Moments Ago: A Look at Some of the Top Indies

Moments Ago: A look at some of the top Indies

Over the past few weeks you have seen a switch in focus from solely RoH based to columns to an occasional review or opinion piece about one of the myriad independent wrestling companies around the country. Some indy companies put on amazing shows everytime out of the gate. Others have a few good matches and some things that are better left avoided. Regardless, independent professional wrestling is rarely a full time source of income for any of the wrestlers involved. These wrestlers go out of their way to try and put on a show the fans can enjoy. Odds state that many of these wrestlers will never make it to WWE, but that doesn’t stop them from being stars for a few minutes each weekend, even if it is only in front a few fans. This week’s Moments Ago is going to take a look at a few of the top independent companies that you can support with your hard earned dollars. This list was created with a ton of help from “A Modest Response’s” Pulse Glazer. Also in response to an e-mail I received from Ryan Ro about a couple of western Canada’s top independent federations.

Ring of Honor

Location: Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, England, and several other spots

What they do well: If you ever read my column you should know about Ring of Honor. The short answer to this question is just about everything. A more critical eye will put the emphasis on a few certain things. Ring of Honor is untouchable in the ring in terms of wrestling. No company in North America comes close to the level of wrestling that RoH presents every show. They have some of the best wrestlers in the world.

Ring of Honor also has some of the best booking of any televised company in the United States. Their story progression is always logical and rarely, if ever, insults the intelligence of the viewer. I know it may be a hard concept to wrap one’s head around, but just take a gander at the RoH Pay per View and make up your mind for yourself.

Champions: Takeshi Morishima (World Champion), The Briscoes (Tag Champions)

Go out of your way to see: Bryan Danielson, Jay and Mark Briscoe, Nigel McGuinness, Chris Hero, Brent Albright and Austin Aries

Pro Wrestling Guerrilla

Location: Los Angeles Area, Southern California

What they do well: Pro Wrestling Guerrilla is probably the top wrestling promotion on the west coast. Granted, there is not much in the way of competition, but that does not stop PWG from putting on some of the best wrestling shows out there. Their live crowds are not very large or very vocal. Much of this can be attributed to the jaded nature of the populous of Los Angeles. The wrestling however is great and translates to great DVDs.

They may put an emphasis on comedic wrestling. With show titles like “PWG: The Musical,” “Michael Dorn Night,” and “Kee_ the _ out of our _ool” it is hard at times to take them completely seriously. However with shows like the annual “Battle for Los Angeles” tournament and “All Star Weekend” they know how to bring in top talent and entertain the fans taking a break from trying to sell celebrity photos to the tabloids.

Champions: El Generico (World Champion), Roderick Strong and Pac (Tag Champions)

Go out of your way to see: Arrogance – Chris Bosh and Scott Lost, Super Dragon, Joey Ryan, Pac

IWA: Mid South

Location: Central Illinois (Midlothian), Indiana, and Kentucky with occasional forays into the northeast

What they do well: IWA: Mid South, run by Ian Rotten, has long been one of the top independent wrestling companies in the country. Their annual shows like the “Ted Petty Invitational,” “The King of the Deathmatch,” “The Revolution Strong Style Tournament” and this year’s “Candido Cup” tag team tournament are some of the best shows produced by any company.

Their style goes mostly into the hardcore realm but they have great technical wrestlers as well showcased in the TPI. While I am not a fan of hardcore or death match wrestling, the IWA loyal certainly are. Their hardcore matches are some of the most insane you will see anywhere. The “hardcore rumble” at IWA’s last Philadelphia show was absolutely nuts. It did nothing for me as a fan, but most of the people in attendance loved it.

Champions: Chuck Taylor (Heavyweight Champion), The Iron Saints – Vito and Sal Thomaselli (Tag Champions), Brandon Thomaselli (Lightweight Champion). Mickie Knuckles (Women’s Champion), Corporal Robinson (Deathmatch Champion)

Go out of your way to see: Chuck Taylor, Arik Cannon, and The Iron Saints (Sal, Vito, and Brandon Thomaselli), The Northstar Express (Darin Corbin and Ryan Cruz)

Chikara

Location: Central Pennsylvania and Philadelphia

What they do well: Chikara’s biggest strength is their in-ring product and their light hearted attitude. They have some of the best wrestlers around the country in Mike Quackenbush, Claudio Castagnoli, Chris Hero, and others. Chikara also has one of the top wrestling schools in the country. Because of this, they have a constant influx of new talent and a great forum to improve on. One of their recent graduates, Tim Donst, gets to be in the ring with Eddie Kingston, who of course is one of the top names on the indies today. Chikara uses an excellent analogy to explain their style. They look at a wrestling match like a canvas and the wrestlers are like paints. They say why would you want to paint with only two colors, hence you will see a lot of multi-man matches on a Chikara show.

Chikara may not be for everyone, as their family friendly lucha libre influenced does not appeal to the drunken unwashed masses that typically attend wrestling shows. I would advise those fans to check out a DVD first because some of the debauchery and foul language that purveys most wrestling shows would result in an ejection from a Chikara event. Chikara is also starting to branch out of their central Pennsylvania roots and presenting a show next weekend in Connecticut.

Champions: Team F.I.S.T (Icarus and Gran Akuma)-Campeones de Parejas, Larry Sweeney (ICW/ICWA Texarkana Televison Title)

Go out of your way to see: Mike Quackenbush, Jigsaw, Gran Akuma, Icarus, Claudio Castagnoli, and Hallowicked

Jersey All Pro Wrestling

Location: New Jersey Area

What they do well: Consistency would have to be the answer for JAPW. They have been around for almost a decade and consistently draw some of the biggest houses in the northeast. JAPW also has some of the most loyal and dedicated fans around the independent scene. Their shows are a nice mix of brawling, technical wrestling and high flying.

They also provide the northeast with some of the top talent from around the country. JAPW was also the starting point for wrestlers like Low Ki, Homicide, most of the Special K and others. JAPW’s anniversary show is usually their best effort of the year, but lately they have been providing fans in the northeast a chance to see the former RoH wrestlers that TNA has made nearly exclusive.

Champions: Low Ki (JAPW World Heavyweight Champion), Grim Reefer (NJ State Champion), LAX – Homicide and Hernandez (JAPW Tag Champions)

Go out of your way to see: Low Ki, Grim Reefer, Eddie Kingston, Deranged

Combat Zone Wrestling

Location: Philadelphia, PA

What they do well: CZW has been one of the longest running independent wrestling companies, period. At one point they were the standard bearer of Philadelphia wrestling after the demise of ECW. Their annual “Best of the Best” and “Cage of Death” shows are sought after by DVD collectors around the country.

Their style puts an emphasis hardcore wrestling and they certainly bring the ultra violence. Lately, though, it seems that CZW has been burning bridges. They did not capitalize on their relationship with Ring of Honor in 2006, they seemed to have severed their ties with Chikara, and with changes in their message boards seem to even be alienating their fans. The last thing I want is to see an independent company fail; especially one with the history of CZW.

Champions: Justice Pain (World Champion), Toby Klein (Iron Man Champion), Ruckus and Sabian (Tag Champions)

Go out of your way to see: Necro Butcher, Toby Klein

IWA: Deep South

Location: Alabama and Kentucky

What they do well: This might be the company that I know the least about. They have death match wrestles like Insane Lane and Freakshow, which turns me off. But they put their belt on Quack which makes me think they are doing something right. They also have a relationship with IWA: Mid South which will benefit both groups. Signs point to a feud between Deep South and Mid South which will increase revenue for both parties. Deep South also has at their disposal the best wrestlers from the southern region of the country and have a good relationship with Chikara, or so their roster indicates. IWA: Deep South could be making a lot of waves in the future.

Champions: Mike Quackenbush (Champion),

Go out of your way to see: Drake Younger, Riccochet, Cabana Man Dan, and Sal Rinuaro

International Wrestling Syndicate

Location: Quebec, Canada

What they do well: IWS was the talk of the independent scene about two years ago. They produced athletes like Kevin Steen, El Generico, Sexxy Eddie, Beef Wellington who were in high demand all over the United States. They still have a great core of athletes like the ones mentioned above. They have a good mix of styles on their shows bring everything from comedy to no rope barbed wire matches. Quebec has always been a hot spot for wrestling. It certainly seems that IWS is continuing that tradition.

Champions: Viking (Champion), Max Boyer (Canadian Champion)

Go out of your way to see: Kevin Steen, El Generico, Max Boyer, Shayne Hawke

UWA Hardcore

Location: Southern Ontario, Canada

What they do well: Despite their Hardcore name UWA has some of the best wrestlers on the independent scene. Their location in Southern Ontario allows them to bring in stars like Matt Cross, Josh Prohibition, Josh Abercrombie and others. They also regularly bring in Japanese talent. This must be due to the easier travel into Canada than the United States. Recently they have brought in Ultimo Dragon and Jushin “Thunder” Liger. The chance to see these all time great wrestlers is reason enough by itself to check out a UWA Hardcore DVD.

Champions: Josh Prohibition (Heavyweight Champion), Tyler Black (Lightweight Champion)

Go out of your way to see: Chris Sabin, Alex Shelley, Josh Prohibition, Tyler Black

Squared Circle Wrestling

Location: Syracuse, NY

What they do well: The thing that 2CW does best is entertain the fans. In only a little over a year they have built up a rabid and loyal fanbase and have expanded from their home at the Pasttime Athletic Club in Syracuse to all over upstate and central New York. Their core of wrestlers may not be the most well known names but can hold their own with the many top stars that they bring in like 2 Cold Scorpio, Samoa Joe, King Kong Bundy and others.

It is hard to pigeonhole a style for 2CW. They have presented hardcore matches, technical masterpieces, and some of the best tag team wrestling outside of Ring of Honor. They exist in a place where wrestling is scarce. WWE shows have always drawn well in central New York, so it was only a matter of time before an independent wrestling company was able to capitalize on the drought in pro wrestling in the area.

Champions: Dizzie (Champion)

Go out of your way to see: Loca Vida, Isys Ephex, JD Love, the Killer Steves

East Coast Wrestling Association

Location: Delaware

What they do well: I said that JAPWs biggest strength was consistency, but they pale in comparison to ECWA. For almost 40 years Jim Kettner has produced consistent shows in Delaware. The biggest contribution that ECWA has made to the wrestling world is the Super 8 tournament. It is far and away the most prestigious tournament on the independent scene and has featured many WWE, TNA, and RoH talent.

Champions: Aden Chambers (Heavyweight champion), Bryan Logan (Mid Atlantic Champion), The Heavyweights (Tag Champion)

Go out of your way to see: “Reckless Youth” Tom Carter, Andrew Ryker, The Valedictorians of Rob Eckos and Billy Bax

Full Impact Pro

Location: Florida

What they do wel:l The easy out on this is to say that FIP’s best asset is as a “developmental league” for Ring of Honor. While it is true that many wrestles receive a first look via FIP before debuting in RoH. FIP is much more. Many have called it a strong style Memphis, meaning that it is a new twist on old school wrestling. It is also provides a chance to see wrestlers who normally compete in RoH in a different light.

Champions: Roderick Strong (Champion), The Briscoes (Tag Champions), Erick Stevens (Florida Heritage Champion)

Go out of your way to see: Roderick Strong, Erick Stevens, Delirious, Jimmy Rave, and Larry Sweeney

Maryland Championship Wrestling

Location: Maryland

What they do well: This is a company that truly knows their audience. The show I attended was a good mix of all types of wrestling. While I didn’t love every minute; it truly seemed like the fans did. Granted the “Shane Shamrock Cup” is not the typical MCW show it did offer a glimpse into what their normal offerings are. They draw tremendous crowds, and that is nothing to be sneezed at. Also they provide the only local access to professional wrestling on a consistent basis without people needing to travel to Philadelphia, New Jersey or Delaware. MCW has been in business for a long time, and all signs point to staying in business for a long time more.

Champions: Joey Matthews (heavyweight champ), BLK Out of Ruckus and Sabian (tag champs), Derek Frazier (Cruiserweight Champ)

Go out of your way to see: BLK Out, Joey Matthews, Josh Daniels

Prairie Wrestling Alliance

Location: Edmonton, Alberta

What they do well: More and more with every show. Alberta is a shell of its former self as far as being a wrestling hotbed, and for a while it looked like PWA might fold. Since the new year, however, the promoter has turned the promotion around. Shows are running regularly, hype is building, and the storylines have stepped up a notch. Recently, PWA brought in Abdullah The Butcher, Johnny “Havok” Devin and SAMOA JOE for a one-night shot, one of the best cards in recent Edmonton history – and by all accounts, it ended up being the PWA wrestlers who stole the show with Juggernaut vs ECCW’s Scotty Mac! The roster is almost entirely local or mostly local, but wrestlers like Phoenix Taylor, Marky Mark and Tex Gaines are all known. This is classic wrestling action with some serious high-flying. Prior to signing developmental deals with WWE, Harry Smith and TJ Wilson, along with Nattie Neidhart, were all regulars in PWA. For Edmonton wrestling fans, PWA’s resurgence is nothing but awesome!

Champions: Phoenix Taylor (heavyweight), Marky Mark (cruiserweight), Thunder & Lightning (tag), The Polite Police (o-hardcore champion… uh… champions)

Go out of your way to see: Dusty Adonis, Juggernaut, Phoenix Taylor, Ravenous Randy, Marky Mark (skinniest white boy ever but damn can he fly)

Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling

Location: Vancouver, British Columbia

What they do well: ECCW has been around for over a decade. They are pretty much NWA’s only Canadian league at this point, but they don’t really sell themselves on being an NWA affiliate. “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson was a big part of ECCW early in his career and still makes pit-stops, three matches this summer. Davey Richards is wrestling several matches this summer as well. ECCW has a core of veterans such as “Gorgeous” Michelle Starr and “Rocket” Randy Tyler with face/heel lines very clearly drawn. They also have a crop of young, locally trained talent taking on the modern style of wrestling. There are ROH quality match-ups on the card and good old fashioned cheating heels. Shows are on time and well-organized and usually very satisfying to watch. Really the only wrestling in Pacific Canada.

Champions: Aaron Idol (ECCW Champ), Masked Dudes of Doom (Tag champs), Veronika Vice (Supergirls champ), Scotty Mac (Hardcore champion), Cole Bishop (NWA Canadian Heavyweight Champion), Ice (NWA Jr Heavyweight Champion)

Go out of your way to see: Scotty Mac, “Rocket” Randy Tyler, Kyle O’Reilly, “Brilliant” Billy Suede, “Tornado” Tony Kozina
In Conclusion

I hope this column leads people to check out independent wrestling near them. If you live in an area with a solid indy that you love and I haven’t covered e-mail me.

Before I go, here are some links around the pulse to check out.

Big Andy Mac’s Big Andy Links

First up is the Top 100 Wrestlers feature. It is a great way for newer fans to learn about some of the older wrestlers and some wrestling history of the past near 30 years.

There are also a couple of Pulse Wrestling writers who gave their thoughts on the RoH “Respect is Earned” Pay per View. Andy Wheeler’s is here, and Vin’s is here. Both guys present a perspective slightly different from RoHbots like Pulse Glazer and myself. I expect Aaron will go into great detail with his reactions to Wheeler and Vin in this week’s “A Modest Response.” I am going to wait until I see the Pay per View on TV before I say my piece.

Also big ups to Chris Biscuiti for two big posts in the same week. Chris is always insightful and this is no different.

Last, but by no means least is Ollie Sutherland and his review of Honor Invades Boston, a show from the first year RoH was in existence.

Well I guess that will do it for this week.

I’ll see you next time

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