AAW The Art of War Recap (1/20): Fenix vs Riddle, Paco Becomes a Star, Women’s Title Match & Huge Photo Gallery

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AAW The Art of War
January 20, 2018
Logan Square Auditorium in Chicago, IL

I had the pleasure of attending this past weekend’s sold-out AAW show in Chicago, the first of 2018. After missing the last few months of action due to my car being totaled by a drunk driver, I was beyond hyped to return to Logan Square.

(1) Curt Stallion & Jake Something def. Zero Gravity [11:56]. Really fun match to kick off the show. Stallion would shout “WHAT’S HIS NAME?” and the crowd would respond with “SOMETHING!” It caught on pretty quickly. Zero Gravity are super fun to watch, and I can’t believe I’m just recently picking up on their work. The highlight of the bout saw CJ on the top rope, where he threw his partner into a super high moonsault, then followed with his own 450 splash. It might have been a shooting star; I can’t remember exactly which but it was awesome.

– David Starr came out and reminded everyone that per the stipulation of his victory he now basically owns Eddie Kingston. He wouldn’t let Eddie come out to his own theme music and made him retry the entrance over and over again until he got it “right”, while the ring announcer was forced to recite all these terrible nicknames. Tremendous promo by potentially the best mic worker in the indie world right now, and the hype to whatever rematch he and Kingston end up having is going to be out of this world.

(2) Eddie Kingston def. Kevin Lee Davidson [5:57]. After a long promo they kept the match short and simple, and was there more so just to put over Starr’s control over Eddie, which absolutely worked. I’m liking KLD a lot the more I see him.

(3) Maxwell Jacob Friedman def. Juice Robinson [8:20]. The NJPW star got a big pop after being announced as a Chicago boy. MJF cut a promo before the match and got a ton of heat on himself with his usual shtick; “Just in case you’re dumb, blind, deaf or stupid..” etc. This kid is ridiculously entertaining and I hope AAW brings him back more frequently. MJF ended up getting the pin after a low blow and a roll-up with a handful of tights. Good stuff.

(4) ACH def. Paco [14:53]. This was a defining moment for Paco, one of the midwest’s best kept secrets and rising indie stars. He’s been working opening matches for AAW and other local promotions for quite some time now, and after an underrated program with Connor Braxton that spanned much of 2017, this was his chance at a real midcard 15-minute match against an established star. The crowd knew it too and appropriately responded with the loudest reactions of the night. ACH didn’t take him seriously early on and nearly paid the price. One of the best matches of the night and an absolutely electric atmosphere. I watched from the balcony as the entire roster slowly came out to see the final moments of the match, as the crowd was so loud the building was shaking. These are the moments that make investing in your local indie promotions and their lesser known talents worth it. 

– ACH shook hands with Paco after the match and asked a young boy in the audience to come in the ring. He seemed shy at first but the crowd chanted his name and eventually ACH was able to get him over the barricade to a big pop. We were told that the kid was experiencing a lot of really harsh bullying at school lately and ACH wanted to let him know that it didn’t matter what people thought or said about him, and gave a great anti-bullying promo. The crowd went crazy for this kid and he was given an ACH t-shirt and one of the loudest chants of the night.

(5) David Starr, Trevor Lee & Jeff Cobb def. Sami Callihan, Dave Crist & Jake Crist [12:53]. WRSTLING came out before the match and David Starr announced that he went to AAW matchmakers and got the rules to this bout changed. Trevor Lee ranted and raved about how they were the best professional wrestlers on the planet and called himself a “legit shooter badass” which was so funny even the commentators had to put their mics down. Starr announced that unlike all AAW matches there WOULD be disqualifications and count-outs. The crowd didn’t like this at all, and OI4K absolutely didn’t care. 

(6) Jessicka Havoc (c) def. Kylie Rae and Scarlett Bourdeaux in a 3-way elimination match to retain the AAW Women’s Championship [6:41]. I really liked this match but I wish it were about 5-7 minutes longer. These women can work and after show-stealers like Kylie vs. Su Yung in the women’s title tournament I just want more opportunity for them to showcase how good they are. Kylie was INSANELY over to the point where fans were chanting her name during her opponent’s entrances. Scarlett brought her A-game and had some nice exchanges with both women and did a dive off the top rope to the floor. She was the first eliminated, Kylie did her best and teased a submission with a crossface, but ultimately wasn’t a match for Havoc.

(7) Teddy Hart def. Myron Reed [13:39]. Much like Paco’s chance earlier in the night against ACH this was something of a showcase for one of Elgin’s best and brightest students. I unfortunately did not get a chance to see how this one ended as I was doing interviews.  

(8) Matt Fitchett & Davey Vega (c) def. Shane Strickland & Keith Lee to retain the AAW Tag Team Championships [21:45]. Well what do you know, Strickland and Keith Lee stole the show again… I’m trying to remember the last time Keith Lee was on a card and he didn’t wrestle the best match of the entire night. As soon as the VOD comes out for this show, buy it and watch this match. You’re welcome.

(9) Rey Fenix (c) def. Matt Riddle to retain the AAW Heavyweight Championship [11:12]. Very solid main event, especially considering how exhausted everyone was by this point in the night. The was the first time I noticed Riddle actually getting a few boos from the crowd, who were somewhat split in the champion’s favor. I talked to a few people surprised they didn’t go longer, but this was their first interaction and it was a friendly one, so it makes sense they didn’t do the standard 25-minute indie main event with both guys murdering each other with dozens of ridiculous moves. Great way to end a great night.

Final Thoughts

Man is it good to be back… After a few months away AAW knocked this show and all my expectations out of the park. I love that they’re starting to focus more on long-term storylines and bringing in people who are great on the microphone. We have regulars like Sami Callihan, JT Davidson and the Besties who are great at the verbal story-telling but with David Starr and MJF (hopefully more frequently) it’s getting to the point where fans are coming back month after month not just to see great wrestling, but to find out how the stories play out. It’s a simple thing but unfortunately uncommon on the indies.

The best match of the night was probably the tag title match, although you could make a great case for the Paco/ACH match just because of fan reaction. Starr and WRSTLING had the most heat by far and Kylie Rae and Paco were the most over babyfaces, followed by OI4K and a split crowd for both main event guys.

AAW returns to LaSalle on 2/3 for Havok defending the AAW Women’s Championship against Rosemary, and to Logan Square on 2/17 for the debut of NJPW star and Wrestle Kingdom main eventer Tetsuya Naito.

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