Epic (AAW’s 8th Anniversary Event) DVD
AAW: Professional Wrestling Defined
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
AAW shows professional wrestling thriving on a regional basis, growing its own solid roster, intermixing big names of the indy scene, and product that defies modern sensibilities while moving expectations beyond merely the traditional.
I love AAW’s opening … it shows that the promotion is putting an effort into its look, doing more than just following the herd, and gives more than just a glimpse of what this brand of wrestling is all about. From the flashes and graphics to the clever “R” Rating of “Restricted – Professional Wrestling Fans only”, the look and feel establishes an important distinction from the mainstream.
AAW has been around for eight years, and shows from its packaging, its talent and its booking that it understands the business, which says something these days.
We begin the festivities of the 8the Anniversary with a big eight man match: Derek St. Holmes, Tweek Phoenix, Marion Fontaine & Darin Corbin vs Knight Wagner, Jordan McEntyre , Tommy Treznik & Austin Mannix.
There’s a lot going on here, which threatens a problem. For one thing, there are two managers involved – one on either side – and both hearkening to The Grand Wizard of Wrestling with the sunglasses and funny hats (not to overlook Eryn of The Awesome Threesome faction, but apparently Ryland Foxx is in as CEO – Chief Entertainment Officer, of this group).
So we have Ryland Foxx out first, barking up a storm, then he’s joined by Joey Eastman as the manager of the babyface side. Apparently there’s a family feud going on with St Holmes and Knight Wagner (not sure how Silver Cain fits into that one), and we have The Clash trying to coexist with The Awesome Threesome.
And Marion Fontaine is Marion Fontaine, but wow, is it me or are there too many lookalikes in this match?
I wouldn’t call it great, but not bad. Having a babyface manager wipe out all four heels after getting surrounded was a bit over the top, especially after the manager vs. manager shenanigans seemed so interesting, then went away, only to turn into that.
A backstage promo ensues with The Clash, where we learn that Cameron Skyy wasn’t around last month, and J. Miller and Tommy Treznik suffered losses. The Clash, as black suited heels, is a cool visual. I thought Treznik was the mad scientist leader, but Skyy comes across as a cult leader type along the lines of Cyrus the Virus, and compelling at that.
His promo gets interrupted by some heel/manager combination (Shane Hollister/Scarlet) talking up the lumberjack match (threatening the heels to do their bidding). The disdainful glances of The Clash, plus the cameo of Arik Cannon cracking open a beer, help make it work.
(What’s up with a punk inspired name (The Clash) and no connection to Cannon?)
This segues into Cameron Skyy vs Colt Cabana.
Interesting face/heel dynamics, in the Cabana style, which clearly goes into comedy a little much, but Cabana is entertaining in everything he does. The hugging and kissing seem a bit unnecessary, but I’m not schooling Colt Cabana how to work. Skyy shows capability, and I dig the concept of a cult like faction that isn’t dominating the scene, but is hip deep in intrigue and constantly trying to dominate.
Next, we have BJ Whitmer & Matt Fitchett vs Christian Able & Josh Raymond.
The former “House of Truth” are now babyfaces, we are told, but are also told that they haven’t changed that much in the ring. What’s up with that? Can someone call Larry Zbyszko and get some pointers on psychology?
Another gripe: I absolutely respect BJ Whitmer, and he’s a name on the indy scene on a comeback, but why is Whitmer in a tag match with three guys clearly a head shorter? That never makes sense to me.
Able/Raymond are a solid tag team, with the double-teaming and working old school. Kind of a bit odd to have them play babyface only in concluding the match with the “Code of Honor” style handshakes, but that’s not so much a negative, as much as a knock on relying on the announcers and not the in-ring antics to keep them babyface.
Fitchett seems to be getting a high-flyer push.
AAW Heritage Champion Michael Elgin vs J. Miller makes up for any griping. While I’ll sidestep any commentary of a belt with “Heritage” in it name as being superfluous by definition, this was the kind of rising star versus established name (even though Elgin is “rising star” on the indy scene himself) match that makes the match much more meaningful than the decision.
Mr. Miller has size, a good look (maybe minus the fringe on his costume) and an interesting Buddhist but dominated by Cameron Skyy understory. The announce crew point out that he’s one of the most violent Buddhists he’s ever known, which is clever. (The announce crew of Phil Colvin, Joe Dombrowski. and Derek St. Holmes are very clever, to say the least).
This was a match where back and forth was important, and it was.
The Lumberjack Match with Shane Hollister vs Gregory Iron was well built up, and well played.
Iron is equal parts inspirational and talented, and a guy that must be seen in action. There remains a hesitation about him, because this is a guy with really one arm (his other is debilitated with his cerebral palsy) and the visual and the all-too-real gimmick just cannot be hidden.
Gregory Iron makes his matches work, and I’ve seen him in other places with the same attitude. He’s a professional, he works professionally, and he neither seems to expect special treatment nor should he be given it.
Against Hollister – a classic heel – the match works well. They get their spots in, and the Lumberjacks enhance the dynamics. The finish seems overblown, and especially Cabana getting a few too many elbows in, in the ring, but what I loved about this was the storyline extension and the working in of other names into, and out of, this match.
(I will overlook that CHIKARA did a similar thing with Iron getting hit by someone who likely didn’t mean to hit the Handicapped Hero.)
We then get Truth Martini in all his brilliance in a backstage promo with Jesse Emerson and Danny Daniels. Not sure what’s up with the misogyny, but Truth Martini extolling his charges to “Avenge Me!”, “Avenge Me!” makes his role as Life Intervention Expert oh so endearing.
After a storyline involving ownership gets played out a bit, we end Disc One and go to Disc Two.
Jesse Emerson vs Davey Vega ends up being mostly a squash. Vega is a solid veteran, Emerson getting a push with a variant of the “Total Package” label.
Now we get a really cool take on the classic Tag Team partners who happen to be Champions, who hate each other, as Phil Colvin has a backstage interview with Arik Cannon and Jimmy Jacobs. There’s likely a play on the alcoholic Cannon and recovering Jacobs that enhances this, but both are more interested in chasing AAW Heavyweight Champion Silas Young than working with each other to defend their own gold, which is a dangerous storyline for credibility, but hey, there are worse things seen every week on cable than to complain about this.
Now’s a six-woman Tag Team Match, with MsChif/Christina Von Eerie/Athena vs. Sara Del Rey/Portia Perez/Nicole Matthews.
Dave “The Truth” Prazak in the house!
Von Eerie is sporting a War Hawk, which is green, which confounded me for a few until I realized that MsChif was wearing a big hat in her entrance, and a Freddy Krueger style top, which completely disguised her.
Von Eerie opens with Del Rey, and Prazak touts the feud they had, then segues into touting SHIMMER and MsChif and Del Rey’s long time association with his promotion. (There is a connection between AAW and SHIMMER in running weekend shows.)
Athena in to work with Perez. Athena is one well built woman. Perez is an awesome heel, but her dark gear doesn’t do her justice. Nicole Mathews in to work over Athena.
Have I mentioned the physical transformation of Sara Del Rey recently?!?
Or that she was trained by Bryan Danielson, among others?
Hot tag, and Von Eerie takes it to Del Rey. The Canadian Ninjas take over, though, and it’s all about the Death Rey. The heels work over Von Eerie, now. Prazak touts “No DQ, Just Wrestling” and “Eddie Gilbert Style”. “Oi, Oi, Oi” is a classic, on the Von Eerie comeback.
MsChif cleans house on Perez, until Del Rey tags in. Thinks go crazy a bit, and Athena hits the O-face on Matthews. Desecrator by MsChif, and Perez isn’t kicking out of that, in Chicago, on an AAW show.
The misogynist storyline plays out, with Truth Martini and Daniels out, and MsChif screaming at them, after the women are told to leave. The set up was way bad, as was the man-on-woman violence, let alone a spike piledriver on MsChif. What’s up with Martini and women leaving him?
Now Martini challenges Keith Walker, talking up Daniels, pumping him up, saying that his wife left him for someone like Keith Walker. Quite a storyline, not necessarily in the positive way, but at least building to a future match instead of rushing it and playing it out.
AAW World Title defended, with Champion Silas Young vs Louis Lyndon. Silas Young running up a 20 month title reign. Lyndon out first with his “Karate Kid” gimmick. Young out with Val Malone, and grabs the mike. Colvin/St. Holmes talk about the psychological warfare of Young, and the Champ says he isn’t in the same league, and gives him as much chance as a SHIMMER Athlete.
Wow, I detect an underlying theme.
Young calls himself the “epitome of pro wrestling, the face of AAW”. I dig the arrogance and the expectations, and while Lyndon on paper isn’t exactly a Championship contender, Young gives him the “babyface underdog with a chance because I give him no chance” dynamic.
Lyndon is animated, that’s for sure.
Nice Capoeira reference from Colvin, but they play out a quick rollup opening, not a crazy flying, dirty dancing maneuver from YouTube, so I’m a little underwhelmed. Yet Lyndon gets the early, upper hand, and plays up the MMA stuff and the high flying stuff. The announce crew talks up Young as a schemer.
Awesome over the top into a hurancanrana by Lyndon on Young, with Young on the floor.
Lyndon seems in control, but Young tosses him from the “ten punches” spot over the ringpost to the outside. From there, it’s mostly Silas Young showing why he’s a long-reigning Champion, how he can work in the MMA stuff, and showing that he can work a Championship match like few others around.
And yet, Lyndon had the counters, the kicks and a few surprising near falls. What I liked was the avoidance of the back-and-forth, and instead a prolonged match with Young giving enough to make the match interesting.
Afterwards, Michael Elgin confronts Silas Young for a future match, interrupting some bad music, sporting a wrap on his wrist, and delivering a strong challenge and deflecting the nonsensical, decade old Steve Austin interruptions. They’re at 1-1, but why not settle the tie with a 2/3 falls match?!?
Nice heel response from Young.
Having the AAW Tag Title (Jimmy Jacobs & Arik Cannon vs Irish Airborne) match on last seemed like a weird thing, but perhaps also showing that the Lyndon challenge to the World Title wasn’t up to Main Event status. What’s interesting is that the announcers put out the quick association of the Crists with Silas Young.
The Crists are a veteran tag team, but the brothers now look different – one went punk (with the Misfits style orange skull and Mohawk and face jewelry and some weird glove) and the other still clean cut. Relatively.
So the story is that Jacobs/Cannon hate each other, but hate Young more. On the other side, the Crists are former Champions, and Young’s minions.
The match starts slow, but we’ve got four tough competitors in the ring, and they don’t always get to be in the Main Event, so I expected (and we are all rewarded) by an old school but hard-hitting tag team match. It turns into a brawl after a few minutes, as was pretty much expected, and they go all Philly Bingo Hall into the crowds two minutes later.
Scratch the “old school”, this is late 1990’s hardcore garbage wrestling.
Which is a throwback, and also explains why it’s in the Main Event slot, because you’re not bringing the crowd back for a World Title match and post match confrontation after this insanity.
Insanity in a good sense of the word.
Eventually it gets back to the ring, and the Crists are awesome with the tag team violence. I also appreciate the announce crew bringing up Jacobs’ reconstructed knee being worked upon, and the physical details of the same.
There’s a nifty interplay with the Crists playing well-oiled machine while Cannon only nonchalantly breaks up the double-teaming, doesn’t position himself for the tag, and the hot tag gets stifled.
Loved the old school tag team feel after the garbage interlude.
Cannon eventually gets the hot tag, and his hard-hitting style plays out well. Total Anarchy doesn’t finish it, though. Irish Air Raid gets broken up by Jacobs. Jacobs’ spear only gets a two. Cannon survives superkicks and a dragon suplex.
Contra Code can’t pull out the victory, either.
Almost clichéd breakup spots ensue, but they pull out the win despite the nonsense, and cleverly, with a double-pin to confound the storyline of who deserves the shot at Silas Young.
AAW has a great feel, a great announce crew and a solid booking style that continues to grow on me. I have a handful of DVDs to review, and look forward to watching more from the promotion.