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AEW WrestleDream recap & reactions: Edge ushers in new era


AEW WrestleDream (Oct. 1, 2023) emanated from Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, WA. The PPV featured the surprise arrival of Edge, Christian Cage benefiting from betrayal against Darby Allin in the TNT Championship main event, Bryan Danielson in a dream match, and much more on a show to honor Antonio Inoki.

Get caught up on all the WrestleDream details with the excellent play-by-play from Claire Elizabeth.

Oh, you read that title correctly. Edge is All Elite. He made a dramatic surprise appearance to close the show. We’ll get to that in a bit. For context purposes, we have to start with the main event of the evening.

TNT Championship main event

Christian Cage and Darby Allin were handed the keys to drive this PPV home in a 2-out-of-3 falls match for the TNT Championship. Christian entered first, and he sent Luchasaurus to the back. The hometown hero arrived second. Allin sent Nick Wayne to the back.

Allin scored the first fall early by pulling Christian’s turtleneck over his head. Allin went for a jackknife roll-up to take the lead 1-0.

Christian took control to start the second fall. He exited the ring to mack on Mama Wayne. She had the audacity to rebuff his advances by throwing a drink in his face. Allin pounced for a suicide dive and a Coffin Drop to the outside. When Allin went for Coffin Drop in the ring, Christian put his knees up to block. That was the turning point of the match. Christian went to work dishing out pain to Allin’s back.

Christian rammed Allin off the apron colliding into the commentary table. He added a vicious suplex onto the ring steps. I don’t mean the flat part on top. No, no, no. Christian suplexed Allin onto the sharp edges of the steps. He added a powerslam off the apron onto the steel. Allin writhed in agony. Christian demanded that referee Bryce Remsburg issue a count-out. Allin did not answer the call at 10. The tally was even at 1-1.

Remsburg called for the medical staff to tend to Allin. He also waved in a stretcher. Meanwhile, Christian was busy untying the mat to expose the wooden boards of the ring. When Christian spied Allin being wheeled away, he took flight for a frog splash onto the stretcher.

Christian loaded Allin into the ring and forced the match to continue. Killswitch on the exposed wood. 1, 2, Allin kicked out! Christian went to the Scorpion Deathlock submission. Allin reached the ropes for the break. Allin’s feral instincts kicked in. He jumped on Christian’s back to gouge the eyes and hit a Scorpion Death Drop. Coffin Drop! 1, 2, Christian kicked out!

Christian and Allin battled for position on the turnbuckles, and Christian was able to connect on a sunset flip powerbomb. Keep in mind, this third fall is entirely on the exposed ring boards for a harder surface of impact. Christian charged for a spear. Allin dodged, and Remsburg was tackled. Ref down!

Christian took advantage of the situation to strike Allin with a low blow. When he grabbed the TNT title belt with bad intentions, Nick Wayne ran down to snatch it out of his hands. Christian was outnumbered with the ref still out cold. Allin gave the okay for Wayne to attack. Boom! Swerve city. Wayne hit Allin with the title belt instead.

Christian picked up the win to retain the TNT Championship. A conflicted Wayne hugged his new father figure.

Boy, oh, boy. That main event left a sour taste in my mouth. The first two falls were aces in excitement leading to something epic, then it was annoyingly illogical for the third fall. The first fall was comical gamesmanship that brought a smile to my face. I really liked the utilization of a count-out in fall two. That was a creative deviation from the standard formula. Christian punished Allin’s back so bad that the count-out was believable.

I was immediately taken out of the illusion watching the match when referee Remsburg waved for the stretcher without calling off the contest. That booking was completely idiotic. What’s the logic there for Remsburg? Is AEW going to pause the show for two hours while Allin receives x-rays to get medically cleared then restart the match? I hate AEW’s reliance on the medical team as a story tool in matches. The execution often spits in the face of the idea this is supposed to be a real sport.

The action started to win me back with interest to determine a winner, then the foolish swerve took place. On the surface, Wayne’s embrace of Christian makes no sense. At what point would Wayne have made that decision? He called out Luchasaurus and was served a beatdown on the pre-show, so it’s not like this was a plan in the making masterminded by Christian. It could be a reaction to spite Allin for pardoning AR Fox so quickly, however, why would Wayne make the save for Allin in this match rather than let Christian finish his business unimpeded. What’s the motivation to accept Christian as a mentor? Christian has been ogling his mom. That’s hardly a way to win over a new stepson. Plus, we all saw how Christian’s relationship with Jungle Boy turned out. This all feels like a cheap swerve for the sake of a cheap swerve. Flush it down the toilet.

On the positive side, Christian and Allin busted their asses in the wrestling aspect. They took some physical bumps that may turn their bodies black and blue tomorrow. Allin is a madman. The near falls in the end ratcheted up the drama to peak levels.

One more idea to touch on about this match. There was curiosity over which bout would headline WrestleDream. I think the TNT Championship contest was the right call, even without the addition of Edge at the end. Allin was the hometown hero aiming for glory, but it was not a lock, unlike with Bryan Danielson versus Zack Sabre Jr. That was a dream match, but we all knew Danielson was winning. The TNT bout had mystery in its favor. The main event status also gave a boost to Allin’s developing superstar career and the general prestige of the TNT Championship.

The show didn’t end there. Bring on Edge!

Rated R Superstar

In the aftermath of the main event, Christian celebrated with Wayne by pounding Allin some more. Sting entered the scene to clean house, but Luchasaurus gave the bad guys the numbers advantage. Christian eagerly set up a conchairto for Sting... Lights out.

A vignette played with a man driving a car shrouded in darkness. Rev, rev, it was Edge on stage. The crowd response was deafening. He was introduced on commentary as “Rated R Superstar” Adam Copeland.

Christian handed the chair to Edge to do his dirty work on Sting. Edge wound up, then he whacked Wayne. Edge speared Luchasaurus and Wayne as Christian bailed from the ring. Allin and Sting shook hands with Edge to cement his babyface hero status.

Hot damn. That was a hot ending for the PPV. Edge’s arrival was electric. His presence instantly jolts enthusiasm into the AEW product to see how they utilize him. AEW tagged this PPV about the start of a new era. I’m not sure what that means exactly. Nothing on the show felt like closure to an old era. If the answer is Edge, then I’ll accept it.

Let’s run down the rest of the card from top to bottom.

AEW World Tag Team Championship: FTR defeated Aussie Open to retain the titles. This was a meat and potatoes match, except served by 7-star chefs. The contest escalated into epic moves with a crescent kick Doomsday Device from Aussie Open. FTR executed their superplex to flying splash combo. Kyle Fletcher landed a flying crossbody onto Dax Harwood to break the pinfall pile. Aussie Open thought they could beat FTR at their own game with a Shatter Machine, but Harwood saved Cash Wheeler on the pin. FTR revved to a higher gear for a spike piledriver to Mark Davis on the apron. That cleared the path for a superplex Shatter Machine to Fletcher for victory.

That was a mighty fine piece of tag team pie. The closing sequence was off the charts with excitement. FTR added a strong notch on their résumé for tag team greatness. If anybody’s eyes were closed on Aussie Open before this match, they better be wide open now. Aussie Open can flat out go in the ring. In my opinion, they are in that conversation for best tag team. They just need more longevity to rack up greater accolades. Also of note, Wheeler sold his ribs so well that it has me wondering if that was a legit injury. If so, then he displayed triumphant intestinal fortitude to wrestle at such a high level with physicality.

Konosuke Takeshita, Sammy Guevara, & Will Ospreay defeated Kenny Omega, Chris Jericho & Kota Ibushi. Don Callis received loud chants of, “Fuck you, Callis,” upon his entrance to the ring. The story of the match was teamwork. The babyfaces actually worked smooth as a unit. It was the Callis Family that was herky-jerky. They came off as three singles wrestlers rather than a team, but they got their act together in the end. Ospreay saved Sammy from the Judas Effect, and he took the blow himself. Ospreay clutched onto referee Aubrey Edwards in his haze. Whether that was intentional or not, it paid dividends causing Edwards to slowly start a delayed three-count when Jericho hit a super rana on Sammy. Ospreay clearly grabbed onto Edwards again on purpose. This occurred as Jericho trapped Sammy in a submission. Callis entered the ring to blast Jericho with a foreign object. Sammy made the easy pin to win.

Jericho’s matches never let down on the sports entertainment aspect. This match had rousing action, but it was driven by character work. The Callis Family had a comical anchor chain of leverage to assist on Ospreay’s submission holding hands with Sammy through Takeshita through Callis. Jericho and Ibushi bonded with Le Sex Gods pose.

Ibushi had a badass moment firing up to knock Ospreay and Sammy on their asses with single punches. That led to a nifty showdown between Ibushi and Takeshita. I hope we get that as a singles match soon.

The finish was shenanigans galore to hand the win to the Callis Family. As amusing as the match was, I feel that there was no progress in the overall story. Although, Sammy got a pin over Jericho, so I guess that molehill can be turned into a mountain.

Bryan Danielson defeated Zack Sabre Jr. Jon Moxley was on commentary in support of Danielson. The wrestling was mat-based with a variety of submissions, counters, and rolls. Sabre targeted Danielson’s previously injured arm. Danielson dished out pain tenderizing Sabre’s knee. Danielson surged in the end for a shoulder-capture suplex and a Busaiku Knee. Sabre kicked out, so Danielson served a second Busaiku Knee for the win.

Dream match certification earned. This was a straight duel on the mat. Many think of grappling matches as plodding affairs with rest holds. This was an example of how to super charge that format. Danielson and Sabre were very active with constant movement. Even though there was only one super move for an avalanche butterfly suplex from Danielson, their work was never dull and demanded attention from viewers. Intensity increased throughout at a steady rate for the climax. The battle was satisfying to watch as technical masters plying their trade at a peak level.

Ricky Starks defeated Wheeler Yuta. Jon Moxley was on commentary to support Yuta. Starks mocked Mox on various occasions. Big Bill Morrissey entered the scene mid-match, but Yuta handled him. In the end, Starks was too savvy. He anticipated Yuta’s movement to hit a spear at the right moment. Starks finished with Roshambo.

Fiery fisticuffs. Starks earned the win in entertaining fashion to remain a tier above the rising talent. Yuta’s intensity is always a treat.

Swerve Strickland defeated Hangman Page. Swerve did crowd work to garner favor from the home fans. They were firmly behind rooting for Swerve’s success. Hangman helped in that regard with incidents like biting Swerve’s hand and a Deadeye piledriver on the ring steps. The story of the match was the buckshot lariat. Swerve countered into an arm snapper submission to do great damage. Later, Hangman hit the move anyway despite his arm in tremendous pain. Prince Nana placed Swerve’s foot on the ropes to prevent the three-count. The referee caught Nana red-handed and ejected the prince. Somewhere in there, Nana and Swerve did a sleight of hand. Hangman went for another buckshot. This time, Swerve cracked him with Nana’s crown in a sneaky cheat out of sight from the referee. Swerve poured on his signature moves and finished with the JML driver to win.

High quality contest. The result caught me off-guard. Swerve finally won a big match. The method of cheating doesn’t make it feel like Swerve took Hangman’s spot, which was the point of this feud. Hangman was double protected with Nana saving Swerve on the buckshot pinfall and the foreign object strike setting up victory. I did like Swerve’s blatant disregard for that phony medical checkup on Hangman’s arm. He leaped over the doctors to deliver a flying stomp on the apron.

This story does not feel over. I’m expecting round two going to Hangman and round three for all the marbles.

Young Bucks defeated Lucha Bros, Gunns, and Orange Cassidy & Hook. The winners of this four-way earn a future shot at the AEW World Tag Team Championship. In a screwball comedic moment, the Gunns tried to pin each other early, but the referee wouldn’t allow it. In the end, the Bucks cleared the ring and blasted a BTE Trigger to pin Pentagon.

High-octane action was delivered in spades as expected from the match format. Creativity excelled with blind tag moments to set up drama for near falls. The Bucks are an underwhelming choice for victory. I have zero enthusiasm for it. The issue is that the Jacksons can approach FTR any time to get a rematch. The respect is there already to grant that favor. Instead, AEW decided to go through the hoops for this charade. It acted as an excuse to get more big names on the card for a match with stakes. Thumbs up on the wrestling, thumbs off for the story implications. Upon further consideration, this win puts the Bucks on a hot streak with ROH trios titles, Nick Jackson’s singles victory to challenge for the AEW International Championship, and now this #1 contender match. That’s better than going in cold against FTR.

TBS Championship: Kris Statlander defeated Julia Hart to retain the title. Statlander wrestled with intensity throughout. Brody King was ringside for timely distractions. Hart took control after repeatedly ramming Statlander into the barricade. Statlander was wise to Hart’s tricks though. She slapped the black mist out of Hart’s mouth. Hart almost won after a sequence hitting a spider suplex and a moonsault. Statlander barely placed her foot on the ropes in time to break the three-count. Hart went for her signature submission. Statlander powered up and positioned Hart into a tombstone. Statlander maintained control of Hart’s body to transition to the Sunday Night Fever piledriver for victory.

Statlander was on key showing intensity that was consistent with her motivation in the storyline. Often times, wrestlers forget to match that emotional element in the ring with the storyline that had been told to set up the bout, so it was nice to see Statlander deliver in that aspect. The finish was very cool and created another memorable moment in Statlander’s title run. Hart has made great strides in improvement lately, and she earned the reward of competing on the big stage. Hart didn’t wilt under pressure. She rose to the occasion to show she can handle the spotlight. There is still plenty of room to grow, however, this performance was validation for Hart’s evolution.

ROH World Championship & NJPW Strong Openweight Championship: Eddie Kingston defeated Katsuyori Shibata to retain the titles. Aggressive battle of attrition. Shibata schooled Kingston often on the mat with a variety of submissions. Shibata was clearly the better wrestler. The problem came when going toe to toe with strikes. Kingston had heavier power, and his punches took a toll on Shibata. In the end, Kingston exploded for a flurry of offense. A spinning backfist, a northern lights bomb, and a second spinning backfist set up a powerbomb to win.

This was a hearty slugfest to much delight. Shibata’s slugging came in the form of submissions. He creatively tied Kingston up in knots. The duel was an interesting clash in styles. I was curious how Kingston would solve the puzzle of Shibata, but he didn’t really solve anything. He won by brute force. Kingston showed fighting spirit to grit through the pain, then it felt like the finish was served on a platter when it was time to wrap up. It’s not like Kingston showed strategy. He just kept swinging, and that was that.

ROH World Tag Team Championship: MJF defeated the Righteous to retain the titles. This was a handicap match due to Adam Cole’s injury. Cole was allegedly absent from the building. MJF cut a pre-match promo denying rumors that he was behind the masked attack on Jay White. MJF called his shot to body slam Dutch and shove Vincent’s head up Dutch’s ass. MJF hammed it up early as the people’s scumbag. It was only a matter of time before the numbers advantage took over. The Righteous unloaded their arsenal of finishing moves, but MJF kept kicking out. MJF turned the tide by grabbing Vincent’s groin. He was true to his word by body slamming Dutch and shoving Vincent’s head up Dutch’s ass. Kangaroo kick! MJF executed a Heatseeker piledriver on Dutch. The champ’s feet were on the ropes for leverage on the winning pin.

This was a very entertaining performance from MJF in a comedy perspective. It was like a popcorn movie. Just smile and enjoy without thinking too much. The kangaroo kick still rocks. It’s too bad the Righteous were made to look like goobers. They need a hardcore feud in their next AEW story to regain their standing as men of violence.

The free pre-show gifted four bouts.

AEW World Trios Championship: The Acclaimed & Billy Gunn defeated TMDK to retain the titles. The Mighty Don’t Kneel were represented by Shane Haste, Mikey Nicholls, and Bad Dude Tito. Daddy Ass ignited with winning rally with a Fame-asser on Tito. The Acclaimed hit the Mic Drop combo for Max Caster to pin Tito. The Acclaimed handled business as expected to satisfy the fans. TMDK had a good showing in defeat. Tito’s power caught my eye. Hopefully, AEW can use his services in the future for some hoss fights.

Luchasaurus defeated Nick Wayne. The dino dominated with overwhelming power. Wayne had a brief athletic rally, but it was quickly extinguished by Luchasaurus. A clubbing blow to the back of the head earned victory. I fully endorse this result. That’s exactly how it should have played out. Wayne showed the spark to deserve the phenom hype, and Luchasaurus solidified his hoss aura. This will give Wayne growing pains to overcome and get his revenge in time for a greater moment.

Claudio Castagnoli defeated Josh Barnett. Jon Moxley accompanied his Blackpool Combat Club teammate and joined commentary to enthusiastically call the action. This match was heavy on grappling in a fierce way. Claudio gained momentum for the big swing. Barnett turtled to block the impact of the Neutralizer, but Claudio transitioned to a submission then a crucifix pin to win. Impressive victory by Claudio in a badass chess match. Afterward, Barnett gave a strong endorsement of respect to Claudio, but the Warmaster will be coming for a rematch in time.

Athena, Billie Starkz, Keith Lee, & Satoshi Kojima defeated Mercedes Martinez, Diamante, Shane Taylor, & Lee Moriarty. Mixed tag rules in effect. Athena connected on Moriarty for an O-Face flying stunner. Lee followed with a fireman’s carry powerslam, and Kojima closed with a lariat to pin Moriarty. Fun finish to pop the crowd with cool moves. Nice to see the legend receive the winning glory.

Notes: Before the first match on the pre-show, AEW held an opening ceremony to honor Antonio Inoki, who was the inspiration for the WrestleDream event. Tony Khan was in the ring with Rocky Romero, Katsuyori Shibata, and the Inoki grandsons, Naoto Inoki and Hirota Inoki. All were wearing red scarfs, like Inoki. Respect to Khan for his admiration of wrestling history.

Match of the Night: Bryan Danielson vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

Dream match lived up to dream match expectations. That is no small feat.

Stud of the Show: Bryan Danielson

I try not to double dip for these honors, but the American Dragon deserves it. Danielson can now lay claim in story to being the best technical wrestler in the world.

Grade: B

AEW has a high standard for PPVs. Every match on WrestleDream was good in its own way, however, it didn’t meet the usual epic quota. Part of that is a lackluster build in general for the PPV to entice an emotional connection. Overall, this was a very enjoyable show from a wrestling perspective.

Share your thoughts about WrestleDream. How do you rate it? Who stole the show?

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