Before I get into this review, I want to make note of a mistake I feel I made last time I live reviewed AIW. When I went into Girl’s Night Out, I went in with a very critical mindset, the same mindset I use when I review Tier 1 Wrestling or any other show. However, I feel I slighted AIW by doing that. Not because they don’t deserve to have a critical lens casted over them; far from it, as I believe that every art form should be critically judged. But listening to AIW’s The Card is Going to Change podcast, I was reminded that part of the booking mindset of AIW is to provide a great “live experience” that might not translate well to DVD. So seeing that I am able to attend AIW shows live, I decided to take off my critical hat just a bit and allow the live experience to help me judge whether a match worked or not. With that said, let’s get into Gauntlet for the Gold 12.
Match #1: Eddie Kingston vs. Swoggle w/h Dr. Daniel C. Rockingham and Brian Carson
This was a very fun, albeit oddly structured, opener. This turned into a NoDQ match early on, and essentially turned into a 3-on-1 handicap match. I like the notion of teaming Rockingham and Carson with Swoggle, giving him a role akin to a heel manager from the 1980’s ala Jim Cornette, but actually wrestles. Eventually Britt Baker came in to interfere on behalf of Kingston, leading to Swoggle eating a backfist and being pinned, continuing the Swoggle vs. Baker feud. Overall, a decent start to the show the definitely got the crowd ready for a night full of action that was pretty fun.
Match #2: Colt Cabana vs. Ethan Page
Another comedy match, but one that evolved into a more serious match as it went on. Page and Cabana oddly have really good chemistry between each other when it comes to comedy, and in this match it shows. One thing that should be noted is that I feel AIW’s comedy matches can be very hit or miss. When they hit, they can be genuinely very damn funny, but when they fail, they tank HARD, even live. This was not the latter case, thankfully, and it turned out pretty well in the end. Not much more to say except that it was decent and the live crowd did respond well.
Match #3: AIW Intense Division Championship: Alex Daniels © w/h Gregory Iron vs. Shawn Schultz
If you followed Ryan Rozanski’s AIW reviews, you would know he wasn’t too fond of the past crop of matches involving Alex Daniels, at least when the Intense Title and No Strings Attached are concerned. As for myself, I haven’t been as bothered with his matches or the interference until tonight. Not that the match was bad. Far from it. It was a very damn solid outing for both Daniels and Schultz, who, despite all laws of physics and reality, is managing to get an old Southern Style of working over in modern day Cleveland Indy Wrestling. I can’t really complain about the match itself, so why am I just now seeing the issues with Daniels and No Strings Attached? I think it’s due to the first time I really sat down and thought about all the other matches I have seen Daniels in with the Intense title and I realized that it’s the exact same match I’ve been watching for almost a year. Back and forth action, face comeback is interfered by No Strings Attached/Greg, No Strings Attached/Greg get their just deserts, Alex hits a finisher, pins and retains. There really isn’t a problem with having a status quo like this as when someone does dethrone Daniels it will be awesome to see, but considering the length of the reign and a real lack of shaking things up, it has gotten a little dull to see. There have been a multitude of very great opponents for Daniels that I feel should have popped out moreso had it not been for these shenanigans. But that doesn’t mean to take anything away from Daniels, who is still absolutely stellar, or the rest of No Strings Attached as all are very good at their roles, especially Greg, who I feel is doing some of his best heel work in his career here.
But back to the match, it was, again, very solid, and I’m happy to see Schultz grow more of a following here in Cleveland as well as Daniels grow as a performer overall.
Match #4: Submit or Surrender: Dominic Garrini vs. BJ Whitmer w/h The Duke
The added stipulations to this match was that should Garrini lose, he’d become Whitmer’s young boy. Should Whitmer lose, he’d leave AIW.
Now things begin to pick up.
As a fan of more story driven matches, this was right up my ally to begin with. Garrini has been clawing up the ranks for months, only to be consistently put down by Whitmer and the Duke. This was his chance to prove he wasn’t a failed “experiment” by taking out a long tenured Indy name. Everyone in this match was brilliant, from Whitmer’s cold and callous pain infliction, to Garrini’s babyface fire, even to Duke’s interference and table bump. I also give major props to how brutal the match was, with railroad spikes being used as weapons. It felt like a proper heated blood feud and by the end, all men looked great. It’s bittersweet to see Whitmer go, but he left on a pretty damn great match to end things on. Definitely a huge recommendation from me.
Match #5: AIW Tag Team Championship: Crazy Pain (Gringo Loco and Steve Pain) © vs. To Infinity and Beyond (Colin Delany and Cheech) vs. Ninja Elite Squad (Facade and Flip Kendrick) vs. DJ Z and Laredo Kid
Before I get into this match, I want to say that spot fests are not my cup of tea. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy them and can have fun with them, but it takes a lot for me to see a match that’s designed to purely wow as something more than that. Hence why I personally prefer a Okada vs. Tanahashi as opposed to a PWG Tag Team scramble any day of the week.
However, this is not the case here. On a card that featured a lot of great storytelling and feud progression, THIS was my match of the night. It’s not just that the action was fluid and at some points jaw droppingly impressive. It’s not just that everyone had a chance to shine and look great. It’s not just that the crowd was hanging on every single move and losing their minds to everything. It was ALL of those things AND the finish.
Colin Delany and Cheech have not been the most fresh of teams in AIW. Through almost all of 2015 and the early part of 2016, To Infinity and Beyond were the Aces of the Tag Team division, but since giving up their belts at Absolution XI, the more that they wrestled, the lesser the crowd reacted to them. Sure they would continue to get a reaction thanks to Cheech’s unique clap, but aside from that, very nary a real pop. To make matters worse, with the return of AIW fan favorites The Jollyville Fuck-Its and the formation of arguably the breakout tag team of 2016, Crazy Pain, To Infinity and Beyond have been mostly brushed to the wayside by fans. So when this match happened, I theorized that they’d finally end the team with Colin turning on Cheech or vice versa.
I did not expect for Colin to use a taser on Gringo Loco and win the belts.
This was not just a shock to me, but also the rest of the crowd. And then the boos came. HARD. In an instant, Colin and Cheech went from a friendly, albeit stale, face team, to the most hated individuals in AIW. Not just for “using” a taser on a man who recently had a heart attack, but also for ruining a progressively insane match. If that is how you need to get genuine heel heat these days, then I am all for it.
For that reason alone, this is my match of the night, one of the best matches I have seen this month, and highly urge everyone to go see it. So damn good.
Match #6: Joey Janela vs. Scott Norton
Think things would take a breather now? LOLNOPE.
Joey Janela has been growing on me over the past year or so of his bookings with AIW. A fun performer, for sure, but he also has a hint of smarky irony about him that, in some cases I absolutely loath, but for him kinda works. Also, I must give credit to anyone that is willing to break their bodies for my entertainment so easily. Scott Norton is Scott Norton, except a lot older and less agile.
As for the match itself, it was a pretty weird match in a good way, with the staple Cleveland Crowd Brawling, an awesome table spot, and Norton lariating Janela to victory. I also have to give props to Norton who, despite looking like he was going to pass out from the match, looked really good. I feel that had there been a breather between this and the previous match, this would have felt a little better, but as is, it’s a really damn fun match and it’s great to see AIW being experimental in their bookings.
Match #7: AIW Absolute Championship: Josh Prohibition © vs. Tracy Williams vs. Tim Donst
I love love love this storyline. Everyone is fantastic in their roles and the booking has been perfect. I love how screwed over Williams has been these past few shows. I love how cocky and loathsome Donst is as the heel. I love Josh Prohibition as the veteran who has had enough with these brash young guys.
As for this match, it’s pretty damn fun, but nothing too great. It’s a standard triple threat, but the storyline aspect is what makes me really appreciate it the most. On this show, Donst finally recaptured the AIW Absolute Title, the title he was robbed of in 2015, but only because of shenanigans on the part of Prohibition and Williams both making Donst tap at the same time. For the 2nd time this year, Tracy Williams got screwed out of the title. Josh Prohibition, who fought long and hard to claim the title for the first time, has now lost it to a punk kid that kept interfering in his matches. I love all of this and am fully invested to where they are going with the storyline.
Match #8: The Gauntlet for the Gold
Time for the eponymous main event, and I wish I had more to say on it. Not because it was bad, far from it, but because outside of a few key things, it felt like an average Gauntlet. Louis Lyndon winning without little build up to it does seem a little odd, especially coming off of the Matt Riddle vs. AIW situation, but I can’t front and say that Lyndon didn’t feel like the true winner. Lyndon has become a solid piece of the AIW backbone, so an AIW Absolute Title shot at Absolution is not that farfetched and a little well deserved.
Back to the match, if you’ve seen a Gauntlet for the Gold, you’ve seen this match. The surprise entrants held up well, Shawn Schultz’s bottom rope strategy was hilarious, and it continued to progress storylines that’ll lead us into Absolution XII. Overall, very damn solid and a great capstone to a great night.
I have been going to AIW shows since December of 2013. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that not only is this one of the best AIW shows I’ve ever seen, but one of the best shows I’ve ever been to live. Every match holds up well with no slacking from anyone. If you are looking to check out AIW in 2017, check this show out immediately.
If you would like to purchase this show, the show will be available to purchase on MP4 at SmarkMarkVideo.com and DVD at SMV and shop.aiwrestling.com soon.