WINDY CITY CLASSIC XV
DECEMBER 28, 2019
115 BOURBON STREET
MERRIONETTE PARK, ILLINOIS
Watch: FITE TV
MYRON REED DEF. JOSH BRIGGS, AIR WOLF, ACE AUSTIN, CLAYTON GAINZ, & COLT CABANA
AAW opens up their first Chicagoland iPPV with a six-man scramble featuring a bunch of loose roster parts. Reed is the most accomplished in the company, as a former AAW Tag Team Champion. Cabana is a former Heritage Champion, but that was a decade ago. Briggs, Gainz, and Austin are all relatively fresh acts that the company seems to enjoy. Like always, Gainz stands out the most in these matches because although he’s the weakest in-ring wrestler, he has a better grasp of his character than anyone else on the roster.
This never hit the next gear that good six-way matches do. Nothing about this was bad, but it felt elementary given what I know some of these guys are capable of. Reed, for some inexplicable reason, decided to hit his Hot Fiya Flame to the ramp on Air Wolf, then dove onto him for the pin. A fine, albeit uneventful opener. **1/2
KIMBER LEE DEF. HYAN
Hyan, the Renaissance Woman from Texas made her AAW debut in this match, and if we get this kind of output from her every time out, she’ll be a welcome addition to the AAW roster. Hyan not only brought a physical presence that I enjoyed, but her kick-ass-take-names attitude was a welcome surprise. Hyan would be a pleasant addition to the AAW Women’s division, which has felt like a rotating cast of characters all built up to eventually fall to Havok in recent months. Hyan lost, which I don’t agree with, but she looked strong in the process. Kimber Lee held her own, she appears to be getting in better shape, and she won with a Swanton Bomb from the top. I really hope to see more of Hyan soon. **3/4
KILLER KROSS DEF. MATTHEW JUSTICE
In September, Justice had one of the best plunder brawls of the modern era. He and Good Brother #3 worked the Logan Square Auditorium like it was 1995 and the ECW Arena was as fresh and alive as ever. That put Justice on the map for me, and I’ve been itching to see more ever since. He followed up that performance with something nearly as crazy, as he battled faux-tough guy Killer Kross in a compact, absurd brawl.
Justice dove off of the balcony at Bourbon Street, which was complete madness. There was such a small gap between the fans and Kross, and Justice nailed the dive. It was really beautiful. The momentum that the match was starting to build trailed off after that, as Kross was able to regain control. I just think Kross is so goofy. He breathes heavy and attempts smile in a way to say “inflicting pain makes me happy”, but it feels more like a WWE creation than an outlaw badass.
When Justice, who the commentators were comparing to Cactus Jack during the bout, which feels like an apt comparison, was in control, I really enjoyed this. When the match shifted and Kross took control, my enjoyment faded. In the end, Kross brained Justice in the head with a chair for the pinfall. At the very least, this was a fitting way for Justice to go down. ***1/4
DOG COLLAR CHAIN MATCH – IF GOOD BROTHER #3 LOSES, HE MUST LEAVE AAW FOREVER
GOOD BROTHER #3 DEF. JIMMY JACOBS
Good Brother #3 survives and with that, Mance Warner is allowed to return to AAW after being banished earlier in the year. This feud has been tearing AAW apart for nearly a year now and these two brought an appropriate amount of hatred to the encounter.
Jacobs, even at this stage in his career, can still bring it when he’s in a brawling environment. He and Good Brother started the match by driving spikes into each other’s skulls. Jacobs used his signature railroad spike, Good Brother a screwdriver. Lovely stuff. Jacobs was busted open immediately because he knows exactly how to play in this setting. The brawling on the floor was mostly uneventful, sans a moment in which Good Brother used a fan’s prosthetic leg as a weapon. I want more of that. Huge fan of that move.
Back in the ring, right as Good Brother looked like he was going for the kill, Josh Briggs, a man that Jimmy Jacobs brought into AAW, ran into the ring and attacked Good Brother. I thought for a moment that the masked man was going to be unable to overcome the odds, but he battled back, took out Briggs, and then hit a devastating, chain-assisted lariat on The Zombie Princess for the win.
Both men have had better brawls in their career, but this accomplished what it was supposed to. Jacobs was masterful in his role of an aging, jealous prick whose job was not to win, but to kill. Good Brother delivered in every single one of his outings. I loved this run. ***1/2
Josh Briggs chokeslamed Jimmy Jacobs twice after being slapped in the face by him after the match.
AAW WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
KRIS STATLANDER DEF. HAVOK (c)
With this win, Statlander becomes the fifth AAW Women’s Champion. Havok falls in the fifth defense of her second reign.
With every move in this match, I feared for Kris Statlander’s life. She attempted to jump Havok before the bell, but Havok countered and while attempting to hit the challenger with a draping DDT to the floor, simply dropped Statlander and sent her face-first onto the wooden stage. The two battled on the outside for the first half of this match, which might sound like overkill given the prior two matches, but I was so surprised by this that it ended up working out in their favor. Statlander stayed alive, even after eating a powerbomb on the apron, and regained some momentum after landing her outstanding kickflip moonsault off the apron and to the floor.
Back in the ring, the remaining portion of the match was pretty much 50-50. Havok continued to dance the fine line between being stiff and being reckless. There were a few times where she looked completely out of control and I feared that Statlander, in the midst of the most successful run of her career, was going to be injured badly. She survived, however, and eventually conquered the dominant two-time AAW Women’s Champion, and with a 450 Splash, won the gold. This was a great moment and a great call. Statlander should absolutely be the face of the division for as long as she’s available. ***1/4
BOURBON STREET STREET FIGHT
CURT STALLION & JAKE SOMETHING DEF. DAVID STARR & EDDIE KINGSTON
Unfortunately, this reminded me of the old. This reeked of the days of Sami Callihan, Eddie Kingston, and Tommaso Ciampa’s walk-and-brawls. Of course, one of the culprits of those lackluster main events played a key role in this bout as well. I’m not sure what I was supposed to get out of this. These four went all over the arena with less fire, less intensity, and less passion than the other brawl-based matches have up to this point. They used weapons, and while throwing David Starr back-first onto an upright trash can and Jake Something spearing both Starr and Kingston through a door was exciting, they took so long to get to it that I was struggling to care at that point. All four of these guys have talent, but this was not their best display. They dragged each other down and created a middling brawl full of false hope and fabricated drama. **1/4
AAW HERITAGE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
HAKIM ZANE DEF. PACO (c)
Hakim Zane ends PACO’s Heritage Championship reign before he can have a successful defense, and although PACO’s title win last month was one of the greatest moments in AAW history, this was absolutely the right move. PACO, in a crazy way, is cut from the same cloth as an El Generico or an Akira Tozawa. PACO’s wins are meant to be few and far between. His best work is when he’s working from underneath, and ultimately losing.
Zane is far less beloved than PACO and he’ll let you know it. The story here was simple: PACO is a “flavor of the month” of sorts. He’s a darling to the AAW fans. Zane is the antithesis of that. He’s a body guy. He likes to talk. He’s never going to work in Japan and his moveset doesn’t reflect that. Although this wasn’t the best match on the show, it told a great story, and I’m so behind the booking of this. I didn’t think AAW had the guts to do it, but they pulled the trigger on the Zane win/PACO loss and I’m all for it. Zane as champion has much more life than PACO does. ***1/4
AAW TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
BESTIES IN THE WORLD (c) DEF. SAMI CALLIHAN & JAKE CRIST
The Besties continue their reign of glory with a win over one of AAW’s most dominant champions ever and one-half of one of AAW’s best tag teams ever. I can’t believe that The Besties have not broken out and dominated more companies, especially given the lack of talent on the indie scene. Fitchett and Vega have developed a great act and are capable of putting on great matches. Tonight, unfortunately, was not one of those nights.
This was not bad, but my biggest takeaway was the tremendous Liger/Guerrero combo gear that Fitchett and Vega were wearing. The match was largely driven by Sami Callihan restholds and that is something that I simply don’t enjoy. Fitchett and Vega did their best, and in the moments that called for high energy and excitement, this delivered, but much like a large chunk of matches on this show, it failed to shift onto a higher level. Fitchett rolled up Crist to get the win. ***1/2
Sami Callihan demanded a rematch next month. For some reason, even after a loss, he has the power to do that.
AAW WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
MANCE WARNER DEF. JOSH ALEXANDER (c)
Fatu was a no call, no show for the main event, meaning recently reinstated Mance Warner was given the opportunity of a lifetime, and in the process, knocked off Josh Alexander in his second defense of the AAW World Title.
Alexander came out and cut a promo before the match, announcing that Fatu was not there and claiming that the Samoan was afraid to step into the ring with Alexander. Alexander noted that he was not a flavor of the month, but instead he was the most consistent thing on the roster and deserved to be champion. He offered a title match to anyone who had not already wrestled a match that evening, and outcame Mance Warner, who was definitely not Good Brother #3, and was in fact the man whose career Good Brother helped save.
This was the best match of the night, although it never felt like a great match to me. The contrast in styles worked to their favor. Alexander is a mat technician and approaches everything scientifically. Warner looks like someone who might not believe in science, let alone apply it to professional wrestling. His drunken fists of fury were a challenge for Alexander, who was expecting a Samoan savage and not a southern slugger.
Alexander was forced to succumb to Warner’s ways by the end of things. Warner brought in a guardrail and Alexander German Suplex’d him onto it. After an ankle lock and a double underhook piledriver weren’t enough, Alexander decided to grab a door and smash it repeatedly over the ankle of Warner. Even that wasn’t enough.
Alexander, with nothing left in the tank, began exchanging closed fists with Warner. The bar room brawl favored Warner, who rocked the champion and then took his head off with a lariat. Just like that, we have a new AAW Heavyweight Champion.
AAW took a bad situation and made it a great one. Warner is a fan-favorite and a deserving champion, and they have a reason to do a rematch now given that this wasn’t the expected main event. Warner has the charisma of a main eventer and the in-ring skill to back it up. In fact, his brawl-first style fits the feel of the promotion way more than Alexander’s in-ring style. This is a good move all around. ***3/4
Windy City Classic XV was far from AAW’s best show of the year, but it represented but I love about this company. We saw a number of angles conclude, and a number of things take shape for new feuds as we head into a new year. AAW is not only the best-booked indie promotion in America, but they are also the most consistent. Although nothing on this show was truly great, nothing on this show bombed either. There was a steady stream of quality on this entire show.
Speaking of streams, the FITE.TV stream was a massive success from a broadcasting standpoint. No glitches, no freezes, no sound issues. AAW feels like a big-league promotion when it comes to production, and the fact that they were able to pull it off in a live situation only makes what they do that much more impressive. Between every match, there was a pre-taped promo or a hype video that aired to give context and background to an upcoming match. Marty DeRosa and Tyler Volz did a great job calling the action all night. Those two have developed great chemistry with one another and did a great job recapping and explaining storylines all night, especially in the tag team title match.
With all that in mind, I have to look at AAW’s Windy City Classic XV as a success. It was not the most thrilling show, but it accomplished its goals. AAW heads into the new year with new champions, fresh angles, and a plethora of interesting matches. They once again prove that they are the most compelling indie going right now.