June 30, 2021
The Young Bucks . . . show how seriously they take their role as the top tag team in the company by clowning around.
Nyla Rose . . . carries the offense of a perfectly watchable women’s tag match, showing how far the AEW women’s division has really come.
Maxwell Jacob Friedman . . . shows that his catchphrase applies, at least to the bulk of the AEW Roster: He’s better than them, and they know it!
MATT JACKSON/NICK JACKSON vs. EDDIE KINGSTON/PENTAGON Jr. (#1 Contenders Match for the AEW World Tag Team Titles)
You’d think that the Bucks and Pentagon would have better chemistry than this, given how often they’ve worked together, between PWG, AAA, and AEW, but not if this is any indication. It doesn’t help that Matt and Nick seem to treat this like a match in PWG and are more concerned with crowd play and goofing around than they are with telling a story and putting on a good match. Their control segment on Kingston isn’t anything special, and Kingston also makes his own comebacks by just no-selling and firing back. One of Kingston’s comebacks is stopped by Matt going after his knee, but it doesn’t go anywhere, even though it would make sense, since the Bucks like to use the Sharpshooter.
After Pentagon tags in, the spots get flashier and the strikes get noticeably stiffer, but the match itself doesn’t really improve at all. The finish comes down to Cutler’s interference backfiring, and Pentagon hitting a big dive onto the pile on the floor, so that he and Kingston can finish off Matt with the Fear Factor into backfist. It’s nice to see Pentagon and Kingston win, but there were a lot better ways that it could have happened.
JUNGLE BOY vs. JACK EVANS
The fact that they both seem to treat this like a serious match is already enough to make it an improvement over the opener. But there are still issues that keep this from being much more than just fun. Most of their work looks choreographed and scripted, especially the opening chain-wrestling sequence, as well as the exchange that ends with Jungle Boy getting the springboard arm drag. Evans’ control segment isn’t exactly interesting either, the flying kick he uses looks rather nice, although it’s not made out to be anything lethal. If nothing else, you can always count on Jack Evans to bump like a fiend, and he obliges with Jungle Boy’s dropkick and his lariat.
The one nice touch to this is how much they put over Jungle Boy’s Snare Trap finisher. After the opening sequence, Evans misses a dropkick and Jungle Boy goes right for the hold. And, whenever Evans gives him an opening, Jungle Boy goes for the leg to try to get it on. The finish perfectly plays off it, with Evans getting himself hung up, and Jungle Boy stunning him with a dropkick to the chest, and then pulling Evans into the middle of the ring and getting the Snare Trap on to make him submit. The work in order to get to the finish was a little rough, but the payoff was worth it.
MIRO © vs. BRIAN PILLMAN Jr. (AEW TNT Title)
This isn’t anything groundbreaking, as far as structure goes. It’s your typical match between the spunky up-and-comer and a monster heel champion. Miro is as nasty as can be, when he uses his size and power to bump Pillman around, and Pillman makes it seem all but hopeless with his selling. His reaction to the fallaway slam on the floor is especially great. There are a couple of smart touches during Pillman’s comeback that get the crowd fired up, and Miro returns the favor in the selling department, to give hope to Pillman making the upset. The big one is when Pillman springboards in, and Miro tries to counter him with his superkick. Pillman sees it coming and doesn’t follow through with the springboard, and then he hits a superkick of his own on Miro for a good near fall. The only downer is that they start to wrap up the match right afterwards, with Miro connecting his superkick, and then hitting a second kick for good measure and submitting Pillman with Game Over. They could have easily given Pillman another couple of spots to try to win the match and come up with something better than Pillman walking into the same strike that he outsmarted Miro to avoid. Hell, given Pillman’s relative youth and experience level, having him go for broke on a flying move and come up short would have worked just fine. Even though it’s easy to see how this could have been better, it’s still perfectly watchable and it’s nice to see that Miro has retained the qualities that made his WWE work so fun to watch.
NYLA ROSE/VICKIE GUERRERO vs. BRITT BAKER/REBEL
Before Rebel’s knee injury sends this off the rails, this was a fun little tag team match. It was more than watchable, between Nyla working over Rebel’s midsection (I couldn’t tell you the last time that I saw someone use the stomach claw!), Vickie’s heat mongering, and the story of Britt refusing to tag in and wrestle with Nyla, and then eventually being her team’s hot tag and having a couple of good sequences with her. I still wish Nyla’s flying knee was better protected. Besides the fact that it looks positively nasty, Britt takes a great bump from it, and it ought to be something that results in a stretcher job instead of a familiar spot that never means anything. They improvise their way to a decent finish, with Britt getting Nyla out of the way and easily outwrestling Vickie to get the Lockjaw for the submission (giving us three clean submission finishes in a row!), and then Nyla gets her heat back afterwards by putting Britt through a table to continue their Women’s Title feud.
MAXWELL JACOB FRIEDMAN vs. SAMMY GUEVARA
Sometimes in wrestling, the stars align at the right time and two wrestlers put on a match that nobody would think either of them is capable of. MJF has always been better known for his verbal skills than his wrestling ability (even with his finisher being the Fujiwara armbar), and Sammy is mostly considered a spot machine. But, on this night, they manage to stay within those constructs, and simultaneously put on an incredibly engaging, and smartly worked, match.
The opening moments feature both men trading escapes and counters, and then playing to the crowd, complete with MJF doing a Ric Flair strut, and Sammy doing his own strut to mock MJF. They follow that with a chain-wrestling sequence that almost looks like something out of a Flair/Steamboat match, but the “almost” is where they lose it. It’s just too slow, and obvious what they’re doing, especially when MJF had to stick out his head for Sammy to do a headlock takeover. They seemed to be trying to remind everyone that they’re both good technical wrestlers, but they only really succeed in showing why technical wrestling is neither man’s specialty. MJF extending the hand after the stalemate is another great moment. It’s not too out there to think that Sammy may have begrudgingly earned some respect for keeping up with him on the mat like that. Of course, it’s just as likely for Sammy to think that if he takes the bait, he’s going to get a thumb to the eye.
It’s too bad too, because most everything else they do is just about perfect. When MJF takes control, he reminds everyone just how much of a jerk he truly is, with the typical choking and eye gouging, as well as bouncing Sammy off the guardrails. It also helps that MJF’s methods of cutting off Sammy’s comeback attempts are brilliant, especially using the ring skirt to trap him against the apron, and the timing of MJF countering the rana into the powerbomb is spot on. In both cases it looks like Sammy is finally getting himself out of trouble, but MJF does something simple and obvious and makes things even worse for Sammy. Sammy finally makes his comeback by catching MJF in a position where he can’t get out of easily, with them both standing on the top rope, and Sammy plants him with a Spanish Fly. Much like MJF fell back on typical heat getting tactics to work over Sammy, Sammy falls back on his flashiness to control MJF, with the plancha on the floor being a nice revenge spot for MJF pulling the apron skirt on him earlier.
Another great thing to see here is how much respect that they give to the bigger spots of the match. The Canadian Destroyer is about as played out as it gets, but MJF gives it a proper sell job, and it’s perfectly believable to think that Sammy hates MJF enough to want to spike him with it. MJF’s Tombstone off the second rope is even better. They both sell the effects of it for the rest of the match. If you look closely you can even see Sammy moving his fingers, making sure his neck isn’t broken. MJF sells his knee just as well, not even being able to go along with a cover, and his first attempt at getting back to his feet isn’t successful. They almost ruin the moment with Sammy’s quick small package near fall, but he continues selling his neck afterwards. It’s also believable to think that Sammy stole a page from MJF’s playbook and faked the injury to lure him in. MJF tries to follow the Tombstone up with his Heat Seeker, and it backfires with Sammy pushing him off and causing even more damage to his knee. Some people won’t care for the sequence with Sammy’s 630 senton finisher, namely MJF begging Sammy to not do it. But it’s perfectly on point for MJF, it’s not unlike Flair begging off from Sting or Flair begging Luger to not slam him off the top rope. MJF has the same amount of success as Flair did in those predicaments, and he still has it in him to kick out afterwards.
The other thing that people might not be fond of is the finish, with MJF getting the pin after Spears hits Sammy with a chair, while Wardlow has the referee distracted. But it was honestly the best way that they could have given MJF the win. He’d barely kicked out after Sammy hit the 630 and he’s got a bad wheel. It seems unlikely that he’s going to be able to do the Heat Seeker or get Sammy into position for his Fujiwara armbar, or even something like roll him up and grab the tights. Spears and Wardlow come to the rescue so that MJF can get the win, without having to stop selling his knee or the impact of the senton. This kills pretty much every other match that AEW has ever had on TV up to this point, and it begs the question of why AEW isn’t having matches like this on a more regular basis. ****
Conclusion: Even without the main event, this was still a decently fun TV show, with the tag team match as the only black mark. Add in the great main event, and it’s something that everyone ought to check out.