Independent wrestling can either be really great or really awful. Regardless, the independent wrestling scene has been vital in producing stars for the biggest wrestling company ever, the WWE. Of course, in 2017 the WWE is trying to be the only show to exist and that could lead to a major problem down the road. Think of a major name in the WWE, and it’s likely that at one point or another, they were a big part of the independent wrestling scene and not a WWE created machine.
The following match that I decided to highlight in this series sheds some light on that. Bryan Danielson, better known to WWE fans as Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe and AJ Styles all came up through the independent scene. As you might recall, Daniel Bryan was the hottest act the WWE had in 2014 before a neck injury/concussion cut his career short. Samoa Joe had a successful run in TNA and is now rumored to finally debut on WWE television and, well, AJ Styles runs the damn show on Smackdown after an incredible career that spanned a decade plus in TNA, ROH and NJPW before arriving in the WWE.
In 2004, all three men are the top guys in independent wrestling. Bryan Danielson was a machine with mat wrestling and Samoa Joe was a dominating ROH World Champion. AJ Styles was a top act on TNA pay per view. They never had a triple threat match in the top independent wrestling company, ROH, at the time. Instead, they all met in the finals of the Ted Petty Invitational held by IWA-MS, which was/is owned by Ian Rotten of ECW fame.
The match took place on September 18th, 2004 in Highland, Indiana in front of an estimated 350 people. Which, for IWA-MS is a really good attendance number. Here is an in-depth review of the match and the video of the match embedded in (as long as it doesn’t get removed from YouTube, though it’s been on there for nearly a year at this point). It is contested under elimination rules, by the way.
I’ve never seen this before, but the fans give all three men a standing ovation before anything even happens. Danielson takes Joe to the canvas but Styles yanks Danielson off. Styles works over Danielson in the corner with strikes. Danielson uppercuts Joe to allow himself and Styles to do some mat wrestling, but Joe gets up and takes Styles down a swell. Danielson puts a choke on Joe but Styles gets in and puts a choke on Danielson. Joe puts a Boston Crab on Styles but Danielson comes off the ropes with a dropkick. Danielson tosses Styles to the floor and goes for a slingshot but AJ moves out of the way. Joe runs the ropes and takes Danielson out with a suicide dive to the floor! AJ decides to take both men out with a somersault dive over the top to the floor!
Joe nails Styles with several kicks to the chest and sets up a chair on the floor putting AJ on the chair. Joe runs and kicks AJ out of the chair! Danielson goes to the floor and uppercuts Joe before putting him in a chair, as well. Danielson dropkicks Joe out of the chair! Styles puts Danielson on a chair and takes him out with a leaping forearm shot! Styles gets a two count in the ring as Joe slowly enters the ring. Joe heel kicks AJ from behind to be the only man standing. Joe works over Styles with jabs and chops in the corner. Styles is sent hard into the corner and Danielson soon follows but monkey flips AJ into Samoa Joe to take Joe over with a head scissors!
Styles takes Danielson over with a German suplex for a two count. Joe heel kicks Styles after absorbing a forearm. Danielson forearms Styles, but Styles goes for a springboard reverse DDT, but Joe comes off the ropes to hit an STO for a near fall on both men! Joe dumps Styles to the floor. Joe works over Danielson with some kicks and Danielson demands the best shots. Danielson takes Joe down with a dragon screw leg whip and works over the knee looking for a submission. AJ gets in and kicks Danielson adding pressure to the leg lock. Danielson has the leg lock and ducks a kick on AJ to hit a northern lights suplex for a near pin and submission!
Danielson drops Styles with an uppercut and Joe connects with a kick to the head of Danielson. Styles works over Joe with shots and drops Danielson with a discus clothesline. Joe stops Styles with an STO out of the corner. Joe signals for the Muscle Buster! Joe has Styles on the middle rope but Danielson gets up to stop Joe with forearm shots. Danielson goes to the top rope while Styles is crotched on the top rope. Danielson is able to take Joe down with a superplex! Danielson nearly pins Styles with a dragon suplex! Danielson has the Cattle Mutilation locked in but Styles gets out and kicks Danielson leading to Joe to lock in a choke and Danielson taps out!
Joe kicks Styles followed by strikes and Styles nails Joe with a kick right to the face. Styles drops Joe with a running forearm. Joe knocks Styles silly with strikes and gets a two count. Joe runs into a leaping forearm shot from Styles. Styles with a flurry of strikes but Joe nails AJ with open hand strikes. Styles drops Joe with a leaping kick to the head. Styles goes to the top but Joe stops AJ and goes for the Muscle Buster but Styles breaks free. Styles goes for the Styles Clash but Joe is able to block the hold. Joe nails Styles with a kick to the head and goes back to the middle rope. Joe get slapped by Styles who drags Joe down and attempts the Styles Clash but Joe weighs too much and can’t hit the move. Styles attempts the Styles Clash and hits it to win the match!
After the match, the entire locker room, which includes the likes of CM Punk and others come out to give credit to the guys for their performance. Petey Williams comes in as well and proceeds to plant AJ Styles with the Canadian Destroyer! AJ eventually gets up and Ian Rotten delivers a speech, as does Styles to cap off the night.
Holy smokes, that was an incredible match and it’s the first time I’ve ever watched the match. IWA-MS has been known in the past, 2002 to 2006 most specifically, to be home of some great matches that just happened to take place in front of really small crowds. This was a great three way dance and had me hooked from the opening. The opening exchange of everyone countering or getting involved in the mat wrestling as nicely done and when they got going with the bigger spots everything clicked. It makes me wonder how it took these guys so long to end up in the WWE, honestly. It was a great match and I can’t possibly talk about it much more than that. ****