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What You’re Missing

Friday night I attended a Pro Wrestling Freedom wrestling show in Jeffersonville, Indiana, featuring some of the best talent in the Midwest and Southeast. It was an outstanding show featuring several stellar matches including Chase Owens vs. Matt Cage and Chip Day vs. Gary Jay as well as the much anticipated return of fan favorite Hy Zaya.

About fourteen miles up the road in Memphis, a highly anticipated main event capped off a last-minute show arranged by IWA Mid-South. Sami Callihan and Arik Cannon did battle with OI4K’s Dave and Jake Crist in a tag team match that lasted twenty minutes and ranged all over the arena at the Memphis Flea Market. The crowd was smaller than the normal IWA Mid-South Show, but Nick Maniwa tells me the show was outstanding from top to bottom, a must-see when it is released on High Spots in a few weeks.

This is not a blog to tell you that one drew more than the other. I’m also not concerned with two promoters running shows with top talent so close to one another on the same night. What’s sad is that only about 200 wrestling fans in Southern Indiana and Louisville bothered to come out and see a live wrestling show Friday night in a town that used to draw 6000 to the Gardens every week.

If you are only watching WWE on Mondays and Tuesdays, you are missing out. Promotions like PWF and IWA Mid-South are the launching pad for stars headed to the WWE, but they are also the place where you can see some incredibly talented wrestlers do battle weekly and/or monthly LIVE and in person.

It’s not just about supporting independent wrestling or the future of wrestling. It’s about experiencing LIVE wrestling. It’s about being in a place big enough to have a big fight feel but small enough to where the heels can hear you AND engage with you. Rusev is not going to take the time to argue and banter with the guy in the second row. He can’t hear him for one thing, and he’s not allowed to for another. Fans at the PWF show not only saw Cage and Owens put on a stellar match, they engaged with them verbally throughout the show. The same interaction happens at IWA every week, and every other indy show I’ve ever attended.

Promotions like PWF and IWA Mid-South are all over. No matter where you go in the USA and Canada, there are wrestling companies running shows in your own backyard. And if you love guys like Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Kevin Owens, you’re going to love Chase Owens, Gary Jay, and OI4K.

The WWE has a lot independent wrestling can’t replicate, but independent wrestling has just as much to offer the WWE can’t and won’t even try to give you, and at a way better price point.

No more excuses. It’s time to give independent wrestling a try.

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Can’t Spell WWE without I-N-D-Y

Dear WWE and NXT Fans:

I’d like to introduce you to a few people.

This is Aaron Williams, “The Baddest Man Alive.” Aaron had a great weekend because he just won the Pro Wrestling Blitz Heavyweight Champion.

These are my pals Eric Emanon and Thomas Brewington. They had a great weekend as well. They are now the New Phoenix Gemini Tag Team Champions.

And this is the King of Dayton and proud member of Ohio Is 4 Killers, Dave Crist. Dave had a great weekend too. He pinned John Wayne Murdoch clean to become the new IWA Mid-South Heavyweight Champion.

Why am I telling you about these gentlemen? Because I want you to know them. I want you to follow them. I want you to support them.

As a WWE fan, I know you are aware just how many independent wrestlers have become part of the world’s largest wrestling promotion. A.J. Styles, Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Cesaro all had stellar careers in the indies before making it to NXT and WWE. If you’re also following NXT, then you’re already following the rise of Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Cassius Ohno (aka Chris Hero), Ruby Riot (aka Heidi Lovelace) and the other indy “darlings” the WWE has snatched up recently.

I want you to know that the independent wrestling promotions that Gargano, Ciampa, Hero, Lovelace, and the others left behind are not dying off like the old territories the WWF killed in the 1980s. They are thriving. They are growing not only in popularity, but in quality. I want you to know this because I want you to become a fan.

Yes, it is true, the independent scene is full of green wrestlers, spot monkeys, and guys who only care about getting their s*** in, but there are many men and women and tag teams still working the independents who could easily fill any spot on the NXT or WWE roster right now.

Independent wrestling is growing. There are more promotions in more places than there have been in a generation. Your local promotion(s) may run monthly or weekly, which means you can see live wrestling far more often than you are now with the WWE.

True, the crowds and venues are smaller in the indies, but that also means tickets are more affordable, and your access to the wrestlers is greater. You’re closer to the action and at a much better price, and the heels can actually hear you when you call them names.

And here’s the best part: you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to meet your favorite stars. The T-shirts at the gimmick tables are half of what you’ll pay at a WWE show. Everyone is happy to shake your hand and take a selfie – except maybe Mr. Darius Carter.

I’m not telling you to give up the WWE. I enjoy the Network and NXT as much as any fan. But make no mistake: the WWE and NXT would not be what they are without the INDY scene that has come to be. I’m offering you the chance to see more live wrestling. I’m asking you to give guys like Aaron, Dave, Eric, and Thomas a chance. I want you to get out there and discover other guys like Matt Riddle, Ron Mathis, The Hitman for Hire Mr. Grim, Desmond Xavier, Zachary Wentz, Gary Jay, Chip Day, Murder One, Timmy Lou Retton, Matt Cross, Michael Elgin, Menace, Facade, Jake Crist, Sami Callahan, and Jimmy Rave. I want you to discover the other ladies who fueled the “women’s revolution,” like Kelly Klein, LuFisto, Su Yung, Samantha Heights, Leva Bates (remember Blue Pants?), Mickie Knuckles, Rachel Ellering, Taeler Hendrix, Candice LeRae, Veda Scott, Mia Yim, Allisin Kay, Jessicka Havok, and Jordynne Grace. I want you to discover the amazing tag teams packing houses across the country including the Hooligans, Viking War Party, War Machine, OI4K, and the Carnies. You can even find comedy wrestlers, guys like Colt Cabana, Space Monkey, and the notorious party animal, Joey Ryan.

There’s never been a better time to get into independent wrestling than now. Search a few of these names on YouTube. Find and follow them on Facebook or Twitter. Then find a promotion running in your area. I’m not asking you to trade one for the other. Just get out and support the superstars of tomorrow, today. They will not let you down.

Sincerely,

A converted, die-hard indy wrestling fan

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20 Years On, IWA Mid-South May Have Its Best Roster Ever

It had been a while since I paid a visit to Southern Indiana’s legendary wrestling promotion, IWA Mid-South. I’m not big on blood and hardcore and deathmatches, a hallmark of IWA-MS, and truth be told, I decided to go tonight for one reason: OI4K. I’m a big fan of Jake and Dave Crist and their frequent companion Aaron Williams. All three have been regulars at IWA-MS for some time, and when I saw Dave Crist was scheduled to face another favorite in Shane Mercer, I decided it was time to go.

It was a trip worth taking.

The boys from Ohio delivered as they always do, but this was hardly a three man show. Every match on the card tonight delivered, from the opening bout between Desmond Xavier and A.J. Gray to the main event with Larry D. and John Wayne Murdoch. Top to bottom, this was the best wrestling show I’ve ever seen from IWA-Mid-South and one of the best independent shows I’ve ever witnessed.

 

Corey Storm and Myron Reed were two of the younger stars of IWA-MS who impressed in the early matches. Reed is a Louisville veteran with a ton of talent and charisma, and he took an action-packed three way match from Teddy King and Brett Havoc. Storm is just fifteen years old, but he looked like a a seasoned veteran in the ring with Jake Crist. He’s getting the education of a lifetime, working with veterans like Crist, and it’s very clear he has a bright future ahead.

Aaron Williams had a hard-hitting bout with Japanese star Shigehiro Irie. Despite his alliance with the hated manager The Rick, Williams had a strong following in the crowd. Ian Rotten stunned Williams and the crowd after the match by announcing that Williams will face Jessica Havok next week.

Two more members of OI4K, Zachary Wentz and Trey Miguel, had a show-stopping tag match against the Player’s Club, Mance Warner and Ray Waddell. Wentz is the current heavyweight champion at Rockstar Pro Wrestling in Dayton, and he and Miguel put on a clinic with Warner and Waddell.

Dave Crist vs. Shane Mercer followed the tag match and stole the show in every way possible. Mercer and Crist are two of the best kept secrets in the Midwest. Mercer is all power; Crist is a high-flyer. The crowd was electric for the entire match, and when Crist got the win, the fans leapt to their feet with a standing ovation.

As soon as the match was over, Dave Crist grabbed a microphone and told the fans they were witness to one of the best shows he had ever been a part of. Christ praised the fans for their dedication and heaped even more praise on the young stars of IWA Mid-South. “Ian Rotten has an incredible eye for talent,” he told the fans, and he encouraged everyone to, “Tell a friend, bring a friend, and make IWA Mid-South the best promotion in the Midwest!”

It would be a bold statement to say that the current incarnation of IWA Mid-South is the best ever. This is, after all, the promotion that helped launch the careers of superstars like CM Punk, Chris Hero, Daniel Bryan, and Seth Rollins. That said, it’s clear that something special is happening in Southern Indiana.

IWA Mid-South is in their 21st year. They are packing the Arena in Jeffersonville every Thursday night and the Memphis Flea Market (where Rotten says fans can see more of the hardcore action they are used to) every Saturday. That’s no small feat, running twice a week, and with Joey Ryan, Gary Jay, and Jessica Havok on the card for next week, it’s only getting better.

If you like great wrestling, I’d encourage you to check out IWA Mid-South Thursdays at the Arena. And if you like violence for violence’s sake, you won’t want to miss their Saturday shows (including this weekend’s King of the Crimson Mask show) in Memphis, Indiana.

Congratulations to Ian and the entire crew at IWA Mid-South. Thanks for an amazing night of wrestling.

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Kyle Maverick: Rockstar on the Rise

Dayton, Ohio has one of the hottest independent wrestling scenes today. The crew at Rockstar Pro Wrestling run six or seven shows a month, and just as iron sharpens iron, the talented workers at Rockstar keep making one another better.

Kyle Maverick is a main stay at Rockstar Pro, a deep roster that includes DJ Hyde, Sami Callihan, Ron Mathis, Aaron Williams, and the Crist brothers. Billed from Lexington, Kentucky, Maverick grew up idolizing Bret Hart, Koko B. Ware, Jushin Lyger, Randy Savage, and Lance Storm. He began his professional wrestling training with Chris Hero. He later trained with DJ Hyde, Drew Gulak, and Sami Callihan at the CZW Dojo and currently works out with Dave Crist at Rockstar Pro. Maverick was also a successful MMA fighter with a 9-2 record and holds a black belt in Kyokushin Karate.

Maverick counts Sami Callihan, Davey Richards, ACH, Tracy Smothers, Matt Tremont, Dave and Jake Crist as some of his favorite opponents. He’s also proud of the fact that he was once hit by Al Snow with Head. His reputation in the ring has opened many doors for him, but its his character outside the ring that stands out most to one of his bosses.

“Kyle Maverick and I are brothers,” says Rick Brady, who runs D1W in Southern Indiana. “We rode many hours on the road together, and he is one of the few people I trust in this business. He worked his ass off to get D1W on it’s feet. He helped me make a lot of connections to a ton of talent and I am grateful to him for that.”

Maverick only has one title belt win to his credit, the Rockstar Pro Luchacore championship, but it’s only a matter of time before this talented singles and tag competitor adds to that list. “I think the sky is the limit, as long as he continues to work hard and listen to them Ohio guys. They seem to know what they are doing. I love him and wish nothing but the best for him.”

Indy wrestling cans can find Kyle on Facebook, on Twitter @thekylemaverick and on Instagram @thekylemaverick.

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Jake Crist Says Goodbye

Earlier this week in my post about Sami Callihan, I made the comment there were dozens of others like Sami working hard on the independent circuit keeping indy wrestling alive. Friday night, one of those hard workers steps into the ring with Sami Callihan for one last match in front of the Rockstar Pro Wrestling crowd in Dayton, Ohio.

Jake Crist is one of the reasons I fell in love with indy wrestling. He’s a twelve year veteran who has traveled the world, working for Heartland Wrestling Association, Juggalo Championshop Wrestling, Combat Zone Wrestling, Ring of Honor, Big Japan Pro Wrestling, and many more. He and his brother Dave collected tag team championship belts at numerous promotions as the Irish Airborne and Ohio Is For Killers. Most recently, he paired with Aaron Williams to form the team Baddest Killers Alive and won the Rockstar Pro tag team championship.

Jake and his wife, former women’s wrestler Neveah, just welcomed their second child, and Jake has decided it’s time to hang up the boots. He has a few more bookings later this month, but Friday will be a very special night in Dayton.

Jake has been a fan favorite and an inspirational leader to many of the younger wrestlers in locker rooms across the Midwest. He will be missed, but his impact in the ring will be felt for a long time.

If you want to see Jake at his very best, I strongly recommend getting the CZW 16th Anniversary Show. The Crist brothers defended their tag team titles that night against the Young Bucks in one of the very best matches I have seen all year.

Thank you, Jake, for everything. Best of luck in the future, and enjoy your time with your family.

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KDW now streaming on Roku

Indie wrestling fans, you now have three local promotions producing television shows.

Kentuckiana Diehard Wrestling has made several big moves in recent weeks. KDW moved their weekly show from the Flea Market in Memphis, Indiana to the Arena in downtown Jeffersonville. Now, KDW is available to watch not only on Youtube, but the Indie Wrestling Channel on Roku. KDW features a seasoned group of veterans, many of whom will be familiar to long time OVW fans, as well as up and comers like Austin Bradley, who was featured in Eat Sleep Wrestle.

New Albany’s own UWA is already available on the Roku channel as well as Youtube. And lest we forget, Ohio Valley Wrestling holds the distinction of being the longest running weekly wrestling program in the country outside of Monday Night Raw.

D1W fans will also be interested to know that Rockstar Pro is available on the Indie Wrestling Channel, featuring Aaron Williams, Ron Mathis, Kyle Maverick, and the Crist brothers. You can also watch central Indiana promotion Emerge on the Roku channel.

And unlike the WWE Network and other major wrestling channels, the Indie Wrestling Channel is completely free. You can’t ask for an easier way to support indie wrestling.

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Miss a week, miss a lot

esw coverIf you miss a week of wrestling in Louisville, you miss a lot!

While I was off enjoying a family vacation in D.C., Mitchell Hull won the OVW TV title. Mitchell was just getting back into the business when I interviewed him for Eat Sleep Wrestle in the summer of 2014. Looks like he’s well on his way to making a name for himself in the business.

Not only did Mitch win gold, but Aaron Williams, who is on the cover of the same book, won the Rockstar Pro Wrestling tag belts with Jake Crist in Dayton. These two are as talented a tag team as you’ll find anywhere in the indies and a must-see if they’re on the card.

Then Friday night brought two more surprises at the IWA Mid-South 19th anniversary show. After announcing the Headbangers had dropped out of the show earlier in the week, Ian Rotten surprised the fans by bringing in former WWE star Simon Dean (aka Super Nova of the BWO) and IWA Mid-South legend Chris Hero. Then Reed Bentley (another Eat Sleep Wrestle talent) capped the night by winning the IWA Mid-South world championship, snatching the title away from newly crowned champ John Wayne Murdoch.

For those counting, that’s three stars from Eat Sleep Wrestle winning gold last week.

This Wednesday, OVW is taping television in Louisville and Rockstar Pro is doing the same in Dayton. Pro Wrestling Grind in Jeffersonville has Rhyno coming in for a show at the Arena Friday, and IWA is running a benefit for IWA-MS original Mitch Page the same night.

And oh yeah, Chikara is coming to Jeffersonville October 24.

It’s a great time to be a fan of wrestling, especially here in the Midwest.

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The “Legendary” Larry Mercer

Every year students from across the country head to the Tish School for Fine Arts at New York University in hopes of making the leap from the college stage to the Broadway stage. For Ring of Honor’s Larry Mercer, NYU led him to a completely different kind of stage. Larry grew up watching wrestling, but it was while he was at NYU that he realized it was not Broadway, but professional wrestling calling his name.

“It was the Attitude Era,” he says, “Stone Cold, Mankind. I was drawn to that kind of acting. I didn’t want to be a wrestler, but I wanted to do something in wrestling.”

Larry learned about a wrestling school in his hometown of Baltimore from a commercial that aired during Monday Night Raw, Maryland Championship Wrestling’s Bonebreakers Training Center. He went to the school and met trainers Corporal Punishment and Mark “The Shark” Shrader.

“I started out as sort of an intern. I did administrative work. I helped to get fliers out for the show. Whatever I could do to help out while learning the business. I had to pay, but they only charged me the rate they gave to students who want to be refs.”

The opportunity to use his dramatic talents came when the ring announcer for MCW quit. As often happens in wrestling, he was in the right place at the right time. That’s when Larry Legend was born.

If you have never had the privilege of hearing Larry Legend in the ring, go to Youtube and look him up. Larry is not your typical indy wrestling ring announcer. He does his job with flair, physically and vocally. He dresses for the occasion with impeccable style, setting the stage just as the wrestlers do with his appearance. His dramatic training is evident in his mic, and he brings a big fight feel to every single match.

“I wanted the crowd to feel like it was a big fight,” he says, “but I also wanted the wrestlers to get that feeling as well.”

As Larry Legend, Larry worked for a number of independents along the East Coast including Combat Zone Wrestling, Dragongate USA, Evolve, Pro Wrestling Syndicate, Jersey All Pro, Jersey Championship Wrestling, Impact Championship Wrestling, Beautiful Ladies of Wresting, Valkyrie Pro Wrestling, and Fighting Spirit Wrestling. He has also worked numerous events for kickboxing, boxing, and MMA fighting groups.

Larry recently did what he calls his farewell show as Larry Legend, the CZW 16th Anniversary Show. “That was a very special show for me,” he says. “It was in the building where I did my first CZW show. CZW got kicked out of that building, and it was their first show back.”

One of the highlights of that event was the Tag Team Championship Match between The Young Bucks and Ohio is 4 Killers, Jake and Dave Crist. “I was with CZW when Jake and Dave first came in, so it was cool to be a part of that for them. I was also excited to get to announce for the Young Bucks.”

Although Larry admits you never say never in the wrestling business, for now Larry Legend is retired. Larry Mercer, however, is just beginning to make a name for himself with Ring of Honor. The booming, dramatic in-ring announcer may be gone, but the young man who bypassed the New York stage to work in dim-lit arenas remains as passionate about the business as ever.

CZW’s 16th Anniversary Show is available as a video download or on DVD. I strongly recommend watching it if you love independent wrestling, or if you’re just curious to give it a try. The tag match mentioned here is worth the price of admission alone, as The Young Bucks and OI4K are a stellar matchup. But if you’re like me, you’ll put off watching the match for just a moment or two so you can hear Larry Legend set the stage with one of the best big fight voices you’ll ever hear inside a ring.

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See Them Before They Go

cropped-esw-cover.jpgTwo very talented, very dynamic indy wrestlers may be nearing the end of their careers soon. If you get a chance, you need to see them. Hy Zaya (second from the left on the book cover) has two matches this week. Thursday night he competes for IWA Mid-South in New Albany, Indiana, and Saturday he’s in a title vs. career match in Evansville for CCW. I haven’t talked to Hy Zaya in a while, and I don’t know how much of this is story vs. reality. Even if I did, where would the fun be if I spoiled it, right?

Hy Zaya is a charismatic and dynamic performer who has held his own against indy greats like Shane Mercer and legends like Sabu. If you’re in either area, don’t miss your chance to see him. It might be your last.

I also read that Jake Crist of OI4K (that’s Ohio Is for Killers) may be close to hanging it up. In Jake’s case it’s injuries that seem to be the threat rather than match stipulations. Jake has several dates on his schedule, including some for his hometown promotion Rockstar Pro in Dayton. Whether he’s flying solo or tagging with his brother Dave, his matches are show stealers, and if it’s really the end for Jake, it’s a sad day for indy wrestling.

Click the links above to check out Jake and Hy Zaya’s upcoming events.

And if you’re curious to know more about Rockstar Pro, click this link to read a nice little article about the Dayton promotion.