**The Buy-In Pre-show**
Opening video package - Jericho vs Kenny is given most of the limelight, two other matches are vaguely alluded to. Not a good start
The commentators run down the card - The lads do a competent job but nothing says "Your promotion is bush-league" quite like a masked man at the commentary booth
Casino Battle Royal - 4.5/10
Never thought I'd be happy to hear Justin Roberts but something just feels right about it. Apparently this is a 21 person Battle Royal where people come out in groups. Justin Roberts does a terrible job explaining this. There's a dude with no legs in the ring. People love Nakazawa. MJF is a fantastic heel, and Nakazawa's baby oil gimmick gets a pop out of me, I'm surprised it's taken this long to get a take on Turkish Oil Wrestling in pro wrestling. The first group is introduced, and Brian Pillman Jr immediately throws Isiah Cassidy but is suplexed by Joey Janella and Jimmy Havoc. which leaves room for Shawn Spears to make his entrance, who looks fucking jacked, and goes after MJF. Billy Gunn, Glacier, Jungle Boy, Mark Quinn, and Ace Romero are next. Mark goes off to check on partner Cassidy, and Glacier gets a spot in with MJF as everyone bumps around him. Nakazawa is eliminated, and we learn that Glacier has actual Sub Zero powers when he eliminates Sonny Daze with mist. MJF eliminates Glacier and I think people wanted Glacier to win ironically, but MJF almost gets eliminated by Billy Gunn. Meanwhile Joey Janella gets a cigarette to the forehead that he lit up earlier by Jimmy Havoc, who the commentator mentions has a staple gun. Marco Stunt, Sonny Kiss, Tommy Dreamer, and Luchasaurus are your next group as Private Party hits a cool Frankensteiner/Cutter combo on Pillman Jr, who is eliminated.. Tommy goes ape with trashcan and he looks like he's eaten Las Vegas' supply of Oreo cookies. Luchasaurus eliminates Private Party as the last man in the battle royal, Hangman Adam Page, comes out and runs wild, stopping to throw hands with rival from All-In Joey Janella. Hangman picks up Romero which causes him to sell his injured knee. Marco gets Pounced by Romero to eliminate him. Jungle Boy eliminates Romero Dustin Thomas, the guy with no legs, hits a 619 on Jungle Boy, which the camera misses. He also does the ugliest 450 I've ever seen. They tease a Dustin elimination by MJF, but Shawn comes to help, but gets eliminated by Dustin. Dustin gets eliminated by MJF. Billy Gunn barely hits the Fame Asser on Cutler, who reverses an elimination to eliminate Gunn immediately afterwords. Cutler gets eliminated by MJF. Joey takes a horrific chokeslam bump through a table by Luchasaurus. Sonny Kiss does a booty headscissors on Tommy but gets eliminated. Orange Cassidy appears and does sloth kicks to Dreamer, which the commentators have to fucking sell, and the crowd sells too, but Tommy doesn't. Tommy gets stapled by Havoc and eliminated. Havoc, Luchasaurus, and Jungle Boy do a cool Electric Chair/ Black Hole Slam combo. Havoc bites Jungle's fingers to eliminate him. MJF gets beat up because no one likes him. Jimmy literally yells Shoryuken while doing an uppercut and apes New Japan offense because he is a geek.. Page eliminates Havoc who accidentally bumps through an already destroyed table which looks gnarly. We get two simultaneous, "battle royal contestant thinks he's won" spots, and Page picks up the win.
I like the concept of five groups of entrants in a Battle Royal as everyone gets sufficient time to do spots. But this is what the majority of the Battle Royal was, goofy spots, until everyone had to clear out, at which point it became a real wrestling match.
Kylie Rae interview with Alicia Atout - Fun. Kylie gets over as an overly peppy babyface and pimps her match tonight, "The Librarian" Peter Avalon shoes up and shushes Kylie Rae. A woman who's name is "The Base" I think is also a librarian and shushes everyone. Peter and Base have a shush off, which, is RIFE with sexual tension, and got a pop out of me. Also, what makes this is Kylie's facials.
Cody vs Dustin video - EXCELLENT
"The Best Ever" Sammy Guevara vs. "Superbad" Kip Sabian - 5.75/10
Sammy apparently attacked Kip at the weigh-in We get some technical exchanges and then some MOVEZ. Props to the cameraman for showing us Sammy was about to hit a suicide dive, and then catching the surprise on Kip's face. Sammy gets the heat, but Kip fights back, now Guevara does moves, but Kip fights back. Apron suplex gets blocked into a snap suplex on the floor. That was cool. Barricade Shooting Star Press which I didn't even know was a thing. Kip blocks the 630 for Deathly Hollows for the win.
This was an above average match.
Sadie Gibbs video package - Alright. She's certainly athletic, that got across well, but it reeked of "Generic NXT video package number 5" for me.
Jim Ross comes out to commentate for the rest of the show - Jim Ross gets a Goldberg walking from the back entrance and it popped me.
The Elite walking backstage - Cody, Pharaoh, and Brandi get out of a chauffeur driven truck, Kenny is on a computer and he heads down , Matt has a run in with Nakazawa, and he and Nick Superkick a stagehand.
The Elite promo - The Elite song is such a goddamn ear worm man, I'm going to be singing it in my sleep for a few months. They tease who's going to do the opening welcome, and it's Kenny! Nick (or is it Matt) makes a joke about rounding up attendance records, and the camera cuts to BRIAN AND VINNY in the crowd! I popped. Brandi says the show is sensory inclusive, and Cody says something about making history before the show cuts for me.
One thing I'd like to say about this pre-show is that it was GREAT. Like, the fact that the promo was 80-20 wrestling-talking fucking ruled.
**The Main Show**
"Hamilton" star Chris Jackson and family sing the National Anthem - A beautiful rendition to be sure. Also, the "rockets red glare, bombs in air" line gets accompanying pyro, which was awesome.
Opening video package - Same as the one in the pre-show, except the show graphic, which was cool.
We get SCU's entrance, and a look at the set, which apes the 2006 Impact set with face and heel entrance ways, yay! We then get...
SCU promo - Weird Somehow "the worst town I've ever been to" is a catchphrase. Rick Rude rolls in his grave. Daniels apes Queen.
So Cal Uncensored (Frankie Kazarian, Christopher Daniels, and Scorpio Sky) vs #StrongHearts (CIMA, T-Hawk, and Lindaman) - 7.5/10
CIMA and Daniels start out as the commentators get over their M-Pro history. This goes from moves, to fun M-Pro tag team maneuvers, to super physical striking., Daniels sells being disoriented by trying to make a tag in the wrong corner. More crazy M-Pro-esque double teams on Daniels. Scorpio gets the hot tag, but gets M-Pro Double Teamed himself. Daniels momentarily blocks a top rope move to give Scorpio time to collect his baring enough to roll through a sunset flip and a nail a low dropkick. Scorpio tags Kaz. We get some moves, and a blind tag, and some more M-Pro double and triple teams. SCU hits Best Meltzer Ever for the win.
This was a great opener! I hope we see more of Stronghearts and OWE.
Allie is on commentary for...
"Smiley" Kylie Rae vs "The Native Beast" Nyla Rose vs Dr.Britt Baker DMD
We start the match, but suddenly...
Brandi Rhodes promo - She comes out in gear, but SWERVE, she's adding AWESOME KONG to the match!
"Smiley" Kylie Rae vs "The Native Beast" Nyla Rose vs Dr.Britt Baker DMD vs Awesome Kong - 6/10
Allie is on commentary to pimp her match against Brandi at Fight for the Fallen The girls all pound Kong, and they tease a standoff. Kong dominates but gets low bridged. Kylie and Baker have a more technical exchange until we get a big dive knocking out Rae and Kong, who has Rae in a Fall-away press position. Now Nyla and Kylie get their turn, and Nyla gets the better of it because she's big and powerful. Kong gets in the ring finally for a Tower of Doom spot. We get some offense from her on Baker, but the three women basically triple team Kong out of the match. Kylie and Baker have some exchanges. Britt wins.
This match was a bit schizophrenic. Nyla was great, but I feel like Kylie and Britt would've had a better match on their own, and I hope we get it some day.
Best Friends (Trent Barretta and Chuck Taylor) vs Jack Evans and Angelico - 7.25/10
Moves a plenty for this one. Angelico and Jack Evans are great at playing heels. This is a generic tag match until the hot tag then it really picks up. The Best Friends get the momentum and we get the hug! We get some double teams from both guys. A Crucifix Bomb into a 630 still isn't enough! We get a Doomsday Chuckie Knee and the Tag Team Cruncher for the win!
The psychology in the first half of the match made the moves mean more because they were doing everything they could to win.
Post match - We get a hug tease. The lights go out, and another tag team is in the ring. The lights go out again, and they have masked minions who beat up the other two teams, and make a human throne to pose on before going out again. This was intriguing.
Hikaru Shida, Riho & Ryo Mizunami vs Aja Kong, Yuka Sakazaki & Emi Sakura - 5.5/10
This was a Joshi showcase, with some fun spots and even an ECW style hardcore brawl with Shida. There was a miscue between the ref and the sound cue guy but I won't let this take away from what was a perfectly acceptable showcase of Joshi. Emi Sakura in particular has championship potential with her Freddie Mercury gimmick.
"The American Nightmare" Cody Rhodes (w/Brandi Rhodes) vs "The Natural" Dustin Rhodes - 8/10
There's an elaborate intro for a Triple H-esque throne which Cody starts. stops and restarts his entrance to destroy with a sledgehammer because no wrestling promotion can be mature and NOT bring up WWE.
Cody takes control early but Dustin hits a bottom rope 619 and a flipping apron cannonball to fire back. Cody powders out and that is logically incorporated into some heelery by Brandi. Dustin fights back for a bit but it's all Cody. They tease Shattered Dreams, but Cody rips off the second turnbuckle to block it....but then Dustin gets drop-toeholded into it anyway. Brandi spears Dustin and gets kicked out. DDP shows up and physically removes her. We've got blood now from Dustin. Cody uses his brother's blood as war paint. Dustin sells being blind by swinging wildly. More blind punches and more two counts for Dustin. Dustin hits a snap Powerslam out of nowhere. The weight belt comes into play and Dustin makes a brief comeback for a 2 1/2 count. Gnarly looking Superplex into a Curtain Call for a 2/12 count. Low Blow Disaster Kick, and the Cross Rhodes, and Dustin kicks out. Dustin h its Cross Rhodes and it's still not enough. Strong Style punches Big strike exchange now, and a big clothesline neckbeaker thing for a 2 1/2 count. Cody hits a Backbreaker version of the Cop Killah. Cody stops Earl from counting Dustin out. Cody hits the Cross Rhodes for the win.
WOW! This match was crazy intense, and bloody a match I've seen in years, with a big fight feel
Post-match - Cody says he needs a partner for Honor the Fallen and he needs his brother. Both men cry and hug it out. If this didn't tug at your heart strings (cough, cough, BRM) then screw you.
Casino Battle Royal replay: I didn't like this match, but when it's condensed to highlights you realize how talented the roster is top to bottom.
Bret Hart, Adam Page, and MJF segment - Bret Hart comes out to present the AEW belt with Adam Page, MJF interrupts. and cuts a GREAT heel promo. He goes to leave, but Jungle Boy and Havoc interrupt. Bret Hart reveals the belt and I don't like it. I like the color and look of the belt, The AEW logo looks like an eye sore.
The Young Bucks vs Lucha Brothers Video Package - Great! The Bucks bring up ring rust on their end., and how interacting with the Lucha Bros has woke them up. The Lucha Bros cut a great Spanish promo as well!
AAA Tag Team Championship
The Lucha Bros (Pentagon Jr and Rey Fenix) vs The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick) (c) - 8.25/10
This is your "sit back and watch the moves" contest of the evening. Momentum swings all about as all four guys defy what was previously thought human beings could do athletically. The commentators do a good job of selling how important this match is for the challengers as well. Made in Detroit gets hit for once! APRON POETRY IN MOTION DESTROYER FOLLOWED BY A SPRINGBOARD DESTROYER! AND IT ISN'T EVEN THE FINISH! BRAINBUSTAHHHHHHH! PENTAGON KICKS OUT OF MBFYB! Lucha Bros works one of the Bucks' arm, but they hit a Meltzer Driver with one arm to wins.
These guys did crazy things, and told a story that made the Lucha Bros look good in defeat.
Jericho vs Omega II video package - AWESOME. Feels like a UFC video package, but one that comes with a main event fight. Jericho gets across that wins and loses do matter in AEW while simultaneously coming across like a delusional superstar heel.
Chris Jericho vs Kenny Omega - 10/10
Jericho has hired stunt doubles to portray Jericho's iterations throughout the years. There's a Cracker Barrel barrel that Jericho hoists out of the ring. "I don't know if the Judas effect is real" is the ONE dumb line of commentary I've heard today. We get a lot of striking to start, and Omega gets a huricanrana countered into a Walls of Jericho by Chris. Omega sells the urgency by crawling under the ropes to necessitate a rope break. The two go Brusier Brody style on the floor for a bit, and we get a spot where Jericho gets the camera and gets water spit in his eyes for the Omega comeback. You Can't Escape for the two count. Omega takes a drop toehold into the second turnbuckle, and Jim Ross uses the opportunity to tell us about how the reason why the Rhodes' match got so gory was because of the lack of a turnbuckle pad, and that's why they are important. Awesome bit of announcing there! Jericho works Kenny's eye and face with strikes. Omega is bleeding now. Omega is bleeding, and fights back, but Jericho gets the better. Punch exchange, which Kenny gets the better of because Jericho is gloating. Jericho goes under the ring for a table. Baseball slide and Plancha while Jericho has a table both sound gnarly. Springboard Foot Stomp while Jericho is underneath! From there we tell the story of Kenny the high impact babyface versus Jericho the crafty heel. We get two of three Lionsaults right in a row which pops the 10 year old in me. Kenny takes a plancha table bump. Omega uses a the table remains to stand up. Strong style punch exchange before a gnarly Triangle Dropkick bump. Omega kicks out of a Catch Codebreaker at 2 1/2. SNAP DRAGON OUTTA NOWHERE followed by another. Jericho converts a Walls into a Lion-tamer. We get big strikes and a double down. Ugly DDT to counter of of OWA gets a two from Omega. We repeat the spot. Jericho wins with The Judas Effect!
This reminded me of an amalgamation of a lot of my favorite things about pro-wrestling. Sometimes it reminded me of a modern American big move match. Other times it reminded me of a Four Pillars classic (Especially because both guys have super moves, and that's what finished it), and other times it reminded me more of a hardcore-lite Attitude Era spectacular. Even some of the fuck ups didn't shake how I feel about this match.
Post-match - Jericho cuts a heel promo when JON MOXLEY shows up! Mox takes out everybody, but beats the shit out of Kenny Omega, who gets Dirty Deeds on a stage prop to close out.
This show reminded me a lot of "The Era of Honor Begins" in that the people who put the card together were operating on what they knew would deliver for main events, while keeping some equally talented guys on the undercard for later use.The difference between the two is that Era of Honor Begins had a lot of fluff that didn't make sense, and while it was minimized on this show, even some of the lesser stuff didn't wear out it's welcome. Like early Ring of Honor It may take AEW months or maybe even a year to really get the ball rolling, to make AEW it's own identity with some of its own stars. but if they can keep the match quality up, I'm here for it. I've never done this before, but props to the non-wrestling talent as well, Announcing, producing, camerawork, agenting etc made this feel like a long NXT Takeover, which is one hell of a benchmark for a first show.