Well, now it feels like the holidays!
Last week I opened a hobby box of 2022 Upper Deck AEW Allure, and now I have a box of 2023 Upper Deck AEW Wrestling, the third annual flagship wrestling card set for Upper Deck and AEW. With the release of this set, all 2022 AEW sets are officially in the books, and the 2023 season has begun.
2023 Upper Deck AEW Wrestling really stepped it up this year, significantly increasing the size of hobby boxes from 16 packs per box to 24, as well as adding one “Autograph, Memorabilia Card, or Tech Card per box,” without adding any additional cost to the box, so I was excited to see, this time around, if bigger is better when it comes to AEW cards.
Like I said, one hobby box of 2023 Upper Deck AEW Wrestling includes 24 packs, instead of the previous 16, so it’s a noticeably bigger box, and it’s also a very colorful box. The box design has an almost New Orleans/Mardi Gras vibe to it, so I couldn’t wait to pop it open, like it’s on display at a card shop.
I had seen preview images of the new cards, but holding them in my hands for the first time is always a great experience, so I ripped into my first pack of 2023 Upper Deck AEW Wrestling, and got a feel for the first card, a base card of Austin Gunn. Once again, the photography is great, and the card back is relatively similar to previous years, but they changed the front card design quite a bit this year. I wasn’t immediately sure how I felt about the size and font of the names on the cards, the type is quite stylized and rather small, but it’s a bold choice. After that, I pulled a Young Bucks Tag Team card, which is a subset of the 100 card base set. I like the choice of the full body photograph on these. Then I pulled an Anthony Bowens gold base card, which fall one gold per pack. Next I pulled a Samoa Joe Stepping Into the Ring insert, which didn’t do much for me. I pulled a Max Castor Pyro parallel, which have been reliably great looking cards. And I finished with base cards of Moxley and Malakai Black.
My second pack started with a base card of “Switchblade “ Jay White. I know many people are happy to finally see him in this set. Next, I got Toni Storm, before she was “Timeless,” an Anna Jay gold, and a Julia Hart Stepping Into the Ring insert. After this, I pulled a Ricky Starks Double or Nothing playing card insert, and man these are really sharp. These cards have rounded corners and the back is designed like a proper playing card. It actually feels like a playing card, and I’m very excited to get more of these.
In pack three, I pulled a Wheeler Yuta base card, and the font is growing on me. Next, I got a Brock and Arn Anderson All in the Family card, an Excalibur gold base, and a Total Access Bryan Danielson insert, which feels a little flat. I also pulled a Ruby Soho pyro parallel numbered out of 249, which is another great looking parallel.
In my next pack, I got a Buddy Matthews base card, and the photograph is really striking. Next, I pulled a gold Alex Reynolds, Ricky Starks Total Access insert, a Jamie Hayter pyro parallel, and a Jungle Boy Jack Perry We Are All Elite insert, which looks ok, but honestly not great.
In pack five, I pulled a Colten Gunn gold, as well as Hangman Adam Page and Julia Hart We Are All Elite inserts, which is sort of weird to get two of the same insert in one pack. After this, I pulled my first Dazzlers insert, this one was Orange Cassidy. This is another new insert for AEW, but I guess Upper Deck has used it in hockey products. I like this one, and it’s funny that Dazzlers has the same or similar font as the Marvel Dazzler comic book. I then finished the pack with a Taya Valkyrie base card, which I believe is her first pack pulled card for AEW.
Very next pack, I pulled a Taya Valkyrie gold and a Matt Hardy We Are All Elite. It definitely feels like I’m getting a lot of these, even for an insert that’s supposed to fall one in every other pack. And then I hit an MJF Stare Down acetate insert. This might be the hit of the box. Each hobby box advertises one autograph, relic, or “tech” card, and the Stare Down set is a tech card, so I assume this is my one guaranteed hit, and I’m pretty happy with it, because I love acetate cards, and MJF is arguably the biggest pull in any AEW set right now, so this card immediately goes in a penny sleeve and top loader.
Pack seven included a Jungle Boy gold base, and a Danhausen Mic Check insert. This is another insert set I was really looking forward to, with its 1990s Yo! MTV Raps homage style, and the image of Danhausen they selected for the card is pretty hilarious. After this, I pulled a Tay Melo Dazzlers insert and back to back All in the Family cards of the Lucha Brothers and Young Bucks.
With pack eight, I was starting to see some duplicate base cards, which is expected from a bigger box like this. In previous AEW boxes, I’ve received almost no dupes, but those were much smaller boxes. I also pulled a Danielson gold base, Thunder Rosa We Are All Elite insert, and a Moxley Dazzlers insert, which was sort of a funny juxtaposition.
In pack nine, I pulled a Thunder Rosa All Elite Women insert. This is yet another new insert set, 2023 Upper Deck AEW Wrestling is chock full of them, and this one is another banger. And then – BOOM – Taz autograph! This card was completely unexpected, since I already pulled the MJF Stare Down and I assumed that was my one hit for the box. That’s two solid hits in one hobby box, already probably the best hobby box of flagship AEW I’ve opened in three years. The rest of the box, from here on out, is gravy.
Pack ten began with a Jade Cargill base card, who I was totally not expecting to see in this set, then I pulled a Swerve Strickland gold card, Toni Storm Elite, a Pac Double or Nothing insert, and an Athena Elite, which seemed funny to me, since she’s been ROH champ for so long. Also, this is another pack with two We Are All Elite insets, which makes me question the collation of cards/packs.
In the next two packs, I pulled a Shida gold, Kris Statlander Elite, Luchasaurus Double or Nothing, Kenny Omega gold, Sammy Guevara Elite, and a Claudio Double or Nothing. At this point, I’m halfway through the hobby box, with 12 packs to go, and I assume I’ve pulled my best cards from the box, but I still haven’t gotten some of the promised inserts advertised on the box. Still, from this point on, I’m going to run through some highlights of what I pulled in the latter half of the box.
In my 14th pack, I pulled my first Upper Deck Canvas insert, featuring The Blade. This is a very well liked set that’s making its third appearance, but it’s a much bigger set this time around. The first two years, it was 40 cards to the Canvas set, with a slightly rarer gold parallel version, but this year, it’s a 100-card set, with a much rarer black parallel. I then pull a Darby Allin Canvas card two packs later, and an Austin Gunn after that.
In pack 18 of 24, I pull a Jade Cargill Dazzlers insert, which she fits very well, but yet again, I’m surprised she’s still in this.
In the next pack, I get a Hook We Are All Elite insert, followed by a Swerve Strickland We Are All Elite green variation numbered out of 199, so even though it’s another pack with two of the same inserts, at least the Swerve is a rarer version of the insert.
Pack #21 is another good one, as I pull my first and only Excalibur’s picks insert card, of Toni Storm, and I follow that up with a gold variation of a Ricky Starks Double or Nothing insert, so now I have the base and gold versions of the Starks Double or Nothing.
In the next couple packs, I get a Matt Jackson pyro parallel and a Billy Gunn Canvas, and I wonder if there’ll be any last pack magic, and lo and behold, in pack #24, I pull a Top Flight Darius and Dante Martin Tag Teams Clear Cut acetate card, a very rare parallel, which arguably makes this a three hit box!
In my opinion, it doesn’t get much better than that. Granted, not every box is going to turn out that way, most won’t, as a matter of fact, but I guess the odds were finally in my favor, this time around.
With that said, even if I hadn’t gotten so lucky, I still think 2023 Upper Deck AEW Wrestling is the best set of flagship AEW cards since the inaugural release in 2021. It took me a moment to get used to the new style of base cards, there’s a couple dull inserts that I could do without, and I think there’s too many We Are All Elite inserts in each box, but aside from that, I think the base cards truly look great, this set features some of the best inserts Upper Deck has made for AEW, and the hobby box is considerably bigger, without charging more, so that’s a big win, if you ask me.