The War Games/Blood and Guts stipulation is extremely difficult to pull off. You need to captivate the audience for a long running time, create drama, wow the audience, and tell a compelling story at the same time.
During years, All elite wrestling has been working to perfect the art of combining Blood and Guts. Elements inside and outside of his control have made the stipulation a bit of a snakebite for them. That is until the epic that ends the rivalry between The Golden Elite and The Blackpool Combat Club.
Blood & Guts closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic
The build up to AEW’s first Blood and Guts match was tremendous. It featured skillful storytelling and rich character work. The Elite (later featuring Cody Rhodes) were ready to go to war with Chris Jericho’s The Inner Circle. Unfortunately, that match never happened.
The pandemic closed the world. The fans had to watch wrestling at home. To their credit, AEW claimed that conducting a violent bloodbath was unwise in the midst of a global health crisis. Blood and Guts would have to wait.
AEW’s first two Blood & Guts matches were disappointing
It would be over a year before we finally got to see it, and while there were fans in attendance, AEW wasn’t quite ready to let fans in at full capacity. At the time, any fan was a welcome change of scenery in the empty arenas. The fans cheered for The Pinnacle against The Inner Circle. However, the match did not live up to expectations. It was slow, artificial and slow. The match ended with MJF shoving Chris Jericho off the top of the cage. Unfortunately, the production truck chose the wrong camera angle to cut, and fans at home clearly saw Jericho land on a pile of foam. The spot received a lot of criticism.
The 2022 Blood and Guts match saw The Jericho Appreciation Society take on Moxley, Claudio, Eddie Kingston, Santana, and Ortiz. The sequel was much better than the first installment. The violent affair had several memorable moments, including Claudio taking the giant swing on Jericho from the top of the cage. But there was an inherent lack of structure and storytelling in this match.
For the most part, they were fighters hitting each other with weapons in a chaotic frenzy. Once again, the production detracted from the match. The cut was tricky, and fans at home often missed essential beats. AEW had done better, but there was still room for improvement.
The Elite & BCC Offered a better match structure for their Blood & Guts Match
Like war games of yore, 2023’s Blood and Guts installment opened with a hard-hitting wrestling match and a matchup we didn’t know we wanted until we got it; Claudio Castagnoli and Kenny Omega. The next order of fighters could not have been better chosen. Ruthless Pac and Hangman Adam Page added a fierce energy.
It wasn’t until Jon Moxley came on that things in the match got extreme, and boy did they. Moxley’s first offensive move was to stab Kenny and Adam Page in the face with a fork. After all, it’s called Blood and Guts.
The Young Bucks added their high-flying arsenal, shifting the game from fourth to fifth. AEW wisely saved Kota Ibushi for the final entrant, saving the massive ovation and a major story element until midway through the match.
By the time the ten fighters were in the ring, they had already told a great story. From there, both teams were able to display their violent creativity. And unlike other war games or Blood and Guts matches, the violence in this combat didn’t feel planned or made up, but more like a desperate means of survival.
Uneven ending demands more room to improve in AEW’s Blood & Guts Match
The end of the Blackpool Combat Club and The Elite saga was pretty nice. Wheeler Yuta had just been hit with almost every tandem finisher The Golden Elite had in his arsenal. He was left in a bloody mess.
With Claudio down and out and Moxley handcuffed to the ropes, Wheeler Yuta was suffocated with a giant chain. We got to see the life leave his body… but the young star who pinned Kenny Omega in Anarchy In The Arena didn’t give up. Instead, his mentor, Jon Moxley, gave up to save Wheeler. It was a rare display of (understated) affection.
Unfortunately, this shocking ending was marred by a bizarre booking choice. Before the end, both Pac and Konoske Takeshita (not official members of The BCC) walked out on their teammates. This left the heels at a three-on-one disadvantage. This element felt unnecessary and, perhaps, overthought.
Still, the third installment of AEW’s Blood and Guts match was by far the best. The characters and intricate storylines involved will make this match one to remember and may inform AEW’s arc for months to come.