With Double or Nothing coming in just a week’s time, it marks a year since All Elite Wrestling’s first-ever Pay-Per-View and inaugural event. To mark the occasion I wanted to count down the top ten moments in the company’s first year in action. Today, in part one of the countdown I will be marking off some honourable mentions and going through spots ten to six. Next week I’ll be doubling up for Double or Nothing with the top five moments of the company’s first year and a Double or Nothing preview.
So with all that to look forward to, let’s get stuck in with the moments that just didn’t quite make the cut.
The Jericho Cruise sings Judas
The drunken moment that created the greatest communal singalong since Shinsuke Nakamura’s theme got changed. Pure fun for the entire wrestling world.
Jon Moxley beats Chris Jericho for the AEW World Heavyweight Championship
The final payoff for over two months of build as Jon Moxley slowly fought his way through The Inner Circle and finally got his hands on the champion who had done everything he could to avoid the match. The final moment that saw Moxley rip off his eye patch and hit the Paradigm Shift saw the crowd explode and marked the first World Title change for the company.
Hikaru Shida knees Britt Baker’s face-off
The era of crowdless shows have been lighter on truly memorable moments but Hikaru Shida kneeing Britt Baker’s nose in during one of AEW’s best ever women’s matches ranks up very highly. Not only did the match cement Shida in her number one contender position but gave Baker’s new character yet another meme to hang her hat on.
PAC v Orange Cassidy at Revolution
Orange Cassidy has arguably been one of the top three breakout stars in AEW’s first year and his match with PAC at Revolution was the confirmation of his rise. Not only did he keep the crowd invested in his gimmick for a full match but he went move-for-move against one of the company’s premier workers. He is different but boy is he over.
Chris Jericho forms the Inner Circle
The Elite needed a foil and in The Inner Circle, Chris Jericho created an absolute monster. The stable has put Sammy Guvera on a fast track to stardom, introduced the world to Santana & Ortiz and got Jake Hagger as over as he has ever been. The only reason this moment isn’t on the list is that we didn’t quite know how great the faction would be until later.
The many, many all in brawls
Not particularly a moment but I couldn’t let this list go by without mentioning the way AEW perfected the locker room clearing brawls. From Cody punching through a glass door to get to Chris Jericho & The Inner Circle, to Nick Jackson jumping off the entrance tunnel, to the Street Fight on last week’s Dynamite, if there is one thing AEW has done, it is nailing the moments when the fists fly thick and fast.
10. Private Party Upset The Young Bucks
The second episode of AEW Dynamite saw the start of the tournament to crown the first AEW Tag Team Champions and pitted company EVP’s The Young Buck against the rookie tag team of Private Party, a team handpicked for AEW by The Bucks themselves.
The match was wrestled at a breakneck speed and it quickly became obvious The Young Bucks had made it their personal mission to help get Isiah Kennedy and Marq Quen over in a huge way. For their part, Private Party pulled out every trick in their playbook and looked like superstars in the making, with the highlight being Quen’s gravity-defying aerial maneuvers.
The ending, that saw Marq Quen roll up Matt Jackson to get the win over the tournament favourites, still counts as the biggest upset in AEW history. The image, after the match, of Private Party jumping the rail and partying with the crowd with such genuine happiness on their face, sealed the team’s position as perennial fan favourites in the division.
9. Riho Crowned First Ever Women’s Champ
To put it nicely, the early months of the AEW Women’s Divison were not the success the company would have originally envisaged. To put it more bluntly, those opening months were a disaster for the company’s hopes of setting up a division. Yet despite it all, there was one consistent bright light, the first women’s champion Riho.
Never was that more evident than on the first-ever Dynamite where Riho faced Nyla Rose in a match to become the first AEW Women’s Champion. While the audience was initially pretty apathetic to the two fairly unknown wrestlers, through pure pro wrestling skill and effort Riho slowly drew the crowd in, until, in the final act, she had them standing on their feet desperately cheering her on.
In my opinion, this remains the company’s best women’s match and set a template that Riho would replicate on multiple occasions when facing opponents that crowds just weren’t that into. While some aspects of her presentation left a little to be desired when she stepped into the ring the champ always got the job done in fantastic fashion.
8. Cody’s Undeniable Promo
In AEW’s first year Cody Rhodes made an art form out of whipping the crowd into a frenzy while armed with only a handful of words and a mic.
Never was this more clear than on the sixth of November when, in the leadup to his AEW Title Match with Chris Jericho, he fronted the crowd to explain that if he lost he would never fight for the title again.
The promo itself is packed full of iconic lines that show Cody bursting with pride for his company and determination to be the face of it. My personal favourite was, “This is Ellis Island for a professional wrestler. This is freedom.” However, the moment that truly blew the roof off the building was when Cody himself seemed to get caught up in the emotion of it all as he spoke of his family and the time he had spent going from “undesirable to un-freakin’ deniable.”
In a world where faces have found it harder and harder to generate a truly organic reaction from crowds, this was a truly special moment. To this day this feels like a landmark promo for not just Cody, but the whole company, and it still raises the hairs on my arm when I watch it back today.
7. Darby Allin Skateboards To The Ring To Take Out Chris Jericho
One of the most commendable things that AEW has done in its first year is truly committing to creating new stars in pro wrestling. They could have coasted on the name recognition of the current stars but instead, they decided to introduce the world to the likes of Sammy Guveara, Jungle Boy, Luchasarus, Kip Sabian and Private Party just to name a few. However, no newcomer has shone quite as brightly as Darby Allin. His special place in the company and the heart of the fans was sealed on the second episode of Dynamite where Allin won the right to face Chris Jericho in an AEW Title match and closed the show by skateboarding down the ramp and assaulting Le Champion.
Since that night, every time the young rebel has appeared it has been to monster reactions that rival the pops of even the biggest names in the company. For his part Allin has fed off it, cementing himself at the pinnacle of the mid-card with wins over the likes of Kip Sabian and Sammy Geuvara while coming ever so close against the main eventers Jon Moxley, Cody and Chris Jericho.
Allin has a huge future ahead of him in AEW but his rise will always come back to the early days and particularly when he cruised to the ring to deliver a beating to the AEW Champion.
6. The Young Bucks v The Lucha Bros Escalera De La Muerte at All Out
All Out 31/8/2019
The early days of AEW’s tag team division were dominated by The Young Bucks and The Lucha Bros, with the two teams battling it out across three of the first four shows. However, the pinnacle of it would come when the rivalry climaxed All Out with one of the most insane ladder matches of all time.
It’s hard to understate just how incredible this match was as a spectacle; if you can think of a spot these guys probably did it. However, what really sent this match to the next level was how the two teams injected such an insane stunt-brawl with a rich vein of story, with each team trying to use the kinship of their opponents against one another. This dynamic saw a number of mirroring spots where the teams seemed to be daring each other to take it further, essentially playing a high stakes game of chicken at the top of a ladder.
Oh, and did I mention there was a Canadian Destroyer off a 12ft ladder through a table.
These teams have both been through some wars over the year but it says a lot that immediately afterwards they all had to phone their loved ones at home to reassure them they were okay.
While both teams are yet to hold the AEW Tag Team Championships, in this series of matches they set the pace for what would become one of AEW’s stand out divisions.
That wraps it up for this week, make sure you check back next week for part two and the top five! In the meantime, what do you think have been the best moments in AEW’s first year? Let me know in the comments below. You can also chat to me further on Twitter @Sir_Samuel or in the AEW section on the LOP Forums.
Missed my last AEW column? Check it out here.
An Ode To Judas