AEW Collision and Battle of the Belts VII Preview for July 15, 2023
The Owen Hart Foundation Tournament reaches its conclusion this Saturday when All Elite Wrestling debuts at Calgary's Saddledome with TWO huge events! COLLISION gets the night started and will feature the Finals of both the Men's and Women's brackets with CM Punk taking on Ricky Starks and Ruby Soho battling Willow Nightingale! Plus, FTR will defend their AEW World Tag Team Titles against Jay White and Juice Robinson in a rematch of their show-stealing Eliminator bout last week! The action rolls right into BATTLE OF THE BELTS VII where Orange Cassidy will defend his International Championship against Lance Archer, Taya Valkyrie will face AEW Women's World Champion Toni Storm with that title on the line, and Shawn Spears looks to win his first AEW title opposite the TNT Champion Luchasaurus!
COLLISION begins at 8:00pm ET/7:00pm CT this Saturday on TNT, as well as at AEWPlus.com for AEW's international fans, and will be immediately followed by BATTLE OF THE BELTS VII! With so much action this week in AEW, it is a must to visit the official AEW YouTube channel prior to this loaded Saturday night to catch highlights from this week's episodes of DYNAMITE and RAMPAGE, as well as the latest edition of THE CONTROL CENTER, and so much more!
OWEN HART FOUNDATION MEN'S TOURNAMENT FINALS...
“Absolute” Ricky Starks vs. CM Punk
The finals of the Owen Hart Foundation Men's Tournament are upon us, and neither men involved have had an easy road to get to this point on Saturday night. “Absolute” Ricky Starks has spent 26:33 in the ring between his two matches, having to fight both Juice Robinson and former partner Powerhouse Hobbs, and his body certainly took a beating from both bouts. As for CM Punk, he put in 29:13 with his bouts against Satoshi Kojima and Samoa Joe, but unlike Starks, Punk had 12 days between his two fights while Starks' Quarter- and Semi-Finals bouts took place on back-to-back COLLISION episodes.
That being said Punk may have had a few extra days rest, but he had the stuffing beat out of him by Samoa Joe, and barely managed to sneak in a roll-up to score the victory (something Joe has proven vulnerable to many times in his career). That lack of hitting a killing blow such as the GTS on Samoa Joe also left the ROH World Television Champion fresh enough to choke the life out Punk after the match. It left the victor of the match barely looking a winner at all, and certainly feeling worse for wear heading into Calgary this Saturday night.
So it has come to this, a fight between one of the most promising young athletes on the AEW roster and one of the most battle-hardened individuals. Each man has something to prove, for Starks it is proving that he is indeed the future of professional wrestling, that he is a future World Champion, and that this is finally his time to ascend to that throne. For Punk it may be about proving he is as good, if not better, than he ever was, and that his many months away rehabbing his bicep injury was just an unfortunate blip in the AEW career of the 2-Time AEW World Champion. This is about picking up where he left off, about paying tribute to Owen Hart's inspiration, and sending a message to the rest of All Elite Wrestling that, how did Punk put it, “The King is back”.
Starks and Punk have bonded as of late, he and FTR coming to the assist of “Absolute” in the face of BULLET CLUB GOLD, but all that falls by the wayside when the bell rings on Saturday. There are no friends in the Finals, just an opponent who needs to be put down in order to be crowned victor and add your name to the Cup; friendships can resume after the final bell, congratulations can be given after the winner's hand is raised, but until then, from bell-to-bell, Punk and Starks are enemies.
OWEN HART FOUNDATION WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT FINALS...
Willow Nightingale vs. Ruby Soho
On the Women's side of the tournament, unlike the Men's, this is not a case of friends facing off for the crown, but rather two women with a mixed history. Once allies who united on multiple occasions, including a violent Street Fight against Anna Jay A.S. and Tay Melo, any semblance of a friendship vanished into thin air when Ruby Soho signed on with The Outcasts.
The knife was further driven into Willow's back with Ruby bested her on the March 29th edition of DYNAMITE, and has continued to draw blood with each passing week that Ruby, Toni Storm, and Saraya run roughshod over the homegrown women of All Elite Wrestling. So in that regard, for Willow Nightingale at least, this fight is as much about becoming the 2023 winner of the Owen Hart Foundation Tournament as it is about standing up for the women who have paved the way, and those who continue to fight to build AEW into the home for the best women in professional wrestling today.
For Ruby, it might be a bit about solidifying the dominance The Outcasts have shown here in All Elite Wrestling, but it is also about making up for dropping the ball in the finals of last year's tournament against Dr. Britt Baker. Ruby already exorcised one of her ghosts when she beat Baker to get out of the Quarter-Finals, now she just needs to win the whole thing in order to move past those haunts and onto whatever the future has in store.
This Finals bout is rife with emotion, with history, and may have far reaching consequences on the whole of the women's division should it be The Outcasts' Ruby Soho who etches her name on The Owen.
AEW WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH/2 OUT OF 3 FALLS...
FTR (Cash Wheeler & Dax Harwood)(c) vs. BULLET CLUB GOLD (Jay White & Juice Robinson)
There is a wonderful thread on the AEW Twitter that helps break down the road that has led FTR to this AEW World Tag Team Championship defense against the BULLET CLUB GOLD duo of Jay White and Juice Robinson. Suffice to say that the willingness of Dax and Cash to help Ricky Starks is what ultimately led them to the Eliminator match that took place last week, but it was BC GOLD's ability to sneak in that tag that earned them this title match after twenty-eight minutes of one of the most exhilarating tag team bouts in AEW history. It was also White and Robinson who, in their arrogance after beating FTR, added the stipulation to this championship affair...
See it's no exaggeration when Jay White said that 2 Out Of 3 Falls was FTR's game; over the course of their tag team career Dax and Cash have competed in eight such tag team bouts across multiple promotions, most notably the superb contest with The Briscoes at DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR 2022, and they've been victorious five, lost two, and went to a draw in the other.
As for Juice and Jay, while they've obviously never been in this sort of bout together, each man has their share of 2/3 Fall bouts on their resume. Juice Robinson, with his experiences in CMLL, garnered a great deal of knowledge about the stipulation, competing in nine of them over the course of 11 days back in August 2017, and actually winning eight of those fights. Now BULLET CLUB GOLD just needs to pool that knowledge and hope it creates the same sort of success for them as it did for Juice some six years ago. They've already proven they can beat FTR, and proven they can go into the deeper waters of competition as well, now Jay and Juice have to repeat that performance when the stakes are at their highest and championships are on the line!
Last time Cash and Dax did this dance, they went nearly 44 minutes with Jay and Mark over the ROH World Tag Titles, will they push BC GOLD that hard as well and really test their endurance more than last Saturday night? Or will they aim to finish this as quickly as possible and prove a point that last week was a fluke for Juice and Jay? The BC GOLD duo will be riding high after topping FTR last week, carrying a genuine confidence they may not have had two weeks ago, and feeling they know who to beat Cash and Dax in two straight matches, maybe even two straight falls if they're feeling particularly arrogant.
Either way, if this battle on Saturday is remotely like the one last Saturday, the fans of All Elite Wrestling will be the real winners of this AEW World Tag Team Championship fight!
BATTLE OF THE BELTS VII
AEW INTERNATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH...
Orange Cassidy(c) vs. “The Murderhawk Monster” Lance Archer
As seen in the clip above, after decimating Trent Beretta in their singles match, and laying out Chuck Taylor after the bout, “The Murderhawk Monster” Lance Archer made his intentions clear, and let Orange Cassidy know he, and his AEW International Championship, were in Archer's crosshairs.
Never one to turn down a fight, especially not one involving the AEW International Championship, “Freshly Squeezed” freely admits that he is tired, beaten up, and battered by the schedule he has chosen to take on, but it hasn't stopped Cassidy from accepting the challenge presented by “The Murderhawk Monster”.
Currently the longest reigning officially recognized champion in AEW (sorry HOOK), trumping MJF by 38 days, Orange is also tied with Jade Cargill for the most title defenses, across all championships, in the history of All Elite Wrestling. Twenty-five times fans have seen Cassidy find a way to defeat his foes, be it one challenger or twenty of them, and continue to survive as AEW International Champion. The athletic tape wrapping his injured right hand has only gotten thicker since Buddy Matthews first injured it months ago, and the amount of KT tape adorning Orange's body has only increased to cover more real estate, but yet he still fights one, and this Saturday night he fights for a spot in the history books.
If OC can survive the murderous onslaught of Lance Archer, he will become the sole possessor of the record with 26 championship defenses, but given his opponent is “The Murderhawk Monster” what sort of condition will Cassidy be left in as the victor? And if Orange is not the winner of this title fight, what will Lance Archer leave of the dethroned champion? Archer, improbably, seems even more vicious and bloodthirsty upon his return to AEW, more intent on leaving destruction and mayhem in his wake, and the rest of the locker room should be afraid should he walk away from Calgary as the 3rd ever AEW International Champion!
TNT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH...
Luchasaurus (w/ Christian Cage) vs. Shawn Spears
Regardless of what Christian Cage presents to the world, it is Luchasaurus and not him who is recognized by All Elite Wrestling as the TNT Champion. Christian may carry the belt, may speak for the champion, but it was Luchasaurus who actually pinned Wardlow for the championship on the first episode of COLLISION, regardless of what involvement Cage may have had, and it is the former AEW World Tag Team Champion who will be the one stepping into the ring Saturday night to defend it at BOTB VII.
His opponent that evening in Calgary is a man who firmly believes he has been overlooked, undervalued, and unappreciated by All Elite Wrestling, and given his resume, it is hard to argue with Shawn Spears about those claims. He came into AEW with all the promise in the world, cracked a chair across the skull of Cody Rhodes to herald his arrival, and has spent all the time since trying to find his way. He spent weeks scrambling to find a tag team partner, ultimately deciding that no man was worthy of standing at his side. He was shut down trying to become the first TNT Champion by Cody, but seemed to find his footing as part of the Pinnacle alongside FTR, Wardlow, and MJF. As gleeful lackey to Maxwell, Spears took particular delight in his accountabil-a-buddy role with “The War Dog”, and in his role in the first-ever Blood & Guts and second Stadium Stampede. Even as the Pinnacle dwindled down to just MJF, Spears, and Wardlow, “The Chairman” remained at MJF's side to battle Chris Jericho, to fight CM Punk, and to make life hellish for Wardlow.
Then it all came crashing down when Spears stepped inside a Steel Cage with Wardlow just before DOUBLE OR NOTHING 2022, and he would disappear from AEW for five months. He had reasons, personal and professional, but that October return to reunite with FTR would prove the lone remaining 2022 fight for Shawn Spears.
Shawn Spears would rise up once more this past April to fight “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry, to unite with Ricky Starks against Jay White and Juice Robinson, and then he would step onto the HOUSE RULES circuit for events in Kentucky, Alabama, and Mississippi. Suffice to say it has been a very up-and-down year for Shawn Spears, perhaps a label applicable to his entire AEW career, but it is clear that Spears, beginning with his victory over The Blade, has every intent of reminding everyone what he brings to the table, and why he should be one of the most feared individuals in AEW whether he has 1 fight a year or 100.
So for the first time ever, Luchasaurus and Shawn Spears will have a singles match, and for the first time ever, despite being part of the original tournament that crowned Cody the first champion, Shawn Spears will challenge for the TNT Championship. This could be a historical moment for Spears, claiming his first championship in AEW, just as it could be a heartbreaking one for Christian Cage (maybe Luchasaurus too, it's rather hard to tell) to see his Right Hand of Destruction lose on this first title defense.
Will BATTLE OF THE BELTS VII see this championship change hands? The title has been featured on three of the previous BOTB events, and seen a change twice, albeit the first instance was Sammy Guevara winning the vacant Interim crown, will it go three out four in Calgary?
AEW WOMEN'S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH...
Toni Storm(c) vs. Taya Valkyrie
Coming off a victory on RAMPAGE, Taya Valkyrie's victory was rudely interrupted by the AEW Women's World Champion for no good reason other than Toni Storm's desire to rub Taya's recent string of losses in her face. It's not as if Toni was exaggerating, she lost two TBS Championship bouts to Jade Cargill, as well as one to Kris Statlander, and dropped a fall to former AEW Women's World Champion Hikaru Shida as well. Yes Taya has bounced back with a couple of wins but, no disrespect to the women she beat, they were not the top tier level of the women who'd just beaten her.
Still, much like Adam Cole did to MJF several weeks ago, Taya twisted the entire moment around on the Outcasts member and found herself with this AEW Women's World Championship opportunity taking place on Saturday night! It's certainly not what Toni Storm intended when she walked out to the ring on Friday night, nor how Taya expected her Friday night to end up, but for one of the women it was at least a happy conclusion to RAMPAGE.
So with the AEW Women's World Championship on the line, Taya Valkyrie will take on Toni Storm for the very first time in their careers during BATTLE OF THE BELTS VII! Can Taya rebound from her multiple championship disappointments this year, or will Toni Storm add another notch to her second reign as champion of the division?
As AEW comes to Calgary's Saddledome for the Finals of The Owen Hart Foundation Tournament this Saturday night, a three hour night of wrestling action is coming with it! First on COLLISION, CM Punk and Ricky Starks will meet for the first time
in the Finals of the Men's Tournament while Willow Nightingale faces Ruby Soho in the Finals of the Women's brackets! Plus, in a rematch of their epic Eliminator Clash last week, FTR will meet BULLET CLUB GOLD in an AEW World Tag Team Championship Match and this will be Two out of Three Falls!!
Then, immediately following COLLISION's conclusion, BATTLE OF THE BELTS VII will begin and that one hour spectacular features THREE championship matches! Orange Cassidy will meet Lance Archer with the AEW International Championship on the line, TNT Champion Luchasaurus (with Christian Cage at his side of course) will take on Shawn Spears, and Toni Storm will defend her AEW Women's World Title against Taya Valkyrie!
The night begins at 8:00pm ET/7:00pm CT, as well as at AEWPlus.com for AEW's international fans, so make a point to drop by the official AEW YouTube channel for highlights from this week's episodes of DYNAMITE and RAMAPGE, as well as the latest edition of CONTROL CENTER, and so much more!