Sports

AEW All Out Finished Strong After Some Early Missteps

If you didn’t watch AEW’s All Out PPV on Sunday night, you’ve probably already heard the phrase “Worst AEW PPV Ever” (said in your best Comic Book Guy voice) being bandied about the internet. Frankly, I’m not going to pretend that anyone’s wrong to say that. But considering how good most AEW PPVs up to this point have been, I don’t think that’s such a severe attack.

All Out definitely started out pretty rough. Less than halfway through the night, I was already having that “How much more of this is there?” feeling that usually only the worst WWE PPVs give me. Once Matt Hardy fell out of the sky onto his head, I’d be hard pressed to blame anyone for giving up on the show. However, the match after that was the best one on the card, and from there on out the show stayed pretty good. So by the end, it really felt like things had turned around.

The main card opened with the Tooth and Nail Match between Big Swole and Britt Baker, and apparently “Tooth and Nail” just means “Falls Count Anywhere” in a dentist’s office. I get why they decided to go the cinematic route, since Doctor Baker’s not really 100% yet, and she’s a lot less exposed here than in the ring. The problem is that it didn’t seem to have enough ideas for wild and/or funny stuff you can do in a dentist’s office for the match to really justify its existence. I’m just going to throw this out there in case anyone in AEW is reading: This is why having a writer or two on staff might actually be good. The thing about writers is that many of them are pretty good at thinking up things that viewers will find entertaining.

I did like the use of the syringe full of anesthetic, which is something I’ve never seen used in a wrestling match before. But even the execution of that idea was pretty rushed and muddled. Was the syringe supposed to put you to sleep, or just make a limb go numb? Britt didn’t seem entirely sure, and she’s the one who got injected with it. I like both of these performers, but the best I can really say here is that at least this match didn’t go on too long, and hopefully they can have a rematch in the ring when Britt’s ready for that.

All Elite Wrestling

The Young Bucks beat Jurassic to the shock of nobody, but they did it as full asshole heels, which also wasn’t shocking to most of us who’ve been paying attention lately, but it definitely highlighted some ongoing developments that seem about to come to a head. If the Bucks fully turn heel and Omega/Page are no more, will that give Jurassic Express space to be underdog babyfaces that people can root for, instead of just likable guys who lose all the time? We can only hope so. In the meantime, this was easily the best match on the first half of this PPV. Things are going to get worse before they get better.

Matt Sydal, recently of Impact Wrestling and once known as Evan Bourne in WWE, cast a shadow over the entire Casino Battle Royale in what I’m pretty sure has to be the worst debut in AEW history. He was the Joker, which is the CBR equivalent of being #30 in the Royal Rumble. So everyone was expecting a surprise, and then out comes Matt Sydal. A surprise, but not a thrilling one. Then it got so much worse when he climbed to the top turnbuckle and immediately fell off of it before he could do his move. This isn’t the worst botch a guy named Matt would suffer on this show, but it was certainly an ill omen.

The Battle Royale had some fun moments, like Brian Cage putting Darby Allin in a body bag full of thumbtacks and throwing him out of the ring. Unfortunately, it also featured more rough spots, like Brian Cage dropping Darby Allin on his head before he even got into a bag. Also, the ending was a real mess. There was a snake in a bag that kept getting passed around, Jake the Snake yelling, and long moments of the last few guys in the match looking at each other like “We gotta get out of this somehow.” Ultimately, Lance Archer won, which means he gets to fight Jon Moxley for the AEW World Championship. It kind of seems like he was already on the path to doing that pretty soon, but I suppose that’s how these things work.

As I’m sure you already know whether you watched All Out or not, the Broken Rules Match between Matt Hardy and Sammy Guevara was a disaster. Matt Hardy was taking a table bump from the top of a scissor lift, because that’s the sort of thing 45-year-old men do on a Saturday night. His head missed the table and came right down on the concrete floor, and he was out. You could see Aubrey Edwards trying to end the match, but the match did not end. In fact, once Hardy managed to stumble to his feet, he had to climb up another tower and throw Sammy off of it to win the match.

With the caveat that nobody watching on TV can possibly understand exactly what was going on there in the moment, this match absolutely should not have continued after Matt’s head hit the concrete. I get that it would have been awkward to get out of, since it was a Last Man Standing Match and Matt was supposed to have to leave AEW if he lost (a stipulation that only applied to him and not Sammy, which I was confused about when I wrote the preview). It would have been complicated to get out of, but it could have been done, and Matt Hardy’s long term health has to be more important than the storyline. Matt Hardy would almost certainly disagree with this statement, but that doesn’t make it less true.

So at this point in the evening, four matches in, All Out 2020 felt like a real dud. I’ve even seen people saying that they felt like they couldn’t keep watching after what happened with Hardy and turned the PPV off. I totally get where they’re coming from, but it’s also kind of a shame, because Hikaru Shida and Thunder Rosa were just about to right the ship and save the night.

All Elite Wrestling

Shida versus Rosa was easily the match of the night, and possibly the best women’s match in AEW history. Certainly there’s more talent on the women’s roster than they usually get credit for, thanks to the questionable booking, but Thunder Rosa is one of the best in the world, and she really brought her A-game here. Nobody really thought Hikaru Shida was going to lose the AEW Women’s Championship to a visiting champion from another promotion, but they managed to create enough in-ring drama to make you doubt that certainty.

The double drop kick looked great, and I also really enjoyed Hikaru setting up that chair at ringside that she likes to launch herself off of, only for Rosa to steal the spot and and prove how much homework she’s done on how to take Shida apart. Rosa also has some of the best facial expressions in the business, which gives her a really great sense of personality in the ring.

I hope this isn’t the last we see of the NWA women’s roster in AEW. In addition to the inevitable Shida/Rosa rematch (which will hopefully happen on NWA programming when it returns), I’d love to see Alysin Kay, Ashley Vox, or Kamille on Dynamite. Also when NWA’s show comes back, let’s send Nyla Rose and Vicki Guerrero over there to wreak havoc.

All Elite Wrestling

I was shocked that the face team beat the Dark Order in their eight-man tag match. It’s seemed like the Dark Order were just on the verge of becoming the show’s dominant faction, so I figured they’d dominate here, thus adding to the heat between Brodie and Cody for the latter’s eventual return. Instead, a more badass than usual Dustin Rhodes led QT Marshall, Matt Cardona, and Scorpio Sky to an unexpected victory, and then Mister Brodie Lee blamed Colt Cabana for it.

It seems early to pull the trigger on the Cabana/Dark Order story, with so much going on, but it’s also possible that rather than leading straight into a feud, this rift with Brodie leads Cabana to fully dedicate himself to the Dark Order and its vague principles than he has thus far. It would be interesting to see Colt Cabana fully leave behind his smiling, easy-going persona for just a little while, until he remembers who he is and does turn against the Exalted One.

I turned to my friend who I watch AEW shows with (yes, this same friend) and said, “I can’t wait till we get Dustin versus Brodie in a singles match,” and then commentary immediately announced that this Wednesday we’re getting Dustin versus Brodie in a singles match. And then I was thinking, I feel like I surely must have seen Luke Harper fight Goldust at some point. And I probably did, but I have no memory of it, because it was probably three minutes on a pre-taped pre-2016 Smackdown or something. Luke Harper versus Goldust was never going to be a match that mattered or had any real drama to it. The Natural Dustin Rhodes versus Mister Brodie Lee is somehow an entirely different and far more exciting prospect.

Before we move on, a modest proposal: Take Jim Ross off of regular commentary. He’s a legend, there’s no denying that, but they need to give him some kind of “Commentator Emeritus” position where he can be around, do an occasional interview or guest spot, and make some money, but we don’t have to hear a 68-year-old man semi-coherently perve on 22-year-old Anna Jay when she’s not even on screen. The fact that he’s such a legend just makes it sadder to hear him get worse and worse at his job, and it would really be a shame if his commentary career ended because he had a spell and made some Cornette-level crack without thinking about how it’s 2020 now.

All Elite Wrestling

It looks like the Omega/Hangman experiment is finally over now that they’ve lost their Tag Team Championship to FTR. The match was maybe a little overlong, but it certainly made the point that FTR are one of the best tag teams in the world, while Kenny and Adam are really just two very good wrestlers who rarely see eye-to-eye. Dax and Cash are a well-oiled machine, always in sync and always placing the team above the singular glory of either man. Both of them understand that their Drift Compatibility and tag team prowess are their shared ticket to wrestling stardom. For Omega and Hangman, their paths have crossed for a while now, but they’re clearly ready to diverge.

After the match, Kenny Omega chose not to hit Hangman Page with a TV tray, but he had to think long and hard about it. Then he stalked backstage to the Young Bucks and demanded they all leave together now. Then he left by himself when the Bucks hesitated. Up to that point, I had thought we might get a united heel Elite as soon as the end of this PPV. But now it looks like we’ve got to go just a little farther before we get to the Fireworks Factory. But in the meantime, we get to watch Harwood and Wheeler dominate the tag team division, and that’s going to be fun.

All Elite Wrestling

I don’t really know what to write about the Mimosa Mayhem Match. I often find that by the time we’ve gotten to the rubber match, it feels like we’ve seen every move and moment that a particular feud has the potential to create. This match promised at least one new moment—somebody getting dunked in a mimosa vat—but we knew that wouldn’t come until the end.

Along the way we did get that fun spot of Orange Cassidy scooping up mimosa in a piece of broken pitcher, dragging it all the way into the ring behind Chris Jericho’s back, and then throwing it in Jericho’s face at just the right moment. That’s exactly the sort of Bugs Bunny sneakiness that feels more than justified against an opponent as treacherous as Jericho, and it enabled Cassidy to get the upper hand, leading to Jericho’s rough landing in the mimosa.

I’m curious to see what comes next for Orange Cassidy, now that this feud has run its course. It’s clear that Jericho’s goal here was to make Cassidy a star, and it seems like he succeeded, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to put him in title contention or anything. Just give him someone pompous who he can humiliate. Hmmm, isn’t MJF about done with the title scene for a while?

All Elite Wrestling

The AEW World Championship Match was a solid main event and a really great match in general. MJF wrestles so rarely (which really works for his character) that it’s always exciting to see how good he actually is in the ring. MJF’s stated goal for this match was to keep Jon Moxley inside the ring and in a wrestling match, where MJF felt he could match the champion’s skill, and not to let Mox turn it into a messy brawl, where as the ultimate messy brawler Mox would have the upper hand.

Naturally, Moxley proved himself better in the ring than MJF gave him credit for, while also managing to get MJF outside the ring long enough to messily beat the crap out of him a little bit. Even though MJF got in his own share of offense, the shape of the match felt like a validation of Jon Moxley and an embarrassment for MJF, which is a testament to the effectiveness of the build that created that narrative.

The finish was a little weird, I thought. Thanks to MJF’s machinations, Moxley’s finishing move the Paradigm Shift was banned in this match. So Mox waited until the ref’s back was turned and hit the Paradigm Shift to win. You can say that his cheating was justified since MJF not only cheats constantly, he was already about to hit Mox with that big ring of his right then. And that’s fine, it just seems like a more heroic victory might have done more for such a popular antihero.

And that’s the show. I was not feeling those first four matches, but by the end of the night I’d enjoyed a lot more of the PPV than not. Of course a lot of people just want to talk about the things that went badly—and don’t get me wrong, some discourse about what happened with Matt Hardy is absolutely justified—but overall this show left me feeling pretty good about what’s to come in All Elite Wrestling, and we’ll be back together later this week to see where things go on AEW Dynamite.

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