SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Jon Moxley vs. Karl Anderson – HIT
I’m so glad we got to see the serious New Japan version of Karl Anderson. For far too long in the US, he has played the role of the aloof goof ball next to Doc Gallows. He proved he still has that serious side in him in a solid match with Jon Moxley. Moxley looked refreshed and excited after taking the past few weeks off. He got the clean win over Anderson as he looks to reestablish himself again on the singles roster.
Ricky Starks vs. Brian Cage: FTW Championship – HIT
An exciting match-up between the Team Taz members. The crowd was into Ricky Starks as much as anyone else throughout the night. The booking decisions made before the match ended up being exactly what the fans wanted with Starks taking the unofficial belt. This was a very good first sign for how fans will perceive Starks in an elevated role on the singles side of things.
Cody Rhodes-Malakai Black Segment – HIT
Cody Rhodes is done with working on his side missions and has circled back to something of greater importance. This has been only the second week of the Cody-Black feud and it’s quickly become a matchup that fans can’t wait to see. Cody called out Black who appeared on the screen before a flicker of the lights had him in the ring. They had a pull apart brawl fueling anticipation for the match. With All Out still several weeks away it seems more likely they will have their first match-up before the event.
Hangman Page-Kenny Omega Confrontation – HIT
There’s no doubt in my mind that this is the number one match that fans are wanting to see. Tony Schiavone interviewed Hangman Page before Kenny Omega and his entourage came down the aisle. They all ran down Page including a meme reference from Nick Jackson telling Page, “He’s not that guy.” Hilarious stuff as they ham up their heel gimmick. Despite some comedy, Omega and Page remained intense with each other. Page demanded a match and Omega came back with an offer for a 5-on-5 match up against Page and Dark Order for some point down the road. Omega said if Page loses then nobody on his team will receive championship matches. Page stood tall and agreed to the match. This is the way to play it with two men being serious as all get out about determining who is the best. That’s what it’s all about.
Christian Cage vs. Matt Hardy – HIT
This segment fulfills the WWE nostalgia fix that fans may or may not be looking for. Christian Cage and Matt Hardy put together a serviceable match with some entertaining moments. The strangest part was the finish where Christian was on the brink of the 10 count outside the ring. At the very last moment he sprung into the ring to hit the Killswitch then pinned Hardy. There was no transition sequence leading to an anticlimactic finish.
Sammy Guevara vs. Wheeler Yuta – HIT
A nice quick win for Sammy Guevara. The announcers touted the effort by Wheeler, but the segment was meant to get over Sammy. He needed a win in impressive fashion and hopefully this can continue. The crowd is behind him as was seen in his home state of Texas. He’s a character who has been able to absorb several losses, but now is the time to build him back up with credible wins.
Yuka Sakazaki vs. Penelope Ford – HIT
A solid return for Yuka Sakazaki. The match had it’s up and downs, but overall it wwas successful in reintroducing Sakazaki to the audience. With the women’s wrestlers upping their game over the last few months, I’m excited to see more influx of the Japanese talent.
Darby Allin vs. Ethan Page: Coffin Match – HIT
A very good main event to cap off the feud between these two. This match type is perfect for Darby Allin’s daredevil style. Including brawling all over ringside and into the crowd with a dangerous high spot through the coffin to end the show. The crowd was hot for Allin and Ethan Page, treating it like a major match-up. Allin has been put in main events before, but with a packed crowd outside of Jacksonville, it’s clear that Allin has become a homegrown star. Page proved his worthiness of being in an elevated position ultimately being stuffed in the casket before taking the coffin drop.