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.

PWG Answers Randy Orton

I could watch this over and over. Not just because PWG chose to troll Randy Orton. But because I love watching the Young Bucks and OI4K mix it up.

Indie Wrestlers Trolled Randy Orton

Indie Wrestlers Trolled Randy Orton terribly last night. = DIVE + RKOsCredits: Lucha Libre Online

Posted by Sportskeeda Wrestling on Monday, May 29, 2017

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.

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

The King of Dayton Walks on Walls

I’m posting this video here because everyone needs to see this. Dave Crist has been one of the Midwest’s best kept secrets for too long. It looks like 2017 will be the year everyone gets to see what the King of Dayton can do.

Dave is not only one of the most talented in-ring performers I’ve ever seen, he’s one of the most respected. He’s a leader and a mentor to those who really want to succeed, and when Dave says, “Jump!” no one asks, “How high?” They’re already jumping.

See Dave walk on the wall from three angles below. Then get out and see Dave for yourself. #OI4K.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.