Ranking AEW’s Lights Out Matches
What is the best Lights Out Match in AEW?
AEW has steadily built up the Lights Out match as both crowd-pleasing, low-stakes spectacle and a viable top feud-ender—to varying degrees of success. In this list, we rank the efforts of those blood-eager enough to tear their opponents and themselves open, with no incentive of climbing even one step up the AEW rankings.
Jon Moxley v Joey Janela (Fyter Fest 2019)
The charm of Pre-Dynamite AEW was undeniable. People can say what they want about it being unsustainable, because this, that, or the other would have to be more ‘polished’ at some point. But perhaps the charm that people refer to when they speak of early-AEW stems from how they put on matches, like a Jon Moxley versus Joey Janela Unsanctioned main event. To the people who wondered why we’re getting the match, why we’re getting it this early, etc., they’d soon find out that the simple answer is because it’s fun.
While not a Lights Out match by name, this bout maybe deserves the same discussion as one, for setting up the stipulation to not just be dangerous bloody brawls, but stupid fun, as well. Moxley and Janela may not have had the best chemistry, but this match (and this era of AEW) wasn’t about that. It was about proving that fans, the real ones, can have as much fun with a high-stakes PPV main event, as they can with an unsanctioned plunder party.
(5) Orange Cassidy v Adam Cole (Dynamite: Beach Break 2022)
Orange Cassidy by himself, great. Adam Cole by himself, great.
Cassidy and Cole together? Not so.
Cole thrives very much in the late-game, when he starts hitting more high-impact moves like the Panama Sunrise, and with a bit more urgency. But early-game, he tends to wrestle like he wants a late-game, which is to say that he likes his wear-down holds, regardless of his opponents’ size. Cassidy, on the other hand, being more of a reactive wrestler, doesn’t have much to engage with here. So we have two wrestlers who fight with no sense of urgency, and now they’re expected to pummel each other without rules.
On top of all that, this is the Lights Out match most obviously booked to protect one of its participants in defeat (Cole being on a singles win streak at the time), and so much about this makes it hard to like. It definitely had its fun moments (such as the surprise debut of Danhausen), but far from enough to land it any higher on this list.
(4) Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston v Minoru Suzuki and Lance Archer (Rampage: Grand Slam 2021)
Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston mixing it up with Suzuki-gun’s toughest brawlers, Minoru Suzuki and Lance Archer, is a really easy sell. This came about as an extension of a quick Moxley/Suzuki feud post-All Out 2021 (why that match couldn’t happen at All Out when Suzuki showed up there anyway is still a mind-boggler). Though for some, their singles match on Dynamite left a lot to be desired ring time-wise (and even entrance-wise), this feud-closer on Rampage had all the time to breathe.
Due to the all-over-the-place brawling nature of Suzuki’s matches in general, this match at times felt like an extended Suzuki brawl with kendo sticks and garbage cans mixed in than a Lights Out match. While that’s certainly not a negative, that observation may also be indicative of the fact that they could’ve done a little more with the stipulation.
(3) Kenny Omega v Joey Janela (Dark Ep. 2)
(A Lights Out match on AEW Dark. Hilarious.)
Joey Janela’s presence may not have been felt much once AEW returned to touring in 2021, but when the promotion was much newer and more raw, Janela really fit in and put on some great no-DQ bouts. One of his best efforts would come (to no surprise) against Kenny Omega, in the second-ever episode of Dark. Both men’s strengths fit together nicely for this match: Omega’s talent as a dynamic, explosive, marathon-style pro wrestler, met Janela’s masochistic toughness and black belt level knowledge of hardcore matches.
The match that resulted was beautiful, brutal, and at the time (as stupid as it sounds), felt like it might’ve been too much for Dynamite. To this day, many consider Omega v Janela to be the best Dark match AEW has ever produced, and it may stay that way for a while.
(2) Thunder Rosa v Britt Baker (Dynamite: St. Patrick’s Day Slam 2021)
Thunder Rosa and Britt Baker’s Lights Out match came to us at a time when wrestling looked and felt a lot different, because the world at large was a lot different. There were no thousands of fans encouraging intricate sequences and dives, or dunking on wrestlers speaking with slightly longer sentences like regular people. Point being there was not much incentive to take extra risks in a building largely empty of paying customers.
So when rivals Baker and Rosa, two people not at all known for being no-DQ specialists, were scheduled to main event Dynamite in a Lights Out match, the surrounding intrigue was mild. These curtailed expectations probably served them even more though, because as the match went on, and the two women showed great chemistry befitting of a gnarly brawl, viewers knew they were watching something special. It was an absolute visual spectacle that benefitted by it being rough around the edges, and most of all, created 2 top stars in the women’s division.
(1) Jon Moxley v Kenny Omega (Full Gear 2019)
Every Lights Out match possesses its own kind of chaos, beauty, and stupid fun, but Jon Moxley and Kenny Omega’s Full Gear 2019 match still makes a case for being the best of the bunch. It made most of the stipulation, starting with the space. Without consequences, Moxley and Omega took this fight all over the building, tearing apart the ring and making a glass table backstage explode off of a deadly DDT. Omega had even prepared his own barbed-wire and mouse trap contraptions (I’d call them beds, but…) for Moxley to go through.
Another way it made the most of the stipulation is by eliminating the low-stakes nature of a Lights Out match. Whereas Baker and Cole had everything to gain from being protected in the rankings from losses that “wouldn’t count,” neither Moxley nor Omega had much of an out. Both men had a strong case for being in line for the World Championship if they won this match, especially when—and consider this the third reason—they were closing a PPV over the World title match.
Some may reasonably argue that this match didn’t create any stars like Baker v Rosa did, or that a non-title match should never main event over a title match. But it could also be argued that, especially in early AEW, this match made Moxley and Omega look like the top wrestlers of the promotion, believably main-eventing a PPV in an unsanctioned fight over Chris Jericho and Cody Rhodes.
This bout best embodies the ethos and the highest potential of Lights Out: a fight between two wrestlers who will destroy the world to win a moral victory, because the stakes always read: I am the best—regardless.