Yes it’s a little early but I won’t have chance to get this up otherwise.
Ahead of ‘the biggest event in wrestling history’, it’s time once again to overanalyze guys – and girls – fighting in tight shorts.
Quick reminder, there are three categories: star quality, match quality, build. If scores are even, matches’ll be ranked according to personal preference.
We’ll then predict the winner(s) of each contest.
(Cole vs MJF & Cole/MJF vs Aussie Open will be put together as one since it’s all part of the same story)
Without further ado.
MJF vs Adam Cole (AEW Title)
Star quality: 10 – This is the act that both smashed AEW’s merch records and added a good 200,000 viewers to Collision.
Match quality: 9 – They had an excellent scrap on Dynamite a few months back. Despite it being ‘cold’. And while it doesn’t seem fans especially want to see them fight, they can actually use that to their advantage. By teasing growing acrimony during the match, by teasing Cole turning, by teasing MJF reverting to type, by teasing a split the audience so desperately wants to avoid.
Build: 5 – The 08/16 Dynamite about summed this up. There was an excellent tete-a-tete with both guys explaining clearly what they’ve been through and what the title means to them. Sandwiched among some of the goofiest, most self-indulgent ‘comedy’ you’re ever likely to see.
Overall Score: 24
I’m totally confused by who’s winning after Cole’s meltdown Wednesday.
He was so overt the past two weeks that if he doesn’t go heel then his actions won’t make sense. He shrieked into the camera that he and Max had no issues, after the week before coming very close to superkicking him. And Strong promised we’d see the ‘real’ Cole, which to him means someone disloyal.
So I’m going to cheat and suggest two finishes. The first of which is the heel route: Cole and MJF lose to Aussie Open after Cole subtly undermines them. And in the main event he cheats to take the title, loses it to Punk next Sunday and sets up a babyface Max chasing his title from the guy who was the ‘real’ champ all along. Perhaps with Cole in the mix making it a triple threat.
Second is the babyface route. Which – gun to my head – is my prediction. But it’s close. This involves BtYBB taking the tag belts and Max holding onto his title in a clean finale. The show goes off the air with the crowd cheering. Everyone’s happy. On which more below.
Better than You Bay Bay vs Aussie Open (ROH Tag Titles) (Zero Hour)
Star quality: 6 – Hardcore fans know how good Aussie Open are. But they’ve not been presented in a way to do anything other than drag Cole & MJF down a little. Especially when the same can be said of the ROH titles.
Match quality: 6 – This would be much higher if not for the fact priority one will be ensuring the show’s main event makes it to the ring. It’ll likely be a fun match focused on building to the Double Clothesline or Kangaroo Kick, with a little storytelling along the way.
Build: 2 – And it doesn’t matter. This is a loss leader of a wrestling match. There to ensure some extra people tune-in to Zero Hour. And that when they do they see 80,000 rabid fans already in their seats and going crazy for the hottest act in the company.
Which is exactly what’ll happen. Because Better than You Bay Bay have had the average American going gaga. So it isn’t hard to imagine how European fans will react to the first top-level AEW stars they ever see in-person.
While also adding some flavor to the main event. Whether that’s an argument, Max catching an inadvertent superkick or one of the two taking the bulk of the damage and being weakened ahead of their singles clash.
Overall Score: 14
Again, the obvious conclusion is the heel route. The faces failing in a way that adds tension to their match later on. But here’s the babyface one: BtYBB emerging victorious would provide a hell of a visual while ensuring the main card starts with a crowd already losing their minds.
Especially since it’s hard to see what Max will be doing the following Sunday. It’s either a rematch with Cole, a terribly rushed clash with Punk, or… could he and Cole face-off with the winners of FTR/Bucks with both sets of belts on the line?
Leaving a world title defense off a pay-per-view card is risky. But the Chicago faithful would likely be sated by Punk defending his ‘real’ title once more. And Collision’s ratings showed Max & Cole can draw very nicely as a tag. It’s even possible MJF could wrestle twice again and the cumulative matches actually lead to him losing the BBB.
All while prolonging their tag run and putting off either turning heel until they face-off once more at Full Gear. That’s what I’d do anyway.
I can’t say AEW will make this all make sense but I can say they’ve made it hard to predict. Which is probably the first time that can be said about one of Max’s title defences.
Whatever they go with, let’s just hope we don’t end up with a rematch after Roderick Strong and the Kingdom decide the world title match on ‘the biggest event in wrestling history’.
WINNER: Better than You Bay Bay
Samoa Joe vs CM Punk (‘Real World Title’)
Star quality: 8 – Punk’s presented as essentially the company’s top star; Joe disappears for periods but is mega-over whenever he does grace us with his presence since he has such a badass aura, mic skills and a well-earned level of respect among fans.
Match quality: 7 – They had a good one as recently as July. 80,000 people can only enhance that. Especially since Punk’s matches tend to have the liveliest atmospheres in AEW.
Build: 5 – It’s a real shame they cashed out on 20 years of history with one week’s notice. Because if Punk finally, finally conquered the Behemoth in front of the largest crowd in AEW history, it would’ve felt epic. As it stands, they’ve had to resort to ‘yeah you beat me but it wasn’t decisive’.
And Joe’s promos were generally strong in promoting this. But outside of costing Punk a trios match, he hasn’t really ‘got to’ Chicago Phil. And when he did, Punk quickly got his own back by introducing Joe’s face to his knee in about thirty seconds last Saturday.
Lastly, it’s also hard to understand why we were deprived of possibly the best promo battle of any match on the card.
Overall Score: 20
The title itself adds to an already bloated pool.
It also means there is zero chance Punk’s dropping it before facing the world champion. So Joe had to look overwhelming heading into the show. And didn’t.
WINNER: CM Punk
Chris Jericho vs Will Ospreay
Star quality: 8 – Jericho remains popular but fans do seem to be tiring of the act. As shown by the unenthusiastic singing of his theme recently. His confused booking hasn’t helped. Ospreay’s generally been booked among main eventers and sold as one of the best in the world.
Match quality: 7 – And the Englishman is likely the single-best performer gracing planet earth. While he’s had shoulder issues, it didn’t stop him dragging Tetsuya Naito to his best match in years as the G1 reached its crescendo. Nor is he likely to be lacking motivation in front of a record crowd of his countrymen.
Build: 5 – On the subject of which, an already confusing culmination to the Jericho/Callis storyline saw Ospreay positioned as the heel. So Jericho will make his first babyface outing against probably the most popular wrestler on the show.
At best fans will be split. Particularly since Jericho ‘turned’ babyface via being rejected by another heel. One who moments before he’d praised for being ‘just as low as I am’.
The strange positioning continued Wednesday with Ospreay cutting a total babyface promo. Slap a Carolina accent on his words and they could’ve been said by Dax. Thing is, it was excellent anyway.
The Brit was so serious about needing to win and why, that it raised the match at least a level. And while AEW probably shouldn’t have positioned him as the heel, his promo does at least work for the audience he’ll be performing in front of.
Overall Score: 20
There’ve been complaints about Ospreay not facing a fellow 5*+ guy. But Jericho is playing Tanahashi here. A big name both AEW and New Japan are happy with Ospreay beating. Presumably via interference to continue the Ocho’s feud with Callis & co.
WINNER: Will Ospreay
FTR vs the Young Bucks (Tag Titles)
Star quality: 6 – Since Collision started, FTR have been a consistent top act given match time and mic time, even bagging a dodo-rare pin over MJF. The same cannot be said about Matt & Nick Jackson.
Match quality: 10 – The bar here isn’t even ‘steal the show’. It’s hard to imagine these four have set their sights on anything less than the greatest tag match of all time. And they’re good enough to pull it off.
Build: 3 – The selling point of the match is: Who are the team of their generation?
The problem is the Bucks have not been presented at this level.
After Blood & Guts, AEW had a month-plus for them to talk about getting their belts back. The pairs could’ve spouted off from their respective shows until finally going face-to-face. Instead, the company assumed everyone’s a superfan who knows both teams are genuinely great in the ring. And that’ll do.
The good thing for all sides is the majority of folks in London are likely to know all this and treat both teams as such. And FTR saving the Bucks from a couple beatdowns was a nice touch. They don’t want there to be any doubt who the best truly is.
Which was also the message during their sitdown Wednesday. And Matt did have some good lines to add a little spice but it was too little, too late.
With just a little planning this could’ve been so much better.
Overall Score: 19
Cash Wheeler’s recent arrest is a monkey wrench. Since it seemed FTR were set for a long run as the faces of tag wrestling on the show that reps it hardest. If AEW don’t want the bad press or think he may be unavailable for periods, it’s possible they’ll switch to the Bucks. Who already have a tag feud going with the Gunns and seem destined to move on into an Elite/BCG beef.
While FTR don’t seem to have anything on the backburner. Leading us back to the possibility of their facing Max and Cole next week in a rematch if they do indeed retain. Another possible way to get the belts off Cash & Dax if that’s what the company wants.
Kenny Omega, Hangman Adam Page & Kota Ibushi
Switchblade Jay White, Juice Robinson & Konosuke Takeshita
Star quality: 7 – Again it’s striking how much better-used Collision talent is. Bullet Club Gold might not main-event every week but they are featured. While like the Bucks, Omega & Page just drifted after Blood & Guts. They remain popular but not at the level former world champions should.
Match quality: 9 – Sleeper’s probably a dumb word for this so let’s just say it’s got a damn good chance of stealing the show.
White and Omega are as good as it gets. Hangman’s not far off. Takeshita’s on his way. And Robinson at the very least held his own as part of the best tag all year. The only ‘if’ here is Kota Ibushi. Who did not look his best self in Boston. But there’s enough talent around him to prop him up. If indeed he needs it.
Build: 3 – I think AEW think they’ve done a magnificent job with the whole Omega/Callis/Takeshita angle.
I think they think they’ve properly explained why Callis turned on Omega. While in fact he was interrupted that first week and afterward offered only ‘You chose your friends’ platitudes.
I think they think Omega/Takeshita is a big-time feud. And to the connoisseur it is. But Takeshita’s won maybe once on tv and didn’t even have a meaningful sequence with Omega during Blood & Guts.
I think they think it’s heated. Despite both going a long time without mentioning the other. Takeshita’s anti-Elite promos stopped in early June and Kenny’s not exactly been desperate to get to either man. How many times has Callis cut an in-ring promo while courting Jericho? And how many times has Omega come out? Or even bothered warning Jericho about what he was getting into. It wouldn’t have been all that hard to tie these feuds together.
The fact is that as often happens the follow-up has fallen by the wayside because Callis has been occupied with Jericho and AEW don’t like multi-track feuds. Everything exists in its own little universe. Just ask Adam Cole who’s seemingly called ‘dibs’ on going after the title this summer.
And top that off with Omega easily dismissing Takeshita in the final angle Wednesday. When he needed to look strong.
Overall Score: 19
How does this play into All Out? Kenny & Page vs BCG? Kenny vs Jay? Most likely Omega vs Takeshita. While Hangman teams with the Bucks against BCG. Maybe even an Elite/BCG eight-man.
The heels should win here and I’d have Takeshita take it. But I don’t think they will. He’s never got the better of Omega and they don’t seem ready to properly get behind him. Bullet Club on the other hand have got the better of the Elite twice now. And this seems a show where they want to show a cheering crowd enjoying babyface wins.
WINNER: Kenny Omega, Hangman Adam Page & Kota Ibushi
House of Black vs the Acclaimed & Bad Ass Billy Gunn
Star quality: 7 – The Acclaimed remain popular but they’ve definitely cooled from their peak of a year ago. The House of Black simply refuse to allow their popularity to remain at the level of their booking.
Match quality: 5 – The heels here are so good this won’t drop below solid. If Bowens does the heavy lifting for his side it could be very good. Presumably Gunn will just take a hot tag since he’s never been big on selling (it’s a recurring joke on Mick Foley’s pod).
Build: 6 – I’m not personally into it. But it can’t be argued that there’s a progressive story brought up (almost) every week since Billy ‘quit’ on Collision. They’ve hammered the symbolism of his boots, the House mocked and destroyed them and Anthony Bowens’ very good, tearful acting made it seem like the Acclaimed really cared about getting their mentor back.
Overall Score: 18
The House seem to be a toy Tony Khan occasionally remembers is really fun to play with but quickly tires of. And the whole story here is the veteran who thinks he no longer has it but eventually overcomes.
Also, 80,000 people will bark. In case you’ve ever wondered what that sounds like.
WINNER: the Acclaimed & Bad Ass Billy Gunn
Best Friends, Orange Cassidy, Penta & Eddie Kingston
Jon Moxley, Claudio Castagnoli, Wheeler Yuta, Santana & Ortiz
Star quality: 7 – The Best Friends have not been presented as a serious act but Cassidy, Kingston & Mox get some of the best reactions in the company. The rest of the BCC are serious upper-card acts and Penta’s one of those who has the rare gift of remaining more over than his push. I’ve always been really high on Santana: can talk, can work, has presence. Ortiz has been badly used since his partner was injured.
Match quality: 7 – Everyone here’s at least good. It certainly feels like we’ve seen the BCC brawling around an arena fairly recently. Because we have. Though this is less likely to include too much of the goofy comedy associated with previous Stampedes since last time Mox was challenged to one he said ‘Nah I ain’t doin that s***’. There will be blood.
Build: 3 – The Kingston/Claudio/Moxley story’s an interesting mix of intertwining friendships and hatreds. The rest of this has been a random bunch of tag & singles matches with each team getting a turn to win. It’s certainly hard to think of a reason for this being a Stadium Stampede match outside of We want to shoot a bunch of stuff at Wembley.
Overall Score: 17
Presumably this leads to Cassidy/Moxley at All Out. Though it does seem a little strange saving an International Title match for when the company is safely back on domestic soil. In terms of a winner, well, the Best Friends are easily the most expendable guys in the match. And it’s not generally a good idea to have guys lose their return match.
WINNER: Jon Moxley, Claudio Castagnoli, Wheeler Yuta, Santana & Ortiz
Sting & Darby Allin vs Swerve Strickland & Christian Cage (Coffin Match)
Star quality: 7 –Sting’s a legend, Cage is an upper-card heel, Darby’s on the cusp of becoming a bonafide main eventer and Swerve’s recent tv time has at least become more consistent.
Match quality: 6 – Coffin matches always seem goofy outside of the Undertaker. Presumably it’ll be tornado-style too?
Whatever happens there are at least three good workers in there, two of whom are risk-takers at the best of times. God only knows what Allin might do when he feels the rush of a crowd that size. Let’s just hope they convince Sting to hit his big moves, beat his chest and leave the daredevil stuff to those with cartilage in their knees.
Build: 2 – I’d actually come around on the whole Fox story and this score was much higher before he was replaced by Christian. Since Fox was the tie that bound the whole story together. Now this is reduced to: you beat-up my protégé. Made worse by the fact that said protégé got a large measure of revenge Wednesday.
Topped off, of course, with a steaming pile of bog-basic cheap heat courtesy of Christian Cage. Who’s been doing excellent heel work on Collision without resorting to that stuff. Almost as if going back to Dynamite’s crash-tv made him lower himself.
Overall Score: 15
Darby’s competing for the TNT title the next week. Sting’s never lost in AEW and 80,000 people have not turned up to see him do so. And whoever does needn’t even take a pinfall. WHOSE LOSS? SWERVE’S LOSS!
WINNER: Sting & Darby Allin
Hikaru Shida vs Toni Storm vs Saraya vs Britt Baker (Women’s Title)
Star quality: 5 – None of these women are where they should be. Some of which is on the booking; some of which is not. In Shida’s case, she remains popular despite her routinely baffling disappearances from tv. In Storm’s, her recent title run was less-than an afterthought. Britt’s combined a lack of meaningful storylines with sub-par in-ring. And Saraya’s been underwhelming all-around since returning.
Match quality: 4 – This’ll either be wrestled at Storm & Shida’s level or Saraya & Baker’s. Neither Baker’s recent performances or Saraya’s in general suggest the former. Though the Brit’s home court popularity might help make bad=solid, solid=good.
Build: 1 – Three of the four won their way into this match through a tournament only slightly less prestigious than Pat Patterson’s in Rio. Including, confusingly, the champion herself. A ‘tournament’ also consisting of a single round against implausibly weak opponents.
This was the usual token gesture toward the women. Time for whom couldn’t be found on either Dynamite or Collision ahead of the big show.
Overall Score: 10
Six years ago, this’d be a foregone conclusion. But while belting Saraya might result in a nice pop, it wouldn’t be smart longer-term. Since she’s yet to rediscover her form between the ropes or on the microphone.
Nor would changing the belt again so quickly be smart against the backlash re: the women’s division. Since it’d totally undercut Shida.
WINNER: Hikaru Shida
‘The biggest event in wrestling history’ is a difficult cross to bear.
AEW spent at least two weeks in July throwing a bunch of stuff out there on Wednesdays to fill tv time. Then spent the final two Dynamites cramming so many angles in that it felt like every babyface on the roster was attacked from behind.
The whole thing has been badly organized. To the degree that there were reports of talent being frustrated over not knowing whether they’d be on the card.
There’ve also been complaints, from fans anticipating bigger matches, about the card itself. It certainly doesn’t feel like the biggest show of all time. And last week’s tv might’ve been the weakest all year, stalling already slim momentum.
Nevertheless, I found myself getting excited merely typing some of these matches out. Particularly when imagining the crowd reactions.
And from the company’s perspective, this is a show which has already paid for itself with a gate of $10million and climbing. While All Out the week after is far more reliant on pay-per-view buys. Meaning it’s understandable they’ve jammed Kenny Omega into a six-man. And the BCC into yet another multi-brawl. Since they’ll presumably be relying on attractions such as Mox competing for Orange Cassidy’s title to persuade fans to shell out the following week.
Which is not to defend everything. Certainly it feels an exceptionally long time since the build to an AEW ppv has been strong. Yet sometimes it’s nice to simply enjoy the show for a few hours without worrying about All Out or Full Gear. Since that’s what wrestling’s supposed to be. Entertainment. An escape. And I plan on enjoying this show, this spectacle.
Even if I am complaining again come Wednesday.
Enjoy the show if you’re partaking.