Super Wrestling: AEW – All Out 2021

All Out and all the images you see I this recap are owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, and Shahid Khan

After weeks of buildup, the start of a new Friday night show, and the arrival of one of wrestling’s biggest names, this could be the most anticipated PPV that wrestling has seen for quite some time; certainly as far as AEW who already have a high bar for these shows but those expectations have been shot into the stratosphere after everything they’ve promised and the stuff they’ve heavily hinted at!  Is this a show for the ages that will be a turning point for AEW, especially given their recent boost in popularity, or will the house of cards finally come down after all those unrealistic expectations give way to reality?  Let’s find out!!

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Orange Cassidy, Chuck Taylor, Wheeler Yuta and Lucha Express Vs. Hardy Family Office – The Buy In Ten Man Tag Match

So in case you hadn’t heard, there was a last-minute complication that forced AEW to drop the Pac and Andrade match and move the original Buy In match to the main card; leaving a spot in the Buy In that needed to be SWIFTLY filled in.  I couldn’t tell you exactly which match was pushed to the main card (if I were to guess, MAYBE the TNT Title match) but for a match that had to come about at the eleventh hour, they managed to put on a VERY good show!  With this many guys in the ring it mostly devolves into a spot fest where all the Baby Faces get to show off while the Heels dampen their momentum, but there are some fun thru-lines throughout.  The most obvious one is between Matt Hardy and Orange Cassidy where Matt is INSISTENT on getting him in the ring to face him!  The match starts with Chuck Taylor, and he just kicks him back to the corner!  Nope!  Orange Cassidy!  Wheeler Yuta comes out and Hardy just grabs him by the head and shoves him back to his side!  NO!  ORANGE CASSIDY!  NOW!!  Then Luchasaurus comes in… and Hardy suddenly feels the urge to tag in Jack Evans who’s not happy about this but gives it his all… before getting crushed.  Things get a bit more straightforward from there with a few different lock ups that are more evenly matched until Luchasaurus gets swarmed and does the Big Man RAARRRGHHH spot to send them all flying.  It’s not until Hardy distracts Luchasaurus that Private Party are FINALLY able to cut him down, and it’s now time for Cassidy to make his move as he gives Lousy Kicks to all three of them before throwing Hardy out of the ring.  There are spots all over the place and chaos has completely taken over as I don’t think anyone GENUINELY knows who’s the legal competitor, but eventually everyone is effectively killed which leaves just Jungle Boy and Angelico in the ring.  Jack Evans jumps in and is on Angelico’s shoulders so Jungle Boy gets on Luchasaurus and they play a game of chicken that ends in Jurassic Express’s favor.  Private Party tries to take advantage of this goofiness by jumping at the precariously balanced Jungle Boy, but his flexibility allows him to dodge a Cross Body from Quen and SOMEHOW catches Kassidy then flips over backwards and lands so that Kassidy takes the brunt of the fall!

You had ONE job, Kassidy!

If all that wasn’t ridiculous enough, The Blade comes out of NOWHERE and tries to interfere only to be rebuked by Luchasaurus who then throws Marko Stunt at him.  Luchasaurus then gives Angelico a Tail Whip which allows Jungle Boy to lock in the Snare Trap that he taps out to; bringing an end to this utterly bonkers spectacle! OR DOES IT!?  Orange Cassidy is attacked after the bell has rung and it’s by none other than THE BUTCHER who’s been gone for so long and gets a pretty decent pop when everyone realizes it’s him!  Before the Heels can take out Orange Cassidy though, EVERY BABY FACE TAG TEAM RUNS OUT TO MAKE THE SAVE, and they have a big ol’ Best Friends hug in the ring!

I can picture the sitcom now!  The possibilities are endless!!

Thinking about, it’s kind of amazing to think that if Pac Vs Andrade HADN’T fallen through, we would have had perhaps the biggest AEW PPV without Orange Cassidy, Matt Hardy, or Jungle Boy in the ring, so while I can’t say that I’m NOT disappointed by the match not being on the show, I’m glad we got this wacky little piece of fluff to kick things off!  There was WAY too much going on and trying to follow it as a match was impossible which will no doubt annoy some people, but I had fun with what they were doing and the return of The Butcher was a nice treat to get us hyped for the show to come!

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What DIDN’T do much to get me hyped though was when we cut to Dan Lambert and his crew of Alpha Bros who are just there to yell at Millennials and cry about wrestling.  I guess the big takeaway is that Men of the Year (Ethan Page & Scorpio Sky) have OFFICIALLY joined his faction which will hopefully mean some matches and fewer rants in the near future.  Lambert is still great in his delivery and The Men of the Year have been a fun group, but I’m ready for them to move forward with this in a BIG way; not just confirming what we already assumed was the case.  I’d have led in with the return of The Butcher instead of this, but either way, the Buy In is over and it’s time to start All Out!

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Miro Vs. Eddie Kingston – TNT Title Match

There are a few reasons why I’m guessing this was the pre-show match.  It’s the first match on the card and I doubt they’d want to mess up the pacing by sandwiching the Buy In match between matches they’ve already ordered, it’s about the right length at just under twenty minutes, and perhaps most importantly there was almost no build for this match to begin with.  By the time it was announced, they only had about two weeks to build a storyline and all they were realistically able to do was about two promos and a pull apart.  Still, if you need a match on the fly you could hardly ask for two guys to make it work as both are such big personalities that it hardly matters WHY they are fighting in the first place and they will work their darnedest to make it a PPV caliber match.  On top of that, they do manage to tell a story here as Miro is clearly the superior wrestler, but he lacks Kingston’s guts and spends far too much of this trying to avoid getting hurt instead of getting the job done.  He goes for a Game over right away, but Kingston escapes and Miro IMMEDIATELY bails out of the ring to recollect himself.  Kingston on the other hand runs forward with reckless abandon and despite not being up to Miro’s level he makes a darn good show of it by being willing to take the lumps to get nice and close! 

“You can kick my butt all over this place, but I can sometimes get a punch in here and there. Now I ask you sir, which one of us is the REAL winner?”

His persistence pays off on occasion as Kingston gets a few shots in at Miro’s fragile neck, but he still can’t get the DDT which is no doubt what Miro fears the most.  Eventually they start trading chops which gets the crowd going, and Kingston manages to land two back drops get a two count.  Kingston then goes for a Spinning Backfist, but Miro drops down and rolls out which turns out to be a PRETTY bad idea as Kingston lands a Suicide Dive instead.  If that wasn’t bad enough, Miro goes for one of his big kicks but Kingston dodges and lands a Fisherman Suplex for a two count.  He finally catches a break when he dodges a charge from Kingston and bashes him in the corner a bit before pulling him out along with the top turnbuckle’s pad.  He then finally gets the big kick he’d been looking for and puts Kingston in the Game Over.  Kingston just barely makes it to the ropes and both are exhausted so it’s time to go to the finish, but here’s where things start to fall apart.  Miro grabs the pad like he’s gonna bash Kingston over the head with it which seems like a poor choice of weapon, but Ref Remsberg grabs it from him.  Kingston gets a surprise DDT out of nowhere and goes for the pin… BUT REMSBURG’S BACK IS TURNED!  HE’S PUTTING THE COVER BACK ON THE TURNBUCKLE INSTEAD OF WATCHING THE WRESTLERS!  WHAT!?

“Excuse me-”     “WILL YOU HOLD ON A MINUTE!?  Gosh…  RUDE!!”

What this means is that Kingston gets the visual pin, but doesn’t win the match; and if that wasn’t bad enough, Kingston is about to throw Miro into the corner with the exposed turnbuckle only for Remsberg to GET IN THE WAY!  He refuses to let this happen and since he’s so close to them, Miro manages to sneak in a low blow. With Kingston barely able to stand, Miro lands a Roundhouse Kick and a High Kick which is finally enough to get the pin as Remsberg decides that NOW is the time for him to start doing his job!  Ref distraction finishes this blatant are always annoying as the ref is extremely selective in how it decides to use its authority; simultaneously being the most important and least reliable person in the match.  Remsberg should have called for a time out or something if he REALLY needed to stop and fix the turnbuckle (something I’ve never seen a ref do any of the OTHER times a turnbuckle has come loose), and by letting this be such a screw job finish is not what I was hoping to see on a PPV.  Still, they told a decent story here (fear is the mind killer, bro) and I guess it’s best to get this finish out the way early as it probably would have derailed the show had it had been placed later.

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Jon Moxley Vs. Satoshi Kojima

Moxley is gonna get cheers wherever he goes and Kojima being a New Japan rep will get the hardcore fans to pop, but this match didn’t do a whole lot for me.  It’s a lot of back and forth on moves, strike exchanges, some brawling outside the ring, and a couple of big moves for good measure like when Kojima landed an Elbow Drop for a two count, but there wasn’t much story to the match leading up to it and within the match itself there’s not much of a story other than two tough dudes trying to out-hurt each other. 

“I hate YOU!” *SMACK* “Well I hate you TOO” *SMACK* “So we’re in AGREEMENT!” *SMACK* “It seems SO!” *SMACK*

Things get a bit more interesting in the second half when it’s all about trying to land their big moves as Kojima goes for a series of Koji moves like the Koji Cutter and the Koji Lariat, and Moxley goes for his Paradigm Shift and the Rear Naked Choke.  Every time they try for one of these moves their opponent avoids it and hits them with a move almost as devastating like when Kojima escapes a Paradigm Shift into a Brain Buster and Moxley dodges the Koji Lariat and lands a German Suplex.  It’s not until well into the match that Moxley gets a High Knee and goes for the Paradigm Shift one more time that Kojima manages to finally land the Koji Lariat AND the Koji Cutter, but despite Moxley taking the full brunt of these moves and is on the mat, Kojima is too tired to go for the pin.  A few more strike exchanges, some kicks from Moxley, and Mongolian Chops from Kojima before Moxley finally catches him and lands the Paradigm Shift; not once but TWICE which is enough to keep him down for the three count and win the match.  I sometimes find Moxley to be a bit utilitarian when it comes to his wrestling style and AEW tends to get the most out of him when they work to build up the match well before it happens.  That wasn’t necessarily the case here as Kojima didn’t even show up on AEW TV before this match so it had to rely entirely on what they could do in the ring and for the most part it was solid wrestling but without much feeling at stake.  If only there was a way to do this kind of match with Moxley and someone from New Japan but instead of just throwing it together they ACTUALLY build towards it…

Hm…

“Sup, baby duck? I’m not interrupting anything, am I?”

That’s right!  While celebrating his victory, someone’s music hits that puts a chill down the spine of Jon Moxley.  You can see it in his eyes as the song plays and we anticipate someone coming through the tunnel… and it’s none other than Minoru Suzuki!  I didn’t see the match, but these two had a pretty spectacular one at New Japan in 2020 and the indication is that they will have a rematch VERY soon as the two start brawling in the ring and Minoru Suzuki ends up standing tall after landing his Gotch Style Pile Driver.  Sadly this is going to be the only build we’ll get for this rematch as it’s already scheduled for Wednesday, but I’m sure the people more clued into the history between these two are about as excited as they could be to see them lock it up in an AEW ring.

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Britt Baker Vs. Kris Statlander – AEW Women’s Title Match

Baker is accompanied to the ring by Rebel (Not Reba) and Jamie Hayter while Statlander is accompanied by Orange Cassidy

I’m not sure what the plan is for Baker as she’s now on her second title defense without someone who feels like a proper challenge to her.  Nyla Rose got the time she needed and a few back and forth segments to build up the match, but the build itself was fraught with inconsistencies and an unclear Heel/Face dynamic.  Statlander feels more suited as she’s a returning Baby Face, but the build to her has been rather anemic which has been a running theme for the opening matches of this PPV.  We seem to be building towards Thunder Rosa at some indefinite point in the future and I guess AEW is not so worried about making the matches up until then feel important and are relying on Baker’s star power to carry her through them.  As per usual, Baker’s strategy in this match is to get her opponent in the Lock Jaw and she goes for it immediately.  Statlander manages to roll out however and they go back and forth for a bit with Statlander pulling out quite a few interesting moves but failing to get any ground against Baker who stays in control and tries to keep this match on the mat as much as possible.  Statlander eventually escapes and sends Baker to the corner followed by a Running Elbow and some Knee Strikes, and even though she eats a Sling Blade from Baker, she manages to land what Excalibur calls a FISHERMAN BUSTER and gets a two count.  Baker gets right back in the driver’s seat however with a Backslide and a DDT, and she even sends Statlander face-first into the Turnbuckle with a Flatliner.  Baker goes up to do something on the turnbuckle, but Statlander catches up and in a movie that ALMOST looks like a botch, she seems to have trouble getting Baker up for the Superplex and is already falling backwards while Baker is still bent over.  Thankfully she gets herself situated by the time she hits the mat, but that looked PRETTY scary for a moment there!

“Welp! This is only gonna get worse before it gets better…”

The problem with Statlander in this match is that it never feels like she gets a decent amount of momentum and is going back and forth from move to move.  Statlander gets the Superplex, but then immediately crashes and burns on a 451 Splash.  She makes up for by powering out of the Lock Jaw by lifting Baker up to her shoulders and dropping her, but then a minute later she misses a Pendulum Moonsault that has her going splat on the floor!  Baker lands a very cool Stomp using the ring steps and leaves Statlander to be counted out, but then Cassidy rips off his glasses and shouts with more passion and fire than you’ve EVER seen from him which is enough to wake her up and she rushes to the ring at the count of nine! 

“YOU NEVER BACKED AWAY FROM ANYTHING IN YOUR LIFE, NOW FIGHT!!” “Did you just quote The Abyss?” “DON’T QUESTION MY MOTIVATIONAL SPEECHES; JUST GET IN THE RING!!”

That was a great spot and genuinely gave the crowd a reason to cheer for Statlander, but it came a little too late as Statlander is in bad shape despite being back in the ring.  Baker goes to the middle rope and lands a Pittsburg Sunrise (basically a Canadian Destroyer) and gets a very close two count, but unlike before where Statlander would find a way to fight back she just ends up eating another stomp and Baker gets another two count. Statlander is pretty much out of it at this point but the match hasn’t been called yet so Baker puts her in the Lock Jaw and she passes out rather quickly; giving Baker the win and retaining her title as the AEW Women’s Champion.  IT was an okay match with only a spot here and there that looked a bit wonky, but I’m still waiting for Baker to have that REALLY great title defense.  Hopefully she’ll have a few before we get to Thunder Rosa as her match doesn’t seem to be coming any time soon.

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Andrade El Idolo is being interviewed by Alex Marvez who wants to know if he or someone in his crew is responsible for the “travel issues” that have kept Pac away from the arena tonight.  Andrade is offended at the accusation as he is her to have a match, but he does turn to Chavo who seems to be hiding something.  I don’t know why we’re calling attention to this as the show is standing just fine on its own without this match, and it’s WAY too early to be creating friction between Andrade and Chavo.  In any case, I’m still excited to see the match between them which looks to be happening on Rampage.

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Young Buck Vs. Lucha Bros – Tag Title Steel Cage Match

Lucha Bros are accompanied to the ring by Alex Abrahantes while The Bucks are accompanied by Brandon Cutler, and Don Callis joins the commentary team for this match

I’m gonna be real with you all right now… this is one of the greatest matches I have EVER seen in wrestling!  There’s just so much about this match that works and I could spend HOURS discussing!  The freaking CAMERA WORK is something that I want to go on and on about, but if I spent even HALF as much time as I want to talk about this match, well this recap would never get done.  Instead, we’re gonna hit the highlights and talk about its best elements.  I mentioned the camera work so I’ll just get it in quickly; most of this match is shot with one cameraman sandwiched between a turnbuckle and the cage and it creates a unique visual flair that other methods (such as cutting camera holes in the cage itself) doesn’t replicate.  The action in the ring (which the camera does a great job of capturing) is BEYOND fantastic with The Bucks and The Lucha Bros giving it everything they have and the fact that it’s a Tornado Tag match (no tagging in or out) means that they aren’t restricted by the usual constraints of the match type and can go absolutely WILD with it.  There is stuff in this match I’ve never seen before and I doubt I’ll ever see again!  I just can’t BELIEVE how great the action is here and how EFFORTLESS these two teams make it look!  The coordination between all four men in this match is the kind of thing you’d expect in a freaking martial arts movie, and those are done in multiple takes!  This was all done right then and there and it all looks FLAWLESS!

“Bet you can’t do a 450 AND a Frog Splash at the same time!”     “You’re on like Donkey Kong!!”

The true key to this match and what sends it from a great match into one of the BEST matches is the genuine emotion and drama as they tell a heart-wrenching story throughout it.  The Bucks are more despicable here than they’ve ever been and The Lucha Bros are the most valiant and heroic fighters you’ve ever seen in a wrestling ring!  There comes a point after ten minutes of unimaginably good spots and moves where Brandon Cutler THROWS A BAG INTO THE RING (I guess that’s why they didn’t put a top on this cage) where The Bucks find a shoe covered in Thumbtacks; the idea being that if you get Superkicked with that then it’ll hurt WAY more.  Péntagon and Fénix, who have gone through hell already and even had their masks ripped up by The Bucks (again, UTTERLY DESPICABLE) aren’t in a good spot to defend themselves; particularly Fénix who is staring down the barrel of a Superkick from Matt Jackson.  Péntagon sees this, and in an act of utter selflessness that genuinely affected me… he gets in between them; ready to take the blow for his brother.  It was at this point that there was simply no choice but for The Lucha Bros to win the match!  If AEW went this far and gave us this story without letting the good guys prevail in the end, then I was gonna drive myself to Chicago just to boo them in person!

I’m not crying!  YOU ARE!!

The match isn’t EXACTLY perfect though and I’ll point out where it may have fallen a LITTLE bit short in my eyes.  First of all, the rules of the cage match are REALLY unclear as it wasn’t explained ahead of time that it would be Tornado Tag rules, nor did they say that it was a No DQ match and we just had to have the announcers tell us that Cutler throwing weapons into the ring was perfectly legal.  Kinda defeats the purpose of this being a FAIR FIGHT if having the cage ALSO means the Heels can cheat with impunity, and I just wish this was clarified ahead of time instead of something that had to be figured out while watching this.  Also, I would have put that spot with Pénta sacrificing himself to The Bucks a bit later in the match as that happens at about the halfway point and it really is the EMOTIONAL peak of the match, so having it closer to the end would have been paced things out a BIT better.  Also, this is more of a personal gripe, but as with almost any cage match, someone EVENTUALLY gets up on top and jumps down.  The fool who did it for this match was Fénix (Nick Jackson takes a somewhat smaller bump right before his big spot), and while I was grateful to see all three of the other guys waiting in position to catch him to make sure he didn’t break his neck on the way down, it’s just a spot I don’t particularly like.  I still have nightmares about that dive Shane took in his match against The Undertaker!

Your name may be Fénix, but you can’t actually fly dude!

The jump from the top of the cage is enough to stop The Bucks right in their tracks and after an assisted Pile Driver from The Lucha Bros, Péntagon finally gets the pin and wins the match!  The Lucha Bros are your new Tag Team Champions and the crowd couldn’t be happier to see it!  When I think of what wrestling should be when it’s at its best, there are very few things that can top this match with its excellent action, well-paced and emotionally affecting storytelling, and an ending that was incredibly satisfying!  This match ALONE is worth the asking price of the PPV, and we’re still not even halfway through the show!

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Women’s Casino Battle Royale

The Casino Battle Royales are a personal favorite of mine as AEW doesn’t do a lot of novelty matches and these tend to be FUN even if they aren’t always GOOD.  That, and they always like to save at least one surprise for the end which gives you something to look forward to even if the action in the ring isn’t all that exciting!  It’s the junk food of matches and sometimes you’re in the mood for it, so let’s take a look!

First Group: Hikaru Shida, Skye Blue, Emi Sakura, The Bunny, and Abadon

I’m not exactly sure who this Skye Blue is, but I’ve at least heard her name in the last few days and she seems to be VERY over with the crowd.  Kind of a shame she’s the first one eliminated, but let’s not jump ahead too quickly!  What I want to talk about is Abadon who I always have fun seeing, and her big spot is when she screams at Emi Sakurai so fiercely that she just collapses; presumably dying of a heart attack! 

Well I know who I’m dressing up as for Halloween!

That was a great little spot to start the match with, and she ends up eliminating Skye Blue a minute later.  Joke’s on her though as The Bunny eliminates her right after; a choice that she MAY end up regretting if Abadon is one to hold a grudge!  We saw what she did to Emi Sakurai; imagine what she’d do to someone who ACTUALLY ticked her off!

Second Group: Anna Jay, Kiera Hogan, KiLynn King, Diamante, and Nyla Rose

The lower card women do what they can for the short time that they have, but it’s not long before Emi, is eliminated by Shida and Rose eliminates both Kiera Hogan and Kiylnn King.  Where things take an unexpected turn is that Nyla manages to take out Hikaru Shida soon afterward with a failed Hurricanrana attempt that’s turned into a Powerbomb over the ropes.  With her eliminated, we’re down to four as Rose and Diamonte start fighting after a very brief alliance between them and The Bunny and Anna Jay continue the feud that started last week.

Third Group: Thunder Rosa, Penelope Ford, Riho, Jamie Hayter, Big Swole

Rosa IMMEDIATELY takes Nyla Rose down a peg but doesn’t end up eliminating her.  Instead, the eliminations are from Big Swole who takes out Diamante and is then eliminated by Jamie Hayter.  The big disappointment and a point of contention in this part of the Battle Royale is that Riho gets eliminated by Jamie Hayter without actually DOING anything, and it’s even a question as to whether she actually WAS eliminated.  She lands a 619 on Bunny and Ford, but then Hayter starts kicking her in the corner until Riho rolls out from under the ropes.  At no point does she go OVER them which is what needs to happen for an official elimination and even the announcers are confused about this.  All of this happens fairly early in this segment and the rest is a lot of punching in corners as we wait for whoever comes in next.

Final Group: Tay Conti, Red Velvet, Layla Hirsch, Jade Cargill, and Rebel (Not Reba)

Thanks for showing up Rebel (Not Reba), but even you had to know that you weren’t long for this match.  She gets attacked by Red Velvet and it LOOKS like she’s trying to tie herself in the ropes to save herself, but it doesn’t work and Velvet just Drop Kicks her off the apron.  Jade Cargill Press Slams Layla Hirsch over the top rope which was pretty disappointing as Hirsch is a real talent and I’d have liked to see more of her, but most of this section was devoted to the feud between Tay, Jay, Bunny, and Ford as the two sides fight against each other with some impressive moves to keep from getting eliminated; particularly when Tay is dangling over the turnbuckle but sits back up which hurt MY abs just looking at it.  Anna jay and The Bunny make their way to the apron and a BIG kick from Jay eliminates the Bunny before getting herself eliminated by a similar kick from Ford.  With that, we’re down to Red Velvet, Jamie Hyater, Penelope Ford, Tay Conti, Nyla Rose, Jade Cargill, and Nyla Rose, with just one more entrant to go!

Final entrant: Ruby Soho

Yes, the former Ruby Riott has arrived at AEW and she gets a HUGE ovation from the crowd who were chanting her name even before they revealed that she was the final participant!  She rushes in and immediately starts taking on both Cargill and Rose.  Thunder Rosa runs in for the assist and hits a Hurricanrana on Rose, but Cargill manages to stop them both in their tracks and ends up eliminating both Jamie Hayter and Red Velvet.  She starts posing for the crowd which allows Rose to come up from behind and eliminate here, and then Ford and Tay get eliminated soon after; leaving Soho, Rosa, and Nyla as the final three in the match!  Nyla’s one tough customer and manages to overcome the both of them, but she goes after Rosa with a full head of steam and Rosa drops the ropes which sends Nyla over.  She lands on the apron, but Rosa lands a Drop Kick and eliminates her from the match; leaving her and Soho as the last two in the ring!  It starts with a strike exchange before the fight goes to the apron and Ruby is holding on for dear life as she eats kick after kick from Rosa. 

“Is it my turn to kick yet?”     “NO!”     “Worth a shot…”

It’s not enough to get her to fall however and Soho starts to regain control of this which forces Rosa to try and put her away with a Death Valley Driver.  Soho escapes from the move and pushes Rosa into the post that leaves her dazed and Soho lands a kick to the head that’s finally enough to eliminate her; winning the match and earning a shot at Britt Baker’s belt!

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Jericho Vs. MJF

If Jericho loses, he never wrestles in AEW again

I wasn’t too thrilled about this match going into it given the over the top stipulation involved, and it felt like an excuse to reheat a feud that had come to a natural end.  The match itself doesn’t exactly get around this issue (especially with its convoluted ending), but it definitely works as a PPV match where the previous FINAL MATCH didn’t quite reach that level for me.  What ends up being MJF’s Achilles Heel once again is his overly inflated ego as he’s going into this match with no respect for his opponent and acting like a classless boor when he SHOULD be focused on wining because that’s what’s ultimately going to give him the bragging rights he feels he has already earned.  Jericho by contrast is all business here as he is laser-focused on turning MJF’s face into mush and maintains a solid lead for most of the match.  Anytime MJF DOES get an advantage, whether it’s catching Jericho in the apron skirt or working over the injured arm, he can’t let it and goes back to acting like a punk which gives Jericho all the opening he needs to regain control. 

“I’m too sexy for this match. Too sexy for this match. So sexy, I’m such a catch!” “Tell it to your dating profile, douchebag!”

Still, MJF is no slouch and at his best it’s questionable if Jericho can truly overcome this guy; especially with his penchant for pulling nonsense finishes out of nowhere, and it looks like he may have pulled it off with a Heat Seeker that smash’s Jericho’s head on the apron.  The ref starts the count and Jericho doesn’t look like he’s gonna get back up, but he barely beats the count and gets back in at nine.  Pushing Jericho back out of the ring, MJF tries a Moonsault from the apron; only to miss it and eat a HELLACIOUS Powerbomb from Jericho that sends his spine RIGHT into the corner of the apron which looked ABSOLUTELY nasty and played into the rest of the match as MJF was stymied at several points due to the pain in his back.  It goes on for a bit after that with some great moves like the Lionsault from Jericho, a Powerbomb from MJF, and an Avalanche Code Breaker, and eventually Wardlow comes out to save MJF’s butt only for Jake Hager to chase him down and beat him to the back.  Hager may have caused more harm than good however as the confusion gives MJF a chance to get Jericho’s bat Floyd and bash him across the head while the Ref Aubrey isn’t looking.  He then lands a Judas Effect and goes for the pin just as Ref Aubrey starts paying attention, and here’s where things get a bit screwy.  It’s not as bad as the TNT Title match, but it is another instance of the ref making a very blatant mistake as Jericho gets his boot on the ropes which SHOULD break the pin count, but she doesn’t see it still counts to three.  MJF’s music hits and it looks like the decision will stand, but then Ref Turner comes in and lets Aubrey know what happened, which… I don’t know I was always under the impression that a ref’s decision was final even if it was an obviously terrible one; otherwise, why don’t they just call EVERY instance of cheating in any match if we can do the instant replay?  In any case, the match restarts and Jericho tries to roll up MJF for a quick ending, but MJF kicks out and locks in the Salt of the Earth which Jericho is threatening to tap out to.  Jericho just barely manages to roll MJF on his shoulders which forces him to loosen the hold, and Jericho manages to lock in the Walls of Jericho.  With the bad back he got from earlier in the match, he simply can’t take it anymore and taps out; giving Jericho the win and ensuring that he will fight another day!  I didn’t like the finish all that much but given the stipulation involved it’s kind of the only thing they COULD have done.  The match doesn’t really work if you don’t believe at least a LITTLE bit that Jericho could lose and the only way to do that was to ACTUALLY make him lose, so he lost but only for a little while because the ref wasn’t paying attention.  Would it have been better if they saved the final Labor of Jericho for the PPV?  Maybe, maybe not.  In either case, this was still a solid fight but like the TNT Title match we saw earlier, is hampered by a convoluted ending.  It’s more satisfying because the good guy was NOT the one who got screwed here, but hopefully this specific feud in the Inner Circle/Pinnacle war has come to an end.

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 CM Punk Vs. Darby Allin

I feel pretty unqualified to talk about this match considering that I don’t have any connection to Punk as a wrestler and this match is entirely reliant on the goodwill that he’s built up over the last fifteen years, but even without that this was still a solid match.  Nothing to write home about, especially on a card this strong, but I got to see a little bit of what made the guy such a big star all those years ago.  CM Punk just oozes authenticity in a way that few wrestlers can and he tells so much of the story of this match with just his face.  The looks he gives as he comes out the ring, when he’s staring down Darby, even when he’s getting his butt kicked, all convey that world-weariness and even hesitancy that feels really grounded and is coming from a genuine place.  The work itself… well it starts a bit slow which is to be expected as this is Punk’s first match in over seven years.  I don’t care who you are, that’s gonna give you some ring rust and you’re gonna need some time to get past it.  A lot of lock ups at first, playing to the crowd, and at least TWO Abdominal Stretches are what we get for the first few minutes of the match, but Punk throws in a few things with the help of Darby such as the Tilt-A-Whirl Back Breaker, and like a lot of matches the story boils down to if the Baby Face can hit their finisher.  Punk goes for the GTS several times but Darby manages to escape each time and manages to hit a few of his own specials like the Coffin Splash (running into the Turnbuckle back first) and Code Red to get a few near falls on Punk.  Still, Punk maintains a pretty strong control as Darby is bumping all over the place for him though honestly, it’s probably one of the safest matches he’s wrestled in quite some time.  After several minutes of back and forth action, Punk finally gets the GTS but hits it so hard that Darby falls out of the ring entirely which means he can’t capitalize on the pin, and Darby manages to just barely get into the ring at nine.  Undeterred, Punk softens him up a bet and signals for another GTS, but Darby starts elbowing him in the throat as soon as he gets him up on his shoulders.  He hits him repeatedly until Punk is on the ground.  He hits him with a few more moves and gets Punk back in the ring for a Coffin Drop, but in probably the funniest spot in the match, Punk just sits straight up as Darby comes down and the dude goes SPLAT on the mat.

“DID I DO THAT!?”

They go back and forth for a few minutes after that and Darby makes the mistake of jumping up on Punk’s head only for Punk to turn him over and land the GTS, only this time he stays IN the ring and Punk is able to pin him; winning his first match at AEW and his first match in over seven years.  Not only that, but Sting comes out to collect Darby and shakes CM Punk’s hand as a sign of respect.  It’s too early to say where his skill level is yet and if he’s gonna get better once he gets into the swing of things, but the idea of Punk having barn burner matches like what we just saw from The Lucha Bros is probably a pipe dream at this point.  Where he can compensate (and BOY does he compensate!) is in his sheer charisma and his ability to tell a story in a match.  If nothing else, I definitely want to see more from him and to find out what stories he’s been dying to tell in the last seven years, and that’s coming from someone who barely even knows who this Punk guy is!

.

Paul Wight Vs. QT Marshall

QT Marshall is accompanied to the ring by The Factory

I don’t know why they didn’t just call this a Handicap match as Nick Comoroto and Aaron Solow are just THERE and taking shots at Paul Wight despite this ostensibly being a fight between Paul and QT.  Still, it’s EXACTLY the match you wanted to see and the match that it needed to be.  Paul humiliates QT with a series of moves that you’ll recognize if you’ve seen ANY Big Show match, and the crowd is going absolutely WILD for it!  It takes two to tango though, and QT is a perfect patsy for taking this kind of abuse with wild facial expressions, big bumps, and the flailing of limbs to indicate just how screwed this guy is at even attempting to get in the ring with this giant!  Sure, QT gets like thirty seconds of offense and even gets Paul on the mat, but these are just setups for more humiliations.  He goes for a pin and is thrown off so violently that QT falls out of the ring entirely, and when he goes for a Cutter, Paul just slaps him away like he’s a particularly obnoxious fly.

“You ever go to space, QT?”     “Why do you ask- WAHHHH!!”

He fends off Comoroto and Solow for a bit before QT tries for a dive, but Paul catches him by the throat and lands a Choke Slam.  Paul goes for the pin and QT doesn’t DARE to move as he stays down for the three count and gives Paul the victory.  It was exactly what it was supposed to be, didn’t go a minute later than it needed to, and I enjoyed it for what it was!  A delightful little break in a show that’s stacked with big and important matches!

.

Kenny Omega Vs. Christian Cage – AEW World Title Match

Omega is accompanied to the ring by Don Callis

And so we come to the main event where Christian Cage and Kenny Omega will fight for the THIRD time in what, a month?  Okay, one of those was a tag match and they didn’t do much together in it, but the big hurdle of this match (much like the Jericho one) is to try and make it feel fresh and vital despite it being an angel we’ve seen play out on TV.  For the most part, I think they do succeed as it may not be the most impressive match of the night (very few things will ever be as good as the Bucks/Lucha Bros match), but Cage manages to hang with Omega for the twenty or so minutes it takes to reach the finish.  For the most part it’s about Kenny trying to find cheap tricks to get an unfair advantage while Cage is gritting his teeth and trying to power through the offensive barrage that Kenny throws at him.  Kenny goes for a V-Trigger before the bell rings which Cage dodges before going for the Kill Switch which Kenny escapes from.  They brawl outside for a bit with Cage getting a solid lead, but Kenny manages to throw Cage into the ring stairs which knocks him out for quite a bit.  They do this spot that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before where Kenny doesn’t set up a table; rather he just lays a table on top of Cage and does a Stomp from the apron; shattering it on top of Cage.  That was a pretty cool spot early on and more or less puts an end to Cage’s momentum.

“Oh the pain!  Oh the pain of it all!!”

Callis has set up a proper table next to them and Omega tries to Supelx him through it, but Cage fights back and suplex’s Omega onto the floor.  It’s pretty much the last gasp of offense that he gets for a while as he’s losing ground to Omega fast and we start an extended heat segment where Cage takes this REALLY dicey-looking tumble from the top turnbuckle to the floor.  I’m not sure you CAN fall like that safely, but he’s lucky he SMASHED his side into the apron on his way down; otherwise he would have landed on his head and could have easily been forced to retire again!  Omega goes after him for a while after that and eventually goes to the top rope for a move but Cage cuts his legs out from under him and lands an Avalanche Hurricanrana.  He doesn’t capitalize on this with a pin attempt though as he’s decided to instead use this time to catch his breath.  There’s a strike exchange that Kenny gets the better of, but soon Christian is making a comeback and gets a Swinging DDT from the middle rope for a two count.  Kenny gets back in control with a few V-Triggers and Snap Dragon Suplexes that leave Cage a barely moving mess, but he at least had the wherewithal to wrap himself in the ropes to avoid a pin while also drawing Kenny out onto the apron.  They fight on there for a bit and tease their big moves before Cage lands a Spear that sends them both through the table that Callis set up earlier!  They both barely make it back to the ring before Cage lands two more Spears and goes to the top turnbuckle… only for Kenny to get the knees up on Cage’s Frog Splash.   It’s all good stuff, but it’s a little to back and forth for my tastes and honestly is starting to feel like a spot fest with how many big moves one of them lands before the table is turned and vice versa.  Kenny gets a few more V-Triggers before Cage locks Omega in the Cloverleaf which is where things start to take a turn and we start heading towards the finish.  On a signal from Don Callis, Gallows and Anderson run down to try and save Kenny while Callis causes a distraction with the ref.  The plan works as Gallows has Christian held in place as Kenny goes for the V-Trigger.  ONLY FOR KENNY TO ACCIDENTALLY HIT GALLOWS INSTEAD!  This creates an opening for Christian to land the Kill Switch which should be the end of Kenny… only for him to kick out a two count.  Out of desperation, he puts Kenny on the top rope and is going for an Avalanche Kill switch, but Kenny fights back and gets Christian on his shoulders.  He lands a Middle Rope One Winged Angel which the crowd was clearly not expecting, and he gets the pin to win the match!

This is a stunt so ridiculous that I fully expected Johnny Knoxville to pop in from off-screen and tell us what it’s called!

The match was very good and a solid way to end the show which is impressive in its own right considering how stacked the card was and all the acts it had to follow, but on the flip side it wasn’t my favorite match on the card by far.  It never felt like it was about anything more than just the belt itself and there wasn’t much in terms of characterization throughout.  Cage went in as Christian Cage, Kenny went in as Kenny Omega, and they kind of left the match the same as they went into it.  It’s particularly odd considering that the worked pretty hard to establish the FEAR angle in previous episodes and I was fully expecting them to work with the idea that Kenny had lost his nerve after being pinned by Cage in their first encounter, but it never really came up and the focus was on the moves more than anything else.

People are gonna remember certain things about this match like the Middle Rope One Winged Angel, but this is primarily a vehicle to get us to what happens next.  The Elite come out to inflict more damage on Christian Cage before the Jurassic Express run down to try and clean house, but they get overwhelmed pretty quickly.  Kenny then grabs a mic and confirms that there is no one at AEW who could hope to challenge him!  He’s beaten everyone, so who could POSSIBLY be a threat to him now?  AND THEN ADAM COLE’S MUSIC HITS AND HE MAKES HIS AEW DEBUT!

I’m not a big NXT fan so like with Punk the significance of this goes a bit over my head, but the crowd is into it and the guy has some pretty sweet entrance music!  He goes to the ring to meet the VERY surprised Elite… but he’s NOT there to fight them!  PSYCH!!  He grabs the mic and proclaims himself to be a full-fledged member of the Elite and they all have a good laugh at the marks for swerving them like this!  With Adam Cole in their ranks, is there ANYONE that can stop the Elite!?  OH LOOK!  BRYAN FREAKING DANIELSON MAKES HIS AEW DEBUT AS WELL!!

He comes down to the ring to pick up the fallen Baby Faces, and before both sides can clash, Kenny Omega runs out of there like a bat out of hell!  Probably the best move all things considered as Danielson, with Jurassic Express and Christian Cage backing him up, cleans house and sends The Elite packing to the thunderous applause of the crowd!  And so the PPV ends with the Baby Faces standing tall, a bunch of new faces at AEW, and a promise of even better things to come!

.

This was an AMAZING PPV that may not have hit EVERY mark in EVERY match, but there was at least SOMETHING fun in everything we saw and some of the matches are going to be remembered for a very long time!  The Lucha Bros winning the titles in that phenomenal match is one of the best things I’ve ever seen in wrestling, the return of CM Punk was more than enough to satisfy the fans who have been waiting to see it for so long, and the ending of the show where we got not one but TWO superstars to make their debuts was just the icing on the cake; not to mention the arrival of Ruby Soho who was always a favorite of mine at the other company!  AEW has knocked it out of the park in a way that genuinely feels like a game changer or, if nothing else, a shakeup of the status quo.  It’s hard to imagine how ANY company could squander the goodwill and hype that this one PPV has given them, and the thing is that AEW is not just any company but one full of passionate and talent individuals given the room to express themselves and do what they do best!  Hopefully Danielson and Cole prove to be just as good a fit here as so many other wrestlers have been after arriving at AEW, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

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