AAW “Thursday Night Special” Live Review, 5/25/2017

AAW returned to the Berwyn Eagles Club on 5/25 for “Thursday Night Special,” an eight match card that saw two championships defended and much more in front of a standing room audience of about 400. Here are my takes on the matches, including some star ratings that totally aren’t arbitrary or exclusive to the live viewing experience:

1. Connor Braxton vs. Paco Gonzalez
Paco Gonzalez d. Connor Braxton via wheelbarrow victory roll in 3:45
Braxton opened the show livid, pissed off at the fans. He actually got in my face to kick things off, which was a thrill. Wrestlers nowadays tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to getting heat, but Braxton swung for the fences and hit a home run here. Braxton is a natural heat magnet and heel. He continued with a hot promo, holding the show hostage until he got a match before Paco came out and answered the challenge. This was a great way to begin the show, and a fantastic opportunity to get these two young talents some air time on a card littered with indie wrestling all-stars. This one didn’t overstay its welcome and did its job of getting the crowd fired up for the rest of the night. Paco is very popular with the Berwyn fans, who have rallied behind him as an underdog from the time of his first appearance. Braxton, again without his hoverboard, showed less silliness and more fire, more of a mean streak, and he was very impressive. At one point he threw Paco against the ropes on the outside and rebounded him into a headbutt. It looked vicious.

2. Joey Janela vs. Jake Crist vs. Laredo Kid vs. Myron Reed
Jake Crist d. Myron Reed via Second Rope Destroyer in 6:57

Joey Janela was over from the time he stepped through the curtain, and on this night, he might have become an underground cult hero. The crowds loved Jake Crist too, but in a more subversive, “He’s one of us” sort of way, if that makes sense. This was always going to be crazy and over-the-top, but I didn’t contemplate how literal I would have to take those words, because this one was dive central — thank you, Randy Orton. Or f*** you, Randy Orton, according to those in attendance. (I still like Randy.) Do you like nonstop dives for 90 seconds? This was short and sweet and kept going what was established in the first match, from the pacing to the hot crowd. Laredo Kid looked good for what he was able to get in, and Myron Reed is a star in the making. Perhaps the spot of the night came in the form of Iron Manager JT Davidson doing a dive of his own from the top rope to the floor. This was a crazy car wreck, and definitely one to check out. Janela needs to be booked more often.

3. Colt Cabana vs. Trevor Lee
Trevor Lee d. Colt Cabana via roll-up holding the ropes in 11:13

This match just didn’t do it for me — and I say that as a huge fan of Trevor Lee, fully understanding of his capabilities at just 23 years old. Lee continues to come out to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” for some reason, asking it to be cut off every time, which makes no sense considering he’s allowed to choose his music. Character work is needed here to establish Lee’s motivations as a heel. If AAW wants Lee to be a big-time baddie, they need to start making sense with his turn. It would also help to get him out from this spot on the card, because the crowd had all but faded after those first two faster-paced match ups. Cabana did his usual comedic fare, but it didn’t work here. And the finish, with Trevor rolling up Colt and grabbing the ropes in plain sight of the referee was rough. A low point of the evening, but both men worked hard and gave a concerted effort.

4. Stephen Wolf and Trey Miguel vs. Team Tremendous (Bill Carr and Dan Barry) vs. Davey Vega and Alex Daniels
Davey Vega and Alex Daniels d. Trey Miguel after the two stole a pinfall attempt from Dan Barry in 10:47

Wolf and Miguel need a team name now that they’re officially a thing. What about Young and Hungry? That’s a play on “Hungry Like The Wolf” and it’s a total Duran Duran reference, just because. Daniels came out double gimmicked, wearing both Mat Fitchett’s Besties in the World letter jacket and his Ben Affleck tank top. This match wasn’t anything special but it was nice to see Wolf and Miguel continue to progress as a team, and I thought Team Tremendous brought some really unique double teams, as well. What started slow picked up toward the end with a number of dives, and there was some big man offense from Carr that was more hilarious than anything. Seeing a man that size throw a Destroyer is both impressive and comical, all the more when he’s working a buddy cop character. This could have been better but there was nothing wrong with it.

5. Donovan Dijak vs. Keith Lee
Keith Lee d. Donovan Dijak via Ground Zero in 20:47

These two have competed all over, including down the road in Summit, IL last week, and in Berwyn, they tried topping themselves yet again. This one started off slow, as Lee and Dijak exchanged beefy chops and strikes for the first five minutes of the match before laying into their bigger offensive maneuvers. Some of the hits to Dijak left palm marks on his chest. A lot of this match took place around the ring rather than inside of it, as the two fought on the apron and even among the crowd. I recall Lee hitting an apron Destroyer and power bombing Dijak onto a chair in the crowd. The wildest moment of the whole night came when Dijak kicked Lee over the barricade and into the crowd before hitting an asai moonsault onto him from the ring to the second row. This very well might have been the least of their matches together, but it was still outstanding and worth checking out. These two tried killing each other Thursday, and they delivered. Every time, they go out there to steal the show, and they deliver. The entire match is structured around the aforementioned chops, and while it starts slow, the second half is fantastic. Money was thrown in the ring after the bell sounded, which is becoming a new thing in AAW. I would love to see more of both men, hell, even against each other. If you can do this every time out there, who am I to say no to it?

6. FKA Jack Swagger vs. Michael Elgin
Michael Elgin d. FKA Jack Swagger via Elgin Bomb in 15:00

Michael Elgin continues to be one of the most beloved babyfaces in AAW history. Last night’s reaction to him was one of the loudest I have heard from the Berwyn fans. Clearly, Swagger had his work cut out for him and he showed that very early on. The match started with a feeling out process before Mike took control and began dominating. Mike controlled the pacing of this match, keeping it slow and methodical for the most part, rarely allowing his opponent time to catch his breath. Jack looked pretty good on defense but his offense is what stood out to me. Real crisp and free-flowing stuff. Swagger developed huge welts on his chest following some Big Mike chops that won’t go away anytime soon. This was an above-average showing for Jack in which he did not exceed expectations, but rather met them. Not a bad contest here, but one I wouldn’t be putting on Elgin’s “best of” DVD. Also, I have to note that Swagger looked a little amateur-ish with his ring gear. Basketball shorts and boots is a page out of the Punk playbook, for sure. And here I thought we were in for a battle of the singlets.

7. AR Fonix (AR Fox and Rey Fenix) (c) vs. Shane Strickland and Lio Rush, AAW Tag Team Championship Match
AR Fonix d. Shane Strickland and Lio Rush when Fox pinned Rush after a Lo Mein Pain into a quick kick in 18:58

This was my most anticipated match going into the evening and I was not left disappointed. The match started so smoothly, with Rey Fenix and Strickland exchanging holds and countering each other’s every move. The pace was lightning quick for the first portion, both teams appearing evenly matched, but it dipped toward the end and the momentum dried up. I think this match would have been even better had they kept it around 10 or 12 minutes, playing more to these four individuals’ strengths as high-flyers with heavy reliance upon spots rather than working at a more controlled rate. As it stands, this match struggled a bit to self-identify; it started as a spotfest at pace, then broke down to a more methodical back-and-forth. I think had it stuck to embracing its spot-driven roots, it would have been match of the night. However, there was one incredible spot where all four men kipped up simultaneously that brought the crowd to its feet, and there was a tremendous near-fall toward the match’s climax. Both Strickland and Rush need to be booked more often, and they received “please come back” chants on their way out. Much deserved.

8. Juventud Guerrera vs. Sami Callihan (c), AAW Heavyweight Championship Match
Sami Callihan d. Juventud Guerrera via Stretch Muffler in 13:57

I didn’t give this match a rating because, as luck would have it, I missed half the action after Sami did a suicide dive crashing Juvi into the barricade, sending the steel flying toward my knees. If you’re a Montana voter, the screams of this journalist would probably put a smile on your face. My leg was disabled for the rest of the match, but from all I saw, it was solid. It seemed they worked a typical Callihan main event structure, with outside interference from Jake Crist and JT Davidson, along with plenty of action around ringside. Callihan is quickly becoming known for his ability to wipe out his opponents — wrestler and writer alike — with his insanely fast and hectic dives. I thought Juventud looked good, as he was trim and still in possession of his cat-like quickness that made him a superstar in the ’90s. Sami inevitably went for Juvi’s mask, but he came up short in adding to his already robust collection. After the match, Callihan, Crist and Davidson beat down Juvi, which led to Rey Fenix attempting to make the save, but then he got beaten down too. That led to Big Mike coming out and evening the odds and setting up next month’s title match — a first-timer in AAW.

Already signed for “Killers Among Us” June 17:
-Sami Callihan vs. Michael Elgin, AAW Heavyweight Championship
-John Morrison vs. Brian Cage
-Low-Ki vs. Abyss
-War Machine (Hanson and Rowe) vs. Chosen Bros (Riddle and Cobb)
-Sami Callihan
-Zack Sabre Jr.
-Matt Sydal
-reDRagon (Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish)
-OI4K (Dave and Jake Crist)
-More to be announced

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