August 31, 2019
Pac . . . outwrestles and generally outclasses the supposed best bout machine, which will surely make people think he’s a bastard.
Sean Spears . . . shows more in a one match with AEW than he was probably able to in a couple of years with the WWE.
Adam Page . . . unfortunately proves that all the naysayers were right by putting in a disappointing performance in the main event.
WOMEN’S CASINO BATTLE ROYALE
If nothing else, this is devoid of the goofy things that plagued the men’s version of this match. The closest is the librarian stuff, and that’s nowhere near the level of Orange Cassidy or the guy with no legs. Nyla Rose finally looks like the dominating figure that she ought to, not only by winning, but also by eliminating ten of the twenty other participants. Along with that, there’s some continuation of the angles and feuds, such as Britt Baker attacking Bea Priestley in the aisle wa, Brandi using Kong as her personal enforcer, and Allie going right after Brandi.
There’s obviously some dead weight involved, but everyone tries to add something, even if it’s just Teal Piper using her father’s eyepoke and sleeper, and Nicole Savoy’s big dive to the floor. But, it seems like a waste to bring in names like Jazz and Faby Apache, who could potentially help bolster this women’s roster, only for them to be footnotes in a match like this. The only altogether odd thing is that Mercedes Martinez seemed to be treated like a big deal, but she was just casually eliminated by Baker. It would have made more sense if Nyla did it, to continue building her up, or even if Britt and Bea were forced to work together to take her out. But, those are all really minor quibbles. This does its job of further laying the groundwork for feuds in the AEW Women’s Division, and also does a fine job in setting up the title picture.
MARQ QUEN/ISIAH KASSIDY vs. JACK EVANS/ANGELICO
Aside from the aftermath, where Angelico and Evans attack Private Party, there isn’t much here that wasn’t seen in Private Party’s debut. It’s little more than a spotfest, with all four of them having something to add to the mix. There are a few subtle hints of Evans and Angelico’s heel turn, such as Angelico’s reaction when Kassidy mocks his dancing, and also them being more willing to fight dirty, like when Angelico rams Quen into the post.
The spots themselves come off well, and Private Party are certainly creative with them, but, if they’re going to be a permanent fixture in AEW, they need to slow down so that they matter in the long term. The camel clutch/curb stomp combo ought to be a lethal finisher, not a throwaway spot in the warming up stages of a match. Quen also has the most graceful SSP this side of Paul London, which also probably should have been the finish. The actual finish they use on Angelico is fine, although I could have done without Evans getting spiked on a reverse rana from the top, and then getting up and getting spiked again from a regular one. A match like this is good enough for the time being, but, if Private Party (and Angelico/Evans) are going to be working on TV and PPV with the Bucks, Lucha Bros, SCU, etc. they’ll need to be able to bring more than this to the table.
CHRISTOPHER DANIELS/FRANKIE KAZARIAN/SCORPIO SKY vs. JUNGLE BOY/LUCHASAURUS/MARKO STUNT
The only useful thing from Marko is the fact that he eats the pin. He can’t bump, and aside from the dive to the floor, he can’t believably pull off any spots without a ton of assistance. When Marko isn’t involved, this is a rather fun outing. SCU works over Jungle Boy, and ‘Saurus is the perfect clean-up guy, after the hot tag. There isn’t anything silly here, aside from ‘Saurus taking the rana, and the impact causing him to spear his partners, and at least that sets up the finish and explains why he isn’t able to save Marko. The only thing that this seemed to be lacking was SCU getting nasty, especially during their heat segment on Jungle Boy, or, even better would be if they’d tried to single out and work over Marko, even if it didn’t pay off, it would have at least given the impression that Marko had something to offer.
KENNY OMEGA vs. PAC
This is a bit like the Omega/CIMA match. It’s good, until Omega decides that the story isn’t important anymore. It’s obvious that Omega isn’t taking Pac seriously with the way that he clowns around early on, and even after Pac outdoes him and does a flashy counter to the facecrusher, Kenny still feels the need to showboat. Pac more or less forces him to take the match seriously by trying to act as a stand-in for Moxley and bouncing Omega off the guardrail. They work in quite a few smart touches to the match, Pac shows that he can outwrestle Omega, and after Kenny works to escape a headlock, Pac gets it reapplied easily. Probably the smartest moment of the match is Pac’s 450 near fall. Pac had hurt his knee on a dive to the floor, and very slowly climbs up to put over the knee, and hits the splash, which keeps the story of Kenny’s midsection in mind, for a good near fall. For his part, Kenny adds a couple of nice things too, he gets one over on Pac when Pac hits the ropes and Kenny follows him and hits a lariat to send him to the floor, and then gears up like he’s going to dive and gives Pac a dropkick.
Unfortunately, after that great 450 near fall is when the match falls apart. Kenny takes over, and is right back to acting like Kenny, with the usual overdone moments and facials, and he completely forgets about anything that Pac did to him earlier, even when Pac’s targeting the body should have some effect. There was a chance to play it up when he attempts the One Winged Angel and Pac starts to counter, forcing him to switch to Croyt’s Wrath. But, instead of losing the bridge due to the strain on his midsection, Pac just kicks out. The finish is great, but it’s all from Pac. He counters another One Winged Angel, this time into his Brutalizer submission, and the ref calls it. There’s nothing from Kenny as far as trying to fight out of the hold, or even attempt to get a rope break. Hopefully, with another couple of months to continue building their feud, Moxley can get that extra something out of Omega that only Okada seems to be able to.
JIMMY HAVOC vs. JOEY JANELA vs. DARBY ALLIN
After watching this, I’m quite certain of three things: Havoc is crazy, Janela is a complete moron, and Darby could be good, if only he’d tone down the bumps. Darby is the only one who seems to understand how to put over a big bump. He’s out for a decent amount of time after he gets spiked on the apron by Janela. The table bump also puts him down for a bit. And, the missed coffin drop that lands on the stairs is what keeps him out for good, and lets Janela and Havoc work the finish. Compare that to Janela missing a moonsault to the floor, and having it treated like an afterthought, and the goofy spot where Havoc tries to monkey flip him while he’s sitting in a chair and both Janela and the chair flip over so that he lands in a seated position with a stupid grin on his face. Overall, this isn’t any different from what Janela and Moxley did in June. With the exception of Darby putting the bumps over, the only thing they accomplish is continuing to raise the bar for the next time that one of these matches gets booked.
EVIL UNO/STU GRAYSON vs. TRENT BARRETA/CHUCK TAYLOR
This isn’t overly deep, and the finish is better suited for TV, but, this is a perfectly fine tag match. The Dark Order are entirely watchable when given something specific to do, like sharking on Trent’s midsection, and cutting off the hot tag. It also has the bonus of the work being brought back into focus later on, with Uno’s near fall from the senton, and really smart touch of Taylor spiking Stu with the Awful Waffle, and Trent (the legal) man taking too long to drag himself over to make the pin. The match breaks down a bit after the hot tag, with both teams wanting to show that they could pull off the win, which really wasn’t necessary considering how the match played out. The interference from the Dark Order’s minions wasn’t really needed either, it’d have just as easy for Taylor to take the pin, with Trent’s ribs being the reason he couldn’t make the save.
RIHO vs. HIKARU SHIDA
The booking here only makes Riho getting pinned the month before seem that much more out of place. The match itself is a fine back and fourth match, with Shida working the back, and Riho targeting the midsection with diving stomps. Riho’s quickness and her knack for flashy counters is fully on display, including the flash cradle that she gets the win with. There’s one really nice moment that plays into the body part story with Riho trying to deadweight Shida on a vertical suplex, but Shida getting her up anyway, which winds up hurting both Riho’s back and Shida’s ribs. They both performed fine, but, this is another case where they could have stood to slow down, especially after Riho’s back was singled out, and let Shida get some more sympathy on her. ***
CODY RHODES vs. SEAN SPEARS
Despite the dog and pony show, with the seconds getting involved and Arn Anderson running in to level the playing field, this is rather good from bell to bell. It’s the first match to feel like it has genuine anger and intensity to it. Spears may not be an amazing worker, but, he’s great at showing everyone how much of a jerk he can be, whether he’s errantly whipping Cody with a belt, or giving him a DVD on the ramp. In fact, the only odd moment comes from Cody, when he Hulks Up while Spears is whipping him and tries to make a comeback. There had to have been a better way for Cody to suddenly get fired up. The second DVD getting countered into the Cross Rhodes isn’t such a big deal either. After getting planted on the ramp, it makes sense for Cody to do whatever he had to in order to escape and not get hit with it again.
As soon as it was announced that Cody and Spears each got to have a second, everyone knew they’d be getting involved. But, it’s somewhat remarkable that MJF didn’t turn on Cody. Double-A making the save and giving Spears a spinebuster was certainly a nice surprise for the crowd, although why he’d stoop to helping out a Rhodes is beyond me. The finishing stretch is flawless with Cody avenging the chair shot from June with a chair assisted Disaster kick, and then finishing off Spears with the Cross Rhodes. It’s fine for Cody to get his revenge on Spears, and to win the match at the big show. But, I have to wonder where exactly this is going to leave Spears. ***1/4
REY FENIX/PENTAGON Jr. © vs. MATT JACKSON/NICK JACKSON (AAA World Tag Team Titles - Escalera De La Muerte)
Although this doesn’t hit the same level as their tag title match from the previous PPV, this is a step in the right direction. There are plenty of cases where all four of them show the anger that made their May match so memorable (and that the lack of made their trios match from June so forgettable). But, there’s also plenty of times where their ideas for spots look positively choreographed. And, that’s pretty sums up this whole match, it’s constantly swinging back and fourth. One moment Matt and Pentagon are staring each other down like they’re about to brawl, and then both decide at the same time to do flying spears through tables to Fenix and Nick, and a minute later they’re brawling or using the props on each other that puts the hatred between them back into focus. The thing that makes it stand out to me the most though, is that the bigger bumps are put over well and given some meaning. As much as I hate seeing the Canadian Destroyer blown off, Matt puts over the one from Pentagon like a champ, he’s completely out. But, that’s another case where the cooperation ruins the moment, the next big spot after that is Nick and Fenix doing stereo splashes off ladders to put their respective opponents trough tables. If nothing else, the match ends on a high note. Nick’s botched table bump (rightly) puts him out for good, and Matt goes for the ultimate insult by stealing Pentagon’s mask in order to distract him, and hopefully get the opening that he needs to grab the belts. Unfortunately for him, Fenix cuts him off, and Pentagon gets his mask back. The Lucha Bros return the favor with their tandem Fear Factor on a bridged ladder, and then they easily climb the ladder and retrieve the belts. Despite being hellishly good, at times, the spottiness and the obvious cooperation still knocks it down a few pegs in my book. However, much like the last match, I have to wonder what will happen with these two teams down the road, and if they can parlay their success when working with other into working with other teams. ***1/4
CHRIS JERICHO vs. ADAM PAGE (Decision Match for the AEW World Title)
It’s not a shocker that Jericho gets the title. He’s easily the biggest name on the roster, he can still bring the goods in the ring, and Page hasn’t exactly been booked like a world beater leading up to this match. It’s a good outing, mostly thanks to Jericho. What’s most lacking is something outstanding from Page. He gets some good shots on Jericho, like the discus punch that opens the cut on his eye, but there isn’t anything from Page that truly gives the impression that he can actually beat Jericho. It doesn’t help that the Deadeye gets trotted out for a near fall, and then is quickly followed up with Jericho escaping it. They’d have been better off keeping it protected, especially with all the ways that Jericho is able to escape and counter it.
For his part, Jericho’s work is generally smart. He targets Page’s leg, which had previously been worn down, to soften him up for the Walls of Jericho, and after Page takes a bump into the guardrail that hurts his arm, Jericho works that over for a spell. They also have a couple of great sequences, the best one being Page’s superkick to stop Jericho’s springboard, which stuns Jericho and gives Page the opening for the Buckshot Lariat. Later on, Jericho avenges that one by seeing Page gearing up for another Buckshot and countering it into a Codebreaker for a near fall. The finish comes off fine, with Page charging himself into the Judas Effect to give Jericho the title. It’s not a bad match, but they probably could have cut off a good ten minutes and not lost much of anything, Jericho was easily the better performer here, and he pretty much did all that he could in order to help make Page look like a threat to his quest of becoming champion. ***
Conclusion: This isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly a fun outing from AEW.