Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The 2016 TWB 100 Slow Release: #80-#61

Mustafa Ali, seen here superkicking GPA, kicks off this entry
Photo Credit: Ichiban Drunk via Freelance Wrestling
The list rolls on as the most #nice wrestler is revealed among others.

80. Mustafa Ali
Points: 982
Number of Ballots: 20
Highest Vote: 12th Place (Dylan Hales)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

Brock Jahnke: Ali’s rise to the top in 2016 was something special. Having seen him cut his teeth in IWA Mid-South ten years ago and suffer through a pair of terrible knee injuries, watching him take the Chicago indie scene by storm only to get signed by WWE in the process was nothing short of extraordinary.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
79. Sami Callihan/Jeremiah Crane
Points: 1012
Number of Ballots: 21
Highest Vote: 1st Place (Christopher Zinn)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

TH: Outside of the #grapplefuck gang, no one in EVOLVE was a surer thing than Callihan in 2016. A lot of people liked to tout the “Sami Sprint,” and for good reason. He perfected the art of bang-for-buck wrestling outside of television. But even his longer matches in EVOLVE and other places did it for me. The guy just gets the mechanics of wrestling. Bonus points for showing up in the Temple and working his magic there.

Brock Jahnke: Free from the corporate shackles of WWE, Callihan wrestled the tail end of 2015 and entirety of 2016 with a fire underneath him. He was a man making up for lost time, and it’s hard to say that he didn’t do exactly that. While none of his matches ranked particularly high on my year end list, the Sami Sprint always made for an enjoyable, explosive viewing experience, and if he had a bad match during the year, I sure didn’t see it.

Photo Credit: Lucha Underground Facebook
78. Mil Muertes
Points: 1014
Number of Ballots: 18
Highest Vote: 6th Place (Jon Hunt)
Last Year’s Ranking: 40th Place

TH: His 2015 was notable for having stellar matches with Fenix and seemingly no one else, but he actually built upon that by having solid matches with nearly everyone. The year-to-year improvement is noticeable and appreciated. Even though he wasn’t able to recapture lightning in a jar with Prince Puma with Grave Consequences, it was still a brisk yet brutal viewing where he brought sufficient pain.

Brock Jahnke: What Muertes gets better than Matanza, better than Lesnar, better than anyone else in the business right now, is how to feel like a monster. When I watch his matches, I don’t see a person playing the role of Mil Muertes. I see Mil Muertes: unstoppable force. He may have lacked a killer Match of the Year candidate in 2016 like he had in 2015, but throughout the year, there were few wrestlers I found more captivating.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
77. Brian Cage
Points: 1025
Number of Ballots: 20
Highest Vote: 18th Place (The Lady J)
Last Year’s Ranking: 83rd Place

Scott Raychel: Cage don't need no Infinity Gauntlet. He gonna kill you dead without it. Because he is a machine, you see.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
76. Drew Galloway
Points: 1050
Number of Ballots: 19
Highest Vote: 12th Place (Henry Casey)
Last Year’s Ranking: 46th Place

Photo via 411 Mania
75. Marty Scurll
Points: 1088
Number of Ballots: 19
Highest Vote: 3rd Place (Hayley Erin)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

Photo Credit: Lucha Underground Facebook
74. Johnny Mundo
Points: 1099
Number of Ballots: 19
Highest Vote: 6th Place (Brandon Kay)
Last Year’s Ranking: 47th Place

Photo Credit: Lee South/ImpactWrestling.com
73. Bobby Lashley
Points: 1120
Number of Ballots: 16
Highest Vote: 5th Place (David Murphy)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

Photo Credit: Zeke Dane
72. Keith Lee
Points: 1140
Number of Ballots: 17
Highest Vote: 12th Place (Brock Jahnke, Christopher Zinn)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

Brock Jahnke: When Lee first showed up on my radar in May 2016, I was immediately hooked. Here was a massive man more than willing to and more than capable of throwing his opponents directly into the Sun. Already I’d be a big fan. But on top of that he has personality, awareness, and perhaps the best understanding of presence in the US indies? We’re talking about the perfect package here. He’s not quite reaching the levels he could be, partially due to his location, but his 2016 gives me great hope for his future.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
71. Roderick Strong
Points: 1173
Number of Ballots: 25
Highest Vote: 15th Place (Chris Harrington)
Last Year’s Ranking: 41st Place

Brock Jahnke: Roderick Strong’s 2016 was a year of foregone conclusions. At the beginning of the year, it was clear he was going to lose the PWG Championship, and only a few months later it was all but certain that he was going to head to NXT to do nothing much. Still, with such unsurprising outcomes ahead of him, he managed to string together a number of enjoyable matches due to his breakneck highspot style.

Elliot Imes: His work as the PWG World Champion was continuously stellar, as he got that easy-to-please crowd to truly hate him. His NXT work hasn't been incredible so far, but give it time. Strong will find his groove.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
70. “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams
Points: 1198
Number of Ballots: 16
Highest Vote: 5th Place (Kris Zellner)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

Brock Jahnke: The thing with Hot Sauce is that he’s surrounded by flashier workers in EVOLVE, though not necessarily better ones. While he lacks the suicidal column-diving and memetic, snapback-ladden charm of his contemporaries, his no-nonsense brand of technical wrestling interested me more in 2016 than most of the things that Gabe Sapolsky threw together. He takes more cues from puroresu than he probably should, but it’s less egregious than it is elsewhere in indie wrestling.

Photo Credit: WWE.com
69. Randy Orton
Points: 1205
Number of Ballots: 24
Highest Vote: 14th Place (Adam Shinder)
Last Year’s Ranking: 65th Place

TH: I had to throw a bone to The Viper for doing some interesting work in the ring with guys who aren’t known for churning out interesting matches (Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan). Orton settled into a nice niche especially towards the end of the year, and for once, he didn’t need help from Daniel Bryan to make my ballot.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
68. Lio Rush
Points: 1228
Number of Ballots: 19
Highest Vote: 4th Place (Christopher Zinn)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

TH: Lio Rush is the next model in a line of smaller Black spot machines, and I am here for his ascension in the greater world of wrestling. While he spent most of the year held captive by Ring of Honor, the times he did make tape or live shows elsewhere were tremendous to behold. The dude is a fearless bumper, but he’s not the kind of guy who’ll fall off a ladder for no reason. His highspots hit clean nearly every time, and his agility is among the tops of anyone of his peers. I had the privilege of seeing him live against B-Boy of all opponents, and he shone as brightly there as anyone else on the card that also featured Zack Sabre, Jr., Drew Gulak, and AR Fox. This kid’s got a future.

Brock Jahnke: It’s hard to believe that Lio Rush has been wrestling for two and a half years. Every time I see him, he has the poise and precision of someone with two or three times the experience. With a dozen or more very good matches and two that ended up in my top 25 Match of the Year list, he’s what people pretend Matt Riddle is. Is that snarky and an oversimplification of things? Yeah, totally. But it’s the truth.

Photo Credit: WWE.com
67. Dolph Ziggler
Points: 1241
Number of Ballots: 27
Highest Vote: 18th Place (Dank Rizzo)
Last Year’s Ranking: 54th Place

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
66. Adam Cole
Points: 1244
Number of Ballots: 21
Highest Vote: 2nd Place (Hayley Erin)
Last Year’s Ranking: 49th Place

Elliot Imes: The prickiest prick who ever pricked. Even though I've seen him interviewed and he seems like a swell guy, he instantly becomes a despicable jerk once he steps through the curtain.

Photo Credit: WWE.com
65. Akira Tozawa
Points: 1247
Number of Ballots: 24
Highest Vote: 15th Place (Joey O.)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

Joshua Browns: Having not seen much Dragon Gate stuff prior to the signing of Apollo Crews, I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical when I heard Tozawa would be participating in the Cruiserweight Classic. Crews, despite all of his obvious physical gifts, has never “clicked” as a WWE performer, and so I expected something similar from Tozawa. Boy, was I wrong. Tozawa’s ability to adapt to the WWE style has been remarkable, and his German suplex might be my favorite in wrestling.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
64. Hallowicked
Points: 1362
Number of Ballots: 20
Highest Vote: 1st Place (Frito Bandito)
Last Year’s Ranking: 71st Place

TH: Hallowicked has taken to his role in Chikara very well despite being maybe a standard deviation bigger than the average wrestler there. Knowing how to project yourself and work to the size you want to be and not the size you are is a great quality to have, and even though he doesn’t have the peak matches that even peers like Juan Francisco de Coronado have, he is able to stand out as a quality worker.

Scott Raychel: Hallowicked is one of the most criminally underrated independent wrestlers around right now. He didn't have a single bad match as Chikara's dominant Grand Champion last year. Ever since becoming the Broadsword of Nazmaldun, he's moved about the ring with such speed, precision, and brutal offense. Hallowicked is currently doing some of the best work of his 15-plus year career. He deserves much more credit than he's been getting recently.

Mat Morgan: I think Hallowicked has a real case for being the most underrated wrestler out there, and if there more eyes on Chikara this last year then he'd be higher than whatever number his spot's at. He can brawl, he can mat wrestle, he doesn't do flips but he doesn't need to because he's a phenomenal base for the flippy guys. As Grand Champion (for a second time!) he was the best kind of heel champion; good enough that he can beat anyone but mean enough that he'll probably cut corners to do it. And also a cultist for a vaguely-defined eldritch abomination, because all the best heel champions are also that (see also: Superstar Billy Graham).

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
63. Chuck Taylor/DUSTIN/Scoot Tatum/Rick Beanbag/Bugg Nevans/Stewie Scrivens/Rich Mahogany/Slim Perkins/Howie Dewitt
Points: 1391
Number of Ballots: 25
Highest Vote: 2nd Place (Courtney Rose)
Last Year’s Ranking: 78th Place

TH: Few people allow themselves to embrace comedic wrestling like Taylor (or whatever you want to call him). It takes huevos to make that one’s brand, and Taylor worked that thread to a tee in Chikara the first half of 2016. Add that to him playing something totally different in EVOLVE and shining in the ring in that role, and you have someone who deserves to make every list.

Photo Credit: WWE.com
62. Ember Moon
Points: 1411
Number of Ballots: 28
Highest Vote: 9th Place (Cole W. Bradley)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

Photo Credit: WWE.com
61. Neville
Points: 1448
Number of Ballots: 26
Highest Vote: 5th Place (Chris Harrington)
Last Year’s Ranking: 11th Place