Kansas City Xtreme Wrestling’s inaugural Season of Xcellence was a truly incredible ride. Before the final bell was rung and The Stranglers' arms held high, we witnessed an entire year of greatness in professional wrestling. Read on for a full breakdown of every team. And don't miss the amazing finale to the 2016 KCXW Season: WINNING XPOSITION!
By Nate W. Gearhart (@nategearhart)
The KCXW Season of Xcellence set a new standard for independent professional wrestling. From the Team Draft Event in April to the thrilling conclusion at KCXW: Xcellence on October 30th, the Season of Xcellence proved once and for all what KCXW President Jordan Smiley has been telling us all along: that Kansas City is the greatest city for pro wrestling in the world. With the innovative team season concept, history was made in front of the eyes of pro wrestling fans across the Midwest. And KCXW is just getting started; at the time of this writing, President Smiley and the KCXW Board of Xcellence are planning and coordinating the second annual Season of Xcellence for 2017. The fate of the KCXW roster lies with their decisions. Who knows what challenges the mighty gauntlet that is the Season of Xcellence will present to them every second Sunday at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema next year. There can be no doubt, however, that the professional wrestling fans of Kansas City and the rest of the world will not be disappointed.
Much has been said and written throughout the year about the five Season of Xcellence teams: The Pack, The Serpents, The Street Kings, The Force, and The Stranglers. Now that the Season is over, we can take a closer look at where every team ended up, and why.
The first two teams eliminated proved that without strong and consistent leadership, it is impossible to survive the Season of Xcellence. Both teams changed captains and had other major lineup changes. More than any other team, The Pack dealt with internal strife throughout their short run. There was little cohesion, little teamwork, little camaraderie. Bigg Dogg began the Season as Captain of The Pack, and no one would dare to doubt his abilities. But even he struggled to keep focus and morale on his team with “Smooth as Satin” David Cattin causing trouble. And when Cattin finally got his wish and took the helm of The Pack, they were eliminated decisively in the first half of KCXW: Double Elimination, their hopes dashed before you could blink. Both Bigg Dogg and David Cattin are among the most respected veterans in KCXW, and they both surely learned a great deal in their brief time as captains. But 2016 was just not their year.
Along with The Pack, one other team had to change captains mid-season, and they happen to the be second team eliminated: The Serpents. Their original captain – Darrien Sanders – carried himself as a man disinterested in leading. Event after event fans saw a captain striving only for personal glory - and on occasion, self-preservation – at the expense of his team. And with Sanders’ unexpected and unseemly departure from the Season of Xcellence, The Serpents found themselves irrevocably adrift. Hollis Giroux, a rising young star whose talents (if not his teamwork skills) are undeniable, was tasked with leading The Serpents after the Sanders exodus. Though a man short, The Serpents put up their highest point total under Hollis’ leadership at the second half of Double Elimination. Unfortunately, it was too little too late, and The Serpents were sent slithering away.
The Street Kings
The third team to be eliminated, The Street Kings lasted so long thanks more to some incredible singular efforts than to any cohesive team effort. Genesis, Outlaw, and Aaron Clay all contributed some incredible moments and dominating victories, and team captain “Kingpin” Angel Medina was one victory shy of an unbeaten record in Season matches. Unlike The Pack and The Serpents, The Street Kings managed to keep their original captain all Season long; however, turnover in several other roster positions cost them dearly, and contributed to their elimination. But the final nail in the coffin for The Street Kings came when Medina let his hubris get the better of him in a surprise loss to Captain Shabam of The Force in a dog collar match at KCXW: Destiny. The match was The Street Kings’ last of the Season, and frankly, it should not have been. Medina was overconfident, and he severely underestimated the drive and dedication of his opponent. Captain Shabam himself would probably forgive anyone for expecting Medina to mop the ring with him. But the fact is that The Street Kings’ season was on the line with that match, and Medina knew it. One man entered that dog collar match prepared for the stakes at hand, and his team moved on to the next round. That team was not The Street Kings.
As leader of The Force, Captain Shabam’s ability to motivate and inspire cannot be understated; The Force dealt with just as many roster changes as The Street Kings, after all. But throughout the Season of Xcellence, The Force epitomized the concept of team more than any other group. That is why they were one of the final two teams to compete at KCXW: Xcellence in October. At KCXW: Unleashed, Shabam accompanied his entire team and participated in a Battle Royale among all five teams. Shabam was one of just two captains to participate; the other, Darrien Sanders, spent much of the match slithering outside the ring in a futile effort to “stay fresh”. Captain Shabam put an interesting (and inspiring) strategy to work in this match: as members of The Force (including Captain Shabam) were eliminated, they stayed at ringside to cheer their teammates. At the end, there were two men left in the ring: The Force’s Enigma, and Darrien Sanders. Standing by his men in the trenches, Captain Shabam could not have been more proud as he witnessed Enigma eliminate Sanders, giving his team the lead in points. The Force had this team-first attitude at every event this Season. It is why they won three Battle Royale matches, and entered the final event with the most points. It is why they did not miss a beat when they had to replace Tommy Snow and Enigma halfway through the Season. And it is why, even though they came up just short of the title of Team Xcellence, the members of The Force could hold their heads high.
The Stranglers have been crowned the first-ever KCXW Team Xcellence, and they truly demonstrated the ideal traits of an excellent team. When seeking where praise is deserved, it is easiest to start at the top, and so much of The Stranglers’ success is due to the relentlessness of team captain Kyle King. He is always training, always teaching, always planning - the other members of The Stranglers might swear that King never sleeps. But his methods were effective. Throughout the year, as members of other teams showed signs of running out of gas, the Stranglers seemed stronger and more tenacious than ever. The Stranglers’ team of The Marksman, Leo D’Auria, and Curt Gannon came out on top in the epic President’s Cup match at KCXW: Tactics in May. J. Savage, a late but worthy addition to the team, fought in three matches at KCXW: Xcellence, including an elimination tag team match. Kyle King himself not only won a marathon best-of-three match against Hollis Giroux at the second Double Elimination event in July, it was his second match of the night. The training of Kyle King and the commitment level of every man on his team assured that the longer a match went, the more the odds leaned in The Strangler’s favor. No matter the odds, the endurance of The Stranglers and their refusal to give up on themselves or each other is why Kyle King, The Marksman, Leo D’Auria, El Campión, and J. Savage outlasted every team and held the belt and rings high as Team Xcellence in 2016.