Tonight is the night! At 7 PM EST East Coast Wrestling Association presents the 25th annual Super 8. For an annual wrestling tournament to reach a quarter of a century is amazing, and there are very, very few independent wrestling tournaments that have been around longer than I've been alive, but Super 8 makes that feat by just a few months. Before going any further I would like to remind everyone of the fact that this being the 25th tournament makes it the 24th anniversary. The first anniversary would be the second show, making show 25 the 24th anniversary(now if only someone told Vince for Wrestlemania). We're going to do this just a little different than most indie talent showcase articles. I want to look at the tournament as a whole, and the role it has played in independent wrestling over the last 25 years. I want to highlight 10 years in particular worth taking a look at, and then I want to look at the upcoming 2021 tournament before it airs tonight.
So first off, let's talk about the company itself, as I worry that Super 8 has become better known than ECWA itself. East Coast Wrestling Association began life as a small independently run company in 1967, meaning ECWA is only four years younger then what is now known as the WWE Championship. The company was founded by Jim Kettner. It was in 1993 that the current ECWA Heavyweight Championship was established when it was won by Ace Darling. this belt has quite the legacy behind it, being held by people like Christopher Daniels, Amazing Red, and Christian Cage. In fact, Cage had to drop the belt when he signed with WWF in 1998. It was in 1997 that ECWA made a decision that would change their trajectory when they held the very first Super 8 tournament. This first tournament was won by Ace Darling, who was also the first ECWA Heavyweight Champion in 1993. The tournament also follows one simple rule, it's an eight man, single elimination, one night tournament. Outside of that, any independent wrestler is eligible for the tournament and it really feels like anyone could compete. Over 24 tournaments, 23 different wrestlers have won(we'll talk about that. So many well known names have entered the super 8 over the years. I'm talking people like Tommaso Ciampa, Adam Cole, Sami Callihan, Xavier Woods, Daniel Bryan, The Hardys, AJ Styles, and more. But there are also stand outs of the indie scene that many may not know but would love seeing like Matt Cross, KTB, Scoot Andrews, Donovan Morgan, Gregory Iron, Davey Richards, and Napalm Bomb. Some tournaments feel like the winner is someone the company already knows is going somewhere big. The 16 Carat Gold comes to mind. It feels like 16 Carat Gold is usually won by someone we know will be big, while Super 8 feels like it's won by someone who should be big. Maybe they'll become a household name like Daniel Bryan, or maybe they'll be like Aden Chambers and be the one that got away. That makes watching Super 8 so special, as everyone is treated as a true threat, and it's so unpredictable as to who will win. One thing I will note here, is a second tournament began happening yearly called the ChickFight that is an all women's version of the Super 8. This year, however, they will thankfully be dropping the ChickFight moniker as this Summer they will present the Women's Super 8(look for that article come July). Moving onto particular tournaments, I want to specify that these are not my top ten tournaments. Ranking every tournament would be quite the task, and instead I want to showcase 10 interesting tournaments. Whether it's because they have a winner you should see, or a couple really special matches, or are historically important, these are ten tournaments worth checking out, put in chronological order.
So I do not suggest starting with this one. I really think you should watch it, just maybe not first, especially if you're new to independent wrestling to begin with. This footage is rough, being a single camera take with the time stamp visible the entire time. That being said, we're lucky this footage even exists, because until this version was added to IWTV, we didn't have any footage. This is a very good tournament that really sets the tone of what to expect out of a Super 8: good wrestling ability, solid match ups, hot crowds, this has it all. Billy Kidman and Reckless Youth are probably the best known wrestlers to most people in this tournament, but it comes down to Ace Darling and Cheetah Master. Ace Darling was a very hot indie talent in 1997, hitting #125 on the PWI 500 that year, and he definitely deserved the win given all he had done in ECWA. What you'll be most surprised about though is just how hot the crowd is for Cheetah Master. That crowd absolutely loves him, and even though I hadn't seen him before, I was in love by the end of the tournament. The viewing experience could definitely keep you away, but I encourage you to stick with it.
This tournament is genuinely amazing. I liked the 1997 one, but if it weren't for being the first I may not have picked it. This tournament is here purely on its own merits, specifically its final two. This tournament also showcases the year 2000 so well, and I think it's really cool as a time capsule of what indie wrestling looked like at the turn of the millenium. You have Chad Collyer before his ROH and WWE stuff, you have Shark Boy pre-TNA absolutely red hot with the crowd, Trent Acid just being an absolute heartthrob(we unfortunately lost Acid in 2010 so seeming him so adored here did my heart good), but truly it's seeing the trip to the finals for Scoot Andrews and Christopher Daniels that is so amazing. Scoot Andrews, the Black Nature Boy, is an indie legend. The man even showing up at 2021 mania week was big news, and he didn't even have a match! Not enough people know about this icon, and that's a shame. This is a great introduction to him, and a great view of The Fallen Angel. Christopher Daniels is a household name in wrestling now, whether due to his time in TNA/Impact, ROH, or AEW, but this is before all of that. This is the Christopher Daniels that people thought would be the Higher Power to the Undertaker in the Ministry of Darkness angle, and watching him you can understand why. This is a Daniels that not everyone has seen, and to see why he's called The Fallen Angel is more than enough of a reason to watch this tournament.
It's simple, if I can recomend watching early Daniel Bryan matches, then I will. Known then as the American Dragon, he came up just short in the finals against other well known wrestler Lo-ki. In order to get there, however, Bryan had to beat both Reckless Youth and Brian Kendrick, then known as Spanky. What makes this opening match between them so special is the pair had just traded wins in dark matches on WWF Jakked and WWF Sunday Night Heat. This was their third singles match together, and for the first time, the crowd was there specifically for them. It gives the match such a special feeling, and is one of my favorite first round matches we'll be talking about today. Lo-Ki faced off with Indie darlings Billy Fives and Jaydon Reign. Also on the card saw Cheetah Master retaining his Heavyweight Title in a triple threat, so while you're watching the tournament, you should catch this fight as well.
This year is absolutely stacked, and I really feel that these early 2000's tournaments are just stacked. Let's break down our first round matches. We have Amazing Red vs Bobby Roode. Just holy crap, that's the kind of match that people would go bonkers for in TNA, and here it is in the opening round. This is the only singles match between the two, and I think that's super cool to see. Next we have AJ Styles vs Xavier. Xavier was the second ever ROH champion and unfortunately passed away in 2020. Longtime readers of my column know my love of ICW Pitfighter X shows, and the X is named after Xavier. Then you have Jamie Noble vs Matt Stryker(not that one) and finally Donovan Morgan vs Pepper Parks, who you may know as the Blade. Morgan would eventually win the tournament after a battle with AJ Styles. It's a truly great tournament and one of my personal favorites. Morgan is a great talent who early ROH fans will recognize, but if you haven't seen him you're in for a treat. If I were to suggest one tournament to make sure you see, it's this one.
the tournament that made history. In the 2004 Super 8, Christopher Daniels became the first and so far only two time winner of the tournament.(Okay I need to specify here, I'm just referring to in the Men's Super 8 tournament, Deonna Purazzo did win the Super 8 ChickFight as it's called two years in a row) This wasn't just some ceremonial easy win to make him the record holder, this was a fight. In the first round Daniels beat Rocky Romero in an excellent match, followed by Mike Kruel in a good semifinals match. On the other side of the bracket Austin Aries took on Daivari(currently in MLW's Contra Unit) and then took on John Walters(who I best know as RJ Brewer in Lucha Libre USA on MTV 2 and that was a memory I had locked away) in the other semi final. Walters had to beat freaking Psicosis to get to Aries, in another great legend appearance in Super 8. It all came down to Daniels vs Aries, and this is a very different Daniels than the one we saw in 2000. This is a Daniels known nationwide due to TNA. This is a Christopher Daniels used to wrestling in TNA, ROH, NJPW and more, and he shows here that he is still the absolute best. I suggest watching 2000 and 2004 back to back to see the difference. This was a very good tournament with great name recognition.
Some tournaments are all about the build up to the finals, while some tournaments are all about that final match, and this is one of those. Sometimes Super 8 seems like a crystal ball predicting future stars, and this time they got it wright. Some other good matches happen here like Eugene's run into the semifinals, but you're here for the finals. Tommaso Ciampa vs Xavier Woods(then known as Austin Creed) and it's amazing. Once again, Super 8 does what it absolutely does best, and that's give us one of a kind never before seen dream matches. So often you look back at old years of Super 8 and see match ups that seem so obvious but sure enough they have never happened anywhere else. This is one of those matches, and it's just as good if not better than what you're expecting. It's the kind of match that you go out of your way to see, and you won't be disappointed.
Let's run it back for Tommaso Ciampa as we get one of the most stacked tournaments of the 2010's. I'd put this one on par with 2002 in terms of competitors, and it's not hard to see why. We start with Sami Callihan vs Adam Cole in an early take on what would become a great feud between them for years to come. Austin Aries takes on ECWA standard Bobby Shields in another great opening match, while Tommaso Ciampa fights Rich Swann and Joaquin Wilde(then known as Shiima Xion) takes on Shockwave the Robot. We then get epic semifinals between Adam Cole and Austin Aries(another one time only match) and Tommaso Ciampa vs Shiima Xion(you guessed it only time this ever happened as a singles) to get us to that incredible match that NXT would spend years just trying to make happen again as Adam Cole took on Tommaso Ciampa and finally, in his third year of making it to the finals of Super 8, Ciampa finally wins. It's an epic tournament and clearly showcases what makes Super 8 so special. We have more one time only matches, more epic faceoffs of indie darlings, and we have a wonderful winner. I didn't include 2009 on this list due to only wanting 10 entries, but if you watch 2009, then 10, then 11, it's a treat to see Ciampa finally triumph.
Like I said in the beginning, Super 8 winners aren't always the people who will become huge names, but the ones who should, and no tournament showcases that more than 2014. No one in this tournament is a multi-time WWE Champion. No one in this tournament has main evented a PPV for Impact or AEW but still, this is what Super 8 is about, eight incredibly talented independent wrestlers showcasing just what makes them so good. In a sense, it's a much more pure take on the tournament as when you watch this, you aren't going to be skipping the matches with someone you don't know to see more AJ Styles. That being said, the two finalists are truly special talents who deserve to be where they are. John Skyler is finally getting recognition by being on AEW Dark and Elevation and that's wonderful to see. The winner on the other hand, could have easily been in the 2005 Super 8 and won so this win feels so, so, so overdue. Matt Cross, M-Dogg20, Son of Havoc from Lucha Underground, whatever you know him as, he has been a staple of wrestling for over 20 years. This win is incredibly deserved for him, and is just one of many epic moments in his career. I definitely suggest watching this tournament to see a true legend of the ring get his due.
Sean Carr may not be the best known name in the tournament, but he definitely deserved the win here as he took on various wonderful wrestlers. He faced Brandon Scott in the opening, then recent NXT signing and literally my favorite part of CZW Joe Gacy, before finally facing off with a red hot Lio Rush. This is the kind of great tournament run that can make a star, and frankly, Carr could have his own indie talent showcase that would probably include the match with Rush. If this was a different tournament, they may have put Rush over here, but if Super 8 is anything, it's committed to who they believe most deserves the win. Also of note is the opening round match between Joe Gacy and Timmy Lou Retton, and we'll talk more about Retton soon.
I had to include last year's tournament because holy crap is it a doozy. The legend here is Matt Tremont, best known as a deathmatch icon, and the story involved was fantastic. We all knew Tremont's career was coming to an end, and at this point he even had a final match date confirmed. This was supposed to be Tremont's last big feat before his retirement, and after easily winning his opening round match it seemed he was headed straight to the finals. Unfortunately for Tremont, there was a beast in his way. Kyle the Beast, or KTB for short, put on one of the best matches of the night facing off with Matt Tremont in the semifinals. Everyone thought Tremont would win, but KTB shocked us all. On the other half of the bracket we had A Very Good Professional Wrestler(yes that's his name) beating Eric Martin and Archadia to secure a finals faceoff with KTB. And holy crap what a finals. These two absolutely tore the house down, showing that no matter how many people get signed to the big companies, the indies will always be alive and well. Ultimately, A Very Good Professional Wrestler won, and that sets the stage for where we are now.
And finally, we come to tonight. The biggest story of the night is A Very Good Professional Wrestler looking to one-up Christopher Daniels, but let's start with the full field. We have Timmy Lou Retton, Alex Anthony, Killian McMurphy, Bam Sullivan, Mike Law, A Very Good Professional Wrestler, Matt Makowski, and Ricky Morton. Yes, Ricky Morton of the Rock N Roll Express. I know Super 8 is known for having legends appear but this one might be the oldest yet. I've written about McMurphy before including for Cassandro Cup and I love what I've seen. Bam Sullivan is becoming a pretty big name over in the death match scene. I'll admit I'm not too familiar with Alex Anthony and Mike Law, but I look forward to seeing what they bring to the tournament. That leaves the three people who I think might win. Let's start with Timmy Lou Retton. We all know my love of the gymnasty boys, but Retton has truly become a monster of a wrestler in the last couple of years, and the Retton stepping into this tournament is not the Retton of 2017. He may not be the name everyone is watching this year, but I have a gut feeling he just might win. Like I said, A Very Good Professional Wrestler is looking to win two years in a row, and after dominating last year, it's hard to think he won't at least make the finals. If anyone is going to win the men's tournament two years in a row and break Daniel's record, it would be him. That just leaves the one big threat, the one that I think is the obvious winner, and frankly too obvious: Matt Makowski. Makowski has been unstoppable this year, and is one of the fastest rising stars in indie wrestling today. He won Beyond Wrestling's Greatest Rivals Round Robin, then Camp Leapfrog's Frogsport tournament, and now he steps into Super 8. I feel like I blinked, and now Makowski is just the most powerful wrestler on the indie scene. I could really see him winning over A Very Good Professional Wrestler in the finals, but this year feels like it could still be anyone's game.
So that's Super 8. Like I said, I'll be taking a look at the women's tournament as we get closer to that show in July, so enjoy tonight's Super 8, and you can watch most, if not all of the Super 8 tournaments on IWTV.