All Elite Wrestling has just held its first major Pay Per View event of the year, and it's one of the best wrestling events I have seen put together in a long time. 2022 and 2023 had been somewhat turbulent and the "World's End" event on 30th December 2023 acted as a form of 'reset', after what I thought had been a period of the company spinning the wheels following the hugely successful "All In" event at Wembley Stadium.

Since the 'reset', there's been a sharp return to form and the build for this event has been brilliant. Going in, we knew in advance this would be Sting's final match after a 40-year career. The event sold out quickly. It was going to be something special. Sting debuted at Winter is Coming 2020, with Revolution 2021 being his first match in AEW. Revolution 2024 bookends his three-year run in the company on an undefeated streak. Throughout this run, Sting has been booked as an icon. The '80s kids may remember the bleach blonde hair of Surfer Sting, us '90s kids remember him brooding in the rafters as Crow Sting. The vast majority of the card lived up to the expectations that come with saying goodbye to the in-ring career of one of the greats.

Let's dive into the matches. I'm not going to use a reductive star-rating system; I'm going to describe what I thought and felt.

The Bang Bang Scissor Gang vs Jeff Jarrett, Jay Lethal, Satnam Singh, Willie Mack, Isiah Kassidy and Marq Quen (Pre-show)

Whenever you get a match with the "Total Nonstop Assholes": Jarrett, Lethal and Singh, you're going to get something that's fun. This match isn't a bad way to start a pre-show, especially with main event talent Jay White in the mixup and hitting his finisher for the win. There's some storyline stuff going on, with Max Caster fluffing his rap during the entrance. I fully expect Bullet Club Gold to turn on The Acclaimed and unify the AEW Trios and ROH 6-Man tag belts at some point. It's a serviceable match to start things off.

The Return of Pac (Pre-show)

The Bastard Pac is from my neck of the woods, and I do get slightly discombobulated seeing his vignettes containing Newcastle cityscapes and hearing a promo in a rather broad Geordie accent. But I'm glad he's back from injury and ready to go. He's used very sparingly in AEW but is at that championship level in terms of performance. I'm hoping for a solid and consistent run in the future.

Kris Statlander and Willow Nightingale vs Julia Hart and Skye Blue (Pre-show)

I'm fully on board with the idea that AEW needs a Women's Tag division sooner rather than later. Former TBS champion Kris Statlander and Willow Nightingale face off against current TBS champion Julia Hart, and Skye Blue. Another serviceable pre-show match that moves the storyline forward, down the road Willow Nightingale challenging Julia Hart for her TBS title should happen. It was the correct result that Skye Blue took the pin from Nightingale.

Christian Cage vs Daniel Garcia

Christian Cage, Father of The Patriarchy faction, defends his TNT Championship against Daniel Garcia. Garcia had a poor run of form in the Continental Classic tournament at the end of 2023, since which he's been on a hot streak. This was a well-deserved championship shot, but I was certain it wasn't the right time for a change. Christian's gimmick is still massively over, and ultimately, his reign ought to culminate with a rematch against Adam Copeland. Christian's gimmick has kind of bantered its way into existence, but he's leant into it and does a very fine job. Throughout the match, there's the usual heel stuff of faking injuries, distractions on the outside, and so on. This match is about elevating Garcia and does just that.

All Star Scramble

Originally booked as a "meat madness" match, but due to injury, this was suddenly re-booked into an "All-Star Scramble" match. It was ... fine. It did the job. A bit of fun where everyone gets their spots in. Given the killer promos that Wardlow had been delivering of recent, and with a World Championship title shot on the line for the winner, I expected a Wardlow win.

Orange Cassidy vs Roderick Strong

It was the right time for Orange Cassidy to drop the title, and I think dropping it to Roderick Strong was also the right thing. It was a very well put together match, in terms of Roddy capitalizing on the accumulation of injuries from Cassidy's second reign. I wasn't too keen on the idea of Orange winning the title back so soon after his first reign, but that said the title never felt unimportant. Strong is a veteran and a very fluid performer. After a rather goofy run with the 'Neck Strong' gimmick last year, winning the workhorse title is going to give him a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate on a regular basis just how good he is.

Following the match, Kyle O'Reilly returned after two years out due to an injury. It's nice to see him back, as I felt his run didn't really get started.

Eddie Kingston vs Bryan Danielson

This was a very retro-feel match with some spectacular nearfalls. It gave New Japan vibes, which is entirely to be expected - a mix of strong style and technical wrestling. After a poor run at the beginning of the Continental Classic tournament, Eddie Kingston turned things round and defeated all members of the Blackpool Combat Club to win the whole thing. But he didn't win the respect of Danielson. This match is about that, stipulating that if Kingston wins, they must shake hands. Danielson does all his heel-technical stuff - the joint manipulation, the snapping back of limbs, submission holds. The crowd gets behind Kingston as he builds to win with a powerbomb finish. Great stuff.

Blackpool Combat Club vs FTR

This is the only match that I didn't predict correctly going in, mainly because I don't bet against FTR in a tag team match! The BCC pulling off a shock victory against one of the greatest tag teams ever is a bold move. The match started slow, but built up to an intense finish, which is fantastic storytelling. With these two brawler teams, you're looking for a good fight, and this was delivered in droves. Of course, there was blood, quite a lot of it from Dax Harwood. Claudio Castagnoli's swing leading into a dropkick from Moxley is a brilliant double-team move. Castagnoli showed good ring sense to counter FTR's finisher, the Shatter Machine. A dual submission hold finish, with Moxley putting Harwood to sleep, cinched the victory for the BCC. Very enjoyable.

'Timeless' Toni Storm vs Deonna Purazzo

I love the 'timeless' gimmick, it is simply the best thing in wrestling right now. However, this match wasn't particularly interesting.

Purazzo is new to AEW, but carries with her a reputation for strong technical wrestling, and a personal history with Toni Storm. One of the weird things about wrestling is how they weave their stories through real life and fantasy - this is the case with the former friends turned enemies. It's too soon for a wrestler new to company to come in and win a major championship, so this bout is about maintaining the challenger as a credible threat and setting up a rematch down the line, which this match just about manages to do. Purazzo makes Storm submit, albeit with the referee's back turned due to outside interference, before ultimately losing the match. Classic heel behaviour, an OK title defense.

Will Ospreay vs Konosuke Takeshita

GOOD GRIEF this was good. I remember watching Will Ospreay wrestle in the Northumbria University Sports Hall several years ago and it's very pleasing that him and Takeshita put on a match of the year contender. Ospreay and Takeshita are both in the same faction - The Don Callis Family. The story being told is that these guys are so good, they've only got themselves for a challenge. That said, there was a little tension before the matchup; you knew they wouldn't hold back. Both the performance AND the pace of the performance are worth commending here - this was 100% bell-to-bell. There were no sells, kicking out at one, a brutal turnbuckle brainbuster from Takeshita (catching Ospreay on the back), an incredibly fluid reversal into a Blue Thunder Bomb by Takeshita, and a Tiger Driver '91 from Ospreay. You need extreme precision to pull that off. Like Swerve/Hangman, this will be one of these long-running rivalries that define this era of AEW, if they have any sense!

Samoa Joe vs Hangman Adam Page vs Swerve Strickland

The Hangman / Swerve rivalry spills over into the Main championship. With the 'reset', the rankings system returned into AEW, so wins and losses matter in terms of who's in the running for the title picture. Naturally, this is a storytelling device, and going in to this Hangman and Swerve had an equal win/loss record, so the decision was made to turn this into a Three-Way match. Hangman, having lost the Texas Deathmatch against Swerve last year, did not take this news well. His fall to a heel is complete in this match, assaulting referees and doing anything possible to stop Swerve winning this match. Everyone comes off well in this match, Samoa Joe deservedly retained (I do think he'll drop to Swerve eventually), but both Hangman and Swerve had opportunities to clearly score victories. They didn't take them, instead being consumed by their own rivalry. Some fantastic storytelling in this match.

Sting and Darby Allin vs The Young Bucks

There was a beautiful pre-roll showcasing Sting's career (well, none of the WCW footage because The Fed owns it now) which was genuinely very emotional. On stage, Sting's sons adorned the costumes and makeup of his earlier gimmicks (surfer Sting and Wolfpac Sting), before Sting himself arrived. They walked to the ring together, beginning a fast and intense Tornado Tag match. Oh, they didn't hold back!

Sting and Darby started on the upper hand, rapidly beating down The Young Bucks, who play these heel roles so well. Darby Allin's senton bomb from the 10ft+ ladder onto a plane of glass supported by steel chairs is brutal. Uncomfortable to watch. Surprising to see on mainstream professional wrestling. I'm not a huge mark for the deathmatch stuff, especially the levels of goriness on the indies. In this match, though, it worked. Darby Allin put his body on the line in a big way to make this match special, later requiring twelve stitches for a pretty gnarly wound.

That's when things turned. With Darby essentially out of the match, the Bucks began to punish Sting. He was put through tables, from ladders. He was put through panes of glass. He's a few weeks shy of 65 years old. Just imagine for a moment jumping off tall stuff and being put through tables in your mid '60s. And don't give me any of that "wrestling's fake" stuff. But of course, it is pre-scripted, and although the convention is to go out on your back, Sting would not stay down. Despite everything thrown at him, he got up, kept fighting, and eventually put away the Bucks. What a match. What a career! Presumably, the Tag Team titles will now be vacated?

Closing Thoughts

This PPV wasn't just a goodbye and a celebration of an iconic career. It was also a statement of what's to come. Tony Khan has put together one of the best wrestling rosters of all time, and their capabilities and talents are not being wasted. The secret is basically out about who's coming to the company next, one of the biggest New Japan Pro Wrestling names of all time, and one of the most successful female stars from the modern WWE era. Five years in, the Revolution is still on. Jump onboard for the ride!