Tony Khan's announcement of the inaugural Continental Classic on Collision caused the international wrestling community to explode. AEW fans have been asking for this since the company's inception. A round robin tournament similar to New Japan's G1 Climax.
So much of the fun with the G1 comes in the anticipation. Speculating over who will be included, what dream matches we might see and ultimately who will win. So why don't we do the same with the Continental Classic?
*The purpose of this article is not to set unrealistic expectations or to say "this is the best way to book the Classic". Simply a bit of fun and to act as an example for how the tournament will work.*
Fantasy Booking the Continental Classic
We have a rough idea of what the Continental Classic will look like. There will be 12 competitors split into two "leagues" of six. But beyond this a lot is still up in the air.
So far this is what we know of the schedule:
-Five league matches for each wrestler on Dynamite, Rampage & Collision over five weeks between November 22nd and December 23rd.
-League finals at Dynamite on December 27th.
-Tournament final at World's End on December 30th.
The league matches and tournament final are both fairly explanatory, but there's a few options for the "league final".
It could be that the winner of one league faces the runner-up of the other league. Similar to how most 'World Cup' formats play out in other sports. However, it could be that the league final is contested between 1st and 2nd place from the same league.
The latter option provides the possibility for rematches, which can make for interesting stories. However, the first option would give us a wider variety of match-ups. So, there are benefits to whichever option AEW go with. But for the sake of this article I will say it's the first option.
As of now we only know one competitor, Bryan Danielson, and for the sake of simplicity and booking I suggest having a "Dynamite League" and a "Collision League". With each league primarily having their matches on those shows, with the occasional match on Rampage.
Joining Danielson in the "Collision League" I have selected Jay White, Rush, Brody King, Darby Allin and Pac.
It's important to remember that these tournaments can't be a pure star-fest. Firstly, for logistical reasons. You can't have all your top stars taking multiple losses. But secondly, because these tournaments provide a brilliant opportunity for talents lower down the card to raise their profile.
But equally there should be a standard for the Continental Classic, to make it feel prestigious and "elite". For example;
Darby Allin is a multi-time TNT Champion. Jay White is a former world champion who will be fresh off headlining a PPV. Pac and Rush are established as a top talents who can push the best in AEW, but also are former world champions. Brody King is a monster who has held gold in AEW.
In the "Dynamite League" I've selected Kenny Omega, Jon Moxley, Orange Cassidy, Swerve Strickland, Konosuke Takeshita and Bandido.
Omega and Moxley explain themselves, as does Orange Cassidy at this stage. Swerve and Takeshita are on the rise and is being rewarded after an impressive year. Meanwhile Bandido is a former world champion and widely regarded as one of the best luchadors today.
The League Stage
As previously stated the league stage will take place over five weeks between November 22nd and December 23rd. AEW haven't said how these 'leagues' will be branded. Will it be like the G1 where you have "A Block, B Block, etc." or will they do something different?
I like the idea of a "Dynamite League" and a "Collision League". It just allows us as the audience to know when to expect each match and is branded nicely, so I've gone with that. Presumably some matches will also happen on Rampage, but for the sake of this article we'll ignore Rampage.
Kenny Omega takes on Jon Moxley in the first ever Continental Classic match. Acting as a rubber match in their iconic rivalry, with their record currently on 2-2. The perfect first match to make this tournament feel HUGE! I have Kenny winning this late on in what I am suggesting is a 30-minute time limit to get over the idea that draws can happen.
Swerve Strickland defeats Konosuke Takeshita in a competitive match whilst Orange Cassidy beats Bandido. Nice to get these "heel vs. heel" and "babyface vs. babyface" dynamics out the way whilst focus is on the stars.
Moxley responds to his loss in week one with a hard-fought victory over Swerve. Takeshita defeats Bandido in a competitive match. Spoiler alert: Bandido is here to take losses. I know, I love him too. But someone has to finish bottom and AEW clearly aren't that invested in him.
In the main event, one-on-one for the first time ever, Kenny Omega pins AEW International Champion Orange Cassidy (I am assuming in my fantasy booking that OC beats Moxley at Full Gear). The two shake hands before Swerve and Takeshita beat them down.
Dynamite opens with Takeshita defeating Kenny Omega in a match that once again tests the time-limit. Callis mocks Omega on commentary, saying he will never defeat Takeshita. Omega after the match congratulates Takeshita but vows to win the tournament, citing G1 experience to bounce back from this loss.
Swerve Strickland defeats Bandido before Orange Cassidy once again defeats Jon Moxley in the main event to cap-off their 2023 trilogy with Cassidy taking the 2-1 lead. This tournament can be a great way to put over talents whilst giving the "stars" an obstacle to overcome. Mox now needs to win all his remaining matches to progress, creating drama and giving him an obstacle to overcome.
A motivated Moxley gets the job done against Bandido, but it's much more difficult than he'd like. Meanwhile, Orange Cassidy and Konosuke Takeshita go to a 30-minute draw and Kenny Omega defeats Swerve.
With 2 points for a win, 1 for a draw and 0 for a loss, currently the table looks like this ahead of the final match:
Kenny Omega - 6 points.
Konosuke Takeshita - 5 points.
Orange Cassidy - 5 points.
Jon Moxley - 4 points.
Swerve Strickland - 4 points.
Bandido - 0 points.
Swerve and Orange Cassidy open the show and Strickland gets the victory over his long-term rival. Swerve holds up the International Championship, which leads to a match at World's End where Strickland wins the title.
Omega defeats Bandido, leaving a decisive main event. Moxley vs. Takeshita with the winner progressing to the 'League Final's in second place. After a close match where both men come close to winning, Moxley does eventually get the victory. Fighting back from a position where he looked out of the tournament to progress.
After running his mouth about how he's going to walk this competition thanks to his G1 experience, Jay White gets humbled in a somewhat shocking defeat to Darby Allin.
Rush fights valiantly to overcome the monster Brody King whilst Bryan Danielson defeats Pac in the main event. An absolute dream match for myself. (Also, I am aware Pac is currently injured. I'm hoping he will return by then).
After losing to Danielson Pac plays into his injury angle with heavy taping on multiple body parts, including his arm. Darby Allin takes advantage of this and pins Pac using the Last Supper pinning combination.
Jay White can get up to all sorts of shenanigans in his victory over Brody King. I think Jay really in matches where his character is forced to wrestle "smart", such as against a monster. Brody being over with the crowd allows him to take the babyface role for the night.
But in the main event Rush takes Danielson to the limit, securing a draw in what I can only imagine would be an amazing match given what the two did earlier this year.
Bryan Danielson vs. Brody King is essentially why I selected Brody for this match. Bryan always works great against monsters and I imagine he would do again here as he picks up a victory.
Rush defeats Darby to put himself in a commanding position in the league, whilst Pac beats Jay White in what is another personal dream match of mine.
Jay White's loss forces him to win by any means necessary against Rush, which he manages to do to put one foot in the finals. Meanwhile, after three consecutive losses, Brody King defeats Pac in a match where he displays great anger back in a heel role.
In the main event Bryan Danielson takes on his Washington state native Darby Allin for the first time ever. The American Dragon does secure the victory, but it comes very close to a draw, playing on Darby's debut match in AEW. A draw with Cody Rhodes. They shake hands before being attacked by Bullet Club Gold.
Currently the table looks like this ahead of the final match:
Bryan Danielson - 7 points.
Rush - 5 points.
Jay White - 4 points.
Darby Allin - 4 points. Brody King - 2 points.
Pac - 2 points.
Before his match with Darby Allin, Brody King vows to end Allin's hopes of progressing by destroying him. Which he does, attacking him before the bell and choking him out. This can lead into a Sting & Darby vs. House of Black feud, if you want. Pac also vows to play spoiler and backs it up, defeating Rush.
Meaning that Jay White just needs to draw to progress to the final, thanks to his head-to-head record over Rush meaning he'd qualify ahead of El Toro Blanco. The clock is ticking down, but late on White actually manages to defeat Danielson. A fact he can gloat about moving forward. But a loss that doesn't effect Bryan as he qualifies as the league winner.
This is how both leagues end meaning that the league finals are set as Kenny Omega vs. Jay White and Bryan Danielson vs. Jon Moxley. A clash of stablemates and of two former G1 finalists.
I really feel the inaugural tournament needs to feel blockbuster. But I wouldn't be opposed to someone like Swerve Strickland getting to this stage to elevate him.
Jon Moxley vs. Bryan Danielson
This match would open Dynamite as a rematch from their 2022 match which ended up forming the Blackpool Combat Club. The dynamics of BCC teammates Claudio Castagnoli and Wheeler Yuta would be an interesting sub-plot here. Potentially sowing seeds for a split in the group.
However, it would be Danielson getting the victory here, reversing the result from 2022 and leaving room for a potential trilogy match when/if BCC were to split.
Kenny Omega vs. Jay White
There's so much story to pluck from here with Bullet Club, G1 and New Japan history in general. So, I feel a big match in a tournament is the perfect place for these two to finally clash for their first singles match in over five years.
WI know you can see the picture below and you probably could have guessed this is where it was leading. With Jay holding a 1-0 record over Kenny, Omega will level that at 1-1 and progress to the grand final to face Bryan Danielson.
The Grand Final
This is the final that pretty much everyone is fantasy booking, for a reason. Bryan Danielson vs. Kenny Omega is THE dream match for this generation and after drawing at Grand Slam, a match where there simply MUST be a winner is the perfect hook for their second meeting in AEW.
There's also the question of "what does the winner get"? I think this should be obvious, although with AEW's insistence on devaluing 'The Owen' by not giving the winner a title shot of their choice (but then retrospectively using it to justify giving Willow Nightingale an undeserved, in kayfabe, title shot) - sadly it is not obvious. The winner should get a trophy and a title shot of their choice.
I won't bother fantasy booking anything about Omega vs. Danielson 2. But it will be a lengthy "classic" match which we know these two are more than capable of. It probably steals the "match of the year" conversation at the last second.
But Kenny Omega should win and should then dethrone MJF for the world title at Revolution and have the babyface championship reign that all his fans dream of. A reign where he can likely secure another "wrestler of the year" award.
What do you think? Who would be your 12 competitors and who do you want to win? Let me know on Twitter @Gareth_eno (I am really interested, love hearing people's fantasy booking for this stuff).