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AEW Worlds End recap & reactions: Samoa Joe new World champ & Devil revealed

AEW Worlds End (Dec. 30, 2023) emanated from Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island, NY. The PPV featured Samoa Joe choking out MJF to win the world title, the masked devil finally revealed, Eddie Kingston proving doubters wrong, Christian Cage outsmarting Adam Copeland, and much more.

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

Samoa Joe wins the AEW world championship, and the devil is revealed

Whoa! Samoa Joe is the new AEW world champion. I am absolutely shocked. There was plenty of reason to believe Joe could win, but it is an entirely different feeling seeing it actually play out.

And, there was also the reveal of the masked devil.

First things first. Joe arrived to the ring for the main event. MJF was second with a cheeky intro video of Long Island locals celebrating their scumbag.

As MJF savored the cheers, he pointed to the stage. Adam Cole, Bay Bay! His best friend would be ringside on crutches.

MJF’s shoulder was in bad condition, and it became a direct target for Joe to attack. Joe picked MJF apart piece by piece. MJF rallied a little with an idea for the kangaroo kick. Joe don’t play that. He caught Maxwell’s signature dropkick to slingshot him over the ropes. Joe followed for a suicide dive.

Back in the ring, Joe executed a crushing trio of suplexes, German, dragon, and straitjacket, all driving force down upon the neck and shoulder. Joe obliterated MJF with a musclebuster on the apron for a true ‘holy shit’ moment.

MJF rallied once more, but his kangaroo kick was swatted away with a big boot from Joe. When Joe snatched MJF’s neck for a sleeper, Maxwell charged him back into the corner inadvertently sandwiching the referee. Ref down! A wide smile crept across MJF’s face. It was scumbag time. MJF hit a low blow, then he lifted Joe into a fireman’s carry march to execute an F5. MJF sold the heck out of carrying the weight to make it appear like an amazing feat of strength. MJF wearily placed his arm over Joe’s barrel chest for the pin. Precious seconds passed before the Bryce Remsburg was able to begin his count. 1, 2, kick out by Joe.

MJF called to Cole for the Dynamite Diamond Ring. Cole patted down his pockets looking for the foreign object. Valuable time was wasted before passing the ring to MJF. Meanwhile, Joe arose and snatched MJF’s neck for a chokehold. MJF was fading, but he managed to weasel top position for a pin. Joe readjusted the choke for firm control with a body scissors. MJF was trapped and fading fast. The referee checked MJF’s arm. 1? Nothing. 2? Nothing. 3? Nothing. Remsburg called for the bell to declare Joe the winner.

The show didn’t end there.

After Joe exited with the gold, Cole consoled MJF in the ring. Cole looked guilty for messing up his role with the ring. Uh, oh. The devil’s goons surrounded the vicinity. They restrained both Cole and MJF with threats of a chairshot to the head. Lights out, lights on. Cole was seated in the chair flanked by the henchmen. It was now clear that Cole is the devil. The masks came off to reveal Roderick Strong, Matt Taven, Mike Bennett, and Wardlow. The big man powerbombed MJF for good measure, and that was a wrap.

That Worlds End finish was a double whammy. I’m still in shock that Joe is actually the AEW world champion. This is one of those matches that will be better on replay to savor the moment. Joe kicked MJF’s ass so sternly that I just assumed it would be setting up for the heroic comeback. That comeback never came. I have to commend AEW for having the cajones to shake things up. It is a new era for the new year, and it opens a ton of possibilities. This works as an injection of fresh energy to see which directions AEW rolls for the main event scene.

As for the devil reveal, hard pass on that one as a moment in time. Cole is injured. Strong and the Kingdom have been presented as goofs. And yet they were posing as if they were badasses. If it weren’t for Wardlow, nobody would be scared of them. I am buying long though. Cole’s explanation promo should be good. I’m not believing whatever malarkey he sells in regard to the orchestration, but I am intrigued by his motivations. MJF has enough material to keep this feud hot for a year or so. There are a lot of layers to climb. MJF can regain the ROH tag titles if he chooses, and that offers drama in finding a partner. MJF has the mid-card boss in Strong, then he has the heater in Wardlow to overcome. MJF might just call in some friends, such as the super jacked Alexander Hammerstone to match Wardlow in the power game. And then there is the showdown with Cole once healthy to wrestle. After that, MJF can get revenge on Joe. Eventually the stage will be set to go after the world title again, and new stars will hopefully have been created to carry the main event scene in the meantime.

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

Continental Classic final: Eddie Kingston defeated Jon Moxley. This was a non-stop slugfest. Kingston hit numerous spinning backfists throughout. On some pins, he was too damaged or too slow to capitalize. On other pins, Moxley was just too tough to stay down. The closing sequence was a firefight of rugged strikes. Boom! Kingston connected on a spinning backfist again. This time, he won. Kingston was awarded the triple crown of title belts with the brand new Continental Crown Championship. Afterward, Moxley hugged his friend for a happy ending.

That was one exciting war of attrition. Kingston and Moxley beat the stuffing out of each other. They mixed in technical strategy as well, which was elevated by Bryan Danielson’s analysis on commentary. Danielson did such a great job explaining the details of submission offense and defense. The climax of this match was bonkers with the physicality of chops and slaps putting a smile on my face. Aside from winning the AEW world title, Kingston is now a made man in AEW. He beat his demons one by one and achieved a level of glory that his heroes would be proud of. I find this version of Kingston much more interesting than his street tough persona. I’m curious to see how Kingston continues to evolve.

The TNT Championship was a two-part story.

TNT Championship: Adam Copeland defeated Christian Cage to win the title. No DQ rules in effect. Nick Wayne and Mama Wayne were ringside for assistance and interference. Tables, ladder, chairs, and kendo sticks were in use. Copeland attacked like a bat out of hell to start the match, and he carried the brawl through the crowd for a flying crossbody off the upper deck.

As the match progressed, Copeland leapfrogged over a spear attempt, then he scooted across to spear Christian through a table in the corner. 1, 2, Mama Wayne pulled out of the referee. Copeland was enraged. Nick saved his mother with a flying cutter on Copeland. Get the flaming tables! Fire on by the bad guys, but it backfired when Copeland powerbombed Nick onto the burning wood.

Back in the ring, Christian tried to strike with the title belt. Copeland dodged to hit a low blow. Killswitch by Copeland to win, but he didn’t remain champion for long.

TNT Championship: Christian Cage defeated Adam Copeland to win back the title. During the pre-show, Killswitch (aka Luchasaurus) won a 20-man battle royal with the prize of a TNT title shot at anytime. Killswitch attacked Copeland immediately after the first TNT bout. A barrage of chokeslams left Copeland in dire straits. Killswitch was going to cash in, but Christian wanted the contract for himself instead. Killswitch was reluctant, then Christian whispered in his ear. Whatever was said, it did the trick. The dino handed over the contract. Christian signed on the dotted line. Match number two was on. All it took was a spear for Christian to win.

Christian and Copeland had a badass match. It was the first on the card that felt like a true PPV affair. The intensity from Copeland was excellent to fit the story coming in. The TLC spots paid service to the feud and also delighted with callbacks to past history. The chemistry between Christian and Copeland was perfect in storytelling and athletically in the ring. The Wayne family was used well. They definitely made an impact, but it wasn’t intrusive. They did standard heel stuff to save their patriarch, then they got out of the way. Being that the rules were No DQ meant it was fair game.

I have a mixed mind on the impromptu second round. On one hand, it is a funny way for Christian to connive his way over Copeland. All the heel heat is earned. On the other hand, where does this feud go from here? No way Copeland let’s it end like that. Even though both singles bouts between them were great, is there really demand for another one? I’m fully satisfied in nostalgic terms and in current terms. I’d rather see both men pick up new feuds at this point.

TBS Championship: Julia Hart defeated Abadon to retain the title. House rules in effect. Abadon chose the stipulation that biting is legal. The zombie made use of that tactic to gain control in pivotal situations. When Abadon had momentum, Skye Blue ran interfere. Abadon fought back, then Hart attacked from behind. The champ smashed the challenger’s head repeatedly into the ring steps. A moonsault sealed the deal.

This bout was an interesting observation in aggression between oddball characters. The biting stipulation was a creative way to showcase Abadon’s zombie mentality. It was used well to enhance the story of the match. The interference finish was a weak choice. There was no need to protect Abadon in this particular case, and it does no favors to establish Hart as champion. There are opponents when a duplicitous victory has value to the story. This was not such a case.

Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara, Darby Allin, & Sting defeated Ricky Starks, Big Bill Morrissey, Will Hobbs, & Konosuke Takeshita. There were two elements of interest for this match. It’s Sting! The Icon rocked on a hot tag and blocked Takeshita’s jumping knee to counter for the Scorpion Deathlock. The second element was Le Sex Gods with a tag title shot. The finish played out between Sammy and Starks. Sammy escaped the Roshambo to fire back with the GTH. A shooting star press earned the win.

This 8-man had an exciting pace of action. The daredevils did their high-flying. The big men were respected as giants. Sting didn’t have any holy shit moments, but he styled to satisfaction. The one takeaway for me is that I badly want to see a singles match between Allin and Takeshita. Their exchanges were so cool with slick chemistry. As for the finish, it’s interesting that Starks took the pin. Someone had to, and he’s the best adept at talking his way out of the situation to recover his star power. The result also creates intrigue to see if Le Sex Gods can replicate the outcome when the gold is on the line.

Swerve Strickland defeated Dustin Rhodes. Keith Lee was not medically cleared in real life (not part of an angle), so Rhodes volunteered to replace his friend. Swerve unleashed rage before the bell to pummel Rhodes. Prince Nana held Rhodes’ foot on a cinder block for the flying stomp.

Despite being damaged goods, Rhodes wanted to wrestle. The match started with Swerve in firm control. Rhodes rallied for a Canadian Destroyer and Cross Rhodes. Swerve regrouped and turned up the heat. Rhodes was doomed and flashed middle fingers in defiance. Swerve snapped Rhodes’ arm and finished with the flying stomp.

The pre-match injury was a weird direction to take. I guess the purpose was for Swerve to remind the world of his villainous tendencies after being forced to wrestle clean in the Continental Classic. It actually made him look weak when Rhodes scored all those impressive moves on a severely damaged leg. If they performed the same match without the shenanigans, it would have made more sense. I can believe Rhodes rising to the occasion as a wily veteran with a chip on his shoulder to help his friend. I can’t believe Rhodes taking Swerve to the limit while operating on one leg. Aside from that, I’ll always pop when Rhodes hits those wild moves in flurry of fury. The crowd was eating up Rhodes’ rally despite heavy favoritism toward Swerve. Basically, this was a fun match despite questionable booking tactics.

AEW Women’s World Championship: Toni Storm defeated Riho to retain the title. The champ relied on her power advantage, while the diminutive challenger used quickness to score high-flying offense. Luther was ejected when he was caught cheating by referee Rick Knox. The butler pulled the bottom rope away as Riho reached out to break a cloverleaf submission. Riho rallied to score slick roll-ups, but it wasn’t enough to keep Storm down for three. Storm pulled Riho off the turnbuckles crashing down to the mat. The champ pounced to unleash an over-the-back DDT variation for victory.

This match was fine as a filler title defense. Storm leaned into her cheeky character. Riho provided electricity for dramatic moments as a natural underdog. Luther’s presence was amusing. That was the kind of cheating I can get behind without it ruining the match. Luther flowed creatively with Storm to offer a helping hand. It was much better than the often used numbers interference that elevates nobody. Storm’s new finisher was a unique twist on the DDT. Thumbs up for that effort.

Miro defeated Andrade. CJ Perry was ringside to support her client. Miro was on a mission to destroy Andrade, and he attacked prior to the opening bell. Andrade is no chump, so he wasn’t going out like a sucker. Andrade rallied to match Miro’s intensity and execute his signature moves. Miro regained control for the Game Over submission, but Andrade reached the ropes for the break. Andrade had been working over the knee to lock in the figure-four. Miro rolled it over to reverse the submission. Andrade turned it back and added some stank with a figure-eight. Swerve alert! CJ swatted out Andrade’s hands to cause the submission to release. Andrade was shocked at the betrayal from his manager. He turned around into a heavy kick, then Miro finished with the Game Over. Andrade tapped out.

What an odd story this continues to be between Miro and CJ. They were bickering throughout the match, so there was no indication that the swerve was coming. Back when CJ was recruiting talent and Miro was taking out the trash, it felt like this story might be some weird relationship kink. Add this latest chapter, and I can’t think of any other explanation. CJ was pleased with her husband’s victory. Is she doing all this to add spice back into their marriage? The match itself was pretty good. They still have a higher gear to reach if a rematch is in order.

Claudio Castagnoli, Mark Briscoe, Daniel Garcia, & Bryan Danielson defeated Brody King, Jay Lethal, Rush, & Jay White. This 8-man tag was made of leftovers from the Continental Classic. There were minor story continuations from the tournament, such as tension from Garcia toward Danielson and King trying to intimidate Daddy Magic on commentary. The finish exploded into moves all around. Garcia dodged a Lethal Injection from Lethal to counter for a jackknife pin to win.

This match didn’t feel important when it was announced, and it never felt important as it played out in the ring. It was just a showcase of personalities. The action was fine with the excitement turning up on the closing salvo. The best spot was Claudio with a giant swing on King. So awesome seeing a man of that size whirl through the air. It’s nice to see Garcia earn the win to keep his momentum rolling. On the flip side, Lethal ate the pin. He was the only person to lose all tournament matches, and now he lost this match. Afterward, there was chatter between Lethal and Sonjay Dutt. AEW might be turning Lethal’s failure into a story.

Notes: Dante Martin spoke about wanting to become a champion. Orange Cassidy walked in to grant a shot at the AEW International Championship on Dynamite.

The Zero Hour pre-show featured four bouts and a tease for the return of Serena Deeb.

FTW Championship: Hook defeated Wheeler Yuta to retain the title. FTW rules in effect (anything goes). Weapons included trashcans, lids, street signs, 2x4 lumber, and a hockey stick. Hook was close to cinching in the Redrum submission, but Yuta escaped with a back drop onto the trashcan. When Yuta grabbed the 2x4, Hook used the hockey stick to hook the foot as a trip. Hook broke the stick over Yuta’s back, then he grabbed a piece of wood to choke Yuta. Tap out.

This was a fun mid-card bout for two rising talents. It was the simple story of babyface serving an ass-kicking to the jerk heel. They did well blending technical wrestling with the weapon spots. It was like they demonstrated ring awareness and intelligence to use their surroundings rather than it becoming a garbage match.

Killswitch (aka Luchasaurus) won 20-man battle royal. Winner earns a TNT shot anytime, anywhere. The final four came down to Killswitch, Lance Archer, Danhausen, and Trent Beretta. Danhausen and Trent worked together with kicks and a low blow to dump the Murderhawk Monster over the ropes. The best friends shared a hug, then Trent swerved by tossing Danhausen out. Trent delivered three consecutive running knees to Killswitch. On the fourth, the dinosaur chokeslammed his adversary. Both competitors battled on the apron. It looked like Trent had the upper hand, then Killswitch blasted a strike to knock Trent down to the floor. Match over.

I genuinely enjoy the battle royal concept, so this bout held my attention throughout. There wasn’t much in terms of huge spots or story development into the future. It was a pretty basic elimination match. The big moment was Trent backstabbing Danhausen. It made me laugh loudly as a surprise, because I didn’t see it coming at all. Good shock value, and it works on a logic level with Trent realizing the great stakes. The idea of Killswitch winning doesn’t really enthuse me, however, AEW has story material to play with when cashing in. Will the dino turn on Christian Cage for mistreatment? If Adam Copeland wins the TNT strap, then there is history to finish with Killswitch. And now we know how that turned out.

The full list of participants included Dalton Castle, Johnny TV, Killswitch (aka Luchasaurus), Christopher Daniels, Serpentico, Danhausen, Trent Beretta, Rocky Romero, Kip Sabin, Butcher, Blade, Darius Martin, Action Andretti, Alex Reynolds, John Silver, Lee Johnson, Daddy Magic, Cool Hand Ang, Bryan Keith, and Lance Archer.

Serena Deeb! A vignette aired showing Deeb training in her dojo. Deeb has been away in isolation, dissecting the women’s division, and facing the imprisonment of her mind, body, and soul. Excellence is achieved by challenging yourself. Deeb is Houdini in the ring and ready for her return. This was very cool. It was both visually and mentally stimulating. Watch the video.

Willow Nightingale defeated Kris Statlander. Stokely Hathaway was on commentary rooting for Statlander, but he played no role in the match. Athleticism and power were on display from both women. Willow was moving and grooving with a pounce, a cannonball in the corner, and a brutal powerbomb on the apron. Statlander rallied with a discus lariat, but she missed on a 450 splash. Willow took control for a doctor bomb to win. Willow had trouble executing the lift for the finish. They sort of fell over to the side for a slam, then Willow tried again to hit the move.

That was an unexpected result to start the evening. In terms of the ring story, Willow looked one step quicker and better prepared with scouting. It’s like she took the match more seriously whereas Statlander was competing in an exhibition between friends. We’ll see if this loss creates a window of opportunity for Stokely to recruit Statlander.

Stud of the Show: Samoa Joe

All hail the one true king of the world.

Match of the Night: Adam Copeland vs. Christian Cage

Copeland and Christian delivered a classic chapter in their rivalry.

Grade: B-

This PPV ended up being a three-match show. The undercard was satisfying in terms of action, but it never reached a special level. The TNT bout and the Continental Classic final stood out above the rest. The main event was heavily anchored by story with a shocking result.

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

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