The first entry in this series is a semi-final match from the 2015 Ted Petty Invitational. This was the first TPI since 2008. There were attempts to re-launch the tournament in 2011, but due to financial restraints the event was cancelled.
Luckily, the 2015 edition was a success. The line-up boasted some of indie wrestling’s biggest names in Chris Hero, Timothy Thatcher, MASADA and Jonathan Gresham. On a card that featured Chris Hero vs Timothy Thatcher, two local wrestlers stepped up to the plate to deliver a show-stealing performance. A performance that was rightfully deserving of Match of the Tournament.
If you’re familiar with some of the more premier promotions in the mid-west such as AAW and DREAMWAVE, then the name Matt Cage should sound familiar. Cage is a former AAW Heritage Champion, DREAMWAVE World Champion and Zero 1 USA World Junior Champion. He has also made appearances for CHIKARA and EVOLVE. Despite never getting much bookings on a bigger platform, Matt Cage has established quite the legacy in his hometown area.
Shane Mercer, on the other hand, a lot of people may not be familiar with. Primarily known for his work in IWA-MS, Mercer has spent the better part of 10 years wrestling on and off for the local scene in his hometown. For many fans, IWA-MS may have been their first exposure to the Iron Demon. Shane Mercer is a former IWA-MS Heavyweight Champion, having held the title for 28 days.
Now that the formalities are out of the way, it’s time to get on with the actual match. Oddly enough, despite being from the same area and sharing many locker rooms, this is a first time meeting for the two. Matt Cage defeated Slade Sludge (yes, you read that name right) and Jordynne Grace in the first round to advance to the semi-finals. Shane Mercer pinned Sugar Dunkerton to advance.
The crowd was split 50/50 from the get-go. An explosive start to this match as Matt Cage superkicked Shane Mercer over the rope. Cage would then follow up with two suicide dives and a tope con hilo in rapid succession. You can tell that Cage was motivated to steal the show.
It didn’t take long for him to start working over the Iron Demon’s leg. For the most part, Mercer does a good job of selling the leg. At times, he was a bit awkward in his movements and seemed out of his element. Nevertheless, it didn’t take anything away from the heat. Mercer retaliated with some chops but Cage kept going for the leg. Cage does a nice throwback to the Stone Cold/Bret Hart Wrestlemania XIII match.
This match worked so well because of its simplicity. Every bit of Matt Cage’s offense was centered around Shane Mercer’s leg. When Mercer started to make a comeback, Cage went after the leg. Even if Cage didn’t go directly for the leg at first, he still came back to it. Moments like these really added a unique touch.
Matt Cage definitely brought his ‘A’ game. At this point, the crowd was more on Cage’s side. I don’t blame them. Despite working as a heel, his tenacity made it impossible not to root for him. He hit every big move out of desperation. Every time Mercer kicked out, his facial expressions told a story.
The turning point came when Shane Mercer delivered a devastating elbow.
Shane Mercer did a good job selling the leg while on defense, but he started to get a bit inconsistent near the end while on offense. It’s not that he didn’t sell the leg at all, it’s just that he sold only after performing a move. It may be a nitpick, but Cage’s leg work was so engaging that Mercer’s inconsistent selling made it feel cheap. It would have been nice to see him sell the injury while he was climbing the rope or trying to lift Cage.
Despite Mercer’s selling, it didn’t take away from the crowd’s enjoyment. The crowd, who was pro-Cage for the first half, suddenly became pro-Mercer. The crowd was fully invested in this match. To pull off such a feat is a testimony to the level work these men put in. The crowd went crazy for the finish and that’s how you know when you’ve done your job properly.
Chris Hero and Timothy Thatcher may have had the smoothest, most technically proficient match on the card, but Matt Cage and Shane Mercer showed the most heart and soul. For that, they must be recognized. This match was a star-making performance for both men. ★★★½
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