Very much a mixed bag.

This is one of those fascinating matches where the line between good and bad segments is so clear that it taints the entire production. The entire first half of the match featuring the faction members coming in and just brawling was pretty great. No shark cages or dumb spotlights or buzzer timers, just dudes throwing themselves into the fray and fighting their asses off.

I loved how nothing in that back half ever felt too choreographed. Sure, you’ll have cutesy moments like Sammy Guevara and Shawn Spears setting up a Spanish Fly in the most inorganic way possible but a lot of that gives way to simple things like Guevera bumping like a maniac all over the ring and into the cage at pretty much every opportunity.

There’s little nods to WarGames history and legacy like Dax Harwood paying tribute to his greatest influence by doing the triple turnbuckle bump and then even adding a cherry on top with a head bash into the turnbuckle cam. Then there’s the actual best part of the match: the blood. It’s the main draw that separates this from the sanitized WWE version. And boy do we have some great blade jobs here. FTR especially have some delightful gushers that work especially well given that The Pinnacle came out all in white. Just one of the simplest and best wrestling tropes there is, dirty heels staining their white gear with blood.

The layout of the match did so many favors for the people involved too. Hager is one of the final entrants and gets to just toss people around in cool fashion. Jericho, the barely mobile crusty old man that he is, gets to enter last and spend the least amount of time possible in the ring. It’s when Jericho comes in though that things start going off the rails.

That’s not to say that Jericho was the catalyst for things going bad. It’s just that the structural shift coincided with his entry too perfectly. For one, Jericho’s entrance is immediately heralded by the awful NXT-ism of both sides standing in each ring for a staredown. It’s just such a bland and inorganic pause to the chaotic nature of the action for the sake of a tired visual. If AEW wanted to separate themselves from the NXT iterations of WarGames, they’d better look to avoid the same tired visual cliches that those matches lean on.

Then, The Match Beyond just goes too damn long. After Jericho enters the ring there’s still two more commercial breaks before we get a finish. The action is still pretty decent for most of that run with some cool stuff like fork violence and piledrivers onto the exposed ring wood but it all just acts as set up to a big Dramatic Moment between Jericho and MJF on the cage. Transferring the focus of the match from the gritty and chaotic battle in the ring to the entirely too sterile and safe looking ceiling does so much to kill the momentum of the match even with MJF’s great bladejob.

There’s the finish too, of course. Inner Circle surrender to save Jericho from being tossed off the cage by MJF. Whatever. There’s precedent in WarGames for babyfaces to surrender in order to save one of their own but this came off weak and lame especially because the ensuing bump was also weak and lame. Having a wet fart of a finish for a match that already feels like it came way too early for this feud just leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

On the whole, I still think this experiment was good. There’s just too much good stuff in the first half to dismiss it entirely. But AEW’s booking once again gets in its own way here, overcomplicating what really should have been a real simple match. Just give us the blood and guts. That’s all you promised and that’s all we wanted.

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