There’s just so much working against this. As with so much that’s been going on with AEW in 2023, nothing about it feels ideal or carefully planned whatsoever. Cassidy and Moxley impressed in a great match at All Out a couple months ago, painting a really compelling if tragic end to the OC International Championship reign. Conventional wisdom would state that Mox would go on to have a similarly impressive run, if not quite as long, then at least something a little more meaningful than losing the title a couple weeks into the reign due to a concussion while wrestling Rey Fenix. So already, things are disrupted due to factors out of anyone’s control, Mox’s reign with the title has been cut short and now the belt’s on someone that wasn’t meant to win it in the first place.
It seemed that AEW understood this well enough that at the first sign of Moxley potentially being able to return to the ring, he was booked to challenge Fenix for the title. Unfortunately, their projects turned out to be a little too hasty, and Mox was pulled from that scheduled bout. In a classic example of AEW booking themselves into a corner, Mox’s replacement is Cassidy himself, putting the belt squarely back on the underdog’s shoulders despite having rather conclusively ended his reign just a month prior.
So much about this conceptually just feels wrong. Cassidy being the defending champion coming in feels wrong as a much more satisfying result comes from him overcoming Moxley to reclaim the title. At the same time, the close proximity to the first match makes it feel like a Mox victory can keep the story going while course correcting back to the initial plan. And yet, a rematch so soon would make a Cassidy defeat feel a little too harsh on someone who’s been so popular all year.
It’s just a mess, and the ideal thing would have been for this match to have happened again months and months from now instead of so soon after the first.
The thing is that Moxley and Cassidy are just a little too talented to fail even when it feels like the machine is failing them at every turn.
I love the in-ring dynamic that they go for here. Mox is this irrefutable beast, just blasting Cassidy into the dirt constantly and shrugging off basically everything Cassidy throws at him. The no selling might irk others, but it makes total sense to me for Mox to not even register Cassidy’s forearms and kicks when just this past Wednesday, he already withstood a big straight Superman punch anyway. Mox crowds in too with such brutality, the early attack on the floor looks great, and Cassidy rag dolls with the best of them when it comes to bumping and selling.
With the way they go about the finish, this actually smells a little bit of something Darby-esque with just how far Cassidy has to go to make his comebacks believable. Your mileage may vary on how effectively they pulled off the story, but I’m a fan of how they did it here. OC has to headbutt Mox to open up a fresh wound from his recent bout in Japan to start things off. Then, Mox accidentally yanks the turnbuckle pad off, and OC sends him crashing head first into it, and then punches the man down repeatedly. Perhaps I’m coming off rewatching the Extreme Rules 2012 main event so recently too, but there’s a hint of Lesnar to Mox’s performance in this match. Not just the brutal force he comes forward with, but also the steady decline as our hero finally finds the smallest error to capitalize on. The spaghetti-legged selling from Mox towards the end recalls the best of Lesnar’s wounded beast act, and I think it’s applied well here.
Given everything around it, still not quite the ideal version of what this might be. But in the hands of two talents like these, still a little too great to deny.