AIW “Leap” results: Vetter’s review of Eric Taylor vs. Wes Barkley for the Intense Championship, Vik Vice vs. Austin James, Xia Brookside vs. Gabby Forza

By Chris Vetter, Contributor (@chrisvetter73)

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Absolute Intense Wrestling “Leap”
Streamed on TrillerTV+
February 29, 2024 in Lakewood, Ohio at Mercury Music Lounge

AIW released this show on June 4. I am unclear why they released it nearly three months later. (I wasn’t aware as I watched it that this show was a few months old; Eric Taylor was champion then and now. Point being, it didn’t feel dated as I watched it) Dustin Alberty and The Duke provided commentary; this was live commentary at the time, not dubbed in later. Also, they didn’t air this show in the order the matches occurred, which is always odd to me. Lakewood is just west of Cleveland on the south side of Lake Erie. This is a dark, windowless room with a low ceiling; the crowd is maybe 150-200. (It makes me think of where ROH filmed TV during the pandemic.) It quickly became clear to me this show will have a lot of rookie wrestlers.

* We started with a backstage segment, where a promoter named Pedro yelled at another guy named Jeff, saying this show is “$2,000 over budget.” What a strange opening segment…

* To the venue, where Derek Dillinger and Katie Arquette walked to the ring, and he doesn’t know who will be his opponent. Their open challenge was accepted!

1. Derek Dillinger and Katie Arquette defeated Joseline Navarro and Malcolm Cambridge at 11:07. All four brawled at the bell. Malcolm nailed a dive through the ropes onto Dillinger at 2:00. They got back in the ring and Derek was in charge; he is much larger and heavier. He hit a senton at 4:30. Katie tagged in and hit a snap suplex, and the heels kept him grounded. Navarro got a hot tag at 7:00 and beat up Katie. She hit running knees to Katie’s back. Derek hit a Bubba Bomb on Navarro. Katie hit a Bronco Buster on Joseline for a believable nearfall at 9:00. Dillinger hit a Tower of London-style stunner on Malcolm for a believable nearfall, but Joseline made the save. The men started fighting the women as they all traded forearm strikes. The heels hit a team powerbomb on Malcolm and they both covered him for the pin. Decent.

* Backstage, Jeff was moping about being yelled at because the show is over budget. Another guy told him he had company credit cards if needed. (How does that help? As the phrase goes, isn’t that robbing Peter to pay Paul?) We saw the masked wolf-like Eidolon Black lurking nearby…

2. Philly Collins defeated Eidolon Black at 8:17. Black’s mask has horns like a demonic taurus or ram; he removed it and he is a Black man wearing blackface paint. The commentators agreed they shouldn’t have “any sudden movements” around this guy. Black slithered around on the mat like he’s The Boogeyman. Philly backed away from him and they finally locked up at 1:30. Black hit a Stinger Splash, and he kept Collins grounded. Philly hit a spinebuster for a nearfall at 5:30. Philly hit a pair of sentons for a nearfall. Black hit a Michinoku Driver for a believable nearfall at 7:30, and they were both down. Collins hit a uranage for the pin. Solid; I am presuming Black is fairly new and Collins walked him through this.

* Backstage, Derek Dillinger called out Magnum CK. Katie Arquette said they have something in store for him.

3. Chuck Stone defeated Alex Melee at 11:18. Stone had his hardcore title; again, his current look is a smaller One Man Gang. My first time seeing the short, white Melee. He wore basic black trunks and he has a short beard. Stone tossed him around. Alex hit a doublestomp on the back. Stone kept Alex grounded. Stone applied a Million Dollar Dream at 5:00 but Alex powered out and turned it into a backpack stunner move and they were both down. Alex hit a rolling cannonball in the corner for a nearfall. Stone hit a Blue Thunder Bomb for a nearfall at 7:30. Stone hit a discus clothesline for a nearfall. Stone missed a rolling cannonball, and Alex hit another rolling cannonball. He went for a third but Stone caught him. Stone hit a powerbomb over his knee for the pin. Okay.

* Backstage, Jeff told Xia Brookside her scheduled opponent didn’t show, so she has a replacement opponent. Xia was surprised and said “You know I’m next!” (Also, it is clear to me now that the point of them being “over budget” is they are explaining why this show has so many rookies on it. Smaller booking fees!)

4. Xia Brookside defeated Gabby Forza at 7:56. Worth reiterating how muscular Gabby is, and she’s clearly much stronger than Xia. This is also Gabby’s AIW debut. They shook hands and had an intense lockup. Xia flexed; she is so tiny! She worked Gabby’s left arm. Forza knocked her down with shoulder tackles at 2:30, then a bodyslam for a nearfall. She hit a fallaway slam and celebrated, but she missed a Vader Bomb. Xia immediately hit a crossbody block for a nearfall at 4:00. Xia hit a stiff kick to the spine and she grounded Gabby with a chinlock.

Xia couldn’t budge her on an Irish Whip attempt. Gabby hit a running Stinger Splash. Xia hit a huracanrana, then a running neckbreaker for a nearfall at 6:30. Gabby did a Guerrilla Press into a Samoan Drop, then she hit a Vader Bomb for a believable nearfall. Xia flipped Gabby off the ropes to the mat, bridged back and got a fluke pin! Much better than the first three matches, and the commentators praised Gabby’s showing. They hugged afterward.

5. Dominic Garrini and Mason Shaw defeated Xay Garcia and Sid Von Engeland at 17:27. I’ve seen Xay and Sid a couple times now in the past two months, and they are being trained by Dominc Garrini. Shaw wears a singlet and a medal around his neck and the comparison to Kurt Angle is quite obvious. Mason and Xay opened. Garrini and Xay traded slaps. Xay and Sid began working Garrini over in their corner. Xay and Sid then began working over Shaw; this is fairly basic offense. Shaw hit a high back suplex on Sid at 6:00.

Sid hit a Lungblower move to Mason’s back for a nearfall. Sid hit an Air Raid Crash at 9:00. Shaw hit a powerslam, then a Canadian Destroyer. Garrini finally got the hot tag and he hit clotheslines on his students. Dominic hit a double back suplex and some chops on each of them. He hit a uranage on Sid, then a running penalty kick for a nearfall at 10:30. Dominic and Sid traded chops; Dominic peeled up Sid’s shirt so his chops would have more of an effect! Garrini hit a decapitating clothesline. He set up for a Musclebuster, but Xay helped Sid escape the hold.

Xay hit a hard clothesline on Shaw, then an Exploder Suplex for a nearfall at 13:00. Xay and Shaw traded chops. All four fought in the ring. Garrini and Shaw hit stereo German Suplexes. They all hit clotheslines and all four were down. Sid and Garrini tagged back in. Sid and Xay hit stereo flying forearms. Sid and Xay hit headbutts on Shaw. Garrini pushed Xay back into a corner into Sid. Garrini then hit the Musclebuster on Sid for the pin. That was better than expected.

* Duke left the booth to prepare for his match. Backstage, Nipsey Nash handed Jeff a backpack full of money. Jeff’s response was to tell him his match is next! More backstage segments with Dominic Garrini giving his guys a pep talk.

6. Tyson Riggs defeated Nipsey Nash at 7:22. I don’t think I’ve seen either man before. Riggs is white and wore a black karate robe. Nash is a “hustler;” he’s bald, Black and seems to be the guy in a cartoon who has 20 watches under his jacket to sell you on a street corner. Nipsey got on his flip phone during the match but Tyson kicked it out of his hands. Pretty basic action from these two. Nash hit a German Suplex at 6:00, then a Shellshock face plant for a believable nearfall. Riggs hit a Doctor Bomb/gut-wrench powerbomb and a superkick for the pin. Okay; these two are definitely newer.

7. Sam Halloway defeated Kaplan, Tyler Jordan, and Marino Tenaglia in a four-way at 10:44. Halloway is about 6’8″ and seems to have an amateur wrestling background, and I’ve written this before, but AIW should be building around him. Kaplan is a rotund brawler and also a regular here. I’ve compared Tyler Jordan to WWE’s Jason Jordan (and no, not just because of the same last name) and he also appears to have a legit amateur background. The bell rang and Kaplan rolled to the floor. Jordan hit a belly-to-belly suplex on Marino, then a dive to the floor. Marino hit a mid-ring Spanish Fly at 1:30. Kaplan hit a fallaway slam. Kaplan and Halloway brawled. Sam hit an impressive shotgun dropkick, then a pumphandle back suplex at 4:00.

Sam and Marino tried a move that just didn’t work but they kept going. They all traded blows while on their knees. Jordan hit a German Suplex on Marino, then a dive through the ropes at 6:30. Marino hit an impressive top-rope crossbody block, flying over the guardrail and onto the other three on the floor. In the ring, Marino hit some Yes Kicks on Sam; he sure looks small compared to Halloway. Sam and Tyler had an awkward exchange, too. Kaplan hit a Dominator faceplant on Tyler for a nearfall. We had a Poison Rana spot that didn’t quite land, too. Sam hit a chokeslam on Kaplan for the pin. I’m still high on the potential of these guys, but this was not as smooth as I hoped or expected.

Daniel C. Rockingham (think Brother Love!) came out in a glittery gold jacket and white tie and he jawed at the crowd.

8. Daniel C. Rockingham defeated Shelby Wylder at 11:47. Wylder is a lanky cowboy and I don’t think I’ve seen him before. Rockingham is rotund and he’s wrestling in that button-down shirt and tie. With the cowbody gimmick off, Wylder looks a lot like AEW’s Peter Avalon. Pretty basic action. Wylder hit a tornado DDT for a nearfall at 5:30. Daniel stomped on Wylder and kept him grounded. They brawled on the floor. Shelby dove over the top rope onto Daniel at 11:00. In the ring, Wylder hit a slam for the pin. Two green guys; this really wasn’t that good.

9. Austin James defeated Vik Vice at 11:18. Vik Vice looks like Mason Maddon, with long dreadlocks, but without Mason’s height, and I don’t think I’ve seen him before. James looks like every hefty 35-year-old softball player, weearing his jersey, black eye makeup, backwards cap, and carrying a bat. They brawled immediately and Vik hit a bulldog, so James bailed to the floor. Vik dove through the ropes onto him, then a flip dive over the ropes. Austin whipped Vik headfirst into the guardrail at 1:30. Austin took control in the ring, hiting clotheslines in the corner.

James jawed at the female ref and he kept Vik grounded. Vik hit some running kicks and was fired up. He hit a spinning leg lariat to the face for a nearfall at 6:00. Vik hit a powerbomb and they were both down. James tied him in the Tree of Woe and hit a running knee for a nearfall at 8:00. James hit a Razor’s Edge for a believable nearfall. Vik hit a sunset bomb out of the corner at 10:00. James hit a Michinoku Driver for the pin. Decent match; I liked what I saw of Vik Vice.

10. Eric Taylor (w/the Duke) defeated Wes Barkley to retain the Intense Championship at 21:56. Again, the slender Taylor is comparable to VSK with his short, black hair. Standing switches as they worked each other’s left arm early on. Taylor clotheslined them both over the top rope to the floor at 5:30. They brawled at ringside, over the guardrail, and into the crowd. They finally got back into the ring at 8:30, and Wes hit a clothesline and was in charge. Duke choked Wes as the ref was distracted, allowing Taylor to regain control.

Taylor grapevined the left leg and worked it over. Barkley tied Taylor in a Figure Four at 13:30. They got up and traded punches. Barkley hit an axe kick to the back of the head at 16:00 and they were both down. Wes hit a standing neckbreaker for a nearfall. Taylor hit a splash to the floor on Wes. In the ring, Wes hit a Michinoku Driver for a nearfall. Taylor hit a powerbomb move for a nearfall. Taylor hit a neckbreaker over his knee for a nearfall at 20:30. Wes hit a Jarrett-style Stroke for a visual pin, but Duke pulled the ref to the floor. Chuck Stone attacked Wes with a title belt to the face while the ref was ejecting Duke! Taylor immediately hit a Rollins-style Stomp to the head for the cheap pin. Pretty basic, standard match.

Final Thoughts: AIW had a huge “Gauntlet For The Gold” show in Cleveland in late May that drew a huge crowd. If that show was AIW’s equivalent of a WWE PLE… this is then an equivalent to an NXT house show on the Florida loop. A few stars here and there, but a LOT of young guys I’ve never heard of before, and many were clearly quite new and limited in the ring. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad show, but just an acknowledgement this show had a focus on getting some young guys some in-ring time in front of a live (and patient and forgiving) crowd.

I’ll go with Dominic Garrini’s six-man tag for best, the Gabby-Xia match for second, and even though it had a few spots that didn’t quite land, the Sam Halloway four-way takes third. I remain high on the young core of this promotion, specifically Halloway and Tyler Jordan.


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