It’s a huge weekend for Ohio’s Absolute Intense Wrestling (AIW), kicking off on Friday night with the 2019 edition of the annual JT Lightning Invitational Tournament. A tradition in AIW since it began in 2012, the tournament was founded to honor the late Midwest indie legend JT Lightning, an 18-year vet who also ran Cleveland All-Pro Wrestling. Sadly, JT passed away following a battle with cancer in 2011 at the age of 41. Since then, the JT Lightning Invitational has become arguably the premier indie tournament of the Midwest, that has seen past winners include Eric Ryan (’12), Ethan Page (’13), Michael Elgin (’14), Raymond Rowe (’15), Josh Alexander (’16), “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams (’17) and Joey Janela (’18). It airs live on Fite.tv at 7:30pm EST. Here’s a rundown of the 24 men entered in this year’s tournament.
2nd JT Lightning Invitational (2018), 1st Round Opponent: Nick Gage
The reigning Paradigm Pro Wrestling (PPW) Champion, AJ Gray is a rising star in AIW as well as other promotions like Black Label Pro, ACTION Wrestling, and more. Bright future ahead, but drawing Nick Gage first round is going to be a hard lesson.
4th JT Lightning Invitational (2012, 2016, 2017), 1st Round Opponent: Lee Moriarty
Legendary indie star, Colt Cabana is a former NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion, the reigning NWA National Heavyweight Champion, as well as a current star with Ring of Honor. This is his fourth time entering the tournament. Facing a young stud in Lee Moriarty, whose youthful energy could take Cabana to the limit.
4th JT Lightning Invitational (2016, 2017, 2018), 1st Round Opponent: Erick Stevens
One of the top rising stars out of Ohio, Dominic Garrini has already had a big run in EVOLVE as part of Catch Point, and now teams in Black Label Pro and others with Kevin Ku in Violence Is Forever. A solid striker and grappler, he faces a blast from the past in former ROH star Erick Stevens, who is making a comeback to pro wrestling after a lengthy layoff. This will be Garrini’s fourth straight appearance and he’ll be hungry to hit those finals.
1st JT Lightning Invitational, 1st Round Opponent: Matthew Justice
Detroit’s enigmatic Danhausen AD is a member of The Production stable in AIW, but this year enters his first JT Lightning Invitational. Danhausen has proven he can take a beating, which will come in handy facing the monster Matthew Justice, who is probably still steaming from his recent title loss of his AIW Intense Championship.
Dr. Daniel C. Rockingham
1st JT Lightning Invitational, 1st Round Opponent: Mance Warner
A longtime regular with AEW making his first appearance in the tourney, this doctor may need a doctor of his own after he faces off against Mance Warner in the opening round.
3rd JT Lightning Invitational (2014, 2017), 1st Round Opponent: Zach Thomas
Eddie Kingston is one of the baddest dudes in wrestling and has been for 20 years. A veteran of Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW), CHIKARA, EVOLVE, and just about every promotion under the sun, “The Mad King” will be looking to make an example of youngster Zach Thomas in the first round.
1st JT Lightning Invitational, 1st Round Opponent: Dominic Garrini
Throughout the 2000s, Erick Stevens was a rising star with ROH and Full Impact Pro (FIP), before retiring in 2010. He recently made a remarkable comeback with Beyond Wrestling and is now entering his first JTLI. He’ll get a solid workout with one of the top young grapplers in the indies in Dominic Garrini.
4th JT Lightning Invitational (2012, 2014, 2015), 1st Round Opponent: KTB
A 13-year veteran of AIW and multi-time tag team champion with Louis Lyndon in Aeroform (including two runs as AIW Tag Team Champions), Flip is an outstanding highflyer in singles competition as well. He’s going to need that athleticism to get out the first round, facing the violent behemoth KTB.
2nd JT Lightning Invitational (2018), 1st Round Opponent: Tre LeMar
Josh Bishop is another of AIW’s hot young stars and is the third member of the vibrant young stable No Consequences that have run wild in AIW and the Midwest (the others are AJ Gray and Tre LeMar). In what could be the darkhorse match of night one, Bishop will face off against his former No Consequences teammate with new confidence, as the new AIW Intense Champion.
1st JT Lightning Invitational, 1st Round Opponent: Louis Lyndon
A veteran of the original ECW, WCW, WWE, TNA/IMPACT Wrestling and promotions around the world, this veteran daredevil is a wild card in the tournament. He’s facing another veteran in Louis Lyndon first round, but if Kash can find his groove early, he could catch a wave of momentum.
1st JT Lightning Invitational, 1st Round Opponent: Flip Kendrick
Kyle The Beast, better known simply as KTB, is a wrecking machine, who has plied his methods of mayhem in AIW, Beyond Wrestling, ICW New York, EVOLVE and more, but he’s been a regular lately with Game Changer Wrestling (GCW), where he’s a former GCW World Champion. He’ll have to come out strong, as his opening round opponent is a much faster and more experienced veteran in Flip Kendrick.
1st JT Lightning Invitational, 1st Round Opponent: Colt Cabana
This youngster out of the Pennsylvania indie scene is making headway quickly. He only made his AIW debut this past February, and he’s already in his first JTLIT. He’s facing a veteran in Colt Cabana in the first round, but even a first-round victory of Colt Cabana will do wonders for Moriarty’s career.
7th JT Lightning Invitational (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018), 1st Round Opponent: Kid Kash
One of the men most synonymous with AIW’s legacy. He’s been a mainstay since 2006, competed in seven of the eight JTLITs, AIW Intense Champion for 303 days, and a 2x AIW Tag Team Champion with the legendary Aero Form. While Bishop vs LeMar will be a great showcase of AIW’s youth, Lyndon vs Kash could be a clinic of two veterans who can do it all.
1st JT Lightning Invitational, 1st Round Opponent: Dr. Daniel Rockingham
One of 2019’s Breakout stars, former IWA Mid South star Mance Warner is now a regular with Major League Wrestling (MLW) and was the CZW World Heavyweight Champion until recently. A penchant for violence with a dash of the absurd, Warner is a star in the making.
1st JT Lightning Invitational, 1st Round Opponent: Tim Donst
One of 2018’s Breakout stars, Marko Stunt is a marvel to watch athletically. Small in stature but big in heart, he can produce magic moments in both acrobatics and comedy. He’s not far gone from returning from a broken leg so he’s going to be shooting to make an impact quickly, and upending Tim Donst in the first round – and winning this year’s JTLIT – would do just that.
3rd JT Lightning Invitational (2017, 2018), 1st Round Opponent: Danhausen AD
Matthew Justice has been making a name for himself as a monster threat of late, holding the AIW Intense Championship for much of the past year. He lost it recently and is looking to regain his stride and get back in the title hunt. Poor, poor Danhausen AD.
2nd JT Lightning Invitational (2018), 1st Round Opponent: Savio Vega
He’s one of the most irritating heels in the business right now, starring with both All Elite Wrestling (AEW) and MLW. With AEW talents heading to an exclusive lockdown of sorts this fall when AEW starts on TNT, MJF will be winding down his indie dates. We’re sure there’s nothing MJF would like to do is leave AIW having won their most prestigious tournament of the year.
2nd JT Lightning Invitational (2015), 1st Round Opponent: AJ Gray
The King of American Hardcore and the reigning GCW World Champion, Nick Gage is entering his second JTLIT and looking to dismantle the opposition. Gage is unrelenting in his violence and in the first round he faces young star AJ Gray. Gray will be looking to do big things, but his first task will be to tame the beast that is Nick F***ing Gage.
1st JT Lightning Invitational, 1st Round Opponent: Swoggle
A longtime veteran of the New Jersey/New York indie scene, Pat Buck also runs WrestlePro and the Create-A-Pro Wrestling School (with WWE’s Curt Hawkins). Over the past few years, Buck has been a tag partner with his opponent, former WWE Superstar Swoggle, but they’ll have to go through each other to advance.
1st JT Lightning Invitational, 1st Round Opponent: MJF
One of Puerto Rico’s greatest wrestlers and a former WWE Superstar, Savio Vega, enters his first JTLIT. He’ll be looking to shut the mouth of MJF for good.
3rd JT Lightning Invitational (2017, 2018), 1st Round Opponent: Pat Buck
Former WWE Superstar Swoggle has had a fairly good run on the indies the past few years since his WWE departure. He’s avoided most legends/nostalgia events and instead has thrown himself in the thick of the true indie scene in the US.
6th JT Lightning Invitational (2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2018), 1st Round Opponent: Marko Stunt
Another man who is synonymous with AIW is former 3x AIW Absolute Champion Tim Donst, who’s impressive title runs have cemented him as one of AIW’s pillars. He’s always going to be a favorite in anything he does in an AIW ring and this year could be his year to finally win a JTLIT for the first time in six attempts.
1st JT Lightning Invitational, 1st Round Opponent: Josh Bishop
Another of AIW’s emerging stars, Tre LeMar is facing former No Consequences teammate Joshua Bishop in the first round. LeMar has since gone on to find success alongside Jake Lander in Blood Diamond, whom he now holds the Black Label Pro Tag Team Championships. A student of NXT Champion Johnny Gargano, LeMar is one to watch.
1st JT Lightning Invitational, 1st Round Opponent: Eddie Kingston
Another of AIW’s youth movement, the “Man of War” Zach Thomas will get to practice what he preaches when he faces a former “War King” in Eddie Kingston.
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