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AEW All Out preview: The end of a cruel summer?

After a long, strange summer, is Sunday what AEW needs to regain momentum?
Jon Moxley

Editor's Note: This is an opinion-based preview and reflects the opinion of the author, not the website.

By any normal measure, AEW is not having a regular one. This summer has been anything but. Heck, their owner took time out of his legendarily busy schedule to come at one of this site’s very own -- something I would simply not do if I had unfathomable amounts of money. At least we know he’s a reader. Tony, thank you for the clicks.

Whether it’s due to injuries, odd overbooking, or key performers asking to be fired on national TV (yes, I know it’s a work), AEW is going through the roughest time in their young history. The struggles they are going through are reflected in the card. This feels like a one match show with the only intrigue really coming at the top. Even counting the main event, there’s just not a whole lot of heat. 

From an in-ring perspective, all of the matches will most likely deliver, but between WWE’s increased momentum and a seemingly endless rumor cycle for AEW, All Out needs to be good.

There hasn’t been a news cycle in weeks without something eyebrow raising coming out from the AEW side. At least three more rumors leaked while I was writing this article; some confirmed, some denied, but all equally exhausting. The roster is as close to full power as it's going to get. All the big stars are back and almost everyone is healthy. With that contract renewal coming closer every day, what better time than now to go on one hell of a heater? A heater they really need. 

WWE is Hansel levels of hot right now. Survivor Series effectively sold out during the presale window -- something that hasn’t happened in years. The momentum is finally on their side for the first time since AEW launched. It’s time to see what AEW can do with a little extra pressure on them. They have been trading on goodwill and exciting debuts for awhile now. How they respond this Sunday and the weeks to come will be huge. 

Here's your main card preview.

Wardlow & FTR vs. Jay Lethal & Motor City Machine Guns

For situations entirely out of his own control, the once volcanic heat Wardlow had is nearly gone. His reactions were as big as even the main event level performers. Since then? Yeesh. Yikes. SMH. Choose your preferred method of expressing disappointment. His first program after beating the top heel in the company was with "Smart" Mark Sterling, a non-wrestler. I know there have been injuries and drama up and down the card and blah blah, but there is no real explanation for dropping the ball this badly. Wardlow was built for years to get to this point and all that build has made the failure. Make no mistake that’s what this is, making it all the more glaring.

Wardlow is great and Lethal comes home and changes into jeans to relax, but the dream outcome is the two of them brawling to the back and letting us have 15 minutes of MCMG vs. FTR. Given the chance, Shelley and Sabin and Dax and Cash would steal the whole show. I’m very glad to see MCMG get this much deserved shine as they have been so good for so long.

It seems odd that FTR and all their gold is doing the equivalent of a curtain jerk, but that’s AEW these days. Although, them being in a holding pattern kind of makes sense since one of the biggest matches the company can book is them and The Young Bucks for all the gold. All roads inevitably end there and probably at Full Gear in the fall.

Prediction: FTR

Powerhouse Hobbs vs. Ricky Starks

Starks is the guy that deserves it all. For all the love that Jungle Boy gets, for every time JR spews "Sammy, Sammy, Sammy" and for all the skateboards Darby gets to break, all of that attention and all of that oxygen should go to Ricky Starks. 

Forget the impossibly bad branding of the "Four Pillars of AEW." There are two true talents to build around in AEW: Starks and MJF. You can build a company around them. Their ceilings aren’t the upper midcard; their ceilings are the main event. Stroke Daddy forever.

Hobbs’ turn was perfect. There are so few genuine surprises in wrestling anymore and this was one of them. Credit to AEW for fully leaning into the cheers Starks was getting and immediately making Hobbs a more compelling character. Starks’ ceiling is the roof, but Hobbs is certainly no slouch. Guys his size that move like he does are rare. Team FTW had a fun run as a unit, but I can’t wait to see what they do separately.

Starks has the rocket right now and anything less than a clean win would be an egregious mistake.

Prediction: Starks

Casino Ladder match for a future AEW World title shot: Claudio Castagnoli vs. Wheeler Yuta vs. Penta El Zero Miedo vs. Rey Fenix vs. Rush vs. Andrade El Idolo vs. Dante Martin vs. TBA

These matches are impossible to preview, but always impossibly fun. Landing on a winner can be challenging. If there isn’t going to be a title change, winning this match can actually hurt someone’s momentum. Sometimes you have Adam Page win and rise to the top and sometimes you wind up with Brian Cage. Who betta?!

My heart will always and forever yearn for Fenix to win one of these, but it just hasn’t happened yet. He or Penta would be the perfect placeholder feud for whoever leaves Chicago as the champ. The crowd loves both of them and they have tons of experience in matches like this.

Prediction: Penta El Zero Miedo

Chris Jericho vs. Bryan Danielson

Jericho, for my money, is the best pro wrestler of all time. Danielson is the best pure wrestler of all time. Bell to bell, no one is better than Danielson, but when everything else is taken into consideration, Jericho is the best. The constant character reinventions, the evolving movesets, the new catchphrases -- he’s done it all. 

A lot has happened over the last five years in wrestling that it’s easy to forget just how momentous it was when Jericho showed up in New Japan in advance of Wrestle Kingdom 12. The current wrestling landscape does not exist without his time in Japan. It laid the groundwork for him to come to AEW and immediately give it legitimacy. You can count on one hand the number of people who were big enough, and still good enough, to make that happen.

Getting to watch Danielson wrestle his kind of matches on network television is a feast for the eyes. The fully unleashed American Dragon is appointment viewing no matter who the opponent is. Less than a year into his time in AEW, he is already responsible for so many incredible matches. The 30-minute draw with Kenna Omega, the freaking 60-minute draw with Hangman Page, the best of three falls match with Daniel Garcia a few weeks ago. All beautiful, all perfect. His resume is unquestionable, and we are all lucky to get to watch him, for however long he’s got left.

This is the match I’m looking forward to the most. Limbs will be twisted, chests will turn to raw meat, and it will all be gorgeous violence that David Cronenberg would approve of. Tony Khan: make this a "Daniel Garcia on a pole match' and win Promoter of the Year for the rest of your life.

Prediction: Jericho

Sting, Darby Allin & Miro vs. House of Black

This seems like, I don’t know, a huge waste of four really, really talented wrestlers and a legend. The entire House of Black and, by association Miro, feel shoehorned into something that really only serves Allin and Sting. That’s kind of a theme, right? Matches and storylines that really don’t do anything but give the two of them the shine, often at the expense of others who are significantly more talented. Sting is a legend, so most of this criticism is directed at Darby. I get that the crowd is into him, but man. Is this dude really better than Black, Matthews, or King? My readers, he is not.

Hopefully, this is the end of Darby/Sting and the HoB. Let Malakai move on to something with Miro and let Matthews and King move on to anything else. They’re too talented not to be doing more.

Prediction: Sting, Allin & Miro

Christian Cage vs. Jungle Boy

This works really well in theory. All the expected story beats are there, but something is missing. Cage has played his part. He’s been vile, he’s been hateable and been exactly what he needed to be. The disconnect isn’t on his end. The reason this isn’t hitting right falls to Jungle Boy. He’s wooden. His emotions just are not believable. He should seething with anger, but instead it just feels like he’s kinda/sorta mad. This was supposed to be a star-making, iconic feud with a legend, but all it is...is fine. Maybe part of that is because it’s lost in the shuffle of yet another 11-match PPV card.

I understand the desire to get as many people as possible on the PPVs, but when the cards are constantly bloated, the matches that should have more gravitas lose their importance. Part of the reason this is falling flat is because it feels like just another match. Not everything needs to be on the big shows. Some of these matches can, and should, main event a special episode of Dynamite or Rampage so they can really stand out.

I hope this is the end of this feud but it probably isn’t. Maybe next time if there’s more at stake Jungle Boy can get the W, but not this weekend.

Prediction: Christian Cage

The Elite vs. Dark Order & Hangman Page in the AEW Trios title tournament final

This probably sounds crazy considering the plethora of belts AEW currently has, but it's hard not to get excited about the Trios titles. Trios matches can, and often do, offer something totally different from standard tag matches. The pace is usually through the roof and everyone has ample opportunity to get their respective sh*t in. With the number of factions and groups in the company there are no shortage of fresh, fun matchups to keep things hot.

I understand the desire to keep the Adam Page story going, but putting the inaugural belts on Dark Order would be a huge misstep. Remember that SCU were the first AEW Tag Team champs -- a decision made to make it seem like the higher-ups weren’t just booking themselves into the top spot (even when they should). 

SCU had the belts, but they were never the best and that’s been a theme in the tag team division. Unless FTR and the Bucks had the titles, it never felt like the actual best team had them. That was true with SCU and Jurassic Express, and remains the case with Swerve In Our Glory; all good teams, but never the true top dogs. Especially with these belts being basically made for The Elite, history shouldn’t repeat itself.

Prediction: The Elite

AEW Tag Team Champions Swerve In Our Glory defend against The Acclaimed

Somehow, Billy Gunn has attached himself to the 2022 version of the New Age Outlaws. Before everyone loved The Acclaimed, everyone loved the Road Dogg Jesse James corny rapping his way to the ring. It took 20+ years but we finally have the spiritual successor to that. Billy, for sure, takes Caster and Bowens to late-night happy hours at Applebees just so they can drive him home after some half-off apps and Long Island iced tea twofers.

Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland have worked out so much better than I ever thought they would. One is effortlessly cool, the other is, well, not. They accentuate each other’s strengths (big strong guy helps slick agile guy), while covering each other’s weaknesses. And by that, I mean they minimize Lee and his word-of-the-day spouting style on the microphone. I didn’t expect to like them as much as I do, but they are really good together.

No amount of love for The Acclaimed is going to get them the win on Sunday. They are a wonderful act to have and a wonderful act to remain right in the lower mid-card. That might read as an insult, but it really isn’t. They have a great gimmick and are super over, but not everyone can be at the top.

Prediction: Swerve In Our Glory

Toni Storm vs. Britt Baker vs. Jamie Hayter vs. Hikaru Shida four-way for the interim AEW Women's title

My three-year-old nephew does that mostly cute, slightly annoying three-year-old thing where if you make him laugh, he wants you to do the thing forever. Right now, that thing is making me blow up a balloon and then letting it zoom around the room until it runs out of air. It makes a funny fart noise when it flies. He laughs, I laugh. It’s nice. 

This, of course, is a metaphor for Thunder Rosa’s title reign, one plagued with rumors of sandbagging, heat, weird matches, and bathroom hiding. If there was ever a poster child for how bizarre the last few months of AEW have been, it’s Rosa. She’s another example of someone who had all kinds of momentum on her way to the top, but then just kind of ran out of air.

Injuries are an unfortunate part of wrestling, but a lot of times they lead to something new and exciting. That’s exactly what happened here. There wasn’t much of a clamor for Rosa vs. Toni Storm II. This is the chance to let four all-caps TALENTS shine and make a new star. Storm is probably winning but man, how killer would a Hayter victory be? It would be a wonderful surprise and set up all kinds of interesting things with Baker and her dental practice.

But, the initial plans for All Out had Storm winning the title. It makes all the sense in the world to stay that course.

Prediction: Toni Storm

TBS Champion Jade Cargill defends against Athena

We can talk all we want about Jade being green, Athena being so much better at wrestling, whatever. Both of those may be true, but thinking that way totally ignores the ceilings of the performers. One is on the cover of video games and referenced on various social medias by celebrities. One of them is a potentially generational talent. The other is just very good. Jade is a one-of-one talent. Other wrestlers, Athena or otherwise, just can’t compare.

Having a champion like this presents some unique booking challenges. She’s so good and so dominant that it takes something, or someone, truly special to take them down. Jade losing her first match in AEW should be the biggest deal possible. Ideally, it will make the next huge babyface women’s star for the company. It should be either a long, worthwhile build or a shocking upset - just ask Sean Waltman what that can do for a career. 

Unfortunately neither of those situations are at play here. Nothing in the build has made me once believe Athena has a real shot of winning and she has too much skill and experience for it to be a shocking upset. Sooner or later we all fall, but it’s not Jade’s time yet.

Prediction: Jade retains

AEW World Champion Jon Moxley defends against CM Punk

Ace Steel, of all people, made this whole thing kind of work which I somehow doubt was the plan going in. Punk was expressing all the feelings of inadequacy, the self doubt, the unwavering beliefs that were taking him over. All it took was a pal from the past to unwind all of that and bring back the (very much not) Best In The World™. 

I had this whole beautifully written section about how asking the audience to buy Punk as a scrappy underdog fighting from the bottom was just never going to work. I’m glad they went another way, but I’m still not all that jazzed about this main event. It’s probably one of the weaker main events that AEW has run, at least as far as hype goes.

Mox has been better every step of the way. None of Punk’s AEW matches can touch any of his top performances. Every time Mox climbs through the ropes or picks up a microphone, it’s worth watching. No one has more passion, no one loves doing this more than he does. A lot of people say that, but he backs it up. He doesn’t need to be the GCW Champion. He doesn’t need to bleed in front of 400 people. He does it because he can’t get enough of this. That’s what a champion is. That’s what a champion should be.

Maybe I’m burying the lede here, but this is the MJF spot. This is where he comes back and costs Punk the title. If Khan’s statements about the roster being ready to go are to be believed, that must include young Maxwell. He comes back, ruins Punk’s big night in Chicago, and resumes his place as public enemy number one. He’d probably get cheered anywhere else, but in Chicago? No chance in hell.

Prediction: Moxley