Welcome to the AEW Grand Slam Night 1 Preview Roundtable, where Pro Wrestling Musings' contributors share their thoughts on the biggest talking points ahead of AEW's "Biggest week ever". PWM will be previewing Night 2 on Thursday before reviewing the week on Sunday, so keep your eyes peeled for that, and please not that writer's views are their own.
This week's contributors are:
1) In the most anticipated match for a long time, Bryan Danielson takes on Kenny Omega in a non-title match. What have you made of the fast build to this match? What are your hopes and predictions?
[Tim] I don’t mind the quick build to this as AEW already had a great venue in Arthur Ashe that’s going to house their attendance record, so why not give those fans a dream match? My hope for this match is that we get a 20-minute draw as neither man should lose this, but even more importantly neither man should win this. This can be the opening act to something tremendous.
[Craig] It’s fine because it’s what everyone wants! This match will be more like Omega/Page at Full Gear 2020 than Omega/Okada, but you will get another version of this match down the road.
As it’s not for the AEW World Championship, I’d expect it’ll have a 20- or 30-minute time limit. I don’t see either of these guys putting the other away within 20 minutes so that may be a tell as to how this is going straight out of the gate. I’m going out on a limb and saying it’s a 30-minute draw! A precursor to a multi-year series that’ll define the next few years in the same way as Page/Omega will.
[Peter] The traditional booking playbook usually says that Bryan wins the match to set up a Championship match down the line. But considering we saw this a month ago with Christian, I would be surprised if we saw the same here. This then leads to the popular option of a time limit draw, which is the smart play. Danielson comes out the next week and says if it had been an hour time limit, he would have won, and we get the championship match at Full Gear.
[Sergei] The important thing for me is that this is non-title: giving ANYONE, even Danielson or Punk, a World title match as their AEW debut would’ve been an intolerable violation of the storytelling conventions that we’ve been assured we can trust in. And that Danielson goaded Omega into this match: the World Champion is only in this position due to his own hubris, as it should be.
I expect that Kenny will avoid using submission holds against Bryan, out of wariness of the LeBell lock, much like he ceded throws and suplexes to Christian Cage due to concern about Cage countering into the Killswitch. I go into more detail about this in Styles Make Fights #28!
I have no idea who wins and I don’t think it matters, the ending of this match will be all about setting up the next match, any way you slice it.
[Shreyas] I am very excited for this match, and I agree that it should end in a time limit draw, with Bryan narrowly missing out on the win. Like he did with Christian, I expect Kenny to attack Bryan’s head A LOT due to his very public past of head injuries and Kenny’s head-oriented move set. I am expecting a fast-paced 20-minute sprint with both guys starting the match in the fifth gear instead of building it slowly, which would more likely be the case if, and when, we get a longer match between the two.
[Dan] It’s Kenny Omega versus Bryan Danielson. To be honest they could have announced it yesterday without either having interacted at all and I’d have been over the moon. As it is I’ve actually really enjoyed the build since Danielson’s debut. The two already have electric chemistry between them on the mic, and when we saw Danielson take down Kenny into the LeBell Lock it was one of the smoothest transitions I’ve seen for a long time…and that was just 3 seconds.
I agree with my esteemed colleagues that this will likely be a time-limit draw. But if that means we get 20 minutes of these two going back and forth before building to another match further down the line… you know what? I’m okay with that.
2) The result for Britt Baker vs Ruby Soho for the AEW Women’s Championship isn’t in much doubt, but with the sheer amount of energy these two generate in the ring together, what do you think will happen between them?
[Tim] Similar to Omega/Danielson I don’t know if a conclusion is right for this match. The difference being that this one is for the belt and I really don’t like non-finishes to title matches. Britt has been on a great run so I’m expecting her to retain here. Ruby can then work her way through the women roster as she works to get that title re-match.
[Craig] Similarly to the Bryan Danielson booking, the quick elevation of Ruby Soho into the sphere of a AEW Champion is earned by the booking of previous former WWE stars. Moxley, Miro and FTR have all had to work their way up the ranks. Therefore, booking Soho as the winner of a one-shot number one contender's match is both acceptable and not universe breaking.
Soho is the first woman in a while to share the ring with Baker and not feel dwarfed by Baker’s star power, so this match is almost a fresh step forward for the AEW Women’s Division. This is probably the second biggest match that AEW can put on in this much-maligned division only after the Rosa/Baker rematch.
[Peter] I see a very fun match with Britt taking the win with some help from her friends. I think it should open the show or the second hour, instead of being stuck in the traditional "women's quarter". This is one of the most eagerly awaited women’s matches in AEW history and I hope it gets the love that it deserves.
[Daisy] Whatever happens here, Soho needs to come out of it a top player in the AEW women’s division. These are two main event worthy talents and considering the hesitation to put women’s matches in main event spots for AEW, we need Ruby to stay on top and stay relevant in order to advance the division.
I think Tim is correct in saying that Soho/Bakers feud should not end at the bell. They have the potential for a huge long-term feud between these two similarly to Rosa and Baker’s rivalry. Now, I’m no expert on Ruby Soho, but I have gone back and watched a few of her matches in Japan and on the American indies respectively, and she still has a hell of a lot to pull out of her bag in AEW. There’s been rumours that Danielson/Omega will begin the show instead of main eventing it, and if that’s the case, this is the only other match on the card that should take that place.
[Dan] I’m actually not as confident that Britt walks away from this one with the win. Ruby Soho is on fire with the crowds right now, and their face-off on Rampage last week was absolutely superb. I just wonder whether AEW might capitalise on that heat and let Ruby run with whilst Britt hopefully completes the face-turn that her popularity warrants.
Ruby Soho can be excellent in the ring when not towing an awful company’s line, and Britt generally shows up in a big way for the big matches. So, this should be a superb match and I’m just so delighted to see Soho being given this well-deserved limelight.
3) There is a lot of fear online about Cody Rhodes defeating Malakai Black in their rematch. Where do you stand on this? What do you think should happen? What do you think will happen?
[Tim] Sometimes I get the feeling that Cody legitimately thinks he’s more over than he actually is. It’d be hard to argue otherwise because he still gets a great crowd reaction, but I think it could be argued that he’s not even in the top five of AEW faces. Black is new and cool and different. He should win here (albeit in more competitive outing than last time) but I’m only 50-50 in thinking that he will.
[Craig] Cody Rhodes is actually a very self-aware individual who is aware of his flaws. He knew he was beginning to get carried away with his ‘preachy’ promos, so had Black boot him in the face as he was winding one up. He also talks really openly and honestly in interviews. He doesn’t seem like he is playing at being a decent guy as are the vibes I get from some other wrestlers! He’s putting guys over to put guys over, and not to be seen as putting guys over.
PWMusings’ Styles Make Fights-guru, Sergei Alderman, has always been a supporter of Cody’s booking and how by being booked strongly and only putting over a few wrestlers, it actually works out better in the long term. By going over Penta and Ogogo, his loss to Black means a heck of a lot more. However, parallels have been drawn between this program and the Brodie Lee one last year. Perhaps this is another level to Sergei’s point?
Last time around Cody put over Brodie, elevating him magnificently but came back to complete the story. Brodie was more over than he was to before and Cody was able to carry the TNT Title on to Darby Allin. This time if Cody comes back and loses to Black, that puts Black over ever more, as the man who bested a revenge-driven Cody who had proven himself a difficult proposition over the last man that put him on the shelf.
[Peter] Just because Cody is the son of Dusty Rhodes, whose booking of himself in Jim Crockett Promotions was vomit inducing, doesn’t mean he’s like Dusty when it comes to the way he presents himself. Cody lost to MJF and hasn’t got his win back and may never will. Craig has already spoken about what he did for Brodie.
Cody is not the egomaniac that some want us to believe he is when it comes to how he works with other talents. He was one of the most important people in the evolution of Darby Allin and he helped multiple others during his TNT Title run last year. Malakai Black is winning on Wednesday. I’m very sure of it.
[Sergei] I think that there’s one aspect of this match-up that isn’t getting long enough shrift, and that’s that Malakai has utterly decimated the Nightmare Family, leaving Cody with none of the back-up and support he’s accustomed to. Will a lone wolf Cody be even more dangerous? Or diminished?
[Daisy] Give me a competitive match with a more determined Cody Rhodes, give me a Malakai Black win at the end of it, and give me a Cody heel turn after that. As Sergei said, the Nightmare Family is gone – fractured and split into a group of men who have been destroyed by Malakai’s boot or turned heel themselves as the Gunn’s have. There is no happy family there to greet Cody when he returns. They were left alone – to fend for themselves against a man whose only goal was to crush them, and their leader was nowhere to be seen, too humiliated in defeat to assist his 'family’.
Heel Cody is the solution to the past year of frustrating booking when it comes to the Codester and the Nightmare Family. The Gunns are already better off as heels and with a Hangman title reign just around the corner, the rest of the faction going with them woul