Independent wrestling once definitively stood alone as the purest art form of professional wrestling.
Led by CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and Nigel McGuinness, the major trends in professional wrestling all started from the independent wrestling scene.
The indie scene is constantly changing, but all too often its current place feels more like a breeding ground for top promotions rather than a haven for creative thinking.
Beyond Wrestling founder Drew Cordeiro has noticed that glaring trend, but refuses to allow independent wrestling to be altered, manipulated, or disturbed.
“The independent wrestling of 15 years ago, that’s the wrestling I fell in love with,” said Cordeiro. “Now it seems almost like an incubator for companies that are scrambling to lock wrestlers under deals. Beyond Wrestling’s role is to prevent these major organizations from taking over.”
A 33-year-old former wrestler, who also runs the world’s premiere wrestling-themed gourmet grilled food truck, Cordeiro is obsessed with the business of professional wrestling. But his goal isn’t to go mainstream.
Cordeiro operates on a grassroots level with a passion that serves as a reminder there is more to the industry than the work of billion-dollar companies. Cordeiro exists to remind people of pro wrestling’s heartbeat, which takes place inside an indie ring.
“The process of independent wrestling is so f------ beautiful,” said Cordeiro. “Deserving talents are identified, allowing them to get their repetitions in front of a live crowd, and that gives them the opportunity to establish themselves as popular performers.
“An active, thriving independent scene focuses on all the elements of professional wrestling that the major organizations cannot touch, and we’re pursuing our version of professional wrestling at Beyond Wrestling.”
Beyond Wrestling, home to the weekly live online Uncharted Territory show and over a million-and-a-half subscribers on YouTube, presents its signature Americanrana show later Sunday.
Headlined by a 60-minute Iron Man match between David Starr and Joey Janela, which is the culmination of a storyline that has lasted over two years, the show takes place at Foxwoods Resort Casino. This is not the typical venue for an indie show, but Cordeiro has a vision for his promotion that goes beyond the perceived limits of independent wrestling.
“I was brought onto this earth to entertain people through professional wrestling,” said Cordeiro. “On the grand scheme of things, I wish I could be curing cancer, but I understand my role. And Beyond does help people. We have one dedicated fan, Jessica Lynn, who has fought cancer on three different occasions. We can’t provide her with a cure, but we can provide a relief and an escape and joint happiness.”
Offering a combination of storytelling with exceptional in-ring work, the Americanrana card exudes the Beyond philosophy.
In addition to the Janela-Starr affair, the card is overflowing with emerging independent stars and complimented by a handful of those who have achieved mainstream notoriety. WWE Hall of Famers Robert Gibson and Ricky Morton will bring their Rock ‘N’ Roll Express to the Premier Ballroom at Foxwood’s Fox Tower for a match with rising tag team The Butcher and The Blade. Kris Statlander, one of the top prospects in women’s wrestling, locks up with former NXT talent Kimber Lee. Chris Dickinson, Orange Cassidy, John Silver, and Chuck O’Neil are also part of the card, as well as Ring of Honor’s Cheeseburger.
Former UFC talent “Filthy” Tom Lawlor, who just finished a fantastic run as Major League Wrestling’s world champ, also tags with The Wrestling Observer’s Bryan Alvarez in a match against death match icon Nick Gage and Thomas Santell. On the subject of tag teams, LAX–comprised of Santana and Ortiz–is also on the card. They are the single best unsigned tag team in wrestling, but their goal at Americanrana isn’t to get signed by a major promotion, it’s to entertain the crowd’s heart, soul, and mind off.
Another match worth watching is EVOLVE talent Josh Briggs taking on John Hennigan. Known as John Morrison in WWE, then later Johnny Mundo as the face of Lucha Underground, Hennigan has entered free agency after his deal with Impact Wrestling expired–and he is looking forward to working with Briggs, who is fresh off his WWE Network debut from the EVOLVE anniversary special.
“I look at Beyond Wrestling like I look at Umami Burger in Los Angeles,” said Hennigan, who will bring new eyes to independent wrestling. “It’s not the biggest chain, but they make the best hamburgers, and they’re my favorite. That’s what you are getting from Beyond Wrestling, a style of wrestling you won’t get from a bigger company.”
The edge is sharpest in the fringe, which makes independent wrestling the cutting edge of the industry, a concept fully grasped by Hennigan.
“Beyond is on a short list of great independent promotions I’ve really wanted to work for before I make my next move to another major promotion,” said Hennigan. “I’m really happy that it’s happening at Foxwoods against Josh Briggs. I’ve been studying his tapes, and the dude is pretty damn talented, almost as talented as me.”
Starr and Janela is an example of Beyond’s long-term storytelling. The two have battled each other for over two years in Beyond with a desire to lay claim to being the undisputed top star in the promotion.
A lot has changed along the way, with Starr taking more bookings in Europe and Janela signing a deal with Tony Khan’s All Elite Wrestling. But they now finally have a chance to add a resolution to their story.
“I want to prove that I’m the top guy at Beyond,” said Starr. “Joey and myself, our careers have both risen alongside one another, yet we’ve taken very different paths. Regardless, we’ve been linked for the last three years and it is time to settle it.”
Janela has made a name for himself through his ability to shock and awe the crowd, but the Iron Man match against Starr also stands as a chance to highlight what he is capable of in the ring.
“This match means a lot to me,” said Janela. “Even though people might look at me and not think I’m physically capable of wrestling an hour-long match, I’m one of the best-conditioned professional wrestlers in the United States and I’m one of the best big match professionals in the United States. This is my third time main-eventing Americanrana, and they’re putting a lot of trust in me, and people are definitely going to be surprised by it.”
Beyond even has its own signature voice. A modern-day Joey Styles, play-by-play man Paul Crockett is another talent Beyond has helped develop. He will call the show, which begins at 4pm ET, on Independent Wrestling TV.
“Everything has been building to this for a long time,” said Crockett, who started as Beyond’s lead voice in February of 2018. “Having been around everyone for 17 weeks of Uncharted Territory, I’m very confident that everyone tuning in will see why Beyond is the best that independent wrestling has to offer.”
Crockett has relished the opportunity to call the action as Beyond reimagines the playing field for indie wrestling.
“One of the big stories for Americanrana is Chris Dickinson’s run as the gatekeeper of Beyond, and that is what I feel is Beyond’s role in independent wrestling,” said Crockett. “Beyond is the gatekeeper of independent wrestling. It’s a true proving ground to show that a talent has the ability to make it to the next level.
“[NXT’s] Keith Lee is a prime example. He couldn’t get out of Texas because no one had eyes on the scene there. He took a chance on himself, came to Beyond, and from there become an overnight sensation after 10-plus years in the business. Now you look at names like Joey Janela, David Starr, Josh Briggs, LAX, Kris Statlander and a number of others featured at Americanrana, and they all started their trek toward stardom at Beyond.”
Cordeiro is comfortable in his office as the gatekeeper of independent wrestling, but believes his work for Beyond is only starting at Americanrana.
“This represents what independent wrestling is going to be moving forward,” said Cordeiro. “This puts us in the same conversation with every single major wrestling organization, and I’m including WWE, AEW, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor, MLW, and the NWA. Aside from WWE, nobody else in professional wrestling is producing live, weekly professional wrestling content. And we have a major announcement to make at Americanrana about the future of Uncharted Territory.”
Beyond Wrestling’s chance to make another lasting impression in the industry is only a few hours away, and Cordeiro is fully aware of the opportunity at hand.
“This is the end of our year, the start of our year, and the culmination of 10 years of hard work to get to this point, so I hope everyone enjoys the show. This isn’t ending on Sunday at Americanrana, so how much more can we build it? There will never be a point where we’re content at Beyond. We’re going higher and further, even if we have a million less resources than WWE or AEW.”