Mr. High Tension.
It might not be a stretch to say that no wrestler has ever endeared themselves to a nation as swiftly and as convincingly as Akira Tozawa. An export of Japan’s Dragon Gate promotion, Tozawa recently wrapped up a one year tour of the United States, and in the short 12 months that he spent in America, he gained fans from coast to coast as one of the fastest rising stars on the independent scene.
Tozawa’s success in his native land was moderate at best. The third graduate of the Dragon Gate dojo, Tozawa debuted in 2005 to very little fanfare, opening his career with ten consecutive losses. During his first few years as a professional, he accomplished little, progressing very modestly and finding it troublesome to even get booked on shows. He spent some time as part of tag team with Yuki Ono, collectively known as the Metabolic Brothers, but regardless of what capacity or style Tozawa wrestled in, he couldn’t seem to get his career off of the ground while wrestling in Japan. And then, in May 2010, Tozawa departed the Land of the Rising Sun for an extended tour in the American melting pot.
Stateside, Akira Tozawa has been a raging success. Blending intense in-ring ferocity with his own brand of quirky humor, he’s earned the support of fans in the country’s top independent promotions. I was lucky enough to catch him performing live at this year’s King of Trios, and I knew the moment he flashed that he flashed the crowd a colorful, mouth-guard-brimming smile that he was going to be a joy to watch. Continue reading
You'll probably know Jon Moxley soon enough, as he's wrestled his way to a WWE contract.
Jon Moxley, like Tyler Black, is currently honing his skills in Florida Championship Wrestling, the WWE’s primary developmental territory. Currently wrestling under the name Dean Ambrose, Moxley is just 25 years old, although he’s already toured through and found success in a number of independent wrestling promotions. If you’ve watched him perform, it’s no wonder why.
Moxley has above average promo skills. He’s beyond natural on the microphone, and the quiet intensity he brings to his interviews puts you in mind of Raven or Jake Roberts in their primes. In the ring, Moxley is what I’d describe as a clever wrestler. He uses his surroundings to his advantage and he counters moves in very logical ways that are seldom seen elsewhere in wrestling. As such, a sense of realism is present in his matches, as he’s less about glitz and glam than he is about making it look like he’s fighting to win. His ring style oozes deplorability, as he’s not above using eye rakes and other heel tactics to notch a win. As for his actual moveset, Moxley makes a habit of violently tossing his opponent out of positions that are traditionally used to set up impact moves such as the vertical suplex or death valley driver. He uses a high-angle double chickenwing facebuster, the Hook & Ladder, as his primary finisher, and also keeps opponents down for the count with a high impact DDT out of the suplex position that he calls the One Hitter. Factor in a number of submission maneuvers, such as the crossface chickenwing and a short armbar, and you’ve got a competitor who keeps in fresh in the ring and is capable of working with a number of diverse styles.
Before being signed to a developmental contract with the biggest wrestling company in the world, Moxley made a name for himself in promotions such as Heartland Wrestling Association, Combat Zone Wrestling, and Dragon Gate USA, among others. He’s held five World Championships (or eight, depending on your vantage point) on his tour of the indy circuit, and it’s not far-fetched to believe that there is more prestigious gold in his future. Continue reading
The Queen of Wrestling, Sara Del Rey.
Sara Del Rey is, for my money, the best active female wrestler in the world today. A ten-year ring veteran, Del Rey doesn’t fit into any of the traditional women’s wrestling archetypes. She’s not the monstrous and manly powerhouse, the damsel in distress, or the fitness model turned wrestler who can’t perform a headscissors. She’s Sara Del Rey, and she’s in a class of her own.
I feel that Del Rey is one of the very few independent wrestlers, male or female, who could be dropped into WWE or TNA exactly as they are now and find success. If allowed to perform to her ability, there would be no denying Sara worldwide superstardom. Her combination of high impact power moves (Samoan Drops, Spike Piledrivers), striking game (big boots to the chests of opponents), and submission maneuvers (Labell Lock, arm and neck wrenches) make for entertaining and unforgettable matches. Couple these with her vast collection of suplex variations, fondness of bridging into pins, and awesome Royal Butterfly finisher, and you’ve got a can’t miss formula for success at any level if provided the opportunity. She knows how to work a crowd to boot.
Stateside, Sara’s a staple in Shimmer Women Athletes, Chikara, Ring of Honor, and Jersey All Pro. She’s also garnered international fame with her tours of Japan and Mexico and has cracked the top ten in PWI’s Female 50. If you’re a fan of women’s wrestling, nay, if you’re a fan of any wrestling, then you should be a fan of Sara Del Rey. Continue reading
The Perfect Weapon.
There are few things I could tell you about Delirious that would describe him better than his actual name. Behind the mask, Hunter Johnson is the head booker for Ring of Honor Wrestling and the head trainer of the ROH wrestling academy. In the ring, conversely, Delirious is…well, Delirious.
His speech is a jumbled, rambling mess. He scurries around the ring in a wild and frantic manner upon hearing the ring bell. He screams incoherently at opponents, fans, and referees alike. He’s convincingly insane, and it’s all of these outlandish antics that have endeared him to independent wrestling fans from coast to coast. His unpredictable and nontraditional in-ring style has served to further enhance his unstable reputation, as he relies on a number of innovative high-risk maneuvers and legitimately cringe-inducing submissions. No matter who you are, standing in the ring opposite of Delirious cannot be a fun experience.
Sometimes billed from the Edge of Sanity, sometimes from Dante’s Inferno, and sometimes even from the swamps of Florida, not much is known of Delirious’ past. What is known is that he’s taken his unconventional game to promotions across the country, performing regularly for Ring of Honor, Chikara, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, Jersey All Pro, IWA Mid-South, and Pro Wrestling Noah, among others, throughout his career. He’s the opposite of methodical, but it works for him, as evidenced by the intense popularity that follows him pretty much everywhere he wrestles. Continue reading
The King of the Deathmatch
Mad Man Pondo has earned his living by making people bleed for over two decades. He made his professional debut at age 20 in 1989, and since then he’s carved a niche for himself in notoriously hardcore promotions like Combat Zone Wrestling, Juggalo Championship Wrestling, and IWA Mid-South. His career has not been for the faint of heart.
Pondo originally wrestled in a traditional style, but when he failed to establish himself as a star on the independent scene, he turned to the hardcore. The self-trained brawler is about as old school as old school gets in terms of hardcore wrestling, employing some vintage Sandman and Tommy Dreamer-esque techniques in his repertoire. One of his finishing moves is called the Stop Sign Smash and it involves, you guessed it, smashing his opponent in the dome with a stop sign. Pondo also likes to put the competition away with The Silencer, a senton bomb from the top rope. He’s not shy about stringing his unlucky foes up in the tree of woe, and it’s rare that his matches end without both competitors gushing blood. Other signature moves include a Russian Leg Sweep, Piledriver, Powerbomb, Death Valley Driver, Top Rope DDT, Brainbuster Suplex, and a Baseball Slide to the outside of the ring.
In addition to being an accomplished hardcore wrestler, Mad Man Pondo’s reach has extended into other media as well. He’s appeared in three video games, both installments of the Backyard Wrestling series along with Fire Pro Wrestling Returns. He also has a movie credit to his name, appearing in the 2005 horror film 2001 Maniacs alongside Robert Englund. Continue reading
Raccoon City's Favorite Son
“The Kentucky Gentleman” Chuck Taylor is a well-traveled independent star, logging considerable time in Chikara, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, Dragon Gate USA, and Evolve. In fact, Taylor’s been working his way up the indy scene for so long, it’s easy to forget that he’s still just 25 years old. The man once billed as hailing from Raccoon City began his training when he was just 15, was wrestling professionally before his 18th birthday, and competed in one of wrestling’s most prestigious tournaments at just 20 years old.
Part of Taylor’s allure is his sense of humor. As you could probably deduce by his choice of fictional hometowns, the often sleazy Chuck Taylor doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s been a part of tag teams such as F.I.S.T. (Friends in Similar Tights) and Men of Low Moral Fiber. His trademark maneuvers include breaking his opponent’s face with his foot in a move that’s aptly titled Sole Food and an unbelievable piledriver variation that he calls the Awful Waffle. The dude’s hilarious, and he’s a good performer to boot. He also utilizes a nasty modified Boston Crab, some very entertaining elbow drops, and a straitjacket headscissors submission. If you’re still not sold on his radness, know this: Chuck Taylor makes his way to the ring to the sounds of Polaris’ Hey Sandy, most famously recognized as the opening theme from Nickelodeon’s The Adventures of Pete & Pete.
Smooth Chucky T is one of Chikara’s most celebrated contestants, having won three of their major tournaments, and has also been bestowed honors by Evolve and held titles in CZW & IWA Mid-South. He even shares a dubious distinction with Harvey Wippleman, having reigned as a recognized women’s champion. Continue reading
I hear she's into Blondage.
Kimberly Davis, better known by her ringname Amber O’Neal, made her professional wrestling debut in 1999 as part of the Professional Girl Wrestling Association. In the decade that’s followed, she’s established a very successful tag team, become a staple in Shimmer Women Athletes, and appeared in tryout matches for both World Wrestling Entertainment and Total Nonstop Action.
Davis originally wrestled as Amber Holly, although she later changed her name out of respect to Nora Greenwald, professionally known as Molly Holly. Her first match was contested in the summer of 1999 against Leilani Kai of WrestleMania fame. Soon, while still performing as Amber Holly, Davis found herself wrestling across the southeastern United States in promotions such as the Caroline Wrestling Federation. It wasn’t long before she was wearing the CWF Women’s Championship, but unfortunately, her success was soon derailed. In 2003, just as her career seemed to be taking flight, she suffered a knee injury that would put her on the shelf for a year.
It was when she returned from her knee injury that Kimberly Davis adopted the Amber O’Neal name. Because of her real-life interest in motocross and motorcycles, she assumed the character of a motocross racer. From there, O’Neal formed a tag team with Krissy Vaine, collectively known as Team Blondage, and her career began its ascension once again. Continue reading