Wednesday, March 8, 2023

AEW All Out 2022

Three years ago, All Elite Wrestling was born. And with it came a newfound hope for the wrestling audience who grew tired of the same, tired WWE nonsense that they've been watching for years. This new promotion, comprising some new faces along with some familiar ones, would immediately make waves, be the talk of the town, and become somewhat noticeable. So much so when WWE moved their weekly NXT show off the WWE Network and onto USA in an effort to curtail AEW's new Dynamite show, AEW's show trounced NXT on a weekly basis, with NXT only scoring a few wins here and there. It seemed like for the first time in years, there was competition on the mainstream level and another choice on the dial for disenchanted wrestling fans who grew tired of WWE to check out.

For three years, AEW was the new hotness.

All of a sudden, Vince McMahon had retired from WWE due to some controversial circumstances and the creative reigns fall upon ol' McSon-In-Law himself, Paul "Triple H" Levesque. Things start turning around for WWE; ratings slowly start to creep their way upwards, fans are excited about the product, reviews have been positive. All of a sudden, WWE is no longer the tired brand that it had been for years; it was a fresh WWE with gained momentum on its side. Just one night before AEW would hold its fourth annual All Out PPV, WWE held its Clash At The Castle "premium" live event and it turned out to be a banger of a show that I've had rather nice things to say about. And that wave of momentum continues to this day, despite the return of Vince to the WWE Board.

For the first time since its inception, AEW no longer felt like the cool kids. They were still putting out good shows, but their booking has been spotty as of late. Rumors of backstage dissention and general unhappiness had run rampant, and Tony Khan looked to be a man on the verge of a mental breakdown. One needs look towards the build to this All Out show, which did not have a featured main event until the week before. As a result - not counting any of the Tony Khan-owned ROH shows and not counting the Forbidden Door PPV, which was a joint thing with New Japan Pro Wrestling - All Out 2022 was the first major AEW PPV that I skipped due to lack of interest, which seemed almost impossible three years earlier.

Then the media scrum happened... and we'll touch on that in a little bit, but first, the All Out PPV, which I was able to watch recently and... let's continue.

The show opened with the Casino Battle Royale - five wrestlers begin and every interval, a new set of five comes in until 20 men are in, with one last wrestler having drawn the "Joker" to come out. Said joker is an all-black garbed masked mystery man who would eventually win the match and the World title shot. Who is this Masked Jackal Fiend and what does this mean for the future of the company? The plot thickens.

The Elite (Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks) defeated Hangman Page and the Dark Order (John Silver & Alex Reynolds) to become the first AEW Trios Champions with Hangman accidentally hitting one of the Dark Order guys and Kenny getting the pin. Surprisingly fun little trios match; everyone involved were at the top of their game and even the Beaver Boys were elevated somewhat to a higher level working with top talent. The end result was never really in doubt, but the ride getting here was fun, at least.

 Accidentally or accidentally on purpose? The plot thickens, or does it? Kind of a moot point - more on that later.

TBS Champion Jade Cargill (who is supposed to be cosplaying as She-Hulk, which goes over the heads of the announcers who claim she's green because she's made of money... okay) defeated ATHENA to retain the title in a rather short match that saw Athena get a few licks in, but this was largely Jade being dominant, as she should be. Thank you.

Wardlow and FTR defeated Jay Lethal and the Motor City Machineguns of Impact Wrestling in a superb trios match that was followed by the return of SAMOA JOE, back from playing Sweet Tooth in the upcoming Twisted Metal movie... no, I am not making that up. Anyway, he scares off the jabronis and Sonjay Dutt somehow gets punked by one of the FTR guy's daughter, who pins Dutt while the ref counts. This eight-year-old girl is already a better worker than Gable Steveson... how controversial.

Powerhouse Hobbs defeated Ricky Starks in another short match. This was mostly to put over Hobbs as a monster and it seemed odd to make one of your rising stars the sacrificial lamb, but fortunately, Starks would bounce back from this lost.

AEW Tag Team Champions Swerve Strickland and Keith Lee defeated the Acclaimed (with Billy Gunn) in a fantastic tag match to retain the titles, much to the dismay of the crowd who booed the champ... not because they hated Swerve and Lee, but because they wanted to see the Acclaimed win the big one. Maybe they should've went ahead with it, but regardless, this was a fun match. Much like the trios titles, the Acclaimed got their stock raised by going up against the former NXT guys, who are great talents in their own right. People might gravitate towards the trios title match, but this was the match of the night in my book.

Thunder Rosa is out with a back injury, so she can't defend her Women's title. They'd do the whole interim thing with the Women's title, but Rosa would eventually forfeit the title, retroactively making this a proper Women's title match... as it should be.

Toni Storm defeated Britt Baker, Jamie Hayter, and Hikaru Shida to win the "I'm keeping the belt warm until Thunder Rosa comes back and then she can lose to me" interim vacant Women's Championship. Some turmoil tossed in, as Hayter tried to pin Storm, but Dr. Britt pulled the ref out. There's some trouble in the dental office, I'm sure. Otherwise, this was a perfectly fine match with four great talents in the ring. Hell, anything involving Shida is going to get a high grade in my book.

Luchasaurus turns on Jungle Boy, chokeslams him on the steel stage, allowing Christian Cage to get the quick win.  Yes, they turned the wrestling dinosaur heel and quite frankly, why wouldn't you? It was bound to happen sooner or fucking later. Apparently, Christian was suffering from a serious injury and that's why the match was short... honestly, I didn't mind this one. No point in prolonging the betrayal and it continues Christian's gimmick of earning the big pay days while doing the least amount of work... makes me wonder if he's been following the Kevin Nash playbook.

"Lionheart" Chris Jericho (complete with Electric Head music and old tights) defeated "American Dragon" Bryan Danielson with a low blow. I've heard people rag on this match being nowhere near as good as it was hyped up to be, but watching it myself, I have to say that this was more than fine. Jericho might have been in his best fit yet, but he's still part of the key NXT demo (50+) and naturally, you start to lose a step. It did what it needed to do and both guys played their parts exceptionally. I am not going to rag on this match; it was good enough for me. That said, it's time to give Danielson some fucking big wins because nobody wants to follow a loser no matter how good he is. I already got enough of that shit during his WWE run.

Darby Allin, Sting, and MIRO defeated the House of Black in what could be best described as your late night party match. Finish came when Malakai Black tried to kick Sting, Sting mists him in the face, Darby catches him in the Last Supper for the pin. For what is essentially a buffer match, this was a fun time. They gotta give Miro something to do, though. Either that, or sign his hot wife that he keeps fucking tease. It's not like she's got anything better to do these days.

CM Punk defeated AEW World Champion Jon Moxley to win back the title and give Moxley one of the few rare clean losses in his AEW run. I was largely conflicted here, because I honestly believed that there was enough mileage left for an extended Mox title run, but given what came afterwards, it made sense for Punk to win the title back in Chicago. I was also largely concerned about how they were going to make me care about a rematch following Punk's quick demise just two weeks prior, but at the end of the day, you've got two grimey bastards having a grimey match and it turned out to be a superb main event.

CM Punk's celebration is short-lived, as the lights go out, a phone message from Tony Khan airs in which he says he'll swallow his pride, ask mystery dude to come back, won't force an extension, and pay him blank dollars as his final offer, followed by a snippet of CM Punk's infamous Ring Of Honor promo about how the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was making the world think he didn't exist... and that devil turned out to be MJF, who comes out to a chorus of cheers (in CHICAGO, no less) before motioning for the belt and flipping off the crowd to end the show.

The PPV was done, but the festivities sure as shit weren't.

At the media scrums, CM Punk opened the show, addressing stories and allegations regarding his "involvement" with the disposition of Colt Cabana in AEW/ROH and a series of venom-laced tirades and quibbles directed toward Cobana, Hangman Page, and unnamed EVPs who need not be named because it's quite obvious he's referring to the Elite. This was followed by a backstage brawl between Punk and the Elite that has been much publicized, so I won't dive into details here. Long story short, all involved were suspended and both the World Title and the Trios titles would be vacated the following Wednesday, with Pac and the Lucha Bros winning the Trios titles and Jon Moxley (who was supposed to be on vacation) winning a tournament to become a three-time AEW World Champion.

Months later, the Elite are back on television, having won back the Trios titles that they never would've lost and CM Punk is nursing an injury while supposedly negotiating a buy-out of his contract that Tony Khan is none too inclined to give out of fear that Punk might jump ship to WWE. To say that his actions have tainted his reputation would be a bit of a stretch; Punk has always been outspoken about his beliefs and some would argue that the All Out incident was another example of that. One thing is certain; sooner or later, Punk is going to be fully healed from his injury and a decision would have to be made on whether he comes back or stays at home... and those at AEW aren't too keen on having the former champ back under any circumstances.

When people bring up All Out 2022, the only thing that people are going to remember is the post-show CM Punk tirade and the fight that followed. And in a way, it's a damn shame because the PPV itself was another great AEW PPV in a long line of them. Nowhere close to being one of their best shows, but still maintaining that level of quality consistent with the big time PPVs that this company puts out. The crowning of new champions should be newsworthy material alone, but instead gets overshadowed by the drama that followed. Not only that, but the previous night, WWE held their Clash At The Castle show in Wales and they churned out a spectacular PPV showing. And having gone back and watched (most of) it, I'd still call it the best show in the weekend, mostly because of GUNTHER vs. SHEAMUS, which remains the best WWE match of 2022.

My stance on Punk has since softened. I still consider the whole thing to be an utter embarrassment and maybe Punk should've found a better way to communicate his feelings, but if Punk were to come back tomorrow - provided he comes in with a clear head - I'd have no qualms about it. Whether that comes to fruition is another story entirely.

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