AAW Showdown
August 19, 2016

Watch: Smart Mark Video

AAW is back at it again in Merrionette Park with another dream match of sorts in the main event. A month after losing the AAW Heavyweight Championship, Sami Callihan takes on WWE alumni and current Lucha Underground superstar John Hennigan. Elsewhere, DDT’s Shigehiro Irie takes on Chris Hero, Jack Evans battles AR Fox, and Dezmond Xavier gets his biggest opportunity to date against The Future of Flight, Ricochet.

Trevor Lee & Andrew Everett def. Team Tremendous

Consider it a miracle that these two teams worked themselves out of a burial on my behalf. The first two minutes of the match were goofy. I never like seeing a show start off with dancing or the Team Tremendous “pulls out a gun” spot, which I have never laughed at, and this had both. I was going to make a grand point about the state of indie wrestling and this and that, but as soon as my gears began shifting in that direction, this match took a much more serious turn and ended up being an enjoyable series of moves.

I continue to not understand the hoopla and hype around Team Tremendous, however. I just don’t think they’re good. They had a very strong outing during EVOLVE’s first weekend of the year as they wrestled the likes of Roppongi Vice and the Premier Athlete Brand, but even then, I never leave their matches wanting more of them. They do moves, and I love moves – I just don’t like the monotonous way that they string things together. Luckily, they were in there with two of wrestling’s hottest prospects, who propelled me to care about the match. This ended up being a fine opener, which is sadly the ceiling for most Team Tremendous bouts. **3/4

Ricochet def. Dezmond Xavier

As I noted in my last AAW review, Dezmond Xavier is young and a little unpolished, but he has talent. This is Ricochet’s first match back in AAW since March when he was defeated by Sami Callihan for the AAW Heavyweight Championship in what was a rather enjoyable match.

The match ruled. Ricochet continues to pump out matches at a high quality, no matter where he’s working. He had the one good match of Callihan’s title reign in AAW, and outside of Chicago’s strongest indie, he’s having another buzzworthy year, mostly in part to the match with Will Ospreay.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen Ricochet become one of the top guys, if not thee top guy, on the American indie scene. He won BOLA in 2014 and has picked up countless championships along the way. Now, however, he’s starting to become a noted veteran. Someone that, if everything goes right, can help make the next guy for a promotion.

On this night, that was Dezmond Xavier. The commentators did a great job putting over that this was the first “name” Xavier had stepped in the ring with. I expected this match to be good, not great. I thought Xavier was too young. In my mind, I kept thinking this was going to fall apart, that he’d get lost, or that he’d rush things. That never happened. He stayed with Ricochet the entire time, kicking out of one Benadryller and surviving an intense onslaught of moves from The Future of Flight before finally being defeated by a second Benadryller. Xavier has a ton of momentum in AAW after this. If you’re a midwest indie that isn’t booking Xavier, you probably will be soon. He has the potential to be very, very good. ****

OI4K & Havok def. Mat Fitchett, Davey Vega, & Heidi Lovelace

If you’ve read my AAW reviews in the past, you probably know how I feel about this one. Mat Fitchett is having an awesome, yet under the radar year, and Lovelace is a great talent that sadly hasn’t broken out more. Both OI4K and Havok have complete go-away heat for me. No tears would be shed on my end if that trio stopped showing up in Chicago once a month.

This was just a match. I did my best to not hate-watch it, and in the end I don’t think I did. It was just a boring match. I’d actually go as far to say that everyone worked hard, but at the end of the day, this just wasn’t for me. Hopefully Vega & Fitchett can get back to their glorious ways soon. This was skippable. **1/4

Chris Hero def. Shigehiro Irie

“He’s like a cross between Masato Tanaka & MsChif”

That tidbit about Irie’s physical apperance was probably the highlight of this match. Hero has been dealt a handful of international superstars lately in AAW with Pentagon Jr. in late 2015 and then Drago in June. Here, he had the task of defeating DDT’s Shigehiro Irie, who is currently on excursion. Irie is a tremendous wrestler and while he’s stateside, you can find him working for IWA-MS, AIW, and other stops in that general area.

I love both guys, but this match almost delved into a strong style parody. They never found their stride. The pacing felt so awkward. I think they were trying to do a G1-like sprint full of bombs and fighting spirit, but they didn’t work with the urgency for that to work. It was just two big lads trading big moves, but without the emotional attachment that is needed to make a match like that work. Right before the finish, Irie gave Hero a spike piledriver that Hero popped right up from. Normally, I would love that, but the crowd wasn’t into it and the match was slowly falling off a cliff. I hate that I have to mark this one up as a disappointment. ***1/4

Eddie Kingston & Homicide def. The Hooligans

This was way better than it had any right to be. I still don’t really understand The Hooligans and Homicide & Kingston in 2016 are spotty, but I enjoyed this for what it was. These four threw hands for a hot minute before a Reverse Doomsday Device put away one of The Hooligans. This was greatly aided by the action staying in the ring for a majority of the time. Crowd brawling would’ve killed this. I could have very easily done without Buck Nasty running in and attacking Homicide in the middle of the match, but Homicide shrugged off his weak offense and put him away with ease. This was short and surprisingly fun. ***1/4

Kimber Lee def. Buck Nasty

Just skip it. Kimber Lee seems nice. I’m sure she’s a lovely human, but she is a bad professional wrestler. She has the lightest offense I think I’ve ever seen. Nothing ever looks painful. Buck Nasty isn’t much better. This match was bad – a complete waste of time, and made even worse by Gregory Iron on commentary, who is now on a streak of actively hurting three matches in a row. DUD

Josh Alexander def. Matt Cross, Kongo Kong, & Moose

With this win, Alexander is now in the Jim Lynam Memorial Tournament.

I enjoyed this one a lot. Sadly they couldn’t book these guys in a round robin tournament throughout the night, because I am very intrigued to see how those matches would shape up. The four-way was entertaining, however. It was carried by Cross, who between AIW, Lucha Underground, and now AAW, is having one hell of a career resurgence. I hope Kongo Kong finds his way into the tournament, even though he didn’t win this match. Kong needs a boost from a high profile indie. Regardless, this was a wild, nine minute frenzy filled with all sorts of fun. Alexander ended up pinning Cross with a Spinning Tombstone. ***1/2

AAW Heritage Championship
AR Fox (c) def. Jack Evans

Wrestling in 2016 is pretty great, simply because we get matches like this. Evans is a decorated flyer who has competed in Dragon Gate, as well as having a high profile on the indies, very similar to Fox. With this match, Fox’s reign continues to be incredibly enjoyable. He’s not producing MOTYC’s, but everytime Fox is set out to defend the gold, he delivers the goods. Evans put up a good fight, but yet again, Fox pulled out the victory. If you pictured a match between these two in your head, it’s probably this match. They delivered a wild, flip-filled match, that I very much enjoyed. ***1/2

John Hennigan def. Sami Callihan

Woof – another Sami Callihan main event, another main event filled with walk-n-brawls, interference, and a punch to the gut that kills the show as a whole. At this point, he has to be in consideration for Most Overrated in the WON Awards. He has main evented all but two AAW shows this year, and seemingly each time, he closes the show on a sour note. Hennigan thrives off of innovative, athletic offense, and with Callihan being a bruiser, they could have played up that dynamic much more.

Instead, it was The Callihan Match.

They brawled around the crowd and through the merch tables for far too long before bringing it back into the squared circle and delivering a mediocre slugfest with Hennigan.

It’s hard to put any of the blame on Hennigan for this, partly because this is typically not how Hennigan works, but also because this is how Callihan works his main events. Even if I were someone that enjoyed a brawl-focused style of wrestling, I can’t imagine enjoying this. He’s not exactly Carlos Colon. There’s no fire, no drive, and no hate. It’s the very definition of walking and brawling. Hennigan thankfully put this to a close with a split-legged moonsault with a chair. **

Final Thoughts: 

Another solid, thumbs in the middle, leaning up outing from AAW. The issue here, besides another dreadful Callihan main event, was the disappointing Hero vs. Irie match. If that would have delivered, this would be a big thumbs up. Both men are great talents, but this wasn’t their night. It was, however, Dezmond Xavier’s night to shine. I highly recommend checking out this show for his match vs. Ricochet.