Matt's Top 25 Indy Wrestlers

 

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Guess who’s back? Back again. Guess who’s back, tell your friends. Guess who’s back, guess who’s back, guess who’s back, guess who’s back…….That’s right folks, after my unapproved vacation from the GumGod sweatshop, I have returned to make my grand re-entrance with a column. Not just any column, oh no. Not the continuation of the DOI Top 250, oh no. I have decided that with the holidays upon us, signaling the end to the 2004 calendar year, I have taken it upon myself to create my OWN list. That is right ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you to GumGod’s own, TOP 25 INDY WRESTLERS~!~!~!~

You see, after receiving several e-mails from people who must have been sailors considering the language that was used, I came to the realization that no one cares what happened over a year ago. Look at the WWE as an example of that. So therefore, instead of talking about an incredible 2003 that wrestlers had, I will talk about incredible 2004’s that wrestlers have had. So sit back and enjoy while GumGod Head Honcho Derek Burgan and I evaluate MY top 25.

25) “Classic” Colt Cabana – Cabana, who was trained in Chicago Illinois by Ace Steele (also know as the guy who got a haircut by Eugene and had his ass handed to him by Eric Bischoff), has quickly become a bright star on the Indies. Improving with every match, his charisma and mic skills are by far one of the top on the Indies. The stable he is in, along with Ace and CM Punk, the Second City Saints, are quickly becoming one of the most recognized forces on the Indy scene. Due to his ability, in my opinion, Cabana has surpassed his trainer as a wrestler and is now better than Steele, who is no slouch himself. In 2004, Cabana and his stable mates won the ROH tag Team titles and Cabana was one of the few people in wrestling to pin Samoa Joe in 2004. (Burgan’s Notes: I recently saw Cabana’s work in Pro Wrestling Guerilla and he is even funnier there than in ROH. I look for Cabana to have a break out year in 2005)

24) BJ Whitmer - Former WWE Developmental talent, Whitmer can work. I personally don’t like his style and am not a fan of his work; however I do know talent when I see it. The man can wrestle and is very good at it. In the past few months, Whitmer has shown that he can not only wrestle, but he can brawl with the best of them. A bloody feud with the Second City Saints in ROH and the Carnage Crew has cemented that however Whitmer has also shown his ability as a technical wrestler including a feud with Homicide in IWA Mid South early this year. I think that next year, he is going to go down a few notches (i.e. out of the top 25) due to his wrestling mostly in teams on the Northeast with Danny Maff. (Burgan’s Notes: I couldn’t STAND Whitmer at the beginning of the year, but his time in the Prophecy and his current hardcore team with Dan Maff have me totally changing my tune)

23) Dan “The Assassin” Maff - A man who I feel should be way higher on my list. The artist formerly known as Mafia from Da Hit Squad is a man who has had flashes of greatness dating all the way back to his Hit Squad days. Every now and then, you saw his charisma and wrestling ability show in matches. In singles contests, Maff has taken his wrestling ability to another level from his main tag team days. At the time of this printing, he is the current Jersey All Pro Wrestling World Heavyweight Champion and has successfully defended that title against several names including Jerry the King Lawler, Al Snow, Monsta Mack, Samoa Joe, Mike Awesome and Vader. However, his most recognition comes from Ring of Honor Wrestling. Unfortunately, his main exposure comes in ROH where after a semi successful singles run, he was stuck back in a tag team with the above mentioned BJ Whitmer. (Burgan’s Notes: Maff is a guy I feel was really screwed over by the RF situation. When TNA pulled Daniels away from the Prophecy it took away a big angle Maff had going as he and the Fallen Angel have great chemistry together. As big of a step up that Whitmer had teaming with Maff, it was just as large down for Maff)

22) Deranged - A man who has his ups and downs in his personal life yet is one of the most exceptional wrestlers around today comes in at number 19. Deranged has the distinction of being the only person to train with the first and second graduating class of Homicide’s Doghouse. Deranged, who many “haters” compare to Amazing Red of the S.A.T., is an innovator of several high flying moves that Red himself does. Many do not know this little fact but several of Red’s high flying moves were actually created by Deranged. The only thing is, Red got more bookings so he was able to showcase it to more fans. (Burgan’s Notes: Only Aponte could admit Deranged is one of the most exceptional wrestlers around, AND HE IS, while still burying him behind a guy like Mike Kruel. Give me a break)

21) Mike “The Shooter” Kruel - Kruel has potential to be in the top 5 on this list. He is “THAT. DAMN. GOOD.” However……he lacks anything remotely close to resembling charisma. He has none of it. ZIP….ZERO…NADA…NILTCH~!~!~ So much so that he could be working with Dean Malenko and you would think Malenko was the Rock. Seriously. However his ability to put on a compelling match and tell a hell of a story is second to none. Evidenced by his 5 star match with Chris Candido earlier this year, Kruel has a knack for doing little things in matches that make you go back and think, “Wow”. Kruel will probably be known by main stream wrestling fans as the “jobber” who received a WWE Title shot against JBL on Smackdown only to be squashed in a few seconds. Kruel is also one half of The Pitbulls 2000 in 3PW with Gary Wolfe and has helped propel a weak tag team division in 3PW to something passable.

20) “The Shady Show” Jack Evans - I cannot tell you how many times I thought Evans was killed in the ring. Seriously. Not because he is sloppy or doesn’t know what he is doing. If that were the case, he wouldn’t be on this list. Instead, Evans has taken some of the most hellacious beatings and bumps I have ever seen in history. From taking a DDT directly on his head (ala Steve Austin) on an OPEN CHAIR by Trent Acid to receiving a running COP KILLA from Homicide in CZW, Evans manages to land on his head and neck in almost every single match and manage to do it again later. Add that to his incredible high flying ability with moves that no one has EVER seen, Evans is the real human highlight reel. I only pray that Evans is able to do this for a longer period of time. His body just won’t be able to hold up. (Burgan’s Notes: #20 for Jack Evans? WTF?! This year Evans, just in ROH alone, proved his is Top Ten material)

19) Alex Shelly – Alex Shelly has come from basic obscurity into one of the top names on the independent wrestling scene. Shelly came into Ring of Honor as a mid card name and quickly elevated to main event status by having solid matches in the mid card and by starting a stable titled Generation Next (GeNext for short) with other mid carders, Austin Aries, Jack Evans & Roderick Strong. His quick elevation and sudden showing of incredible speaking ability also landed him a gig in TNA where he was horribly used at first as “Baby Bear” as a charge for Goldilocks. Shelly was improperly used by TNA (what else is new?) and has faltered there. However his ROH stock is as strong as it has ever been and his is branching out into other Indy promotions around the US showing his talent. GeNext is now a main event stable in ROH and Shelly is a household name by Indy fans. (Burgan’s Notes: Like Cabana, I look for a huge year from Shelley –that’s right Aponte – SHELLEY, in the coming year. He went from a guy I could care less about to one of the most entertaining guys behind the microphone in ROH)

18) Mark Briscoe - One half of what in my opinion is the best tag team in ALL of wrestling today, The Briscoe Bros. And when I say ALL OF WRESTLING, I am including TNA & WWE. Mark, the high-flyer/bump machine of the Briscoe’s is also the younger of the duo. When ROH debuted, Mark was strictly used as his brother’s corner man due to his not being of age to wrestle. But once he turned 18, he showed that it was worth the wait. Since wrestling again, Mark and his brother Jay captured the ROH tag team title and had a banner year including an intense feud in ROH against ROH Champion Samoa Joe and various partners. Mark my word, (pun intended); Mark Briscoe will be in the WWE one day. ROH is right now the Briscoe’s only federation due to them attending college. Both men passed on football scholarships to focus on education and wrestling exclusively for ROH.

17) Austin Aries - Stable mate to Alex Shelly in Ring of Honor, I ranked Aries ahead of GeNext leader Shelly for one reason and one reason alone, Aries has one of the most incredible matches in wrestling history in 2004. A 75 minute 2 out of 3 fall match with “American Dragon” Brian Danielson. Not only did he go 75 minutes with Danielson, HE WON. An incredible feat for a man who surprisingly has been wrestling for 4 years but only begun to make his mark recently. He participated in the Worlds Famous ECWA Super 8 tournament as well as made an appearance in TNA and works for the top 2 Indy feds (wrestling wise) in the US, ROH and IWA-MS. Aries is going to have an even more incredible 2005 as he is expected to move up the ranks in the feds he works for and I fully expect him to hold singles gold in the next few months. (Burgan’s Notes: Aries has a pretty damn cool t-shirt available now as well)

16) Teddy Hart - Teddy Hart = Future WWE Superstar. Sure the guy is flaky. Sure he wears weird clothes. Sure he has quite an imagination. Sure he enjoys making up weird stories in order to get himself over. Sure he enjoys speaking before he thinks no matter how bizarre or controversial. So what? Teddy Hart is a diamond in the rough. The man has more raw, natural ability then anyone on the Indies and any of the big lugs that Vince calls up from OVW. He has a good look. He has incredible high flying ability and he has something that carries weight in the WWE, the Hart name. Teddy Hart is a member of the famous Hart Family (Nephew of Bret & Owen). He knows how to wrestle as it was imbedded in his brain since birth. Hart, who although lives in Canada and wrestles frequently on the independent circuit, has had very good matches when he appears. Several people on the Indy level hate him but none of those people who have legit beef with Hart can deny, the man can work.

15) ”Modern Marvel” Matt Stryker - No not the Matt Stryker with the uni-brow that no one likes, the ”other” Matt Stryker. The one who oozes charisma. The Stryker who can entertain a crowd like few on the Indy scene. The Stryker who is a student of the business and can imitate the voice and mannerism of any wrestling legend who has come before him including dead on imitations of Roddy Piper, Eddie Gilbert, Jimmy Snuka, Ultimate Warrior, Randy Savage and others. That STRYKER. The same man, who in my opinion will be one of the few to make the WWE from the Indies. He has all the tools needed. A good physique, Talent, Charisma and wrestling ability. He is becoming more and more talented in the ring with each outing including an incredible match with Low-Ki in the failed World-1 promotion. Many said he couldn’t keep up with him but he managed to end up doing so. (Burgan’s Notes: I really wish ROH would book this Stryker as from what little I have some from him on the Indy Scene has been absolutely priceless)

14) Sonjay Dutt - The Original Playa form the Himalayas, Sonjay is becoming one of the best cruiserweights in the business. Sonjay is a high flyer who has come out of obscurity to become one of the most booked young stars around. Being that he has been in the wrestling business for less than 5 years, you can fully expect Sonjay to be the future of wrestling. His high flying maneuvers are incredible and his ability to carry parlay his Indian (as from India) heritage into a fun gimmick speaks volumes about the Indy scene where most wrestlers are all the same. Sonjay also used his persona and ability to get a spot in TNA where he is Sabu’s “apprentice”.

13) “Hurricane” John Walters - I admit when I am wrong. When I first saw John Walters wrestle, I was not impressed. I thought he was bland and nothing to write home about. But he has grown on me tremendously. John is one of the best technical wrestlers on the Indy scene. The reason he is ranked so high is due to the fact that he has solidly climbed the ranks of Ring of Honor to become their Pure Champion (their secondary title) and when many expected it to be a short title reign, it has been quite the contrary. Not only that, but when World Wrestling Entertainment is in the New England area, Walters spends his time wrestling as enhancement talent on Velocity as well as in Dark matches and skits for the company. John Walters has a good look and solid ability. The fact that WWE uses him often may end up being his “in.” (Burgan’s Notes: I saw Walters on a documentary earlier this year, on the Chaotic Wrestling company if you can believe that, and he came across really well. Seems to be an incredibly good guy but this ranking is absurd. No way Walters should be in the Top 15)

12) Al Snow - Snow may be recognized by most as the Tough Enough trainer and for the 5 people who watched WWE Sunday Night Heat over the past year may know that he did some commentary. But for those Indy fans on the North East, Al Snow is a fantastic Indy worker. Being that Snow has been in this business over 20 years now, you can compare Snow to a bottle of wine, he has improved with age. Al Snow now wrestles smarter and a less risky style, but he can still go. He has had classic matches with several names on the Indies including a 65 minute match with Raven at USA Pro late last year. (Burgan’s Notes: Aponte needs a drug test after this selection.)

11) Grimm Reefer - With a name like that, many will probably think this name is a joke. But it isn’t. Reefer has been ”lighting up” the Indy scene over the past few months by winning titles and having classic matches. His three match series with Deranged in USA Pro goes down as in the top 10 of USA pro Matches in history. He is the current NYWC World Champion and he has shown that he can also brawl with the best of them by having a hardcore match with the blood thirsty Lowlife Louie Ramos. Reefer, one of Homicide’s prized students, doesn’t have the physique or charisma to make the ”E” but he does have the ability to continue to make waves on the Indies. I have no clue why he isn’t full time with ROH. He has worked some matches there in the past but has improved by leaps and bounds since then. Gabe, call Reefer, STAT~!~!~

10) Chris Candido - Mr. No Gimmicks Needed himself, Candido was once a former WWE superstar and well on his way to eventually having a huge legacy in this business. That was in the early 90’s. Somewhere along the path to superstardom, Candido hit a bump in the road, Actually, Candido hit several bumps. Candido, once a man with tons of potential, had fallen prey to what “insiders” call “Personal Demons”. Candido fell HARD. But…over the years, Candido has rebounded to revitalize his career in ECW and turning that into a guaranteed WCW contract during their dying days. Since WCW folded, Candido has once again stepped up his game and has managed to make a huge mark on the indy scene. So much so, that Candido is now training in Ohio Valley Wrestling, ON HIS OWN, in order to try and work his way back into World Wrestling Entertainment. Candido, at a young age of 32, still has several years left in his system and by the looks of his work in the ring; they have the potential to be incredible years, barring any “personal” setbacks. (Burgan’s Notes: I honestly think Aponte has been having oral relations with Candido due to the blatant amount of over-rating the guy I have had to read this year. He’s good, but he ain’t THAT good)

9) “The Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels - at number nine comes is someone who many consider the top Indy worker around today, “The Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels. For those who do not know, Daniels was under WCW contract when WCW folded. However for some godforsaken reason, WWE chose not to pick his contract up thus sending him back into the independent wrestling life. Daniels by far is one of the most gifted wrestlers to NOT work for the WWE. He did however score a TNA contract but as you can easily guess, he has been misused from the start and is no better than a mid carder. Daniels was a staple in Ring of Honor wrestling before the whole Rob Feinstein scandal forced him to not work there any longer. Daniels still works indy shows however including several in California as well as being the current 3PW World Champion.

8) Jay Briscoe - The other, and in my opinion, better half of the Briscoe Brothers tag team come in at number 8, Jay Briscoe. Being 2 years older than gives Jay a head start on the wrestling business. For example, for the first year and a half of Ring of Honor’s existence, Jay was a feature player in the company’s growth. Mark however had to sit out due to Pennsylvania Athletic Commission rules. So Jay was getting experience working with top names while Mark was his corner man. Jay, in 2004 was one of ROH’s main eventers and was involved in a long feud with ROH Champion Samoa Joe which saw Jay earn Joe’s respect in a steel cage match that saw Briscoe bleed a gusher. After Joe won, he told the crowd that he respected Jay cause even though Jay was over matched during the feud; he continued to fight and challenge Joe. I don’t think Joe’s respect was the only respect that Jay Briscoe earned. (Burgan’s Notes: If the Briscoes hadn’t disappeared off the face of the planet to end 2004 I think Jay Briscoe would have had a monster year. That cage match Aponte talked about from At Our Best was one of my favorite matches of the year from any promotion)

7) AJ Styles - AJ Styles is a superstar. The man was offered a WWE developmental deal a few years back however turned it down because the offer was too low. Good move in my book because of AJ would have signed, he would be feuding with Nunzio, Shannon Moore and Akio on Velocity Hell~!~!~!~ AJ, since turning down the deal, has been the talk of the Indies. From Ring of Honor to IWA Mid South to Jersey All Pro Wrestling to 3PW, to CZW, AJ has been tearing the Indies a new one and taking names along the way. Styles was also the TNA champion for a few months in 2004 and is one of the few stars on the Indies that HAS a top spot in TNA. I do however expect WWE to make a serious run at AJ once his TNA contract is up.

6) CM Punk - Now I can see why some people love Punk. He has charisma, mic work and a different look to him. However for some reason Punk did not float my boat. The reason he is ranked so high on this list is because he has been featured prominently for any promotion he works for. Personally, I think he is an average worker. That is just me. I did see Punk vs. Samoa Joe for the third time and while that match did impress me a lot, most of his other matches are just ok or good. Nothing great. When I see him cut a promo though, I am at the edge of my seat. He is very entertaining on a microphone. If he continues to improve, WWE will be knocking on his door.

5) Low-Ki - Easily the most stiff, brutal wrestler on the planet today, Low-Ki never fails to entertain the crowd by punishing his opponents with innovative moves, hard punches, chops and kicks. Ki is one of the greatest wrestlers around today. He is very high on this list as he recently cut back on his overseas dates and works several promotions in the states, including returning to Ring of Honor, AS A HEEL. However his heel persona is all for naught as the ROH crowd still pops for his every move no matter how hard he tries to get heel heat, the crowd eats it up. Ki still works as a face in other promotions including USA Pro, 3PW and Jersey All Pro. In JAPW, Ki is currently involved in what is possibly the best feud in JAPW history, The Strong Styles Thugs (Ki, B-Boy and Homicide) vs. The Canadians of Teddy Hart, Jack Evans, & now AJ Styles although AJ is not Canadian. I fully expect a huge year from Low-Ki and even predicted that he will end Samoa Joe’s 20+ month title reign.

4) “American Dragon” Brian Danielson - The future of wrestling, A student of Shawn Michaels Texas Wrestling Academy and one of the few people actually trained by Michaels. Danielson is one of the most entertaining and unique wrestlers around today. Danielson, who spent the better part of 2004 in England and Japan, is now back in the states on a full time basis with the occasional Japan tour. Danielson, back in Ring of Honor, is one of the main eventers there and manages to have the top match at almost every single show he works on no matter who the opponent.

3) Homicide - Da Notorious 187. A man who has trained virtually half of the Northeast Independent Wrestling Roster is number 3. Homicide rarely has a bad match and can work every style from brawling, hardcore, technical, strong style, you name it and Homicide can do it. In 2004, Homicide was involved in some of the most riveting feuds on the Indies. From his bloodbath with Steve Corinio all over the Indies to his World Title hunt in ROH with Samoa Joe to his Legend vs. Rising Star feud with Sabu in USA Pro to his Teddy Hart feud in JAPW, Homicide has been on fire. He sways in promotions depending on whom he is working for and who he is wrestling against. Whether as a heel or a face, Homicide however is always one thing, Excellent.

2) Jay Lethal - Surprise, Surprise. Jay Lethal comes in at number 2. Now many of you who are casual Indy fans have heard of the majority of names on this list. I guarantee not all of you have heard of Jay Lethal or those of you who had, probably do not feel Lethal should be so high on this list. But he is. Why? Because this is my list and I can do as I please. But mark my words now; Lethal deserves to be this high on this list. Since making his wrestling debut two short years ago, Lethal has rapidly climbed the ranks to become one of the most consistent and incredible workers in the sport today. Lethal, in my opinion has not had a bad match. With anyone. And that includes no names that you probably will never see in your lifetime. Jay Lethal works in almost every promotion on the North East scene. His promotions include JAPW, ROH, USA Pro, JCW, SSCW, AWA-NJ, CZW, FUSION, Pro Wrestling Unplugged, CCW. You name the fed and chances are Jay has worked there. In his time in those promotions, Jay has had feuds with plenty of big names as well as up and comers. And he definitely has elevated all of them to have fantastic matches. Many show stealing matches of the night. You hear it here first, in 2005, Jay Lethal will be main eventing for Ring of Honor and I will go far enough to say that he will be in the WWE in a few years. Especially since Lethal is only 20 years old. (Burgan’s Notes: This selection is particularly strange. I subtract points from Lethal for that nappy hair as well. He’s a good wrestler, but above Styles and Punk? Puh-lease)

1) Samoa Joe - The Champ IS HERE and he is number one. Samoa Joe by far is number one on this list for Ring of Honor alone. While Joe has worked for other promotions including USA Pro, JAPW and IWA Mid South, Joe could have not worked there and still been number one. Why you ask? Simple, Samoa Joe was the heavyweight champion of Ring of Honor wrestling for all of 2004. As a matter of fact, Joe was champ for almost all of 2003 as well. Samoa Joe has held the Ring of Honor title for almost 2 consecutive years. He has defeated all comers who have tried to take his title away. From Xavier, to Homicide, to Jay Briscoe to American Dragon to CM Punk, Joe has beaten them. CONVINCINGLY. Samoa Joe is the face of ROH. Many people have been associated with Ring of Honor. Many people represent or try to represent what ROH is about. But no one represents better than Joe. Without him, the ROH title would not be the most important title in wrestling today. And before you ask, YES I am including the WWE titles and TNA’s belt. Samoa Joe’s ROH Championship is THEE belt. Every other title is secondary.

There you have it. GumGod’s Top 25 Indy workers today. I hope you enjoyed it and you can fully expect more from me and from GumGod in the next few months. GumGod will be refreshed, refurbished and replenished as we ROCK 2005. Stay tuned.

 


Copyright © 2005 Derek Burgan. All rights reserved.