I’m generally not what one calls squeamish. Horror is my favorite movie genre, John Carpenter is my favorite director, yadda yadda. That said, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a fight involving barbed wire, bombs, and one known by the ever so pleasant moniker “deathmatch.” Jon Moxley vs. Kenny Omega would be my first time experiencing one. All I knew was what I saw in magazines as a kid, and yeah, it looked no bueno.
All that led to me feeling a tad anxious last night (March 7) with more than a few questions. How often would I have to turn my head? Would I lose points for only watching some of it? How violent were these two cats really going to be? But I never questioned the match’s ability to hold my attention. Then it started, and I was legitimately on the edge of my seat.
The bombs and barbed wire turned the suspense and tension inherent in a wrestling match to 11. I’m not ashamed to say I grimaced more than a bit when Mox and Kenny battled to determine who would taste steel first. And every time the bombs almost went off when either guy narrowly missed colliding with the ropes, I thought about picking up a book or turning on my PlayStation to keep me distracted.
And then it hit me why this is different than watching Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger slice and dice their latest victims. These are guys I care about and know as fully-fleshed-out characters. Seeing someone on the regular brings a sense of familiarity and humanizes them. It’s not the violence I’m wincing at so much as it’s who bears the brunt of said violence. Kenny Omega is a jerk, but I don’t want to see a trail of his flesh from the ring to the locker room. Wrestling at its highest of highs creates empathy, even for the bad guys. On that front? Job well done.
From that point on, I was hooked. Still nervous with my stomach in more knots than a shoe store? Of course. But the story of two guys doing whatever is necessary to keep the other down showed their hatred for each other and their love for AEW’s most prized possession. The match played into both of their psyches as well.
Kenny willing to dish out as much punishment as inhumanly possible while keeping himself somewhat clean in the process. And Moxley willing to sacrifice himself if it means taking the champ down with him. His Paradigm Shift into a freaking bed of barbed wire, along with putting his foot on a bomb rigged rope to break up a three-count serving as the best examples of that mentality.
Horror movies have moments of fun or calm in between the violence. This match? Not so much. Watching Mox ever so gingerly remove himself from a barbed wire trap or Kenny cry out for water after a bomb explodes in his face are visceral moments. This may come as a shock, but I have no experience with either of those scenarios. But I don’t need to experience falling out of a building to know it sounds less than ideal. And instances like that kept coming once the first bomb exploded.
Like any horror fan worth his or her salt, I know the importance of nailing the ending. Heels doing heel things to win? Dope. Omega still can’t claim a clean W over Mox. Their rotten blood will keep boiling even while Jon is away. Eddie Kingston coming to rescue a man he clearly loves despite their issues? Also dope.
Storytelling is like meat on a bone: not a single bit of it should go to waste. The bombs were set to blow even though the match ended. And nary a soul wanted to help Jon Moxley except for the man he used to call “friend.”
My palms were soaked. Was the ring really going to blow up with these two huddled together? Is the wrestling ring going to collapse? How exactly does this work? AEW used Eddie and Jon’s history to underline the seriousness of the situation.
Only it turns out it really wasn’t that serious.
Kingston sold it like a scene from Apocalypse Now, but the “explosions” had more in common with that 4th of July celebration from The Sandlot. On second thought, that’s probably unfair to The Sandlot. The ending did a disservice to everyone involved, with Kingston looking the silliest.