Blanchard Expects To Reclaim Joe Abby Memorial Tournament As Secrecy Of Opponent Escalates

March 18, 2017
By Trapper Tom, Editor, KSWA Digest

In a recent interview, VIP co-founder Shawn Blanchard was so positive that he would win another Joe Abby Memorial tournament, he asked KSWA Owner Bobby O to make him the first contender for the award. Then, in an odd and yet-to-be-described announcement, the KSWA Championship Committee declined that offer.

In walked KSWA Owner Bobby O who used an Owner’s Exception to overrule the committee and put Blanchard in the match. It’s always been clear that Bobby O knows what’s best of business in the KSWA and that means putting Shawn Blanchard in a match of much consequence.

On March 29, 2008, Shawn Blanchard (then with newly-minted Hall of Famer Frank Durso by his side), ran the table to win the first-ever Joe Abby Memorial Tournament. “The Enforcer” defeated Ali Kaida (with the leader of the International Thugs, “Gentleman” Joe Perri at his side) in the Semi-Finals, while Kris Kash bested La Lucha. That set up a Blanchard/Kash showdown.

The first-ever Joe Abby Memorial Tournament qualifying matches were held the month before (all were held at the KSWA Arena). Ali Kaida defeated The Great Toyota to get to the Semis. Blanchard bested Joey Quervo. La Lucha pinned “The King” Del Douglas. Kash advanced over Zero. The La Lucha/Douglas contest was clearly the most difficult of the earliest round. But Blanchard was confident and determined to come out on top of the inaugural Abby Memorial Tournament, as the former KSWA champion had idolized the workmanship and professionalism of Abby, a Studio Wrestling hand who always put up a good fight. Abby didn’t always win inside the squared circle, but that never mattered to Blanchard.

KSWA Owner Bobby O was the special guest referee for the match between Blanchard and Kash. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 Krazies were in attendance that night. (The popularity of the tournament and the Hall of Fame night has only grown in stature since its inception.) At the end of the night, Blanchard was hailed as the first-ever recipient of the Joe Abby Memorial Tournament trophy. It’s an accomplishment that he touts to this very day.

In the next subsequent years, Lou Martin and The Latin Assassin held the trophy. In 2011, Mitch Napier defeated Shawn Blanchard in the finals for what he hoped was his first repeat.

In 2012, the tournament took a different direction. Abby, who was known to partner with fellow Studio Wrestling wrestler and 2008 Hall of Famer, Frank “Slip Mahoney” Durso, inspired a tag team tournament. That was first won by “The King” Del Douglas and a young protégé named The Jester. The following year, Jay Flash and “Ice Man” Tony Johnson secured the gold trophy.

In 2014 the tournament returned to its single’s starting point. Lord Zoltan won the tournament, with special ringside support from Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. This event was also important in that it was the last match at the KSWA for nearly two years.

In 2015 a “Team” concept was introduced at the Teamster Temple, and then-KSWA Owner Tommy Faime boasted a victory, alongside “King” Douglas, Jay Flash, and Lou Martin. Then in 2016, an altered version of Team Faime, although still anchored by Jay Flash, won. Faime and Flash were joined by Bobby Badfingers and Vinnie Stone.

The Singles match tournament returns as a way to link to the past. Not only has the KSWA returned to the former Lawrenceville Moose, but it’s the 10th anniversary of the Tournament and Hall of Fame night.

That leads up to Blanchard’s declaration and the Championship Committee’s refusal to work with the former 6-time Champion. Blanchard, who is arguably the most decorated champion in independent wrestling, was a former owner of the company. He has been involved in some of the KSWA’s most dynamic and important feuds. His ongoing, 9-year feud with Demolition Ax, would make him a lock for the tournament, but the Committee declined.

Thankfully, Bobby O decided to put all animosity with him and Blanchard aside. Bobby O wants Shawn Blanchard in this historic tournament.

Now that leads to the elephant in the room. The KSWA Championship Committee has announced a Surprise Opponent for Blanchard. These kinds of “Who Is It” benchmarks drive the KSWA office telephones off the hook. Even the bookies in Bloomfield are curious.

Who Might It Be?

For those who follow these debates, it should be La Lucha. The former KSWA Champion and current Mexican Champion nearly won the first tournament. More importantly, one month after the “Mayor of Mexico City” won the KSWA Championship at FanFest 2006, he lost it without ever being pinned. Shawn Blanchard won the KSWA title by pinning Kris Kash in a Triple Threat match in 2007. La Lucha has not been in a meaningful one-on-one match against Blanchard in about a decade. And although La Lucha “retired” a number of years ago, he never really did. He remains in great shape and has proven to have Blanchard’s number in the past.

Some early indicators say that it might be Ice Machine. The masked hero isn’t currently listed on the card for March 25 (not that any “made” matches really mean anything). Just off of a showdown with Harley T. Morris, the former 5-Star Champion could make a splash in this tournament.

Another missing athlete is “Ice Man” Tony Johnson. Johnson’s future in the KSWA remains muddied. Fired by then-owner Tommy Faime nearly a year ago, Johnson has served as a locker room agent on some shows, and always missing Ice Machine (Johnson isn’t happy about Machine using his Ice Kick maneuver). Johnson has frequently been a “Mystery Opponent,” and his re-appearance, while cool, might be over-played by the Committee.

Might it be Lord Zoltan? The last Singles tournament winner, Zoltan always picks up his game for big contests. While the local legend has always found most KSWA success in the tag team division, he has done well in one-on-one matches. In addition, he has always fared extraordinarily well against the VIPs. Zoltan is slated to take on another frequent foe in “King” Del Douglas; however, that is subject to change.

Another wrestler with a recent, good showing was BROhemoth. Since the KSWA returned to the former KSWA Arena, now Spirit Hall, there have been a number of new faces. Could an unexpected, new face make things interesting for Shawn Blanchard.

Many of the Bloomfield bookies are chomping at the bit to see a Shawn Blanchard/Dennis Gregory match. Gregory is one of the few independent wrestlers in this side of the country with a resume rivaling Blanchard. Like BROhemoth, Gregory is not in any of the announced matches. One argument for Gregory is his manager, Mayor Mystery. Mystery has promised war against Bobby O. Placing his representative in this match doesn’t advance that narrative. However, one never knows.

Another thought is a re-introduction of Vinnie Stone. Stone has been absent so far in 2017. He was front and center when Mayor Mystery gleefully said goodbye to the now-retired “Nasty” Nick Crane. Stone, who long ago was a fan favorite alongside Ric Rumsky and Alex Arcadian, is one of the KSWA’s most decorated tag team champions. He has yet to forge a place for his independent legacy. A win on this stage would be epic.

Blanchard will have to wait a week to find out who his opponent will be. With the talent that’s available in the most exclusive roster in Independent Wrestling, there’s no doubt that the matchup will be one to remember.

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