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.

Pizza King of the Ring Recap

If you missed Terry Harper Presents Pizza King of the Ring Tuesday night in Jeffersonville, here’s a quick recap of some of the things you missed:

Enter Sandman! When you see a legend of the ring, there are certain things you expect to see. If it’s Mick Foley, you want Mr. Socko. If it’s Stone Cold Steve Austin, you want a Stunner. If it’s the Sandman, you simply want to see him make an entrance. Sandman milked the full duration of his entrance music, sharing beers with fans around the ArenA. By the time he reached the ring, the ECW faithful had their money’s worth. The kendo stick beat down of Nick Depp was just an added bonus.

Speaking of Nick Depp… The reigning Prince of the Deathmatches cut the promo of his life on Sandman. Depp held the crowd in the palm of his hand while he tried to convince the Sandman he had an alcohol problem. Sandman let him speak his peace. Then, as mentioned above, he broke his kendo stick over Depp’s back.

Maria is AmazingAmazing Maria continues to prove she’s one of the best heels in independent wrestling. She had an entertaining match against the dark but charismatic Sage Sin, who was led to the ring by a fire eater and two casket-bearing ghouls. Sage walked out of the ArenA the winner. Maria was carried out in the casket.

Sudden Death Tables Match. Kevin Cordell of the Talking the Business Podcast told me to keep an eye on Jake Garvin. Kevin thinks he’s a rising star. I have to agree. He and Calvin Tankman broke four tables in their match. These guys are young, big, and athletic, and they’re only going to get better. The only thing more entertaining was watching them pick splinters out of their arms while they looked over the menu at Spinellis later in the evening.

Mama Bates to the Rescue! The intergender match took a very unexpected turn when Mama Bates, Leva Bates’ mother, leapt to her feet and tried to stop Tracy Smothers’ second Kyle Maverick from choking her daughter on the ropes. Yes, some things in wrestling are staged, but it was very clear Mama Bates was not in on any storyline; she was out to protect her daughter, who came out the winner. Side note: Leva remains one of the friendliest and most down to Earth wrestlers outside the ring.

Lio Rush is the Man. I’ve heard a great deal about Lio Rush in the last year. He exceeds the hype. Rush and Super Crazy capped the night off with a stellar bout that had everything from mat wrestling to high flying to steel chairs. Rush is a mega-star on the rise, and a class act out of the ring as well.

Bottom line: Terry Harper doesn’t promoter wrestling shows very frequently, but he has a formula that works. Harper books people he wants to see in match ups he wants to see. He pairs legends of the past with stars of today in a way that allows casual fans who only came to see guys like Sandman to discover rising stars like Lio Rush and PWF’s Tri-State Champion Tyler Matrix. A Terry Harper show is the perfect opportunity to bring your WWE-loving friends along to see names that they know and introduce them to independent wrestling at the same time. It was standing room only in the ArenA tonight, just as it was for Terry’s last show in November 2016. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

One of These Days, Everybody IS Going to Die!

On Tuesday night fans will gather at the ArenA in Jeffersonville, where Terry Harper will present an evening of wrestling under the banner Pizza King of the Ring. If his last show is any indication, this will be packed house, and I have no doubt many fans will be going just to see the intergender battle between Leva “Blue Pants” Bates and Tracy Smothers.

This worries me.

For the last few years, Southern Indiana fans have been treating Tracy Smothers with utter disrespect. They’ve chanted, “Tracy sucks!” They’ve cheered for Tracy’s opponents instead of the Smoky Mountain legend. Tracy has been patient with fans because he has yet to make good on his standard threat, a threat that goes like this:

“If I hear ‘Tracy sucks!’ one more time, everybody dies!”

But a man can only take so much, and I fear that one of these days, everybody is going to die.

Will Tuesday be the night? Will “Go, Blue Pants, go!” be the cheer that forces Tracy to make good on slaughtering an arena full of wrestling fans who have disrespected the man who flies the stars and bars for the last time?

We can only pray that Tracy’s patience will hold out long enough for fans to realize they are disrespecting a legend.

Christmas for Kool-Aid Drinkers

For IWA Mid-South fans, this is the biggest weekend of the year. It’s bigger than birthdays, weddings, even Christmas. It’s the high flying, anything can happen blood fest known as the King of the Deathmatch.

This year’s event has sixteen competitors vying for the title including the reigning Prince of the Deathmatch Nick Depp, John Wayne Murdoch, Reed Bentley, Aidan Blackhart, Ludark Shaitan, Masada, Bryant Woods, Brad Cash, Mance Warner, Rickey Shane Page, Dale Patricks, Marcus Crane, Eric Ryan, Devon Moore, G Raver, and Jeff King. Round one has already been announced, with four tantalizing match stipulations advertised:

Home Run Derby Light Tube Fence

The Great American BBQ Deathmatch

Fans Bring the Weapons

Log Cabins of Glass/Four Corner of Pain.

The violence takes place at the Flea Market off I-65 N, exit 16, in Memphis, Indiana. Bell time is 6:35 PM Saturday night, May 20. Front Row tickets are $30. General admission is $25. Tickets can be purchased via PayPal when you email BestMistyEver@gmail.com. Tell Misty I sent you.

 

The Evolution of Aidan Blackhart

When I first saw Aidan Blackhart, he was a one joke heel who came to the ring with a Shakeweight. Don’t get me wrong, Aidan was great at what he did. The Shakeweight gimmick, the Body by Blackhart routine was hilarious and got him over as a heel, but after this past weekend, it’s clear the young wrestler is evolving in some amazing ways.

Yesterday, I told you the story of Nick Depp, the winner of Saturday’s Prince of the Deathmatches tournament. Today I’m revisiting an old friend who came up short in his second try at Prince of the Deathmatches. Aidan may not have claimed the crown Saturday night, but he’s proving his desire and passion to become something more than a one joke heel.

“This was the second year I did Prince,” says Blackhart. “Last year I faced Zodiak in a barbwire bats and boards match. This year I am trying to step up and make a name for myself in wrestling. Not just in deathmatches but all around.”

I had to ask Aidan why in the world someone would compete in an event like this multiple times when they knew they likely would not come out the winner. Here, his passion really comes through.

“I entered Prince this year to test myself and prove I can do way better. This year was insane with log cabins of glass. That moment I threw Derek Direction through one with a superplex, my adrenaline hit an all time high. Being cut to shreds and covered in blood made me feel alive, gave me new life. A baptism in blood if you will. My faith in myself is renewed. I am saved.”

Aidan has lofty goals for the year ahead. He’s got his sights set on winning a heavyweight championship and advancing to the finals in a deathmatch tournament. “I also want to be on the main card of Bloodymania, and face Masada.”

Aidan Blackhart is proving he will do whatever it takes to rise in the independent wrestling ranks. He’s a face to watch in a promotion that has launched the careers of many former unknowns.

Aidan can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Nick Depp is Prince of the Deathmatch!

Saturday night, Nick Depp made a statement at IWA Mid-South. Before a packed, standing room only crowd in Memphis, Indiana, the young wrestler staked his place in the legendary promotion’s history by becoming the 2017 Prince of the Deathmatch.

Depp’s coronation is the result of a lot of hard work and a dream he began pursuing back in 2011. The Livermore, Kentucky native started training with the Waddell brothers in WWA.

“My first job in the wrestling business was as the ring announcer. I was horrible.” Depp’s inability to get anyone’s name right was embarrassing, but the promoters turned it into his first angle, when wrestlers came after him for the messing up their names.

Depp spent six months tagging with his friend Nick Willis as the Flight Club, winning the WWA Tag Team Championships. From there, he went on to Southern Wrestling Entertainment, where he furthered his training with veteran Cash Flo. “Cash taught me the art of selling and advanced psychology.”

In 2014 he left SWE and headed for IWA Mid-South. Depp caught the eye of Nick Maniwa and Reed Bentley, who spoke up for him and got him a shot at IWA-MS’s tryout show against Juan Hado and Alex Rudolph. The match earned Depp a roster spot and the chance to train with Ian Rotten.

“Ian completed my training,” says Depp. “It’s mind blowing how much you can learn from him. And the gift never stops giving.”

Depp competed in two previous deathmatch tournaments prior to Saturdays win: The 2015 POTDM tournament and the Kings of the Colosseum Deathmatch tournament. He’s especially proud of a 2016 Tai Pei Deathmatch he had against former IWA Mid-South Champion John Wayne Murdoch. “Axel Rotten did commentary for that match. Ian sat beside him and they watched, which I thought was pretty sick because this was their match. That moment can never happen again, and I’m so proud to be able to say that happened. Plus I beat Murdoch, and that year he went on to win King of the Deathmatch.”

I asked Depp what his goal was for 2017, now that he is deathmatch royalty. His answer was simple. “Always looking to improve, and also looking to be the best I can be.” With an attitude like that, Depp is likely to make an even greater impact on the business in the future.

Nick Depp can be booked at fakenickdepp@google.com

The End of IWA Mid-South?

15219367_10211256468433234_1316175058918177984_nWrestling has not been this hot in Louisville in decades.

While OVW rides a wave of enthusiasm fueled by their increasingly talented roster and their 900th TV taping, turmoil has erupted across the river.

Two years ago when I released Bluegrass Brawlers, I highlighted two Indiana promotions that, at the time, were running regular shows: the venerable IWA Mid-South, and Destination One Wrestling. Running monthly under former Ian Rotten student Rick Brady, D1W brought in some terrific talent including OI4K, Crazy Mary Dobson, the Indy Card Mafia, and Tracy Smothers. A series of unfortunate events forced D1W to go on permanent hiatus in 2015, and the promotion hasn’t been seen since.

That changed the night of the 20th anniversary show for IWA Mid-South, when Tracy Smothers faced IWA-MS Champion JJ Garrett with the title on the line. Smothers was on the ropes against the younger champ, but just when it seemed like Garrett had the match won, the lights went out and a man wearing a mask appeared on the apron. Garrett grabbed the guy and removed the mask to reveal “The Rick” Rick Brady!  The Rick’s sudden appearance gave Smothers the distraction he needed to hit Garrett with his stick and pin him. Once out of the ring, Tracy announced that the IWA title will now be known as the D1W title.

Over the next few weeks, The Rick promised that D1W was taking over and baited Ian Rotten into putting 50% of his company up vs. the chance to finally get his hands on The Rick for 5 minutes alone. Rotten took the bait and a six-man dog collar match was booked to settle the matter. Rotten selected Nick Depp, John Wayne Murdoch and JC Rotten to represent team IWA while  The Rick chose Mitch Ryder, Legendary Larry D and Derek Neal to represent team D1W.

The six men brawled all over the building on Thanksgiving night. During the closing minutes JC Rotten went down and grabbed his knee in pain. He fought his way back into the ring and was caught by Mitch Ryder and put into a figure four leglock. He immediately tapped. JC’s valet Tori entered the ring to check JC and was grabbed by Larry D. The fans were horrified, fearing for Tori’s safety, when Larry grabbed the girl in a huge hug! JC popped to his feet, revealing his knee injury to be a lie. He wasn’t hurt and he had just betrayed his father. The IWA locker room emptied out, but the D1W contingent beat them down in the ring.

Ian Rotten himself came off to chase away the D1W crew, but it was too late. The Rick now owns half of IWA Mid-South, and Ian and The Rick are now 50/50 partners.

I realize some of you Smarks reading this are rolling your eyes right now. “It’s all a work! You know Ian would never put up ownership in IWA!” That attitude is everything that is wrong with the IWC. Folks, this is old school. This is what packed gyms and arenas for decades before the WWE conquered the wrestling world, and guess what? It still works!

Right now, D1W/IWA Mid-South is as hot as they’ve ever been. They’re running twice a week on Thursdays in Clarksville, Indiana at Jammerz Rollerdrome and Saturdays in Memphis, Indiana at the Flea Market. Their fans are energized, and so too are the D1W fans who have missed their favorite promotion. The Rick is steamrolling IWA fans left and right on Facebook, and Tracy Smothers is proving (as he has over and over) that he’s one of the most underrated heels of any generation.

Will D1W take over, or will Ian save his beloved IWA Mid-South? Whatever happens next, the real winners are the fans enjoying a true old-fashioned blood feud!

Thanksgiving Night Wrestling Anyone?

Thanksgiving used to be one of the biggest nights of the year for the WWE. That’s the night they used to hold the Survivor Series Pay-Per-View. The WWE may have done away with Thanksgiving night show, but for fans in the Louisville area, you can still catch some non-stop action thanks to IWA Mid-South.

IWA-MS has a killer card lined up this week for your post-turkey entertainment, starting with the legendary Chris Hero facing the IWA-Mid South (or is it the D1W?) champion Tracy Smothers.

Rachael Ellering will also be in town Thursday night facing Randi West.

Other matches on the card include:

 

Ian Rotten vs. “The Chairman” Joey Owens;

The Rejects (John Wayne Murdoch and Nick Depp) and JC Rotten VS “Marvelous” Mitch Ryder, “Legendary” Larry D and “the Real Deal” Derek Neal in a Triple Dog Collar Six Man Tag;

A Lone Survivor match featuring Team Cole Radrick (Cole Radrick, Andrew Hunter, Brother Reed, Tripp Cassidy plus one more member) VS Team Johnathan Wolf (Johnathan Wolf, “Category 5” Corey Storm, Mickey Muscles, Aidan Blackhart plus one more member);

“Hybrid Monster” Zodiak vs. “The Mouth of the Mid South” Mance Warner;

Malcolm Monroe III vs. Travis Titan

Bell time is 7:30 at Jammerz Rollerdrome in Clarksville, Indiana.

For more information, visit the event page on Facebook!

The Fearville Werewolf

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Friday night I saw a gutsy young wrestler answer an open challenge from Cash Flo. Even though Flo was bigger than him, not to mention far more experienced, Andrew Hunter took to the ring and his opponent with all the fearlessness of a veteran. He lost the match, but he won the crowd, and that is often the greater victory.

Andrew Hunter has dreamed of wrestling since the age of 8. “I never really had the aspirations of being in the Main Event of Wrestlemania. I just wanted to travel the world. I mean growing up and never having a consistent source of cable to watch the main stream product I watched wrestling where I could when I could. So this consisted of a lot of late 80’s and early 90’s Japanese tapes from AJPW and NJPW. I saw a range of the best of Stan Hanson to the best of Great Sasuke and everywhere in between. So I was captivated with the in your face smash mouth style from a young age.”

Not surprisingly, Andrew’s list of favorite wrestlers growing up has a little more diversity than most. Having watched so many overseas promotion, his favorites included Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger, Great Sasuke, Great Muta, and Ultimo Dragon along with Randy Savage and Brian Pillman.

Andrew began his training with Jimmy Feltcher at the Coliseum in Evansville, Indiana. “My first match was a handicap match. It was Brett Taylor, Michael Kaiden and myself against Nick Depp and Nick Willis. The match went ok but we all had a lot left to learn as it pertains to the business.”

Andrew draws a great deal of inspiration from his past when it pertains to his in-ring persona. He’s smaller than most of his opponents, but he’s fearless. “[I was] raised in a home of abuse and alcoholism. Being able to come out of that environment as a success makes you a survivor. What makes me unique is that survivor mentality.”

The Fearville Werewolf, as he is sometimes called, has had some great matches in his young career, citing Toby Farley and Aaron Williams as favorite opponents. His ultimate fantasy would be a match with the late Brian Pillman, but in reality, the opponent he desires most is Sami Callihan.

Andrew works mainly in Kentucky and Indiana area, with PWF and UWA being his home promotions. He’s already been a CCW Tri-State Champion and currently holds the AWA Junior Heavyweight Champion. If all goes well, Hunter has his eyes set on ROH, NJPW, PWG, and AAA

“I just basically want to be welled traveled internationally,” he says.

You can keep up with Andrew Hunter (or contact him for bookings) via TwitterInstagramFacebook, and Youtube.

Pro Wrestling Freedom Delivers

13095793_1069991786412707_6899430250700239435_nPro Wrestling Freedom is new name in the Louisville/ Southern Indiana indy wrestling scene. As crowded as the local market is with wrestling promotions, you’d think there wouldn’t be room for one more, but PWF offers a product unique and exciting enough to set it apart. No one promotion can deliver with every wrestling fan, and from the looks of things tonight, PWF is finding its share.

PWF is anchored by a strong group of Louisville area stars headed by Hy Zaya and his road partner, “The Iron Demon” Shane Mercer. But like the now dormant D1W, PWF also draws some of the top stars from other regions. Murder One and Chip Day were up from Atlanta for tonight’s show, and Rockstar Pro’s current champ Aaron Williams was in from Ohio. The result is a mix of new and familiar faces, all of whom left everything they had in the ring.

It would be hard to pick a standout match from tonight’s show, but the battle between Shane Mercer and Timmy Lou Retton would be a good place to start. Mercer is a beast in the ring, a powerhouse of strength who never disappoints. Retton’s red, white, and blue gimmick is deceptive; while he looks like a comedy act, he truly is a dynamic and gifted athlete who can not only match Mercer with the power moves but surprise you with his tumbling and gymnastic skills.

Aaron Williams and Chip Day didn’t disappoint in the semi wind-up. Their match turned out to be more comedy than I’m used to seeing from Williams, but were well-matched in personality and talent. “I have until five!” became a catchphrase for the fans as well as the grapplers before the night was over.

Jason Saint’s Horrorshow stable made its presence known during the show in a few entertaining matches. Saint is a maniacal presence at ringside who can anger you while also making you laugh. Nick Depp and Team IOU were well matched with the heel manager. Depp was entertaining in his match with the legendary Mickie Knuckles, and Nick Iggy of Team IOU is a heat magnet with his non-stop banter.

The main event was a first time ever confrontation between Hy Zaya and Murder One. A far from some of the more technical wrestling matches on the card, this turned into a brawl. Hy Zaya and Murder One lived up to their top billing with a violent melee that ended in a double count out, setting up a prolonged after show struggle and the main event for next month’s card.

PWF is running in The Arena in Jeffersonville. The next show is June 3, and all the details will soon be posted to their Facebook page. A street fight rematch between Hy Zaya and Murder One is already booked, and it looks like Chip Day and Shane Mercer will be a go as well.

Indy wrestling is alive and well. Buy a ticket, buy a T-shirt from a wrestler, and support the men and women keeping the tradition alive.