About 20 minutes southwest of Chicago proper is the township of Berwyn, Illinois. The town itself feels somewhat stuck in the 1970’s, with charming, if not slightly run down storefronts, pharmacies, and corner stores sprinkled throughout. This Americana charm congregates together near the middle of the town with a bright, tall neon sign that beams “Beryn Eagles”. Walking inside The Berwyn Eagles Club, you’re immediately greeted by a glorious amount of wood paneling lining the walls, chandeliers from a by-gone era hanging from the ceiling posts, and hundreds of wrestling fans from around the Midwest who have once again gathered together for another AAW show.
This past weekend was AAW’s second annual Jim Lynam memorial tournament. Jim Lynam was a previous owner of the federation who unexpectedly passed away a few years ago. From the video packages and kind things other folks who knew him had to say, it’s clear that Lynam strived to put on top notch wrestling shows, and this weekend continued in his tradition.
Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the first night, but luckily a bracket style tournament is one of the easiest ways to get some great wrestling set up, so I was able to quickly get my bearings on the second night. I’m legitimately bummed that I missed Fenix vs. Trevor Lee for the title though, and what some folks called the match of the weekend with Keith Lee and Shane Strickland tagging against Matt Riddle and Zach Sabre Jr. Looks like we’ll all have to stream that together!
Luckily for me though, Night two was non-stop, top tier wrestling from top to bottom.
ACH vs. Zima Ion (DJZ)
The first match of the night was a semi-final match featuring ACH wrestling Zima Ion (aka DJZ). Their match immediately started with the two flipping outside, and hitting some insane dives over the guardrails and into the seats. ACH reminds everyone that he is strong as he is flippy with a brutal brain buster, but the human rap air horn DJZ won with that pesky roll up.
Michael Elgin vs. Myron Reed
The second match of the night is definitely a match of the night contender for me personally, as “Big Mike” Michael Elgin took on “Hot Fire” Myron Reed. Over the past few months Reed has really been winning me over at AAW, but I’m unsure of how familiar the greater indy community is with him. Either way, Reed is a new, young wrestler who I cannot recommend enough. This match has Big Mike hitting some absolutely brutal elbow strikes and sit down power bombs, but Reed’s fiery spirit (you damn right that pun is intended) would not allow him to quit. Reed hit a few beautiful top rope spots but unfortunately it was not enough and Elgin got the pin fall.
Jeff Cobb vs. AR Fox
Third match of the night was the 3rd semi-final match of the tournament and featured Jeff Cobb taking on former AAW heritage champ AR Fox. This match followed a very similar blueprint to the previous match, with the huge, incredibly strong guy taking on the much smaller, but much more agile guy. For whatever reason the crowd had cooled a little for this match too, after the roller coaster that was the previous match, so this might have been the low spot of the night for me. With someone as such a decorated indy career as AR Fox, I can never quite figure out what is going on with his gear. He always looks like he was just able to make it to the show minutes before his match is about to start, and all he brought with him are the clothes he is wearing and his Bruiser Brody boots. His makeshift belt broke almost immediately and Jeff Cobb pantsed him, revealing some American flag tights underneath that of course sparked a U.S.A. chant. Jeff Cobb was un-phased by the chauvinism though, and won via pin fall.
Mark Haskins vs. Sami Callihan
Fourth match of the night was my most anticipated match of the night as Sami Callihan wrestled Mark Haskins. I had never gotten the opportunity to see Haskins, and he absolutely did not disappoint. Callihan has been the champ up until very recently here in Chicago, and is easily one of the most popular guys currently in AAW, so the crowd was decidedly on his side. Absolutely brutal strikes were exchanged back and forth between the two, throwing each other into the railing and hitting the hell out of each other. Some very creative steel chair usage leads to Sami hitting that insane inverted, crunching pile driver he does and scoring the pin fall.
Throughout the night we also get a few promos hosted by Marty DeRosa, who is really coming into his own as the Mean Gene of AAW these days. AAW has stepped up their production values in the last few months as well, not only with backstage promos, but with banners and ring gear as well. That being said, the charm of a good indy show is still there. They still do the 50/50 raffle, there are still older retired volunteers slinging hot fries and cheap beer, and there are still the incredibly long lines for the single, crappy, men’s restroom. Seriously, this thing had a urinal literal inches away from the sink. A loose lean to the right would have been all I needed to have my goods underneath the hot water.
Stephen Wolf vs. Andrew Everett vs. Brian Cage vs. Teddy Hart
The night continues with a 4-way featuring Stephen Wolf, Andrew Everett, Brian Cage, and Teddy Hart. Stephen Wolf is in that same category as Myron Reed, and Wolf is another name people will be very familiar with in the next few years. This match was insane from jump, with ¾ of the competitors diving and flipping to the outside almost immediately. Quick shout out to the mother and father in front of us who had their two small, uninterested children with them. I’ve never seen someone pick up children and move out of the way with equal amounts of quickness and panic. I don’t know much about Teddy Hart, except his pants were weird and all of his moves were incredibly rough looking, with several very gnarly lung blowers and Canadian destroyers. The Swolverine Brian Cage did easily man-handle both Everett and Wolf for awhile with some two at a time slams, but ultimately Teddy Hart got the pin fall with a Canadian destroyer from the second rope.
DJZ vs. Michael Elgin
Semifinal matches start with DJZ/Zima Ion wrestling Michael Elgin. My only real complaint of the night is that several of the matches felt somewhat repetitive, with that agile, smaller cruiserweight wrestling the strong, bigger heavyweight, and this match unfortunately fell into that category.
Big Mike did what he does best though, which is throw adjective-less, smaller men around the ring with ease. He held Zima up in the vertical suplex for a 20 count before he finished things up with a sit down power bomb and got the pin.
Jeff Cobb vs. Sami Callihan
Jeff Cobb faced Sami Callihan in the other semi-final match. Things started with Cobb ambushing Sami as he walked to the ring, wrecking him on the outside before delivering a completely brutal head-butt to Callihan’s manager JT Davidson. Cobb proceeded to force the ref to ring the bell and finished squashing Sami within seconds and moving on to the finals. I tried my best to get an “Oh my Cobb” chant going, but it wasn’t quite catching on. If you’re reading this, please use it the next time you see Jeff Cobb and impress all your other wrestling friends with how smart and funny you are.
Eddie Kingston & Paco vs. The Besties in the World vs. Curt Stallion and Connor Braxton
Before the finals we got two tag team matches. The first was a lucha-rules 3 team match featuring the teams of Eddie Kingston and hometown hero Paco, Curt Stallion and Connor Braxton, and the Besties in the World: Davey Vega and Matt Fitchett. With most indy promotions, it is definitely hard to keep on-going stories going, especially in a promotion that strives to bring in top talent like AAW does. If you’ve been with AAW for awhile though, you are most likely familiar with the “will they/won’t they” story that AAW has been telling with the Besties in the World over the last however many months. Long-form wrestling narratives are missing throughout most of AAW, which is fine, but they are really hitting it out of the park with this one. Braxton (who you may remember as the wrestler who used to ride a Segway to ring) and Curt Stallion set up as the bad guys of the match and Chicago’s homegrown Paco gets the lion’s share of the cheers. Ultimately the bell ring gets brought into the ring by Connor Braxton and Paco’s head is used as the beater for it. Davey Vega capitalizes on all the commotion and steals the quick pin. The match finishes when Paco called out Braxton for his shenanigans and announced that next month’s AAW show will feature a “fans bring the weapon match”. I’ve been brainstorming what I’ll be bringing all morning.
Zachary Wentz & Desmond Xavier vs. The Lucha Bros.
The other tag match is a non-title, champions vs. champions match as the current AAW tag team champs Zachary Wentz and Desmond Xavier take on the Lucha Bros, Penta El 0 M and Ray Fenix, the AAW Heritage and Heavyweight champs, respectively. The match started with a bit of humor as the tag champs show up in Fenix and Pentagon masks, and proceed to mirror their appointments in the ring. Complete with catch phrases and “Cero Miedo”s in the face. Pentagon’s wrestling style in AAW is usually a bit different than his Lucha Underground stuff but the humor quickly ends once the Lucha Bros deliver a couple of super kicks to discombobulate Wentz and Xavier before removing their masks. From there the match kicks up quite a few notches. An uncountable amount of super kicks were thrown and I was honestly so impressed with both teams innovative, cooperative offensive moves. Fenix and Penta have that brotherly chemistry and a wild imagination that allows them to come up with some legitimately crazy spots. Chairs eventually get involved and a chair fight (sword fight with chairs?) breaks out for a few brutal swings. Finally the Lucha Bros set up a few chairs and destroy their competition after bucking them off the top rope. After the match Teddy Hart comes out. He explains his history with the brothers and basically, politely asks for a match against each of them for a shot at both of their titles. In a very un-wrestling turn of events, the Lucha Bros. just politely accept and that’s that. Looks like Teddy Hart and his wide, sparkly pants will be back very soon.
Michael Elgin vs. Jeff Cobb
Finally, we get to the main event, and the finals of the tournament: Michael Elgin versus Jeff Cobb. If you love huge, muscle-filled men beating the complete shit out of each other than this is the match for you. After two long nights, this was each man’s fourth match of the weekend, and damn was it rough. The small guy vs. big guy trope is thrown out the window and these two behemoths beat the hell out of each other. Michael Elgin starts things off by absorbing a good amount of Cobb’s force and Cobb’s facial expressions let us know that he has never been buffered like this before. The two go back and forth with round after round of brutal elbows, chops and suplexes. The two go back and forth for quite awhile. Unfortunately, another round of my “Oh my Cobb” chant still doesn’t catch on after a beautiful drop kick from Cobb, and Big Mike catches the pin fall after another sit down power bomb.
I wanted to be a little bit more objective about the whole thing, and not just write a 2000-word ad for AAW, but this whole event was chandelier-shakingly good. It is honestly baffling to me that AAW isn’t recognized as the top tier US Indy that it is. If you like indy wrestling (and you’ve read this far so I assume you do), I’d definitely recommend checking it out.