|The man now known as "Lightning" Mike Quackenbush
began wrestling under the name "M. Quackenbush" in his hometown of West Lawn, PA
in 1991. His first match in a wrestling ring took place on May 20th, 1994 before a packed
audience of 1,100 in his high school gymnasium. The success of that event, "Wilson
War '94" motivated Quackenbush to pursue his wrestling dreams more seriously. Later
that year his wrestling would draw large crowds at the University of Pittsburgh's
"Pit Theatre," a building since destroyed to create more on-campus parking. His
four bouts on the cement floor of the theater were the stuff of college legend, and led to
his transfer over into legitimate independents like USCW and PWX by 1995. During this time
Mike fractured his skull, and spent several months recuperating before returning to
action. Mike's first independent title win was the USCW Junior championship he captured by
defeating Bubba Hansen, via Frog Splash, in Washington, PA.
By 1996, Mike was a regular part of the Pittsburgh area independent scene, and even dabbled in shoot-fighting with the shortlived G.A.M.E. (Great American Mat Endeavors) promotion. Upon his return from back injury, he auditioned for and was hired by Blaine DeSantis' Pennsylvania Championship Wrestling in his native Berks County.There he met both the man who would mentor him, Ace Darling, and one of his greatest in-ring rivals, Reckless Youth. Mike feuded with both in 1997, winning the PCW tag titles from Ace Darling and Glenn Osborne, and later in the year, losing his PCW Junior title to Reckless Youth. These feuds carried over to Jim Kettner's ECWA promotion in Delaware, where Mike also locked horns with Billy Kidman. In 1997, Mike first faced down men like Devon Storm and Don Montoya, who would also go on to play large roles in the development of his career on the independents. Reflecting on this time in his career, Mike said: "I really owe a great debt to Blaine for taking a chance on me. I went from working go-nowhere shows with once-a-monthers to wrestling on the same cards as WWF talent and the top independent names of the day. It was more than just a change of scenery, it was great motivation to perform at my very best."
Plying his trade through 1998 with independent companies all over the east coast, Mike Quackenbush quickly gained a reputation for being an inventive high-flyer, and a choice opponent for some of the circuit's top talents. He penned Fantastic Finishers for London Publishing, and the magazine-format publication was a sales hit in the summer of 1998. Of this time period, Mike says "This was really my first time as the indy wrestling 'flavor of the month,' so to speak. Between my publishing work and the emerging power of the internet, I was as visible as any non-contracted wrestler in the US at that time. I was very forturnate to be booked in matches against super-talented people."
His first real breakthrough match came in May of 1999, at the ECW Arena. A cross-promotional show entitled "Break the Barrier" came to Philadelphia, and Mike, Don Montoya and Lou Marconi opened the card as representatives of Steel City Wrestling. Mike captured the "Lord of the Dance" title that night, a belt to be defended in 3-way dance matches - the first of its kind. By this time, Mike was appearing all over the country - Florida, Michigan, Texas, Connecticut, Georgia and more.
Continue . . .
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