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AEW Collision recap & reactions (July 1, 2023): Samoa Joe is mean

AEW Collision (July 1, 2023) emanated from FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, Ontario. The show featured Samoa Joe sending his opponent out on a stretcher in one of three Owen Hart tournament matches, a TBS title defense from Kris Statlander, MJF pulling double duty, and more.

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

Samoa Joe gets mean in Owen Hart men’s tournament

The bulk of the broadcast revolved around the Owen Hart men’s tournament quarterfinal matches with three matches on deck.

Samoa Joe throttled Roderick Strong in the main event. CM Punk sat in on commentary to scout his future opponent in the semifinals. As the match wore on, Joe began eyeing Punk from across the ring. Strong was feisty putting up a fight, but it couldn’t match Joe’s Samoan style. Nearing the climax, Strong dropped Joe down on his back from a running knee and an Olympic slam, but Joe kicked out of both covers. The finish came when Joe countered a suplex into a sleeper hold on the mat. Joe choked the breath out of Strong’s lungs to put his opponent to sleep. The referee called for the bell and awarded the win to Joe.

After the match, Joe grabbed a chair walking toward Punk. Officials intervened to keep the peace. Neither man was aggressively pursuing fisticuffs. Joe dipped away to roll into the ring and slam Strong onto a chair. The result was a stretcher job for Strong to end the show.

Joe and Strong had a decent match. I don’t think it ever reached a higher gear of excitement and didn’t make me believe Joe could lose. The closing stretcher job was a head-scratcher. At its simplest, Joe is mean and sent a message of pain to Punk. I don’t believe that was the only purpose. There was a wrinkle of Adam Cole checking on his friend. Cole wasn’t on the show before that moment, so it makes me consider that he showed up as part of a bigger reason. Could Cole challenge Joe out of anger for the ROH TV title at the Death Before Dishonor PPV on July 21? ROH has barely any PPV directions at this moment only three weeks out from the show. We also have to wonder if Strong’s injury will affect Cole moving forward on TV with his blind partnership pal MJF.

As for the injury moment itself, it wasn’t very convincing. It was basically a side slam onto a closed chair on the mat. We’ve seen wrestlers stand up from a heck of a lot worse in AEW. Honestly, I had zero emotion about seeing Strong on the stretcher. His character hasn’t been established strong enough in AEW to create an attachment. Strong is just Cole’s pal so far. I was more in the mindset of trying to figure out why. It didn’t increase my anticipation for Punk versus Joe. That match sells itself. I suppose this will have to be one of those wait and see moments to determine if it was truly effective.

Ricky Starks was absolute in victory over Juice Robinson. Bullet Club Gold was banned from ringside, so this match was fair and square. Juice attacked the knee often. Despite the pain, Starks still found the energy for his signature pose. Starks’ spear came into play for the finish. He gingerly ran the ropes aiming for contact. Juice countered for a jackknife pin, but Starks reversed position for a roll-up to win. Afterward, Jay White and the Gunns ran out with intentions to attack. CM Punk and FTR arrived to scare Bullet Club Gold into retreat.

This was a solid match. Juice worked his strategy to slow down Starks, while Starks worked the crowd and relied on heart to push through in tough moments. Nothing stood in my mind as a lasting memory.

Will Hobbs advanced past Dustin Rhodes in the best match of the bunch. QT Marshall and Harley Cameron were ringside to interfere. QT rammed Dustin into the ring post to hold up the Rhodes family tradition of bleeding. Dustin came hard to surprise Hobbs with a Cross Rhodes and a piledriver. That would have been a perfect moment for a believable upset, but Hobbs kicked out at 2. A short while later, Dustin connected on a Code Red, but that couldn’t keep Hobbs down either.

Dustin was sizing up Hobbs. QT got nervous, so he hopped onto the apron. Dustin socked QT in the kisser, but Hobbs took control for a spinebuster. A lesser man would have crumbled in that moment. Not only did Dustin kick out, but he kicked out at 1. That defiance made the crowd erupt.

In the end, word was bond for QT. Dustin grabbed a leg for the figure-four, but Hobbs powered out to send Dustin into the ropes. Harley distracted the referee, and QT sucker punched Dustin. Hobbs pounced for a spinebuster to win.

That was a dynamite match with a dud finish. Hobbs and Rhodes put on a heck of a fight holding the crowd in the palms of their hands. It’s too bad that the finish was whack. At this point in Dustin’s career, Hobbs shouldn’t need to rely on help to beat him. The cheating interference made Hobbs look weak and zapped my enthusiasm for his semifinal match next week. There are ways to cheat that make you want to see the heel get comeuppance, and this wasn’t it for Hobbs. Nothing about it caused a reaction towards him. If anything, the heat goes to QT. I want to see Dustin get hands on Marshall for a specialty match next time they are in Texas.

The semifinals are set for the Owen Hart men’s tournament with CM Punk versus Samoa Joe and Ricky Starks versus Will Hobbs.

Let’s jam through the rest of Collision.

MJF defeated Kip Morst. MJF started with a cheap shot before the opening bell. He hit the Heatseeker piledriver in under a minute. 1, 2, MJF released the pin to inflict extra pain with the LeBell Lock submission. Once Morst tapped, MJF promptly tossed him out of the ring.

MJF grabbed the mic to insult the Hamilton crowd. He was so confident he could beat any hometown wrestler that he would put the world title on the line. Enter Ethan Page to take that spot. Page slapped the mic out of MJF’s hand and explained his family history in Hamilton. Page was ready to fight.

AEW World Championship: MJF retained against Ethan Page. MJF clipped Page’s knee early and focused on damaging that joint throughout. Page rallied for an avalanche powerslam, but he was too slow on the cover. MJF kicked out. When Page lifted MJF for the Ego’s Edge, his knee gave out. MJF struck with a dragon screw leg whip in the ropes and finished with the Heatseeker.

The crowd got their money’s worth from MJF on this evening. He put in lots of work beyond a quick squash. The scathing promo was amusing heeling, and Page answering the call was a pleasant surprise. Page slapping the mic from MJF’s hand was red hot. Too bad Page continued to talk way too long, and my eagerness for the fight cooled down. I’ll accept that the Hamilton story was needed to clue viewers in on his personal history, but the rest was unnecessary in that moment. I was thinking, “Get to the fight,” the whole time.

Page put up a good effort in the ring, but he is not on the level of the devil. MJF smartly hindered Page’s power ability with that early chop block. Page showed heart as a potential babyface of the future.

Miro defeated Anthony Henry. Miro mauled his opponent. Henry scored a flurry, but Miro weathered the storm to pump kick Henry into oblivion. Miro finished with the Game Over submission.

Miro’s powers of destruction were on full display, and it’s working to build him up as a beast. Tony Khan doesn’t treat Henry like a chump in ROH, so that dominant win shows Miro in a brighter light.

The Gunns joined Bullet Club Gold. “Switchblade” Jay White confirmed that last week’s gun salute was an official invitation for the Gunns to join the squad. The Bang Bang Gang are at full force. White had words for CM Punk’s red sack and also challenged FTR for a tag title match.

The babyfaces answered from the locker room. FTR was up for the challenge. Also of note, Punk spit a shot at MJF holding a replica world title.

The Gunns are a good fit with Bullet Club Gold. It keeps them in a higher profile position while allowing more time to develop into stars. Punk’s promo rubbed me the wrong way. He can claim he was never beaten for the belt, but he can’t say he’s the true champion. Punk got injured, twice. It is what it is. The world moves on, so Punk is the one that needs to put up or shut up.

TBS Championship: Kris Statlander retained against Lady Frost. This was a competitive contest. Down the stretch, Statlander unloaded a discus lariat to set up the Saturday Night Fever piledriver to win.

Statlander handled business, and Frost strut enough of her stuff to look good in defeat. There’s not much more to take away from this bout.

Notes: Commentary felt looser this week quipping more jokes and wisecracks in the rhythm of the action. For example, Nigel McGuinness blamed the referee being out of position when he couldn’t believe Dustin Rhodes kicked out at 1 on Will Hobbs’ spinebuster.

Christian Cage flapped his gums holding the TNT Championship. Shawn Spears stepped up eyeing the prize while trying to get to the bottom of why Luchasaurus allows Christian to prance around holding the belt. Insults were exchanged, and a future title match could be in the works.

Andrade was angry that House of Black stole his mask. He shouted for them to return it, but his voice came off a little pathetic sounding. House of Black popped up on the monitor to say they will help him in good time.

Stud of the Show: MJF

MJF put in work and took down a quality opponent without ever being in serious trouble of losing.

Match of the Night: Will Hobbs vs. Dustin Rhodes

Hobbs and Rhodes controlled my emotions taking me for a ride. The physicality pulled me in, and those kick-outs were fire.

Grade: B

This episode of Collision was enjoyable overall with a solid collection of matches. I like the twist surprise of a bonus world title fight. That adds a vibe that anything could happen on Saturday nights. One criticism is a lot of disconnect in character presentation. Ethan Page now represents AEW through and through, even though, that attitude has never been shown on screen before. MJF flip flops weeks when he’s feeling cowardly. Andrade was near tears over his missing mask, but the personal significance has never been explained. For all of FTR’s tough talk, the upcoming tag bout against Bullet Club Gold is only a title eliminator match. Things like this need sharpening in the future.

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

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