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AEW Collision recap & reactions (July 8, 2023): CM Punk wins biggest match of career

AEW Collision (July 8, 2023) emanated from Brandt Centre in Regina, Saskatchewan. The show saw CM Punk win the biggest match of his career, Will Hobbs physically pounding QTV, Bullet Club Gold earning a title shot at FTR, and more.

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

This episode of Collision was centered around the Owen Hart men’s tournament. CM Punk versus Samoa Joe and Ricky Starks versus Will Hobbs were on the docket as semifinal matchups.

A quick promo package hyped the evening. Starks only deals with absolutes, and he will absolutely take out Hobbs. For Powerhouse, the Book of Hobbs says it is the end of the line for Starks. Joe was confident that history would repeat itself with another win over Punk. Punk countered that he doesn’t make the same mistake twice. He is going to beat Joe for the first time in his career.

Punk went out to the ring to set the backstory of the personal rivalry for the live audience. He recognized this as the biggest match of his career. History will be made when Punk beats Joe. Bigger than that is the memory of Owen Hart. Punk aims to earn the tournament trophy. He promised to pour his heart out and leave everything in the ring to accomplish that.

AEW set the mood right with those promos to give a sense of magnitude to these tournament matches. They showcased the history between Joe and Punk over the years during the show to give the main event a genuine big fight feel.

There was business to handle before the main event though. Ricky Starks wrestled Will Hobbs in the first match of the evening.

Ricky Starks is Absolute, Will Hobbs pounds QTV

Hobbs was flanked by QT Marshall, Aaron Solo, and Harley Cameron ringside. Starks used his quickness to frustrate Powerhouse. Once Hobbs put his mitts on Starks, he was methodical with power offense to wear down Absolute. It helped that QT was trifling on the outside whenever Starks picked up steam.

QT did more harm than good on the finish. He hooked Starks’ foot to set up a spinebuster from Hobbs. Referee Aubrey Edwards sensed malarkey and focused her attention on QT, thus missing Hobbs’ pin attempt. QT hopped onto the apron arguing for the ref to turn around and make the count. Edwards didn’t trust QT and assumed he was setting up a cheap trick, so she completely ignored Hobbs’ opportunity at victory going on behind her back. Hobbs stood up to address the situation. Starks shoved him into QT then pounced for a spear to win.

After the match, Hobbs was furious. QT tried to smooth things over, but Hobbs shoved him on his ass. Solo intervened as a peacemaker and ate a spinebuster for his troubles. Harley ran in to shield QT from Hobbs’ wrath. Powerhouse bailed to exit alone.

This match was a little too plodding for my liking considering the stakes at play. For a tournament match, the finish was crap. I’m not in favor of the winner taking a back seat to story advancement involving a third party. Starks needs to be peaking in momentum heading into the final. Instead, he squeaked by through shenanigans not of his own doing. Starks was also overshadowed as an afterthought with the post-match drama.

As a story tool, the finish was quite alright. AEW is giving the people what they want. It seems like the vast majority did not want Hobbs bogged down by QTV, so AEW appears to be remedying the situation. Just listen to how loud the crowd popped when Hobbs shoved QT. That’s a testament to Hobbs’ appeal to the fans and QT’s work as a scumbag heel. This isn’t necessarily a babyface turn for Hobbs. We have to wait and see on that. For now, it feels like a separation from QTV. I can’t say it is splitsville for certain yet, because AEW has history of milking these moments and then not pulling the trigger.

CM Punk wins biggest match of career

To borrow from Mark Henry, “It’s time for the main event!” Punk and Joe wrestled for close to fifteen minutes. Joe battered Punk early to make him look every bit his age.

The story of this match was Joe’s rear naked choke against Punk’s GTS. Both went for their finisher multiple times. Joe’s first attempt was escaped by a back suplex from Punk. After a flying elbow drop, Punk called for GTS, but he collapsed when Joe elbowed him in the temple. Another GTS was thwarted when Joe shoved Punk into the ropes to bounce back into a powerslam.

In the climax, Joe shifted tactics for a Musclebuster, but Punk wouldn’t allow it. He positioned Joe for a tornado DDT, however, Joe shed off the move. Punk ducked a lariat to counter with a neckbreaker. Joe then countered the GTS lift into a chokehold. Punk dropped down low to force a roll-up. 1, 2, 3! Punk did it. He beat Joe in the biggest match of his career.

The action did not end there. Joe reluctantly extended his arm for a handshake of respect. Punk accepted the gesture. Boom! Joe used that moment to put Punk to sleep with the choke.

As Joe grabbed a chair, FTR gingerly ran out. Joe decided to walk away when outnumbered. Ricky Starks was on stage observing the scene, but he declined to pal around with Punk in the ring.

That was a solid chapter in the rivalry between Punk and Joe. They are no spring chickens athletically anymore, so the focus was on veteran savvy and mental acuity to adapt and overcome. It played out well with slick counters amping up the tension in the tournament atmosphere. I was curious how a loss by Joe would affect his aura as ROH TV champion, but I don’t think he lost any luster in defeat. The match played out in a way that Joe was dominant, and it could be argued that Punk scored a fluke win. Joe’s post-match attack was hilarious. He suckered me in good. I fully bought that Joe was burying his ego to show respect. Nope. Joe was still out to destroy.

One cool thing to note is how Punk primed the crowd during his opening promo to chant for Owen Hart. They ended up using Owen as a rallying cry to support Punk when he needed an emotional boost during the match.

Starks’ appearance at the end adds intrigue to hype next week’s men’s tournament final. I like that he turned his back to walk away. Beating Punk to win the trophy would be the biggest moment of his career to date. Now is not the time to be buddy-buddy. Channel that focus to come out guns ablazing next week.

Let’s jam through the rest of Collision.

Julia Hart defeated Bambi Hall. Hart clipped the knee of her larger opponent to set up the Hartless Lock. Hart held onto the submission long after the bell.

This was an interesting chess match for Hart. Even though it was a quick win, she had to maneuver smartly. It adds an extra dimension to her developing wrestling game. Commentary pointed out that Hart has now won 24 straight matches.

Andrade’s mask. Malakai Black took Andrade’s mask as a lesson to show El Idolo is stronger without it. Black views Andrade like a child who can’t let go of a teddy bear. Black is doing Andrade a favor by showing how great he can be.

Andrade responded with a message about the value of his mask. It represents family, culture, and country. When Andrade takes the mask off, that signifies that it is time to fight to win.

I’m glad AEW delivered these two promos to establish motivation for Black and Andrade. I have to give this round to Black. That teddy bear line slayed Andrade, because that’s exactly what it looks like from the outside. I figured Andrade respected his mask as part of the lucha libre culture, but it needed to be said by him on television. I’m pretty sure Andrade never wore that mask design as any of his past luchador identities. His mask in AEW has always felt like a rich guy costume prop. I wasn’t expecting Andrade to channel Sylvester Stallone in Over The Top about flipping the switch, but I like it.

Bullet Club Gold defeated FTR. Tag team eliminator match. If Bullet Club earned the win, then they would be granted a shot at the tag team titles. This was a lengthy, competitive contest that rocked the ring the longer it went. For the closing sequence, Juice Robinson made a blind tag. Dax Harwood scored a roll-up on Jay White, but it didn’t matter since White was not the legal man. Juice snatched Harwood for an Implant DDT to win. White blocked Cash Wheeler from making the save.

Great match. The action started as a hearty tag team meat and potatoes meal then escalated into excellence. The close calls and cool transitions were dynamite. If you didn’t see the match and think the finish sounds simple, keep in mind that this was after numerous near falls with plenty of heavy-duty moves when exhaustion set in for all four competitors. The great part is that the winning pin was clean. That strongly establishes Bullet Club Gold as legit threats to take the titles from FTR. I’m not a fan of handing the champs a loss to set up a title match, but, if it has to happen that way, this finish delivered maximum impact. There was also a surprise element in the way it unfolded. On a list of options, Bullet Club Gold winning clean would have been on the bottom of my rankings for likely outcomes. It’s nice when wrestling can keep you guessing.

Bullet Club won’t have to wait long for their title shot. White proposed Best 2-out-of-3 Falls next week. FTR accepted the fuzzy wuzzy stipulation.

Scorpio Sky defeated Action Andretti. Andretti had momentum, but Sky got his boots up to block a split-legged moonsault. Andretti kept his focus to continue the charge, however, Sky popped the TKO to win. Afterward, Sky showed sportsmanship to his opponent.

This was athletic action from both men. The TKO was an out of nowhere move. Obviously a win is important, but I didn’t pick up a sense of where Sky will fall in the general pecking order beyond that.

Notes: Miro delivered another cool promo. Nobody can hurt him, since he is a man with nothing left to love. Miro won’t be tempted by shiny belts, a false god, or his double-jointed hot wife. The Redeemer senses a big battle coming.

Willow Nightingale was not medically cleared to compete after an injury in Japan. The plan is to postpone the Owen Hart women’s semifinal tournament match for Friday night on Rampage. Athena questioned if the injury was legit or if Willow was running to avoid taking another loss. Willow was confident in her ability and teased going after the ROH Women’s World Championship when she beats Athena next week. Athena agreed to entertain the idea of a title shot if Willow wins.

Battle of the Belts returns next week to air after Collision for a three-hour block. Shawn Spears will challenge Luchasaurus for Christian Cage’s TNT Championship. Spears warned that his temper can go from zero to death row.

Stud of the Show: CM Punk

Punk deserves the honor for finally beating Samoa Joe for the first time in his career.

Match of the Night: FTR vs. Bullet Club Gold

Dax Harwood, Cash Wheeler, Jay White, and Juice Robinson tore the house down.

Grade: B-

This show felt a little bare bones in general. It was a different vibe more comparable to an actual fight card with adrenaline of matches then the cool down lull in between. Granted, the women’s tournament match was postponed, so the show probably would have tightened up with that included in the mix. That women’s matchup also had important value to boot. Overall, it was a good show. The format was pretty basic, but one step clearly lead to the next for story development.

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

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