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by Samoa Rowe
October 2, 2019
It must be nearing Halloween Havoc season, because I'm feeling legitimately frightened about AEW debuting on TNT. After months of anticipation, the upstart company is finally premiering, and now they need to really put in the hard work to maintain their positive image and momentum. But what if the show sucks? Even worse, what if it's just okay? I really feel as though my wrestling enthusiasm is hanging on this show, and that's scary.
Alright, panic attack over, this is LIVE ON TNT from the Capitol One Center in Washington D.C. The building certainly appears sold out, despite AEW's detractors talking nonstop about scalper sales creating the illusion of a sellout. Our hosts are Tony Shiavone, Jim Ross, and Excalibur.
PPV-type hype video for Cody vs. Sammy Guevara. I'm very curious to see if this remains a staple of AEW's show going forward or if this will phase out after a few weeks. AEW's "Road to ___" Youtube series has certainly been putting out great packages like this throughout 2019 and are a breath of fresh air as far as wrestling storytelling goes.
Cody (with Brandi Rhodes) vs. Sammy Guevara
Cody and Brandi enter together on a rising platform and the crowd gives them a hero's welcome. Crowd likes Cody enough to dish out some heel heat on Sammy as they lock up. Sammy somersaults over Cody and has a rough landing, so the butterflies in his stomach may be acting up. Sammy recovers with a mocking rest pose after sneaking away. Cody breaks a waistlock but Sammy somersaults into position for a dropkick to the back of the head. Someone needs to tell Shiavone and J.R. to stop talking about WCW as Cody and Sammy exchange slaps. Cody's powerslam gets a 1 count, so Cody locks on a Figure Four. Sammy gets the ropes and they trade chops. Cody hits a delayed vertical suplex. The Green Smiley shirt fan is in the building and looks properly impressed. Sammy answers with a wild hook kick, but Cody returns with a springboard cutter for 2. The announcers smartly talk about Cody's stakes here, as a loss would make him forfeit his upcoming title match, and Sammy hits a timely slingshot DDT for a good nearfall. Cody shakes off an enziguri and kicks Sammy off the apron. Sammy pulls Brandi into place to take Cody's suicide dive and the crowd BOOS HIM OUT OF THE BUILDING! Brandi assures her husband that she's okay, but Sammy drives him into the ring post (as the fans chant "a-hole"). Sammy misses his moonsault but manages a standing SSP for another scary nearfall. Brandi slaps Sammy and Cody nails the Disaster kick, but SAMMY KICKS OUT! Cody brings Sammy to the top rope for a reverse superplex but SAMMY KICKS OUT AGAIN! Sammy leaps up to surprise Cody on the top with a Spanish Fly for another great 2 count. Cody blocks the SSP and pins Sammy at 11:55! Wow, this massively overdelivered, with fantastic crowd heat and doubt over the outcome, ***¾.
Sammy interrupts Cody's post match interview to offer what appears to be a sincere handshake, but AEW Champion Chris Jericho takes advantage with an ambush! They go to a split screen as commercials begin, and Jericho continues to taunt the fans and take cheap shots at poor Cody.
Back from break, and Chris Jericho is continuing to abuse Cody with one of the souvenir AEW chairs. Jericho powerbombs Cody through a pair of standing chairs as an exclamation mark. Jericho taunts the fans on the microphone and they cut to a replay of everything we just witnessed.
Brandon Cutler vs. Maxwell Jacob Friedman
MJF cuts a standard arrogant heel promo on his way to the ring as the fans chant "a-hole." MJF says Cutler got lost on his way to behind the guard rail and is a total loser. Bell rings and MJF controls the action early on, but Cutler springboards out of the corner to return a slap to the face. Cutler almost botches a springboard sunset flip cover, but MJF rakes the eyes to break free. MJF wrenches the arm over the ropes and drives Cutler shoulder first into the ring post. MJF mocks Cutler for his Dungeons and Dragons hobby as he works over the arm. Cutler answers with a torpedo suicida and slips off the ropes, which he sells as an injury to save face. MJF quickly locks on the Salt of the Earth for the submission win at 2:58. This almost fell apart a few times, rough outing here, *.
Chris Van Vliet interviews Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes in the front row. They're plugging the new Jay and Silent Bob movie, which just so happens to co-star Chris Jericho. They're interrupted by Jack Evans and Angelico. Mewes mocks them for not being good enough to win a match, and they're consumed by rage. Private Party have Smith and Mewes' back, so the bad guys back off.
SCU are hanging out in front of the White House, and Scorpio Sky cuts a promo in his best Barack Obama impression, as least until losing his composure and declaring D.C. to be the the worst town he's ever been in. This was cute.
Tony Shiavone hosts SCU on the stage. They talk up the Tag Team Championship tournament and reveal that Daniels and Kazarian will be representing SCU. They're interrupted by the Lucha Bros. Ray Fenix says they're the best team in the universe and the crowd chants along with Penta's spanish catchphrase. A brawl breaks out and referees and agents have to break them up.
Jim Ross announces attendance as more than 14,000. That is damn impressive.
Chris Jericho pumps up Santana and Ortiz in their locker room. Jericho is an expert in beating up the Young Bucks.
Hangman Page vs. "The Bastard" Pac
Pac was stalling during a commercial but rushes in to kick Page in the head. They trade forearms and Pac turns to using his educated feet, but Page answers with a boot and flips Pac over with a lariat. Page bashes Pac into the guard rail and catches him off guard with a suicide dive. Back to the ring, Page hits a fallaway slam and leaping SSP for 2. Pac hangs the Hangman on the ropes and connects with the Asai moonsault! Pac (barely) connects with a springboard 450 for only 2. Pac uses a running dropkick to the corner to set up a Black Arrow, but Page blocks with a superkick! Page hits an avalanche fallaway slam! Page flapjacks Page for a good nearfall. Pac drives Page through the turnbuckles as they take a commercial. The action continues on a split screen, with Pac controlling the fight. They return from break just in time for Page to rally, hitting a sick spinebuster. Pac follows with a powerbomb for 2. Page hits a top rope moonsault to ringside! Pac blocks a lariat and delivers a blind low blow! Pac hits a Black Arrow and administers a Brutalizer and Page submits at 13:04! This was methodically paced but it really puts Pac over as a dangerous individual. Page, on the other hand, looks like a bit of a chump coming out of some devastating losses, ***.
Dr. Britt Baker joins commentary. I suppose she'll be the first challenger to whoever wins the Women's title.
AEW Women's Championship:
Nyla Rose vs. Riho
Hey, did you know that Rose is trans? I didn't, until she casually mentioned it on Road to TNT. I think it's really cool that Rose can get this push without her gender becoming a central point. Bell rings and Rose charges and Riho has to use her speed advantage to maneuver into some dropkicks. Riho scores a head scissors takedown but Rose pops up for a shoulder block. Rose hits a splash for 2, as Riho bridges out. Riho goes for a double stomp, but Rose sits up mid-move and slips Riho off! Rose applies an STF, but Riho gets the ropes after a struggle. Riho puts together a scrappy comeback, but Rose catches her in a flying crossbody to reverse into a backbreaker. The ref stops Rose from using a chair, but Rose cannot capitalize and gets tossed into the guard rail. Rose piles some chairs at ringside and places Riho on them. Riho dodges as Rose takes a back senton onto the chairs! Riho nails a double stomp off the apron! Riho delivers a second double stomp to the back and only gets a 2 count. Riho locks on a crossface as they head to commercial. On the split screen, Rose counters with a Samoan drop for 2. Rose draps Riho on the ropes for a flying knee off the top rope! Rose applies an STF, but I'm distracted by a preview for the animated Addams Family movie. Back from break, Rose gives up on the STF and Riho blocks a powerbomb, but the reversal is botched. Rose laughs it off and they trade jabs. Riho counters another powerbomb with a pinfall reversal for a shockingly close nearfall. Rose nails the Death Valley Driver, but Riho kicks out! Crowd is going nuts for this! Rose goes to the top, but Riho cuts her off with wild punches and Northern Lights superplex! ROSE KICKS OUT! Riho hits running knees to the face and gets the pinfall and the title at 13:30! I felt like Rose was going over, so that finish caught me off guard! This was sloppy, but they worked hard to get past the botchy moments and they had the crowd eating out of their hands, ***½.
Winner and first ever AEW Women's Champion: Riho
The crowd chants for Riho as Michael Nakazawa attempts to her interview her, but Rose ruins the moment with an ambush, and (barely) powerbombs Nakazawa. Kenny Omega runs in to save his protege, Riho.
The Young Bucks (Nick and Matt Jackson) and Kenny Omega vs. AEW World Champion Chris Jericho, Santana, and Ortiz
The time limit is announced as "TV time remaining" and I just love it! Omega and Jericho look to start, but Jericho sheepishly makes a quick tag to Santana. Omega shows off with a leaping bulldog and fights off Ortiz with a rana. Jericho ambushes Omega and applies a liontamer, but the Bucks make the save with SUPER KICKS! The Bucks dispatch of Ortiz and Santana with basement dropkicks and running dives! Omega teases a dive when Jon Moxley sneaks into the ring and attacks in full view of the referee. Moxley and Omega brawl into the crowd, while the match continues with the Young Bucks at a numbers disadvantage. Omega uses a mop as a weapon as they brawl into a VIP area. Moxley suplexes Omega through a glass coffee table! Moxley might have seriously hurt himself in the process as they cut to commercial. Back from break, Matt Jackson is getting worked over in Jericho's corner. Matt counters Ortiz with a spear, but Santana pulls Nick off the apron to prevent a tag. Santana hits a moonsault press off the knee of Ortiz, and an Ortiz headbutt results in a good nearfall. Jericho tags in but Matt counters the Lionsault! Ortiz prevents a tag, but Matt puts him down with a leaping DDT off the top rope. Matt hits a rolling sequence of suplexes on Santana and Ortiz, which pops the crowd. Nick gets the hot tag and a great ovation as he cleans house on Santana and Ortiz. Nick burns down the house and blows the roof off the building, but Jericho hits a Codebreaker on Matt to prevent a Meltzer Driver. Ortiz and Santana serve Nick up for Jericho's Judas Effect and it's over at 12:28. Good action in a match that tried to advance some angles more than anything else, ***.
Winners: Chris Jericho, Santana, and Ortiz
The bad guys prepare a beatdown, but Cody runs in for a timely save. Sammy Guevara runs in to low blow Cody. Dustin Rhodes runs in for a save (and great pop). Dustin is laid out by Jake freaking Hager, who the fans actually react to like he's a big star. Come on, Jack Swagger is the exact sort of former WWE guy that AEW should NOT be bringing in. Jericho, Hager, Ortiz, Santana, and Guevara pile the good guys up while the fans chant "We the people." Hager powerbombs Dustin onto a podium for good measure. The troops serve Cody up for another Judas Effect from Jericho. Looks like some battle lines have been drawn.
Final Thoughts: Well, I certainly wasn't bored by any of this. The opener exceeded my expectations and the Women's title match ended up being very good too. I have major concerns about debuting and showcasing Jack f'n Swagger on the first episode, as that feels far too much like a TNA-style acquisition for my tastes. Still, this was a highly enjoyable premier and the hot crowd really helped. Thumbs Up, even if it wasn't perfect.
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