AEW WrestleDream 2023 Predictions
All Elite Wrestling presents WrestleDream tonight at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Washington. The event will be a tribute to Antonio Inoki and AEW’s sixth pay per view of the year.
When I wrote in August that AEW was in Nightmare Mode I said AEW President Tony Khan just had to survive to Grand Slam. That was before finding out Tony Khan had added a new pay per view at the beginning of October with WrestleDream. The event shares a name with the SWS (Straight and Strong) event Wrestle Dream in Kobe, which was a show held in Kobe, Japan between SWS and the World Wrestling Federation. You can watch that show here on the Internet Archive. Khan said this is event is a tribute to Antonio Inoki, the legendary pro wrestler and founder of New Japan Pro Wrestling who passed away October 1, 2022.
I said he just had to survive but that was under the belief that CM Punk would still be in the company causing strife and derision. CM Punk was fired the day before AEW All Out in Chicago, Illinois. With Punk no longer causing issues, AEW booking and pressure has subsided a bit. The flow between Dynamite, Rampage, and Collision feels far more cohesive and natural. Collision still has its own roster of wrestlers but now anyone can show up without it feeling strange. Every television show since All Out (a fantastic pay per view) has been strong, and has been probably the best run of television for AEW since January of this year.
With CM Punk out, Bryan Danielson has walked in to replace his presence on the show, and the difference has certainly been felt. The September 23 episode of Collision was one of the best TV shows of the year for All Elite Wrestling, main evented by Danielson taking on Ricky Starks in Texas Death. Starks now faces Blackpool Combat Club member Wheeler Yuta on the undercard while Danielson squares off in a dream match against New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Zack Sabre Jr.
One of the major complaints on All In was not enough singles matches. That won’t be an issue for WrestleDream, which contains two singles matches on the Zero Hour pre-show and six singles matches on the main card. Some matches have been built better than others but this certainly feels like a great AEW pay per view before any bell rings. I’m definitely looking forward to it, and think if everyone can avoid injury, it could be one of the best wrestling shows you can watch this year.
WrestleDream Zero Hour
Chaos Tony Khan is back! Satoshi Kojima comes in from New Japan Pro Wrestling to team with Keith Lee, ROH Women’s Champion Athena, and Billie Starkz to face Lee Moriarty and Shane Taylor of Shane Taylor Promotions, and the duo of Mercedes Martinez and Diamanté. Keith Lee does have some unfinished business with Shane Taylor while Athena has been the queen of ROH beating all comers. She’s been in a strange “minion” relationship with Billie Starkz which feels like could end up her undoing as ROH Women’s Champion. In my view that’s a good thing because even though Ring of Honor could use the talent, All Elite Wrestling would really appreciate a return of Athena to television. She’s one of the best women on the roster and TV audiences deserve to see her work.
I could see Shane Taylor pinning Keith Lee to set up their eventual one on one match. I could see Athena getting pinned by Martinez or Diamanté and blaming Starkz for it. I could also see Satoshi Kojima using the power of bread to win the match for his squad. Lots of options. I’ll go with the first.
Winners: Shane Taylor, Lee Moriarty, Mercedes Martinez, and Diamanté.
Nick Wayne has been in Darby Allin’s corner as Darby battled Luchasaurus and Christian Cage, but he’s also been having a side situation with AR Fox. I thought AR Fox would be the guy Nick Wayne would be wrestling tonight if they were on the card. I do hope AR Fox factors into this match as I like his story with Nick Wayne.
I like the AR Fox and Nick Wayne story. It's basically a zoomer refusing to accept the rehabilitation of a millennial for their past deeds.
— W̷r̷o̷t̷ ???? (@AaronWrotkowski) September 10, 2023
Whether Fox gets involved or not, Nick Wayne will have a hard time battling the former TNT Champion, who has been a bit conflicted from his relationship with Christian Cage and how Cage took advantage of him as TNT Champion and acted as though he was champ up to when he actually became champion in a match Luchasaurus was in. Will Luchasaurus finally come to his senses? Maybe an old friend in Jack Perry can help him come to his senses? Luchasaurus should win this, but I could see Nick Wayne winning it as the hometown kid. Maybe with help from AR Fox, which leads to Jack Perry’s return.
Winner: Nick Wayne
Another Seattle native, Josh Barnett comes from the world of mixed martial arts as well as New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he was most recently a commentator for their AXS show. But Barnett is also an “Inoki Guy”, having worked the main event of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle World 2003, back when Inoki was still in NJPW and trying to crossbreed MMA with puroresu. Barnett was also in Inoki Genome Federation, Inoki’s promotion once he departed NJPW. Barnett also runs the annual Bloodsport shows, which bring that mix of MMA and pro wrestling together and is very popular. Claudio would be perfect for a match in Bloodsport, so facing Josh Barnett in AEW feels like a good way to preview that.
If this was a few years ago I would be predicting Josh Barnett to insist winning but this isn’t the same old Barnett. He was fine with losing to Timothy Thatcher at Bloodsport 9. So I think Claudio beats Barnett but there’s an invitation extended for Claudio to appear at Bloodsport 10.
Winner: Claudio Castagnoli
The Acclaimed are a very popular act that sell a lot of merchandise, and it’s great that they are finally AEW Trios Champions. That said, being on the Zero Hour show is the best place for them. They are not setting the world on fire with their recent trios matches. Hopefully TMDK brings out something out of them as all three are competent and respected wrestlers. I’m sure Max Caster will bring up RETRIBUTION to clown on Shane Haste, the former Slapjack, in his opening rap. I hope to see a lot of Bad Boy Tito, who has a great name and a great throwback look.
Thanks for coming TMDK. Should be a fine pre-show match. The Acclaimed need a program with someone other than House of Black to make me fired up about them again. They’ve already worked The Gunns so Bullet Club Gold has been done. Maybe Roderick Strong and The Kingdom once done with Adam Cole, which who knows how long that is. Might be good to have Rush and LFI return to make a statement against The Acclaimed after the match.
Winner and still AEW Trios Champions: The Acclaimed
A handicap match for the ROH World Tag Championship might seem a bit ridiculous but Adam Cole seems legitimately injured. I know there has been a lot of chatter how MJF should be in a bigger profile match for the pay per view and I get it. But I also like seeing a fresh team like The Righteous get their chance on television and to make a statement. Vincent pulls off 60s/70s Dennis Hopper very well while Dutch plays the sick weirdo Ray Traylor powerhouse to perfection.
AEW Dynamite ended with Jay White getting attacked after his face to face with MJF and it was four men in black with a fifth wearing MJF’s devil mask. There’s a lot of speculation to who did it, and I bet that segment works into this match. Either we get to find out who the men were (my primary guess is The Kingdom along with a healthy Roderick Strong and Maria Kanellis’ boys Cole Karter and Griff Garrison) or we get Bullet Club Gold getting revenge and thinking MJF took out their leader in Jay White. I also think it’s possible (and maybe this is too galaxy brain) that Jay White pretended to get beat up by The Kingdom and implicates Adam Cole as the man wearing the MJF devil mask in the attack, which causes MJF to doubt Adam Cole further and cause him to be so distracted it allows Jay White to capitalize and eventually beat MJF for the AEW World Championship at Full Gear or the rumoured December pay per view.
No matter who it is, I see this leading to The Righteous winning the ROH World Tag Championship from Maxwell Jacob Friedman. Righteous are just means to an end. The real story is in Max being isolated in doubt by Bullet Club Gold and The Kingdom.
Winner and new ROH World Tag Champions: The Righteous
Poor Ricky Starks. Or at least that’s how a lot of people would begin this.
Ricky is having the best year of his career. He beat CM Punk to win the Owen Tournament. He had a career defining match against Bryan Danielson in a strap match at the All Out pay per view. He’s now being looked at as out of the midcard and into the upper cards on his way to the main event. Ricky does a good job making you think otherwise, constantly complaining about opportunities taken away from him and boo hoo things didn’t work the way I wanted them. Or at least he did a lot of that when CM Punk was around. Anyway I digress.
Starks has been on a roll since All Out, just not in the victory column. Wheeler Yuta is just coming back from injury, and feels like a lamb to the slaughter for Ricky Starks to get a victory in the win column. Starks has been a top heel on Collision and could be a great number one contender for the TNT Championship or face Fenix for the International Championship. This should be a good match, but I would like to see if Starks can elevate it beyond just good with Wheeler Yuta. No more pity parties for Ricky Starks. Time to move up or shut up.
Winner: Ricky Starks
Speaking of poor? Sammy Guevara leaves the Inner Circle and Jericho Appreciation Society where he was the second in command under Chris Jericho and in turning on Jericho, now finds himself the third man behind Takeshita and Ospreay. That said, it’s actually a better spot for Sammy Guevara, who I find to be an electrifying competitor but struggles sometimes on the microphone and struggles to engage the audience to the level he would want to. The Pillar status is a bit of a prison for him, and to me he’s a guy who would excel in a trios team or finding the right tag partner (I loved him and Garcia together, as well as the short time MJF and Sammy were an item) instead of trying him as a top singles guy.
Having Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega, THE GOLDEN JETS, team together is a fun thing to see. I bet they do this again whenever AEW returns to Winnipeg. Kota Ibushi has been very rusty in his two matches in AEW but I think it’s only going to be time before Kota Ibushi heals from his old and new injuries and brings more than just a shadow of his former self. Kota seems pumped to work in AEW so I hope this match is another step in the direction of Kota Ibushi finding his form.
Konosuke Takeshita not having any matches after pinning Kenny Omega twice in a week was a poor decision by Tony Khan as a booker, but WrestleDream is a chance to make up for it. Takeshita is Don Callis’ meal ticket for the next while and he should be winning this program against Omega and moving onto either the TNT Championship or International Championship. He could even be a good television shot against MJF.
Will Ospreay to AEW feels inevitable, and these matches just feel like a way to keep him fresh in AEW fans minds. I’m sure WWE will try to get Will Ospreay if he leaves NJPW in the new year but AEW feels like the perfect place for him.
Konosuke Takeshita getting the pin on Kota Ibushi to set up the singles match that was originally going to happen tonight feels like a good way for him to continue getting under Omega’s fingernails without beating Kenny outright again.
Winners: Konosuke Takeshita, Will Ospreay, and Sammy Guevara
You got FTW Champion Hook with former International Champion Orange Cassidy. You got current International Champion Fenix with Penta. You got the current ROH Trios Champions The Young Bucks. Oh, and you also got The Gunns.
I love The Gunns. I think they sell better than almost anyone in AEW. They are the right kind of annoying for a heel tag team. I would want them to win this but they’ve faced FTR enough times.
The Young Bucks also had their match with FTR at All In and they are already Trios Champions in ROH.
Orange Cassidy shouldn’t be wrestling yet. He should still be selling his injuries accumulated in the International Championship run. But here he is with Hook, who needs a singles program. I don’t know if this ends up with them facing each other, but I do think this tag team should be short lived. They also shouldn’t be winning the shot. They might (especially if FTR loses the tag titles) but I don’t think they do.
The Lucha Bros. are in an interesting situation. Fenix wasn’t supposed to win the International Championship and because of that I don’t think he sticks to a singles run. Whether FTR retain or Aussie Open win the tag titles, I think Lucha Bros. win this match and take the tag title shot. Would be great to see them back on top of the tag division.
Winners: Lucha Bros
Tony Khan is trying hard with Julia Hart. The 21-year-old was often just a manager for House of Black but in the past few weeks she’s been on multiple TV shows getting matches in, with her winning streak being heavily referenced. Four matches and four wins since September 20. Her last loss was against none other than Kris Statlander.
Statlander’s big win against Jade Cargill helped solidify her spot as TBS Champion since her win was a bit dubious (Jade had just wrestled and Kris just squashed her) and I think there’s still time with her as TBS Champion. Do you know who Statlander tag teamed with before she went down for an injury back in 2022? Athena. I would love to see Athena and Kris Statlander be a future program for the TBS Championship. But first of course is taking out Julia Hart. I don’t think Julia is ready, but she has been improving. Would be good to see her step up here.
Winner and still TBS Champion: Kris Statlander
FTR has had a great AEW World Tag Championship reign. Winning the championship back in April, they’ve had incredible matches with Big Bill and Brian Cage, Better Than You Bay Bay, Juice Robinson and Jay White, and now they face a team they beat 365 days ago in Aussie Open at NJPW Royal Quest II for the IWGP Tag Team Championship. Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis (who totally remind me of the Hart Foundation in the 1980s) have been very good since coming to All Elite Wrestling officially. So good in fact this might be a good time for FTR to finally lose the AEW World Tag Championship.
I don’t know what FTR does if they do drop the titles aside from a rematch at Full Gear with Aussie Open but I think it would be good to make Aussie Open the Tag Team Champions and give them a run against fresh babyface opponents. FTR could still be champions, face say Lucha Bros at Full Gear if they win, or face the Young Bucks again. But beyond that, what do you do? Not much. I don’t know what they do without the gold, but there’s better options for the gold if they are not wearing it. Or at least, fresher options. Except one, which I’ll get to in the main event.
Again, could go either way, and I might be wrong, but I feel this will be Aussie Open’s night.
Winner and new AEW World Tag Team Champions: Aussie Open
From what I’ve heard, this was supposed to be Jon Moxley taking on Katsuyori Shibata for the AEW International Championship. Switching to Eddie Kingston should still be an exciting match. Kingston returning to AEW and finally being ROH World Champion is such a great story and I’m glad he was finally crowned at Grand Slam in front of a New York crowd. I don’t see Kingston dropping the ROH World Championship or the New Japan Strong Openweight Championship even to Shibata, a New Japan legend. Should be a great match ending in a bow.
What’s next for Shibata? I would once again build Daniel Garcia up for him and have Garcia win at Final Battle. What’s next for Eddie? I would love to see a healthy Jon Moxley challenge him for the ROH World Championship at Full Gear.
Winner and still ROH World Champion and New Japan Strong Openweight Champion: Eddie Kingston
I am so excited for this match.
“What’s a Buckshot to a Killshot?”
I was screaming in my house.
I love both of these wrestlers. They are easily top five for me in the business. Swerve Strickland’s rise in AEW is All Elite Wrestling just giving him time to be everything he should be. He’s developed a main event wrestlers body and a main event wrestlers mindset. He’s coming for Hangman Page’s spot, but that’s not the only spot he will be taking soon. He should be cheered in Seattle despite being a sick individual in his words. I’m sure Prince Nana will be dancing the night away at ringside.
Hangman Page might be losing tonight. He talked about getting rid of that dark cloud, but Swerve Strickland is going to create a storm that’ll follow him even when he flies out of the state of Washington. I don’t see this being the end of their program and I see this going right into Full Gear. Swerve is getting the first shot but not the Killshot. Hangman Page will get the response in November, and both men will decide who truly wins at the December pay per view.
Who wins the entire program? That depends. If Jay White eventually defeats Maxwell Jacob Friedman for the AEW World Championship then I see Hangman Page being one of his first contenders. If MJF retains? Swerve Strickland will be the next guy coming after MJF, and he might go straight to the gold. This is my most anticipated match on the show and I expect both men to deliver.
Winner: Swerve Strickland
It is difficult for me to be unbiased when it comes to ZSJ because I have a bit of a mancrush on him. Dude is so handsome. He’s the best thing to come out of England. He should run that stupid country. Walking into Seattle where Bryan Danielson will be praised as a god and defeating him will be an extremely difficult task. Maybe impossible. But nothing is impossible when Zack is in the ring, darling.
Danielson’s return to AEW has been fantastic, and while he has been threatening to retire from full time competition in the next year or so, I think he keeps himself in full throttle. He’s worked some hardcore matches against Ricky Starks which he says are easier on his body than straight wrestling matches. I can only imagine what he plans against Zack, and how hard these two go at each other to have a true dream match.
The American Dragon is likely leaving Seattle with the win, but I can dream can’t I?
Winner: Zack Sabre Jr. if the world is good and right and pure and just
I went to All Elite Wrestling when they were in Detroit, Michigan this year. Christian Cage cut a promo that night. Or he tried. He was booed by pretty much everyone in the building. It was so loud. I’ve never seen someone booed like that. Christian Cage is the most hated man in professional wrestling. This might be the best run of his career, and I think this could end up the best match of his career.
Darby Allin is probably getting that golden moment where he wins the TNT Championship in a 2/3 falls match that proves he’s a great pro wrestler. He gets it in the main event in front of a hometown crowd in Seattle. This is why MJF isn’t defending the AEW World Championship, so Darby can have this moment. Some think it’s weird since All Out also didn’t have the World Championship in the main event, but people should know that, “The Real World Championship” was supposed to main event that show. Poor Ricky. Yadda Yadda.
For a lot of the pro wrestling world they are talking more of the prospect of the former Edge Adam Copeland making his debut tonight in the main event. Will he align with Christian Cage? Will he attack him? I figure he aligns with him. The two can retire the Hardy’s. They can have a dream match with the Young Bucks. Copeland can face his real life friends in FTR, which could even be for the Tag Championship. They could also face a newly aligned Luchasaurus and Jack Perry. And when Adam Cole is healthy? Better Than You Bay Bay is certainly a main event program.
But we should put some focus on Darby Allin. The TNT Championship used to be the secondary championship for the men in AEW and yet it’s hard to see it that way when Darby Allin isn’t wearing it. This is his chance to make that his title, his legacy, and it starts in Seattle. There’s a lot of people who can face him for the belt, from Ricky Starks to Jack Perry to Konosuke Takeshita and more. I think once he wins it, you build Collision around Darby and the TNT Championship. Afterall, Collision is on TNT. The World Champion can appear on Collision, but it’ll absolutely be the Darby Allin show. The hug he has tonight with Sting should be a memorable one.
Winner and new TNT Champion: Darby Allin
Is the Nightmare Mode over for AEW booking? I would say so. AEW might be entering the new year with a new television deal (Tony Khan keeps talking this is the dawn of a new era of AEW and I think that’s what it’s about. Extension on TV shows, MAX deal including pay per view, true security and safety for the company going forward) and might also be running monthly pay per views. I think they end up doing eight AEW pay per views and four ROH pay per views to run a pay per view every month. Having a pay per view almost every month will actually help Tony Khan keep focused on building stories on television, instead of the lulls we sometimes get when he isn’t building to a big show in the horizon.
As Ian Riccaboni says, Happy Wrestling everyone.
Photos courtesy All Elite Wrestling