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Sambus’ AEW WrestleDream 2023 Review

October 2, 2023 | Posted by Theo Sambus
Adam Copeland AEW WrestleDream Image Credit: AEW
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Sambus’ AEW WrestleDream 2023 Review  

Hello 411! Theo Sambus here, normally present on a Saturday to cover AEW Collision, but I just HAD to get a review in for WrestleDream as I’ve been enjoying some of the build over the past few Collisions. Danielson vs ZSJ on this kind of stage has been a dream match for me ever since their encounter back in 2008 for Triple X, and they are vastly different men today. I’m stoked! I usually provide full play-by-play, but tonight I’ll go for more of an analysis approach, as Thomas Hall has done a fabulous job on the live coverage, as always. So without further ado, let’s head to Youtube for Zero Hour.

Tony Khan hosts a little tribute to Antonio Inoki in the ring, alongside Rocky Romero, Shibata, and the two grandsons of Inoki. That shot of Christian Cage backstage watching the monitors after the Inoki grandsons pay tribute to their late grandfather – yeah, the production truck knew EXACTLY what they were doing! Haha.

Athena, Billie Starkz, Satoshi Kojima & Keith Lee vs Shane Taylor, Lee Moriarty, Diamante, & Mercedes Martinez

What an absolute mad match on paper. Damn, Athena DROPPED Diamante with that Croyt’s Wrath, that was nasty. I’m still so desperate to get Athena on mainstream AEW programming, she is ready to go. Kojima is chopping the ever-loving piss out of Moriarty, following it up with a really nice DDT. Tags have completely gone out the window haven’t they? I’m surprised JR isn’t foaming in his seat. Kojima picks up the win for his team.

Rating: **Brief showcase for the faces to warm up the crowd, shame we didn’t get to see more from the opposing side. Especially Martinez, I was digging her appearances on the earlier episodes of Collision.

Ohhhh here we go, time for Barnett vs Claudio already! Shall we place bets on how long before someone says ‘this could be a main event anywhere in the world!’ They’d be right, of course – this would sell out a Bloodsport event in a heartbeat.

Josh Barnett vs Claudio Castagnoli (w/ Jon Moxley)

Nice worked-shoot style grappling to start off. They’re doing some good work here, and I love that they haven’t once run the ropes. Pretty evenly matched in the opening minutes, with Barnett escaping a Giant Swing attempt. Claudio finally takes the upper hand with some mean uppercuts, but Barnett gets an abdominal stretch. Barnett fires off biiiig knees to the face to get out of the corner…and a leaping leg lariat, damn! Overhead belly to belly suplex. Claudio finally gets the Giant Swing and drops into a knee bar. Neutralizer attempt but Barnett gets his knees up to block it, that was nice. Claudio gets a pinning combination to pick up the 3 count.

Rating: ***1/4Your mileage may vary depending on how you get on board with the worked shoot stuff, but I ate this up.

Barnett gets the mic and puts over Claudio, and says Inoki would be a fan of Castagnoli. Claudio is ready for the rematch, anytime, anyplace. Yes please.

Luchasaurus vs Nick Wayne

Nick Wayne hasn’t had all that much of a chance to shine in AEW yet, so this is a pretty big deal for him. Nice hometown pop too. It’s the proverbial David vs Goliath here, and as I say that Luchasaurus just DUMPED Wayne on the back of his neck with a German, good LORD. And later Luchasaurus chokeslams him over the ropes onto the apron, yikes that was a bump and a half! Man, Saurus is destroying him, with a wheelbarrow headfirst into the barricade. Really dominant showing from Luchasaurus tonight, which makes the hope spots from Wayne all the more effective. Wayne tries to rally but a clothesline to the back of the head is enough to finish him off. Makes sense, Luchasaurus needed a solid rebound victory after losing the TNT championship, so this worked well.

Rating: **3/4

[AEW Trios Championships] TMDK (Mikey Nicholls, Shane Haste & Bad Dude Tito) vs The Acclaimed and Daddy Ass (c)

I feel like TMDK would do great as a regular team on AEW programming – Haste in particular is very entertaining and it would be a shame if this were an RVD-esque “one-shot deal”. Haste immediately shows a ton of charisma in his exchanges with Billy Gunn, and it just goes to show how wasted he was as Slapjack. Tito hits a nice senton over the ropes a la Eddie Guerrero, and follows up with an Exploder for 2. I was worried TMDK would be punching bags here but they’re starting to build some decent offense on the champions. Ouch, massive kick to the back from Haste on Bowens, he laid into him there. Gunn gets the hot tag, misses the Famouser, Tito gets a German but Caster breaks it up. Jesus, TMDK with an awesome double team cannonball combination. Famouser, Arrival, and a Mic Drop on Tito allow the champs to retain.

Rating: **1/2

A Scissoring party concludes the Zero Hour, and here comes the main show. Right, time for an espresso martini to keep me awake until 5am!

[ROH Tag Team Championships] MJF (c) vs The Righteous

MJF says before the match that he’s gonna pick up the ‘fat boy’ Dutch and give him a body slam. I love how much MJF carries himself as a champion, as ‘the main event’ even when he’s not. That’s a star right there.

Maxwell teases the bodyslam as soon as this one begins, getting Seattle to chant along with him. MJF goes for the sportsmanship handshake, but pokes the eyes as soon as Dutch shakes. MJF goes to shove Vincent’s head up Dutch’s ass (literally!) but the numbers game catches up with him and they stomp him down. Low flatliner from Vincent gets a 2. Vincent mocks the Adam Cole pose and that gets some big heat. MJF again tries the bodyslam but Dutch just falls on him for a 2 count. Boss Man Slam from Dutch gets another 2. Spinning cutter from Vincent, another 2 count. MJF is playing the face in peril here but there’s no one for the hot tag. Vincent grabs a chair and goes to Pilmanize MJF with the ref’s back turned, but MJF sits up and grabs his nuts! He lays down again and Remsburg catches Vincent with the chair, allowing MJF to get a surprise rollup. MJF finally gets a big body slam on Dutch! Vincent gets shoved up Dutch’s ass, and MJF hits the Kangaroo Kick on both men. Heatseeker on Dutch, and the feet on the ropes allows MJF to retain the titles.

Rating: **3/4The Righteous had a bit of shine, but this was mainly about MJF having some fun, and despite a long heat sequence, MJF never looked in danger of losing the titles.

[ROH World Championship & NJPW Strong Openweight Championship] Eddie Kingston (c) vs Katsuyori Shibata

Here we go, I’ve been pumped for this one. Eddie starts off with the strikes, and Shibata embraces it, asking for more. Eddie also asks for more, but maybe regrets it when Shibata kicks him HARD in the chest. Ankle lock to Kingston, he grapevines the leg and Eddie claws his way to the ropes. Kingston blocks the Figure Four, or at least attempts to but Shibata has the leg strength to lock it in anyway. Indian Deathlock now by Shibata, he is going through all the classic holds. Bow and arrow! Back drop driver from Eddie helps him get out of a headlock. Kingston with the machine gun chops in the corner, Shibata’s chest is red raw already. Basement dropkick from Shibata! Snap suplex gets 2 for the challenger. They trade big boots and clotheslines until Eddie falls to a knee with some nice delayed selling. Eddie tries to sit up but collapses back down again, and Shibata has wrist control. More kicks to the chest, and a Cobra Twist on Kingston. Eddie is fading! But he makes the ropes. Punches to the head but Kingston with a backfist! Shibata gets a kick of his own, and both men collapse. Hard chops and forearms exchanged here. North Lights Driver just gets a 2 for the champion. Backfist to the Future and a powerbomb gets the pinfall for Eddie Kingston, and he retains! Mutual show of respect after the match.

Rating: ***1/2A hard-hitting affair as you’d expect, with the usual hallmarks of fighting spirit and some classic Inokism. They clearly knew they were in an undercard spot, as they got in, did their deal, and wrapped it up without any overkill.

[TBS Championship] Kris Statlander vs Julia Hart (w/ Brody King)

The build has really helped the intrigue here, as it feels too early for Statlander to lose the championship, but Hart is on a good long winning streak, although she hasn’t had a test at this level yet. This could go either way.

Statlander in control early on to show that Hart may be out of her depth. Oh damn, nice hurracanrana from Julia! But she can’t capitalise, Statlander gets a nice stalling Northern Lights suplex to send Hart outside. Stat with the feat of strength, with Hart on her shoulders walking up the steps towards the ring. Aww man, Julia went for a step-up something but slipped, that had to suck. Total pro, didn’t let it affect her though, and locks in an abdominal stretch. Blue Thunder Bomb from the champion gets 2. Julia goes up top to meet Statlander on the ropes, and throws Kris overhead. MOONSAULT! But Kris gets the leg on the ropes. Hartness locked in but Statlander getws to her feet with the hold still applied, transitions into a tombstone!!! Gets her back to her feet, Sunday Night Fever! 1, 2, 3.

Rating: ***A little miscommunication along the way, but that was a hot finishing sequence, and Hart did really well in her first PPV appearance. The streak may be over for Julia Hart, but her stock will continue to rise.

[No.1 Contenders to the AEW Tag Team Championships] Young Bucks vs The Gunns vs Hook & Orange Cassidy vs Lucha Bros.

Commentary is pushing the Hook/Cassidy team as the favorite, but this really could go any way. Nick Jackson and Fenix start this out in a preview of their match this coming Wednesday on Dynamite. They are evenly matched and knock each other out with simultaneous kicks. Fenix is playing up the shoulder injury big time here, and the Gunns capitalise, throwing him shoulder first into the barricade. That should take him out for the majority of this. Haha the Gunns try to take advantage of the ‘anyone can tag anyone’ rule, and try to pin each other, but referee Paul Turner is having none of it. Hook and Matt Jackson trading Northern Lights suplexes was a nice touch. Hook and Orange get dual suplexes on the Gunns, and Cassidy hits a suicide dive to the outside to take out the Bucks. Penta takes out the Gunns on his own, Made in Japan gets a 2 count but Austin Gunn makes the save. Hook is alone in the ring with Austin…goes for Redrum, but Nick Jackson tags in so Austin’s tap out doesn’t count. Oh DAMN, Nick Jackson gives the assist to Penta for the Fear Factor/Backpack combo on Hook and Cassidy. BTE Trigger on Penta gets the win for the Young Bucks.

Rating: ***I was really happy to see the Gunns have such a good showing here. This actually wasn’t the big clusterfuck tag some people were expecting, but it was suitably wild. The big question coming out of this is, who will the Young Bucks end up facing? We saw seemingly the final chapter of the Bucks/FTR rivalry at Wembley, so is this foreshadowing an Aussie Open victory later? Or will they actually use this opportunity in some kind of bait and switch to go after MJF and Adam Cole’s ROH titles?

Swerve Strickland vs Hangman Adam Page

Woah, fantastic look for Strickland tonight, the man looks like a megastar, and he is holding himself with a different aura. Ooooooh big heat for Hangman in Swerve’s House. Swerve takes early control and looks like he isn’t even breaking a sweat. Page gets the fallaway slam and pauses before the kip up, he knew he could milk that for boos, that’s great. Powerbomb on the apron to Swerve, Hangman holds on and powerbombs him on the edge of the barricade too! Big tope suicida to the outside on Swerve, and he works over the hand of Strickland, smacking it into the steel steps. Diving clothesline gets 2. Really nice strike exchange ends in a deadlift German from Hangman, and a flatliner from Swerve, rolling straight into a brainbuster. Stomp off the buckles from Swerve! House Call gets a 2, and the crowd is into this big time. Page on the apron, Swerve misses another stomp, Page goes for a Deadeye, but Swerve pulls him hard into the ringpost. But Page rallies back and gets the Deadeye on the steps! In the ring, Swerve avoids a Buckshot lariat and transitions into stomping the arm behind Page’s back. The docs attend to Page on the apron but Swerve continues the assault and nails a stomp on the apron!! 450 on the arm! But Page kicks out. Cross armbreaker…Page stops it from being effectively locked in, and gets his boot on the bottom rope anyway. Huge lariat and a deadeye attempt but Swerve gets the triangle hold, until Page hammers down on the damaged hand. Rapid German suplex from Swerve, misses a stomp, BUCKSHOT LARIAT from Page but he can’t cover! He eventually makes the pin but Nana places the foot on the ropes. Paul Turner sees him and tosses him from ringside. Hangman goes for another Buckshot but Swerve had a crown in his hand and smacks him…but Page gets the shoulder up!! House Call followed by a second House Call and the JML Driver allows Swerve Strickland to pick up the 3 count.

Rating: ****YES this was exactly what I was hoping for. Two guys going out there and using every second given to them. I loved Hangman targeting the hand early on, which came into play numerous times throughout the match. Thanks to the tainted victory, Hangman is still slightly protected, but this was a big win for Swerve, which hopefully establishes him as a main event player as he is on a gold streak right now. Strap that rocket to him, Swerve always delivers.

Ricky Starks vs Wheeler Yuta

Right off the bat we have some pretty hard strike exchanges between these two, they’re not messing around. Nice overhead suplex from Starks, but an enziguri from Wheeler keeps things equal. While Wheeler takes control, Big Bill makes his way out. Starks goes for a quick rollup but Yuta escapes, but is spiked by Starks with a tornado DDT off the ropes. Ro Sham Bo attempt misses, but he hits a huge powerbomb on Yuta for 2. Starks has a message for Danielson as he lays in the hammer and anvil elbows, but Wheeler fights out, only to be met with

Yuta shoves Starks off the apron into Bill, and then sends Bill into the ringpost. Wheeler gets his own hammer and anvil elbows and the seatbelt pin for 2. Wheeler goes for the bottom rope rebound, but Starks ducks it and gets the spear and a Ro Sham Bo for 3.

Rating: ***There’s the definitive win Starks needed after his losses to Danielson recently. Yuta wasn’t made to look a fool either, and he held his own, looking like he had something to prove.

Bryan Danielson vs Zack Sabre Jr

Am I ready for this?!

Zack avoids some early holds, and neither man allows the other to get an advantage. Both guys try to lock in abdominal stretches but they keep blocking it, that’s awesome. Stalemates abound here! EQUALS. ZSJ gets a surfboard, and goes straight into the stretch…but Danielson escapes and goes into a Romero special of his own. But Zack escapes and targets the recently broken arm of Danielson. First strikes of the match now as they trade uppercuts, with Dragon using the left arm…until ZSJ mocks him for it and Dragon uses the right! Oh but ZSJ stomps that arm, and Danielson is in bad shape. Arm wringer continues the assault, and some joint manipulation to add insult to injury. Danielson hits his moonsault escape and rolls into a single leg crab, but his arm stops him fully locking it in. Kicks to the back of the legs now, and a dragon screw on Zack, SHIT another dragon screw that looked HORRENDOUS in the best possible way. Sabre Jr in the tree of woe now, kicks to the midsection, then gets him up on the buckles. Hammer and anvil elbows while seated on the buckles! Zack yanks the left arm though, but Danielson with an avalanche underhook suplex! Dragon gets a single leg crab locked in but Zack makes the ropes. The leg vs arm story is classic stuff here. Zack ducks a Yes kick but Danielson swings round into another which catches him. He starts to stomp his f’n head in, and then sets up in the corner for the Busaiku knee, misses. European clutch! 1, 2, no.

Running knee in the corner but ZSJ into a pin, Danielson reverses into the Cattle Mutilation! No, Zack rolls out, into the armbar, cranking on the bad arm with joint manipulation too. Danielson leg whips into a knee bar now but Zack gets one of his own. They slap each other while their legs are locked, and boot each other in the face to try and escape. Uppercut to the arm on Danielson! Dragon goes for a backslide but doesn’t have the arm strength. PK to the arm!! Tilt a whirl Michinoku driver, into a huge submission from ZSJ, tied up like a pretzel. Danielson makes the ropes somehow!

Sabre Jr takes control with kicks until a roundhouse stops him in his tracks. Arms are trapped, stomps to the head, but ZSJ almost throws him into the juji gatame. Regalplex from Dragon! Busaiku Knee! 1, 2, NO!! Another one connects, allowing Danielson to get the 3 count.

Rating: ****1/2Does it need to be said? This was technical warfare at its best, and easily met the lofty expectations we all had for it. They were so smart to work in Danielson’s legit arm injury, as it was a natural target, and pairing it with offense focused on Sabre Jr’s leg provided a classic wrestling setup. They certainly didn’t hold back, and yet it still feels like they’d have a ton of material for a rematch. So yeah, let’s run this back ASAP.

Chris Jericho, Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi vs Konosuke Takeshita, Sammy Guevara & Will Ospreay

Early exchanges from Omega and Ospreay just reminded me how much I loved their matches earlier this year. We get a brief exchange between Sammy and Jericho, until Sammy flips the bird and tags out. Ich Ni San Dah, and we get stereo crossbodies from Jericho, Omega and Ibushi to the outside.

Don Callis Family all work over Omega, holding hands on the outside in a chain for leverage on an abdominal stretch. Omega tries for a tag to Ibushi but Sammy drags Ibushi off the apron, denied! Omega gets a tag to Jericho, and Jericho finally gets his hands on Sammy. Bulldog, and an abdominal stretch chain of their own. Tag to Ibushi! And we get some Golden Lovers action. Jericho in too, Bermuda triangle moonsaults from Omega and Ibushi, and a Lionsault on Guevara. Jericho goes for the Liontamer but Takeshita dumps him with a German. German to Kenny as well. And a Chaos Theory to Takeshita, Ibushi’s neck is non-existent. Jericho knocks Takeshita to the outside, Ospreay out too, and Kenny hits the terminator dive.

Spanish Fly to Jericho, pin for Sammy but no. Sammy immediately up and a shooting Star to the floor on Omega! Ospreay breaks up a pin attempt from Jericho, and Omega and Ospreay go face to face. Takeshita and Ospreay clean house. Sammy hits a codebreaker on Jericho but it only gets a 1 count! Don Callis Family beat down Jericho 3 on 1, but Ibushi is back up and he has that murderous look in his eyes. Palm strike to Sammy! Ibushi and Takeshita trade forearms, until a massive clothesline takes Ibushi down, but he comes right back with one of his own. Ospreay hurracanranas Omega to the floor and follows up with a sky twister press! In the ring, Jericho hits Ospreay with a judas effect, gets Sammy on the ropes, hurracanrana but Aubrey Edwards is distracted by Ospreay. GTH countered into the Liontamer but Don Callis in to hit Jericho with his own bat. Sammy makes the cover and gets the 3 count.

Rating: ***1/4We had some good combinations in this, and some fun moments, but the overall flow was a tad off. On the whole, everyone got their chance to shine, although Ibushi is still not the Ibushi of old just yet. Give us Ibushi vs Takeshita as a marquee attraction, and that might change.

[AEW Tag Team Championships] FTR (c) vs Aussie Open

Methodical start for the champions, until Davis comes in for a slugfest against Dax. We get both teams in the ring for a bit for some dual offense, leading to Fletcher and Davis smashing Dax and Cash into each other back first on the outside. I love AO’s assisted running powerbomb, always looks spectacular. Cash is playing the face in peril here, with numerous opportunities to tag cut off by the challengers. Biiiig back suplex off the top from Wheeler on Fletcher. Dax finally gets tagged in and almost takes Fletcher’s head off with a clothesline. And another! Davis and Dax lay into each other for a dose of big meat men slapping meat.

FTR try for a Powerplex but AO turn the tables and gets a Doomsday Thrust Kick. Oooh and now Aussie Open go for the Powerplex! But FTR reverse and get to hit their own move, only for Fletcher to crossbody onto Dax to break up the pinfall attempt.

Cash gets sandwiched by Aussie Open, they go for Coriolis but Dax bulldozes through Davis to stop the attack.AO with a Shatter Machine on Cash! Coriolis!! What a nearfall, Dax breaks it up. WTF Spiker piledriver on Davis on the apron!! Fletcher up top but cut off by Dax, SUPER SHATTER MACHINE on Kyle Fletcher allows the champions to retain.

Rating: ****1/4Another fantastic notch in the belt of FTR’s title reign. The crowd didn’t reach fever pitch like their first encounter in London last year, but this was thrilling and engaging throughout, with Aussie Open proving on a national stage that they belong in the upper echelon of the tag division. FTR continue their dominant reign, and commentary tell us that FTR/Bucks IV is on the horizon. I guess that clears that up!

[2 out of 3 Falls – TNT Championship] Christian Cage (c) vs Darby Allin

The story here is that Cage wants to expose Darby in a ‘wrestling’ match where Darby can’t rely on hardcore stunts, so naturally Darby shows off some technical prowess to begin. Haha Darby pulls up the turtle neck over Cage’s face, allowing him to get a jackknife pin to go up 1-0, that’s fantastic.

Darby Allin 1 – Christian Cage 0

Cage is pissed after that and begins a vicious tirade against Darby, throwing him hard into the buckles and raking the nose. Whiplash on Darby over the ropes, but Cage misses a splash and receives as Code Red for 2. Crucifix from Darby gets 2, and Cage dumps Darby to the outside.

Nice camera work when Nick Wayne’s mom distracts Cage, as Darby seemingly hit the tope suicida out of nowhere, smashing Cage into the barricade. Coffin drop attempt but Cage sends Darby careering off the apron into the announce table HARD.

Cage has positioned some steps on the floor, Cage delivers a falcon arrow to the floor, think he missed the steps there. They try again, Cage suplexes him on the edge of the steps, and then dumps him on the edge again with a modified body slam, that was sick. The doc attends to Darby while the referee makes the 10 count, and Darby can’t get to his feet.

Darby Allin 1 – Christian Cage 1

One fall apiece here as Cage starts to undo the cable ties around the ring apron. A stretcher has arrived for Darby, while Cage exposes the wooden boards underneath the canvas. So much for him wanting a straight wrestling match!

Darby is loaded onto the stretcher, but Cage climbs to the top rope and nails a frog splash off the top onto Darby!! Back in the ring, oh good Lord, Cage mails the Killswitch on the exposed boards, that was a loud crack as he hit it. 1, 2, NO! Darby kicks out! Spear attempt from Cage, misses, but he gets a Scorpion Deathlock, targeting the injured back of the challenger….but Darby gets the ropes.And Darby gets a Scorpion Death Drop on the boards. He heads up top, COFFIN DROP on the boards, but it only gets a 2!! He tries for it once more but Cage sweeps the legs, sunset flip powerbomb onto the boards. Cage goes for a spear, Darby moves but Cage drills Bryce Remsburg! That gives Cage an opportunity to hit a low blow and grab the TNT title. Nick Wayne runs out and grabs the championship out of his hands. BUT NICK WAYNE CLOCKS DARBY ALLIN with the belt! Bryce makes the slow cover, 1, 2…3! Cage makes it out of Seattle with the championship.

Rating: ****Cage is on another level right now, making everything look so purposeful and calculated. This worked well, with Darby bumping like crazy as per usual, and I liked that it was Christian introducing all the hardcore elements such as the steel steps and the wooden boards, having delusionally said he wanted to expose Darby in a straight up wrestling match.

Post-match, Christian Cage and Nick Wayne hug in the ring. Cage holds back Darby while Wayne talks trash, and he starts the assault. They both beat him down but STING is here! Sting cleans house but here comes Luchasaurus. 3 on 1 beatdown on Sting now. Cage has a couple of chairs, is he thinking conchairto? Yes he is…BUT THE LIGHTS GO OUT. Video package plays and RATED R is seen written on a road, is it him?!!

The lights come back on…YOU THINK YOU KNOW HIM!!! HOLY SHIT THEY GOT METALINGUS and it is him! The man formerly known as Edge is here! The Rated R Superstar is handed a chair and it looks like he’ll conchairto Sting, but he smacks Wayne with it instead. Spear to Luchasaurus! Spear to Wayne! Adam Copeland has arrived.


The final score: review Amazing
The 411
All eyes will be on this because of the Adam Copeland debut, and rightly so, but I do hope that doesn’t overshadow the consistently strong in-ring product tonight. There was a good variety on offer, with some big spotfests, technical masterpieces, and a sports-entertainment filled main event, providing a little something for everyone. Yes, these shows are long, and yes some of the fat could have been trimmed (that mixed tag on the Zero Hour was SO random), but we have four matches above four stars here, with a bonafide MOTYC in Danielson vs Zack Sabre Jr. Plus, if there is any justice in the world, this will likely be seen as the Swerve Strickland Coming Out Party, as he nailed everything tonight and is ready for the next level. By all accounts, tonight was a home run for AEW.

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AEW WrestleDream, Theo Sambus