All Elite Wrestling will make its second trip to the Seattle, Washington area on Sunday when they present the first-ever AEW WrestleDream pay-per-view event.
The days of All Elite Wrestling putting on four pay-per-views a year are officially behind us. On October 1, the promotion will produce its third pay-per-view show in the last thirty-five days when the inaugural AEW WrestleDream, a show honoring the late founder of New Japan Pro Wrestling, Antonio Inoki, takes place.
With so many pay-per-view shows in such a short period of time, the challenge for AEW has been putting together matches that carry some sort of abbreviated storyline to get fans invested in the matches. While the promotion has had no trouble putting together good to great matches each and every pay-per-view, the matches that really get wrestling fans to care, the matches that have the entire arena hanging on each and every near fall, have not been all that common.
WrestleDream is another example of that. The only match on the card with more than a two to three-week build is the TNT Title match between Darby Allin and Christian Cage.
Looking at the talent up and down the card, there is little doubt that this is going to be an entertaining show, but hopefully coming out of this one and heading into Full Gear the promotion can get back to a stronger storytelling foundation.
Let’s take a look at the match card for AEW WrestleDream and what to expect from each.
Christian Cage vs. Darby Allin for the TNT Title in a two out of three falls match
The match that undoubtedly has had the best build heading into Sunday’s show is the TNT Championship match between Christian Cage and Darby Allin.
This will be an excellent match as both Cage and Allin always deliver top-notch work. And if Darby’s last TNT Title win versus Samoa Joe is any indication, the Seattle crowd will be deafeningly loud in favor of their hometown antihero.
The outcome of this match is very much a 50-50 proposition. Tony Khan seems to love to give his wrestlers big moments in their hometowns. There has been a pattern of this throughout AEW’s brief history. But Christian will have only been the TNT Champion for two weeks, (even though it feels like much longer) when this match takes place. And Cage is arguably putting forth the best work of his brilliant career during this TNT Champion run of both himself and Luchasaurus.
Then you have the added intrigue of Luchasaurus, Nick Wayne, and Adam Copeland. Will Luchasaurus turn on Christian? Will Wayne turn on Darby? Will Copeland make his AEW debut and cost Christian the TNT Title? Or possibly aid his old tag team partner in defeating Allin?
Flip a coin. My guess is Khan can’t resist putting the TNT Title back on Darby Allin in his hometown. Winner: Darby Allin
MJF vs. The Righteous for the ROH Tag Team Titles
Adam Cole’s AEW run continues to be snake-bitten. Cole apparently suffered a devastating ankle injury at AEW Grand Slam and this has left the suddenly valiant MJF alone to defend the ROH Tag Team Titles against The Righteous at WrestleDream.
There is a chance this remains a handicap match and MJF sneaks out a win. There is also a shot that Adam Cole enlists his buddy Roderick Strong to sub in for him as MJF’s partner to help even the odds. This seems like the most entertaining scenario as Strong and MJF would have trouble getting on the same page and would create some intrigue in a matchup with The Righteous It really has very little as of now.
Strong will most likely get involved as MJF’s partner, and as tempted as he may be to screw MJF over, the shot to get gold around his waist will win out, and for at least one night, Strong and MJF will be able to co-exist and keep The Righteous from winning the ROH Tag Team Titles. Winners: MJF and Roderick Strong
Eddie Kingston vs. Katsuyori Shibata for the ROH World Title and the NJPW Strong Openweight Title
It has been a banner year for Eddie Kingston. Kingston is currently the NJPW Strong Openweight Champion, and recently vanquished one of his biggest rivals, Claudio Castagnoli, and in doing so became a double champion by winning the Ring of Honor World Title as well.
Kingston is set to defend both titles on Sunday against a man who is just happy to be wrestling, current ROH Pure Champion, Katsuyori Shibata.
This match has had no build and the outcome is a foregone conclusion, which does detract from it a bit. But these are two guys who are easy to rally around because of what they have been through in their lives and how they continue to persevere. Kingston will retain after a hard-hitting contest. Winner: Eddie Kingston
FTR vs. Aussie Open
Former ROH Tag Team Champions, Aussie Open, will look to win gold in AEW for the first time when they take on FTR.
These two teams will meet on October 1 for the second straight year as FTR won a hard-fought match against Aussie Open at Royal Quest II last year. And if their match at WrestleDream is anything like their match one year ago the fans will be in for quite a treat.
FTR has spent the better part of the past three years proving that they can have excellent matches with nearly any tag team. So pairing them with a very good team like Aussie Open should guarantee another memorable contest. But one that FTR will surely win. Winners: FTR
“Hangman” Adam Page vs. Swerve Strickland
Swerve Strickland and Adam Page will meet this Sunday in a match that to many may just seem like a singles match with two excellent wrestlers that were given a decent build.
This match, however, is so much more.
This contest is the springboard that Swerve Strickland needs to establish himself as a top-of-the-card performer for AEW, a spot he has earned during his time in the promotion.
There is very little that Swerve Strickland cannot do. He is great in the ring and can wrestle any style match with any opponent and put on a great show. He can work the crowd and his opponent seamlessly on the microphone and he is a good babyface and an even better heel. Strickland and “Hangman” were also given a coveted spot on the go-home edition of Dynamite on Wednesday, when they closed the show, a spot that is usually reserved for the premiere match of the upcoming pay-per-view. Oh, and did we mention WrestleDream is taking place in Swerve’s home state?
Swerve has worked his tail off to put himself in this position and all the stars seem to have aligned to bring it all together. Anything but a Swerve Strickland win on Sunday would be a huge mistake and a missed opportunity to elevate a performer who is ready for the big stage. Winner: Swerve Strickland
Chris Jericho, Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi vs. The Don Callis Family
Don Callis’ vendetta against Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho continues on Sunday when Jericho and Omega team up with Kota Ibushi to battle Will Ospreay, Sammy Guevara, and Konosuke Takeshita in a six-man tag-team match.
Much like the Swerve Strickland and Adam Page match, the outcome of this match means significantly more for one team than it does for the other.
A win for Ibushi, Omega, and Jericho pops the crowd but does nothing to further establish the trio as all three are already as established as a professional wrestler can be.
The Don Callis Family, however, can use this match to establish themselves as a faction to be reckoned with by picking up a win over a team that includes three bonafide superstars. So what makes the most sense here is Callis getting involved and getting his new faction a win. Winners: The Don Callis Family
Kris Statlander vs. Julia Hart for the TBS Title
Kris Statlander will defend her TBS Title against Julia Hart on Sunday as the latter makes her AEW pay-per-view in-ring debut.
Is there anyone on the AEW roster, man or woman, who has improved as much as Julia Hart in 2023? Hart was given the opportunity to retire her cheerleader uniform and join the House of Black and she has made the most of it.
Julia Hart has one of the best entrances in AEW, has improved dramatically in the ring (no doubt in part due to being able to spend more time with the House of Black members), and plays her role to perfection. She truly understands how to sell her character with her facial expressions and body language, a skill that many performers with much more experience still have not mastered.
Hart is slight in the frame but makes up for it with athleticism, as can be seen on the most recent edition of AEW Dynamite when she hit a beautiful moonsault on Willow Nightingale to pick up a huge win.
The question is has Hart shown enough for Tony Khan to feature her regularly as one of AEW’s Women’s Champions? Probably not. Statlander should retain here, but don’t be surprised if Hart is wearing gold at some point in 2024. Winner: Kris Statlander
Young Bucks vs. The Gunns vs. Orange Cassidy & Hook vs. Lucha Bros in an AEW Tag Team Titles number one contenders match
In what should be the wildest match in a rare AEW pay-per-view without some sort of no-disqualification stipulation, three former AEW Tag Team Champions and an odd couple will compete to become the number one contenders for FTR/Aussie Open’s AEW Tag Team Titles.
This is a match where any of the four teams winning would not really be a huge surprise. It has been a while since we have seen FTR and the Lucha Bros, but with Rey Fenix currently holding the International Title, that isn’t the most likely scenario.
We have also seen FTR wrestle both the Young Bucks and the Gunns in the not-too-distant past. Couple that with the fact that Hook and Orange Cassidy rarely lose and that this duo taking on FTR would be a fresh matchup and it seems like the most likely outcome here. Winners: Orange Cassidy & Hook
Ricky Starks vs. Wheeler Yuta
If there was one man who was upset to see CM Punk lose his job in AEW, it had to be Ricky Starks. Starks was finally in the limelight, opposite Punk on AEW Collision, and it seemed that at long last we would get that Ricky Starks mega-push that AEW fans had been waiting for.
The promotion did a nice job of shifting Starks into another meaningful program opposite Bryan Danielson, but it was a program in which Starks would suffer consecutive losses.
While the match between Starks and Wheeler may seem thrown together at first glance, it is actually very important to get Starks on this card and get him back on the winning track at WrestleDream and rebuild his momentum quickly. Winner: Ricky Starks
Bryan Danielson vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
The long-awaited match between the men many consider the two best technical wrestlers in the world will finally happen at WrestleDream when Bryan Danielson and Zack Sabre Jr. finally meet.
This match was first supposed to take place at the inaugural Forbidden Door pay-per-view, however, an injury to Danielson forced him out of the competition. While many fans were disappointed not to be able to see this highly anticipated match, we were given a nice consolation prize with the AEW debut of Claudio Castagnoli.
Now, about fifteen months after their originally scheduled match, Bryan Danielson and Zack Sabre Jr. will finally square off.
There was no build whatsoever to this match. However, this is one of those rare matches that don’t need a build to get fans excited. This will be twenty to thirty minutes of excellent mat wrestling in which Danielson will eventually come out on top. Winner: Bryan Danielson