I'd like to tell you a story about a swan. A beautiful, mysterious swan understood by no one but eventually respected by everyone. This swan became a symbol of grace and power, and one who's only flying higher with every match. I'm speaking of course, about the Black Swan himself, Cara Noir. Noir is a wrestler like none other, and over the last couple of years I have had the pleasure of watching him blossom into one of the standard bearers of the new generation of British wrestling, and independent wrestling at large. As always, we will get to a top ten of Cara's matches, but today I really want to dive into who Cara Noir is. His story is compelling, his work inspirational, and frankly, when I see Cara Noir I see what I want to be as a person. So without further ado, let's look at the Black Swan.
More than any wrestler I've looked at so far in Indie Talent Showcase, we actually know a lot about Cara's childhood and how he became a wrestler. A lot of what I'm going to talk about here comes from caranoir.com and I encourage you all to go there and read the full story. As a child, Noir wanted to do ballet. He was kicked out of a prestigious ballet school due to, as his website puts it "anger management issues" and lost his scholarship. That alone makes him stand out but his story continues. He became an underground illegal prize fighter, winning seven matches before getting knocked out in his last fight. He decided to turn to pro wrestling after this, but wanted to include his love of silent films in his character. This was not met well in the indie shows he competed in where he was met with intense homophobia despite never actually identifying as gay or even bi. He was met with slurs based purely on his characteristics of theatre, and it pains me to imagine what the vitriole would have been like if he actually came out as part of the LGBTQ+ community in the ring then. Noir's sexuality isn't something that he really discusses as frankly it doesn't matter, but he talks about how it was that derision from crowds that drove him to the London performing arts scene and led him to read queer feminist theory. This is where I find myself really identifying with Noir as I ran from small minded people and left behind the conservative religious community I grew up with and came out as bisexual after gaining confidence through reading the works of others. After this Noir embraced the theatrical character we all see now and became an emblem of beauty, strength, and majesty. He is also both a coach and writer, have written about the film parallels in wrestling and the role of non verbal communication in wrestling. Most importantly though, Cara Noir has taken an active stance in the Speaking Out Movement, meeting with members of parliament to address real changes that need to happen in wrestling on a legal level. He went to meet with parliament along with Rhea O'Reilly whom he has worked with for years.
Noir's career actually dates back to 2010 under his real name of Tom Dawkins. During this early time he became LDN Academy champion, and that would be his only title win until 2017. From 2017 to 2019 Noir excelled all over in companies like IPW:UK, HOPE, and XWA. A match in July of 2019 with PAC in Riptide went viral enough that I saw it, and was immediately in love with this mysterious force of nature. After that match it felt like the myth of Cara Noir was spreading, and soon he would make his PROGRESS debut. On September 14th, 2019, he would make it to the semifinals of the Natural Progression series where the crowd instantly attached to him. The very next day he put up an excellent match against Pete Dunne that, although he came up short, made the crowd hungry for more. The next show truly changed his career as he met Ilja Dragunov in the ring. Dragunov may have won, but Noir's mysterious nature had worked its way into Dragunov's head. Dragunov challenged Noir to a rematch because he needed to get another look at the enigma that is Noir. Noir would win that match setting up their third encounter that is one of my favorite matches of all time. Believe me, we'll talk about it later, but it is truly a must see. Noir would later win the PROGRESS championship, and later in 2020 would win the prestigious 16 Carat Gold tournament in WXW. If you aren't familiar with the 16 Carat Gold tournament, it's a 16 wrestler tournament that is considered one of the most important tournaments a wrestler can win. Past winners include Aleister Black, Chris Hero, Zack Sabre Jr., Lucky Kid(who just joined NXT UK), Sami Callihan, Sami Zayn, Ilja Dragunov and Walter. With several PROGRESS title defenses already, a shot at WXW champion Bobby Guns on the horizon, and a wonderful roster spot waiting for when Riptide returns, Cara Noir has an incredibly bright future ahead of him. So far though, he has already had some great matches, and here are just ten of them:
#10:Cara Noir vs Pac
As I said, this was the match that first introduced me to Cara Noir. At this time I was looking for any Pac match that popped up and I came across this little gem. I was expecting to see Pac just eviscerate some local talent, but what I got was a half hour spectacle. The only reason it's so low on this list is that Pac had to win because this was during his reign as Open the Dream Gate Champion in Dragon Gate when he refused to lose in any other company leading to issues with AEW. Noir doesn't get in too much offense here, but he does show off his resilience. Noir's resilience is one of his most notable qualities, and it makes you feel a connection to him. If he can endure all that punishment he was to win right? That's the feeling that you get from his more resilience based matches: that he deserves to win for all that he has taken through the match. Noir's entrance also gets spotlighted beautiful in this match: all of his Riptide matches frankly. Riptide has such a beautiful aesthetic that fits Noir perfectly. You will get chills watching him enter the arena, I swear. Sometimes Noir gets written off as just an entrance, but this match shows that he can take a licking and keep on ticking.
#9:Cara Noir vs Ilja Dragunov 1
I will talk about actual wrestling in some of the other match entries, but if you'll forgive me, I want to talk about what this trilogy means to me, and why I truly believe from the bottom of my heart that Noir vs Dragunov is the greatest trilogy in wrestling history. I know there are other amazing ones ie: Flair vs Steamboat, but this one takes the cake to me. The trailer for the documentary on this trilogy opens by calling this a love story, and that is exactly right. Noir shows his resilience yet again as Dragunov gets a series of one counts. If you know anything about Dragunov though, you know he also can take a hit, and no sells a few headbutts out of Noir. These two are in coversation, as Noir can't be pinned and Dragunov can't be stunned. Noir was coming off a loss to Dunne going into this match, and from the moment Noir enters the arena you can see why Dragunov wanted this match: he was intrigued. Take note of the spot where Noir grabs Dragunov's hand, as Noir has this weird hand obsession in his matches that you begin to notice. This is the first act of a love story, though, as I mentioned, and the wrestling builds that. Noir is the only person who can confuse the bewildering Dragunov, and he has the attitude of a person who has finally met their other half. Dragunov has come face to face with the only person who can compare to him, and he doesn't know what to do with that. Dragunov wins, but he will never forget what he saw in that match.
#8:Cara Noir vs Su Yung
I included this match to really talk about how great Riptide is at creating an atmosphere. This was part of Riptide's Su Yung double feature for Halloween on IWTV and it's so enjoyable. The highlight of the match comes when Su Yung brings out the greatest weapon in wrestling history: the baby wipe. She wipes it across Cara Noir's face wiping away his face paint. This leads to Noir falling to the ground as the screen turns to black and white and "Send in the Clowns" plays. Noir doesn't always do comedy in his matches, but I have never laughed as hard as I did at this match. There is also a bicycle. If you don't like cycling vehicles in your wrestling matches then we can't be friends. I don't care if it's a unicycle, bicycle, or tricycle, cycling in wrestling matches is my jam. Back to the match at hand though, Su Yung is a great talent, and being equally as theatrical as Cara Noir makes this unique among his matches. Whether you watch this at the Brighton Spirit show or the Su Yung double feature, you have this see this fun piece of wrestling.
#7: Cara Noir vs Bobby Guns
As I mentioned before, as of now, Cara Noir is the number one contender to Bobby Guns WXW Championship. This was a non title match part of the Catch Grand Prix tournament that is under round rules. For the first time in my history of writing indie talent showcase, we are looking at a draw. This match absolutely needed to be a draw and showed why a draw is valid in pro wrestling. Bobby Guns has been a very dominant champion, and Cara Noir is clearly the new face of European wrestling, and their title match will be nothing short of legendary. Using this first encounter to establish how close in skill they are builds excitement. It's not just a 15 minute ad for their title match though, it is well structured, well paced, and has some incredible spots. Cara would go on to be the runner up in the Catch Grand Prix, but ultimately, as much as this match is about the grand prix, it's about the future. Guns' is scouting his future challenger, and Noir is proving himself to his new rival. It's hard to think other companies would not have used this non title environment to give the challenger a win(see Omega vs Okada 3 at G1) but WXW was smart. Going into their title match the feud is at 0-0-1 so they are basically starting from scratch on the scoreboard but still have the history of a past match. It was a brilliant decision to cap off a brilliant match.
#6:Cara Noir vs Dan Moloney
This is probably my favorite resilience match of Noir's, and it's not hard to see why. Last year saw Dan Moloney lose to Cara Noir in the first round of Natural Progression 6 not by submission or pinfall, but passing out. As such, Moloney had a bone to pick with Noir. This was Noir's first defense of the PROGRESS Championship in almost a year, and I genuinely thought he might lose the belt here. Moloney spends the majority of the match beating the absolute snot out of Noir, much worse than Pac did, and so when Noir won I was stunned. Noir hung on tight for some brutal attacks and tried to lock in his sleeper hold whenever he could. These moments would often be the most painful to watch, as Moloney isn't the kind of wrestler to expertly slip out of a submission by using momentum and catch wrestling: he just smashes the back of Noir's head into turnbuckles. This match had so much riding on it; not only was Noir's title on the line, but his reputation as champion as well. The fact that Noir was able to win helped establish just how great this title run both is and can be.
#5:Cara Noir vs Hustle Malone
I went a little off the beaten path to find this one but boy was it worth it. The opening promo included with the Youtube video above introduced me to Hustle Malone and wow was I hooked by that speech. The utter desperation in his voice matches Noir's character so well. Noir has built up this image of an otherworldly being: not an alien, just something ethereal. This is one of the first times on the list we've seen that frighten someone as they grapple with the idea of what they're fighting. The match itself is clearly built as the biggest match in the promotion's history, and it shows. You have run ins from all the top heels of the company because it's no DQ, and Noir is turned into the underdog very early on. It's not too often we see Noir in hardcore matches like this, but he excels here! It makes me want to see him in more situations like this as his career continues to grow. I at first only watched this match because I figured it was important to see title matches, but this ended up being one of my favorite matches! This was an absolute treat, especially the way the crowd loses their mind when Noir wins and holds both belts high. Definitely my dark horse pick.
#4: Cara Noir vs Paul Robinson vs Kyle Fletcher vs Ilja Dragunov
I hesitated including this due to ongoing issues surrounding Robinson relating to the Speaking Out movement, but thanks to this being an elimination match, skip to about five minutes in when he is eliminated and get ready for an absolute treat as the remaining three anchor this match. Kyle Fletcher doesn't get talked about nearly enough here stateside but the Aussie Arrow is wonderful. Fletcher, Dragunov, and Noir are some of the best and brightest that the European scene have to offer, and in this match they are willing to damn near kill each other to get that vacant PROGRESS Championship. The true turning point comes when Fletcher is holding Noir as Dragunov hits Noir's back with a brutal dropkick but this causes Noir to land on top of Fletcher as he falls. 1-2-3, Dragunov has now caused the match to come down to him and his biggest rival, Noir. Dragunov just can't escape Cara Noir, and the look of horror on his face as he realizes what has happened is legendary. The two of them face off just one more time as they scrap and claw towards the win. Noir is finally able to put away Dragunov one more time, and hold the title with pride.
# 3: Cara Noir vs Ilja Dragunov 2
This match took place only a couple of weeks after their first match, and what was so fascinating about this was the motivations going in. Usually the second match is built around the loser of the first trying to prove that they can actually win. This match on the other hand is about the winner trying to understand who they were fighting. This match comes together because Dragunov saw something in Noir he had never seen before, and he needs to see it again. He is fascinated by Noir and that led to him craving this match. People were wondering how this match could live up to the magic of the first one, and that mostly comes through in amazing story. The wrestling is top notch of course, but the story is second to none in this whole series. Dragunov becomes obsessed with Noir and it's his obsession that lets him slip up and enable Noir to lock in the Blackout Sleeper. Noir gets the win here, and that means that we absolutely had to get a third match, and boy was that worth the wait.
#2: Cara Noir vs Mike Bailey
Let's take a quick break from the Dragunov feud to talk about what's probably the best wrestling that Noir has ever done. As I said earlier, this match is the finals of the 2020 16 Carat Gold Tournament, and both men knew the weight of this match going in. Cara Noir had to beat Marius Al-Ani in the first round(who would later beat Cara in the finals of the Catch Grand Prix and that's what I call good long term storytelling) followed by Jeff Cobb and Eddie Kingston. That's quite the murderers' row, and Bailey didn't have an easy path either as he fought Chris Ridgeway, Bandido, and Jurn Simmons to get here. Both of these men deserved to win, and that's what I crave in a tournament final. Bailey is genuinely one of the best wrestlers in the world, and this match shows why. There is a sequence at one point where Bailey does a handspring off the ropes, Noir ducks, catching him in an electric chair position, only for Bailey to turn it into a poisonrana. This is the kind of innovation and incredible action that you get in this match. For almost half an hour these two men prove why all eyes should be on them in the indie scene, if not all wrestling in general. Noir earned this win, and it truly was the moment he went from a good indie wrestler to one of the best. You need to do yourself a favor and watch the entire tournament, but especially this match: you will never forget it. This match is probably the best in terms of wrestling, but as I've said, I value story, and one match has even better story.
#1: Cara Noir vs Ilja Dragunov 3
This match is simply one of a kind. Before the bell even rings you know it's going to be special when Ilja Dragunov comes to the ring wearing his own face paint to mimic Cara Noir. Dragunov had finally become obsessed with Noir to point he didn't want to beat Noir, he wanted to be Noir. This match was set for two out of three falls, and fairly early on, Noir does his signature hand grab. Dragunov gets down on his knees, looks up into Noir's eyes, and taps out. The entire arena becomes confused at this, but it's apparent what Dragunov has done. He ruined Noir's masterpiece. He forfeited the first fall and kept the match from being as Noir imagined. He found Noir's weakness for good art and exploited it. Noir wasn't happy about getting the first fall, he was furious. We saw a dark side of Noir get unleashed, but the problem with getting angry is you get sloppy. Dragunov nails a Torpedo Moscow out of nowhere and just like that it's one to one. Dragunov knew that if he angered Noir he could steal a pin, so he gave one up. He made it a one fall match because he knew it would throw off Noir. The match then progresses with such intensity that you just know that matter what happens, this is the end. This would be the last singles match for Noir and Dragunov as of now, and they had to make it count. When I saw this match, I truly felt like I was watching theatre. I have never, and will never see a match quite like this. The energy and emotion of this match gives me chills to this day, and is one of the reasons I love wrestling as much as I do. This match changed the kind of wrestling fan I am, and for that I am forever grateful.
So what's next? Of course everyone is waiting for the Bobby Guns match, but in general, I think what's next is greatness. Noir is on fire as of late, and I'm truly excited to see where the Black Swan roosts nex