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Jack Reviews AAW Art of War 2017

May 9, 2017 | Posted by Jack Stevenson
Matt Riddle Evolve EVOLVE 93
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Jack Reviews AAW Art of War 2017  

Art of War 2017 was yet another deeply nifty card on paper from AAW, with a host of tempting matches. A.C.H, A.R. Fox & Rey Fenix vs. The Killer Cult? Scarlet & Graves vs. The Unbreakable F’n Machines? Low Ki vs. El Hijo Del Fantasma? Yes gosh darn pls.

1- Best Friends vs. Davey Vega & Mat Fitchett
I was expecting this to be much sillier and more whimsical, but aside from a smattering of light hearted moments it was a straight tag match. And a pretty good one at that! It was a bit slow in the early going, but built in a quietly satisfying way to the finishing stretch, which was really enjoyable. It did a particularly good job of giving the Besties in the World a realistic shot of victory, and they looked very much on the level of their more accomplished opponents. It was fast and breezy and very good fun. Ultimately, The Best Friends did put Fitchett away with a double Choke-Slam. *** 1/4.

2- DJ Z vs. Connor Braxton
This was a bit of a mixed bag. Connor Braxton controlled the majority of the match and, while he clearly has potential, he didn’t really have sufficient depth to his offense to make his end of the match interesting. DJ Z, on the other hand, is perpetually underrated, a really graceful and brave high flyer, and I always enjoy seeing him wrestle. His dives into the crowd are particularly impressive, it’s remarkable how deep into the rows of chairs he’s able to get. They could have done a nice big man/little man story here but Braxton lacked the presence to really get that story across. The finish saw more cool antics from DJ Z, as he flung himself from the stage into the ring with a tornado DDT for the win! * 3/4.

3- Jason Kincaid vs. Matt Riddle
Jason Kincaid is an interesting guy. I really love his Eastern philosophy inspired character and vaguely sinister demeanour, and appreciate the effort he puts into coming up with unique, inventive offense. Unfortunately, not all that offense looks very good. Here, he tried climbing up a pole to hit a flying clothesline, a coast to coast dropkick, walking along the guardrail and then leaping off with a high kick, a suicide sunset flip from the ring into the guardrail, and none of it looked smooth. I certainly thought he was more miss than hit here, albeit not in a boring way, in a way that makes me want to see matches of his where he pulls more stuff off convincingly. Kincaid has 11 years of experience on Matt Riddle, yet it felt like it was Riddle holding this whole thing together, and he did an excellent job because I actually liked this overall. It was an intriguing clash of styles, with Kincaid’s esoteric approach contrasting with Riddle’s more polished array of suplexes, slams and submission, yet it never felt as jarring and awkward as those matches sometimes can. And the finish was sudden and exciting as well- Riddle cinched in the Bro-Mission, and Kincaid had to tap immediately! *** 1/4.

4- AAW Tag Team Championships- Trevor Lee vs. Matt Sydal
Due to Lee’s partner Jack Evans suffering an injury, he was defending the tag titles as a singles wrestler. It was left ambiguous as to whom Matt Sydal would defend the titles with should he have won.

Trevor Lee can be a really boring wrestler when he wants to be. He dominated the majority of this match and I honestly couldn’t tell you anything he did in it. I only finished watching the thing about five minutes ago. I just recall it being so slow and methodical, not really for any good reason. It’s a shame because Matt Sydal came in with a ton of energy and looked very game when he was able to get a foothold in the match. He did more to lift Lee’s performance than A.C.H did at the last show, but it wasn’t enough to make this a good match or anything. Lee put Sydal down with a Fisherman’s Buster to retain both tag titles. * 1/2.

5- Low Ki vs. El Hijo Del Fantasma
This was the second real disappointment in a row. Low Ki has historically veered between absolutely thrilling and completely uninspiring depending on what mood he’s in, and he was much closer to the latter on this occasion unfortunately. The finishing stretch was quite good, a competitive and intense run of action, but the match just took so long to get going. I don’t understand why, considering the match wasn’t even particularly lengthy, they decided to wrestle such a significant at half speed, but it really killed the bout out of the gates for me, despite the improvement in the closing stages. Low Ki put Fantasma down with the Warrior’s Wrath. * 1/2.

I’ve been skipping over the little backstage promos that have been shown between matches because they’ve largely been unremarkable, but Eddie Kingston’s tirade against Abyss was magnificent, expressing his heartbreak and depression at the injury to his best friend Homicide and vowing revenge on Abyss for it. Still, this man is among the best promos in the world.

6- Scarlet & Graves vs. The Unbreakable F’n Machines
Now this, this was fucking fantastic. Power wrestling is not always my cup of tea but I think I really love the Unbreakable Machines, especially against smaller wrestlers. I’m so impressed by how relentless they are, there is not a single moment where they’re killing time, their focus on the efficient yet spectacular destruction of their hapless opponents is laser like. Scarlet & Graves are great too, one of North America’s most exciting young tag teams, tremendously crisp high flyers. Elgin and Cage flung them all over the place, but it was hardly a one sided affair, and both Wentz and Xavier did so well at timing and performing their offense in such a way that it always looked credible against much bigger opponents. In complete contrast to the previous matches, the action never stopped here, and yet they also managed to escalate it at the end into a proper crescendo, a furious finishing stretch. The final bit of praise I want to hand these guys is that there was a very weird glitch where a completely inappropriate smooth pop ballad was playing quite audibly during the first part of the match- I don’t know whether it was coming from a different room in the building or from AAW themselves thanks to some bizarre technical fuck up, but I was so impressed by how everyone, even the crowd, just decided to work through it, rather than surrendering and doing a comedy match based on it, as must have been tempting. It wasn’t too obtrusive watching it back on video, but live in the arena it must have been such a pain in the arse. The only downside I felt across the bout was that it was a little bit tooooo back and forth- Elgin and Cage had more of the match, but had they been a bit more dominant I think there would have been more drama in Wentz and Xavier’s comebacks, and in the even and unpredictable finishing stretch. Elgin and Cage eventually secured the win after just blitzing Wentz with all these power moves, culminating in an Elgin powerbomb. **** 1/4. The Unbreakable Machines put over Scarlet & Graves post match. Richly deserved.

7- Abyss vs. Eddie Kingston
I suspect this was about as good as it could have been. The most substantial portion of the match was a brawl through the crowd that took them all the way to the bar area. The novelty of seeing wrestlers punch each other in unusual settings never wears off for me, even if there is a lot of awkward wandering required to get them there. Once they were back in the ring there was a little interference from Abyss’ manager JT Davidson, and then Eddie Kingston was choke-slammed into some thumb tacks and pinned by Abyss. I’m very glad this took the form it did because the glimpses of a straight wrestling match we got here were not great, but all the weapon use and zany crowd brawling turned it into a fun distraction! ** 3/4.

8- A.C.H, A.R. Fox & Rey Fenix vs. The Killer Cult
I am fairly sure I once bumped into Fenix in a hotel corridor, but he obviously had his mask off so it was hard to be sure. Anyway. I’m not sure there are even words for matches like this. Maybe better writers would have them, but all I can say is, like, INSANITY. An absolutely astonishing match, fought from the opening bell at an blinding, unstoppable pace, every single second there’s something going on, and if you can’t find joy in it then we look at wrestling, possibly life, in very different ways. Wrestling is at its best when it is performed like this, by six super talented guys who can barely contain their glee as they hurl state of the art, hyper cool moves at each other, while a raucous crowd completely loses their minds. How can someone not be hooked? How can someone not feel so alive? So, yes, this was very good. I hope I have conveyed that, and also made it clear that this was not a subtle technical match, it was dudes zooming out the ring engaging in wild flips and elaborate double teams. What stops me from giving it an even higher rating than the very high rating I will give it is, like many bouts of its ilk, it hits its peak almost immediately. Absolute 100% Match of the Years peak at the start, then inexplicably find an even higher one for the finishing stretch. This one began with ACH and Fenix leaping from the stage and hitting mid-air ace crushers, and to be honest I’m not convinced that one moment of spontaneity and aching coolness was ever quite topped, even among all the other great stuff this match had to offer. But, that should not take away from its general sublimeness! Wowzers. Fenix dumped Callihan with a Canadian Destroyer of sorts for the win. **** 1/2.

The final score: review Good
The 411
This was a show of peaks and valleys, but the peaks came at the right time and were sufficiently, um, peaky, to warrant a recommendation. Scarlet & Graves/Unbreakable Machines and Fox/Fenix/A.C.H vs. The Killer Cult were both absolutely first rate; both those matches are must watch if you share my affinity for tag wrestling mayhem. Skip over the Lee/Sydal and Low Ki/Fantasma double header and you get an even better card!