SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Orange Cassidy vs. Powerhouse Hobbs: MISS (with some minor HITS buried within)
Good on AEW for showing footage from Dark last year when Orange Cassidy got a quick victory over Powerhouse Hobbs (though one would question the wisdom of doing this to a hot act who was brought in to chase off Team Tazz for several weeks). This played into a fun near-fall at the beginning of the match when it seemed Hobbs might turn the tables on Cassidy. Although that didn’t happen, I also appreciated Orange Cassidy selling the beating he took in the Casino Ladder match with actual bandages. We very rarely see that in AEW.
The match itself was nothing special. Hobbs was in control for most of it until he started getting frustrated with the referee. The distraction roll-up was the least bad way for Hobbs to lose this match without looking incredibly weak. After losing to Punk, he got tossed out of the ring like a sack of trash by Brian Cage, and tonight risked losing to a semi-comedic character with taped-up ribs. However, it was still a distraction finish, which isn’t going to sit well with AEW fans. Maybe Powerhouse Hobbs simply wasn’t an ideal first-round opponent for Orange Cassidy. There wasn’t a good way out of this.
Matt Hardy watching the from the crowd. Looks like his feud with Orange Cassidy isn’t over yet. The only way for this to remain compelling is if Matt Hardy finally gets his head shaved.
FTR and Lucha Brothers Brawl w/ Pac run-in: HIT
The Andrade vs. Death Triangle feud required Andrade to bring in tag-team reinforcements to combat the Lucha Brothers while he deals with Pac. FTR are good choices for them, and they showed him paying MJF for their services last week. I liked the inclusion of this angle on this show to build up to their match later, because the volume of content AEW keeps packing into their shows means it is easy to lose heat for a particular rivalry.
Britt Baker vs. Ana Jay in a “Grudge” Match: MISS
This was announced as being a “grudge” match, as though that’s a stipulation, but we were never explained what that stipulation entails. If it’s just something edgy to refer to a “non-title” match, it’s pretty lame for AEW to play to insider lingo for no good reason. Why not just say “non-title” match?
The action itself was average, and as usual it was hurt by a lengthy commercial break. It only served to build to the brief post-match angle with Tay Conti running in to make the save for Anna Jay. Conti carried herself with more credibility as a challenger than Anna Jay did tonight, so perhaps that is going to be our Full Gear match?
Main Event Promo: MISS
Schiavone replaced Mark Henry for this interview. The segment itself was skippable, with the only notable statement being Andrade indicating that he “had friends around the world,” which seemed to tease that there might be interference from people external to AEW in this match.
Andrade vs. Pac: HIT
Excellent athletic contest with good storytelling. While it had many high spots, the wrestlers’ non-verbals had a seriousness and conviction that kept me invested in the story.
Post-Match Angle w/ Malakai Black and Cody Rhodes: MISS
This took place literally one second after Pac won. It was exciting for the live crowd, but it does more harm than good in my opinion. It defined down Pac and Andrade as mere undercard acts who don’t deserve much attention once the match is over. From a booking standpoint, it seems like this was the only way to ensure Cody Rhodes would be cheered; have him run into save a hot babyface in Pac after he had done the hard work of warming up the crowd with an excellent match.
Commentary: MINOR HIT
Each announcer played their role well for the most part tonight tonight. The banter between Jericho and Tazz, especially in Team Taz matches, is glorious to listen to.
The only shortcoming was during the main event, when the announcers were too heavy-handed in talking up expectations for match quality, rather than selling the story that led to it and the reason we need to root for Pac. It felt a bit like the Edge vs. Orton “greatest wrestling match ever” stuff.
Overall Show: MISS
The show was carried by one match between two people who have had limited television time and are unlikely to be consistent features in the near future (happy to be proven wrong). Both wrestlers were defined down relative to Cody Rhodes and Malakai Black in the post-match angle, so what significance did their match have other than to warm the crowd up for Cody? In addition, most of this show was sub-par.