I saw in the 100 section near the hard cam inside the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, this past Saturday for AEW Collision. There was a fan in front of me who that anytime CM Punk was mentioned or appeared – promptly held his phone up with one hand and put his middle finger up with the other. The split between Punk descenders and enthusiastic fans who went to war with each other in a barrage of chants throughout the entire light. For every harmony of Punk’s long-storied entrance music, Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality,” cardboard signs popped up claiming he was “Worst In The World.” It came to a fever pitch in the main event when Punk tagged with Darby Allin vs. Ricky Stars and TNT champion Christian. It was fun and probably what AEW is banking on with their Saturday night show a month in.
It’s hard to believe in fate when dealing with a physical art form with pre-determined outcomes. The last time AEW came to the Prudential Center, it was in 2022’s Full Gear pay-per-view, and on that show, The Elite (Matt & Nick Jackson and Kenny Omega) made their trios return after their almost two-and-a-half month suspension due to the infamous backstair brew-ha-ha at All Out. While they returned with Kansas’s “Carry On Wayward Son” in tow, the other party was met with a mixture of reactions.
Some are going to love him. Some will hate him, and CM Punk, in his AEW second act, seems to be taking it all in with stride – even reveling in it. When you watch AEW Collision, you’ll notice that things are different – the pace is slower, matches are allowed to breathe a bit more, and there’s an emphasis on letting the promos unfold naturally. When AEW was started four years ago, it was meant to counter WWE’s grandiose sports entertainment brand. With Collison, it feels like the company has built its alternative within being the alternative. Is it an island? Well, the show's headliner acknowledged on the June 21st episode of Dynamite that he wasn’t supposed to be there.
Part of AEW faithful look like they’ve found a home on Collision. 2023 Owen Hart tournament winner Ricky Starks opened the show with a pyro display that would make Cody Rhodes proud. The House of Black was able to further their feud with Andrade. What do you know? The TNT title was on the network it was supposed to be and a multi-layered story between Christian, Luchasaurus, Darby Allin, and Scorpio Sky. The members of Bullet Club Gold have a stronghold to grow their brand. Even the women’s match between Taya Valkyrie and Skye Blue had considerable time to have a match and set something up for Dynamite.
Dynamite has a certain expediency in how it goes about attacking the middle of the week. Collision doesn’t choose to be perfunctory with its meticulous nature. Instead, it embraces a rather 80s, Saturday Night Main Event feel to its brand. Before the show started, AEW owner Tony Khan asked the crowd by a show of hands who had been to a show in the Prudential Center before. A good amount of people obliged. With college football season just around the corner, Collision has challenging terrain to battle. Not only is it the particular night when people partake in whatever fun they choose, but an Ohio State vs. Michigan State matchup is something you can just brush off. Not to mention the various UFC cards and boxing matches planting their flag that night.
Despite all that, Collision is banking on those who like their penchant for a slower week-to-week build anchored by a veteran who never took the chip off his shoulder. – it might be wild enough to work.