By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
AEW WrestleDream Zero Hour Pre-Show
Aired live October 1, 2023 on social media
Seattle, Washington at Climate Pledge Arena
-An Antonio Inoki tribute video package aired and featured comments from a number of AEW wrestlers about the late legend.
-Tony Khan stood in the ring and welcomed fans to the inaugural AEW WrestleDream. Khan was accompanied by Rocky Romero, Katsuyori Shibata, and two of Inoki’s grandchildren. They all wore red scarves, which Khan thanked the grandsons for. There was a table set up up with a framed photo of Inoki. Romero presented bouquets of flowers to the grandsons. Khan said it would be a great night and asked fans to remember who it is all about. “Let’s have a great WrestleDream,” Khan said. Khan also led an “Ichi Ni San Da” chant…
-Christian Cage was shown watching the ceremony play out on a backstage monitor. Excalibur noted on commentary that Cage’s TNT Title match with Darby Allin would be the pay-per-view main event.
-A WrestleDream video aired and then entrances for the opening match took place. Excalibur, Jim Ross, and Nigel McGuinness were on commentary.
1. Keith Lee, Satoshi Kojima, Athena, and Billie Starkz vs. Shane Taylor, Lee Moriarty, Diamante, and Mercedes Martinez in a mixed tag match. Rick Knox was the referee. There was a “we want bread” chant, which Excalibur explained was for Kojima due to his love of baked goods.
Athena and Starks performed stereo suicide dives onto Diamante and Martinez. Taylor tagged in. Athena wanted to face him, but the referee wouldn’t allow it, so she tagged in Lee. Taylor caught Lee with a strike. Lee took Taylor down with a head-scissors. Moriarty ran in. Lee pressed Moriarty above his head, but Taylor caught Lee with another left hand. Lee tossed Moriarty aside and tagged out.
Kojima tagged in and worked over Moriarty with rapid fire chops in the corner. Lee checked back in and performed an impressive spinebuster on Taylor. Athena hit the O-Face on Moriarty. Lee performed a Jackhammer style move on Moriarty. Kojima followed up with a lariat on Moriarty and then pinned him…
Keith Lee, Satoshi Kojima, Athena, and Billie Starkz defeated Shane Taylor, Lee Moriarty, Diamante, and Mercedes Martinez in 5:45 in a mixed tag match.
Powell’s POV: A crowd pleasing opening match. The babyface team all had moments to shine.
2. Claudio Castagnoli vs. Josh Barnett. Ross spoke favorably about when he and Barnett called NJPW shows together. Castagnoli entered to “Wild Thing” and was accompanied by Jon Moxley, who sat in on commentary for the match. Moxley said it was Blackpool Combat Club civil war because Barnett has been his secret weapon in terms of being his sparring partner.
After some early mat wrestling, Castagnoli threw elbows at Barnett while Moxley encouraged him to “light his ass up.” Barnett took Castagnoli down with a dragon screw leg whip. Both men got to their feet. Castagnoli executed a double leg takedown and wanted to perform the Big Swing, but Barnett grabbed the ropes to stop it.
Barnett threw leg kicks. Castagnoli fired back with uppercuts. Barnett put Castagnoli in an abdominal stretch, which Castagnoli powered out of. Both men threw elbow strikes at one another. Castagnoli got the better of it and sent Barnett into the corner and then fired more elbow strikes. Barnett recovered and then dropped Castagnoli with a knee to the gut. When Castagnoli stood up, Barnett hit him with a spinning wheel kick.
Barnett executed an overhead belly-to-belly suplex and then mounted Castagnoli, who escaped and executed the Big Swing. Castagnoli threw jabs at Barnett and then put him down with a lariat. Castagnoli performed a Neutralizer and then hooked Barnett into a pin and got the three count.
Claudio Castagnoli defeated Josh Barnett in 8:15.
After the match, Barnett pushed Castagnoli and then grabbed a microphone. Barnett told the fans to boo all they want. He said he heard a lot about Castagnoli from his friends and training partners. Barnett said hearing about it is one thing, but experiencing it is another. He said they were all right and Castagnoli has no idea how great he is. Barnett said Inoki would be a fan of Castagnoli. Barnett said he’s proud of Castagnoli, but he told him it’s not over. Barnett said he would come for Castagnoli someday. Both men shook hands. Castagnoli told Barnett he would face him any time, any place, and then raised his arm…
Powell’s POV: This was an enjoyable match for its style and will surely be different than every other match on this card. Moxley really added to it on commentary with his enthusiasm for Barnett and seeing him face Castagnoli. I’m happy Barnett was able to work the show despite his past issues with the Young Bucks.
-A video package aired on the TNT Title match…
3. Nick Wayne vs. Luchasaurus. Wayne received a nice hometown ovation from the live crowd. His mother was shown cheering in the crowd. Wayne started the match by throwing a dropkick that Luchasaurus brushed off.
Wayne dazed Luchasaurus with a couple of kicks, but Luchasaurus put him down with a shoulder block. Luchasaurus stood in the ring and chokeslammed Wayne over the ropes and onto the ring apron. Wayne crawled toward his mother while McGuinness mocked him. Luchasaurus picked up Wayne and swung him face first into the barricade.
Back in the ring, Wayne avoided a charging Luchasaurus, who crashed in the corner. Wayne performed a moonsault and got a two count. Luchasaurus stuffed a Wayne’s world attempt and then hit Wayne with a lariat to the back of the head before pinning him.
Luchasaurus defeated Nick Wayne in 4:55.
After the match, Luchasaurus stood on the ropes and faced Wayne’s mother, who looked up at him and said he went “too far”…
Powell’s POV: I’m not surprised that Luchasaurus won, but I am surprised that they didn’t book Wayne to beat someone else in his hometown. That said, this was fine for what it was with Luchasaurus dominating the AEW rookie aside from one hope sequence.
4. Max Caster, Anthony Bowens, and Billy Gunn vs. “TMDK” Shane Haste, Mikey Nicholls, and Bad Dude Tito for the AEW Trios Titles. Caster rapped on his way to the ring and included lines about tentacle porn and a glory hole.
The babyface trio cleared the heels from the ring a few minutes in and did their scissoring bit. The heels isolated Bowens for the next few minutes. Bowens threw punches at Tito and then dove for his corner, but Tito caught him and then his partners ran in and hit Caster and Gunn. Tito performed a spinebuster on Bowens for a near fall.
Bowens did a somersault under a double clothesline attempt by Haste and Nicholls and then made the tag to Gunn. Tito avoided a Fameasser and then suplexed Gunn and had him pinned, but Caster broke it up. Tito performing a spinning slam on Bowens for a nice near fall. Gunn hit a Fameasser on Tito, Bowens followed up with The Arrival, and then Caster finished him off with the Mic Drop…
Max Caster, Anthony Bowens, and Billy Gunn defeated “TMDK” Shane Haste, Mikey Nicholls, and Bad Dude Tito in 9:20 to retain the AEW Trios Titles.
Powell’s POV: A solid six-man tag match despite there being no real mystery regarding the outcome.
The broadcast team ran through the main card pay-per-view lineup. They said the handicap match for the ROH Tag Titles would open the main card. A video package aired on that match…
Join me for my live review of the WrestleDream pay-per-view in a separate report available via the main page.