Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
Five years is a true milestone for a promotion, and Absolute Intense Wrestling has smashed through that time marker with a slew of uniquely titled DVDs, including Hell on Earth, and of course, Absolution.
When I first found AIW, the production was intense, extremely dark and utterly different. I loved that aspect of the promotion, but also found the mix of outrageous and established stars to be equally attractive. Today, AIW has toned down the production immensely, but still maintains a roster that includes the over-the-top opening acts, a bevy of top notch guest stars, and a solid core of Northern Ohio stalwarts that fuel the engine that keeps Absolute Intense Wrestling churning.
But beyond the surface, and including the stellar talent on the card, one thing that keeps AIW on my radar is the creativity of the promotion from top to bottom.
While some of the opening acts are borderline cringe-worthy, at best, and comparable to the worst of my worst expectations, I know there are plenty of fans of that sort of approach. Even though the mainstream is proving that nonsense really doesn’t stand the test of time.
So if you enjoy strange mixes of a Tag Team Scramble, which admittedly gets great with the reunited Olsens of CHIKARA Fame, and a unique matchup between a gang of Homicide inspired thugs and on the other side, an aberrant mix that can only be described as the “Pleather Platoon”.
Use your imagination, if you will.
But then AIW turns on the jetburners, and get serious, and we’re confronted by one of the most inspiring wrestlers I’ve seen in a while. Gregory Iron walks to the ring with a “Handicap” symbol on his trunks, and one withered arm. Gregory Iron isn’t a wrestler to be pitied. You may want to read more about his story at the Columbus Examiner http://www.examiner.com/pro-wrestling-in-columbus/bell-time-with-gregory-iron.
Iron has a “mild form of cerebral palsy” according to that story, and really cannot do much with his right arm. But with determination, guts and ability, he puts on a performance of impact. While there’s a certain sense of being unnerved watching a one-armed man do battle, Iron doesn’t let the handicap limit his professional wrestling artistry. It didn’t take too long to realize what kind of talent he possesses, and from the story, I’ve learned that he’s battled ferociously with Johnny Gargano and was trained by Jimmy Del Rey (of the Heavenly Bodies and SMW fame.)
And telling a story is what’s going on in the ring between Iron and “Aftermath” Justin Lee. It’s a classic face/heel conflict, performed to perfection, and who sees that sort of thing anymore?
Coming up next is the Absolute Title, with two guy’s I’m well aware of, one guy that I’ve recently watched who is very impressive, and a guy by the name of Tommy Mercer, who may just be more impressive than the other three.
One thing that AIW has that many indy promotions don’t, is an ability to let a guy like Mercer shine. Between the promos, the matchmaking and the presentation, I got the impression that Mercer has a presence that you don’t see too often.
“No Mercy” just commands from his promo and his work. There’s a sense of limitation that will fade fast with the crew he’s running with, but the announce crew was putting him over, and his interactions with Gargano, Sterling James Keenan and Façade mark him for bigger things, but likely starting with the AIW Absolute Title in the not too distant future.
Mercer has size, physique and most importantly, and that ‘it’ factor…. Sometimes wrestlers get it, and sometimes you sense they have it, but Mercer has got it.
I had my doubts about a four-way leading up to a match with Bryan Danielson, and I really disliked the match listings (which gave away this winner and another winner) but it was clever booking – with a bit of a mystery to unravel, a very solid four-way, and to be completely honest, a match that was right because it was not a long, drawn-out affair.
Just to overview the other combatants, we’ve got the rising star of Johnny Gargano, and a relative newcomer in Façade (who has blond dreadlocks and a graffiti artist/skate board punk look) and the veteran of Western Pennsylvania/Ohio in SJK.
A guy who’s original image seems to have been ripped off by John Morrison.
Again, the key to this match is wrestlers wrestling to their talent, and to a finish, and without the typical indy ‘let’s overdo it’ mentality.
Jefferson Saint has impressed me in Beyond Wrestling. Here, he’s a bit too creepy in the Andy Kaufman women wrestler role – as in a male wrestler who wants to wrestle the girls. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that sentiment, but I just don’t get the ongoing nature of it. Apparently, the Saint/ Hailey Hatred feud has been going on, and it culminates here.
Which brings out Angeldust, who also has a history with Saint.
It’s an interlude that wasn’t my favorite part of the DVD, but was entertaining.
Talk about jetburners, AIW get’s Intense with Shiima Xion taking on Ricochet. I’ve enjoyed Ricochet across the indy world this year, and Shiima Xion (another Western PA guy, I believe trained by Shirley Doe), who may be undersized but is fully talented.
I loved that the card wasn’t crazy full of similar styles and matches, which makes this match stand out even further. It’s completely hard to keep up with the action, and I’m not going to try, because it would only diminish the enjoyment of the match when you watch it, and I don’t want to do that.
AIW then presents a clash of one talent leaving for the mainstream, in Tyler Black, and one talent headed to probably fill his shoes in the indy world, in Chuck Taylor.
There’s a theme here in AIW about matchmaking that I really appreciated, and it was also on display here. None of that long winded, keep the match going without a sense of direction, lacking in psychology and dragging on too long.
Less is more.
Less means spotlighting talent. It means engaging the crowd and not losing them. It means trying to tell a story instead of just putting on a display that is supposed to impress… but often fails to do so.
Which is interesting, because the next match, a tag team affair, is the best two out of three falls, and may seem to have the potential of a drawn-out affair. But the falls are quicker than you would expect, and again, the theme is compelling.
The Young Studs are locals, as I believe are Aeroform (Flip Kendrick and Louis Lyndon), but the latter are known across the national Indy scene. What I see with Absolute Intense Wrestling is a building to a foundation of great home grown talent and established booking genius and a reputation for knowing how to produce professional wrestling.
This is a great example of AIW’s ability to make a match.
And the main event is what the indy scene should always be about.
Bryan Danielson has done the indy world a great service by trying to pull in mainstream fans to the smaller promotions and smaller venues and get more eyeballs on what wrestling can be about.
Matched up against Gargano, a home grown talent who has stellar potential, the match is brilliant. The best in the world against the local favorite. The NWA formula in a nutshell. The past made the present, and a glimpse at what could be done to make professional wrestling enjoyable once again.
Enjoyable and professional wrestling.
Who’d think such a thing possible?
Check out Absolute Intense Wrestling and you may just agree.