What a show!was advertised as the long-awaited return of CM Punk, and we got that -- and much more. Among the many surprises on the show were Adam Cole and Bryan Danielson (formerly known as Daniel Bryan), who made their AEW debuts after the main event.
The show went off the air with Danielson clearing the ring of The Elite. Among the night's other highlights was the Christian versus Omega main event, Jericho defeating MJF and a tag team cage match which many will call one of the best of all time. Oh yeah -- and CM Punk beat Darby Allin in a fantastic return.
We also got a surprise appearance by New Japan Pro Wrestling's Minoru Suzuki, and Ruby Soho (formerly known as Ruby Riott). Scroll down to find a full recap of AEW All Out 2021.
Daniel Bryan is All Elite (and so is Adam Cole)
After Kenny Omega defeated Christian, Omega's Elite faction came to the ring and started beating down Christian. Jurassic Express cames to help, but they get beat down too. The damn numbers game! Omega grabs the mic and talks himself up as the best in the world -- and then the lights go off and Adam Cole's music hits.
He comes to the ring to confront The Elite but -- swerve! -- he superkicks Jungle Boy. Omega laughs and says Cole is one of his best friends, then hands the mic over to Cole to cut a promo. When Omega takes the mic back, he bids the crowd goodnight -- but then Bryan's music hits.
Bryan comes in and half of the Elite leave the ring. We get a staredown between Omega and the Bucks on one side and Bryan, Jurassic Express and Christian on another. Fisticuffs pop off, and Bryan hits his flying knee on Nick Jackson. He poses with the good guys to end the show
Kenny Omega retains AEW Championship
In All Out 2021's main event, Kenny Omega pinned Christian with a One Winged Angel off the top rope to retain his AEW Championship.
Order deteriorated quickly, with Omega beginning the match by attempting a surprise V-Trigger knee on Christian while the ref was talking to Christian. Christian dodged and, before you knew it, was flying off the top rope to tumble onto Omega on the outside. Minutes later, Omega placed a table atop Christian and jumped on top to break it -- while Don Callis distracted the ref, of course. A table was then set up properly for later.
Things slowed down after that, allowing the crowd to catch its breath, still reeling after the Punk match. Things got dramatic when Omega hit three Dragon Suplexes on Christian. Omega then obliterated him with a V-Trigger, causing Christian to spill outside to the apron. On said apron, Omega tried to put Christian through the previously set-up table with a One Winged Angel, but Christian countered and speared Omega through it.
Back in the ring, Christian hit a Killswitch for a nice nearfall. He then put Omega in a Cloverleaf submission, but Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows came running in. Christian dispatched of both, but Omega was able to get the upper hand. On the turnbuckles, Christian went for a top-rope Killswitch but Omega countered with a top-rope One Winged Angel for the pin.
Rating: 4.5 stars. A fantastic main event. It was hampered by the fact that everyone knew Christian wasn't going to win, but he and Omega worked a memorable match to a great finish.
Paul Wight defeats QT Marshall
This is what it needed to be: a palate cleanser. It was quick and simple. Paul Wight threw QT Marshall around, beat up his lackeys and then chokeslammed him for the win.
CM Punk pins Darby Allin with the GTS
CM Punk comes out in leg-length tights, and the crowd yells that it's clobbering time. It sure is.
In one of the biggest shocks of the night, a lot of the Chicago crowd was chanting for Darby Allin. There were duelling chants throughout, although the "CM Punk" section was much louder.
Punk was in good shape, maybe better shape than he was in WWE. There were small things that indicated rust (like when he tried to pull Allin in for a clothesline but momentarily struggled to catch Darby's wrist), and the match was a little submission-hold heavy in the middle, which felt a bit like Punk trying to get his bearings back (it could not be that, but that's the impression I got). But on the whole, this was the CM Punk you remember.
There was a great spot midway through the match when CM Punk caught Allin with a GTS, but their placement was such that Allin fell right out of the ring. Allin was nearly counted out, dipping into the ring at 9 as the crowd chanted for Punk. Punk then hit his famous high knee on the turnbuckle corner and called for another GTS. Allin fought out of the GTS with a flurry of elbows, getting his first round of boos from the crowd. He then hit his insane suicide dive, which got him back in the crowd's good graces.
Allin went for the Coffin Drop but Punk avoided by simply sitting up. Allin then cradled Punk, who countered it into a GTS -- but Allin countered the GTS into his Last Supper rollup for a two. Allin jumped up on Punk's shoulders for a reverse hurricanrana, but Punk successfully countered into a GTS for the 3 count.
Rating: 4.5 stars. Terrific in every sense. Punk looked great upon returning, but Allin came off much, much stronger for having the competitive match. The last 5 minutes were particularly awesome, as all of the counters were a reminder that Punk isn't just a superstar, but a creative wrestler too.
Punk did look very, very slightly rusty. But it looks like, once that ring rust sheds, he could be as great in AEW as he ever was.
Chris Jericho taps out MJF
Jericho's career-threatening match begins with MJF entering with a countdown clock akin to Jericho's famous WWE debut -- so it's already fun. Jericho came out to a Fozzy guitarist playing the melody of Judas, with the crowd singing along. The guitar drowned out the crowd, so it kind of backfired, but it was something different for a pay-per-view.
MJF is so good at being unlikeable. His taunting and riling up of the crowd -- be it by doing the Ric Flair strutt, or by flipping them off -- was as effective at getting a response as high-impact move. But of course, there were high impact moves. The apron came into play, with MJF spiking Jericho with a Heatseeker piledriver on the side of the ring. Moments later, after Jericho narrowly avoided being counted out, Jericho gave MJF a wicked powerbomb on the ring apron.
That powerbomb would play into the rest of the match, as MJF was selling his lower back like it was totally jacked up. He countered a flying axe handle from Jericho into a Codebreaker, but couldn't go for the pin immediately because of his back. He then struggled to get to his feet, and stretched out by the ropes, which allowed Jericho to recover and, moments later, score a Lionsault.
A turning point came when Jericho was battering MJF with the classic 10 punches on the turnbuckle. He then went for a hurricanrana, but MJF countered it into a top-rope spinebuster, though again couldn't go for the immediate cover because of his lower back.
Wardlow came to the ring to help MJF, but he was cut off by Jake Hager. With the ref distracted, MJF clocked Jericho with Jericho's baseball bat. MJF then hit Jericho with a Judas Effect for a pin. Jericho got his foot on the ropes, but the ref didn't see it and counted the 3-count. MJF was declared the winner, with his theme song playing and everything, before another ref came to tell the match's ref that Jericho's foot was on the ropes. The crowd popped huge for the intervention.
MJF argued with the ref as the match is restarted, allowing Jericho to go for a rollup for a 2. Jericho then missed a Judas Effect, and MJF secured the armbar that he tapped Jericho out with a few weeks ago on Dynamite. Jericho managed to counter out and lock on the Walls of Jericho for the win.
Rating: 4.25 stars. Excellent match. Great psychology with MJF's lower back injury, and he did a fabulous job selling. The false finishes were also excellent, as momentarily believed MJF was going to tap Jericho out with the armbar.
To me this exemplifies how more can be less. I remember very little from the cage match, but a lot of the storytelling from this.
Ruby Soho debuts, wins Casino Royale Battle Royale
The Casino Battle Royale is a 21-woman match for a shot at the women's championship. The rules are unusual: five women are attached to a card suit, and when that suit is called all five women join. So it's like a Royal Rumble, except five women start and five women join at each interval rather than one person joining every 60 seconds. At the end, one Joker comes out.
This match is too frantic to fully recap -- even the announcers couldn't keep up with all the bodies coming in and out of the ring. So let's start with Ruby Soho, the former Ruby Riott, who debuted in AEW. This was a poorly kept secret, as the crowd was chanting her name as the Joker's clock was running down.
The final three were Soho, Nyla Rose and Thunder Rosa. Rose dominates both, but is eliminated by Thunder Rosa when Rosa pulls the ol' "pull down the top rope on a running giant" trick. The crowd is mega into the Rosa-Soho showdown, as we get loud duelling chants. After a back-and-forth slapfest, Rosa and Soho end up fighting each other on the apron. Rosa attempted a Deathvalley Driver, but Soho countered and pushed Rosa into the turnbuckle. Soho then delivered a bicycle kick to Rosa, who fell off the apron. Roho wins!
Rating: 2 stars. These Casino Battle Royales are very chaotic, but it was an entertaining enough letdown after the insane cage match. The crowd was very happy to see Soho though.
The Lucha Brothers are the new AEW tag champions
The Lucha Brothers defeated The Young Bucks in a spectacular tag team championship cage match. The match was insane, and at various points was actually ridiculous, but the crowd loved every second of it. The 15,000-strong audience was as elated by the outcome as any crowd I can remember in the last few years.
The action is impossible to document. The first 10 or so minutes was just a nonstop stream of super-athletic tandem offense. Matt Jackson got incredible heat when he cut off a Lucha Bros comeback by kicking both square in the crotch. The Chicago crowd was entirely for The Lucha Brothers already, but this took it to another level. The Bucks then started ripping off Penta's mask, which got nuclear heat. Great stuff.
Brandon Cutler, the wrestling business's best stooge, then chucked a duffel bag over the cage. Inside was a Nike shoe with thumbtacks on the bottom, which would turn a superkick into a lethal weapon. Matt Jackson put the shoe on and then clocked Penta with the thumbtacked Nikes. Nick Jackson then grinded Penta's face into the thumbtacks, then kicked Penta's face into it. Penta started bleeding profusely. Fenix then gets a superkick from the thumbtacked shoe.
The Bucks pin Penta, but Fenix broke up the pin. The crowd erupts. Penta launches his comeback, taking the thumbtacked shoe -- which Matt took off, for some reason -- and striking Nick in the head with it.
The final stretch of the match was bananas. Penta, having recovered from being stabbed in the face multiple times with thumbtacks, hit a Canadian Destroyer from the top rope. After everyone recovered, we got a four-way slapping exchange which turned into a superkick exchange.
The finish came when Penta scaled the top of the cage and dived onto Penta and The Bucks. The Lucha Brothers then spiked Nick Jackson with a tandem piledriver for the win.
Rating: 3 stars. Firstly, this is an impossible match to rate. To this crowd, it was a perfect 5-star match. If you're rating it off audience reaction, it was also a 5-star match. But to me, too much of it was absurd. A guy got kicked with thumbtacks multiple times and recovered in minute. The tandem offense was incredible, but there was so much of it that nothing felt like it mattered. Late in the match, after everyone had done everything to each other, they were nipping up from superkicks like it was nothing. Penta jumped off the cage onto his own brother, who was immune to the damage despite the Bucks being wiped out by it.
Again, this is impossible to grade. Many wrestling fans will find this a greatest-of-all-time tag match. For me, it was just too hard to suspend my disbelief to really get into it. But the action was undeniably unbelievable.
Britt Baker retains AEW Women's Championship
This was a tough match for Kris Statlander. She's the babyface, but Britt Baker, despite being a heel, is one of the most popular stars in the company. Regardless, these women had a very good 12-minute match.
After Statlander cut down Baker with a scissor kick, the match got the second "This is awesome!" chant of the night. On the outside, Statlander tried a pendulum moonsault onto Baker, but missed and splat on the mat. Statlander then ate a curbstomp from Baker. In a spot that the crowd loved, Statlander was almost counted out before Orange Cassidy got extremely animated in willing her to get back inside.
After an exchange, Baker hit Statlander with a Panama Sunrise -- the signature move of Adam Cole, who's expected to debut in AEW soon [update: who debuted later in the night!] -- for a two count, then, after another curb stomp, made Statlander submit to the Lockjaw.
Rating: 3.75 stars. The bout was solid though, like the previous one, lacked psychology. Still, the action was mostly sharp and benefitted immensely from the hot crowd.
Jon Moxley beats Satoshi Kojima
The Forbidden Door opened up for this one. New Japan Pro Wrestling legend Satoshia Kojima took on Jon Moxley in a surprisingly good match, won by Moxley with two Paradigm Shift DDTs. Satoshi is 50 years old, but absolutely doesn't wreste like it. They had a hard hitting match, and didn't appear to go light at all in deference to Satoshi's age. The crowd was also behind Satoshi, with duelling chants throughout.
There was little story to the bout, just a lot of solid back and forth action. It was a nice progression of the Forbidden Door storyline -- of New Japan Pro Wrestling stars filtering in through AEW. But it was quickly overshadowed by the post-match angle.
After the match, Mox was confronted by Minoru Sukuzi another New Japan legend and one of that company's most popular stars. The crowd loses its mind -- Suzuki really is a big deal -- and chants "Holy shit!" as Mox and Suzuki meet in the ring. Suzuki and Moxley exchange forearms, which was way more awesome then it sounds, before Suzuki puts him in a sleeper hold and then nails his finish, the Gotch Piledriver.
Rating: 3.5 stars. Plus one million stars for Suzuki's AEW debut.
Miro defeats Eddie Kingston
The TNT Championship kicked off the main show, proving to be a strong opener for All Out. Miro would ultimately retain his TNT Championship after hitting Kingston with a low blow and then a fierce high kick. Unsurprisingly, the crowd loved Eddie Kingston. They badly wanted him to win.
These guys beat the hell out of each other. Kingston early on took a wicked bump when he dived onto Miro off the apron, only for Miro to catch and slam him on the outside. Later, both men got into a strike exchange in the middle of the ring, and Kingston's chops left a bloody splotch on Miro's chest. Snug all 'round.
We also got some very strong false finishes, with Miro getting Kingston in his Camel Clutch before Kingston dramatically made it to the ropes. Amid a flurry of action, Kingston inadvertently pulled the turnbuckle's top padding off. That came into play when Kingston hit his spinning back fist and DDT, which laid Miro out but didn't get the 3-count because the ref was busy affixing the padding back on the turnbuckle.
The finish then came when Kingston whipped Miro into the corner with the exposed turnbuckle (whcih the ref failed to patch up). The ref got in the way to stop Miro from slamming into the exposed turnbuckle. With the ref's vision obscured, Miro low blowed Kingston and then decked him with a high kick for the win.
Rating: 3.75 stars.