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AEW Collision recap & reactions (July 29, 2023): MJF & Adam Cole friends forever despite failure

AEW Collision (July 29, 2023) emanated from XL Center in Hartford, CT. The show featured MJF & Adam Cole putting friendship on the line to battle FTR for the tag titles, CM Punk ready to defend a false championship, Andrade winning his mask back, and more.

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

Saturday night is alright for fighting.

Friends forever

Brochachos MJF and Adam Cole are the hottest thing in AEW right now. As evidence, they have made something as simple as a double clothesline into a national treasure. Earlier today, I scrolled my Twitter timeline to stumble upon this tweet from MJF. It instantly put a smile on my face with anticipation for Collision.

Saturday was the big night when MJF and Cole would have their shot at FTR for the AEW World Tag Team Championship. They were riding a three-match win streak by conquering the Blind Eliminator Tag Team Tournament. FTR was in peak condition coming off a stellar 58-minute victory against Bullet Club Gold.

Aside from the lure of tag team gold, the main event had another level of attraction in storytelling. MJF and Cole have bonded to become great friends, however, world championship motivation may drive an irreparable wedge in the relationship. Failure to succeed in the quest for tag team gold could explode their bond.

Let’s get to the action. FTR worked as serious scholars of the game, while MJF and Cole worked their magic to entertain the crowd. The vaunted double clothesline was teased various times, but FTR were too savvy to let it happen. In the end, FTR were poised to hit the Shatter Machine finisher on Cole. MJF shoved Cole to safety and mashed into those ruffians. MJF grabbed Cash Wheeler for a Heatseeker piledriver, but Dax Harwood accosted MJF from behind for a roll-up to retain the titles.

MJF was devastated at losing the match and letting his friend down. Cole voiced verbal support for his pal and handed him the world title belt to remind him of his greatness. When Cole turned his back, MJF rose with the belt in a sinister position to portray a backstabbing attack. Based on the crowd reaction, Cole knew what was coming. He remained with his back turned to make it easier on MJF. Much like the Grinch, MJF’s heart grew three sizes in that moment. He was clearly conflicted about striking his friend, then he decided to drop the belt on the mat. MJF and Cole hugged it out as the fans cheered in jubilation.

It isn’t often that professional wrestling can warm the cockles of your heart. The power of friendship can do that. There is a lot to digest about the closing scene. My first reaction was anticlimactic. Anticlimactic doesn’t mean bad in this scenario. AEW, and wrestling in general, has conditioned the masses to expect betrayal in these scenarios. AEW teased it hard over the weeks that MJF can not be trusted. Cole hasn’t helped his case either with jealous eyes on the world title.

A funny thing happened along the way. The people love MJF and Cole as a duo, and they didn’t want to see a breakup so soon. Even though an evil turn from MJF or Cole would have been hot and delivered on expectations, it appears that AEW called an audible to give the people what they want. The anticlimactic part comes in because I couldn’t ever trust what I was seeing. My eyes were glued to the screen waiting for treachery, and it never came. Now knowing the story that played out, I’m looking forward to watching that scene again to savor the moment.

Keeping MJF and Cole together is the right call. I imagine them now sitting in a karaoke bar drowning their sorrows and singing, “That’s What Friends Are For.” I can’t wait for the holiday season when Britt Baker is forced to invite MJF into her home for Thanksgiving dinner.

The match itself was very entertaining. There were so many nifty sequences working drama to a fever pitch. I would stop short on calling the match great. This sort of felt like the first chapter of the rivalry with so much focus on the double clothesline and MJF’s desire to harm Harwood’s testicles. It was a serious match, but there were still comedic undertones. They definitely left meat on the bone for genuine wrestling combat. MJF and Cole can up their game with increased motivation.

Next up for FTR are Brian Cage & Big Bill Morrissey, who earned the title shot by winning a battle royale on Rampage. That contest goes down next week on Collision.

Let’s jam through the rest of Collision.

Ladder Match: Andrade defeated Buddy Matthews. The prize was El Idolo’s mask hung high above the ring. The big spot of the bout was Andrade executing a sunset flip powerbomb off the top of a ladder onto a horizontally hanging ladder. Ouch!

Julia Hart had a trick up her sleeve pulling out handcuffs for Matthews to lock Andrade to the ring post. Hart taunted Andrade with the key. Instead of going for victory, Matthews pulled out a chair as a weapon. That backfired terribly. Andrade booted the chair into Matthews’ face, and Hart dropped the key in shock. Andrade grabbed the key to set himself free and lock Matthews up.

Hart brought out bolt cutters for Matthews then tried to stop Andrade from climbing the ladder. She jumped on his back, but he still rose higher step by step. Once Matthews was free, he charged up the ladder. Andrade shoved him down to the mat. Hart stood across from Andrade to slap him on the face. El Idolo responded by pushing Hart off the ladder landing on Matthews through a table in the corner. Andrade grabbed his mask for victory.

That was a rocking ladder match. Physicality was off the charts, and that was before they started using ladders in car crash action. Andrade and Matthews are going to have some major lumps in the morning. Matthews might have separated his shoulder early on. He exited the ring, and the doctor popped it back into place. I’m leaning toward thinking that was real, because Andrade looked like he was buying time climbing a short ladder that wasn’t tall enough to reach his mask. If it wasn’t real, then it was much more convincing in execution than stopping the action for a fake concussion.

My initial reaction to the handcuff bit was to roll my eyes for Andrade to escape so conveniently. They won me back over with how the finish played. There was enough opportunity that Matthews didn’t directly lose because of that. When watching the finish table spot again, I appreciate the little detail of Matthews still trying to crawl up the ladder in a futile effort. There’s no quit in that man, and that is fitting for a member of the House of Black.

Andrade has major momentum with a fantastic win. On one hand, this feud could be over as Andrade moves to bigger things. On the other hand, a singles bout against Malakai Black would be appropriate and tantalizing.

Darby Allin defeated Minoru Suzuki. Allin was in a sour mood and wanted a fight. Minoru Suzuki answered the call as a surprise. Allin immediately regret his decision, but he still went full speed ahead. He attacked Suzuki before the opening bell. The match progressed with Suzuki being a badass and Allin doing his best to put Suzuki down. On the finish, Allin went for the Coffin Drop. Suzuki caught him to counter for a sleeper on the mat. Allin was able to arch his position over the top to pin Suzuki’s shoulders to the mat for three.

That match was an awesome surprise as an ass-kicking fight with a cool finish. Bonus Suzuki is always appreciated in my book. The contrast in facial reactions was great with Allin showing shock at his inability to stop his opponent and Suzuki mean mugging. I have to say that I’m fading away on the fan train rooting for Allin as a character. He has been a bit of a brat lately to other babyfaces, then he sucker attacked Suzuki out of fear like a chump. Make no mistake, Allin is still super entertaining in the ring. Just when I was turning on him, he pulled out a slick piece of strategy to win. Positioning himself for the pin while still in a choke deserves respect.

Afterward, Christian Cage mouthed off about the future TNT Championship challenge. He advised Allin not to be distracted in pursuing the belt. Christian trumpeted himself as carrying the title to its highest level.

Samoa Joe defeated Gravity. The luchador strut in slow motion to mimic zero gravity. That’s worth mentioning for a reason. Gravity went for a high flying attack, then Joe easily dodged and comically mocked that same strut. Joe finished with a musclebuster for victory.

On the surface, this matchmaking was fine. Gravity gained exposure, and Joe reminded the world that he is a badass. Digging deeper, this was poor matchmaking and booking. Elsewhere in the Tony Khan multiverse, Gravity is currently competing on ROH TV in a tournament to determine Joe’s next challenger for the TV title. This contest did nothing to make me interested for a rematch in the case that Gravity becomes #1 contender. Joe beat him handily, and I have little doubt that round two would be any different.

CM Punk’s red sack revealed. Punk had business to address, and it revolved around what’s in his Santa Claus bag. Punk pulled out his old AEW World Championship belt to proclaim himself as the real world champ. Nobody has pinned or submitted him for the title. He spray painted an X over the gold to mark his property. That belt belongs on Collision.

Ricky Starks interrupted in style. He humorously came out first to alert the sound guy to play his music, then he returned for his full entrance.

Starks rubbed his recent success in Punk’s face. Absolute wanted a shot at Punk’s championship. Punk didn’t trust officials to catch Starks cheating, so he requested a special referee. Starks was cool with that, since he didn’t think Punk had any friends. The match was made for next week on Collision, then the ref was named to be Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. Commentary put over Steamboat as a man of honor who has never cheated.

That segment was electric. The verbal chemistry was on point as charisma shined. Tension oozed to set up a primo showdown. Punk curmudgeonly controlled the scene, while Starks was the hot stud looking to take his spot.

In terms of the grander scale, I’m not a fan of Punk crowning himself as a fake world champ, and AEW rolling without resistance. AEW has worked hard to establish the world championship with prestige, and Punk is making a mockery of it. Tony Khan, the character, looks like a pushover as the on-screen management figure by letting Punk do whatever he wants. I can see it as a means to an end for the MJF ‘unification’ bout. However, the longer it goes, the sillier it gets. Punk still hasn’t requested an official title shot. That is my main issue that makes Punk look weak in this scenario. It also feels like a heel move, since he is talking tough without confronting the actual world champion. Granted, other AEW storylines have kept Punk and MJF busy apart from each other. All my hemming and hawing could be for nothing if Punk beats Starks next week then challenges MJF for All In or All Out.

It should be noted that Punk also delivered a line that could be perceived as a shot at the Elite by referring to himself in general as the responsible adult in the room. Whether that was his intention or not is up for debate.

Juice Robinson & the Gunns defeated Darius Martin, Action Andretti, & Hijo del Vikingo. Bullet Club Gold pulled out a cardboard cutout of Jay White to join them for the match. The placement was perfect to see White’s smiling face on the bottom right corner for the main camera angle. The Bang Bang Gang seized control in the end for the Gunns to win via 3:10 to Yuma on Martin.

Fun little bout. The babyfaces brought excitement with high-flying. The Bullet Club carried the character work. Juice is wild with his variety of vocal noises. He is becoming a scene stealer. You can’t take eyes off him to miss what little things he does when not the focus. The finish was impressive from the Gunns. Even though they are former tag champs, nobody takes them serious as threats in wrestling. The way they hammered Martin and Andretti is one step toward building legitimacy in the ring.

Mercedes Martinez defeated Kiera Hogan. Martinez received the home area support from fans. The match was clean, however, the aftermath was not. The OG Badass took control in the end with a Saito suplex, forearm strike to the back of the head, and a surfboard dragon sleeper to win. Martinez held onto the choke well after the bell. Kris Statlander ran out for the save. She dropped the TBS title belt on her way to check Hogan. Martinez used that to clobber Statlander. Willow Nightingale made the double save for Martinez to retreat.

Martinez’s win was strong enough to pique interest in a clash with Statlander. I’m on board for that TBS title match with this quick build, so the segment was a success in that sense.

Notes: Miro was attacked backstage by Aaron Solo with a chair. The Redeemer took some lumps then kicked Solo’s ass. I assume this relates to QT Marshall previously telling Will Hobbs that he would knock out the toughest man in the locker room. Word is bond.

Toni Storm is set to defend the AEW Women’s World Championship against Hikaru Shida on Dynamite. Storm will beat Shida so viciously that she will have to use her kendo stick as a walking cane.

Studs of the Show: Andrade and Buddy Matthews

Those two put their bodies through pain to put on a show.

Match of the Night: Darby Allin vs. Minoru Suzuki

Spiritual hoss fight with style and intelligence.

Grade: A

The highs were very high on the entertainment scale. A handful of great matches, the promo session between CM Punk and Ricky Starks, and the friendship story for MJF and Adam Cole made for an enjoyable evening. This was one of those episodes that live viewers would be glad they didn’t skip.

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

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