Independent wrestling’s stallion is moving on to new ventures, so it seems. Matt Riddle, as every sign would indicate, looks to have signed with WWE and is expected to make his official debut with the company during SummerSlam weekend as part of the NXT brand.
No doubt a blow to the indy scene. Riddle stood as one of the true indy darlings of the last several years. A wrestler sought after by every promotion for the name value he developed and the guaranteed match quality he brought. One of few top-notch indy wrestlers who was not signed with one of the larger companies such as Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, or Impact Wrestling, and worked the scene as a true independent.
While Riddle’s ascent of the indy scene undoubtedly started with his run in EVOLVE and working Beyond, one might assert it started truly taking flight following his debut with Pro Wrestling Guerrilla – where many breakout stars have been made and continue to do so.
It is almost poetic. After debuting in the Battle of Los Angeles 2016, the realization PWG fans had seen the last of Riddle came when the official announcement of his exit from Battle of Los Angeles 2018 was made.
Having just defeated Marty Scurll at the most recent event, Threemendous V, Riddle was heading into BOLA as the unanimous favorite to win the whole tournament. All the dominos seemed in line for this to be Riddle’s year at PWG.
So after being given a huge opportunity by getting a spot in one of wrestling’s biggest tournaments of the year back in 2016, only two short years later it was the very same tournament he dropped out of in order to pursue a opportunity of a completely different nature looking to take his career to the next level.
Riddle’s PWG career will not be a forgotten one, however. Riddle’s name had a presence on any PWG card. In a promotion that routinely builds “all-star” indy cards, Riddle’s was a name that always stood out and got fans excited.
From day one, Riddle was a name inserted in dream-matchup fantasies. The original matchup PWG fans were clamoring for being Riddle vs. Jeff Cobb given the amateur wrestling pedigrees of both men – and something fans were given a slight taste of in the 2016 BOLA 10-man tag match.
Mystery Vortex IV was sure to deliver that matchup in full, though. So when Riddle and Cobb entered for the co-main event of the night, fans were giddy with excitement to see the two face-off. And then The Young Bucks’ music played and the building exploded with the realization we had a tag match ahead.
If your author recalls correctly, it was not only the night the Chosen Bros were created, but also the night they were named. For as Cobb and Riddle were being introduced – Cobb, “The Chosen One,” and Riddle, “King of Bros” – one fan yelled out, “Chosen Bros!” An exclaim immediately met with unanimous praise by the audience and shortly after the whole crowd was chanting it.
They defeated The Young Bucks, and so began a very successful run as a team – a team, after being so fixated on the rivalry, we never knew we wanted until it was under our noses.
We did end up getting that dream match in the PWG ring finally. In the semi-finals of BOLA 2017, Cobb defeated Riddle in an upset, as Riddle was among the favorites to win that year. But even though Cobb did not win either, both men found glory soon after in another fashion.
Outside of PWG, Riddle and Cobb were mostly singles wrestlers. But to PWG fans, they were most often seen as a team – and a team that had been deserving of a title shot for some time. So the following month at All Star Weekend 13 when the Chosen Bros took on PWG tag champions Penta El Zero M and Rey Fenix, fans were roundly behind the challengers.
After a hard-hitting, high-flying, excellent display of tag team wrestling from both sides, Riddle and Cobb laid claim to their first PWG gold.
Their reign would be fairly short-lived, however. After one title defense at the following show Mystery Vortex V against Walter and Timothy Thatcher – another phenomenal match – the pair did not team again for three months until All Star Weekend 14 where they lost the titles in a three-way tag along The Young Bucks to Dezmond Xavier and Zachary Wentz in a big upset.
Now we stand only three months removed from that night. A week ago, Riddle was still the favorite to win BOLA 2018. From there, if he did not win his initial title shot as a result of winning the tournament, there is almost no doubt Riddle was going to hold the PWG heavyweight championship at some point. Current champion Walter vs. Riddle would have been a huge match in PWG that had fans divided right down the middle. A series between the two would have been enthusiastically welcomed.
But now it appears none of that will become. And with the news coming out so suddenly as it did, PWG fans were not given an opportunity to give a proper goodbye to Riddle. Easily not only one of the best wrestlers to grace the PWG in recent years, but also one of the nicest guys you would ever meet in the business.
Riddle would give time to any fan whether you walked up to him ringside during intermission, saw him outside the venue before the show, or even ran into him down the street at the convenience store as he was arriving. Hell, you could even eat dinner with him if you were at the Korean BBQ spot in Reseda after a PWG show.
You author can confidently state, on behalf of all the PWG fans, it was an absolute pleasure getting to watch Riddle perform his craft these last two years and every face-to-face meeting was enjoyable. He will be greatly missed. And wherever his career takes him from here, the PWG fans will be cheering him on.