We’re over two weeks removed from WrestleMania 35 and that means things can calm down a little bit. The main event of the weekend featured a bunch of surprises (including a large number of happy endings) but there were more things going on than just drooling over NXT, wondering how New Japan can blow away Ring of Honor so badly and waking up from the 184 naps needed to make it all the way through WrestleMania.

In addition to all of the WWE wrestling shows over the weekend, there are more indy shows than anyone could conceivably watch in a few days. I did my best and made it through a lot of them (note that I said a lot of them and not all of them) and several names caught my eye. That’s what we’re going to look at this week: independent wrestling names that caught my eye over WrestleMania weekend in one way or another.

Note that I am not saying that these people are the next big thing or that they’re going to change the wrestling world forever. I’m also not saying that WWE is going to sign them anytime soon or that they would be better suited for WWE. All I’m saying is that these people got my attention (mostly) in a good way over the weekend and that their work is something you might want to take a look at if you have the time. You’ve probably seen some of these names but a few are going to be a surprise. Also note that I’m intentionally ignoring the ROH/NJPW show as that’s a little too big to count as an indy show.

In no particular order.

David Starr

If you watch any show over the weekend, you saw Starr somewhere in there. I can’t believe that someone actually manages to get on this many shows but Starr must have been on more than half a dozen. Starr is best known for his incredibly long list of nicknames before every match (including but certainly not limited to: “The cream in your coffee. Your favorite wrestler’s favorite wrestler. He’s REALLY good at Twitter.”) but his work is quite good as well.

What works for me about Starr is how much effort he puts into what he does. Starr is a guy of average size and doesn’t have an overly memorable look but he makes an impact through good technique and energy, especially with the nicknames before the match. That’s his bread and butter and he’s taken it a very long way. He’s more active in Europe than in America but if you watch an indy show, you’ll probably see him and there’s a good reason for that: he’s earned a lot of spots.

In a Starring role:

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Robbie Eagles

Sometimes you find a wrestler who is just good at what they do and that’s where Eagles comes in. Much like Starr, he isn’t big or overly flashy, but he wrestles a solid style and makes himself look good in the process. He’s already a part of Bullet Club (yes it’s still a thing) and I can imagine him going somewhere bigger in the near future.

The best example I can give you of Eagles is from the House of Glory Culture Clash 19 show, where he challenged for the promotion’s World Title. While he did wind up losing due to interference, Eagles came off looking like a star and that’s what he was supposed to do. Eagles looked like someone who belonged in a bigger promotion that was there to make the smaller promotion look good. That’s how you make someone seem like a star and Eagles did on every front.

Some guys are just talented:

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Maxwell Jacob Friedman

This is where we get to the point where you probably know some of these names, or at least you should. Friedman (also known as MJF) is a rich kid from New York and plays the character to near perfection. He’s been around in various companies, mainly Major League Wrestling and CZW but he’s also currently signed to AEW, where he’ll be taking part in Double Or Nothing.

Friedman is a gimmick that we’ve seen before but he plays it so well. He’s the kind of guy you want to see get punched in the face every time he’s on screen but he can also wrestle a rather nice match with some good limb work. Friedman is the kind of guy who has all the potential in the world and with the right experience, he’s going to be a star on the big stage sooner rather than later.

This guy is money:

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Aussie Open

Let’s get a tag team in here and as luck would have it, they might be the best kept secret on the independent scene. The team is from Australia (duh) and is comprised of Mark Davis (size and power) and Kyle Fletcher (speed) for a combination that has worked for the better part of ever in wrestling. These guys may not be reinventing the wheel, but they’re making it look really, really shiny.

I’ve seen these guys a few times now including once in person last year when Fletcher was a mere nineteen years old. These guys are going to get signed by a major company (or at least they should) and they’re one of the few acts on this list that seems like a layup to be in WWE someday. WWE likes their Australian acts and I’d take these two over TMDK.

They should be up over instead of down under:

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Kylie Rae

Since it’s a weekend focusing on women’s wrestling, it wouldn’t be right to not have a woman on the list and this one caught my eye right away. Rae is kind of the love child of the original Bayley and Dakota Kai: the hyper fangirl who happens to be awesome in the ring. She was introduced at one show as “she’s just really happy to be here” and that’s the vibe you get from her. It’s like she really loves this stuff and that’s enough to keep your attention.

As soon as I saw here I understood why AEW has already signed her up. There’s an energy to her that is absolutely infectious and she comes off as someone who loves every second she gets to spend in the ring. Characters like that are hard to pull off but the key to them is you can feel how much this means to them and that can’t be faked. That’s what I get with Rae and she does it so well.

Smile darn ya smile:

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Shigehiro Irie

This is a more simplistic idea: a big bruiser who hits you really hard and hurts you quite badly. Irie popped up on a few shows and made some memorable appearances each time, even if I didn’t actually see him win a match. He wrestles a hard hitting style that stood out well among a lot of the more high flying based styles and that made a good impression.

I could very easily see Irie getting a regular job in a promotion, even if it doesn’t result in him being a top star. Sometimes you just need someone who can be part of the company’s backbone and that’s where I see Irie. He gave me a Sheamus (minus the World Titles) vibe: a wrestler with a hard style who can guarantee you a passable match almost every time because he works well with everyone. That’s a valuable asset and Irie would be a good fit in a lot of places.

There’s a place for this guy:

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Hart Foundation

Seems appropriate on their Hall of Fame weekend. This is of course the new Hart Foundation, comprises of Teddy Hart, Brian Pillman Jr. and Davey Boy Smith Jr. While Hart has a bit of a history of being a screwup and, uh, insane, he has undergone a career resurgence in Major League Wrestling and turned into one of the most popular names in the company. Combining him with Pillman (getting better and better every single day) and Smith (a monster with power and amateur skills) have made these guys an actual force in wrestling.

The Harts are certainly capitalizing on their status as members of one of the most important wrestling families in history but at the same time they’re more than holding their own and showing what they’re capable of doing. This includes having a rather entertaining match with LAX at WrestleCon USA vs. The World and a nice showing at Battle Riot II. These guys aren’t likely to be in WWE anytime soon, but they’re going to give you a good show every time and Hart’s odd charisma works so well.

Doing the family proud:

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Jacob Fatu

Remember how the Harts are from one of the most famous wrestling families? The only one on the same level as theirs is the Anoa’i Family, with Fatu as their latest member. This family has more talent than it knows what to do with and Fatu is yet another with more charisma than he knows what to do with and the athletic abilities to back it up. How many other 300lbs wrestlers can do a picture perfect moonsault with that kind of speed?

Like many others on this list, Fatu has been a big deal in Major League Wrestling (just watch the show already as it’s worth your time) as part of the Contra Unit. The team caused a near riot in Chicago a few weeks back and Fatu is the most athletic of all of them. If there is one thing WWE knows how to promote, it’s an athletic freak with good family connections and Fatu is the best choice around today in that market.

This guy can go:

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Orange Cassidy

While not quite at Starr’s level, Cassidy was all over WrestleMania weekend, even promoting his own show. This is a bit of a difference case though as Cassidy isn’t someone whose gimmick works well so many times. Cassidy is….kind of hard to describe actually. He’s a guy in good shape but he wrestles with the minimum effort required, leaving his hands in his pockets and hitting people in slow motion. At the same time though, his incredibly basic style lets him get out of a variety of holds, including a signature dancing escape from a waistlock. Just don’t take off the glasses though because he really doesn’t like that.

This isn’t the kind of work that is well explained in words as Cassidy is someone you need to see to really grasp. I could see Cassidy being the kind of guy you want to see year to year to see what kind of things he’s added to his arsenal, which could become some rather entertaining stuff over the years. Cassidy isn’t for everyone, but if you get the idea, he’s one of the most entertaining people around.

Comedy:

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Marko Stunt

We’ll wrap it up with one of the most unique guys you’ll see all weekend. You might have seen Stunt at All In, though he might have been hard to see as he’s barely five feet tall and looks like he’s about twelve years old. The thing that makes Stunt stand out is not just how hard he has to wrestle to make up for his lack of size, but the amount of heart that he puts into all of his matches. That kind of work has always been successful and that’s the case here.

Stunt was in the opening match of Joey Janela’s Spring Break 3 Part 1 and the whole event gave me an ECW vibe. It wasn’t the kind of show that was going to work well everywhere, but it was exactly what the crowd wanted to see. Stunt isn’t likely to be more than a novelty act, but he’s the kind of novelty act that can be a star in a place like this. That’s a great thing, and Stunt stood out very well.

Here’s how he got noticed:

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I know that WrestleMania weekend ultimately belongs to WWE and there’s nothing wrong with that. The wrestling world stops for WWE and these shows often included references to WWE and WrestleMania. At the same time though, there is a lot more wrestling going on around the big show. The wrestlers know that the spotlight is on them and fans are watching. You can see the stars of tomorrow out there and some of them steal the shows every single time. Check some of these people out because they’re great at what they do.

Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his Amazon author page with 28 wrestling books. His latest book is the the Complete 2000 Monday Nitro and Thunder Reviews Part 1.

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