WrestleWatch: AEW All Out 2020
Now that we're back in the swing of things on The Arena, doing our WrestleWatch reviews, adding some news articles, trying to expand our reach on social media (new Facebook like page: facebook.com/TheArenaBlog), it's time to dive back into the world of All Elite Wrestling. Like every wrestling company- actually, every form of entertainment- AEW has been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they may be handling the situation better than just about anyone, most certainly better than WWE. Testing was immediately implemented, they were the first to use their own wrestlers as an audience to make up for the lost atmosphere of crowds, and the reactions felt far more genuine than those of the NXT trainees on the WWE weekly shows. They also started running all their shows from Daily's Place, an open-air amphitheatre owned by the Khan family.
So that brings us to the All Out PPV. AEW runs quarterly PPVs, avoiding the monthly saturation, instead selectively placing larger matches on special episodes of Dynamite. The PPVs have routinely been of a high standard, and despite AEW being a new company, their shows could be compared favourably to ones like NXT Takeover, and some of the stronger main roster WWE PPVs. In 2019, I would say with confidence that AEW's inaugural effort, Double Or Nothing, absolutely starched Wrestlemania 35. AEW President Tony Khan believed the same held true this year, saying that Double Or Nothing 2020 blew Wrestlemania 36 out of the water. That one... I wouldn't be so sure about. I would say DoN 2 was the better show, but it wasn't by that large a margin. DoN was the more consistent show, but the cinematic efforts from WWE- The Boneyard Match and Firefly Funhose- trumped every individual match on DoN, including the Stadium Stampede, which was undeniably a lot of fun in its own right.
So All Out. The first All Out was AEW's second proper PPV effort, and saw Chris Jericho crowned as the first AEW Champion- or "Le Champion"- besting Hangman Page. It also saw Pac step in as a last minute replacement for Jon Moxley (who had golden staph) and have a killer match with Kenny Omega. So this year's edition had a lot to live up to.
Fast forward a year, and Jon Moxley is the AEW Champion, beating Chris Jericho at Revolution in February to become the second man to hold the strap. In his title reign, he has beaten the likes of Brodie Lee, Jake Hager and Brian Cage to maintain his spot as AEW's kingpin. At All Out, he faces a very different challenge- the cerebral young motormouth, Maxwell Jacob Friedman- MJF.
MJF began his pursuit of the title in the form of a politicial campaign, "MJF 2020". Declaring that Moxley was "not his champion", he said that the people deserved better, and that he would carry the company for the next 25 years. Despite MJF's poise and bravado, it's important to remember- and he is only too happy to remind you- that he is only 24 years old. Through all the trashtalk and goading, Maxwell tipped the scales in his favour by getting a stipulation added to the match- Mox would be prohibited from using his finishing move, the Paradigm Shift (double arm DDT), with MJF arguing that the move was too dangerous, wearing a neck brace in the build to further sell the idea after taking the move. Naturally, the whole thing was a ruse, and MJF bloodied Mox in a vicious attack on the go-home episode of Dynamite.
Elsewhere on the card- Chris Jericho is no longer officially Le Champion, but he has christened himself "The Demo God", due to his ability to draw ratings, particularly in regards to the 18-49 male demographic. As part of that demographic... Jericho spits truth, the man really is the best at what he does. In recent months, he has been involved in a feud with Orange Cassidy. After Jericho had an altercation with Mike Tyson on an episode of Dynamite, an incensed Jericho came out the following week and called out "the baddest man on the planet". Rather than Tyson, Orange Cassidy sauntered out. Cassidy is a comedic character aligned with the Best Friends tag team. His gimmick is that he... just doesn't care. Frequently moving in a sloth-like fashion with his hands in his pockets, giving half-hearted thumbs-ups, Cassidy has become a cult favourite with the AEW fanbase. A pissed off Jericho called him a joke, but Cassidy showed that he could go when motivated, and over the months on Dynamite, Jericho and Cassidy would go 1-1 in singles matches. We've also had a few great segments and moments, perhaps most notably...
After Orange Cassidy doused Chris Jericho and his faction, The Inner Circle, in orange juice, the Demo God was pissed, but in his rage, he came up with an inventive idea. Cassidy loves orange juice, Jericho loves "a little bit of the bubbly", so they would combine the two in a Mimosa Mayhem Match! The match could be won by pinfall, submission, or throwing your opponent into a vat of mimosa.
And with that... let's do this!
Match 1: Joey Janela def. Serpentico (at 7:35)
Match 2: Private Party def. The Dark Order (at 10:25)
Match 1: Tooth And Nail Match- Big Swole def. Britt Baker via KO (at 10:00)
Thoughts: This was a cinematic-style match largely played for laughs. Not exactly what I would pick to open a PPV, but fine for what it was. Despite the comedic tone, Swole and Baker were able to get across a believable level of intensity to suit the feud going in, and Reba/Rebel was good in her supporting role. It was a interesting novelty to see a fight in a dentist office too, and the spot with the syringe of Novacaine was clever and memorable. (**1/2)
Match 2: Young Bucks def. Jurassic Express (at 14:50)
Thoughts: Now this is the kind of match I would like to see open a PPV, and I suppose it did kick off the proper in-ring portion of the All Out PPV. High levels of athleticism for both sides. Of course we have the usual greatness of the Bucks, but Jungle Boy- who has really come a long way over the past year- got a lot of moments to shine, including a very cool looking leaping hurricanrana to the outside. Luchasaurus continually shows the best hot tag sequence in AEW, and was back at it again here. The dinosaur man showed off his power, flexibility and agility in this one. He tried a dive to the outside, and wiped out the spectator wrestlers instead. Jungle Boy got to show off some heart by kicking out of a double superkick, but ultimately fell to the BTE Trigger. Excellent work here. (***3/4)
Match 3: Lance Archer won The Casino Battle Royale (at 22:15)
Thoughts: It was cool seeing this presented in a prominent PPV spot rather than being pre-show fodder, and they seem to have ironed out the kinks that plagued the previous attempts at the match (especially the first one). Everyone got quick individual entrances and graphics so we knew who each person was, production was better at catching all the spots, and eliminations and big moments were well paced. Also, Darby Allin is a crazy motherfucker. He let Brian Cage put him in a bodybag filled with thumbtacks... and then got powerbombed to the outside! The Joker card was a cool surprise- I thought it was going to be Miro (fka Rusev), but it turned out to be Matt Sydal (fka Evan Bourne). I feel so bad for the dude though. His big trademark move is the Shooting Star Press, and he went to do it as his first big spot in the match, in his AEW debut... and he slipped on the ropes. Thankfully, he was able to land on his back instead of his neck, but it was still a major crash and burn. I've never seen him come close to screwing that move up over the last 12 years, but outdoors in the Florida heat, apparently sweat is causing some issues, I've seen a few close calls on recent AEW shows with slips, but nothing quite that egregious Sydal was fine and able to continue, getting to the final 3, but the win, and future title shot goes to the Murderhawk Monster. (***)
Match 4: Broken Rules Match- Matt Hardy def. Sammy Guevara (at 9:00)
Thoughts: This was terrible. You probably already know about the big headline story here- the match started backstage at Daily's Place with some brawling, and Hardy and Guevara went to the top of a mechanical lift. Sammy speared Matt off it through a couple of tables... except Matt overshot the tables, cracking the back of his head on the concrete. To her credit, Aubrey Edwards threw up the X, realising that Hardy was seriously hurt. Hardy tried to get back to his feet, but couldn't remain upright, falling down again. The doctor came in and the bell was called, throwing the match out. Except... the stipulation was that if Matt Hardy lost, he would have to leave AEW. Instead of leaving it and figuring out a way to write Matt back into the show later, they fucking restarted the match after a few minutes. Really bad decision by AEW, probably the worst judgement call they've made since the company started. Matt had no business doing anything physical after falling backwards 10 feet head first onto concrete. He didn't take even a single bump, and they clearly rushed to the finish, which was Hardy knocking Guevara off a scaffold, from a higher height but onto a gimimcked crash pad. Hardy slipped for a moment, trying to climb the scaffold in his concussed state, and I don't even want to think about how awful that could have been if Hardy suffered another fall in his already severely compromised state. Look, we all love wrestling, but it's not worth putting a man's long term health at serious risk just for a fucking pro wrestling match stipulation. (DUD)
Match 5: AEW Women's Championship- Hikaru Shida def. Thunder Rosa (at 16:57)
Thoughts: The ladies were in a very tough spot following the scary events of the Hardy/Guevara match. The broadcast team were a little thrown in the early going, the limited attendance crowd was muted, and watching at home, I wasn't engaged in this during the first few minutes, keeping an eye on Twitter for updates on Matt Hardy. That said, you can't fault the efforts of Shida and Rosa. They wrestled an excellent, technical, hard-hitting match. Thunder Rosa is the NWA Women's Champion, so this was an interpromotional champion vs. champion match- genuinely interpromotional, as AEW and NWA are legitimately separate wrestling companies who have established a working relationship. That said, I hope we can see more of Thunder Rosa in AEW in the future, whether that means NWA striking another deal with AEW or Rosa herself making the jump. This was- by a considerable distance- the best women's match we've seen in AEW. The women's division is one glaring weakness in AEW's otherwise strong presentation, and they could use more talents the calibre of Thunder Rosa. Shida got to show great resilience and fighting spirit in overcoming Rosa's dominant beatdown to come back and retain her title. (****)
Backstage, Alex Marvez interviewed Kip Sabian and Penelope Ford. Sabian and Ford were being lovey-dovey as usual, and then said that they were going to get married on Dynamite. Before that, there had to be a bachelor party, and a bachelor party needed a best man. Kip promised to reveal the identity of "The Best Man" on the next Dynamite. Could that be the debut of Miro/Rusev? He knows a thing or two about pro wrestling weddings...
(SPOILER- It is/was, as I'm writing this after Dynamite aired. But it was my first thought! Especially when Sabian talked about "common interests' and plugged his Twitch, in a cheeky shot at WWE)
Match 6: Matt Cardona, Scorpio Sky & The Natural Nightmares (Dustin Rhodes & QT Marshall) def. The Dark Order (Brodie Lee, Evil Uno, Stu Grayson & Colt Cabana) (at 15:10)
Thoughts: Multi-man tags- I guess technically, all tags are multi-man, so your 6/8/10 man tags- can be clusterfucks. Not all of them are (hello, Canadian Stampede), but this one certainly was. It wasn't terrible wrestling by any means, but it didn't seem to have a great deal of purpose as a PPV match. It was around here that All Out started to drag a little for me- the finish furthered the story of Colt Cabana trying to officially join the Dark Order, ultimately losing the match for his team- but I'm not sure we needed a 15 minute PPV match to get that particular story over. Overall, felt very much like a typical match we could see on Dynamite. (**1/2)
Backstage, Tony Schiavone interviewed Dustin Rhodes. Schiavone informs Dustin that he has a TNT Championship shot next Dynamite against Brodie Lee. A fired up and emotional Dustin cuts a great promo selling how happy he was for the opportunity. Honestly a better and more worthwhile use of time than the match that preceded this promo.
Match 7: AEW Tag Team Championship- FTR (Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler) def. Kenny Omega & Hangman Page (at 29:40)
Thoughts: I was enjoying this... then it went about 10 minutes too long. Following a couple of scary moments in the early matches on the PPV, a subdued crowd during a quality match because of those moments, then a 8 man tag that had little business being on the show... the last thing AEW needed was a match that overstayed its welcome. FTR conducted themselves in their usual methodical, workman-like style, and they looked to exploit the tension and lack of cohesion between Omega and Page. It worked well... then it just kept going and going. I felt like the referee in the main event of the ALL IN PPV, yelling at them to, "GO HOME!" I don't know if it was the wrestlers trying to force an epic by going long, or if they felt they had to fill in time because the Broken Rules match got cut short, but it didn't work for me, brother. Omega and Page accidentally collide, giving FTR the opportunity to hit Hangman with a pair of MIndbreaker spike piledrivers. The Top Guys claim more gold. With this victory, and having reigns with the NXT, Raw and Smackdown Tag Team Championship- the former Revival can lay claim to being one of the most decorated tag teams of the modern era. (***)
Post-match, Omega grabs a small table from ringside and considers hitting Page with it... but ultimately thinks better of it. He does walk out of the arena, leaving Page behind. He finds the Young Bucks, says "he's done" and tells the Bucks to get in the car with him. They don't. The dissolution of the Elite continues...
Backstage, Alex Marvez interviews Chris Jericho. He claims to have made Orange Cassidy a star.
Match 8: Mimosa Mayhem Match- Orange Cassidy def. Chris Jericho (at 15:15)
Thoughts: This is how it's done! As Jericho pointed out in his pre-match promo, he's been feuding with Orange for 14 weeks. Given the length and prominence of their feud, they could have easily decided to go between 20-30 minutes. But sometimes less is more, and a 15 minute match was very welcome in this semi-main event spot. The set-up was really cool too, with two vats of mimosa attached to platforms on either side of the ring. The action in the ring was fine, but it was the work on the platforms that really added drama, with several teases and close calls of either man going into the mimosa. You had to know that the match was going to end with someone- most likely Jericho- going into the vat, but that didn't stop the pins and submissions in the ring from being effective. They could easily end the match in the ring and still have one of them fly into the vat in the post-match. The finish of Jericho getting Superman Punched into the mimosa was awesome, particularly with the great camera angle used. And with that result, Orange Cassidy ends the feud with 2 wins over Chris Jericho, one of the most protected and tenured performers on the AEW roster. A great bit of business! (***1/2)
A video package airs for the main event. Political speeches, neck braces, contract signings, the whole she-bang!
Match 9: AEW World Championship: Jon Moxley def. MJF (w/ Wardlow) (at 23:40)
Thoughts: Moxley walked away with the win, but MJF walked away with a newfound sense of credibility. Commentary, particularly JR, went to great lengths to point out the toughness of the rich kid, who showed a different side of himself in his tenacious, intelligent attack of Mox's arm. MJF got busted open (pretty significantly) but was undetered, continuing the pressure against the champ. The finish put the champ over as intelligent while giving the young challenger an out- the Paradigm Shift was banned in the match, but after Wardlow distracted the ref, Mox stopped MJF using the Dynamite Diamond ring and hit his finish behind the referee's back to get the win! A worthy main event on a show that really needed it. (****)
Post-match, Moxley spotted his next challenger, Lance Archer (w/ Jake Roberts) in the crowd. They trash-talk each other as the show goes off the air...
All Out 2020 was the first time AEW really missed the mark. It wasn't a terrible show, but Tony Khan, the Elite and Co. have set a high standard with the PPVs they've put out over the last year plus. This fell short of those expectations. The events surrounding the Hardy/Guevara match left a bad mark on the show, and the booking of the middle of the card brought the overall feel of the PPV down as well. Thankfully, the last two matches delivered well enough to end things on a positive note.
Overall Score: 6.5/10
Until next time, take care,