By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
AEW Fyter Fest Hits
Jon Moxley vs. Joey Janela in an unsanctioned match: The message was loud and clear that the handcuffs are off and Moxley is no longer PG Dean Ambrose. For that matter, AEW sent the message that when they do hardcore matches, it won’t be the typically tame WWE style of hardcore. This puts WWE in an interesting position given that they have their annual Extreme Rules event coming up in less than two weeks. AEW President Tony Khan made it clear in his post show media session that he knows the company won’t be able to do this type of hardcore on TNT. And while I’m not a big fan of hardcore matches, I enjoy them more when the storytelling builds up so much animosity that it leads to a hardcore war rather than matches between wrestlers who have a hardcore match just to have a hardcore match. This fell into the latter category to some extent, but I’m forgiving in that there was only much storytelling that could be done in advance given the company’s lack of television until October. Kenny Omega’s post match attack of Moxley was a logical followup to Moxley attacking him at Double Or Nothing. I enjoyed a severely beaten Moxley flashing a sadistic smile to close the show.
Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks vs. Pentagon Jr., Fenix, and Laredo Kid: The big spot-fest match that you knew was coming and yet the wrestlers still managed to dazzle viewers with some moments of greatness and insanity. Omega pinning Kid was highly predictable, as Omega needed a win after losing to Chris Jericho at Double Or Nothing, and Kid seemed like the most obvious candidate to lose. The Street Fighter tribute was fun considering that the event was held in conjunction with a gaming convention (and that’s coming from a viewer who never got caught up Street Fighter). Even so, I enjoyed New Japan Omega more than AEW Omega thus far. He seems to be having a lot of fun showing off his quirky personality, but I hope we see less of it once AEW debuts on TNT. AEW needs to establish Omega as a star to casual fans who have limited or no exposure to him, and I believe the key to doing is is to simply position him as a serious athlete who is on a quest to win the AEW Championship.
Cody vs. Darby Allin: I’m a fan of AEW using time limits. It should be the norm in pro wrestling, but Vince McMahon decided to do away with time limits in WWE years ago for reasons that only Vince McMahon understands. Yet while I enjoy the basic idea of Allin taking Cody to a time limit draw, I question just how much Allin gained when the finish showed that he was saved by the time limit and was only a half-second away from being pinned. It goes against the basic question of what will it take to keep Allin down in that we saw that he was down and would have stayed there had he not been saved by the bell. There is likely a long term story being told and thus the finish may make more sense as we move forward when they eventually revisit this pairing. Without the benefit of knowing what they have in mind, I couldn’t help but wonder if it would have been better if Cody was the one who was saved by the bell. I also felt that the post match angle with Shawn Spears (more on that later) overshadowed what should have been Allin’s moment. Even so, I am looking forward to seeing what’s next for Allin.
Yuka Sakazaki vs. Riho vs. Nyla Rose: This was one of my favorite matches of the night. Everyone worked hard and Rose came off better than she did when her monster act was upstaged by Awesome Kong at Double Or Nothing. The broadcast team was much better on this show (kudos to the company for keeping Alex Marvez on the sideline for this event) and they did a good job of telling the story of Rose being dominant only to have her cockiness cost her the win. The post match angle with Riho blowing off Sakazaki felt like it came out of nowhere, but Sakazaki did such a good job of looking heartbroken that it was hard not to sympathize with her.
Private Party vs. Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky vs. Trent Beretta and Chuck Taylor: A showcase match for Private Party even though they took the pin to lose the match. Private Party was impressive and I’m anxious to see more. That said, call me old school, but I’m not big on Marq Quen wearing shades during his matches. If that’s here to stay, then how about his opponents at least target the shades and he uses his quickness to avoid them? And I continue to pray that there will be more to the Best Friends act than a mid-match hug once AEW starts on TNT. They are a very talented duo, but there’s nothing more to the act at this point. Despite these criticisms, this was the bright spot of an otherwise lousy pre-show.
Hangman Page vs. Jungle Boy vs. Jimmy Havoc vs. MJF: A minor Hit. MJF continues to shine on the mic and I love that he’s generating heat rather than laughs from the live crowds thus far. Jungle Boy made the most of his moments to shine with some flashy offense. I’ve enjoyed Havoc in other promotions, but he didn’t make much of a splash here and ultimately took the pinfall loss. Page winning was expected given that he will face Chris Jericho in a match to determine the first AEW Champion at All Out. But I’ve been underwhelmed by what AEW has done to establish Page thus far. He won a comedic battle royal to get his spot in the title match, and now he won a mid-card four-way match in his two AEW outings. Here’s hoping that AEW’s booking committee has something bigger and better in mind to showcase Page at Fight For The Fallen.
Cima vs. Christopher Daniels: A good no nonsense opener with Cima going over heading into his match with Kenny Omega at Fight For The Fallen. It was simple and logical, and those traits were very welcome after the silliness of the pre-show,
AEW Fyter Fest Misses
Shawn Spears hits Cody with an unprotected chair shot to the head: AEW executives Tony Khan and Nick Jackson both implied during their post show media scrums that the chair was actually gimmicked somehow. I wish they would have elaborated, but it appears the back rest portion of the chair passed over the front of Cody’s head accidentally caught the back of his head and opened the cut. While the idea of the chair being somehow gimmicked is better than AEW simply approving a regular unprotected chair shot to the head, I still question whether it’s actually worth it. AEW has quickly risen to a position amongst the industry leaders. Independent wrestlers are going to be emulating what they see in AEW. I admit to having mixed feelings on AEW spotlighting hardcore matches and some of the crazy spots of the six-man tag match even though both matches can be found in the Hit section, but I can’t get behind showcasing the visual of a wrestler slamming a chair over the unprotected head of another wrestler. It’s an ugly part of mainstream pro wrestling’s past that needs to stay there.
Allie vs. Leva Bates: The Librarian characters feel ice cold. Likewise, the Dark Order act isn’t getting much of a reaction. Every company has characters and concepts that don’t work. It’s too soon to dub these acts failures, but it will be interesting to see how AEW creative handles it when some of their creations inevitably don’t work. Will they concede and pull back or will they stubbornly stick to their guns regardless of negative feedback? Only time will tell. I loved the Allie act in Impact Wrestling before the Undead Realm was created (speaking of creative team stubbornness). But who is she in AEW? I feel like I’m still waiting to find out. Even if you put the character issues aside, the match just didn’t click.
Michael Nakazawa vs. Alex Jebailey in a hardcore match: Nakazawa is fun and there’s a place for him, but why did the video game convention promoter’s match air on the pre-show? This should have been a dark match. And if there was some fan demand to see the match then the company could have put it out on Youtube afterward. The two AEW pre-shows have featured more bad than good. AEW labels its pre-shows as “The Buy-In” but it’s hard to imagine that these shows are selling anyone on the fence to order their events. And did this really need a 60-minute pre-show? I vote for a tight 30-minute pre-show with a quality match and a vibe that fits the tone of the main show. Instead, we’re getting comedy skits and matches. On the bright side, the Young Bucks indicated after the show that the have a more serious approach planned for Fight For The Fallen, so hopefully this won’t be an issue.
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The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Brian Fritz of Sporting News and Between The Ropes discussing WrestleMania 36, WWE television from the empty WWE Performance Center, his own travel woes, NFL free agency, and more...