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Faces to Watch the Second Half of 2017

2017 has been an amazing year in independent wrestling. Half way through the year, Billy Corgan has assumed control of the NWA, Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force has overtaken Impact, and NJPW has begun its conquest of America.

It’s been a spectacular year at all levels of independent wrestling. Here are a few names and faces you need to be watching as we enter the second half of the year.

NICK DEPP

Nick Depp began the year by winning The Prince of the Deathmatches – and promptly found himself on the sidelines nursing an injury. The temporary set back hasn’t slowed him down  a bit. “The Sports Entertainer” is expanding his territory and gaining new ground not only due to his in-ring work, but his skills on the mic. Depp cuts an amazing promo as a face but especially as a heel. His mouth is going to take him far.

ALEX DANIELS

“The Real Ben Affleck” is the talk of the independent wrestling podcasts, and with good reason. Take away the Ben Affleck gimmick, he is one of the brightest and most talented workers in the Midwest. One observer told me privately he thinks Daniels will be in Ring of Honor in just a few years. The Ohio native is expanding his territory as well, and it’s only a matter of time before he gets his big break.

MICKIE KNUCKLES

Mickie is no rookie. She’s been around for 17 years, breaking ground the WWE’s women are only now beginning to tread. Mickie has caught fire in 2017. She headlined a spectacular main event in Ft. Wayne covered in my blog back in April for Girl Fight. She and Randi West stirred controversy in Southern Indiana with a brutal falls count anywhere match. To top it all off, she just won the OVW Women’s Championship. This is Mickie’s year, and no one can stop her.

AMAZING MARIA

A Canadian transplant working out of Louisville, Kentucky, Amazing Maria is one of the most under-rated women in the women’s scene. Her skills in the ring are solid, and her character work as a heel improve with every outing. Whether she’s on her own, paired with Samantha Heights, or partnered with Horrorshow manager Jason Saint, Amazing Maria is a stand out on every show.

OI4K

I’ve been a fan of the Crist brothers, Dave and Jake, ever since they yanked the tag titles away from Aaron Williams and Ron Mathis at D1W a few years ago. Not only have they become regulars at IWA Mid-South, they’re making appearances for PWG in Los Angeles. Dave Crist has had an exceptional year, despite some injuries, having won the IWA Mid-South Championship and CZW’s Best of the Best 2017. A fellow wrestler told me he doesn’t think they’ll be exclusive to the Midwest for long. I couldn’t agree more.

INDY CARD MAFIA

The tag team of Thomas Brewington and Eric Emanon is starting to make deep inroads in the South and the Midwest. They put the southern territories on notice a few weeks ago when they invaded Atlanta’s AWE and shocked everyone by earning a victory over the red hot Carnies (another must see tag team, I might add). “Do we have your attention now?” Emanon asked on Facebook. Yes, sir, you do.

THE HITMAN FOR HIRE MR. GRIM

Mr. Grim is something special. His combination of speed, power, and high-flying make him a must-see attraction, but that’s not the reason you want to see this man live. You want to know what’s in the briefcase. You want to see what happens when the Hitman for Hire claims a victim. Grim is coming, and he’s headed your way sooner than you think.

KONGO KONG

Kong has already made the leap from indy darling to TV star, and his star’s about to get brighter. Kongo Kong was one of Jeff Jarrett’s early signees for Global Force Wrestling. Now, with GFW taking over and Jarrett firmly in control, there is no stopping the big man.

Please note: This is by no means a comprehensive list of the up and coming rising stars in independent wrestling. If you have a favorite you want to add to this list, please comment below. Let’s let the casual wrestling fans of the world know why they need to tune in to independent wrestling.

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Face Paint Etiquette

Wrestling is a strange business. Like most jobs, there are many unwritten rules in the locker room and in the ring that require wrestlers to show a little courtesy to their fellow grapplers. If you’re the last guy to take coffee from the break room, you start a new pot. If you’re going to put someone in a headlock, you should probably shave your pits.

With that in mind: here’s a friendly suggestion my friend Eric Emanon posted this morning on Facebook:

“Heads up.. If you’re a worker who paints your face and or body to work, please.. For the love of God.. Make sure your paint won’t ruin your opponent’s gear.

“I’ve got a set of gear that’s garbage now because of it. That’s after two washes and two spot treatments.”

Taking care of one another in the ring goes beyond making sure no one gets hurt. Don’t hurt your fellow workers in the wallet, either!

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Best of 2016 with The Carnies

There may not be a hotter faction heading into 2017 than The Carnies. Kerry Awful and Nick Iggy, the tag team formerly known as Team IOU, took the bold and brave step to embrace who they truly believe they are and change their name. It hasn’t hurt their stock one bit; if anything, it’s given them the momentum to take 2017 by storm.

The Carnies are poised to go to war with some of the best of the best this year. Folks like me are already coming up with dream matches. Carnies vs. Indy Card Mafia. Carnies vs. OI4K. These are old school-minded rasslers who live the heel life at every opportunity, making kids cry and eliciting genuine hatred from the fans. They’re exactly the kind of wrestler the independent scene needs to continue the modern indy revolution.

Kerry Awful asked me to share this match from their 2016 campaign at AWE vs. the Kraken, aka Chip Day and Murder One. Watch, enjoy, and start making your list of dream tag matches now.

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New Stores on Pro Wrestling Tees!

Piggybacking on yesterday’s blog about supporting indy wrestling, here are some NEW pages on Pro Wrestling Tees from wrestlers profiled right here:

“The Real Elite Athlete” Mike Orlando

Eric Emanon/ Indy Card Mafia

“The Project” Thomas Brewington (also ICM)

“The Baddest Man Alive” Aaron Williams

And one more for good measure:

Mad Man Pondo

Please support these guys by buying their merch AND going to their shows. If they’re not working anywhere near you, you can find Aaron Williams on Rockstar Pro Network and the other guys on High Spots.

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The Impeccable Keita Murray

12963468_10209152865241000_6206361431596577154_nAs the independent wrestling scene continues its resurgence, young men and women are finding more and more opportunities to test their mettle in the ring. Everyone of them dreams of breaking out as a national star, whether it be through the WWE and NXT or just their own perseverance. Recently, the Indy Card Mafia brought one such wrestler to my attention. He’s young, he’s hungry, and he’s shown he has the drive to become a star.

Keita Murray is a native of Brooklyn, New York. Like most wrestlers, he grew up a fan, following the exploits of The Rock, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, and Matt Hardy. At an early age, he and his friends were creating their own wrestling rings and title belts and practicing for their future glory. “My friends and I would wrestle each other and act like different WWE Superstars. We would get cardboard boxes, crayons, aluminum foil and make belts out of them.”

Keita’s passion for the business galvanized when he met his tag partner, Kit Cassidy. “We met in high school and funny story, we didn’t like each other at first. Then we found out that we shared a common interest of wrestling. I was a senior in high school he was a junior, and ever since then we have been best friends.

After giving college a chance, Keita enrolled at Back Breaker’s Training Center in Scranton, PA. “It’s such a great school to learn from. You learn a lot and you have a lot of opportunities there.”

Kit enrolled at Back Breakers with his best friend, and the two graduated together. Their first official match was a one on one affair between the two, but they have since united as a tag team known as The Impeccables. They currently hold two tag titles for Phoenix Pro Wrestling and Pennsylvania Premier Wrestling, and Murray recently won the Spotlight Championship at The Sanctuary Stunt Studio.

Keita has only been in the business a few years, but he’s had a number of memorable matches. He cites the Cash Masters as favorite tag opponents, along with fellow Back Breaker wrestlers Dante Dio and Jacoby Riddick. His favorite singles opponents thus far include Stevie Shields, Marq Queen, and Kyle Brad, whom he faced at WOH Wrestling. “I want to say the Kyle Brad match was my best because I had about eleven matches under my belt at the time and it was my second time being heel. It just seemed like everything fell in place for that match, and that’s the match that elevated my confidence in the ring.”

Keita work mostly in Pennsylvania, doing appearances for GSW Wrestling in Moosic, PA; PPW Wrestling and The Sanctuary Stunt Studio in Hazleton, PA; T.R.U.E. Wrestling in Berwick, PA; Pheonix Pro Wrestling in Altoona, PA; and Back Breakers Training Center in Scranton. His success in those markets, coupled with connections made at various shows, have afforded him a chance to travel to illinois in May. In June, he’ll make his debut for Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling, thanks to a partnership between GFW and Back Breakers. Like most young stars, he has aspirations of climbing even higher.

“In five to ten years. I either hope to be in WWE or NXT. If I don’t make it that far, I want to be one of those independent guys whom everyone knows not from WWE or TNA but because of my hard work. I would also love to have said by that time that I traveled different countries to wrestle. I really would love to go overseas and learn the different art forms of wrestling all over the world.”

You can follow Keita on Facebook or on Twitter.

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Project Wrestling: Chasing Dreams

Very happy to share the news about a new film starring Thomas Brewington of the Indy Card Mafia. “Project Wrestling: Chasing Dreams” is a documentary about life in today’s independent wrestling scene. In his own words, “I want to have a positive influence on professional wrestling and leave the sport better than when I got in.”

Thomas Brewington’s story can be seen for free right now on YouTube.

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Destination One Returns

12308014_10156216901625109_6379182395869070200_oBy all accounts, The Rick’s had a rough year. He was forced to temporarily change the name of his promotion. Financial troubles forced him to go on hiatus. Then he and his family lost everything when their home was flooded.

But all is not lost for The Rick. His friends came together to do a benefit show, and his beloved Duke Blue Devils won the national title. The Rick knows he’s been blessed, and this Christmas, he’s bringing the gang back to do a little giving themselves.

Destination One Wrestling returns from hiatus Friday night at The Arena in Jeffersonville. D1W was known for bringing a fast paced show featuring some of the best indie stars from across the country, and this weekend will be no different.

D1W Champion Ron Mathis, who has spent the year collecting title belts, will be in action defending his title against Cassius Cutcher.

The Madness of Trip returns from New York to take on Rockstar Pro’s Kyle Maverick.

Trip’s partners in mayhem, Eric Emanon and Thomas Brewington of the Indy Card Mafia will be in triple threat tag team action against the Hoosier Daddies and Detroit Versus Everybody.

D1W favorite Lennox Norris faces Mitch Johnson, one of the hottest heels you’ll ever hear on the mic.

More matches still to be announced!

Christmas is only a few weeks away, so The Rick made Friday’s show a Toys for Tots benefit. Bring a toy to donate, and take $5 off the price of admission. Simple as that. It’s a great way to do some good and enjoy a night of terrific wrestling this Friday night.

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The Return of Sami Callihan

Let’s get one thing straight, WWE marks: Solomon Crowe did not leave NXT. Sami Callihan went home.

I don’t know Sami personally, nor do I know the details of his leaving NXT. I can however assure you that NXT’s loss is the independent scene’s gain.

Sami brings name value to the indy shows he will wrestle in the near future thanks to his recent run with NXT, and that’s great. But for every guy like Sami who gets a shot at the WWE Performance Center, there are dozens putting their bodies on the line in warehouses and gymnasiums and arenas who keep being overlooked.

I don’t say that to demean Sami or anything he has accomplished. That’s a testament to the strength of the current indy wrestling scene.

Not every promotion is equal, but there are more than enough good promotions and good wrestlers out there that you can find one near you that will give you far more bang for your buck than a WWE live event.

If you enjoyed Sami in NXT, go support him when he comes to your town. Be on the look out for other hard working guys like Tim Donst (who beat cancer this year) and Chris Hero (who wrestled over 3 house straight for charity). Check out the Indy Card Mafia, Aaron Williams, Tyson Dux, Mitchell Huff, Marc Hauss, Dash Sullivan, and Daniel Eads.

If you’re a fan of the NXT ladies, annoyed that Sasha Banks has hardly set foot in a ring since her call up, you’re really in luck. The indy women’s scene is booming. Leva Bates, aka Blue Pants, is out there, but she’s only the tip of the iceberg. Mary Elizabeth Monroe, Tessa Blanchard, Havok, LuFisto, Crazy Mary Dobson, and Heidi Lovelace are just a handful of the women who are a threat to steal the show any time they are booked.

It’s almost December. It’s dark outside before 6 pm, and it’s too cold to be outside. This is a great month to go out and see some live wrestling. Support the indy stars by buying a ticket. Get a DVD or a T-shirt for someone on you Christmas list, and buy direct from one of the wrestlers. That way you’re putting some Christmas money in their pocket as well.

Sami Callihan’s best days are not behind him. The indy scene is the future, and the men and women of the indies need our support.

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Meet the Indy Card Mafia

Last December I was selling books at a local show during intermission. A shadowy, hooded figure approached the table and quietly asked to buy a few books. I looked up and recognized him as Eric Emanon, the man who had just been in the ring, inciting the anger of the locals and drawing heat with his tag team partner, Xavier Fate.

Eric is one of many wrestlers profiled in Eat Sleep Wrestle, a book that’s become a time capsule about the world of independent wrestling. Since it’s printing, all of the featured wrestlers have faced different challenges and found new opportunities. For Emanon, opportunity came in the form of a tag team known as the Indy Card Mafia.

Emanon’s partner is Xavier Fate, a 25 year old thrilled to be living his dream as a professional wrestler. Fate trained at Chikara Wrestle Factory, and he credits wrestling with saving his life.

“I was struggling with depression, a battle I still have, and came across an open tryout at the Wrestle Factory, a seminar hosted by Claudio Castagnoli (now WWE’s Cesaro). Even though I wasn’t selected to win a scholarship, it made me realize how much I loved professional wrestling. I scraped whatever money I had and went south to Philly.”

It was during a show in Buffalo, New York that Emanon and Fate discovered they had a lot in common. “We started talking and realized we had a lot in common with our goals and what we wanted to do with our lives and careers,” says Emanon. “Next thing you know, we got the opportunity to team up and we’ve been kicking people’s heads off ever since!”

“We Came As Bromans, before we were the Indy Card Mafia,” says Fate. “I’m actually really glad that never panned out.”

Emanon calls Fate his best friend, and that friendship has translated into a strong partnership in the ring. Indy Card Mafia can match any style in the ring. They fan fly through the air and they can work the mat. They try their hardest to avoid tag team cliches, and they are always improvising, trying to find new ways to electrify the crowd with their team work.

Both Fate and Emanon are in-demand as singles wrestlers, but the two know they have something special as a tag team. They are good friends, and they both have similar goals: to travel the world together, and to make a splash one day in the WWE.

“I want to work for the biggest wrestling promotion in the world, with some of the top talent in the world, on the biggest stage of them all,” says Emanon. “If that’s NOT your goal, why do you lace up your boots every weekend?”

Indy Card Mafia is certainly on the rise. They captured their first title, the OSPW Tag Team Championship, in August. Just last week they topped the Indy Power Rankings after being unranked the previous week.

Regardless how far up the ladder they go, both Fate and Emanon hope to make it together. “The Indy Card Mafia isn’t just a brand; it’s family. It’s something Eric and I have built. Something Eric and I have grown. It’s our baby, and we want to make sure that it grows in the best possible way. The only direction we’re looking is up.”