By Will Pruett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@itswilltime)
AEW has had a rather impressive run of good pay-per-views. I expected Double Or Nothing 2019 to be great. The rest of the 2019 pay-per-views (All Out and Full Gear) delivered above expectations. Revolution 2020 lived up to its name. Double Or Nothing 2020 gave us Stadium Stampede at the perfect moment, when we all needed it. AEW All Out 2020 was the first real miss from this company on pay-per-view. This was not because of lack of effort from the performers. This was not because of a lack of logic. AEW All Out was the first major AEW show where the major stories of the promotion did not move forward.
Look at Full Gear 2019 to start out. This is not my favorite show. The co-main event of Cody vs. Chris Jericho was not perfect, but it delivered the major Maxwell Jacob Friedman turn we had been waiting months for. Even though the show itself did not deliver, something truly happened here. When I watched AEW Dynamite after the pay-per-view, I felt included in a major chapter of the story. This is essential, especially when you are charging $50 per show.
All Out 2020 did not have this moment. All Out 2020 failed to truly move anything forward. It was a fine show, highlighted by a killer match between Hikaru Shida and Thunder Rosa for the AEW Women’s Championship, but the show didn’t feature any blockbuster developments. If you missed All Out and tune into AEW Dynamite next week, once you know there are new tag team champions, you know everything that matters.
This is a major disappointment, as AEW seemed to have major stories in place to shift on this show. Instead of giving us the biggest moment in the “Hangman” Adam Page and Kenny Omega story, we were left with tension. Instead of building on Tully Blanchard’s discipleship of FTR and possibly another wrestler, we got a bland celebration. Instead of a meaningful TNT Championship match, we got a bland eight-man tag match. It’s not that nothing happened, but over the four hours of pay-per-view time, nothing happened that will affect AEW in the weeks to come.
You may think this is too high of a bar to hold a wrestling promotion to. I get this. I would never expect something meaningful to happen on each WWE pay-per-view. Rarely does anything meaningful happen on a NXT Takeover show. Meaning and plot movement are not always expected. I hold AEW to a higher standard here. Along with being the only wrestling promotion I currently watch, they are also the only major U.S. wrestling promotion still charging $50 per show for major shows. Sure, it is only four shows per year, but for $50, I expect to get a major chapter in most of their stories.
In this aspect, AEW missed up and down the card. We don’t know more about Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks angry new edge. We don’t know more about Hangman Page, aside from him wearing pants (which should forever be referred to as long boys). We don’t know more about FTR. We don’t know more about Jon Moxley or MJF. We don’t know more about Chris Jericho. We don’t know more about Orange Cassidy. Nothing moved. Nothing truly changed.
I don’t expect every AEW pay-per-view to be perfect. As it is, there are worse ways to spend the hottest Saturday night of the year in the middle of a pandemic. I enjoyed watching this show. It is just impossible to see All Out 2020 as anything but empty. All Elite Wrestling produced their first empty pay-per-view and I’m more than a little bit sad about it.
And now for some random thoughts:
– While I get not changing a thing about the setup, I do wish AEW All Out looked a little less identical to AEW Dynamite. The location of the show (the safest place major pro wrestling is currently produced) is likely limiting, but a boy can dream.
– I don’t think I can say enough about the outright solid-ness of Thunder Rosa vs. Hikaru Shida for the AEW Women’s Championship. This was the match of the night, likely in the toughest spot of the night. Shida and Rosa had an awesome dramatic encounter with high stakes, convincing near falls, and some great exchanges. Wrestling is super cool when it clicks like this.
That this match was as good as it was and as captivating as it was with Matt Hardy injuring himself just before it is exceptionally impressive.
– While I generally have faith in AEW as a promotion with the best interest of the wrestlers in mind, the Matt Hardy and Sammy Guevara match made me lose this. Matt Hardy was clearly knocked out in the match. There is no way Matt should have been allowed on camera again, let alone allowed to climb a scaffold. The stipulation of the match could have easily been waived off and re-established as a Dynamite main event when Matt is healthy. AEW and Tony Khan can and should be held accountable for this.
– How hollow and depressing were the updates about Hardy throughout the night? Tony Schiavone tried his best to add logic to the situation, but ultimately made AEW, as a promotion, look bad. If these were not a setup to fire Doctor Sampson as the ringside doctor, I’m not sure what purpose they served.
– I was most excited about FTR vs. “Hangman” Adam Page and Kenny Omega heading into this show. Over the nine months, the Omega and Page story has kept me engaged in wrestling. It’s been tough, especially in the COVID-19 era, but Omega and Page have always delivered. Well, they delivered until tonight. Page and Omega vs. FTR was the worst Page and Omega match yet and really killed this show for me.
Add to this the real lack of great FTR matches, not only in AEW thus far, but in the last two years in any promotion. Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler seem to be cruising on reputations built in NXT with matches against DIY and American Alpha instead of innovating. Tonight, Wheeler and Harwood felt like a weird tag team tribute act, doing moves from almost 40 years ago expecting us all to love them for it.
I know this story is going somewhere. I am still excited to see what Page and Omega turns into as we move forward. I am absolutely bummed out by what we saw tonight. If this was the last match with Adam Page and Kenny Omega as a tag team, it was also their worst. They deserved to go out with a better effort.
– Really though, where are the great FTR matches? I want them. I want to enjoy them. Let’s get to them or get to any of the other great tag teams on this roster. It takes a truly special team to disappoint with Adam Page and Kenny Omega. This is an impressive failure.
– One last note on FTR, imagine getting to choose any name for yourself in the whole world and settling on Dax Harwood. Reader, I could never.
– Jon Moxley vs. MJF would have been a fine main event on almost any show. It was actually a good match. It came at the end of a long night and a string of disappointments. They worked hard, but never got the crowd (or the audience at home) back. Moxley was the right choice for the winner. It isn’t MJF’s time and the mid-card heel pseudo-JBL act MJF had going into this pay-per-view was beneath him.
– Big Swole vs. Britt Baker was a strange choice for an opening match. It didn’t quite click. It is nice to see Baker able to get physical again. Hopefully an in-ring return is right around the corner.
– Young Bucks vs. Jurassic Express was a fun match with the newly angry Bucks standing out. I would have avoided interference from Marko Stunt to further drive home The Bucks shifting from good to evil. There was a perfectly timed superkick to cut off a hot tag in this match that really wowed me.
– The Casino Battle Royale is a strange concept I cannot find any love for. Lance Archer was the logical winner of this, but him needing an old man with a snake bag to assist him does not set him up well as a monster challenger for Jon Moxley.
– Multiple spots in the Casino Battle Royale felt reckless and downright dumb. Thumbtacks in a body bad? Will Hobbs’ head bouncing against the bottom rope? Add to this the disappointing debut for Matt Sydal, who whiffed on a Shooting Star Press (likely because of sweat on the ropes from heat and humidity combining in Florida’s swampy hellscape) and you’ve got a rough match. It all looked dangerous and not in the way wrestling should.
– AEW should do everything they can to sign Thunder Rosa. She could be a breakout star if she’s featured every week on TNT.
– The Dark Order vs. Dustin Rhodes, Scorpio Sky, Q.T. Marshall, and Matt Cardona truly overstayed its welcome. It was a fine match for what it was, but going 15 minutes when only eight were necessary was a mistake. Again, the theme of plots not quite moving forward continued, as we teased tension with Colt (Cult) Cabana and Brodie Lee, but never moved forward. This was not a pay-per-view about moving forward.
– How good was Dustin Rhodes’ promo about his match with Brodie Lee? I’m here for that. Really, Rhodes vs. Brodie Lee should have been the match on this pay-per-view.
– Orange Cassidy vs. Chris Jericho was fine for what it was. We’ve seen heels get dunked in things for years and it is always about what the wrestlers make of it. Cassidy has grown in this feud and AEW is embracing him as a star. I’m really happy about that. Jericho has done everything he can to put Cassidy over. I’m really happy about that. It was another match at the end of a too long show and it felt much longer than it was.
– The next step with Cassidy is crucial. What does AEW do with him? Where does he go? They’ve invested 14 weeks of TV time into his character and this build. I would hate to see them abandon him now that he has vanquished Chris Jericho.
Well, they can’t all be winners and this was not a winner of a show. AEW did not put its best foot forward here and did not leave me with a ton of excitement. I’m let down by this pay-per-view. I still have faith in the promotion overall. This was not a damning failure (like WWE Extreme Rules 2020), but one I hope AEW learns from.
Will Pruett writes about wrestling and popular culture at prowrestling.net. Of interest to him are diversity in wrestling and wrestling as a theatrical art form. To see his video content subscribe to his YouTube channel. To contact, check him out on Twitter @itswilltime, leave a comment, or email him at [email protected].