AEW WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Young Bucks(c) vs. the Inner Circle (Chris Jericho & MJF) (w/Wardlow) - 7.25/10
Tony Schiavone noted that Jericho is a “thirty-year veteran” and should know better than to take his eye off of his opponent, and said he thinks that Jericho now “hamming it up” and displaying “arrogance” (or, as Excalibur put it, “showmanship”) is a result of his alliance with MJF. I guess Tony hasn’t watched too many of Jericho’s matches over those thirty years if he thinks this is a new thing for Jericho.
Jericho and MJF were caught in sharpshooters and did the “grab each other’s hand for support” spot… two minutes in. Maybe it’s time for a moratorium on that one. Matt was nice enough to release his sharpshooter on MJF when Aubrey Edwards asked him to because he wasn’t the legal man, even though he’s out for revenge on people who assaulted his father and has nothing to lose if the match goes to a double-DQ for him and MJF being in the ring for too long.
The timing on the spot where the attempted Meltzer Driver got countered wound up looking a lot more like Jericho countered the Tombstone part, then Nick still went for his part anyway even though it was clearly not Matt standing there so he came up well short of Jericho on purpose. It didn’t look good at all (like Nick actually tried for a Molly Go Round or a Dragonrana and came up extremely short, which is crazy for a guy who regularly does this huge flips).
Those nitpicks aside, the match was great. Instead of the usual Young Bucks route of flips and other spots, they focused more on reversals to signature moves to set up false finishes, most of which worked very well. The Bucks won clean, with Jericho getting pinned, which is absolutely the right way to go with the story we all assume is being told of MJF taking over the Inner Circle.
TAG TEAM CASINO BATTLE ROYALE FOR A SHOT AT THE AEW WORLD TAG TEAM TITLES - 5/10
They’ve gotten rid of the entry groups and are instead doing a full-on Royal Rumble. If you’re going to do that, you really should change the name of the match. Or how about you keep the silly “group entry” gimmick because that way you could make the concept of rankings in this division actually feel relevant by having the five ranked teams (or maybe it’s four because Jericho & MJF are probably in there) enter last? But no. Instead we have a random entry order, making the rankings once again meaningless. That being said, words cannot express how much I appreciated having a clock on screen the entire time, ensuring shoot timings, like you would see in any sporting event with staggered entries (like some sort of Olympic race).
Q.T. Marshall eliminated Gunn Club, even though they’re all part of the Nightmare Family. Dustin yelled at Q.T. for this, so Q.T. decided Dustin wasn’t dedicated enough to the idea of winning the titles and eliminated himself.
The spot where Marko Stunt interfere to help eliminate Evil Uno was TERRIBLE. First of all, it turns the babyface Jurassic Express into cheaters, and secondly, it looked horrendously fake.
The Bunny pulled Dustin down to the floor to eliminate him, right in front of two referees. The announcers were not happy about this at all, which is funny because they didn’t have a problem when Marko Stunt interfered (and later didn’t criticize it when Marko interfered again to stop Jungle Boy from being eliminated). Is it that hard to call a wrestling show without being a hypocrite?
When SCU came in, Schiavone pointed out that they had vowed to split up if they lost again, and Excalibur then had to back-track it, saying that they really only mean if they lost in a regular tag team match. If that’s the case, you need to have your wrestlers be specific when they cut the promo so it doesn’t sound like you’re backing out of a stipulation.
Bear Country were upset that Butcher eliminated them while they were dumbasses and were distracted by The Bunny just standing there (and that’s being generous, as to me it really looked like Butcher got to them before they had time to turn around after eliminated Luchasaurus), so they pulled him out of the ring and attacked him. That seemed pretty heelish to me. The last (and only previous) time we saw Bear Country, they seemed like they were supposed to be faces. I should not be this confused.
Every team in the promotion where a member was not otherwise booked seemed to be in this, with four exceptions. The first was TH2. Maybe Angelico wasn’t around, but it would have been nice if that had been made clear so I wasn’t wondering why they weren’t in the match even though Jack Evans was in the building because he interfered to screw Ten, just like he did this week on Dynamite. Also like he did this week on Dynamite, he had apparently been hiding under the ring all show just waiting for the right moment to pop out and interfere. F*ck this Vinny Marseglia bullsh*t.
The second team inexplicably not in the match was f*cking FTR. How the hell do you have a #1 contendership match that is open to jobber teams like Gunn Club, Bear Country, and Cesar Bononi & Peter Avalon, but not FTR. Hell, Top Flight (the other missing team) are way higher on the totem pole than any of those three, and they’re not even close to FTR’s level. The fourth team not booked was Chaos Project, so you know there are at least some standards here, but the idea that FTR and even Top Flight are getting treated the same as Chaos Project is revolting.
On the bright side, at least that made this a little shorter, as it was already FAR too long. I’m not going to tell you that the ending wasn’t exciting (it once again came down to “Jungle Boy must fight the odds”), but it took way too long to get there. There were FIFTEEN teams in this thing, and most them were midcarders and below. It felt like one of those old Honor Rumbles where it would be 80% curtain-jerkers and students. It hit the point where I was getting annoyed when someone would hold on and save himself from being eliminated.
DASHA INTERVIEWS PAUL WIGHT- She asks him who the big signing is. He says he will only give her a hint, which is “I don’t think anyone here can out-work him.”
AEW WOMEN’S WORLD TITLE MATCH:
Hikaru Shida(c) vs. Ryo Mizunami - 8/10
Yeah, Paul Tuner. Just leave that f*cking Kendo stick in the corner of the ring. That’s a good idea.
Excalibur gave us some big backstory between Shida and Mizunami. The kind of thing that would have actually made me excited for this match going in if I had known about it. There is no excuse to have not done the women’s match earlier on last week’s show and then do an interview with Shida (with subtitles, if you need) where she told us the story that Excalibur told us here about wanting to avenge a humiliation she suffered at Mizunami’s hands early in her career. Doing that on TV on the ding home show almost might have pointed the crowd in the right direction, as almost all of the audible chants in this match were pro-Mizunami and anti-Shida, which ran opposite to the story of determined babyface Shida that Excalibur was telling on commentary.
Having that background was necessary to understanding the story they told in this match, which was essentially Shida wanting to prove that the shoe was now on the other foot, although she didn’t go as far to try to humiliate Mizunami in any way. She just wanted to prove that she was now the dominant one and it was Mizunami who would not be able to beat her “in a hundred years” as Mizunami had once told her. The only thing they did that I thought worked against that was Shida using the eye poke to set up a roll-up (although I wasn’t crazy about Mizunami no-selling a Tamashii, either, but that’s a different issue not related to the actual story they chose to tell).
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Meh. Nyla Rose came out and attacked both women. Shida went to save Mizunami but was taken out by Britt Baker, Rebel, and Maki Ito. Rebel hit Shida with a crutch while Ito bit Mizunami’s fingers. Then, all four heels (plus Vickie Guerrero), one of who had a weapon, all ran away from an unarmed Thunder Rosa. That part didn’t work for me, and post-match attacks are something AEW goes to WAY too much, so I didn’t really care for this. Also, it turns out that Rebel faked an injury to get out of a match she was booked in. There should be consequences from management, but I’m sure there won’t be.
CHUCK TAYLOR & ORANGE CASSIDY vs. MIRO & KIP SABIAN (w/Penelope Ford) - 4/10
The heels jumped the Goof Patrol during a backstage interview and Miro slammed Chuck’s face through a window. The heels then dragged Chuck the ring and Miro gave Chuck a way out of the match (they didn’t specify what it was, but I assume Miro wants Chuck to be his butler again, which doesn’t make any sense for Miro to want because surely Chuck would just f*ck with him again), but Chuck told the referee to start the match, which at least explained why the referee was so willing to start the match with OC nowhere in sight.
Chuck got beaten up for a while, then OC staggered out and we got the big babyface comeback. Miro broke up a pin and we wound up getting a big face-off between Miro and OC, and OC… put his hands in his pockets and started doing his stupid “I don’t give a sh*t” non-kicks. IN THE MIDDLE OF A F*CKING GRUDGE MATCH!
While this was happening, Penelope Ford was distracting the referee. Nothing illegal happened and there was no pin going on, so I have no idea why she decided to jump up on the apron and bother the referee. She got off the apron, then hopped back up moments later to set up a spot where Miro shoved OC into her. Kip went to check on her, and only when Kip was out of position for the tag did the referee finally decide to insist that Miro- not the legal man- leave the ring. Miro went to the outside to get Kip, rolled him into the ring to make a tag (Kip went right back to check on his wife), got caught in a small package that he kicked out of, then kicked Chuck’s ass and won via submission. This was a good match… until it turned into a series of spots that either felt fake or contrived, and then wound up not really mattering anyway, as Miro just won on his own, so there isn’t much of a reason to have any dissent between Kip and Miro.
ALEX MARVEZ INTERVIEWS THE INNER CICRLE - Good. Jericho decides that it’s time for change, so there will be an “Inner Circle War Council” this week on Dynamite. MJF agrees that it’s time for a change, saying that he has been “thinking about this a lot” and “I think a change could make the Inner Circle a whole lot better.” So yeah, I guess the turn is coming this week.
WINNER GETS ALL OF THE LOSER’S EARNINGS FOR THE FIRST QUARTER OF 2021:
Adam Page vs. Matt Hardy - 6/10
They started off fighting on the outside f*cking forever without being counted out, because I guess Page REALLY wanted to get in that spot where he did a double axe-handle off of a railing. Hardy went back to the outside and took over the match when Page accidentally punched a ringpost, setting up Hardy working over Page’s hand on the outside in various ways while Rick Knox still didn’t count them out. Knox would later continue his incompetence by counting a pin where Hardy’s shoulder was clearly not down because it was resting entirely on Page’s knee. Knox missed this because he was counting from a position where there was no way he could have seen the shoulder. I’m not even sure he could really have seen Page’s other shoulder there either. Is it that hard for a referee to make sure he or she is in a good position before starting to count?
Page made a comeback without using the arm. Private Party came out to interfere to set up a false finish. Dark Order came out to get rid of them and help Page. Page hit the Buckshot Lariat for the and didn’t sell his hand at all, which kind of negated the story of the match, as the idea was that if Matt was working over the hand, Page could grab the rope to hit the move.
AEW TNT TITLE #1 CONTENDERSHIP LADDER MATCH:
Ethan Page vs. Penta el 0M vs. Max Caster vs. Scorpio Sky vs. Cody Rhodes (w/Arn Anderson) vs. Lance Archer (w/Jake Roberts) - 7.5/10
Instead of a contract, these guys are trying to grab a literal brass ring… because it’s something everyone knows that Vince likes to say, I guess? It looks comically large. It’s almost like there is a giant brass life preserver hanging above the ring, or one of those rings you collect in a Sonic game.
At one point Max Caster called for Jack Evans to come out from the back and bring his boombox to him for him to use. If he wanted to use the boombox as a weapon, why didn’t he just bring it out with him? This spot was done solely so that Ten could thwart this and get revenge on Jack Evans. That’s three angles in this four in four days, and Ten has already gotten his revenge on Evans. That’s overkill.
Cody had to be taken to the back after taking a Canadian Destroyer onto a ladder from Penta. Props to him (or whoever came up with that spot) for trying to make that move mean something again instead of just being the embodiment of the term MOVEZ. Yeah, you can argue that him coming back hurt that idea, but if you actually look at the kayfabe mechanics of a Canadian Destroyer onto a ladder, in order for Cody to be injured too badly, his head would have had to hit one of the rungs, and a landing like that seems impossible for Penta to control so Cody coming back with an badly injured shoulder (exacerbating the previous injury) after medical personnel checked him out to make sure he didn’t hit his head actually makes perfect sense because the real impact for Cody would be his shoulders on Penta’s thighs (as, then, does Penta being down for a lot longer than Cody was after taking the move, as he is the only one actually hitting the ladder).
Other than that spot and Penta repeatedly being an idiot who wasted time instead of climbing, this was pretty much every ladder match without a big through-line that you’ve seen over the past ten years. There were little ideas sprinkled through (Cody’s shoulder, Sky getting close seemingly more times than anyone else before finally winning, Penta’s aforementioned stupidity), but really it was just a bunch of ladder spots. Sky came off very heelish in his win, talking trash to Cody before shoving him off the ladder at the end.
They also did a spot that I absolutely hated where Ethan Page got taken out by Jake Roberts. The old fart doesn’t need to get offense in, and certainly not on the guy making his big debut. Jake was then taken out by a superkick from Penta, and we saw Jake up soon afterwards, while I don’t think we saw Page up again for the rest of the match. That’s not a good way to treat someone making a big debut.
THE BIG SIGNING IS… CHRISTIAN? REALLY? Look… I’m sure Christian fits into some people’s definition of a hall of fame (mine included, although admittedly barely), but he is certainly not some kind of game-changing talent, and isn’t someone I would have hyped up by calling “hall of fame-worthy.” I also think highly of him as a worker, but the idea that a forty-seven-year-old Christian can “outwork everyone” in AEW is ridiculous. Are there people I think he could have a great match with? Of course. But he’s not Kenny Omega or Pac or Darby Allin or Moxley or Thunder Rosa or someone like that who I think you can just throw in there with ANYONE and get a great match.
Darby Allin & Sting vs. Team Taz (Brian Cage & Ricky Starks) - 8.5/10
As expected, this was a cinematic match. It’s taking place in an old warehouse where Darby and Sting have set up a ring. The ring is surrounded by people in Sting masks. Fun fact: Statistically, one out of every twelve of them will be revealed to be a member of the nWo.
It wasn’t particularly long (under fourteen minutes), but the action was great and it was certainly brutal. Yes, there were one or two moments that seemed done just for the sake of a surprise than for any kayfabe logical reason (like why Will Hobbs was wearing a mask in the first place if he was just going to take it off- he clearly didn’t need one to get in, because Hook wasn’t wearing one and got in), but every single thing they did here was taken completely seriously.
The production here was absolutely tremendous. The atmosphere was great, the music wasn’t intrusive most of the time, and the setting they used was absolutely perfect. I absolutely adored how slick everything was, too. This didn’t feel like a “cinematic wrestling match” they cut from place to place to show us a bunch of spots and slowed things down so people could talk or do whatever other crap, and it didn’t feel like they were cutting from camera to camera to hide things from you, either. A lot of the action. When Darby got thrown through that big panel of windows, you saw him start to go through it from the original angle, and then they cut to a different angle to show you the rest of him going through it and the top of it falling on him from an angle that looked even more violent. When Darby appeared into the window and through Sting the bat, it was one continuous shot of the bat sailing from Darby’s hand right into Sting’s. The same for Darby’s big dive. I’m sure there were crash-pads there, but they didn’t cut around to try to hide them. They disguised the crash-pads well and used one single shot. This easily could have been a fight scene from any big studio movie. THIS is what all “cinematic matches” should strive to be!
EXPLODING BARBED WIRE DEATHMATCH FOR THE AEW WORLD TITLE:
Kenny Omega(c) vs. Jon Moxley - 5.5/10
There rules here were as follows: Victory by pinfall or submission. 3 sides of the ring are barbed wire, and contact with them will trigger explosives “on the corresponding side.” In addition to that, there are three areas outside the ring also rigged with explosives. After thirty minutes, all of the remaining explosives will go off. There is no time limit, so the wrestlers can keep going after that, although I’d assume that it won’t go on too long after that because at least one of them will presumably be maimed.
Bryce Remsburg is wearing a flame-retardant safety suit. I guess the Senior Referee didn’t want to referee this match. I don’t blame her. We got a count-down clock for the ninety-second intervals in the Royal Rumble but not for the count-down to the big explosion? Really, AEW?
There are also barded wire boards in the corners. If someone bumps into one of those boards, won’t the board make contact with the ropes and the ropes make contact with the barbed wire and thus trigger the explosives? It turns out that they don’t, as Omega stopped himself on one of them, but I don’t understand how the that wouldn’t have shaken the ropes and thus set off the bombs. Moxley was later sent through said board and the ropes were visibly shaking and banging the barbed wire and there was no boom. It was one of those things that just made the match feel fake because it felt like the explosion was actually being controlled by someone else.
Moxley eventually got sent into the barbed wire and I assume burned by the explosion… and then Kenny just stood there and waited for Moxley to sell the explosion for a while instead of going right for the pin.
Moxley’s back got worked over and he bled a lot. He reversed a figure-four attempt to send Omega into the barbed wire for an explosion, then a second time on the same side of the ring, which now has me curious as to how this device works. Does it reload or something? There were also times when they were on the apron on a side with barbed wire and clearly bumping into it but didn’t explode. Maybe I misunderstood something, but this is all felt like bullsh*t to me, which is a shame, because the other stuff they did was pretty darn good.
They hit the final un-hit side and it got a much bigger boom than the others… and also seemed like it went off before either man had touched the ropes (they tried to hide that with a camera cut.
They went to the apron (as mentioned above) and Moxley gave Omega a Paradigm shift onto one of the exploding barbed wire boards on the floor, and the explosion looked like it went right out the side of the boards. It probably bothered their ears, but seemed like the pain they suffered was from the landing, not from the explosion. It felt like it was set up to be safe if you landed on the boards, which completely goes against the idea of “deathmatch.”
More stuff happened. Moxley causing the explosion to break the pin on the One-Winged Angel was a very clever spot. Gallows & Anderson showed up and gave Kenny a barbed wire baseball bat with an explosive inside of it. Kenny hit Moxley in the top of the chest/shoulder with it… and Moxley kicked out. The gimmick was already on life support for me, but this pulled the plug on it. Omega then hit Moxley with a One-Winged Angel onto a chair for the win. Could you really have not had the EXPLOSION IN THE FACE be the finish?
So yeah. This was very hard for me to enjoy because the gimmick really didn’t work. Maybe I was expecting too much, but the explosions seemed designed to be safe, like a stunt show, which kills the idea that this is a deathmatch between two people looking to maim each other. It was dangerous, but it didn’t at all feel like a deathmatch. Aside from the one spot with the One-Winged Angel, you could have replaced the explosions with chairshots and you wouldn’t have had to change the match much.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Very bad. Omega won the match… but the count-down clock. Kept going. WHAT THE F*CK?! SHUT THAT THING OFF!
Omega, Gallows, and Anderson spent about five minutes beating the sh*t out of Moxley, including handcuffing him so he couldn’t defend himself. Callis is going on and on about how this is a “message to the entire locker room,” but no one in the locker room seems to care. When it gets down to about thirty seconds left, Eddie Kingston’s crew comes out to brawl with the heels. Kingston goes to save Moxley but can’t get him out of the ring, so he tries to shield Moxley’s body with his own a la Funk and Onita… but It really wasn’t necessary, as the remaining explosions went nowhere near Moxley, and didn’t seem like they would have been a danger to anyone who wasn’t standing on or directly under the turnbuckles. Kane’s pyro makes the same book but bigger. Kingston sold it like he was dead, but it just wasn’t believable at all.
This was a disappointing show from AEW. It’s a shame because there was some great stuff on here, but so much of the rest of the card just plain didn’t deliver. The main event definitely deserves a lot of the blame, and I really hope this debacle persuades them to stop doing this sort of craziness. In some ways, this show felt a bit like TakeOver: XXX. There was some great stuff, but a lot of the show didn’t go down the way it was envisioned, and AEW will now have to grapple with the idea that they had a dud of a PPV so they can’t tell themselves that even if the TV is bad, they have a track-record of always delivering on PPV that will keep people buying the PPVs, much like NXT had to grapple with after TakeOver XXX last Summer.
STUPID ANNOUNCER QUOTES
1. Jim Ross told us that Mizunami’s leg drops were better because she was bringing “more torque.”
This is Matt Striker-level stupid right here. Torque is a rotational force applied to an object to make it spin around an axis. There is no torque in a f*cking LEG DROP! Is it really that hard to not use a word if you don’t know what it means?
Tony Schiavone would later also misuse the word torque (Page holding onto the ropes didn’t result in there being more torque. The force for applying a German Suplex when the opponent is on the ropes is a linear force). I think these announcers would benefit from a physics lesson.
2. Both Ross and Schiavone thought that AEW had a ten-count on the floor and not a twenty-count. They’ve been calling this promo for a year and a half now (maybe more. I don’t remember who was on the pre-Dynamite shows other than Excalibur). That’s inexcusable.