All Continental Classic 2023 reviews linked here.

It’s an eye work match, and there’s few better genres of match in the world. It’s a little meta trick that AEW plays with the booking here. Although in kayfabe, it’s a combo of a Superman Punch from Cassidy and a Rainmaker from Okada that shatters Danielson’s orbital bone, it’s a bit of an open secret on the internet that it was actually Andrade’s wild back elbow that did the trick. Placing Danielson in this match with Andrade immediately puts the injury front of mind for many fans, and combined with the selling efforts of one of the best babyfaces ever, it’s enough to have caused stir over a potential reinjury too.

The eye work is the heart of the match. Andrade attacks it about halfway through after the action spills to the floor. He’s the first of Danielson’s opponents to be scummy enough to actively go for it without shame. The effects of it work out well too, Danielson’s eye looks swollen as hell, a visual compounded by a cut opening up above the bad eye as well. The match is at its best working around the obvious injury–the big back elbow which gets a nearfall, Andrade striking at the busted eye, getting knuckles-deep into Danielson’s eye socket, and those big double knee attacks that end up closing the match which recall the best moments of something like Andrade/Gargano. 

Danielson is, of course, a better wrestler than Gargano by leagues and leagues though so his selling feels much truer, and all the more sympathetic. It’s honestly a brilliant display of Dragon’s week-to-week versatility, having been able to spend two matches in the tournament bullying his opponents, only to get caught in a fight against he couldn’t mentally dominate, and who would sink to much lower depths than mere emotional terrorism. 

If I’d had my way, there’d be even more attention given to the eye though. I know it dominates the memory and the plot of the match, but one does it feel when the action starts to drift away from it. Even moreso, some of the non-eye action doesn’t always lind quite as clean as I’d like. It’d be easy enough to chalk the occasional awkwardness up to Danielson’s vision not being 100% right, which is fair enough, but some of it is present before the eye becomes a major theme of the match as well.

The central hook of the match does leave a lasting effect though. It’s a great way to have Danielson eat his first loss in the tournament, while re-energizing Andrade as a threat moving forward. The additional comedy too of Andrade trying to look after Dragon in the aftermath despite actively ripping at the man’s eye is just a great touch. 

A little rough around the edges, but its core is too strong to deny. 

Rating: ****

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