To say that 2022 was a banner year for me photographing pro wrestling would be an understatement. During the year, I was able to shoot ringside for five different promotions in the state of Iowa as we review the top 20 independent matches of 2022 – 20-16.
Five promotions with their own style and approach when it comes to the sport of professional wrestling. Between the five promotions – Central Empire Wrestling, Impact Pro Wrestling, SCWPro, Madhouse Wrestling, and Absolute Pro Wrestling – I took pictures of 236 matches.
So with that in mind, I felt it was time to do what I did last year and create a list of the top 20 matches I was ringside for in 2022. These 20 independent matches were some of the best and favorites of mine throughout the year.
Granted, there are so many pro wrestling matches fans can take it; these are just the ones that left an impression on me. So before anyone becomes too critical on what they feel makes a great match, just keep in mind these are just one’s I enjoyed being ringside for.
Of course, we need to give praise to some honorable mentions, great matches in their own right, and a few I wasn’t ringside for but deserve a mention. Before each list of my 20 favorites, I’ll give props to a couple of honorable mentions.
With the honorable mentions no better place to start than Gable Galileo versus Cole Cannon for the IPW Extreme Championship during IPW: Farewell Forte. Chairs, kendo sticks, tacks, potatoes, and potato mashers helped send the Forte off in an extreme manner.
A match I was able to watch online that deserves mention was “Buns of Steel” J Fowler taking on Myron Reed for the Rugged Pro Heritage Championship. Two of the most athletic guys on the indie wrestling scene simply tearing it up together.
Search this match out when you can. Now on, let’s start with the top 20.
Top 20 Independent Matches of 2022 – 20-16
#20 – Madhouse Wrestling: Little Show of Horrors
A Nightmare on First Street Match
Saint The Nihilus vs. Ricky Bronson
Starting off the list is a personal favorite of mine. Saint and Bronson began their pro wrestling venture together. The first match for both men was against the other after coming out of training at the IPW Vault.
I was there that first time they stepped in the ring against each other, and that night Ricky Bronson came out on top. It was an intense encounter, to say the least. After that, they crossed paths a few times, leading up to Madhouse Wrestling: Outlaw State of Mind.
The bad blood that stemmed from their very first encounter boiled over during the Last Outlaw Match. Their intense hatred led to them both being eliminated by Daniel Mott before they brawled into the parking lot.
Seizing the opportunity, Madhouse officials signed this up for their October show in Newton, Iowa. This no holds barred match with a Halloween spirit was a fun bit of violence. A plethora of weapons were at their disposal, and both were more than ready to indulge.
Halloween decorations, kendo sticks, light sabers, and even pumpkins were used. The fans even got the opportunity to inflict some damage on Saint. The swerve of the match came when it was revealed that Saint replaced Bronson’s bag of thumbtacks with a bag of candy corn.
In the end, the chair wrapped in barbed wire Bronson brought to the match ended up being his undoing. Saint picked up the win after utilizing the weapon in a sadistic manner. This match was a couple of years coming after Bronson’s injury and after the way it ended, it’s easy to see that this feud is far from done.
You can catch this match on IWTV, along with all future Madhouse Wrestling shows.
#19 – SCWPro: Red, White, and Bruised
Walcott Street Fight
Eric Eznite vs. Malik Champion
Collectively known as the Prodigal Sons, Eric Eznite and Malik Champion took the SCWPro tag team division by storm in 2021. Their chemistry, combined with their speed and athleticism, led them to a reign as SCWPro Tag Team Champions.
As with many teams before them, their reign eventually ended, and the struggles to get back to the top drove a wedge between them. It was during their final attempt to win back the straps during EPIC Night 2 that everything came crashing to an end.
After losing to current champions Thunder Corn (Latin Thunder & Corn Boi), the Prodigal Sons were left in the ring. Champion helped his partner to his feet as the crowd showed their appreciation.
That appreciation turned to shock when Eznite ended the Prodigal Sons with a swift kick to the head. Their feud played out through the spring and into the summer, and it all came to a head during SCWPro: Red, White, and Bruised.
Eznite, with his newly found righteousness, came into the match overly confident as the “chosen one” of SCWPro. Champion determined to exact revenge on his former partner.The two began the match, weapon in hand. Champion a steel chair and Eznite with his trusty staff.
It didn’t take long for this fight to spill into the Walcott crowd. This is where Champion hit a spectacular dive over the turnbuckle into the crowd onto Eznite. As the match went on, the intensity rose, and neither man was afraid to express themselves violently.
Eznite reciting psalms while resting a Bible on Champion’s head was one of those moments that took the audience by surprise. However, that overconfidence didn’t lead Eznite to victory on this night.
Malik Champion earned the victory with a top rope Frankensteiner onto a table resting on a pair of chairs. Since then, they’ve both success SCWPro, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them cross paths in 2023. You can catch this match on SCWPro’s Patreon for just $5 a month.
#18 – Central Empire Wrestling: Legendary Series 2
“Buns of Steel” J Fowler vs. Niles Plonk
The last time CEW fans saw J Fowler was during Bridge City Slam II back in 2020. Since then, the Buns of Steel has plied his trade all over the United States. He’s become one of those guys that’s always delivers inside the squared circle.
A guy who will be in one of, if not the best, match of the night on any card he’s placed. This was a return CEW fans were more than excited for. Looking to ruin the long-awaited homecoming, Niles Plonk.
A veteran in his own right, Plunk brought his class and mean streak to CEW with every intention of sending the fans home unhappy. The two traded standing suplexes early, and then the chess match began.
Both looked for several submission attempts; Fowler’s athleticism shined throughout, as did Plunk’s technical approach. The match hit a fever pitch when Fowler locked Plonk in a grueling ankle lock.
As Plonk tried to find his way to escape, the CEW fans cheered on their returning hero as he cranked the ankle tighter and tighter. Much to their chagrin, Plonk finally managed to reach the ropes, forcing Fowler to release the hold.
Taking full advantage of the reprieve, Plonk shocked everyone, including Fowler, when he picked up the victory with a rope-assisted roll-up. With the controversial way this match ended, CEW fans can be sure this is far from over.
You can watch this match here:
Top 20 Independent Matches of 2022 – 20-16
#17 – SCWPro: EPIC Night 1
No Holds Barred
The Shug vs. Matt Cage
The bad blood in this one ran deep. For over a year, these two were at each other’s throats. Numerous SCWPro shows were interrupted when these two happened to be in the same building.
Whether it was Cage sneak attacking the Shug or vice versa, these two were on a violent collision course of epic proportions. However, the path to EPIC Night 1 wasn’t a straight line.
Cage refused to fight the Shug unless his rival won a series of matches he laid out in front of him. Meeting those challenges head-on, the Shug picked up wins over Solomon Tupu and Lars Metzger and even won a handicap match to earn this opportunity.
After an intense stare-down in the middle of the ring, the fight was on. Both men were out to inflict damage and were willing to use anything at their disposal. Chairs were involved, and the two fought around ringside throughout.
Cage even got into a heated shouting match with some fired-up Shug fans. Midway through the match, Shug hit a devastating brain buster onto Cage, who miraculously kicked out at two. The crowd couldn’t believe it, neither could the Shug.
Knowing he needed to pull out all the stops, the Shug sent Cage crashing through a door resting against the turnbuckle before finishing his bitter rival off with two vicious chair shots to the head. A simple three count later, and the Shug had vanquished Matt Cage.
Having been through an absolute war, the two men showed each other the ultimate display of respect with a handshake and hug after the match, bringing to an end one of SCWPro’s most heated rivalries.
Top 20 Independent Matches of 2022 – 20-16
#16 Jeremy Wyatt Trifecta
Wyatt vs. 1 Called Manders – Madhouse Wrestling
Wyatt vs. The Big Picture – Impact Pro Wrestling Wyatt vs. Arjun Singh – Madhouse Wrestling
So yes, technically, this is three matches. But “The Monarch” Jeremy Wyatt is one of the best in the game and when he comes to Iowa, it’s for sure to be a memorable match, so I couldn’t pick just one.
Each one of these was a unique match-up for the guy some consider the best technical wrestler in the midwest. We start with his Madhouse Wrestling Championship semifinal showdown with the 1 Called Manders.
Styles make fights, is the old saying, and this was a classic between a technical wizard in Wyatt and one of the best brawlers going, Manders. Wyatt broke out a good chunk of his arsenal, locking Manders in a cross-face and even landing an elbow drop from the top rope.
In the end, though, Manders picked up the victory with an ultra-violent lariat. Madhouse needs to sign this up for a sequel sooner rather than later. Wyatt’s match at the IPW Hall of Fame Show in July was a unique contest because neither Wyatt nor the Big Picture were liked by the fans.
That didn’t stop these two veterans from putting on a superb match. Wyatt tried wearing down the former IPW Champion with a plethora of holds and submissions. It was a full display of what makes Wyatt the great competitor he is.
No slouch in the ring himself, the Big Picture picked up one of the biggest wins of his 2022 after hitting his patented F5. For the third match in the Wyatt trifecta, we return to Madhouse Wrestling.
During Outlaw State of Mind, Wyatt took on the debuting Arjun Singh. These two master technicians put on an instant classic. They matched each other hold for hold, move for move, in one of Madhouse Wrestling’s true gems.
Wyatt got the win after a low blow allowed him to lock in a devastating armbar forcing Singh to submit. Much like the match with Manders, Madhouse Wrestling needs to sign this rematch in the very near future.
So there is the first batch of the best and my favorite matches of 2022.
Next time we’ll look back at numbers 15-11, featuring a fight to the finish – a chaotic tag team debut – a long-standing grudge coming to a head – a wild tag team table match – and a sibling rivalry that stole the show.