I had the pleasure of attending AAW HOMECOMING at the Berwyn Eagles Club in Berwyn, IL this Friday night. The show was legitimately sold out in advance, including standing room only, with no additional walk-up tickets left on the night of the show.
1. Jake Crist & Dave Crist [OI4K] defeated Chuck Taylor & Trent [Best Friends] in 12:22 with the Killing Spree, to advance to the finals of the AAW Tag Team Championship tournament. This was a really fun opening match that set the tone for the rest of the night, with a hot crowd going back and forth between “this is awesome” and “this is Berwyn” chants. OI4K was getting more of a babyface reaction at the start of the show, but all four guys (five with the “Iron Manager” JT Davidson at ringside) worked hard and put on a tremendous bout to turn the cheers into boos.
2. Abyss def. Homicide in 7:47. A fairly simple, straight-forward brawl with lots of chairs, teases with with a spike, and a bag of thumbtacks. More interference from JT Davidson. Not a bad match, but we’ve seen more brutal spots from both guys within this program, and they didn’t really have the time to take it to the next level.
3. Drew Galloway def. DJ Zema Ion in 11:06. Both these guys are doing some of the best work of their respective careers right now, and it’s almost night and day from where either were just a few years ago. They worked a fantastic, hard-hitting, back-and-forth match with Galloway leveling DJZ with big, stiff moves and DJZ continuing to kick out over and over…until he couldn’t. Best match of the first half.
4. AR Fox def. Shane Strickland in 13:38. Fox came out to the SPACE JAM theme song, which got the pop of the night from me. This was Strickland’s debut with AAW and he absolutely killed it. Tons of crazy moves including a sick flying kick and a double foot stomp from Strickland. AR Fox had the spot of the entire night from the apron, running up the ring post for a moonsault to Strickland while he was laid out between the ring and the barricade. So good.
5. Pentagon Jr. def. ACH in 10:58 to become the new AAW Heritage Champion! Another really good match to end the first half of the show. ACH slowly went more and more heel over the course of the match to capitalize on how over Pentagon and his “cero miedo” chants are. It seemed like most people weren’t expecting the title to change hands, but at the same time Penta is easily the top consistent babyface the promotion has so ACH retaining would have been a pretty big upset. I’m interested to see what they do with Penta as champion, as he had a pretty successful world title run in 2016.
– INTERMISSION –
6. Dezmond Xavier & Zachary Wentz defeated Davey Vega & Matt Fitchett [Besties in the World] in 10:14 to advance to the finals of the AAW Tag Team Championship Tournament. All four of these guys need to be booked by all the promotions, for all the matches. Just pure athleticism and entertainment. The crowd decided Davey was the target on this night, and at one point chanted “oh, f— Davey Vega” to the tune of the well-known Zack Sabre Jr. chorus.
The “Iron Manager” JT Davidson came out to address Xavier and Wentz on behalf of his clients, OI4K. He got all fired up and challenged them to have the finals of the tournament, not on the next show as planned, but now! The babyfaces accepted the challenge, and right on queue OI4K attacked them from behind. We have a referee…
7. Jake Crist & Dave Crist [OI4K] defeated Dezmond Xavier & Zachary Wentz to become the new AAW Tag Team Champions in 0:38. So, so many boos for the new champions. Just night and day compared to the reaction they got at the start of the show.
8. Rey Fenix defeated Trevor Lee in 11:29. There were a lot of loud “f— TNA” chants, and Trevor at first stated leading the crowd like an orchestra, which led to even louder chants, then turned on them and mooned the audience. Some guys tried to get a “f— that owl” chant going, but it unfortunately did not catch on. Another great match. They’re all great matches. Have you seen this roster?
9. Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Kyle O’Reilly in 16:32. Literally all of the submissions. This was exactly what you’d expect, but that didn’t make it any less fantastic. They started slow, traded a million submissions, built it up, beat the ever-loving crap out of each other, and Sabre eventually got the submission with an octopus stretch. The finish felt a little abrupt, but it’s a very small complaint in an otherwise excellent match. It lived up to my expectations, which were set pretty high considering the level of talent between them. I would love to see another match between them on a major New Japan show.
10. Sami Callihan defeated Low Ki to retain the AAW World Championship in 22:35. I’m trying to remember the last time I went to a wrestling show and Sami Callihan didn’t steal the match of the night. There are few better in the world today than Sami, and few better ever than Low Ki when he’s on top of his game. The champion came out first, which was noticeably weird until the lights went out and The Hitman appeared and had this intense, visceral staredown with Callihan. This match was off the chains brutal, possibly more so than the recent Omega/Ishii main event at the New Japan Cup. At one point Low Ki motioned like he ripped Sami’s jaw apart, they even threw up the “X”, and since he’s so damn good at selling there were people around me made physically uncomfortable by the spot. Sami grabbed a roll of electrical tape and wrapped it around his head and jaw to piece himself back together, and they went right back to war. Callihan tapped him arm to the ropes and destroyed him with a steel chair. Because there’s no room in that building, the champ overshot a tope suicida and went through Low Ki and over the barricade, murdering several innocent fans. JT Davidson got involved and the challenger fought him off, until Abyss came out as well. Low Ki fought them both off for awhile, but eventually he took a face full of white powder from Callihan, and a top rope chokeslam from Abyss for the 1-2-3.
The Killer Kult came out and celebrated with all their gold as Berwyn rained down a storm of boos on top of them. Low Ki eventually recovered and thanked the fans for coming out, saying that we haven’t seen the last of him in AAW. And that’s our show.
Another incredible show from the folks at AAW, with almost every match ranging from “very good” to “fantastic”. The one match I wasn’t crazy about was Abyss and Homicide, but even that wasn’t close to being a bad match by any means. It’s always nice to see some of the less consistent major AAW talents like Zack Sabre Jr., and hopefully newcomer Shane Strickland finds a second home in Chicago because we absolutely want him back as often as possible. There may be a spot for him too, as AR Fox is going to be taking some time off to heal up after WrestleMania week in Orlando.
I’m hoping AAW is working on another long-term angle for Callihan and the Killer Kult to follow up his excellent program with the promotion’s masked stars, because while they’re still incredibly effective, get the best reactions of the night, and they’re still selling out every show, there’s a feeling that the bubble is going to pop sooner rather than later if they don’t create something deeper than the monthly rotation of people being fed to the Kult.