ALL IN 2018 [Live Review]: Undeniably Elite.
Oh, what a night! The first ever ALL IN had finally arrived on Saturday night, now sadly having come and gone. In short, the show was a motha F’N blast. And regardless of how you feel about the entire card, match-for-match ratings and all that fun Meltzer smark stuff, there’s no question that All In will go down as one of the most entertaining professional wrestling events in history.
To quote “The Cleaner”, it was probably the best wrestling show I ever been a part of it — and at the very least the most fun — and I’ve been going to great PWG events in Reseda for over a year and a half now (including last year’s BOLA and two All-Star Weekends), an awesome early-90s WWF Royal Rumble, a great ROH anniversary weekend in Vegas, and the first three New Japan Pro Wrestling shows in the United States. So, that said, I really didn’t want to do a review of All In, having to critique each match. That’s really not what this show was about, but.. fuck.. it’s what I do!
–Zero Hour Kickoff: SCU (Frankie Kizarian and Scorpio Sky) v The Briscoes – This was an excellent tag match that should have started the PPV portion of All In instead of the “Zero Hour” on WGN America, but I get it; this match would definitely steer more heads towards buying the PPV instead of Cross/MJF, especially in front of this super raucous crowd. What initially seemed like no more than another “ROH” tag match was so much more than that, with the Briscoes having been the Young Bucks’ most heated rivals of all time and SCU becoming an integral part of Being The Elite. Following a heated 12-minutes of In-n-Out of the ring action, Kazarian kills the Briscoes’ Doomsday attempt with a Spanish Fly reversal to an awesome finish. SCU! 3.5/5
–Zero Hour Kickoff: Flip Gordon won the Over Budget Battle Royal – This had to be the best battle royal I’ve ever seen, if I really think about all those silly battle royals the WWE/F had all them years with a super washed-up Hillbilly Jim stuck to the corner while Bushwacker Luke and Butch hung underneath the tangled ropes. Or, in more recent years, where indie guys have a bunch of over-the-hill, over-the-top characters (Glacier, Jannetty, I see you!) to sell tickets at ten bucks a pop. This one had a great mix of ROH/independent wrestling legends (Ethan Page, Colt Cabana, Chuck Taylor), WWE/ECW legends (Billy Gunn, Tommy Dreamer, The Hurricane) and hungry up-and-comers (Punishment Martinez, Marko Stunt, Brian Cage). Unlike most battle royals, it was spots galore.. having the most dives I’ve ever seen in this type of match. It had all the humor you’d ever want, plenty of weapons and some surprise great wrestling too. In short, Bully Ray‘s powerbomb on Chico El Luchador through a table comes back to haunt him, as Flip Gordon would return to the ring, tear off the mask, and eliminate Bully to — FINALLY! — become All In! He would also obtain the right to an ROH title match later in the show. 3.75/5
–Matt Cross v MJF – While this wasn’t bad at all, it felt completely unnecessary and makes you wish the Bucks had used these precious 10-minutes for the main event — clearly the only blunder throughout the entire “3 hours and 57-minutes”. 2.75/5
–Christopher Daniels v Stephen Amell – Arrow star has a good debut one-on-one match! Of course he did, it was with one of the best pros in the business. While Amell definitely looked green out there, he never flustered, looking mostly composed and in the right place in every spot. Sure, to the most traveled of wrestling smark this wouldn’t be a “great” match per se; but both guys, for the most part, accomplished what they set out to do. Ronda Rousey (with a huge advantage as an MMA legend) and D’Angelo Willians (sorta the same deal as a freak NFL athlete NFL), despite getting so gassed, you’d be hard pressed to find too many celebs who put on a better debut than Stephen Amell. The Jerry Lynn silly ref stuff we did not need. 3/5
–Tessa Blanchard v Madison Rayne v Chelsea Green v Britt Baker – This was a really good fatal 4-way that had most high peaks and very low valleys. Booking wise, I wouldn’t have included Rayne in front of this crowd; she hasn’t really gotten over to the level you’d want on Women of Honor and felt like another “name” on the card. Yet, while Blanchard is the most revered, it was Green who had the best outing, nailing a great tope, curb stomp, pair of Unprettiers and Canadian Destroyer late in the match. She was relentless! This was an awesome match until they missed on the timing on the finish, which felt flat and confusing. But the ladies all busted their tale and had the crowd into it the entire way. 3.5/5
–NWA World Heavyweight Championship: Cody Rhodes v Nick Aldis – I couldn’t believe it, but this actually lived up to the hype–and there was a mountain of it. Aldis hadn’t impressed me in the his pair of ROH appearances lately, having a whatever match against Flip and not doing much in a mixed tag with the Young Bucks. Despite carrying himself like the real deal, this wasn’t a good sign. Throw in the fact that Cody had struggled to get himself over as a great wrestler, only impressing in bouts with Okada and Ibushi (up until the last Omega match, which some smarks still didn’t like), and you had a whole bowl of hype. Well, this one certainly had the crowd by the nuts. The heat was on and both Rhodes/Aldis brought their A games, giving us a good ol’ fashioned National Wrestling Alliance epic. With multiple corner men, a snazzy wife and a dog(!) by ringside, this felt huge and the start of something even bigger. Aldis delivered a bevy of classic, strong man wrestling manuevers and well-timed counters, looking far smoother than expected, while Cody smartly mixed in his greatest hits with a few teases that ramped up the crowd. Throw in a Diamond Cutter from DDP on Daivari, Brandi taking an Aldis flying elbow as she covered to protect her hubby (a tremendous heat moment for Nick!), and a great surprise cradle finish, and the bloodied up Son of a Son of a Plummer was your new NWA champion — the most over guy in the building. For fans of classic WWF/WCW, this was a treat. 4/5
–Chicago Street Fight: Adam Page v Joey Janela – I loved seeing how over Janela was in front of a crowd of half casual “Hot Topic” Bullet Club fans, half hardcores — in front of 10,000 people — but he did it, and he felt like a huge star with the fastest rising star in all of professional wrestling. Hangman went from a semi-controversial afterthought (you know.. the whole Hangman thing, until you realized the name has nothing to do with rope) to a super fan favorite, a bright-eyed southern boy filled with charm and Innocence that could light up a room. Both guys lit up the Sears Center in a classic street fight, with a flying moonsault seconds in, a DVD into the buckles, a burning hammer off the apron onto a ladder, superkicks and flying clotheslines aplenty, a Stunner from Janella’s lady Penelope Ford, a fucking actual Cracker Barrel(!!), and table spots that saw a flying elbow, powerbomb, and eventual Rite of Passage finish. It was incredibly awesome and Joey Ryan‘s post-match return from death to sick his dick druids on Page was just the cherry on top. 4.25/5
–ROH World Championship: Jay Lethal v Flip Gordon – This was the part of the show where I realized All In offered something for every type of wrestling fan. You had your classic ol’ school formula for Cody/Aldis, hardcore nutshow in Janella/Page and, here, Lethal/Gordon turned into something way more than just another ROH title match. No, Lethal — with the “help” of “Macho Man” Randy Savage’s bro Lanny Poffo, brought back Black Machismo. Gordon even “Hulked Up” late in the match. This was a fun ride that had a very good mix of solid technical wrestling, acute high-flying and early-90s WWF hijinx. Hell, Machismo even thought Brandi was Elizabeth. OHHHH YEAAAAHH!!! 3.75/5
–Kenny Omega v Penta el Zero – I mean.. do you really need me to review this match? It was as tremendous as one would expect, a dream match for hardcore wrestling fans.. with the Lucha Underground king who’s seemingless everywhere these days (AAW, AAA, Impact, just to name a few of Pentagon’s wrestling ventures) with the man who many call the current BITW. When All In was first announced and it was made clear Cody had other goals than wrestling his friend Kenny a third time, I clamored for CM Punk. But now that Phil Brooks has made it quite clear he’s far removed from a business he helped save, Penta wasn’t a bad second option. In fact, this match likely went better than a first Punk/Omega contest would, raininh in bitch-slaps, no-sells, ranas, backstabbers, multiple package piledrivers (including a dirty apron one), superkicks, V-Triggers, chops, double stomps, and Penta’s famed “break the arm” spot. When Omega overcame Penta’s pair of sig spots, my face felt the wrath of Medusa. Omega eventually hit his One Winged for the victory after the two greats got marks to actually believe Penta had a chance. But then ho-lee shit, this great match got even crazier when the lights went out.. a man stalked the ring.. only to have Pent… no, CHRIS FUCKING JERICHO attack Omega from behind with back to back Codebreakers! I fucking lost it! Truly the most memorable moment in a night of memorable moments. 4.5/5
–Kazuchika Okada v Marty Scurll – So you’ve probably heard by now that these guys went 12-minutes over, thus causing the main event to be rushed by more than half. But, really, I blame the booking of the opening match more than a 26-minute Okada match! 26-minutes is a mere exhibition for The Rainmaker. This match–a booking I predicted when the event was announced–only got better as it went on, and the fact it forced the main event into an insane spotfest speedrush wasn’t really a bad thing, now, was it? For fans of New Japan, Scurll/Okada was yet anothet tip in both wrestler’s cap, while the duration and puroreso might not be everyone’s cup; these two never worked together in a singles (Scurll is a Junior Heavy in NJPW), so it took a while to get going, even sagging about 10-12 minutes in until Scurll finally hit the brainbuster (“205! 205!”). The last 8-minutes were super, and it was simply astonishing how it won the crowd back with a surplus of false finishes — the initial problem the match had in the first place. 4/5
– The Golden Elite (Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson, snd Kota Ibushi) v Rey Mysterio, Bandido, and Fenix – Maybe I just had the right seats, not too close where I could see referees shout at the Bucks and call “Meltzer Driver” to stop the match, and not too far to miss anything cool. This was the coolest match of the night, uno, with the Bucks tagging with Ibushi, dos, with Mysterio donning Wolverine cosplay, and tres, with rising lucha star Bandito getting to main event one of the most important events in wrestling history. It was cut and half and no one but those sitting in the front row, I guess, were “taken out of the fantasy” when reality set in that they had to finish this. If anything, everyone moved at a satisfying Lucha Rules pace following a long “New Japan” style match, cutting close to the end of a 4-hour epic triumph. I can’t take away all the pele’s, ranas, double knee moonsaults, ramp dives, frogsplashes, superkicks, 619s, flying fallaway slams, and More Bang For Our Bucks because it “only” went 12-minutes. I loved the match and want to see more. 4/5
Match Rating Average = 3.75/5
Entertainment Quality = 4.75/5
Overall = 4.25/5 Bibles
Again, All In was a very hard thing to judge, a pro wrestling event that focused more on giving the fans what they wanted than G1/BOLA-level match quality. But fans got that too; every match delivered, and delivered in many different ways. Variety was a key to success, so even if you thought the Cody/Magnus match was boring, you had your Dominion main event-style match later with Okada/Scurll. If the old WWF shenanigans of the battle royal/ROH title match weren’t for you, you had the insane Lucha-style efforts of Omega/Penta and the main event. Even a guy who dresses up on TV as a DC Comics superhero had a good match. Everything from Saturday night was rock solid and few mistakes were made. The crowd was amazing and the selection of refs and ring announcers were outstanding. I’m even hearing the commentary was great. While the closing promo from Cody, Bucks, Omega and company went unaired, it was important for diehard wrestling fans to know that The Elite/Bullet Club are in this for the long haul and in it together, all in every step of the way. Thank you!