THE BRISCOES vs. SOCAL UNCENSORED (Scorpio Sky & Frankie Kazarian) - 8/10
This was one hell of an opener. It had great tag team psychology, built extremely well, and had a BEAUTIFUL finish. I can't think of a better way to open a show.
ROH WORLD TITLE #1 CONTENDERSHIP BATTLE ROYALE - 7.5/10
This was definitely the biggest surprise of the show. They gave it enough time so that everyone could have the spotlight and do their thing, gave a lot of different people something memorable to be involved in, and then gave us an excellent pay-off to a long-running BTE storyline on the finish that also helps advance ROH storylines. The only way this could have been done better was if Rocky Romero wasn't in the match at all, and they used the "out of sight, out of mind" factor to hide the physical differences between Rocky and Flip to make people think it actually was Rocky the whole time, then have Flip take the mask off after winning, to get that second big pop from the reveal.
MAXWELL JACOB FRIEDMAN vs. MATT CROSS - 6.5/10
SINGLES MATCH WITH JERRY LYNN AS SPECIAL GUEST REFEREE:
Stephen Amell vs. Christopher Daniels (w/SoCal Uncensored) - 6.5/10
This was very good, aside from the pointless overbooking with Jerry Lynn. Amell didn't look out of place at all.
BRITT BAKER vs. CHELSEA GREEN vs. TESSA BLANCHARD vs. MADISON RAYNE - 6.75/10
Tessa is a jerk who won't shake hands. This was a very good four-way, but was still mostly just a bunch of stuff. The last few minutes were quite good, but other parts of the match felt dull, and with no real coherent story to move things along, which was disappointing because they seemed to be setting that up with Tessa in the beginning.
TITLE VS. RING MATCH:
Nick Aldis (NWA World Heavyweight Title) vs. Cody Rhodes (ring) (w/Brandi Rhodes) - 6.5/10
Okay... here is the problem with putting Cody's ring on the line: IT'S JUST A STUPID, GOOFY RING HE BOUGHT FOR HEEL SHTICK! They have done absolutely nothing to give us a reason to care about the ring, or to show us that Cody cares about it in any way other than as an arrogant, near-delusional heel.
They started off with some good limb-work for a while, though some of the contact on their strikes (or rather, their noticeable lack thereof) didn't look good. Then we got a spot where Cody dove and I guess Magnus punched him or something on the way down (though they were both selling for a while), and Hebner threw up the dreaded X. DDP came all the way down to the ring to check on Cody... but Brandi, who was right there at ringside, was nowhere to be found.
Several minutes went by with nothing happening until Earl finally figures that he should maybe actually call of the bell, which you'd think would be the sort of thing you would do immediately after you make the official signal for "this man is too injured to continue."
Then Shawn Daivari ran down to ringside with a towel. I figured he was going to throw the towel in on Cody's behalf, but instead he told Earl that he can't stop this match because it's a world title match. So what if it's a world title match? One of the competitors is too injured to continue! Also if I'm Daivari and I'm coming out here because I want to make sure that this match doesn't end via stoppage, then I wouldn't take my f*cking white towel down to ringside with me! It seems like having that around can only cause trouble.
Then, for no reason at all, Daivari shoved DDP. One would think that not wanting Cody to lose by referee stoppage means that Daivari is on Cody's side, and DDP was also clearly on Cody's side, so why the hell did Daivari shove him?
The answer, of course, was to set up a spot where DDP gave Daivari a Diamond Cutter. You have this big match that you've been building up for months round the idea of Cody winning the belt that his departed, beloved, famous father held, with all of the various overtones about restoring glory and prominence to that belt and independence from WWE, etc. You do not- and should not- to waste several minutes of this match just to get a pop for DDP hitting Daivari with a Diamond Cutter!
Meanwhile, Cody's been blading. Aldis throws him back into the ring, and Hebner is just perfectly game with all of this. If Earl declared Cody unable to continue several minutes ago, why is he letting Cody do so now after several minutes of blood loss? The only answer is that Earl's declaring Cody unable to continue earlier was ridiculously premature, which just makes Earl, with his forty years of refereeing experience, look like a f*cking moron.
Once all that was done, plus some punches to the head, we finally got the crux of the story, which was Aldis working on Cody's back. Aldis tried to make Cody tap with the Cloverleaf, which Ian Riccaboni claimed Magnus had used to beat a bunch of people, including Kurt Angle. That didn't seem right to me so I checked it out, and it is, in fact, false. The only win Magnus had over Kurt came in a Last Man Standing Match.
Cody made the ropes due to encouragement from Brandi. Aldis bragged Coy back and then hit him with a Piledriver (or at least he tried to, but Cody's entire upper body landed across Aldis' legs, and yet everyone was still selling it like a Piledriver. Aldis then went to the top rope for a diving elbow drop but Brandi got into the ring and pleaded with him not to hit the move. Then throw the damn towel in, Brandi!
Hebner, meanwhile, is much more concerned telling Aldis not to go to the top rope- a completely legal thing to do- than he is with getting Brandi- who is not a participant in this match- out of the ring. Aldis finally gets to the top and jumps off for the diving elbow drop but Brandi throws herself on top of Cody to take the blow for him. Ian Riccaboni reacted to this by shouting "YOU HEATHEN! YOU MONSTER!" at Aldis. DUDE:
1. Brandi is complete in the wrong here. She should not have been in the ring in the first place, never mind throwing herself in the way of a move! If she is that concerned about her husband's safety then she should do her job as his second for this match and throw in the towel.
2. By the time Brandi threw herself in the way, Magnus was already well past the point where he could have stopped himself, so blaming him for this is unfair.
3. Brandi has just used her body to affect the outcome of a match. She should consider herself extremely lucky if Hebner doesn't disqualify Cody.
Anyway, stuff happened. Aldis tried to hit another move but Cody avoided it, (bad) Disaster Kick, CrossRhodes, kickout. Then, right afterwards, they gave us this great live camera shot of both men completely exhausted after the kickout, with Cody lying flat on top of Aldis and BOTH OF ALDIS' SHOULDERS CLEARLY ON THE MAT and Earl Hebner is nowhere to be found.
Then we got finisher reversal, finisher reversal, Aldis goes for a sunset flip but Cody sits down on him for the pinfall. The problem with this sequence was that the end of it went WAY too slow for it to feel like the big surprising flash pin for a title change a la Bret/Bulldog or Flair/Steamboat or many others that don't leap to mind for me as quickly as those two. And, quite frankly, the spot itself didn't even feel natural as the finish to this match. It felt like they were trying so hard for a kind of "old school world title change finish" that it felt predictable, obvious, and almost phony.
This match went twenty-four minutes, and was a clear illustration of exactly what I so dislike about independent wrestler Cody Rhodes. He spend so much time in his matches trying to elicit a response from the crowd by creating these situations designed to lead to something that he knows will get a pop, but they are so overdramatic or pointless as to feel empty. It's drama, but without substance. This match went twenty-four minutes, but it wasn't twenty four minutes of story and action building up drama; it was a few minutes of preliminary wrestling, then a long pause for "drama" via the whole "oh no! The referee will have to stop this match because Cody is injured" even though everyone knows it's a work and that they're not going to end this match in four minutes due to Cody being unable to continue, then it's a few minutes of story and action, then another pause for forced drama via the Brandi stuff, and then finally some more story and action at the end. The match has drama, but it's not drama that consistently builds on itself. It's not a story; it's a heavily segment series of spots.
And, again, I don't dislike Cody. The fact that I pushed him so hard in my "Raw 1000 and Beyond" fantasy booking thread should make that clear. But I think that he is definitely someone who is a lot better when he is restricted by a capable agent or booker who is making sure that his match remains focused and that he doesn't go off on tangents and overbooking it with pointlessly overdramatic crap.
CHICAGO STREET FIGHT:
Adam Page vs. Joey Janela (w/Penelope Ford) - 8.5/10
They took tots of scary bumps and I'm shocked no one died. Penelope got involved several times and took some bumps. The weird cowboy boots that have been haunting Adam Page's dreams made an appearance. Page winning shocked me, just because Gabe is not known for letting his champions do jobs (and Penelope's interference would provide some protection for Page in his loss).
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Joey Ryan came back and did his stupid penis stuff. I don't understand how people enjoy this crap, especially because it's the same stuff every time. That being said, I am forever thankful to the All In crew for booking this segment with the commentators they did, because I did greatly enjoy some of the commentary for this segment, including:
Excalibur- "a phalanx of phalluses lining the entranceway!"
Don Callis- "a real life res-erection."
Excalibur- "Joey Ryan: the living priapism. He has come again."
Don Callis- "I am expert in penises, but I don't know anything about the great beyond."
ROH WORLD TITLE MATCH:
"Black Machismo" Jay Lethal(c) (w/Lanny Poffo) vs. Flip Gordon (w/Brandi Rhodes) - 6.75/10
Based on his commentary, Excalibur seems to be under the impression that Jay Lethal left ROH after the year 2003 and didn't spend almost two years as Samoa Joe's protégé. Speaking of commentary failures, Ian Riccaboni proved here that he has no idea how to actually tell a story. His recap of Flip Gordon's journey to All In was completely pathetic. He basically said that Flip had been "politicking" (never a good word to use with a babyface) for a long time and "needed three thumbs up; two from the Bucks and one from Cody. He won the Bucks over but just couldn't turn Cody. Instead he had to go through the battle royale. He had an opportunity to win the NWA World Championship to get a match against Cody; could not do that."
No mention of what Flip had to go through to win the Bucks' respect, nothing that would even suggest that the reason Cody wouldn't give Flip the thumbs up was that Cody was being a dick and just didn't like Flip rather than the mere difference of opinion with the Bucks that Ian is making it sound like, the match with Aldis happened before tonight's show (obviously) but Ian just throws it in at the end, after telling us that Flip succeeded so it feels like "oh yeah! Here is this other thing I forgot about" rather than an important part of the story, and, perhaps the absolute worst, the line "instead he had to go the battle royale route" makes no sense because being in the battle royale is still being booked on this show, and misses the essential fact that Flip HAD TO SNEAK ONTO THE SHOW VIA STEALING OR BORROWING A MASK AND GEAR FROM SOMEONE ELSE, BECAUSE HE WASN'T ACTUALLY BOOKED! If you're Delirious and you're watching this show, how the hell do you not fire Ian's pathetic ass and give his money (plus some more) to Excalibur to at least do all of your PPV and TVs (I doubt Excalibur wants to be on the road every weekend), and let the Cabana and Whitmer team handle commentary for house shows? (The answer, of course, is that Delirious clearly doesn't give a sh*t about the quality and effectiveness of the commentary, or else he would have done something about the several straight years of suck we've had at this point with Kevin Kelly, Steve Corino, and Ian.
Ian also actually asked "what would it would for Flip Gordon" to win the ROH World Title. That's a question you should never even have to ask, and the fact that this moron is doing this instead of his actual job of being the play-by-play announcer when Flip Gordon was going up to the top rope for a highspot is completely inexcusable.
Anyway... the match itself: We start off with the Ring of Honor World Champion is acting like a comedy goof who thinks Brandi Rhodes is Miss Elizabeth. She winds up slapping him right in front of referee Tod Sinclair, but this was not a DQ for some reason. Brandi, by the way, is wearing a sexy army uniform. How the hell is Cody okay with her doing this? Come to think of it, how have we not had any comment from Cody at all about any of this? If he doesn't want Flip on the show and Flip wasn't booked but snuck on the card, shouldn't Cody be trying to stop this?
The reason he doesn't, of course, is that this would make Cody a heel, and they need Cody to be a babyface for his big title win here... which is why they really should have planned their stories better. It would have made a lot more sense to have Cody finally give Flip the thumbs up on the final ROH Honor Reunited Tour show two weeks ago, so that Cody can be a full babyface and so you can have Flip in a featured match that he can actually win, instead of creating logic holes and booking Flip into a match that just looks like yet another case of "ROH fails to elevate midcarder in big spot" while Flip Gordon, who lost several All In qualifying matches across several promotions and mostly all cleanly, remains a loser with yet another loss here tonight.
Actually, now that I look back at my notes, Flip actually did earn Cody's respect after the NWA World Heavyweight Title match with Aldis at ROH Honor For All, so why was Cody still refusing to book him? This is dumb. This Bullet Club crew know how to structure things so that they'll get the pops they want, but between this and that Bullet Club Civil War fiasco it's become pretty clear that they don't actually know how to tell a coherent story.
Anyway, they had a regular match and it was fine for a while... and then Lanny Poffo touched Jay Lethal, which magically turned him into Randy Savage again. Lethal gave Flip a bodyslam, then went up to the top rope and hit him with THREE STRAIGHT DIVING ELBOW DROPS... and Flip kicked out. What a nice tribute to your hero: killing his famous finisher dead.
Flip then Hulks up, because these guys are playing wrestler rather than actually being pro wrestlers here in this ROH World Title match. Flip got a false finish in, then Lethal hit his finisher and won. To be fair, they did keep up the story of both guys' midsections being worked over, but the match itself was very underwhelming for an ROH World Title match on a big show.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- Pointless. Bully Ray comes out and attacks everyone because of course he does. Colt Cabana comes out to make the save, and then all three babyfaces gang up on Bully Ray to put him through a table that he had intended for Flip. So now everyone has gotten their revenge on Bully... so where's the heat?
PENTA EL 0M vs. KENNY OMEGA - 8.5/10
Apparently Kenny Omega's reaction to being booked against Penta was "the crazy guy from Impact?" This disappointed me because I totally had Kenny Omega pegged for a Lucha Underground watcher.
The match was a bunch of big moves and kickouts, but that did play well with the story of Kenny trying to hit the One-Winged Angel- the ultimate "big move" that no one ever kicks out of- and Penta managing to avoid it until Kenny finally hit it for the win. The only thing I really didn't like about this match was the arm-breaker spot. If it's not going to be relevant to anything, why even do it?
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - I'll all say is that this was very well-done next-level stuff.
MARTY SCURLL vs. KAZUCHIKA OKADA - 9/10
Okada worked over Marty's head while Marty did his usual work on the arm and hand to set up for the Crossface Chickenwing... but most importantly, I got the one thing that I wanted out of this show, which was to see Marty Scurll block the Rainmaker with his umbrella. (For All In 2, someone needs to send Cody and the Bucks Rain's phone number so that we can get a spot where Rain has someone in an inverted headlock but then Okada grabs her free arm and spins her around- dragging the person she is holding with her- so that he can hit her with the Rainmaker, making her hit the other person with the Rain Drop.)
REY FENIX, BANDITO, & REY MYSTERIO JR. vs. THE GOLDEN ELITE (The Young Bucks & Kota Ibushi) - 7.5/10
Okay... we're already starting at, like, -2 just for Rey's embarrassingly bad Wolverine cosplay gear. I'm shocked Christopher Daniels didn't kick Rey's ass backstage the moment he saw this atrocity.
This match was entirely moves... and when you've seen so many matches that are just MOVEZ before, it takes something new or at least really great to make any sort of impression, and thus two thirds of this match felt pretty blah to me, as it was all just a bunch of spots that I'd seen a bunch of times before, with no story or babyface/heel dynamics to give me any reason to care about what was happening. The last third, on the other hand, was pretty freakin' awesome.
In the ring, this was a pretty awesome show (although there was too much randomness for my liking), but in reality, the reason this show matters is the historical context, which has been spoken about ad nauseum. Y'all don't need me to tell you what it means that these guys sold out a 10,000 seat building in thirty minutes without TV, or what it means for their negotiating power, etc. I am less impressed than most by the hotness of the crowd; I'm not saying that they weren't hot, but rather that there was no way they wouldn't be with so many people flying in to this show, and unlike most promotions where people will go to the show hoping to see something they like and cheer if they like things and boo if they don't, this was a show where you knew what you were going to get tonally, and so people like myself who are not fans of the comedy shenanigans cult of personality that has developed around Bullet Club were not going to go. I wasn't impressed by how hot the crowd was, but rather by the fact these guys managed to inspire so many people to fly in from far-flung place to make this show so big. This is a show that is going to be seen as a turning point in pro wrestling history, and for that reason alone, you should watch it, but I don't think we'll have any idea just how much this changes the business for a least a few years, so I think any predictions more than "there will be a sequel" and "ROH and New Japan will start running bigger buildings in the US" are extremely premature at this point.