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The quest to crown an interim AEW world champion kicked off Wednesday night on Dynamite with a royal battle to determine the competitor who would battle Jon Moxley in the night’s main event.
The man to emerge victoriously would then head to Forbidden Door on June 26 to square off with either Hiroshi Tanahashi or Hirooki Goto to crown the new titleholder.
Who left this week’s TBS broadcast with their arms raised in victory, one step closer to the (interim) ultimate prize in professional wrestling?
Find out now with this recap of the June 8 episode of AEW’s flagship show.
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Who would challenge Moxley in the night’s main event, a shot at becoming an interim AEW world champion at stake? We found early in Wednesday’s broadcast as the Casino Battle Royale to determine Moxley’s opponent kicked off the evening.
Darby Allin, Daniel Garcia, “Murderhawk Madman” Lance Archer, Eddie Kingston and Tony Nese, kicked off the match. Ricky Starks, Jake Hager, Rey Fenix, Swerve Strickland, and Keith Lee arrived on the scene next.
The Dark Order’s John Silver, The Acclaimed’s Max Caster, Konoske Takeshita and The Gun Club (Austin and Colten Gunn) entered next. Dante Martin, Wheeler Yuta, Powerhouse Hobbs and RedDragon (Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish) rounded out the four card-themed suits.
Andrade El Idolo returned after a few weeks off, entering the match as The Joker to complete the collection of combatants.
The so-so battle royal took too long to get started, with talent packing the ring before rapid-fire eliminations ensued. Once the field is thinned, things got better, with more room and opportunity to do more really enhancing the action.
Still, it took a bit too long to get to that point before O’Reilly scored the win to continue his recent string of victories and set up what should be a damn good main event against Moxley later in the show.
A damn physical one, too.
- Ring announcer Justin Roberts revealed the match to be a Casino Battle Royale, with a different collection of competitors entering in intervals. This twist, usually reserved for pay-per-view, was not announced ahead of the show.
- Strickland eliminated Lee to add credibility to the “every man for himself” theme of the match type.
- Caster took credit for CM Punk’s broken foot during his pre-match rap.
- Yuta as the second-to-last competitor elevated his stock and teased the possibility of a Blackpool Combat Club-heavy main event.
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Prior to the next match, a video package aired hyping the introduction of the AEW All Atlantic Championship. The revelation came with several mentions of AEW’s success in the United Kingdom by Jim Ross, Tony Schiavone and Excalibur as Death Triangle’s Pac battled The House of Black’s Buddy Matthews.
A hugely competitive match that wowed fans with raw athleticism and extraordinary in-ring content, it saw Pac overcome the challenge of a Matthews game to deliver the Black Arrow and score the win.
There is certainly an argument to be made that Matthews should not be losing this early into his run but The House of Black has been so oddly and inconsistently booked that it really is no surprise at this point that they drop these seemingly random matches just enough to prevent them from ever gaining any real momentum.
Excalibur revealed that Penta Oscuro will battle Malakai Black in the opposite side of the tournament bracket for the newly introduced title, ensuring the feud between the two factions continues.
- The introduction of a new singles title when the anticipation is more than there for a trios title was an interesting move by Tony Khan.
- The House of Black appeared after the match, checkin on Matthews. Julia Hart was, oddly enough, not sporting the eye makeup that was so prominently on display back at Double or Nothing. It was an uncharacteristic lack of continuity on the part of the heel faction.
- After the match, Eddie Kingston cut a promo backstage challenging Jake Hager to a match on Rampage, the result of the enforcer of the Jericho Appreciation Society eliminating him in the opening battle royal.
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Trent Beretta spoke on the disappointment of not having his friends by his side on National Best Friend Day before issuing a challenge to FTR on behalf of him and tag team partner Rocky Romero. The Ring of Honor tag team champions hit the ring and admitted that they did not beat Roppongi Vice.
Before the promo could go any further, Will Ospreay made him first AEW appearance, providing a distraction that allowed associates Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis to attack Beretta. The heels laid out Beretta and stood tall.
The arrival of Ospreay was a stunner, his status as one of the world’s most renowned professional wrestlers undeniable. The crowd popped for his debut but the overall reaction felt somewhat disappointing. Perhaps that can be attributed to poor mic’ing of the crowd but maybe, the issue is the lack of familiarity on the part of the audience with the current New Japan Pro-Wrestling product.
Whatever the case may be, Ospreay’s appearance is a big deal and whatever he takes part in come Forbidden Door on June 26 will absolutely be one of the most noteworthy segments of that pay-per-view.
From that, the show transitioned into the hard-hitting showdown between former world champion “Hangman” Adam Page and New Japan’s David Finlay.
Second-generation star Finlay shook off an ugly landing off a tope suicide by his opponent to seize control of the bout. The always resilient (fought his way back into the contest, overcoming an injured knee to do so. He ultimately overcame the challenge of Finlay and put him down with the Buckshot Lariat.
After the match, challenged New Japan’s Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Championship, only to be interrupted by Adam Cole. Cole said he should be the one to challenge Okada, calling himself the “new franchise player.” A tense stardown concluded the segment.
The match itself was fantastic. And Finlay threw heavy lumber in between the former selling the knee and the finishing sequence. “Winning was inevitable but everything that preceded that was excellent.
The idea of Page challenging Okada is extremely appealing. The potential of yet another showdown between Page and Cole to get us there is… not. Been there, done that, bought the pay-per-view. And watched on Rampage.
The Punk situation may have factored into the decision to head in that direction but there has to be something better to keep the two busy than revisiting a feud that was already overexposed in the first place.
C + for Ospreay’s attack; B for the Page-Finlay match
- Cole’s disdain for while commentary was a nice bit of continuity given their months-long rivalry.
- After the match, he said there is a lot he would like to say about the AEW Championship but he is going to wait for that. Instead, he announced his desire to challenge Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Championship at Forbidden Door.
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During an in-ring promo, Wardlow expressed his desire to challenge for the TNT Championship, dismayed by the title’s treatment throughout the Sammy Guevara-Scorpio Sky nonsense of the last couple of months.
Sky sought to answer the challenge but cooler heads (and Dan Lambert) prevailed. The segment set the table for the championship encounter and, given the fact that it does not appear that AEW officials have any interest in pushing Wardlow to top of the card this early in his babyface run, there are far worse ways to utilize him than by feuding with a grizzled pro like Sky.
Even if that potentially means ending Sky’s run with the title just as it is getting started. Again.
After the break, Thunder Rosa made another defense of her AEW Women’s Championship, battling “The Problem” Marina Shafir.
The challenger took to the mat in her attempt to dethrone Rosa, working her mat skills and stretching the champion in search of a submission victory. The double-tough champion fought through the onslaught of her opponent, fired off her strike-based offense and scored the pinfall victory with a rollup.
After the match, Toni Storm hit the ring to save Rosa from a sneak attack at the hands of Shafir.
This was a huge improvement for Shafir over her previous title opportunity against Jade Cargill but it is clear that she is still in need of these high-profile reps. Sure, she trained in NXT and has appeared in indie matches and AEW Dark matches, but she needs the opportunity to compete regularly in front of the television cameras and fans to really build confidence and a connection with the audience.
She was solid in this outing and showed flashes of potential, but it was clear there was considerable distance between her and Rosa’s in-ring abilities at this point.
The tease for Storm vs. Rosa was great. It is a dream match for many fans and the sort of babyface vs. babyface match we have not gotten nearly enough from the AEW women’s division over the years.
B for the Wardlow promo; C + for Rosa vs. Shafir
- Lambert talking Sky down was a great bit as it appears the leader of the American Top Team knows exactly what will happen if Sky haphazardly accepts the challenge.
- There was something about the look of Shafir flashed after the match, her face adorning the paint of her oppnent as she stared up at the victor, that made for a great visual.
- Equally as great was Storm holding the AEW women’s title and looking down at the woman she saved, an acknowledgment that she did the right thing tonight but that does not cloud her desire to hold the gold.
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The main event of Wednesday’s show saw Casino Battle Royale winner Kyle O’Reilly battle Jon Moxley, the winner to head to Forbidden Door on June 26 to battle either Hiroshi Tanahashi or Hirooki Goto for the interim AEW world title.
William Regal joined the commentary team for the match.
O’Reilly dropped a knee on the exposed left leg of Moxley, wrestling control away from the former world champion entering the final break of the night. Moxley turned the tide back in his favor with a modified superplex, then engaged O’Reilly in an exchange of strikes.
The punishing, physical battle between double-tough opponents featured some extraordinarily hard-hitting strikes and quality reversals en route to Moxley rocking his opponent with a Regal-influenced knee and putting him away with the Paradigm Shift for the pinfall victory.
From the moment it was revealed that O’Reilly would be battling Moxley, fans knew to expect a certain level of physicality and this one delivered. The only issue is with the convoluted setup of the interim AEW title scenario.
Moxley and O’Reilly beat the ever-loving hell out of each other, the former suffering what appeared to be a potentially broken nose. They were not fighting for the AEW title, though, just the opportunity to fight one of two guys that do not work there, have no history with the promotion nor have ever wrestled a single match in a Tony Khan-owned ring.
In trying to find a solution for the curveball that is CM Punk’s injury, Khan and the rest of AEW management overthought the entire ordeal rather than just letting the company’s top stars battle it out for the interim title.
Sure, Moxley Vs. Tanahashi or Goto is going to be awesome but sometimes, a dream match on paper does not make a logical and sensible solution make.
One other small issue? The overpacked nature of Dynamite over the last two weeks, which has forced rushed main events. Moxley and O’Reilly is a fantastic match, both on paper and in execution. It deserved more than 10 minutes and a significant commercial break right in the middle of it.
- Jim Ross apologized for calling Bryan Danielson by his WWE name, Daniel Bryan, to which Regal responded by taking credit for that name.
- Regal put over O’Reilly’s counter-wrestling ability as his strongest asset.
- “Kyle O’Reilly is someone everyone should keep an eye on at all times,” Regal said as he continued to put over the RedDragon striker’s abilities.
- The double boot spot that led to a double-down late was a cool spot.
- O’Reilly bit the ropes to force the break of submission and Moxley responded by kicking the rope, injuring the mouth of his opponent.