For the second time in seven days it’s time to forensically analyze guys – and girls – fighting in tight shorts.
Quick reminder, there are three categories: star quality, match quality, build. For each we’ll assign a score out of 10. To get a total score with which to rank the matches.
Star quality is within the company/to the company’s fans. If scores are even, matches’ll be ranked according to personal preference.
We’ll then predict the winner(s) of each contest.
Without further ado.
Jon Moxley vs Orange Cassidy (International Title)
Star quality: 8 – Two of the most popular babyfaces on the show. Even if one possibly, maybe, isn’t supposed to be?
Match quality: 8 – The champ’s been having good defenses all year. It’s easy to forget how good Moxley is at normal wrestling matches without stips, steel or blood. It could even be downright refreshing.
How they go about it should be interesting too. Does Mox put up with any of the silliness? Does he play along? It’s hard to think of characters with different approaches to wrestling.
Build: 7 – So there’s the long-term story that Cassidy’s tired and beat-up after a hectic schedule of defenses. Which has been told and shown well. Nicely abetted by a strong main event against a worthy challenger Wednesday.
It’s a story best ended by a despicable heel picking the bones. And depending on the night, Mox might be a bad guy. All I know for sure is he made a point of stopping to wish a little girl happy birthday after his match Wednesday.
Then there’s the short-term of Mox vs Cassidy.
Part of my picking the BCC to win last week was figuring this match was coming. So Mox would either defeat Cassidy or at least pin a Best Friend. Instead, Cassidy won. And there’s no real explanation for why Moxley’s in this match.
Though this was capped off by a nice focus on the two Wednesday. They ended the show. And Orange cut a serious promo about how he won’t give in, has pride in his belt, will defend it whenever he can. In fact it sounded very similar to the promos Mox used to cut as AEW champ.
And was followed by more excellent interview work from both on last night’s Collision. In particular a superb promo from Moxley who is exceptional at using his words to put over the guys he’s working with. Both added gravity to the match.
Overall Score: 23
Toss a coin in the air. It seems this’ll finally be one defense too many for the champ. But how many times have we thought that over the last few months? And Moxley doesn’t lose often. But the best ending here is for a weasel heel to take advantage of the downtrodden champ. While AEW have gone out of their way to push Cassidy as Mr. AEW this week. I say his push continues.
WINNER: Orange Cassidy
Darby Allin (w Nick Wayne) vs Luchasaurus (w Christian Cage) (TNT Title)
Star quality: 6 – I’m factoring Cage in here since he’s definitely part of the match. Darby’s basically a ‘top guy’; Luchasaurus most assuredly is not. He’s Christian’s fodder. Outside of beating Wardlow for the belt, it’s hard to think of anything he’s done all year that wasn’t standing and sneering.
Match quality: 6 – I’m not a fan of the dinosaur. Firstly because he’s a dinosaur and I’m an asshole who finds it hard to suspend disbelief. Secondly because the big fella’s kicks take a long time to wind-up while his opponents politely stand and wait. And I’m an asshole who finds it hard to suspend disbelief.
Presumably Darby will produce enough movement for about six people and make this at least decent. There’s the classic big man vs little man thing and the backdrop/atmos should be fun because Allin’s popular and heat is what Christian Cage does.
Build: 8 – The build for Darby Allin vs Christian Cage has been excellent. Allin won the opportunity a long time ago, allowing anticipation to build. Along the way he’s appeared consistently on tv with and against other top acts, usually winning. He feels a totally worthy challenger.
On the heels’ side, Cage’s parading around with the belt while occasionally remembering he isn’t really the champ has been great fun. In particular, the segment with his daughter was gold: ‘Did you win this?’. And they’ve attacked Allin enough verbally and physically that this feels personal.
Slight problem is that this isn’t Darby Allin vs Christian Cage. If it were, this’d be a strong contender to climax the show.
AEW should look at the way they’ve built this as a blueprint for future feuds. Announced early, clear heel and babyface, plenty of tv time for either side.
Overall Score: 20
The late addition of Nick Wayne in Darby’s corner was a nice touch. Since Wayne’s upset with Allin. They even slipped-in that Allin and Wayne’s late father ended on bad terms. And Cage openly talked about him throwing in the towel. All of which makes the outcome harder to predict. It’ll probably be Darby, but there’s definitely a chance Wayne costs him the title.
WINNER: Darby Allin
Kenny Omega vs Konosuke Takeshita
Star quality: 6 – If Kenny Omega were where he should be, where people saw him at the company’s outset, there wouldn’t be a debate over what’ll main event. Takeshita never wins on tv. Like ever. But at least that leaves time for ribbon cutting ceremonies.
Match quality: 9 – In a night full of good matches at All In, two performers stood out above the rest: Kenny Omega and Will Ospreay. They did things no-one else could and made them look easy. There’s a level of acceleration, a level of quick-twitch athleticism others can’t match.
But perhaps Takeshita can? Certainly the way that Takeshita Line apparates suggests so. He’s never really been given the time and opportunity – ie a long singles match on pay-per-view – to show it. Meaning he also has something to prove. And Omega’s a very giving opponent, just ask Alan Angels.
There’s also a nice, simple story for the match: Takeshita targeting Omega’s various weaknesses as pointed out by Callis. The only possible damper is crowd participation. Takeshita’s not a star yet. And Omega might be the heel to fans in deep dish land.
Build: 4 – I made my feelings on this build quite clear during the All In preview. Takeshita’s rolling-up Omega into a flash pin didn’t improve that.
What did – slightly – was the Strategy Session conducted by Don Callis on Dynamite. A very serious segment highlighting Omega’s many injuries and how the younger Takeshita can take advantage of the vet.
Notably, there was no response from Omega. Who was stuck in Florida Wednesday owing to the storms. And I don’t know how he was fixed for cell service and internet, but couldn’t he have at least sent a promo in on his phone? A story could even be made out of that – ‘Kenny Omega’s stuck in a storm but so badly wanted to address Takeshita and Callis that he sent us this’.
It’s yet another feud where all the ingredients were present and AEW didn’t know how to cook.
Overall Score: 19
Another very tough one. Takeshita could be established with a big win. They could achieve much the same if he comes close in a classic. They could even tell a New Japan-style tale of the youngster getting progressively closer to knocking the vet off.
It basically comes down to future plans. And it’s hard to predict where Kenny goes from here. MJF’s certainly short of opponents all of a sudden. Omega and Hangman looked damn good as a tag again last Sunday. That’d certainly be a nice tag/singles feud involving Cole.
I’ll go with Omega in a close one, building to Takeshita beating him next time. If you ask again in five minutes, you might get a different answer.
WINNER: Kenny Omega
FTR & the Young Bucks vs Bullet Club Gold
Star quality: 6 – Again, I went over much of this last week. Jay White & FTR are presented as serious, credible performers who appear every week. None of which can be said about the Bucks. Juice comes along for the ride. The Gunns are a comedy duo, who just happen to have held the tag titles for some reason.
Match quality: 8 – Four of the eight were in a match of the year candidate. The crowd’s a factor. FTR will definitely be cheered but the Bucks in Chicago… Not that it’d spoil the match but a big part of what made the above tag so good was the crowd being solidly behind FTR.
Build: 4 – It hasn’t exactly been Hogan/Savage but it’s believable storytelling in that both babyface teams have had issues with BCG.
Then there’s the intrigue around the Bucks and FTR. Do the former really regret not shaking hands? Are they jealous? Is this a heel turn? (It shouldn’t be btw, they only properly went babyface in March). They continued this last night by having FTR pointedly refuse to shake with the Bucks.
Overall Score: 18
Best guess is the babyfaces lose after some squabbling. Probably leading to Bucks FTR IV at WrestleDream or whatever it’s called.
WINNER: Bullet Club Gold
Eddie Kingston & Katsuyuori Shibata vs Wheeler Yuta & Claudio Castagnoli
Star quality: 6 – Eddie’s popular everywhere he goes. Shibata got a huge pop in Chicago last year as part of his surprise return. It’s hard to know exactly how popular the BCC boys are sans Mox and Danielson since they’re usually a unit. But they’re at least featured on tv and have good matches.
Match quality: 7 – All four can ‘go’. All four hit hard. There’s a nice mix of styles – brawling, wrestling, power etc. And there’s the easy story of building to Kingston getting his hands on Mr. Castagnoli.
Build: 5 – This is all Kingston and Claudio. Between whom there’s a well-established feud, enough of which has been shown on AEW tv. And it was continued Wednesday as Eddie beat Yuta and Claudio dismissively wouldn’t even look at Kingston.
The announcers emphasizing that the root of this feud is Kingston feels Claudio doesn’t respect him and respect means everything to Kingston. Which continued last night, Claudio noting that he’s lost even more respect for Eddie after expecting Japan to change him.
Overall Score: 18
It makes sense that Kingston wins, setting up another ROH title shot where he finally takes gold and earns the Swiss’ respect.
WINNER: Eddie Kingston & Katsuyuori Shibata
Ricky Starks vs Bryan Danielson (Strap Match, no DQ)
Star quality: 7 – I’m not the biggest Starks fan. But he’s charismatic and has been hanging with the big boys on Collision since the show started. Danielson’s a ‘top guy’.
Match quality: 6 – Ricky Steamboat summed it up best when he intimated Starks is inconsistent between the ropes. How good this match is will depend partly on that, but largely on the shape of Danielson’s arm. As best I’m aware, this is on the short-end of his return window.
Build: 4 – After whipping him with a belt last month, Starks challenged Steamboat to a strap match; the veteran had another ‘Dragon’ stand-in for him. Of course, this was originally supposed to be Starks vs Punk, so I’m granting them a little slack, but they did a good job transitioning in one night.
Overall Score: 17
Danielson’s almost too willing to lose. And the no DQ stip would give him an out. But it’s very hard to see AEW not re-starting Danielson hot after losing another of their top stars. In fact, if they decide to replace Punk on Saturdays with one person, rather than by committee, the Dragon would be a good shout.
WINNER: Bryan Danielson
Miro vs Powerhouse Hobbs
Star quality: 5 – This is all Miro. And should be much higher. Two big guys with presence and charisma who’re decent or better between the ropes. Unfortunately they’ve been complete afterthoughts despite being highlighted at the outset as reasons to tune-in to the new Saturday show.
Will Hobbs come and goes, occasionally remembering to blather about a book and hanging out with the QTV crew.
In Miro’s case, wrestling companies can’t often afford to shunt performers this popular to the side. Yet that’s what happens time and again with the Bulgarian. After disappearing for a year – with no explanation – he returned with pomp on the first Collision and did… nothing.
Match quality: 5 – Should be solid. Unlikely the crowd will care about Hobbs who’s been generating minimal reactions after being badly booked. Suggesting this shouldn’t go too long.
Build: 3 – After Hobbs’ affiliation with QTV both bombed and went nowhere, they dragged his Book out of the catacombs and mentioned the next chapter was about redemption. So he needs to face the Redeemer. Yep, this feud’s about a play on words.
Miro did at least cut a good promo on the 19th, with a killer closing line: ‘I am godless, but I know you are not, because you pray to me now.’
They also had a bit of a scrap last night but nothing to drag the booking here to average.
Overall Score: 13
The problem is neither can afford to lose. They each need momentum. Based on pure popularity, the victor seems obvious. But then almost nothing AEW has done with Miro has made sense.
Guessing QT and the boys try to interfere and it backfires, causing Hobbs to finally break away from the worst group in wrestling (see, I can praise Jeff Jarrett).
Better than You Bay Bay vs John Silver & Alex Reynolds (ROH Tag Titles)
Star quality: 5 – Don’t know what to do with this. Yes the fans’ll be pleased to see the champs. But the match has no intrigue. So average seems fair.
Match quality: 7 – Whatever else, the Dark Order boys are a damn good team, possessing slick double-team sequences. And Silver’s ‘hot tag/comeback’ where he smashes everyone in a three-mile radius with kicks is always fun. They will likely lean into some comedy – I’m calling Silver trying a Kangaroo Kick – but most crowds have been loving that anyway.
Build: 0 – The ‘challengers’ won a battle royal on Rampage. Cole and Silver cut ‘comedy’ promos on Collision, drowning out Reynolds’ serious one which told a nice story. Even so, it was a story that at best should’ve built to a match on Dynamite.
Overall Score: 12
It’d be malpractice to have this act lose to the Dark Order even if the entire heel roster interferes. Then again, I thought the same about the women’s belt & Saraya.
WINNER: Better than You Bay Bay
Samoa Joe vs Shane Taylor (ROH TV Title)
Star quality: 4 – Even the Dark Order at least appear on AEW tv; Joe’s mega over.
Match quality: 6 – By all accounts Taylor’s decent in-ring (I’m not going to lie, I’ve never seen him wrestle). What I will say is this better be a squash. Joe’s squashes are fun. And no-one in Chicago wants to see the guy who dominated CM Punk last week go back-and-forth with a guy they’ve never heard of.
Build: 0 – Apparently Taylor’s won a #1 contender’s tournament on ROH tv. I learned this from Bryan Alvarez since AEW didn’t bother communicating it.
Overall Score: 10
Joe’s gonna kill you.
WINNER: Samoa Joe
Ruby Soho vs Kris Statlander (TBS Title)
Star quality: 3 – This’d be a weak tv match. Soho’s very clearly third among her own stable and rarely does anything of consequence not involving the apron or a spray can. Statlander’s popular but hasn’t exactly been on a Cassidy-like run since bagging the title under less-than-optimal circumstances.
Match quality: 4 – If this isn’t clearly the worst match on the show, its overperformed.
Build: 1 – Statlander was feuding with Mercedes Martinez but Ruby Soho won one match on Dynamite so they went with that instead. (Martinez basically played AR Fox here, apart from turning back ‘babyface’ ten minutes after beating up a teenager right in front of his mum).
Anyway, Soho then ‘stole’ the TBS title for ten seconds only to nicely give it back. The champion didn’t even appear mildly inconvenienced by this. Nor was she when Saraya called her a ‘bitch’ right to her face.
Overall Score: 8
‘Contenders’ like this are not really contenders.
WINNER: Kris Statlander
I gave AEW the benefit of the doubt last week because All In at least looked a fun show on paper and a great spectacle. Now it’s time to look at the company from a different perspective.
It’s two years since AEW’s zenith – Punk had just signed, Malakai was the new killer heel, Danielson & Cole jumped ship, Cody was still around, the TNT title still meant something, a match for the tag titles was the highlight of the show and the following Dynamite did about 1.5m viewers (feel free to bring that number up next time someone tells you there’s no such thing as casual fans).
Yet this show doesn’t have a world title match, or a tag title match, or a women’s title match. It’s as if this show was a surprise to Tony Khan. As though Warner rang him Monday demanding another pay-per-view. It’s very hard to call a show ‘All Out’ when you’re doing anything of the sort.
AEW’s owner recently attributed the decline to luck and injuries. If he truly believes that it’s a problem. Because the downturn in interest has gone hand-in-hand with a downturn in the booking, stretching back to early 2022.
The bright side is that with Punk gone perhaps that’ll end any backstage drama (at least among the men) and lead to better planning and creative. Though it’s equally likely Khan’s simply worn too thin with all the hats he’s wearing.
As ever, there are good matches to look forward to, many of which are hard to predict (at least among the top ones). In the case of Moxley/Cassidy, it’s actually a shame if this is where their feud ends, so good were the promos this week.
And as ever, enjoy if you’re partaking.