AEW is doing what no other promotion has since WCW. They are earning their sport as a competitor against WWE. Cody Rhodes is throwing lots of money, exposure, and experience into this. So far we have gotten a lot of prime wrestlers doing some high quality matches.
Fight for the Fallen was the third event under the AEW banner. It was right on the boot heels of WWE's Extreme Rules. While, each wrestler gave a great performance that would make any Japanese wrestling enthusiast proud, the event was not without it's faults and shortcomings.
Middle Fingers, Double Stomps, and Chops: This is my most bizarre criticism of the show. It seemed like every wrestler was required to do a double stomp. Fyter Fest, two weeks ago, had the same quirk. You could set your watch that a match was going to have at least two double stomps. Is this a shortcut to get a pop or is AEW trying to channel Low-Ki and Finn Balor? The other thing that AEW obsessed on was audible chest chops. Each wrestler felt obligated to get into a loud chopping match. It got some great pop, but it felt like a weird thing to be transfixed on. Finally, in an effort to triple down on AEW proving this is not a PG era, every heel made their intentions known through middle fingers. It was instant heat. A good double stomp, chop battle, or middle finger should be like dark chocolate: good in small doses. I am still trying to figure out of this is quick ways to get pops and heat or if the training and creative team has some obsessive compulsive disorder. Weird.
Triple-A wrestlers at the State Fair: One of the hardest parts of starting a promotion is presenting your brand, style, and establishing what makes you different. AEW is still trying to figure this out. From Double or Nothing, Fyter Fest, and Fight for the Fallen I have come to these conclusions: the wrestling style is pre-dominantly inspired by NJPW, matches feel slower in pace (but have greater professionalism), and match hype is mostly based on the game wrestlers gained before they joined AEW.
Fight for the Fallen felt like a very rich sport's promotion leased a few triple A wrestlers from other promotions to do high quality matches for a State Fair gig. I credit this to the fact that the production values were amiss, the segment at the end was cringe worthy, and not really any story was revealed. This is mainly because AEW does not have a lot of content to go off of. They can't hype anything through the traditional TV channels. It's a problem that will take time to fix and I hope that AEW nails it. Seriously, WWE needs competition. For right now, the wrestlers don't feel exclusive to AEW. They feel like they were rented for a temp gig. But the effort is there. AEW is trying to build up Hangman Page, Allie, Cima, Jungle Boy, The Best Friends, John Moxley and a few others. I believe the hype will sort itself out once they can establish their core group of wrestlers.
Sonny Kiss d. Peter Avalon w/ Leva Bates
This was a cute match that made Sunny Kiss a baby face. I am a little grossed out by his hyper effeminate style, but he is a good audience pleaser. The Librarian heel angle teeters on the line between good heel heat and these guys are just annoying to watch.
Bea Priestly and Shoko d. Riho and Britt Baker
This match was fun and I think the cutesy Japanese females coming out in cosplay inspired costumes wins over the crowd. Bea was presented as an evil powerhouse. I saw a good potential grudge between Britt and Bea. ***
Spears, MJF, Guevara d. Darby Allin, Jimmy Havok, Joey Janela
One of the top matches on the card because everyone pushed their character and storyline. Spears was arrogant, Joey was crazy, Darby was bitter, MJF was old school heel. Havok and Guevara were just along for the ride. This was also one of the few matches that didn't feel slow. ****
Brandi Rhodes d. Allie
A good ol' evil power mistress versus chirpy do-gooder match. Awesome Kong interfered a couple times resulting in Brandi getting a heel victory. Nothing great. I want to see Allie pushed as much as Impact did. I am more excited to see Aja Kong against Awesome. ** 3/4
The Dark Order d. Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus and Evans and Angelico
The Dark Order is supposed to be scary and mysterious, but the result looks cheesy. Uno is an extra from Nacho Libre and the other looks like AEW's version of War Machine/God of War cosplay. I absolutely love Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus and think they are the best midcarders. The rules of the match went out the window and at no time did anyone know who the legal man was. For some reason Marko Stunt got involved and added to the cluster fuss of the match. This was one of my favorite matches in the show. ****
Hangman Adam Page d. Kip Sabian
This was 1 of 3 slow paced and NJPW inspired matches of the night. Adam Hanan is supposed to pushed to main event status, but he seems to struggle in this 19 minute match. Jericho sneak attacks him at the end of the match and tries to draw some Babyface on him. I still feel Hangman is the wrong man for the job of main contender for World Champion. He feels more like an Intercontinental or TV champion. ***
Lucha Bros d. SCU (Sky and Kaz)
Another slow match that takes time to heat up. There was a spot where the brothers were only attacking Chris Daniels and that slowed down the action even more. The match picked up near the end when the spin kicks and saults began to fly. The Lucha Bros are bringing ladders to All-Out which will be promising (though it did feel like copying and pasting the Final Battle PPV from ROH). *** 3/4
Kenny Omega d. Cima
Cima and Kenny are amazing wrestlers with very good execution. But I kept falling asleep during their match. This is not sarcasm, I would dose off because the match was so chill. Even the announcers were treating it like no big deal. There was no skin in the game for either opponent. It was a slow paced gentleman's match. Great wrestling, little excitement. ***
Young Bucks d. Cody and Dustin
A great rival match that hearkened back to Taker and Kane. This match felt classic and mixed well with the YB's frantic moves. I think the Rhodes should have won, but AEW wants to make YB top billing. A great match that separated itself from the others. ****
Aftermath: Things got awkward as the Youngbucks grabbed the mic to say something important and we're immediately cut off for the check reveal. Then Cody and Kenny prattled on about raising money for the Fallen in Jacksonville. It cvould have been resolved in under two minutes, but weird pauses and cringey improv made it much longer. I was expecting some kind of surprise at the end, but it was just a drawn out and very awkward sign off. I had no idea what Kenny was saying with his "boing bye."
AEW has a long way to go to prove that their brand is not just "Indie Wrestling's Greatest Hits" and "The Place for Bitter WWE Wrestlers." It's going to take more than just filling the ring with Cody's blood and the promise of the Young Bucks to get it where it needs to be. Some of the stories need a booster shot of excitement, the mid-card needs to commit to the brand, and the creative team needs to really refine their product. AEW is sitting on a gold mine of potential and they have proven that they know how to make awesome matches. Now take that and make a fun and exciting product.
But who am I to complain. The audience really, really, really liked it.
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