DVD Review: Windy City Classic IX

AAW is that promotion I look to when I want to get a good professional wrestling fix. From the attitude to the approach, from the card structure to the presentation of its Champions, from the announce crew to its talent roster, AAW just does things the right way.
The promotion labels itself “Professional Wrestling Redefined”, which really means that it is professional wrestling done its own way, done with a nod to the past and an understanding of the present.
When things are done right, it’s hard to put a finger on why it clicks (as opposed to when things are done wrong, and the floodgates of criticism, cynicism and castigation runs wild), but a few things are notable about AAW:
For one, the consistency is there. Even with the more comedic aspects, even with the technical elements, even with the announcing aptly covering history, jokes and in-ring strategy, there’s a sense that AAW has a focus. That focus is to put on solid wrestling and not insulting anyone.
For another, there’s a structure. For a promotion that tout’s “No Count Outs, No DQs, Just Professional Wrestling”, there is logic. There is an authority figure, but he’s there in the background. There are Champions, and everyone knows them, the wrestlers are gunning for them, and winning and losing gets talent closer or farther from the goal.
And yet there is character, there are storylines of various sensibilities and there are guest stars that enhance the roster, but rarely steal the spotlight or destroy the first two points. I’m not sure if any other promotion of the past half-decade can compare to the way AAW features and balances both its home grown roster and the guests it brings in.
In many ways the home grown talent and the notable guests are one and the same.
AAW is a promotion where a match listing does disservice to the product. Matches are layered; storylines are a progression of events that trace back to the previous card; new talent, guests and card movement goes beyond just the current win or loss. I love factions, and AAW (the House of Truth, a few comedy groups, and their history of alliances) does the traditional and the surreal with a sense of that balance, with an avoidance of being overwhelmed, or stilted, by having a great manager or a clever name.
The Windy City Classic IX is a little different, because it features the Allegiance Tag Team Tournament Semi Finals and Finals. What’s interesting is that the Tourney matches mostly replace the lower card, but the structure of the matches – a true mid-card, features and enough of a sense of normalcy that those labeled matches aren’t every single match.
Obviously the Tag Team Tournament is the main focus of the match, with a strong AAW Heavyweight Championship Main Event, and a few notables along the way.
The Tourney Semi Finals was a curious mix of AAW staples (Irish Airborne, Zero Gravity), the cliché of the tag team of guys who don’t get along (Silas Young & Jimmy Jacobs) and guest star Ricochet with Ethan Page. I got confused about Page, with the Ethan first name that suggested that TNA guy, and the Page guy from ROH (go figure, AAW is pretty much a feeder for ROH, too bad the concepts don’t go with the talent).
The Semis followed chalk, to talk tourney lingo, although we do get that Indie-riffic imposition of back-and-forth matches that seem a little too long. But overall, AAW tones down that feeling. There is a strong storyline brewing with Jacobs & Young, surprisingly pushing the envelope of concussions, but well played (as expected) with Jacobs, with Silas Young settling into the role of former Champion looking for a purpose on the card.
That’s a lot of layers, but doesn’t exactly hit them all.
The Irish Airborne were (are?) cronies of Young, and Young’s gal pal Valerie Malone turns the corner from heel valet to babyface accomplice.
The other Semi featured a heck of a lot of high-flying, a lot of creativity and a nice meshing of Ricochet (who flies higher than most) and the strong base of Page.
Some notables from the mid-card include the establishment of Heather Patera (yeah, that Patera) with Truth Martini and the further establishing of Kyle O’Reilly as a face of the future of the indie scene. O’Reilly was a bit awkward in his backstage promo, a bit over-exuberant, but the underlying attention he pays in and out of the ring shows his potential. I’ve been too hard on Louis Lyndon in the past, but there’s a good match between the two, and it wasn’t one-sided.
What is the deal with ACH? This kid has all the talent in the world, he carries himself like a superstar, he performs like a superstar, but no one on the indie scene can feature him? Yet Matt Cage has potential and the match was well put together, and the little details added up.
Markus Crane and Marion Fontaine on opposing sides of a six-person? That’s crazy good. I’m not into the mixed gender approach, but I’ve never been one to complain about MsChif in the ring.
Marek Brave vs Christian Rose was an interesting Loser Leaves Berwyn match. I loved the concept and they worked to the importance of the stipulation, and there was something realistic to the finish that made it work even stronger.
The top of the card was the two Championship Matches.
The Tag Team Tourney was equal parts storyline and well crafted. It was a rare match that kept me guessing, and not in that back-and-forth insanity approach, but with a sense of build and a whole lot of reality, even if it was a bit too ugly, a bit too awkward, but a lot of Jimmy Jacobs with his working shoes on.
Another surprise, to me, was the AAW Heavyweight Championship. I remember last watching AAW and seeing the rise of Shane Hollister and his allegiance with Scarlett Bordeaux. The dynamics of that couple was well built, and obviously Hollister schemed his way to the top with Bordeaux’s guidance (nagging?)
Enter Kevin Steen, the top dog of the Indie world over the past two years.
I was curious to see how Hollister could hold up to Steen, and for the most part he did.
Or did he? For anyone looking for results, I’ve got three words for you: Watch the DVD.
Thanks to Dan Kariakakas for this and other review copies. AAW DVDs can be had at http://www.smartmarkvideo.com/aaw-pro-wrestling-redefined, and usually for $15. Visit the AAW website at: www.AAWrestling.com.

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