In years gone by, weekends such as these would have seen me furiously tapping away in Google Docs, reviewing show after show after show. This year, as you’ll have noticed, the well’s been dry.
A look through Cagematch, or indeed, any of the reviews from those who’ve beavered away all weekend (Arnold Furious, Thomas Hall, the crew at VOW) will probably have noticed a lot of the same names dotted around the weekend. Take away WrestleMania, NXT and ROH, and there were over two dozen shows that were available to watch and stream live – the vast majority feeling like they were either being from the Ukrainian Culture Center, or the backroom of a bar in Los Angeles.
Whereas the HighSpots/WrestleCon “base” has become a permanent fixture, GCW’s filled in the void that’s been left by WWN’s shrinkage caused by EVOLVE’s folding into WWE – so why has the array of independents this weekend left some feeling hollow?
I’ll preface this by saying that GCW isn’t exactly my cup of tea. Sure, since they launched as part of Fite+, I’ve been watching a lot of their current and back catalogues, but I’d not put GCW at the top of my must-watch lists… so when their Collective weekend features 10 wrestling shows, seven of which are “pure” GCW, you can understand why some feel that, For The Culture and Big Gay Brunch notwithstanding, the Collective felt a lot like that Simpsons gag where Duff, Duff Dry and Duff Lite are coming from the same pipe. Sure, there’s labels and themes on the shows, but when the same promotion is behind all of them, you’re eventually going to run into the same issues ad nauseum. If you’re persona non grata on the big show, you’re probably not going to be booked, regardless of who’s name is on the door.
So… that takes us to ‘Mania weekend this year, and a very GCW-dominated slate of indie shows. WrestleCon went from six shows last year to just four – Impact, Prestige, Tokyo Joshi Pro and their perennial supershow. Heck, the Collective went from 12 to 10 shows, reducing the spread of collected promotions from 5 to 3 (or 7 to 3, if you want to count Jersey Championship Wrestling and LA Fights as standalone groups). That doesn’t do much for variety, which is why what I’m about to say next is going to sound weird. Thank God for Circle 6.
Sure, the production values were horrendous, and there was a lot of questionable stuff on there (that first show featuring a butt-naked clown burlesque act certainly had me pondering a lot of life choices), but Circle 6 felt like a grimey breath of fresh air, especially with GCW not going down too far down the plunder/deathmatch route. That being said, when you see names like Big Damo, Travis Williams, Judas Icarus, State of Emergency and JTG doing Circle 6 and very little else, in addition to names not even getting booked, and you can see why this past weekend hasn’t exactly been a fair representation of the US indies.
Are the indies dying? Far from it. A lot of the issues around the state of the indies mostly boil down to taste, as hopefully 2024 in Philadelphia will see an expansion in terms of variety of talent appearing, if not promotions, and all those “super interesting matches” that get announced don’t end up having the threat of “ah, it’ll be watered down because they’ve got six other matches that day.”
…which brings me to another realisation I’ve made over this past weekend. Especially when you’re dealing with numerous shows from promotions you’re parachuting in for, my typical style of reviews aren’t really a fair window into things, compared to a promotion I cover more regularly. So, at least until I forget and go back to the old ways, I’m going to be making more of a concerted effort to change things up, if only so it’s not quite as jarring when we reach the next WrestleMania season and there’s scattered short reviews in the mix!