Hey, Why Wasn’t This Up Earlier? As a quick explanation, the weekend of All Out (and NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff) fell on Labor Day in the United States, meaning we had a rare long weekend off. Due to the wrestling world being filled to the brim with non-stop shows, it took some time to catch up. We apologize for the inconvenience, and assure you that when these weekly shows start up on TNT you’ll have thousands of words to read about them sooner rather than later.
If you’d like to keep up with our ongoing coverage of all things All Elite Wrestling — including the first AEW World Champion, who drank a little too much of the bubbly and lost the physical championship belt — make sure you’re following our AEW tag page.
And now, here’s the long awaited Best and Worst of AEW All Out, originally aired on August 31, 2019.
Best: Jungle Love
Up first is a six-man tag team match pitting three of the most respected veterans of the independent era (Christopher Daniels, Kazarian, and Scorpio Sky) taking on a 6-foot-5 dinosaur who does lucha libre moves and the two tiny jungle sons he hatched from eggs. I think that’s what their deal is supposed to be.
The Jurassic Express of Luchasaurus, Jungle Boy (aka “Jungle” Jack Perry, which they should start calling him permanently), and Marko Stunt is the perfect balance between Lucha Underground experimental pulp and the modern, fun-loving Joey Ryan version of current independent wrestling. They work tremendously because they’re funny and odd to look at, especially if you’re a kid looking for a hook beyond 70s wrestling pathos or “cool guy does cool moves,” and because they aren’t just a goofy concept. They’re a goofy concept that can also go in the ring. If you watched the Luchasaurus hot tag of doom …
… or their Chrono Trigger-style triple tech …
… and weren’t all about this team, I don’t know what to tell you. SCU has been doing yeoman’s work making every opponent they go up against look like the next big thing in wrestling, and if a year goes by and they aren’t the unanimous MVPs of the promotion, I’ll be truly bewildered. This might’ve messed around and ended up my favorite match (or, at least, the match I’ll rewatch the most) of the entire night. Which is saying something, because the rest of the card featured a Rhodes storytelling match, PAC choking out Kenny Omega, and Pentagon just doing front flips non-stop until everyone around him died.
Speaking of Kenny …
YESSSS GIVE ME YOUR TEARSSSSS
Best: The Neville Made Me Do It
My favorite match of the night is up for debate, but my favorite moment in a walk was The Nasty Bastard (™ Big Show’s mom) PAC choking Kenny Omega into unconsciousness and making the entire crowd make sad Undertaker at WrestleMania 30 faces. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but love for Kenny Omega the man and love most of his matches, but Kenny Omega the wrestling character drives me up a wall sometimes. In a good way, I think. I just want to see somebody kick him until he stops pulling anime poses.
For example, you should’ve heard my Disney villain cackle when PAC pulled this off:
That’s the kind of defiance of physics you get from a guy who once took a Tyler Breeze DDT like this. If you’re an Omega fan and don’t agree with any of this, here’s him clocking PAC in the skull with a dropkick to cleanse your palate. One quick note, though: Have I been the only one pronouncing PAC as “pock?” When they started in calling him “Pack” I felt some embarrassment creep in. I’ve been calling him Crandall!
Anyway, this whole thing was great, as you’d expect from these two. I’m sad that the Jon Moxley match didn’t happen, as PAC’s previous AEW beef was with Adam Page and Omega had a built-in story with Mox, but you couldn’t have asked for a better substitution on short notice. Unless you brought out CM Punk, who said he definitely wasn’t showing up, so it shocked us when he definitely didn’t show up.
Omega still being winless (edit: got this wrong, but he’s not winning MUCH) in a company where “wins and losses matter” is interesting, especially since he’s the promotion’s Executive Vice President. If he stays winless, does he get to stick around and be Shane McMahon? That’d be pretty funny. He’s already throwing shade at employees for missing shows due to staph infections, which is a tricky example of the kind of stuff you run into when you have a real life corporate position and an on-screen wrestling character in active competition at the same time.
OMG WHAT: The Cracker Barrel Clash
If any match made you make an Ellis Mbeh face, it should’ve been the “Cracker Barrel Clash” between Darby Allin (who is crazy), Joey Janela (who is crazy), and Jimmy Havoc (who is crazy). it’s one of those matches that’s not so much a “match” as a list of ridiculous and increasingly dangerous spots, and I’d do it more of a service by listing everything they did over “analyzing” it. It’s pure stimulus response.
Where to even begin? I mean, within moments there’s a guy having thumbtacks poured into his mouth and then having his mouth taped shut. Your “feeling out process” is already a Saw trap, so where do you go from that? To their credit, they managed to continually top themselves, whether it was a monkeyflip to a guy in a chair who lands with the chair sitting up, only to have the guy who flipped him paper cut him on the tongue. This is the kind of madness we’re working with. Oh, and Darby used a skateboard with a bunch of thumbtacks on the bottom to do a goddamn ollie off the top onto Janela’s back.
The only way it could’ve been more absurd is if he’d grabbed a spinning letter “E” out of the air to spell S-K-A-T-E on his way down.
If you’re wondering what makes this a “Cracker Barrel Clash,” it’s … well, it’s a hardcore match sponsored by the Cracker Barrel. That means they’re fighting with Cracker Barrel barrels, doing moves to each other through Cracker Barrel barrels, and, you guessed it, jumping backwards off the top rope and smashing Cracker Barrel barrels between their bodies and the metal ring steps. Wait, what the hell did I just type …
So yeah, AEW’s weekly show hasn’t actually started up yet, but based on the shows we’ve been given, they’ve maintained one really important thing from World Championship Wrestling: it might be mostly disorganized chaos that lacks the refined polish and production of the competition, but it’s never boring.
Worst: The Dark Order, And The Tag Team Tournament
If the show has a low point we can all agree on, it’s probably the Dark Order. A lot of things in AEW have the “independent wrestling” vibe, but the Dark Order looks like they stumbled in from your local armory without any buffers. You can’t call them the Super Smash Bros., obviously, but you could make them look and act a little less like guys who’d give themselves video game gimmicks. The “Creepers” thing and their whole malicious “evil” vibe doesn’t work when they’re showing up for basic tag matches in full lighting with wacky minions. I don’t know, I’m not totally sure what I’m trying to articulate, but I’ve seen a metric shit-ton of “goth” gimmicks in wrestling, and this one’s missing a lot of the ancillary shit that makes them work. Like, imagine if Aleister Black jogged down to the ring with the lights turned up bright and just made spooky poses on the ropes.
Plus, I’m not digging the weird formatting of the AEW Tag Team Tournament. If you have to win a match to get a chance at a bye, and then you have to win a second match to actually get the bye, are you getting a bye at all? it seems like you’re having to wrestle an extra match, and that you should’ve just waited for the seeding and taken your chances. The teams competing in round one matches at least have a forward trajectory. You’re fighting for a chance at a chance.
The good news is that when we’re introduced to a character that doesn’t care, things get great. Wait, what?
Best: Big Cass
When the Best Friends lose to the Dark Order via SPOOKY SHENANIGAGS, they’re saved by pro wrestling’s greatest hope: Orange Cassidy. I know all art is subjective and that we’re allowed to like or dislike things based on our own, valid, equal opinions. Nothing can be definitely understood as “good” or “bad” when there are 7.53 billion people in the world coming to art with differing life experiences. That said, you are a goddamn fool if you don’t understand how good Orange Cassidy is at pro wrestling, and don’t realize how good you have to be to wrestle badly this well. I don’t care if you’re Jim Cornette or the guy who pumps my gas, Orange Cassidy is the shit.
For example, please enjoy this GIF of him doing a dive through the ropes, rolling back into the ring, and kipping up without ever removing his hands from his pockets or losing his sunglasses.
What. Orange Cassidy is my hero. He’s the closet thing I’ve ever seen to a wrestler who wrestles like I watch wrestling.
Best: Joshi Continues To Matter
Let’s recap the developments in the women’s division now that AEW has a physical Women’s Championship belt, which jerks on the Internet will tell you looks ugly because it looks like a classic wrestling championship instead of like a Fruit Loop-colored class ring.
On the Buy In show (which also featured another in a string of good Private Party matches, because they’re going to be huge stars), Nyla Rose won a 21-woman Casino Battle Royale to qualify for the championship match. That battle royal featured a ton of women I love to watch wrestle, from Lucha Underground’s Ivelisse to goddamn Tenille ‘Emma’ Dashwood, who is never going to get the love she deserves for actually co-starting the Women’s Revolution in WWE. Then you’ve got Shazza McKenzie, Nicole Savoy, BIG SWOLE, motherfucking JAZZ, and more. If this is AEW’s women’s division, their women’s division is going to rule.
On top of that functioning North American women’s division you’ve got AEW’s Joshi wing, represented by Riho vs. Hikaru Shida on the main card. For the longest time I’ve been wishing an American promotion would bring over and promote Joshi stars in the way WCW promoted international cruiserweights back in the day, and it looks like All Elite’s finally the one to do it. I think the key is letting women who don’t wrestle that Joshi style adapt to them, and not the other way around. Regardless, it’s too good a pro wrestling niche to deny forever, and is long overdue for worldwide glory.
Here, Riho plays a great underdog to the larger, stronger Hikaru Shida and only gives me mild eating disorder problems by being an athlete on television and weighing 98 pounds. That around-the-world roll-up she won with was choice, and I can’t wait until AEW’s women’s division and its Japanese stars can get actual televised, ongoing stories beyond “here’s a match,” which should be solved by weekly TV over quarterly showcase events built around five white guys on a YouTube channel.
Best: Wild Horses
As I’ve mentioned a few times before, one of my favorite things about AEW in its infancy is that Cody Rhodes has become the guy who gets long, emotional, story-based and “old school” wrestling matches. They fit so well on a show full of flipping through tables and dinosaur luchadors and thumbtacks in mouths that a good old, “I HATE YOU because REASONS and we’re gonna FIGHT ABOUT IT” feels fresh and exciting. All kinds of wrestling are good, I just wanna make sure they keep this kind on the show.
You probably know this if you’ve read anything I’ve ever written, but I grew up watching the NWA, and the one thing I know for sure (in kayfabe, just to clarify) is that Tully Blanchard is a piece of garbage. Pairing him up with Shawn Spears in a new version of Tully Blanchard Enterprises is A+ referencing, and pairing him AGAINST a Rhodes in a figurative and literal blood feud? How could I possibly not be obsessed with this? It’s like a pro wrestling program sprung fully formed from my heart.
The story here follows a lot of the same themes Cody’s been playing with since AEW was founded and, sure enough, plays on old NWA and WCW themes without being too heavy handed about it. For example, who should show up to help out when Tully Blanchard’s interference becomes too much? The ENFORCER, ready to dish out some pick you up and quickly put you back down OLD MAN JUSTICE.
Getting a spinebuster from Arn Anderson must be like getting anointed by The Pope. What a moment.
My only complaint about this match is that they should maybe let their poor dog stay at home in the future, so he doesn’t get spooked by the fireworks and dragged out in front of thousands of strangers against his will. Pharaoh is a very good dog and I just want his little dog brain to be happy. At least only include him in entrances where stuff doesn’t explode a few feet in front of him!
Best: Chaos Is A Ladder
Meet the Young Actual Bucks, tassel-themed luchadors and Escalera de la Muerte opponents for Pentagon Jr. (or whatever we’re calling him this week) and Rey Fenix. I probably don’t have to tell you this, but these are without a doubt the four best people in the world at putting together a string of jaw-dropping and increasingly worrisome pro wrestling spots involving tandem offense, ridiculous timing, and weapons that will make sure they can’t walk when they’re 40.
This was as good as matches like these get. I think it could’ve been more effective had the show not also included the Cracker Barrel Clash, some steel chair-based storytelling in other high profile matches, and multiple great tag matches before it, but it’s not really hurt by them. I’m not offering platitudes when I say these guys are better at this than anybody in the world. Fenix and Penta are reasons one and two why Lucha Underground felt so memorable, from Grave Consequences to the Black Lotus Triad episode, and the Bucks seem like they built an entire promotion around how much people want to see them have bonkers dream matches. It fits. It works.
For example, tell me if anyone else could’ve done and/or taken a Canadian Destroyer off the top of a ladder through a table this cleanly:
And when it’s time to eschew cleanliness and pull off the most stupidly dangerous thing in the world, is there anyone who could’ve taken THIS and walked away with a functioning face and spine?
It’s beyond ridiculous. It’s beyond anything reasonable you can ask a professional wrestler to do, and they’re out there doing it like it’s nothing. Okay, maybe not like it’s nothing, but they’re giving thousands of people thousands of moments they’ll never forget. “Where were you when a Young Buck decided to break a table by falling off a ladder, clipping the top rope with his ankles, and hitting the concrete face-first? Oh yeah, he’s totally fine.”
Best: Lax Storytelling
As an added bonus, we get a post-match attack on everyone from LAX, formerly Impact Wrestling’s best tag team and one of the better duos in the world right now. We’re calling them “The Boricuas,” because Impact owns LAX, and apparently LOS Boricuas is still a WWE thing. Still, I’m hype to see them perform in AEW (whose tag team division is really absurdly great), and this was the best pro wrestling attack from a guy in a Bill Clinton mask since Buff Bagwell at Halloween Havoc.
Best/Worst: A Little Bit Of The Bubbly
Finally there’s the championship main event, in which Chris Jericho says fuck Adam Page and the horse he rode in on.
For all intents and purposes, this was a good match. I think I enjoyed it a little less than I should’ve because it came at the end of a show full of insane stimulus response and every kind of good wrestling in the world, from Orange Cassidy to the Four Horsemen to Canadian Destroyers off ladders through tables. So a guy on a horse is pretty fun and cool, but the WrestleMania 35 effect is real. When it’s the end of the night, you just kinda wanna get out of there no matter how much you like Becky Lynch.
As for whether or not it was the right decision putting the belt on Jericho … I think it was. He’s a “legend” and a former WWE guy, sure, but he’s still relevant. He’s always made sure he remained relevant. He feels as current and relevant to the product as a Kevin Owens does, and is closer to someone like that than, say, Goldberg or The Undertaker. He still DOES things, and works hard. Page isn’t the Elite guy I would’ve put in this position in the first place — that was probably Marty Scurll’s job — but the Bucks, Cody, and Omega are all so tied into the very existence of the promotion that too many wrestling fans would cry foul if they “pushed” themselves. We’ll get AEW Champion Cody and AEW Champion Kenny Omega (and AEW Champion Adam Page) at some point, but as for now, when you’re heading into the first live wrestling program on TNT in 18 years, it doesn’t hurt to have the guy considered by many to be the Best Ever at the top of your bill. He doesn’t have to keep it forever, but there are worse ways to start a wrestling program than a legendary heel asshole being chased by a league of new stars he can help mold into household names.
Just keep him away from chain restaurants for a while.