Fyter Fest, All Elite Wrestling’s second ever show was last night, and it was pretty fun. Some of the kinks from Double or Nothing seemed to have been ironed out, making it a smoother viewing experience. At the same time, there were some actual bad matches, which Double or Nothing had none of. Commentary, which I was very critical of in my last review, was a lot less painful, but still not quite where it needs to be. Still, I had a good time watching!
They kept most of the Fyre Fest parody stuff in the preshow, and there wasn’t a ton of it. It didn’t entirely land for me, but it seems like the diehard Being the Elite fans enjoyed it. I do wonder what backstage promos, etc. are going to look like when they start up on TNT in the fall.
The Buy-In: Private Party vs Best Friends vs SCU
This high energy threeway tag match was the perfect thing to get the night started off right with some excitement and momentum. First time viewers were given a good sense of who these teams are and the in-ring style they can look forward to in AEW. A solid chunk of the AEW audience is already familiar with Best Friends and SCU from Ring of Honor, New Japan and the indies, but this is the first most are seeing of Private Party as a tag team. Marq Quen and Isaiah Kassidy really delivered; they were charming, easy to cheer for, and worked great in the ring with the two more experienced teams. Plus Mar Quen wrestled most of the match with sunglasses on. He looks like someone’s Fifth Element OC but also cool enough to pull it off? I love it.
The Best Friends won the match and a guaranteed spot at All Out. The Dark Order skyped in? Facetimed in? I don’t know. They showed up in black and white on the Titantron with all their shirtless goons to threaten the Best Friends, then some goons showed up and surrounded the ring and disappeared. I’m into it!
The Buy-In: Leva Bates w/ Peter Avalon vs Allie
AEW seems to be testing the old saying about posting cringe, because the rest of this preshow was thoroughly, thoroughly cringe. Yes, the opening tag match was a good opener, but a good opener needs to be followed by something that carries the momentum it started. That didn’t happen. At all.
Back in April, Being the Elite did a thing where they were looking to cast a character called the Librarian for All Elite Wrestling. The Young Bucks gave the job to Peter Avalon, while Cody gave it to Leva Bates. So now they are both the Librarian. Being the Librarian means they just say “shhhh” a lot.
Let’s not mince words: it’s bad. It’s embarrassing to watch, unpleasant to experience, and not entertaining or funny in any way. It’s also disrespectful to librarians, honestly. At one point, Leva Bates scolded the audience and told them to stop reading manga and comics and start reading regular books. The librarians I encounter are either glad that anyone is reading anything at all or are just trying to get people to stop jacking off in the stacks. Librarians are fine with manga, which I know because my library has a ton of manga. Shoutout to the Los Angeles Public Library!
(It was pretty funny when everyone chanted “I can’t read,” though.)
Anyways, Leva Bates had a match with Allie. I’ve seen Allie a few times and have always really enjoyed it. This was pretty bad. I just kept wondering: why don’t they just not do this? Allie is wrestling Brandi Rhodes at Fight for the Fallen in two weeks. I hope there are no more librarians by then.
All Elite Wrestling
The Buy-In: Alex Jebailey vs Michael Nakazawa (Hardcore Match)
Maybe they did all that Librarian stuff to make fighting game tournament CEO guy Alex Jebailey’s first ever wrestling match seem better and less embarrassing in comparison. It worked. I was actually impressed by some of the stuff Jebailey, a non-wrestler, was able to do. Was it intensely corny? Yes. Was it good? I mean, no. Was it good by any stretch of the imagination? Listen, okay, I can stretch my imagination really far. They did some nonsense with a kiddy pool and a thong and video game controllers. I’m not made of stone. I had brief moments of fun, which is a huge compliment for me to give a guy vanity booking himself to look cool in front of all his friends at the wrestling show at his fighting games convention, which is maybe the least cool thing a person could possibly do.
Christopher Daniels vs CIMA
I wouldn’t call Daniels and CIMA facing each other again only a month after their teams wrestled (in the same spot on the card) at Double or Nothing stale, exactly, but it’s not fresh either. I need some stakes here if I’m going to watch these two very talented performers who are no longer physically in their prime wrestle each other again. That said, these are two men who know how to do their jobs and engage a crowd. It wasn’t badly structured or wrestled or performed, but I wasn’t given a reason to care. There’s not much else to say about it. They were given this spot to put on an okay match and warm the crowd back up, and they more or less did.
CIMA won, which was cool! He said something about Kenny Omega to the camera on his way backstage, and I gather they have a match at Fight for the Fallen? Was that the stipulation for this match with Daniels and I just missed it? It would have been nice for those stakes to be more clear.
Riho vs Nyla Rose vs Yuka Sakazaki
This match did just about everything I wanted it to do! It gave us more of Yuka Sakazaki, who I already know I love. It showed us what a powerhouse badass Nyla Rose is, and it let Riho really get some time in the spotlight after she was kind of overshadowed in the 8-woman tag at Double or Nothing. (The double stomps! The successive pin breaks! Riho!) Even referee Aubrey Edwards, whose viral dancing ref video got Gloria Estefan’s attention earlier in the month, did a great job. (Should more dancers become referees? They have the right background in physical storytelling. Just a thought!) Nyla Rose did this jumping knee from the top turnbuckle thing that looked just so brutal and weird and cool. She really impressed me in this match, getting to do several classic hoss moves to the much smaller Riho and Sakazaki.
The wrestling itself wasn’t perfectly crisp, and there was one noticeable mistake, but the match was structured and paced in such an engaging way that it didn’t really matter. The characters were well-established and they made me care! Riho pinning Nyla Rose with a quick roll-up to win was a complete surprise to me. I thought for sure it would be Rose or Sakazaki (the clear fan favorite.) Yuka Sakazaki’s sad little face when she lost broke my heart in the best way
The AEW women’s division is panning out to be something really exciting and unlike anything else out there right now. My only real complaint is that the way Jim Ross talks about women makes me dissociate. I did laugh though when it sounded like he said that every woman on the roster is his daughter.
Hangman Adam Page vs MJF vs Jungle Boy vs Jimmy Havoc
This fourway to determine Kip Sabian’s opponent at Fight for the Fallen made up for being very okay by also being pretty fun to watch. I’m really not sure why I’m watching Jimmy Havoc wrestle a regular wrestling match in a ring again unless it’s just to stare at his hair.
Actually, can we talk about Jimmy Havoc’s hair for a second? I’m kind of obsessed with Jimmy Havoc’s hair. Watching men try to cover up their bald spots and receding hairlines with outlandish hairstyles is one of the great joys of pro wrestling. What Jimmy Havoc has opted to do is have most of his head shaved except for an emo-combover-bangs-swoop that hangs over his face. But you can easily see the demarkation between the hair he’s shaved off and his bald spot. It’s almost like he’s saying “fuck you, I didn’t need that hair anyways.” It’s fantastic.
My other match highlights were Jungle Boy working with Luchasaurus, a friendship that I find truly heartwarming and joyful, and that’s about it. The clear story here is the hatred between MJF and Hangman Page, which they did a good job with. Hangman Page won, but I’m sure MJF will find a way to involve himself in his match against Sabian in two weeks.
Cody vs Darby Allin: Sk8er Boi tragically upstaged by head trauma
I wanted to like this so badly. I mean, Darby Allin brought a body bag to the ring and took some really wild looking bumps, suffering beautifully! Darby was great but Cody? It boggles my mind that a performer capable of such sexual menace and puckish cruelty chooses to be boring rather than hot. It’s not like Darby Allin won’t give him something to work with. He’s constantly getting his hands duct taped together and he’s obsessed with pain!
The astonishing lack of horniness aside, it just wasn’t crazy enough to get away with not making sense, and it didn’t. The narrative they went with is that Cody was taking this huge risk in wrestling an unhinged weirdo like Allin so soon before his big match against the Young Bucks at Fight for the Fallen in two weeks, right? But Darby Allin did most of the suffering and bumping here. As the bigger, stronger competitor, who had the entire crowd behind him, his wife present, and his usual bad attitude in the ring, Cody didn’t once feel like an underdog.
The finish, a time limit draw, was only a technicality. Referee Aubrey Edwards was less than half a second away from getting to three in her count and declaring Cody the winner. It didn’t seem to serve any purpose to Cody’s story, unless they’re going to do a whole thing about what? How he’s bad at time management?
The worst part was that when something reckless and violent did happen, it wasn’t Darby Allin doing a crazy dive or bringing out the thumbtack skateboard. It wasn’t even anything cool. It was the tremendously bland Shawn Spears hitting Cody in the head with a metal chair and messing it up.
Jim Ross ended up being the one to make this whole thing watchable for me. From calling Allin a varmint to saying “Darby Allin may be a lot of things, and I don’t know what they are,” at least commentary was a real treat.
The Elite vs Lucha Bros & Laredo Kid: Gamer rights!
Kenny Omega wrestled at a fighting game tournament. Of course he had a Street Fighter inspired entrance! Flanked by Matt Jackson as Ryu and Nick Jackson as Ken, Kenny Omega came out doing an Akuma cosplay. They also did hadoukens in the second half of match, a move Kenny Omega used to do, but phased out once he became a “serious wrestler.”
Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks are all at their best when they’re not being strictly “serious wrestlers.” They’re at their best when they’re not pretending to be cool. This is the Elite I like to see: moving fast, having fun and balancing goofy, silly stuff with exciting wrestling. Watching this match reminded me why I ever bought a Young Bucks shirt in the first place. Pentagon and Fénix are always impossibly cool, but the way Penta stopped the momentum of the match to really revel in taunting Kenny Omega? That’s what star power looks like, folks. Pentagon commands attention with a confidence unrivaled by anyone else I’ve seen in AEW. (Maybe Moxley? Ooh, Penta vs Moxley…)
Pentagon, Laredo Kid and Fénix teamed up beautifully. Laredo Kid took full advantage of the opportunities he was given to shine and really continues to impress me every time I see him. It all just worked, flowing nicely, fast-paced, but not too fast-paced to keep track of, and competitive. I had a great time. It’s as simple as that. Kenny Omega won the match for his team, and actually looked like he enjoyed himself. I miss that. (Also, Kenny vs Laredo Kid when?)
Joey Janela vs Jon Moxley: Barbed wire, thumbtacks and feet!?
If you couldn’t tell from my card preview, this was the match I was the most excited about. There was a lot to like here: great chemistry, Janela hitting Mox with a fan’s prosthetic leg within the first few minutes of the match, barbed wire, tables, ladders… I mean, Jon Moxley took Joey Janela’s boots and socks off, and then dropped him repeatedly into a bunch of thumb tacks. Joey Janela got thumbtacks IN his bare feet! (Which, by the way, looked really clean and unharmed by the world. He probably got a pedicure.)
I found myself wondering, while I was watching these two guys punish themselves for my entertainment, is deathmatch-adjacent stuff like thumbtacks and barbed wire less gross-feeling with such professional lighting and production values? I did end up getting that good, visceral nauseated joy at the thumbtacks in the feet, but barbed wire usually messes me up more than that! Maybe my tolerance for gnarly wrestling shit is getting too high. Maybe I’m a ghoul now.
But that’s not a real critique, just introspection. I enjoyed this a lot. It wasn’t everything I hoped it would be, but I was hoping they were going to full on fuck in the bathroom of a condemned Arby’s full of asbestos. That probably wasn’t going to happen.
Moxley won, and was quickly attacked by Kenny Omega, getting his revenge for Moxley’s attack at Double or Nothing. It’s a joy to watch Mox take such pleasure in performing. I really look forward to seeing them wrestle each other at All Out.