When it comes time for the last show of the year for a company, I believe it is good to look back at the entire year and see where they started versus where they are now. Normally this is what I would do but seeing as I have only been recently attending every AIW show, I can only speak for the last couple shows. Every time that I go to an AIW show I am entertained. When I walk out of the shows that this company puts on, I feel the way a fan should feel walking out of a wrestling show; overjoyed, hyped up, and looking forward to the next show. Welcome to the Party, Pal was the last show of 2018 which meant that as a fan, I was expecting a lot from it. I wanted to end the year by seeing some of my favorite wrestler’s wrestle, seeing some story lines wrap up, seeing set up for some new story lines that could potentially be told in 2019, and just by having an amazing time overall. The real question was, could AIW give me all those things in their last show of 2018?
Yippee Ki Yay it’s Time to Start the Show
The show started off with Wheeler Yuta versus Louis Lyndon as the opening match. Having seen Yuta at Rubber City Con this year in a Six-Man Scramble, I was excited to see him in his own match against Lyndon, who I had just recently seen wrestle at Hell on Earth. The match between Yuta and Lyndon was a great match but it did not keep me on the edge of my seat. I enjoyed watching it, but I wish it was placed somewhere else on the card instead of as the opening match. An opening match should make me feel excited beyond belief for the rest of the show, this one just left me cautious for what the rest of the show would be like. The opening match ended with Wheeler Yuta defeating Louis Lyndon. The next match was my second favorite match on the card for this show which was Duke Money (Jock Samson and Mance Warner), “All Ego” Ethan Page, and Dr. Dan versus Swoggle, Pretty Boy Smooth, Colt Cabana, and Kikutaro. This match would have been amazing with just this line up alone, however, AIW loves to throw curves balls when fans are not expecting them, and this match was no exception. There had to be a surprised guest. MJF came out to join Ethan Page, Duke Money, and Dr. Dan. Which meant that, Space Monkey came out to join Swoggle, PB Smooth, Colt Cabana, and Kikutaro. As all AIW fans know, there is some hilarious history between MJF and Colt Cabana which made parts of this match even better and even more hysterical. I loved this match, I honestly cannot say enough good things about it. Every athlete involved was incredible. There were spots in this match that I did not see coming and impressed me from every single individual. In the past, I have not been the biggest fans of Dr. Dan and MJF, each for different reasons. However, I became fans of both after this match. The spots with MJF and Colt Cabana were hysterical, which only added to my enjoyment of the match. The surprise of this match for me was Space Monkey who I had never seen or heard of before which is hard to believe based on the talent alone that I saw from him as an athlete in this match, I look forward to seeing more from him in the future. The match ended with Smooth, Swoggle, Cabana, Kikutaro, and Space Monkey defeating Duke Money, Page, Dan, and MJF but before moving on to the next match Swoggle had something to say. Swoggle, after the match, called out Scott Steiner setting it up so that it would be him versus Scott Steiner at AIW’s Slumber Party Massacre show, which is happening Wrestle Mania weekend.
The third match of the evening was The Young Studs (Eric Ryan and Bobby Beverly) versus PME (Philly Collins and Marino Tenaglia) versus Façade & Flip Kendrick, and The Production (Derek Director and Eddie Only). This match should have been my favorite of the show, it had everything going for it. I am a huge fan of Eric Ryan as well as PME and The Production. Everyone involved in this match did an incredible job and I did enjoy the match from a technical aspect. What I did not enjoy was the lack of story, specifically when it comes to The Production. Their whole gimmick is that they are these theater/film kids who happen to love wrestling as well. With Magnum having retired at the last show, I was expecting to find out what was next for The Production, what direction they would be heading in, and sadly I received none of that. It was not just The Production though that I felt did not move forward, regarding story lines, I did not think anyone’s story in this match really progressed much at all. To me, it just felt like a throwaway match. In the end, The Young Studs defeated PME, Façade & Flip Kendrick, and The Production. The next match was Matt Justice versus KTB for the AIW Intense Championship. Anytime Matt Justice gets in the ring, the audience will pay attention, there is no choice. Justice has an electricity that bounces off of him whenever he is performing that forces you, as a fan, to pay attention. I have watched him go up against several different competitors over the last couple of months and every time I am speechless. This was no different for KTB who brought his own sort of electricity to the match as well. The match ended with Justice retaining the title against KTB.
I am Going to Count to Three, There Will Not Be a Four
The show carried on with the next match which was Eddie Kingston, Zach Thomas, Dominic Garrini, and Josh Bishop going up against each other. This was my favorite match of the show. The talent in this match alone was jaw dropping for several different reasons. There is an intensity to the way Kingston wrestles that I love. I found myself focusing on mostly him during the match wondering what he was going to do next and how intense could he possibly get. The fan favorite is Thomas and it is clear why. With every move he makes in the ring, every bump he takes, you can see that this is what he was born to do. He has technical wrestling down to a science. The only thing that at times is confusing is the fan reaction to Thomas. Everything he does is always met with cheers, it seems as if the fans never want to boo him, and quite frankly I can understand why they don’t ever want to. At the last show, Garrini and Bishop ended up brawling to the back and that left me wondering if there was going to be a feud coming up in the future. Yet again, this match ended for Garrini and Bishop with them brawling to the back, which leaves me hopeful that my predictions are correct and there will be a feud in the future. Garrini is someone who I find that I am almost always rooting for, even when I don’t realize it at the time. The potential for this feud has me rooting against Bishop, even though the potential for this feud is only in the beginning stages. In the end, Kingston defeated Thomas, Garrini, and Bishop.
The next match was for the AIW Tag Team Championship which had The Weird World (“Weird Body” Evan Adams and Alex “Worldwide” Keller) defending their titles against To Infinity and Beyond (Cheech and Colin Delaney). The match itself was great, there was something that worked about The Weird World going up against To Infinity and Beyond. In my opinion, it was that even though they had the Tag Team Titles, they were still going into this match as the underdogs when compared against To Infinity and Beyond. I wanted more than anything for The Weird World to retain their titles and have that underdog success story continue, I did not get my wish. To Infinity and Beyond defeated The Weird World which meant that this was the fourth time that they have become Tag Team Champions at AIW. While it was not what I personally wanted, as a fan, I couldn’t help but get excited thinking about who would challenge To Infinity and Beyond next. Whoever it may be, I am most definitely in their corner. Following that loss was Tim Donst versus Wes Barkley. When I had first seen this match, I was not a fan. My gut reaction after this match was that I was disappointed. However, perspective is something that I always consider when I am looking back at wrestling shows while reviewing them. While looking back on this match, I realized that I really enjoyed it more than I realized at the time. Whether it was the intent or not, this match had me rooting for Donst completely. It is clear at these shows that Barkley comes with his own cheering section that is there for him alone, and they make that very well known. I found them to be loud and take away from the match itself, that is until Donst took over not just in the match itself but with Barkley’s cheering section as well. He taunted them, made fun of them as well as Barkley’s himself, and continued to make sure that they knew their golden boy was going to lose. It was perfectly executed work done by a solid athlete and performer. Donst defeated Barkley backing up all the taunting he was doing throughout the match.
The last match before the main event was for the AIW Absolute Championship with “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams defending his title against Matt Cross. The last time I had the opportunity to watch Williams wrestle, he was the main event at Hell on Earth, and I was still in awe of the match before, which left him at an unfair advantage. This time however, all my attention was on Williams and Cross. Their work together in the ring was simply put, wonderful. Their match was a great one, filled with pure entertainment and excitement. I truly enjoyed every second of this match and was excited when the results ended up being what they were, Williams retained his title against Cross. This left fans with the main event, Masato Tanaka versus Nick Gage. This was the match I was most excited for and while it was not my favorite of the night, it was in the top three. Tanaka and Gage gave it their all as one would expect from both. The match was what I would call organized chaos in the best way. It was clear both men knew exactly what they were doing but there was a sense of intense urgency to the match that kept me on the edge of my seat while watching, it has been my favorite main event that I have seen at an AIW wrestling show to date. The match ended with Tanaka defeating Gage and leaving the audience completely floored in the best way.
Signing Off on 2018
Welcome to the Party, Pal was a great way to end the year at AIW. Having seen the last two shows the company has put on, it was what I would expect from an AIW show. I was a little disappointed that there was not as much story being told during this show as there has been with their shows in the past, but that is a personal preference more than a critique. Every show and every match cannot be designed to always be moving story lines forward, sometimes there are matches that need to do something different, sometimes matches are telling a story without the audience even realizing it just yet. One thing is for certain though, I cannot wait to see what AIW plans to do in 2019. I guarantee it will be exactly like 2018, amazing matches, incredible talent, and story lines that are beautifully written… the only difference being that it will be even better than it was in 2018!