By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
As a result, fellow Dot Net contributor Rich Bailin responded, saying that he heard AEW doesn’t announce matches early for its big cards by design. What design that is, and what logic travels with that design remains to be seen. What does stand out to me, though, is …
A RUSHED CARD
… I don’t agree with that design. In fact, whatever the reasons are – if there are any to begin with – for why the company waits until a week before its biggest show in the calendar year to fully announce who’s going to be wrestling whom at said biggest show in the calendar year … well, those reasons can’t be good enough to justify the means. Or, at least as far as I’m concerned.
My initial tweet regarding this came on Aug. 16. At that time, we had Kenny Omega vs. Christian Cage, the women’s Casino Battle Royale, and Pac vs. Andrade El Idolo announced. At that point, there were three weeks until All Out. Today, we have ten matches announced. We are six days away from All Out.
In two of the final three weeks leading up to the event, 70 percent of the card was announced, and by the time the final matches were revealed (which happened Friday night), we were nine days away from the event. Now, maybe the wrestling business has passed me by, but if you only have four pay-per-views a year, can I ask this: What’s wrong with taking more than two weeks to build programs for them?
And I don’t just say this to be a stickler for following tradition. Nor do I think every match on the card has to be the result of some blood feud that’s been building for months. Instead …
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN
… Take a look at what we miss out on. The final match to be announced for All Out came Friday when the Rampage commentators revealed that Miro would be going up against Eddie Kingston for the TNT title. First, let’s get a few things straight.
One, since ditching the video game nonsense, Miro has been a force in AEW. He’s a beast of a heel who dominates most everyone he steps into the ring with. He’s also somehow elevated the TNT Title in his own way – and let us not forget that’s a title that was once held by Cody and Darby Allin, two stars in their own right. He’s one of AEW’s most compelling characters and yet we don’t see nearly as much of him as we should week to week.
Kingston, meanwhile, is one of the two or three best talkers in the entire company. His ability to cut promos on anyone or anything has become legendary on YouTube and nobody’s going to forget the backstage speech he gave in the wake of Brodie Lee’s passing. Kingston could sell an anchor to a drowning man. His ability to connect with the fans is as good as there is in the wrestling business.
So, don’t you think this match could have been a lot more fun if, say, a month ago, Kingston came out on Dynamite and verbally massacred Miro? Conversely, wouldn’t it have added some heat to things if a week later, Miro viciously attacked Kingston, left him laying and put into doubt Kingston being medically cleared to compete? Playing to both wrestlers’ strengths for at least a handful of weeks leading up to All Out, in this case, could have been gold.
Instead, we get Miro dragging Fuego Del Sol out of the dressing room and Kingston coming out for the save with a microphone … only to throw the microphone down and engage in a pull-apart with Kingston. Nobody wins. And perhaps more disappointing is that with only a one-week build, it’s hard to take Kingston seriously as a threat to win the TNT Title – which is frustrating because with the right amount of steam behind this, Kingston could have had us all convinced he was walking out of Chicago with that belt.
The way things look now, however, the match itself is an afterthought. Both guys deserve better. In fact …
GIVE ME THE THUNDER
… the women do, too.
Britt Baker is one of the hottest acts in the company, and outside of a stare down and a post-match attack, we get an AEW Women’s Title match that feels randomly thrown together (even if it did get slightly more of a build than the Miro match). I like Kris Statlander a lot, and we all love Baker, but let’s be honest: It’s hard to label this thing as any type of substantial feud whatsoever.
In fact, much like the massive let down that is Christian Cage vs. Kenny Omega, I was all but certain we would see Baker vs. Thunder Rosa at All Out. Those two tore the house down a handful of months ago with their unsanctioned match on Dynamite and that program continues to have heat, even if we don’t see Rosa for weeks at a time.
So, what gives? Is Rosa supposed to be the one to dethrone Baker and perhaps the people booking the show don’t want to take the title off Baker just yet? Is that why it’s being reported that the match will now take place sometime in 2022? Whatever the reason is, the powers that be in AEW could have figured out a way to heat up whatever Baker was going to do at All Out.
And that’s said purely on the account that Baker, much like Kingston, has that heat gift that you can’t teach. Baker could have talked butts into seats (or, in this case, because it sold out immediately, clicks into buys) no matter who she was working with, if someone just gave her some time. Imagine the two of them ruthlessly attacking the other’s weak spots – Baker’s wrist one week, Statlander’s leg the next – as it played out over the course of six weeks or so. It could have done wonders for what now feels like a flat matchup, even if the talent in it is always capable of having a great match.
Speaking of flat matchups, though …
A FOREGONE CONCLUSION
… Try as they may – and to be fair, AEW has really, really tried – I cannot, have not and will not be sold on Christian Cage vs. Kenny Omega. There are a million reasons for that, not the least of which is I don’t think there’s a single person walking this earth that thinks Cage has a shot at winning the AEW Title. And that’s fine, of course. I have no idea as to who would be next for Omega, but Christian being Impact’s champion is a feel-good thing for everybody (even if Christian did call the AEW Title “the big one” on Rampage last week, instantly belittling the Impact belt, but we’ll move on from that).
I’ve tried. I mean, I have. When it leaked that Omega was going in the direction of Cage, I doubt I was alone in my disappointment, especially when the Hangman Page story was so good and so enthralling. But even so, I tried. I came at it with an open mind when the two met on Rampage, and the match was good. The result even kind of surprised me. But as I said in my live review for Rampage, it still didn’t sell me on their match at All Out. I’m craving to see Omega work that classic 45 minute match we know he can in AEW and this ain’t gonna be it.
Instead, we’ll probably get a very good match with a hell of a lot of razor-thin near-falls – and again, to be fair, that’s not bad, either. It’s just not what we were all hoping for when it looked like we were marching to All Out a month ago and Hangman Page was going to have his moment. And to think: This is going to be one of the few matches of the night with some semblance of a significant build.
Or, well, this match and …
THE FINAL FIGHT
MJF vs. Chris Jericho. Now, for all the bitching and complaining I’ve been doing here, MJF vs. Chris Jericho is an actual story. This is a build. This feels like it should be attached to a world title match. This has had ups and downs. This has been months in the making. Jericho is down to the very last thing he can offer up – his career. And hell if I know who’s going to come out on top.
My problem? They only announced this match a week and a half ago! Granted, it obviously had to come after the Five Labours were completed, but couldn’t they have started those a few weeks earlier? Either way, I’ll say this, despite it undoubtedly being unpopular: I’m kind of/sort of glad this is it. The Pinnacle vs. Inner Circle feud started out hot as hell, but it’s cooled off quite a bit in recent weeks. I mean, where the hell is Jake Hager? And why isn’t FTR vs. Proud & Powerful on All Out instead of being relegated to Dynamite?
But I digress. It should be no surprise that the only match on this card with any type of noteworthy build is the one with Chris Jericho in it. My fear, moving forward, is that as Jericho goes on tour – or, shoot, maybe retires – we won’t have any long-standing programs when it comes to any of AEW’s four flagship events. I understand the need to sometimes shoot a 15-second backstage segment between two mid-card women and turn that into a match the next week based on there being bad blood involved, but in my mind, wrestling companies should offer a little bit of something for everybody.