Following a polarizing Full Gear pay-per-view, AEW centered the Thanksgiving Eve episode of Dynamite around the start of the Continental Classic.
The inaugural round-robin tournament kicked off in Chicago with three matches from the Gold League. Swerve Strickland, fresh off of his win over “Hangman” Adam Page in a violent Match of the Year contender, took on former Ring of Honor World Champion Jay Lethal.
Then, Jay White looked to bounce back after failing to win the AEW World Championship by facing La Faccion Ingobernable’s RUSH. In the show’s main event, Jon Moxley battled Mark Briscoe in a clash of two rugged brawlers.
So, how did these Continental Classic matches go?
The opener between Strickland and Lethal showcased why the former is set for a huge push and why the latter, despite being an objectionable person, is known for his consistent workrate. They worked at a relatively slower pace, but it worked to the match’s benefit (as did banning managers/associates from ringside), and the crowd agreed.
Ultimately, Swerve got the clean win after hitting the Swerve Stomp, establishing the Washington native as one of the favorites to win the tournament.
Another favorite is White, who picked up a tainted win over RUSH after distracting the referee, kicking his opponent in the southern hemisphere, and hitting Blade Runner. The action that preceded the finish was brisk and hard-hitting, and White got a needed win after dropping the main event to Maxwell Jacob Friedman at Full Gear.
Moxley vs. Briscoe went as expected. We saw a lot of blood and a lot of exchanged fists in this slugfest. It also seemed like AEW aimed to reinforce Briscoe as a legitimate threat in the singles ranks, as he kicked out of the Paradigm Shift AND the Death Rider. However, Briscoe couldn’t survive a second Death Rider, and Moxley picked up the three points.
While we still have a long way to go before declaring the Continental Classic a success, AEW has started this off the right way. These three matches set high expectations for the rest of the field while leaving more than enough runway for the likes of Eddie Kingston and Bryan Danielson to surpass them in their respective matches.
It will be hard for fans to avoid comparing the Continental Classic to New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 Climax. That grueling tournament built its considerable reputation with its combination of marquee matchups, unpredictable upsets (without ruining the macro booking), and incredible in-ring output, and it will take time for people to see AEW’s counterpart in the same light.
If the other tournament matches play out like this, though, it’s only a matter of time.