Every AEW show feels like a big one this early in their fledgeling life as a wrestling company, but with their TV debut drawing ever closer, keeping the momentum up has to be their prime goal. Could All Out do that? Or would it be their first major misstep?
Buy In: Nyla Rose won the Casino Battle Royale
I still don’t like the structure of these Casino Battle Royales. Having the wrestlers come out in groups to generic music means takes away from the impact of their arrival. The likes of Sadie Gibbs and Faby Apache ended up looking like another face in the crowd as they wandered down with more recognisable names. Entrances are such an easy way to get across someone’s personality, and this robs the talent of that.
However, it was significantly better than the one they had for the men. Whoever put this together did a fantastic job of running multiple storylines through it from Nyla Rose’s dominance to the burgeoning feud between Bea Priestley and Britt Baker. We also saw the likes of Tenille Dashwood and Mercedes Martinez make their debuts to strong reactions while they were even smart enough to keep The Librarians’ shitty comedy to a minimum.
Finally, the right woman got the win as Nyla Rose’s portrayal as a dominant force finally paid off. She’s green, but there is a clear route to follow with her as a monster heel in a division with a lot of smaller women, and it won’t take much to get her over huge.
Verdict: Three Stars
Buy In: Private Party (Isiah Kassidy and Marq Quen) defeated Jack Evans and Angelico
Private Party are on the fast-track to becoming stars. They are green and are more of a long-term project than two guys you’d be putting the belts on tomorrow, but they are bursting with charisma and can do all sorts of cool shit. AEW sending Jack Evans out to play with them was also a good sign for their future booking as it suggests they know exactly how to get them over. Evans was right there with them, flipping around the ring and making Quen and Kassidy look fantastic while working as the glue that held the whole thing together.
Sadly, Angelico was also around, and I still do not get what people see in that guy. He’s as exciting as cardboard, and every time he wandered into the ring, the momentum went out of the action. Thankfully, they were smart enough to keep his role to a minimum, so he wasn’t able to bore me to death, but I’d still have preferred he’d gone missing full stop.
Despite that, fans of the flips are going to have a lovely time with this match as there were plenty of them on display. When Private Party make it to the top, matches like this will be looked back on as the start of their journey.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
After the match, Angelico and Evans looked like they were paying tribute to the victors, but it was a ruse, and they ended up attacking Private Party to turn heel. While it was a decent angle that got good heat, I’d much rather see Evans go solo.
We then cut to a cinematic vignette for Wardlow, a big fucker who was shown beating up four men who tried to jump him and an attractive lady. It had a Lucha Underground edge to it which was cool although I don’t know much about Mr Wardlow. From what I see on Cagematch he’s generally wrestled for the International Wrestling Cartel out of Pennsylvania, so he was unlikely to pop up on my radar.
Finally, MJF explained that he didn’t have a match tonight because he wanted to be in Cody’s corner. Jenn Decker then asked what would happen if Cody didn’t choose to have him at ringside which MJF found hilarious.
SCU (Christopher Daniels, Kazarian and Scorpio Sky) defeated Jurassic Express (Luchasaurus, Jungle Boy and Marko Stunt)
It still catches me off-guard how much the AEW crowd love SCU. They cut a pretty standard pre-match promo, but the fans hung off every word, chanting along in the right places and having a lovely time. Impressively, Jurassic Express then almost matched their pop as they are clicking with these people.
As a quick note, kess than five minutes into the show, JR was already calling Jungle Boy, Jungle Jack, so it’s good to see he’s done his research. I’m not going to go on about it repeatedly, so take it as a given that I think he fucking sucks.
Thankfully, the action in the ring was a lot better than the shit chat behind the commentary desk. SCU were the perfect team to make the youngsters across from them look good, and this match was built around a wish to get Jurassic Express even more over than they already are. All three benefited from it, but Luchasaurus is coming across as a star, and they shouldn’t wait long before giving him a major push.
The finish saw SCU’s experience come to the fore as they took Luchasaurus out with a flurry of moves, removing him from the finishing stretch and allowing SCU to hit a double Best Meltzer Ever to Stunt and Jungle Boy for the three. That was a damn fine way to kick things off.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
PAC defeated Kenny Omega
I’d be fascinated to hear the conversation that led to this match going on second. Would Moxley vs Omega have been in the same spot? Or was this dropped down the card because of PAC coming in as a replacement? It’s also worth mentioning that PAC was injured recently, losing a chunk out of his leg.
Injured or not, there isn’t a wrestler on the planet who plays their gimmick better than The Bastard King. Even when he’s doing cool shit like reversing a Kotaro Krusher with a handspring, it’s with a sneer that tells you he thinks he’s better than you. The man is a total cunt.
Despite that, the start of this match didn’t click with me. They were doing some good stuff, but kind of slowly, as it felt like they were struggling to get onto the same wavelength. It wasn’t bad, but there was something off about it, and they were failing to draw me in even if there were some moments that popped me.
I will give commentary some credit, though, as they played up the idea of this being a replacement match. They spoke about Omega having prepared for Mox, not PAC, and how his mind was still focused in that direction. That almost played into their lack of chemistry in the early going, as you bought that neither man was ready for this bout and they only grew into it as it went along.
Because as these two started trading blows in the centre of the ring, they got me. From there, they found the same page, and they were off, hitting big move after big move and building an awesome closing stretch. It became two incredible athletes throwing whatever they could come up with at each other, and while that might not be a storytelling masterclass, it is a shitload of fun to watch.
Perhaps even more importantly, it made PAC look awesome. Omega is a world-class star to this crowd, but PAC was presented as being on his level. A lot of those fans will have only seen his WWE run where he played at the kid’s table, so this was an introduction to Dream Gate Champion PAC, the arrogant prick who backs it up in the ring. Omega hit him with a smorgasbord of V-Triggers, but when he got The Bastard up for a One-Winged Angel PAC slipped into a standing Brutalizer and put Omega to sleep clean. Welcome to the company, Bastard.
Verdict: Four Stars
Jimmy Havoc defeated Joey Janela and Darby Allin in a Cracker Barrel Clash
Jimmy Havoc started this match by finding an assortment of weapons under the ring and then defiantly stapling himself. It was safe to say they’d let these three off their leashes for the evening.
That would look tame shortly after as Jimmy ended up taped to a chair at ringside with thumbtacks stuffed in his mouth before Janela and Darby taped his mouth shut too. Then, to add insult to injury, Jimmy practically begged Darby to hit a Somersault Senton off the top rope onto him, presumably killing Britain’s favourite goth.
If that got Jimmy over as a sadistic cunt, Janela and Darby both went on to prove themselves to be insane. There was a Sunset-Flip Powerbomb off the apron through a table to Darby, Janela Moonsaulting from the top onto the floor with nothing to break his fall (Havoc rolled out of the way) and a skateboard covered in thumbtacks.
The piece de resistance, though? That was when they got the Cracker Barrels involved. Darby Allin hit a Coffin Drop from the top rope while holding one of the damn things onto some steel steps that had recently been vacated by a lucky Jimmy. Havoc would then get the win by first Superplexing Janela into a second before finishing him off with an Acid Rainmaker through the remains of it.
If you spend your time watching Japanese or GCW deathmatches, nothing here will truly shock you, but for a mainstream American wrestling promotion to put on this match? That’s fucking cool. These three killed each other and it didn’t matter who got the win (although Jimmy was an interesting choice), all three came out looking like stars.
Verdict: Four Stars
The Dark Order (Stu Grayson and Evil Uno) defeated Best Friends (Chuck Taylor and Beretta) to earn a bye in the AEW Tag Team Title Tournament
The Dark Order have now won multiple matches to not have to wrestle one match, so that makes perfect sense. It also doesn’t mean that Best Friends are out of the tournament, as they will go in at the first round, making their participation in this battle for the first round bye look a bit silly.
That wouldn’t be my biggest worry if I was booking AEW, I’d be more concerned that The Dark Order are nowhere near being over. They were in there with a popular team, and no-one gave a shit. Fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with their work, and this was a perfectly fine tag match, but when you’re failing to connect fine isn’t enough. People want more, and they weren’t able to give it.
Throw in some interference from the Creepers at ringside, and the best thing about this match was the ‘creepy perverts’ chant from the crowd. I might not give up on The Dark Order (they’re a talented team who have been brilliant in the past), but so far it is not working, and they need to give people a reason to care about these two weirdos.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Afterwards, The Dark Order tried to carry Beretta away, which brought out Orange Cassidy to make the save. Without removing his hands from his pockets, he fought off the creepy perverts, even hitting a Tope Suicida before being embraced by Dustin and Greg.
Riho defeated Hikaru Shida
Hakaru Shida is moving out to the US, presumably making AEW her new home promotion. You would have thought that made her the favourite to win this match, but if Nyla Rose is going to take the title and they only have Riho for a limited time (I don’t know what her deal is) this move makes a lot of sense.
Unsurprisingly, this was damn good as these two worked a hard-hitting and fast-paced bout. They’ve been in the ring together a lot over the years and while the crowd were quiet at the start, spots like Riho hitting a Diving Foot Stomp on the apron slowly won them over. It’s hard to watch people this talented and not fall for their charms.
Shida came out looking strong too as she controlled a lot of the action, using her power to lift Riho into multiple suplexes and throwing her about with style. The finish won’t have done her any harm either as Riho slipped under a Lariat and spun around into a cool flash pin for the three.
I suspect these two have (and have probably had in the past) a better match in them, but this was still an impressive showing. I’d like to see AEW put a bit of time into getting the Joshi talent over with the crowd. They’ve proven to be great wrestlers, so let’s see some of their personality too. (It’s possible they’ve attempted this on their YouTube channel, but they can’t work under the assumption that everyone watches that).
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Cody defeated Shawn Spears
Cody came out with Pharaoh, and the poor pup was caught off-guard by the fireworks, causing him to panic and try to head backstage. Rhodes has explained since that the loudest ones weren’t supposed to go off and that Pharaoh is fine, but on the week where people were accusing him of passing Pharaoh off as a service dog to get him on flights, that won’t have done his Twitter mentions any good.
If you’re interested in the wrestling and not just the pup, Cody chose MJF to join him at ringside over Brandi and DDP while all three of them seemed to be dressed in Star Trek themed outfits for reasons that I don’t think were explained? If they were, it wasn’t on the PPV and, unsurprisingly, it wasn’t a reference that JR picked-up on.
Cody then kicked things off at a million miles an hour, diving to ringside and brawling into the crowd. The fans, who had been struggling for the last couple of matches, were suddenly white-hot again and it was only when Tully Blanchard got involved for the first time that Spears was able to cut off Cody’s momentum with a low blow.
What followed is becoming the Cody classic, a match big on spectacle if not great wrestling. Cody uses every old-school trick in the book, and it’s hard not to get caught up in the defiant babyface overcoming the odds to defeat the heel who betrayed him. Moments like Arn Anderson charging the ring to Spinebuster Spears into next week were perfectly executed.
The problem was there was a lot of other stuff in-between that, and most of it was dull. Spears didn’t blow me away, working an extended boredom section which was probably intended to get heat, but cut the excitement out of the hot crowd. The story of Tully playing the wily old manager while MJF was out of his depth and caused more harm than good was well told, but it also led to a plethora of cheap interference, and I can rarely be arsed with that.
I’m also completely baffled by the result. Cody beating Spears clean in their first match felt like the blow-off before the bulk of the feud had been done. It also seems to confirm that Cody was right, Shawn Spears is a good hand and no more, so where does he go from here? Either way, this was a good match with moments that hinted at greatness but never reached it, apart from the Double-A Spinebuster, of course,
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
There was a brief hint after the match that MJF might turn on Cody, but that’s going to be a slow burn, and it will be intriguing to see how it goes when it does happen. Can a heel turn more heel?
The Lucha Brothers (Pentagon Jr and Rey Fenix) defeated The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) in a Escalera de la Muerta match to retain the AAA Tag Team Title
I don’t think many people have been as down on this feud as me. Nothing they’ve done together has caught my attention, and I actively hated the match at TripleMania. Still, this was four crazy fuckers in a ladder match, so I was hoping they’d do something to get me on their side.
And, to be fair, they gave me a lot. These four men tried to kill each other, and I’m kind of surprised at least one Jackson didn’t succeed in reaching death. Matt took a Canadian Destroyer off a ladder through a table before Nick completely stacked it when his foot hit the top rope as a ladder was tipped over, cutting his fall to the outside a bit short and creating an even nastier bump than usual through a table. It was spectacular, and I will never deny the effort these men put in.
However, the day of this show I was at Royal Quest (I should have a review up tomorrow), and in the main event, Suzuki had me out of my chair by putting his hands behind his back while grinning the evillest smile you’ll ever seen and demanding Okada elbow him. Nothing the Jacksons or the Lucha Bros did got that reaction from me. I barely smiled, because I didn’t care, it was just these four men doing stupid shit again.
It’s not like I don’t love that style of wrestling either. Christ, my favourite match on this show so far was the one where someone hit a Coffin Drop with a barrel. However, there’s something about these four that turn me off. I can’t help feeling like they could be so much more interesting than this, but they can’t stop themselves from having these overly long epics that see them all nearly die in an attempt to get it over. Perhaps I’m just questioning whether it’s all worth it.
Still, as I said, I can’t deny the effort and the pain these men put themselves through to entertain. It just wasn’t for me. However, I don’t doubt that a lot of fans will have watched this match and thought it was the greatest thing they’ve ever seen, so in that sense, it did its job.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
After the Lucha Brothers won two masked men attacked them and the Bucks before unmasking to reveal LAX confirming the move that everyone suspected was coming, although commentary never used the name LAX, so it looks like they will be rebranded.
Chris Jericho defeated Adam ‘Hangman’ Page to win the AEW World Title
Hangman Page made his entrance on a horse. Thankfully, they didn’t have pyro to accompany him because if it had followed Pharaoh’s lead and got spooked, it could have been both hilarious and a disaster.
I haven’t loved a Jericho match since The Dome, but this was a much stronger performance from Y2J. He looks like he’s been hitting the gym and he worked like a wily veteran rather than the crazed lunatic he’s been playing recently. In the key moments, Jericho was the one who had the answers, and he nailed the two biggest counters as he hit a Codebreaker out of the Shooting Star Press off the apron before connecting with a great Judas Effect out of nowhere for the win.
It also felt like a match designed to get Hangman over in defeat. Page was presented as a stud, clearly being the more athletic of the two and only failing in the experience department. Losing to a modern great was never going to hurt him, but Page busted Jericho open and was treated like he was on Y2J’s level, so you were left feeling like his time will come with that title.
Not that they can claim it to be perfect. The decision to have Jericho attack Page’s arm rather than the leg (which has been pivotal in the built) was weird. I also think that if Jericho was bleeding, Page should have too as the defiant, fighting babyface. Finally, the crowd appeared to be tired, only firing up at the big moments.
However, for a first title match, this was a strong showing which put the belt on their biggest star heading into their first run of TV shows. Both of these men are going to have a lot of big moments in AEW’s future, and this wasn’t a bad one to kick it off with.
Verdict: Four Stars
That was a strong show from AEW with a handful of great matches backed-up by a lot of good ones. It lacked a real match of the year contender, and there are still growing pains (the commentary is bad, and the camera work in the pre-show was awful as they missed a few eliminations in the Battle Royale), but AEW’s confidence builds with every successful event. Is the hype big enough to keep this ship floating to success? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Watch AEW (in the UK): https://www.itvboxoffice.com/