Earlier this week, we shared with you our thoughts on the women’s bracket for the inaugural AEW Owen Hart Foundation Memorial Tournament. You can read more about that here.
Now, we turn our focus to the men’s side, which includes a fascinating field of contenders. There are tons of exciting matchups set for the first round with the potential for more in the coming rounds depending on how things shake out. AEW released a preview of Dynamite with a bracketology special (starting at about the 3:45 mark of the video) on YouTube this morning, which you can watch below. The special looked at each contender, and featured analysis and interviews as it looked at each wrestler’s case for winning this coveted prize.
We’re going to do the same. Here is our look at AEW’s men’s bracket for the AEW Owen Hart Foundation Memorial Tournament. We’ll examine each first round matchup, the wrestlers involved, and aim to make a prediction on not just who will win the first rounds, but who will win the entire tournament.
Analyzing the AEW Owen Hart Tournament Men’s Bracket
Rey Fenix vs Kyle O’Reilly
The first round of the AEW Owen Hart Tournament features several must-see matchups, but none could end up being as exciting as this one. Rey Fenix made his triumphant return to AEW just a few weeks ago, and while he did so at the aid of Death Triangle, AEW was very high on the innovative luchador prior to his injury. Eyes were on Fenix to rise the ranks as a singles competitor, perhaps even as high as the world title scene. It remains to be seen if that will still be in the cards but we do know that should Fenix win this tournament, it would certainly be a starring moment for wrestling’s most exciting luchador.
Fenix won’t be gifted a victory however as he’ll face the consistently underrated Kyle O’Reilly, who is also looking to prove his merit. O’Reilly has long been one of wrestling’s most overlooked guys, but as a singles star in past promotions, he has proven that his workrate and offensive style is second to none. Now, it’s unlikely O’Reilly is going to have singles gold strapped to him anytime soon as his story right now is with reDRagon and their pursuit of the tag titles as well as the Undisputed Elite saga (which could see him and Adam Cole face off in the finals of the tournament…). But it’s been a while since the world has been treated to O’Reilly in top singles form and win-or-lose, a match with Fenix will do just that.
Our Pick: Take Kyle O’Reilly to outmatch Fenix in what should be a great first-round contest. With O’Reilly’s status as the only Canadian (depending on who the joker is) in the tournament, it wouldn’t feel right to have him lose the AEW Owen Hart tournament in the first round.
TOMORROW on #AEWDynamite, allies @DarbyAllin & @JEFFHARDYBRAND will stand on opposite sides of the ring for the #OwenHart Foundation Tournament Quarterfinals LIVE at 8/7c on @TBSNetwork! Near Long Island, NY? Witness this incredible matchup LIVE! 🎟 https://t.co/UN1cNj1kQq pic.twitter.com/fJxGgfO8wH
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) May 10, 2022
Jeff Hardy vs Darby Allin
When the brackets for the AEW Owen Hart tournament first came out, it is likely this was the match most people had circled as one not to be missed. Jeff Hardy became a legend in the pro wrestling industry for just the kind of death-defying stunts that Darby Allin is known for. In a lot of ways, this matchup very much features two guys who grew up on the same daredevil style and who in many ways, mirror each other. Well, mirror in the sense of if Hardy looked into the mirror and saw himself at 20. Allin has been one of AEW’s pillars from day one. He came into this company and instantly found success and popularity among the fans. All of that exploded for the better when AEW paired him with the legendary Sting. Allin and Sting have been AEW’s most successful veteran/newcomer partnership as it has allowed Sting to continue wrestling while protected and has allowed Allin to benefit from the knowledge and expertise Sting can provide.
Allin is no doubt the favorite heading into this match-up. While seeing Hardy in the tournament is nice, all roads are heading toward the Young Bucks and the Hardys recreating their ROH ladder match magic for the first time in AEW. The company began teasing such a match before Jeff Hardy even arrived. He is likely in this torunament just to put over Allin in a passing of the torch kind of moment as Allin has spoken about being directly influenced in the ring by the style Hardy popularized in the 90s. Changing of the guard matches are always fun so look for Hardy to give Allin everything he has last in what could be one of his last great singles matches in pro wrestling.
Our Pick: Look for Allin to emerge victorious in what should be a fun, hectic, and yes, death-defying first round bout. Allin is a young, emerging star and it is only a matter of time before AEW rides his popularity all the way to the top.
After an emotional win against tag team partner @CashwheelerFTR, #FTR’s @DaxFTR takes on @adamcolepro #BAYBAY in the #OwenHart Foundation Tournament Quarterfinals TOMORROW on #AEWDynamite LIVE from Long Island, NY, at 8/7c on @TBSNetwork! 🎟 https://t.co/UN1cNiJJrQ pic.twitter.com/jbM2boRdqv
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) May 10, 2022
Adam Cole vs Dax Harwood
This is probably the most overlooked of the first round matchups, but it shouldn’t be. Dax Harwood and partner Cash Wheeler had the best of the qualifying matches as the two FTR stars showed the wrestling world the power of a perfectly crafted narrative. Longtime partners, both Harwood and Wheeler had been singles competitors in their early careers before coming to NXT and finding a bond as one of wrestling’s best tag teams. But on Dynamite, the two showed their tag team prowess certainly translates as the underhanded tricks they spent years perfecting against their opponents worked just as well in a singles match. The two were fighting in honor of one of their idols and while both wanted to win, neither wanted to win at the expense of their partner and friend. Harwood and Wheeler told a story that sampled from Owen and Bret Hart‘s own iconic WrestleMania showdown, while adding their own spin.
But as great as that singles match between two longtime partners was, Harwood will not have the same level of camraderie when he takes on one of AEW’s most beloved stars (at least if saying one’s catchphrase is any indication) in Adam Cole. Cole has not lovelost for FTR and will certainly be willing to pull out any trick in the book to get this win. Cole’s ascension in AEW comes of little surprise as he was always someone fans knew would get on swimingly in the new promotion. What many didn’t necesarily suspect was the instant pairing of him with his former Undisputed Era mates and the, at least for now, seeming partnership of UE with the Elite. Cole is having the best of the both worlds right now and sure seems like he is on the path to success. Of course, when everything is too good to be true, it often is, and it would surprise no one if Cole’s perfect house of cards comes crumbling down before the year is over. But for now, it is all sunshine and rainbows and should he win this tournament, it could go a long way to setting up a Cole vs CM Punk title match, which no doubt would be something fans would want to see.
Final Pick: There is a strong connection to the Hart Family that has become such a prevalent part of Dax Harwood’s work as of late. It wouldn’t be all that surprising to see a protege like that win it all. But…it’s Adam Cole (bay, bay!). AEW has been focused a lot on his position in the company and it would surprise no one to see him not just win this but win the whole tournament.
Samoa Joe vs the Joker
Saved the best/most unpredictable for last. Whenever there is an unknown quantity involved, it makes figuring out a winner that much more difficult. Because at first glance, Samoa Joe is a guy who has all the intangibles needed to win this thing. He is a huge star in AEW right now and is basically the standard bearer of whatever this new Ring of Honor will look like. As a former ROH star, Joe is a great choice to lead the new version of this company and he’s also setting up for a huge showdown with Punk when the time is right, rekindling their old rivalry from the company. Plus, it is no secret how high Tony Khan is on the Samoan Submission Machine. It would make all the sense in the world to have him win this tournament.
But what if the joker is the artist formerly known as Cesaro? Or Johnny ‘Wrestling’ Gargano? Or even a returning God’s Favorite Champion, Miro?
The joker throws a wrench in everything. Should it be Cesaro for example, Joe’s chances of winning take a hit. And truly, everyone in the tournament’s chances of winning would take a hit as Cesaro is a perfect example of someone who can win it all. He is another guy inspired and influenced by the Hart Foundation, a connection that may not be lost on the bookers here. Someone like Johnny Gargano could probably come in and take the loss to Joe, but a returning Miro, admist some of his top popularity, would make sense to have win at least this first round.
Our Pick: The joker is unpredictable. There are people who could beat Joe and others who it wouldn’t make sense to do so. For that reason, we’re not going to make a pick for this match. We’re just excited to see what big surprise Khan has in store for us next in the AEW Owen Hart tournament.
More from LWOS Pro Wrestling
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world. As well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. You can catch AEW Dynamite Wednesday nights at 8 PM ET on TBS and AEW Dark: Elevation (Monday nights) and AEW: Dark (Tuesday nights) at 7 PM ET on YouTube. AEW Rampage airs on TNT at 10 PM EST every Friday night.