Venue: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ
HHH to AEW on again? 😉
We started with a wide crowd shot, AEW keen to show off their biggest attendance in a while. Makes such a difference in how you perceive the show when you see this many people attending.
And it’s right to the #1 contender’s match. Had thought they might save this since it’ll be the better match and Sting’s last main event tag didn’t draw. They explicitly said this match was ‘powered by Woo Energy’ and cut to Page walking backstage, some boos, that ‘tache getting bigger by the week.
Excalibur explained Page was ranked behind Swerve despite their equal records because Swerve had beaten him.
Hangman Page vs Swerve Strickland (#1 Contender)
Backstory: Swerve’s 2-0 against Page but only due to outside interference, this settles things
Loud cheers as the bell rang, face-to-face in the middle, little smack talk, loud ‘Swerve’s house’ chants, great atmosphere.
Lockup, Page forced back, rope break. Back to it, this time Swerve forced back, again the break. After another lockup and break, Swerve cackled, Page paintbrushed him, Swerve double-leg, they rolled out through the ropes in a grapple.
Where Swerve flung Page into the fans and flung himself at the former champ. Loud ‘AE-Dub’ chants as Swerve quickly took Page back inside, no hint of a count-out or ‘lax’ rules here.
Page landed a boot to the gut, firing rights in the corner, stomps to the chest, Swerve down. More rights, Swerve reversed a whip, big boot to the face, more chants for Strickland as he returned the favor, stomping down the Cowboy in the corner. Excalibur noted the ‘90/10’ support for Strickland.
As Page slickly reversed a whip into a fallaway. He’s yet to do anything other than frown.
Strickland fought back, snapmare out of the corner, Page not about to be Stomped – sweeping Strickland off the top then firing rights to a downed Swerve. Who bit his way free, into some sort of flying octopus which he never really got. Before taking Page to the mat, looking to snap the arm, there is now a dueling ‘cowboy shit’ chant as Page freed himself, Swerve to the apron, he ducked the springboard lariat but was blasted from behind by the off arm.
Then run headfirst into the buckle, crumpling to ringside, Page down in the ring. Until joining Strickland, elbow to the back of the head, whip to the barricade, fallaway out there on the floor, Page gesturing to the crowd and largely being booed.
Still hasn’t smiled.
Back in, chops in the corner, Swerve ducked a third before lighting up the Cowboy. But only very briefly as Page landed a knee to the gut, running dropkick, Swerve out at two via rope break.
More pro-Swerve chants as Page hauled him up. Strickland landed a couple rights, Page slipped behind, O’Connor roll, Swerve kicked his way free at two, sending Page right to the apron in perfect Buckshot position – Nana panicking, Strickland rushing to close the distance and being elevated over, banging against the apron and landing on his shoulder.
Which he began to grasp, Page heading up for an ourihara, Swerve avoided it, popping up into his rolling flatliner, back inside as the ref began his count with Page still out there. Strickland following up via fosberry flop, almost kneeing Page in the skull and holding his own hip as he came up.
Page flung back in, Swerve to the top, diving elbow to the back of the head, powerslam after a whip, rolling fluidly into a suplex, Page’s feet hitting before the rest of his body in a nasty landing, house call, Page out at two.
Excalibur now emphasizing that Swerve told Nana not to get involved, which they, and I, had forgotten about till this point. It’s kind of an important part of the story here.
Setting Page atop the buckle, Swerve thought superplex, Page bit his way free, ramming Swerve to the buckle, sunset bomb coming, I audibly gasped as Strickland almost landed right on his head when he was clearly supposed to land on his feet. Thank god he wasn’t hurt.
He recovered enough to drill Page via spin kick, JML coming, Page armdragged free, pop-up Liger Bomb for two. Nice sequence, both down. TiA from the crowd.
Page up first, to the apron, elbow pad off, Buckshot coming, Swerve avoided it, slipping to the apron for one of his own, Stomp from the top, legs hooked, Page out at the last.
Swerve followed with a running boot to the face from the apron, pursuing Page to the barricade and setting up something gnarly atop the guardrail. Page fought free to nail a ddt atop it. Glad that wasn’t too crazy.
‘Holy shit’ from the crowd as the ads arrived twenty minutes in. Very good so far.
Back to them exchanging boots to the face, yay/boo style, until simultaneous ones left both down, crowd gasping. To their knees at four, their feet at six, strong right from Page, another, Swerve slumping against the ropes before cackling and beckoning Page to bring it. Audibly laughing now as they exchanged rights, Page shoved him, Swerve caught Page’s boot, slipping behind into a backbreaker, aggressively pinning the arms but still only getting two.
Page to the top, shoved down, head hanging above the apron and nailed with a Stomp, then very clearly dragging himself atop a conveniently placed table which hadn’t been there before the break.
And it collapsed. That whole sequence was a total downer. So prearranged-looking.
The crowd flattened too when the table collapsed. Swerve adlibbed, searching for another one under the ring and setting it up at ringside. So, why is this legal? Why isn’t the ref trying to stop it?
Anyway, he flung Page back in, went upstairs, Page knees-up on a 450 for a near fall. Justin gave a very low ‘five minutes’ call as Page thought deadeye but was flung over the ropes, skinning the cat back into a massive lariat, through to the opposite apron, Buckshot, the announcers ruined it by yelling ‘we’ll see you at Revolution!’. Strickland got his foot on the ropes at two.
Seemingly Nana gave Swerve that advice, a pissed Page yelling at him before nailing a deadeye on the apron. Swerve dropping to ringside, ref counting, a moment of high drama interrupted by Nana doing his dance to try to wake Swerve. The crowd didn’t really respond. Almost as if people prefer substance…
Swerve in at nine, dropkicked right back out, Page grabbing a chair, yelling at Swerve to stay down before nailing Nana with it to boos. But turning around to have the chair booted into his face, Page sent back in, Swerve to the top, Stomp hit, but Swerve hurt his ankle on the landing.
Leaving a slight delay before the JML Driver which Page exploited by rolling through, grabbing the ankle and torquing/snapping it, Strickland down, can’t be long left here. The table now coming back into play as Page setup a dragon screw off the apron, Strickland countered to land a deadeye through the table.
Then struggled upstairs, Stomp coming, Page rolled free, Swerve further injured the ankle, some light ‘cowboy shit’ chants as Page prepared a Buckshot, Swerve ducked, JML Driver, he just stalled for a few seconds, very blatantly, so that the bell could ring on two.
Crowd booed. Seriously unhappy. Can’t help that Justin barely mumbled ‘five minutes’, I wouldn’t have noticed if Excalibur hadn’t drawn attention to it so there’s a good chance a lot of the crowd didn’t hear.
Very weak finish. Which I perhaps wouldn’t mind if they didn’t protect guys all the damn time.
Strickland grabbed a mic, yelling ‘No!’ repeatedly. He didn’t go through all this to end like that. He’s not letting Page get away that easily: ‘five…more…minutes’. Page laughed for the first time all match, because he now had the chance to spoil Swerve’s dream of becoming champion, as he’d promised.
‘You had to beat me to become #1 contender… and Swerve… you didn’t do it! You will not be the world champion, for you it is over!’
Page was limping away up the ramp when Schiavone interrupted. This ‘message from Tony Khan’ stuff is played out. Anyway, Khan made a three-way for the title. Swerve giggled at this, moments after being determined to find a winner. I guess because it pissed off Page?
Who was a very entertaining madman, ranting ‘He didn’t beat me!’ over and over. Crowd chanted for Swerve.
Very good action spoiled slightly by the table silliness and the finish. Nice solidification of each’s role at the end – Swerve now clearly a babyface; Page now clearly a heel – because babyface’s don’t back down from fights. Hopefully they’ll keep Swerve’s character defined that way and stop the maniacal movie-villain heel antics.
Winner: Time-limit Draw
Back from break, that match was confirmed via graphic and etc.
Cut to Joe backstage, belt shouldered. He didn’t look happy. He can’t believe he’s dealing with this, this ‘celebrating mediocrity’ since nobody actually won. People want the belt off him but they won’t get it and Page and Swerve ‘will suffer because of it’.
Intense from the champ.
Red Velvet vs Toni Storm (Eliminator)
Backstory: If Velvet wins she gets a title shot
Deonna Purazzo came out to join on comms. And even did her dismissive brush off motion to fans at ringside. Weird. Might want to at least frame that by explaining the character.
Storm’s silliness as a palette cleanser is probably a good idea. She was introduced as being from ‘Stage Seven at Warner Studios’. Purazzo called her ‘delusional’. The announcers agreed. Purazzo called the current Storm ‘a stranger to me’.
The pair wrestled around an armlock and takedowns, each getting success until Storm grabbed a headlock. Into a takeover. Storm landed a shoulder block, Velvet hit back with a nice spinning heel kick, Storm exploded out of the corner via Thesz press then got two via sky high.
Back to the heel champ doing a total babyface spot, snapping lefts into a why I oughta right which Velvet ducked, firing a flurry of her own in the corner. To loud boos. That’s why badly defined characters are no good. It hurts every babyface Storm goes up against.
Velvet hit a nice single-leg dropkick, cazadora bulldog, knees to the back of the head in the ropes, standing moonsault, Storm just out before three. Crowd clapping along, they’re more into this than might be expected after that last match.
Storm then performed another babyface spot which made the actual babyface look a complete moron: Velvet ran at her in the corner, Storm stood very calmly until simply kicking out her leg and tripping Velvet into the buckle.
It’s fun, it’s creative, it’s no good for a supposed-to-be heel.
And led to a hip attack, ddt, Velvet out at two before hooking a cradle for two then missing a corkscrew kick, Storm wrenching on an ankle lock and looking at Deonna who was giggling while Velvet screamed in pain. Very strange.
Velvet tapped, Storm held on. Leaning casually back in her chair with a smile on her face, Purazzo asked ‘Is she gonna let it go?’ as you might ask ‘How’s the weather?’. I’m guessing she hasn’t played babyface much because she hasn’t come across well here.
She finally hit the ring to break it up, getting right in Storm’s face, Storm kissed her on either cheek, Deonna did her brush-off thing, Luther came in to separate them.
Excalibur told us that May had earlier told Velvet to ‘break a leg’. Show don’t tell.
Outside of feeding into the story that Storm is bothered by Deonna being technically superior, this was all over the place due to ill-defined characters.
Shown by the fact the fans chanted for Luther as he jawed with Purazzo and she again did her very heelish brush-off.
But was a pretty good match while it lasted.
Winner: Toni Storm
Orange Cassidy with Renee backstage. She brought up his match vs Ishii Saturday which they announced on like Sunday but apparently Trent was unaware of. He said it was ‘weird’.
Chuck Taylor is backstage getting checked out medically ahead of returning. They all acted totally awkward until Renee asked them to bring it in and they did an awkward hands-in thing.
It was awkward.
Hechicero, Volador Jr & Mascara Dorada vs Bryan Danielson, Claudio Castagnoli & Jon Moxley
Backstory: CMLL dudes attacked Moxley last Wednesday and Danielson Saturday
This is ‘a very unexpected grudge match’ per Excalibur. So unexpected it’s been advertised for several days. The BCC all entered through the crowd to Moxley’s entrance. No Yuta.
Some other CMLL dudes were in the crowd. I’m gonna go with Cero again for Hechicero for ease of typing.
He and Danielson to set it off, cagily, Cero taking Danielson down by the leg, Danielson out, to his feet, ankle pick, Cero tripping him down, rolling through into a bow and arrow, Danielson getting free but looking concerned at again being outwrestled. As he was Saturday.
Some ‘lucha’ chants as Cero got a crucifix, rolling Danielson in a circle while still trapped in Cero’s legs, into a two count. Crowd enjoyed that. Danielson again rattled, tagging Claudio who was joined by Dorada who fronted up to the much bigger Claudio’s chest, firing chops which Claudio shook off until the Mexican stomped the foot, flipping around but seeing all his efforts thwarted as Claudio just dumped him down out of the air.
Dorada tried a springboard, landed a headscissors, Claudio sent outside but walking away to avoid a dive. Again, I have zero idea who the heels are. The CMLL guys have attacked the BCC twice after the match but are wrestling as the good guys.
Mox in now to a loud cheer. Volador too. They teed off, exchange of forearms, Volador handpspringed then landed a headscissors which sent Moxley outside. Mox didn’t walk away and took a tope against the barricade.
To my point about faces/heels, the BCC swarmed Volador three-on-one until the other Mexicans evened the odds.
Back inside, Volador ducked a lariat, was vaulted outside then took a receipt from Mox in the form of a tope. The CMLL guys then swarmed him three-on-one, but that now seems justified.
Back to Volador fighting to his feet against Claudio who swept him back down into the swing. Mox in, cover, two. Cutting the ring off, firing kicks, slap to the face, crossfaces in the ropes. Volador ducked a lariat, hit a thrust kick, both dropped, Volador got the tag, Dorada in to land a double armdrag to Danielson (who just came in) and Mox. It was supposed to be springboard-style but things went awry.
The BCC pair then banged together very weakly, it was more like brushed, leaving them exposed to Dorada springing off Mox into a headscissors to take Danielson outside. Hey, if you like headscissors leaving dudes outside, this is the match for you.
Corkscrew kick left Mox out there, Claudio in, Dorada flipped to avoid a lariat then sprang up into a beautiful flipping headscissors which left Claudio outside as the BCC took stereo dives. Dorada saved himself for last, standing on the middle rope for ages before launching a shooting star onto the guys who’d waited so patiently for him to get his footing.
Crowd enjoying this.
The Mexicans then tripled up on Danielson, Cero got a spinning backbreaker, Dorada 450, Danielson (who is not legal, Mox is, if these are lucha rules they need to tell us) kicked out at two.
Moxley hit knees to Dorada, who got a boot up in the corner and ran up Claudio into a code red. Mox very kindly stood and waited before breaking the count at two. To the degree Excalibur had to cover for it.
Volador hit a backstabber to Mox, busaiku knee from BD, Cero hit him from the apron, tagged in and hit a diving elbow strike. Then exchanged shots with Claudio, who blocked a cazadora but was tripped down via drop toe hold, swept through into a pin for two, Cero leapt into a leglock, Danielson broke it, Cero got a stretch muffler, Mox broke it.
Dorada was launched into a dropkick on Danielson, was nailed by Mox who Cero nailed in the corner with a running strike but took a running uppercut from Claudio. Cero returned fire with a leaping guillotine. The crowd are ‘oohing’ at most everything here.
Until groaning as Claudio shoved Cero into the ref and hit a low blow to win.
If you enjoy lucha and high spots you probably really enjoyed this. If you like clear heels, babyfaces and struggle to suspend disbelief, you probably didn’t. Hechacero looked very good here and was popular with the crowd.
The other CMLL guys hit the scene, annoyed at the cheating. The AEW job squad evened the numbers (Matt Menard, Christopher Daniels, Matt Sydal & Angelo Parker). A ‘very tense scene’ per Excalibur.
Excalibur then stuttered in disbelief for like ten seconds, badly overselling before cutting to a downed Chuck Taylor and the Undisputed Kingdom standing over him. No time to worry though, we raced away, first to a break, then backstage to Tony Khan.
Who said we might have heard that AEW are heading back to Boston on March 13th. Entitled ‘AEW Big Business’. ‘One of the most important nights ever in AEW and a night that the entire pro wrestling industry will remember’. Tickets on sale Saturday.
Khan had been cheered to start with but those quickly turned to groans and maybe some jeers as those in attendance were non-plussed by this announcement. I’m assuming that’ll be Sasha’s debut. Many watching won’t assume that, it was very subtle. And even if it is Sasha, those are some big words to fill.
Guessing that’ll be another announcement which falls flat in the eyes of most. At least short-term.
Chris Jericho vs Konosuke Takeshita
Backstory: Jericho’s been feuding with the Callis Fam for months & beat Fletcher last week so they challenged him here
Seems Jericho’s come through the controversy, no boos here (there was a ‘go back to Toronto’ sign in the first few rows). Takeshita was wearing a hannya (devil) mask. But needs new music. That generic Callis Fam stuff ain’t cutting it.
Jericho headlock, whipped off, the pair crashed together, neither budged. They smashed together several times, same result; forearms, same result. Jericho landed a boot then lariated Takeshita outside. Where Callis slapped the Japanese.
Takeshita reversed a whip to the barricade then fired rights. Before hitting a very safe ringside brainbuster. Dude’s strong. Hurling Jericho back in, he nailed a senton from the top, pair of rights, Jericho revrsed a whip, Takeshita hit back with his Takeshitaline. Never not great.
Jericho came back with a pair of shoulder blocks, was hurled to the apron on a third but clambered up top to land an axe handle. Hobbs grabbed Jericho’s boot and the vet took another lariat from Takeshita.
Sammy Guevara smashed Hobbs with a chair in the back. Hobbs no sold until Guevara landed a cutter off the steps then landed a headshot with the chair with drew a strange ‘ooooh’ from the crowd since we’re all well aware how legit dangerous those are. One of the many things Khan should put his foot down on.
They disappeared through the crowd, Takeshita hit a very weak jumping knee but spilled outside where Jericho hit his springboard dropkick. Donning the devil mask before diving onto Takeshita at ringside.
Ads. Nothing special so far.
Back to Takeshita sending Jericho outside then just about landing a plancha. Jericho got his knees up on a senton inside; Takeshita returned the favor on a lionsault. The pair fought to their feet, Jericho rolled through looking for Walls, Takeshita countered very loosely into a cradle, maintaining control up into a fireman’s carry, things went awry as Jericho tried to hook a cradle, Takeshita quickly made up for it by hauling the vet up via wheelbarrow German.
Weird mix of cheers and boos for Takeshita at different times.
He landed a big right, ducked a couple swings, Jericho countered the Takeshitaline via codebreaker. For two. Bulldog to follow, Takeshita popped up to counter a lionsault into blue thunder, Jericho out at two.
Then blocked a knee strike, Takeshita blocked Judas Effect, hit the knee but ran into a forearm, Jericho set him atop the buckle thinking ‘rana. Takeshita slipped under, planting the vet’s face into the buckle then landing an avalanche blue thunder. He’s gonna break his leg on that one of these days.
We cut to a replay, missing Takeshita hitting the powerdrive knee, Jericho blocked a second into the Walls. Callis flung a chair in on one side then ran around the other to attack Jericho with the screwdriver while the ref instinctively went after the chair. Go get it boy!
Takeshita applied the Walls. There are definitely mixed reactions for him here. Jericho got his arm up at three, Takeshita dragged him back center and Jericho tapped. Fair play for that tapping cleanly, despite the other silliness.
Not the crispest match you’ll ever see.
Winner: Konosuke Takeshita
This just feels like wrestling jammed down our throats now. Very few pauses, breaks or angles. A brief change of pace would be nice.
Sting & Darby Allin vs Ricky Starks & Big Bill (Tornado, Tag Titles)
Backstory: The faces are the #1 contenders, having never lost as a team
Sting got a big pop as he came out with Darby. His sons and daughter were in the front row, he gave them a hug.
The faces leapt at the heels before the bell. Sting and Starks headed into the crowd, not really doing much, the vet hurling Starks into the guardrail a few times then nailing him with a bin. Bill and Darby were also among the fans, the big man chopping Darby against the guardrail, Darby fought both heels off, Sting – who’d been waiting up there a while – dove off onto both from above an entranceway.
‘Holy shit’ from the crowd who roared as he got to his feet and beat his chest.
Things were back at ringside as we returned. Sting landed a splash on Bill against the barricade. He no sold and came back with a lariat which decked the vet. Allin was caught into a Bossman slam out of a tope, looked great. And painful.
Haven’t heard from the EVP’s tonight…
Bill rocked Darby’s head against the mat then tossed him via overhead throw. And has on mint green Timbs. The champs setup a table at ringside, Bill then pressed Darby over his head, Sting returned to make the save, series of backhands to the heels until being throttled in the ropes by Bill.
Sting dodged a charge and crotched the big man in the ropes but was surprised from behind by a Starks Scorpion Deathdrop which drew boos. Allin made the save, those two fought, Allin reversed a whip, Starks got a boot up in the corner, flipping over a charge and coming down badly on his ankle then being dumped outside.
Allin charged Bill in the corner, Stinger Splash from the vet to follow, rinse and repeat, big man still standing till a Darby code red then coffin splash to the outside.
Starks returned, Sting avoided an enziguri, Deathlock applied, Bill clambered back to the ring with Allin on his back (so guessing they were supposed to land like that out of the coffin splash), Allin gouged the eyes, Bill crashed off the apron through a table.
As Starks dragged himself under the ropes to break the grip, avoided a Stinger splash while removing the buckle which the vet crashed into. Starks hesitated briefly but nailed the Spear. Sting kicked out. Then caught a charging Starks, spinning him into the match winning Deathdrop to a massive pop.
Fun tag before a wild crowd.
Sting’s sons hit the ring. Will the Bucks go after them at some point? Or is this just a nice moment? The ref handed them their belts and held their arms up, pyro went off and… clad in all-white, the Bucks attacked from behind. Swear I did not know that was going to happen.
They took out the champs with bats then went after Sting’s sons. Loud boos here which Nicholas basked in. They then rained down blows, Matt’s white jacket was stained with Darby’s blood. Nick’s too after a BTE Trigger.
Schiavone was trying to get over the gravity of the moment when Excalibur interrupted to say he’d been ordered to call it the EVP Trigger. Not the moment for that dude. The Bucks continued attacking Sting with the bat, Nick aiming a punt, Darby out of it. More loud boos.
They picked a good crowd for this. Not sure the small ones of the last couple weeks would’ve leant this level of heat to things. The Bucks posed mid-ring, white suits covered in blood.
Excalibur said their rep was destroyed. Super angle to end the show.
Winner: Sting and Darby Allin
I may be alone in not liking this show much. I’m struggling to look past the very basic booking and promotional flaws at the moment.
- Adam Copeland promo
- Orange Cassidy vs Tomohiro Ishii
- Mox and Claudio vs Star Junior & Someone (there was no graphic, Excalibur just announced it and that’s all I picked up, apologies)
Added to Revolution:
- Hangman Page vs Swerve Strickland vs Samoa Joe (AEW Title)
- Good action along with storytelling at the end from Page/Swerve
- Fun main event and very heated angle to end the show on a high
- Not certain it should be a positive since it shouldn’t be this rare but it was nice not to be able to predict every winner ahead of time, which added intrigue to the matches
- Though often saw poor booking relying on interference, distractions and screwy finishes
- Poorly defined characters are a problem – at best they put others in bad positions (see Velvet during that women’s match); at worst they leave fans unsure how to feel so they stop caring
- Another heaping pile of wrestling with little time to stop, sell, promote or push matches and angles
- Highlighted by the continued awful hyping of Sting as he winds down his career – no promos with him explaining what this means or how he feels, no packages explaining why the match is taking place, none of the things which ellicit emotion from fans
Appreciate you reading. Have a good week.