Inspired by “Australian Wrestlers to Keep Your Eye On”
I am a native bay area resident, and have been attending Pro Wrestling Guerilla for close to a decade now. However, I have never been a fan of other California indies until recently. To me non-PWG California indie promotions have always felt incredibly low rent, and I have never seen potential in the talent we have out here. I became jaded, and known as a “anti-California wrestling guy.” Last year someone told me I had better start paying attention because the scene had improved tremendously.
They were right, and while a lot of the talent needs much more experience, the potential is there. I am writing this article to introduce and shine light on California (and Nevada, since Nevada is essentially part of the CA scene) wrestlers. I have excluded wrestlers who have already broken out from the region: Timothy Thatcher, Jeff Cobb, Brody King, Shotzi Blackheart, Delilah Doom, and Nicole Savoy. I’m going to break this into four categories: Northern California, Southern California, Reno, Las Vegas.
Northern California (NorCal)
This is the region where I live. There are three main promotions here: All Pro Wrestling, Hoodslam, and Pro Wrestling Revolution.
APW is the promotion with the most history and my hometown promotion. Most famously it was featured many years ago in the wrestling documentary Beyond The Mat. APW also holds The King of Indies tournament, which is now co-promoted with PWR. APW was also the promotion where Sara Del Rey and Cheerleader Melissa were trained by Bryan Danielson. Other notable trainees include The Great Khali, Spike Dudley, Brent Albright, and Bison Smith. My two major problems with APW is they constantly book ex-WWE wrestlers and put them in main event spots and almost none of their shows make tape so it’s difficult for wrestlers to break out.
“The Samoan Werewolf” Jacob Fatu
Fatu is the most well known prospect from the Bay Area. A member of the famous Anoaʻi family and the son of The Tonga Kid—who often accompanies Jacob to the ring.
Fatu is a powerhouse who can also fly like a junior. Jacob has had a great 2018, becoming one of the top players in All Pro Wrestling (his home promotion), Pacific Coast Wrestling in Los Angeles, and making his debut in The Crash, even joining Garza Jr.’s stable “La Rebelion”. With Fatu’s skill and last name I wouldn’t be shocked if there is a WWE run in his future.
“Jungle Boy” Nate Coy
If this were a draft, Jungle Boy would be my number one pick without a doubt.
Coy is one of the top upcoming flyers in wrestling, consistently having the best matches on APW shows with his electrifying performances. He is by far the most over wrestler at APW, to the point that the fans are hijacking main events with “Jungle Boy” chants. Jungle Boy resembles a young Ricochet, both in style and somewhat in appearance, with a lanky frame and even sporting wild hair. As Nate ascends up the wrestling ladder, he is probably going to need a new look and gimmick. Jungle Boy’s biggest obstacle is that unfortunately APW shows don’t regularly make tape, so most of his best work isn’t online, but he is a future star in the making. Also he is the son of actor Luke Perry.
“Flying Lion” Marcus Lewis
Before 2018 I was not a fan of Lewis as I thought he was incredibly generic. But this year he has really stepped his game up, with great performances in APW against Flip Gordon and Reno Scum (with partner Will Hobbs). Lewis is a pure babyface with a ton of great fire. Unfortunately, as the quality of his performances have gone up, the number of bookings has gone down. In my opinion he is the biggest victim of APW shows not making tape. Hopefully Lewis sticks it out and makes it out of NorCal soon.
Although Royal is a three-time APW tag team champion with partner Levi Shapiro as The Classic Connection. The quasi-comedy duo was more known for their manager, Wrestling With Wregret’s Brian Zane. I have always thought Royal was the future star of the team, and after getting accepted to the NJPW LA dojo, that does appear to be the case. He has always wrestled as an “old school” chicken shit heel, and it is going to be fascinating to see how he wrestles after training with Shibata.
“Warrior Princess” Samara
With tours of Japan in 2018—including debuting in DDT and Tokyo Joshi Pro as well as debuting for Beyond Wrestling—The Warrior Princess is ready to break out. Still a little rough at times in the ring, Samara has a tremendous look and lots of charisma. I fully expect her to break out in the next year or two.
Southern California (SoCal):
Obviously SoCal is known for PWG, but there are actually a lot of other promotions there too. Pacific Coast Wrestling is the main SoCal promotion excluding PWG. It is the promotion for people who want more locals in PWG. They have the best wrestlers in the state, top fly-ins, plenty of Lucha, and hot crowds. PCW is a promotion on the rise, and they also get their shows online quickly on the Highspots Network.
Other promotions include Bar Wrestling, Alternative Wrestling Show, Championship Wrestling From Hollywood, and B-Boy’s Ground Zero: San Diego (which you can find on YouTube).
Atlas made his PWG debut this year in a four-way that also included Brody King, Eli Everfly, and Douglas James. That match was a disaster. On his second chance Jake redeemed himself with a very good match against Rey Horus, and I fully expect him back in PWG on a regular basis after BOLA.
Since his PWG debut, Jake has also had great matches with Ultimo Dragon in APW and Vancouver’s Artimis Spencer in Quintessential Pro Wrestling in Los Angeles. Atlas is super athletic, and great for someone with less than three years of wrestling experience, and a great representative of the LGBT community. He is likely the next California wrestler to break out on a national level.
With a disastrous debut in PWG it is unclear if he will get another shot in the future. However, Eli has gained a cult following with his unique look, size, and general insanity. Eli is a regular at Bar Wrestling where he teams with Delilah Doom as Doom Fly, and at Game Changer Wrestling where he tries to kill himself by taking the most disgusting bumps possible.
“Young Fuego” Adrian Quest
Adrian Quest AKA Young Fuego, who does not play. Quest is VOW’s Joe Lanza’s favorite wrestler, and for good reason. At just 22 years old, Quest is one of the most exciting flyers in SoCal, a current student of Shibata at the LA New Japan Dojo. Quest also has a tour of Mexico under his belt.
Bateman is one of the most respected wrestlers in California. It took him over a decade and a half to finally catch a break in wrestling when he was booked for PWG earlier this year. At this point in his career I expect Bateman to take on a Chris Hero NXT type role in SoCal, mentoring younger talent and getting them ready for bigger and better things. It can’t be understated how much of an asset Bateman is to the California scene moving forward, as he is also a trainer at the Santino Bros. wrestling school.
“American Thunder” Dicky Mayer
One of the coolest things to me is getting to see the progress Dicky has made. It wasn’t that long ago that Dicky was paying his dues as part of Jesse Hernandez’s crew setting up rings at PWG shows. Over the past couple years Dicky has been on tours in Mexico and Japan, training at Taka Michinoku’s K-DOJO.
Reno Scum (Adam Thornstowe and Luster the Legend)
Arguably the top team in California/Nevada (not including The Young Bucks) right now. They have held numerous tag titles all throughout the region. Although Thornstowe is more famous of the two, the powerhouse Luster has had his share of success, with an APW title run and a great match with Matt Riddle at QPW earlier this year. Thornstowe has won King of Indies, and wrestled in PWG, but at this point it looks like a major breakout is unlikely. Reno Scum are in a similar position as Tyler Bateman is in SoCal, having great matches on lower level indies and mentoring young wrestlers. They trained the next three guys I’m going to talk about.
“Big F’N Deal” Karl Fredericks
The first time I saw Karl wrestler I knew he was a future superstar. The former high school quarterback is arguably the best pure athlete on this list. He is a tremendous cocky heel, his character is a douchebag jock. Great look, great talker, and his matches always flow smoothly. He is now training at the New Japan Dojo and I wouldn’t be shocked if he shows up at New Japan proper in the near future.
“Chocolate Papi” Stryker Ngongoseke
Most known for his tag match at King of Indies where he and Fredericks (known as Reno Over Everything) wrestled their trainers Reno Scum for the APW tag titles. Styker was never someone I was super high on until that match, but since then he has shown improvement every time I see him wrestle.
“The Reject” Bison Braddock
Bison hasn’t been wrestling very long and is very green but if you watch his matches you can tell he is going to be a really good worker. He is like a Davey Richards-sized Biff Busick, but with a very stoic menacing personality. Bison is in tremendous shape, and has that motor that you see in guys like Strong or Biff. He works stiff and loves his suplexes. With more experience I see Bison as a future breakout star.
“Dashing” Chris Bey
Bey is the lone representative I want to talk about from Las Vegas scene. Bey is actually from Virginia but wrestles on the West Coast. He is incredibly athletic, possesses tremendous flying ability and has a swagger about him. He only has 35 matches listed on Cagematch at the time of this writing so he still has a ways to go. Regardless, Bey has shown a lot in his limited number of matches, including an impressive showing against Australia’s Adam Brooks in Maverick Pro in LA.
I would love to end this article with match recommendations, unfortunately a lot of California promotions do not make tape, including APW.