Cagematch.net is the preeminent on-line database for the professional wrestling trade. On the location, they’ve numerous issues organized, making analysis and comparisons simple for nerds like myself. One factor although has all the time bothered me about Cagematch, and that was that they by no means appeared to completely set up wrestlers by both the place they had been educated, or by the area they first broke into the wrestling enterprise in.
A number of years in the past, I used to be interviewing an indie wrestling promoter who mentioned he was involved that WWE was poaching a number of the premier wrestling trainers on the planet—his two examples had been Pat Buck and Lance Storm—to coach their expertise within the efficiency heart. By taking these academics away from the independents, it will damage expertise growth on the grassroots stage.
That dialogue initially received me eager about what coaching colleges, and in relation, what areas of the nation, had been at present producing probably the most expertise? Cagematch didn’t set up that knowledge in a helpful manner, so I made a decision that I might try to prepare it myself as a analysis mission to see what wrestling colleges and native unbiased scenes had been producing probably the most (and finest) expertise.
Organizing wrestlers by the place they had been educated is an unattainable job; many wrestlers had been educated by a number of academics/colleges and every particular person wrestler in all probability has a robust opinion on how they had been educated and who was finally liable for coaching them. What appeared extra manageable was to take a look at the early careers of professional wrestlers and see what area of the nation they appeared to carry out probably the most in. Principally, I wished to see what wrestling scenes on the grassroots stage had been offering the nationwide promotions with probably the most expertise. The place had been these future stars spending their adolescence studying the ins and outs of the trade?
So I appeared on the careers of 262 totally different wrestlers who’re listed on the official rosters of WWE, AEW, ROH, Impression and NJPW, since these are the promotions that appear just like the almost certainly to be hiring wrestlers on a full-time foundation. I went onto Cagematch and checked out the place they spent their first few years in wrestling, and arranged the wrestlers by area. The end result was I received numerous data that highlights the most effective areas of the nation for expertise growth.
Cagematch after all, will not be an ideal website with all the time correct data. Significantly for very small promotions, the place many wrestlers are more likely to first get their begin, that data will not be all the time documented. I may solely use the information that was out there to me, though I did search exterior of Cagematch to substantiate numerous the knowledge that I received from the location. The thought right here is to not nail down the beginning location for each American and Canadian wrestler, however reasonably to get a common overview of what areas of the nation are producing probably the most expertise.
On the spreadsheet linked here, I wished to make clear that data reminiscent of “in-ring debut” and “first match” had been merely what Cagematch had listed and had been possible NOT the precise debuts for this expertise. I believe it will be honest to estimate that in numerous instances, the primary listed match on Cagematch was in all probability a yr or two after they first step foot in a hoop. Nonetheless, I imagine the spirit of what’s introduced right here is correct, because it’s fairly clear for many wrestlers the place they broke into the trade.
A number of different notes:
- I solely used wrestlers who had listed matches no sooner than 2000. For wrestlers like Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio, Christopher Daniels, and many others. the trade they had been breaking into was fully totally different than the trade wrestlers are breaking into at the moment. Realistically, probably the most correct manner to do that mission could be to solely use wrestlers who began after 2010, since that can higher replicate the present indie scene, however I wished to have a extra historic outlook as effectively so I included nearly all people.
- I didn’t use wrestlers who broke in exterior of the USA and Canada. The geography and expertise growth methods are so totally different in different international locations that I didn’t suppose it will be an correct comparability to incorporate them.
- If a wrestler began after which stopped for a protracted time frame (larger than a yr) I merely ignored that first interval and used the information from once they picked it up once more. It’s doable that these wrestlers had been in actual fact working that complete time, however I can’t affirm that so as a substitute I simply checked out when it was clear their profession was selecting up steam and used that knowledge.
- I solely used expertise that had a listed match up to now yr. Individuals like Jason Jordan are listed on WWE’s official roster, however I don’t contemplate him an energetic expertise.
- I did my finest to interrupt this down by metro areas and areas. For instance, New York Metropolis accommodates what is usually acknowledged because the New York metro space, which incorporates Lengthy Island, northern New Jersey and elements of Connecticut. In some elements, notably in New Jersey the place the proximity to New York Metropolis and Philadelphia is sort of equidistant, it’s powerful to make a name the place somebody goes, however I attempted to do my finest to maintain it easy.
With out additional ado, here’s what I discovered, organized by the variety of expertise that broke into that area:
Unsurprisingly, Central Florida is the most effective place to be if you’re trying to break into wrestling. If you wish to make it in wrestling, simply go to a bunch of various gyms within the Orlando space and stroll round along with your shirt off and speak to individuals…likelihood is somebody will check out you.
Clearly, this quantity is grossly inflated by the truth that WWE, via each the Efficiency Heart/NXT and Florida Championship Wrestling, has used Central Florida as developmental for greater than a decade. So it’s not like there’s a thriving indie scene and tons of native expertise, it simply occurs to be the place the place WWE sends expertise that they recruit. Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman, Bray Wyatt, Charlotte and Bianca Belair are simply a number of the names WWE has educated and broke in working home exhibits within the space.
There are, nevertheless, different features of Central Florida which have made it such a sizzling spot for expertise exterior of WWE. The Group 3D Academy (Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, Leva Bates) and the Wild Samoan Coaching Heart (Jimmy and Jey Uso, Miro) have additionally drawn expertise to the realm. Native indies like Massive Time Wrestling, Southern Championship Wrestling Florida and World Xtreme Wrestling gave non-WWE trainees an outlet to observe their craft.
New York Metropolis
Coming second place in New York Metropolis, the most important metro space within the US. With loads of wrestling colleges and a protracted historical past of thriving independents, it’s not a shock New York Metropolis is ranked so extremely. The New York Wrestling Connection is a long-running indie that has given numerous first breaks to expertise, along with operating a profitable wrestling faculty, with Mikey Whipwreck typically serving as coach. Pat Buck’s Create-a-Professional Wrestling Academy has offered an analogous function lately, as has Wonderful Pink’s Home of Glory.
An attention-grabbing nugget I found was that out of the 24 wrestlers who broke into the enterprise in New York, solely two of them (Damian Priest and Tony Nese) are in WWE. Quite the opposite, 13 abilities in AEW established their careers in New York. Joey Janela, MJF, Sonny Kiss, Trent and Kris Statlander are all from the realm. One other notable factor is the variety of tag groups in AEW with NYC roots: Alex Reynolds and John Silver, Proud and Highly effective, Personal Occasion and The Acclaimed are all from the New York space.
Philadelphia is so near New York that the scenes are likely to mix collectively, however Philadelphia has some distinctive parts going for it. The primary is that two of the bigger indies of the previous 20 years (CHIKARA and Fight Zone Wrestling) are primarily based in Philly and have/had wrestling colleges which have churned out numerous expertise. In contrast to modern indies, like ROH, EVOLVE or PWG, these two promotions additionally steadily used their trainees on exhibits, and since they ran extra steadily than smaller indies, it gave that expertise numerous ring time from an early stage of their profession. Adam Cole, Eddie Kingston, Orange Cassidy, Wealthy Swann and Tracy Williams are only a few of the names to return via these colleges.
Actually, for those who ignore the anomaly of Central Florida, the most effective place to start out out as a professional wrestler is New Jersey. Jersey’s proximity to 2 main metro areas means there are numerous indie promotions and wrestling colleges close by and expertise can discover work extra simply than in different, extra remoted elements of the nation. Most of the wrestlers who fell into the New York Metropolis or Philadelphia bucket actually minimize their tooth working for exhibits in Jersey.
Southern California accommodates roughly 24 million individuals and has a protracted historical past of a vibrant indie scene. Whereas Professional Wrestling Guerilla is the indie most related to SoCal, as a status indie it wasn’t essentially going to be a hub for wrestlers first beginning their careers. Final Professional Wrestling within the early 2000s produced numerous large expertise, most notably John Cena, who missed the 2000 closing date for this record, however different names reminiscent of Samoa Joe and The Miz first began out working there.
The Santino Bros. Wrestling Academy presents a faculty and a small indie for expertise to coach and develop at, together with Brody King and Jake Atlas. The Younger Bucks created their very own indies as youngsters, which launched their very own careers in addition to their good friend’s, Brandon Cutler. Longtime coach Jesse Hernandez has damaged in numerous names over time as effectively, together with Rocky Romero, Candice LeRae and Peter Avalon.
Much like Central Florida, the Ohio Valley is residence to Ohio Valley Wrestling in Lousiville, which was a WWE developmental territory within the 2000s, provides it an unnatural enhance. Brock Lesnar, Shelton Benjamin, Cody Rhodes and Dolph Ziggler are simply a number of the names to return via that space on their approach to the principle roster.
Nonetheless, the realm is residence to extra than simply OVW. Particularly, Les Thatcher’s Heartland Wrestling Affiliation as a faculty and promotion to coach and develop younger expertise, has put a variety of names on the professional wrestling map, together with Jon Moxley, The Blade and Sami Callihan. Kentuckians Chuck Taylor and Ricochet had been educated by Brandon Walker and in addition hail from the area.
Georgia has been residence to numerous small indies, reminiscent of NWA Anarchy and World Wrestling Alliance 4, which were early stomping grounds for lots of expertise, together with Xavier Woods, Jaxson Ryker, Leon Ruff, Kiera Hogan and Heath Slater. WWA4 additionally has a faculty, beforehand run by Curtis Hughes and now run by AR Fox, which has produced numerous younger expertise lately. The reference to QT Marshall’s Georgia-based wrestling faculty in AEW has led to a number of names from the realm, together with Preston Vance, Lee Johnson and Alan Angels, getting signed.
New England rating this excessive is sort of fully attributable to Chaotic Wrestling, a promotion that runs a wrestling faculty that also makes use of Killer Kowalski’s identify, though the unique faculty in Malden, Massachusetts is lengthy gone. Kofi Kingston, Tomasso Ciampa, Ivar, Oney Lorcan, Flip Gordon, T-Bar and Eddie Edwards all received their begins in that system and dealing on these exhibits. High Rope Promotions, out of Fall River, Massachusetts, has additionally been residence to some notable ROH-based expertise, together with Matt Taven, Vincent and Mike Bennett.
The Toronto space additionally accommodates border cities reminiscent of Buffalo, New York. All the time an enormous wrestling metropolis, Ethan Web page, Shawn Spears, Dalton Fortress and Angelina Love all broke into wrestling whereas working within the area. Border Metropolis Wrestling, in Windsor, Ontario, is simply one of many a number of indies within the space to provide younger expertise an opportunity.
The smallest area thus far that didn’t include a WWE developmental territory, the realm round Cleveland and Pittsburgh has been a hotbed for expertise. Worldwide Wrestling Cartel and Cleveland All-Professional Wrestling are two indies which were instrumental in serving to out native younger expertise, and deserve numerous credit score for putting this space so extremely. Johnny Gargano, Britt Baker, Wardlow, EC3 and Shane Taylor are a number of the natives who’ve come out of the Cleveland/Pittsburgh space.
The All Professional Wrestling Bootcamp and Stoner Brothers College are two Northern California coaching colleges which have produced a great quantity of expertise, together with Will Hobbs, Shotzi Blackheart and Timothy Thatcher. Bayley might be the largest star to return out of the area, and John Morrison first received began whereas working for Supreme Professional Wrestling in Sacramento.
Whereas it was by no means recognized for being the most well liked space for professional wrestling, the Pacific Northwest, which accommodates Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, has produced some notable expertise, together with Darby Allin, Kyle O’Reilly and El Phantasmo. Elite Canadian Championship Wrestling has been a key indie within the space for serving to younger expertise.
An space synonymous with wrestling historical past, the realm nonetheless has produced some expertise lately, together with Adam Web page, Dax Hardwood, Cameron Grimes and Cedric Alexander. Carolina Wrestling Federation Mid-Atlantic is an area indie that has achieved a great job pushing younger, native expertise over time.
Chicago was one of the vital attention-grabbing areas to take a look at, since I used to be shocked at how low it ranked. Chicago is the third-largest metro space within the US and is residence to arguably probably the most passionate followers, and has been residence to some notable indies that I assumed would have fared higher on this mission, notably IWA-Mid South. Nonetheless, in accordance with my analysis, I solely have Seth Rollins, Shayna Baszler, Mustafa Ali, Mel, Kalisto and Juice Robinson as names to interrupt into the enterprise through Chicago. I’m in all probability lacking a couple of names, however I used to be stunned to see how significantly better a spot like Cleveland/Pittsburgh did.
You can make a case that the Detroit scene may very well be part of the Cleveland/Pittsburgh scene or the Toronto scene, given its proximity to each. I gave it its personal part attributable to there being some small Michigan unbiased promotions which have damaged some expertise in. Alex Shelly and Chris Sabin are probably the most notable, with Danhausen, Jake One thing and Rohit Raju additionally breaking in across the motor metropolis.
If the AWA was nonetheless round Minnesota would possibly nonetheless be the expertise capital of the world, however these days are lengthy gone. In newer years, the town has damaged in two pairs of brothers, Dante and Darius Martin of High Flight, and the Davari brothers. Chad Gable could be probably the most notable present identify from Minnesota.
Much like the Twin Cities, Calgary was as soon as a hotspot for wrestling attributable to Stampede Wrestling, however that was a very long time in the past. The expertise that has come out of Calgary (Natalya, Jack Evans, Jinder Mahal and Tyler Breeze) all got here out via the time when Stampede Wrestling was revived as an area indie within the early 2000s. The Lance Storm Academy in Calgary has educated numerous expertise, however few appear to stay round Calgary as soon as their coaching is full as there simply doesn’t appear to be an area indie scene that may assist formidable expertise.
Virtually 20 years in the past, the unbiased scene round Ottawa and Montreal produced two tag groups that may go on to search out success within the US. Kevin Steen and El Generico, and the Tremendous Smash Bros. (now Stu Grayson and Evil Uno). It may not be the largest scene, however that’s one thing to be pleased with.
The Washington DC/Baltimore space is perhaps penalized attributable to its proximity to the Philadelphia space, which attributable to its vibrant indie scene, in all probability has attracted natives, like Wealthy Swann, to interrupt in up north. DC has damaged in Velveteen Dream, Lio Rush and ROH’s Kaun and Moses.
As you’re about to see, Texas has sort of a scattered indie scene as a result of distance between its largest cities, so nobody metropolis will actually soar out for producing a ton of expertise. I may lump Texas into one area, however I don’t suppose that may be very correct because the cities are thus far aside. Ricky Starks, Jordynne Grace and Sammy Guevara broke in on a scene that may very well be on the rise.
See rationalization for Austin. Lance Archer, Keith Lee and Ember Moon first received began in Massive D.
St. Louis has a reasonably important indie scene with some noteworthy promotions, however not a ton to indicate for it so far as regionally educated and developed guys making it to any of the nationwide promotions. Matt Sydal, Marko Stunt and Delirious first broke out in St. Louis.
With out one other main metropolis inside cheap driving distance, Denver will not be the most effective place for expertise to get began in the event that they need to discover constant work. Abadon and Otis, which is a very random pairing, received began in Denver.
The pandemic has induced AEW to carry all of their exhibits in Jacksonville over the previous yr, that means expertise they’ve began to interrupt in themselves, Jade Cargill and Colten Gunn, can declare the town as their breaking floor.
Like Calgary, Memphis was as soon as a hotspot for wrestling expertise and whereas Jerry Lawler’s USWA was kicking round within the 90s, it was a developmental territory for the WWF and residential to a bunch of abilities first matches. By the 2000s that interval was over. Brian Kendrick, who nearly undoubtedly began his profession earlier than 2000 however doesn’t have a Cagematch itemizing for earlier than that date, and Su Yung, received began in Memphis.
MVP and Pink Velvet, who began their careers generations aside, each cracked into the enterprise in South Florida.
Silas Younger and Beer Metropolis Bruiser are in all probability the one energetic wrestlers most followers may identify from Milwaukee, so they’re unsurprisingly the one two individuals I discovered to have damaged in through Milwaukee independents.
Bobby Roode is unquestionably somebody who began their profession earlier than 2000, however I set these parameters so I’ll follow them. A local of Toronto, Roode’s first important stretch of matches on Cagematch got here for Actual Motion Wrestling in Nova Scotia.
I legitimately didn’t know there was nonetheless wrestling in Hawaii, however Cobb spent the primary few years in wrestling working for Motion Zone Wrestling in Waipahu.
Like Chicago, I used to be shocked to see that Houston, the fourth greatest metropolis within the US, fared so poorly. MACE, previously of Retribution, is the one one who I can inform was damaged into the enterprise in Houston. Expertise like Sammy Guevara are from Houston and had been educated by Booker T’s faculty in Houston, however appeared to actually set up himself for independents in Austin. Like Chicago, I don’t have all the knowledge so I may very well be lacking some stuff, however it seems to me that regardless of Houston’s measurement, it doesn’t have a robust indie scene to assist wrestlers simply beginning out.
Like Denver, Las Vegas being remoted from different main cities in all probability hurts its possibilities at producing a vibrant indie scene that might examine with the cities on the East Coast. Karrion Kross was educated in Vegas and began his profession with Future Stars of Wrestling within the metropolis.
It’s been a very long time because the glory days of Invoice Watts and Danny Hodge. ROH’s Bateman is the one wrestler to my information to really break into wrestling by working usually in Oklahoma.
The truth that Kenny Omega is as profitable as he’s at the moment whereas beginning on a scene that has not produced some other expertise of notice (from his technology, no less than) is fairly outstanding.
Within the newest version of the Gents’s Wrestling Podcast, Jesse Collings (@JesseCollings) and Jason Ounpraseuth (@JasonOun95) talk about the tip of the Wednesday Evening Wars. The blokes go over the partisan rivalry that divided wrestling followers, the influence going head-to-head had on every product, adjustments to every present we might even see now that the warfare is over, and extra.