Pre-Show: The Dark Order def. SCU
Christopher Daniels was once again nowhere to be seen at ringside. Both of these teams are talented, but as a match, this wasn't anything special. It was solid but nothing you wouldn't ordinarily see on Dynamite, which is fine since it was on the pre-show. The actual important stuff happened afterward with Chicago's own Colt Cabana making the save for SCU. It was a cool moment and even cooler is that it's since been announced that he's been signed to a contract with AEW. A dark hooded figure then emerged, only to reveal himself as Daniels. I was nervous he'd be revealed as The Exalted One after all, but thankfully, that was not the case. In other words, hope remains that it's Matt Hardy.
Jake Hager def. Dustin Rhodes
I'm perplexed that AEW would go with this as the opener. It was the second weakest match on the card behind Nyla Rose vs. Kris Statlander and didn't really have anything exciting about it. I applaud the effort of both men and thought they produced a well-worked match, but it was average at best. It was hardly the blow-away performance Hager probably should have had for his AEW in-ring debut. Fans didn't expect that chokehold to be his finisher, either. At least he won decisively, so there's that.
Darby Allin def. Sammy Guevara
I can't stress how over Allin is with the AEW audience right now. He's essentially the equivalent of what Jeff Hardy was at the peak of his popularity over a decade ago. He has a connection with the crowds like no one else and it's amazing to see. He and Guevara brawled before the bell and went on to have an insanely fun match in the five minutes they had. This was exactly what it needed to be and then some. It definitely would have been a better choice for the opener, but the fans ate it up, regardless. Allin has a high ceiling for success in AEW.
AEW World Tag Team Champions "Hangman" Adam Page and Kenny Omega def. The Young Bucks
I've seen some people claim that this was the greatest tag team match they've ever seen. While I wouldn't go quite that far, this was still spectacular because of how it had a little bit of everything. The storytelling was sensational, the action was exceptional, the drama and suspense was on another level, and atmosphere was electric. It was weird how the Bucks kicked out of everything and then a simple Buckshot Lariat was what beat them. Other than that, I loved every second of this. Truth be told, I didn't expect to like Page and Omega as a team as much as I have, but I sincerely hope they're together for a little while longer. There's always time for the Bucks to become champions, and speaking of whom, I was so happy that they went with the flow and played the heel role here. They were terrific, too. Page is so popular at the moment that I question AEW moving forward with their original plan of (probably) turning him heel on Omega based on what we saw afterward. Page vs. Omega would be a hell of a match, don't get me wrong, but I don't think the fans are ready for that just yet.
AEW Women's Champion Nyla Rose def. Kris Statlander
Rose came across as extremely likable during a recent episode of Talk Is Jericho where she won me over, but her wrestling ability remains an issue. It's nice that she's been booked like a monster heel for the most part (so it will mean more when she eventually loses the title), but she isn't that great in the ring. Combine that with how Statlander had the flu this past week and how this had minimal build and it's no surprise that this was bad. Rose vs. Statlander really should have been saved for down the road. Now, I have zero desire to see them work together again.
MJF def. Cody
It's cool that Downstait sang Cody down to the ring, but I'm sorry, their performance was the drizzling shits. I love the song, but maybe they just don't sound as good live. Worse yet, Cody's new neck tattoo looks awful, but hey, it's his body and he can do what he wants. As for the match itself, it was entertaining but not as strong as Cody's other outings on pay-per-view over the last year. They relied way too much on the shenanigans and outside interference and it hindered my enjoyment of the matchup to be honest. Hell, Cody was whipping MJF with his weight belt at one point and the referee allowed it for some reason. Uhm, okay. On the bright side, MJF won as he should have and the feud can continue. Cody didn't need this victory nearly as much as he did.
Pac def. Orange Cassidy
I realize there are those who still aren't sold on Cassidy and probably never will be, and that's totally fine. However, you'd be lying to yourself if you said this wasn't a blast. It was such a styles clash that it worked wonderfully. Pac was more comedic than usual (but it didn't ruin his aggressive edge at all because he got intense when needed) and Cassidy showed a new side to himself. I had never seen the guy wrestle an actual match, but this was an outstanding showing from him. He scored a ton of offense and gained a ton even in defeat. My only nitpick of it was the interference from The Lucha Brothers at the end. It was likely an excuse to set up a six-man tag team matchup for Dynamite this week, but The Lucha Brothers don't have a strong connection to Pac for their involvement here to make sense.
Jon Moxley def. Chris Jericho to Win the AEW World Championship
This is the type of match I wanted these two to have while they were feuding in WWE four years ago. They started out brawling, focused on Moxley's "eye" injury (which proved to be fake or at least not as serious as he made it out to be due to playing possum), and delivered a hot stretch. The interference from the rest of Inner Circle wasn't too much and the crowd gave it the big fight feel it deserved. I also appreciated how it took only one Paradigm Shift from Moxley to beat Jericho. It didn't come across as anticlimactic at all. On a side note, Jericho's WrestleMania-worthy entrance was a thing of beauty. He could have been champion for another few months and I wouldn't have complained, but Moxley is the biggest babyface they have right now, so I don't mind the title change. I'm interested to see what's next for Moxley and where Jericho goes from here. This is the type of moment AEW pay-per-views need to feature to justify fans paying $50 in an age where streaming services make wrestling shows so much cheaper.
I'm not sure if this was AEW's best pay-per-view to date, but it should be in that conversation. The build was better for this than any of the other ones and all of the top matches met my expectations and in some cases exceeded them. It was refreshing to not be left disappointed after what we witnessed at the end of WWE Super ShowDown on Thursday. In all seriousness, the AEW World Tag Team Championship match, Pac vs. Cassidy, and the main event. The undercard was solid, but the match order could have been better. The Chicago crowds never disappoint. I'm very excited for what Wednesday's Dynamite has in store.
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