I have to admit that I usually skip any wrestling PPV from 1995 because, in my opinion, they were all pretty much terrible in terms of both wrestling and storylines. However, since this recap series has shown me that perceptions can be wrong, I’m willing to give WrestleMania XI a fair chance.
Since I avoid this year like the plague, I really don’t have very many recollections of what was going on in WWF/E. Diesel was Champion, HBK was not, and not happy about that fact, but the rest of it escapes me.
So, how was WrestleMania XI? Will your humble reviewer have to eat her words about the year 1995 when it comes to WWF/E PPVs? Let’s find out!
We start with a recap of the first ten WrestleManias and are told about our special guests: Pamela Anderson (Baywatch), Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Home Improvement, Lion King), Jenny McCarthy (Playboy, MTV’s Singled Out), Nicholas Turturro (NYPD Blue), Salt-n- Pepa (one of the greatest women’s music groups ever, IMO), and the football players that will be backing up Lawrence Taylor, one of them being Steve ‘Mongo’ McMichaels.
‘America, The Beautiful’ will be sung by Special Olympian, Kathy Huey. Ms. Huey was a replacement for the band Fishbone, that had been advertised to appear. Ms. Huey sounds magnificent, I actually thought this was an opera singer Vince had booked.
Vince McMahon welcomes us and explains what WrestleMania was for the people who’ve never heard of it. He calls it ‘The Standard for Excellence in Sports Entertainment’. Lawler agrees, calling it ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Sports Entertainment’.
The Allied Powers (Lex Luger and The British Bulldog) vs The Blu Brothers
Bulldog and Luger are out first to a really good pop to a poppy version of ‘Rule, Britannia’. Davey Boy had ditched the cornrow braids, Luger still has the frosted mullet.
The Blu Brothers are out next with Uncle Zebekiah (Dutch Mantel) to little reaction.
This match was a melee right from the start. The fact that the Blu Brothers were identical twins, right down to their lovely, curly hair, was really played up well for the match. Even the commentators weren’t sure who was who. The tide begins to turn when one of the Blus misses an elbow drop, giving Davey Boy a chance to tag in Luger.
Luger hits everything in sight, hitting the legal (we think) Blu Brother with his plated forearm. The other Blu interferes, bringing in Davey Boy. In the ensuing chaos, the Blu Brothers do their version of ‘Twin Magic’ causing the not legal brother to kick out of the pin.
Winner: Allied Powers after Luger blocked a powerbomb attempt by one of the Blu Brothers, tagged in Davey Boy, who went to the top turnbuckle, turned a clothesline into a slightly sloppy Sunset Flip for the three count. Afterwards, Luger and Davey pose for the crowd.
Highlights: One of the Blu Brothers breaking up a pin that wasn’t being counted.
Comments: This was an okay match, Davey Boy and Luger looked good together. Luger still comes across as a little phony but putting him with the well-liked Davey Boy softens that a little.
Jim Ross tries to get an interview with Uncle Zebekiah that is hard to understand or make sense of, so JR gives up and sends it back to Vince.
We go to Pamela Anderson’s dressing room that is filled with WWF superstars and Nicholas Turturro, who is our backstage interviewer, apparently. Nick’s mic isn’t working, but Jenny McCarthy is there and apparently, Nick doesn’t know the difference.
Vince and Lawler discuss the audience and the Bigelow/Taylor match and Lawler gives the best summary of football ever: ‘It’s where eleven men spend a lot of time trying to move a small object a hundred yards’.
Intercontinental Championship Match: Jeff Jarrett (with the Roadie) vs Razor Ramon (with 1-2-3 Kid)
Double J and the Roadie come out first, and the crowd isn’t feeling it. We get a recap of how Jarrett won the IC belt from Razor Ramon back at the Royal Rumble
We go to Razor and Kid backstage; the mics are still not working properly. Razor’s mad and Kid predicts that he’ll get the job done tonight. He also warns the Roadie to stay out of the way or he’ll get taken care of.
Razor and Kid come out to a loud pop. Kid looks like an extra from one of the Karate Kid movies. Razor and Kid charge the ring, and both get a shot at Jarrett, but since the bell hasn’t rung, it cannot be a DQ.
This match starts with Razor going for the quick pins and Jarrett trying to counter power with speed. These two actually work really well together. The differences in styles meshes well.
Winner: Razor Ramon by disqualification, after the Roadie blatantly attacks him. Jarrett retains the title. Kid attacks Roadie and Jarrett before being attacked from behind by Jarrett and put in the Figure Four and beaten up by Roadie. Razor comes to his buddy’s aid and it becomes bedlam. Jarrett and Roadie finally bail out, but this feud is far from finished and Jarrett has a bloody nose.
Highlights: Kid threatening the Roadie, just because of how things will change in about three years.
Comments: This was a really good match. The wonky finish hurt it, in my opinion.
JR tries to get an interview with Jarrett and that Jarrett should be ashamed of himself. Jarrett says that he’s a champion and Razor is nothing and that paybacks are a you-know-what.
Audio difficulties have been fixed and we are back with Nick Turturro. He explains that he tried to find Pamela Anderson, but had no luck, so he went to the Green Room, where the Million Dollar Corporation is talking. He says he’s already met Salt ‘n Pepa and gets up close with Jenny McCarthy. Jenny says she’s having a great time and the Million Dollar Corporate members swarm in, but Jenny would rather stay with Nick, I guess. HBK comes in, much to Jenny’s delight and, when asked about Pamela, tells Nick not to worry about it. This conversation quickly gets out of hand when Sid opens his mouth and cuts a promo on Diesel.
The Streak: Undertaker (with Paul Bearer) vs King Kong Bundy (with Ted DiBiase)
Bundy is out first with Ted DiBiase, who is carrying the sacred urn, and we get a recap of why Undertaker is feuding with Bundy, who hasn’t been seen at WrestleMania since WrestleMania III where he fought Hillbilly Jim and some little people: IRS attacked Paul Bearer and ‘repossessed’ the urn. We are reminded that Bundy holds the record for the shortest match in WWF.
The lights go out, the thunder starts, and out comes the urnless Paul Bearer and Undertaker. Vince mentions, for the first time EVER, that Taker is undefeated at WrestleMania. Lawler’s response is to joke about Undertaker not having the urn. Undertaker is in the black and purple he came back with in his return to WWF, after knee surgery, at SummerSlam 1994.
Since this show is happening during the big baseball strike, our referee is a moonlighting baseball umpire, Larry Young.
DiBiase accidentally drops the urn, which Vince quickly explains away as DiBiase being so intimidated by the Undertaker and his power.
If you’re looking for a great technical match, you might want to skip this one. Same if you’re looking for a hidden gem where two contrasting styles surprisingly mesh seamlessly into a great match. This match was rough to watch. It wasn’t Giant Gonzalez rough, but it was close.
Winner: Undertaker by pinfall. Taker is now 4-0, surpassing Hogan’s previous streak of 3-0. Afterwards, Taker and Paul do their ritual salute, but they still don’t have the urn.
Highlights: Undertaker temporarily retrieving the urn. Undertaker tombstoning Bundy. Vince quickly thinking up a cover for DiBiase’s butterfingers.
Comments: I’m really ‘meh’ on this match. Taker and Bundy were not a good match up and the whole thing about repossessing the urn was silly.
Nick Turturro is still looking for Pamela Anderson. Apparently, she and HBK had a disagreement and she’s left. He runs into Steve McMichaels who cuts an odd promo on Kama for calling him a ‘creampuff’ and vows that Kama will get his at the Taylor/Bigelow fight. The rest of the All-Pro team cut promos on the rest of Bigelow’s team. Ugh moment when one of the all-pro calls Tatanka a ‘cigar store Indian’.
Nick continues his search and finds Jonathan Taylor Thomas playing chess with Bob Backlund. When Nick asks if they’ve heard about Pamela Anderson, Backlund starts ranting about the intrusion and how it’s what’s wrong with America. Backlund doesn’t know who Pamela Anderson is, and is checkmated by JTT. He doesn’t like that either, and starts ranting again. JTT doesn’t know what to think of this, and neither do I. When JTT correctly tells Backlund who the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is, the ranting starts all over again. Backlund, thankfully, storms out and Nick promises to keep looking for Pamela Anderson.
Tag Team Championship Match: The Smoking Gunns vs Owen Hart and Yokozuna (with Mr. Fuji and Jim Cornette)
After that bizarre interlude, we’re back to wrestling. Owen Hart is coming out for the Tag Team match, to loud boos, but he doesn’t have a partner. Lawler claims to know who it is and that it’s a ‘big’ deal. Owen gets on the mic and says that his partner is the man who did the one thing Owen himself has always wanted to do: Beat his brother, Bret, for the WWF Title. His partner is Yokozuna, who comes out with Mr. Fuji and Cornette to a mixed reaction. As usual, Cornette looks like he got dressed in the dark, with his eyes closed. Owen hugs Yokozuna and we await the Tag Team Champions, the Smoking Gunns.
We go to the Gunns backstage and are asked about the addition of Yokozuna. Billy Gunn (yes, THAT Billy Gunn) says that while they are surprised, they fully intend on walking out of WrestleMania still the Tag Team Champs. When Vince comments on this being an uphill battle, Bart replies that they didn’t expect Yokozuna but that they also weren’t sure who would team with Owen Hart given his mean and nasty reputation, but that they are going to win.
Smoking Gunns are out to a really great pop. Yokozuna waves the Japanese flag to a round of boos and the dismay of the Gunns. After a little discussion, we start off with Owen and Billy.
This was a really good tag match. However, Yokozuna’s increased size really hindered his athleticism, as opposed to his previous WrestleMania matches. That said, the crowd was really into the match and the Owen/Yokozuna team was a surprisingly good match.
We get a wonky moment where Billy Gunn is being given the arm test but I think Billy lost his train of thought for a minute. His arm dropped to the mat for the third time before he remembered that he needed to lift it. Chioda lets the match continue anyway. We also get a moment where it looked like the Gunns were going to win when Owen goes for a missile dropkick and Billy ducks, so Yokozuna get the kick instead.
Winner: Owen Hart and Yokozuna by pinfall. Owen and Yokozuna celebrate in the ring, Owen literally jumping for joy.
Highlights: Bart Gunn knocking down Yokozuna with a hairpull snapmare. Owen teasing a Sharpshooter, but going for the pin instead. Owen’s excitement over winning the tag belts.
Comments: This was a surprisingly good match and a surprisingly great team with Owen/Yokozuna
We go to Todd Pettengill who is interviewing Bam Bam Bigelow. We get a recap of the issues between Bigelow and Taylor. Mostly, Bigelow picking a fight with LT at the Royal Rumble. Bigelow vows to take down LT. Pettengill asks about fan reaction and LT’s lack of skill. Bigelow says he doesn’t care what the fans think and that he’s not going to be beaten by LT. When asked about the All-Pro team, Bigelow says that Million Dollar team has his back, so all he has to worry about is LT. Bigelow says LT doesn’t have a prayer and that LT isn’t going to come in and make a fool out of him.
I Quit Match: Bret Hart vs Bob Backlund Special Guest Referee – Roddy Piper
Finkel, minus his rug from last year, and gives us the rules for the ‘I Quit’ Match: No pinfalls, countouts, or DQs. Match only ends when someone says ‘I Quit’. He also introduces Piper, who comes out to a tremendous pop. Backlund is out next to a thunderous round of boos and is still griping about something. He tries to get the crowd on his side, but the crowd isn’t having it. Bret’s out next to a thunderous pop.
Bret dominates from the start, goes for the Sharpshooter, but Backlund blocks it. This basically is a regular match, the only difference is Piper there with the mic, asking either man if they want to quit.
Given the two people involved and the time period, this match isn’t nearly as hardcore as future ‘I Quit’ matches would be, but it was a really good match.
The match finally ends when Backlund gets Bret in the Crossface Chickenwing, only for Bret to not only get out of the hold, but put Backlund in his own hold. Bret gets Backlund to the floor and Piper asks Backlund if he wants to quit, but Backlund’s reply really sounds like more of a shout of pain than any words. Piper calls for the bell anyway.
Winner: Bret Hart, though there is some controversy over what Backlund said.
Highlights: Vince McMahon getting Bret’s WrestleMania VIII opponent (Piper) mixed up with the British Bulldog. Bret using the Figure Four. Piper’s refereeing. Bret beating Backlund with his own move.
Comments: This was an ‘eh’ for me. Backlund and Bret worked really well together, but as far as ‘I Quit’ matches go, this was kind of a dud, in my opinion.
JR is trying to get an interview with Backlund, but Backlund looks to be in a state of shock and says he’s ‘seen the light’. JR’s not sure what the heck is going on.
Nick says he can’t find Pamela Anderson and that there’s been celebrity changes since Ms. Anderson has vanished into thin air.
Todd Pettengill is with WWF Champion, Diesel. Pettengill mentions HBK’s vow that he’s not leaving without the WWF Title. Diesel says that’s funny because he’s made the same vow. He also says that he doesn’t buy HBK’s promise that Sid won’t be involved because he’s been in Sid’s shoes, and knows how HBK thinks. Diesel tells HBK that he’s going to show everyone why Big Daddy Cool is WWF Champion.
We are introduced to our guest ring officials. Jonathan Taylor Thomas as guest timekeeper, Nick Turturro as guest ring announcer. Nick tries to box with Finkel, but Fink just gets out of the way, but is a good sport about it.
WWF Championship Match: Diesel (with Pamela Anderson) vs Shawn Michaels (with Jenny McCarthy)
HBK comes out with Sid and Jenny McCarthy to a mixed reaction. Jenny takes her seat and doesn’t join HBK and Sid in the ring. We get another view of HBK’s terrible dancing as he takes off his chaps.
Diesel is out to an enormous pop and he has a surprise for us. It turns out that Pamela Anderson didn’t fly the coop, she was just with Big Daddy Cool.
Things get off to a crazy start when Diesel goes to take a swing at Sid, HBK tries to hit him from behind, but Diesel sends HBK to the outside, and invites Pamela Anderson into the ring.
The match starts with a slugfest with HBK wearing his hand out on Diesel’s head, and after some swing and misses by Diesel on the much quicker HBK, Diesel finally levels him.
This match was pretty back and forth, surprisingly. Also surprising was how good it was. HBK and Diesel really went out there to tear the house down. It didn’t quite do that, but it came pretty close. These were two fan favorites and those matches are always tough because there’s not a single person for the fans to get behind.
Winner: Diesel by pinfall. JR tries to get an interview with HBK, but Sid says that this isn’t over and HBK is not finished with Diesel. Afterwards, Diesel invites the celebrities into the ring for a celebration.
Highlights: HBK, the eternal terrier who believes he’s a Rottweiler. HBK getting mad at a member of the press who got in the way. Jenny McCarthy looking after JTT.
Comments: I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed this match.
Pettengill with HBK and Sid backstage and HBK is PISSED. HBK says that he had Diesel beat and the whole world saw it. He says tonight proves that he is the best. Sid chimes in and points out that in the MLB or NCAA, there’s always more than one official to make the calls (which is true) and that if WWF had had an extra ref, HBK would be WWF champion and that this feud with Diesel isn’t over. HBK says he’s sick of talking, especially since he proved he was the best. He also throws down a challenge to Diesel: That if Diesel is half the man and champion he claims to be, he’ll give HBK another shot at the title.
Notes: According to Kevin Nash (Diesel), HBK was so frustrated that Vince wouldn’t give him a run with the WWF Title despite being, somewhat arguably, the best in-ring performer on the roster, that he deliberately botched the Jackknife Powerbomb to make Nash look bad. Nash doesn’t seem to bear a grudge against HBK for this and the two are still best friends to this day, but it’s an interesting look at HBK’s mindset back then that he’d make his own friend look bad because the friend got the chance HBK wanted for himself.
Lawrence Taylor vs Bam Bam Bigelow
The Million Dollar Corporation comes out to various amounts of booing. The All-Pro team are out next to great pops. Salt-n- Pepa are there, cheering for the footballers. The Million Dollar Corporation circles the ring and the footballers invite them in. Pat Patterson, the special ref is having a hard time keeping order. Reggie White gets a shot in on Kama, who was on the apron talking trash. Another one takes a shot at Tatanka.
Bam Bam Bigelow is out first to a loud round of boos. He goes for Salt-n-Pepa for some reason. LT is out next to a thunderous pop.
This match starts with a staredown and slap.
This was by no means a technical or scientific match. It was okay, but I’m not a fan of this match. See my opinion below.
Winner: LT by pinfall. Afterwards, the footballers come in to celebrate and LT is hoisted up. JR tries to talk to the wrestlers and DiBiase is LIVID and berates Bigelow for losing to a football player. LT’s son comes in to celebrate, but LT is exhausted.
Highlights: Bigelow’s athleticism is always amazing to see. Guys his size didn’t do aerial moves in the 90s. LT finding out that wrestling is a little harder than football.
Comments: I did NOT like this match! The fact that WWF let an outsider not only compete in the company’s biggest PPV but let him go over on one of the superstars in a 1-1 contest is one of the worst decisions they could’ve made. Even with Hogan/Mr. T vs Piper/Orndorff, T never got the pin, Hogan got the pin to protect Orndorff. Same in WrestleMania II, T only beat Piper by DQ, which protected Piper.
In my opinion, LT beating Bam Bam lowered respect for the business because it made it look like anyone with a minimal amount of training could beat a veteran wrestler, and I’d feel that way if they’d replaced LT and Bigelow with Brett Favre and the Undertaker.
That rant aside, this was an okay match. It brought WWF a lot of mainstream attention and brought in casual viewers, but I can’t say I’d watch it again.
So, did your humble reviewer have to eat her words about a 1995 wrestling PPV? Overall, yes, I did. WrestleMania XI was a pretty good show. There were some stinkers, but the show didn’t suck.
Celebrities: I’m a little ‘eh’ about the celebrities. Since I was twelve in the spring of 1995, I recognized all of the non-football celebrities, but I can’t say they really enhanced the show that much. The fact that Salt-n-Pepa didn’t perform a song irritates me greatly.
Snoozers: Bret Hart vs Bob Backlund. It was a good match but it was pretty boring as far as ‘I Quit’ matches go.
Stinkers: Undertaker vs King Kong Bundy. That was rough watching. LT vs Bigelow for the simple fact that an outsider should NOT have gotten a win over a WWF superstar at WrestleMania in a 1-1 match.
Match of the Night: HBK vs Diesel for the story of two friends turning into rivals.
Final Thoughts: This WrestleMania is usually panned by fans, and I can see why, even if I don’t think it’s as bad as they think. This was also dubbed the WrestleMania that saved WWF during a downturn in the wrestling business.
Attitude Of Aggression #275- The Big Four Project Chapter 3: Royal Rumble ’88 & WrestleMania IV
The Attitude Of Aggression returns for Chapter 3 of The Big Four Project, a chronological analysis, review, and discussion about WWE’s Big Four PPVs/ Premium Live Events. On this Episode, Dave welcomes back the one and only PC Tunney to discuss two more immensely important events in pro wrestling history, the inaugural Royal Rumble and WrestleMania IV. The 1988 Royal Rumble was different than any other Rumble in history and not just because it was the first. Dave and Tunney break down the fascinating history of the first installment of an event that would evolve into an annual favorite for many in the WWE Universe. From there, the guys recap the surreal events that led to the end of Hulk Hogan’s 4-year reign as WWF Champion and set the stage for, arguably, the most important tournament in WWE History at WrestleMania IV. Macho Madness reached new heights that night. But was Savage the first choice of Vince McMahon to emerge from Atlantic City with the gold that night? We have the whole story for you here on Chapter 3 of The Big Four Project!
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Chairshot Classics: What I Watched #15 – AAW Defining Moment 2018
Harry covers a show that helped to continue Sami Callihan’s 2018 infamy. AAW Defining Moment should be a fun trip down memory lane!
Apologies for the slight delay getting to this but it’s Harry here once again. And for as verbose as I can be at times, I don’t feel the need to waste any time getting to this one. This is the second part of the double shot for AAW on ‘All In’ weekend in Chicago.
The WayBack Machine takes us to August 31st, 2018 as we once again arrive at the Logan Square Auditorium (and oh boy does that become important later) for AAW’s Defining Moment 2018.
What I Watched #15
AAW Defining Moment 2018
Logan Square Auditorium in Chicago, IL
Runtime: 3:18:22 (HighSpotsWrestlingNetwork)
Commentary By: Tyler Volz (PBP) and Marty DeRosa (Color)
- Match 1: Curt Stallion/Jake Something def. Ace Romero/Colt Cabana, Something pins Cabana @ 8:41
- Match 2: Shane Strickland pins Darby Allin, top-rope Swerve Stomp @ 13:30
- Match 3: Jessicka Havoc def. Palmer Cruise/Steve Manders, pinning Cruise with a Chokeslam @ 2:52
- Match 4: OI4K (Dave/Jake Crist) def. Ace Austin/Brian Cage, Dave pins Austin @ 5:55
- Match 5: AAW Heritage Title- Trevor Lee © pins DJ Z (Shiima Xion), roll-through on CBB with tights @ 13:30
- Match 6: AR Fox/Myron Reed def. Bandido/Flamita, double cover @ 15:42
- Match 7: Maxwell Jacob Friedman taps Marko Stunt, Salt of the Earth @ 10:41
- Match 8: Sami Callihan pins Jimmy Jacobs, Cactus Driver on a bridged guardrail @ 17:52
- Match 9: AAW Tag Titles- Eddie Kingston/Jeff Cobb © def. Davey Vega/Mat Fitchett, Cobb pins Fitchett @ 14:19
- Match 10: AAW Heavyweight Title- Brody King pins ACH ©, All Seeing Eye (Whiplash) @ 22:46
Curt Stallion/Jake Something vs. Ace Romero/Colt Cabana
*The match was decent but nothing special. A pretty big win for Something at the end with the three count over Cabana, who has a storied past in Chicago and was one of the biggest names in independent wrestling. That said, I personally don’t love the flukish nature that Something pins Cabana, as I think Something could have used a defining pinfall to really give him a rub going forward.
Cabana usually makes for a fun watch and I’ve grown to enjoy Ace Romero the more I see him (he especially stands out for Limitless, which I hope to get to one day soon). Jake Something is a huge star in the making and you can see it even early in the run of AAW that he has. Stallion is what Stallion is. Solid opener, but nothing you’ll remember post show. (**½)
Darby Allin vs. Shane Strickland
*Showstealer, plain and simple. Strickland had been with AAW for a while but to the best of my memory, it was more often in a tag team with Keith Lee (funny how that works out with 2022 eyes on it, as Swerve and Keith are the current AEW tag champions at the time of writing). I do believe this is only Darby’s second match in AAW (the prior being a five-ish minute loss to Brody King). Both guys are huge names now and with efforts like this, it’s easy to see how. Darby tries to keep pace with Swerve and is able to do so for a good portion of the contest until Swerve finds that next gear down the stretch and puts Allin down with the Swerve Stomp to a massive (deserved) ovation from the crowd. (****)
Jessicka Havok vs. Palmer Cruise/Steve Manders
*I dislike handicap matches in general. However, unlike certain other writers for this site, I don’t mind intergender wrestling. But the suspension of disbelief gets lost here when you have two dudes the size of Cruise and Manders struggling with Jessicka Havok, who should realistically not being coming in at 100% after taking the Ganso Bomb from Brody King through the chairs the night before. I won’t rate the match due to the Larry Csonka (RIP) Rule of not rating anything shorter than three minutes, but I’m calling this a miss regardless. (X)
OI4K (Dave/Jake Crist) vs. Ace Austin/Brian Cage
*The Brothers Crist come out to ringside to stand next to Havok after said match and call out Brody King and Jimmy Jacobs. They get one of those two men as Jacobs makes his way out, but informs Dave and Jake that neither he nor Brody will be facing them due to having prior obligations, but he did find the perfect opponents for OI4K. As for the opponent, Cage does make for a good size fill-in for Brody King. Ace Austin is a OI4K trainee that hadn’t quite made a name for himself at the time but has since turned into a pretty good wrestler, having just competed for NJPW in Best of the Super Jr’s as well as being Impact Wrestling’s X Division champion for a while.
The match itself was not memorable at all. I will admit to typing this review on a bit of a delay and other than the finish (a Tiger Driver ‘98 by Dave to Austin), I don’t remember anything that happened during the course of the contest. Not the best impression for these four men to leave. (**)
AAW Heritage Title- Trevor Lee © vs. DJ Z
*I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I like DJ Z. I liked him more under his previous identity, but this was him using the Impact Wrestling name for more notoriety with the casual fan. That being said, despite DJZ winning a three way relatively quickly the night before while Trevor was in a war with Ace Romero, I never felt the title was in jeopardy here. For as much as I like DJZ’s run with AAW, this misfortune of his injury just so happened to coincide with Trevor Lee becoming one of the hottest acts on the undercard and there wasn’t anything in the build up to the rematch (despite some good promo work from Z) that made me think that the strap was switching here.
As for the match itself, they have really good chemistry together and that isn’t a surprise given how many of the same promotions they were working for at the time as well as their history in AAW up to this point. I do think this match does a nice job of setting the stage for a return match as it is DJZ’s offensive attack at the end of the contest that gets reversed into the cradle (with a handful of tights) for the finish. The nature of the victory leads me to believe that the story with these two isn’t over quite yet. (***½)
AR Fox/Myron Reed vs. Bandido/Flamita
*This was similar to the main event the night before, but didn’t have the same crowd investment that match did. Bandido and Flamita once again shine here and it is easy to see why they become semi-regulars in AAW after this weekend. AR Fox and Myron Reed (Team Firefox, as they were referred to by Sarah Shockey) get a massive victory with a double pinfall following stereo 450 splashes. This sets up Fox and Reed for a title match against the winners of WRSTLING vs. Besties later in the night, but honestly, I think that Bandido/Flamita was the better pairing to have go forward to a title shot. Firefox had previously unsuccessfully challenged for the tag belts and if I’m being fully honest, I prefer AR Fox as a singles wrestler over being in a tag team. Good match, but I think the wrong team wins. (***½)
Maxwell Jacob Friedman vs. Marko Stunt
*Marko had just made a name for himself at GCW’s Lost in New York (a show I have watched) and this was a way for him to break out back in his Midwest home. MJF has been on a hot streak point up to this point (believe he is the current CZW Heavyweight champion, though I don’t think he ever actually defends that title) and MJF would make himself a known commodity the next night opening the ‘All In’ PPV against Matt Cross (in a losing effort)
Easy story to tell with MJF taking the much smaller Stunt lightly and Marko making him pay for it. It is unfortunate that more people didn’t get to see what Stunt is capable of, because his run in the indie scene before he went to AEW was quite special to watch due to his ability to connect with a crowd (no different here). The finish sees MJF take advantage of the arm work that he did early in match and after Marko escapes a fujiwara armbar, MJF is able to catch Marko in ‘Salt of the Earth’, a wakigatame (Marko on stomach as MJF applies a cross-armbreaker) for the the tapout. Very good work and Marko does really well for himself in his debut with another high end US Independent. (***)
Jimmy Jacobs vs. Sami Callihan
*Ooooh, boy. A lot to unwrap with this one. Let’s get the match first, because the drama that it creates leads to the fallout that has to be discussed. It is honestly a pretty standard Sami brawl for the time frame. PWG used to have what was known as the “Sami Sprint”…by which it would be Callihan vs. Opponent and the match would run anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes of hard hitting back and forth action with little in terms of a cohesive story or selling. Pretty much a ‘can you top this?’ kind of situation. This feels like that in a sense because the match features both Sami and Jimmy going into their well of tricks (the crowd brawling, the spike, the guardrail that gets used in the finish) while maintaining the crowd reaction from the prior night’s tag match. Fittingly, the finish is visually impressive as Callihan hits the ‘Cactus Driver’ (pulling piledriver) on a guardrail bridged across two metal folding chairs to secure the three count. (***½)
The bigger story coming out of this is that this match almost costs AAW the Logan Square Auditorium and almost ends even more disastrously personally for Callihan. At one point, Callihan and Jacobs are brawling over by the stage in the venue (traditionally used for concerts) where Callihan buries Jacobs under a portion of the stage. Callihan then starts winging metal sitting chairs (not the standard folding ones you see in most companies because the four legged dinner table type chairs) at Jacobs. A voice comes over the house mic telling Callihan to stop, causing a loud visceral boo from the crowd. Callihan more or less tells said voice to “fuck himself” and hurls more chairs at Jacobs.
At first, I thought it was Danny Daniels telling Callihan to stop, but it turns out it was actually building management. This becomes important when after the three count goes down, building security surrounds the ring to escort Callihan out of the building as they were pissed at Sami for throwing chairs that the venue used for other events. As I’ve heard the story, Callihan thinks this is part of a storyline and begins to push the security guys until one of them shows Callihan that he is carrying a real pistol and will use it if necessary. Things break down from there with the rest of OI4K getting involved and eventually Sami is escorted to the back (and presumably out of the building).
How much of this is real? How much of this is scripted? How much of this was sensationalized for additional attention? I don’t have the answers for those questions. I do know that cooler heads would prevail and AAW was able to continue running at LSA, however I feel the truth lies somewhere in the middle. It may have been a planned altercation to play off the recklessness of Callihan. It may have been a real reaction from the building to what they perceived as damage to personal property. The old axiom in wrestling is “believe none of what you hear and half of what you see”. Overall, it makes for a great story with a relatively happy ending all considered. But man does it take the wind of the crowd for quite a while. And I will have to check out the follow up AAW shows to see what the fallout truly is.
AAW Tag Titles- Eddie Kingston/Jeff Cobb © vs. Davey Vega/Mat Fitchett
*Trevor Lee’s promo before the match is not one I can do justice. I recommend the show in general, but Trevor’s asshole smarmy heel persona in AAW (Impact Superstar Trevor Lee) is one of the best things going in the company.
Match is good but you’d have to expect that from the four men involved. Kingston and Cobb work surprisingly well as a team and despite being on separate pages for most of the bout, Vega and Fitchett do link up for a few double teams (corner enzuigiri/Kippou kick combo being standout among them) to continue to prove why they are one of the best tag teams in pro wrestling (still are to this day, though not known as the Besties in the World anymore). The finish sees the final stab from Vega to Fitchett as Vega chooses to take Scarlett to the back after she gets knocked off the apron, leaving Fitchett alone to take a one-two combo of the Backfist to the Future from Kingston that staggers him into a Tour of the Islands from Cobb to finish the contest. The ring work is on point, the story is very well told and you can hear the disappointment from the crowd when Vega chooses the hussy over his long-time tag partner. (****)
AAW Heavyweight Title- ACH © vs. Brody King
*Unfortunately, something gets lost during the course of this contest through no direct fault of the participants. As I understand it, Brody King got concussed relatively early in the bout. Credit to ACH for keeping things together as well as he did, but I would be curious to see what they are capable of with both competitors at 100% capacity for the full duration of the match.
As for the match, it does tell a pretty good story. ACH comes in still pretty beat up from the match with Jeff Cobb the night before. However, ACH lets his pride (or perhaps his ego) get the better of him as he once again tries to hang step for step, strike for strike and move for move with a man much bigger than he is. It ends up coming back to bite him at the end as a distraction from Jimmy Jacobs allows Brody King to take a distracted ACH up into the All Seeing Eye (fireman’s carry into a Michinoku Driver) for the three count to crown a new champion. Slightly cheap on the distraction ending but does help get Jimmy some of the heat he lost earlier in the evening back after dropping the contest to Callihan. (***½)
THE FINAL REACTION
Overall, a better show then the day before but not without a couple flaws. Obviously, the big story to come out of this show would be the fact that AAW almost lost Logan Square Auditorium due to the issues in the Callihan-Jacobs match. Thankfully, those would be resolved and to my knowledge, AAW is still running there. But it gets awfully hairy there for a few.
The highs: two four star matches on this show and they come in completely different type contests. Eddie Kingston continues his march of dominance in AAW and cuts one hell of a promo at the end of the show to run down how ACH let him down by losing the title. Marko Stunt has a fun debut and quickly gets the crowd behind him. The lows: that handicap match helped no one and the tag match that followed wasn’t much better. The main event isn’t what it could have been either, but that’s a case of shit happens with the early concussion to King. I will also say that I thought Sarah Shockey did a better job on color commentary yesterday then Marty DeRosa does here.
We’ll call it an 8 overall. As I said, it is a better top to bottom show then Destination Chicago is. And while high on the guest stars (for obvious reasons), you also get a really good look at what the overall AAW roster is all about too. I look forward to coming back to AAW down the road (ironically, upcoming shows are a double shot as well for the ‘Jim Lynam Memorial’ tournament), but I do want to mix in some other odds and ends before I do so.
Best Match/Moment: Shane Strickland vs. Darby Allin
Worst Match/Moment: The Havok handicap. Especially when you consider what Steve Manders would come to mean for AAW, it’s a really inauspicious debut.
Overall Show Score: 8/10
MVP: Eddie Kingston. The key part of a match that tied for best match of the night honors and absolutely shows why he is viewed the way he is when it comes to talking with an amazing promo to close out the show.
So, where does ‘What I Watched’ go from here? I go on vacation in about a week’s time and will be gone for most of August. I spoke to Andrew and what I hope to do is reformat the ‘All In’ report that I did to the new style so you guys have something to tide you over. As for where I go when I get back from vacation…well, the Peacock WWE Network watch-through that I am working on has reached a show that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen (and if I have, it has been quite a while). Therefore, ‘What I Watched’ #16 will be ECW’s Guilty as Charged 1999 to set the tone for a year where all hell breaks loose in two of the three major promotions. Hopefully, you guys enjoy the ‘All In’ redo to hold you over and I’ll be back later in August with Guilty as Charged. I appreciate everyone who has been checking these out and if you’ve missed any, feel free to click on my name at the top of the article to check out my archive. Thanks for reading.
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