Imp’s AEW Adventure
And the countdown to the first week of October rolls on!
Seriously, with both AEW starting on TNT and SmackDown’s first show on FOX we’re looking at a landmark week ahead on the Western wrestling road. We’ve already witnessed a fair few minor changes within WWE, even from the competitive side with them now set to air shows on their streaming network the same day of each of the remaining pre-TV AEW PPVs.
Really the winner here is us, the viewers, the fans, the borderline obsessives who could probably use a day outside – no, without the laptop, Imp. If you’re like me and keep up with NJPW as well, we’ve recently been getting three weekend straights of PPVs from three different companies. All delivering and catering to an entirely different market of fans, the variety these past two months has been marvellous.
WWE may not always be my cup of tea, but NJPW is right up my alley and AEW is promising as hell. If you don’t enjoy one PPV, no fear, there’s another one from a completely different promotion right round the corner. The wrestling market is becoming competitive again and I’m possibly more excited at the prospect of that than I am in simply seeing AEW’s TV show.
In that, this past Saturday the Kahn funded venture continued to carve out the niche they wish to play in. Pushing the boundaries of their previous show and showing off more of a freedom to get creative in everything from the production to the in-match violence on display; be it for the good or the bad.
The variety in styles from match-to-match was akin to what we saw at Double or Nothing last month, no one match felt the same. Something which feels way more refreshing than it probably would have in past generations, with us coming out of the era of an essential WWE monopoly and their homogenised production. There is a definite WWE wrestling style, I’m not sure AEW is going to be able to be described as one form of wrestling.
So far the product has come across as each individual act having the freedom to wrestle their match their way, telling us first-hand what brought them to the dance. More of a showcase of wrestling as a whole, rather than pushing their single version of it. I’m not saying one booking ideology is better than the other, but isn’t it great having two top promotions with two very different views of how to present wrestling?
In the era we’re coming out of TNA often felt like WWE-light, that is 100% one thing you cannot say about AEW. It feels new, different and looks to take influence from all over the wrestling world. We’ve seen more sports-centric influences like in New Japan, with wins/losses mattering more, in-match time announcements and post-show media scrums with the talent.
If you’re a bit confused as to what the people behind AEW mean by ‘more sports-centric’, I so far recommend you look to NJPW as so far a lot of their influences seem to be coming from there.
With that said, after 500 words I suppose it’s time I actually get on with reviewing the show. Before I dig in, yes I did see the event wasn’t sold out, but what that means for AEW as they try to build their brand, as opposed to WWE attempting to maintain theirs, is something entirely different. I’ll possibly get into that at a later date, but with the G1 starting next week I wouldn’t get your hopes up for it being any time soon.
Right, onto the review!
AEW Fyter Fest
And by that I mean another quick side-bar for the Buy-In AKA the perfect example of what I meant earlier in AEW stretching their creative muscles, for both the good and the bad.
First the good:
– The triple threat tag team match of SCU vs Best Friends vs Private Party perfectly energized the crowd and left them hyped for the rest of the show. Fast paced, plenty of crowd popping spots and all served with a delightful coating of, “SCU!” chants.
Private Party were made in this match as well, putting them in a triple threat with two already over and popular teams was such a smart idea. Especially when they hit the final stage of the match where the duo started whipping out their spots of athleticism, hitting a peak with the standing jump into a headscissors which launched their opponent off the top rope and into a cutter. Those in attendance went mental for it, Private Party over status confirmed after that.
In the end the Best Friends Trent Barretta & Chuck Taylor advanced in what was admittedly a rather confusing stipulation of an opportunity for an opportunity at an opportunity. Once television starts AEW will be holding a tag team tournament to crown their first Tag Team Champions, at All Out there’ll be a match with the winners earning a first round bye, this triple threat earnt Best Friends entry into that match in Chicago.
– The actual match between Leva Bates and Allie was also great, with the latter impressing ahead of her match with Brandi Rhodes next month at Fight for the Fallen. I’d already seen how great Allie can be after seeing her work in TNA/Impact Wrestling, but this was a much more serious presentation for her and she fit the role perfectly.
As for Leva Bates, it takes two to tango and she did a great job here as well. I’ll get to the pre-match antics in a bit, but I genuinely enjoyed the match and arguably this fit the mold of a Pre-Show bout perfectly. Even Peter Avalon worked well casually interfering and joshing with the crowd until Allie had enough and he met his timely demise.
It’s just a shame about the pre-match antics pulling quite a few of us out of it.
– And finally Michael Nakazawa vs the CEO of CEO Alex Jebailey. This one was more for the live crowd with this being held as part of the CEO competitive gaming event, playing very heavily to those primarily gamers in attendance rather than just AEW fans. This was a working relationship was Kenny Omega set up last year using NJPW talent, now it’s the same deal but coated with the exciting AEW paint.
This was easily the least ‘hardcore’ hardcore match in AEW history, “He’s got his arm trapped in his own thong!” Beat that for hardcore, Moxley/Janela. Just a bit of silly fun tying this show to the aforementioned event, don’t expect many stars but I got a laugh out of the ridiculousness a couple of times. Depends if you’re a fan of the silly, comedy style of wrestling or not. Some people HATE the 24/7 title shenanigans, if that’s you, then yeah, you might not enjoy a paddling pool poison mist spot.
– I also enjoyed the Fyre Festival parody taking place over the course of this Pre Show, looking at my Twitter feed a lot of it seemingly went over people’s heads! Especially if you hadn’t seen any of Being The Elite building to this event, it was kinda important you knew Kenny Omega was making more and more promises with a mounting number of them having to be withdrawn. From the fine cuisine replaced by cheese sandwiches, to famous celebrity appearances, to models on stage, to Matt & Nick Jackson’s 5 star hotel turning into a crappy tent. This bled onto the show, with, like Fyre Festival, the promise of bikini clad women came out on stage, only to be replaced by manikins due to budget cuts.
This angle was completely dropped for the main show, but it fit the silly fun vibe the Pre Show seemed to offer.
– This leads me directly into my first negative, after praising it, the vibe of the Pre Show didn’t actually represent what was to follow on Fyter Fest itself. I wonder how many wrestling fans tuned in for the first time as it was free, only to see a run comedy matches and immediately tuned out. The opening match worked great, but for those promised more than the Sports Entertainment of recent times, they had to wait to the main show.
It’s as if the actual purpose of the Pre Show got lost in the creative outburst of ideas, which is a shame because as soon as the opening video played there was such an evident tonal shift.
– Right, I think it’s a fair assessment to say the Librarians gimmick didn’t quite play out as they’d hoped. The skit on the stage with the shushing was odd, initially the crowd were into it, but it eventually led into a confusion where they didn’t know how to react and went quiet. With one thing immediately becoming apparent, is there actually anything to these characters?
“I read books and you don’t so you suck!” is going to take some work to get over.
But really it went on too long, the crowd stopped shushing and that was that segment dead. The match was great, but folk had been taken out of it and any time Leva Bates tried incorporate the Librarian character, it wasn’t exactly met with positive approval.
Really I’m interested to see how AEW handles a stumble like this, how do they adjust course and have another run at it? If they do at all, this arc is going to need some rehabbing and effort to swing round.
And with that, let’s get on to the show!
AEW Fyter Fest
Christopher Daniels vs CIMA
Firstly, something I’ve praised New Japan for in the past, so it would be bad of me not to do so here: the older veterans kicking off the show, not main eventing it. What a novel thought.
This was also our first match with the main three man commentary booth for the show, so a quick nod to Goldenboy who was a fantastic addition and absolutely killed it. I know of the man from his eSports commentary, so this was a weird clash of worlds for me, but he added to the gaming/wrestling crossover feel of this show in a really positive way.
Dear non-gamers, I’m sorry, a lot of the references on this show will be lost on you.
Daniels/CIMA was a solid match to open the card proper, no out of this world athletics, just two wrestlers who know what the hell they’re doing wrestling at a fast, yet smooth as hell pace. Respect would be the word I’d use to describe this, both from the crowd and the way the two of them went at it. Each fully aware of what the other brings, but in the end it was the strong head of the Strongheart that won out in the end.
With the Angel’s Wings from Daniels not being enough, the momentum of the match took a swing that the Southern Californian never recovered from. A string of offence later, CIMA was perched on the top rope and soon flying down with his patented Meteora for the three.
Post-match we got a front and centre showing of the respect between these two, the SCU man raising his opponent’s hand before bowing out for the night. As for CIMA, next month he goes one on one with Kenny Omega, so I don’t expect his win streak to go much further. Not that the veterans should be besting the current generation’s top crop anyway, two wins is enough of an establishing build for you CIMA!
Triple Threat Women’s Match
Riho vs Nia Rose vs Yuka Sakazaki
The 22 year old 13 year veteran vs the Native Beast vs the Magical Girl (without her awesome unapologetically Joshi entrance theme, boo!), these three women absolutely slayed it. Built really well, with Rose dominating from the get go and the two smaller wrestlers having to team together to take her down. Which played really well alongside the fact both of the Joshi competitors knew fully well they weren’t really friends and fell straight back into trying to pin each other as soon as the larger wrestler was out the way.
Well, aside from when Yuka put on one of the most adorable sad puppy dog eyes I’ve ever seen after saving Riho from a post-match Native beat down. The absolute face of sadness!
For me there was a peak turn in this match that the momentum never came down from, flowing bloody brilliantly all the way to the great high of the surprise ending. As soon as Nia Rose wowed the crowd with her top rope diving knee onto a rope prone Riho, the crowd exploded in applause. I was already enjoying myself, but after that knee I became so invested in every sequence.
Nia Rose was fantastic, Awesome Kong really did take null her at Double or Nothing, but here she was able to shine bright as hell. After the diving knee there was another awesome spot with the Native Beast catching both Riho & Sakazaki’s top rope dives, holding both at the same time before slamming them down with force. They really got the Native Beast’s power over, something that got a tad overlooked back in Las Vegas.
Which is one thing I’m pondering over, I like the story of the Native Beast coming into AEW in full confidence that she’d be the monster of the division, only to be completely overshadowed by the surprise return of Awesome Kong. Now she entered Fyter Fest looking to make a statement, but was too consumed with taking that position as AEW’s monster that it cost her when she could have just pinned her opponent and won the match.
For me there’s only one question, do they need to build Nia Rose as a monster first before she battles Awesome Kong? Or would her taking down Kong be worthy enough to assume the mantel?
Hell, for all I know they’re going to play a longer game with this build and have Nia do exactly that on TV. I like what I’ve seen so far, just a sudden thought of how great that match could feel if the Native Beast felt as such going in to the match.
Speaking of, this was a great win for Riho who could be shaping up for big things in this division. I don’t mean put her in the title scene immediately, the lass is 22, more than enough time to build. However, after being on the winning side at Double or Nothing and now victorious here, she’s certainly building a nice run of momentum.
Quick mention: we got out first fighting game gear of the night from Nia Rose with her Orchid from Killer Instinct attire, it’s quite funny watching her post-show interview where she explained it and the wrestling journalists had no clue what she was on about. If the CEO-AEW show happens again next year, I look forward to more video game bollocks in my wrestling going right over people’s heads.
Four Way Match
MJF vs Jungle Boy (riding Luchasaurus) vs Jimmy Havoc vs Hangman Page
‘Salt of the Earth’ MJF is an absolute star, every time that man has a mic in his hand it’s pure gold. Really he doesn’t even need a mic, just any time a camera’s rolling he walks away having sounded like a million bucks. “That mother, whose basement you live in, she swallows,” in retaliation to the crowd’s booing was the line/reaction of the night. Plus, you know, just in case you were wondering how PG AEW are planning on being… yeah, not very.
Jungle Boy really got to show off his athleticism here, as well as the fun tandem he’s currently got going on with Luchasaurus (whose got a PhD if you didn’t know). A boy and his dinosaur. I’m going to miss him coming out to Tarzan Boy by Baltimora, but screw it if that’s going to stop me continuing to sing along regardless! He got to show off some awesome high flying moves that many people won’t have ever seen before, like that handstand into a 450 cannonball to the outside. The mental lad. Oh wait, no, he’s basically baby Tarzan, he feels no pain.
Now I love Jimmy Havoc, some of his work over here in the UK scene (especially his heel run in PROGRESS Wrestling) is some my favourite stuff from any wrestler this decade. There’s a damn reason he’s so over with us Brits, deathmatch wrestling isn’t my thing at all but doesn’t matter as he’s still managed to leave one hell of an impression on my fandom. I’m going to chant, “Jimmy! Jimmy! Jimmy fucking Havoc!” with the rest of them.
That said, he did kind of fall into the background a tad in this match, forgot he was really a factor in the match a couple of times. A multi-man match such as this wasn’t really the best environment to get the man over, but I guess it’s fine as a tad of a more ‘low key’ kind of introduction to the man. Long term I can’t see it being too long before he’s fitting right in with Janela, Moxley & the ilk in that slightly more violent side to AEW. But in this match, yeah, he was probably the only one that didn’t walk out of it feeling a bigger deal than he did coming in.
Then finally there’s Hangman Page, the man who will be facing Chris Jericho at All Out in Chicago to be crowned the first ever AEW Champion. He’s been booked as a deal so far, but I’d be lying if he felt like he’s at a main event level inaugural champion level. Really, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Jericho won the title over him, setting up a chase rather than cementing him as THE guy.
He looked impressive here once again as well, he wrestles like he’s a veteran but the man’s only in his early 20s. Thinking about it, 3 of the 4 men in this match are in their early 20s, so much impressive young talent on display at this show. This also had some really smartly building in Hangman’s rivalry with MJF, to the point towards the end of the match where he went for the Buckshot Lariat on the man, only for MJF to avoid it and for Havoc to get clobbered instead.
As Maxwell Jacob Freidman ever so kindly pointed out in his post-show media, this sequence ended up in someone else taking the pin. Hangman didn’t beat him, ‘Seabiscuit’ pinned someone else and the only way he could win was when MJF wasn’t in the ring.
J. R. called those two the future stars of AEW, so far I can’t deny that one bit. I’m so looking forward to these guys being on my television every week, undeniably talented prospects.
AEW’s First Time Limit Draw
Cody w/Brandi Rhodes vs Darby Allin
You know what sucks, I loved this match. Seriously great, Darby Allin made in one night and the time limit established/used to perfection. It’s just a shame all most people want to talk about is the post-match chairshot to the head Cody took from Shawn Spears, I want to be talking about Darby Allin, not giving my take on chairshots. Something I’m not really qualified for and I’d much rather recommend you listen to Chad ‘The Doc’ Matthews’ latest The Doc Says pod, the voice of an actual doctor who specialises in this field.
Much more worthy of your time than a random internet fella banging on a scientific matter he’s not wised up on at all, such as myself.
So indeed, I am instead going to talk about the match. My greatest takeaway from this show was how it elevated talent and introduced new ones in fantastic fashion, from the commentators telling Allin’s backstory, to the increasing risk he was taking the longer the match went, to the unmoving will to keep kicking out and staying in this match. Darby Allin was presented as such a big deal, for that a lot of the praise has to go to Cody.
Well, and Darby Allin for some of the absolutely insane bumps he was taking. I mean, I yelped when he essentially 619’d himself into the ringpost and fell with a splat to outside, nevermind the trust fall onto ring apron! Jesus Christ that bump was mental. Did he discover falling off his skateboard that he had an unnerving ability to withstand pain, then instead of becoming a superhero just became a wrestler instead?
To be fair, I’d pay to see that movie.
On the other side, Cody felt like a mega star on this show. He comes across as such a big deal and is so over with the fans. And I don’t expect him to book himself in PPV main events any time soon, that spot’s reserved for Kenny Omega, Jon Moxley, Chris Jericho and later down the line Hangman Page & MJF. He’s so incredibly over that it’s surely only a matter of time, but I’ve nothing but praise whilst he’s currently using that popularity to elevate the talent around him. And bloody hell is that going to have such a valuable impact going long term.
That’s one fear I’ve seen online, AEW turning into The ELITE booking themselves to win everything. Well if I’ve seen one thing so far, they’re using that perception to lift the talent around them. You going to argue Darby Allin wasn’t helped by this match with Cody? That Pentagon Jr & Rey Fenix don’t feel like big deals after their matches with The Young Bucks? The ELITE are the initial draws, so yes they are not going to lose on these ‘figuring stuff out’ shows, but don’t expect that to last once they start on TNT.
These are fun shows setting things up, essentially like a Summer Long Pre Show. You don’t have your biggest draws lose just so you can subvert expectation, you do that if you’re a Game of Thrones writer that just wants to write his Star Wars film now, “Screw you all, I’m going to space! K thanks bye.”
Not to say this match was full of balls to the walls mad spots, Darby Allin’s best periods in the match came after going after Cody’s hand that he’d friendlily introduced the ring post earlier in the match. He was, however, literally the victim of his own downfall (onto the ring apron). After that it was straight back to constantly fighting back into the match than having any real control over proceedings.
Which is really what you’d expect from a match with the established vs new star dynamic, in particular one like this with Cody as the clear bigger man getting more and more agitated as this kid just won’t stay down. Which was where the return of the time limit became a big factor, heightening the tension as Allin kicked out again and again, and again.
When that bell rang, Darby Allin had earnt everyone’s respect and a new star was instantly made. The talk of town coming out of this show, or at least he would have been until Shawn Spears showed up. Clearly pissed at not being taken seriously and overlooked. If these two face off at All Out, Cody’s bleeding at every PPV streak is a lock to continue.
Again, it’s just a shame they did it in a way that had everyone talking about the method instead of the madness. With the one positive being commentary openly talking about CTE, something where openly talking about it as the issue it is, is nothing but great. I proposed on LOPR Aftershock that night that we could have just seen AEW set up an on screen storyline reason to introduce headshot policies, I’d personally be all up for that.
It just comes with the caveat of if we see Shawn Spears wielding a chair again or not, does that hinder the story that he’s breaking the rules or progress it?
6 Man Tag Team Match
Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks
Pentagon Jr, Rey Fenix & Laredo Kid
The ELITE finally teaming together once again, going Street Fighter mad with their Akuma, Ryu & Ken entrance and popping the live crowd like crazy. Don’t think I’ve seen the final man of a team being introduced by the lights going out as they ninja kick an extra before, fair to say they leant into the CEO crowd’s arms a tad in this show! Also the most over I think I’ve ever seen a Hadouken spot, gaming folk go mad for their video game references.
To the uninitiated, The Young Bucks’ matches may come across as upping the ante spot fests. That’s mostly because they are. Nothing clever here, I love that style so no complaining from me. Starting with Nick Jackson & Laredo Kid reversing Irish Whips, raising the bar all the way to Rey Fenix tight rope walking into a Spanish Fly to the outside! Count. Me. In.
This is the kind of match Young Bucks and Lucha Bros were having back in PWG, just now in front of 4-5,000 people ahead of a major TV deal. The cycle of what’s popular on the indies, becomes tomorrow’s style. Hell, in a few months even Excalibur’s going to be on telly! And there was a time when we never thought we’d see a wrestler like Kevin Owens on television, I’m all for the embrace of the independents.
Numerous Candian Destroyers, Superkick parties, dives for all, Omega V-Triggers, Ciero Miedo, “Hadouken!”, counter Cutter culture, poison ranas; you name it. This match was everything you’d expect and more, so many awesome spots and such a blast to watch. If you like the style that is, if you’re not a fan of this kind of match it isn’t going to do any favours for you. A Bret Hart methodical piece of art this is not, but sometimes you need a break from a slow paced drama and just throw on some heart pumping, balls to the walls action!
Con Air > The Favourite. Don’t @ me.
Additional note, we got Kenny Omega both using a Jericho-esque pin with Excalibur pointed out and having a post-match chat with Pentagon Jr. Acknowledging both his past matches in the canon of AEW so far, just a little touch but it’s nice to see them showing us these wrestlers are in a world rather than solitary feuds of the moment.
Lights Out Main Event
Joey Janela vs Jon Moxley
And here we are, 4500 words later and I finally get to talking about Jon ‘freakin’ Moxley. New high tempo theme, titantron utilizing the video of him escaping a prison and feel for this manic character. Just in case we hadn’t got it yet, this man was nowhere near the Lunatic we’d been presented with in WWE up till April.
The gimmick of this being a lights out match, not ‘officially’ part of the AEW card and presented as a separate thing that you’re not going to see presented by the company. Yet another old school technique brought back, it just creates such a unique aura, builds up the tension before the violence we’re about to witness.
Another presentation difference I liked was with Moxley himself, he had a distinguishable look from his NJPW black trunks appearance and the attire we saw here fit the more violent persona he’s undertaking in AEW damn well. In Japan he’s seemingly able to show respect and honour in tow with his Loose Cannon esque aura. I don’t know about you, but something tells me we’re not really going to be getting that sense from him here on TNT.
If anything, this match was cementing that transition for Moxley. From Lunatic, to Deathrider, to MOX. Each one increasingly violent, less remorse than the last. Don’t be confused, these weren’t pulled out of him by subsequent opponents, this was Moxley stepping to Janela to prove a point and put someone in their place. He hasn’t gone soft, he hasn’t lost his edge and go just as violent as he could back before his days in WWE.
This match is what I’d call the Janela special, the hardcore main event where every weapon you’d associate with the style makes a pop worthy appearance. Barbed wire wrapped chairs, barbed wire covered tables, thumbtacks, more thumbtacks, more tables, etc. You name it, they wielded yet/went through it.
This was also another match that was bloody successful in raising the lesser known talent, Joey Janela made a name for himself against the former Dean Ambrose. More than happy to embrace the violence, at times literally dragging Moxley down with him and others pulling feats his opponent couldn’t possibly match as he flew 15 – 20ft through the air.
That said, at the tacs heavy finale it was Mox who stood tall as the one able to go to the next level of violence without hesitation. Janela made the mistake of playing to the crowd as was soon met wi- OH NO NOT FEET FIRST MOX! Yeah, this one was not for the weak of heart. A few Janela screams later and Janela was once again sent into the tacs, but this time via the elevated Dirty Deeds now in AEW called the Paradigm Shift.
Assisted by the badass as hell visual of Moxley spitting out tacs before going for cover!
Janela wasn’t mad enough to kick out after that (the DDT, not the portrayal of badassery), he more than matched Moxley and this match did him wonders, but he’s not the lad facing Omega at the Sears Centre.
The post-match attack from Kenny Omega was done wonderfully, something I never saw coming with his match taking place right before the main event. Returning the favour for Moxley’s choice of introduction last month, stamping his statement before brawling to the stage side band area and delivering one mighty, wind sucking electric guitar shot.
But after it all, Moxley was smiling (no not when the cameraman fell over), a man revelling in the violence. In his retaliation Omega’s darker side had been brought out, a fact Moxley appeared to be joyous about. As a man who lives for violence, his meeting with Kenny in Chicago is now sure to be more than just a standard match. There’s heat between them, two of the biggest stars of this generation in a fight we thought we’d never see.
Madness, to think that 3 months ago he was still a part of The Shield. Now he’s feuding with the man who walked into Wrestle Kingdom as IWGP Heavyweight Champion, and doing so on American soil. Hell, doing so mere months before debuting on television for WWE’s first real competitor since WCW closed in 2001.
For somebody who’s known nothing else than the WWE monopoly, I can’t tell you how excited I am for October. I mean, I did at the start of this column, but that was over 5,000 words ago. I’m a different person now.
Final note: the cameraman falling backwards into the little pool hilarious.
*LOP RADIO HAS MOVED TO SPREAKER, YOU MAY HAVE TO SEARCH THE SHOW NAMES FOR THE RSS FEEDS, HOWEVER IF YOU SEARCH FOR US ON iTUNES VIA BTR, WE’ll NOW SHOW UP IN SPREAKER’s SECTION INSTEAD*
Lords of Pain Radio Aftershock: AEW Fyter Fest 2019 – immediate review following the show with Imp, from Kingdom of Honor Xan Man and author, LOP columnist and actual doctor Chad ‘The Doc’ Matthews.
Imp’s most recent columns:
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – Dominion 2019 Review + G1 Climax Surprises
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – Best of the Super Juniors 26 Final: Moxley’s Debut & Ospreay vs Shingo
Imp’s AEW Adventure – Double or Nothing & Jon Moxley’s Wrestling Adventure
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – The Story of Hiroshi Tanahashi Part 1: Becoming The Ace
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – The Story of Hiroshi Tanahashi Part 2: The Ace of the Universe