Why All Out Is Key For AEW

All Elite Wrestling has a lot of momentum behind it ahead of next weekend’s “All Out” pay-per-view, and from the results of the TV shows this past week, it looks like the card might be finalized for the pivotal show. Before we discuss the details the card, and if the right line-up is assembled to maximize the benefits of the increased exposure to the product, it’s important to frame this pay-per-view in the proper context. Throughout pro wrestling history, there were key events that shaped the path of promotions or the narrative of the industry in the United States. There are key decisions that are made at critical times that can determine a positive or negative direction for not only an organization, but the direction of the business itself. Some well-known examples are Bash At The Beach 1996, Hulk Hogan dropped the leg and stood next to The Outsiders. A heel Hogan after a decade as the all-American baby face flipped the script on sports entertainment. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin hit the stunner on Shawn Micheals at Wrestlemania, and “Iron” Mike Tyson, the most controversial figure in sports at the time counted the three to call for the bell. The Austin era officially kicked off and eventually that tilted the Monday night wars. Thankfully, Jeff Hardy is in a much better place in his life now, but the infamous bout at Victory Road against Sting stained TNA as minor league for the rest of the tenure of the Dixie regime. Since he’s such a topic of conversation currently, CM Punk winning the WWE championship in Chicago at Money in the Bank in 2011 was an opportunity for WWE to attempt to go main stream again on some level, but when Triple H pinned him two month later on pay-per-view, it squashed the momentum.

It’s fair to say that All Out will probably garner AEW’s biggest buy rate in the company’s history, which isn’t an easy task based on the price tag of traditional pay-per-view when the WWE Network has thousands of hours of content for free to many viewers. Obviously, Tony Khan will have to “sell” the PPV to the AEW audience, new viewers and diehard fans, but there’s much more to it than simply a specific pay-per-view order. In many ways, the actual PPV number is just the short-end money, and the ripple effect from the impression the show will make could be a much bigger factor. AEW, especially within the past few weeks, became a topic of conversation among wrestling fans, even casual viewers so the curiosity factor of how CM Punk will be in the ring after seven years has at least some level of a draw to the general public. That being said, it’s new territory for Tony Khan since the broadcast will have to be true to the All Elite formula, but still have something to offer the more casual fan, which is a very difficult balancing act.

As far as the actual card, there are nine matches listed and that presents some challenges itself because the match order, as well as the time each bout is given can really affect the pace of a card. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the logic of a four-hour broadcast to attempt to give people their money’s worth, but the downside of that is, it’s difficult to pace a longer show.

With the potential for more casual fans to tune into the event, the use of Paul Wight makes sense because it creates a level of familiarity for a viewing experience. Nothing against QT Marshal, but he’s not exactly a featured performer on the roster in terms of star power so this bout should be kept as short as possible. Let the former Big Show play the greatest hits and get the victory in roughly four minutes because that’s all that’s needed for the segment to be successful. At first, I was a little skeptical of a Christian/Kenny Omega rematch at the pay-per-view since it was a bout that we just saw on television, and I understand the logic that it explained that Cage proved he could beat Omega, but it just seemed too soon to put the bout on pay-per-view. Why would the audience want to pay for a match they just saw on free TV? That said, it probably is a wise decision to actually put this on the card with the hype that CM Punk brought to the organization. If nothing else, Christian is another familiar face that the general public will identify with if they sample the product. Plus, as we’ve seen Cage/Omega will be a quality bout so it’s a win-win situation.

The other aspect for casual fans, but has a blend of All Elite with it is the Chris Jerico/MJF bout with Jericho’s career on the line. I’ve said many times before that Jericho is in a league of his own in terms of reinventing himself and evolving with the times. The past few years specifically have been legacy work that put him at a very unique level. That said, he’s almost 51 and again, the past few years saw him check off a lot of boxes on his resume so it wouldn’t be too surprising if he actual retires. The stipulation says retired from All Elite Wrestling so maybe that could leave the door open for him to take a few big money matches in New Japan just not to leave potential money on the table. I say this as a compliment, Jericho has more or less done it all in his career so what does he really have left to do? He bolstered AEW and will be linked with its success so it makes sense for him to retire. Jericho mentioned in the promo for the contest that if he loses, he will move to commentary so that’s a way to keep his star power involved in the program even if he’s not wrestling. So far, All Elite actually sticks to its stipulations so this match might be able to built some good drama toward its conclusion. Assuming Jericho does plan to retire, giving MJF the bragging rights as the one that retired Chris Jericho helps take the familiarity of a WWE legend and parlay that into a push for one of AEW’s best heels.

As far as pure All Elite style, and this will test the market so to speak, The Young Bucks vs. The Lucha Brothers steel cage match is something that might be hit or miss with a more casual audience. Hopefully, it’s a hit and introduces a different demographic to a new style, but it’s not guaranteed that it will translate to a different audience. Don’t get me wrong, for diehard fans, this cage match will probably be incredible, but casual fans often follow entertainment value, which isn’t necessarily always the same as match quality. Lex Luger, God bless him, wasn’t actually Dynamite Kid as far as in-ring performance, but there was a time that as a character, Lex was one of the most over performers in the industry in the late-90s.

Pac and Andrade should have a quality bout, and despite their association with WWE, I doubt even WWE fans will look at this as strictly a “WWE match” on the card since neither athlete was fully utilized during their tenure in the organization. Pac has done great work in AEW, showing just how much WWE missed the boat on him when he was under contract. Andrade, however, only had one match on Dynamite so far and still has something to prove. The common conversation about Andrade is that he had the potential to be the top Hispanic star for WWE. At this point, Andrade has a chance to prove if he can live up to the potential that was discussed during his WWE run.

Jon Moxley vs. Kojima is noteworthy because of the New Japan crossover, and Kojima is a legitimate Japanese legend, but to be honest, this bout will be too inside baseball so to speak even for the majority of the AEW audience. For American fans, it’s the most diehard group that will understand the importance of Kojima, but to the majority of the viewing audience, he will be viewed as an aging Japanese wrestler will an accomplished resume that the announcers will talk about during his entrance. That’s not meant as a jab against the Japanese legend, but rather to point out that it will be very easy for this match to get lost in the shuffle of a four-hour event.

Britt Baker vs. Kris Statlander should be a decent match, but with how over Baker is, and the fact that this isn’t a lengthy rivalry, it’s predictable that Baker will retrain the belt, which is the right decision. All things considered, I don’t think Baker should drop the title until the Thunder Rosa rematch.

Eddie Kingston vs. Miro is one that could surprise a lot of people, simply based on the depth of the card. I don’t think you will see anything too spectacular, but it will probably be a physical and entertaining contest. Miro has done a great job as TNT champion, but Kingston is such a dynamic performer, the argument could be made that he should win the title so it will be interesting to see what happens in the match.

Considering the crowd reaction in Chicago for CM Punk’s first match back in seven years, I don’t think there’s a choice about where the bout should be on the line-up. Granted, Punk might have ring rust and not be as crisp as some of the other athletes on the show, but the drama that will be possible is what could make this a main event quality match. Plus, if Punk is in the middle of the card, it’s very possible that the audience will be drained the rest of the show. This is a big spot for Darby Allin too, and if he’s going to became a more main stream star, this is the opportunity for him to solidify that status. Darby has a unique charisma that the audience connects with, and proof of that is the fans that paint their face like him. How often does that happen in the modern era? That being said, I think CM Punk should get the win here, and while it might seem like that doesn’t put over Darby, if the bout is structured to showcase him, Allin can get over even with a defeat. Sometimes the simplest plan is the best plan, and CM Punk will a hometown victory in the right decision.

There are rumblings that Bryan Danielson’s AEW debut will be moved up to All Out instead of the stadium show next month, which would be the right call because if the pay-per-view draws the biggest buy rate in the history of the organization, that’s the time to try to make the biggest impact possible. Just a Danielson appearance will be enough to get a boost in viewership for the next Dynamite episode, which accomplishes the goal of generating more exposure for the product. It will be very interesting to consider how the impact of All Out is viewed in hindsight and while it remains to be seen if AEW is propelled to the next level, the existence of the organization has made for some of the most intriguing events of the past two decades in the industry.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta
E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta