Indies Not Dead, Part 1: The Americas

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With recent developments like WWE’s reported signings of indie superstars like WALTER, Shane Strickland, and Trevor Lee, to EVOLVE‘s integration of NXT stars into the roster, Ring of Honor signing more stars like Brody King and PCO and the reportedly new exclusivity of NXT UK stars removing them from the UK indie scene, a vocal contingent of the wrestling community on social media and online forums have begun to doomsay the end is nigh with the global independent scenes. But much like the ocean, when it comes to the sheer immensity of the independent scene on a global scale, most people barely know 10% of its contents.

As we’ve covered here before, the signing of major indie superstars by larger promotions, such as the WWE, NJPW, Ring of Honor or IMPACT Wrestling is nothing new. It’s been in full effect ever since the WWE struck gold with CM Punk in 2006 (and earlier when IMPACT raided ROH for the likes of AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and Christopher Daniels). And what’s not looked at is the amount of talent that end up back on the indies from the WWE, simply due to the sheer size of the roster and talents not working out for whatever the reason.

The truth is, since the indies began its rise following the collapse of WCW and ECW in 2001, the indie scene has never been stronger than it is in 2018. More promotions than ever before have found stability in creating not only brands that their loyal fans have grown to trust – in most instances more so than they have in the WWE – and these promotions have had a strong hand in developing many of the indie stars we see today, either the ones still on the indies or the ones that have found their one to one of the major promotions. Like any sport or entertainment industry, there are tiers of promotion – that is, varying promotions of various size and stages of development. As main event superstars are signed by WWE, ROH, IMPACT or NJPW, it forces everyone to step up and move up the proverbial ladder. Rookies become low card regulars, the low card becomes mid card, the mid card moves to the upper card, and the upper card becomes the new main event superstars. These main event departures should be looked at avenues of opportunity for everyone else below them to turn on their hustle and work to move up that ladder and seize those spots.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the variety and depth of the indies around the world. In this piece, part one of a series called Indie’s Not Dead, we look at the independent scene of the Americas (North & South America), and it’s staggering depth – from the top flight indies that showcase elite level talent to the ones that are helping hone the best talents in their respective local regions. In comparison to the original territories of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) from 1948 to the 1980s, we’ve arranged them by their territorial region. DISCLAIMER: For the sake of focusing on the true “independents”, we have not included any of the major/TV promotions: WWE, IMPACT Wrestling, Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, CMLL, AAA, Lucha Underground, or All Japan. There are literally thousands of indies running in the Americas right now and for space reasons, we simply cannot cover them all. We’ve highlighted the ones that are producing the greatest amount of content, creating the best new stars, and putting on the best production. By all means, link any promotions not mentioned in the comments below! We’ve included links to watch the promotions (if they have a streaming service), but in many cases, we’ve put links to collected streaming networks who house multiple promotions. Many of these promotions have their own On Demand as well, but with the networks, you can preview multiple new promotions at once and then decide who to invest in further! The world is your wrestling oyster!

MID ATLANTIC (Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia)

The Mid Atlantic used to be the home base of Jim Crockett Promotions, the company lead by Jim Crockett (and then his son Jim Crockett Jr.). JCP ultimately went head to head with Vince McMahon‘s WWF in the mid-80s and his acquired empire eventually became WCW. WWE only took over three territories during the 1980’s – Georgia Championship Wrestling in the US, and Stampede and Maple Leaf Wrestling in Canada (they sold Stampede back to the Harts a year later). Meanwhile, in that same timeframe, JCP bought Mid-South, Championship Wrestling From Florida, Championship Wrestling From Georgia, NWA Central States, St. Louis Wrestling Club (MO territory). He turned all of those into what became WCW. So technically, Crockett had a bigger hand in “taking over” the territories than Vince did.

MID SOUTH (Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi)

Bill Watts‘ Mid South territory was a staple of the NWA, but it was acquired by JCP in the 1980s, and now resides on the WWE Network via their acquistion of WCW in 2001. But the territory is still active.

MID WEST (Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Manitoba)

The Midwest is an absolute hotbed right now in the US indie scene, with Ohio’s AIW and Rockstar Pro, Illinois’ AAW, Indiana’s Black Label Pro, and others leading the way. Chicago’s SHIMMER is arguably the top women’s promotion in North America, and CKCW is an amazing promotion in Ohio that imports the top stars of Puerto Rico. There’s a little bit of everything coming out of the Midwest, and a wealth of talent ready to break out.

NORTHEAST (New England, Maine, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island)

The Northeast is easily the strongest territory in the US indie scene, just based on the sheer population density and access to events. Beyond Wrestling, CHIKARA, GCW, HOG and CZW have been leading the charge for years, but don’t ignore the many other promotions that are creating exceptional talent that are breaking out nationally.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST (Washington, British Columbia, Oregon, Alaska)

The Pacific Northwest, primarily the Seattle and Vancouver area, is a breeding ground for top talent, and they may not have the number of promotions as othe territories, but they continue to excel and offer exciting wrestling featuring regional and international stars.

SOUTH CENTRAL (Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia)

Southern wrestling almost seemed dormant following the demise of WCW and the NWA territories, but there’s a real rise on the indie scene right now, with some great talent emerging from the area. SUP, ACTION and Scenic City are putting on outstanding events, but the area isn’t limited by those three. There’s plenty of southern hospitality when it comes to pro wrestling.

SOUTH-SOUTHWEST (Texas, Florida)

Texas and Florida continue to be big time territories for action. The homebase of WWN, the parent company of EVOLVE, FIP, and Shine, is there, plus MLW and many other great promotions nurturing the next generations of stars.

UPPER/LOWER CANADA (Ontario, Quebec, Maritimes)

The central Canadian indie scene is thriving as well, with Southwestern Ontario, Quebec and Maritimes promotions hotter than they’ve ever been.

WEST COAST (California, Nevada, Arizona)

The West Coast rarely gets the same kind of love the rest of the nation gets, but there’s more to the scene than just PWG (although PWG has been one of the most influential indies of the past 20 years). Don’t sleep on emerging promotions like PCW ULTRA, FSW, Bar Wrestling and others, as well as CWFH. Stars are built here and often find success elsewhere, but the scene is easily the most underrated of the country.

LATIN AMERICA (Mexico, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Dominican)

There’s more lucha libre than just AAA and CMLL, and it’s not just in Mexico. Puerto Rico is producing world class stars and Costa Rica and Dominican Republic are also active in the game.

SOUTH AMERICA (Brazil, Chile, Peru)

South America has emerged as a new wrestling frontier, evidenced by the WWE’s recent tryouts in Chile. There’s plenty to be excited about the new brand of lucha emerging from the Southern continent.

Stay tuned for future entries in the series, as Part 2 looks at international indies from the UK, Ireland, Europe, Japan and beyond!

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