SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
AEW FULL GEAR PPV REPORT
NOVEMBER 18, 2023
INGLEWOOD, CALIF. AT KIA FORUM
BROADCASTS LIVE ON BLEACHER REPORT & PPV
Hosts: Renee Paquette, R.J. City, Stokely Hathaway
-An hour of video packages aired with commentary by Renee, R.J. and Stokely standing on the ramp with the stage in the background.
Commentators: Excalibur, Tony Schiavone, Nigel McGuinness, Stokely Hathaway
(A) EDDIE KINGSTON vs. JAY LETHAL (w/Karen Jarrett, Jeff Jarrett, Sonjay Dutt, Satnum Singh) – ROH World Hvt. Title match
The bell rang three minutes into the hour. Fans chanted, “F— you, Karen!” early. Kingston knocked Lethal over the top rope to the floor. Jarrett and Sonjay checked on him. A minute later, Lethal yanked Kingston to the floor and threw him into the ringpost. Lethal strutted in the ring as Jarrett and Sonjay strutted on the ring apron on opposite sides of the ring. Schiavone said that’s the most ridiculous thing he’s seen “and I’ve seen a lot of ridiculous stuff here.” Schiavone said there’s no finesse about Eddie and “what you see is what you get.”
Lethal climbed to the top rope at 8:00 and leaped off, but Kingston lifted his legs. Lethal anticipated it and landed on his feet. Kingston rolled him up for a two count. Lethal landed a top rope elbowdrop seconds later for a near fall. Lethal went for a Lethal Injection, but Kingston blocked it and then suplexed Lethal. Dutt stood on the ring apron. Kingston turned and punched him. Lethal and Kingston each clotheslined each other. Both were down and slow to get up.
Karen and Singh stood on the ring apron and distracted the ref as Jarrett slid a guitar toward Lethal. Kingston blocked him. Ortiz showed up and pulled the guitar off the ring apron. He bashed Dutt over the head with it. “Hell yeah!” exclaimed Schiavone. Lethal went for a Lethal Injection, but Kingston blocked it and landed a half-and-half suplex and his backfist for the win.
As Kingston celebrated, Jarrett and Lethal helped Dutt stand up to headed to the back.
WINNER: Kingston in 11:00 to retain the ROH World Hvt. Title. (**)
(Keller’s Analysis: It was fine. Nothing special. The usual dose of antics from Jarrett & Co.)
-Kingston stood on the stage with Renee and R.J. and plugged the PPV and said they have a lot of “shit up next.” He called Hathaway “a little bald-headed bitch.” He thanked L.A. and said good night.
-Video packages aired on various PPV matches.
(B) CLAUDIO CASTANOLI vs. BUDDY MATTHEWS
As Claudio came out, the spotlights shined on the mostly empty seats in the lower bowl for a late arriving crowd dealing with traffic. They’re expecting over 11,000 in attendance. The arena, built in 1967, has a 17,000+ capacity and should look full once the PPV gets rolling. The bell rang 22 minutes into the hour. Hard-hitting back and forth action in the opening minutes. Claudio headbutted Matthews in the corner several times. Matthews made a comeback with three superkicks and a powerbomb out of the corner for a near fall. He followed with a jackhammer for two count. He then shifted into a crossface. Claudio eventually stood out of it and lifted Matthews onto his shoulders. He delivered a cutter, then played to the crowd before hitting a flying European uppercut (it appeared a bit off target and perhaps Matthews bumped early). Claudio powerbombed Matthews and then applied a sharpshooter mid-ring for the tapout win.
Claudio waited for Matthews to stand afterward. Claudio offered a handshake, but Matthews paused and then brushed past him in a show of disrespect or at least a lack of receptiveness. Claudio played to the crowd as his music played afterward.
WINNER: Claudio in 11:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good action, as you’d expect with these two. It wasn’t electric as it had a prelim vibe with the fans still arriving and Matthews not really seeming like a threat to win.)
-More hype for the PPV.
(C) MJF & SAMOA JOE vs. COLTEN & AUSTIN GUNN – ROH Tag Team Title match
Excalibur said after last night’s show, MJF bashed Juice Robinson with a TV and he’s nowhere to be seen. Excalibur said they found last night that MJF finally accepted the offer of Samoa Joe to be his partner. Joe came out to “Joe! Joe!” chants. Nigel said he’s the only one “who was willing to team with this scumbag.” MJF came out wearing L.A. Lakers colors. When Nigel called it pandering, Excalibur said Kia Forum is in Clipper county, actually. The bell rang 45 minutes into the hour.
When MJF rallied early, he spit at Austin and then strutted like Jeff Jarrett before swiveling his hips like Rick Rude. The Gunns jumped him from behind. Joe helped soften MJF’s landing in the corner. MJF told Joe, “I don’t need your help.” Joe tagged himself in. MJF shoved him. They turned to fend off the Gunns. Joe leaped through the ropes onto the Gunns at ringside. Joe avoided a Colten dropkick by stepped aside and then landed a senton splash. Joe went on the attack, then tagged MJF back in.
The Gunns took over and beat on MJF for several minutes. MJF made a comeback and kipped up. He signaled for the Kangaroo Kick, but Joe tagged himself in. Joe chatted with MJF, suggesting a plan of attack. MJF agreed. They set up Muscle Busters on but Gunns, but the Gunns escaped and then gave 3:10 to Yuma to Joe. MJF broke up Colten’s cover from ringside. MJF fended off Austin at ringside, but Colten joined in the fight and rammed MJF into the ringside steps.
Back in the ring, the Gunns set up another 3:10 to Yuma. Adam Cole’s music then played. “What the hell is going on here?” asked Schiavone. Cole walked out on crutches. Joe put his sleeper on Colten from behind and Colten tapped out.
WINNERS: MJF & Joe in 9:00 to retain the ROH Tag Team Titles.
-MJF and Cole hugged at ringside. Schiavone said MJF didn’t even see what happened. MJF returned to the ring and Joe got in his face and had some words for him. It seemed tense, but MJF shook Joe’s hand. MJF’s music played as he chatted with Cole who stood at ringside and shook MJF’s hand. The Gunns attacked MJF from behind. Joe had already returned to the back. Austin looked under the ring and pulled out a chair. Colten held MJF’s leg out as Austin smashed it with a chair. Cole stood by, unable to help. They put MJF’s leg in the chair and then Austin leaped off the top rope and stomped it. MJF clutched his knee in pain. Schiavone said they might have a very serious injury here. The doctor checked on MJF. MJF was stretchered out. He yelled, “F—!” and he asked for Adam. MJF told Cole, “Don’t let them take my championship” as he was put in the ambulance. The camera zoomed in on Cole who shook his head and said, “Son of a bitch.”
(Keller’s Analysis: So the final hard sell for the PPV was that the main event might not take place? I suppose it makes it seem more likely Jay White will beat MJF if he wrestles, but that angle and MJF’s words suggested he might be medically cleared to wrestle.)
[MAIN PPV CARD]
Commentators: Excalibur, Nigel McGuinness, Tony Schiavone
-A video package previewed the event.
-Excalibur introduced the show as the camera panned the audience, which had filled in nicely. They went to the announce team on camera. They replayed MJF being stretchered and taken away in an ambulance. He said they’d provide updates as they received them. Then they shifted to hyping the line-up.
(1) CHRISTIAN CAGE & NICK WAYNE & LUCHASAURUS vs. STING & ADAM COPELAND & DARBY ALLIN (w/Ric Flair)
The heel trio came out first. Then Ric Flair made his way out. Schiavone said Flair vowed to be with Sting every step of the way. Copeland wore face paint. They showed Ken Jeong and later Steve O at ringside cheering during entrances. Christian and Wayne hugged before the match.
After Darby and Wayne battled, Darby tagged in Sting. He knocked Wayne down and then threw him into the ringside barricade. Christian tagged in. Sting tagged out to an eager Copeland. Fans chanted, “Holy shit!” Christian tagged out to Luchasaurus. Schiavone called Christian a coward. Copeland took Luchasaurus down with a Russian leg sweep and a neckbreaker. He tagged Darby in. Luchasaurus punched Darby. Christian took a cheap shot at Darby. Luchasaurus then lifted Darby and chokeslammed him over the top rope. Darby landed on the edge of the ring apron. Schiavone said Darby is planning to take a red eye after this match to climb Mt. Everest.
Wayne taunted Flair by strutting and stared at him. Darby whipped Wayne into the his corner and he knocked Christian to the floor. Schiavone said, “He actually took a bump to the floor!” Darby landed a top rope Code Red. Both were down and slow to get up. Christian crawled under the ring and came up and attacked Copeland. When Sting chased Christian at ringside, Luchasaurus knocked him down. That left just Darby for Christian to battle in the ring.
Darby crawled over to his corner and tagged in Copeland. Christian tried to dive out of the ring. Wayne helped pull Christian to the floor. Copeland turned to Luchasaurus and speared him off the ring apron. Copeland pressed Wayne above his head and tossed him into the arms of Luchasaurus. Darby then leaped over the ropes and crashed into Luchasaurus and Wayne. Sting then dove off the ring apron onto Wayne and Luchasaurus. They cut to a smiling Flair.
Back in the ring, Luchasaurus grabbed both Sting and Copeland. They fought back. Copeland landed a tandem Scorpion Death Drop. Darby threw Wayne back into the ring. Sting and Copeland suplexed Wayne as Darby leaped off the top rope with a crossbody block. As Luchasaurus and Copeland battled in the ring, Christian approached Flair. Flair chopped him, but Christian gave him a low-blow from behind. Flair went down.
Christian charged at Copeland with a title belt, but he hit Luchasaurus by mistake. Christian fled through the crowd. Darby hit Luchasaurus with a Coffin Drop and Copeland made the cover for the win. Flair took part in an in-ring celebration.
WINNERS: Sting & Copeland & Darby in 15:00. (***)
-Afterward, as Sting hugged his son at ringside, Darby said it’s Sting’s “last f—ing time” wrestling in California, so give him a hand. Sting’s music played as he soaked up cheers from the fans.
(Keller’s Analysis: Smart to have Christian avoid Copeland to build up to that moment later. The match went as you’d expect, with Wayne taking a lot of bumps and being an agitator, Christian cheating, and Luchasaurus tossing Darby around. Solid match.)
-R.J. City and Lexy Nair hyped a sports betting sponsor.
-Jay White walked out with the AEW World Title belt. He yelled at Schiavone because the Gunns music was playing instead. Schiavone said, “Settle the hell down, Jesus. I’ve got work to do here.” Schiavone announced that MJF is injured and he won’t be able to defend the title as scheduled. He said the match has been cancelled. Fans booed. He said, “By default, your new AEW World Champion…” Adam Cole’s music played and he walked out on crutches. Cole said there’s no way he’s leaving the Kia Forum with MJF’s title. He said he promised MJF he wouldn’t let that happen. He said he already talked to Tony Khan. He said he’ll defend the title for MJF tonight if MJF cannot go. He said the main event, even if he can only stand on one leg, will be him vs. White. White gloated that Cole has no chance and referred to Cole having memory issues. Excalibur asked how Cole can wrestle. Taz said MJF has no shot to retain the title.
(Keller’s Analysis: This is just weird. If MJF truly can wrestle, which he seemed fine doing in the ROH Tag Title match, then it’s strange if he doesn’t wrestle as advertised and also strange if they’re milking the idea he won’t but eventually he will. Then the storyline way this played out with White about to be given the belt and then Cole somehow being cleared to defend for him is just nonsense.)
(2) ORANGE CASSIDY (w/Hook) vs. JON MOXLEY (w/Wheeler Yuta) – AEW International Title match
Early in the match they battled on the top rope in a corner, exchanging bites and headbutts. Cassidy rapid-fire headbutted Mox, who began bleeding heavily from the forehead. Cassidy landed a diving DDT on Mox off the top rope. Cassidy hit another DDT and scored a mere one count. Cassidy sent Mox to ringside and then dove through the ropes, knocking Mox into the announce desk. He followed up with a diving elbow into the side of Moxley’s head. Fans chanted, “Freshly squeezed.”
Back in the ring, Mox blocked a Cassidy top rope move and went for a Death Rider. Cassidy blocked it, but Mox took over and mounted Cassidy and pummeled him with a barrage of strikes. They fought back and forth. Cassidy put a Red Rum on Mox, which led to cheers from Hook at ringside. Mox escaped and yanked the turnbuckle pad off the top corner. Mox then hit a cutter followed by a piledriver for a near fall.
Mox mocked Cassidy with casual kicks. Cassidy shoved Mox into the exposed turnbuckle. Cassidy stood and landed an Orange Punch. It took three to take Mox down, although the third one looked weak. Cassidy then rolled up Mox for a near fall. He followed with a fourth and fifth Orange Punch. Cassidy then landed a Beach Break and scored a three count.
Yuta called for Claudio to join them in the ring to check on Mox who was groggy and bloody. Trent joined Hook in helping Cassidy stand and raise his belt above his head. As Yuta bumped into Hook, the director cut away to an “Orange Cassidy” sign in the crowd. The announcers had to convey what happened verbally.
WINNER: Cassidy in 12:00 to retain the AEW International Title. (***)
(Keller’s Analysis: The match was intense and brutal, but not particularly long. This was one of the matches that some thought had the backstory to actually headline this event. Two of the late Orange Punches were sloppy and showed light, unfortunately. The clean finish was good to see, even if you could argue Moxley should be booked a level above Cassidy. I’m curious what’s next for Mox, since it seemed Cassidy and Hook were going to be a tag team before Mox’s concussion, and now that he’s back, it seemed they’d pick up with him as champ so Cassidy & Hook would be a team without a singles title in the mix.)
-Excalibur said Tony Khan just made it official that the main event has switched to Adam Cole vs. Jay White with the AEW World Title on the line.
-A video played that said Mark Briscoe will be in the Continental Classic as Briscoe highlights aired and Briscoe jabbered about his intentions to win. Excalibur said the tournament begins on Wednesday. Nigel said Bryan Danielson and Andrade were the prior two announced entrants.
(3) HIKARU SHIDA vs. TONI STORM (w/Luther the Butler) – AEW Women’s Title match
As Storm made her entrance in black and white, Taz said he had goosebumps. (Taz replaced Schiavone on the announce team for this match.) Luther brought a tray of stuff to the ring including shoes and jewelry. Storm pulled out a script and ten tore it in half. They showed Mariah May cheering at ringside. Luther put a shoe in the back of Storm’s trunks and then Storm held up the other shoe. The ref yanked the visible shoe away from her, so she then hit Shida with the other one and scored a near fall.
A couple minutes later Shida landed a Falcon Arrow for a near fall. Shida’s knee buckled seconds later on a leap. She bodyslammed Storm, but her leg gave out. Storm applied an anklelock. Shida crawled to the bottom rope. Storm yanked off Shida’s shoe. Shida fought back and grabbed a kendo stick. Luther tried to take it, but Shida kicked him and then bashed him with the kendo stick several times. Storm put an object from the tray in her tights. Storm sunset flipped Shida, but Shida reversed it for a two count. Storm then German suplexed Shida. She adjusted the silver plate in her trunks and landed a hip attack to knock out Shida and scored the three count.
The screen went to the black and white old movie film effect as she lay on the mat and celebrated. Excalibur said, “This will be the headline in all the trades tomorrow morning.” Mariah May presented her with flowers. Storm welled up with tears as she stood mid-ring. Luther then lifted her into his arms and spun her around at ringside. Luther took the foreign object out of Storm’s trunks and then they returned to the back.
WINNER: Storm in 11:00 to capture the AEW Women’s Title. (**1/2)
-Renee interviewed Kingston backstage. She asked what’s next. He said he has his eyes on the tournament. He said he wants to make it more prestigious, so he wants to put his life’s work on the line. He said he would put the ROH Title and the NJPW Strong Title at stake in the tournament. He said the winner also gets the Continental Championship in addition to his belts.
-Excalibur and Taz said he just raised the stakes. Taz said it shows Kingston’s confidence level is high.
(Keller’s Analysis: That didn’t raise the stakes. It watered down the idea of title belts having value and being defended in a logical, structured way – a concept already badly at risk given this weird AEW World Title situation. So Kingston is either going to win the tournament, or give up the belts to a wrestler who wins the tournament who, in theory, he might beat in the round robin tournament? It’s just a mess. Adding two belts that people don’t care all that much about as a prize and saying there’s also a Continental Championship at stake, which hadn’t been previously announced, almost feels like a parody of AEW’s abundance of belts.)
(4) RICKY STARKS & BIG BILL vs. FTR (Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler) vs. HOUSE OF BLACK (Malakai Black & Brody King) vs. LFI (Rush & Dralistico) – Ladder match for the AEW Tag Team Titles
A few minutes in, Cash leaped onto a crowd at ringside. Dralistico did the same seconds later. Black koncked Starks off the top rope and then flipped onto a crowd below at ringside. After a parade of dives onto crowds, Bill and Brody squared off and then battered each other with forearms. Dralistico climbed the aldder, but Cash tipped the ladder over. Rush stomped away at Cash in the corner. Rush then played to the crowd who chanted his name. Cash came back with a powerslam. This was an extended stretch where the rest of the wrestlers were just kneeling or lying at ringside. When Cash climbed the ladder, Black attacked him. As Black set up a ladder in the corner, fans chanted, “This is awesome!”
Cash low-blowed Black. Fans booed. Cash then landed a leaping piledriver on the ladder leaning in the corner on the bottom rope. Fans chanted “Holy shit!” Brody dove through the ropes, but Bill lifted the ladder to Brody hit the ladder head-first. He went down in a heap. Starks entered teh ring and went on the attack including spearing Rush. He followed with a tornado DDT on Dox. He celebrated. THen he walked the top rope while holding Cash’s hand. He leaped off and then suplexed Cash.
Black went after Starks, but Starks knocked Black into the ladder. Brody threw Dax into the ladder. He then landed a cannonball on Dax in the corner, although he largely overshot him. Brody set up a ladder mid-ring and began to climb it. Big Bill tipped the ladder over and Black bumped onto a ladder leaning in the corner. Dralistico kicked away at Bill. Rush then wedged a ladder in the corner against Bill. Rush played to the crowd forever, leaving Bill to just lie in the corner and do nothing. He then kicked the ladder into Bill.
Rush set up a ladder mid-ring and climbed it. Starks climbed the other side. They met at the top. Dax set up a taller ladder. Cash and Dralistico got involved. Brody tipped over the ladder Dax was on. Brody suplexed Cash off the other ladder. Black put Dralistico on his shoulders, but Dralistico drove Black to the mat. Dralistico and Brody battled on the ring apron next. Brody stood on the ladder and walked on it and then piledriver Dralistico on it. The ladder bent. They cut to fans concerned for Dralistico.
Cash re-bridged the ladder and then put Brody on it. Cash climbed to the top rope. Bill intervened, but Dax knocked him off the ring apron with a ladder. Cash then leaped off the top rope with a splash onto Brody on the ladder at ringside. He always fell backwards before the leap, adding a little drama to the move. Fans chanted, “AEW! AEW!”
Starks and Cash stood on the top of the ladder. Starks knocked Cash off the ladder. Cash grabbed his ankle in pain as Starks pulled the belt down to win the match. They showed bodies strewn at ringside including a bloodied Brody and Dax. Taz said the match was super-dangerous.
WINNERS: Starks & Bill in 21:00 to retain the AEW Tag Team Titles. (***1/2)
(Keller’s Analysis: I was cringing and fearful of wrestlers getting legitimately hurt multiple times, but everyone at least seemed to be okay at the end. This is what a modern-day ladder match has become, and when crowds react like they did here, there will be more. Credit to the wrestlers for putting their bodies on the line like that and being skilled enough to survive the big spots given all the variables that could have led to injuries.)
-Excalibur hyped the Dec. 30 PPV, Worlds End. Excalibur said they’ll be crowning the “modern American” Triple Crown Champion.
(Keller’s Analysis: So the prize of the tournament is yet another singles title, which is the merging of two relatively low-level singles titles in the AEW/ROH/NJPW ecosystem, and then a made-up title? Can they give the wrestler a ribbon and a title shot at the AEW World Title instead? Is the Triple Crown Title going to be defended between tournaments?)
(5) KRIS STATLANDER vs. JULIA HART vs. SKYE BLUE – AEW TBS Title match
Early in the match, Blue and Hart kicked Statlander from opposite side. With Statlander down, Hart and Blue eyed each other and then approached each other. Skye offered a handshake with her left hand. Hart accepted it, but then they came to blows. Hart rammed Blue’s head into the mat over and over. Statlander rolled into the ring after Blue scored a two count. Hart broke up a cover by Statlander with a senton.
Statlander took over and knocked Hart out of the ring and went on sustained offense against Blue. When she climbed to the top rope, Hart shoved her to the mat. Hart climbed to the top rope and landed a moonsault for a two count. Statlander yanked Hart off of the cover. Statlander powerslammed a charging Hart at ringside. Skye landed a Code Blue on Statlander a minute later and scored a dramatic near fall. All three battled briefly. Hart then applied her submission on Blue. Statlander intervened and suplexed both of them. Statlander hit some suplexes on both opponents. Excalibur said one might caller her a human suplex machine. Taz said, “Easy there!” Statlander then landed Saturday Night Fever on Blue, but Hart clotheslined Statlander and stole the cover and got the three count on Blue.
WINNER: Julia Hart in 11:00 to capture the TBS Title. (**1/2)
(Keller’s Analysis: The crowd was quiet early in the match, but got more engaged in the closing minutes. Good to see Hart get a title as she’s really come along in the ring and as a character. Statlander didn’t seem to be clicking in a top role as one of AEW’s women champions.)
-Tony Schiavone introduced AEW’s newest signing, Will Ospreay. Excalibur said the title picture in AEW for any title becomes more complex. Schiavone had Ospreay sign a contract. Ospreay did. Schiavone said it’s official now and asked how he feels. Ospreay said he’s happy to be part of the team, but he has some bad news for everyone. He said he won’t come in just yet. He yelled for them to pipe down, but they weren’t really making noise. Ospreay told his story about being 30 now. He said he’ll finish up in New Japan and then he’ll be on the road to Revolution. “Then I’ll be all yours,” he said. “I’m All Elite.” He said TK should line up the best he’s got, “especially for Wembley Stadium.” He said he’s about to show everyone what elite really looks like.
(Keller’s Analysis: This has less of a punch than other PPV debuts since many fans already saw Ospreay as an AEW wrestler since, you know, he’s wrestled for AEW recently. That said, as a full-timer now, it unlocks a lot of great matches since he’ll be in AEW more frequently starting early next year. I’m curious to see how his character develops as, presumably, a weekly presence on AEW TV going forward. It won’t just be about having good matches anymore.)
(6) “HANGMAN” ADAM PAGE vs. “SWERVE” STRICKLAND (w/Prince Nana) – Texas Death match
Swerve came out first. Nana danced and asked, “Who’s house?” Hangman came out without entrance music. He tackled Swerve and the ref, of course, immediately called for the bell. Hangman hit a Buckshot Lariat seconds into the match. Hangman whipped Swerve into the ringside barricade. Hangman taped Swerve’s wrists together and beat him up until he bled from his forehead.
A few minutes later, Hangman used a stapler to stick his kid’s art to each of Strickland’s cheeks. He bled from the staples in his cheeks. Hangman got under Strickland’s blood stream and opened his mouth as blood poured in. Excalibur said Hangman is “completely unhinged.” Taz was almost speechless. He said he’s seen a lot and he’s from ECW, but he doesn’t recall that. When Hangman wound up with a barbed wire chair, but Swerve kicked him between his legs. Hangman used the staple gun on Swerve’s chest, but Swerve no-sold them and looked like a zombie. His face was covered in blood. He then stapled Hangman’s face. Swerve stapled himself several times and smiled.
Swerve wedged the barbed wire chair in the corner of the ring. He raked a strand of barbed wire into Hangman’s forehead. Swerve retrieved another bunch of barbed wire and walked around ringside. He pulled a cinder block out from under the ring and placed it on the ring apron. Hangman fought back. They battled on the ring apron. Swerve ended up driving Hangman shoulder and head first onto the block with a Death Valley Driver. Swerve went back at him at ringside. Swerve piledrove Hangman on the ledge of the ringside barricade. The camera zoomed in on Swerve’s face, which was 85 percent covered in blood. Swerve poured water over his head. Excalibur said his eyes were probably stinging from the blood. The announcers went in-depth on the taste and consistency of blood.
They returned to the ring and exchanged wild swings. Fans chanted “Cowboy Shit!” Hangman gave Swerve a fallaway slam, but didn’t get up right away afterward. Hangman wrapped a long strand of barbed wire around Swerve’s mid-section and then gave him a fallaway slam. Swerve rolled to the floor. Hangman’s face was also covered in blood. Excalibur said it was the most intense Texas Death Match in pro wrestling history. Hangman leaped off the top rope with a moonsault onto a standing Swerve with a barbed wire wrapped chair in his grip. Swerve clutched his right shoulder in pain afterward.
Hangman threw Swerve back into the ring. Fans chanted, “This is awesome!” Hangman went for a Buckshot Lariat, but Swerve blocked it. When Hangman picked up the barbed wire wrapped chair, Swerve kicked it into him. Hangman gave Swerve a tombstone piledriver onto the barbed wire wrapped chair. Both were down and slow to get up.
Hangman continued the beating on Swerve. He sat him on the top rope and punched away at him. “Who can prepare for this?” Nigel asked. Swerve went for a sunset flip of Hangman out of the corner, btu Hangman held on. Swerve bashed the back of Hangman’s head with the barbed wire chair and then powerbombed him onto the barbed wire chair on the mat. Swerve followed with a double stomp on Hangman who was lying on the chair. Both were down and slow to get up. Fans began counting.
Swerve stood first, bashed Hangman’s back with the chair again, and then dropped to ringside where he pulled out a black bag. Swerve poured broken glass on Hangman’s back and then landed a 450 on him. The ref counted Hangman down and got to nine before Hangman pulled himself up. Fans chanted, “AEW! AEW!” Swerve charged at Hangman and clotheslined him over the top rope to the floor.
Nana pulled a barbed wire board out from under the ring and slid it into the ring. Swerve bridged the board over two chairs in the ring. Swerve still had staples stuck in his chest. Swerve then set up a move from behind Hangman on the top rope. Hangman elbowed out of it and turned around. He bit Swerve’s forehead, then climbed the top rope and overhead slammed Swerve through the board. He followed with a sudden powerbomb on the barbed wire and his signature Dead Eye on the board. A “Fight forever” chant broke out. Hangman wrapped barbed wire around Swerve’s head and neck. He hit the Buckshot Lariat next. The ref counted Swerve down and got to eight when Nana pulled Swerve to the floor. Swerve stood to break the count, but then fell.
Brian Cage ran out and powerbombed Hangman. Taz said it’s all legal in a Texas Death match. He gave Hangman his finisher and then pulled a table out from under the ring and set it up at ringside. Cage lifted Hangman for a powerbomb, but Hangman slipped free and wrapped his fist and punched Hangman. He followed with a lariat. Cage rolled out of the ring. Nana entered the ring and his Hangman with a chair across his back. Hangman no-sold it. Nana tried to leave, but Hangman caught him on the ring apron. Nana danced and smiled. Hangman gave him a Dead Eye off the ring apron through the table below. Swerve then broke the cinder block across Hangman’s back.
Swerve then wrapped a long chain around Hangman’s beck, then wrapped the other end around the top turnbuckle. He pulled on the chain and Hangman was, well, hanged. Swerve let go. Hangman collapsed to the ground. The ref began counting and got to ten. Swerve watched closely and then dropped next to Hangman in sheer exhaustion. “By the grace of god, this is over,” said Nigel. Taz said, “That was insane.” Excalibur said fans were eyewitness to one of the most violent and bloody matches in pro wrestling history. Taz said it’s hard to recall all of them, but this is at the tippy tippy top. Nigel said this will go down as the most brutal match in AEW history. Taz said they destroyed each other.
WINNER: Strickland in 30:00. (****1/2)
(Keller’s Analysis: The announcers weren’t exaggerating. That was as violent as a match gets. It just went on and on and on, which is either good or bad depending on each person’s desire for or tolerance for that level of gratuitous violence and blood. It does seem like it’s the kind of spectacle and performance that will elevate Swerve in the eyes of a lot of fans. Interesting choice for the finish. The stuff with Brian Cage and Prince Nana is supposed to be a reason for Hangman losing, I suppose, but it took away from the match.)
-They went to the announcers on camera. They said it’ll be hard to pivot, but then talked about the AEW World Title match coming up. They replayed MJF being taken away in an ambulance.
(7) THE YOUNG BUCKS (Matt & Nick Jackson) vs. THE GOLDEN JETS (Kenny Omega & Chris Jericho)
Don Callis joined the announcers on commentary. Callis said Jericho and Omega didn’t make the cut for the Callis Family. Omerga landed a running dive onto Matt at ringside a few minutes in. Jericho knocked Nick off the ring apron and then slidekicked him. Matt threw Jericho into the ringside steps. Nick jammed Jericho’s arm between the steps and the ringpost and kicked the steps. Excalibur said that was the arm Jericho uses for the Judas Effect.
Back in the ring, Jericho clotheslined both Bucks. His right arm was bleeding and he favored it afterward. Nick stomped away at Jericho in the corner, then paraded around the ring and got booed. Taz said it’s wild the Bucks were getting booed in Los Angeles.
Jericho eventually applied a sharpshooter on Matt mid-ring. Nigel said he couldn’t hold on because of his damaged right arm. The Bucks scored a near fall on Jericho after a top rope moonsault onto Jericho. Omega was trying to make the save, but Matt stopped him, so Jericho had to kick out.
Matt gave a low kick to Jericho. Fans booed. Omega confronted Nick who backed away and denied it to the ref. Matt then kicked Omega between the legs as Nick had the ref occupied. Matt then hit Omega with a Judas Effect; Jericho broke up the cover with a shove. Callis said he was enjoying the match. The Bucks then delivered the BTE Trigger to Jericho’s head. Jericho kicked out. The Bucks set up a move, but Omega blocked it. Nick kicked both Omega and Matt, with Matt an unintended target. Jericho then gave Nick a low-blow.
Omega then teased giving a V-Trigger to Jericho, but ran past him and delivered it to Nick. Then he gave Nick a Snap Dragon. Matt gave Omega a One-Winged Angel. Nick made the cover and scored a two count. Jericho caught Matt mid-air with a Code Breaker. Omega suplexed Matt into a bridge for a near fall next. A minute later, Omega hit the One-Winged Angel on Matt for the win.
Callis lamented Omega choosing a narcissistic psychopath over lifelong friends. Nick threw a fit at ringside. Omega tried to have a word with the Bucks afterward, but they wanted no part of that conversation. Matt bashed the ringpost with a chair. Excalibur said Omega & Jericho get a tag title shot anytime they want one. Nigel said the Bucks were kind of acting like children. Excalibur said it was petulance.
WINNER: Omega & Jericho in 21:00 to earn a future AEW Tag Team Title match. (****)
(Keller’s Analysis: It was hard to get reinvested in a match after the energy-draining and emotionally-exhausting prior match. They worked the match you’d expect from them, playing up the history of Omega and the Bucks, doing each other’s moves at times, and lot of near falls after big spots. The crowd got increasingly into the match and increasing anti-Bucks, who are really entertaining as heels. Do we see Omega & Jericho challenge Starks & Bill soon? In a way, it seems like separate worlds colliding a bit if that happens soon, but that’s not a bad thing.)
(8) MJF vs. “SWITCHBLADE” JAY WHITE – AEW World Title match
Cole walked out on crutches with the ROH Tag Team Title belt around his waist. He tried to get the crowd to react louder when he sat on the ring apron before entering the ring. When White made his entrance with the Gunns, all three limped to mock Cole. Justin Roberts did formal ring introductions. He said Cole was “representing the All Elite World Champion.” The crowd was quiet, trying to calibrate this situation compared to what was advertised and expected. Excalibur said it’s a farce. The ambulance siren sounded just before the bell. Cole smiled at the big screen as MJF drove an ambulance into the arena. MJF limped to the ring with his left thigh heavily taped up. MJF’s music played and came out to some cheers. Cole made sure MJF was okay. White smiled at the switch of one wrestler with an injured leg to another.
The bell rang 24 minutes into the fourth hour of the PPV and fifth hour counting the Zero Hour pre-show. MJF’s leg gave out early. White clipped it from behind to make it worse. “Pride comes before the fall,” said Nigel. The Gunns double-teamed MJF at ringside early as the ref was distracted. White scored a near fall. The ref caught them on the next attempt, so he booted them from ringside. Cole laughed. White approached Cole and had some words for him and then made him flinch with a tease of a strike.
Back in the ring, White yanked off MJF’s shirt and beat on him. MJF made a comeback and teased a Kangaroo Kick. He delivered and sent White rolling to ringside. MJF favored his leg afterward, but played to the hard cam and let out a celebration yell. Cole told MJF to do a dive. White, though, slid back into the ring and tripped up MJF. He followed with a DDT and got in sustained offense. MJF made a comeback, but again his leg gave out. White went back on offense and scored a quick near fall. Excalibur said he thinks the presence of Cole at ringside was distracting MJF.
White backdropped MJF over the top rope to the floor. MJF caught White with a sudden DDT on the floor. He sat on the ring apron and massaged his knee. MJF cleared the announce desk and put White on it. The desk just collapsed. Fans booed. MJF climbed to the top rope and leaped off of it with a flying elbow drop. Cole yelled out with concern, “Max!” Nigel said MJF would’ve rather had the table to help break his fall a little bit. Both were down and slow to get up.
Back in the ring, White gave a Dragon Screw to MJF’s leg as he was entering the ring. White hung MJF upside down in the corner. MJF tossed White off of him. White got up and clipped MJF’s leg again. White then gave MJF a uranage off the top rope for a near fall. MJF gave White a thumb to the eye. White fought back right away and suplexed MJF a couple of times. White then set up the Blade Runner, but MJF escaped and rolled up White with a yank of the trunks. White rolled through for a two count. MJF rolled through for another two count. MJF quickly landed a leaping piledriver on White. Taz said that’s how he broke his neck.
MJF charged toward White and leaped over the top rope and drove White to the mat with a cutter. Both were down and slow to get up. Excalibur said MJF was taking risks they hadn’t previously seen him take in his entire career. Some fans chanted “MJF” a few times. Cole gave MJF a pep talk. MJF rolled White into the ring and scored a two count. MJF lowered his knee pad and pounded on the knee. Taz explained he was trying to loosen it up and try to get the built up blood moved out of that area. MJF tried to stand, but dropped in pain and cried in agony. The ref called for the doctor to check on MJF. MJF yelled, “No! No!” He pounded the mat and Cole joined in to try to get the crowd clapping.
White gave MJF a wrenching Dragon Screw to MJF as he was on the mat. White then applied a figure-four and yelled at Cole. Cole pulled out a towel and considered throwing in the towel. The ref checked on Cole. MJF moved toward the bottom rope, but Cole pulled him back to mid-ring. MJF’s shoulders were down and the ref counted to two. MJF tried to reverse the hold. White resisted, but MJF finally flipped him over. White then reached for the bottom rope and finally grabbed it. Cole picked up the ROh Tag Title belt and was about to hit White with it. White blocked it and then grabbed the belt and nailed MJF with it. The ref didn’t see it and counted a dramatic near fall. Fans chanted “MJF” as they showed a wide shot of the crowd.
MJF kicked White off of him, but White collided with the ref, who went down. MJF sat up and saw Cole who presented him with the Dynamite Diamond Ring. When MJF reached for it, White pulled him away and delivered another Dragon Screw. White then put the ring on his pinky finger and then gave Cole the middle finger. White wound up and swung, but MJF gave him a low-blow. The Gunns ran back out, since the ref was out on the mat still. White went for a Blade Runner, but MJF blocked it and then punched White with the ring. The ref came to and counted three.
Cole entered the ring and celebrated MJF, who had his belt back. MJF collapsed to the mat and clutched his knee before rolling out of the ring. MJF got a nice ovation as he held up the belt at ringside.
WINNER: MJF in 30:00 to retain the AEW World Hvt. Title. (****)
(Keller’s Analysis: A very different match than most signed up for, and distinctive from the rest of the show. I think it played out pretty well and they avoided any major missteps in telling the story they wanted to tell once the bell rang other than MJF managing to wrestle with a “serious knee injury.” The twists and turns during match began to feel like a Jeff Jarrett Special and started to feel overbooked, but a lot of it worked with the crowd. I’m eager to hear how this played in the arena because there were times the crowd didn’t seem super into the key emotional spots for MJF and other times they did. Now the question is what happens next with everyone else aiming at MJF including the revelation of who the devil is. The way Cole encouraged MJF throughout, and the way announcers second-guessed some of his advice, how Cole acted wasn’t entirely inconsistent with him still ultimately turning on MJF when it benefits him the most, which could be when he or perhaps Brit Baker reveal themselves to be the devil. It’s just tough to get past the idea that AEW was going to allow Cole, with his ankle in a cast, to defend the title for MJF or else they were just going to hand the belt to White. Oh, White ended up feeling like a generic heel being asked to play a role that was centered around an MJF-based story at his expense.)