Our special guest Luke has some fine thoughts on AEW’s Fight for the Fallen. We know it’s a little late, but this is our thing people! Take it away Luke!
AEW Fight for the Fallen
All Elite Wrestling put on their third live event this past Saturday night in Jacksonville, Florida. The show, named “Fight for the Fallen,” was a charitable event that raised money for the victims of gun violence in the city, including those affected by the Jacksonville Landing mass shooting which took place at a Madden football video game tournament in 2018. The show emanated from the Daily’s Place, a beautiful amphitheater-style venue which was billed as the brainchild of Shad Khan (the father of Tony Khan the founder and owner of AEW.) The building had a roof, but open-air sides which had the very cool effect of an outdoor show with the benefit of a ceiling to improve the acoustics of the crowd. The hard cam was at a strange angle, what I guess you would call stage left. This was fine, but it seems like it would have come off better if the camera was on the stage facing out into the sea of people rather pointed at a wall all show. Either way, this was a very cool venue and they did a nice job lighting the place for a wrestling show.
I admit this is a bit of a bait and switch, but I was unable to watch the preshow live. I was housesitting and the internet wasn’t working, so I sprung into action and immediately abandoned my post to pack up and frantically and recklessly drive home. I did go back after the show and watch the 2 preshow matches, but I might not have an accurate opinion on them since these were curtain jerkers and I watched them after the best matches on the card. Also, at this point I was thoroughly annoyed by Alex Marvez on commentary. So with that grain of salt, here we go…
Peter Avalon w/ Leva Bates vs Sonny Kiss**
This was a short showcase match geared towards getting Sonny Kiss over and I think it worked out just fine. I was impressed with Avalon in the ring despite The Librarian gimmick being a true stinker. Kiss was able to get his spots in and we all got to see his charisma. I really appreciated his facial expressions in this match, like when Avalon shushed him and he rolled his eyes. Simple stuff that he does with attitude. Kiss won with his split leg drop off the turnbuckle.
A quick note about the Librarians- they are not connecting with the audience and the comedy is not landing. Not only is the constant shushing grating, but the gimmick doesn’t make sense. Why does AEW need a librarian? Maybe make Leva Bates the Librarian for the AEW tape library. I don’t know, I’m just spit-balling here. If we’re stuck with it there must be a way to make it better.
Bea Priestley, Shoko Nakajima vs Britt Baker, Riho**1/2
This was a very solid match that was hindered by Baker suffering a concussion after catching a stiff boot from the debuting Priestley. I felt that Nakajima and Riho did a very nice job in this match and really garnered the most attention. Nakajima got the win over Riho after hitting a step-up huracanrana. This match was designed to introduce Priestly and showcase her skills a bit. Unfortunately, I felt that the match fell short in that goal. I have been wondering lately about whether AEW will have trouble getting solo wrestlers over when they tend to book a lot of multi-man matches. This was an example of a person who wasn’t able to outshine the other three competitors and make a memorable debut. That aside, they were able to setup a match between Britt Baker and Bea Priestley in the future, so overall this was a fun preshow tag match that kept the crowd happy leading into the main card.
(Marvez giggles at a spot to let us know how silly wrestling is. He also called Tony Khan “Our fearless leader” in a sad ass kissing moment.)
MJF, Sammy Guevara, Shawn Spears vs Darby Allin, Jimmy Havoc, Joey Janela ***1/4
This match worked well as an opener and was very good overall. Allin, Havoc, and Janela make sense as a team since they are the maniacs of the roster and you could see how a person in power could logically connect the three and make them a team. The team of MJF, Guevara, and Spears was fantastic because it was a team of heels that all hated each other, which is a satisfying way to show that heels should hate everybody (except their friends and family). The hatred that was most apparent was between Spears and MJF, due to Spears’ attack last month on Cody. The two exchanged aggressive tags and refused to tag one another throughout. You really cannot overstate the charisma of MJF, this guy is a magnet for viewers. On the face side, the story was that Allin wanted in the match and was getting frustrated with the team. Everyone eventually got their spots in and Spears pinned Darby after a Death Valley driver. It was strange to see Darby take the pin since they put him over so highly at Fyter Fest, but Spears pinning a man that Cody couldn’t is an interesting plot point in their feud.
We get a shot at Private Party in the crowd and I guess they bought tickets to the show. Alex Jebailey from the Fyter Fest Pre-Show is seen crashing the party and is escorted out. This guy sucks and comes off like a total amateur. He is not a necessary part of the show and he truly cannot act, he couldn’t act dead at his own funeral. Moving on.
Brandi Rhodes vs Allie *1/2
The two shake hands to start and immediately Awesome Kong’s music hits. The crowd popped big and Brandi smiles like the Cheshire cat. Kong comes down to the ring and stands outside the ring and the match begins. That was a little underwhelming as I was expecting her to come out and smash Allie for Brandi and then we are out. Unfortunately, what followed was a divas-style match between two women with a similar level of ability. This went on for far too long and the crowd wasn’t biting. Allie seems to have two emotions; her twinkly eyed smiley anime look, and her big meanie GRRR face. Kong acted as a distraction and interfered a few times to help Brandi. The finish came after a distracted ref missed Brandi tapping out, she escaped, raked the eyes and hit a spear (“What looked like a spear.” -Josh Matthews) for the pin.
After the match, Kong and Brandi attacked Allie until Aja Kong came out to put a stop to that shit. The crowd loved this and so did I. The Kongs stare each other down and this must mean we are getting this legendary match on an event in the near future. I cannot wait to see who is the top Kong, who is the Queen Kong, who is the Kong of the Rong!
The Dark Order: Evil Uno, Stu Grayson vs Angelico, Jack Evans vs A Boy and His Dinosaur: Jungle Boy, Luchasaurus w/ Marko Stunt ***3/4
This match was our first taste of The Dark Order in AEW and this ended up being a great match that got people over, just not The Dark Order, in spite of their entrance with their minions (called Creepers.) Personally, I am a fan of the Dark Order, but they look very indie and the gimmick hasn’t been explained well enough yet. They hit some spectacular double teams and I think in time they will be received well by the fans. The stars of this one were Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus. Jungle Boy is a very natural babyface in peril, and they worked to that strength throughout this match with him receiving most of the punishment and not giving up. Luchasaurus is an absolute freak athlete and the crowd loved seeing his power combined with agility on display. Angelico and Evans are fantastic athletes that you can plug into pretty much any match and it won’t hurt the quality. The two didn’t stand out with A Boy and His Dinosaur stealing the show here, but they added a lot of energy to this match. At one point Marko interferes by hitting a huracanrana in front of the ref and gets ejected. The Dark Order pick up the win with their double team finisher-the Fatality-and will face The Best Friends at All Out in Chicago with the winner receiving a first-round bye in the tag title tournament.
A couple thoughts on Marko Stunt here- the match should have been a DQ when he interfered, so that bugged me. My main thought though is that I don’t think Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus need him. A Boy and His Dinosaur is a gimmick that will get over, there’s no need to muddy it with more people involved. The merch alone will be a hot seller, I think they should let this thing breathe before they make it a trio or anything else. I could see these guys built up on TV over a few months to a year with a huge blowoff title win at the end.
Hangman Page vs Kip Sabian ***1/4
This was not a bad match; it just wasn’t what it should have been. This match was nearly 20 minutes, with Hangman really selling the leg throughout. It needed some tightening up or editing. It seemed like having such a competitive match that he nearly lost, against a guy most fans have either never seen wrestle or have only seen wrestle once on the pre-show of Double or Nothing, was detrimental to his momentum going into the AEW title match vs Chris Jericho next month. This was a good back and forth match, but Hangman didn’t come off as a top babyface. The ending saw Page win with the Right of Passage after a series of nearfalls.
A man dressed a one of the Creepers (the only one that had a shirt) came out after and laid out Page. He hit the Codebreaker and pulled the mask off to reveal what everyone already knew, it was Jericho. Hangman is dropped by a Judas Effect spinning back elbow and he’s busted open. This spot really looked great.
Lucha Bros: Pentagon Jr., Fenix vs SCU: Kazarian, Scorpio Sky w/ Christopher Daniels ***1/4
The Lucha Bros enter in their cool Super Shredder outfits for this one. This match was mostly a spot fest, with lots of action and impressive moves. At one point, Daniels gets involved by hitting a moonsault on the Bros outside and isn’t DQ’d, what’s the deal here? The ref tosses Daniels and the match continues at a high pace. Though there wasn’t much story here, this was the match the crowd needed at this point in the show. The Lucha Bros deliver a double stomp package piledriver, picking up their first victory in AEW.
After the match the Lucha Bros bring a ladder into the ring and attack SCU.
They set up the ladder and climb it, issuing a challenge to the Young Bucks for the AAA Tag Team Titles at All Out in, of course, a ladder match. The Bros came off heelish here, but I’m not sure if that is by design. They definitely seem unpredictable. Either way this will be a wild match that I look forward to watching Live.
Kenny Omega vs CIMA ****
This right here folks was the Match of the Night. This match appeared to be for Omega to get his first win in AEW while further introducing CIMA to the American audience and establishing him as a top level international talent which in turn lends credibility to the promotion he represents and trains for, Oriental Wrestling Entertainment. I have been a fan of CIMA for years through his many visits to the U.S. indie scene, so I may view him as a bigger, more credible star than a person new to AEW. This match elevated CIMA as a credible threat to anybody on the roster by showing that he can go toe to toe and believably compete with one of- if not the- top guy in the company.
This was another long match, but that didn’t bother me. These two can go out there and have long interesting matches that never lose the crowd. The issue with this match was when CIMA, whose knee had been targeted by Omega relentlessly, stopped selling the knee late in the match. This made all that work Omega did on the knee mean nothing. This hurt the story of the match. Well it threw the story out, but the action was all good stuff.
(This was roughly the point of the show that the commentators put over the fact that All Out is a sellout, and Marvez says if you want tickets you’ll have to look on the secondary market. Dude. Don’t put over the scalpers, and don’t diminish the fact that it is a sellout by admitting there are tickets available. Did I mention Marvez sucks?)
Chris Jericho with a live mic:
Jericho taunts the crowd with name calling like “Jerksonville” and “Jack-offville” which got a good response. This man is such a pro, cutting a promo that put himself over, elevated Hangman Page, and gave the fans a reason to look forward to their match in Chicago for the AEW Title. Jericho does it all while wearing an awesome studded leather jacket that he must be sweating profusely inside. Entertaining segment as always from Jericho.
The Brotherhood: Dustin Rhodes, Cody Rhodes vs The Young Bucks: Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson ***1/2
I have to say that I do love seeing tag team wrestling in the main event spot. We were given a great video package explaining this match. The Young Bucks had been poking fun at the emotional embrace the Rhodes Brothers shared at Double or Nothing on Being the Elite. Cody knows the Bucks and understands that the Bucks are just trying to get under their skin, but Dustin isn’t friends with them and is taking the insults personally. Cody plays a bit of a mediator, but he is a competitive guy and this is serious business to him. The Bucks brought great intensity to this match, even the collar and elbow tie-ups were intense. The beginning third of this match was great and they played up the tension very well. The Bucks see themselves as the best tag team in the world and just because the Brotherhood couldn’t take a joke and had a chip on their shoulder, that doesn’t mean they can beat the Jacksons.
I mentioned the first third of this match being great, and it isn’t that the other 2/3 were bad, they just seemed unnecessary. The Bucks controlled, leading to a hot tag that eventually calmed down into the Rhodes getting heat, then the Bucks getting the heat for a second time. This match was not short of spectacular moves, but if felt like they were trying to put on an epic New Japan style match and it just wasn’t necessary. The finishing sequence was spectacular, as you would expect from the Young Bucks. We got the Superkick party followed by dropdown uppercuts from the Bucks mocking the Rhodes. The Brotherhood retaliates with a pair of superkicks. Matt hits Cody with the Cross Rhodes and they finish him off with the Meltzer Driver.
After the match the Bucks tried to put over the Rhodes on the mic, but they ran out of time so they never got it out. We had some roster members come to the ring with some officials. Omega comes out in his Hanes Jersey shorts. Cody gets on the mic and says that AEW can’t be counter-programmed and puts over the funds raised for the families of gun violence then throws it to Omega. Omega thanks the crowd and instead of saying “Bang!” he finishes with “Goodbye and goodnight, Boing!” It wasn’t bad, but it drew so much attention to Omega having to change his gun-related sendoff on a show where that was clearly inappropriate, so it was almost counterproductive. This segment was rushed, and they all thought they were off the air so it wasn’t great, but it was still a nice sendoff and the crowd stayed until the end.
Overall this was a good show, with great atmosphere, and top-quality production values. The show did a nice job of furthering the stories heading into All Out and giving us a deeper look at some of the fresher talent. This event was quite long and many of the matches felt like they would have benefited from being a little shorter. I do think this was a glimpse of how they want to structure main events as long epic matches, I am just hoping they don’t get in the mindset that every show needs a 35 minute main event. For one of AEW’s smaller shows I really cannot complain too much. This was a free show and the majority was solid or better. I will be attending All Out and this show did help raise the excitement for that show so I think this was a success for this young company.