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I was 5 years old at the time in 1988, when I remember watching my first professional wrestling match. I was sitting in my parents’ living room floor, with my dad, watching Sting take on Ric Flair for the NWA World Title at Clash Of The Champions. As a 5 year old, I was always on the move. I couldn’t sit still, but during the 45 mins of that match, I didn’t move. They had me in the palm of their hand. I remember the reactions from the fans coming through the TV screen. I remember JJ Dillion being suspended in the air above the ring in a small cage. Every punch thrown, every slam given, and every hold had a gravity that is rarely matched. After that match, I fell in love for the first time at 5 years old, but little did I know at that time, it would love me back for the rest of my life.
I consider myself extremely fortunate to have grown up in a beautiful city like Chattanooga is. It wasn’t always as beautiful as it is now, though. Chattanooga, over the course of 25 years and hard work by many, has developed into a top 3 outdoor city in America according to the magazine, Outdoor. Chattanooga was once dominated by the smoggy and smokey manufacturing plants that once occupied much of downtown Chattanooga, but no longer. Now, Chattanooga is dominated by the natural attractions that have always been here, only now we can take advantage of them. Whether it’s taking a walk downtown on the walking bridge across the Tennessee River, hiking Lookout or Signal Mountain, enjoying Riverbend Festival, Ross’s Landing, our two Aquariums, Ruby Falls, white water rafting, Rock City, rock climbing, or a host of restaurants only in Chattanooga, you will come to understand why it has been dubbed: “The Scenic City.”
While growing up in the Scenic City, I played baseball and basketball. I played both at Soddy Daisy High School before quitting my Junior year. It’s something I’m not proud of, but I did. I would never advocate anyone quitting something, especially now that I have children of my own. I should’ve finished what I started, but as I’ve gotten older, I learned from that. I learned that if I’m going to be a part of something, I’m going to see it through, until the end. I stopped playing baseball and basketball because I was ready to chase my first love: professional wrestling.
Through searching many different avenues, myself, Shaun Tempers, Jescoe Blue, The Great Muji, my brother, KT Grant, and Chit Martinez found TWA in Dalton, GA through our friend, Dan Wilson. A few weeks after we started, we would also begin training with Andrew Alexander. Although we weren’t friends immediately, we all became friends. Through TWA, I also managed to meet back up with someone who I met when I was 12 years old and playing little league baseball. He umpired many of my baseball games and always talked wrestling with me. Most of you know this man as: “The Strong Style Psycho, Tank.” Tank wasn’t too sure of all us at first and definitely wasn’t sure about me because I was a punk kid with a terrible attitude at the time, but he grew to tolerate us and eventually even like us. One by one, some of our “group,” stopped wrestling. My brother stopped. KT Grant stopped. Chit eventually stopped. Muji eventually stopped, though he eventually managed myself and Shaun Tempers as Pomp Circumstance. He then stopped that and concentrated more on his job and school at the time. Jescoe Blue didn’t stop, but was wrestling every once in a while. That left myself, Shaun Tempers, Dan Wilson, Andrew Alexander, and Tank running the roads together. Sometimes it would be all of us, sometimes a few of us, but we were out there chasing the dream and living it in many cases. Memories that we made together will stand the test of time.
I wrestled consistently for 16 years. Through those 16 years, I eventually found out about the Ted Petty Invitational that IWA Mid-South put on. I saw King of the Indies. I really found myself enjoying tournaments like these. It’s here where the thought first enters my mind that I would love to put something like that together. Through the next several years, the idea would be discussed and kicked around amongst my friends and I. What we discussed was nothing too serious until I met Scott Hensley. I met Scott at a show in Canton, GA when he came up to me for a picture and we struck up a conversation. Scott lived in Chattanooga, TN and was originally from my parents neck of the woods in middle Tennessee. He was an avid pro wrestling fan and baseball fan. We clicked on those points immediately. Soon, Scott and I were talking pretty consistently. Scott got into the wrestling business because I needed a ref one night for a show I put together at Soddy Daisy High School. He then found his way to Ultimate NWA in Alabama where he began ring announcing and has been doing so ever since for many different promotions. Scott and I started discussing the idea of a tournament as we both loved the format of them. For years, we kicked around the idea. I honestly never thought we would ever be able to make it happen. After I thought about it for a little while longer, I had devised a plan to make it work and I texted Scott to tell him about it. He was over at my house within a couple of days to talk.
The conversation started with “where do we do this?” I had spoken with Drew and Susan Mullinax, who owned Empire Pro-Wrestling. They had a building and the facility to host the tournament and were more than willing to allow us to give it a try. They loved the concept as much as we did, which was shy of relief. From there, I called in favors from guys I had known for a long time to get it off the ground. Scott contacted a few that he thought would be a good fit in our tournament. Through many messages and phone calls, we found our 16 guys for our first ever Scenic City Invitational. After was all said and done, I think we did fairly good job putting it together. There’s many good to great matches and we knew right then that we had something that could be special in a few years. Little did we know, “something special” would come a little more quickly than we thought.
We knew we had something with the first invitational, but we didn’t know that a lot of pro wrestlers knew about what we had started. We were getting messages many about how they could get a spot. It was flattering but it also sucked. Why? It was tough telling guys no. It was tough to turn people down. We suddenly found ourselves in a position of being able to grow this a little more quickly than we thought. Last year, we exceeded our expectations as far as the show goes, but we also began a relationship with our county school system. We were able to secure East Hamilton High School for a fund raiser and begin the process of laying ground work for the future. With the help of many different people, we made the 2nd annual Scenic City Invitational a success on many different levels. We helped a high school baseball team raise money for things they needed, we helped my local and regional talents get noticed, we made connections with guys like Matt Riddle, Lio Rush, and Chris Hero, and gained the attention of many different wrestling fans across the country and the world.
This year, we are back at East Hamilton High School for the 3rd annual Scenic City Invitational. After last year, Scott and I decided to ask Dylan Hales come aboard to help us. Dylan has done so much in helping the Scenic City Invitational grow and be successful. He has many contacts and in my opinion, a brilliant mind for pro wrestling. We are extremely proud of the field that we have put together this year. We have a wide range of different philosophies as far as each individual wrestler brings to the table. Many people have made the Scenic City Invitational better each year and a destination so to speak for many wrestlers and fans.
The one thing that the Scenic City Invitational offers that others may not, is the experience. It may sound silly, but it’s the honest to God truth. Papa Hales has become a legend amongst many fans and wrestlers. One, for instance, is Matt Riddle. Matt and his wife love the man. If you spend just 5 mins with Papa, the reasons why are evident. He is genuine, kind, sweet, funny, full of knowledge, and just a damn good person. Papa has put together our fan fest this year because last year, a fan fest just happened organically. He has spent countless hours organizing the fan fest this year as well as coordinating hotel rooms, and SCI merch from Fully Gimmicked. Papa, from the bottom of my heart, thank you and I love ya. Others that deserve praise are in no certain order: Greg Hullender, Drew & Susan Mullinax, Empire Pro Wrestling, Georgia Wrestling Premier, Matt Griffin, Allan Barrie, Brad Stutts, Rick Michaels, Clint Stephens, Dan Wilson, the crew at Wrestling With Words, PW Ponderings, Southern Fried Championship Wrestling, Atlanta Wrestling Entertainment, Carolina Wrestling Federation, and last but not least, my wife. My wife has been a trooper through all the planning and late night phone calls. She just gave birth to our second child 3 weeks ago, and she has been nothing but positive and supportive.
The path to the Scenic City Invitational hasn’t been easy. A lot of hard work from a lot of different people has made it, in my mind, a success. If it weren’t for many different fans giving us a chance each year so far, it wouldn’t exist. Thank you, to each and every person that has bought a ticket to attend in the past and this year. You guys are the reason the experience has been easy to sell. You make others feel welcome. You go out of your way to make sure everyone feels at home. That is what makes this so special. We can put all the work in, but if not for you all, the experience doesn’t exist. In a week, we will be able to feel the emotion and connect with one another again as we meet again at the Scenic City Invitational.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart,