn't happen without a sophisticated knowledge of working. Icarus proved that he was WAY better than what anyone had ever given him credit for, and we were all better for it.
58. Rich Swann
Highest Vote Received: 15th Place (Rich Kraetsch)
Last Year's Placement: 84th Place
TH: I'm still singing "All Night Long" at his and Ricochet's behest. The Inner City Machine Guns were one of the most fun tag teams in PWG and all of wrestling last year, and Swann's theatrics and pinball motions around the ring had a lot to do with that.
Rob Pandola: Red Bull in a human frame.
John Rosenberger: Rich Swann is basically what I would make if Create-A-Wrestler let you create an honest to god living pro-wrestler. He is effortlessly graceful, infectiously charismatic and just the most athletic person I’ve ever seen.
Highest Vote Received: 16th Place (Angelo Castillo)
Last Year's Placement: 89th Place
TH: Christian's status with WWE has left him with a weird resume in 2013. Despite long sojourns due to injury, he was never too far away from the main event players, and thus he was given a platform to work long matches with the rest of the top of the card. This paradigm led him to have some killer matches with Daniel Bryan on free TV, his inclusion in the RAW Money in the Bank ladder match, and a program against Alberto del Rio that allowed him to have the third best match at SummerSlam, which might not sound like much until you realize the two matches ahead of it may have been two of the best in WWE's 2013, let alone all time.
|Jessicka Havok and Sami Callihan: Inexorably linked in the ring AND in sequence in the TWB 100|
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Highest Vote Received: 15th Place (Pablo Alva)
Last Year's Placement: 72nd Place
TH: Hers was the fury in 2013. Her unique physical presence and relentless ring demeanor allowed her to be a cyclone of destruction in whatever contest in which she'd participate. Whether she was towering over competitors like Serena Deeb or Athena, or going toe to toe with Sami Callihan, her ring presence was unmatched and special. The aforementioned match with Callihan was perhaps my favorite independent wrestling match of 2013.
Martin Bentley: J-Hav started 2013 deadly enough. This ended up being the year when she assumed the mantle of the Havok Death Machine, and it all steamrollered from there.
Although her year in SHINE started iffy, with her having to say she respected Reby Sky, Havok made that promotion her own, starting with a big win over a dream opponent for many in Madison Eagles, and then swatting away Portia Perez, before running into Rain and her Valkyrie group. Her problems would lie in the woman she thought was her best friend - Allysin Kay, who would turn on her, starting a massive war that still rumbles on.
Havok still reigns supreme as WSU World Champion, and it would be there where she took the moniker of "Death Machine" from one Sami Callihan (who she may or may not know outside of wrestling), sending him running to an anonymous compound in Orlando (which some say is a "performance center"). As J-Hav continued to dispatch everyone put in front of her (including the likes of Athena and Lexxus), she has now run into a new challenge in the shape of new WSU co-owner DJ Hyde. It remains to be seen if Deej will finally crack the Death Machine.
Havok has also dipped into promotions such as 2CW (not TCW, Jessicka...), AAW, CZW and FIP throughout the year, but the other major promotion J-Hav made her name in was SHIMMER. For a long time, many wondered if Havok would ever come to the Berwyn Eagles Club, given her long time standing with WSU, but that question was answered at Volume 53 in New Jersey with a sneak attack on Serena Deeb, who Havok continued a rivalry with back in Berwyn the following week, splitting two matches. After destroying the likes of Heidi Lovelace, Santana Garrett and Mia Yim, Havok returned in October, disposing of Mary Lee Rose, Leva Bates and Crazy Mary Dobson, only falling to the might of Madison Eagles in a return bout from SHINE earlier in the year.
I enjoy a lot of women's work in wrestling, but there's very few who command their stage and give off a superstar aura quite like Jessicka Havok. She uses her size more effectively than most, she performs a gimmick whilst "won" from someone else, she fits perfectly, and she probably has the most unique set of merchandise I've ever seen a wrestler sell, including the likes of dogtags, gas-masks and even "mini-grenades". I will be utterly stunned if she's still on the independent scene within two or three years, as J-Hav is exactly the kind of female performer that the WWE desperately needs as a counter-balance to who they have on the roster right now.
Rob Pandola: Her WSU Title match with Athena was great, but in pales in comparison to her match with Sami Callahan. This was a match that was years in the making, and when it finally happened, not only did people believe the hype, but the hype almost felt like an under-estimation on how good she can be. She puts all of her weight into that Demon Drop, which makes it look that much more devastating. It always feels like she's in a blood-war with anyone who is opposed to her. Every match means something to her. The heir-apparent to Bull Nakano.
55. Sami Callihan
Highest Vote Received: 11th Place (Pablo Alva)
Last Year's Placement: 26th Place
TH: Callihan was hurt by being taken from the active pool of wrestlers around the middle of the year. The lag time between his final independent match and his debut in NXT as Solomon Crowe – which happened in 2014 – was one of the biggest shames of the year because Callihan is such a unique presence in the ring. Any match he was in that didn't also feature Drake Younger was worth seeking out, but none was more notable than his match against Jessicka Havok. The two worked one of the most vicious, hate-soaked brawls of the year, an intergender match that played out in the most gender neutral fashion possible.
Samuel DiMascio: Callihan is one of the few wrestlers on the independent wrestler working a variety of promotions and looking equally awesome in almost in nearly every single one. You could probably point to a match of his from every promotion he worked for in 2013 that was a highlight for that promotion. Sami only got about a half a year of work in before getting signed to the WWE but he managed to build a rather stellar resume in that time. In that span he managed the most violent and fantastic match PWG had all year against Drake Younger, a psychologically thrilling sequal to the 2012 match with John Morrison in 2CW, and one of the best intergender matches you’ll see against Jessicka Havok in WSU. That is just the tip of the iceberg for Callihan but that just goes to show the versatility as well as the journeymanship of the bicycle kicking individual.
54. Eddie "Eddie Edwards" Edwards
Points: 915 (ranked ahead of Sami Callihan based on highest vote tiebreaker)
Highest Vote Received: 4th Place (Tristan Wolfe)
Last Year's Placement: 50th Place
Joe Roche: I can't very well say that Biff Busick and Eddie Edwards had the best iron man match I've ever seen and only credit Busick. Luckily for Edwards the TWB 100 isn't about personality or interviews because Edwards might not even make the list. But in the ring Edwards has a really strong style, obviously he takes a ton from Japanese wrestling, his chops are brutal, his strikes all sound like they really and truly hurt, and he can go to the mat with the best of them. The Edwards/Busick trilogy of singles matches exceeded my highest expectations and Edwards deserves at least half the credit for that. If you haven't seen any of their meetings, you should really make it a point to check them out - I'd watch them in order to truly appreciate how each match built off each other, but if you only have an hour - check out the Iron Man match from Tournament For Tomorrow 2.
Tristan Wolfe: Eddie Edwards was kind of the man in 2013. A lot of people might think of Eddie Edwards as a tag team guy, but he's so much more than that. For proof, go watch his match with Biff Busick in Beyond Wrestling. It doesn't matter if he's standing next to Davey Richards, Roderick Strong, or by himself, Eddie Edwards is going to put on a good match.
53. William Regal
Highest Vote Received: 2nd Place (Danielle Matheson)
Last Year's Placement: Not Ranked
TH: Regal showed up in the ring a half-a-dozen times tops, but every time he did, especially in NXT, he was phenomenal. His series of matches against the former Kings of Wrestling were two of the finest of the year. I didn't think he'd be able to top his contest against Kassius Ohno in April, but the match against Antonio Cesaro in December was regoddamndiculously amazing. He could very well be the best small-sample-size wrestler of all-time, and I hope he continues to make these spot appearances for as long as his body will let him.
Samuel DiMascio: Oh Regal, how I love thee. You are a like a fine wine, only getting better with age. Lord Regal went up against the Kings of Wrestling in 2013 in with that came two of the best matches of the year. His match against Ohno was magnificent. The way Regal manipulated the fingers of Ohno was brilliant and the way he sold the massive strikes from the Ohno as if he if his equilibrium had been completely out of whack. WWE gave use a Christmas gift that goes a bit under noticed by being so close to year’s end. That gift was Regal against Cesaro. Regal yet again put on what would be his last master class performance to date. Of course the Lord of NXT wasn’t going to be performing on a weekly basis but he managed to show his ability at his age at more than one point in the year was worth hefty praise.
Brandon Spears: I'm pretty sure he only had three matches in all of 2013, but in my opinion there isn't a wrestler on WWE TV who's more in tune with his character and knowing how to react to every situation. I'm loving Regal as the universally respected veteran who's just out to prove he's still a villain at his core.
|This match with Punk helped Chris Jericho make the TWB 100 this year|
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Highest Vote Received: 10th Place (Joey O.)
Last Year's Placement: 16th Place
TH 2013 Chris Jericho is a far, far cry from the wrestler who placed first in the inaugural edition of this list, let alone prime turn-of-the-century Y2J. However, he still has some decent matches in him as proven by his RAW match against CM Punk in February and his series with Curtis Axel in the summer.
Ryan Kilma: An interesting what-if to ponder on a long car trip when your iPod's out of juice, all your CDs are unreadable, and you're hundreds of miles away from a radio tower is the role Y2J (or Christian or Sheamus) would've played in the Summer of 5'2" (the blockbuster sequel to the Summer of Punk). Business picked up almost immediately after Jericho left on another gonzo Fozzy hiatus. Not only is it easy to forget the Daddy Lion wrestled in 2013, he also participated in some pretty swell matches before parting. Although he mostly made the Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber-match proper awesome by osmosis, his WM match with Fandango, though clumsy, contained all the awkwardness and excitement of a first dance and had me smiling the whole way through. As an added bonus, his match with CM Punk was Diamond Cutter-out-of-nowhere and is my pick for Match of 2013 (that had no major storyline implications whatsoever).
51. Christopher Daniels
Highest Vote Received: 5th Place (Brock Lutefisk)
Last Year's Placement: 18th Place
Brock Lutefisk: Bad Influence, need I say more? He’s still going strong, even in the tag team division. I rarely watch TNA, but I’ll tune in to watch Daniels.
Tomorrow, the list creeps towards the top.