It’s 1:15 PM on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. This is the last day before the storm of WrestleMania week/weekend begins. Even though WrestleMania looks mostly awful, there is still plenty of reason to celebrate professional wrestling this week. Mania week has kind of become almost a holiday of sorts for fans of pro wrestling, and there is usually something for everyone during the week. If you are a WWE fan, obviously, WrestleMania is for you. If you like old school wrestling, there’s the Hall of Fame and Wrestlecon. If you are a die-hard wrestling fan, which is how I would describe myself, there are DOZENS of shows you can watch over the weekend. In the past, the only way to see a majority of these shows was to be in the town and catch the shows live or watch them on DVD later down the road. However, thanks to living in 2017, the last few years have changed that and there are over 1 dozen shows available to watch online through Flo Slam, WWN Live, WWE Network, and the ROH website.
So, with that many shows, how do you decide what to watch? I picked 11 shows that are must watch for me, but even that is an absurd amount of wrestling to watch over 4 days. So I thought I would provide a quick breakdown of what is the must see stuff of the weekend. Call it my top 5, but some of the items will have more than one option, so I am being liberal with the use of that term.
5: Up All Night
Two of my most anticipated shows take place at midnight. Beyond Wrestling, which you may recall is my local indy promotion, is putting on one of the strongest cards of the weekend at 11:59 on Saturday night. The main event is Matt Riddle vs. Donovan Dijak, which really needs no hype given how talented both guys are, but the rest of the card is stacked with some really super match ups. Da Hit Squad take on the Unbreakable Fucking Machines of Michael Elgin and Brian Cage in what will surely be a Hoss Fight!! Speaking of Hoss Fights, Jeff Cobb and Keith Lee will be going one on one in a battle of two of the hottest guys on the indies right now. David Starr, who is a talent that has flown under the radar but is really starting to gather some steam, takes on Sami Callahan, and the greatest mixed tag team of all time, Janelope, have an open challenge on the card, so that’s 5 really exciting matches. There’s other matches on the card including Jon Silver, EYFBO (or LAX for you Impact fans), Team Tremendous, the Gentlemen’s Club, Lufisto, AR Fox and more. This show will be available on Flo Slam and since it starts right before the second, you are likely to see the match of the day for Mania Sunday on this show.
What if I told you there was a show on Mania weekend featuring Dan Severn, Matt Riddle, Dink the Clown, Veda Scott, Marty Jannety and Glacier? Does that sound like something you might be interested in? Thursday night at 11:55, the craziest show of the weekend occurs as GCW presents Joey Janela’s Spring Break. Joey is a guy that gets it. He is trying to make wrestling fun again, and if this card is any indication he should succeed. If you want a good match, you will get Lio Rush vs. Keith Lee. Want a spectacle? How about a match that is literally being described as a cluster fuck featuring guys like Glacier, Ethan Page, and the Invisible Man? A very strange one on one match between Matt Riddle and Dan Severn, a potential blood bath between Matt Tremont and Eddie Kingston, and an appearance from Earl Hebner are just a few of the strange things going on during this show. The main event is Joey Janela fulfilling one of his dream matches when he takes on Marty Jannety. Yes, from the Rockers. Yes, in 2017. It won’t be a good match, but it will be memorable. That’s the best way to describe this show: memorable. Everyone says that WrestleMania is about the memories and the moments, and this show will be full of those.
4: The British Invasion
The UK wrestling scene is exploding right now, and they are taking over WrestleMania weekend this year. What Culture Pro Wrestling, Rev Pro, and Progress are all coming over and running shows, and there is a large percentage of the talent wrestling this weekend that hail from the UK and the primarily UK promotions. The WWE is also jumping on the UK bandwagon, with a lot of talent from the UK wrestling at Axxess, including some of the biggest stars in the country. Marty Scurll and Will Ospreay are wrestling for ROH on their Supercard of Honor show, and Progress is teaming with Evolve for the WWN Supershow. The scene is booming in the UK right now, with wrestling being significantly more mainstream there than it is here. One only needs to look at a wrestling company getting a network TV deal in that country. The biggest show featuring the UK talent, in my eyes, is the Progress show taking place on Friday at noon. This is the biggest to me because it features the only WWE title match taking place outside of a WWE event this weekend. Tyler Bate defends the WWE UK title against Mark Andrews in what is sure to be a fantastic match and a contender for match of the weekend. Pete Dunne defends his Progress title against the man who never lost it, Mark Haskins, and the man of the weekend Matt Riddle takes on Trent Seven. In one of the most intriguing matches of the weekend, Zack Sabre Jr takes on Jimmy Havoc. Sabre is a great technical wrestler while Havoc is…not. At all. He’s charismatic as hell, though, and I think these two will put on a really great spectacle of a match. There’s a ton of people coming from the UK to enjoy Mania weekend, and there’s a little slice of home waiting for them in Orlando.
3: Deep Water into the deep end
Matthew Riddle has become one of the hottest talents in wrestling over the past year. He has become the epitome of the touring pro wrestler, a real throwback to the stars of the 80’s who would wrestle across the country and the world and work anywhere they could get a booking. Riddle just completed a 10-day tour taking him to places from Germany to a hookah bar here in Worcester Mass and any point in between with a ring. So, it’s no surprise that, at his first Mania weekend since becoming a huge deal on the indy scene, he is featuring in some of the biggest shows and matches across the city of Orlando. He is featured on the three cards we already mentioned, as well as the two Evolve shows and is the center piece of the WWN Supershow. He’s the easy favorite to walk out of the WWN Supershow as the first ever WWN network champion, and even though he’s not on the most shows of the weekend, he’s a prominent part on all shows airing on FloSlam with the exception of the FIP show on Sunday, and if he wins the WWN title on Saturday night he could easily show up there as well. I wouldn’t be shocked if he was in a big rubber suit at the KajiuBig Battel show. That’s how much he is putting into his wrestling and being a part of everything going on. Riddle has the chance to have some of the most memorable matches of the weekend in a few different ways. He has the chance with Dan Severn to have the spectacle match of the weekend. He has main event matches at the WWN Supershow in the 6 way and later that night against Donovan Dijak, and both of those matches have the ability to be the best match of the weekend. He has matches against Drew Galloway, Trent Seven and Fred Yehi, which should all be amazing and hard hitting matches that could steal the shows they are taking place on. There’s not a lot of matches that have the potential that a Fred Yehi vs. Matt Riddle match has at this point in time. Both guys are on fire right now and that could easily be the match of the weekend. Matt Riddle has built up a lot of hype heading into this weekend, and this is a chance for him to deliver on the hype and become that next big thing in pro wrestling.
2: The best of the rest
With so much going on, there’s bound to be a lot of great stuff that falls through the crack. ROH managed to get their show, Supercard of Honor, onto iPPV at the last minute. Now, I know that ROH iPPV isn’t a sure thing, and there’s probably a lot of us that have terrible memories of past attempts, but hopefully they can pull it together because there are some matches that have the potential to be absolutely amazing on that card. Chief among them is the Will Ospreay and Volador Jr vs. Dragon Lee and Jay White tag team match. Four amazing athletes who are going to go out there and do some next level flying and hard hitting wrestling. The main event of that show is the ladder match between The Young Bucks and the Hardy Boys. The future of the Hardy’s is up in the air at the moment, with a lot of signs pointing towards them heading to WWE, possibly by the end of the weekend, but I think you can still expect a memorable match here. Jeff Hardy, in a main event ladder match, isn’t going to mail anything in and is going to bust his ass to make this something anyone watching remembers. The Young Bucks will do the same, and Matt will do as much as his body will allow. The rest of the card is decent, but those two matches look to really steal the show.
Although not available on iPPV, there are a few other cards that are gaining a lot of buzz. The big Wrestlecon show of the weekend includes a Team Ospreay vs. Team Ricochet match that will surely be insane, a Brian Cage vs. Johnny Mundo TLC match, a Hoss Fight with Bobby Lashley taking on Jeff Cobb and is main evented by the Hardy’s vs. Penta 0M and Rey Fenix. RPW has a show main evented by Zack Sabre Jr taking on Penta 0M and Rey Fenix taking on Will Ospreay. Chikara has two shows, one of which features Grado, Pro Wrestling REVOLVErruns a show with free pancakes and an INSANE ladder match. Shimmer, What Culture, the Wrestlecon women’s show and CZW are just a few more companies running amazing shows over the weekend. The CZW show is a mix of their usual ultraviolent silliness and some really solid names having really good matches and has shown up on a lot of people’s must see lists.
And that’s before we even think about NXT, the Hall of Fame, or WrestleMania!!!
1: The Evolution of Mania Weekend
Gabe Sapolsky was the booker that really started the trend of running big shows on Mania weekend, so it’s only right that on this weekend he is running three of the bigger shows of the weekend. Evolve 80 and 81 have been built to be absolutely must see shows. Every Evolve show since late last year has built to these shows. The bickering and changes in Catch Point, the rise of Keith Lee, the coronation of Zack Sabre Jr and the fall of Timothy Thatcher have all led us to this point. At Evolve 80, ZSJ makes his first Evolve title defense against ACH, an opponent who is about as different stylistically from ZSJ as you could find. Catch Point defends their tag titles against a bit of an indy dream team in Michael Elgin and Donovan Dijak, and Keith Lee continues his ascension in Evolve by taking on one of the biggest names in Evolve history, Ricochet. At Evolve 81, the simmering issues within Catch Point boil over with Fred Yehitaking on Matt Riddle. Keith Lee takes on Donovan Dijak in another big test for Lee and the main event is a non-title dream match between Zack Sabre Jr and Michael Elgin. One of the more intriguing matches on the card is the Catch Point team of Chris Dickinson, Jaka and Tracy Williams against the high flyers team of Jason Kincaid, Sammy Guerva and Austin Theory. This is interesting because Dickinson and Jaka are undefeated as a tag team in Evolve and feel as though they deserve a shot at Williams and Yehi and the Evolve tag team titles. This could be the match that sees those frustrations rise to the forefront. Plus, it’s three guys who fly really great against three hard hitting technical wrestlers. To me it’s a real dark horse for match of the night.
On Saturday night, the traditional WWN Supershow takes place with an Evolve vs. Progress theme and a 6-man elimination match in the main event to decide the first ever WWN champion, which is essentially the first ever FloSlam champion. The winner of that match will be the WWN champion and defend his title across all the WWN brands on FloSlam. Matt Riddle, Fred Yehi, Tracy Williams (all Catch Point guys, so it feeds that story as well), Drew Galloway, Jon Davis (from FIP) and Parrow (from ACW) are the six men in the match, and they will be able to go out there and have an amazing main event match with high stakes, a true main event of a big show. The Progress vs. Evolve matches are all potential show stealers, featuring names like Pete Dunne, ACH, Zack Sabre Jr and Jimmy Havoc. Pete Dunne vs. ACH is the match to keep an eye on here. Dunne is a mean bastard and ACH is an amazing wrestler and these two should really be able to get the best out of each other. There’s no reason that this show should not live up to the name Supershow this year.
Well, there is one. It’s not as if these shows haven’t suffered from streaming issues in the past. This is the first Mania weekend taking place on FloSlam. The good news is, by 8:00 PM Saturday evening, the kinks should be worked out and the show should run smoothly. The question becomes how many problems will we see before then? Last year’s Evolve shows were amazing shows that were hindered by streaming quality issues both nights. Those issues led to a lot of ill will towards WWN and Evolve, and that’s not something that FloSlam can afford right now. FloSlam is a great service that is not lighting the world on fire. If they can pull off this weekend with no issues, they will generate a ton of positive momentum and with a lot of big shows coming up in April, they could be positioned to make a great leap forward. If the shows are full of stuttering and buffering and issues, they might not be able to recover from that failure. And a FloSlam failure is a Gabe failure, make no mistake. So there is a lot on the line for the indy scene with these three shows.
There you have it, a mini preview of sorts. I think I hit most of the shows I am really excited about. What shows do you want to see? Who are you looking at to make a big impact this weekend? And is there anyway WWE can keep pace? Let me know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter at @OMGlancy. Enjoy all the graps this weekend!