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This past week started with one of the greatest PPV events of all time and concluded with the best episode of WWE television in quite some time and another solid edition of Rampage. Oh, and AEW beat Raw in the ratings for the first time in the same week. Yeah, I’d say it was a pretty noteworthy week.
Let’s get to five thoughts on what we’ve seen in the world of professional wrestling over the last seven days.
1. So was All Out the Greatest PPV of All Time?
It’s been a week since AEW All Out, but I haven’t had a chance to say anything about it here in my column at the Torch. I was in Chicago for the event and walked out of the arena with a high like I’ve never felt leaving a wrestling event — and I have been to more than one WrestleMania. I’ve never experienced that kind of a buzz during and after a live show in over 30 years of going to events.
I immediately had the thought that I had just witnessed the greatest wrestling PPV event that I have ever seen, in person or on television. What people were writing on social media seemed to jive with that. But you always have to take into account recency bias.
However, seven days later, I still feel it was the best PPV of all time. There were no lulls in the show (even Wight vs. Marshall, which was exactly what it needed to be), the crowd was hot throughout the entirety, there was perhaps the greatest steel cage match of all time on the card, the return of a legend we never thought we’d see wrestle again, three great surprise debuts, and much more.
Honestly, I can’t think of a single WrestleMania I’d rather watch from start to finish than All Out, let alone any of the other “big four” PPV events. As far as great U.S. shows go, this is up there with WrestleMania X-Seven, SummerSlam 2002, Great American Bash 1989, and several of NXT’s TakeOver events. Only better.
As the years pass, we’ll continue to evaluate All Out 2021. But for my money, what AEW presented was the best PPV event, top to bottom, of all time.
2. AEW’s encore was a victory over Monday Night Raw in the ratings
It finally happened. After much speculation that AEW could surpass Raw in the television ratings this fall, it actually happened before the first edition of Monday Night Football. The hype coming out of All Out certainly helped put Dynamite over the top this week.
We’ve seen Dynamite surpass Raw’s numbers in the key 18-49 demographic before, but never in the same week. It’s been a situation where “this week’s Dynamite topped last week’s Raw in the demo.” To actually do it in the same week, two days apart, is gigantic. Now one has to wonder how close a loaded up card at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York in a week and a half could potentially get to Raw in overall viewership. With the NFL going up against Raw starting this week, things should start tightening up in that department as well. AEW will need to start garnering more female viewers to take the lead in total viewership — they’re hoping that “Rhodes To The Top” helps.
3. WWE SmackDown showed us why you can’t count WWE out
Look, WWE television has been bad for a long time. Real bad. On a near weekly basis. But this week’s edition of SmackDown at MSG showed us the untapped potential that WWE always has in its back pocket when they’re motivated to bring it out.
The show started with the memorable return of Brock Lesnar to continue the build toward an eventual match with Roman Reigns that began at SummerSlam a few weeks ago. The New York crowd gave Lesnar a massive reaction and Heyman was great in the segment and throughout the show.
The show rolled on with Becky Lynch continuing to embrace her new heel role, and she portrayed the character great (though I’m still not a fan of the decision to turn her). There was a fun match between Rollins and Edge (not as good as SummerSlam, but still very good), and a white hot match in the main event featuring The Usos and Street Profits — which concluded with the return of Finn Balor’s “Demon.” Oh yeah, and we can’t forget about that absolutely awesome surprise appearance by the Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young in the Garden earlier in the show.
4. Kevin Owens on his way out?
Fightful broke the news this week that Kevin Owens’ WWE contract ends this January, leading many to speculate about a jump to AEW and the return of Kevin Steen. And it’s hard not to imagine that happening. Honestly, if I were a betting man, I’d put the odds that Owens leaves WWE at over 90%.
If you’re a talented and creative performer with your love for the business intact, how could you not want to be part of what AEW is doing right now? Just listen to how Adam Cole has talked about his decision to jump ship as being an easy one to make. I’d imagine it’s the same for Owens.
And frankly, what is there left for Owens to accomplish in WWE? He’s held the Universal Championship and had a signature WrestleMania victory/moment. It’s hard to imagine the company pushing him as a main eventer consistently at this point after the amount of time he’s already spent on the main roster.
It’s true that AEW will have to be selective with who they sign if the floodgates continue to open with more and more WWE performers interested in a move, but Kevin Owens is a no brainer of a signing. You get this man a contract immediately if he’s available.
5. Andrade comes through in a much-needed performance on Rampage
Since leaving WWE, Andrade has struggled to find his footing. His original pairing with Vickie Guerrero on AEW television didn’t work, and though his current pairing with Chavo Guerrero is better, it still feels a little “off.” In his only prior AEW match, Andrade wrestled Matt Sydal in a fairly unremarkable match. He had a good outing with Kenny Omega at TripleMania, though expectations for that bout were through the roof and it didn’t live up to that kind of billing.
Enter his match with PAC this week on Rampage, originally scheduled for All Out last weekend. It felt like an important match for both men, but especially so for Andrade who has started to get lost in the shuffle of the names who have jumped ship from WWE, especially given what happened last weekend.
This time out, it was the Andrade of old. He absolutely delivered, as did PAC (who was protected in defeat), and this one reminded you of why he started to turn the heads of a lot of United States fans back in his NXT days. If you started to forget this guy was here, put him back into the picture when you’re fantasy booking some of these dream matches we could see in the months ahead.
Ryan Droste has been covering the wrestling industry for over 20 years. You can hear him each and every week on the Top Rope Nation podcast, available on Apple, Spotify, and YouTube. Follow him on Twitter @ryandroste.