AAW Defining Moment
It was another sold out night in Berwyn in an event that lived up to its name for one Rey Fenix. The former Lucha Underground Champion can now add “AAW Heavyweight Champion” to his mounting resume, upsetting the man who has largely been carrying midwest indie wrestling on his back for the last 365 days, Sami Callihan.
Defining Moment was a legit standing room only sell-out with over 400 people crammed into the Eagles Club in the second to last show before October’s Jim Lynam Memorial Tournament. In a rare occurrence only two of the matches had been announced before hand, with the debut of Cody Rhodes and the year-long build to Callihan/Fenix headlining the marquee.
(1) Paco def. Connor Braxton in 1:57
Got a show in the midwest? Got a heel you need to get over in the opening match? It’s Paco time! The Chicago local won with a quick roll-up. As always, I’ll praise Braxton’s ability to draw heat anywhere, with anyone, and hope that someone somewhere is paying attention. Jeff Cobb came out after the match and obliterated Paco just for fun.
(2) Jeff Cobb def. Joey Janela in 12:01
Janela played the perfect underdog to Cobb’s new mean streak, getting tossed around and dominated in between comebacks. They went all out with Joey doing a dive over the barricade at one point, and the fans ate it up. AR Fox came out mix it up with Cobb at the end, before the big man put Janela away with the Tour of the Islands.
(3) ACH & The Besties in the World def. Colt Cabana & Team Tremendous in 11:13
In a video package before the match, ACH tried to calm things between the Besties, who have been teasing a split for several months now. They quoted the FRIENDS theme song. The actual match was a ton of fun, as Colt Cabana worked his unique brand of comedy into the chaos of a six-man tag as ACH tried to keep his team together. Vega was treated to the usual “f–k you Vega” chants and tried to sacrifice his partners a few times to stay safe, which never quite worked out for him. Colt went on a hot streak throwing punches and elbows at the end, but the The Besties managed to keep it together long enough to come back and take it.
(4) Matt Riddle def. Shane Strickland in 15:21
This was one of the best matches I’ve seen live all year, possibly topping the Riddle/Elgin match from earlier this summer that currently sits on the top of my Indie Match of the Year list. They started slow and took their time building to the goods, taking the crowd along with them until things built to a fever pitch at the end. Riddle waited until the last possible second to kick out several times in a few of the closest nearfalls I’ve ever seen. There were all kinds of crazy spots including a Fisherman’s Buster off the apron, an attempted second rope Tombstone that got countered, and Strickland’s impressive double foot stomp. Shane kicked out of a brutal Bro-to-Sleep shocking everybody, but Riddle finally put him away with the Bromission. Go out of your way to see this match.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about all of this was that Matt had been violently sick the entire night before, the morning of, and even at the airport heading to Chicago, and still managed to put on one of the best matches of the year.
(5) Keith Lee def. Trevor Lee and AR Fox in a triple threat match in 10:50
Trevor continues his goal of making everyone hate him by trying to get Keith Lee to sign with Impact Wrestling. It’s funny, most people agree that Impact has been really darn good lately, but Chicago indie crowds will still give you hell for even mentioning their existence. The focus shifted a few times, with both beating up Trevor to start the match, then the realization that it would take both of them just to stop big Keith. Jeff Cobb made another appearance to give AR Fox his receipt which took them out of the equation, allowing Lee to hit a ridiculous powerbomb on Trevor to win.
(6) Penta El Zero M (c) def. Brian Cage in 8:41 to retain the AAW Heritage Championship.
I unfortunately missed the bulk of this match doing interviews with a few of the guys from earlier in the night.
(7) Dez Xavier & Zachary Wentz (c) def. Dave & Jake Crist in 8:58 to retain the AAW Tag Team Championships.
I just realized why Impact has been so good… Half the AAW roster has been signed. OI4K continues to get better every time I see them, and they were already damn good to begin with. I’ve been signing Dez’s praises for over a year now, but he’s really hit his stride teaming alongside Wentz all around the world and with some of the work he’s been able to do in Impact. He is a future mega star and genuinely one of my favorite people in this industry. The match was another classic, calling back to their earlier encounters, from two teams that just know each other so well at this point.
On a related note, I talked to Dave after the show and while he’s still not back to 100% stemming from numerous injuries throughout the last year, he’s feeling much better than he was at the start of the summer, and feeling is starting to return in areas after that were being effected by nerve damage.
(8) Cody Rhodes def. DJ Zema Ion in 13:03
Cody came out and cut a long promo trashing Chicago. They were trying to find a reason to cheer him (because Bullet Club) until he said he likes ketchup on his hotdogs, which was immediate grounds for everyone in the building to hate him. Brilliant. He teased bringing out Brandi, who obviously wasn’t there, then said Chicago didn’t deserve to be graced by her presence, and demanded that DJZ kiss his new ring of honor. I quite enjoyed the match. It wasn’t the best of the night, but the crowd was hot, the two veterans worked very well together, and the whole package overall made it one of the best segments of the night.
After the crowd had gotten their money’s worth booing him, Cody got back on the mic after the match and thanked the AAW crowd and talked about how long he’s wanted to wrestle here (which is true), and admitted that he actually doesn’t like ketchup anyways. He put over DJZ who was dealing with food poisoning on top of the string of terrible luck he’s had this year, and still showed up to perform anyways. Class act.
(9) Fenix def. Sami Callihan (c) in 16:56 to become the new AAW Heavyweight Champion!
It’s finally over… The program that began over one year ago, for the title reign that has carried AAW for the past 364 days, and it all culminated here in an outstanding main event. 2016 was the year Sami became champion by going on a crusade against masked wrestlers, literally stealing their masks and hanging them around his neck as he terrorized the roster and fans. It has been one of the best – and certainly most underrated – title reigns in independent wrestling history, and I encourage all of you to check out the litany of incredible performances Sami Callihan has put on since returning to AAW.
I can’t say enough good things about this match. It had the heat of an expertly crafted year-long build given appropriate time to breath, building and building until I legitimately didn’t know who was walking out champion. Callihan did take the mask near the end of the match as he looked to be in total control, but Fenix wrestled a second mask away from “Iron Manager” JT Davidson and fought his way back.
After the main event Sami did the right thing and put over Fenix, giving him the championship. That’s actually a big deal in context, as Callihan has faked nobility in the past but always ends up screwing over the babyface in the end.
Penta hit the ring and celebrated with his brother to end the night, also building up their title match on October 7th in Lasalle, IL.