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AEW Collision and Forbidden Door Notebook

I said this back in October when AEW first had a pair of TV tapings in Toronto, but the company REALLY needs to step up its merchandise game when it opens up a new-ish market. Not only were the handful of T-shirts they sold for Collision incredibly expensive ($40-80 Canadian), but nothing was a must-buy for me. And remember, I literally write about wrestling merchandise for a living! On to the shows....

I attended Collision on Saturday night with my 14 year-old daughter (her first live wrestling show ever), and it was literally on a last-minute whim. Tickets for the event weren't selling great, and I was able to secure eighth-row ringside for a decent price. However, after watching a bit of the pre-show ROH taping, we moved to the 100 level to get a better and more comfortable view.

It was fun to watch the interaction between Sting and Chris Jericho, and while Tetsuya Naito was an interesting choice as Sting and Darby Allin's partner, I'm not certain they needed to wait until the night before to make that reveal.

Swerve Strickland vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi was barely passable as a TV match. I wonder if was just a clash of styles or what, but the crowd wasn't into it. Literally the best part of the segment was MJF's post-match interview, which wasn't even in person.

Andrade vs. Brody King was probably the highlight of the show; two competitors working incredibly hard to get the crowd going. I'd definitely watch these guys again, and even my daughter was impressed with some of the bigger spots.

Willow Nightingale vs. Nyla Rose was just a match, and felt incredibly skippable. This ended up being a theme for Willow's matches this weekend.

The Christian Cage and Luchasaurus segment was fun for what it was, and great to see Christian get the Toronto crowd turning against him.

The main event of CM Punk, Ricky Starks and FTR against The Gunn Club and Bullet Club Gold was a decent one, though it just seemed a bit rushed for all the talent in the ring. Note that Punk was only receiving a mixed reaction on this first night.

Overall, Collision was a very skippable show and nothing incredibly memorable.

Forbidden Door had a COMPLETELY different vibe to it the following night. Not only was the place very close to being sold out, but everyone in the building was super-amped to be there. AEW did have a better selection of merchandise the following night, including some event-specific shirts, autographed turnbuckles and a few New Japan flags... but still nothing I wanted to drop a lot of money on.

Come on AEW, you're leaving money on the table here! Bring a better selection fo merch next time!

The opening match between MJF and Hiroshi Tanahashi was a great choice to kick things over. MJF is incredibly over in Toronto; everything he did got a great (albeit negative) reaction. But watching him live, you can see all of the little things he does right, including facial expressions and movements. Very cool to watch.

Unlike the previous night's show, CM Punk was roundly booed out of the building. The fact that he appeared to be confused by the boos made it all the better.

Punk's match with Satoshi Kojima certainly wasn't match of the night or anything, but the crowd was VERY into booing Punk, which made for a really fun spectacle. I'm really hoping AEW takes the hint from this reaction and books Punk accordingly.

The four-way match for the AEW International Title between Orange Cassidy, Zack Sabre Jr., Katsuyori Shibada and Daniel Garcia was incredibly fun and non-stop action. Everyone had their own role to play and this was honestly my second-favorite match of the night. So incredible!

Jack Perry vs. Sanada was decent but nothing special. The turn on Hook felt incredibly telegraphed and honestly, I'm not sure why he turned on the guy in the first place!

The 10-man tag team match between The Young Bucks, Hangman Page, Eddie Kingston and Tomohiro Ishii against Jon Moxley, Wheeler Yuta, Claudio Castagnoli, Konsuke Takeshita and Shota Umino was a lot to take in (like, couldn't we have done a straight tag team match here with fewer bodies in the ring?), but it was decent action all the way through. Absolutely shocked that Moxley didn't bleed, nor did anyone else. Kingston's hatred of The Elite was a bit tough to take after a while, but didn't detract from what a largely fun and frenetic tag team match.

Willow Nightingale vs. Toni Storm was quite literally the bathroom break match, with massive lineups of fans clamoring for the restroom during this one. It's sad that women's wrestling in AEW just isn't on the same level as it is in WWE, despite having a very talented roster. A champion vs. champion match should have been presented with more prestige than this one.

Kenny Omega vs. Will Ospreay was easily the best match I've ever seen live, and possibly ever. So many great and heartbreaking moments in this one throughout the course of the near 40-minute match.

The crowd were chanting "Fight Forever" during many moments of the show, but this was a match where we could have taken it seriously. It was that awesome and had this hang-on-the-edge-of-your-seat momentum the entire time.

The only part we in the crowd were a bit confused by was how Don Callis was ejected from ringside, and then showed up later as though nothing happened. I suspect there was an on-camera explanation, but again, it made it confusing for us watching live. Still, this was a dream match from beginning to end and the clear show highlight.

Good luck with anyone trying to follow that match, and in this case, it was Sting, Darby Allin and Tetsuya Naito vs. Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara and Minoru Suzuki. Le Suzuki Gods have a great act together, but this match felt a little thrown together and not as crisp as some of the other bouts. I kept waiting for Sting to get in his "crazy old man" spot and it never came. It did look as though he supposed to escape the table spot and maybe that's where things went sideways. Definitely not a bad match, but not the highlight of the night by any stretch.

Bryan Danielson and Kazuchika Okada would have been MUCH better had it gone on third from last instead of last. Don't get me wrong, it was a REALLY good match, but it had two things working against it. First, the crowd was exhausted by then. You could hear a pin drop, which is never a good thing for your main event. And second, while some of the sequences were great, they couldn't come close to matching Omega-Ospreay.

Throw in the "out of nowhere" tapout finish (which I've since read is a huge deal) and it made for an underwhelming finish to the show. A lot of people felt that way, as you saw a ton of fans exiting the building just before midnight, clearly disappointed the match had ended the way it did.

Overall, this was a fantastic show, but I do wonder if it could have been even bigger with some proper promotion behind the key matches and fewer multiperson matches?

Oh, and better merch - can't forget that!


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