In professional wrestling, the independent circuit, or indy circuit refers to the many independent promotions which are much smaller than major televised promotions, particularly World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) and Impact Wrestling. Specific promotions on the independent circuit are referred to as indy promotions or indies. A wrestler is said to be in the indies or working the indies if he or she is wrestling in one of the independent promotions, or working the indy circuit if he or she is performing in different independent promotions. (For most wrestlers who have previously worked in a major nationally televised promotion, this is considered a step backward in their careers.)
Independent promotions are usually regional in focus and, lacking national TV contracts, are dependent on revenue from house show attendance. Due to their lower budgets, most independent promotions offer low salaries (it is not unusual for a wrestler to be paid only $5 to $20 per match). Most cannot afford to regularly rent large venues, and would not be able to attract a large enough crowd to fill such a venue, so they have to make use of any open space (such as fields, ballrooms, or gymnasiums) to put on their performances. Some independent promotions are attached to professional wrestling schools, serving as a venue for students to gain experience in front of an audience.
As independent matches are usually not televised, indy wrestlers who have not already gained recognition in other promotions tend to remain in obscurity. However, scouts from major promotions attend indy shows, and an indy wrestler who makes a good impression may be offered a developmental contract. The advent of the Internet has allowed independent wrestlers and promotions to reach a wider audience, and it is possible for wrestlers regularly working the indy circuit to gain some small measure of fame among wrestling fans online. Additionally, some of the more successful indies have video distribution deals, giving them an additional source of income and allowing them to reach a larger audience outside of their local areas.
A few independent promotions have become major forces in the wrestling business. WWE, originally the World Wide Wrestling Federation, began as an independent after breaking off from the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA); it eventually became the dominant pro wrestling organization in the United States under the guidance of Vince McMahon. More recently, Impact Wrestling, originally NWA:TNA (NWA Total Nonstop Action Wrestling), has (like many other major promotions through the years) distanced itself from the National Wrestling Alliance; with a national TV deal, a video game deal with Midway Games, DVD distribution and so forth, it grew beyond independent status. Another famous example of an indy promotion gaining mainstream exposure was the original incarnation of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW).
Although most promotions try and adhere to a high standard of wrestling integrity, independent promotions are also the most likely places to find outrageous matches involving hardcore wrestling with sharp or dangerous implements. Since the indy wrestlers are not on TV, there are usually no restrictions on what they can say and do during matches. Philadelphia-based Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) is one of the most infamous indy promotions, as the wrestlers have previously used weapons like weed whackers and staple guns. They have recently toned down the amount of violence and focused more on the wrestling, though they still have the occasional deathmatch.