Gregory Iron, credit to Scott Finkelstein
The East Coast Wrestling Association has some roots laid down, serious roots. While Ring of Honor, Chikara and even TNA are celebrating their tenth years in existence, the ECWA is in its 44th. Only WWE has them beat among major companies running shows right now. Although they don't get the press of ROH, Chikara, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and other major independents on a regular basis, the company does have one event where the wrestling world shines a light on them - their annual Super 8 Tournament.
This will be the 16th year that they've run the tournament, and it has helped give indie stars such as Christopher Daniels, Low Ki, Paul London and most recently, Tomasso Ciampa more of a boost in recognition with their wins in their respective years. Additionally, names like Bryan Danielson, Brian Kendrick, Austin Aries, Frankie Kazarian, Chris Sabin, Alex Shelley, Mike Quackenbush and even Billy Kidman have appeared in various years. This is very much a fertile breeding ground for cutting edge wrestling talent.
This year's tournament has a good mix of talent coming into Newark, DE on Saturday. Tony Nese is a contracted TNA wrestler and has appeared on a few Impacts this year. Azreal and Bandido, Jr. both are mainstays for Combat Zone Wrestling. Bobby Fish has made a name for himself both abroad in New Japan as well as at home for EVOLVE. Kyle Matthews is one of the rising stars of the Southern indies (but you already knew that if you read my column). Gregory Iron hails from Cleveland and has gained prominence through Chikara and especially the fact that CM Punk and Colt Cabana put him over huge at a AAW event in Chicago for overcoming cerebral palsy to become a wrestler. Finally, Greek God Papadon and Kekoa are two homegrown ECWA guys who fill out the 8-wrestler field.
For a company that has been around for as long as ECWA and a tournament that has origins earlier than any major company excepting maybe APW in Northern California, Super 8 weekend seems to be flying a bit low key. Regardless of the apparent buzz, this tourney is still a pretty big deal for everyone involved. Outside of Nese, who again works for TNA (and even then, makes only sporadic appearances), no one in this tourney has really hit the big time in the indies yet. Fish and Iron maybe have come closest, but still, their time and place has not come yet.
The different array of "next big thing" candidates here makes this one of the best breeding grounds to find said next big thing. Ciampa won the tourney last year, and now he's one of the hot young prospects in ROH. Austin Creed won it in 2010 after being released from TNA and parlayed it into a WWE developmental deal. Sure, not everyone who wins the thing gets an opportunity out of it. I'm not sure anyone knows where Nick Logan or Aden Chambers are nowadays. That being said, the people who have won and went onto bigger things are definitely positives enough to give this tournament the credence and attention that it deserves.
I may make the trek out to Newark for the tourney Saturday if I get the chance, and I think that if anyone is in the area and willing to drop $15 on watching a fun, one-night tourney filled with hungry, young wrestlers, they should too. While the tournament doesn't have the same buzz it did in 2004, it's still one of the places where people can go to find who might be the next independent breakout star. What better feeling is there in the world seeing someone make it big and being able to say "I saw him before he was King S**t of F**k Mountain," eh?