Previously on All Elite Wrestling: We went from All In to Double Or Nothing to see Cody and Dustin Rhodes have the match of their lives, Glacier debuted his deadly frost breath, and the artist formerly known as Dean Ambrose showed up to DDT a nerd on some oversized poker chips.
You can follow all of our All Elite Wrestling updates on the AEW tag page. Remember that With Spandex is on Twitter, so follow it. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. You can also follow me on Twitter. We are also t-shirt salesmen, but we’re nowhere near as good at it.
And now, the Best and Worst of All Elite Wrestling x CEO Fyter Fest 2019, the second show under the AEW brand.
I Enjoyed The Preshow, Buy-In Large
One of my smaller complaints about Double or Nothing is that I thought the “Buy-In” kickoff show felt more “indie wrestling” and more flawed and unpolished than the rest of the show, and thought it didn’t really represent the vibe or image the actual event seemed like it was going for. The Buy-In at Fyter Fest was a lot more enjoyable for me, although the jaded old man part of me still wishes they’d keep this stuff — at least most of it — for the live crowd. I guess it’s a good sign if my biggest complaint is, “they’re giving me extra free wrestling.”
Tag Teams, Back Again
The opening tag team match ruled, though. The stars of the match without a doubt were Private Party, possibly because they were in the ring with four of AEW’s most tenured and experienced veterans. And while there are a lot of people who get instantaneously contrarian when they can hit a, “it’s just MOVES,” talking point, I think a fast-paced match (with consequences, even) littered with “cool moves” is kinda sorta what a wrestling pay-per-view pre-show was designed for. For example, THIS wonderful nonsense:
Unless you have a Cesaro on your roster, there isn’t a better base for inexperienced young guys going for ambitious lucha libre moves than Chuck Taylor. That guy could help a 120-pound 19-year old guy dressed like a half-man half-animal super hero get through a convoluted tijeras in his sleep. Marq Quen looked like a major star here.
So Many Fyre Festival Jokes
The Buy-In gave you all the jokes you needed from an event called “Fyter Fest,” from cheese sandwiches and Blink 182 to QT Marshall sucking dick for building permits. If you didn’t get any of these references, feel free to watch the multiple, conflicting Fyre Festival documentaries on Netflix and Hulu, and read the UPROXX Fyre Festival tag page for the shorthand.
I’m okay with whatever they do as long as they let Regenerated Tammy Sytch awkwardly hang out on stage for four hours. I was like Pockets from Hook when she showed up. Yes, I’m sure we’ll all get to know her as the show-
WAIT NO WHERE ARE YOU GOING, COME BACK
Less effective for me was The Librarians stuff. As much as I love Peter Avalon and Leva Bates, it’s just not hitting. One of the difficult things about trying to get “librarian” characters over, especially when their whole thing is wanting the crowd to be quiet, is that if they’re good enough at it, the crowd plays along and stays quiet. So even if the matches are going well, they sound like they aren’t, because the crowd’s just silent or shushing along for fun.
Anyway, Leva ends up wrestling Allie, and it’s all pretty flat. Plus, it’s pretty hard to reconcile Allie going from being murdered with a Freddy Krueger glove by an undead bride in a Satanic nether-realm to being upset that she’s gotten shushed by a wrestling librarian, but that’s probably my psychological damage.
Finally there’s the hardcore match between body oil-obsessed villain Michael Nakazawa and video game tournament impresario Alex Jebailey. It’s exactly what it sounds like, and you know how seriously you’re supposed to take it when Bryce Remsburg is out there prat-falling onto oil slicks. Also when you realize you can control someone by wrapping a video game controller cord around their neck and mashing buttons.
I thought Jebailey did fine for a novice non-wrestler, and having the guy bash people in the head with video game controllers and try to drown them in a kiddie pool is the way to do it. It’s not like he’s in there trying to be Stephen Amell, hitting top rope crossbodies to the floor or whatever. Plus, it’s Michael Nakazawa. Not like he’s trading blows with Cody Rhodes.
Although I do hope Nakazawa’s win here sets up another 40-minute Nakazawa vs. Kenny Omega championship match down the road, if only for a spot where Nakazawa dunks his head in baby oil and the V-Triggers connect, but just slide right off.
Best: Vennern’s Day
I liked the choice of Christopher Daniels vs. CIMA as the pay-per-view opener, as it set a way more professional tone for the show than anything that came before it. Instead of wild chaotic creativity, goofy character bits, dick-sucking jokes, or video game Todd-foolery, two veterans took the show by the horns and settled it back into a role I personally enjoy much more than the alternative: a great pro wrestling show that isn’t afraid to do what pro wrestlers do, and to do it well.
There’s nothing spectacular to talk about here; it’s just a good-ass wrestling match, with CIMA going over Daniels strong after a long back-and-forth to position him as a viable opponent for Kenny Omega at Fight for the Fallen in two weeks. If there hadn’t been a three-match indie wrestling pre-show I might’ve started the card off with the women’s triple threat or something to give Jungle Boy or Darby Allin a “wow, look at that,” rub, but with the Buy-In in place, you couldn’t ask for a better, controlled, tonal shift.
Plus, as a longtime fan, I just like watching Christopher Daniels and CIMA wrestle. They’ve always been two guys who feel like legitimate wrestling legends without ever getting a “run on top,” so to speak. The parallels between the two are really deep and cool, the more you look into it. And I guess that makes Shingo Takagi CIMA’s AJ Styles.
Best: Homicidal Magi-cidal Genie-cidal
First I was like,
But then I was like,
My favorite match of the night was the triple threat women’s match between Riho, Yuka Sakazaki, and Nyla Rose. One of the best things AEW’s done so far is bring in joshi talent and, you know, let them be like they are in Japan. They aren’t bringing them over and simultaneously dumbing down and amping up their characters or making them cut long-winded promos in English to get over, they’re putting them in the ring and letting them tell a story with their matches and facial expressions. There’s a whole generation of Japanese wrestling fans who watch shows with Japanese commentary, don’t know a lick of Japanese, and still don’t need an announcer loudly insisting on what the characters feel to like or connect with them.
Lots of great stuff here from everyone, including the goddamn King Kong knee drop across the ring from the top rope from Nyla Rose. The post-match interaction between Buttercup (Riho) and Blossom (Sakazaki) was A+ as well. Very excited to see how the joshi stars translate into weekly TV characters.
Best: When The Virgin Joke Hits Too Close To Home
Sending MJF in to cut a promo on an arena full of video game fans has gotta be the lowest-hanging fruit harvest ever. It’s like Mike Tyson stepping into the ring to box Don Knotts.
Anyway, the fatal four-way between Adam Page, MJF, Jimmy Havoc, and Jungle Boy was the easiest match of the night to call, and that’s not always a bad thing. It’s what it’s supposed to be. Page and MJF are the “important” characters as we understand so far, and since Page is headed into an AEW Championship match against Chris Jericho at the company’s biggest show ever, what finish do you pull besides Page pinning either Havoc or Jungle Boy, leaving MJF protected and presumably in line for a shot at Page (and/or the championship) down the line?
Plus, no matter how hard I might try, I can’t dislike a character best described as, “the hair metal son Luke Perry abandoned in the jungle who travels via pro wrestling dinosaur.”
Best: Coff Drops
Two things here:
– Darby Allin is money. Sure he looks like the I Like Turtles kid, but for the life of me he reminds me of late ’90s, early 2000s Jeff Hardy: young, beautiful, reckless, and seemingly dedicated to making sure entire sections of his body don’t work by the time he hits 35. The guy’s wrestling acumen, life story, and in-ring presentation are enough to push him to the next level anytime someone decides to, and a marquee match against Cody here is a fantastic first step toward making that happen. This is also the only time it felt like Jim Ross added to the show, as there’s nobody better in wrestling history at putting over a chaotic underdog.
– As for Cody, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he’s doing the best work of his career in AEW so far. Between the Aldis match at All In, the Dustin match at Double or Nothing, and this, the guy’s working long, purposeful, well-constructed and beautifully called matches that tell classic, engaging pro wrestling stories for a new generation. He’s “WWE” enough to get the upside of their presentation and pacing, Rhodes enough to appreciate a kind of wrestling pathos WWE doesn’t, and friends with Omega and the Young Bucks enough to know what modern independent audiences crave. This is where he gets to be the Ric Flair of a new NWA, and I’m very into it.
Then there was … uh … the post-match stuff.
Worst: Fear The Spears
It’s not an AEW pay-per-view without way too much accidental Rhodes blood, I guess!
The finish of the match is great (and classic), with Cody being unable to finish off this scrappy newcomer and only having him beat when the time runs out. It quickly establishes time limit draws as an option in AEW, which is important, and allows Cody to have “won” and remain undefeated heading into Fight for the Fallen while giving Allin a rub. Then Evil Tye Dillinger shows up, blasts Cody in the fucking face with an unprotected chair shot, and leaves a gash in dude’s head so big it had stuff falling out of it. THERE WERE PARTS OF CODY RHODES’ HEAD FALLING OUT.
First of all, if you’re wondering how he got hit on one side of the head with a chair and bleed like a stuck pig on the other, it’s because the chair was dented before Spears used it. I think it might’ve been that way in an attempt to soften the blow and protect Cody since he wasn’t going to get his hands up, but accidentally caused the top of the thing to sneak around Cody’s head and basically scrape the other side off. Here’s a still image to show you what I’m talking about.
So, here’s what I’m at.
I like pro wrestling violence. I think blood, at least when done well, adds to the drama of a match. You’re supposed to be watching a professional fighting league, and if nobody ever gives you the illusion that they’re hurt like real people get hurt, it lessens the impact. Keep in mind that I grew up watching blood and gore NWA shows as a kid and buying wrestling magazines with horrifying crimson masks on the cover, so I don’t expect everyone to agree. If you grew up watching Hulk Hogan no-sell pain and defeat people with a falling inner-leg pit, sure, blood probably seems extraneous. But this is a promotion run in part by a Rhodes kid, and the Rhodes family bleeds. It’s like asking a fish not to swim or a bird not to fly.
I also think they did a good job of making the chair shot seem like a big deal. They treated it like an absolutely unforgivable act, and I don’t think they expected it to accidentally slice the back of Cody’s head open. They came into it with the idea of throwing a big mean chair shot and building a story around it. I think that worked. Shawn Spears seems like a total asshole now, and I was rooting for old man Dean Malenko to chase him up into the stands and Cloverleaf him about it.
All that said, I think I’m too old and too understanding of how all this works to want to see any unprotected chair shots to the head in 2019. It’s just not a thing we need. It was bad enough when wrestling stars started growing old and not being able to think straight because they’d been hit in the head for the past several decades, and then my favorite wrestler got brain damaged and killed his family. That’s not a thing you can “unsee,” you know? And I’m not saying that Cody taking one chair to the face to put over a major wrestling story is unthinkable or even a bad idea, I just think we care enough, are connected enough to these folks, and have observed the growing transparency of the business long enough to be okay with them eschewing a thing that “works” in favor of saving health and lives. I would be okay never seeing anyone take blunt force trauma to their brains for real to tell a story that isn’t again.
Best: Elite Fighter II
Or, “Fyte Or Flight.”
Doing their best to help the hushed crowd recover from the unfortunately nasty shit they’d just witnessed is the semi-main event of the Elite — dressed as Ryu, Ken, and Akuma from Street Fighter — against Pentagon Whatever, Rey Fenix, and Laredo Kid.
Without this, the unsanctioned match would’ve really felt like a downer. Between “whoops, actual violence” and fun pro wrestling death match violence was 20 minutes of the guys you like from the Internet show making video game jokes while fighting some Mortal Kombat-ass looking luchadores, and trying some wildly ambitious stuff that sometimes worked, sometimes didn’t, but always felt wild. The stumble trying to stand on the top rope actually made Fenix’s wacky rope walk make more sense, instead of having to ask a guy to stand in the middle of the top rope without finishing the move he was going for, for example.
It’s also a great introduction to the Laredo Kid, who was a pretty underwhelming announcement for a mystery partner — miss you, PAC, figure out your shit and get over here wrestling again so I can watch and love you — but got plenty of time to shine. If anything, I want AEW to pay more attention to the luchadores it’s bringing in, and not clearly prefer the Japanese style to lucha libre just because all the top stars are former New Japan guys. Gimme a little Lucha Underground with my New Japan, you know? The Black Lotus Triad already proved how well joshi and lucha can mesh. Give me that WCW Saturday Night atmosphere where you might see Fit Finlay wrestle La Parka, and it might be awesome.
Plus, you know, bless anything that makes Jim Ross feel confused about youth culture references he thinks are from today, but are actually from 32 years ago.
Best: Bad Boy For Life
Finally we have the main event “unsanctioned match” between Joey Janela, a guy who says he wants to die in the ring, and Jon Moxley, a guy looking to prove himself by actually killing somebody in the ring. I really appreciated how they gave the match death match elements but didn’t do a straight up death match, instead structuring it like a WWE hardcore match with the volume turned way up. WWE can really half-ass things sometimes, especially when it comes to appropriating other styles of wrestling, but I think they understand how to pop a very large, possibly diverse crowd with prop and weapon spots better than anyone. There’s a weird loss of sanity somewhere between putting someone through a couple of wooden tables with an elbow drop from the top of a ladder and like, sticking scissors through peoples’ arms or stabbing each other with syringes. Don’t google that.
This was also the kind of match Moxley needed to have in front of U.S. audiences. If he’s going to be a bad-ass Death Rider and we’ve spent the past 10 years watching him do slow suicide dives and attack people with hot dog condiments, it might help to, say, have him sadistically remove his opponent’s boots so he can atomic drop them bare-feet-first into a bunch of thumbtacks.
He also learned (from Triple H, I’m assuming) that the ultimate death blow in any big leagues hardcore match is a DDT onto thumbtacks. That’s how he finishes off Janela here. I thought both men came out looking better here, especially considering how much smaller Janela is than big-ass Jon Moxley, ESPECIALLY when Shawn Spears sucked the air out of the room two matches earlier. I think my wrestling sensibilites lean me more toward Gargano/Ciampa unsanctioned than this kind of unsanctioned, but I can appreciate them both.
Oh, and then the post-match attack happened.
Marvel Ultimate Elias
We end the night with an inverse of Double Or Nothing, with Kenny Omega attacking a weary Jon Moxley, beating him up to the stage, and attacking him with the kitschy set design. It’s effective story building when you don’t have your weekly shows yet, but need to build up marquee matches to sell the show in the first place. Omega vs. Mox is gonna rip, and keeps them occupied when they should probably be the guys competing for AEW’s Championship over Page and Jericho.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
“These men are cut from the same cloth. A particularly violent cloth.”
If Jesse Pinkman went to the Lucha Underground temple, he might have become Darby Allin
Son of Tony Zane
Man, J.R. has never sounded more Hank Hill-esque when he’s talking about Darby Allin.
All I want to see is Moxley, 20 minutes into a great death match, shoot grab a random TV monitor and have it explode.
My favorite part of this match is the ref gesturing and making a sour face every time they bring another weapon into the ring.
Good thing Dean got his Tetanus shots before leaving WWE
It really is amazing that Vince hasn’t pushed EC3’s 1% gimmick and given him a manservant named “Cody” yet.
I hope as things go on, they start bringing in other Savage Land gimmicks to create a Blood Runs Cold-type deal. Possible new characters include a parasitic immortal rock and a mutate pteranodon energy vampire.
Jim Ross: We don’t talk a lot about momentum…
Please keep it that way.
I really hope there’s people in that crowd who’ve never watched wrestling before today, and they’re falling in love.
That’s it for Fyter Fest. Now we’re on the road to Fyte for the Fallyn.
Thanks for reading. Make sure to drop down into our comments section to let us know if you’re digging our AEW coverage, and make sure to throw us a social media share to help get the word out. And for real, be here for our Fight for the Fallen coverage on July 13, if only to share in our unstoppable post-Goldust Goldust love.