A NEW DAWN
JANUARY 24, 2020
LOGAN SQUARE AUDITORIUM – CHICAGO, ILLINOIS
KARAM DEF. STORM GRAYSON
Grayson is known as “The Green Kid” and looks like a cosplay Seth Rollins with green hair. Grayson is very rough around the edges, fitting for someone that is working AAW dark matches, but I like the general way he moves around the ring. He predictably ate the pin in short order as Karam is attached a pushed act in Hakim Zane.
JORDAN OLIVER DEF. JAKE LANDER
Both of these guys are a part of the new crop of talent that AAW is looking to utilize in the new year. Jake Lander is an Illinois-native who bumped around like a madman the last time AAW used him. Oliver recently made a name for himself in Game Changer Wrestling and is someone that I’ve been wanting AAW to use more of in the new year. Oliver is far from finished as in-ring product but his act feels incredibly fresh. He plays the fuck boy (or is it fuck boi?) better than anyone in wrestling.
Lander is one of the smallest people I’ve seen on the indie landscape in quite some time but his junior powerhouse gimmick is a pleasure to watch. He has no length and is all muscle, while Oliver is all length and no muscle. Unfortunately for Oliver that meant he felt the brunt of Lander’s brutal chops. Lander’s power is really impressive for someone of his size and the fact that he was able to land a Chaos Theory on Oliver shows the peak of his strength.
Perhaps I’ll sound old when I say this, but I don’t love someone kicking out of a double underhook piledriver in the opening match. Both of these guys have so much potential, and with Oliver, in particular, I expect him to become a big name on the indies throughout the year, so I don’t see why they need to burn big spots out while they’re still working opening matches. The crowd was plenty invested without the piledriver. These two are solid, though, and they were able to keep the momentum going after the big kick out spot.
Of course, I say that, and then Lander moonsaults to the floor, onto Oliver’s second, and then carries him into the barricade, cannonball-style. That gave With the referee tending to the injured man on the outside, that gave Oliver the opportunity to low blow Lander and roll him up for the win. I truly love Jordan Oliver. ***1/4
FRED YEHI DEF. ACH
Fred Yehi says he’s angry, pissed off, and short. I am 6’2” so I can’t relate to the latter third of that, but I too would be angry and pissed off if I had a similar career trajectory to Yehi. A few years ago, I thought he was one of the best wrestlers in the world. I’m truly not sure what happened, but he seemed to disappear from the scene and has been clawing for opportunities every since.
Yehi wisely heels it up against ACH, who gets a ridiculously loud face reaction during his entrance. ACH has been working a relatively light schedule since returning to the indie scene, but he is still working at the top of his game. He’s someone I’ve been watching live since 2014 and has always been someone who comes off a little stronger in the building than he does on tape. He’s deceptively big and being able to let that sink in adds an extra layer to his matches.
A lot of this match was built on Yehi and ACH’s thudding chops that sounded so incredibly painful in the building. This was the best version of Yehi out there. When he’s striking instead of grappling and is in there with someone that can carry the match with their charisma, he becomes an incredibly compelling counterpart. ACH, in front of this crowd, is exactly the opponent he needed. Every time Yehi cut off a stream of ACH offense, Logan Square reacted in horror. When Yehi was forced to sell, Logan Square ate it up.
Yehi looked to be done for it after a big frog splash from ACH, but the Georgia native was able to kick out. This was very much worked in the style of a match that would occur later on the card, post-intermission, but any match ACH wrestles in this building is going to feel like a main event, thus it deserves the time and the pacing of a big time match. Yehi submitted ACH to close out a very good match. ***1/2
Jimmy Jacobs comes down to the ring and confronts Fred Yehi. Jacobs says he’s been going about Mance Warner all wrong, and that he needs some more help in going after Warner. Jacobs promises that if Yehi helps him out, he’ll help Yehi out. Yehi pauses, and before he can respond, Jacobs says that he’s never lived up to his full potential. Yehi agrees to help Jacobs out after that. There are still few promos better than Jimmy Jacobs and Fred Yehi, for once, has some direction. This was a great angle.
CLAYTON GAINZ, ACE AUSTIN, & STEPHEN WOLF DEF. NATE WEBB & THE FLIP BROTHERS
Nate Webb made his entrance to the entirety of ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ as if there isn’t a snow storm expected to hit Chicago at any minute. Very, very bold move by the veteran of independent wrestling. Instead of wrestling, Clayton Gainz decided he needed 10 seconds to pose for the crowd. That turned into another 10, this time with Webb posing behind him and getting cheers that Gainz thought were going to him. I must admit, I popped.
As I say every month, Gainz is incredibly charismatic and is only going to become more valuable as time goes on and he works better opponents. These are probably not the guys he needs to be in the ring with, however. The Flip Brothers continue to be a fine undercard act, who when they pick their spots, do some incredibly exciting spots, but I have no use for Nate Webb in this capacity. If AAW were still running shows in LaSalle, he would be perfect in that environment. Here, he’s a step slower and a few years older than the rest of the talent. Luckily, the team of Gainz, Austin, and Wolf prevailed thanks to a Stephen Wolf pinfall. **3/4
AR FOX DEF. WILLIE MACK
Somehow, these two have never worked a singles match with another. In fact, they’ve only been in the ring together four times, one of which was a giant scramble match. They also wrestled in DTU in 2013 in a three-way tag that featured them, Flamita, and Juventud Guerrera in the same match. I need to track that down.
It’s amazing that Mack has been around for as long as he has and yet he’s still relatively fresh in the midwest scene. If Mack wants to work more dates in Chicago and on the Northeast, he will be a great addition to a scene that is always looking for talent. Mack brought the house down with stuff that I’ve seen him do countless times, but in front of a fresh audience it resonates more than ever before.
One thing that sticks out about watching AR Fox live is how great he is at timing everything. Fox works a reckless style that can either go horribly wrong or look horribly phony if it doesn’t get his way, but everything he did to Mack tonight was on point. I can’t believe he isn’t working on TV somewhere. It’s good for AAW, however, as he’s able to have matches like this with Willie Mack instead.
As the two hit the finishing stretch, they began trading bigger and bigger moves. Fox landed his signature springboard Ace Crusher which Mack sold beautifully, then Mack give him a top rope stunner in return. Whatever expectations you might have had for what a Willie Mack vs. AR Fox match might look like, this was it. Fox won with a 450 Splash in his first match in Logan Square in 11 months. ***1/4
SAMI CALLIHAN & JAKE CRIST DEF. JUVENTUD GUERRERA & ARAMIS
Aramis is someone that’s been getting a lot of buzz in the lucha world lately but this was my first time seeing him work. He immediately won me over. He’s not as fast as Masato Yoshino, but he’s pretty damn close. He felt two steps quicker than Jake Crist. If his opening shine sequence wasn’t enough, he followed that up by diving onto everyone in the front row (and slightly overshooting his target in the process).
This match quickly spilled out onto the floor and began to resemble a brawl that would’ve felt right at home in the mean streets of Tijuana. Juvy, amazingly, is someone that still has gas in the tank. He wasn’t a fun nostalgia trip, he was legitimately one of the best wrestlers on the show.
I really had no use for the extended oVe heat portion of the match. I am glad to admit when Sami Callihan is wrestling at his A-Game. Tonight was not one of those nights. On a show so far that has felt long (not tedious, just lengthy), the last thing I wanted was spit-infested Sami Callihan chinlocks, especially when that means he’s grounding an exciting high-flyer like Aramis. Right when it looked like things were about to pick up, Callihan nailed the youngster with a low blow and piledriver and ended things. Very abrupt finish for a match that started hot and then lost all momentum. ***
HYAN & SAVANNAH STONE DEF. HAVOK & KIMBER LEE
Havok and Kimber Lee are long time rivals who were paired up for what feels like a generational tag match. Naturally, they played off of their former hatred for one another. Kimber Lee begged for a tag early in the match, so Havok suplexed her onto Savannah Stone. A lot of this match felt disjointed, especially when Lee and Stone were in the ring. They seemed to be trading moves for no rhyme or reason. I couldn’t follow who was supposed to be in control, or if any of these moves were actually registering.
Seeing Havok work as a babyface was quite strange. The one thing all four of these women did exceptionally well was teasing Havok’s hot tag. Stone and Hyan did a great job of cutting off the ring and so when Havok finally did get the tag, it felt like a really big deal, and if there’s one thing Havok can be counted on to do well, it’s run roughshod over women much smaller than her. In terms of the way this match was laid out, it was a home run.
Savannah Stone pinned Kimber Lee after Stone was given a ring by Stephen Wolf, which she used to clunk Lee in the head. **3/4
AAW announced a return to the LaSalle territory, although no date was given.
KILLER KROSS DEF. ACE PERRY
Ace Perry announced that since this show is called New Dawn and every debut matters, he’s issuing an open challenge. Killer Kross answered the challenge. As you can imagine, things went poorly for Ace Perry. Kross cut a promo noting that it was Mike Awesome’s birthday, and for that reason, someone deserved an Awesome Bomb. On this night, that person was Ace Perry.
Jimmy Jacobs came out and requested Killer Kross’ help, just like he had done for Fred Yehi earlier on in the night. Kross politely told Jacobs to go fuck himself, cueing Fred Yehi to come to the ring.
FRED YEHI DEF. KILLER KROSS
I really want to like Killer Kross. I love the way he carries himself, I love his intensity, and I love his Pancrase-parody tee. I, however, have yet to find a Killer Kross match that I really enjoy. Earlier in this review I talked about how great Yehi is when he builds his matches around striking and is in there with someone more charismatic than he is. Yehi played off of ACH’s charisma while here, he and Kross grounded things to a halt. I would rather have Killer Kross do a dollar store Mike Awesome act than the faux-tough guy act he’s doing. It’s yet to deliver.
Kross did deliver an Awesome Bomb to Yehi (to a much more tepid reaction than the one against Perry), but Jimmy Jacobs pulled Kross out of the ring before he could score the pinfall. Yehi rolled Kross up after Jacobs nailed him with a chair. This was the worst match on the show. **1/4
NO HOLDS BARRED AAW HERITAGE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
HAKIM ZANE (c) DEF. PACO
PACO starts the match with a dive onto both Zane and Karam before pounding them with a kendo stick. Years and years of abuse for PACO is being taken out in this match. I’ve genuinely enjoyed being in the building these past few months as I’ve been able to witness PACO’s peak in person. AAW often claims to be pro wrestling redefined, but with PACO, they’ve simply done pro wrestling right.
Zane and PACO are somehow a match made in heaven. Their first match played perfectly into what these characters represent, and in this bout, they embraced the plunder far better than I thought they could have. PACO was busted open early after a chair shot to the head and from there, Zane targeted the wound of the former champion in an effort to tire him out.
I’m not sure what to make of Zane as he plays into a gimmick that leans more on charisma than it does in-ring ability, but for the most part, he’s delivered in the ring with every AAW appearance. With a chair covering the body of PACO in the corner, Zane cannonballed into him. Not only did it hurt PACO, but Zane began selling his back, which I thought was particularly compelling.
PACO’s never-say-die spirit shone brightest when he challenged Karam to a fight. Karam chokeslammed him accordingly, but PACO managed to kick out at two. PACO came back to get his revenge on Karam and then land a Yoshi-Tonic on Zane, but Karam pulled the referee out of the ring.
PACO continued to fight, and Zane continued to quite literally claw at the wound of the challenger. Zane double-stomped PACO onto an open chair for the victory. This was terrific. PACO is the most over act that AAW offers at this point and Zane has been the perfect foil to play off of him. ****1/4
Hakim Zane called us punk bitches. A good promo, but one I’ve not only heard from him before, but one that feels similar to almost every other promo on the show up to this point.
AAW TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
BESTIES IN THE WORLD (c) DEF. CURT STALLION & JAKE SOMETHING
This match not jump off the page of someone that isn’t a regular AAW viewer, but in the context of the AAW universe, this is a big match and an appropriate main event. I have been advocating for a Mat Fitchett push since I began following AAW in 2016. Seeing him main event a show, with a super indie name anchoring him, is quite exciting. The Besties have proven to be arguably the best regular tag team that the indies have to offer and together they have an act that should be booked in every high profile indie.
Similar to the women’s match from earlier in the evening, Stallion and Something cut the ring in half and targeted Davey Vega, whose back was bruised by way of cup therapy. When the hot tag was made to Fitchett, he showed why he is one of the most under-appreciated acts on the scene today. His stretch of offense to break up the Stallion/Something heat segment was exactly what this match needed.
His offense was interrupted by a Jake Something dive to the floor, which wiped out everybody. Killer Kross did his cosplay Mike Awesome act early, but it’s really Jake Something that is a closer parallel to the former ECW Heavyweight Champion and that dive was right out of his playbook.
Fitchett’s momentum carried them in the end, however, as he was able to score the fall over Jake Something in an exciting main event to retain the tag titles. ***3/4
AAW’s A New Dawn was a step below their outings in November and December, but they still did a great job of establishing faces and programs that will be featured throughout the year. A New Dawn was a table-setter for what’s to come. The Besties, Hakim Zane, and Mance Warner are names that the promotion is going to continue to build around, and I feel fully invested in that. With the exception of Kross and oVe, there wasn’t an act on this show that I didn’t feel slightly invested in. I’m very excited to see what AAW has in store for the rest of the year.