AEW All In (8.27.23) live review
August 27, 2023
Hello. First and foremost, yes, I am totally aware I said I wasn’t going to review this show. That I didn’t think I had the mental energy to reel off words about AEW or BritWres or the ‘scene’. Just leave me be in 1986. I’m happy there. All the pedophiles on the shows are dead now. But, you know what, fuck it. When AEW announced Wembley, I just felt this urge to be there. Like, if I didn’t go I’d be missing something special. Something once in a lifetime. As it turns out, Tony Khan is intending to run Wembley every year and hey, why not. More power to him. But, you only get one first one. There’s only one WrestleMania 1. In holding their first show at Wembley, they drew a staggering 81,035 PAID. The largest paid wrestling crowd in history*.
*Before you come at me with “oh but North Korea, they bussed them fucking people into the building. There were only 50 wrestling fans in the entire country. Nobody paid shit for that.
*Also, don’t come at me with WrestleMania 32. That number is entirely made up. As someone who is cited on Wikipedia for the attendance number of a show (this is true) I know what I’m talking about.
*If someone starts talking about holograms, I swear to fucking Christ almighty.
Anyway, I saw the show was happening and signed on up for it. Mike Kilby got us tickets and we were All In. However, I then started to watch AEW television and I have to tell you, there is no worse advert for attending this show than AEW TV over the past few months. The MJF-Adam Cole stuff in particular has had me scrambling for the remote control. Something I really want to get off my chest in this review is how pro wrestling changed during the pandemic. Beforehand, pro wrestling was a hard-hitting, trying to one-up the other guy thrill ride. The best promotions in the world combined simple storylines with strong action and I loved watching it. From 2012-2017 is a genuine golden age of wrestling. However, since then, the influence of certain people in the business has changed it into a goofy melodrama with bad acting. I don’t like it. So, certain matches will have ratings you probably don’t agree with, but it simply doesn’t work for me, brother.
Normally these weekenders would be accompanied by a series of anecdotes and nonsense from the weekend but a) I made ZERO notes because I had no intention of writing this until about 20 minutes ago and b) I can’t repeat most of the comments I made to people over the course of the weekend. Essentially not caring that much about the outcomes and long-term booking is freeing. It also means I can say whatever I like and if I get cancelled then fuck it, I had a good run and, again, it’s back to 1986 with me where I can accuse people of being up to the eyeballs on cocaine because they were and they’re dead and can’t sue me.
I was intending to come down on Saturday, ahead of the Rev Pro show, but train strikes made that a little tricky, so I booked Friday off work and headed down to Mike’s in Luton. Only, change of plans, I switched to Euston and as soon as I was off that train, I was with Eddie Sideburns. Literally, standing there waiting for me at the top of the ramp. From there, we went to a pub called the Crown & Anchor and gradually gained pals, and pints, until a pissed up journey back to Luton for my overnight stay. I don’t want to start shouting people out because I’ll miss someone, but it was fantastic to see people I’ve not seen in years. It was almost overwhelming. I felt the need to stop and chat to everyone and there just wasn’t enough time. This was a reoccurring theme across the three days. So, I got battered, because I was drinking for 12 hours. Actually, shout out to Frankie Phraser because he was there for basically all of it. Good lad.
Saturday, I was so brutally hungover that Mike had to nurse me back to health with coffee, ibuprofen and Monster. My assessment when I woke up was fucking 2/10. Absolute dogshit. Brain broken. Stomach felt like it been in a washing machine overnight. I legitimately thought I’d fucked the Rev Pro Saturday. Ah yes, Rev Pro. So, when AEW announced they were running, every other rat promotion in London tried to attach themselves to the show and get a pay day. The only one I was happy to go to was Rev Pro because a) Mike likes Rev Pro and b) Ishii.
Rev Pro 11 Year Anniversary Show (Copper Box Arena, 8.26.23)
Hey, a review within a review. You lucky, lucky people. Having been away from BritWres for three years, and deliriously happy about it, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about doing a Rev Pro show. Although, it was Rev Pro that dragged me back into BritWres, kicking and screaming, when they booked Kazuchika Okada in October 2014. Prior to that I hadn’t been to a wrestling show in 7 years. Incidentally, the same show was the first time I saw Will Ospreay wrestle.
Pre-Show Battle Royal
They had a pre-show battle royal with ten women in it. The winner would be #1 contender. The crowd were really into Skye Blue, who has been on TV. I knew Dani Luna, Chantal Jordan, Rhio, Skye Smitson and Mercedez Blaze. We also had Maya Matthews, Safire Reed, Rayne Leverkusen and Alexxis Falcon. This is a lot of people. I hated it. They couldn’t get anyone over in the ten minutes they worked. The characters were not well defined. They did a bunch of shitty looking strikes and counters. I had an unpopular opinion that, with WWE having taken basically the entire European women’s scene, we should probably give up on women’s wrestling in Europe for a while. At least on the bigger shows. It needs to organically grow again, and the talent isn’t there. I feel this match is a prime example of what I’m talking about. Dani Luna got more relatable working with Subculture later in the show than she did winning here. Just like to point out, I’m not in favour of abandoning women’s wrestling altogether but a 10 woman battle royal on a pre-show isn’t going to toast anybody’s bread.
Leon Slater vs. Dan Moloney
Slater has appeared in the last couple of years. He looks decent. Moloney seems to have a niche as a bully gatekeeper. The fact he lost seems to be good news for Leon. Moloney will only get better working in NJPW and while I felt he was treading water at one point, his ceiling should improve if he can level up a bit. This was ok.
Cruiserweight Championship Scramble
Connor Mills (c) vs. Callum Newman vs. Jordon Breaks vs. Robbie X vs. Sha Samuels vs. Wild Boar
I hate scrambles. I think it stems from the ‘scramble Mania’ weekend where every show had a scramble and it just burned me out. Connor Mills getting a haircut has made him unrecognisable and for that, it’s a win. He had terrible hair. There was quite a lot of thigh slapping in this. The art of hitting your leg to make a sound when you land another move is a tricky one and most wrestlers are shit at it. It was much worse a few years ago and it seems to have calmed down a bit but people, you fuckers (you’re to blame), keep popping it. Stop it. Don’t encourage these people. I’ve always really liked Callum Newman, so it’s good to see him getting a NJPW chance. Breaks needs to beef up a bit. Robbie X should put his mask back on. Wild Boar should wear lifts.
JJ Gale vs. Kosei Fujita
No idea why this was on the card. Nobody cared. It was bad.
Katsuyori Shibata & ELP vs. David Finlay & Gabriel Kidd
Shibata is looking healthy, for a man who has had his brain removed. I have no memory of this match at all. Shibata got the first proper ‘pop’ of the night and he hadn’t wrestled in Rev Pro since 2017. I was at that match too. Wait, *checks Cagematch*, I’ve been at every Shibata match in the UK. I’m 5/5.
Zack Sabre Jr vs. Ricky Knight Jr
The battle of the juniors was always going to be a one-sided affair. RKJ has snuck up in Rev Pro during the pandemic. He’s a thigh slapper too. I generally dislike the Knight family in general. I think they’re carnies. I think they’re bullies. The sins of everyone else don’t necessarily fall on Ricky Jr though? I want to like him, but I don’t. Zack spent most of the match turning him into pretzels. First good-ish match of the show, I thought. The troubling part was how long it was. It should have been shorter. **¾
Tag Team Championship
Subculture (c) vs. Velocities
This match immediately ploughed into high spots and never did anything to draw the crowd in. While it was technically proficient, and I do like both teams, it needed one team to be established as something to the crowd. Whether that was a heel/face alignment issue or having one team constantly go after one particular move or the outside interference. The match needed a hook, beyond the straps, and it didn’t have one. They just went out and hit spot after spot after spot. More worryingly, it didn’t seem to escalate either.
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Luke Jacobs
This was astonishing pro-wrestling. It absolutely made Luke Jacobs. While he was never winning, he hung with Ishii for nearly 20 minutes. There was a lot of meat slapping, which is my preferred style of wrestling. I just want two big dudes barrelling into each other for 20 minutes. That’s all I ask for. They spent a lot of time in duels but the crowd were into everything, which means you can keep doing it. I’m a big Ishii guy, and I’m sat here writing this wearing an Ishii shirt, so my love for this match shouldn’t come as a surprise. Jacobs was good pre-pandemic but I came back and in 3 years he’d fucking doubled in size. The man’s hench. He’s a unit. Best match on the show. ****¼
That’s going on my MOTY shortlist.
Alex Windsor (c) vs. Hyan vs. Mickie James
I love Mickie James. I think she’s a national treasure. However, this was originally going to be Mercedes (as in Sasha Banks) and that’s a tough spot to fill. As with the 10-way opener, this struggled. It struggled because it had to follow the best match on the show. It struggled to escape three-way memes. It struggled to cope with the crowd, who spent the entire thing chanting “hardcore country”. Windsor took three years off to be a parent and apparently she’s been good recently, but this is the first I’ve seen of her since 2017 and it didn’t look like she was any different? Hyan is another new worker, who I’ve barely seen because of my 2020-2023 absence. I wasn’t feeling this. It just never came together. Who do you blame? Andy Q for putting it on after Ishii? Rev Pro for not running an intermission after Ishii? The workers for not getting something better together? I don’t know. Let’s just hand wave it and move on.
As you’ll discover later, AEW only had one women’s match on their show. Rev Pro had two but they were both underwhelming. The biggest wrestling weekend and where were the women? At EVE presumably. The one thing WWE have managed to do effectively over the past decade is to make women’s wrestling important and valuable. However, in doing so, they have basically hired all the best workers. It’s something that needs investment and improvement.
Rev Pro British Heavyweight Championship
Michael Oku (c) vs. Trent Seven
Trent looked very slow here. I’ve not seen him work in ages, but he used to be deceptively quick. Oku is a solid choice to be champion but as soon as they announced Ospreay for this show, there was no chance Oku was main eventing. It’s just the way it is. He’s a solid, relatable hand to guide the ship while the big stars are working elsewhere. This is BritWres in a nutshell. This is one of those matches where Andy Quildan gets a bit carried away with the booking. We had the old ref bump and people started tagging me on Twitter. Look, I was mad about the Ospreay-Starr ref bump bullshit because it ruined the match. There wasn’t a match to ruin here. Plus Oku absolutely twatted the ref, in the face, with a dropkick. I liked it. Stop tagging me now. There was extended nonsense, including Trent putting Oku’s missus through a table. She took that one like a champ. I know Andy Q likes to do these overbooked clusterfucks but this kinda landed for me. **½ Then they brought Spike Trivet out in a promo video that looked WAY too much like Marty Scurll for my liking. I was ready to get up and walk out.
Will Ospreay vs. Shingo Takagi
Sometimes all best laid plans don’t come to fruition. On paper Ospreay vs. Shingo is a main event anywhere in the world (and that’s not some gimmick line a bad commentator uses to describe some shit midcard match that nobody cares about). It should have been so good and, at times, it was. However, Shingo looked off the pace. I don’t know if he had an issue, or jetlag, but he was off it. Several times Will launched himself blindly into a spot and Shingo just wasn’t where he was supposed to be. Ospreay looked like he was playing it safe too, and I don’t blame him one little bit. He knows what wrestling at Wembley Stadium means. He wasn’t going to jeopardise that by breaking his shoulder the day before. The best part of the match was Chris Jericho sneaking out to attack Ospreay after the match. I am genuinely excited to see what happens there. ***¼
Two massive issues faced by Rev Pro. 1. Their shows aren’t anywhere near as good when they don’t have New Japan talent on them. 2. They really struggle to elevate talent to compete with the level of guys who have either been over for years, or are over because they wrestle on TV. If Rev Pro had an arrangement with AEW, as a farm league for talent, they could get their guys on TV. Imagine AEW having Leon Slater, Levi Muir, Paris de Silva, Luke Jacobs, Michael Oku and Ricky Knight Jr on the shows every now and again? It helps AEW, because none of those guys are bad, and it helps expose Rev Pro’s talent so people know who they are on weekends like this. I know AEW already have issues with not having enough TV for the people they’ve already got but I’m trying to network a solution here. Anyway, I quite enjoyed Rev Pro but I can still see the glaring holes that have been there basically the entire of their history. They have a ceiling. They have located it. Drawing 4,000 people, in 2023, is a hell of an achievement.
As with every part of this weekend, it was cool to see people and sit with people and make fun of wrestling. Everyone who was around me at Rev Pro was cool. Which is a marked contrast to AEW. We’ll get to that. Also, the entire BritWres Roundtable was at the same show for the first time in so long, I can’t even remember when it last happened. Good to see both Oli Court and Rob Reed. If you never heard the BritWres Roundtable it’s probably still out there on the Voices of Wrestling network but you’d be reminiscing about the giddy heydays of BritWres if you listened to it now.
Having suitably recovered from my hangover, we left Luton relatively fresh on Sunday morning for All In. The idea was to slide on into London, have a drink and meet people before heading to the stadium. We ended up going for a Spoons breakfast, which was absolutely ideal and I was fine all day on that. We also popped into West Hampstead and a pub called the Bohemia House, which is a Czech brewery (based in London) that has turned someone’s house into a pub and restaurant. It had a cracking dark lager called Vrana. Would recommend.
After that we headed to Wembley area and I’ve never seen so many wrestling fans in one place. To be fair, I’ve never done WrestleMania or anything like that but it was staggering. I appointed myself, and deputy Milo, as the fashion police for the afternoon. Good lord, the t-shirts some of these jabronis were sporting. Bullet Club in 2023. Nah mate. Chris Benoit! Get a grip. Someone had a Marty Scurll shirt on at Rev Pro. Check that man’s hard drive, stat.
ROH Tag Team Championship
MJF & Adam Cole vs. Aussie Open (c)
I thought this booking was an open goal. You have two guys facing each other in the main event. You put them together in a tag title shot on the pre-show. Surely, surely, with booking as old as time, you have one cost the other the chance to win and just put the champs over. Nope, they switched the belts. Um. I am so confused. Not only are you cutting the legs off the home town team (Aussie Open is as British as they come) but you’re not creating any conflict for the main event. I didn’t get this at all.
Hook vs. Jack Perry (c)
A pointless belt, pointless feud, pointless waste of time. They also smashed up a funeral car for no reason. I love Hook but this match didn’t help him out at all, other than going over. I generally hate the Zero Hour/WWE pre-show/Buy In nonsense. Just chat amongst yourselves in the studio so everyone can finish getting drunk before the show starts. Half the crowd were queuing for merch during this.
Just a reminder the attendance for this show was 81,035. A staggering accomplishment from a company that didn’t even exist five years ago. Double or Nothing was May 25, 2019. From doing 12,000 in Vegas for that show to an enormous 81,035 just four years on, it’s astonishing. The strides the company has made feel profound. I’m sure I’ll be going through various issues I have with the current roster, but they’ve made some upgrades since 2019.
Real AEW Championship
CM Punk (c) vs. Samoa Joe
The last time I saw CM Punk wrestle, it was against Samoa Joe at FWA International Showdown* (March 19, 2005). It’s been 18 years since I saw this match and I’m getting it again, and you know what? It was fucking great. Again. CM Punk made a point of doing a bunch of Terry Funk stuff. I’m borderline infuriated that nobody popped the Funk Spinning Toehold. Read a history book, ya dweebs. Having a decent memory for the Punk-Joe series, I popped how many callbacks there were to previous matches in here too. Punk bled, after being thrown head first into the announce table, shattering the All In signage. I’ve seen some criticism suggesting the match was sluggish and the counters were slow. I loved it. It was the perfect blend of throwback, tribute and actual execution. ****
*To give you an idea of how long ago this was; Mitsuharu Misawa was on this card.
Konosuke Takeshita, Jay White & Juice Robinson vs. Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi & Hangman Page
This is the first of many ‘fun crap’ matches where they did a lot of entertaining stuff without ever really blowing me away. Takeshita had to get the pin on Omega in order to prolong that particular feud. They’ve just painted themselves into that one. Most of the action was fine, albeit a bit dancey for my tastes. Sad to see Kota Ibushi looking like he does at the moment. Hopefully it’s just a blip, and he’ll be back and reenergised but given his career and his bump clock, I worry we’ll never see him hit his stride again. ***
AEW Tag Team Championship
FTR (c) vs. Young Bucks
I’m sure I’m in the minority here but this felt like overkill. When the Shatter Machine didn’t finish, I just lost interest. They’d already been pushing their luck with me with silly near finishes. Plus, the start of the match wasn’t very good, and the rules of tag teaming were completely ignored for most of the match. Just have a ‘tornado rules’ match if you want to completely shit all over the concept of tag teaming boys. At least the right team won here. That’s all I got.
Eddie Kingston, Orange Cassidy, Chuck Taylor, Trent Beretta & Penta El Zero Miedo vs. Blackpool Combat Club (Jon Moxley, Claudio Castagnoli & Wheeler Yuta) & EYFBO
Watching a match this chaotic and spread out across a building this large, is tricky to follow. I don’t know how it was covered on PPV because I was trying to follow crowd brawling, from the other side of the freakin’ building, whatever was happening over the one side and around the ring area. There were a lot of moving parts. Jon Moxley is a fucking rock star. I don’t think I ever really got Mox until he showed up in AEW and started embracing his inner sickness. The spot with the skewers in his head ruled. The Penta angle they were running here, I don’t know what it is. I’m reminded that both Eddie Kingston and Chuck Taylor were going to retire because no one wanted them in the big leagues. Now they’re standing tall at the biggest show of all time, getting them big old pops. ***¾
AEW Women’s Championship
Saraya vs. Hikaru Shida (c) vs. Toni Storm vs. Britt Baker
This was slung in a death spot but because the card was so tasty, where else do you put it? The result was a huge pop for Saraya, which I don’t get. I assume most people just don’t know the Knight’s very well, or just perceive them as a bunch of loveable carnies like they come across on Fighting with My Family. Florence Pugh has a lot to answer for. I liked the angle where the thing that divided her and Toni was a clash with Sweet Saraya. “You ‘it me mum”. Proper theatre. I don’t like Shida getting used as a transitional champion. It made very little sense for her to win the belt, just to rapidly lose it again. Just leave it on Toni and heat up the change? I don’t get making this a four-way because it meant having to watch Britt Baker wrestle but at least she didn’t shit the bed here. The match worked, apart from Ruby Riott showing up to play peacemaker, get punked out immediately and just walk to the back. Nice one. Really sorted that out.
Coffin Tag Match
Darby Allin & Sting vs. Christian Cage & Swerve Strickland
Sting, 64 years old, is a fucking lunatic. He was doing dives off the apron through tables in this match. Just a reminder he’s 64. He won the NWA title from Ric Flair in 1989. I never would have imagined then that I’d be seeing him wrestle at Wembley Stadium, in a ridiculous bump-heavy match some 34 years later. Darby Allin is unlikely to wrestle for another 34 years if he carries on doing Coffin Drops onto actual coffins, unprotected. I have question marks about the finish, where Sting prevented the lid from closing with a baseball bat but when it closed on Strickland it wasn’t shut all the way and his dreadlocks were hanging out. Poor call from the referee. ***
Will Ospreay vs. Chris Jericho
My expectations had been lowered for this because Ospreay has struggled with injuries and Jericho is struggling with the passage of time. Can an injured guy and a 52 year old journeyman actually work a decent match together? Keeping in mind, I thought all Jericho’s matches in New Japan sucked. This was a borderline miracle lads. It was made all the more satisfying by the goobers around us constantly berating Jericho for his age. You try wrestling at 52 years old. He did the rana. He did the Lionsault. Everything was on point. It was “vintage Jericho” jackasses. Ospreay knew this was a big deal and he worked his bollocks off out there. Legitimately my favourite thing on the show. Blown away by two guys I thought I knew. Never write off Will Ospreay. Not in the ring. No. ****¼. The only beef I have is with the screwy face/heel alignment with Will being pals with Don Callis and Jericho having Sammy Guevara out there. The part where Callis distracted so Guevara could interfere made me genuinely think someone was turning. It didn’t really make sense. The in-ring work between the two guys was tremendous though.
AEW Trios Championship
Billy Gunn & The Acclaimed vs. House of Black (c)
Normally I’d complain of yet another gimmick match with multiple dudes in a card full of them but this was pretty fun. The Acclaimed are mega over compared to six months ago. The redemptive arc of Billy Gunn as a wrestler in AEW is incredible. He’s a guy who, back in the day, was written off completely. Couldn’t work singles. Wasn’t safe. Couldn’t talk. Was all look, no depth. And here he is, 59 years old, over 20 years removed from the time Edge made fun of his King of the Ring win, in the semi-main of the biggest show of all time. Fair fucking play son. I saw a staggering number of “scissor me ass daddy” t-shirts around Wembley. The gimmick is over.
AEW World Championship
MJF (c) vs. Adam Cole
Look, I hate this melodramatic bullshit that just taken over wrestling in the last few years. Anyone that thinks any of it is art, or cinema, or anything along those lines needs to watch some actual films. “There are so many images” said the guy behind me during the match as someone took a shirt off. There’s so much bullshit. Cole hitting a Canadian Destroyer on Bryce Remsberg “accidentally” and the fall out from that spot was the point where it really went off the rails. Cole threatened to use a weapon, and then not, MJF threatened to use a weapon, and then not. This isn’t Shakespeare. I get the story they’re telling here and fair play to them, it was over like hellfire but that’s not my preferred type of wrestling. I think melodrama is a very hard sell and you need to be completely invested in it. I struggle to watch their segments together and I can’t stand Adam Cole’s general match planning at the best of times. I was also kinda hoping we’d go a more traditional route and Cole would have just cheated and won the title. Even though I hate him, that was the logical way to go. It was fine, I guess. Cheer it if that’s your thing.
Wembley itself was an experience. You don’t get shows like this very often. I’m pleased I got to go but it also reaffirmed my general fears about large stadium shows. You’re basically just watching it on TV, surrounded by people you can’t mute. The trouble with having 80,000 fans in a building is the 500 people you can’t stand and have blocked on Twitter are all in there and you know they’re the ones who can’t just shut up and watch. They have to do a running fucking commentary on everything, or try to start lame chants, or just yell out the kind of wrong-un shit that has no place in wrestling, or life. It’s the 500 virgins who make inappropriate comments about Toni Storm and think everyone is the same as them. The 500 wankers who think LA Knight is cool and therefore, even though it’s a completely different company, they’ll randomly start cheering for him. I’m not suggesting these people shouldn’t be allowed to buy tickets to wrestling shows. No, no, of course not. That would be ridiculous. I think they should be thrown into a pit in the woods, filled with snakes, and left there. Let nature heal. Let her do the business.