Independent wrestling is the best thing on the planet. Sure, the sheen of major productions is cool or whatever, but indie wrestling offers you an opportunity to get up close and personal with the sport of kings. Like, close enough that there’s a chance you’ll run into someone you just saw get powerbombed through a door at at a Denny’s after the show. Y’all can talk to each other over your Moons Over My Hammy. It’s a very groovy time.
In this brave new world where there’s 1000 hours of wrestling a week, Beyond Wrestling is bringing that intimate vibe to the table with the second season of Uncharted Territory, a 16-week run of live shows on the only weeknight that’s otherwise unoccupied by WWE or AEW (because yeah, Total Divas absolutely counts). It’s never been easier to access independent wrestling before, and you should totally take advantage and dive in. Uncharted Territory is the easiest way to do so, and it’s very good! I wish I were at a Denny’s gushing about it right now.
Lance Archer vs. Josh Briggs
Lance Archer is a big, rude Texan who spends most of his time spitting on fans in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Josh Briggs is a big dude who works Evolve Wrestling, putting him a rung or two away from the WWE Performance Center. I was expecting an even match with lots of power moves, but instead this was a long showcase for Archer. It was a good showcase, but one-sided matches like this aren’t commonplace on the indies and tend to feel anti-climactic. Archer won with an Iron Claw, which is a move rad enough that it almost killed John Wick in a library fight. God bless the Iron Claw.
Bottom line: If you’re into big slabs of beef running into each other for a few minutes before one slab of beef outclasses the other, you’re in for a treat.
Mark Sterling and Alex Reynolds vs. Solo Darling and Willow Nightingale
This was supposed to be a match between Sterling and Darling, but Reynolds interfered early, causing a disqualification. Sterling and Reynolds abducted Darling’s dog and were about to leave the building, but it turned out that Willow Nightingale was just chilling out by the door in her wrestling gear, so Officer Magnum got rescued and we got a tag team match. Nightingale is back after recovering from a broken neck, and she looked really good! Officer Magnum got the pinfall victory for Darling and Nightingale, exacting revenge on Sterling and Reynolds for the attempted dognapping.
Bottom line: Officer Magnum is goddamn adorable and watching a dog stand serenely in a wrestling ring while fans chant “HE’S A GOOD BOY” is better than any possible wrestling match thereafter.
Brandon Thurston vs. Jay Freddie
These two had a pair of highly regarded matches during Uncharted Territory Season One and are here to do it again. Both guys are proponents of a style the internet dubbed “grapplefuck,” and it’s in full force here. Lots of holds! Lots of intensity! Lots of passionate looks back and forth between two men trying to prove that they’re better at holds and intensity! Freddie is so lost in that passion that he kicks himself in the nuts while trying to put Thurston in a leglock, and Thurston takes advantage with a sudden pin. Freddie, in disbelief, asks for a rematch to settle the score for real, but Thurston, satisfied with his dissatisfying victory, says no and bails. Classic.
Bottom line: More of a tease than anything. The eventual rematch will, I hope, be even more intense and passionate.
Discovery Gauntlet: Daniel Garcia vs. Tony Deppen
First, the Discovery Gauntlet. It’s an ongoing series of matches meant to find breakout stars. If you win the match, you get another one on the next episode of Uncharted Territory. If you lose, you don’t. Garcia entered this on a three match winning streak. He was scheduled to face Matt Makowski, but Makowski was attacked backstage by Tony Deppen, who revealed himself as the replacement.
This was the first standout match of the night, probably because it starts off with a Tony Deppen snot rocket. Deppen’s got a really weird energy about him, and his wrestling is as mean as it is smooth. Garcia’s very technically sound and has a cool Sharpshooter variation. They do that indie wrestling thing where they exchange a bunch of big moves and near falls (like, at one point Garcia hits Deppen with a superplex, but it’s Deppen who gets up and uses the momentum to hit a brainbuster), but there’s enough smart stuff between those spots that it’s never overwhelming. Deppen does a springboard coffin drop to the outside, which rules and is also the kind of thing that indie wrestling does. It’s all about balance. Deppen comes out on top, which is great because he’s one of the most engaging wrestlers in America at the moment and I absolutely welcome the opportunity to see him every week.
Bottom line: Tony Deppen rules and I hope he’s a jerk to everybody for as long as he runs the gauntlet.
Thomas Santell vs. Orange Cassidy
Thomas Santell is a throwback nerd, Crispin Glover from Back to the Future if Crispin Glover were ripped. Retro characters are a hard sell for me because I hate whimsy and am generally unsettled by the costuming, which is like 2008-era porn set in a hypothetical Ken Burns documentary about sock hops. Orange Cassidy is the best wrestler in the world and nothing else needs to be said on the subject.
Santell ends up so frustrated by Cassidy’s nonchalance that he ends up being the heel. Like, he’s a nerd and all, but he’s good at limb manipulation and throws a lot of honest to goodness closed fists at sweet, sweet Orange Cassidy. All of this makes sense, because Santell is a Nice Guy, and all nice guys are about three YouTube videos away from wanting vengeance against chads like Cassidy. Cassidy spits the Ovaltine Santell tried to gift him in his face, hits a superman punch, and picks up the win. He also says that he’s not leaving the indies and wants a rematch against Warhorse for the Independent Wrestling Championship.
Bottom line: I already said that Orange Cassidy is the best wrestler in the world. What else do you want?
Wheeler Yuta vs. Chris Dickinson
First off, it’s pretty negligent that none of the companies that give wrestlers contracts have given Chris Dickinson a contract. Indie wrestling is better for it, but still. He’s Beyond Wrestling’s ace, running through an all-star cast of wrestlers over the past year while carrying the flag. Wheeler Yuta is in the middle of a breakout year, and Dickinson is his biggest challenge in Beyond so far. Yuta’s also a different kind of match-up for the Dirty Daddy, whose opponents tend to be fellow dangerous thicc bois. He’s dangerous because he’s not thicc, if you can believe it. Since he’s not going to win a power battle, he has to outwrestle Dickinson, which he can.
That’s enough to make Yuta a convincing threat, and as the two figure each other out, they strike an engaging dynamic where he’s the aggressor as often as Dickinson is. It’s a strong contender for the best match of a frankly astonishing week of in-ring action, as I’m a big fan of underdogs surviving impossible beatings and coming back for more. Eventually Yuta eats a clothesline and can’t get up, because Dickinson is one of the few wrestlers in this country mean enough to make a clothesline work as a finish. The two show each other respect, and both of them earned it.
When Yuta leaves, Dickinson is set up for an attack by Brandon Watts and Randy Summers, who hit the ring dressed as Dickinson’s former partners Santana and Ortiz. The lights in the building were cut, and when they came back on, Pinkie Sanchez was in the ring to ward off Milk Chocolate and rekindle his partnership with Dickinson. Sanchez was a stalwart of Beyond cards of years past, but this is his first appearance since 2016. Good on Beyond for keeping up with the week’s theme of surprise debuts and returns.
Bottom line: A star-making match for Wheeler Yuta, and another great match in Dickinson’s recent magnificent run.
Nick Gage vs. Kris Statlander
Kris Statlander is a space alien. Nick Gage is a deathmatch wrestler who robbed a bank once. Lots of wrestling promotions bill matches as things you’re going to see nowhere else, but this match actually delivers on that promise. It’s a wild affair, as Statlander, one of the wrestlers who has benefited most from Beyond’s move to weekly programming, takes the fight to Gage from the start and never lets up. Gage, for his part, spares Statlander none of the violence he tends to dish out.
Intergender wrestling is somehow still a controversial topic in wrestling, but matches like this are a strong argument in their favor. Statlander never wrestles “like a woman” and Gage never treats her like one, meaning both of them hit each other hard and don’t make a fuss about traditional gender roles. My notes for this match are largely fragments like “BRAINBUSTER ONTO A CHAIR” and “DVD THROUGH A DOOOOOOOOOR” because I was so into what was happening that my critical brain switched off and my lizard brain reveled in what was happening. Statlander takes some gnarly bumps in this match, including the second rope piledriver through a door that wraps it up for Gage. It’s only a matter of time before she’s a massive star.
Gage, who teams with Statlander and Thomas Santell at CHIKARA’s King of Trios this weekend, agrees with that assessment. His post-match promos always feel like pep rallies. He loves what he does and he loves how tough his opponents are and he hates cops and he is gang affiliated. A perfect wrestler for our time. MDK.