AEW continues to rack up the firsts. In this case, it’s the first ever pre-PPV TV episode, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. But we should reserve judgment until we have a chance to see what’s in store tonight from Charlotte, no? To Bojangles’ Coliseum we go.

Match 1 – PAC vs. Trent (w/ Chuck Taylor and Orange Cassidy)

This is Trent’s first singles match in AEW, so a nice spotlight for him, and PAC has plenty of heel heat, with the fans telling him he sucks at every opportunity. But let’s be real: Orange Cassidy is the man you all came to see. He eventually rolls into the ring to do his nonchalant kick shtick, but PAC is having none of it, kicking Cassidy in the face. Freshly squeezed, indeed. Trent manages to kick out of the Black Arrow, but he submits to the Brutalizer right after that. Good game, good effort Trent. PAC grabs a mic to tell Adam Page he’s going to make an example out of him at Full Gear.

Ladies and gentlemen, Cody. The boss man heads to the ring with personal announcer Tony Schiavone to speak his mind about his upcoming bout with Chris Jericho. Cody says he’s not surprised about the arrival of the Inner Circle and the way the group has targeted the Elite. He also talks up how proud he is of AEW so far, calling it the “Ellis Island” of professional wrestling. He has heard the criticism of being both management and a top star, though, and he responds by announcing that if he fails to defeat Jericho, he will never challenge for the AEW World Championship again. Hey Cody, your company is only a few months old, man! He ends by teasing a larger match between the Inner Circle and Elite at some point, which sounds alright to this writer.

Match 2 – Private Party vs. The Dark Order

SCU joins the announcers to take in this “Bronze Medal” match from the recent tag team tourney. Do the winners really get bronze medals? We can only hope. Actually, the real prize is better, because the winner gets into a three-way dance for the titles at Full Gear. That’s potentially better than bronze. Evil Uno’s minions have full bodysuits on tonight, for anyone who’s tracking that sort of thing. Private Party prevails here, then has a staredown with SCU and the Lucha Brothers.

Get ready to laugh. Jericho and the Inner Circle are featured in a video package that features awesome nicknames for all of the heels, Jericho drinking a little bit of the bubbly in the bathtub, Soultrain Jones, Chris’ aunt’s friend from church, Jake Hager saying nothing, and Sammy Guevara pointing out that Jericho is the youngest AEW champion of all time. Good stuff.

Match 3 – Shanna and Riho vs. Emi Sakura and Jamie Hayter

The announcers put over the “teacher vs. student” aspect as Riho faces off against Sakura. Shanna gets a lot of time to show her stuff, as does Hayter, ad both women are impressive. In the end, though, the finish involves Riho and Sakura, with the teacher getting one over on her title-wearing pupil this time with a La Magistral Cradle.

What is going on with Brandi Rhodes? Her latest video pushes her new role as some kind of evil spokesperson for Awesome Kong, which … OK, cool. It just hasn’t led to anything yet.

Match 4 – Brandon Cutler vs. Shawn Spears (w/ Tully Blanchard)

Let’s hear it for Cutler, who is as close to a designated jobber as AEW has right now. Not squash fodder mind you, because he always gives a good account of himself, but I’m pretty sure he’s lost every TV match he’s had on AEW so far. Sure enough, he takes the loss here too, but Joey Janela sprints to the ring to prevent any post-match follow-up beatings. The crowd digs that.

Kenny Omega responds to Moxley’s fiery promo from last week, skeptical that Mox is actually upset that they are having a hardcore match now. “What were you going to do, Jon, chain wrestle me?” Indeed. Omega says he’s glad they are going to that dark place and can’t wait to see him there. He might mean that literally since this is a Lights Out Match, but he’s probably being figurative.

Main Event – “Hangman” Adam Page and Kenny Omega vs. Sammy Guevara and Chris Jericho

Omega makes it clear he wants to lock up with Jericho to start things out, but Le Champion tags Guevara in to do his dirty work. Jake Hager is lurking on the outside too, just in case the Inner Circle runs into trouble. The fans immediately launch into the “cowboy shit” chant as soon as Page tags in, making one wonder if that phrase has done more to get him over than anything else in his career to date. Hey, whatever works. Page does most of the fighting against Jericho, but when he’s out on the apron, PAC runs down and kicks him in the groin. Jericho eagerly picks up the scraps, pinning Page with the Judas Effect. The Inner Circle tries to do more damage to Page after the bell, but Cody, suit and all, runs down to make the save. And that’s not all: As Jericho and Hager try to retreat up the ramp, MJF appears with a steel chair to ensure they don’t. To make matters more chaotic, Moxley heads through the crowd with a barbed wire baseball bat. He makes a beeline for Omega in the ring as the Inner Circle continues to brawl with Cody and MJF on the outside. Omega grabs his barbed wire broom, but Santana and Ortiz attack both of them. The Young Bucks join the fray as well, and now I think we’ve got everyone from Full Gear’s biggest matches accounted for. Moxley and Omega finally get their hands on each other, fighting back through the tunnel. Nick Jackson hurls himself off the top of the entrance tunnel, landing on nearly everyone. AEW’s complement of about three refs can’t handle this kind of melee, which is, if nothing else, a high energy way to end this final show before Full Gear. Be sure to check that out on Saturday if you’re so inclined, and we’ll see you in seven!

Nick Tylwalk has been with SLAM! Wrestling since the dawn of time, or at least since before the turn of the century. He spends his days doing PR things, but he’ll always make time to sneak away for some wrestling.