LONDON, ON – Road Trips are always a source for great stories and new friendships. As a trio of SlamWrestling staffers — Bob Kapur, Boris Aguilar, and intrepid photographer Steve Argintaru — took to the road from Mississauga, Ontario, to drive the two hours it would take to get to London, Ontario, for a taping of AEW Collision, we weren’t sure what to expect from AEW’s B-Show. The internet wresting community has created a narrative about AEW that could mostly be true, but when approaching Budweiser Gardens you would never think the show would be lightly attended. As we walked towards the arena, there were lines wrapped around the building full of people wanting to get in.

Luckily, the lines moved pretty quickly, which can’t necessarily be said for the merchandise lines. There were about a hundred people in line, although based on the slim pickings available – only four or five shirts and a Danhausen mask were displayed and it appeared they had sold out of AEW replica title belts. The lack of variety of merchandise at AEW shows is a common complaint among fans, and in this case, at least, it was warranted.

As we got to our seats — Boris and Steve in the hard camera section of the building which was reserved for media, and Bob sitting in the front row just a few seats to the right of the commentary desk — you could tell that this city was ready to take in a TV taping. The energy in the building was electric.

TV tapings are always a difficult task to manage as you want to keep the energy high before the Live TV Show (AEW Collision) but still get through some of the T’s to cross and I’s to dot.

ROH Tapings

On Saturday, they filmed the go-home episode of ROH which included a couple AEW Dark like matches and a contract signing for the ROH Women’s championship match taking place at ROH Supercard of Honor where Athena will defend against Hikaru Shida. This segment was a mess, with some campy acting and a stubborn table that took three bumps on it to break (kind of) for the final shot of Shida holding the ROH Women’s title over a fallen Athena.

Fortunately, the execution was better for the actual ROH matches that were taped.

In the first match, Shane Taylor and Lee Moriarty beat Kaz Jordan and Julian Ward when Shane destroyed Jordan with a Package Piledriver for the pin. In the second, “Big Shotty” Lee Johnson surprised Nick Comoroto, beating him after a Frog Splash. During the match, some guy in a  cowboy hat came out to scout one of them, presumably Comoroto. The crowd had no idea who he was, and chants of “Who are you?” could be heard throughout. In the final ROH match, Nova — an Ontario-based wrestler — got squashed by Abadon.

The crowd was done with the pre-show and the energy filled up in the arena again as Dasha González announced that we were minutes away from going live on TNT and TSN. With minutes to go before going live, President and CEO Tony Khan took to the stage to greet the London crowd and told us the action would get started right away.

Collision

Well he wasn’t lying as “You think you know him” rang around the arena to start the show. Adam Copeland entered the arena to a thunderous roar from the London faithful. The crowd was as hot as a Pizza Pocket (which might be hot, but aren’t as tasty as the pretzels at the Budweiser Gardens…. seriously. Bob Kapur is a connoisseur of arena pretzels, and this one is Top 5 at least), and they were ready for two hours of AEW Collision.

The Cope Open was back on and Copeland told the crowd that the stakes were raised as he would be defending his newly won TNT Title at every match. Copeland then called out his mystery opponent. A recognizable intro started and much to the surprise as everyone watching, it was the Indy God, Matt Cardona, who answered the open challenge. As Cardona walked down the ramp, a loud “Holy S#!T” chant roared in the arena as the crowd was very familiar with the history of these two men. The crowd was treated to a fun and entertaining opener. The crowd was hot for this match which saw Copeland retain his TNT championship after a Spear to Cardona. After the match, The House of Black made their presence known as they found their next victim. Copeland was saved by Mark Briscoe and Eddie Kingston to set up a Trios match at AEW Dynasty on April 21.

Adam Copeland at AEW Collision in London, Ontario on March 30, 2024. Photo by Bob Kapur

Adam Copeland at AEW Collision in London, Ontario on March 30, 2024. Photo by Bob Kapur

The Acclaimed then had an in-ring promo segment with a returning Billy Gunn. They continued to set up their feud with Bullet Club Gold as Billy Gunn challenged Jay White to a match on Dynamite. The crowd was still quite nostalgic and energetic for this segment.

FTR was set to face The Infantry in a AEW World Tag Team Title Quarter Finals match. FTR got a very mixed response and The Infantry were relatively unknown to the crowd. This was a rare disappointing match featuring FTR. One of the things that normally distinguishes them from other teams is their adherence to tradition, including enforcement of tag team rules. This one, however, often resembled a Tornado match with no enforcement of five counts by the referee. The crowd did react to the high spots of the match and seemed to respond more to The Infantry as they match wore on. But in the end, FTR advanced to the Semi-Finals of the Tag Team Championship tournament after they hit the Shatter Machine.

After a couple backstage segment that saw the aforementioned challenge of Copeland and company to House of Black, and Big Bill and Ricky Starks setting up their match with Top Flight, it was time for the WOOOOO Energy match of the night that saw a good Canadian Boy in Kyle O’Reilly take on JD Drake. This was the first moment of Collision that didn’t fully connect with the crowd but luckily, it didn’t take long for Kyle O’Reilly to get the win and be hoisted on the shoulders of The Undisputed Kingdom.

It was then time for second match of the AEW Tag Team Title Tournament for the night as Top Flight took on former champions Ricky Starks and Big Bill. This match was well received by crowd as Ricky Starks and Big Bill knew how to capture the audience. Top Flight’s flashy moves also got the crowd into the match. This match had a very scary ending as Ricky Starks did not get up from a move and Top Flight got the win. It looked like Big Bill was thinking of sliding in for the save, but backed off — either assuming that Starks was going to kick out, or noticing something was wrong and he didn’t want to prolong the match… either way, good instinct on him. As trainers checked on Starks, the house lights went out to air a Christopher Daniels promo where he challenged Malakai Black to a match on Rampage (which was set to tape after Collision). Of note, Starks was able to get up and leave the ring with some help from trainers. In an update, Starks revealed on social media that he is doing fine after the match.

The rise of Thunder Rosa continued as she faced Lady Frost in a match. The crowd reacted to both women overall but this match felt like it went on a few minutes too long as there were a few moments where the crowd was ready for the match to end. After a Tijuana Bomb, Thunder Rosa got the win. This set up a backstage segment where Renee Paquette told Toni Storm that on Wednesday’s Dynamite Mariah May will face Thunder Rosa to determine the number-one contender for the AEW Women’s Championship. As always, Toni Storm can keep the crowd entertained.

AEW then aired a great Will Ospreay video package finally telling us why he’s so great. This would have been great to air before his debut, as it really gave people unfamiliar with him (and despite what some people think, not everyone who watches AEW follows every other company in the world and is familiar with stars in those companies. And nor should they have to).

After that, it was time for the main event Trios match that saw Bryan Danielson, Claudio Castagnoli and Katsuyori Shibata taking on The Righteous and Lance Archer. The crowd had love for Danielson, Castagnoli and Shibata through the match. As both Danielson and Catagnoli hit their trademark spots, the match — and Collision — would end on a happy note with Danielson, Castagnoli and Shibata celebrating their win.

Dutch threatens Bryan Danielson at AEW Collision – March 31, 2024 – London, ON

After the match concluded to end the show, AEW owner Tony Khan came out to the entrance stage — he did that before the show kicked off, too — and thanked the crowd, reminding everyone to stick around for the taped edition of Rampage.

Rampage Taping

Rampage was another mixed bag, delivering the match of the night in Christopher Daniels vs. Malakai Black, and one of the worst matches you’ll see in Trish Adora vs. Serena Deeb (seriously, Adora shouldn’t be on TV – they probably could have brought Nova back, or put any other of Ontario’s talented women out there to have a better match).

The most fun, though, happened during the second match that saw Roderick Strong take on local talent London Lightning in an Eliminator match for Strong’s International Championship. The crowd was solidly behind London, filling the arena with chants. The antics of Mike Bennett and Matt Taven on the outside added to the entertainment, but the real heat came for Wardlow who ran out and clubbed London, leaving him prone to defeat. The reaction for London wasn’t exclusive to the audience; after the match, as Lightning was heading up the ramp, Tony Khan came out, raised his arm, and gave him a hug.

After the main event — which saw Daniel Garcia outlast Bryan Keith, Komander, and Action Andretti in a Final 4 Elimination match. Garcia and “Daddy Magic” Matt Menard, who had joined the commentary team for this one, expressed their gratitude to the city for hosting the show, with Garcia talking about having wrestled in the city on independent shows before he made it to AEW. Afterwards, they sent the audience home happy with a sweet moment where they brought a kid into the ring whose sign Bryan Keith had ripped up earlier, and they danced with him.

During the post-match celebration, there was also a final pop-in by Tony Khan post-show, and he promised that while this was the first AEW show in London, Ontario, it would not be their last.

Daniel Garcia at AEW Collision in London, Ontario on March 30, 2024. Photo by Bob Kapur

Daniel Garcia at AEW Collision in London, Ontario on March 30, 2024. Photo by Bob Kapur

To cap off the road trip, the Slam crew stopped at a highway rest stop on the way home, and ran into Wardlow, who, despite being booed earlier, was given a hero’s welcome by the AEW fans who were also there. He reciprocated the sentiment, talking with everyone and taking photos with all of them. Bumping into him was a fun “collision.”

STEVE ARGINTARU’S AEW COLLISION IN LONDON PHOTO GALLERY