Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The 2017 TWB 100 Slow Release: 76-100

The Peacock of Pro Wrestling kicks off this year's TWB 100
Screenshot from Ring of Honor YouTube
Come one, come all to the breaking of the seal on the 2017 TWB 100! The list begins with entry number 100 and will count down. Today, the first 25 wrestlers will be unveiled based on the points they received from voting. The voting system gives 100 points for a first place vote, 99 for a second, 98 for a third, and so on and so forth until you get down to one point for a 100th place vote. The first tiebreaker is higher high vote, and the second is number of ballots. Luckily, no ties occurred in the top 100 this year. Without further ado, the list, it begins:

100. Dalton Castle
Points: 325
Number of Ballots: 7
Highest Vote: 29th Place (Mike Pankowski)
Last Year’s Ranking: 58th Place

Photo Credit: WWE.com
99. Abbey Laith/Kimber Lee
Points: 329
Number of Ballots: 7
Highest Vote: 21st Place (Mat Morgan)
Last Year’s Ranking: 43rd Place

TH: Due to her signing in NXT, the world didn’t get to see a lot of the former Kimber Lee in 2017, but she had a nice yet truncated run in the Mae Young Classic. Her match vs. Jazzy Gabert in the first round was probably my favorite in the entire tournament.

Joshua Browns: In a year full of wrestling frustration, the closest I get to full-on “mad online” is when I think about how things went for Chikara’s favorite self-saving princess in 2017. Things got off to a great start, with the excitement of the news that she’d been signed to a WWE developmental deal and her fantastic string of farewell matches in Chikara’s “lost” season 17 (seriously, if you have Chikaratopia, go watch her match with Fire Ant from Whatever Happened, Happened), but from there, things were generally downhill. She’s gotten little more than an enhancement-talent level cup of coffee on NXT television for most of the year, watched her Chikara compatriot Ruby Riott not only get featured on NXT but called up to Smackdown (deservedly so, but still), and even when given a chance to shine in the Mae Young Classic, her work was largely ignored. It’s been incredibly frustrating to hear praise heaped on Jazzy Gabert and Rachel Evers for their work in the MYC, seemingly without anyone noticing that the big driver of that work was their opponent – Abbey Laith. I’m hopeful that, given the amount of women’s talent that went up to the main roster near the end of 2017, that 2018 will finally be the chance for Laith to shine in NXT.

Photo Credit: WWE.com
98. Peyton Royce
Points: 332
Number of Ballots: 11
Highest Vote: 29th Place (Bryan Heaton)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

TH: She settled into a groove and became a highlight whenever she got the chance to work on NXT television. Her combination of big sweeping kicks and preening to the crowd made her an effective heel presence that could become an elite heat machine with the right cultivation.

Joshua Browns: It’s easy to write off The Iconic Duo as a primarily character-driven act, but Royce has progressed light years in a short period of time in NXT. She’s more of a traditional women’s wrestler than some of the more strong-style oriented women currently populating the NXT roster, but if you play that off of someone like Ember Moon or Abbey Laith, you have the recipe for a really fantastic feud. As much as I’d love to see her and Billy Kay move up to one of the main roster brands in 2018, their best spot may be as mean-spirited underbosses in NXT going forward.

Photo Credit: Devin Chen
97. Brian Cage
Points: 346
Number of Ballots: 6
Highest Vote: 14th Place (Scott Raychel)
Last Year’s Ranking: 77th Place

Photo Credit: Christine Coons
96. Fire Ant
Points: 349
Number of Ballots: 5
Highest Vote: 12th Place (Mat Morgan)
Last Year’s Ranking: 83rd Place

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
95. Timothy Thatcher
Points: 350
Number of Ballots: 7
Highest Vote: 12th Place (Brock Jahnke)
Last Year’s Ranking: 85th Place

Chris Gibbons: The United States did not deserve Timothy Thatcher. His particular brand of grapplefuck got him labeled as boring, and many dumped on his long EVOLVE title reign. But he’s a truly unique technical wrestler, a perfect foil for the flashier technical styles of ZSJ and Fred Yehi, and his title reign ended spectacularly. I hate that he didn’t have a ton of stuff Stateside this year as he continued to make wXw in Germany his home, but what he did have was some spectacular grappling.

Photo Credit: Devin Chen
94. Trent?/Barretta/Trent Barretta
Points: 369
Number of Ballots: 7
Highest Vote: 21st Place (Chris Gibbons, Brady Childs)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

Chris Gibbons: Like his Best Friend Chuckie T, Trent had a hell of a 2017. I thought he had the second-best year of anyone in PWG aside from Taylor (his February match with Fenix was a low-key MOTY contender). Unfortunately, PWG was one of the few places he worked as a singles act in the States, which was a shame. Luckily, he also had a great year as a tag worker, having plenty of highlights working In places like ROH and AAW as part of Roppongi Vice and the Best Friends.

Photo Credit: WWE.com
93. Naomi
Points: 370
Number of Ballots: 9
Highest Vote: 24th Place (Antonio Cruz)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

TH: Smackdown’s women’s division was a mess, but it wasn’t because of the workers. Naomi carried the division admirably early and kept turning in good matches later on even relegated to mostly tags. She has good energy and has one of the best late match babyface comebacks on the roster.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
92. Donovan Dijak
Points: 370 (ranked higher because of a higher high-vote than Naomi)
Number of Ballots: 6
Highest Vote: 2nd Place (Henry Casey)
Last Year’s Ranking: 95th Place

Chris Gibbons: Donvan Dijak was actually my number one wrestler of the year at one point in 2017, but he fizzled out a bit as the year went on and had no chance once he signed with WWE and disappeared from eyes outside house shows. Still, his last year on the indies was incredible (especially those Keith Lee matches), and I just wish he got to spend more time than a few months as a “big deal” on the indies. Hopefully he’s got big things coming in NXT.

Photo Credit: WWE.com
91. Kyle O’Reilly
Points: 371
Number of Ballots: 9
Highest Vote: 15th Place (Henry Casey)
Last Year’s Ranking: 60th Place

Joshua Browns: One of the things I love most about a wrestler is when they can take a fundamental adjective about their character and find a way to apply it to the way they move in the ring. In Kyle O’Reilly’s case, that adjective is “greasy”. The guy moves like Gollum looking for the Precious in the ring, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.

Photo Credit: WWE.com
90. Luke Harper
Points: 373
Number of Ballots: 10
Highest Vote: 40th Place (Antonio Cruz, Ryan Neely)
Last Year’s Ranking: 50th Place

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
89. Lio Rush
Points: 373 (ranked higher because of a higher high-vote than Luke Harper)
Number of Ballots: 6
Highest Vote: 17th Place (David Hobbs)
Last Year’s Ranking: 68th Place

Chris Gibbons: Lio Rush is an idiot who should probably shut up sometimes, but he’s a very talented idiot. Yes, some of his more obnoxious tendencies do label him a very “indie” wrestler in a negative sense, but when he’s at his top gear and not just being a no-selling spot monkey he can be electrifying.

Photo Credit: Mikey Nolan
88. Johnny Mundo/Impact/Hennigan
Points: 387
Number of Ballots: 7
Highest Vote: 5th Place (Mat Morgan)
Last Year’s Ranking: 74th Place

TH: I didn’t watch a whole lot of Lucha Underground last year unfortunately, but what I did see mostly featured Mundo doing his thing. He really feels at home in the Temple, as referenced by his All Night Long match against The Mack.

87. Tetsuya Naito
Points: 403
Number of Ballots: 5
Highest Vote: 1st Place (Jeremy Carlile, Mike Pankowski)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
86. Jonathan Gresham
Points: 407
Number of Ballots: 5
Highest Vote: 3rd Place (Brock Jahnke)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

TH: A big reason why he’s so popular among the critical darling crowd is he does things in the technical realm that defy expectation, but he’s also a supreme match general too. He knows where the other guy’s strengths and weaknesses are, and as a result, he rarely has a below average match. I love Nick Gage, but the match they had at the Powerbomb TV special at the end of the year was great in large part to Gresham’s direction.

Chris Gibbons: Gresham’s been one of the best technical workers on the indies for a minute, and he was the perfect choice for Powerbomb TV’s Independent Championship. He’s able to work with guys from just about any style and his heel act is perfect with manager Stokely Hathaway. Even though he hasn’t really had much of a push and is still on the undercard, he also delivers for ROH more often than not.

Photo Credit: Mikey Nolan
85. Sami Callihan/Jeremiah Crane
Points: 408
Number of Ballots: 6
Highest Vote: 19th Place (Brady Childs)
Last Year’s Ranking: 79th Place

Photo Credit: WWE.com
84. Candice LeRae
Points: 408 (ranked higher because of a higher high-vote than Sami Callihan)
Number of Ballots: 9
Highest Vote: 7th Place (Kirk Dessler)
Last Year’s Ranking: 100th Place

83. Will Ospreay
Points: 413
Number of Ballots: 6
Highest Vote: 12th Place (Brady Childs, Mike Pankowski)
Last Year’s Ranking: 49th Place

Photo Credit: WWE.com
82. Bayley
Points: 423
Number of Ballots: 12
Highest Vote: 24th Place (Xavier Goncalves)
Last Year’s Ranking: 18th Place

Photo Credit: WWE.com
81. Toni Storm
Points: 434
Number of Ballots: 8
Highest Vote: 11th Place (Kirk Dessler)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

TH: She was invited to the Mae Young Classic as a headline performer, and she made the most of her platform. Specifically, her matches against best bud Piper Niven and the semifinal against Kairi Sane were standouts that showed she’s already become one of the best in the world.

Kirk Dessler: Toni Storm was one of the shining moments of the MYC’s parade of average matches. Her match with Viper/Piper Niven was a brilliant spark of indie style women’s matches in a more mainstream environment and clearly she had the word “star” written all over her in that tournament.

Photo Credit: WWE.com
80. Adam Cole (BAYBAY)
Points: 440
Number of Ballots: 9
Highest Vote: 23rd Place (Bryan Heaton)
Last Year’s Ranking: 66th Place

Photo Credit: Burning Hammer Photography
79. Nick Gage
Points: 444
Number of Ballots: 5
Highest Vote: 1st Place (Brady Childs)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

TH: Gage is a goddamn force of nature. He showed great ability to brawl with or without weapons, but his biggest strength was projecting his aura, how he imposed himself and was able to hit the crowd at the right time with a big bump or even just the right shit-talk to his opponent. Anyone who scoffs at Gage or his ability to hold a crowd in his hand doesn’t know wrestling.

Chris Gibbons: I wasn’t a huge death match guy going into this year, but the work of Nick Gage and Matt Tremont (especially when they’re in the ring together) changed that for me. Gage has such a purpose to his violence and such an engaging presence that it’s hard not to get drawn into the spectacle. Every match Gage is booked in is essential viewing, because you never know what could happen. MDK

Brady Childs: Who da man... Nick Fucking Gage. Gage, free from prison at last, took the indie world by storm. The God returned at a perfect time, a time when access to virtually any independent promotion is readily available at your finger tips. Gage's cult status flourished while he was in prison, leading him to become one of the most notable wrestlers on the indies and by far the most popular death match wrestler in America. He'll continue to make people VERY uncomfortable in 2018 with his gang, MDK (that's Murder Death Kill) Eastern Bloc H8 Club giving him hugs along the way.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
78. David Starr
Points: 448
Number of Ballots: 8
Highest Vote: 8th Place (Brock Jahnke)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

Chris Gibbons: “The Cream in Your Coffee” had maybe the biggest breakout on the indies outside of Keith Lee and Joey Janela. “Your Favorite Wrestler’s Favorite Wrestler” worked basically every major American indie and killed it each time. Few indie wrestlers do character work quite like “The Jewish Cannon.” “The Physical Emobodiment of Charisma’s” feuds with Eddie Kingston in AIW and Joey Janela in Beyond especially hot. There are big things coming for “Mr. Americanrana.”

Photo Credit: WWE.com
77. Drew Gulak
Points: 450
Number of Ballots: 9
Highest Vote: 25th Place (Joshua Browns)
Last Year’s Ranking: 26th Place

TH: It’s weird to laud Gulak for a year where his biggest strengths came out of the ring, but despite not getting the same opportunities to stunt and explore the studio space he got in EVOLVE or Chikara, he still showed he’s one of the best in the business working a muted version of his style in the 205 Live ring.

Joshua Browns: I had Gulak at number 25 on my ballot, which I think is the lowest spot I’ve voted him since I started participating in the TWB 100, and I’m actually glad about it. While 2017 wasn’t the best year for Drew in terms of getting to show off what makes him one of the two or three best technical wrestlers in the world, if the trade-off is that his promos and character work helped get him over as a huge star going forward, I will 100 percent take that trade off. (That said, you guys could still let him wrestle a lot more.)

Photo Credit: WWE.com
76. Alexander Wolfe
Points: 463
Number of Ballots: 11
Highest Vote: 13th Place (Kirk Dessler)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

TH: Wolfe was the best wildcard in wrestling last year. You didn’t know what he was going to do, but when he did it, you were left with your jaw on the floor wondering if he even cared if he could walk when he was 50.

Kirk Dessler: When the Axeman left Germany to become Alexander Wolfe many of his fans were skeptical. But Alexander Wolf became a key part of Sanity. If you are surrounded by the likes of Eric Young, Killian Dain and Nikki Cross, it is not easy to find your in-ring role but Wolfe emerged as the reckless one and his spots were a highlight of all main Sanity matches. His bleeding at WarGames may have been unintentional but it underlined the danger of the WarGames match situation.