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MJF returns at AEW All Out, earns CM Punk world title match

Maxwell Jacob Friedman has returned to All Elite Wrestling and has a date with two-time world champion CM Punk.

The polarizing young star made his return after a more than three-month absence after Punk defeated Jon Moxley for the AEW title in the main event of All Out at the NOW Arena in Chicago on Sunday night. It provided the final image fans hoped for to close a mixed-bag show that was still more good than bad.

AEW has its top homegrown star back and they made it feel like a big deal as MJF’s fantastic story with Punk – its biggest imported star — is set up for one more chapter.

Here are five takeaways from All Out:

Give the Devil His Due

MJF’s return story has actually been playing out for a while and we didn’t quite see it. Stokely Hathaway, who managed MJF early in his career, has spent the last few months handing out his business cards and assembling a team that included Lee Moriarty, Colten and Austin Gunn and William Morrissey. We finally found out why. The group hit the ring in black hooded outfits during the Casino Ladder match. Hathaway revealed himself after climbing the ladder and grabbing the poker chip. He then waited to hand it to “The Joker”, who arrived in a white devil mask as The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy to the Devil” played. The Joker, who now has the right to a future AEW world championship match, failed to reveal himself – for now.

Punk and Moxley went on to have a bloody and physical world-championship-caliber match in the main event. “The Best in the World”, who had lost to Moxley in less than three minutes on “Dynamite” two weeks ago, fought through everything – even a Death Rider finisher that he kicked out of. It took consecutive Go to Sleeps from Punk – the second seeing him lift Moxley up from his knees — for him to win back the belt. Then the lights went out.

MJF returned at All Out to confront CM Punk.

A voice mail from AEW president Tony Khan to MJF then played saying his absence was really hurting the company and he would pay him an amount that was bleeped out if he showed up to All Out for the Casino Ladder match, and that he would not have to sign a contract extension. This was his last chance. The beef MJF had with the company, both in storyline and potentially in real life, is that he wasn’t happy with his contract and that led to him asking Khan to fire him on TV back in June.

After the call played, a clip of CM Punk from Ring of Honor saying he’s a snake and “the greatest trick the devil ever played was pretending he didn’t exist” – something MJF said to Punk in a promo of his own. MJF then came on the screen and revealed himself as the Joker by putting his signature scarf on. His music hit and stepped on stage to a huge pop and chants of MJF – in Chicago of all places.

He then signaled to Punk that he is coming for his belt. Other than maybe having MJF’s new crew attacking a bloody Punk in the ring, that segment was handled well. The question now is, does AEW do that match in Queens for Grand Slam on Sept. 21 or at Full Gear at Prudential Center, announced for Nov. 9.

Hanged out to Dry

The predictable trios championship tournament feels like it was worth it for the excellent storytelling that continues to be done around The Elite. The match saw Kenny Omega back in full form, sans a compression shirt, and wrestling like it. There was even a moment where Omega and “Hangman” Adam Page dragged one of their partners back to the corner so the two can tag in and face off for the first time since their AEW world championship match at Full Gear last November.

The Elite celebrates winning the AEW’s trios championship.

The finish was the chef’s kiss. Page – who was a late sub to the Dark Order team — saw an opening to hit Omega with a Buckshot Lariat, but instead hit teammate Jon Silver. Omega pounced for the pin to crown he and the Young Bucks the inaugural champions as a distraught Page could only console Silver. If you were hoping for Page to reunite with The Elite, it appears that will have to wait with plenty of intrigue around where this story goes next.   

Jungle Joyless

“Jungle Boy” Jack Perry and Christian Cage had crafted one of the best stories heading into All Out and the payoff – at least for one night – felt like a huge letdown. Cage, who was slapped by Jungle Boy’s mom sitting ringside, came out with a shirt that read “Worked everyone.” We proceed to see Luchasaurus turn on Jungle Boy by power bombing him onto a steal grate on the stage and then through a table.

Jungle Boy mustered enough strength to start the match, kicked out after Christian speared him but not after a Kill Switch. This feud didn’t need more heat. This part of the storyline could have been done months ago leading into the match. The only way to somewhat fix it is to have Jungle Boy go over at Grand Slam. There is not need to drag this out even more.   

That’s Low

Chris Jericho just couldn’t help himself. After having an answer for every hold Bryan Danielson had for him – showing off what Stew Hart taught him – Jericho still needed to cheat to put “The American Dragon” away. With Jericho face first with ref Aubrey Edwards, who was backed into the turnbuckle, the “Lionhart” delivered a low-blow kick the Edwards didn’t see. He transitioned that into the Judas Effect elbow for the pin and win – one that didn’t sit well with protégée Daniel Garcia. Garcia, who idolized Danielson growing up, told Jericho he didn’t need to cheat win prior to the match.

Chris Jericho celebrates his victory over Bryan Danielson.
All Elite Wrestling

In a backstage segment afterward, Garcia said Jericho disappointed him and Jericho felt the same before the youngster didn’t participate in celebrating the win. Jericho then told him he and the Jericho Appreciation Society won’t be out to support him when he faces Wheeler Yuta for the ROH Pure title Wednesday on Dynamite.

Questionable Call

This AEW world tag team title match exceeded expectations and had the most controversial winner. The Chicago crowd was fully behind The Acclaimed as Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland showed some heel tendencies attacking Caster’s leg – though he was able to lift up Lee later on. This had some fantastic false finishes, including the Acclaimed coming within a half count of becoming champs. The crowd hung on every one of them. Lee and Swerve eventually hit their finisher to score the win for a match of the night candidate. The Acclaimed are clearly the top babyface team in the promotion outside of FTR and it happened organically. Many thought Khan should have called an audible, but I think it will only add to when Caster and Anthony Bowens to become champs.

Other All Out Matches 

Jade Cargill over Athena to retain the TBS championship.

Cargill may have had the best ring-attire of the weekend with a She-Hulk-themed look. The match felt like a time casualty on a stacked card. She defeated Athena pretty easily and quickly after it looked like the challenger had her beat from the jump before Cargill’s Baddies pulled her out of a pin. Cargill’s 37-0 unbeaten streak is cool, but the it just feels like this eating babyfaces without leaving them looking better – especially when her feud with Athena was built or months.

Toni Storm over Dr. Britt Baker, Jaime Hayter and Hikaru Shida to become interim AEW women’s champion.

The bulk of the storytelling was done around Baker and Hayter, the two friends in the match. Baker pulled Hayter off a pin attempt that certainly looked like it would have resulted in a win. Hayter, who eventually kicked out of a pin attempt by Baker, chided her friend for costing her the belt. It opened to door for Toni Storm, who was reportedly was supposed to dethrone Thunder Rosa before the champ had to pull out because of injury. Storm hit both Hayter and Baker with DDTs to win her first world title in a major U.S. promotion. It allows AEW to do Storm vs. Rosa, but the moment itself felt less than.  

Toni Storm celebrates winning the interim AEW women’s championship.

Sting, Darby Allin and Miro over The House of Black

Yes, there was some storytelling here in a fun match as Sting repaid Malaki Black by spraying him with the black mist as he was ready to connect on the Black Mass kick. It led to Allin pinning Black as a disinterested Miro played no part as he walked back up the ramp. There were reports on Twitter that Black, who had said to how asked for his release because of his booking and to work on his mental health, hugged the rest of his teammates, took a bow and blew the crown a kiss. This finish makes more sense if Black is moving on.

Powerhouse Hobbs over Ricky Starks

The fact Hobbs won so quickly and easily was one of the more stunning results of the night. Hobbs quickly went to work on Stark’s once-injured neck and dominated the match. He caught his former Team Taz partner off the ropes for an emphatic spinebuster for the win. If AEW has Starks fight from underneath to eventually beat Hobbs, both could end up coming out winners.   

FTR and Wardlow over Motor City Machine Guns and Jay Lethal

This match, while solid, could have easily been a big Dynamite attraction, but it got us to two pretty fun moments. First Samoa Joe, the ROH Television champion, returned to aid the winners after the match. Second, Dax Harwood’s 8-year-old daughter Finley – who has recovered from a real-life heart ailment – got to pin heel manager Sonjay Dutt, who has mocked her dad’s promo when he revealed her past illness as part of the storyline.

Zero Hour Pre-Show Results

  • PAC over Kip Sabian (AEW All-Atlantic championship)
  • Hook over Angelo Parker (FTW Championship)
  • Sammy Guevara and Tay Melo over Ortiz and Ruby Soho (Triple A Mixed Tag Team championship)
  • Eddie Kingston over Tomohiro Ishi

Biggest Winner: MJF, The Acclaimed

Biggest Loser: Athena

Best Match: The Acclaimed vs. Swerve To Our Glory

Grade: B

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