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AEW Collision recap & reactions (June 24, 2023): Sting’s surprise

AEW Collision (June 24, 2023) emanated from Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario. The show featured Sting’s surprise trios partner to go against Chris Jericho’s team, CM Punk in the main event, MJF making an appearance, and much more on the eve of Forbidden Door.

Get caught up on all the Collision details with play-by-play from Geno Mrosko.

Sting’s surprise

The card for Forbidden Door on July 25 was pretty much set, but there was one missing ingredient. Sting and Darby Allin had to reveal their trios partner for the match against Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara, and Minoru Suzuki at the PPV.

Tony Schiavone was ready to open the show with Sting, but Jericho beat the Icon to the punch to arrive first. Jericho was flanked by Suzuki. Sammy was absent for the evening. Jericho flapped his gums unafraid of Sting’s surprise. Jericho even showed off a cool new handshake with Suzuki.

Side note, thank you to production for showing the replay of Le Sex Grandpas pose on Dynamite. That moment was hilarious, and it was great to get a focused camera angle this time.

Jericho was tired of waiting, so he threatened Schiavone with a baseball bat to reveal the secret information. Cue Sting’s music and Schiavone yelling, “It’s Sting!” Allin took charge to issue a hint. This man kicked Jericho’s ass in the Tokyo Dome.

Enter Tetsuya Naito looking super fly in a white suit and wearing a cape.

Jericho and Naito have wrestled twice before. Jericho won the IWGP Intercontinental Championship in 2018, and Naito won the title back in 2019 in a No DQ match.

Naito entered the ring for a staredown with Jericho.

The opening segment was dynamite. Jericho brought his A-game on the mic with humor, arrogance, and intimidation. It was the type of jocularity that wasn’t supposed to be jokey in itself, but it was funny to watch. The little things elevated the enjoyment, like stoic Suzuki with the handshake and Schiavone shouting, “It’s Sting!” with a bat at his throat.

Sting’s surprise pick was a good choice in terms of star power and revisiting Jericho’s NJPW history. I’m not sure how well they’ll blend as partners in a story sense. My experience watching Naito is purely from CMLL, and he represented Los Ingobernables style through and through.

As far as AEW storylines are concerned, this segment dangled the carrot of tension between Sammy and Jericho. The handshake and sex pose with Suzuki were supposed to be bait for jealousy, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. If Sammy was true JAS to the bone, then he would appreciate the sports entertainment. Even he is thinking about leaving Jericho, those things weren’t egregious enough to be offended. Allin also chimed in on the situation. If Sammy does stand with Jericho, then Allin will kick his ass. Sammy and Allin haven’t been presented as good enough friends yet for that threat to matter. When it comes down to it, Sammy and Allin will always be in competition with each other as part of the Four Pillars.

Let’s jam through the rest of Collision.

Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Swerve Strickland. This match had good action with a comedic tone dueling on air guitar. The Ace of the Universe lived up to his name in the end. Tanahashi aimed to close with a flying splash, but Swerve got his knees up to block. Swerve stunned Tanahashi with kicks, but he missed the mark on a flying double stomp and jammed his knee. Tanahashi pounced for a slingblade. Tanahashi climbed the corner to finish with the High Fly Flow.

That was cool matchmaking. I’m glad AEW was able to squeeze this in as a special attraction for Collision. Unfortunately, it put Swerve on the short end of the stick again. There was no way Tanahashi was going to lose one night before the AEW World Championship match against MJF. Shout out to Swerve for adapting on the fly for the finish when Tanahashi slipped off the turnbuckles. Instead of staying put flat on the mat for an unrealistic amount of time, Swerve sprang up to engage in fisticuffs. That gave Tanahashi a chance to regroup, punch Swerve down to the mat, and hit his finisher.

Speaking of MJF, he graced Collision with his presence on the big screen for a promo after Tanahashi’s win. MJF demanded that their match be first on the PPV. He doesn’t want to spend a minute longer in Canada than he has to. MJF is going to shove Tanahashi’s air guitar up his ass, because Tanahashi is not on the level of the devil.

With Bryan Danielson versus Kazuchika Okada already announced as the PPV main event, MJF’s promo provided a smart excuse to explain why the AEW World Championship won’t be closing the show. It also feeds into MJF’s fragile ego justifying why he isn’t in the main event.

Andrade defeated Brody King. The style was speed versus power. The story was King targeting Andrade’s surgically repaired pectoral and Andrade chopping down the big man by attacking the knee. King exploded for a running DVD into the corner followed by a running cannonball. On the lift for a finisher, Andrade escaped and clipped King’s knee to set up a figure-four. That’s when Julia Hart grabbed Andrade’s mask to cause a distraction. Andrade released the submission, but he didn’t fall for the trap. El Idolo ducked King’s strike and fired back with his signature back elbow. Andrade slapped on the figure-four and bridged up for the figure-eight. Buddy Matthews ran into attack Andrade and shove the referee. A disqualification was called. The House of Black pounded Andrade as Malakai Black observed from the big screen.

That was a quality match with a cop-out finish. King saved face by not having to submit. I’m curious what the next step will be for this story. The House of Black has shown that Andrade needs friends. Nobody has mentioned Andrade’s status with Los Ingonernables. Plus, that group is full of heels. Andrade is picking up some babyface momentum, so it would be weird to pair them together again. For those curious, there were no interactions between Andrade and Naito on this show.

Christian Cage as TNT champion. Christian claimed the TNT crown, even though, Luchasaurus is the official titleholder. He basically spent the entire interview shitting on Toronto sports as losers. Christian took credit for advising Kawhi Leonard to leave the Raptors. Christian dug deeper by saying he had to leave this city and it’s losing ways in order to become a champion. Christian ceased the open challenge trend and also threw in a shot at Cody Rhodes using the TNT title as a vanity project. The ‘champ’ plans to take the title to new heights.

Christian put on a master class of heel heat in his hometown of Toronto. They weren’t booing him in a wink-wink manner. It felt like he genuinely got under their skin. As a viewer with no affiliation to Toronto, the entire scene was hilarious.

Owen Hart tournament women’s quarterfinal: Willow Nightingale defeated Nyla Rose. Hoss fight! Marina Shafir provided a distraction for Nyla to smash Willow’s shoulder into the ring post. That attack paid off later when Willow’s arm was too weak to execute the doctor bomb finisher. Nyla unleashed Native Beast mode with a flurry of heavy strikes. When she ran the ropes, Willow cut the angle for a big pounce shoulder tackle. Willow powered through the pain to hit the doctor bomb for victory.

This match had a strong babyface finish. The explosion of the pounce popped the crowd, and the second attempt on the doctor bomb gave an emphatic win. Willow showed perseverance and the heart of a champion to overcome her opponent.

Willow advances to the semifinals to face the winner of Athena versus Billie Starkz. After the match, the Outcasts surrounded the ring. Skye Blue ran out with a chair for the save.

Will Hobbs defeated Jeremy Prophet. Powerhouse attacked before the bell. He savored smashing his opponent until finishing with a spinebuster.

That contest was a warm-up before the Owen Hart tournament matchup against Dustin Rhodes next week. I hope Dustin’s spine doesn’t shatter into dust when he takes that spinebuster from Hobbs. The impact looks brutal.

Bullet Club Gold & Gunn Club defeated CM Punk, FTR, & Ricky Starks. The crowd was rowdy for Punk in the main event. He was more active in this bout than last week. The bad guys isolated Punk to set the table for a hot tag to Starks. Absolute cleaned house then do-si-doed with Jay White for near falls. The match broke down into chaos when Cash Wheeler took out Juice Robinson and the Gunns on a suicide dive. Switchblade took control with a uranage to Punk and a uranage to Starks. White went for a Blade Runner, but Starks escaped to score a roll-up. White kicked out sending Starks into the ropes. Starks bounced back for a spear. Starks ran wild spearing the Gunns too as Juice screamed, “Ricky!” Starks went for another spear to White. This time, Switchblade dodged, and Juice clocked Starks with what I assume was a loaded punch. White finished with the Blade Runner to win.

That was energetic action for the main event. The frenetic finish flowed well. Unfortunately, the result was basically meaningless in what amounted to a high-profile exhibition contest for bragging rights. This is technically Punk’s first loss since returning, and that doesn’t feel like a big deal at all. Seeds were clearly planted for a showdown between Punk and White, so we have that to look forward to.

Notes: Quick thoughts on production. The show opened with promos hyping the main event. I got a Saturday Night’s Main Event vibe from the delivery. Often times, arenas feel homogeneous with the same stage set week after week. I like that they offered the occasional outdoor view of the venue to make it feel like a traveling tour. Thumbs up to showing match highlights when appropriate for story reasons.

Miro realized his god is an idiot. He renounced his god, his gold, and his beautiful wife. Miro walks alone.

The Owen Hart men’s tournament hype package had cocky trash talk from all the competitors.

Scorpio Sky is back and better than before. He wasn’t even his peak self when winning championships in AEW.

Stud of the Show: Christian Cage

It takes a special set of skills to make your hometown hate you.

Match of the Night: Willow Nightingale vs. Nyla Rose

A wholesome match of good conquering bad.

Grade: A-

This wasn’t necessarily an important show in terms of the material that was delivered. It was a lot of fun though. The promo work was gold all night long. The action was solid. The Toronto fans provided an electric atmosphere. That really does help everything seem bigger and more important than it actually is. Overall, this episode of Collision left me with a good buzz of excitement heading into Forbidden Door.

Share your thoughts about Collision. How do you rate it? What were your favorite moments from the show?

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