Friday Indie Spotlight Thing: 2018 JT Lightning Invitational Tournament (Night One)

So last weekend no one really wanted to compete against the Super Bowl, meaning new shows were light fare. Thankfully, IWTV has a very extensive catalog that they’re constantly updating, and one of the newest additions is the JT Lightning Invitational Tournament from 2018. It’s a two-day, 24-man event – 12 first-round matches, 3 four-way semifinals, and the three-way final. The first night is the entire first round, and given the diversity of the field, I couldn’t resist. So let’s check it out!

The PG Era Rant for the 2018 JT Lightning Invitational, Night 1. Tape runtime: 193 minutes.

From Cleveland, Ohio, May 25, 2018, and hosted by Absolute Intense Wrestling.

Your hosts are Matt Wadsworth and The Duke.

Your field this year, just to get an idea of the variety, is in alphabetical order: AJ Gray, Andrew Everett, Cheech, Colin Delaney, Dominic Garrini, Ethan Page, Frankie Flynn, Gangrel, Gringo Loco, Jody Fleisch, Joey Janela, Josh Prohibition, Laredo Kid, Little Guido, Louis Lyndon, Magnum CK, Marty Jannetty, Matthew Justice, Maxwell Jacob Friedman, Space Monkey, Swoggle, Tim Donst, Tom Lawlor, and Tracy Williams.

Pre-show promos from Marty Jannetty, Josh Prohibition, Swoggle (whose promo is shockingly profane), Frankie Flynn, Gangrel, Colin Delaney, Dominic Garrini, Jody Fleisch, MJF (interrupted by Space Monkey), AJ Gray, and Ethan Page (with Dr. Daniel C. Rockingham).

Opening match: Frankie Flynn (w/Eddy Only and The Director) vs. Tom Lawlor. Flynn’s gimmick is that of an act-OR, as he has movie crew members with him and comes out to Phantom of the Opera. Not to be outdone, Lawlor enters cosplaying as Dr. Frank-N-Furter to play the mindgames.

Lawlor with a waistlock takedown to start, and he controls the head with a Gator Roll into a ride. Flynn makes the ropes. Flynn talks to his seconds before daring Lawlor to take the guard. Lawlor kicks the hamstrings instead, into a big stomp to the chest. Paradise Lock by Lawlor, but while the referee is distracted Eddy Only unties Flynn and loads up the brace. Lawlor chops away on Flynn, trips him in the corner, and chops some more.

Snapmare by Lawlor and he goes up, landing a tomahawk chop. Flynn’s friends complain and are ejected, but in the melee Flynn clips Lawlor and works the knee. He tries a Trailer Hitch, but Lawlor kicks out of it and works Flynn in the corner. Flynn palm strikes Lowlor with the arm brace and tries a tornado DDT, but Lawlor blocks. Flynn gets a back elbow and goes up, hitting a spinning Blockbuster. Flynn with an ankle lock, but Lawlor counters to a ground choke.

Flynn escapes a waistlock and gets a German suplex before posing, which allows Lawlor to wake up and give one back to him. Flynn seemingly no-sells before a Flair Flop, but cradles Lawlor for two. Flynn with a Cradle Shock for two. They slug it out, with Flynn getting the win of that exchange with a Disaster Kick. He goes for another, but Lawlor catches him with an uppercut. He puts Flynn up top, delivering an Exploder off the ropes. Flynn’s out on his feet, so Lawlor gives him a nice Tombstone to win at 8:27. (**)

THOUGHTS: This was played as the win never being in doubt, as Lawlor was to this point undefeated in AIW. Flynn put up a decent fight, but Lawlor was just on another level in the match. Very businesslike opener to advance Lawlor.

Dominic Garrini vs. Louis Lyndon. Garrini is now known as one half of Violence Is Forever, one of the toughest and hottest tag teams in the indies. Louis Lyndon comes out wearing a pirate hat. Code of Honor to start. Garrini goes to the waistlock, but Lyndon switches to an armbar. Garrini cradles him for two. Knuckle-lock, but Lyndon works a headlock. Garrini reverses to a hammerlock and wrenches it. Lyndon gets a standing arm lock and shoves Garrini down, continuing to work the arm and stacking him for two. Garrini reverses to an arm and headlock as Lyndon rolls to the ropes.

Garrini pops a test of strength into a triangle, which Lyndon cartwheels out of. Palm strikes by Lyndon, but Garrini returns fire with a roundhouse. Garrini tries a wheelbarrow suplex, but Lyndon armdrags out of it, into an armbar. Garrini escapes a transition to a dragon sleeper, but walks into a headlock takedown for one. More palm shots to the gut by Lyndon, following up with a spinkick. Running forearm by Lyndon, but Garrini reverses a headscissors into a kneebar. Lyndon makes the ropes quickly.

Forearms in the corner by Garrini and a chop to the back, then a soccer kick for two. Butterfly suplex gets two. Garrini pulls him to chop away, getting a backbreaker for two. Running MMA knee misses the first time, but Lyndon races into one in the gut. Piledriver try, but Lyndon does a prawn cradle for two. Headscissors cues the comeback. Chaos Theory gets two, and he maintains waist control, but a dragon suplex is stopped. Lyndon flips over a charging Garrini and somersaults into giving him a flying knee. Dragon sleeper by Lyndon, but Garrini lifts him in a fireman’s carry only for them to roll into a dragon sleeper with camel clutch. Garrini makes the ropes.

They fight over a whip, then start getting palm strikes at each other, with Garrini getting a back elbow and enzuigiri. More striking by both men follows, with Garrini getting a pump kick and lariat. Suplex into a GTS knee gets two. Garrini slaps Lyndon around and lands a knee to the face, and a stuff piledriver ends it at 10:09. (**1/2)

THOUGHTS: This style of match isn’t for everyone as there’s a lot of grappling in it from two guys with martial arts backgrounds, but the opening chess match is the kind of thing I can sit back and enjoy, and Garrini is a master of that. There was a lot of struggling to get each other into position for big moves, which wrestling needs more of – as they like to say, it isn’t ballet. Garrini knows how to make everything be high-impact, which is a trait many of those with MMA backgrounds share. He’s come a long way in a short time.

Maxwell Jacob Friedman vs. Space Monkey. I sense a slight difference in styles here. MJF shoves Lyndon down as the two cross paths between matches. Space Monkey acts pretty much the way you’d expect someone with that ring name to act. MJF wants complete silence during his introduction, which goes about as well as you’d think. MJF is furious that Monkey is even in the tournament. (Duke: “He’s not wrong.”)

Code of Honor ends with MJF kicking Monkey in the gut and getting a headlock takedown. Monkey reverses to a headscissors, but MJF cradles over for two. Monkey bridges and backslides for two. Small package gets two, two, two, two, two, two, and they just roll back and forth for a while. Eventually all the shoulders are down for two and both men are too dizzy to get up. And when they do, they both collapse from dizziness.

Monkey heads outside, and MJF fakes a dive. Monkey tosses a banana peel into the ring, and yes, MJF slips on it. MJF drapes Monkey on the top rope and pounds away, getting a slam and kneedropping his tail to major heel heat. It gets one. To the chinlock as MJF yells about doing it all day. Monkey bites the hand to break, but can’t run the ropes because MJF has the tail. Monkey kicks out and goes for a rana, but MJF with a powerbomb for two.

He argues with the referee before stomping the tail again. Suplex reversed by Monkey to a sleeper. MJF backs into the corner, but can’t break. Monkey tosses MJF into the corner and gets a monkey flip (duh) into the corner. Monkey with a cartwheel kick from the apron, into a springboard tomahawk. Monkey chatters to fire up, but a blind charge misses and MJF grabs the tail. Monkey runs around, sending MJF flying out the ring and following with a tope con hilo.

Springboard splash gets two back in. Monkey fires up the crowd before threatening a tail whip on MJF, who bails. Sunset flip bomb try, but MJF hangs on to the ropes on the apron. MJF moonsaults over Monkey and gives him an eye poke. Back in, package shoulderbreaker gets two. MJF spits on Monkey and gets a tail whip to the face for his trouble. Michinoku Driver and MJF rolls out. Monkey chokes MJF on the outside with his tail before adding a crossface blow. They brawl on the floor, but MJF sends Monkey into the guardrail and ties his tail to it! Monkey unties himself, but MJF dropkicks him to keep him out of the ring for the countout at about 9:53 (the time may be off because of streaming issues on my end). (**3/4)

THOUGHTS: Indie wrestling nowadays is about two guys fighting a lot of the time, with no one really embracing heel or face antics nor over-the-top characters. And then there’s these two. I love that Space Monkey has taken an outlandish gimmick and works his moveset around it, and I love that MJF is a Memphis heel who refuses to try to impress the crowd. The finish was really well thought-out too. If you’re an 80s WWF fan or an NWA Powerrr watcher, check this match out.

Josh Prohibition vs. Little Guido. Wait, not really. Guido comes out in street clothes and with a noticeable limp. He takes the mic and explains that he has a torn MCL from a few weeks ago and is not cleared to participate. He then gives his respects to Lightning (1970-2011) before saying he offered to refund the company, who insisted he talk to them in person. They had a meeting in the office to find a suitable replacement. And then here comes a volunteer!

Prohibition takes the mic and shows respect for Guido, but there’s no way this guy is a suitable replacement. “You couldn’t lift the sweat off JT Lightning’s boot!” Prohibition says it looks like the kid needs another lesson, so here we go.

Josh Prohibition vs. Joshua Bishop (w/Gary Baller). They start hot with a strikefest, with Bishop getting a big chop and blocking a blind charge. Second-rope clothesline and a running knee, following by a slingshot elbow for two. Bishop fires off forearms on Prohibition but runs into a cravat and running kick. Bishop with a powerslam for two. Prohibition goes under the ring, and Bishop follows. Nobody can find them.

Bishop returns, but Prohibition is still missing. They search, allowing Prohibition to try to sneak in, but Bishop anticipates and knocks Prohibition off the apron. Outside, Bishop with some loud chops, but Prohibition with a knee and he crotches Bishop on the guardrail. Running chop on Bishop and he rakes the eyes as the referee is trying to regain control. Back in (what a concept), and Prohibition stomps away.

Slam and boot rake follows, and we hit the chinlock. Rolling single crab into an STF by Prohibition, but Bishop drags him to the ropes. Prohibition chokes Bishop over the top rope, then cuts off Bishop with an eye rake. Prohibition punches him down from the corner and taunts him. Bishop tries the Last Ride, but Prohibition hangs onto the ropes. Bishop returns with a forearm shiver and follows Prohibition up, getting a superplex.

Prohibition tries a ripcord, but Bishop with a Northern Lights and running knee. Prohibition stops his momentum with a Saito suplex and TKO. Oshigoroshi gets two, but Prohibition pulls him up. He taunts Baller and goes outside to get a chair. Tiger driver attempt on the chair, but Bishop backdrops him and keeps the stack for the pin at 8:44. (*1/2)

THOUGHTS: Didn’t do it for me. They were clearly going for “arrogant heel gets his comeuppance from rookie face”, but there was too much slow stuff in the match – the “under the ring” part went almost a full minute. A faster match telling the same story would’ve been better. That said, this match was basically put together at the last second, and it’s possible they were calling it under the ring. I’ll give it a mulligan.

Ethan Page (w/Dr. Daniel C. Rockingham) vs. Matthew Justice. Yes, that’s Impact Wrestling tag team champion Ethan Page. Page seems rather uninterested in being around Dr. Dan, who is doing a Tony Robbins style gimmick with a live headset at ringside. Dr. Dan gets the massive toilet paper streamer treatment during intros. Dr. Dan: “I don’t need these! I use wet wipes!”

Page tries to tell Dr. Dan to keep quiet during the match, or at least turn the mic off. Justice with a headlock, but International is cut off when Dr. Dan pulls Justice’s leg. Page tells him not to interfere in the match. Dr. Dan tries again to trip Justice, and Page has had enough, tossing Dr. Dan to Justice to get beaten up. The actual wrestlers get a series of cruiserweight sweeps and one-counts. And now Dr. Dan chastises Page and reminds him of the pamphlet. Page (into Dr. Dan’s mic): “Turn the f***ing microphone off!”

Justice takes advantage temporarily, but lands a knee to send Justice to the apron. Dr. Dan pulls Justice off the apron, and Justice chases Dr. Dan before remembering Page is watching him. The two wrestlers brawl on the outside, but after an up-and-over on the guardrail, Justice knocks down Dr. Dan and continues beating Page up. Page gets whipped into the guardrail, and back in, Justice with a double axhandle off the top rope. He gets a second one, getting two. Justice smacks Page, who fires back and corners Justice with a chop. Justice gives him a receipt.

Justice cuts off a blind charge, getting a Claymore for two. Justice goes up top but gets caught, with Page following up as they fight until Page tosses Justice off the top for two. Dr. Dan slides the ring bell in, and while the ref removes it, he tosses Page a chair. Page refuses it, and in the chaos Justice tries an Alabama Slam. Page escapes but walks into a series of chops. Page whips Justice, who nails a tope suicida on Dr. Dan before the momentum takes him into the second row over the guardrail!

Justice goes back up, but Dr. Dan grabs the leg and Page follows with a superplex try. Justice slips him off and gets a flying Rocker Dropper, but Dr. Dan pulls the referee out at two. Duke: “Pick on someone with your own IQ! Okay, he may have.” Justice goes after Dr. Dan, who slams a chair into him. He holds Justice up for Page, who instead has had enough of Dr. Dan. The two argue, and Dr. Dan shoves Page into a Justice schoolboy for the pin at 9:14. (*3/4) Page and Dr. Dan argue to the back.

THOUGHTS: The story here was that Page was regretting enlisting Dr. Dan to be his cornerman and the two just could not get along. Dr. Dan overshadowed the match a bit too much, but his accidental interference backfire was meant to be karma. That said, the booking makes you feel a little sorry for Page, who lost due to interference he didn’t even ask for. Matthew Justice was basically the Other Guy in this story, which is a shame because he showed some talent. That dive got some serious distance.

Jody Fleisch vs. Andrew Everett. Man, I remember playing EWR and thinking Jody Fleisch was the future. Good to see him still going. Everett, of course, was Trevor Lee’s partner in Impact, though at the time of this show he was tag champs with DJ Z. Fleisch gets a huge “Welcome Back” chant during intros. Everett gets one too.

Fleisch works the arm to start, blocking an armdrag and going to a wristlock. Everett tries to bridge out, resorting to a kip-up and reversal. Fleisch rolls around, kips up on his own, and breaks. Each man blocks the other’s attempts to control, and after a long stalemate, Everett gets a lucha armdrag. Fleisch with his own armdrag, but Everett avoids the stomps and a moonsault, so Fleisch lands on his feet for a stalemate.

Fleisch then cartwheels through a standing headscissors try. Fleisch and Everett play to the crowd in turn to figure out who has the crowd on his side. They each tease attacking the other from behind, but neither follows through. Everett: “Stop being a sh***y person!” Eventually, they decide to play to the crowd at the same time, but neither trusts the other and they both try to sneak attack each other. Crowd: “Don’t be sh***y!” Finally, Code of Honor, and Everett tries a kick before being thrown to the corner.

He cartwheels over the top to the apron and springboards in, but Fleisch nails him with a dropkick in mid-air. Fleisch leaps to the top rope on a whip, flips over Everett, and gives him an enzuigiri and poison rana! Everett bails, so Fleisch nails him with a springboard quebrada off the TOP rope! The leg ran into the guardrail on the landing, but he’s okay! They brawl into the crowd, finding the concession stand, but Everett stops Fleisch and headbutts him. He goes to toss Fleisch into the wall, but Fleisch parkours into a backflip! Everett does the same! Fleisch then does a Disaster Kick off the wall! Wadsworth: “This is Absolute Intense Ninja Warrior!”

Fleisch with a Manhattan Drop on Everett, and they fight back to the ring. Fleisch throws Everett in, but gets caught with a Space Flying Tiger Drop! Finally, both men are back and Everett goes up top with a springboard spinning heel kick for two. He got distance on that sucker. Dropkick on Fleisch gets two. Everett looks for a brainbuster, but Fleisch withg a knee to break. Everett gets a drop toe hold and low superkick, then a running Star Press for two. Fleisch flips through a German suplex and cradles Everett for two, reversed for two, and Fleisch with a rana for two, reversed against for two. Fleisch with an enzuigiri, but Everett returns with a Pele.

Both men are down, but Fleisch misses a blind charge. Everett backflips off of Fleisch’s back in the corner and gets a German suplex for two. Everett trties another German, but Fleisch elbows out only to run into an enzuigiri. Lionsault by Everett gets two. Big right hand from Everett, but Fleisch goes up-and-over on a corner whip. He backflips into a Frankensteiner off the ropes! For two! Fleisch goes up top, but the Shooting Star Press misses and Everett with a spike Frankensteiner of his own for two. This match is nuts. Everett tries the Best Shooting Star in the World, but Fleisch moves and Everett crashes. Fleisch with the Phoenix 720 DDT for the pin at 14:15 (***1/2).

THOUGHTS: Oh yes, this is the good stuff. There’s two ways to go with high flyers: either you build to big moments and tell a story that way, or you say the heck with it and do the craziest things you can think of. Somehow, this match did both. The run up the wall segment itself was eye-popping, and that was just warmups. Every leap they did, even if it was meant to be countered, looked crisp and on point. Watch this match.

Tracy Williams vs. AJ Gray. Williams is the holder of what would become the IWTV title, but he doesn’t bring it to this event as AIW wasn’t working with them yet. They do, however, acknowledge that he won the previous year’s tournament. Tom Lawlor is on commentary. Lockup, and they exchange wristlocks, leading to a chain wrestling segment. Gray goes to the ropes during a grounded wristlock. Gray fights out of a standing armbar with big chops. Gray misses a blind charge and gets blasted with chops before Williams gets a kneeling Octopus hold. Gray carries him to the ropes.

Williams picks the leg and works it over. He goes for an ankle twist, but Gray kicks him off and after a criss-cross gets a crossbody for two. Uppercut by Gray staggers Williams to the corner, and Gray gets a Hammer Throw. It gets two. Gray goes to the chinlock, which Williams gets a jawbreaker to break. Gray with a standing dropkick out of nowhere for two. Gray works Williams over with some loud chops in the corner, but that gets Williams to fire back. Gray cuts him off with a lariat, but runs into a boot.

Clothesline goes nowhere, but Williams switches to a full nelson try. Gray breaks into a headlock, but Williams blocks a lariat and gets a teardrop suplex. Williams with corner lariats for the comeback, but Gray catches him on the top rope with an enzuigiri and follows up for a superplex. Williams escapes and headbutts Gray down, following with a shotgun dropkick off the top. Blind charge misses, but Williams recovers with a DDT for two.

Williams tries a piledriver, but Gray escapes with a rolling forearm, leading to a strikefest. Williams wins that with a big chop, only for Gray to get a shotgun dropkick of his own and an Uso hip attack. Gray gets Splash Mountain for a very close two. (Duke: “Ref earning his money with those double counts!” Lawlor: “First time for everything.”) Gray lifts Williams to the top rope and tries a superplex, but Williams blocks and DDTs him on the turnbuckle, following with a lariat for two. Crossface by Williams gets the tapout at 10:36. (*3/4)

THOUGHTS: Very much a disjointed match without much flow to it. When Williams is in there with someone who can keep up on the mat, it’s a joy to behold – he had a match in Nova Pro against Jonathan Gresham and Logan Easton LaRoux that was 11 minutes of pedal to the metal. Gray, however, seemed out of his element trying to grapple with Williams. The end result wasn’t pretty, but then again, the first match after an intermission rarely is. Anyway, one semifinal is complete: Lawlor, Garrini, Bishop, and Williams will meet. That’s a lot of grappling experience in that one.

Tim Donst vs. Gangrel. I love Donst and consider him a mentor of mine in this business, and Gangrel is Gangrel so expect some fun in this one. And yes, Gangrel uses his WWF music, although there’s no ramp to rise out of. He does, however, have the goblet. Donst acts terified of Gangrel during intros, then has an idea and asks to be introduced as Timmy the Vampire Slayer.

Donst jumps the bell and attacks Gangrel and slams him into the turnbuckle, but Gangrel reverses and fires away. Blind charge misses and Donst goes for a corner choke. Donst with chops and a purple nurple in the corner, but Gangrel reverses to a scoop slam and power drive elbow for two. Gangrel looks for the Impaler, but Donst escapes and rolls outside. Donst looks for a wooden stake and charges, but Gangrel keeps it away.

Donst sends Gangrel out of the ring during the shenanigans and clotheslines him on the floor. He chokes Gangrel on the guardrail before whipping him into another railing. He dives off for a clothesline, but Gangrel catches him and throws him over the guardrail to the crowd. Gangrel follows and throws Donst into and out of a chair before going to the bleachers to fight. The referee gives up counting to follow him, while Donst rakes the eyes only to get slammed on the bleachers!

Donst begs off, so Gangrel picks up a garbage can and wears Donst out with it. Wadsworth: “Nothing goes well by the concession stand.” Donst reverses Gangrel into the wall, then nails him with a trash can, but Gangrel recovers and tips Donst over by the concession stand. Donst staggers to the stage, where Gangrel smashes him down. Gangrel then chops Donst to ringside. Donst picks up the ring bell, but Gangrel cuts him off and throws him in.

Donst kicks the ropes to crotch Gangrel as he comes in before kicking him back out and getting a diving clothesline off the apron. Another clothesline from Donst on the floor, and he asks for the countout on Gangrel. Gangrel rolls in at nine, so Donst chokes him down with his boot. He pounds Gangrel over the ropes (Donst: “Stay dead!”) before guillotining him into the bottom rope. He drops an elbow on Gangrel and continues choking him on the bottom rope. Gangrel brawls back only to run into a back elbow. Suplex by Donst gets two.

Donst goes for the eyes on a chinlock. Gangrel fights up, forcing Donst to throw him into the corner. Blind charge eats boot and Gangrel gets a clothesline. Donst follows Gangrel up the ropes, catching him with a superplex into a second suplex… but Gangrel reverses the second one and sends Donst into the buckles. Slugfest as both men get up, and Donst seems to win only to run into a powerslam. Following clothesline in the corner, then a bulldog. Gangrel with a Russian legsweep for two.

Impaler try, but Donst holds the ropes and counters with a snap swing neckbreaker for two. Donst: “You wanna see him die?” Donst finds a bag under the ring and unloads it, revealing garlic cloves. Gotcha Cutter on the garlic, but Gangrel falls into the ropes. Donst rubs the garlic in Gangrel’s face and loads up the tiger driver, but Gangrel reverses to an Impaler try. Donst sneaks in a low blow, but Gangrel falls by the chalice. He drinks and spits in Donst’s face, and now the Impaler wins it at 14:08. (**1/4)

THOUGHTS: This felt like a WWF hardcore brawl, and thankfully Gangrel was always a pretty good brawler. Donst carried a lot of the match – makes sense given Gangrel’s advanced age – and the decision to go without a DQ in this one paid off. Donst is a much better face than heel, but he showed his heel chops in this one. A surprise ending, too, as you wouldn’t expect the old-timer to go over the regular.

Colin Delaney vs. Cheech. Tag partners collide to infinity – and beyond! Delaney is very unhappy about this. Commentary notes these two were the most successful team in AIW. Long lockup all the way around the ring, and the two shove each other. Code of Honor off of a fake-out, but Delaney rolls Cheech up for one. Cruiserweight sweeps, but Cheech handsprings out of a Delaney headscissors and gets a tilt-a-whirl headscissors of his own. Cheech with an O’Connor Roll for two, but Delaney returns with a wheelbarrow armdrag only for Cheech to roll through and get a dropkick. Now Delaney headsprings out of a rana and gets a dropkick of his own. He tosses Cheech and follows with a springboard plancha.

Back in, Cheech catches Delaney with forearms and a chop, only to run into a back elbow. Delaney gets a tornado DDT for two. Russian legsweep into a ground Octopus on Cheech. Delaney stops an escape with an uppercut and sends him into the corner. Neckbreaker gets two. Delaney with a kidney shot, then another, asking Cheech to do something in between. Cheech catches a clothesline by Delaney and spins it into a pumphandle suplex for two. Cheech with knees to the back in the corner and he puts him up, getting a back superplex for two. Cheech chops a limp Delaney in the corner, but Delaney runs through a chop and fires back. Cheech goes to the eyes to break and dumps Delaney, following with a fake-out leading to a standoff.

Delaney stops Cheech from coming back in, but Cheech brings him to the apron. Cheech elbows him to the floor, and now Cheech gets the flying knees off the apron. Back in, Cheech gets a Lygerbomb for two. Stinger Splash misses, but Cheech drop toe holds Delaney into the top turnbuckle and follows with a facewash dropkick. Delaney blocks the follow-up and catches Cheec with a brainbuster for two. Follow-up Magic Killer knee strike gets two. Delaney: “Please! Stay down!”

Delaney slaps Cheech around to prove his point, but that annoys Cheech and he fires back. We get a forearm exchange (crowd is now fully behind Cheech), ending with Delaney getting an elevated Eat Defeat only for Cheech to land a big boot before both go down. Delaney catches Cheech and tries a diving Cutter, but Cheech awkwardly rolls through before hitting a German suplex for two. Delaney with a Stunner out of nowhere, and a C-4 gets two. Cheech with a superkick to the gut, then one to the face, then to the knee, then a big knee strike, but Delaney catches Cheech with a small package for the pin at 12:27. (**) Both men are down for a while after the match, but Cheech helps Delaney up and raises his hand.

THOUGHTS: Another story-heavy match as both men were hesitant to go all-out against their friend and tag team partner. Delaney seemed to have lost because of this, but in the end pulled a flash pin. The match was kind of sloppy in parts as the two had incredible ideas they couldn’t quite execute. Some people are better partners than opponents; it happens.

Gringo Loco vs. Laredo Kid. Kid is the former tag partner of Angel Garza in Impact. Loco is doing an Art Barr tribute gimmick, as you may guess from the name. Loco takes Kid to the mat and the two exchange armdrags before a standoff. Kid works the arm, switching to a headlock, but Loco gets a leglock only for Kid to switch out and get the arm. Kid with a tilt-a-whirl armdrag and he kips up. They do a test of strength, with Loco pushing Kid’s shoulders down for some two-counts until Kid stands on Loco’s shoulders into a rana. Loco blocks Kid and gets an armdrag, but runs into the boots as Kid gets a diving headscissors and the two start doing cruiserweight sweeps before both handspring up to a standoff. Crowd: “Lucha! Lucha!”

Loco refuses a handshake and slaps Kid before kicking him and choking him in the corner. Loco sends him across the ring, where Kid recovers from a run-up failure to get to the apron, coming back with a springboard headscissors and another tilt-a-whirl rana. Loco goes outside, so Kid with a slingshot rana to the outside. Kid kicks Loco and dazes him, returning to the ring so he can do a flip dive… Loco moves, Kid lands on his feet, but Loco monkey flips Kid onto the entrance ramp! Loco tosses him back in to get two. Loco catches Kid with a Sky High for two.

Loco clubbers away on Kid, then blocks a rana and stomps away on Kid. Loco works him over in the corner, but a blind charge airballs and Kid gets a superman punch and a spinning headscissors. Loco bails, so Kid goes to the top… then comes back down and runs instead to a slingshot plancha… only Kid may have hit his head on the ground! Ew!

Kid is up first as the crowd breathes a sigh of relief. Back in, springboard frog splash gets two. Kid kicks away at Loco in the corner, but Kid’s still a little dazed. Loco goes up and over, but Kid catches him coming back with a Code Red for two. Kid puts Loco up top, but Loco knocks him down only for Kid to follow. Loco catches him and gets Angel’s Wings off the ropes, crawling over for two. Loco goes up top, only for Kid to meet him with chops and a step-up kick. Kid follows to the buckle and they slug it out, with Kid getting a springboard Cutter. But again, Kid has to crawl over to cover and can only get two. Phoenix Splash by Kid airballs, and Loco with a tombstone lungblower for two. Loco goes up, only for Kid to kip up and follow him, catching him with a belly-to-belly moonsault for the pin at 12:26. (**)

THOUGHTS: I know this match was slow at times, but given the near-accident on the outside I’m willing to forgive it. Laredo Kid recovered well enough to save this match, and that’s important. This match suffered from a lot of the usual flaws lucha has, where there’s quite a bit of downtime between moves and everything feels over choreographed. That said, the two had styles that meshed well together, and I would like to see a rematch, just to see what they do when they don’t almost die.

Swoggle vs. Magnum CK (with The Director). Swoggle is one half of AIW’s tag champions at this point. Magnum is in the same group as Flynn from earlier. Magnum knocks Swoggle over during intros. Swoggle smacks the Director upside the head in return.

Magnum gets to his knees to mock Swoggle, then powers him down in a lockup. Swoggle returns the favor, which angers Magnum. He charges – still on his knees – and gets a headlock, and the two exchange shoulder blocks. Swoggle with some armdrags and a scoop slam on Magnum (who, yes, was on his knees, but still). Magnum finally stops playing around and boots Swoggle down. He chokes away on Swoggle in the corner, but Swoggle catches another boot and goes to Suplex City (or Village?). Swoggle with the Rikishi hip check, and he knocks the Director down. Magnum slams the clapboard into Swoggle’s head during the distraction for the pin at 3:07. (1/2*)

THOUGHTS: Total comedy match to be a palette cleanser before the main event, and that’s fine. Neither man pretended it was anything more than that, and the key with comedy matches is that when you run out of jokes, you go home. That’s what they did. It gets a low rating, but it’s perfectly acceptable for the show itself. Magnum joins the semifinal with MJF, Matt Justice, and Gangrel.

Main event: Joey Janela vs. Marty Jannetty. It’s a Spring Break rematch! Janela is the Intense champion (that would be the secondary title) at this time, but this is non-title. And yes, they used the Rockers music! Lawlor is back on commentary for this one.

They work each other’s arms, each one somersaulting out to reverse. Janela works into a Fujiwara armbar (“You old piece of”) before Jannetty works his way back up and reverses. Janela gets to the ropes. Jannetty and Janela go International, ending with Janela smoking Jannetty with a forearm shot. Jannetty escapes the corner and gets a hiptoss. Marty with a legsweep for one, then a standoff. Test of strength, but Janela clubs Jannetty instead. They slug it out, only for Janela to nail Jannetty with a big boot and clobber him in the corner.

Hammer Throw by Janela, and a running Cactus knee, then another. Janela tosses Jannetty onto the timekeeper’s table at ringside, and when Marty pulls himself up, Janela drapes his throat on the ropes. Janela tries to keep it up, but Jannetty fights back into the ring and catches Janela with a suplex for one. Jannetty chops away on Janela, who keeps trying to escape to another corner. Janela suckers Jannetty in and gets a forearm shot before stomping away. Soccer kick by Janela and he mocks Jannetty.

Janela clubs Jannetty down and goes up top, but the moonsault misses. Jannetty picks him up, but hesitates and Janela makes it a slugfest. They slug themselves silly, drop to their knees, keep going, stand up, keep going, and finally Janela gets the advantage only for a double clothesline to follow. Janela bails, so Jannetty smacks his head into the timekeeper’s table. Janela tosses a chair into Jannetty’s gut – seriously, what does it take to get someone DQ’d in AIW? – before tossing him into the post.

He breaks the count only to go back out, then tosses Jannetty into the crowd. He superkicks Jannetty while the latter is seated in a chair, then pulls him back up to a seat. Air Sabu over the guardrail by Janela knocks both men down. Janela tosses Jannetty back to ringside before clearing the timekeeper’s table. Janela sets him on the table and goes up top, nailing Jannetty with a splash onto the table. Which doesn’t break. So Janela throws Jannetty back onto the table and tries again, this time with a senton bomb. Again the table doesn’t break! Who booked this table?

Crowd wants one more try, but Janela isn’t up for that and rolls Jannetty in. He goes clubberin on Jannetty, adding a running knee to the jaw. Janela blocks a single-leg and tosses Jannetty across the ring, but a blind charge hits the elbow. Jannetty goes up, but Janela avoids the fistdrop. Jannetty sees it and lands on his feet, getting a DDT for two. Jannetty may have tweaked his leg on the landing. They fight on the apron, and Janela gets the better of it, crushing Jannetty with a Death Valley Driver on the apron!

Janela takes the mic and demands a countout, and Jannetty can’t put weight on his leg, but he pulls himself in at 9.9! Janela asks the ref to hold the mic before toying with Jannetty. Janela puts Jannetty up top and tries a powerbomb, but Jannetty fights desperately to fall out. Jannetty can’t get up, so Janela with a superkick. Jannetty with an uppercut to shock Janela, but Janela boxes Jannetty down. Janela tries a piledriver, but Jannetty fights out and it’s the Rocker Dropper! Marty’s practically dead, though, and by the time he crawls over it’s only two.

Jannetty limps outside and gets a chair, but he swings and misses and Janela kicks his leg out of his leg. Package piledriver on the chair somehow only gets two. Janela puts the chair on Jannetty and goes up top, and a double-stomp on the chair STILL only gets two! Janela is out of ideas as the crowd gives Jannetty a standing ovation. Jannetty, defiant to the end, flips off Janela, so Janela gives him Sweet Chin Music to win at 17:44. (***1/4)

After the match, Janela wants the mic again. He says it’s too bad Marty is resorting to wrestling on a bad ankle because he doesn’t have health insurance, because Marty is one of the best ever. Marty may be very old, but he still looks like a heart-throb. Janela calls him an action star and says that he’s starting a GoFundMe to get Marty the ankle surgery he needs. Despite not being able to walk well, he put on this match, so he gets a round of applause. (In fact, a standing ovation and a Marty chant). Janela thanks Marty for the match and they shake hands as the show ends.

THOUGHTS: You want me to apologize for marking out to Marty Jannetty? But seriously, much like Donst/Gangrel, this was a fantastic example of making someone who’s lost a step look like they still had it. Donst was able to stick to brawling and heel shenanigans to fit with Gangrel, and Janela carried Jannetty through a similar, though main event style, match. If this is what Jannetty is capable of with a bad ankle, I wish we’d been able to see him at 100%. And on top of that, we have our third semifinal: Fleisch, Delaney, Laredo Kid, Janela. What a mesh of styles that is!

Still, I hope they fired the table.

WRAP-UP: The thing I notice the most about this show is how the semifinals come together. In one of them, you have a sports-entertainment overload with MJF, Magnum CK, Gangrel, and Matthew Justice; in another, it’s solid mat wrestlers Dominic Garrini, Tom Lawlor, Joshua Bishop, and Tracy Williams; and in the third, some hugh flying with Joey Janela, Jody Fleisch, Colin Delaney, and Laredo Kid. That’s just good booking.

As for the matches here, a lot of them were good, but felt like they could be better. Considering everyone’s turning around and going all-out the next night, I understand that. The ones who didn’t have an extra match – people like Donst, Jannetty, Flynn – put on their full show. Some of the losers (Lyndon, Swoggle, Page, Everett) had a match the next night anyway so they had to pace themselves. Even so, at no time did it feel like they were dogging it. That’s the nice thing about wrestling – a slow match doesn’t always look like a bad one.

Overall, stuff like Fleisch/Everett, Garrini/Lyndon, MJF/Monkey, Donst/Gangrel, and Janela/Jannetty mean I had fun watching the show. Even the matches that weren’t as wrestling based (like Prohibition/Bishop or Page/Justice) told a bit of a story. This may not be for everyone, though, and a show with only first-round matches is one that almost always rates a SKIM IT by design. Given the length of the show, pick and choose, then come back later to watch Night Two.