Scenic City Invitational Nights 1 & 2
Friday, August 6 & Saturday, August 7
7:30pm EST
TWE Arena, Red Bank, TN

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Note: “SCI Weekend” also includes TWE’s “The Night Before” (streaming at a later date), and the Scenic City Futures tournament (live Aug. 7 at 2:00pm EST). We won’t be covering these shows here, but both have promising lineups.

The independent wrestling scene in 2015, when the initial Scenic City Invitational tournament took place in Rossville, Georgia was much different than today. This was a time when the idea of live-streaming independent wrestling was rare, something usually reserved for bigger companies. This is pre-FloSlam, and Powerbomb / did not start until 2016, with most early adopters never guessing it would be nearly as big and omnipresent as it has become in 2021.

The talent landscape was much different as well, with NXT’s TakeOver: Brooklyn event a couple of weeks after the first SCI, you still had incredibly hot products in places like PWG, AAW, Progress, EVOLVE and Beyond that would have their rosters completely turnover in the next 12 months. EVOLVE 48, taking place a week after the first SCI, features talent entirely currently employed by or recently released by WWE, Impact, ROH or AEW. 2015 was a year where people like Chris Hero, Roderick Strong, Zack Sabre Jr. and a fledgling Will Ospreay were having some of the best in-ring years in modern wrestling history, all outside of major promotions and bringing more and more eyes to the smaller companies they worked for. There was true excitement in the American independents and most long-time fans can agree that 2015 (maybe 2016), was the last GREAT WrestleMania weekend, before it became oversaturated. 

This was also the time that AJ Styles, who had recently lost NJPW’s IWGP Heavyweight Championship, broke a small section of indie wrestling twitter when he had a MOTY-level match in  little known Alabama promotion, PWS. AJ went over 20 minutes with former ROH great Jimmy Rave, a guy many had begun to write off. The hype of this match allowed Rave to have a bit of a last hurrah and a hell of a 2015 and 2016, becoming one of the de-facto guys on the Southern Indies, with perhaps his crowning moments becoming the initial winner of the Scenic City Invitational, and nearly repeating the following year.

The SCI tournaments succeed because they work as a “super-indie” for a different clientele and with different independent wrestlers. While the tournaments take place in the American South, they don’t feature exclusively Southern wrestlers. However, perhaps more than any promotion or tournament of the 2010s, they consistently book their talent and tournament results in a way that showcases the local, forgotten or lesser known guys on equal footing alongside nationally (or internationally) known names. With SCI, you get a mixture of people like Matt Riddle, Chris Hero, Darby Allin, Joey Janela, Mance Warner and Nick Gage mixing it up with veterans of the Southern scene – people like Anthony Henry, Corey Hollis, Joey Lynch, Arik Royal and more. While sometimes the talent involved doesn’t allow for the internet hype to reach the level of a PWG BOLA tournament, there is a certain feeling that comes with an SCI tournament that people in the know love and look forward to every year. Almost every wrestler comes out of an SCI weekend looking better than when they came in.

For the past few weeks, as the 2021 Scenic City Invitational has drawn closer, a small section of wrestling Twitter have laid out personal stories about the importance of the tournament to them. For many, from promoters to participants to vendors to fans, SCI weekend is a community space to celebrate each other, to showcase the goodwill a strong independent wrestling scene can create and to watch some of the best in the world do what they do best. 

The 2021 tournament takes place on August 6 and 7, and the lineup has many of us here at VOW excited, with many of the very best wrestlers you will find throughout the various promotions showcased on If you’re a regular viewer of these promotions, you should be familiar with most of the folks involved in the tournament, and if not? Well, below should give you a strong jumping-off point.

  • SCI 2015 Winner: Jimmy Rave
  • SCI 2016 Winner: Gunner Miller
  • SCI 2017 Winner: Matt Riddle
  • SCI 2018 Winner: Joey Lynch
  • SCI 2019 Winner: Daniel Makabe

AC Mack

When the last Scenic City Invitational took place in 2019, AC Mack was the reigning ACTION champion, was two months away from also holding the SUP Bonestorm title, and made it to the final round of the tournament. Fast forward to today, Mack’s lost all of his gold and looks to the SCI to get back in the mix. He’s got deceptive size and impressive athleticism on his side, but what makes AC Mack stand out is his charisma. Mack’s character work leaps off the screen; he thrives when working toward a greater picture. Few are as capable with a mic in their hands, and it’s evident in his crowd reactions. His trademark self-delivered ring introduction gets big cheers from the family-friendly ACTION crowd, and serious heat from the more adult-oriented SUP crowd (where he’s worn a shirt that read: “Stop bringing your fucking children to these wrestling shows”). I suppose that’s why he’s the Mack of All Trades. The last time around he cheated and cheap-shotted his way to being a runner-up, a thread that’s bound to continue into this weekend. -Jon

  • First Round Opponent: Big Beef
  • Notable recent matches: vs. Arik Royal (2/12/21), vs. AJ Gray & Manders (3/14/21), vs. Myron Reed (4/10/21)
  • Previous SCI Experience: 2019 SCI Qualifier Winner, Def. Jaden Newman (SCI 2019 1st round), Def. Marko Stunt (SCI 2019 2nd round), Lost in 2019 SCI Finals
  • Chance at winning: High

Adam Priest

In the early part of the year, Adam Priest’s stock was skyrocketing. He was making regular AEW Dark appearances, had a pair of fantastic showings over WrestleMania weekend, and had beaten Davey Boy Smith Jr. en route to winning New South’s 2021 HOSS tournament. Unfortunately, a broken arm in April put a halt to his momentum. He returned to action (and the promotion ACTION) in June, claiming to have a metal plate in his forearm — perfect for smashing with. Priest hails from Battleground, AL but, in the ring, seems influenced by prior generations of fierce, compact Canadians. His aggressive and technical style should pair well with Daniel Makabe in the first round. – Jon 

  • First Round Opponent: Daniel Makabe
  • Notable recent matches: Vs. Damyan Tangra (3/14/21), Vs. Matt Makowsk (4/9/21), Vs. Fred Yehi (11/13/20)
  • Previous SCI Experience: N/A
  • Chance at winning: Medium

Alex Kane

At ACTION’s “Game Over” show in June, in a pre-taped interview, Graham Bell insisted Alex Kane would not be able to suplex him. Kane hoisted Bell up into ten unique suplex variations while a fired-up crowd counted along. Having only debuted in 2018, “The Suplex Assassin” is already one of the most exciting in-ring acts on the indies and everyone is starting to catch on — he was picked second in the MLW draft, only behind Davey Richards. Kane’s been popping up everywhere but his best stuff is in places like SUP and Paradigm, where he can really dig in against like-minded suplex-and-forearm freaks like Cole Radrick and Tom Lawlor. He has plenty of room to grow but he’s already got a great look, convincing swagger, and a cool entrance theme. Having a memorable first-round match with a meathead like Manders will be like fish in a barrel. -Jon

  • First Round Opponent: Manders
  • Notable recent matches: Vs. Cole Radrick (3/14/21), Vs. Bryan Keith (4/8/21), Vs. Tom Lawlor (6/16/21)
  • Previous SCI Experience: N/A
  • Chance at winning: Medium-High

Arik Royal

Arik Royal comes into the Scenic City Invitational for the second time in his career (previously getting to the 2nd round in 2017). This time, however, he is coming in as the Champion of ACTION Wrestling, the promotion most closely linked to the event. Royal, for the uninitiated, is one of those guys near the top of every indie fan’s list of “underused” or “should be on a bigger stage”. He had enormous success in CWF Mid-Atlantic during their strongest years and has been phenomenal in his role as a heel champion in ACTION. Despite all this, Arik remains a guy who tends to wrestle only between 30-50 matches a year and rarely gets booked outside of the South. Royal is one of the few remaining indie talents that comes across as BIG. A true hoss at over 260 lbs. and over 6ft, he uses his size to manhandle opponents, without coming across like a pure bruiser. He’s a great athlete for his size, and has shown over his career that he can mix it up on the mat when necessary. Above all else, he’s one of the most fleshed-out characters in independent wrestling, with the ability to cut both convincing heel and babyface promos, and emanating a natural coolness during his entrances, donning unbelievably beautiful dashikis. From a booking perspective, Arik winning the tournament as the dominant champion of a major independent promotion would make sense, but in the past year, on his way to the top, he has made quite a few enemies that also find themselves in the tournament and could absolutely cost him the win. His first-round opponent is Derek Neal, another big, veteran hoss that has had a stellar past 12 months. The two are gonna beat the shit out of one another in a highly anticipated matchup.  -Andy

  • First Round Opponent: Derek Neal
  • Notable recent matches: Vs. Daniel Makabe (4/9/21), Vs. AC Mack (2/12/21), Vs. AJ Gray (8/22/20)
  • Previous SCI Experience: Def. Dominic Garrini (SCI 2017 1st round), Def. by Curt Stallion (SCI 2017 2nd round)
  • Chance at winning: High

Big Beef

At the risk of sounding hyperbolic and hasty, “Big Beef” Gnarls Garvin is my absolute favorite wrestler to watch, full stop, in 2021. When the initial SCI participants came out and he was missing, I was upset, but luckily he came in as an alternate, and though he might not have the best shot at winning, his inclusion is a welcome surprise. What you get with Beef, which is missing in many places, is absolute brutality. Beef seemingly has no regard for himself or his opponent and whether he is coming into a match at 265lbs or 225lbs, he wrestles like he just wants to beat the shit out of everyone and everything that moves. A scientifically-capable wrestler, Beef is best just clobbering people like Vader or Hansen, with a reckless nature that he seems unable to turn off. He’s been traveling the country more in 2021, getting his name out in undercards all around, and he never disappoints. Whether he’s against big names like Tony Deppen, JD Drake or Jake Something, or lesser-knowns like Rip Byson, Moonshine Mantell or Austin Conelly, you can be rest assured that Beef is the epitome of EFFORT in the ring. Too often, wrestlers early in the career appear to be THINKING through their next big spots or strikes. None of that with Beef, it’s all instinct and gore. If you like throwback tough guys, he should be high on your list of people to keep your eye on. -Andy

  • First Round Opponent: AC Mack
  • Notable recent matches: Vs. Tony Deppen (6/27/21), Vs. JD Drake (6/13/21), Vs. Rip Byson (12/19/20)
  • Previous SCI Experience: N/A
  • Chance at winning: Low

Brett Ison

With just about 7 years of experience under his belt, mostly in the US South, Brett Ison has had quite a bit of success. He is the former holder of the SUP Bonestorm title, holding it for almost a year and racking up big wins against Nick Gage, JD Drake, O’Shay Edwards and Allie Kat during that time. He’s a big bruiser, wrestling in a simple sleeveless t-shirt and shorts, he comes across as a throwback to the early 2000s East Coast indie scene. He doesn’t do anything fancy, he doesn’t move incredibly quick, but he comes into every match looking to fight. Whether he is wrestling someone proficient on the mat (Damyan Tangra or Daniel Garcia) or locking up with other brawlers (Joshua Bishop), Ison uses his skillset to the maximum. He throws gnarly forearms, and can have weapons-based matches as well as traditional. He just comes across as a guy you don’t want to mess with. Ison lost in the first round of the 2019 tournament, to the legend Matt Tremont, and though he is far from the favorite to come out on top here, there is definitely a chance he could ride a hot streak into the finals. His first-round opponent, Jaden Newman is someone he’s faced many times before and currently holds a 3-0 record against in singles matches. Jaden has a new attitude and will do anything to beat Ison, but that attitude could awaken a beast inside Ison, who will swat his opponent away like nothing. -Andy

  • First Round Opponent: Jaden Newman
  • Notable recent matches: Vs. Damyan Tangra (5/29/21), Vs. Daniel Garcia (4/9/21), Vs. Alex Ocean (10/16/20)
  • Previous SCI Experience: Def. by Matt Tremont (2019 SCI 1st round), Def. by B-Boy (2019 non-tournament match)
  • Chance at winning: Low

Cabana Man Dan

Cabana Man Dan is someone that has taken a step to another level during the pandemic but due to timing, is still flying under the radar. He is mainly working New South, which is quietly one of the best promotions in the US South. He is one of the biggest stars of the promotion and had a great but brief run with their top title earlier this year. He has also gotten himself into tremendous shape and carries himself with quite a bit of swagger and confidence now. While this is his first appearance in the SCI proper he definitely has the chance to go deep into the tournament and even has a shot at winning the whole thing. He is a guy that is definitely waiting for a chance to break out onto a bigger stage and this tournament might be just that. – Paul

  • First Round Opponent: Jeremy Wyatt
  • Notable recent matches: vs. Suge D (2/12/21), vs. Derek Neal (4/8/21), vs Joshua Bishop (5/15/21), 
  • Previous SCI Experience: N/A
  • Chance at winning: Medium

Daniel Garcia

Where to even start with Daniel Garcia. He is easily the best wrestlers in the US right now and it is only a question of time until he gets signed. Whenever he is on a show it is very clear that he is just on another level compared to most of the other wrestlers around. He is a complete package and continues to improve the more he works. He is a crisp worker and has a style that is reminiscent of the fabled King’s Road style pioneered by Misawa. He isn’t quite at that high a level but he is also only 22 and has a long successful career ahead of him as long as he doesn’t make any wrong decision when it comes time to sign with someone. What I mean by that is that he should not sign with WWE. Though not a regular of the Southern scene, his strength and name-value suggest that he is going to be a focus of the tournament and will make a deep run. I would expect him to make it at least to the finals, with a high chance of having the best match of the weekend as well. – Paul

  • First Round Opponent: Graham Bell
  • Notable recent matches: vs. Kevin Ku (4/8/21), vs JD Drake (5/7/21), vs Jake Something (6/26/21)
  • Previous SCI Experience: N/A
  • Chance at winning: High

Daniel Makabe

Due to the SCI being canceled last year, Makabe is still the reigning tournament winner having won in 2019. Makabe is one of the most established workers on the indies and has gained international recognition as one of the best technical wrestlers in the world, even winning wXw’s Ambition 12 tournament in 2020. Due to his Canadian residence, he has basically not worked much at all since then due to the pandemic and has very much picked his shots in 2021, while still having some big-time matches. It is likely he’ll have to deal with a fair bit of ring rust both in kayfabe and reality. Nevertheless, given the level of worker he is, he should be able to overcome both. Due to his run at the last SCI, he also has a number of built-in stories with a number of participants and that alone makes his matches ones to watch out for. – Paul

  • First Round Opponent: Adam Priest
  • Notable recent matches: vs Arik Royal (4/9/21), w/ Chris Ridgeway vs Daisuke Ikeda & Yuki Ishikawa (3/5/21), vs Timothy Thatcher (7/12/19), vs Jonathan Gresham (4/19/19)
  • Previous SCI Experience: 2019 SCI Winner (Def. Tony Deppen, Slim J, AC Mack, Warhorse & O’Shay Edwards)
  • Chance at winning: Medium-High

Derek Neal

Derek Neal is a 17 year veteran, but I’ve only caught wind in the past year or so with his killer work atop New South. He seems of a bygone era in all the best ways. He’s a rugged-looking Southern longhair, calling audiences dummies, and sporting those big trunks you can tuck your gut into — complete with embroidered initials. That absurdly large New South title is the cherry on top. He spent most of 2021 embroiled in a feud with Cabana Man Dan that showcased his biggest strengths: nimbly bumping his ass off for CMD’s showy offense, then regaining control by morally questionable means. There’s something classically pure about listening to the kids in New South’s vocal audiences tell Derek Neal he sucks while he whips a babyface with a leather strap. It’s an interesting field for Neal; the bracket includes his blood rival CMD, as well as his next challenger for the New South belt, Adam Priest AND a frequent enemy in Manders. None of this matters, however, if he doesn’t get past a champion-versus-champion first-round bout with ACTION titleholder Arik Royal. -Jon

  • First Round Opponent: Arik Royal
  • Notable recent matches: vs. Matthew Justice (3/6/21), Nolan Edward (4/18/21), vs. Cabana Man Dan (watch ‘em all from this year, but 6/19/21 is my favorite)
  • Previous SCI Experience: N/A
  • Chance at winning: Medium-Low

Graham Bell

Graham Bell has sneakily been one of the absolute staples of the Southern independent scene for over 10 years at this point. Through various gimmicks and promotions, the last year or so has seen Graham put it all together in the ring at his highest level and establish himself with a truly unique offense. Mixing a fair amount of creative strikes with low-key flying and power moves, Graham works a style that could be considered “spotty” without going into overkill, making his matches almost always surprisingly exciting, regardless of opponent. Though he doesn’t have my favorite look or entrance, it is nevertheless very cool to see a wrestler carry a bazooka out to the ring. Any night of the week, Graham can get a victory over any wrestler, though in ACTION wrestling, in particular, he’s been on a bit of a losing streak. He comes into the tournament as an underdog, despite his veteran status, and his first-round opponent is a man who many would consider the 2021 Independent Wrestler of the Year. Whether Bell is able to beat Daniel Garcia on Friday or not, it won’t be from lack of effort. Expect a hard-hitting, well-worked match at a feverish pace. This is one that might sneak up on you and wind up match of the night. -Andy

  • First Round Opponent: Daniel Garcia
  • Notable recent matches: Vs. Mickie Knuckles (2/25/21), Vs. Alex Kane (6/25/21), Vs. JD Drake, Hoodfoot & Jon Davis (4/30/21)
  • Previous SCI Experience: Lost 2019 non-tournament 6-way scramble
  • Chance at winning: Low

Jaden Newman

First things first, when it comes to in-ring accomplishments, Jaden Newman should not be seen as one of the favorites to win this tournament, at least not this year. However, with rapid improvement in both character work and in-ring skills, he is nevertheless someone to look out for. He’s also wrestling in his home, the TWE arena – and home-court advantage has its perks. He has a lot of talent and the powers that run the SCI and the Southern indies clearly have high hopes for him. His crowd connection in Chattanooga and a first-round opponent being someone he has been desperate to beat, put Jaden in a position to prove something. Despite being an 8-year veteran, he is still only 23 years old. That is something we normally only see in Mexico or Joshi. As stated before, this is unlikely to be his year, but his year will come eventually. – Paul

  • First Round Opponent: Brett Ison
  • Notable recent matches: vs Brett Ison (4/20/21), vs JD Drake (5/14/21), vs Tyler Matrix (6/5/21)
  • Previous SCI Experience: 2018 Scenic City Futures finalist, Won 2019 non-tournament 6-man tag
  • Chance at winning: Medium-Low

Jeremy Wyatt

Jeremy Wyatt doesn’t wrestle as much as I’d like him to. Sticking mostly to the midwest and limiting his dates during the pandemic (smart man!), finding a new recording of a Wyatt match is like a little treat. And though he may not have the most matches in the past 2 years, he makes up for it in scale. He has had two 60-minute matches with Gary Jay in the past 2 years, and one with Fred Yehi, which was my American match of the year for 2020. The dude is the best, without doing anything flashy for flashy’s sake. A true veteran of the Midwest scene, I’m hoping that Wyatt’s inclusion in SCI is foreshadowing bigger things for him in the South as well, because his character work and match-style works for the area incredibly well. Wyatt is a wrestler who excels in traditional match psychology – not necessarily limb work and selling as is what is often pointed out as match psychology, but by building cohesive stories within his matches, having distinct beginnings, middle and ends, by incorporating character work into the ring and adapting to whoever his opponent is. He is reminiscent of Jake Roberts, able to dismantle opponents, almost cruelly, with his smarts, without necessarily jumping straight to cheating or heel tactics. He is a joy to watch in the ring, someone who gets wrestling in a way that few others do and someone I would not be surprised to see take the title home on Saturday Night. The fact that Wyatt is facing Cabana Man Dan in the first round is heartbreaking, as I would personally love to see both of those guys in the finals. -Andy

  • First Round Opponent: Cabana Man Dan
  • Notable recent matches: Vs. Gary Jay (7/9/21), Vs. Fred Yehi (6/27/20), Vs. Thomas Shire (11/14/20)
  • Previous SCI Experience: N/A
  • Chance at winning: Medium-High

Jon Davis

It’s crazy to think that Jon Davis has been around almost 20 years and he’s still as good as he is. He doesn’t pop up a ton anymore, especially on streamed or televised events, but every time he does in the past year or so, he looks absolutely great. This past Wrestlemania weekend, I had him in my top 3 for performers of the weekend, having killer matches in ICW and ACTION/SUP and while nothing he does is particularly new, noteworthy or going to get the internet buzzing, his veteran ability and the time period where he came from allows him to stick out JUST enough to show that he is a different breed. He is relentlessly tough, throwing his body at his opponents and he exudes a true powerhouse persona that very few people can match. Jon going far in this tournament as the veteran hand showing his worth would be a great story to tell, and could get fans really whipped into shape, but would be a huge surprise. He’s facing a wrestler in the first round who WILL be bigger than him, and has been on a big streak in the South. Expect a match of two dudes just trying to overpower one another, a technical masterpiece, it won’t be. It’s awesome to see Jon getting work in 2021, hopefully, we continue to see him into 2022. -Andy

  • First Round Opponent: Logan Creed
  • Notable recent matches: Vs. O’Shay Edwards (4/9/21), Vs. Dominic Garrini (4/8/21), Vs. Anthony Henry (2/21/20)
  • Previous SCI Experience: N/A
  • Chance at winning: Medium-Low

Logan Creed

Logan Creed is one of the more fascinating people in this tournament. He is not a crisp worker by any standard, but he is a true giant and is getting to a point where he is starting to use it well. He is also a featured act on national TV in the US, though under a different guise. This work has helped him to hone his “monster” persona. He has been incredibly dominant in ACTION wrestling, which shares a lot of creative DNA with the SCI. Due to that, I’m having a hard time assessing his chances in this tournament.  SCI winners are typically wrestlers in the “workhorse” mold, but also he is clearly being built up for something big, having recently went to a No Contest with Arik Royal. From a “smart fan” perspective, it’s hard to imagine him winning, but from a kayfabe “perspective” he has a strong chance of winning but may also be the big target for the eventual winner to overcome. – Paul 

  • First Round Opponent: Jon Davis
  • Notable recent matches: vs Hoodfoot (2/21/21), vs Joshua Bishop (5/14/21), vs Arik Royal (6/25/21)
  • Previous SCI Experience: N/A
  • Chance at winning: Medium


Manders is just a big ol’ “yee-haw” looking dude. He was a football walk-on at the University of Iowa and is the sort of fella that makes you use “corn-fed” as a descriptor confidently for the first time. A product of Black and Brave, Manders has really stepped it up in the last year or two. He’s predictably excelled in physical, hoss-ish matchups for places like SUP and Hybrid, while also briefly snagging tag team gold in AAW. GCW uses him regularly and it’s added a valuable layer of grit to his repertoire. He appeared in this year’s Tournament of Survival and, at Game Changer’s “Outlaw Mudshow,” had a show-stealing Bullrope Match with Matthew Justice in a barn somewhere in Laramie. It’s always fun to remember he’s only 27 years old — taking one look at him, my best guess would be “under 45, probably.” -Jon

  • First Round Opponent: Alex Kane
  • Notable recent matches: vs. Calvin Tankman (3/6/21), vs. Mance Warner (4/3/21), vs. Matthew Justice (6/19/21)
  • Previous SCI Experience: Lost 2019 non-tournament 6-way scramble
  • Chance at winning: Low