This Sunday it's the most anticipated AEW PPV of to date - get ready for the third edition of All Out!
Man, is this show stacked. Sadly one of the matches I was most excited about, Pac vs. Andrade, is off the show due to "travel issues," but that doesn't change the fact that All Out 2021 has PPV of the Year potential. Omega vs. Christian, while far from the biggest AEW Title match we've seen, should be fantastic. Bucks vs. Lucha Bros in the cage should be absolutely blowaway amazing (though I'm sad Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus didn't get this spot; I was hoping for them to win the straps because I really like those two). Chris Jericho vs. MJF in the final blowoff to their months-long feud should be great, dramatic, character-driven storytelling. And of course, CM Punk. I realize I haven't said much about one of the most long-awaited returns in wrestling history. I've been a CM Punk fan since 2003 when I went to see a local Ring of Honor show and watched this loudmouthed young upstart and Raven beat the shit out of each other in a Raven's Rules match. Immediately the guy grabbed my attention with his unique look and very obvious gift for cutting a promo. Along with Samoa Joe, AJ Styles and Bryan Danielson, CM Punk was one of that generation's elite indie stars, who got themselves over without any marketing machine behind them. He got over because he knew how to connect with the fans, and that gift followed him to WWE, where despite the already out-of-touch Vince McMahon not seeing dollar signs in the scruffy, tattooed star, Punk became the hottest commodity in the industry for a while. It's been a full decade since his legendary "pipe bomb" promo, but watching his return on the August 20th Rampage you'd think no time had passed at all. Punk's hometown crowd was absolutely explosive for his return, greeting their hero with one of the most nuclear pops I've ever seen. Working off the cuff (what a refreshing concept), Punk did not disappoint, cutting an all-time great, heartfelt promo that almost served as the flipside of his infamous WWE pipe bomb. Instead of a disgruntled, fed up, underappreciated workhorse whose company had all but thrown him overboard, we saw an emotionally fulfilled, returning icon, genuinely grateful for a chance at rebirth, in a company where his prodigious talents will be treasured instead of overlooked. To say this moment was satisfying isn't doing it justice. This promo felt like a vindication for every CM Punk fan WWE failed for so many years. More than that, for every wrestler and wrestling fan WWE attempted to program into thinking there's only one way to make a superstar. AEW has made it clear they value heart, work ethic, and love for the business over a bodybuilder's physique. And that's what pro wrestling should always be about.
Okay, enough blathering. Let's pick some winners....
Pre-Show Ten-Man Tag: Jurassic Express & Best Friends vs. Matt Hardy, Private Party & TH2
This should be a fun clusterfuck. I'm glad to see Jungle Boy, Luchasaurus and Orange Cassidy getting something to do on this show, even if it's not on the PPV proper. I was fully convinced AEW had set up the Tag Team Eliminator for a steel cage match as a way to give JE another shot at the Bucks, since they had the titles won if not for Elite interference. It just seemed like the right time to pull the trigger on Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus; they're a mega-over babyface tag team. I get putting Lucha Bros in there instead, as the match will be unbelievable, but Fenix and Penta have something else going on with Andrade, and don't have the underdog babyface appeal like JE. Maybe the company has something bigger planned for JE or whomever finally dethrones Matt and Nick. Anyway, this match should be fun. That's all I'm trying to say.
Pick: I'll go with the good guys to win here
Women's Casino Battle Royale
This was meant for the pre-show originally but with Pac-Andrade off the card it's been moved to the main card. This has to be the most stacked women's battle royal in company history thus far, with two (so far) former champions and numerous up-and-comers. We have two TBD slots thus far, one of which could be Riho and the other I'm banking on being the former Ruby Riott. I don't think either of them wins here but you never know. The 19 announced names are Nyla Rose, Thunder Rosa, The Bunny, Big Swole, Julia Hart, Tay Conti, Diamante, Penelope Ford, Red Velvet, Hikaru Shida, Emi Sakura, Jade Cargill, Kiera Hogan, Abadon (YES!), Leyla Hirsch, KiLynn King, Rebel, Jamie Hayter, and the returning Anna Jay. Solid lineup there. If you narrow it down to realistic winners I'd go with Nyla, Thunder, Shida, Sakura, Jade, one of Britt's friends, or a TBD. I'd say of those options Thunder Rosa is the most likely since the company obviously needs to follow up on their stellar hardcore match from a few months back. Then again, you probably want to save Baker-Rosa II for Full Gear. So maybe Riho ends up being one of the TBDs, wins this and gets a TV match. I guess I'll go with Riho if she's there, Rosa if she's not.
***UPDATE: Riho was just announced as one of the two TBDs, so she's my pick.***
***UPDATE: Riho was just announced as one of the two TBDs, so she's my pick.***
Paul Wight vs. QT Marshall
This is obviously going to be a squash, and they did a beatdown segment on Dynamite to sow doubt as to whether Wight can even show up on Sunday. But I see this as a knockout punch/chokeslam situation just to make a feelgood moment. Marshall isn't really a guy you push hard anyway so it doesn't matter if he gets crushed here. Wight is on this show to try and attract more lapsed fans. He's the world's biggest memba berry.
Jon Moxley vs. Satoshi Kojima
I was a little disappointed this didn't turn out to be either Tanahashi or Minoru Suzuki, but a motivated Kojima should be able to have a fine match with Moxley. This won't go super long I don't think; it's an appetizer for Moxley to eventually face the two aforementioned guys, particularly Tanahashi. NJPW is really beefing up their US presence at long last, so Moxley will obviously be heavily involved there and we'll get a slew of fun crossovers. There's no question that Moxley is winning this one.
TNT Championship: Miro vs. Eddie Kingston
Miro has been oddly absent from most shows lately, considering the TNT Champion is usually a frequent defender. He needs a real feud to keep him fresh in everyone's mind, and right now Eddie Kingston is a decent fit. He's tough as nails and can take a Miro-level beating without being squashed. I don't see Eddie winning here but he'll be Miro's toughest challenge since capturing the title.
Pick: Miro retains
AEW Women's Championship: Britt Baker vs. Kris Statlander
This one should be pretty strong. Baker and Statlander can both go, Baker is one of the most over stars in the company, and Kris is super likable. Again, I don't see a title change anytime soon in this division, nor should there be one; Baker is an amazing anti-hero. But the match should be enjoyable.
Pick: Britt retains
Chris Jericho vs. MJF
It's all come to this. The Inner Circle vs. The Pinnacle war that's raged for roughly the last six months is down to the two leaders facing off one-on-one, with Chris Jericho's career on the line. MJF has three wins over his former mentor, which will ultimately be a sort of protection for the fact that he's going to come up short this time. Jericho obviously isn't retiring just yet, and what I would do is have Wardlow attempt to interfere in the match only for it to backfire, thus serving as the catalyst for the long-teased MJF-Wardlow feud. MJF can stand to lose here since he got a clean tapout win over Jericho a few weeks ago, and setting up a new high-profile feud for him ultimately makes him the winner even in a loss. Should be a pretty great match.
AEW Tag Team Championship: The Young Bucks vs. The Lucha Bros
This week's Dynamite did a tremendous job of selling the idea of the steel cage. Since AEW hardly ever does these matches, the cage feels important, dangerous, and most of all, impenetrable. Like an old school wrestling promotion, AEW has correctly booked the gimmick so the cage is a last resort to keep the heels from bringing their friends in to help them cheat. WWE long ago forgot the whole point of steel cages and that's why WWE cage matches no longer have any meaning. But this one does. The Bucks and the Luchas make magic anytime they're in the ring together, and if you need a refresher, just rewatch their ladder match from two years ago. The Lucha Bros won that round, but I think the Bucks will probably find a way to retain here. I think it should be more or less a clean win so the power of the steel cage remains intact; nothing undermines a cage match like a screwjob finish where someone manages to get inside (or outside for that matter). Give the Bucks a win over their longtime rivals and then go to work setting up either Santana & Ortiz or Jurassic Express as the eventual babyface champions.
Pick: Bucks retain
AEW World Championship: Kenny Omega vs. Christian Cage
Another match that's been set up beautifully is this one. Three weeks ago Christian Cage defeated Kenny for the Impact Championship, thus making him look like a more than credible challenger and also raising the stakes so this becomes a champion vs. champion match (Yes I know the Impact Title isn't up for grabs but it still adds some prestige when the challenger also happens be a champion). Their match on the inaugural episode of Rampage was quite good, but I think this will blow it out of the water as they'll have much more time to work with. This can be Christian's defining AEW match while further establishing Omega as a beater of worlds. And in the aftermath, perhaps we'll see an American Dragon show up to declare himself the next in line....
Pick: Omega retains
CM Punk vs. Darby Allin
Usually I'm against the idea of a non-title match getting top billing over the championship, but in this case it makes sense. Christian Cage isn't a mega marquee challenger, nor will anyone in Chicago get the kind of heat for their match like CM Punk will. Save this one for last and watch the building come unglued. Punk is out to prove he still has it after being away seven years, while Darby is out to create a young-career-defining match and moment. There's no way Punk loses here; it's his debut in his hometown. But he'll make Darby look like a future World Champion even in a loss. This PPV may feel a bit like piling on, in terms of three ex-WWE guys getting big wins over three homegrown AEW stars. But there really isn't any other way to book those bouts. Wight kinda has to beat QT, Jericho definitely needs to beat MJF unless he really is retiring, and Punk absolutely has to win in his debut. Ten years after his career-defining win over John Cena in Chicago, CM Punk will hopefully have another career-defining match here. This should be excellent.
Well, I'm excited. AEW has never felt hotter as a product than they are right now, and there's more exciting stuff still to come. This fall is shaping up to be one of the most fun wrestling seasons I can remember. Let's just enjoy the ride....
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