AAW—Chicago’s most well-known independent wrestling company—has had a really hot year. Sami Callihan has returned and taken the promotion by storm while his main event opponent on this night, Tommaso Ciampa, has had an equally great year himself. Others like Moose, Mat Fitchett, and Candice LeRae have all had a handful of fun matches for the company this year. To add to the festivities, Fenix and Pentagon Jr. of Lucha Underground and AAA fame return after their outstanding showings in 2015 and this time, they battle each other.
Take No Prisoners
May 6, 2016
115 Bourbon Street – Merrionette Park, Illinois
Watch: Smart Mark Video
Heidi Lovelace def. Kimber Lee
I’ve seen a handful of matches from Heidi Lovelace, and each time, she impresses me. She’s someone that should be a bigger deal, but for whatever reason, she isn’t. The issue with this match is not Lovelace, who I really liked again, but Kimber Lee. Granted, she’s improved leaps and bounds since I saw her last (I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t avoiding her), but Lee moved so slow in this match. The early portions of this match saw a lot of counters and strikes that needed to be well-timed—they were not. Each woman moved so slow. Everything seemed horribly telegraphed. In the end, I actually ended up enjoying the closing stretch. Lovelace is very good. **3/4
Dave Crist def. Alex Daniels, CJ Esparza, Connor Braxton, Dezmond Xavier, & Markus Crane
This was every indie scramble match you’ve ever seen, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There was some comedy with Connor Braxton and his hoverboard, which has now overstayed its welcome, but other than that, this was fun, mindless flipping. Alex Daniels, more than anyone, looked good. I’d like to see him get some opportunities in this company. You know what you’re getting into with this match. I enjoyed it, others won’t. ***1/4
Jessicka Havok def. Candice LeRae
Perhaps it’s the fact that LeRae has worked against an array of elite level talent for years now—whether that be the Young Bucks, Johnny Gargano, Adam Cole, or any number of well-known indie names, but LeRae is a smart worker. She was great against Havok, someone who I typically loathe. They kept it painfully simple and it worked. Havok is a monster, LeRae is a sweetheart and half the size of Havok. LeRae had a number of hope spots, but Havok’s size and power was too much in the end. This match was a lot of fun. I kept buying into LeRae’s hope, hoping she’d come out on top, but she never did. By far the best Havok performance I’ve seen. ***1/2
Silas Young def. Donovan Dijak
AAW took advantage of ROH being in town later that weekend by booking Dijak in his AAW debut. Silas is a regular here, and his “Don’t Stop Believing” entrance is a real treat and a stark contrast to him in ROH. Dijak is someone I want to like and that I think will eventually be very good, but he is terribly awkward to watch. He looked like he was going to badly hurt himself a handful of times in this match and it took me out of the process. It’s like Mike Awesome without the grace or charisma – he’s a big guy that crashes and burns.
I don’t know if it’s the knee injury that has halted Young’s in-ring ability, but he went from someone that was capable of putting on high quality matches. Now, he’s just a guy. He certainly won’t embarrass himself in the ring, but Silas isn’t coming anywhere near the match of the night. This was fine, but unless you have a vested interest in Dijak’s progression, it’s easily skippable. **3/4
Buck Nasty & The Hooligans def. Chuck Taylor, Colt Cabana & Dan Berry
I expected much more comedy in this one than what ended up taking place. Cabana was incredibly over and The Hooligans were well received for what they did. Buck Nasty did nothing for me. I’m cool with not seeing him again. Taylor and Berry played their parts, but all in all, this was a forgettable match. ***
Pentagon Jr. def. Fenix
This is everything I wanted it to be and a little more. These two had a very exhibition-y match in Korakuen Hall for Akebono’s new promotion a short while ago, but this was nowhere near that dry match in front of a near non-responsive crowd. These two took their touring match to the next level in front of this rabid Chicago crowd and proceeded to absolutely tear the house down. Pentagon is a special talent. Seeing him in this intimate setting is really unique. He had the crowd in the palm of his hands the entire time.
Fenix is a damn great flyer. His body control is only matched by a few in the wrestling business. Pentagon played a great base and the two kept things remarkably clean for a match that did everything and more. Really enjoyed this. If you’re a fan of these two, this is worth the price of the show alone. ****1/4
Michael Elgin def. Juice Robinson
This match, a clash between two prospering New Japan Pro Wrestling talents, ultimately fell flat. Juice, who was certainly playing up his CJ Parker persona more so than his role in the New Japan dojo, never seemed convincing. He did nothing poorly, but I couldn’t buy anything he did towards Elgin, who clearly overmatched him in every sense. There was nothing technically wrong with this match. In fact, I thought Robinson was decent here. However, this was a boring, flat match. ***
AAW Tag Team Championship
Davey Vega & Mat Fitchett def. AR Fox & Moose
It’s been just over a year since AR Fox was exiled from the WWNLive Universe and PWG (two unrelated issues, I believe), and because of that, Fox has fallen off my radar. He’s someone that, when he’s at his best, is one of the most exciting wrestlers in the world. This match made me realize how much I miss Fox. His team with Moose is a total blast. Moose is big, Fox is small, both men do crazy flips. Fox, especially, seems to put his life on the line, time after time, and so far nothing too catastrophic has happened.
Fitchett & Vega are a really fun team and Fitchett, with this match, his prior tag with Vega, and his outstanding singles match with Drew Gulak in March, has become someone on my radar. The two had an excellent heat section on Fox, which eventually led to a super hot tag from Moose. This match weaved in and out of a simple, old-school style tag bout and a modern, spotty, extravaganza. It was great. Fox was great, Fitchett was really good, and Moose and Vega did enough to hold their own. Recommended. ****
AAW Heavyweight Championship
Sami Callihan def. Tommaso Ciampa
This match was not for me. Simple as that. From a psychology standpoint, I have never understood why these sort of blowoff, intense brawls go upwards of 20 minutes. If there are weapons in the ring, shouldn’t your opponent go down easier? Why do these matches have to be so long? Second, Sami Callihan has not been my guy since returning from NXT. I liked him a lot before he was signed, but something hasn’t clicked since he’s come back. He’s been very hit or miss, and this was one of his misses.
This clocked in at a little over 30 minutes and by the end, it was simply excessive. Too many kickouts. Too much time wasted. Callihan’s goons got involved for a little and although Ciampa fended them off rather quickly, that was another detraction that the match simply did not need. Both guys worked hard, and I can respect that, but unless you’re a massive fan of both men, there was nothing here that is must-see. ***1/4
For what it’s worth, I don’t think you’re going to find a cleaner looking American promotion not named WWE. AAW has by far the best production values of any indie company going right now. Their camera angles and cuts, as well as their editing, looks outstanding. Dr. Keith and the boys do a great job.
Beyond that, this show was fun. Nothing was actively bad, and at worst, things were simply boring. LeRae and Havok had a fun little undercard bout, but things really pick up with Fenix vs. Pentagon and the Tag Title match a few bouts later. If you have a vested interested in Lucha Underground or their talent, this show is worth picking up simply for the outstanding Fenix vs. Pentagon Jr. match. Thumbs in the middle, leaning upwards.