Fighting for the Future – AEW’s “Fight for the Fallen” – July 13th, 2019

When the Young Bucks, Kenny Omega and Cody pledged to save the world, many thought that they were solely referring to the world of professional wrestling. But with the proceeds of AEW’s Fight for the Fallen going to victims of gun crime in Jacksonville, Florida, it has become abundantly clear that the scope of their promise is broader than that. With the world becoming an ever more dystopic nightmare scape day-to-day for a lot of people, and while other companies continue their more than dubious associations while purporting to be humanitarians, it’s good to know that there are those like AEW’s owner and EVPs who are willing to be a force for good in the world, while celebrating inclusivity and innovation in professional wrestling.

Sonny Kiss vs Peter Avalon w/ Leva Bates (The Buy In pre-show)

With all of that said about the potential for innovation, it’s slightly ironic, then, that the first match of the ‘Buy In’ pre-show should include the self-styled ‘Librarian’ Peter Avalon. I thought that job-based gimmicks went out in the mid-90s but Avalon and Bates are obviously bringing them back. After telling the crowd to be quiet because “This is a library” (er, no it’s not, it’s the Daily’s Amphitheatre), Sonny Kiss arrived with a banging dance number accompanied by the Jacksonville Jaguars’ cheerleading squad to save the crowd.

Kiss was very impressive in the Casino Battle Royale at Double or Nothing and it was great to see him in his first singles match for AEW. Avalon is a solid heel, getting Kiss to the outside so that Bates could run interference which didn’t materialise, continuing the strange dynamic between the two ‘Librarians’. After a series of athletic counters including an incredible bridge and then attempted interference from Bates on the ring apron, Sonny Kiss picked up the pin with a diving split from the top rope – something I have never seen before in a wrestling ring.

Britt Baker and Riho vs. Shoko Nakajima and Bea Priestley (The Buy In pre-show)

That AEW will have a Women’s Tag Team Championship opens up a plethora of possibilities for the fledgeling company in terms of which wrestlers will pair up and forge new alliances and whether any more established teams will appear in due course. This match shows the real depth of talent in the division with World of Stardom Champion and ‘Top Gaijin’ Bea Priestley teaming up with TJPW’s Princess of Princesses, the Big Kaiju Shoko Nakajima, against Britt Baker and Riho, who will be more familiar to the AEW faithful. This was a highly anticipated match and it certainly delivered. Bea Priestley looked more menacing than ever, her run as Stardom Champion giving her even more swagger than before.

She zeroed in early on Britt Baker, who put in another great showing. Riho proved yet again that size isn’t everything as she almost scored a pinfall over Nakajima in what would have been an upset against the TJPW Champion. The high-flying stylings of Riho and Nakajima played off well against the brutality that ensued between Priestley and Baker. The story of the night was that Nakajima and Priestley, in particular, were here to make their mark. After Shakajima rolled up Riho for the pin, we cut to the replay clips from the match, only to suddenly rejoin the action in-ring as Priestley delivered a pummelling to Baker. I can’t wait to see Baker vs. Priestley at some point in the future.

Joey Janela, Jimmy Havoc & Darby Allin vs. Shawn Spears, MJF & Sammy Guevara

Janela, Havoc and Allin are somewhat of a dream team combination for deathmatch wrestling enthusiasts but the real hope here is that those fans who only know them for diving off of buildings, balconies or attempting to run over their opponents in a Ford Focus will ‘buy in’ to the pure in-ring ability of these three. Which plays off quite nicely against Spears, MJF and Guevara whose consistent reminders to all and sundry that they are better than everyone else has built their reputations as heels in AEW, not to mention Spears’ savage chair shot to Cody at Fyter Fest. Jimmy Havoc’s opening ground game was great, with Havoc biting his way to the advantage early on in the match. As soon as Havoc built up a head of steam, he looked unstoppable.

As expected, the team of MJF, Spears and Guevara did not work well together, with MJF flipping off tag partner Shawn Spears, presumably having taken offence at Spears savage chair shot to Cody at Fyter Fest. Conversely and unsurprisingly, the team of Havoc, Janela and Allin found a certain sense of Sympatico throughout most of the match with Havoc seemingly having the match sewn up until Allin tagged himself in. For context, Allin’s rage at having been upstaged at Fyter Fest by Shawn Spears’ attack on Cody was almost tangible as he visibly fumed on the ring apron while waiting to get hold of Spears. Unfortunately, this spelt the end of a promising showing for Allin’s team as a Death Valley Driver meant the pinfall victory for Shawn Spears.

It would also be remiss of me to forget to mention Sammy Guevara, whose standing Spanish Fly to Darby Allin and exchange of aerial moves showed that these two are ones to watch in AEW in the future. Off the back of main eventing Fyter Fest, it’s worth mentioning that Janela’s sadistic side was on full display, using a Death Valley Driver to the ring apron to cut off Sammy Guevara. All in all, this was a great match showcasing all six men.

Brandi Rhodes vs. Allie

The Chief Brandi Officer’s first match, which was teased at Double or Nothing when Brandi showed up in full in-ring gear only to reveal Awesome Kong, brings to mind the old saying ‘if you want something done, do it yourself.’ However, the question mark hanging over Brandi was whether she’d bitten off more than she could chew against former Impact Knockouts Champion, Allie.

After an emotional video montage pre-match, with Brandi opening up about her own lack of self-confidence, it seemed as though this had the potential to be a true sporting competition. As Brandi shook Allie’s hand in the middle of the ring, Awesome Kong’s music hit and any hope for a clean contest evaporated. Brandi’s mind games worked as Allie was unable to take her eyes off of Awesome Kong.

Allie was able to keep the upper hand but with Awesome Kong running interference, Brandi was able to turn the tide. After sinching in the dragon sleeper on Brandi, the ref was distracted by Kong on the ring apron. As Brandi started to tap out, it looked as though Allie had the win but alas, the referee was too busy with Kong. With Allie distracted, Brandi was able to get to her feet and score the pinfall victory with the Bionic Spear.

Just as it seemed it was over, Brandi put the boots to a prone Allie and it wasn’t long until Aja Kong emerged from the back to square up to Awesome Kong, teasing a dream match between these two legends. As Aja Kong helped Allie to the back, the women’s division just got even more interesting in AEW.

Dark Order (Evil Uno and Stu Grayson) vs. Angelico & Jack Evans vs. Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus w/ Marko Stunt

After the Dark Order’s ominous debut at Double or Nothing, they put on an impressive and cohesive display as a tag team. With Angelico and Evans also coming off of a great match against the Best Friends and Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus yet to team together in AEW, there was a real clash of styles in the ring but it worked.

We were reminded that the winner of the match would advance to All Out to face off against the Best Friends for the chance of a bye in the upcoming tag team championship tournament. While the stakes were high, so was much of the offence in this match.

Luchasaurus has teased his agility in the Casino Battle Royale at Double or Nothing but it was on full display in this match with an impressive standing moonsault from the big, er, dinosaur. Evans and Angelico were happy to leave Jungle Boy to it as he was dominated by Greyson from the Dark Order and it wasn’t long until all hell broke loose.

Marko Stunt also inserted himself into the action and was even used as a human missile by Luchasaurus before being ejected from ringside by the referee. However, despite Jungle Boy’s best efforts, he fell foul of the Dark Order’s Fatality finisher.

Hangman Page vs. Kip Sabian

Hangman Page has enjoyed a massive push front and centre in the title picture at AEW with his match against Chris Jericho at All Out on August 31 surely set to cement Page’s status as a worthy main eventer for the company. So, pitting Hangman against hot prospect Kip Sabian makes a lot of sense.

After hearing pre-match comments from Sabian making his feelings clear about the perceived favouritism towards Page, Kip Sabian had something to prove in this match. Chalking up a win against Page, who goes up against Chris Jericho for the AEW title at All Out, would stand ‘Suuuperbad’ Kip Sabian a good chance of having a title shot in the future.

Sabian’s game plan was sound – to target the injured knee of Hangman Page. But, after being drawn into Page’s game plan of pure strength, Sabian hit problems. Sabian’s diving double foot stomp from the top had Page in trouble, as did Sabian’s attack on Page on the outside of the ring where he even found some time to deal with an overzealous fan who got in his face.

However, despite his knee giving him obvious problems, Page was able to throw Sabian onto the hard floor of the entrance ramp and, after exchanging pinfall attempts, picked up the win with his Dead Eye finisher with less than a minute to spare. This was a great match, showcasing Hangman on his way into “All Out but also the amazing talent of Kip Sabian.

At the end of the match, what looked like one of the Dark Order’s masked minions jumped in the ring and attacked Page, only to reveal himself as Chris Jericho. With Page on the receiving end of the Judas Effect, the question remains whether Page will be fighting fit going into “All Out” against Jericho to crown the first AEW World Champion.

So Cal Uncensored (Frankie Kazarian & Scorpio Sky) w/ Christopher Daniels vs. The Lucha Brothers

SCU are enjoying a renaissance in All Elite Wrestling as their performance as a trio against Strong Hearts proved at Double or Nothing. While Kazarian and Scorpio Sky might look like figures carved out of marble, Pentagon Jr and Rey Fénix look so formidable despite giving up years in experience to SCU. We were reminded at Double or Nothing that the Lucha Brothers have wrestled together consistently over the last several months which really shows seeing as they both cut their teeth as singles wrestlers. This isn’t to diminish SCU, though, as they continue to be a thrilling team to watch.

The match was certainly even at the start with Sky and Kazarian’s chemistry as a team really coming to the fore through their double team moves. With the potential for Daniels to run interference equalised early on by the Lucha Bros attacking the Fallen Angel, it wasn’t long before Daniels was sent to the back.

Despite both teams jockeying for dominance, the Lucha Bros’ teamwork was too much for SCU and their devastating package piledriver/diving stomp combination gave the Lucha Bros the victory. At the end of the match, Pentagon and Fenix attacked SCU with a ladder before climbing atop it to challenge the Young Bucks to a ladder match at All Out. The tag team division is in rude health in AEW.

Kenny Omega vs. CIMA

Puroresu fans rejoice for this dream match as the prodigious former New Japan Champion Kenny Omega took on the first man to Open the Dream Gate in former Dragon Gate and current OWE legend CIMA.

The pressure, however, was on Kenny Omega to capture his first victory in singles competition in AEW. After an evenly matched start, things soon spilt to the outside with Kenny setting up the timekeeper’s table at ringside to do some damage to CIMA. However, the veteran was able to turn the tide and delivered a devastating Meteora to a prone Kenny on the table, jumping from a balcony to do so.

This was just a taste of the damage to come. Fierce strikes were exchanged and Kenny withstood a series of Meteoras and near falls, rolling out of the ring or using the bottom rope to break the three-count.

Eventually, Kenny was able to hit the One-Winged Angel and capture his first singles win in AEW. This one certainly lived up to the hype and was one of the best matches of the night – no easy feat on a card this stacked, to begin with.

Chris Jericho’s address

In a return to familiar fine form, Chris Jericho came to the ring and proceeded to salute the good people of Jacksonville. After insulting the crowd, he spoke about his obsession with beating Hangman Page at All Out to ensure that he would become AEW Champion. Before he could get much further, though, an injured Hangman stormed the ring and the two proceeded to go at it. After being separated by officials and with Jericho returning to the back, it became clear that the acrimony between Page and Jericho will make for a lively meeting between the two in Chicago in August at All Out.

The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) vs. The Brotherhood (Cody & Dustin Rhodes)

After the raw emotion that brought the Rhodes brothers back together at Double or Nothing, it’s safe to say that this match up against the best tag team in the world, the Young Bucks, has been much anticipated. There’s something about the story of two sets of brothers (actual blood brothers rather than kayfabe) squaring off against each other that gives a sense of verisimilitude to the whole affair.

While the Bucks had spent a couple of weeks before this match mocking the emotional reunification of the Rhodes brothers, what started as a relatively amicable affair soon descended into a very physical confrontation between these two teams. It was said on commentary, and it’s difficult to disagree, that there was probably more brawling, strikes and kicks than you might expect to see in a Young Bucks match but that spoke to the Rhodes brothers’ ability to dictate the pace.

The Brotherhood slowed the pace down in parts but also traded superkicks and high flying moves with the Bucks. Dustin Rhodes’ twisting crossbody press from the top rope was amazing as was Cody’s moonsault. However, the synchronicity of the Young Bucks won out in the end with the Meltzer Driver bagging the win for the Bucks.

At the end of the match, Matt saluted the tenacity of the Rhodes Brothers and mentioned that any making fun of the Rhodes brothers was done purely in the spirit of competition. Then they hugged. Ahhh.

But time was short and, in a good reminder of why the show was run in the first place, Kenny, the Bucks, Cody, Brandi and Shad Khan unveiled a $150,000 check to benefit the victims of gun crime in Jacksonville. The importance of this event and AEW’s very existence was made clear once again. For the owner and EVPs of this company, it is not just about professional wrestling, it is about the ability to make a difference in your community, be it locally or on a broader scale which provides a strong message of hope in times such as these.

Fight for The Fallen results

  • Sonny Kiss defeated Peter Avalon w/ Leva Bates (The Buy In pre-show)
  • Shoko Nakajima & Bea Priestley defeated Britt Baker & Riho (The Buy In pre-show)
  • Shawn Spears, MJF & Sammy Guevara defeated Joey Janela, Jimmy Havoc & Darby Allin
  • Brandi Rhodes w/ Awesome Kong defeated Allie
  • Dark Order (Evil Uno and Stu Grayson) defeated Angelico & Jack Evans and Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus w/ Marko Stunt
  • Hangman Page defeated Kip Sabian
  • The Lucha Brothers (Pentagon Junior & Fénix) defeated SoCal Uncensored (Frankie Kazarian & Scorpio Sky) w/ Christopher Daniels
  • Kenny Omega defeated CIMA
  • The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) defeated The Brotherhood (Cody & Dustin Rhodes)

All images courtesy of ITV Wrestling and All Elite Wrestling

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