LECLAIR’S AEW FULL GEAR 2023 REPORT: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of MJF vs. White, Page vs. Strickland, Cassidy vs. Moxley, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor


NOVEMBER 18, 2023

Announcers: Excalibur & Nigel McGuinness & Tony Schiavone & Taz

-After a quick cold open, Excalibur welcomed the audience to the Kia Forum in Los Angeles and introduced his partners, Nigel McGuinness and Tony Schiavone. He immediately tossed to footage from just moments ago on Zero Hour, when MJF was attacked by the Gunns after his successful ROH Tag Team title defense. The crew ran down the card.

-A choir of young women sang a rendition of Christian Cage’s theme. “The Patriarchy of AEW” headed to the ring, backed by the choir. The camera cut to Ken Jeong, sitting at ringside, booing the trio.

Ric Flair entered. Tony Schiavone noted that he’d promised to be with Sting every step of the way. The stage faded to black and a spotlight brought 3 baseball bats in to focus. “Metalingus” played and Edge rushed the stage from side to side, flanked by Sting and Darby Allin. Copeland had half his face painted like Darby. The trio wore matching coats. Steve-O was shown at ringside. He gave fist bumps to the faces. The crowd continued to sing Copeland’s theme after it had faded out. The camera pulled back to show the impressive crowd.


Darby Allin began the match with Nick Wayne. Christian Cage whispered some words of encouragement to his “son” before Wayne locked up with Allin. The two worked each other’s arms over in the center. Allin stepped over Wayne and used his legs to toss him over his head and gain leverage. He transitioned into a side headlock. Wayne tried to kip up, but Darby blocked it. The two rose to their feet. Allin shot to the top rope for a leaping arm drag. He tagged in Sting.

Sting continued to work over Wayne’s arm. He tossed him to the outside, then into the new LED ringside barrier. Nick managed to reach Christian Cage for a tag. Adam Copeland held his hand out immediately. Sting obliged. Cage gave it a thought, then tagged in Luchasaurus. The crowd booed loudly. Luchasaurus downed Copeland in the corner, then gave him a short-arm clothesline. Copeland caught Luchasaurus with a kick to the face off an Irish Whip, then hit a swinging neckbreaker. He tagged Allin back in as the match approached 4:00.

Allin flipped over Luchasaurus, looking for a sunset pin, but the big man grabbed him by the throat. Luchasaurus went for a Chokeslam, but Darby flipped through it. Cage grabbed Darby and guillotined him overt the rope. Allin bounced into the waiting arms of Luchasaurus, who delivered a Chokeslam over the top rope to the floor. Allin bounced violently off the edge of the ring on his way down. It looked brutal. Copeland and Flair ran to check on him. Cage tossed him back in the ring and tagged in.

TNT Champion, Christian Cage, struck a pose as he drove his boot into the chest of Darby Allin. He clawed at his mouth and jaw, then gave him a kick before tagging in Nick Wayne. Cage held Allin’s arm up so Wayne could get a hard shot to the ribs in. Wayne covered Darby, but couldn’t even score a one. He gave Allin a Backbreaker, ten mocked Ric Flair’s signature strut. Luchasaurus tagged himself in off the back of Wayne. The dinosaur littered Darby’s chest with hard chops. He tagged in Wayne, then gave Allin a spinning Sidewalk Slam. Wayne followed up with a Senton from the apron for a cover and two count just before 8:00.

In an act of desperation, Allin exploded with a dive toward the heel corner. He took down both Cage and Luchasaurus. Nick Wayne attacked Darby from behind and hoisted him to the top burntuckle. The two jockeyed for position. Wayne tried biting Allin, but Darby connected with a Senton Bomb off the top. Both men were down in the center. Adam Copeland clapped furiously for a tag. A small “Darby” chant broke out. The referee reached a count of eight. Meanwhile, Christian Cage had crawled under the ring and re-emerged underneath Adam Copeland. He pulled him down and tossed him into the steel steps. Sting gave chase, leaving no one for Darby to tag.

Cage tagged himself back in. He stalked Allin as the latter crawled valiantly toward his corner, only to find no one there. Christian tossed him haphazardly into the turnbuckles. Copeland had returned to the apron, but it was too late. Cage went for a Spear on Allin, but Darby ducked. The two cracked heads running at each other. Both crawled slowly to their respective corners. Allin tagged in Copeland. Adam reached Cage before he could tag out, but Nick Wayne pulled Cage to safety. Luchasaurus tagged himself in. Copeland gave him an Impaler DDT. He speared the big man to the floor, then pressed Wayne onto him on the outside. Darby Allin flew through the middle rope, taking both men down again.

Sting got a look at the bodies below and dove over Ric Flair onto the pile. Back in the ring, Luchasaurus grabbed Copeland by the throat. Sting hopped in, but he got grabbed too. Adam and Sting fought free and hit the tandem Scorpion Death Drop. They lifted Nick Wayne into a Suplex position and Allin flew off the top for a cross body. Luchasaurus popped up and tossed Allin into the turnbuckle. He gave Copeland a big clothesline to the back of the head. “Adam Copeland has a triple fusion in his neck!” McGuinness said. Outside the ring, Christian Cage got in the face of Ric Flair. Ric gave him a few chops, right in front of the referee, who did nothing. Cage gave Flair a low blow.

Cage retrieved the TNT Championship. He swung it at Copeland, but Adam ducked. Cage took Luchasaurus out instead. Copeland tried to chase Cage, but he left through the crowd. Sting gave Luchasaurus a Scorpion Death Drop. Copeland gave him a Spear. Darby Allin delivered a Coffin Drop for a cover and three count.

WINNERS: Adam Copeland, Sting, & Darby Allin in 15:10

After the match, Darby Allin grabbed a microphone and asked for the crowd to give a special round of applause to Sting, because it was his final time wrestling in the state of California. He had a moment alone in the ring to take a bow and soak in a nice “thank you Sting” chant from the crowd as his music played. The announcers laid out for the moment.

(LeClair’s Analysis: This was a fun opener with plenty of star-power to get the crowd excited. I loved the interplay with Adam Copeland and Christian Cage, with the latter doing everything he could to avoid any and all contact, and ultimately doing so successfully. This sets up another obvious encounter down the road. Allin took the brunt of the punishment while Sting and Copeland got infrequent tags to hit some major spots. It worked quite well. Allin’s chokeslam bump to the floor was, for my money, one of the craziest looking spots he’s had – and that’s saying a LOT. I disliked Flair’s involvement, considering it happened right in front of the referee. I know AEW likes to employ “referee discretion”, but I would just rather this kind of spot be avoided altogether. It felt unnecessary. The crowd was into the guys in the match enough, they didn’t need to draw any additional attention to Flair, especially given the notable backlash his signing has received.)

-Tony Schiavone was at the top of the stage with referee Bryce Remsburg. He called Bullet Club Gold to the stage. Taz had joined the commentary booth. Jay White rushed the stage carrying the AEW World Championship. “I’m the champion!” he screamed. He asked for his music to be played, not the Gunn’s. Tony announced that MJF will not be able to defend the Championship, and the match has been cancelled. He began to say that Jay White has become champion when Adam Cole’s music hit.

Cole took the microphone from Tony. “There is not a shot in hell you’re leaving the Kia Forum with Max’s AEW Championship.” Cole revealed that he already spoke to Tony Khan and vowed to defend the title for MJF if he can’t make it. White laughed. “You must’ve hit your head on something, BayBay.” White said he’s taken Cole out wearing the exact pants he’s wearing tonight. He promised to take Cole out and become the official champion.

-Back at ringside, Excalibur tossed to a video for Orange Cassidy vs. Jon Moxley.

“Jane” hit the speakers first. Orange Cassidy strolled out casually onto the stage, Hook by his side. He had his championship tucked safely away in a backpack slung over his shoulder. Jon Moxley followed, rounding a backstage hallway and emerging through a curtain opposite the stage. He marched through the crowd, tailed by Wheeler Yuta.

(2) ORANGE CASSIDY (c, w/ Hook) vs. JON MOXLEY (w/ Wheeler Yuta) – AEW International Championship match

Orange Cassidy tried to charge at Jon Moxley to begin the match, but Moxley plowed him into the turnbuckles and quickly dumped him to the outside. He bent Cassidy over the announcers desk and delivered a series of hard, closed-fist right hands to the head. Cassidy covered up well. He tossed him over the table, then back into the ring. Moxley delivered a quick release Suplex and took a slow pace around the ring. He tossed the champion to the corner and chopped him hard. He challenged Cassidy to hit him. Orange obliged, but Moxley shrugged off his offense.

Moxley worked Cassidy out of the corner and across the ring. He gave him another stiff punch. Cassidy tried to shake it off. He gave Mox a couple of boots, then walked right into a Boss Man Slam for a cover and two count just before 3:00. The challenger tried to apply a Texas Cloverleaf. Cassidy held on to Moxley’s shin and calf to avoid being turned all the way over. Moxley gave him a stomp for his troubles. He hoisted him onto the top turnbuckle and dug into his back with his nails. He bit the champion’s forehead. Mox set up for a Superplex, but Cassidy blocked it. He returned the favor, digging his nails into the back of the challenger. He bit Moxley, too. Jon shrugged it off. He gave Cassidy a pair of headbutts.

Cassidy spilled to the apron. Moxley crossed the threshold to the apron and the two teetered on either side of the buckle. Cassidy gave Moxley some rapid fire headbutts. Blood began flying, though it wasn’t immediately clear who’s it was. Cassidy pulled back to reveal blood pouring from Moxley’s forehead. Orange gave him a Superplex, then a diving DDT from the top. He followed up with a springboard Tornado DDT for a cover and one count. Moxley rose to his knees, shaking his knead. Blood was dripping below his nose now. Cassidy gave him some weak kicks, then stronger ones. Moxley gave him double middle fingers.

The champion managed to drive Moxley to the outside. Jon spilled into the announcers desk. Cassidy dove through the middle rope, toppling the challenger as the match crossed 6:45. Orange gave Mox a couple of chops, then hit another dive through the middle rope. He tossed Mox back in the ring as a “Freshley Squeezed” chant broke out. Cassidy climbed to the top turnbuckle again and dove. Mox kicked him on the way down. He set up for a Paradigm Shift, but Cassidy blocked it. He went for Stundog Millionaire, but Moxley blocked that. He overpowered Cassidy and forced him to the mat, driving blind elbows into the champion’s face. Blood continued to pour from the cut on Jon’s forehead.

After a struggle in a seated headlock, Cassidy rolled to his feet and went for a Beach Break. Moxley rolled through it. Orange hit a PK. Moxley shrugged it off. Cassidy climbed his back and applied the Redrum. Jon managed to pull himself against the turnbuckle, forcing a break. Moxley pulled the turnbuckle pad away. He gave Cassidy a cutter, then a Gotch-Style Piledriver for a cover and near fall at 9:50. “Jon Moxley was a hair’s breath away from becoming a two-time International Champion,” Excalibur explained.

A loud, dueling chant broke out for both wrestlers. Moxley mocked Cassidy with some weak kicks to the shoulder. He threw a punch to the side of the head. Orange shrugged it off and stuck his hands in his pockets. Moxley charged, Orange ducked. Mox collided face-first with the exposed turnbuckle. Both men rose to their feet slowly. Mox couldn’t stay upright. He fell to a knee just as Cassidy reared up for an Orange Punch. He managed to hit once, twice, and a third time. He rolled up Moxley for a near fall. He gave Jon a fourth Orange Punch, then a fifth. Moxley wouldn’t stay down. Cassidy hit a sixth, then delivered a Beach Break for a cover and three count.

WINNER: Orange Cassidy in 12:06 to retain the AEW International Championship

(LeClair’s Analysis: Good match, and a significant departure from their contest at last month’s WrestleDream. I thought they told an effective story here – with Cassidy getting completely railroaded in the beginning, having to overcome a flurry of offense from Moxley and only gaining his footing once he was able to cut Moxley open and really get him bleeding. The finishing sequence worked well, with Cassidy having to spam the Orange Punch as Moxley continued to grow increasingly woozy from the blood loss. With Cassidy’s second reign continuing, and him getting his win back against Mox, I’d really like to see them lean into the idea that he’s so obsessed with keeping the title that he’s willing to forego a lot of his usual silliness and even his laid back demeanor to ensure that he remains champion. I would like to see BCC move on from their feud with Best Friends, though. I think it’s run its course, and it would be good if the former could just firmly establish itself again as a babyface faction facing heels.)

-Excalibur announced that Tony Khan has confirmed that Adam Cole will wrestle in place of MJF in the main event.

-Toni Storm headed to the ring for her Women’s World Championship match. Hikaru Shida followed. Both women received a solid reaction.

(3) HIKARU SHIDA (c) vs. TONI STORM (w/ Luther) – AEW Women’s World Championship match

Toni Storm had a script with her as the bell rang. She ripped it up and tossed it around the ring in commitment to going ad-lib. Storm’s chest was crimson red from her match on last night’s Rampage. Hikaru Shida went to the damaged skin immediately, delivering some hard chops. Storm clutched her chest in agony. Shida chopped her from corner to corner in the opening moments. Storm finally flexed out of the corner, pointing a finger in Shida’s face and yelling “how dare you!” She delivered some rapid fire chops herself, then hit a Bulldog out of the corner as the match hit 2:40.

After a pronounced and dramatic windmill wind-up, Storm delivered a short-arm clothesline to the champion. Shida crawled to the ropes. Storm drove her boot into the chest of the champion. Excalibur talked up Storm’s history as a two-time former Women’s World Champion. Hikaru worked her way back to her feet and traded punches with Storm in the center. Shida hit the ropes and caught the challenger with a knee to the face. Storm retreated to the corner. Shida mounted her and delivered ten punches to the forehead. Storm staggered out toward center and Hikaru gave her a missile dropkick for a cover and two count at 4:30.

Shida headed to the apron, thinking of launching from the middle rope. Toni cut her off and pressed her back into the ring. She covered for a two count. Storm headed to the apron, where she consulted with Luther. He tucked one of her heels into the back of her tights, then handed her the second one. Referee Aubrey Edwards took the shoe from her and went to return it to Luther. Storm pulled the second one out of her tights and hit Shida with it. She covered for a near fall. Shida pulled herself back to her feet. Storm followed. The two traded punches. Shida got the better of the exchange and pulled Storm in, delivering a Falcon Arrow for a cover and near fall at 7:20.

Both women rose slowly. Hikaru leapt to the middle rope. She went for a Meteora, but Storm dodged it. Shida landed awkwardly and began favoring her ankle. Storm pounced, turning the champion over and applying an Ankle Lock. Toni dragged the champion toward center. Shida got up on a knee, giving herself enough mobility to lunge forward to the bottom rope. Storm pulled Shida’s shoe off. She tried to clock her with it, but Shida ducked and caught Storm with a violent kick. Toni fell to the outside. Shida grabbed her Kendo Stick. Edwards warned Shida not to use it. Luther tried to take it from her, so Shida cracked him instead.

Back in the ring, Storm fumbled with something from her tray at ringside. She stuck it in her tights. Shida returned, looking for the Katana. Storm blocked it. She went for a German Suplex, but Shida coiled her legs around Storm’s thighs. Toni still managed to dump her in the corner. She ran to the opposing turnbuckle and adjusted her tights, positioning whatever object she’d placed there in an advantageous position. She charged, connecting with the Hip Attack with the weapon in her tights. Storm covered for a three count.

WINNER: Toni Storm in 10:17 to win the AEW Women’s World Championship

Mariah May, who’d been shown watching the match backstage throughout, headed to the ring with a bouquet for flowers for the new champion. Storm accepted them gracefully and danced around the ring.

(LeClair’s Analysis: This worked well enough for what it was. Shida has been a mainstay of AEW’s Women’s division, and a fall back champion when they’ve struggled to get anything going, but I’ve never felt as though she connected with the audience on a significant enough level to carry the division. Toni Storm had been in a similar boat, but this new character has catapulted her into a new echelon. I think it was wise to move the title back to her, and build the division around her. She’s clearly the most entertaining and over character they have in the division, and the championship needs a strong persona like that to rebuild some of its prestige. It’s worth noting, though, that the closing sequence got a little too messy. The announcers missed the initial spot of Toni stuffing the object down her tights, and so they had to scramble to figure out what it was. Once they did, they then had to completely ignore the fact that it was plain view of the referee’s site, making it impossible not to know that she’d just used the object to take out Shida. Just a clunky finish.)

-Renee Paquette was joined by Eddie Kingston backstage. She asked him what’s next. Kingston said she knows – it’s the tournament. Eddie said he wants to put his “life’s work” on the line by defending his NJPW Strong title, and ROH World title in every tournament match he wrestles in.

-The camera sped past a ladder set up at ringside. Kings of the Black Throne headed to the ring, followed by LFI, FTR, and the AEW Tag Team Champions. Starks climbed the ladder and posed against the backdrop of fireworks exploding from the stage.

(4) RICKY STARKS & BIG BILL (c) vs. KINGS OF THE BLACK THRONE (Malakai Black & Brody King) vs. LFI (Rush & Dralistico) vs. FTR (Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler) – 4-Way Ladder match for the AEW World Tag Team Championships

The camera zoomed in on the AEW Tag Team titles high above the ring as the bell rang. The action spilled to the outside immediately. Bodies cleared out of the way for a staredown between Big Bill and Brody King. They only got a moment, though, as FTR attacked both men and tossed them aside. Rush, FTR, and Malakai Black worked over Big Bill in the corner. On the outside. Brody King battled with Cash Wheeler against a propped ladder. Dax Harwood and Malakai Black traded quick rights in the ring.

Harwood stole a ladder from Ricky Starks, using it’s base to send Starks crashing into the ringside barrier in the process. LFI regrouped on the outside before Rush set up a ladder in the ring. He and Cash Wheeler began to climb. They quickly thought better of it, returning to the floor to fight. The two men traded punches, then chops in the center. Wheeler got the better of the forearms, but Rush dropped him with a headbutt. Rush and Cash spilled to the apron. Dralistico stepped in to attack Cash. Wheeler tossed him asside briefly and threw himself onto a pile below. Dralistico followed suit.

Back in the ring, Ricky Starks climbed to the top turnbuckle. Malakai Black cut him off. Black hit a Moonsault of the middle rope onto a host of bodies below. Ricky Starks began climbing again. Dax Harwood cut him off. He hooked him for a Superplex, delivering it off the top rope onto a full compliment of wrestlers below as the match crossed 4:00. Brody King and Big Bill emerged first from the pile, each retrieving their own ladder from opposite ends of ringside. They engaged in a stare down from the floor. “Beef!” the crowd chanted happily. The two began trading forearms in the ring. Bill caught King with a knee to the gut, followed by some hard forearms to the back. The two grabbed each other’s throats.

Harwood and Rush broke up the meat battle with ladder shots to their backs. As Bill and King collapsed out of their way, Harwood and Rush drove their ladders into each other. Dax got the better of the exchange. He rested the ladder on his shoulders and spun into a number of wrestlers before being toppled by Dralistico flying in from the top rope. Dralistico began to climb, but was immediately pulled down by Wheeler. Dralistico hit him with a step-over spin kick. He moved the ladder into better position. He nearly had fingertips on the titles, but Wheeler kicked the ladder out from underneath him.

Cash’s advantage was short-lived. Rush pounced on him, smothering him in the corner with quick shots. He laid out to pose in the center, then gave Cash a big chop. Both men hit the ropes. Wheeler caught Rush with a spinning Powerslam. Cash set up a ladder at 8:30. Black flew in with a forearm to the knee. Malakai moved the ladder out of the way. He and Wheeler traded chops. Cash tossed Black into the prone ladder propped against the ropes. He charged again, but Black used the ropes to slingshot the ladder right into Wheeler’s face. Malakai propped the ladder vertically underneath the bottom rope. He laid Wheeler on it, then ascended the turnbuckle. Dax cut him off. Brody King came in from behind, chopped Harwood repeatedly, then tossed him to the floor. Wheeler stood and knocked Brody to the outside. Cash and Black teetered on the turnbuckle over the propped ladder. Wheeler gave Black a low blow.Cash delivered a piledriver to Black off the turnbuckle, onto the ladder below.

The camera pulled back to show the carnage as the match ticked toward 11:30. Brody King had the ring to himself. He tried to dive through the middle rope onto Big Bill, but the latter hoisted a ladder at the last moment. King collided with the steel. Back in the ring, Ricky Starks caught both Dralistico and Rush with a Spear. He gave Cash a back elbow, then climbed to the top rope, delivering a Famous axe handle to both members of FTR. Brody King was shown slumped against the apron, bleeding. Malakai Black and Ricky Starks traded punches in the center. Black caught him with a back elbow. Starks shrugged it off and gave Black a release overhead Belly-to-Belly onto the propped ladder. Brody King returned and back-dropped Harwood onto the same ladder.

Wheeler remained laid out on the rungs. King reared back and hit a rolling Cannonball onto Cash. Wheeler rolled to the outside. Brody set up a ladder and began to climb. Big Bill returned, lifting the ladder from it’s bottom rung. He dumped King onto the very popular propped ladder. Dralistico returned to the fray, attacking Big Bill with speed. Bill shrugged him off and gave him a Chokeslam. Rush cornered Big Bill with a ladder and trapped him there. He gave Bill the Bull’s Horns with the ladder. Rush pointed to the crowd, then began to climb a ladder. Starks rushed in to climb the opposite side. The two traded punches and chops near the top.

Dax set up a second, taller ladder. He and Big Bill began to climb it. Cash Wheeler set up a third ladder. He and Dralistico shared that one. Starks and Rush were knocked off first. Brody King entered and dumped Cash and Big Bill. He gave Harwood a backdrop off the ladder. Malakai Black pulled Dralistico onto his shoulders, but the LFI member countered with a Poison-rana. Dralistico tried to kick Brody on the apron, but King blocked it. He schooped Dralistico into the air and walked off the apron onto the bridged ladder between the ring and crowd barrier, delivering a Gonzo Bomb. Both men crashed to the floor awkwardly. The ladder bent under the weight.

FTR put the ladder back into position and laid Brody King onto it. Cash Wheeler climbed to the top turnbuckle and delivered a splash onto Brody King and the ladder below. Back in the ring, Dax Harwood and Ricky Starks traded punches atop the lone ladder in the center. Malakai Black pulled Dax down and gave him Black Mass. Big Bill held onto Ricky and prevented him from falling. Wheeler exploded into the ring and knocked Black to the outside. No one noticed Starks still perched on the ladder. He pulled down the Tag Team titles.

WINNERS: Ricky Starks & Big Bill in 20:09 to retain the AEW World Tag Team Championships

(LeClair’s Analysis: Taz said it best -this was intense and physical. These kinds of matches certainly have a formula, and this one more or less followed it. Nevertheless, it was an entertaining car-crash from start to finish, and it didn’t feel gratuitous or like overkill, because the previous matches on the card were tame in comparison. That’s not something you can always say about hardcore matches on AEW Pay-Per-Views. This certainly felt like a showcase for Brody King and Big Bill. Both men got a plethora of big spots. King, in particular, looked like a monster. He caught a nasty gash during his ladder dive to the outside, and the blood mixing in with his face paint made him look killer. I didn’t think they’d done enough build to his match to warrant changing the titles this quickly, and Starks and Bill have been effective. It felt like the right move to have them retain here, and Starks outlasting his opponents with clever help from his heavy worked well.)

-After a promo video for World’s End, Excalibur turned focus to the TBS Championship match.

Julia Hart was out first. Skye Blue followed with darker gear, and a thorny crown in place of her usual backwards hat. Kris Statlander was last out to a decent reaction.

(5) KRIS STATLANDER (c) vs. JULIA HART vs. SKYE BLUE – Three-Way match for the TBS Championship

All three women stood in their respective corners as the match kicked off. Julia Hart and Skye Blue briefly seemed to form an alliance to ward off the champion, but Statlander overpowered them both with relatively ease. Hart got tossed into the corner, landing in tree of woe position. Sky Blue slid in below her. The two engaged in an eerie stare-down. Statlander emerged to take it to Skye Blue. She worked her into the ropes, but Hart returned to kick Statlander to the outside. She climbed out onto the apron and dove onto the champion.

Skye Blue followed Hart to the apron. She gave Statlander a leaping ‘rana on the floor. Hart and Blue teamed up, trying to Suplex Statlander on the floor. The champion countered and delivered the move to both of them instead. She rolled her challengers back in the ring. They caught her with tandem Superkicks as the match crossed 3:30. Hart and Blue slowly stepped toward each other in the center. Skye offered her hand. Julia accepted. She pinched her cheeks, then gave her a forearm to the face. Hart downed Blue and mounted her for a series of punches. Blue recovered quickly, took Hart down by the hair, and mounted her for punches of her own. McGuinness noted that it was the mist from Julia Hart that made Blue so aggressive in the first place.

Kris Statlander rejoined the fold, delivering a back suplex to Skye. She tossed Hart into the corner, then threw Blue into her. Statlander delivered a Samoan Drop to Blue and covered her, but Hart broke it up with a Senton just past 5:30. Hart tried to grab a hold on Blue, but Skye rolled her up for a two count. She gave Statlander a spinning neckbreaker, but immediately got caught with a kick from Julia Hart. All three women were down.

Skye Blue and Julia Hart were first to their feet. Hart rolled out of the corner with a leaping lariat on Kris Statlander as she stood. Blue positioned Julia on the top turnbuckle, then gave her a kick. She tried to pull her off in Powerbomb position, but Hart slid free. She stumbled right into a kick from the champion. Skye Blue dove at Kris, but Statlander caught her, spun her around on her shoulders and slammed her face-first into the mat. Kris dragged Skye toward the corner and began climbing the turnbuckle. Julia Hart grabbed her by the hair and ripped her down to the floor. Skye tried to stand, but Hart gave her a mule kick to keep her down. Hart delivered a Moonsault from the top turnbuckle. She stack covered her, but Statlander pulled Hart to the floor to break it up.

Statlander and Hart came face-to-face on the outside. Kris gave Julia a Powerslam. She slid back in the ring and ate a quick from Blue. Skye climbed Kris’ midsection, but the champion turned her over in Tombstone position. Blue fought out of it. She hit the ropes and delivered Code Blue for a near fall. Julia Hart returned and Clotheslined Statlander from behind. She applied the Hartless Lock on Blue. Statlander pulled her off with a deadlift German Suplex. She gave one to Skye Blue, too. Kris delivered one more to each challenger.

The champion went for a roundhouse kick on Skye Blue, but Blue rolled her into a cover for two. Statlander spun Blue up and into the Saturday Night Fever. She hooked the legs, but Hart exploded in with a clothesline to Statlander. She stole Kris’ cover on Blue for a three count.

WINNER: Julia Hart in 11:21 to win the TBS Championship

(LeClair’s Analysis: This was a fun match, and I’d rank it above the Women’s World title match earlier in the night. I thought Hart and Blue had some cool moments playing off each other, leaning into Blue’s transformation on the back of the mist. There were some creative spots littered throughout, and some impressive power moments for Kris Statlander. I’m not a huge fan of stolen finishes like this in general, but I thought it worked well enough here and fit in with Julia Hart’s presentation. I know that they were protecting Statlander last month, and, by extension, tonight, but I still think they should’ve pulled the trigger on Hart last month. She’s been exceptional, and one of the more consistently over acts in the women’s division. They’ve struggled so mightily getting that division to feel relevant, I just think its important to have the titles on your most over acts. Better late than never.)

-Tony Schiavone was in the ring to introduce the newest member of the AEW roster. Will Ospreay’s music hit and he headed to the ring to a very strong reaction. Excalibur said every title picture in AEW becomes much more complex with Ospreay in the picture full-time.

Schiavone handed a contract and pen to Ospreay. He signed it and said he’s happy to be part of the team. Ospreay said he’s not coming in just yet. He said he’s going to finish up his duties in NJPW before joining the road to Revolution. “I am All Elite, bruv!” he said. Ospreay told Tony Khan to line up the best he’s got, especially for Wembley Stadium. Will said he’s about to show everyone what elite really looks like.

(LeClair’s Analysis: No doubt it’s a big get, and a great addition to AEW’s main event scene, but it’s hard to feel like this was particularly groundbreaking given the number of times Ospreay has already worked for the company. The crowd was undoubtedly excited to see him, though.)

-Excalibur tossed to a quick promo for the Texas Death match.

Prince Nana emerged from the curtain first, surrounded by dancers. He led them through his usual dance routine, then stepped aside to reveal Swerve Strickland hidden behind him. Strickland sauntered to the ring, all business. Nana let the crowd with multiple asks of, “who’s house?”

Suddenly, “Hangman” Adam Page rushed to the ring, sans music. He leapt into the ring.

(6) SWERVE STRICKLAND (w/ Prince Nana) vs. “HANGMAN” ADAM PAGE – Texas Death match

The referee immediately rang the bell. Hangman Adam Page dropped Swerve Strickland. He leapt to the apron and danced with anticipation. Page hit the Buckshot Lariat right out of the gate. Strickland rolled to the outside. Excalibur noted that the match can only end by knock out. Swerve writhed on the floor, but Page gave him no quarter. He slid to the outside and tossed him into the barrier. He walked him around ringside and tossed him back into the ring.

Page retrieved a steel chair, then a roll of duct tape. Hangman tossed the steel chair and it cracked Strickland in the head. He pulled a long strip of duct tape and tied up Swerve’s wrists. Nana tried to beg him off, but Page persisted. He pulled out a staple gun. Hangman stapled Swerve’s chest twice. Strickland screamed, stumbling around ringside. Hangman retrieved a sheet of paper from the timekeeper’s area and stapled it to Swerve’s arm. He rolled him back in the ring and sized him up with the steel chair. He drove the head of the chair into the side of Swerve’s head.

Referee Paul Turner began his first count of the match. Swerve rose after about four. He was bleeding from the head. Page put a couple staples into the wound. He dropped to the mat with Swerve keeled over above him. Page let Strickland’s blood drip onto his face and into his open mouth. The crowd gasped. Page posed on the top rope, crazed. He retrieved a run of barbed wire and approached Strickland. Swerve managed to create some separation for the first time by kicking Page below the belt. With Hangman incapacitated, Prince Nana finally intervened, cutting Swerve’s hands free.

Hangman came at Swerve with the staple gun again. He continued to fire it off, but Strickland shrugged it off. Blood was pouring profusely from his head. He knocked Hangman to the mat and picked up the staple gun. Swerve began stapling his own chest, laughing. He took a barbed wire covered chair and propped it in between the middle and top turnbuckles, then tossed Hangman into it. Swerve retrieved the run of free barbed wire and wrapped it around Page’s forehead. Now Adam was bleeding, too.

With Page down in the ring, Strickland searched underneath the apron for more weapons as the match crossed 8:30. He came up with a cinder block. Strickland returned to the apron, but was met with punches from Adam Page. He leapt off the middle rope for a lariat, but Swerve blocked it. He dragged Page out to the apron with him. The two traded blows. Strickland bit Page, then delivered a driver right onto the cinder block. Turner began his count. Page answered it at five. Strickland’s face, chest, and hands were covered in blood. He had to keep wiping it from his eyes. He climbed onto the ringside barrier and pulled Page up with him. He give him a perfectly placed Piledriver right on the point of the guardrail.

Prince Nana gave Strickland a bottle of water to try to thin the blood on his face. Page crawled around on the ringside mat, now dripping blood too. Paul Turner checked on the cut. Strickland dragged him back in the ring. Swerve gave Page a pointed slap to the face. Hangman fired off with a bunch of rights. Both men looked out on their feet. Swerve gave Adam a boot. Page ricocheted back and delivered a Fallaway Slam, but couldn’t complete his signature kip up. Swerve retrieved the barbed wire. He charged, but Hangman gave him another Fallaway Slam. The ring mat was covered in blood.

Swerve used the ropes to pull himself up. He darted toward Page, but Hangman cut him off with barbed wire to the face. He wrapped the wire around Swerve’s arms and upper body, then gave him a body slam. Strickland rolled to the outside, trying to free himself without cutting his hands up. Page climbed to the top turnbuckle as the match crossed 15:00. He carried the barbed wire wrapped steel chair with him. Page delivered a Moonsault off the top, with the chair, onto Swerve. The barbed wire caught Strickland badly in the arms. He kicked the mat in agony. Page tossed him in the ring. He wiped his eyes clean, then kicked Prince Nana away. Page went for the second Buckshot Lariat of the match, but Strickland blocked it. Hangman grabbed the barbed wire chair. He charged. Swerve kicked it back in his face.

Strickland set his rival up for a Tombstone onto the barbed wire chair. Page flipped through it and delivered one of his own. Hangman used the corner to stand. Paul Turner counted Strickland to nine, but he managed to stand. He leaned against the ropes to prevent from collapsing. Page cracked the wired chair across his back. He hoisted Swerve onto the top turnbuckle and set him up for an Avalanche Deadeye onto the chair. Swerve slid free. He hit Hangman in the back with the wired chair. A piece of the barbed wire got caught in Page’s hair and nearly ripped a chunk of it out. He screamed loudly. Strickland gave him a Powerbomb on the chair, then a double stomp. Page’s back melted into the steel.

Both men were down at the count of six. Hangman was first to answer at six, but he slipped in blood and fell back down. Strickland rose at seven and grabbed the chair again. He hit Page in the back. Swerve left the ring and retrieved a small black bag as the match crossed 20:00. Taz presumed the bag held thumbtacks. Instead, Swerve dumped broken glass shards all over Hangman’s back. He delivered a 450 Splash from the top onto the glass-covered Hangman. Swerve followed up with a JML Driver. The referee got to a count of nine; Hangman stood just before ten. Swerve clotheslined Page to the outside, falling to the floor with him.

Nana helped Swerve retrieve a barbed wire board from underneath the ring. Strickland used two chairs to prop the board up in the center of the ring. He climbed to the top turnbuckle and dragged Hangman Page with him. Page caught Strickland with a couple of elbows and managed to turn himself around to face his opponent. He bit Strickland’s forehead. Page gave Strickland a flipping Fallaway Slam off the top, through the barbed wire board. He immediately rose to his feet and kicked Swerve in the face, then hoisted him up and delivered a Deadeye on the remains of the board. Page was beside himself as Strickland began to stir.

Hangman wrapped barbed wire around the head and neck of Swerve Strickland as the match crossed 24:00. He climbed out onto the apron and waited Swerve to stumble into position. Hangman delivered a Buckshot Lariat. Swerve was out. At the count of nine, Prince Nana pulled Swerve out of the ring and pushed his body toward the barrier, forcing him onto his feet. Swerve stumbled an fell back down, but the count had been broken.

Suddenly, Brian Cage hit the ring and attacked Hangman Page from behind. He gave Page a Powerbomb. Cage and Nana set up a pair of tables at ringside. Cage returned to the ring to deliver another Powerbomb. This time, Page had barbed wire wrapped around his fist. He hit Cage in the face with it repeatedly. Prince Nana slid in the ring with a chair and tried to hit Page. Hangman grabbed him by the collar and dragged him onto the apron. Nana, in a last ditch effort, tried to dance himself out of danger. Hangman gave him a Deadeye off the apron, through the two tables.

Just as Hangman began to stir from the rubble, Strickland came in and hit Page in the back of the head with the cinder block. It shattered on impact. Hangman wasn’t moving. Paul Turner began his count, but Strickland wasn’t satisfied. He got a steel chain and wrapped it around Page’s throat. He tossed the other end up over the ring post and pulled, dragging Page to his feet and choking him. Hangman tried to stir at nine, but couldn’t get a base. Swerve collapsed as soon as Turner counted to ten.

WINNER: Swerve Strickland in 29:47

(LeClair’s Analysis: A brutally violent affair, perhaps unbecoming of the rivalry itself. Nigel McGuinness said it was the most brutal in company history, and I don’t think that’s hyperbolic to say. The sheer amount of blood both Strickland and Page lost throughout the course of these 29+ wild minutes was staggering. There were times where the audience even seemed uncomfortable. Though I think I ultimately enjoyed their first encounter more, I can’t deny that this was an entertaining, albeit, at times, uncomfortable watch. These two have a ton of chemistry together, and Hangman has done Swerve some significant favors throughout the course of this feud. I think this was varied enough to stand out against the car crash ladder match earlier in the night, but in general, I’d like to see AEW stick to one of these weapon-laded brawls per show to maximize impact. If I had one complaint, it’d be the late arrival of Brian Cage. Being that Strickland is a shameless heel looking to win at all costs, you’d think he’d have employed Cage earlier, given that he theoretically could’ve saved himself some punishment. Overall, a relatively small critique.)

-Excalibur reiterated the status of the main event.

-Chris Jericho headed to the ring for his tag team match. The crowd sang along to “Judas”, as usual. Kenny Omega followed to a strong reaction. Don Callis had joined the crew on commentary.


Kenny Omega began the match with Nick Jackson. Excalibur talked up the history between Omega and the Bucks. Don Callis said Omega has lost his way without him at the helm, guiding his choices. Nick and Kenny exchanged some quick lock ups and chain holds. Omega knocked Jackson to the mat, then helped him up. They slapped hands. Omega tagged in Chris Jericho. Nick tagged in Matt Jackson.

Jericho looked to the crowd for support, and they delivered. Matt Jackson circled the ring before locking up with the veteran. Jericho worked over the arm, but Matt flipped through it with relative ease. He swiveled his hips to some mild boos. Jericho chopped Matt into his corner. Kenny reached over the ropes and tagged himself in. This seemed to annoy Jericho a bit. The two had a brief discussion. Omega and Matt teased a test of the strength, but Matt delivered a kick to the cut. He tossed Omega to the corner and charged. Kenny rolled out. Nick jumped in. Kenny tossed him to the outside and tagged in Jericho. Nick pulled Jericho off the apron. Omega initiated the Terminator clap, then dove onto Matt Jackson.

Nick Jackson returned to the ring and got knocked back outside by Jericho. “The Ocho” gave Nick a baseball slide. Matt pulled Jericho out of the ring and sandwiched his arm in between the ring post and steel steps. Nick gave the steps a kick, crushing Chris’ arm against the steel. He tossed him back inside as the match crossed 5:00. The Bucks began trading tags while working over Jericho’s now-injured arm. Excalibur noted that Matt and Nick are working to take away the Judas Effect. Jericho was bleeding from the elbow.

Chris managed to catch Matt with a clothesline, but he immediately winced in pain, trying to shake out the arm. The slow-down allowed Nick and Matt and toss Jericho to the outside and take back control. Matt slammed Jericho’s arm against the ringside barrier repeatedly before returning him to his brother in the ring. Nick downed Jericho in the corner while Matt posed to the crowd. They booed loudly. Taz chuckled, saying he’d never thought he’d hear the Bucks get booed in Los Angeles.

The Bucks worked Jericho into their corner. Chris managed to boot himself out and dive toward Omega for a tag. Nick Jackson stuck out his hand, begging of Kenny. Omega dropped him with a leaping clothesline. He delivered Enziguris to both Nick and Matt, then gave Matt a Snap Dragon Suplex. He sat Nick on the middle rope, then hoisted Matt onto his shoulders. He hit the rolling Fireman’s Carry on Matt and a Backstabber on Nick. Both Bucks rolled to the outside. Kenny leapt onto both of them with a middle-rope Moonsault. He rolled Nick back into the ring.

Kenny dove off the top with a cross body onto Nick Jackson. Nick rolled through it into a cover for a two count at 9:30. Omega tagged in Jericho. Chris hit the Lionsault on both Matt and Nick Jackson. He tried to roll Matt over into the Walls of Jericho, but Jackson blocked it. Chris turned his attention to Nick Jackson, who caught him from the apron. Jericho turned into a leaping arm bar from Matt. Jackson tried to turn Jericho over into the Walls, but Chris turned it into a roll up for two, broken up by Nick.

Omega returned to the ring, tacking down Nick. Matt pushed Omega into Jericho, causing them to crack heads. He rolled up Jericho for a two count. Chris tripped Matt up and turned him over into the Walls of Jericho. Nick tried to leap off the top rope to break it up, but Omega ripped him to the floor. Jericho began settling into the hold, but he lost grip with the injured arm. Matt used his now free leg to kick Jericho, breaking the hold at 12:20. Jericho and Matt traded rights from their knees. They rose slowly, continuing the back-and-forth. Matt sidestepped Jericho, who vaulted onto the apron. he climbed to the top rope and leapt. Matt caught him. Omega ran in it. Matt grabbed him, too, and hit a double Northern Lights Suplex.

Omega rolled to the apron. Nick Jackson leapt up and gave him a German Suplex on the edge of the ring. Inside, Matt hung Jericho up on the middle rope. Nick dove in with a Senton on the top rope, folding Jericho. Matt covered for a near fall, broken up just in time by Kenny Omega. Matt ascended the turnbuckle. Jericho tripped him up by throwing himself toward the ropes. He rose to meet him. Jericho top-mounted Matt and delivered a series of punches with his left hand. He gave Matt the top-rope ‘rana. Aubrey Edwards went to check on Matt. Nick gave Jericho a low blow. Omega saw it. He questioned Nick. Aubrey tried to restore order. Matt distracted her. Nick gave Kenny a low blow, too.

Nick tagged in. He gave Jericho a Judas Effect for a cover and near fall. Kenny saved it at the last moment. The Bucks set Jericho up and delivered the BTE Trigger. Matt, now legal, covered, but Jericho kicked out at the last moment just before 17:00. Matt set Jericho up for the Meltzer Driver. Omega pulled Nick off the apron. Nick caught Jericho with a Superkick. Chris delivered one of his own. He gave Nick a low blow, out of Aubrey’s sight. Jericho tagged in Omega.

Both Nick Jackson and Chris Jericho were laid out against the ropes on opposite sides of the ring. Kenny called for the V-Trigger. He pointed to Jericho instead of Jackson. He hit the ropes, feigning a turn on Chris. Instead, he ran past him and connected with Nick. Matt returned to the ring and gave Omega a One-Winged Angel. He covered for a near fall. The Bucks set up for the Meltzer Driver a second time. Nick dove, but Jericho picked him out of thin air with a Codebreaker. Kenny got Matt up for a One-Winged Angel. Matt punched himself free. Omega gave him a German Suplex. He set Matt up for the V-Trigger, but Nick caught him with a Superkick. Jericho gave Nick a Judas Effect with his left arm. Matt hit Jericho with a Superkick. He held onto his arm, looking to hit it again. Omega re-emerged and pulled Matt into a ripcord knee. He followed it up with a One-Winged Angel for a cover and three count.

WINNERS: Kenny Omega & Chris Jericho in 20:52

(LeClair’s Analysis: Good match, though I think they could’ve shaved a few minutes off this one. Omega and Jericho have been so engrossed in this story with the Don Callis family that a sudden friendly affair with the Young Bucks felt like it sort of out of left field. As I said during my appearance on the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Post-Show this past Wednesday, it felt like maybe this should’ve been the Dynamite match, while Omega and Jericho faced members of the Callis family on Pay-Per-View. Instead, this served as a bit of a come down between the insane Texas Death match and the main event. I do like the fact the Bucks appear to be moving full-on into a heel role. Not only did they work the match as heels, but their post-match tantrum more or less clued us in on the direction this is headed. The Bucks’ act seems to have become a bit tiresome to the crowd, and hopefully they can turn some of that negative energy into a fun run opposite Omega for once. In the mean time, Jericho and Omega facing off with Starks and Big Bill for the tag titles seems like a strong TV main event for the weeks ahead.)

-Excalibur, Tax, and Nigel McGuinness turned focus to the main event. The recapped the turn of events and sent the broadcast to Justin Roberts for introductions.

Adam Cole headed to the ring, still in street clothes, wearing a boot and walking with crutches. He did a modified “Adam Cole BayBay” taunt while leaning on the ropes. Jay White headed to the ring, flanked by the Gunns. He mocked Cole all the way to the ring. White still had the AEW title slung over his shoulder. Justin Roberts provided Championship match introductions. White handed the title over to Bryce Remsburg.

White continued to toy with Cole, laying down to invite a cover, then hopping around on one leg. Remsburg backed White to his corner. Suddenly, a siren filled the arena. The camera cut to the loading bay, where an ambulance was driving up. MJF was behind the wheel. He limped out of the driver’s seat, quad heavily taped. The champion’s music hit and he stumbled to the ring, followed by a cavalcade of trainers and officials, trying to talk him out of it. MJF entered the ring and shared a hug with Adam Cole before waving him off.

(8) MJF (c) vs. JAY WHITE – AEW World Heavyweight Championship match

Jay White slid around the ring with a smile on his face. He stalked the World Champion, sensing blood in the water. MJF gave him a quick right-handed jab to the face. Just the effort of the punch brought MJF to a knee. White pounced, picking the injured leg of MJF and torquing it. He tossed MJF to the corner and spun him out by the leg. Max screamed in agony. White tossed MJF to the outside and grabbed the referee’s attention. The Gunns beat down MJF on the outside, then tossed him in the ring and turned their backs just as Remsburg returned to focus.

The challenger tossed Max to the outside again, diverting Bryce’s attention for a second time. The Gunns tried to attack, but this time, MJF fought them off with punches. Austin and Colton managed overwhelm the champion. The grabbed a steel chair. Just as they were about to use it on Max’s injured leg, Remsburg turned around. He ejected the Gunns. The crowd serenaded them to the back. White rolled to the outside and got in Adam Cole’s face, trying to get him to act. he pulled back a fist and feigned punching Cole in the face. Instead, he turned back to pick up where the Gunns left off. He kicked at MJF a little more, then tossed him back in the ring. White continued to jaw at Cole. In the meantime, MJF rose to his feet.

MJF caught his challenger with a couple of punches. He challenged Jay to hit him. White obliged, dropping Max to a knee again. He toughed it out, holding onto his injured quad with one hand and firing off punches with the other., Max worked White into the corner and mounted him, delivering nine punches followed by his signature forehead bite as the match ticked toward 6:30. The champion called for the Kangaroo Kick and delivered it. He kipped up, immediately dropping to a knee while massaging the injured quad. “Do a dive!” Cole yelled from the outside. Max looked ready to honor the request, but White slid back in the ring and kicked Max with pinpoint accuracy right in the center of the bandage.

Downed in the corner, MJF continued to writhe in pain. Jay White delivered a few quick chops, then whipped the champion across the ring. Max collapsed halfway there. The challenger mocked his opponent. He dragged him to his feet and delivered a Uranagi. Max was virtually dead weight. White stomped on him. He pulled him up by the hair and grabbed a Sleeper. MJF used his body weight to back White toward the ropes. He delivered some quick elbows. White still managed to dump him to the outside. Jay took his time, stalking his prey. Max recovered well enough to block White’s offense and slam his head off the edge of the ring. MJF tore the topper off the announcers desk and began clearing it off. He tossed White onto it. The desk immediately collapsed.

White was laid out in a heap on the broken desk. MJF still decided to climb to the top turnbuckle. He steadied himself, then delivered a massive elbow drop off the top, onto White. The impact was violent. McGuinness astutely noted that the table would’ve at least helped to break some of MJF’s fall. Both champion and challenger were laid out on the floor. Referee Bryce Remsburg began to count them out. Max screamed in White’s face as the match crossed 14:00. Both men stood at seven and returned to the ring at eight. Remsburg checked on MJF. “I’m f—in’ good,” he said. Just as Max was about to climb back in the ring, White popped to his feet and grabbed his leg. He gave MJF a Dragon Screw.

A hushed murmur fell over the crowd as Jay White flipped Max into Tree of Woe position in the corner. White climbed over him, but the champion managed to recoil up and slam White to the mat. Jay was undeterred, he worked MJF back to the top turnbuckle and delivered an avalanche Uranagi for a cover and near fall at 16:45. “It’s just a matter of time before MJF loses his title now,” Taz concluded. He argued with Excalibur, saying the injury is simply too much. White continued to control the pace. He chopped MJF repeatedly. Max asked for more. White gave him a thumb to the eye. He hit the ropes. Max threw a kick, but White caught it. MJF returned the favor with a thumb to the eye of his own. Both men squinted through a pair of counters before White managed to hit a release German Suplex.

Both White and MJF managed a pair of roll ups for two counts. On the last, MJF’s leg buckled. It allowed White to scoop him up. Max managed to slide free and turn White over for a Tombstone Piledriver. The two retreated to opposite corners. White rose first, charging the champion. MJF caught him with a weak back elbow, then a double stomp to the arm off the middle rope. He immediately clutched the leg. White charged. MJF tossed him to the apron. He went for a Heatseeker, but Jay shoved him away. White, still poised on the apron, challenged Max from across the ring. MJF got a running start, dove over the ropes and hooked White. He pulled him to the floor with a huge Cutter.

At the count of six, MJF used the steel steps to steady himself. Adam Cole gave him some words of encouragement. The champion rolled his challenger back in the ring and covered him for a two count at 22:05. Max pulled down his knee pad and rolled up the bandages. He gave his knee a few good slaps, trying to wake it up. He stood, but the leg instantly gave out on him. He tried a second time, succeeding momentarily. Max collapsed again. Remsburg called over the doctor. MJF waved him off. He slammed the mat, willing the crowd to life.

Jay White beat MJF to his feet. He grabbed the injured leg and gave him another violent Dragon Screw. White twisted MJF’s legs, setting up for the Figure Four. Before locking it in, he turned to Adam Cole and spit in his direction. White threw his body to the mat. MJF immediately let out a scream. Adam Cole pulled out a yellow towel, preparing to throw it in the ring. MJF shook his head, screaming no. Cole looked agonized. MJF tried desperately to turn the hold over. He finally did. White screamed from the reversed pressure. He tried to use the referee’s shirt to pull himself closer to the ropes. Cole slapped the mat, willing the crowd. White finally managed to drape a wrist over the bottom rope.

Adam Cole grabbed his ROH Tag Team title and prepared to swing it at White. Jay wrestled it away from Cole. He spun around and clocked MJF in the head with it. Remsburg didn’t see. White covered for a very close near fall just before 27:30. The crowd broke in to a brief, but strong “MJF” chant. White continued to work at Max’s leg. MJF kicked him with the good one. White collided with the referee. Max looked to Adam, who laid out the Dynamite Diamond Ring for him. MJF went to retrieve it, but White dropped him with another Dragon Screw. It was White, instead, who retrieved the ring. He put it on while staring Cole in the eyes. White kissed the ring and swung, but MJF delivered a perfectly-timed low blow.

Max regained possession of the ring. The Gunns returned. MJF dropped them both with ring shots. White hooked Max for a Blade Runner, but he slipped free. He spun around and clocked White with the ring, falling on top of him. Max hooked the leg. Remsburg slowly came to and counted to three.

WINNER: MJF in 29:43 to retain the AEW World Heavyweight Championship

(LeClair’s Analysis: A lot to unpack here. Let’s start with with the angle. I thought the decision to end the pre-show with a massive beatdown of MJF and a cliffhanger regarding the status of his title defense was a curious and bold decision. I think the intended hook here was that, for people on the fence, the curiosity of the situation would push them over the edge and lead to some additional buys. That’s a calculated risk, though, because you’re assuming that those audience members aren’t now going to be turned off by the idea that they may not get their advertised main event, or may get a greatly handicapped version of it. I also wonder if part of them believed they hadn’t developed a strong enough feud between MJF and Jay White, and injecting a level of uncertainty into it’s status would cause people to speculate something bigger may be afoot.

Then came the announcement, and confirmation, that Adam Cole would be replacing MJF in the World Championship match. Huh? First of all, I don’t love that they’ve established a precedent in recent weeks that wrestlers can serve as proxies for someone else. Why was Samoa Joe allowed to compete for Adam Cole, but not become ROH Tag Team Champion himself when he won? Why is Adam Cole allowed to step in for MJF and defend the World title? Why could Adam Cole be medically cleared to wrestle in the main event, but not to defend his tag title earlier in the night? The answer to all of this, of course, is “because it’s wrestling.” I just don’t think that’s good enough.

By the time the match rolls around, we’re led into a last second swerve where MJF shows up triumphantly, having stolen an ambulance. I think that’s a dumb spot, but it’s been done countless times and I can live with it. What I can’t really get behind, though, is MJF limping to the ring with a dozen officials at his heels, begging him not to wrestle. Where were those people when it came to Adam Cole – in a walking boot and crutches, deciding to do the same thing? Furthermore, where were those people when MJF was being mercilessly attacked on the pre-show? Surely, Tony Khan was watching. Surely, he has a vested interest in his World Champion staying healthy when he’s due to compete in the main event of a Pay-Per-View mere hours later. None of this stands up to logic. It’s overwrought and flat out dumb.

Let’s get to the match. If we set aside the ridiculous angle and everything it took to get here, I thought the meat and potatoes of this thing was quite good. MJF played a great babyface in peril. He sold the leg injury exceptionally well, save for the moments when he just had to spring to life for some major offense. Adam Cole provided plenty of emotional depth from ringside, and he had plenty of moments of plausible deniability that can be conveniently used if/when they pull the trigger on a split and turn. More than anything else, it felt like this was AEW’s take on WWE’s tried-and-true main event formula – slow and plodding build, sell an injury established either before or during the match, keep the babyface in ultimate peril, and have him overcome the odds at any and all costs. For Max, it was a great audition to show he can work that style. If, in fact, the bidding war of 2024 has any legitimacy, I’d think the higher-ups in Stamford would be pleased with what they saw here.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t such a good night for Jay White. In addition to feeling like an afterthought to the intricacies of MJF’s story, White felt more like a baddie of the month than a big-time act on the cusp of a World Championship. He beat MJF mercilessly for thirty minutes. He spit at Adam Cole. He did all the cowardly things you’d expect a heel to do, and had every advantage in the world coming in. And it meant nothing. Not only did he lose, he lost to a guy on one leg after copious interference and the use of title belts and low blows and eye rakes and diamond rings. He can note the fact that MJF used all the same tricks to defeat him, but it doesn’t change the notion that he went thirty minutes with a one-legged man and lost. My guess is AEW’s argument would be that, going thirty minutes with the champ was enough to protect White to some extent, but I’m of the belief that it does just the opposite. It paints White as a loser who gained an advantage of near comical proportions and still came up short. He’s going to need a whole lot of rehabilitation coming out of this.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: It’s pretty easy to give a show like this a thumbs up, and to recommend you go out of your way to at least watch Strickland vs. Page, which felt like a coming out party and career catapulting performance for the former, and dominant re-establishment as a top guy for the latter. Even with an asterisk denoting the level of gratuitous violence and brutality, I think it’s worth wincing through in respect to the gutsy performances of both guys. I was also impressed with what I found to be a significant change to a minor detail I’ve been harping on with AEW since their inception – breathable resets. You may have missed it, but they hung around on post-match celebrations decidedly longer tonight. They cut to the back for brief promo segments. They altered their presentation ever so slightly to give moments room to breathe, and it made a world of difference. To me, the show felt just a little less hectic and chaotic as a result, and that’s a huge plus. Significant complaint about the illogical angle setting up the main event aside, I thought this was a strong outing up and down the card.

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