SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
The Young Bucks vs. Private Party – HIT: This was a very good match and a showcase for the veteran Young Bucks and glimpse into what’s to come for Private Party. The crowd was really into Private Party and which enhanced the match tremendously. The announcers heavily put over The Young Bucks as the favorites to win the tag team championship. This made it even more of a surprise when Private Party got the win. Private Party went on to celebrate with an excited crowd while simultaneously cutting back to The Bucks who looked on with disappointment.
Chris Jericho Promo – HOME RUN: This is what is going to really separate AEW from WWE. Chris Jericho felt so authentic because he was not bound by a limiting script. While not any wrestler could go out in the ring and command an audience like Jericho, this is a perfect example of why wrestling needs to move further away from scripts. There will still be talent who need a guide or bullet points, but there is a need for free range. Jericho was able to completely shut down the crowd when they cheered “We The People.” He took a jab at WWE creative which popped the crowd, but made them respect that Jake Hager is no longer Jack Swagger. Jericho also introduced the rest of his stable, The Inner Circle, by putting over Sammy Guevara and Santana & Ortiz. Shortly after the show, many were claiming that this may be the best promo of the year. While it’s tough to say where this moment ranks, it’s clear that it made a connection with the audience we have not seen in North American wrestling in quite some time.
Darby Allin vs. Jimmy Havoc – HIT: AEW has something in Darby Allin. The fans appreciate how hard he works every time he’s in the ring. Jimmy Havoc dominated for the majority of the match, but in the end the right wrestler won. Overall, this match was nothing to go out of your way to see, but it’s encouraging to see AEW wanting to put a younger lesser known talent in a premier spot because of his connection to the crowd. Just another instance of AEW separating themselves from WWE.
Britt Baker & Riho vs. Emi Sakura & Bea Preistley – MISS: This match had some good action, but it didn’t quite click with the crowd. On TV, Excalibur did a great job explaining who each of these women are and what makes them special. At one point, Jim Ross pressed Excalibur for more of an explanation of who Emi Sakura is. He then detailed her championship accomplishments and her training of wrestlers. It wasn’t clear if Sakura was a heel or face to start because she came out in a Freddie Mercury (Queen) outfit. Riho remained strong with the audience, but Britt Baker and Bea Priestley haven’t gotten over with the audience like AEW may have hoped. According to reports from those in the building, Baker and Priestley received little to no reaction for their outside brawl.
Shawn Spears vs. Jon Moxley – MISS: Jon Moxley doesn’t feel like as big of star at this point as he should. He still receives good pops from the crowd, but reflecting back on the reaction from his appearance at Double or Nothing Moxley should be in an elevated position. His strengths lie in his mic work more so than in the ring. Shawn Spears seemed off in this match. According to on-site reports, Spears and Tully Blanchard cut a promo before the crowd that didn’t make it to air. Hearing what they said would have helped the match from a television standpoint. The evidence being Pac on commentary. He didn’t say much, but he stated how upset he was that others were getting a shot at the AEW Championship despite his victories over Kenny Omega and Hangman Page.
Kenny Omega Appearance – MISS: This again did not feel like a great use of Kenny Omega. Of course the feud with Jon Moxley is forcing Omega to play more into his hardcore side. Seeing him carry out a barbed wire broom and bat looks ironically cartoonish because we are led to believe these weapons really hurt, but they look ridiculous. Omega has also been teasing the potential return of The Cleaner gimmick which plays into him using cleaning utilities. In the long run, I’m confident AEW is going to present Omega as a top tier player again. Omega is so talented and makes the best of any role that he’s in. Only time will tell if it was the wrong move not presenting him as a dominant star out of the gate.
Dustin Rhodes & Hangman Page vs. Chris Jericho & Sammy Guevara + Post-Match Brawl – HIT: This was a good main event showcasing the strengths of each of the talent involved. The Inner Circle are very hot with this audience as seen by their crowd reaction and the crash of the Pro Wrestling Tees website when their t-shirt was released. Dustin has the respect of this because of all he has done in his career, but more importantly his dedication to being in the best shape of his life at the age of 50. I still have my concerns about how Hangman Page has been used. AEW has touted him as a “blue chip prospect”, but he will need to start amassing more wins. Of course, he couldn’t win here against Jericho, but I hope to see him get back to a level where he is thought of as a potential breakthrough star. The post-match brawl was an overall hit with one key miss. The lights turning off for Cody’s run-in worked for this audience because they knew who to expect, but it’s a wrestling trope that could wear out it’s welcome in a hurry. The lights gimmick has done no favors for The Dark Order as they try to get over. By having Cody use this gimmick, it creates diminishing returns because it is no longer limited to one act. The end of the brawl worked well with Darby Allin skating down the ramp to attack Jericho. While the segment built to Full Gear, the lasting punch was a reason to tune in next week to see Chris Jericho vs. Darby Allin.