AEW’s first show was widely hailed as a success. Double Or Nothing had the eyes of the wrestling world on it, and this fledgeling company stepped up, but Fyter Fest is a different beast. It’s, for all intents and purposes, a B-level PPV (it’s actually airing for free in America) and can perhaps provide a better insight into what we can expect from AEW when the size of the monthly events naturally has to drop.
Pre Show: Best Friends (Chuck Taylor and Beretta) defeated So Cal Uncensored (Kazarian and Scorpio Sky) and The Private Party (Marq Quen and Isiah Kassidy) to earn the right to compete at All Out for a bye in the first round of the AEW Tag Team Title Tournament
Let’s get it out the way, the stipulation for this match was fucking stupid. Wrestling two matches to potentially not wrestle one is daft (at least I think that’s what it’s saying) and it screams of someone overthinking things. AEW would be smart to avoid this kind of thing in the future as simplicity will prove to be their friend.
In the ring, it was an entertaining opener with the four veterans working hard to make The Private Party look good. Marq Quen, in particular, took advantage of that opportunity, showing off some flashy offence and getting the crowd firmly in his corner. They might have taken the fall, but The Private Party will be the thing that most people remember about this opener, which is a lovely piece of booking.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
As Greg and Dustin celebrated The Dark Order (Super Smash Bros) appeared on the screen to cut a promo. When they were done, the lights went off before coming back on to reveal The Dark Order’s minions surrounding the ring but not attacking. They went off for a second time, returning to show that the minions were gone. That was all a bit too WWE for my tastes.
We then cut to The Bucks backstage where we got a skit playing off the Fyre Festival element of this show. It was silly, and I can’t really be arsed going into it, but the long and short of it was that some of the bikini models awkwardly standing on the stage (yea, that was a thing) had to be replaced by mannequins because of monetary issues.
Pre Show: Allie defeated The Librarian Leva Bates
The nonsense continued into this segment. On her way to the ring, Bates cut a heel promo telling the crowd to read more books while Peter Avalon repeated her key points. There was also a lot of shushing, and I have to ask if anyone thinks that is funny?
The match had some alright moments as Allie had to deal with both librarians. However, all the goodwill that gained was undercut by the daftness that continually rose to the surface. Oh, and the fact Leva Bates isn’t very good. I’ve never really watched her wrestle, but she looked awkward more often than not.
The finish saw Avalon throw a book into the ring, but Allie caught it, tossed it to Bates and Superkicked her. Not for me.
Verdict: Two Stars
Up next was another Fyre Fest skit with Kenny backstage. I know The Elite enjoys their silliness, but I think they’d be better keeping it to Being the Elite and not letting it creep into the wrestling part of the promotion. Do their fans enjoy this stuff?
Pre Show: Michael Nakazawa defeated Alex Jebailey
The nonsense wasn’t over as Michael Nakazawa took on the injured organiser of the CEO Gaming Convention, Alex Jebailey. They wrestled at last year’s CEO show, with Jebailey getting the win after he cheated, so this was Nakazawa’s chance for revenge.
And yet, I enjoyed it because unlike that other shit, it was actually funny. Do I want to see late 90s WWE-style hardcore become a regular thing in AEW? No, I don’t. But for one match, it made me laugh as Nakazawa worked his arse off to get Jebailey through it while Bryce Remsburg was his usual brilliant self in the ref role.
On top of that, they took some risks I did not expect to see. Nakazawa speared Jebailey off the apron through a table before taking a German right on his head. For a match involving a non-wrestler, this wasn’t bad at all.
Verdict: Three Stars
CIMA defeated Christopher Daniels
People love to throw the term dream match around, but CIMA vs Christopher Daniels is a dream match. These two men are legends of their respective scenes and are both wrestling geniuses in their own right.
Which made what we got rather disappointing. There was something off about this, as it felt like they never managed to get on the same page and find their flow. It made the transition from the slow opening into them hitting each other with big moves feel like it came out of nowhere. One second we were laying the foundations, the next CIMA was kicking out of Angel Wings before going on to earn a decisive victory.
Perhaps this was a victim of expectations, but I thought it was okay at best. Honestly, I preferred the hardcore shenanigans on the pre-show, and I’d have never expected that coming in.
Verdict: Two And Three Quarter Stars
Riho defeated Nyla Rose and Yuka Sakazaki
My opinion on this match veered wildly throughout. I came in assuming Nyla Rose was being sent out there to dominate her opponents, making up for having her thunder stolen by Awesome Kong at Double Or Nothing. That had me worried, as it became clear in the opening act that the fans were more interested in watching Sakazaki and Riho go at it than anything involving Nyla.
However, as this action went on, it became clear that I was looking for the wrong story. Instead, this was an attempt to get all three women over, and in that sense, it was a success. Sakazaki is a star, with the fans already chanting her name while Rose broke through their early reticence, climbing to the top rope and drawing gasps of awe as she flew across the ring.
Riho may have stood out the least in the ring (although she was still good), but was the one who snuck out with the win, stealing it away from Rose. Nyla would then get a bit of her heat back afterwards, attacking Riho before Sakazaki made the save (Riho made it clear seconds later there was to be no allegiance between the two). When the dust settled, AEW had pulled off the impressive feat of letting all three women shine.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Hangman Page defeated MJF, Jimmy Havoc and Jungle Boy in a Four Way Dance
There was a period where Jimmy Havoc was the most intriguing character in wrestling. What people seem to miss is that he was never a fantastic wrestler, and now that his body is broken, he’s bad. I have a lot of affection for Jimmy (as most British wrestling fans do), but he has no place in wild four-ways.
That issue was compounded by the fact MJF (who also isn’t good) was in there too. It left Hangman and Jungle Boy with a lot to do and, it turned out, they weren’t quite up to the task. They had some cool moments together while Jungle Boy did a good job of getting over with the crowd, but the rest of it was just there. The decision to focus on Page vs MJF didn’t help because MJF should be a manager, not a wrestler.
Page pinned Havoc with the Deadeye setting up a match with Kip Sabian (who was on commentary, not that you’d have noticed if someone didn’t tell you) at the next show. Weirdly, Hangman wasn’t that interested in Kip, he was too busy bickering with MJF, suggesting that feud isn’t over.
Verdict: Three Stars
Cody Rhodes and Darby Allin fought to a time limit draw
We got our first sight of AEW’s mythical win-lose records as Darby Allin came down with a body bag that had Cody 1-1 written on it. It’s a start.
You’ll be delighted to heat that it didn’t take Darby long to start taking some ridiculous bumping. Cody threw him into the corner, and rather than hitting it like a normal person, he went through the ropes, crashing to the floor. Why not, eh? That was just the first one too, Allin damn near killed himself in his quest to get over, even hitting a Coffin Drop onto the fucking apron. That can’t be healthy.
Sadly, that was only half the match as the other half served as testament to how great Dustin Rhodes must be. Cody was in WWE mode, all stalling tactics and rest holds. If Triple H was watching at home, you know he was rubbing his hands with glee as Rhodes grounded this exciting young chap, forcing his methodical style on the action. It was tedious as hell and went twenty fucking minutes.
Still, I can’t call this match a total disaster because it made Allin look brilliant. You’d just be better off watching the highlights rather than the whole thing. If someone can put all of Allin’s big spots together in a video, that would be terrific.
Verdict: Three Stars
After the bell, Cody was calling for more time, but Shawn Spears turned up and brained him with an unprotected chair shot to the head. As he lay on the mat a red stain began to spread through his blonde hair which looked fucking awesome. I get it, it’s dangerous as hell, but Cody’s a big boy and it’s his choice to make.
The Elite (Kenny Omega, Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) defeated The Lucha Bros (Pentagon Jr and Rey Fenix) and Laredo Kid
The Elite did a goofy entrance cosplaying as people from Street Fighter. If they’re going to do that stuff, Kenny’s gaming convention is probably the place to do it (I know it’s not his convention). It does slightly play into the narrative that gamers are bad, though.
I’m going to sound like a right grump reviewing this, so let’s start with the positives. They packed the match with the spectacular. There wasn’t a second where something wasn’t happening, and they gave Laredo Kid (the least well-known competitors) plenty of chances to shine. If you are looking for a wild spot-fest, then you will have few complaints.
The problem? I’ve seen it before, quite a few times. The Bucks and Kenny have a formula in six-man tags, and they don’t deviate far from it. Whether they’re in there with three of the best luchadors on the planet or Joe Coffey, BT Gunn and Lewis Girvan (that’s the one I saw live), they are going to do their thing. The opponents get moments in which to shine, but outside of that, they’re almost irrelevant in comparison to The Elite’s insanity.
And I’m not saying the match was bad because it wasn’t, it was really entertaining and, more importantly, it worked for their audience. The crowd was hot, eating up every tasty morsel that The Elite presented. It’s just not something I’m that bothered about. These six wrestlers are incredible, and I’d like to see them do something more than run through a series of mind blowing spots.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Jon Moxley defeated Joey Janela in an Unsanctioned Match
Unsanctioned matches are stupid, call it a deathmatch and embrace what you’re doing rather than doing all that daft lights out shite. I appreciate they were trying to make it different, but you know what else would be different? Headlining a major wrestling show with a motherfucking deathmatch!
Anyway, now that my moan is over, let’s talk about what happened. Unsurprisingly, this was insane. Janela and Moxley are the kind of people who come up with stupid ideas, so putting them together was always going to lead to peak stupidity. One of the earliest spots was Janela coming off the top rope and crashing through a chair for fuck sake. Then, Moxley pulled a barbed wire chair from under the ring with bloody napkins trapped in it which the commentator claimed were for his hands when he had wrapped the wire around it earlier in the day. I don’t know if that was a pre-planned explanation or not, but it was fucking badass either way.
Despite that, it’s worth saying that if you’re used to watching the likes of Takeda stab people with shards of glass and ending up a beaten, bloody mess, this will appear a bit tame. It was tables and chairs rather than glass and scissors. However, it’s also worth remembering what I mentioned above, this was a major wrestling show, and with that in mind, they went to extreme levels.
And it was Janela who came out looking like a star which made all the sense in the world because Moxley already was one. It was him leaping off ladders and being thrown through barbed wire boards. Then it was poor Joey’s feet that had the boots ripped off of them and dropped into a pile of thumbtacks, leaving him roaring with pain but still demanding more. The Death Rider into the same pile of tacks was the more he got.
For the world that Janela and Ambrose are competing in, this was fantastic. You weren’t going to get Takeda vs Kasai at a gaming convention from a wrestling company about to start a TV deal, but what they delivered was still damn entertaining and both men deserve a cold beer and a slap on the back. Well played, lads.
Verdict: Four Stars
As Moxley celebrated Omega came charging down the ramp and V-Triggered him into next week before Piledriving him into the broken remains of a table at ringside. In an inverse of the last show, we ended with Omega standing tall over Moxley after beating the shit out of him. That’s a money match if I’ve ever seen one.
Fyter Fest was not as good as Double Or Nothing, let’s get out the way early on. There were solid matches, and I thought the main event was great, but there were a few downs, and issues were sprinkled throughout the card. However, it was still impressive. Several people come out of the other side all set-up to become stars while aspects like the Joshi and the deathmatch main event stood out as something different to what you get elsewhere in America.
Annoyingly, the pre-shows continue to be goofy as hell, but they are keeping it there, so I guess that’s something. I also struggled with JR on commentary because he’s shite and should not be on the desk of a modern wrestling show. Still, we’re all being harsh on AEW at the moment because we want it to be great, and if nearly any other American company delivered this show, it would be hailed as a massive success.
Watch AEW (in the UK): https://www.fite.tv/watch/aew-double-or-nothing/2owc4/