As AEW continues to add to their monthly pay-per-view total, we’re getting a tribute to Antonio Inoki with WrestleDream. AEW sure loves to stack their pay-per-view cards, and this is no different. Lots of very interesting matches here, including many talents from the world of Japanese wrestling.
We’re getting a bonafide “Dream Match” between Bryan Danielson and Zack Sabre Jr.
There’s a loaded six-man tag that will see Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi, and Chris Jericho teaming up to take on Konosuke Takeshita, Will Ospreay, and Sammy Guevara.
The announced main event is Christian Cage defending the AEW TNT Championship against Darby Allin in a Two-Out-Of-Three Falls Match, and all eyes are going to be on the potential AEW debut of Adam Copeland there.
Let’s rock and roll, shall we?
MJF vs The Righteous – Two-On-One Handicap Match for the RoH Tag Team Titles
It’s one thing to have MJF and Adam Cole wrestle for the RoH Tag Team Titles at All In(nit) when they’re scheduled to face each other later that night for the AEW World Title. To have MJF wrestling a Handicap Match and defend the titles alone because of Cole’s injury is something else entirely. It’s an interesting way to continue the storyline with Cole’s unfortunate injury… unless, of course, it’s all a swerve like some are predicting, and Cole isn’t actually hurt.
This was more comedy match than anything else. In a pre-match promo, MJF teased that he was going to hit Dutch with a Powerslam, and there were several attempts at it before he finally got to hit it. We got a moment when MJF got a giant handful of Vincent’s little Vinnies, as well as a spot where MJF shoved Vincent’s head up Dutch’s bottom in the corner. MJF is doing a really entertaining job playing the super corny 1970’s and 1980’s babyface, and it’s working. There wasn’t a lot to the match as far as what you can really grade, but it was fun, and the crowd loved it. I’ll just go with 2.75 Stars.
Eddie Kingston vs Katsuyori Shibata – RoH World Title & Strong Openweight Title Match
Kingston’s quest to wrestle every active Japanese wrestler alive continues.
This was hard hitting. Very hard hitting. Does that surprise anybody? It shouldn’t. Eddie is living his absolute best life right now, and it keeps giving us matches like this, so you’re not going to see me complaining. 3.5 Stars
One thing worth pointing out so far is that this Seattle crowd isn’t quite as loud and as animated as the usual AEW crowd is. As of 30 minutes before the pay-per-view began, there were over 6,300 tickets sold, and only 500 tickets available, so it isn’t a numbers issue. Perhaps things will pick up as the show goes on.
Kris Statlander vs Julia Hart – AEW TBS Title Match
I’m not sure what I was expecting out of this match, but it ended up being better than I thought it would be. Maybe not anything that you’ll remember in a week or two, but both women worked hard, and they looked good. Credit where it’s due, Julia Hart has done a lot to improve in the ring, going along with her character change. Kudos to her. 3.25 Stars
As the match went on, the crowd seemed to get more and more behind the challenger, even going so far as to boo some of Statlander’s offense towards the end. That’s an interesting development, no matter what the outcome was.
The Young Bucks vs The Gunns vs The Lucha Brothers vs Orange Cassidy & Hook – Four-Way Tag Match for a future AEW Tag Team Title shot
Lawdamercy, I’m glad I won’t to do the play-by-play call for this one. I already know it’s going to be insane and full of action, bell-to-bell.
I love the strategy of The Gunns, with one being the legal man and the other tagging an opponent to enter the match, with the idea being they could try to pin each other and get the win that way. That’s hilarious chickenshit heel tactics.
Hey, I was right about the pace of the match. No shocker there. This was exactly what you would expect from a match like this in AEW. Lots of fun, lots of spots, and lots of overall action. Rey Fenix was taken to the back relatively early on in the match by the AEW medical staff, and he didn’t return, so that’s something to keep an eye on. He might be cursed. AEW might be cursed. 3.75 Stars
“Hangman” Adam Page vs Swerve Strickland
I get that Swerve is from nearby Tacoma, but hearing “Hangman sucks” chants from an AEW crowd is damn near mind blowing. The chants, and the growing boos as the match goes on, seems to be getting to Page, as well. He seems legitimately surprised by the reaction.
Great stuff here. As the crowd got more and more behind Swerve, and more and more against Page, it changed the dynamic of how both men wrestled, too. Page fought dirty on multiple occasions, and it helped things out tremendously. Swerve and Page both worked their asses off here, and that was pay-per-view main event quality. 4.25 Stars, and that might be a bit too low.
Wheeler Yuta vs Ricky Starks
This was another one of those matches that was good, but that won’t be remembered in a week. The highlight of it all was Jon Moxley on commentary, being completely different than the character we usually see him portray on television and being constantly funny as he kept making fun of his BCC stable mate, Yuta, while praising him at the same time. 3.25 Stars
Bryan Danielson vs Zack Sabre Jr.
I know people that feel the same about getting to see this match as I did when we got Danielson vs Kazuchika Okada. Either way, we got two of the biggest “dream match” scenarios involving Bryan Danielson, and they happened within three months of each other. Wrestling is awesome.
Moxley stuck around to do commentary for the third time tonight (he also was out there for the match between Claudio Castagnoli and Josh Barnett on the pre-show), but he had an entirely different vibe for this one. He was less focused on the comedy and more focused on being a great color commentator, taking you into the mind of Bryan Danielson, explaining the WHY and HOW of things. He has been great here.
This was ev-er-y-thing it needed to be. One of the best technical matches you’re ever going to see, full of every hold, counter, transition, and reversal you could think of. When they weren’t doing all that, they were trying to knock each other out with stiff strikes. An absolute master class from both Danielson and ZSJ, and well worth checking out if you didn’t already do so. Expect this one to win all sorts of awards when 2023 comes to an end. 5 Stars
Chris Jericho, Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi vs Konosuke Takeshita, Will Ospreay & Sammy Guevara
Such a loaded six-man tag lineup. Sheesh.
We’re on a roll now. Pure, unadulterated chaos that only got more hectic as the match went on. All six men looked like a million bucks here, but my goodness, Takeshita continues to stand out as someone that really needs to be in AEW World Title contention posthaste. This was a great match. 4.5 Stars
FTR vs Aussie Open – AEW Tag Team Title Match
Can we continue the hot streak? Let’s find out.
After a really slow start, the crowd really stepped their game up over the last two matches, but that seems to have worn them out, as they’re back to being somewhat quiet for this one.
The hot streak continues. This was a super good tag match, with both teams making a conscious decision to try and beat the shit out of each other. It had its stretches of fast paced action, but even when things were on the slower side, that added physicality made things fun. 4.25 Stars
Christian Cage vs Darby Allin – Two-Out-Of-Three Falls Match for the AEW TNT Title
Let’s see if we can close the show out with another hot match and maybe… just maybe… another memorable moment for AEW.
Forget Darby Allin… I really and truly worry about the health and well-being of Samuel Ratsch. He’s three months away from his 31st birthday, but with the bumps that he continues to take, he’s going to be completely crippled and bound to a wheelchair by the time he’s 35, and that’s if he’s lucky. At some point, Tony Khan is going to need to step in and tell him to cool it in the ring.
It was a good match. Don’t get me wrong. It was your usual Darby match, where you gasp and cringe several times, both because of the bumps he takes and because of his wild offense. It was a good mix with the overly sadistic character Christian Cage has become, but again, I’m really worried about the damage that Mr. Ratsch is doing to his body. 3.5 Stars
I know I don’t normally discuss match outcomes in my show reviews, but it’s necessary to discuss the post-match happenings, so… be warned if you’re trying to avoid results.
After a terribly choreographed heel turn by Nick Wayne helps Christian retain the title, we get a three-on-one attack after the match, with Christian, Wayne, and Luchasaurus going after Darby. Sting tries to make the save, but he can’t even the odds. Just as Christian is going to end Sting’s career with a Con-Chair-To, we get the AEW debut of Adam Copeland himself. Not only was he there, but he came out to “You think you know me?” and then “Metalingus” by Alter Bridge. It was one of the most surreal moments in AEW’s brief history. This is a man who was considered a “WWE lifer” and spent decades with the company in one form or another. He looked like he was going to join up with Christian and his crew, but it was a SWERVE~! I don’t even care what he’s there to do, to be honest. The fact that he’s there at all is what matters. Huge move for the company., and good for Adam Copeland, getting a chance to end his career with his best friend.
Overall, this was a really, really good pay-per-view. Tons of stars handed out, a new major player in the company, multiple Match Of The Year candidates, and a lot of buzzworthy happenings. I’ll take that.