2017 ended on a high note for several companies trying to establish themselves while major companies relied on the entertainment aspect with the Holiday season. New Japan Pro Wrestling set the stage for Wrestle Kingdom while matches in the United Kingdom looked to settle the score and finish stories that had been established all year. Tag team wrestling was alive and well and the NJPW World Tag League tournament wrapped up with a brawl of a final match. Let’s take a close look at the 20 Best Matches to be found in the world of pro wrestling in December.
#20. Kenny King (C) Vs. Silas Young Vs. Punishment Martinez Vs. Shane Taylor, ROH TV championship, ROH Final Battle
Elaborate entrances for Kenny King as the defending Champion and Punishment Martinez with cult followers. Silas Young didn’t need a big entrance but he did need Beer City Bruiser to help him win his first Championship in Ring Of Honor Wrestling. The action was in and out of the ring in this elimination style four-way match and Taylor was out first after The Royal Flush from King and a top rope Senton from Martinez. Big showing from the champ picking Shane Taylor up for that finisher but he gets a beer bottle over the head for his efforts and Silas eliminates the champion. After a breakout year with some marquee matches, Punishment Martinez came close but he ate a couple knee’s and Misery for the 3-count from Young.
#19. Baron Corbin (C) Vs. Bobby Roode Vs. Dolph Ziggler, WWE United States Championship, WWE Clash Of Champions
The reaction for Bobby Roode almost getting the win on Corbin was massive considering this was the opening match. All three put on a very fun Triple Threat and Corbin played his role as well as he could for his inexperience. Power moves to Ziggler just set him up for the finish. Corbin was dominating Roode and set up End Of Days but Ziggler came from behind with Zig Zag and pinned Corbin to win the WWE United States Championship. Ziggler will always get a good reaction and was a much better face than he was given credit for, just look at the crowd when Ziggler wins in unexpected fashion.
#18. Rey Fenix (C) Vs. Jeff Cobb, AAW Pro championship, AAW Windy City Classic
Jeff Cobb is “Mr Athletic” for a reason but he tends to weave between throwing his opponents to matching moonsaults depending on the match. Cobb decided to use his size in this match and he needs to find more of a killer instinct like Mantanza on Lucha Underground but it was still very believable Rey Fenix could lose the title any second. Once Fenix was grounded, he didn’t get much of a chance to use his unique skills from the ropes. Sami Callihan handed the mantle at the top in AAW Pro to Fenix and Rey Fenix has done a great job as champion in his first couple months, using a Destroyer to retain against Cobb.
#17. Aliester Black Vs. Adam Cole, WWE NXT TV
Adam Cole and Aliester Black have never met in the ring before this NXT contender’s match despite being top stars in their perspective promotions, PROGRESS Wrestling and ROH. This feud rages on but the first meeting was a memorable one, Black using his stiff kicks and Cole changing the pace to his style. There aren’t many better heels in wrestling than Adam Cole and he had to weasel his way out of some spots but he wanted Black’s best by the end. Cole is down after a flurry and he asks “is that all you’ve got?” and Black Mass puts Cole down for good.
#16. The Hung Bucks (Adam Page and The Young Bucks) (c) Vs. Flip Gordon, Dragon Lee and TITAN, ROH 6-Man Tag Team Championships, ROH Final Battle
Flip Gordon has been feuding with The Young Bucks all year and Being The Elite shows how much he is bullied by The Elite. Flip tried to gain revenge with help from Dragon Lee and TITAN from CMLL but it wouldn’t happen at Final Battle. Multiple dives to the floor, a superkick party and comeback moments for Flip had the audience hooked. Dragon Lee got spiked on the apron with a DDT and Flip was left alone in the ring. “Where do you think you’re going!?” Hangman Page hits a shooting star Indy-Taker on the floor to TITAN but Flip Gordon is back with a Pele kick in the ring. The Hung Bucks take back control and retain the ROH 6-Man tag team championships with a Rite Of Passage/Meltzer Driver combo on Flip Gordon.
#15. Rampage Brown Vs. Flash Morgan Webster, PROGRESS Unboxing Live! 2: Unbox Harder
Rampage Brown hasn’t shown up in a PROGRESS Wrestling ring in a year when he last lost the Atlas title to Matt Riddle. The big man toyed a bit with Flash early but he soon realized Webster was no joke on this or any night after a headbutt to the jaw. Flash Morgan Webster has impressed in his home of the United Kingdom but also for Pro Wrestling Guerilla and his matches keep getting better and better. Keith Lee Vs. Flash was a great showcase in November in how to work a match of different sizes and this was just as satisfying to watch. Brown took a DDT right out of a military press. Webster kicked out of a Powerbomb and lariat combination. Finally Webster was defeated by a sickening looking Pile-driver. Flash announced on the microphone that he would be taking a break from PROGRESS but he will be back in the future.
#14. Johnny Gargano Vs. Aleister Black Vs. Killian Dain Vs. Lars Sullivan, NXT #1 Contender Fatal 4-Way, WWE NXT TV
Four of the brightest talents maybe in all of NXT collided in a wild anything goes main event to gain the number contender’s spot. WWE has done a fantastic job with Gargano and he is really getting the chance to shine in the prime of his career. The brawling went to the stage then the announce table where Dain splashed Sullivan through the table. They both made it back to the ring only to take each other out with Lariat’s. Gargano slingshot into a knee strike from Black. The future of WWE is Black but it was Gargano’s moment however as a DDT from the apron earned Gargano his long-awaited title shot.
#13. Pete Dunne Vs. Eddie Dennis, RevPro Uprising
Dennis has never won a major match in RevPro despite being booked against the best in Europe. Dennis had something to prove and he gave Dunne his best for twenty minutes, including a Tombstone Pile-driver on the stage. Dunne would later prove he’s “The Bruiserweight” when he put his arms behind his back to receive forearms and delivered a massive one of his own. Dennis tried his arsenal and it didn’t work so he thought he could hit The Bitter End on the inventor of the move but Dunne rolled through into an inside cradle.
#12. EVIL and SANADA Vs. The Guerillas Of Destiny, NJPW World Tag League Final
The Finals to the 2017 NJPW World Tag League was not a classic match by any means but it was a realistic struggle between 2 top factions to see who gets the IWGP Heavyweight tag team title shot at Wrestle Kingdom. Tama Tonga personifies cool but he knows how to control a match too, throwing EVIL on the entrance ramp, attempting to take him out of the match. Day 19 wouldn’t end with a chair shot and Guerilla Tactics as EVIL wouldn’t go down. EVIL and SANADA went for Magic-Killer but a Stun Gun counter from Tama stopped that. Loa though would take the Magic-Killer off the apron through a table. Tama Tonga was pinned by EVIL’s STO as Los Ingobernobles De Japon trump Bullet Club.
#11. Will Ospreay Vs. Matt Taven, ROH Final Battle
Only an eleven minute match but filled with high-risk action and big impact strikes like Ospreay’s brutal elbow from behind. Taven has been in CMLL so he used some Lucha Libre tactics of his own and many pinfall attempts. Ospreay started the match by taking out The Kingdom but he fell to the numbers game eventually. Taven used a Liontamer on Will’s bad shoulder for extra effect. Ospreay was sensational with a Spanish Fly and Revolution Kick but the Os-Cutter was countered into The Climax. Great performance by “The Aerial Assassin” but a big win for Matt Taven.
#10. Cody Rhodes (c) Vs. Jay Lethal, ROH World championship, RevPro Uprising
Cody and Lethal had a bullrope match earlier this year to end their feud in ROH but it heated back up in the United Kingdom by the end of the year with Cody’s title up for grabs. Both worked an old-school match with Lethal’s leg being torn apart after a dropkick on the floor went South. The finishing stretch was the final payoff to their battles. Cody went to use the ROH title as a weapon but Lethal used a low-blow and the Hail To The King elbow for a long 2-count. Marty Scurll, who would be challenging Lethal at ROH Final Battle, came down but Lethal smartly caught Cody’s low-blow. Marty hit Cody instead with the umbrella accidentally after teasing he wanted the ROH title for himself and The Lethal Injection connects but the referee was knocked down. Lethal gets hit by Marty’s umbrella mid-spring with another Lethal Injection and Cody retains with Crossrhodes. Even better than expected and a hot finish that left everyone happy.
#9. Matt Riddle Vs. ACH, AAW Windy City Classic
ACH and Matt Riddle are full of charisma and a similar outlook on pro wrestling: have the best match possible no matter the time frame. That’s exactly what ended up happening when they finally faced off twice in AAW Pro this month, a time-limit draw but it didn’t effect the match quality at all. Both haven’t wrestled each other in EVOLVE Wrestling so they made it special in AAW Pro with a 15 minute time limit at Legacy on December 12. Then the chemistry got even better with a 20-minute time limit at the Windy City Classic on December 20. Whenever Riddle locked ACH in a submission, you can almost feel the fans emotions locked in to the moment as ACH refuses to submit.
#8. Johnny Gargano Vs. Kassius Ohno, WWE NXT TV
Ohno revitalized his career when he started knocking opponents out with his elbows years ago. That kind of match works perfectly even with a fresh and dynamic face. Gargano would go off the ropes only to be met with a stiff spin kick. Ohno ran with a leaping forearm shot that almost put Gargano to sleep early. The crowd sensed the tide turning and Ohno got trapped in the Gargano Escape.
#7. Travis Banks (c) Vs. Eddie Dennis, PROGRESS World championship, PROGRESS Chapter 59: Whatever People Say We Are, That’s What We’re Not
Eddie Dennis is “The Pride Of Whales” but he turned his back on the fans and management this year when he beat down his former tag team partner Mark Andrews. A heavyweight that’s long and lean, he’s been waiting his whole career for the main events and he upped his game for “The Kiwi Buzzsaw.” Banks showed the fire that made his champion when he kicked out the Next Stop Driver. Banks kicked out of another one off the top rope to put an exclamation mark on it. Dennis couldn’t believe it so Banks locked in The Lion’s Clutch to submit the number one contender.
#6. Marty Scurll Vs. Jay Lethal, ROH Final Battle
Scurll and Lethal attempted to see who was the best villain when Scurll claimed Lethal wasn’t that man anymore and “The Villain” was simply better. They knew how to work the crowd in the palm of their hands and used smart ways to conclude the match. Lethal kicked out of a short Pile-driver. Scurll went for a steel chair but Lethal grabbed it and wrapped it around his own head so the referee would see him down and not Marty. Scurll had the Chicken Wing Crossface transitioned from The Lethal Injection but he would be pinned by the Injection in this rematch from Rev Pro 4 years ago when “The Villain” was “Party Marty.”
#5. Zack Sabre Jr. (c) Vs. Matt Riddle, British Heavyweight championship, RevPro Uprising
Matt Riddle and Zack Sabre Jr. represented EVOLVE Wrestling all year and for good reason, they can out wrestle anyone and have the natural ability to break out new submissions all the time. Both were even trapped in a Kneebar at the same time. Sabre was cocky as ever and Riddle tried to break him down the same way Sabre does to all his challengers for the British Heavyweight title. This rematch from this Spring didn’t reach the levels we thought it would but the finish was all you could ask for. Riddle applied the Bro-Mission twister submission but Sabre rolled over and pinned Riddle suddenly.
#4. Pete Dunne (c) Vs. Jack Gallagher, WWE United Kingdom Championship, PROGRESS Unboxing Live! 2: Unbox Harder
Pete Dunne defended the WWE United Kingdom title in a match that was supposed to happen this summer until Dunne was injured for a short time. Jack Gallagher was still the heel he is on 205 Live and even used Brian Kendrick’s Bully Choke. Amazing counters and mat-work ensued as Dunne caught Jack’s corner dropkick into a sit-out powerbomb. Gallagher had the fans believing he would capture the title he went after when Tyler Bate was champion and he would hit the corner dropkick to the back of the head. The champion had too much resolve and retained in a very innovative way, turning The Bitter End into a Tombstone Pile-driver in mid-air.
#3. Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson and James Drake) (c) Vs. Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis), PROGRESS Tag Team Championships, PROGRESS Chapter 59: Whatever People Say We Are, That’s What We’re Not
Aussie Open have consistently been one of the finest teams to watch in 2017 and they started having great matches once they arrived in PROGRESS Wrestling right away. Even more impressive is the fact that Kyle Fletcher is only 19 years old and Mark Davis compliments him well. Drake and Gibson retained with Ticket To Mayhem but this should be a wake-up call to people that don’t think tag team wrestling is what it once was.
#2. Travis Banks (c) Vs. Will Ospreay, PROGRESS World Championship, PROGRESS Unboxing Live! 2: Unbox Harder
Banks and Ospreay haven’t locked up in a big match to date and this was Banks chance to prove he is the true champion that the fans talk about. Commentary mentioned that this was a late match of the year contender and it really was, both put everything into this match and Ospreay handed the torch to “The Kiwi Buzzsaw” in the main events. Beautiful sequence when both went for spring-boards at the same time and Banks hit Slice Of Heaven but Ospreay also hit the Os-Cutter. Will Ospreay returned to PROGRESS Wrestling for the annual Unboxing show and wowed the crowd again but eventually tapped out to The Lion’s Clutch.
#1. Pete Dunne (C) Vs. Tyler Bate, WWE United Kingdom championship, WWE NXT TV
Bate Vs Dunne 2 at NXT Takeover: Chicago was touted as the best WWE match of the year by many but this third outing didn’t get nearly enough praise. The Full Sail University crowd was exhausted by the end of the thirty-minute affair and all of the near-falls they had witnessed. The stomps to Bate’s arm looked so vicious the referee had to check on Bate. A Spiral Tap to the back and The Tyler Driver couldn’t get the title away from Dunne. Bate kicked out of The Bitter End but it was over after a second Bitter End.