Today I wrap up my list of the top 15 matches I saw live and in-person in 2021. Coming up with the top five was fairly easy as these five matches stuck with me the most after watching them.
Each brings an element that makes pro wrestling great and are worth a view if you get the opportunity. But, before we get into the top five I have two honorable mention tag team matches that deserve recognition.
Team Popsicle vs The Coalition
Magnum Pro Tag Team Title Lumberjack Match
Magnum Pro “Anniversary Volume X”
Lumberjack matches usually end up going one of two ways. Boring, repetitive matches that end in a wild brawl between the various lumberjacks or entertaining back and forth contests that use the lumberjacks in entertaining ways.
This falls under the latter.
Donnie Peppercricket and Tim Boston collectively known as Popsicle had been chasing the Coalition for months. This was their last chance to win the titles but they fell just short as this was the next step in their team disbanding.
The Coalition used every trick in the book to hold on to the straps much to the chagrin to the Magnum Pro audience.
Max Chill Mafia (Max Chill, Adam Love, The Shank) vs Justin Decent & Ethan Everheart
IPW Tag Team Championship Match
IPW “Return to the Forte”
These two teams battled for over a year for the IPW Tag Team Championships and while it might not be their best match, for me personally it was my favorite. You see, it was the night the Max Chill Mafia, finally won the titles.
Having been at the IPW Vault (more on that location later in the article) for the creation of this trio, being ringside taking pictures when they finally got the gold was a special moment for this wrestling fan to end 2021 with.
It was the end of an impressive run by Decent and Everheart, who were valiant champs willing to take on any takers, but that night belonged to the Max Chill Mafia.
Top Independent Matches of 2021 Part 3
Once upon a time, JT Energy and Frontman Jah C, collectively known as Vicious and Delicious, dominated the SCWPro tag team division. The uber-confident duo held the tag team titles with pride until a chair-wielding Energy ended their partnership in violent fashion.
#5 – Frontman Jah C vs JT Energy
SCWPro Iowa Championship Ladder Match
SCWPro “Hawkamania 19: Wicked Ways”
They battled three times throughout 2019 before both men went on their own paths. Earlier this year, that rivalry re-ignited when the Frontman made his triumphant return to SCWPro. The return of the Frontman didn’t sit well with Energy, who had carved a path of success across SCWPro in 2021.
As the current SCWPro Iowa Champion, Energy felt his accomplishments were being undersold due to the return of Jah C. With tensions running high, the SCWPro matchmakers scheduled this ladder match for Hawkamania 19: Wicked Ways.
There was an amped feeling in the audience right before Halloween that night. Ramping up the theatrics, JT Energy paid homage to Jack Skellington, complete with face paint, and entering to Marilyn Manson’s rendition of “This is Halloween.”
Jah, ready for war, donned jeans and boots rather than his usual ring attire. This fight went all over Wildwood Saloon; the two even fought in the upstairs bar area before Energy was sent crashing down the stairs.Chairs were used throughout, especially by Energy, who felt crippling Jah C would make it easier for him to climb the ladder to victory. Jah C, never one to simply give up, fought back and at one point hit Energy with a tombstone piledriver onto the stage next to the announcers.
After interference from Augustus, Draven was thwarted by a Jah C superkick; the Frontman began to climb. Reaching the top of the ladder before Energy grabbed his foot, but the wily Frontman had loosened his boot.
This turned out to be the key to victory, as Energy pulled the boot off, but his momentum sent him outside the ring, allowing Jah C to become the new SCWPro Iowa Champion.
#4 – Nick Aldis vs Jaysin Strife
In a match that felt like a throwback to the glory days of the NWA, this title match had the Magnum Pro fans at the edge of their seat from beginning to end. Aldis, the reigning NWA Champion at the time, brought the ten pounds of gold to Omaha, Nebraska, for the first time in decades. Waiting for him was the franchise player of Magnum Pro, Jaysin Strife.
NWA Heavyweight Championship Match
Magnum Pro “Anniversary Volume X”
Strife’s homage to Shane Douglas, the “Franchise” of ECW, with his yellow and black ring gear complete with black tassels on his boots, was a nice touch, considering the NWA Title was once thrown down in defiance by Douglas.
Greeting both men during their pre-match stare down were dueling chants in favor of both competitors. However, Aldis’ size advantage controls the early portion of the match, with the NWA Champion asserting himself whenever possible.
But Strife responds with a fury of strikes sending the champ reeling to the outside in an effort to re-strategize. Each time Aldis seemed to be closing in on victory, the resilient Strife would hit him with a counter, much to the delight of the Magnum Pro faithful.
Strife pulled out all the stops in this match even applying a figure four, a hold made famous in the NWA, on the current champ.Late in the match, the two traded power moves with Strife suplexing Aldis from the top turnbuckle only to be met with a tombstone pile driver by Aldis moments later. The closest near fall of the night came after Strife hit his patented shining wizard, only for Aldis to kick out at the very last second.
In the end, this would not be Strife’s night for the upset. After a high-risk maneuver from the top rope went awry, he found himself trapped in Aldis’ version of the cloverleaf. With Magnum Pro faithful cheering him, Strife fought his hardest to escape the clutches of Aldis, but in the end, the fiery challenger was forced to submit.
Cheers of approval rained down on both men as the two battle-tested veterans ended the night with a mutual show of respect and handshake.
#3 – AJ Smooth vs Mike Bennett
During the pandemic of 2020, Impact Pro Wrestling adapted and found a way to bring in-ring action to their fans with online shows live on Facebook. These shows took place at their training center known as the Vault in the little town of Collins, Iowa.
IPW “Live from the Vault”
The peak of these shows came in early 2021. It was on a frigidly cold night in February that former WWE superstar and Ring of Honor competitor Mike Bennett, brought his traveling wrestling documentary to Collins.
Watch highlights of his Bennett’s visit to IPW below:
That night began with Bennett running a seminar, helping the young and old stars of IPW hone their skills. His insight and experience on the biggest stage transferring over to their eager to learn eyes and ears. After the seminar, IPW put on their latest Live from the Vault show and, inspired by Bennett’s words beforehand, everyone had a little extra skip in their step.
The main event, Bennett versus AJ Smooth, took things to a whole other level. In front of his peers and a few select fans, Smooth showed why he is considered one of the franchise players of IPW.Holding his own with Bennett at every turn. The physicality increased as the match progressed and every wrestler in attendance at the Vault that night, watched at the edge of their seats.
Late in the match Smooth thought he had won with his version of the Code Breaker, but Bennett, showing true grit, kicked out at two. Even Smooth’s tag team partner Gable Galileo’s interference couldn’t help Smooth pick up the victory.
In the end, Bennett defeated his worthy adversary on this night, with a spike pile driver. A handshake after the match showed how much respect was earned between these two men as every wrestler in the vault applauded their efforts.
It was the definition of an electric atmosphere and one that I’m sure every wrestler in attendance will always remember.
#2 – 1 Called Manders vs Effy
If you look up the term barroom brawl in the dictionary, there will be pictures of Manders, and Effy choking each other with Manders patented bull rope and cowbell. These two crossed paths at SCWPro’s 18 edition of their signature event, Hawkamania.
No Disqualification Match
SCWPro “Hawkamania 18”
Entering Wildwood Saloon as only these two cult heroes can, the anticipation reached a fever pitch before the first punch was even thrown. A brief pre match stare down, complete with Effy taunting Manders with his own cowbell and bull rope, had the SCWPro faithful ready for a fight.
And a fight is what they got. The cowbell and bull rope were used throughout the match with each man trading headshots and chokes with the makeshift weapon.Midway through the match, with two chairs set up in the middle of the ring, these two traded slaps that quickly escalated to punches much to the delight of the SCWPro faithful. From here the intensity and violence continued to rise as doors and chairs were brought into the fray.
The closest near fall of the match came after Manders powerslammed Effy through a door from the middle turnbuckle. An irate Cornbelt Cowboy quickly let the referee know he wasn’t pleased with the count he thought was slow.
The two traded door shots to the head before Manders got the advantage with a low blow with his cowbell. A Manders moonsault from the top turnbuckle onto a door covered Effy in the middle ring, proved to be the final blow to keep Effy down.
This was one of the hardest hitting, most chaotic matches of the year in SCWPro and the debris around the ring showed just how wild it was. The two shared an intimate moment of respect after the match before receiving a standing ovation from everyone inside the Wildwood Saloon.
#1 – Frontman Jah C vs Jeremy Wyatt
Back in July, two of the smoothest wrestlers on the independent scene stepped in an IPW ring together and created a masterpiece in storytelling. Frontman Jah C and Jeremy Wyatt battled their way through the Hall of Fame tournament in order to get to this match and it delivered in spades.
IPW George Tragos/Lou Thesz Hall of Fame Tournament Finals
IPW Hall of Fame Show
Wyatt entered first and had to brush off an idiot fan who grabbed him by the shoulder. Said fan was lucky he didn’t end up twisted in knots like so many of Wyatt’s opponents. Jah C came out second and per usual, was full of confidence.
As Jah entered the ring, Wyatt chop blocked his knee. The cheap shot elicited a chorus of boos from the fans in attendance. That knee became Wyatt’s obsession and ultimately the Frontman’s downfall. Wyatt’s assault on the knee included a bevy of holds and strikes, each weakening the leg. A knee drop followed by a half Boston Crab put Jah in a precarious position early on.
Wyatt’s brash slaps to the back of the Frontman’s head, fired up the first ever Black Wrestlers Matter Champion and Jah, fighting through the pain, hit Wyatt with a flurry of punches and an enziguri that would make the late Owen Hart proud.
Each time the Frontman seemed to be on the verge of victory, Wyatt would zero in on the injured leg. In one of the matches most dramatic moments, Wyatt locked in the figure four on Jah’s injured knee only to have it reversed putting the “Monarch” in a precarious position.
The finish was a brilliant display of transitions and counters. Wyatt dodged Jah C’s devastating superkick before locking Jah in a Boston Crab. With victory slipping away, Jah reversed the hold into a roll-up of his own.
Unfortunately for Jah C, Wyatt escaped the roll-up at two and transitioned it into an ankle lock. Knowing just how tenaciously tough Jah C is, Wyatt quickly locked his legs around Jah’s knee, applying even more pressure in the center of the ring.
With nowhere to go, Jah C fought off the pain as long as he could, but ultimately he was forced to submit. As Jah C tended to his knee, Wyatt made his exit to a chorus of boos. The boo’s eventually became cheers as the Waterloo fans showed their appreciation for the master class in storytelling and that is why this match was the best match I witnessed live in 2021.