Changing of the guard

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TIME FOR A CHANGE: Aaron Henry and Jakob Cross have reinvigorated IPW’s tag team division. PHOTO: Impact Pro Wrestling

IPW’s Agents of Change are on the verge of a life-changing event. New Heights will either be the night that plays host to the defining performance of their careers, or the thing to break them – both figuratively and literally.

Aaron Henry and Jakob Cross face Lil T and TK Cooper in New Zealand’s first ever tag team ladder match, with the IPW tag team titles up for grabs tomorrow night.

“Every match when you add in something as volatile as a ladder … does have a tendency to intimidate,” said Cross.

“It’s just what we have to do. We have to sacrifice ourselves to prove not only to IPW, not only to the fans, but to every single wrestler in this country, this is what you need to do, you need to be stealing the show every night.”

The duo’s war with TnT will finally take centre-stage as the main event of the evening at , a position many would say has been deserved by all four men since their tag team title match at Sacrifice or Surrender in 2013 – the same year the Agents of Change were voted “best tag team” in the NZPWI People’s Choice Awards.

“It’s really the only logical endpoint for our battles with TnT over the last year,” said Henry of their main event position at New Heights.

“We’ve put on match after match … and each and every one is better than the last.”

“IPW as a company are putting a lot of faith in us,” Cross added, “but I think we’ve earned that faith over the past few shows working with TnT.”

The Agents of Change came from humble beginnings, seemingly thrown together shortly after IPW’s relaunch in July.

“There’s a bit of a chronology on my side, year after year they’d just put me with anybody,” Henry told NZPWI.

“I went with Alexander – Harley, I think his name was – just putting me in these random teams with no chemistry whatsoever, but the moment I stepped in the ring, the moment I tagged Jakob Cross’ hand it was like fire, the two warrior spirits just ignited together, that’s what it’s all about.”

Cross felt a connection wrestling with Henry too. As part of the NZWPW roster, an outsider looking in to IPW, Cross had hoped to fight Henry, but after moving north and being placed in a team with the former A-Class, Cross knew the right decision had been made.

The Agents of Change have lived up to their name in the short nine months they have been together, bringing change to New Zealand’s tag team landscape in their battles with TnT, which are often the most talked-about of any event.

The AOC pride themselves on being part of a youth movement, Henry said, bringing athleticism and intensity to IPW both in and outside of the ring. The duo include TnT in the same category, despite their feud over the tag team titles.

“After feuding with TnT so long and going through all these battles, all these wars, you kind of look over at TnT across the locker room and you have that respect, that honourable respect that you develop after going through these battles,” said Cross.

“You’ve got to give it to TnT, they are talented, talented wrestlers, but so are we.”

Both Cross and Henry come from combat sports backgrounds – karate for Cross, amateur wrestling and mixed-martial arts for Henry – which adds particular weight to Henry’s claims about their New Heights opponents.

“Let me tell you, TK Cooper and Lil T, nobody else has given me as many black eyes as those two, and that’s exactly the respect they’re putting into us. They’re forcing respect for us and keeping us accountable. And we’re going to hold that mutual respect to them.”

The Agents of Change will be lucky if they only suffer black eyes at New Heights. Ladder matches are traditionally high-risk, high-reward bouts (both in terms of titles won, legacies left and standards set for years to come) but as far as a tag team ladder match goes, all four men will be going into uncharted territory tomorrow.

Both the Agents of Change and TnT can be considered winners in their back-and-forth series of matches, but only one team will leave New Heights as the IPW Tag Team Champions. After that, the AOC/TnT rivalry comes to an end.

“It’s scary, this ladder match,” said Cross. “It’s going to be hard hitting, but we’re hard hitters ourselves – pretty tough – so I guess we’ll be alright.”