Wednesday, January 3, 2024

AEW Worlds End Review: Adam Cole is The Devil

2023 is now in the history books, and with it AEW's final PPV of the year, Worlds End.  It was a good show, not a great one as we've consistently come to expect from AEW PPVs, but a good one.  I'd say it was their weakest PPV offering of 2023 but to be fair, it had VERY stiff competition.  We were treated to multiple ****+ bouts but the show was missing that one match to get everyone talking.  Instead it had a huge title change and a memorable angle to close the show, and it'll be interesting to see how the company follows up on it all.

After three pre-show matches, the best of which was Hook vs. Wheeler Yuta, the show opened with the All-Star 8-Man Tag, pitting eight of the Continental Classic competitors against each other.  This was a very fun party match with eight great workers exchanging a ton of moves on each other.  It got plenty of time too, running almost 18 minutes and culminating in a big series of finishers before Daniel Garcia scored the pin on Jay Lethal.  The two BCC members Danielson and Claudio showed some respect for Garcia and I think it's time he joined their stable.  In other news, Brody King attacked Matt Menard on commentary after the match, so they must be setting something up there.  Really strong opener.  ****1/4

Next up was Andrade El Idolo's final AEW match, and as I suspected CJ Perry dumped him in favor of helping her husband.  These two worked hard and Andrade to his credit didn't phone anything in.  I do question why AEW booked him so strong in the CC tournament if they knew he was leaving; maybe they were trying to change his mind?  Anyway this went about 15 minutes and CJ put the kibosh on Andrade's Figure-Eight by sweeping his arms out from under him, allowing Miro to hit the mafia kick and Game Over for the submission win.  Solid match.  ***3/4
The Women's Title match was next and Toni Storm and Riho had a really good showing, with Toni striking a good balance between her character work and her in-ring acumen.  Riho was the underdog in peril who only made a real comeback in the third act, nearly stealing pinfalls and seemingly ready to defy the odds.  But Storm hit her with a Stormbreaker-like move to retain.  After the match Mariah May showered Toni with roses, furthering their storyline.  I liked this match a lot.  ****

Sadly the Swerve Strickland-Keith Lee match will have to wait even longer, as Lee was dealing with a nagging injury that kept him off the show.  In his place was Dustin Rhodes, whom Swerve attacked with a cinderblock pre-match (an odd move since Swerve has been getting huge babyface reactions of late), and Rhodes opted to wrestle him anyway.  Rhodes got in probably too much offense considering the kayfabe injury, but this match was pretty good.  Swerve finally put him down with multiple House Call kicks, an arm snap and the Swerve Stomp.  Let's get this guy ready for a title win at Revolution.  ***

The other 8-man was next, and while not as good as the opener it was also fun.  Everyone got their shit in and the right guy won to set up a Tag Team Title match later.  After a big climactic schmozz Sammy Guevara countered Ricky Starks' Roshambo into a GTH, followed by a shooting star press for the win.  ***1/2

Julia Hart vs. Abadon received poor reviews but I thought it was pretty good.  There was a ton of interference from Skye Blue near the end but both wrestlers worked hard during the match.  It boiled down to Abadon's offense being too much for Julia alone, and Abadon was protected with the finish.  Skye Blue rammed them into the ring steps and rolled them back into the ring for Julia's moonsault, which unfortunately didn't hit right.  But Julia got the pin anyway.  This was the weakest match on the show but not bad.  **3/4

Things really picked up with the final three matches, starting with Christian Cage vs. Adam Copeland in a wild, 25-minute war that went into the crowd and involved lots of plunder.  Nick Wayne got involved a lot and paid for it in the end, taking a powerbomb through a flaming table, or rather ON it, as Copeland overshot the mark slightly and Nick bounced off the table and hit the floor.  Cage tried to beat Copeland with his own finish but in the end it was Copeland stealing Cage's finisher to win the title.  But then came the plot twist to resolve the issue I mentioned in my preview - Copeland needed to win the match but Cage needed to leave the building with the title.  On the pre-show there was a battle royal for a TNT Title shot at any time, a la Money in the Bank.  Killswitch won that match as I expected and then ran down after this one, destroying Copeland with multiple chokeslams, and declaring his cash-in.  But Cage intercepted him and whispered something in his ear that convinced him to bequeath his contract to Cage.  Cage signed the contract and used Copeland's own spear on him to regain the belt.  Cage continues to be one of the best heels in the business and this was the right booking for this situation.  ****1/2

The Match of the Night honors goes to Jon Moxley vs. Eddie Kingston in the CC final.  These two went to absolute war as expected, exchanging suplexes, strikes, headbutts and every other legal move.  Shockingly this wasn't a bloodbath, but the violence was plenty intense on its own.  It was a war of attrition as the 18-minute match culminated in a striking battle, before Kingston hit a backfist out of nowhere to get the win and the three belts.  With that, Eddie Kingston defeated all three BCC members in the tourney.  This was great.  ****1/2

The main event was of course the MJF-Samoa Joe title match, which was very good but nowhere near their Grand Slam outing.  Max had to wrestle with a legit shoulder injury and that played into the story.  Adam Cole accompanied MJF at ringside and he too played into the match.  After a very uphill battle Max countered a Coquina Clutch by accidentally ramming Joe into the referee, then hit a low blow and an F5 for a nearfall.  Max went to get his diamond ring from Cole, but Cole couldn't find it in time, and Joe locked in the choke again.  Max's arm dropped once, twice, three times, and the wind left the Long Island crowd's sails as they sat in stunned disbelief, Samoa Joe having ended MJF's year-plus title run in his hometown.  Post-match Cole went to check on Max but the Devil's goons appeared and dragged him away.  Max regained his senses and both Max and Cole begged the henchmen to hit them with a chair.  The lights went out and when they came back up, Cole was sitting in the chair flanked by the henchmen, revealing himself to indeed be the Devil.  The goons took off their masks to reveal Roddy Strong, Matt Taven, Mike Bennett, and Wardlow (though a few weeks ago there were two additional guys, what happened to them?).  Max was devastated, and Wardlow powerbombed him to end the show.  ****

So yeah, a down ending to be sure, to a PPV that never quite reached the high standard AEW has set.  But Worlds End was still a worthy night of wrestling with big implications for the new year.  MJF will take time off to heal, Samoa Joe will be a dominant heel champion for a while, and Adam Cole has some 'splainin' to do.

Best Match: Jon Moxley vs. Eddie Kingston
Worst Match: Julia Hart vs. Abadon
What I'd Change: I'd have probably booked an angle with Swerve and Lee to explain Lee's inability to compete.
Most Disappointing Match: I guess the main event but it was still very good.
Most Pleasant Surprise: That Christian got to leave Worlds End as TNT Champ after all.
Overall Rating: 8/10

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