June 29, 2019
Riho . . . appears to cheat death by surviving a knee off the top from Nyla Rose.
Darby Allin . . . takes some gratuitous bumps en route to earning the respect of everyone watching.
Joey Janela . . . is turned into a literal walking pincushion, courtesy of the former Dean Ambrose.
TRENT BARRETA/CHUCK TAYLOR vs. FRANKIE KAZARIAN/SCORPIO SKY vs. ISAIAH KASSIDY/MARQ QUEN
If not for Quen and Kassidy getting over like a million bucks, this would pretty much be a wash. The match looks just like any other three-way match at first, until Private Party starts showing their stuff and completely wins over the crowd. Then the other two teams put them out of commission with spots on the floor, and work over Kassidy to build up a hot tag to Quen and the match starts going somewhere. There’s an especially nice moment when Quen gets taken off the apron, and Kassidy finally makes it to the corner, and he debates waiting for his partner or tagging in Kazarian and risking his team not winning.
When Quen finally gets in, he returns the emotional investment that the fans put into waiting for it with some incredible athleticism. The crowd completely dies after his SSP near fall, which really ought to have been the finish (although in all fairness, I doubt that AEW knew that these two would get over the way that they did). It’s too bad that Kassidy had to drop the fall to Trent, but, again, it makes sense to protect the two more established teams. It looks like AEW caught lightning in a bottle with Private Party, and after earning a job, it’s certainly going to be interesting to see how they’re used going forward. ***
ALLIE vs. LEVA BATES
The work itself is fine, but the librarian gimmick for Leva and Peter Avalon is beyond terrible. There are a couple of watchable moments, like Leva’s fisherman buster near fall, Allie working over the index finger, and Leva stretching out Allie and forcing her to shush herself. Peter tries to cheat for Leva and it backfires so that Allie can get the win.
MICHAEL NAKAZAWA vs. ALEX JEBAILY
If AEW truly wants to succeed, grow, and potentially be competitive to WWE, then making sure that bullshit like this never happens again would be a good start. I don’t care if it’s the pre show or not, there’s no reason for non wrestlers to have anything resembling a competitive match with actual ones. Let alone garbage like hitting each other with inflatable pool toys and video game controllers.
CHRISTOPHER DANIELS vs. CIMA
This was a solid way to start off the show proper, with some continuation from the SCU/Strong Hearts trios match that opened Double or Nothing. It would have been nice to see one of them get a little nasty, which they’ve both shown they’re capable of doing. Daniels hitting the Northern Lights on the floor is a great way to start wearing out CIMA’s back. It gives some new meaning to the Arabian press that Daniels likes to use, and the crossface follow up to it is brilliant. The Blue Thunder is another typical spot from Daniels that gets some extra meaning, and it helps that CIMA takes a rather big bump from it. For his part, CIMA’s selling is perfectly fine. He keeps it in mind when he tries to go on offense, such as blocking a charge in the corner and giving Daniels a back cracker. CIMA’s selling also leads to some questions about whether or not he can pull off his bigger spots, like the Perfect Driver. The only real issues with the match are the way that it treats Angel’s Wings, when a worn out CIMA can still kick out, and the fact that CIMA’s finishing stretch comes a bit too easy, considering how well he’d been selling earlier. The hesitation on the Perfect Driver was great, but the sunset flip powerbomb and the Schwein should have also given him some issues.
NYLA ROSE vs. RIHO vs. YUKA SAKAZAKI
Unless the idea is to build up Riho as a top babyface to feud with Nyla, then there’s no reason for Nyla to not win this, let alone be the one to take the pin, even if it is a fluke cradle. Nyla’s knee off the top should not only have taken Riho completely out of the match, but also caused her to be taken to the back on a stretcher. There are a few cute moments for the Joshi girls to show their stuff, like their bridging escape when Nyla tries to pin them both at once, and the sequence with Riho making Nyla and Sakazaki reverse each other’s pin attempts so that neither of them wins. But, this goes on for too long and the impressive stuff from Nyla, like the knee shot and also her being able to catch and hold both of her opponents at once, is negated by her losing the match. Nyla taking a backseat to Awesome Kong is one thing, but there’s no reason for it here, unless there’s a Nyla/Riho feud on the horizon.
ADAM PAGE vs. MAXWELL JACOB FRIEDMAN vs. JIMMY HAVOC vs. JUNGLE BOY
This is a fine way to give Page some momentum going into his title match with Jericho, and also to keep the Page/MJF rivalry moving forward. Although Page is the winner, MJF steals the show by being a jerk whenever possible, such as teasing the crowd by charging for a dive, and then not doing it, or by putting Jungle Boy’s foot on the rope to prevent Page from winning. It also helps that MJF is willing stooge all over the place for the other three. Jungle Boy and Havoc aren’t bad or anything, but they’re pretty much regulated to being warm bodies, without any real purpose aside from Jungle Boy to show his agility and for Havoc to drop the fall.
It would have been nice to see Page’s knee (which MJF hurts with a chop block) play a bigger role in things, even just to add some doubt as to whether or not Page can use either of his two big moves, or have it give out on him, with MJF trying to swoop in and steal the win from him. At least it leads to one of MJF’s best moments (which says a lot), when he taunts the crowd and tries to use a sharpshooter. The booking makes perfect sense. Page gets a somewhat convincing win as he moves on toward the title match, MJF doesn’t lose, and the slow burn to their eventual showdown heats up.
CODY RHODES vs. DARBY ALLIN
It’s too bad that this is remembered for the angle afterwards, with Sean Spears laying out Cody with the chair, because this is quite the fun match. After some token offense from Darby, to show that Cody won’t be able to beat him easily, he takes a nasty bump to the floor. Initially, Cody wants to just win the match and nothing else. He tries for a pin after even basic moves like a lariat. But, Darby won’t stay down, and it forces Cody to go bigger and bigger. At first, Darby ramming Cody’s hand into the post seems like a throwaway spot, without much ramification. But, once Darby uses the hand to escape a vertical suplex, he starts taking the fight to Cody in his own way. And, just like that, the plunky kid who seemed one or two big bumps away from being beaten looks like he’s about to pull off the upset of the year.
Some people won’t care for Darby’s bump on the apron from the missed Coffin drop. Truth be told, it could have been jettisoned without the match really losing anything. Darby had already taken his fair share of bumps. But, they do make the spot matter. It’s a simple way to turn the match back over to Cody, and Darby puts it over just fine. It’s certainly not a bump that Darby should make a habit of taking, but, it’s fine as a one off. The only marks against it are the ways Cody telegraphs the fact that the match is going to end in a time limit draw. The biggest one is the bit with the body bag. Cody already knew he was under the gun because it had been announced how much time was left, there’s no reason for him to be screwing around with it when he knows that the clock is ticking. The other is his hesitation after the Cross Rhodes. It would have worked if he’d sold his hand after doing the move, but, instead he plants Darby and waits for the countdown to get low enough where he can cover and have time run out before the pin can be counted. Without such a goofy finish, this would stand right alongside Cody’s match against his brother as a sleeper show stealer. ***
KENNY OMEGA/NICK JACKSON/MATT JACKSON vs. PENTAGON Jr/REY FENIX/LAREDO KID
Instead of “Fight Forever” the crowd ought to have been chanting “Perform Forever.” This doesn’t come anywhere close to the AAA Tag Titles match between the Bucks and the Bros. Instead of the intensity and anger that was prevalent, it’s replaced by a propensity for spots where the cooperation is fully on display. Honestly, the Hadouken spot isn’t the worst of them, thanks to the camera showing that there was physical contact made to explain why the Mexicans bumped. But, spots like Fenix giving a rana to Matt, which causes him to spear Nick and the fact that the Luchadores all hit stereo dives on The Elite inside of two minutes into the match greatly expose the cooperation going on. There’s also no reason why a spear is put over stronger than a Canadian Destroyer. Toward the end, the Bucks seem to set up Pentagon for a Meltzer Driver on the floor, only for Nick to “lose his footing” and allow Fenix to meet him on the ropes and take him over with a Spanish Fly which also hits Matt. It seems like a small miracle to see that either Pentagon had gotten free or that Matt had let him go when he saw that the plan was going awry.
As disappointing as the spotty nature of the match is, it does have two things going for it. The first is the fact that there are some moments that do attempt to push the feud between the Young Bucks and Lucha Bros forward, in the form of some nice counters. The best one being Matt’s quick escape of Pentagon’s attempt to Sacrifice him as well as Fenix recognizing that Matt was attempting to skin the cat and set up for Nick to dive, and hitting a dropkick to Matt’s midsection to knock him off the ropes. The other is the story surrounding Kid’s inability to avoid Kenny’s knee shots, which is what winds up letting Omega win the match. It starts when Omega does the snap dragon suplex to both Fenix and Pentagon, Kid tries to avoid it, but gets hit with a knee. It happens again a bit later, with Kid running himself into it. After the train wreck spot on the floor with the Bucks and Bros, Kid gears up for a dive and charges right into a knee from Omega. While Kid is getting his bearings Omega stuns him again with a running V-Trigger in the ropes, and the One Winged Angel finishes him off.
The booking of Kid taking the fall is the obvious one, with Kenny being one of the higher ranked roster members, and the feud between the Bucks and Bros gets moved forward with none of them taking the fall. But, that’s really all that this match accomplishes in the grand scheme of things, moving the feud forward through the booking. There aren’t any sequences or exchanges between the Bucks and Lucha Bros to suggest that, even with the Lucha Bros having regained the titles in Mexico, there are unresolved issues and that they’ll need to have at least one more go around to settle things up. The throwaway four-way match on the undercard accomplished the same thing for Page vs. MJF, and they haven’t even had a match yet. This ought to be able to do the same thing, plus more.
JON MOXLEY vs. JOEY JANELA
I don’t have any issue with this match taking place. If anything, it’s a step up for Janela to wrestle an established name like Moxley. But, all this business with barbed wire and thumbtacks ought to be saved for a match that matters, like the blow off to a long running feud. Not just a one off for Moxley’s first official match. I’d expect this from some fly-by-night low-budget indy group ran by Ian Rotten. AEW ought to have higher standards. All that Moxley and Janela taking bumps on barbed wire boards, going through tables, and falling onto tacks accomplishes is setting the bar ridiculously high for the next time that AEW books something like this (hopefully a long time from now). The only things to take away from this are how sadistic Moxley must be, to take off Janela’s boots and throw him barefoot onto a pile of tacks, and the angle at the end where Kenny Omega attacks Moxley (Moxley had attacked Kenny on 5/25 in his AEW debut). In fact, Kenny using a guitar and trash can on Moxley is exactly the sort of behavior that would lend itself to laying the groundwork to set up a match like this.
Conclusion: The two big negatives are the hardcore matches. Aside from them, this is a very fun show. As let down as I was by the Young Bucks match that was more due to disappointment that they didn’t do more of what they did previously, rather than doing anything offensive.