AAW “The End of Innocence” 

February 4, 2017


By Dr. Abner Mality

In one of the most improbable events of the last ten years, the small Illinois town of Lasalle-Peru has become a hotbed of professional wrestling. A bumper crop of drop kicks and Beal throws is being raised here in addition to corn. 

An enterprising promoter created the Dreamwave Wrestling promotion and headquartered it out of the Knights of Columbus hall in sleepy downtown Lasalle. Using a combination of legendary performers like Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart with up and coming young stars and homegrown talent Dreamwave suddenly put pro wrestling on the map and drew hearty crowds to the KOC. In fact, Dreamwave attracted so much attention that a SECOND promotion decided to run the same building.

This was Chicago’s AAW Wrestling. This promotion has become one of the most successful not only in Illinois but the entire country. Running mostly out of Berwyn and Merrionette Park in suburban Chicago, AAW is a no holds barred proposition that attracts the best indy talent in North America and which puts on intense ECW-like shows.It is quite the institution and they made their debut in Lasalle-Peru in January of 2017. I am not sure if Dreamwave still exists or if AAW has swallowed it whole. 

Even though it’s quite a long drive from where I live to the KOC Hall, I had to see what the fuss was in Lasalle-Peru. When I found out that their February 4th show there featured one of my favorite luchadors from Lucha Underground…namely, Pentagon Dark…, the die was cast. It was time to see what AAW was all about.

The Knights of Columbus Hall was easy to find and free parking was a snap. You won’t get that much in Chicago! People were already lined up and it looks like we will have a sellout tonight! The matches are held in a second floor room that is pretty  intimate for an event such as this. I prefer that to seeing wrestling in a half empty arena. The bar was doing brisk business all night and lined up against the right wall were the merch tables manned by wrestlers trying to hustle an extra buck. It looked like Trevor Lee and A.R. Fox were very approachable and willing to talk while the sinister luchador Penta Cero Miedo (name change due to his quitting the AAA promotion in Mexico) gladly took pictures with fans. He was masked but not wearing his trademark skeletal makeup, which made him look curiously vulnerable.

AAW definitely sinks some money into their shows. There was a big “tron” screen over the wrestlers’ entrance where vignettes and videos could be shown. Nowhere near as big as the monster screens WWE uses but that’s to be expected. There was also full professional lighting and sound all night long and a broadcast table where commentators added their play by play.

One thing that really impressed me about the whole evening was how punctual it was. The show ran like precision clockwork, starting at exactly 7:00 PM and running smoothly for the rest of the night with no gaps or bumps. This is almost unheard of for any wrestling show at ANY level but it really reflected well on AAW’s professionalism.

Well, it’s time to GO, let’s kick this sucker off!

First match is a four way contest which provides plenty to action to ignite the evening. The participants are Arik Cannon, Marion Fontaine, Stephen Wolfe and David Starr. Lots of comedy in this one. Starr has got a ton of heel charisma and athletic ability, he’s definitely someone to watch. Fontaine is a Midwest veteran and does a moustache gimmick. He’s talented but it looks like a stiff wind could knock him over. Wolfe is so energetic, he’s practically jumping out of his skin.  After a chaotic affair, I was happy to see longtime Midwest veteran Cannon walk away with the win. This guy really deserves a break. He enjoyed a well earned PBR after the contest.

The second contest was short and sweet as hometown hero Mike Hartenbower made short work of Zicky Dice, who does a kind of evil magician gimmick and tosses cards at his opponent. The cards were not smiling upon him tonight after Hartenbower powered his way to a quick win.

Next we had the fairer sex get their shot with a tag team match that pitted Jessicka Havok and Allysin Kay against Candace LeRae and Samantha Heights. Havok is a monstrously intimidating female and Kay (known as Sienna in TNA) is not far behind….these two are the Road Warriors of the female set. However, despite their obvious size advantage, they lost to the smaller LeRae and Heights. Candace is known as quite a tough cookie who has been known to fight and beat men and she got the pin on Kay here, leading to Jessicka Havok unleashing quite the hissy fit. A good physical contest.

The following bout to me was the most hard fought and entertaining of the evening. It’s not often that you see a wrestler reinvent himself in a single match, but that’s what we saw tonight as TNA’s X-Division standout DJZ took on Adam Rose…no, Aldo Rose…no, KRUGER! If you followed the WWE circus in the last couple of years, you remember the crash and burn of “Party Animal” Adam Rose, saddled with one of the worst gimmicks in history. Literally, this was a guy who feuded with a RABBIT! But tonight Mr. Rose had an announcement to make before his match. The announcement was that Adam Rose was dead and KRUGER has been reborn.  The newly minted Kruger spit out Rose’s trademark lollipop and threw back his hoodie to reveal a mean Mohawk instead of Rose’s greasy locks. The Rose gimmick is no more and Kruger is out for blood.

He proved it in a hard-hitting contest against DJZ, one of the best technicians in the game today. Lots of tough physical brawling from Kruger in this one and no clowning around. The battle spilled to the outside, where DJZ unleashed a flurry of suicide dives into the crowd. This one had the whole place rocking, but in the end, it was DJZ’s high flying skill that won out. He showed his appreciation for his opponent by raising Kruger’s hand after the bout. Surprisingly, Kruger didn’t launch a cheap shot and the crowd yelled “Please come back!” at him. This was a victory even in defeat and the recreation of a wrestling career. Adam Rose is dead, long live Kruger!

Tag team action was next as the AAW tag team champions The Besties In The World Davey Vega and Mat Fitchett put their titles on the line against Paco and Ace Perry. Vega and Fitchett do a gimmick where they often seem to disagree but always make up with a hug. Paco and Perry gave it all they had including some great aerial moves, but the smooth teamwork and underhanded tactics of the Besties won the day. I could sure do without the sappy music and arm waving that accompanies the Besties.

Another tag team bout followed and this one kicked things up a big notch in intensity. Brothers Jake and Dave Crist are a heel tag team known as Ohio Is 4 Killers that has been terrorizing AAW for months as part of manager JT Davidson’s Killer Cult faction. They were heavy favorites going into battle against the exciting young duo of Dezmond Xavier and Zachary Wentz. Wow, this contest was fierce and off the charts with physicality. Tons of hard kicks and brutal blows from both teams. In the end, Xavier and Wentz pulled off an upset victory over OI4K. The Crists and Davidson were so enraged that they attacked and brutally beat down their opponents after the match. I would keep an eye on both Xavier and Wentz as they are talented beyond their years and could be a great team.

The AAW Heritage title was on the line next as the champion ACH squared off against the “Technical Savage”, Trevor Lee, who currently holds the TNA X-Division title. In fact, Lee beat DJZ for that belt. This was my  first chance to see ACH, who has been called the most entertaining man in wrestling, in action. The bout started on kind of a lame note, as Lee challenged ACH to a dance off. This was no contest, as ACH’s dance moves were just as smooth as his wrestling. It seems the AAW version of Trevor Lee is friendlier and not quite as aggressive as the TNA version.

Once the silly stuff was over, we got down to wrestling. And it was a pretty exciting contest as both men showed tremendous agility and counter-wrestling skill. ACH really is a SUPER athletic guy, with a ton of charisma. ROH dropped the ball on him for sure. As the match wore on, Lee got more and more frustrated and started wrestling more aggressively. He came close to the title several times during a long bout, but in the end, ACH was just too slick and walked away with a win. I sensed Lee was close to cheap shotting ACH after the bout, but thought better of it and retreated honorably to the dressing room.

We had a 15 minute intermission next, which was again precisely timed and which allowed some of the wrestlers to again hawk their wares at the merch tables. The line at the bar and the bathrooms was about  equal length.

Six man action kicked things off after the break and it featured a lot of home grown Illinois talent. Buck Nasty, Connor Braxton and the “Husky Heartthrob” Kody Rice tried their luck against Brubaker and the team of Zero Gravity. I’ve followed Buck Nasty’s career for so long, I can remember when he was clean cut Bucky Collins. Now he’s the most comically over the top heel on the AAW roster. Brubaker is a very short guy who nevertheless comes across as a total bad-ass. He’s built like a fireplug! Zero Gravity are two aerial artists who are just barely large enough to avoid the midget tag. Kody Rice is an overweight guy doing a Chippendale gimmick. As for Connor Braxton, he’s a very imposing fellow with a sculpted physique and a very bad attitude. Accompanying the heels was one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in wrestling, Scarlett. She is an absolute bombshell and more attractive than most of the WWE Divas.

The bout itself was full of comedy from the heels, with Buck Nasty so exaggerated in his obnoxious ways he almost crosses over into babyface territory. Brubaker and Zero Gravity used their high flying ability to keep their opponents confused and finally managed to pick up the win.

The next contest was the one I was most keenly looking forward to and it featured two stars of the awesome cult wrestling show Lucha Underground. Pentagon Jr, also known as Pentagon Dark, is easily the most popular character on the LU program and was the one guy who drew me to this card. The sinister ninja skeleton was recently forced into another name change by wrestling politics and was wrestling tonight as Penta Cero Miedo. He was up against another LU standout, AR Fox, whose known as Dante Fox on Lucha Underground. These are two of the best athletes on the circuit today and it was a real privilege to see them in such an intimate setting.

The match did not disappoint. If the match was being contested on a point system, I would have given it to Fox. This guy is an astonishing athlete capable of defying the laws of physics with his aerial stunts and body control. He dominated Penta for a good deal of the match. One of his most impressive moves was a lightning fast basement DDT delivered to his opponent on the ring apron. I could hear Penta’s skull crack on that one. But the dark Gothic warrior had a lot of his own impressive moves to unleash and he finally got the pin on Fox with a thunderous Canadian destroyer piledriver delivered from the top rope. The fans chanted “Both these guys!” during the match as well as dueling chants of “Cero Miedo!” and “AR Fox”. I was right with them there.

That left us with the main event, a defense of the AAW Heavyweight title. The champ is one of the busiest men in all of wrestling, Sami Callihan. Callihan is an alumni of NXT and also wrestles in Lucha Underground as Jeremiah Crane. He’s a brutally physical specimen who usually overwhelms opponents with sheer meanness but tonight he was up against someone who actually made him nervous. That’s the 400 pound monster from darkest Africa known as Kongo Kong. Kong has beaten 34 straight opponents heading into this match according to his manager Dr. Louis J. Pinder. So this match promised to be total mayhem and it lived up to the billing.

Sami took out Pinder with a devastating kick to start things off and then turned his fury on the huge Kong, who is the modern day answer to Kamala but much more athletic. Kong simply laughed off every blow from Callihan and manhandled the champion. But Callihan is a member of the Killer Cult faction and he got plenty of help not only from manager JT Davidson but also OI4K, who came out and attacked Kong. The African monster was able to dispose of both men, but then got a face full of powder from Callihan and a blast across the skull with the title belt, leading to a very tainted pin.

The match itself was fairly short but the brawl continued for quite a while as Kong went berserk and destroyed OI4K and everyone else in the ring. Even a whole contingent of security got destroyed by the giant. At one point it looked like Kong was going to attack his own manager but Pinder finally got control and led his man out of the ring area. You can bet this feud is just getting started!

That wild brawl capped off a long and mostly entertaining evening of wrestling from AAW. The fans went away happy and it was well worth the trip! As far as modern indy wrestling goes, AAW is cream of the crop right now and the premiere organization in Illinois. I might be making a few more trips to Lasalle Peru in the future!