AEW Worlds End Review (31/12/2023)
By Mick Robson
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I'm starting to write this review in the morning of New Year's Day and likely releasing it on Patreon in the afternoon. So Happy New Year, ya filthy animals! Hope 2024 brings you everything you want and more.
Before we get into this review, the way the PPV title is stylised annoys me. Based on the way AEW have talked about the PPV concept, there should be an apostrophe in there, "World's End", as in the end of the world. Worlds End implies that there are multiple worlds, and they're all ending. Arrgh! Alright, I've had my nerdy rant. I'm adhering to the way AEW have stylised it in the article title, but I'm NOT happy about it.
This PPV went down on the last day of 2023 (at least, here in Australia). I almost didn't get it- I haven't been as enamoured with AEW over the past few months. Not just due to Punk leaving, although it didn't help. Punk's departure meant that Collision quickly went from being important weekly television to another Rampage. Ironically, Rampage was originally presented as a big deal with CM Punk's AEW debut, but these days it's more like AEW's answer to Heat/Velocity/Superstars. Dynamite hasn't felt must see in a while either. Lots of matches for the sake of matches and not much in the way of compelling stories.
I opted to get the PPV after a little indecision basically down to two matches which actually had some nice story and build to go along with them. The AEW World Championship match was an interesting one between MJF and Samoa Joe. Their personal issue can be traced back to Joe's days in NXT, when Joe was champion and MJF was a lowly security guard. Joe arrogantly pushed MJF into a wall and Maxwell never forgot about it. In AEW, they fought at Grand Slam in New York. Joe came up short, but got himself another title shot by offering to be MJF's partner/protector against a mysterious masked Devil. The Devil story has been dragging a bit, but it's been heavily implied that we'll get the payoff at Worlds End.
The other one is the No Disqualication battle between Adam Copeland (the artist formerly known as Edge in WWE) and his long-time best friend, Christian Cage. Copeland debuted in AEW in October at WrestleDream, and had intentions of teaming with Christian one more time. Christian told him to "go f**k himself", and the battle was on! They wrestled on Dynamite in Montreal for the TNT Championship, but lost after Shayna Wayne (Nick Wayne's mother) turned on him. So here we go at Worlds End, with the rules thrown out the window. That said, we can probably count on one hand how many times a match has ended in DQ in AEW. It's a running gag how "lenient" the referees are.
The rest of the card seemed basically thrown together at the last minute, with little focus. Ah well.
Let's do this!
Match 1: Willow Nightingale def. Kris Statlander (at 13:25)
Match 2: Killswitch (TAFKA Luchasaurus) won a 20 Man Battle Royal for a TNT Championship shot at any time of his choosing (at 13:50)
Match 3: FTW Rules Match- Hook def. Wheeler Yuta to retain the FTW Championship (at 10:20)
Main PPV Card
The opening video focuses on the the top two matches, as well as the Continental Classic final between Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston. There's also a bit on Toni Storm vs. Riho for the AEW Women's Championship, but truth be told, the focus is more on Toni's new "Timeless" character rather than Riho as a challenger.
Excalibur introduces the show with "it's Saturday, and you know what that means!" I like that they've kept that simple little tribute to Brodie Lee, right on 3 years after his untimely passing.
Credit where it's due, the PPV stage looks gorgeous and unique. Miss seeing unique PPV stages. We're live from Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, the site of WWE Summerslam 2002, which I consider to be the greatest non-Mania PPV of all time. Can Worlds End live up to that standard?
Match 1: Claudio Castagnoli, Bryan Danielson, Mark Briscoe & Daniel Garcia def. Jay White, Brody King, Rush & Jay Lethal (at 17:50)
Thoughts: This was an "all-star" battle featuring all the eliminated competitors from the Continental Classic tournament. I caught a few matches in the tournament, but wasn't invested enough to follow it super closely. I've heard good things so I may go back and watch it.
There was nothing really at stake in this one, but the action was good. Jay White worked a large portion of the match as the biggest heel in it- odd to see him go from the main event last PPV at Full Gear to the somewhat random opener. White bloodied the chest of Bryan with chops, who gave back as good as he got. This was smartly laid out with everybody getting chances to shine at different times. Brody King looked like a killer, making it even more impressive when Claudio was able to swing him around,, and Daniel Garcia gained credibility in the frenetic finish, which saw him reverse Lethal's finisher into a jackknife pin for the win!
Shout-out to Nigel McGuinness and guest Daddy Magic Matt Menard, who were both a riot on commentary in this one.
Star Rating: ***3/4
Post-match, Mark Briscoe does Garcia's dance with him. Excalibur speculates that Garcia may have earned "the begrudging respect" of the BCC, although it wasn't exactly love and hugs in there.
Match 2: Miro def. Andrade El Idolo (w/ CJ Perry) (at 14:45)
Thoughts: This was Andrade's first singles PPV match in AEW, despite being on the roster for a couple of years. Rumours are swirling strongly that he wants out of AEW, and he kinda got "Chris Jericho-ed" here- made to play second fiddle to his manager, Miro's wife, CJ.
This got rough early (in a kinda good way) as they battled to ringside and Andrade dumped Miro over the announce table. LOTS of camera focus on CJ. Andrade rams Miro into the steps and hugs CJ. That slimeball. Andrade has gotten crazily muscular in recent times (no Wellness Policy in AEW?), but can still perform his moonsaults etc flawlessly. Andrade got Miro in the Figure Eight, but CJ swept his arms out from ringside, turning on her client. This allowed Miro to hit the Machka Kick, followed by the Game Over submission and Andrade taps. Decent action, but I didn't like how much focus was on CJ. Not only did it take away from Andrade, but it de-emphasised Miro to a degree as well.
Star Rating: ***
Post-match, CJ blows Miro a kiss, but he doesn't look happy. I guess he didn't want her help?
Match 3: AEW Women's Championship- Toni Storm (c) (w/ Luther) def. Riho (at 11:40)
Thoughts: This was mostly a Toni Storm showcase, but managed to be better than a standard Timeless squash by being a little more serious and allowing Riho some offense. That said, I don't want to be one of those people that rags on Riho for her size, but she made Storm look like Andre the Giant. C'mon!
Luther got involved at different times, and eventually was caught and ejected by the referee- finally, an AEW ref with a bit of a backbone! Storm worked Riho's back and eventually the challenger made a little comeback, but Toni dropped her with a sick twisted DDT for the win. Timeless indeed. Can't fault the wrestling, apart from not buying Riho as a credible challenger in any sense, and from the sound of things (or lack thereof), it seems like Long Island is with me on that one.
Star Rating: **3/4
Post-match, Mariah May (who seems to be doing the Mickie James stalker bit with Toni) came out with a bucket and showered the champ in rose petals. Mariah makes her in-ring AEW debut this week on Dynamite.
Backstage to an interview by Lexi Nair with Dante Martin. He talks about building momentum on Rampage (has he? Cool). Orange Cassidy shows up and accepts the implied challenge. They'll wrestle for the AEW International Championship on Dynamite.
Entrances take place for Swerve Strickland, then Dustin Rhodes, who is replacing an injured Keith Lee. Swerve vs. Lee was one of those matches that was added last minute anyway, so why they didn't just scrap it entirely, I don't know.
Swerve dropkicks Dustin as he goes to get in the ring, then places a cinder block on his ankle and hits a stomp off the apronn through it. Trainers, referees, staff come down and go to take Dustin away. Dustin has fighting spirit though, and limps in to start the match.
Match 4: Swerve Strickland (w/ Prince Nana) def. Dustin Rhodes (at 9:30)
Thoughts: This match didn't need to happen. People talk about AEW's PPV running too long, and I think Tony Khan's thought process is that he wants to give fans more value for money, so, more wrestling matches. But, the pre-match attack accomplished the two things this near 10 minute match was designed to do- get Swerve on PPV, and get him over as a vicious badass. Everyone knew Dustin wasn't winning this match.
Star Rating: **
Chris Jericho makes his entrance for the big 8 man tag. Err, the other big 8 man tag of the show. To be fair, this one was a bit of an audible after Jericho's tag partner, Kenny Omega, got struck down with diverticulitis. There's controversy surrounding Jericho at the moment- online rumours that he "made a move" on Kylie Rae back in 2019, leading to her leaving AEW before she or the company even got started. Apparently, "make a move" with no further details given= sexual assault. Anyway, while the crowd sang Judas here, there were a fair amount of boos mixed in. A "Worlds NDA" sign could also be seen behind Jericho during his entrance. Clever.
Match 5: Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara, Sting & Darby Allin def. Ricky Starks, Big Bill, Powerhouse Hobbs & Konosuke Takeshita (at 15:40)
Thoughts: All the controversy aside, this was a pretty awful match. Don't get me wrong, it was jarring to hear big babyface Jericho booed every time when he delivered an offensive move. There were messy, botched spots all over the place, no flow, and just a general feeling of awkwardness. Commentary mentioned that this was the last time Sting would wrestle in New York, and look, I love Sting as much as the next guy, but his movement and general activity looked really off through all of this. When Sammy Guevara hit Ricky Starks with the GTH, followed by the Shooting Star Press, it felt like they were mercifully putting this match out of its misery. The older guys in this one really dragged it down, and the younger ones didn't deliver enough to hold it together.
Star Rating: *1/2.
Match 6: TBS Championship- Julia Hart (c) def. Abadon (at 11:35)
Thoughts: A bit like the earlier AEW Women's Championship match, the challenger got very little reaction here, from the entrances to the match itself. The crowd amused itself in the early going, chanting "this is spooky", but didn't really cheer or boo either wrestler, which really hurt the atmosphere.
Within House of Black rules, the challenger is able to choose a stipulation- Abadon went with "biting is legal", so that comprised most of their offense. Skye Blue came out to interfere on Julia's behalf, but she was covered up, so she won't go viral on Twitter today. Abadon deals with Skye, but that allows Julia to attack them from behind. A moonsault follows- although it's not a good one at all, not landing right- and the champ retains.
Star Rating: *3/4
Match 7: TNT Championship- No DQ- Adam Copeland def. Christian Cage (c) (at 25:00)
Thoughts: God bless Copeland and Cage. After a run of pretty crap matches, they got this show back on track with a plunder-filled war. Cope came out wearing his WM22 attire (or something extremely similar) to hit us right in the nostalgia, and proceeded to take the fight to Christian. They brawl through the crowd, and the 50 year old Copeland dives off a guardrail platform onto his bestie! Nick Wayne got involved, really coming into his own as an obnoxious young fool. He would pay for it with another WM22 callback, as Copeland puts him through a flaming table! Well, kinda. Didn't land right but still looked cool.
Christian almost takes advantage by landing the Unprettier, but Cope shows GRIT and kicks out. Christian goes to use the title belt, but gets kicked the nuts and hit with his own Unprettier to lose his precious TNT Championship!
Killswitch comes down with his TNT title contract and chokeslams Copeland on a steel chair! Christian demands that Killswitch hand the contract over to him, which makes the monster shake with rage, but after Christian whispers something in his ear, he complies. Christian cashes in!
Match 8: TNT Championship- Christian Cage def. Adam Copeland (c) (at 0:11)
Thoughts: Not much to break down here. Spear. 1-2-3. New champ. Excalibur lets us know the stat that Copeland is the shortest reigning TNT Champion in history.
Star Rating: ****. Rating the proper match and the cash-in as a whole, it was excellent. Fell short of the all-time classic it would need to be to save this show, but still a heated battle which paid homage to some of the key moments of Copeland's career, albeit with a fresh coat of paint. I'm just glad he can still be called the Rated R Superstar, with his Metalingus music. I need to actively stop myself from writing "Edge" every single time.
Match 9: Continental Classic Finals- Eddie Kingston def. Jon Moxley (at 17:20)
Thoughts: Is it sacrilege to say I enjoyed this match more than Cope vs. Cage? These guys fought like the Classic- and also the ROH and NJPW titles up for grabs in the Triple Crown- meant EVERYTHING to them. This was enhanced by Bryan Danielson joining commentary and putting both men over as dangerous threats, while they beat the shit out of each other, stopping just short of shooting. They bloodied each other's chests with chops, traded bulldog chokes, and Kingston even busted out a wild suicide dive, that he seemed to hurt himself worse on!
They traded hard strikes until the point of exhaustion, before Eddie used his last bit of energy to land one more spinning back fist, collapsing into the cover and capturing the Triple Crown. Say what you want about wrestling, but the journey that man's been on, the emotion that poured out of him after the bell rang was REAL. Awesome stuff!
Star Rating: ****1/4
We get Samoa Joe's standard entrance, and then a hilarious video where the residents of Long Island proclaim MJF to be "their scumbag", with all of them putting on matching scarfs. Highlight was one lady claiming to have had sexual relations with Max in the back of a car- with far more explicit language that needed to be censored.
After the entrance, Adam Cole's music hit and he came to ringside. Still on crutches. Interesting...
Match 10: AEW World Championship- Samoa Joe def. MJF (c) (at 17:50)
Thoughts: Well, Adam Cole was almost a non-factor in the match... almost. A physical, hard hitting match. MJF came into the match all taped up, and Joe was in control for a large portion of the match, including a brutal-looking Muscle Buster on the apron! MJF would have his moment, including hitting the Heatseeker, but Joe was too much of a monster to go down to that.
After a ref bump, MJF asks for the Dynamite Diamond Ring, which Adam Cole apparently has. He fumbles a bit for it before producing it- but the time wasted fumbling allowed Joe to lock in the Coquina Clutch! The ref raises the arm once, twice, three times- no response from Max! We have a new champion!
Star Rating: ***3/4. Very good battle, never quite hit the highest gear but was compelling nonetheless. Particularly with that finish...
Adam Cole enters the ring to console MJF while the crowd chants "bullshit". The masked followers of the Devil appear ringside to ambush Cole and MJF with steel chairs- then the lights go out. When they come back on, Cole is sitting in the chair with the masked men on his side! The men take off their masks to reveal Roderick Strong, Matt Taven, Mike Bennett and Wardlow. They beat down MJF and Cole unveils the Devil mask from his jacket pocket to confirm it. They pose to end the show.
This show was heading towards "worst AEW PPV ever" territory before the final 3 matches (4 if you want to be a stickler and count the cash-in as a separate match). AEW paid for throwing random matches at the wall and/or not building up convincing challengers for their championship matches. Thankfully, the top matches were strong and lived up to the billing. Moxley vs. Kingston was pleasantly surprising in how great it was, and it has me considering going back to binge the Continental Classic matches.
As for the main event and show-closing angle- it was predictable by this point that it was going to be Adam Cole and those guys as the minions. That said, predictable in pro wrestling isn't always a terrible thing. It just means the story makes sense and we can connect the dots. Surprises and swerves for the sake of it is how we got Vince Russo's late era WCW, which is worse than any low AEW has experienced to this point.
I would assume MJF has re-signed long ago, but I have heard that he's going away for a while to heal injuries. He has wrestled the last two PPV main event appearing all banged up, and if that's not a work, hopefully he takes the necessary time and returns better than ever.
As for the overall show, it's a far cry from the heights of 2021/early 2022 AEW. Hopefully they right the ship in 2024. Pro wrestling is better when all companies are firing on all cylinders!
Overall Score: 6/10
Until next time, take care.