Wrestling #7: One Helluva Tournament

Last weekend, IWA-MS had its annual Ted Petty Invitational Tournament in Chicago. For the third straight year I was in attendance and once again, not disappointed.

There is a strong history with the tourny, from the beginnings when it was called The Sweet Science Sixteen to the name change in 2003 after the death of Ian's close friend Ted Petty aka Rocco Roc and expansion to 24 wrestlers through today. Some of the best indy talent has made their way through this tournament over the years and the list of names to win the event is quite impressive: Chris Hero, CM Punk, BJ Whitmer, AJ Styles, Matt Sydal, and Low-ki. The tournament used to feature mainly IWA-MS talent, which has been plentiful in the promotion's near eleven year existence. What began as a tournament to showcase wrestling skills for the performers of his own promotion (with an occasional big indy name thrown in the mix), Ian has turned this into one of the top events on the US wrestling scene. The changed occurred in 2004 when the event featured a who's who of young performers who would make a name for themselves only a few short years later. Part of that years list included Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Alex Shelly, Claudio Castagnoli, Matt Quackenbush, Chris Sabin, Super Dragon, Petey Williams, Matt Sydal, Homicide, Nigel McGuinness, Chris Hero, CM Punk, Jimmy Rave, Bryan Danielson, Austin Aries, and Roderick Strong. Some called it the best tournament of all time.

The last three years have all promised their share of big names, which led to a few drop outs every time, trying to live up to the standard 2004 created. This year was no exception as the initial twelve were awesome. However because of certain issues and money problems, several wrestlers announced months were changed. Many fans were pissed off when the announcement was made about a week before the event.

Even though I was disappointed in the changes, the tourny still looked very good on paper. I viewed the changes as a return to the event's roots as Ian had to use more of his normal IWA-MS talent as fill ins for the dropped wrestlers (Chuck Taylor, Josh Abercrombie, Brandon Tomaselli). The event still had former regulars Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli, Nigel McGuinness, Nate Webb, and BJ Whitmer along with Eddie Kingston, Davey Richards, Mike Quackenbush, Brent Albright, Human Tornado, Joey Ryan, and (2 Cold) Scorpio. I was still pumped for the show and the chance to hang out with my wrestling buddies.

Going into the event, Mike Quackenbush was the fan favorite to win this year. The masses love this guy and for great reasons. This was the first time the Lightweight champion (Quack) and the IWA-MS champion (Taylor, who has held the title almost one year to the day) were both in the tourny and both men defended the title in each of their matches. Before going any farther, please note there are spoilers in the rest of this article.

The first night was a good time. Lots of entertaining matches with different styles; a little high flying, a little brawling, a little violence, and a little mat work. If you ask five different people what the best match was, you'd probably receive five different answers. My favorite three matches were Chuck Taylor vs Jimmy Jacobs, Brent Albright vs Tank, and Chris Hero vs Scorpio. A Kingston vs Hero Last Man Standing match was set up for night two and both champs kept their title and moved on.

The second night was when the emotional ride really started. As stated, nearly all wanted Quack to be victorious but no one was 100% sure he would win. The quarter finals saw Taylor again make a successful defense, this time against the veteran Scorpio (which surprised some). Claudio Castagnoli beat Davey Richards in a rapid fire event. Human Tornado bested Nate Webb in not only a match, but a dance contest (though Nate would probably disagree on the later). Also winning were Josh Abercrombie and Brent Albright. Not to be forgotten, Quack took a victory against Joey Ryan. During the match Quack dove outside the ring and his foot caught the ropes. He hit the floor hard and the crowd was silenced. He got up and finished the match with a glazed look in his eyes and moving on instincts.

After intermission, Ian informed the crowd that the NWA representative Ed Chuman said Quack wouldn't be able to perform any longer tonight (yes IWA-MS is a member of the NWA). The crowd went silence for the next two matches as their fallen hero would come up short yet again. Lost in the mix was another title defense by Chuck Taylor beating the Human Tornado and a great match with Claudio winning over Albright. Abercrombie came out to get announced as the last man in the finals. Suddenly Quackenbush burst through the curtain and the venue exploded in cheers and chants of "Quack". He was going to have his match. In a spectacular technical match, Quack come out on top. Ian came out and said he wanted to thank Quackenbush because by him wrestling, it got IWA-MS out of it's NWA affiliate contract. Storyline or shoot, I could care less as I was caught up in the emotional rollercoaster of the tournament.

The last man standing match was brutal as Hero got the early advantage and pounded Kingston. It all came to an rather abrupt end with one big spot as Kingston got the victory over his nemesis. Next up was the IWA-MS Tag Champion match with the Tomaselli's (champs) vs Nigel & Whitmer, who agreed to help him out. The lost and Albright did a run in setting up a possible Whitmer & Albright vs the Iron Saints match in the future. Onto the finals.

Quackenbush vs Chuck Talor vs Claudio Castagnoli for both the IWA-MS Lightweight and World Championship belts and the 2007 TPI title. The match was fast paced and rapidly moving along with hardly any wasted time. Claudio was the first man to go down, which left champion vs champion. Shortly after Quackenbush got the victory. Choking back emotions Quack gave an emotional speech, which nearly had me in tears as I was completely lost in the moment. Ian gave a speech of his own and said he was proud to have a class act like Quack not only as his champions and the TPI winner but as a friend. The show ended with chants of "Teddy", a thing the crowd does to honor Ted when they witness a great moment or spot. And what an incredible moment it was.

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