The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of WrestlingInc or its staff
With CM Punk making his long-awaited in ring return, ALL OUT was expected to be the biggest PPV in company history, and I would say with the exception of the debut show, Double or Nothing in 2019, and perhaps the first episode of Dynamite, this was the most important show in company history. The appeal of Punk’s first match likely introduced new fans to AEW for the first time, and it was critically important the company deliver a strong show to try and turn those first time viewers into consistent fans.
It’s hard to think that the company could have done any better than what they ended up producing. A blow-away show that was full of entertaining matches and memorable moments from top-to-bottom. Throughout the night AEW came across as a fun, entertaining product full of athletic wrestling, dramatic stories and fun moments. From the crowd singing-along to different entrance themes, to popping huge for the debut of Bryan Danielson, AEW gave off the impression that it was incredibly enjoyable way to invest ones time. It was a nearly perfect PPV that had countless highs and very few lows.
A lot of people will focus on how this show compares to WWE, or if WWE is now “on notice” after AEW had such a good show and debuted some big names. However, WWE is in a different stratosphere than AEW when it comes to its place in the business due to numerous factors. This show is not about AEW comparing to WWE, or how big the viewership will be on Wednesday compared to what RAW and SD do. Tonight was about AEW needing to deliver with a lot of eyeballs on the product, and the company hit a home run. It’s not about being better than WWE, it’s about creating a successful brand that entertains the fans.
Kenny Omega vs Christian: ****
Less than a year ago, Christian wasn’t cleared to wrestle and was essentially retired as a pro wrestler. A few months later, he is in the main event of ALL OUT, and he didn’t take it easy. Christian took a beating from Omega, who solidified himself as the ultimate wrestler in the company, just in time for the showstopping angle to close the show.
I saw some people on social media talking about the crowd being tired for this match; and they certainly were not at the same level as they were for the CM Punk match, or the cage match, but I still thought they were into the match, even if Christian was not the most convincing opponent for Omega. They wrestled a match done at Christian’s pace; which has become a staple of Omega. When Omega wrestles Jon Moxley, he wrestles Moxley’s style of match. When he wrestles Rey Fenix, he wrestles Fenix’s style of match. Omega is a chameleon which is one of the reason’s he is so damn impressive. This wasn’t one of the best matches of his career, but it was a very solid main event for a show that had created an incredibly high standard.
The angle to close the show is an all-time moment in pro wrestling. It was incredible, on par with some of the best angles ever done in modern wrestling. Omega cuts a promo to basically set up Bryan Danielson to come out and challenge him, only for Adam Cole to be the surprise debut. The Chicago crowd, who were expecting Danielson, did pop big for Cole which was good. Then Cole shows that he is a heel and aligns himself with The Elite, which sets up the SECOND big debut in Danielson, which was really just incredible booking and execution.
Bryan is a huge get for AEW, as literally anyone in the company is a good matchup for him. Bryan vs Omega? Obviously. Bryan vs Fenix? Hell yeah. Bryan vs MJF? Perfect. Bryan vs Jungle Boy? Bryan vs Ricky Starks? Bryan vs Dante Martin? Bryan vs Fuego del Sol? All of them would be tremendous.
I think Bryan’s first opponent is likely going to be Adam Cole, since Bryan overshadowed his big debut, and it makes sense for Bryan to go through Cole, who is clearly being positioned to be kind of the #2 singles guy in The Elite, before he faces Omega in what will certainly be one of the most anticipated matches in wrestling history.
CM Punk vs Darby Allin: ****
I thought this was pretty much perfect for what it needed to be. CM Punk needed to prove that he could still go in the ring, and Darby was the perfect opponent for him. Punk came out in great shape, and although his tights were distracting (I expected him to rip them off Taichi-style) he looked like he didn’t miss a beat. Punk’s offense looked good, and he came out and worked a very smart match; telling the story of trying to slow Darby down while setting up the GTS.
Darby Allin was a great opponent for Punk in almost every way. He is probably the best bump taker in wrestling today and he sells as good as anybody else in wrestling, which helped make Punk look that much sharper and that much more like a big star. He is also extremely popular in his own right, and while he isn’t CM Punk-in-Chicago popular, he got a big enough reaction from the crowd that he came across like a star as well. A lot of new fans perhaps watched AEW for the first time tonight, and it was important this his opponent look like a big, important star as well.
The Young Bucks vs The Lucha Brothers: *****
Simply put, these are two of the greatest tag teams in the history of wrestling. I think The Young Bucks, bell-to-bell, are the best tag team in history and The Lucha Brothers are not that far behind. Just an amazing display of athleticism, coordination and talent. The match was really a modern twist on the traditional cage match; The Young Bucks had won their matches almost all due to interference, so they needed a gimmick to keep people out of the match. They had a classic, bloody, blow-off to their feud, but also incorporated all the crazy modern high-spots.
So much happened in the match it’s hard to point out anything in particular. I think the most telling part of the match is that after the multiple superkick spot, all four men collapsed to sell. This is typically designed to give the crowd a chance to stand up and cheer for their effort, but the crowd had already been on their feet for about 15 minutes already, so nothing really changed. It was that kind of match; not a single second of the 22 minutes was wasted.
The Young Bucks pass the torch on to the The Lucha Brothers, who I think will be more of a tweener team, capable of working as babyfaces and heels, depending on the opponent. The Young Bucks…what more can be said about them at this point? Do they ever have a bad match? Do they ever have even an average match? Is there any act, whether singles or tag team, that is more dependable when it comes to delivering on the big stage?
MJF vs Chris Jericho: ***1/2
This was a really interesting match. It was wrestled at a much slower pace than other matches on the show, so it felt different at first and may have been kind of a letdown for the crowd at first. I still believe that Jericho is pretty good in the ring despite his age, but it definitely had a slower-feel at first.
They really gambled with a risky finish that totally paid off. I did not like it at first; doing a false finish with the referee missing Jericho’s leg on the rope and ending the match. However, the crowd LOVED it, and Paul Turner going to Aubrey Edwards to let her know Jericho got his foot on the rope got a huge pop. The restart of the match immediately sparked a ton of life into the match, and the crowd was on the edge of its seat for the finale. The reverse Dusty finish, it was a very risky call but AEW hit a home run here.
You can tell how much AEW values MJF because they always give him an out on the rare occasion he loses. He did the job tonight, but he can easily complain for the rest of his career that he had won the match and had his hand raised before the match was restarted. It’s also interesting to note that the only reason Turner was down at ringside (a clever way to explain why he was able to see Jericho get his foot on the rope) was because Wardlow had come to ringside, which may be used later as a reason for breaking Wardlow away from MJF.
Britt Baker vs Kris Statlander: ***3/4
Britt Baker is a superstar and the crowd reacts to her like a top star. That alone will get her through any match, because the crowd is invested in everything she does. However, this match to me was all about Kris Statlander, who I thought was tremendous. Statlander, especially given her level of experience, is really impressive. Her offense looks so impactful and strong, and she can also sell her ass off, which she did a few times in the match (especially off the DDT spot where she almost stood on her head).
Baker is a hot commodity for AEW and one of their biggest success stories, but Statlander is also a star on the rise and will probably win the women’s title in the future. This was a match that could have been below-average, given the relative lack of experience of the wrestlers in the match, but they really over-delivered.
Miro vs Eddie Kingston: ***1/2
Eddie Kingston is not a conventional pick to be a top wrestling star. He spent almost his entire career on the indies as a talented guy who everyone basically put a ceiling on; he simply didn’t have the look or the athleticism to be considered for a top spot in a major promotion. However, in AEW he has achieved the most important element of being a wrestling star and that is convincing fans that he is a badass that they should believe in.
Despite his limitations, Kingston went toe-to-toe with the superathlete in Miro and the fans really believed in him and wanted to see him win. As he pelted in his Four Pillar-tribute offense, which eventually turned Miro’s chest purple, the crowd was with him every step of the way. My only criticism of the match was that the finish felt a little clunky, although it was clear what they were trying to do. I think a rematch at Arthur Ashe in Kingston’s hometown, is coming in a few weeks.
Satoshi Kojima vs Jon Moxley: ***1/4
This was a fun match that kept the good vibes going after a hot opener. I got the sense that the crowd respected Kojima, but were not particularly familiar with him because they didn’t really pop for his signature spots. Although I really like Kojima, I can also understand him being Moxley’s opponent at ALL OUT could be disappointing to some fans, because earlier it was being implied that Hiroshi Tanahashi would be Moxley’s opponent, and he is a different level of star than Kojima.
What was not disappointing was Minoru Suzuki’s appearance, which ruled. The crowd was very familiar with Suzuki and reacted accordingly. The announcers also put him over huge, and then he left Moxley laying. If you are a viewer that had never seen Suzuki before, I thought they did a great job teaching you why Suzuki is a big deal.
Casino Battle Royal: **3/4
For a match that was put in a tough position having to follow the epic cage match, they did a great job building to the end and the crowd was really into it. The gimmick of having the competitors coming in waves helps as even if the action isn’t that great at times, the match never drags. This was a very good debut for Ruby Soho, not only did she win the match, the crowd really popped for her coming in as the Joker entrant, and she came across like a big star. Another win for licensed music in AEW as well, coming out to “Ruby Soho” by Rancid.
Paul Wight vs QT Marshall: **
This match really was not necessary given that it ran second-to-last as a cool-down match between the CM Punk/Darby match and the world title match. At 11 p.m., it was time to just do the main event and go home. With that being said, the match was exactly what it should have been. Wight beat up QT and his minions in a quick match, and the crowd wasn’t bored by it.
In the latest edition of the Gentlemen’s Wrestling Podcast, Jesse Collings (@Jesse Collings) and Jason Ounpraseuth (@JasonOun95) talk about the proposed changes to WWE NXT, the future of WWE’s developmental program, the failures so far of the WWE Performance Center and the impact it will have on the indies and other promotions.