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The biggest independent wrestling show in memory, ALL IN, was a show with extremely high expectations. Depending on what you expected out of the show, fans may have been disappointed by the end, or blown away by the success of the show. If you expected the best show you’ve ever seen, the show never reached those heights. However, if you were expecting a fun atmosphere with a lot of solid wrestling and a celebration of the success these wrestlers have had outside the confines of WWE, this show was a hit.
Was ALL IN a success? It clearly was before the first bell rang; not only because of the sell-out but also because of the success of Starcast, the fan convention before the show, and the amount of coverage and press the show got from the media. The value of everyone on the show has been greatly increased due to the success of ALL IN. I think the most important thing for the group was to put on a memorable show that satisfied the hardcore fans who paid in some cases thousands of dollars to attend the show, while also entertaining more casual fans who were seeing a lot of the wrestlers for the first time and were not watching Being The Elite every week. I think the show was able to deliver on that front, so the execution of the card and the matches was a success in addition to the financial winfall the show enjoyed.
The Young Bucks and Kota Ibushi vs Rey Mysterio, Rey Fenix and Bandido:***3/4
Due to time constraints, this match was clearly rushed and they probably had to scrap a lot of planned spots. That was the only real issue ALL IN noticeably had from a technical standpoint, maybe if this show wasn’t being run by a group of wrestlers who have never produced a major show, they wouldn’t have run out of time for the main event. That being said, since it was a lucha libre, fast-paced match, they were able to fit a lot into the time they did have, and it was a fun match that was a satisfying main event, even if it probably could have been a lot greater if they managed their time better earlier in the show.
Kenny Omega vs Pentagon Jr.: ****1/4
If fans paid to see a great Omega match, they got what they paid for because this was an excellent match. It was a great opportunity for Pentagon Jr., who has a ton of charisma and really is the Latino wrestler major companies should be looking to build around. Omega was his typical self, bounding around the ring with unmatched athleticism for a heavyweight and hitting all of his signature moves. To me though. Pentagon was the star, particularly during the armbreaker/package piledriver spot where he was able to score a big near-fall. There was no way the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion was going to lose to someone who doesn’t even work for the company, but Pentagon and Omega were able to convince the crowd for a moment that it was possible, which is the sign of a good match.
Chris Jericho appearing at the end and attacking Omega was a nice twist, specifically because Jericho had made it clear he wouldn’t work in the US for anyone except WWE; which in hindsight was clearly him setting up this surprise attack.
Cody Rhodes vs Nick Aldis: ***3/4
I thought this was a solid match that really played to Cody’s strengths as a performer. He isn’t as athletic or as spectacular as a lot of the other performers on the card, but he excels at selling storylines in the ring and he was predictably going to be a big babyface. I didn’t really like the false finish with Hebner putting up the “X” symbol just because it’s overdone and the fans don’t really buy it anymore. That being said, the story that was told, with Aldis as the heel and taking out Brandi, only for Cody to rally back and steal the victory, was perfect for this show.
Getting the NWA World Heavyweight Championship on ALL IN was a huge coup for Billy Corgan and the NWA. When was the last time you watched or cared about an NWA title match? They did a great job with the video package leading into the match; and I really liked each guy coming out with a team around them. When the match started it felt like a big, championship fight, and that hasn’t been associated with the NWA in a long time.
Marty Scurll vs Kazuchika Okada:****1/4
There was a simple, but effective story told in this match that guided them through an entertaining bout. The story of Marty Scurll trying to test himself as a heavyweight against the measuring stick in NJPW, was something hyped through Being the Elite and told throughout the match. Part of the appeal of ALL IN was that the show would be promoting matches you wouldn’t see anywhere else, as NJPW does not book singles matches between wrestlers from different weight classes. Fans may not have gotten Okada vs Omega V, but in some ways they got something more unique in Scurll vs Okada.
Jay Lethal vs Flip Gordon: ***1/2
They had a tough spot following the crazy ending to the street fight. The payoff of Gordon emerging on the show had already played out in the battle royal, but he was still over as a babyface and he’s at the stage in his career where he can lose matches like this and get a big boost from the loss. Lethal coming out as Black Machismo was a fun touch to the match, and had been teased on Being the Elite, so it made sense. I liked seeing Lanny Poffo go out to the ring with Lethal; without him you could argue that this was just an indie wrestler trying to exploit the name of a beloved legend for a cheap pop, but Poffo’s presence made it look like a heartfelt tribute.
Hangman Page vs Joey Janela: ****
I figured this would be one of the best matches on the card because both men’s reputations were that of guys willing to do anything to get over with the audience. Janela is a really talented guy with a lot of charisma and a good act with his girlfriend, Penelope Ford, but it’s hard to see him wrestling well into his 30s. This was a terrifying spectacle, and the finish is perhaps the most dangerous thing you will see on PPV all year. This was also a match where if you just checked out ALL IN to see what the hype was about, you were probably really confused by the boots and the telephone; not to mention the penis mascots and the return of Joey Ryan. If you watch Being The Elite, it all made perfect sense and was actually good storytelling, but your excused if you thought it was really stupid.
Tessa Blanchard vs Britt Baker vs Madison Rayne vs Chelsea Green: ***1/2
This was an excellent match; and the crowd was really getting to it right at the end. It was unfortunate that the finish was awkward and caught the crowd by surprise because they were really hot for the match. As the only women’s match on the show this really delivered, and the four wrestlers worked well with each other. Rayne was the veteran and the most recognized name; Green and Baker were the two lesser-known wrestlers who focused a lot on their characters, and Blanchard as the future top women’s star in the industry. Out of everyone on this show, I have to think the most likely performer to go to WWE (well, besides Rey Mysterio) is Blanchard.
Stephen Amell vs Christopher Daniels: **
This was a very strange match. A lot of times when celebrities are involved in wrestling matches, they stand on the apron and tease coming in, before getting a quick hot tag and doing a couple of spots and then are involved in the finish. In this match, Amell was acknowledged as an actor, but was presented in the match like he was any other guy on the show; and it was assumed he had a lot of experience. The match was sloppy, as they tried to do a legitimate wrestling match and as good as Daniels is, Amell is a novice. I’ll give him credit though, he tried a lot of stuff and took a bunch of big bumps, and he hit the big spots like the coast-to-coast and the dive through the table. It was as good as could be expected.
Matt Cross vs MJF: ***1/4
A solid opening match, with a good, clean finish. Cross is a veteran indie wrestler and has never really gotten a good shot despite his talent and obvious athletic ability. I liked this match as a reminder that ALL IN is in a lot of ways, a celebration of independent wrestling. While some of the names, like the Bullet Club and NJPW stars are more well-known, there are a lot of wrestlers making a living in spotlights that aren’t as bright. A nod to a veteran (Cross) and a newcomer (MJF) to that lifestyle was appropriate at ALL IN.
Over Budget Battle Royal: ***1/2
Battle Royals are kind of an old-fashioned idea, and a lot of the time they devolve into a big scrum where fans can’t tell what is happening until the very end when the ring gets cleared. It’s just a match stipulation that hasn’t aged really well. However, they did a great job here with all of the various wrestlers interacting with each other and getting a spot to shine. The finish, with Flip Gordon disguised as a relative of legendary luchador El Chico, defeating Bully Ray was predictable, but exactly what the crowd wanted to see. Really they couldn’t have executed this match any better.
SoCal Uncensored vs The Briscoes: ***1/2
This was the first match on the pre-show, but the crowd was still hot for it and really liked SCU, which wasn’t surprising. The Briscoes are good playing heel and this was the right match to get the crowd involved and the work was strong.
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