A Fond Farewell to the Forte

After the referee’s hand hit the mat for the third and final time Saturday, January 15, the fans inside the Forte Center erupted. It was a this point when fans bid a fond Farewell to the Forte. Fans young and old joined in on the celebration as long-time Impact Pro Wrestling favorite James Jeffries wrangled the championship away from his student who had lost his way, Bryce Jordyn.

It was a moment of euphoria – a moment that was a bittersweet-but-storybook ending to seven years of Impact Pro Wrestling at the Forte Center.

Since 2015, Impact Pro Wrestling, a promotion that just celebrated its 20th anniversary last May, called the Forte Center home. This show was their swan song, and it delivered in spades. For Jeffries, who last held the IPW Heavyweight Championship in 2017, hoisting the championship while surrounded by his fans and fellow wrestlers was another moment in a long list of moments he lived within Forte.

A Fond Farewell to the Forte

This has been a great home for us over the last seven years,” said Jeffries. “There have been a lot of special moments. A lot of special matches and memories here. It means the world and the staff has been really great, and so have the fans. This was a sentimental night and a night to reflect. A lot of us have had some of our best moments and matches here, and we’re all very thankful for that.”

While Jeffries vs. Jordyn was the main event of this fond farewell to the Forte, the remainder of the show lived up to the hype of a promotion saying goodbye to what has been their home. Opening the show was another prime example of an IPW mainstay taking on a wrestler of the new IPW generation when AJ Smooth took on Damien Saint.

Saint, a recent star to emerge from the IPW Vault training center in Collins, Iowa, was determined to start the year off with a bang. But ultimately, he fell short to the franchise player of IPW. For Smooth, a man who has done everything in IPW, saying goodbye to the Forte was just the next step in his already illustrious career.

This is the place I got to square up against Bob Holly,” Smooth said. “That was kind of one of those things you dream about and dread at the same time. I made sure every time I went out there, I gave everything, and tonight was no different.”

If sibling rivalries are your cup of tea, then the next two matches on the Farewell Forte show were for you. For over a year, Briar Hale and her sister Sage have feuded over the IPW Women’s Championship.

Briar recently won the championship from her twin sister at IPW’s final show of 2021, and their feud has been featured at the Forte Center numerous times since making their debuts in 2020.

In their final match-up at the Forte Center, Briar Hale successfully defended her championship. Even in a losing effort, Sage Hale appreciated the opportunity to wrestler her sister one last time in the place where they made their debut in front of fans.

It meant a lot,” she said. “I’m very thankful to have wrestled my first match and last match there with my sister. The fans have been great throughout this time. Even though we only wrestled for a short amount of time there, it was great.”

While the Hale sisters will more than likely continue their feud into IPW’s new venue, the Cooper brothers, Clay and Dalton, brought an end to their sibling rivalry – a rivalry that, in a true sense of full circle, began at the Forte Center years ago when Dalton turned on his brother.

For weeks, these two had engaged in a war of words on social media, neither holding back when expressing their feelings toward the other.

This felt like a grudge match, neither willing to pull their punches. Dalton’s chest was a beet-red mess after some early chops from Clay. But, outside the main event, this match stole the show, with Clay getting the win after a picture-perfect 450 splash.

Forte is where I began my wrestling career, and it will always have a special place in my heart. I’ve had nothing but good memories there, whether it was in the ring doing what I love or in the back hanging out with the guys and gals,” Clay said. “I’m not the most talkative guy in the locker room, but I love and respect everyone in IPW. Except for my brother, of course. Hopefully, no one tells him the location of the new venue, so he’ll stop being a headache.”

Over the years, a staple of IPW Forte shows has been the use of big stars brought in from the world of pro wrestling.

The final show at the Forte was no different, as WWE Hall of Famer Cowboy Bob Orton joined Jaxon King and TS Aggressor in a six-man tag match against the Legend Killers (Matty Star & Sparrow) and Captain Midnight Guthrie.

Teaming with the father of his pro wrestling hero in the place he made his debut was something the uber-popular King couldn’t believe was happening.

A Fond Farewell to the Forte

This will always hold a special place in my heart,” King said. “Wrestling has been a life-long dream of mine, and I got to start it off in this very building, and that’s something I’ll be forever grateful for. Tonight was nerve-wracking. I was super nervous but excited and honored. Having looked up to his boy, Randy, since I was a little kid made this a really humbling experience.”

Captain Midnight Guthrie, a man who was part of shows at the Forte Center long before IPW started performing there, couldn’t resist reminiscing on the matches and moments that made the Forte a special venue for professional wrestling.

For me, personally, this was my home building because my first moments in front of a wrestling audience happened in this building,” Guthrie said. “It was incredibly important for me to be here tonight. It’s amazing to have seen the growth of independent wrestling right through this building. So, tonight was a major honor, and I hope the young guys and gals realize how important this building has been too independent wrestling in Iowa.”

A farewell IPW show wouldn’t have been complete without the three competitors in the next match. Malice, the Death Dealer, and the Big Picture have been key figures during IPW’s seven years at the Forte Center.

The Big Picture’s historic 853-day reign as IPW Heavyweight Champion was chock full of title defenses inside the Forte Center. The Death Dealer has become one of IPW’s most popular wrestlers, and his entrance always elicits a raucous ovation from the Forte faithful.

Malice, the current IPW Extreme Champion, took part in some of the wildest matches in Forte history, and this triple-threat match was no different.

These three delivered the goods in a wild, weapons-filled match. Chairs, kendo sticks, traffic cones, and even guitars were used throughout. Their mid-match toast and beer bash was a perfect way for them to honor the Forte Center.

This place was a big checkpoint for my career,” said the Death Dealer. “When we started running shows here, it was a big deal to be on them, and then being lucky enough to main event a few was awesome. I’ll always have these memories. Tonight, the fans packed the Forte again, and it didn’t really hit me until after that final bell rang.”

While the Extreme Championship match showcased three IPW veterans, the match that followed was a glimpse into IPW’s future. Four up-and-comers, Adam Love, Ricky Bronson, Zay K47, and Cole Cannon, took the spotlight in a fatal four-way match.

All four of these guys are creating their own paths within IPW and were ecstatic to receive this opportunity, especially Zay K47, one of the youngest competitors in the IPW locker room.

A Fond Farewell to the Forte

I don’t have as many memories as a lot of the other wrestlers but being a part of this was like nothing I’ve been a part of before,” he said. “This was great, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the future of IPW.”

The IPW tag team division has long been one of the promotion’s most exciting divisions. A plethora of teams have continuously fought for the straps, including the current champions, the Max Chill Mafia.

Forming during the IPW Vault era, the nefarious trio have been on the receiving end of the fans’ ire from the moment they made their debut at the Forte Center to walking out of the Forte on its final night; still, champions, defeating Justin Decent and Ugly.

The Forte Center meant a lot to me,” said Max Chill. “It’s where I debuted for IPW, and it’s where I hit my career high so far, winning the tag belts with two of my best friends. I will always look back fondly of our time at the Forte.”

This is where I had my first match, and that will always hold a spot in my heart,” added The Shank. “I’m really excited for the next location – something new for the fans after seven good years.”

The Forte Center is where the Des Moines crowd and Adam Love met and where I found myself,” said Love. “Forte is where this love/hate dichotomy between them and I was born.”

The Max Chill Mafia’s long-time nemesis, Decent, had one of the most unique perspectives when it came to the Forte farewell. During his time at the top of IPW, Decent was the heavyweight champion, defending the gold numerous times during some of their first shows inside the Forte.

Over the years, along with the likes of James Jeffries and TS Aggressor, Decent had the opportunity to coach some of the new era of wrestlers, including his rivals in the MCM. Being a competitor at the forefront of their run at Forte and seeing his pupils find their way in the promotion is something that means a lot to Decent.

A Fond Farewell to the Forte

Coming here really lit a fire inside of me when it comes to my career,” Decent said. “It gave us a great venue to work out of. We drew many fans and built a fan base that truly enjoyed what we did. I got to feel myself grow as a performer and as a wrestler in this building. This is also where we were when I transitioned into a trainer to help make the next generation of pro wrestling.

That really clicked in my soul, as this is where I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to be doing.”

This brings us back to the main event and the age-old tale of the student versus the teacher; Impact Pro Wrestling storytelling at its best.

Bryce Jordyn won the championship back in July during their biggest show of 2021. It was the feel-good moment of the year, soured just two days later when the newly emerged “Golden God” debuted at their follow-up Forte show.

That afternoon, he turned his back on not only the fans but James Jeffries himself. Last Saturday was the story coming to a gratifying conclusion, with the grizzled veteran putting the brash upstart protege in his place.

Even in defeat, Bryce Jordyn, a wrestler who had his fair share of memorable moments in the Forte Center, looked back fondly on the place IPW called home for seven years.

A Fond Farewell to the Forte

Forte was the place I started at,” he said. “Being in here and the memories we made is awesome. I was able to see IPW stars of the past and now seeing what the future has to offer. I had a lot of great matches here and some not-so-great matches & I will miss the atmosphere here. This is where I went from being loved to being hated, and the feeling’s mutual.”

As the fans and wrestlers joined James Jeffries in his championship celebration, the man behind the scenes, IPW promoter Troy Peterson, watched with a genuine feeling of appreciation for IPW’s time at the Forte Center – something Peterson summed up the long after the show was over.

This place has meant so much,” Peterson said. “When we started here, we were looking for a good fit in this market. The Forte presented itself as an opportunity to grow our product. It became kind of the center of our wrestling universe. Fast forward to tonight, and it comes to an end. it’s bittersweet, and I don’t want to sound cliché, but the fans helped make the Forte special, and no matter where we end up, this fan base will make whatever venue we’re at feel special, too.”