My fall and rekindling of Wrestling, thanks to AAW

Riley Thomas

Some of you may remember my early articles.  The passion I had for pro wrestling.  I had started back on another site called bodyslam, moved to Gorilla Position where I had a weekly article called “The Weekly Pipebomb”, where I talked about anything “So long as I don’t get sued”, according to Ryan Bowman. I wrote several pieces on real pipebombs, not that Phil Brooks pile of scripted trash.  I even did a huge four or five-part WWE restructure, where I added new titles, merged old, creating new events, it was quite the piece.  You can find it there I think still under Lauren Conrad, “My WWE Restructure” or something.  But then TGP sold, and I was left without a home to write.  I then met Ashley who offered me a job at the site that preceded this one called PW Empire.  But my pro wrestling love went back before all that.  Of course, I had a love as a child, I grew up watching old VHS tapes of WCCW, NWA, Sting vs Flair, Hogan, Warrior, which I relived all the ages of wrestling.  However, like all kids, my passion fell away as I grew older and moved on to more important things like dating, gossip, makeup, all the teenage girl things.  

Then I started a game, well, more of a program, called Second Life.  It’s hard to explain what it is, but imagine a world you can create that you can be and do literally anything you want.  I had always roleplayed in games with people, so the transition to Second Life was a good one, and I got into roleplay there.  A couple of years later, after meeting a DJ called Ace, I was told there was wrestling in second life.

“What?”

“Yeah, there’s wrestling, come to a show.” He told me in non-exact words but something along those lines.  So I went to a show from DCWF, the then, and probably still, longest-running “Federation” in Second Life.  After a few shows, I thought “Hey this would be fun!”, and I started to get back into it.  But it wasn’t what they did, it was a different type called “pose ball”, which is, was, more roleplay based.  You sat on two “pose balls” that animated your avatar, clicked through a menu to find the move you wanted, hit it, and type out a paragraph of what you were doing.  It was right up my alley, roleplay.  It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed it, but I craved more.  

Time went on, I became a manager in DCWF, transitioned to a manager in VWE, to a wrestler in WPWF, and then I hit my niche.  I got hired on as a writer in something called VAW, a now-defunct fed in second life.  I wrote for the “B” show, Turbulence, eventually overtaking other feds and then out-performing the “A” show, Elite.  With realistic storylines, I would say my show was more of a WCW/AEW style, where I let the talent write their own stories, and with a few storylines running on the side.  I would have 4 to 5 stories all at once, with all slow burn coming together at a large “FPV (Free Per View)” show, and then, unlike everyone else who ended stories and built new ones, I would take pieces from that large show, and build those into more storylines.  Basically, everything led to something new.  It was a fairly new concept at the time.  Say Jon Doe and Jack Doe have a 3-month storyline, with Jason Doe and Jackson Doe having a side story.  Jon is the champion, and he loses the belt at the Doe Show.  Normally after everything would “reset”, but we kept going.  Jackson Doe would see a new titleholder and go after him, while the other two would rekindle a tag team or a feud.  Anyways.  This went on for a few months until the owner and myself had a fallout when he ran his mouth and I walked.  That’s when I stopped pro wrestling again.  That was around 2018.

It’s been 4 years, and I watched some AEW, but having no fans in 2020 just killed the vibe for me, and so I really had stopped everything.  I tried writing articles, I tried to keep up, but nothing was clicking anymore.  I was in a rut.  I thought I was done for good, kicked the habit.  I had bought a ticket in 2020 to an AAW show in Logans Square, but everything got shut down, and I had lost interest again.  I was done.  No more.

Then, for some strange reason, I got the email for Crush and Destroy at 115 Bourbon Street.  For some strange reason, I bought a stage seat.  I have no idea why.  I just did.  It was a fantastic seat, and I thought 

“Well, I need to get away anyways…”

So I went, skeptical.

“This will be as bad as the live WWE event I saw as a kid,” I thought.

Man.  Was I ever wrong.

From the opening bell for the TV taping for Alive to the end bell of Crush and Destroy, it was non-stop action.  Bell to bell, fall to fall, let me tell you right now, the FITE taping is NOTHING compared to how loud it REALLY was.  The chairs were real, the kendo sticks were real (I have a piece of one that landed by me), the falls were heavy, and the energy was so high the entire night.  Granted it was “Opening Day” for Chicago, masks off, full capacity, so that might have added to the atmosphere.  But when I say it was electric?  You could probably summon bolts of lightning to put Zeus to shame with the energy in that place.  The crowd was loud.  I heard wrestlers calling spots, and people mock them for it.  Me though?  I thought that was the coolest part of it.  Hearing them put this dance together in the ring, hearing them call it on the fly, hearing the care in their voice after a particularly brutal shot from Jake Something with a freaking DOOR (which I also have a small piece of), and asking his opponent “You alright man?”, just amazed me.  

I took 248 pictures and a few videos from that night.  Once I can find a place to store them all, I’ll put a link to it in a future article.  The card was stacked.  I didn’t know a single person on the card except for Sky Blue and of course, Kris Statlander.  But that didn’t matter to me.  It was the most amazing experience I had in my life.   

My favorite match though wasn’t the main event or Kris Statlander.  It was the mid-card match with Josh Alexander vs. Mat Fitchett.  They fought bell to bell to a time draw in the most amazing technical and brutal match.  The selling was on point.  The submissions, the ground grapples, the technical aspect was amazing, then they’d switch it up to hard hits and a brawl, The crowd would be buzzing, then they would slip back into technical wrestling.  It was my definition of the perfect match.  It kept us hyped, but not an intense nonstop hype like the Jake Something vs Mance Warner brawl.  It was enough to get us excited, then slow down, then excited.  There was not one single flaw with this match at all.  I loved it.  It was the match of the night, and when it was all done, everyone was SHOUTING “FIVE MORE MINUTES!”.  That’s when you know a match is good when the crowd wants more.  

Josh and Mat’s epic fight. This was just after someone yelled “YOU’RE NOT KURT ANGLE!”, credit to @cameraguygimmik on twitter

Bell to bell, from Alive to Crush and Destroy, AAW has rekindled my love for professional wrestling.  Ok, I’d be lying if I didn’t say Stadium Stampede 2 also piqued my interest a bit, but AAW tipped it over the edge.  AAW put on the most spectacular show I have been to, and I already have tickets to United We Stand, where I will be doing a full write-up on it.  Until then, watch AAW, you won’t regret it.  My only suggestion?  Put a mic near the ring so the fans at home can hear those kendo shots.  So they can hear the chairs.  The slams.  You guys are awesome, and here’s to more shows!

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