AEW’s All Out pay-per-view, which aired on Sunday night, delivered on all of the hype: it had huge debuts, great storytelling, and the in-ring return of CM Punk. And yet it peaked not with a show-stopping promo or finisher, but through one of the most basic elements of wrestling: a simple kick-out.
The moment occurred during a tag-team match between the reigning and reviled champion Young Bucks and their beloved challengers, the Lucha Bros. All of the ingredients were there for a classic match: a crowd that was hyped up enough to go ballistic, four men who are among the best at tag-team wrestling in the world, and a big-ass cage, which wrestling fans understand to mean there is violence on the way.
The single best part of the match, and of the show, and maybe of AEW’s entire run, came about 75 percent of the way through: the Bucks were beating up on Penta El Zero Miedo and Rey Fenix, and they eventually went for the pin. Everyone in attendance had to have known that the match wouldn’t end like that, but that didn’t stop the 10,000 people in the crowd from erupting when Fenix broke up the three-count at the last millisecond. Even with a hot crowd, in a huge moment, this kind of reaction is not a common sight, and it is the most accurate representation of how invested the crowd was in these two teams:
The Young Bucks get a lot of shit for their style as a team—if there is a symbol of modern wrestling’s obsession with acrobatic stunts that perhaps look a bit too fake, also known as “flippy shit,” it is the Bucks—but Matt and Nick Jackson understand that they can draw on the audience’s hatred in service of a story. For all of their high-flying and childish trolling, the Bucks understand that wrestling stories are simple: You have bad guys, good guys, and the friction between what the audience wants and what it is seeing. It’s why Matt Jackson can take time out of a bloody match to reveal a shoe with a bunch of thumbtacks sticking out of it, lick it, and then slam it into his opponents’ faces.
If the Bucks are the perfect bad guys, then the Lucha Bros were the perfect heroes for this particular Chicago crowd. Penta and Fenix are, like the Bucks, brothers in real life, but they draw their power from their “tweener” status. Essentially, they can play both good and bad guys, depending on who they are feuding against, and they do both well. Fenix might be the most athletic wrestler in the world, and he’s unafraid to throw himself off of very high things for the sake of a moment. The finishing sequence of the All Out match was one such moment:
In the end, AEW, as it so often does, gave the people what they wanted: the good guys triumphing over the villains to finally win the title that had eluded them throughout their entire run in the company. They also proved that putting on a great show isn’t just about how many dangerous or acrobatic moves can be packed into a single match. The narrative arc and performances matter just as much, and when those things are present, you can end up with a crowd losing its shit over every single maneuver, no matter how complex or basic.