What exactly makes a wrestling promotion great is up for debate. Some people base it purely on the quality of the in ring product while others care more about the storylines. For me, wrestling is at it’s best when it blends the two perfectly but when push comes to shove I am slightly more interested in work rate.
Outside of WWE, wrestling is having a resurgence and that has led to more companies putting on great shows on a more consistent basis. Here are the five that we think have had the best 2017 so far.
People may have been expecting New Japan in the number one spot but PROGRESS has been putting on consistently fantastic shows for a long time and they have had a near flawless year up to this point. They have put on 12 shows this year and each of the 11 that I have seen have been superb.
PROGRESS shows have a feel that is reminiscent of ECW in it’s heyday, with a loud, loyal crowd making every match feel important. In fact, the PROGRESS Ultras may well be the best fans in wrestling. It’s impossible to underestimate how much they add to the shows.
The wrestling itself is of the highest standard too. They have a great blend of UK stars (Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate, Trent Seven), carefully selected imports (Matt Riddle, David Starr, Walter) and homegrown talent (‘The Pansexual Phenomenon’ Jack Sexsmith) and the stories they tell are excellent.
You could pick any show to watch and you will have a great time but the highest recommendation goes to Chapter 45: Galvanize and Chapter 49: Super Strong Style 16. Or you could pick the show with the best name, in which case I recommend Chapter 43: Tropic Thunderbastard or Chapter 46: I Like To Chill Out Here And Shoot Some Dinosaurs.
PROGRESS is the future of wrestling and, remember, there is only one rule and that rule is ‘Don’t Be A Dick’.
2. New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW)
New Japan have been putting out fantastic wrestling for a number of years now and there isn’t a promotion that comes close to the consistent quality of their big money matches. This year they have put on a number of five star matches, including the future classics between Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega, in addition to a whole host of other fantastic encounters.
Where New Japan has been a step behind PROGRESS is in it’s undercard matches, As is traditional for NJPW, the lower card is populated by multi-man matches. These are often quite good but they are mostly throwaway matches that are there purely to get wrestlers on the card.
The quality of the upper card talent is unsurpassed in wrestling today and with the G1 Climax promising a plethora of high class match ups they may well end the year as the best promotion.
3. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)
The WWE is simultaneously the best and worst of wrestling. They have some of the most talented wrestlers on the planet and put on a whole host of excellent matches but, due in part to the sheer amount of TV time they have to fill, they also produce some of the most asinine content in all of wrestling.
The main roster PPVs have been very hit and miss this year, with AJ Styles being the most consistent source of excellence, but NXT has continued to produce greatness on its TakeOver specials. In fact if it weren’t for NXT, WWE would be further down this list.
With so much content being produced it is difficult to see a time where WWE doesn’t slot into this middle of the road position.
4. Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG)
PWG is a promotion that splits opinion within the wrestling community. They are often seen as being a touch too silly at times but that takes nothing away from the fact that the matches they produce are frequently fantastic.
They are another promotion that has a superb, sell out crowd for every single show and with all of their events taking place in the same building it has developed a character of it’s own. It also features one of a kind commentary from Excalibur and a revolving door of wrestlers that adds even more charm to the company.
If you are looking for wrestling that is fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously then I highly recommend PWG.
Evolve is a strange company. It doesn’t really feel like it has an identity. It runs in small venues, like PWG or PROGRESS, but it doesn’t have that same intimate feel. It also appears to be reestablishing the style of it’s in ring work, which leaves some of it’s shows feeling slightly disjointed.
Having said that, with talents like Matt Riddle and Zack Sabre Jr, their shows usually produce at least one great match and on occasion they produce a show that is truly excellent. This year’s best example of that is Evolve 81 which features a number of great matches and is highly recommended.
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