Okay, so I’ve heard some buzz about a certain midwest indie that cannot seem to break into the ROH/PWG/Chikara/Gabe category of “major indies.”
Over the course of a few months, I’ve casually gathered some information about this company. The official roster page includes talent such as Colt Cabana, Dick Justice, Eddie Kingston, Marion Fontaine, Johnny Gargano, Gregory Iron, Jimmy Jacobs, Heidi Lovelace, Louis Lyndon, Ethan Page, Chris Sabin, & Alex Shelley. On the surface, the company seems to be very into putting on intergender matches, and you get the sense their fondness for doing ECW-like things is less ironic than is desirable. This company’s name is Absolute Int…oh, wait, it’s AAW…wait…it’s definitely called…Hold on, folks. I will get back to you with the name of the company after this brief commercial break.
Wow, I’ve got breaking news. Apparently, I’ve been very confused for years. The paragraph above allegedly fits the descriptions for two *different* companies! They’re called AAW and AIW. I’ve called around to a few friends, and it seems like they didn’t know they were two different companies either! This just won’t do. I need to perform an all-out investigation into the matter.
Goal: To determine, once and for all, if AAW and AIW are truly two different companies.
Method: Watch an (alleged!) AIW show and an (alleged!) AAW show. I’ll switch back and forth between the two every hour. After each hour, I’ll share my thoughts with you, the concerned citizens.
“AIW – Gauntlet for the Gold 2015”
AIW’s show started with a series of backstage promos. Most of the promos came from guys competing in the main event (a Royal Rumble match) that will determine the Absolute Championship number one contender. In a nice touch, they had the wrestlers draw their numbers for the Gauntlet like they used to do for the Royal Rumble. If you’re going to rip off the WWE, you might as well go all the way. All of these promos legitimately took up seventeen minutes combined. The standouts were Rickey Shane Page and Dick Justice.
Our first match was a scramble match between “Mr. Entertainment” Tyson Dux (literally has never been entertaining), Nikki Storm (Scottish), “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams (Hot Sauce!), Flip Kendrick (Flip Cassanova), Tyler Thomas (?), and Eric Ryan (once got beat up by Kevin Steen in Evolve). It was an indie scramble match. There were some dives, no one really got a chance to stand out, and the result (Flip winning after botching a Doomsday Poison ‘Rana on Ryan) felt unimportant. The highlight was when the Thomas kid went to do an enzuigiri. He slapped his thigh but forgot to make the kicking motion. Live and learn! (**1/4).
This match was followed up Alexia Nicole vs. Jasmin. Nicole comes out to a song called, “Wiggle.” Jasmin comes out to Vanessa Carlton’s classic, “A Thousand Miles.” Jasmin becomes the instant favorite in my eyes, and I can only assume her musical tastes got her signed by WWE. Much like the opener, the highlight ended up being a botch (an attempted swinging DDT). This match felt like the Divas matches on WWE PPVs. They worked hard, tried a lot of stuff (most of which looked poor or was outright botched), and no one cared for 95% of it. Alexia eventually won to send Jasmin to the WWE. The crime being that I have to hear that “Wiggle” song again. (*)
The last match of hour one was BJ Whitmer and Jimmy Jacobs defending the AIW tag titles against Cheech and Colin Delaney. Much like Jasmin, this would be Jacobs’ last AIW match before reporting to the WWE. Cheech and Colin seem to have potential as a team; Colin sells well, and Cheech makes good comebacks. Despite fans not really caring about this, they forced the standard US indie style on the match (it would have probably been more enjoyable if they did a more southern style). Instead, the closing sequence just made it feel derivative (a criticism that is itself derivative) of “major” indies. It was very hard to care about this one. (**) Jacobs did a goodbye speech after the match. “It was a long a sixteen years.”
That takes care of the first hour and change from AIW’s Gauntlet for the Gold!
“AAW – Art of War 2015”
The show starts with the commentators (Phil Colvin & Derek St. Holmes) next to the crowd, running down the card.
The first match is an open challenge for the AAW Tag Team Championship. Dan Lawrence and Markus Crane defended their belts against…The Irish Airborne. Crane kind of dresses and looks like a Crist brother now (overweight, pale, terrible tattoos, probably a juggalo, etc.). Dave Crist is the only one of these four that has ever impressed me in the slightest, but it’s never been in a tag match with his brother. He’s capable of crazy flips and movez, and he occasionally got to display that here. IA won the unimpressive match that never really grabbed me. When “indie” is used as an insult, this is the kind of match you think of.
Matt Cage cut a passionate promo. He openly admitted to overlooking his match with Silas Young tonight because his only concern is the AAW Championship (which he believes he’s more than earned a shot at). I really dug this promo. Cage has been a standout on the “lower rung” indies for a few years, and he should be a regular in places like ROH, Evolve, and/or PWG by now. This is the type of promo that should instantly make someone interested in Cage if the viewer had never seen him before. In a fun note, I went to DM Cage a compliment about this promo, but I then learned he unfollowed me! I take it all back!
Nevaeh vs. Allysin Kay was the next match. I’m not too familiar with either’s work. Kay won what felt like an extended squash. No one cared about it. It was not mechanically poor at least though. (*)
Jimmy Jacobs and Ethan Page cut a “bickering couple” promo. They’re having a singles match. (Based on the promo, I assumed they were partners that did not get along. Is that true?) Josh Alexander tried to ease the tension and get Page back on track.
Matt Cage took on the returning Silas Young. Young is coming off a knee injury. The biggest thing this match had going for it was that it actually came across as significant unlike the first two matches on the show. Both men have a presence. There was a physicality to it that helped to keep me compelled. The match could have tightened up its in-ring story, but I dug the broader story of Silas making his return by defeating the unfocused Cage. Thumbs up! (***). Silas cut a heel promo after the match to put the brakes on his babyface return.
We saw The Hooligans and their manager cutting a promo in a graveyard about their TLC match.
The first hour (and change!) concluded with a five-way match. Davey Vega (been good for years) vs. Mat Fitchett (seemingly always injured) vs. Tony Kozina (lol, I guess Davey didn’t want to drive himself) vs. Marion Fontaine (I should have watched Olde Wrestling. Seems like a good laugh.) vs. Christian Faith (a big fella) for Faith’s AAW Heritage Championship. Faith’s manager, Gregory Iron, negotiated to get their goon, Benjamin Boone into the match. Okay, I know this whole investigation may seem cynical, but Kozina is literally working a gimmick where he trips all the time. It is the best thing in this match for sure. Book him on all the shows. Fitchett eliminated several wrestlers with a headscissors driver before being the last person eliminated in the match by Faith. Everyone worked hard here, but there seemed to be at least two too many people in it. The eliminations could have used some more breathing room for sure to make Fitchett’s journey in the match have more meaning. A good idea of a match though. (**1/2)
Thoughts After Hour #1
It is genuinely amazing to see how similar these “different” companies are after an hour. Each show contained a women’s singles match that did not get over with the crowd, an uninspired tag team title match, and a six-way match that was not exactly impressive. The bigger problem to me than the fact that the shows started so similarly is that few of those matches seem like remotely good ideas on paper. By rule, a six-way match is almost guaranteed to be rushed (especially in the spot that each of them were in.) Both tag title matches looked average (at best) on paper, but the execution was nowhere close to what it needed to be to even meet those low expectations. Finally, neither women’s match came across like the participants are booked to be important. Considering that’s a major weakness of the WWE’s, I would think any indie would want to make sure they did a better job of that.
Now, for some good news. Each show had one really strong element that the other did not have. AIW shows immediately stand out for starting each one with a montage of promos related to the show. Some of the promos were strong, some were weak, and most were just average. However, just the concept alone gives AIW a distinct feel that will hopefully be more pervasive later in the show. AAW had something similar with the presentation of the Cage/Young match. There is so much wrestling going on in the world, and it’s hard to make any match seem important. Between Cage’s pre-match promo (that somehow elevated the match his character did not care about!) and Silas’ story of returning to AAW, the company made this seem significant in a way that no other match so far in this investigation has done. Big thumbs up for that.
Overall, the investigation has certainly raised some doubts so far about whether or not these two companies are actually different. They seem very similar after just an hour with limited evidence to suggest otherwise. We still have a few more hours of tape to examine. What will the results be? Tune in to the next episode of, “The Devil’s #1 Wrestling Detective Agency” to find out!