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by Thomas Leturgey

Each and every year, the Joe Abby Memorial tournament becomes more and more important to the Megastars of the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance. This year it was never more important for Jay Flash and the “Ice Man” Tony Johnson.

When the tournament—named for the late Lawrenceville wrestler “Killer” Joe Abby—first started it was a launching pad for wrestlers who wanted their shot at the KSWA’s Heavyweight Championship. However, with the growing popularity of January’s “Battle Bowl” battle royal, KSWA owner Bobby O and the Championship Committee decided to change the Joe Abby Tournament into one that showcased tag team competition.

The wrestlers made their way to the packed semi-finals at the KSWA Arena in Lawrenceville on March 23. The “Mercenaries,” made up of “Nasty” Nick Crane and “Sniper” stomped their way to the ring before their competition, Jonny Axx and Bobby Badfingers of the “Legion of the Apocalypse.” Both teams were matched up well, with similar size, strength and experience. Neither team was known for exceptional sportsmanship and it was Crane who used his own Canadian national flag and its pole to jab Badfingers in the ribs. Teammate Sniper went for the pin on Badfingers but was met instead with Axx’s elbow from the corner. Axx and Badfingers moved onto the finals.

In the other semi-final match, Mitch Napier and Ric Rumsky took on Flash and Johnson. Unlike the previous contest, all four wrestlers shook hands in showings of good gamesmanship. The match itself was one of superior athletic ability, quickness and technical prowess, especially when Johnson and Napier matched up. That was before destiny got into the way. Another tag team, Edric Everhart and Tyler Cross—who had recently been recruited by the villainous VIP’s—attacked Rumsky from behind. Normally, their interference would have immediately cost Flash and Johnson the match. But in the case of the Joe Abby tournament, the match was allowed to continue with Napier going alone against Flash and Johnson. The odds were too much for Napier and he lost the match.

Flash, billed from South Beach, Florida, said it was “too bad” that Rumsky couldn’t continue; the scale of this opportunity was too great. Johnson, from St. Louis, Missouri, said that the teams will “meet again” somewhere down the road.

In the tournament finals, Axx and Badfingers took a more controlling attitude into the match. There was no handshake of respect to start this contest. Axx and Badfingers used their superior size and strength to their advantage. Flash and Johnson answered with fast-moving quickness and doggedness. Toward the end of the showdown, Johnson perched Badfingers on his knee and Flash jumped onto his opponent from the ropes. That set Badfingers up for Flash’s Cannonball splash from the top rope and the one, two, three victory, making Flash and Johnson the winners of the Joe Abby Memorial Tournament and new #1 Contenders for Pittsburgh’s premier tag team titles.

Flash and Johnson have already made impressions on wrestling fans in and out of Pittsburgh. In addition to performing in Pittsburgh’s only professional wrestling organization, the duo have worked at smaller, regional promotions in McKeesport, Elizabeth and Wheeling, West Virginia.

On December 4, 2010 Johnson became the KSWA’s first-ever Jr. Heavyweight Champion by winning a five-competitor Gauntlet Match. Flash was even one of the competitors he faced at FanFest/Toy Drive, the KSWA’s principal event. Johnson defended the belt often and held onto it for 286 days. Incredibly, he won the belt back the very next day and held it for another 77 days. He finally lost the championship for the second time 364 days after winning it.

The next match will be more serious for the growing and improving twosome. They know they have a legitimate shot at the KSWA’s tag team belts, currently held by Millvale’s own pompous “King” Del Douglas and zany, dancing “The Jester.” That team is still riding high after beating Party Gras, a team anchored by local Pittsburgh wrestling legend Lord Zoltan. Party Gras held the tag team belts for a record 75 weeks.

The Joe Abby Memorial Tournament was named for the wrestler who repossessed cars when he wasn’t selling food products for Kraft foods. He made his name working with other local wrestlers like Frank Durso and Bobby “Hurricane” Hunt. All three were inducted into the KSWA Hall of Fame in past years. Within the past few months, the organization has tapped more international stars like “The Living Legend” Bruno Sammartino and George “The Animal” Steele for Hall of Fame induction. Upon his enshrinement, Steele called Pittsburgh the “home” of “The Animal” character, as it was created here.

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