Since the death of Extreme Championship Wrestling (RIP), the Independent Wrestling scene has been my main source of wrestling. I can’t really say that I enjoy watching the WWE anymore mainly because the product at times is so dire, but that’s another matter for another time. Anyway, I became a fan of the hardcore promotions, XPW and CZW, before becoming a fan of the more wrestling based Ring of Honor and Major League Wrestling. I also like a few of the other promotions out there, namely IWA Mid-South and 3PW. So what I’ve decided to do is take a look at a selection of the top Indy promotions in the US.
RING OF HONOR is most likely the top promotion out there just now outside of the WWE and NWA-TNA. They have a style of wrestling which is very innovative and fresh, something that wrestling could do with a lot more of. While many promotions have set out to become the next ECW, by using a similar style to them and using the same arena as them, Ring of Honor has done that by accident. ROH and ECW are like the North Pole to the South Pole. They are the complete opposite. Yet what makes them similar is that ROH has a similar feel to what ECW had in its early days. Recently, ROH has been expanding into new areas and its fan base has grown along with it. Their shows at the Murphy Recreation Centre in Philadelphia have become so accustomed to being sold out, that they’ve been forced to move the shows to the bigger Viking Hall/ECW Arena a few blocks away, beginning next year. This is a really big deal for ROH as it shows how much they have grown since their inception in February 2002. ROH is the stomping grounds of most of the top Indy names and their shows show this by being simply top notch most of the time. I truly believe that in a few years, Ring of Honor could be up there as one of the big promotions. Right now, ROH leads all the other Indies on most aspects: Best events, Biggest Fan base, Most Improved etc.
MAJOR LEAGUE WRESTLING is in many ways similar to ROH. They too are very innovative. Their biggest selling point is their “Hybrid” style, which basically is a combination of all the styles of wrestling mixed together. One of the most notable differences between ROH and MLW is the budget. MLW spends a lot of money to bring in the big names like Terry Funk, Sabu, The Sandman, Steve Corino and major wrestlers from Japan like Satoshi Kojima. They also have a nationwide TV deal on the Sunshine Network, which has helped them to draw crowds of 1,000+ to their shows. They run mainly in Florida but have also ran shows in New York and Philly. Their shows also have a feel of the late, great, ECW, thanks to many of the former ECW wrestlers on hand as well as former ECW commentator, Joey Styles, commentating on their events.
COMBAT ZONE WRESTLING is like an American version of FMW. It is so different yet so similar to ECW. Before their debut in the ECW Arena in December 2002, CZW took extreme to a new level, promoting matches never before seen in the USA. But after debuting there, CZW shows in the Viking Hall are a toned down version of their old selves. Not that it doesn’t put WWE Hardcore matches to shame though. Many would be appalled at some of the violence, which goes down there. But CZW would most likely take this as a compliment. On the under card, CZW promotes some excellent high flying and pure wrestling matches. Some of their wrestlers such as Trent Acid and Nick Berk have been getting excellent reviews in the wrestling media. CZW continues to promote some ultra-violent events in Delaware but that looks like it may be stopped due to a ruling by the State on “extreme’ wrestling”. When the State Commission explained their decision to the media, they talked of some of the things that happened under the CZW banner. It looks like CZW won’t be able to run some of their ultra-violent events such as the Tournament of Death.
IWA MID-SOUTH is the closest thing to a territory wrestling has these days. The promotion owned by former ECW great, Ian Rotten, has an illustrious history of promoting events in the Indiana/Illinois/Ohio area. The promotion rented a building in Clarksville, Indiana to become the IWA Arena and ran there almost every weekend. They held some of their major annual tournaments such as their King of the Deathmatch and Ted Petty Sweet Science Tournament. The promotion is known for their insane hardcore stunts that are mixed in with some good wrestling matches. They were booted out of the IWA Arena by the building owners and are now running shows all over Indiana. One thing which has become clear is that the IWA isn’t ever going to get huge crowds in that area. It’s very likely that the majority of their fans are from other areas such as the North-East of America. This could well be due to the fact that IWA has had working relationships with both CZW (which brought some incredible insane matches) and XPW. Also, many of their wrestlers such as Chris Hero, CM Punk and Colt Cobana are making a name for themselves with other promotions such as Ring of Honor.
PRO-PAIN PRO WRESTLING (3PW) is another of the Philadelphia based promotions. While CZW is taking extreme to new levels and ROH is pushing wrestling as a sport, 3PW is promoting an ECW style product. Unlike a lot of Indy shows, 3PW brings in many name wrestlers such as legends, Dusty Rhodes and Terry Funk and former ECW greats, The Sandman and Raven. The promotion is owned by the ‘Blue Meanie’ Brian Heffron and his wife, Jasmine St.Claire, along with ECW founder Tod Gordon. The promotion doesn’t look like it will ever become a ‘big’ promotion but is continuing to keep the memory of ECW alive.
THE OTHERS… In the California area, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and Revolution Pro have made a name for themselves by promoting good, all be it, small shows. The East Coast Wrestling Alliance has got excellent reviews for its annual ‘Super 8’ Tournament in Delaware. Pro Wrestling Iron has also made a name for itself. The promotion ran by Michael Modest and Donovan Morgan has featured some of the top names from Pro Wrestling NOAH in Japan. LXW – Lucha Xtreme Wrestling’s first show in New York was greeted by a good reaction. The show featured some luchadores from Mexico and some of the top high-flyers from the USA.