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SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)…


LECLAIR’S AEW DOUBLE OR NOTHING 2024 REPORT
MAY 26, 2024
LAS VEGAS, NV AT MGM GRAND GARDEN ARENA
AIRED LIVE ON B/R LIVE, FITE.TV, YOUTUBE, PAY-PER-VIEW

Announcers: Excalibur & Taz & Tony Schiavone & Don Callis & Nigel McGuinness


CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO OUR POST-SHOW PODCAST


-The show opened cold on a wide shot of the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Fireworks exploded from the stage and Excalibur welcomed the audience to the show, introducing his partners Taz, Tony Schiavone, and “unfortunately, Don Callis.” He immediately tossed to the ring for Justin Roberts to introduce the first match.

-Will Ospreay burst onto the stage to a strong reaction. Excalibur noted that he hadn’t seen Callis interacting much with Ospreay in recent weeks. Don said it’s not a social club, it’s a business relationship. Roderick Strong headed to the ring next, flanked by Matt Taven and Mike Bennett.

As Strong posed in the ring, Ospreay charged at him, looking for the Hidden Blade. Strong just barely ducked it. The referee called for the bell right away.

(1) RODERICK STRONG (c, w/ Matt Taven & Mike Bennett) vs. WILL OSPREAY – AEW International Championship match

Both Will Ospreay and Roderick Strong spilled to the outside almost immediately. Ospreay dropped by Taven and Bennett , then clotheslined Strong into the timekeeper’s area. The crowd sang to Ospreay loudly. Back in the ring, Will and Roddy exchanged quick holds before Ospreay was distracted by Taven and Bennett. Strong stole the attention of referee Bryce Remsburg, allowing Bennett to hoist Ospreay onto his shoulders. Taven hit the ring and dove over the top rope onto Ospreay, but his legs caught on the top rope and hit Will awkwardly. Ospreay landed on his head. Callis left the desk to check on him. Remsburg ensured he can continued, then wave Strong back into action.

The International Champion beat down Ospreay a bit more on the outside, then returned him to the ring to work on the now injured neck. Roddy downed Ospreay and applied a cross face hold as the match approached 5:00. Strong let the hold go quickly, but gave Ospreay a couple of hard kicks and then a reverberating chop. Ospreay shrugged it off and delivered a few of his own. Strong cut him off with a leaping knee strike to the chest. Ospreay stumbled to the corner where Taven and Bennett talked some trash to him. Strong back Ospreay a slam and covered him for a two count. “Shut up!” he told fans in the front row.

Ospreay hit a jawbreaker, trying to turn things around. Strong stumbled into the ropes, but caught Ospreay with a knee. Will shook it off and hit the champion with a corkscrew kick, followed by a handspring back elbow. He kipped up and the crowd popped big. Ospreay delivered a Heluva Kick in the corner. Bennett and Taven tried to interfere again, but Ospreay say it coming this time. So did Remsburg. While he argued with Matt and Mike, Wardlow slid in the ring. He set Ospreay up for a Powerbomb. Remsburg backed up right into the pending interference. He tossed Wardlow. Ospreay headed to the top rope and dove onto Strong, Bennett, and Taven below.

Bryce Remsburg called for security to eject the Undisputed Kingdom, to the crowd’s delight. Ospreay worked Roddy back into the ring and covered him for a two count. Champion and challenger traded chops. Will flipped off Strong’s chest then hit an Enziguri, followed by a bridging Fisherman’s Suplex for a two count. Ospreay gave Strong a scoop slam near the corner, then headed to hte top. Strong crotched him. Ospreay’s left knee hit the turnbuckle on the way down. With Will in seated position, Roddy climbed to the top turnbuckle. Ospreay knocked him down with some elbows. Ospreay went for a Sky Twister Press, but Roddy moved. Ospreay landed on his feet, but jammed his knee up. Ospreay shrugged it off and called for a Hidden Blade. He charged, but Strong rolled through it and applied a single leg crab. He then transitioned into a full Boston Crab.

“He’s got that sunk in deep, Schiavone!” Callis exclaimed. Will managed to just reach the bottom rope to break the hold just after 11:00. Roddy draped Ospreay’s arms over the top rope, opening up his chest. He gave him some thunderous chops, then a spinning side slam for a leg hook and near fall. Callis said Strong’s conditioning is “scary impressive.” Taz agreed, calling him a machine. The champion hoisted Will onto the top southeast turnbuckle. He executed a big Superplex, then held on for a tossing Backbreaker for another cover and near fall. Strong lifted Ospreay into a Fireman’s Carry, then tossed him into a Gutbuster. Ospreay clutched his ribs. Strong hit the ropes, looking for a high boot. Ospreay picked him out of the air and delivered a sit-out Powerbomb.

Excalibur noted that both Ospreay and Strong are undefeated in singles action in 2024. The two men rose to knees, trading slaps and punches. The fought to their feet. Strong got the better of the exchange initially, looking for End of Heartache. Ospreay countered free and missed wildly with a kick. He tried to pull Strong in for a Styles Clash, but Roddy slipped free. Ospreay hit the ropes and delivered an Os-Cutter for a delayed cover and near fall just before 15:00. Will tried to continue his attack, but Remsburg held him off, asking for a medical check.

Don Callis left the desk again, leaping to the apron to talk to Ospreay. He told him to use the Tiger Driver. “He’s going to the hospital anyway, break his neck!” Ospreay shook with rage. He shoved Remsburg out of the way and picked up Strong, setting him up for the Tiger Driver. He hesitated, putting Roddy down. Strong used the hesitation to hit another Gutbuster, then a massive running kick for a cover and very close near fall. Callis admonished Ospreay on commentary. Ospreay managed to roll Strong up after a ‘rana. Strong kicked out. Roddy went for End of Heartache, but Ospreay broke free. He immediately pounced, connecting with a Hidden Blade. He followed up with a Stormbreaker for a cover and three count.

WINNER: Will Ospreay in 17:42 to win the AEW International Championship

Will Ospreay held up the International title as Don Callis celebrated the family’s new title.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Excellent opener, and smart play to bring Ospreay out first. The crowd was charged up and ready to receive the star. Undisputed Kingdom’s inference felt a little heavy in the early going, and it would, unfortunately be a sign of things to come tonight. Callis trying to coax Ospreay into using the Tiger Driver worked in context, but I disliked that it made Roddy out to at least temporarily be sympathetic. This was a match with clearly defined roles, and having Ospreay taking advice from a heel to hit an injured heel with a dangerous move is the kind of muddying AEW could do with a lot less of. The pairing of Ospreay and the Callis family has already greatly overstayed its welcome. My reservations about putting one of AEW’s many secondary titles on Ospreay aside, this started things out on a strong foot match quality wise.)

-Adam Cole’s music hit and he marched to the ring to a strong ovation. Excalibur and Taz said that he’s really milking his entrance.

Cole said that Las Vegas sucks. He said he should be checking on Roddy, or hanging with the rest of the Undisputed Kingdom. He said no one has any idea what kind of hell he’s been through for two years. “Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, I’m one of the best pro wrestlers of this generation.” He held up the devil mask. He said we all have a little devil in all of us. The crowd chanted for MJF, drowning him out almost entirely. Cole was about to call out his name when the lights cut.

A video package played with a first person view, walking through a house. The camera entered a room, where MJF’s signature scarf was draped on a mannequin. Various MJF accolades adorned the walls. When the lights returned, MJF’s music played. The crowd exploded. He marched to the ring, wearing a cut-off leather jean jacket, a clear homage to Triple H’s return to Madison Square Garden in 2002. Max stared at the devil mask on the mat. Cole threw his arms out, asking for a hug. MJF gave him one, then promptly kicked him between the legs. He followed up with a Brainbuster, then asked for a microphone.

“Uh oh, did I hurt the Bay Bay?” MJF asked. He asked someone to get Cole out of his ring. Max said he gave something to Adam Cole that he’d never given anyone before – trust. “That’s not happening anymore!” MJF said that Cole woke him up and helped him remember that he’s a generational talent and the best wrestler on Earth. MJF said he didn’t “need a New Japan or a Vince McMahon to make MJF, because MJF made MJF.” The crowd exploded.

Max said no more fun, friendships, or kangaroo kicks. He said now it’s all about hate. He picked up the devil mask in the ring. “Masks are adorned by cowards who want to hide,” Max said. He claimed that he doesn’t need to hide because he’s the best. He said the max symbolizes the end of 2023 and it makes him sick. “It can go straight to hell.” Max gave it an elbow drop, then tossed it into the crowd. MJF said he’s “all in, double or nothing.” He revealed a new tattoo just above his heel, with the AEW on a poker chip and the words “bet on yourself.” Max confirmed he’s not going anywhere (with plenty of expletives.)

(LeClair’s Analysis: Adam Cole was done no favors here. His lame duck return promo felt telegraphed just to introduce MJF. They didn’t even try to pretend he had something to say. This was another case of AEW booking backward to get where they needed to go. If Cole doesn’t have a surprise return, does MJF just not come out? Too much suspension of disbelief being asked here, especially with the long (though well done) video package. The meat of the promo was excellent, though. Sure, he still hit some tongue-in-cheek, inside baseball stuff that I could have done without, but the overall message and vibe and delivery was an excellent page turn from the last time we saw Max. The evolved look was strong, and he felt reinvigorated as a character. I think the unceremonious dumping of Cole to make way for MJF was as good a catalyst as any to just move on from feud altogether and place these guys on entirely separate trajectories. There’s no reason to try to return to a program synonymous with the lowest point in company history.)

-Excalibur tossed to a video hyping the Trios title match.

Death Triangle headed to the ring first in new, matching black and yellow gear. They received a warm welcome. The announcers talked up their surprise reunion on Wednesday. The Bang Bang Gang was out next. Schiavone wondered if their antics toward Pac was the catalyst to the Death Triangle reunion.

(2) BANG BANG GANG (c, Jay White & Colton Gunn & Austin Gunn) vs. DEATH TRIANGLE (Pac & Penta El Zero Miedo & Rey Fenix) – AEW Unified Trios Championship match

Pac elected to begin the match with Jay White. White thought better of it and tagged in Colton Gunn instead. Pac immediately dropped him with an arm drag, then a quick shoulder tackle. He gave him a hip toss. Colton rolled to his corner and tagged in his brother, Austin Gunn. Pac gave him a hip toss, too, then clotheslined him to the floor. Jay White tried to get involved, but the Lucha Bros came to Pac’s aid quickly. White admonished the referee for letting them in the ring. Pac tagged in Penta El Zero Miedo.

Penta tip-toed around the ring, feeling out Gunn. Ray Fenix tagged himself in off Penta’s back and the duo dropped Austin with a wheelbarrow. Colton Gunn tagged in. Penta worked him into the corner, then Pac and Fenix joined in with kicks. They formed a literal triangle and hit triple dropkicks on Gunn. Fenix took Austin down and held his legs out with Pac. Penta flew from the top rope with a headbutt between the legs. The Gunns regrouped on the outside. The Lucha Bros dove onto both of them. Pac got a head full of steam and looked to do the same, but Jay White cut him off, looking for the Blade Runner. Pac slid free. White scooped Pac and dropped him on his head.

The referee immediately moved in to check on Pac as White went to cover him. Pac kicked at two. White stomped at Pac’s head as it became clear that he was cleared to continue. Jay tagged in Austin Gunn, who worked Pac over the in the corner. He tagged White back in. Jay gave Pac a big chop to the chest as the match approached 6:00. White covered Pac for a two count. Pac got his foot on the bottom ropes. The Gunns worked on Pac’s leg while White distracted the referee. White slapped at Pac’s head and gave him a hard chop to the chest. The Bastard managed to knock the Gunns from the apron to buy himself some space, but White dropped him immediately and guillotined him over the bottom rope.

Switchblade turned Pac over into a single leg crab. Pac dragged his body desperately toward the Lucha Bros. White sensed he was losing control and tagged in Colton Gunn. Gunn tried to stop Pac, but the Bastard rolled through him and reached Penta for a tag. Penta dropped both Gunns. He called to the crowd, then tagged in his brother. The Lucha Bros caught Colton with dueling thrust kicks. Fenix ran across the top rope and kicked Austin in the head. Rey leapt onto his brothers shoulders and splashed Austin. Jay White tagged in, but the Lucha Bros overpowered him.

“We’ve got a three on one right now,” Taz noticed, “the Gunns have been taken out.” Fenix tagged Pac back in to exact some revenge on Jay White. He bounced him off the ropes and caught him with a snap German Suplex. Austin Gunn hit the ring and gave Pac a violent clothesline. Lucha Bros hit the ring and took down Colton and Austin. Jay White returned and gave Penta a Uranagi. All six men were down as the match ticked toward 11:00. Excalibur noted that new trios title lineage was created with the merging of the titles.

Pac gave both Gunns quick snap German Suplexes. Death Triangle delivered trios offense to White in the corner with triple running clotheslines. Fenix dove onto the Gunns on the outside. Pac climbed to the top rope. The Gunns slid the gold baseball bat in the ring. The referee went to retrieve it. Juice Robinson returned, sliding into the ring and knocking Pac from the turnbuckle. White hit Pac with the Blade Runner while the Gunns held the Lucha Bros back. White covered Pac for a three count.

WINNERS: Bang Bang Gang in 12:20 to retain the AEW Unified World Trios Championships

(LeClair’s Analysis: Good match that could’ve been served better by a little more time to marinate. With Death Triangle having just reformed on Wednesday, I would’ve preferred to see them hold off on this a little longer. Still, the action was good and the crowd was enthused by the return of Juice Robinson. I still have my reservations about Bang Bang Gang as a whole, and wonder if Jay White wouldn’t be much better served in a different position, but if this is where is to remain, at least they’ve taken a bit more of a series turn and gotten away from The Acclaimed.)

White and the Gunns celebrated with the returning Juice Robinson as Excalibur turned quickly to the next video package for the Women’s World title.

-Serena Deeb headed to the ring first. Excalibur welcomed Nigel McGuinness, who’d replaced Taz. “Timeless” Toni Storm marched to the ring, flanked by Mariah May and Luther. Nigel sang her praises.

(3) TONI STORM (c, w/ Mariah May & Luther) vs. SERENA DEEB – AEW Women’s World Championship match

Tony Schiavone said it’s perhaps Toni Storm’s biggest challenge to date as she and Serena Deeb locked up for the first time. Deeb took the early advantage, wrestling Toni to the mat and tying her up. Storm was left in a pretzel on the mat. Serena gave her a running kick, freeing Storm and sending her flying into the corner. Deeb whipped her to the opposing corner. Storm caught her with a kick on the follow-through. She hit Deeb with a quick running hip attack and sent her crashing to the floor. Serena shook it off and returned to the ring.

The challenger contorted Storm into an Octopus stretch. Luther willed the crowd to clap for the champion. Toni walked herself and Deeb to the ropes and broke the hold by biting it with her teeth. Serena broke the hold reluctantly, but then walked Storm to center and slapped on a deep abdominal stretch. She drove the point of her elbow into the ribs of the champion. Toni broke it with a hip toss, but Serena shot to her feet and gave the champion a dragon screw. Toni popped up and got taken down with another. She clutched at her knee. Deeb smelled blood in the water, looking for a third. Storm planted her foot this time, sitting into a cover for a two count. Deeb turned her over into one of her own. Storm and Deeb traded arm position, looking for a backslide. Deeb won the encounter and scored a two count.

Both women were down as the match crossed 5:30. Deeb headed to the corner. Storm followed, catching her legs in the ropes and delivering a Backstabber. She followed up with a bridging Fisherman’s Suplex for a near fall. Storm’s lipstick was smeared all over her face. She struggled to her feet. Deeb pulled her into arm bar position. Storm kept her wrists clasped. Serena transitioned into a triangle. Storm dead-lifted her into a Powerbomb to release the hold. She immediately turned the challenger over into a Texas Cloverleaf. Storm sat into it. Deeb screamed in agony, but managed to grasp the bottom rope.

Storm pulled Deeb into position for Storm Zero, but Deeb backed her into the corner. She fired off a huge flurry of rights and lefts, leaving Toni staggered. Deeb dropped her with a flying clothesline and back elbow. Deeb leapt to the apron, pulled Toni’s head through the ropes and gave her a Neckbreaker onto the middle cable. Back in the ring, Deeb looked for a ripcord back elbow. Toni blocked it. Deeb hit her with a spinning Neckbreaker instead. A large “Toni!” chant broke out. Deeb stared at Storm, then at the crowd. Schiavone wondered why she wasn’t going for a cover. Deeb hit a snap German Suplex, then a hammerlock lariat for a cover and two count just past 10:00.

Serena Deeb gave the champion some light kicks to the head as Toni returned to her feet. The two traded forearms. Deeb tried to grab a side headlock, but awkwardly rolled her into a cover. McGuinness said that Storm might be out on her feet. Off the ropes, Storm managed a sit-out Chokeslam for a cover and two count. Deeb rolled Storm up for another two count. She transitioned right into a single leg crab on the injured left leg. Storm tried to wiggle free, turning onto her back and kicking Serena with her good leg. Deeb caught her with a knee to the face. She slammed Storm’s knee into the mat repeatedly before grabbing the single leg again.

On the outside, Mariah May tried to throw in the towel for Storm. Luther grabbed it from her. A tug-o-war ensued. In the ring, Storm managed to reach the ropes. Luther ended up with the towel. When Toni rolled to the outside, she thought it was Luther who considered using it. She grabbed it from him and tossed it into the crowd. Storm rolled back in the ring. She and Deeb traded counters. Deeb pulled Storm in, but Toni countered into Storm Zero for a cover and very close near fall. Storm pulled Deeb onto the apron. Serena blocked a Storm Zero attempt. She gave Storm three consecutive dragon screws against the middle rope. She gave Storm the Detox on the apron, then another one in the ring. She hooked the leg for a very close near fall.

Deeb climbed to the top turnbuckle. Storm followed. The two teetered. Storm slammed Deeb’s head against the turnbuckle repeatedly. She gave Deeb a Piledriver off the top, then immediately hit Storm Zero for a cover and three count.

WINNER: Toni Storm in 15:37 to retain the AEW Women’s World Championship

Toni collapsed on the ramp amidst raining confetti. she danced in it and hugged Mariah May.

(LeClair’s Analysis: This was a solid match, especially in the waning minutes. Like most of Storm’s angles and title defenses, though, it struggled to amass any real heat because of the nature of her character and the fact that she’s continuously miscast. I’d thought they’d quietly shifted both characters and done a soft double turn in recent weeks, but tonight, they subtly shifted back to the norm and it led to them fighting another uphill battle against a crowd hell bent on cheering Toni. I enjoyed the towel throwing conundrum with Luther and Mariah and am intrigued to see where that goes, though I do think it’s time to further the story with May. Deeb served as a fine B-level challenger to the women’s title, but they desperately need better programs for Storm.)

-Excalibur tossed to a video package for Orange Cassidy vs. Trent Beretta.

Trent entered with new, remixed Best Friends music. Orange Cassidy’s music played, but he didn’t enter. Trent looked around, confused. “Where Is My Mind?” played and Orange Cassidy emerged. Schiavone called it “old school” Orange Cassidy. Don Callis had rejoined the commentary team. He called the Pixies theme a little “treat” for the fans. Excalibur said it’s the first time he’s ever seen Orange wear a black shirt, matching his mood.

(4) ORANGE CASSIDY vs. TRENT BERETTA

Orange Cassidy and Trent Beretta engaged in hockey-style rapid punches right out of the gate. They hit each other hard enough that both men fell backwards. As soon as they stood, they started up again. The punches eventually slowed down so the fans could join in with “boos” and “yeahs.” Schiavone said this isn’t a wrestling match, just a fight. Beretta sent Orange into the corner. Orange flew to the apron. He grabbed Trent’s head and slammed him into the turnbuckles repeatedly. Orange leapt to the top rope and gave Beretta a diving cross body, then a spinning DDT.

Trent slid to the outside to regroup. Orange gave no quarter, immediately diving onto Beretta on the floor. Schiavone noted that J.R. is battling the flu and not present for the show tonight. Cassidy sat Beretta in a chair at ringside and mounted him for ten quick punches. “The people love this kid, I love it!” Callis said. Beretta recovered quickly, slamming Cassidy’s head onto the ring and then raking his eyes. Beretta gave Orange a thumb to the throat. Orange rolled around the ring, clutching his neck and hacking. Excalibur said it’s a code among wrestlers not to target the neck like that. Beretta looked to the “CHUCK” written on his wrist tape and then pounded Orange repeatedly. He hoisted Cassidy up by the waist and gave him a release German Suplex as the match hit 5:00.

“The scary thing here is that Trent isn’t even breathing heavy,” Callis said, “he’s got no human feeling.” Beretta gave Orange another release German Suplex. He sat in the center of the ring, seething. Cassidy tried to leap to the middle turnbuckle, but Beretta caught his arm and pulled him into a Pseudo Suplex. Cassidy rolled to the opposite corner, writhing. Beretta continued peppering him with punches. Cassidy stumbled around the ring, trying to will himself to life. “You’re nothing!” Beretta told him. Orange used the ropes to steady himself. He raised his hands and put them in his pockets. Trent attacked mercilessly. Orange kept his hands in the pockets.

Beretta charged at Cassidy, but Orange rolled through. He gave Trent a missile dropkick in the corner, then some weak mudhole stomps. He increased the intensity gradually until finally hitting a big running dropkick. Cassidy climbed to the top of the northeast turnbuckle. Beretta stumbled through the ropes to the apron. Cassidy changed trajectory and jumped. Beretta kicked him in the gut. They traded Piledriver attempts on the apron. Beretta connected. Orange slumped to the floor as the match crossed 9:30. Beretta began re-arranging the ring steps. Bryce Remsburg tried to get him back in the ring. Orange recovered enough to pull Trent onto the steps, then deliver a Beach Break on the mats outside.

Remsburg began counting both men out. They answered the count at five. Beretta and Cassidy stood at opposite corners. Cassidy approached like he was offering a hug. Trent charged, but Orange gave him a snap slam. Cassidy looked for a spinning DDT, but Beretta blocked it. Cassidy went for Stundog Millionaire, but Trent blocked it and gave Orange another release German Suplex. He followed up with Strong Zero for a cover and near fall. Cassidy rose to a knee, wobbly. Trent charged, looking for a knee. Cassidy ducked it and hit Trent with a Beach Break. He called for the punch, but Trent turned it into a Codebreaker. He held on, trying to turn it over into a hold. Instead, Orange used his feet to vault off the bottom rope into a cover for a surprise three count.

WINNER: Orange Cassidy in 13:53

Trent Beretta rose to his knees, dejected. Cassidy was laid out in the center as Pixies played. Trent left the ring, walking on the side of the ramp. Rocky Romero approached him, but Trent ignored him. Renee Paquette tried to stop Trent to interview him. “I’m not doing this, I’m done.” Beretta blew past Renee and left through the crowd.

(LeClair’s Analysis: One of AEW’s biggest struggles has been capturing legitimate heel heat for their bad guys, so I think it’s especially important to give them credit when they do so. They’ve succeeded in Trent Beretta. Though I was admittedly lukewarm on the turn and the angle in the weeks that have followed. I can’t argue with the results its produced. I thought the match was good, Beretta’s offense looked credible and dastardly, and Cassidy had great fire in his comebacks. As a long-time advocate for Pixies “Where As My Mind” as Cassidy’s theme, I was elated to hear it return. If I had one knock on this, it’d be the surprise roll up finish. I’ll rescind that if this leads to another match in this series, and I only bring it up now because of AEW’s tendency not to go back to well very often on rematches.)

-Excalibur tossed to a video for the FTW Championship match

Hook was out first, followed by a quick entrance for Katsuyori Shibata. Chris Jericho entered last, without Big Bill by his side. McGuinness sold that Jericho got a huge reaction. Jericho waved to everyone with his usual disingenuous smile.

(5) CHRIS JERICHO (c) vs. HOOK vs. KATSUYORI SHIBATA – FTW Championship match

Chris Jericho continued waving to the fans even after the bell rang. Hook and Katsuyori Shibata looked on briefly. Jericho tried to attack Hook first, but he immediately took the champion down with a German Suplex to both Chris and Shibata. Hook left the ring to retrieve weapons from underneath the ring. He pulled a table out first, setting it up near the announcers desk. Hook dragged Jericho onto the apron, setting him up near the table. Shibata got a running start and kicked both opponents to the outside. They crashed to the floor just to the left of the table.

Jericho gave Hook a snap Suplex on the floor. He tossed Shibata into the barricade, then retrieved a bag from underneath the ring. Jericho held the bag up and dumped its contents, revealing hundreds of dice. Hook gave Jericho a Suplex onto the dice. Shibata gave him one, too. Shibata and Hook each picked up a handful of dice and tossed them at Jericho. Chris covered up in the corner. Hook and Shibata gave the FTW Champion a double Suplex onto the dice. Hook immediately turned and gave Shibata a Suplex. Shibata popped up and delivered an over-head belly-to-belly throw. H

Hook and Shibata rolled to opposite ends of the floor and went searching for weapons. They both pulled Kendo sticks. They circled each other in the ring for a moment, then Jericho joined the fray with his own stick. The Learning Tree was the first to strike, hitting both Hook and Shibata with the Kendo sticks. They no sold the hits, then teamed up to hit Jericho repeatedly. They caught him in the stomach. Jericho rolled to the outside. Shibata gave Hook an STO, then went to retrieve another table. McGuinnes said that Jericho has made the FTW title one of the most prestigious in wrestling. Shibata set up the table in the ring. Jericho attacked Katsuyori from behind. Hook gave Jericho a Northern Lights Suplex, then tossed him onto the table. Hook climbed to the top turnbuckle, but got cut off by Shibata, who threw dice at him. Shibata lifted Hook onto his shoulders and gave him a Death Valley Driver off the top, onto Jericho and the table. The table toppled over, breaking only at the leg.

The FTW Champion propped the leg-less table in the corner. Shibata promptly tossed him through it and covered him for a two count. Hook grabbed at his head, rolling through dice on the mat. Shibata hooked Jericho’s legs and turned him over into a Muta lock. Hook tried to break it up, but Shibata pulled his leg into an Ankle Lock. Hook broke free and knocked Shibata down. Hook gave Shibata a T-Bone Suplex. Jericho immediately caught Hook with a Codebreaker for a cover and near fall at 9:35. Hook rolled to his feet and grabbed REDRUM. He wrapped the legs and pulled Jericho to the mat. Chris shook, raising his hand to tap. Suddenly, Big Bill slid in the ring and dropped an elbow on Hook. He mocked the fans booing.

Big Bill pulled Hook to the apron, near the table from earlier in the match. Hook managed to hoist him up into a Northern Lights Suplex off the apron and through the table. In the ring, Jericho swept the legs of Shibata and applied the Walls of Jericho. Shibata managed to roll through into the Figure Four. Hook returned to the ring and applied REDRUM on Jericho again. A hooded, masked figure entered the ring with a trash can. He broke the hold and put a trash can over Shibata’s head. The man pulled his hood and mask to reveal Brian Keith. Jericho gave Hook the Judas Effect and covered Shibata for a three count.

WINNER: Chris Jericho in 12:36 to retain the FTW Championship

Jericho left the ring in a hurry. Hook quickly pursued. Jericho waved security to the ring. They swarmed to Hook, but he dropped them. Hook took off in pursuit of Jericho.

(LeClair’s Analysis: This was fine. An inoffensive match with some cool spots from Hook and Shibata and some lukewarm heat for Jericho and Big Bill. The Bryan Keith reveal felt totally lifeless and it’s hard to imagine it adding any real heat to this thing. Some nights, it feels like Jericho is really getting the Learning Tree thing over and others, it feels like there’s a distinct apathy toward everything he does. Tonight, to me, felt closer to the latter. Shibata felt like an unnecessary third wheel here, and the setup for this on Dynamite felt clunky and contrived. The show could’ve done without this.)

-Excalibur tossed to a video for Moxley vs. Takeshita.

Kinosuke Takeshita headed to the ring, accompanied by Don Callis. Nigel called him one of the most impressive performers of the modern era. Jon Moxley entered through a tunnel among the fans as the announcers talked about Mox’s injured arm. He had it taped from the shoulder all the way to the forearm. Excalibur reiterated that Kinosuke Takeshita will earn an IWGP World title shot if he beats Moxley tonight, regardless of who the champion is.

(6) KINOSUKE TAKESHITA (w/ Don Callis) vs. JON MOXLEY

Kinosuke Takeshita backed Jon Moxley into the northwest corner of the ring as soon as the bell rang. He went to work on the injured left arm immediately. Out of the corner, Takeshita turned the arm over and stretched it. Jon tried to create separation with a quick right hand jab. He hit the ropes and drove his elbow into Takeshita’s jaw. Kinosuke shrugged it off, hit the ropes and dropped Moxley with a leaping clothesline. Moxley retreated to the same northwest corner. Kinosuke wrapped the arm around the top rope and yanked, utilizing the referee’s full count. He did the same thing in the opposing corner, this time added finger manipulation to the equation.

Jon Moxley found himself draped against the northern ropes, trying to shake feelings back into his fingers. Takeshita turned his arm over again and gave him a Hammerlock slam right onto the left hand. He stepped on the injured shoulder, then climbed to the middle turnbuckle. Kinosuke mocked the crowd, which allowed Moxley time to pop to his feet and rip Takeshita to the mat. He tossed him to the apron and tried setting him up for a Piledriver. He couldn’t lift Takeshita with the injured arm. Kinosuke broke free, twisted Moxley’s arm and slammed it onto the apron, sandwiching it awkwardly behind Jon’s own body.

“His arm is broke, I think it’s broke.” Callis said in Takeshita’s ear. Moxley rounded the ring, removing the bandaging from his arm. Kinosuke gave chase. Moxley managed to drive him into the ringside barrier. He punched him with his good arm, then bit his forehead. Takeshita stopped the flurry with a kick to the injured arm. He pinned it between a chair at ringside and kicked at it again. Moxley screamed in horror. Takeshita tossed the IWGP World Champion back in the ring as the match crossed 5:30. “Finish him off!’ Callis demanded. Mox delivered two halfhearted chops to the chest of Takeshita. Kinosuke answered with a massive forearm. He slammed Moxley’s forearm into the mat and smiled as Jon grimaced.

Excalibur said that Moxley is in very unfamiliar territory, working with this type of injury. Schiavone agreed. Mox rose to his knees. Takeshita dead-lifted him into a Brainbuster. Moxley sat up, glassy-eyed. Takeshita immediately applied a seated cross-face. Jon grabbed Kinosuke by the nostrils, grabbing anything to stay alive. Takeshita gave Mox a number of open palm strikes to the face. Mox delivered a few hard elbows. Kinosuke hit the ropes, but Moxley exploded to life with a cutter. Schiavone noted that it’s the first big offensive move from Moxley in the whole match. Mox punched at his own chin, trying to will himself into the fight. He charged, but Takeshita pulled him into a grounded arm bar. Moxley managed to roll through and transition into a triangle. Takeshita gouged Moxley’s eye, then lifted him into a big Powerbomb.

Takeshita turned Moxley over into an arm bar for a second time. He grabbed the fingers and wrench the hold even further. Mox managed to reach the bottom rope and break the hold. He struggled to his knees, falling against the middle rope. “You want my f’n arm? You can take it home with you,” Jon said. Takeshita raked at his eyes again. He charged, but Moxley moved, sending Kinosuke careening to the floor. Moxley used what little energy he had left to throw himself through the ropes onto Kinosuke. He threw an arm up onto the announce desk, using it to pull himself up. Schiavone said it was like someone coming up from the grave.

Both men caught their breath in opposing corners. Kinosuke charged, but Mox exploded out of the corner with a lariat. Takeshita stood and pulled Moxley into a package Tombstone. He held on and turned it into a Wheelbarrow German Suplex. Takeshita set up for a running knee. He charged, but Mox cut him off with a surprise Paradigm Shift. Both men were down. Callis pounded the mat, willing on his client. Takeshita and Moxley rose to knees. They traded forearms, then strikes from their feet just past 13:30. Takeshita turned over the injured arm again, then punched Mox in the chin. Jon shrugged it off. Takeshita hit him again, this time dropping him face-first.

Kinosuke called for the knee strike again. This time, he caught Moxley square on the jaw. He hooked the leg for a close near fall. Takeshita removed his elbow pad. He struck Jon’x chest and jaw with his exposed forearm and elbow. He missed the third one. Mox pulled him into a Sleeper. He used the loose bandage on his arm to choke Takeshita. Kinosuke slipped free relatively easily. He tossed Moxley, injured shoulder first, into the turnbuckle. He hit Moxley with a Death Rider for a cover and last moment kick out just past 16:15. Moxley slid to the ropes, trying to steady himself. Takeshita retrieved a trio of steel chairs, tossing them in the ring. Referee Rick Knox tossed them aside.

As Takeshita returned to the ring, Moxley gave him a stomp onto a prone steel chair. He followed up with a Paradigm Shift for a cover and three count.

WINNER: Jon Moxley in 17:19

Excalibur said that if Callis hadn’t instructed Takeshita to get the chairs, he may very well have defeated Moxley. Doc Sampson tried to check on Moxley, but he waved him away (aggressively.) Mox retrieved his title and left the same way he came. Excalibur tossed to a quick break.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Really strong, hard-hitting, psychologically sound match. Takeshita, despite his association with Callis and clear heel tendencies, has developed a strong connection with the crowd that’ll be hard to ignore long term. Moxley sold his injured arm exceptionally well and Takeshita’s pit bull-persistence of exploiting it was excellent. I enjoyed how much this match’s pace varied from the rest of the card. I did think Takeshita could’ve benefited greatly from a win here, and had assumed this was fashioned as an eliminator so they could execute that. I do hope there’s bigger plans for him on the horizon. As much as I liked this match, with the result in mind, I can’t help but feel like Mox may have been better suited for the Anarchy in the Arena match, being a guy who screams “Team AEW” more than just about anyone else.)

-A video package aired for the barbed wire steel cage match.

The arena lights were off when the show returned live. A large House of Black banner was stretched across the entrance stage. A spotlight light the silhouette of Malakai Black behind it. He headed to the ring and into the steel cage, already in place. The house lights turned red and flames rose from the stage. Adam Copeland rose from beneath the stage, played out by Slayer’s “South of Heaven,”  surrounded by flames. He marched to the ring with Brood graphics on the LED boards.

(7) ADAM COPELAND (c) vs. MALAKAI BLACK – Barbed Wire Steel Cage TNT Championship match

Adam Copeland charged and Malakai Black immediately went for The End. Copeland ducked it. Adam managed to take Malakai down, then immediately went to the corner and began pulling barbed wire from the cage. Black tried to attack, but Copeland drove the barbed wire into his forehead. Black came up bleeding heavily. Copeland wrapped the strand of barbed wire around the northwest turnbuckle pad. Malakai grabbed Copeland’s head and tried forcing it into the barbed wire, but Adam held onto the ropes and avoided contact.

Black tossed Copeland into the cage wall, then gave him a quick slam for a cover and two count. Blood was pouring from the cut on his forehead now. Copeland gave him a quick kick. Black shot to his feet and went for The End a second time. Adam ducked it and delivered the Impaler DDT. He didn’t even try to cover. Copeland let Malakai pull himself up in the corner. He charged for a Spear. Black ducked. Copeland caught himself from running into the barbed wire again. Black kicked him in the back and Adam’s forehead went right into the barbed wire. Copeland came up bleeding, too.

A dueling chant opened up from the crowd as the two traded elbows in the center of the ring, blood staining the mat liberally. Malakai retrieved a barbed-wire wrapped baseball bat from the cage. He raked the wire across the wound on Copeland’s head. Adam screamed in agony. Malakai flashed a devilish grin. Black dragged Copeland to center and stomped him. He slid a chair underneath his head and teed up with the bat, looking for his own version of a Con-Chair-to. Black swung, but Copeland moved. Black hit the chair, dropping the bat. Adam picked up the bat and dragged it across the stomach of Malakai. Then he raked the barbed wire across his forehead wound.

Malakai used the ropes and steel cage well to steady himself. Copeland scraped the bat across his forehead again, further opening the wound. Blood poured onto the chain link and middle rope. Copeland set up a table in the center of the ring as the match approached 7:30. He gave Black a number of headbutts around the ring. Malakai fell onto the table, prone. Copeland began to climb the cage wall, but Black popped up. He kicked at Adam’s shins, sending him split-legged onto the top rope. Black climbed the ropes, meeting Copeland. They traded rib shots, teetering. Black flipped off the cage well, grabbing Copeland and Powerbombing him through the table for a cover and near fall.

Copeland grabbed barbed wire on the way down, cutting him his hands. The referee moved the table wreckage to the side as Black used his foot to bring Copeland to his feet. He set up for The End, but Copeland exploded into a Spear for a cover and near fall. The TNT Champion kicked table pieces around, then set up a fresh one. He gave Malakai a stalling Piledriver. Black was laid flat out. Copeland had to use the table to steady himself as he pulled Black up and tossed him on the table. Copeland grabbed a string of barbed wire and used it to tie Black to the table. Adam began climbing the northwest turnbuckle, but the continued all the way to the top of the cage.

“What is he thinking?” Tony exclaimed. Copeland stood tall atop the cage. He gave Black a diving elbow off the top, through the barbed wire covered table. Copeland cleared a bit of the wreckage and covered Black for a near fall right at 13:00. Excalibur said only the length of time it took Copeland to cover saved Black there. Both men used the ropes to steady themselves. Copeland charged at Black, looking for another Spear. Black caught him with The End out of nowhere. He draped an arm over Copeland’s chest for a near fall. Black began clearing table pieces. He retrieved a spool of barbed wire and tried to stab Copeland with it. Adam moved. Black tossed Copeland through the ropes.

Sandwiched between the ropes and cage wall, Copeland writhed as Black rubbed his face against the steel wall. With a running start, Black kicked Copeland right through the cage door and to the floor. Black followed him out. Brody King and Buddy Matthews headed down the ramp. They stood beside Black as he rose to his knees. Copeland looked on, realizing his fate. Suddenly, Buddy and Brody switched sides. They stood beside Copeland. Black, blood still pouring from his face, looked on in absolute terror. Suddenly, King gave Copeland a violent clothesline. It was just a ruse. They tossed Copeland back in the ring.

House of Black beat Copeland mercilessly. Black pulled out Copeland’s wedding ring. Buddy and Brody wrapped Black in barbed wire – around his face, forehead and neck. Black looked poised to strike, but he stopped, waiting for something to happen. The cue was late. Finally, the lights cut and flashed. A Brood-like music played. Brody King went to retrieve more barbed wire. A hand came up from underneath the mat, catching King in the head. Gangrel emerged from the hole.

Gangrel took down Buddy and Brody, then at The End from Malakai. Black turned around and was met with a Spear from the barbed-wired head of Adam Copeland. Adam removed the barbed wire crown from his own head and placed it on Malakai’s. He applied a cross face, digging the barbed wire deep into Black’s forehead. Black passed out.

WINNER: Adam Copeland in 20:17 to retain the TNT Championship

(LeClair’s Analysis: “Dark” Adam Copeland isn’t my forte. I find most of his work in that territory leans too heavily into the community theater aspects of pro wrestling that I’d prefer to see less of. With that in mind, this hasn’t been the feud for me. Even still, I thought the match was good. These two beat the hell out of each other and left a bloody mess. Copeland’s top-of-the-cage dive was impressive, even if he did pull up. I liked the Spear counter into The End a lot. Where this suffered dramatically, for me, was the swerve on swerve. Buddy and Brody “turning” on Black only to then turn on Copeland. It all felt forced and contrived. It never felt like the crowd bought into it. The announcers had to cover for the absurdity of it all. Pro wrestling, and AEW in particular, is far too focused on swerving its audience rather than telling compelling, logical stories.

Gangrel’s appearance was fun and the crowd got a huge kick out of it. I couldn’t help but feel like it might have been even more special had it come during the inevitable reunion run with Copeland and Cage, though. Black’s defeat coming as a result of ref stoppage was seemingly on brand for the oft-absent character. As much as I enjoy Black’s work, I can’t help but feel like he’s just waiting for the clock to run out.)

-Backstage, Don Callis told Lexy Nair that he’d be at Dynamite to present a contract for the Don Callis family.

-Swerve Strickland and Christian Cage were shown warming up ahead of their AEW World Championship match.

-Excalibur tossed to a video for the TBS title match.

Mercedes Mone narrated a quick video about historical female figures in sports and the world. Then, a drum line covered in LEDs played a rendition of Mercedes’ music. Dancers flanked her as she marched onto the stage and posed. Taz had rejoined the announcers desk, replacing Nigel McGuinness. Tony said Mone has made an incredible presence in AEW, but now we’re going to find out what she can accomplish in the ring. Mone was clearly emotional as she entered the ring. Willow Nightingale followed to a strong reaction, flanked by Kris Statlander and Stokely Hathaway. Justin Roberts delivered championship match introductions. The crowd booed Mone.

(8) WILLOW NIGHTINGALE (c, w/ Kris Statlander & Stokely Hathaway) vs. MERCEDES MONE – TBS Championship match

Willow Nightingale charged at Mercedes Mone to begin the contest. Mercedes slid through the middle rope, begging off. Mone marched to the adjacent turnbuckle and slid between the ropes again. Referee Aubrey Edwards held Willow back. Mercedes slid out of the ring and ran. Nightingale gave chase. Mone slid back in the ring and Willow followed. Mone caught her with quick stomps. She rolled the champion up for a quick two count and the two rolled back to their feet. Mone gave Willow a couple of quick chops to the chest. She grabbed Willow’s hand and leapt to the top rope, but Nightingale ripped her back to the mat.

The TNT Champion gave her challenger a couple of hard chops to the chest, crumpling her against the middle rope. Mercedes side-stepped a charge attempt, sending Willow to the outside. Nightingale recovered quickly, pulling Mercedes to the outside and delivering a spin-out Powerbomb right onto the edge of the ring. Mone fell to the floor in a heap. Willow tossed her back in the ring and gave her a stalling Suplex, floating over for a two count. Mercedes rolled to the southeast corner, catching Willow with an elbow on the approach. Mercedes leapt onto Willow’s shoulders. Nightingale hoisted her up and gave her a big tossing German Suplex. Mone folded up on the back of her head and rolled to the apron. Willow tried to dead-lift her back in the ring from the turnbuckle, but Mone slipped free and guillotined Willow over the middle rope.

With the champion’s leg caught in the rope, Mone pounced. She twisted it and dumped the champion back in the ring. She continued to work on Willow’s leg, then hit the running Meteora. She covered Willow for a quick two count just before 5:30. Mercedes bent Willow’s leg again. Nightingale hammered at the knee and thigh of the challenger. Mone rolled through, stepped over Willow’s leg and applied another leg lock. The two began trading hard slaps to the face. Mone managed to flatten Willow out with the heel of her boot. She drove it into the champion’s chest repeatedly. Nightingale struggled to her feet, favoring the leg heavily. Mercedes gave her a dragon screw, then folded the leg and applied an ankle lock. Willow used her good leg to free herself and tried to regain a vertical base. She hoisted Mone for a body slam, but Mercedes floated over and gave her a Backstabber for a cover and two count.

Stokely Hathaway pounded the mat, willing Willow, and the crowd, to life. Mone turned Willow into an Octopus stretch. Willow slapped free, took Mercedes to the mat and turned her over into an Ankle Lock of her own. Mone put her whole body into vaulting Willow forward. She crashed into the turnbuckle. Willow battled back with a full body pounce, sending Mone flying across the ring. Mercedes tried to rest in the corner. Willow charged at her, slowed significantly by the injured leg. Willow still managed to make impact. She pulled Mercedes out of the corner and gave her a huge Spinebuster for a cover and near fall at 10:00.

“This is awesome!” the crowd chanted. Willow looked for another Powerbomb. The challenger clutched the leg, blocking it. Mone caught Willow with a knee to the face. She tried to roll Nightingale into a cover, but Willow dead-lifted her into a Powerbomb. She followed with a Fisherman’s Suplex with a bridge for a two count. Taz noted that Willow couldn’t plant with the injured leg, greatly reducing the pressure applied on the cover. Mercedes stumbled to the northwest corner. Willow hoisted her to the top turnbuckle and cleared her legs of the ropes. Nightingale set up for a Superplex. Mercedes teetered, but got her feet under her. She slipped out between Willow’s legs and gave her a Powerbomb off the top for a stack pin and two count.

Mone grabbed another leg log. This time, she used her foot to push Willow’s knee in the opposite direction to create more leverage. Nightingale managed to reach the ropes. Both women rolled to the apron. Willow hoisted Mone and delivered a knee-breaker on the edge of the ring. Mercedes screamed out in pain. Willow turned her over into an inverted Cloverleaf, then spun her around like a ragdoll. She leg her go haphazardly into the corner. Nightingale followed up with a Death Valley Driver into the corner. She got a head full of steam and charged, but Mone moved. Willow crashed into the turnbuckle.  Mercedes gave her a hard knee, then ascended the turnbuckles. She connected with a Meteora for a cover and near fall just before 15:00.

The challenger dropkicked Willow to the outside. She leapt onto the apron and gave Nightingale a Meteora on the floor. Kris Statlander rushed to Willow’s aid, cheering her on. Mone gave Statlander a hard shove. Kris got in Mercedes’ face. Stokely leapt onto the apron, arguing with Aubrey Edwards. Cooler heads prevailed for Kris, but Hathaway continued to argue. Meanwhile, Willow hit Mercedes with the Powerbomb. She had the cover and visual three count, but Aubrey was distracted. She finally turned to count, but Mone kicked out at two.

Statlander and Hathaway looked on, realizing their mistake. Mercedes tripped Nightingale into the Bank Statement hold. Willow screamed as Mercedes pulled back. She managed to just reach the bottom rope. Mone didn’t leg up. She climbed the turnbuckles. Willow cut her off. The two struggled in the corner, eventually pulling away. Mone hooked Willow up and delivered the Mone Maker for a cover and three count.

WINNER: Mercedes Mone in 18:00 to win the TBS Championship

Willow immediately rolled to the corner, clutching her knee. Statlander and Hathaway checked on her while Mercedes danced with the TBS title in the ring. As Mercedes left, Kris helped Willow to her feet. Stokely began yelling at Nightingale. Kris stepped in and shoved Stokely to the ground. She and Willow left the ring together as Hathaway looked on. As Statlander and Nightingale reached the bottom of the ramp, Kris clotheslined Willow. She looked back at Stokely, lifted Willow and gave her a spinning lariat. She flexed as Hathaway joined her on the ramp.

(LeClair’s Analysis: With Mone’s less-than-stellar output on the microphone since here debut in March, tonight felt like a crucial moment in still-young AEW career. She’s always made her money between the ropes, and expectations were justifiably high. I though she (and Willow) delivered big. This felt like a legitimate co-main event worthy of headlining a Pay-Per-View. Willow and Mercedes both came off like big stars. Mercedes, despite giving up size, played an effective foil to the underdog babyface. Willow showed fire and intensity at all the right spots. It felt pretty obvious that Mone would win here, but I think with the notion that a full heel turn might be coming sooner rather than later, there was enough room to give some benefit of the doubt.

Kris Statlander’s post-match turn was earned, having been teased for a relatively significant length of time, but again, they chose to swerve the swerve after just doing so in the previous match. It’s just lazy, uninspired booking for fleeting reactions that train people to pop for surprises instead of logical storytelling.)

-Excalibur quickly turned to the AEW World title match and tossed to a video.

Christian Cage entered first, with the whole Patriarchy in tow. Swerve Strickland had a narrated, Vegas themed intro package. It ended with a resounding “Swerve’s house!” The camera then focused on Prince Nana inside the entrance tunnel. He clanked three empty bottles together, repeatedly saying “Swerve, come out and play.” Swerve’s music hit and the AEW World Champion sauntered onto stage and down the ramp while Nana danced. Justin Roberts provided championship introductions.

(9) SWERVE STRICKLAND (c, w/ Prince Nana) vs. CHRISTIAN CAGE (w/ Killswitch & Nick Wayne & Mother Wayne) – AEW World Championship match

Killswitch, Nick Wayne and Mother Wayne reluctantly left the ring as the bell rang. Christian Cage looked around solemnly at the crowd as Swerve Strickland moved to center. Cage turned his back to the champion, telling the crowd he’d smack them if they didn’t quiet down. Swerve and Cage circled each other, then locked up, jockeying for position. They wrestled all the way to the mat and rolled back to their feet. Cage got the better of the hold, working the champion deep into the southeast corner and forcing a break by the referee.

Prince Nana got the crowd going with a strong call and response chant as the competitors locked up for a second time. Swerve got the better this time. He lurched forward, feigning a punch. Cage shriveled against the ropes, caught off guard. The met in the center again, Nana’s chants still going. Strickland missed with a kick. Taz said it’s crucial these two have a feeling out process with the match being as important as it is. Strickland grabbed a side headlock and settled in. Cage tried to force him off, but Swerve slid to a knee. Cage hit him with some open palm strikes to the ribs. Swerve tackled him to the mat. Cage tried to trip the champion, but Swerve telegraphed it and stepped on Christian instead.

Champion and challenger battled to the outside. Swerve tried to leap onto Cage from the apron, but Christian moved and sent Strickland crashing into the ringside barrier. Cage slid the champion back in the ring and began choking him against the middle rope as the match approached 7:00. Excalibur called Cage a masterful ring technician. Taz agreed, noting his poise. Cage gave Swerve a Snapmare and applied a rear chin lock. He raked at Swerve’s eyes, utilizing the entirety of the referee’s five count before letting go. Swerve battled back with some gut shots. He worked Christian into the corner, but Cage retaliated with a thumb to the eye. He gave Swerve a tornado DDT off the middle rope, then ascended the turnbuckles. Cage delivered a frog splash for a cover and two count.

Cage continued to choke Swerve against the middle rope. Killswitch provided some distraction of the referee, allowing Nick Wayne to slap Strickland in the face. Cage followed up by trying to whip Swerve into the corner, but Strickland countered it. The AEW World Champion worked his challenger to the top of the southwest turnbuckles. Cage kicked Swerve away to create separation. He leapt down and charged for a Spear. Swerve caught him and gave him a double underhook slam. Both men rose to their knees, then their feet, trading blows. Swerve took control with an uppercut. He dropped Cage, hit the corner and toppled Cage with a kick to the back of the head. Strickland danced across the ring.

“Swerve’s feeling it!” Excalibur exclaimed. Strickland and Cage struggled in the center. Swerve used Christian’s turtleneck to pull him in to a Neckbreaker. He delivered a second, then tossed him to the apron. Swerve gave him one more across the middle rope. The turtleneck came up over Cage’s whole face, comically. As the challenger stumbled around ringside, Swerve got a running start. Wayne missed a change to swipe the leg. Strickland dove onto Cage, then tossed him back inside. He hit a quick cross body from the top and covered him for a two count.

Strickland winked at Mother Wayne. Cage took the champion down and turned him into a Sharpshooter as the match crossed 13:45. Swerve rolled up on one shoulder, trying to turn his body. Cage dragged him back to center. Swerve curled his body through the legs of Christian and rolled him up for a two count. Both men popped to their feet and took each other out with tandem headbutts. Mother Wayne retrieved the AEW World title on the outside. Prince Nana wrestled it away from her. Referee Paul Turner saw him with the title and ejected him from ringside. “Always the second guy,” Schiavone said. Cage distracted the referee while Killswitch and Nick Wayne mauled the champion on the outside. The crowd continued to boo loudly.

Mother Wayne leapt on the apron. Cage whispered something to her and she began distracting Turner. Killswitch tried to attack Swerve, but hit Cage instead. Strickland kicked Nick Wayne in the head, then gave Cage a Swerve Stomp for a cover and near fall at 16:35.  The entire Patriarchy occupied different aprons of the ring. Paul Turner finally caught wind and ejected all of them. Cage slumped against the ropes, visibly worried. The crowd sang goodbye to them.  Swerve caught Cage with a knee to the gut, then a rolling Flatliner for a cover and two count. Strickland grabbed the arm of Cage and gator rolled him all the way to the floor. He delivered a hard Suplex onto the mats.

Excalibur said that all the air was driven from Cage’s lungs with that thud. The champion dragged the steel steps away from the corner as Paul Turner begged Strickland to win it in the ring. Cage tried to slid in the ring, but Swerve caught him. He pulled Cage onto his shoulders, but Cage raked his eyes. Christian dropped to the floor, looking to Powerbomb Swerve onto the steps. Instead, Swerve gave Cage a leaping stomp against the edge of the ring.

Back in the ring, Swerve hoisted Cage back onto the apron. Christian tried to Suplex Swerve out of the ring and onto the steps, but Strickland blocked it. He charged at Cage. Christian moved. Swerve flew through the ropes and smacked the bottom stair. Cage tried to remove a turnbuckle pad. With the referee distracted, Nick Wayne rushed in and delivered a cutter to Swerve onto the steps. He tossed Strickland in the ring. Christian gave him a Killswitch and covered him for a close near fall. Prince Nana rushed down the ramp with a lead pipe. He chased Wayne over the barrier and through the crowd.

Christian tossed Swerve to the outside and cleared the Spanish announce desk. He rolled Strickland onto it and turned him over for a Killswitch. Swerve broke free and hit a leaping Swerve Stomp. The table didn’t break. Both men barely made the referee’s count, sliding in at nine. Cage went for another Killswitch, but Swerve slid free. He went for a House Call, but Cage countered. Both men hit the ropes. Strickland hit the House Call on the rebound. He leapt to the top and delivered another Swerve Stomp, then a House Call to the back of the head for a cover and three count.

WINNER: Swerve Strickland in 24:49 to retain the AEW World Championship

(LeClair’s Analysis: By this point in the night, nearly every match had delivered some level of significant interference. It felt especially gratuitous, then, for this to focus on the involvement of Prince Nana and the Patriarchy so heavily in the early going. So much so, in fact, and with such callousness, that the fans turned the referee into the heel instead of Christian Cage. It was all starting to feel a little attitude era-adjacent. Qualms with that aside, Cage and Strickland had a really good match. Christian was never really taken seriously as a World Title challenger here, having suffered significant losses in the Copeland feud and having only just returned recently with little fanfare. Strickland, the up-and-coming babyface champion was a clear shoe-in to retain, but that didn’t stop the crowd from enjoying the action. Now that Swerve has thwarted the Bucks hand-picked opponent, one has to wonder if he’ll be coming for The Elite before too long.)

Swerve celebrated atop the announce desk as Excalibur moved to the main event.

The Young Bucks were out first, followed by Kazuchika Okada. Jack Perry’s music hit, but before he could even enter, FTR and Bryan Danielson jumped the crowd barricades and attacked the Elite. Darby Allin’s music hit and he bolted to the ring, wearing some kind of mask covered in thumb tacks. The bell immediately rang.

(10) THE ELITE (Matthew Jackson & Nicholas Jackson & Kazuchika Okada & Jack Perry) vs. FTR (Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler) & BRYAN DANIELSON & DARBY ALLIN – Anarchy in the Arena

Darby Allin’s music continued to play while chaos ensued around the ring. The Young Bucks broke free of the chaos and Matthew Jackson grabbed a microphone. He told the truck to cut the music, and, instead, play the Bucks’ new theme music. The music played. In the ring, Bryan Danielson cleaned house. He grabbed a microphone. “Turn that sh-t off!” he yelled, “and play the greatest theme song in the history of pro wrestling!” The crowd cheered. “The Final Countdown” kicked in.

Dax Harwood posed on the ringside barrier as the music rang out. He marched up the lower bowl in pursuit of Matthew Jackson. Meanwhile, Bryan Danielson headed into the crowd to join Kazuchika Okada. Nicholas Jackson and Jack Perry worked over Darby Allin near one of the tunnels. Allin climbed the lower bowl and launched himself onto Jackson and Perry below. Danielson took Okada down and emerged atop the lower bowl, arms raised as the song continued to play at full volume.

The camera cut to Matthew Jackson with a microphone. “Cut that music, that thing costs me like $200,000 every time it plays! We’re on a budget, we can’t afford that!” The music stopped. Meanwhile, Darby Allin and Jack Perry fought into a backstage area. Danielson and Okada had worked back to ringside. Okada pulled out a “Rainmaker Blvd” street sign and hit Bryan with it. The crowd chanted “we want music,” not taking any of this seriously. Matthew hit Cash Wheeler with a trash can lid. Nicholas slammed Dax into the steel steps. Okada held up his street sign again, then launched himself clear over the barricade and onto Danielson.

In the parking out, Perry bounced Allin’s face off a trash can. Allin dumped Perry into an ice tub filled with drinks and tried to drown him. Perry fought out and flung Allin across the parking lot. Perry found a lead pipe in a pile of garbage and struck Allin in the ribs with it as the match crossed 8:25. Back in the arena, the Bucks Wheeler to the floor and then gave Dax a Shatter Machine. They covered him for a two count. Danielson returned, but was quickly overwhelmed by the Bucks and Okada. They tried for trios kicks in the corner, but Bryan moved. The Bucks kicked Okada instead.

A quick cut to the outside showed a black bus with “scapegoat” spray painted on the front drive into the pile of debris. Perry was shown to be inside. He was passed out against the wheel. The announcers wondered if Darby was in the pile of garbage. Taz wondered if it was the same bus that hit Darby in New York. Excalibur shut that down. In the ring, FTR hit tandem splashes on Jackson and covered him for two, broken up by Okada. Outside the ring, Danielson was bleeding heavily from the forehead. Okada gave Harwood a flying elbow from the top. Dax rolled to the apron. Okada gave the camera the finger. Wheeler bit it. Okada dropped him with a perfectly placed dropkick. He followed it up with a Tombstone.

Okada called for a Rainmaker on Wheeler. Cash elbowed himself free. Suddenly, Darby Allin cam limping down the ramp, looking like a zombie. He traded blows with Okada. Kazuchika just ate his elbows and shrugged them off, stomping on Allin’s injured foot. Darby raked Okada’s eyes and gave him a headbutt with his thumbtack facemask. Allin gave Okada a Code Red for a two count. the Bucks grabbed Darby and puled him to the floor. They gave him a Powerbomb onto four propped chairs. Allin collapsed in a heap. The Bucks dragged him all the way up the ramp. The called for the center screen to be raised.

“Bring him down!’ the Bucks ordered. Allin’s body was lowered through the riser in the floor. Meanwhile, Danielson hit a running knee into a seated Okada on the outside. He rounded the ring to go after the Bucks. They tossed him off the stage. “Use the chips!” the fans chanted. The Bucks rammed Danielson into one, knocking it over. Matthew tossed Bryan onto the stacked poker chips. Nicholas took position on the stage. They gave Danielson a TKO Driver on the chips.

FTR rejoined the fight. Wheeler took a back drop on the chip. Matthew took a DDT on it from Harwood. Wheeler tossed Nicholas into the LED screen on the stage. Dax and Matthew traded punches on the ramp. Matthew dropped Harwood with a Superkick. Wheeler dropped Matthew with a Superkick. Cash retrieved a table from the back and set it up on the stage. Dax and Matthew traded punches on the floor. Okada returned, attacking Wheeler from behind and positioning him on the table. Nicholas climbed the entrance tunnel and delivered a Senton onto Cash and through the table. Okada gave Harwood an elbow drop through a table off the corner of the stage.

Backstage, Jack Perry was shown marching back toward the stage. He turned the corner to find Tony Khan sitting in gorilla. He grabbed him by the throat and disappeared through the curtain. Suddenly, Darby Allin emerged through the adjacent tunnel with the flamethrower. Perry came out the other tunnel, dragging Tony Khan behind him. Allin lit Perry on fire. The Bucks rushed in immediately with fire extinguishers. Officials rushed in with fire blankets to cover Perry as the match moved toward 21:00.

The Young Bucks walked Darby Allin back to the ring and ripped off his face-mask. They put a trash can over his head and tried to leap onto it from the top, but Darby moved. Okada returned and pulled Allin in for a Rainmaker. Allin ducked. He dropped Okada and leapt to the top rope, connecting with a Coffin Drop. He covered, but the Bucks broke it up at two. The Bucks beat down Darby as Okada retrieved something from ringside. Matthew and Nicholas called toward the top of the arena. A cable was lowered. The Elite began tying Allin up. FTR tried to intervene, but were easily thwarted.

Allin was bleeding from the forehead. His ankles were tied up. Dax Harwood managed to take Okada out of the ring. Cash Wheeler returned just in time to join his partner for a Shatter Machine on Nicholas Jackson. Okada broke up a pinfall attempt. Harwood pulled Okada in for a Piledriver. Matthew cracked Dax in the head with a chair and fireworks exploded from it on impact. Okada put on a sleeve covered in thumbtacks, then used that arm to give Wheeler a Rainmaker.

Once again, the Elite were left alone in the ring in full control. Okada retrieved a shoe box from underneath the ring. It was the Bucks new Pumps, covered in thumbtacks on the bottom. The Bucks called for Darby to be raised. He was strung up with his head about five feet above the mat. The Bucks gave him tandem Superkicks with the thumbtack shoes. Darby immediately grabbed and cupped his nose.

Excalibur said things are bleak for team AEW. Just then, Bryan Danielson returned. He knocked Okada from the ring. He ducked a kick from Matthew, causing him to kick his own brother with the thumbtack pump. Nicholas came up bloody. Danielson stole a shoe from Matthew’s foot and hit him with it. He began stomping the Bucks repeatedly. He gave Nicholas the Busaiku Knee with a steel chair in front. He covered, but Okada broke it up. He gave Danielson a Rainmaker. The Bucks delivered an EVP Trigger to Bryan.

“Please help Darby!” the fans pleaded. Bryan tried, but Perry blindsided him with a knee. He covered Bryan for a three count.

WINNERS: The Elite in 29:57

(LeClair’s Analysis: I think I’d feel much differently about this had I been live in the arena to witness the calamity of the car-crash. On television, the action was dizzying and, at times, hard to follow because of missed camera cuts and production miscues. They upped the ante on the violence, as one would expect with this becoming a yearly tradition. It all felt a little too comical and tongue-in-cheek for my tastes, but I understand that I’ll likely be in the minority on that. The theme music playing on loop is sort of funny, but also not at all befitting of a serious grudge match. The car wreck spot and flamethrower stunt just felt gratuitous to me. I did enjoy the closing sequence, with the Bucks hamming it up over their shoes with Okada and briefly being thwarted by Danielson as a last gasp for Team AEW. I wish they hadn’t been quite so up against the clock, because it didn’t feel like the weight of The Elite’s victory, or the level of brutality on display really had any chance to breathe because they just had to immediately sign off. That speaks to a larger issue AEW has had for quite some time.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: Like nearly all AEW Pay-Per-Views, this was a good to very good show. I thought some of the company’s more over-indulgent proclivities were on display and held this back from reaching the highs of, say, last month’s Dynasty or March’s Revolution. Still, the die-hard AEW fan will have plenty to rally around and for everyone else, there was plenty of great wrestling up and down the card to sink your teeth into. A thumbs up show, though I thought this was ultimately held back by the overwhelming amount of interference in nearly every match on the card.


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