Absolute Intense Wrestling
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
That’s the gist of it after watching Absolute Intense Wrestling’s latest and greatest event. In a week where Gregory Iron (seen here) dominated the internet, and I got CHIKARA in the mail plus ROH’s Best in the World just yesterday, I couldn’t put off the review of this DVD any longer.
Aaron Bauer and Pedro Deluca (doing double duty as ring announcer) bring the action with a solid level of information and entertainment. While the heel announcer is passé in many places, the more toned down Bauer – who hypes the heels, builds up fellow heel stable Flexor Industries and otherwise calls it like he sees it – has just the right touch to make it work.
AIW has come a long way from the first time I’ve watched it, when they had a really dark look, with a unique ‘over the turnbuckle’ camera angle and lot of crazy character driven wrestlers.
Today, the promotion seems to be a solid stop for the top American Indy talent, a place where CHIKARA, ROH, EVOLVE and Dragon Gate mainstays visit, a place where Mainstream potential talent originates (Michael Tarver, Crimson, Zima Ion), and a place where top indy names like Johnny Gargano and future names like Façade and Rickey Shane Page are cutting their teeth.
Absolution is AIW’s big event, it’s WrestleMania, it’s Super Bowl.
These matches are mostly blow-off matches, the culmination of feuds and storylines from the previous year, and thus the matches have the requisite feel of big matches, and they transcend the typical indy-spot fest style. And for the most part, that sense holds true.
Overall, the wow factor comes into play throughout the event. There’s a dream match of sorts, between Eddie Kingston and BJ Whitmer. There’s some surprises from the roster of CHIKARA, including the BDK in force, but not en masse, as well as the Batiri. AIW loves the multiple-man matches, and those are in the house. There’s a very intense battle between the Handicapped Hero Gregory Iron and Josh Prohibition.
Then there’s the second disk!
The AIW Tag Titles up for grabs between three of the best, unsung tags of the business. An absolute dream match between Sabu and a guy who could be the next generation’s Suicidal, Homicidal, Genocidal playa – Façade. And the main events blow away most indy DVD offerings.
First is an emotional, hard-hitting, well-packaged and well framed battle between long time partners of the team Faith in Nothing. And that match launches an Indy Superstar in the making, a guy by the name of Rickey Shane Page – once better known as Christian Faith.
The Main Event is for the Absolute Title held by Johnny Gargano, as he battles CHIKARA heel extraordinaire and ‘Kurt Angle of the indies’ Tim “F’N” Donst. But that’s not all, as the “Money in the Bank” concept gets played out and another guy from AIW headed to TNA takes center stage in the end.
Ok, I’ll warn everyone up front, I’m likely to go Old School here, so grab your thesaurus, fact-check my wrestling references with your boxes of Wrestling Observer Newsletters, and for the fun of it, copy and paste this article and change the font as small as possible, because here we go.
Did I mention a 2 disc set?
Absolution VI emanates from St. Gregory’s Byzantine Hall, in Lakewood, OH. Weird dynamics there, with Gregory Iron on the show and I’ve been to an interview in Lakewood.
We’re starting with a fabulous 6 Pack Scramble.
Sugar Dunkerston vs Sabbath vs AERO! vs Kobald vs Maximo Suave vs Low Rider.
Wow, I could go 1k on explaining these dudes and the action in this match alone. For some reason, Mammoth is listed on the box, but it’s Sabbath in the ring, a huge muscle-head with 80’s hair to his waist.
Dunkerston is part of CHIKARA’s Throwbacks faction, with Matt Classic and the baseball dude. Imagine a not-so-thin African-American with a 70’s style Afro, toting a rock (ok, a basketball).
Aero! is a Luchadore in the vein of El Generico, but not with the red beard and open mask.
Kobald is of the Batiri, very reminiscent of the Osirian Portal’s Ophidian, but seemingly smaller. He’s a masked, evil dude with very weird mannerisms. (That’s overkill if you know CHIKARA).
Maximo Suave is a somewhat pudgy unmasked Luchadore. Low Rider is also unmasked, but wears a Perros del Mal T-Shirt, and can fly.
Very entertaining opener, even with the “jump ball” opening where the heels take advantage of the nonsense. In many ways, the typical multiple man spot-fest, but there’s cleverness in the air and they make it work, playing with the heel/face dynamics, giving spotlight time to each and putting over Sabbath as a monster for future matches.
BJ Whitmer vs Eddie Kingston
At first I’m like, second match for these two? But AIW’s got an internal consistency and an excellent booking strategy, and while these two tear it up, there’s a question of ring rust for BJ and Kingston is noticeably limping on his way out, and I doubt he’s selling there.
Kingston is a fave of mine – he’s a better built version of Dick Murdock, with a surly countenance, an inherent toughness and a mind-blowing ability to do promos. In the ring, he’s methodical and realistic and a bad-ass.
I’m not quite sure about Whitmer’s story, but he seemed primed for bigger and better things then seemed to drop off the scene a few years back.
I liked the match, and these two are seasoned pros, but there was a reason this was low on the card. I’ll be looking into the story of Whitmer.
“The Chad” Chad Williams vs … Tursas
Williams is part of Flexor Industries, with manager Chest Flexor, which is a crazy name but heel managers are not a common species, so I at first give some leeway, but then observing how well it works, I’m won over.
What I loved was how they played into Tommy Mercer (aka Crimson in TNA) leaving Flexor Industries and supposedly coming back here to fight “The Chad”. By the way, this isn’t a Florida 2000 elections reference, and Chad looks like a younger Randy Orton.
Is that enough for TNA to be interested?
Chest/Chad shoot their mouths, and they ticked of Tim Donst at the last event, which is not an advisable action with Donst being a part of BDK.
No opponent? No problem. Out with the eerie BDK theme is Tursas, the Odin-like, yarn-bearded, horn-helmeted monster. “The Chad” puts on a surprising battle, and Flexor get’s ill-advisably involved in the end.
The announce crew here is awesome.
Team Duke vs Team Dalton
Ok, for the sake of avoiding a 5k piece, I’m not running down both sides. Duke has slimmed down some and looks good, and is the ever-present alpha male babyface veteran of the roster. Team Dalton is the typical heel conglomeration, including various Puerto Ricans who are mocked for not speaking Spanish by the very smart crowd.
Lots of guys in the ring, pretty clever spots and while I never really got into the story here, it was good for what it was.
Intense Title Match
Marion Fontaine (Champ) vs Shiima Xion (to be joined by Chuck Taylor)
The intense match is the X Division type belt of AIW. Marion Fontaine is something to beheld. I’m not a big fan of the Joey Ryan, pre-serious Austin Aries of last year, that sort of 70’s throwback look. (as opposed to the CHIKARA Throwbacks faction.)
Fontaine is El Generico skinny, sports a cheesy mustache and does the 70’s disco obnoxious role like a charm. Yeah, he’s annoying and cloying and should be a go-away-heat heel.
But he is not.
Which speaks volumes for talent and character and perhaps a perverse reality that if wrestlers could create their own bad gimmicks, they might be a 1000 times more over than when Creative types write those bad gimmicks…. I’m just saying.
Shiima Xion has been around a while, which surprises me since he’s twenty four. I believe he was trained by Shirley Doe, but I don’t think Shirley reads my stuff very closely anymore.
Xion looks physically great, not quite as thick as Rey Mysterio, but solid. He’s a high-flyer of note, and oozes talent and there’s no surprise that he’ll get a look in TNA. Not sure how long a look, but he’s well deserving of the opportunity.
Xion vs Fontaine seems academic, except that Fontaine just has this ability to walk that fine line between not looking like he’s anything, and actually pulling off some fast action and quick moves that win him over.
While I’m a big fan of Chuck “Kentucky Gentleman” Taylor, his return to AIW was rather odd. Guys just come out and demand a three-way for a title match, and the opponent puts them in it?
In the end, all’s well, though.
But Marion Fontaine shows me something here. It’s a joke of a gimmick buy this guy is no joke – despite his look, and he’s booked, well, awesomely.
Josh Prohibition vs Gregory Iron
I’ve written much about Iron and this match and it’s well worth seeking out this DVD because Iron is the hook, but if this DVD was only one disc, this would be a pretty strong main event, and worth the $15. But this is only the pre-intermission slot.
Just to sum it up: Iron is protected, but he’s a fearless performer and knows the sport extremely well.
Eric Ryan vs Bobby Beverly
Pretty strong for the post-intermission return. I understand this is a blow-off match of sorts, and thus the spot-fest style is acceptable.
But let’s be blunt: a package-piledriver is not a transition spot. You can’t deliver a move like that and kick out of it unless you’re at the finish. Even then, the piledriver is a special maneuver and if wrestlers can’t respect it, or even the DDT (of which one is delivered to incredible impact two minutes later), then you need a sledge-hammer to KO someone and that doesn’t make the game seem all that realistic.
Ryan and Beverly show they can go, but let’s get the story of the match together.
AIW Tag Titles Three-way:
The Olsen Twins (Champions) vs The Irish Airborne vs AEROFORM
Flip Kendrick & Louis Lyndon are drawing rave reviews by Dave Meltzer in EVOLVE, and well-deservingly. These two guys can fly.
Dave and Jake Crist have impressed in Ring of Honor, and seem to be sticking closer to home these days. They are more heelish, but their tag team double teaming and crisp action are still there and they just bring it.
The Olsens had a great story in CHIKARA and last year re-formed to great applause in that promotion. They’ve been working more in Ohio as well, and well, the whole Colin Delaney/Equinox/Olsen saga just cannot be confronted in this space.
Three under-rated tag teams on display on a card where there’s not a lot of pure tag-team action means that there’s no competition for this being the best tag action at Absolution VI. But that’s no slight at all.
Sabu vs Façade
We’re told that Michael “The Bomber” Façade names Sabu as his idol and this is a dream match for the rising Indy star. That much showed throughout.
Even slowed down a bit by age, Sabu shows why he is who he is. It’s ironic that most consider Sabu this crazed daredevil, and there’s a distinct aspect to his reputation for that, but the reality is that Sabu works a match, sells wrestling and knows how to be a professional wrestler to a degree that 98 of 100 comparable high-flyers just cannot measure up to.
Will Façade measure up?
I think he can.
Hard to complain about a current guy and an icon and this type of match, because I’m sure anyone who could wrestle their icon would do much of the same. In the end, Façade taking on Sabu progresses his career, no matter what the result.
Rickey Shane Page vs Vincent Nothing
The absolutely intense crowd here chants “Match of the Year” towards the end of this battle. Kinda hard to compare to Richards/Edwards, but I’ll be able to do so shortly.
What made this match was the exceptional packaging of the history of the two guys involved: Rickey Shane Page was known as Christian Faith until relatively recently. Vincent Nothing was out of action with an injury, and was trying MMA.
The setup was off-the-charts for the independent scene. The match was about as brutal as could be imagined, and between two guys that didn’t exactly hate each other, but had points to prove. This is where the announcing took it up a level, with Agent Aaron Bauer just agonizing about the two going at each other. That was a layer to a setup, match and followup that just worked on all cylinders.
I’m not going into the blow-by-blow, but they did garbage spots (mostly a spot with dozens of what looked like 10 foot long fluorescent light tubes) and power spots and Pro Resu style and worked in MMA and daredevil spots by Page that were unearthly (to steal a term from the Marvel Superheroes RPG).
Let’s talk RSP for a moment.
When Christian Faith started to get attention, many dismissed him as an Abyss knock-off. Sure, he looked like a black&white masked version of Abyss.
But the comparison stops there.
I’ve seen Page/Faith do dives that just shouldn’t be done by a guy with his heavyweight frame, but I’ve also seen him work with quick guys, with wrestlers, with hard-hitters and with every style. This move by Page to put the Christian Faith character behind him is well conceived. No matter what, wearing a mask resembling a main event guy like Abyss is doomed to make you second-rate.
And Rickey Shane Page is not of that level.
Vincent Nothing is a guy who has worked the kick/submissions MMA style to perfection. He’s tried that sport, and I’ll try to find out if that’s where he’s headed.
This match was an exclamation point on putting RSP to the next level, and both guys did everything in their arsenal to prove that point.
And then Vincent Nothing did a promo to put over his ‘brother’, his friend, his opponent and his former partner like few other promos I’ve ever seen. What made this an incredibly classy act was that Vincent Nothing all but said that he’s retiring, but he’s not doing a fare-well speech, not taking off his boots, not stealing the spotlight from this night where his former partner finished him with his own move.
Again, the match was awesome, the ending emotional and the history piece before, plus the Vincent Nothing promo after is what makes this match worthwhile.
It’s the kind of professional wrestling that makes you unabashedly proud of being a fan.
Johnny Gargano (Championship) vs Tim Donst
He’s the King of Cleveland and the Absolute Title Holder and The Whole Shebang: Johnny Gargano is a rising star in this business and has held this title for a year.
Tim Donst is a mat wrestler who’s packaged a lot like Kurt Angle, but with a vulgar catchphrase. (F’N is my ECW style approach to that chant.)
This was a good, Old School style title match. Both guys are seen as heels in other promotions, but they put on their working shoes here. Donst seems lost in the shuffle, at times, with the BDK and CHIKARA, but with Claudio and Chris Hero maybe moving to (less) entertaining pastures, Donst may be coming into his own.
Cleveland’s own Gargano taking on Donst, and in the end, Donst gets over?
This is the kind of booking that makes me pleased to watch a product. In the ring, these guys can go. They hit their finishers, but this is a Championship match, so giving it all and not getting it done is acceptable.
By the way, though, it’s the Chikara Special that Donst puts on Gargano, not ‘tying up his arms and legs’.
Aside from that nitpick, everything here was Championship level.
And I’ll not spoil how Shiima Xion ends up with a red leather backed belt, but it’s clever, and in the end it made AIW look like a big time promotion in the way they interrupted the wrap-up and the way Flexor Industries had that limo conveniently available in the end, and especially how Tim Donst went (like I just mentioned) from challenging heel type to respected grappler.
Absolute Intense Wrestling has been around, has made its mark, but with Absolution VI, it firmly puts itself on the level of the top independent promotion list, without hesitation.