There was so much to love about pro wrestling in the month of April. WrestleMania weekend, Rev Pro Epic Encounter with stars from New Japan Pro Wrestling and that is just the start. The independent wrestling scene has never been better, with a show live every weekend. Not every big match could make the cut of course, but the very best were chosen for this list. Many dream matches occurred and of the couple hundred shows, here are the Top 20.
The 20 Best Matches of April 2017
#20. Catch Point (Chris Dickinson and Jaka) vs Catch Point (Tracy Williams and Fred Yehi), Evolve tag team title match at Evolve 82.
The faction of Catch Point has changed with Stokely Hathaway as the new manager and new champions crowned here. Yehi and Williams were the longest reigning tag champions in Evolve history with 160 days. Dissolution has been in Catch Point since the addition of Doom Patrol (Jaka and Dickinson) and this match was only a matter of time but very interesting to see. Evolve has an old-school approach to matches but this had me on my feet too. If you love technical wrestling, this is what it’s all about.
It’s a meshing of styles with Dickinson and Jaka being brutes contending with Catch Point’s mat game. The first half was a feeling out process until Dickinson started to own the match. The smaller champions were thrown around but managed to lock in several submissions as well. Dickinson finished Tracy Williams with a second dangerous Pazuzu Bomb. Very enjoyable because you didn’t know who would get the win. Much more than a sparring match between 4 faction members. Awesome to see Evolve go with Jaka and Dickinson.
#19. A.J. Styles vs Shane McMahon – WrestleMania.
Surprisingly chosen as the Wrestlemania opener but what better way to get the fans into the show than a match like this. Shane Mcmahon has made an in-ring career out of crazy moments and Styles has had a history of high-flying classics. Styles did not have an opponent for Wrestlemania so this was WWE’s option and it didn’t disappoint in the least. Shane was told he would have to wrestle in this match but it did also become a brawl. This match was booked the right way and with this being only Shane’s third match since returning to WWE, it also has a lot of interest.
Styles looked to show-up Shane early, as if he was insulted to be in the match. Shane proved himself though, there was one incredible spot where Shane caught Styles in a triangle choke out of a springboard 450 splash. What these 2 lacked in chemistry they made up for with a really entertaining, crazy match. A missed elbow drop from Shane to an announce table and a missed shooting star press set Shane up for the end. Styles got the win with a phenomenal forearm and proved he can have a great match with just about anybody. This had the potential to be the best match at Wrestlemania and it was.
#18. Michael Elgin vs Matt Riddle – AAW Epic.
AAW presented it’s 13th anniversary show with a massive match between the biggest workhorses on the independents. These 2 previously met in Glory Pro 2 months ago and this was just as hard-hitting. Riddle is so fun to watch with his MMA-inspired offence and Elgin is so much more than a powerhouse. This is a match that could easily be a WWE mainevent instead of in a small venue, intense with a must-see feel. It seems Elgin and Riddle were made to wrestle each other.
Elgin and Riddle both manage to fire up from German suplexes which is insane. Riddle hit Bro To Sleep but Elgin hit his own version too. The way they hit each other with strikes is full-tilt and the lariats seemed to rock Riddle from a man the size of big Mike. Elgin even hits a top rope splash, he can do it all in the ring. Fans were chanting for both until Elgin got the win with an Elgin Bomb. Elgin on the mic after was a real treat: “ we are here to celebrate 13 years of AAW. Unfortunately i have not been here for those 13 years in AAW. But I came here in 2012 and you guys made me feel like I was at home. As you fans chant thank you both, I want to say thank you AAW fans. And Matt Riddle…..i want to wrestle you every goddamn night.” Loved every second and this will hopefully be longer than 14 minutes when they wrestle again.
#17. Zack Sabre Jr. vs Lio Rush – Evolve world title match at Evolve 83.
Rush has just joined Evolve and was given the biggest shot of his career against Sabre in a main event spot. The fact that Sabre is 28 years old and Rush is 23, is remarkable considering the talent level of both. Rush is already considered one of the best high-flyers in the world and Sabre is maybe the best technical wrestler in the world. New York was given a mat-game that is one of Evolve’s all-time best. Sabre has really come into his own as a champion, it shows here.
This was a clinic in limb work and in some moments you wonder how Rush wasn’t injured in these holds. These are equally sized competitors but Sabre has the experience and grappling edge. Sabre was almost a heel the way he tortured Rush’s legs. Some of the stretches looked brutal and match-ending. Sabre knows how fast Rush is so he wore him down but could not win by submission even in the closing moments. Great storytelling that Rush refused to give in. A 2-count from a frog splash to the champion was a big near fall. A flurry of counters led to Sabre retaining with a bridging O’Connor roll. It could have been more fast-paced but this is as pure as pure-wrestling gets.
#16. Drew Galloway vs Matt Riddle – I-Quit match for the WWN title at Evolve 83.
The best rivalry of the year culminated with no rules as the rubber match. Always a fight, Galloway’s against Evolve character perfectly clashes with Riddle as the new face of WWN Live. These guys bring it like it’s the main event every night but this would be Galloway’s last Evolve match before going to WWE. The mix of strikes and high impact moves like piledrivers make this an especially vicious match.
Riddle was even tied to the ring ropes, showing just how far Galloway will go. Each time Riddle was asked, he responded no bro! The mistake or Galloway was a sledgehammer coming in to play as Drew attempted to destroy the title the night before at Evolve 82. Galloway got in the referees face and got trapped in the Bro-Mission until he screamed in pain and gave in. Matches like this are what make Evolve can’t miss.
#15. Zack Sabre Jr. vs KUSHIDA – RPW Epic Encounter.
A technical masterpiece from Rev Pro. Sabre is a Rev Pro mainstay and the British heavyweight champion but KUSHIDA is new to the UK, the fans love him the same. The top junior heavyweights had more of a chess match and it was still a crowd pleaser with all of the crazy counters. Remarkable this match hasn’t happened yet, Sabre matches up with KUSHIDA like they have had several bouts together.
KUSHIDA is always so smooth and he should travel the world more. When a match is this engaging without taking it to the floor or using cheap pops for 30 minutes, that’s a testament to both. Commentary noticed that KUSHIDA was out-Sabre-ing Sabre and it came back to bite him. KUSHIDA went for the bridging pin but Sabre trapped him in one of his own.
#14. Darby Allin vs Ethan Page – Last Man Standing Match at Evolve 82.
A year-long rivalry finally came to an end and it wasn’t pretty at all. Darby entered Evolve through a training seminar and has impressed ever since, putting his body on the line every match. Page is one of the best heels going, brutalizing Darby and owning the ring almost the entire match. I don’t remember the last time I cringed so much or begged the ref to stop the match, but I did for this main event.
This was given the final slot on the card because some fans walked out at the brutality the last time. Darby is much smaller than Page and he even gets pressed out of the ring into a row of chairs. Things got violent when Allin took a couple powerbombs but wouldn’t stay down. Darby took a shovel to the arm and suffered a nasty gash from it. Then he took a powerbomb in a body bag filled with thumbtacks! The bodybag spots are uncomfortable to watch. Big respect for Darby Allen and it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but the story on display is second to none. He has earned respect his own way.
Aside from some awesome hope spots with a chair, this was finished for Darby. The match ended with Austin Theory and Perscilla Kelly running to help but The Gatekeepers and Page stopping that. Ethan Page throws Theory and Kelly on top of Allen for the 10-count. Darby could have been hurt worse and a match like this isn’t seen too often anymore. Unforgettable, wild and career making rivalry for both.
#13. Hiromu Takahashi vs Ricochet – IWGP Junior Heavyweight title match at NJPW Toyonokuni.
Ricochet has been in tags for a couple years now in New Japan, nice to see him get a shot at singles gold again. Takahashi has been on the biggest roll of his career on the other hand, since winning the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title at Wrestle Kingdom on Jan 4. Ricochet is a former Best Of The Super Juniors winner but has never won the championship. Fans love both although the charisma of the champion is growing on everyone.
Both wrestlers are high-caliber performers that excel when the pressure is on. Not as many high-impact stuff as expected but this was still a highlight match in their careers. Hiromu hitting a Death Valley Driver on the apron was madness. They brought the best out of each other and a rematch would be even better. Ricochet hit just about everything except when it counted with the 630 splash. Takahashi evaded and retained with the Time Bomb. Hell of a finish to a top-notch title match.
#12. Kyle O’Reilly vs Keith Lee – Evolve 82.
Kyle O’Reilly returned to Evolve after 4 and a half years since becoming a free agent. Keith Lee has been receiving a well-deserved push in Evolve, taking on all-comers. The size difference is what made this match a show-stealer for Evolve weekend. Kyle didn’t have good entrance music, but he did have all the tools to take down the massive “Limitless” Keith Lee. Evolve loves to book mis-matches and I love to watch them. Both have big followings even though Kyle O’Reilly has been absent from Evolve for so long, he became the ROH world champion.
The style of O’Reilly is full of strikes and submissions, which Lee had a hard time finding counters for. The kicks were stiff and even had Lee reeling to the floor on one occasion. Lee was too big to be picked up even though it was attempted a couple times. Keith Lee escaped an arm-bar attempt and almost sent O’Reilly through the ring with a Spirit Bomb. Amazing to watch 2 completely different wrestlers have an amazing match like this one. The finish blew my mind, Kyle O’Reilly finally lifted Lee and won with a Brainbuster. The Evolve faithful boo’d that surprisingly.
#11. Juice Robinson vs Tetsuya Naito – IWGP Intercontinental title match at NJPW Toyonokuni.
Juice has really won over the NJPW audience with his outgoing personality and he is so fun to watch, because it looks like he’s having lots of fun. Naito has been the perfect IWGP Intercontinental champion with his faction, LIJ, taking over with only their best interest in mind. Juice pinned Naito clean last month in a tag match to get this shot and he was very impressive. Some may not think Juice deserves a title shot at the second biggest belt in Japan but he wrestled his heart out against one of the best.
It seemed Naito took Juice lightly in promo’s and in the early-going but that wouldn’t last long. Juice would go to the barricades bug turned the match around with a spinebuster to the ring apron! Juice kept on Naito and came so close to winning the biggest match of his life. Twice Pulp Fiction was countered, and twice Destino was hit on Juice in the end. This won’t be the last time Juice is in a main event spot and this brings Naito’s stock up even higher.
#10. South Pacific Power Trip (Travis Banks and TK Cooper) vs Catch Point (Chris Dickinson and Jaka) – WWN Supershow: Mercury Rising- Evolve vs PROGRESS.
The standout match of Wrestlemania weekend, this was awesome and the fans were on their feet by the finishing stretch. All four looked to impress officials and get higher spots on the cards and get a win for their home promotions. TK Cooper, Travis Banks and Dahlia Black’s first time in Evolve. It was a memorable one and damn-near non stop with action between these great underrated teams.
Dickinson and Jaka were all over SPPT until things broke down into almost a tornado tag. There was no MVP because all put it on the line. Cooper hit a corkscrew dive to all 3 and Banks had lots of kicks for Catch Point. Dickinson and Jaka have some of the best doube-teams like a torture rack into a double stomp. The last couple minutes had more action to even call on commentary. A Pazuzu Bomb and top rope splash combo only 2 for Catch Point! Leg lariat, fisherman buster and springboard 450 splash only 1 for SPPT!! A double superkick and assisted brainbuster finally finished Banks and Cooper. Tag wrestling at it’s finest and even near falls and double teams thrown in at the end.
#9. Pete Dunne vs ACH – PROGRESS world title match at WWN Supershow: Mercury Rising- Evolve vs PROGRESS
ACH got his fingers destroyed but still kept up with the champion. Dunne has more wherewithal in the ring and the ring psychology really shows. Huge moment when ACH kicked out of the Bitter End. ACH looked great in the loss and that’s what the goal was
ACH got stretched in a version of The Rings Of Saturn and had no choice but to tap.
#8. Travis Banks vs Shane Strickland- Inaugural Lucha Forever title match at Lucha Forever: The Dawning Of Forever.
This was a breakout match to show what both can do with no restraints. Both have had phenomenal matches in the past but this was a true five-star effort in the main event on IPPV. Banks is from New Zealand and has had quite the success in the States and U.K. and he deserves it, even at a young age. Lucha Forever put it to a vote, who should headline the first show for the title? Banks and Strickland was the fans answer.
Fast-paced as can be and not even a ref bump spoiled things. Banks became the first ever Lucha Forever champion with his 3rd Slice Of Heaven kick.
#7. Marty Scurll vs Adam Cole – ROH TV title match at ROH All Star Extravaganza.
Heel vs heel and the dynamic worked nicely. Cole was the ROH World champ and now looked to take Marty’s TV title. Cole hit a package piledriver for 2. Scurll hit a piledriver for 2. Fans went nuts. Cole tapped to the Chickenwing in the best opener mayne all year.
#6. Authors Of Pain vs DIY vs The Revival – 3 way tag for the NXT tag titles at NXT Takeover: Orlando.
#5. Hiromu Takahashi vs Marty Scurll – RPW Epic Encounter.
Champion met champion with Takahashi returning to Rev Pro after 4 years. Scurll hit Takahashi with his umbrella before the bell. Hiromu got the last laugh with the win. Scurll shockingly kicked out of the first Time Bomb only to take a second.
#4. Kyle O’Reilly vs Fred Yehi – Evolve 83.
Beautiful match, so good that it had you worried about Kyle’s leg. Yehi stomped on the knee and puton a clinic. This is the bread and butter of the company and both guys,boy was it sweet here. Amazing limb work from both. Yehi has improved leaps and bounds but tapped to an armbar.
#3. The Elite vs Will Ospreay, Ryan Smile and Lio Rush- RPW Epic Encounter.
This was straight-up fun for 30 minutes. Omega even getting on the mic while wrestling. The Uptown Funkers gave it everything,bodies everywhere by the end. No MVP here as all involved got lots of time to shine. The Elite won with One Winged Angel in an amazing 6 man tag.
#2. The Young Bucks vs The Hardys – Ladder Match for the ROH tag team titles at ROH All-Star Extravaganza.
The kings of the Ladder Match went all out with tables and spots out of a TLC match. A dream rivalry ended with The Bucks becoming new champions finally defeating the veterans. The Hardy’s took their share of bumps for being older. Given the main event, this was madness with all 4. Jeff Hardy got put through a table to end the chaos. Top level Ladder Match.
#1. Katsuyori Shibata vs Kazuchika Okada – IWGP heavyweight title match at NJPW Sakura Genesis.
The last match possibly in the career of Shibata all from a headbutt. Shibata won the New Japan Cup to get this shot. This is maybe the match of the year too. Shibata delivered so many strikes but Okada would not stay down. Okada hit a Rainmaker but the loud headbutt connected. I couldn’t believe it when Shibata kicked away but Okada hit another Rainmaker and kept the wrist-clutch. Okada ducked the Penalty Kick and hit a final Rainmaker after almost 40 minutes. This is one of the most intense, strong-style matches in New Japan history. You may not see any tougher than Shibata ever.
Thanks for reading,ring the bell!