Bad Bunny vs. Damien Priest
The WWE has been pretty at sea since WrestleMania, and you can really see the push and pull between the HHH and Vince visions of wrestling. However, while the weekly TV has been all over the place, they are still masters at this kind of maximalist blown-out celebrity match. Floyd Maywhether vs. Big Show and Logan Paul vs. Roman Reigns are some of my favorite WWE matches ever, and while this wasn’t at that level, it was still a wild scene and a really fun match.
It is pretty wild that they actually got Bad Bunny to do something like this. He is the biggest star in music today, this is really the equivalent of Elvis Presley working Jackie Fargo in the Mid-South Coliseum in 1964 or Prince taking on Mad Dog Vachon in 1983 in the Minneapolis Auditorium (Morris Day would have made an incredible heel manager, I can just imagine him bringing in heel after heel to try take down Prince). Bunny fully committed as well, taking a big stunt bump through a stage prop, and hitting a plancha among other big moves. Bunny isn’t as naturally athletically gifted as Maywhether, Lawrence Taylor or Logan Paul, and you could see the seams in some of the moves, still the charisma is off the charts, and super charisma and basic competence can take you really far in a wrestling match.
I haven’t really rated Priest before, but was impressed with him here. He kept the match together and had some really nice moments of sleazy heel stuff, I loved his little smirk when he suckered Bunny and kicked the can into his face, loved the old heel spot of pulling up Bunny at 2 (which did a nice job of keeping his credibility) and he did a great job selling the knee injury, and how it shifted his demeanor from overconfidence to terror.
I really liked all of the nods to Puerto Rican wrestling history as well. Savio Vega coming out, and running through his TNT strike combos meant way more than just a cameo from a 90s midcarder. Savio was a huge star in WWC before he left Puerto Rico, and helped launch and was the main star of IWA which was the first real alternative promotion on the Island. When Carlito came in to make the save, he wasn’t just a guy who had a 2000s mid card run and a memorable catchphrase, he was Carly Colon, the son of Carlos Colon the living god of Puerto Rican wrestling. Bad Bunny slapping on the figure four wasn’t a tribute to Ric Flair (despite what the announcers disingenuously claimed) that was the move which Carlos Colon used to vanquish foe after foe for decades. I appreciate that the agents who laid out the match understood the legacy of the Island, even if the commentators downplayed it.
In many ways great wrestling is pretty simple, find a hot crowd and give them something to care about. Having Backlash in Puerto Rico, a great wrestling territory who hasn’t had a big WWE show in decades, and giving them a beloved local icon to root for, well that is basically foolproof stuff
Darby Allin/Jungle Boy Jack Perry vs. MJF/Sammy Guevara
A lot of the promo work to set up the four pillars main event at the Double or Nothing PPV has fallen pretty flat, but these are really talented wrestlers, and letting them work their issues out in the ring solves a lot of problems.
It’s too bad the MJF and Sammy Guevara alliance is coming to an end so abruptly because they are great together. Just an awesome sleazeball heel tag team, in the spirit of PG-13 or the Rock and Roll RPM, or super oiled up Stan Lane-era Midnight Express. Just full of cheap shots and taunts, I loved all of the stuff with the choking and the scarf and MJF getting the crowd all hyped up for a double dive and bailing and just letting Darby fly.
I once made MJF a mix tape of Buddy Landell matches, he is a guy who studies the masters of BS. Both Darby and Jungle Boy are great faces in peril and great hot tags, and it was cool that both got a chance to play each role. Both the heel breakup leading to the babyface win, and Darby stealing the pin from Jungle Boy with coffin drop were excellent set ups for the four way, and achieved way more than awkward edge lord promo exchanges. I have a ton of faith that despite the shaky start, that these four will really put on something special in the main event of the PPV.
Even if it doesn’t fully work, AEW is banking money for the future, the WWE is running a title tournament full of guys in their mid-40s, while AEW is gambling on blue chippers in their 20s, and I like the gamble.
Jon Moxley vs. Jake Crist
A couple of days before he locked himself in a steel cage with Kenny Omega on Dynamite, Jon Moxley stopped off at Wrestling Revolver to get into an ugly scrap with an old friend Jake Crist. Crist and Moxley came up together in the same Midwest Indy scene and had multiple singles and tag matches against each other between 2007-2011, although this was their first meeting in well over a decade. Crist was primarily a tag wrestler with his brother Dave as Irish Airborne and Ohio Versus Everything, in CZW, ROH and Impact wrestling, Dave got accused of some pretty terrible things during the Speaking Out movement and hasn’t been seen since, and Jake has tried to revive his career as a singles competitor.
Crist is smaller than Moxley but has always been a guy willing to bang, and this was really hard hitting, with Mox wrestling more of a Blackpool style, then the garbage wrestling he will sometimes play with on his indy dates. Some of the stuff which doesn’t always look great, looked awesome here, including Mox rolling through on a bodypress right into the trapped arm headstomps, which were really bouncing off of Crist’s jaw, his hammer and anvil elbows looked nastier than they normally do as well. Mox was really stretching him too, with a pair of nasty half crab variations. Crist had his moments, hitting a sunset flip bomb and a spin kick which cut Mox over the eye. Crist ducked under a clothesline and rolled up Mox only to get caught in a rear naked choke which Moxley wrenched super tight to put him to sleep, I love how Mox will adjust his grip in his chokes, just a clever bit of detail work, always looking to sinch in the hold.
I am a real fan of small-room Moxley, he always seems to get so much joy at showing up at a smaller indy show and shedding some blood either his or his opponents, and you could tell it was meaningful for him to match up with an old rival like this.