Running a successful pro wrestling promotion, especially at the national or global level, is more difficult than we often admit. It takes plenty of money, people with good creative ideas, excellent in-ring talent, and a number of other people working behind the scenes. Even if a company has all of those things going for it, luck plays a part as well. No industry has as many “right place, right time” moments as pro wrestling.
Sunday night at the NOW Arena in suburban Chicago was one of those moments in time, as AEW made All Out 2021 look like a piece of cake. While not a perfect show (and really, what is?), it was hard to do much nitpicking when the card was well booked, the talent all worked their butts off, and two of the biggest possible arrivals in the business both showed up at the end of the night. Just as CM Punk was widely rumored to be joining AEW and then really did make his debut a few weeks ago, the fans on hand erupted as Adam Cole joined the company only to be one-upped, however slightly, by Bryan Danielson just minutes later.
Credit AEW for not having either star take any of the limelight away from the contestants in the night’s main event, which featured Kenny Omega defending his AEW World Championship against Christian Cage. Though Omega has been positioned as an unbeatable heel titleholder, the slimmest of cracks in his armor appeared when he lost one of his other belts to Cage in the run-up to All Out.
Though Cage, like Punk, had been out of the ring for years before signing with AEW, he had the benefit of several months to get reacclimated, and it showed early on, as he took to the air and was bounced off the steps in response. Omega laid a table upside-down over him on the floor and jumped on top, which looked painful. He had designs on putting Christian through a table the regular way too, but Cage reversed a suplex to stay out of danger.
Omega regained control as they moved back into the ring, yanking back on Cage’s chin on the mat. He followed by putting the boot to the challenger in the corner and delivering a belly to back suplex for two. Christian was dumped out to the flor but then dragged right back in to get slapped around in disrespectful fashion by Omega. Cage dugdown deep to deliver his own right hands, but was sent hard chest first into the turnbuckles.
Both combatants seemed content to exchange strikes, with Omega coming out on top. But he missed a leap into the corner and had to cover against Cage’s flurry of right hands. Omega fought to avoid being put in a submission hold, though his One-Winged Angel attempt was reversed, forcing him to kick out at two.
After several more minutes of back and forth action, Cage rushed in and got caught by a knee to the face, but rallied to set Omega on the top turnbuckle as Don Callis climbed between the ropes — though apparently only to buy Omega some time. It worked a charm, as Cage’s Super Killswitch is reversed into a Super One-Winged Angel, and Cage wasn’t kicking out of that.
But that wasn’t the end of the show. The Young Bucks applauded their friend despite their own loss earlier in the night (in perhaps the finest tag team match in AEW history), with Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson joining them to administer more punishment to Cage. Jurassic Express tried to help, but the numbers game was not in the favor of the faces. With “Yes!” chants breaking out, Omega grabbed the mic to reinforce his assertion that no one is on his level. He finished by saying the only people who would ever have a chance to beat him are not here, already retired, or dead.
The lights went out and came back on to reveal not Bryan Danielson, but Adam Cole (bay bay). After jawing with Omega and company briefly, Cole superkicked Jungle Boy and started handing out hugs to The Elite. Omega laughed at the idea that Cole would be against him, since he’s one of their best friends, and Cole seemed to be firmly in their corner.
That left only one thing for Omega to do to send the fans home happy, but before he could get to the bang, Danielson walked out of the tunnel. The Elite hesitated as he made his way down, and that proved costly as Danielson helped Jurassic Express and Cage rally. A flying knee to one of the Bucks sent all the heels into retreat, and that, really, is how fans got to go home happy.
Not that they probably weren’t pretty psyched as they got to see Punk in action again, something that seemed like a pipe dream just a few months ago. No words are necessary to describe the crowd reaction to Punk’s first wrestling match in more than seven years, particularly as the card was taking place so close to Chicago. Full pants for Punk, if you’re tracking that sort of thing.
Allin got the early edge in their lockups, making for a good “ring rust” narrative. Punk was able to slow the pace on more than one occasion, which isn’t a bad idea against someone like Allin. He took some decent bumps as well, which has to be one of the biggest mental obstacles in making a return to the ring after an extended absence. Punk hit the Go to Sleep, but it sent Allin all the way to the floor, making a cover impossible.
Allin absorbed a few hard knees and took to the air on the outside, with typical disregard for his own well being. Allin went for the Coffin Drop, but Punk had him outsmarted, sitting up to avoid the impact. Both men scored near falls before Punk hit a leg lariat and found the target with the GTS.
It was just the kind of decision that made All Out so satisfying, as Punk got a deserved win in his return but Allin lost none of his momentum in the process. With Punk, Cole and Danielson on board, the immediate future appears exceedingly bright for AEW, and since the overall industry is better off with as many shining lights as possible, it’s great to see.
The next AEW pay-per-view is Full Gear on Nov. 13, 2021.
AEW ALL OUT 2021 FULL RESULTS
Eddie Kingston (challenger) vs. Miro (champion) – AEW TNT Championship Match
Miro has been mostly squashing people since he won the TNT title, so he might not remember what it’s like to wrestle a real match. Kidding, but only just. At the very least, the Mad King will take some shortcuts to make this more interesting. Miro takes a lot of time to … I guess look up at God, given his current gimmick, failing to take advantage of some chances to put Kingston away. My son says it’s like “Suzuki vs. Blue Justice” as it turns into a battle of chops and slaps, making me somewhat proud of my parenting skills. Miro’s upper chest is showing the wear and tear, and even though he gets Kingston locked in the Accolade, Eddie makes it to the ropes to break the hold. It’s Miro who ends up needing to cheat a bit to win, hitting a low blow and a high kick to retain his title. Nice way to kick things off.
Winner … and still AEW TNT Champion: Miro by pinfall
Satoshi Kojima vs. Jon Moxley – IWGP United States Championship Match
Oh you better believe this is going to be Strong Style. Lots of proving how tough both men are by willingly taking blows, mixed in with some action on the outside. Kojima is unloading everything he has on Moxley and drops a big elbow off the top. They end up back up top where Kojima bites Moxley in retaliation for some of the same, and he bounces he champ hard off the apron to boot. Mox goes to his mat game, like we all guessed he would, but Kojima isn’t going to tap out. Blood is no surprise either, as Mox starts dripping some from his left elbow. He hits no one but two Paradigm Shifts to end it.
Winner: Jon Moxley by pinfall
Mox shows a look if disbelief as he recognizes the music that hits, and sure enough, Minoru Suzuki walks down the ramp. Wow, didn’t expect that. The fans give this the “holy s–t” chant it deserves, and it looks like they are ready to throw down right now. Forearm battle, go! Mox ends up in a sleeper, then gets nailed by a Gotsch-style piledriver, and if there was anyone who could get the fans to pop for doing that to Mox, it’s Suzuki.
Kris Statlander (challenger) vs. Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D. (champion) – AEW Women’s World Championship Match
The only question that matters is answered early: Will Statlander be able to boop the champ on the nose? She does, but it’s unclear if that will help her dethrone the good doctor. I’m guessing not. The chances of hijinks are also high with Rebel supporting the champion and Best Friends out at ringside as well. The fans are into this match too, which is nice to see. Baker shows us something we haven’t seen from her before with a stomp off the steps on the floor, but she wins in classic fashion via the Lockjaw.
Winner … and still AEW Women’s World Champion: Britt Baker by submission
Andrade El Idolo is asked about his opponent Pac’s travel problems and whether he may have had a hand in them. He pleads ignorance, as you’d expect. Andrade sends one final (maybe) message to the Luchas Bros. before they enter a steel cage for their title shot.
Lucha Bros. (challengers) vs. Young Bucks (champions) – AEW World Tag Team Championship Match
The Lucha Bros. do it big with their entrance, getting a live version of their entrance music and some dope entrance gear. Awesome. The announcers put over the idea that there can be no interference due to the cage, but we’ve seen that’s not true, including the ending of this week’s Dynamite. Rey Fenix is made for this environment, but you could argue the Bucks are too. The Bucks in their current run aren’t afraid to bend or outright break the rules, and they do it here by doling out liberal low blows before using Fenix as a lawn dart a la another famous Rey. Matt Jackson takes the time to change shoes and busts out some Air Jordans with thumbtacks on the soles. Penta isn’t about to let Fenix get kicked in the face like that, taking the shot in his place. He gets more of the tacks in the corner as well, drawing big boos from the crowd. Oh, but turnabout is fair play, because Fenix ends up with the shoe and isn’t afraid to use it. There are package piledrivers from both teams on the apron at the same time, followed by an Avalanche Canadian Destroyer by Penta. Hot damn. A war of wills involves superkicks and lariats being dished out left and right. The challengers hit the Fear Factor and nearly get the win, then point up high. Rey is climbing up to try something dangerous, and he delivers with a cross body off the very top of the cage. One more double team move follows, and Penta covers to get a very popular three count.
Winners … and new AEW World Tag Team Champions: Lucha Bros. by pinfall
21-Woman Casino Battle Royale
The winner of this one gets a future women’s title shot, and it’s a great showcase for wrestlers you may have forgotten about. Case in point: Abadon. Nyla Rose and Diamante form an alliance of sorts, a must for any big battle royale. The third group, or suit, is stacked, with Thunder Rosa, Penelope Ford, Riho and Jamie Hayter. The final group is no slouch either, with Tay Conti, Red Velvet, Leyla Hirsch, Rebel and Jade Cargill, who quickly goes to work winnowing down the numbers. We still have the Joker to come, and it’s … Ruby Soho, better known in WWE as Ruby Riott. Cargill gets dumped out by Rose, so keep an eye on that as an ongoing feud. Rosa is able to eliminate Rose, leaving just her and Soho, which the fans are loving. After an extended sequence on the apron, a jumping kick to the head knocks Rosa to the floor, meaning Soho jumps to the front of the line during her AEW debut.
Winner: Ruby Soho
MJF vs. Chris Jericho
Both men’s entrances are top notch. MJF fools the fans by simulating Jericho’s old Y2J entrance, reveling in the chance to stick it to his rival one last time. A gentleman I can only assume is the lead guitarist for Fozzy plays the Demo God to the ring live, and the crowd is electric. Jericho is certainly likely to give us his greatest hits in case it is his final bout, and his springboard dropkick early on is proof of that. He’s going out bumping too, taking a piledriver on the apron and forcing him to take nine of his allotted 10 counts to recover. MJF receives a stiff powerbomb on the edge of the apron, so these bumps are being equitably distributed as well. Wardlow is on his way to lend a hand, but Jake Hager cuts him off at the bottom of the ramp and the two renew their lengthy rivalry. In the chaos, MJF picks up Floyd and uses it on its owner, then connects with a Judas Effect. Referee Aubrey Edwards counts to three, though it appears Jericho gets his foot on the bottom rope before the three. Another ref comes down to fill her in, and it appears the match will restart. Yep, we’re back in action, though Jericho quickly ends up in the Salt of the Earth. The hold is reversed into the Walls of Jericho, and MJF’s attempt to crawl to the ropes goes for naught. Jericho drags MJF to the middle of the ring, where MJF finally has no choice but to tap out.
Winner: Chris Jericho by submission
Darby Allin (w/ Sting) vs. CM Punk
Winner: CM Punk by pinfall
Sting, who lived up to his word to let Punk and Allin battle it out without intervening, comes to the ring to shake Punk’s hand. A nice show of respect, though perhaps not what everyone was hoping to see in this spot.
QT Marshall (w/ The Factory) vs. Paul Wight
Wight is going to have some fun here, exposing Marshall’s chest for his trademark chops. He runs over his foe repeatedly and elevates him for a big back body drop. And even though the Factory joins the fray, Wight wins in what is essentially a squash.
Winner: Paul Wight by pinfall
Malakai Black cuts a promo on Dustin Rhodes, who he will face this week. Also, Pac and El Idolo will have their match this week since, well, travel problems.
Christian Cage (challenger) vs. Kenny Omega (champion) – AEW World Championship Match
Winner … and still AEW World Champion: Kenny Omega by pinfall
AEW All Out 2021 - September 5, 2021
NOW Arena, Chicago, IL
AEW continues to deliver what its fans want to see, and the combination of excellent matches, solid storytelling and not overthinking it in terms of the new arrivals made All Out a joy to watch. There might never be real agreement on the exact moment when AEW became a true alternative to WWE (certainly, many would argue it’s already taken place), but it would not be surprising decades from now if wrestling historians pointed to this show as the pivotal moment. The big hope now is that it pushes both companies to keep upping their game in the years ahead.