Vickie Guerrero is randomly in the crowd.
CASINO LADDER MATCH:
Scorpio Sky vs. Frankie Kazarian vs. Kip Sabian (w/Jimmy Havoc & Penelope Ford) vs. Darby Allin vs. Orange Cassidy vs. Colt Cabana vs. Joey Janela vs. Luchasaurus vs. Brian Cage (w/Taz) - 8/10
We got a bunch of promos before this match. They were all fine to very good, other than Orange Cassidy, who was a goof. Daniels cutting the promo on behalf of Kaz and Scorpio was a little weird. The one I want to focus on is Janela’s. He’s replacing the injured Rey Fenix. Letting Joey cut a promo telling us this and framing it as a Cinderella story where the guy who wasn’t even supposed to be in the match might win turns him from just a replacement who we all know isn’t going to win into the guy who they just might actually give the win to. He goes from a 0% probability into a maybe 3% probability, but as long as you have those 3%, it can feel like it’s a lot higher in the moments where he is alone on top of the ladder, reaching for that briefcase.
I really didn’t like the idea that the big advantage of entering first was decided by random draw. That’s too big of a think to be random in a match with so few participants. I also didn’t like the red ladders. It gave me flashbacks to all of those pointless X-Division matches, and doubly-so with Kaz involved. And they’ve got fifteen ladders et up around the ring like it’s WWE. Can we please not copy WWE’s stupid sh*t? Marko Stunt with the “fun-sized ladder” (as Excalibur put it) was yet another WWE trope that reared it’s ugly head in this match and served no purpose other than to give Marko a spot to do where we all got to laugh because the little guy had a little ladder and Luchasaurus helped him do a chokeslam.
Wait… the wrestlers are entering one at a time, like a Royal Rumble? I was under the impression that they were going to be entering in small groups, like in the Casino Battle Royales that AEW did last year (including one on this very show). Why would you use the “Casino” adjective if it wasn’t going to work the same way as the previous “Casino” matches you’ve had?
Sky and Kaz started off against each other. Kip Sabian was in next. In his promo, he had promised that Jimmy Havoc and Penelope ford wouldn’t get involved, so of course they got involved right away. This was placed perfectly to avoid having a two babyfaces gang up on the lone heel when there are only three people in the match.
Darby Allin was in next and did his stuff. He appeared to injure his knee doing a double-stomp with a skateboard off of a ladder, onto Kaz, who was set up on a ladder bridge from the apron to the barricade.
In complete contrast to Darby, whose whole gimmick is based around the idea that the world title is so important to him that he is willing to take these crazy risks in order to win matches, the next entrant was Orange Cassidy, who buried the match and title by not giving a sh*t about winning. He’s also apparently too dumb to know how ladders work. Explain to me again why this is any better than the dumb sh*t that passes for comedy we see from WWE?
And, of course, once his comedy spots were over, OC stopped being a “lazy” goof and was just another one of the guys in the match. No transition, no story. Just “my comedy spots are over so it’s time to not be a goof anymore.”
I’m concerned that the interactions between the Goof Patrol and Havoc/Sabian/Ford are going to lead to them starting their feud up again, mere weeks after it seemed like they had come to a natural blow-off point with a big weapons match.
Brian Cage ripping the ladder in half when he came out would have been cool but it came across WAY too much like that was a prop designed for this purpose. If they had had him pick up one of the ladders at ringside it would have worked a lot better.
They did a good job of getting Cage’s power over. I thought the spot where the other guys all teamed up on him and buried him under the stuff- and particularly the big poker chip set-piece was very good (MAJOR props are due to the guys carrying it for getting over how kayfabe heavy it was). I’m really not a fan of Cage’s work and he doesn’t really seem like a Taz guy to me, but putting him over in his debut was the right move, and doubly so if you’re going to put Taz with him because of the ways it can further the story with Darby Allin.
This was the usual ladder match chaos with some well-booked moments and great performances propping it up, as well as some stupid comedy sh*t pulling it down. They paced their big spots out well so that it didn’t feel like the proverbial “car crash” spotfest. I think they probably could have made a bit more out of Janela’s presence, but other than that and the comedy stuff I mentioned earlier, this was one heck of an opener. I just hope no one got hurt in this (Cabana, Darby, and Luchasaurus all had their moments).
JUNGLE BOY vs. MJF (w/Wardlow) - 7/10
A great babyface vs. heel wrestling match, with MJF winning mostly cleanly, but managing to be such a dick that you can’t help but hate him. They told a decent story with the work on the arm, but I think most people’s lasting memory of this match is going to be that TERRIFYING poisonrana on the apron that MJF took. Personally, the spot I’m going to remember the most is the tri-pod spot. I loved the fact that instead of the cliché trading a few slaps to the face back and forth, they had MJF throw the first slap, then Jungle boy respond with a big flurry of slaps, allowing him to roll the whole thing over and wind up on top of MJF and then keep the flurry of strikes going. It was a brilliant take on one of those spots that had become such an indy cliché to the point where I hated it.
AEW TNT TITLE TOURNAMENT FINALS:
Lance Archer (w/Jake Roberts) vs. Cody Rhodes (w/Arn Anderson) - 6/10
They took Dasha’s last name away. Let’s hope that this isn’t a sign that the AEW crew are turning into Vince.
Props to Cody for at least making it look like he was trying to take a seeing at Archer and knock him off balance while Archer did his rope-walk, and Cody sold very well, but if there is one thing we’ve seen consistently from Cody Rhodes since he left WWE, his worst enemy is his own inability to not overbook his matches. Each guy doing the other’s manager’s finisher is fine. What isn’t fine is the babyface manager interfering when the heel manager hadn’t done anything. Also bad was a referee coming out from the back to get someone ejected from ringside (if you’re going to do it in this match, you need to explain why it doesn’t happen every other time), and even worse than that was Jake also getting ejected from ringside for no reason. Combine that with the length of the match (Tyson wasn’t the only one yawning), and you’ve got a match that should have been a lot better than it was.
The other thing in this match that I hated was the finish. Cody absolutely should not have won. Losing your first major match is a great way to kill off a monster heel. It also hurts Jake by having him fail in his anti-Cody goal, as he, too, becomes established as being a lot less dangerous than he seemed due to failing in his first goal.
For Cody, I think that having him lose here creates a MUCH better story. Jake getting into his head, Spears possibly getting into his head, whatever doubts he might secretly harbor that he actually wouldn’t have been able to beat Jericho and eventually would have lost even if MJF hadn’t thrown in the towel… all of these things working in tandem could send Cody on a descent which will make his subsequent climb that much sweeter and thus the journey that much greater. Giving Cody the big win without Brandi being able to get some sort of revenge also feels wrong after the big deal they made about the segment a few weeks ago. The whole purpose of Brandi’s promo was that she wasn’t going to be some damsel in distress, but if she needs her husband to get revenge for her, then how is that not exactly what she is? This was just a BAD booking choice, and when you combine it with the way Arn framed it in his promo on Dynamite, it frames Cody in a very bad political backstage light.
Mike Tyson didn’t do sh*t that was relevant. I hope AEW didn’t pay him much if he wasn’t going to do anything.
ALEX MARVEZ INTERVIEWS THE DOCTOR ABOUT DR. BRITT BAKER, DMD - Fine. They needed to do this on the PPV because Britt was scheduled for a match. They told us the injuries and said that Britt wants to make the announcement about her timetable for return herself, which she will do on Dynamite.
KRIS STATLANDER vs. PENELOPE FORD (w/Kip Sabian) - 5.5/10
Sabian is on crutches and has tape in a bunch of different places. I think everyone in the world knows where this is going, especially since they did the same thing with Sammy Guevara ten days ago.
If you want me to pretend that Kris Statlander is an alien, don’t tell me about her gymnastics background. Or at least make up an alien name for it.
The match was short enough that I’d rather it’s time have gone to something else, but if they’re actually going something with this “Penelope needs to focus on herself instead of on Kip Sabian” storyline, then it does require it to be on the same show as the ladder match, so this was fine.
SHAWN SPEARS vs. DUSTIN RHODES (w/Brandi Rhodes) - no rating, TERRIBLE segment
Spears comes out acting like match isn’t going to happen. He does the thing where he gets the production team to play Dustin’s music even though Dustin “isn’t here,” and demands at Aubrey count Dustin out. The announcers all don’t know if Dustin is going to show up, which makes me wonder why the promotion is advertising the match. It seems unlikely to me that Cody and Brandi don’t know if Dustin is going to show up or not. And if Dustin is here, why are they keeping the announcers in the dark?
The music started playing again and Spears started yelling that they were only supposed to play it once. Out came Brandi Rhodes… who distracted Spears so that Dustin, the babyface, could jump him from behind like a coward. They proceeded to have a short match in which Spears recovered from Dustin’s attack and quickly took the advantage back, only to squander it by wasting time wrapping his fist in his belt. Assumed that this was illegal, but apparently not because Senior Referee Aubrey Edwards made no effort to stop him from throwing a punch with it. Fortunately for Dustin, the heel was dumb and wasted time so Dustin could make his comeback.
Then Dustin pulled Spears’ pants off, and pulled his underwear down, exposing his butt. Then Dustin spanked him. We got a spot or two on the outside, at which point they took a while to zoom in Spears’ crotch to show us that there was a picture of Tully Blanchard there. Jim Ross made what sounded to me like prison rape joke. Dustin then got Spears in the ring, hit his finisher and won.
So, to summarize, we had the announcers not being informed that one of the participants had shown up and thus warning fans that this advertised match might not happen. Then we had one babyface completely unrelated to the feud come out and cause a distraction so that the other babyface could jump the heel from behind like a coward. Then we got a bunch of juvenile comedy. Who thought this was a good idea?!
Oh. Wait. I know who. The past few weeks of AEW have made me a real believer in the theory that someone- either Cody or Brandi- is making an effort to come up with a spot for Brandi to make sure she gets focused on, even when it makes no sense and wouldn’t matter one bit for the match.
HANA KIMURA MEMORY GRAPHIC AND SPEECH BY EXCALIBUR - This was… pretty much exactly how this should have been handled.
NO DISQUALIFICATIONS, NO COUNT-OUTS MATCH FOR THE AEW WOMEN’S WORLD TITLE:
Nyla Rose(c) vs. Hikaru Shida - 6.75/10
Their graphic for this match forgot the “world” in Women’s World Title.
They brawled into the “crowd.” There was a poker table set up in the crowd… in case the crowd wanted to ignore the wrestling and play poker, I guess? That of buries the product, don’t you think? The other side of the ring has some other sort of game table. And slot machines, too. Also, they have a stack of those big set-piece poker chips in the crowd, below the level of the barricade where we would never see it unless someone brawled into the crowd. Why would you put that there? Nyla and Shida did a good job of making their spots feel organic, but having those things so out of place so that these two could do spots with them made things feel a little more contrived than was necessary.
This was a very good brawl with a decent babyface/heel dynamitc, but it was unfortunately brought down by a rather anti-climactic finish. I liked that they stuck to just Kendo sticks and tables rather than using everything under the sun, as we still have one more weapons match to go tonight. I wasn’t a fan of Shida winning the belt here, either. I think it’s WAY too soon to do another title change. We’re now on our third different champion in the past three months.
AEW WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Jon Moxley(c) vs. Brodie Lee - 4.75/10
I know that the title has been around for less than a year, but I think this was definitely the right match-order. This match didn’t feel anywhere near as big as the other one, and Brodie doesn’t feel like he’s on a main event level, yet. He even feels like a lot less of a star than an equally new guy like Lance Archer does.
Moxley showed up in a jacket that was way too large. He was walking backwards down a staircase, and paused for so long that I started to wonder if it wasn’t actually him but rather Grayson or someone dressed up like him for some stupid reason. I also didn’t like the “security gets between the wrestlers until the bell” gimmick for this match. If any match on the card should have had that, it was Archer vs. Cody, not this one.
They fought on the outside forever without getting counted out. The vast majority of the first ten minutes were spent fighting on the outside, with Paul Turner impotently shouting at them to “get back in the ring!” like he’s some sort of New Japan referee. Just start counting them out, Paul! They’ll come back to the ring if you actually threaten them with a match-loss violation.
They finally got back into the ring… and then quickly got out of it again. And now Moxley just threw a set-piece and hit Brodie in the face with it. Why is this not a DQ? Is it that f*cking hard for the Moxley and Brodie to go to the EVPs and say “hey, we want to use gimmicks and do a big brawl so please make out match no DQs” and the EVPs either say “okay” and have the match announced as such or say “no” and then forbid them from doing weapons spots? Really?
The bump through the ramp was cool and I liked Moxley not being thrown by Brodie kicking out of his finisher at one, and using the “he never tapped” thing to protect a heel is an interesting and non-traditional approach that I like, but that doesn’t change the fact that the majority of this match was a weapons brawl in a match that should have had DQs and count-outs.
A COMMERCIAL FOR A NEW ACTION FIGURE SET - I don’t think these ones look as good as the previous set.
The Inner Circle vs. The Elite (Kenny Omega, Adam Page, & the Young Bucks) & Matt Hardy - -8/10
Didn’t Jim Ross just say that Justin Roberts was watching this show from his house? Either JR is wrong, AEW went out of their way to hire a Justin Roberts impersonator, or Justin Roberts lives in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ stadium. Can we please get some quality control here and have someone correct JR when he says things that are wrong?
Speaking of quality control, this match was announced as simply that falls count anywhere in the building, but not that there were no DQs. I’m assuming that this was pre-taped. Are you telling me there was no way to edit a correct announcement in?
The babyfaces all came out with weapons, but without Adam Page, because we must drag that out even more. The heels came out with no weapons, which seemed a little odd when you consider how much cache they’ve put into that baseball bat over the past two weeks. The heels did have football gear on, including helmets and presumably pads. Sammy was also carrying a football, which is a meh ranged weapon at best, but he’s holding onto it while the brawl is starting, at which point it becomes a par less effective melee weapon than, say, a human fist.
Tony says that this match is falls count “anywhere in the stadium,” which is what I remember it being advertised as. Ross has to then jump in and say “anywhere in Duval!” What the f*ck Duval? It’s the name of the stadium, so what is it? The internet tells me it’s the name of the county that the stadium is located. Well that’s a MUCH different thing than just falls count anywhere in the stadium! Why are there two sets of rules? Or, more likely, why did Jim Ross feel the need to jump in and say something that would only confuse people. For someone with a reputation as such a great announcer, post-WWE Jim Ross has a really bad habit of jumping in and saying sh*t that is unhelpful at best(his comment in the previous match when Tony said that Brodie responded to being asked if he wanted to give up by saying “no” and Ross said “more like ‘profanity no’,” is another example. It didn’t add anything, and felt like he was trying to show Tony up like he was trying to make me more excited with some outdated idea of what makes something sound more extreme).
I thought having the ring there was a little silly. If you’re going to use it as a place to ceremonially start the match under the technicality that matches really aren’t supposed to start until the competitors have made it into the ring then that’s one thing, but they didn’t do that. They had Aubrey blow a whistle like this was a kickoff, with both teams lined up in their ends.
A few minutes in, Adam Page showed up on a f*cking horse. At least they actually used this, as it gave a very good reason for Sammy to run away from the fight. Page chased him off the field and followed him, still on the horse.
Matt Jackson’s ribs are all taped up. They never mentioned this on Dynamite, so I assume it must be a new injury of some sort.
Sammy eventually came back. Jericho started cheering for him, and so did the cheerleaders, which shows us that they either don’t watch the show or have no morals (or maybe both). Would it really have been that hard to not show us the cheerleaders cheering for a heel we’re supposed to hate?
Dives happened, including a moonsault off one of the goalposts. Everyone paired off, with Hardy vs. Swagger and Omega vs. LAX in the stands, while Le Sex Gods vs. Young Bucks took place on the field.
We eventually were shown Page, still looking for Guevara in the underbelly of the arena. Tony claims that Page is “looking in every cubby he can look in,” even as Page rides past several doors without even bothering to get off his horse and open them. I guess he figures that if Sammy isn’t standing in the sliver of the room he can see through the doorway from about eight feet away, Sammy must not be in that room at all. Ross even points out that Page is terrible at this. Then Page gets off his horse to go to the bar, which is played as a joke because alcoholism is funny!
We cut back to LAX & Hager vs. Omega & Hardy. While they were off screen, Santana and Ortiz have pulled their baseball-filled socks or whatever those are from Hammer Space. Either that or they strategically planted them in the upper deck of the stadium before the match… although in either case one must wonder why they didn’t just bring them with them at the beginning of the match.
LAX set up a barricade bridged between some very wobbly tables and powerbombed Kenny through it. I was TERRIFIED that at least one of those three would wind up seriously hurt on this spot, but thankfully no one did.
LAX tried to drown Matt Hardy in a pool. This was played for laughs, with Matt transforming into a different version of himself every time he fought back up. I hated this for several reasons. First and foremost was playing this for laughs in what was supposed to be a serious match. And the laughs weren’t just Matt’s transformational powers, either. Santana wouldn’t get into the water at first because he “couldn’t swim,” even though the water was only three feet deep. When Matt had his arms free under the water, he did his f*cking hand pose instead of trying to fight against the men TRYING TO DROWN HIM.
Then there was the “MATTer of Fact” graphic that they threw up on the screen. Either AEW had this ready just in case, which is stupid, or Matt was spending his energy and concentration on using magical powers to take over our TV screens instead of paying attention to this life-or-death fight. Even if you buy into the magical powers, this was still dumb because you’d think he’d save his mana for something useful, like teleporting to safety.
Third- and in some ways most damningly- is that this opens up questions about the Broken Universe that I don’t think they’re prepared to answer. Previously it had only been the Lake of Reincarnation at the Hardy Compound that had this effect on people. Now you’re telling me that a swimming pool full of chlorine works just as well? Does Matt change personas every time he takes a shower? And the Lake of Reincarnation has been shown to affect everyone who has gone into it (Matt, Jeff, Abyss, Helms). If this pool has the same properties, why are LAX not transformed into EYFBO?
More stuff happened. LAX went through a table. Matt tied Ortiz in a wheelchair with duct tape after ringing a big bell on this head. He then trapped Santana in an ice chest, including barring the handles with a broom so that they couldn’t be opened from the inside. Hopefully someone saves him before he dies of hypothermia.
Jake Hager is looking for Adam Page. He sees the rider-less horse, then the sign for the bar, so he heads that way. He finds Page drinking… and instead of attacking him, he sits down next to him to have a chat. F*CK THIS STUPID SH*T AND WRESTLE!
Page asks Hager if he came here to fight or to drink, and pours him a drink. The crowd all chants “DRINK! DRINK! DRINK!” And this isn’t even a crowd of a dumb fans. This is- even in kayfabe- a crowd of wrestlers, and outside of kayfabe, it’s a crowd full of plants. If AEW didn’t want to send this impression, the chant would have been edited out. This is how AEW WANTS to present themselves, in the middle of what is supposed to be a f*cking BLOOD FEUD. How is this any different than WWE?
And don’t tell me this was some sort of character moment, because they started throwing punches seconds later. If you wanted them to fight, they should have fought from the moment they saw each other! In terms of the spots/fight choreography/whatever, this was BY FAR my favorite bit of the match, but the beginning completely killed it for me.
Omega eventually showed up to save Page. He smashed a bottle over Hager’s head, which Hager no-sold. I would have preferred that he not no-sell something like this (no-selling the pool cue was fine). It’s a f*cking glass bottle to the head! That being said, at least they used it as part of a spot where they actually built up to knocking him down instead of it being just random no-selling because no selling is cool and because Uncle Dave gave that terrible Ishii vs. Shibata match ***** and ruined pro wrestling.
Then they ruined every bit of good will they had built up with me when after finally using a Buckshot Lariat (with Omega’s back substituting for the ropes) to knock Hager backwards over the bar and finally knock him down… they decided to have a drink instead of GOING FOR THE PINFALL TO TRY TO WIN THE MATCH!
We cut back to Le Sex Gods vs. the Young Bucks. Matt Jackson- injured ribs and all- is apparently capable of giving Guevara rolling Northern Lights Suplexes all the way down the field. How about you f*cking PIN HIM?
The mascot got involved in the match, distracting Jericho, for no other reason than someone thought it would be funny to see the mascot take a bump. Because the point of this match was to be funny, not to win. If you disagree with that statement, then explain to me why Jericho then decided to put a traffic cone on his head and cackle like a maniac until Nick superkicked him.
Despite not having had it before, Jericho picked up the baseball bat from a random hallway. This was a spot two friends and I used in an amateur choreographed comedic fight seen for a friend’s into to film class. The key word there being COMEDIC. The comedy comes from the weapon randomly being stashed there. YOU SHOULD NOT BE DOING THIS IN A MATCH THAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE A BLOOD FEUD.
Jericho went for a cover but only got two. He yelled at Aubrey and pulled out a challenge flag (which he apparently had in his pocket the whole time) and told her he was challenging the play. Instead of reminding him that there is no instant replay in pro wrestling, Aubrey said “okay, let’s go to the replay booth.” So they’ve got the referees involved in this stupid crap, too. Explain to me how they’re going to do a f*cking War Games match after this bullsh*t.
Matt finally completed his hundred yards of suplexes on Sammy Guevara, then dumped him on his head for good measure… and instead of trying to pin him, got up and did an end zone dance. Can someone explain to these guys that players do those when the play is OVER (at last when there is no chance of them being caught and thus their arrogance cannot be punished)? Then Rick Knox threw his flag and gave him a “fifteen-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.” IN A PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING MATCH. What does that even f*cking mean?
Matt got angry and superkicked him. Based on what happened to Nyla Rose, Matt should wind up be suspended for this, but somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen. I also think that all of the AEW fans who criticize WWE’s lack of enforcement of the rules are going to completely ignore this fact. Hopefully I’ll be proven wrong on both counts.
Matt runs over and saves Nick from getting a baseball bat to the face from Jericho, then holds Jericho down on a table for Nick to do the big dive. He started all the way at the top of a section of steps. This was ostensibly done to “get momentum,” but he wasn’t going fast enough for that to be believable, and he paused long enough on the guardrail that he lost pretty much all of it by the time he jumped.
Jericho sold it like he was out cold. Did someone try to pin him? Of course not. That would require this to be a professional wrestling match, not an extended comedy sketch. Instead, we had Adam Page show up with the line-painter and paint right over Jericho from crotch to face.
Sammy was crawling around, a sprinkler- not all of them like these systems usually work, but just one- turned on started spraying him in the face. He’s an idiot so thinks he won the match. Kenny Omega and Matt Hardy showed up with another golf cart.
They chased Sammy until he jumped into the stands. They ran after him. Sammy made it to this completely inexplicable platform set up over about an 8x4 section of seats. He used that high ground to get an advantage, then got distracted by a new drone showing up. Kenny gave him a One-Winged Angel off of the conveniently-placed platform to an equally conveniently placed structure by one of the exits to the field. Aubrey climbed up onto a ladder and counted a pin from an angle where she could not possibly be sure that Sammy’s shoulders were down, finally ending this abomination.
So yeah. This was completely f*cking terrible. It was a bunch of goofball sh*t with almost nothing resembling a story. They took a blood feud and turned it into a complete and total joke in one night. Also, LAX are pretty much dead at this point. They weren’t booked strongly enough to come off as dangerous before this match, and tonight they got taken out by Matt hardy all by himself. I struggled for a while trying to decide whether I hated this more than MITB, and eventually decided that they were equally bad because while this was more exciting, it also did a lot more to turn the match into a joke, and it was WAY too long. This match was everything I feared AEW would be when the promotion started.
This was a very bad show from AEW. It started off really well but then fell of a cliff, and that’s mostly due to the arrogance of those in control of the company. Whether it’s Cody and his overbooking, the others and their comedy, or the whole group’s complete and total lack of control of the roster and keep them to their stips, the people in charge need to learn how to run a professional wrestling company, not their own little entertainment thing to get laughs. If you want to challenge WWE, you should do a better job than they are doing at being a professional wrestling company. Don’t try to coast on your cool factor and do dumb sh*t, because you’re driving off the people who are going to be the ones who are still around when your cool factor wears off.