SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Andrade Vs. Pac: HIT
I understand that they skipped entrances to allow more time for the match, but entrances a large part of a wrestler’s presentation. Just skipping to the superstars in the ring doesn’t really help invest new fans into the characters, especially someone as new as Andrade. It just feels like two random people in the ring whose characters don’t matter as much as the exhibition of moves they are about to do. Quite an injustice for a match that was supposed to be on a Pay Per View.
Nonetheless, it was a good, athletic match. Probably not the kind of show stealer they may have put on at the PPV, but still good.
Post-Match Angle: MISS
Andrade’s faction hasn’t been featured on television enough for me to care about Chavo getting beaten up. He just doesn’t have enough heat within AEW canon yet. The crowd was also relatively quiet during this angle.
Allin, Sting, Spears, and Blanchard Segment: MISS
This was far from Darby’s best mic performance. He doesn’t really have much to work with in Spears, it seems. Sting was making old references I didn’t understand and largely coming across like someone I can’t take seriously. Blanchard was just speaking a whole lot of nothing to distract the babyfaces. This rivalry needs more depth.
Adam Cole and Bryan Danielson Video: HIT
This was a really good segment that described the bonds and goals of each wrestler. The only thing I would have added is some actual New Japan footage when Adam Cole emphasized he trusts his Elite friends “with his life.” It came across a bit too heavy-handed to someone like me who hadn’t seen Cole in Japan, and we’ve seen AEW use old Japanese wrestling footage before, so it’s not like it was impossible to include some of that.
Soho, Statlander, Riho vs. Baker, Hayter, and Rebel: HIT
This was a nice, solid television match that was hurt a bit by the commercial. It was better than the crowd reaction would suggest. Soho is so good that in merely a week I’ve managed to forget her underwhelming WWE run. Curious to see how her rivalry with Baker evolves.
Main Event Promo: MISS
Apparently, Caster has been “terrorizing Pillman for months.” This story has clearly mostly been told on Dark, and only a fraction of AEW’s audience will be able to relate to it. This short promo didn’t help my excitement for the match at all. I wasn’t fond of either wrestler’s verbal performance on its own either.
I also don’t appreciate them poking fun at a situation for which Caster had to undergo sensitivity training. It just makes it come across like the punishment was merely for P. R. purposes.
Brian Pillman Jr. vs. Max Caster: HIT
This was a well-worked television match. Not spectacular, but the wrestlers managed to take the crowd on a little journey of emotions, granted I get the sense that the hometown crowd would have been pretty forgiving anyway.
Post-Match Brawl: HIT
Should go without saying that AEW does a much better job of sending hometown crowds happy than WWE. The star power of Moxley really helps someone like Brian Pillman Jr. who has mostly been wrestling on AEW’s shoulder programming.
Commentary: Minor MISS
Much improved performance from Taz. He remained true to character and sided with the heels a lot more, and that added some much-needed color to the commentary, no pun intended. However, Jim Ross sounded quite tired, and Tony Schiavone isn’t good enough to carry a show, in my opinion. Mark Henry, for when he was present, continues to be drowned out in a four-man booth.
Overall show: Minor HIT
This was a decent show. Some of the content was better than the crowd reaction would suggest. The women’s championship storyline is intriguing, we finally got to see Andrade against a competitive opponent, and the Brian Pillman Jr. mini-push this month is going to do wonders to add credibility to his tag team. I was a bit worried about main eventing with two guys who primarily wrestle on shoulder programming and relegating the PPV match to the opener, but I think it worked fine. However, for a show that is likely to have new eyeballs from all the AEW hype this week, it wasn’t a great effort.