Sami Callihan (c) vs Michael Elgin
AAW Heavyweight Championship
115 Bourbon Street, Merrionette Park, Illinois, United States
(reviewed 08/06/2017) I should hate this match. It’s got so many elements that I dislike. It’s built up like this big intense showdown whereas I didn’t feel like it was that important at all coming into it, despite having watched almost everything these two did in AAW in the preceding months. It features two guys who I think are really flawed wrestlers. It takes place in a promotion that so often shits the bed and ruins a good thing. It plays on Callihan’s real life takeover of parts of the indie scene, his carving out of a fiefdom in its darker corners, highlighting this very annoying and very unappealing fact. How could I like this? What about it could I enjoy?
For starters, I guess I’d say the story this match tells is really quite enthralling. Whatever you say about Callihan’s real life actions and political actions within the business of professional wrestling, the character of a self-important, gloating, ignoble pretender-king of shit mountain who is really just a sniveling brat who was pushed over the edge by the WWE is something that can be very entertaining in the ring. Likewise, Elgin, this boring, uninteresting puro cosplayer who manages to strip an incredibly enjoyable in-ring style of all life and substance manages to come across here as this virtuous, highly capable, paladin-esque ass kicker. He feels like a gunslinger hired to rid some town in the old west of a gang of criminals, and it’s all on the back of what these two do in the ring. Callihan is not just vulnerable but totally weak. Elgin punks him out repeatedly, even when Callihan is armed with a chair or has OI4K backing him up. Elgin refuses to stoop to Callihan’s level, electing to win back the AAW title on his own merit. This super simple story that features a bland character and an annoying, all-too-real character, told in front of one of my least favorite audiences in the world, somehow came together and knocked me off my feet.
The actual content of the match, the meat of the thing, is not quite as good as the story itself, to be sure. These two are prone to a certain sort of match that grates me on me, and they certainly stray into some silly and convoluted territory once they really get going. But more often than not, I found their spots to be less egregious and more neat, sort of cute and effective. It’s not high quality in-ring action, to be sure, but it’s completely functional and compliments the storytelling instead of overshadowing or replacing it outright, which is more than I can say for that vast majority of AAW matches in 2017.
There’s two moments in particular that I’d like to highlight specifically. The first is perhaps a quarter or a third of the way through the match. By utilizing some underhanded tactics and a steel chair, Callihan has regained control of the match from Elgin and has begun going after the Canadian’s leg with the chair. As Elgin lays on the mat, Callihan flings the chair at his leg, not so much smashing it down as tossing it dejectedly downward. He’s not putting his all behind it. He knows it’s going to do its job, but he’s more concerned with how Elgin’s kicked his ass and humiliated him for six or eight minutes already, and he’s sort of pouting about that. He turns into the ropes as he does this, slumping against them in exhaustion, and he tosses up a weak middle finger and “Fuck you!” to the crowd. It’s all he can do. It’s all he feels, this vague, general sort of disdain for everyone other than his crew, for these people who have been so entertained by this massive bruiser beating the shit out of him.
Late in the match, Jake Crist and JT Davidson appear on the stage of 115 Bourbon Street, looking to interfere in the match on Callihan’s behalf. He calls them off as they stare down Elgin, though. He wants to do this on his own even though it’s clear that in a fire fight with Elgin, he’s getting gunned down in seconds. But he recognizes this and sort of embraces his fate in a sick way, screaming “end it!” at Elgin. Elgin complies, dropping him with a backfist, but somehow Callihan survives it. Elgin goes for his powerbomb but Callihan backdrops him over, basically running on instinct, and drops down on his opponent, hooking his leg, narrowly stealing the three count. He’s shocked afterwards, cowering at the legs of Crist and Davidson. He can’t believe he beat Elgin. He can’t believe he did it without a run-in or powder in the face. He actually pinned the man clean. He did it because he actually tried for once.
It’s this sort of storytelling and slight character progression that I love in wrestling and that made me really, really like this match. I’m just as shocked as you are. The odds were working against it the whole time. I should have hated this match as I know a lot of my friends and a lot of people I look up to and respect hated this match. But no, they pulled it out and I’m happier for it.