wrestling / Video Reviews

Beyond Wrestling: Uncharted Territory Review – Best of Episodes 12-16

July 26, 2019 | Posted by Jake Chambers
Beyond Wrestling: Uncharted Territory Kris Statlander Josh Briggs

Previously on Uncharted Territory: Episode 11 Review

A little bit of catch-up on the Beyond Wrestling weekly live streaming show Uncharted Territory this week before heading into the home stretch to Americanrana ’19 on Sunday, July 28.

Sadly, Beyond Wrestling has been referring to the upcoming two episodes that sandwich their marquee annual event as the end of Season One of the Uncharted Territory series on Independent Wrestling TV.

In the crowded wrestling streaming marketplace of 2019, Uncharted Territory is a unique presence that needs to remain on the air. Beyond’s focus on telling stories through complex ringwork and establishing personality based on clear actions is a contrast to most North American wrestling promotions that often feel heavily scripted and move-spammingly bloated. This series has been a revelation for how simple booking and legitimate opportunity can really give a fresh take on a weekly serialized pro-wrestling show.

So now’s your chance to read up on some of the best matches from recent episodes and get a feel for the unique storytelling style of this cool show, and maybe it’ll convince you to check it out while you still have a chance!

Episode 12 – Beyond Discovery Gauntlet: Thomas Santell vs. Christian Casanova

On the first episode of Uncharted Territory, Beyond introduced the Discovery Gauntlet, a win-and-stay-in concept for wrestlers new to the company that would guarantee them a spot on the next episode. The concept was light fun, giving new faces a chance to shine for a few minutes on each show, but then Thomas Santell showed up with a throwback style and polished ground game that quickly won over the weekly live crowd with nerdy fair play and a George McFly from Back to the Future charm. If a victory meant this great new character was coming back next week, then you wanted him to win. It sounds basic, but that’s missing in so much of pro-wrestling today: passion to see your favourites actually win.

His ‘taker-at-Wrestlemania like streak of 7 straight weeks holding the Gauntlet came to an end here, but it wasn’t just by the great wrestling of Casanova, but it was the assist from seemingly good-guy ring interviewer Cam Zagami attacking Santell in the middle of the match. You knew Beyond was going to have a great opportunity to do something special with Santell’s eventual loss, and using it to create stable behind Zagami doing his best (or his best worst) Larry Sweeney imitation, cued just the right amount of passion for a new villain and to skyrocket a hero to the top.

Episode 12 – Still Life with Apricots and Pears and BLANK vs Chuck Taylor and “Freshly Squeezed” Orange Cassidy

If you love wacky wrestling, like I do, then this is match could be your Misawa & Kobashi vs. Williams & Ace. Still Life, a walking non-binary painting teamed with the angry but fanatically anonymous BLANK to take on the always goofy Chuck Taylor and the lethargic messiah Orange Cassidy. I mean, when Chuck Taylor is the most normal guy in a match, you know you’ve got something special on your hands. One of the highlights was watching Taylor try to marshal Cassidy into some classic double-team maneuvers like the Doomsday Device and Hart Attack, only for the slow and soft Cassidy to uncaringly mess it up to hilarious results.

If you want to get a glimpse at the singularly weird Still Life with Apricots and Pears in the corner of their artist BLANK taking on 2019’s strongest candidate for Wrestler of the Year, Orange Cassidy, here’s a Beyond singles match between them.

Episode 13 – Solo Darling vs. Shotzi Blackheart

While Shotzi Blackheart made a name for herself by stealing the show on Evolve’s first live streaming WWE special, Solo Darling has been putting in the subtle work week-after-week on Uncharted Territory that has firmly established her as one of the true stars of the series. Relatively unknown, I think, to most before the show, Solo has climbed up the card with longer and more intricate matches each week, showing a heart and persistence that makes you appreciate the gender neutral and seemingly politics free environment promoted by Beyond.

Taking on the dangerous and flamboyant Blackheart, Darling continued her trend of technical dominance in the first half of matches as she slowly sets up her opponents for her version of the Sharpshooter by wearing down the legs. However, Shotzi was able to endure this salvo with an almost masochistic enjoyment of pain, and countered with her own height advantage to take Darling down with some surprising power moves, even hitting a Solo signature Sliced Bread #2 on the apron.

And although you could tell Shotzi was educated on the eventual leg submission endgame planned by her opponent, and tried everything should could while holding the advantage to avoid being in the position to succumb to the hold, Solo’s persistence led her to eventually lock in the move that the audience came to see – the Sharp-Stinger!

In tribute to one great Solo, here’s another – K-pop superstar Jennie with “Solo”!

Episode 13 – Josh Briggs vs. Kris Statlander

The match started out nicely lighthearted, with the out-sized Statlander being out-muscled and led around almost like a puppet by Briggs, which was enjoyed by the generally fun-loving Beyond live audience who are always ready to embrace hijinks with two of their clear favourites. This is a nicely produced idea because while that same audience wants to like Briggs, by continually getting the upper-hand almost by accident, even at one point blurting out, “I don’t want to hurt you” they kind of start to pick sides.

Uncharted Territory Episode 13 - 06/26/2019

That admission by Briggs was a turning point for Statlander, who started throwing a flurry of some of her stiffer strikes, and even biting Briggs hand, leading to a reflex punch to the jaw that knocked Statlander down. This was an odd juxtaposition, since it was Briggs who came to the defence of wrestling valets, The Platinum Hunnies, in weeks past, after wild man Ken Doanne took a swing at them. Now Briggs was in the reluctant villain role, since he knows this is a match and he should need to do whatever it takes to win, especially since he acutely aware (as most of the roster is at this point) that Statlander is extraterrestrial-y resilient.

Briggs’ reluctance to commit to the heel-ness gave Statlander time to just bombard him with attacks and start to bring him to his knees and keep the big man on the mat. I think that while he was in this position, he was actually grappling with his own persona. Does he want to be the beloved hero to the people, a spot that may have gained him some fans but didn’t necessarily earn him the winner’s share of the weekly purse. And although he eventually recovers to win this match, it was with a conflicted mind: neither the ruthless killer he’s been in Beyond’s past or the honourable sportsman the Uncharted Territory fans had come to love.

After the match, Briggs makes a challenge to IMPACT wrestling star John Morrison for the increasingly stacked Americanrana card.

Episode 14 – Josh Briggs vs Joey Janela

After being inadvertently forced into the role of an actual “bad guy” against the always beloved underdog Kris Statlander, Briggs again finds himself up against the real “Bad Boy” in super-indie superstar and Beyond “ace” Janela. Since this is also Joey’s birthday, Josh had to anticipate not being the crowd favourite yet again. Much like he did with Statlander, Briggs starts out with some levity, offering Janela two handfuls of cigarettes as birthday gifts, only to get caught with a pair of jaw-rocking superkicks in return.

Uncharted Territory Episode 14 - 07/03/2019

In Beyond, the crowd participation is more than just energetic participation in the show, as the always standing-room at ringside group are more like friends at a party and that makes the reactions feel like personal feedback. Therefore, after Briggs had cultivated a recent closeness with this crowd, losing their support in these matches is a good test for where he’ll be come Americanrana against arguably one of the biggest mainstream stars to come to (not come from) Beyond in John Morrison. Fine tuning his competitive big man with a heart act here against Janela made for a fun match that ended with a pretty devastating, and rarely seen, birthday Burning Hammer finisher.

Uncharted Territory Episode 14 - 07/03/2019

Episode 15 – Ethan Page vs Josh Briggs

As you can see, Josh Briggs was in one great marquee match after another during this stretch of shows. Spending the early episodes at the free-wheeling, under-produced style of Beyond’s open desk commentary gave you a nice window into his personality: a slightly sarcastic, Undertaker-loving, straight-shooting vigilante with a clear moral compass. So when he eventually returned to the ring from injury, there was an automatic feeling of empathy for his situation; not unlike when guys like Piper, Savage, Perfect and Punk all came back after stints in the booth.

Beyond Wrestling 'Uncharted Territory' - Episode 15 - 07/10/2019

However, the reason I want to focus on Briggs’ 3-match arc across these episodes is to show how interesting it was to watch his old barbarian-esque take-no prisoners persona start to bubble back to the surface of his newer fan-friendly, kind-hearted exterior. Indie-heel extraordinaire Ethan Page confronted Briggs before the match for some of his past comments criticizing Uncharted Territory guests for just showing up to cash a cheque. Page has just the right combination of annoying righteousness and angry authority to put the shame on Josh for his words, opening him up for this kind of verbal attack that wouldn’t have been possible prior to the start of Uncharted Territory, and thus possibly making him second-guess the point of speaking up and acting as a locker-room leader. What is the reward compared to the success of someone like Page? And while Briggs was able to put away Page with moderate ease, it was that biting critique that stung after the pinfall as he prepares mentally for the biggest match of his career against the prime-time superstar John Morrison at Americanrana.

Episode 16 – Leyla Hirsch vs. John Silver

Beyond Wrestling is a company without titles, and a match like this illustrates the unique aura that the long commitment to this philosophy has created. Due to Silver’s storied past in Beyond, being in the ring with indie legends and international superstars of today, such as Zack Sabre Jr., Tommaso Ciampa and Matt Riddle, it actually means something notable for a new wrestler to match up against him. And his past successes make it believable that new up-and-comer like Hirsch could actually score a win if they wrestle a great match.

The game-plan on display saw Silver attempting to hang with the grappling of the celebrated amateur Hirsch, before eventually knowing that he’d need his usual combination of power moves and striking to put her away. And while Hirsch didn’t get the win, there were definitely a number of realistic moments where you thought it was possible, thus imprinting her on your Beyond brain that she’s a legit star not only capable of awesome matches but possibly beating the best as well.

Episode 16 – Chris Dickinson vs. Fred Yehi

The Chris Dickinson “March to Sekimoto” story has been the best pro-wrestling narrative of the year. While there’s no acting or betrayals, what we’ve seen since the first episode of Uncharted Territory is like a pro-fighter tuning up with training partners for a prize fight against a competitor he has studied and respected from afar for many years. Daisuke Sekimoto is a Big Japan wrestler known for his ability to adjust to different styles, and so Dickinson lined up and knocked down a variety indie stars from who possessed elements of power wrestling to extreme to suplex-heavy, technical and legit strong style. Yet this was one of the most high profile of his matches yet, taking on former Catch Point stablemate Fred Yehi.

This match added an element that the others had missed: it was personal. As former friends, Dickinson had to confront emotion rather than just withstanding chops and neck drops. An interesting wrinkle relevant to the Sekimoto match, because we should remember that Dickinson won the opportunity to pick his opponent, and passionately made the case for Sekimoto, a wrestler who rarely competes in America and has no history with Beyond or Dickinson. Thus clearly a fan, Dickinson sharped his physical skills but ultimately will he be able to overcome the headlights of hero worship that so few in international dream matches ever do? If he can, like he did here against Yehi, it just might be the final piece of this exquisitely honed strategy, but the emotional metaphor embedded in this match adds another layer of intrigue to the highly anticipated Americanrana showdown.

Uncharted Territory – Series MVP
Paul Crockett
Before I go I want to give a special MVP shout-out to Uncharted Territory play-by-play commentator Paul Crockett, who deserves praise for providing a solid backbone to the entire season.

Uncharted Territory has been pretty incredible as DIY pro-wrestling TV that has been tying together serialized stories with in-match drama each week. The only other company doing anything like this in North America is Beyond, and while there have been some performers who have been there almost every night, like Chris Dickinson and Solo Darling, only Crockett has been featured on every minute of every show. Being thrown into that scenario can’t have been easy, but he’s done it with slick professionalism, perfect transitions, and dry sense of humour. He doesn’t yell or get overly emotional, he’s not selling products or hammering storyline beats into your brain, it’s just good, intelligent calls of the moves and comments on the background of each wrestler. And he’s been able to work seamlessly with a rotating cast of colour commentators too. Beyond really put together a fantastic crew for this show, and I can guarantee it wouldn’t have been the same without Crockett to guide the way.

What’s Next?

As mentioned at the beginning, there is one “go-home” episode left before the stacked Americanrana event on Sunday, July 28th (that’s going to feature, among other things, a 60-minute Ironman Match between Beyond legacy rivals Joey Janela and David Starr which has all the makings of being a absolute classic), and then a Season One – Episode 18 finale afterwards.

At this point you can pretty much see these things for free if you sign up for Independent Wrestling TV and use one of the various codes for a trail membership – such as BEYOND – and I imagine every new member will go a long way to keeping the crucial, wrestling-focused serialized gem Uncharted Territory going for another season.