Thursday, February 1, 2018

The 2017 TWB 100 Slow Release: 26-50

Penta El Zero M snapping arms and starting off this entry of the TWB 100
Photo Credit: Mikey Nolan
The TWB 100 charges into the top half of the list today. But enough of me yammering in an introductory fashion. The list, it resumes now!

50. Pentagón, Jr./Dark/Penta El Zero M
Points: 619
Number of Ballots: 10
Highest Vote: 11th Place (Mat Morgan)
Last Year’s Ranking: 32nd Place

Chris Gibbons: Like his brother, Pentagon can be a bit inconsistent in match effort, but holy hell is his peak incredible. The Cueto Cup to Ultima Lucha Tres was a phenomenal run for Penta in Lucha Underground, and he had plenty of great stuff for the American indies he frequented. His death match with Tremont in CZW was one of the best bloody spectacles of the year, especially considering that it was his fourth match in two days.

Photo Credit: Mikey Nolan
49. Kenny Omega
Points: 623
Number of Ballots: 8
Highest Vote: 2nd Place (Jeremy Carlile)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

TH: He was in the top 25 of my ballot based on three matches on the New Japan Long Beach shows if I'm being transparent. He'd probably be a lot higher if the work he put in in Japan counted. He was that good. What makes him so transcendent is that he's mastered the art of exaggeration. He furiously meets a balance that a lot of people who try to play up the theatric aspects of pro wrestling often surpass badly. IT's that restraint that strikes such a harmonious chord, and it was at its most sublime in the United States Tournament final match against Tomohiro Ishii.

Photo Credit:
48. Killian Dain
Points: 628
Number of Ballots: 11
Highest Vote: 7th Place (Henry Casey)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

TH: My beefy Irish son spent a lot of time in tags on NXT television, which isn't so much a bad thing. It accentuated his positives, and he has many. He also had a great showing in the Andre the Giant Battle Royale at WrestleMania, and his few singles matches were treats. Basically, the man brings the intensity you want to see from a larger fellow, and it looks as if he'll get more chances to do that in the new year. I'm excited.

Scott Raychel: If Killian Dain wasn’t surrounded by such a bonkers group of characters in Sanity, I think he’d be everyone’s favorite hoss right now. Sanity is still a great fit for him though, and he still gets a lot of great moments. He was low key the best part of the NXT War Games match. He just has such a fun way manhandling two guys at once, and I’m always watching him on the middle of all the chaos to see what he’s gonna do next.

Photo Credit: Mikey Nolan
47. (Rey) Feníx
Points: 635
Number of Ballots: 10
Highest Vote: 8th Place (Chris Gibbons)
Last Year’s Ranking: 40th Place

Chris Gibbons: Fenix doesn’t always deliver quite to the level he’s capable of. Some of his appearances on the indies are relatively disappointing affairs. But when he’s on, he’s one of the most innovative, exciting flying wrestlers of all time. Nobody makes me say, “Wow, I don’t think I’ve seen that before” as much as Fenix does.

Photo Credit:
46. Rezar
Points: 644
Number of Ballots: 13
Highest Vote: 27th Place (Xavier Goncalves)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

Photo Credit:
45. Dean Ambrose
Points: 645
Number of Ballots: 12
Highest Vote: 14th Place (Willow Maclay)
Last Year’s Ranking: 30th Place

TH: Ambrose gets a little sloppy at times, but I think people distill him down to an overused rebound lariat and a shitty dive, and that's not fair. He gets the ebbs and flows of a match and knows how to hit the right note between sleaze and sympathy, which puts him right at the crosshairs of what modern WWE crowds want in a worker during a match.

Chris Gibbons: Ambrose continued to be one of the most frustrating wrestlers around in 2017, because many of his offensive maneuvers still seem a bit weak or silly. However, Ambrose does know how to take an ass-beating very well, and he knows how to get the crowd on his side. The Shield reuniting was able to hide some of his weaknesses in the ring and allowed WWE to focus on the things that make him such a popular, likable babyface. If somebody just told him to stop doing that gentle shove of a tope suicida and the silly clothesline, he could be even better.

44. Akam
Points: 653
Number of Ballots: 13
Highest Vote: 26th Place (Xavier Goncalves)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

TH: The Authors of Pain held their own against some of the best tag teams in NXT during a time when tag teams were at a renaissance on the prestige/developmental brand. Their hard-hitting savagery worked so well against the Revival and DIY, not just because those teams were good at showing the requisite vulnerability, but because the Authors really brought the fire behind their big power moves.

Joshua Browns: If WWE announced they were launching a new weekly TV series called “The Authors of Pain wreck a couple of dudes you’ve never heard of”, I’d tune in every single week.

Scott Raychel: Super hoss tag teams are a rarity and also just happen to be one of my favorite things ever, so the Authors Of Pain a breath of fresh air to me. I love how hard they’ve nailed “Brock Lesnar As A Tag Team” while also being better than Brock Lesnar at being Brock Lesnar. All of their matches forced their opponents to wrestle them with a real sense of urgency, lest they be murdered on live television at Paul Ellering’s command. I hope the main roster knows not to change a good thing and let’s these dudes just wreck everyone in their path this year.

Photo Credit:
43. Alexa Bliss
Points: 694
Number of Ballots: 13
Highest Vote: 15th Place (David Hobbs)
Last Year’s Ranking: 39th Place

TH: Bliss really grew into her spot as a top worker in her division, holding her own against some big names and heavy hitters. She continued to show aptitude for working heel tactics in the ring, and despite a few hiccups, she was able to remain a worthy competitor for any top slot.

Chris Gibbons: Alexa Bliss has come a long way since NXT. Even with a weak Bayley feud with an especially bad “kendo stick on a pole” match, Bliss still managed to be the most consistent woman on the WWE main roster. Part of that is on booking, injuries, etc. but Bliss has made the most of her opportunities and continues to get quite good in the ring.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
42. Fred Yehi
Points: 730
Number of Ballots: 9
Highest Vote: 3rd Place (Chris Gibbons, Dylan Hales)
Last Year’s Ranking: 56th Place

TH: I'm gonna level with all of you; I didn't nearly watch enough non-WWE wrestling this year, so I couldn't really put Yehi nearly as high as I wanted to, which would be somewhere in the top three if I can every single year. I've been on his train for longer than I can remember, and I will continue to evangelize his brand of fun, snug, and crowd-engaging wrestling as long as he continues to work. No matter who he's wrestling, he's going to carry the day and steal the show, unless he's in the main event, which then he is the show. I'm glad everyone's catching up with me on him, because hoo boy, he deserves everything.

Chris Gibbons: Yehi has one of the most unique offenses in all of wrestling, and it’s great to see more people starting to pay attention. For those who still are sleeping, it won’t be long until they’re watching too. Yehi started the year by being one of the few bright spots on the disastrous FIP Everything Burns show and having a great match with Teddy Stigma of all people. That wasn’t the first rough WWN show he’d save (hello, Style Battle series), because Yehi is a guy who puts everything into just about every match he has. Sabre, Riddle and Lee might have been bigger names working for WWN in 2017, but Yehi still might have been their ace.

Photo Credit:
41. Brock Lesnar
Points: 731
Number of Ballots: 12
Highest Vote: 7th Place (Adam Blount)
Last Year’s Ranking: 91st Place

TH: Every time I want to write Lesnar off, he comes in and has just some bonkers match that only he can have. The Goldberg and AJ Styles matches were two of WWE's best last year, the former especially isn't one where one could flippantly write it off as "the other guy carrying" Lesnar. He might get annoying in character, and fuck Paul Heyman, but honestly, when the time comes for him to deliver in the ring, well, he for the most part does.

Adam Blount: Lesnar only had a handful of matches last year but he killed it eyery time. In the Rumble he looked like a Beast until Goldberg got hold of him and then he showed he can sell his ass off. At Mania his match with Goldberg was awesome. He had another classic in the 4 way at SummerSlam. Although I woulda preferred Joe or Strowman or Styles to have beat him, he had great matches against them all. And let them get their shit in. The long term plan for him was always in motion and I don’t know if Lesnar will sign a contract extension after his clash with Roman at Mania. If he doesn’t re-sign, his last year in pro wrestling can be looked back on very impressively.

Photo Credit:
40. Tommaso Ciampa
Points: 732
Number of Ballots: 11
Highest Vote: 22nd Place (TH)
Last Year’s Ranking: 13th Place

TH: Ciampa's injury that cost him more than half the year was probably the suckiest one because he was just really getting started. Still, his work as the hammer of DIY was outstanding enough as it was. He was the perfect complement for Johnny Gargano. He hit hard, took some big bumps, and generally was that team's best manifestation of hope against the backdrop of Gargano as vulnerability incarnate.

Photo Credit:
39. Chris Hero/Kassius Ohno
Points: 732 (ranked higher because of a higher-high vote than Tommaso Ciampa)
Number of Ballots: 14
Highest Vote: 11th Place (TH)
Last Year’s Ranking: 22nd Place

TH: He didn't get nearly enough of a shine in his NXT return as some thought he should have (myself included), but every time out, he put in some major work, doing whatever he needed to do to get the other guy over and also show he still could throw them elbows with the best of them. As Hero in January on the tail end of his indie career, he saved the best for last, especially against Zack Sabre, Jr. in his EVOLVE farewell. For my money, it was the best match of the year, mainly because both guys put what they did best focused into a story with heart, emotion, and intensity behind it.

Photo Credit:
38. Oney Lorcan (is here for porkin’)
Points: 746
Number of Ballots: 14
Highest Vote: 5th Place (Willow Maclay)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

TH: Folks like to point out when wrestlers who aren't going over phone it in, but Lorcan, who has probably only won enough matches to count on one hand on television this year, went full fucking tilt every time out. The Drew McIntyre match was one of the best on NXT TV of the year because Lorcan looked like he was either going to die or kill his opponent in the process, and his team with Danny Burch was similarly fantastic because both of them were cut from the same cloth and just went HARD.

Photo Credit:
37. Kofi Kingston
Points: 753
Number of Ballots: 13
Highest Vote: 11th Place (Bobby Godfrey)
Last Year’s Ranking: 59th Place

TH: Kingston's role as the fireworks guy in New Day suited both him an the group well. He was a big part of several huge matches with the Usos, even though he wasn't in the pinnacle Hell in a Cell match against them. Still, the vet keeps chugging along despite really no sign of upward mobility in the company, and that should be commended.

Photo Credit:
36. Rusev
Points: 775
Number of Ballots: 15
Highest Vote: 16th Place (David Hobbs, Bobby Godfrey)
Last Year’s Ranking: 29th Place

TH: Ah, how interesting that the Bulgarian Brute lands at this spot on Rusev Day. While he's been celebrated of late for a wacky meme gone super viral, he's been continuing his run as one of the best day-to-day big men in WWE. His handle on working both larger and smaller opponents remains mostly unparalleled.

Photo Credit:
35. Becky Lynch
Points: 776
Number of Ballots: 14
Highest Vote: 8th Place (Bryan Heaton)
Last Year’s Ranking: 12th Place

TH: In most years, Lynch didn't have the highest highs of the Horsewomen but always remained consistent enough to have a case to be the best among them, but 2017 saw her probably have both the peaks and the consistency among the quartet. She didn't have the intense focus on her that she had exiting 2016, but each week, she cut through the jumble was the most consistent performer on all of Smackdown.

Photo Credit:
34. Kairi Sane
Points: 802
Number of Ballots: 15
Highest Vote: 9th Place (Mat Morgan)
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked

TH: She really blew the doors off the Mae Young Classic, didn't she? Her high-octane joshi-style looked both a speed above everyone else who hadn't already worked over there, but also wasn't so much ahead of the pack that she couldn't have good matches with wrestlers who weren't up to her speed. In her limited WWE debut, she looked nearly flawless, so I expect huge things for her coming up this year.

Photo Credit:
33. Finn Bálor
Points: 817
Number of Ballots: 12
Highest Vote: 7th Place (David Hobbs)
Last Year’s Ranking: 28th Place

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
32. Jeff Cobb/Matanza Cueto
Points: 885
Number of Ballots: 15
Highest Vote: 10th Place (Mat Morgan)
Last Year’s Ranking: 31st Place

TH: It takes real talent to play two disparate gimmicks with two distinct styles. Even though both Cobb out of the mask and in it were asked to work big and methodically, the technical, amateur-informed style of regular Cobb and the monstrous heel dominance of Matanza needed some versatility to do just one excellently. Cobb pulled off both at high levels.

Chris Gibbons: Jeff Cobb doesn’t often have matches that go far beyond “three star” territory for me, but he also doesn’t have matches that go much lower than that. He’s a wrestler that works a lot and regularly has good, but not great matches, and that’s fine. Especially because those times where an opponent does really click with him (like Matt Riddle, Fenix or Ricochet), it’s a sight to behold.

Photo Credit:
31. John Cena
Points: 888
Number of Ballots: 15
Highest Vote: 10th Place (Adam Blount)
Last Year’s Ranking: 11th Place

TH: Even in a part-time role, Cena showed up for big matches and dazzled. Whether against AJ Styles at the Rumble or Shinsuke Nakamura on Smackdown, Cena lived up to his billing of "Big Match John," and showed that even if he leaves WWE for most of the year, he can probably be counted on to deliver a stellar performance when he's asked to come back.

Adam Blount: Cena is still awesome. We’re meant to write more than one sentence about these guys but all I can say is “Big Match John” always delivers.

Photo Credit:
30. Sasha Banks
Points: 903
Number of Ballots: 14
Highest Vote: 5th Place (Antonio Cruz)
Last Year’s Ranking: 4th Place

TH: Banks spent last year more out of her element than in 2016, but she kept plugging ahead and putting in good work despite the lapses in focus or "playing out of position" when she was back in the ring. Her suicidal bumping more often than not made her opponents look immortal.

Photo Credit:
29. Chad Gable
Points: 916
Number of Ballots: 16
Highest Vote: 6th Place (Adam Blount)
Last Year’s Ranking: 24th Place

TH: A lot of people were hoping for Gable to get an extended singles run, and he did get that series of matches with Rusev that were really satisfying on a micro level. However, he really got a chance to shine at the bookends of the year as a hybrid of Ricky Morton and Kurt Angle in tags.

Adam Blount: Goddamn Gable is a little menace when he gets going. There might not be anyone else who is more fun to watch once they get their momentum rolling. This poll only takes ring work into account, but damn, Gable is entertaining as hell with promos too. But since we gotta keep it in ring, last year Gable tore it up with Jason Jordan to start the year. Even when they weren’t presented as stars, Gable looked bad ass. And then since August, along with Shelton Benjamin, in spite of how he might be booked Gable has looked like a star every chance he gets. It finally looks like his greatness has been acknowledged as he gets more and more highlighted matches. He’s just so much fun to watch!

Photo Credit:
28. Seth Rollins
Points: 924
Number of Ballots: 14
Highest Vote: 5th Place (Bryan Heaton)
Last Year’s Ranking: 34th Place

Photo Credit:
27. The Miz
Points: 944
Number of Ballots: 13
Highest Vote: 2nd Place (Antonio Cruz)
Last Year’s Ranking: 20th Place

TH: You rarely get a match out of Miz that leaves you thinking he's been outclassed. People like saying "well, he's not AJ Styles, but he wrestles his match well," which makes me side-eye so hard. I don't care if a guy can't go as hard as Styles, but if you're effective, it shouldn't matter if you're breaking out big springboard moves or advanced chaining and countering. Miz gets WWE crowds in such a retro level, which gets the same sort of emotional impact and response that Styles gets with his hyper-modern indie/nouveau-puroresu style. You can get to the same endpoint using vastly different paths.

Chris Gibbons: Anybody who says that The Miz is bad in the ring is lying to you. The Miz isn’t flashy in any way, but he’s solid all around. Miz knows his role as a heel isn’t to be the star of the show, even when he’s the champion. He’s a legitimate heel that gets heat during matches and makes his opponent look like a million bucks in the process. There’s nobody more fun to hate than The Miz.

Photo Credit:
26. Charlotte Flair
Points: 957
Number of Ballots: 15
Highest Vote: 9th Place (Bryan Heaton)
Last Year’s Ranking: 14th Place

TH: I was still groaning when I saw Flair head to the ring up to around the build to Mania, when something clicked and WWE started having her work face rather than heel. The Nia Jax stuff was a precursor, but then she moved to Smackdown, and the heroic top role suited her better than any attempt at making her her father. She made matches with Lana, fucking Lana, compelling. Who knew she'd be better off as a Cena analogue?