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When a company only has four PPVs a year the standards for each of those PPV events is going to be pretty high. The company has spent months building up storylines and feuds through weekly television, all building to drive the focus for one specific event. Up until Saturday evening I could say with confidence that there had yet to be a bad AEW PPV, to the extent that when the buzz online began to turn on All Out and it was labeled as the worst PPV in AEW history, I did not even know what PPV to compare it to for context, since all of the previous shows had been good. All Out ended up being in a class all by itself, and will now be the bar for every below-average event AEW puts on moving forward.
There were some signs that this was coming, the last couple of weeks of television had been below-average and the go-home show felt weak. Still, it was surprising to see the show fall flat. I don't think the show was terrible, but I didn't think it was particularly good either. From a storyline standpoint, I actually enjoyed most of the show, the main event, the two key tag team matches and the women's title match were all well-executed. A few matches on the card did not work for a variety of reasons, and that did manage to drag the show down.
Another key factor was that the show was just very long, particularly for a show that is still somewhat in an empty arena environment. The crowd could be heard at certain times, but there were moments of pretty much complete silence and that is just death for the viewer at home. This kind of felt like a WrestleMania or SummerSlam that ends up going 5+ hours, and even if the show is kind of good, it just feels too long and it makes it harder for the last few matches to really resonate because the crowd is ready to go home (or in the case of the viewer, to go to bed). The fact that it was 95 degrees that day with 100% humidity in Jacksonville probably did not help.
The biggest story coming out of the PPV was the injury to Matt Hardy, which is going to force a spotlight on AEW as a company and a lot of tough questions are going to be aimed at Tony Khan. Hardy's injury is something you cannot anticipate, but you have to react in the moment and AEW is going to face a lot of criticism about the choices that were made in allowing that match to continue. The fact that people are talking about that in the days after the show, and not about Jon Moxley retaining the world title, or Kenny Omega possibly turning heel and feuding with Adam Page, is a major problem with this show.
How does AEW respond? At the end of last year there was a lot of criticism directed at Dynamite, particularly following an episode that ended in a terrible beat-down of The Elite by the Dark Order. The company responded by kind of turning down the angle with the Dark Order and responded with a very strong January and got things back on track. So far, and perhaps this won't be the case forever, AEW's management has shown a willingness to listen to listen to fan response and adjust their storylines and booking accordingly. That comes with some strengths and weaknesses; but overall I would expect some changes moving forward with the company. Some angles may be dropped and other things will be emphasized on the show, but there are adjustments that need to be made in order to maintain a high standard of quality.
Jon Moxley vs MJF: ****¼
I thought this was an excellent main event and even though he lost, MJF really came out looking more like a star in my opinion. The big question I had for MJF going into this match is that while we know that he can really talk, and he has his character down, but if he is going to be a main event star, he is going to have to get into the ring and have a really good match in the main event of a PPV. I was very impressed with his work in this match, his selling was good and his offense looked crisp and effective. To me, he answered any doubts that I might have had about his potential to the top guy one day, because it is all there.
The decision to not put the title on MJF was interesting. I have really enjoyed Moxley as champion, so I'm not disappointed that he still has the title. There is something to be said for really giving MJF the full push and to make him the champion; but he is still so young that he can absorb this loss, have it make an impact on his character, and go from there. I thought the finish was very clever, MJF can blame Wardlow, and by Moxley hitting the banned move when the referee was distracted, MJF can then double-down on the heel heat he got from getting the move banned by crying about how Moxley technically cheated to win the match. It should lead to only good stuff for him moving forward.
Matt Hardy vs Sammy Guevara: NO RATING
This to me, was the worst moment in AEW history. A guy taking a horrible bump where he bangs his head off of concrete, visibly gets knocked out, and continues the match while staggering around and clearly looking impared. Should the match have continued? The doctor examined Hardy and cleared him and I am not a doctor, but as a fan I was very uncomfortable watching Hardy perform, and even if he was professionally cleared, we still know so little about concussions that it seemed very unsafe to have him keep going.
I thought that the spot looked unsafe to begin with; Hardy getting speared off of a high platform, with only two tables to break his landing, one of which they completely missed. Hardy knows infinitely more about taking high spots through tables than pretty much anyone, but in hindsight it looked like a really unsafe spot.
I could not stop thinking about Katsuyori Shibata; who suffered a head injury during a match, finished the match, collapsed backstage, and then almost died later that day in the hospital, and his career was over. After the match was over, that was all I could think about and you could tell that that kind of trauma hurt the audience for quite a while afterwards. I really hope Matt is okay and can continue to perform in a safe environment.
Adam Page and Kenny Omega vs FTR: ***½
This match was more about the storytelling than it was about having a great, blow-away match, which is fine. For FTR, this was a really important match for them; they calmly took care of business and worked over Omega's knee so that he could not save Page at the end of the match. It was a match done in their style and very different from the Young Bucks match that took place earlier in the night.
The post-match angle was to clearly show the fracture between Omega and Page. Omega didn't turn on Page completely, but I think what tonight showed is that it looks like Omega will be turning on Page, and not the other way around. That makes sense, Page has gotten organically over as a babyface and you don't want to hurt that by turning him heel, and there is a real argument that heel Kenny, "The Cleaner" will be an improvement for Omega and breath new life into his run as a singles star.
Orange Cassidy vs Chris Jericho: **½
This was an okay match, but it was coming towards the end of the show and started right around 11 p.m., I think some fatigue was really setting in. I thought the match went kind of long, there are only so many times you can do the "guy wobbling near the vat of Mimosa" spot before it gets old. Really, as entertaining as both guys have been, the Cassidy vs Jericho feud has kind of run its course and I'd like to see them move on after tonight.
The Young Bucks vs Jurassic Express: ****¼
This was the first real match on the PPV and it set a very high standard for the rest of the show, especially the tag team title match. The Young Bucks are just really good at their job, and anybody who argues against that just isn't paying attention to what professional wrestling is. The storytelling in the match, with The Young Bucks being no-nonsense and basically playing heel, was well-done in addition to the general fast-paced, crisp action. This was a great showing for Jungle Boy and Luchasauras, who have potential to be big stars in their own distinctive way.
Hikaru Shida vs Thunder Rosa: ***½
This was a pretty good match; from a physicality standpoint it might be the best worked women's match in the history of the company. Coming on the heels of the Hardy match, they were put in a tough spot as the atmosphere in the arena was pretty rough, but they got the crowd into the match as it went along. AEW should hopefully be able to use Thunder Rosa more on television, because she is the kind of performer that the company really needs for that division. I think over time, she would really get over and has a chance to be the face of the division; someone that can be on par with the top stars in WWE's women's division.
Casino Battle Royal: **¾
This was like a lot of the battle royals that AEW has had. The five men enter concept at least makes it different from other battle royals, and creates a similar "who's next?" vibe that the Royal Rumble does. The goal here was really to try and progress a few feuds that have been bubbling on television, and that was accomplished, particularly with the Darby Allin vs Brian Cage and Ricky Starks feud. I did like that Will Hobbs came into the match without any fanfare and got some key spots in, which was something nobody expected. Archer is a deserving winner and has great star presence.
The Dark Order vs The Natural Nightmares, Scorpio Sky and Matt Cardona: **¾
The work in this match was pretty good, and the storyline makes sense; The Dark Order beats Cody, so Cody's friends try to get revenge for him. This did kind of feel like a match that would take place on Dynamite, with the Dustin Rhodes vs Brodie Lee match then taking place on the PPV. So they kind of did things backwards. Dustin's post-match promo was awesome, though.
Britt Baker vs Big Swole: *
This was a cinematic match, and like basically every cinematic match, it wasn't very good and at times, felt really stupid. This probably would have been fine as a sketch on Dynamite or on the pre-show, like it was originally scheduled to be, but I wouldn't have opened a PPV with it. AEW has a really high standard for their PPV shows, and this wasn't up to snuff.
That being said, while the match wasn't good the general goal of this feud was to get over the personalities of Baker and Swole, and to that extent, they spent months in various segments with these two and I do think they got more over. So while the match wasn't good, I'd still say this feud was a booking success for AEW and helped the women involved.
Private Party vs John Silver and Alex Reynolds: ***¼
This was a good, contemporary tag team match with a lot of the same type of stuff that you would see on a high-level indie show, which makes sense because that scene is where these guys came from. This match was kind of thrown together at the last minute when AEW decided to move the Baker/Swole match to the main card, but for what it was it was pretty enjoyable. Private Party getting a win on PPV is good for them, and it will be interesting to see what AEW does with Silver, who is really starting to get over with the fans who watch Being The Elite.