There are nights in professional wrestling that will forever be remembered. The formation of the NWO at WCW’s Bash at the Beach 1996, and Mankind winning the WWF Championship on the January 4, 1999 episode of Monday Night Raw are two that come to mind for the way they changed the landscape of wrestling and turned the tides in the “Monday Night War.”
On September 5, 2021, AEW joined those ranks with the dynamic-changing pay-per-view event that was All Out, becoming one of the most talked about shows in recent years and one that has the potential to start the next great era in professional wrestling. With CM Punk’s return to the ring, the debut of Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan in WWE), and so much more, there are plenty of reasons AEW All Out 2021 is a show that will be remembered for a very long time.
CM Punk Wrestled His First Match In Nearly Eight Years
Going into AEW All Out 2021, CM Punk hadn’t wrestled since January 2014 at that year’s Royal Rumble, a break of nearly eight years. A little more than two weeks after making his much-talked-about AEW debut in front of a sold out crowd at the United Center in his hometown of Chicago, and challenging rising star Darby Allin to a match, Punk showed he still had it in the ring.
Much like the 1994 match between the 1-2-3 Kid and Bret Hart to which it was paying homage, the bout between CM Punk and Darby Allin was a great technical affair with several standout moments over the course of 16 minutes. Even though, going into the match, it seemed like CM Punk was going to win, the two competitors added a level of unpredictability to the contest, making it seem like Allin could pull out the upset and rain on Punk’s parade.
Adam Cole Came To Shock The System By Teaming With The Elite
For the past couple of years, there has been no bigger name in NXT than Adam Cole, and so it came as a huge shocker and blow to WWE when reports began to circulate in late August 2021 that the former leader of The Undisputed Era had not signed a long-term deal with the company and would possibly be leaving once his short-term extension wrapped up. Episodes of AEW Dynamite and Rampage came and went but the former Bullet Club member was nowhere to be seen. Then came the aftermath of the All Out 2021 main event and AEW Champion Kenny Omega’s speech about being the best.
It seemed like Adam Cole was coming back to get revenge on Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks for turning against him in 2017, but the 2019 Pro Wrestling Illustrated Wrestler of the Year instead attacked Jungle Boy (Luke Perry’s son) and embraced his former stablemates, kicking off another reign of dominance for the heel stable. But, then came another surprise…
Bryan Danielson Came And Now Gets To Be A Wrestler Again
The final few minutes of AEW All Out 2021 was one of the greatest stretches of time in modern professional wrestling, especially for how it ended. Just as Kenny Omega, Adam Cole, and the rest of The Elite were gloating in the middle of the ring, a familiar song began to play: “Ride of the Valkyries” aka Daniel Bryan’s original WWE theme. But this time it was Bryan Danielson (the former WWE Champion’s real name), and he was fired up as ever.
Daniel Bryan was one of the top faces and typically worked a safer style for WWE. Bryan Danielson, however, was an absolute maniac during his time in the indies, saying stuff like “He’s going to get his fucking head kicked in” before taking out opponents. After fending off The Elite and closing out the show, Danielson spoke to the press about his debut and was back to being his ruthless self again, saying he was “gonna kick their fucking heads in,” regarding his opponents.
AEW Actually Delivered On The Promise That All Out 2021 Was Worth The Price
Leading into All Out 2021, AEW owner/president Tony Khan appeared on Sitting Ringside with David Penzer (via WrestlingNews) where here said he couldn’t give too much away but that there would be “some indelible moments” before promising a great show. Every wrestling promoter going back to the early 20th Century has made comments like this in order to sell tickets, but Khan actually delivered on that promise better than just about anyone else in the modern era.
Sure, fans who scourge online dirt sheets and message boards were confident that Bryan Danielson, and Adam Cole to a lesser degree, would show up, but it was done in a way that made millions of wrestling fans feel like kids again seeing their favorite WCW wrestler appear on WWF, or the other way around.
Tony Khan proved that if you promise something and actually deliver on that, you won't have fans for a night, but fans for a lifetime.
All Out 2021 Was The Night The Dynamic Changed In The Modern Wrestling War
Earlier I said AEW All Out 2021 was up there with WCW’s Bash at the Beach 1996 and the January 4, 1999 episode of Monday Night Raw where Mankind took the WWF strap from The Rock. As hyperbolic as that sounds (remember, this is wrestling), it’s the honest truth, and this could very well be the event that changes the direction and momentum of the wrestling business. I mean, when longtime WWE superstar Mick Foley is weighing in on the situation and AEW is getting covered by the likes of ESPN and Sports Illustrated, it’s safe to say that AEW is more than just an alternative to WWE.
This isn’t to say WWE is going to go out of business anytime soon (that’s never going to happen), but AEW is quickly becoming the premier destination of professional wrestling for wrestlers and fans alike.
AEW has yet to release the official number of pay-per-view buys from All Out 2021, it’s safe to say the event was a resounding success for the company and has, in turn, helped make the company’s cable shows — Dynamite and Rampage — must-watch TV going forward. Plus, where else are you going to see Bryan Danielson kick someone’s head in on the 2021 fall TV schedule. The new golden age is here!
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Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.