AAW made its long-awaited return to 115 Bourbon Street Saturday night in Merrionette Park, IL, where the fans were hanging from the rafters — 662 of them, to be precise. It was the company’s most loaded card of the year, featuring 10 matches, two of which were for championships. Overall, it was another good show, continuing AAW’s run of quality that dates back to February (in my opinion, at least). While nothing blew me away on this card, there was tons of good here that made it worth the price of admission.
My ratings of the matches are as follows, and please remember, these are completely subjective to the author: 0 = Worst Match of the Year, 1 = Bad, 2 = OK, 3 = Good, 4 = Great, 5 = Excellent. I don’t do six out of five or anything absurd like that.
Anyway, enough chit-chat, let’s run down the matches as the occurred.
1. ACH d. Garza Jr. with the Buster Call Brainbuster in 8:20
This match was offered for free on AAW’s Facebook page, and they chose a heck of a match to demonstrate just how fun this company can be on night like Saturday. The Bourbon Street crowd was super into “Super” ACH, but Garza Jr. did his part in getting a portion of the audience on his side with his showboating and general cocky attitude. Garza got into it with the fans at ringside more than once, proving the only thing hotter than the venue itself was the banter. I really dug Garza’s personality, coupled with the innovative offense he brought to the table. He played the crowd well and did more than his part to entertain. ACH went over with the brainbuster, but Garza got “please come back” chants — and I agree. Garza was great here, and his character is larger than life. He would be a tremendous fit along with the other luchadors AAW likes to employ.
***Mat Fitchett was interviewed by Marty DeRosa but they were interrupted by Davey Vega who took exception to Fitchett trying his hand at singles competition. Vega told him, “You’re good enough to be my partner. You’re not good enough to beat Zack Sabre Jr.”***
2. Eddie Kingston d. Jeff Cobb with two spinning backfists in 8:42
Eddie threatened Cobb with a spike before the bell rang, but the ref wasn’t having it. The crowd was into both men equally, but really popped for Jeff Cobb and his suplexes, which he brought out in variety on this night, hitting such variations as the vertical, the deadlift German, the gutwrench and even the double-underhook. Big pops per every suplex, and it really seems Cobb is settling into that Taz-like “suplex machine” role. This was an even-handed slugfest, slow and brutal, with both men exchanging blows for the duration. Kingston won a decent match with two backfists. After the match, Kingston sold his body as being broken down, continuing his story there.
3. Jake Crist d. Paco Gonzalez, Chuck Taylor and Davey Vega when Paco fell to a double underhood destroyer in 6:52
Do you like sprints? Because this card was loaded with them, including this fatal four-way featuring a massively over Paco, whom the Bourbon Street crowd ate up. He was probably the most popular guy on the entire show, which is a testament to young Paco. This one featured nonstop chaotic action throughout, as one might expect from this type of match and from these competitors. The crowd was still hot at this point in the night, getting into every spot the four men laid out for them. Not a bad little match by any stretch. Jake Crist got the win over Paco with a double underhook destroyer.
4. Zack Sabre Jr. d. Mat Fitchett with a triangle hold in 14:04
Fitchett started the match with desperation in his eyes, gunning for the world-traveled Sabre, but that only made Zack more aggressive, and ultimately, that would be the story of this one. Zack had no real reason to snap against somebody like Fitchett, so what did he do? He goaded Fitchett into pissing him off, and then he snapped and beat his ass. Zack really stretched Fitchett here, putting him into all sorts of disgusting holds, at the most uncertain of angles, but Fitchett inevitably stood his ground. This match started fantastically but unfortunately lost the crowd toward the end, which makes sense as the room was really starting to heat up and turn into a sauna. Zack got the win in a little over 14 minutes with a triangle choke using his legs, forcing Mat to tap out. A solid match, maybe a little less than I was expecting personally, but still worth checking out.
5. Low-Ki d. Abyss with a roll up in 6:25
Abyss came out first with manager JT Davidson and awaited his much smaller but quicker opponent, but Low-Ki had other plans on this night as he came out through the crowd and jumped Abyss before the bell rang. It was a hot start to a so-so match that relied too heavily on fallback tropes common of Abyss matches: There were loud “F— you, A-byss” chants (to the tune of “O-I-4-K”); Abyss threw middle fingers; he swore at the audience; and he cheated and used thumbtacks. It wouldn’t be an Abyss match without thumbtacks, wouldn’t you know. This time it was Davidson who took the big bump in a hilarious spot where Ki had thrown tacks into the eyes of Abyss, who then in confusion choke slammed Davidson onto the tacks. Nothing outstanding here, though it was of note just how much heat Abyss is able to draw in one six-and-a-half-minute span. Low-Ki won with a roll-up.
6. Penta El Zero M d. Trevor Lee with a package piledriver in 8:56 (AAW Heritage Championship)
Trevor debuted new, non-Taylor Swift music, and it had a Southern twang to it, and it was fan-freakin’-tastic. About time, Trevor. Lee used his status at Impact Wrestling for heel heat, which I didn’t particularly care for, because the other little bits he showed of being a heel were all believable and executed well. The crowd was really into Penta, as they are generally, and when he’s on the card, he’s one of the most over people in the building, bar Paco. This match featured a lot of spectacle early on, with posing and gesturing to the crowd, lots of character work from each man before the good grappling began. And the wrestling was good, but again, it was just too short for me to really sink my teeth into as an investment. Trevor Lee is a wrestling machine, but machines take time to warm up — more time than he’s been allotted his last handful of matches. Lee told a good story in the time he was given, however, with his frustrations leading him to making mistakes that cost him the match. Lovely, I just want more of it. Penta won with a package piledriver in a good, not great match.
***Sami Callihan cut a promo backstage describing how he wanted to beat Big Mike straight up, without help from OI4K or anybody else.***
7. Zachary Wentz, Dezmond Xavier and DJZ d. Stephen Wolf, Trey Miguel and Myron Reed
Back from intermission, things started off hot with this young boy showcase. This was one of my most anticipated matches on the card, as I like all these guys and wanted to see what they could do together. They did not disappoint, as each man got his stuff in and made it count. While this match went shorter than the one previous, it kept the crowd hot throughout and woke up a portion of the people in the back that had all but faded. This was my match of the night, and yes, it was a spot fest, but it was a fun, off-the-wall spot fest with some of the best young talent the Midwest has to offer at the moment. And for something like this, it doesn’t really need to be longer than 8 or 10 minutes; it didn’t overstay its welcome. I was especially impressed by Zachary Wentz here, who looked crisp in his execution and got the pin over Stephen Wolf following a beautiful assist moonsault. If you watch one match from this show, may it be this one.
8. John Morrison d. Brian Cage
This match was not good; if you’re considering watching this show at home, feel free to skip it and reclaim 15 minutes of your life. Use that time to make yourself a sandwich, take a power nap, or watch the previous match again, with time left over to take a lap around the house to burn off that sandwich. Just… do anything but watch this match. Morrison got into it with the crowd, which was entertaining to start, but things just devolved so quickly. There were so many botches where Morrison landed on his head, and I don’t know, maybe that’s what he gets for taking his heel act over the line? Would you call spitting on a fan who was booing you “over the line”? I don’t know, man, but this was a train wreck and not of the good, watchable sort. This match dragged and did not need to be 14-plus minutes. Morrison won with some heel tactics and a Starship Pain.
9. War Machine d. reDRagon when Hanson hit Fish with an assisted popup powerslam in 20:42
A lot of people loved this match. I thought it was really good but not spectacular, and nothing to go out of your way to see. I can’t say the two teams didn’t put in the work, because all four men busted their asses, so I will certainly reward them for the effort. I don’t know, I’m giving this match and the main event a better rating in retrospect because I was feeling the heat pretty bad, and that took away from my enjoyment factor. But this was a solid, hard-hitting match, as I expected in my preview. Lots of kicks, lots of corner clotheslines, lots of tag team maneuvers, with War Machine bullying reDRagon for much of the contest before Dragon broke through to even the score. I enjoyed a spot where Hanson used his beard to choke Kyle O’Reilly. The story was War Machine’s control segment and Fish being unable to rescue his partner, until he got a hot tag that helped but wasn’t enough. War Machine defeated reDRagon in another good match.
10. Sami Callihan d. Michael Elgin with a jackknife cover in 25:47 (AAW Heavyweight Championship)
This was one crazy, out-there, hard-hitting main event that delivered the results it needed to. There was a big fight feel going into the match, with the crowd really into Big Mike, whom they thought was taking home the title on this night. It would seem that way throughout the contest, as Elgin dominated Sami, slugging him back and forth, inside and outside the ring, onto the ring apron and onto the floor. It was pure punishment from Elgin, who struck Callihan with some of the stiffest elbow strikes I have ever witnessed — the sound of some of these shots needs to be seen, er, heard to be believed. Sami sold his death incredibly well here, and Elgin’s selling of his leg was just as good. Clearly, both men were out to tell a story, and in my eyes, it worked. The crowd tried their best here, but ultimately did not have much gas left in the tank, which did hurt the overall product some, but not much. JT Davidson and Jake Crist eventually came out and wanted to help Sami, but Sami sent them away. In the end, he covered Mike in what I believe was a jackknife in which he hooked Mike’s bad leg. Fun, brutal stuff.
Announced for next month’s “United We Stand” on July 15 is Keith Lee vs. Sami Callihan for the AAW Heavyweight Championship, AR Fox and Rey Fenix, Colt Cabana, David Starr and Shane Strickland. Tickets will go on sale at AAWrestling.com soon.