July 29, 2023: AEW's Best Episode of Collision Yet
AEW's Collision has finally had its landmark episode, in my opinion, in its seventh week.
While it's obvious that there have been great matches and moments sprinkled throughout the previous half-dozen shows, no single episode has felt quite as rounded or cohesive as this one. I don't think that there was any match on this episode that was technically better than the FTR/Bullet Club Gold two-out-of-three-falls match, for instance, but with this seventh episode, it finally feels like Collision has a solid identity as a show whose characters' motivations are crystallizing.
This isn't a full-on recap of each match or anything, but let's just revisit the episode with some high-level notes.
Andrade El Idolo vs Buddy Matthews
For weeks, the House of Black has been tormenting the singular Andrade who only came back onto the AEW scene with the inception of Collision. With a previous singles match in the books against Buddy, Andrade would now fight for more than just pride – he would fight for his mask, stolen by the House of Black weeks back.
To not only open with this match but to have it be as hard-hitting as it was set the tone for the entire episode of Collision. The match escaped most ladder match tropes, even playing with some false devious finishes toward the end with a pair of handcuff spots. With Andrade sending Julia off of a ladder, into Buddy, and through a table he was able to retrieve his mask and claim victory.
But, this doesn't feel like the end of the story. Andrade is a man alone on Collision right now against the Trios Champions. Could the recent news of Rush officially signing with AEW lead to an LFI feud for the House of Black's belts? I'm all for it, but I have my fingers crossed that Dralistico would be slotted in as the third man rather than Preston Vance.
Miro is doing... something
I don't honestly know what's going on with Miro and this ongoing story, but we got some sort of next step with Aaron Solo signing his life away by attacking The Redeemer with a chair. If this leads to Miro vs Hobbs in a beef boys hoss-off, I won't complain.
Darby's Bad Day
In a pre-show promo, Darby admitted that things hadn't been going well for him lately and wanted to fight anyone tonight. My ears perked up as the opening notes of "Kaze Ni Nare" came through my TV; my joy contrasted with the look of despair on poor Darby's face.
This was everything I needed it to be and more! I wasn't sure who would step up here and if it'd just be a Darby showcase or what, but I don't think I would have guessed Minoru Suzuki would answer the call. Beating Darby and dragging him around the ring was great fun to watch and while the "roll backward while in a choke to pin your opponent" thing has been done to death in wrestling, it at least worked here as Darby's last ditch to squeak one out against Suzuki.
Post-match, Christian had some words for Darby intimating that he wasn't worthy of a shot at the TNT Title anymore due to his recent losses. In my world, this is leading to a three-way for the title between Luchasaurus, Darby, and the man who just beat Darby on Dynamite: Swerve Strickland. Book it, Tony!
Joe Defies Gravity
This match wasn't anything spectacular for me, but it was still a lot of fun. If nothing else, it gave us Joe doing his mocking Gravity walk away from a springboard attempt which was more than enough of a reason to have this match happen in the first place.
Gravity gets his third match in the ROH/AEW family and continues to look fine but not amazing. He's still young in his career, though, and he seems to be capturing the crowd's interest so I don't doubt we'll see him improve in time as long as he doesn't fall by the wayside like luchadors seem to do in AEW at times.
The "Real" World Champion
Listen, I loved CM Punk for a long time dating back to his ROH days. The whole Brawl Out fiasco really soured me on him, though, because he just came off like a whiny baby who wasn't getting his way or felt like everybody else was the asshole. To paraphrase the old saying, if everyone you meet is an asshole then maybe you're the asshole.
Nonetheless, this weird thing they're doing with Punk is working for me. Is he a babyface? Is he a heel? Is he a heel who thinks he's a babyface? He sure whines like a heel, decrying other wrestlers and demanding more referees in his matches and using his pull to get his own special referee in next week's contest (which we'll get to shortly).
Punk finally unveiled what was in the bag – the worst kept secret in all of wrestling, his AEW World Championship. With a couple of swift motions, Punk spraypainted a giant X over the main plate of the belt which cleverly blacked out the "Elite" from "All Elite Wrestling".
Ricky Starks would soon appear, and his bit of coming out just to let everyone know he was going to do his full entrance was great. Nigel on commentary really sold it, too.
Ricky is and always has been a star, but he's really gone into hyperdrive since winning The Owen a few weeks back. The old-is-new again heel twist of Starks doesn't stop the crowd from loving him because he generally speaks truth to power; I especially loved him rebutting Punk asking if he "wanted" a title shot by telling him that he didn't "want" one, he "deserved" one. Fucking right.
Through some back and forth, Ricky and Punk set up a match next week for the Real World Championship which sets us off on an uncharted course in AEW. We're getting a new wrinkle at the top of the card and will obviously be heading toward a champion vs "champion" match somewhere down the road, possibly as soon as All Out.
When Ricky met Punk in The Owen finals, I "knew" Punk was going to win specifically because he had already started talking about what was in the bag and how he was challenging anyone to be man enough to beat him. I didn't think he'd eat a loss so soon after all of that. But he did! And now, next week I "know" Punk will win especially with his special referee Ricky Steamboat in the ring.
But, what do I really know? Nothing, apparently! This shit rules and it's why I love pro wrestling.
Bang Bang Gang Gang
I love these guys more than any group in AEW currently, I think. The dipshit greaseball energy coming off of The Gunns and Juice is too much to be denied. While The Gunns have waves of good in the ring, they're not yet consistently there for me yet; I think they will only improve being around guys like Jay White and Juice Robinson.
Juice is coming off of that incredible tag match with Jay against FTR which is maybe one of the greatest tag team matches I've ever seen. Just amazing stuff there.
I think this was largely there to help cement this group, as if they needed any more cementing, as a mainstay of Collision. With a cardboard cutout of Jay White pulled from under the ring, the foursome overcame Vikingo, Darius Martin, and Action Andrade with some really fun offense. Colten hit this leaping forearm to the base of Andretti's skull which was as beautiful as it was brutal.
Bullet Club Gold picks up the win with the moral support of Jay White.
A better-booked women's division on Saturdays?
The sign held up by a fan after Wednesday's Britt/Taya match really said it all:
Being in person at that particular episode of Dynamite, it was clear that match stunk up the joint. I think Britt has regressed recently and Taya may be in the same boat. Both of them now look like they do everything in slow motion and nothing they do looks like it has any real impact. Put them together and it's a recipe for boredom.
The same can't be said for Saturday's women's match (which also brings up the ever-present point of "why do we only ever get one women's match per show?"), featuring Kiera Hogan vs Mercedes Martinez. While neither woman has been doing much of anything on AEW TV, Kiera is coming off a recent fantastic match against Athena for the ROH Women's Title. Athena has been having an all-timer of a run as the champion in ROH and the women's division there is always getting lots of time each week.
Mercedes established herself as a heel here with some small bits of work throughout and after the match when she wouldn't let go of her submission finisher after Kiera tapped out. This brought out TBS Champion Kris Statlander, leading to Mercedes clocking her with the belt until Willow Nightingale came in for the second save of the post-match.
Mercedes backed off and escaped, but how she's in a 3-on-1 scenario against Stat, Willow, and Kiera. Could she recruit some other women to even the odds?
FTR vs MJF & Adam Cole
When the Blind Eliminator started, I didn't want to see the whole MJF/Cole thing play out. This has been done to death in wrestling, but AEW was able to take some different turns with it and flesh out a fun storyline. I think this likely is 80% MJF and 20% everybody else.
I still don't know if MJF and Cole are going to remain friends. I still don't know if MJF is being sincere at all. But, I know I'm along for every stop on this journey!
This match was a lot of fun and while I didn't necessarily want to see new champions here, I don't think I would have been bothered by it. There were none of the stereotypical things you'd expect in one of these "unwilling partners" types of scenarios – no miscommunications or arguments between the challengers at all during the match.
MJF & Cole have been able to get the double clothesline over with fans (which is astounding) to the point of FTR being booed when they hit their own double clothesline. FTR, by the way, who haven't really been booed all that much recently even with their association with Punk who garners, at best, mixed reactions outside of Chicago.
The split crowd was split much more in the challengers' direction, but in the end, it was MJF saving Cole in a selfless act leading to the team's downfall and, in a surprising twist, the AEW World Heavyweight Champion eating the clean pinfall.
After the match, MJF teased hitting Cole with the World Title but instead threw the belt to the ground and hugged the man who may actually be his new friend.
As I said, I have no clue where this is going. Will they remain friends? Is this all a ruse by someone? My gut tells me MJF is still not sincere and that we're going to see the spurned Roderick Strong turn on Cole to secure the World Title victory for MJF.
However, with FTR Bald picking up the pin on MJF we add a new wrinkle to the World Title scene. In the world of New Japan, when a champion is pinned in a non-title situation the person who pinned them generally gets a title shot in the future. Could FTR Bald claim that shot? Or, could he graciously pass it on to his good friend CM Punk?
The Best Collision Yet
This definitely felt like the first episode of Collision that had all of its pieces coming together. After almost two months of shows, we've established a general "Collision roster" of wrestlers. We've seen some new character traits pop up like Ricky Starks becoming a bit more nefarious and The Gunns being welcomed into Bullet Club Gold.
We've seen the revelation of the Real World Championship of CM Punk and seeds planted for future stories with Miro, Andrade, The House of Black, Kris Statlander, and Mercedes Martinez. We also get to see The Big Machine of Big Bill and Brian Cage challenge for the Tag Titles next week!
This week's episode was certainly the best AEW show this week and, in my opinion, the most engaging episode of Collision yet. Let's hope they can keep this momentum rolling next week. I "know" they will.