Ranking AEW's Best, Bloodiest Matches Ahead of Dynamite: Blood & Guts
There will be blood Wednesday night on TNT as AEW Dynamite presents Blood & Guts, a War Games-like blowoff between The Inner Circle and The Pinnacle. The match, a throwback to the classic battle between The Four Horsemen and their babyface rivals, guarantees violence and will inevitably leave most (if not all) competitors sporting the proverbial crimson mask.
Blood, for as unsettling and discomforting as it can be to watch, has long been a key storytelling device in pro wrestling and one AEW has not shied away from over the course of its two-year existence. From emotional battles between siblings to the culmination of months-long feuds, blood and violence has helped fuel some of the promotion's best matches.
In preparation for what should be another Match of the Year candidate, relieve the best of AEW's bloodiest matches.
Disclaimer: Some of the videos within include bloody and graphic images.
6. Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match for the AEW World Title (Revolution 2021)
After two years of feuding, Jon Moxley and Kenny Omega sought to settle their differences in an Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match, the likes of which had not been seen on a grand scale outside of Japan.
This past February at Revolution, the rivals endured lacerations up and down their bodies in the name of supremacy and championship gold. They cut up their arms, their backs, and bled from their foreheads as they sought to leave the pay-per-view extravaganza with the top prize in all of AEW.
Despite a gutsy, inspiring performance from Moxley, it was Omega who benefited from interference by The Good Brothers en route to a successful championship defense.
While the match will prove memorable for the wrong reason (ie. the dud explosion after the match), it was still an appropriately violent bout between two men whose rivalry dated back to the inception of AEW.
More on them in a moment.
5. Unsanctioned Lights out Match: Jon Moxley vs. Joey Janela (Fyter Fest 2019)
Fans of AEW unfamiliar with Moxley's previous history as a deathmatch wrestler got their first (or many) tastes of it in the main event of Fyter Fest.
On that night, the company held its first Lights Out Nonsanctioned Match, pitting Moxley and "Bad Boy" Joey Janela against each other.
There were chairs, barbed wire, chairs wrapped in barbed wire, tables, ladders and of course, thumbtacks. It was the latter that provided one of the most sickening moments of the match as Moxley took a barefooted Janela and rammed his feet into them before putting him down for the count.
Unlike other matches on this list, and the upcoming Blood & Guts match that spurred it, there was no real hate or dislike between Moxley and Janela so to speak of. It was a match between two men synonymous with the style AEW officials wanted on display, and they delivered.
More importantly, it served as an introduction to the unhinged chaos and unadulterated violence Moxley would bring to his performances on more than one occasion in the future.
4. Dog Collar Match for the TNT Title: Cody Rhodes vs. Brodie Lee (AEW Dynamite)
Brodie Lee's shocking dismantling of Cody Rhodes for the TNT Championship on the August 13, 2020, episode of AEW Dynamite awakened a beast in The American Nightmare. It forced Rhodes to dig down deep within himself and discover a dark side.
He did, complete with a new hair color ala Superman's black costume, and challenged the leader of The Dark Order to a rare Dog Collar Match on the October 7 episode of Dynamite.
A throwback to the days of Dusty Rhodes and "Mad Dog" Buzz Sawyer, the match was a physical, hard-hitting, bloody brawl that including a vicious piledriver through a table at ringside and plenty of steel chain usage.
With both men sporting the crimson mask, Cody countered a discus clothesline attempt and delivered his brother's Final Cut finisher. From there, he wrapped the chain around The Exalted One's face, hammered away with right hands and elbows, and dragged him to the mat with Cross Rhodes for the win.
Not only was it exactly the sort of violent and physical match that feud needed, history now tells us it was Lee's final match. The late performer turned in one of the best performances of his career, in one of AEW's best and bloodiest encounters, solidifying his legacy with the promotion and as one of wrestling's most respected big men.
The emotion surrounding the match, both at the time and after, helps establish its place on this countdown.
3. Unsanctioned Lights out Match: Thunder Rosa vs. Britt Baker
Thunder Rosa and Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D. had a constantly intensifying rivalry as the March 17 episode of Dynamite arrived, but no one could have imagined the level of violence their feud-ending match would incorporate.
Sure, it was billed as an "Unsanctioned Lights Out Match," but fans had certain expectations when it came to women's wrestling and the level to which things would escalate. Those expectations were blown away on Saint Patrick's Day as the good doctor and her face-painted foe turned in one of the best matches in the history of Dynamite and a potentially game-changing match for women's wrestling in North America.
Rosa bled early, but it was no match for the crimson mask Baker wore moments later. The heel, blinded by her own blood, fought her way back into the match. Both women endured chairs and ladders, and even Rebel ate a big dropkick through a table at ringside.
Then came the thumbtacks, which Rosa powerbombed Baker into. Her back pierced by hundreds of the sharp objects, Baker continued to fight, going as far as to apply the Lockjaw in search of victory. It was not to be, though, as Rosa delivered a modified version of Bam Bam Bigelow's Greetings from Asbury Park off the apron and through a table at ringside for the win.
It was the most unexpectedly great match in AEW history and a not-so-subtle reminder that women are just as tough and willing to take the bumps that the men are in the name of telling their stories. A genuine Match of the Year candidate, it sits at No. 3 on this list, but the argument could easily be made that it belongs a spot up.
2. Unsanctioned Lights out Match: Jon Moxley vs. Kenny Omega
There are some matches that up the violence to such a level that it ceases to be in good taste or, more importantly, in the realm of reality. Such was the case at Full Gear in November 2019, when Moxley and Omega paid off months of feuding in AEW's go-to playground of violence, the Unsanctioned Lights Out Match.
Sure, the competitors incorporated the usual hardcore wrestling fare, but they also dug deep into the playbook of Combat Zone Wrestling and other hardcore wrestling promotions as they upped the violence with every passing minute.
They used barbed wire and steel chains, then they fought their way up the entrance ramp to a bed of barbed wire. Both men took the plunge, entangled in the wire and reliant on wrestlers and referees to free them from their agonizing predicament.
If that was not bad enough, an appropriate climax to the violent outburst of two of AEW's premier athletes, the introduction of glass moments later sure was.
Moxley eventually put Omega away with the Paradigm Shift on the exposed wood of the ring, bringing an end to their feud for the time being.
The match was so wild and over-the-top violent that the familiar foes struggled to top it, even with the Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch stipulation we already covered. It was a case of two men throwing it all at the canvas for their one, major pay-per-view encounter and having no real way to top the brilliant masterpiece of chaos they delivered.
They likely never will.
Was it uncomfortable to watch at times? Absolutely, but a match of that type, with the intensity of the feud that preceded it, should be. It was a five-star classic match and one that should be studied for its steady build to more and more violent content before climaxing with a devastating blow.
1. Cody Rhodes vs. Dustin Rhodes (Double or Nothing 2019)
The best match in AEW history is also its bloodiest.
From the outset, Tony Khan's company let it be known it would not shy away from blood usage when it suited the emotional intensity of the story the wrestlers involved were trying to tell. At Double or Nothing 2019, two brothers waged war as Cody and Dustin Rhodes took to the squared circle in a match as much about love and respect as it was positioning one's self in rankings.
Cody sent Dustin into the unprotected turnbuckle, busting his older sibling open. This was not the case of minimal blood to sell the effects of the shot but, rather, a massive bleeder that suddenly had both competitors and the mat itself sporting crimson.
While other matches had used blood ineffectively, its usage in this particular encounter added to the raw emotion of the story Cody and Dustin told. The older brother, hampered by the laceration on his forehead, endured the punishment dished out by The American Nightmare and still managed to fight back heading down the stretch.
The crowd ate it up, throwing its support behind Dustin as he fought through his blood-impaired vision in the name of beating his little brother.
But he could not. On that night in Las Vegas, with the stakes never higher for the upstart promotion, Cody delivered Cross Rhodes and put his brother out of his misery.
The blood-stained mat, Cody's once-blonde hair now painted red, and Dustin's plasma blending in with his red-and-black facepaint, the aftermath of the match was akin to a crime scene. Yet, despite everything the performers had been through, they embraced in the center of the ring, respect and admiration far greater than the rivalry that had sparked the match.
Blood & Guts Wednesday night on TNT may be a throwback to the old days of Jim Crockett Promotions and the height of War Games, but it will be incredibly difficult for that match to eclipse the quality, emotion, and significance of Cody and Dustin's instant classic at Double or Nothing 2019.