All In, the major pay-per-view held at Wembley Stadium in front of a record-setting crowd of over 80,000 fans, is in the books. While the reaction after the show went off the air varied, depending on the perspective, the question that many have considered is, did the pay-per-view live up to the hype? Furthermore, what does this mean for not only the future of the company, but also how were the pieces put in place to lead to next weekend’s All Out event in Chicago?
Usually, I don’t review the pre-show matches to prevent these reviews from being too lengthy, but given that MJF and Adam Cole vs. Aussie Open was a bout that was booked to add to the narrative of the main event, I wanted to discuss a few points out it. I know this is probably too negative to start this column, but I must say that while I get what the point was supposed to be with the opponents winning tag titles, I don’t think it accomplished enough for the storyline to justify putting the main event stars on the show that early. Keep in mind, there’s supposed to be an aura around the main event, and after you saw MJF earlier, the signature entrance later in the night didn’t have the level of mystic it would’ve had otherwise. Along with that, the ROH tag titles, similar to the other ROH belts represented on this event, were meaningless so it didn’t truly add anything to the friendship angle of the main event. Claudio is the ROH World champion and took the pin in Stadium Stampede, and Samoa Joe is the ROH TV champion, but was pinned in the opener of the pay-per-view so do the tag belts have any value to add to a storyline already based on the All Elite World championship?
As mentioned, Samoa Joe lost in the bout that kicked off the PPV. As far as the in-ring action, this contest was solid, but the narrative or lack thereof was rather confusing for the majority of the segment. The last we knew, Joe was a heel, and Punk seemed to play to the crowd when he walked to the ring, which would imply that Punk is the baby face. However, throughout the match, Punk hit some trademark John Cena offense and then landed a Hogan leg drop before he put his hand to his ear in the Hulkster pose. It appeared that Punk was trying to antagonize the audience, especially given Hogan’s standing with the AEW fan base so after the conclusion of the match, I’m not sure where this puts Punk on the All Elite landscape. As far as the “real world champion” gimmick, I understand it’s a throwback to the Ric Flair angle in the WWF in the early-90s, but I don’t think this segment was seen with the level of importance of a title match, even if that was the intention. If anything, putting the championship on the line more or less gave away the finish since the only logical conclusion to this storyline would be an eventual unification bout with MJF to play off of the masterpiece of a dog collar match from a few years ago.
I’m sure anyone reading this column has already heard of the story of yet another backstage fight in AEW that involved Punk, this time with Jack Perry just minutes before he went to the ring to work with Samoa Joe. I’d like to discuss that specific situation in it’s own column to keep the focus on the actual pay-per-view for this article.
The six man tag between The Golden Elite and the Don Callis crew was fine, but very close to what I expected took place, with the notion that you would’ve had a better quality match from most of these workers in a different combination. Jay White and Juice Robinson are a tremendous tag team, putting them against Adam Page and Kenny Omega might’ve stole the show in a standard tag match. Konosuke Takeshita is a superb talent and has the ability to be a top guy for the company. The heel persona works well and he looks like a movie villain with the leather jacket added to his attire. The biggest takeaway from the Takeshita heel turn is that he knows how to have the body language of a heel to really present the persona well. Thankfully, it looks like Omega/Takeshita will put on the card for All Out, but I just have to think that there was better use of him in a stadium show than a six man tag with little at stake. Kota Ibushi was one of the best high flyers of his generation and the argument could be made that he already had a Hall of Fame career for his work in Japan, but similar to his Blood and Guts performance, he’s just not the same worker since the shoulder injury that put him on the shelf. That’s not to knock his very accomplished career, but rather to point out that Tony Khan should be very careful before he invest too much money or time into him since it appears that the Japanese grappler is past his prime. Takeshita used a roll up on Omega to get the cheap victory, presumably to set up their All Out match.
I have to be honest, the tag team title match was one of the matches that I was looking forward to the most on this show, and unfortunately, I expected more from this segment. There wasn’t anything wrong with the match, but it just seemed like it never got into the second gear, despite getting almost 20 minutes on the pay-per-view. I was surprised that FTR retained the belt, and it will be interesting to see what the next move is for both teams, especially with Cash’s current legal situation. Perhaps, expectations for the FTR/Young Bucks feud were too high or Tony waited too long to book the rubber match, but when you take into account how talented both teams are, I would’ve guessed that their series of matches would’ve been more memorable.
The Stadium Stampede match was fun for what it was, even if there was too much comedy at certain points when since it’s supposed to be a dangerous match. By nature, this match was somewhat of a challenge for the production team, as there was too much going on at any one time and the camera missed a few key spots, but that was almost unavoidable. You have to give credit to Trent in this segment because he took some brutal bumps, and outside of being typecast in a comedy tag team, make no mistake about it, Trent can go in the ring. Another challenge with the circumstances of the bout is that it’s much more difficult to work a Stadium Stampede match with actual fans in attendance since there are only so many places that the wrestlers could safely fight through the building to make sure fans aren’t in danger. It’s always nice to see Sue make a cameo on AEW programming, but it was out of place in this segment and took away from some of the danger of the bout. Sue gives away cookies just minutes before Jon Moxley uses a barbed wire bat so it was a conflicting narrative. Speaking of which, I understand what the point was of the Taipei gimmick with the glass on the fist for the finish, but it was just too convoluted and almost looked silly with Orange Cassidy’s hand wrapped in duck tape. As mentioned previously, Cassidy got the pin on Claudio for the win.
The Women’s title four-way match was very solid. As difficult as four-way matches can be, these athletes made it work, and they went to the finish at the right time with about ten minutes as enough to keep a fast paced match that had action that built to the finish. It was great to see Saraya win the title in her hometown and have her family there for the celebration. I’m not sure it if was necessarily the best move for the women’s division as a whole, considering that she hasn’t been in top form in the ring or on the mic so far in her AEW tenure, but in a vacuum, this was the right decision, especially since the women’s division was more or less in disarray for the past few months anyway. Perhaps, this can be a fresh start for everyone involved since The Outcasts’ run as a stable was rather lackluster. Toni Storm probably made the most progress of the trio during the stable’s existence so it’s possible that Storm/Saraya would be a decent feud to start the title reign.
The tag team casket match was very entertaining. It’s amazing that Sting is still in the ring at his age, but somehow he’s still a quality performer at 64, which speaks volumes to his talent. The bumps that Darby Allin took in this segment, including an attempted coffin drop from the top rope to the floor on the lid of the casket, were ridiculous. I hope I’m wrong, but this car crash style has to been taking years off of his career, and that might put a ceiling on how far he can move up the card or how much Tony would be willing to invest in him in the future. Sting and Darby got the win.
As much as FTR/The Young Bucks fell short of my expectations, Chris Jericho vs, Will Ospreay was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. In truth, and some of this surfaced toward the conclusion of the bout, I thought it was too much of a styles clash between the two grapplers. Jericho is an absolute legend and in some ways, he’s in a league of his own in the industry, but at 52, it would be unrealistic to expect him to keep up with Ospreay. Granted, Jericho in 1997 would’ve went step-for-step with Ospreay, but Jericho has understandably shown his age within the past year or so. Thankfully, instead of Jericho trading high spots with Ospreay, they worked a stiff match that suited the Fozzy front man better. Credit to both athletes, there were some brutal strike exchanges throughout this match and the physicality added a lot to the narrative. Early in the contest, there was a scary moment when Ospreay did a dive to the floor and it looks like his knee clipped Jericho in the head. Toward the finish, Jericho went for a spring board diamond cutter, a version of one of Ospreay’s signature moves, and it look like he always spiked himself on his head.
Jericho already has more than thirty years of wrestling that took a toll on his body so let’s hope these matches are rare for him at this point in his career. As entertaining as this one was, the finish, which saw Ospreay get the victory was somewhat puzzling, unless he intends to sign a deal with AEW after his New Japan contract expires at the end of the year. Don’t get me wrong, it makes sense to give Ospreay the victory in England, but to my knowledge, he was the first one to kick out of the Judas Effect, which is theoretically a major boost. Jericho put him over and that gives Ospreay major cache and it would make the most sense to use that credibility to establish him in AEW, not just for him to take the accomplishment back to Japan. That being said, I think Ospreay would be better off in New Japan since it’s a platform for him to shine and he can remain a bigger fish in a smaller pond in terms of the global scope, as well as a way to avoid getting lost in the shuffle like so many have in AEW. However, I don’t think this finish is booked, particularly with the kick out of the Judas Effect, unless Ospreay was on his way to AEW.
The six man tag was decent and mostly a basic match, which isn’t a negative since it was a way to pace the card. The House of Black did a nice tribute to Bray Wyatt with a lantern during their entrance, and The Acclaimed won the Trios title. I’m not sure the victory means all that much in the grand scheme of things when you take into account that the belts were more or less only created for The Elite so I’m not sure this win will boost The Acclaim’s status in the company.
I’ve written extensively about why I’m not a fan of the current MJF/Adam Cole storyline or any of the goofy skits they’ve done on television so I’m not going to retread all of that. Quite simply, this match wasn’t for me, I still think the entire angle makes MJF look like a yuppie, and Adam Cole look like a doofus, an aspect that was reinforced when nothing actually happened at the conclusion of the broadcast. MJF based his entire career of being the most vile heel in the business and this whole angle takes away from that, especially when there’s not a swerve for him to take a cheap shot at Cole to retain the championship. Cole looks like a doofus in the skits and then naive that he trusted the heel with such a devious reputation. The lame attempts at comedy skits on television in recent weeks were cringe worthy. The whole “LOL wrestling” stuff isn’t for me, and more often than not, those type of angles make it embarrassing to be a wrestling fan. Don’t get me wrong, these two are great performers, but none of those skills were spotlighted in this scenario. Professional wrestling is built on conflict, but this entire storyline is the opposite of that. It’s a drastic example, but Stone Cold and The Rock are the two biggest stars in the history of the business, did they go to get ice cream together on television before they worked the main event of Wrestlemania? John Cena vs. The Rock set records, was that feud based on friendship? The MJF/Cole match was fine, but I wasn’t impressed with any of it.
The predicament that Tony Khan finds himself in is that he decided to run two pay-per-views in the span of a week, which is a very difficult situation, especially when you consider that the historic nature of the Wembley show was enough of a selling point, but there’s not enough time to truly build another pay-per-view main event for All Out. With the PPV being held in Chicago, there are rumors that a Punk title defense might headline the show, and that might work for the live audience, but I don’t think it will be enough to get fans to spend another $50 on a pay-per-view a week later.
Overall, All In was a solid event, but I’m not sure if there was anything that was particularly memorable about any of the matches that stands out as something that would be a part of such a historic show. It goes without saying that the pay-per-view was very successful with the attendance record, and it was undoubtedly a historic event because of it, but it seemed to lack any specific historic moment for the card.
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Until next week
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