AEW IN MAY: THE RETURN TO PPV, AND THE PERFORMANCES THAT BROKE THE INTERNET

A CONTINUING MIX OF WRESTLING’S PAST & PRESENT

THIS IS ADRIAN RICHARDSON’S WRASSLIN REVIEW

As the entire world continues to live within the death grip of COVID-19 or otherwise known as the Corona Virus, so many people have answered the call to heroism. I would like to take this moment to thank all of those individuals currently working the front lines, and another big thanks to all the essential workers and businesses that put themselves at jeopardy every day to help us with all of our needs.

Since day one, and while all other forms of sport entertainment began shutting down or closing their doors, AEW has taken the opportunity to step up and lead the way in keeping us wrestling fans entertained. Unlike WWE, who had simply just “phoned it in”, and resorted to re-runs of recent PPV matches on their way to the most dullest episodes of RAW and SMACKDOWN ever at the WWE PERFORMANCE CENTER, ALL ELITE WRESTLING went in a totally different direction. With the combination of having their own “audience” made up of wrestlers and work staff, to choosing a venue like Daily’s Place that adds a bit of excitement as well as creative opportunity (like the recent Stampede Match), we were treated to a much more entertaining product.

World Wrestling Entertainment has suffered its lowest ratings ever in company history this year, and it is not all due to the 2020 Pandemic. Poor stories and use of some of their better talent has become a norm in WWE. All Elite has capitalized on keeping things fresh, different, and new to make sure the fans are always surprised. AEW has basically recreated “Must See TV” the way Monday Night Raw did during the 1990’s Wrestling Boom and Monday Night Wars era. Why is RAW and SMACKDOWN continuing to have the same matches every week? Only Vince McMahon knows the answer to this question, or, maybe he doesn’t. There have been rumors circulating that WWE is looking to sell, possibly to the Disney Corporation, which if that happens, we all know that WWE and it’s almost 100 year history will come to an end.

So while the competition has been down for the count, AEW is taking a victory lap and enjoying its unprecedented success. Last month they proved their positive uprising by bringing in a new Title Belt known as the “TNT Championship”, which was received by a very strong mix of reviews, comments, and concerns. The tournament was packed with stars, underdogs, and big emotional stories filled with underlying subtext and high concepts that would make for a Hollywood Summer blockbuster. Each and every match was great, lots of incredible action and unlikely match ups, absolutely worth a re-watch or if you haven’t seen them yet, I suggest you check them out. This all lead to the finals taking place at the PPV Double or Nothing”, featuring Cody Rhodes against Lance Archer.

Although it’s been reported that Big Vinnie Mac hates any form of “Wrestling Tournament”, in my opinion, they always bring out the best in every competing wrestler. With the exception of “Mega Dumb Ass” Vince Russo’s infamously horrible idea called the “Brawl For All”, many careers have seen better days at the end of these big events. WRESTLEMANIA 4 (with the entire PPV event evolving around a Championship tournament) gave us the birth of “Macho Man” Randy Savage’s first Heavyweight Title run and cemented his now legendary career officially into main event status. The “King of the Ring” is now considered a joke won by the biggest losers (just take a look at “King Corbin”), but back in the day, it was something that guaranteed the winner great success much like winning the Intercontinental Title in the early days.

With names like Bret “Hitman” Hart, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, “Triple H”, and even Kurt Angle winning the “KOF”, you can see why it’s still around to this day.

Double or Nothing”, the first big AEW PPV that set the standard for what we have now come to know and love. I think that despite everything happening around the world, the cast and crew went above and beyond the call of duty to give us another record-breaking event. It was spectacular! Every match was an edge of your seat thrill ride. The “Buy In” pre-show featured SCU verses Private Party for a #1 Tag Team Contender’s spot. SCU pulled out the victory, and now the first ever Tag Champs are in the running for a rematch with the team that took their belts. The “Casino Ladder Match” was so impressive. After seeing ladder matches for the past 30 years, one would think it’s no longer the crazy spectacle it used to be. But it’s no longer about a ladder match as much as it’s now about the creativity of how that ladder or any other weapon is used within the match. And this Sunday, I saw things for the first time ever.

Colt!

Colt Cabana is a name I’ve heard for years, but never had a real opportunity to see in action. Since his arrival in AEW, I have been extremely impressed, and he took one hell of a serious bump during this match. The entire battle was filled with characters and storylines that made it so much more entertaining. Orange Cassidy is my hero, Joey Janela unfortunately having to replace an injured Rey Fenix, and the debut of my favorite Wrestler of the past 3 years “The Machine” Brian Cage finally appeared inside of an AEW ring. The standoff between Cage and Luchasaurus is going to be a future big time match. Two huge guys that have extraordinary and uncanny athletic ability, striking skill, and grappling technique, are sure to be any booker’s wet dream. Brian Cage is and looked as strong as Marvel’s Incredible Hulk during this match, and with his win, it is now only a matter of time before he is your new AEW World Champion.

Brian Cage!

One of the major stories circling this event is that “Iron” Mike Tyson was going to be a part of the show. Everyone remembers Tyson’s involvement with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Degeneration X, and the Championship Main Event for WRESTLEMANIA 14. We were wondering what impact he would have on top of presenting the “TNT Championship” to the winner. Shawn Spears claiming that Dustin Rhodes was retired, and choosing to call him out at the PPV was interesting. “Spears looks like he’s auditioning for a prison movie”, a phrase quoted from Tony Schiavone says it all. On that note, I’m not sure, but I would put money down on a bet that Tony was under the influence of maybe a couple of things. He was in rare form all night long, and this wasn’t his only controversial comment.

Mike Tyson, The TNT Champ!

I hate to give spoilers but, we have a new women’s world champion, and I will end it there. The match was great with a few close calls, and hard-hitting shots. I was expecting a total squash match with MJF and Jungle Boy. But I will say that this could have been the secret show stealer of the night (much like “Macho Man” and Ricky the “Dragon” Steamboat in WRESTLEMANIA 3). Lance Archer has been booked to have matches against basic nobodies in an attempt to look strong and dominating, but I am not a fan of this formula. They had success with Bill Goldberg and a few other starts on their way to a legit run, but I think that if you can’t have a good and lengthy wrestling match/performance, get the hell out of the ring and leave it to the pros. However, Lance’s work with both Rhodes brothers have proven that he is ready to go and maintain the role he’s being setup for.

The Stadium Stampede Match! What can I say that hasn’t already been said about this main event. Innovative, exciting, extreme, comedic, violent, different, creative, chaotic, and surprisingly well done. This is the kind of thing you just have to see for yourself because words will do no justice. You’ve heard of phrases like “Everything but the kitchen sink”, well that is exactly what you are in store for when you view this incredible match up between The Inner Circle and The Elite. The fight in the pool that had “Broken” Matt Hardy transform before our eyes into Matt Hardy Version 2.0, “Cowboy” Page entering on a horse and riding past the battle to head straight to the bar, the red and yellow card penalties, the bad calls by the ref that were challenged and reviewed, the spawn of Vanguard “Neo”, and even a special appearance by the NFL’s Jaguars mascot Jaxson De Ville. A war that has been going on for years across the world, deserved a specially designed fight like this. Hopefully the score will be settled, but most likely not.

Wanna hear something funny or maybe just interesting? The following night on this week’s Monday Night Raw featured a form of “audience” made up of WWE’s Performance Center’s up and coming talent. Spaced rightly apart and incased in some kind of plexiglass holding cells, the creative team decided that it is time to have something else happen here to save their continuously sinking ratings ratio. I will have to say that it certainly helped the product of the show (but you also get the feeling of a studio audience being told when to cheer or boo, verses the real natural/organic reactions from the AEW crowd). And I can’t help but get the strange suspicion that WWE’s Raw wanted to form some kind of direct competition or response to the success of “Double or Nothing”, because this was the first great show Raw has produced since the Pandemic Lockdown.

New Champions crowned, alliances made, and even debut appearances helped to boost Raw this week. It was the best show I’ve seen in some time, especially in regards to the in-ring action and stories taking place. Question, does anyone see the “Monday Night Messiah” Seth Rollins now trying to resemble the Dark Order and Brody Lee?

Last night we had the follow up to AEW’s Double or Nothing PPV with the latest edition of Wednesday Night Dynamite. And things immediately picked up right from where they left off at Sunday’s event. Joey Janela and Private Party took on The Young Bucks and yet another version of Matt Hardy, his “old school” persona. PS – the HBO MAX rumors are true folks! For everyone wondering if All Elite will join the newest and hottest soon to come streaming service, well take a look at the ring apron during this show, and notice the amount of HBO MAX commercials airing during the breaks. Classic “JR” Jim Ross may be old, but hasn’t missed a beat yet.

He was very quick to make a comment about the “plexiglass situation” on Raw during a spot in a match where the audience got involved. AEW also tried to play the “One Upsmanship” game by having yet another debut of some of Wrestling’s hottest free agents. The Revival now being called FTR made a strong and surprising entrance, while teasing a match with the Young Bucks, helped to take on The Butcher and the Blade. Tag Team Wrestling is alive and well in All Elite, and it has created some of the wildest, intense, fast paced, hard hitting action within the Wrestling Industry.

Next week on Dynamite will feature Cody Rhodes in his first title defense against Jungle Boy. Chris Jericho will be “in action”, and after the fallout between The Inner Circle and Mike Tyson’s crew (which includes Vitor Belfort), who knows how this new war story will unfold. Things are heating up and we are still in Spring. AEW is already setting up for their next big event called “Fyter Fest.” The main event has been officially announced, it will be Cage and Moxley for the Championship. The way things are going right now for AEW, they might just move to Mondays!

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