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AEW's second official wrestling event, FyterFest, was a very interesting show from the outset. While it was originally intended to be kind of a side-show that Kenny Omege would produce in conjunction with a popular gaming tournament, the fact that it was the second-ever show for AEW, the follow-up to the acclaimed Double or Nothing, made the show more important than it might have been intended to be.
The show was largely used as a way to build angles and wrestlers for the future of the company. This was not Double or Nothing, a show designed to be a blow-away conquest that announced AEW as a major player in the wrestling landscape, but it was used as a way to hype future AEW events, most notably ALL OUT. It was also used to build-up certain wrestlers that fans may not be that familiar with, in particular Nyla Rose, Darby Allin, Joey Janela, MJF and CIMA.
The show was not as strong as Double or Nothing, particularly because the preshow was bogged down by two below-average matches. The show was still built around the video game convention, and for wrestling fans sometimes that was a good thing, because the crowd was hot for most of the night, but it also was a bad thing, particularly for the pre-show death match between Michael Nakazawa and Alex Jebailey, the promoter of the gaming tournament.
Overall, the show was another step in the right direction for AEW. It may not have been the home run that their first show was, but it moved the promotion forward by successfully promoting new wrestlers and angles, as well as establishing some ground rules for the company, such as the amount of violence they were willing to show and that they will be using draws a real mechanism going forward.
Jon Moxley vs Joey Janela: ****
This was brutal. While the amount of violence they were willing to show in this match is not that much different that what you would see in promotions like Combat Zone Wrestling and Big Japan Pro Wrestling, it was probably more violent than what a lot of fans have seen before. Some of the aspects of the match, such as Janela's bare feet stepping into the thumbtacks, may be seen as gratuitous; but AEW was trying to show that they are going to be different than other wrestling promotions; this wasn't a death match where a guy cartoonishly uses pliers, or someone gets hit in the back with a chair, this is a promotion where ANYTHING can happen.
It was a big match for Janela, who got to close the show and took and absolute beating in the process, but in the long run it helps him if he is seen as someone that can main event a show against a big star like Moxley. The post-match angle with Omega and Moxley is obviously going to set-up their singles match, which should be one of the main matches at ALL OUT.
Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks vs The Lucha Brothers and Laredo Kid: ****¼
This is what you would expect from these guys; tons of high-flying and near falls with a lot of dives and high-impact moves. Matches are about entertaining the crowd they are in front of, and the crowd ate it up, no doubt in part because they really catered towards the video game crowd with the outfits and the theatrics.
The Young Bucks and Lucha Brothers matches are really good, but I would like to see a little more storyline development with them. Cody, Omega, Page, Jericho, etc. all seem to have major storylines brewing and developing; The Young Bucks could really benefit from a little more attention to angles beyond just having good matches.
Cody Rhodes vs Darby Allin: ****
So I absolutely loved this match. It was very traditional with a lot of mat wrestling and Allin working over Cody's hand. The match was excellent storytelling, with Cody being the big star with a physical advantage, but he just couldn't put Allin away. The announcers did a great job building up the idea that Allin was this relentless, intense figure and the match reflected that character. I love the use of the draw as an additional storytelling element and it ended up being the perfect ending to this match.
I don't love unprotected chair shots to the head; they are unnecessary in wrestling and the science behind concussions is terrifying. That being said, if you are going to do it, make a really big deal about it happening and they did that tonight with the announcers really putting over the dastardliness of what Shawn Spears did to Cody.
Adam Page vs MJF vs Jimmy Havoc vs Jungle Boy: ***¾
With Page already set to face Chris Jericho in the main event of ALL OUT for the AEW World Championship, there is no doubt that Page would win this match. Page is going to be a main event player, but MJF is also a guy who has to be in that mix. His connection with the audience as a heel talker is very difficult to find in wrestling today, and he does come across like an old-fashioned heel like Roddy Piper or Ted DiBiase. I also thought as a wrestler he looked competent enough to justify being in the main event of shows; he isn't just a good talker.
Nyla Rose vs Yuka Sakazaki vs Riho: ***½
I didn't have super high expectations for this match, but it ended up being really entertaining. The company has high hopes for Nyla Rose, and though she didn't win the match she was clearly the star of the match, with the top rope knee drop spot to Sakazaki on the ropes really getting over the live audience. Sakazaki won, but the announcers in really sold the idea that Rose was the dominant force and she just didn't focus enough to win the match.
CIMA vs Christopher Daniels: ***½
This was a good opening match for the main show, it wasn't a blow-away match that was tough to follow, but it was entertaining and the in-ring action was really solid. CIMA is going to wrestle Omega at Fight for the Fallen so he needed to win, and he looked strong, winning with his finisher.
Best Friends vs SCU vs Private Party: ****
This match kicked-off the pre-show and did a great job pushing fast-paced action with everyone doing cool moves. For most fans, this was the first time they probably watched Private Party, and there was a clear focus on getting those guys over. Private Party are still green but are fantastic athletes and got a lot of the glory spots in the match. The idea is that they would be a tag team for the future and need more experience, so it made sense to let them get over a bit, and then beat them. Best Friends and SCU are veteran teams that were over with the audience and all of their stuff looked good.
Allie vs Leva Bates: **
This match was more about getting The Librarian gimmick over, but they did have a regular wrestling match and the work was okay. I'm not sure if the fans knew how to react to the gimmick, but it seemed like they were at least into it a little bit by chanting for reading educational tools and programs. Allie won, which should have been expected given that she is wrestling Brandi Rhodes at Fight for the Fallen.
Alex Jebailey vs Michael Nakazawa: *
This was absurd. I ended up enjoying it more than I thought because the live crowd was really into it and it was pretty funny as a comedy match. That being said, I don't know if I would have had this on the show. The show was intended to be a tie-in with the video game convention, but AEW has gained a following faster than anticipated, and whether AEW saw this show as being a big deal or not, it's the follow-up to Double or Nothing so it was going to get a lot of attention regardless. This was a match for the live crowd, but I can imagine a lot of fans watching at home didn't care for it.
Must Watch Matches
Jonathan Gresham vs David Starr: **** - PWG 200
Jungle Boy vs Jake Atlas vs Trey Miguel: **** - PWG 200