In case there are any AEW fans out there who had as much as fun as I did, I thought I’d chime in quickly with a few positive spins on the show last night. I know I enjoy a little confirmation bias the night after I watch a wrestling pay-per-view that I liked more than the masses. Much respect to the more critical reviews, your points are acknowledged; this one is for the other guys and gals.
To be fair, I did not think that All Out 2020 was as good as its predecessors, but I’m not sure it was intended to be. There were some conscious decisions made that would naturally decrease some of the pristine in-ring quality foundational to the success of the other AEW PPVs across the last 15 months. Starting out with the Tooth and Nail match, for instance, did not give you the impression that they were booking All Out to be a show of the year contender. Personally, I was just happy to see their match make the main card because their feud had a lot of television time invested in it and because they had earned it. It was a mid-card cinematic match, and it was fine for what it was, but more importantly it paid off what I’d call “the right way” a feud that elevated both performers.
The Young Bucks vs. The Jurassic Express furthered the growing reputation of the second match of an AEW special event card. AEW has allowed space for a standout traditional match in that spot and I’ve certainly noticed; we’ve now seen PAC vs. Omega, Hangman vs. Pac, Darby vs. Sammy, MJF vs. Jungle Boy, and now a great Bucks vs. Jurassic in match #2 of a PPV. What I like about the Bucks is that they always bring more storytelling elements to their performances, even in a situation like this when they could have done the high risk stuff the entire time and still earned high marks. The added touches elevated this to a 4-star level.
Casino Battle Royale 2020 was a much more polished effort than the inaugural last year. I mark for a good battle royal and this was a good one indeed. I saw a lot of complaints online that this show was too long, but every single AEW PPV has been 4 hours and a match like this one offered a much better chance to take a breath and set a pace for yourself, so that was one aspect of All Out 2020 that I actually preferred to its predecessors. Having a roster comprised of talents that all regularly feature into proceedings on Dynamite helped this one be that much more enjoyable, in a lighter toned kind of way. Archer vs. Cage at Full Gear please.
Matt Hardy vs. Sammy Guevara was an interesting one to me because of the way that I perceived it. I kept off-line during the show. So, what I saw fluctuated between an obvious angle they were booking and a presumed concussion situation. When the announcers sold the head injury, I thought I was being worked. When Hardy stumbled about, I changed my mind. The way they handled the next part felt like a television angle, so I did not rule out that I was still being worked, and then when they finished the match, I assumed that the whole thing was set up as an angle more than a match considering the last minute nature of its booking, which I felt had been the catalyst for bumping Swole vs. Britt to the pre-show; perhaps Tooth and Nail moving to the main card cut the time for this accordingly.
I’ll add here that, by that point, I was really into this show. I could certainly tell that the audience was off, be it due to the heat or something like AEW not yet figuring out how to properly accentuate the noise from a crowd sitting so far away from ringside. It’s like the wrestlers around the ring had done a great job of giving energy to the matches, but they were told to stop when the people were let in last week for Dynamite. Crowd noise is not a big deal in the pandemic era in my opinion, so I am not influenced much by it as a viewer at home; their energy has little bearing on mine.
Shida vs. Thunder Rosa challenged the Bucks vs. Jurassic Express match for its majority and was a better climax away from potentially equaling it in overall quality. As such, what a showing from Rosa. I missed her acclaimed NWA match with Alyson Kay earlier this year, but I heard it was awesome and I can see from this showing opposite Shida how she could achieve such praise. Rosa is a star. I’d go with *** 3/4 and feel good about the experience of having seen those two wrestle. Shida has had a great 2020, with matches now against Baker, Nyla Rose, Penelope Ford, and Rosa all excelling.
To be honest, I brewed a cup of tea and talked to my wife for much of the Dark Order match. I was more interested in the stories coming out of it than I was in any of the action during it. I felt that way going in and I felt that way coming out. I have no problem with a match like that in this spot when the booking of the show positions the three biggest matches in the final three spots.
FTR vs. Omega and Page…best way I think I can put it is to call it the “HBK vs. John Cena at WrestleMania 23 of big time tag team matches.” I say that because it was longer, because it was really a story of one team being so technically superior to the other, and because the audience energy was so small a factor in its success. Still, I would struggle not to call it a success, and stories like that one age well on rewatch if you’re into that sort of thing like I am. I think some misunderstood this as an attempt to top the Revolution match. I would say clearly it was not trying to outdo that; it was a conscious choice to do something different. It did its own thing and did it very well. Plus, the additional storytelling between Omega and Page was fantastic pro wrestling. An even 4-stars to me means it was great, but capable of being dropped down to very good. I’ll bump this match into definitive great status by adding the quarter star (****1/4).
Mimosa Mayhem! I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ll take their match from Fyter Fest over 95% of everything I’ve seen all year in wrestling, and Mimosa Mayhem was not on that level, but it was a fun and unique concept match that I’d happily put in the Pros side of a Pros vs. Cons column. Cheers to both guys for their overall efforts these past 14 weeks. Cassidy was an interesting choice for this kind of elevation, but he made the absolute most of his opportunity to feud with one of the pantheon stars of the WrestleMania Era. Sometimes really good feuds add a boost by association to payoff matches, and I think this was one of those cases.
I thought the main-event was the best match of the night. Admittedly, I was in the camp of having zero clue who was going to win this match, so the unpredictability of the result from where I sat was a nice boost to their performance. Moxley has turned out to be a really good champion for AEW and he has been on fire this year as a character navigating his way from one excellent title feud to another. I did not think it was necessarily the right time for him to lose, thinking instead that I would rather see him continue to build his legacy as champion. I told LOP’s Sir Sam that AEW seems to usually find the right guy at the right time to challenge for the title on PPVs, making the results sometimes feel like a toss-up (Cody, Moxley, and now MJF have been that way). MJF said a lot of things that were true in his “campaign” speeches about his ascendancy and what it could do for AEW if they pulled the trigger so early in his career. It felt to me like he could win.
That said, I think that Moxley was the right choice to win last night. Friedman gained a lot from being involved in another big spotlight match and he delivered again. He’s a characterful storyteller and the modern audience isn’t always going to gravitate to characterful storytelling over athletic epic matches, but I’m a fan of the old school flavor that both Mox and MJF bring forth. To properly star rate it, I feel like I need to watch it again and see how it handles the unpredictability being removed from the equation, by knee-jerk reaction is to confidently rate it 4-stars and probably give it that extra quarter star.
All in all…I was typically impressed by AEW. It did not feel overlong to me. I was having a blast. I’m still in that mode where anything that distracts from the real world is worth its weight in gold, so I watched in a purer state of fandom, organically influencing my perspective toward the glass is half (or three-quarters) full. All Out this year had a different vibe than previous AEW PPVs, and I’m OK with that. As mentioned previously, I felt like that was largely a conscious decision.