The transformation of AEW in just a few short years is staggering. I was in attendance for All In and the following year of All Out (read my review here). While the product is different now, All Out 2021 evoked a familiar feeling after attending those initial AEW shows. These shows were fun. Wrestling is “fun again” and the fans (and wrestlers) are eating it up.
— player/coach (@CMPunk) September 6, 2021
All Out 2021 will not be remembered for any classic matches, but pivotal moments for AEW. CM Punk returned to wrestling just a few weeks prior and the anticipation to see his first match in seven years was worth the $50 purchase. No disrespect to Darby Allin either. While I’m not a huge fan of his, his performance in his loss to Punk was impressive. Now the big question that will keep me tuning in, where does Punk go next?
Notably on the infamous Colt Cabana Podcast, Punk always considers what’s next for him. Laying out dream match scenarios on Renee’s podcast gives the fans a taste on what is to possibly come. The promos in the build to this match was all about if Punk could still go. When Punk was visibly whispering spots to Darby, I was worried initially. Never doubt Punk on the big stage.
I’ve enjoyed Punk’s career with his attention to detail and subtle nods to other wrestlers/art forms. The fans went nuts when hearing the signature prematch homage to the Thing: “it’s clobberin time!” Podcast/promo time was over. CM Punk the wrestler was officially back.
My favorite moments of the match included Punk being impressed by the quick arm drag by Darby. Referencing Bret Hart wrestling the 1-2-3 Kid for the first time. Darby’s selling of the first GTS made Punk’s finishing move look like a million bucks. Punk’s desperate reaction of Darby falling out of the ring signaled his urgency to end the match against the dangerous and more physically conditioned Darby.
The other reason All Out 2021 will be remembered for years to come is the debut of several former WWE wrestlers: Bryan Danielson, Adam Cole, and Ruby Soho. Ruby was the final entrant in the Casino Battle Royal. While AEW often gets fairly compared to WCW, the entrance music choices couldn’t be more different. Instead of hearing the NWO theme twenty times per show and knock off grunge songs, AEW delivers the actual Rancid song, “Ruby Soho.” A song and band that perfectly encapsulates the wrestler and the moment. Destination AEW.
Getting more premiere talent for AEW’s women division is greatly needed in comparison to the men’s roster. Acquiring Bryan and Cole I’m afraid might have diminishing returns. Will the stacked talent in the upper card get in the way of making new stars? That is an apt comparison to WCW that is concerning. As we saw with Punk though, he is committed to treating the young talent with respect.
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) September 6, 2021
Besides the surprise debuts, All Out was a solid show. Miro vs Eddie Kingston was a fantastic opener which will hopefully extend the feud. Moxley vs Kojima ended perfectly with Minoru Suzuki confronting Moxley post match setting up a match on Dynamite. Britt Baker vs Kris Statlander started off slow, but eventually won over the crowd.
The tag team championship match was as ridiculous as their All Out 2019 bout. The Battle Royal was awkward and all over the place until it ended on a high note with Ruby vs Thunder Rosa. Jericho vs MJF has its limitations with Jericho’s age. ‘The Dusty Finish’ was used beautifully here however.
Paul Wight vs QT Marshall was the definite low point of the night. It was used as a cool down match, but one begs the question if wrestling PPVs still need this structure. Kenny Omega vs Christian Cage was more about the post match theatrics. The actual match was decent but nothing to write home about.
The main question now is can AEW capitalize on the momentum? Can they balance the flux of WWE talent with the talent that has been there from the beginning? Sustaining interest with the casual fans is something wrestling has struggled with for years. AEW can’t keep debuting stars every show.
Will AEW keep pushing themselves to new heights or become complacent? These are the comparisons to WCW that AEW should be cognizant of. Ignoring the business side, the fans get to enjoy a new roster with endless possibilities. Getting to see Punk, Danielson, and Omega on the same show has me interested to tune into Dynamite week to week. Wrestling is fun again.