AAW “Take No Prisoners” Live Review, 5/6/2017

AAW returned to the Logan Square Auditorium in Chicago May 6 for “Take No Prisoners,” another sold out super card that was witnessed by 545 fans, a company record for that venue. People were packed into the place, and I mean packed, as I personally was elbow-to-elbow all evening long, which is a sign of a good house. Nine matches took place, including three for championships. Below are my personal takes on the bouts based on my own experience from the first row. These are, of course, opinions and I recognize the individual viewing experience may vary. I rated every match out of the standard five stars — with 5 being perfection, 4 being great, 3 being good, 2 being OK, 1 being bad, and so on.

1. Connor Braxton vs. Myron Reed vs. Paco Gonzalez vs. Jason Cade vs. Space Monkey vs. Aeroboy
Aeroboy d. Braxton, Reed, Paco, Cade and Space Monkey in 8:09 via Swanton Bomb
This was one of the most free-flowing and ridiculous opening matches AAW has seen in some time, as I expected in my preview for this event. It was utter chaos from bell to bell, all six of these guys laying into one another for the duration. Space Monkey was over big time with the Logan Square crowd while Connor Braxton, sans his hoverboard, was despised. This was my first time seeing Braxton in a more serious light, and he impressed me, at one point delivering consecutive Double A spinebusters to his five opponents. Jason Cade instantly caught my attention as he drilled a unique springboard Codebreaker to one of his opponents. Aeroboy and Myron Reed also drew eyes with a pair of incredible over-the-top dives that showed off their athleticism. Aeroboy won after a Swanton, onto whom, I forget as I was too busy trying to calm down from all the action. This match was spottier than a leap of leopards and it did a fine job of setting the tone for the rest of the evening. Myron Reed and Jason Cade need to be booked again.

After the match, Sami Callihan proceeded to beat down Aeroboy and attempt to rip off his mask — another for his collection, which has stagnated in recent months (pick it up, Sami!). Rey Fenix, however, made the save and ACH ran out to get their title match going right away.
2. Sami Callihan (c) vs. ACH, AAW Heavyweight Championship Match
Sami Callihan d. ACH in 11:24 via Stretch Muffler
ACH barnstormed Callihan straight away with the Buster Call brainbuster, but Sami kicked out at two, to gasps from those watching. That would set the pace for this one, which featured a white hot crowd and a babyface ACH, far different from the opportunistic, low-blowing, hair-pulling, audience-hating ACH we saw the last couple of times out. Which is a shame, because I felt like they were really building him up for something there. ACH took control early but Callihan came back accordingly, hitting a few boots before taking things to the outside. Sami hit an apron DVD but only got two. It was at this point, near the closing stretch, the match got really good. Eventual interference from JT Davidson, the “Iron Manager” (cute) led to Sami going low on ACH and wrapping him in the Stretch Muffler for the quick submission victory. Fun match with weird placement on the card — which would make sense later –and nuclear heat for the finish. The crowd hates JT Davidson with a burning passion, but honestly, he might be my favorite thing going right now. Hell of an act he’s got there. As we would find out later, this was only the first of two title matches for Callihan.
3. Trevor Lee vs. Bobby Fish
Trevor Lee d. Bobby Fish in 8:29 via small package with the tights
Trevor still hates his Taylor Swift entrance music — not nearly enough to request a different tune, but enough to ask politely the sound guy cut it off when he hits the ring. Trevor Lee is nothing if not a decent man who occasionally does bad things to win wrestling matches. Bobby Fish was making his AAW debut, reDRagon music and all, and the crowd was behind him early. Lots of “Let’s go Bobby” chants. (Cue Donald Drumpf asking the Raw audience, “Do we love Bobby?”) Trevor jumped the bell and attacked Fish from behind, getting the fans to turn on him… or maybe they were never truly behind him. Lee hasn’t exactly gotten a lot of respect since dropping the tag titles and former partner Andrew Everett, and while he has had good opponents since turning heel, the matches have been too short for Trevor to really get into that groove where he can crank out match of the year candidates. He likes working longer. Giving him eight minutes is not helping him nor using him to his potential. In my opinion, Trevor Lee is a guy who deserves 20 minutes on a card, but alas. Both men took a slower pace than the previous two matches, which didn’t make sense to me given the quick run time. I feel if you are going to do a sprint then, well, sprint. This match could have been a lot more if it had gone another 10 minutes. There was nothing bad about the actual match itself, but it was like a really good roller coaster that you wait in line for an hour just to ride, and then it’s over before you know it.
Chicago comedian and podcaster Marty DeRosa came out next for an interview with Colt Cabana, who was celebrating a birthday. As fans started singing the Happy Birthday Song to Colt, out came Ethan Page to ruin the moment. Which led to…
4. Colt Cabana vs. Ethan Page
Colt Cabana d. Ethan Page in 9:31 with the Billy Goat’s Curse
After three strong matches to start the show, this one was kind of just there, which is all right, since it was put together at the last minute and the crowd needed a break. Page tried talking Colt into the match, but Colt refused, so Page beat him down to goad him into competing on his birthday (how rude). This match was the usual Cabana fare that fans of his pay to see, and honestly, as somebody who’s into more “serious” wrestling, nothing these two did was too over the top or frustrating to watch, so I’ll give it a pass. There was one hilarious moment that I unfortunately couldn’t see from my viewpoint where Colt allowed his parents to get some strikes in on Page, which drew a huge pop from the audience, and rightly so. I will commend Ethan Page for the heel heat he draws, as it isn’t “go away heat” nor is it “X-Pac heat.” Fans really hate this guy, and that proves just how good he is. Cabana continues to be electric in Chicago, and the crowds can’t get enough of this guy. I wasn’t a huge fan of this segment beyond Page’s promo, but I understand the reason for throwing Colt a booking every time AAW runs Logan Square. At this point, it’s just good business.
5. Michael Elgin vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Michael Elgin d. Zack Sabre Jr. in 19:09 via spinning Elgin Bomb
So, um. About this match. I was seriously considering going the full goose on this one, as were many others in attendance. You don’t go to many wrestling shows where you see multiple people holding up their hands after a match so as to ask, “Five stars?” And while my own personal star ratings are meaningless, this was by far the best AAW match I have seen in my six years of watching them, and legitimately one of the best matches I have ever seen. I was ringside at the Royal Rumble for Cena/Styles III, and this match was better. This match made Elgin’s match last month with Riddle look like a warm up which, given its quality is saying a lot. There were people in attendance telling me they saw Punk/Cena at Money in the Bank 2011, and this match was better. I was there too, and I agree. Another person in attendance told me this was on the Okada/Omega WrestleKingdom level. Whatever arbitrary rating this match ends up receiving, one thing is perfectly clear: These two men made everybody in that building feel something, which is no easy feat. This is not a Match of the Year Candidate; this is the Match of the Year, period. But maybe you’re asking yourself why. Or how. Allow me another paragraph or two for explanation.
Every Elgin match from the past two years or so, from what I’ve noticed, has a moment or two where the audience just becomes unglued and loses its mind. This match had four, five, maybe six of those moments. That not only speaks to Elgin’s sheer quality between the ropes, but Sabre’s as well. Just look at their track records. The match these two had down in Orlando was hard-hitting, bloody and brutal, and this, the sequel, added to it in every respect, even kicking into another gear that the EVOLVE match did not hit. The match started aggressively here too, with Zack showing a more desperate, edgy side to him that we’re not used to seeing. But Mike fought back against Zack’s opening onslaught with his size and power, connecting with an apron power bomb, various suplexes and a second rope falcon arrow. None of it really affected ZSJ, who kept kicking out. The crowd lost it every time.
The kick outs here, for the record, were out of this world. You never knew when the match would end, because these guys hit everything they had and could not seal the deal. The finishing stretch alone deserves its own thinkpiece; there were some beautiful counters in there. There was a point where Elgin delivered a Razor’s Edge Elgin Bomb to Zack, who then did the kick out at 1 spot to great effect. Tremendous effect. Those kick-out-at-1 spots are risky endeavors that really shouldn’t be toyed with, but when executed right, they are perfection. This match was as close to perfection as you will find on the independents, which isn’t a huge surprise, as they are in my opinion two of the best wrestlers on the planet right now. Go out of your way to watch this match. Trust me.
6. David Starr vs. Eddie Kingston
David Starr d. Eddie Kingston in 10:19 via deadlift straight jacket suplex
David Starr finally made it to AAW’s Chicago outfit and immediately started working as a cocky heel, running down the audience in an pre-match promo that also had him run down his many nicknames. Still loving “Your Favorite Wrestler’s Favorite Wrestler,” Dave. Starr then turned his attention to Kingston, who came out looking a little more unkempt than usual, beard overflowing. Even his gait was slightly off. There was something afoot here with Eddie Kingston, and Starr knew. After Eddie declined an invitation to up and leave the ring, Starr began assaulting his neck at every chance he had. At first glance, this match didn’t do much for me, as the crowd seemed disinterested and the pacing was slower. But, now that I slept on it, I appreciate the dynamic of the story they told. Kingston, the old veteran of 15 years, former top guy in AAW on more than one occasion, taking his last stand against the brash, young newcomer in Starr, who only wants to end him. The crowd’s sympathy toward Eddie, and its hatred toward Starr, combined with the real emotion both men were able to generate on the spot, plus the psychology, the selling, and yes, even the pacing… this was friggin’ brilliant. Not a technical marvel, as Eddie is aging and obviously needs some time off, but this total segment was brilliant. The opening promo by Starr and Kingston’s response, the 10-minute match and then Kingston’s closing promo, collectively, is one fine piece of work, and you will appreciate it if you appreciate both men.
Kingston’s emotional post-match promo cut the audience deep, and I think I saw a few people crying. He put genuine heart and soul into his speech, saying he’s been wrestling for a decade and a half and his body’s wrecked, so maybe it’s time to hang it up. He then admitted that David Starr is the man who took him out. Does that mean we’re getting more Starr in the future in AAW? Time shall tell, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have him around.
7. Stephen Wolf, Trey Miguel and Chuck Taylor vs. Mat Fitchett, Davey Vega and Alex Daniels
Wolf, Miguel and Taylor d. Daniels, Fitchett and Vega in 13:01 via Taylor’s Awful Waffle to Daniels
Though this went a few minutes longer than it needed to — time that really could have gone to the match following it — it was still enjoyable for what it was. It’s always a good time seeing somebody like Trey Miguel do his thing, and it’s the Trigger who’s been the standout to me in every one of his first three AAW matches. The team of Wolf and Miguel is solid and needs to be booked as a consistent act not only in this company, but others. Can you imagine Fox and Fenix vs. Wolf and Miguel? Print the money right now. There is an obvious chemistry between the two of them, and a connection they have with the crowd, which is mindblowing to consider as they’re this new to the company and to wrestling in general. The trio of the Besties in the World and Alex Daniels worked well in cooperation, winning over at least part of the crowd with their comedy, although I’m not sold on Daniels’ “Real Life Ben Affleck” thing. The crowd wasn’t really into this match, and overall, it felt like a cool down for what would be the double main event. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I do think these six men deserved a little more love than they received. In due time. Also, can AAW please do something with Mat Fitchett? He is dying for a singles run, and he is more than capable of hanging with the bigger names, but all he needs is the chance.
8. Keith Lee vs. Penta El Zero M (c), AAW Heritage Championship Match
Penta El Zero M d. Keith Lee in 7:59 via Canadian Destroyer
This may have been the hottest the crowd had been all night, and it was clear almost everybody in attendance was there to see this match. Everybody was beyond pumped up and on their feet in anticipation. Keith Lee was over the second his (incredibly awesome) theme music hit and Penta El Zero M is the most popular person in the entire company, hands down. The theatrics were what stood out to me about this match, as both men had the crowd in the palms of their hands. Dueling chants rang out back and forth between the more than 500 in attendance: “Cero Miedo!” screamed one side, only to be met with “Keith. Lee.” This went on for what felt like two minutes, neither man laying a finger on each other, just teasing the crowd and working it into a frenzy. The opening theatrics exceeded the action that followed, unfortunately, as this one ran under eight minutes and never got out of that first gear. These two worked incredibly hard and had something good going, but another three, even five minutes would have greatly benefited this one. I don’t expect a lengthy match from Penta anyway, but 8 minutes is not long enough to tell a compelling story with somebody as dynamic as Keith Lee. I enjoyed seeing Penta try to chop down Lee, and watch him battle back with his power moves including the Spirit Bomb, but the quick run time and what ended up being a sudden finish led to this one feeling a little disappointing. That said, I still want more Keith Lee.
9. Rey Fenix and AR Fox vs. OI4K (Jake Crist and Sami Callihan) (c), AAW Tag Team Championship Match
Fenix and Fox d. OI4K in 17:37 after Fox put Crist through a table with Lo Mein Pain – New Champions!
Dave Crist was out with a bulging disc in his back, which hopefully won’t sideline him for too long. However, if I’m being realistic here, the lack of Dave and the addition of Sami Callihan only helped this match, as it added yet another wrinkle to the ongoing (and fantastic) feud between he and Fenix. Callihan walked into this match a double champion, which was weird to see, as AAW apparently now allows the Freebird Rule among the members of OI4K. The opening of the match was fast and feverish, with everybody hitting big moves on one another, including a round or two of superkicks. There was a spot where everybody hit consecutive Destroyers in just about every form and fashion imaginable. May that be the end of Destroyers in AAW, which have really overstayed their welcome. This match was anything goes, so there was a good deal of brawling outside the ring, tossing people into the first row, weapon play, and so on. Callihan did the chopping-the-ring-post spot and I popped huge, though I was likely the only one. Fenix and Fox showed great determination and almost a desperation as the match went on and grew more brutal, which I loved to see. There’s nothing I enjoy watching more than wrestlers trying really damn hard to get a match over, as these four did, so I have nothing but respect.
There was the usual nuttiness from AR Fox, who took some regrettable bumps in this one, to say the least (that’s our Fox!). At one point, Callihan T-bone suplexed Fox through an upright chair, which couldn’t have felt good, but not to be outdone, Jake Crist tombstoned Fox while he was standing on an upright chair. This would have been cringe-worthy unto itself, but Crist slipped and sent Fox head first into the seat of the chair, unprotected, denting the thing with nothing but his dome. This was one of the craziest spots I have ever seen, and I mean that with no hyperbole. My jaw was left open for 20 seconds after it happened and I thought Fox had to have been concussed, if not out cold. Thankfully, he was all right and continued to do other stupid things for our entertainment. For example, Sami piledriving Fenix through a table (which was brutal). This was all-out nuts, as these four tend to produce on a regular basis wherever they go. The Killers lost their titles, Fox lost a couple brain cells, and Fenix lost a molar. Check out this match when you can. If you like raw stupidity and people getting hurt, this might be up your alley.
Overall, this was a marvelous show that really only had one or two slow spots, and even then, those matches were each harmless and served a purpose. Elgin/Sabre was worth the price of admission alone, and I am considering throwing another $10 AAW’s way for the MP4 whenever it comes out, just for that one match. Everything else is a bonus. One fan in attendance told me what they liked best about this show was the amount of variety, and they weren’t wrong. There was a wrestling clinic in Elgin/Sabre, a couple quick but good matches in Penta/Keith Lee and Bobby/Trevor, two storytelling gems in Sami/ACH and Starr/Kingston, a nutty spotfest opener that didn’t overstay its welcome, some comedy matches that kept the mood light, and a main event that not only delivered, but sent fans home happy and excited for the next show. Delightful!
AAW returns on May 25 with “Thursday Night Special,” and I will have your preview for that event the Tuesday before. Until next time.

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