In the realm of modern professional wrestling, if there’s been one tag team that is impossible to avoid, it’s the Young Bucks. For most of us, the Young Bucks have been unavoidable. They’ve wrestled everywhere, save for WWE, and have amassed a huge following from both their in-ring action and their comedic YouTube videos. Hell, I still remember their dad posting photos of them on popular wrestling message boards in the early 00s, claiming they would be the next big thing, which the mods always deleted or pushed said posts to spam folders.
If anything, the Young Bucks are inevitable.
While immensely skilled and talented, there have been lingering doubts as to whether or not they’ve lived up to the constant praise and adulation for them because, as good as their matches are, they’re supposedly missing an obscure piece of the pro wrestling puzzle that makes a complete package. At All Out 2021, with their match against the Lucha Brothers, everything changed. This was far from their first meeting with the Lucha Brothers, with both teams meeting eight times prior in tag matches with only one of those matches not for a world title. Yet, there was something here that made this match connect better and had me sitting at home, being loud, watching a wrestling match for the first time in ages.
The champs are looking great and using the cage to their advantage.
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) September 6, 2021
So what was this dark alchemy at play?
There’s a lot, because this match had so much going for it, but what made it stand out from the other meetings between the two pairs was the Young Bucks have embraced being characters. They’re heels now, and not just the bratty heels we knew from PWG and NJPW before this very long, overwrought face run when AEW started and they couldn’t be anything but. No, now they’re characters.
Operating on memory alone, a lot of past Bucks matches have been about parity. It’s the old your move-my move format, including long finishing runs that see both teams trade nearfalls and throw everything in their arsenal out before the three count. This was not that formula anymore. Instead, the Young Bucks have been in the midst of a heel run where they’re mugging for the cameras, doing a lot of the dastardly tactics they used when they were younger, but have also learned an invaluable lesson from those years in the ring: the audience wants to see the villains get their comeuppance with the heroes overcoming the odds. That means there needs to be insurmountable odds, foul play and something for the heroes to overcome.
Two equally matched teams in a match where they’re on a level playing field can be exciting, but makes it a lot more difficult to get the same level of emotional attachment from an audience, especially when doing this for years. The Young Bucks have been doing this for years, which has led to the overwrought matches where the spots need to keep flowing to keep the audience cheering. But these two teams had something special in their previous matches and that history allowed for a rather straight-forward storyline of the big baddies being the champions and holding a tournament to see who they face, feel special.
The Lucha Brothers’ Moment
To even get to this point, the Lucha Brothers had to overcome the odds of a tournament, while the Young Bucks sat in their director’s chairs at the top of the ramp with Cutler and his cold spray, Callis and his pink suit, all sending the clear message they’d stacked the deck regardless of who wins. The arrogant, privileged white boys were hamming it up and didn’t believe they could lose, even when AEW announced it would be a steel cage match in an attempt to even the odds for the challengers.
Not that the Bucks are not giving when it comes to working against other teams in the ring, because it’s untrue. They give everyone they work with ample space to hit their spots and look great, but when they themselves are always there, trading move-for-move with them, it can have diminishing returns. Be it matches with the Lucha Brothers, the Golden Lovers or Hangman/Omega, the idea of parity was always there, where anyone could win because they were evenly matched.
This heel run has let them explore matches where the odds aren’t always even, and after a run as champions willing to break the rules, it’s built up different expectations for what Young Bucks matches are like. All of this built to All Out, where a ninth meeting between the two teams was going to be difficult to innovate in, even within a new setting of a steel cage.
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Right away, the flow was different. We already know both teams are equally skilled, but they built this match around Rey Fenix as the star and everyone else as the supporting players. Rey Fenix always does amazing, jaw-dropping stuff, but as soon as the spot with Rey doing the chest slap-rope walk gimmick saw Nick Jackson create the parity we’re used to, only for Fenix to without hesitation leap into a frankensteiner, it was obvious: this match was different.
— TDE Wrestling (@tde_gif) September 6, 2021
The Lucha Brothers getting an incredible live entrance already felt special and the way the storyline had been progressing it was very clear the faces had to go over the heels, or else AEW was in a dark place that wrestling promotions where people with power get to book themselves as champions can’t let go of that spotlight tend to go. Still, the longer the match progressed, the clearer it was that Rey Fenix was the star. Even his brother, the undeniable fan favorite Penta El Zero Miedo, was there to facilitate the big spots featuring his brother. Instead of running through their spots, the Bucks focused on slowing the pacing and bringing the dread into the match that they are and always will be inevitable. This meant the thumbtack shoe spots and grinding down the faces, allowing everyone to become embroiled in the match not as a spectacle, but a piece of storytelling between four masters in the ring, not hitting their stride as athletes, but hitting their stride as storytellers.
Matt Jackson is wild for this ????
— B/R Wrestling (@BRWrestling) September 6, 2021
We’ve seen it happen before with plenty of popular wrestlers; that brilliant lightbulb moment when they transition from the realm of great workers to great workers who are also skilled storytellers. Would Roman Reigns be where he is today if it wasn’t for those incredible matches with AJ Styles, a guy that, upon entering NJPW, realized he needed to become a storyteller and grew exponentially? Or Kenny Omega, who could do nothing wrong in the eyes of fans, but understood there were diminishing returns in just having excellent matches, transitioned to emotionally heavier stories. Hell, even Cody Rhodes, who never was on the same level of workrate darling as his cohorts, but embraced the storytelling and saw himself worthy of the spot he found himself in.
If the Young Bucks are indeed inevitable, it’s a good thing they’ve embraced their inevitability and create compelling wrestling with it. At All Out we got to see the genesis of the Young Bucks; wrestlers who’ve always had great athletic matches, who now understand how to have great athletic matches with the emotional resonance they’ve always wanted to be present.