Thursday, April 16, 2015

JT Lightning Invitational Tournament to Get... EXTREME

Guido will be back in action for AIW, albeit without Big Sal to cart him around
Photo Credit: George Tahinos via
Absolute Intense Wrestling's JT Lightning Invitational Tournament has become a staple in indie wrestling. It's among the largest tournaments by entrant number (along with last year's Battle of Los Angeles, and if Pro Wrestling Guerrilla's unveiling of three dates this year are an indication, this year's as well), and it always provides a solid slate of competitors. Last year, the Cleveland indie unveiled Buff Bagwell as a competitor, dragging his ass from gigolodom back into the squared circle, and he famously pulled off a goddamn Canadian Destroyer. As it turns out, his announcement last year was a precedent for bringing back blasts from the past.

Rather than tapping the WCW vein, AIW has gone the ECW route, although not for all the names that one might expect when a company goes back to rob that promotion's grave again. The full list of participants is below, beginning with those blasts from the past who will invade Cleveland on Friday May 22 and Saturday May 23:
  • Little Guido - Guido is the Bagwell name for this year, although unlike Ol' Buff, he's been pretty active, mostly for House of Hardcore. Various respectable wrestling critics still claim that Guido has "it," and if given a few matches during the weekend, he might be able to prove it against the younger, hungry super-indie crowd.
  • 2 Cold Scorpio - Scorpio's a name that's less surprising, as he competed at AIW's Gauntlet for the Gold this year, but he's still a solid name who's remained at a high level of work for over 20 years now. He's popped up in other indies from time to time like Dragon Gate USA and the first National Pro Wrestling Day, showing he can still go with the best of them.
  • "Dangerous" Doug Gilbert - Gilbert is the brother of late Memphis and ECW legend Eddie Gilbert, and he himself was a staple for both Memphis and the AIW forerunner Cleveland All-Pro Wrestling. Although I'm not as familiar with this Gilbert, his family name still packs a punch.
  • Davey Vega - Vega is the current Intense Champion, an AIW staple for the last five or so years, and for those who haven't listened to me shout from the rooftops, perhaps one of the biggest unsung heroes in indie wrestling. He's become a big deal in AIW, so he could be a threat to win the whole thing, and if he does, he'll be churning out excellent bouts along the way.
  • "DJ Z" Zema Ion - Ion, as Shiima Xion, was a former Absolute Champion and AIW mainstay. Now that TNA is only restricting its talent from appearing on actual television shows, he can make a grand return and actually win a JLIT. He won the tournament's precursor version, the Todd Pettingil Invitational, back in 2011.
  • "Hot Sauce" Tracy Williams - I've only seen one Williams match, and it was against Timothy Thatcher in an English mat special for EVOLVE. However, any dude with the nickname "Hot Sauce" has to have some personality outside of being able to trade holds (and that's not a bad ability to have either).
  • Flip Kendrick and Louis Lyndon - Forgive me for not keeping up closely on the Midwest indie scene enough to know whether Aeroform broke up or stayed together, but yeah, both members of the high-flying team are in this year's tournament. I haven't seen either in action for a bit, but they were among the most exciting parts of any AIW card in the past.
  • "Girl Dynamite" Jennifer Blake - Blake has spent much of the last five years working the lucha libre scene in Mexico. Oddly enough, most of her trips back North of the Border have been for AIW.
  • BJ Whitmer - The man who just doesn't know when to quit is also in the tourney. Then again, maybe Whitmer knows his body better than everyone else? I dunno. Either way, he turns in good work still, so he'll be a solid addition to the show.
  • Colin Delaney - Delaney is another former Absolute Champ who will be making a run at the big prize this year. If you don't know Delaney from his run in indies like 2CW and Chikara, then you'll know him from his run on WWECW. He's also currently co-holder of the AIW Tag Team Championships with...
  • Cheech - Delaney's partner is no stranger to the tag ranks, as he formed a longstanding tag team with Cloudy in the indies. I haven't really seen much of him as a singles wrestler, but he'll have opportunities with good opponents to show his wares here.
  • Cedric Alexander - Alexander is making his AIW debut, but the man has a resumé a mile long elsewhere on the indies. He's royalty in his native North Carolina, and he's made headway in both PWG and Ring of Honor. The guy can go in the ring and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as dudes like ACH, Andrew Everett, and Rich Swann.
  • Heidi Lovelace - Lovelace is an AIW regular for both the Girls Night Out subset of shows and the main roster. This tournament is not her first rodeo; she competed last year and gave the eventual winner Michael Elgin everything he could handle and then some. Since Lovelace, also the reigning and defending Chikara Young Lions Cup holder, seems to be the new hotness this year, will she be the first woman to take a JLIT home?
  • Josh Prohibition - Prohibition is one of AIW's founding fathers, and if his Twitter is to be believed, one hell of an amateur chef. He can cook up some tasty entrees, but can he cook up a tourney win, especially with his former bro Matt Cross and his fellow Guys from TV Raymond Rowe and Ethan Carter III potentially breathing down his neck?
  • Tyson Dux - Dux has been roaming the Canadian scene for years, and just recently, he's gotten some shine south of Canucklestan. AIW seems to be the place where he's hit his greatest strides, and he could be a darkhorse to win the whole thing.
  • "Supercop" Dick Justice - Justice has become an indie phenomenon, lighting up crowds from Beyond Wrestling to AAW and everywhere in between. He's one of the best new comedic stars to come down the pipes in a long time, and while I doubt he'll win the thing, he may be the wrestler people are talking about most after it's all said and done.
  • Raymond Rowe - Rowe made a grand return to AIW after years away, and immediately, he aligned with the pricks who were also regularly on some television program. Regardless of his current Cleveland alignment, the dude is a monster in the ring, and he recently came back from being rocketed from his motorcycle through a rear windshield of the car in front of him, so yeah, he's a beast and a half.
  • Eric Ryan - Ryan won the first ever JLIT - he's the only former winner entered - and he's a former Absolute Champion. He's kinda stayed within the eastern Rust Belt, but Cleveland fans seem to appreciate him.
  • Athena - The current reigning and defending Women's Champion is entered in the tournament, and much like Lovelace, she's a threat to win the whole thing. Athena is no stranger to wrestling men since she's done it extensively in Anarchy Championship Wrestling among other promotions. She's also on a short, short list of best wrestlers who aren't already signed to a major televised promotion right now, unless you count getting jobber reps once in a blue moon in ROH which I personally *JO hand motion*.
  • Nick Gage - Ah yes, it only feels like yesterday that Gage was suspected of, arrested for, and convicted of robbing a bank. He's been freshly released, and seemingly every promotion has a demand for him. I don't want to hold his jailtime over his head too much because he has done said time and is theoretically rehabilitated. He's certainly the definition of a wild card.
  • Tyler Thomas, Alex Daniels, Alessandro del Bruno - I really don't know much about these three except that I think they're all graduates of the AIW Academy.
That field is pretty diverse and eccentric. Of course, it's been hurt by a couple of things. One, Chase Owens, who was originally announced in Daniels' place, got an offer to go on tour with New Japan Pro Wrestling, and honestly, when the King of Sport calls you, you take the damn offer. Second, PWG's OTHER major tournament of the year, DDT4, is also taking place on May 22. AIW regulars Josh Alexander (who is the reigning and defending Absolute Champion) and Ethan Page will be out there for the proceedings. Maybe they'll make it back for night two, maybe they won't.

However, one name that WILL be heading into Cleveland the May 23 card will be Samoa Joe in what might be one of his final indie dates before heading into the vast expansive void known as WWE. Look, I know I've had run-ins with AIW brass before, but real recognize real, and this lineup looks pretty cool if you ask me. This tournament weekend ought to be yet another strong case in establishing the JLIT as an indie wrestling stalwart.