wrestling / Columns

The Independent Mid-Card 10.02.07: Castagnoli vs. Quackenbush (Part II)

October 2, 2007 | Posted by Samuel Berman

Hello all and welcome to week two of a special Independent Mid-Card look at IWA Mid-South’s annual Ted Petty Invitational Tournament. Last week, we looked at Claudio Castagnoli’s first round victory over Kevin Steen from last year’s TPI, with the intention of following Claudio into his second round match in this week’s column. What good fortune then, that a particular “Master of a Thousand Holds” would end up making some headlines of his own this past weekend. So join me this week for a coincidentally topical edition of the IMC.

Claudio Castagnoli vs. Mike Quackenbush
Tournament – Second Round Match
IWA Mid-South – 2006 Ted Petty Invitational, Night 2 – Midlothian, IL – September 30, 2006

The Wrestlers:
Claudio Castagnoli – Coming out of a victory over Kevin Steen the night before, “Double C” Claudio Castagnoli was placed in a difficult but crowd-pleasing matchup to open a second night of Ted Petty Invitational action. It was clear that Claudio would have a difficult road ahead of him if he was going to advance in his third TPI appearance.

Mike Quackenbush – With over a decade of ring time under his belt, “Lightning” Mike Quackenbush is widely considered one of the elder statesmen of Independent wrestling. One of the founders of the CHIKARA Wrestle Factory and a champion in countless promotions spanning the globe, “The Master of a Thousand Holds” competes using a hybrid style that incorporates elements of Lucha Libre, Japanese junior style, amateur technique and traditional American pro wrestling to create a unique in-ring performance that few can match. Additionally a noted author, this year marked Quackenbush’s fourth appearance in the Ted Petty Invitational Tournament, most notably reaching the semifinals in 2004 and 2005, losing in those years to “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson and Kevin Steen respectively. On Night 1, Quackenbush defeated “Classic” Colt Cabana to advance in the tournament and set up his showdown with Castagnoli

The Match:
Break It Down Again hits and Mike Quackenbush makes his way to ringside. Quackenbush moves quickly into the ring, briefly soaking in the polite applause of the crowd before returning his focus to readying himself for Claudio Castagnoli. As if from nowhere, Bon Jovi’s Bad Medicine hits and a masked man wearing white hospital scrubs comes through the doors and heads to the ring. Everyone, including ring announcer Joey Eastman looks positively mystified at what has just occurred. A lone fan tries to start up a “Claudio Wagner!” chant, but even “Double C” himself looks at the guy and shakes his head. Eastman announces that the match is scheduled for one fall with a thirty minute time limit, with Quackenbush having a comical puzzled look at the notion of the match being “only one” fall. Bryce Remsburg is introduced as the referee and then we get the announcement for “The Master of a Thousand Holds” Mike Quackenbush, whose “Lightning” moniker is interestingly left out. Quack takes a few steps towards Claudio, who intently waves him back. “Double C” Claudio Castagnoli is introduced second, and quickly unmasks upon hearing his name. He removes the scrubs to reveal his traditional red and white Swiss-themed tights. Remsburg checks Claudio and the bell rings to start things off.

The two men circle, but when they move in for a lockup Claudio knees Quack in the midsection. Claudio follows up with a trio of clubbing forearms and then begins to stomp away as he jaws with the crowd. Claudio grabs a double knucklelock, and they go into a complicated test of strength sequence that ends with Quack hopping over Castagnoli’s shoulders and then flipping backwards before planting him with an armdrag and nipping up. Really crisp opening bit there. Claudio responds by simply smashing Quackenbush in the jaw with a back elbow and continues to strike away with another clubbing forearm and another stomp for good measure. Claudio yells at the crowd some more and hits another clubbing forearm before locking in an abdominal stretch.

The crowd almost immediately begins clapping for Quackenbush, and he uses the energy to maneuver himself into a complete reversal of the hold. Claudio tries to reverse Quack into a swinging facebuster, but Quackenbush is able to counter in midair and takes Double C over with another armdrag. Quack charges in, but Claudio gets a single-leg takedown. Quackenbush is not to be outdone, however, and gets a merry-go-round headscissors takedown out of that position. Claudio, again frustrated at being one-upped, immediately plants Quackenbush with a forearm upon recovering. Claudio picks up Quack and nails him with a European Uppercut, the first of what will no doubt be many. The crowd is pretty vehemently booing usual fan-favorite Castagnoli at this point, a sign of good storytelling, even early in the match.

Claudio follows Quack into the corner and stomps away before getting a standing boot choke. Claudio takes a moment’s pause before getting another stomp and whipping Quackenbush cross-corner, only to have Quack hop up to the second turnbuckle and come flying out of the corner, catching Castagnoli with a spinning side armdrag in the process. Claudio comes running out of the corner, but gets caught with another side armdrag for his trouble. Quack comes running at Claudio and goes for what would appear to be an inverted lungblower, but Claudio catches him and tries to hold on. Quack is able to bounce off the ropes and ends up reversing back into a monkey flip that sends Claudio crashing to the mat and rolling to ringside to recover. Quackenbush poses for a moment in the ring and then comes running, landing a tope con hilo over the top rope onto Claudio on the floor.

Quackenbush rolls Claudio back in and climbs right to the top. He comes flying in with a cross-body block attempt, but Claudio catches him in midair and is able to counter right into a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. The move actually seems to hurt Claudio’s knee, but Double C is still able to limp over and make the cover for two. Claudio picks up Quackenbush and plants him with another backbreaker, this time holding him over the knee in a modified bow-and-arrow. Claudio releases, but continues to stomp away, even standing on Quackenbush’s chest for a four count before being prompted to get off by Remsburg. Quackenbush responds to another clubbing forearm with a slap to the chest of Claudio, but the big man just kicks away to put “The Master of a Thousand Holds” back down to the mat. Claudio gets a forearm shot in before whipping Quackenbush off the ropes, but Quack is able to counter another tilt-a-whirl attempt into a Fujiwara Armbar and then grabs a reverse double-underhook before rolling Claudio over into what amounts to an inverted backslide for two. That sequence was really cool.

Both men make it to their feet, only to have Claudio put Quackenbush back down with a clothesline. Claudio makes a cocky cover for two, prompting more boos from the crowd. Claudio follows up with a bodyslam and makes another cocky cover, but this time Remsburg doesn’t even get off of his feet before Quack rolls a shoulder up. Claudio locks in a chinlock while pressing his knee into Quackenbush’s back, but Quack quickly spurs the crowd to cheer and starts to elbow his way out of the hold. Claudio isn’t having any of that, however, and lands a series of clubbing forearms to stop the momentum. Claudio even continues to lay in clubbing forearms to Quack’s chest on the mat before breaking to mock the crowd. Claudio picks Quack up and whips him cross-corner, further working his back in the process. Quackenbush tries to make a comeback by headbutting Claudio in the midsection when he moves in towards the corner, but Castagnoli responds with a series of stiff forearms and whips Quack off the ropes. Quackenbush does a neat reversal into a whip of his own and then snapmares Claudio down. They continue from there with no one getting anything off of a shoulderblock, but then Quackenbush monkey flips Claudio over the top to the floor in a cool spot. Quack comes running with a baseball slide dropkick attempt, but Claudio ducks and Quack flies over him, landing on his feet on the floor. Claudio catapults Quack over his head, but Quack amazingly lands on the second turnbuckle and rebounds by flying into a self-induced tilt-a-whirl into an armdrag on the floor. The momentum of the armdrag actually sent Claudio flying into the first row of chairs. That whole sequence was absolutely insane.

Quackenbush again rolls Castagnoli back into the ring as the referee’s count reaches nine. Quack climbs right to the top again, but this time Claudio cuts him off with a European Uppercut. Claudio throws Quackenbush off of the top, but Quack rolls through and does a neat flip up move on Claudio before absolutely planting him with a hurricanrana for two. That could totally have been the finish. Quackenbush picks up Claudio and grabs a wristlock, looking to set up the Black Tornado Slam (swinging inverted double-underhook slam), but Claudio reverses and gets the Alpamare Waterslide (inverted torture rack into a Death Valley Driver) for a close two count. Claudio complains about the count and then begins to pick up Quackenbush, taking a moment to land another clubbing forearm in the process. Claudio calls for the match to be over and whips Quack off the ropes, but when he presses Quackenbush into the air, Quack is able to land on Claudio’s chest, standing there for a moment before springboarding into a backflip and landing on his feet on the mat. Claudio, stunned by the move, comes running with a clothesline, but Quackenbush ducks it and comes off the ropes with La Quackica (spinning headscissors into an armbar takedown) before turning Claudio over into a new modified backslide for another incredibly close two count. The crowd is now on their feet, waiting to see what else these two will do, as Quackenbush chops away at Claudio’s chest. Claudio tries to respond with a forearm shot, but Quack continues to slap and chop away. Quack comes running off the ropes and goes for another hurricanrana, but this time Claudio rolls through in midair and is able to land a ridiculous sunset flip powerbomb to get the pin at 9:42. The crowd is less than pleased with the outcome, but continues to applaud the amazing in-ring effort. Claudio rolls out and heads to the back as the crowd continues to chant for Quackenbush.

The crowd starts up a loud “Thank You!” chant as IWA Mid-South owner Ian Rotten comes out to ringside. Rotten extends an offer for Quackenbush to appear for Mid-South anytime he wants (prompting a “Much More Quack!” chant from the crowd). Rotten goes on to cut a promo about how Ted Petty was a respected guy in the wrestling business, and then compares Petty and Quackenbush, saying that Quack is one of the true class acts in professional wrestling. At this point, a number of Quackenbush’s students (including Hallowicked, Jigsaw and Gran Akuma) have made their way to ringside. Rotten talks a bit about how Quackenbush makes a point of teaching his students the proper way to act and how to appropriately carry themselves when they visit promotions outside of CHIKARA. The crowd starts up another loud chant for Quackenbush who indulges them in a series of bows before hopping out to the floor and heading to the back. That was an incredibly special moment, and a nice tribute to one of the Independent scene’s all-time best.

The Analysis:
Probably one of the three or four best matches under ten minutes that I’ve personally ever seen, Claudio and Quack put on an absolute clinic in this one, hitting every move (even the complicated ones) cleanly and keeping the crowd at a near-constant frenzy. The early storyline thread of Quackenbush outsmarting Claudio, only to have the big man level him with a strike, was a nice bit of introduction to the back-and-forth affair the two would go on to perform for the next seven or eight minutes. Rather than feeling the need to work in as many signature spots as possible, both wrestlers seemed content to work with what they were given, rather than force any particular sequence.

There is also one note about Quackenbush’s offense that I want to make sure I discuss here. You probably noticed the word ‘armdrag’ an inordinate number of times during play-by-play. Whereas many wrestlers use the armdrag as a transitional move or a stable of early parity sequences, Quackenbush uses a variety of armdrags as offensive weapons, utilizing them to work over his opponent’s back. Paramount to this strategy is his opponent understanding this distinction, a skill that Claudio Castagnoli seems to exemplify. After nearly every armdrag, Claudio would pop up holding his back in pain, a reaction that is immeasurably different from simply getting to one’s feet seeming dazed by the move. Had Quackenbush been looking for his Alligator Clutch at any point late in the match, certainly the work he had put in on Claudio’s back would have paid off in at least the tease of a submission.

Oh, and the match’s finishing move (Claudio reversing a hurricanrana into a sunset flip powerbomb in midair) should pretty much not have been physically possible and really must be seen to be believed.

The Aftermath:
Claudio Castagnoli would go on to lose his semifinal matchup with “The Anarchist” Arik Cannon, falling in just under fifteen minutes to Cannon’s devastating Glimmering Warlock finisher. Claudio, who at this point was a tag team champion for both Ring of Honor and CHIKARA (with fellow King of Wrestling Chris Hero), would go on to add the CZW Tag Team Titles to his collection before signing a WWE developmental contract and losing each of the belts in succession. Due to unconfirmed issues, Claudio would not end up working for World Wrestling Entertainment, instead remaining a key player on the Independent scene. In his primary home of Ring of Honor, Castagnoli, now split from Hero in the storylines, would go on to reestablish himself as a important part of the company’s singles ranks, eventually winning the company’s first Race to the Top Tournament. Though a pair of shots at ROH World Champion Takeshi Morishima would not end in Claudio’s favor, the growing fan perception that he deserved to be in the company’s main event mix would be a reasonable consolation prize.

“Lightning” Mike Quackenbush, who coincidentally was one of the competitors that Claudio Castagnoli would defeat on his way to winning Ring of Honor’s Race to the Top Tournament, has continued his work as CHIKARA’s head trainer and one of its top in-ring talents. In addition, he made his long-awaited Ring of Honor debut in April of 2007, finally appearing for the top American Independent company along with a group of his students. Though Quackenbush has yet to notch a notable victory in ROH competition (outside of a first round tournament win over Matt Sydal), he has already been featured in major contests, including a highly regarded loss to company ace “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson. Also, Quackenbush won the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship in May of 2007, defeating Tiger Mask IV under questionable circumstances, but as a result getting his foot in the door in Japan for the first time in his career. Most recently, Quackenbush would navigate an impressive field to emerge victorious in this year’s Ted Petty Invitational Tournament, besting Billy Roc, Joey Ryan, Josh Abercrombie, Claudio Castagnoli and Chuck Taylor to win the tournament and Taylor’s IWA Mid-South Heavyweight Title. Mid-South fans seem hopeful that this turn of events will lead Quackenbush to appear for IWA on a more regular basis.

The Final Word:
Well, I went 8-for-12 in my TPI first round predictions, with the notable missteps being picking Chris Hero to beat 2 Cold Scorpio and Eddie Kingston to beat Human Tornado. I do feel somewhat vindicated considering that Hero and Kingston ended up facing off on Night 2 in a non-tournament match, which was the matchup I thought they’d book in the tournament were both guys to advance. Anyway, please allow me to say my own congratulations to “Lightning” Mike Quackenbush on his 2007 TPI win. Ian Rotten had it exactly right last year when he said that Mike Quackenbush represents what’s good about the wrestling business. I sincerely hope that this is just the next of many more amazing accomplishments for Quack in the months and years to come.

To see this week’s matchup, the 2006 Ted Petty Invitational is available from smartmarkvideo.com. Night 2 is available as a part of the two-show set that contains five DVDs and over 8 hours of footage. I do not consider it hyperbole in the least to say that these shows are amongst the best in Independent wrestling history, and every fan should make it a point to own them.

While you’re at 411 this week, there are a bunch of other great columns and reviews for you to read. Ari’s got Part I and Part II of Column of Honor, Bayani’s got Truth B Told, and Short’s got The Navigation Log. Alex has another edition of Hitting Below the Beltway and there’s a new Buy or Sell featuring Bayani and myself covering a wide variety of topics. Chris Lansdell has The Way I C It and the boss has an edition of Wrestling’s 4Rs, both covering Ring of Honor action. Brad’s got PWG’s Bicentennial Birthday Extravaganza, Night 2 and Mike Campbell has a great review of WWE’s Judgment Day 2007.

A new Buy or Sell covering TPI fallout and this weekend’s ROH action will be out on Friday, as will the ROH Roundtable, so be on the lookout for those.

For those keeping track, Big Shots is off of the DVR schedule after only one week, proving that you actually can leave me unimpressed despite featuring two actors I really like (Joshua Malina and Christopher Titus). Private Practice is skating through for now, but was SERIOUSLY behind Grey’s this week and should be warned that my tolerance for spinoffs is modest at best. Haven’t watched Dirty Sexy Money yet, but The Office was out-of-control great last week and remains right near the top of the mountain for me.

Alright, that’s enough TV discussion for this week. Next week I’ll be back with another edition of the IMC, probably involving some fallout from this weekend’s ROH Pay-Per-View taping. Have a good one everybody.

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Samuel Berman

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