PITTSBURGH — Two days after Thanksgiving and under a full moon, AEW’s Collision debuted in Pittsburgh at the Petersen Events Center. And while a former AEW champion was making noise “across town,” the current roster put on a perfunctory performance.

An events usher said that they were expecting 3,000 in the venue, which “officially” holds just over 12,500. She also said that they had 17,000 there recently for a basketball game. Normally, parking is at a premium on Wednesdays when the brand is in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood and on the University of Pittsburgh campus. Patrons mix with urban commuters during the middle of the week and the lines stretch 100 yards. At 6:30 p.m. before a 7:00 p.m. Saturday night bell time, one could walk right in without missing a beat.

At 6:45 p.m., a “dark” match began, but I wanted to check out the diminishing merchandise stand. At one time, there was a long time for merchandise and with a variety of choices. The last time the show was in town, the line and inventory were vastly reduced. To be honest, Saturday’s looked like an overstocked indy merchandise table. With the legendary Sting’s career ending in a few months, there were zero Steve Borden t-shirts.

Just about 90 seconds before bell time, ring announcer Tasha Gonzales introduced AEW President and owner Tony Kahn came out to say that the locker room was hit with sickness “unlike anything before COVID,” but promised a great show.

Kahn did make a vague suggestion that Pittsburgh had a “reputation it didn’t deserve,” and was in fact “a great wrestling town!”

Tony Schiavone, who has made all of the Pittsburgh shows, was joined at the broadcast table here for the first time by Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuinness who said he was “nervous” to be here.

It was time for action.

The first hour is officially an episode of Rampage. Hook received a great response from those in attendance and Rocky Romero was welcomed warmly, just not as well as Taz’s son in what was an ECW stronghold. Promptly at 7:02, we were underway for this special three-hour broadcast.

A “Hook! Hook! Hook!” chant rang out as the two began to engage. Hook was cheered when he rallied, Romero booed when he cheated on the outside. A “Lets Go Rocky, Let’s Go Hook” chant resonated throughout the Petersen Event Center. Referee Bryce Remsburg did a fine job as these two like-sized wrestlers exchanged moves. Hook synched in Redrum and scored the victory in 10 minutes.

A backstage Black Friday promo occurred with Stokely Hathaway, Orange Cassidy and RJ City, who at one time had a significant indy run in suburban Pittsburgh where Britt Baker and Wardlow shined years ago.

There was dead space during the first commercial break and when the telecast came back, the Continental Classic “Blue League” bracket was shown for TV viewers, inside we couldn’t hear a thing.

A Wheeler Yuta promo, leading up to the upcoming ROH Pure Championship match was shown on the big screen. It received a cursory response.

A TBS Championship-less Kris Statlander came to the ring and opponent Diamante followed. The Pittsburgh crowd isn’t sure who Diamante is. The bell rings and they trade holds. There’s a time early on when individual conversations can be heard across the arena. Statlander is a beast who is AEW’s strongest female athlete now that Jade Cargill plays for the other team. She did a fine job making Diamante look strong. Mercedes Martinez comes down the ramp and momentarily distracts Statlander. Diamante gets the advantage and maintains it for several minutes as Martinez reacts accordingly. She mouths off to the crowd and cheers on Diamante. Statlander hits a scoop slam and Martinez trips her when she gets too close to the ropes. Statlander is tossed across the ring and Diamante gains offense. They trade pinning predicaments until Statlander slams her again. Diamante powers Statlander over and gets a two count. Diamante clotheslines Statlander but the former champion hits a huge clothesline and gets the win in just over 9 minutes. Martinez rushes in and the two attack Statlander before Willow Nightingale makes the save. Unpopular opinion: Nightingale has the best entrance music in AEW.

Two longtime Pittsburgh area tag team champions known as The Mane Event (TME) are in the ring. Duke Davis and Gannon Jones Jr. are multi-time champions on the independent scene and have the size, strength and talent to go beyond Elizabeth, PA. It’s puzzling why it really hasn’t happened. Matt Taven and Mike Bennet of The Kingdom come into the ring. The Kingdom attacks their much-larger foes, but TME are squashed in only a few moments.

Next up, Ring of Honor’s ring announcer Bobby Cruise introduces Jerry Lynn, Jimmy Jacobs and Christopher Daniels as judges for the ROH Pure Championship match.

Philadelphia’s Yuta Wheeler–who was once mistakenly introduced on AEW as being from the Steel City–is out. ROH Pure Champion, Tokyo’s Katsuyori Shibata, is out. Yuta begrudgingly shakes Shibata’s hand. There’s a nice chant for Shibata when the match starts. [Personal note: To be honest, I don’t know anything about the Pure Championship rules but enjoyed the announcements for penalties subjected to the opponents.] This is another match where the opponents are strikingly similar in size and black hair/tights appearance. Wheeler has pants, Shibata doesn’t have a beard. Otherwise, the casual observer might have a problem telling them apart. The mic’d up referee adds some unique aspects to the match (and the ring itself has improved sound quality, which is obvious when bigger athletes are inside the ropes). Shibata’s chops to Wheeler’s chest resonate throughout the basketball arena. The crowd gets behind Shibata when he gets Yuta in a Kurt Angle ankle lock. Yuta gets to the ropes. Yuta dives onto Shibata immediately after the break. They trade offense outside of the ring and inside. In 12:29, Yuta wins the Pure Wrestling Championship after a low blow and DDT to Shibata that the ref was distracted from seeing. Post-Match, a saucy Yuta kicks Shibata low for a second time, in full view of the official. Hook’s music hits and Yuta bugs out. On his way out, Yuta yaps in the face of the ROH judges.

Backstage: Eddy Kingston and Brody King cut short promos as does Danny Garcia for the second time.

All of that took place in the publicized “bonus” third hour.

Collision “officially” kicks off at 8 p.m. with Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s All Right for Fighting,” a song that has been used to kick off Pittsburgh’s independent scene for several years.

Claudio Castignoli represents the Blackpool Combat Club. Supposedly a heel, Claudio is cheered regardless of where he goes. Daniel Garcia is out and easily muscled around by Claudio, who even from 40 yards away, looks like he could still lift semi trucks parked out on the street. Pittsburgh has a penchant for strong professional wrestlers. Claudio tosses Garcia around and at one point grabs a bottled water from ringside staffers and wets his head. Garcia gets offense but it’s simply a delight to watch Claudio work with an opponent. At around the 10 minute mark, Claudio hits European Upper Cuts and a powerbomb for the victory. Out of nowhere, Yuta arrives and welcomes his BCC partner.

Another Eddie Kingston promo airs.

The Patriarchy’s Killswitch stomps to the ring and faces off against two youngsters who aren’t introduced. It’s later determined that they are Dalton Castle’s “boys.” The former Luchasaurus dispatches one of the Boys by choke slamming him over the top rope and onto the ring apron. It’s a striking move that has the Boy selling on the outside, shaking his hand to see if it still works. The masked giant wins in another two-minute squash. Post match: Killswitch slams both Boys onto steel chairs.

Adam Copeland’s music hits and he rushes in from behind. The crowd goes wild. He clobbers Killswitch with a chair, a Conchairto and a curb stomp onto the chair. There’s a second Conchairto that pops the crowd. Copeland has, by far, the biggest pop of the night. [Update: It was the biggest pop of the entire evening.]

Next week, AEW Collison will be in Erie, a breezy two-hour trip straight north from Pittsburgh.

After the commercial, Copeland cuts a promo against Christian Cage. Copeland’s promo is quite possibly the most intense and personal, probably of his career.

The House of Black make their way to the ring for tag team competition. Malakai Black and Buddy Matthews await opponents Kommander and Gravity. Matthews and Gravity start off. Black is in and strikes Gravity hard. Gravity doesn’t gel right away (and it doesn’t get much better). Kommander is tagged in and Murphy is back in. Murphy muscles Kommander on the ropes and tags in Black, who gets a near pinfall. And then a second. The House of Black does a good job so far of keeping these guys grounded. Kommander does catch a break but it’s short lived as House of Black keeps him away from Gravity. Kommander does get to Gravity who does get some offense before an awkward fall lands him hard onto Black’s knee. Neither seem legitimately hurt following what is a true botch. Gravity rushes in but the highlight is Kommander running the top rope onto their opponents. A choreographed spot falls short, mainly due to Gravity, who doesn’t fare well tonight. Murphy curb stomps Kommander and gets the win at the 11 minute mark.

Action Andretti and Darius Martin cut a short promo. Darius says he has a surprise. His brother Dante who has been out for months following an injury comes on screen to say he’s back.

TBS Champion Julia Hart is out for a “House Rules” match, described as one with no time limits. Lady Frost is the challenger. Tony Marino was a very popular wrestler in Pittsburgh as the masked “Battman.” Lady Frost is his granddaughter. She was a gymnast before breaking into wrestling less than a decade ago and it shows here. Despite “hailing from Iceland,” Pittsburgh knows she’s one of ours, actually more so than Britt Baker. There’s an impressive spot where Julia Hart clotheslines a seated Lady Frost in a chair on the entrance ramp. Lady Frost taps when Hart applies a version of the arm bar. Hart, who recently wed Lee Johnson, is still the TBS Champion in about 10 minutes.

FTR make their way to the ring. Vincent and Dutch of “The Righteous” are the opponents. Cash Wheeler starts out against Vincent and then tags in Dax Harwood. The much larger Dutch is in. A beefy opponent who sports all white pants, and a dress shirt accented by suspenders, Dutch misses Harwood coming off the top turnbuckle. The action spills to the outside with FTR in control. Vincent lures Harwood to the outside where he meets a flying body splash from Dutch. Once back inside, Dutch and Vincent keep Harwood in their corner. Harwood has trouble shaking Vincent. Dutch is tagged in and he splashes and powerslams Harwood. Dutch misses a big splash and Harwood gets to Wheeler, who cleans house for a while. It’s quick after that and FTR are victorious in about 11 minutes.

Malakai Black and Brody King arrive through the crowd and Black drops the name “CM Punk” as someone from the “brotherhood” who isn’t going to be around to help them. On the same day, Punk surprisingly returned to the WWE. Black’s real-life wife Zelina Vega is a WWE superstar, so it’s interesting that he was the one who dropped the name. Fans will remember that Saturday’s “Collision” was basically created as a “safe space” for Punk, who very publicly had a locker room fight with some AEW wrestlers, none of whom were in attendance this night. The lights go out and that allows House of Black to vanish.

Tony Schiavone stands stoic in the ring as the Pittsburgh crowd shouts love and appreciation his way. He doesn’t so much as wave. He introduces the AEW tag team champions, Ricky Starks and Big Bill. The crowd boos when Schiavone mentions the champs attacking Chris Jericho. Big Bill calls the Jericho and Kenny Omega duo, “The Golden Jets” the “Golden Girls.” The line gets a good laugh. Bill mentions “four years ago” that he was having seizures from alcohol withdrawals and that he knew he’d “make it back.” Done in the right way, this could have been a huge babyface promo and the fans wanted to cheer for him, but he’s a heel. Big Bill puts Kenny Omego and Chris Jericho over, then insults them. Starks then closes out the promo and they take their leave.

There is a Swerve Strickland promo and Keith Lee comes down the ramp for his match. Then comes his opponent– Julia Hart and Pittsburgh’s own Lee Moriarity. Lee is twice the size of 191-pound Moriarity. After Lee swats Moriarity out of the ring, the crowd serenades the big man. Moriarity gets Lee down and keeps him there with boots. The crowd cheers for their hometown boy. Lee’s power is Limitless. His overhand chops are forceful. Lee catches Lee and holds him while deciding what to do next. Moriarity lands a bulldog from the middle rope as he is always in the match. Keith’s power is just too much and a powerslam ends Moriarity’s night in standard time.

The Spanish announce team, including Thunder Rosa, who was initially identified as an anchor for this show, is introduced during the commercial break.

When they come back they go backstage. During a promo, Keith Lee teases a heel turn.

Brody King from the House of Black is introduced for the main event. Then comes Eddie Kingston to a nice response. King and Kingston are big fellas and they hit each other hard. King knocks the Mad King out of the ring and kicks him to keep him out. It’s a good punch and kick brawler match. A Lets Go Eddie chant rings out. It’s almost refreshing to see two heavy hitters go at it after experiencing everything else so far in the evening. Eddie lowers the straps on his shirt and the two share enormous chops. Kingston drops King and gets a two-count. Kingston powers King down and gets a two count. A “Let’s Go Eddie” chant rings out with three minutes of TV time remaining. Kingston is down and gets his foot on the ropes to break a pin attempt. They trade shots again. King powers Kingston up for a powerbomb and gets the win. In approximately 17 minutes, King wins in what has to be somewhat of an upset over Kingston. Keith Lee had made reference to going after someone. This would have been a chance for him to turn on Kingston, but it didn’t happen.