These are the six shows I think every independent wrestling fan should own. It’s tough to keep up with every show from every company, but there are certainly shows created more equally than others. I think this is a great representation of the best of a number of companies at the DIY attitude taken by two of the most veteran indie workers. No fancy introduction here. Let’s get to the list.
6. Night of Hoopla-Ring of Honor
What makes this show so special? Not necessarily the match quality even though the final two matches on the card are well worth watching but because of the uniqueness of the event. Ring of Honor has a reputation both for being bland and stodgy in the way they promote their events. Nothing stodgy here. They weren’t afraid to poke fun of themselves by having wrestlers not get booked (Kevin Steen yelling at Scarlett for singing, QT Marshall getting buried with an incredible graphic) or having Jimmy Jacobs and Scarlett sing Disney songs to each other. The show itself began with Scarlett singing a dirty version of our National Anthem followed by a night of fun and wackiness. Not all the ideas worked, men dressed as female lumberjacks and “Satan” making an appearance, but there was at least effort put forth to do something very un-Ring of Honor like. The fact that this show sold out on DVD has to mean something, right? And how has Ring of Honor followed up? By not doing another one since or even announcing a second show. I’m not saying this should be done every month, but it’s a concept that absolutely should be used 2-3 times a year.
5. Americanrana- Beyond Wrestling
Beyond Wrestling was more of a traditional wrestling show than Night of Hoopla, but everything from the live presentation to the DVD was slightly different compared to every other wrestling show. From having fans stand to opening the venue just as the bonus match was getting underway, Beyond Wrestling continues a willingness to experiment and try new things. The official opener between Drew Gulak and Chris Dickinson could have very easily been the main event of the show. While many companies likely would have main evented with a dream match between Kevin Steen and Masada, Beyond Wrestling used one of their established feuds to bring home the first show. Biff Busick and Eddie Edwards had a strong match that represented a nice dynamic of “Established indie guy versus New England guy.” Anthony Stone wrestled AR Fox. JT Dunn wrestled Johnny Gargano. Colt Cabana wrestled Jaka. Even with Stone being the only coming across victorious, the New England wrestlers came across extremely credible and legitimized their own standing on a show that could be the most scene Beyond show DVD in history. I loved this show for its feel and vibe. Especially cool was the choice to listen to multiple commentary options. It’s a small but subtle touch that really enhances owning a DVD.
4. Absolution VIII
Although not their first iPPV, this is traditionally AIW’s biggest show of the year, and even with the problems of Smart Mark Video’s live presentation, this show turned into a major artistic success. Josh Alexander and Michael Elgin is arguably one of the best matches of the year from any promotion across the world. Alexander in particular came across as a huge star just by going to a draw with one of Ring of Honor’s best. Ethan Page lost to Johnny Gargano in another strong match but ended the night as AIW champion after a heel turn by Selezyia Sparx. Page cut an epic promo that should have set him up for the rest of the year as THE guy in AIW, but obviously issues not pertaining to wrestling prevented him from living up to his full potential. This company has a reputation for being one of the most audacious and ballsy in the independents, and they showed it on this show. AIW is not perfect, but Absolution VIII deserves to be seen by as many independent wrestling fans as possible.
3. 7 Levels of Hate
Not necessarily an independent show (hence the name of the article) but a great documentary that captures the spirit of independent wrestling for better or worse. Adam Pearce and Colt Cabana attempted to construct a meaningful angle which not only could entertain fans but elevate the standing of the NWA Worlds Heavyweight title. The matches are a testament to the skill sets of each man. They’re not traditional super indie style matches, but they’re both very good at the heel/face dynamic and keeping crowds engaged in the action. I’m not always a fan of either man in the ring, but in this case, you can feel the passion for wrestling and in getting the ring and trying to create something special. To wrestle for a title, no matter how worthless some fans might perceive it to be, in seven different promotions across the country is an achievement and well worth documenting for posterity. The documentary is a great look at what the men tried to put forth while also hashing out some of the mechanizations of the NWA. For Pearce and Cabana, they were successful in having a great series of matches and spotlighting some little known promotions across three timezones and to countries. As far as the NWA goes, they’re far more interested in living in the past as opposed to building up the next generation of stars.
2. Day of Defiance- AAW
AAW had three opportunities to really deliver when it mattered most. In May, AAW took place the night before a Chikara same day doubleheader and incorporated Mixed Martial Archie onto the show. It was a rare occasion of wacky Chikara comedy onto a more typical adult show. In this case, he wrestled a man not known for having fun in wrestling at all, Davey Richards. This was far from a typical Davey Richards’s match, but instead we got something that was fun and engaged AAW fans in a very different way. Richards was also involved in the next match as he teamed with Kyle O’Reilly to take on Michael Elgin and ACH. This was a spectacular tag team showcase that did follow the super indie formula for success. But when you’ve got four of the best around, then the results should always be a four star match or above. This was a great match to whet the appetite of fans before intermission and would be tough to top. Somehow Sami Callihan and Shane Hollister were able to put on the AAW match of the year in a Last Man Standing match which set up Hollister extremely well for the rest of the year to become AAW champion. This was not just guys doing movez, but they told a story and ended their feud in appropriate fashion. This turned out to be Callihan’s last match, and he did the best possible job putting over the hometown guy. Day of Defiance was both a success at the gate and an artistic success. I thought this was better than any AAW show this year and all but one independent show in 2013. Windy City Classic and One Twisted Christmas did even better at the gate thanks to the holiday season and Kevin Steen being booked, but Day of Defiance remains the best show of the year for the company.
To read my full review, check that out here.
1. 2013 Battle Los Angeles- PWG
Technically, this is two DVDs and two shows, but really, it’s one long show. There’s almost too much good wrestling to discuss, but the fact that Johnny Gargano and Kevin Steen had a four star contest in the second match of the night on night two. Kevin Steen and Chuck Taylor had a very fun opener to begin the tournament. After a couple of so so matches, Trent? stepped up and had the best match of night one with eventual tournament champion Kyle O’Reilly. We got to see some debuts in ACH and some solid showcases from Tommaso Ciampa and Anthony Nese. As good as the tournament itself was, the penultimate match of night two likely stole the show and positioned Candice LaRae as a main eventer. These were the two best nights of independent wrestling of the year as it showcased number of future stars and featured a variety of styles throughout. Undoubtedly, the crowd in Reseda makes a great show a classic. And who knows what sort of effect WWE scouts have on talent. I cannot recommend these shows strongly enough. If you don’t believe me, I spoke about both in reviews here and here.