All Out was a professional wrestling event full of entertaining wrestling. That’s the goal, right? It was a fun five hours. All Elite Wrestling is clearly still finding its footing in terms of airing events, but almost all of the problems I had with their fourth show were on the production side of things. I wouldn’t even go as far as calling the show a “mixed bag.” Everything in the bag was good, but there were some issues with the bag itself. With excellent wrestling, delightful surprise appearances, unexpected finishes, thumbtacks, biscuits, and a real live horse, All Out was brimming with things I liked.
Nyla Rose wins the Casino Battle Royale for a Women’s Championship Match
AEW’s women’s division is one of their biggest advantages over the company they’re hoping to rival. Where WWE is tasked with making up for years and years of cookie cutter blonde babes and a straight-to-video sex comedy gaze, AEW’s was founded with what feels like genuine affection for women’s wrestling. This battle royale may not have been the tidiest, most workratey thing I’ve ever seen, but it reflected that affection.
From 45 year old Jazz (ECW, NWA) to 38 year old Faby Apache (AAA) to 22 year old Priscilla Kelly, there was a lot of variation among the 21 battle royale entrants. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen women’s wrestling show such a wide range of ages, sizes, styles, backgrounds and levels of polish on such a big (American) stage. That ended up being more than enough to keep me invested until enough women were eliminated for the in-ring work to get consistently good. It was admittedly frustrating to see wrestlers I really like get eliminated so quickly, but I’d rather that than not see them at all.
While technically Nyla Rose’s victory was assisted by an angry Bea Priestley, after wrecking shop for a little over twenty minutes, the win felt well-earned. Rose will wrestle for the AEW Women’s Championship (which is gorgeous, by the way!) on AEW’s first episode of television..
Standouts: Nyla Rose, Big Swole, Mercedes Martinez (please sign her!)
Bottom line: Messy but endearing, an improvement over Double or Nothing’s battle royale, deserved more time than they were given.
Private Party defeats Jack Evans & Angélico
Private Party and Los Güeros del Cielo (AEW isn’t calling them that, but I like tag team names!) put on a perfectly fun ten minute opening preshow match. Evans and Angélico continue to exude pure shithead energy on a truly impressive level. I don’t know if I’ve ever wanted to punch anyone as much as I want to punch Angélico when he makes his ring entrance. Private Party did a lot of cool moves, but I didn’t get as much from them personality-wise as I had in their last match at Fyter Fest. I’m still quite impressed by them though! Evans and Angélico attacked Marq Quen and Isaiah Kassidy after a fake-out handshake, which, yeah, that’s how that should go. Those dudes are dirtbags.
Bottom line: Fun warm-up!
SCU defeats The Jurassic Express
There is something inherently satisfying about seeing Luchasaurus, who is tall, team up with Jungle Boy and Marko Stunt, who are small. Yes, it helps a lot that they’re good at wrestling and pretty charismatic and have figured out moves for the three of them to do together. But like… enormous, kind Dinosaur Man who does flips and dives and takes care of his friends, who are very small? I can’t explain it. They did this amazing three man team-up move that ended in a DDT. In that moment, I felt like an awestruck five year old looking at the coolest thing that had ever happened. I want to be able to vape that feeling.
SCU were also there. I have nothing to say about them. They were good. They’re always good. No offense to SCU but like… dinosaur man and his small friends. The match ruled. If you didn’t watch it, you should watch it. I think it promotes serotonin production or something.
Bottom line: I would die for the team of Luchasaurus, Jungle Boy and Marko Stunt.
PAC defeats Kenny Omega
I had a great time with Kenny Omega’s first meeting with PAC. PAC is a long-time favorite of mine, and it’s wonderful to see him back in the United States. These two went for it, giving their all in an exciting battle that mixed high-flying with hitting each other really hard, which are two of my favorite things. I was able to enjoy it at home, but I think a lot got lost through iffy camera work and editing. I’ve seen both of these performers live and televised, and their energy just didn’t come through. The impressive moves didn’t have much in the way of visual impact. PAC won via referee stoppage after putting Kenny Omega in a submission move that looked cool? I think? I have no idea what it was or how it worked because I simply couldn’t see it well enough.
Bottom line: A great match filmed poorly.
Cracker Barrel Clash: Jimmy Havoc defeats Joey Janela and Darby Allin
Having Cracker Barrel sponsor a street fight between three dudes who are mostly famous for loving to do crazy violent bullshit, with branded barrels and food from the restaurant present? This was the single most genius concept on the whole card. This is the future of wrestling. This is the future of brand engagement. You know what makes me want to eat fluffy buttermilk biscuits now? Seeing a sickly looking British emo get taped to a chair and have thumbtacks poured into his mouth. That’s a whole other level of marketing.
Jimmy Havoc won the match and Joey Janela was his usual leering, charming self, but it was a Darby Allin showcase. Allin did an ollie off the top turnbuckle onto Joey Janela’s back with my all-time favorite weapon, the thumbtack-covered skateboard. He also smashed a barrel into the ring steps trying and failing to hit Jimmy Havoc with a coffin drop. The guy is a star.
Bottom line: Stupid, violent and completely absurd on every level. I loved it.
The Dark Order defeats Best Friends
This match that I was really looking forward to was done a real disservice by its placement on the card. How do you follow the PPV debut of the thumbtack skateboard with a normal tag team match? It was pretty good and pretty fun, with excellent Trent suffering and solid in-ring work all around. But the crowd seemed to lose interest after their initial “spooky perverts” chant, and it just didn’t quite connect. It was very similar to the match I saw and loved at PWG, but a dead crowd combined with more of that iffy camera work was a lot to overcome.
The real highlight was after the finish, when Chuck and Trent were saved from an unsportsmanly beatdown by Orange Cassidy. The crowd seemed to love it too.
Bottom line: Production and card placement made it very hard for this to succeed. Good to see Orange Cassidy though!
Riho defeats Hikaru Shida for a Women’s Championship Match
Riho and Hikaru Shida put on an excellent match. It was exciting, athletic, well-paced, cool, engaging, and worthy of being the first women’s singles match on a AEW Pay Per View. They both just came across as total badasses! At one point, Hikaru Shida slapped a giant foam hand clean off of a fan’s arm. I don’t know if it was an overly aggressive high five or a rude move, but I loved it.
I am delighted that we’ll be seeing Riho versus Nyla Rose next month to decide the first AEW Women’s Champion.
Commentary really soured what was otherwise a fabulous match. Hearing Jim Ross patronizingly call both Riho and Hikaru Shida “little lady” (probably because he forgot their names) was unbearable.
Bottom line: This women’s division is looking more and more like one of the most exciting things AEW has to offer. Commentary needs to be able to reflect that.
Commentary: you hate to hear it
Everyone has bad nights. I have a lot of bad nights. Jim Ross seems to have exclusively bad nights, peppered with moments of competence and sometimes almost charm.
I foolishly blamed the affably clumsy Alex Marvez for Double or Nothing’s commentary failure, but maybe he was just a decoy? (Actually, no, he was pretty bad.) All Out’s commentary was atrocious. Goldenboy and Excalibur did fine together during the preshow, but during the main, it all fell apart. Maybe it’s another thing where if we give them time, maybe they’ll be better. It’s a big, big maybe.
I’ve been pretty nice to Jim Ross in my prior reviews because I wanted to give him a chance. That chance has been given. Sometimes Ross is able to come up with fun stuff (like when he called Darby Allin a varmint that one time) and he and Excalibur are able to forge a shaky kind of rapport that is just shy of charming. If JR is tired or cranky, however, the whole thing collapses. When I was entertained by the commentary at All Out, it was because I was laughing at a tired old man making mistakes at his job. That’s really not a habit I’m trying to cultivate in myself.
Bottom line: I think Jim Ross is too inconsistent to be doing this job. He bogs down the whole commentary team, which bogs down the entire product.
Music: you hate to hear it
Speaking of things that are bad for the ears, AEW’s music situation is dire. With the exception of the entrance songs wrestlers brought with them from outside, all of the music used was generic, poorly composed, poorly produced, and just generally lacking in elements one looks for in a wrestling entrance song. They manage to be both incredibly grating and completely forgettable. Fortunately, that’s probably pretty fixable. Right?
Bottom line: AEW’s music sucks. Maybe everyone should just come out to Judas. That song bangs.
Cody defeats Shawn Spears
What does “good” mean?
I’m serious. Like, what is a good wrestling match? It’s subjective, right? The only consistent metric I’ve been able to set in this whole “wrestling review” thing is the question of how I felt watching it. Was I engaged? Did I feel something visceral? It doesn’t matter if I’m excited, horrified, grossed out, heartbroken, laughing or just sincerely invested in who wins. As long as I’m feeling something strongly that isn’t boredom or annoyance, I have to consider what I’m watching to be somewhat successful.
Was Cody vs Shawn Spears a good wrestling match? Fuck if I know. Here is what I do know: Cody entered with an entourage consisting of his wife Brandi, his emotional support husky Pharaoh, Diamond Dallas Page, and MJF… all in varying levels of Star Trek Voyager cosplay. Brandi was fully decked out in a Seven of Nine jumpsuit. Cody had a sleeveless Janeway shirt on over his wrestling tights. I want to emphasize here that Cody and Brandi cosplayed as Captain Kathryn Janeway and Seven of Nine for a huge wrestling show for no comprehensible reason other than that they like Star Trek Voyager. As a lifelong femslash shipper and dork, I am moved beyond words by this gesture of allyship. (Please do Xena and Gabrielle next year!)
What happened after that? I’m not really sure. Tully Blanchard interfered so much that Arn Anderson came running out to deliver a spinebuster to Shawn Spears? I think the match itself was probably not that great, but I did experience visceral emotions for the whole thing. I can’t really ask for anything else.
Bottom line: My two favorite things to see in wrestling, excessive copyright infringement and old man interference, turned a pretty whatever match into a fever dream of “why is this happening!?”
AAA Tag Team Championship: Lucha Bros (c) defeat The Young Bucks
See, this is why I give the Young Bucks so much shit for being self-indulgent and annoying. When they reign it in, they are so fun, so entertaining, and feel worthy of some of the hype that surrounds them. I loved this match. The crazy high spots were impressive, but they had room to breathe. The obviously choreographed moments where the teams would do things at the exact same time were few enough in number that they felt fun, not corny.
They got the crowd to cheer for the Lucha Bros, which is what should happen. The Lucha Bros won, which is what should happen. When they were jumped after the match by two men in presidential masks, it was LAX, which is what should happen. (Check out LAX and the Lucha Bros’ prior matches if you can. They are fabulous together.) Even the entrance outfits were cool. I have no complaints.
Bottom line: Solid ladder match with everyone playing to their strengths. I can’t wait to see more of LAX.
AEW World Championship: Chris Jericho defeats Hangman Page
Hangman Page rode to the ring on an actual horse, wearing jewel encrusted chaps over his wrestling trunks. His parents and wife were ringside. We’re supposed to want him to win, but as talented as he is, it’s not enough to get him as over with the crowd as a figure like Chris Jericho.
Chris Jericho is not a young workrate guy anymore, but that is not going to stop him from being a powerfully entertaining performer with incredible star power. It’s hard to write a review of the first ever AEW Championship match without considering the absolute rollercoaster thrillride Jericho’s title reign has been so far. From his post-match verbal attack on everyone in AEW including a container of olives to losing the title while eating steak to announcing a manhunt for the title from his hot tub, these four days have done more to establish a new championship than I could have possibly imagined.
Page and Jericho had a watchable, entertaining match, but a major match against a big star prior to this one would have made a huge difference in solidifying Hangman Page as a contender worth caring about.
Bottom line: The match was just okay and suffered from a shaky lead-up, but I dare you to say Chris Jericho shouldn’t be champion.
Between a rock and a hard place
All Elite Wrestling hasn’t really found its aesthetic yet. That said, All Out had glimpses into something batshit, messy and spectacular. Cody vs Shawn Spears, the Cracker Barrel Clash, and Hangman Page riding an actual horse to the ring in sparkling chaps were all aesthetic triumphs. The Best Friends entrance animation is perfect. Luchasaurus is perfect. I’m not saying AEW’s branding and staging need to be as out there as the wrestlers themselves, but they need to create a physical space and visual language to contextualize the unique weirdness of the professional wrestling being shown.
It’s hard for a 4-5 hour show to feel cohesive without a strong point of view holding it together. Especially when the production team is still figuring out the intricacies of picking the right shots and angles at the right times for a live televised wrestling show, it ends up being kind of exhausting to watch.
Funnily enough, the only thing that came close to holding All Out together was all the crowd shots. While technically a context, “men aged 18-50 love t-shirts and giving us money” isn’t terribly compelling. Everything else was a disjointed combination of slick, gorgeous video packages, clumsy live production and generically masculine graphic design.
AEW is in an unenviable position in terms of image. The Elite (The Young Bucks, Cody Rhodes and Kenny Omega) got a huge chunk of their momentum with a YouTube show they shot on iPhones and edited themselves. They’re self-styled revolutionaries, representing the little guys of indy wrestling, saying “fuck you” to the McMahon wrestling hegemony. Their stated intentions of rivaling WWE in popularity and dominance are backed by one of professional sports’ most formidable billionaire families. They have an upcoming weekly show on basic cable that will run opposite NXT. That show will have to deliver a product that’s both slick enough for national television and big enough to feel like a proper rival to the corporate behemoth. But they also have to maintain some of their scrappy underdog charm, the rough edges and humble roots that make them the company you want to cheer for. While still projecting success and swagger? It’s a seemingly impossible list of conditions to meet.
Bottom line: Trying to embody too many opposing concepts at once may explain why so many production elements feel either generic or disjointed.
I don’t want to end my review on a low note, so I will say this: All Elite Wrestling is doing something incredibly ambitious, very publicly and on a very short timeframe. All Out managed to be consistently fun and entertaining in spite of glaring problems big enough that they should have ruined the whole show. If and when AEW gets these things squared away, they will be unstoppable.