This weekend is the end of an era.
Sunday will be the end of the road for one of, if not the, most popular and in-demand talents in independent professional wrestling in North America. The Young Bucks are stepping away from the independent scene after their appearance Sunday for Squared Circle Wrestling, which is shutting down after nearly a decade promoting shows in central New York.
The Bucks appeared at a number of 2CW shows over the past couple years. In fact, it was 2CW which famously decided to name its show last July, “We Booked This Show Because It Was Literally The Only Available Date For The Young Bucks”.
The name wasn’t just hilarious. It was honest, and summed up what life has been like for the Young Bucks. Always in demand. Always busy.
Over the past three years, the Bucks have been busier than ever, and earning accolades for their work around the world. In 2014, they won the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Award for Tag Team Of The Year, thanks in large part to 6 matches that earned a rating of 4 stars or higher from the WON. In 2015, they’ve been even better, with at least 11 matches with a 4 star rating or higher.
It’s safe to say, the Young Bucks are at the top of their game, but all their recent success didn’t come until they returned to their roots and were reborn as true independent professional wrestlers. It became a point of pride, as Matt Jackson explained in an interview with Rolling Stone last May.
“We’re the kings of being independent. We represent that. We don’t need a contract, we’re on our own thing. You can make money without Vince [McMahon]. You can make money without going there and selling your soul. You can be yourself. You can make a good living.”
The Young Bucks have been making a good living, but the years of steady touring were taking a toll, and growing family obligations at home made traveling around the U.S. and the world less appealing. Nick Jackson put it bluntly during the Rolling Stone interview.
“I’ll be honest, I am burned out.”
“There’s only so much you can do with this style,” Matt said. “We live on the West Coast, so when we’re doing shows, it’s usually West-to-East and then back. Or we’re going to Japan or wherever.”
The Young Bucks were waiting for the right offer, and it finally came last October. They signed a new contract with Ring Of Honor that effectively ended their independent bookings outside of Southern California’s Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.
Matt explained what made ROH the right place for the Bucks in an interview with Channel Guide Magazine earlier this month.
“They offered us a good amount of money. Basically, the same amount of money we would make on the independents anyway — and we would have a lot more time with our family. So it was just win-win for us. It wasn’t really a hard decision once the offer came. We are signed for 14 months and now 13 months are left on the thing.
The announcement came just over a year after the Bucks “politely declined” an invitation to a WWE tryout camp. They were finally finding success on their own terms, and they reflected on their careers in an interview with Fight Network’s John Pollock.
It wasn’t always this way. Just a few years ago, the Young Bucks were just another tag team to a lot of fans. A less than inspiring run as “Generation Me” in TNA ended when they quit the company in 2011.
“We were at a point, I want to call it ‘wrestling rock-bottom,'” Matt told Rolling Stone. “I was ready to quit. We had been in one of the biggest companies and they didn’t know what to do with us. It was really disheartening.”
It took a little time, but the Young Bucks started to find themselves.
“It was probably a year after we quit TNA,” Nick said. “At that point, Matt and I, we pretty much just said, ‘Screw it, let’s do as much as we can – let’s do what we think is cool.'”
“You know, there are so many rules in wrestling,” Matt said. “We just said, ‘Let’s break them all, let’s break through the mold, let’s do something different. Everybody does the same thing, because they’re scared of getting heat. Let’s just have fun. If we get heat, we’re going to get heat. Let’s go out in a burning blaze.'”
The Young Bucks didn’t just change their game inside the ring. They reexamined how they do business outside the ring, and they found inspiration and direction from the success of veterans of the independent scene.
“We watched the best guys in the world do it,” Matt told Rolling Stone. “We watched Colt Cabana do it, we watched El Generico do it. We watched Kevin Steen [now Kevin Owens]. Those guys are like the forefathers of the merch table…Nick and I would sit there at our tables and not sell a thing. We’d watch Colt just raking in the dough, and we were trying to figure out what he does.”
Connecting with fans and marketing themselves became a new priority for the Young Bucks, with plenty of t-shirt sales along the way. These are lessons many independent wrestlers struggle to learn, and it took the Bucks around a decade to figure it out for themselves.
Now, independent professional wrestling in North America faces a huge void.
No more Superkick Party.
No more Superkicking young fans.
No more Meltzer Driver.
The void the Young Bucks will leave behind is huge, but independent wrestling is in a better place than it was when they first arrived on the scene more than a decade ago.
“We’ve been wrestling 11 or 12 years now, and now every show we go to there’s almost 1,000 people there,” Nick told Rolling Stone. “That wasn’t happening five years ago.”
And after more than a decade searching for themselves, don’t expect the Young Bucks to stop being the Young Bucks.
I wish I could say more about 2CW. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen one of their shows. I do know 2CW is shutting down after nearly a decade in business, and that it is held in high esteem by many wrestlers and fans.
It’s exciting to see 2CW going out in grand style with a series of stacked cards, including a pair of sold-out shows Sunday that will be streamed live online for free. A.J. Styles, Eddie Edwards, Sami Callihan, Johnny Gargano, Jessicka Havok, Candice LeRae, 2 Cold Scorpio, AR FOX and Dalton Castle are just some of the names scheduled for be at those final events on Sunday.
Here are some memories of 2CW from people who know much more about it than I do. Enjoy!
Thank You, 2CW
So Long And Thanks For All The…