WADE KELLER PODCAST - EARLY PREVIEW OF ROYAL RUMBLE 2020 MEN'S MATCH, PLUS 2019 AND 2010 LOOK-BACK ROUNDTABLES
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OCTOBER 23, 2019
AIRED LIVE ON TNT
REPORT BY WADE KELLER, PWTORCH EDITOR
Announcers: Jim Ross, Tony Schiavone, Excalibur
-No intro video this week. They went right to a wide shot of the arena as Justin Roberts introduced the two tag teams.
(1) PRIVATE PARTY (Marq Quen & Isiah Kassidy) vs. LUCHA BROS. (Pentagon Jr. & Rey Phoenix) – AEW Tag Team Tournament Semi-Final
Jim Ross then introduced himself, Schiavone, and Excalibur. Fans chanted “AEW!” Schiavone talked about Private Party having momentum, but admitted he isn’t sure that matters. Ross touted the athleticism on tap in this match, and said a key would be which risk backfires first. Excalibur talked about having an update on Christopher Daniels later. Private Party went through a choreographed but dazzling double-team series against Fenix. The crowd cheered. Kassidy then went to work on Pentagon in the ring. After landing a 450 splash, Quen didn’t hook a leg and then Pentagon kicked out. The announcers called him on not hooking the leg.
Five minutes in, fans loudly chanted “AEW! AEW!” as the Lucha Bros. focused on Quen. Kassidy got a hot tag on a handspring by Quen. He then fired up the crowd and went on a flurry of moves. He scored a near fall on Fenix at 7:00. Schiavone acknowledged fans were chanting for both teams. Excalibur said if the Lucha Bros. hadn’t attacked SCU last week, a larger portion of the crowd would be backing them. Quen scored a near fall after a shooting star press and, I kid you not, they cut to a fan in the crowd checking his phone. (WTF? There’s too many crowd cutaways as it is, but pick your spots more carefully!) Kassidy landed a big cutter. Later, Pentagon landed a Destroyer on Quen, but Kassidy was legal. Fenix blindsided him and set up a Pentagon armbreaker into a snap. Then they finished Quen with their double foot stomp onto a package piledriver for the win.
WINNERS: Lucha Bros. in 12:00 to advance to the finals.
(Keller’s Analysis: Super-sloppy and choreographed at times, but that’s offset in part because the crowd eats it up and it’s such a contrast to what WWE would ever allow on their TV shows because they want everything so refined and more structured. There’s an argument against this breathtaking style and in favor of pacing it better and cutting back on the non-stop series to let some of them sink in. But the fans loved it live and reacted and popped for everything.)
-A vignette aired that Wardlow is coming. It showed him working out and flexing with a grinding music beat in the background. It had a bit of a late night infomercial workout video or Bowflex vibe to it. I’m inspired to hit the home gym right now!
-They went to the announcers who updated that Daniels is estimated to be out 6-8 weeks due to a pinched nerve after the package piledriver.
-Scorpio Sky & Frankie Kazarian made their ring entrance.
-A vignette aired on Dark Order.
(2) SCU (Scorpio Sky & Frankie Kazarian) vs. DARK ORDER (Stu Grayson & Evil Uno)
Ross explained that Dark Order earned a bye and that a win here takes them to the finals. Schiavone said SCU have lost the experience advantage because Sky and Kaz specifically have only teamed together 14 times in the last two years. Ross noted this is an especially high pressure situation, too. Early on Uno tried to calm Grayson who got in the face aggressively of the female referee. Schiavone said Sky & Scorpio beat Dark Order in their one match in 2018, but Dark Order are undefeated in AEW so far. Ross noted that a draw here would make Lucha Bros. the tag champs by default. He hoped that didn’t happen. Ross said in AEW the typical five second rule for a wrestler getting out of the ring after a tag-out is actually ten seconds in AEW. That was probably more of a response to the first match than what was happening here. Uno threw Sky into the ringside steps. At 4:00 they cut to their first commercial break 25 minutes into the show. They stayed with the action on split-screen, though. [c]
Chris Jericho led the Inner Circle (Santana, Ortiz, Sammy Guevara; no Jake Hager) through the crowd during the break. Excalibur said they weren’t scheduled to be here, but they have tickets. Fans turned their backs to the action to watch them. Kaz hot-tagged in and went to work on Grayson, but fans were distracted still by Jericho & Co. Kaz earned their attention back eventually. The camera showed that Jericho & Co. ended up in a luxury suite. Meanwhile, Sky and Kaz each hit Cutters and then both applied Dragon Sleepers mid-ring. They cut away to a close-up of a woman in the crowd smiling and missed Grayson shoving Kaz into Sky. (These crowd cutaways are bad enough if they’re well done and infrequent, but totally obnoxious when poorly done and done this often.) Uno had Sky covered, but the ref was late making the count as she was distracted by Grayson’s dive onto Kaz on the floor. Fans chanted “This is awesome!” Kaz landed a flying DDT on Uno onto the ring apron. Sky and Kaz then double-teamed Grayson and hit the S-C-U-Later for the win.
WINNERS: SCU in 14:00 to advance to the tourney finals.
(Keller’s Analysis: Two long highly-athletic tag matches with one split-screen commercial break in the first 35 minutes of the show. In other words, they were working hard here to hold viewers’ attention. The Inner Circle walk-in was distracting, but ultimately worth it to get Jericho & Co. on screen with the seed being planted that they might be up to something so stay tuned. No surprise, after last week’s angle, that Lucha Bros. and SCU are battling it out in the tag tournament finals.)
-They went to a commercial break on split screen that began with an ad telling people they were watching Dynamite on TNT with a series of clips from the first three weeks. Meanwhile, they showed replays of highlights from the tag match and the SCU celebration on the split-screen. [c]
-Back live, Joey Janela was making his ring entrance. When he entered the ring, they went to clips of Janela vs. Jon Moxley at FyterFest from June 29 and then the Janela vs. Kenny Omega hardcore match that aired on AEW Dark. Ross touted AEW Dark, but didn’t say how to watch it. Then Kenny Omega made his ring entrance, while the screen behind him said “AEW Dark” for some reason. Fans chanted “Kenny! Kenny!” as he entered the ring. Then they went to a clip of Omega beating Fenix a few days ago in Mexico for the AAA Title.
(3) KENNY OMEGA vs. JOEY JANELA
There was a buzz in the arena for Omega as the bell rang to start the match. Omega took control early, but Janela then took over. Ross said women don’t like Janela because he has better hair. Ross said he’s his own man and a unique individual. Janela leaped off the top rope at Kenny, who stood there for a long time waiting before taking the impact. (I wish wrestlers worked harder when taking a dive on the floor to set it up so the targeted wrestle stumbled into position and at that point the wrestler dove at them, rather than the targeted wrestler standing there in perfect position waiting for the wrestler diving at them to finally launch.) They replayed it three times. Janela scored a two count in the ring. They cut to an actual commercial break at 4:00, about 45 minutes into the hour. [c]
Janela back-suplexed Kenny, seemingly aiming for the bottom turnbuckle, but Kenny came up short. It was still a hard impact. Janela landed a flying elbow for a two count. Loved Kenny’s kickout; he shoved Janela off of him as he raised his shoulder. (My wishlist for crisper and more believability in wrestling matches is for kickouts to look more like a real effort to escape from pressure while the person on top is resisting, not cooperating. This was a good example of it.) Omega hit a snap dragon and V-Trigger knee for a two count. Janela came back with a fisherman’s buster and both were slow to get up. They showed Inner Circle reacting in their luxury suite. Fans chanted, “This is awesome!” Janela gave Omega a running clothesline for another two count. Janela leaped off the top rope with a flip senton attempt, but Omega moved so Janela hit the ring apron edge instead. Omega tossed him back into the ring and connected with a crazy stiff looking V-Trigger. Janela sold it great. Omega then lifted Janela and gave him the One-Winged Angel for the win.
WINNER: Omega in 13:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: A good showcase match of how good Omega is both at offense and selling, what little time there was for selling between big spot sequences. Janela, without completely abandoning his image, cleaned up and toned up and seemed closer to a world class athlete in appearance than before, which is needed if he’s going to be booked to last 13 minutes with Kenny. His facial expressions were tremendous here. It’s nice to see they can have a good match without endangering themselves too much or utilizing too much apparatus. Now, it’s really time for AEW and Kenny to decide how present his character and present it to the fans watching – newbies and veterans of his New Japan work. Also, all of the people new to AEW with Dynamite have no sense of the Janela character. I don’t know if AEW assumes fans have knowledge already, is making a calculated risk to keep the action-quotient high knowing there’s a downside in terms of character development, or think what fans pick up from watching ring entrances and matches and listening to commentators is enough.)
-As Omega celebrated, Ross threw to pre-recorded pitch for upcoming AEW live events including Charleston, W.Va. next week which Schiavone noted is the first live televised wrestling even there in 19 years, then Charlotte, N.C. in two weeks, and Nashville, Tenn. in three weeks. (That stretch of hot markets giving them instant sellouts is clearly over.)
-They went to Cody’s ring entrance as he was lifted up through the stage in a cloud of fog. Wearing a suit, he smiled as the voice (Cody’s) said “Wrestling Only Has One Royal Family” and then pyro blasted. (No pyro at the start of the show this week, as it was saved for Cody’s entrance.) Ross said they’d talk with him next. [c]
-Schiavone stood mid-ring with Cody. You could hear the director tell Schiavone through his earpiece they were now back live. When Schiavone mentioned Jericho’s name, fans booed. Schiavone said he knows Cody has a major announcement. Inner Circle sounded air horns to distract him. Cody said he’s had the privilege of growing up in front of the fans, so it’s appropriate he gets to make this announcement now. Jericho then interrupted on a live mic, yelling “Boo!” (So Jericho had to buy a ticket but he had a live mic provided to him?) Cody said this isn’t like the other wrestling company they came from, there isn’t an invisible wall. He said he can easily step up there and they can fight right here, right now. Fans cheered. Jericho smiled and stepped out of the box. “Cody! Cody!” chanted the fans. Jericho said, “Hey, Pittsburgh, shut your mouth.” Jericho said he knows Cody has a lot of bravado, but he’s smart, so don’t do something stupid. Jericho said he knows he’s a coward. “You’re nothing but an entitled, millennial bitch. Yeah!” Jericho said it’s the Inner Circle, but it’s four-on-one. Excalibur noted that the fifth member, Jake Hager, is training for his next MMA fight. Goldust then walked out. Jericho said it’s still four-on-two, so stay there and be the cowards they’ve always been. Then out came MJF. Jericho seemed less confident suddenly. Jericho then made fun of MJF wearing a scarf. “Who wears a scarf?” he said. Fans yelled, “You!” Jericho said it’s still four-on-three. Then suddenly DDP made his ring entrance. Fans popped for that. The video showed DDP doing his DDPYoga in a classroom. Ross noted that Jericho’s mood has visibly changed.
As Cody & Co. walked up the steps, Jericho told them to stop and “Don’t take one more step!” Jericho & Co. retreated behind a locked door and taunted Cody. Cody wrapped his fist with MJF’s scarf and punched in the glass. Then he unlocked the door and dragged Jericho into the concourse. He hit Jericho with a trash can and a crutch. Security pulled them apart. The others brawled in the background. They brawled over to a Dippin’ Dots stand. Ross: “Oh my god, they’re going to destroy the Dippin’ Dots!” Red-shirted security charged onto the scene to separate them. Jericho showed that he had tickets and ordered Cody & Co. to get out of there. Fans chanted “DDP!” The police escorted Cody & Co. out of the concourse. Both sides yelled at each other. Ross said Jericho had tickets and had a right to be in that suite. They cut to a break, but stayed with the scene in the concourse on split-screen as Jericho & Co. kept pointing at their tickets as proof Cody should be in trouble.
(Keller’s Analysis: Well executed segment, although it was a bit of a stretch that Jericho needed tickets to be at the arena and that having tickets gave him a leg-up over the Executive V.P. Cody and his friends. But AEW worked here to cover their bases and justify Jericho using the technicality of having a ticket to beat the system and taunt Cody until Cody crossed a line. The close-up of Jericho’s face each time someone knew came out to get closer to evening the odds against him tremendous, as Jericho went through different stages from cocky to concerned to wanting no part of it. The punch through the glass window was a cool visual. This was a fun use of DDP. Cody seems like someone with a lot of friends and connections that he can utilize, if even MJF is a questionable choice of an associate, which gives him a lot of options as a character to interact with others with whom he has a backstory. The Dippin’ Dots line by Ross was tremendous. Jericho pointing to his ticket as some sort of justification for Cody & Co. to be escorted out of the arena by security was perfectly played for a cowardly heel you want to see get beat up.) [c]
(4) THE YOUNG BUCKS (Matt & Nick Jackson) vs. BEST FRIENDS (Chuck Taylor & Trent Berreta w/Orange Cassidy)
Cassidy stood behind the Bucks as soon as they entered the ring and gave them half-hearted mocking superkicks. He turned his back. The Bucks superkicked him. Fans booed. Schiavone said he can’t explain Orange Cassidy at all. The Best Friends rallied and hugged a couple minutes in. Ross said Nick and Matt are “emotionally synchronized.” The Best Friends hit a Doomsday Device at ringside. Cassidy distracted Matt. Excalibur said Cassidy is “laconic and sloth-like.” Ross and Schiavone loved that description. They cut to a break around 5:00. [c]
After the break, Berreta gave Matt a German Suplex off the top rope. Best Friends hugged again and the crowd popped. Cassidy then leaped off the top rope with his casual dive with his hands in his pockets onto the Bucks. “Holy shit!” chanted the fans. Nick landed a diving senton onto Berreta to break up his pin after a double-team sitout powerbomb on Matt. Matt flipped out of a Doomsday Attempt. The Bucks then broke out their superkicks. Nick landed on Cassidy and Berreta at ringside. Back in the ring Matt landed a More Bang For Your Buck on Chuck for the win.
WINNERS: The Bucks in 12:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Exciting nonstop action in this tag match with lots of big breathtaking spots. That’s the theme of the night. Another theme is newer fans being left without any concrete reason to cheer for either of these teams to win, and instead are left to just cheer for the action and judge for themselves whether they like them from the hints during ring entrances and in-ring reactions. It doesn’t help that crowds pop for the Best Friends hug if a viewers doesn’t know what that backstory is.)
-The Bucks took the mic after the match and accepted the challenge issued last week by Santana & Ortiz.
-A video feature aired on Britt Baker being a pro wrestler and a dentist.
(Keller’s Analysis: That belonged on the show last week or the week before, but I’ll take it this week too. You got to know her background and got a sense of her personality.)
(5) JAMIE HAYTER vs. BRITT BAKER
On her way to the ring, Hayter tried to yank a “Britt Baker” sign out of the hands of a ringside fan. The fans won that battle. Baker came out with the Pittsburgh Steeler’s mascot, Steely McBeam. Baker fended off an early aggressive attack and there a barrage of punches in the corner. Hayter came back with a suplex into the corner. Fans booed as she celebrated. She mock cried in response to the booing. He kicked Baker to the floor. Fans loudly chanted “Baker!” Hayter threw Baker into the ringpost, then whipped her hard into the barricade. Baker came back with a slingblade. They cut to a break. [c]
They stayed with the action on split-screen as Hayter controlled the match and worked the crowd. She mounted her and punched away, then put her over the middle rope and kicked the back of her head a few times as the ref scolded her. She sat on Baker’s back and then yanked on her mouth, stretching her lips, then licked her finger and poked it into her ear. She then taunted the crowd before settling into a side headlock. They came back live as Hayter grinded on the side of Baker’s head. The announcers touted Hayter’s performance so far, noting she was just 24. Baker teased a comeback, but Hayter leaped onto her back and applied a sleeper. The crowd was really into Baker specifically and this match in general. Ross mentioned Moxley and Pac would be in the main event and said it should be a classic. He said it’s two hungry guys looking for the next big win that can take them a step closer to the championship. Excalibur said Pac feels like he’s been criminally overlooked in AEW and he’d like to make an example out of Moxley. Baker continued the aggressive attack and scored a near fall. Baker came back with a superplex. Hayter fired back right away and clotheslined Baker for another near fall. Baker caught a charging Hayter with a superkick and then landed an Ace Crusher and swinging neckbreaker for another near fall. Schiavone said there’s a lot left in Hayter. Seconds later Baker connected with a superkick and then applied her Lockjaw for the tapout win.
WINNER: Britt Baker in 9:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: You could tell these two aimed to have a standout nine minute match. Not everything was crisp, but Hayter’s aggressiveness and demeanor was believable against the heavily-touted Baker, making Baker’s win more meaningful and dramatic. It could have been shortened to six minutes and not had a commercial break and also worked well, and it was pushing the limits of length where they could hold the crowd, but it didn’t cross into overstaying its welcome.)
-They replayed the concourse brawl. Ross said Jericho wanted Cody to go to jail. Excalibur said Cody was in a holding facility on the Pitt campus as a result of his actions attacking “a ticket holder.” They plugged Cody would challenge Jericho at Full Gear. Ross then plugged the Jon Moxley vs. Pac main event.
-Backstage, Jenn Decker interviewed Hayter. As Hayter began talking about the loss, Brandi Rhodes hit her from behind and then pointed at Decker as she shook with intensity and rage.
(Keller’s Analysis: Does Brandi’s intensity have something to do with what Cody was going to announce tonight, which Jericho interrupted? I wish the announcers had made a bit more out of Cody not getting to the big announcement he was in the midst of when the Inner Circle interrupted him.) [c]
(6) JON MOXLEY vs. PAC
Justin Roberts announced the match as being “TV time remaining.” Mox’s entrance video is tremendous. Barbed wire, prison cell, hashtags on the wall counting the days until he escaped, then busting through the bricks. He walked out onto the stage and pyro blasted and he looked around. Pac attacked Mox from behind with a chair. Mox went down hard. Pac kicked the back of his head. Fans chanted “Asshole!” as he choked Mox with his jacket. Just great crowd intensity with a buzz in the building. Pac threw Mox into the security barricade at ringside twice. Excalibur talked about Pac and Mox each having a blemish on their records because last week Mox cost them a tag team win. Schiavone said Mox walked out on him. Ross said he tries to talk with wrestlers before the show, but he can’t even approach Pac. Two refs checked on Mox, who had trouble standing. But then he leaped into the ring and the bell rang.
Pac landed a quick enzuigiri and then set up a Black Arrow, but Mox rolled to the floor. He could barely stand. Pac landed a flip dive over the top rope onto Mox, then landed on his feet. He threw Mox back into the ring and made the cover, scoring a two count. The pace slowed a bit as Pac landed some surgical methodical strikes. Mox showed life and lifted Pac into the corner and kicked away at him with a barrage of kicks. Mox, though, came out of the corner stumbling, still feeling the effects of the pre-match attack. Pac took over again and scored another two count. They cut to a break, but stayed with the action on split-screen. [c]
During the break, they hoed Pac working over Moxley on split-screen. Pac applied mid-ring side headlock. Mox fought out of it, but Pac stayed in control, cutting short any Mox comeback attempts. Ross noted they were trending no. 1 on Twitter. Pac kicked in the head and scored another two count. Mox sat up and looked glassy-eyed. Schiavone mentioned Mark Madden, a Pittsburgh radio legend, former Nitro co-host, and PWTorch Newsletter columnist before all of that. Mox eventually came back with a bulldog onto the edge of the ring apron. Pac took a crazy looking contorted cartwheel bump and held his neck when he got back in the ring.
They exchanged blows mid-ring. Mox got the better of it including a knee, then blasted Pac with a clothesline out of the corner. Pac caught him with a boot, though, and then landed a spinning sidekick. Mox fired back with a hard clothesline and Pac 360 bumped. Mox hooked both legs and scored a near fall. Mox waited in the corner as Pac eventually sat up. Pac rolled to the floor. Mox dove through the ropes and tackled Pac on the floor.
The crowd booed when Justin said five minutes of TV time remains. Ross said a sense of urgency kicked in because neither of them want to “kiss their sister.” (That’s a saying, not a stipulation.) Mox came back with a Black Hole slam for a near fall a minute later. Ross said Moxley is an animal. He kneed Pac for another two count, then set up a clover leaf. Ross mentioned Dean Malenko. Pac reached the bottom rope to force a break. Then Mox climbed to the top rope, but Pac dropkicked the ropes and knocked Mox off balance. Pac then landed a top rope Falcon Arrow for a two count. Pac complained the ref counted too slow. Fans chanted “Let’s Go Moxley!” Pac looked down at Moxley menacingly. Schiavone said when Pac positioned Mox, it was like dragging a dead body. Mox ducked a top rope move by Pac and schoolboyed him for a near fall. Mox charged, but Pac ducked and pulled the top rope down. Mox tumbled to the floor. Then he kicked him. Pac then landed a 450 splash on the floor. They cut to a woman looking with her jaw dropped. Pac set up a Black Arrow, but Mox rolled out of the way. Roberts announced one minute was left. Mox crawled over and covered Pac. After a kickout, Mox hit his Paradigm Shift during the ten second countdown and scored a two count before the bell signifying a “kiss your sister draw” (copyright Jim Ross). Fans booed the draw. Mox was so frustrated, he gave a DDT to the referee. Ross said Moxley snapped.
WINNER: TV Time Limit Draw in 12:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Man did they fit a lot of drama and great storytelling and hard-hitting action into 12 minutes. The draw finish was a bit flat, but understandable when AEW is trying to protect both guys from a loss. AEW shouldn’t do that draw too often because the heat will end up on the company. The idea of Mox DDTing the referee in frustration was meant to give fans a reason to pop as the show ended. That worked. That said, Moxley better be fined or suspended because it’d pretty crazy if the authority figures in AEW would just let that occur without ramifications. Pac is a real gem for AEW. He shed whatever image he had as Adrian Neville in WWE as a gifted highspot artist who supposedly couldn’t cut promos or main event against top tier stars. The commentary from Ross, which he’s done before, talking about how Pac is so intense and intimidating and unapproachable backstage. It paints a portrait of Pac as someone who is tightly wound and mega-talented and ruthless.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: Another good, enjoyable, entertaining show start to finish. The ring-style of some of those frenetic tag matches isn’t for everyone, but the crowd enthusiasm is important… I wish we had a more overt push for what’s on next week’s show and I still can’t believe they’ve held off on Jon Moxley’s first major promo after four weeks… Good to see a couple vignettes weaved into the show. This episode will be most remembered for those dazzling tag matches, the Cody-Jericho segment leading to a concourse brawl, and the strong Pac-Moxley main event… This was AEW’s most well-rounded show to date, but still not getting across the babyface/heel dynamics or backstory on most of the key personalities nearly enough… The Pittsburgh crowd really helped make this feel like a hot product for TV reviews. You couldn’t watch this and not think you weren’t missing out on something special if you hadn’t seen it before, even if you didn’t know anyone headed into the show. That said, AEW has to realize that the TV viewers who will make or break them aren’t the ones snatching up tickets in the first 30 minutes who have watched the journeys of the top talent closely for the last few years and are currently devouring all of the online supplemental content. I don’t sense AEW gets that or accounts for that enough when formatting these shows…