WrestleWatch: AEW Fyter Fest 2019
Back with another WrestleWatch review, this one's a little late. Given that I'm squeezing in right before the next AEW event, I'd love to say that I'm getting it in right when I meant to, but alas, I am no wizard, and if I was, I certainly wouldn't be at the level of Gandalf.
Crappy Lord Of The Rings references aside, Fyter Fest was the sophomore effort from All Elite Wrestling, coming off their critically acclaimed debut show in May, Double Or Nothing- you can check my review of that show on the main page. Double Or Nothing boasted a huge Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega main event, an an all action tag team war pitting the Young Bucks against the Lucha Bros, and to cap it all off, the stunning debut of Jon Moxley (formerly WWE's Dean Ambrose)! So, Fyter Fest had a lot to live up to.
Before we get into the review, a couple of qualifiers we need to put into the context. Fyter Fest was not promoted as a large scale PPV on the level of Double Or Nothing. In fact, it was a free show for the US audience, costing international audiences $10. I could have gotten around it with a VPN, but I want to support this fledgling wrestling promotion where I can. Wrestling history tells us that the whole industry thrives and is better to watch when there is competition around. The other factor to consider when watching and reviewing this show, is that it took place within the CEO video game convention, meaning that the crowd may not be your typical AEW audience. That said, it was clear from the amount of merch seen in the crowd that many wrestling fans made the trip to the convention specifically for this show, which is an encouraging sign for the company.
Onto the show!
As you may have picked up from the odd spelling of "fighter" in the event name, AEW intended this to be a parody of the fraudulent Fyre Festival which received attention due to a recent Netflix special. They used their "Buy-In" pre-show to house much of the satirical humour around the event name, with skits involving the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega having difficulty organising and financing different aspects of the event. As good as the production and actual wrestling action of AEW have been, some of the comedy has been hit and miss for me, and this fell on the "miss" side. I understood the satire, but for those not in the know, it just looked like AEW were drawing attention to not having as much money and resources as they needed, which isn't a great look for the company. That aside, the parody simply... wasn't that funny.
Match 1: Best Friends def. SCU & Private Party in a Triple Threat Tag Match (at 16:00)
Thoughts: Silly comedy aside, AEW got things started with some high octane tag team action, something they have quickly shown is a major strength. While we saw Best Friends and SCU featured at DoN, this was the debut for Private Party, who despite looking like a Street Profits rip-off, were highly impressive. Amazing feats of athleticism, everyone got spots to shine. With the victory, Best Friends advance to the ALL OUT PPV in Chicago. (***)
The Dark Order interrupted on the big screen following the match. They intrigue me, unique look and they made an impression at DoN.
Match 2: Allie def. Leva Bates (w/ Peter Avalon) (at 8:50)
Thoughts: The Librarians skit was one of my few low points of DoN, and it made a return here. More unfunny comedy, and while Allie appears to be a decent performer, she couldn't do much with Bates here. At least both ladies looked good, but as far as wrestling entertainment... (DUD)
Match 3: Michael Nakazawa def. Michael Jebailey in a Hardcore Match (at 9:30)
Thoughts: Okay, this was the one bit of AEW comedy I got a bit of a kick out of. The story with Nakazawa is that Kenny Omega promised a huge signing from Japan to the Young Bucks. The Bucks got excited, thinking that Omega was referring to Kota Ibushi. Instead, we get comedic journeyman Nakazawa, whose signature moves include dousing himself in baby oil to escape wrestling holds, and a mandible claw using his underwear (the finish of this match). Jebailey is apparently the CEO of the video game convention, and if that's legit, he did a damn good job as a non-wrestler. Comedic gimmick matches give me Attitude Era flashbacks, and this made me chuckle a bit, so... (**)
Match 1: CIMA def. Christopher Daniels (at 9:40)
Thoughts: Good opening match. Considering CIMA is facing Kenny Omega in a couple of days at Fight For The Fallen, it made sense to boost his credibility here with a win over Daniels. Honestly, I was expecting a little more from this, but it was still a fine way to kick off the main show. (**1/2)
Match 2: Riho def. Nyla Rose and Yuka Sakazaki in a Triple Threat Match (at 12:30)
Thoughts: Nyla Rose was FAR more impressive in this match than she was at DoN- where I was wondering what the big deal was. Nice formula with the Japanese joshi wrestling carrying the faster, more technical action, and teaming up in spurts to try and take out the powerhouse Nyla. Nyla also showed some nice versatility with a top rope knee drop that looked devastating. Fun stuff. (***)
Match 3: Hangman Page def. Jungle Boy, Jimmy Havoc and MJF in a Fatal 4 Way Match (at 10:50)
Thoughts: The highlight of this whole thing might have been the pre-match promo by MJF, insulting the video game convention crowd for being nerds and virgins. Props to the production team for finding a dude in the crowd that looked like he had his whole world shattered by MJF's taunts. That's not to take away from the match, which was very impressive in its own right- Jungle Boy, Jimmy Havoc and MJF all got multiple moments to shine in defeat, the brewing feud between MJF and Page was heated up, the relationship between Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus was furthered, Page got to look strong heading into the inaugural AEW Championship match with Chris Jericho at ALL OUT... a lot was accomplished here. And, really exciting action throughout, the 10 minutes flew by. (***1/2)
Match 4: Cody (w/ Brandi Rhodes) vs. Darby Allin (Time Limit Draw at 20:00)
Thoughts: Even in an era with smaller wrestlers than years past, Darby stood out as TINY. Looked like a damn 12 year old. However, he bumped like a motherfucker, and was actually able to garner some sympathy as time wore on during the match. His Coffin Drop bump on the apron was sick, and something I've seen a lot over the past couple of weeks in GIF and short clip form- my personal favourite being a looped clip of the fall set to the backing track of Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This). As a standalone match, not the most thrilling affair in the world- the formula was Cody dominating his younger, smaller opponent, and Allin just refusing to stay down. Saying that, it heated up a lot in the closing minutes, got Allin over as a tough underdog, and established time limits as an important part of AEW's presentation. Time limits are an aspect of 80s/90s wrestling that I'm glad to see make a comeback in AEW- I'm aware that New Japan do it, but this is making an effort to bring it to a more mainstream audience. It's a great tool for a booker to have at their disposal. (***)
Post-match saw perhaps the most newsworthy part of the entire show, where Shawn Spears (fka Tye Dillinger) cracked Cody with an unprotected chair shot- that is to say, Cody's hands were completely down, and the impact was all steel to skull. Apparently, the chair was gimmicked- the Young Bucks have said that the seat of the chair was an extremely thin sheet of metal, like what they do for trash cans- but it was still a scary scene, given that Cody came up a bloody mess. The edge of the chair caught Cody on the back of the head, splitting him open badly. He needed 10 staples in his head following this. For better or worse, AEW got people talking with this angle, and it's looking like we may get Cody vs. Shawn Spears at ALL OUT.
Match 5: Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks def. The Lucha Bros & Laredo Kid (at 20:50)
Thoughts: This match is the reason this review is late. When I watched the event live, I left the room as the match was happening, thinking it would be a bit of an inconsequential spotfest. And while in some ways, it was absolutely a spotty sprint, it was highly effective in showcasing the abilities of all six men, as well as giving a much needed win and spotlight to Kenny Omega, who pinned Laredo Kid with the One Winged Angel. Omega gains momentum heading towards ALL OUT against Jon Moxley. Shout out to the Bucks, not only for putting in work during this match, but making me watch this with their interview with Chris Van Vliet on YouTube, where they talked about not knowing the finish as the match was starting and having to do things on the fly. Omega and The Bucks living up to the moniker of The Elite on this one, and the stars from Mexico were right there with them (****)
I enjoyed the presentation of the next bit. As the main event of Jon Moxley vs. Joey Janela was booked as an "unsanctioned match", AEW called the six man tag the main event, and had Justin Roberts do a "sign-off" on the show and the arena lights went off. Moments later, lights came back on, and it's time for Jon Moxley's official AEW in-ring debut! Well, is it really official if it's unsanctioned? Is Moxley still yet to have an AEW match for realsies? Tough questions...
Match 6: Jon Moxley def. Joey Janela in an Unsanctioned Match (at 20:00)
Thoughts: Okay, wow. Anyone who thought that Moxley maybe wouldn't get into the extreme stuff as much, being older, being a "WWE Superstar"... that got blown out of the water here. Barbed wire and thumbtacks a plenty, Moxley gave as good as he got, and Janela showed why he's accrued a following doing these sort of matches on the independent scene. Not the kind of match I want to see every week, but as a rare spectacle, and something that WWE hasn't come close to presenting since maybe Orton vs. Cactus Jack 15 years ago, it was awesome. Commentary stressed that we weren't getting PG Moxley, and I think that was the entire point of this match. Mission accomplished. (***1/2)
A strong second effort for AEW. Not a perfect outing, and they definitely need to re-think some of the comedic aspects if they want to capture the attention of new fans in a positive way, but the level of talent and overall presentation is undeniable. Jon Moxley is unquestionably a major asset to the company, and I believe we essentially saw the match he wanted to do against Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 32. Graphic, brutal, violent... and different. We don't need WWE lite. We need an alternative. and despite a couple of stumbles here and there, AEW is putting the pieces into play to show they can change the pro wrestling world.