After weeks of commercials and hype videos, the night the wrestling world had been waiting for finally arrived.
For the first time since 2001, there was wrestling on TNT, and none other than Cody and Brandi were the first two AEW members to make their entrance. Watching Cody scan the arena and soak in the moment was incredible, he was literally living his dream.
While Cody and Sammy Guevara had the first-ever match on Dynamite, over on the USA Network, NXT was debuting their first-ever two-hour live show. Knowing they had to start with a bang, the first NXT match of the night was Adam Cole defending his NXT Championship against the ‘King of Bros’ Matt Riddle.
For me personally, I watched the entire Cody/Guevara match and then switched over and watched the Cole/Riddle title match. Both were great showcases of wrestling, and even in defeat, Guevara impressed me with his style of wrestling.
Cody, in my mind, was always going to win because, well, it is Cody and he is in line to face Chris Jericho for the AEW World Title next month. Speaking of Jericho, he came down to destroy Cody following the match.
As for the Riddle/Cole match, oh my what a match! There was a big spot after big spot, and the pace to this match was incredibly fast. The ending of this match was especially spectacular, and Cole actually used his cast to help him hit the ‘Last Shot’ for the win.
But the biggest shock of all was Finn Balor returning to Full Sail and confronting the NXT Champion. If we’re getting Balor vs. Cole, sign me up for that!
Overall, it was great to see two wrestling shows open up with..wrestling!
This was the first time I have ever followed two events at the same, and in fairness, to each show, I will flip back and forth between both shows as I review them each week.
After that great opening segment, AEW then had MJF, in my mind their best overall heel, take on Brandon Cutler. MJF had the fans chanting “asshole” before the match even began. The commentary team kept putting over the fact Cutler knew the Young Bucks, and we all know MJF and the Young Bucks do not see eye-to-eye.
Cutler got in a bit of offense, but in the end, MJF pulled the referee in front of him, then hit a crushing forearm strike and locked in his ‘Salt of the Earth’ armbar for the win. Really looking forward to what MJF does next.
Back on NXT, the Velveteen Dream was on the stage with beautiful women by his side. The Dream was here to issue a challenge to Roderick Strong, who Dream lost his North American Title to last week. The Dream told Strong this would be his chance to step out of the Undisputed Era’s shadow, proving that he can be his own man.
For how good the first match between these two was, I would expect a future match to tear the house down as well. Could we also get a steel cage match? This match has quite the potential down the line.
Back on TNT, So Cal Uncensored’s Scorpio Sky did an impression of President Barack Obama as the other two members Christopher Daniels, and Frankie Kazarian dressed as his Secret Service. Cutting back to the arena, we found out Daniels and Kazarian would be the two members taking on the Lucha Bros. next week.
This would lead to the Brothers coming out, reminding everyone they are the best tag team, and the five men got into a pull-apart brawl at the top of the ramp. Their tag match next week is one I will be looking forward to!
Switching back to NXT, Io Shirai was here to take on the HBIC Mia Yim. Shirai has reached new levels of cool since her heel turn, I especially love her entrance. Yim, though, did get quite a bit of offense in and even nearly picked up the win after hitting Code Blue. The two went back and forth for a few minutes before Shirai was able to hit her fantastic-looking moonsault for the win.
These women put on quite a show, despite following the Cole/Riddle match. Could Io Shirai be the next woman in line to get a crack at the NXT Women’s title?
AEW then gave their fans a match that was supposed to happen at Double or Nothing between PAC and Adam “Hangman” Page. PAC already defeated Kenny Omega at All Out while Page is coming off a tough title match loss to Jericho. Both men landed some impressive high spots, and PAC hit a few springboards while Page executed a killer moonsault off the top turnbuckle.
But in true PAC (the bastard) fashion, he delivered a heel kick to Page’s groin when the referee was not looking and then hit a wicked Black Arrow. But to add insult to injury, PAC locked in his Brutalizer submission and forced the referee to call for the bell as Page was motionless.
Talk about making an impact. In two AEW matches, PAC is now 2-0 with wins over Omega and Hangman. He’s got to be getting the next AEW title shot after Full Gear, right?
NXT countered with Johnny Wrestling taking on Shane Thorne. Thonre proved to be quite the opponent for Gargano, getting quite a few moves that made him look great, especially the cannonball and sit-out powerbomb that Thorne nearly won with. From there, Gargano would build momentum and finished off Thorne with a poisonrana and kneeling superkick.
Even in defeat, NXT looks to have another star in the making with Thorne.
Back on Dynamite, the first-ever AEW Women’s champion was set to be crowned as Riho took on Nyla Rose. Dr. Britt Baker was there to take in the match from the commentary table. The optics of this match were quite shocking as Rose towered over Riho, but the rising star from Japan was more than game.
Riho fought off an onslaught from Rose early on and got out of the way just in knick of time as Rose had set her up on a stack of chairs. I thought they would book Rose to look like an unstoppable force, but Riho would climb to the middle rope and hit a Northern lights suplex and a running knee to the face for the win!
Rose, of course, did not take too kindly to this loss, and beat up Riho before Omega would come down for the save!
While AEW was crowning their first-ever Women’s champion, over on NXT, we saw Shanya Baszler defend her NXT Women’s title against Candice LeRae. The match began with LeRae getting the early edge, but that all came crashing down when Baszler put her arm in the steel steps and viciously kicked it and leaving LeRae in pain.
More than once, LeRae, despite her arm injury, was able to counter Baszler’s deadly Kirifuda Clutch submission. I was hoping LeRae would pick up the win here, and she showed quite a bit in defeat, eventually tapping to Baszler’s Kirifuda Clutch. LeRae has put on some excellent matches of late but never seems to pick up that marquee win when it counts.
For AEW’s main event, they went with a six-man tag team match between Chris Jericho, Santana & Ortiz, and Omega and the Young Bucks. This was a chaotic match as there were run-ins and mayhem everywhere.
Our first bit of outside interference came in the form of John Moxley, who came up behind Omega, and the two men brawled through the crowd and into a backstage area. Then in the craziest spot of the night, Moxley put Omega (and himself) through a glass table!
Back in the ring, Nick Jackson was on a roll and hit a ton of high-flying moves until Jericho would cut him off from hitting the Best Meltzer Ever by hitting a Codebreaker, which quite a cool spot! Jericho followed that up with A Judas Effect and a pinfall victory.
But the mayhem would not end there, as Jericho would lead a 3-on-2 heel beat down of the Bucks. Cody would run out to even the odds, but his opponent from earlier in the night, Guevara, would enter the fray and kick his boss below the belt.
This attack on Cody brought down his brother Dustin to clean the house. But the biggest surprise was saved for last. Jake Hager (f.k.a Jack Swagger in WWE) ran in and hit a spinebuster on the older Rhodes brother before focusing his attention on the younger Rhodes brother, and in the end, Hager, Jericho, and the heels stood tall as Dynamite went off the air.
NXT still had two more matches left, and in the first one, Pete Dunne wasted little time defeating Danny Burch, but things picked up when Damien Priest would run in and laid Dunne out.
In the NXT main event, the Street Profits made a grand entrance with the help of rapper Wale as they were attempting to win back the NXT tag team titles. The Undisputed Era would dominate the matchup early on, not letting Montez Ford get to the corner and reach Dawkins, who then ran wild for a bit.
However, O’Reilly and Fish would regain the momentum, and each locked in their own submission move in the middle of the ring. Ford was able to break both of these up by crashing into O’Reilly, who had Dawkins in a leg lock.
Later on, Ford would receive the hot tag and would eventually run the length of the ring and leap over the ring post, diving onto the other three men. What a spot! But right on cue, Roderick Strong came down to interfere with Ford on the top rope, but Dawkins eliminated with a wicked spear on the apron.
But the interference had proven successful, as Fish would knock Ford off the top turnbuckle, and the champs would hit Total Elimination for the win.
As the show closed, Strong entered the ring the celebrate with Fish and O’Reilly, who then were applauded by Cole from the top of the ramp. But Cole’s joy suddenly turned to a grim look when Tommaso Ciampa’s music hit, and the former champion made his way to the stage.
Just six months out from spinal fusion surgery, Ciampa is back? That by itself is impressive, but his return now really crowds the NXT title picture. Balor and Ciampa seem to have made it clear they want Cole next, and it’s not like Riddle is going anywhere.
To wrap up, I will start first with AEW. This show felt more like a pay-per-view, as the in-ring action felt significant. All the matches ranged from solid to great, and the chaos that ensued in the final segment of the night, followed by Hager’s run-in, capped off an overall great debut.
As for NXT, that title match between Cole and Riddle was a show-stealing match. LeRae held her own against a dominant champion in Baszler, and that tag team match with a surprising return capped off a great night for the Black and Gold brand.
Obviously, these brands cannot have title matches and unexpected run-ins and returns each week, but to get things started, it was an excellent way to draw the fans in and leave them wanting more.
My ratings for both shows.
AEW – 4 out of 5
NXT – 4.5 out of 5