Late into Saturday’s main event, MJF dragged Jay White toward the announce desk. And as Excalibur and co. talked about having to move for the fourth time that night, the champ gently rolled White atop the desk. And it collapsed. Totally and utterly collapsed. Under the weight of being overbooked. A fitting visual for the show as a whole.
Illustrated by how we reached that point:
Samoa Joe (who’s going to get a world title shot) was about to lose to the Gunns after a second 3:10 to Yuma when Adam Cole’s music blared and the babyfaces won via distraction. Justifiably pissed, the heels blasted Max’s leg and he was stretchered out to an ambulance and whisked away just after pleading with Cole not to let ‘them take my title’.
Right as the pre-show ended.
A little into the show itself, Jay White came out (to the Gunns’ music which he angrily pointed out) and Schiavone revealed that White was the new champ due to forfeit and the main event was cancelled. When Adam Cole’s music blared again. And he limped out on crutches to say Tony Khan had granted him the chance to protect his friend’s title.
Let’s set aside all the injury plot holes, because Britt Baker did that work for us:
Tony Khan agreed to let someone else defend a title on the champion’s behalf!? Perhaps one day resulting in a Surrogate Interim Champion? We can dream.
Come the match itself, Cole limped out and was introduced as ‘representing’ the defending champion while using the ropes to help him stand (White brilliantly took great umbrage at being introduced as challenger).
The contest about to start when sirens wailed and MJF drove an ambulance into the arena, before wrestling a world title match featuring interference, said interferers being ejected only to return later, a belt shot, a low blow, a ref bump and finally the champ retaining by using his diamond ring because White now needed protecting since losing cleanly to such a weakened MJF wouldn’t do much for him.
In a long clash which was pretty good outside of all that and the fact Max was barely able to walk before it started but was soon attempting Panama Sunrises.
That’s a lot of gaga simply to try persuading patrons that Jay White might win. It’s a crutch AEW use often to make tv matches ‘less predictable’. But to do it for a pay-per-view main event you’ve had five weeks to build?
Especially as the closest we came to a clean win on this show was either Orange (Mox twice hit an exposed buckle), Kenny & Jericho (the Bucks took a nut shot) or Julia Hart (who stole Statlander’s pin). All three of which would be fine if they were the exception.
But AEW seem terrified to have anyone lose cleanly and it not only results in overbooking like this but leads to no-one being on a clear upward trajectory, which then results in more ‘creative booking’ such as injury angles to persuade fans the heel challenger mired in the mid-card most of the year has a chance to win.
It’s a vicious cycle. And one they must break if they’re to build stars.
Bringing us to a bright spot in that regard, Will Ospreay. Apparently some were non-plussed by this reveal. But he absolutely is a big signing for the company, because he could’ve gone anywhere he damn well chose. And said all the right things – bring out the best you got, going to redefine what Elite really means – it was everything Adam Copeland’s promo wasn’t. Hungry, here to show he’s better than the best.
Plus, is a potential world champion in a company which has no-one even remotely ready to dethrone Max. After he arrives in February, they’d be stupid not to build to the Brit being crowned at Wembley.
And presumably punters in London will be more into the product than the 10,000 carcasses in Kia Forum. There must be libraries, churches, crypts, morgues, cemeteries and funeral parlours louder than that place. The 3,000+ in Portland last week made 5x the noise. And the drab atmosphere really took away from the action.
Meaning even matches which were pretty good suffered.
Such as Moxley/Cassidy, which wasn’t close to their previous outing but still entertained. Helped by the continuing story that Orange can’t hurt Mox. And the fact I predicted exactly the number of Orange Punches needed to win (if you saw a ‘9’ in the preview you must have been reading upside down 😉).
Or the Bucks vs Kenny & Jericho, which built well and told a good story of Omega trying to be respectful and keep the peace until the Bucks kicked him in the dick, solidifying their heel turn.
While MJF and White did have its moments, including Max taking to the air for a diving elbow from the buckle to the floor after the aforementioned desk collapsed. And a similarly risky vaulting cutter over the ropes to the floor with White on the apron. That one took your breath away. And White was great in his role – cocky before facing a one-legged Cole; vicious when targeting MJF’s injury.
Though pretty good was where things topped out.
Because I stopped watching most people’s match of the night the second Hangman pulled the staple gun out; cool if you enjoyed it, just not my thing. And it too involved a cavalcade of interference. Then there was the similarly popular ladder match, in which the guys absolutely killed themselves but was a spot fest among spot fests. Exemplified by Cash and Jose the Assistant working together to replace a fallen ladder bridge in preparation for the next sequence. And that no-one was actually trying to win. They just kept doing moves.
(Related, when’s Ricky Starks’ contract up? Because that dude is just doing whatever he likes out there: babyface comebacks, babyface spots and poses, dapping up fans in the front row. He was over and entertaining but absolutely wasn’t a heel.)
Lastly, there’s the women’s title match. Which didn’t come close to best of the year. More like worst on the card. Easily. Far from giving the division a popular champion to build around, Toni Storm’s reign is going to be colossally bad if her new character leads to her wrestling like this.
I.e. stuffing a frying pan down the back of her trunks, it showing so visibly that Aubrey was left to wonder how Toni’s ass suddenly became so flat. And metallic. For a good couple of minutes. Before she tried – and failed – to hide it prior to hitting the hip attack. And it wasn’t the only thing here to stretch disbelief to breaking point. Though her Why I Oughta… wind-up punch is a fun addition to the arsenal.
Overall, if you missed it, it’s not one you’ll regret.
And a review on the often pro-AEW Observer site about summed it up: the writer didn’t know what to think. There was good, there was bad, there was bad that’s obvious and easy to change, there was bad that’s harder to put your finger on. But what mostly stood out is that this didn’t feel like an AEW pay-per-view. At least what AEW was supposed to be.