On August 7 and 8, in Rossville, Georgia, Empire Wrestling hosted the Scenic City Invitational. The two night tournament was a first of it’s kind in the South, and featured an incredible roster of talent. I spent 12 hours riding on a Greyhound bus from Charleston, South Carolina to attend the shows. Obviously, I had high expectations for the event. My expectations were exceeded.
For those looking for full reviews of both shows, I would direct you to the excellent work of Georgia Wrestling History’s Larry Goodman. What this relatively brief piece will reflect is my experience as a fan, and not necessarily my analysis as a critic.
First things first: the Scenic City Invitational was an excellent event. There were 15 matches between the two shows, and every one of them was at least entertaining, with most being good or better. The Anthony Henry vs. Jimmy Rave match from night one, is a legitimate Match of the Year Contender, and is actually even better if you watch both shows in full and see how the finishing moments of that match would play a role in key events that occurred on Night Two.
This brings me to my second point: the shows were excellently booked. Coming into the tournament I didn’t think there was any clear cut favorite, and most matches felt like a toss up. Those pulling the strings behind the scenes did a tremendous job not only in putting together matches where the winner was hard to predict, but also in booking real surprise finishes, which made the most out of the skills of the accumulated talent. The “fake” injury/playing possum finish of the Gunner Miller and Jimmy Rave match on night two is the best example of this, but there were other things that linked the two shows together, like Kongo Kong’s multi-man build to a moonsault attempt, or the way Joey Lynch sold Anthony Henry’s headkick (which had knocked Rave loopy the night before), during their match on night two.
The other point I want to hammer home is that the true strength of the shows was their diversity. In this day and age many independent shows will run cards that are loaded with talent who all work a style that is remarkably similar, if not outright identical. While there is no question that some of the performers in the SCI share influences, every person in the tournament came across as entirely unique. More than that, no two matches on either show were alike, and as such the cards felt complete in a way that many otherwise strong independent shows do not.
On the micro level, every single wrestler worked hard, and some of them had true breakout performances. Jason Collins and Joey Lynch both put in great efforts in their matches, and were the surprises of the tournament for many of the people who traveled from out of town to the event. Anthony Henry was in the aforementioned match of the tournament, but also had a really fun non-tournament match on day 2 against Joey Lynch. Kongo Kong looked incredible on both nights and advanced to the finals which I absolutely did not expect coming in. Ace Rockwell and Gunner had a great match on the second night, which will be one of the key things DVD and VOD viewers should look out for when the shows become available for purchase. And Gunner Miller continues to look like the most “sure thing” prospect in Southeastern independent wrestling, having the best two matches of his short career opposite Chip Day and Jimmy Rave.
The winner of the tournament was Jimmy Rave, who wrestled three completely different kinds of matches, against vastly different opponents. In a live setting there is no wrestler in the World better than Rave. Not only can he adapt to any sort of opponent or setting, but he also does all of the little things right. Talking about subtlety and nuance in wrestling often comes across as pretentious, but Rave really is a master of these things, and his work in the SCI has rocketed him into contention for my pick as the top worker of 2015.
I have been attending wrestling shows for 30 years, and independent shows for 27. I’ve seen promotions of varying size and scope, in locations up and down the Eastern seaboard. I have never been to a single show that had the atmosphere, enthusiasm, uniqueness, and top-to-bottom quality as the Scenic City Invitational, let alone two in a row.
At the beginning of the second night, it was announced that the Scenic City Invitational will be an annual event. I would strongly advise people to make the trip next year. I only expect bigger and better things, which is saying something since these shows were probably the best wrestling events I have ever attended.
Here are the results from the shows which will be available as a VOD or DVD via Whoo! Wrestling soon. My favorite five matches from the shows are italicized:
Scenic City Invitational Night One Results:
- Corey Hollis defeated Joey Lynch
- Ace Rockwell beat Mark Vandy
- Moose Pinned KT Hamill
- Kongo Kong beat Tank
- Jason Collins defeated Caprice Coleman
- Gunner Miller pinned Chip Day
- Jimmy Rave beat Anthony Henry
- Gunner defeated Chrisjen Hayme
Scenic City Invitational Night Two Results:
- Corey Hollis defeated Jason Collins in a 2nd Round Match
- Joey Lynch defeated Anthony Henry in a non-tournament match
- Gunner beat Ace Rockwell in a 2nd Round Match
- Kongo Kong pinned Moose in a 2nd Round Match
- Jimmy Rave beat Gunner Miller in a 2nd Round Match
- Tank, Corey Coxx, Mr. Sports Entertainment and Mark Vandy beat Chip Day, Ryan Vega, Matt Fortune and Alexander S. Kirk
- Jimmy Rave defeated Kongo Kong, Gunner, and Corey Hollis in a four-way Elimination match (elimination order is as listed above) to become the first ever Scenic City Invitational/Greg Hullender Trophy champion.