The main attraction of WrestleMania weekend is obviously WWE‘s WrestleMania, the biggest show of the year for the biggest wrestling company in the world. However, enterprising promoters realized a while ago that fans making the pilgrimage to Mania are in the mood to see other wrestling shows as well. Now WM’s home city is inundated with wrestling shows of all kinds, some of which have cards that resemble each other pretty closely or are similar to the average indie show, but some of which look exciting and unique.
With Spandex will release our usual predictions and analysis for WrestleMania and NXT TakeOver: New York and an in-depth preview for the ROH/NJPW G1 Supercard show, but first, here is, at least on paper, the best of the rest, the top ten smaller shows worth checking out on WrestleMania weekend, with links to where you can watch them.
The Major Company-Adjacent Shows: EVOLVE and Revolution Pro Wrestling
There are two WrestleMania weekend shows that are technically independent and have good-looking cards, but also have a lot of appeal due to the involvement of talent from other, larger wrestling companies. The first of these is EVOLVE 125. Key matches include Austin Theory defending his EVOLVE Championship against Kyle O’Reilly, recent free agent/rumored soon-to-be NXT signee Shane Strickland vs. Street Profits’ Montez Ford, as well as Eddie Kingston and Joe Gacy defending their EVOLVE Tag Team Championships against DDT’s Konosuke Takeshita and MAO.
This show will air live from La Boom in New York on Thursday, April 4, at 12 PM Eastern, and you can watch it on WWN Live here.
The day after EVOLVE fulfills your Additional NXT needs, RevPro does the same for NJPW. RevPro UK: Live in NYC includes Roppongi 3K vs. Aussie Open, Rocky Romero vs. Ryusuke Taguchi, a rematch between Tomohiro Ishii and David Starr, and the team of Hiroshi Tanahashi and Will Ospreay in a non-title match against RPW Undisputed British Tag Team Champions Zack Sabre Jr. and Minoru Suzuki.
That last match is meant to hype Sabre’s British Heavyweight Championship defense against Tanahashi at the G1 Supercard and most likely will only have implications in the form of “momentum” but could also have implications in the form of “the Ace’s knees are basically separated from the rest of his legs via submission wrestling and that continues to take a toll in the following night’s title match.” Either way, it should be a lot of fun.
WrestleCon US vs. The World
WrestleCon’s US vs. The World show also presents a lot of international talent, but in a different format. They had to reconfigure part of the card last week due to visa issues with talent from Dragon Gate, but the new one still looks really strong. Matches like Rich Swann vs. recent free agent Jiro “Ikemen” Kuroshiro (formerly of Wrestle-1), Sammy Guevara vs. Puma King, Brian Cage vs. Masato Tanaka, and The Rascalz vs. Australian Suicide, Adam Brooks, and Robbie Eagles all look like they could steal the show.
Absolute Intense Wrestling (AIW) Slumber Party Massacre
From the looks of the card for their 11 PM show on Thursday, April 4, Ohio indie AIW is bringing their A-game, with both blood and humor included, to Mania weekend. Slumber Party Massacre will include Eddie Kingston vs. Shinjiro Otani, Scott Steiner vs. Swoggle, a match that’s sure to get gory between Nick Gage and Mance Warner, Ethan Page and MJF vs. Colt Cabana and Space Monkey, and a Mexican Death Match that pits La Familia de Tijuana (Damien 666 and his son Bestia 666) against The Young Studs (Bobby Beverly and Eric Ryan.) You can watch this one on Fite TV here.
SHIMMER hasn’t announced any specific matches for their April 5, 11 AM show yet, but the list of talent booked for the show all but guarantees there will be some great ones. Nicole Savoy, Mercedes Martinez, Britt Baker, Tessa Blanchard, Shazza McKenzie, Shotzi Blackheart, Su Yung, Zoe Lucas, LuFisto, Kris Statlander, and more of the best of women’s indie wrestling right now will perform at this event, which you can watch live on Fite or WWN Live or later on Shimmer’s streaming service.
DDT is COMING TO AMERICA
Japanese promotion DDT is known for being heavy on comedy wrestling, but they are not joking around with the card for their first show in the United States.
Anyone who keeps up with DDT can tell you that the rematch between baby ace Konosuke Takeshita and charismatic heel stable leader Daisuke Sasaki is sure to be a banger. The bout between Mayu Yamashita and Maki Itoh from DDT’s sister promotion Tokyo Joshi Pro is a rematch from one of my personal favorite women’s matches of the year so far. The Weapon Rumble between flippy 22-year-old dirtbag MAO and company president/veteran wrestler Sanshiro Takagi should be hilarious, and Saki Akai defending her Iron Heavymetalweight Championship in a battle royal that includes Colt Cabana, Kikutaro, and Yoshihiko should deliver some classic DDT ridiculousness.
A cool element of this show for English-speaking people looking to get into DDT is that since it’s taking place in the U.S., it’s unlikely to feature segments that feature a lot of speaking in Japanese, something that happens pretty often in this promotion. Basically, you can get to know some of DDT’s top performers in the most accessible possible way with “Coming to America.”
You can watch this show live at 8 PM on Thursday, April 4, on Fite TV or on WWN Live or watch it later with a subscription to the DDT Universe streaming service, the English version of which is fairly easy to use.
GCW Presents Shows From Joey Janela, Josh Barnett, and Orange Cassidy
Like last year, Game Changer Wrestling is putting on some of the most unique shows of this WrestleMania weekend, with creative event concepts and match stipulations and high-profile talent.
Joey Janela’s Spring Break (about which Janela recently spoke to With Spandex) is basically an indie wrestling institution as it enters its third year. Spring Break III is split into two parts. The first includes matches like Taka Michinoku vs. Orange Cassidy, Shinjiro Otani vs. Nick Gage, and a death match between Masashi Takeda and Jimmy Lloyd, as well as an appearance of some kind by Atsushi Onita and the return from injury of Janela himself. This will go down on Friday, April 5, starting at 8 PM, and can be watched on Fite here.
With most of the more normal matches out of the way, the second part (which you can watch here) that starts at 11:59 PM on April 6 is focused on the Clusterfuck battle royal that’s been an insane highlight of Spring Breaks past. After with not-to-be-overlooked matchups of L.A. Park vs. Masato Tanaka and LAX vs. The Rock N’Roll Express, “the Greatest Clusterfuck” will include Essas Ríos (yes, Mr. Águila as WWF’s Essa Ríos), Nate Webb and Brendan B. Brown from Wheatus as a tandem entry somehow, Crowbar, and so many more. Despite the tragic death of the Invisible Man, this has the potential to be the best and weirdest Spring Break yet.
Matt Riddle‘s shoot-style wrestling showcase Bloodsport was a highlight of last year’s Mania weekend. It couldn’t get a true sequel since Riddle signed with WWE, but former UFC champion and pro wrestler Josh Barnett took the reins of the event. His version of Bloodsport should scratch a lot of the same itches. The card includes Simon Gotch vs. JR Kratos, Hideki Suzuki vs. Timothy Thatcher, Andy Williams vs. Chris Dickinson, and Masashi Takeda vs. Jonathan Gresham, with Barnett, who returned to pro wrestling earlier this year, facing Minoru Suzuki in the main event. If you ever feel like wrestling isn’t quite violent or realistic enough, you should probably check out this show, which will take place on April 5 at 4 PM and be available to watch on Fite.
A completely new show presented by GCW this year is “Orange Cassidy is doing something or whatever…” from the mind of one of the funniest wrestlers in the game right now. Cassidy himself doesn’t have a match yet, but the card so far includes Best Friends Chuck Taylor and Trent? wrestling each other with a one-minute time limit, Shotzi Blackheart vs. Saraya Knight vs. Allie Kat vs. Kris Statlander in a Lumberjack Swamp Monster Match, Ultramantis Black vs. Nick Gage, and Jonathan Gresham vs. Shinjiro Otani. There’s also something called Teddy Hart’s Reading Rainbow that I feel like might culminate in the revelation that Teddy Hart is shoot illiterate. This weirdness takes place on Saturday, April 6 at 12 PM and can be watched on Fite here.
What do you think of the WrestleMania weekend pickings this year? Did I miss the actual best-looking show on the card? Sound off in the comments!