Preface: I just want to thank Matthew, James, and Scott for setting up this amazing series and allowing me to take part in it! In my spotlights, I will be focusing on the best of the British Indy wrestling circuit, starting off with my personal favourite!
If you said high-fliers, who would you think about?
Would you think of the Lucha Libre stylings of Rey Mysterio? What about the daredevil antics of people like Jeff Hardy and Evan Bourne?
There is one man who could blow all of these athletes out of the water with his incredible, awe-inspiring and downright death-defying moves.
His name is Jody Fleisch, one of the most naturally gifted wrestlers to ever perform in front of an audience.
Fleisch, born in 1980, spent the first few years of his sporting life studying the likes of taekwondo, ninjutsu, and jujutsu, where he gained a reputation as being one of the most deadly men in Britain.
From there, he was introduced to professional wrestling by his longtime friend and future mentor, Dino Scarno.
Scarno offered to train Fleisch in return for lessons in taekwondo, a trade that was accepted, allowing Fleisch to begin the long trek to the top of British wrestling.
Jody made his wrestling debut in 1996, forming a tag team with his career-long friend and nemesis, Jonny Storm. This was for the NWA UK Hammerlock, an up-and-coming promotion that featured local talent.
He spent the first three years of his career wrestling in England and the Netherlands for small promotions, under the names Jody Fleisch and Jody Flash.
Fleisch was able to get his first break in 1999, when he was given the opportunity to perform in the Japanese promotion, Michinoku Pro Wrestling.
His first appearance was in the Fukumen World League, a tournament for wrestlers from all over the world.
Entering under the name "Dakko Chan", he made it all the way to the finals, where he was eventually beaten in a Mask vs Mask match by "White Bear" (James Cross).
Despite losing, this opened his eyes to a whole new world of wrestling, giving him the motivation to train harder to succeed in the future. This training was undertaken at the legendary "Michinoku Pro Dojo."
Fleisch spent all of his spare time wrestling for any promotion that would accept him, plying his trade on all manner of opponents and perfecting his high-flying repertoire.
However, his daredevilry almost cost him his career.
In the summer of 2001, he botched his attempt at a Shooting Star Press, a move that severely damaged his elbow and from which he was told, he would never recover.
Miraculously, against doctor's orders, he made his triumphant return at the first-ever King of England wrestling tournament in February 2002, competing against Drew McDonald, Jonny Storm and Doug Williams.
He won the tournament and was presented with his winner's medals by the world-famous Dynamite Kid, Tom Billington.
Billington was so blown away by the courage and athleticism exuded by Fleisch that he said:
"This kid has shown the world the true meaning of the word 'wrestler.' A man who never walks away from what he loves and defies his boundaries to entertain has the whole world at his feet. He will be big, no doubt about it!"
The tournament was the launching pad to send Fleisch into the wrestling stratosphere.
In late 2002, he began to make appearances in the American promotions Ring of Honor and Combat Zone Wrestling, making his debut match in Heavyweight title tournaments on both occasions.
Despite losing both tournaments, Fleisch began to expand his repertoire at a rapid pace, getting more and more risky with every match, becoming more colourful with every week and ultimately evolving into the wrestler he is today.
In CZW, Fleisch entered into a feud with long time wrestling partner, Jonny Storm, leading to some of CZW's most famous and revered match-ups in the companies history.
One of these matches, at Best of the Best, had the honor of being named the CZW 2002 Match of the Year.
It was with feuds like this that Fleisch was able to cement his legacy as one of the promotion's most hardcore performers, who was willing to do anything to secure the win.
While back in England, Fleisch was able to capture the FWA Heavyweight title for the first time, only to be stripped of it five days later.
This led to the epic confrontation between Fleisch and Flash Barker for the title in a ladder match.
The match has gone down as one of the most famous matches in FWA history, after Fleisch risked life and limb to perform his signature Asai Moonsault from a 12-foot high balcony onto concrete.
The outcome played into Fleisch's favour, as he was able to capitalise upon Barker's mistakes and win the title for the second time in his career.
He lost the title at FWA London Calling to Christopher Daniels in a three-way that also involved Doug Williams, making this the first time an international wrestler had held the title.
After this, Fleisch spent most of his time in ROH, where he became a firm fan favourite for his high-flying moves and his boyish charm.
However, at ROH Final Battle 2002, Fleisch defeated Amazing Red, becoming the newest member of the heel stable Special K, marking the first time in his career that he was being booed instead of cheered.
He continued to perform in Ring Of Honor, even having the privilege of being a featured wrestler in ROH's first-ever cross promotional show with FWA.
In September 2003 though, health and personal problems caused him to step away from the ring and semi-retire at the age of 23.
Even though he wouldn't compete, he still sporadically appeared at FWA shows for special guest duties, such as refereeing matches or presenting championships.
In 2004, he hinted at a return to wrestling when he appeared on FWA with a petition to reinstate his long time friend and foe Jonny Storm.
In the course of the show, he was viciously beaten by James Tighe and Mark Belton after Tighe's match with AJ Styles.
This would lead to the unexpected, but hoped for, announcement by Fleisch on February 26, 2005, that he was returning full time to wrestling and FWA.
Since then, Fleisch has been a major star on every card he has performed on all over Britain and Europe, exciting fans with his acrobatic and unorthodox moves and unpredictable personality.
In 2007, Fleisch was able to represent 1PW (1 Pro Wrestling) in the first ever King Of Europe tournament, that featured wrestling talent from all major wrestling promotions in Europe, as well as many brands in America and Japan, including TNA, CZW, Chikara, and Pro Wrestling NOAH.
Even though he was knocked out in the first round, he was able to show the world that he meant business.
Now, he performs for promotions all over the world, primarily in the UK, Mexico and Japan, where he has held a combination of seven titles, including cruiserweight, heavyweight and tag team gold.
When you watch Fleisch, it is no surprise that his catchphrase is "How did he do that?"
His finisher, the Phoenix DDT, is one of the most athletic and dangerous moves that has ever been created, picking him up almost every championship win in his cabinet.
With his extensive move set also including the likes of the Asai Moonsault, 450 Corkscrew Splash, and the Matrix inspired Wall Climb Moonsault, it is not surprising that he drops jaws with every match he competes in.
With his skill, athleticism, and his undeniable charisma, Jody Fleisch is well on his way to becoming one of the world's premier high-fliers.
Whenever he is in the ring, you can feel the excitement levels rise, you can hear the noise pick up and you can watch the atmosphere explode!
The Phoenix is rising, and he won't stop until he is on top of the mountain!
Jody Fleisch Tribute - King of the World
The Top 10 Moves of Jody Fleisch - Here
Sources: Online World of Wrestling, FWA Online, Wikipedia, The Sun wrestling