Wrestlemania season is upon us, and while many wrestling fans will be watching the Big Show (not Paul Wight), my tastes tend to gravitate towards the smaller, non-WWE shows that weekend. As is the case with most Wrestlemaniae, some of the most prominent independent wrestling talent from around the world will descend on Los Angeles in order to take advantage of all the fans in town for WWE’s big event. Many of those talents compete several times a day from Thursday to Sunday, in order to maximize their exposure and their paydays while Wrestlemania is in town, and the result is some of the best and most interesting wrestling of the year, and none of it coming from SoFi Stadium.
The unquestionable kings and queens of Wrestlemania weekend this year is Game Changer Wrestling (GCW). Arguably the most prolific independent company in North America, GCW is running a staggering ten(!) themed events in four days, which is a lot of wrestling to watch, even by my standards. But that’s not all that’s available. Check out some of, in my opinion, the best wrestling on offer during Wrestlemania weekend.
Thursday March 30
The first GCW-affiliated show of the weekend will be the California Love card at 2pm EST on Thursday, which is being held at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre in LA. This card features talent like Kidd Bandit, Willie Mack, Heather Monroe, and more. As with all of the GCW events, this will also be streamed via the FITE+ service.
At 7pm, the Mark Hitchcock Memorial Supershow from the Globe Theatre streams live via the Highspots Network, and will present some legitimate dream matches, including Ultimo Dragon vs Negro Casas, Jeff Cobb and Aussie Open vs KUSHIDA and the Motor City Machine Guns, and much more. Expect to see Speedball Mike Bailey (who’s wrestling at least 5-6 times over the weekend, by my count), Tom Lawlor, KENTA, Rocky Romero, Michael Oku, and many more.
One of my most-anticipated shows of the weekend is GCW’s Bloodsport 9, which runs head to head with the Mark Hitchcock Memorial at 7pm EST and is available on FITE+. This event has been one of the highlights of the weekend for the last nine years, and features a MMA-themed combat in a ring with no ropes to emulate the Kumite from the Van Damme movie from which the event takes its name. This year, the card features such delights as Kota Ibushi vs. Speedball Mike Bailey, Josh Barnett vs. Timothy Thatcher, Jon Moxley vs. Alex Coughlin, Marina Shafir vs. Killer Kelly, and much more.
New Japan Pro Wrestling teams up with Impact to present a co-promoted card called Multiverse United from the Globe Theatre at 11pm. This one will be available on FITE and features Speedball Mike Bailey vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, KENTA vs. Minoru Suzuki for the Strong Openweight Championship, Mickie James vs. Gisele Shaw vs. Deonna Purrazzo vs. Miyu Yamashita in a four-way match for the Impact Knockouts Championship, and more. This won’t be one to miss.
Japanese promotion Dramatic Dream Team (DDT) has an event at 11pm as well, from the Ukrainian Cultural Club and will be streamed on FITE+. DDT Goes Hollywood will be headlined by Takeshi Masada & Kazusada Higuchi vs. Andrew Everett & Nick Wayne, Jun Akiyama & Eddie Kingston vs. Daisuke Sasaki & Kanon, Konosuke Takeshita vs. Yuki Ueno, Joey Janela vs. Tetsuya Endo, and much more.
For those looking for some spilled tea, FTR with Dax Live will be a live recording of Dax Harwood of FTR’s podcast, which will feature guest appearances by Cash Wheeler, Wardlow, Shawn Spears, and Will Hobbs. You’ll be able to catch this one via FITE+.
If you’re still going at 3am, The Ukrainian Cultural Club hosts GCW For The Culture 4, which features Black talent from all over the US and includes legend 2 Cold Scorpio, Kenny King, Faye Jackson, Calvin Tankman, Trish Adora, and many more. I may not be awake to catch this one live on FITE+ but I will be up on it at some point over the weekend.
Friday March 31
Friday’s festivities kick off at 2pm with GCW presenting Jimmy Lloyd’s D-Generation F at the Ukrainaian Cultural Centre, which streams on FITE+. You’ll see stars like Nick Wayne, Kenzie Paige, Starboy Charlie, Jack Cartwheel, and more.
At 3pm, women’s promotion Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling presents Live in Los Angeles, and could low-key be the best card of the day, if not the whole weekend. This one’s headlined by Mizuki & Yuka Sakazaki vs. Maki Itoh & Miyu Yamashita, Shoko Nakajima & Miu Watanabe vs. Max The Impaler & Heidi Howitzer, Hyper Misao & Trish Adora vs. Yuki Aino & Raku, Rika Tatsumi vs. Billie Starkz, and a whole lot more. If the next wave of women’s talent from Japan is on your radar, you need to check this out on FITE+.
Speaking of Japan, GCW and DDT will come together for, ahem, GCW vs DDT at 6pm on FITE+. This card is filled with bangers, including Jun Akiyama & Tetsuya Endo vs. Homicide & Tony Deppen, Effy & Allie Katch vs. Danshoku Dino & Yuki Ino, Speedball Mike Bailey & MAO vs. Jordan Oliver & Nick Wayne, Cole Radrick vs. Yoshihiko, and much more.
The most high-profile non-WWE show of the whole weekend is undoubtedly Ring of Honor’s Supercard of Honor, which comes from the Galen Centre at 7pm and will be on PPV and FITE. The current announced card (as of this writing) is pretty much wall-to-wall bangers and goes a little something like this:
- ROH Championship: Claudio Castagnoli (c) vs. Eddie Kingston
- ROH Television Championship: Samoa Joe vs. Mark Briscoe
- ROH Women’s World Championship: Athena vs. Yuka Sakazaki
- ROH World Tag Team Championship ‘Reach for the Sky’ Ladder Match: Lucha Brothers vs. Aussie Open vs. Rush & Dralistico vs. Matt Taven & Mike Bennett vs. Top Flight
- AAA Mega Championship: El Hijo del Vikingo (c) vs. Komander (this could be a match of the weekend, if not the best match of the year, in my opinion)
St 11pm, what’s become GCW’s ‘Wrestlemania’ show and its highest-profile one, Joey Janela’s Spring Break 7 takes over the Ukrainian Cultural Centre with a big show that includes: Speedball Mike Bailey vs. Hijo del Vikingo in what should be another outstanding match, Joey Janela vs. Kota Ibushi (who is wrestling his first match since 2021), The Motor City Machine Guns vs. Nick Wayne & Jordan Oliver for the GCW Tag Team Championship, and Maki Itoh & Nick Gage teaming up against a mystery opponent. It’s a real Sophie’s Choice for me if there’s overlap between the Ring of Honor show and this one!
I’m not entirely sure what GCW Emo Fight is, except that it airs at 3am EST and it’s only got one announced match – Lio Rush vs Jimmy Jacobs. A live performance from Lil Aaron and Wicca Phase Spring Eternal though, so you’ll probably want to have some eyeliner handy.
Saturday April 1
Pour out that mimosa at 2pm for one of the biggest parties of the year. GCW presents Effy’s Big Gay Brunch 6: LA which will feature Kidd Bandit, Sawyer Wreck, Fred Rosser, Allie Katch, Effy, Steph De Lander, and more.
At 1am GCW goes head to head with Wrestlemania Night 1 with Gringo Loco’s The Wrld on Lucha 2, which has an honestly amazing card which features El Hijo del Vikingo, Tony Deppen, Psycho Clown, Black Taurus, Komander, and more. If you’re not watching Mania, this is the place to be.
Sunday April 2
At 3pm, GCW will have its second annual Indie Wrestling Hall of Fame ceremony. This year’s inductees are:
- Christopher Daniels (inducted by Frankie Kazarian)
- *Cheerleader Melissa (inducted by Dave Prazak)
- Jimmy Jacobs (inducted by Alex Shelley)
- Michael Modest (inducted by Barry Blaustein)
- Paul London
All of the inductees have contributed so much to the industry and are deserving veterans of the independent scene, and I can’t wait to see them get their flowers.
So there you have it. If, for whatever reason, you don’t want to give Vince McMahon’s WWE your money or time next weekend, there are tons of other companies and talents that would love to have your wrestling dollars and attention. These smaller shows are also where you’ll see some of the hottest indie talent who could well be on the big (or the biggest) stages for years to come. Want proof? Check out the 2019 version of this article and see how many names you recognize from WWE, AEW, and New Japan in 2023. Some of the most innovative talent and wrestling of the whole weekend will be happening on these shows, and whether you’re a seasoned vet or a new fan, there’s something here for everyone.