AEW has come full circle. We are back where it all really began, Chicago. The Sears Centre was home to another stacked AEW show that would see the company crown it’s first champion. It also saw the debut of PAC following a sad departure for Jon Moxley and the Young Bucks took on The Lucha Bros in a ladder match for the AAA titles. Plus, a whole host of other matches set to decide the future of the company as it prepares for the Wednesday Night Wars on TNT. Let’s get into the action.
Buy in Beast
The Buy In on the whole was an enjoyable little pre-show as it had the Women’s edition of the Casino Battle Royale that saw a slew of famous women join the ranks of the AEW roster and the crowning of Nyla Rose as the first competitor in the Women’s Title Match set to happen in Washington. We also saw Nicole Savoy, Tenille Dashwood, Sadie Gibbs, Big Swole and more all get strong showings with Mercedes Martinez being brought out as the Joker.
It was slightly ruined by some crappy camera work but overall it was an exciting enough opening match. The other was an uber athletic bout between Private Party and Angelico and Jack Evans. The two teams went “all out” to impress the crowd and really make the Buy In stand out as there were unbelievable shows of agility from both teams topped off with a proper coming out victory for Private Party. It was bookended with a heel turn from Angelico and Jack Evans who were sick of losing and tried to cripple Mark Quen. WWE could learn something from how AEW do pre-shows.
SCU and Jurassic Express Blow Out
SCU may be the most dependable force in AEW. They open each show with an amazing bout, without fail. This time they had to take on the much younger team of Luchasaurus, Jungle Boy and Marko Stunt. The match was a mess of high flying, hard hitting and dinosaur fun. Jungle Boy and Marko both ended up flying and showing off their agility whilst Luchasaurus ended up knocking everyone in SCU out with kicks, tail whips and power moves before show off the Lucha side of his name too. It was an excellent open to the show and proved that Jungle Boy and Stunt can hang with the more experienced guys on the roster.
This is How You Debut
When Jon Moxley was revealed to be out of the show due to a Staph Infection, all eyes were on who could fill this black hole in the card. Enter PAC, the guy meant to fight all the way back at Double or Nothing. Instead he decided the company wasn’t worth his time. Until now, he had a match with one of the company’s best losers, Kenny Omega. The match was everything you wanted it to be.
It was hard hitting, it had high flying and it saw two egos clash like never before. PAC ended up having the life beat out of him but kept coming back to punish Omega. The Bastard got the win as he forced Omega to tap out with the Brutaliser. This saw some of the greatest hits of both men and probably saw both of them pick up some shin injuries as they both had bad experiences with guard rails. Omega continues to lose in big matches but certainly didn’t slouch when it came to giving PAC his first big win in the company. I do wonder however, when Omega is actually going to start being the big and bright star, we all expected him to be.
A Cracking Barrel Clash
So, on paper, a triple threat between three of the biggest madmen in wrestling would be incredible enough. Now add in the hardcore stipulation and some corporate sponsorship to add in some barrels. This was great, a giant hardcore mess that saw Darby Allin break himself again with a Coffin Drop, Joey Janela proving his wrestling and hardcore ability once again and Jimmy Havoc finally getting a win on the board toppling both men after they double teamed him to tie him to a chair. He was made to swallow tacks and then force Allin to free him by baiting him into attacking him with a cannonball onto the table. Alongside that were table spots, barrel spots, paper cuts and staple guns to just to make things even more violent. This could easily have been a godawful gimmick match but the talent in there put on one hell of a hardcore showing. Oh, and Darby Allin had a thumbtack covered skateboard he is now selling. Yes, you read that correctly.
A Dark Day for the Best Friends
The Dark Order went from being unknown to many of the AEW fans to now being their favourite team to boo. The dark ones were looking to secure their bye through the first round by crushing the team they had been targeting since Double or Nothing. The Best Friends were just looking for the same thing and the chance to get some revenge. Unfortunately for them, that would not be the case as the Creepers were out in force to continuously change the tide of battle whenever things looked dicey for their masters. Once again, we got an amazing tag match from AEW. These two teams worked incredibly well together, with the Order being the perfect foils to the happiest face team around. Then again, Chuck Taylor did shout about killing them at one point. Not to mention we got the debut of Orange Cassidy as he made the save after the Dark Order wanted to continue fighting after they’d won.
Joshi Boosts Show Again
Hikaru Shida hasn’t been seen since Double or Nothing so to see her on this card was an automatic positive in my book. Then to add that she’d be facing Riho for a shot at the AEW Women’s Title was even more of a positive. It also helped that the match was excellent too. They built Shida up like a monster as she bullied the smaller Riho. There were long stretches of time where Shida had total control over Riho as she trapped her in holds and threw her around like she was nothing. This just made Riho the ultimate underdog and it suited her perfectly. It should also be said that this match hit harder than most women’s matches around as they really went for each other. Nothing was done by halves. Riho won with an impressive looking pin fall trap and now has to overcome a woman she bested before in a multi woman match, Nyla Rose.
Rhodes Head Redemption
I’d like to preface this by saying, yes this was an incredibly dumb match at times but overall it was rather fun. It was built up around Shawn Spears giving Cody multiple stitches after smashing him in the head with a chair. The intensity mounted as Spears revealed he would have Tully Blanchard in his corner to provide support and guidance. It didn’t quite pay off as Cody made his grandiose entrance then went straight for Spears before the bell could ring. From there it was a personal grudge fight that went around the arena. Blanchard made his presence known multiple times and even got into a fight with MJF causing the Enforcer of the Horsemen, Arn Anderson out to give Shawn a Spinebuster for his troubles. It was daft yes but it made a fun little match to preface what would be its most mental…
La Muetre is Right
There are ladder matches. There are TLC matches. Then there is this, the Escalera De La Muetre. This was absolutely insane. It was chaos from start to finish almost with almost no cooling off. Some early match jockeying soon descended into ladder and table-based antics mixed with exceptional speed and athleticism that only those two teams are capable of. These two have fought so many times in the past and still make something magic every time they are in the ring. There were too many spots to name and too much creativity to properly try to describe. It was sheer madness. I honestly am not sure how most of these guys are still walking after some of the things that happened in this match. Not to mention that Pentagon Jr survived being unmasked by The Bucks to help his brother win. Both Matt and Nick Jackson suffered horrific spots so it’ll be interesting to see how they react next time they’re in a ring.
After the match the former LAX, Santana and Ortiz appeared to attack both teams and stake their claim to the AEW tag division. It is excellent to see these two talented young guys make it to a division that will hopefully appreciate them. They got to make their first appearance stomping the two best teams, now they can back it up in a ring with any of the teams in this division.
Your First AEW Champion
So Chris Jericho is the first AEW champion. It’s going to deflate some but in general with new promotions you will see a veteran crowned the first champ. It’s a safe if not entirely dynamic choice. The match to crown said champ was fun if a little long. The pair went at it with a grudge and once again Jericho shocked with his resilience and agility for his age. Page is always a joy to watch as he is so dynamic in ring. He can brawl, fight and flip which is still a surprise for his size. The pair gave it their all and Jericho gave it a lot of blood. Jericho even kicked out of the Dead Eye. It was an absurd thing to think could happen but it did. The Judas Effect killed Page and Jericho will go down in history as the first AEW champion. Maybe now he’ll get his thank you?
Too Much Talent
AEW is soon going to suffer the WWE problem. It has so much talent that there is not a lot it can do with half of them. The current win/loss record stat will show that several stars are only losing. Stars like Joey Janela and Jack Evans and Angelico are just brought in to lose at the moment and it will only get worse as time goes on. It’s one of the few things bugging me about AEW at the moment as there are stars who only lose and lose some more. Not to mention more and more talent keep showing up so it could get even more contentious as we get closer to TV. We have already heard about one star leaving the company.
The only other really visible negative was the camera work throughout the whole show. It was apparent that there had to have been some miscommunication going on between production teams as half of the matches at least suffered from awkward angles and bad cuts. I know the company is still relatively new but there is no excuse for the amount of bad production throughout. Luckily the matches were good enough that you could ignore them some of the time and it didn’t detract too much from the overall show.
Where do we go From Here?
So, we now know who the champ and some challengers will be but let’s face it, the biggest question is what’s next. The TV tapings are looming and only some matches are on the cards. We have talent with awful win/loss records, teams yet to know if they’re in the tag tournament and a bunch of talent with very little to do. The shows work well as standalone pieces but it’s hard to see any long term booking right now bar Hangman Page and the Dark Order.
Well, the totals are in and it was an overwhelmingly positive show. Most matches were really fun and offered something for almost all kinds of fans. There was really something for everyone since the show had good ol’ rasslin, hardcore wrestling, Joshi wrestling and super duper flippy shit. There was so much to enjoy and watch. Some storylines are getting convoluted but I am willing to see where things are heading. Jericho was my pick for a winner in the title match and I cannot wait to see the battle of David and Goliath in Nyla Rose and Riho. The company has a mostly bright future and I hope the momentum continues onto TV and their final show, full gear. I will be watching closely.
images via @AEWrestling