“This is the best. You get to spend the whole show just putting everyone over.”
This may be my favorite moment of the year. While sitting doing commentary, we had one of the young local wrestlers turn to us and express that amazing energy that is infectious in the Minnesota pro wrestling scene:
We’re all in this together. He appears on this year’s #MNDIY50 as part of a groundswell of talent emerging from and returning to The Academy: School of Professional Wrestling and is one of fourteen new faces on the 2018 #MNDIY50.
The year the Minnesota scene saw recently started promotions such as Showtime Championship Wrestling and Midwest All-Star Wrestling continue to grow and emerge as new places for talent to ply their trade. It saw the established brands including AWF, MIW, Pro Wrestling Battleground, Steel Domain Wrestling, and others continue to provide top notch monthly entertainment as well as promotions that operate on different scales take big steps such as Heavy On Wrestling’s Fortunebaynia and F1rst Wrestling’s expansion to fill out a quarterly calendar at the VFW in Uptown to complement their already wildly successful bi-annual Wrestlepaloozas at First Avenue as well as a number of shows throughout the year at festivals and events. All in all, you can look at our scene and see the vibrancy and energy radiating out as promotions ran new venues, returned to classic venues, and saw crowds that were excited by the products being produced.
While we couldn’t be there to see every show, we did our best to get you informed about all the opportunities to find flavors of wrestling that you loved this year. We’d like to do better and hope that we can achieve or goal of being a one stop shop for people to find shows, venues, wrestler’s information, and connect to podcasts, information, and history. With the gradual retirement of contributors to the Minnesota scene like Razzlin Rick, we’ll need more help from everyone who enjoys professional wrestling to get it accomplished, but we’re optimistic about supporting and continuing to grow the Minnesota scene together.
So we’re going to start this year like we started last year with a look at an amalgam of different viewpoints from across the Land of 10,000 Lakes with 32 ballots filled with thoughts, rankings, and reflections of where the MNDIY scene is. If you’re familiar with the PWI 500, we take a similar approach with voters drawn from promoters, bookers, podcasters, and other support roles. The idea in expanding to 32 ballots (aside from echoing our State’s place as the 32
nd to join the Union) is to take advantage of a cross-section of viewpoints from voters that will be both myopic in terms of promotions representing their preferences as well as multivalent from voters that attend a variety of different shows from promoters across Minnesota. Those that submitted ballots and comments will remain anonymous but I want to thank them all from the Rock Bottom of my Stone Cold Heart for giving their time and effort to make this happen.
You will see through the results that often wrestlers that are being seen by a lot of different audiences tend to be ranked higher due to the appearing on the ballots of a wide breadth of voters. That’s not meant as a value judgement by MNDIY or as a popularity vote, but rather a reflection that our wrestlers are expanding not only who they’re working for locally but seeing many people travel across one border if not many borders, regionally and nationally, sharing their talents with other fans and promotions. This year we had talent compete in almost half of the United States and in some of the biggest tournaments in professional wrestling as well as appearing on WWE including 205 Live, NXT, RAW and Smackdown. That has meant also enticing talents from other states and around the World to come and wrestle in Minnesota which brings the level of talent working shows across the board to a higher level. This included having belts defended in local promotions here from around the World as well as from the most hallowed histories of our domestic scene including the top men’s and women’s titles from the National Wrestling Alliance.
As we look back, I once again want to identify The Academy and personally thank all the coaches that have contributed to the surge of graduates this year as well as the reinvigoration and continued learning the School provides to other wrestlers on our scene including seminars from Billy Gunn, Shane Helms, Mike Quackenbush, and Kevin Nash. We would be remiss if we didn’t send out hearty congratulations to the 13 graduates of The Academy this year, many of whom appear on this year’s #MNDIY50: James Tapia, Referee Clark Feldman, ESQ IV, JDX, Rylie Jackson, Referee James Durden, Valentin Bravo, Kara Noia, Angel Dorado, Sebastian Taylor, Andrew Wilson, Levy Cruise, and Devon Monroe. We’ve seen these graduates as well as the first class of four make their coaches proud with what they’ve accomplished over the course of 2018.
That said, there’s a lot of amazing talent that doesn’t appear on this list. There were 128 different wrestlers that received votes this year from our 32 ballots. As stated earlier, 14 new wrestlers appeared on the list this year and that means that there are favorites that you won’t see appear. But that’s the thing about wrestling: there are so many flavors out there on our local scene. Get out to all the shows coming up and find the wrestlers, promotions, and people that you want to support as we continue to grow and support the MNDIY wrestling scene TOGETHER.
Thank you again to all those who voted, contributed comments and thoughts, and to everyone who has interacted with MNDIY throughout the year who make our State’s wrestling scene a great place to enjoy for everyone.
You know you’re in for a treat anytime you see Aiden Wake on a card. One of the funniest performers in the state, Wake finds unique ways to humiliate himself at nearly every show while still coming across as a legitimate test to his opponents. Recent investments into his craft have been paying off as Wake’s work at The Academy has helped reinvigorate his in-ring skill while maintaining the fun persona that we love him for. The comedy work is brilliant but it’s also true that Wake is turning in some of the best pure in-ring work of his career to close out 2018 and it’ll be exciting to see what level “The Star Breaker” can ascend to in 2019. (Photo: Effie Stop)
A year-plus-long story is almost unheard of in today’s world of instant gratification, especially in the world of independent wrestling, but Wild Pete and Leonard Literacy made it work and capped off their feud with an incredible “three levels of hate” main event match for MAW in November. “The Artist Formerly Known as Wild Pete” would be the first to tell you that he’s not the most technical in-ring performer, but he does bring a fun, energetic persona and a willingness to do just about anything in his matches. (Photo: Effie Stop)
While this may feel like a big fall this year, Josh Price had one of his best years in wrestling… just not all in Minnesota. Working far more for the now defunct Fully Loaded Wrestling, he captured the KO and Tag Team belts with Scott Story and Rylie Jackson and much like last year, displayed an Arn Anderson-esque role in The Uprising stable. He also wrestled regularly to success with WGW and MIW, the later of which provided one of his most entertaining matches of the year in a (literal) Street Fight against long time rival and former tag team partner Orin Veidt. (Photo: Jeremy Chura)
What can you say about a man whose power comes from a can? In Popeye-esque fashion 300 goes from mildly angry brawler to insane wrestling madman. He’s found success in F1rst shows as they continue to expand out from First Avenue in places like the Uptown VFW and the Zombie Pub Crawl. A friend to Fulton fans everywhere, his exuberance started to shift into a meaner streak as the year wore on. Although, that hasn’t stopped fans from flocking to non-wrestling get togethers to have Chaos smash beer cans on his indestructible skull or indulge in a tall boy with him yet. (Photo: Knocked Out Entertainment)
Very few women in the professional wrestling scene cause more fear to her opponents than does Stacy Shadows. Her terrifying masks and punishing in-ring style is truly something to behold and we got to see a good bit of her here in Minnesota in 2018. Shadows held the SDW Women’s Championship early in the year, helping to resurrect that title and the women’s wrestling scene as a whole here in Minnesota. Shadows eventually dropped the title to Malia Hosaka, and while she didn’t gain any ground in this year’s 50, in a crowded pool she held stead and her presence was certainly felt this year on this side of the river from her home state of Wisconsin. (Photo: Effie Stop)
ESQ had a formidable year entering the scene after becoming one of the second class of graduates to go through The Academy: School of Wrestling. Debuting and joining The Firm, he acted as both legal counsel and lawful muscle throughout their dominant year in Showtime Championship Wrestling. He quickly became one of the more impressive legitimate big men in Minnesota. Hopefully, rumors of his demise are greatly exaggerated and we see this counselor back before the wrestle jury making cases in the future.
“’The Face of Greatness’ was all over the place in 2018, working in MAW, Crushed, AWF, UPWA and more working regularly in Wisconsin and spreading his message for a “Brighter Future in Wrestling.” Jacobs also had a memorable performance in his debate against Ricky Noren at The Renaissance Review in October.” (Photo: Effie Stop)
New year, whose mans? It was a tough year for James Tapia. After starting out like a house of fire wrestling for Showtime, Steel Domain, Battleground, and F1rst as well as travelling and beginning to generate buzz, he was one of many on our list that was laid low by injury. Despite this, the body of his work and promise for the future buoyed him with voters who expressed interest to see this lucha vaquero get back on the bull in 2019.
“The King of Throwdown” wasn’t quite as active in 2018 as he has been in recent years, but Venom made the best of his limited appearances by regaining his Pro Wrestling Battleground championship when he defeated Super Thunderfrog in May before dropping the title to Scott Story a few months later. Venom also appeared in F1RST Wrestling once again, proving that he’s still a trusted hand in one of the state’s top promotions. (Photo: Knocked Out Entertainment)
The Queen Bee made sure her sting was felt throughout 2018 in Minnesota. Coming north from Iowa, she made appearances in multiple promotions including Showtime, F1rst, and MAW where she successfully defended her IPW Championship against Kara Noia in their GrandSlam event with Women of Nations. With more and more promotions getting on board with featuring women on their roster, voters looked forward to seeing more of Brooke Valentine in the coming year. (Photo: Effie Stop)
2018 was a big year for Nick Nelson as he defeated Jacob Savage to become the AWF Heavyweight Champion in May, then defended the Title for most of the year before losing it to JDX in December. Nelson primarily competes in AWF but if branches out could be a great competitor with a bright future across the Twin Cities. (Photo: Wayne McCarty)
The fourth member of The Firm, Valentin Bravo is currently scouting additional talent in Chile, blissfully unaware of the internal struggles within the group back here in Minnesota. Bravo spent most of the first half of 2018 here, working primarily in Pro Wrestling Battleground and Showtime Championship Wrestling, though also battled his fellow Firm member Rylie Jackson in MIW. Bravo brings an impressive technical style with a unique South American flare to the ring and we hope he’ll make a stop back here in the state sometime soon. (Photo: Effie Stop)
Whether it was hunting werewolves, fending off invaders from far off lands, or just generally protecting the realm, King Leonidas ruled in 2018. A feature in MWE, WGW, and Heavy On Wrestling, the year saw epic battles that raged across the state. With highlights including a victory in the King’s Court 5-on-5 match that features some of the best big men in Minnesota to defending Heavy On Wrestling from the oncoming storm of Settle for Nothing at November’s Black Sunday, Leonidas and his Legionnaires stood tall. (Photo: Effie Stop)
Although the body fat percentage may still be called into doubt by fans, no one can doubt Rob James’ commitment to adapting and evolving. Whether it be through a changing scene or injury, 6% always has something up his… well, he doesn’t ever wear sleeves, but you get the picture. This year he evolved once again to join Chadwick Wentworth III and Brick McCarthy as the third member of 3 Under Par in MIW. They just tee’d off together in the fall so we’ll see how the trio fare in 2019. (Photo: Effie Stop)
An incredible athlete, Jacob Savage was involved in some of the most incredible spots of the entire year. His performance in a ladder match against Orin Veidt at MAW’s Grand Slam 2018 and the death-defying leap off the balcony that he made onto Veidt at Crushed Pro Wrestling 4 are etched into the minds of fans who were in attendance. He remains a semi-regular fixture in AWF, but Savage would almost certainly be higher on the list this year if he were as active as he was last year. (Photo: Indulging Disorderly)
The Midwest Mack Truck steamrolled the competition in MAW this year, never taking a pin fall loss during the entire MNDIY50 judging period of 2018. He also won the MAW Warrior Spirit battle royal at Grand Slam 2018 and would likely have already competed for the MAW championship if it wasn’t around the waist of his Critical Mass tag team partner Garrisaon Creed. The tag team is looking to win Tag Team gold in early 2019 as they compete in the Semi-Finals to crown the inaugural MAW Tag Champions. Late in the voting period Mayhem also wrestled for AWF and looks toward branching out more in the coming year. (Photo: Effie Stop)
The third, but not final female entry on this list, Sierra has moved from clever character with a solid set of skills to one of the premiere female talents in the region. Wrestling predominantly for Showtime Championship Wrestling where she feuded with Kara Noia, she also showed up in MAW and Steel Domain oftentimes continuing that feud. She forged a partnership with Rylie Jackson of The Firm and Vanessa Azure as the Pretty Patties diversifying The Firm’s investments in the best up and coming talent and taking advantage of Showtime running in MN and WI. Hopefully her stock continues to rise and land her back in Minnesota regularly in the year to come. (Photo: Knocked Out Entertainment)
Iowa’s Nathen Edwards was seen sparingly in Minnesota in 2018, but he delivered some incredible show-stealing performances that have to put him on this year’s MNDIY50. Lil N8’s feud with Air Wolf in Showtime Championship Wrestling continued and he impressed in both of his Heavy on Wrestling performances, winning the four-way match against Kody Rice, Scott Story and Ryan Cruz at FortuneBaynia becoming the first qualifier for the new Heritage Championship, then followed it up with a great victory over JDX at Black Sunday. Add that to his regular musical stylings and Young Prince Soundcloud is truly a double threat worth booking. (Photo: Effie Stop)
When he isn’t busy being Gorgeous or lifting all the heavy things, he’s border hopping to make appearances at AWF, Battleground, MAW, and Showtime. Often teaming alongside partner Joey Avalon, Jordy Lee is one of the best at providing a unique combination of energy, excitement and even comedic relief. While he has a little Deech on the way which may limit his Minnesota wrestling for a bit of 2019, fans will always look forward to an appearance from Jordy Lee, Famous Wrestler. (Photo: Ricky Bassman)
Accompanied by his trusty shovel, Joey Avalon has proven to be one of the most vicious and dangerous wrestlers we’ve seen cross the border from Wisconsin into Minnesota. While he wasn’t a regular performer in any one promotion in 2018, Avalon made appearances in MIW, Battleground, SDW, MAW, and AWF; making him one of the more well-traveled and visible talents Minnesota imported last year. He is a true hoss who can do a bit of everything. (Photo: Effie Stop)
2018 was a banner year for Tomahawk Kid which has ended in transition. His feud with Chris Jordan in MIW ran throughout their season of shows in Chanhassen and his run alongside Kal Creed as the “Kid and Creed Connection” earned him a tag team championship in Pro Wrestling Battleground. Near the end of the year he addressed the heritage of his persona and is undergoing a rebirth of sorts. Hopefully the drive and fiery passion that pushed him this year will lead him to emerge in 2019 to even greater success with his new monicker. (Photo: Effie Stop)
“The Renaissance” continues to be one of the most important pieces on the Showtime roster even after losing his Future Clash championship. Noren’s unique character, innovative promo work, and willingness to do just about anything make him one of the more entertaining personalities in the state. In addition, his “Renaissance Review” shows were a brilliant combination of wrestling, music, comedy and all around entertainment. While those shows aren’t completely focused on wrestling, they do bring attention to the local wrestling scene and that extra effort is just another example of why Noren is such a great champion for wrestling in Minnesota. (Photo: Artist x Christopher Huffman) Note: Noren insisted that if his visage were to be reduced to black and white that we also feature his artwork in the banner for the countdown, hence the Ricky Noren original “Warm Self” c. 2006, pictured al fresco, with placement by the Artist.
Although, he is typically out enforcing law and order, Rob Justice still finds time to bring his unique brand of authority to rings across the state. Wrestling across the state, Justice had another big year and is one of those rare personalities who fans can immediately recognize as someone they want to hate. His work as an officer of the law brings unique usage of foreign objects which may or may not conform to the rules of the ring, but certainly reinforce his unique brand of Justice. So if you’re ever heading down to Cobb… err, Hennepin… ehh, well, let’s just say he gets around and his jurisdiction tends to be all inclusive, much like the jail cells he’d like to send you to. (Photo: Indulging Disorderly)
In a sport where it’s often easy to fall into routine, Leonard Literacy really made some incredible strides to improve himself in 2018. Literacy trimmed down and enrolled for some additional training at The Academy this year, all of which were evident in his in-ring improvements. “The Book Club,” including Literacy and Dewey Decimal, were among the most active wrestlers in Midwest All-Star Wrestling. Literacy culminated a year-plus-long feud with Wild Pete as the two battled in a “Three Stages of Hate” series of matches in November ending with a top-rope Book Driver sending his rival through multiple seated chairs. Reading has never been more hardcore. (Photo: Trigger Happy Kitty)
A fixture on the Pro Wrestling Battleground roster, Giant Griffin held the tag team championship alongside his partner Kody Rice for the better part of the first-half of 2018 before losing the titles to The Kid and Creed Connection in May. He also featured prominently in F1rst Wrestling’s outdoor Summer series of shows and VFW dates to the delight of the crowds. The Eighth Wonder of Minneapolis might be higher on the list could his enormous body take the brunt of working more dates, but his role as a special attraction keeps fans coming back for more. (Photo: Knocked Out Entertainment)
The inaugural champion of Midwest All-Star Wrestling, Garrisaon Creed went from relative unknown to establishing himself as a regular on the Minnesota scene with a huge upset victory over Jacob Savage to win the title in their Championship Tournament. With victories over Chainsaw King, Ryan Cruz and Rylie Jackson, Creed impressed enough to also find work in SDW, NLW and AWF and looks to compete regularly more broadly in 2019. (Photo: Effie Stop)
One of the most physically and psychologically intimidating wrestlers that has stepped into a Minnesota ring in 2018, Chainsaw King has been quite active in Minnesota this year despite living out-of-state. He had impressive performances in Heavy on Wrestling and Midwest All-Star Wrestling and despite not bringing home any gold continued to establish himself as a go-to monster in the Midwest and introduce new talent that travels with him to our scene. (Photo: Knocked Out Entertainment)
People may view Stonehenge as a tag team specialist and while that is certainly a part of his arsenal, Stonehenge is the type of wrestler who fits just about anywhere on the card. Having the size to be a credible opponent for the likes of Mitch Paradise, Heavy Metal Lore (when they aren’t teaming as The Black Plague), or Chainsaw King, he is also a feature for hoss fights across the State this year. His work alongside Lore as the Black Plague was probably his best in 2018 and it made him a must-see attraction in MIW as well as Battleground, where he became a Tag Team Champion in October. (Photo: Knocked Out Entertainment)
Danny Duggan didn’t work as much in Minnesota during the second-half of 2018, but the first half of his year was strong enough to make him an obvious choice to be on the MNDIY50. Duggan wrestled Craven Knyte and Darin Corbin in Prime Time, Mitch Paradise in SDW, Super Thunderfrog and King Leonidas in Crushed and even former WWE superstar Jack Swagger at Heavy On Wrestling’s FortuneBaynia in addition to branching out from his CWE brand north of the border to promote a Midwest Wrestling Elite show in the Metro area featuring Arn Anderson (his father from another mather). (Photo: Effie Stop)
Following a light schedule in 2017, Craven Knyte made his return to active in-ring work in 2018, working primarily in AWF, MAW, and Steel Domain. He also made appearances in FLWA, MIW, and at Prime Time Wrestling’s final show. Knyte is a physical specimen capable of working both as a face or as a heel and his athleticism is truly something to behold. Is it too much to make another “we’re Craven more” for 2019 joke? (Photo: Trigger Happy Kitty)
Age continues to be nothing but a number for Chris Jordan as 2018 saw “The Genuine Article” deliver more great performances. Primarily working in MIW, Jordan seems to be making it a point to work regularly with the young up-and-coming talent and the scene has benefited from it, particularly in his feud with Scott Story and Tomahawk Kid as proxy for Pete Huge in MIW. Jordan has taken occasional bookings elsewhere this year and can well against anyone he faces. While he dropped a bit in the rankings with an influx of young talent, 20 is also just a number for one of the best pure wrestling talents in Minnesota. (Photo: Effie Stop)
Since making his surprise debut at F1rst Wrestling’s Rock Fest event, Sebastian Taylor has quickly become a regular on the Showtime and MAW roster. After suffering a number of setbacks on his way to graduating from The Academy, The Scene has exploded. Continuing to wrestle for F1RST and joining Lore and Darin Corbin in Heavy On Wrestling to form Settle for Nothing, 2019 is shaping up to be even bigger with a potential confrontation between the group and Sting at Heavy On’s FortuneBaynia 2 this Summer. The fact that he’s already being trusted by promoters to be in that type of prominent spot goes to show just how good this rising Scene already is. (Photo: Knocked Out Entertainment)
Kal Creed continues to quietly put together one of the best resumes in the Midwest. A Tag Champion in both Pro Wrestling Battleground and Futures Clash and Heavyweight Champion in Showtime, Kal Creed was a gold standard bearer in 2018. The Suplexing Superman made appearances for F1rst Wrestling this summer as well as RCCW in Wisconsin. Along with the split bill of Showtime’s schedule his ranking presumably takes a hit from his regular schedule across the river, but Creed has certainly established himself as one of the top young stars in Minnesota and a trusted source of quality matches wherever he’s worked. (Photo: Knocked Out Entertainment)
Another member of the second class of graduates coming out of The Academy, Kyle Pro has really come into his own in 2018. He’s continued to be involved in long-running feuds with The Firm in Showtime Championship Wrestling and had some impressive performances against the likes of Orin Veidt and Ryan Cruz in Midwest All-Star Wrestling and regular showings in Steel Domain Wrestling. He became the Showtime Championship Wrestling Future Clash Champion over the summer, marking the first championship of his young career. His clean in-ring work and willingness to get on the road and learn from new locker rooms may help him claim a loftier stake on this list in 2019. (Photo: Trigger Happy Kitty)
Kara first showed up on our radar when participating in a seminar in early 2016 in the metro and has never stopped impressing. Easily outclassing the men in the seminar, she picked things up at a rapid pace and was always willing to jump in and take more reps. Last year she hadn’t made her debut in the voting period, but we put her in one of the banners while she reffed for Showtime Championship Wrestling. This year we saw her usher in the next generation of women’s wrestling in Minnesota. Starting in February, she competed against Leva Bates at Heavy On Wrestling’s No Love Lost event for their first Women’s Championship Match. She’s had great matches with the likes of Rylie Jackson, Brooke Valentine, JDX, Vanessa Azure, Sierra, and Marti Belle as well as becoming a fixture at IL promotion Kaiju Attack Wrestling. She is set to take on NWA and Heavy On Wrestling’s Womens Champion Jazz in February. (Photo: Effie Stop)
The only wrestler on the list so good that cats ask for him by name. The Crime-Fighting Feline continued to delight this year delivering high-flying and comedy all rolled into one. Similar to Chris Jordan, Wildcat is a wrestler’s wrestler, keeping himself in great condition and able to take on all comers big and small and still keep up with the next generation coming out of The Academy. Fantastic in singles competition but a phenomenal pairing as part of the Minnesota Wrecking Zoo with Super Thunderfrog. Wrestled regularly for F1rst and AWF as well as appearances at Heavy On, MAW, and others in addition to teaming up with Thunderfrog and Air Wolf to compete in CHIKARA Pro’s King of Trios, one of the largest professional wrestling tournaments in the World. (Photo: Effie Stop)
Although the Husky Heartthrob no longer calls Minnesota home, Kody Rice will always have a place in Minnesota’s heart. He didn’t have quite the success or exposure to fans as last year’s dominant performance but punched quite a time card before moving to IL mid-year. Rice main-evented Heavy On Wrestling’s “No Love Lost” event as well as competing for a qualifying spot for their new Heritage Championship at FortuneBaynia. He remains a staple on both the Pro Wrestling Battleground and F1RST Wrestling rosters where he regularly delivers match-of-the-night-type performances both as a tag team and singles competitor. We wish the Hardcore Heartthrob the best as he takes the next steps into and out of the ring and anticipate that he finds himself atop taller and taller ladders (hopefully figuratively). (Photo: Knocked Out Entertainment)
One of the most impressive natural athletes we’ve seen come out of The Academy, Brandon Gore has caught the attention of promoters throughout the state and nationwide. In fact, he found himself doing work as an extra for both WWE and NXT in 2018. He had a run with Showtime’s Future Clash Championship and won the Steel Domain Tag Team Championships with Aaron Corbin rounding out a solid second year in the ring. Although he doesn’t always seem to be as visible as some of the flashier Academy graduates, given his intense in-ring work and ever-improving character, he should get plenty of opportunities in the coming year. (Photo: Knocked Out Entertainment)
*Record Scratch* I bet you’re wondering how he got up there. Would you believe us if we told you he jumped flat-footed from the mat? Let your brain noodle that for a second. Following his brother Air Wolf through The Academy, Angel Dorado may have graduated from their School of Professional Wrestling, but he’s still waking up to see the bus fly by as he’s still in High School. Despite his age, Dorado is already doing things in the ring that no one else can. His innovative offense will leave you rewinding the clip on YouTube or just letting the .gif roll over and over while your brain tries to catch up. Angel Dorado is an rare athlete with an incredible ceiling and we wouldn’t be surprised if Angel Dorado flies into the Top 10 in 2019. Dear Mama AngelWolf, whatever you’re feeding your sons? It’s working. (Photo: Indulging Disorderly)
With two decades of professional wrestling under his belt, Mitch Paradise remains one of the most polished wrestlers in Minnesota. In his 20th year, he worked regularly across the State in Steel Domain Wrestling, Minnesota Independent Wrestling, Midwest All-Star Wrestling, French Lake Wrestling Association and main-evented the final Prime Time Wrestling show in January. Paradise defeated Lance Hoyt at Heavy On Wrestling’s FortuneBaynia in July bringing their lengthy feud to a presumed close. What awaits Mitch in 2019? Hopefully more hoss fights and helping the next wave of great big men develop their craft and learn from one of the most trusted in-ring performers and best big men in the history of Minnesota. (Photo: Keith King)
Super Thunderfrog is the fan favorite force for good that we deserve. A fun-loving Frog God with a penchant for all things Rocked Up, he stole the show throughout 2018 in both singles competition, tag action (with long-time partner Wildcat), and in Trios action adding in Air Wolf. Making a triumphant return to Pro Wrestling Battleground, he engaged in a violent feud with Venom fighting on (and OFF) the balcony of Wilebski’s, and culminating in Frog capturing the Championship from the King of Throwdown. He continued to be a regular for F1rst Wrestling wowee-ing hardcore and casual audiences alike as F1rst expanded their number of outdoor shows this year giving this Thunder God more room to hit his Frog Splash on some of the best wrestlers in the US. He also wrestled throughout the year for AWF, MAW, MIW, and Heavy On Wrestling making a mark in every ring he entered. As mentioned earlier in the countdown he had a homecoming of sorts to CHIKARA Pro as he, Wildcat, and Air Wolf wrestled as the Galactic Wildlife Commission at King of Trios, one of the largest pro wrestling tournaments in the World! They say you can’t go home again, but that doesn’t seem to apply to Thunderfrogs. (Photo: KnockedOutEntertainment)
In 2018, Scott Story spent 72 combined weeks as Champion at two of the top promotions in Minnesota this year (MIW, Pro Wrestling Battleground). Besting Chris Jordan and Venom for his most recent reigns, he has made defenses of both belts against a champions row of Arik Cannon (both belts), Darin Corbin (twice in Battleground), Kody Rice (both belts), Mitch Paradise (multiple defenses, and Ryan Cruz. Those impressive runs would be enough for some, but his accomplishments don’t stop there. Story’s had roles both at F1RST Wrestling events as well as Heavy On Wrestling, while his ongoing best-of-five series with Air Wolf in Midwest All Star Wrestling has already delivered some memorable matches while showing change that his character has undergone over the course of 2018. The continued evolution of the local scene with the influx of young wrestlers coming out of The Academy have only served to motivate Story to continue to evolve himself, and he has done more effectively than anytime in his career in 2018.(Photo: KnockedOutEntertainment)
Take into consideration what one has to achieve in a single year to jump from being not ranked to being recognized by your community as one of the top ten talents in the state. Very few wrestlers have made bigger improvements or acheived more than JDX has in 2018. Over the course of the year and across the State and beyond, “The Real McCoy” has become one of the most polished in-ring performers that Minnesota has to offer. His skills caught the eye of WWE’s NXT where he made his in-ring debut in the Fall of 2018. Add that to picking up the Heavyweight belt in AWF to wrap up the year and you have a Champion that puts together the look, in-ring performances, and skills on the microphone into a professional package that Minnesota fans should pay to see while they still can. (Photo: Indulging Disorderly)
Marking one of the largest jumps on the list, the “Young Gun” Rylie Jackson has made a name for himself in a tale of two personas. In most of the state, the “Young Gun” has become one of the most hated heels with antics that might rub some the wrong way, but hey – that’s his job, right? Simultaneously, he has improved greatly as a face becoming one of the top stars for MIW despite having a look that is a throwback to dastardly movie villains of the 80’s and 90’s gracing the silver screen well before he was born. Jackson’s 2018 was highlighted by becoming the Pro Wrestling Battleground Breakout champion and defending it not only in Battleground, but Showtime Championship Wrestling as well. Despite those successes, his most memorable match of the year might be the all out brawl he had against his mentor and stablemate, Orin Veidt, for Midwest All-Star Wrestling. Speaking of, is there any wrestler in the State that has learned from and leveraged his fellow wrestlers than Rylie Jackson? While The Firm appears to be going undergoing another transition as we head into 2019, his partnerships including fellow Academy trainees graduates, as well as Veidt, have served him well and are reflected in his huge gains this year.
Last year, after we released the MNDIY 50, Orin Veidt was one of the few to respond regarding his ranking, and he wasn’t happy. If there’s one thing that “The Dark Prophet” is not is being afraid to speak his mind. “I should have been in the Top 10.” While the 2017 voters disagreed, in 2018, they recognized a year that saw him take giant steps upward. He’ll be the first to say he’s the “resident deathmatch guy” but it was his storytelling and great instincts on the mic and in the ring that moved him up the the rankings this year. Veidt wrestled regularly for a number of the promotions in the Twin Cities, but made his mark against Jacob Savage in a pair of matches in Crushed Pro and at GrandSlam for MAW incorporating his hardcore instincts. Not limiting himself to old rivals, he also had some of his best matches of the year against the next generation of wrestlers graduating from the Academy including JDX, Kyle Pro, Rylie Jackson, and Sebastian Taylor. Although his popularity in the deathmatch ranks has grown this year taking him out of state more often, the “Wizard King” is committed to making his mark locally and bringing up the next wave of Minnesota wrestlers with him. (Photo: Effie Stop)
There is often a moment when everything clicks. Sometimes it takes a while to feel comfortable in the ring, or on the microphone, or in your bigger than life persona as a professional wrestler. It’s even more rare to be there when a wrestler has everything click into place. For everyone who was present the first time Lore turned it up to 11 and walked through the curtain with his guitar, it was evident that a new age of big man had dawned in Minnesota. Not only was the guitar-playing, head-banging monster one of the top tag team wrestlers in the state, running through MIW, NLW, and Pro Wrestling Battleground once again this year alongside Stonehenge in The Black Plague, but he also teamed with Darin Corbin to form “Lorebin Cometh” in Showtime Championship Wrestling. He reigned as IWI champion as a singles wrestler, competed multiple times for F1RST Wrestling, went blow-for-blow with some of the best big men in Mitch Paradise and Tommy Dreamer, and appears to be on a collision course with wrestling legend Sting in Heavy On Wrestling as part of Settle for Nothing. Last year, Lore sat in the top ten based on his performance and potential, this year he reigns as a new gold standard for big men in Minnesota with a growing hoard of Championships. Nothing could be more Metal. (Photo: Indulging Disorderly)
While it may be a distant memory now as it happened in the first few days of the voting period, it will most likely be remembered when looking back on Ryan Cruz’s illustrious wrestling career as one of his biggest wins. In a year that saw him contending for Championships in multiple promotions, the F1rst Wrestling Tag Team Title Ladder Match against longtime partner Darin Corbin for sole possession of the belts was nothing short of monumental and saw him take home the win. While he would latter abdicate the belts not wishing to wrestle in the tag team ranks, Cruz ratcheted up the amount of singles competition and competed across the state against a wide variety of opponents. 2018 would not be filled with gold around his waist, but there was plenty of gold in the ring as Cruz’s unique mix of high flying, leg strikes, and sense of humor made him one of the best utilized wrestlers in the State. Hopefully, 2019 will see him continuing to compete and carrying Championship gold around his waist once again. (Photo: RKH Images)
If there was a Mount Rushmore of Minnesota Professional Wrestling, Arik Cannon would be on it. Ushering in the Wrestlepalooza Era, “The Anarchist” has been promoter, champion, coach, regular importer of talent from outside the state, and ambassador to the rest of the country and World. All that, plus he was made an honorary member of the nWo. In a year that saw F1rst reach new heights and numbers of shows run, Cannon was everywhere. In addition to his time teaching at The Academy, his expansion of the F1rst Wrestling brand facilitated some of the best and brightest of our scene tangling with the same from across the professional wrestling landscape. He wrestled for almost every major belt in Minnesota and although he didn’t hold a lot of gold, he gave a veteran presence to any show and left fans on the edge of their seats. In an era where many of the youngest and fastest rising talent didn’t have a lot of Minnesota names to point to, you can easily point to Arik Cannon as one of the biggest reasons the next generation will be able to speak about the Land of 10,000 Lakes as a hotbed of wrestling once again.
For Air Wolf, there was only one way to go and that was up. In 2018, he became Wrestlepalooza Champion and the first ever two-time Heavy On Wrestling Champion and that barely scratches the surface of what he did this year. You could argue that he would get this spot without any work outside of Minnesota, but it’s precisely these opportunities and the growth of our own scene that have allowed “Big Poppa Pup” to lead the pack. Add that to working with top tier talent in F1rst and Heavy On and in the last year, Air Wolf has had matches with international superstars such as A-Kid, Ken Anderson, Sami Callahan, Jeff Cobb, Matt Cross, Sugar Dunkerton, Ethan Page, Shane Strickland, and Rich Swann. He has tempered some of the high-flying spots this year but has developed a richer arsenal by continuing to mix in other styles. Air Wolf is competing at the top level in singles competition and still finds time to be one of the most competitive tag teams in Minnesota with his brother Angel Dorado. He has established himself as The Alpha of the next generation of Minnesota pro wrestling and it may only be a matter of time before he does the same for the MNDIY 50, that is, if he doesn’t move up to the next level before next year’s list. (Photo by Knocked Out Entertainment)
The professional wrestler so nice, he was voted #1 twice. Well, some people may beg to differ based on his in ring persona, but there’s no arguing with the resume Darin Corbin put together in 2018. Last year’s top wrestler on the MNDIY 50, he managed to hold off the field with a year in which he continued to reinvent himself. Corbin became the F1RST Wrestling Uptown VFW champion and has already earned himself a chance to reclaim his Heavy On Wrestling championship in 2019 which he lost, as we are sure you have heard, while not even being pinned in a four-way dance with Air Wolf, Arik Cannon, and Kody Rice. His “SnappedChat” YouTube series has set the standard for regular video content in the Minnesota wrestling scene in addition to a top social media presence. One voter said, “Darin Corbin is on every big show in Minnesota and he may have the most sophisticated presence of any wrestler (as well)”. Much like longtime rival Arik Cannon he wrestled everywhere and anywhere and had a huge presence outside the State that continues to keep his finger on the pulse of the wrestling world appearing regularly on the West Coast and throughout the Midwest. His pipe bombs were a regular hit in Pro Wrestling Battleground where he also was in the Title picture thoughout the year even venturing into amateur wrestling territory as he donned the headgear and singlet to take on Brandon Gore. If Arik Cannon is the blood of the Minnesota scene and Air Wolf is the heart, Darin Corbin would have to be the soul… wait a second. (Photo: Sarah Dope)
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