Independent promotion (literally) breaks through doors to get into the pro-wrestling house
Pro-wrestling in hitting another boom period. The new upstart promotion, All Elite Wrestling (AEW), was founded by Cody Rhodes, the son of Hall of Fame Legend Dusty Rhodes, who famously left World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) when he felt he was not getting the recognition he deserved, and Matt and Nick Jackson, otherwise known as The Young Bucks, an “indy darling” tag-team who are fiercely autonomous despite multiple attempts by WWE and other major promotions to sign them. They brought other stars with them, like Japanese wrestling superstar Kenny Omega, a wrestler long overlooked in North America, and a young and talented wrestler named “The Hangman” Adam Page. Along with Jacksonville Jaguars Vice President Tony Khan, they seem to be serious about becoming a major force in the pro-wrestling landscape. Even though AEW has had two strong wrestling events, including last Saturday night’s Fyter Fest, it remains to be seen if they have enough long term sustainability.
With so much pro-wrestling for the fans to absorb, it can be almost a second job consuming it all. While streaming availability is attainable, the live experience is the heart and soul of sports-entertainment. For many, going to see WWE, AEW, or Ring of Honor (ROH) might not be realistic. This is where local independent pro-wrestling comes in.
Unsanctioned Pro Wrestling came back to Columbus, Ohio on Saturday, June 29th. They held their anniversary show Unsanctioned Pro 5: Don’t Try This at Home at the Moose Lodge on 1444 Demorest Rd., a venue quickly becoming their home base. If not explicit in its name and title, this promotion isn’t for everyone. They pride themselves in the hardcore wrestling style, a style utilizing brutal “stiff” or real shots, props like furniture and utensils, and involves blood and ultra-violence. This is not to say they limit themselves to one particular style, they just favor a more aggressive, adult-oriented style.
To prove this point, the “pre-show” match was an exceptional technical match between two future stars as Brayden Lee took on Indianapolis-native Johnathan Wolf from the I [Freaking] Hate You faction. Drawing derision from the fans who compared him to Post Malone, and not caring, the heelish millennial wrestled the athletic Lee as if Lee was beneath him. At first glance, Lee looks more physically gifted, as he looks like he is about to report to two-a-days while Wolf looks like, well, Post Malone. However, Wolf displayed agility with cartwheels and backflips onto his opponent. There was also some martial arts skills under Wolf’s tie-dyed t-shirt, as he hit a roundhouse back kick on Lee. After some back and forth action, Wolf was able to hit his finisher, a jumping piledriver, for the victory.
Tag team action was the second bout as Hysteria, Cole Radrick and Sage Adams, took on The Awesome Odyssey, Chris Copeland and Jack Andrews. This match was high-flying and technical, with some surprisingly hard-hitting. At one point, it sounded like the fire alarm went off in the building, but it ended up being Radrick screaming in agony as Odyssey worked him over in their corner. All four young talents traded holds and blows in an evenly measured matchup, so it no surprise the match ended with a quick roll up victory by Hysteria.
Seemingly, wrestlers will never learn not to make open challenges. “The Bare Knuckle Brawler” Lord Crewe felt that there was not enough competition in Unsanctioned Pro, and looked outside the promotion for a fight. He found one, in the 6′ 6″, 255 lb. “Fresh 2 Death” PB Smooth. Lord Crewe is by no means a small man, yet even he was dwarfed by Smooth, who looked like he was on his way to Cincinnati Bengals training camp. He ragdolled Crewe for most of the match. Crewe gained the upper hand momentarily with an eye rake, but Smooth caught Crewe in his finishing move, the Funeral Service, for the victory.
Next, it was time for the “Unsanctioned Scramble” Match where the winner earned the right to challenge for an Unsanctioned Title match of his choosing on a future show. The participants were Devon Moore, “Hot Fiya” Myron Reed, Dale Patricks, Gringo Loco, from Chicago, Tre Lamar, from Canton, OH, and Matthew Justice, from Middlefield, OH. As if six solid independent talents from the Midwest were not enough, Dr. Daniel C Rockingham inserted himself into the match looking for a wrestler to
connive into follow his program for success. Devon Moore was almost convinced to follow the psychologist-wrestler until he mockingly tore Rockingham’s pamphlet to pieces, officially starting the match. There was too much action to call; however, the match was not without two dramatic points. Mid-match, Tre Lamar and Myron Reed seemed to form a limited partnership as they decide to work together to try to eliminate other opponents. They even performed dual flipping dives onto the their opponents on the floor. As per usual, these alliances do not last, and Lamar tried to selfishly pin an opponent that Reed had beaten. Both men stared each other down until they came to blows, being eliminated for their troubles. This led to an aftermatch altercation where PB Smooth came from the back to jump Reed along with Lamar, Smooth and Lamar obviously being in cahoots.
The other event saw Matthew Justice and Dale Patricks “get hardcore”. Justice has been on a hardcore bent lately. Earlier this year, he went viral with putting his opponent in the Justice Driver from a two-story balcony on to a stack of tables. Hoping to replicate this move, Justice promptly brought two doors into the ring, stacked them on chairs Jenga-style, looking to put Patricks away at the end of the match. After two attempts to build the tower, Justice was finally able to put Patricks through them for the win.
The first title match was for the Unsanctioned Pro Hardcore Title. Champion Markus Crane defended his title against “Everyone’s Imaginary Friend” Tripp Cassidy. This match was a “Toy Block” Match as thousands of plastic toy building blocks were scattered in the ring. Not only were toy blocks used, but party poppers were used as well. Blocks were used as weapons, especially taped to wiffle ball bats. Blocks were swallowed. Blocks were landed on multiple times. In the end, Markus Crane was able to retain his belt in an entertaining match.
After clearing the ring, it was time for more singles action. Scotty “Forever” Young, from Indiana, was supposed to take on “The Chippendale Wrestler” Kody Rice. Rice could not make it. Instead, back from outer space, fan favorite Space Monkey answered the challenge. Space Monkey employed his lucha libre-inspired “monkey fighting style” –obviously taught to him by a national space program –to confuse and frustrate Young even further than he already was. Embarrassing “Tiny Nipples” and out-wrestling him did not last long for Space Monkey, for, eventually, Young caught Monkey from behind and began to brutalize The Simian Superstar by attacking his tail. Space Monkey was able to use his resources to his advantage, getting Young to fall for the time-honored “slip-on-a-banana-peel” trick. He survived Young’s dastardly tactics effectively enough to get the pin.
Bringing the show back down to earth was another technical match between Unsanctioned Pro’s Lexus Montez versus newcomer, Canadian, Kobe Durst. Durst was very unassuming (probably because he is Canadian) and Montez carried himself with a quiet confidence. There was some very good, stiff striking from both competitors. Durst was able to catch Montez with some high flying maneuvers, almost getting the pin with a cross body. In the end, Durst picked up the win.
Before Durst could celebrate, an apparent bar room brawl spilled out from the back. In actuality, it was The Rejects, Reed Bentley and John Wayne Murdock, and The Young Studs, Eric Ryan and Bobby Beverly, mugged each other into the ring. The grudge match quickly became a blood feud, as metal forks and ring posts were utilized by the wrestlers to open each other up. There were no punches held back. At one point, Murdock and Ryan spend five minutes, seated, punching each other in the head. The Rejects were able to turn the tide on The Young Studs, hit their double team move, and defeat their hated rivals.
In an unexpected turn of events, the Franchise of Unsanctioned Pro, “The Hipster Heartthrob” Casanova Valentine came out to address the crowd, explaining that, due to an injury sustained in a death match in another promotion, he would not be able to compete. Midway through his apology, his erstwhile opponent, Ari Azteca, was not having it. He brutally attacked Valentine from behind, and exploited Valentine’s hand injury by slamming his hand against the ring, bending his fingers backward, and running a garden weasel over his injury. The match went on as scheduled with Azteca taking full advantage. Valentine fought back bravely, taking punishment inside and outside the ring. Valentine was able to out-brawl Azteca, who did not hold back, and used his finishing move to get the pin on Azteca.
The final match was an historic one. This match saw the crowning of the first ever Unsanctioned Pro Wrestling Heavyweight Champion. The culmination of a year-long tournament saw Alex Colon take on “The God of Drivers” Everett Cross. Both men had been making noise that they would do whatever it took to become the first UP Champion, and they were not lying. The match started quickly, with Colon trying to get the upper hand by jumping Cross. Cross eventually recovered. He took Colon everywhere around the ring, hitting move after move until Colon found a way to come back. Colon left Everett prone in the ring long enough to go back and get a door –not just a door, but a door wrapped in barbed wire. After fending each other off of the dreaded door for a while, Colon almost negotiated Cross into a sunset flip onto the doomed door until Cross countered Colon, manipulating him into his version a driver he calls Planetary Devastation onto the barbed wire door.
Not too shockingly, this was not enough to put Colon away, so Cross choked out Colon with a rear naked choke. Colon passed out, and Cross claimed his hard-earned prize as the first ever Unsanctioned Pro Wrestling Heavyweight Champion.
Hardcore wrestling is not for everyone. It is a niche in a great pro-wrestling landscape. To simply write hardcore wrestlers or promotions off summarily is a disservice. As Yung Custodian, co-host of The Heel and Face Podcast, said Unsanctioned Pro helped prove that “hardcore wrestlers can go,” meaning they are not just unathletic creeps hitting themselves with light tubes. Unsanctioned Pro is here to stay in the Midwest –a rowdy, obnoxious, barbaric howl among the noise in the already loud pro-wrestling landscape.