The Joy of Indy Wrestling: #RAWlternative Recap
The sheer volume of anger surrounding Roman Reign’s Royal Rumble victory inspired me to write this review. In my debut column for Voices of Wrestling I professed my deep love for independent wrestling. Indeed, I find it good for my soul as a fan. Independent wrestling is composed of men and women who lover the squared circle as much as the fans. Performers regularly try to out-do each other on a nightly basis yielding quality match after quality match on just one card. Indy fans are on their feet on all night reveling in the magic of a live show not booing in dread.
Perhaps the most appealing aspect of the indys is the immense volume of it. So, many different styles and promotions exist that it is possible to never tire of the product. And what is more fun than discovering new promotions and wrestlers?
I hope this review will serve as a guide to diversity of the independent scene and to ease any confusion I’ve provided a brief description of each promotion. Every company represented in the review as shows for sale on SMVOD.com for ten dollars.
Welcome to the joyous world of independent wrestling.
From C-4 Wrestling – Kevin Steen vs. Mike Bailey: Steen vs. Bailey was not so much a wrestling match as it was two men trying to demolish one another. From the moment the bell rang Steen made it clear he was going to punish the smaller man with his tremendous size advantage. Determined to prove that the fight of the dog matters most Mike Bailey fought back using a crowd pleasing mixture of strikes and aerial moves. Bailey’s never say die attitude translated into multiple kick outs from Mr. Wrestling’s famed arsenal, including the Package Piledriver. The spunky underdog had to use most of his own move set to put Steen down, finally earning the pin with a 450 Senton.
These two tore into each other in front of a nuclear Ottawa crowd and though the match had a few too many near falls for my taste I thoroughly enjoyed viewing it. ***¾
Located in Canada’s capital, C-4 boasts a diverse roster from all over the world.
From Inter Species Wrestling – Ninja with Attitude vs. The Food Fighters: Only the most hardened wrestling fan can hate a match that features a performer wearing a Guy Fawkes mask complete with chef hat. Fans of the CHIKARA style will enjoy ISW’s selection for the broadcast as a nice blend of comedy and high-flying make it eleven minutes of mindless fun. **½
On the promotion’s Facebook page ISW describes themselves as “… neutral battleground where sea creatures, gamers, zombies, and terrorist cows battle for supremacy”.
From AAW Pro – Eddie Kingston vs. Keith Walker: Many adjectives describe Eddie Kingston but underdog is a term I never thought would apply to The Last of a Dying Breed. Injured ribs made Kingston fight from underneath against the mammoth Keith Walker who targeted his mid-section with hard chops and slams. Despite the pummeling Kingston kept getting up and each time the crowd chanted his name an octave higher. Since out muscling Walker was out of the question Kingston turned to his ace in the hole, the Spinning Back Fist. A few shots of his trademark move put Walker down long enough for Kingston to hit an American D for the hard-earned victory.
Eddie Kingston as an underdog babyface worked surprisingly well in this hard-hitting battle of behemoths. *** ½
Situated in Chicago, AAW is a cocktail of the Midwest’s best and the elites of independent wrestling. Over the last ten years, the company has built a reputation for consistent work rate and engaging feuds.
From Inspire Pro Wrestling – Andy Dalton vs. Takkaki Watanabe: For the fan that wants their “wrasslin” to be black and white/good vs. evil I present this match. Andy Dalton lives to be dirty. It really is the only option he sees to fall back on when adversity rises. Take for instance during this match at the very moment Dalton realizes he cannot beat Wantanbe in a straight up brawl. To even the odds he runs, he cheats and he even licks the New Japan representative. Does this phase the virtuous Wantnabe one bit? No, he digs down deep into the mystical Japanese export, fighting spirit. The second adversity arrives for Takkaki, he improvises and finds a solution. Tenacity and honesty not only make anyone a victor in life but in the case of Takkaki Watanabe it makes them a winner in the ring.
An old match where the cheating heel is vanquished by the honorable hero. **¾
An unheralded gem on the American independent scene Texas-based Inspire Pro built their fan base with off the wall booking and an emphasis on women’s wrestling.
From St. Louis Anarchy – (Best 2 of 3 Falls) Gary Jay vs. Kyle O’Reilly: Gary Jay, of Submission Squad fame, is a solid professional wrestler. Is he on the same level as Kyle O’Reilly? Hell no. On paper, O’Reilly is an overwhelming choice for an easy victory. A fact that the Canadian reinforced with a quick submission victory in the first fall. Using machine like intensity O’Reilly continued the beating as the fight ventured outside the ring. At this point if you are Gary Jay how do you react? Easy, find something to level the playing field. Jay found his equalizer in the form of two steel chairs which coupled with a Backdrop Suplex won him the second fall. Okay, so Jay got a fluke fall. Was there any way possible his arm would be raised in victory? Yes, especially since he had a trio of helpers to distract O’Reilly long enough for Jay to move in for the kill and the 1-2-3.
Jay resourcefulness and trickery in the last two falls perfectly countered his inability to beat O’Reilly outright. ***½
Situated in the shadow of the Gateway Arch, the promotion regularly features indy darlings like ACH and Kyle O’Reilly.
From Alpha-1 Wrestling – Ricochet vs. Josh Alexander: The powerhouse vs. the high flyer, when done well no style clash yields better fights in pro-wrestling. I got a kick out of watching Alexander thrash Ricochet all over the ring. Like all Kentuckians though, Ricochet brought some thunder of his own to the party. Ditching the fancy flying at the door the former Open the Freedom Gate champion slammed and struck his way back into the match. Still, a man who calls himself “The Future of Flight” is more apt to garner the laurels of victory with a maneuver from up top—which Ricochet did.
Like I said when power meets flight magic happens in the ring. *** ½
A Canadian independent company that mixes the best wrestlers from north and south of the border. Alpha-1’s creativity extends to the monikers of their title belts, which are among the best in the industry.
From Girl’s Night Out – Athena vs. Mia Yim: Outside of NXT specials and Diva matches, my experience watching women’s wrestling is scant. After watching this match I have no idea why I didn’t seek out women’s independent wresting sooner. For close to twenty minutes these ladies kept me riveted. They grappled, they flew and better yet they lit each other up with strikes. To put the cherry on top Athena picked up the win with a gorgeous flying cutter.
Fast and furious carried the day in a contest with no dull moments. ***¾
The sister promotion of AIW features high quality women’s wrestling on a monthly basis.
From 2CW – Chris Hero vs. Colin Delaney: Colin Delaney’s big break came as WWECW’s version of Mikey Whipwreck. Against Chris Hero he channeled his past as a human punching bag. Delaney sold hard for Hero’s never ending blitz of elbow strikes. Even with Hero’s dominance, Delaney got to show his goods as well. Late in the match he rocked the knockout artist with ferocious forearms and before that chain wrestled him to a draw. Though his spirit was admirable Delaney proved that heart simply cannot overcome sick roaring elbows and when the dust settled Chris Hero was hailed triumphant.
A lot of credit for the quality of this match goes to Colin Delaney. His selling and overall likeability was as impressive as Hero’s hard effort. ***½
New York based 2CW regularly features the best wrestlers in the Northeastern United States.
From Dreamwave Wrestling – AR Fox & Rich Swann vs. Christian Rose & Matt Cage: I wanted to gush about this match because I enjoy the work of all four participants. Even with the considerable talent in the contest this match is basic and forgettable. DREWAMWAVE chose poorly in their chance to make a statement to a larger audience. To be blunt, I expected more from one of my favorite promotions.
Cage & Rose win in a generic tag team match. ***
DREAMWAVE Wrestling: Located in the middle of nowhere (LaSalle, Illinois) blends local and outside talent to perfection. Definitely one of the better booked promotions in the U.S.
From Hoodslam – Brian Kendrick vs. Dark Sheik: Before I go off on a tangent let me make one thing clear. The little wrestling that took place in this match is fine. A crowd trying to get itself over ruined it. Some Oakland yokel threw a stuffed horse in the ring. Watching Kendrick use the prop was momentarily humorous but he finally threw it back into the crowd. The crowd feel in love with the plush Mr. Ed and kept throwing it back in the ring. Situations like this disgust me because the chicanery distracts from the effort of the performers. I was so infuriated by this audience I lost my critical objectivity and declared the contest a DUD.
Hoodslam is a colorful promotion based out of Oakland, California.
From AIW Wrestling – Johnny Gargano vs. Ethan Page: Ethan Page needed to win this match. In a promo leading up to the contest Page described how his career went into a tailspin following his loss to Gargano at the previous year’s Absolution. To beat Johnny Wrestling on his home turf would, in Page’s eyes, would be his salvation.
All Ego proved he was all business by sending his Unit buddies to the back. For once there were no cheap shots and no interference for Page. He even decked members of his own stable when they tried to get involved. Still, no matter how valiant his effort Ethan Page could not best Johnny Gargano and past out in the Gargano Escape. After the match Gargano shook his former rival’s hand. Page did not get his win back but he did regain his self-respect.
A good match with a great story of redemption involving Ethan Page. ****
Absolute Intense Wrestling: The Cleveland based promotion is famous for introducing the world to Johnny Gargano and Canadian stars such as Ethan Page. AIW is worth the watch for their tremendous promos, booking and tongue in cheek humor.
From SMASH Wrestling – The Super Smash Brothers vs. The Young Bucks: Throw out any desire to see intricate storytelling and psychology before you view this match because that will ruin it for you. Turn your mind and just enjoy the sheer spectacle of the bout. Two teams known for their high-octane offense showed superb chemistry. The first ten minutes of the match are slow due to the teams acting cute for the crowd. Once the match hit a higher gear the drudgery of the first half is easily forgotten. For each creative double team move from the Jackson’s, Players Uno and Dos countered with an equally as impressive maneuver. Matt and Nick Jackson are true wizards with superkick spots and during the closing stretch I believe they performed their best. Superkicks did not carry the day for the Bucks but More Bang for Your Buck was enough for the most over team on the planet to get the win.
The most creative spotfest I have viewed in the last six months. ***¾
SMASH runs shows in the Toronto area and features an excellent blend of Canadian talent and American freelancers.
From Beyond Wrestling – Eddie Edwards vs. Biff Busick: Busick and Edwards are two of the most intense men on the planet. Any contest between them is not an exhibition, it is war.
At the opening bell Biff and Eddie commenced a chop battle that made my chest sting in sympathy. Poor Edwards even chopped a steel post when the brawl spilled ringside. After each shot I kept murmuring “Damn” because the rivalry was purported as friendly. I do not dare envision what a blood feud between Busick and Edwards would unfold. With the amount of testosterone flying in the match the loser would not be pinned or submitted, only a knockout would signal who was the better man. On this night Eddie Edwards was and he gained victory with an Achilles Lock aided with stomps to Busick’s head, rendering his foe unconscious.
A beautiful symphony of violence. ****
Beyond Wrestling: What started as a way for wrestlers to build a highlight demo has evolved into the PWG of the East Coast with a tremendous venue in Providence, RI that is rumored to also be the home of a tremendous grilled cheese truck