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This weekend, Absolute Intense Wrestling will present the JT Lightning Invitational Tournament. The two-day, 24-man spectacle will take place Friday and Saturday at historic Turners Hall in Cleveland, Ohio. The venue is the former home of Cleveland All Pro Wrestling, the company founded by Lightning, who died of cancer last year.
For the stars of AIW, this isn't just another show; this is a special opportunity to pay tribute to a fallen comrade, wrestler and friend. But they also know there's a valuable prize on the line: a shot at the Absolute Championship at Absolution, AIW's biggest show of the year, on July 1.
Last year, when the tournament was called the Todd Pettengill Invitational, Shiima Xion claimed victory and won the title. Unfortunately, he also joined the evil Flexor Industries, changed his name to Zema Ion and fled to TNA.
Now, AIW title defenses are rare, as Xion never seems to be available. But there are 24 men all looking for their shot to challenge for that title, and after this weekend, one of them will have a shot.
Let's take a look at the first round of the tournament:
The mere fact this is a first round match says a lot about the caliber of talent competing and the potential for this tournament. These two are top-tier independent wrestling veterans who very easily could be meeting much deeper in any other tournament. Since returning to wrestling, Whitmer has kind of made AIW his home, while Cabana has made frequent appearances as a guest star. That said, the edge in this one goes to Whitmer, who has been looking for another shot at the Absolute Championship.
Winner: BJ Whitmer
Bobby Beverly is representing Flexor Industries, AIW's primary heel faction. Chest Flexor is looking to take his of his men to the finals as an insurance policy of sorts, protecting Xion from having to defend his title at Absolution. Kodama, meanwhile, was a late addition to the tournament, representing CHIKARA. Both men lead toward the heel/rudo side, so this could be an interesting match-up, but in the end, shenanigans from Flexor will likely allow Beverly to advance.
Winner: Bobby Beverly
This has potential to be a really fun match. Lyndon has made a name for himself as one half of Aeroform, a premier tag team in AIW. Fitchett comes from St. Louis Anarchy, comprising The Sex Bob-Ombs with Davey Vega. Both men are aerial experts and know how to put together a good match, so this could be the sleeper hit of night one. But in the end, it will be Flexor Industries' Lyndon advancing, freeing up Fitchett to have a tag team match on night two.
Winner: Louis Lyndon
While this may not be classified as a "dream match," it's certainly a pairing many people never would have expected to see. For those who don't know, Spanky is former WWE superstar Brian Kendrick. Donst is one of the top rudos in CHIKARA, where he has really been hitting his stride lately. But in AIW, Donst has built a reputation as a fan favorite, and he has many unsettled issues with Flexor Industries. That unfinished business makes a Donst victory the more compelling story.
Winner: Tim Donst
Eric Ryan is a homegrown AIW star, a true representative of the company. Formerly a heel aligned with Beverly, he has since been paving a path as one of the promotion's top single's stars - and produced a number of quality matches while doing so. Obariyon, on the other hand, is Kodama's tag team partner in the Batiri, also representing CHIKARA. This has the potential to be a good match, much like the one Ryan had with CHIKARA stars Kobald (also of the Batiri) and Ophidian earlier this year.
Winner: Eric Ryan
Page, better known as RSP, used to wrestle under a mask as Christian Faith, but since removing the hood, he's developed into a star like no one would have imagined. In the past year, Page has had some amazing matches, but lately, he's been on a bit of a losing streak. Kendrick, the other half of Aeroform along with Lyndon, is an extremely skilled wrestler, also aligned with Flexor Industries. Page is determined to win this tournament, and he'll snap his losing streak here.
Winner: Rickey Shane Page
These two men currently hold the AIW Tag Team Championship as Youthanazia, but this match will be partner-against-partner. They met last year during the JT Lightning tribute show, so it's fitting again they meet in this year's tournament. Both men are extremely talented and this match will be off the charts, but only one can win. It's tough to choose here, but Prohibition will pull it out in the end.
Winner: Josh Prohibition
Both of these men are also CHIKARA regulars, but AIW is Iron's home turf. They met at CHIKARA's JoshiMania event in December with Ophidian emerging victorious. Iron seems determined to get his win back in front of his hometown crowd, but he seems to have fallen into a slump in recent months. Iron's bad luck will continue, as Ophidian puts him away once again. The interesting thing will be to see which version of Ophidian shows up - his old self or the molten snake he has become.
ACH has become the new hot commodity on the independent wrestling circuit. Based out of Anarchy Championship Wrestling in Texas, he has made appearances for promotions across the country and impressed fans everywhere he's gone. Vega, meanwhile, has also been traveling the circuit, working for ACW and its sister promotion St. Louis Anarchy, as well as becoming a semi-regular at AIW with partner Fitchett. But in this contest, there's only one man to win, and his initials are ACH.
This is another interesting match. Mack has made a name for himself in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla in California, making few appearances outside the west coast. Page, no relation to RSP, is a Canadian wrestler who impressed in a recent AIW pre-show and petitioned to be included in the tournament. Look for an impressive showing from Page as he looks to make a name for himself, but Mack will pounce his way to victory and a second-round match with ACH.
Winner: Willie Mack
One of very few matches in the first round to feature two full-time AIW performers, this is also possibly the toughest match to call. Fontaine is a former Intense Division Champion with a unique personality, while Facade is an urban ninja - literally. Based on the events of "Straight Outta Compton," Fontaine gets the edge here, so he can have a match with the winner of the next contest.
Winner: Marion Fontaine
Well, Archibald Peck is one of the greatest men who ever lived. No, not one of the greatest WRESTLERS; one of the greatest MEN. Not enough words can be said about the greatness this man brings to life, both his own and those of everyone who has the honor and privilege of seeing him compete. Delaney, though, is a former WWE superstar, a point he's made quite known recently. Since retiring his brother Jimmy Olsen, Delaney has been looking to build a name for himself, and this is his chance. Sorry, Archie.
Winner: Colin Delaney
For the sake of saving time if all these predictions turn out to be false, detailed descriptions of round two and three predictions won't be provided. But here's a snapshot of what they may look like:
Bobby Beverly d. BJ Whitmer
Tim Donst d. Louis Lyndon
Eric Ryan d. Rickey Shane Page
Josh Prohibition d. Ophidian
ACH d. Willie Mack
Colin Delaney d. Marion Fontaine
Bobby Beverly d. Tim Donst
Eric Ryan d. Josh Prohibition
ACH d. Colin Delaney
Eric Ryan d. Bobby Beverly and ACH
ACH will be the first man eliminated from the finals, leaving former Young Studs tag team partners Ryan and Beverly to fight it out. Flexor Industries will do everything in its power to give Beverly the win, but something will happen to equalize their presence (cue Whitmer and Donst).
Ryan will win the match and the right to face Xion at Absolution. But there will be a catch. Johnny Gargano will also be cashing in his Gauntlet for the Gold title opportunity, making it at least a three-way dance.
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