WrestleWatch: AEW Fight for the Fallen 2019
Back with back-to-back WrestleWatch reviews for AEW! The newest North American pro wrestling promotion continues to build momentum moving towards their major PPV- ALL OUT in Chicago, August 31. The Elite (that's the group comprised of Cody, Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks) and Tony Khan have done a smart thing to promote their brand in my opinion. They had the big debut PPV, Double Or Nothing, and it was a success, both critically and in terms of PPV sales. It outsold WWE PPVs this year, which is impressive for a debuting company. Yes, I know the WWE Network means that few people buy traditional PPVs these days, but still, an encouraging sign. After Double Or Nothing, AEW booked two smaller shows to fill the time between their larger shows. Asking people to pay up for monthly shows is a big ask for a brand new wrestling company, so Fyter Fest and Fight for the Fallen were broadcast for free! This is a great way to build fan goodwill.
Quick aside, international fans had to pay for these shows, and I was initially annoyed by this. But realistically, the United States caters to their home base, and the shows were $10 each. Not bad value at all. I also found out that US viewers had to pay more on PPV than I did for DON, so honestly it probably balances out even.
So giving these shows out for free domestically builds consumer goodwill. In addition, Fyter Fest was co-promoted by the CEO gaming convention, and Fight For The Fallen was a charity event where a large portion of the proceeds goes to victims of gun violence. So in two shows, AEW have done some business networking and charitable work all while putting out a quality alternative wrestling product. Kudos. Onto the show!
First impressions, the Daily's Place Amphitheater looks amazing. As the pre-show starts, it's still day time, and we can see the sky in this open air arena. A fantastic venue that the Khan Family owns. Given that Jacksonville is essentially home base for AEW, I hope that they do a large amount of TV episodes here. Fantastic vibe and atmosphere!
Match 1: Sonny Kiss def. Peter Avalon (w/ Leva Bates) (in 6:00)
Thoughts: The Librarians are still a thing in AEW. But some tweaks have been made to their act, so they came across more entertainingly obnoxious rather than channel changing shit. I like that the entrance theme is literally just a constant "ssh", reminded me of Right To Censor back in the day. Sonny Kiss... while seeing a man twerk will always make me a little uncomfortable, he's a great athlete and did some really impressive moves. Short, sweet, the crowd was into it. Cool way to open the show, and what was a negative in past AEW shows has been re-worked into a positive. Well done all around. (**)
Major issues with the FITE app right after this match, the signal cut out completely for a few minutes, so I apparently missed a Rhodes Bros promo, and the stream remained really glitchy throughout the women's tag match, cutting out through entrances and then throwing some jumbled up closed captions on the screen. No idea what was happening.
Match 2: Shoto Nakajima & Bea Priestley def. Riho & Britt Baker (in 16:00)
Thoughts: Can't really break down this match due to technical issues. From what I could see and hear, the crowd gave Britt and Bea the star treatment, and Riho and Nakajima got the crowd on board with some impressive flying around the ring and inventive sequences. Apparently Baker was really off and tried to tag the wrong Asian girl at one point. Whoops. (NR)
Jim Ross makes his entrance. Apparently the pre-show is going 45 minutes long, and the six man tag got bumped to the main card. Smart change to make given the stars involved.
Match 1: Shawn Spears, MJF and Sammy Guevara def. Darby Allin, Jimmy Havoc and Joey Janela (in 13:00)
Thoughts: Really well executed opener. Much like the Fatal 4 Way at Fyter Fest, everyone involved in this match got moments to shine, no one was an afterthought. Spears is carrying himself with next level confidence, he seems to have a big chip on his shoulder after being underutilised in WWE, and playing into the unprotected chairshot controversy by calling himself "The Chairman"... awesome. Really fun opener that made all six guys look better coming out of it. Only tweak- I wouldn't have Spears doing the Death Valley Driver- Jon Moxley and Joey Janela have already used the move as a signature in AEW. His old Tye-breaker finisher would have been a much better option (***)
Match 2: Brandi Rhodes def. Allie (in 11:00)
Thoughts: A wrestler of Brandi's ability doesn't need to have an 11 minute match. Not exactly a wrestling masterpiece. Every move, while not exactly botched, seemed a bit awkward. Best thing about this whole thing- besides the women looking fine as hell in their gear- was Brandi bringing Awesome Kong to ringside. It wasn't just a one-time thing. Kong can definitely be an asset to AEW. (*)
Post-match, Aja Kong walks out to confront Awesome Kong. Now THAT could be a lot of fun. Don't think I'll be talking about how fine they look if they do battle, but it'd be a hell of a match!
Match 3: The Dark Order def. Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus and Angelico & Jack Evans (in 15:00)
Thoughts: Not a ton of psychology, just balls to the wall fun. My first proper look at Luchasaurus and DAMN is he impressive! One of the larger men on the roster at 6'5, he still moves around great and lives up to that "lucha" name. Great tandem offence by Angelico/Evans and the Dark Order, and the finishing moves by Grayson and Uno were equal parts innovative and devastating. (***)
Match 4: Hangman Page def. Kip Sabian (in 19:03)
Thoughts: Eh. I think they were trying to go the well too often with the time limit deal, but there wasn't a ton of focus on Sabian lasting that long either, so it felt like it was a long match for the sake of having a long match. Don't need a guy in Page, someone challenging Chris Jericho for the world title at the next show, taking 19 minutes to beat someone who was last seen on the Buy In. Hangman played his part well, and Sabian had his moments, but I think it dragged a bit too long, without ever really giving the impression that Sabian could get the upset. (**1/2)
Post match, one of the masked minions that was with the Dark Order in the previous match attacked Hangman Page! He's sporting a familiar body type... and hits the Codebreaker on Hangman! Jericho pulls off the mask to reveal his mug, sending a statement before the title match at ALL OUT. Hangman has a little blood flowing. Nice bit.
Match 5: Lucha Brothers def. So Cal Uncensored (in 15:00)
Thoughts: Highlight of the show to this point. Lots of high flying, high impact moves on both sides. The Lucha Bros finally get a big win in AEW after losing two marquee matches to the Young Bucks. Pentagon is seriously over with this crowd with his "Cero Miedo" (Zero Fear) taunts. Post-match, the Lucha Bros fuck up SCU with a ladder and challenge the Bucks to a ladder match at ALL OUT. Presumably for the first AEW Tag Team Championships? Take my money! (***1/2)
Match 6: Kenny Omega def. CIMA (in 23:00)
Thoughts: Okay, new highlight of the show. Like the Lucha Bros before him, Omega really needed a singles victory here to build his credibility. And not only did he get the victory, he did it in a match that is as close to NJPW Kenny as we've seen so far in AEW. His main event at Double Or Nothing was a tad disappointing knowing what he's capable of, but he shot right back up here. Also, credit to CIMA who looked like a million bucks and hit some pretty cool offence. Just quietly, I think I know what CIMA's favourite Linkin Park album is... he must have hit about 10 Meteoras in this match! Also, awesome to see that AEW have sorted out sound issues with their entrance themes, and also also awesome that Kenny Omega is using the new version of his theme with lyrics! (****)
Chris Jericho came out to his "Judas" music- nice to see after it was dubbed over in his last NJPW appearance- and cut a promo mostly insulting the crowd and "the Hangman". Decent promo, but the crowd didn't really bite on his attempts to get heat, which hurt the segment a little. I think part of it is that we haven't been given a real reason to love Hangman Page yet, we just know that he's a young guy and has a bright future, whereas Jericho has almost 30 years of brilliance for fans to attach to. I'm a Jerichoholic for life, brother. Anyway, a bloody Hangman storms the ring, and they have a pull-apart brawl, with refs and agents trying to intervene. I see former ECW star Jerry Lynn amongst the chaos. Damn, he's gotten tiny.
Match 7: The Young Bucks def. The Brotherhood (Cody & Dustin Rhodes) (in 31:00)
Thoughts: Like the Hangman Page match, this didn't need to go that long. Could have easily shaved 10 minutes off this and it would have been much better. I went into this match expecting a classic, and I think these guys thought going over 30 minutes would achieve that. Not that this was a bad match, it just wasn't dynamic or compelling enough to fill the allotted time. Dustin looked in great shape, but the Bucks noticeably had to slow their style down for him. It worked well down the stretch when they started stealing each other's shit, but overall not their best work (***)
Overall, an encouraging leap forward from Fyter Fest. The key for AEW in its formative stages is to try things out, see what works and what doesn't, and respond accordingly from there. Technical issues aside, the Buy In pre-show was well done, in altering the Librarian act to something watchable, hyping the main event matches, and putting in stars that people want to see more of, like Britt Baker and Bea Priestley. The main show highlights were the opening six man tag, where everyone got their shine, and the Omega vs. CIMA match, where AEW audiences finally got to see why Kenny Omega is known as the Best Bout Machine. Some constructive criticism to the bookers- sometimes less is more. Just because you can go 20-30 minutes, doesn't mean you always should. But we have a show here that's better than Fyter Fest, but not as good as Double Or Nothing, which leads to my score.
Until next time, take care,