Before I get into today’s review of Absolution XII, I feel it would be a disservice to the review and to the event itself if I didn’t talk about the emotions surrounding the event and surrounding my own personal feelings at the time.
On June 19th, 2017, after a battle with a bacterial infection, Chris “Chandler Biggins” Bryan, Co-owner of AIW since almost the very beginning, passed away. It was a death mourned across the wrestling world, from top to bottom. If you’d like to hear more, listen to the AIW podcast episode detailing the entire thing. When I received the news, I was in shock, and for the first time in a while, since the death of Roddy Piper, I broke down crying. Biggins was a man I had a lot of great memories of, especially talking to him at the end of shows. He was a man that spoke with such passion for the things he loved and hated, and all of our conversations ended in me smiling from ear to ear. My favorite memory of him will always be him giving me old copies of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and PWTorch from the Attitude Era. He didn’t need to give them to me and could have honestly made a good buck off of them. But he trusted me with them and said I would give them a good home. When I saw his obituary in the WON, I broke down again. He was great man that I will miss dearly every time I go to AIW.
Going from bad to worse, two weeks later, on July 3rd, my father was admitted to a hospital. He had an abcess in his lungs, a result of his pneumonia a few months earlier. The infection spread to his brain, damaging his ability to breath without a machine. While at first, my family was hopeful for a pull through, his condition worsened and it came down to deciding whether to keep him on life support or not. Me and my father were not as close as I wanted to be. However, I would always promise myself that I would make amends with him should I ever see him on his deathbed, and I thankfully was given that opportunity. That is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. On July 24th, Raymond A. Theberge passed away at age 52.
Losing both Biggins and my dad so close to each other was an overwhelmingly emotional experience for me, and Absolution XII was my outlet for that emotion. From the opening 10 Bell Salute to Ethan Page’s passionate speech to Biggins, this was a roller coaster of a night for me. That’s one of the things I appreciate the most about professional wrestling; the emotional catharsis. We want to see people who do bad have Karma strike them hard. We want to see the underdog finally overcome a giant obstacle. We throw our sorrow, elation, fury, and cheer into this artform and, as a result, can receive some of the most powerful memories we have.
Absolution is the biggest show of the year for AIW; a place where some of the best matches of the year are contested, where rivalries end, and where long roads end to disappointment or championship glory. This year’s show is honestly one of the most packed and well booked shows AIW has put on in the history of Absolution. But will that fact lead to a great show? Let us see.
Match #1: Dominic Garrini vs. The Duke
For the first time since picking up the reigns to review AIW, I come across a Duke match. For the record, I want to say that the Duke is legitimately one of the best heels in AIW and one of my favorite characters in the promotion, period. He reminds me a lot of a Bobby Heenan-esque character, someone who is abhorrently obnoxious and evil, but can take a beating like no other, and Duke does both very well. The reason I preface this with that is because this match is all about Duke getting his butt kicked by Garrini and as a result, was a lot of fun. That’s really all I can say; it was a fun match that ends the rivalry between the two and starts the show off with good feeling in seeing Duke get whooped by Garrini, who is already looking to be a breakout star in the next year or so, mark my words. Very solid.
Garrini def. Duke
Match #2: PB Smooth vs. Frankie Flynn
A fine match with some great storyline set ups for the future. Flynn’s recent heel turn upon returning to active competition has been a blessing as I have really gotten to enjoy his work and character, especially when he loses his temper and beats the hell out of someone. PB Smooth continues to impress and is someone I strongly recommend following for the future. Match ends with Colby Red and Derek Direction assisting Flynn and forming a new stable. Considering I have been begging for heel Derek in AIW and want to see more of Red, as I see a lot of potential in him, this looks like the start of something awesome.
Flynn def. Smooth
Match #3: Fans Bring the Weapons Lumberjack Grudge Match: Britt Baker vs. Swoggle
I adored this match. This was one of the funniest, most unique, and enjoyable matches I’ve seen this year. I was initially skeptical on how a comically toned grudge match like this would play out, but this match blew past my expectations and wound up being one of the best matches of the night. If you don’t like comedy matches, even within the context of a feud, avoid at all cost. For anyone else, seek this out. I know I’m being vague with my description, but the less you know about this match, the better and funnier it is. The crowd loved this match, the participants were having a lot of fun, and by the end, everyone had a smile on their face. The show is a recommendation from this alone.
Match #4: “Filthy” Tom Lawlor vs. Eddie Kingston
Good lord, talk about tonal dissonance. We go from a very light hearted and fun affair to one of the most brutal matches on the card. Both of these men are known as hard hitting dudes that can take a lot of punishment, and based on that alone, you can tell how the match goes, and it’s awesome. Lots of suplexes, lots of hard strikes, lots of moves that make you cringe. The exploder suplex exchange spot was one of my favorite moments in AIW of this year. Kingston is one of my all time favorites and Lawlor is becoming one of my current favorites, so this really shouldn’t have been a surprise how much I love it. If you dig 90’s NJPW Strong Style and AJPW King’s Road, this is a match for you. Just awesome awesome awesome.
Lawlor def. Kingston
Match #5: Bullrope Grudge Match: Shawn Schultz vs. Ethan Page
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little let down by this match. Was it worked well? Yeah. Was there anything wrong about it? No. Was either competitor not having a good day? Not the case.
So why did this match make me feel so weirdly apathetic? It’s one of those weird things where I should have been all about this match. I love old school gimmick matches like this and I both men very much in their roles. My only guess would be that, by the time the finish started to happen, it felt like it should have happened a while ago. It could have been the pacing of the match that through me off, with things feeling a little too slow for my taste. Again, nowhere near the realm of “bad” or even just “okay”, but I think this should have been better than it was. I will say the post match promo by Page made me bawl like a baby, so there is that.
Page def, Schultz
Match #6: Team AIW Old Guard (Russ Myers, T-Money, Matthew Justice, Bobby Beverly, Eric Ryan) vs. Team AIW Rookies (Chase Oliver, Tre Lamar, Garrison King, Joshua Bishop, AJ Gray)
The issue of safety in pro wrestling has always been a topic of discussion, especially this year with the Dive vs. Headlock fiasco, the possible career ending injuries of Daniel Bryan and Katsuyori Shibata, the currently critical state of of Yoshihiro Takayama, as well as other injuries across the board. It’s always been a topic I have mixed feelings on myself and I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to this. I don’t want to see the wrestlers I enjoy watching get hurt to where they are unable to wrestle again, or worse. This comes up later in the review. However, I always want a wrestler to wrestle they way they want to so long as they aren’t intentionally trying to injure the other person. If that requires them to take risks against their own well being, then, ultimately, I wish them the best in that pursuit. As a critic of wrestling, and even as a fan, I don’t feel it is my place to shame wrestlers for what they want to do with their own bodies, as I have never taken a bump in my life and don’t know their bodies as well as they know their own. Ultimately, what I’m getting at is that if a wrestler wants to risk their body for the sake of the art of pro wrestling, that is their wish, but I please request them to think out what they are doing first before going ahead and doing it.
With all of that said, this match involved the AIW Old Guard beating the absolute hell out of the rookies and every one in the match doing something recklessly dangerous and insane. This was also my favorite match of the night. There is a spectacle to see wrestlers like this just throw caution to the wind in this way and go all out for the crowd pop, and while the long term merits of these kinds of matches can be debated, in the moment, this was 10 men doing whatever zany crap came to mind, and while a lot of it was sloppy and not focused well, this was still a sight to behold. I also appreciated that the match wasn’t just a full blown spot fest, but actually had the Veterans getting a pretty nice heat segment on the rookies, building up to the crescendo that was the spectacularly sloppy yet amazing finishing sequence. This match is worth the show price and more. Just pure awe.
Rookies def. Old Guard
Match #6: AIW Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler (C) vs. Mia Yim
Good lordy what a fun match. Baszler is tremendous, as is Yim, so naturally both women deliver a very hard hitting, well paced, and exciting match. Baszler as a wrestler has grown leaps and bounds since I saw her debut in AIW and has become one of the best female talent on the scene right now, both in-ring and as a character. Yim as well is perhaps the top Indy female talent as far as consistent performances, and anywhere she goes she always delivers. I can’t really find more to say except for the fact this may be the last time these women will fight each other in an AIW ring again, so for that fact alone, this was incredibly special. If you like good wrestling, this is a good match for you.
Baszler def. Yim
Match #7: AIW Intense Championship: Alex Daniels © w/h Gregory Iron vs. Joey Janela
With the recent disappointing news that Daniels is aiming to retire at the end of 2017, this match has another layer added on. Alex Daniels came into this match as the longest reigning Intense Champion AIW has ever seen at 469 days. Longer than the reigns of Tyler Black, Johnny Gargano, Davey Vega, Daniels’ run with the title was one of the best heel title runs I’ve seen in Indy wrestling. It even came to a point where it seemed no one could beat him. Joey Janela came into this match as a man who won over the AIW fanbase with his weird behaviors and his willingness to kill himself for entertainment. By the end, for a person who has seen almost the entirety of both of these wrestlers’ run in AIW, this felt like the culmination of two long running stories. For Joey, this was a crowning achievement of toiling years in the Indys looking to make a name for himself and by winning the title, was rewarded with that vindication. For Daniels, this was a match that included every trick in the book he had learned across his short career, but falling short of keeping the title. The post match break up with Greg seemed to tease at a future story, but after the news of Daniels retiring, that is seemingly thrown out the window.
So where does that leave this match? Honestly this was the best match of Daniels’ reign for the above mentioned reasons. This was an emotionally driven match that delivered on a pay off over a year in the making. The wrestling was tight and well executed and when Janela won the title, the roof went off the place. If this is Daniels’ last AIW match, it was a damn good one.
Janela def. Daniels to win the AIW Intense Title
Match #8: AIW Tag Team Championships: To Infinity And Beyond (Cheech & Colin Delaney) (c) vs. Crazy Pain (Gringo Loko & Steve Pain) vs. DJ Z & Laredo Kid vs. Ninja Elite Squad (Facade & Flip Kendrick)
So, back at Gauntlet for the Gold XII, all 8 of these men were in a 4-way tag match that was one of the best matches AIW has had this year. This was the sequel to that.
Unfortunately, in the middle of the match, Flip Kendrick fell onto the ground, head first, off of a top rope flip onto the pile of guys outside. It was a terrifying moment and one that was thankfully quickly attended to. Flip has since recovered since that night. With a blow like that, however, the crowd dropped and everything to slow down. That is a shame because up to this point, this match was very good and approaching to possibly top the GFTG match. Major props to the other seven men for trying to go on with the show.
The finish is a tremendous one though; Gringo Loko feigning a heart attack (Loko had previously had a real one earlier this year) only to pull out a taser on TIAB as payback for last time. Had the match went normally, I could have seen this being the top moment in 2017 AIW.
To Infinity and Beyond def. Everyone Else to retain the AIW Tag Team Championship
Match #9: AIW Absolute Championship: Tim Donst © vs. Louis Lyndon vs. “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams vs. Josh Prohibition
After such a low point, this was a hell of an elevation. This rocked.
This is the match I’ll point to people as THE match that represents AIW. It isn’t their best match, but this is what AIW is: wild, intimate, and over the top. Lots of crowd brawling, weapon usage, crazy high spots (Louis Lyndon’s moonsault to the floor is always gorgeous), this was just pure insanity. The story was great as well, with most of the punishment falling on Donst as he is the common enemy between WIlliams, Lyndon, and Prohibition. This was a fun culmination of a story that has been built since last year.
Then, Nick Gage returned. The place lost it. Say what you will about Gage, he is beloved by the AIW crowd, and honestly, I’m very much looking forward to what a long term story with Gage will look like in AIW.
Overall, a fun, blisteringly hot (figuratively and literally), and chaotic match that is definitely worth checking out.
Tim Donst def. Williams, Lyndon, and Prohibition to retain the AIW Absolute Championship
Outside emotions aside, this was a fantastic showcase of what AIW has to offer. This show had everything; comedy, high spots, stiff wrestling, hardcore wrestling, etc. On top of all of that, the majority of it was really tight and consistently good. As a long time follower, I felt rewarded with a lot of the story conclusions and the story advancements made were exciting. AIW hit a home run with this show and I highly recommend this to any AIW or any new fan.
In memory to Chris Bryan and Raymond Theberge