Full Gear and all the images you see I this recap are owned by All Elite Wrestling and Shahid Khan
The big show is finally here (no, not that one; he showed up months ago) and everyone is PUMPED! Not only do we have a darn good slate of matches, including Bryan Danielson’s first PPV match at AEW, but we’ve got a possible title change on our hands as reigning champion Kenny Omega might just drop the belt to the upstart Hangman Adam Page! It promises to be a night of great action, satisfying payoffs, and even a few tributes to legends (it’s the anniversary of Eddie Guerrero’s death so expect A LOT of Frog Splashes throughout) to make this a show to remember! Does it live up to the hype and deliver on all its promises, or has the AEW train finally run out of steam!? Let’s find out!!
Before we even get into our Buy-In match, Tony Schiavone calls Dante Martin to the ring to discuss the offer Team Taz made to him on Friday’s Rampage. Before he can answer though, The Acclaimed come down to the ring and Caster raps his own offer to Dante to join them instead! Now this is starting to get interesting, not just because I think he’d be a very good addition to The Acclaimed (he absolutely would), but I’m starting to like this idea of every group at AEW wanting Dante Martin on their side and having to fight through each other to get him! I can just picture Dante Martin sitting on a throne or on that Judy Bagwell forklift thing as he looks upon the wrestlers and managers fighting in the ring for his contract! The Acclaimed though are trying to play it a bit cool and not look so desperate, as Anthony Bowens reiterates the offer while throwing in an implicit threat on top of it. As enticing as the offer may be, Dante knocks them out of the ring and lands a Springboard Dive from the top rope to the floor which I think got the message across quite well and was a fun start to the Buy-In!
Nyla Rose & Jamie Hayter Vs. Thunder Rosa & Hikaru Shida
Nyla is accompanied to the ring by Vickie Guerrero
All four of the women in this match are part of the TBS Tournament which begs the question as to why they don’t just DO another match of the tournament here, but I guess they want to draw it out as long as they can so they have these four try and show how awesome they are so that you get more invested in it, which… I mean I GUESS it works because everyone looks really good here! Even Jamie Hayter, who hasn’t really had a killer match since she’s returned to AEW, manages to pull off some impressive moves like when she stops Shida from making it back to her corner with a German Suplex!
The German just delayed the inevitable however as Shida gets to her corner soon after, but it means that Hayter can get to her corner as well which leaves Rosa and Nyla in the ring. Rosa has the hot tag so runs roughshod over Nyla while also trying to keep Hayter at bay, but it proves to be futile as Hayter breaks up a pin anyway. Shida has finally recovered though and tags back in so that the two of them can combine their power, and they send both Nyla and Hayter out of the ring with Drop Kicks followed by dives to the outside; the one from Rosa looking PRETTY sketchy as she landed pretty hard on Hayter! I haven’t heard anything about an injury, but it CLEARLY wasn’t fun for Hayter who was clutching her head for a bit afterward. Now with the Heels so effectively kowtowed, you’d think this would be an easy win! Just throw someone into the ring and get the pin, right? Well you’d think so, but Serena Deeb is in the crowd and one of the laws of Wrestling Physics is that if you recognize someone in the ring you MUST confront them immediately, and sure enough Shida does which gives Nyla enough time to get back up and wipe her out. If that wasn’t bad enough, we get our first Frog Splash of the night as Rose goes to the TOP ROPE and lands a splash on Shida which WOULD have gotten the win if Thunder Rosa didn’t land a Missile Drop Kick to break up the pin! I double-checked and it looks like Nyla did it right (landed on her knees and elbows instead of on top of Shida), but she usually doesn’t go for moves that high and it was an impressive thing to see here! With her big spot ruined by Rosa, Nyla tries to finish off Shida with a Beast Bomb who reverses it into a Hurricanrana that sends Nyla into the corner. On the rebound, Shida rolls up Nyla and puts her in a Jackknife Pin for the three count to win the match! It was a good opener and everyone definitely brought their A-Game even if this was just for the pre-show. I’ve been a bit annoyed at how they’ve stretched out the TBS tournament with these unaffiliated matches, but if they’re gonna do it, the least they can do is make it fun! Alright, well that’s enough preamble! It’s finally for Full Gear!
Darby Allin Vs. MJF
Darby is accompanied to the ring by Sting
We start the show with the match I was probably most ambivalent about; not about the quality of the work as both guys have a lot of skill in the ring, but to me the storyline just felt forced and clichéd. Heck, it’s pretty much a carbon copy of the feud MJF had with Brian Pillman Jr for the last PPV; down to insulting dead family members. Still, I really like it when MJF stretches those wrestling muscles, and if I could compare this match with anything it would be his match with Jungle Boy at Double or Nothing 2020 which was pretty fantastic! The added dimension here is that while Darby has the nuts and bolts wrestling skills that Jungle Boy had, he’s got that devil may care streak to him that often gets him in trouble, and an early spot where he misses a Coffin Drop and hits the apron shows that it’s still his Achilles Heel. Of course, MJF ends up with a somewhat more literal interpretation of that as he lands a Back Breaker on Darby Allin but it somehow screws up his knee and he has to work through the pain of that for the rest of the match.
Despite both guys dealing with some rough spots early on in the match, they soldier on and it only gets more ridiculous from there. A middle rope Stunner from Darby, a Powerbomb from MJF, just a lot of really good back and forth action until MJF starts to get the edge and puts Darby in the Scorpion Death Lock. He can’t reach the ropes so instead, he starts punching at MJF’s bad knee and follows up with a Chop Block to the knee that only damages it further. To press this advantage, Darby locks in the Figure Four which puts even more pressure on MJF’s knee, but MJF is no slouch and manages to roll over which switches who feels the pressure, and it forces Darby to grab the ropes to break up the hold. MJF gets his vengeance for this by dropping Darby onto the apron with a Tombstone Pile Driver on Darby who is just barely able to get back into the ring at the nine count, and this is where things arguably get a little TOO silly! Neither wants to start throwing out big moves, but they want to end this quickly so they trade roll-ups several times. At first, it’s pretty amazing because they both come with a hair’s breadth away of losing the match over and over again… but when they start literally rolling around the ring like a marble is where I kinda got pulled out of it.
Fortunately, they win me right back when Darby gets a Code Red which MJF is just barely able to kick out of, and then Darby throws MJF out of the ring so that he can land a Coffin Drop from the top turnbuckle to the floor! He throws MJF back in the ring and goes up once again for another Coffin Drop… but MJF gets the knees up. On the plus side, it hurts his bad knee so he can’t capitalize on it, but things are starting to look a bit grim, so Wardlow and Shawn Spears run down to try and interrupt. Sting manages to intercept them however before they get anywhere near the ring, and then the match started giving me WWE flashbacks when MJF grabs Darby’s skateboard and then BEGS Darby to hit him with it! This is something that Bray Wyatt tried with John Cena at WrestleMania XXX, and it’s a pretty basic Heel trap as hitting him would be a disqualification, but it’s ALSO a trap because when the Baby Face gives the weapon to the ref (which he does), the ref will turn his back and get a cheap shot. In this case, Ref Remsberg doesn’t see MJF pull the Dynamite Diamond Ring out of his trunks and deck Darby in the head with it. By the time Remsberg turns around, MJF has disposed of the ring and has Darby in a pin which Remsberg counts to give MJF the victory. This was a REALLY good match between two guys who are just as good at the technical side of wrestling as they are at the theatrics, but that ending was pretty corny even for my tastes, and it just can’t escape feeling like almost every other MJF feud; down to the finish with the Dynamite Diamond Ring. Hopefully, they find something for MJF to do that DOESN’T feel so repetitious, but as a match on its own, it was a fun opener for the show!
The Lucha Bros Vs. FTR – AEW Tag Team Title Match
The Lucha Bros are accompanied to the ring by Alex Abrahantes while FTR are accompanied by Tully Blanchard
The Lucha Bros are a fantastic tag team, but they really haven’t lived up to their potential as the tag team champions. They don’t feel any more POWERFUL or PROMINENT at that company despite holding the belts, and the fact that they basically had to BEG FTR to give them this match makes it seem like they’ve earned zero clout or hold themselves in greater esteem despite holding the gold. Sure, FTR more or less punked them out of the AAA belts which is why they WANT this match, but it’s not even like FTR are putting those belts on the line which means that The Lucha Bros have everything to lose here while FTR has everything to gain; something that to me says that FTR has won already. Even if they don’t win the belts in this match they so thoroughly got under the skin of The Lucha Bros who have proven to be easily baited if they want another chance later on down the road. Needless to say that it hasn’t been the most compelling build to a Tag Title match we’ve seen at AEW, but if the work is great then it hardly matters, right? Well… it’s not a BAD match, but it didn’t have much of a flow for me as the action didn’t really build to anything until about the halfway point. It’s mostly just the Lucha Bros looking awesome and FTR looking like stooges which CAN be fun, but on a PPV title match, you want a little more gravitas to it. That, and the match is filled with eye-rolling moments such as when the ref doesn’t see Rey tag in at one point which extends the heat on Penta, and this REALLY goofy spot where Cash ties Penta’s mask to the ropes. It’s so silly that even the ref doesn’t want anything to do with this and proceeds to untie the not. He can’t stop Dax from KICKING PENTA WHILE HE’S DOING IT for some reason, but whatever. By this point, I was ready to move on.
Where things turn around and I started to get invested in the match is when Cash hits Rey with the AAA belts and Dax Lands a Brain Buster. This is basically how they won those titles in the first place and so everyone is expecting the three count… BUT REY KICKS OUT AT TWO! It’s a clear escalation from what we’ve seen from these two teams before, and it gets better from there as a story starts to unfold. Both teams go back and forth trying to hit their big tandem finishers but they keep getting interrupted. Rey throws cash out of the ring with a Hurricanrana when FTR is setting up the Big Rig, an attempt at a Fear Factor is stopped when Cash knocks Rey off the ropes; even an Assisted Brain Buster gets interrupted when Penta tackles Cash which allows Rey to drop back down and rollup Dax for a two count. Finally, The Lucha Bros are able to land the Fear Factor, and Rey manages to jump from the move to Cash so that he doesn’t break up the pin on Dax… BUT THAT’S NOT HOW THE MATCH ENDS. Dax kicks out at two despite Cash NOT being there to stop the super move, and then the match just gets weird. Dax is the legal man, but Cash comes from below the ring with a mask on his face… to trick the ref into thinking he’s Dax? And I guess it works because The Lucha Bros land an Assisted Pile Driver on Cash… who the ref thinks is Dax… and gets the pin to win the match. So… good job Cash for cheating… to lose? The Lucha Bros have struggled since the last PPV to recapture the glory of that cage match with The Bucks with this perhaps being the worst attempt yet. It’s not a terrible match, but it’s not what I expected from either team and that finish, just left it all on a sour note.
Miro Vs. Bryan Danielson – AEW World Title Tournament Finals
This match is actually a REALLY interesting contrast between two big stars with VERY different approaches to their characters and matches. Miro has spent the last year or so trying to find his role to play and settled on the solid idea of being a religious fanatic that got even BETTER when he recently lost his faith and is now ANGRY with God for taking away his TNT title! He’s a character who is very motivated and cuts great video promos while ALSO having fun matches in the ring! Contrast that to Danielson who is by no means a slouch on the mic, but his role here has been very utilitarian and straightforward; leaving the audience to fill in his characterization based on what they already know about him and letting his matches speak for themselves; this one included. Miro gets an early lead with his massive strength, but it’s clear that Danielson is strategizing and playing the long game. Still, while he can get some offense in and is out wrestling his opponent, Miro isn’t budging and the effort Danielson is exerting will tire him out quicker; kind of like a rope-a-dope tactic. Miro starts getting more aggressive as he sends Danielson to the outside and throws him all around the area before dragging him back in the ring and grounding him with a headlock. Feeling overly confident, he starts playing to the crowd which is the opening Danielson needs to start his attack, and despite getting sent outside the ring by Miro, he STILL manages to land some moves and even throws him into the ring post which he follows up with a Running Knee from the apron. Danielson drags Miro back to the ring to land a series of Yes Kicks before transitioning to a Knee Bar which leaves Miro screaming in the center of the ring. Unable to reach the ropes, Miro has no choice but to spin around, lift Danielson up while still clutching his leg, and kind of do a German Suplex to force Danielson to let go which was quite an impressive thing to see!
Even with Miro regaining control, he is not as assured as he once was as a failed pin attempt after a Powerbomb forces him to reach up to the heavens and try to draw strength from God (much like how The Undertaker got strength from The Urn), but even that isn’t enough to ensure his victory. He tries to lock in the Game Over which NO ONE has escaped from so far, but Danielson manages to be the one to do it and naturally Miro looks upward with a VERY disappointed look on his face as God is still not helping him out. Miro decides to put the God business aside and starts stomping the face of Danielson to soften him up for another Game Over, but Danielson reverses the move into the LaBelle Lock. If that wasn’t bad enough, Miro manages to escape it only for Danielson to immediately grab him in the Triangle Lock which forces Miro to gouge the dude’s eye just to escape. Hey, when God closes a door, he puts on the Three Stooges! The two are at their limit and are just slugging away until Miro carries Danielson to the top turnbuckle to finish this once and for all. The two start fighting up there and Danielson just barely manages to fall back and drag Miro down into an Avalanche DDT which has been established in previous matches is his one foible, and all it takes is for Danielson to lock in the Triangle afterward for Miro to pass out; winning Danielson the match as well as the tournament. I am a bit disappointed that Miro didn’t win as I think his storyline has the most to gain from a future title match, but it was a good back and forth bout between these two, and their different styles managed to mesh quite well. Hopefully Miro doesn’t disappear after this loss, but I don’t know what he’s gonna do next since his Godless Rampage has been cut short.
Young Bucks & Adam Cole Vs. Jungle Boy, Luchasaurus, and Christian Cage – Falls Count Anywhere Match
The Young Bucks are accompanied to the ring by Brandon Cutler
Despite all these guys constantly feuding with each other over the last few weeks, I could never quite find a proper running thread between them to explain what this feud is even about. I mean sure, it’s GOOD GUYS VS BAD GUYS, but I feel like you need more to build a PPV match around, and that extra layer of depth to the storytelling just never manifested. Similarly, the match is rather good but pretty aimless as it’s a spot fest to end all spot fests with people landing big moves, coming in and out on a whim, and no real progression of events until we get close to the finish. Seriously, the closest thing to a narrative in this match is the trash can which gets used REPEATEDLY in this match and is more and more damaged every time it pops back up!
None of that is to say that the action is anything less than fantastic! You can look up at the screen at any time and are bound to see something spectacular happen, so I’m not disputing the work involved. Still, the more interesting stuff happens towards the end of the match when everyone is fighting on the stage, so let’s just go ahead and jump to that. Matt Jackson gets freaked out when a Superkick barely fazes Luchasaurus, so he bails and runs up the ramp only for Jungle Boy to come out of nowhere and knock him over so he can lock in the Snare Trap. Since it’s a Falls Count Anywhere match, Matt is in danger of tapping out, but Adam Cole runs over to kick Jungle Boy off. Not done with Matt Jackson yet however, it’s now Christian Cage’s turn to run in as he attacks Cole before going back to Matt to try and land the Kill Switch. Nick Jackson runs in to break up the move, Luchasaurus runs in to Choke Slam both Bucks, Cole hits the low blow on the dinosaur; since each team has three guys on it, no one can get a proper offense going without being overwhelmed by everyone else there. Even when the Heels get thumbtack-coated kneepads and give Luchasaurus a BTE Trigger, they still can’t seal the deal because Jungle Boy jumps in at the last second to break up the pin!
Jungle Boy manages to hold his own against the three of them and even manages to send Nick off the stage with a Suplex which is when Luchasaurus comes back and Choke Slams Adam Cole off the stage with two of the Heels in one place (along with Brandon Cutler), Luchasaurus wipes them all out with a Shooting Star Press; effectively taking himself out of the match as well, but Jungle Boy is now finally alone with an exhausted and barely moving Matt Jackson. Christian Cage puts a chair under Matt Jackson’s head to set up a con-chair-to, and Jungle Boy hesitates at first but agrees to take the shot. Not looking too happy about it, he smashes the chair on top of Matt Jackson’s head which is already on a chair, and Jungle Boy gets the pin to win the match. On a pure action level, it probably has the most spectacular moves out of ANY other match we’ve seen tonight, and I did like the escalation of violence once we started to head into the endgame, but the ending was weird and I don’t know what the deal is with Cage cajoling Jungle Boy into taking this shot which is a VERY Heel thing to do. What it reminded me most of is the third prequel film where Palpatine convinces Anakin to chop Christopher Lee’s head off, so if we’re going in a Heel direction here where Cage has been playing the long game to turn Jungle Boy Heel, then maybe that’ll be something. I doubt it though, and aside from that, I can’t really explain what the point of the finish was.
Pac & Cody Rhodes Vs. Malakai Black & Andrade El Idolo
Cody is accompanied to the ring by Arn Anderson while Andrade is accompanied by Jose
The story of this match is a pretty standard one for Heel/Face tag team matches where the Baby Faces are kind of thrown together and aren’t getting along while the Heels have a rapport that keeps them one step ahead. It starts off well enough for the faces as Pac manages to hold his own against Black and Andrade, but Cody opts for a blind tag and doesn’t end up handling himself as well as Pac was. This of course leads to more boos for Cody, even when he gets in a few good moves like a Powerslam on Andrade, but he powers through it and manages to land that Kitty Kat Uppercut as well as a Cody Cutter on Black a few minutes later. Of course, he ends up eating a big Roundhouse Kick from Black that takes him out of the match for a while, but luckily Pac managed to blind tag himself back in right before then so now it’s up to him to take the two Heels on by himself. Pac runs wild for a bit and manages to throw both of them out before landing a Suicide Dive, and while all there are recovering, Jose decides out of nowhere to buck up to Arn who naturally takes a few swings at him. Seriously, was this guy expecting ANYTHING ELSE to happen!?
Well with that bit of silliness over with, Pac is now up and running again and set up for the Black Arrow on Malakai, but Andrade shoves him off the corner and into Malakai’s boot. It’s almost like one team is working together while the other isn’t! Speaking of the other guy, Pac DOES eventually try to get back to his corner and make a tag after taking a lot of hits from Black and Andrade, but Cody is still recovering from that kick he took and so Pac has to stay in the ring for a bit longer. Easier said than done as Andrade drops Pac face-first into the Apron with a Pendulum DDT, but there is hope on the horizon as Black tags himself in against Andrade’s wishes; showing signs of a crack in their otherwise stellar teamwork! Pac manages to buck up long enough to fend off Black until Cody FINALLY makes it back onto the apron for the tag. Cody tags in just as Black tags back out, and Cody gives Andrade the Dusty Punches and the Bionic Elbow before taking Black off his corner with a Disaster Kick. Andrade tries going up top only for Cody to sweep his legs out and he lands crotch first on the turnbuckle, and he lands an Avalanche Reverse Suplex for a two count. To make sure things keep going smoothly, Cody heads out of the ring and gives Black a BIG clothesline to keep him from interfering, but as soon as he returns Andrade goes for a Figure Four. Cody is still high on that momentum though and fights him off before locking in a Figure Four of his own, and while Cody has Andrade all tied up, Pac tags himself in and lands a 450 Splash! Seems like a foolproof plan to win the match, except they were too close to the ropes and Andrade grabs them to break the pin.
Things go on for a bit after that, and even a misstep where Pac wipes out Cody when he was aiming for Malakai Black, but they are a much more cohesive unit now and Cody eventually manages to take Black out of the match to leave Pac and Andrade to finish things up. Andrade charges and Pac throws him into the corner which he follows up with a Poisonrana to get Andrade dazed and on the mat. Pac goes up top and manages to hit the Black Arrow this time which is enough to get the pin and win the match! It’s not over yet however as none other than Cash Wheeler runs in and starts attacking Pac! His strength along with Andrade and Black manage to overwhelm the two Baby Faces and they make their way up the ramp once the point has been thoroughly made. Pac is absolutely amazing and he seems to bring out the best in everyone he goes up against, so there was no chance that this was going to be a bad match. The story was well-executed even if it wasn’t the most compelling one of the night, and we got a satisfying finish with Pac landing his finisher and pinning Andrade once again! I’m much more ambivalent about the beat down after the match, but at this point, the theme of the show seems to be awkward endings, so I won’t harp too much on it.
Britt Baker Vs. Tay Conti – AEW Women’s Title Match
Baker is accompanied to the ring by Rebel (Not Reba) and Jamie Hayter
So yes, I was wrong last week when I thought that Thunder Rosa was having a match against Baker. In my defense though, they’ve hardly done anything to build the match up as Baker hasn’t cut a promo against Tay that I can recall. I remember when she and Red Velvet were feuding and that was just for Rampage. The fact that the women’s title belt hasn’t had that much of a build or any memorable moments is not a good look, and it still feels like that we’re in a holding pattern for Baker to get a PROPER opponent. As for the match itself, it’s fine I suppose but not what I’d call a PPV caliber title match which sadly has been the rule rather than the exception for Baker’s run. Baker starts with a few early pin attempts to try and Conti off balance and self-conscious, but Conti gets into the groove of things with a couple of Judo throws and strong strikes. Still, it’s Baker’s match to lose and she maintains a pretty solid control for most of this; even when Conti starts targeting the still injured hand. Seriously, that thing is NEVER gonna heal if she doesn’t take some time off! Even if she has to have a match at the next PPV, that’s at least a few months away!
The two start trading near falls back and forth until they end up on the apron where Conti tries for a Pile Driver, but instead, Baker picks her up and lands an Air Raid Crash; NOT the kind of move you want to take on the apron, yet it still only got her a two count. Baker goes for the Lock Jaw but Conti grabs the ropes, and she gets two near falls back to back with a Tay-K-O and a Pile Driver. It’s at this point that Rebel (Not Reba) gets on the apron to distract the ref while Jamie Hayter drags Conti out of the ring and smashes her into the steel steps. Baker follows up by landing a Stomp on the steps and gets Conti back in the ring to land another Stomp before going for the Lock Jaw. Conti manages to escape via the ropes and dodges another stomp attempt which gives her an opening to kick Baker to the floor. While Baker’s recouping with her cohorts, Tay manages to land a Top Rope Moonsault to the floor that takes out Hayter and Rebel (not Reba), but not Baker! Still, without her backup, this is gonna be a much more difficult match for Baker who eats a DD-Tay from Conti for a two count. Tay then throws a bunch of kicks to the face, but Baker manages to transition and tries the Lock Jaw again. Conti rolls Baker on her shoulders for a two count, but Baker rolls out and then rolls Tay to HER shoulders which is enough to get the three count and win the match. It was fine and Tay brought a lot of enthusiasm to this to try and make it a PPV caliber match, but it still felt pretty standard without much gravitas to it, and the ending came out of nowhere. She needs a proper opponent sooner rather than later, and while Thunder Rosa seems to be the destination, if they need someone else to fill in the gap then I nominate Big Swole! Remember when they were feuding? That was fun, wasn’t it!?
CM Punk Vs. Eddie Kingston
Locking down Eddie Kingston is one of the best decisions that AEW made. You could argue CM Punk was the bigger deal, but the thing is that getting Punk is the OBVIOUSLY good choice. Kingston was nearly unknown at a national level when he showed up on Dynamite and was frankly getting up in years for this business; lacking the cache and notoriety of a legend and not having as many years to grow as an up and coming talent would. Still, AEW took a chance bringing him in and in such a short amount of time he’s become one of wrestling’s biggest stars which is a testament to who he is and everything he brings to the table! It’s a match where you can definitely feel the HATRED coming off of each guy, but Kingston’s always had a problem with his temper which means it won’t be that hard for Punk to play him like a fiddle. The question is if Kingston has some sort of surprise or tactic in store; because otherwise there doesn’t seem to be a way for Eddie to win. The short answer is, yes he does. The slightly longer answer is… he just attacks Punk before the bell rings; practically knocking him out with a Spinning Back fist!
Kingston gets a few more shots in outside the ring, but Punk starts to get some momentum of his own as soon as they’re back in the ring. He starts going after Kingston like it’s going out of style and he’s forced to throw him across the ring with an Exploder just to get some distance. Once again though, Punk doesn’t take long to get his wind back and lays him out with a Middle Rope Clothesline before raining fists down on Kingston! The crowd is as hot for this match as any other I’ve seen this night and it’s split PRETTY evenly down the middle with MAYBE a few extra cheers for Kingston; especially when he eats a bunch of shots from Punk and then just casually pokes him in the eyes! Punk rolls out to the apron with Kingston in hot pursuit, but this proves to be a bad idea as an Enziguri from Punk forces him to sit down and Punk lands a Drop Kick that sends them both to the floor. Punk got busted open at some point and Kingston is selling his hand after getting it smashed into the steel steps which is frankly just the START of this as neither guy is willing to give up an inch and frankly seem to be enjoying how brutal this is getting. The crowd certainly loved it, and Punk starts to sway them closer to his side after landing a Cross Body from the apron. Both are finally back in the ring and Punk continues his assault, but whether from sheer exhaustion or the copious blood loss, the dude is looking pretty tired while Kingston is still full of piss and vinegar!
Punk has to try and end this quickly so he gives Eddie a quick Suplex before going up to the top rope, but it wasn’t enough to keep him down as Kingston quickly meets him up there. A FLURRY of strikes from Kingston proves to be too much for him as he collapses on top of Punk for a few seconds before waking back up and landing a Superplex which was a great moment as it was a great visualization of the desire to cause pain outweighing his own stamina and wellbeing, and the two slowly get back up only to charge at each other with swinging fists! An Enziguri from Kingston takes Punk down and he starts mocking the GTS, only for Punk to jump up, lift him up, and just hit the move! Punk is too tired to go for the pin and uses this time to recover and both groggily get back up to start taking wild swings at each other. Kingston is pretty much out of it after the GTS so Punk gets the advantage pretty quickly, and it’s clear that whatever fight was left in Kingston is all but gone. To bring this to an end, Punk once again gets him up on his shoulders and lands the GTS to get the pin and win the match. Kingston eventually gets up and Punk goes for a handshake, but Kingston refuses and stumbles out of the ring with a chip still on his shoulder and what I can only HOPE is the continuation of this feud between them! Everything about this match was spectacular, from the moves and brutality to the charisma and performances that both of them give! The only problem with this match is it was too short, but that’s something they can DEFINITELY fix if there’s a rematch in the near future!
The Inner Circle Vs. Men of the Year & American Top Team – Minneapolis Street Fight
Every show needs a novelty match and this is certainly that as we have three non-wrestlers, one of whom (as far as I can tell) is a non-athlete, in a match that has WAY too many people in it. That said, if you are going to do something wacky like this, you might as well go big or go home, and while they opted NOT to do a cinematic match here it’s still a lot of fun! Much like the Trios match earlier in the show, there’s a lot going on here so a play-by-play would be the length of an ACTUAL play, so we’ll hit the highlights. The Inner Circle does well at first, though Jake Hager ends up eating a bunch of damage from the two MMA guys; Junior dos Santos and Andrei Arlovski. Hager tags in Jericho who admittedly holds his own against Junior, and Junior himself shows some decent skills with a Power Slam and a Delayed Vertical Suplex. He even lands a Standing Moonsault! It was pretty stiff-looking, but I don’t see Shaq doing that! With Jericho on the ropes, Lambert gets tagged in to pick at the bones; only for Jericho to get back up and start pushing him into the ropes which causes EVERYONE to hit the ring and all at once everyone realizes that this is a No DQ match, so no one tags in or out for the rest of this. At most, I think because it’s not a Falls Count Anywhere match that the tags denote who can pin and be pinned, but it’s not something that plays into the rest of the match which is a series of isolated bouts that are admittedly pretty cool but don’t lend themselves to a proper match structure. Really, the only running thread now is that Jericho is after Lambert and the chaos surrounding them keeps him at bay while Lambert just kinda scampers around the place.
So to hit the highlights, Arlovski and Page are working together to take out Ortiz when Hager comes over and fights them both off with a toaster. Scorpio Sky joins the fray and they are able to overwhelm him, but then Jericho comes in with a water ski and cleans house… only for Lambert to grab Jericho from outside the ring and drag him out before running away! That wily jerk! Scorpio ends up on a table outside and The Inner Circle get THE BIGGEST LADDER YOU’VE EVER SEEN, and set it up next to him. Sammy goes ALL the way to the top and crashes through Sky on the table which fortunately didn’t kill anyone, but that was a BIG drop to make onto the floor! Page lands the Ego’s Edge on Santana before yelling at Hager’s wife in the crowd, but next to her is none other than Baron von Raschke (who in fact is NOT dead) and he locks The Claw on Ethan Page! Dang, that is old school even for Dan Lambert! Speaking of whom, after all this carnage Dan Lambert feels safe to reenter the ring which turns out to be a HUGE mistake Jericho immediately gets back in the ring and is right behind him. He shoves Lambert over and goes for a Lionsault… waits on the ropes for a moment… and then Junior climbs up the apron to hit him! Junior clearly missed his spot, but frankly, he didn’t miss it by MUCH and you can cut him a bit of slack considering how green he is. With Jericho on the ground, Lambert tries to lock in the Walls of Jericho; a move he barely seems to know how to put on. Jericho easily escapes this hold and starts bashing him with a kendo stick before looking up, doing the shoulder shake, and climbing to the top rope to land the Frog Splash on Lambert which gets the pin and wins the match! I guess it wasn’t as impressive as the Trios match, but something like this with the wacky weapon spots and Dan Lambert in a purple jumpsuit doesn’t need to rely on the technical aspects of the match to be fun. I’ve complained on more than one occasion that the Dan Lambert stuff was getting a bit long in the tooth with his endless rants for months now, but after seeing the match that it was all building to, it was more or less worth it. Dan Lambert got his comeuppance in a big way and The Inner Circle stood strong! What else could you ask for?
Tony Schiavone comes out to introduce none other than JAY LETHAL who is coming to AEW! YES! Like so many guys who found their way to AEW, Jay Lethal is a living legend who never quite got the spotlight that he deserved, and adding him to the roster is a HUGE boon for the company! Not only that, but he will be facing Sammy Guevara for the TNT Title on Wednesday which should be an AMAZING match!
Kenny Omega Vs. Hangman Adam Page – AEW World Title Match
Omega is accompanied to the ring by Don Callis
You all knew this match is going to be good before you saw a second of it, so I’m not gonna be breaking any new ground by saying that. The work is phenomenal as expected, there are some AMAZING and TERRIFYING moves in here, and it doesn’t overstay its welcome despite being almost half an hour long. All of that is true and obvious from the get-go, but what sets this match apart is the story; not just the fact that it’s the culmination of the Hangman Adam Page story, but in how that story informs the ebb and flow of the action. Based on what we saw leading up to this, it’s not much of a surprise that Hangman Adam Page more or less runs away with it; he’s in control for most of the match, and even when the momentum swings to Omega’s favor, Hangman stays strong and never looks too fatigued by it. That being said, the OTHER thing we know about these two is that Omega can clinch victory from the jaws of defeat and that Hangman can screw things up at any time, so even though Hangman gets a lot of action and pops the crowd almost constantly, there’s always that fear that Omega will hit JUST the right move and bring this redemption arc to an unceremonious end. Not helping things is that Don Callis is hovering over Hangman at all times and sneaks in some hits whenever the ref’s back is turned; probably not enough to make a significant difference, but with this matchup, you never know what the X-Factor is that will turn the tide in Omega’s favor.
But hey, let’s not get so absorbed in the story that we lose sight of the moves! Did you SEE that Springboard Liger Bomb where Kenny bounced off the top ropes and grabbed Hangman mid-rotation!? What even WAS that!? Or heck, how about that Avalanche Blockbuster from Hangman that got him a two count!? This is a match so full of ridiculous over-the-top action that the Ref ends up eating a Buckshot Lariat, and it’s only like halfway through the match! It doesn’t even lead to the finish of the match, aside from the fact that Hangman turns an attempted belt shot from the champ into a Dead Eye that gets him the visual pin as the replacement ref is still running down to the ring! It’s got the amazing spots for whatever clip show you want to put together, and the only move that I didn’t like was a series of backdrops. Out of all the moves we see in the match, those were the scariest! Omega lands DIRECTLY on top of his head, and while Hangman MAY have gotten his shoulder down first, it looks like it didn’t do his neck any favors.
This is all well towards the end of the match so we might as well jump into the finish. The Bucks come out for some reason which looks like the kind of distraction that would send Hangman into a spiral of self-doubt. That might just be the case as Hangman goes for the Buckshot Lariat, but Omega scouts it from a mile away and counters with a V-Trigger! He then scoops up Hangman for the One Winged Angel and it looks like this is gonna be it… but Hangman wriggles out, drops behind his back, and lifts him up to land a ONE WINGED ANGEL OF HIS OWN! It gets a two count because Hangman is not as proficient in the move as Omega, but needless to say that this has left Kenny quite shaken! Hangman is back on the apron and see’s Nick Jackson who just… stands there. He doesn’t do anything, and so Hangman hits the Buckshot on the dazed Omega! Omega hasn’t gone down yet so Hangman dashes to the other side to see Matt Jackson who… does nothing as well. He doesn’t try to stop Hangman and just gives him a little nod before Hangman lands another Buckshot Lariat! Omega goes down this time, Hangman pins him… and he gets it! Kenny stays down for the three count, and Hangman Adam Page is your new AEW Champion! The Young Bucks have slinked away and the Dark Order comes out to the ring to give him a hug as the PPV comes to a close!
Heck of a PPV, am I right? I can’t say it was my favorite of all time as a good number of the matches just didn’t connect with me and some even felt like TV matches, but the good ones were REALLY good and the main event did everything it needed to! I still think I like the Tag Title Cage match better as far as great PPV matches, but that’s an IMPOSSIBLY high bar that was set and the fact that this comes anywhere close to that is impressive in its own right! It’s a pretty clear signal that things will be changing at AEW and that we have some bold new directions to go in. The Bucks thing admittedly felt a bit out of nowhere as they’ve been Heels for a LONG time and Hangman’s speech and/or threat to them didn’t seem like it’d be enough to sway them, but we’ve got more than enough time to see where that goes and I’m confident that AEW is only going to get better from here!
The next recaps for Dynamite and Rampage will be a little bit different because, for the first time since AEW began, I’m going to be at one of their shows! Not in any of the good seats where you could see me on TV, but I’ll tell you all about it regardless!