The hype around Mania week is certainly centered around the shows that WWE is producing, but due to the giant crowds that arrive in town, the weekend provides the perfect conditions for plenty of the largest and most popular independent promotions to run highly successful shows in the area.

For me, WrestleMania week kicks off on Sunday….and it doesn’t start in Orlando.

Sunday, March 26th

PROGRESS – Chapter 46 – I Like To Chill Out Here And Shoot Some Dinosaurs

Watch: demand-progress.com (available by Friday 3/31 or Saturday 4/1 on-demand, no Live streaming)

If you know me, or listen to the podcast, my love for PROGRESS is no secret. In fact, I’m watching Chapter 45 as I write this article. They never seem to have a card that doesn’t impress, and this Sunday is no different. This show is happening in London, and PROGRESS doesn’t offer iPPV, so you won’t be able to see it on-demand until Friday or Saturday, but it’s a good way to warm-up before WrestleMania or Takeover.

The main event sees WWE UK Tournament competitor, leader of British Strong Style, and PROGRESS Champion Pete Dunne defending his title against former TNA talent and WWE UK Tournament hopeful, Mark Andrews. In what will prove to be an intriguing clash of styles, the high-flying Andrews will need to stay alert and defend against the brawling and ruthless aggression of the Bruiserweight. This match has the potential to be a legendary battle and a highlight of this volume of PROGRESS.

The signature match of this show could end up being the Fans Bring the Weapons Match between fan-favorite and longest reigning PROGRESS Champion, Jimmy Havoc, and the newly developed bad attitude of Will Ospreay. After a very unsuccessful campaign in 2016, where the losses mounted show by show, Ospreay’s whole attitude has changed. He no longer competes to gain the admiration and respect of the fans. He seems to have lost his way. After getting involved in the title match between Dunne and Havoc at the last chapter, Ospreay has a bullseye on his back, and after negotiating with PROGESS management, the competitors have decided that the fans should bring the weapons for this showdown.

Other matches on this card include another semi-final in the fourth Natural Progression Series between  Toni Storm and Dahlia Black on the road to awarding the first PROGRESS Women’s Championship. Matt Riddle (BRO) will defend the Atlas Title against Walter. Trent Seven and Tyler Bate will defend the tag titles against The Hunter Brothers. Mark Haskins will grapple with Axel Dieter Jr., while The Origin (Nathan Cruz/Zach Gibson) will take on The Origin: Banter Edition (El Ligero/Dave Mastiff) in a match that will see this once strong stable dissolve even further. Finally, Travis Banks will see action against the Sexually Ambiguous and Morally Frivolous, Jack Sexsmith.

This show is going to be great, and pretty much all PROGRESS shows are and it is well worth your time to check it out if you have some down-time before TakeOver or WrestleMania.

Thursday, March 30th

EVOLVE 80

Watch: LIVE on FloSlam.tv – 8pm EDT

I’ll be honest….I don’t keep up with EVOLVE that much, but the top matches on this card feature some of the top talent on the indie scene and it should be worth checking out.

In the main event, arguably the world’s greatest technical wrestler, Zack Sabre Jr. will defend his EVOLVE Championship against ACH. While ACH will look to keep the offense up and keep the match at a quick pace that benefits his style, ZSJ will try to keep ACH down with his deeply technical style. This should be a challenge for ZSJ as he goes up against a veteran that has encountered this style before and should be able to pull out some tricks to counter being stuck on the mat.

This cars also features Drew Galloway v Matt Riddle. Galloway has been doing his best work since leaving WWE a couple of years ago, and Matt Riddle is an up and coming talent who should pair nicely.

The match I’ll really have my eye on from this card is Ricochet v Keith Lee. We all know Ricochet. He’s high-flying, innovative wrestler who never holds himself back. You probably haven’t heard much about Keith Lee though. While he debuted in 2005, he didn’t really being to break out until last year. Standing 6’2″ and weighing 290 lb., Lee is a giant man. The thing about Lee is his freaky agility. He’s going to fly around the ring. He’s going to move around like a cat,. While facing Ricochet, he’s going to have to use every bit of that agility to be successful. Keith Lee is going to have a meteoric rise this year, and this even will be a good time to get on board the hype train.

Other Matches:

EVOLVE Tag Team Title Match – Tracy Williams & Fred Yehi (C) v Michale Elgin & Donovan Dijak

Timothy Thatcher v Chris Dickinson

Jaka v Jason Kincaid

Ethan Page v Austin Theory

Joey Janela’s Spring Break

WATCH: LIVE on FloSlam.tv – Midnight EDT

This show is….something.

The main event is Matt Riddle v Dan Severn. Yes, THAT Den Severn. From the disastrous Brawl for All. From everything I can find, the 58 year old, hasn’t wrestled since competing last May in a championship tournament for AIW. I’m certainly not implying that he won’t be in ring shape or ready for this contest, because he very well may be. When paired with the youth of Riddle, this match will be the freak-show of the weekend.

Wait….no it won’t…..that’s Joey Janela v Mary Jannetty. I don’t even have an opinion on this match or any clue what will happen. I’m just going to have to watch the car crash happen. I’m drawn to it.

There is at least one match on this card with promise. Keith Lee v Lio Rush. This should be a similar idea to his match against Ricochet earlier in the night, but I’m excited to watch Lee fly around with the 2016 RoH Top Prospect Tournament winner.

This show just sounds weird and interesting. I’ll at least have it on in the background while getting some other things done, but I think it’s totally worth checking out.

Other Matches:

Eddie Kingston v Matt Tremont

Braxton Sutter & Aliie v Andy Williams & Penelope Ford

The Spring Break Clusterf%*^ (That’s how they have it stylized. A battle royal, I presume?)

Sammi Calihan v Kyle the Beast

Friday, March 31st

EVOLVE 81

Watch: LIVE on FloSlam.tv – 4pm EDT

Another day…another EVOLVE show.

Zack Sabre Jr. v Michael Elgin headlines this show. That’ll be a fun show of power against technical prowess. We also get to see Keith Lee v Donovan Dijak. A big man against a big man. This will probably be a little less chaotic than Lee’s matches from the previous day, but it should be a fun little battle. Drew Galloway meets Lio Rush in a Style Clash challenge that should prove to be a challenge for the little guy unless he utilizes his speed to get around the behemoth figure and brute strength of Galloway.

It’s not a killer card, but it’s a nice little time filler while you wait for the Hall of Fame ceremony to kick off.

Other Matches:

Fred Yehi v Matt Riddle

Tracy Williams, Chris Dickinson, & Jaka v Jason Kincaid, Sammy Guevara, & Austin Theory

Timothy Thatcher v ACH

Kaiju Big Battel

Watch: LIVE on FloSlam.tv – Midnight EDT

If you already know what this is, then you know it’s a must-watch. If not….I’m simply going to provide you with a YouTube video of what this is. I do not possess the skill to describe this with justice. I’ll simply say it’s a fun alternative to everything else and well worth your time….especially if you’ve been drinking during the Hall of Fame.

Yeah, so watch that.

Saturday, April 1st

Ring of Honor – Supercard of Honor XI

WATCH: FITE App or RoHWrestling.com – 6:30pm EDT

Coming off the heels of a tremendous 15th Anniversary show, RoH continues to impress with a huge card the night before WrestleMania. The highlight of this show is the Tag Team Championship Ladder Match. Jeff & Matt Hardy will defend the titles against The Young Bucks. This match has been building for a while since the Hardys first appeared in RoH. It’s going to be a crazy match, especially with the added ladder stipulation. This is going to be an awesome spot fest.

Dalton Castle will get some time in the spotlight as he challenges for the RoH World Title. Dalton Castle may have the best gimmick going in RoH these days. His flamboyance and the presence of “his boys” always make for a fun time. He’s a decent worker as well. This should be a fun match especially knowing it will be led by a ring general like Christopher Daniels.

Marty Scurll will defend the Television title against Adam Cole (BAY-BAY). Two of the best in the world going at it? Yeah, I’ll take it. This match will have a little bit missing though, as Adam Cole did have a procedure to remove that cyst from his forehead that he has had since the fall.

Jay Lethal and Cody will also do battle in a Texas Bullrope match. I’m always a sucker for this gimmick. Lethal continues to be a top talent, and Cody is doing the best work of his career on the indie right now.

This card also has some decent talent from NJPW and CMLL involved so it should be a fun show. It’s a choice between this and NXT: Takeover in this time slot, but it would be worth catching up on this one once NXT is over or Sunday afternoon.

Other Matches:

The Briscoes & Bully Ray v Bullet Club (Hangman Page & The Guerrillas of Destiny)

Will Ospreay & Volador Jr v Dragon Lee & Jay White

Frankie Kazarian v Punishment Martinez

The Kingdom v Beer City Bruiser & Silas Young

Kelly Klein v Deonna Purrazzo

Mandy Leon & Jenny Rose v Sumie Saki & Faye Jackson

WWN Supershow: Mercury Rising 2017

LIVE on FloSlam.tv – 8pm EDT

This is going to be a fun one. The stars of PROGRESS take on the stars of EVOLVE. Also, the first WWN Champion will be crowned.

The main event is an elimination match between Drew Galloway, Fred Yehi, Jon Davis, Matt Riddle, Parrow, and Tracy Williams. The last man left standing with become the first ever WWN Champion. this will be one champion that is above all for EVOLVE, Style Clash, and FIP. Fun. Chaos. A new title. It will be enjoyable.

I, of course, am most excited about the matches featuring the PROGRESS talent. If Zack Sabre Jr. retains at EVOLVE 80, he will defend his title against Mark Haskins. This is a match that will tear the house down. If ACH wins the title at EVOLVE 80, he will defend against PROGRESS champion, Pete Dunne. Another fun match there too.

This show will be great because it is talent that you usually don’t see mix it up. This is a must-watch from the weekend.

Other MAtches:

Ethan Page . Jimmy Havoc

Travis Banks & TK Cooper v Chris Dickinson & Jaka

SHINE Championship Match – LuFisto (C) v Su Yung

Keith Lee v Jason Kincaid

Beyond Wrestling – Caffeine

WATCH: LIVE on FloSlam.tv – Midnight EDT

Beyond has a decent card with a couple of fun matches to enjoy while you drink some Pedialyte after watching NXT. Highlights here include the main event of Donovan Dijak v Matt Riddle and Jeff Cobb v Keith Lee. Just some fun matchups that should lead to some great action. It’s worth a peek.

Other Matches:

Dan Maff & Steve Mack v Brian Cage & Michael Elgin

LuFisto v Donna Purrazzo

AR Fox v John Silver

Joey Janela & Penelope Ford Open Challenge

 

I’ve only scratched the surface here, and these are just items that will be available to watch during WrestleMania week. There are a lot of matches happening at WrestleCon that will be on the Highspots Wrestling Network after the weekend, and PROGRESS is also doing a solo show that will be available on their service the following week.

As a whole, there’s a lot to see and a lot of interesting matches that should provide wrestling fans with plenty to devour outside of the WWE system.