This Weekend’s Best Indie Wrestling Shows

Progress Chapter 84

Progress

Venue: Electric Ballroom (London, England)

The triple-threat match featuring WALTER vs. Chris Ridgeway vs. El Phantasmo vying for Defiant’s Internet Championship at a Loaded TV taping last December gave us a brief view of the type of chemistry Walter and Ridgeway can have inside the ring.  

That chemistry went as expected, some chops, dropkicks and powerbombs from WALTER, who looked his usual dominant, menacing self.

Lesser known chemistry would be that of Jordan Devlin vs. Travis Banks, the match that was supposed to happen at NXT UK Takeover Blackpool, but didn’t due to a Banks injury.

Devlin proved himself a worthy adversary for the saver of days, Finn Bálor, at Empress Ballroom. He’s one of the brightest talents on the NXT UK roster, but Banks, a former Progress champ, still presents a formidable opposition and a notable hill to climb.

NXT UK regulars such as Trent Seven, Jinny and Mark Andrews round out a card that’ll please the British faithful looking for hard-hitting action.


AIW: Hail to the King, Baby

AIW - Hail to the King

Venue: Tadmor Shrine (Akron, Ohio)

Legendary former NWA champion Harley Race will make a special appearance on a card that features three standout matchups.

“Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams defends his AIW Absolute championship against Pretty Boy Smith. Williams has recently been on the winning side of various tag bouts as a member of Juice Robinson’s Lifeblood stable in Ring of Honor and New Japan, but he was less successful in his last title defense, losing his Powerbomb.tv independent title to Orange Cassidy at Beyond Heavy Lies the Crown. Smooth is nicknamed the “Seven-Foot Savage” but he lists himself as a more modest 6’9’’. Lately, he’s found success in the Pennsylvania promotions Revenge Pro and Ryse.

A three way match will decide the Intense championship, when title holder Matthew Justice takes on Wheeler Yuta and Tre Lamar. Yuta, who has firmly established himself as an indie name to see, defeated Louis Lyndon at AIW’s Welcome to the Party, Pal. Lamar, a frequent tag partner of Chase Oliver on AIW shows, looks to finally prove himself as a singles competitor.

All Elite Wrestling will be represented on the card in the women’s bout, when All In alum Britt Baker takes on the Boricuan Bad Ass Tasha Steelz. This will be Baker’s first match back in AIW since she beat Allie Kat at WrestleRager 3 last August.


AAW: Art of War (Chicago, Illinois)

Art of War

Venue: Logan Square Auditorium (Chicago, Illinois)

No countouts. No disqualifications. Just professional wrestling for the wrestling fan. That’s the simple calling card of Chicago-based AAW.

The Lucha Brothers, Sami Callihan, Eddie Kingston, AR Fox, Sammy Guevara, Curt Stallion, David Starr and a host of other established indie veterans will be on hand to make this year’s edition of the sold out Art of War show another memorable affair.


Women’s Wrestling Revolution: Widowmaker

Widowmaker

Location: NYWC Sportatorium (Long Island, New York)

Psycho Circus 17 will be the prime time main event of New York Wrestling Connection’s Saturday doubleheader at the Sportatorium. But the all-women’s opening show looks to be the superior card top-to-bottom.

Beyond Wrestling regulars such as Kris Stadtlander, Penelope Ford, Skylar and Solo Darling will blend well with an assorted lineup that will be headlined by former WWE diva and TNA knockout Lisa Marie Varon.

Coming off an impressive showing at ICW: Party and Bullshit, Maria Manic is scheduled to take on Vanity.

The tag match featuring the Tournament For Tomorrow duo of Darling and New York local Willow Nightingale will be one to watch, as they take on Allie Kat and Veda Scott.

Speaking of tag teams to watch: Ashley Vox and Delmi Exo will face Harlow O’Hara and Terra Calaway in a rematch of their TFT bout.

This WWR show will likely feature a future NXT Women’s champion, just like the shows of the past.

WWE Elimination Chamber Review

Viewers of tonight’s WWE Elimination Chamber show devoted five seconds of their lives to watching the “which pod will it be, transference of light” shot between Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton in the main event of the evening. It’s easy to wonder about the necessity of such a shot considering Orton winning a gauntlet match on the previous Smackdown Live guaranteed that he would be the final entrant in the six-man main event, not Hardy.

Trading in five seconds of needless time-killing silliness to appease Vince McMahon’s camera angle fetish would prove to be a well worth it audience investment, though, as a riveting 12-minute finishing sequence featured WWE champion Daniel Bryan and Kofi Kingston battling to near fall-filled perfection.

The “Kofi!” chants were loud, and it was refreshing to hear a crowd actually have energy, support and appreciation for a face in the main event of a WWE show. These days, it seems almost like a foreign concept to have the fans in attendance invested in a main event instead of tired out for it.

The six-man smorgasbord of talent in the Men’s elimination chamber featured praise-worthy performances from Bryan and Kingston. Everyone else filled their role as good appetizers.

That was the well-timed height of what turned out to be a good but nothing special, typical between Rumble and Mania B-show.

The Women’s tag team title match had some weird pacing issues in the beginning. The heat for the match picked up surprisingly enough when Carmella and Naomi entered. The Nia Jax bursting through the pod spot was intense, as was Bayley’s and Sasha’s individual bumps into the metal part of the pods.

Seeing the Boss and Hug connection hoist the newly designed gold after the inaugural win felt like the right move. There were a few mistimes and miscues in this one, notably Mandy Rose being late to break up a Bayley pin on partner Sonya Deville, but overall it was a fine enough match for what it was.

Crowd heat waned for the following two matches, but two title changes in a row seemed to help. The Usos beating Shane and Miz for the Smackdown Tag titles was a welcome surprise. There was also notable excitement for Finn Balor’s intercontinental championship victory. The Coup De Grace always receives a big pop, regardless if it’s coming at the end of a rather ordinary match like the one he had with Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush.

Ruby Riott played sacrificial lamb to a Ronda Rousey, Charlotte and Becky Lynch stare down segment that might have made more sense to do on either the coming Raw or Smackdown for ratings purposes.

Once a member of the “we need three heels from the Raw roster to have a lot of six-man tag matches” trio with Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler, Braun Strowman saw the other side of the coin tonight as Baron Corbin, McIntyre and Bobby Lashley showed Strowman what it’s like to have strength in numbers.

The Monster Among Men will likely be on the lookout for some partners to join him in his quest for payback. Finn Balor and Kurt Angle are obvious possibilities. Who knows, maybe even a guy like John Cena will return to settle his beef with McIntyre.

The main event featured its fair share of interesting spots that were aided by the Chamber setting such as Kofi Kingston flying off the cage, AJ Styles’ phenomenal forearm to Daniel Bryan on the outside and Jeff Hardy’s Swanton bomb from atop of one of the pods onto a top rope dangling Styles.

It’s easy to believe that Mustafa Ali was likely the initial choice to be the final foe for Bryan before an injury forced him to the sideline. Ali would have worked well in the role. However, judging by how excited fans in Houston were for Kington’s close calls, it seems that Ali’s injury may have been a blessing in disguise.

With tons of momentum built from his recent hour long performance in the Gauntlet match on Smackdown, it can be argued that his performance inside the Chamber was the highlight and peak of Kingston’s career.

The 37-year-old veteran thrived when handed an opportunity he’s clearly been waiting years for. Right now, Kofi’s got the type of heat and fan interest that make him a worthy candidate for a Wrestlemania title feud with Bryan.

WWE Elimination Chamber Preview

Here’s our preview of the seven matches set to take place at the 2019 edition of WWE’s Elimination Chamber in Houston, Texas.

Cruiserweight Championship Match

Buddy Murphy vs. Akira Tozawa

Buddy Murphy

Since winning the cruiserweight title from Cedric Alexander in his native Australia at WWE Super Showdown, Buddy Murphy has strung together stellar showings in his last three title defenses against the likes of Alexander, Mustafa Ali and most recently at the Royal Rumble in a fatal four-way victory over Kalisto, Hideo Itami and Akira Tozawa.  

Unfortunately for the 205 Live leading man, he’s been relegated to the preshow in his last two big show outings.

Being the guy on the once-a-month preshow and the weekly oft-overlooked C-show is a bless and a curse. Murphy knows the eyes that are on him are more limited than those competing on the Raw and Smackdown brands, but he hasn’t yet let that stop him from rewarding every one of those who devote their glances.

Tozawa, a former Dragon Gate standout who proved himself on the American independent circuit, is always looking to tell a special story with his opponent. He’ll find a worthy adversary in Murphy, who will be just as eager to tell a memorable story in the allotted 9-12 minutes they’ll get to work.

Given his performance as champion, there’s no reason to take the belt off Murphy before Wrestlemania. Tozawa is an opponent that could give him a potential show-stealing bout that will help Murphy continue to create a buzz, regardless of card position.


Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin

Braun Strowman Baron Corbin

The two-minute gong show match at TLC would have been a fine enough end to this feud. But creative doesn’t really seem to have much else for either of these two right now, so extend it must.

After the Brock F-5athon at Crown Jewel and the elbow surgery that soon followed, Strowman has noticeably cooled off and is currently in a bit of a precarious position heading into Wrestlemania. It’s clear that the brass doesn’t view him as a brand-carrying figure at this juncture.

Regardless of what the road ahead has in store, Braun will always have his size, presence and an ability to pull off unique stunts that can wow the crowd.

The no DQ stipulation for this match should provide a few fun antics in a match that’ll likely be the quick spot fest it needs to be. If they really want to kick the shenanigans into overdrive, a Drew McIntyre interference and Kurt Angle save spot is a possibility.


Intercontinental Championship Match

Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush vs. Finn Balor

Balor Lashley

Finn Balor and Lio Rush displayed some good chemistry in their Raw match a few weeks ago. Still, I’m not a huge fan of the handicap stipulation for this one.

Lashley’s enough of an intimidating presence, so it seems unnecessary to have Rush actually be officially in the match instead of being his usual menacing interference waiting to happen self, a role which he’s been thriving in.

In the so-called David vs. Goliath battle between Balor and Brock, Finn played his role perfectly, finding the weak spot of the beast and exploiting it to the fullest. Unfortunately, Lashley isn’t quite the same level of attraction as Lesnar.

They seem ready to do something notable with Balor in the Wrestlemania plans. But I’m not sure if you need to have him win the title here, or keep him in the chase role until Mania. The handicap stipulation does open the door for a few possibilities in the outcome, and it wouldn’t shock me if Rush is there to eat the pin.


WWE Raw Women’s Championship

Ronda Rousey vs. Ruby Riott

Rousey Riott

Given the seemingly foregone conclusion that the plan is for Ronda, Charlotte and Becky Lynch to main event Wrestlemania in a triple-threat match, it’d certainly be a shock of the century level upset to see Ruby win the belt in this situation. There are some intriguing facets to this match, regardless of how expected the outcome may be, mainly what type of crowd reaction Ronda receives and where she gets slotted on the card.

Crowds have been slowly starting to turn on Ronda ever since she was thrown into a story line with Lynch before Survivor Series.

Charlotte’s vicious kendo stick and steel chair-aided beat down of Rousey after their match in Los Angeles failed to garner the desired sympathy and reaction (a smattering of boos and indifferent groans) the folks behind the curtain were hoping for.

The former UFC star may be losing some of the support of the fans but she has been finding her footing in the squared circle, especially when it comes to her big show matches against the likes of Flair, Nia Jax, Nikki Bella and most recently against Sasha Banks at the Royal Rumble.

What’s interesting about Rousey is that while she may be a more mainstream attraction than any of the other women on the roster, her rookie skill level gives her the chance to believably sell for her opponent, instead of doing short dominant squashes.

It’s one thing to sell for a powerful behemoth like Jax or a proven former champion like Flair, Banks or Bella. The 5’4’’, 122-pound Riott doesn’t quite have those qualifications.

What she does have, though, is a surprisingly strong showing against Rousey under her belt from a Raw match last October. In fact, Riott dominated offensively for a good chunk of that one, even throwing in a few nasty looking fish hooks for good measure, before succumbing to Rousey’s patented finishing sequence and tapping to the arm bar.

Riott, a tried and true veteran of the independent scene, is capable of carrying this match through the early going, with some expected aid and interference from her Squad buddies Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan. Maybe we get a near fall or two here to keep the crowd invested, but ultimately, Rousey will take this one in her fashion, after overcoming the odds and escaping the peril.

Post match could be interesting here. In her most recent promo on Smackdown, Charlotte said she’ll have a front-row seat to scout her Mania foe. If we get a face to face of those two after the match sans a suspended Becky, what type of response will it get?


Smackdown Tag Team Championship

Shane McMahon and the Miz vs. The Usos

Usos Shanemiz

Outside of the loss to Braun Strowman and Nicholas at Wrestlemania 34, I’m not sure I’ve seen The Bar have a worse match than they did in the loss to Shane McMahon and the Miz at Royal Rumble. It’s on par with the Enzo hijacks the crowd/Drake pisses himself cluster from Survivor Series.

The McMahon and Miz pairing is fine for some Smackdown promo segments, but in ring, well, it’s Shane and the Miz.

I will say the promo on the go home show between the Usos and the Smackdown tag champs did have some good jabs from both sides. That verbal back and forth affair may prove to be more entertaining than the actual match, though.

When on their game, the Usos are one of the most exciting teams in the business. They’ve proven that for a decade. But they aren’t working with the New Day or The Bar anymore.

Add in the questions about where Jimmy’s head will be at following his recent legal spat, and it’s easy to say that this match isn’t setting up to be a memorable affair. We might get one scary Shane spot, or at least a tease, though, if that tickles your fancy.


Women’s Tag Team Championship Elimination Chamber

Sasha Banks and Bayley vs. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville vs. Naomi and Carmella vs. Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan vs. The IIconics vs. Nia Jax and Tamina

Womens

Of the twelve competitors in this match, there is one great worker: Sasha Banks, one very good, sometimes great worker: Bayley and then the rest rate between average and passable.

Does it bode well that the two best workers and biggest stars in this match are on the same team and also starting what should be a 30-plus minute elimination match?

It makes it a bit of an uphill battle for sure. What I do like about this one, though, is that there’s a lot of “prove yourself in a big spot hunger” type of energy from some of the younger, newer teams like Rose/Deville, Morgan/Logan and the IIconics.

When seeing all three of those teams on the main roster for the first time, they all had that “there’s something there, but there’s a long way to go and a lot to learn” feel. But to each of their credit, they’ve all gotten out on the road, learned some and improved.

Then you’ve got the imposing duo of Jax and Tamina, who have of course been blessed with a patented McMahon alliterative nickname Samoan Slaughterhouse (t-shirts to be printed shortly). Nia seems like she’s at least trying not to be quite the botch machine she once was, and Tamina is also there, and big.

Naomi and Carmella will also be involved with this match, probably not doing much of note, but I like both of them and both are worthy of at least one quick moment of shine.

Ultimately, if they feel Sasha’s healthy enough, I could see her and Bayley going wire to wire, likely beating the more imposing Jax and Tamina in the final pairing.

When the first true thought of a women’s tag championship becoming a reality started taking off around the time of Evolution, Sasha and Bayley were the logical choice.

Nothing’s changed since then, especially if a match against two legends like Lita and Trish could be worked out for Wrestlemania.


WWE Championship Elimination Chamber

Daniel Bryan vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Jeff Hardy vs. AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe vs. Randy Orton

KOfiAJ.jpg

As someone who is fine with seeing the least amount of Randy Orton in a match as possible, the gauntlet match on this past Smackdown was a win-win. The short, sloppy, largely forgettable segment between Kofi Kingston and Jeff Hardy aside, it was a terrific match and a great exhibition of the talents of all the competitors with Kingston obviously taking center stage as the standout.

Plus, we got minimal Orton involvement, and his win hopefully guarantees that the same will be true again on Sunday, unless it’s a swerve and we’re getting Randy-Bray Wyatt: The rematch no one wants.

Do an RKO, get back on the bus and cash the check seems to be Orton’s itinerary these days. And that’s totally fine for this one.

The fact that Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe and AJ Styles—three of the best wrestlers of their generation—could very well be sharing the ring at the same time with the WWE title on the line is special enough. Add in the momentum Kofi built for himself in his “I saw what you did last year, Rollins, and I’m going to match it” performance, and throw in a legend like Jeff Hardy for good measure, and you’ve got the potential for a real spectacle type of main event.

In the end, I’d have Bryan retain, probably over Styles. A Kofi close call could work as well. I’d shy away from having Rowan involved in the ending because judging from that flat finish at the Rumble and the subsequent reactions he’s gotten on television since, I just don’t think anyone wants to see him in that spot, especially in a match with so many guys that are leagues above him.

Notable Absences

  • Alexa Bliss
  • Andrade
  • Asuka
  • Becky Lynch
  • Brock Lesnar
  • Charlotte
  • Dean Ambrose
  • Drew McIntyre
  • Kurt Angle
  • Rey Mysterio
  • Rusev
  • Seth Rollins
  • Shinsuke Nakamura
  • The Bar