The continued march toward a future with monthly AEW pay-per-views continues with this Sunday’s WrestleDream from the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle—a show that once again has as much intrigue for reasons outside the ring as inside it.
However, that intrigue isn’t for a negative reason. In a recent promo for the event, AEW head Tony Khan said that on Sunday “an era will end and a new era will begin,” which got Wrestling Twitter all abuzz. Khan didn’t do much to clarify his comments during a Tuesday media call, joking (somewhat) that he wanted to sell more PPVs and didn’t want to spill the beans on what he meant.
It’s doubtful it will mean a merger with Khan’s other wrestling company, Ring of Honor, as on the same call, Khan said how much he’s been enjoying the promotion’s TV product as of late. It’s not his purchasing New Japan Pro-Wrestling (as the wild online rumor would have you believe this week) that Khan somewhat denied on the call.
Khan knows that by making that comment and not trying to downplay it, there is now an expectation of something newsworthy happening Sunday. Since AEW has been around for only four years, which “era” would it be saying goodbye to in a significant way that fans would care about? I guess we’ll have to buy the PPV to find out.
This Sunday will be an interesting test for AEW. It will be the company’s third PPV offering in five weeks, meaning domestic fans will have had to part with $150 to watch all the action. While certainly not unheard of in wrestling, it’s new territory for AEW and somewhat of a new era in that regard. Having monthly PPVs can be a positive for more than just financial reasons as it will force Khan to ideally bring story lines to a head more frequently. Time will tell whether the fans are willing to accept the new PPV reality as they have in the past with WWE, WCW and others.
It’s also AEW’s second straight PPV without an AEW world title defense due to the ongoing MJF–Adam Cole story line. Due to Cole’s freak ankle injury sustained while running out to the ring and jumping off the ramp last Wednesday, he is off the show. But when given the opportunity to have MJF defend his world title, Khan chose to pivot to a two-on-one match for the ROH tag team titles instead.
One of the key differences between WWE and AEW is the constant emphasis on the world title being the most important thing or, in AEW’s case, the lack of emphasis. It’s a choice, but a curious one that leaves Sunday without an obvious main event.
Despite all that, I’m excited and optimistic about Sunday’s card. As usual, there’s a lot of talent being thrown into multiman matches without a ton of story lines to get more people on the show, but that’s life watching AEW. As always, the in-ring quality will be A+, the show will be a solid five hours including the preshow and perhaps we’ll have our answer to what Khan meant by “new era.”
So let’s get to this card with the asterisk that the following is as of Thursday morning. As always, the card is subject to change.
Bryan Danielson vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
This will be their third clash and their first since 2009 for Germany-based wXw. It’s also the de facto main event due to the anticipation, the fact Washington is Danielson’s home state and that there is no AEW world title match.
If this is indeed Danielson’s last big push as an active wrestler, he’s doing it right with opponents like Sabre, the current NJPW TV champion. He’s had a few appearances on AEW TV and has dazzled as expected. Is he on the name level of other NJPW stars like Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Tetsuya Naito? I’d argue no, but his in-ring talent matches up with any of them. He’s spectacular and in such a different way than anyone else in the business. While there are plenty of wrestlers who work a grappling-based style, his flair in doing so is unmatched.
He will find a willing and able opponent in Danielson that should ensure this is not just good but great. However, the Danielson vs. Okada match from last June’s Forbidden Door left me wanting so there is the possibility this does the same, but I’m willing to bet this beats expectations.
Prediction: Danielson wins
“Hangman” Adam Page vs. Swerve Strickland
Nearly 18 months after his first AEW match, Strickland finally gets a singles bout with a former AEW world champion. What took so long? Good question. The hometown guy Strickland has it all: the aura, the look, the in-ring skills and the mic skills. There’s no doubt he is someone who could be a big part of carrying AEW over the next five years, but he’s been stuck in neutral and with various factions for far too long.
Page has had a strange 2023 after defeating rival Jon Moxley in a Texas Death Match back in March. He missed two months in the early spring and was then part of the bigger story line between his Elite teammates and their Blackpool Combat Club rivals until a month ago. He appears to be back to singles as a focus, but I have no sense of where he stands now compared to other former AEW world champions, the recently fired CM Punk notwithstanding.
On the show-closing promo on Wednesday’s Dynamite, Page said there’s been a dark cloud over him for 18 months that appears to be lifted. I assume that cloud was Punk with whom Page had well-documented issues. It wasn’t the best go-home promo I have ever seen, but the placement on the show tells me this should be a relatively long match placed in an important position.
This is a great crossroads match that will hopefully elevate Strickland to a higher level. My gut and history tells me this won’t be Strickland’s night, as I’m not confident in AEW’s getting fully behind Strickland at this point.
Prediction: Page wins
ROH tag team champion MJF defends against The Righteous (Vincent and Dutch) in a handicap match
For the second straight PPV, the AEW world champion will not defend his title. While he did successfully retain at the “Grand Slam” edition of Dynamite at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens less than two weeks ago, it adds to the history of the world title being overlooked at times.
This took a turn Wednesday when it was revealed Cole broke his ankle in three places and will require surgery. That injury took place when Cole was running to assist MJF at Grand Slam and leaped off the ramp. Wrestling injuries are weird sometimes.
Instead of making a pivot to an AEW world title match, Khan decided to make this a handicap match instead for the ROH tag titles. While it will feature MJF in, essentially, a singles bout, it’s against The Righteous, who just started out on AEW TV this month and aren’t near the “level of the Devil.”
Given that Jay White came out to confront MJF on Dynamite, that would appear to be the direction for November’s Full Gear. White was jumped by a mysterious group at the end of Dynamite, with indications that MJF was behind the attack.
With Cole likely out for the rest of the year, that makes the ROH tag team titles meaningless for MJF. But this feels like the right spot for Cole friend and MJF hater Roderick Strong to take Cole’s place and defend the titles alongside his enemy, which will help keep this long and currently idling story line going.
Prediction: MJF retains
AEW tag team champions FTR (Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler) defend against Aussie Open (Mark Davis and Kyle Fletcher)
This will be a rematch from their highly regarded NJPW Royal Quest II match, which took place one year ago Sunday. FTR got the win that night to successfully defend their then IWGP tag team titles, and the two teams have been kept apart until now.
After being so highly regarded in NJPW, Davis and Fletcher haven’t fully found their footing in the U.S., which they admitted in a promo on last Saturday’s Collision. Part of the reason was their taking several losses when they first debuted in AEW more than a year ago while still members of the NJPW roster. Part of it is due to unreal expectations and part of it is the lack of a signature win in AEW. Reputation isn’t good enough to carry them alone.
FTR will continue their recent title run that started in April and has seen seven title defenses. These two are as consistent as they come, but this doesn’t feel like the right time for them to lose the titles—even if it would give Aussie Open that aforementioned signature win.
Prediction: FTR retain
Don Callis Family (Will Ospreay, Konosuke Takeshita and Sammy Guevara) vs. Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi and Chris Jericho
I am usually not a fan of multiman matches on PPVs to advance feuds, but I’ll make an exception here. I think this should be pretty great with a lot of interesting dance partners and combinations. The most intriguing combo for me is Guevara and Omega, who haven’t mixed it up since 2020, which is a lifetime ago in wrestling. There is also the fresh Takeshita-Jericho pairing.
This will be Omega’s in-ring return after Takeshita defeated him at this month’s All Out. He returned at the “Grand Slam” edition of Rampage to help old rival Jericho fend off an attack by Takeshita and Guevara, newly aligned under the evil Don Callis’s watch. There’s intrigue with Jericho and Omega being on the same team as the two had two classics against each other, but the last one was back in May 2019—again, a lifetime ago in wrestling. This seems like another impending retirement bucket list item for Jericho in a run to the end, but we’ll see how it plays out.
I’d be remiss not to mention Ospreay, who has had two classics of his own with Omega and recently defeated Jericho at last month’s All In. He instantly improves any match he’s inserted into. The same cannot be said at this stage for Ibushi, who looks like a shell of himself after returning from a long absence due to an injured shoulder.
Callis is a hated villain, and his new Family is really just starting to get going. The bad guys will win again here.
Prediction: Don Callis Family wins
Lucha Brothers (Rey Fénix and Penta El Zero Miedo) vs. Hook and Orange Cassidy vs. The Gunns (Austin and Colten) vs. The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) for a future AEW tag team title shot
The match will feature three former AEW tag team champions in addition to the unusual team of Hook and Cassidy. We got a taste of this Wednesday with a four-way singles match that was really fun. There’s a lot of history between the teams involved, especially with The Bucks and Lucha Brothers. Hate them or love them, the Gunn brothers are a really excellent team, and their recent inclusion in Bullet Club Gold has only elevated them further. While The Acclaimed has been lauded as homegrown stars, these guys are right up there with them.
This will be a spectacle and a really fun one at that. I assume the title match will take place at Full Gear and that it will be The Gunns who challenge FTR in a rematch from earlier this year.
Prediction: The Gunns win
NJPW Strong and ROH world champion Eddie Kingston defends both titles against ROH Pure champion Katsuyori Shibata
While a random pairing, this show is designed to be a tribute to Antonio Inoki, who died one year ago Sunday. This will undoubtedly be an homage to Inoki and his style of wrestling, and likely a rather good one. While they have never faced off, Kingston and Shibata have teamed up before. Due to both the unknown nature of Shibata and NJPW’s relationship and the fact Kingston just won the ROH world title two weeks ago, Kingston should retain.
Prediction: Kingston retains
TNT champion Christian Cage defends against Darby Allin in a two out of three falls match
Allin has hit a ceiling in AEW and one that I don’t know whether he can break through. He’s unsuccessfully challenged for the AEW world title before and has held and lost the TNT title twice. His second reign lasted all of 28 days and given this is his home state and that Khan loves making moments, I think Allin will end Cage’s short reign in part due to Luchasaurus’s interference. This should be spirited to say the least.
Prediction: Allin wins
TBS champion Kris Statlander defends against Julia Hart
Hart will carry a 27-match winning streak into her first TBS title opportunity, challenging the champion who was the last person to defeat her back in April 2022. Is there a signature win for her during that time? Not really, but she was also out of action most of the summer so there’s not a lot of momentum going into this.
Statlander has been consistent as champion, recently dispatching former titleholder and WWE-bound Jade Cargill in a rematch. She is still missing a juicy feud in her title run instead of defending against the latest contender of the week.
As of now, there’s no AEW women’s title match on the show for the second straight PPV, which will get some people talking online.
Prediction: Statlander wins
Wheeler Yuta vs. Ricky Starks
Do you remember that Starks won this year’s Owen Hart Foundation men’s tournament? Me neither. In two months, AEW has made the tournament a moot point. Starks has lost his past three high-profile singles matches (two against Danielson and one against Punk) and isn’t going to lose here to Danielson teammate and perennial loser Yuta, who hasn’t won an AEW singles match since November 2022.
Prediction: Starks wins
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