DISCLAIMER: I'm biased. Deal with it.
AAW runs out of the greater Chicago era and was founded in 2004; my main exposure to their product was their short-lived YouTube show. In recent years, they've become a "super indie" of sorts and a Midwest version of Pro Wrestling Guerrilla; this event in particular had a stacked lineup of nationally-known independent competitors. Your mileage may vary on that format; sometimes wrestling companies do forego strong undercard storytelling in favor of "hey look, cool wrestling match". As always: To each his/her own.
Trina(aka The Marky Smark) was cool enough to buy my ticket; Lindsey(aka Dynamo Pro manager and aspiring wrestler Sophie Darling) had the task of driving myself and fellow fan Mike Chapman for the evening. We made one stop on the way for gas and I picked up some Combos and a bottle of Pepsi; I had only eaten Pop Tarts before leaving the house. (Being in a more active job after fifteen years of desk jobs has burned more calories than I thought it would...heh.) When we arrived at 115 Bourbon, we joined up with John Timmermann and had dinner at the restaurant portion of the venue. Dinner for me was a grilled chicken sandwich with Monterey Jack cheese, plus French fries on the side and water to drink. Merrionette Park is pretty close to the fine community of Aurora, Illinois, but it was still a random surprise to see someone else in a Wayne's World ballcap. I had to get a picture with him, of course...bwahahaha.
Saw several familiar faces in the house, including Trina(obviously), Angelus Layne, and Travis Titan. It was a PACKED house and it was a task to simply find a place to stand where I wouldn't block anyone's view. The merchandise table was full of cool people, many of whom I met for the first time. I joked with Colt Cabana that my hair isn't QUITE at Cliff Compton levels any more, but he said it's getting close. Talking to Matt Riddle was like talking to Rob Van Dam; he joked that his mystery opponent may just be from the St. Louis area. I had been selfishly hoping for Riddle vs. Mat Fitchett and that got me wondering...I was slightly off. Was cool to meet people like Jeff Cobb(aka Matanza Cueto), Pentagon Jr., and (Rey) Fenix in person after only seeing them on the Lucha Underground show. Talked to Sami Callihan about seeing him at St. Louis Anarchy and he remembered his match with Gary Jay (funny how people still know Gary Jay as "The Barn Owl"). Picked up a Pentagon Jr. T-shirt...tips have been good at the esteemed Pizza Hut job so I had a bit more spending cash than usual.
Your ring announcer was Kevin Harvey(?); your referees were Andy Long & Coyne Jones.
Xander Killen & Josh DeWayne(?) vs. "Buck Nasty" Bucky Collins & Eddie Machete: Other than Bucky wrestling a handful of times in the St. Louis area, I wasn't overly familiar with anyone here. Xander Killen previously wrestled as Adrian Alexander; he and Machete are graduates of The Black & The Brave Wrestling Academy (run by Tyler Black/Seth Rollins & Marek Brave). I believe Eddie previously worked as Eli Machete. DeWayne was the only person who I didn't know and whose name I couldn't confirm. The crowd wasn't really into this preshow match; I figured they'd at least know Buck Nasty, as he'd been in a managerial role for The Hooligans(Devin & Mason Cutter). DeWayne took the abuse for his team, then Killen got the hot tag and cleaned house. However, the less-experienced team made the oft-seen mistake of the weary partner tagging back into the match too quickly...Bucky finished off DeWayne with a spinning Rock Bottom in 7:53. (Thank you for announcing match times, sirs.)
The AAW commentary team(Phil Colvin, Daryck St. Holmes, & Tyler Volz) opened the show by hyping the lineup. They were interrupted by the lovely and talented Scarlett Bordeaux(w/ Connor Braxton & Eddie Machete)...mmm...anywho. (Seriously, it took me a second to recognize her with the blond hair, even though she was JUST on WWE Raw.) She bragged about her Raw appearance(despite being destroyed by Nia Jax) and threw out on an open challenge on Braxton's behalf...those rarely go well for rulebreakers and this was no exception.
"The Notorious 187" Homicide vs. Connor Braxton(w/ Scarlett Bordeaux & Eddie Machete): Braxton is a tall drink of water...I believe he's another Black & Brave student. Despite the height and weight disadvantage, Homicide had a huge edge in experience and agility and he's not the most politically correct guy in the wrestling world either. (Err...more on that later.) For full-show reference, AAW is no-countout-no-DQ across the board; this format can create some plot holes, i.e. "Why not just have someone interfere right away?" Anywho, this was a fine sprint...all I'd really seen of Braxton previously was on the 3XW YouTube show. Homicide got him in an STF and Scarlett blatantly interfered, causing Homicide to release the hold. Scarlett gloated over her actions, unaware that Homicide was right behind her...and he DROPPED her with a Gringo Cutter! Sadly, I was unable to get to ringside soon enough to assist Scarlett to the backstage area. #500ftmeans500ft At any rate, Homicide set up Braxton on the top rope for a super Gringo Cutter to finish in 4:10. Machete attempted to get some post-match retribution only to fall victim to a Gringo Killa(Vertebreaker). That brought out Ohio Is 4 Killers(Jake & Dave Crist)(w/ J.T. Davidson) to attack Homicide, laying him out with a Tombstone/top-rope double-stomp combo. (OI4K and Heavyweight Champion Sami Callihan had clashed with Homicide and his long-time allies Low-Ki and Eddie Kingston at a previous show.) The save was made by the Unlikely Duo(tm) of Kongo Kong & Markus Crane, who were accompanied by Kongo's manager Louis J. Pinder. It wasn't until I noticed the referee's presence in the ring and he made a pin count that I realized we had an impromptu match on our hands...
Kongo Kong & Markus Crane(w/ Louis J. Pinder) vs. Ohio Is 4 Killers(Jake & Dave Crist)(w/ J.T. Davidson): If there was an opening bell, I missed it. The Crist brothers previous competed as Irish Airborne, but it had been a long time since I'd seen them live(I THINK they were on a Ring Of Honor show in Collinsville). Once the match settled down to standard tag rules(or as much as they could in a no-DQ environment...why wait for a tag?), OI4K isolated Crane from his larger partner. Apparently Jake was injured at some point in the match...sucks to hear about that happening. Kongo got a hot tag and cleaned house, but Crane tagged back into the match and that was the fatal mistake. (Second time in one night...) The Crists were able to keep Kong out of the fray just long enough to hit their Tombstone/top-rope double-stomp combo on Crane, giving Jake the pinfall in an announced official time of 6:34.
On the AAW-Tron: Marty DeRosa(aka That Guy On Colt Cabana's Comedy Shows) interviewed Davey Vega, Mat Fitchett, and "The Last Real Man" Silas Young. Vega is an oddball heel in AAW; he and Fitchett were Tag Team Champions as "The Besties In The World" until dropping the belts to Trevor Lee & Andrew Everett in November. Vega reassured Fitchett that his partnership with Silas was a one-night thing, referring to them as "The Last Real Besties" despite Silas' disapproval. Apparently the partnership also involved some money changing hands, we were told. Fitchett mentioned being in a four-corner match on the show, which meant HE wouldn't be the one facing Matt Riddle...
"The American Wolf" Davey Richards vs. Matt Riddle: Hmm, didn't think about THAT competitor from the St. Louis area. I've been hearing a TON of hype about former MMA competitor Riddle and his smooth transition into professional wrestling...given Davey's own mixed martial arts background, this was a natural matchup and they seemed to work very well together. Riddle actually executed his own version of Charlotte Flair's bridging figure-four leglock at one point. Introducing MMA holds into professional wrestling can be a tricky venture: Often in combat sports, such holds prompt an IMMEDIATE tapout or the recipient risks a major injury (i.e. cross-armbreaker). Riddle was able to escape several bad predicaments as Davey got him in the Texas Cloverleaf and anklelock at different points...Riddle caught Richards in his Bromission submission hold(a leg-trap neck crank, also known as a "twister") for the quick tapout in 12:15! Cue the Mutual Respect(tm)...I suspect that while this was the first meeting between the two, it certainly won't be the last.
"Unbreakable" Michael Elgin vs. Dezmond Xavier vs. "The Dirty Rook" Mat Fitchett vs. Paco Gonzalez: Legit question: How many years can you wrestle before you have to stop calling yourself a "Rook(ie)"? Paco is VERY popular in Merrionette Park, a suburb of his native Chicago. I find myself wanting to see a singles match between Elgin and Fitchett at some point. Xavier was the only one of the four I hadn't seen, but he was another person who had gotten a lot of positive press in his young career. I had heard that Elgin is waiting to book the high-flyers for Glory Pro Wrestling until he gets a venue with more headroom than the one in Alton; I feel like we haven't seen nearly enough of Fitchett's capabilities in the St. Louis area for that reason. Elgin had only recently returned from a major eye socket injury that had kept him on the shelf for several months, forcing him to miss several significant events in New Japan (including his IWGP Intercontinental Title rematch with Tetsuya Naito). Elgin actually did the Worm at the start of the match and teased leaving at that point, but quickly returned to the ring. Xavier pulled out Ye Olde Space Flying Tiger Drop during a dive sequence...very impressive! Elgin and Paco had the trainer/student dynamic going for them and had several good exchanges. The end came when Elgin countered Paco's top-rope Frankensteiner into a sitout powerbomb off the top rope; that got the three-count in 13:28. Cue more Mutual Respect(tm).
On the AAW-Tron: DeRosa interviewed "The Kentucky Gentleman" Chuck Taylor & Colt "Boom Boom" Cabana. Apparently previous encounters between Taylor and Davey Vega had involved penis-biting(really), so Cabana was there to protect Chuck's nether regions.
"Mr. Athletic" Jeff Cobb vs. Drew Galloway: Cobb's name may not mean much to most wrestling fans, but as previously noted, he's known to Lucha Underground viewers as the masked monster Matanza Cueto. He's from Hawaii and incredibly agile for his size(not overly tall, but very thick and muscular). WWE and TNA fans know Galloway, who's had his ups and downs in the wrestling world: He's been Vince McMahon's "Chosen One", a WWE Intercontinental and Tag Team Champion, a TNA Heavyweight Champion, and a member of the infamous 3-Man Band with Heath Slater & Jinder Mahal. He's also a lot taller in person than you'd expect; I met him in person at an after-party for a WWE pay-per-view in St. Louis. It felt like the fans were not as "into" this match as they could have been, but the preceding four-corner match may have burned them out on big moves. I don't think I'd seen Cobb wrestle as himself before and the strength matchup was an interesting one (Drew's height and leverage against Cobb's raw muscle power). Cobb also showed his agility with a standing moonsault and a standing shooting star press (he hit the first, but missed the second). Each guy survived a lot of what the other could dish out, but Drew countered Cobb's attempt at the rewind powerslam(known as the Wrath Of The Gods when he's Matanza and the Tour Of The Islands otherwise) into the Future Shock(double-underhook DDT), edging out a close win in 14:29.
While Drew used rulebreaking tactics to solidify Cobb as the fan favorite in the match, the post-match promo took a different turn. He talked about his recent return to action from a severe back injury and how it was a miracle that he was back in action...he also talked about his return to the independent scene for the love of the business, drawing a more positive response from the audience. He commented that he's still "The Chosen One"...just not "his" chosen one.
"The Knockout Artist" Chris Hero vs. Pentagon Jr.: These two fought in AAW previously with Hero scoring the win at that time; Hero sported similar facepaint in both matches. Pentagon quickly became a cult favorite in Lucha Underground with his unique look and style. Rumors have been running rampant about Hero potentially returning to WWE(where he competed in the developmental system as Kassius Ohno)...would this be his final AAW appearance?
The main story of this match happened early: As Hero hit the ropes, the top rope snapped loose as the metal ring broke on the nearby post! Hero was lucky to not tumble completely out of the ring, but the competitors brawled on the floor and briefly beyond the guardrail as the ring crew surveyed the situation. The match continued without a top rope, but the two traded their customary hard strikes without any need for it. Hero actually pulled off a Canadian Destroyer at one point but it wasn't enough to end the match. Pentagon returned the favor with TWO Canadian Destroyers of his own, then finished with a pumphandle Michinoku Driver(a la Matt Sydal's "Here It Is" Driver) in 7:58!
Afterwards, Pentagon left the ring to give Hero a chance to speak. He apologized for breaking the ring, joking that it did wonders for his self-esteem...har har. He also commented on his physique, saying that he was one of the best in the world despite that factor. What did the future hold for him? He said that he didn't have an answer for the people right now...but he's not leaving the business any time soon.
Intermission~! This one was understandable as they had to repair the top rope...they managed to "MacGyver" a solution with duct tape and bungee cords and it held up for the rest of the show. Woo. I had two Coca-Colas from the bar, effectively using up my remaining cash. Trina was very persuasive at the merchandise table and even offered to buy me a second T-shirt for the night; I selected the OI4K shirt. I joked about whether she would be buying me dinner next...yeah, wishful thinking on my part.
On the AAW-Tron, Fenix vowed revenge for Heavyweight Champion Sami Callihan's attempt to rip off his mask at a previous show.
Colt "Boom Boom" Cabana & "The Kentucky Gentleman" Chuck Taylor vs. "The Last Real Man" Silas Young & Davey Vega: Chuck was understandably hesitant to bounce off the ropes...wouldn't you be? Vega repeatedly attempted to attack Taylor's groin but Taylor was prepared for that strategy and avoided him. Silas and Davey managed to double-team Taylor and Silas held him for Vega's bite to the lower extremities...but Vega came up hurt and Taylor revealed the metal cup he was wearing. (Ahh, the old Road Dog vs. Chyna at King Of The Ring 1999 strategy.) Cabana & Taylor disposed of Young and Cabana locked Vega in the Billy Goat's Curse(reverse Boston crab). Just as I wondered if the hold would still be effective since the curse had been broken, Taylor rubbed his metal cup in Vega's face and that led to the tapout in 10:12. Bwahahaha.
Heidi Lovelace vs. Kimber Lee: These two have a lot of history in multiple promotions, including a main-event for Princess Kimber's CHIKARA Grand Championship. Heidi considered AAW one of her home promotions and held their Heritage Championship, so she was the obvious fan favorite as Kimber took on a more aggressive style. That included a sneak attack as Heidi was making her entrance...ouch. This was a tremendous matchup and I'm happy for both of them to be headed to WWE/NXT...both have been very cool in my interactions with them. Heidi hit a senton bomb off the top rope but that incredibly only got a one-count(FIGHTING SPIRIT~!). Kimber fired back with German suplexes, but Heidi came back with the low-altitude Frankensteiner and finished with a second senton bomb in 11:01!
The two shook hands after the match and Kimber deferred to Heidi for the post-match speech (though they're both NXT-bound). Heidi thanked Danny Daniels for a taking a chance on some chick who stuck her tongue out too much...heh. Heidi got emotional as she spoke to the fans...wishing for the very best of luck to both women!
A.R. Fox vs. "Super" A.C.H. for the Heritage Title: A.C.H. once held AAW's secondary singles title and this was his opportunity to regain the gold. A.C.H. recently left Ring Of Honor (reportedly he's not the only one...) and he's branching out into the indie scene once again. A.C.H. danced along to Fox's entrance theme, but Fox took the opportunity to jump off the top rope for a pre-match cheapshot...that solidifed where the fan support would lie. After that, Fox went for a quick win with a splash off the top but only got a near-fall. The match was as spectacular as you'd expect with both guys utilizing their signature high-risk offense...it was my first time seeing Fox at a live show and I hadn't seen much of his work besides his Lucha Underground matches as Dante Fox. A.C.H. captured the title for a second time after the Midnight Star(450 Splash) in 11:46...WOO~! Fox took the belt from the referee, but he personally presented it to the new champion.
"The Death Machine" Sami Callihan(w/ J.T. Davidson & Dave Crist) vs. Rey Fenix for the Heavyweight Title: Callihan held the AAW Title for most of the year and traded it with Pentagon Jr.(Fenix's real-life brother) a few months ago, leading to this bout. Apparently AAA holds the rights to the name "Fenix", so he goes by "Rey Fenix" elsewhere. I've seen Sami in a number of incarnations, including Solomon Crowe in NXT and Jeremiah Crane in Lucha Underground. The only time I had seen him live was at St. Louis Anarchy against Gerald James(as noted earlier). Jake Crist was presumably absent due to his earlier injury.
Tensions were high in this bout as Callihan had tried to rip off Fenix's mask at a previous show. Sami tried to slow down the luchador with submission holds while Fenix took to the air to gain an advantage. The champion came out on top of a hard-hitting battle as he caught Fenix in the Stretch Muffler(leg-over-head half-crab) and repeatedly kicked Fenix in the head while he had him on the mat. Fenix was finally forced to tap out in 16:40 and Sami retained his title.
Callihan got the microphone after the match and professed his respect for Fenix(despite their previous issues)...he acknowledged that it was Fenix's birthday and encouraged the fans to sing Happy Birthday to him, then offered a handshake. It turned out to be a ruse as Callihan stunned Fenix with a low blow, kicking off an attack by the active members of the Killer Cult. Callihan laid out Fenix with the title belt, but Homicide hit the ring for the save. Homicide was very outspoken, including some verbage that rubbed people the wrong way and led to an online apology the next day! Long story short, he was defending his Latino brother and said Eddie Kingston would be back in AAW very soon...but he wanted a cage match in January. (Not sure if he wanted a one-on-one title match or a team match with the whole stable.) Homicide gave Fenix a slightly more heartfelt birthday wish to cap off the show.
Whew! The building was crowded from start to finish and I was standing for most of it, so I was worn out. I talked to a few people on the way out, but I couldn't stick around as Lindsey had to leave right away. I spotted the main UFC result on a TV in the venue(Ronda Rousey's loss to Amanda Nunes)...I admittedly don't pay that much attention to MMA, but I know that Ronda's a big fan of the pro wrestling and made that WrestleMania appearance a few years ago. Hmm...
Anywho, The Road(tm) awaited. We made two stops on the way back; the first was for a gas fillup and I picked up some honey-roasted cashews and an Arnold Palmer (I'm a party guy). The second was for Lindsey to get a power nap as she had to work on Saturday morning...eep. I finally made it back home at around 5 AM on Saturday...quite the odyssey.
This commentary took a while to hammer out, but life's been its usual roller coaster ride as of late. My show attendance in January will depend heavily on my work schedule, but my main aims are the debut show for NWL St. Louis and the PWCS event. I am off work on Sunday, so I'll check out Wrestling Over Everything as my official kickoff to 2017.
My final wrestling show attendance count for 2016:
Dynamo Pro Wrestling: 16
St. Louis Anarchy: 7
Mid-Missouri Wrestling Alliance: 7
Southern Illinois Championship Wrestling: 5
Pro Wrestling Championship Series: 4
Wrestling Invades America: 4
World League Wrestling: 3
Ring Of Honor: 2
Wrestling Over Everything: 2
World Wrestling Entertainment: 1
Pro Wrestling Resurgence: 1
All-American Wrestling: 1
January 2017 looks like this:
-Sunday 1/8: Wrestling Over Everything in Swansea, IL
-Thursday 1/12: National Wrasslin' League in St. Louis, MO
-Saturday 1/14: Mid-Missouri Wrestling Alliance in St. Louis, MO
-Saturday 1/21: Pro Wrestling Championship Series in Alton, IL; Southern Illinois Championship Wrestling in East Carondelet, IL
-Thursday 1/26: NWL in St. Louis, MO
That's my special comment for this, the fifty-third and final wrestling show I've attended in the year 2016. Good night, good luck, and #yaywrestling.
-PB, Watching Wrestling Wrong Since 1991
P.S. We are all marks.