Not since #WrestleRager in 2014 have I witnessed so much wrestling in a weekend live. AIW’s JT Lightning Invitational Tournament is always sure to be the most interesting and most weird tournament in pro wrestling every year. This year’s was no exception. With names like “Filthy” Tom Lawlor, Super Crazy, Little Guido, and Mordekai, this was definitely not your average Indy tournament, which is one of the things I very much enjoy about AIW; instead of going for the big Indy names or going all out for the best talent, they’ll give up a tournament spot for someone weird, wacky, and ultimately awesome, ironically or not. Not only that, JLIT also allows the opportunity to allow for several dream matches that people didn’t know they wanted before; like this year with Kingston vs. Williams and Cross vs. Super Crazy, but we’ll get to those in due time.
This will not be your average live review because there were 29 matches this weekend and to go through each individually and review them would make this article a LOT longer than I normally allow. So for this review, I’m going to compile a list of things that I really enjoyed from this weekend, which includes both nights of the tournament and the “Back to the Future Cup” Tournament AIW held before night 2. I’ll save most of my complaints (little they are) at the end, by now, let’s get to the matches I enjoyed the most on these shows.
“Filthy” Tom Lawlor vs. Dan Severn (JT Lightning Invitational Tournament: Night 1)
Probably the most surreal match of the weekend. Originally Jimmy Rave vs. Tom Lawlor, Rave had to sadly cancel and was replaced by, of all people, Dan Severn. This comes off the heels of Lawlor coming out as Dan Severn, referencing his UFC Weigh-In where he dressed as Severn. While technically, this isn’t that good of a match, scratch that, it is not a good match, for the entertainment value, the surprise of actually seeing Severn, and seeing two former UFC fighters basically have a comedy pro wrestling match, it’s definitely one to check out on night 1.
Super Crazy vs. Matt Cross (JT Lightning Invitational Tournament: Night 1)
It’s insane to me that Super Crazy is only 43. Here, he and Matt Cross have a very good and fast paced match that escalates to a great finish. However, the show stealer here, as it usually does not at AIW shows, is Matt Cross’s grandmother, Grandma Cross. Now, if you are looking for just a straight match, you will get parts of that here. But a good portion of the match is dedicated to Grandma Cross, and this is going to be a matter of “Love it or Hate it” for people. The live crowd, and myself, absolutely loved it, especially when Super Crazy swore at her in Spanish. All in all, an absolute blast of a match, both in the ring, and out.
Tracy Williams vs. Eddie Kingston (JT Lightning Invitational Tournament: Night 1)
If you are judging the show just by my first two entries, you may think this was mostly a comedy show. This match was anything but. My only complaint about this match is that the crowd could have been more hyped for the last third, but outside of that, this is an AIW Match of the Year contender. These two men beat the hell out of each other in a match that combines Williams’ Strong Style/Hard Technical Style with Kingston’s Bruiser Brawler/King’s Road style. For me, I was in heaven. The way they made each strike land and matter coupled with the long-term selling from both, if there is only one match you need to see from this weekend, it’s this one. Seriously, the DVD/MP4 is worth it for this match alone.
Garrison King vs. AJ Gray (Back to the Future Cup)
Sometimes I like to go out and look for matches from new talent I’m seeing to gauge my thoughts about them before a show, but for the most part, I go in blind. That’s what I did with the Back to the Future Cup show, which is essentially a show for AIW School Students to graduate and make their debuts, as well as have younger and more unknown talent make a name for themselves. And I’m so glad I did it for this match. I’ll give props to Garrison King who has improved a lot over the past year or so and has been owning his “Garry ‘The King’ Baller” gimmick, but this match belonged to one AJ Gray, who I am urging you to look up now. Right now. Stop reading (come back after, please) and look up AJ Gray. This man took me completely by surprise and not only made my jaw drop with his powerhouse/high flyer move set, but had EVERYONE, including the wrestlers that were watching, lose their minds. This is a man who I want to see back in AIW posthaste.
Chase Oliver vs. Big Twan Tucker vs. Josh Bishop vs. Kurt Hurts vs. Parker Pierce vs. Tre Lamar (Back to the Future Cup)
Before this match, there was a triple threat between Little Guido, Super Crazy, and Steve Pain. As Super Crazy went for the bottom rope moonsault, the bottom rope snapped and Crazy landed on his head. Crazy was injured, but not too badly, thankfully, but the bottom rope was not as lucky. The entire bottom rope had to be removed from the rest of the show.
And these are most of these men’s first match in front of people. This is a recipe for disaster.
But, through this trial by fire, which did feature a couple of botches, all these students came out pretty damn good. Personal favorites include Chase Oliver, whose gimmick I assume is to be the one that takes all the insane bumps based on an insane Razor’s Edge he took from Parker Pierce, Big Twan Tucker, who is big, beefy, and awesome, and Josh Bishop, who has the making of a real awesome hoss in him.
I know these student shows probably won’t have the biggest sales, but I urge you to buy it for these two matches alone.
“Filthy” Tom Lawlor vs. Tracy Williams vs. Dominic Garrini vs. Mike Tolar (JT Lightning Invitational Tournament: Night 2)
Ever wanted to see a technical style fatal four-way match? Neither did I, but somehow these men pulled it off. I really have no words to describe it outside of 4 technically proficient guys, 2 of which work an MMA gimmick, having a fatal four way that includes a lot of submissions and beating the crap out of each other. It’s fun, intense, and makes you wonder if an actual Shoot Style promotion can work in the US now, with the influx of MMA Style Wrestlers coming out. My pick for the best semi-final match of the tournament.
AJ Gray vs. Kaplan (JT Lightning Invitational Tournament: Night 2)
AJ Gray is awesome. Kaplan is awesome as well. Two big beefy men beating each other up and doing flippy-doos when it’s not expected of them is usually going to make me pop out of my seat, and this match was no different.
Tim Donst vs. Eddie Kingston (JT Lightning Invitational Tournament: Night 2)
It’s not AIW unless you get two great brawlers beating each other up in the crowd. While not the best of these I’ve seen, this is still one of the best they’ve done. Makes it even better considering the history these two have had, which makes Kingston’s absolute domination of Donst feel cathartic in a sense. Donst is owning his cowardly heel persona to a “T”, and the way he reacted to Kingston coming out and sold moves in this match is the absolute best.
Tracy Williams vs. Joey Janela vs. Shawn Schultz (JT Lightning Invitational Tournament: Night 2)
Three words: Schultz versus Williams. While everything leading up to the final two was good, the ending portion of this match was so much fun. I’m not ashamed to say that I love Schultz both ironically and unironically, as there is something about his heelish persona that makes me both admire the skill he uses and bust a gut laughing. Couple him with an ultra-serious wrestler in Williams and I am in heaven as Williams beats the hell out of him while Schultz heels his way towards victory before ultimately giving up. A great way to capstone the tournament.
Now we come to the part of the review for my complaints, and while I do say that there was nothing very egregious with the show (Honestly a very good weekend of wrestling), there were two matches that didn’t sit right with me. The lesser of the two was Adam Cole vs. Matt Cross on night 2. Again, Grandma Cross stole the show, but here, I felt as though that is all that was with this match. Cole and Cross didn’t strike me as good opponents and felt just like a basic match other than the Indy Dream match it was built as. Then again, I am not the biggest Adam Cole fan, so I’ll chalk that one up to my own dissatisfaction.
The bigger of the two, and the biggest disappointment of the tournament was the aforementioned Steve Pain vs. Super Crazy vs. Little Guido at the Back to the Future Cup. Now, it started off fine with it being Guido and Crazy going one-on-one in an ECW “Trip Down Memory Lane” match, and I can get behind that. Why did Steve Pain need to be invited? I really enjoy Pain, don’t get me wrong, but once he was included and it basically turned into a 2-on-1 handicap match, my interest waned. Sure I’m judging a match that had to end early due to an injury and big BIG botch, but I felt that even if that didn’t happen, nothing would have really came from it. Unless Tajiri came out for the save.
Overall: I feel it was worth every penny of my VIP ticket I bought. 3 very solid shows with some great matches and moments. I am curious about the lack of Josh Prohibition on this show, especially considering how involved he was in the title scene earlier this year, but I smell a new story cooking up from that. But yeah, all three shows get thumbs up from me.
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.