The last ten months have done wonders for the IWTV Independent Wrestling World Championship. While the near two-year reign of WARHORSE from 2019 to March of this year did a lot to make the championship an incredibly visible and well-travelled title, it wasn’t exactly a reign that drew eyes for prestigious and acclaimed matches.
All that changed this year when Lee Moriarty took the belt from WARHORSE before dropping it to Wheeler YUTA in a 52-minute title match. Suddenly, the title found itself associated with a new crop of promising young technical wrestlers working lengthy, epic-sized matches that stylistically harken back to the days of 2000s ROH, and even further than that, to old school NWA World Championship matches of the 1980s.
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In fact, the last time that Wheeler YUTA defended the IWTV Independent Wrestling World Championship in the H2O Wrestling Center, he went to a 60-minute time limit draw against Daniel Garcia. It showed YUTA’s continued dedication to pushing the envelope with his title. Where the match against Moriarty set the tone, it was the Broadway against Garcia that truly felt like the realization of YUTA’s hopes for the title. It’s no shock then that same night also marked the title’s first official day as a Pro Wrestling Illustrated-recognized World Championship.
It’s for all these reasons that I greatly anticipated Wheeler YUTA’s announced championship defense against Alex Shelley at IWTV Untitled. The match pits two generations against each other. On the one hand, YUTA, who embodies the modern breed of independent wrestler—still cutting their teeth in promotions around the world while at the same time receiving massive opportunities on national TV. On the other, Shelley, a man who has seen the greats of the independent rise and fall through nearly two decades of work all over the globe.
Shelley is exactly the kind of wrestler that YUTA clearly enjoys working with the most. The best matches of YUTA’s title reign have been against very detail-oriented technicians. Shelley has technical ability few can match as well as years of experience that YUTA’s other challengers can’t speak to.
The way they wrestle the opening moments of the match makes it somewhat unclear just where the match will take us. That’s not to say the wrestling is incoherent, quite the opposite actually. If anything, the aggression and smoothness with which these two approach their starting exchanges leaves the match open to a variety of different finishes. It’s equally possible that we get another hour draw or that this could end before the 10-minute mark with a flash submission or pinfall.
There’s a stunning eye for detail on display from the get-go. Both men display a mastery of chain wrestling, body manipulation, and leverage that just truly soothes the wrestling soul. It’s clean and smooth while also denoting a constant sense of struggle.
It’s worth noting that while YUTA has been a traditional heel champion for his whole reign, he plays this match straight-laced, to the point that Shelley even comes across as far more of an aggressor. When the pace starts to pick up early on, it’s Shelley who throws hands with a chop and a punch to the jaw. YUTA only just survives the flurry by snapping Shelley over with a Saito suplex. At this point, YUTA applies some pressure on Shelley, even geting rough with the referee, but Shelley makes his comeback so quickly that it again casts YUTA in a sympathetic light. It’s YUTA having to build momentum, over and over again, to try to get the advantage back whereas Shelley remains the one constantly picking apart the champion.
Executing a Perfect Plan, Raising a Title’s Profile
Shelley wrestles this match like he’s defending the title, not challenging for it. He comes in with a picture-perfect game plan which he executes to the letter. First, he works to wear down YUTA’s arm. Once they get deeper into the match, Shelley works to pick apart the neck. He kicks off the latter attack with a brutal Marufuji-style apron brainbuster. Both attacks work in service of Shelley’s finishing submission, the Border City Stretch.
More than just the clarity of his strategy though, Shelley wrestles with a viciousness and confidence that one expects only of the very best in the world. He can transform a spot we’ve seen a million times in the past—a Japanese stranglehold—and infuse it with attitude and meanness. When YUTA bridges back to create space to escape the stranglehold, Shelley punts him in the spine. Gruesome stuff.
YUTA makes a spirited attempt at a comeback. He almost counters a Sliced Bride #2 attempt into his Yu-Tap submission, he even powers through a Shellshock to get back to his feet. But this is a motivated and dangerous Alex Shelley, putting in a performance that feels unbeatable. A gruesome lariat followed by his classic Shellshock/Border City Stretch combo earn Shelley the victory.
This is an excellent match, one that continues the trend of these high-profile marquee title defenses for the IWTV Independent Wrestling World Championship. Its compact runtime of 17 minutes provides the perfect contrast to the 52-minute YUTA title win and the hour-long Garcia defense. Everything about this match provides great promise for the title. The quality of it raises the championship’s profile and now it rests in the hands of one of the most accomplished and enduring independent wrestlers of all time.
Even in defeat, YUTA shines though. He adds another excellent championship defense to his name as one of the must-see prospects in North America today. When he spoke to FanByte in May, YUTA spoke about wanting to elevate the IWTV Title’s profile in honor of the champions that came before him. Seeing as his reign saw the title become a World Championship and ended on such a high note, I’d say that YUTA succeeded.