Monday, March 23, 2015

The 2014 TWB 100 Slow Release: #60-#41

Angelosetti was down a bit, but he was never truly out in 2014
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Back into the swing of things with some hard-hitting indie women, an entertaining pair of WWE superstars, and the most debonair yachtsman in the Chikaraverse.

60. Mark Angelosetti
Points: 1338
Ballots: 19
Highest Vote Received: 3rd Place (Jeff Stormer)
Last Year's Placement: 69th (nice) Place

TH: Mr. Touchdown's high-intensity style fit well in the Chikara tag and trios scenes in shorter bursts. He was a big reason why the big Campeonatos de Parejas match at the finale was so tight as well. All in all, a solid frame for Angelosetti.

Jeff Stormer: After quietly making the turn in 2013 during the shutdown, 2014 was Mr. Touchdown’s chance to show the world what a tecnico he could be. And, apologies to Mr. Luger, he proved he was the total package. From effortlessly lifting The Shard for over 30 seconds at You Only Live Twice, to taking the beating of a lifetime at Tomorrow Never Dies, he filled whatever role was required of him, whether as sympathetic hero or conquering champion, with a seemingly boundless reserve of energy.

Nick Ahlhelm: Mr. Touchdown was a world class heel during his run in the old Chikara. He wasn’t ever the best wrestler in the ring, but he made up for it with some awesome promos and some great integration of his football background into Chikara’s style of craziness. But in 2014, Mark Angelosetti became a full-fledged face, even befriending Archibald Peck. With the Throwbacks now on the same page, they became a formidable force and quickly won the Campeonatos de Parejas, which they kept until the end of the year. In ring, Mr. Touchdown finally got to show just how dynamic a worker he was, pulling out a lot more high-flying moves and some solid mat work as well. He proved he was a great competitor even when he had to play on the up and up.

Brad Canze: I've been a Mr. Touchdown fan since I started watching Chikara a few years ago. He's got the look, the build, and crazy athletic ability. If it weren't for his height he would probably be tearing up NXT right now, but I still think he'll be there eventually.

TJ Hawke: Mr. Touchdown broke out in 2012 and became one of the best prospects in all of wrestling. Unfortunately, he's been stuck in Chikara's house of crap since then and his standing has actually gone down since his rookie year as a result. He's still as talented as ever though and delivered whenever The Throwbacks could escape The Flood storyline. Check out The Throwbacks' matches with The Submission Squad, The Pieces of Hate, 3.0, and The Devastation Corporation.

Photo Credit:
59. Natalya
Points: 1344
Ballots: 25
Highest Vote Received: 13th Place (Jesse Dlugosz)
Last Year's Placement: 84th Place

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
58. Blaster McMassive
Points: 1387
Ballots: 20
Highest Vote Received: 7th Place (Mat Morgan)
Last Year's Placement: Not ranked

TH: If I had a vote for "Most Improved" wrestler, it would go to McMassive. He's learned how to control his lanky frame and command presence like the true hoss that he is. Plus, he has a sweet tope con hilo.

Jeff Stormer: The Devastation Corporation’s rise to the top in 2014 would’ve felt false had it not been anchored by talents like Blaster McMassive. He seems to embody all the best things about Chikara, an outsized personality in the ring, keenly aware of how to interact with the crowd, and capable of going from funny to dangerous in an instant. Plus, he throws some of the best clotheslines and crowd dives in wrestling.

Nick Ahlhelm: Let’s be honest, no one in modern wrestling more represents the word HOSS in modern wrestling than the current Chikara Campeones de Parejas and King of Trios winners, the Devastation Corporation. While his partner proved a bit more dynamic in the ring, Blaster was a huge part of that dominant run. And while their hoss status was well secured in 2014, it looks like the future can only get brighter for Blaster McMassive as he continues to grow as an in-ring competitor.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
57. Dasher Hatfield
Points: 1405
Ballots: 21
Highest Vote Received: 4th Place (Jeff Stormer)
Last Year's Placement: Not ranked

TH: Hatfield has really found his niche as a tag team anchor and has developed into one of Chikara's overall top hands, period. His versatility in the ring helped stabilize the Throwbacks' big run as a top team, and he was able to play both Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson with equal aplomb. He's really grown into his skin.

Jeff Stormer: Dasher’s been around a very long time (and has been good for a long time), but 2014 felt like a landmark year for him. Teaming with Mr. Touchdown as tecnicos seemed to bring out his best qualities, making him more energetic, an even bigger crowd-pleaser, and a positively electrifying hot tag. None of which is to undercut his singles talents, however--in matches such as his NPWD bout with Eddie Kingston, he showed the kind of adeptness with both comedy and hard-hitting brawling that cemented him as an anchor of the reborn Chikara.

Nick Ahlhelm: While Icarus might have been the official ace of Chikara in 2014, it’s arguable that the true heart of Chikara is the Old Timey King of Swing. Dasher Hatfield finally won the Campeonatos De Parejas in 2014, a confirmation of his importance to the promotion after years of service. His months away seemed to only allow him to get in better shape as well, which served him well in marathon contests for the titles throughout the year.

TJ Hawke: Dasher Hatfield has long been one of independent wrestling's best-kept secrets. He almost always delivers in tags and singles matches, which is not something a lot of independent wrestlers can say. While he couldn't escape Chikara's artistic catastrophe the entire year, he and Mr. Touchdown always delivered in tag matches when they were not held down by The Flood storyline. Check out The Throwbacks' matches with The Submission Squad, The Pieces of Hate, 3.0, and The Devastation Corporation.

Photo Credit: Lee South/Impact
56. Ethan Carter III
Points: 1408
Ballots: 24
Highest Vote Received: 5th Place (Brandon Stroud)
Last Year's Placement: 77th Place

Joshua Browns: It's strange. It feels like Impact is pushing Carter hard, but they never seem to put him in a position where his abilities in the ring can be showcased. Based on the way he projects his character into his promo work, he seems like he might be very good, but too many screwy finishes, and too many odd opponent pairings to be able to really judge.

Brad Canze: Seriously, you could put every other TNA performer in a box marked "ISLAND OF MISFIT TOYS" and leave me Carter and I would be happy. He is a dude that understands the fundamentals, is an old-school worker, and is also funny as shit. Carter is like if Harley Race were also Andy Samberg. There may be some leftover goodwill from his NXT run there, but if TNA is as much of a sinking ship as some dirtsheets may suggest, Ethan Carter III is the first person on my lifeboat.

Photo Credit:
55. Alberto del Rio/el Patron
Points: 1410
Ballots: 22
Highest Vote Received: 12th Place (Dan Vecellio)
Last Year's Placement: 21st Place

TH: Racism cut el Patron's WWE year short, but he did some good work before he left, even if it was in a diminished role thanks to terrible booking. He was a steady hand early in the year and had some good stuff with Dean Ambrose later on. He even had one last run with Rey Mysterio for old time's sake.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
54. Heidi Lovelace
Points: 1459
Ballots: 24
Highest Vote Received: 12th Place (Willow Maclay)
Last Year's Placement: Not ranked

TH: After two years of paying dues, Lovelace broke out big with some showcase matches around the Midwest and Northeast. Her spunky, spitfire offense complemented her tendencies to take a huge ass-whipping, and it provided some great matches as well. However, her most memorable single contest was probably against Danny Cannon in a match where they played tit for tat until the final bell.

Frank McCormick: With a kicky haircut and kicky kicks, Ms. Lovelace has been the Young Lion of my heart long before she won the Cup. I think what I like about her is how serious she is about her craft and developing said craft. I don't mean that she's humorless and SUPER SERIOUS like some wrestlers can be (anyone who regularly appears in both Chikara and Olde Wrestling simply can't be humorless), but that you can see her concentration and her determination to get better and better. Now back from a Japan tour, I expect great things from her.

Nick Ahlhelm: This may be my Midwest regionalism or Chikara fandom showing, but I can think of few stars that grew into their talent like Heidi Lovelace. Through her work in Chicago independents to appearances in OVW to her work in the dwindling Wrestling Is promotions, she showed an abundance of heart and talent against men or women. She put on a great showing throughout the Young Lions Cup tournament that led to her becoming the first woman to hold that title—but hopefully not the last.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
53. Chris Hero
Points: 1461
Ballots: 23
Highest Vote Received: 4th Place (Niel Jacoby)
Last Year's Placement: 25th Place

TH: Hero inched even closer to the American Tenryu gimmick in 2014, showing some prime grumpiness especially against younger lions in PWG. While he made headlines for other reasons, his in-ring work remained at a high level.

Samuel DiMascio: Imagine being one of the best wrestlers in America and the main talking point about you is your weight? That is something Chris Hero seemingly has to deal with constantly. Entering the year he was still a relatively fresh act on the indie scene after his stint in NXT and probably set up his top match against AJ Styles which felt like and older ROH matches that had length, depth, and tons of STUFF! He also had real hoots against Ray Rowe in Inspire and Colin Delaney in 2CW. While he could be self-indulgent at times he was too good at putting on hard hitting contests that hit at the right time for me to disregard him as a top tier guy on the independents.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
52. Eddie Kingston
Points: 1467
Ballots: 24
Highest Vote Received: 4th Place (Erica Molinaro)
Last Year's Placement: 40th Place

TH: The War King's character arcs played more of a role in informing his ring work in 2014 Chikara, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. While he deprived audiences of the more classic bouts they're used to seeing him in, he was able to show versatility. It was an all around solid year for Kingston.

Frank McCormick: When Eddie Kingston wrestles, he wrestles his own inner demons as much as his opponents. There's a rawness to him that draws me into his matches. This emotional voyeurism sometimes makes me feel a bit perverted and intrusive, but it gives a dynamic vibe to his matches that no other wrestler brings.

Nick Ahlhelm: Few wrestlers are consistently as solid as Eddie Kingston inside a wrestling ring. But while Eddie continued to be a strong performer in 2014, much of his story in Chikara was cemented by events outside the confines of a match, as he joined and then left the Flood. But despite his era as Grand Champion being over, it is clear that Kingston lives and breathes Chikara and will continue to be a major star in the next year.

Erica Molinaro: Eddie Kingston might just be the most underrated story teller in the wrestling business today. When Kingston is in the ring, you could write a novel based on his facial expressions alone. His work last year after he lost the Chikara Grand Championship was masterful. From wrestling to just walking to the ring, no one embodies their character like Kingston.

John Rosenberger: Eddie Kingston plays the role of moralistic loner better than anyone in the game. Every move in his Chikara storyline made sense, from his early disinterest in wrestling after losing the his self-identity In the Grand Championship, to his fervent, conflicted pursuit to destroy anything in his way to reclaim his destiny, it was all pitch perfect. His work in AAW and AIW showed a man who was as passionate to prove himself in the ring despite having an already strong reputation.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
51. Ashley Remington/Dalton Castle
Points: 1497
Ballots: 23
Highest Vote Received: 4th Place (Dan McQuade)
Last Year's Placement: Not ranked

TH: I always knew Dalton Castle was a steady hand in the ring, but the gimmick change in Chikara boosted him to the next level. Not only did he show signs of being a great storyteller, but he was able to purvey a style of wrestling that was warm and endearing, which is rare. He's an absolute gem of a wrestler in the perfect character that produced harmonious results in the last year.

Jeff Stormer On a day in which Chikara came back from the dead, King of Trios was announced, Kobald was killed, Deucalion's horrifying visage was revealed, and a new Grand Champion was crowned, Ashley Remington, marked by no more than a few minutes of online fanfare prior, managed to steal the show. That alone is worth pointing out. But what makes Remington so special goes beyond that one show; -he spent the entire year proving he was a master of winning over crowds in the ring, combining the lightning-quick comedy the Chikara faithful expect with pitch-perfect facial expressions and body language, and enough physicality and technical skill to back it up. A truly spectacular combination of "right performer, right character, right moment."

Frank McCormick: Dalton Castle has been around for a while, I know, but I never really encountered him in my indie viewing. But then Ashley Remington sailed into Chikara on a yacht of fruit baskets and finger-guns and OMG, I LOVE HIM, I LOVE HIM, I LOVE HIM! With a wink and a great German suplex, he stole my heart.

Joshua Browns: I love this dude. I think there's a ton of potential here.

Brad Canze: I was privileged enough to be present for the best comedy match of 2014, at Chikara's Moonraker event, and Ashley Remington was the piece that made the whole thing work. His whole deal as a Yacht Dad who gives his losing opponents fruit baskets set up the bit in that night's eight-man tag, which saw the fruit basket being crushed, which turned Remington's affable finger-guns into weapons, causing referee Bryce Remsberg's shooting death and rebirth as The Undertaker. It was amazing. None of it would have worked without Ashley Remington, both as a character and as a part of the match. This is a guy who gets timing from both the wrestling and comedy standpoints. If WWE ever moves their idea of "comedy" past The Honeymooners I expect Ashley Remngton to be an important part of that.

TJ Hawke: As I wrote about extensively on PWPonderings, Chikara's 2014 was an artistic catastrophe. Ashley Remington managed to overcome that tough in pretty much every appearance he made for the company in 2014. He had a killer gimmick that got him instantly over with Chikara fans, and he backed it up in the ring show after show. Everyone should go out of their way to watch his match with Archibald Peck. It was one of my favorite matches in all of wrestling for 2014.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
50. Green/Silver Ant
Points: 1564
Ballots: 22
Highest Vote Received: 2nd Place (Dave Kincannon)
Last Year's Placement: 34th Place

TH: In a year of transformations, Silver Ant's metamorphosis was thankfully only superficial. He remained a versatile ring general with a sharp focus on strong mat exchanges, which he showed in a masterful Iron Man match against Drew Gulak at Wrestling Is Respect's final show. Stepping in at the last minute for an injured Biff Busick, he and Gulak almost completely blunted the sting of WIR's kayfabe closure. It was from there where he was called upon to wrestle in story-driven matches, but again, he's one of the most versatile wrestlers on the scene. He was able to draw emotion from the crowd and put in good work along the way. Green Ant may have only made the upgrade to Silver, but his in-ring ability was solid gold.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
49. Max Smashmaster
Points: 1566
Ballots: 22
Highest Vote Received: 5th Place (Jeff Stormer, Erica Molinaro)
Last Year's Placement: Not ranked

TH: Two words perfectly sum up Max Smashmaster: Certified Hoss. He was already on the path to greatness before, but this year, he owned his bigness and became a spectacle. He was the best part of perhaps the best stable Chikara has seen since the heyday of the BDK.

Jeff Stormer: Max Smashmaster is incredible to watch. Equally adept at playing the powerhouse or throwing swanton bombs; capable of making his opponents seem six inches tall, or like the certified gods of fuckshit mountain, with a super expressive face, quick wit, and skillful comedic timing.

Joshua Browns: The rise of Devastation Corporation was Chikara's most successful venture in 2014, and they're primed to be big-time players. Smashmaster gets bonus points for the amazing physical transformation he's undergone.

Nick Ahlhelm: Who doesn’t love the hossiest HOSS in Hoss-ville? Max Smashmaster embodied the word devastation in his run up to taking two of Chikara’s top honors in 2014. While he certainly doesn’t have the physical appearance of a typical WWE or TNA star, Smashmaster showed that he could both deliver and take some massive hits during the year. And much like his partner Blaster McMassive, he continues to grow better and better with every battle.

Photo Credit:
48. Big E
Points: 1578
Ballots: 30
Highest Vote Received: 19th Place (Dan McQuade)
Last Year's Placement: 16th Place

Photo Credit:
47. Wade Barrett
Points: 1591
Ballots: 26
Highest Vote Received: 8th Place (Joe Drilling)
Last Year's Placement: Not ranked

Ryan Foster: Before getting hurt, Barrett embraced his weird “Bad News” gimmick as successfully as anyone this side of Damien Mizdow and was really delivering in the ring as well. Barrett is always a breath of fresh air in WWE’s midcard, where he brings an element of power and stiffness to a group dominated by smaller, more athletic types. Probably the second most unfortunate long-term injury of the year.

Photo Credit:
46. AJ Lee
Points: 1751
Ballots: 28
Highest Vote Received: 18th Place (Mike Tunison)
Last Year's Placement: 14th Place

Nick Ahlhelm: Since the era of Mickie James, no one has dominated the WWE women’s division like AJ Lee has in the last few years. Bun unlike Mickie’s era, AJ has far stronger competition among the divas, which helps her to have stronger matches. With a focus on a few more women’s matches at pay-per-views not treated like bathroom breaks, she also has more chances to showcase her talents against the likes of Naomi, Paige, Natalya and Nikki Bella. Women’s wrestling in WWE still has a lot of room to grow, but with AJ and Paige at the helm, it has every chance to succeed.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
45. Jay Briscoe
Points: 1795
Ballots: 27
Highest Vote Received: 6th Place (Kris Zellner)
Last Year's Placement: 67th Place

TH: Briscoe got another run with the ROH Title, but most of his best work in 2014 came in tag matches, whether in ROH or barnstorming around other promotions. His best singular performance came in a match against the Hardy Boys. He brought such intensity against Matt Hardy that it elevated the match to high peaks, and that's a huge plus in my book.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
44. Kimber Lee
Points: 1823
Ballots: 23
Highest Vote Received: 3rd Place (De O'Brien)
Last Year's Placement: 96th Place

TH: She's a wrestler! Lee adopted that tagline in 2014 and conquered every promotion she stepped foot into. She handled all roles well in the ring well. Against Mickie Knuckles, she was the willing canvas for her opponent's gonzo violence. She formed excellent tag teams with two different partners in two different promotional spheres. She began a story-oriented career in Chikara, and she took center stage in headlining matches in Beyond Wrestling. And in every different role, she excelled, throwing bombs, taking offense, and breaking out of the pack to become one of the stellar wrestlers in the country in the last year.

Frank McCormick: Princess or just plain Kimber Lee is one of the toughest, most fearless performers around, with the best forearm barrage in the biz. But what I particularly like about her in-ring work is something that seems very superficial: her voice. In particular, that she uses it in the ring. Her banshee shriek strikes fear into her enemies and brings renewed vigor to her friends. It's a little thing, but it has a big effect, at least for me.

Brad Canze: The criteria by which I ranked Kimber Lee so high was thus: I was watching the 2014 King Of Trios streaming, my girlfriend walked into the room, saw Kimber Lee, and sat down and watched the whole match, and declared Lee her favorite wrestler by match's end. Lee had a ton more accomplishments than that this year, but I think captivating a non-fan from randomly walking in on a match is a great endorsement.

Martin Bentley: It's difficult to think of a more in-demand female wrestler in 2014, at least one that doesn't come attached with a mustached sleazeball as part of the booking package. Kimber Lee was nearly everywhere over the year (though there were a couple of places she had public falling outs with) - whether it be dominating the competition at Beyond Wrestling, getting into gender wars at WSU, journeying up north to SMASH and impressing there, becoming a perrenial contender at SHINE, or raising her stock even higher at SHIMMER. Even her Princess alter-ego at Chikara became more popular, to the point where she's now a regular character there. I originally compared her to Sara Del Rey when she was first gaining momentum, but there's also a little LuFisto in there too in the way she keeps taking beatings and keeps coming back for more.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
43. Bobby Fish
Points: 1851
Ballots: 29
Highest Vote Received: 5th Place (Ian Riccaboni)
Last Year's Placement: Not ranked

Joey Splashwater: Some forget about Bobby Fish when putting over the amazing work reDRagon has done due to Kyle O'Reilly being the standout member of the team but Fish is tremendous. I always saw potential in Fish to be something special and I was proven right in 2014. The MOTY with the Young Bucks at War of the Worlds was one of the greatest wrestling matches I've seen live and Bobby Fish was pivotal to making that as outstanding as it was - a frequent occurrence when he wrestles.

Photo Credit:
42. The Miz
Points: 1877
Ballots: 30
Highest Vote Received: 12th Place (Angelo Castillo)
Last Year's Placement: Not ranked

Rene Sanchez: Maybe the most underrated worker in the second half of 2014 in the WWE, The Miz was wrestling the equivalent of handicap matches during the entirety of his tag team run with Damien Sandow (Mizdow). The work that was being done in the ring can be lost to the wonderful distraction that Sandow became on the outside, but Miz deserves this spot because he continually put on solid matches while everyone ignored him. That is quite awesome in my mind.

Ryan Foster: The Miz has always faded comfortably into the background of the WWE roster. He’s been far too good to be bad, but not good enough to stand out from the pack. That changed in late 2014 with his re-imagining as a delusional “movie star” who tries to wrestle tag matches by himself while his “stunt double” Damien Sandow becomes more and more popular. It took real skill for Miz to not only essentially wrestle as a one-man tag team, but always get the crowd to believe that this time Lucy wouldn’t pull away the football and we would get to see Sandow in the match.

Brad Canze: My ballot actually had The Miz one spot higher than Damien Sandow/Mizdow. Miz is still this little fratbaby whose offense lands like a feather pillow brushing against a bowl of Jell-O, but his selling is first-class, and in his matches he has not only been working double-time in the ring to keep Mizdow out, but he has been working quadruple-time as a heel to get Mizdow over as the lovable underdog. And Damien is wonderful, as he has been in every instance I have seen him since his debut, but The Miz has hit another level of which I truly did not think him capable.

Photo Credit:
41. Damien Sandow
Points: 2146
Ballots: 34
Highest Vote Received: 5th Place (Dan McQuade, Brandon Armstrong)
Last Year's Placement: 33rd Place

TH: No one did more with less help from the bookers and agents than Damien Sandow. He owned every parody he was asked to play and then some, showing some serious pantomime chops while acting as Miz's stunt double. But he also had a few gems before he was relegated, most notably against John Cena in January.

Rene Sanchez: The “comedic” gimmick that Damien Sandow was saddled with after being unceremoniously discarded from the main event scene should not have worked. By all means, using the majority of their time on TV and in matches trying to get laughs is supposed to be a death knell for a performer’s career. Yet Sandow is no average wrestler and he showed it in 2014 (and as he had in previous years, but I won’t get into that here). The sheer genius of performing a match by on his own on the apron and outside the ring deserves the praise it is receiving on this list.

Ryan Foster: Damien Sandow’s placement on this list is fascinating because it involves a re-thinking of what we mean by good wrestling. Sandow was finally rewarded for a year of cosplay jobberhood with the role of a lifetime as Damien Mizdow, stunt double for the Miz. Mizdow’s antics during Miz’s matches were jaw-droppingly inventive and succeeded on a level far beyond the basic comedy of the concept. Does it count as wrestling if you’re never tagged in to the match, but still contribute to its quality in a major way? For me it does, and was one of the best things about WWE in 2014.

Tomorrow's entry will look pretty strong if you ask me.