Welcome to the first ever Respawning review of the CM Punk show, aka AEW Collision. This isn’t even said in jest, with the Punker bookending the show, being the main selling point, and only having his best buddies on the roster, this is genuinely the CM Punk show. Not to mention that episode 1 even took place at the United Center in Punk’s hometown of Chicago.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. For all the drama of Brawl Out, it’s easy to forget that the likes of Punk and FTR have a complete different idea of what Pro Wrestling should be compared to The Elite. This show certainly demonstrated this as it had a much more old school feel to it, the overall pace was slower, and segments had time to breathe. The downside of this was that Collision didn’t feel anywhere near as exciting as the best Dynamite episodes do and was definitely lacking when it came to big angles. Let’s jump into it.
CM Punk Returns
The show unsurprisingly opened with CM Punk’s big return. He was given the opportunity to speak somewhat freely about all the drama that’s gone down over the past year or so, and aside from dancing around naming The Elite directly, he did not hold back.
Whether you love or hate CM Punk, there’s no denying that his live promos are untouchable, especially when he’s in this sort of mood. The most exciting part of this white hot promo was that we were given a sneak peak at what a heel Punk would look like in an AEW environment. Every word was delivered with bile and bitterness that only a pissed off Punk could pull off.
As far as what was actually said goes, it was both thrilling and hilarious. Calling himself “One Bill Phil” and referring to everyone else as “Counterfeit Bucks” was Punk at his fire-breathing best. The part where he called out fans for being softer than the wrestler’s they like was both a brilliant line while also lacking any self-awareness. If anything, it came off as a bit of a self-own from the guy who spent the previous 24 hours crying about being hit too hard by Hangman Page in ESPN interviews and has ripped or broken a body part every other time he’s stepped in the ring. We won’t even mention his UFC record..
Another huge part of this opening promo was the big red bag he was carrying around. Punk all but confirmed that it’s another World Championship, the title he claims to have never lost. Hopefully this is setting up the third part of the CM Punk vs. MJF trilogy rather than a second World Title for Collision. Tony Khan and co will likely know better than to follow the god-awful WWE model of multiple top title belts so this should be a tease for the former.
Overall, this was a fantastic return for CM Punk and gave the wrestling media enough material to keep Collision in people’s mouths for at least the first week.
TNT Championship: Wardlow vs. Luchasaurus
Let’s call a spade a spade here and just admit this match was pretty boring before the unexpected finish. Wardlow’s run since turning on MJF has been spotty at best and this was yet another example of the bitter truth that he may never be the guy that AEW clearly hoped he would be. This is, of course, not purely on Wardlow but also the booking of the character that has been more bad than good. If Collision was a potential reset for Wardlow, then this was far from a great start.
Meanwhile we got a good look at what a heel Luchasaurus looks like and to be honest, it’s a bit boring. Taking away the more fun Lucha side of Luchasaurus kind of renders him pointless. Maybe a complete repackaging was needed here for the big man rather than a simple heel turn that’s basically resulting in 1998 Kane cosplay. The finish was good though and nobody called the title change, if that didn’t save this then Christian celebrating on Luchasaurus’ shoulders like he was the champion sure did!
It’s worth noting that after the break we were shown a recap of the events that had unfolded earlier, something that is rarely ever seen on Dynamite. This was the first indication that Collision is to be paced much slower than Dynamite, choosing to spend more time on less angles rather than trying to hit on as many stories as possible in the two hours provided.
Buddy Matthews vs. Andrade El Idolo
After a rough opening match it was down to Buddy Matthews and a returning Andrade El Idolo to get things back on track which they do in style. The crowd was hot for this one and these two matched that energy with a hard-hitting match that felt exhilarating from start to finish. The limb work and the selling in particular was a real highlight here. This may have been exclusive to the fite.tv stream but the doctors getting involved only made this match feel that little bit more real.
Andrade winning with his wife – Charlotte Flair’s figure eight finisher was a nice touch but also a little funny in a way I can’t quite put my finger on. The aftermath with House of Black attacking Andrade is probably a sign of things to come with LFI likely challenging for the trios titles very soon. A great match overall from two wrestlers who maybe didn’t get the spotlight they deserved on Dynamite, hopefully we see more matches like this on Collision.
Before the next match I just want to take a minute to compliment the commentary team of Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuinness. They weren’t as smooth or as comfortable as Excalibur, Taz and Schiavone but that will come with time. Until then it was super refreshing to have a complete new team that was still familiar to hardcore audiences. It also made Collision feel more like it’s own show rather than what Rampage ended up being for Dynamite.
Tony Nese vs. Miro
It’s great to have Miro back, that is all really. The match itself was a bit more than a squash which may have been the wrong call. It would have been better to see Miro just run through an opponent in seconds rather than sell even one move for Nese. Still this was able to do the job and Miro is right back where he left of last year.
This was the first time in the show where there was a little disappointment in a lack of an angle. Many fans were hoping we’d have an idea of what was next for Miro but that wasn’t the case. Hopefully people still tune in next week to see what’s next for the Bulgarian Brute.
The Outcasts vs. Skye Blue & Willow Nightingale
AEW may really have something here with Skye Blue. She has been really well received as an underdog babyface in recent weeks and this match only enforced that feeling. Teaming her up with the lovable Willow Nightingale only helped matters as well.
This entire tag match was worked well in front of a crowd who were massively there for the hometown girl Skye Blue. Giving her a victory was a great move and shows why AEW are seen as the babyface company that actually prefers to give hometown wrestlers big moments rather than burying them like WWE tends to.
Next up we had an Acclaimed promo that was fun (as they always are) but ultimately felt a little pointless. In-ring promos like this are usually set-ups for a big angle, so for this to be nothing more than a hype segment for The Acclaimed felt weird. Again, this may be more of a style preference for Collision going forward but this segment was pretty forgettable.
Bullet Club Gold & Samoa Joe vs. CMFTR
Main event time now and I can’t help but feel this trios match will split the AEW audience down the middle. As was the feeling throughout the entire show, this main event was worked to a much slower pace than most trios matches we usually see on Dynamite. Some people will definitely prefer that, but for my own personal tastes it felt like the majority of the match was wrestled in a picture-in-picture ad break.
The main body of the match barely featured the returning CM Punk outside of a really exciting yet brief coming together with his old rival Somoa Joe. Even the commentary team, now joined by a very rough sounding Jim Ross who shouldn’t really have been out there, commented on how FTR are likely “managing Punk’s minutes”.
I respect what they tried to do here but apart from the closing stretch, which was excellent, this match was mostly dull and didn’t quite work for TV until the closing minutes. Again, I can completely understand why some people would love it. I adore the slow-build Japanese style for example, but I don’t necessarily want that on a weekly TV show, especially in trios format. Not to say this was bad, it was very good, but it wasn’t to the standard of the electric feeling trios that many fans expect from AEW.
The first episode of Collision closes with CMFTR celebrating in the ring together. There’s no major angle or storyline development other than CM Punk is back. Compare that to the thrilling ending to Dynamite this past Wednesday when it felt like you couldn’t take your eyes of the screen and it’s probably fair to say Collision wasn’t as good. The show is probably attempting to have less fireworks with maybe more substance going forward, only time will tell if this pays off though. In closing, this first episode felt a little lackluster but was never bad at any point and still hits an 8/10 for me purely based on how hot the opening promo was. It will be interesting to see how many fans come back next week and if ticket sales for future shows improve off the back of this first show.
Before we finish up, I just want to give a shout out to AEW Games and THQ for the recent announcement of AEW Fight Forever’s release date. (This is a gaming site after all!)
AEW’s highly anticipated video game will enter the ring on June 29th and looks more fun than your weekly Orange Cassidy classic.
Check out the latest trailer below and keep an eye right here at Respawning for more AEW Fight Forever coverage!