I’ll admit, that I didn’t watch TNA in the beginning. I was living on my own and was struggling to pay rent and utilities and didn’t have cable. Plus, paying for a PPV every week was not something my parents would’ve been into, so I missed the first few years of TNA until it was available on free TV and enjoyed it for the most part, though I haven’t watched in a long time. So, when the Global Wrestling Network came out, I was quite excited to get a look at TNA’s early years.
I will preface this with a warning: I have never seen these shows before, so this article is my real-time reactions to what’s going on. Things in parenthesis is my color commentary.
The opening mimics and calls back the opening of the old wrestling shows of the territories. It’s got the old statue of two men wrestling and clips of the old NWA territories (I think). This promotion actually starts in the summer of 2002, over a year after the fall of WCW and ECW, so I’m assuming that none of these clips are of promotions owned by WWE. The TNA logo literally explodes out of this nostalgia, signaling that ‘Yes, this is the NWA, but we’re updating it and are more edgy’.
This actually looks a little like an opening to an 80s WCW show, to be honest, but the crowd seems hot, so let’s do this. Don West is introduced, he’s wearing an ugly shirt that could be Hawaiian and a pseudo-mullet from the 80s. He introduces Ed Ferrara, the person who took part in the mocking of JR back during the Monday Night Wars. Unsurprisingly, Ed, who is wearing dreadlocks for some reason, is not nearly as popular as Don West, but he gets crowd going. He says he’s all about T-n-A, and not just Total Nonstop Action (ew). Ed introduces Mike Tenay as ‘The Professor of Vanilla’.
Tenay, the least sleazy looking one of the bunch, thanks us for joining the show and says that tonight’s show revolves around history, respecting it and making it. They brag about all the NWA legends being there and say that there will be a new NWA World Heavyweight Champion crowned that night. We get the rules for the Gauntlet for the Gold, which is basically the Royal Rumble until we get down to the final two, which will be fought as a straight fall match.
Jeremy Borash, with overly-frosted hair, introduces the legends that are in attendance: Harley Race, Dory Funk Jr, Jackie Fargo (Memphis legend, trained Jerry Lawler), ‘Bullet’ Bob Armstrong (Road Dogg’s father), Corsica Joe and Sarah Lee (no idea who they are), Bill Berhens (VP of the NWA), Ricky Steamboat, who is carrying the NWA Heavyweight Championship. The crowd loves this and is going nuts.
I really don’t like Ed Ferrara, I hope he doesn’t stay long because he is getting on my last nerve with his commentary.
Steamboat thanks everyone for coming, reminds them of his feud with Ric Flair, which is one of the best ever and says that winning the NWA World Heavyweight Championship belt meant more to him than any other victory in his career.
(Okay, Tenay’s starting to annoy me too.)
Steamboat compares being NWA World Heavyweight Champion to the World Series and Wimbledon. He says Gauntlet for the Gold will consist of twenty guys, which I’m guessing is basically the TNA locker room, but giving a number sounds better. Steamboat also says that he will be the special guest referee for the final part of the Gauntlet for the Gold.
Scratch that, the entire commentary team annoys me.
We are interrupted by Jeff Jarrett, who is the actual co-owner of this circus. Jarrett makes it clear that he thinks the whole Gauntlet thing is stupid, pointing out that Steamboat didn’t win the belt in a Battle Royal. He won by beating Ric Flair one on one (should I point out that Ric Flair won the WWE Championship in a Royal Rumble?). He then proceeds to insult the legends while making the point that none of them won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in a battle royal. He then starts having words with Jackie Fargo, who tells him to kiss his ass. Fargo’s a little tough to understand but he’s chewing Jarrett out.
To be honest, I hope Jarrett beats some of these guys up, just to get them out of the ring.
Fargo then tells Jarrett that he (Jarrett) will the first entry into the Gauntlet for the Gold. Which means that Jarrett will have to outlast eighteen other men and win the one-on-one finish to be NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Jarrett accepts and predicts that he’ll win, which I’m pretty sure is the plan here. Some music hits and out comes Ken Shamrock, former WWF Intercontinental Champion. I’m not sure what’s going on with Shamrock’s facial hair, but it looks really silly.
Shamrock agrees with Jarrett about the Gauntlet for the Gold, but indicates that he’s #20 in this match, which means Jarrett’s got to survive the Gauntlet match, including a fresh Ken Shamrock.
And they gripe about WWE being predictable, I’ve never seen this show before and I’m already sure Jarret’s winning.
Music hits again and it’s Scott Hall coming from the crowd (were they that strapped for talent?). Scott Hall also agrees that the Gauntlet match stinks. Hall doesn’t remember how many people are in this match, but he tells them to focus on beating one man: Scott Hall.
How much longer is this segment going to take?
Jarrett’s had about enough of this nonsense and tells everyone, Shamrock, Hall, and the Legends to stick it before warning Fargo that he’s going to regret this day as long as he lives before leaving and, thankfully, ending this segment.
We go backstage and a lady who says her name is Goldilocks who says the action is backstage and she’s got the action right here before introducing The Psycho Dwarf who says that the first match is going to be midgets (his words, not mine) because midgets are the true stars of the show. He cuts a very crude promo and Goldilocks looks like she’s torn between being disturbed and laughing, but she seems to be trying to take this seriously. The promo is interrupted by Jarrett throwing a tantrum.
We come back to scantily clad women dancing in cages, which I suspect Russo and/or Ferrara had something to do with, and our first match: A six-man tag team match.
X-Division Match: AJ Styles, Low Ki, and Jerry Lynn vs The Flying Elvises (Sonny Siaki, Jorge Estrada, and Jimmy Yang).
Styles, Low Ki, and Lynn come out to huge pops and we’re told that this is an X-Division match and are told what that means: Extreme wrestling and there isn’t a specific weight class, despite all six guys qualifying as cruiserweights. We cut to the Legends and they’re laughing and/or confused by the Elvises.
The teams exchange words before the Elvises get the jump on Styles and company.
No matter what Tenay says X-Division means, this is a cruiserweight match and is very hard to follow. However, all six guys are amazing competitors and this match is fun to watch. I’m not really sold on Low Ki, for some reason, but the rest of the competitors are great. This match quickly devolves into chaos.
(can someone turn off Ferrara’s mic, please?)
Results: The Flying Elvises by pinfall after Yang pins Styles.
Highlights: A.J Styles is amazing to watch, even at the start of his career.
Comments: I really enjoyed this.
Midget Match (their words): Teo vs Hollywood.
The competitors get okay pops but this one is hard to follow, though there are midget jokes aplenty from the commentators. This match is sloppy in a lot of places, but these guys have plenty of fight. Scott Armstrong has his hands full with these two.
(Seriously, can we shut up Ed Ferrara? Don West is annoying enough, but Ferrara is unbearable).
Result: Teo by pinfall after a twisting Swanton.
We’re getting an in-ring segment with Don and Ferrara, which means the sound’s going off because I’ve had just about enough of Ferrara and the show’s not half over yet.
We’re being introduced to the ladies who will be wrestling to be crowned Miss TNA, which seems to be a rough prototype for the Knockouts Division, though if Russo is involved, most of these women weren’t picked for their wrestling skills. To no one’s surprise, the Miss TNA match is a lingerie match, rather than an actual wrestling contest. However, we do see a very young Mickie James working as Alexis Laree. Francine (ECW’s Queen of Extreme) has had enough of West, Ferrara, and this whole set up and says that none of the women there deserve to be in the ring because they don’t compare to her. Never mind that Francine was never known for her wrestling prowess. The ladies take exception to Francine’s mouth and her claims of superiority over them.
Elektra (another ECW alum) grabs the mic and calls out Francine, points out that TNA doesn’t have ‘Extreme’ in the title and asks if Francine is ashamed because she singlehandedly bankrupted another company (ECW). Francine take exception to this, and I don’t blame her and the fight’s on. Francine rips Elektra’s top off and leaves, vowing to do the same to the other women.
West and Ferrara are having too much fun holding Elektra back, which makes this even creepier.
Backstage, Goldilocks is interviewing some dude called Mortimer Plumtree. Plumtree says his life has been full of torment which lead him to power. Apparently, he’s the manager of a tag team consisting of guys who used to torment him. Goldilocks looks really wigged out and I’m with her, this guy is creepy. He says his team does what he wants when he wants and don’t speak unless he allows them to, which probably isn’t often since he talks enough for three people. His team is: The Johnsons.
The Johnsons (with Mortimer Plumtree) vs Psychosis and Outlaw James Storm.
The Johnsons are two guys that are covered from head to foot in beige, including their masks. One of the commentators says that people were dissing the Johnsons without seeing what they can do first and that we should wait until after the match is over to diss them. (Fair enough)
Psychosis (without his mask) comes out with James Storm, who has, apparently, had the same gimmick since 2002.
The Johnsons aren’t great, but Psychosis and Storm are pretty good as a team.
Alicia (Ryan Shamrock for WWE fans, Symphony for WCW Fans) comes out and seems to be assessing the situation.
Back to the ring, Plumtree is berating his team to do better, but that might be a tall order.
(is Alicia going to do anything or is she just going to stand there?)
This match is bleh to say the least. Storm and Psychosis are okay, but the Johnsons need some work.
Results: The Johnsons by pinfall. The crowd isn’t having it. Alicia has a conversation with the ref and is paid some money by him. Okay.
Highlights: It ended.
Comments: Doing some research, I found that The Johnsons, aka The Shane Twins, aka Gymini, didn’t last long in TNA and were released after a few shows and I can see why.
Backstage, Goldilocks is catcalled by two hillbilly looking guys who are really gross. One of them looks familiar, but I’m not placing him.
(Some research has revealed that the guy doing most of the talking is a young Trevor Murdoch, who would be a WWE Tag champion during the first Brand Split with the late Lance Cade)
Goldilocks is trying to leave to film something, but the hillbillies seem to know what she’s going to film and come with her. In the locker room, we find a young lady dressed like an adult film version of Daisy Duke. According to Trevor, this lovely lady is his girlfriend and/or a cousin (oh dear). The Duke wannabes try to crack open some beers but a backstage person tells them that it’s not allowed because TNA doesn’t want intoxicated wrestlers in the ring.
(I wonder if that has something to do with a story Kevin Nash told about WCW’s party culture where the beer was on ice when they got to the arena)
Their lady…friend (according to Wikipedia, her name is Fluff Dupp) comments that there are a lot of sissies in TNA. Trevor and the other guy scoff at the idea of getting drunk on beer.
Goldilocks has had enough and excuses herself.
eremy Borash introduces Hervey Sadler (1993 Busch Series Rookie of the Year) and Sterling Marlin (the then points leader for the Winston Cup)
What? They are in Tennessee.
Tenay just said Marlin is the NWA World Heavyweight Champion of NASCAR. Yeah…no.
Sadler and Marlin get a good pop, but why they’re here is a mystery to me. Borash does an interview and the crowd is being very raucous.
Seriously, what are they doing here?
We’re saved from more of this by K-Krush (R-Truth, who had just been released by WWE, where he’d been wrestling as K-Kwik). Krush says he’s sick of racecar driving, which doesn’t go well with the crowd, and says that this is professional wrestling. He also said racecar drivers aren’t athletes. Krush says that he is an athlete, as are his ‘kind’ (I’m not sure if he means wrestlers or African Americans) and that Marlin’s ‘kind’ (NASCAR drivers or white people) drive a car around in a circle.
Never mind, this promo gets racial very quickly and Sadler steps in and asks how Krush expects anyone to take him seriously considering out he’s dressed. Things get nasty quickly as Krush gets a hold of Sadler, but Sadler is saved by Brian Christopher (Grandmaster Sexay of Too Cool), who starts fighting Krush.
Gotta say, the image of three white guys teaming up against one black guy while a mostly white crowd cheers them on is very disturbing.
Brian Christopher cuts a promo on Krush and challenges him to a match Krush’s ‘kind’ vs Christopher and the NASCAR guys.
Krush accepts the challenge and is dragged from the ringside area by some ‘security guards’.
We go backstage to find Jarrett assaulting Jackie Fargo (don’t think that’s a wise move Jeff) while the refs try to separate them. Jarrett says he wants Fargo to remember this night.
Back to the ring, it’s time for our next match, and it’s a tag team match!
Christian York and Joey Matthews (Joey Mercury) vs The Dupps (with Fluff)
York and Matthews are amazingly over! The Dupps are our hillbilly friends from earlier and aren’t quite as over, well Fluff might be.
Fluff scolds York and Matthews letting the Dupps get the jump on them, but York and Matthews quickly rally.
York and Matthews are great and Trevor is too, but Bo Dupp is a little too goofy, he does a bunny hop before going into a standing splash.
Results: The Dupps win it by pinfall after Fluff causes York to losing his balance that some how went unnoticed by Scott Armstrong, who was on the same side of the ring chastising Matthews and Trevor.
Comment: Oh heavens, what was that?
In what I’m assuming is a nod to the fact that TNA is in Nashville, Tennessee, aka Music City, USA, they do a tribute to the then CMA Male Vocalist of the Year, Toby Keith (who, at one point, tried to be a part owner of TNA) and his hit song ‘How Do Ya Like Me Now?’.
Seriously, what the actual f**k?.
Oh, there’s an actual point to the Toby Keith tribute, he’s going to sing before the Gauntlet for the Gold, but instead of the National Anthem, he’s singing ‘Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue’.
Jarrett interrupts the proceedings and Keith is pissed. Jarrett tells Keith to take his ‘Angry American’ ass out and says it’s time for the Main Event.
Gauntlet for the Gold. Winner becomes the new NWA World Heavyweight Champion.
Okay, this is going to be a little tough to follow. I can tell you that #2 is Buff Bagwell, who is quickly eliminated.
One difference between the Royal Rumble and the Gauntlet for the Gold is that we get a running clock of the full ninety seconds between competitors. Also, once someone is eliminated, the clock resets, no one gets a chance to catch their breath.
Why are there commercial breaks in a PPV?
Okay, Toby Keith is apparently an entrant in this thing and can do a basic suplex.
HOLD THE PHONE! Your humble reviewer has to eat her words. I’ve been thinking that this whole Gauntlet for the Gold was going to lead up to Jarrett being the new NWA World Heavyweight Champion, but Jarrett just got eliminated by Scott Hall and Toby Keith.
Okay, eliminating Jarrett seemed to be Keith’s objective and he’s out, but he’s following Jarrett up the ramp.
I don’t know why, but Gangrel has jumped in the ring, apparently, he’s an entrant, or Toby Keith was borrowing his number.
There’s a lot of former WCW and ECW guys in this match.
Okay, we are down to Malice and Ken Shamrock. Steamboat’s in the ring, let’s do this!
NWA World Heavyweight Championship Match: Ken Shamrock vs Malice. Special Referee: Ricky Steamboat
This match was pretty rough. Malice has a lot of power, but not a lot of finesse. Shamrock’s history in MMA speaks for itself, plus both guys are pretty tired from the Gauntlet match, especially Malice.
There seems to be a lot focus on whether or not Malice taps out. Apparently, the announcers can’t tell the difference between a slap on the mat from pain and tapping out. Thankfully, Steamboat can, or this match would’ve been over already. Shamrock and Steamboat are having some words over Shamrock not wanting to break the ankle lock.
Results: Ken Shamrock by pinfall, unbelievably. Shamrock enters an exclusive club and unlike Shane Douglas, Shamrock doesn’t throw down the belt. Shamrock is a World Champion, something he never accomplished in WWF/E. The legends come out to congratulate Shamrock. Backstage, Jarrett, Fargo, and Toby Keith are still fighting. Jarrett seems to think Fargo sent Keith out there to screw him out of the title, and that’s probably a safe bet.
Comments: That was interesting. Lot of filler guys, not enough guys that really seemed to have a chance of being champion. The swerve with Jarrett was interesting.
Jarrett comes out and is still bitching about the Gauntlet for the Gold and actually attacks a couple of the sturdier looking legends, which brings out Fargo, Toby Keith, and some security guards. There’s a lot of yelling and threatening, and Fargo seems to think that Toby Keith being a good singer means anything in the wrestling business. Fargo also promises that Jarrett will get his ass whipped next week. Jarrett doesn’t want to wait until next week. Apparently, the match is going to be Jeff Jarrett vs Scott Hall. Hall run out from the back and the first TNA episode ends with Jarrett and Hall duking it while the security guards half-heartedly try to stop them.
So, how was the first episode of TNA? Like most first episodes of anything, it was very awkward. There was a lot of talking, I think the first segment took at least twenty minutes to get through before we got to an actual match.
The TNA locker room at this time seemed very lackluster. It seemed to consist of a lot of guys that were leftover from the collapse of WCW and ECW and either weren’t signed by WWE or were released after the Invasion angle ended towards the end of 2001. There is some young talent, but a lot of this roster seems to be made up of leftovers, which really isn’t surprising for what is basically a start-up/expansion wrestling promotion. However, there were also a lot of young guys that would become mainstays of the roster: Styles, Storm, and Harris.
The announce team was awful. Mike Tenay is a great source of wrestling information, but he is not a good lead announcer, at least not right now. He really needs a Jim Ross or Tony Schiavone type person to do the actual play-by-play. Don West and Ed Ferrara were both extremely cringe-worthy, though West wasn’t nearly as bad as Ferrara, but some research has assured me that Ferrara won’t be there much longer.
The Gauntlet for the Gold was an interesting match and had a pretty good swerve. I was convinced that Jarrett was going to win, but I wasn’t upset by Shamrock’s win.
The inclusion of NASCAR guys and Toby Keith was pointless, in my opinion, and the segment with the NASCAR guys and Brian Christopher ganging up on K-Krush was disturbing.
One thing I did notice was that, unless Jarrett was on camera, there was almost no mention of the Gauntlet for the Gold, which seems a little surprising considering that they spent the first twenty minutes of the show hyping it.
I will say that, for all the issues and eye-rolling, face-palming, moments, TNA showed a lot of promise. Jarrett showed that he could be a top guy to build a company around, something that really wasn’t evident in WCW. It looks like the Jarretts and company realize what they need to do to not only bring the NWA back into the mainstream, but make it a viable competition for WWE.
Stinkers: Oh, so many. I would have to say The Johnsons vs Storm and Psychosis just for sheer ‘WTF’.
Match of the Night: Gauntlet for the Gold was a surprisingly good match, even with a less than stellar roster.
Final Thoughts: This episode was very rough around the edges, but it showed promise and I did enjoy parts of it.
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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