A list like this should’ve never existed on Iridium Eye to begin with back when I started doing Top 7 lists on this blog. As I’ve been doing stuff on this blog since 2017, I would’ve never ever expected to have this as a topic for a Top 7 list. Shoot, I wasn’t even allowed to watch pro wrestling when I was a kid. It still blows my mind that I, a person who prefers experimental films, avant-garde art, and even writes poetry for crying out loud would make a pro wrestling-themed list even if it’s in the context of film. Yes, I’ve reviewed wrestling documentaries a while ago. It started with the history of Lucha Libre with the PBS documentary Tales of Masked Men which was good even if I watched it on a whim. I reviewed Beyond the Ropes mainly because I wanted to review something from Northern Ireland, so I can cover works from both parts of the Irish isles. That turning point came with Eddie Dennis: A 5 Year Old’s Dream which shattered a stereotype I had about pro wrestlers and it was a gateway into seeing the indie British wrestling scene or BritWres for short. It then snowballed into seeing some matches and shows as I thought it was way better than the mainstream stuff. I knew a select few things because of some videos I saw years ago and knowing people who are big fans of pro wrestling. I would eventually review two other documentaries in that subject during this time with Road Back to Malice featuring Welsh wrestler Flash Morgan Webster and South Pacific Power Couple which featured the New Zealander intergender tag team of the same name consisting of TK Cooper and Dahlia Black as they go to England. During this short time of me getting into that scene, I saw some awesome matches that the WWE or AEW wish had that kind of quality and a surprising amount of positive representation with wrestlers (many of them are directly from the UK) of different colors, creeds, sizes, etc. However, last Summer had one of the tragic times with #SpeakingOut which affected the scene worldwide. People have been doing everything they can to get rid of bullies and predators with safeguarding policies and stricter guidelines. Keep up the good work, everyone in that scene. Let’s see everything get safer with that in this COVID-era.
I can’t lie that I’ve been a bit negative with some recent Top 7 lists like my post about fandoms and with ripoff characters. Time to be positive for this one.
This is a tough list and I’d even argue that it’s one of the toughest lists I’ve made since the one about anime for the arthouse crowd. That’s a sentence I never thought I would type out given the subject matter. With the other wrestling documentaries out there, I thought some people in that scene should get their own docs which would be sick. I could name this guy or that guy, but I have to give myself some guidelines for this list which did restrict my choices.
-They must be a freelancer or not signed to a major wrestling federation. That means no one is signed to WWE (yes, this even includes NXT UK), AEW, Impact, ROH, and New Japan Pro Wrestling.
-They must never have been featured in a documentary before.
-The wrestlers don’t have to be directly from the UK, but they need to have notable career highlights in that part of Europe as well as having multiple matches in that scene.
Even with these restrictions, I could make a Top 10 list and I would still be scratching the surface. I never thought I would have this interest in my life and this is interest is getting it’s own list in the context of documentaries.
Before I start with my list, I need to do some pre-emptive self-defense in case I get fandom shamed. Yes, I’m aware pro wrestling is pre-scripted stage combat. Tell me how reality shows are all real and unscripted. Also, there have been cases of combat sports like MMA and boxing having cases of fixed matches. Just saying. Not all pro wrestling is just like WWE in terms of presentation or wrestling styles, people. Yes, I won’t argue that it’s a “lowbrow” form of entertainment. That doesn’t hurt my credibility of me liking artsier things. I’m not only into super-serious or highbrow things, people. Side note, there’s a certain indie federation in England that will OBLITERATE that notion which will be discussed with some of my choices there.
Feel free to check out these wrestlers, promos, and matches.
To any filmmakers interested in actually turning these ideas into reality, feel free to give me some props. You’re welcome. By the way, I also have Ko-fi if you want to send some funds my way. 🙂 Wow, I should promote that more often…
Also, I want to dedicate this Top 7 list to the Wresthings podcast crew. It’s all by the mandem, for the mandem. These guys are educated folk when it comes to pro wrestling and their podcasts have been a treat to listen to. Each episode I’ve checked out has been great to listen to and I’ve been impressed by their content, discussions, present balanced opinions, and they aren’t sycophants with what they like. Truth be told, I don’t listen to many wrestling podcasters, YouTubers, or even bloggers, but these guys are on point. Also, Wresthings is a Kenny Omega-approved podcast, so that should get some attention there. You’re welcome, smarks! Big ups to all of them for making passionate and intelligent content about the subject of pro wrestling of all things. 150 MILLION PERCENT!!!
Alright, ring the bell!
[WARNING: Some clips contain strong language.]
Moniker/Nickname: The Asian Sensation
Origin: Nottingham, Nottinghamshire
Championships and Accomplishments:
Defiant Women’s Champion
Southside Women’s Champion
Winner of the inaugural Progress Women’s Thunderbastard match (2021)
Progress Women’s Champion
2021 is looking to be this wrestler’s breakout year. Kanji has been wrestling for only three years at the time of this posting, but one can be fooled into thinking that she’s been wrestling for longer. Nottingham may be more famous for being the location of Robin Hood, but anyone outside of England should recognize that as this up and coming wrestler’s hometown. When I got into BritWres a couple of years ago, one of the federations that I’ve been following is Wrestling Resurgence which is a promotion co-owned by Dr. Claire Warden who is a university English and Drama professor with a background in dance and avant-garde art (DEAD SERIOUS!), and Kanji has showed up on most of their shows where I first saw her since it’s a hometown promotion for her. She’s been in featured matches in that company as well as providing good match quality with her mix of striking, some high-flying ability, and some technical wrestling. Anyone who craps on women’s wrestling should check out her feud with Australian wrestler Charli Evans and just shut up right there. Their matches are better than a lot of what a lot of mainstream wrestling has been doing. Even her other matches with other wrestlers has been great. Her debut with Progress this year has been stellar with headlining multiple chapter shows, delivering bangers of matches, having an impressive win/loss record in that company so far, and becoming the 2nd Indian-British wrestler to win Progress gold (the other one is former 2X Women’s Champ Jinny who is the only other English female wrestler of Indian descent so far) in her feud with Gisele Shaw for the title. She debuted in Progress this year with their first ever women’s Thunderbastard match where she won it all. Before they made a women’s version of their signature seven-person elimination match, the previous winners of those tournaments include the likes of Mark Haskins, Flash Morgan Webster, and Mark Andrews, so keep in mind all of them are signed to major companies now with ROH having Haskins and WWE’s NXT UK program having the latter two (yes, that’s 2/3rds of Subculture and the same Welsh wrestlers featured in Road Back to Malice). Kanji has wrestled against the likes of Millie/Emilia McKenzie, Aoife Valkyrie, Shanna, and Emi Sakura to name a few and all of them got signed to major companies. Her story has also been fascinating with how her family reacted to that interest as well as Kanji praying for her late father before every match of hers. Kanji is definitely one to watch and I could see her only getting better from here. Her story would be inspirational and could easily translate into a film project. A documentary involving this fighting champion would be something I would certainly watch.
Moniker/Nickname: The Ultimate Diva
Origin: Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Slay More Kick
Hustle & Flow
Championships and Accomplishments:
Pin Fall Women’s Champion (Inaugural)
This next spot on my list involves a more recent discovery when I checked out other indie wrestlers in the UK. When I was checking out Progress during their restart period this year as well as checking out other federations such as Futureshock for Mr. Cat’s Wrestling, I discovered The Ultimate Diva Taonga (her name is pronounced “Tonga” like the South Pacific island country). She’s a newer wrestler, but has shared the ring with the likes of Alexxis Falcon, Lana Austin, Mercedez Blaze, and Charli Evans among others. I’ve seen her play both a plucky underdog face as well as a conceited and sassy heel in different situations which has been interesting. She’s certainly a talented grappler and certainly has a personality as well as charisma compared to those more experienced than her in the ring. This Yorkshire-born wrestler has been applying her craft all over the UK and I can definitely see her winning more titles in the near future. She is still early on in her career, but The Ultimate Diva has had plenty of good matches and is a fantastic addition to a card for a wrestling show. Regardless if her current theme music plays, “Diva” by Beyonce, “Juice” by Lizzo, or “Obsessed” by Mariah Carey playing during her entrance, you know you’re going to get a good match afterwards. A documentary involving Taonga would be fascinating and she deserves to be more known in the wrestling scene. For some reason, I could see the production of a documentary involving her being very flashy and satirizing Hollywood-style projects in that genre, but with more depth to the story. Taonga is definitely a wrestler who I could see having a bright future and seeing a documentary covering her career would be worth watching.
5: Rishi Ghosh
Moniker/Nickname: The Prince of Mumbai
Origin: Portsmouth, Hampshire; Mumbai, India (kayfabe)
Bombay Bicycle Kick
Championships and Accomplishments:
Kapow! Heavyweight Champion
Kapow! Tag Team Champion w/ “Tiger” Rajah Ghosh (as The Bombay Bad Boys/Ghosh Brothers)
4FW Tag Team Champion w/ RJ Singh
FPW UK Tag Team Champion w/ Malik
Much like Taonga, here’s another recent discovery of mine, but once I saw some matches and promos involving this wrestler, I just had to give him a spot on the list. Rishi Ghosh is actually a veteran of the UK wrestling scene, got to wrestle around the world, train others, and yet he has never signed with a major company to this day in his 19(!) years of experience in the squared circle. The Prince of Mumbai does have a lot of levity as a wrestler with his character and may have a more conservative in-ring style, but he is still someone with great in-ring prowess. Some of his strengths outside of his wrestling ability involve acting, having a clearly defined character, and is really good on the mic. His promo about Pokemon is just hilarious with his delivery as well as his random facial expressions like him in the background geeking out over playing Pokemon Go on his phone. You can watch that promo below. I also have to give Rishi a lot of props for portraying this Indian prince heel character without playing up stereotypes which is awesome. In doing research for putting Rishi Ghosh on this list, I found out he was a tag team champion alongside RJ Singh which is cool and RJ would be on this list if it wasn’t for him being in BritWres 2012. Outside of his wrestling career, there are other aspects about his life that are fascinating to know. He’s worked in the educational sector, his brother/tag team partner “Tiger” Rajah Ghosh (note the Aladdin pun on his nickname) is a local politician in the Portsmouth area, he’s a disability coach, author, judoka, and he’s even an actor! His biggest role was playing in the Fighting With My Family biopic about former WWE wrestler Paige. Since he wasn’t in a documentary to the best of my knowledge, he still counts for this list! It would be a fun touch having scenes of him switching accents whenever he decides to be in or out of character as well as some footage with his shoot jobs or being a wrestling trainer down in the South Coast of England. I think any competent director should think twice about saying no to the Prince of Mumbai especially when he dons his #HardManHaircut (very intimidating)!
Victory! Victory! Victory!
4: David Francisco
Fantastic, One in a Million
Origin: Lisbon, Portugal
Championships and Accomplishments:
2X APW Nacional Champion
Wrestle Portugal National Champion
[Redacted] Pro Wrestling Champion
Owner and founder of Purpose Wrestling
Some of you are probably thinking this: “Portugal? I thought you were going to talk about BRITISH wrestlers!” Yes, this spot is going to a Portuguese wrestler, but David Francisco has been wrestling in the UK just as long if not longer than in his home country especially since he moved from Lisbon to England years ago. David Francisco was actually one of the first wrestlers I’ve seen when that aforementioned snowballing of getting into the UK scene back when he played up the uber-egotistical and smarmy “fantastic” gimmick. Want to know who he wrestled against in my discovery of BritWres who also helped train Francisco when he came to the UK? Eddie Dennis! That’s right, this was a weird full circle thing going on. David Francisco is great at playing a heel, but I’ve also seen him portray a convincing anti-hero face without completely losing his character or personality which is very good. He’s a more technical wrestler than a lot of people give him credit for and I enjoyed a lot of the matches he’s in. Francisco was able to have a lot of achievements in his native Portugal with his having long title reigns as well as being the first Portuguese wrestler to win the top champions from two different federations simultaneously in his home country while also being able to have Ws over Chris Ridgeway, Connor Mills, and even Eddie Dennis himself to name a few. Not only that, but he’s starting a new federation in London called Purpose Wrestling which will have it’s first show in August. In addition to wrestling, he’s a podcaster, vlogger, and has even worked in the media field which is awesome. He definitely knows what he’s doing with video production and editing, so maybe he could direct his own documentary? Something that would cover his origins in Portugal to him getting into the UK scene as well as wrestling in other countries would be amazing. Just checking out some of his vlogs and podcasts would give some very insightful commentary to a film project. You never know. David Francisco is a multi-talented individual in and out of the ring and that’s simply [dramatic pause] exquisite! No, I’m not going to use his former moniker as an adjective. It makes sense in context.
3: Ronnie Knocks (FKA Nye-Oh)
Moniker/Nickname: The Wrestling Engineer, Queen of DIY Style
Murder, She Wrote
Spanner in the Works
Championships and Accomplishments:
FTGU Women’s Champion
Much like Kanji on my list, I was first exposed to this particular wrestler thanks to Resurgence on their final show before lockdown happened for their annual Over The Top Over The Top Battle Royal match. Ronnie Knocks despite not winning that match, did get my attention with her technical fighting style and for standing out compared to most other people in the main event. I rediscovered her work months ago after looking at Big T Justice’s tweet about non-white wrestlers based in the UK and saw the name “Nye-Oh” on there. I found some matches and realized she was the same person from that Resurgence show. After checking out more of her work under that moniker and her current ring name of Ronnie Knocks, I was impressed with her uniqueness, utilizing a mostly submission-based fighting style compared to most female wrestlers, and being able to play a plucky underdog babyface character in most of what I’ve seen despite being a heel in that Resurgence match. I’ll say it right now, Ronnie Knocks is one of the most underrated wrestlers out there and deserves to be on more shows as well as wrestling around the world. It’s awesome seeing someone with a legit amount of tekkers in the squared circle while also not trying to look or be like so many others out there. Why aren’t more federations booking Ronnie? I think a documentary with her as the subject would be awesome like how she created the Wrestling Engineer gimmick, coming up through Burning Hearts, or talking about her other interests in addition to her wrestling career. Ronnie Knocks has been a great surprise in terms of discovering her matches and I hope she’s able to be successful as well as standing out in a crowd of so many wrestlers who want to look or be the same. A documentary involving Ronnie Knocks could look neorealistic and even cinema verite-like (think something like Jafar Panahi’s work) to reflect the DIY style of this wrestler.
Moniker/Nickname: Ugandan Warrior
Origin: Kampala, Uganda
Bless the Rains
The Circle of Life [Tag Team Finisher]
Championships and Accomplishments:
Grapple Wrestling Champion
Tidal Tag Team Champion w/ Sebb Strife (as The Lion Kings)
UKW Tag Team Champion w/ Sebb Strife (as The Lion Kings)
Some of you might recognize the name Nsereko (pronounced En-Sair-Eh-Ko) if you’ve read my review of Who Killed Captain Alex? a while ago. Now is about as good a time as any to mention him again. There aren’t too many wrestlers who are directly from the African continent especially in the mainstream with the exception of WWE superstar Kofi Kingston who’s Ghanaian or AEW’s Angelico who’s white South African as far as the current scene is concerned. This isn’t some random Black British guy pretending to be from Uganda. No, he’s actually from that African country even though he’s currently based in the Yorkshire region. The Ugandan Warrior has been a pleasant surprise finding out about him when I delved into the BritWres world as both a singles competitor and in tag team action thanks to (once again) Wrestling Resurgence especially because of a very certain event they had that I’ll get to later. Nsereko is a very talented wrestler as he uses a good mix of power, agility, as well as personality. It’s also awesome how he incorporates Luganda and Swahili for part of his promos (yes, that accent is legit). Him and his tag team partner “The Big Cat” Sebb Strife from Leeds have been making waves in the Northern English wrestling scene with both singles and tag team gold with one of their biggest accomplishments being the longest-reigning Tidal Tag Champs with an over 400 day tenure with those belts. One could say they got the lion’s share of the belts in the Northern BritWres scene, eh? For those who know about my blog, you’d probably be surprised that I would like a wrestler who’s part of a tag team named after a certain Disney movie I’ve been vehemently critical of despite being a former fan of it during my childhood. Don’t worry, I told him about those issues and I’d rather support the Ugandan Warrior than Mickey Mouse’s tainted movie (Nsereko didn’t know about the problematic stuff involving that movie before I brought it up to him and he certainly wasn’t a fan of them trademarking the “problem free philosophy”). Funny enough, I saw a video of him strolling around Leeds in his wrestling character and the song “Mbube” played in the background and that’s the same song that “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” legitimately plagiarized from for those who didn’t read my review of The Lion’s Share. Yes, consider this a major exception of sorts. If you support Nsereko (and/or even Sebb), then at least you’ll be supporting Lion King(s) that don’t do any cultural appropriation, steal from anime characters or African music, and especially not doing any racist crap like the movie they’re named after. A documentary about him would be super fascinating with his career, living in Africa, adjusting to living in England, his running endeavors such as getting 400 miles this year for a charity run challenge, and he can even talk about his gaming side-project on Twitch for fun. Remember how I mentioned Who Killed Captain Alex?? Guess what, I never heard of that movie until he mentioned it via email. Also, I managed to get some props from him over a year ago…
Webale, Nsereko! I never thought a wrestler would promote a review of mine, but life can be full of great surprises. He’s definitely one to watch and you know he’s worth paying attention to when even someone who has gotten a reputation for calling out the malicious things associated with that 90s Disney franchise his tag team is named after! Seriously, check out the Ugandan Warrior’s in-ring work. Those who follow indie wrestling should definitely pay attention to him.
1: Roy Johnson
Moniker/Nickname: Big Wavy
Last One For the Afters
Championships and Accomplishments:
Ultimate Sacrifice Champion
Saints of Sacrifice Champion w/ Kieran Kurupt and Alexander Roth (as The 87 with The Hitset via freebird rules)
[Redacted] Pro Wrestling Champion
Creator and curator of Everything Patterned at Wrestling Resurgence
Here’s the waviest guy on this list and South London’s own Roy Johnson gets the #1 spot. Big Wavy was one of the first wrestlers I saw when I started watching indie BritWres. One of them involved Wrestling Resurgence once again. Besides his work in the indies, Johnson has even made appearances at WWE’s inaugural United Kingdom Championship Tournament as well as some televised matches in NXT UK when that developmental brand became a thing. However, he never got signed to the E and stayed independent. If I can be brutally honest, if Roy Johnson was white, he’d have a rocket ship to Raw or Smackdown and would be a multiple time WWE World Champion and/or Universal Champion if Vince McMahon signed this guy with his athletic abilities. He certainly has a powerhouse fighting style, but he is very agile by doing moves I would expect only cruiserweights to do, has a clearly defined personality, is great on the mic, and is able to incorporate some rapping in his gimmick WITHOUT being some shucking and jiving buffoon like R-Truth (REAL TALK!). He’s also a wrestler who can play both face or heel with such flexibility without changing his character. Outside of wrestling, he has a legitimate weightlifting background where he beat England and UK-based records. In wrestling, he’s been getting attention as both the host and ring announcer for Progress which is one of the biggest if not the biggest UK-based federation. However, the thing that really made him earn my respect as a wrestler and as a person was the Everything Patterned show for Wrestling Resurgence. Sure, Eddie Dennis: A 5 Year Old’s Dream was a gateway into BritWres (fun fact: Eddie also helped train Roy), but Everything Patterned got me to be an indie wrestling fan and I do have to confess that it was the first wrestling show video I bought as well as the first video I ever bought on Vimeo. Even I can’t believe that! Everything Patterned was a Black History Month show that featured a majority Black wrestler card which sold out at the venue. It was a celebration of diversity and it freaking shattered racial stereotypes. That show was a first for the UK and even America didn’t have a show like that until after the fact! You know you’re doing something right when a country with only a 3% Black population was able to do something racially progressive in the field of pro wrestling of all things. That was very inspirational seeing that with quality matches and talented wrestlers there. A documentary about that event as well as Roy’s wrestling career would be something that would be incredible as a documentary. Roy Johnson may not have the mainstream exposure of a John Cena, The Rock, or even a Chris Jericho, but his contribution to wrestling by doing some positive things for the industry should definitely be noted.
Here’s a bonus video where Roy Johnson breaks character to talk about Everything Patterned and his feelings towards ethnic representation in British wrestling. Side note: the matches from that show are available for free on Wrestling Resurgence’s YouTube channel.
So what do you think? I know it’s kind of weird having a list like this involving random wrestlers from or residing in the UK and how I want to see documentaries of them and others not on this list. For those that know about indie BritWres, which wrestlers do you think should get their own documentaries?
All photos and videos are property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws.
The Union Jack and wrestling design was created by me via Canva.
The picture of Kanji is from Progress Chapter 111 at Demand Progress. Demand Progress is property of Progress Wrestling.
The picture of David Francisco is from David Francisco’s Twitter Page.