With the exception of the 24/7 Championship there’s nothing the WWE is doing that I’m interested in looking at. Fortunately in these, our modern days, it’s very easy to see random wrestling matches from around the globe and throughout history. Today, because it was on YouTube in full, I checked out the first AEW match ever contested: The Casino Battle Royal.
What’s a Casino Battle Royal you ask? It’s really quite simple! Five men start in the ring every [TIME UNIT UNKNOWN] a card suit is selected at random and the five competitors who drew that suit earlier in the day will enter the match. After all four suits have entered the match, the individual who drew the Joker card will enter the match. Eliminations come by throwing your opponent over the top rope so that both their feet touch the ground. The last competitor in the ring wins and will earn a chance to compete against the winner of tonight’s main event for the AEW World Heavyweight Championship.
The first five dudes in the ring are Dustin Thomas, MJF, Sunny Daze, Brandon Cutler and Michael Nakazawa. I only know about two of these dudes: MJF and Michael Nakazawa. MJF has a spoiled rich guy gimmick I guess and Michael Nakazawa is a weird pervert who used to(?) wrestle for DDT in Japan. Of the remaining three, Dustin Thomas is a dude with no legs, Sunny Daze is a big guy with weird facepaint, and Brandon Cutler is a nondescript dude in tights.
MJF heels it up early on, stomping on Dustin Thomas in the corner. Brandon Cutler makes the save and goes at it with MJF as Sunny Daze and Michael Nakazawa battle. Nakazawa gets caught in a waistlock by Sunny Daze. He then pulls out some baby oil and oils himself up to escape the hold. A couple minutes in and I’m already digging this more than any WWE stuff I’ve seen since Mania.
After an indeterminate amount of time it’s announced that the diamonds are the next group that will be entering the battle royal. This brings out Isiah Kassidy, Jimmy Havoc, Joey Janela and Brian Pillman Jr. who is looking like Brian Bosworth in the greatest movie of all time: Stone Cold. Fucking insanely good mullet! Outside of Kassidy I’ve seen all these dudes wrestle before. It’s wild to me that AEW’s got not one, but two dudes who are best known for wild deathmatch shit, but I guess that’s what’s left out there now that WWE is signing everyone.
Anyway Pillman with his good-ass mullet superkicks Isiah Kassidy on the ramp before getting in the ring. But wait, unless Penelope Ford is competing that’s only four dudes….
TEN! TEN! TEN! TEN!
The man formerly known as Tye Dillinger (now known as Shawn Spears) makes his AEW debut…which now that I think about it is true for everyone in this match since this is the first AEW show. The fans love yelling “TEN!” as Spears gets in the ring. You know who doesn’t like the number 10? MJF that’s who! He pokes Spears in the eyes and gives him the double deuce but Spears comes back with an Ushigoroshi and then we get more chants of “TEN!” from the crowd.
Another random-ass length of time passes and the ring announcer informs us that the hearts are the next group to enter the battle royal. While the previous group was the deathmatch group, this group is 90s wrestle guys since we get a swoll looking Billy Gunn and Glacier along with Luke Perry’s kid, Jungle Boy, a dude named Marq Quen and a big boy who loves to roughhouse named Ace Romero.
Jungle Boy comes flying in with a headscissors and then MJF gets in Glacier’s face and mocks him for white guy karate. Glacier responds by doing white guy karate on him. This fucking rules.
Sunny Daze sends Glacier out on to the apron but doesn’t eliminate him. He does, however, eliminate Nakazawa for the first elimination of the match. Joey Janela, meanwhile, is smoking a cigarette in the ring. The eliminations are coming fast and furious now as Glacier eliminates Sunny Daze only to be promptly dumped by MJF.
MJF is very pleased with himself and walks backwards into Billy Gunn. While they have a staredown we suddenly cut to Joey Janela whose cigarette has been stapled to his forehead by Jimmy Havoc with a staple gun. The fact that this happened in a match that Glacier was just in delights me to no end. If AEW can give me shit where white karate guys from WCW and luchadors and deathmatch dudes mix it up with the OWE kung-fu guys and 90s WWE musclemen on a weekly basis I will be there for it.
We go back to Gunn who tosses MJF over the top rope, but doesn’t eliminate him. Pillman comes flying in with a springboard clothesline that takes out Janela as he continues to wrestles with a still lit cigarette stapled to his forehead.
Another indeterminate amount of time has passed which brings in the final group, the spades which consist of the most random assortment of wrestlers ever assembled. We get Luchasaurus who I only know from those recent Undead Realm segments on IMPACT from earlier this year, Marko Stunt, a tiny little guy who wrecked his leg at that show where David Arquette became a deathmatch legend, Sonny Kiss, an openly gay professional wrestler, and Tommy Dreamer, a guy famous for eating gross shit. Again this is only four dudes, but the fifth spade would be explained later.
Stunt comes in and hits a neckbreaker. We’re at the point where there are too many bodies in the ring so they need to clear some dudes out. Romero hits a suicide dive through the middle ropes to take out a bunch of dudes on the floor to show that he’s a big man that can also fly. He then heads back in and and he and Luchasaurus trade strikes in the requisite STRONG STYLE BATTLE! Luchasaurus gets the worst of it and then gets hit in the face with a trashcan that Tommy Dreamer hurls into the ring.
Dreamer comes in and runs wild with the trashcan lid and then hits Jimmy Havoc with an Ace Crusher while the fans chant his name. Luchasaurus then hit Kassidy and Quen with double chokeslams. I guess those two dudes are a tag team known as Private Party. Shrug.
Another random-ass amount of time has expired which brings out the wild card: Hangman Page! He’s got a heavily taped up knee and kind of hobbles down to the ring to a huge pop and then proceeds to run wild in the ring, cleaning house with punches and lariats. He boots Spears in the face and then hits Jungle Boy with a fall-away slam.
Page and Janela then get into it with each other, trading forearms while MJF goes after Dreamer. Page spikes Janela on his head with the Deadeye. Romero sends Luchasaurus into the ropes but doesn’t eliminate him. Page then goes after Romero and attempts to lift him up, which is a bad idea. Page’s knee buckles and he goes down.
Stunt and Jungle Boy work together doing some small man double team shit on Romero, who counters with big fat guy stuff and just falls on them and crushes them. Stunt will not be denied though and hits the ropes to attack Romero. Unfortunately for him Romero hits the POOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUNCE (shades of Monty Brown) and sends Stunt flying out of the ring onto the Private Party guys out on the floor. I’m not sure if they got eliminated or were just taking a break or what. It doesn’t really matter though. Back in the ring, Jungle Boy staggers Romeo with a dropkick to the back and then manages to get him over the top rope and down to the floor to eliminate the big man.
Spears nails Janela with a DDT that leaves the Bad Boy in the perfect position for a 619. If only Rey Mysterio were here to answer that call. Rey Mysterio might not be in AEW, but Dustin Thomas, a man with no legs is and he’s going to answer that call! We get a legless 619 and then Thomas uses the ropes to hit a 450 splash on Janela. This is wild!
MJF, trying to cement the fact that he’s a douchelord immediately attacks Thomas and puts the boots to him. He then puts Thomas up on the top turnbuckle, but Spears comes in to make the save only for Thomas to grab a headlock and pull Spears over the top rope out to the floor. He apologizes to Spears and then is promptly eliminated by MJF.
Gunn nails Cutler with the Fameasser, but Cutler comes back and sends Mr. Ass out to the floor. MJF, proving to be the ultimate opportunist dumps Cutler out to the floor immediately afterwards.
Luchasaurus then goozles Joey Janela, hurks him up and chokeslams him through a table that was set up at ringside and out to the floor while Penelope Ford screams. This looked like bad times for Janela.
Back in the ring, Sonny Kiss went up top and got Tommy Dreamer in a head scissors and repeatedly smashed Tommy Dreamer’s face into his ass. Tommy Dreamer then eliminates him. Entrant #20 arrives several minutes after the final entrant made their entrance. It’s Orange Cassidy!
He unleashes a flurry of light kicks to Tommy Dreamer’s shins that the crowd goes apeshit for but Dreamer laughs off. Dreamer decks Cassidy and drops him, but Cassidy kips-up with his hands still in his pockets. Tommy Dreamer eliminates him as well.
Jimmy Havoc shows back up with his staple gun, stapling Dreamer in the face and then in the dick before eliminating him. Havoc then goes after Jungle Boy with the staple gun, but Luchasaurus puts Jungle Boy up on his shoulders and then he and Jungle Boy do some wacky double-team facebuster on Havoc.
MJF, again swoops in and tries to toss Jungle Boy over the top. Jungle Boy manages to hold on but Jimmy Havoc shows up and bites Jungle Boy’s fingers causing him to let go and fall to the floor. We’re down to our final four: Hangman Page, Jimmy Havoc, MJF, and Luchasaurus.
Havoc, Luchasaurus and Page all pound on MJF who rolls out to the floor. Havoc hits Luchasaurus with the Acid Rainmaker and then nails Page with a Death Valley Driver and a penalty kick to the chest. Page cuts Havoc off and sends him out to the apron where Luchasaurus boots him in the face to eliminate Jimmy Havoc.
Page sells his injured knee as he battles Luchasaurus. Page seems to have the upper hand though until Luchasaurus cuts him off and hits a sitout front slam. Page staggers to his feet over by the ropes and Luchasaurus charges him. Page low bridges the top rope and Luchasaurus tumbles out to the floor. The bell rings, but the match isn’t actually over since MJF hasn’t been eliminated yet.
He comes rushing back in and tosses Page over the top rope and then celebrates as if he had won. Page however managed to save himself. He then hit the buckshot lariat and tossed MJF to win the match and a shot at the AEW World Heavyweight Championship.
Page then limped up the ramp on his own.
Winner: Hangman Page
I think this was a decent enough battle royal. The gimmick of it I think kind of hurt the flow of the match since it didn’t really allow for as much, “New Guy Comes In, Gets His Shit In,” spots as a traditional Royal Rumble. While it did do a good job of introducing most of the guys that I assume will make up the lower and mid-card in AEW there were some guys who never really got any time to shine. Like that tag team, Private Party? I don’t think they really did anything except get kicked by Brian Pillman Jr. and catch Marko Stunt when he got hurled out of the ring. Since they were some of the guys I’d never seen before I wish they’d gotten a chance to show me something, but that’s a small nit to pick.
Overall, the right guy won this match and the match did a good job of making MJF look like the biggest fucking asshole in wrestling which I think is what they were going for. The stuff with Jimmy Havoc, Tommy Dreamer, and Joey Janela also served its purpose and let those of us watching know that this isn’t going to be PG-Era WWE stuff (though that point would be writ larger later in the night with the man formerly known as Goldust). While I’m not a huge fan of deathmatch wrestling, I am pleased that AEW isn’t shying away from it, or on the opposite end of the spectrum the comedy stuff with Orange Cassidy. As someone who loves the myriad of forms that professional wrestling can take I’m pleased that AEW seems all inclusive in that regard. [**¾]