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Declaration of Independents
This is a column for people who are curious about wrestling beyond WWE and TNA. America is full of small and plucky independent wrestling companies that provide many alternatives to what?s on TV. For the price of one WWE pay per view you can grab two independent wrestling DVD?s, making it an option for a slow month. These promotions have appearances by legends, over the top comedy, vibrant promos, strong style, death defying high flying, ultraviolence ? anything you?ve ever seen on wrestling television is going on in some part of this country. Indy wrestlers may dream of breaking into the big time, but given the meager pay they perform more out of a love for the art and the fans than money. Your Indy Catalogue will introduce you to a handful of the more prominent independent wrestling companies, or ?indies.?
I?m not pretending I follow even half of these promotions. I don?t have that kind of money. However, the indies I do follow seriously rekindled my love of professional wrestling. My favorite is Ring of Honor, followed by CHIKARA, PWG and IWA:MS. Every promotion has its own flavor. CHIKARA brings comedy and lucha; UPW is sports entertainment; IWA:MS tries to be everything. MCW, CHIKARA, NWA: Anarchy, ROH, UWA and PWU even have free media available to let you sample their products (I?ve included links to help direct you). Many promotions also have videos floating around Youtube and Google Video.
Given how the giant WWE seldom cooperates with anybody, indies are left to find other avenues to gain recognition. A plethora of American wrestling legends appear and even wrestle at small promotions. Others book TNA talent, primarily X-Division guys who can use the extra cash. Some companies are fortunate enough to build relationships with Japanese promotions like Dragon Gate or NOAH, opening up opportunities for matches with foreign legends and rising stars. Some go with flashy gimmicks, and some root in communities or states to build local support.
Also, a lot of indies cross-promote. Given that independent wrestlers aren?t exclusive to one promotion and can?t make a living off of working at just one place, they wrestle at a variety, drawing attention to wherever they go. The indies have their own celebrities or ?superstars.? The hobo-looking brawler Necro Butcher, the cocky Kings of Wrestling, the death-defying Briscoes and the self-proclaimed ?best wrestler in the world? Bryan Danielson are among those who are often flown across the country just to wrestle for a weekend. If you?re curious about their talent, realize that Senshi, AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels and Samoa Joe are all former top-tier indy superstars (in fact, TNA pretty much built the X-Division out of popular independent wrestlers). These indy superstars can draw just as much attention from the internet crowd as TNA guys ? in fact some indies have used them to outdraw TNA house shows running the same day. And unlike wrestlers from TNA or NOAH, no company intrudes in the way matches are booked or protects the outcomes, and only the individual decides where he?ll work. Wrestlers, managers, stables and titles can appear across promotions. Sometimes things get as big as cooperative interpromotional feuds, like the big CZW VS ROH war in 2006. With TNA recently pulling all talent from ROH and PWG (and threatening to do the same to dozens of other promotions), indy superstars are going to be more important than ever.
The next big thing on the indies right now is the split between the NWA and TNA. The National Wrestling Alliance is one of the oldest and most celebrated wrestling organizations in the hemisphere. Up until May 13th they allow TNA to feature their singles and tag team world titles, previously ?borrowed? by companies like World Class and WCW. While TNA creates its own titles, the NWA titles will head to the indies. Inside of the next couple of months we will see independent tournaments to crown new champions. The video announcement (which can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ly1J5IUw1d0 ) only featured two non-TNA wrestlers in the discussion of setting up an NWA World Title tournament ? Joey Ryan and Roderick Strong. Ryan and Strong aren?t even top tier indy names; they?re well-known, but they?re not at the top, which may indicate this title tournament is going to expose and elevate a few more guys. This could be a world title that travels not just around NWA affiliates, but all independents.
There?s nothing like a good live independent show. Rather than 10,000 fans who cheer at the appropriate time, you get a 300-1,000 person crowd that creates a passionate atmosphere that TV and DVD can?t replicate. I went to ROH?s Supercard of Honor 2 on one night, and Wrestlemania 23 the next; with less than 1/30th the audience, ROH had thirty times the passion per square foot. It?s worth the price of one ticket to sample an independent near you, if you?re so lucky as to have one. But if you can?t get to a live event and are curious, there are a few shows you might check out. In particular, ECWA?s Super 8 tournament and the IWA:MS Teddy Petty Invitational tend to have great cross-sections of the most popular independent wrestlers from around the country. Both shows are annual events, so you can pick up the most current one to learn a little bit about the flavor of the indy scene. I?ve cataloged a few of the better-known independents for you below.
Your Indy Catalogue
BCW: Border City Wrestling
A Canadian indy based out of Windsor, Ontario. Heavily affiliated with TNA, they provided all the members of the now-defunct Team Canada. BCW is booked by TNA-insider Scott D?Amore and has run cross-promotional shows with TNA in the past, including the controversial non-televised show where Jeff Jarrett won the world title from Raven just before the Spike TV deal started. They also hold events in Detroit, Michigan with their sister promotion, Prime Time Wrestling.
Official site: http://www.bordercitywrestling.com/
Online store: http://www.highspots.com/company.asp?id=17
CHIKARA: Chikara Pro
CHIKARA is one of the wackiest independents going, running out of Hellertown, Pennsylvania. In conjunction with their own wrestling school (the Chikara Wrestle Factory), CHIKARA runs family-friendly wrestling that is highly influenced by Mexico?s Lucha libre style. Almost every performer is either a teacher or former student from the school. Rather than try to prove they?re the best in the world, this promotion uses lighthearted and humorous gimmicks, such as wrestlers brought from the past by time travel and the Colony stable (Fire Ant, Worker Ant and Soldier Ant). For their biggest shows they occasionally bring in indy superstars like the Necro Butcher (who came in disguised as CP Munk ? a giant Punk-themed chipmunk), Mexican Lucha stars like El Pantera, and freelance Japanese stars like Yago and Miyawaki. Chikara was founded by indy stars Tom Carter and Mike Quackenbush, since joined by co-trainer Chris Hero. They helped produce such younger indy stars as Eddie Kingston and Claudio Castagnoli (who formed the original Kings of Wrestling with Hero).
Official site: http://www.chikarapro.com/
Latest official podcast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8VpG7ZFtqo
Online store (non-DVD): http://www.hpwf.org/~chikara/store.shtml
CZW: Combat Zone Wrestling
A post-ECW indy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that prides itself on ultraviolent wrestling. Light tubes, barbed wire and weed whackers are commonplace in this hardcore playground. This is another promotion where the booker, John Zandig, is also a long running top star. While it has its tournaments, CZW?s most famous event is the Cage of Death, where grudges are settled inside a massive yellow steel cage, always featuring sick falls. Long-rumored to be on the verge of collapse, CZW is still around after ten bloody years.
Official site: http://www.czwrestling.com/
Online store (non-DVD?s): On-site
ECWA: East Coast Wrestling Association
Going on 40 years old, ECWA is an extremely respected indy. It has one of the sharpest eyes for talent of any company in the country. They run the single most important indy tournament, the Super 8. It is an honor just to be asked to participate, and having good match on or actually winning the tournament can mean bookings and pushes in across the country. Former Super 8 winners include Christopher Daniels, Paul London and Petey Williams. Other Super 8 participants include Billy Kidman, Alex Shelley, Charlie Haas and Jeff Hardy.
Official site: http://www.ecwaprowrestling.com/
Online store: http://www.rfvideo.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWCATS&Category=28
FIP: Full Impact Pro
A small Florida promotion. It features the Florida Heritage Championship, a title exclusively defended in Florida, and the FIP World Championships, which is defended in other company?s like FIP?s sister promotion, Ring of Honor. FIP is a very old school promotion with a slower, simpler wrestling style, with shows put on in small towns with people who want to believe it is real. It is unknown if FIP will still have a relationship with TNA, but into 2007 it was a place where current and former TNA wrestlers like Sean Waltman, Jerrelle Clark and Homicide would appear. It still sees a strong influx of Ring of Honor wrestlers.
Official site: http://www.fullimpactpro.com/
Online store: On-site
JAPW: Jersey All Pro Wrestling
An indy that runs, obviously, out of New Jersery. They are frequently criticized by fans for booking some of the same talent as ROH and trying to copy their storylines, but that leaves them with a pretty good talent pool. It was originally a post-ECW hardcore independent, but when New Jersey banned ?ultraviolent? wrestling they reformed themselves as more of a strong style and pure wrestling company. They have already agreed to give up certain DVD distribution rights in order to continue to book TNA talent, and have prominently featured the likes of Rhino, Senshi and Jay Lethal as top stars and champions. JAPW turned ten years old this past April.
Official site: www.japw.net
Online store: On-site
IWA:MS: Independent Wrestling Association: Mid-South
No company tries to cater to specialties quite like Mid-South. They have run events strictly for women?s wrestling, strong style, hardcore (including their own King of the Death Match tournament), and host one of the biggest annual tournaments on the indies, the Ted Petty Invitational, dedicated to the memory of the former Public Enemy wrestler. Founded by former ECW star Ian Rotten, it runs mostly around Illinois and Indiana. Mid-South has great working relationships with Chikara Pro, CZW and ROH, taking and sending talent to those promotions, and even occasionally booking shows earlier or later in the day so that fans can go to both companies? events. They also have a strong working relationship with TNA, hosting the likes of AJ Styles, Hernandez and Senshi. Senshi, under the name ?Low Ki,? recently toured with the company for what many consider the best matches of his life.
Official site: http://www.iwamidsouthwrestling.com/
Online stores: http://www.iwa-ms.com/ and http://www.smartmarkvideo.com/main/index.php?app=ccp0&ns=catshow&ref=iwamidsouth
IWC: International Wrestling Cartel
A Pennsylvania indy that derives its name humorously from the acronym for the ?Internet Wrestling Community.? It follows the general independent model of booking wrestlers who have a buzz on the internet, be they former ECW stars like Spike Dudley, former WWE stars like Brent Albright, TNA stars like AJ Styles or current indy darlings like Delirious.
Official site: http://www.iwcwrestling.com/index2.html
Online store: On-site
MCW: Maryland Championship Wrestling
A nine-year-old company that was gained early recognition for booking a large number of ex-WWF and ex-ECW wrestlers. MCW happily runs any kind of promotion with famous wrestlers, be it a match, a guest appearance or even an autograph signing, attracting the likes of Iron Shiek, Chris Jericho and the Road Warriors. Their biggest event is the prestigious Shane Shamrock Memorial Cup, a tournament featuring top indy talent, and occasionally TNA talent. This tournament was later hosted and co-opted by Ring of Honor, under the name ?Survival of the Fittest.? MCW freely broadcasts its own local TV show to anyone over the internet.
Official site: http://www.marylandwrestling.com/home.htm
Free Media: http://www.mcwragetvonline.com/
Online store: https://www.mcwcybershop.com/
Based in the historic wrestling city of Memphis, Tennessee, Memphis Wrestling draws on a lot of that state?s legacy. Jerry Lawler and Brian Christopher were regulars for the promotion since its inception, and it saw the likes of Viscera, Kamala and Jimmy Hart from time to time. It was pretty much Jerry Lawler?s promotion until WWE pulled him from it in reaction to an upcoming match with Hulk Hogan that the company was co-promoting. While Memphis Wrestling managed to substitute Paul Wight (WWE?s the Big Show) for Lawler, the turnout was disappointing, attesting to how this local promotion, like others, draws more interest based on its beloved characters rather than national superstars. Memphis Wrestling was one of the few indies that received any WWE wrestlers, but WWE banned any from visiting it following the promotion continuing to support Hogan and Wight?s event.
Official site: Not yet online
NWA: Anarchy: National Wrestling Alliance: Anarchy
While NWA faded into WCW, the National Wrestling Alliance is still alive in small indies. The most prominent NWA affiliate is Anarchy in Georgia. At first it was National Championship Wrestling, then it was NWA Wildside, and its current rendition is Anarchy, running TV on local TBS affiliates. At one time it was a developmental territory for WCW and TNA, training the likes of Shannon Moore, Jamie Noble, A.J Styles and Abyss. Their favored strength is wrestlers with good promo ability. Former booker Bill Behrens was so praised for his eye for talent that he was hired to coordinate Deep South Wrestling for WWE.
Official site: http://nwa-wildside.com/main.htm
Free TV episodes: http://www.thesuperstation.net/nwaanarchy.html
OVW: Ohio Valley Wrestling
Ohio Valley Wrestling isn?t technically an indy. It?s WWE?s last remaining developmental territory, where they trained the likes of Brock Lesnar, Batista, Ken Kennedy and Elijah Burke. In the past WWE even allowed and booked appearances by stars such as the Undertaker, Kane and the Spirit Squad for OVW. Their big events are non-televised live shows at places like the state Six Flags park. You see a lot of poor quality promos because the guys making them are really just training for the big time and have to work on their weaknesses. For a long period it was booked by Jim Cornette; he was later replaced by Paul Heyman, who brought the program up to what Bryan Alvarez of Figure Four Weekly called the best wrestling TV show of its time. WWE bought the rights to OVW?s video library, so they have ceased to sell DVD?s (much to my chagrin), but you can still find new episodes kicking around tape trader communities thanks to OVW?s local TV deal.
Official site: http://www.ovwrestling.com/
Online store: On-site
PWG: Pro Wrestling Guerilla
California?s most successful indy, founded by independent wrestlers Super Dragon, Scott Lost, Joey Ryan, Disco Machine, Excalibur and Top Gun Talwar ? who have played as top stars for most of PWG?s existence. PWG provided the bulk of Wrestling Society X?s roster, by way of its own roster and their friends. The in-ring product is very high quality, and the shows are paced to mix comedy, grudges and pure wrestling. Their biggest event is The Battle of Los Angeles, a three-night tournament of indy superstars that helps push people within PWG and energize wrestlers? careers in general. Up until May of 2007 they had a working relationship with TNA, but severed it to maintain their current DVD distribution deal. Before that Frankie Kazarian (?Kaz? in TNA), Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley had been feature players for the promotion. PWG stills has a decent relationship with Japan?s Dragon Gate Promotion, which lent them high-profile wrestlers CIMA, Dragon Kid and Genki Horiguchi for the 2006 Battle of Los Angeles. The company has a sense of humor about itself, using lighthearted commentary and humorous show-titles such as Uncanny X-Mas, Zombies Shouldn?t Run and Card Subject to Change.
Official site: http://www.prowrestlingguerrilla.com
Online stores: On-site or http://www.highspots.com/pwg.asp.
PWU: Pro Wrestling Unplugged
A Pennsylvania indy based primarily around local and rising talent, though it has been the frequent home of former WWE star Zach Gowen, former ECW stars Blue Meanie and Pitbull Gary Wolfe and current TNA star Homicide. Many disgruntled ex-CZW wrestlers have taken up residence in PWU, such as Joker, Sabian and Eddie Kingston. PWU runs Commissioner Idol, a promotion where fans can try out to be the temporary commissioner of the promotion.
Official site: http://www.prowrestlingunplugged.com/
Free Media: http://www.prowrestlingunplugged.com/media.htm
Online store: On-site
ROH: Ring of Honor
ROH is the premiere indy on the east coast. It has its own DVD distribution company and will soon debut on pay per view. Its wrestling style is very workrate based, though they try to vary their roster with old school heels, comedy and indy superstars. ROH is notable for building a roster out of the top talent from the indies, and for attracting a great number of wrestlers who make it big in WWE and TNA, such as CM Punk, AJ Styles and Samoa Joe. With relationships to the England?s FWA and Japan?s Dragon Gate and NOAH, ROH has received a plethora of visitors, including legends like the Great Muta, Jushin Liger and Kenta Kobashi. Its world title is frequently defended internationally, and was recently won by NOAH superstar Takeshi Morishima, who defends it on tours with both ROH in America and NOAH in Japan. The company has received many ?booker of the year,? ?feud of the year? and ?match of the year? awards from websites and magazines during its five year history.
Official site: http://www.rohwrestling.com
Free media: www.rohvideos.com
Online store: On-site
SHIMMER: Women?s Athletes
An Illinois-based independent wrestling company built exclusively, much to Jack?s delight, around women?s wrestling. Their style is much more physical than what is done on Raw or Smackdown. An affiliate of Ring of Honor, SHIMMER matches are often showcased on ROH cards and DVD?s. Though only a year old, SHIMMER has already attracted attention from WWE for future divas, signing Natty Neidhart to a developmental deal.
Official site: http://www.shimmerwrestling.com/
Online store: https://www.rohwrestling.com/shoponline.asp?point=products&catid=252
UPW: Ultimate Pro Wrestling
A sports-entertainment-driven California indy. Mostly utilizing talent from their Ultimate University wrestling school, they discovered and trained the likes of John Cena, Nathan Jones and Samoa Joe. UPW is famous for getting so many of its homegrown wrestlers tryouts with WWE and Japan?s Zero-One promotion.
Official site: www.upw.com
Online store: On-site
UWA: Hardcore Wrestling
A Canadian indy with an obvious affinity for hardcore wrestling. They have hosted both popular American indy stars like Alex Shelley and Homicide (before their success in TNA), and Canadian indy stars who became popular U.S. such as El Generico and Kevin Steen. Thanks to their relationship with Japan?s Toryumon promotion they have frequently been visited by Ultimo Dragon and will soon host Jushin Liger. They share a lot of talent with Combat Zone Wrestling and hosted their own first annual King of the Deathmatch tournament in February of this year.
Official site: http://www.uwahardcorewrestling.com/default.aspx
Free Media: On-site
Online store: http://www.wrestlingmerchdirect.com/
UWF: United Wrestling Federation
This promotion sees all kinds of guests, from Jeff Jarrett to Rikishi to the Steiner Brothers. As Jerry Lynn said on In Your Head, UWF tries not only to bring in recognizable talent, but puts them in matches you?ve never seen before, such as the upcoming Jerry Lynn VS Raven. They helped TNA run house shows in areas like Michigan and Pennsylvania, but severed ties to the company in 2006. Despite the split they still use a six-sided ring and book some TNA talent.
Official site: http://www.uwfusa.com/
Online store: http://uwf.highspots.com/uwf/index.asp
WCPW: Windy City Pro Wrestling
Based in Chicago, Illinois, WCPW has been training wrestling students for nineteen years. They host eight separate titles, including middle and lightweight championships, and one belt exclusively for battle royales. Despite its hard-hitting style, Windy City promotes itself for family entertainment. They have a good relationship with TNA and book top talent like Chris Sabin and Samoa Joe for their main events.
Official site: http://www.windycityprowrestling.com/nav_page.html
Online store: On-site