Hail to the King, Baby was the first AIW show of the new year, it was one that I was really looking forward to. The matches on the card seemed promising, including not only the most recent favorites but some other wrestlers who fans haven’t seen in a while at AIW. Having not had a show in the month of January, I was excited to see what AIW would have to offer in the month of February as were other fans. The first show of the year arguably, could set the tone for the rest of the shows that year, new story lines can be introduced, new rivalries, new team ups, new title holders, even new talent in general are all things that could be introduced during the first show of the new year for a professional wrestling company. The first show of the year would be a great time to do it; everyone has new year resolutions where they look back at the past year and see what needs to be altered, refreshed, and improved on, why wouldn’t a professional wrestling company like AIW do the same thing? The fans, including myself, seemed to be expecting the usual show stopping type of entertainment that they have come to expect from AIW shows but could AIW deliver? Was the company able to give the fans what they wanted?
Introducing New Talent with Some Familiar Faces
The show began with PME (Philly Collins & Marino Tenaglia) versus The Production (Derek Director and Eddie Only) versus Boomer Hatfield and Travis Huckabee versus Camaro and Mike Outlaw. Hatfield, Huckabee, Camaro and Outlaw were some of the new talent that had been given this opportunity based off their performance during the AIW New Talent Initiative Seminar earlier in the day. Hatfield, Huckabee, Camaro and Outlaw replaced The Young Studs (Eric Ryan and Bobby Beverly) and No Consequences (Tre Lamar and Chase Oliver) who were originally scheduled for the match but were not able to perform. PME came out rocking some new gear but with the same loveable attitude that they always have. PME and The Production have a history and it was clear throughout this match that things have not been settled between them. Minus Frankie Flynn and Danhausen, it was interesting to see Derek Director and Eddie Only yet again, take the spotlight in a match. It was Eddie Only who surprised me the most though this time around. Having seen him mostly sticking to the sidelines in the past, it was incredible to see what he could do no only with Derek but on his own. As a Tag Team, they work well together, and it shows. Though this does bring forth the question that if Derek Director and Eddie Only are working so well together, what does that mean for both Frankie Flynn and Danhausen? It seems as if only time will tell what’s in store for The Production as a whole. What was even more impressive than all of that though, was that Hatfield, Huckabee, Camaro and Outlaw seemed to fit right into the match. It seemed as if these four had been working with The Production and PME for a little while now instead of having just met a couple hours before. This was a great match that I really enjoyed watching, especially when there is new talent being displayed alongside current favorites at AIW. At the end of the match, PME defeated The Production, Boomer Hatfield, Travis Huckabee, Camaro, and Mike Outlaw.
The second match was Britt Baker versus Tasha Steelz. Britt Baker was recently signed to All Elite Wrestling and having never seen her wrestle live before, I was very excited to see her match here at AIW. This match was exactly what I had wanted it to be. Britt Baker is a powerhouse that exudes confidence in her craft as soon as she walks out and steps foot in that ring. What was just as impressive was Tasha Steelz who exuded the exact same confidence that Baker had. It seemed like these women have met in the ring before just based off how well they worked together in the match. I found myself captivated by this match, completely interested in who was going to win. In the end, Britt Baker defeated Tasha Steelz. The next match was the AIW New Talent Initiative Scramble. The match featured Wardlow versus Cabana Man Dan versus Logan Easton Laroux versus Kevin Bennett versus Lee Moriarity versus Matt Kenway. The standout in this match to me was Cabana Man Dan. I had never seen him wrestle before and I was blown away by him. Usually I am not one for comedy wrestling, I find that it just is not my taste when it comes to wrestling, but I loved watching Cabana Man Dan perform. Another stand out was Lee Moriarity. I have seen him wrestle before at different promotions but seeing him at AIW made me even happier. As for the scramble itself, I found it to be lackluster. Though it did seem like everyone had their couple of minutes to show off what they could do, I found the match itself to be boring. I did not feel like these athletes had much chemistry in the ring and it seemed like the match was strictly there just to introduce the fans to some new talent. Wardlow ended up winning the match, defeating Cabana Man Dan, Logan Easton Laroux, Kevin Bennett, Lee Moriarity, and Matt Kenway.
The final match of the first half of Hail to the King, Baby was Dominic Garrini versus Kevin Thorn. This was a match where Josh Bishop picked Garrini’s opponent and in all honestly, I wish he hadn’t. Recently I have become a big fan of Garrini’s and have even enjoyed this story line between him and Josh Bishop but this match of Garrini’s was just lackluster for me. I have seen Garrini do so much in the ring, time and time again I have been impressed by him but for me personally, this was just not one of those times. I was even excited to see Thorn wrestle, when I had heard the match was announced I thought these two would be great together and put on one hell of a match. I left this match feeling disappointed. I could not say what it was, at times I thought perhaps it was a lack of chemistry in the ring, or maybe I had just set the bar too high for this match in my head, but regardless, I had wanted more out of it and received barely anything from it. In the end, Dominic Garrini defeated Kevin Thorn.
A Second Half Fit for A King
The second half started with The Weird World (“Weird Body” Evan Adams and Alex “Worldwide” Keller), Kikutaro, and Ryder Reid versus DukeMoney (The Duke, Parker Pierce, and Big Twan Tucker) and Dr. Dan. This was a match that, in my opinion, felt off right from the start. Sometimes a fan can look at a match and think, oh I would have never expected these people to team together but wow, it really works! This was not one of those times. Though I was not a fan of his the first couple of times I saw him wrestle, Kikutaro was great in this match and worked really well with The Weird World Experience, seeing as how they are all comedy wrestlers it seemed to just flow nicely between them all. The odd man out in this team was Ryder Reid. It did not seem like he belonged in this team and it showed throughout the match. I found this to be disappointing and I wish that Reid had been showcased more in the match. The same thing could be said for the other team in this match as well. Where DukeMoney worked well together and flowed nicely, it seemed like the odd man out on that team was Dr. Dan, which was disappointing to me as a fan because I was looking forward to him working with DukeMoney and being showcased more alongside them. The match ended with The Weird World Experience, Kikutaro, and Ryder Reid defeating DukeMoney and Dr. Dan.
With the second half not starting off very well, I really wanted a match to come along and turn it around, giving me something exciting and thrilling. I was not disappointed by the next match, in fact, it was one of my favorites of the night. Next up was Louis Lyndon versus TKD. TKD has received quite the following in the past month or two at AIW and it is clear to see when he wrestles why that is. His match with Lyndon was quite simply, wonderful. The two athletes worked well in the ring together and I found myself drawn to the match, I could not look away while it was taking place. Though TKD has a gimmick which has been done before in the past in different ways by different people, TKD makes it his own creating a character that shines through in his matches clear as day. The energy in this match was exciting to the point that everyone in the building was interested in what the outcome would be not just myself. The match ended with Louis Lyndon defeating TKD though you would not have been able to tell based on the cheers and applause that TKD received at the end of the match. The next match was Matt Justice versus Tre Lamar versus Wheeler Yuta for the AIW Intense Championship. This was another one of my favorite matches from this show but only after reflecting on the show as a whole later in the week. I think Matt Justice is a talented wrestler but throughout this match while I was watching it, I couldn’t help but feel like I had seen him have this exact same type of match before in this exact same venue just with a different opponent. At the time, I had felt cheated. Looking back on that match however, I remember it fondly and think of the phrase, if it aint broke don’t fix it. Justice was a powerhouse in this match, and it was incredibly interesting to see him go up against Tre Lamar and Wheeler Yuta. However, the standout to me in this match was without a doubt Tre Lamar. Up until this point I have seen him wrestle and, in all honesty, have felt nothing. I was impressed by what he could do, sure, but I felt like I could take him or leave him. After this match, that will never be said by me again. I became a fan. I was so impressed by what he did that I found it hard to pay attention to the other athletes that were in the match with him. There was an energy that was radiating off of Lamar in this match that was infectious and made me excited for not only the match itself but to see what would come from him in the future. When it came to Lamar in this match, I wanted to know what he was going to do next, how he was going to handle what was being thrown at him, and if he was going to take home the championship. Unfortunately for Lamar, Matt Justice ended up keeping the title, defeating both him and Wheeler Yuta.
The semi- main event of Hail to the King, Baby was Tom Lawlor versus Josh Bishop. Dominic Garrini chose Lawlor to be Bishops opponent and he did a better job than Bishop did at choosing the opponent. While this was not a favorite match of mine on this show, it definitely kept me intrigued and held my interest. I am a big fan of Tom Lawlor and always love being able to see him in the ring so that alone kept my interest during this match. However, what was even more intriguing during this match was the different in-ring styles being represented. The strengths, as well as the weaknesses were shown by both athletes in this match and it made it difficult to look away. By the end of the match though, I was left thinking, wait… that’s it? I couldn’t even tell you what I specifically wanted more of from this match, but I knew that I had wanted more from it. In the end, Tom Lawlor defeated Josh Bishop retaining his undefeated winning streak at AIW. It was time for the main event which was for the AIW Absolute Championship; PB Smooth versus the current AIW Absolute Champion “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams. Another one of my favorite matches from this card, Smooth and Williams did not disappoint. As a fan, I was torn throughout this match, I am a fan of both Williams and Smooth, so it was difficult to choose what I wanted the outcome to be. Sometimes those are the best matches to experience, and this was one of those times. PB Smooth had this urgency throughout the match, like all he had wanted was to win that belt, which kept me on the edge of my seat. This was countered by “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams who had an energy that seemed to say all he wanted was to keep the belt. I thoroughly enjoyed watching both men in the ring face off against each other. PB Smooth defeated “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams and became the new AIW Absolute Champion. I can honestly say, as a fan, I did not see this coming, but I was pleasantly surprised. It is going to be very interesting to see not only how PB Smooth handles being a champion but who will be challenging him in the future for that championship.
Bow Down to the King of Shows?
As the first show of the new year for AIW I have to say I was a little disappointed. I enjoyed the second half of this show more so than the first half of this show. I felt as an introduction to the new year it was a little lackluster. There were parts that I loved but other matches and parts of the show that I could have done without. It seemed as if AIW did not know which direction they wanted to go in when it came to some talent and a lot of the matches for the most part seemed like throwaway matches, which is bound to happen from time to time. That being said, this is an AIW show, so even a show that was a little disappointing and lackluster is still better than most independent wrestling you are going to see anywhere. I will be the first to admit that I hold AIW to a higher standard than some other companies, but it is because time and time again, they give me that higher standard that makes me go wow and reminds me why I love wrestling so much. I have hope that the next show will be better than this one was and I am looking forward to what is to come the rest of this year in AIW.
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