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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Matches from AIW Death Rowe 1/19/18

Shane Mercer vs. Matt Justice

ER: Mercer is like if Sheamus mated with Petey Williams, and Justice is like if Drew Galloway mated with Baron Corbin. And both of those things have their benefits. There are a couple drawbacks of the Sheamus/Petey Williams mixture. If your water has over 10 Petey Williams parts per billion, your wrestling DNA is going to be at least somewhat tainted. But he's a compact guy with genuine power, but also gets a bit too married to a sequence. He hit an awesome press slam spot that saw him holding Justice up with one arm, but there was also a clunky planned sequence where he got suplexed into the ropes upside down, and was supposed to hold on, but he didn't catch the turnbuckles properly. So then he stayed "stuck" in the turnbuckles as he scrambled to go through with the planned spot while people groaned. But he's pale so his chest turned bright red on chops, and Justice throws a lot of chops (and some great headbutts). Justice hits a nice shotgun kick and the finish looks big time, with Justice hitting a flying kneedrop to the back of Mercer's head while Mercer is bent at the waist. It was like a modern indy version of a Cattle Branding, looked cool.

Parker Pierce/Big Twan Tucker vs. Weird World (Alex Kellar/"Weird Body" Evan Adams)

ER: Weird Body is probably my favorite wrestler who isn't actually very good, but I'll always watch him! Match was okay and had some surprises. Kellar has gotten better and while he isn't as funny as White Mike, he hits harder. Late in the match he hits a tope that's ugly when compared to the oldest luchador tope, but points for hurling your belly and dirty tights through the ropes onto another human. Pierce and Tucker work a frat gimmick, and Pierce has a good potentially hateable charisma, like a Chris Dickinson ceiling. He's not there, but his potential for improvement is big, and he did things I liked: drops a big leg (in tandem with a Big Twan splash to Weird Body), bullied Adams around, dropped him with some indy "I drop your face on my knee", and as Adams is sitting upright and stunned Pierce shoves him over to pin. The shove was a nice, Finlay-esque move, those kind of things are good signs. Weird Body beatdowns aren't ever really as good in practice as they seem like they would be on paper. He does get tossed with a fallaway slam and eats a splash/legdrop, but you almost expect the beating on him to be more violent and it usually isn't. He has no meat on his bones to absorb bumps, I wouldn't want to get tossed around much either.

Frankie Flynn/Magnum CK vs. Chase Oliver/Tre Lamar

ER: Good match, I liked what all four guys brought. Flynn is a good Jimmy Jacobs lite, sells really well, took a kneeling rana really cool and made it look like he lawndarted himself into the mat, a guy worth going out of your way to watch. Magnum CK is this big oaf-y Davey Boy Smith Jr./Matthew Rhys on the Americans looking guy, who apparently had been out of wrestling for 8 years (his comeback promo made it sound like he was dealing with alcoholism?), and has an all time great ring entrance: He comes out in his show cape, arms extended, and he proceeds to walk all around ringside with arms fully extended, which means his outer hand is just lightly slapping and pie-facing everybody in the front row. He wrestles like Bret Hart with a dash of John Tatum, so he'll hit a nice diving elbow off the middle rope and hit a legsweep, but he'll also pinball between punches and flop face first hard to the mat. Oliver and Lamar are a cut above your typical timed sexy dance fighters, they throw decent punches and have cool tandem offense (loved Lamar armdragging Oliver into a a slumped-in-the-corner Flynn), and they peak with each hitting tandem dives, Oliver moonsaulting to the floor while Lamar crosses paths with him diving diagonally past the ringpost. I mean holy crap, crossing paths on a dive is just flat out crazy. They weren't operating with a ton of space, like the fucking Blue Angels of wrestling. Everyone added to this, went a nice length, real satisfying tag.

Johnathan Wolf vs. Malcolm Monroe III

ER: My, this went on for quite awhile, didn't it? Both guys have some ideas, and both guys want to use every single one of their ideas smack dab in the middle of an 8 match card. I thought Wolf had some neat things, especially liked his aloof dickhead habit of tying his hair back in a loose bun whenever he had some down time, including kicking and stomping at Monroe while doing so. Monroe slips up on a couple of the dancier spots, but breaks out some crazy ideas, even hits a big moonsault off the top into the crowd and takes a huge running powerbomb into the guardrail. But he relies on Wolf's recklessness, and seeming willingness to get dumped on his head by stupid flipping piledrivers. We had a lot of piledrivers in this match that didn't mean a whole lot. Monroe did a lot of annoying death sell, only to be up hopping around moments later. We had an amusing moment of both landing kicks and strikes at the same time and both falling on their face. And we also had a freaking flip piledriver off the top, that then left Wolf standing on his feet swaying back and forth, waiting to take another flip piledriver variation, like he's waiting to take a Fatality in Mortal Kombat. They both had good ideas, they both had bad tendencies. I'd like to see them reigned in.

Colby Redd/Derek Director/Eddy Only vs. Garrison King/AJ Gray/Joshua Bishop

ER: AIW seems to be able to just throw guys together in a multiman and have it deliver, and this delivered. The former team is the rest of The Production, and the latter team we saw in the great 2017 AIW 10 man. A trios like this can play to everyone's strengths, and I thought this mostly did. Director was maybe exposed too much, but his good stuff was good. Eddy Only has a great dirtbag look, he could be the roadie for Ugly Ducklings (if the Ugly Ducklings were a Banana Splits style band and went out on tour). He looks like someone in an action movie, where our hero gets into a big fight with a bunch of truckers at the bar, and Only is a tiny scrappy trucker who our hero laughs off before realizing Only is the crazy trucker who overindulges on speed cut with bleach. He bumps big and moves quick, and I like how people somewhat used him as a weapon, like Bishop powerbombing him to the floor onto everyone. King also bumps big and moves quick, loved how he took a Colby Redd suplex, loved the section with The Production beating him down. AJ Gray is a Wee Willie Mack and hits a big tope at one point, a crazy tornillo to the floor. Throwing together a roster for a fun 15 minute 6 man is one of my favorite things in wrestling; I love 2000-2007 NOAH trios, obviously WAR trios, it's just a cool easy always fun match if you have the depth. And AIW rarely has rarely disappointed me in that department.

Dominic Garrini vs. Juice Robinson

PAS: New Japan and NXT are two of my biggest wrestling blindspots, so I had seen hardly any Juice Robinson, but I will watch pretty much any Garrini match, and this was a ton of fun. Robinson comes in crowbarishly and it forces Garrini to throw big shots too. I liked the story of this match with Garrini scouting the bigger star and having counters, while Juice doesn't know anything about Dominic. It felt like Garrini had answers to all of Robinson big moves, he countered his big senton to a cross armbreaker, avoided his kicks and countered the Pulp Friction into a wastelock throw and nasty armbar for the tap. Robinson really hit hard here, big chops, and a couple of huge clotheslines, basically working this like a dominant guy, that dominance really made the upset victory work. Dom has started out 2018 on fire, and I imagine he is going to have a big year.

ER: I'm a big Juice fan. Juice is a guy I really liked in NXT. Easily one of the best workers there, and he really made his condescending dirty hippie heel character work, and I’ve always like his wrestling style. He doesn’t skimp on little things like stomach kicks, he throws a variety of nice punches, he hits way harder than you might guess by looking at him, has some weird offense that he makes look better than others (his standing spin kick doesn’t seem like it should land effectively, but he always makes it look like a kill shot), he’s just a quality guy. Garrini is someone who I think will be good, and has obviously been a major contributor to some great stuff already. I do think he has a tendency to look a little robotic during strike exchanges, and some of his set ups feel like something I would be more critical of if they were done by someone I didn’t like. But I like Garrini, and I like the skillset he brings to a match, and I think these two are good dance partners who I had never actually pictured dancing together. Juice has kind of a cocky style without always being overtly cocky, which is the perfect kind of guy to go up against someone with legit submission skills. Every time Juice would leave a limb out there or go into guard for a pinfall I kept waiting for Garrini to snap the bear trap. Juice bumps big on lariats but dishes nice jabs, that big spin kick, a nice powerbomb out of the corner, and they work some cool stuff like Garrini locking on a standing guillotine but eventually getting slammed by Juice. I love those moments in Riddle or Garrini matches, where their opponent leaps into something only to get caught in a sub, and they’re even better when they actually incorporate the opponent’s regular offense. I rarely see them used as “trying to sunset flip Rikishi” or “trying to powerbomb Kidman”, they’re usually pretty smart. Juice has a nice senton so it makes sense when Garrini gets his knees up and locks in an armbar. The finish is the same and it’s satisfying, Juice getting caught in another armbar and immediately tapping. Fun match that solidified what I like about both guys.

Keith Lee vs. Raymond Rowe

ER: This was Rowe's final indy match before going to NXT, so I figured I should check it out as I like him and obviously like Lee, and they went for an epic, and several big parts of the epic worked, but it also dragged something fierce. The match was a little over 25 minutes and felt about 45. To somebody who has somehow not seen either of these guys work before, both move like you would not expect them to move. They both have explosive speed and both hit hard, so you get this neat mix of quick bursts ending in meaty thumps. This takes awhile to get going, as they really milked the opening, milked the first lockup, milked all of it. By the time Rowe went for a handshake and decked Lee (which Lee sold in the ropes with a nice amusing cross-eyed sell) and they started trading their big moves, every move was a peak, and the wait time until the next move was a big valley. I don't want to sound like I expect go go go highspots in every match, but these two both have impressive gas tanks for their size and probably could have crushed a 13 minute sprint, but we ended up with a lot of lying around and a lot of shocked reactions at the referee when a move did not get the 3 count. But I like how both guys move so there's a lot of pleasure just seeing them interact, seeing a big Lee leapfrog/dropdown/dropkick, seeing Rowe superman punch Lee around ringside, seeing these giant dudes throw each other. We got tons of elbows and knees, and some cool blocking of those moves: Rowe starts blocking Lee elbows with his head and then clunks him in the chest with a headbutt, Lee starts blocking Rowe's knees with his forearms and sinks a few nasty knees to the gut himself. Rowe hits Lee with a mammoth uranage, and I liked Lee screaming on the way down. Rowe starts dishing huge running knee's to Lee's face, almost winding up like he's hitting a short arm clothesline, but nailing a kneeling Lee in the jaw. We even get Rowe hitting a flipping piledriver on Lee for a 2 count, which looked spectacular and really should have ended the match. But we kind of drag out the nearfalls and the finish is a kinda fun twist, as Rowe hits the Death Rowe knee to the back of Lee's head and hits a tornado elbow...only to have Lee timberrrrrrr down on top of him for the 3 count. I like the use of "man trying to reach for one last free snack from the vending machine, ending with the vending machine crushing him" parable. The match had some weird moments, like Lee stopping the match to tell the ringside fans to feast their eyes on the specimen of Keith Lee, and Rowe stopping the match to tell the crowd "Let me feed off your energy". And the proceedings just dragged on too long, though I understand them wanting to go big on Rowe's last show. An enjoyable match, but not as big as I hoped.


ER: Really fun show. The AIW roster is really awesome, cool mix of guys, definitely a crew I'm going to keep seeking out. Even when the matches aren't "MOTY" level, they still deliver. There's a bunch of match-ups I want to see with these guys. Juice/Garrini is an easy choice for our 2018 MOTY list though, totally delivering on a match that I hadn't thought of as happening. You will certainly see more AIW stuff written up here, that's for sure.



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