Photo Credit: Mouse's Wrestling Adventures
(IWA Mid-South – Ted Petty Invitational Tournament – Memphis Trading Post – Memphis, IN – September 14, 2017)
Correspondent: Pat Lucey
The “Ted Petty Invitational Tournament” (TPI) is a wrestling event promoted by the Independent Wrestling Association Mid-South (IWA-MS). It is constructed as a 24-person, single-elimination tournament that takes place over the course of two days. There are twelve first-round matches.
Presented originally as the “Sweet Science Sixteen” in 2000 by Ian Rotten, the tournament was conceived to showcase the top technical independent wrestlers of the sport. After the death of Ted Petty in September of 2002, Rotten changed the name of the tourney to honor his friend. (Petty was most famously known as “Flyboy” Rocco Rock of the Public Enemy tag team.)
The TPI has been a staple event of independent wrestling for 14 years. (Seventeen if you include the “Sweet Science” era). Wrestlers that have competed in the tournament include Bryan Danielson, Samoa Joe, CM Punk, Chris Hero, Austin Aries, AJ Styles and many more who have gone on to have successful careers.
Before the show, Ian Rotten announced that original tournament competitor Davey Richards had canceled his at 3:30 am. Replacing him is Devon Moore.
Rotten went on to crown Aaron Williams as the new IWA champion after winning an 8-man tournament the previous weekend. Rotten challenged Williams to prove himself as a true champion and defend the title throughout the tournament. Without any reluctance, Aaron accepts the challenge.
Space Monkey vs Mance Warner
Mance Warner has been an IWA regular for quite some time now and is very much beloved by the fans. Space Monkey, coming from the Canadian independent scene, is starting to build his reputation around the United States, and, even though this is only his second time competing in the IWA, the fans welcomed him with open arms.
It was a good back and forth match with a mixture of comedic spots and some serious hard-hitting wrestling. Warner wins the match in 12:00 min after a headbutt and his signature “Lariat.”
Calvin Tankman vs Zodiak
Our first “Hoss” match of the night. Zodiak is a solid 280-285, while Tankman packs closer to 400 lbs. While both are big guys and can move around quickly, this match was more about who can hit harder. Each man brought the stiffness to this match in the best way possible. Zodiak wins in 13:52 after two heart punches. Let me emphasize again that this match was very stiff.
Su Yung vs. Ludark Shaitan
The only two females competing in the tournament. Both ladies are tough, more so Shaitan as she comes from the Mexican deathmatch scene. I also must say Su Yung is a treat to see live as her undead bride persona is a sight to behold. Another good back-and-forth match here as Yung wins at 8:10 min after an airplane spin slam.
Homicide vs. Gary Jay
While Gary Jay should be known as a wrestler with one of the best chops today, Homicide should be known as one of the toughest and wildest competitors. Homicide worked over Jay’s left arm throughout the match, which leads to him winning at 8:52 via armbar submission. I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen Homicide use a submission to win a match. This was a great all-out brawl that really showcased the toughness of both guys.
Anthony Henry vs. Jonathan Gresham
While the last match was a straight-up brawl, here we see more of a technical bout. Both Gresham and Henry come from the Georgia independent scene which means they know each other quite well. After a lot of unique and great submissions applied by both men, Gresham wins at 11:55 after stomping on Henry’s knee twice and slamming it repeatedly against the mat to make him tap. It was an interesting way to force his opponent to submit.
Ace Perry vs Shane Strickland
Hands down, Shane Strickland is one of the best US independent wrestlers today. And I believe that Ace Perry is slowly but surely growing into also being one of the best. This was a match for Perry to prove to the fans and himself he can hang with the best, and, in my honest opinion, he succeeded. Strickland wins at 13:30 after catching Perry midair in an armbar submission. This was an awesome match with a lot of noteworthy dives and maneuvers that fans could appreciate.
Aaron Williams vs Arik Cannon (IWA Mid-South Heavyweight Title Match)
Both Williams and Cannon have been competing on the independent scene for over a decade, with Cannon having about four more years experience. This match proved that both veterans still have a lot left in them. Aaron Williams wins in 12:35 after a spin kick. Unfortunately being the match after intermission the crowd was fairly quiet throughout, which is a shame as both tried their best to present a great match.
Kongo Kong vs “Legendary” Larry D
Our second “Hoss” match of the night. Both Larry D and Kong weigh over 300 pounds, but Kong has height advantage by least a foot. While the first “Hoss” match between Tankman and Zodiak brought the stiffness, this brought out the big bumps, including top rope moonsaults and D hitting Kong with a Jackknife Powerbomb, which I did not think anyone could hit on him. D wins at 13:16 after top rope sunset flip pin. Excellent match.
Shane Mercer vs David Starr
I would put Starr up there with Shane Strickland as being one of the best in independent wrestling today. Mercer could almost certainly be in the same category as someone like Ace Perry, who, I believe, has the right tools to eventually become a bigger star. This was another excellent match with lot plenty of exceptional bumps and maneuvers, including Mercer backdropping Starr into one of the corner turnbuckles, which is something I’ve never seen before. David Starr wins in 13:20 with a straightjacket German suplex.
Jonathan Wolf vs. Devon Moore
For those unaware, Devon Moore has recently been dealing with some personal issues. Ian Rotten considers Moore a good friend and was willing to give him a chance to prove he can get past his problems and still hang in the ring. The crowd was fully behind Moore and appreciated what he brought to the ring. Wolf is another youngster who is slowly showing improvement since I last saw him live at last year’s TPI. Moore wins in 9:50 with a good looking top rope elbow drop.
Nate Webb vs Eddie Kingston
This would be our second match of the night featuring two veterans who are staples of independent wrestling. If you’ve never seen a Nate Webb entrance live, I feel a bit sorry for you. He comes out to “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus and makes a spectacular four-minute entrance out of it. While both Webb and Kingston are known for their hard hits and hardcore style, this was more of a light, fun match that worked for both guys. The fans thoroughly enjoyed it. Kingston wins at 7:15 with his signature “Backfist to the Future.” (Editor’s note: I got to chug a beer with Nate Webb during his ring entrance last year at “AIW Against the World” in Cleveland. It was a moment that I will never forget.)
Dave Crist vs Jake Crist
I’ve been watching the Crist Brothers compete in wrestling since 2006. (I even saw this very same match back in 2011 at AIW’s version of the TPI.) It’s now 2017 and this match proved to me they’ve been getting better with each passing year. They have that chemistry that most tag teams dream of having, especially when it comes to having matches against each other. What’s most interesting to me is that even though Dave has recently been dealing with back and spine issues, he still went out and gave 100% in this match. Jake wins in 14:20 with a backslide pin. This was an awesome way to end Night 1 of the 2017 TPI.
As I said earlier, the TPI has been around independent wrestling since 2003, and while there are other long-lasting tournaments that have lost steam and credibility over the years, I feel as though TPI should still be considered one of the best tournaments in wrestling today—and 2017’s Night 1 proved just that.
There wasn’t a bad match on the card, and the show highlighted some of the best and brightest in independent wrestling today. While a lot of current tournaments solely go for bringing in the best wrestlers or go for bringing in legends or unique names that would draw a crowd, TPI brings in competitors that offer mixed styles of wrestling, which ends up making this one of the most extraordinary tournaments in wrestling today.
To be continued…
(Pat is a well-known wrestling fan from Cleveland, OH. A devotee of the business for 21 years and counting, he first discovered wrestling when he was five-years-old. He follows WWE, PWG, Impact, AAW and Lucha Underground. Pat is a fan of Samoa Joe, Adam Cole (Baybay!), Undertaker, the Young Bucks, Chuck Taylor and Daniel Bryan. And, oh yeah, he was on the “Price is Right.” And he won a car. So there’s that. Find Pat on Twitter HERE.)