Welcome to another edition of The Indie 52. The world of independent professional wrestling is jam-packed with matches of all shapes, sizes, and colours. Every night of the week, promotions across the world run shows for audiences of all sizes, and literally, anything can happen. That level of unpredictability is why I love indie wrestling (and Indi Wrestling but that’s another story) and why I want to spotlight some of the matches that I think other fans should check out. The beginning of July was so full of amazing matches that this is a supersized edition!
MAO vs. Bryan Keith | West Coast Pro Wrestling: Cruel Summer
One of my favourite recent excursions has been that of DDT’s MAO, the extreme high-flying purveyor of the “fucked up style” of wrestling. In this match, MAO faced one of the toughest guns in all of independent wrestling: Bryan Keith. The two began the match trading massive shot after shot, and everyone loved it, MAO and Keith most of all. The brawl went to the outside, where MAO delivered a gorgeous moonsault off the venue’s bar, sending the crowd into a frenzy just five minutes in.
A split-leg moonsault by MAO back in the ring was enough for two, but not enough to slay the Bounty Hunter. Keith nailed his opponent with a second exploder suplex into the corner, evening the odds. Bryan’s running headbutt and avalanche exploder suplex off the top rope was awesome.
Then, as if things weren’t going bonkers enough, the legendary Yoshihiko appeared, causing his usual level of chaos. Keith displaced the DDT pair with another exploder and then brutally tossed Yoshihiko out of the ring, Razor style. Bryan and MAO resumed where they started, doling out bone-bruising forearms. MAO gained the advantage with a series of spinning kicks, but the Bounty Hunter had one last shot in the chamber. After a quick flurry of awesome action, Keith was able to finish MAO with an Emerald Tiger Driver, putting the end to an exhilarating ride. This was certainly one to check out.
Winner: Bryan Keith
Masha Slamovich (c) vs. Trish Adora | West Coast Pro Wrestling Women’s Championship Match | West Coast Pro Wrestling: Cruel Summer
The extremely dominant Masha Slamovich faced a worthy challenger in this championship bout in Trish Adora, and both athletes took one another to the limit. Adora held the advantage early, relying on her excellent technical skill by controlling the champion’s arm. Slamovich retaliated by also targeting Adora’s arm, and the two continuously and relentlessly grappled for control. The veracity and viciousness of the holds by both wrestlers were something to behold, and all before the fireworks truly began.
Adora was able to deliver a German suplex from her knees to gain a two-count and seemed well poised to dethrone Slamovich. Then of almost nowhere, Masha was able to explode with a White Knight Driver into an armbar, leading to a successful defence of her West Coast Pro Wrestling Women’s Championship. Fans of technical wrestling should certainly tune into this match.
Winner: Masha Slamovich
Billie Starkz vs. Utami Hayashishita | Game Changer Wrestling: Clean Up Man
Living legend versus future legend resulted in wrestling magic. The Red Queen of Stardom graced the indie scene for a special occasion, to face the brightest of rising stars: Billie Starkz. Billie, always calm and capable beyond her years, showed no fear or intimidation against Hayashishita, as the two traded hard-hitting forearm strikes. The two reached a stalemate after exchanging picturesque German suplexes. Billie gained an advantage by dropping her foe’s head across her knee and following it with a nice combo of kicks and tombstone pile driver.
Even this impressive collection of offence was not enough, as Utami withstood. The clever Hayashishita was able to avoid Starkz’s Swanton attempt, and then win her GCW debut with a Torture Rack into powerbomb combo. This sprint of a match is an excellent display of two exciting stars who could and should cross paths again.
Winner: Utami Hayashishita
Darian Bengston (c) vs. Derek Neal | TWE Championship Match | TWE: Winner Takes All
TWE, and its sister federation Action, is a remembrance of the South, down and dirty with an old-school feeling. It is also a breeding ground for exciting independent wrestling talent.
Darian Bengston certainly fits that bill, as the rising star has captured the hearts of his many fans, who were full-throat in their support in this contest. Neal came into the match claiming to be champion despite a previous suspension and being stripped, forcing a confrontation with the officially recognized champion Bengston.
The two fierce competitors tossed one another around inside the ring and out, creating deep waters for both to swim in. Neal used his experience to wear his opponent down, not allowing Bengston to use his explosive offence. Southern stalwarts The Rev and Tank ensured that Neal’s cronies did not interfere in the affair, but a belt shot by Neal threatened Bengston’s reign.
A dramatic kick out by Darian ignited the crowd, and the two men traded mighty blows. In the end, Bengston’s agility was the difference and he was able to roll through a Neal offensive and deliver a massive shot to the back of his head. With the main event win, Bengston was able to solidify his place as the undisputed TWE champ in an expertly worked match.
Winner: Darian Bengston
The 2023 Scenic City Invitational
What a run by the eventual 2023 Scenic City Tournament winner, the 1 Called Manders. The Boss of the Plains rode his proverbial trusty steed down to the South, determined to beat the very best in all of independent wrestling and be crowned the SCI victor.
Manders vs. Noah Hossman
To begin his run, Manders faced the powerful Noah Hossman, a big man with a bigger mean streak. After comparing and testing one another’s strengths and toughness like two alpha bulls, things got serious. Hossman showcased some impressive speed for such a large athlete, looking to end Manders’s tournament in the first round.
The Texan Noah looked to be in complete control, but the Iowan cowboy Manders stayed with it. Hossman and Manders traded lethal lariats, creating a nearly dead-even contest. Hossman hit a Doctor Bomb, which Manders miraculously kicked out of. Manders responded with one more lariat, which was enough to propel the Cornfed Cowboy into the second round for the first time in his career.
Manders vs. Sawyer Wreck
In his semifinal matchup, Manders faced the extremely dangerous Sawyer Wreck, an up-and-coming superstar who revels in the violence of her sport. The two bruisers battered each other from the opening bell to the closing, firing up the crowd. In the end, Manders dug deep, delivering multiple lariats and an Oklahoma Stampede from the top rope to advance to the final of the tournament.
Manders vs. Landon Hale vs. Adam Priest vs. Darian Bengston
The winner of the tournament was named by winning a final four-way elimination match. The four finalists were Manders, underdog Landon Hale, Southern stalwart Adam Priest, and fan favourite Darian Bengston. The four men gave it their all in a four corners tag no disqualification rules match, full of big moves and bigger drama.
The veteran Priest utilized excellent strategy early, using frequent tags in an attempt to play mind games. Priest also took advantage of the no DQ rules, nailing Bengston with his branding iron which allowed the Action champ Priest to pin and eliminate the TWE champ Bengston.
Priest then focused his attack on the injured head of Hale, viciously ripping at the wound with a pair of pliers. Manders valiantly decided to take on the villainous Priest, who continued to do whatever he felt necessary in pursuit of tournament victory. Manders turned the table with his old reliable lariat and tagged in Hale who was able to hit his SPO driver onto Priest for a shocking pin and a terrific moment.
This left the young upstart Hale against Manders, the veteran looking to finally conquer this tournament. The two began the final clash with a hard-hitting exchange, setting the tone for a fantastic end. Hale was able to kick out of two consecutive lariats, including kicking out at one after the second shot, sending the crowd into gleeful exhilaration. The youthful Hale was unable to hit his finishing driver, opening the door for one last and victory-earning lariat for the win.
This match final match was exceptional, and Manders is a more than worthy winner. Former SCI winners AC Mack and Jaden Newman presented Manders with the trophy in a touching moment. An emotional Manders gave a lovely speech, and everyone went home more than happy. Congrats to the Boss of the Plains.
Other highlights of the tournament worth watching on IWTV include Bobby Flaco vs. Rico Gonzalez, John Wayne Murdoch vs. Sawyer Wreck, Eli Knight vs. Landon Hale, and Adam Priest vs. Timothy Thatcher. Heck, just watch the entire two-night event, and fall in love with some of the best independent wrestlers currently going.