WrestleMania 30: Miracle on Bourbon Street
WrestleMania 30 comes to us from New Orleans, Louisiana, the first time WrestleMania had run the Superdome. This was also the first WrestleMania to air on the WWE Network and, much like its namesake in 1985, this WrestleMania could be seen as a make or break for the fledgling network, so WWE arranged what has been seen as an amazing card.
This WrestleMania has been seen as a turning point in the company’s history due to the fallout of three of the matches on this card: Daniel Bryan’s battle for respect and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship that would turn into a battle to get back to the sport he loved, and Undertaker pitting his legendary streak against Brock Lesnar’s path of destruction that would end up being a fight over whether or not the Streak would be the only part of his career and legacy that mattered. Of course, no one knew that when WrestleMania 30 started, so is WrestleMania 30 as big a deal as it seems now? Or is it a great but, largely, inconsequential show that should just be enjoyed as is? Let’s find out!
We start with a lively look back at WrestleMania and WrestleMania Moments. Who would’ve thought this show that looked likely to fail would be celebrating 30 years and become a global phenomenan?
We see a clip of Stephanie and Triple H introducing WrestleMania 30’s stage. Thankfully, it doesn’t look like Mardi Gras threw up on it. Joking aside, they both look very proud, and they should be very proud.
I will not bore you or myself with a recap of the kickoff show other than the matches.
Four Way Elimination Match for the WWE Tag Team Championship: Usos vs Los Matadores (with El Torito), the Real Americans (with Zeb Colter), and RybAxel
Zeb Colter is in the ring, and he’s talking. New Orleans is even more multicultural than New York, but some people seemed to be buying this. Real Americans come out to a mixed reaction. RybAxel get little reaction. Los Matadores and El Torito get a decent reaction, or that’s their music. Usos are out last and they get a good reaction.
I forgot how pitiful the tag team division was in 2014. Thankfully, despite the motley crew of teams, this match was actually pretty good and got the crowd going. There was a badly done spot where one of the Matadores was supposed to headscissors Swagger over the top rope and, for whatever reason, it didn’t work.
First eliminated: Los Matadores.
Second Eliminated: RybAxel…thankfully.
Third Elimination: Real Americans
Winner: Usos retain via pinfall after a double Splash on Cesaro. Colter isn’t happy, maybe someone should tell him that the Usos are American citizens so he’ll cheer up. Swagger berates Cesaro for the loss and Cesaro isn’t happy. Colter calms the situation, but Swagger tries to put Cesaro in an ankle lock but is stopped by Colter who tells him to hug it out with Cesaro. Swagger extends his hand, Cesaro takes it but then takes Swagger for a swing as payback for the ankle lock and leaves, to the joy of the crowd.
Highlights: Axel stopping El Torito from doing a highflying move. The match between the Uso and Real Americans. The implosion of the Real Americans.
Comments: This was a good match, but Ryback was awful.
We start with a promo about WrestleMania with a New Orleans Jazz band. I guess it’s supposed to be on Bourbon Street, and the cutting in of the superstars and Mania moments is pretty cool in the Mardi Gras type celebration.
Hulk Hogan comes out to a HUGE pop, which is still amazing. Hogan is overwhelmed by his reception. We start out with a flub, Hogan MEANT to say ‘Superdome’ and said ‘Silverdome’ instead and things go downhill from there. After a second flub, Hogan realizes his mistake and apologizes and is forgiven. Stone Cold’s music hits and out comes the Rattlesnake to a HUGE pop.
We get a face off between Hogan and Austin and then Austin gets the mic and teases Hogan about the flub. Austin points out usually, he opens a can of Whoop Ass on whoever’s in the ring when he comes out and asks if the audience would like for him to do that to Hogan, and the audience is happy to see it. Austin talks about how he’d sat next to Hogan at the Hall of Fame ceremony and saw all that Hogan had done in WrestleMania’s early years and about protecting legacies. Austin also says that he respects Hogan and what Hogan did (which is why Hogan isn’t getting stunned, presumably). Hogan asks the crowd to give Austin a Hell Yeah.
Austin says that though he’d like to talk all night, tonight is for the WWE Superstars to come out and give everything they’ve got for the fans, just like he and Hogan have done. Rock’s music hits and out comes the Brahma Bull.
Rock is overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of the crowd. He and Austin do their special handshake. Rock also teases Hogan about his flub, which Hogan accepts that he will never live down. Rock cuts a nice promo about how important Austin and Hogan have been to WWE and to himself. He puts over Cena and Bryan and links them to Hogan and Austin. He also links the birth of a lot of young WWE fans to their parents feeling the passion of WrestleMania.
(Commenter: Seriously, guys, hurry up).
I ended up fast forwarding through the end of this. They took twenty minutes for this opener. The three legends had a beer bash and had the crowd in a good mood.
We get a promo for Bryan vs Triple H.
Daniel Bryan vs Triple H (with Stephanie McMahon) – Winner is added to WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match
Stephanie is in the ring, to a LOUD chorus of boos and introduces Triple H, who gets an even louder round of boos. This is his last Skull King entrance and he’s attended by three ladies who will soon become VERY well known to WWE fans: Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, and Alexa Bliss. Once Motorhead hits, the pop gets a little better, but the crowd’s feelings are pretty well known.
The pop for Bryan is HUGE! There are ‘Yes!’ signs EVERYWHERE! Bryan’s all smiles until he locks eyes on The Authority and the snarling on both sides has started.
Triple H sticks out his hand, but Bryan isn’t having it, he draws first blood and goes for a quick pin. It’s going to be one of those matches and things get very physical, very quickly.
Bryan mocks Triple H’s attempt at a handshake and the Game is PISSED. Stephanie manages to get him somewhat calmed down, but the tone for this match is set: This is going to be a fight and Trips can’t afford to take Bryan lightly.
I’m sure you will not be surprised that this was a really great match. Triple H and Bryan really took it to each other and both looked great doing it.
Triple H really played up the arrogant heel who didn’t think he had to take Bryan all that seriously and paid for it. I do find it interesting that Stephanie never interfered in the match, or took cheap shots, which she has done in different situations. It plays into this scenario of the Authority not taking Bryan as seriously as they should have.
Winner: Daniel Bryan by pinfall after a running knee. The Superdome EXPLODES. Stephanie and Triple H can’t believe it. Stephanie is livid and slaps Bryan and Triple H attacks him.
Highlights: Bryan hitting a sunset flip powerbomb on Triple H. Triple H still being too arrogant to take Bryan seriously. The sound in the Superdome when Bryan kicked out of the Pedigree.
Comments: Even though I already knew what would happen, Bryan’s victory was a surprise, which is nice. However, I can’t see how a Triple H victory was viable since Evolution hadn’t been relevant in nearly a decade.
Six Man Tag Team Match: The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, and Seth Rollins) vs The New Age Outlaws and Kane
New Age Outlaws are out first, but due to what just happened, the crowd isn’t having it. The Shield interrupts Road Dogg’s promo and get a good pop. The crowd really wants vengeance for Bryan, apparently. Kane comes out and also gets little reaction.
This match was quick and dirty, which is sad because it really could’ve gone on longer. Dean and Kane start us out, as usual, Dean shows no fear of Kane and tags in Roman. This match quickly degenerates into a free-for-all. The Shield is NOT playing tonight.
Winner: The Shield by pinfall after a Double-Triple Powerbomb.
Highlights: Double-Triple Powerbomb, double Drive-By on the Outlaws.
Comments: I wish this match had gotten more time, but the Hogan/Austin/Rock segment went long, and they didn’t want to take time away from Bryan/Triple H. The crowd is very happy to see the Authority being taken out in some fashion after what happened to Bryan.
We get a backstage segment with a lot of WWF/E Legends playing with toys: Danny Davis, Sgt. Slaughter, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Ricky Steamboat, Ron Simmons, and Ted DiBiase.
Inaugural Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Big Show is out and gets a pretty good pop, as does Sheamus. Everyone else is in the ring. Since there’s so many guys and it’s a battle royal, I won’t give you a play-by-play.
Cesaro eliminates Big Show by lifting up Big Show up and dumping over the top rope. To understand what a big deal (no pun intended) that is, Big Show was 450lbs at that time.
Winner: Cesaro by eliminating Big Show. Big Show is a good sport and shakes Cesaro’s hand. Cesaro is elated and manages to lift the VERY heavy trophy up on his own.
Highlights: Kofi and Cody having a top rope version of a chicken fight. 3MB eliminating Khali. Kofi Kingston staying in the battle royal.
Comments: This was a really good battle royal. The shock of Cesaro winning instead of Big Show was a great moment.
We get a video package for Cena/Bray Wyatt. This whole feud was creepy.
John Cena vs Bray Wyatt (with Erik Rowan and Luke Harper)
The Wyatt entrance is supposed to be modeled on voodoo, except the woman isn’t wearing white like in traditional voodoo ceremonies. Wyatt actually gets a decent pop. Cena gets a mixed reaction, as usual. Cena’s usually all smiles when he comes to the ring, but he’s not tonight, probably because of the creeps in the ring.
This was an okay match, but it wasn’t exciting. Something just wasn’t clicking for me. Cena’s reactions were so over the top, it was a little ridiculous and his reaction to Wyatt’s ‘spider walk’ was just…no. The move isn’t scary, and I hate them pretending that it is.
I will give Wyatt credit for being a great wrestler, but the rest of this was just a ‘bleh’ for me on both guys. If this was supposed to bring out Cena’s inner monster, it either failed or Cena’s inner monster is a really lame one.
Winner: John Cena by pinfall
Highlights: Cena ‘getting mad’. Cena doing a flying crossbody on Harper and Rowan, instead of Wyatt. Cena taking out Harper.
Comments: I forgot how over the Wyatts were in 2014. The crowd was super into Wyatt and company during this match.
After the Hall of Fame spot, we see Daniel Bryan being examined by the trainers after his bad shoulder was attacked by Triple H.
We get a video package about the Streak and Taker vs Lesnar. They’re almost telegraphing what’s about to happen, and I’m kind of grateful for that, even though I KNOW what’s coming, seeing it basically being said is a little comforting.
Disclaimer: I have never seen the following match before. When I heard what happened, I avoided watching it, skipping it or WrestleMania 30 in general, so the following comments be my reaction in real time. There will likely be some swearing and I apologize.
The Streak: Undertaker vs Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman)
Here we go…
Brock is out first, crowd gives him a good pop. He and Paul look a little…nervous. This is bigger than anyone in UFC and they both know it. Cole and JBL are talking Brock’s stats and I really don’t care. Lawler’s legit dislike of Heyman is showing. JBL’s trying to say Heyman’s the greatest manager ever. NOT. EVEN. Bobby Heenan is and will always be the greatest Manager of all time.
Come, on, let’s get this over with, people.
Lights out. We’re getting a montage of the Streak including Heenan’s chilling words ‘You can’t stop him’. There’s a lot of coffins and it’s creepy. Guess the last one is for Lesnar. Gong sounds, He’s coming. The crowd is popping for this.
Taker’s not wearing his robes, he’s wearing his Deadman gear and the last coffin opens. Lesnar looks legit freaked out, like any normal person, especially when the coffin catches on fire.
The Superdome is SILENT until Justin Roberts announces the Undertaker, and then it’s silence again. I’m going to have nightmares about this, I just know it.
Holy Mother of God, Taker looks like an old man. He doesn’t look like Undertaker anymore. I will say that Taker’s gear looks really cool, but holy cow, Taker looks awful and it’s worse when he takes the hat off and he’s still got that godawful haircut.
We’ve got a face off. They both know what’s ahead, they’ve had wars before and they’re going to have one now. Slugfest starting off, but Lesnar’s breaking out the wrestling moves, and Taker’s sent outside but lands on his feet. Lesnar breaking out the UFC stuff. Heyman looks nervous. The ref isn’t doing a whole lot of officiating. Taker’s moving slower than he did last year.
They’re outside and Taker’s in control. The quiet of everyone other than Taker and Lesnar in this match is wigging me out, it’s like hearing people talk in the hospital room of someone who’s very sick or dying. Taker picks Lesnar up for Snake Eyes and Lesnar visibly helps him. Chokeslam early but Lesnar counters, goes for the F-5 but Taker counters that.
Oh, that that looked painful. That bad knee of his is being targeted. This is getting ugly. JBL using car racing terms is making me smile. They keep saying this could be the end, they’re warning the people at home what’s about to happen. Vince KNEW how badly people were going to take this.
Okay, something’s wrong. Taker’s eyes are glazed over and his movements are odd. Lesnar’s pulling his stomps a little because he’s missed Taker’s leg a couple of times. Something is wrong with Taker, like…his bell got rung or something. Oh, I don’t like how Taker’s looking right now.
This looks really sick, Taker’s lying there. I’m sure Heyman’s laughing to sell the story, but this looks awful, Taker’s not fighting back. I wish this crowd would make some noise. Taker hits a DDT that is not the best one I’ve ever seen him hit. I really wish this match was over, Taker’s starting to scare me and not in the way I’m comfortable with. He’s showing life, thankfully, but I still think something’s wrong.
Chokeslam! Only a two-count. Taker goes for the tombstone but Lesnar counters and hits the F-5, Taker kicks out. JBL rooting for Lesnar irritates me, but the crowd is rooting for Taker. Taker is trying to sit up, but I think he just suckered Lesnar in and he’s got him in Hell’s Gate. Damn! Lesnar breaks the hold.
Okay, now I’m really worried about Taker, but he goes for Hell’s Gate again. Lesnar breaks the hold by the deadlift powerbomb. Heyman’s about to have a stroke. Taker goes to sit up but it’s not happening. Lesnar gets Taker in that damn arm break thing of his but Taker’s not tapping and turns it around on Lesnar, just like Triple H did last year.
Both guys are sucking wind like crazy. Taker looks like he can’t believe he knocked Lesnar down. Old School is countered into the second F-5. Heyman throws a damn tantrum over Taker kicking out. Lesnar hits a horrible German suplex.
Taker hits what I think was supposed to be a Last Ride, but he didn’t get it all and he missed the cover. God, Taker looks like he doesn’t know what he’s doing, he was struggling to get Lesnar into a tombstone position.
Okay, he sat up, that’s…that’s good, right? It looks like the lights are coming back on. Lesnar hits another F-5 for three. Crap, even KNOWING that how this match would end doesn’t make it easier, I’m STILL crying.
Winner: Brock Lesnar by pinfall. The Streak is over. The crowd pops but then reality sinks in. There are a lot of stunned and unhappy faces in the crowd. They didn’t even play Lesnar’s music at first. It’s like…that wasn’t the finish that was planned. The crowd’s starting to boo, LOUDLY. Afterwards, Taker gets to his feet and the crowd and ringside crew give him a standing ovation and he walks to the back.
Comment: I honestly never want to see this match again, once is more than enough. I might feel differently next year, but right now, I don’t care if I ever see this match again.
We get a promo for WrestleMania 31.
The commentators give props to Undertaker. It really seems like this was meant to be Taker’s last match.
Vickie Guerrero Invitational Match for the WWE Divas Championship: AJ Lee vs Aksana vs Alicia Fox vs Brie Bella vs Cameron vs Emma vs Eva Marie vs Layla vs Naomi vs Natalya vs Nikki Bella vs Rosa Mendes vs Summer Rae vs Tamina Snuka
All the Divas are in the ring for this match, except for AJ, who gets little reaction, which isn’t surprising given what just happened. Vickie is screeching and it’s getting on my nerves and apparently the Divas aren’t thrilled either.
AJ and Tamina are shoved into the middle and the rest gang up on them. Again, I wish they’d done the Divas/Women’s Revolution sooner, there’s a lot of talented women in this match who really should get more respect than they are given by fans.
Winner: AJ by submission.
Highlights: Stereo snap suplexes. Bellas’ stereo suicide dives. Bellas turning on each other.
Comments: Given what was going to happen tomorrow on RAW, why wasn’t Paige brought in as a surprise entrant?
Mean Gene is doing an interview with Hogan backstage when Piper and Orndorff show up. Piper doesn’t seem to be in the mood to fight…yet. They start rehashing their match at the first WrestleMania and it looks like a fight’s going to break out, especially when T starts running his mouth. Pat Patterson (who refereed that match) reminds them that that match was thirty years ago and Hogan offers to bury the hatchet (not in Piper and Orndorff’s heads, I presume). Everyone shakes hands, and all is good with the world.
There’s a lot of Hall of Famers at ringside, enjoying the show. Bret’s there and he’s a bundle of laughs, as always. The crowd is still dead from the Taker match.
Triple Threat Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Randy Orton vs Batista vs Daniel Bryan
Orton is being sung to the ring and his pop is minimal. They’re going to have an uphill battle to get this crowd engaged again. Batista gets a round of boos. And the crowd isn’t in a good mood.
Bryan gets a pop, but even he isn’t getting much of one, surprisingly. The ‘Yes’ chant starts, but it’s not as loud as earlier. Even when they do the in-ring intros, Bryan’s not getting a big pop. Bryan draws first blood, Batista goes for a powerbomb, but Bryan counters with a really bad headscissor takedown. Orton targets Bryan’s bad shoulder and Bryan goes outside and we get a match between Orton and Batista.
Triple H and Stephanie show up with Scott Armstrong to make sure that Bryan doesn’t win, but Bryan isn’t going to be robbed of his dream by a bunch of corporate suits or their stooge ref. He takes out Armstrong and Stephanie, and then takes out Triple H with the Game’s own sledgehammer.
Batista and Orton try to gang up on Bryan so they can have the 1-1 they were supposed to have, but Bryan refuses to go away, even shoving away doctors and getting off a stretcher after a Batista Bomb/RKO combination through the Spanish annouce table.
After taking out Orton, Bryan locks the Yes!Lock on Batista and Batista taps. We have a NEW champion and it’s a Mick Foley moment. The guy everyone said couldn’t be champion is the champion. The crowd LOSES it.
This match was also slow moving, or it felt that way. Like Miz/Cena waiting for Rock, it felt like everyone was treading water for the Triple H and Stephanie run in. While it was nice story progression to see them take Bryan more seriously, it hurt the match, in my opinion because things didn’t pick up until they came out.
Winner: Daniel Bryan by submission on Batista. The crowd ERUPTS, their hero is the champion! Bryan celebrates with his sister and niece and then goes to see Connor Michalek, the brave little boy who had been such a fan of his, even while dying of pediatric cancer, and thanks him for his support. Sadly, little Connor would die a few weeks later of his disease.
Highlights: Bryan hitting ‘Yes’ kicks to Orton and Batista. Bryan taking out Scott Armstrong. Bryan using the sledgehammer on Triple H. Batista Bomb into an RKO. The crowd reaction to Bryan’s win
Comments: This match wasn’t as good as Bryan vs Triple H. It was good, but it was too slow a start.
So, is WrestleMania 30 as big a deal in reality as it is in retrospect? Well, yes and no. No, it’s not a big deal because of the fallout of the big matches because no one knew what that fallout was going to look like, but it IS a big deal because of what it represents for WWE and the fans: That Vince McMahon’s biggest gamble is still going strong. The show that everyone feared or hoped would fail is not only still successful thirty years later, but growing and improving, seeking new horizons and still bringing in new fans.
Snoozers: There were several, but Cena/Wyatt was the biggest one.
Match of the Night: Triple H vs Daniel Bryan, that was amazing.
Hall of Fame: Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, The Ultimate Warrior, Lita, Paul Bearer, Carlos Colon, Sr, Scott Hall, and Mr. T. Sadly, this would be the last WrestleMania appearance for The Ultimate Warrior. He would die of a sudden heart attack two days later.
Final Thoughts: Aside from the Taker match, I really enjoyed this show overall. Even knowing the outcome, the Bryan matches were done so well, I was still surprised that he won.
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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