One thing I don't talk about as much as I'd like is deathmatch wrestling, and I decided it's about time I covered a deathmatch star here on indie talent showcase. But I don't want to alienate some readers, so although this will certainly have a good deal of death, I've included some non deathmatch as well. I tried to not have too much recency bias, but if you read last week's Indie Mania Madness then you know Nolan Edward put in 10 matches over Mania week, and I think the fact that I only put three of those shows great restraint. As always with Indie Talent Showcase, we'll look a bit at Nolan himself, then a summary of his career, then a top ten. I think in order to talk about Nolan we have to talk about some of the companies he's fought in, as he has been so important to places like Paradigm and ICW No Holds Barred.
Nolan Edward is known as No Flinch and for good reason. His whole gimmick is you can throw anything you want at him and he will face it all. This was especially true in his early ICW appearances as he got the absolutely snot kicked out of him, but no matter what he would fight to the bitter end. The No Flinch gimmick works best in deathmatches because you can throw crazier stuff at him, but it works well in traditional matches as well when you pair him with true carnage machines like The Blue Collar Badass JD Drake and The Bone Collector Dominic Garrini. It’s hard not to cheer with Edward with this kind of personality, but he’s not just a resilient punching bag. He has shown tremendous skill in the ring. When you look at Nolan Edward matches, you will see a LOT of main events, and that’s the kind of wrestler he is. No matter where he goes the crowd falls in love with him and he goes from early in the show to main event within a show or two. He has this undeniable magnetism that just makes people want to see him succeed, and I mean, it works. I’m writing this article after all aren’t I?
Nolan began wrestling in 2018, and the speed with which he’s became a top draw all over the country is impressive. Trained by Josh Abercrombie and Kerry Awful(two wrestlers who deserve a talent showcase in their own right) it’s not surprising that Edward has been a breakout star. He’s been rocking it all over the country: Midwest, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and watching his matches just feels like you’re seeing the next big thing. Like I said, the kid put in 10 matches over mania week, and the only other person who did that in 2021 was Lee Moriarty. I mentioned in my Indie Mania Madness that I would love to see them have a match, and turns out they already have(more on that later). One thing I don’t want to overlook though, is that Edward’s history with wrestling goes far back beyond 2018. Edward was a ringside photographer for years and worked production at Impact wrestling. As someone interested in production myself, the idea of going from PA to deathmatch is a nope from me, which makes me an even bigger fan of Edward.
Nolan has shot up like a rocket since making his debut, including being, LPW Television Champion, MPW Heritage Champion, TCW Cruiserweight Champion which he still is and the 2020 Scenic City Invitational Futures Winner. Nolan ended up on my radar when he debuted at ICW NHB Pitfighter X2 against Justin Kyle, and although he lost, Nolan Edward gets as big a cheer for a near loss as other wrestlers get for a win. The crowd is just happy that Edward, despite his best efforts, is alive. After X2, Edward issued his "Make Me Flinch" challenge, an open challenge that industry veteran and head of ICW Danny Demanto was happy to find a suitable challenge for. That challenge was Dan Maff, and holy crap magic was born! We'll talk more about it later, but this was a major moment. Nolan would truly become a standout of the Pitfighter shows then the No Holds Barred as well. By Mania week, he was in headline spots on all four ICW shows in addition to all the other appearances he put in that week. Again, he put in a whopping ten matches that week. It's hard to overstate how impressive that is, and I hope has shown more people just how great he is.
#10:Nolan Edward vs Daniel Garcia
Last week I talked about this match as being at the must see Jimmy Lloyd's Degeneration F, and this match was a big part of why I loved that show. As I said last week describing the show, the entire show is about the new generation showing exactly what they can do. Going into this match it seemed like Garcia would win this match. I mean everyone knows Red Death, he was on Dark and NXT. It seemed like a match where Garcia would get the win but Edward would put in a very good performance and people would say that within a year Edward would be where Garcia is now. That kind of match happens often on the indie scene and there's nothing wrong with that. But Edward freaking won. I was shocked, everyone was, but he absolutely deserved it. Two incredibly talented wrestlers stringing together a great match on a long card. I think this was the best match of the card, and I truly hope we see a rematch between these two soon. Truly expect this to become a legendary match as a break out point for two amazing wrestlers.
#9:Nolan Edward vs Jake Crist
Another Mania Week match for Edward at the Then and Now ICW show where he faced Jake Crist in what is possibly Edward's highest profile match to date. I sure hope there were extra eyes on this match as Edward did what he does best, didn't flinch. Crist throws everything he can at Edward throughout this fight, including a stack of chairs one by one. Jake Crist has had a great last year, and sometimes it's easy to forget just how long Crist has been at this. Edward doesn't look out of his element here though, making just as much use as the scattered weapons as Crist does. This match was the semi-main event, and that just shows how far Nolan has come in his time in ICW No Holds Barred. The whole card was stacked top to bottom but I think this might have been match of the night. It was a great showcase of Edward, and Edward was able to remind people that Crist is a deathmatch icon for a reason, and his time on TV has not lessened that. Go out of your way to see this one.
#8:Nolan Edward vs John Wayne Murdoch
The first time Nolan would main event an ICW show has he stepped into the pit with the Duke of Hardcore John Wayne Murdoch. If you're not familiar with Murdoch, he is basically the ace of ICW. He puts on main event after main event including a 60 minute iron man match and becoming the very first ICW American Deathmatch Champion. He was IWTV's 2020 wrestler of the year. And here, he just wanted to make Nolan win. Now of course, John wins. It's John Wayne Murdoch: he wins. And we love that here. But Nolan absolutely shows that no one can make afraid. That's what this first era of Nolan in ICW is about. Massive deathmatch icons and rising stars trying to scare off Nolan Edward, and Edward absolutely refusing to step away. This match being a main event really ups the amount of weapons in the cage, and while some ICW matches on this list a non deathmatch fan could enjoy, this ain't one of them. It's a brutal, brutal match, but the entire point is that Nolan belongs here. There's light tubes, and gusset plates, and barbed wire, and blood, and ohhhhhh I love it. It's not for the faint of heart, but if you want to see Nolan taking on the ace of ICW, this is the fight for you.
#7:Nolan Edward vs Akira
This is a match I was super excited for from the moment they announced it! Two of my favorite not just deathmatch stars but indie stars(some of you may recall the story of my bloody Akira cheese grater) and this match more than lived up to the hype. What was extra special is that these two both have experience in more traditional wrestling, shoot style wrestling, and deathmatch. I can't actually think of a better match for Edward than Akira. I'd love to see this match happen again in the chains or a traditional ring, but they used the cage environment to the best of it's abilities, and that's what makes this match so unique. They're leaping off it, kicking off the sides, anything at all to gain an advantage. There's repeated kicks to the head to break a hold, there's reversals and counters to the reversals. It's a great wrestling match, even without a wrestling ring. Nolan and Akira are true signs that deathmatch is alive and well and not going anywhere, and if your view of deathmatch is still backyard wrestling fan cams from the early 2000's, this match will show you what's truly going on. Again, I know deathmatch isn't everyone's cup of tea, but if you're even slightly interested, you can't go wrong with this match.
#6:Nolan Edward vs Tony Deppen
In what would turn out to be the last show from the Pawn Shop, Tony Deppen came out demanding a wrestling match. Not a deathmatch weapons extravaganza, not a hardcore flaming table spot fest, but a wrestling match, and Edward was happy to oblige. What this is instead is a wrestling match full of grappling and strikes with no rope breaks, because there are no ropes. What's so cool about this match is that the crowd should have hated it. It's the opening match of a deathmatch show and it's full of suplexes and roll ups? No blood at all? If you're going to suplex someone it has to be onto light tubes right? A few long submission sequences happen including one where Edward gets choked with his back pressed into the chains. This isn't a deathmatch, and this a crowd that was promised deathmatch. The fact that Deppen and Edward were able to do this match in front of this crowd and get a roaring cheer at the end is incredible, and what makes this match so special to watch.
#5:Nolan Edward vs Lee Moriarty
Last week I called this a match I absolutely wanted to see happen, and little did I know it already did, and it was fantastic. This is a technical clinic as both wrestlers show that chain wrestling is alive and well. When you start to get into the "workhorse" wrestlers, you often find them facing each other: Garcia vs Edward was higher on this list, last week Lee fought Daniel, and here we have Lee and Edward. I think sometimes he take for granted that these wrestlers meet in the ring, but we are in such a golden age of independents wrestlers that you never know where a game changer of a match will happen. There are sequences in this match that absolutely take my breath away as Edward and Lee do everything in their power to get just an inch of advantage. The main story through this match is Edward's right arm. Lee continuously tries wearing it down, and late in the match it causes Edward to miss a couple of potential power moves. The storytelling in this match is a masterclass for certain, but this was January 2020. Think of all that these have learned since then, do you want a sequel? Cause I do!
#4:Nolan Edward vs JD Drake
Main eventing Action wrestling’s Action Shock, this 20 minute classic showed just what Nolan Edward can do against a wrestler that the entire world is starting to recognize as a tremendous talent. Drake and Nolan went hard, one trying to prove why he's the ace, the other trying to prove he's the new best in town. Everyone expected Drake to win here I feel, myself included and I knew the result. That's what a good storyteller like Nolan Edward can do. He can take so much punishment and look like he's done any second but turn it around. The match literally starts with a chop competition, and some people think the "you hit me I hit you" spots are dumb or break immersion, but in this match it's great storytelling. Nolan wants to prove he won't flinch, Drake wants to show he can't be moved, so getting chopped and eating it shows their character. But they quickly move into more technical wrestling, because it's something they can both do very well. The best part about this match as far as Nolan is concerned, is that Nolan takes some big power moves. He takes some big slams that shake the ring and kicks out. The thing about Nolan is that he doesn't no sell, he just doesn't know when to stop. If Nolan is conscious he will kick out, and doesn't know when to live to fight another day. When he kicks out of a big move he just lays there breathing as much as he can. At one point he just grabs Drake's ankle: not for a submission, but just to keep him from moving further away. Nolan is able to make simply standing exciting, and the pop when he wins here is unparalleled.
#3:Nolan Edward vs Sandra Moon-Loser Leaves Town
It is so hard to suggest matches from Paradigm Pro Wrestling’s No Hook. Not because they aren’t good, the show has tons of great matches. The problem with suggesting No Hook matches is that the show is incredibly serial, and watching just one match out of the show ruins so much of the magic. The show is meant to be watched in order taking note of the bigger storylines at play as everyone goes through the insanity of dark magic, evil hackers, and sneaky champions. Thankfully, the Nolan Edward story is fairly easy to explain. Nolan, since the first episode, has been unhappy. He feels his teammates hold him back, Paradigm is against him, and he’s fed up with management especially J-Rose. As such, at the beginning of this, the final match in No Hook season one, Edward whispers to the ref that he wants the match to be Loser Leaves Town. It’s a bold, sudden decision, one that a very weary J-Rose agrees to as head of the show. A very upset and confused Sandra Moone, one of the more otherworldly wrestlers of No Hook decides to give it everything she has despite not knowing why Edward wanted this. The story of this is one of my favorite Loser Leaves Town matches, as it shows Edward’s impulsiveness. There was no thought of what if he lost, but if he couldn’t hack it here he would move on. The story is a huge selling point, but the match itself is wonderful, and if you aren’t familiar with Sandra Moone you’re in for a treat. Ultimately Moone gets the win, and No Hook ends with Nolan walking off into God knows what’s next for him, leaving J-Rose, No Hook, and Paradigm behind him.
#2:Nolan Edward vs Dan Maff 1
this match was truly epic. Nolan Edward issued the make me Flinch challenge, and it was accepted by Freaking Dan Maff. After just one strike we think Nolan might be dead. Everyone, everyone, everyone wants Nolan to just stop by the end. Everyone respects him, and the kid just won't stop. This match is so good someone made a freaking video essay about it! This is some of the absolute best storytelling ever told in deathmatch. It just keeps growing and growing and Nolan gets yeeted out the window. This match is truly amazing and one of my matches of 2020. Maff gives the best mid-match promo I've ever seen as he gives Nolan all the props he can and then tells him stay down or die. And Nolan chooses death. Its a young gun versus the industry titan and he gives it everything. He hits a comeback as he dodges a door that Maff flies into(more on that later) and just keeps going. Maff wins, but Nolan makes his own legacy. I truly didn't think anything would top this match. It's damn near perfect. The only thing to keep this from number one, is that they did it perfect next time. But this match had a video essay made about it. Do you know how rare that is! Excellent Uplift Ultra.
#1:Nolan Edward vs Dan Maff 2
This had to be number one. I don't even want to say much about this one, I just want to make literally everyone watch it. It's the rematch everyone had been waiting months for. It's the match that all of mania week had been building to. It's the match that everyone wanted to see. And it did not disappoint. This match is absolutely incredible as they seek to top their first match. The story here goes even deeper. Maff had just won four fights in the pit the night before, while Nolan had made it to the semifinals of Battle of the Guys before losing to Reed Bentley who would lose to Maff. Once again, this match sees Maff smashing a door into Nolan repeatedly. Once again, Nolan dodges a door that Maff dives into. The difference here, is that they one up each of it. For example, the dodge spot sees Nolan just leapfrog over Maff who hits the door like a torpedo. The match seems like the first one just cranked up to the next level. I don't want to say too many specifics as this is a truly must see match, but Nolan ultimately wins. While the first match had it's great mid-match promo, this one has an amazing post-match promo. This promo is Maff talking about how great Edward is and how ICW and all the people here are his family. The promo itself is worth watching even besides the match, as Maff gets emotional and seems to choke up and get a little misty eyed. It's an incredibly special promo, a beautiful scene, and one I will never, ever forget.
So there's No Flinch! He's had a great run so far in his fairly short career, and you know what, I'm freaking proud of him for stepping from behind the camera to in the ring. Nolan has very quickly become one of my favorite indie wrestlers, and I can't wait to see what he does next.