Live from the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. This was a new PPV introduced into the mix of AEW PPVs but with the added element of being a true cross-promotional event where they teamed up with New Japan Pro-Wrestling. While to some the idea of an actual cross promotional event between two of the biggest wrestling promotions on the planet not named the WWE was considered a dream, it felt more like being in a drug induced coma in terms of the weak, nonsensical lead up and the reasons for having this at all in my book. I almost didn’t want to watch this mess because I had zero low expectations but figured why not since I’ve been blocked on my writing for some time and need something to do.
Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI vs. QT Marshall & Aaron Solo
This was part of the 4 match pre-show (aka the Buy In) before the PPV on their YouTube channel. Normally, I dislike reviewing the Buy Ins, but for this show being a lot shorter than the typical AEW show, I figured why not. So this match was terrible. QT Marshall got a legit “QT sucks!” chant going because he tried to be fancy but I couldn’t tell if he was intentionally bad or just straight bad. No matter what it was bad. I get that he wanted to get heat on himself because this is the best he can do anymore in this promotion but why make a match terrible? Poor Aaron Solo at the pin and he’s lower on the totem pole than anyone except Serpentico, Luther, Abadon and Fuego Del Sol. Except that AEW tries to make those other four slightly special whereas Solo is the designated job man that doesn’t have a chance here except to pick up the jobber paycheck. And while I recognize Goto’s name, I couldn’t care less because this match was nothing.
Lance Archer vs. Nick Comoroto
Another worthless factory guy getting any type of screen time vs a guy who was presented as a heel for the past two TV shows but now is being treated as a face just because the other guy is associated with the lowest of groups in AEW (well, lower than The Factory is probably team Pretty but at that point it’s like trying to find something watchable when you’re NOT high from the bargain basement bin at Best Buy’s D-movie list can). I let this play in the background with mute on until it was over to demonstrate what I thought about this. But I guess Lance needed a win and time because they need to justify his paycheck even though at this stage of the game he won’t be anymore over.
Swerve Stickland and Keith Lee vs El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru
This match was the one I wanted to review from the Buy-in because I like Keith Lee (maybe it has to do with his name). I vaguely remember Kanemaru from his All Japan days and somewhat recall him being decent as a junior in that promotion. But that was it. This match just felt awkward and I have no idea where they’re taking the weird friction between Keith Lee and Swerve. I think because Christian just had that major (and kinda justified) turn against Jungle Boy, someone possibly realized that you shouldn’t have this many turns all at once and are holding off for the inevitable. Swerve looked decent surprisingly and Keith tried to do feats of strength but it didn’t look impressive because he was trying too hard and it came off looking bad. The guy needs the light guys to really pull it off and I don’t know if the Japanese contingent understood how to take his moves. The right guys went over here and El Desperado looked more like El Dipshit by the end to me because he was as equally outlaw as his name.
Max Caster, Austin, Billy & Colten Gunn vs. Alex Coughlin, Kevin Knight, The DKC & Yuya Uemura
I honestly had no idea who Max, Billy, etc. were facing. They seemed like generic jobbers that randomly showed up to collect a paycheck. But let’s be real here: Max Caster is MEGA OVER. Even if he’s green and his partner is out injured, he’s got a killer gimmick. I’m not a rap fan but I enjoy listening to his rhymes. And I like the Ass Boys being associated to The Acclaimed even though it seems like they’ll eventually turn on each other because this is Tony Khan’s lame booking. For now though, these guys are OVER. They’ve got something special, it works and they’re rolling with it. Glad to see Max get a win on PPV even if this was the pre-show.
Eddie Kingston, Wheeler Yuta & Shota Umino vs. Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara (w/Tay Conti) & Minoru Suzuki
Just a terrible mess. The stipulation was that the winning team would get the edge for Wednesday’s Blood N Guts predictable fiasco. I like Sammy better as a heel. He actually tries to sell here and there and even if it’s goofy (like Curt Hennig) it’s better than when he does it as a babyface. Eddie Kingston got his masturbatory chop fest in against Suzuki. I have no idea whom Umino is and I didn’t care. I only realized anything about him once Jericho shot a dumb fireball in his face. But maybe I’ll address that afterward. Jericho is now Hulk Hogan of his generation and he pinned the young kid in a match that went on forever and wouldn’t end.
Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler (c) vs. Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb (c) vs. Rocky Romero & Trent Beretta
This was for the ROH and IWGP tag titles. So the only group who stood a chance of really benefiting was Rocky Romero and Trent Beretta. Considering this is Tony Khan’s booking, I was surprised by the finish. But for the most part, Cobb and O-Khan blew hard. Just a rotten tag team. The best wrestler in this match was taken out for a long portion because he “injured” his shoulder. Not sure if that was a real injury because in AEW everyone gets injured. I refused to watch Cash vs Cobb on Friday because Cobb looks like he came out of a Hawaiian buffet where he porked out on Spam. So the X factor to me was Trent and Rocky because Trent has been around this promotion for a while, has done nothing noteworthy which makes him a great candidate for the “gratuitous title” award that Tony enjoys handing out to his special snowflakes.
Then the finish happened (where just before the audience viciously got on the referee’s case for what looked like a screw up) and was rewarded with FTR winning the IWGP tag titles. If you really looked at this match, you’ll see that the audience cared about FTR and the other four were just goofs who were lucky to be around. O-Khan and Cobb should’ve been on their hands and knees thanking Dax and Cash for gracing them with the opportunity of wrestling them for the tag titles because man did O-Khan and Cobb suck. But with FTR becoming now a Triple Crown tag title holder team, does this mean that they’ll tour NJPW? Because I imagine that the real benefit of putting the tag titles on them is to eventually get them out to Japan since they love wrestling and will make NJPW’s tag team division look good.
PAC vs. Miro vs. Clark Connors vs. Malakai Black
So Clark Connors was substituting for Tomohiro Ishii, who is out with an injury. When I looked up Clark Connors (because I had no clue whom he is), I found that he’s from Washington, which is, of course, on the west coast as opposed to where this title is being labeled, which is the Atlantic. I had to roll my eyes as this was a last minute substitution and it really didn’t matter in the end because that spot was going to be on the losing end. It seemed like NJPW was more than happy to provide a trainee job guy who didn’t have any qualifications that I knew of to earn the right to be in this match. He couldn’t even be from the right geographic location. It’s like what George Carlin used to say about any idiot being able to get into college: “Pretty soon you just need to bring a pencil. You got one? Get the fuck in there.”
There was one person in this match I was interested in and that was Miro. He was VERY over. He looked like he could be the world champion. The crowd ate him up. He doesn’t do much compared to the rest of the spot monkeys, but what he does he looks great. This might be the best he’s ever looked professionally….and he didn’t win the title. Instead, they gave this gratuitous title to PAC, who, like the other “senior” people in the company has done little besides show up and even then failed that test too for one reason or another. The point being that Tony Khan is so fucking tone deaf that he should’ve called an audible in listening to that audience when Miro put “Game Over” on PAC. Instead, the goof Malakai blew mist in his eyes AND THE FUCKING REF SAW IT.
Poor Miro. Got buried by a bunch of goofs. At the very least, his wife should’ve been there to kick one of them in the nuts. I mean if you’re going to go stupid, might as well go all the way and get someone who is over even more over rather than handing the “3 years and counting” plaque out to someone who has no momentum and received his Opera “and you get a belt!” moment.
Darby Allin, Shingo Takagi & Sting vs. The Young Bucks & El Phantasmo
Why was this match happening? So I guess there was another out contestant where some other person I never heard of was going to be added to Sting’s “Dudes with Attitudes” team, although Hikuleo still showed up. Quite honestly, I doubt that would have made any difference. El Phantasmo should rename his gimmick “El Jobbarno” because he sucked such badly. Just out of position and goofing off because he’s been encouraged by the Bucks to be equally dumb as they are. There’s a point where Sting double Scorpion Death Drops the Bucks and they go outside. Then Phantasmo is turned around thinking his partners hit their move on Sting. He turns around and should’ve been shocked to see Sting. But Sting takes a breather to go to the outside while one of the Bucks reminds him that he needed to face Phantasmo. So Phantasmo had to fake shock for more than a minute just so he could receive a nipple twist while Kevin Kelly/Tony Schiavone got the line out. This was wretched and I feel bad for Sting. The Dudes with Attitudes were such a wretchedly branded team name back in the day, part of the Jim Herd stamp of un-approval. All we really needed for this match to be the disaster that it was, was for Robocop to show up and break Sting out of a cage. And I believe the Bucks would totally be up for that.
Probably, the only worth mentioning spot was Sting’s entrance where he went from the rafters to a plancha spot onto the heels at the start of the match like Batman. That was visually cool. Considering he just came back from injury though, the guy shouldn’t be doing anything like that here. But this is Tony “what’s an injury?” Khan we’re talking about “in charge.”
Shota Umino & Jericho Backstage Segment
So right after that abortion of a match, Tony had one last thing to do as to collect his paycheck for the night, which was to act completely useless in convincing us that he was actually going to get any word from Umino. And since Umino doesn’t speak English apparently, he got a fireball from Jericho. WTF was that? Schiavone then stood in the background just waiting for the segment to end before tepidly approaching the poor Umino in checking him out. Holy god. Is Jericho doing this to get revenge for all those times in WCW when Schiavone was talking about Hogan and the NWO spots instead of his matches? And what did Umino do to deserve this? The announcers afterward had to feign disgust about Jericho’s actions. Why not just call the police and have the man arrested for attempted murder? You have evidence and at the very least Umino could sue him. See that would make too much sense in the AEW Bizarro world of Tony Khan’s coke filled brain.
Thunder Rosa vs. Toni Storm
This was for the AEW world title. I like Toni Storm. She’s my current favorite women’s wrestler in AEW. But this was an ugly match. Just not good. Also, you knew Toni wouldn’t win this one because he hasn’t done much to really deserve the spot. Yes, she gets to be considered a title contender but she doesn’t have enough momentum behind her to where you know she can win. Instead, this was another bad “let’s feed the champion to make them look credible” matches. Quite honestly, at this point I’d prefer just hot potatoing that belt around because no one feels credible and these title reigns last forever without feeling like the person on top belongs on top. If it was like Charlotte Flair debuting and running over everyone while making everyone try and come up to her level, then the long title reign would be deserved. But these matches have been bad in general. The best match for the women’s division was Serena Deeb vs Thunder Rosa but it was heatless because neither can do a good promo. I’m not talking just being able to talk and not sound like a complete nondescript, flat wall. I’m talking where they make the issue interesting and emotionally hook the audience into their match before it happens. People blame Tony Khan partly for that but it’s also the execution of the creative.
Will Ospreay (w/Aussie Open) vs. Orange Cassidy
I completely skipped through this entire thing. It’s a shame because I eventually would like to know why Will Ospreay is any good. But I know for a fact that while in AEW at least, I will never come to that moment. Maybe this was the Bucks’ way of burying Ospready by putting him in with the goof that won’t go away. You had other great opponents potentially in Samoa Joe (okay kayfabe injured), Jay Lethal, Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, Ricky Starks, Dustin Rhodes, etc. And the guy you picked was the joke. But once I saw this match up, I knew what was going to happen and came to the conclusion of this whole NJPW – AEW thing.
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Claudio Castagnoli (aka Mr Mystery)
If there was a single moment of actual, sincere interest I had for this PPV in any form, it was to know the mystery opponent for Zack Sabre Jr. Supposedly, Bryan Danielson was going to wrestle Zack but injury prevented him from doing so. I think it was more of a serendipitous moment just in that the guy that Bryan sold actually turned out to be someone worth his spot. So there was a rumor going around that Johnny Gargano was going to be the replacement due to him coincidentally appearing in Chicago for 8 hours for a signing on the same day. Gargano even took a picture of himself on the plane going back home and thanking Chicago for that 8 hour period.
But my guess was Cesaro just because he’s the one guy that fit the bill. And he received the pop he deserved. Good match, the right guy went over, this was a great AEW debut for Claudio, he looked really happy and I’m happy for him. As for Zack, meh. I didn’t care for him before and I didn’t care after. I could see the match Bryan would have wanted with Zack since they have a similar style but the dream NJPW match for Bryan Danielson I think is against Okada. Zack vs Bryan would make for a better random Dynamite match and that’s about it.
Oh and I guess this means Claudio is now part of the Blackpool Combat Club and will be showing up on Dynamite for the Blood n Guts event.
Jay White (w/Gedo) vs. Kazuchika Okada vs. Adam Cole vs. Adam Page
This was the ultimate WTF match for me because going into it, I honestly had no idea what was supposed to happen. Jay White gave some bad promos leading up to this where he left Adam Cole looking like the dunce kid and Okada randomly showed up on Dynamite so that the audience could masturbate with ketchup. But in the end, I guess this was for the IWGP world title in a four way. The promo on Dynamite from Jay was so wretched, convoluted and unhelpful that this whole thing could’ve been for no title and it wouldn’t have made a difference.
So here’s the big thing to me. I haven’t seen much of Okada and only know of him because of what people have said. I wanted to be impressed based on the orgasmic response he has received. And then I watched him in this match just waiting and waiting and waiting to be impressed. And I kept waiting. If you’re going to have someone who supposed is as great and big of a star as Okada and you want to use him, make the guy have a real impact rather than having three friends take turns greasing each other up with condiments and not help showcase the important person that is making his very rare appearance on American soil. And why I’m making this a big deal is that you need to give the best first impression when someone of this supposed caliber the opportunity of a lifetime. You need to make a statement. The statement to me was “I don’t care.”
Regardless, there was a part where it looked like Cole got re-injured with his shoulder as he fell to the mat and Jay White covered him for a fast pin. Later, I read that Cole had suffered a concussion. So AEW should really be renamed AIW (yes, I know this promotion exist) for All Injury Wrestling. Let’s see who else is going to thin out this roster?
Jon Moxley (w/William Regal) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
This was for the stupid concept of an interim world champion. AKA let’s give out yet another gratuitous title so that everyone gets one and is happy with something less prestigious than my ball grease. This should’ve been a dream match on some level. But who’s dream the question is begged. I’ve known about Tanahashi for sometime. They call him the Ace of NJPW because he had been so good for many years. He was on that Hiroshi Hase or Keiji Muta level. Back in the late 90s, the heavyweight division just felt dull. There were some good talent like Hashimoto but the majority of the heavyweight group was bland. Like you’d see a veteran such as Riki Choshu execute three moves over and over. Or you’d see Kensuke Sasaki, whose wife was far more interesting in a variety of ways, not to mention one of the best female wrestlers ever. While those guys had the same match every taping, the juniors were killing it.
Then something happened when a version of the junior style became the norm. And Tanahashi pretty much was their #1 guy. If there was a version of that person, I didn’t see it. I couldn’t figure out what made Tanahashi special from this match. When he arrived he was neutered because Jericho interrupted him and Moxley talked all over him. Was this some kind of revenge job by Jericho?
The match was bland to me. Moxley bled for no good reason and Tanahashi did nothing special beyond a job to a lesser foe. Then there was some sort of after birth where they needed to promote Blood n Guts for Wednesday so Jericho’s peasants came down only for Claudio to make his second appearance and give another proper giant swing to end the night along with Claudio and Eddie Kingston jaw jacking at the end while poor Tanahashi had to fake sell while everyone else did their thing. Man, what a disaster.
There really was two major conclusions for me as a result of this PPV. One, Claudio was the highlight for me just because he seems like a cool dude who’ll shine and deserves to be in his position. And the second is that NJPW should NEVER work with AEW ever again. What was this abomination? Was this a taste test to see if the American audience would buy into the Japanese group? Or did NJPW pay so that they could bring more awareness to the American soil of their existence? Because I thought their promotion was completely buried after this show.
NJPW just looked like idiots who showed up to collect a paycheck. The guys I thought I wanted to see were guys I ended up feeling more apathetic for. The production was bad with the dueling announcements in English and Japanese. And I haven’t watched NJPW in ages since the late 90s but man I’d be embarrassed if I was Riki Choshu or Liger to be involved in this. Beyond Claudio’s debut, there was absolutely nothing exciting nor noteworthy about this PPV. It just felt like an average PPV where people got excited to see their cult hero from another promotion show up on American soil on PPV. But once the matches got started, they wouldn’t end. The vast majority of the people involved from NJPW were boring nobodies to me. I wasn’t led to believe that they should win because they are nobodies.
Truthfully, you could almost call this the indirect influence of how big the WWE is. Because the real forbidden door is getting Vince McMahon to work with another promotion at all. But you had all his ex-stars get their dream opponents while NJPW got their long term desire of being seen in front of an American audience again in a semi-validating way. In Tony Khan’s head, he probably thought everything went well. To me, as a casual fan, I thought that NJPW looked terrible.
But maybe that was it. They knew they were on the losing end of the stick. Sure, they had some of their guys go over. But outside of Moxley vs Tanahashi, can anyone say there was a legit dream match on this show? This wasn’t like Akira Hokuto vs Shinobu Kandori or Yamada/Toyota vs Kansai/Ozaki. It felt most likely random jobbers that AEW normally finds on the indies taking on their talent on a sham PPV. So maybe once guys like Okada and Tanahashi found out that they weren’t going over, they just said fuck it and possibly were convinced to say fuck it. Why put yourself out there when you’re not getting what you want. Heck, we weren’t even going to get the real dream match of KENTA vs Punk because there is a real issue there that needs to be settled.
What’s funny is that there ARE lots of politics involved here apparently. One instance was Andrade talking about not being able to participate here because of some stupidity between AAA, NJPW and CMLL. And that was one of the few surface level things brought up recently. With Tanahashi and Okada kind of dogging it, you have to wonder how much NJPW pulled them back. And it’s interesting listening to the scrum after the PPV. Okada was presented very seriously, wearing a suit, not breaking kayfabe, even though he got dumb kayfabe breaking questions and acted professionally. Jay White, despite me hating his promo on Dynamite, tried to treat the “reporters” like idiots (as he should) and spoke in gimmick. I was like, “Good for him!” He took that whole media scrum seriously and tried to make due with a lousy situation while Tony Khan looked like a total dweeb. But you can tell that NJPW wants to at least maintain a degree of professionalism because their fans probably still take what they do serious enough that they need to care about their appearance whereas Tony Khan has been convinced that “fuck it” is okay and you can see the clear difference.
The other thing I have to bring up is the constant injuries. Hearing Adam Cole wrestling with a shoulder injury and then getting concussed is disturbing. There wasn’t that much garbage wrestling compared to other PPVs or TV even, but holy cow it just seems like these guys can’t stop getting hurt. You know that Sonny Kiss might finally make TV once again because every other person is out. It’ll be a process of elimination as all the unwanted job people are going to inch their way back up the ladder of chaos. In all seriousness though, Tony Khan should really take a moment to examine WHY his people are getting injured. Yes, this is wrestling there’s no off season. But without key people in place, the quality has been hit tremendously.