The Skinny: Say what you will about AAW, but they are very good about listening to their fanbase. A lot of fans were outspoken about the lack of a women’s match at “Windy City Classic XIII,” which came weeks after the company crowned its first Women’s Champion in Havoc at “Legacy” on December 2. Women’s wrestling is blowing up, with companies like RISE and SHIMMER doing as good as they’ve ever done, so at least one match featuring female talent per show should be the standard. All four of these women can bring the heat, though they work different styles, but I am interested in seeing how they gel as teams. Will Havoc keep her cool with Smiley Kylie by her side? Can Kay and Bourdeaux unite for the common cause?
There has been criticism of AAW’s women’s division early on — some criticism of the talent being used, for one example — but this is a step in the right direction. Women’s wrestling has gone from niche product to a money draw, and this will be one of the hottest matches on the card according to fan interest. Consistency is the key behind building the division to where it needs to be, and these four women are torchbearers for the future of the division and the company. That considered, I don’t see the champion losing a match so soon after taking the title, so Havoc and Rae win.
As of 1/17/2018, Kay has been removed from this, and the forthcoming show in LaSalle on 2/3/2018, due to injury
. A replacement has not been announced as of time of publication. Stay tuned to AAW’s official Twitter page for the latest announcements.
The Match: Maxwell Jacob Friedman (MJF) vs. Juice Robinson
The Skinny: Since debuting on the independents in February 2015, Maxwell Jacob Friedman has established himself as one of the best young talents around, offering a solid in-ring along with character to spare. He is better than you and you know it — a rally cry for the smuggest, most entitled rich kid from New York. The man has money (and scarves) to spare, but don’t tell that to Juice Robinson, who will be making his first appearance for AAW since “Take No Prisoners” in May 2016. Robinson is one of New Japan’s best young talents, by contrast, making both of these men future prospects to keep an eye on. Will MJF prove he is better than the former CJ Parker? Or will the Juice be loose on January 20?
My Take: At only 21 years old, Friedman is already one of the more dynamic performers of his age bracket, if not the most. His character work is untouchable, earmarked by his relentlessness to play to it, and his social media presence absolutely is better than mine — and yours, as well. I’ve wanted to see him in person for close to a year and it’s finally happening. Robinson, meanwhile, has done a career 180, going from opening shows on NXT, or missing them altogether, all while without much direction, to a future main eventer in Japan. This is a futures match, for sure, and a loss suits MJF just as well as a win here. How will he react to it? Let’s wait and see. Juice wins.
The Moment: AAW Heritage Champion DJZ discusses his future
Oh, DJZ. The high-flying dare devil du jour has incurred three ruptured discs
in his neck and will be out of action for the foreseeable future. This, of course, coming less than a year after his previous injury, which was career-threatening in and of itself. Now, back in the building where he won the championship, Zema Ion will discuss his future and hopefully provide fans a time table of his return.
My Take: First off, ruptured discs and neck injuries are bad news, no other way about it. So not only am I wishing DJZ the very best in his recovery, but in his future from this point forward. Too many notable names have had their careers taken from them because of neck injuries, and I don’t ever want to add Ion’s to that list. All I can say here is I hope the man makes a full recovery from what currently ails him, and that he minimizes the unnecessary risks that only increase his chances for such a thing.
The Match: The Killer Kult (Sami Callihan, Dave & Jake Crist) vs. WRSTLING (David Starr, Jeff Cobb and Trevor Lee)
The Skinny: This match has been building since at least October, where Jeff Cobb destroyed Sami Callihan in 33 seconds to get to the finals of the Jim Lynam Memorial Tournament. Of course, Cobb attacked Callihan from behind and neutralized manager JT Davidson to do it, which is why Sami has been unrelenting in his pursuit of not only Cobb, but WRSTLING on the whole. The Kult got its sweet revenge in the main event of “Windy City Classic XIII,” helping Rey Fenix successfully defend his championship against Cobb. War is coming, fellas, and it’s not going to be pretty.
My Take: I don’t think these six guys are capable of putting on a bad performance, either individually or altogether in one gigantic mega match. I am extra appreciative of the dynamics in play, Sami and the Killers portraying the babyfaces for a (much-welcomed) change, Starr and friends the shit-eating grin-wearing baddies who’ll stop at nothing to secure the victory. I expect complete chaos in this one. A car wreck, with bodies stacked high upon conclusion. I still don’t see Callihan losing before he challenges Tetsuya Naito on February 17, though, so Callihan and co. win here.
The Match: Besties in the World (Davey Vega and Mat Fitchett) (c) vs. Shane Strickland and Keith Lee, AAW Tag Team Championships
The Skinny: Since debuting as a tag team at Night 1 of the 2017 Jim Lynam Memorial Tournament in October, Keith Lee and Shane Strickland have taken the company by its throat and have not let go. They have the best theme songs, they have the coolest finish, and they have some wicked chemistry — all things you shouldn’t be telling Davey Vega and Mat Fitchett, who also have those qualities and have spent the better part of the last two years (not two months) establishing themselves as one of the top tags in the Midwest and beyond, even stealing a win against Lee and Strickland at “Legacy.” Can Swerve and Lee lay claim to the gold on their second try? Or will the Besties live up to their name?
My Take: No team stands out in my mind as more immediately fun to watch as Strickland and Lee, who don’t even have a name for themselves yet, though many have been thrown around — I humbly suggest “Glorious Swerve.” But the chemistry they share as a unit is unmatched, and they’ve meshed well with every team they’ve faced. I’ve no doubts this follow-up match will be a burner, as Fitchett and Vega are two competitors who more than hold their own on the big stage. Two top-flight teams will be going at it for tag gold, but I’ve got to play the hot hand and go with “Swerve in Our Glory”: Lee and Strickland.
The Match: Rey Fenix (c) vs. Matt Riddle, AAW Heavyweight Championship
The Skinny: Since debuting for AAW in September 2016, Matt Riddle has put on some of the company’s best matches against the likes of Michael Elgin, Shane Strickland, Keith Lee, and ACH, among others, but he’s never main evented a show until now. After going to a 20-minute draw with ACH at “Windy City Classic XIII,” it was contractually determined that both men would receive a title opportunity on consecutive shows, with Riddle getting the first chance at Rey Fenix, who now knows his next two challengers — pending he survives January 20. Can the self-professed “MexaKing” keep his crown? Or will AAW start off 2018 with a new champion?
My Take: Despite the controversial conclusion to the Riddle/ACH match last month, which had fans in a frenzy begging for a winner, I personally liked the decision to give both men title shots at back-to-back live events. Riddle has been golden since his “Defining Moment” in 2016, always delivering high-energy performances, and ACH is likely a top-10 performer in company history who’s never received his due in the main event. Will AAW go for Riddle/ACH round three in LaSalle on February 3? I have my doubts. Rey Fenix retains.