It’s the most exciting time of year on AAW’s jam packed calendar, at least for me, because I’m a sucker for Berwyn shows and tournaments — and the little trophies and sometimes gigantic novelty checks the winners are presented. The 2017 Jim Lynam Memorial Tournament builds on last year’s epic two-night, 16-man jaunt that found NXT’s Kassius Ohno (Chris Hero to you and I) victorious, with somehow even more action than the year previous.
Ten matches are scheduled for each night of the tournament, with several bonus contests thrown in for the heck of it, but my true focus here is on the competitors themselves. Sixteen men, from various walks of life, will compete for one prize, though if you’ve been paying attention to AAW’s stories the past year or two, some of them have a better shot than others. That is why I broke this off into four separate tiers, starting with most likely to win the tournament, down to least likely. For example, a Michael Elgin, who’s won all three championships in AAW, has a better shot at winning the thing this thing than somebody who doesn’t call AAW their home, like an Andrew Everett. I took several factors into account, including but not limited to: credibility to the audience, championship pedigree, consistency/frequency of appearance, whether or not they are “over” (and to what degree), and general likability.
After breaking down each man individually, however, after studying up and reading about them on my own time, I have come to a heightened sense of respect for each of them, so bear in mind these rankings are just for fun. These odds have no merit, so don’t go calling your bookie yet. (In my imagination, there are people who bet on independent professional wrestling and it’s just this normal thing that happens.)
A look at the eight first round matches:
Sami Callihan vs. Mat Fitchett
AR Fox vs. Dezmond Xavier
Brian Cage vs. Myron Reed
Zima Ion vs. Andrew Everett
“Unbreakable” Michael Elgin to some, “Big Mike” to others, “Dad” to his child and the young boys he throws around the ring. You can also call him AAW’s resident gatekeeper, a title worn as proudly by Elgin as any of his actual championships, and believe me, he’s won them all. Elgin has been around the block in AAW, but he’s yet to run the gamut quite like this. Elgin is perhaps the best choice here because he matches up well with any wrestler in AAW, so his work within the tournament should be solid. He delivers in every match, so it would be good business to see another Big Mike main event come December.
One half of WRSTLING, along with David Starr, Cobb has yet to taste gold in AAW, but he is carrying the most momentum of any competitor in the tournament, which should be enough to position him in the finals, if not win the thing altogether. Cobb is strong, but faces competition in other power guys Elgin and Brian Cage, who want to prove they each are the most dominant man in the building. Cobb is a top pick because his upward momentum is unchallenged, and the iron is hot. Plus, a match up with Rey Fenix would be outstanding to witness: Big bad vs. high-flyer, what’s not to love?
Bellefontaine, OH, USA
He will scratch, he will claw, he will bite, he will spit — but he will get there, by any means necessary. Sami Callihan shocked AAW fans by losing the AAW Heavyweight Championship in August to Rey Fenix, and the Jim Lynam Memorial Tournament may be the “Worldwide Desperado’s” only shot at redemption. How far will Callihan go to become a three-time champion? Callihan’s odds are extremely high here because not only has he been to the top of the mountain twice before, but he knows what he has to do to get the job done, perhaps more than any of the other 15 competitors.
Former tag team champion and partner of Rey Fenix, and former Heritage Champion, AR Fox has been seen it all in AAW, having faced a proverbial who’s who of talent over the past number of years, competing in singles and tags, as well as main events. Fox knows Fenix, so don’t count him out as he works through the field to secure himself a spot in the top match at the Windy City Classic. Fox recently upped his stock in the next level “War is Hell” match on Lucha Underground’s Ultima Lucha Tres — but will that momentum be enough to win the Lynam Tournament?
Fear Factor Package Piledriver
Penta El 0M is 1-1 against his flesh and blood, Rey Fenix, in an AAW ring, having most recently suffered defeat in a match for the Heavyweight Championship at “Seize the Day.” While his name commands the brightest lights, would AAW risk running that particular match again so soon? Despite this working against him, Penta remains a top candidate based on his popularity alone. The fans pay to see Penta, and a brother vs. brother main event at the biggest show of the year is a big money match no matter what.
Chicago, IL, USA
DJ Zema Ion has been steadily making a name for himself all over North America, including for The Crash in Mexico, where he had a near-death experience after taking a 450 splash during a match. DJZ puts it all on the line no matter who he’s sharing a ring with, giving him just as good a chance to take home the trophy as anybody. A match with champion Rey Fenix would be fresh and one to look out for if DJZ can keep his momentum going. Ion’s odds break even because he’s underrated and is potentially somebody AAW could throw its weight behind in the near future. But, if he does win, don’t you dare call it an upset.
Faringdon, England, UK
Haskins is part of the BritWres scene that has been picking up steam over the last few years, working the PROGRESS and RevPro circuits, along with a run in Impact Wrestling and PWG. Now the 29-year-old brings turns his attention to the Jim Lynam Memorial Tournament, where he faces an uphill battle among AAW veterans and competitors who know the Berwyn Eagles Club — and know how to use it to their advantage. Still, somebody as dynamic and electric as Haskins should never be counted out.
Two-thousand sixteen was Dezmond Xavier’s break out year, and in another couple of months, the same will be said about this current year. The short of it is Dez blew his name up in companies like CZW and the lesser known Rockstar Pro before he started diving off balconies and putting on match of the year contenders for AAW, and eventually Impact Wrestling. Wouldn’t a Rey Fenix/Xavier showdown in the main event of Windy City Classic be fun? But “The Kardiak Kid” faces a tough test in the opening round in AR Fox, and the path to the trophy doesn’t get any easier moving forward. Can Xavier work his magic here?
Fitchett has more than proven himself in recent singles competition aside from partner Davey Vega, looking solid in matches with the likes of Zack Sabre, Jr. and Matt Riddle. At last year’s Jim Lynam Tournament, Fitchett impressed against AAW legend Silas Young and all-around indie wrestling legend Chris Hero in two highly touted matches that rank among AAW’s best of 2016. Despite singles success, Fitchett would have to run the table against some stiff competition to get the job done, making him something of a wild card in this particular tournament. A match with Rey Fenix at Windy City Classic would be just that, though: a classic, no doubt about it.
While “The Lone Star” Curt Stallion, formerly based out of Crane, TX, is an up-and-comer new to AAW’s ranks, he has already impressed officials, most recently securing a victory over PWG World Champion Chuck Taylor at “Seize the Day.” Now wrestling out of the hot bed of St. Louis, MO, Stallion’s opportunities are only going to increase from here. Despite plenty of upside, he lacks the experience edge held by so many of his fellow competitors, and his size puts him at a disadvantage against bigger, bulkier opponents, with which this tournament is stacked.
It’s been one heck of a year for Myron Reed, the youngest man in the tournament. Reed has been cutting his teeth in Michael Elgin’s promotion, Glory Pro Wrestling, in St. Louis, and other, smaller companies concurrent to his rise as one of AAW’s rookie phenoms. With youth and fresh legs, however, comes inexperience, and there is no man less seasoned going into his first-round match up than the high-flying “Hot Fire.” Similar to Stallion, Reed has a wealth of work cut out for him if he plans on making it to the finals, or even winning it all. But with a kid this good? Never say never.
A former two-time AAW Heavyweight Champion, Eddie Kingston’s 2017 has had its share of ups and downs. Sure, he’s picked up a win here and there, but his feud with David Starr may have mortally wounded him, which is why King’s odds remain low. At age 35, with a number of injuries piling up — including a neck that today resembles a shopping bag full of broken glass — the “War King” may be closer to the end than the beginning, meaning it will be tough for him to challenge for a championship. But this is Eddie, and this is AAW, where anything can happen. What’s one more run?
If Fall Out Boy were a wrestler, he would be Zachary Wentz: Bright, energetic, with appeal to a mass audience, but plenty of room to grow. Debuting in 2014, the self-professed “Sickest Dude in ALL the Land” has made a name for himself on the tag team scene along with partner and fellow flippy boy Dezmond Xavier. Together, they are AAW’s Tag Team Champions Scarlet & Graves, but individually, Wentz is one of the least-experienced competitors in the tournament, which does him no favors, making him no favorite. And with a first round match up against Jeff Cobb, Wentz has quite the ladder to climb if he wants to take home that trophy.
Burlington, NC, USA
Shooting Star Press
After a complicated run with the Tag Team Championships with former partner Trevor Lee, which found Everett injured for half of it, the “Apex of Agility” has made sporadic appearances with the company ever since, most recently losing to Chuck Taylor at August’s “Jawbreaker.” Everett, while perhaps the perfect high-flyer, remains a question mark due to his inconsistency with AAW across 2017. A match up with Rey Fenix would be absolutely bonkers, but Everett would need to build much more momentum before getting there for it to feel like a proper main event. A risky choice here.
Given the size of the man alone, one might think Brian Cage enters the 2017 Jim Lynam Memorial Tournament an odds-on favorite to at least make it out of his bracket. So why is his name at the bottom of the pile here? The dynamic and utterly yolked “Swolverine” is a bruiser, but in the grand scheme of all things AAW, he has been little more than a role player — a hired gun brought in for various matches, never able to put together a run that would convince fans he’s a likely choice for the tournament’s winner. What role will Cage play this weekend?
There you have it. In my estimation, which again, carries no weight whatsoever, I think there are at least five guys who have a good shot at winning the 2017 Jim Lynam Memorial Tournament, though I am willing to be surprised by a DJZ or even a Curt Stallion.
Who’s your pick for the winner? Which opening round match are you looking forward to the most? Send AAW a tweet at @AAWPro and get your predictions in now!