Professional wrestling and swerves go together like pork and beans. By its very nature as a continuous artform, wrestling requires surprises to maintain engagement and push storylines onward; often, bookers and writers use swerves with only the former in mind.
It isn’t hard to find examples, both in history and contemporary wrestling, of swerves being used to “pop a crowd” or inflate one week’s rating. That is what makes AEW’s September PPV, All Out, so unique.
All Out – What Happened?
If somehow you are reading this and are unaware of All Out’s happenings, allow me to inform you. In the show’s main event, AEW Champion Kenny Omega faced Impact Champion Christian Cage. The outcome of this match was clear from the very begging; there was no way Omega was dropping the belt to Cage. He didn’t.
After pinning Cage to retain his title, Omega closed the show with a promo, claiming no one alive or dead could take the AEW Championship from him. The sold-out crowd responded to Omega’s claim with chants of “Yes,” an acknowledgement of Bryan Danielson’s rumored AEW signing. Enter swerve one.
With the crowd expecting Danielson, an audible shock filled the arena when the stadium lights turned black. It wasn’t Danielson who exited the tunnel, however. Instead, Adam Cole walked out to the roar of the 10,000 in attendance.
Soon, Cole met Omega, who was flanked by his faction mates, in the middle of the ring. Enter swerve two. Cole wasn’t there to challenge Omega’s claim at greatness as his surprise debut implied, no, he was there to rejoin the Elite’s ranks. A superkick to Jungleboy cemented this as fact.
After celebrating with Cole and the reunited Elite, Omega turned to close the show. Before he could finish his remarks, the opening moment’s of Richard Wagner’s Ride Of The Valkyries played over the loudspeakers. He was here; Bryan Danielson has arrived in AEW.
All Out – A Closer Look
After denning an irrational swerve, Christian Cage winning the AEW Championship, AEW delivered Adam Cole. Cole, of course, was the face of NXT during the “Wednesday Night Wars”. Talk about a coup. The unexpected nature of his arrival makes it all the more surprising.
Now closing the show with Cole rejoining the Elite would be big enough. The crowd could leave satisfied, but there was more. Enter Bryan Danielson.
Danielson is the greatest professional wrestler the world has ever known. He is Titan’s last great babyface. He main evented WrestleMania this year. As soon as the opening cords of Wagner’s masterpiece played, everyone at home and in attendance knew he is now All Elite.
None of this was needed, yet all of this added to the show’s quality immeasurably. AEW used swerves to achieve their maximum value as artistic tools, both to surprise viewers and advance the product. Every moment after the closing bell served an artistic end. Tony Khan, the booker of AEW, proved in ten minutes that he was a master at the art of the swerve.
What happened at the end of Sunday’s PPV wasn’t to fool the viewer. What happened to close All Out was a psychological thriller that laid the foundations for AEW’s future. The rollercoaster of emotions that peaked with genuine elation filled the last 10 minutes of Saturday’s broadcast. This is made all the sweeter when one realizes these swerves are purposeful.
This is why swerves exist in wrestling. Without the surprise of Cole or Danielson, Dynamite would continue as normal come Wednesday. Instead, it is can’t miss television pushed into brave new waters.