AEW Worlds End 2023: Biggest Winners And Losers

All Elite Wrestling presented its final PPV of the year, Worlds End, on Saturday. The show had a myriad of ups and downs, as seen in our Loved and Hated column, and its unique positioning at the very end of 2023 means that it will set the tone for the year to come.

There's a new AEW World Champion, a newly minted Triple Crown, and a new stable that looks much like an old one. In pro wrestling, winning and losing can be quite literal, as it's a medium built around winners and losers, but let's take a deeper look at who will come out of the PPV with the most to gain. With Worlds End, the AEW Continental Classic, and 2023 in the rearview mirror, it is time to list the six folks who will head into 2024 as Winners and Losers.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Wrestling Inc. staff & management, Static Media, or any other party.

Winner: Eddie Kingston

I am not the only one who will tell you this: Eddie Kingston represents everything that is good and true about professional wrestling. He's the real article and this business does not always reward talents like his. Luckily for fans at AEW Worlds End, this time the good guy won.

The King of The Bums achieved a lifelong dream on Saturday, defeating his former-friend-turned-bitter-rival Jon Moxley in the finals of the AEW Continental Classic, and becoming the first AEW Triple Crown Champion, now holding the ROH World, NJPW STRONG Openweight, and AEW Continental Crown Championships. The AJPW-worshipping Kingston has joined the likes of Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, Toshiaki Kawada, and Akira Taue, as a Triple Crown Champion, and quite simply the match itself was as good as watching Kingston achieve his boyhood dream.

Kingston and Moxley are explosive elements that are seemingly kept separate to avoid combustion. The last one-on-one encounter the two men had ended with Moxley choking Kingston out with barbed wire. While Saturday's match in Long Island didn't have the plunder of their previous "I Quit" Match, it had plenty of fury and a packed arena chanting for the hometown hero, Kingston. Just miles away from his home of Yonkers, Kingston not only defeated a ghost from his past but etched his name in AEW and wrestling history.

To a nicer guy, it couldn't have happened.

Loser: MJF

Now that Maxwell Jacob Friedman's reign as AEW World Champion is over, it can be weighed in the balance, and personally, I can't find much that the title reign accomplished, outside of taking MJF out of his comfort zone, muddling his character, and teaching him the power of friendship over the course of six agonizingly saccharine months. MJF undercut every top heel that the company has in the name of his misguided babyface run, which also deflated the greatest heel the company had: himself. 

MJF spent the entire reign, spinning in circles, trying to be likable when the entire appeal of MJF was his willingness to be detestable. He was young, cocky, willing to be hated, and all of that bravado completely shut down once he made it to the top of the mountain. He made his name being an a–hole and somehow the powers that be decided that this a–hole should be a babyface, but a babyface that still calls his enemies "fat," who still talks to his co-workers like they're subhuman, and calls his fans "poor," but don't you dare criticize this precious boy, because he was bullied as a child and is very sensitive about it and also he's very apprehensive about being disliked due to the state of geopolitics, even though he's made it clear in print that he's not really on any side in the current conflict in the Middle East and just believes in peace and love and hugs. He is both the bully and the bullied, oppressor and oppressed, heel and face, and that leaves very little room for his opponents to be anything other than a sounding board for his trauma and a punching bag. It hasn't been a championship reign, it's been therapy.

The entire reign was overcomplicated in the name of protecting one of the most immature, least confident world champions in modern wrestling, whether he was suited to the role or not. Even depressed alcoholic Adam Page somehow came off as a more noble, banner-carrying champion than MJF. 

Luckily for fans, the reign is over. Unfortunately for MJF, he's out of chances to prove himself as world champion and probably shouldn't be near the title again any time soon. 

Winner: Samoa Joe

If you pay attention to the story mode for WWE's 2K games, it is almost a running joke that former WWE NXT Champion Samoa Joe is usually either WWE Champion or WWE Universal Champion at some point in the story, despite WWE seemingly never trusting the veteran combatant with the world title at any time in his nearly 7 years with the company. ROH, TNA, even WWE's developmental program all saw Joe as a world champion but he never broke through on primetime television. For that reason, there is extra satisfaction for fans of the 25-year pro wrestling veteran in his victory over AEW World Champion, song & dance man, and all-around sports entertainer MJF at AEW Worlds End.

The last couple months of AEW programming have been a war between the spectacular professional wrestling of the Continental Classic and the woefully convoluted sports entertainment of MJF's tangle with The Devil. Joe is a performer that has proven time and time again that he can stand in both worlds. He can kick ass and take names with the best of them, but he's also managed to be a grounding force in storylines like MJF and The Devil. Even when things got embarrassing, the fire and the passion that Joe brought to his role was anything but. He was a revelation, turning chicken s–t into delicious chicken salad, and being rewarded with an actual world title run on a primetime television show is the perfect end to 2023 for the oft-overlooked and overworked veteran. 

The cherry on top is that Joe did it without any assistance from The Devil or his goons during the match. Joe won the title clean and his reign will be all the better for it, be it long or short.

Loser: Adam Copeland

It's actually fitting that so much of Adam Copeland's return merchandise has been branded similarly to Quentin Tarantino's 2007 film Death Proof, as the WWE Hall of Famer's run in AEW has shared the same awkward, bloated pacing of many of Tarantino's pictures. The action of Adam Copeland's AEW tenure has been sensational if a bit sloppy, too concerned with past references and moments and not enough with the connective tissue, leading to long talking spells and a general lack of forward momentum, once again drawing parallels to the Death Proof auteur. 

Copeland has been something of a side character to the pulpy, lurid, Jerry Springer-influenced drama involving Christian Cage, Nick Wayne, Mama Wayne, and a literal Dinosaur. The latest twist at AEW Worlds End, which saw Copeland become the victim of a Money In The Bank-style cash-in and the shortest TNT Champion in the history of the Turner-themed title, has left the former WWE Champion looking a bit foolish. It's nothing that a veteran like Copeland can't overcome, but it doesn't change that fact that the Hall of Famer is likely to be overshadowed by a wrestling dinosaur's quest to regain his name. 

Maybe that was always the point, for the fading star to lend a bit of his spotlight to all of the up-and-coming young talent that Christian Cage is elevating, but it still doesn't change the fact that there needs to be a winner and a loser in the situation, and Copeland is nobly, foolishly the loser here.

Winner: Roderick Strong

Roderick Strong is one of the best wrestlers in the world, full stop. On a bad day, he is capable of having a better match than 99% of the wrestling world on their best day, but you wouldn't know that since he's spent the last half a year as an invalid version of Stanley Kowalski, wheeling around in a wheelchair and screaming for Adam Cole. It was a comedy character that got old quick and kept one of the best bell-to-bell talents out of the ring. Well, the wheelchair is no more, he's reunited with Adam Cole, and he's in the top heel faction in AEW at present.

Even better, with his compatriots Matt Taven and Mike Bennett busy with the ROH Tag Team Division, Wardlow in a precarious position where he'll need to be protected, and Adam Cole still seemingly injured and out of action, Strong is in a position to be the singles workhorse of the faction, likely meaning plenty of showcases for his freakish stamina and athletic ability. The Devil storyline may not be the most popular thing AEW has ever done, but the payoff hopefully means great things for "The Messiah of the Backbreaker."

Loser: Chris Jericho

AEW went into Worlds End with a black cloud hanging over it and that cloud's name was Chris Jericho. Allegations of Jericho's possible role in the departure of early AEW signee Kylie Rae and his alleged use of Non-Disclosure Agreements led to Jericho being pelted with boos and chants like "Kylie Rae," "NDA," and "F–k you, Chris!"

So torrential was the downpouring of hatred that Jericho was flustered for much of the match, missing even the most basic spots. Despite the presence of often disliked and divisive stars like Sammy Guevara and Darby Allin, everything about the match was drowned out by the boos and vitriol that was cast in Jericho's direction. Jericho tried to fight against the tide, even going through with a Scorpion Deathlock/Walls of Jericho spot alongside Sting, sullying Sting's last match in the Nassau Coliseum, but it was too late. He was sunk. It felt like the former AEW World Champion crumpled under the weight of the public outcry, his reputation obliterated by the pressure as quickly as the OceanGate submarine disaster from earlier this year.

After the event, Tony Khan refused to state whether Jericho had ever been investigated for misconduct, and his troubling inability to deliver an outright "no" to the question, even after being asked three times, seemed to cast an even greater pall over the night's events. Ultimately, Sammy Guevara and Chris Jericho's victory over the AEW World Tag Team Champions means that the two men will be challenging for the titles and Jericho will not be going anywhere anytime soon, but it is hard to deny that AEW Worlds End felt like just that –the end of the world– for Chris Jericho.

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