Years from now, when fans look back at All Elite Wrestling’s 2021 edition of All Out, they won’t just remember one of the most incredible nights in professional wrestling. Still, they will gain a deep appreciation for the nonconformist storytelling that led the way.
AEW owner Tony Kahn did things on Sunday night that the rules of booking 101 prohibit. Every veteran, booker, and experienced hand worth their salt would not have debuted four new acts on one show, much less two of them in the same segment.
One on loan from Japan and the other three officially signed, sealed, and “All Elite.”
Suggesting such an idea would have been met with a standard retort of spreading out each debut over several weeks to maximize incoming star power. Others would offer a typical reply of “That doesn’t make sense,” common rhetoric in wrestling locker rooms when met with outside-the-box thinking.
Conventional wisdom says having Minoru Suzuki (New Japan loan), Ruby Soho, Adam Cole, and Bryan Danielson début at the same event would dilute the impact of their respective premieres.
Fans would forget about the wrestlers who appeared before, only remembering the final surprise of the evening. It’s a logical conclusion. However, it had never been tried on such a large scale. Debuting multiple new stars at once has as many opportunities to fail as it does to succeed.
This promoter wouldn’t have done it before All Out. However, the creative ingenuity of Tony Kahn coupled with two highly experienced and talented performers made it work to a rousing success in the closing moments of the show.
Adam Cole, whose NXT contract expired nine days prior, reunited with his best friends in The Elite, followed by Bryan Danielson (formerly Daniel Bryan) coming out to save the day. It’s crazy to think that five months earlier, Bryan was in the main event of WrestleMania.
The blockbuster event was sold on CM Punk’s in-ring return after a seven-year absence. In a jarring sight, Punk donned long tights and defeated Darby Allin in a fun match that did everything it was supposed to do; firmly establish that CM Punk is back while making Allin an even bigger star than he was before.
An elect few were disappointed with the match. However, anyone who expected Okada vs. Omega level work from Punk out of the gate was destined for disappointment. Wrestling is a weird beast where there is no substitute for live ring time.
Every match on the All Out card produced an unforgettable moment that fans won’t soon forget. Miro beat Eddie Kingston in a great opening bout to retain the TNT Title. A judgment call by the referee cost Kingston the match, making the inevitable sequel even more intriguing.
Jon Moxley versus Japan continued as multi-time world champion Satoshi Kojima made the trek across the pond. Kojima didn’t wrestle like a 50-year-old as he and Mox slugged it out at will. Kojima delivered all of his trademark moves but, in the end, Mox needed two Paradigm Shift DDTs to finish the Japanese legend.
A fun outing became a distant memory when ‘Kaze Ni Nare’ blasted through the NOW Arena’s sound system. Minoru Suzuki had arrived. The former King of Pancrase lived up to his fierce reputation by choking out Mox and laid him out with a Gotch piledriver.
Suzuki was the first of many surprises that evening. It felt like a Marvel/DC crossover seeing resident badass of AEW and New Japan Pro Wrestling duking it out. Thankfully we don’t have to wait long for the match as it will headline tonight’s episode of Dynamite.
Before pinning Kris Statlander to keep the Women’s Championship, Britt Baker popped the crowd inside Chicago’s NOW Arena with a Pittsburg Sunrise, effectively teasing the arrival of her real-life partner, Adam Cole.
The Lucha Bros toppled The Young Bucks in arguably the greatest Steel Cage Match of all time. Before the 30 minutes of non-stop action, Muelas de Gallo performed the Lucha Bros’ entrance music. Their mini-concert flanked with Lucha masked choir singers rocked the house, hinting at a title change.
“HI BRYCE” encapsulated the joy of Ruby Soho winning the Women’s Casino Battle Royal. Much like the joker card she “drew” to be the final entrant, she was discarded just as often in her past life as Ruby Riott.
Soho received a thunderous ovation despite the predictable nature of her debut, won the match, and embraced referee Bryce Remsberg with a big smile and an even bigger hug.
Despite some misses throughout the Battle Royal, including the puzzling misuse of local favorite Skye Blue, in the end, it didn’t matter. After years of chasing an imaginary brass ring, Ruby Soho finally received the admiration and respect that her passion and talent deserve.
Chris Jericho finally beat MJF after losing three straight matches against the young upstart. Jericho put his career on the line to get one final crack at his rival. However, controversy reared its ugly head when Jericho was pinned due to referee Aubrey Edwards not seeing his foot on the rope.
AEW has maintained its strict stance on sticking to stipulations, but a foot on the rope would have served as an acceptable loophole for Jericho to return if the decision stood. There was to something poetic about Jericho’s favorite referee accidentally costing him his career.
Another referee informed Edwards about her mistake, Edwards started the match, and Jericho went old school with the Lion Tamer to make MJF submit. The routine “referee’s decision is final” rule has never made sense because it pretends that instant replay doesn’t exist.
Jericho’s career is too big to let an arbitrary rule run its course. The restart was the key ingredient in the whirlwind of emotions the audience experienced throughout the match.
The cool-down portion of the program saw Paul Wight (Big Show) make short work of QT Marshall. AEW has been trying to make QT a thing for a few months. It hasn’t worked, and it won’t work either. The match made great use of the mantra less is more.
Kenny Omega beat Christian Cage to retain the AEW World Championship in a match that had to follow not just the fantastic steel cage match but all of the other awesomeness on the show. If anyone could have stolen the show in such a predicament, it would be Omega and Christian. It didn’t happen, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Omega and Cage pulled out all the stops and told an intriguing story in the main event.
Some of the legendary nights etched on the Mount Rushmore of pay-per-view events are WrestleMania 17, AAA: When World’s Collide, ECW: One Night Stand’ 05, and WCW Bash at the Beach’ 96. This past Sunday, AEW added All Out to this illustrious group of game-changing wrestling shows.
While no one can predict the future, the wrestling business feels like a different place, like a better place, after All Out. If AEW can capitalize on the momentum in the weeks and months ahead, we would have witnessed the genesis of the industry’s next big era. Even if that doesn’t come to pass, at least for one night, professional wrestling was exponentially fun again, leaving an indelible impression on the soul.