Tag Archives: US Indie

(05/17) Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kevin Steen

Ring of Honor
Hammerstein Ballroom (New York, New York) 

Midway through the match between Nakamura and Steen, a fan sitting behind us began commenting that Nakamura is overrated.  The support for his assertion was mainly – from what we could hear – that Nakamura “only” throws a lot of knee lifts and that doesn’t make him anything special.  A weak argument to be sure, but I found the comment interesting in light of who Nakamura happened to being wrestling on that night.

I do not know for sure, but I will assume this fan was a ROH fan and a Kevin Steen fan.  I think Steen has some positive qualities.  He is way over with the ROH fan base, has a certain charisma about him, and comes off as surprisingly charming whenever I have heard him speak in or out of the ring.  Steen is also a poster boy for the ROH/PWG high-octane style that places a heavy emphasize on high-impact moves, often at the expense of everything else.

In other words, if Nakamura is a guy who “only throws knee lifts” then Steen is a guy “who only does high impact moves”.  As a result, this match provided a certain juxtaposition.  Nakamura and Steen are both highly charismatic.  Nakamura gets by these days by leaning heavily on that charisma.  Nakamura’s memorable spots in the match were his seizure-like boot choke in the corner, his goofy struts across the ring, the “head to the chest” clean break, and an assortment of running knees.  In other words, his big moments were borderline comedy spots and as my fellow match-watcher pointed out, “normal knee lifts”.

Steen’s memorable spots included a big time spill to the floor on a missed running cannonball and a power bomb on Nakamura delivered from the floor to the ring apron.  Nakamura chose to get by on comedy spots that a New Japan viewer would be familiar with and his signature knee-based moves.  Steen incorporated some comedy (particularly early on) but dipped into his bag of high impact offense liberally throughout the match.  It was an interesting contrast that highlighted one of the major in-ring differences between many of the New Japan workers and ROH workers.

That is not to say that the NJPW guys don’t go all out some times but it is clearly a different mindset.  The crowd was hyped for this match and loved Steen from the minute he stepped in front of the fans.  He likely did not need to spill to the floor or pull out apron power bombs to get a reaction, but he did.  Nakamura played it a tad safer (although granted, he did take the previously mentioned apron power bomb) and was fine for it as well.

This was not necessarily a great match but it was certainly the one match on the card that felt like a true big time inter-promotional match.  In that regard, it was one of the more memorable and successful matches on a card that overall, had to be considered a success.

US Indie | Common | Quality & Hype

(05/10) Drew Gulak (c) vs. Biff Busick

Flyers Skate Zone (Voorhees, New Jersey)
CZW World Heavyweight Championship 

These two have had a few matches versus one another that have been well received in some circles, including matches for 2013 National Pro Wrestling Day, Chikara, and EVOLVE.  They have all been okay but nothing that I would go out of my way to see.  Their match for the CZW World Championship is more of the same.

There are always guys in wrestling who get a fair amount of bookings and receive some press despite not having any real “plus” attributes.  I think Biff Busick – at least at this stage in his career – is one of those guys.  I cannot conjure up one thing that he does better than average or one attribute that really makes him standout.  Yet somehow he has a pretty decent profile on the indies.  There is nothing overly wrong about being that average guy that gets consistent work (BJ Whitmer is doing just fine) – that just is what Busick is right now.

As such this match is largely forgettable.  Gulak has a much more noticeable upside.  He is competent on the mat and it is not difficult to see his potential for growth if he had the opportunity to face higher caliber opponents on a regular basis.

Gulak was the heel CZW champion going into the match.  The title switch was played up like a major event with the locker room ending after Busick got the 3-count.  The finish didn’t seem to get a huge reaction from the live crowd, but it was a decent, somewhat shocked reaction.   I am not sure the title switch will have an impact one way or the other, however.  CZW the promotion is a lot like Biff Busick – there is nothing noticeable special about them, but they seem to just keep rolling along.   Gulak or Busick with the title – it doesn’t really matter.

US Indie | Common | Title Switch

(02/01) A.J. Styles vs. Roderick Strong

A.J. Styles vs. Roderick Strong
Ring of Honor
Nashville Fairgrounds (Nashville, Tennessee)

This was A.J.’s first match on his 2014 Indie tour but the third one to be distributed (prior two discussed here and here). It is probably the second best – or worst for you pessimists out there – of his matches thus far.

The beginning was good, basic feel-out stuff. Strong’s head-scissors on the mat was something I don’t recall ever seeing him do before. The one major positive for Styles’ US Indie return thus far has been the way all of his matches have at least attempted to lay a foundation early on with good, simple holds and mat work. It sure beats two guys sleepwalking through a lock up and couple of arm-wringers before transitioning straight to the body of the match.

My hope was that this being a TV match and Styles & Strong being veterans, that it would stay relatively basic and focused. It did not play out quite like that. They didn’t go way overboard but some of the more annoying elements found in many ROH matches were on display here. There was a ring apron move, a standing striking section late in the match after no prior build to such a sequence and probably a couple too many near falls past where the match peaked.

Those elements are nothing new to ROH or the US Indie scene. I previously wrote that Styles has perfected the 2004 Indie style here in 2014. Perfected might have been too strong of a word. It is more like he has the formula down to the point where his matches do not stray far from that style. As mentioned in the Alexander match that’s not inherently a bad thing because when done well, there is nothing wrong with that style. When some of the more negative elements are highlighted – too many near falls, match goes too long, big moves with no build – then there it isn’t as great. Unfortunately this match had a few too many of those negative elements.

Overall, I have the Cedric Alexander match above this but Strong is clearly a step above Jaysin Strife so they have that particular match beat. Chris Hero seemed happy on Twitter with how his match versus Styles went in Toronto a couple of weeks ago so it will be interesting to see that when it comes out to compare to this one.

By the way, the botched Styles Clash looked as brutal as it sounded. Hopefully it is a one-time aberration.

US Indie | Common | Individual Performance (Styles)

(01/19) AJ Styles vs. Cedric Alexander

Pro Wrestling Xperience
Ziggy’s (Winston-Salem, NC)

In 2014, A.J. Styles has perfected the 2004-era US Indie style. I mean that as a compliment. It is not a bad style – surely beats the Michael Elgin/Davey Richards overdrive style currently dominating the “workrate” Indie scene – and like I said, he’s got it down to a science now.

The first five or so minutes of this match were really good. The match begins with the Styles’ trademarked opening mat work (waist lock take down, rides his opponent, opponent reverses, and there is a stalemate), but the match stays on the ground for a little longer after that. It is basic stuff but any concern that a return to an “anything goes” indie atmosphere combined with wrestling someone like Alexander might bring out the worse tendencies in Styles appeared to be unwarranted, at least early on. The match eventually picks up its pace but never degenerates into a series of moves and never gets all that close to becoming goofy.

Alexander looked very good. His strikes connected nicely and he did not look out of place going toe to toe with Styles. There was the occasional moment where he seemed to stumble but overall it was an impressive performance. Alexander – who also has a tendency go a little overboard on his offense – stayed reigned-in. His strikes stood out the most, with good forearms, uppercuts, punches and kicks used effectively throughout.

The match was the latest in a series of Cedric Alexander versus dream opponent bouts in PWX. The idea seems to be that Alexander is testing himself against topflight competition (Chris Hero, Davey Richards, ect.) in memorable matches. What makes this match work – and what also made the Hero match work – was that it didn’t try to be epic. Both guys stayed relatively within themselves, did not go overboard, and produced an enjoyable match as a result.

Styles came away with the win after a run-in momentarily diverted Alexander’s attention, handing Alexander his first loss during his trial series. It will be interesting to see how much, if at all, Styles loses during this run. While Hero has been dropping matches left and right since his return, Styles (at least early on) seems to be going in the opposite direction.

(01/10) Ricochet vs. Chris Hero

The Orpheum (Ybor City, FL)

The first five or so minutes provide a glimpse of just what Chris Hero can bring to the US Indies on his second time through. He controls the early-goings with a slow and simple build that helps set the foundation for the rest of the match. Hero shows off some interesting mat work that eats up some time without ever feeling as time-filler. Many US Indy matches currently suffer from a lack of a solid start – matches tend to jump right into the body more often than not, which means everything gets sped up. The near falls happen in the body and the ending stretch descends into overkill. Hero’s early work in this match keeps that from being an issue.

Really, the entire match is a nice glimpse into how solid of a veteran worker Chris Hero has become. Ricochet is very talented and likely the best high flier left on the Indies but he benefits from Hero’s guidance in this match. The match has a nice pace to it. Combine it with Hero and Ricochet’s athletic abilities and you are going to get at least a good match every single time.

US Indie | Watchable | Quality