All Elite Wrestling
AEW WrestleDream 2023
October 1, 2023
Climate Pledge Arena
Watch: PPV & FITE
Meet our reviewers
Jeff Andrews: Jeff is normally more or less exclusively an NJPW fan, but this show has some stuff that looks entertaining enough in a vacuum.
Fred Morlan: Fred has eaten too much cheap pizza. Subscribe to his AEW podcast The Good, The Bad, and The Hungee at redcircle.com/shows/the-good-the-bad-and-the-hungee-aew-podcast
Suit Williams: Coming to you live from Rally Cap Brewing in beautiful Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Suit is looking forward to the new post-Punk era of AEW. Follow him on Twitter/all Twitter copycats @SuitWilliams, and check out his work on F4WOnline covering ROH and AEW Collision.
AEW WrestleDream 2023 Zero Hour
Antonio Inoki Tribute
Jeff: It’s very funny watching a dirt sheets nerd live out his fantasies on television, truly a blessed era we are living in. The tribute was odd in contrast to the more subdued Japanese tributes to legends such as Inoki, but I’ll chop that up to cultural differences.
Fred: After a nice video package paying tribute to Inoki, we get Tony Khan in the ring with Rocky Romero, Katsuyori Shibata, and two of Inoki’s grandsons. They’re all wearing the scarf. Tony Khan puts over Antonio Inoki as a great dreamer for wrestling. Rocky Romero gives flowers to the grandchildren. TK leads a Ich Ni San Da chant to a crowd who isn’t sure what’s happening. They immediately cut to a smug Christian Cage watching on TV, undoubtedly thinking of more people who have lost father figures being in the ring. What a time to be alive.
AEW WrestleDream 2023 Zero Hour
Athena, Billie Starkz, Keith Lee & Satoshi Kojima def. Diamante, Mercedes Martinez & Shane Taylor Promotions (Lee Moriarty & Shane Taylor)
Jeff: Oh yes, Jim Ross.
I don’t have strong feelings about most of the people involved here, and this is probably the match I’m least interested in, with distance. Athena and Billie Starkz are a neat pairing, and there’s a very good chance Athena is a top 3 women’s wrestler in the company right now. Seeing Satoshi Kojima on US Soil is always a welcome treat, and this match refused to overstay its welcome. Seeing the Western Lariat score pinfalls in 2023 is a heartwarming sight, and for that, I’m giving this. ***1/2
Fred: Oh no, Jim Ross.
I’m glad the heel women’s wrestlers that were allowed on CM Punk’s Collision are getting featured here – they’re very solid workers that I’d like to see have a bigger role in the AEW women’s division. It’s a shame that Athena, who might be AEW’s best women’s wrestler, is off in Ring of Honor, but every time she’s on AEW TV, she rules.
This actually rocked. There was a lot of fun, the guys beat the hell out of each other, JR was good on comms. This was worth your time if you’ve got it. ***1/2
AEW WrestleDream 2023 Zero Hour
Claudio Castagnoli def. Josh Barnett
Jeff: Myself and Good Ol’ Jim Ross continue to be on the same wavelength, as I was also very very excited for this match. Josh Barnett will always have a place in my heart as my favorite MMA Heavyweight, and something of an underrated worker in his pro wrestling time. Barnett has seen better days, but this match has been very hard-hitting and the grappling has been solid. The thing that stands out most to me is that Jon Moxley is so clearly a big time Josh Barnett mark, and is hysterically working that in between rooting for Claudio against Josh Barnett. Moxley added a lot to this on commentary, and the Claudio pairing with Barnett was very good booking.
I’m in a great mood, and this was a lot of fun. ****
Fred: Good for Jim Ross’ bouncer, getting a booking. Not using Claudio’s theme threw me off. Jim Ross declares this is the match he was most excited for on the card, meaning that the new era of AEW is the revival of Inokism as Rossism.
This is a really good Bloodsport-style match. Barnett’s matches on those shows didn’t always hit, but Claudio is a fantastic opponent for him. Jon Moxley on commentary added so much to this. This was a lot of fun and a strong pre-show match. And Josh Barnett kindly put the rising star Claudio Castagnoli over afterwards. ****
AEW WrestleDream 2023 Zero Hour
Luchasaurus def. Nick Wayne
Jeff: Luchasaurus as 2023 K ane is good casting and I’m totally here for it. I’d really like to see him change his name going forward, but that’s a minor gripe. Nick Wayne got a nice pop, but I’d like to see him lose this match pretty wide. Thankfully Tony Khan is in my head today, and decided to have Nick Wayne be sacrificed to Luchasaurus for a vaguely amused crowd. Not much to say about this, a nice squash for the dino monster. **3/4
Fred: Nice hometown pop for Nick Wayne. It was surprising just how much Luchasaurus took of this match – the story was definitely that Nick Wayne was not on his level, and he just got murdered. Wayne’s great at taking bumps, which really helped this. Solid stuff. **3/4
Suit: This was a surprising match in that it was essentially a squash for Luchasaurus. It makes sense since Luchasaurus is higher on the pecking order than Wayne, but you’d expect the hometown guy to get a little more in here. Wayne took a wild chokeslam over the ropes on the apron, and ended up losing after a rabbit lariat. ***
AEW WrestleDream 2023 Zero Hour
AEW World Trios Title Match
Billy Gunn & The Acclaimed (Anthony Bowens & Max Caster) (c) def. TMDK (Bad Dude Tito, Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste)
Jeff: I’d like to lobby to make Bad Dude Tito the face of wrestling. It won’t happen, but I’d be thrilled. The TMDK boys, in general, are a joy, and this match really picked up speed towards the end. The Acclaimed and Billy Gunn continues to be a shockingly strong group, and this match was a lot of fun. Acclaimed trios matches are a safe bet to be pretty solid, and this was no different. ***1/2
Fred: I’m down on The Acclaimed in terms of match quality these days – they’re still way over and are very entertaining on the mic, but they very much seem like they’ve fallen into a set match structure in their trios matches. TMDK did a nice job breaking them out of that rut here, with a really entertaining match throughout and a nice tease of a win by the outsider team. ***1/4
Suit: Always a good time when BAD DUDE TITO gets booked. This was a fine little match on the pre-show, as TMDK got a lot of their stuff in. I did have a hope of them winning the belts and sticking around for a while, but the Acclaimed retaining is unsurprising. ***1/4
ROH World Tag Team Title Two On One Match
MJF (c) def. The Righteous (Dutch & Vincent)
Jeff: MidJF stinks and feels pretty mediocre when compared to the stronger acts in AEW at this stage. This is an odd WWE-esque interlude on the supposed Inoki tribute show, and that makes me very very sad for a variety of reasons. It seems that the Righteous may be retiring, and if they aren’t I’m pretty curious why the fuck they would’ve ever agreed to a match like this where they wound up looking like total jobbers. I’ve already spent far too much time on this, MJF’s wrestling parody schtick is irritating and boring and I desperately hope it ends soon. DUD
Fred: Babyface MJF has fully gone 80s Hulk Hogan in his match style.
I said this on the latest episode of The Good, The Bad, and The Hungee – you can arguably get away with this stuff with an established act on the other side of the ring from MJF, but The Righteous are not that. I worry about the long-term ramifications of this booking to them & Aussie Open. This reminded me of the infamous Batista vs. La Resistance match, where Batista took the tag champs, squashed them, and killed their momentum dead. This is just a repeat of that.
It was worked fine. This storyline is aging like milk at this point, though. **1/4
Suit: MJF in the Sonics colors, good stuff. I’ve been digging The Righteous since the rollout on AEW TV, as they’ve been getting a surprising amount of heat on these shows. Alas, this was what we thought it would be, as MJF went two-on-one and beat them. He put his feet on the ropes for the pin, but he had these two pretty much handled after making his own hot tag. It’s silly and doesn’t help the Righteous at all, but… it’s over, I guess. MJF retaining does make me wonder about how long – or how valid – this Cole injury is. **1/2
ROH World Title / NJPW STRONG Openweight Title Match
Eddie Kingston (c) def. Katsuyori Shibata (c)
Jeff: This should have opened the show but instead, we suffered through the MJF 80’s Hogan tribute. This match kicked ass, a healthy combination of stiff striking and fighting spirit show what this company could be, and shines an even harsher light on the MJF portion of things. Shibata is still a legitimately great wrestler, and Eddie Kingston coming into his own this late in his career is such a wonderful thing to watch. Go out of your way to watch this match, even if the rest of the show falters somehow. ****1/2
Fred: What a great match to open the Antonio Inoki tribute pay-per-view with. I’m glad this could go on first.
This was two guys just beating the hell out of each other. It ruled. ****1/2
Suit: This was the best version of this match, and it’s so great that they were able to make it happen. Kingston and Shibata had the fighting spirit New Japan battle that you would want on a show honoring Inoki. Kingston needed to put Shibata all the way down, using multiple backfists, a Northern Lights Bomb, and a powerbomb to score the win and retain his titles. ****1/2
AEW TBS Title Match
Kris Statlander (c) def. Julia Hart (w/Brody King)
Jeff: These two totally overperformed and had a genuinely tremendous match with a somewhat disjointed closing stretch. I’m not quite going notebook on this, but the match was a lot of fun and Julia Hart has sneakily improved a long in her time with the company. Kris Statlander also deserves a lot of credit, as her title reign has been a pleasant surprise in a division that could use the help. ***3/4
Fred: These two did a hell of a job in what could have been a true death spot. They busted their asses, had several nice sequences, and a nice closing stretch made this an unlikely notebook match. ****
Suit: Julia Hart had a really good showing in the biggest match of her career. AEW built her up well too, with the crowd biting on a moonsault nearfall. Statlander retained by transitioning out of the Hartless submission and hitting two Sunday Night Fevers. ***3/4
AEW World Tag Team Title #1 Contendership Four Way Match
The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) def. Hook & Orange Cassidy Lucha Brothers (Penta El Zero Miedo & Rey Fenix) (w/Alex Abrahantes) vs. The Gunns (Austin Gunn & Colten Gunn)
Jeff: This has probably been the low point of the show for me, the match felt sloppy at points and there were too many men in the ring for it to ever truly feel cohesive. The finishing stretch was getting really good, but a botch at the end took this down a bit. If you’re into spot fests, you should give this a watch. ***1/4
Fred: This was a low end great match with the second fun being fun action. The Gunns are not a finished product yet – they have been improved and it feels like they’ve got a pretty high ceiling, but they aren’t there in ring yet and definitely aren’t on the level of the other three teams. The othe three got to shine, though, and it ended up being fun. ****
Suit: This was a big party match, and the Bucks are in it, so it’s gonna have a high floor. The Gunns controlled a lot of it, which limited the ceiling of the match, but they didn’t tank the match either. Bucks won with the BTE Trigger on Penta. Nick Jackson has a chance to be a Triple Crown Champion before long, as he’s an ROH Trios Champion, and he’s got an International Title shot on Wednesday. Merch Freak Season, indeed. ***3/4
Swerve Strickland def. “Hangman” Adam Page
Jeff: I am typically the low man on Swerve Strickland, but he was absolutely spectacular in this match and outshined Adam Page every step of the way. If this was his coming out party, fair play to Swerve and I hope he gets the top of the card push everyones been projecting for him. There’s a stomp spot when Adam Page is being treated by the doctors that I personally believed should have been the finish, but the ending was somehow even better than the stomp spot so credit to Page and Strickland for that. The nearfall with Swerve once Nana was “ejected” might be my favorite spot of the night and was unbelievably smooth.
This is the first time I’ve seen Strickland feel like a main eventer, and this is competing with Kingston and Shibata for my Match of the Night. ****1/2
Fred: I have been saying all year that AEW needs to push Swerve Strickland on the level of the world championship. This is why. This was an absolutely fantastic match with both guys busting their asses. The armbreaker attempt on Page and the follow up foot stomp on the apron were insane. Page worked really well as a heel as well, despite not having done that in five years. This leaves some really intriguing threads moving forward for these two. An absolute highlight of the show. ****3/4
Suit: Everybody do the Nana! This was the Swerve Strickland coming out party, as Seattle lived and died at his hand. They booed Hangman out of the building, and he went with it with little issue. This was a big back-and-forth match, showing that Swerve could hang on the level of a former World Champion. Nana saved Swerve on a delayed pin after a Buckshot, allowing Swerve to hit Hangman with Nana’s LOADED DURAG for a nearfall. Swerve then got the win on his own, scoring a huge scalp on his way to the main event scene in AEW. ****1/2
Ricky Starks def. Wheeler Yuta
Jeff: Ricky Starks has shown a lot lately, but the card placement for this match was brutal. This was probably the show’s low point for me, but I’m thankful the low was a perfectly acceptable wrestling match. Starks gets some heat back with an easy win, and the match was fine. ***
Fred: Ricky Starks has been raising his stock tremendously over the past three months. It got him back on the right side of the win/loss ledger against Yuta, a guy who can afford to lose at this point in time. They have better matches in them. ***
Suit: This was a fine match, simply here to get Starks a win on PPV. I’m a fan of the move, as sometimes you just need to get a guy a highlight win. Starks’ arrow is pointing up. ***1/4
Bryan Danielson def. Zack Sabre Jr.
Jeff: Jon Moxley’s commentary has been sensational throughout the match, and this match fucking ruled in all the right ways. Bryan Danielson has had a very good year, and in an era where Will Ospreay didn’t exist may have already locked it up for 2023. This match was everything you could’ve hoped for, excellent technical submissions and two guys who clearly had a gentleman’s agreement to beat the piss out of each other. If you like wrestling, you should seek this match out and it may be one of my favorite matches of the entire year. *****
Fred: Jon Moxley has been awesome on commentary for all the BCC matches. Jim Ross has also really stepped up his game whenever he’s been out there.
That was a masterpiece of technical wrestling. They combined beautiful counters with intense striking and put on a brutal match. To quote Jon Moxley: “holy shit.” *****
Suit: Bryan Danielson may cannibalize his chances at winning Match of the Year if he keeps having incredible matches like this. Between the MJF Ironman match, the strap match with Starks, and this match, Danielson continues to raise the bar for himself and stake his claim as one of the best professional wrestlers to ever do it. Sabre was no slouch either, being just as nasty and brutal with his submissions as ever. I forget how capital-G Great Sabre can be until he has big time singles matches like this. They hyped this as a dream match, and it lived up to the billing. Danielson scored the win with two Busaiku knees. *****
The Don Callis Family (Konosuke Takeshita, Sammy Guevara & Will Ospreay) (w/Don Callis) def. Chris Jericho & Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi)
Jeff: This match was fine, but still probably on the bottom half of the matches on the card tonight, which feels crazy to me. There were a few unfortunate botches, and I thought the finish sucked, but the vast majority of this very, very, very, very long match was a lot of fun. It does hurt my soul a bit to see this new washed variation of Ibushi out there, but what do ya do. ***3/4
Fred: This was a really good match with a couple botches that didn’t really hurt the match in my view. With Kota Ibushi being hidden to an almost comical degree for most of the match, after a slow start you got a lot of great work from five of the best wrestlers in the world. This was a great version of the all-star multi-man tag. This did a great job of continuing the storyline of the Callis Family being too much for the faces to overcome. ****1/2
Suit: This was an awesome all-star six-man. Ibushi looked as good as he has since coming back, every combination of guys matched up well, and the finish was awesome. Jericho had Guevara in the Walls of Jericho, but Ospreay had the ref. Callis came in the ring and drilled Jericho with the bat, allowing Guevara to crawl to the pin. Omega still hasn’t won on PPV since Callis turned on him, and Guevara got his win back on Jericho. The Callis Family looks like an awesome unit, and they’re off to a great start here. ****1/4
AEW World Tag Team Title Match
FTR (Cash Wheeler & Dax Harwood) (c) def. Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis)
Jeff: I empathize with Fred feeling burnt out for this match, but I also just think the first half may have been a touch boring. This match was good, but I think I expected more from these two teams and was left a bit disappointed. The finish was excellent, but I think the wrong team won. If Mark Davis did really break his wrist, it’s absolutely brutal luck for the team and if he didn’t, it was masterful selling. ***3/4
Fred: I was really checked out on the first half of this match. Maybe I’m tired, maybe it was placement, I’m not sure. But the second half of this got really good and Mark Davis had a fantastic outing in spite of a potentially broken wrist. Both Aussie Open and FTR are among the best tag teams of the past decade and they didn’t let you down here. ****1/4
Suit: One year ago today, Aussie Open and FTR had an excellent main event at the NJPW Royal Quest show. That match came after years of Aussie Open being one of the best tag teams in the UK, winning big matches and titles across the country. Tonight, these two had a pretty good title match that came after Aussie Open lost a comedy match to Adam Cole & MJF and a straight tag against Jericho & Guevara. I don’t know if that’s why the crowd didn’t feel super hot for this one, but it surely didn’t help. This was still a really good match, as Mark Davis fought through an injured wrist to have a hot closing stretch. FTR retained after a Shatter Machine off the top rope on Fletcher, and they now move on to the Young Bucks, who earned a future title shot earlier tonight. ***3/4
AEW TNT Title Best Two Out Of Three Falls Match
Christian Cage (c) (w/Luchasaurus) def. Darby Allin
Jeff: A very good match that drifted very close to Sports Entertainment without totally veering over the line and becoming insufferable for me. The work was excellent throughout, Darby is an excellent underdog babyface and Christian is still better than he has any right to be.
Fred: This was a little slow at points, but there were a lot of crazy spots and you certainly can’t fault Christian for his effort levels. Darby, naturally, took some of the most ridiculous bumps I’ve ever seen in wrestling. The Nick Wayne turn has long been teased and was delivered in as shocking of a way as they were going to without waiting a long time to pull the trigger. Adam Copeland’s debut was straight from Booking 101 and it worked. All in all, an effective closer to yet another top tier pay-per-view from AEW. If we could only move MJF in a different direction that would better fit the company’s style and draw better. ****1/4
Suit: When Darby announced that this would be the main event, you knew that he was going to pull out some crazy stuff to fit the billing. And by the time the match was over, with the ring steps caved in and the ring halfway disassembled, they made it happen. The first two falls were mostly straightforward wrestling, with Darby using Christian’s turtleneck against him to score the first fall. The second fall ended after Christian fucked Darby into the ring steps a couple of times and won by count out. I wish there was a better way to say what Christian did, but he just fucking threw him into the steps at a sick angle. The third fall came with a ton of drama after Christian tore up the ring canvas before frog splashing Darby, who was on a gurney. Darby fought back valiantly, hitting the Coffin Drop on Christian for a nearfall.
Then Nick Wayne, who himself felt betrayed when Darby forgave AR Fox for his actions against Nick, stabbed Darby in the back. Well, he hit him in the face with the TNT Title. All the same. Christian beat Darby in Darby’s hometown to retain the title. Sting and Luchasaurus joined the proceedings before the big debut of Adam Copeland – with Metalingus as his music. He teased joining Christian in the beatdown before spearing both Wayne and Luchasaurus. The debut felt like a huge deal, and Copeland felt like a big star. A great main event, and another stellar AEW PPV in the books. ****1/4