AEW Just Ruined A Perfect Championship Main Event

Momentum, stalled. Marquee feud, dead.

CM Punk vs Jon Moxley
Source: AEW

This week’s edition of AEW Dynamite was built and sold based around the huge CM Punk vs Jon Moxley unification match. However, fans were ultimately let down by a match that lasted under five minutes and wasted the momentum of a marquee main event contest. The match served only to prolong the feud between two of AEW’s biggest stars, utilising the ‘big fight feel’ to get people’s eyes on Dynamite this week and sell a last few tickets, hopefully it was worth sacrificing their most prolific main event of the year.

The match itself revolved around CM Punk’s lingering injury, starting fast and swiftly evolving into a squash-fest. Punk sold his foot injury after a roundhouse to Mox, building a story which could have made for a dramatic hour-long broadway affair. But this led way to Moxley hitting two of his Death Rider finishers, pinning Punk in front of an appreciative crowd in convincing fashion. Momentum, stalled. Marquee feud, dead.

CM Punk was hoisted up and helped out of the arena by medical staff while the commentators put over the effects of his injury. Speculation is that Moxley and Punk will meet again as part of the All Out main event, the spot which many had originally penned as their title unification match. In an ideal world, we’d all be talking about how excited we are for that main event in Chicago, how hot the crowd’s going to be for both champions, and that it will likely go down as a Match of the Year candidate. Now it’s just another match on the card, a chance for some 50/50 booking — a shambles. Reminding you of some pre-HHH era WWE yet?

AEW are quickly falling into the same pothole that WCW did back in the late 90s, giving away marquee matches on free television for the sake of popping a big rating. Granted, the Moxley/Punk title fight did draw one of the biggest TV numbers of their time on air, but will this equal the same numbers for All Out now that many have the impression that this feud has been well and truly won by Moxley?

Perhaps I’m overstating a tad here, but think back to the Hulk Hogan vs. Goldberg main event in Georgia, when Goldberg dethroned a dominant NWO-branded Hogan for the WCW World Title. It was huge and could have/should have been the main event of that year’s Starrcade. Alas, WCW needed to draw a few more numbers to sell out that particular arena, and to put over their new attraction in front of his home-crowd. The gun was jumped and barely anyone remembers the match 30 years later. Dare I say we’ll be saying the same about this match between Moxley and Punk in 30 years time from now? How it could have defined the turning of a new era, but was exploited for the sake of a weekly ratings boost?

Yes, of course, the marketing machine will get behind the Punk/Moxley rematch and make out like this is when the score will be settled and will be bigger and bloodier than their previous encounters, but will people care as much? This main event match could still go an hour, it could still result in both men being positioned as generational stars, but it will never shake the fact that it’s a sequel to a poor show.

The excitement of matches such as these is that you have two stars, two champions, at the top of their game. Nothing holding them back from having an instant classic, and showcasing what their promotion has to offer. Now, CM Punk will essentially be wrestling with a handicap, hindering the match from entering that next-level of quality that classics such as Steamboat/Savage, Hart/Michaels and Austin/Rock have had in the past. Will it be a great story in motion? Sure. But it won’t be the match we needed to see.

And let’s now assume that CM Punk walks into Chicago the underdog, and he then goes on to pick up the win. What position does that put Moxley in? The 50-50 curse will start to wear down Moxley’s aura of being the ultimate badass, he’ll be the first two-time AEW Champion, but only for a matter of two weeks when Punk then shares the same moniker. There’ll be nothing to distinguish one from the other, they’ll simply just be two wrestlers with the same accolades. Moxley was the guy that beat Punk in under five minutes, well Punk then became the guy that beat Moxley. When does one become the more deserving champion than the other?

If AEW were planning this all along, then surely they would have Punk back on the shelf again for a few more months, give Moxley another run of title defences, then bring a fully-recovered Punk back for the re-run. A two-week break between the two matches is not nearly long enough for this to become the equal footing (no pun intended) they need for a belter.

Or maybe I’m overthinking all this, and maybe they’ll have an excellent main event at All Out. I hope so. But I’ll never be able to shake the stain left behind by this throwaway encounter on Dynamite. A poor show indeed.

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