LECLAIR’S AEW DYNASTY 2024 REPORT: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Joe vs. Strickland, Ospreay vs. Danielson, Young Bucks vs. FTR, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor


APRIL 21, 2024

Announcers: Excalibur & Tony Schiavone & Taz & Jim Ross & Nigel McGuinness

-A narrated intro video hyped the night’s major matches.

-Fireworks exploded from the stage as Excalibur delivered his signature “it’s Sunday…” line. He welcomed Taz and Jim Ross to the announce desk, then quickly threw to the ring.

-Justin Roberts introduced the first match, for the AEW Continental Championship.

Jim Ross talked about Pac’s merits before Excalibur tossed quickly to Renee Paquette, standing at the ramp. She shared words she had with both Pac and Kazuchika Okada earlier in the day. Okada entered to a strong ovation. An “Okada” chant broke out immediately. J.R. mentioned seeing Okada for the first time at Wrestle Kingdom 9.

(1) KAZUCHIKA OKADA (c) vs. PAC – AEW Continental Championship match

Pac looked on stoically as Kazuchika Okada removed his robe and settled in. The crowd gave both men a standing ovation before the wrestlers locked up. Pac got the better of the initial exchange, working Okada to the mat and giving him a couple of quick slaps to the face. Champion and challenger traded standing switches. Okada took Pac down with a drop toe hold, but Pac worked his way back to his feet. The two began working over each other’s arms. Pac used the ropes to flip his arm straight, then he took down Okada with a side headlock takeover.

The challenger settled into the hold as the match crossed 2:30. Taz said Pac is keeping his weight on Okada’s throat and chest, forcing exhaustion. Kazuchika worked his way to his feet and tossed Pac toward the ropes. Pac slid to the outside and motioned for Okada to come to him. Okada looked for a baseball slide, but Pac sidestepped. Both men slid back in the ring. Pac took Okada down with a ‘rana, then flipped over the top rope onto Okada on the floor. Pac threw his arms out to a smattering of respectful applause from the crowd. He talked some trash to the champion before slamming him into the ringside barricade.

Back in the ring, Pac situated Okada in the southeast corner of the ring and hoisted him to the top turnbuckle. He delivered a massive Superplex for a cover and two count. Pac talked a little trash to the camera before kicking the back of Okada’s head. “Champion, huh?” he said to him. Okada stumbled to the corner, then lifted Pac onto the apron. The Bastard caught Okada with a stiff kick. Okada popped to his feet and gave Pac a huge dropkick to the floor. Pac reached for the back of his calf after landing awkwardly. Kazuchika tossed Pac into the barricade, then walked him to the timekeeper’s area for another toss. J.R. said it was like “witnessing a car wreck on the interstate.”

Kazuchika returned Pac to the ring as the match crossed 7:00. He gave him a Snapmare, then a running kick to the head. Okada paused to stare at the fans. They cheered him. Okada mockingly kicked at Pac’s head. He challenged Pac to hit him. Pac delivered a trio of stiff forearms to the chest and neck. Okada gave a receipt, then hit another beautifully placed dropkick. “Nobody has a better dropkick than Okada,” J.R. exclaimed. Taz agreed. Pac rolled to the outside. Okada followed, draping his opponent’s legs on the barrier. He gave him a draping DDT. Kazuchika laughed as Pac’s body contorted uncomfortably.

Referee Paul Turner reached a count of 9 before Pac managed to slide in the ring. Okada was unbothered. He pulled Pac to his feet and gave him another spike DDT for a cover and near fall at 10:25. J.R. said Okada is living in New York City and loving American life. “The happier he gets, the more championships he’s going to win,” he said. Okada applied a seated rear chin lock on Pac. The Bastard managed to get to a knee, then his feet. He stumbled to the ropes and pulled the top one down, sending Okada tumbling to the floor. Pac leapt to the top rope and delivered a huge springboard Moonsault to the floor.

Excalibur noted that Pac may be dealing with a stinger as a result of multiple DDTs. Okada struggled to his feet at Turner’s eight count, sliding in the ring shortly thereafter. He was met with a pair of rights from his challenger. Pac continued to throw strikes, eventually hitting a bigger one off the ropes to topple the champion. Pac headed to the top turnbuckle in the northeast corner. He hit a big missile dropkick to a turning Okada for a cover and two count at 13:40. “That was not an emphatic kick out by the champion,” noted Excalibur. Pac hit a spin kick, then a straight one to the gut. He hit the ropes, but Okada dodged him and delivered an uppercut. The Rainmaker went for a German Suplex, but Pac landed on his feet. He tried one of his own. Okada landed on his feet, too. He gave Pac a shotgun dropkick into the corner.

“This is awesome!” the crowd declared as the camera pulled back and spun around the ringside area, both men struggling to their feet. Out of the corner, Okada caught Pac in position for an Alabama Slam and turned it into a neckbreaker over his knee. He covered for a two count, then gave Pac a body slam. Kazuchika climbed the southwest turnbuckles and delivered a leaping elbow drop. He called to the crowd, gearing up for a Rainmaker. At their fever pitch, he gave them the middle finger instead. Pac rolled Okada up for a close near fall. Okada immediately popped to his feet and caught Pac with a running back elbow.

Back to the center of the ring, Pac hit a quick Superkick and followed up with a clothesline to drop Okada. He gave him a dead lift German Suplex with a bridge for a near fall just after 18:00. Neither man was quick to his feet. Okada used the corner to steady himself. Pac dropped him with a big boot. He leapt to the top, steadying himself for the Black Arrow. Okada moved. Paul Turner began counting both men down. Okada stood at six and immediately gave Pac a Tombstone Piledriver. He dragged Pac to his feet, looking for the Rainmaker. Pac blocked it and rolled Okada up for two. Kazuchika looked for it a second time, again being countered into a roll up for two. Both men popped up. Okada looked for Heavy Rain. Pac held on and applied the Brutalizer from a standing position.

Fearing the end, Okada desperately raked Pac’s eyes to break the hold. Pac shrugged it off and gave Okada his own Tombstone Piledriver. He shot up the southeast turnbuckles, looking for the Black Arrow again. Okada grabbed onto the referee’s leg, blocking Pac’s path. Pac leapt down and stomped Okada out. He jumped back to the top and tried again. Okada got his knees up. He popped up and gave Pac a Rainmaker for a cover and three count.

WINNER: Kazuchika Okada in 21:54 to retain the AEW Continental Championship

“He’s our bastard!” the crowd serenaded Pac as he struggled leaving the ring, soaking in the loss.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Excellent opener. Okada struggled in the early going to steer the fans in the right direction – they were excited to see a star of his caliber and, while not necessarily emoting negativity toward Pac, showed clear favoritism to the Rainmaker. He did a wonderful job playing into fan’s expectations and then turning it on them for coax boos, even if only temporarily. This was Okada’s first chance to deliver the full Kazukchika Okada experience in AEW as a full-time, contracted wrestler and Pac was a great partner for it. The final stretch, in particular, hit a familiar and exciting gear that highlighted Okada’s heel character well and ensured that it played directly into the finish, protecting Pac while still presenting Okada as a big deal. Great stuff.)

-Excalibur tossed to a video package for the upcoming trios match.

House of Black was out first, washed in their usual darkness. Tony Schiavone had taken over for Jim Ross.

Eddie Kingston entered next, fired up and unafraid to step in the ring alone. Mark Briscoe wasn’t far behind. Adam Copeland entered last to a good reaction.

(2) HOUSE OF BLACK (Malakai Black & Brody King & Buddy Matthews) vs. ADAM COPELAND & EDDIE KINGSTON & MARK BRISCOE

Mark Briscoe volunteered to open the match for his team. Malakai Black took opening duties for House of Black. They circled one another as the crowd barked with Brody King. Black and Briscoe traded quick arm locks before Malakai walked the ROH Champion to the HOB corner and tagged in Buddy Matthews. They continued to trade quick lock ups and holds. Adam Copeland tagged himself in off the back of Briscoe. They hit a double shoulder take-down on Matthews. Copeland cornered Buddy and mounted him for a quick ten punches. He gave him a flapjack, then cut him off as he began to crawl toward his corner.

Buddy hit the ropes and Malakai Black reached out to tag in off his back. Copeland stopped in is tracks, turning his focus to Malakai. Black approached, then immediately tagged in Brody King. Copeland rolled his shoulders and prepared for the big man. Brody gave him a shove, allowing Eddie Kingston to tag himself in. Eddie was unbothered by King’s size. He pulled down his straps and dared Brody to chop him. King obliged. They traded them back and forth. King eventually dropped Kingston, but Eddie wouldn’t stay down long. He dropped Brody to his knees and delivered several chops and kicks. Kingston sent the big man to the corner and gave him a series of machine gun chops. King shrugged it off and gave Kingston a sidewalk slam.

Brody called for and delivered a running cannon ball to Kingston as the match crossed 4:30. He covered for a quick one count. King tagged in Buddy, who hit Eddie with a quick springboard Senton for a cover and two count. Kingston sat up and challenged Buddy to kick him in the back. Buddy kicked him in the front instead, but only scored a two count. Matthews tagged in Malakai, who delivered a similar kick of his own. Black grabbed a seated head lock and stared down Adam Copeland. Eddie worked back to his feet and kneed Black in the jaw. Malakai ate it and gave Kingston a pair of spin kicks. Eddie ducked a third and connected with a release German Suplex.

Eddie was dazed from the kicks. He stumbled to his own corner and tagged Mark Briscoe. Malakai tagged Buddy. They traded kicks. Matthews took control by stomping on Mark’s foot. Briscoe fought back with a kick, knocking Buddy to the floor. He dove through the middle rope with a dropkick, sending Matthews crashing into the barrier. Black and Kingston paired off on the outside while Copeland and King fought on the opposite end. Matthews tossed a chair at Briscoe, but he caught it and shoved Matthews to the floor. Briscoe opened the chair and propped it on the edge of the ring. He used it as a step-stool to launch himself over the ring post and onto Brody King.

Briscoe and Matthews were still legal, teetering on the apron. Matthews threw a kick, but Briscoe caught it and punched Buddy. Brody King returned, hoisting Briscoe onto his shoulders and dumping him into the guardrail, bending it. Fans in the front row worked with security to put it back in proper positioning. Matthews tagged in Malakai. King returned Briscoe to the ring. House of Black continued to work over Briscoe in their corner as the match crossed 10:00. Adam Copeland finally returned to the apron. Black and King worked on Briscoe’s ribs. They covered him repeatedly for two counts. Excalibur noted that the trios titles were unified during Zero Hour.

Malakai had Briscoe grounded in a hold when Kingston entered and broke it up. House of Black continued to dominate anyway, beating him in the corner and tagging frequently. Briscoe finally slipped through Brody’s legs and made a leaping tag to Adam Copeland. Black immediately dropped off the apron. Copeland dropped Matthews, then threw himself at King, toppling him toward the corner. Copeland hoisted King onto the top turnbuckle in the northeast corner. He gave Brody nine punches, then bit his forehead. King fought back with hard chops, knocking Adam to the mat. Briscoe and Kingston rushed the ring to clear out Black and Matthews. They worked together to hook King for a double Superplex. Black and Buddy intercepted with tandem Powerbombs. With King still sat out on the top, Copeland rushed back into position and delivered a Superplex.

All six men were down in the ring as the match crossed 14:30. Copeland was the first up, dragging Brody into position for an Impaler DDT. Buddy cut him off. Kingston dropped Matthews with a massive clothesline. King popped up and gave one of the same to Kingston and Briscoe. Copeland caught King with the Impaler DDT. Briscoe followed up with the Froggy Bomb. Copeland covered, but Buddy broke it up at the last moment. Taz noted the cohesion of House of Black.

Black was tagged in, now legal with Copeland. Malakai smiled. Briscoe attacked Black from behind. Matthews gave Kingston a knee. King dumped Copeland in the corner, looking for another cannonball. He charged, but Copeland exploded out with a Spear. Referee Rick Knox checked on Brody King as Adam Copeland sucked in air, struggling to stand. He charged at Malakai for a Spear, but Black caught him with mist to the face. He followed it up with The End and covered him for a three count.

WINNERS: House of Black in 17:46

Copeland’s hands shook as he tried to wipe the black mist from his eyes. Briscoe and Kingston retrieved a towel for him as House of Black celebrated on the ramp.

(LeClair’s Analysis: I liked the pairing of Briscoe, Kingston, and Copeland. Eddie and Mark brought a certain grittiness that played well off of Copeland’s more polished style and presentation, and they felt like appropriate comrades to go into war with House of Black. The latter’s skills as a team are always impressive. I love the fluidity with which King, Matthews, and Black work. I enjoyed that they set up for the overused Tower of Doom spot and then thwarted expectation by going for single spots instead, with Copeland landing the Superplex he’d tried for earlier in the match. The finish was strong, too. Copeland sold the mist well and Black’s “The End” kick always looks killer. This should set he and Copeland on a collision course of the TNT title, which sounds like a fun feud that could produce some unique matches outside of AEW’s typical wheelhouse.)

-Excalibur switched focus to the TBS Championship match, tossing to a quick video package.

Willow Nightingale was out first. Justin Roberts announced that Willow’s choice for “house rules” was to have both Skye Blue and Kris Statlander banned from ringside. Stokely Hathaway had joined the announcers desk.

(3) JULIA HART (c) vs. WILLOW NIGHTINGALE – TBS Championship match

Willow Nightingale shot out of a canon right out of the gate, dropping Julia Hart. She pummeled Hart toward the corner, but the TBS Champion quickly took control, dumping Willow to the floor and tossing her violently into the timekeeper’s area. Hart returned Willow to the ring and slammed her head against the mat repeatedly. She draped Nightingale over the middle rope and choked her with her knee. Referee Aubrey Edwards tried to force her away, but Hart reminded her, “no rope breaks, house rules!”

Backstage, Mercedes Mone was shown watching on a monitor. Back in the ring, Hart worked Willow into the southwest corner and caught her with a hip check. She slammed Willow’s face into the mat and covered her for a two count just 2:30 into the match. Hart applied a rear chin lock. Schiavone noted that Willow had an excellent 2023, and is undefeated in 2024. Nightingale fought out of the hold and sent Hart careening off the ropes. Willow caught her by the head and pulled her into a Sleeper. Hart wiggled free, dropped her challenger, and stomped at her violently. Willow fought to her feet and whipped Julia to the southeast corner. She hit a running splash, tossed her to the mat, and went for a second rope Senton. Julia moved. She quickly turned Willow over into Hartless. Willow used her strength to lift Hart right out of the hold and dump her into a cover for two.

Both women rose simultaneously. Willow let out of a growl, chopping Hart hard in the chest. She whipped the champion to the corner again, but Hart caught her with a boot. With Willow on the mat, Julia made her ascent. She went for a Moonsault, but Willow got her boots up. She gave Hart a big lariat, then her signature sit-out Powerbomb for a cover and three count.

WINNER: Willow Nightingale in 6:01 to win the TBS Championship

Willow got emotional as she held the championship up. Stokely Hathaway hopped in the ring. Kris Statlander ran down. They gave her a big hug. Suddenly, Mercedes Mone’s music hit, cutting off the celebration. She posed atop the stage then headed to the ring, posing on the apron for the crowd. Willow looked unimpressed. Excalibur said that she’s already beaten Mercedes once, and may have the chance to do it again at Double or Nothing. The logo popped up on the stage. Both women pointed to it. Willow held the title up and her music played as Mercedes left the ring.

(LeClair’s Analysis: I noted on this week’s AEW Dynamite post-show with Wade Keller that Willow Nightingale’s rise to prominence reminds me a lot of Becky Lynch’s come up. After being little more than an under-card afterthought, she’s ingratiated herself with the fans to a significant degree and cultivated a real genuine connection that’s earned her strong reactions on every show. Tonight was no different. The crowd was ready to see her win the title. This was quick, though that can likely be attributed to the recent injury suffered by Julia Hart. She’d done well with the title, but moving on to Willow felt like a natural progression and clear direction for the title after Mercedes Mone inserted herself into the picture. Her appearance was brief, but effective enough. I’m intrigued to see how these two are positioned opposite each other, and how much the fans side with Willow over Mone.)

-A promo aired for Double or Nothing on May 26th.

-Excalibur tossed to a package for the AEW International Championship match

As Kyle O’Reilly headed to the ring. Excalibur introduced the Spanish announce team and threw to them briefly. Taz said they sounded great and made a quip about working with them over Schiavone. Roderic Strong headed to the ring. flanked by Matt Taven and Mike Bennett. They left him to head to the ring solo.

(4) RODERICK STRONG (c) vs. KYLE O’REILLY – AEW International Championship match

Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong locked up as the match began. Excalibur noted that they’ve shared rings for fifteen years, mostly as partners. Their initial lock up ended in a stalemate against the ropes. O’Reilly took Strong down on the second one, taking control of the arm. Taz noted that both are tremendous on the mat. Strong worked out of Kyle’s grasp and into a hold of his own. They continued to jockey for position. Strong turned Kyle’s arm over and O’Reilly worked his head underneath Strong to give him a quick back drop. O’Reilly rolled Strong into an Ankle Lock. Roddy grabbed the ropes quickly. O’Reilly saw this coming and stomped on Roddy’s outstretched arm.

After another lock up stalemate, Strong worked O’Reilly into the northwest corner and gave him a chop. O’Reilly battled out and threw a kick, but Strong begged off. O’Reilly shrugged. He rolled Strong up for two. Roddy turned it into a roll up of his own for two, then caught Kyle with a big kick for another two count. Strong worked O’Reilly into the southwest corner, winding up on the apron after a charge. O’Reilly bounced Roddy’s arm off the rope, the same he stomped on earlier. Kyle began kicking that arm and shoulder. He gave Strong a pair of chops, then went for a leaping knee. Strong caught O’Reilly’s leg and lifted his body into the air for a smooth Backbreaker transition. Taz said he’s lucky that O’Reilly’s weight didn’t do further damage to the now injured shoulder.

Strong worked O’Reilly into the corner as the match crossed 5:00. He hoisted Kyle to the top turnbuckle and gave him a Backbreaker onto the top turnbuckle. O’Reilly bounced violently. Strong punched him repeatedly. The referee told Kyle to cover up. Instead, Kyle pulled Strong into a Triangle Sleeper. Before he could lock it in, Strong punched his way free. Kyle rolled to his feet and gave Strong a massive, reverberating chop. Roddy grimaced, but dropped the challenger and stomped him against the bottom rope. The crowd booed him. O’Reilly worked himself up and began trading forearms with the champion. Strong ate several, then caught the last one and again pulled Kyle into a Backbreaker. “Is this what you wanted?” Strong asked. He gave O’Reilly another Backbreaker.

“I could beat you right now,” Strong opined. O’Reilly dragged himself to the ropes, using them to pull himself up. Strong gave him a lifting release Backcracker and covered for a near fall. Strong looked for End of Heartache, but Kyle blocked it. He caught Roddy with a trio of knees to the gut. He took Strong’s legs out with a spin kick. Roddy stumbled to the corner and ate a running elbow strike. Kyle hit Roddy with a sit-out slam into a leg lace. Strong immediately rolled toward the ropes and clutched them as the match approached 9:45.

With momentum building, O’Reilly dragged the champion back to center and turned over the injured shoulder. Strong sprang to life and scooped Kyle for another back breaker. O’Reilly crumbled against the ropes. Roddy hit him with four running elbows, front to back. Kyle looked out on his feet, but he managed to pull Roderick in and tie him up in the ropes. O’Reilly used the opportunity to free himself and pull Roddy into a knee bar. Strong used the flat of his boot to break free, kicking O’Reilly repeatedly. Champion and challenger grabbed each other’s wrists to stand. They traded hard forearms. Strong ducked Kyle’s and hit yet another back breaker for a cover and two count just before 12:00.

Roddy worked O’Reilly to the northwest corner and set him up for a Superplex. He hit it, pulling O’Reilly’s legs into a small package for a two count. Kyle turned it over into one of his own. Both men shot to their feet and hit the ropes, hitting simultaneous kicks to take each other out. Both rose slowly, trading more chops and kicks. Strong tried to pick the leg, but O’Reilly blocked it and gave Strong a German Suplex. He went for a second, but Strong blocked it and caught Kyle with a rising knee. Both men were down. Referee Paul Turner began to count. Both rose at nine. Strong went for a Tiger Driver. Kyle countered into a Guillotine. Strong backed him into the ropes to break the hold, draping his neck over the top in the process.

O’Reilly slid to the apron. He twisted Strong’s arm and slammed it against the edge of the ring. Suddenly, Wardlow emerged. He began to go after O’Reilly, but the referee caught him. Strong rolled up Kyle for a two count. O’Reilly hit a Brainbuster and then immediately transitioned into an attempted Arm bar. Strong tried valiantly to keep his hands locked, but couldn’t. Strong was close enough to get a foot over the bottom rope and immediately break the hold. O’Reilly wasn’t deterred, he stomped at Strong’s injured arm and shoulder repeatedly. He hit the ropes, but Strong cut him off with a dropkick, then followed up with End of Heartache for a cover and three count.

WINNER: Roderick Strong in 17:19 to retain the AEW International Championship

Wardlow joined Roderick in the ring. The Kingdom wheeled Adam Cole out onto the stage. Cole stood up and threw his arms out, then marched to the ring. Cole stared down Wardlow as he entered the ring. Just before Wardlow turned to see, Cole joined Strong to celebrate. The Undisputed Kingdom shared hugs. The camera followed Strong up the ramp as he posed with his title.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Another really good match with strong psychology throughout. O’Reilly and Strong are pro’s pros with years of intimate understanding of each other’s offense and proclivities. It made for a match that felt like an extensive stalemate. I liked the story of O’Reilly struggling to overcome Roddy’s plethora of back breakers. If I had one knock, it’d be that Wardlow’s appearance was set up to protect O’Reilly in some way, only to have the match continue beyond his arrival and Roddy to win cleanly.

As for the post match, it was nice to see Adam Cole up on his feet. With that said, it’s hard to get excited for anything involving the lame-duck Undisputed Kingdom angle. They’ve done nothing to suggest this thing has any legs.)

-Excalibur tossed to a video for Hook vs. Chris Jericho.

Chris Jericho was out first, still as the Lionheart. Hook followed. Neither received much of a reaction.

(5) HOOK (c) vs. CHRIS JERICHO – FTW Championship match

The crowd booed as the match began. Chris Jericho walked to center, looking a little dejected. He offered Hook a fist bump and the FTW Champion obliged. Hook worked over Jericho’s arm as the crowd opened up a “Fozzy sucks” chant. Jericho broke free of Hook’s grasp and threw a few chops his way. Hook stumbled back after each one, but came back for more. Hook gave Jericho a T-Bone Suplex. Chris shook it off and approached, but Hook gave him another one.

Jericho rolled to the outside, collecting himself. Hook climbed to the apron and hit Chris with a diving Clothesline. Jericho pulled himself up and caught Hook with a punch to the gut. He slammed Hook into the ringside barrier, then pointed to Taz at the announce desk. He slammed Hook into the table, then retrieved one from underneath the ring. Jericho talked some trash to Schiavone. “Put your headset on on Rampage and shut up,” Tony muttered. Hook gave Jericho a German Suplex on the floor. Chris’ head almost landed on the corner of the ring step.

Hook retrieved a trash can lid from under the ring and bent it over Jericho’s head twice. He got a running start, leaping off the steps for a third shot. Jericho blocked it with a boot. He gave Hook a DDT on the lid for a cover and two count at 4:30. Jericho held the lid up to a chorus of boos. Jericho gave Hook one more shot with the lid for good measure, then tossed him back in the ring. Hook battled back with body shots. He hit the ropes, but Jericho cut him off with a big boot. The crowd continued to boo. Jericho tossed Hook to the apron, setting him up near the table. Hook blocked a Suplex attempt. He gave Jericho a dangerous looking T-Bone off the apron and through the table at ringside.

“Holy sh-t!” the crowd chanted as Hook crawled over the wreckage for a cover and two count just before 6:30. “Go home Jericho, go home!” the crowd begged. Chris caught Hook with another boot and threw an arm in the air to more boos. He gave him a clothesline in the corner and hoisted him onto the southeast turnbuckle. Jericho mounted Hook for a number of punches, then delivered a ‘rana off the top for a cover and two count. Jericho rolled to the outside and rounded the ring, retrieving a trash can loaded with weapons. He flipped off the crowd as they continued to pelt him with insults. Jericho tried to use the trash can on Hook, but Hook pulled him in and delivered a German Suplex. The can went flying across the ring. Hook placed the trash can over Jericho’s head and hit him repeatedly with a Kendo stick.

“Lionheart” Chris Jericho wandered aimlessly around the ring, trash can still on his head. Hook clutched him and gave him another T-Bone, trash can in tow. He covered for a near fall. Hook headed outside and retrieved another table as the match crossed 10:00. He slid it in the ring and propped it in the corner. Hook positioned Jericho for another T-Bone through the table, but Chris gave him multiple forearms to the back. Hook still managed to give him a Northern Lights Suplex. He went to retrieve Jericho, but Chris shot up and delivered a Codebreaker. “Please retire!” the crowd launched into more insults.

Both men rose to their knees, trading chops. Jericho raked Hook’s eyes and dropped him with a clothesline. He climbed to the middle turnbuckle and went for a fist drop, but Hook moved. Jericho clutched his hand. Hook leapt on Jericho’s back, applying REDRUM. Jericho reached desperately, but then threw his body backward, sending Hook crashing through the propped table. Jericho covered and put his feet on the ropes. Aubrey Edwards stopped the count, even though there are no rules in FTW title matches. Hook tried to pull Jericho into a knee bar, but Jericho turned it over into the Walls of Jericho. Hook struggled for a while, but turned it into a cradle for a near fall.

The FTW Champion immediately turned over and re-applied REDRUM. Jericho kicked Hook below the belt to break it up. He followed up with the Judas Effect. He covered Hook for a two count. Tony said that Jericho told Hook he was sorry before he hit the Judas Effect. Chris apologized again, dropping Hook with another Judas Effect. He hooked the leg, but Hook kicked out again. “You’ve got to stay down, Hook!’ Jericho told him. The crowd started to come to life. Jericho retrieved his steel bat from underneath the ring. “Don’t make me do this!’ he told Hook. Hook gave him two middle fingers. Jericho cracked him in the face with the baseball bat. Hook crumbled. Jericho covered him for a three count.

WINNER: Chris Jericho in 16:32 to win the FTW Championship

Taz left his station at the announce desk and rounded the ring. He told Chris to leave. Jericho obliged, celebrating reluctantly on the ramp as Taz checked on his son.

(LeClair’s Analysis: The story here, certainly, was the crowd’s full-throat rejection of Chris Jericho. He was hammered with insults from start to finish, and the match itself was met with general disinterest for about half of its duration. To both Jericho and Hook’s credit, they brought them around for the second half, and Jericho’s subtle changes in body language and demeanor seemed to help that process. It all feels a little downtrodden, though. Jericho’s weaving of real-life criticism has opened him up to vitriolic chants that feel more like they’re in the “go away” realm than the “we want to see you get beat” lane. If anyone can find a way to make that work, it’s Jericho, but I just wonder how much juice is in that squeeze. He feels like a character, and a performer, who has outlived his usefulness in AEW.

I thought Taz was better than he has been previously in this angle. He showed genuine concern, got stern with Jericho, and left the desk for the night after this, which was the logical move and one that made the events of the match feel of actual consequence.)

-Excalibur somberly tossed to a package for the AEW Women’s World Championship match

Nigel McGuinness had replaced Taz on commentary. Thunder Rosa headed to the ring, followed by the reigning women’s champion, Toni Storm. Tony said the entrance of Toni Storm is that of a star. Nigel agreed excitedly.

(6) TONI STORM (c, w/ Luther & Mariah May) vs. THUNDER ROSA – AEW Women’s World Championship match

Thunder Rosa got in Toni Storm’s face to begin the match. She removed the mask she wore to the ring, revealing no face paint underneath. She immediately worked Storm into the northwest corner and gave her some quick machine gun chops. Toni turned it around on her and delivered chops of her own. She walked her challenger to the adjacent corner and continued chopping her chest. Thunder Rosa turned it back around and worked Toni to center. She gave her a number of quick forearms, then shot the champion off the ropes. On the rebound, Storm dropped Rosa with a kick to the mid-section.

Nigel and Excalibur talked up the beats of the feud and McGuinness wondered aloud why Rosa may have chosen to forego her usual war paint. Storm rolled to the outside, seeking shelter behind Luther. Rosa leapt to the top rope and dove onto both of them. Mariah May stepped to Thunder Rosa, but the challenger told her to stay out of the way. May backed away. Rosa tossed the champion back in the ring and delivered a float over snap Suplex for a cover and two count just before 3:30. Rosa hooked Storm underneath the chin and delivered hard forearms to the chest, talking trash. Tony said that Rosa is “wrestling very angrily” and wondered if it would be detrimental as the match progressed.

Toni Storm worked to her feet and gave Rosa a side slam for a cover and two count. The crowd opened up a strong dueling chant. Storm bent Rosa’s back over her knee, trying to exploit Thunder Rosa’s old injury. She walked on her back and gave her a hard stomp, then walked her to the southeast corner. Storm hoisted Rosa onto the top turnbuckle and slapped her across the face. The two women traded open-handed strikes to the mid-section and back. Rosa got the better of the exchange, flipping over Storm and delivering a Powerbomb with a high stack for a two count just after 6:00.

Rosa positioned herself on the top turnbuckle and dropped the champion with a missile dropkick. She followed up with a Samoan Drop, then a Crucifix Bomb for a near fall. “You can just see it, she’s in trouble,” Schiavone said of the champion. Excalibur noted that Toni Storm has never made it past four title defenses in her previous title reigns. Rosa gave Storm a Death Valley Driver on the apron. Luther turned away in horror. She rolled Toni back in the ring and covered her for another two count.

Another dueling chant broke out as Thunder Rosa set the champion up for a Powerbomb. Her back gave out, allowing Storm to retreat to the corner and create some separation. Storm caught the challenger with a Backstabber, then a tornado DDT off the bottom rope. She gave Rosa a bridging Fisherman’s Suplex for a near fall. Toni pulled Thunder Rosa to her feet, but Rosa took her down with her legs and stomped on her face and chest. Toni checked her mouth for blood while Rosa climbed the turnbuckles again. Toni rolled out of the way and gave Thunder Rosa a Sky High for a near fall just after 10:00.

Storm tossed Rosa against the ropes and caught her with a hard forearm to the small of the back on the rebound. Rosa responded with a slug of her own, right to the face. They began exchanging rapid-fire heavy strikes. Thunder Rosa hit the ropes, but Storm dropped her with a headbutt. Rosa shrugged it off and hit an Enziguri. Storm bounced back with a German Suplex. Rosa rolled to her feet and delivered one of her own. Both women were down. Mariah May leapt onto the apron. Referee Bryce Remsburg admonished her. Deonna Purrazzo emerged, ripping May from the apron and tossing her into the ring steps. Luther approached, but Purrazzo took him down, too. In the ring, Storm cornered Rosa and caught her with a hip attack. She planted her with Storm Zero in the center of the ring and covered her for a very close near fall.

Frustration creeped in. Toni turned Rosa over into a Texas Cloverleaf. Thunder Rosa fought valiantly and managed to reach the bottom rope after some time. Storm was exhausted. She got caught by Rosa’s trip. Thunder Rosa applied a Crossface. Toni managed to use the apron and to pull her body underneath the ropes, forcing a break. Toni caught Rosa with an upkick, then a low blow. She hit a second Storm Zero for a cover and three count.

WINNER: Toni Storm in 15:09 to retain the AEW Women’s World Championship

(LeClair’s Analysis: There’s been a sharp learning curve when it comes to Toni Storm parlaying her successful and entertaining on-screen character into a serious in-ring performer. I thought tonight was her best effort in that regard. Thunder Rosa’s fire and intensity necessitated a different mode of operation from the champion and I thought it worked to everyone’s benefit. On a night full of stellar matches, this one is unlikely to be given particular note, but both women worked incredibly hard for their place on their card and had a match befitting of their story together. I do wonder what’s next for Storm, as the culmination of this angle, an eventual clash with Mariah May, still seems to be a way’s away.)

-Excalibur quickly turned focus to Will Ospreay vs. Bryan Danielson, throwing to a video package.

The crowd was already standing in anticipation when they cut live. Bryan Danielson was out first. He held his arms out confidently and side-shuffled to the ring, as customary. Don Callis had joined the announcers desk. Will Ospreay entered to the largest ovation of the night thus far. Schiavone said he’s never seen fans take to a wrestler as quickly as they have Will Ospreay in AEW. Don Callis quickly took credit for it.


An eruption from the crowd immediately followed the opening bell. Bryan Danielson and Will Ospreay stood face to face, then backed quickly to their respective corners before charging in for an initial lock-up. The crowd quickly launched into a “both these guys” chant. Danielson wrestled Ospreay into the ropes, forcing a break. Bryan gave him a playful slap to the chest, then back away. The crowd sang to Ospreay. Danielson smiled. They circled again.

Another lock up. Danielson took Ospreay to the mat quickly, settling into a side headlock. Ospreay sat up, clasping Bryan’s head between his knees. Danielson wrestled free, but Ospreay transitioned into a cover for a quick one count. He waved a finger at Bryan. Danielson offered a test of strength. Will took it. They locked opposite legs, jockeying for position. Ospreay dropped to his back voluntarily, gaining wrist control. Bryan turned him over and onto the mat. Ospreay rolled free and grabbed a side headlock. They wrestled back to their feet for another clean break at 3:30. Danielson won another lock up, settling in to the headlock. He gave Ospreay a pair of quick jabs to the face. Will broke free and tripped Bryan up for a cover and one count. Danielson gave him an elbow to the face. The two traded blisteringly fast counters, both missing wild kicks and ending in another stalemate.

The crowd gave them another early standing ovation. Ospreay kicked Bryan’s leg out from underneath him, but Danielson worked up to one leg and gave Will the finger. Will chopped him hard. Bryan ate it and delivered one of his own. He picked Ospreay’s ankle and bent it over his forearm. Bryan bent the leg and grabbed a side headlock as the crowd chanted “f–k Don Callis.” Danielson settled into a neck crank. Ospreay tried to roll out of it, using the ropes to his advantage. Danielson hung on. Will flipped out of it instead and gave Bryan a dropkick, then a standing ‘rana. Danielson shook off the cobwebs. Will gave him an elbow, then a kick.

Nigel McGuinness said Danielson has the feet and body of an ape, and his speed is starting to get away from him. Callis agreed but said Bryan outworked everybody. Danielson and Ospreay traded hard chops. Bryan dropped Will to a knee and began stifling him with hard uppercuts. Ospreay slumped repeatedly against the ropes. He sprang to life, hoisting Bryan up and dropping him across the top rope. He kicked Bryan in the jaw. Danielson fell to the outside. Ospreay gave him a springboard cross body to the outside, slapping hands with fans at ringside after landing on his feet. Callis admonished him for caring about the fans.

Ospreay tossed Danielson back in the ring and looked for a springboard clothesline into the ring, but Danielson picked him out of the air with hard kick to the side. Ospreay immediately clutched at his kidney area. He struggled to his feet and was immediately dropped with a kitchen sink knee from Bryan. Danielson, now dictating pace, applied an Indian Death Lock. He sat up and chopped Ospreay to add insult to injury. He added the arm to the hold. “Tap!’ Danielson yelled. Ospreay rolled to the ropes to break the hold just before 11:45. Ospreay used the ropes to stand. Bryan gave him space. Danielson chopped him. Ospreay gave him a receipt. Bryan welcomed more and shrugged them off. He peppered Will with body shots, then sent him to the opposing corner. Ospreay tried to counter. Bryan flipped over him. Ospreay hit the ropes, going immediately into a handstand. Bryan prepared for the Os-cutter. Will caught him with a back kick instead.

The Aerial Assassin steadied himself against the ropes and leapt off the southwest turnbuckles onto Bryan for a cover and two count. He caught Danielson with a flipping kick, then a dropkick to the outside. Danielson rose on the floor to find Ospreay staring him down atop the northwest turnbuckle. Ospreay flipped onto Danielson, landing on his feet and immediately tossing his foe back in the ring. Ospreay called for the Hidden Blade. He charged, but Bryan caught him with a kick to the elbow. He gave Will a bridging Tiger Suplex for a two count. Bryan held on and begin driving the hammer and anvil elbows. Ospreay looked glassy-eyed. Danielson turned it over into Cattle Mutilation. Ospreay pivoted his hips to avoided being laid flat. He swung his body just enough to drape a foot on the bottom rope and force a break just after 16:00.

Danielson hyper-extended Ospreay’s arm over his shoulder, the hit him with a running body check in the corner. He hoisted Will onto the top turnbuckle, looking for a super ‘rana. Will flipped through it and landed on his feet, brushing his shoulder confidently. He gave Danielson a Tiger Driver, then climbed the turnbuckle again, looking for Sky Twister Press. Danielson shot to his feet and cut Will’s legs out. Bryan climbed to meet him. The two teetered on the northwest turnbuckle. Bryan hooked Ospreay and delivered a Super Tiger Suplex. Callis pleaded with Ospreay to flip out of it, but he didn’t. Will clutched his neck, kicking the mat in agony. Bryan covered, but Will got a foot on the bottom rope.

Will dragged himself to center, leaning back on his calves. Bryan kicked him in the chest repeatedly. The last one, a PK, dropped the superstar. Ospreay kicked the mat in frustration, then sat up. He asked for another one. Bryan delivered. Ospreay popped right up. He invited more. Bryan gave him a violent chop. Ospreay returned with one of his own, dropping Danielson cold. Excalibur wondered if he was out. Ospreay thumbed at his own forearm, shaking out the pain. He rolled Danielson onto the apron and set up for a Tiger Driver on the edge of the ring. Danielson blocked it and began kicking Will. Ospreay kicked back. He used the outside edge of the turnbuckle to leap up and into Bryan, delivering an Os-Cutter on the apron.

Bryan bounced to the floor in a heap. As referee Bryce Remsburg tended to Danielson, Ospreay called for the Hidden Blade. He connected off the apron. Ospreay returned to the ring, allowing Remsburg to count Bryan. He stirred at five, then collapsed. He managed to slide in the ring right after nine. Ospreay met him with a leaping kick. He immediately gave him the Tiger Driver and stacked him for a very close near fall. Ospreay called for another Os-Cutter. He leapt, but Bryan telegraphed it. He pulled Ospreay into a Labell Lock. Ospreay wiggled free, lifting Danielson into the air. Danielson applied a Guillotine. Ospreay tossed him into the air, trying to spin him around. Bryan pulled Will to the mat and got the full grip of the Labell Lock. Ospreay tried to reach for the bottom rope, but Danielson added the arm to the hold.

“Legs, the legs are there!’ Nigel noted. He said Ospreay would need to rotate his lower body away from the pressure. He did, slamming a foot down on the bottom rope just before 25:00. Exhaustion was settling in. Ospreay slumped back on his heels. Danielson gave him a handful of “yes” kicks and then called for the Busaiku Knee. Ospreay blocked it. Danielson rolled him up for a near fall. Ospreay turned it over for one of his own. Both men shot up. Ospreay charged, looking for the Hidden Blade. Danielson ducked it, Ospreay went flying. Danielson never broke stride as Will popped up. Bryan drilled him with the Busaiku Knee. He covered for a last moment near fall.

“It’s time to kick his f—ing head in!” Danielson declared. He grabbed Ospreay’s wrists and began stomping at his head with reckless abandon. He transitioned to the mat, trying to apply the Labell Lock. Ospreay contorted his body well enough to slip free. He got a brief mount on Danielson and crushed him with massive forearm strikes to the jaw. Danielson went limp, but was only playing opossum. Ospreay let up for a moment. Bryan pulled him into a Triangle choke. Ospreay dead lifted him and delivered a Styles Clash. Fatigue had settled in and no one was able to capitalize.

Both men were audibly gasping for air as they met forehead to forehead on the mat, trading headbutts. Danielson got the better of the exchange initially, but Ospreay came back with a number of quick kicks. Danielson hit him with a number of stinging blows. He hooked Ospreay for a back Suplex. Ospreay rolled through and landed on his feet. He caught Danielson with a Hidden Blade from the front. Ospreay called for another Os-Cutter. He leapt, but Bryan picked him clean out of the air with a Busaiku Knee to the back of the head. Will crashed violently.

Danielson knelt in the corner, calling for the knee again. He let Ospreay pull himself up. Will removed his elbow pad and called for the Hidden Blade. They charged at each other. Ospreay won the battle, catching Danielson with the Hidden Blade. Bryan crashed violently. Ospreay immediately pulled him up and into the Tiger Driver. Bryan immediately began shaking. His body contorted violently and his hands went into the fencing position. The referee immediately called for medical help. Ospreay didn’t notice. He gave Danielson a Hidden Blade and covered him for a three count.

WINNER: Will Ospreay in 32:40

Doctors rushed into the ring to tend to Bryan, who just kept screaming expletives. Ospreay checked on him, dumbfounded.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Plenty will be written about this match, and deservedly so. It was one of the most awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, emotionally charged bouts I’ve witnessed. Ospreay and Danielson are the best in the world at what they do, and they seemed motivated to blow the roof off of the arena and every home watching on Pay-Per-View. A truly compelling, violent, brilliantly paced encounter from start to finish…

Except that injury angle. Look, I get it. Danielson is the best seller in the business. Often to the show, and the moment’s own detriment. It was entirely unnecessary. I know that the counter argument is that it’s going to be used to sow further seeds of doubt between Ospreay and Don Callis because Will showed sympathy. I don’t care. It’s not a good enough reason. And, they’ve already dumped plenty of fuel on that fire. Danielson’s history of career-threatening, life-altering injuries are well-documented. So are his fake-outs. I’d be hyper-critical of it if they did it once, but this marks multiple times. It took away from Ospreay’s moment. It took away from the incredible finish. It exposed the never-ending hamster wheel nature of AEW PPVs by forcing Excalibur to pivot so quickly into the next match while Danielson was laid out, selling another major injury. There’s just nothing to gain from these stunts. It’s not worth it.)

-After a video package, Excalibur said that Danielson walked to the back with help from doctors. The Young Bucks headed to the ring, followed by FTR.

(8) THE YOUNG BUCKS (Matthew & Nicholas Jackson) vs. FTR (Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler) – AEW World Tag Team Championship Ladder match

Both teams stood opposite each other as the bell rang. All four quickly came to blows. The Young Bucks tossed Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler to the outside and dumped them against the ringside barrier before retrieving the match’s first ladder. Dax slid through the bottom rope, underneath the ladder, but the Bucks cracked him in the face with it. Cash Wheeler dropkicked the ladder and it pinched Matthew’s hand. Nicholas managed to take Cash out of the equation long enough for the Bucks to set up the ladder in the ring and begin a quick scramble to the top.

Cash and Dax returned quickly and ripped the Bucks back to the mat. All four men traded punches until the Bucks broke the stalemate with tandem Superkjicks. They ran the ladder into Cash Wheeler, then propped it against the middle rope on the west side of the ring. They laid Dax Harwood on it and Matthew hoisted the ladder up for Nicholas to dive off the top. Dax sprang to life and tripped Nicholas, sending him crashing onto the ladder. Meanwhile, Cash Wheeler retrieved a pair of tables from underneath the ring and set one up at ringside.

The Bucks bombarded Cash, tossing him toward the ramp. The balanced a ladder on the edge of the ring and placed Dax on it, diving onto him. Matthew brought a ladder back into the ring and set it up. Dax returned, cutting him off. He was bleeding heavily from the face. Excalibur wondered how he’d gotten the cut so quickly. The announcers surmised it was from the ring steps. Blood poured from the open wound on Dax’s forehead as the Bucks sandwiched him between the two halves of the ladder. Matthew slammed a steel chair into the ladder repeatedly. Cash returned to break it up, but Matthew tossed the chair right in his face. The Bucks stood stall as the match crossed 7:00.

Nicholas and Matthew propped ladders in adjacent corners and whipped Dax and Cash into each one. While Cash writhed on the mat, referees checked on the gash atop Dax’s head. Matthew punched at the cut, shaking blood of his hand. Schiavone suggested they just win the match now. Instead, the Bucks propped a ladder between the ring and the crowd barrier, building a bridge. They tossed Cash into the side of the steel. They tried to do the same to Cash, but he slid underneath. He climbed onto the ladder and delivered a Moonsault to both Bucks. Wheeler dumped Matthew onto the ladder, then climbed to meet him. He tried to give him a Piledriver, but Nicholas broke it up. He climbed up to join his brother. The duo tripped Wheeler between two rings of the ladder, then gave him an E.V.P. Trigger.

In the ring, Dax Harwood tried desperately to set up a ladder. The Bucks cut him off with ease. They pulled him out to the apron, near a table. Cash returned to thwart the attempt. FTR Suplexed the Bucks back into the ring. He tossed Matthew to the corner and gave Nicholas a snap Powerslam. Dax continued to struggle with the blood pouring from his face. Cash tried to climb a ladder, but Matthew ripped him to the mat and climbed. Cash got underneath him in Electric Chair position. Dax climbed to the top turnbuckle and caught Matthew with a bulldog off the top. He turned Matthew over into a Sharpshooter. Cash positioned the ladder over Matthew’s body and began to climb. Nicholas returned, kicked Dax in the face and then climbed the opposing end of the ladder. He knocked Cash to the floor. Dax pulled Nicholas off and gave him a slingshot Powerbomb off the top rope.

Matthew and Cash traded punches near the ropes. Wheeler got him out on the apron. He gave him a running spear through the ropes and the table below. Matthew’s head and neck hit the barrier as he crashed. On the opposite side of the ring, Nicholas shoved Dax out of the ring through another table. Nicholas grabbed a ladder and began to climb. Wheeler rose to meet him. Dax set up an adjacent ladder and climbed. Matthew returned to meet him. After a series of falls, Matthew was left alone. He was about to grab a title when FTR removed both his shoes. Dax pulled him off the ladder and he and Cash delivered a Shatter Machine.

Nicholas hit Cash and Dax with a steel chair. He tossed Cash head first into a ladder as the match approached 16:00. He set up a ladder near the corner and began to climb. Dax met him at the top, nowhere near the titles. Cash climbed a ladder in the other corner. Harwood delivered a Superplex off the ladder. Wheeler hit a frog splash off of his. Wheeler dragged a ladder into position while Dax tried to hold Matthew off. The E.V.P. managed to force Harwood into the ladder, knocking Wheeler off for a violent landing. On the far side of the ring, Nicholas tossed Wheeler onto a table. He climbed to the top turnbuckle and hit a 450 onto Cash through the table.

On the near side, Dax hit a Piledriver onto Matthew through the bridged ladder. The ladder folded under the weight. Matthew’s head collided with Harwood’s knee instead of the steel. Dax was the only man left standing. He set up a ladder and climbed to the top. Nicholas re-emerged. He leapt off the top rope onto the ladder and dropped Harwood with a Sunset Powerbomb off the ladder. Wheeler clotheslined Nicholas over the top to the floor. He got a running start, diving through the middle rope. Nicholas moved. Cash went crashing through a propped table.

Everyone was down as the match crossed 20:00. The crowd started a “please be careful” chant. Dax returned to the ring slowly, using the ladder to steady himself and begin climbing. Nicholas climbed with him. Harwood knocked him to the mat. Dax looked poised to retrieve the tag team titles when a masked, hooded man entered the ring and dumped Harwood off the ladder. AEW Security immediately hit the ring and tackled him against the corner. The intruder got a hand free long enough to pull his mask off, revealing himself as Jack Perry. The crowd popped big.

With Harwood down, Nicholas climbed the ladder and retrieved the Tag Team titles.

WINNERS: The Young Bucks in 21:34 to win the AEW World Tag Team Championships

Security led Jack Perry out of the ring and back through the crowd as the Bucks celebrated. Excalibur said that Perry was trespassing.

(LeClair’s Analysis: These four were saddled with unenviable task of following a Danielson/Ospreay match that ended with a bad injury angle, three hours into the main card. They worked unbelievably hard – almost too hard, to get this thing over. It worked, eventually. It took a “please be careful” and several pints of Harwood blood to get there, but they did it. I’ve loved the series of matches between the Bucks and FTR, and another chapter in it always seemed like the inevitable conclusion of the underwhelming tag title tournament. Jack Perry’s involvement seemed equally inevitable, albeit logical. The babyface reaction he received could spell trouble for how they intend to play this angle going forward, but the new iteration of the Elite has the potential to be plenty of fun if they can distance themselves from revolving their shtick around the guy in the other company.)

-Excalibur tossed to a video package for the main event.

-Jim Ross returned to the desk. Swerve Strickland entered in special, Black Panther-esque gear. Prince Nana adorned him with the late Jimmy Rave’s robe. He marched to the ring, all business. Prince Nana danced behind him. The crowd chanted “Swerve’s House” with ferocity. Samoa Joe sauntered to the ring, flames flanking him. He held the AEW title high as Justin Roberts delivered main event introductions.

(9) SAMOA JOE (c) vs. SWERVE STRICKLAND (w/ Prince Nana) – AEW World Championship match

As the bell rang, J.R. mentioned that today was the first time Samoa Joe wouldn’t engage in conversation with him before his match. He talked up Joe’s size and strength advantage as the champion and Swerve Strickland locked up for the first time. Prince Nana worked the crowd into continued chants for Swerve to kick things off. After a brief lock up that ended with a clean break in the corner, Joe dropped his challenger with a kick to the mid-section. Swerve leapt to the middle rope and dove, but Joe walked out of the way. Strickland landed on his feet, catching the champion off guard. Joe turned around and ate a dropkick. He tumbled to the outside. Swerve followed. Joe immediately slammed him on the corner of the announcers desk.

“Is this how we’re gonna do it tonight?” Joe barked. He tossed Swerve around as the announcers scattered. Joe marched around the ring. He stripped back the ringside padding near the base of the entrance way. Unbeknownst to him, Swerve had recovered and was gaining a head of steam in the ring. He flipped clear over the top rope onto Joe. His knee caught the champion in the back of the head. Swerve set up shop on the apron, readying a kick. Joe caught his foot and pulled him into position for a Muscle Buster. Strickland kicked himself free, sliding to the floor. When he turned, Joe was waiting with a snap Powerslam on the exposed concrete of the arena floor. Joe let out a hearty laugh and tossed Swerve back in the ring.

Gasping for breath already, Swerve ate a plethora of jabs from the reigning AEW Champion as the match approached 5:00. He lifted the challenger to his feet and Swerve fought back with some quick chops. Joe seemed stunned initially, but he expertly swept Swerve’s legs out from beneath him, causing Strickland to face plant. Swerve sat up. Joe gave him a leaping elbow, then wrenched at his jaw and chin. Swerve worked himself to his feet, Nana shouting words of encouragement. The champion just shoved him to the mat. He clapped for Swerve. J.R. said the champion is dictating the pace and dominating the match. Excalibur wondered how long Swerve could last under these conditions.

Against the ropes, Joe littered his challenger with more open palm strikes. He tossed him to the mat and covered him arrogantly. Swerve kicked at two, but began showing exhaustion. Strickland hit the ropes hard, throwing all his body weight into Joe. He barely moved him. Joe dropped Swerve with ease. Strickland rolled to the outside to regroup, leaning against the southwest ring post. Joe gave him no quarter, closing the distance and delivering more body shots. Swerve managed to pull Joe’s shoulder into the post in desperation. He draped Joe’s arm over the post and pulled, putting all his weight behind it.

“You can start to feel the momentum change a little bit,” J.R. said, “Swerve has weathered the early storm.” Strickland went for a quick cover, but Joe kicked just after one. Swerve managed to grab a waist lock and body the champion into the ropes, delivering a release German Suplex on the rebound. Swerve covered for two. Nigel noted that Joe’s huge legs make them especially hard to hook. Swerve hit the ropes again, rolling toward Joe and popping up for a Flatliner. He covered Joe for another two count. Joe retreated to the corner. Joe caught him with a chop. Swerve returned three of his own and hoisted Joe onto the top turnbuckle in the southeast corner. Swerve climbed with him. He hooked Joe’s arm and leapt off the top, driving the now-injured arm into the canvas. Swerve transitioned into a straight arm scissor. Nana coached him on, imploring him to lock it in.

Samoa Joe could not be corralled. He dead-lifted Swerve into the air and seated him on the northeast turnbuckles. Joe hooked Strickland and delivered the Muscle Buster for a cover and very close near fall just before 13:00. Joe was incensed. He left the ring and grabbed his AEW World Championship. Prince Nana tried to stop him, but a mere look from Joe sent him reeling. As Joe re-entered the ring, Swerve caught him with the House Call. He leapt to the top rope and delivered a 450. He dragged Joe to the adjacent corner and hit the Swerve Stomp from the top. Strickland covered, but Joe just managed to kick out.

Prince Nana leapt onto the apron, distracting the referee. Strickland grabbed the title belt. He swung for Joe, but the champion ducked. He locked in the Coquina Clutch and dropped to the mat, wrapping his legs. Swerve looked like he was fading, but he managed to get a hand in between Joe’s arms. Swerve got hold of Joe’s thumb. He bent it back, further and further until Joe had no choice but the break the hold. He pulled Joe’s hand back and stomped on it. “This is it,” he said. Swerve knelt in the corner. He caught Joe with a second House Call. Swerve hooked the leg, but Joe kicked out again. Swerve slumped against the ropes, biting his hand in desperation.

Strickland struggled to his feet, climbing the turnbuckles slowly. Joe cut him off, climbing with him and delivering body blows. Swerve returned with several of his own. Swerve plugged Joe’s nose. constricting his breathing. He tried to leap and kick Joe, but the champion ducked just enough for Swerve to tumble to the mat. He popped up and got underneath Joe, delivering a Powerbomb. Swerve climbed to the top rope again as Joe reached up at air. Swerve delivered a second Swerve Stomp and covered Joe for a three count.

WINNER: Swerve Strickland in 17:56 to win the AEW World Championship

Joe left the ring in a hurry. Swerve grabbed the title and climbed to the top turnbuckle as confetti shot from the rafters and fireworks exploded from the stage. Swerve slid out of the ring and celebrated with family and friends at ringside. Excalibur made note of him being the first African-American AEW World Champion. J.R. said that Swerve “took the heart and soul of Samoa Joe.”

Swerve celebrated around the ring and gave the title a kiss on his way up the ramp. He hugged friends and slapped hands with fans, holding up the title as Excalbur closed out the show by saying “the era of Swerve Strickland starts right now.”

(LeClair’s Analysis: Kudos to AEW for lingering on Swerve’s moment long after the match concluded. They’ve long had issues with giving moments the proper space to breathe, and, given that it was inevitable that the main event would be overshadowed by Danielson and Ospreay earlier in the night, it was crucial that they sell the victory hard so as not to undercut Swerve out of the gate. They did right by him here. Swerve Strickland felt like a star. Even after a non-stop barrage of action, the crowd was ready to come unglued for him. The call and response between the fans and Nana felt louder than ever. I really enjoyed the match, too. Samoa Joe was wildly effective. I loved his dominance in the opening minutes. The arrogance he displayed despite Swerve’s obvious preparation for a number of his signature spots was a clear tell to his eventual downfall. But it was all subtle, never tipping the hand to clearly during the course of the match. The early Muscle Buster to stack the odds was a nice touch, and Joe’s desperation in the moments that proceeded it tied things up well. Joe deserves a ton of credit for carrying himself, and the championship, the way he did these last four months. Swerve is certainly poised to benefit from it now.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: Another excellent entry into growing legend of AEW Pay-Per-Views. Great action from top to bottom, an eager and invested crowd, and a couple of big “turning page” moments for the likes of Swerve Strickland, Jack Perry, and Willow Nightingale. Despite a plethora of valid criticisms that can be lobbied against the company as a whole, it’s impossible to argue with their impressive track record of delivering on their biggest cards.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply