AEW Collision 7/8/23: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Saturday was a big night for "AEW Collision," as it was set to feature the much-hyped fourth match between CM Punk and Samoa Joe as one of three planned Owen Hart Foundation Tournament matches (another one ended up being postponed due to injury). And sure, Scorpio Sky made his return, Miro talked more about God, and Shawn Spears apparently promised his newborn child that he would be a better person for the rest of his life and is now breaking that promise because he ran into Luchasaurus and Christian Cage in the hallway once and they were rude to him, those are all things that happened. But the real question is: How did that massive main event contest actually turn out, and why is the answer "Who cares, it had its spotlight fully and completely stolen by the FTR/Bullet Club Gold match earlier in the show?"

This is exactly the sort of subjective opinion and analysis that lies before you now; if you just want to know everything that happened on the show, you can turn to our live coverage. But if you want to know whether we thought Saturday night actually was alright for fighting, here are three things we hated and three things we loved about the 7/8/23 episode of "AEW Collision."

Hated: Very much a third sequel

Maybe our expectations were too high going into Punk/Joe IV. Despite Punk's hilarious show-opening promo line about this being the most important match of his career, it was still the semi-finals in a tournament where the winner gets a trophy, taking place on the fourth episode of a Saturday night wrestling show. Not exactly WrestleMania. It was probably never going to live up the hype, and separated from the hype it was actually a pretty good match, but it just didn't feel the way we were hoping it would feel, and we can't help but be a little disappointed that Punk's long-awaited victory against Joe came via roll-up on TNT.

Maybe the problem is that we really just can't get into babyface CM Punk in 2023. The concept had more than run its course even before the post-All Out media scrum back September — Punk is just a natural heel, and that's doubly true since he went off on his own company's executives in front of the media. Regardless of how you feel about those particular events and the ones that allegedly followed, it can't denied that even when he's playing babyface, Punk comes off as kind of a dick. It worked at first because he had finally come back to wrestling after seven years, but at this point, we're very ready to have heel Punk back, and as a result, we had a little trouble buying into the slow-burn comeback story the match was built around, and we couldn't muster a ton of sympathy during Joe's post-match attack. Could the upcoming tournament finals against Ricky Starks be a catalyst for a Punk heel turn? We are cautiously hopeful, but not terribly optimistic.

Loved: He gave up his double-jointed hot wife for your sins

We haven't talked a ton about Miro in this space so far, and that's mostly because he's just been squashing jobbers and cutting very Redeemer-esque backstage promos so far. But we have to give some love to the backstage promo from this episode, because it encapsulated the reason that Miro has always stood out against a roster of characters that too often feel interchangeable.

We've always been fans of the Redeemer character, particularly the sheer audaciousness of its evolution into what seemed to be a feud between Miro and God. Now, Miro seems to be telling us he has emerged from that internal spiritual conflict with a new inner purity. In addition to longer being tempted by his "double-jointed hot wife," Miro apparently can no longer be tempted by championship gold, which is one of the most interesting twists we've ever seen for a wrestling character. A wrestler who actively avoids the prospect of winning titles? It's a fascinating concept, and a risky one, and combined with the final tease of some kind of war coming (?) it's all the weird, over-acted, slightly silly but also deadly serious elements we love about the Redeemer.

Of course, it remains to be seen if all this is actually going anywhere, and if the journey is worth the destination. In some ways, Miro is becoming AEW's answer to Bray Wyatt — a character whose unique characteristics and ambitions can only be satisfactorily paid off by a high-concept, creative, and suitably epic storyline. It's something WWE has never been willing to commit to, and given Miro's total absence from TV prior to the debut of Collision (where AEW seems to be housing many of its misfit toys) it seems unlikely that Tony Khan would make such a commitment either — and even if he did, it might end up taking so long to manifest that we stop caring. But for now, we are very much in on Miro, Scorner of Championships. And also of double-jointed hot wives.

Hated: Smash your QTV

We still have PTSD from the blowoff to the Ricky Starks/Powerhouse Hobbs feud coming via a five minute PPV match that nobody remembers because it was All Out 2022, and an "AEW Rampage" match that nobody remembers because it happened on "AEW Rampage." And while this Owen Hart Tournament semifinal between the two was fine, it didn't do a whole lot to quell those particular demons. You'd think AEW might have booked this match so they could play off the history between Hobbs and Starks, but they really didn't do that. Instead, this was a pretty basic "make the heel look dominant until it's time for the babyface to win" affair, and the story happening in the ring was centered primarily around QT Marshall, of all people. In a profoundly uninspired finishing sequence, Marshall's extraordinarily minor interference led to an extended confrontation with the referee, costing Hobbs the win after he got a visual pin. Afterward, Hobbs confronted Marshall, allowing Starks (the babyface, mind you) to pick up the win.

It just felt like lazy booking, and it didn't give us a great sense of who we were supposed to feel better about going forward. Starks picking up a win over Punk in the finals would obviously be huge, but do we really see that happening? And while Hobbs tossing Marshall and Aaron Solow around and walking out on QTV certainly popped the crowd (which, as it happens, was hot throughout the night), his character feels more directionless than ever. Hobbs and Starks are both performers that deserve more from AEW than they've been getting lately, and this match didn't do much to change that opinion.

Loved: The method to his mask-ness

Despite some slight annoyance that the storyline between Andrade El Idolo and the House of Black has neither advanced terribly far in the last two weeks nor gotten back into the ring, we refuse to complain about the promos cut this week by Andrade and Malaki Black. Black's work is always spectacular, and never more so than when he's doing this exact sort of thing, but what really stood out about his promo is that it reminded us, without being explicit, that these two have history together. They've teamed up before in AEW, losing to Cody Rhodes and PAC back at Full Gear 2021, and they worked together under different names in "WWE NXT," with Black defeating Andrade in his "NXT" debut at Takeover: Orlando in 2017, then taking his "NXT" Championship a year later at Takeover: New Orleans. Black didn't mention any of these names or dates, but he didn't have to; instead, he infused his promo with a deep sense of familiarity, making the audience connect the dots about why he might care so much about Andrade becoming the best, truest version of himself by freeing himself of his mask.

Andrade, meanwhile, cut a backstage promo that was very necessary in a feud rotating around a mask that he only occasionally wears. Andrade could still probably use a manager or someone else to do his talking for him, but he actually had some decent delivery here, explaining that the mask provides him a sense of connection to his culture and his people, a few moments of peace before he returns to the daily grind of fighting for a living. It was all very good stuff, and we're looking forward to seeing where it goes. Hopefully the next place it goes is back in the ring.

Hated: Déjà vu

Two Wednesdays ago, Britt Baker wasn't medically cleared to wrestle on "Dynamite" in her scheduled Owen Hart Tournament match, which was postponed. AEW's solution: send Baker's planned opponent, Ruby Soho, out for a squash match against local talent, and have her cut a promo on Baker, presumably to fill the remainder of the time that had been blocked out for the match. As a solution to a last-minute problem, you could do a lot worse, even though we thought it was weird that they didn't just give Soho a match with another woman on the roster.

Saturday, Willow Nightingale wasn't medically cleared to wrestle on "Collision" in her scheduled Owen Hart Tournament match, which was postponed. AEW's solution: send Julia Hart out for a squash match against local talent while Nightingale's planned opponent, Athena, cut a promo on her backstage. As a solution to a last-minute problem ... first of all, was it actually a last-minute problem? Willow's injuries were credited to her recent match against STARDOM's Giulia, which took place three days prior to "Collision." This wasn't a sudden illness like Baker; did AEW actually not know whether Nightingale could wrestle until the day of the show? And even if they did, is that any reason to take Athena — who has been enjoying the run of her career as Ring of Honor Women's Champion, though you need to be one of HonorClub's 12 subscribers to watch it — off the "Collision" card entirely? Don't get us wrong, we love Julia Hart, but the match didn't even do anything to advance the House of Black's latest feud — could she at least have come out with Andrade's mask? Her match was also too long and too competitive for our liking; maybe they were just trying to fill time, but we thought Hart should have had an easier time of it against someone named Bambi Hall (the match between Action Andretti and a returning Scorpio Sky had a similar problem, though Andretti is at least an official member of the roster and got a good rub from Sky offering a post-match handshake).

All in all, we're still out here banging this drum until AEW does more with its women's division. Losing Willow to injury isn't an excuse. You have an entire roster full of immensely talented women, Tony Khan. Use them.

Best: The real main event

Obviously the main event of "Collision" was always going to be Punk/Joe IV, but man — if we were those guys, we'd be a little pissed that we had to follow the tag team title eliminator match between Bullet Club Gold and FTR. These four men put on an absolute clinic Saturday night, the kind of match that reminds you why FTR are one of the best tag teams of the modern era, why Jay White was such a big deal, and why AEW has managed to draw many fans away from WWE. Some fans, when they talk about AEW providing talent with more creative freedom, just mean that AEW allows wrestlers to bleed more take more risks. The truth is that it's this kind of match that gives AEW fans something they'd never see on WWE programming: a 30-minute long, astonishingly well-performed tag team classic that used basic wrestling psychology and trope manipulation, rather than mere shock value, to keep us on the edge of our seats nearly the entire time.

There were two main reasons this match worked so well: FTR's understanding of how tag team wrestling works and their obvious love of playing with tag tropes (we were particularly fond of Juice Robinson jumping up on the apron so Dax Harwood would fight him instead of tagging in to save a desperate Cash Wheeler) and White's pure star power and charisma, which AEW's booking could only keep locked up inside him for so long. It's bizarre that a tag team match did more for White in a single evening than all his singles matches put together, but he came across as an absolute superstar in this contest, with the overall story of the match being that White is simply too good to be put down for three. Robinson is there too, and he does a good job, but Bullet Club Gold wins this match because neither member of FTR is on White's level, plain and simple.

This match was AEW's answer to the Bloodline segment on "WWE SmackDown" the night before. WWE can give you 30 minutes of incredibly effective drama — friends turning to enemies, family manipulating family, bitter tears and heartfelt vows and conflicted expressions of regret. AEW can give you 30 minutes of in-ring wrestling action at its best, affairs that remind us of what the art form has been and what it could be again. WWE has spent the last year pushing the art of wrestling in new, unexpectedly formalist directions, and the results have been spectacular. AEW, at its best, represents wrestling classicism, and that's not always our thing — but when it works, holy s***, it works.

And we get this again next week, but two out of three falls, for the titles? Now that match should main event.