All Elite Wrestling kicked off 2021 with night one of “New Year’s Smash,” with the second part of the TV special scheduled for next week. As a part of the New Year theme, the broadcast was stacked with title matches and a few special appearances. The show opened with an eight-man tag with The Young Bucks and SCU vs. The Acclaimed and Hybrid 2. The match itself was decent, and it looked like it might’ve planted the seeds with the current storyline for SCU to keep winning to stay a team. Despite being 50, Christopher Daniels can still go in the ring and while he’s not as crisp as he was in his prime, nobody would be the same performer they were 15 years earlier. That being said, it’s really great to see Daniels get this type of run at this point in his career, both for the recognition and for the contract. How the nearly 30-year-pro was underutilized at various points in his career is somewhat puzzling, considering there should always be a spot for a performer the caliber of Daniels. “The Fallen Angel” as he was known for the bulk of his career is a true pro, and if I had to guess, I’d say that he was just never at the right place at the right time to get the run he was really capable of in his prime. His heyday in TNA was more or less when the company was still trying to establish itself as a national organization and then somehow when they had the bigger names to get more viewers, there wasn’t a spot for Daniels. Mind-boggling decisions aren’t anything new in the history books of a Dixie Cater promotion, though.
Ironically, from an overall stand point, the SCU stint that he had in Ring Of Honor that was ultimately brought to AEW, is probably the best work of his career. According to The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer, Daniels also works in the office for AEW so I’d guess this current angle will eventually lead to his in-ring retirement and then he will work behind-the-scenes, similar to someone like Jerry Lynn, a former champion that works as an agent for the promotion. That being said, there’s probably untapped potential for a singles run for Kazarian, and if not, another tag team run with Scorpio Sky is always an option. One thing for sure is, the quality that the SCU trio brings to the table is always an asset for a company. While The Acclaimed are getting valuable TV time to make a name for themselves, I’d still say the gimmick is going to hinder more than help their progress. I could be wrong, but the rap gimmick is so associated with John Cena that The Acclaimed act could seem like nothing more than a cheap imitation, especially to new viewers that might sample the product based on some of the special appearances on this show. I’m not sure how far up the ranks Hybrid 2 could go since they might get lost in the roster of the tag team division.
The Wardlow/Jake Hager match wasn’t necessarily anything spectacular and did have a few minor flaws, but it sent the message that Wardlow could live up to the potential that put him on the AEW radar in the first place. Hager doesn’t wrestle often, which actually allows some of that MMA mystic to be maintained and it lets him stand out in some ways because the rest of the Inner Circle faction are known for their in-ring work. That being said, the fact that Wardlow got the victory here suggests that there are big plans for him in the future. Granted, how much of that potential is realized remains to be seen, but hopefully, he isn’t rushed toward that spot. Considering the flooded roster the company already has and the amount of guys already under contract that could work as legitimate main event stars, it makes sense to allow Wardlow to continue to develop as he gains experience wrestling on TV. As mentioned, Hager doesn’t wrestle weekly so it’s doubtful this defeat will affect his status in the company.
The Cody Rhodes/Matt Sydal bout was solid, and it’s good to see that Sydal appears to be back to a similar form in the ring as he was previously. As I’ve written before, Sydal hasn’t truly been the same performer he was prior because of a serious motor cycle accident several years ago. Perhaps, the time off between his stint in Impact and AEW allowed him to heal properly. I’m still skeptical that he can recapture his status as arguably the top high-flier in the world, mostly because of the injury, but also because an entirely new generation has embraced much of the same style. That’s not to try to sell Sydal short, but to explain it will take more than just this performance to put him back in the conversation. The post-match segment was fun and while Snoop Dogg’s splash didn’t exactly resemble Eddie Guerrero, it created a moment that could generate some buzz for the company. Furthermore, Serpentico taking the move didn’t hinder the status of any stars because he’s in a preliminary role so it’s not as though Snoop beat down the AEW champion. It’s nothing against Serpentico, but an AEW Dark wrestler made sense for the spot.
The AEW Women’s title match was somewhat subpar, and hopefully, there’s something more meaningful for the champion soon. Abadon portrays her role very well, but her in-ring work was hit or miss during most of this contest. Hikaru Shida is a polished pro, and with Thunder Rosa, Diamante, Serena, and other recently added to the roster, the Women’s division has some depth to build title feuds around match quality, not just gimmicks.
The main event of Kenny Omega defending against Rey Fenix was a tremendous match and one of the type of bouts that build the credibility of the championship. While Omega should have a lengthy reign as champion, especially because of storyline booked for the title, Rey Fenix should definitely be considered for a world title run at some point during his AEW career. I’ve said it several times before, but I will say it again, The Lucha Brothers are money and could be major stars for the company. I thought Gallows and Anderson might have the run-in to help Omega win the match, but the post-match angle still made sense. While the Young Bucks turn wasn’t as smooth as it could’ve been, there was still the moment of the group posing together to go off the air so it was mission accomplished. Ironically, Gallows and Anderson were originally going to do a similar angle for the debut edition of Dynamite, but opted to re-sign with WWE at the time. Essentially, they are reforming a version of The Bullet Club and as long as it’s booked right, it can work well without seeming like too much of a retread of the ROH era. The question is, with those five guys aligned, who will challenge them from the AEW side? Maybe Moxley, Fenix, Pentagon, Pac, and Cody would be a good time for a potential pay-per-view match. How effective the Impact crossover will be in the grand scheme of things remains to be seen, but it’s undoubtedly allowing both companies to maximize certain members of each roster so it could be a scenario that is beneficial to the entire industry.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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