Welcome to the Sports Obsessive review of the first night of AEW Fyter Fest! It’s a stacked night, with three title matches, a tag team grudge match and Private Party in action, so let’s not waste anymore time, and head straight to the ring.
Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus vs. MJF & Wardlow
This was a solid choice for the opening match. If there’s one person who can get an audience all riled up and ready for action, it’s the heat machine, MJF. He cut a scathing opening promo where he expressed his surprise that Jungle Boy wasn’t at home, “counting daddy’s money.” Ouch! After that, you couldn’t wait for Jungle Boy to kick the living s**t out of him.
In the opening moments, though, it was all the heels, as Wardlow countered a reverse hurricarana by Jungle Boy on MJF by kicking Jungle Jack square in the head! Big power offence followed, with tough release suplexes and back drops taking the air out of Jungle Boy’s sails.
Eventually, Luchasaurus got the tag and things began to break down. Wardlow threw everyone’s favourite human dart, Marko Stunt, from the ramp down onto Jungle Boy. Later, MJF, wearing his Dynamite ring, took a swing at Jungle Boy as Wardlow held him, but Jungle Boy escaped. MJF managed to stop in time but screamed in Wardlow’s face: “can’t you do anything right?” Jungle Boy knocked MJF into Wardlow, smashing him in the face, and a chokeslam, punt kick and standing moonsault from Luchasaurus sealed the deal.
A fun little match that teased a possible split between MJF and Wardlow. Personally, I think it’s a bit too soon to turn Wardlow face, but we’ll see how things play out.
AEW Women’s Champion Hikaru Shida vs. Penelope Ford
I thought this would be a good match, but I honestly think this is one of the best women’s matches AEW has presented in their time so far. Their women’s division has been criticized, quite fairly in truth, but this great match showed there is a core AEW can rebuild the division around.
Kip Sabian was sent to the back from the start, which benefited the match and Ford no end. Ford didn’t need him. She looked wonderful in the ring, mixing gymnastic spins and handspring attacks with hard strikes and some solid mat wrestling.
Shida, meanwhile, just looks and carries herself like a champion. She has that authenticity that you just can’t fake. Her combination of tough knee strikes and fast-paced offence is equally entertaining and effective.
Ford dominated in the early going, but the pace quickened and there were some excellent near falls on display. Ford cleverly reversed a Falcon Arrow after impact by switching it into a roll up. She also dodged a top-rope dropkick brilliantly by bridging back so Shida went over her, then cracked Shida with a stunner. I was on the edge of my seat for that one.
In the end, after some Sabian nonsense that didn’t pay off, Shida hit a Second Falcon Arrow, which Ford kicked out of. A running knee immediately after, though, gave Shida the win.
If I have any criticisms of this match, it was that Ford shouldn’t have kicked out of the Arrow. Ford already looked strong by how much quality offence she’d had in the match, and she’d already taken one Arrow and reversed the pin attempt out of it. The running knee shouldn’t appear stronger than the Arrow, or it just devalues it as a finisher.
Other than that, though, this was a great match. Let’s hope we get a rematch soon!
TNT Champion Cody vs. Jake Hager
It was quite amusing to see the champion come out in a t-shirt that clearly was a play on the classic Great American Bash logo. At least there wasn’t a sledgehammer.
Jake Hager appeared to be wrestling in his boxer shorts and looks to have put on a couple of pounds. Yet he still managed to look fearsome in size compared to Cody’s smaller stature.
This was a solid match, with Cody having to use his speed to counteract Hager’s power, and going for leg-based submissions so as to cut Hager’s size advantage in half.
Hager himself looked mean, throwing Cody to the mat, locking in an ankle lock and smashing him with a nasty-looking German suplex on the floor. He gave Arn Anderson a choking for good measure also. Meanwhile, Hager’s wife got in on the action, stamping on Cody’s back with her high heels.
It was the interference that proved too much for Dustin Rhodes, who came out and cracked Hager in the face with a big hand. Cody used the assistance to go for the Cross Rhodes, but Hager countered into a snap mere, then hit a version of a Rock Bottom. Here, though, Cody somehow managed to roll on top and hold Hager for the win. I was confused at first because Hager was acting as if he won. Surely, he knew he’d be pinned. Commentary put it over as if Hager had gone for a choke and thought Cody had tapped, but the camera angle wasn’t really clear to me. A shame, because it put a little bit of a dampener onto the end of a tough, competitive match.
Hager knocked the ref out after, while Cody lay exhausted on the mat, watching. Something tells me this is not the last time we’ll see these two in the ring together.
Private Party vs. Proud & Powerful
Chris Jericho had been on commentary all night (and he really does have a gift for it), when Orange Cassidy decided to join him before this match, sitting at the other end of the desk and saying absolutely nothing. This irritated Jericho no end and drove him into a complete frenzy by the end of the match. More on that shortly.
The match itself was really fun. Proud and Powerful remind me of a more athletic Public Enemy at times. They can brawl and they can fly and look badass doing it. Meanwhile, Private Party seem to be getting better by the week. Their aerial offence is more innovative than some of their colleagues, using double team offence and the ropes in unique ways. If they can find a way to distinguish themselves from the pack in terms of character and personality, I predict really big things for them.
Case in point: by virtue of toppling Santana with the Gin and Juice, they earned a spot next week against the winner of the tag team championship match. So AEW certainly must believe in Private Party.
After the match, Kassidy ran over to the commentary table to get his groove on but Jericho had seen enough, throwing water at both Kassidy and, well, Cassidy. Orange stood up and faced Jericho calmly without reacting, which only made Jericho more irate. People had to pull Jericho away whilst Cassidy stood and stared in his chilled out way.
I might be in a minority, and that’s fine, but after last week’s brawl and tonight’s antics, I’m genuinely looking forward to their match next week.
Fight for the Fallen Announced!
Brian Cage and Taz then came out to the ring to announce that, as Moxley is still quarantining due to his wife contracting COVID, TNT will air Fight for the Fallen on July 15th which will feature the big Mox-Cage title match.
Taz managed to praise Mox and criticize WWE in one stroke (“we don’t run a sloppy shop”), while calling Mox chickens**t and scared of Cage at the same time. It was masterful work and, with Taz taking on the Heyman role to Cage’s Lesnar, proved that bringing back managers can work and benefit talent if done correctly.
And we get a third event to look forward to!
AEW Tag Team Champions Kenny Omega & Hangman Page vs. Best Friends
The winner of this match will face Private Party next week in the second part of Fyter Fast.
What started as a slow burner, with a series of reversals, before Omega and Page took over, became a fast paced belter of a match in its later parts, as both teams went at each other with wild abandon.
Taylor hit Page with a dive to the outside and then threw him into the barricade. Trent followed up with a dive out onto Kenny, then threw him into Chuck, who launched Kenny over his head onto the barricade and on top of Hangman Page!
A quickfire series of moves followed, with Page hitting a fallaway slam and a stiff lariat, Omega hitting a fisherman’s buster, Chuck hitting a sick looking piledriver on Kenny and Kenny going mad with snapdragons in return. The entire sequence was breathless and exhilarating.
Strong Zero was only scuppered by Kenny’s intervention on the cover. The Buck Shot Lariat, however, would hit the spot. Champions retain!
After the match, FTR, who had been sat up at commentary on deckchairs and drinking beer, came down to the ring to congratulate the champs, giving them a beer. Hangman predictably downed his happily, but Kenny, who doesn’t drink, poured his out at ringside. FTR took offence, prompting the Bucks to come out and try to smooth things over. Interestingly, Page seemed to side with FTR, leading to a three-way face off between Kenny and The Bucks and FTR and Page…
I really enjoyed this show. The matches generally felt like they were of pay-per-view quality and length, and angles were kept to post-match moments so as to maintain the feeling of being a big show.
My main criticism, and this might have more to do with me growing up watching wrestling in the early nineties, is that AEW could do more to make the show feel special and individual. I’m thinking of how Saturday Night’s Main Event and Clash of the Champions would feel like their own special thing and have their own identity. I would have loved Fyter Fest to have been the same. A few potted plants and girls in bikinis do not a new show make.
Saying that, overall I really enjoyed the show, particularly the women’s championship and the main event, and I look forward to the second part next week.