AAW
THE ART OF WAR
FEBRUARY 21, 2020
LOGAN SQUARE AUDITORIUM
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

Watch: AAWondemand.com / Photo: @Beezzzzy

DEONN RUSMAN & JOEASA DEF. BENJAMIN CARTER & TRAVIS TITAN 

I’m on board with inFAMy. These two have started to develop some buzz in the midwest indie scene, mainly due to their work in Iowa, and they came crashing into AAW to defeat the makeshift team of Benjamin Carter and Travis Titan. Titan is someone with potential, but both he and Carter had a little too much spring in their step during this match. They both had a pair of awkward-looking moves that probably didn’t need to be done in an opener to begin with. Carter to a lit cigar to the forehead, followed by a spear for the fall. I want more of inFAMy in the future. **1/4 

KARAM DEF. SOLOMON FATU

Karam squashes a man with the last name of Fatu. AAW smirks in the shadows. **

HYAN DEF. CHRISTI JAYNES, KENZIE PAIGE

The right woman won, as AAW seems to be firmly behind “The Renaissance Woman” Hyan, but the bulk of this match was carried by Jaynes and Page. Both girls really impressed me in this match. They are still rough around the edges, while Hyan feels like a more complete package in terms of her character work with Steven Wolf and her in-ring performance, but Paige and Jaynes both showed great potential. Paige tried to score a flash pin on Hyan, and as she did that, Wolf pulled Jaynes out of the ring. Hyan kicked out of the pin and proceeded to plant two knees into the chest of Paige for the win. ***

Mance Warner came out for his championship celebration. He noted that he didn’t want a cake to celebrate his championship win, but rather beer and pizza rolls. A man of the people, I see. Warner had a keg delivered to the ring, but before he could enjoy it, Sami Callihan ran in and attacked him, taking the gold belt in the process. I’m sure their match will be fine, but I’d really love to see AAW pause on Sami Callihan in the main event scene. This just feels so tired. 

JAKE LANDER DEF. ACE PERRY, CLAYTON GAINZ, NATE WEBB, JASON CADE, & STEPHEN WOLF

I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but I could go without ever seeing Nate Webb wrestle again. The entrance sucks, the leg-guitar spot sucks, the in-ring sucks. I have no use for it. He’s a level below the talent that AAW typically books and I think his presence hurts shows. 

The good news is that Jake Lander grabbed the victory here by pinning Ace Perry. Lander could be AAW’s next PACO. He’s tiny – a shockingly small human being in any profession, but in professional wrestling, even in this generation, he’s microscopic. The fact is, though, Lander is becoming very good and every month AAW uses him, he continues to leave a bigger impression on me. After grabbing the pinfall, he yelled into the camera, “This is my home! This is where I want to be!”

Welcome home, Jake Lander. Take AAW by storm. ***

Jimmy Jacobs promised to make Fred Yehi a king. I’m fascinated by their partnership and I look forward to seeing how it plays out in the future. 

AAW WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
KRIS STATLANDER (c) DEF. JODY THREAT 

I need to see Jody Threat’s skateboarding resume. She claims to be hailing from “your local skatepark”, but her push down the AAW entranceway made me think she’s never actually hopped on a deck before. 

It took Statlander 15 minutes to make her first defense of the AAW Women’s Championship, but she did it nonetheless. Statlander is far from a ring general, but she looked far better than Threat did in this bout. I at least trust that Statlander is going to put forth a three star effort at the bare minimum. This match wasn’t much better than that, but it hit that threshold. 

Afterward, Hyan came out and challenged Statlander to a title match in March. I firmly believe Hyan is going to win that, and I think that has the potential to be a great match. ***

Nick Gage cut an A+ promo, talking about how he feels right at home in Chicago because of all the gangs…because he’s gang-affiliated. He said he’s going to wrestle until someone murders him and I totally believe that. Gage is still one of the best promos in the business.  

AAW HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
MANCE WARNER (c) DEF. SAMI CALLIHAN 

I have mixed feelings on this match. Like I said during the pre-match angle, I have become so tired of Sami Callihan being featured in the main event scene. Regardless of how you feel about his presence in the company – I personally don’t mind it, although his constant spitting legitimately grosses me out and makes me not want to watch him, he’s been consistently in the mix for the world title since 2016. A generation has come and gone, but Sami Callihan has stayed cemented atop the world title scene in AAW. It’s too much. 

This was an enjoyable brawl. It was weaker than Warner’s world title win and not as violent as what Matthew Justice has been bringing to the table, but I was certainly never bored watching this match. Warner was busted open really early and that only added to my enjoyment of the bout. 

I’m not sure about my new champion taking this much damage, however. He not only kicked out of a vicious powerbomb through a propped up door, but also a tombstone piledriver onto two chairs. That’s a lot of damage for Warner to take, and I’m not sure if kicking out of the two of those made him look strong, or if it just made Callihan look strangely weak. I lean towards the latter. 

I did enjoy the finish, though, as Warner finally snapped and bashed Callihan over the head with multiple door shots before cleaning his clock with a running knee. The match had a certain intensity surrounding it, but in that moment, Warner ramped up that feeling and capped off the match in what felt like an appropriate way. Warner gets defense one under his belt with this win. ***1/2 

Zicky Dice interrupted a promo from The Besties in the World, who were vowing to destroy AR Fox & Myron Reed tonight. For the sake of comedy, I hope we get a lot of Dice and Vega together in the future. 

NICK GAGE DEF. MATTHEW JUSTICE

There is a real sense of danger when these two are in the ring together. It’s hard to describe. Gage is known for his love of ultraviolence, and Justice has made a name for himself over the past year as being “CTE-proof”. Justice still feels like he’s one match away from making a huge splash in this company, while Gage, in his second booking with AAW, feels like a top star. He’s the only person I’ve ever seen the AAW fans actively want to hug as he’s making his entrance. Nick Gage is a man of the people. It’s incredible. 

The match started with basic chain wrestling, which commentator Marty DeRosa pointed out as truly shocking. He joked that they should do a Guerrero vs. Malenko tribute spot. We weren’t that lucky. We did get a great brawl that followed the early, exhibition portions of the bout. Both of these guys know how to take a beating to a nearly unhealthy extent. Staples, a barbed wire bat, and doors were used with great success, but nothing did as much damage as the humble trash can. 

After kicking out of a powerbomb at 1, Justice was punished by being viciously assaulted with multiple trash can shots to the head and an eventual piledriver onto the trash can for the pin. A perfectly violent ending to a perfectly violent match. The best match on the show, up to this point. ****

PACO DEF. ZICKY DICE 

This was not the debut Dice was looking for. After talking a big game to the Besties and then the AAW faithful right before this match, he was surely in the mindset that this was going to be a cakewalk. PACO is now a former champion, however, and the booking respects that. PACO should and likely will lose 60-75% of his matches, but he has to be respected in defeat. He’s worked too hard to get to this point. He caught Dice with a rollup and ended things in 8 minutes. **3/4 

Ace Perry interrupted PACO’s post-match promo. He and PACO used to be a tag team. Perry points out that last month he was fed to Killer Kross, but Kross is gone and Perry is still here. PACO warns Perry that he’ll “knock his fucking head off” if he doesn’t leave, but at that moment, AEW’s Mel hit the ring and together, she and Perry put the boots to the former AAW Heritage Champion. This was a great angle and now, suddenly, I’m looking forward to PACO vs. Perry. 

#1 CONTENDERS MATCH FOR THE AAW HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
FRED YEHI DEF. JORDAN OLIVER, JOSH BRIGGS, & HAKIM ZANE

These four executed this match perfectly. We saw peak Josh Briggs, progression from Jordan Oliver, and an overall excellent performance from Fred Yehi. If there was a weak link in this match, it was Zane, but he was by far the least important figure in this four-way so it’s less of him being weak and more him being irrelevant. 

I’ve never seen Josh Briggs look as good as he did in this match. This is exactly what I’ve been waiting for from him. He finally used his size to his advantage and tossed his three opponents around with ease. I would love to see a future singles match between Oliver and Briggs, given their extreme height and style differences. They worked tremendously in their brief interactions with one another in this match. 

Yehi, after years of treading water, has found something in AAW. I love the fact that he has Jimmy Jacobs as a mouthpiece. It lets him focus on being purely savage in the ring and that comes out well when he wrestles like he did in this bout, as an opportunistic mad man who, despite being attached to the weasley Jimmy Jacobs, can still choke you out with ease. That’s what he did to Jordan Oliver, and I think that’s a small chance he does that against Mance Warner during their title match. These four nailed what they were going for here. Recommended. ***3/4 



TJP DEF. ACH

TJP is a really great professional wrestler. I know we all know that, but I think it’s often forgotten because TJP has so many online detractors. I certainly don’t know if I’d want to hang around him for an extended period of time, but he’s so damn good in between those ropes. 

This match never hit the next gear the way I wanted it to. It was very good, but when I see two names like this on the marquee, I am expecting some form of greatness. TJP has a way of working that is quite honestly similar to the way Kawhi Leonard drives down the lane. It’s as if he’s going in slow-motion at times, but not due to lack of skill or because of caution – he’s just in control to that degree. It’s second nature to him. There’s no pressure. A lot of this bout was worked at that speed. I kept waiting for ACH to break the tempo and push things to an aggressive pace, but it never happened. 

Instead, we had a methodical match in which TJP worked over the arm of ACH for an extended period of time, and after numerous submission attempts, he was finally able to get AAW’s favorite son to tap out. A fine match, but a step down from the four-way that preceded it. ***1/2 

AAW TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
THE BESTIES IN THE WORLD (c) DEF. AR FOX & MYRON REED 

I love when a match understands its purpose. This was a very long show (albeit a good one), but still, 12 matches deep, it was nice to see these four go in there and flip around for 15 minutes. They’re very, very good at doing that. 

Fitchett and Vega are a top-of-the-line indie team and although it’s good for AAW, as they’ve been able to develop them into essentially homegrown stars, I can’t believe they aren’t getting traction in non-midwest indies. Not only do these two never have bad matches, but they are consistently having great matches at this point. Mat Fitchett is on a four year run of being really, really good and Davey Vega is no slouch. He has that CrossFit body for a reason. The dude can work. 

It’s been great to see AR Fox back in the AAW fold. He makes any match exciting and his chemistry with The Besties is off the charts. The finishing stretch of this match shows off not only how good AR Fox is, but how good The Besties have become. They never miss a beat as they go through a wild series of high spots, and as I predicted, The Besties retained in the end. Great stuff. ***3/4 

Final Thoughts

AAW’s The Art of War is yet another win for AAW. While this show did not peak as high as some of their prior outings, they are continuing to build the most well-rounded indie roster out there. No one has been able to develop stars and push talent as successfully as AAW in the contract-era and this show represents a mix of high-profile names with local stars existing in the same universe. It’s great to see. Thumbs up for AAW’s Art of War.