All Elite Wrestling has its first-ever world champion.
Following his win over “Hangman” Adam Page at All Out, Chris Jericho now adds to his legacy by becoming the first to wear AEW gold.
Covered in blood, Jericho finished off Page with his Judas Effect finisher, ending a match that ran long but could have gone either way. Ultimately, AEW officials elected to build their television premiere around Jericho—one of the most established names in wrestling—by naming him their champion.
An entire highlight reel took place during the “Escalera De La Muerte” ladder match between the Young Bucks and the team of Pentagon and Fenix. Kenny Omega also shined in defeat, while Cody Rhodes gained some redemption against Shawn Spears. The card did not feature a surprise to end the show, and the absence of Jon Moxley, who is recovering from a staph infection, was noticeable.
Considering that NXT will air directly opposite AEW on Wednesday nights, it was only fitting that the NXT brand also stole some of the headlines during this holiday weekend with its NXT UK show earlier in the day on Saturday.
The NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff show was spectacular, with star performances from WALTER and main roster staple Cesaro.
The decision to use Cesaro on the NXT UK card is a sample of what we are likely to see on Wednesday nights. WWE employs the single most talented roster in all of professional wrestling, and Vince McMahon and Paul Levesque are going to ensure that talent is spread out, especially on the NXT television show on the USA Network. Name value helps win ratings, and WWE’s plan is to employ its varied pieces to establish dominance in the Wednesday ratings battle. It’s a brilliant move, as this also allows hungry talent another opportunity to excel in front of a massive audience.
If you cannot decide which product you enjoy most, lean on the words of wrestling prophet CM Punk. Saturday afternoon, amidst some of the most sublime wrestling in the world, Punk dazzled the audience during his Starrcast Q&A with PWInsider’s Mike Johnson, who was also excellent.
Punk touched on the major topic in wrestling, including the ensuing NXT-AEW battle on Wednesday nights, reminding listeners that they should enjoy the plethora of wrestling in front of us: “Don’t let them trick you into thinking it’s ‘Us vs. Them,’ whether it’s WWE, AEW, NXT. You can f------ watch it all, and that’s rad.”
Here are the results of AEW’s All Out:
• Nyla Rose won the Casino Battle Royale on the preshow, securing a spot in the October 2 match to decide the first-ever AEW women’s champion
• Private Party defeated Angelico and Jack Evans on the preshow
• SCU defeated the Jurassic Express in the opening match of the main card
• PAC defeated Kenny Omega by submission when the referee called for the bell
• Jimmy Havoc defeated Joey Janela and Darby Allin in a Cracker Barrel Clash
• Evil Order defeated the Best Friends to earn a first-round bye in the AEW tag team title tournament
• Riho defeated Hikaru Shida and will now challenge Nyla Rose in a televised match in October to determine the first AEW women’s champ
• Cody Rhodes defeated Shawn Spears
• Pentagon and Fenix defeated the Young Bucks in an “Escalera De La Muerte” match to retain the AAA world tag team titles
• Chris Jericho defeated “Hangman” Adam Page to become the first-ever AEW world champion
And here are my takeaways from a standout Labor Day wrestling weekend:
1. The world title belongs to Chris Jericho.
At 48, Jericho has certainly aged, though he knows how to make the most of a match. The main event was not quite on the level of a WWE pay per view, as Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan or AJ Styles all would have produced a far better match, but a critical component of AEW is offering an alternative to WWE, and this was not a match typically seen in WWE.
Page is not ready for his world title run, and the incoming competition from NXT forced AEW to readjust and run with Jericho as their inaugural champ. Jericho has considerable name value, and he can help build interest and anticipation for the TNT debut on October 2 in ways that Page simply cannot.
With Jericho walking out with the belt, I couldn’t help but think of Jericho’s tweet this past May about Brock Lesnar winning the Money in the Bank ladder match.
Jericho was obviously playing the heel in that tweet, but it is worth noting that Lesnar is six years younger—and keeps his matches far shorter than Jericho, enhancing his strengths and hiding his weaknesses, though he benefits from the fact that he wrestles an entirely different style than Jericho.
2. Kenny Omega shined in defeat, but an argument can be made that dropping another pay per view match, this time to PAC, is the wrong decision.
Omega is now winless on AEW pay per views, after first losing the main event of Double or Nothing this past May to Jericho. But he was protected in the defeat, never tapping out—the referee called for the bell when it was evident that Omega couldn’t break the submission.
The focus for Omega remains his feud with Jon Moxley, which is another match that the former IWGP heavyweight champion is likely to lose. It is an interesting approach to take with Omega, who stands in rarified ground as one of the most talented wrestlers in the world and the only member of the AEW roster who was the heavyweight champ for New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Had Omega signed with WWE and lost in his first two pay per view matches, the reaction from the fan base would have been overwhelming. Yet that is where we are with Omega in AEW. On the plus side, Omega will have ready-made challengers when he eventually wins the AEW world title. But, it is a peculiar way to introduce one of the biggest stars in wrestling.
3. Cody Rhodes defeated Shawn Spears, earning some redemption after taking a chair shot to the head from Spears in the build to the match.
Rhodes chose MJF to be his cornerman, but there was no heel turn. Arn Anderson made his AEW debut to drop a spinebuster on Spears, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense just yet, considering Tully Blanchard—who was in Spears’s corner—was Anderson’s longtime tag partner.
Blanchard walked out after Anderson left, which also needs to be explained, and it will be interesting to see how this story is extended.
4. The AEW women’s division is beginning to have some clarity, as Nyla Rose won the Casino Battle Royale, punching her ticket to the first-ever title match, which will take place on the October 2 television premiere on TNT.
Rose will be challenged by the 22-year-old Riho, who defeated Hikaru Shida, despite the majority of the crowd behind Shida.
This sets up a clash of styles between the 98-pound Riho and the powerful Rose.
Riho started wrestling at the age of 9, and she is a star in the Japanese women’s wrestling scene. Omega is a big proponent of her work, and she is still wrestling with Stardom, Japan’s premiere women’s wrestling promotion.
If AEW decides to go with Riho as its first champ, she will become the standard-bearer for women’s wrestling in the company. While she is not yet on the level of Shayna Baszler, who is the NXT women’s champion, Riho would be a good building block for the division as the inaugural champ.
5. Pentagon and Fenix defeated the Young Bucks to retain the AAA world tag team titles in an “Escalera De La Muerte” match, more familiar in the U.S. as a ladder match.
The athleticism, adjustments and offense in the match were spectacular. The Double Cutter sequence, the frog splashes off the ladder onto the tables, and Pentagon’s Canadian Destroyer to Matt Jackson off a ladder and onto a table was the most spectacular highlight of the encounter.
There was no heel turn, although Jackson came close when he unmasked Pentagon. But the story intensified when two masked men—covering their faces with masks of Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy—revealed themselves to be Santana and Ortiz.
Santana and Ortiz were EYFBO on the indies and part of LAX during their recent run in Impact, and their arrival adds a tremendous amount of depth to the tag division—as well as sets up the potential for an amazing triple threat between the Bucks, Santana and Ortiz, and Pentagon and Fenix at the next AEW pay per view on November 9.
6. The NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff also needs to be mentioned, particularly the performance by WALTER in the main event.
WALTER was once one of wrestling’s best underground secrets. But that is no longer the case in the summer of 2019.
The current wrestling landscape is short on heavyweights, but WALTER possesses every necessary quality to restore order for big men in the business. His 42-minute victory over Tyler Bate is requisite watching, with intense psychology that tied to WALTER abusing Bate’s past injuries, bullying the babyface to the point where the sympathy for Bate from the crowd was nearly palpable.
WALTER finished off Bate with a lariat that would make Stan Hansen proud, capping off an extraordinary closing sequence to the best match of the wrestling-heavy weekend.
7. Cesaro also issued an open challenge, which was answered by Ilja Dragunov. They delivered the type of physical, hard-hitting fight that is somewhat foreign to WWE programming. Dragunov starred in defeat, and hopefully this leads to Cesaro battling the monstrous WALTER.
I wouldn’t be shocked to see that match take place some Wednesday night on the USA Network...
8. New Japan also had a show in the United Kingdom. Kazuchika Okada successfully defended his IWGP heavyweight championship against Minoru Suzuki in the main event, and the push continued for newly-returned Kenta, who defeated Tomohiro Ishii to win the NEVER Openweight title.
The show featured the signature wrestling that makes New Japan the worldwide leader for in-ring work, but was short on buzz, especially compared to AEW and NXT.
9. Another integral part of a memorable Saturday in wrestling was the CM Punk interview at Starrcast that aired on FITE TV.
PWInsider’s Mike Johnson did a tremendous job hosting the interview, in which Punk was clear that he is content in his current place away from WWE, unaware of the current storylines and behind-the-scenes happenings. “I don’t miss it because I think I did enough with it and I had such a good career,” Punk told Johnson. “I think I had a pretty good career, I don’t think there is anything left I need to accomplish.”
Some fantastic stories were shared, including a “sliver of time” where a match against Steve Austin could have taken place. Punk also shared phenomenal stories about Harley Race, Tony Atlas, incredibly funny impressions of John Laurinaitis and Michael Hayes, and a crowd-pleasing exchange where Punk expressed his shock that WWE gave time off to Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch to celebrate their honeymoon. He also discussed his trilogy of matches in Ring of Honor with Samoa Joe (“I’m super proud of Ring of Honor,” said Punk. “We made it a destination.”), and shared fascinating insight to the WrestleMania 29 buildup for his match against The Undertaker.
Punk touched on the perpetual disconnect with Vince McMahon (“It was always a fight. That’s the juice for Vince. But I don’t think he ever understood me... he never got me. Triple H never got me, either.”), but also touched on his highlights in WWE. If McMahon or Levesque ever calls, Punk explained that he wouldn’t refuse the call.
Ultimately, the Q&A served as a poignant reminder that Punk’s absence has created a void in the wrestling world. Very few possess that type of charisma or talent, and it will be interesting to see if WWE or AEW pursue Punk this fall.
10. AEW and NXT combined for a memorable Saturday of pro wrestling.
The difference in approach by the two companies was stark, with AEW running eight matches on their main card to NXT’s six.
All Out ran long—including the pre-show, clocking in just under five hours—and sorely missed Jon Moxley, but AEW accomplished its mission to provide an engaging alternative. Running with Jericho as the inaugural world champ is a fascinating choice, as he will forever be branded a WWE legend, but it was the correct call going into a television battle against NXT.
Incredibly, All Out and TakeOver: Cardiff are only the starting point. The race resumes on October 2, though WWE jumps to a head start with its NXT television debut on September 18.
Let the battle begin.