AAW: Jim Lynam Memorial Tournament 2017: Night 1 Review

October 13th, 2017

Opening Match:  First Round: Andrew Everett vs. Zema Ion
Having not seen Ion wrestle for a few months, he clearly seems to have a newfound spark to his offense.  He brought great energy to this opener and has incorporated new offense that is both innovative and impactful.  Everett was more than game as well, and this was the right type of opener to present in the context of a two-night tournament.  The crowd hung with them even when an exchange didn’t go according to plan.  Eight minutes was perfect here given the size of the card even though a few more minutes could have led to a better match.  Ion won in 8:22 with an implant DDT.  **¾

Match #2:  First Round: ACH vs. Curt Stallion
Stallion absolutely exploded at the opening bell, unleashing an avalanche of offense on ACH that was pretty great to watch.  Stallion’s offense for the rest of the match was unfortunately hard to track.  Sometimes he’s a brooding opportunist and other times he wildly throws headbutts.  I think the crowd had a difficult time figuring him out.  ACH, on the other hand, was tremendous here and the fluidity of his offense is incredible to watch.  I think the shorter duration benefitted them and I cannot wait for Ion vs. ACH on night two.  ACH won in 7:43 with a brainbuster.  **½

Match #3:  First Round: Eddie Kingston vs. Mark Haskins
These two ended up being near-perfect opponents for each other.  Look, you either find Kingston charming or you do not.  I do.  Watching Haskins fly around the ring and find new ways to kick Kingston in the face was a delight.  Kingston’s sheer annoyance every time Haskins kicked out his leg or kicked him in the face was a delight.  This match was a delight.  The action could have played out in a number of ways but they really played to their strengths.  This also ended up being a great debut for Haskins as it showed the crowd the range of what he can do in the ring.  The very fact that there were dueling chants down the finishing stretch is evidence enough that something was working.  I might just be a sucker for these kind of Kingston matches, but everything clicked here.  Haskins won in 12:59 with a michinoku driver.  ***¼

Match #4:  First Round: Jeff Cobb vs. Zachary Wentz
Aside from Cobb’s feats of strength, there wasn’t a ton to sink your teeth into in this match.  Wentz didn’t have much of a cohesive strategy for beating Cobb aside from throwing the kitchen sink at him.  There is a nice moment where Wentz lands a dive into the crowd and I wish they would have played up Wentz’s reckless abandon more because it was the first time the crowd got behind him.  Clocking in at just under six minutes, you could arguably call this an extended squash for Cobb.  Cobb won in 5:40 with the Tour of the Islands.  *½

Match #5:  AAW Heavyweight Title: Rey Fenix © vs. Trevor Lee
This match struggled to get off the ground early on due to Lee’s plodding offense when in control.  Lee obviously wanted to slow down the action and control Fenix, but it was unclear from watching him how he was going about defeating the champion.  Thus, the action felt slow for the sake of being slow before picking up down the stretch.  Fenix did some incredible stuff towards the end of the match, but even he had a hard time winning the crowd back after the slower opening.  I cannot say that I’ve been the biggest fan of Lee in 2017 and this was not an inspiring performance by any means.  Fenix retained his title in 12:10 with a piledriver.  **

Match #6:  Keith Lee and Shane Strickland vs. Zack Sabre Jr. and Matt Riddle
Putting these four in the ring together leads to a very high probability of greatness and thankfully that’s what happened in this match.  Whether intended or not, there was a nice sub-story early on of Strickland perhaps not being able to hang with Sabre on the mat.  The exchanges between them in particular throughout the match seemed a bit more heated, so one has to wonder if they have a singles match in their future.  My favorite part of this contest was how structured they managed to keep the action.  There was pretty strict adherence to legal man rules and the referee came off as less of a doofus than he usually does in tag matches that inevitably break down.  The action down the stretch was fantastic and there were a few moments that made me make an audible expression at my television.  Lastly, this is exactly the type of non-tournament match you want to showcase in the middle of the card.  It worked on multiple levels and this is a showcase match that you will want to check out.  Lee and Strickland won in 20:43 when they hit a doomsday seated senton on Sabre.  ***¾

Match #7:  First Round: AR Fox vs. Dezmond Xavier
Given their flashy offenses, the crowd wasn’t as vocal for the action as I would have expected.  The less cynical explanation is that they were coming off of intermission and it was already late at night.  The more cynical explanation is that the offense was so choreographed that it hindered the crowd’s suspension of disbelief.  I won’t attempt to figure out which explanation is more likely true.  I also think I may just be desensitized to Fox’s style after having seen him in so many matches.  For instance, the bottom rope broke during this match and it legitimately annoyed me that Fox looked flustered that he could not hit his shooting star cannonball in the corner.  I think Ion/Everett was a very similar style of match done much better.  Fox won in 7:33 with a 450 splash.  **

Match #8:  First Round: Brian Cage vs. Myron Reed
We are now operating without a bottom rope after the last match.  Much like Cobb/Wentz, this was an example of the smaller Reed deciding to just throw the kitchen sink at his much larger opponent.  However, it seemed to work this time and Reed looked quite impressive throughout the course of this match.  The crowd was also more willing to believe that Reed could defeat Cage.  They also did a good job of taking the action in a direction you wouldn’t necessarily expect.  I think they were facing an uphill battle being so late in the card and so late at night, but they delivered a worthwhile outing.  Reed won in 9:26 with a jackknife pin.  ***

Match #9:  First Round: Mat Fitchett vs. Sami Callihan
This match started out in the least enjoyable way possible for me.  The action opened with them letting each other land multiple consecutive dives onto each other.  They then did a series of spots in which they “picked up steam” by running around ringside.  Obviously they aren’t really picking up any speed but rather are trying to build crowd anticipation by running around ringside.  The crowd just did not care.  Callihan then dumped Fitchett into the front row with a death valley driver without warning and Fitchett kicked a fan in the face on his landing.  The fact that all of this received proportionally little reaction from the crowd made it feel lame.  Don’t get me started on the apron piledriver.  I was really looking forward to Fitchett wrestling in a singles match, too.  I don’t know.  I think if you compare the way the action was presented in the tag team match from earlier to this contest, the difference should shine through.  Callihan won in 10:06 with the Stretch Muffler.  *½

Match #10:  First Round: Michael Elgin vs. Penta El Zero M
This was the war of attrition that you would expect in the main event between two former AAW champions.  Given that context, the contest was helped tremendously by the fact that the crowd genuinely likes and admires both Elgin and Penta.  While the action was not incredibly story-driven, they managed to make throwing bombs at each other enjoyable to watch.  Elgin realizing that he had to do something drastic to put Penta away and deciding on a burning hammer was a satisfying end to the match at the very least.  This was not the most thrilling match but I think they accomplished what they set out to do and delivered a solid main event.  Elgin won in 19:46 with a burning hammer.  ***

-Show Grade: B-
You Need to See:
You’d Enjoy Watching: tag match, Kingston/Haskins, Elgin/Penta, Cage/Reed
You Should Avoid:

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