Would Moxley or Omega emerge as AEW Champion at 'AEW: Winter Is Coming?'
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AEW: Winter Is Coming promised for weeks to be the biggest edition of AEW: Dynamite ever.

The main event alone backed that up. Kenny Omega challenging Jon Moxley for the AEW Championship isn’t something that happens on just any show.

Besides the title match, the card showcased a battle between Cody and Darby Allin against Team Taz. And the first one-on-one meeting between Chris Jericho and Frankie Kazarian of SCU. Plus (and sit down for this) MORE DRAMA with the Inner Circle. And a showtime surprise nobody saw coming.

Temperatures were fittingly frigid in Jacksonville for AEW: Winter Is Coming. Could the AEW action warm things up? Let’s find out.

It was a free-for-all in the Dynamite Diamond Battle Royale at 'AEW: Winter Is Coming'

Dynamite Diamond Battle Royale

First up on AEW: Winter Is Coming is the Dynamite Diamond Battle Royale. MJF looks to make it to the final two for a second straight year. But this time he’s got his own Inner Circle teammates to contend with in the form of Wardlow and Sammy Guevara. What is it with AEW calling these battles royale? It’s a battle royal.

Mad scramble to start. Scorpio Sky and Shawn Spears jaw at each other on the outside before entering the match. MJF, Sammy, and Wardlow take their time getting in. Matt Hardy eliminates Isaiah Kassidy. Well that’s a heck of a way to treat your protoge. Meanwhile, Miro murders everybody and the Hangman works some inadvertent synergy with the Dark Order. OR IS IT? Luther gets eliminated by Silver and Reynolds. MJF saves Sammy from getting eliminated while Scorpio and Spears find each other. This is insane, organized chaos. I love it.

Spears pairs off with Matt Sydal and basically hits the AA, throwing him over the top and onto the entrance.  Scorpio chucks Spears while Matt Hardy go at it. On the outside, Tully hands Spears the loaded glove. He sneaks in and lays in a cheap shot on Scorpio, allowing Wardlow to score the elimination. Silver accidentally eliminates Reynolds. Quen and Hardy team up to eliminate Silver, and now Hardy and Hangman Page pair up. Hardy tries to toss the Hangman, but Page hangs on. Quen goes to knock him out, but the Dark Order catches him and throws him back in.

Just in time for Hardy to eliminate the Hangman. Orange Cassidy eliminates Kip Sabian. Sabian drags Orange under the ropes, and they brawl on the outside. Miro sneaks under the rope to continue the attack on Orange, throwing him into the ring post. Meanwhile, Miro destroys Joey Janela and Lee Johnson. He eliminates Johnson before catching Janela’s splash attempt and slamming him to hte mat. Now Miro and Hardy pair off, and Matt goes for the Twist of Fate. He tries to put Hardy over the top, but Quen helps him hang on. Quen goes for Silly String, but Miro intercepts and eliminates Hardy and Quen before taking out Janela.

The Inner Circle triple teams Miro, but only Wardlow stays standing. They slug it out (HOSS FIGHT, BAH GAWD!). Wardlow starts to stagger, but Sammy sneaks in a cheap shot from behind. Sammy and MJF hold him up for Wardlow to take him out with a vicious clothesline. All three Inner Circle guys put Miro over the top.

Final Four: Jungle Boy, Sammy Guevara, MJF, and Wardlow. Jungle Boy tries to make a superhero fight of it, with he and Sammy doing a tight rope on the apron. That was a cool sequence. Jungle Boy goes for a superplex, and MJF shoves both men over the top. It comes down to Wardlow and MJF, but Wardlow remembers that Orange Cassidy hasn’t been eliminated. Wardlow brings Orange back in. He goes to toss him, but Orange throws Wardlow into MJF, almost eliminating MJF. Orange hits the Orange Punch on Wardlow. Another on MJF, and a second one on Wardlow does the deed.

MJF and Orange Cassidy are the final two and will fight for the Dynamite Diamond Ring on next week’s AEW: Dynamite. That was brilliant, beautiful organized chaos. After the match, Miro and Sabian come back out, and they want a piece of Best Friends and Orange Cassidy. Incredible start to AEW: Winter Is Coming.

Winners:  Orange Cassidy, MJF

Match Rating:  *** 3/4

Chris Jericho took on Frankie Kazarian at 'AEW: Winter Is Coming'

Chris Jericho Vs. Frankie Kazarian

AEW: Winter Is Coming rolls on. Speaking of Old Man Winter, here’s Chris Jericho. I got jokes, you see.

They lock up, and Kazarian hooks an armbar, but Jericho escapes. Kazarian goes for a couple kicks. He gets Jericho in a side headlock. Jericho tries to hook a waistlock, but Kazarian holds on. Le Champion goes for a backdrop, but Kazarian hits a drop toe hold into a wicked uppercut followed by a rollup for two. Back to the headlock. Jericho escapes and hits a shoulder tackle and an eye poke. Because heels are wonderful. Chop city from Jericho to Kazarian followed by an Irish whip into a standing dropkick. But Kazarian drapes his upper half on the apron before hitting a jumping legdrop.

Jake Hager runs out and beat Kazarian down. Kazarian fights him off and gets back inside only to walk into a Codebreaker. Jericho drapes Kazarian over the top rope and charges him with a shoulder tackle. Le Champion owns Kazarian during the commercial break. We return to Jericho hitting a standing suplex. More chops from Jericho. Jericho slugs him out in the corner. He whips Kazarian into the opposite corner, but Kazarian manages to get a backslide for two. A succession of clotheslines from Kazarian followed by a diving elbow puts Jericho on the mat. He goes for a dropkick, but Jericho evades and goes for the Lionsault, but it misses. Kazarian gets his own moonsault off the ropes, but it only gets two. He props Jericho up on the top turnbuckle and goes for the Flux Capacitor superplex, but Jericho kicks out.

Kazarian throws a mini tantrum. He tries to set Jericho up for a destroyer, but Jericho goes for the Codebreaker. But Kazarian catches it and locks in the Walls Of Jericho. But Ortiz and Hager run interference on the apron. Jericho almost makes the ropes, but Kazarian drags him back. Hager tries to wave Ortiz off. MJF comes out with a towel, but Sammy runs out and disarms him. Jericho makes the ropes while the Inner Circle bickers on the outside. While Jericho catches Sammy with the towel, Kazarian sneaks in with an inside cradle for two. Kazarian comes off the ropes right into the Judas Effect, and Jericho picks up the win.

This was perfect TV wrestling. A PPV quality match at AEW: Winter Is Coming and a catalyst for advancing the Inner Circle’s story.

Winner: Chris Jericho

Match Rating:  *** 1/2

After the match, Sammy and MJF get into a shoving match while Hager and Wardlow have to be split up. Jericho demands his team stop the infighting. He’s had enough, and next week on AEW: Dynamite the Inner Circle will either work out their issues or they’ll break up.

MEANWHILE!

Alex Marvez interviews the Young Bucks backstage, and Nick makes me laugh out loud. “You remember when we superkicked you in the face?” Heh.

The Bucks offer TH2 a non-title match on next week’s Dynamite. If they win, the Bucks will give them a title shot. The Acclaimed break up the interview and cut some lame rhymes about boners. I don’t know what I just watched. It’s like I’m watching bad WWE programing, and I don’t need that in my life.

Matt astutely points out, “Didn’t someone already do this gimmick?” TH2 comes from behind and beats down the Bucks. I could’ve done without the lame rap stuff, but solid segment. Kazarian and Christopher Daniels make the save for the Bucks.

Britt Baker battled Layla Hirsch at 'AEW: Winter Is Coming'

Dr. Britt Baker, DMD (W/ Rebel) Vs. Layla Hirsch

Hirsch and Baker battle it out on the mat with Hirsch getting the upper hand early on AEW: Winter Is Coming. And Hirsch maintains control with a side headlock into anarmbar. Baker reverses and gets a snapmare into a side headlock of her own. But Hirsch reverses into a cross-armbreaker.

Baker escapes and kicks Hirsch square in the face. DDT from the good doctor. She kicks Hirsch while she’s down during the commercial break. A fisherman’s suplex scores, but Baker doesn’t go for the cover. Instead she stomps Hirsch’s throat into the bottom rope. She props Hirsch up before kicking her throat-first into the rope. Baker keeps up the attack on Hirsch. But Hirsch fights back with some shots to the chest of Baker followed by a release German suplex. She goes for the cover, but Baker rolls out of the ring.

Hirsch works up a head of steam and goes for a tope suicida, but Baker pulls Rebel in the way. While Hirsch checks on Rebel, Baker sneaks in with a sling blade on the outside. Baker gets up on the apron and goes for a kick. Hirsch catches the boot, but Baker stomps it down on the apron. Baker drags Hirsch back up onto the apron and just tosses her onto the mat. She sets Hirsch up for a suplex, but Hirsch hits a bicycle kick into the cross-ambreaker. Baker reverses into a cover attempt, but Hirsch doesn’t let go of the hold. The doctor tries to reverse into the Lockjaw, but Hirsch gets the armbreaker back on.

Baker gets to her feet and goes for a kick to the midsection, but Hirsch gets a knee to Baker’s head. Hirsch goes up to the second turnbuckle, but Rebel runs interference. Baker slams Hirsch’s face into the second turnbuckle followed by a neckbreaker. Baker cinches in the lockjaw, and Hirsch immediately submits. But before the bell can even ring, Thunder Rosa runs in, and they brawl in the ring. A gaggle of referees rush out to break up the right. Hirsch gets a measure of revenge on Rebel with a German suplex, and Baker and Thunder Rosa go right back at it.

This was an awesome segment on AEW: Winter Is Coming. Not the best match in the world, but not bad either. And damn good TV.

Winner: Britt Baker

Match Rating:  **

Cody Rhodes and Darby Allin looked to settle the score with Team Taz at 'AEW: Winter Is Coming'

Cody Rhodes & Darby Allin (W/ Arn Anderson) Vs. Powerhouse Hobbs & Ricky Starks (W/ Taz)

Pier Six to start. After the bell, we get Cody and Hobbs. Cody hits a dropkick, sending Hobbs to the outside. JR, because he’s JR, calls for picture-in-picture break. Instead, we just cut to break regular-like. Without picture-in-picture. Well, even AEW: Winter Is Coming isn’t immune from those JR moments.

Back from break, and Darby and Cody double-team Starks. Cody hits an inverted standing vertical suplex. Starks tries to crawl to safety, but Cody pummels him in the corner. Ricky breaks free and lays in a couple chops, but Cody puts him down. He cinches an armbreaker and tags Darby back in. Darby keeps working on the arm, but Starks smacks himself free before escaping to the outside. Darby pursues but walks into a huge clothesline from Hobbs. Hobbs beats Darby down and chucks him into the barricade a couple times. Of course, JR knows his football history. Because JR.

On the inside, Hobbs tags in and gets to murdering Darby. He hits a delayed vertical suplex and does some pushups for good measure. Some creative sign language for Cody. Starks tags back in, and they double-team Darby. Ricky goes for the cover, but it only gets two. Now Starks goes for a headlock, but Darby fights to his feet only to take a knee to the gut. Starks hits a scoop slam and tags Hobbs back in. Hobbs grips Darby with a reverse bear hug on the mat. Darby tries to elbow himself free, but Hobbs hits a backbreaker.

Starks tags back in. He whips Darby into the corner, but Darby evades a splash attempt. Darby hits a reverse elbow at the same time that Starks gets a shot to Darby’s face. Both guys are down and crawling to their corners. Starks gets there first, and Hobs stomps down on Darby’s back. He picks Darby up for another bearhug. Darby breaks free for an instant, but Hobbs won’t let go. He tosses Darby to the heels’ corner, and Starks stomps on Darby’s throat. Darby escapes again, only for Hobbs to throw Darby across the ring by his ears. Yeesh.

Hobbs tags Starks back in, and they double-team Darby in the corner. Then Hobbs whips Starks into Darby, but Darby escapes. Both heels go for backdrops, but Darby uses them to leapfrog to his corner. And CODYMANIA IS RUNNIN’ WILD, BROTHER! Cody hits a powerslam on Starks. Arn and Taz cause a distraction on the outside. He hits a Disaster Kick to knock Hobbs to the outside. Cody goes for Crossroads, but Starks evades. Rhodes hits the Cody Cutter and tags in Darby, who hits the Coffin Drop on Starks for the win.

That was a killer tag team match. Maybe not quite PPV quality, but it was solid action and solid storytelling.

Winners: Cody Rhodes & Darby Allin

Match Rating:  *** 1/4

After the match, Team Taz beats down the babyfaces. Arn runs in, because he’s old and stupid, so the heels beat him silly. Dustin Rhodes runs out to make the save, but Brian Cage comes out to equalize, and the heels are running roughshod over the good guys. Okay, if we’re being honest, Arn looked pretty good all things considered.

Hobbs goes to attack Cody with the FTW belt. And then the thing AEW: Winter Is Coming will be remembered for. The lights go out. And for the first time in 19 years, I hear Tony Schiavone say something I never knew how much I missed.

“IT’S STING!”

Yes. Sting is back. And he gets a pop that makes the 750 people in attendance sound like a crowd of thousands. The Stinger, baseball bat in hand stares down Arn. Then he stares down Dustin. He gets super close, face-to-face with Cody. But it’s Darby that gets his special attention. Sting seems particularly interested in Darby. That. Was. Awesome.

Wherever this goes, it’s bound to be big. I don’t know how hard Sting can go in the ring anymore. The guy’s 60 years old. But I can’t wait to see where it goes.

MEANWHILE!

Backstage, Alex Marvez interviews Hikaru Shida. He wants to know why Shida was hesitant to attack Abadon last week. The AEW Women’s Champion says she’s not scared of Abadon or anything. And then she hears something rattling off-camera before immediately running away.

Okay. That was weird and dumb.

Moxley cuts a promo comparing the AEW: Winter Is Coming main event to two wizards on a mountaintop shooting lightning at each other. Nice moment, as he promises he and Omega will make the crowd go “banana,” a lovely little tribute to the late Pat Patterson.

Kenny Omega challenged Jon Moxley for the AEW Championship at 'AEW: Winter Is Coming'

AEW World Championship Match: Jon Moxley (C) Vs. Kenny Omega

Don Callis sits in on commentary again. Okay, that’s cool for the personal touch. The guy’s friends with Omega. But the world at large doesn’t know or care about that.

Justin Roberts’s into for Omega just keeps getting more obnoxious. Throw in some lines about him having the greatest perm mullet in the galaxy, and we’ve got a sure winner. Moxley walks right past the spot where he got beat down a couple weeks ago on AEW: Dynamite on his way to the ring.

And the main event of AEW: Winter Is Coming is on! They go nose-to-nose to start. Omega offers a handshake, Moxley less-than-politely declines. They lock up, and Moxley goes for the bulldog choke early, but Omega gets to the ropes. Another lockup. Omega gets a waistlock and goes for a side headlock, but Moxley reverses and gets to his feet. The challenger breaks free and cinches in an armbar. Moxley rolls through to escape, but Omega turns it into a rear chinlock. The champ gets to his feet and puts Omega down with a back heel trip. Nice.

A test of strength is teased, but Omega gets the side headlock again. Moxley breaks free and hits a shoulder tackle into another chinlock takedown. Omega pushes Moxley into the corner and hits a jab to the midsection. Now it’s chops in the corner from Omega. Moxley brushes it off and hits a couple elbows before clotheslining Mox in the corner. Omega hits a standing rana, sending Moxley to the outside. He goes for the Terminator dive, but Moxley catches him with a uranagi. Omega ends up on the apron, and Moxley clotheslines him to the floor.

The champ follows, and they brawl on the outside. Omega whips Moxley into the barricade. Moxley reverses another whip attempt, but Omega gets a foot up on the barricade to avoid the contact. That’s okay, but Moxley hits a German suplex onto the floor. Moxley rolls inside to restart the count before bashing the challenger into the barricade again. Now he tosses Omega over the barricade. Omega tries to escape, but Moxley gives chase. The brawl continues into the stands, where Moxley chops away at Omega. Omega tries to get a second wind and chops back, so Moxley throws him into the empty seats.

Moxley drags Omega back toward ringside. Omega gets back into it with a dragonscrew leg whip followed by the Kotaro crusher. It only gets a two-count, though. Now Omega puts the boots to Moxley in the corner. Omega stays on the attack, using the ropes as leverage to put torque on Mox’s bum knee. The challenger builds up a head of steam and hits a dropkick on Moxley’s knee. Omega goes for an attack in the corner, but Moxley explodes out of the corner with a clothesline that turns Omega inside out. But it puts more pressure on Moxley’s bad leg.

The challenger gets a knee bar from a horizontal base and gets the champ down on the mat. Moxley gets to the ropes, and Omega breaks the hold. But the assault on Moxley’s knee continues. Omega hits kick after kick on the leg, supplemented by the occasional chop. The challenger lifts Moxley, but Moxley pushes him off and hits a release German suplex. Mox goes for another German, but Omega breaks free. Moxley hits a pump-handle exploder for two. Mox gets another near fall, but he just keeps making his knee worse.

Both guys are on their knees, and they slug it out on the mat. They finally fight back to their feet. The brawl spills back to the outside. Omega baseball slides into Moxley before hitting the Terminator plancha. The challenger puts Omega back on the inside, but Moxley blocks a splash and hits the Paradigm Shift. But Moxley won’t cover. He goes to the outside and grabs a couple chairs and throws them into the ring. Mox sets the chairs up and invites Omega to sit and have a conversation. They punch at each other while in the chairs.

Omega gets punched out of his chair, and he comes back with the V-Trigger, followed by a snapdragon suplex. He hits another snapdragon. Omega goes for another snapdragon, but Moxley hits a release German. The challenger hits a standing V-Trigger, but Moxley counters with a HUGE lariat. Mox hits another Paradigm Shift, and Omega kicks out! Omega rolls out of the ring for a breather. Moxley goes for a tope suicida, but Moxley hits a V-Trigger in mid-air. Holy crap! Omega tosses Moxley back in the ring and heads up top. He hits a missile dropkick, catching Moxley in the back.

Moxley takes a knee to the back of the head and into the turnbuckle, followed by Tiger Driver ’98. And Moxley kicks out. Omega goes for the One-Winged Angel, but Moxley blocks. The champ goes for the bulldog, but Omega dodges it. Omega hits the ripcord V-Trigger. He goes for the OWA again but has to settle for an inverted German for two.  Omega heads up top for the Phoenix splash. Moxley goes to push him off, so Omega jumps to safety before he can. The fight spills to the outside, where Moxley hits a V-Trigger on the space heaters at ringside.

The referee and the doctors tell Moxley not to touch omega. Callis comes down from the announce desk to check on Omega. But Moxley is done waiting. He tosses Omega back in the ring and keeps pummeling at Omega’s head. Callis gets on the apron with a mic and begs the referee to stop the match. Moxley turns around and slugs Callis, but he slips Omega the mic. While the referee is trying to get rid of Callis, Omega hits the champ between the eyes with the microphone. That opens Moxley up, and Omega hits four V-Triggers, the last one driving Moxley’s head into the turnbuckle. The challenger lifts Omega and hits the OWA to win the title at AEW: Winter Is Coming!

I could’ve done without the screwy finish, but that was great. The finish kinda leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but an awesome match is an awesome match no matter how you slice it. Callis and Omega make a run for it. The camera follows them into the parking lot. Marvez asks Callis what’s going on, and Callis says you’ll find out on Tuesday on Impact Wrestling.

Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.

Winner (And NEW Champion): Kenny Omega

Match Rating:  **** 1/4

The Breakdown

There was not a bad match on this card. Every one of them had a big-fight, PPV feel. They were good-to-great TV matches, but most weren’t quite PPV-quality.

But in pro wrestling, how the show felt is what it’s all about. And AEW: Winter Is Coming felt like the biggest show of the year. With the return of Sting and the crowning of a new AEW Champion, how could it not? I’m still annoyed with the finish to the main event. It’s a poor way to start a title reign. And a lame way to end Moxley’s almost-300-day reign. Yet even that isn’t the point.

The point is that when AEW: Winter Is Coming, the world felt different.

AEW: Dynamite airs Wednesday nights at 8 PM/ET on TNT. And, well, I guess it’s worth saying that Impact Wrestling airs Tuesday night on AXS at 8 PM/ET.

All images courtesy of All Elite Wrestling.

'AEW: Winter Is Coming'

9.3

In-Ring Action

8.8/10

Booking

9.2/10

Storytelling

9.7/10

Entertainment Value

9.3/10

Pros

  • IT'S STIIIIIIIIING!
  • The Inner Circle drama comes AFTER the super awesome wrestling; that's how it's supposed to work
  • The Battle Royal was lovely organized madness
  • Solid night of in-ring action across the board

Cons

  • Super lame finish to the main event
  • This "Shida is scared of Abandon" stuff is weak
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