AAW debuted at Joe’s Live in Rosemont, Illinois for EPIC: The 13-Year Anniversary Show, and a massive crowd was on hand for an evening full of bright lights, big action, gratuitous heel tactics and, yes, wrestling. Hundreds of fans poured into Joe’s, and while I have no exact head count, the house was huge even by AAW standards. Bravo to them for taking a risk on a new venue and filling it to capacity.
Here is a match-by-match breakdown in the order they occurred.
Stephen Wolf and Trey Miguel vs. Besties in the World (Mat Fitchett and Davey Vega)
Besties in 9:26 after a combination kick from Fitchett and brainbuster on the knee from Vega to Miguel
This was a fine opener that stayed for just the right amount of time, warmed up the crowd and set the wheels in motion for what would become a quickly paced yet action-packed show. Wolf and Miguel were both making their AAW debuts (though Wolf appears in AAW’s LaSalle outfit). This one contained a few “holy s***” moments, including a massive, Ricochet-esque dive over the corner of the ring from Wolf and dives from “Trigger” Trey Miguel. Great nickname, by the way. Wolf and Miguel have natural chemistry that made for a number of enjoyable tag sequences. The crowd, as previously mentioned, was ready to go for this match, putting good heat on the Besties, who continued to be one of the most beloved acts in all of AAW. Vega was over big as a heel. Fitchett hit a Ho Train for a pop. Both Wolf and Miguel impressed me here, and I would like to see both brought back as a tag team, if not to bolster that division, then to see what they can do against more experienced teams and performers. Fitchett and Vega won following a brainbuster on the knee from Vega and a kick to the face from Fitchett onto Miguel.
Shane Strickland vs. ACH
ACH in 12:43 with the Buster Call brainbuster
Underhanded ACH is the best ACH, and sure, he maintains some of that cheery disposition and that ear-to-ear smile, but he’s a bad guy now, you see. Maybe not a heel, but a bad guy, yes. So he must do bad guy things, like hit low blows, and poke eyeballs, and pull hair while applying an Indian Deathlock, and insult the audience. Bad guy! But this was a good match that would have been a great match had they went another three-to-five minutes. AAW’s new thing seems to be keeping matches under 15 minutes, which works eight or nine times out of ten, but on the odd occasion like this, it really does take away. At the pace they were going, an extra five would have gotten them into match of the night status. These guys work well together, and that was apparent very early on. Strickland was over big time with the crowd, but nobody knew what to do with ACH. A lot of people want to cheer him still, but he’s definitely starting to get some boos (and some “f*** yous”). The action here was solid, and some of the kicks delivered will be etched in my memory for days to come. One kick from Strickland to ACH sent the latter’s gum flying onto an unoccupied seat in the front row, and eventually, ACH’s mouth busted open. Poor lad. ACH eventually won with the brainbuster, which came out of nowhere. To double down on his heel turn, ACH got on the mic after the match and punked out Strickland. Hopefully we see more of this ACH, as he plays a role in AAW that is unique and worth exploring further.
Chuck Taylor vs. Trevor Lee
Trevor Lee in 9:45 with a roll-up with the tights
Much the same with ACH, I enjoy the newfound heel side of Trevor Lee, of which was on display tonight, but this match just missed the mark for me. It wasn’t bad, and nothing offensive, but Lee and Chuckie T. didn’t really click for me. Taylor gave a serviceable effort, but the focus was on getting Trevor over as a dancing-hating bad guy. Oh, did I mention he hates dancing now? Because he came out to “Shake It Off” and had the sound people cut his music again, much like he did last month. Cue the chorus of boos. If anything, AAW has doubled down on his evil, allowing him to be the wrestler (not the goofball) we all know he can be, and we all know he is elsewhere (including CWF: Mid-Atlantic). Ultimately, being an evil, TNA Wrestling-loving heel who trash talks the crowd works for him, and it’s how he won the match. These two had a good dynamic going, with Chuck’s silly babyface antics playing well off the heel Lee. There was some good stuff in here, but honestly, nothing needle moving. It was fine for what it was. Lee rolled up Chuck and pulled his tights for the win. Because bad guy.
Los Gueros del Cielo (Jack Evans and Angelico) vs. OI4K (Dave and Jake Crist) (c), AAW Tag Team Championships
OI4K in 12:24 after a tombstone piledriver from Jake to Angelico
The Killers drew some impressive heat to start things off, with feverish “Ohio sucks” chants ringing throughout the building. Jake and Angelico, the two men who finished it, also started it, with a little bit of mat wrestling back and forth before delving into the more crazy portions of the match. Jack Evans stole the show in this one, as for half of it, he had a cigarette dangling from his mouth. He was taking suplexes with the cigarette firmly in place between his lips. I’m not a fan of comedy in wrestling, I will admit, but Jack strikes a chord with me. Jack’s smack talk puts him on another level when it comes to people who are fun to watch. There were some nice double team spots and a lot of in-and-out, back-and-forth action. Angelico didn’t blow me away in his debut, but maybe that’s because he was so overshadowed by Evans. As such, he was harmless, and he did some cool stuff, so I wouldn’t mind seeing him back again. Fans expecting crazy “jumping from high places” Angelico from Lucha Underground may be disappointed, so keep your expectations in check. OI4K won and retained the titles after Jake tombstoned Angelico.
Michael Elgin vs. Matt Riddle
Elgin in 14:49 with the Tiger Driver 91
This was a rematch of their Glory Pro bout from February, which was for Riddle’s PROGRESS Atlas Championship. Riddle won that one, so Elgin was looking to even the score here, and he did so in most dominant fashion, bringing out his upper class stuff like the top-rope superplex, the buckle bomb and the Elgin Bomb. There were some stiff lariats in there too, ya know, just in case you had forgotten whose match this was. Elgin dominated this match, which had me on the edge of my seat the entire time, and I wasn’t alone. The crowd was 70/30 for Big Mike. While this match started somewhat slow, it built beautifully, with Riddle showing glimmers of hope in the midst of Mike’s offensive onslaught. The kick out false finishes alone make this a show worth purchasing on your preferred medium, with Elgin kicking out of a Bro to Sleep while Riddle kicked out of an Elgin Bomb. Riddle eventually succumbed to a buckle bomb and Tiger Driver 91. There was one slightly off moment during a sunset flip attempt in the corner, but both men recovered and did not let it affect the rest of the contest. Elgin put Riddle over after the match, and deservedly so. This match not only met, but exceeded expectations, and it was match of the night by a comfortable margin. The final five minutes were the hottest I have seen all year anywhere, and by the end, the crowd went nuclear. This was how live pro-wrestling should make a person feel.
Rey Fenix vs. John Morrison
Rey Fenix in 13:32 with the Mexican Destroyer
Though I personally had expected a little bit more going into it, this was about as good as a match between this two ought to be. Morrison worked heel from the start of things, from his entrance onward, flipping off fans, getting in their faces, the whole deal. Fenix was over huge with the Rosemont crowd, which once again brought the noisemakers. Both air horn lady and mustachioed ratchet man were in the house to see this battle of the Lucha Underground stars, and you know what? They delivered what I thought was a fine match with some good heat behind Morrison, who got legitimately hot after a fan threw his bandanna across the room. This prompted Morrison to charge the poor fool and snatch his Chicago Bulls cap. Then he unbuckled his belt and stuffed it into his pants before giving it back to the fan, who of course put the thing back onto his head. Loud “You sick f***” chants toward the fan. It was wild moment of character work from Morrison, who was full of it on this night. This was an overall good display of athleticism, as expected, with Fenix grabbing the win with a Destroyer and scooping up a handful of cash on his way out.
Sami Callihan and Abyss vs. Low-Ki and Kongo Kong
Callihan and Abyss in 9:42 after Abyss’s Black Hole Slam to Kong
This match wasn’t terrible — it didn’t overstay its welcome, like anything else on the card — but it wasn’t very good. I appreciate the continuity of Low-Ki not wearing a suit jacket for this match, as it was torn from his body last month by Callihan. There was a lot of brawling around the arena, per any Abyss or Callihan match. Sami and Low-Ki fought on the stage among the fans in the front row. Kongo Kong was a late replacement for Eddie Kingston, who couldn’t make the show due to a neck injury. Seriously though, Kong might have been an upgrade, because he was my favorite part of this match. He went over the top rope onto his two opponents and did a few other things I found impressive for a man his size. Abyss continued to be the dirt worst, and while I enjoyed heckling him from the comfort of my seat behind the guard rail, he adds nothing of value to these shows. I would much rather his booking fee go to another young talent or two who would put in five times the effort, but maybe that’s just me. The crowd was a bit tepid for this one, minus the heat on Abyss, so it was nice when he ended it in under ten minutes with a Black Hole Slam on Kong. This wasn’t a pretty match, but you weren’t buying the show to see it anyway.
AR Fox vs. Penta El Zero M (c), AAW Heritage Championship
Penta El Zero M in 10:11 with an apron Canadian Destroyer followed by a top rope double stomp
These two started off so wonderfully, pacing themselves to a fine sprint, but it kind of petered out until the very end. Fox didn’t get to the show until a half-hour before his match, so that definitely had some effect on it. In retrospect, it was probably a lot better than it could have been, and I did enjoy the story they told in the brief time they had. Basically, Fox and Penta were playing a match-long game of “anything you can do, I can do better,” as the two exchange kicks and arm drags to start before piling on the goods. The finish tied into this beautifully, with Fox executing Penta’s package piledriver on the apron — but not to be outdone, Penta recovered and drilled Fox with a Canadian Destroyer on the apron in a spot that made me scream. Throughout the match they upped the ante of the shots they were dishing out, and willing to take, before it became too much for one or the other. Penta finished off Fox with the double stomp from the top, and it was then apparent what became “too much” for Fox. Nice storytelling. The big surprise for me here was Penta kicking out of a combo Lo Mein Pain/450 Splash from Fox, two moves if normally hit in succession would finish off any opponent. But people pay to see the Lucha Brothers, and their long lines at the gimmick tables shows it, so keeping them strong should be the priority. And if we see more main events featuring either Rey Fenix or Penta, well, that’d just be good business.
Get me in, entertain me, get me out. That’s what I like, and AAW’s EPIC: The 13-Year Anniversary Show did not disappoint in that department. With only two matches I would consider disappointing, and nothing over 15 minutes, this show flew by and accomplished all it needed to. Six matches crossed the three-star threshold for me, meaning six matches offered a fun and memorable experience I would consider enjoyable and worth repeating. Go out of your way to see Michael Elgin vs. Matt Riddle. If you’ve seen their match from Glory Pro, this one was better and it added to its predecessor in a way that makes sense. Shane Strickland vs. ACH was a notch below, but it was still a treat. That said, I felt this card was a little front-loaded, with both of the best matches happening prior to intermission. The rest of the show struggled to keep up, and it came off a little flat. Not that it was bad or anything.
Logan Square next month on May 6 looks fun, as Keith Lee, Bobby Fish, Zack Sabre, Jr. and Colt Cabana are scheduled to appear. Here’s hoping it’s as solid as this show was.
1) ACH and Trevor Lee’s heel turns are fantastic and need to be explored further.
2) Penta El Zero M and Rey Fenix are so money. By far the most over people on the roster.
3) Keep booking Bro. Matt Riddle is something special. According to the man himself, he will be back in June.
4) Abyss needs to go home.
5) Joe’s Live is a tremendous venue and needs to be booked again. I liked it better than Logan Square, though Berwyn is still my favorite.
6) Keep booking young talent like Wolf and Miguel, and maybe add 1-2 more unproven talents to an upcoming show. They are fun to watch and the company is in a position to make names for wrestlers on the rise.
7) Please, for the love of everything, give Low-Ki something to do.
8) John Morrison is a huge prick. But I still want to go to Slam Town. And maybe it was all the promotion for it, but I kind of want to check out “Boone: The Bounty Hunter.”