Friday, May 22, 2015

AAPW Gold Rush Review

Graphics via AAPW Facebook Page
Ladies and gentlemen, this past Saturday (May 16th) at Gold Rush, America’s Academy of Pro Wrestling crowned it’s Heavyweight Champion and that person is none other than the leader of the Nations United Terror Syndicate (aka NUTS), QUENTIN LYNCH!

Now, last month when they announced a Gold Rush Battle Royal to determine their new Champion, four people immediately jumped to mind as to who should be that person. Only four. That isn't to say someone like Donnie Giovanni (he of the beautiful bridging Northern Lights Suplex) or Kody Krash wouldn't have made a good Champion, it simple means there were four people who would make great Champs.

The first such person was Don Rodrigo,, because he just gets it. You hate him, but you also love him, but you mostly hate him. You can't decide whether you want to punch him or kiss him or both. I have said before that he is the most completely-formed character on these shows. It's not just when he's cutting a promo or during his entrance, no, Rodrigo embodies the character during his matches. That is not an easy thing to do. A lot of people are unable to carry their out-of-ring persona into the squared circle. Who's the perfect example of someone who is one of the best at it these days? If you said anyone other than NXT Women's Champion Sasha Banks, then you are dead wrong. D-E-D DED. She is The Boss. Period. End of sentence. If you were looking to emulate anyone from WWE, it's her, whether you are a man or woman. She brought a rubber stamp signature to her contract signing for crying out loud.

Anyway, my point is, Don Rodrigio is AAPW's version of Sasha Banks. That's definitely someone who can be your Champion and can carry the stories of your promotion. As it is, he's taken a secondary role within NUTS which I'll speak about later, so, it wouldn't make much sense to crown a man who's not even the leader of his own group. Not unless you wanted to create a Rock-in-the-Nation type situation.

The second person I thought of was the guy who actually did win it, Quinten Lynch. He is, as mentioned, the leader of the Nations United Terror Syndicate, and as such, well, it makes sense that he would be considered for the Title. What I was slightly hesitate on is the fact that he is the leader of a heel faction that's set out to rule AAPW. It's a story as old as the 90s, and you have seen it million times since the nWo invaded WCW. If you'll remember correctly, it ended poorly. Be that as it may, and I'll talk in more detail when I discuss the actual show, it's an easy story to tell and it's one that I do not fault AAPW for telling. They want to display the international flavor of the roster and it makes sense to align all those from outside of America. It is America's Academy of Pro Wrestling after all. And it is a wrestling school. Gimmicks are more broad and, well, gimmicky. I mean, Lynch is Irish, and you also have a Russian, an Iraqi, and what have you.

Thankfully, Lynch is good. He talks well, stays in character completely, and can handle his business in the ring. Now, like I said, his character is basically just that he is Irish, and that can go one of two ways, either he goes the Becky Lynch (no relation, I assume) route when she debuted in NXT and does a little jig to show off his Irishness (he could also go the Hornswaggle leprechaun route, but let's not even think of that) or he could go the Finley/Sheamus route of bruising brawlers who just like to fight. Sheamus gets away from that character a bit too much outside the ring, but inside it, he's almost always on point as long as he has an opponent willing to work a bit stiffer (at least make it seem so anyway). Now, Quinten isn't quite there yet, but I hope he does. Just stay away from doing the river dance and instead just knock people on their asses and he'll be fine.

The third person I thought of was Zac Taylor, and for him I'm going to have to talk about his match from this show. On it he teamed with American Eagle, who is quite over the top, if you've never seen him before, and took on Rey Ortiz and Paul Titan, whom I had never seen or heard of before, but he's a big dude. Anyway, last month, Zac had played the face, thankfully, because it's easy to root for him, and that continued this month. My only problem with that is that he tried to be more out-going. Now, you're probably wondering why that would be a problem. Well, Zac works best as a grumpy old man. He's not even close to being old enough to be considered that (he's in his 20s), but he just has that demeanor.

It seemed like an ill-fit personality for him, trying to be a bit more goofy like his tag team partner was. But American Eagle is, if you’ve never seen him before, a man who basically took an American flag and cut it up into a pair of tights and a mask. He makes his hands flap like bird wings. He’s ridiculous and it’s awesome. Zac isn’t that.

I guess I didn't really talk about his match at all, huh? Oh well, I will later. Ultimately, I kind of disqualified Taylor from my choices because he isn't really a student. He's advanced beyond that. So, he maybe shouldn't be the Champion, that should go to the real students, because they should he the main driving force of the stories. Zac's role is more of that like American Eagle or Rey Ortiz or Mr. B. They are the veterans, who are obstacles for the students or they are there to wrestle the outside talent to give the audience something they can almost guarantee will be good in case the students have a royally bad night or something, if that makes sense.

The fourth person I considered is someone I will upfront say I’m quite biased about and that is Laynie Luck. Yes, a woman. GASP! Now, some of you are probably thinking that that sounds insane. How can a woman hold a Championship intended for men? Well, um, you’re dumb and should go live in a cave (or, I dunno, improve your outlook on the world in regard to genders). But beyond that, who says it’s intended for men? Wrestling companies, usually, employ a bevy of men and women on their rosters (a higher percentage being men, yes, but that’s irrelevant to the discussion), but there’s always a handful of titles like the WWE Intercontinental, WWE United States, etc., that simply have the company name followed by the Title name. You don’t see WWE Men’s Heavyweight Championship, do you? No, but, you do see WWE Women’s Championship, and why is that exactly? Well, truthfully that’s a MUCH longer discussion that would completely derail this particular article.

My point is, you don’t see a distinction (outside of possible weight restrictions) in all the Titles, only the women’s, because it’s just assumed that the company’s main Championships (and 90% of their other belts) are for men. But who’s to say a woman can’t be the Champion of WWE? Or of anywhere. Heck, ACW here in Austin has crowned two women as their ACW Heavyweight Champion, and I don’t think anyone thought twice about it. So, why can’t Laynie Luck be the Champion of AAPW?

Now, you may be saying, they did announce a match for next month’s show that there would be a match for the AAPW Women’s Championship, so she can just have that one, right? Yes, it’s true that a match will take place next month, and it will most likely involve the only two women training with AAPW, Luck and Allie Cat. My questions is, if you only have two woman, what’s the point? Unless you constantly bring in outsiders to challenge for the belts, you’re left with only two people fighting each other until the end of time (or a new woman signs up). Why limit yourself in that way? Of the four shows produced by AAPW this year, Luck has competed against men on all four shows, only having a brief match with Allie Cat last month (that quickly turned into a tag team match involving men that weirdly had the stupid WWE intergender match rules placed on it).

If you want promotion for your school, and you want women to sign up to train, well, why not let your Champion be someone of the female persuasion. It may seem like Luck is winning this slot by default, but, trust me, if she was horrible, I wouldn’t have even considered it. Is she the best of the lot? Of course not, she’s only been training for, like, seven or eight months. But she’s not afraid to standing toe-to-toe with anyone and she’s not scared of taking bumps. Heck, on this show she wins her match, against a man, with a superplex. There are a great number of men who would balk at that spot. She wants to do moves from the top rope.

She has work to do character-wise, but, again, it’s a wrestling school. Those things will come. Same as being better in the ring, everyone up and down the roster should be improving from practice to practice, show to show. So, in my opinion, crown the woman, make her your Champ, and you have a plethora of stories to tell from there. It’s not even like she had to win it convincingly. It was a battle royal, where anything can happen, so how about let that anything happen? Tell something other than a heel faction looking to take over a company story.

With all that said, Quinten Lynch is a great choice, and he will do well as The Man in AAPW. I just feel they could have done something completely out of the box. Oh well. Now, would you like to hear some details about the show? Alright, let’s do this. Here are the results:

1. Cash Money defeated Johnny Walker
2. Mr. B defeated Vega Del Rio
3. Donnie Giovanni def. Quentin Lynch
4. American Eagle and Zac Taylor defeated Paul Titan and Rey Ortiz
5. Laynie Luck defeated Amir Assad
6. Don Rodrigo defeated Cool Cat Jones
7. Comrad Silovik defeated Kody Krash
8. Quentin Lynch won a 20-Person Battle Royal for the AAPW Heavyweight Championship

I’m not going to break this down match-by-match, as a lot of these don’t carry huge story developments, as it’s mostly just about showing off the training of the students, you know? I’m just going start typing and whatever happens to appear on the page we’re just going to go with, OK? Cool.

The Nations United Terror Syndicate (aka NUTS) formed as a way to, well, have a run of the place, I suppose. They aren’t there to destroy AAPW because that has never, once, made sense when a heel faction has formed. Why would you want to destroy the thing paying you money and letting you be on TV or what have you? So, this is simply a group of people getting together because they want the best possible opportunity to succeed in AAPW. But because they are a heel faction opposing the company, it requires a team to stand up against them, defending the honor of the, in this case, school.

We’ve seen the first three such people, as the first three shows dealt with Donnie Giovanni, Kody Krash, and debuting last month, Cool Cat Jones, trying to stop them. So, in one of the show’s in-ring talking segments, this faction that’s more or less called Team AAPW (definitely need to think of something cooler than that guys), introduced two new members into the group. Those two people would be Laynie Luck and Vega Del Rio. Now, you may be asking yourselves, “why did they add two people, bringing their membership to five people, to combat a group of three?” And to that I say: good question and, I have no idea.

It’s more perplexing when you consider that immediately after this announcement NUTS hit the ring (Team AAPW just left and nothing happened, it was kind of odd) and introduced two men members of their own in Don Rodrigo and Allie Cat. Which, alright, cool, that’s awesome. But, um, shouldn’t this all have been reversed? Last month, Rodrigo was on commentary and he proclaimed that he liked the NUTS, so it makes sense that he would join. Had NUTS been out first and introduced their newest members, it would then make perfect sense that their rivals on the first three shows would join up with Team AAPW. Luck has been dealing with Rodrigo from the onset and Del Rio has the last couple of shows (Allie Cat just debuted last month), so, yeah, makes sense, right?

It was just backwards and left me confused. It all ends at the same point, but the saying goes, “it’s about the journey, not the destination,” and, well, this journey had a wrong turn. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, but, yeah, you know.

The other problem with this is, well, NUTS was defeated last month. On the second show of the year, Mayhem in March, saw the team of Comrad Silovik and Quentin Lynch picked up a win over Donnie Giovanni and Kody Krash thanks to Amir Assad using the Iraqi flag illegally, which led to a six-man tag team match last month at Spring Breakdown.  The match was a handicap match for much of it until Cool Cat Jones made his debut and just about single-handedly dismantled the NUTS team, getting the clean victory.

So, why does Team AAPW need to a) not only add more members first, but b) have to worry about the NUTS at all? Their threat has already been neutralized. Now, had they added Rodrigo and Allie Cat first, run roughshod over the roster at this show, then, yeah, adding new members next month, and heading into a bigger war (you could say the six-man tag was simply a battle that Team AAPW was lucky to win, but the NUTS had their eyes on the bigger picture) would make sense. It would have been so easy for every member of NUTS to totally dominate the Gold Rush Battle Royal until it was only them left and then they could have gifted the AAPW Championship to Lynch. Or had one person valiantly fight off the NUTS, get Lynch alone, but they still cheat to give Lynch the win. That’s simple storytelling.

But as it actually happened? Jumbled. Again, it all ends in the same place, but how you get there matters. It does to me anyway. So, I get what the end game was, and I’m completely down with that end game, I just wasn’t happy with the road we traveled down to get to it.

As for matches, on this show, every member of Team AAPW (except Del Rio) faced off against someone from the NUTS. It was all fresh matchups, too. Which, yeah, they have been telling a pretty streamlined story since the first show, “THE STARS ARE BORN,” but sometimes you gotta mix up the matchups. It’s still all within the same overall story, it’s just different dance partners.

Surprisingly, the first one saw Donnie Giovanni get a pinfall over the man who would become the AAPW Champion at the end of the night. An interesting decision for someone you were putting over big at the end. I suppose it was the same thinking that had Seth Rollins losing to Randy Orton at Wrestlemania before cashing the Money in the Bank briefcase and becoming the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. I get the mentality behind it, but, maybe not have your Champion immediately taking pinfalls? Sure, it was because of his corner man, Amir Assad, that it happened, which is a whole other story hiccup that we probably shouldn’t stress too much about (never a good idea to have a well-oiled heel faction already flubbing their interference attempts). The big thing about it, I suppose, was that it set up Giovanni being one of the last survivors of the battle royal, so if we saw him defeat Lynch earlier, there’s no reason to think he can’t dump him over the top rope, right? Too bad Lynch had a partner in there to help him better than what Assad was able to do in this particular case.

The match itself was good, as it should be, as Giovanni has a lot of experience (he’s not really a student either, as he’s been wrestling for awhile), and, I gotta say, Donnie isn’t a small man. I mean, he’s short, but he has some girth to him, but he hits a beautiful Northern Lights Suplex with a picture perfect bridge. It may be one of my favorite things in all of wrestling right now. So good.

Assad had an opportunity to avenge his screw up, but he failed. (Sidebar, another terrorist character comes to the ring with him, Mohammed, I think, but he hasn’t been mentioned as a member of NUTS, so, is he? What’s the deal?) He was defeated by Laynie Luck. A woman! Dear lord! Now, this is a situation where it would probably make sense to run that “you don’t belong in this ring” type of story between a man and a woman. In truth, it’s never a good idea to run that story because it helps no one, but if one were to run it, the Muslim terrorist is probably the best character for it. That said, um, that wasn’t a thing that happened? Not unless it was mentioned in one of those Facebook promos they always have promoting their matches. I haven’t a clue on that front, so I’ll just assume it wasn’t (not that it matters, ‘cause you shouldn’t have your story points mentioned on a page that most of the people in attendance probably didn’t see or even know about).

The match was OK. The vast majority of it was Assad beating down Luck with a lot of knees to the stomach. So, I expect Luck to show up next month with taped ribs DDP-style and then proceed to wear them for the rest of her career. That’s basically what DDP did, right? Eventually Luck turned the tides and proceeded to kick a seated Assad in the back, then the chest, then the back, then the chest, then the back, then the chest, then the back, then the chest, then the back, then the chest, then the back, then the chest, then the back, then the chest, then… you get the point. She kicked him a lot.

I would like to make one note before I continue, the crowd was oddly dead for a lot of this show. It’s like they were all watching respectfully, not wanting to make a lot of noise. It was odd. I can’t really say anything because I am not a vocal person when I got to wrestling shows or any sporting event that doesn’t involve the Kentucky Wildcats, but the crowd got pretty hype for Luck. Which goes back to my point that she should have been the Champion. You could argue she’s the most popular person on the show, as I know the little girls love her (and there’s always a lot of them there for some reason, which again, know your audience, give representation to what is actually probably 60 to 70% of your fanbase). And when they had their headshots on sale last month (they did as well this month), the lady manning the table said they were selling a lot of Luck’s, which, hey, guys, she’s gonna make you money! Anyway....

The match ended with a superplex and when’s the last time you saw that happen? It should more often than not because it’s a move from the top rope. Shouldn’t those be more damaging than a simple slam from the mat? Like, Kurt Angle always did those pop-up belly-to-belly suplexes from the top rope and he never won with them, but an Angle Slam would get the job done? I mean, sure, you could say the damage throughout the match led to the Angle Slam being enough to win the match, but, it’s a move from the top rope! They’re super moves! I say, more top rope finishers.

Don Rodrigo took a break from trying to humiliate Luck and had to face someone who was billed at over 400 pounds, Cool Cat Jones. How would Rodrigo overcome the LARGE size difference? Well, with a lot of kicks to Jones’ knees (I counted somewhere around 17,000) and some well-placed powder to the eyes. Allie Cat accompanied Rodrigo to the ring (not on a leash this time for some reason, I guess she’s already house-broken?), and proved helpful, distracting Jones (although it got her pulled over the top rope and slammed to the mat) and the referee so that Rodrigo could powder Jones’ nose.

The match…. wasn’t great. Jones is a big man and Rodrigo is not, so there was already limitations to what could be done, but Jones just doesn’t have the cardio for anything of great length, and for someone so big he’s not particularly strong (he had trouble gorilla pressing a guy I could probably gorilla press and I struggle lifting milk cartons.... the small individual sized ones you get with your school lunch). He’s charismatic though, so he has that down. He just needs to get in better ring shape. I don’t mean he needs to get ripped and lose a ton of weight. It’s been proven over the years by large men like Vader and Bam Bam Bigelow that you can still GO in the ring despite your size. If anything, you want to have your cardio down so that you don’t kill your opponent. When your cardio goes, so goes everything else because you’re tired, you can’t breathe, and you can get sloppy. Tighten it up, Jones!

In the final NUTS vs. Team AAPW set of matches, Comrad Silovik got the duke over Kody Krash, evening up the tally to 2-2 for both teams. This match was good, even though I don’t remember a lot about it, but what I know is that Krash got some new pants and they are much better than what he was using. I also know that Silovik is very strong and if he’s going to do a Russian dance he better commit or at the very least steal from Alex Koslov and kick his opponents while he does it. The hat is optional.

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, because I probably haven’t since I just learned it the other day, but Krash is only like 18-years-old or something crazy like that. He’s not legally able to drink, I know that. I would have sworn he was at least 21 or 22, but, nope, just a baby. He’s really quite good for that age, too, I must say. He’s very good at selling. He bounces off the mat when he’s slammed or knocked down, just hits the mat, and is immediately bounced up like he was a basketball. I had never noticed it before this show, but I like it.

The final member of Team AAPW, Vega Del Rio, faced off against the notorious veteran, Mr. B. Before I speak on the match, the show itself started off with George de la Isla brining Ray “Papa Don” Campos to the ring to discuss what happened last month. See, Campos came out of retirement to challenge Mr. B in a Chicago Street Fight. It was quite brutal, but the ending was… complicated. Referees were knocked out, matches were ruled a no contest, they were restarted, Papa Don was named the winner. It was mass confusion. So, George stated that since he was the commissioner in charge last month, he was going with Marty Green’s (who was the original ref) decision of a no contest. Campos disagreed with that decision, saying he was back in charge as commissioner, so if George wanted to cross out his name as victory, he was just going to erase it. His win stood. Of course, Mr. B took exception to this, and when it was all said and done, it was agreed that Campos would come out of retirement for one last time, for real, the final time, and fight Mr. B inside a steel cage!

I have no idea how a steel cage is going to work in their building, I just hope it doesn’t take a lot of time to set-up. I remember the elaborate gimmick matches in ACW, like the steel cage or barbwire rope matches taking FOREVER to set up, to the point you just wanted to leave the show because the wait wasn’t worth it. So, hopefully that won’t be an issue. If anything, start the show with it. But we’ll see. Should be fun regardless.

As for this match between Del Rio and Mr. B, it was fun. It’s nice to see the students in the ring with the veterans, as it will only help them. Del Rio is pretty good, so this was good. What a dumbly written sentence. Goodness. Admittedly, there isn’t a whole lot to say about things. Mr. B was his usually heelish self, screaming at the fans, and claiming Del Rio was pulling his hair (there’s no hair to fully grasp). So, it was easy for the fans to get behind Del Rio, except for my father-in-law, who has a soft spot for Mr. B. But, as it was, B got the win to remind the student of his place. Plus, B has a big match next month, so he needs to maybe not lose.

In the opening match, we saw the return of Cash Money (he lost to Zac Taylor last month) and a student we hadn’t seen since the first show, Johnny Walker (he also, oddly, lost to Taylor). I was impressed with Walker in that first go around but this time… you can tell he hadn’t been to practice as much as he should be. It wasn’t bad, because Cash Money isn’t a rookie, so he could hold things together, but there were a few mix-ups. Of course, those can happen to anyone, no matter your experience level, but if you’ll remember, Walker had a big one at his first show, too, when he forgot to kick out and made Referee Campos look like a fool for not counting the three despite there not being a kick out. In my opinion, you should just keep counting regardless. If you can hold up when they kick out, cool. If you hit the mat, but they kick out before hand, that’s still fine. And if you count the three and they forgot to kick out? Well, that’s their fault. Remember your stuff, people.

There wasn’t anything that bad this time, it was just the general “he’s thinking too much” that you can sometimes see on wrestlers faces. You shouldn’t ever see it, but it’s more apparent with the newer ones. Walker just needs to train more, because what he showed at the first show was promising.

The only match not to feature any students was the aforementioned American Eagle and Zac Taylor versus Rey Ortiz and Paul Titan match. This was, as you might expect, a good match, as it involves guys who have been around for a bit. So, there isn’t a whole lot to say about it. Eagle and Taylor won, but Ortiz and Titan looked good. The key was that Taylor was able to shine. Sure, he was face-in-peril, but in the end, he picked up the pinfall over Ortiz. Like I said, not much to say in the way of this match. So, yeah.

The main event, as I mentioned, was the Gold Rush Battle Royal to determine the AAPW Heavyweight Champion. As you also know, Quinten Lynch picked up the win. This was a hard match to keep track of. Most of the people were gone before I even realized it, until it was down to Lynch and Silovik of the NUTS against Giovanni. The NUTS members dumped Giovanni out of the ring, thinking he was eliminated, so they proceeded to tell the other one to eliminate themselves. Of course, neither man wanted to do that, despite the kind gesture of each guy holding the ropes down for the other (or in the case of Silovik, he held the middle and top ropes open because he apparently forgot how battle royals work).

This was also the first mention of Lynch outright saying he was the leader, as he told Silovik that he was the #1 and Silovik was #2, so the Russian should eliminate himself. I say the first time, but it was actually said earlier when Don Rodrigo joined the group. Rodrigo being, well, Rodrigo, was under the impression that he was the new leader, but Lynch set the record straight and it was settled that he was an important member of the team (I can’t remember the exact terminology, but that’s what it boiled down to). But before the NUTS could figure out who was going to make the sacrifice, Giovanni re-entered the fold and dumped Lynch over the top rope.

A TWIST! Not really, ‘cause he didn’t hit the floor. Instead, Silovik and Giovanni fought across the ring and both men were leaning on the ropes trying to eliminate each other. Instead, Lynch ran across and dumped both of them. Silovik was momentarily pissed, but he understood what it was all about, as he got into the ring, along with the rest of the NUTS, and lifted Lynch onto his shoulders. Lynch held the belt high and, you know, he deserved it.

FINAL THOUGHTS: There isn’t much to say that I haven’t already said, so I’ll just say that this was another solid show from AAPW and the students are progressing nicely. Quentin Lynch is going to make a great Champion, but I will reiterate that they had a chance to do something different. And it’s not even about giving my wife the Title, it’s just that everyone on the roster is in the same storyline, as far as students go. The only students not currently involved are Johnny Walker and Victorious Mansour (and whatever newer students that haven’t debuted yet). So, you’re kinda stuck from a storytelling perspective, if you ask me.

Because there is a story sitting right there, stemming from the first show, for Mansour and Luck. But, it’s NUTS versus Team AAPW (think of a name!) which, if anything, provides Lynch with a number of challengers for the Title. And you know that Don Rodrigo won’t be able to remain on a team without being the main focus for too long. He’s too damn full of himself. So, that could be very interesting moving forward.

I really kind of wish they had a weekly show that they put on YouTube. Just, like, every Friday during practice. Just have a short 30 minute show (or however long, could be ten minutes, could be an hour). Not everyone has to be on it each week. Use it mostly to do character work, promos and the like. Right now, most everyone is a very broad gimmick or not much of anything. All of that stuff is just as important as the in-ring work. Just build things for the upcoming show, giving extra reasons for the matches to be happening.

Well, that’s all I got, so come to the next show on June 20th at 7PM. It’s only $10 for adults and $5 for kids (maybe, I think). DO IT!