So far in this column we've looked at wrestlers, we've looked at tag teams, and we've even looked at tournaments. Today though, for the first time, we look at a championship!
The IWTV Title began life as the Powerbomb.tv championship, just as IWTV was Powerbomb.tv. The concept of the championship was and still is, to represent the various independent wrestling companies that IWTV presents.
Jonathan Gresham won the belt in 2017, and since then it has been on the line 99 times. August 8th, 2021 will mark the 100th match as Wheeler Yuta defends against Daniel Garcia. The road to get here has been fantastic, with many big matches along the way. Gresham won a tournament to be the first champion, and he would then lose the belt to Tracy Williams in a match that we'll talk about more later.
Williams would go on to have a nice reign including a match with Yuta that was on Yuta's Indie Talent Showcase. Eventually he would drop the belt to Orange Cassidy.
Orange Cassidy is often tied to the belt, as he is the only two-time champion as of this point. He dropped the title to Kris Statlander (again, we'll get there), before winning it back from her. Erick Stevens would then gain the belt in the opening round of Turbo Graps 16 for Black Label Pro. Stevens's reign often gets overlooked as it lasted only one day, but he did have a successful defense in the semifinals of the tournament.
In the finals of the tournament, WARHORSE defeated Stevens and started the single longest reign in the championship's history. Out of the 100 title defenses (as of this Sunday), almost fifty of those were by WARHORSE. For over 500 days, he defeated all challengers, and you'll be seeing a lot of those matches on this list. In fact, WARHORSE was still IWTV champion when he appeared on AEW Dynamite to face Cody.
We're going to talk a lot about the match where WARHORSE lost the belt, as it really did a great job showcasing how big the championship has gotten. IWTV held a tournament called The Masked Wrestler, where eight independent stars competed under masks and were only revealed when they lost. For months, we had no idea who Genkai was, only that he beat Wheeler Yuta and had a match for the belt with Warhorse.
Genkai would turn out to be Lee Moriarty, and would finally end WARHORSE's reign. It would turn out to be a short but quality reign, as after facing wrestlers like Edith Surreal and Starboy Charlie, Lee would drop the belt to Wheeler Yuta. That, as mentioned earlier, brings us to now. I
WTV has grown a lot in five years, and so has the IWTV Championship. It's main eventing a show dedicated to itself, and that's a huge achievement. Matches for this belt have always been good, and I think the belt is currently on one of the hottest streaks it's ever seen thanks to all the recent champions and challengers.
#10: Orange Cassidy vs Eddie Kingston
Can you find two more opposite yet somehow similar wrestlers? They are both amazingly charismatic, have devoted legions of fans, and can tell a story as well as anyone.
On the other hand, it's Orange Cassidy and Eddie Kingston - of course, they're different. This is possibly my favorite opening Cassidy stretch of "do-nothing" wrestling. He literally wriggles along the ground under Kingston as a leapfrog dropdown, and Kingston lets him. He puts up with his bullcrap for a while before finally beating the bullcrap out of him.
It's amazing to watch this match seeing only about thirty, maybe forty people in the crowd. If Cassidy vs Kingston happens again you know you'll have thousands watching in person and about a million at home (assuming we don't all go back under lockdown again.) As with all great Cassidy matches, once he gets going, the match quickly ramps up. It becomes just as focused and action-oriented as any mat classic, and the idea that the man flying around the ring was just moments ago crawling on the floor seems impossible. Kingston absolutely could have been the IWTV Champion.
#9: Kris Statlander vs Orange Cassidy
Before they were Best Friends, they were rivals. We come to the end of Orange Cassidy's title reign with a crowd that is absolutely onboard. Statlander doesn't always get the credit she deserves, but this match is fantastic. This bout has some comedy, of course, but it ends with Statlander hitting a tombstone piledriver. It really is a tale of two matches, as you have Statlander upset that she doesn't have pockets, and giving Cassidy his sunglasses back before kissing his forehead, but then it gets intense. You have those light moments, but then you have brutal top rope attacks to actually end the match.
I think this match also is a great example of why Cassidy's gimmick works. At one point he is just slowly walking in a circle around the ring, and Statlander isn't able to leap out of the ring at him. It shows that so much of wrestling relies on suspension of disbelief, as you can dodge moves by walking slowly. Cassidy pushes the limits of reality, and that upsets some people. In this match it works to perfection, and Statlander absolutely earned and deserved her victory.
#8: WARHORSE vs Aaron Williams
If you keep up with Indie Talent Showcase then you know I love Journey Pro, and this match is no exception. I've included the free version above, but if you can watch the full show on IWTV, it's worth it to see the entrances. This is probably the most fun version of WARHORSE on this list, and that's saying a lot. He headbangs into the turnbuckle repeatedly, and then slams Williams's head into the turnbuckle the same way. He basically does a springboard cannonball, for lack of a better term. He headbangs on a bar counter after kicking Williams off of it.
It's just a very fun match, but that's not to say Williams is a pushover. He holds his own very well, and there's a reason we've seen him multiple times on Indie Talent Showcase. These two work really well together, and put on a match that I'd love to see again. As the match nears its conclusion, warhorse becomes a lot more serious, and that's really what defines his title reign. His matches begin quite fun, but by the end he's ready to kill.
#7: Orange Cassidy vs Stokely Hathaway
A cinematic match before cinematic matches were cool. This was a beautiful stroke of genius, and is the kind of thing I wish we got to see Stokely doing in WWE. The match combines the thrill of Orange Cassidy's lackadaisical nonsense with the energy of a cinematic match. It's also the only cinematic match to come close to the humor of Broken Matt Hardy's works.
Hathaway's descent into hell, the broken phone, and Cassidy tripping in the basement are all genuinely hilarious. Seeing an indie company doing something like this before the pandemic is a sign that IWTV doesn't just follow trends, they set them. They are creative, and are always trying to do new things in wrestling. Now we can see that spirit in shows like IWTV Yoga Studio, Nate Webb's Dirtbag Kitchen, and Basketbrawl. Before all of that, though, we had the Grammy's Street Fight. It's an ode to both characters, and Orange Cassidy at his most fun. He gets to just be himself and express the character without the constraints of a ring, and that alone is worth seeing.
#6: Yuta vs Lee Moriarty vs Dave Cole
I went into this match with no expectations at all. I mean, who knew what a Dog Fight match was? These three men took a truly obscure stipulation and made it theirs.
The match is essentially a triple threat where two men are in the ring at a time. When someone gets pinned or submitted they leave the ring and the third man comes in. You have to pin both opponents in a row in order to win, so if the man who got the first pin, then gets pinned by the third man, he has to start over. In addition, whoever is not active in the match cannot get involved. I know that sounds confusing, and I was afraid it would be an overcomplicated mess, but they make it work. They pull off a truly special match unlike anything I've ever seen.
Do I think we should see Dog Fights all the time? No. But, wow, did this work. It has a kind of excitement, especially the last few minutes. It's a truly unique, truly special match, and one that everyone needs to see.
#5: Jonathan Gresham vs Tracy Williams vs Martin Stone
This is the earliest match on the list, and it's a doozy. The story behind the bout is perfectly simple, and well executed. Gresham had already defended the belt against both Martin Stone and Tracy Williams, but now he had to defend against both of them in a triple threat. His champion's advantage was gone, and he had two ghosts from his past to contend with in order to keep his belt.
It's the kind of story that anyone can understand, and doesn't have a lot of required viewing to get. Every wrestler really adds to the match, which a triple threat doesn't always succeed at doing. It would be easy to overlook Stone, as he doesn't enter or leave the match with the title, but he really adds a lot to the match. He is by far the most aggressive, and really changes the match dynamic. It was Williams's night though, as he finally beat Gresham to win the belt. It was the first title change for the championship, and showed that the IWTV Title was truly going to be something. It wouldn't die out with Gresham, and Williams would go on to have a great reign.
#4: WARHORSE vs Ophidian
When you talk about independent wrestling, you have to talk about Ophidian. He and 'HORSE represent different eras of the independent scene, and so seeing them match up is a real treat.
The match starts with Ophidian wearing a new mask themed after his opponent's own face paint, and that alone is worth it. The "Warsnake" chants are fantastic, and when he pulls off the mask to reveal his normal one the match actually gets more intense. For twenty minutes they battle back and forth and it actually looks like Warhorse could lose the title. Ophidian could easily hold the belt, and so the entire crowd is behind him.
WARHORSE really showcases his speed and agility here, especially when he hits top rope moves like his double stomp and a missile dropkick. Ophidian even busts out his old snake charming trance attack that broke the IWC back in the early 2010s, and the entire crowd loved it. Both men have often been reduced to just a gimmick by bad faith takes online, but in this match they prove that they are icons of indie wrestling for a reason.
#3: WARHORSE vs A Very Good Professional Wrestler
I absolutely adore everything about this match.
This match has one of my favorite stories behind it. Taking place at Erick Stevens Presents Professional Wrestling, the story goes that the match was booked by Stevens as a way to show that gimmicks are ruining wrestling, and a truly great wrestler will always beat someone who is just a gimmick. That's just it though, WARHORSE isn't just a gimmick. He proves in this match that under the denim, the face paint, and the headbanging, he is a truly great wrestler. Even more than that, he proves that he is a great wrestler with the denim, the face paint, and the headbanging.
This was easily the best match on a stacked card, and both men are responsible for that. A Very Good Professional Wrestler is able to work a side headlock for over a minute into various positions, and more impressively, keep the crowd invested in that. You expect this to be a clash of styles, as AVGPW works very traditional moves, while Warhorse uses his unorthodox energy to keep the match moving. What you get though, is Warhorse using just as many technical skills as he does big moves. I don't think I've ever seen a La-Magistral cradle from him, but he executes it beautifully.
The crowd loves the match itself, and gives both men all the credit they deserve for the moves they pull off. It's the kind of match you can't look away from, as every moment, no matter how small, is full of intensity. Warhorse bounces so hard off a ring post he almost crossbodies a fan, and wow I want to be that fan. When WARHORSE finally hits the elbow drop for the win my heart almost stopped, as he once again retained that belt in one of the best defenses of his reign.
#2: Lee Moriarty vs WARHORSE
I've talked about this match before, and it's one of my favorites of the year so far. The sheer amount of buildup to this is what makes it so spectacular. Last fall we saw Masked Wrestler air, and one by one wrestlers were eliminated and unmasked. We saw names like Lady Frost, Tony Deppen, and Wheeler Yuta in the tournament, but had no idea who the winner could be.
For months we were left to speculate, until WARHORSE was standing in the ring. Then, Lee Moriarty's music hit, and I still get goosebumps as he then came out wearing the Genkai mask. He pulled it off to reveal that yes, Taiga-Style Lee Moriarty won Masked Wrestler, beating Wheeler Yuta in the finals, and the match was set. There is only one match on this list that made me scream at my TV more, but this match is a close second and the best match of WARHORSE's reign.
These two try to end the match early because they're both scared. 'HORSE is an incredibly dominant champion, and Lee is the biggest challenge he has ever faced. Even in this serious match up, the champion still finds time for the jokes; my favorite being "Welcome to the Jungle Lee, get ready for the *bounces off ropes* shananananana-knees *hits knee drop*." So many times in this match I thought he was going to retain, but Lee just wouldn't give up. He ends up dropping WARHORSE on the steel ramp, and hits the finisher he used throughout the Masked Wrestler.
Despite that, the champion kicked out. This was one of those moments that made me scream. It's ultimately an inside cradle that puts WARHORSE away, and every jaw dropped as everyone stood and cheered. It's one of those moments in wrestling I will truly never forget.
#1: Lee Moriarty vs Wheeler Yuta
I said Moriarty vs WARHORSE is one of my favorites, but this is the one that beats it.
For over fifty minutes these two proved why indie wrestling is alive and well. I'm not really sure what else I can say about this match didn't I didn't already cover in my Wheeler Yuta Indie Talent Showcase, where I also put this match at number one. I guess what makes this so good is the fact I've seen it three times now, and still can't wait to watch it again.
This match is bigger than any story that was being told. The crowd booed the hell out of Yuta going in, because he was the heel. By the end though, they were cheering. Through his wrestling he reminded them that he absolutely deserved to be here at the top. All the story faded away, and the crowd is incredibly happy for someone they watched for years finally get his moment.
The crowd was also incredibly happy that the match actually had a winner. Going in, no one was worried about the match being a draw; I'm willing to bet most people forgot it had a sixty minute time limit. As time began to tick away however, especially when it crossed the fifty minute mark, the idea of a draw seemed more and more certain. The fact that Yuta was able to swoop in and win certainly made the cheers louder than they would have been only twenty-five minutes in. It's hard to imagine any match topping this anytime soon, but as we've seen from this list, amazing matches have been fought over this belt. It seems like any IWTV Title match can become an instant classic, but so far, none have been better than this.