An Interview with Matt Jackson about AEW & OWE

NC: Tell me the story of what led to AEW having a working agreement with OWE: What attracted you to the promotion? Was it a unanimous decision to go in this direction, or were there people who had doubts about the idea? How long has this been in the works? Was there a specific moment that made you go “We have to do this!”?   

MJ: Immediately when I saw a couple of GIFs of the OWE guys on Twitter, I was attracted. So, I looked up more clips and did research on them. I quickly learned my old friend CIMA, who I’d made friends with years ago in Japan, was affiliated with them. That made sense right away, because the clips I watched had a real Dragon Gate feel to it. Yet still, it looked and felt so original. Like a fight scene from an old Kung fu movie.  I knew I’d one day work with these guys right away. I’m attracted to anything out of the ordinary.

 

NC: When you made the announcement of AEW’s partnership with OWE you referred to CIMA’s #Stronghearts faction as “Good Hearts.” How many people have teased you over that flub?

MJ: Hah! Not many, thankfully. I documented the rough travel experience we had, and how I was coming right off a plane from 24 hours of travel with small children, so I think people cut me some slack. Right when I got to the back after I spoke, I looked at PAC whom I knew caught the mistake as well, and we both shared a quick laugh.

 

NC: Speaking of #Stronghearts, you specifically called out the faction in association with OWE. Does this mean fans should expect to see them exclusively from the OWE roster, or should fans expect to see members of their roster not associated with #Stronghearts already?

MJ: Right off the bat, #StrongHearts will be represented strongly, however, that won’t be the end of it. We expect to use several of the talents coming out of OWE. In my perfect world, once we’re running more regularly, I’d love to house several of the wrestlers, use them for a few months as part of an excursion, and send them back home with a little experience under their belts. Then, send more fresh wrestlers from OWE here to the states to do the same.

 

NC: As a follow up to that question, how familiar are you with OWE’s homegrown Chinese roster? Is there anyone you’d want to work with personally?

MJ: I’m fairly new to the Chinese roster, trying to do my homework. I am familiar with the talented Japanese wrestlers that are part of the roster. The guys that have stuck out are Zhao Yilong, Zhao Junjie, and Liu Xinxi. My favorite to watch is probably Zhao Yilong, because of the fun things he incorporates with his character. I can see him getting over huge with the American audience. When I watch some of these unbelievable highspots the OWE crew are doing, immediately I’m thinking about how fun it would be to have a tag team match against any two of them. Excited for the possibilities.

 

NC: It’s no secret that OWE have had difficulties getting international work VISAs for their Chinese talent, with only a handful of their roster who had been advertised to work abroad having actually fulfilled their international bookings. To further complicate matters, the United States and China are presently in the midst of what some call a Trade War. Has AEW worked through these hurdles, or does AEW have a plan in place to do so? Can fans expect to see Chinese OWE roster members at Double or Nothing?

MJ: We are currently working on securing VISAS as we speak. We’ve got a great legal team behind us, with lots of wonderful resources. We are fully expecting to have OWE represented at Double Or Nothing!

 

NC: With an alliance like this in place so early in both companies life spans, AEW and OWE have a strong chance of leaving lasting impressions on each other. How much of a role do you see OWE’s talent pool playing in these foundational first few years of running AEW?

MJ: I think it’s vital to have something completely fresh and unseen by most eyes be one of the major highlights of our shows. We need to be different aesthetically, and OWE is just that. OWE will grab the audience’s attention and deliver something most fans have never seen. I plan to have OWE be one of the first things on our show, because we’ve only got one first time impression, and we’ve got to make it a big one.

 

NC: Is it likely that fans will see AEW talent working cards in China on OWE produced events in the near future? Is China a market you want AEW to expand into, long-term?

MJ: That is definitely part of the plan in the foreseeable future. I’ve already had several members of our roster inquire about doing just that. The plan is to definitely expand into China, as it’s one of the few untapped markets with tons of potential.

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Exciting OWE News: AEW Collaboration, International Dates

This past Friday night I had the chance to chat with OWE COO Michael Nee for the first time since the thunderous announcement from AEW’s press rally in Jacksonville, Fl. rocked the Chinese Pro Wrestling scene by announcing that the two fledgling brands would be working together. I connected with him early in his day in China briefly before he headed off to the HenDian venue for rehearsals. He told me about the venue being a film set city, and compared it to Universal Studios. He elaborated upon how much of the buildings there reproduced various classical eras of Chinese architecture. One of the great things about Michael Nee is that he’s always excited about OWE and what they are doing.

When I asked him about AEW he explained to me that they’re still working on the details of the working agreement and have yet to settle on exact terms for the deal between their two companies. This being said they are really pleased to be working with AEW and will be aggressive in working with All Elite. OWE are willing to help AEW in any way they can. He explained that they are willing to “transfer their kids” to AEW and hold joint matches anywhere. Any kind of working relationship status will be open to discussion. While details are yet to be set in stone he did advise me that he, along with OWE’s owner Huayang Fu and VP CIMA, will be joining  a press conference and attending meetings in Las Vegas February 8th and 9th. We can expect more details then on the exact nature of how these brands will work together.

It is unquestionable that OWE’s roster have been developing quickly and the brand isn’t afraid to make changes to gimmicks on the fly, as numerous performers have metamorphosed heavily over the summer. However, the key to excelling as a roster will lie in their kids gaining experience working with more skilled performers. Traditionally the best way to do this has been by working abroad, when the talent pool in your region is either underdeveloped or doesn’t offer you what you seek. Over the course of 2018 OWE attempted to have many of its outstanding young roster get some international experience under their belts but struggled in many cases to obtain the appropriate visas.

With the relationship with AEW looking to bring OWE’s homegrown talent stateside yet again, these concerns about visas came to my mind again and I asked him about the subject. He explained to me that the biggest challenges the faced in getting their Chinese roster the appropriate visas in the past was centered on them not having all their proper documentation and requirements met. For many they didn’t have proper residential documents, or bank accounts with the required minimum balance present, to be able to get the visas approved. Over the year OWE has been working on ensuring all of their students have these issues sorted out to ensure that visas are no longer denied. It also certainly will not hurt that their partner stateside is now backed by a billionaire and will be viewed by visa offices as a more financially stable entity than other partner promotions before them. He says that their travel agent is confident they will be able to travel.

Partnering with AEW and its prestige Billionaire-backer is likely to greatly facilitate international travel for these lads to North America. But, OWE are not hedging all of their international performance bets on AEW. In fact, Mr. Nee revealed to me that at the end of March they will be visiting Taipei for a show, and will be in Osaka and Tokyo for shows between April 18th and the 20th. Furthermore, while no time has been set, he communicated that they are interested in running in Thailand as well.

This falls well in line with the ethos of OWE he expressed throughout our chat. They seek to increase the global connectivity of cultural arts through the best platform possible: pro wrestling. He spoke of how they’ve barely scratched the surface of the numerous styles of Chinese Kung-Fu and historical figures and subjects to draw upon for material and how the martial arts and cultures of other places, such as Thailand’s Muay Thai, are things they would also like to bring into the fold with OWE. I would not be surprised to see them try and bring in recruits from Thailand and India in the long run, to help expand this vision and provide more variety to their roster.

Between these subjects he explained to me that OWE has to pay for to broadcast their show on Chinese TV, which they recently started doing, and wondered if a platform like Twitch would be beneficial for his brand to get directly into. Our conversation turned, inevitably, towards the eventual expectations of having English video content as the company increases its English language social media presence. He said that, while he was very busy, it shouldn’t be too hard for him to put together English subtitles and he might see if some of the English speaking wrestling talent could do commentary. No promises or ETA on this subject, but a recognition that it shouldn’t be too challenging for them to put something together when the time comes.

 

#DiscoveringWrestling #032 – Montreal’s First Ever Superkick Party!

On August 4th I left my day job a bit early and went right to Union Station, my bags already with me all day at my desk, for a quick five hour ride up to Montreal. My purpose: To see the Young Bucks wrestle in the legendary IWS, International Wrestling Syndicate, the promotion that spawned Kevin Steen and El Generico, who became pretty big deals under different names recently. The impetus for this trip was the opportunity to see, in person, one of the greatest tag teams in ever, the Young Bucks, have a match against two of my favorite Canadian independent tag teams, Tabarnak de Team. I’ve seen the Bucks wrestle several times, including in the Tokyo Dome, but I had never seen them work in a setting like I knew IWS would be. On the other hand I have watched TdT come up in a much more intimate way. I remember them working for nCw back when they were young and green and not a tag team, and I have seen them craft and evolve their gimmick touch by touch until they hit this amazing groove they have been on as of late. The prospect of these two teams colliding excited me. It was an easy sell.

So I queued up for the Meet and Greet with the Bucks, and I queued up again to get into the show. The venue was cramped, people standing in the stairwells just to get a view of the ring, at this sold out show. Amazingly it didn’t get too hot with near 300 people crammed in the teeny-tiny night club, mostly occupied by the ring and a conveniently placed bar. Drinks were rather affordable too. It had an intense and intimate atmosphere but a big fight feel, everyone abuzz with excitement and a sea of Bullet Club shirts all over the place.

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Scott “Jagged” Parker dropped both his titles on this night, one in a match and one being vacated due to his suspension. Is he NXT bound? Some in the crowd certainly thought so.

Match 1: Black Dynamite vs. Scott Parker (c) – IWS World Heavyweight Championship Match

The night starts with Mike Paterson, Black Dynamite’s manager, cutting a fun, comedic promo, pumping the crowd up, and getting a chant of “You Drink Breast Milk” started. With the crowd pumped up to see these two clash, Parker plays the perfect heel by ducking outside the ring each time Black Dynamite tries to engage. They play these antics up and Parker uses these moments to frustrate and take advantage of Dynamite’s temper as he chases the champ around. Scott “Jagged” Parker uses everything in his heel toolbox to get the advantage in the early parts of this match, including using Dynamite’s manager as a human shield when Dynamite tries to dive on him. All these antics give him opportunities to control the flow of the match and he uses his momentum to stuff any comebacks Dynamite attempts.

With Dynamite in a disadvantageous position Parker starts breaking out his technical prowess, including solid suplexes, but he cannot keep his opponent down for the three count. At this point the match goes into IWS’s hardcore territory and Jagged gets some chairs and tosses Dynamite headfirst into on in the corner and then hits him with a low blow when he can’t make him tap to a Dragon Sleeper. In a true show of babyface energy, Black Dynamite stay in the game after getting dropped on a chair with a facebuster. At this point Parker clocks the ref for the first of many ref bumps in the evening. Without the referee present, Dynamite tries to make a comeback but IWS owner Manny runs in and he and Parker beat on Black Dynamite furiously until Paterson interferes, saving Dynamite from a table spot. At this point Dynamite recovers, no sells a chair shot, and powerbombs Parker through a table to pick up the win and become the new IWS World Heavyweight Champion.

This match itself wasn’t anything super great, and felt a bit rushed. I’ve seen Parker give better performances in the past and Black Dynamite looks like he has more he can show off than this, but it was the opening match. For a title match, it felt underwhelming and overbooked. I am curious to see more of Black Dynamite though.

Grade: C+
Match 2: Gordie O’Toole, Buster Barao, and Shayne Hawke vs. Matt Angel, Frank Milano, and Steven Mainz

The match starts off with some quick tag sequences that show off the talents of the men in the ring, particularly showing off the talents of the smaller, flippier face team of Angel, Milano, and Mainz. It builds up to a huge shmoz of dives to the outside, with even Hawke taking flight. Back in the ring, they do a 6-man suplex spot, followed by the indie multi-man everyone gets their shit in sequence. This leaves Angel and Hawke standing and they exchange strikes, with Hawke coming out with the upper hand. This is followed by another sequence with everyone getting their stuff in, big moves all over the place. Unfortunately at this point things got awkward, as there was a big pause where it seemed like the performers involved, Bario, Angel and Milano, just sorta stayed still in the ring in their spots waiting for someone else to move. Milano gets a moonsault on Bario for the win.

This match had more than its fair share of botchy moments, but the dudes on the winning team (Angel, Milano, and Mainz) came out of the showing looking like they have a lot of potential.

Grade: B-
Match 3: Stephany St-Clair vs. Kath Von Goth vs. Veda Scott – Winner is Inaugural IWS Women’s Champion

Kath Von Goth dominates the opening moments of the match with test of strength spots against each opponent, which logically makes sense as she is the biggest in the match. Nevertheless, Veda Scott takes both Von Goth and St-Clair down with a tandem attack. Veda works over St-Clair in the ring while Von Goth just sort of chills at ringside. This would become a nagging point for me during the match. Von Goth certainly looked the rookie in this match, and the way she just sorta hung around outside until it was time for her next spot in the ring felt very out of character for the biggest person in the match. Very arguably at this early stage she had not been hit with anything hard enough to take that much steam out of her.

Once back in the ring, Von Goth tries to throw her opponents with what I can only imagine are supposed to be suplexes but things just don’t go right and it looks awful. She does, eventually, pull out a nice corner cannonball on St-Clair and a big slam on Veda Scott but can’t get the three count. they do a Doom’s Day Device spot and Veda goes for pinning opportunities on both of her opponents but St-Clair makes a comeback and wrecks Veda and s8ubsequently forces Von Goth to tap out, becoming the first ever IWS Women’s Champion!

The winner chosen here was apparent from the early moments of the match, as St-Clair is the more experienced local in the match. I couldn’t imagine them putting the belt immediately on someone as green as Kath Von Goth or as unlikely to be available for future dates as Veda Scott. I was speaking with a friend involved with the promotion after the show about why now was the time for the IWS to create a women’s title. I was wondering if it was bandwagon jumping, or if something else was the impetus, and he provided me with an answer that excited me. He told me that recently the training classes for new wrestlers in Montreal had moved from being approximately ten percent students being female to approximately fifty percent. It’s great to hear that more women are getting in to classes and I look forward to seeing who comes out of montreal in the future.

Grade: C+
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Brute Van Slyke is a really cool man to see perform live. He’s like the second coming of Bam Bam Bigelow.

Match 4: Big Magic vs. eXess vs. Bob Anger vs. Brute Van Slyke – IWS World Heavyweight #1 Contendership Match

The match starts off with Anger throwing Big Magic and eXess out of the ring, facing off with Brute Van Slyke alone. I never had a true appreciation for how massive Van Slyke is until I saw him live in this match. Indeed, he is too massive for Anger and he easily knocks down his smaller opposition. Of course, in a four man match, there is always the other men to pay attention to. Van Slyke is tossed from the ring by eXess who quickly ties Anger up in the ropes with a submission, fully legal in this hardcore promotion apparently. On the outside Big Magic rams Van Slyke into the corner post, giving the big man a valid reason to stay down on the outside. He then capitalizes on the weakened Anger while his security cronies are sent after Brute Van Slyke.

Infuriate by this act of cowardice, the Green Phantom chases Big Magic’s security away after they have thrown a remarkably huge amount of baby powder into Anger’s eyes. I could taste the powder in the air as it wafted around Club Unity. Van Slyke makes his comeback here with a huge suplex on Big Magic. At this point in the match Brute comes in at full force and lays waste to the opposition one after another, shrugging off strikes until eXess catches him with an enzuigiri and top rope knee drop. Big Magic breaks up the pinning predicament, costing eXess a potential victory, and locks him in a Boston Crab. At this point Brute Van Slyke just lingers on the outside for far too long doing nothing as Big Magic and eXess go through their spots in the ring. He comes back in at just the right moment to prevent eXess from winning and hits him with the Greetings from Oneida, New York and gets the victory.

Regrettably this match felt like it had too much down time in it and, simultaneously, like it was too over booked with extraneous individuals. Really only Brute Van Slyke came out looking good, which is particularly odd as Big Magic is a genuinely good performer whom I’ve watched many times and enjoyed more than this outing.

Grade: C+
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These two are destined for greatness, and for very different reasons.

Match 5: Buxx Belmar vs. Mike Bailey

Before the match Belmar is up to his usual gross out antics, chugging from a water bottle with cigarettes in it, and spilling it on the ring too. Bailey, amusingly, plays into it very well and is grossed out to the point where he gets the referee to clean up the mess before he will wrestle. With a start like that I knew the two men knew how their characters would interact, but I had no idea how amazing the performance would become.

The opening of the match has Bailey trying to lock up with Belmar, only for his opponent to gross his way out of the lock up, by spitting in his hands or rubbing them in his pants in suggestive ways. There is a long delay to the match really kicking it into gear because of Belmar’s gross out antics, but all of a sudden bailey kicks Belmar hard and the gears shift immediately. They run the ropes and bailey catches Belmar with a good dropkick.

After Buxx Belmar misses a dive to the outside Bailey nails him with flying knees and a brutal running kick he had to clear a path through the crowd to perform. Back in the ring Bailey takes a page from his time in Japan and lays machinegun kicks into Belmar in the corner, sending visions of NOAH’s glory days into my brain. They move about and  shift positions and Bailey goes in for another kick on Buxx, and this is where the match gets really fun. To counter Bailey’s kick, Buxx grabs his foot and sucks on his toes – maybe I should have mentioned that Bailey wrestles barefoot? Either way, it stopped Bailey dead in his tracks and he had no idea what to do about it.

This gives Buxx an opening and he uses it to hit big moves in sequence, rocking Bailey but unable to secure a pin. bailey capitalizes on Buxx missing atop rope legdrop by hitting moonsault knees and a Gotch-style piledriver but can’t get the three count. This builds up to one of the most fluid and exciting spots I have seen live. Bailey is on the apron looking to springboard in at Buxx, but the Dirty Buxx Belmar thinks ahead and charges at Bailey. It looks like he’s going to spear Bailey to the floor, but instead he flies through the ropes and crashes to the floor as Speedball leaps over him and fluidly into a moonsault off of the top rope and out onto the already crashed Belmar. It was remarkable.

Bailey, in firm control, gets Belmar back into the ring and hits him with the stiffest German Suplex and Lariat I have ever seen Bailey do, but Buxx kicks out after each one, earlier in the count than the last move. It is worth tangentially noting here that every time Bailey comes back from Japan he seems to have gotten tighter and more aggressive in his delivery, and this progression excites me.

In classic Buxx fashion he goes to his gross out tactics, sucking on Bailey’s toes again and refusing to let go – and to his credit Bailey sold it like he was being bitten by the grossest animal ever. Speedball escapes and Buxx catches him with a Snapmare Driver but Bailey kicks out. Buxx then spits the cigarette water he’s been keeping with him in bailey’s face and hits him with a sit-down pinning hip attack and almost gets the win. Bailey comes out on fire, laying into Belmar with a series of kicks but Belmar keeps countering Bailey’s attacks until he works his way into his own finishing move and puts Bailey down for the three count.

this match was filled with more unexpected kickouts than I knew what to do with and showed what both men can do at the top of their game. To me, this is a match I can point back to as proof that these two men have big time, top of the card potential in them. potential I have seen grow and improve for many years running. Even better than impressing me, the crowd fucking loved the match and were rolling with the momentum just as they should be.

Grade: A
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Honestly, I was hyped for this match for several months!

Match 6: The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) vs. Tabarnak de Team (Mathieu St-Jacques and Thomas Dubois) (c) – IWS Tag Team Championship Match

Both teams were showered with love by the audience as they made their entrances, and it was no doubt at all that the crowd was hot for this match. They had been hot for this while lined up for the meet and greet near on five hours earlier, and that heat grew as this tight venue was packed with loads of people.

The match itself begins with solid basics and technical work on display by all four men, punctuated by potent banter. Loads of charisma on display, in two languages. Once the action picks up, the Young Bucks go right into their Greatest Hits collection, hitting everything one would see in a Top 10 Moves of the Young Bucks video on YouTube. Before they can get into Meltzer Driver-territory, TdT counter the Terminator Dive with a pair of spears and then dive on the bucks themselves. The adrenalin quotient is ramped up immediately by the Bucks then hitting the Terminator Dive successfully.

The Bucks try to take the upper hand, attacking Dubois’s beard, but it seems to just piss him up and Dubois unloads on Matt with just a clusterfuckload of backbreakers. Then Tabarnak de Team use solid teamwork, frequently tagging in and out, and their bulkier frames to control the flow of the match and isolate Matt in the ring. Even more than that, they use the same heelish tactics their opposition do, and like their opposition, remain charming throughout it all.

When Matt makes the inevitable hot tag, Nick comes in and hits his solo spots, leading to the much beloved facebuster. They quickly enough transition back into double-team work, ramping back up on their Young Buck’s Greatest Hits tour. Before the Bucks can steamroll the champs, St-Jacques catches them with a double DDT, giving Dubois the chance to show off his gorgeous belly-to-belly suplex. He tries to fly at the Bucks, but takes out the ref instead. With the referee out of commission the action doesn’t slow down for a second. Tabarnak hit their number one tag team finisher, a running punch to an opponent being hung in a powerbomb position, followed by the obvious powerbomb. They get an audience-chanted six count but without the referee they realize the pin is pointless. They get a table set up in the corner but shenanigans ensue and again the ref gets in the way and TdT spear him through the table. This leads to a remarkable sequence where the Young Bucks superkick Dubois out of mid-Moonsault, prompting the crowd to go apeshit, and then Meltzer him. The ref is slow to recover and is prevented from making the three count by St-Jacques, who pulls him out of the ring.

The match breaks down in to chaos, and the Young Bucks manage to superkick the ref. The teams exchange strikes a bunch. I honestly think multiple referees were involved but I couldn’t keep track as the action was furious. To break up an attempted Sunset Flip, St-Jacques grabs the ref and piledrives him on to Matt. Then Dubois hits his moonsault on him, and dodges when Nick tries to swanton on him, causing him to crash onto his brother. Then Tabarnak de Team hit their piledriver/powerbomb combo and get the three count. Tabarnak de Team retain their title.

Overall this match was really fun and filled with shocking, surprising moments. For all I am familiar with both teams, they still managed to put new things in front of my eyes. At a certain point I thought the ref bumps were getting to be a bit much, and then they just kept doing more and I couldn’t help but like how it became a subplot of the match. It passed into the realm of raucous, enjoyable absurdity. It was great fun. Post-match some dudes charged out to attack TdT and the Young Bucks teamed up with TdT to send the attackers packing, giving fans of all stripes a good go-home moment.

Grade: A
Conclusion:

While the undercard was unremarkable Indie fare, the final two matches delivered excitement in spades to an already hot crowd. It was definitely worth the trip up to Montreal to see this special match, and I hope that people take the time to seek it out and give Montreal wrestling some room in their grappling diet.

Do you have any feedback or questions? Leave a comment here!

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