Growing up in Cleveland, you grow accustomed to a lot of the jokes and shots that people make about the city. Yes, we’ve seen the “Cleveland Tourism Videos”. Yes, we realize that our economy is based on someone who openly made a joke of Cleveland and moved to Miami. Yes, we understand our NFL team is the single worst thing in sports. And, yes, we do recall the time our river was set on fire.
But what I don’t think a lot of people understand about Cleveland is that, while we do realize these things, we don’t let it get to us. We still go to Browns games, we still talk up how great “The Land” is, and every once in awhile, we get a win under our belts. I don’t love Cleveland just because of the fact that I was born and raised here, I love Cleveland because no matter what comes our way negatively, we push forward until we taste victory, even if it takes a good long while. That’s the magic of the “Comeback City of the Cuyahoga” to me; it’s not that we always win, it’s that we never give up.
So where does AIW come into this? Well over the course of the past few months, AIW has been hit pretty hard with bad news after bad news. At first it was just the hospitalization of co-owner Chandler Biggins (get well soon), but then came the Youtube Monetization kerfuffle, leaving AIW not as stable as it once was. But through all of that, AIW was still able to not only hold one amazing show last month at Gauntlet for the Gold, but hold another damn solid show here at The Next Episode. While the future of AIW is still up in the air for now, in this moment, if these past two shows have taught me anything, it’s that AIW is a perfect reflection of the city of Cleveland itself; pushing through the bad to deliver a tremendous comeback.
With that out of the way, let’s get into the show proper.
Match #1: LuFisto vs. “The Passion” John Thorne
Welp. Looks like nothing is topping this.
To call this “surprise of the night” is an understatement. While I was disappointed in the original match-up of Shayna Baszler and LuFisto not happening due to travel issues, to have AIW Owner John Thorne, who hadn’t wrestled a singles match in 5 years, come out as a replacement was a moment I’ll probably never forget and more than made up for the disappointment.
While I was calming down from that high, the match itself was kinda nuts. Typical Cleveland crowd brawling, sure, but considering who was involved, it made everything that much more special. LuFisto is no pushover in these kinds of matches and when she wants to be stiff and hard-hitting, she delivers and then some. She had no qualms in tossing Thorne around and delivering sick bumps onto the bleachers or ramp. Thorne also deserves a lot of praise for being willing to do these bumps as well, again, for a man who hadn’t wrestled regularly in almost 5 years.
To the average wrestling fan, this may not hold that much water, but for an AIW fan (especially those well versed in the history) this is a match that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Match #2: Matthew Justice vs. Mike Tolar w/ The Duke
While you may recall that last time, I made mention of AIW going at a full pace in the 2nd half of the card, I feel the opposite happened here and for the first two matches at least, it was a giant sprint with no breathers.
The thing about Justice I have noticed, from what I have seen of him, is that he always goes out of his way to go balls to the walls with his matches. And that’s not a bad thing at all. I like the fact Justice is willing to do whatever he can to bring a crowd on their feet and lose their minds. My problem here is that this is only the 2nd match on the card and one that followed a very big moment as well. Without a breather, it did become a bit exhausting to watch as Justice and Tolar go from one big spot to the next.
But, with that said, the action was still very good, especially the ladder spot on the stage. I also have to compliment AIW on being one of the most willing companies to experiment with talent. In an age of wrestling where cards are built around “FIRST TIME EVER INDY DREAM MATCHES” between big names, it’s refreshing to see a company book lesser well-known talent like Justice and Tolar.
Overall, a fast-paced Hardcore match with enough spots to satisfy anyone looking in for curiosity sake.
Match #3: Jimmy Rave vs. Dick Justice
This was originally Rave vs. Tracy Williams, until Williams was blindsided by Donst, To Infinity and Beyond, and Alex Daniels with Greg Iron. Dick Justice came out to replace Williams.
Obviously the breather portion of the card, this just wasn’t that good. I like Rave as a wrestler and Dick as an entertainer, but I felt neither of them had the chemistry together to really make this anything of worth. For one, there was the fact that this came off of two big and boisterous Hardcore matches, so the crowd was still catching their breath. Secondly, and I think this is the biggest issue I have, there was no real set tone to the match. Some points indicate that was supposed to be a straight up wrestling match, which I wouldn’t mind. But then Dick came out with his handgun spot and it made me wonder if this was supposed to be just a comedy match. But then it flipped back and forth to where I was wondering how long this was going to go.
Had they chose one or the other, maybe this would have been salvaged. But as is, this is not a good match at all, and really a disappointment considering both men involved.
Match #4: Space Monkey vs. Swoggle
MUCH better. While still not the best match ever or even on this card, this is much better than Rave vs. Dick by the virtue of a focused purpose: straight comedy. I am enjoying the Swoggle and Crew vs. Britt Baker and Crew storyline so far, and while this isn’t the biggest match in the feud, it was entertaining enough to where I do want to see more. Not much else to say, really, except it did a much better job of getting the crowd back then Dick vs. Rave.
Match #5: Ethan Page vs. Shawn Schultz
I may be one of the few AIW fans that enjoys Schultz. I like the fact he is completely out of his element and embraces it in his wrestling, using old southern wrasslin’ techniques as opposed to any traditional modern Indy spots. I also enjoy the fact that he can have a darn decent match with almost anyone in front of him. Pair him up with a born entertainer in Ethan Page, and you have yourself an alright match. Not the most memorable on this card, but it is a very sound if basic match that was put together well. Not much more you can ask from that. I am curious if they are going to continue Page vs. Schultz based on the ending promo by Page, but as is, it’s pretty good.
Match #6: Josh Prohibition vs. Dominic Garrini vs. Flip Kendrick vs. Russ Myers
Back from intermission and we get a pretty decent 4-way scramble. The match continued to play on the Prohibition and Donst feud with Prohibition being a lot more aggressive than usual in his wrestling, targeting the other wrestlers as if they were Donst. Again, I wished I had more to say about this; it was a standard 4 way with fun action, good spots, and a good crowd. What more can you want?
Match #7: PB Smooth vs. T-Money
BIG BOY TIME! In wrestling, few things bring me on the edge of my seat like a good old fashioned brawl/hoss fight. Just seeing two men beat the absolute piss out of each other, stiff or not, just brings me warm fuzzy feelings, and while this wasn’t the best of those Big Boy matches, this was still fun. PB Smooth is evolving into a man that needs to be seen on the Indy scene, consistently growing as a performer and as an attraction. T-Money is T-Money and whenever he’s in a match, it’s sure to be an intense and fun ride. There were some spots that I feel could have worked better, such as the stuff on the apron, but overall, serviceable and good fun.
Match #8: The Carnies (Nick Iggy and Kerry Awful) vs. The Young Studs (Eric Ryan and Bobby Beverly)
Your experience with this match entirely depends on how you view deathmatches or extremely brutal hardcore matches. Personally, deathmatches are far from my cup of tea. There comes to a point where the violence either gets to a ludicrous extreme to where I stop caring or the wrestlers are so mind-blowingly awful that the match falls apart. However, watching deathmatches from guys like Atsushi Onita, Terry Funk, and Danny Havoc, to name a few, I’ve sort have grown an appreciation for the style. In the right mind frame and dosages, deathmatches can both be very well worked and very fun, and while this match isn’t going to set the world on fire, was just that; fun and well worked. Awful and Ryan especially deserve props in this match, with both willing to take extreme bumps and whacks to the back of the heads with thumbtack bats for the sake of a great send up to the “Yay/Boo” strike exchange spot. While the average fan may not find any kind of enjoyment from this, if you enjoy these kinds of matches, you’ll love it. As for me, it’s going to be a match I’ll point to as a good example of deathmatch wrestling for a while to come.
Match #9: Tim Donst, Alex Daniels, and To Infinity and Beyond (Colin Delany and Cheech) w/h Gregory Iron vs. Louis Lyndon, Joey Janela, and Crazy Pain (Steve Pain and Gringo Loco) w/h Tracy Williams
This is probably going to be the most divisive match I review. On DVD, this match will probably bomb hard. But live, this was some of the most fun I’ve had at a wrestling show. The thing about AIW and their big crowd brawls like this is that live, these are among the most entertaining and exciting matches on these cards, ESPECIALLY multi man crowd brawls. The chaos of 8 men going through the arena beating each other up, the audience parting the seas for them to come through, weapons being used left and right, it’s enjoyable madness. There is really nothing else like it in the “mainstream” US Indy scene and I’m glad I was there to witness it live. However, I will say I do have some nitpicks, such as the very abrupt end to the match. It felt like the match was building itself up to more big spots and a lot of room was left for more match, but it kinda just ended.
Again, this may not translate well to DVD, but to me, this is one of the most fun matches I’ve seen this year and definitely one of AIW’s best this year as well so far.
Overall: Something I’ve noticed from AIW these past two Mt. Carmel shows is the notion of going ahead at full speed and not slowing down often, which is fine, but on a hardcore show like this, I feel it would have been much better to have a gradual pace than balls to the walls early. By the main event, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly burned out. Still, this was a fun card with a lot of enjoyable hardcore action and a motivated crowd, just don’t watch this in one sitting.
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.