AAW “The Art of War” Preview, 1/20/2018

With a wild 2017 in the books, AAW is looking ahead to what this year brings with another top-notch card full of ring generals who will soon go on to bigger, better things, as well as a number of fresh faces looking to become the next kings of the company. Nine matches are planned for the show, taking place at Chicago’s Logan Square Auditorium, with one still up in the air at the time of this writing.

As always, I offer up a little background on these matches, including past history between competitors, along with my take on the action ahead. Do you agree with my takes? Do you have a different set of winners in mind for this show? Feel free to let us all know at @PWPonderings and @deathinkosovo on Twitter. Until then, I’ll catch you at the matches!

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The Match: Curt Stallion and Jake Something vs. Zero Gravity (Brett Gakiya and CJ Esparza)
The Skinny: Perhaps no team on the scene right now speaks more to the tradition of AAW than Zero Gravity, who will always have a place in my heart as they were the hottest team going at the time I first got into the company way back in 2011. Oddly enough, Gakiya and Esparza took on Nick Brubaker, who throws down with Stallion and Something, at my first-ever live event, The Chaos Theory in January 2011. Can they pick up the pieces against the veterans of Zero G? Or do the masters of the “Flippy Cup” have this on lock?
My Take: Oh my goodness, am I excited to see Zero Gravity. There have been a lot of independent wrestlers who’ve jacked their style over the last five years or so, but none quite like the originals. Maybe this is a nostalgia play for me, but these guys are just fun to watch. It’s also great seeing Stallion and Something build momentum, but they need a name for their pairing. My suggestion? The Meat and The Mouth. OK, maybe that’s a bit silly, but they need a decent moniker, right? I’ll take your suggestions at @deathinkosovo. Until then, well, it’s been nice Zero G, but Stallion and Something are taking this one.

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The Match: Myron Reed vs. Teddy Hart
The Skinny: Since his first appearance in AAW at the second night of “Jim Lynam Memorial Tournament 2017,” life has been an open road for Teddy Hart. He won his debut match, then disappeared for a couple shows, before returning at “Windy City Classic XIII,” where he helped steal the show with AR Fox, Penta El Zero M and Joey Janela. Now he’s got his first singles match with the company, against a man many are touting as the future, Myron Reed. Can Reed silence the innovative Hart to start his 2018 on the right foot? Or does Teddy have other ideas?
My Take: Myron Reed is a hot commodity for any wrestling promotion right now, and the more wild, ridiculous matches promoters can throw him, the better. Seeing Teddy Hart in an AAW ring alone is crazy enough, but running him against “Hot Fiyah” at this stage in his career could be something else entirely. Go back through your preferred subscription service and look up guys like AR Fox and Ricochet when they were young, scrawny and working their way up, and you’ll see the same potential in a guy like Myron Reed. As for who wins, it’s a toss up as of this writing, but I will go with Reed for the upset.

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The Match: Eddie Kingston vs. Kevin Lee Davidson
The Skinny: Davidson, also called KLD, is a sizable hoss at 6’4, 330+ lbs, who’s yet to find his big break, and he meets his maker in the form of a rematch with Eddie Kingston at Logan Square Auditorium. While this is KLD’s Chicago roster debut, he previously had faced Kingston at November’s “Rise of the Dragon” event in LaSalle, losing to the “War King.” Opportunities like this don’t come around too often, and those who debut for AAW’s main circuit usually leave everything in the ring in an effort to keep their spots. Will Davidson find revenge on Eddie? Or will Kingston continue to assert his dominance over the big man?
My Take: I’ve read a few social media “hot takes” on this one, with some saying Davidson “isn’t ready” or “doesn’t deserve” a spot on AAW’s main roster. Personally, I think the company can use a hoss like him to chew through some of the new talents before he makes his way up the card. When I watch KLD, I am reminded of Big Keith Walker, equal in his intensity and with even more size. This match will be fine, for anybody worried. It will be short and hard-hitting, and if I had to guess, Davidson will take the W.

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The Match: ACH vs. Paco Gonzalez
The Skinny: Believe it or not, Paco has been an AAW favorite for close to three and a half years — probably longer. Officially debuting at May 2014’s “United We Stand,” according to ProFightDB, Paco likely worked a few dark matches prior to that, putting him at close to four years’ service time with the company across 23 (or more) matches. Those numbers are even more absurd when you consider the fiery underdog has never had a real match of consequence or prominence. Until now, that is, when he tests his mettle against the man sharing the number one contender’s spot for AAW’s top prize. Can Paco finally make his name with a win Saturday? Or will the “Super” one continue down his path to his championship dream?
My Take: Finally! After watching this dude get the best reactions the last handful of years (if not the best, then top three for the night), finally he is rewarded with a big-time match-up. The fans love Paco because he is one of them. He is young, scrappy and hungry, he takes a hell of a beating, and he keeps on going. In a sense, Paco Gonzalez is a metaphor for who we all are inside. We are heroes in our heads, we are dreamers. But, so too is ACH, and his dream is bigger than ours here, as he is dead set on taking the AAW Heavyweight Championship on February 3, no matter who he’s up against. That in mind, sorry, Paco: ACH wins.

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The Match: Jessicka Havoc and Kylie Rae vs. Allyin Kay (Sienna) and Scarlett Bourdeaux
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?
My Take: 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.
UPDATE: 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.

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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.

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The Moment: AAW Heritage Champion DJZ discusses his future
The Skinny: 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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