For sixteen years the IWC Super Indy tournament has been a constant of the North American independent wrestling scene and has been won over the years by names such as Jerry Lynn, AJ Styles, Chris Sabin, Sami Callihan & Josh Alexander. This year eight of the top competitors on the scene assembled to do battle for the honour of adding their names to that prestigious list of winners, as well as capturing the IWC Super Indy title. As is customary, the champion Chris LeRusso handed over his title belt ahead of the tournament, but not before telling the packed out crowd that he would win this year’s tournament not only because he was better than all of his opponents, but that he was better than all the previous Super Indy winners as well. With the belt handed over the tournament got underway with a big first-round match-up.
Adam Cole vs DJ Z – Two of the biggest names in the tournament here, and both have also previously competed in the Super Indy. DJ Z winning the tournament in 2010, while Cole reached the semi-finals a year later. While this isn’t a first time match-up, it has been a few years since they last faced and DJ Z is coming off the back of a nasty internal injury he sustained in Mexico. The match gets underway and DJ Z quickly brings his agility into play, but tries for a dive too early and Cole slams him into the apron. DJ Z fights back on the floor and hits a crossbody over the guardrail, but while trying to take things back into the ring Cole catches him with a superkick. That’s the theme largely at play throughout the bout and although DJ Z fights out from under Cole numerous times, he can’t quite string it all together. The finish is well placed, Cole missing the Panama Sunrise only to catch DJ Z coming off the top-rope with a superkick, followed by the Last Shot brainbuster over the knee for the win. A good, understated opening match, Cole and DJ Z work well together and it’s a shame their paths didn’t cross more often.
Colt Cabana vs Joey Janela – Although Janela’s been wrestling for a decade now, it’s surprising to note that this is his first singles bout with Colt Cabana. While Janela’s star has been on the rise as of late, Colt’s a world travelled veteran with eight years experience over his opponent and this should make for an interesting clash of styles. Things start at a smooth pace with Cabana one-upping Janela with his Euro-influenced holds and counters, Joey takes it all in his stride however and is doing well right up until Colt dumps him face-first onto the apron. It’s not often that Cabana’s the least unconventional guy in a match, and he’s surprised by Janela as he reverses a whip into the guardrail then hits a crazy tope off a chair to floor Cabana! Back in the ring Joey takes control, but he struggles to keep Cabana down and a huge right hand turns the match back in Boom Boom’s favour. Colt’s got the ball rolling now and takes it to Janela with his bag of tricks, before locking in the Billy Goat’s Curse. The size disparity actually works in Joey’s favour as he’s able to wriggle out of the hold and make it to the ropes. Colt heads up top, but gets caught with a series of enzuigiris and a big double-stomp for something of an upset win for Joey Janela! Another good match here, Colt’s always a lot of fun but he was out shined by Janela, who’s as exciting to watch taking the punishment as he is dishing it out.
Jonathan Gresham vs Jay White – Another first-time match-up here, although this one’s not that surprising as the New Zealand native Jay White has only been wrestling for four years, while Gresham has been wrestling for over a decade now. White’s trained extensively in Europe and (since 2015) the New Japan dojo and although he has a significant height advantage over Gresham, the former ZERO-1 Tenka-Ichi Jr. Tournament winner is a seasoned opponent who’s style is as agile as it is technically sound. Things don’t go Gresham’s way in the early moments of the match-up, however, White using his size and strength advantage to take the fight to his much smaller opponent. Gresham struggles to build momentum and eats some big offence, including a beautiful dropkick from White, but all the while he’s smartly chipping away at Jay’s arm and when he gets his opportunity he makes it count, using White’s injured arm to tie him up with a clever transition into a leg-clutch roll for the three count! Great match here, Gresham told his story expertly while Jay acquitted himself very well against a guy of Gresham’s calibre.
Chris LeRusso (c) vs Mike Orlando – The third first-time match of the evening and another where both opponents have vastly different levels of experience, the challenger Mike Orlando in his fourth year of wrestling, while the champion Chris LeRusso is a fourteen year veteran. LeRusso gives up a foot of height to Orlando and a good deal of weight as well, the bigger man throwing him about with ease in the early going. Orlando has a real spring in his step and looks very confident moving about the ring, while LeRusso tries to stall for time. He looks for respite on the apron, but gets caught with a spear suicida from Orlando! A well placed slingshot knee turns things back in LeRusso’s favour, but when he tries for a suicida of his own Orlando catches him back-first on the apron. He tries to capitalise with a step-up tope, but it goes slightly awry. More knees from LeRusso, but he can’t put the bigger man away until a powder shot from his corner-man blinds Orlando. The champion hits a pump-handle DVD for the three count. A solid match and good way to close out a great first round of action from the Super Indy 16!
Joey Janela vs Adam Cole – Big match to kick off the semi-finals, and yet another first-time encounter produced in this tournament! Joey shows he can hang with Cole on the mat early on, if not gain the upper hand and he bails to the outside when Cole throws a superkick. Janela takes a few cheap shots to gain control, draping Cole over the guardrail with a neckbreaker. He goes to work on Cole’s back, punishing him with some hard whips into the buckles. This only makes Cole mad, however, and soon the two are slugging it out in the middle of the ring, before Cole catches Joey with a neckbreaker over the knee. Cole gets some big offence in and looks to put Janela away with the Panama Sunrise, but instead eats a vicious tombstone that spikes him on his head. Cole somehow stays in the fight, despite being dumped on the back of his neck with a brutal falling lariat from Janela. He follows up with a reverse Frankensteiner, but again Cole somehow kicks out. Joey heads up top for the double-stomp, but Cole rolls out of the way and hits a big flying knee followed by the Last Shot to go to the finals! Great match, the hardest hitting of the tournament yet.
Chris LeRusso (c) vs Jonathan Gresham – The second semi-final sees Gresham challenge Chris LeRusso, and should LeRusso lose here he will also forfeit the title. Again Gresham’s giving up a good bit of size in this one, but it’s something he’s used to dealing with and his style has adapted to suit his stature. They start off fairly lightly, Gresham frustrating LeRusso with some nods to Johnny Saint and Vic Faulkner, before LeRusso uses a dirty break to steal the advantage. LeRusso puts in some good work on Gresham’s neck, before locking in deep a cravate that Gresham has to fight hard to free himself from. Some spectacular offence (including a picture perfect quebrada) gives Gresham the upper hand for a while, but it isn’t long before LeRusso’s back in the driving seat as he continues to target the neck. Gresham looks down and out, but LeRusso takes too much time and gets caught with a backslide for a close near-fall. Gresham locks in an octopus stretch and proper twists on the champion’s arm, LeRusso being forced to tap away his title and the Super Indy 16 final!
Andrew Palace & Jimmy Vegas vs Jack Pollock & Wardlow – Not familiar with any of the guys in this match, but I enjoyed this one. Palace gets worked over early on by Pollock & IWC Champion Wardlow, who is the bigger man of this pairing. He throws Palace back into his own corner and calls in the other powerhouse of the match Jimmy Vegas, only to immediately tag out. Some impressive strength from Vegas before the match spills out onto the floor and all four guys brawl around ringside. Back in the ring Vegas is using Palace as a weapon before the pair hit a great double-team shiranui. Pollock catches Palace with a fireman’s carry slam to turn things in his favour, then grabs a chair. While the ref’s distracted his goons attack Vegas on the outside and Pollock & Wardlow hit their finishers. The big man goes for the pin, but Pollock shoves him out of the way and steals the win! Post-match Pollock’s informed he’s now got a shot at Wardlow’s IWC title, which inevitably leads to Wardlow leaving him laying in the middle of the ring.
Britt Baker (c) v Penelope Ford – An IWC Women’s Championship match next, as inaugural champion Britt Baker makes her sixth title defence. Her opponent Penelope Ford shows some flair in the early moments as she goes toe-to-toe on the mat with the champion. Britt ralies nicely and hits a slingblade that sends the challenger scrambling to the floor. Baker follows, but Ford smartly blocks a kick and slams Britt’s ankle hard into the guardrail. Penelope further shows her vicious side as she mercilessly works over Britt’s injured ankle, before taking a moment or two to rile up the crowd. The champion tries to fight back with some big elbows, but Ford’s quick to return to the injury and could have scored the win after a handspring cutter, if only she hadn’t wasted time showing off. She goes to the well one too many times and on the next handspring attempt Baker catches her with a rip-chord elbow and a rolling neckbreaker, before locking in a Koji Clutch to force the challenger to tap! This was a really good match, first time seeing Ford and she impressed with her aggressiveness and expressiveness even in defeat, while Baker looked every bit the champion in victory.
Jonathan Gresham vs Adam Cole – And so we arrive at the final match of the show and the final of the IWC Super Indy 16 for the now-vacant IWC Super Indy Championship! Both Cole and Gresham are sporting injuries from their previous round bouts, Cole favouring his left arm while Gresham’s still bothered by his neck, damaged at the hands of the deposed champion LeRusso. An excellent opening exchange on the mat, Cole getting the upper-hand and refusing to let go of a wristlock, in spite of Gresham’s best efforts. Eventually he stops trying for a clever escape, and just uppercuts Cole’s injured arm! Hip-toss reversal spot, both men refusing to go over until they’re right up to the ropes, Cole hip-tosses Gresham over and both men crash to the floor! It’s clear both men are fairly evenly matched from a technical standpoint, so Cole takes a shortcut to gain control of the proceedings. Gresham repeatedly tries to make a comeback, but Cole stalls his momentum time and time again, until he sees an opportunity to go after Cole’s injured arm. Some vicious work from Gresham as he uses everything he can think of to pile more punishment on the injury and Cole looks to be in trouble.
A desperation dropkick to the knee from Cole gives him the opening he needs to return the momentum to his favour. He locks in the figure four, but Gresham refuses to tap and both men roll to the floor with the hold still applied! Once things return to the ring the match starts to break down into a much more back-and-forth affair, both men hitting some big offence but neither being able to capitalise. Gresham hits a beautiful shooting star for a close near-fall, while Cole floors him with a shining wizard and the Last Shot that sees Gresham kick out by the nearest of margins. Cole looks in disbelief and gets caught in the octopus stretch, but somehow makes it to the ropes. Gresham tries again for the shooting star, but in a scary moment his knee gives out and he lands awkwardly. Cole takes full advantage, hitting a superkick, a huge flying knee and the Last Shot for a second time to pin Jonathan Gresham and win the IWC Super Indy 16! What a match this was, they built very well on the previous rounds and both men put in some great work to tell the story.
Overall this was seriously one of the best US indy shows I’ve seen this year. The tournament played out very well, all the matches felt distinct from one another and the crowd were super loud and supportive throughout. The talent I didn’t know beforehand impressed me, while the talent I did know were in matches that I hadn’t seen before and pretty much everyone in the tournament shined. Gresham’s matches stood out in particular, he did a fantastic job with three fairly different opponents, while elsewhere Cole and Janela’s matches were top notch as well. I also really enjoyed the IWC Women’s title match, great showing from both Britt Baker and Penelope Ford, while the tag match served as a solid buffer to the tournament action. The final itself was excellent, two of the best wrestlers on the US scene today facing off in their first match for five years. An easy recommendation from me, if you like tournaments you’ll like this!