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One week ago, AEW had their monumental All In event, a record setting wrestling show that was to be the set piece for AEW’s future. For as well as AEW has been keeping up with the WWE, they still didn’t have their Wrestlemania, their gigantic annual stadium show that would serve as the flash point for all of their storylines. But not only did they pull it off, they managed to set an all time wrestling attendance record, eclipsing anything WWE had even come close to. All In put AEW on the map in a way no other competitor to WWE’s hegemony could even come close to, and the promise has been made: AEW is here to stay.

The booking of All In, however, came with an interesting prospect: All Out. A supplementary PPV set one week later that would further some feuds from All In but would also cover the bases of any that had been left off of All In’s historic card. Not to mention, All Out was to be set in Chicago, the home AEW’s most polarizing superstar, CM Punk. Perhaps emboldened by the knowledge that no matter what happens at All In, Punk would still be at All Out is what emboldened him to put his hands on fellow wrestler, Jack Perry. That’s just speculation, however; we don’t know why he did what he did. We can only assume that, from his previous altercation with fellow employees backstage and from the many unscripted outbursts he’s had on a live mic,  he is a human being who struggles with deep narcissistic tendencies. That he believes he deserves a level of respect backstage that he, reportedly, has not afforded many others.

Make no mistake, it’s my firm belief that CM Punk deserved to be fired for his actions. He put Jack and others in a very dangerous position and is now a repeated offender when it comes to attacking his coworkers physically. No amount of litigating this situation, especially from people who weren’t there and don’t know all the details, is going to change that. I say this, too, as a CM Punk fan. Someone who, in the All In review episode of The Clothesline, stated that I believe he should face severe consequences for what he did and that hopefully he can come back to wrestling humbled and learning a serious lesson. Where CM Punk goes from here is anyone’s guess. It’s not my place to speculate about the future of a man who seemingly can’t resist abusing his coworkers when he gets the chance.

On the episode of Collision before All Out, AEW President and CEO Tony Khan made a public announcement that CM Punk had been released from AEW with cause in Punk’s hometown the night before an event seemingly made for him specifically. This set a dark tone going into All Out; that it might be plagued by the looming specter of a man whose occupation was no longer wrestler and noted landlord, but now simply just landlord, one Phil “Collect Monthly Punk” Brooks. Not only that, but All Out as a show that lives in the shadow of All In meant the majority of storylines and show time went specifically to building towards All In, leaving a paltry one week of shows (2 two hour television programs, a one hour television program, and a roughly one and a half-to-two hour internet show exclusively on an exclusive paid service) to build an entire PPV card. 

Not to mention, many of the matches announced were centered more around AEW’s supplementary brand, Ring of Honor and their exclusive titles. The main event, too, was not a world title match, but instead for AEW’s secondary title, the spot very historically reserved for the mid-card, the AEW International Title. This kind of title is often seen as the “workrate belt” and is often reserved either for guys they want to push the top of the card soon, or instead to be passed on to guys they never expect to reach the top. There is a stigma to this kind of title, that the right champion can wear it well, but the wrong champion will simply be holding it just to have something to hold. This isn’t to say that I believe Orange Cassidy was simply holding the belt, considering all of his matches for the close to an entire calendar year that he’s held it have been excellent affairs.

Between the very rushed build, the lack of major titles being defended, the controversy that sprung up around Punk’s firing and the question of whether or not his hometown of Chicago would be at his back on a totally Punkless show, the writing for many fans was on the wall: this show was going to be a disaster.

At least that was the narrative surrounding it. The last minute reveals of Bryan Danielson vs Ricky Starks and Orange Cassidy vs Jon Moxley headlining the show were perceived as attempts to potentially draw the crowd back, that we might have never seen those matches had it not been for Punk’s firing. That AEW must somehow put the onus of the company on Bryan and Moxley’s backs in order to quell the coming riot. But looking at the storylines leading into these matches, that narrative falls apart so easily.

Bryan Danielson admitted at the All Out presser that he did in fact step in as a replacement for CM Punk in the storyline against Ricky Starks. It is great synergy; Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat getting The American Dragon to fight on his behalf. But for a lot of other matches, it felt like the writing was on the wall for weeks. Orange Cassidy, the international champion and the face of Stadium Stampede, facing off against Jon Moxley, arguably the ace of AEW and one of the most brutal wrestlers in the sport, facing off after OC had been beaten, battered and bruised for months now.

A confrontation between Eddie Kingston and Claudio Castignoli felt inevitable, but it feels as though they want to save the 1v1 Eddie vs Claudio ROH title match for an actual ROH show. The vibe was already out there that this was simply a bigger budget ROH event. The answer to that being a tag match involving Katsuyori Shibata and Wheeler Yuta was unexpected, but there’s literally no reason why I would want to not see Shibata on my screen. Takeshita vs Kenny Omega has been waiting in the wings for so long and was announced as soon as their trios match at All In was done and dusted. This show had so much more going into it than folks were willing to give it credit for, which is why it’s no surprise, to me at least, that All Out turned out to be a magnificent affair.

Every single match was a beautiful symphony of violence. From the Beaver Boys now turned rock hard daddies, John Silver and Alex Reynolds vs MJF and Adam Cole for the ROH Tag Titles, to Miro having an incredible big boy battle against Powerhouse Hobbs in a match where fans simply could not stop cheering for meat. All Out was a show that simply should not have been as good as it was, and yet every single match was a delight. It spoke to the depth of the AEW roster, how tons of people were on this show that did not make it to Wembley stadium, and yet each and every one showed why they were stars. 

The great fear that CM Punk’s looming ever-presence would somehow tarnish the mood of the event as fans would relentlessly cheer his name was unfounded. Sure, during FTR and The Young Bucks vs Bullet Club Gold, Matt and Nick Jackson (seen as CM Punk’s biggest haters and rivals) got really loud boos, but those boos were drowned out in equal part by fans chanting “Ooooh, Cry Me A River,” the words that Jack Perry said televised to an audience of wrestling fans all over the world that instigated the confrontation between him and Punk. Even Chicago was ready to leave Punk behind. Even I, as a diehard, lifelong fan of the Straight-Edge Superstar, felt so relieved seeing the hometown that had embraced him when nobody else would was now completely over one sad punk. 

All Out was important not simply because it was a great wrestling show following up The Greatest Wrestling Show Of All Time, but because it served as catharsis for AEW and its fans. I witnessed some of Punk’s biggest defenders completely turn in one night even when they believed he was in the right for attempting to big dog Jack Perry. I saw many of AEW’s biggest naysayers simply fall quiet. But most importantly, I saw a sense of camaraderie that I haven’t felt in a long time for the first time these 8 days of wrestling. If All In was AEW’s magnum opus, its message to the world that it wasn’t going anywhere, All Out was its affirmation that everything will be alright. That we don’t need the starpower of AEW’s former biggest t-shirt mover to still put on amazing shows, especially not even in that person’s home town. AEW is in good hands, and I’m excited to see what the next chapter for it looks like.

About Scott

Scott B is a 28 year old proud sword owner and gamer of honor, desperately on the search for wife.

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