Scenic City Invitational 2021
Nights 1 & 2
August 6 & 7, 2021
Red Bank, Tennessee
Futures Showcase Tournament 2021
August 7, 2021
Red Bank, Tennessee
The return of the Scenic City Invitational this past weekend after having its 6th annual tournament canceled due to COVID-19 was a real treat for independent wrestling fans.
From being a tournament that started in 2015 with the idea of showcasing wrestling talent much of the world wasn’t able to see (pre-IWTV), to the lively, community-based, mark-your-calendars event it is today, has been a joy to witness over the years. Living in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve never attended an SCI weekend in person, but along with a very specific, very passionate independent wrestling fanbase have experienced real joy at watching the tournament each year. If you focus strictly on the modern-day “workrate” definition, you don’t leave most SCI tournaments with a dozen 4.5-star matches, or match of the year candidates, but you absolutely get tournaments that are well booked, with engaging stories, quality payoffs and a weekend bereft of both the cynicism and elitism that can sometimes plague wrestling events.
The people who watch SCI, the people who attend SCI, the people who wrestle in SCI and the people who organize SCI truly believe in the events they are putting on, and all work together to make sure all the talent involved leave the weekend in a better place than when they came in. As an outsider, following the antics of the crowd between shows on Twitter, witnessing wrestlers from around the country hype each other up during and after matches, seeing new fans discover talent they were previously unfamiliar with and “scouting” young talent with seasoned fans make SCI weekend one of the few wrestling events I look forward to each year. It was so good to have it back this year, and hopefully, I can finally attend next year.
The Scenic City Invitational weekend kicked off on Thursday, August 5 with TWE’s “The Night Before”, which received rave reviews from those in attendance, but as of this writing is not available to stream on IWTV.
The tournament proper kicked off on Friday evening, with eight first-round matchups. The following day, the ACTION wrestling “Futures Showcase” took place in the early afternoon, featuring 3-way matches, culminating in a 3-way final, with random showcase in between. The final event was Night 2 of the SCI, featuring the second-round matches, a 4-way elimination final and a handful of nice surprise matches from talent not booked on the shows, or those that lost in the first round. Overall, the three shows put together were a breeze to watch, and serve as a great introduction to not only the delightful current Southern Independent wrestling scene, but the wider IWTV showcase promotions.
The ACTION Wrestling Futures Showcase tournament is an annual tournament with a focus on newer wrestlers. “The Future 9” are wrestlers with less than 5 years of wrestling experience and a win in this tournament can propel them onto big things in independent wrestling. Past winners include Marko Stunt, Manders & Nolan Edward. Even talent not included in the tournament tend to feel younger and less experienced, giving the show a unique “I was there first” type of feeling.
The first tournament match saw Billie Starkz defeat Chase Holliday and Ron Bass Jr, all three wrestlers I’ve been critical of in the past but are definitely showing improvement. Holliday in particular is learning to carry his size a lot better in recent months and showed some of his hoss mentality here. The second tournament match featured “HoodFoot” Mo Atlas, Robert Martyr & Merrick Donovan, who was subbing for the recently injured Hardway Heeter. This was the best tournament match, with all three guys getting appropriate shine, big spots and really landing tough strikes. HoodFoot was the easy favorite, but Martyr got the surprise victory, which won’t get a complaint here. Donovan, the wrestler I was least familiar with here, really showed out and made me want to seek out more. In the “High Flying” match of the tournament, Eli Knight defeated The Whisper & Landon Hale. The Whisper feels like he has been around for a lot longer than 5 years, being that he primarily is known from two defunct promotions, and showed his seasoned wrestling. Eli Knight impressed with big kicks and capable body control in the air.
The match of the night was in non-tournament action as Daniel Makabe & Brandon Williams took on Alex Kane & Damyan Tangra. Makabe and Tangra had faced each other two nights prior, Williams and Tangra have had a couple of matches together, and Makabe and Kane had advanced into the second round of the SCI tournament, so this was a major match and the 4 guys showed out. The finals saw Robert Martyr continue his underdog streak, from wrestling his way INTO the tournament and using his never-say-die, smashmouth style to win it all. The surprise came a bit sudden, but the improvement Martyr has shown in the ring over the past year makes him a great winner and one to watch.
The SCI tournament itself was as smartly booked as any before it.
In our preview, we broke down the 16 wrestlers in a way that showed the likelihood of them winning the tournament, when taking the region’s booking, ongoing storylines and actual hype of the wrestlers involved. It wasn’t a “favorites” or who “should” win, but the 3 previewers went back and forth discussing all of the possibilities, and made a case for at least 12 of the 16 participants as having a legit chance at winning, with about 5-6 with a high chance. This is all to give props to Matt Griffin, Scott Hensley and the entire booking committee for creating a tournament full of talent and first-round matchups that made watching a requirement. I’d be remiss to ignore the excellent commentary from Dylan Hales and Mose, as well, who did an excellent job putting over all talent throughout the weekend, building the case for each wrestler as a potential winner and really helping viewers understand all the nuance a tournament like this can have.
Despite it all, the man that stood tall at the end of the tournament as the 2021 Scenic City Invitational winner wasn’t the current ACTION wrestling champion, wasn’t the current New South wrestling champion, it wasn’t the Gateway Heritage champion, it wasn’t the Limitless/C*4/ESW champion, it wasn’t the TWE champion, or the HOSS tournament winner. And though he came close, it wasn’t the defending SCI winner that walked away with the trophy this year.
It was the man who, over the past 3 years, has perhaps become THE definitive face of the Southern Indies, “The Loudmouth” AC Mack.
— ACTION Wrestling (@WrestleACTION1) August 9, 2021
In a great story, AC Mack, who NEARLY had the 2019 tournament won through less-than-savory tactics, but was ultimately tapped out by Daniel Makabe, came through this time, working fair, winning on his terms and pinning the very man that beat him, adding another accomplishment to a thoroughly decorated young career.
The tournament itself was worth the watch, with every wrestler involved working to the highest of their abilities and coming out stronger on the other side. There were brawls, technical matches, matches that felt “epic”, and surprises as well. Furthermore, night 2 featured a handful of surprises, with big returns of Kevin Ku and O’Shay Edwards, as well as the obligatory and welcome treat of a hardcore Tank match.
Overall, SCI 2021 was the most complete weekend the crew has put on yet. It doesn’t feature the best SCI matches ever, but it also doesn’t have any BAD matches. The booking was fun to follow, the stories coming out of the tournament will be exciting to follow and the general joy and appreciation that emanated from the crowd was such a breath of fresh air. Bravo to all wrestlers, talent and backstage folks involved.
Below, you will find my top 10 matches of the weekend.
AC Mack Vs. Daniel Makabe Vs. Alex Kane Vs. Daniel Garcia (SCI Finals)
How wonderful is it to have the tournament finals be the best match of the weekend? This had everything, from a dominant Alex Kane for the first third of the match, that could only be taken down by all three men, to the unmatched in-ring pace that Daniel Garcia has been showcasing over the last couple of years, showing why many consider him to be the best in the world, to straight-up callbacks of two guys who have been waiting to get their hands on each other in Makabe and AC Mack. All four men had a great weekend (and Garcia killed it the next night in a 60-minute match with Wheeler YUTA), but the joy of seeing the once (and perhaps future) dastardly heel AC Mack overcome Makabe was pro wrestling 101 – a total feel-good moment and what fans like me long for in wrestling.
Daniel Makabe Vs. Adam Priest (1st Round)
It was so good to see both of these guys back in the ring, two of my favorites on the independent scene. Priest, fresh off his broken arm, worked with a “loaded” arm gimmick, but didn’t slow down on his usual throwback, hard-hitting, New Japan 90s Juniors style. He has a fierceness that is often lacking on today’s scene, and uses his size to his advantage, really coming across like an angry asshole. Makabe met him face to face, and the two mixed it up on the mat, in strikes and took some gnarly bumps off the ropes. This was just a hard-hitting, technical match that had a real grit to it.
Alex Kane Vs 1 Called Manders (1st Round)
TWO BIG DUDES BEATING THE SHIT OUT OF EACH OTHER. THROWING ELBOWS, THROWING SUPLEXES, THROWING EACH OTHER INTO WALLS, A LITTLE KID WHO DOESN’T WANT TO MOVE, WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT?
Daniel Garcia Vs. Graham Bell (1st Round)
This is one of the matches that is probably getting the most hype coming out of the tournament and I totally understand it. I really enjoyed it, and really really enjoyed how much the crowd was into it. I have zero doubt that this was a special match to experience live. The work was solid and exciting and worked the most like an “epic” indie match of any match through the weekend, which meant that there were some spots that had the meticulous fan in me turning my nose up, but ignoring that and just having fun and respecting two dudes just doing dumb dude shit and destroying their bodies – this was a highlight, with some real sicko moves and truly exciting high points.
Daniel Makabe Vs. Arik Royal (2nd Round)
I absolutely adored their long-awaited matchup back in April for “Have Fun Be Sad” during Wrestlemania weekend, which had a main-event feel between these two. This one was a slight step down from that in the overall feel of the match, but still had plenty to enjoy. Makabe got his win back, which will hopefully set them up for a rubber match down the road, but this was just two veterans executing a totally veteran matchup. They countered each other throughout the match and told a great story. I expected this matchup to happen in the finals, but was pleased with the story of it happening in the second round.
AC Mack Vs. Big Beef (1st Round)
The first match of the tournament started off hot with Big Beef, my favorite dude just destroying AC Mack for most of eight minutes, but getting a bit too confident, missing two attempts at the Beefy Bomb crossbody and AC taking advantage. I’ve said before, but Beef really comes across different than just about anyone on the indies, with big clubbing forearms and hammerblows that just come across wild and painful. I love watching him work, I love that he relies entirely on power. He gets over even when he loses, and here his destruction of Mack played into the story of Mack’s injured leg (later exposed by Jeremy Wyatt) as well as the story of Mack being the “smartest” guy in the tournament. Very good opening match.
Jeremy Wyatt Vs. Cabana Man Dan (1st Round)
Two of my favorite guys to watch work put together a really solid match in the first round. Wyatt, as is his M.O. really picked apart Dan, working on his legs and exposed feet, but Dan’s resolve kept coming to the forefront, really getting the crowd behind him as he tried and tried to get out of the grasp of Wyatt. When all was said and done, the match was technically perhaps the most accomplished of all matches through the weekend, with the piledriver finish coming out of nowhere. Just a solid, solid piece of wrestling.
Daniel Garcia Vs. Jaden Newman (2nd Round)
Jaden got a big upset victory over his rival Brett Ison in the first round, beating him for the first time, to the shock and joy of the crowd. He came into the match with Garcia prepared for something completely different, and almost caught Garcia off guard a few times, but ultimately Garcia’s tough approach won out. This was as good as I’ve ever seen Jaden work, a guy who I’ve been hard on privately for years. He’s improving constantly and seems driven to get better, and that’s something I look forward to watching.
Alex Kane & Damyan Tangra Vs. Daniel Makabe & Brandon Williams (Futures Non-tournament)
I actually watched this match twice. While watching live, I was a bit distracted getting ready for work and came away ultimately disappointed, considering the talent involved. I’ve spoken on Twitter about how Tangra is one of my favorite new guys, how Kane is ALMOST at that point where he could be the biggest thing on the indies, and that Williams is one to watch. And this is a match that you have to WATCH. There are some nearly-comedy spots (slapping each other while in an ankle lock), but it works in the context of the match where all 4 guys were trying to show their technical expertise and used this as an exhibition to prove it. There are enough little things to like here and the finish was excellent. Later, during the Night 2 Rumble, Tangra won and was announced as the first entrant into the 2022 tournament – a role he deserves.
Robert Martyr Vs. “HoodFoot” Mo Atlas Vs. Merrick Donovan (Futures 1st Round)
This match was TOUGH. Martyr is really good as this undersized bruiser, just scowling and elbowing everyone, even if it doesn’t work out. HoodFoot, while getting a lot of hype last year and this year is starting to really put it together and excels in multi-person matches, because his big spots are very exciting and Merrick Donovan, a guy who I was previously unfamiliar with has me wanting to seek him out. He seems like a genuine freak athlete and someone I would be rushing to book and test out if I had the power.