If you’re gonna do the first half of a two-parter, you’re kind of obligated to do the second half too, aren’t you?
The PG Era Rant for the JT Lightning Invitational Tournament, Part Two.
From Cleveland, Ohio, and hosted by AIW. Held May 27, 2018. Tape runtime: 195 minutes.
Your hosts are Matt Wadsworth and Brian Carson, although Carson arrives late and others take his place early on.
Pre-show promos come from Colt Cabana, Tom Lawlor, Andrew Everett, Matthew Justice, and The Besties In The World.
For those of you who wish to read Night One, here’s my review. For those who don’t feel like reading Night One, here’s a tournament bracket:
Semifinal 1: Colin Delaney (def. Cheech), Jody Fleisch (def. Andrew Everett), Joey Janela (def. Marty Jannetty), Laredo Kid (def. Gringo Loco)
Semifinal 2: Dominic Garrini (def. Louis Lyndon), Joshua Bishop (def. Josh Prohibition), Tom Lawlor (def. Frankie Flynn), Tracy Williams (def. AJ Gray)
Semifinal 3: Gangrel (def. Tim Donst), Magnum CK (def. Swoggle), Matthew Justice (def. Ethan Page), MJF (def. Space Monkey)
We get an appreciation speech for JT Lightning, the namesake of this tournament, and Chandler Biggins, the founder of AIW, complete with acknowledgement of family members. Lightning’s family members are brought into the ring for a thank you. We get a huge JT Lightning chant at the request of the speaker.
Semifinals: Magnum CK vs. Matthew Justice vs. Maxwell Jacob Friedman vs. Gangrel. Magnum casually flicks a man’s hat off while doing a preening lap around the ring in a funny bit. MJF’s entrance is interrupted by Colt Cabana saying, “Son, you forgot your lunch!”, starting Colt’s Your Daddy and Get Your Lunch chants (to be fair, there is a resemblance). MJF stomps the lunch bag like the petulant brat he is. Gangrel does the spew before the match begins, so that particular finish won’t happen twice. MJF again requests silence for his intro and reminds the crowd Colt isn’t his dad (Crowd: Yes He Is!).
Tim Donst is on commentary. MJF rests in the corner as the others circle until the fans remind people he’s there, at which point all three turn to MJF. He fights his way out until Gangrel smacks and bites him. Justice and Gangrel ping-pong Magnum as MJF goes to the back. Magnum ends it with a Flair Flop. He then goes up to try a double axhandle, but Justice and Gangrel give him a double shot to the gut. Justice with the headlock, and a tackle gets a one-count.
Big chops to Gangrel, but Gangrel with a front facelock. Impaler is blocked by a corner rush, but Gangrel tosses Justice. Magnum charges Gangrel and slams him in the corner, followed by some choking. Gangrel reverses a whip and gets a corner clothesline and bulldog, Justice saves. Then Gangrel’s music plays… but Gangrel didn’t get the pin; MJF is returning as a vampire! (Donst: “OMG, he has turned!” Crowd: “Holy Shit!”) MJF asks for a high-five from a very confused Gangrel, who pulls an incisor out.
Now certain he’s faking, Gangrel gets a Russian legsweep and tosses MJF. Justice is dumped soon after, but Magnum boots down Gangrel as Justice appears to be busted open. Magnum stomps away on Gangrel, then a slam follows. To the top, and Magnum decides to dive on MJF and Justice instead of Gangrel. He goes back up, but the big elbow misses. Impaler by Gangrel, but MJF tosses Gangrel and steals a two-count. Justice with a brainbuster try on MJF, who goes low. MJF goes up, but Cabana re-appears and tells his son to get down. The distraction allows Justice to slam MJF off, and the Jackhammer finishes at 6:48. (*3/4)
THOUGHTS: Interesting choice for an opener. As I predicted in Night One, this was total sports entertainment with a bit of comedy thrown in from MJF, who even here looks like a star in wrestling. Dude just gets it, as most AEW watchers know. Everyone got a chance to show off in this match, which is what you want, and Justice advancing makes sense as he was trained by JT Lightning and wishes to win it in his honor.
Semifinals: Joshua Bishop (w/Gary Baller) vs. Tracy Williams vs. Dominic Garrini vs. Tom Lawlor. Lawlor, apropos of nothing, is wearing a Psychosis mask. Baller is essentially the captain of Team No Consequences and is a cheerleader. Bishop’s intro reminds everyone he’s still alive and Josh Prohibition isn’t. Williams won the 2017 edition of this tournament. Garrini gives the Catchpoint signal during his introduction.
Dr. Daniel C. Rockingham is on commentary. Garrini charges Lawlor and they brawl to start as Bishop and Williams chain. Williams is shoved off into Lawlor, but Bishop and Garrini grab Lawlor and Williams for Germans, but Lawlor/Williams fight off a suplex try and fight each other until they’re too worn out and the suplexes connect. Bishop and Garrini chop each other, which goes well for Garrini. Knee strikes and a push kick, but Garrini runs into a powerslam. Knee in the corner by Bishop, but Williams cuts Bishop off with clotheslines.
Lawlor strikes down Garrini outside the ring as in the ring, Bishop gets teardrop suplexed. Lawlor runs back in but gets cut off by an elbow. Williams and Lawlor fight over suplexes, with Lawlor getting a high Northern Lights suplex to end the struggle. Calf kicks and a diving stomp by Lawlor on Williams. Garrini enters and clocks Lawlor with a back of the head forearm, but Bishop cuts Garrini off and stomps away. Lawlor and Bishop double-team Garrini, then double suplex Williams. Bishop picks both men up and Lawlor gives both men a second-rope Tomahawk chop, then throws one to floor Bishop.
Garrini catches Lawlor with a backbreaker, then a ripcord triangle choke. Bishop adds a single-leg crab to Lawlor, but Williams with the Octopus on Bishop and everyone’s tangled. Everyone collapses before a submission, and Bishop and Williams remain in the ring as Williams chops Bishop. Outside, Garrini sends Lawlor to the guardrail, while inside, Williams keeps chopping away and adds a forearm shiver. Bishop with a corner rush and he goes for a superplex, but Williams fights him off. Garrini chokes out Lawlor on the outside before racing in and beating everyone up, ending with a Muscle Buster on Williams. It gets two, Lawlor saves.
Lawlor clears the ring of everyone but Bishop and gives him a Superman punch. He winds up for another, but Bishop follows and the two chase each other from corner to corner. Lawlor fakes out Bishop and cinches in a guillotine choke, but Bishop reverses to the Side Effect for two. The two fight over a suplex, but Lawlor with another guillotine. Lawlor transitions it to a shoulderbreaker, but Garrini pulls Lawlor off the cover and slaps him silly. Garrini and Lawlor brawl on the outside, and Lawlor tosses Garrini onto the timekeeper’s table (which, again, doesn’t break). Lawlor gets on the apron and adds a legdrop on Garrini on the table (which STILL doesn’t break).
Lawlor, frustrated, beats up the table as the crowd chants for it. He stuffs some toilet paper into Garrini’s mouth and tries to drag him back, but Garrini wakes up and suplexes Lawlor on the ramp. Back in the ring, Williams with Yes Kicks on Bishop as Garrini zip ties Lawlor to the guardrail.
Lawlor chokes Garrini out with one arm, then back in the ring Williams and Bishop fight. Bishop with machine gun chops as Lawlor tries to return to the ring, dragging the guardrail with him. Williams lariats Bishop and tries the piledriver, but Bishop cradles for two. Bishop with a powerbomb try, but Williams lands on his feet and piledrives Bishop into the Crossface for the tapout at 12:16. (***1/4) Lawlor had dragged himself to the apron, but Garrini made sure he could get no further.
THOUGHTS: First off, I hope they fired the table. That table no-sold Janela in Night One and now Lawlor in Night Two. Never go into business for yourself, kids. Now, seriously, a lot of good striking and grappling in this one, and they were wise to divide it into Garrini/Lawlor exchanging hate while Williams/Bishop fought for the win. Bishop may be good, but in AIW circles, he’s too young to get the win over Williams. The idea of Lawlor dragging the guardrail behind him out of desperation to win was a neat one, and it definitely makes you think he could’ve won if he hadn’t become obsessed with Garrini.
Semifinals: Colin Delaney vs. Laredo Kid vs. Jody Fleisch vs. Joey Janela. Note to WWE fans: Yes, that Colin Delaney. Note to TNA fans: Yes, that Laredo Kid. Note to AEW fans: Yes, that Joey Janela. Note to ROH fans: Yes, that Jody Fleisch. Sorry to leave you out, MLW fans; I’ll think of something down the line. (Pretty sure I stole this joke from Scott Keith. No apologies.) Janela is AIW’s secondary champion right now, but this is non-title.
Brian Carson is now on commentary the rest of the way. Delaney tosses Laredo, but he gets tossed soon and Janela and Fleisch do a criss-cross razzle-dazzle bit. Fleisch with La Majistral for one, Janela with an O’Connor Roll for two, and it’s a stalemate. Delaney and Laredo take over in the ring, with Laredo firing chops and kicking away from the apron. Springboard crossbody follows on Delaney, and a tilt-a-whirl leads to a forearm smash. Laredo gets hung up in the ropes, and Delaney gets a baseball slide German. Janela with a tope suicida on Delaney, and Fleisch with a springboard plancha on the two of them. Everyone knows it’s Laredo’s turn, and he hits a delay tuck quebrada on all three!
Delaney sends Laredo into the guardrail, but Janela kicks down Delaney. Fleisch and Janela brawl into the crowd, where Fleisch breaks a bottle over Janela’s head. Camera follows Janela/Fleisch, who head to the concession stand (and Janela kicks down Delaney while there). Fleisch puts on the brakes near Delaney, but he gets a headscissors on Janela to send him out the door. Fleisch brings Delaney to the concession stand, but Laredo appears out of nowhere with a tope con hilo onto both of them!
Delaney and Fleisch try to throw a chair at each other, with Fleisch knocking Delaney onto it but charging into a big boot. Janela (in from around the building) boots down Delaney, then Fleisch, bringing him back to the ramp before catching Laredo with a boot to a chair Laredo was carrying. Back in, it gets two. Laredo and Janela fire off forearms, but Janela runs into an enzuigiri. Fleisch returns and nails Laredo with an enzuigiri of his own, then a poison rana. Delaney catches Fleisch with the C-4 and everyone’s down to a huge ovation.
Delaney kicks Laredo out of the ring and runs into a Janela big boot and package piledriver, Laredo saves. Laredo with a superkick and sunset DDT to Janela for two. Fleisch returns via the top rope and rolls through into a Laredo chop, but returns with an enzuigiri. He’s dumped to the apron, but bounces back with a kick and the Phoenix 720 DDT to Laredo… but Delaney tries to steal the pin. Janela breaks it up, and Sweet Chin Music ends it at 8:20. (***1/2) It’ll be Justice vs. Williams vs. Janela in the final.
THOUGHTS: This is what this match was supposed to be, with something always happening. I may have missed a couple of spots because I can’t type as fast as these four can run. Fleisch proved he belonged with the other high-flyers, and when Colin Delaney is the slow person in the match, you know it’s bonkers. Janela winning was the right call, as the tournament winner gets a Big Gold title shot and he’s the secondary champion. Everyone looked good here.
Post-match, Janela wants the mic and apologizes for killing Jannetty in Round One, but promises he’s winning.
Tre Lamar and Chase Oliver (w/Gary Baller) vs. The Besties In The World (Mat Fitchett and Davey Vega). Lamar/Oliver are also part of Team No Consequences as you may have guessed. The Besties are doing a high school wrestler gimmick, complete with varsity jackets. And for some reason, they come out to “Truly Madly Deeply”, which may be the strangest entrance music I’ve heard since “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” was used by Effy. But hey, they get a Welcome Back chant.
Code of Honor from Lamar and Vega. Vega keeps Lamar off-balance during the feeling out process. Lamar with a headlock, and we go International, ending with a Vega armdrag or two. Vega slides under a leapfrog and gets a headscissors for one. Lamar trips Vega and, after two leapfrogs, gets a dropkick. Vega bails out and tags in Fitchett, who gets a headlock on Lamar. Fitchett dropkicks Lamar in the middle of a leapfrog, and Oliver gets in.
Fitchett with a headlock, but Oliver trips him and gets armdrags. Oliver with the knuckle-lock into a lucha armdrag and he sweeps the leg into a standing shoting star press for two. Oliver sends Fitchett into his corner and brings in Lamar, who nails a Broncobuster and armdrags Oliver into Fitchett. Lamar with a slingshot elbowdrop for two. Vega with a blind tag, and the Besties hit dropkicks into a Vega senton for two. Vega with a soccer kick on Lamar for two. Chop levels Lamar and he gets kicked into being face in peril.
Fitchett kicks away and slams Lamar, adding a kneedrop, getting two. Fitchett corkscrews the arm into a takedown and hammerlock. Fitchett stomps on Lamar’s arm Baszler style and brings in Vega. The Besties go for a double backdrop, but Lamar blocks only to get whipped into a Complete Shot from Vega and moonsault from Fitchett. Vega gets two. (Duke: “I know they’re from the Savage Garden, but they’re working N Sync!”)
Lamar with a jawbreaker, but Vega calmly grabs Lamar’s boot to stop him. He knocks Oliver off the apron, but runs into a flying knee. No one there to tag, and Vega brings Lamar back for a suplex only for Lamar to land on his feet and get a Mushroom Stomp. Hot tag Oliver, and he kicks down Fitchett in the corner with running dropkicks. Oliver adds an Asai DDT for two. Oliver goes up and over, and Lamar adds Poetry in Motion. Oliver with a basement rana, Vega saves. Vega slugs down Lamar and dodges a Pele try, getting a Yes Kick to the BACK of the head.
Oliver gets ripcorded into a German, and the Besties get a kick combo in the corner, Lamar saves. Everyone exchanges forearms, which ends with the Besties getting stereo Peles and stereo Last Rides for stereo two-counts. Vega threatens the referee, but Fitchett calms him down. The Besties put Lamar on the top rope and Vega follows, but Oliver with a Finlay Roll on Fitchett and he powerbombs Vega onto Fitchett. Lamar stomps both men from the top and dives onto Vega, and Oliver with a shooting star press on Fitchett for the pin at 12:43. (**3/4)
THOUGHTS: Not really much heat before the finish. Lamar and Oliver are young here and improving, but they still looked green next to the veteran Besties. There was a bit of downtime compared to the earlier matches (well, yeah, the earlier ones were four-ways), and it seemed like there were times No Consequences was a bit lost. Still, this is a big win for Lamar and Oliver, and comparing Lamar to his BLP appearance I reviewed last month shows he’s improved quite a bit in the 2 years or so since this show.
The Production (Frankie Flynn, Eddy Only, and Derek the Director) and Danhausen vs. The Philly Marino Experience (Philly Collins and Marino Tenaglia), Big Moe, and Little Guido. Wait, wasn’t Guido unable to compete on yesterday’s show? Well, it’s an eight-man tag and Marty Jannetty’s leg gave out as a result of the Janela match, so he’s gonna gut it out. Danhausen isn’t quite the Danhausen we know and love yet, but he’s getting there. Big Moe is playing the role of Sal E. Graziano in this team, and is every bit as huge.
Guido and Derek start. Guido takes down Derek and Gator Rolls him. He cradles for one as Derek wants Take Two. Derek with a headlock this time, and we go International, but Guido gets a fireman’s carry for one to complete the sequence as Derek scampers to tag in Only. Only and Guido lock up, and Guido works the arm. Marino in, but Derek yanks Marino’s hair and Only takes over. Another International, this time ending with Marino getting a monkey flip and dropkick for one.
Only locks Marino up and drops his arm on the top rope, and Derek and Danhausen add kneelifts. (You know Danhausen isn’t complete yet because he’s allowing Only and Derek to swear.) Only returns with a tope atomico for two. Flynn in now, and he boxes down Marino. Flynn taunts Guido, who distracts the ref by coming in and Marino gets punished. Flynn with a palm strike and running uppercut, then Danhausen tags in off of a Flynn dropkick. Danhausen stomps away and tags in Derek, who gets a snapmare and we hit the chinlock.
Marino fights back, but Derek with a kneelift and sunset flip try. Marino stomps on Derek to break, but Derek cuts off the tag. Derek rubs Marino’s face in the mat, and Danhausen in with an uppercut. He misses a clothesline, and Marino with Whisper in the Wind, hot tag Philly. He beats up Derek and gets a flapjack. Derek is sent out over the top rope and the Production check on him, allowing Marino to do Poetry in Motion to the outside on all four! Back in, Philly gets two.
Derek is sent to the apron off a blind charge, but comes back in with a Phenomenal Forearm (sort of) for two. Double clothesline and both men are down. Hot tag #2 to Guido, and he chops away on Flynn. Russian legsweep and shotgun dropkick, but Only saves on the cover and everyone (but Moe) comes in. Now Moe follows on his own and it’s a donnybrook. Everyone whips the Production together in the center of the ring, Big Moe splashes Only into a gooey paste, Derek saves.
Derek with a lungblower on Moe, and Danhausen hits a flying knee to send Moe down. PME hit their tag finisher (3D Complete Shot), but Flynn clears out Philly and gets Eye of the Hurricane on Marino, Guido saves. Moe and Guido with the Paisan Elbow combo to Flynn, but Only and Danhausen spike Guido and Moe. Flynn covers Guido for the pin at 11:48. (*1/2)
THOUGHTS: It’s an indie eight-man tag, no more and no less. The Production have a good gimmick, but it doesn’t translate well once the bell rings. Crowd was totally into the face team, and while Guido doing the job makes sense, methinks the fans wanted Big Moe to get the win. Better days were ahead for Danhausen; the rest? Not sure.
Scramble: Space Monkey vs. Andrew Everett vs. Gringo Loco vs. Louis Lyndon vs. Cheech vs. Nate Webb. Everyone but Webb was a first-round loser the previous night. Everett messes around with everyone else during their respective entrances. Webb gets some kids to pose with him at the entrance before seemingly high-fiving everyone in the building. He even finds a wheelchair-bound fan and takes him for a lap around the gym! (Everett, as you can imagine, is getting QUITE impatient at this point.)
On top of this, crowd chants One More Time, so Webb does his entrance all over again! (Cheech and Everett try to start the match with a near-fall only for the referee to wave it off.) Webb now leads a conga line of high-fives around the ring (and into it), with Everett trying to break it up and Cheech taking part. Now the kids from before invade the ring and each get to pose with Webb as everyone is losing patience. And just when the ring is cleared of fans, Webb takes the camera and walks around with it. Then during intros, Webb tries to steal the trophy.
Nate Webb has done more wrestling before the match begins than some people do in 20 minutes.
FINALLY, we begin the match. (Wadsworth: “Wait, this match is actually starting?”) Everyone understandably gangs up on and ejects Webb from the ring. Webb offers to buy beers for his opponents as a peace offering, and Everett helps pass them out. (Carson: “Do monkeys know how to drink beer?”) Everyone meets in the aisle and toasts to a good match, but Cheech collects the beers and sets them aside.
Now everyone gangs up on him in the aisle before throwing him in. Gringo pounces Cheech, and Lyndon catches a waistlock and holds it through a cartwheel. (Everett on the outside: “Ow, my nipple!” Bad monkey!) Back in the ring, Lyndon headscissors Gringo. Gringo sidesteps a blind charge and dropkicks Lyndon out of the ring, but Everett returns in a criss-cross into a handspring rana and spinning head and arm scissors. Dropsault and Gringo bails, but Monkey trips him up and picks nits in Everett’s hair. (Webb to Cheech outside: “This is all your fault!”)
Monkey with a flip, but Everett lands on his feet. Everett: “I got a banana RIGHT HERE!” Guess where he points, and guess what Monkey looks at (and freaks out upon seeing). Disappointed it’s NOT a banana, Monkey tosses the peel to cause Everett slip, getting two. Webb with a straitjacket slam and he kneedrops the tail before biting it. Cheech from behind on Webb, and he gets a running shoulder in the corner. Gringo slaps Cheech down and gets a sleeper, so Lyndon puts one on Gringo, so Monkey puts one on Lyndon, so Everett puts one on Monkey. Webb stops the arm from dropping, hands Cheech a beer, and Stuns everyone while talking trash. (Wadsworth: “Webb 3:16 says I have a really long entrance!”)
Webb goes for a twisting dive on Cheech, who ducks. Lyndon tosses Cheech and ranas everyone else at once! Everett lands on his feet on the apron, but Lyndon blocks an enzuigiri. Lyndon tries a sunset flip on Gringo, but Everett breaks it up with a springboard rana. Lyndon dropkicks Everett, only to be caught in a headscissors. Lyndon kicks Everett away to block, and Monkey dives onto Webb and Cheech with a tope con hilo. Lyndon with a moonsault onto Gringo and Cheech. This leaves Everett, and he does a shooting star plancha onto everyone!
Everett and Cheech back in, and he rolls through a Shooting Star only to be caught with the Claymore. Webb with Trouble In Paradise to Cheech, but Lyndon does a Chaos Theory for two until Gringo breaks it up with a senton bomb. Monkey with a monkey-go-round onto Gringo and he goes back up, but Everett meets him. Monkey bites Everett to take him back down, then the same to Lyndon. (Carson: “Does that monkey have his shots?”)
Everett and Lyndon fight each other as Monkey regains his balance, but Cheech charges Monkey before trying a double Stunner. He’s caught and Everett and Lyndon hold him in a double crossface, so Gringo climbs onto the backs of everyone… and Monkey with a springboard rana on Gringo! Cheech with a snapmare/Stunner combo on Everett and Monkey, then he rolls Lyndon up for two. Lyndon returns with Sliced Bread into a dragon sleeper and Cheech taps out at 12:18. (**1/4)
THOUGHTS: That was a scramble. Really, it’s just six guys doing things, although Webb did the least amount and was still the most entertaining character. Monkey was a healthy second, though. That’s the problem with matches like these; how do you establish yourself when everyone is trying to get their moves in? A six-way scramble either needs a lot of time (think Unforgiven 1999) or has to be extremely well put together to be nothing more than a palette cleanser. That’s what this was, although there was some funny bits in there.
AIW Absolute Title: Colt Cabana (challenger) vs. Nick Gage (champion). Actually, no, Gage isn’t here. (Cabana: “Is he here? Look, if he’s here, then he’s a good guy; but if he’s not here, then I’m the toughest man alive.”) Cabana’s such a criminal mind, he stole a Snickers bar from an Ohio Turnpike rest stop! So Cabana has an open challenge. And here comes the answer:
Colt Cabana vs. Mance Warner (w/The Duke). Duke: “See, the difference between Gage and this guy [Warner] is that Nick Gage got caught.” Before Colt can accept, a fan calls Warner the poor man’s substitute and Warner threatens to beat up the fan and go to jail. Cabana, meanwhile, accepts in honor of that fan.
They lock up, and Cabana slugs Warner down. Cabana with a headlock and shoulderblock, but Warner gets clubberin and a headbutt. Cabana is ejected, and Warner slugs him down on the outside. Cabana is sent over the guardrail, but whenever Warner tries to follow, Cabana switches sides too. Both men fake each other out on the fourth try, then Cabana chops down Warner in the crowd. Slam on the bleachers by Cabana and he kicks away. (Cabana: “I stole a Snickers, and now I’m gonna murder him!”)
Cabana allows a kid to chop Warner before loading in more chops and more fans. Back in the ring, Cabana works the arm (wrestling?) and takes him down. He chops Warner hard in the corner, launching Warner’s feet to the top rope over and over. Cabana goes under Warner and gets a single-leg pick, tying him up in a leglock… when MJF appears and asks his father for some money so he can hit the club. (“It’s gonna be safe! I’ll be back by 12!” “You have a curfew!”)
Cabana gives MJF the money he needs (plus or minus 46 dollars), and in the confusion, Warner knocks over Cabana. Warner chops Cabana and chokes him on the ropes. Warner clubs down Cabana, and the two exchange kicks. Cabana fights up, only for Warner to chop Cabana to the outside. Cabana throws toilet paper at Warner, but back in, Warner DDTs Cabana for two. Warner adjusts the kneepad and goes for the Punt, but Cabana dodges it only to get caught on the second try for two. We go to the chinlock, and when Cabana fights out he gets hit with a kneesmash for two.
Big stomp by Warner and he goes up, but eats boot on a diving whatever. Comeback begins, with Cabana chopping Warner down off the ropes and getting the Popeye Uppercut. Flying Asshole (running hip check in the corner) and a splash gets two. Flip Flop and Fly, but Warner with a ripcord headbutt for two. Both men with right jabs, and Cabana catches Warner trying the EYEPOKE OF DOOM and sends it back to Warner’s eyes. Warner with a headbutt to stop the Bionic Elbow, but both men go down and the elbow lands on Warner’s crotch.
Cabana goes up top, and here comes MJF again complaining about not being allowed to use the turnbuckles. Cabana instantly grounds MJF, but Cabana flies into the pop-up headbutt from Warner for two. (Crowd: “Spank Your Son!”) MJF wants to eyepoke Cabana, but Colt reverses and runs the two together. MJF’s eyes are hurt as he falls into Duke, and Cabana with an Outlaw Rollup for the pin at 12:45 (1/2*). Cabana spanks MJF after the match.
THOUGHTS: I’d say these two werern’t on the same page, but it was more like they weren’t in the same hundred of the Dewey Decimal System. A very bizarre match that was too serious to be comedic, too long to be a brawl, had too much sports-entertainment to be about the wrestling, and was so disjointed the heat couldn’t be sustained. MJF’s back-and-forth with Cabana was the most entertaining part. Then again, I am not a Mance Warner fan when he’s not having a psychotic brawl, and this wasn’t it, chief.
AIW Tag Team Titles: Dr. Daniel C. Rockingham and Ethan Page (challengers) vs. Swoggle and PB Smooth (champions). The champs are known collectively as Twins, and they definitely mean it in the Ahnold/DeVito sense. PB Smooth is a big, streetwise, African-American wrestler. Swoggle is… not. I forgot to mention in Night One: DCR comes out on a hoverboard. With a brochure for his lecture circuit. At Page’s behest, the challenger team’s name is Contractually Obligated To Team Up.
Smooth shoves DCR down off a lockup (Page: “DCR everyone!” DCR: “Hey, that was step one!”) DCR with a waistlock, but he can’t lift Smooth and Smooth throws him down. DCR tries a wristlock, but Smooth no-sells and backdrops DCR. Swoggle in, and he stalks DCR. DCR avoids the butt bite and throws Swoggle down, but Page has a cramp and can’t tag in. DCR is staring in disbelief, and Swoggle gets in the butt bite.
Chops to DCR and he works the arm, but Smooth is in and shoves DCR down before launching off of Swoggle to an elbowdrop for two. DCR ducks a forearm and gets one of his own, but runs into a Harlem Side Kick. Smooth with corner clotheslines as he runs back and forth on DCR, but as he goes for Old School, DCR pulls the ref in and rakes the eyes. Page forcefully tagged in and he works over Smooth.
He kicks away at Smooth’s knees before wrapping his leg around the ropes. DDT by Page gets two, Swoggle “saves”. Page and Swoggle argue as DCR adds a cheap shot off-camera. Page with a knee to the back, and DCR comes in with a body blow for one. Page in, and he works over Smooth in the corner before sending Smooth into DCR’s boot. Page with a snapmare and running kick for two. We hit the chinlock, but Page controls in the corner and tags in DCR. A clothesline does nothing whatsoever, and Smoother lands forearms to destroy DCR.
DCR goes low with a knee and tries a suplex, which Smooth easily reverses. Hot tag Swoggle – yes, I wrote that – and he gets a tilt-a-whirl headscissors on Page. A slugfest breaks out – okay, Page is on his knees to make it even – but Page with an enzuigiri. He can’t recover, and Swoggle with a German suplex for two. DCR with David Starr’s Look At It to Swoggle and he calls for a piledriver, but Smooth kicks DCR silly. RKEgo to Smooth and a big boot to Swoggle. He goes up, reluctantly – I mean, would you want to be a tag champion with DCR? – and the senton bomb gets two. DCR tags himself in right before the Spinning Dwayne from Page, and Swoggle with KICK WHAM STUNNER and he brings in Smooth. Chokeslam ends it at 10:07. (*1/2)
THOUGHTS: Imagine how a WWF Tag Team Title match would go if Paul Orndorff and Bobby Heenan were the challengers, and you have this match. The whole point of this weekend is that Page wanted DCR’s help to get into the tournament, and now he’s regretting it. Smooth pinning DCR was the obvious ending, but that’s okay, obvious can be good. Really, this team is getting over that PB Smooth can beat teams by himself – nothing against Swoggle, but he’s an underdog in every match and Smooth is the giant bailing him out.
After the match, Page shakes the champs’ hands and gets the mic. He admits everyone hates them as a team, then tells DCR to get up. DCR signed Page up to be in the JLIT until Absolution (“I’m sorry, this is still going.”) He doesn’t want to be a joke. He lost in the tournament, and DCR took the pin when Page wrestled well enough to be champs by himself. So Page wants some out of Column A(sshole), meaning DCR, and a lot of Column B(est Champion of All Time), himself. Maybe then it’ll work, whether anyone likes it or not. Page just wants to succeed, and if that’s gonna happen, DCR has to do his part.
Main event, Final: Tracy Williams vs. Matthew Justice vs. Joey Janela. Justice’s head is bandaged from earlier. The trophy’s in the ring to pose with as entrances go on. A very interesting dynamic here: Janela is the secondary champion looking to move up, Williams is the defending tournament champion looking to repeat, and Justice is hoping to win the tournament named for his trainer. For the record, this is elimination rules, as all finals should be. The ref even holds the trophy up like a title belt.
As a reminder, the winner gets a title match against the Absolute champion (Gage) any time, anywhere; in addition, it should be noted that the Absolution main event as of now is Gage vs. Williams. This becomes important later.
Code of Honor all around, then a three-way circle. Triple chaining all around, with Janela getting a headlock takedown and Williams headlocking Janela. Everyone breaks. Janela gets tied up by the other two, who work his arms. Williams with an elbow to Janela’s back, but Justice gets Williams’ waist and Williams gets his arms worked over. Justice kicks Williams into Janela, but Williams flips over Justice and gets a boot. Janela with a low dropkick, and Williams a shotgun dropkick as Justice’s bandage flies off.
Janela/Williams work over Justice in the corner as Justice is bleeding again. Williams asks for a double suplex with Janela, but they can’t agree which way to do it. Williams blames Janela and the two argue before getting on the same page, but after all that Justice suplexes Janela as Williams escapes. Williams tries for one, but Justice suplexes him, too. Baseball slide by Justice airballs, and Janela with tope suicidas on Justice, then Williams.
Justice dives onto both opponents soon after. Justice wipes the blood off his face – there’s still some on Williams, which is pretty gnarly – and stalks Janela, which leads to a chopfest. Justice tosses Janela into the front row, then sends Williams the same way as the crowd runs for cover. Justice moves the ring steps by the guardrail and launches off of them… straight into a boot from Janela!
Janela and Williams chop away at each other, with Williams getting the edge. Back in the ring (sure why not), Williams with a pump kick and he picks Janela up. A slugfest breaks out, and Williams with another pump kick and he keeps chopping Janela down. Janela has finally had enough and delivers forearms like crazy to Williams, but Williams reverses a whip and gets a lariat. Williams tries a suplex, but Janela reverses it. Williams fights out of a suplex and tries for the Crossface, but Janela fights out.
Sweet Chin Music is blocked, but Janela reverses a teardrop suplex into a headlock takedown and Judas Effect. Lariat by Williams after blocking a boot gets two. Piledriver try, but Janela rushes Williams to the corner and uppercuts him. Roundhouse kick by Janela and Williams is put up top, and Janela tries a piledriver off the ropes. Williams, thankfully, fights out and reverses to a flying DDT for two. Piledriver try by Williams…
…and Nick Gage’s music hits!? Williams wants Gage to show himself, but he gives up after a while and walks into Sweet Chin Music at 11:35.
Justice races in and gets an Alabama Driver for two. Justice with a baseball slide as Janela bails, and Justice goes up top and flies over the guardrail to tackle Janela into a chair! Justice checks his leg to make sure it’s okay before crawling back to Janela and throwing him into the ring. Janela’s put up top and chopped hard, then Justice follows up. Janela pounds him and gets a sunset flip bomb off the ropes, but Sweet Chin Music misses Justice and destroys the referee.
Justice takes one of his own for… nothing. A second ref runs in to count two, but on the kickout, Janela lands on that ref, too! Janela, frustrated, grabs a chair and waits for Justice, smashing him hard and unprotected in the head!! First ref counts… and… it’s… two! Justice is hulking up! A superkick puts him back down and now the second ref slowly counts two! Justice’s face is covered in blood as Janela beats up Ref Two. Janela tries to throw Ref Two, but Justice with another Alabama Driver as Ref Three races in to count… two! Yikes!
Ref 3 checks on Ref 1, but it’s clear he’s on his own. Justice tumbles over the table and folds it up (Carson: “That table won’t break, Matt!”), tossing it into the ring. He sets the table up in the corner on the second rope, but Janela with a rolling forearm to send Justice into Ref Three and we’re out of refs. Janela steadies the table in the ring and kicks away Justice. Janela puts Justice on the table and follows him up (as the table buckles under their weight).
Janela works the cut of Justice and wants a powerbomb, but it’s the Alabama Driver onto the table (Carson: “Put that table int his tournament next year and it’ll win!”). He covers, and all three refs count… two! Ref Three appears to be the ref in charge now as both men struggle to their feet. Janela with the Judas Effect and THREE superkicks to win the tournament at 20:34 (***1/2).
Janela takes the trophy from JT Lightning’s family and celebrates. He then takes the mic one last time to celebrate, but Tim Donst jumps him from behind and says he’s sick of Janela’s success. Donst asks how much they had to pay Janela to get him to show up. He can’t make Janela not the winner, but he’s mad that he was a fighting champion (Janela won the belt from Donst) and defended it every month, everywhere, while Janela rarely showed up to defend. Donst then breaks the trophy and tells the crowd to stop cheering him. He challenges Janela for the Intense title at Absolution (two months hence), and he asks what the Bad Boy can do against the man of AIW.
THOUGHTS: This was a very well-booked final. Justice became the sentimental favorite, but the crowd was behind all three of them. Williams was already #1 contender, so Gage wanting to play mindgames with him was acceptable. And after Janela pinned Williams, it seemed obvious Justice would pin Janela to win in honor of his trainer and the tournament’s namesake. However, as ref after ref was knocked out, the crowd hung more and more on the near falls. Janela going over may have been a surprise, but it’s not like Justice being bloodied was part of the planning. Besides, Janela was the MVP of this tournament and fully deserved the honors.
Then you get the post-match angle, which plays into Donst doing a full heel turn. There were shades of it during his match with Gangrel and certainly on commentary he seemed a little upset, but this sealed it. The reasoning was perfect, too; Donst feels he’s the heart and soul of AIW and hates that Janela is too “big” to be a regular. (Gage’s absence, intentional or otherwise, furthers Donst’s point; what good are champions who don’t show up?) The timing sealed Donst as the heel, though; Janela wanted to celebrate a hard-earned victory and was blindsided and told he wasn’t welcome in the locker room, even though the fans and opponents up and down the line seemed to respect him.
Anyway, post-show, Janela cuts a promo backstage that he calls the best ever. He pretends to talk to HHH, who “signs” him to NXT on the spot because of the promo you’re hearing right now. He promises not to write bad tweets like Lio Rush. “Titus O’Neil is your daddy, right?” He’s gonna teach Lio a lesson and bring the JLIT trophy… with sunglasses and a mustache. Because he’s a bad boy, you see. People off-screen applaud him, as this is clearly meant to be an Easter egg.
WRAP-UP: Well, minus one boo-boo in Cabana/Warner, everything connected the way it was supposed to. If a match wasn’t going for being a highlight, it was advancing some sort of story or being silly. Not every match on a card – especially one as long as this one – needs to be all-out, and sometimes breathing is important.
Also, it needs to be emphasized: this weekend belonged to Joey Janela. Not just because he won the tournament, but because he had an incredible main event style match with Marty Jannetty, was part of a high-flying exhibition later, and then came back and more or less wrestled two guys back-to-back in order to take it home. Making him the guy who stood head and shoulders above the others, while probably not on purpose (he’s just that good), helped accelerate Donst’s heel turn too.
Plus, look at everything set up by this show for Absolution (their Biggest Event Of The Year). We know Williams will be wanting to get the gold off Gage for that distraction. Donst and Janela will face off. Tom Lawlor wants Dominic Garrini. Ethan Page wants to show he’s better than DCR is making him look. All of those paid off in one way or another at Absolution. That’s good booking, and it’s coming out of a tournament, too!
This show is a very good show that, in terms of booking, wouldn’t be out of place on a Sunday. If you’ve got the stomach for a long show, I say WATCH IT. If you’re an indie wrestling junkie like me, watch this after the first night and see the whole story unfold. The highlights are Joey Janela’s matches and Williams/Bishop/Garrini/Lawlor from this night, as well as Fleisch/Everett and Janela/Jannetty from the first night. Check it all out. Wrestling is great.