In many ways, a creative success for all four men involved. While not a perfect match at all, one gets the impression that a lot of thought went into this match and that for the crowd in attendance and (from what I’ve seen) the reception online, it struck the emotional chords that they wanted.
And let’s be clear. This is certainly a great match.
Its best successes come from the fact that these four men truly are so ambitious with what they want to achieve here. With a run time of just upwards of thirty minutes, this match again shows the maximalist ideas that workers like Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks have cultivated from their time on the indies and Japan. They cram all the markers of “epic match” into this from spectacular spots to character work to an escalating finishing stretch. And unlike the bloated NXT main events we get now, this effort here feels at the very least sincere, earned, and for the most part, effective.
There’s a lot to unpack here in this match, some of which I feel somewhat unequipped to discuss.
This match acts in many ways as a sequel to the famed Golden Lovers vs. Young Bucks match from 2018. Not only do we have three of the same four workers involved in this match, but blatant callbacks to that tag are made here. Looking past that, we also have strong parallels to that match in terms of story. Where Golden Lovers vs. Young Bucks was built around internal strife within the Bullet Club, this match plays off the recent tensions between The Elite and Hangman Page. Both times, Kenny Omega finds himself caught in the middle, attempting to navigate the choppy waters of his friendships.
It’s that character work, built up and slow burned over the past few months on Dynamite, that makes the first act of the match as great as it is. While Omega’s out there trying to wrestle a clean match, Page’s resentment towards the Bucks makes him a catalyst to escalate the tensions between the two teams. A spit in the face of Matt Jackson in the opening moments leads to Matt throwing down with Page, just punching away at him down on the mat. It’s no Jumbo Tsuruta going after Misawa after being knocked down, but it’s effective in setting the tone for the match–a deeply personal series of sequences heightened with the athleticism all four bring.
The Young Bucks play heel in this match which was absolutely the right call to make. Page’s carefree attitude and propensity for having a cold one after matches has endeared him to the AEW fanbase much more than his forced World Title push in 2019 ever did. In the preceding weeks on Dynamite and in Chicago here tonight, Page was easily the most over wrestler in this match. The Bucks going after him trying to take his title away make them perfect antagonists in this story. They lean into it well too. As anyone familiar with The Bucks’ PWG work know, The Bucks make for amazing heels because of how cocky they act and how well they can bump to take their comeuppance. It’s particularly sweet to see them get lariated to hell and back by Page throughout the match.
There are some flaws here though.
Some big moments that play well in the moment either don’t quite fit or otherwise don’t quite pay off as they should. For example, Page paying tribute to Marty Scurll by hitting the fake out Sweet Shin Music and following up with a Crossface Chickenwing (complete with taunt). Don’t really know what that’s meant to tell us here other than alluding to things that we already know. Yes, Scurll was a member of The Elite. Yes, he works for ROH now and the fans want him in AEW. Don’t know why Hangman Page in-character wants to remind us of these facts but sure, I understood the reference. A much better use of this trope came later in the match when The Bucks nailed Omega with the Golden Trigger–the same move that put The Bucks away in the past.
Then there’s bigger plot moments such as The Young Bucks hitting Hangman Page with the Indietaker on the ramp. Perhaps I’ve been watching too much 90’s All Japan but that just felt like a move that should have kept Page out of the rest of the match except for maybe a few well timed break ups. But that he came up almost full strength before things wrapped up kind of took away the impact of that moment. The Bucks going after Kenny’s shoulder and Matt pondering if HE’S GONE TOO FAR? Yeah, leave that to the NXT kids please, guys. Come on, Matt, you once Superkicked a woman in the face with a thumbtacked boot. Pretty sure that going after a known injury isn’t GOING TOO FAR.
But otherwise, this match worked really well for me. Things kept escalating with some great false finishes in there as well. A kick out for the Buckshot Trigger played off really well given how protected that combo has been. Enjoyed Omega not having the arm strength to hit the One Winged Angel only for Page to hit the move instead. Great stuff all the way through with some minor annoyances in between.