21-Man Casino Battle Royal
I thought this was a great way to start the ‘Buy In’ pre-show. It was an outstanding way to introduce some of the major players of AEW, as well as bring some workers from the Indy circuit to give them some notoriety. There were a few fun spots, as well as a few scary ones (I’m talking to you, Joey Janela.) Tommy Dreamer even took a staple gun to the nuts. Hangman Page ended up being the surprise 21st entrant to the Battle Royal, defeating MJF for the win. Hangman will now compete against the winner of Jericho/Omega for the inaugural AEW Champion.
Kip Sabian vs. Sammy Guevara
This match easily could have been on the main card, but was super beneficial for being the last match of the pre-show. It did exactly what was needed to get the crowd fired up. Kip Sabian is truly something else, and I am excited to see what else he can bring to the table. Sabian was able to finish the match with his finisher ‘the Deathly Hallows’ (The Harry Potter references keep on coming with Sabian.)
SoCal Uncensored vs. Strong Hearts
This was the match I predicted would be first, and it certainly did its job. Naturally, SCU started it off reminding Las Vegas that this is the worst town that they have ever been to. As I said in my preview, the main purpose of this match was to display the work of Cima and the Strong Hearts, and establish the work of OWE to the fans who haven’t seen it. SCU ended up getting the victory, but at the end of the match I just was giddy for Cima vs. Omega which is coming up in a few shows!
Dr. Britt Baker vs. Nyla Rose vs. Kylie Rae
After the three women made their entrance, Brandi Rhodes made her entrance as she emerged as a figure-head/authority for the women’s division. She introduced Awesome Kong to the match as a fourth contestant, to a huge pop I might add. This match was what it was. There were some amazing displays of power by Nyla Rose and Awesome Kong, but other than that it was a typical women’s wrestling match. Dr. Britt Baker ended up getting the victory as she immediately is at the top of the women’s division.
Best Friends vs. Angelico & Jack Evans
Knowing that two of the Executive VPs of AEW are Tag Team specialists, we all knew that Tag Team wrestling would be a major highlight of its events. This matchup was outstanding and showed that for sure. Angelico and Jack Evans put their high flying offense on display (along with their super bright outfits.) The Best Friends were exactly as they have always been, a technically sound and fun team. The Best Friends got the win, and hugged it out after the match with Angelico and Evans. As they hugged, everything went black, and we were introduced to the Super Smash Bros. The Smash Bros, along with a whole horde of masked minions beat down the Best Friends, Angelico, and Evans, and posed down in the ring as we went back to black.
Aja Kong, Yuka Sakazaki and Emi Sakura vs. Hikaru Shida, Riho Abe and Ryo Mizunami
This one was hard for me. Anyone who knows me or reads my articles knows that I am a huge proponent for Women’s Wrestling, and loved the fact that we were getting two women’s matches on this show. I just was not feeling this one. The pacing was really awkward, Aja Kong showed her age and was very slow and wonky moving around the ring, and then they botched a near-fall! That’s right, the ref counted to three, they rang the bell, and her shoulder was up. The ladies did a good job trying to pick up the pieces and finish the match (to a chorus of ‘you fucked up.’) Through reading social media accounts, I might be in the minority of people who didn’t like this match, so check it out for yourself to make your own opinion.
Cody vs. Dustin
Cody’s entrance to this match shows us how Cody really feels. This isn’t an alternative, this is a war. Before Cody entered, Triple H’s throne appeared on the stage, and Cody came out wearing a jacket similar to what Hunter Hearst Helmsley wore to the ring. Brandi handed Cody a sledgehammer, and he slammed it on the throne.
I will openly admit, I had to re-watch this match to truly appreciate it. The first time I watched it, I felt like it was dragging and I felt for Dustin, who was covered in blood and at times looked staggered. If you think about it, other than re-watching matches on the network we really haven’t seen a match go on this long with this much blood. The WWE’s PG-era really has messed with my mind!
Upon second viewing, I can honestly say that this match was absolutely amazing storytelling. It really was the tale of two matches. The beginning of the match was a straight up fight between these two brothers. It was passionate, and Dustin showed us why he should be a Hall of Famer.
Part two of this match was all about survival. Dustin was staggered, and the half of his face that wasn’t painted was now red (which I don’t think was by accident.) Dustin really kicked it up a notch, and got in his signature offense, along with nailing Cody with a Cross-Rhodes! At one point, he even pulled down Cody’s pants and spanked his bare bottom with Cody’s own weight belt! Cody ended up finishing off Dustin with a Cross-Rhodes.
After the match, Cody wouldn’t let Dustin retire. He said that he wanted Dustin to tag with him against the Young Bucks at Fight for the Fallen. There was a bloody, emotional embrace as the two walked backstage.
AEW Championship Belt Presentation
Bret Hart was announced as the man who would be presenting the AEW Championship belt to the world. He invited Hangman Page out to the ring to be there, as he would be competing to become the inaugural champion.
However, this ceremony was cut off by MJF, who cut an epic heel promo. Jimmy Havoc and Jungle Boy came out and teamed up with Hangman to fend off MJF, as Bret raised the awesome looking AEW Championship high up for everyone to see.
The Young Bucks vs. The Lucha Bros
When the initial press conference happened, the Young Bucks said that Tag Team wrestling can main event a pay-per view. This match clearly showed that it can, and it will. While it was mostly a spot-fest, the Young Buck’s paid homage to multiple Tag Teams from the Indy scene by mimicking their finishers. These teams also may have set a record for the most false finishes, as the last act of the match saw one after almost every move! I was surprised that the Bucks walked away with the victory, as I was pretty sure that the Lucha Bros were going to take their Tag Titles back to AAA.
Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega
While part two of Alpha vs. Omega wasn’t as good as part one, it was an outstanding match. Jericho’s entrance was amazing, as he buried his past and moved to the future. While the match was great, I was kind of disappointed that this is the first match that many people are seeing Kenny Omega in. Jericho’s new finisher definitely comes out of nowhere, and it felt flat (to me.) In fact, I was shocked that Omega didn’t kick out of it.
After the match, Jericho got on the mic and demanded that the crowd thank him for making All Elite Wrestling. The crowd was gradually popping, as we see Jon Moxley going down the stairs of the arena into the ring. He takes out Jericho and the referee. He turns his attention to Kenny Omega, but Kenny wasn’t having it and attacked Moxley.
The two brawled throughout the crowd, resulting in the two climbing onto a stack of poker chips next to the stage. Moxley hit the finisher formally known as Dirty Deeds, then throw Omega off the poker chips and posed while the show went off the air.
Overall First Impression
I was pretty impressed with AEW’s first performance. While there were a few flaws, they weren’t glaring and were made up by the amazing in ring action and storytelling. Some of the attacks on WWE I felt weren’t necessary, as AEW already had a strong fan base, and I was hoping that they would be the ‘bigger man’ and ignore Hunter’s comments to Billy Gunn at the Hall of Fame.
I was concerned about timing from the beginning. I know that with All In, they ran into timing issues and had to cut the main event short. Even with cutting it short, they ran with about 15 seconds to spare. The pre-show actually got cut off in the middle of The Elite’s promo, which got me worried on how this show would go. After that moment they did just fine, in fact ended in an old school WWE PPV timing of 15 minutes short of the allotted end time!
One of the more painful aspects of the show was JR on commentary. I know I’m in the minority, but I thought that JR has taken a step back in his performance over the years and isn’t the man he was. At one point before the Cody/Dustin match, he even blatantly said “I don’t know where we are, I think we’re going to start about the difficult topic of two brothers.” It was rough, not the man who called most of my generation of matches. That being said, Excalibur is easily one of the best Color Commentators in the game right now. He fits right up there with Corey Graves and Nigel McGuinness.
I am glad that I had 2 friends to split this show with, as it gave us the opportunity to see history, as the birth of AEW is here. Only time will tell how well they do moving forward, but if their first event is any indication, we are in for one hell of a ride!
For more insight and wrestling thoughts, follow me on Twitter at @TJoftheJK