It’s the end of the year, and that means it’s time to reminisce about the best and my favorite matches I was able to be ringside for. In 2022 I was able to shoot 236 matches across five promotions – Central Empire Wrestling, Impact Pro Wrestling, SCWPro, Madhouse Wrestling, and Absolute Pro Wrestling – here in the state of Iowa as we review the top 20 independent matches of 2022 – 15-11.
Last week I started reviewing the 20 best, focusing on 20-16. You can read about those matches here: Today, the spotlight focuses on matches 15-11. But of course, I have to throw out a couple of honorable mentions first.
I wasn’t there in person, and this match didn’t take place in Iowa, but the rematch between the Frontman Jah C and JDX for the Black Wrestlers Matter Championship is the definition of a must-see.
Much like their first meeting, these two showed just how good they are when facing each other. The swagger of the Frontman and the determination of JDX shined throughout. JDX evening the score sets up what could be the ultimate rubber match down the line.
Ethan Everheart versus AJ Smooth from Absolute Pro Wrestling’s second show was an instant classic. With a championship opportunity on the line, the young lion and cerebral veteran went toe to toe, thrilling the APW fans from beginning to end.
Now onto matches 15-11.
Top 20 Independent Matches of 2022 – 15 – 11
#15 – Absolute Pro Wrestling Debut Show
Tag Team Match
“Da Boys” Bryce Jordyn & The Shank vs. “Original Violence” Cole Cannon & Damien Saint
Heading into the very first Absolute Pro Wrestling show, one of the goals of APW management was to establish a promotion where tag team wrestling could shine. This was their very first tag match, and it’s safe to say these four competitors made good on that goal with a wildly entertaining contest.
The most interesting fact about this match was that this was the very first time both teams were stepping in the ring together. Da Boys, full of bravado and swagger, are the throwback to the days of an athletic, high-flyer teaming with an absolute bruiser.
Bonded by inflicting violence upon each other, Cole Cannon and Damien Saint fought across multiple promotions in Iowa before coming together as a team. This match started fast and furious, with all four men brawling in and around the ring.
Eventually, Original Violence gained the upper hand by separating the Shank from his corner.
Using various double-team maneuvers to inflict as much violence as possible, Saint and Cannon were unable to put the big man down. Something that caused some friction between the enemies turned allies.
Shank flexing in between their bickering was a golden moment in this one. Speaking of golden, Bryce Jordyn eventually got the hot tag and flew around the ring. His Canadian Destroyer on Cannon was a thing of beauty.
The biggest highlight of the match came when Cannon suplexed Jordyn from the top turnbuckle onto Saint and Shank on the ringside floor. Bringing the chaos to an end was Shank hitting Saint with a spinning cutter for the three count.
The bar had been set for APW tag team wrestling, and it was set high.
Top 20 Independent Matches of 2022 – Matches 15 – 11
#14 – Madhouse Wrestling: Outlaw State of Mind
Fight to the Finish for the Madhouse Championship
AJ Smooth vs. Clay Cooper
During Madhouse Wrestling’s debut show, two men, AJ Smooth and Clay Cooper began their collision course towards the Madhouse Championship. That night, Smooth emerged from a grueling four-man tournament to crown the first-ever Madhouse Champion.
On his path to the championship, he defeated two of the very best midwest pro wrestling has to offer, James Jeffries and 1 Called Manders. Earlier in the show, Clay Cooper thrilled the audience with a show-stealing performance during his six-man scramble victory.
His death-defying leap from the venue balcony is the definition of an iconic Madhouse Wrestling moment. The victory earned Cooper a Madhouse Wrestling Championship opportunity which came at Outlaw State of Mind.
In front of a raucous Countryside Wedding and Events center crowd, Smooth attacked the challenger, during his entrance, from behind with a steel chair. The assault during Cooper’s once again solidified the Madhouse fans’ disdain for their champion.
Once in the ring, Smooth showed off the skills that make him one of the top performers in Iowa. His standing suplex and belly-to-belly suplex leading to sitting on a chair while resting his feet on a downed Cooper was pardon the pun, too smooth.
Answering the intensity Smooth brought to the match, Cooper responded with his acrobatic offensive attack. Brandishing a chair and slamming into Smooth’s back in retaliation for the earlier assault.
That same chair provided one of the most painful moments of the match when Smooth suplexed his foe onto it. Eventually, this wild fight to the finish moved up to the balcony of the event center.
This is where Smooth sent Cooper flying from the balcony onto a door resting on two chairs. The shocking display silenced the fans as the Madhouse medical staff along with promoter Luke Raven checked on the fallen Cooper.
Not done inflicting damage, Smooth returned to the ring with malicious intent. After tossing Raven out of the ring, the champion turned his attention to Cooper, who, in a shocking turn of events, rolled up the champion for the 1-2-3.
As Smooth returned to the locker room, pride bruised and licking his wounds; Cooper was joined by his family in celebration of becoming the new Madhouse Wrestling Champion.
#13 – SCWPro: Heartbreak
SCWPro Championship Match
Johnny Wisdom vs. 1 Called Manders
Throughout 2021 Johnny Wisdom and 1 Called Manders engaged in a bitter rivalry over the SCWPro Championship. Wisdom won the title from Manders and went on a title reign to be remembered.
During his reign at the top of SCWPro, Wisdom defended the strap against a who’s who of SCWPro stars. From the Shug and Mason Beck to Krotch, Wisdom cemented his name as a bonafide great SCWPro Champion.
Earlier this year, on the road to EPIC – SCWPro’s biggest event of the year – Manders returned to SCWPro. He had one thing in mind when returning home, winning back his “Lady in Red.”
After winning a number one contender match over Conan Lycon at SCWPro Hawkamania 21 – Genesis, Manders was getting his shot. The SCWPro fans were chomping at the bit to see Manders end the long reign of Wisdom.
They gave the Cornbelt Cowboy a rousing ovation as soon as Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” rang through the Walcott Coliseum. In an act of ultimate psychological warfare, Wisdom entered the contest wearing one of Mander’s very own t-shirts.
A shirt that Manders soon used against Wisdom, pulling it over his head as the two brawled ringside.
These two old foes held nothing back, hitting each other with power move after power move. They traded running power slams, each receiving a near fall that pushed the Walcott fans over the edge in excitement.
One of the most exciting moments of the match was when Manders hit his vicious lariat that sent Wisdom flipping in the air. But, showing the intestinal fortitude that led him to the championship, Wisdom kicked out at two.
Manders shocked face is an image that will live forever in SCWPro lore. On this night, the SCWPro fans’ hopes were dashed as Wisdom retained his championship. A vicious lariat of his own followed by an under-hook front slam, kept the SCWPro Championship around the champs waist.
#12 Central Empire Wrestling: Legendary Series 1
Tag Team Championship Tables Match
Jared Thumb & Rory Fox vs. JT Energy & Damien Saint
Known as the Power Slam Four, the story between this quartet started in the midst of the pandemic. In 2020 CEW put together a second season of their four-episode Facebook live show called Power Slam.
Their way is to give CEW fans some CEW content despite no live shows taking place. It was here Damien Saint made his CEW debut, costing Rory Fox the opportunity to win the CEW Championship from JT Energy in a triple-threat match also featuring Jared Thumb.
Over the next two years, these four crossed paths on various CEW shows, but it wasn’t until the end of 2021 where JT Energy and Saint officially formed the Mistery of Darkness.
Their united goal was to win the CEW Tag Team Titles from Thumb and Fox. The deep history between these four competitors led to this chaotic tables match. Thumb and Fox entered first to a hero’s welcome from the CEW faithful.
Then out came Energy and Saint, and all hell broke loose. The four men paired off, Saint and Fox rekindling their violent feud in the ring, while Energy and Thumb fought ringside. Fox removing Saint’s mask and mocking his long-time rival upped the intensity.
Midway through the match, the Mistery of Darkness handcuffed Jared Thumb to the turnbuckle and began their assault on Rory Fox. Despite being at a numbers disadvantage, Fox, the former CEW Champion, held his own against the nefarious duo.
His picture-perfect drop kick on Energy was a crowd-pleasing moment.
The most poetic moment of the match came when Fox and Saint went crashing through a table together at ringside, eliminating both men from the match, led to a thrilling finish.
After Jared Thumb broke free from the handcuffs, the showdown with the current CEW Champion, JT Energy, began. Both men hit their finisher, Energy’s scissor kick, and Thumbs stunner before ending up on the top turnbuckle together.
The two struggled to keep their balance until Energy was able to send Thumb crashing through a table for the win. New Champions crowned, ending a wild throwdown.
#11 – Impact Pro Wrestling: Farewell to the Forte 1
Last Time Ever
Clay Cooper vs. Dalton Cooper
Brother versus brother is a story that has lasted the test of time. It’s a story told in numerous forms of entertainment, pro wrestling included. Bret versus Owen, Matt versus Jeff, and within the world of kayfabe, Undertaker versus Kane are all shining examples.
Back in January, Impact Pro Wrestling gave their fans a new rendition of brother versus brother. Sometimes ally’s but mostly sibling rivals, Clay and Dalton, were both determined to be the final man to emerge victorious.
Dalton was motivated by not only wanting to conquer his brother but to also stick it to IPW management one final time by beating one of their top stars. Clay, out to show once again why he’s considered one of the most exciting wrestlers in the state of Iowa.
With the intensity at a fever pitch, the two began with a very personal, face-to-face stare down in the middle of the ring. Clay showed off his athleticism early with a standing moonsault, only to be countered by a belly-to-belly suplex and spinning head scissors by Dalton.
Punches were thrown, DDTs were landed, and the crowd became more invested as the match went on.
Dalton got his highlight real moment when he hit a spectacular Canadian Destroyer onto Clay from the top turnbuckle. But even that couldn’t keep “All-Star” Clay Cooper down. Pulling out all the stops, Dalton locked in a grueling ankle lock late in the match.
Once again, though, Clay would not be denied, reaching the ropes and forcing Dalton to release the hold. Seizing the opportunity, Clay landed his patented Pele kick before putting this sibling rivalry to bed with his phenomenal 450 splash. An emotionally charged ending to classic IPW rivalry.
Well, that’s the first ten matches I enjoyed the most in 2022. We enter the top ten next time with matches 10-6. Featuring a barroom brawl for the ages, a brutal last-man-standing match, a wild triple threat, a show stealer, and a final classic in a historic wrestling venue.