All Out and all the images you see I this recap are owned by All Elite Wrestling and Shahid Khan
Well here it is! After months of trial and error, big announcements, and no real response from WWE, it’s the last show before the AEW experiment goes to prime time television! Starting in October we will be getting a weekly show from them on TBS and while I doubt they could IMMEDIATELY crash and burn considering how much money there is behind them, it’s still something of a risky venture to go into Vince’s backyard and try to claim a piece for yourself. WCW failed, TNA failed, and the other guys just kept off of TV altogether. It’s kind of a big deal, but we’re not really here to talk about all that! We’re here to find out if this show had any good wrestling on it and if it’s worth your time and money to see it! Can AEW end their PPV run on a high note as they head to the big leagues, or will this end up as a foreboding vision of things to come? Let’s find out, and we’ll start with the pre-show!!
Casino Battle Royale
We start the night off with another Casino Battle Royale, but unlike the one in Double or Nothing this one is with the women’s division. What IS like last time however are the overly complicated rules for how the groups are populated and ordered which amount to absolutely nothing because we don’t end up seeing the process; just the result. With WWE’s Royal Rumble, they don’t make a big deal out of it and just make it a simple lottery system which is easy enough to get across to an audience but also allows for a bit of drama and tension as well; especially if someone tries to cheat it. The wrestlers here have to draw from a “special deck” but we don’t see the drawing which determines their group, and apparently the don’t determine the group order prior to the match; they shuffle the deck right when the timer goes off and whatever suit is selected goes next. Again, we don’t actually SEE anyone draw a card to determine the next group, but I like to imagine Cody’s in the back after having called 2 suits and has to pick the third one, but he keeps getting the first two suits over and over and over again until half the deck is on the floor before a new one comes up. See, THAT might have justified this nonsense! Anyway, that’s all rather immaterial as it basically boils down to a staggered Battle Royale match, so how is it? Well I think the problem here is that it’s a Battle Royale that FEELS like it should be paced like a Royal Rumble because of those staggered entrances which are the defining feature of a Royal Rumble. Sure a Royal Rumble can go on for a rather long time which is whole PPVs are built around them, but the benefit is that the pacing allows for multiple storylines to play out in the ring. Contrast that with a Battle Royale which are MUCH better for pre-shows where everyone is in the ring at the start and it usually devolves into chaos until the last five or so competitors are left. The latter is basically what happens here; it’s not until everyone has made it to the ring that it stops being about random spots and constant eliminations to play out into something more substantive; all of which is fine, but the fact they stagger the entrances makes it feel like more should be happening throughout. It also isn’t helped by the camera work which missed a few eliminations, and while I would normally cut them some slack considering how chaotic this was (some of the more prominent wrestlers got thrown out with little fanfare during other team’s entrances), this is a problem that ended up persisting throughout the entire show and I’ll make sure to point it out when it happened during other matches.
Most of these wrestlers are completely unknown to me but the performances are good for what they can manage in the chaos, and the stated goal was clearly to put over Nyla Rose as a BIG PERSON superstar a la The Big Show, Braun Strowman, and Nya Jax, which I think they accomplished quite well. There were some other notable spots here including The Librarian Leva Bates taking a page out of Kofi Kingston’ book and having a ludicrous scheme to avoid getting eliminated which in this case meant The Librarian Peter Avalon laying out books for her to stand on when she nearly got tossed out. I also thought that Brandi Rhodes handled herself MUCH better here than she did at Fight for the Fallen which is great news since she’s clearly going to be sticking around, and Awesome Kong is of course VERY awesome!
Nyla Rose did indeed go the distance and because she won she will be in the first AEW Women’s Championship match which I believe will be on their first TV broadcast which is starting in October. Not a bad way to kick off the show I suppose, and I guess my opinion is a bit skewed since I just saw the WWE Royal Rumble about two weeks ago (yes, I’m THAT far behind), but I hope they work out some of the pacing and camera kinks once they get on weekly television.
Private Party (Isiah Kassidy and Marq Quen) Vs. Angélico and Jack Evans
I’m just gonna say it right now; Private Party are already superstars. Even if they don’t end up at the top of the Tag Team division, they’re gonna command respect and admiration whenever they show up. Every time their entrance music hits, it’ll tear the roof off the place. They are already THAT good at this! Basically what I’m saying is that they’ll be The Usos of AEW, though hopefully with fewer DUIs. The other two on the other hand… well it doesn’t help that I keep confusing them with the Best Friends, but I certainly liked them more here than I EVER have before. Before now they just kinda faded into the background of other bigger fights and they don’t really have an identity as a tag team which makes them feel kind of lacking as far as in ring charisma. They’re great workers though and Private Party wouldn’t be looking half as good with a lesser team to go against, so I’ll give them a lot of respect for that if nothing else.
The acrobatics on display are just mind boggling. Mark Quen jumps and flips like he’s using flubber (do kids today even know what that is?) and Kassidy landing a coast to coast missile drop kick that looked like it knocked Evans into next week. As stated, Angélico and Jack Evans manage to give them a run for their money which they do with spectacular but more grounded and frankly impactful wrestling maneuvers. Where Private Party have a lot of flash and coordination, but you get the sense that their wasting a lot of effort doing BIG moves instead of PAINFUL ones, and their opponents know how to pull off both. It’s got that showing off quality that the Young Buck/Lucha Bros matches have had, but it feels like they complement the match instead of just overtaking it; mostly because you CAN detect flaws in each team’s techniques. Even when they do flip all over the place and taunt their opponents, it still feels like the match around it is actually progressing which gives a lot of tension watching two equally perfect teams trying to out-perfect the other.
Private Party won the match with something I believe they call a Gin and Juice where Quen threw Angélico off the top rope and Kassidy caught him midair into what looked like a neck, but after Private Party was so magnanimous (or possibly condescending) as to raise their opponents’ arms during their celebration, Angélico and Jack Evans turn on them and start pounding them into the dirt. Well I guess that’ll give them SOMETHING to do once the TV show starts as being rivals for the big up and coming tag team could lead to some great matches, but we’ll have to see how it plays out. Overall, a really good match that has only furthered Private Party as the team to watch going forward!
So now that we have the Pre-Show out of the way, let’s get to the PPV! I paid fifty bucks for this, so it better be worth it!!
SCU Vs. Jurassic Express
Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, and Scorpio Sky (Schuyler Andrews) Vs. Marko Stunt, Jungle Boy (Jack Perry) and Luchasaurus (Austin Matelson)
YES!! Right off the bat, we get an AMAZING Three Person Tag Team match with the phenomenal SCU and… actually I’m not sure. The announcer says A Small Boy, A Boy, and His Dinosaur, but the title card says Jurassic Express. Admittedly the first one sounds a BIT awkward to say all the way through (I think Excalibur shorted it to The Boys and Their Dinosaur when doing commentary) but seriously, Jurassic Express? That sounds like a ride at Universal Studios; not a dominate tag team! Oh whatever! If there’s ONE match I shouldn’t be a big ol’ sourpuss about, it’s SC FREAKING U versus a gosh-darn dinosaur! SCU had one of the best matches on Double or Nothing and has only continued to impress since then (even if their match in Fight for the Fallen was ultimately a bit meh; though most matches on that show were meh, so I’m not holding that against them), and A Boy and His Dinosaur was the best thing to come out of Fight for the Fallen with them stealing the show from even in defeat. Now it’s time for these two teams to collide and… I don’t know; destroy the universe with their awesomeness!?
See, I’m not one of those guys who gets caught up on size, strength, physique or any of that kind of stuff (provided it doesn’t affect SAFETY), so I really like it when a team such as Jurassic Express comes around that really goes for that kind of mismatch. It’s fun to see Jungle Boy’s lighter than air acrobatics being contrasted with Luchasaurus’s lumbering and powerful strikes. Even Marko Stunt who I’ll say seems to be the greenest of anyone in the ring has his moments to shine, and I don’t really care if it’s implausible for someone so small to make any impact on the rather large members of SCU. I’m watching a wrestling match in the first place; my suspension of disbelief will remain intact if Christopher Daniels sells a kick from the scrawny kid. Speaking of which, SCU are no slouches and even if they all have ABOUT the same physique, there are differences between them and it’s just great watching all of them go at it! Some of the highlights include Luchasaurus jumping over the ropes to hit all three members of SCU on the floor (see THAT would be where size is a safety issue), Luchasaurus COMPLETELY cleaning house with a series a kicks that would make Hwoarang proud (do kids still know who THAT is?), and a bit where Kazarian uses Luchasaurus’s size against him by using what I BELIEVE is a Head Scissors Takedown to launch the monster into his own teammates.
The ending is fine with SCU getting the win by pinning Marko Stunt, but it honestly didn’t matter WHO won the match which is about the best thing I can say about it. Both teams came out, showed what they could do, and sold each other’s moves with professionalism and class which already makes these two dynamic and interesting tag teams even more impressive in my eyes and I can’t wait to see what they do once they get to weekly television!
Pac (Benjamin Satterley) Vs. Kenny Omega
If you weren’t aware already, this was originally supposed to be a match between Kenny Omega and Jon Moxley which they had been building up since the end of Double or Nothing. Sadly, Moxley’s MRSA in his elbow came back and he had to remove himself from the match so they got Pac (who I’ve been informed was formerly Neville in the WWE) to take his place in his very first AEW match. Now sure there’s a bit of disappointment there because Moxley has been doing such a great job of building himself and this match up over the last few months, but life happens and I ALWAYS want wrestlers to be careful rather than work hurt; that’s why I was so resistant to the idea of Daniel Bryan coming back even though his New Daniel Bryan persona is one of the best things in wrestling this year. Setting our expectations back down to just another exhibition match (which admittedly have been most of AEW’s matches so far), how does it turn out? Pretty good actually! I’ve never seen Pac fight and he’s actually pretty impressive here. I can basically only compare things to WWE since that is all I know, and I get a decent Drew Macintyre vibe off of him which is a good thing in my book as he’s been one of the more effective heels in that promotion; at least as far as I’ve seen of it which is around February of this year. Kenny Omega as well looked REALLY good here and I think this might be his best AEW match so far in that he’s not losing to a guy WAY older than him, getting lost in the middle of a Tag Team match, or going on way too long like with his match against Cima. Not only does the match itself move at a much brisker pace (perhaps a TOUCH too long still?), Kenny himself seems to be going full Turbo Edition as he moves like greased lightning in this! He’s also got a lot more swagger in his step which is always fun to see (that bow from Moxley in Fyter Fest is still one of the more memorable moments in this promotion so far) and yet it never feels like it gets in the way of his focus or drive to win against Pac who is genuinely giving him a run for his money. Some of the highlights were the chants of 205 Live from the audience (apparently that’s where Pac wrestled when at WWE), Kenny Omega landing some sort of REALLY high leg drop on Pac’s neck that he somehow just flips out of and lands on his feet, and this devastating looking jump from the top rope where Kenny stomps on the guy’s head in midair!
It was a really good match and I don’t have much to complain about… except the ending. Kenny Omega loses to Pac when he reverses his One Winged Angel and chokes Kenny unconscious. That’s not necessarily a bad ending if you want to build someone up as a genuine threat to Kenny Omega (like say Jon Moxley), but it feels like AEW has a problem pushing its top tier talent. Kenny is now two loses to one win in singles matches, and he’s the guy who EVERYONE wants to sign. He SHOULD be the dominant figure in this company and for now he’s definitely a name closely associated with it, but losing this match felt like the wrong move and only hinders his momentum; at least in my opinion. Then again, I’m guessing everyone else watching this already knows Kenny Omega from his NJP days and don’t NEED to be sold on his skills, but we’ll have to see how it plays out once they HAVE to deal with new fans on the TV show. Great match, questionable finish, and a great introduction to Pac as a wrestler. I’d say that averages out to pretty good!
Joey Janela Vs. Jimmy Havoc vs. Darby Allin – Cracker Barrel Clash
Let’s talk about hardcore wrestling. Am I a fan? Not particularly. I see hardcore wrestling as more of a TOOL that’s meant to enhance a match or a feud rather being its own thing. It’s like hot sauce in that it will make things MUCH better, but drinking it straight up is not a particularly pleasant experience even if there’s PLENTY of people out there who will jump at the opportunity. My current go to example of how to do a hardcore match well is Charlotte Flair Vs. Becky Lynch at Evolution where the two had a built up rivalry that was blown off (at least for the time being) through a ridiculously painful and exhausting match. That’s what I usually want out of a hardcore match; for it to be ABOUT something to justify the ultraviolence rather than just doing it for its own sake. So how does this one fare? Well it hasn’t turned me around on hardcore matches in general, but it has three immensely talented wrestlers who find just the right tone for it to work! If you don’t have a proper context to build the match around (these three were JUST in a tag team match last time, so why are they fighting now?) then your next best bet is comedy, at least far as I’m concerned, and they make this match work the same way that the Jackass movies work; to the point that they rip off at least one spot from the first movie. They aren’t really trying to hide the fact that these are all show off spots so people can be impressed with the carnage, and some of it is creative enough to justify the effort. There’s a bit where Jimmy Havoc rather unconvincingly can’t get out of a chair which leads to Darby Allen and Joey Janela SHOVING THUMB TACKS IN HIS MOUTH AND THEN TAPING IT SHUT!! And look, I hope he doesn’t nave internal bleeding which seems like a LEGIT risk, but it’s a great visual and an ingenious way to keep him incapacitated for a while! Other impressive spots include a bit where Joey straight up misses a flip off the top rope onto the floor (boy I hope he didn’t break his leg on that), a bit where Darby Allen has a silly skateboard with tacks glued to the bottom (he lands on Joey’s head with it), and an impressive bit where Joey is stuck in a chair and is flipped by Jimmy Havoc, but he put a BIT too much gusto into it and Joey landed safely on the other side.
Not everything worked in here. While I’m morbidly fascinated by the fact that a blood and guts match is being sponsored by Cracker Barrel, the gimmicky weapons felt like a bit much. Jimmy Havoc smashes Janela across the face with a tray full of biscuits, but it’s obviously one of those tin foil trays that’ll bend if you look too hard at it. I’m a giant wussy, and I could have taken that without a problem. Okay, probably not, but it still looked a bit silly! I also think they MAY have screwed up a spot with the Cracker Barrel barrel where Joey went through it, but JUST barely so Jimmy had to pick his butt up again and throw him into it right. Jimmy Havoc eventually won the match which I’m glad about. I’ve really liked that guy so far (him trying to bite off MJF’s finger was hilarious in Fight for the Fallen) so hopefully this will lead to bigger and better things for the guy. All three of them did great for what they had to do, and while I’m not a big fan of this kind of match it did entertain me quite a bit.
Best Friends Vs. Dark order
Chuck Taylor and Trent Beretta Vs. Evil Uno (Nicolas Dansereau) and Stu Grayson
I mentioned that I kept confusing Angélico and Jack Evans with the Best Friends, and to me that’s a criticism that works both ways because this team just hasn’t really been doing it for me the way that Private Party, Jurassic Express, and SCU have, and despite their feud with THE DARK ORDER being one of the more prominently featured storylines in these PPVs, I just can’t really bring myself to care about either team. Sure, THE DARK ORDER have those minions running around which is fun, but they don’t have that instant EVIL magnetism of someone like Bray Wyatt who I thought was great BEFORE whatever gimmick he’s got now (again, REALLY behind right now). Like… one dude looks like a Viking and the other is wearing a luchador mask which screams les THE DARK ORDER and more HALLOWEEN PARTY.
I guess there’s nothing particularly wrong with this match, but there’s nothing particularly notable about it either. If this was for free on television I’d say its fine, but here it barely even registers when there have been so many fantastic matches already. No particular highlights stood out for me either. Evil Uno moves really well and uses his size to devastating effect and Chuck Taylor jumps over the ropes at one point to take out both members of the Dark Order, but other than that everyone fought just fine in a standard wrestling match. Dark Order eventually won with their finisher that looked like a neck breaker from the top rope, but the win wasn’t clean because the minions at one point beat pulled Chuck Taylor the apron and beat him up which I guess will be a justification for this feud to keep going. We’ll see how it plays out over the next few months, but I’m not holding my breath for anything special. What happens AFTER the match though is at least a little bit interesting. For whatever reason, THE DARK ORDER starts dragging Trent up the ramp and out of the arena (presumably to lock him in a dungeon?) when the lights go out. The come back on and… Orange Cassidy (also known as “Pockets” according to Jim Cornette) is in the middle of the ring! If you don’t remember him from the first Royal Rumble, he’s the dude who kept his hands in his pockets and half-heartedly kicked at Tommy Dreamer (I think?) before getting tossed out. Apparently that’s his gimmick because he takes a dive at the minions WITHOUT EVER TAKING HIS HANDS OUT OF HIS POCKETS!!
So hey! I guess the Best Friends now have one dude to back them up, and if nothing else he DOES leave an impression! We’ll have to see, but of all the tag teams we have right now, these are the guys I’m the least interested in. Maybe that will change over time, but after four shows I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
Riho Vs. Hikaru Shida
Riho has been one of the best superstars AEW has and frankly I like her a lot more than similarly high profile wrestlers in this company like Britt Baker or Brandi Rhodes. Thankfully AEW has realized what a talent she is and has given her a lot of opportunities to show her stuff which has led to this match where if she wins she’ll face Nyla Rose to be the first AEW Women’s Champion. Hikaru Shida as well is pretty good from what I remember as the Three Person Tag Match from Double or Nothing might still be my favorite match thus far, though I’m not sure why she’s Riho’s opponent here. Yeah, she got the victory for Riho’s team back in that Double or Nothing match, but she hasn’t been seen since, nor has her name been brought up when talking about the Women’s Championship or even the women’s division. Other than that though, this was another great match on the show. The big story here is that Riho is VERY small for a wrestler and even someone like Hikaru Shida who isn’t NEARLY as large as Nyla Rose can overpower her with ease; especially in the outset of the match where Riho couldn’t pull her for an arm drag and another instance where she tries a diving cross body and just gets caught in midair.
See, this is how you tell a story simply by having a match because what Riho has to prove here is that she can compete against larger opponents if she wants any chance of beating Nyla Rose; or more importantly if the company wants THE AUDIENCE to believe she has any chance against Nyla Rose. Do they succeed? I certainly think so! I mean as I mentioned I’m not one to get hung up on size and physiques, but Riho shows a lot of heart (the hallmark of a face) and she gets the upper hand through her quick wit and even quicker maneuvers. I’m almost certain that Nyla Rose is STILL gonna win in the end, but this show made a great case for Riho to be taken even more seriously as a top competitor. Some of the highlights are Riho doing a 619 (YAY!), an absurdly high Frog Splash off the top rope, and Shida grabbing Riho off the apron from the middle rope and seamlessly moving into a suplex.
That won’t be enough to stop Riho however who continues to fight like a champ! Eventually both competitors are utterly exhausted and end up exchanging pins. Shida tries going for lariat to knock Riho down for good but she dodges and does some move called a crucifix where she grabs her from the arm, spins her way down to the legs and shoves her over into a pin! One, two, three DONE! Riho is gonna compete to be the first AEW Women’s Champion, and I can’t wait to see her and Nyla Rose face off again!
Cody Rhodes Vs. Shawn Spears
Cody Rhodes is accompanied by MJF and Shawn Spears is accompanied by Tully Blanchard
I’ll be honest, I feel a bit out of the loop here. I didn’t bother to watch the ROAD TO ALL OUT videos or whatever AEW released leading up to this match, so I still don’t really get what’s going on with Cody and Spears here. Why did he hit him in the head with that chair? I don’t know, I guess bad blood from a million years ago and a bad call from Cody to NOT PUT HIS HAND UP!! Heck, I don’t even know who Tully Blanchard is or what MJF’s deal is as far as wanting to buddy up to Cody. When The Miz started sucking up to Shane O’Mac, I at least understood the context there, but isn’t MJF supposed to a self-centered heel? Moreover, what is Cody’s alignment in all this? I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m not sure how AEW wants us to view Cody as he SEEMS to be booked as a face more often than not, but he’s also corporate which is like… the OPPOSITE of what a face is supposed to be.
At least here though he has a good enough reason to go after Spears even if STILL really hate the way that chair shot went down, and I can buy Spears being a bad guy with the way he carries himself and that mean face he keeps flashing at the camera. The match itself? It’s pretty good! Maybe not as good as the Kenny Omega Vs. Pac match, but it has a lot of the same strengths to it. Both Cody and Spears aren’t messing around here with both being rather brutal with their attacks, but the story seems to be that Cody has MJF watching his back while Spears has Tully Blanchard, and the latter has WAY more experience at this which leads to Cody taking cheap shots from Spears all over the place. I’m not sure what the point of this is as MJF looking out for anyone but himself feels a bit off for the character they’ve set up, and having him be the hapless honest one (he’s not intentionally distracting the ref while Blanchard is sneaking weapons to Spears) puts him in a weird in-between status between Face and Heel; much like Cody himself. The other big issue is the referring by Earl Hebner. I don’t really know what the direction here was, but it had to include the word INCONSISTENT because he never made the same call twice. He yelled at Spears for trying to use Cody’s weight belt as a weapon but didn’t bat an eye when he used Blanchard’s belt instead. Cody gets a chair at one point and is told by Earl that he’ll get DQed if he uses it, but then a minute later he hands to a dazed Spears so he can kick it in his face. Oh, and some dude named Arn Anderson (I will hang my head in shame for not knowing who this is) just waltzes into the ring and slams Spears. The whole match is just kind of a mess, but since so little is actually riding on this, it ends up working more than it doesn’t.
Cody Rhodes eventually gets the victory with that aforementioned chair shot followed by a Cross Rhodes. I don’t know what this means for the feud going forward, but it was an interesting to watch match if nothing else.
Young Bucks Vs. Lucha Brothers – Escalera De La Muerte for the AAA World Tag Team Championship
Matt and Nick Jackson Vs. Pentagón Jr and Rey Fénix
The big problem I’ve had with the Young Bucks/Lucha Bros bouts is that they often feel like move exhibitions rather than legitimate matches. The pacing has always felt off as neither team seemed to give an inch or succumb to fatigue throughout the match and MAYBE showed some right before the end of it. With this being a ladder match which are known to cause some serious pain and suffering, do they manage to pace out the wear and tear a bit better? Eh… not really. It’s not a bad match, but the focus on showing off over winning is even more apparent when none of them even seem to be interested in climbing a ladder to get the belt when they can kick each other instead.
The match also has a lot of spots I didn’t like as this has a lot of those hardcore elements I don’t like where they seem to just want to GENUINELY hurt themselves instead of making it LOOK like it hurts. Of course it’s almost unavoidable when you’ve got ladders in the match, but there are some nasty hits that make me cringe; not cheer. I mean credit to both teams; they are willing to do ANYTHING to get a reaction from the audience and a lot of the time it is some genuinely great moves! Other times, it’s Matt Jackson taking a hard landing onto a ladder followed by twenty more minutes of body intensive action. Still, I should probably lighten up on this. As I said, there’s some VERY impressive stuff! Rey Fénix jumps THROUGH a ladder to grab Matt and flip him onto his head, and if THAT wasn’t impressive Pentagon basically does the same thing to Matt only from on top of a ladder into a table!
Matt Jackson eventually takes Pentagon’s mask which is a super taboo move against a Luchador, but he pays for it almost immediately with a NASTY spill on an overturned ladder. With one finally horrific slam onto a ladder and THEN the floor for Matt Jackson (I’m pretty sure Nick was straight up murdered by a table like five minutes earlier), the ring is clear and the Lucha Bros finally climb the ladder to grab the belts; winning the match and retaining their AAA Tag Titles. After the match however, two guys came out and beat up all four of them (because they CLEARLY didn’t take enough damage already) and it turns out be… Angel Ortiz and Mike Draztik! Apparently there were LAX back on TNA and they’ll be joining AEW’s tag team division which… okay. I mean I’m sure lots of people are excited about them, but I have no idea who they are. Regarding the match itself, I guess if this is what I should expect whenever I see these two clash (and chances are they will clash again), I should set my expectations accordingly and the addition of tables and ladders (sadly no chairs) does add something to the match. I’m not these wrestlers’ mothers and I’m not about to tell them what they should be doing with their bodies. If they feel they can do all this wacky stuff and come through unscathed, well who am I to say differently? It was entertaining for what it was, but for how much effort they put into it, it still wasn’t my favorite match of the night.
Hangman Adam Page Vs. Chris Jericho – AEW World Championship
And so we come to the main event of the show! It’s time for someone to be crowned as AEW’s first ever WORLD CHAMPION! Is it a match for the ages that will define wrestling for years to come!? Not really, but it’s a solid match for the most part. Jericho is such a pro at this that he can carry basically anyone into a good match and Adam Page, while maybe not my FAVORITE guy in this promotion, does a solid job at being the baby face against the villainous veteran. It reminds me a bit of the matches between HHH and Roman Reigns which for many will sound like a backhanded compliment, but I never really saw the problem with Roman Reigns that so many others had, and HHH was so good at playing the bad guy for him to overcome. Jericho may not have an entourage of skull faced lackeys or a motorcycle to drive to the ring, but he’s got the cocky swagger of someone with twice as much to brag about.
What doesn’t work as well is that it goes on way too long at about thirty minutes which MIGHT be justifiable as a main event, but I didn’t find this to be quite BIG enough to justify it. Jurassic Express Vs. SCU could have carried thirty minutes. Jon Moxley Vs. Kenny Omega would have probably carried thirty minutes. Here? Well as great as Jericho is, the pacing is a bit on the slower side which I’m pretty sure is the case for his sake, and you need something with a bit more momentum to sustain that length of time. The biggest problem however is the ending because Jericho ends up winning over Adam Page, and that completely baffles me as there is no way Adam Page should have lost this match; especially as cleanly as he did. Seriously, I’m not an expert but it looks like he just back elbowed him and knocked him out cold! THAT WAS IT!? First Kenny Omega and now The Hangman have fallen to Chris Jericho who is admittedly FANTASTIC on the mic, and can still go in the ring, but I don’t see him as the face of the company. He looks FINE in the ring and can certainly carry himself in a match, but he’s not at a champion level, and putting him over so many other talented wrestlers in their prime like this is starting to feel like WCW and TNA thinking; relying on big names to get butts in seats. Maybe they’re hedging their bets on a big name for the TV premiere and we’ll get someone else in the title spot soon, but I don’t know where this leaves Hangman who looks completely incompetent being unable to stop this guy, and he doesn’t have a bunch of PPVs to rebuild his momentum before the show begins the same way Kenny Omega did.
As much as a downer this seems to have ended on, this was still PROBABLY the best show they’ve had so far; even more so than Double or Nothing! Sure it doesn’t have that MONUMENTAL feel that we got with that first show, but they’ve been refining and improving their craft since then and I think the fruits of their labor are on full display. Yes, some issues still persist like the overlong matches and some inconsistent storytelling, but the commentary has only gotten better with practice, the wrestlers have found niches to settle into, and the in ring action has only gotten better. Aside from the belt issue, I think they’re about as ready as they could be for television, but we’ll have to see what happens when the rubber hits the road and whether anyone who isn’t already in the know about AEW will jump onboard. It’s always hard to predict what people will want to see and if there really is an opening for a big alternative to WWE instead of just a niche one, but at least they’re making ME pretty happy and I couldn’t ask for much more than that!