Kyle Matthews - Photo Credit Scott Finkelstein
In the days of the territories, the South was a megalith. While the capital of wrestling was New York City and the WWWF/Capitol Wrestling (because of market size and money), it was more a city-state, a singular bastion of the art of grappling. The vast expansive empire where wrestling was most diverse, most revered and most obsessed over was in the Southern states. From Texas to Georgia, Kentucky to Florida, territories dotted the landscape, each with their own identity, their own vision, trading stars among each other to create a tapestry that defined a culture. These were the most famous promotions in the country, each garnering pages of coverage in each of dozens of publications dedicated to covering it.
Today, in terms of attention, the Southern states may as well have a dormant independent wrestling scene. While TNA is based out of Orlando and tours mostly below the Mason-Dixon Line and WWE tours as extensively around the South as they do in all their other theaters, one might think that the independent wrestling scene in that part of the country was dead. For an area that was as ingrained in the old territorial culture as any other around the country, how could they be so absent in the new one? Well, that's the funny thing, they aren't. It's just not as advertised as the Northeast or Southern California or even the Midwest.
It wasn't always like this. Back in the fledgling days of the indie scene, before ROH formed and the sub-national scene consisted of CZW in Philadelphia and APW in San Francisco, there was a third hotbed down in Georgia called NWA Wildside. This promotion generated a lot of buzz and featured guys like Jimmy Rave, AJ Styles and Abyss back before they grew to prominence elsewhere. Then, it morphed into NWA Anarchy, and somehow, it lost its national attention as ROH, PWG, IWA-Mid South (which was more centered in Indiana and the lower midwest) and other promotions further north and west started to dominate the landscape.
But sometimes, the best stuff is obscured and not paid attention to. Just because the message boards and blogs don't shed light on these promotions and wrestlers doesn't mean they don't exist and aren't good. There's a vibrant scene, and I think people in the know are starting to recognize this. I'm talking about wrestlers and promotions. If the dirtsheets and the message boards won't pay attention, then it's going to take promoters and wrestlers alike to do the job.
Southern talents have been showing up all over the country. Chase Owens has appeared in Chikara. "Man Scout" Jake Manning has done PWG. Cedric Alexander and Caprice Coleman have become ROH regulars. DGUSA/EVOLVE has picked up Kyle Matthews. Hell, even TNA recognizes their roots, as both Gunner and Murphy are products of NWA Anarchy. Conversely, well known wrestlers from the recognized area of indie wrestling have taken to touring the south. Davey Richards has toured the south and wrestled both Owens and Matthews. Colt Cabana has appeared on shows in the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama. Grizzly Redwood takes dalliances down south to team with Manning in a team called the Great Outdoors. Both Chikara and DGUSA as promotions have paired with local companies for joint shows. Luke Gallows even has almost exclusively wrestled in Southern companies since his release from WWE.
So the recognition from within the influential corners of the industry is coming. Can the fan support be far behind? I can only hope so. We the fans need to do our part. Spend some money on DVDs. If you're in the area, go to shows. Support companies like Chikara that help spread the gospel of wrestling. The South may have used to be great, but it's a tradition that deserves to be as great as its counterparts in the other parts of the country.