Recently, I decided to curb my reveiws of AEW’s shows just because they’ve been a mixed bag and the direction has been quite erratic. While I will address the post media scrum later on in this review, I decided to run down the show along with their pre-show. It’s a long one so I’ll try to keep my review brief except where relevant.
Sammy Guevara / Tay Melo Vs. Ortiz / Ruby Soho
This was for the AAA mixed tag team championship. I haven’t talked much about Guevara and Tay’s win of the AAA mixed tag team probably because they just showed up one day wearing those belts with so little context. I suppose Konnan gave them the belts so that Guevara can keep gold around his waist while supposedly shining up Tay. But it’s just more meaningless straps that Tony Khan has no idea how to advertise. This match was infuriating because at one point Ruby broke her nose and there were a few dangerous spots that were unnecessary that I could see. Poor Ruby has fallen so far down the ladder that I wouldn’t be surprised if one day she shows back up in the WWE at this rate. Whatever momentum she had when she came in has long passed and Tony Khan just fucked everything up about her. She should have won the women’s title back at the Arthur Ashe Stadium show, which in retrospect, was one of the worst BOOKED shows I have seen, despite having decent matches. At any rate, Guevara/Tay win for some unknown reason and Ortiz also continues to be a non-entity, especially because his partner Santana woke up finally and probably is gone for good.
HOOK vs. “Cool Hand” Angelo Parker
Here’s another meaningless title match where they had the FTW title on the line. This match was meaningless because they had a jobber in Angelo Parker being the one to confront Hook to try to give him “the rub.” You can’t give the rub if you have none. Being associated to Jericho means nothing especially when you are treated and act like a stooge. So no one gave Angelo Parker a chance to win this and it was just a way to give Hook another empty handed victory.
The big (fat) thing of note here though was Action Bronson making a cameo and making 2.0 look even more ineffective. Action Bronson supposedly is a rapper for Hook and he’s nothing more than a morbidly obese rando who made me think back to the guy who tried to attack Jericho a while back. Don’t put a fat slab on these things unless they’re someone with talent like a Yokozuna or Vader. Oh and BTW Yokozuna and Vader were athletic.
PAC vs. Kip Sabian
Here we go already on the pre-show with the 3rd meaningless title match, this time for the All-Atlantic Title. Kip had a box on his head for over a year so he looked like a joke coming in. Then he context switches, does a “scary” promo and pretends his some psycho killer. The guy plays video games to less than 100 people on Twitch and his entire time has been unremarkable in AEW outside of a stupid marriage angle that made Miro look bad after Miro’s own terrible run in the WWE. But again no one cares about this guy and he should’ve been let go a while back. However, as PAC goes to the back he gets confronted by the Worst Friends and Orange Cassidy. Of everyone, why should OC get a title shot against PAC? Stop putting this guy in things that devalue your already worthless title! Oh and while that was going on Kip pulled a Al Snow with the Box that was on his head by speaking to it like it was Head. Just ridiculous.
Eddie Kingston vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Kingston wants to think of himself as Misawa or Kobashi. Despite being morons for what ended up happening to their lives, Misawa and Kobashi had in ring talent. This was a nothing match. I thought Ishii was going to win just because of the backstage drama with Kingston. Tony Khan needs to learn to punish wrestlers for their attitudes rather than rewarding them. Both Sammy and Kingston should have lost their matches to put Sammy and Kingston in their place. But Tony is too stupid and weak (like Fredo from the Godfather) to realize what to do.
The Casino Ladder Match
This was just a bunch of chaos with Claudio Castagnoli vs. Wheeler YUTA vs. Penta El Zero M vs. Rey Fénix vs. Andrade El Ídolo vs. RUSH vs. Dante Martin vs. Joker involved in a spotfest that lead to nothing until Stokely and the Joker came out. Everyone knew the Joker was MJF but he didn’t reveal himself at this point (spoilers; don’t care). I will say that what they did for the ending was original and it had to be MJF’s idea so I liked that ending to put a bullet in the rest of this god awful mess. MJF…I mean the Joker teased revealing himself before giving the crowd the bird. Again, MJF might be the current smartest guy in wrestling.
Kenny Omega / Young Bucks vs. Adam Page / Dark Order
The Trios Title match. Ugh. Why was John Silver and Alex Reynolds even involved here? You knew going in that Alex Reynolds would be the fall guy. More importantly, this car wreck of a match went on for almost 20 minutes and practically killed a lot of the show. This was the “political” match where the actual EVPs gave themselves handjobs in creating a whole new title for themselves and putting over no one in the process. But we’ll get more into that with the post media scrum. Either way, this match sucked.
Jade Cargill vs. Athena
This was for the TBS women’s title. Jade looked fantastic here. Too bad she’s still green and that Tony went get off his pet project. I’ll be honest. Athena didn’t look good at all. I’m sure a big part was Jade but I’m not high on Athena. Her matches have not been good in AEW so that’s probably why she didn’t get the win here. But it really doesn’t help when most of the talent in AEW’s women’s division are awful. Sorry but that’s the raw truth.
Jay Lethal / Motor City Machine Guns vs. Wardlow / FTR
To me, this is where/when the show actually began. I was really interested in seeing FTR vs the MCMGs. And quite frankly, I thought they were fantastic. Too bad the crowd didn’t because the heat got killed when the earlier trios match killed off most of the rest of the show. But FTR got a HUGE reaction. Poor Lethal got the powerbomb symphony from Wardlow and the loss. You knew that the MCMGs being on loan from Impact would not take the loss here. To make Impact/TNA seem even more minor league in the scheme of things, Sonjay Dutt got in, did a bad comedy routine of being scared so that Dax’s daughter could pin him. I swear that Tony Khan has a youth fetish. Samoa Joe made his return and I expect him to get into some stupid match with the tall Indian and eventually put the guy over while counting the days for his contract to end so that he could go back to the WWE now that HHH is in charge. Either way, they took the focus away from Wardlow/FTR to put on Joe and Dax’s daughter rather than possibly having either FTR or one of the MCMGs eat a pin to setup a future match between both teams. Awful, awful, awful booking. Lastly, they need to toss Sonjay Dutt off camera because he adds nothing, I’ve never cared for the guy because he’s just a small jobber, he can’t act, he’s just another goof that’s goofing around making everyone else look bad because he thinks he’s funny.
Ricky Starks vs. Powerhouse Hobbs
This was almost a squash match. I like both guys and get scared for Starks because he seems to risk re-injuring his neck all the time. Starks is going to be a great babyface one day but I don’t know if it’ll be in AEW not unless he gets better booking. And Hobbs should be a mega monster heel. But again, I have zero faith in Tony Khan’s booking capabilities for them to execute on getting these two over properly.
Swerve In Our Glory vs. The Acclaimed
This was for the AEW tag titles. I will admit that this was the sleeper match of the night. Meaning, I slept on it thinking it wasn’t going to be any good. But this turned out to be one of the best matches on the show, possibly the best. Definitely, one of the best tag team matches in AEW’s history. The Acclaimed were massively over here in Chicago and there were some of the weirdest chants with people calling out Billy Gunn by his adopted new name or “scissor me!” And Gunn did a great job here really being the ringside cheerleader throughout this match. But this match was one of the best structured tag team matches I’ve seen in a while. Back and forth action where each side had momentum, they did real wrestling, most of it didn’t look phony/contrived and you could see Swerve suddenly switch heel at one point. That guy is smart. Not sure about Keith Lee, but Swerve read that crowd big time and really got into the heel aspect.
While The Acclaimed didn’t pick up the win, they certainly won over the crowd and the fact that they could be main event tag team players down the road. I think Billy Gunn put this match together and was acting as the coach at ring side. The good parts were Anthony Bowens selling his leg with the story going into this match in that he was the weak link of the group with his body failing him each time. Swerve would hit Bowens’ leg whenever Bowens had some momentum. It wasn’t the tightest tag team match but considering the inexperience of The Acclaimed, this wasn’t bad. They didn’t get the win here but didn’t need to. It was to show that they’re ready.
Now, supposedly there’s going to be a re-match at the next Arthur Ashe Stadium Grand Slam show between these two and I expect The Acclaimed to pick up the win there. I don’t know if that’s the right call though. I think the Acclaimed should have 6 more months built up to gain momentum and then turn Lee/Swerve heel in the process to let the momentum on both sides build.
Toni Storm vs. Hikaru Shida vs. Britt Baker vs. Jamie Hayter
This was for the interim women’s title. Ugh. Enough with the interim titles already. Does this mean if Sammy or Tay get injured they will have an interim AAA mixed tag title too? At any rate, this match had no heat and the crowd was solidly behind Jamie Hayter. Sloppy Shida was involved in this match and really shouldn’t have been involved at this stage of her AEW career because she’s lost all her momentum and hasn’t been given anything to give the crowd a reason to rally behind her.
Toni Storm is my personal favorite in the AEW women’s division based on looks solely. But she’s not good. I’m sorry. She’s mediocre at best and she seems happy just to be there. I have to agree on the crowd on this one where Jamie would make the better champion. I think it’ll happen so that Jamie can turn on Britt. But I’m glad they didn’t immediately turn Hayter because the situation would’ve been compared to Wardlow and MJF. I’ve been pretty high on Jamie Hayter for a while because I know she’s not just a spot machine. I think her worst aspect is that she tries too hard and nearly kills herself each time. But this is one person that they’ve muted, put in the shadows for too long and should give her a mic. She’s not at Becky Lynch’s level but she could be decent along those lines if she’s allowed to speak. And Hikaru Shida should be on Dark wrestling Emi Sakura for the rest of her tenure at this rate.
Christian Cage vs. Jungle Boy
Christian came out with a heavily dinged up right arm and it was reported that he was injured which could explain this match. But once Jungle Boy Jack Perry came out, he went looking for Luchasaurus, who came out through the heel tunnel and assaulted Perry, tossing him onto the ramp then further pulverized Jack at the behest of Cage. This wasn’t unexpected because someone noted that Luchasaurus never put his hands on Christian the entire time whenever he chased him. Not to mention Christian’s shirt said, “Worked everyone.” But the Jurassic Express team had long run its course and was hurting Jack Perry.
Now, I will say that when I saw that sit down interview with Jim Ross, I couldn’t help but think of Christopher Reeve on that one South Park episode about stem cell research where Christopher said, “The old Christopher Reeve is dead. From now on, I am…..Chris!” Jack Perry’s acting is so bad that you know he didn’t acquire any of those talents from his genetics. Either way, I was thankful this “match” didn’t happen because the show was already too long and I was getting tired/bored.
Bryan Danielson vs. Chris Jericho
This was another match I really wanted to see. I know both have faced each other before but not on this footing. This match was more about Chris Jericho re-discovering himself as the Lionheart (aka Cruiserweight Jericho) that the mid 90s fans came to love and take notice vs the best wrestler in the world. And I have to give it to Jericho. He did really well here. The only off parts were his Lionsaults, which at his age, I think he should remove from his repertoire permanently before he Hayabusa’s himself. He already broke his nose once on one I believe. It’s only a matter of time before he doesn’t turn himself enough and he lands on his head and gives himself a stinger. But the first half of the match they did the art of wrestling. You could tell JR, Regal and Tazz really enjoyed that part because it was something that they could sink their teeth into in terms of calling the counters and holds.
Danielson did lose but I don’t think it was a shameful loss. AEW’s top stars are Jericho, Punk, Moxley and Danielson and I think it’s fine when one of them beats the other. They are at that level where a loss from someone in that group doesn’t hurt them because any combination in singles are money matches. Also, I liked that this match ended clean. For my money, this was Jericho’s best AEW match that I can remember. The rest were embarrassments except for the one he had with Kingston. But Jericho knows how to go when it’s the right person and right moment.
House of Black vs. Miro / Darby Allin / Sting
This was a weirdly positioned match that felt weird due to the news surrounding Malakai Black. Black and Miro started off and the crowd seemed hot for them. But Buddy Matthews and Brodie King’s moments were just heatless. No one cared for either guy. The big interaction was with Sting. Everyone still loves Sting and people wanted to see the legend lock up with Black. And I’ll admit I enjoyed that part. If Malakai Black could get his head out of his ass for one second, he should realize that the biggest money he can make is facing Sting because they’re so antithetical to each other, it works. Darby got the win for his team while Miro stood by the ramp. I hate when you have this ambiguous member off to the side. They did that same thing with Andrade and Malakai and it didn’t work. It just came off as awkward. Miro actually is very much similar to Sting so I don’t know why they kept him distant. They totally lost a great moment there and all I could think of was the poorly thought out Game of Thrones trope of “misdirecting expectations” or something like that. There’s a time and place to do that and you can’t constantly deceive your audience especially when they want a moment.
One more comment is that supposedly after the cameras went off the air, Malakai hugged his teammates and blew a kiss to the crowd. Supposedly, he’s either out of AEW or taking time off because of an aggravated back injury. The thing about Malakai in the rumormill is that he asked for his release but wasn’t granted it and that he’s signed for a 5 year deal. He’s still listed on the AEW webpage as a member of the roster (unlike Bobby Fish whose contract DID expire and is no longer listed with AEW). Supposedly, Malakai had been unhappy about the direction of his character as well as dealing with personal issues (which again might point to the nagging back injury). Along those lines, it has been said that the WWE tried to reach out to ex-WWE wrestlers and I wouldn’t be surprised if Malakai was one of them. His wife is over in the WWE and the situation was smoothed over so more than likely, with HHH in charge, Malakai would want to go back.
So here’s the thing. I think Tony Khan should release Malakai so that he can go back to the WWE/his wife if that’s the real situation with him. Tony Khan has been awful in booking Malakai, the matches haven’t been great because they end up doing something stupid in the end and he’s forced to work with sloppy goofs like the Lucha Bros or Pac, which means he’ll take bad bumps and not taking care of himself as he should. Tony allows the guy to have creative freedom but the guy makes it look like an awful horror film. Because there’s no one professional to help produce him in AEW, Malakai ends up looking really dumb. The WWE isn’t that much better but they can produce and I’m sure HHH was high on this guy.
I don’t think Malakai is a bad guy. I’ve seen his streams and he seems like a sincerely good person. His problem is that he overthinks things and he really needs a more experienced person to manage him (like Paul Heyman). Tony Khan is clueless and apparently needs to learn lessons the hard way before he understands how to correct his own mistakes. So just do the right thing and let the man be free and be happy.
Jon Moxley vs. CM Punk
Okay, here’s the other money match of the night (with the first being Jericho vs Danielson). This was a back and forth match both in the ring and with the crowd. It was weird hearing Chicago cheering Moxley but it’s hard to deny the overall popularity of Moxley in AEW. But this obviously was Punk’s place and the crowd was really into both guys. Despite how the trios match killed the majority of this show, the truth is that when you have people that the crowd actually cares about involved in a match, it won’t matter about the match in terms of the moves, etc. because the crowd is more invested in the drama in the ring and the people having the contest.
This wasn’t a “great” match for Punk but he didn’t need to have a “great” match with Moxley. It was more about calming Moxley down and forcing the guy to think about what he was doing. Like Moxley going after Punk’s leg/foot once things got out of control. Punk got great color early on from a post to the outside. Moxley was his usual disgusting self biting/tasting Punk’s blood (if Moxley ends up with Hepatitis one day, it won’t surprise me; and I’m sure Renee does not want to have sex with the guy after he gets back home until he tests negative).
Punk hit a decent GTA that bounced Moxley off the ropes and knocked him cold onto Punk’s shoulders. Punk was worn out but got a second GTA for the emphatic pin. People erupted and they let Punk have his moment here until….
The Joker/Devil Reveals Himself
And it’s MJF.
Not surprising when the crowd chanted his name. But once he unmasked himself and threw his signature plaid scarf over his neck, it was very clear whom the Joker was. Once again, the intrigue pops off as the lights go out a second time but he comes out to his music. Crowd erupts. MJF is very over. He’s smug and controlling his emotions to show what he wants which is the belt.
Conclusion to the Show
The ending was great. MJF’s reaction was off the charts and people called for his return here. This was the “how can I miss you if you don’t leave” situations. But it was weird hearing MJF being wildly cheered by the crowd in Punk’s hometown. I believe MJF even flipped him out. But here’s the thing: MJF is going to be the biggest star in the next 1-2 years. Of everyone that Tony has, MJF is the one clear stand out who has every single attribute to be a top star. He just GETS it.
As for the Punk-Moxley match, it’s clear now that Punk put Moxley over in Ohio so that they had something leading up to this match. They really had nothing coming in because Moxley has been a fan favorite. But coming in they had some material to chew on because there was very little time to build for this match. Part of that was Punk’s injury but a lot of that was just terrible overall booking from Tony Khan. I can only assume that they didn’t know how healthy Punk could be at this point and decided to pull the trigger very close to the PPV. Nonetheless, I hate shotgunning a title like that because it also was there to pop a rating. Punk tried to make the match and angle have some sense coming in given the limited time he had but it really needed a lot more. And I’m sure Punk and Moxley are friends because they’ve been working together for some time so he wanted to make sure Moxley was still protected in putting the guy over once in his home state. I just think that they needed more time to go for something like that given what we’ve seen up until this point.
Now, let’s talk about the HUGE elephant in the room: the post media scrum. It was odd leading the scrum with the camera turning on in what felt like a late moment where Punk started shooting down Colt Cabana. We don’t exactly have the entire context of the question that was asked to cause Punk to suddenly flip out and go on a tangent on Colt (whom he addressed by Colt’s real name of Scott Colton). But let me say this part. When Punk first arrived, one of the things he said was that he was going to settle somethings in the locker room. I’m sure there were various feuds people had in mind but the one that people wouldn’t directly talk about was the one with Colt Cabana.
Colt had been relegated to ROH and has been completely off AEW TV. Supposedly, people had backed Colt up when Tony was ready to fire the guy (or let him go). Yet again for someone who is a non-entity and relegated to a meaningless, TV-less promotion, why is the guy still around at all? So my take is that this is a work so that Colt can finally do something. CM Punk is a very smart guy and he knows how to walk that razor’s edge when it comes between reality and working. This whole thing came out of left field all the while CM Punk was eating pastries of all things. Punk knows how to make things real, how to sell tickets, especially when it comes to the tough current environment where things are more taboo. But what Punk has done no matter what is create enough intrigue to have the online community talking about it, especially at a time when Vince McMahon, HHH and the WWE have the momentum shifted back.
And before going into the EVP part, let me justify my thinking about Punk’s smartness when he talks about being forced to wrestle pricks with MJF. Everyone knows that MJF is old school and he wants to keep things real with kayfabe. I think Punk is game here and believes in that old school mentality so he has to blur the lines to create that intrigue. By setting up Page, the EVPs and Colt Cabana in the first half of the interview as people who were unprofessional and all the “Punk is a diva” rumors floating around, Punk has effectively begun very subtly his heel turn. Because this version of Punk is unlike anything we’ve seen from his past media scrums. Now, when he goes into that match against MJF, MJF will be the biggest babyface in the world because he’ll flip the canvas around to reveal the true Punk. MJF doesn’t even have to beat Punk (I say give MJF a year before doing that). He just needs to start a massive babyface turn.
As far as the EVPs, Adam Page and Colt Cabana are concerned, I think Punk is setting himself up for a massive feud against them. It will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen in terms of a feud because they’re using all the inside stuff from the rumor mills to build up real heat. Colt might be a useful casualty in all of this but the important thing would be to have their affairs settled in front of the camera and give Colt some time to reinvent himself a bit. One of the reasons I said that was because Punk mentioned how he wanted to bring Colt to the top with him. And you have to wonder about why he would reveal his intent so publicly. Punk doesn’t like pulling back the curtains so it’s such a strange thing for him to drop a random name even one that he was once involved in so suddenly.
With the EVPs getting the trios titles and Punk slamming Page in calling him an idiot (which is a horrible no no, even in or especially in a post media scrum like this), I could see Punk working with say FTR and Wardlow to go after the trios titles and possibly have Page involved in that somehow. Page is someone the company desperately wants to get over but his positioning has been bad for sometime. I just think that they want to factor him back into the title picture somehow and this is a way to bring out that fire. Same thing with Omega/Bucks. There was a reported “security” incident with the Bucks and Punk going at it after his interview was over. A shot from a reporter showed one of the guards rushing to the back. You have to wonder why are people acting so unprofessional here.
One other thing that I thought was interesting was hearing Punk talk about Adam Cole and his health. Punk mentioned how he’s worried about the kid and making sure the guy is healthy. Also, he put Cole over as being a good person, which if you’ve ever seen a Chuggs twitch stream, you know is true. The guy seems like a sincere sweetheart and it’s known that Adam Cole is a huge Punk fan. With Bobby Fish gone it pretty much kills the rumored Undisputed Elite vs the Elite feud that should have happened. So does that mean that Punk is going to form his own faction? Maybe FTR, Wardlow, Cole and possibly O’Reilly to make up for the misguided fail of the Undisputed Elite feud?
Of course, I can be completely wrong about all this and that AEW is screwed just because Tony Khan can’t control his roster. But if anything you have to admit that the behind the scenes drama is far more interesting than what we’re seeing on screen.