A little behind the scenes look at Indie Talent Showcase for you all. I write these articles usually about a week and a half ahead of time, and if the wrestler in question has a mind blowing match then I come back and edit before posting. I usually have ideas for these articles about three weeks in advance. So as I was beginning to put together my Lee Moriarty top ten list and I was starting to get a good sense of what matches to include, the big Independent Wrestling TV Championship match between Warhorse and Genkai, the winner of the Masked Wrestler season one, was scheduled to happen. I tuned in, very excited to finally see who Genkai was after months of speculation, and then I heard that music. All of a sudden my entire top ten was in dissarray as Genkai was revealed to be Lee Moriarty. Now I had to not only think of Lee's best matches, but Genkai's as well.
For some people, Moriarty's win over Warhorse may have been the first time they heard of him as it went viral on Twitter. For me, it was a moment of pure joy, as one of the best wrestlers today finally got his shot at the big one. Today I want to talk about why Moriarty is so freaking good, give a summary of his career, talk about how his win proved the experiment of The Masked Wrestler a success, and as always, give a top ten matches of his to check out.
Moriarty is one of those wonderful all-rounders, and you truly never know what he's going to do in a match. Sometimes he'll fly around the ring with reckless abandon, other times he'll roll around on the mat for minutes on end just to lock in one solid submission(oh we'll get there). One of my favorite moves of his and one that you'll see often is his springboard European uppercut, which sound like a thing I just made up but I promise it's real and it's glorious! Moriarty has built up a name for himself as one of the absolute best wrestlers in the world today, and it's hard to argue with that. The thing with Lee is he can do it all. You don't know what you're going to get when you start a Lee match until that bell rings because he can be a technical wizard, he can be a high flyer, he can do strong style, all you know is it's going to be good.
One thing I've learned doing this series is that cagematch doesn't list every match. That being said, the very first match of Lee Moriarty listed on cagematch has him as part of The Order(not of the dark variety just The Order) winning the PWX tag team championship. That match was in December of 2015 and Lee would spend most of 2016 and 2017 in PWX and would be quite successful there. He spent a lot of that time holding or feuding over the River City Championship, and in 2017 would win the Sean "Shocker" Evans memorial tournament. That tournament featured a couple of well known names in Lance Anoai and Beastman, the latter of which would end up in Warrior Wrestling alongside Lee Moriarty. Beginning around 2018 Lee would wrestle in Ryse, including becoming their Grand Champion. Soon after though Moriarty would join the company I most associate him with: Absolute Intense Wrestling.
For those who don't know AIW, you probably know many of the men who have held their championship: Johnny Gargano, Ethan Page, Tom Lawlor and plenty of indepent stars that lean more hardcore or deathmatch like Matthew Justice, Joshua Bishop(we'll come back to him) Eric Ryan, and Nick Gage. As tends to happen when you join a larger indie company, Moriarty's first few matches in AIW were scrambles. I'm just not realizing I've never talked about scrambles in this series so I might as well now. The scramble match was popularized and often accredited to Jersey All Pro Wrestling and is a one fall typically six person match meant to give newer talent a place to shine on the card. These early matches for Moriarty saw him in the ring with the likes of Wheeler Yuta, Dominic Garrini and Tre Lamar. Soon after though, Moriarty got his big chance. He stepped in the ring with Alex Shelley, and spoilers: all three of their first three AIW singles matches are in the top ten. From there Lee would compete in places like Black Label Pro, Warrior Wrestling, GCW, but unbeknownst to us, would also compete in The Masked Wrestler.
The Masked Wrestler was an eight person tournament in the vein of shows like Masked Singer. All eight were promised to be well known independent talent and they certainly didn't disappoint. One by one as they were eliminated they were unmasked: Logan Easton Laroux, KTB, Lady Frost, Tre Lamar, Joshua Bishop, Tony Deppen, and Wheeler Yuta. Genkai remained as the last masked wrestler, and was given a shot at the IWTV title. Months later he finally got that chance against Warhorse. As Warhorse waited in the ring Lee's music hit and he came down to the ring wearing the Genkai mask. After over 500 days and over 40 title defenses, Warhorse's title reign came to an end as Moriarty became the king of indie wrestling. That catches you up to speed on how Moriarty got here, but let's look at ten of his best matches to see just why he's so good.
#10: Violence is Forever vs Rush Hour
it's been a couple weeks since I've mentioned Violence is Forever so here we are again. Seeing Lee actually teaming with Wheeler was shocking for me based on other matches on this list, but these four put on a banger of an opener. Wheeler and Lee function like a tag team that's been together for years despite this being one of very few matches the pair put on. Lee especially puts together some fantastic sequences with both Garrini and Ku. It's a fun, fast paced match that absolutely shows that Moriarty fits in no matter the match type.
#9: Lee Moriarty vs Ophidian
Ophidian is one of the all time great independent wrestlers, and I'm happy to finally have him included on one of these lists. This match was part of a show to raise money to end cancer, and that gives this match such a positive air. You have two genuinely great wrestlers, fighting for a great cause. Ophidian is the veteran here, and does a great job showcasing the up and coming Moriarty, as the two of them come up with some great spots. What makes me the happiest is seeing Lee get the win, as he deserved it so much. The back and forth, and wonderful chain sequences give this match the feel of it being in a show ten times this size. This match wasn't even on my radar when I started putting this list together, but I'm so glad I found it. This is the kind of match I consider a hidden gem, and a match I didn't know I needed. I was able to include it here in this article, and if you've never seen Ophidian either, you're in for a real treat. Sit back and enjoy a classic example of indie wrestling.
#8: Lee Moriarty vs Alex Shelley 1
Every wrestler ever has that feud that changes them. A feud that takes them from the scramble matches and exhibition fights to one of the most talked about wrestlers on the show, and for Moriarty it's his feud with Alex Shelley. This match lays the groundwork for a wonderful trilogy(and you all know I love trilogies) with a few key moments. This match is one of my favorite examples of Moriarty's unique striking offense as he hits moves like his springboard European uppercut. The finish though, is what sets up this whole trilogy. Lee kicks out of a pin attempt and Alex is able to immediately reverse it into a crossface. Lee has no choice but to tap out as the story is set for the series: Moriarty is a very talented up and comer, but Shelley has so much more experience on him that Moriarty simply could not plan for. When I sat down to watch this match I planned on just watching this one: I finished the whole trilogy right then and there, and that's what a good match does: makes you crave more.
#7: Lee Moriarty vs Tre Lamar
There are quite a few Tre Lamar vs Lee Moriarty matches but I decided to choose their encounter from AIW Bad Boy for Life because it's one of my favorite comfort matches. I have seen this at least three times. Once when GCW announced both men would be appearing for an upcoming show so I looked them both up. A second time when it was on IWTV's Mixtape: Best of Black Independent Wrestling. Finally a third time prepping for this article. It's one of my favorite matches to unwind with and I was shocked at how much I could remember from the match when rewatching it. It's fairly short, but there is not a single wasted second. The match has a snappy pace to it. In this match you get a great feeling of what Lee can do as both men basically put together their demo tapes. The match has a ferocity to it that is rarely matched in "Secret" matches like this where the card is unannounced. They bring a fervor usually only found in long hyped matches but they do it to open a mystery card. It's tons of fun and one of my favorite rewatches.
#6: Lee Moriarty vs Tre Lamar vs Alex Shelley
We're talking a lot today about Lee vs Shelley, and we've also looked at a Lee vs Tre Lamar match, but not on the list is Shelley vs Lamar. So all three of these men have fought each other in singles matches, but now they are all in the ring together. This was part of the 2020 Collective weekend and Lee was putting on a match every few hours having an incredibly busy schedule. Oftentimes in triple threat matches there is a pairing that hasn't been tested before. A third men gets added to a singles feud and has to work into that match structure. What makes this such a great triple threat is that everyone knows each other so well. Everyone is used to each other, and has the familiarity of a feud ending match despite this being their first time all three in the ring together. The amount of well thought out, well executed sequences here really make the match stand out on an already stacked card. It's one of my favorite triple threat matches, with a great story as the two younger wrestlers try to gang up on Shelley before eventually turning on each other. The sheer amount of history behind this match is incredible, and it's more than worth a watch.
#5: Lee Moriarty vs Alex Shelley 2
Not long after Moriarty got his second chance, and he was not going to let it go to waste. This Moriarty is a lot more wary and counter heavy as he knows what he has gotten himself into. This is a good time to point out that I'm not the only one who thinks this feud is amazing. It's a feud that Moriarty himself described as "his greatest rivalry," and that Alex Shelley described as "life changing." I reached out to Moriarty for why he loves htis feud so much and he had this to say. "This rivalry is special to me because it helped me grow as a wrestler and as a person outside of the ring. I would’ve never guessed I’d be working with Shelley, and to have an in ring rivalry while also being able to get his perspective on life and building one outside of wrestling was unique and something i really needed at that time. I'm much better off in life now having that opportunity." That is a much better endorsement that I can give. Like I mentioned in the first match, the crossface ending was so important for this series. Here we see the same ending play out, as Lee kicks out, Alex goes for the crossface, but this time Lee rolls him up from the crossface and gets the pin. Once again, the crossface determines the match, but this time Lee has his opponent scouted. Tied one to one, it was time for them to settle this.
#4: Genkai vs Wyldkat
this match is the most unique on not only this list but probably any list I will ever write because you had people rooting for wrestlers they had only seen twice ever. I don't mean that in the sense that they were indie talent no one heard of but they stole the show: I mean that these wrestlers only had two matches to their names. This was the finals of the Masked Wrestler tournament and the winner was guaranteed a shot at Warhorse's IWTV championship. All we knew about these wrestlers was who they beat in the first two rounds. Genkai had beaten Logan Easton Laroux and Joshua Bishop to get here while Wyldkat had beaten Lady Frost and Tony Deppen. With only those matches known to them we still saw an incredibly intense finals that proved that good storytelling can make you care about any wrestler. It is only now that we know that this match was actually Lee Moriarty vs Wheeler Yuta. Of course this was a good match seeing two incredibly talented wrestlers going at it for a title shot. The best part of this match is how absolutely angry Yuta gets not knowing it's his former tag partner he's beating up after the match, or does he? He says he knows who Genkai is, but did he actually know? It's a wonderful match that shows off not only the talent of both wrestlers but the strength of the Masked Wrestler concept.
#3: Lee Moriarty vs Blake Christian
I'm still kicking myself for not including this in the Blake Christian top ten, although I did remember to include Tre Lemar vs Lee Moriarty vs Blake Christian. This match took place at GCW 56 nights and was their first main event of 2021(technically Good Riddance's main event was in 2021 but the show started in 2020 soooooo let's just count that as 2020) and it absolutely deserved to main event. This match didn't just close out 56 Nights, but a two night double header, and as such, there was a lot riding on this match. It gets surprisingly physical for a match between two "flippy guys" but as we've seen in both of their indie talent showcase lists they can be strong strikers as well. A couple standout moments here are as Lee accidentally roundkicks a post that Blake moved out of the way of, and when Blake dropkicks Lee so hard that the chair he is in goes sliding a solid two feet. For over 20 minutes these two put on a showcase of why they are called some of the best independent wrestlers in the world. I don't always buy GCW ppvs, but this match more than warrants buying the show.
#2: Genkai vs Warhorse
This is it. The match people had waited months for, and actually, an entire year. Warhorse knew he'd be fighting the winner of Masked Wrestler, but none of us knew when Genkai would unmask. As Warhorse stood in the ring, Lee Moriarty's music hit, and the entire crowd erupted. All of a sudden this wasn't just about Masked Wrestler. In early 2020 Warhorse was supposed to face Moriarty but the match got cancelled due to the pandemic. Over 500 days, over 40 title defenses, and Warhorse had his greatest challenge in front of him. The amount of story, heart, and energy going into this match was palpable, and I truly feel this is one of the best matches of 2021. Once again, we see my favorite Lee Moriarty move, the springboard European uppercut. For about 20 minutes these two absolutely tear it up in a true masterclass. I've seen probably about 20 of Warhorse's title defenses, and this one is my favorite. Oftentimes the two most remembered matches of your title reign are the match where you win the belt and the match where you lose the belt, and Warhorse's title loss here is truly something special. The moment itself of Lee winning the IWTV is fantastic, but the match to get there is truly great and I believe one of the best of Lee's career.
#1: Lee Moriarty vs Alex Shelley 3
Easily the best match of the "Crossface trilogy" so to speak, this was a submission match and went a solid 20 minutes. A passing of the torch match so to speak, this was easily the most anticipated match on the card as everyone waited to see who would win the series. Was Shelley going to come out on top, or would the upstart Moriarty prove his worth as one of the best in the world? That match I alluded to earlier where Lee just rolls on the ground looking for literally any way to stretch out his opponent's body? This match. For a few minutes he isn't even locking in a "traditional" submission, he's just pulling and bending any limb he can isolate. That amount of tenacity makes this match special. Both men do everything they can to break their opponent's body as they lock in hold after hold after hold. they even fight in the crowd at one point. The first match of this feud had been a exhibition that stayed mostly in the ring as they had a wrestling match. By this match, it's a fight. They are doing anything to win as this has gotten intensely personal. Shelley has truly done everything in wrestling by this point, but it's here, fighting a relatively unknown newer talent, that Shelley brings his absolute A-game. And Lee hangs with him. Lee looks like a million bucks in this match, and if anyone didn't know Lee, they'd think he's been a top star for years seeing this match. Lee busts out some innovative offense like his trapped arm DDT that shows his brutal streak. I debated whether this or the Warhorse match should be number one, but this match just means so much, and shows why I love Lee Moriarty so freaking much. Sit down, watch the trilogy, and enjoy.