“True Talent” Bobby Shields looks at the list of some of the previous ECWA Super 8 tournament winners — Christopher Daniels, Paul London, Petey Williams and Low-Ki — and hopes to add his name to it at the end of the month at the annual show.
The East Coast Wrestling Association, based in Delaware, has hosted the Super 8 since 1997, and this year’s card takes place Saturday, April 30th from The Flyers Skate Zone, Voorhees, NJ. The one night, eight-man single elimination tournament has steadily become one of the most prestigious tournament competitions in professional wrestling today, with many competitors seeing their careers propelled upward by participating.
As impressive as the winner’s list may be — Daniels (who won twice), London, Davey Richards, Donovan Morgan, Jerry Lynn — the participants’ list is pretty kick-ass too: Billy Kidman, Mike Quackenbush, Matt Hardy, Shark Boy, “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson (now Daniel Bryan), Amazing Red, Jamie Noble, Frankie Kazarian, Chris Sabin, Austin Aries, Shawn Daivari, Alex Shelley, Charlie Haas, Sonjay Dutt, Shannon Moore.
Obviously, the Super 8 can be a springboard to bigger things, whether WWE, TNA, ROH or overseas.
“Winning will propel me into the spotlight,” Shields told SLAM! Wrestling. “It’s a big weight to look at the list of guys that have not only won the Super 8 but who have competed in it and to see who they have gone on to become.
“It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s the good kind of pressure. I deliver best under pressure. So I’m prepared. It may actually be to my benefit, I might have the most to gain from the Super 8.”
Shields, 30, grew up in Clarion, Pennsylvania and originally debuted in December 2006 in ECWA, performing as a Frenchman under the name Robere Shields. He eventually left the company citing that he felt the character he portrayed at the time had run its course and that there wasn’t anything left that he could do in ECWA.
Since leaving the company, Shields has competed in a lot of matches for Ring of Honor as well as appearing in some contests for World Wrestling Entertainment. During his time with the ECWA he saw a lot of Super 8 events and witnessed first-hand some of the spectacular matches that the tournament hosted, he dreamed that one day he could be a combatant in the tournament instead of watching from afar.
“I won’t lie, to one day be a part of the Super 8 was a big reason I wanted to work for ECWA when I started wrestling. It’s a huge thing that I wasn’t sure would ever happen. There is such an exclusive group of only 120 competitors that have been a part of the tournament over the years.
“I’d truly love to wrestle all this year’s entrants,” he said, listing a few. “I’ve wanted to wrestle Adam Cole for a long, long time, so that’s a match I’d like. Rich Swann, I’d also love to wrestle him because I’d ground him and neutralize most of his high flying offense. Sami Callihan, I’ve known for a couple of years and would love to try to go toe to toe with him. When it comes down to it though, it doesn’t matter who I face, I’m sure I’ll come out on top.” Others in this year’s tournament include Tommasso Ciampa, Shockwave the Robot, Shiima Xion and Austin Aries.
Current ECWA owner Joe Zanolle has seen Shields grow over the years and fully believes that he could be a dark horse in this year’s Super 8.
“While he may be known by loyal ECWA fans from his former character role of Robere Shields, they have not seen other aspects of Shields work and I believe he is one of the most under-rated and under-utilized wrestlers out there,” Zanolle said. “The ECWA Super 8 is the premier independent wrestling event and pro wrestling tournament in the United States. I think the style of matches and work rate in the early Super 8 tournaments was the blueprint for the proliferation of many independent wrestling promotions in the northeast of the United States in the early 2000s.
“If you look at early Ring of Honor, talent and style, it was based on the previous Super 8 combatants like Daniels, AJ Styles, Low Ki, Bryan Danielson, Xavier, Amazing Red, among others. The Super 8 was really the first place that exposed a lot of people to that style and talent live.”
This year’s tournament marks the first time that fans all over the world can see the event live, as the Super 8 will be broadcast on GoFightLive (www.gfl.tv) on iPPV.
“Being on iPPV means we can reach a wider audience the likes of that we’ve never had before,” Zanolle said. “So I think it’s something that all independent promotions should look to do at least once. It also gives fans seeing our product for the first time a chance to see how we work and maybe it will convince them to see our shows in person.
“This can only be a good thing.”
Having this exposure on GoFightLive adds a new feel to the Super 8 tournament and further boosts the profile of ECWA and independent wrestling. With the event airing on GoFightLive surely this gives an even bigger opportunity for aspiring “superstars” to propel themselves to the top.
In preparation for the tournament, Shields recently enlisted in the Team Taz finishing school, setup by TNA Colour Commentator and former ECW World Champion Taz. The school is not for beginners and aims to finely tune wrestlers techniques that little bit extra.
“I decided to apply for the finishing school after I saw an article about it on a wrestling news website. You have to send a video with your application and Taz actually watches every match and decides who to reply to,” said Shields. “I was lucky to have received a call. Little did I know how much this would change my career. Taz is a natural teacher so the overall experience was absolutely phenomenal. Attending the finishing school is eye opening. You think you know a lot but then realize you know nothing compared to what you need to know to succeed.
“He teaches you how to succeed. This camp is the real deal.
“I now bring an intensity to the ring that I imagine none of the other competitors have. His intensity and believability is something I really think I can channel from him. This intensity is going to allow me to succeed and advance in the tournament. Also I might surprise someone with a tazplex of some sort or lock in the tazmission.”
Shields, is hoping that his preparation and experience can take him to the pinnacle of the Super 8 tournament, and with that, Shields could become the next name to use the ECWA Super 8 tournament as a stepping stone to becoming a major name in professional wrestling.
PAST ECWA SUPER 8 WINNERS
1997: Ace Darling
1998: Lance Diamond
1999: Steve Bradley
2000: Christopher Daniels
2001: Low Ki
2002: Donovan Morgan
2003: Paul London
2004: Christopher Daniels
2005: Petey Williams
2006: Davey Richards
2007: Jerry Lynn
2008: Aden Chambers
2009: Nick Logan
2010: Austin Creed