AAW: Best of 2010 DVD
AAW: Pro Wrestling Redefined
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
AAW made the news in recent weeks, with CM Punk’s visit raising the awareness of Gregory Iron and helping to launch a strong storyline with that inspirational wrestler.
I’ve been aware of the Chicago area promotion for some time, I now have some DVDs to review, starting with this “Best of 2010” offering. It’s not easy to get a feel for the promotion as a whole, but the lineup of top indy names and the quality of the top matches of last year do give a great impression.
AAW was once known as All American Wrestling, which ironically was the name of a WWF TV Show back in the day. The current ownership wants to move beyond that old name and, ironically like the WWE, is going with the three-letter name that isn’t supposed to mean anything but a brand name.
The “Pro Wrestling Redefined” is also part of the rebranding. I’m not entirely convinced that we’re seeing it redefined on this DVD, but that’s last year’s action and I have a few more to watch.
What AAW presents on this DVD is an assembly of big names and very strong matches. It’s interesting to see how indy names known from other promotions (ROH, Dragon Gate, CHIKARA, AIW, etc) play out in this region. It’s also interesting to see the work of Tyler Black before he fell into the black hole called FCW – despite having a look, likely the size and the inherent talent that should put him quickly to the big show.
But we all know what the reputation of a promising indy level career does to a WWE signee.
A couple of guys really stand out in AAW that don’t get too much attention elsewhere: Silas Young and Arik Cannon. Both guys are Champions in AAW, yet neither have progressed very far in the upper levels of the indy scene. Cannon’s anarchistic punk gimmick is cool, and his look plays well with his power and gimmick, but it’s also a look that won’t go far in the mainstream in this pathetic era (I mean if Windham Rotunda (aka Husky Harris) can’t be stomached in the WWE, who can?)
Silas Young comes across as solid in the ring, looks solid, but lacking just a little something, that little extra to make him stand out. He does have a resemblance to a less muscular but thicker Randy Savage.
I’m thinking both guys are staying close to home, as both are talented for bigger and better things in those other promotions.
Overall, AAW mixes up styles, has a pretty good look with the Berwyn Eagles Club base, with that red ring and darkened lighting – although there were a few indy-riffic venues (wow, I’m already stealing Kevin Nash verbiage, what’s next, dying my hair and pretending I just graduated from High School?)
The announce crew is pretty darn good, even if Dave Prazak isn’t a guest.
I like the guys (Phil Colvin & Derek St. Holmes, I believe) because they provide just the right level of overplaying the action, they provide solid commentary and they give details and commentary that support the action. There’s no distracting from the story or diminishing what the viewer is seeing, instead they enhance it.
What a clever concept!
All that being said, let’s get to the matches… one more thing: I appreciate the promotion providing references to the DVDs the matches came from. AAW also has established its main DVD names (Scars & Stripes, Reign of Violence, Chaos Theory) and uses them on a yearly basis.
Halllowicked vs. Gran Akuma vs. Jigsaw vs. Flip Kendrick vs. Louis Lyndon vs. Trik Davis
The commentary really struck me here, with talk about the “Drunken Monkey” style of Louis Lyndon. I’ve seen Lyndon all over the place, and he has a unique approach, but only in AAW have the announcers brought up that style. There were also references to Dragon Gate, Akuma as a heel and the kind of trivia that we all love to hear.
An interesting mixture of styles here, with the CHIKARA pair, the Aeroform team that works across the mid-west and AAW’s Trik Davis.
The match isn’t quite as crazy as your typical ROH style scramble, but it was stronger because it wasn’t. There were still the requisite dives, and the match was put together well to put the focus on the action in the ring and keep it manageable.
Davey Richards vs. Super Crazy
Here’s a sort of dream match for the indy aficionado.
Davey Richards, of course, is the current ROH World Champion, and Super Crazy is a lucha legend in terms of his ECW tenure. I was vastly interested in seeing how Richards and Crazy would work, and it was impressive.
Not that it was a great match, but it was a well worked one, as should be expected with the level of talent in the ring.
Super Crazy comes across as one more timeless Luchador, sort of like Perro Aguayo (the elder) when he exuded toughness and knew what to do to make himself look good and even though the pace was a step off and the action a step slower, all the little things covered it nicely.
Crazy isn’t exactly Aguayo, he wasn’t exactly the tough guy as much as a high flyer, so that does detract from expectations. Pulling out the tarantula was interesting and got the pop from the crowd.
This match did show me that Richards can work with anyone, not that I ever doubted.
Tyler Black vs. Shane Hollister
This match had a great story behind it, and it was well explained. Hollister and Black trained together and worked their way up in AAW. Now, Tyler Black is on the top of the food chain, but Shane Hollister is a guy who knew him from way back, and knows his moves and his talent better than anyone.
I’m starting to better understand AAW at this point: there’s a style that is more methodical, a lot less frenetic and it draws out the big spots and lets the talent in the ring display more than just those high spots.
It also provides the announce team a platform to explain what’s going on and (again) enhance the product.
Silas Young vs. Hallowicked
This was from Dragon Gate’s Fearless DVD, and was a defense of Silas Young’s AAW Heavyweight Championship.
Very interesting scenario with AAW vs CHIKARA on a Dragon Gate show. The announce crew here puts over AAW as a top Midwest promotion, and also puts over Hallowicked as a top indy name.
Young shows that he can hang with the faster CHIKARA style of the masked Hallowicked, and despite putting on a different style of match in front of the Dragon Gate audience, they keep the crowd and it’s a well put-together match.
Young does a great job of playing the role of Champion and selling the potential of a title change.
Hallowicked, of course, shows why he’s a name in the business.
House of Truth vs. Tyler Black & Jimmy Jacobs
Ok, the venue here sucked. In the old days of tape trading, this would be the first match, so it would be on the tape but quickly forgotten. From the basketball hoop in the middle of the background to the low ceiling and paneled walls and the obviously sparse crowd, this just didn’t feel good.
Lighting was just bad.
I’m normally not one to complain about venues, but even the talents of Black and Jacobs couldn’t overpower the setting. And worse, there’s no commentary, further showing me how good the announce crew is.
One thing about Jacobs & Black is that double ground and pound spot…. That’s money.
Phoenix Twins vs. House of Truth
A Barbed Wire Match with all the requisite blood and gore spots is a rarity these days.
As well it should.
This is obviously a blow-off match, with a loser-leaves-the-promotion stipulation. There’s a lot of names and people moving in and out of this match, including valets or wives and the surrounding storyline is a little too deep to pick up on, even with the much impressive announce team (featuring Dave Prazak) providing the details.
Prazak’s FMW and exploding barbed wire reference was priceless.
It’s definitely a match worthy of a “Best of” DVD. While the crazy spots are minimal, the blood is not, and while the interference is annoying and I was tired of wrestlers destroying women valets long before Dreamer made it vogue, there was enough setup and deliverance of the storylines that I enjoyed the match.
Thankfully the bloodfest was kept to this match, but if you’re into that sort of thing, this is a match to watch.
Arik Cannon vs. Krotch
The Arik Cannon stuff comes from the Bound by Hate show.
I’m still not a big fan of the Marion Fontaine or Johnny Cockstrong approach, so some guy named Krotch is not going to be readily applauded. Cannon, on the other hand, is pure punk and I mean that in the best way. Some guys just got it, and some guys unfortunately have it in a body that modern era wisdom proves how stupid modern conventions can be.
Cannon gets a very good match out of this, which turns into the next battle.
Arik Cannon vs. MsChif
Once again I find that MsChif had already lead the way in women’s wrestling, with CHIKARA’s use of Sara Del Rey as a reference. The former SHIMMER Champion MsChif is battling it out in a punk vs goth style clash.
In the ring, it’s not much of a clash, but a clever set-up and a solid mix of a match.
While MsChif is definitely a hard-hitter, putting her in with a guy who’s biggest reputation is a knockout punch, that seems a bit of a bad dynamic. Plus, MsChif’s biggest asset is her flexibility.
But the match works it all in and works it well.
Dan Lawrence vs. Larry Sweeney
Ahhh, time for the Larry Sweeney remembrances once again, but who should complain?
I can do without the half-moon shot, but man did Larry have the ability to blend comedy with his work, to sell at a level that was obviously over-the-top but not terribly unrealistic, and to engage the audience like few other talents in this modern era.
I can’t get away from the announce crew, which blends in trivia and worked trivia to enhance the Tex-Arkana TV Title, speculating on how the board (naming Leroy McGuirk) pondered making it an Internet Title. (Perhaps Zack Ryder was paying attention?)
Tyler Black vs. Silas Young
Loved the match here, loved even more the establishment that Silas Young is on par with Black and that AAW is building a product that looks to the future, and was well prepared to wish Tyler Black well and at the same time transition beyond his leaving.
Yeah, there are things to nitpick, but Silas Young is a guy that grows on you if you’re into watching talent working itself out in the ring, and delivering in the big matches.
Can’t say it enough without sounding annoyed, but Tyler Black has all the tools to be a player, but we all know how that plays out in the WWE.
Silas Young vs. Riccochet
As well as the competitors performed in the ring, the announce team is on fire with a Joe Stecher reference!
Also awesome is St. Holmes pointing out that the human leg is, on average, four times more powerful than the arms, in explaining why Ricochet is trading kicks with punches.
This match further cemented Silas Young as a strong talent in my mind. Just the approach, the pacing, and how he delivered from the point of a defending Champion, as opposed to just putting on a match, pulling out the stops, having some semblance of a story.
Here, Young delivered, sold the match, gave his opponent what he should have, and the finish was clever. Not overdone, but a step away from “I hit my finisher and win” and also a step away from the almost expected and overdone kickout spots.
House Of Truth vs. Tyler Black & Jimmy Jacobs
This was Tyler Black’s last match with AAW before disappearing into FCW. Lots of reasons why Tyler Black is a blue-chipper, and he’s put over as starting out in AAW and progressing to become as long reigning champion.
There’s something very odd about Christian Able’s ring gear.
What’s interesting here is that the tag match is more methodical than what you may be used to in terms of the indy scene. They pull out some big spots, but they build up the match in a slower way than you’d expect in ROH, or elsewhere. That’s where I see AAW doing things a little different, establishing the talent a little differently.
In the end, it made the product more meaningful.
The finish here was smart as well, establishing AAW as a place where they emphasize the finishes and don’t overdo things.
AAW has established a reputation as the promotion leading the pack in the Midwest, and they certainly show with the “Best of 2010” that the talent they feature, the matchmaking they deliver and the overall feel of the product is unquestionably strong.
I look forward to providing a few more reviews in the upcoming months.