There is so much on the line in Chicago on Saturday with AEW’s final PPV before its TV debut.
All Elite Wrestling’s “All Out” pay-per-view takes place on Saturday night at the Sears Centre Arena in Chicago, Illinois. The show holds massive importance to the future of the promotion, and it serves as the final AEW pay per view before its weekly live television program on TNT starts on Wednesday, Oct. 2.
AEW is led by executive vice presidents Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, and the Young Bucks’ Matt and Nick Jackson. Since AEW’s creation, this quartet has proven that they can create a product that wrestling fans will embrace. AEW’s first pay per view—“Double or Nothing” in May—was an exciting card that peaked in its final three matches, all of which featured those EVPs, then delivered a massive surprise at the end with the shocking debut of Jon Moxley.
But there are a whole new set of expectations and outside circumstances surrounding this Saturday’s All Out.
AEW is now blessed with the burden of higher expectations.
For anyone who has followed the careers of Rhodes, Omega, or the Bucks, then you know that this is exactly what they have hungered for: a bigger stage, their own platform, full attention from the eyes of the wrestling world. The rest of the roster now needs to step up to meet these increased expectations, as AEW has a dangerous new rival.
NXT’s announcement that they will air a live program every Wednesday night on the USA Network is a major hindrance to AEW. Competition should bring out the best in each company, but the underlying question for AEW is whether they have the resources to compete directly against a Vince McMahon-owned entity.
AEW has a talented roster, but NXT has exponentially more leverage through WWE’s main roster. Having once been on the losing end of a ratings war with WCW, NXT boss Paul “Triple H” Levesque knows how important it will be for public perception to win the weekly ratings. So if Daniel Bryan appears on NXT to taunt Johnny Gargano, AJ Styles stops by for a segment and a main event match against Matt Riddle, or Bayley shows up to challenge Shayna Baszler, then there is no doubt who is going to capture that night’s ratings battle between NXT and AEW.
An even more pressing question is whether AEW can stick to its long-term booking philosophies now that NXT will air opposite them on Wednesday nights. That is a question that will begin to be answered, especially in the main event, this Saturday at All Out.
Here are my top five questions regarding tomorrow’s All Out:
1. Who will be AEW’s first world champ?
Chris Jericho and “Hangman” Adam Page will wrestle in the All Out main event to decide the first-ever AEW world champion.
This match will be the first indication as to whether AEW adjusts their creative plans now that their head-to-head battle against NXT is official.
The plan was always to give Page the platform and opportunity to become a star. When the Young Bucks first connected with Page in Ring of Honor, they quickly became his most influential supporters. They helped him redefine his look, which is now incredible, and to Page’s credit, he has also worked nonstop to improve in the ring.
Page wrestled Kip Sabian at July’s Fight for the Fallen in a match that just didn’t work. It went too long and neither came away looking like more of a star at the end of the match than they did at the beginning. It’s only one match, and Page is still on the course to stardom, but how much will it factor into the decision of who to book as the company’s first world champion?
Is Page ready to consistently deliver under such an intense spotlight? The argument can be made to wait, even until AEW’s return to Chicago in November on Thanksgiving eve, to make him champ.
Opposite Page is the legendary Chris Jericho, who needs no introduction.
Jericho provides a name value and cachet that few others in the business will ever possess. At the age of 48, he is still capable of working an entertaining and engaging style in the ring, bringing out the best in his opponents while also cutting some of the best promos in wrestling.
Jericho has wrestled all over the world. But perception is reality, and he will forever be viewed as a WWE star. This isn’t a negative—Jericho’s work in WWE will stand the test of time—but does AEW want their first champ to be someone so closely attached to their rival company?
With uncertainty surrounding AEW’s first world champion, the company should look to Kenny Omega to fill that spot.
Omega is in a rare group. Alongside Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, and Kazuchika Okada, he is one of the top wrestlers in the world. Omega is also the rare commodity where his matches somehow exceed all their immense hype, and he did that consistently in his transcendent run with New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Personally, I would include Omega in the world title match, making it a triple threat. That can be achieved through a promo early in the show where Jericho calls out anyone on the roster, and Omega answers. Omega can also defeat PAC earlier in the card, or lose to PAC, setting up a future match for the belt.
Putting the belt on Omega, who is not a WWE guy, will add an entirely different element to the AEW vs. NXT battle.
No matter who wears the NXT belt, keeping up with Omega will be a challenge.
2. Will The Young Bucks turn heel?
The Young Bucks are one of wrestling’s most popular tag teams.
Matt and Nick Jackson are charismatic, talented, and visionaries when it comes to the business of professional wrestling. But as much as people want to love them, they can also make people love to hate them.
Cody Rhodes’s story with Shawn Spears is expected to extend beyond All Out, and Rhodes is clearly defined as the protagonist in that story. AEW needs more industry-defining heels, and there is no one better for that spot than the Bucks. In many ways, they are the closest resemblance to The Outsiders (Kevin Nash and Scott Hall). Nash, for what it is worth, was the Bucks’ biggest advocate during their failed run TNA where the executives had no faith in their ability to draw as stars. Clearly, much has changed since then.
The Bucks are fully capable of pulling off cocky, arrogant heels, and a turn to the dark side at All Out will add even more longevity to their feud with Pentagon and Fenix, who they wrestle in a ladder match this Saturday.
A heel turn by the Bucks is essential for the plethora of teams in the tag division, particularly Chuck Taylor and Trent Beretta, SCU, Angelico and Jack Evans, Private Party, the team of Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus, and even Pentagon and Fenix. A story is much better with a villain, and few can play that role better than the Bucks.
The Dark Order has not been able to capture the attention of the crowd in AEW’s tag division, but there is no doubt that people would want to watch teams attempt to take the belts away from the Bucks.
3. Who will lead the women’s division?
AEW received some great news when Britt Baker was recently given clearance to return to the ring following a concussion she suffered in July.
Baker wrestles in the Casino Battle Royale at All Out, which also includes Brandi Rhodes, Allie, Awesome Kong, Nyla Rose, and Teal Piper, the daughter of the late “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
The winner receives a match for the AEW women’s title on the October 2 television debut on TNT, and Baker as champion would immediately add value to the women’s belt.
Baker is a tremendous babyface in the ring, able to withstand a bigger opponent’s arsenal and win over the crowd in the process. And she is a popular babyface, which is especially hard to do in the current era of pro wrestling.
AEW should build the entire division around Baker, or surprise viewers and crown Hikaru Shida as their inaugural champ.
Shida is an immensely talented 10-year veteran, but largely unknown to the American audience. She will have the chance to win over wrestling fans when she wrestles Riho in a singles match at All Out—which stands out as one of the more important matches for the broadcast team, as they need to highlight Shida’s vast significance within the world of pro wrestling.
The battle royal format, at least for me, is too cluttered, and I wish that AEW would have done something different here to highlight the women.
The men’s battle royal at Double or Nothing struggled to tell multiple stories, which is a byproduct of the nature of these matches—there is simply too much going on at once. It’s too bad that there wasn’t a way to pick six or eight women, have them wrestle in a gauntlet match (which would be a great way to highlight Baker, especially with commentary telling her story), or have a 10-woman battle royal that ended with the final three competitors wrestling in an old-school, ECW style triple threat where the match turns into a singles contest after the first person is eliminated.
With NXT competing against AEW on Wednesday nights, it should be noted that the NXT women’s champ is Shayna Baszler, one the most impressive wrestlers in the entire industry. AEW would offer an exciting alternative with either Baker or Shida as the first champ.
4. Who are AEW’s emerging stars?
This is an eye and ear test.
Listening to the crowd at AEW’s summer shows, especially July’s Fight for the Fallen, there was no doubt that the crowd was enamored with the team of Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus.
Jungle Boy, who is the son of the late Luke Perry, teams in a six-man at All Out with Luchasaurus and Marko Stunt against SCU.
Any backstage segments that were set for the Librarians, which have failed to interest the majority of fans, should be given to Perry and his massive masked friend.
Perry is a star in the making as Jungle Boy, and Luchasaurus is Austin Matelson, who wrestled for NXT under the name Judas Devlin. Standing a legitimate 6'5", Luchasaurus is one of AEW’s more intimidating figures, especially with mask and mystery surrounding him.
But there should be no mystery surrounding Perry. We need time to hear him speak, share a piece of his story, then take a pin fall win over Christopher Daniels in the six-man tag.
If the Young Bucks turn heel at All Out, the perfect team to chase them is Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus.
5. Will there be a major surprise?
If CM Punk isn’t walking through that curtain, AEW needs a surprise or two for All Out.
Sources close to Impact Wrestling revealed to Sports Illustrated that Impact is working on a deal to include newly-signed Tenille Dashwood as a surprise entrant in the Casino Battle Royale match. Impact has a roster overflowing with talented wrestlers, so exposure of any kind—particularly during All Out—is a major benefit for the company.
PAC was originally slated to be a surprise at All Out, but he was called into action following the news that Jon Moxley was unavailable due to a staph infection. Losing Moxley is a huge blow to the card, as he is the most popular star in the company and brings with him a ridiculous amount of fans from his time in WWE.
The match pitting Cody Rhodes against Shawn Spears will include a surprise, which AEW already teased on social media.
There are plenty of options for Rhodes’ cornerman, but as the comments from that Twitter post indicate, a popular choice is Arn Anderson, whose former tag team partner, Tully Blanchard, is already in Spears’ corner.
I keep thinking back to Dusty Rhodes’ iconic promo from July of 1994, where he reunited with oldest son Dustin in WCW. Dusty said, “Arn Anderson, my son offered up his innocence and you paid him back in scorn. The hell with you, Arn Anderson.”
There are few better wrestling historians in the game than Cody Rhodes, and her certainly knows that promo inside and out—it perfectly describes Cody in 2019—and even referenced it when he asked Dustin to be his tag partner following their signature match at Double or Nothing.
Or could it be MJF? A heel turn on Cody by his so-called best friend could result in a new Four Horseman-type faction led by MJF.
Fair or not, viewers will be waiting for a surprise following the main event.
The timing is perfect for AEW to remind the wrestling world that, unlike WWE, their content is more than an alternative; it is also unpredictable. There is no better way to do that than end the show with a surprise appearance from someone few expect.