St. Louis Anarchy
Spirit Of Spaulding – Block A
August 7, 2020
Spaulding Hall
Alton, IL

Watch: IndependentWrestling.tv

Let’s make no bones about it; making plans to run a 24-person, 11-month long indie wrestling round-robin tournament is ambitious. It is so ambitious that it is bordering on stupid. As covered on the August 7th VOW Flagship podcast, with the ever-changing indie wrestling landscape, where one hyped up match can get you signed away to a major promotion, the idea of locking in 24 wrestlers for an 11-month commitment is absurd. If you add in the propensity of injuries, the unlikely nature of weather in 2020, and, oh yeah, a little thing called COVID-19, the idea of running an 11-month tournament just doesn’t make sense. And yet, one of the best independent promotions in the United States, St. Louis Anarchy, is doing just that, providing the exact kind of nonsense this writer is here for.

The last time SLA ran a match, it was a co-produce show with Journey Pro that consisted entirely of a 60-minute Ironman match between Fred Yehi & SLA Champion Jeremy Wyatt, that just so happens to be one of the best matches of the year. Both Yehi and Wyatt are back for this long round-robin tournament, but are also joined by 22 other independent talents of various levels of experience and style. Essentially, SLA plans to run two events a month, one event per block. While the results certainly won’t be as high on the star-ratings scale as New Japan Pro Wrestling during the G1, SLA nevertheless has created two intriguing blocks of wrestlers that will certainly put on some good-to-great matches. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this long-form tournament is the chance that SLA has to develop long term storytelling, feuds, variation in match styles and more. In a time where much of indie wrestling relies on gimmicks–from wrestlers you thought were retired, to deathmatches, to comedy–SLA is out here to provide good, solid wrestling at least 22 times over the next year from Spaulding Hall.

GARY JAY (2) DEF. THE KENWAY (0)

If the first match of the Spirit of Spaulding tournament is anything to go by, this is going to be a hell of a lot of fun. Gary Jay, for those unfamiliar, goes by the name the “Stiff Robo Ginger.” While he doesn’t have the best look in the world (though his tights on this show were great), the dude can hit as hard as anyone in the indies. Known for his elbow and forearm shots, the guy can basically adapt his style to mix it up with just about anyone and once carried the SLA Gateway Heritage Championship for 862 days. The Kenway, formerly known as Matt, is a young up-and-comer who has always shown potential. Kenway is a bit of a Kyle O’Reilly cosplay, from the tights to the ground and pound to the rebound lariat. This would normally be annoying, but it really works here and it really worked with Gary Jay. These two really beat the hell out of one another for 12 minutes with strikes, but Kenway had the advantage with high-impact moves, including an awesome Regal-plex on the apron and a high arching Chaos Theory suplex. An absolutely sick match which served to get the crowd and viewers at home super excited for what these two will do in the future. Jay eventually got the win with multiple nasty forearms and small package for the 3. (***¾)

JAKE DIRDEN (2) DEF. SEAN ORLEANS (0)

As this match was happening live, it felt like a bit of a letdown after the awesome first match, but upon reflection, it was one that was actually very smartly booked and creates a bit more excitement for the entire tournament. Orleans used to go by “Dad Bod” and works as an announcer as much as a wrestler these days. As he entered the ring, the announcers told the audience that Orleans himself realizes that he is the biggest underdog in the tournament. IWTV tweeted “It looks like we have our Honma” (Tomoaki Honma almost went two G1’s without a win), and the story of the match was how much damage could Orleans take from Dirden. Dirden for his part played the monster in this match very well, despite not actually looking to be that much larger than Orleans. His beard, look and demeanor is more “American Badass” Undertaker than Bruiser Brody, but the match was worked with his stalking Orleans around the ring, Orleans getting some shots in here and there, but almost taking Dirden down with a sleeper. He put up a fight, but the strength of Dirden won out in the end, establishing him as a dominant killer and opening the door for Orleans to be the “lovable loser” who might eek out a win when we least expect it! This is good booking, bravo!

BILLIE STARKZ (2) DEF. MIKEY! (0)

I try to be positive and focus on the positives when reviewing wrestling, but this match really didn’t do much for me. It seemed to be really clunky, slow and too long, with a handful of spots that didn’t connect. Billie did manage to hit a really killer powerbomb on Mikey (and he did the same to her), but that was really it for me. It will be interesting to see how these two match up against KILLERS like Dirden because I’m not sure how it’ll go. Billie got the win with a rollup.

COLE RADRICK (2) DEF. EVERETT CONNORS (0)

Here was a match I was a little hesitant on coming into this, but totally delivered in the end. I haven’t watched a lot of Connors since I stopped reviewing Glory Pro three years ago. Back then, I was not a fan; he is terribly clever with his offense, which is awesome, but carried one of those gimmicks I can’t get into. He appears to have refined it quite a bit here, wearing a pink tie-dyed jumpsuit with pink Jordans, big gold earrings, spiky hair and wearing his COVID mask. You just want to hate him. Radrick gets a lot of grief for how young he looks, but like Connors, he has some of the most innovative offense in wrestling. He’s also deceptively strong, pulling out big power moves that seem like they would be unlikely. This match played to the strengths of both men, and while it didn’t hit the highs of the opener, it nevertheless had a lot of really exciting exchanges and featured moves I don’t have a name for. As expected, Radrick got the win with Lil’ Sebastian’s Curse. Super solid match and one that will definitely appeal to the “MOVEZ” crowd. 

ACE PERRY (2) DEF. BSTRD CASSIDY (FILLING IN FOR DAVEY VEGA) (0)

BSTRD Cassidy was just filling in for injured Davey Vega for the night, but after seeing this huge man-baby, the whole internet was into the idea of wanting to see more. With a body shape reminiscent of JD Drake and a hard-hitting offense reminiscent of WALTER, this young kid definitely intrigues. He obliterated Ace Perry with a handful of slams, including a DISGUSTING powerbomb on the apron.

Perry, for his part, played the role of the quick, smaller wrestler perfectly. Recently dethroned as the IWA-MS champion, he used his speed to run circles around Cassidy, perfectly timing his strikes, suplexes and kicks. A fun match on the whole with the size dynamic, and it left me excited to see more of both wrestlers, but Perry wound up getting the win with my least favorite move: a springboard cutter.



THOMAS SHIRE (2) DEF. FRED YEHI (0)

What a match! Following up the Ironman match from July with this bad boy has fans like me BUZZING for Fred Yehi once again. Here, Yehi worked as the mean veteran, constantly grinding down the larger Shire with fists, stomps and body scissors. Shire, who has an excellent display of amateur grappling, was in his element as well; he was always fighting back, powering out of Yehi’s holds and able to sneak huge European uppercuts out of nowhere. Like a lot of matches these two have with opponents, this is very much a throwback style with a lot taking place on the ground, the psychology focused on smaller moves, but where the action never lets up. Though there are LOTS of holds throughout this near 25-minute match, you can’t really call any of them “rest” holds – everything has meaning, everything is touched upon later, and everything is excellent. A compelling main event that showcases two of the best technical wrestlers in the U.S. today without a single HUGE spot. Shire’s strength and monstrous lariats weren’t enough to put Yehi away, but his size was and he got the win by blocking an ankle pick by sitting on Yehi. Excellent match, and one that any wrestling fan could enjoy. (****)

Final Thoughts

Overall, the first St. Louis Anarchy Spirit of Spaulding show was a home run. While not every match hit, most did. Some were even excellent. With a runtime well under 2 hours, this is a match (and tournament) that you all should be following. Block B has their work cut out for them.