The 10 Most Brutal AEW Matches In The Promotion's Short History

If you're looking for things that differentiate AEW from WWE, the level of violence is one of the biggest. While modern WWE has largely done away with blood, AEW embraced it from day one. You don't even need to pay for a PPV to see the difference, as AEW has never shied away from pushing the envelope in terms of the level of gore you can show on basic cable. When Vince McMahon took a shot at AEW for doing "Blood and Guts," Tony Khan's promotion wore it like a badge of honor, adopting the phrase as the name of their new version of the WarGames match.

AEW also hasn't been afraid to showcase weapons, types of matches, and even wrestlers that would be too extreme for WWE. While the resulting style isn't for everybody, it's hard to deny that in just a few years it's produced a lot of jaw-dropping matches. Whether your gasps were in joy or disgust, they created moments that stuck in your head. Even though AEW has only been around a few short years, they've already created a huge library of matches that are far more savage than fans are typically used to seeing on big-budget, mainstream wrestling. We've combed through them all to present to you here the ten most brutal we've seen so far.

Honorable Mentions

There are tons of worthy matches that we're leaving out. Some that you might think would be natural fits, like Dustin Rhodes vs. Cody Rhodes from Double or Nothing, missed the cut simply because this is a list of the most brutal, not just the bloodiest. We're also leaving out matches with serious legitimate injuries, such as Sammy Guevara vs. Matt Hardy or Jon Moxley vs. Adam Page. Those matches are brutal, but not the kind of brutal we want to celebrate. We also could've just said "Every Darby Allin match, there, we're done" as that man finds new ways to test fate on a monthly basis, but that would make for a boring list.

Despite all those qualifiers, we still had to omit a ton of worthy matches. Brodie Lee's battles with Jon Moxley and Cody Rhodes both could've made it. Ditto Adam Page's Texas Death Matches with Lance Archer and Adam Cole. What about Moxley vs. Eddie Kingston from Full Gear 2020? The insanity of the Cracker Barrel Clash from the first All Out? Anarchy in the Arena? The original Blood and Guts match? We also left out a host of ladder and cage matches, simply because as you'll soon see, the competition to make this list was just that steep. Take all of the matches we just mentioned and you'd have a heck of a list in itself, but we think the one that you're about to read is even better.

Jon Moxley vs. Joey Janela, Fyter Fest 2019

It didn't take long for fans to see just how hardcore AEW was willing to go. The first Fyter Fest was just AEW's second event and it was headlined by what would become a staple of the promotion, a Lights Out match. Always taking place as the last match on a show, a Lights Out match is basically an unsanctioned bout that does not count towards the record books, one where anything goes. Here, for the first time, we got to see what that would mean in an AEW context. If there were two men on the initial roster that were up to the challenge, it was Jon Moxley and Joey Janela, two men who had both competed in incredibly violent matches on the indies and were no strangers to deathmatches.

In the match, you saw the usual tables and ladders, but AEW also showed that in the right circumstances, barbed wire and thumbtacks would be allowed too. Did anyone expect to see a prosthetic leg though? Well, we did. This was Moxley's first match in the promotion and he was clearly enjoying the chance to go back to his hardcore roots that his newfound freedom from WWE afforded. He marched to a win after using Janela as a human pin cushion, but the pin didn't end the night. Kenny Omega came out and got some revenge for Moxley attacking him at Double or Nothing, putting him through a table and even hitting him with an electric guitar from the show's set. It was just a taste of things to come.

Kenny Omega vs. Jon Moxley, Full Gear 2019

That 2019 Moxley/Omega feud culminated with a Lights Out match of its own at the first Full Gear. Going in, everyone knew Moxley thrived in this kind of environment, but there was a lot of curiosity about what Omega would do in a major PPV main event in a style of match he didn't regularly work. He ended up taking to it like a fish to water, mixing in his usual athletic, polished offense with all the plunder fans were quickly coming to expect from AEW gimmick matches. The bar for props got raised again here, with the two men ending up using broken glass, mousetraps, and even a screwdriver.

It all built up to a finish that featured something most fans had likely rarely, if ever, seen before. Moxley removed part of the canvas and its protective padding from the ring, resulting in the final bits of this match being wrestled on the bare wooden planks that are the foundation of the ring. Both men took bumps on them but Omega's crash and burn on a Phoenix Splash looked especially painful. The end product of this nearly 40-minute war was a match that left both fans and major wrestling pundits divided, with many leaving ecstatically raving while others ranted about a grisly spectacle that they hadn't expected, at least from Omega.

Jon Moxley vs. Kenny Omega, Revolution 2021

Over a year later, the Moxley/Omega feud would be reawakened when Omega turned heel on the way to dethroning Moxley as AEW World Champion at that year's Winter Is Coming. At Revolution, we'd get the rematch, but how do you add juice to a match that promotion had run multiple times before? You make it AEW's first-ever Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch. It was a gimmick that had been used in Japan from time to time, with the ring ropes being replaced with barbed wire and explosives set to go off after a countdown expires — in this case, 30 minutes after the start of the match. Once the match was announced, people's imaginations ran wild at how this would top the 2019 Full Gear encounter.

The very end of this match, a small, pitiful explosion after Moxley had lost, has overshadowed everything that happened before it. It shouldn't. Yes, this explosion match did not deliver on the final blast, but it came through on everything else. The final bomb was a dud, but the explosions that took place every time Omega or Mox hit the barbed wire? Pretty good, as was the one that resulted from a little bomb being strapped to a barbed wire bat. This was a match that lived up to both the standard of match quality and the standard of brutality that these two had previously set with each other, it just whiffed on the landing.

Britt Baker vs. Thunder Rosa, St. Patrick's Day Slam 2021

The last decade has seen women's wrestling make steady yet sometimes frustratingly slow progress in terms of being seen as equal to men's wrestling. There are still a ton of milestone moments women's divisions have yet to have been given, but on this night, a few more happened. This was just the third Lights Out match in AEW history, but the first on TV, and the first between two women. More importantly, this was the first time women had main evented an AEW event of any significance. Britt Baker and Thunder Rosa earned every bit of those status symbols in this match, one that was just as rough and gruesome as what the men put on, and as good of a match as nearly anything AEW did that year.

Sometimes when wrestlers work gimmick matches, you get something less enjoyable than what they could do in a straight-up wrestling setting. Not here. Britt and Rosa have wrestled in regular singles matches, they've wrestled in a cage, but they've never had a match that has reached the heights they hit here. Something about all the weapons and that unforgettable visual of Britt wearing the crimson mask just clicked. It makes sense that one of AEW's most heated feuds peaked with its most violent match. Here, Rosa and Britt showed AEW every bit of the blood and guts that normally only men were allowed to display.

Best Friends vs. Santana and Ortiz, Dynamite

Another great example of how a wild stipulation can elevate a feud comes from Best Friends and Satana & Ortiz. They're two good teams that are often relegated to the midcard. They're also more than capable of having good traditional matches against each other, and indeed have had some. But put them in a Parking Lot Brawl and you get a match that is a career-best for both teams, far better than most people could've ever predicted. Surrounded by vehicles and onlookers, these four men put on a match unlike anything AEW has seen before or since.

Watch enough wrestling and you'll see all manner of weapons get used, but in this match, seeing wrestlers bump on car hoods, roofs, and windshields, it's clearly a different experience. We all know how sturdy they can be and can imagine how unforgiving it would be to land on them. Just those kinds of unique visuals alone would've been enough to make this match memorable, but we got other weapons too, as well as hardway blood, covering all the bases of No-DQ matches. You might not expect a team like Best Friends, one that pals around with Orange Cassidy (who even joins in the fun of this match), one that gets driven to matches by Trent's Mom, to be capable of a match that can make this kind of list. You'd be wrong.

Chris Jericho vs. Nick Gage, Fight For The Fallen 2021

One of the cool things about AEW is their willingness to pull in an unsigned wrestler from another promotion for a one-off match. As part of the MJF/Chris Jericho feud, MJF set up multiple "Labors of Jericho" challenge matches that Chris would have to wrestle to earn the right to face him at the end. The second labor pitted Jericho against the deathmatch God himself, Nick Gage. People couldn't believe it — Gage and Jericho felt like they came from two different wrestling worlds. This wasn't a King Kong vs. Godzilla type of dream match, this was King Kong vs., well, Chris Jericho.

The thrill of this match is that you wouldn't expect Jericho to be up to wrestle a Nick Gage style deathmatch, but he was. He did broken glass spots, he let Gage cut him up with his beloved pizza cutter (at one point right before they cut to a Domino's pizza commercial, something that caused a minor bit of controversy for the next few days). Gage even brought light tubes to AEW. Jericho is a master of adaptation, but to be able to wrestle what was basically a GCW deathmatch, and to be willing to take the level of abuse required, was impressive even for him. This was a match where who was involved was as shocking as what they were doing.

Cody Rhodes vs. Andrade El Idolo, Dynamite

If you've never watched this match before and view it after reading this list, for most of its runtime you might be wondering why it was even included. You'll see a very good No-DQ match, but nothing too notable compared to other matches here. Then somewhere along the way, you might wonder why Cody Rhodes is wrestling with a weird clear substance smeared all over his back. Then near the end of the match, you'll see Brandi Rhodes set a table on fire. Then you'll see Cody superplex Andrade through it. Then you'll see Cody take the brunt of the fire, and the flames linger on his leg for a while. Then you'll get it.

Fire is one of the most dangerous things wrestlers occasionally play with, It can be unpredictable and turn very quickly from a fun prop to a real danger. There's a reason why it's used far less in wrestling than things like chairs, ladders, and even thumbtacks. Photos came out in the days after this match, and despite taking the precaution of prepping with fire-resistant gel, Cody's back had some significant burns on it. Cody had wanted to give Atlanta fans another indelible memory, like his moonsault off the cage against Wardlow, and with this performance, he had succeeded.

Tay Conti & Anna Jay vs The Bunny & Penelope Ford, New Year's Smash Rampage

This might be the most underrated match on this list. Taking place on a "Rampage" rather than a "Dynamite" or PPV, and featuring four midcard talents rather than any of the top stars in the division, it's easy to overlook this match. If you did, though, you'd only be punishing yourself. This match is as bloody and vicious as any on this list, with barbed wire and tacks both coming into play. It features some truly scary bumps, including a moonsault kneedrop and a big suplex onto a chair. It's the type of wrestling match that you watch almost like a horror movie, with your eyes half covered.

Everything adds up to this being one of the best women's tags in AEW history. This match, while still not getting nearly the chatter it deserves, did manage to get a little more attention than a conventional wrestling match between the same four would've. Everyone in this match is talented and in some ways underappreciated, and this match ended up showing an advantage of hardcore wrestling. In today's wrestling world, great clean wrestling matches don't stand out as easily because we see them every week. But hardcore ones this violent are rarer, more special. Sometimes, the best way to get people to pay attention to you, if only for a minute, is to take extreme measures.

Blood and Guts 2022, Dynamite

If you want the most brutality by volume for your buck, this match, AEW's second annual Blood and Guts, is the one for you. Two teams of six men apiece went to the greatest of lengths to live up to that match name over a whopping 46 minutes bell to bell. AEW's take on the classic WarGames featured some deviations from the original version, with wrestlers climbing the closed roof cage, as well as weapons getting into the mix. The match produced all sorts of incredible visuals, whether it was Claudio Castagnoli giant swinging Chris Jericho on the top of the cage, or Angelo Parker hanging upside down from a support beam, drenched in his own blood.

In terms of highlight reel moments, there was one that clearly stood above the rest, and that's Eddie Kingston throwing Sammy Guevara off the roof of the cage. Thankfully he was given a somewhat soft landing, aided by a crash pad, but it still had us on the edge of our seats nonetheless. When the match ended shortly after, we had just seen a sequel that topped the original, upping the ante in terms of sheer spectacle, action, and yes, blood. Wrestlers like Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston were naturals for this kind of battle, but even wrestlers you might not expect to thrive like 2.0 and Wheeler Yuta ended up doing well. A legitimate leg injury to Santana was the only thing that marred an otherwise amazing night.

Kenny Omega vs. Joey Janela, Dark

We started this list with matches from Janela and Omega, so it only makes sense that we end with a match between the two. Yet another Lights Out match, this was the first of a trilogy of matches the two would have against each other, and also their best. It took place on just the second-ever episode of AEW "Dark" and was a great way of getting fans' attention by offering something that would end up being quite different than the kinds of matches people would soon come to expect from the show. This wasn't a short little undercard squash, this was two wrestlers shooting for the moon, trying to have a top-tier level match.

This is indeed an excellent match, and it features a lot of the same implements of destruction we've seen in a lot of matches on this list. Why it stands out enough to make a top 10, though, is simple. Two of the craziest bumps in AEW history happen in this match. The first is Janela being body slammed off the top turnbuckle onto four open chairs, all lined up back to back. The second is the finish, where Omega hits Janela with a One Winged Angel on an open chair, one that doesn't crumple or break. Individually, each of these spots are crazy enough to steal a show. On this night, they happened within the same minute.

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