I was at AEW All Out at the Sears Centre on Saturday night and the event surpassed the lofty expectations I had for it. Here are seven takeaways, including thoughts on the Young Bucks, Cody Rhodes, Arn Anderson, Chris Jericho, and the Cracker Barrel Classic:
1. I have no idea how the Young Bucks could stand up after a deathly ladder match.
I incidentally watched a bunch of old WWE ladder matches last weekend, powering through a three-disc DVD full of them, and maybe it was because I was in the building but Young Bucks vs. Lucha Bros was downright astonishing and might’ve topped all of them.
Just look at some of these spots:
In the postgame scrum, Nick Jackson of the Young Bucks talked about how he had guardian angels looking over him and joked that he’s lucky he has a big forehead. His brother Matt Jackson said matter-of-factly that they’re sore but the fact that they’re not injured right now is “a miracle” and that it was the “most terrified they’ve ever seen a locker room” after a match. They had to FaceTime their families to assure them they were okay.
On the way out of the building, I asked legendary wrestling reporter Dave Meltzer how anyone can top that ladder spectacle going forward and he was at a loss.
Rey Fenix and Pentagon Jr. also deserve a ton of credit for this match. All four performers were remarkable and are amongst the best in the world at what they do.
As an added carrot to what was a miraculous match, the tag-team Santana and Ortiz (formerly LAX in Impact and the indies) came and beat up both teams afterwards, further bolstering an already strong tag division.
2. The building was electric for Arn Anderson.
Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard, two members of the vaunted Four Horsemen who are 60 and 65 respectively, got physical at various points during the Cody Rhodes vs. Shawn Spears match.
When AA came out and hit Spears with a spinebuster, the arena went absolutely berserk:
4. Cody Rhodes is becoming an absolute legend before our eyes.
It’s crazy to think about how it’s barely been three years since Cody Rhodes was languishing as Stardust. He completely reinvented himself in the indies, New Japan, and Ring of Honor before becoming one of the cornerstones of AEW, and as far as entrance goes he was the most over wrestler of the night on Saturday. It helps that his theme song and entrance are incredible:
This is true of ‘Elite’ co-horts Kenny Omega, the Young Bucks, and possibly Hangman Page as well, but this run by Cody is fast becoming something we’re gonna look back on in 20+ years and talk about how electrically he was able to captivate audiences. He’d be my pick for next AEW champion.
5. Chris Jericho makes sense as the first champ.
WWE usually has a lull of a match between the third-to-last bout and the main event. As with their Double or Nothing show, AEW eschewed this strategy to go with three fire matchups back-to-back at the end: Cody vs. Spears, Bucks vs. Luchas, and Jericho-Hangman Page for the first AEW heavyweight title.
It’t not an enviable position to come off of those two high-points, and Jericho and Hangman had what was kind of a plodding match filled with holds and rest spots, especially compared to how frenetic a lot of the stuff before it was.
Jericho is 48 and the fact that with a million miles on his odometer he still moves like he does is a marvel, but his matches are going to struggle to be as thrilling as others on the card. Nonetheless, he’s by far the most known name in AEW and his promo charisma will never go out of style. He was always the right choice for them to usher in their TNT era and try to fulfill their goal of capturing as many purportedly lapsed pro wrestling fans as possible.
6. Cracker Barrel had a fascinating spon-con campaign.
Cracker Barrel sponsored a hardcore match between Joey Janela, Darby Allin, and Jimmy Havoc that wound up being effectively the ECW-style match of the evening.
At various points in the match, large cracker barrels, biscuits, tables, papercuts, and a staple gun were used as weapons. By virtue of that, it was highly visible sponsorship integration, amongst the most violent content of the evening.
Whenever I watch old ECW matches I marvel at how bloodthirsty the crowd was, and while I’m not gonna quite compare the Sears Centre faithful to the ECW Arena hooligans, suffice to say the crowd was into this.
7. Tony Khan took questions for 40 minutes after the show.
Tony Khan, the founder of AEW who is in the Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham FC ownership family, stood up and took questions for 40 minutes from a scrum of about 15-20 reporters after the event.
Not unfairly, he did dodge some questions like what the show on TNT will be called as well as my inquiry about viewership metric goals, but by and large he was pretty candid about a wide variety of topics. He had a night to be proud of as the brand is finally just about a month away from weekly episodic television and the upcoming Wednesday Night Wars.
(Tony Khan video via Sean Ross Sapp/Fightful)