An AEW World Championship match is usually a special sight in All Elite Wrestling. They don’t happen often, but when they do, it is usually a heated contest between two of the top wrestlers in the promotion. The entire AEW roster fights in the hope of one day earning a shot at the title, giving them the chance to become the top superstar in the entire company.
However, when the global pandemic shut down the United States in March 2020, that idea went out the window. With the company forced to film months of television in just a few long nights, Tony Khan was forced to pack as much content into his shows as possible on a moment’s notice.
This deeply affected storylines in All Elite Wrestling. The first Blood & Guts match was cancelled, halting the only time that Cody Rhodes was meant to team with The Elite, in their battle with the Inner Circle. When it came time for the eventual Stadium Stampede match at Double or Nothing, he had been replaced by Matt Hardy.
Even when the country began to get back into its groove, the booking issues with AEW still remained. Any hint of COVID meant that the wrestlers were barred from competing, leading to a stilted show with some out of the box booking – unavoidable, sadly. Title matches, like Jon Moxley vs Brian Cage, had to he pushed back due to the champion catching COVID, and wrestlers like the Best Friends had to wrestle multiple times in one night in order to keep the show on track.
This creative hand-tying lasted well into 2021, only ceasing when the country finally opened up again and the virus became less and less effective. With wrestlers returning to the screen and fewer matches being cancelled just days before they were meant to happen, the shows began to go off without a hitch again.
However, one man who actually benefitted from the anarchy of the pandemic was The Butcher. The tag team wrestler had never been considered as a singles star in AEW, due to his age and relative inexperience in the ring. He only became a wrestler in his 30s, making his living as the rhythm guitarist in the band “Every Time I Die”, so he was never going to become a main event star in AEW.
Despite that, the pandemic gave him a chance to prove himself in the main event. The Butcher and The Blade had aligned themselves with Eddie Kingston in the summer of 2020, as Kingston engaged in a rivalry with his former friend Jon Moxley. Moxley was the reigning AEW Champion, and defeated Kingston to retain his belt on the September 23rd episode of Dynamite.
Before that match, The Butcher was told by Moxley that he’d be battling him for the title just days later, much to his surprise. The Butcher (real name Andy Williams) was ill with COVID, having damaged his lungs and barely recovered before the September 30th episode of Dynamite. Even more shocking was that this was The Butcher’s first singles match in AEW, making it a very strange decision by Tony Khan.
In fact, The Butcher admits he should not even have been in the match. He noted in an interview with Chris Jericho that he shouldn’t have been wrestling at all, given the damage COVID had done to his body. “I just came back from COVID. I got cleared the day before, so my lungs were still messed up,” The Butcher admitted. “I shouldn’t have wrestled that match. I’ve never felt anything like that in my life.”
Sadly, he was right. In the condition he was in and in the incredible Florida heat, his body could not perform on the level that he needed to. The Butcher vs Jon Moxley was a slow, boring match that saw The Butcher completely in control for most of the most, but with some slow, weak looking offense (obviously because his body was still recovering).
Jon Moxley did his best to sell the simple, ineffective-looking offense the best he could, but the fans did not buy it. The match was rated at just 6.09 by fans on Cagematch, making it one of the worst title defenses in AEW history (although not quite MJF vs Jay White). It is hard to critisise The Butcher too much, given his condition and the circumstances surrounding the match – he was only told about it days before, while sick in bed.
“It was 2:00 in the morning. I wake up to take a piss, and there’s a text from Mox that says, ‘I think it’s you and I Friday,’ and this is Wednesday. Dynamite had just aired. ‘I think it’s us Friday,’ and I’m like, what? This dude’s gotta be drunk. That’s all I thought is, he’s got to be drunk, and he’s texting someone.”
Moxley won the match that lasted 14-minutes, but felt like double that. He reversed a slow, plodding clothesline into a Dirty Deeds, before locking in the Bulldog Choke to force The Butcher to pass out. This may have been one of the worst AEW Championship title defenses, but at least it helped move along the story between Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston.