Thoughts on AEW’s Blood & Guts Match

I haven’t written about pro wrestling in this space for a long time for a very simple reason – I haven’t been watching much wrestling in the first place. I found any and all wrestling extremely hard to get into during the early days of quarantine, so for the most part, I didn’t try. I have still found occasion to sneak in an episode of Dynamite now and again, and as a huge fan of the old school War Games matches, I considered this week’s Blood & Guts match required viewing. I enjoyed it for the most part, but there were a few things I found less than ideal.

First, the match was too long. In the original War Games matches, the wrestlers went at each other a lot harder during the initial period, when the teams take turns entering. Once everyone was in the ring, the Submit or Surrender portion lasted about five minutes, give or take. At the risk of becoming a “They Changed It, Now It Sucks” guy, I must say this original, faster match pacing is superior. It keeps the crowd hot and it keeps the match moving at all times. Wednesday night’s match went on a good 15-20 minutes after everyone was in, which meant that it dragged both during the initial periods and the Submit or Surrender portion. There was never a catastrophic slowdown, and I understand the temptation to try a longer version of the match, but I think a quicker tempo would have helped the match a great deal.

Also, I don’t think this match gimmick is a great fit for free TV. The commercial cutaways were a drag, made worse by the fact that the Picture-In-Picture had a curious tendency to disappear after about a minute or so. Thinking back on the match, I also felt that the wrestlers themselves didn’t seem to know when they were live and when they were in a commercial break. Normally, I would think the referees would be responsible for communicating this info, but since the match format demands they be stationed outside of the cage, this was infeasible. This is how we ended up seeing an MJF beatdown that went on a little too long, then come back from commercial having missed a canvas-ripping spot. Doing the next Blood & Guts on PPV would fix this. The refs wouldn’t have to communicate anything, since there’s no commercial breaks, and the wrestlers wouldn’t be under any compulsion to stand around stalling.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the post-match shenanigans, which saw Chris Jericho dramatically thrown from the top of the cage on to a pile of very obvious crash pads. I do not and cannot begrudge the decision to make the bump itself as safe as possible; the whole point of pro wrestling is that even the stuff that looks dangerous is to be done as safely as possible. That said, those crash pads could probably have been made less obvious, and coming off the heels of Revolution and the Exploding Barbed Wire fiasco, this felt like a much lesser version of the same problem. AEW wants to pull of dangerous looking, violent stunts, but struggles to make these stunts both safe and cool-looking. Frankly, I think the best solution to this problem is not doing these kinds of spots, but, since I sense they’re going to keep trying them anyway, I hope they’re able to find a way to polish the presentation of their big stunts.

I thought the finish itself was great, though. The right team won for the right reasons, giving MJF another chance to shine as a total bastard. He’s really good at it! All told, the first Blood & Guts was great, violent fun. Here’s hoping the next one is shorter, tighter, and on PPV. ****

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