We Went to Chattanooga and Left a Piece of Our Soul There

 In Travel

Chattanooga will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s a beautiful city, small enough to still have that undiscovered small town charm, but large enough to feature plenty of activities – good food, attractions, and all the hiking, rafting, canoeing, etc. than you can handle. We’re based out of Nashville, so when your boy “Big Natural” gets a little too stressed, he can trek about a couple of hours down the road and decompress completely. I love the view from Lookout Mountain, the slower pace of everything, the scenery, and a little German-American brewpub called Brewhaus. That’s my spot – give me a night or two in town and I’m completely rejuvenated.

So, you can imagine when I find out there’s a huge independent wrestling tournament down there every August, I’m elated. Two of my favorite things combined: Chattanooga and wrestling. I actually felt this excitement last year, but I couldn’t make it down because I had blistering poison ivy covering both arms, both legs, and my face (including in my actual eyes). So, since last August, I’ve been planning a trip down to cover The Scenic City Invitational, an event more fondly known as “the Wrestlemania of the South.”

I’m also thinking, “man, Stoney – you could probably pull a relatively cheap content trip out of this. We can cover pro wrestling and do a mini-profile on Chattanooga. Poppa Bear, Nature Boy, and Cadbury would love it.”

Our temporary work station in Room 217 at the Best Western proved serviceable enough.

First of all, I made this page-long itinerary of things we were going to do, restaurants we were going to eat at and review, and a whole host of other activities. I believe, if I’m not mistaken, we did none of those things. But, that’s neither here nor there. There’s still a travel blog to write, and good times to share with the world.

Second, it’s a lot of work to lug around gear and organize content. I chose to leave the podcast equipment at home and took a single backpack with tripods, a laptop, a notepad, chargers, and that’s about it. We did all of our shows on Facebook Live and Periscope. I don’t see how people lug around mics, mixers, headphones, etc. on these long weekends. So, shout out to the road warriors out there who take their shows on the road – I was grumpy about having two bags to tote around…so, I definitely don’t see how you guys do it.

#SQUAD and B on our second night in town.

Finally, spending most of your time drinking booze, eating diner food, and just generally neglecting your health is an easy way to make a content trip quickly feel like a time suck. By the time I made it home, I felt like I had disappeared into the wilderness for 25 years. So, with that in mind, on to the trip!

Thursday

I woke up Thursday morning so excited that I skipped breakfast…just had my regular cup of coffee, packed my bags, an air mattress that would prove invaluable, and picked up some snacks for the road. Though I make it sound like we were going on an exhaustive Summer road trip, it was only two hours down the road. I’d had some SoBros t-shirts printed for Poppa Bear and me, as we’re the only two on the team who wear a XXL shirt, and we didn’t order any 2Xs on the initial run of SoBros shirts we ordered. So, I went to the print shop to pick ’em up, and that was the green light for the trip. They gave me the green light, ’cause I was ready to go…oh..oh….oooeee oooeee oooeee oooee oh oh oh.

Very handsome.

With baggage and merch in tow, I met up with Poppa Bear, and we started the journey. On the way down, we talked about how neither of us really knew what to expect. Wrestling Twitter seems a tight knit group, and we were the new guys coming in. We also discussed our game plan – which pretty much boiled down to, “let’s just see what happens and film it.”

In between deep philosophical discussions, we danced and sang along to tunes such as Savage’s “Swing” and “Come On Eileen.” It was a real dance party.

We arrived at the Best Western Heritage Inn around 2:00 PM Eastern. Since check-in was at 4:00PM, we decided to have our first meal at the heralded City Cafe Diner located inside the hotel. I went with the chorizo omelette (with salsa – I’m no rookie, gotta go with the salsa) and a side of home fries. Meal number one gets an official Big Natural Star Rating of 7/10. Pretty good omelette, but when it comes to greasy breakfast foods, I like a little more butter and cheese (I’m realizing how unhealthy I am as I type this).

After our meal concluded, we checked in, knocked out an episode of the SoBros Variety Show followed by an episode of the Colossal Tussle Podcast, and then cracked open the whiskey.

Night 1 of pounding booze and making friends was a hoot.

The SCI fan fest activities started around 6:00PM, so we made our way to the conference, bought some merch from Papa Hales who is a merciless hustler. Before I knew it, Poppa Bear and I had shirts, buttons, and bracelets. #Respect. We made friends, drank beers, drank more whiskey, ate cookies, drank beer, drank more whiskey, made more friends, and I suddenly realize there are probably about 50 people in the room out of nowhere.

I’m not naming names here, but at a later point in the night, I look over and see a trash can mysteriously appear next to me. I realize one of our new boys is sitting front row on the struggle bus. The ensuing vomit splashed off of the ceiling tile in the trash can and cascaded across my arm and leg.

I’ve never seen 50 people clear out of a room so fast. But, to me – no big deal…just need to shower up, change clothes, and your boy is good to eat! Poppa Bear gives me a ring after making sure our friend isn’t dying, and we go get some food and hang with more new friends.

City Cafe Meal #2 – I ordered a burger that had guacamole and jalapenos on it with some tater tots, but I honestly don’t remember if I liked it or not. Big Natural Star Rating: n/a.

I didn’t go to journalism school, but I do believe it’s shoddy journalism to travel a couple of hours to cover an event only to get really drunk and forget to actually work. But, hey – it was Night 0….when in Rome! I’m still calling it a success.

Friday

Poppa Bear and I wake up rather early given how late we were up partying in the Best Western parking lot. But, we’re professionals, so it’s in our DNA, I guess. We head down to, take a wild guess…

Meeting Papa Hales was an honor.

….the City Cafe for breakfast. I ordered two eggs scrambled with home fries and sausage links, which earned a Big Natural Star Rating of 8/10. It was a fine, hearty breakfast. We run into more good brothers enjoying breakfast, listen to them share stories, and plan for the arrival of Nature Boy and Cadbury.

After hammering out an episode of SoBros Sports Night followed by another Colossal Tussle Podcast, Poppa Bear and I are back to making friends. It’s truly amazing to see how much independent wrestling means to these guys. Many traveled long distances to get there. These are folks that are very passionate about what they love. Where I was worried that we might not fit in because of our lack of an extensive knowledge of the indies, those we partied with were all eager and willing to share information and learn us real good.

All four SoBros who made the journey

Poppa Bear and I then ventured to the wrestling trivia event being held in the conference room, where we missed the first 20+ questions, and didn’t even take pens and paper. Not that it would’ve mattered – we listened to about 20 more questions before realizing we didn’t know shit. But, at least we sat across the table from Gary Jay, who had a solid afternoon of delivering zingers. Upon realizing our shortcomings here, it was time for whiskey and beer.

About 5:00PM, Nature Boy and Cadbury arrive and, of course, this leads to more beers and more whiskey. With the first night of action scheduled for 7:00PM that night, we have to get a meal in us before we head out – anyone want to venture a guess at where we ate?

Ah, yes – the City Cafe. This time, I went with the patty melt, and it was phenomenal. Big Natural Star Rating of 9/10. Bravo. We venture out to Night 1 of the tournament, and had a big ol’ time. A full review of SCI is coming shortly, but I just wanted to document the trip itself in this post. Stay tuned.

Nature Boy and Bro. This moment was the good luck charm for Riddle’s inevitable SCI tournament win.

Nothing major afterwards – we head back to the Best Western, where we continue to drink. We chat about life. Somehow, Nature Boy ended up busting Matt Riddle’s balls about partying. I believe, “Listen, you have to wrestle again tomorrow. You need to calm down” was said, along with, “I know what that smell is.” At one point, Riddle looks around like, “is this guy real?”

We complimented Arik Royal on his match and Ric Flair t-shirt. I believe I also slurred a “hey man, good shit” at Curt Stallion. Honest to God, I’m foggy as hell. We ended up in a conference room for Kick Out At Two’s podcast with The Carnies. I’m not going to lie. It’s all foggy from here. I tried, guys. I fucking tried. Sometimes, even real journalists like us slip up.

-BUT- my final meal at the City Cafe followed: baklava cheesecake and tater tots. Big Natural Star Rating: n/a for obvious reasons.

Saturday

We leave the Best Western. It can only be described as the southern Hotel California. You can check out, but you never really leave. We left a chunk of our souls in that place. After two full days and nights of nothing but writing, podcasting, drinking, shitting, and sleeping in a cycle, we’re out. It’s time to head to downtown Chattanooga. We’re going to do Lookout Mountain, two food reviews, and three podcasts before Night 2 of SCI!

Inside the courtyard at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel

Or, we’re going to get to the Chattanooga Choo Choo, not be able to check in until 3:00, and just go to The Terminal Brewhouse next door and continue the debauchery. This was without a doubt the best meal I had on the trip. I had a braised short rib sandwich with an order of fries. I could barely hide my erection, which is an automatic 10/10 on the Big Natural Star Rating system. You really can’t do any better than an erection in public.

We check in, hammer out two more shows, eat some ice cream, play some bocce ball, and hit up Frothy Monkey for a cup of joe. It’s time to rally, folks.

So, we rally. At this point in the trip, we’ve cleared out an amount of whiskey and beer that I’m borderline ashamed of. But, we can start to feel our bodies breaking down on us.

Night 2 of the tournament comes and goes, better than the night before it. And, after the show we make our way back downtown to an establishment I can’t recall. The whole time, I’m thinking, “how am I going to get a blog series out of this? All we’ve done is drink.” So, no series, but at least I have this post.

We wake up Sunday morning, pack our bags, hit up Dunkin’ Donuts, and hit the road back to Nashville. And, that’s it – now you know how the SoBros travel. Can’t wait for our next drunken wrestling road trip.

The road claims another victim.

I do want to take a moment to thank Papa Hales and Dylan Hales for getting us down there easily, setting us up in the hotel, and providing us with the resources needed to familiarize ourselves with the field. We’re still blossoming as a business, so every penny we save is important. Also, to all of the wrestling Twitter friends I finally met, those of you who drank with us or took the time to get to know us a bit, it was an absolute pleasure. Thank you. And, finally – thank you to Poppa Bear, Nature Boy, and Cadbury for being up for this adventure. I couldn’t have done all of this alone.

Lessons Learned

*Pack more clothes than you need. You never know when you will be puked on or when you’ll sweat through every t-shirt you bring.

*Plan for downtime and rest. This is critical. I operate at a very low functionality. But, there were points in this trip when even I didn’t think the work would be worth it.

*That said, don’t plan too much. I realized on the second day that there was no way we’d be able to do all the things I set out to do. I was battling that disappointment the entire trip. But, the gang had fun, so it eased that pain a bit.

*Don’t leave your fucking business cards at home.

*Pack a cup so that you don’t have to keep buying drinks at the Speedway to drink your booze in.

Peak and the Pit

My girlfriend always makes me do this on trips, but I think it’s good for #content, so here goes. The peak of the trip was definitely drinking with everyone on Friday night. Somehow we ended up with a nice photo of Matt Riddle and Brandon. That’s probably my favorite photo we’ve taken as a brand. The pit was the smell of a hotel room populated by four dudes who consumed nothing but City Cafe and booze for three days straight.

And, on that note, happy travels, folks. I can’t imagine a nicer spotlight of Chattanooga than the one I’ve just created…

Stoney Keeley is the Editor in Chief of The SoBros Network. A strong advocate of GSD (get shit done) and #BeBetter, he’s down to talk Tennessee Titans and Alabama Crimson Tide football over a beer any day. Check him out covering the WWE for WrestlingNews.co. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley@WrestlingNewsCo

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