PLEASE, AEW, wipe the stale taste of Super-Showdown out of my mouth! Okay, to be fair, there is probably no way it is going to be as bad as that show was to sit through, but WWE is slowly wiping any goodwill I have towards professional wrestling away with whatever the hell it is they think they’re doing. Even NXT TV has been hard to watch; only their TakeOver shows have been saving the B-Brand (term used advisedly because they have the best PPVs of any WWE product).
Sorry, I’m ranting. And now we have the pre-show…
1) The Dark Order (with minions) v SCU (with Christopher Daniels asked to stay in the back)
This is the Buy-In show match. It was fine. Unfortunately, that was all – fine. I have not been a fan of the Dark Order from the word go, and the fact they went against two of the best in the ring and we only got a “fine” match indicates that not only are the characters not great but the in-ring stuff also is not great. Unfortunately, this makes me not care who the “Exalted One” is. The Dark Order win. Then the minions swarm SCU. And then – holy shit! – Colt Cabana comes out to make the save! But even he is not enough. So a hooded figure comes down – it’s Christopher Daniels and he does make the save! The post-match stuff was better than the actual match.
2) The hype videos on the Buy-In were nicely done. That’s getting better in AEW. We had minimal talking heads. An interview with Jurassic Express saying they’ve got Cody’s back. Hype for a Young Bucks autobiography. And, really, that’s all. Certainly a lot less painful than some pre-shows I’ve seen.
(No, AEW, it’s not the first PPV of the decade – the decade does not start until next year. Numeracy skills, basic maths, people… I will give them it is the first PPV of the 20s, but 2020 in the last year of the 202nd decade of the Christian Dating Era.
Yes, I am a pedant.)
3) Dustin Rhodes v Jake Hager
Weird choice for opener, to be honest. Jake makes out with his wife (I guess) on his way to the ring. This was a wrestling match, slow and deliberate. It did not feel like it had the intensity it should have, considering the broken arm thing. Look, it was a good match, don’t get me wrong, it just lacked ‘something’. It felt a little long as well. Some nice moves in there (Dustin kissing Mrs Hager was… odd), but, yeah. In the end, Hager locked on some sort of triangle choke-hold and the ref called it. How strange is this world when I was expecting more out of Jack Swagger v Goldust? The finish deflated the crowd as well. They all wanted Dustin to win.
(March 25 – WarGames?!?! WTF??!! Called ‘Blood & Guts’, sure, but WarGames!? How will it stack up compared to NXT’s rather good versions of that classic bout? The classic JCP/WCW versions? The Russo era triple tower of doom version?)
4) Sammy Guevara v Darby Allin
Holy cow! How much stuff did these guys fit into less than ten minutes? It started with a wild dive and did not freakin; stop! There was a botched dive by Allin, but they covered it so well. Then Guevara set up a table, put Allin on top and… he hit a 630 senton onto Allin on the table outside the ring from the top turnbuckle! HOLY SHIT indeed! And now we get the bell for the match to start. Yes, that was all before the bell… It did not let up for the 5 minutes after the bell rang. “A-E-Dub!” chant. Allin wins with a huge coffin drop and a pop that was enormous. AEW don’t make new stars? These two will one day headline a PPV, I am sure of it. Now the show has picked up!
5) Tag Team Titles: Young Bucks v Hangman Page & Kenny Omega (c)
Who said AEW could not tell a compelling story? Who said the Young Bucks could not sell and tell stories in their matches? Holy shit, this was 30 minutes of awesomeness. They didn’t need ladders, they don’t need a million flips, they were given time to tell a strong, magnificent story in the ring. The Bucks came across as the heels virtually, especially Matt, but this was about the action. Nothing else. It was tag team wrestling. Page was the most over person in the match; he was supposed to be the heel at the start but the crowd are firmly behind him… and AEW are letting that happen. And they played on the fact Omega had the iron man match on Dynamite. Psychology! And then – then! – Page and Omega won! This is not over and none of us care. This story still has legs. Bring it on!
(JR has not sounded this enthusiastic for a wrestling show in a long time, especially in this match. He sounded like he really enjoyed what he was watching.)
6) Women’s Title: Kris Statlander v Nyla Rose (c)
The women had to follow the tag match? Seriously? They died out there. This was passable, but that was about it. Statlander is another wrestler with character being used instead of ability. Is she really an alien, or is she just a deluded person who thinks she’s an alien, or is this all a deliberate character? 1980’s WWF shit. Do not need it. The problem was, the match felt off. Apparently Statlander had been sick all week, but, sorry, this match didn’t do it for me. Rose retained.
7) MJF v Cody
The build-up to this match has been nothing short of phenomenal. And the match was good, but… There was something missing. And I think there was just too much extra stuff going on. MJF won with a fluke move, cheating by using a diamond ring, which I am pretty sure the crowd missed by their reaction. Okay, yes, the feud will go on, and that is fine, but after everything Cody went through to get here, only to lose? The crowd really felt let down. And now Cody has blown it against Jericho and MJF… the crowd who are behind him are going to consider him a choker on the big stage and he will lose that good will and support. They had better be careful. However, the feud continues.
8) I think this warrants a “Thought” of its own. You want the difference between WWE and AEW? Reigns/Corbin went on and on and the crowd wanted it to end already. The Owens/McMahon feud, the crowd wanted it to end. But Hangman/Page & The Young Bucks? MJF & Cody? The crowd, the fans, do not mind that it is continuing. Why? Because the story-telling has been booked long-term and it has been maintained and the crowd has become invested in it. These feuds grew organically. The crowd was there every step of the way. Nothing was forced on them. AEW gives us a reason to care; WWE demands that we care.
9) Pac v Orange Cassidy
I was not sure what to expect with this one. What I got was a fun wrestling match, a bit of comedy, and Cassidy showing some genuine skills in the ring. We had the Best Friends with Cassidy; we had Pac just being pissed off. “He’s gonna try!” chants. They started with both doing the weak kicks, and then Pac just lost it, and the match took off from there. Then the Lucha Brothers came down, attacked the Best Friends (hey! setting up a programme!), Cassidy was distracted, Pac locked in the Brutalizer for the submission win. This was a fun match. And bravo to Pac for going along with it like he did. And it was good to have a match like this between the two intense matches it was sandwiched between. And, man, was the crowd into this!
10) AEW Heavyweight Title: Jon Moxley v Chris Jericho (c)
Mox’ entrance from the street into the building was unique. Loved it! And then Jericho had a choir sing ‘Judas’ as he came to the ring! Holy crap! Awesome! The Inner Circle were they and they continually interfered, and Aubrey Edwards let a lot of things go with these two, and there was a lot. But, despite everything the Inner Circle threw at him, Mox would not stay down. Finally Edwards kicked the Inner Circle out, then Mox took his eye patch off after Jericho attacked the good eye and then playing blind for a bit, to show that the initial injury had healed completely and he… he won! He pinned Jericho and won! New champion!
And he already has a t-shirt… And then Mox gives an impassioned speech to the fans about what AEW means.
Wow. What a show! Was it perfect? Not even close. Was it fun? Hell, yeah! Slow start and strange match placement on the card hurt it. I thought with 4 PPVs they’d go the PPV ends feuds route, but clearly not. However, the tag title match was one of the best matches of the year so far, Allin/Guevara surprised me pleasantly, OC/Pac really surprised me pleasantly, and the main event overcame overbooking to be an intense and enjoyable brawl, with an ending that had to leave 95% of viewers happy.
Well, I enjoyed it.