AAW
UNSTOPPABLE
DECEMBER 30, 2021
LOGAN SQUARE AUDITORIUM – CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

Watch: FITE

I must start off by apologizing to the readers of my AAW reviews as real-life scheduling issues (and AAW’s knack for running events on the same week as big Dragongate shows) has caused me to miss their prior two events. 

This show began with a 10 bell salute to former AAW Tag Team Champion, Markus Crane.

JAKE SOMETHING DEF. BRAYDEN LEE, DANTE LEON, GRINGO LOCO, LARRY D, & MANDERS 

Jake Something kicked off the show by reminding us that he’s one of the most underutilized big men in wrestling. This was the perfect opener, a mindless six-man scramble that didn’t overstay its welcome and used certain guys to the best of their ability. Both the aforementioned Something and Brayden Lee, a young high-flyer who I remain incredibly bullish on, picked their spots incredibly well. Lee landed a Spinal Tap to the floor onto a big pile of men, which was quickly followed by Something’s Mike Awesome-esque dive onto the same pile, which led us into the closing stretch of this match. 

Silas Young came out to the ringside area and began cutting a promo on Manders in the middle of this match. Young said, “You’re the one they call Manders? You should be the one they call a bitch.” A poet he is not. Nevertheless, that caused Manders to get out of the ring and chase him to the back. 

It was left to the two stars of the match, Something and Lee, to close things out. Lee ate a huge Black Hole Slam and was quickly covered for the three. ***1/4 

Ren Jones announced that he is the champion of swag in a backstage promo. I love this man. 

CHRISTI JAYNES & REN JONES DEF. SKYE BLUE & STORM GRAYSON 

Christi Jaynes and Skye Blue are former partners who have turned into fierce rivals. As a result, the women brought a certain level of intensity to this match that was appreciated. I believed in the confines of this 10-minute match that Jaynes wanted to kill Blue and vice versa. The men played their parts well as Jones and the much, much smaller Blue were able to pull off some very fun cat-and-mouse sequences. For a moment, it looked as if Blue was going to be able to force the bigger man to tap out, but Jaynes broke up the submission and provided the path for Jones to score the pinfall on Grayson after a rollup. This match felt appropriately physical given the nature of the feud. **3/4 

Fred Yehi cut an excellent backstage promo talking about how Schaff is going to need to hit him with a brick because otherwise, he will not stay down. I can’t believe this man isn’t booked in every high-level promotion. 

JUICE ROBINSON DEF. SILAS YOUNG 

Well, I’ll be damned. 

On paper, I thought this would be the weakest match on the show. Two indie veterans who I fell in love with years ago and have since fallen out of love. I thought this would be a low-effort match that would overstay its welcome. Instead, these guys worked their asses off. I couldn’t believe it. Maybe AAW forked over some extra money to Juice to put his workrate shoes on because this is a man who routinely plays it safe on indie shows. 

They laid the groundwork for an exciting closing stretch with the intensity of their chain wrestling early. They could’ve easily slept walk through this part of the match and then tried to earn me back with big moves down the finishing stretch, but they had me from the opening bell. Young, in particular, looked really impressive on the mat. 

After a failed attempt earlier in the match, Young was finally able to land the Pee Gee Waja Plunge, but Juice kicked out. The former New Japan standout fired back with a series of strikes that took Young off of his feet, but wasn’t enough to put him away. Juice climbed to the top rope and once he got there, Young pushed the referee into the ropes and sent Juice crashing down to the canvas. That brought on Manders, looking for revenge from earlier in the night. In the midst of barking at Manders on the floor, Young went for an O’Conner Roll. When Juice kicked out, he sent Silas straight into an elbow strike from Manders. That left him dazed and gave Juice the opening to hit Pulp Friction. Beautiful stuff from two total pros. ***3/4 

Hakim Zane cut an entertaining promo (as he’s apt to do) about how despite all of his success in AAW, he is still searching for the glory, love, and fanbase that other wrestlers on this roster have. Luckily for him, he has the AAW Heritage Championship, and he vowed to enter his upcoming match as a two-time champion and subsequently leave as a two-time champion. 

FRED YEHI VS. SCHAFF 

This match ended in a no-contest after both men attacked referees, which sent the locker room out to try to break these two up. 

In a strange way, this felt like watching Inoki wrestle a random Russian import. Yehi, with his tremendous grappling background, played the part of Inoki, a deranged grappler who was hellbent on victory. Schaff, by proxy, given his size and strength, fits the role of an 80s New Japan Russian. Yehi climbed all over Schaff like a jungle gym in an effort to find a possible weakness, but largely came up empty. That caused the former AAW World Champion to bring out a pair of pliers. He tried to take out Schaff’s teeth, but the big man fought back and kept his mullers intact. 

That caused Yehi to snap. He assaulted the referee assigned to the match, then when a second one came out from the back, he, unfortunately, caught Schaff’s hands. A third referee joined the fray, this time with the help of the locker room scrubs and after a prolonged effort, they were able to separate these two. 

It’s impossible to put a rating on this, but as an extended angle, I thought this was terrific. Yehi always delivers. NR 

AAW HERITAGE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
ACE AUSTIN DEF. HAKIM ZANE (c), MYRON REED 

Hakim Zane falls in his fourth defense of the AAW Heritage Championship. This is now Ace Austin’s second reign with the title. 

The last time AAW was in the Logan Square Auditorium, Hakim Zane won a “pick your shot” match and moments after Ace Austin defeated Myron Reed for this very belt, Zane and his muscle, Karam, attacked Austin and beat him for the title in five seconds. 

Thank God Ace Austin got his revenge. 

The first portion of this match wasn’t anything special. It’s not that Austin, Reed, and Zane failed to make it compelling, they were merely handicapped by the unfortunate nature of the three-way dance. It’s not until Reed hit his absurd flip dive over the post onto Austin and the subsequent Karam run-in, which saw the big man powerbomb Reed into the steel post that this match really picked up. 

Reed was helpless after the powerbomb and was easily eliminated by Zane with a Drive-By Knee moments later. That left Austin in there with the champion, three months after the most embarrassing moment of Austin’s career. The challenger caught fire and landed a number of big moves on Zane, but before he could capitalize on any of it, Karam made his presence felt once more. This time, his interference was met with some resistance. Gia Miller, Ace Austin’s girlfriend, made the save and hit Karam with a low blow. 

Austin, still trying to recover, barely managed to kick out after a series of knee strikes and a complete shot. He looked hopeless, despite Karam being neutralized on the floor. Then, out of nowhere, he stacked up the champion with a flash pin and won the title. 

The final few minutes of this match, basically from the Karam run-in and beyond, were absolutely tremendous. The timing was perfect, the drama was there, and the finish was immensely satisfying. 

I should also note that Joe Dombrowski and Tyler Volz, a pairing that I’m already a huge fan of on commentary, absolutely killed it with their call of this match. This was some of the best work they’ve done all year as they put over the hell that Ace Austin and Gia Miller have been through this year with their devastating apartment fire and how much this win must mean to him. Tremendous stuff from everyone involved. ***1/2 

After the match, Ace Austin went to shake Myron Reed’s hand, but Reed slapped him across the face. 

DAVEY VEGA DEF. ALEX ZAYNE 

Davey Vega came to the ring with a Have Heart hoodie on. It made me wonder who John E. Bravo’s favorite hardcore band is. Is he a Bane man? Does he get down to Earth Crisis? He could be a massive Gorilla Biscuits fan for all we know. The possibilities are endless. 

Vega and his crew of jackasses, the aforementioned Bravo and Hartenbower, are a great act. I felt like they were bogged down by Alex Zayne this evening. Zayne showed no fire, no intensity, and no clear sign that he really wanted to be in a wrestling ring. He threw these big, looping strikes that looked like they wouldn’t hurt a fly. His “innovative” offense looked slow and overly contrived. This match was entirely made by Vega’s entertaining personality. The right guy won in just over 10 minutes with a brainbuster to the knee. **3/4 

Mr. Stephen Wolf was backstage. He noted that he doesn’t need to be in a tag team and he doesn’t need to be in scramble matches. If he ever had a shot at a big-time singles match, he’d make the most of it. Good promo. 

RUSS JONES DEF. KODA JACOBS 

Koda Jacobs is a Mr. Anderson trainee who is doing an updated version of Drew Gulak’s “Campaigning for a Better CZW” gimmick. It’s…fine. Russ Jones did not have any time for that, however. He destroyed Jacobs in under a minute, finishing him off with a vicious choke. NR 

AAW TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
ACE PERRY & ALEXANDER HAMMERSTONE (c) DEF. ACH & JAH-C

This is the first successful defense for the pairing of Ace Perry & Alexander Hammerstone. 

I’ve been a big fan of the work that Ace Perry and Jah-C have done for this company in 2021. This, unfortunately, was more pedestrian than their usual output. Nothing was bad, but nothing really jumped off the page. The only thing in this match that I found to be notable was just how great ACH looked. He did nothing spectacular, largely just sticking to the ACH “hits”, but this was a really good reminder that when ACH is on, there are few guys on his level on the independent scene. He was far and away the star of this match. 

Jah-C ate a Nightmare Pendulum from Hammerstone to end the match. ***

JOSH ALEXANDER DEF. RUBY SOHO 

The last time Ruby Soho was on an AAW card, the show featured Drew Galloway vs. Jeff Cobb, Pentagon Jr vs. Chris Hero, and a main event of Sami Callihan vs. Rey Fenix. We are now living in a different universe. 

Despite all of the names that have come and gone from AAW over the last five years, one thing remains the same: Ruby Soho is a damn good pro wrestler. I have largely been a detractor of intergender matches during their existence. They make me uncomfortable and I also just think most of the matches are bad. Soho is one of the rare wrestlers that actually does their best work in this setting, however. This match pairs nicely with her classic against Matt Cage years ago. 

Alexander used the same game plan that he used against Mat Fitchett, Fred Yehi, and countless others throughout the year: he hit them really, really hard. It was remarkable seeing the damage that he and Ruby dished out to one another. Every time I thought they had maxed out what damage they were capable of dishing out, they ramped things up again. When a Spinning Tombstone Piledriver wasn’t enough from Alexander, he raised the stakes (literally), and sent Ruby crashing head-first onto the mat with an Avalanche Tombstone. That put the AEW standout away. Outstanding stuff that is worth going out of your way to see. ****1/4 

Final Thoughts

AAW closed the year with a really strong outing in Chicago’s Logan Square Auditorium. The absence of their champion (and his challenger) due to COVID did not hinder this show in the slightest. Thumbs up for AAW’s final outing of 2021.