The AEW Cheat Sheet
It's a big weekend in the world of professional wrestling! And it- in what can best be described as a "paradigm shift" (if you don't get it now, you will soon)- it has very little to do with WWE. Sure, WWE are running a Takeover in Cardiff, Wales for their NXT UK brand, but that's not the story of the weekend. This weekend marks the second major event for the new wrestling promotion, AEW (All Elite Wrestling). Following the success of May's debut PPV, Double Or Nothing at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, AEW are making their way to Chicago. Chicago holds a special place in the heart of the men behind the creation of AEW. Prior to the Khan Family coming along and backing the boys with billionaire cash, Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks self-funded an independent wrestling extravaganza called ALL IN. Approximately a year later, the full-fledged company of AEW is back in the same city, in the same arena, for ALL OUT.
Now, I'm not here to give a history lesson on how AEW was created. I've done that in previous blog posts if that's something that you want to delve into more. Rather, this AEW Cheat Sheet is me going through what I believe is essential viewing from the very short history of AEW, things that I recommend you watch if you're on the fence about ordering the PPV. Or if you already are ordering the PPV, watch some of this stuff to get hyped for the big show (not WWE's version).
The powers that be in AEW (the Khan Family and the Elite stable of Cody, The Bucks and Kenny Omega) have done a great job so far of collecting world-class talent from everywhere. The workrate, or technical level of wrestling in AEW, is very high across the board. Although they've only had a few shows, the fact that I could count on one hand the amount of bad matches from AEW is encouraging. So the following recommendations are based on more than if the match would get 5 stars on the Meltzer scale. Rather, they're matches that I feel are relevant to ALL OUT, or have helped build the character or stories for key players in the company.
1. Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega- Double Or Nothing
This is a bit of a no-brainer. You could say that ALL OUT is like AEW's answer to Summerslam, which makes Double Or Nothing, as their debut PPV, their Wrestlemania. Or perhaps the importance of the two will be switched moving forward on the AEW calendar. Regardless, Jericho vs. Omega was the main event of AEW's first official show and PPV. It featured a recognisable mainstream former WWE star in Jericho, who undoubtedly is bringing a lot of buzz with him. Kenny Omega is someone that the company is building around as a main eventer, after creating his own buzz after some classic matches in Japan. The stakes were high in this main event, with the winner going on to face Adam Page. As far as quality, it was extremely good, not to the level of their classic at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom, but a more than worthy main event. But given the high stakes and historical significance, a must watch.
2. Cody vs. Dustin Rhodes- Double Or Nothing
This one had a real old school feel. Cody and Dustin wanted this feud in WWE, but never got it the way that they wanted- they had Goldust vs. Stardust in a 10 minute filler match at Fastlane. So, both men came into this match with something to prove- Cody wanted to show that he's a main event level star, and Dustin, at the age of 50, wanted to prove that he still had it. The result was one of the most emotional, dramatic matches that I've ever seen. It didn't have a million flips or finisher kickouts, just two brothers fighting, blood, sweat and tears. Probably the match of the year regardless of promotion. And the post-match promo nearly made me cry.
3. Unsanctioned Match- Jon Moxley vs. Joey Janela- Fyter Fest
The man formerly known as Dean Ambrose joined the AEW roster to prove that he was more than the "lunatic" WWE portrayed him as. Reverting back to his original ring name of Jon Moxley, he wanted to shed the wacky shenanigans he had to do as Ambrose, and show his more violent and sadistic side. Before WWE, Moxley was known for his hardcore matches. While Moxley was working in WWE, someone else gained that reputation on the independent wrestling scene- Joey Janela. Presented as an "unsanctioned match", so AEW wouldn't be liable (in storyline), Moxley and Janela absolutely brutalised each other. It's not indicative of the style AEW will bring to weekly TV, but it shows their willingness to be an alternative, bring more of an edge and push themselves away from PG parameters. And just as importantly as all that, Jon Moxley was able to show that he was a very different man to Dean Ambrose.
4. The Young Bucks vs. The Lucha Bros- Double Or Nothing
Tag team wrestling isn't much of a thing these days in WWE. Asides from a brief period when super-over stable The New Day feuded with the reinvented Usos, the titles are treated as a bit of a joke. They had a freaking 10 year old boy crowned as champion at Wrestlemania. Recently, it seems to be used as a bargaining chip to placate disgruntled tag teams that allegedly considering leaving WWE and perhaps going to AEW- The Revival and The OC (Gallows & Anderson). So, it's refreshing to see this long-term feud between the Bucks and the Lucha Bros being given so much spotlight and importance. They face off in a ladder match at ALL OUT, which I believe will be the co-main event, as the match at Double Or Nothing was. I was going to call the DON match a "regular" match since it had no gimmick/stipulation, but it was anything but regular. Amazing athleticism, lots of crazy spots, and crucially, very different to the other Double Or Nothing matches on this list. AEW has a little something for everyone.
5. Kenny Omega vs. CIMA- Fight For The Fallen
For the first couple of AEW shows, Kenny Omega was really good, but if you were seeing him for the first time, you probably wouldn't quite understand why he has the reputation of being one of the best in the world. He had a pretty good match with Chris Jericho, then teamed with The Young Bucks at Fyter Fest. So this match was Omega's chance to bounce back in the singles division after the loss to Jericho. CIMA is a veteran from the Chinese promotion OWE, and kept up with Kenny at every turn. It was a thrilling match, Omega got his first W in a singles match in AEW, but more importantly, he gave great insight into why he is known as The Best Bout Machine.
6. Hangman Page vs. MJP vs. Jungle Boy vs. Jimmy Havoc- Fyter Fest
This was a pretty good Fatal 4 Way match, but more importantly, it was a spotlight for Hangman Page, who is one half of the ALL OUT main event, facing Chris Jericho to determine the first ever AEW World Champion. Also, MJF's pre-match promo is fantastic. The guy pisses charisma. As for Page, he's a good worker, only 27 years old, but needs a bit of work on his personality/promo skills. I don't think he's ready to be World Champion just yet. Would like to see Jericho get it- bit of bias as I'm a massive Jericho fan, but I honestly think he's the better of the two options. But yeah, this match is a goodie. Page and MJF shine the most, Havoc gets some shit in to show he's not just a "deathmatch guy", and we got to see some of the fun dynamic between Jungle Boy and his new partner, Luchasaurus. It was a good feature for the "future" stars of the company.
Lucha Brothers vs. SCU- Fight For The Fallen
First win in AEW for Pentagon and Fenix. They kinda needed the credibility boost after dropping two matches straight to the Bucks. And SCU are always great value. Scorpio Sky is a tremendous athlete and Daniels and Kaz defy the laws of aging- they were doing their thing on the indie scene back in 2001!
Nyla Rose vs. Riho vs. Yuka Sakazaki- Fyter Fest
Probably the best women's match AEW have had so far. They've got some good talent, it just hasn't all quite clicked for them yet. The dynamic in this triple threat of the two smaller Japanese ladies trying to take out the beastly Nyla Rose was a really cool one. Everyone impressed here.
Private Party vs. SCU vs. Best Friends- Fyter Fest- The Buy-In
This is why you always watch the pre-shows, guys. Sometimes you get hidden gems like this! My first time seeing Private Party and I was blown away. Also, had high stakes, with the winner advancing to ALL OUT in the tag team championship tournament.
Jon Moxley's AEW Debut
Jon Moxley's first backstage promo
Cody smashing the throne during his DON entrance
Cody/Dustin post-match promo
Awesome Kong's debut
Bret Hart presenting the AEW Championship
MJF roasting the crowd at Fyter Fest
Shawn Spears (FKA Tye Dillinger) cracking Cody with a steel chair
Watching the above things will keep you up to date with the major happenings of AEW. Don't have time to watch it before ALL OUT? That's fine! But get to it at some point. Do it. Or I'll call a guy to come kneecap you all.
But seriously, I'm very excited and optimistic about where AEW is headed. Their TV deal starts on October 2 on TNT- the network that used to broadcast WCW. I started watching wrestling during the Monday Night Wars, but was only able to watch sporadically until 2002, so I'm buzzing about pro wrestling becoming fresh and exciting. I have to admit, most of my love and excitement surrounding pro wrestling doesn't come from the current WWE product. They have great talent and production, but often awful and half-assed creative. So I like to go back on the WWE Network and watch the shows from when they put their whole ass into it. Plus, New Japan, who have some of the most insanely talented wrestlers in the world. And closer to home, my beloved PWA. I attended their first ever Rumble event last night and I'm still buzzing! Review coming on that as soon as it's uploaded to OVO Play.
One last thing about this whole AEW thing... I expect ALL OUT to be another history-making event, with several matches and moments that could have made it into a "Best Of" blog post. Unfortunately, Moxley had to pull out of the event due to a staph infection, but I expect his presence back in All Elite sooner rather than later. We have a hell of a replacement though. PAC (fka Neville in WWE) is facing Kenny Omega. So that should be outstanding. The ladder match will be breathtaking. Really hoping Jericho beats the Hangman.
And... the show is taking place in Chicago. There's currently a fan convention happening in Chicago called Starrcast, which is affiliated with AEW. One of the guest stars at the convention? A certain Chicago native who is the biggest possible free agent out there. A man whose name is still chanted frequently at WWE events even though he left 4.5 years ago... CM MOTHERFUCKING PUNK! Hyped!
Until next time, take care,