Fight For The Fallen was not only a wrestling event, but a charity one too as AEW looked to raise money for those hurt by gun violence. That’s most definitely a good thing, so let’s find out if their wrestling lived up to their altruism.
Pre-Show: Sonny Kiss defeated Peter ‘The Librarian Avalon
The Librarians got booed during their entrance, which was an improvement on the silence that has greeted them previously. Sonny Kiss then got a superstar introduction as he danced to the ring flanked by cheerleaders.
Sadly, Sonny’s wrestling didn’t live up to that flash. I believe his background is in dance, and that shines through a bit too much. Everything felt choreographed, and while he’s clearly an incredible athlete, he’s currently potential rather than a finished product.
Still, Sonny was over, and it was the right call to have him beat Avalon and his awful gimmick. Every time AEW make me watch him and Bates do their thing, a seed of resentment is born in my heart.
Verdict: Two And Three Quarter Stars
Pre-Show: Shoko Nakajima and Bea Priestley defeated Britt Baker and Riho
Does AEW know that women can have singles matches? Because, so far, they seem to be doing a lot of random tags – although it was interesting to see Stardom’s champ teaming with Tokyo Joshi Pro’s.
While Britt Baker might be a great dentist, she’s not a great wrestler, is she? I’ve only seen her in AEW, so it’s a small sample size, but of everyone in this match she’d be the last one I’d push, and yet, they seem determined to build around her. Although, I should be fair and point out that Bea strong styled her into a concussion which (presumably, I don’t know exactly when it happened) explains her most egregious error, attempting to tag out in the wrong corner.
Riho and Nakajima had some fun interactions which made me wish we’d got a match between those two. Hopefully, AEW will pick up on that and lean into it going forward. Or maybe not, after the bell it was Priestley and Baker who had to be pulled apart, so it looks like they’re the focus.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Shawn Spears, MJF and Sammy Guevera defeated Joey Janela, Darby Allin and Jimmy Havoc
It’s not only the women who AEW can ram into random tags. I always like to imagine what teams talk about when they are backstage or on the road, and it’s hard to imagine these two trios being able to stomach being in the same room for more than five minutes.
To be fair, that idea did play into the action. MJF has been set-up as Cody’s protege, so he was understandably not too impressed to be placed with Spears. Meanwhile, the commentary team pointed out that Sammy doesn’t like anyone, and there was some simmering tension between Darby and the rest of his team. It was nice to see wrestlers act like their characters rather than generic heels and faces.
Elsewhere, Alex Marvez found his way into my good books by unsubtly naming Enzo the ‘literal scum of the Earth’ in what is probably the best call of his career. Sadly, the wrestling never lived up to that. It was fine. Darby is brilliant, Guevera got a cool run of offence and Janela’s car crash style is hard not to enjoy, but it all felt a bit like background music to the various character beats. By the end, we’d not only established MJF vs Spears but had hinted at Allin vs Havoc. From that point of view, it was well done, it wasn’t incredible wrestling, though.
Verdict: Three Stars
Brandi Rhodes defeated Allie
So, we were treated to a straight-up women’s match, it just happened to feature, em, Brandi Rhodes. I’m sure her story is inspiring and all (although I’m not entirely sure why? Because wrestling is hard?), but she makes Baker look like Misawa.
It also felt like we had two separate plots intertwining here. We got the Rhodes’ sob story before the match, only for her to come out with Awesome Kong in her corner. One established her as a babyface while the monster back-up is move number one in the ‘How To Be A Heel’ handbook. What the fuck was that about?
As for the wrestling, it was mediocre as hell. Brandi isn’t very good, and while Allie is a solid hand, she’s not going to carry someone to the incredible. If AEW wants to take their women seriously and establish a fantastic division, they might want to not build around the person who is in charge of the whole thing. That’s a story we’ve seen in a million wrestling companies and it rarely, if ever, turns out well.
Verdict: Two Stars
After the bell, Brandi attacked Allie and threw her to Awesome Kong. Aja Kong then strolled out to make the save. It might be 2019, and those two are far from their prime, but it’s hard not to get excited when you watch Aja and Awesome face off in the ring. Building to a battle of the Kongs is a lot better than anything you’ll get from Brandi Rhodes.
The Dark Order (Stu Grayson and Evil Uno) defeated A Boy And His Dinosaur (Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy) and Angelico and Jack Evans in a Three-Way-Tag for the opportunity to compete for a bye in the Tag Title Tournament (or something like that)
For the second time, AEW is having a match for the opportunity to have a match to get a bye. Did they not realise how stupid that phraseology was the first time around? It is almost as bad as Alex Marvez saying The Dark Order minions ‘like to be called creepers’. How did they find a way to make that gimmick lamer?
There was a recurring theme on this show, and it was not a good one as there was a clear disconnect between who was getting over by putting on great performances and who AEW appears to be pushing. The Dark Order’s lameness is obviously the project of someone in the back, but the fans in attendance were much more interested in A Boy And His Dinosaur.
It’s easy to see why too. Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy shone through this match. They have a natural charisma that the other teams lack while the big man little man dynamic led to some cool moments. Luchasaurus, in particular, looked fantastic as his power moves drew an instant reaction from the crowd. They were essential to this match being as entertaining as it was.
That issue doesn’t have to be a problem either. These shows should be used to discover what works and what doesn’t before AEW begin their TV deal. It will tell us a lot about how successful this company will be when we see if they listen or not. Sometimes the shit you love doesn’t work, and you’ve got to let it go. The Dark Order should be the first to vanish (although, I would be happy to see them repackaged because The Super Smash Bros are a good team).
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Hangman Page defeated Kip Sabian
Hangman Page’s booking has been all over the place since the PAC issues. It couldn’t be more clear that he wasn’t intended to go through a Battle Royale, a barrel of mediocrity in a Four-Way-Dance and Kip Sabian to set-up his title match with Chris Jericho. It’s also, despite Page’s many talents, not working.
Because, truthfully, this match was dull as shit. Whoever thought that sending their young stud out to work a nineteen-minute match with Kip fucking Sabian was a good idea should be taken to one side and told no-more. Kip is an alright wrestler, but fucking hell. We all knew he wasn’t going to win and they never once did a good job of convincing me I was wrong about that.
And Page’s performance wasn’t bad. He did a good job selling his knee, and he has some awesome offence, it’s just not what he needs right now. He should have been destroying this geek in five minutes and looking like a badass while he did so. Teasing a draw in a borefest with an (at best) mid-carder will not convince anyone he’s going to beat Chris Jericho.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
An overweight creeper attacked Hangman Page after the match and JR feigning shock when he unmasked to reveal Jericho was very dumb. He beat Page up, hit the Judas Effect and left him bloodied. We’ve seen this stuff before, but it does work.
The Lucha Brothers (Pentagon Jr and Rey Fenix) defeated SCU (Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky)
Is it controversial if I say I’m bored of The Lucha Brothers? They’ve (rightly) figured out they can have the same match on every show and it’s beginning to spread itself thin. Fenix is spectacular while Pentagon Jr is all charisma, but I want to see them pushed out of their comfort zone. How about giving both men feuds that force them to do something a bit different? They’re both in Marty Scurll territory, and they need a pair of Will Ospreays.
Sadly, Sky and Kazarian are unlikely to be those men. The match was everything you’d expect it to be and, unless you’ve never seen a Lucha Bros match before, you’ll be familiar with every beat. That doesn’t mean it was bad because it wasn’t. It just failed to connect with me. The action happened in front of me without ever drawing me in.
Verdict: Three Stars
After the match Pentagon and Fenix challenged The Bucks to a ladder match at All Out. Hopefully the stipulation is enough to make that feel a bit different.
Kenny Omega defeated CIMA
CIMA vs Daniels left me cold and Omega hasn’t had a match I loved since the Dome (he’s had two that I’ve seen, and I did give that Dome match five stars, so it’s not that bad), which meant I wasn’t quite as excited about this as I might have been a year ago.
It took a while to get going too. These two were out to build an epic, setting up a foundation as they went back and forth with neither man quite able to take control. As they began to speed things up, though, the excitement factor raised. Omega had been working the knee of CIMA so he, naturally, responded by throwing himself off the stage knee first with a Meteora and driving Kenny onto a table which had exactly zero give.
From there this threw itself up the gears, hitting a pace that was a hell of a lot more fun. It was very much the Omega big match formula as he spammed V-Triggers while CIMA came up with the fun response of spamming Meteoras. They found a fantastic flow of counters, running through moves and keeping a hellacious pace despite the apparent heat in the building (which the commentary team had been emphasising all night).
It all led into a fantastic climax where Omega got the win with a One-Winged Angel. This was a the first great match on this show, and while it won’t be up as a match of the year contender, it saved what was turning into a very mediocre card.
Verdict: Four Stars
For some reason, Jericho came out to cut a promo. Why couldn’t he have done that after attacking Hangman? He rambled on for a while and, if I’m honest, I stopped listening. It was his usual shtick, he wants thanked and Hangman is a little bitch. That last comment brought Page out, and they had a brawl, standard stuff.
The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) defeated The Brotherhood (Cody and Dustin Rhodes)
Remember when I complained about Page and Sabian going nearly twenty minutes? As I watched this match, I missed those days. Who the fuck decided this needed to go thirty plus? They need their fucking head examined.
The story was that the Bucks have been mocking The Brotherhood, teasing them for their display of affection at Double Or Nothing and claiming to be unaware they’d teamed before. It, understandably, left The Brotherhood determined to put them in their place.
Their attempt to do that took the form of an epic that was not at all epic. They were going for an old-school split the ring tag which Matt and Nick have done brilliantly before in much shorter matches. Here, we got not one, but two heat sections with The Young Bucks working over Dustin and The Brotherhood getting their chance to beat on Matt. These four men might be the most popular in the company at the moment, but they lost the crowd by working this slow and, quite frankly, boring style.
It wasn’t awful wrestling. They worked physical, getting across the feeling that friendships were genuinely strained. I also felt that when the action did pick up, it was entertaining. There was enough there to convince me that the same match cut to fifteen minutes would have approached great. Sadly we’ll never know if that’s the case as what we got was a display of self-indulgence that left a sour note on the tongue.
Verdict: Two And Three Quarter Stars
Afterwards, The Bucks put over their opponents before a random assortment of roster members (and Shad Khan) came out to present a cheque of 150,000 dollars to the City of Jacksonville to help those affected by gun violence. For all my moaning about the wrestling side of things, that is probably a good thing (I only include the caveat because I have no idea of the political history of the City of Jacksonville, so who knows if they will use it right) and respect to AEW for it.
First off, I loved the arena this show took place in. It had a different look from 99% of wrestling venues which gave it a freshness right from the start.
It’s a shame then that it featured AEW’s worst show yet. A lot of stuff on this card just happened while I had massive issues with the booking throughout. Now that stories are beginning to solidify, I worry that AEW is backing the wrong horses, and while there is still time to fix that, it’s a problem as we head towards their TV. Throw in what feels a penchant for overindulgence, and they need to figure out what they’re doing, or the product will suffer.
Finally, JR is getting distractingly bad. Marvez and Excalibur make a solid team, but JR feels like their drunk uncle who they’ve taken out for the day. He’s not on the same wavelength as the other two and Marvez (as the least experienced member of the team) consistently got thrown by things he said, leaving him floundering for a response. They need to get him away from that booth. Please, for me.
Watch AEW (in the UK): https://www.fite.tv/watch/aew-fight-for-the-fallen/2oyso/