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A Crowning Moment for Samoa Joe | AEWeekly Review #54

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

Welcome to the #AEWeekly review discussion where PWM contributors reflect on the highlights of the last week in AEW. The week runs Friday to Friday covering Rampage and Dynamite.

This week’s contributors are Craig [@CraigPWMusings] Trish [@TrishSpeirs48] giving us the MVP, Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering promo of the week, Sam [@Sir_Samuel] reflecting on the key story beat, Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week and Gareth [@Gareth_EW] covering move of the week.

Match of the Week: Craig.

Darby Allin vs Samoa Joe.

This match currently sits at 9.04 on Cagematch, making it the only AEW match to break 9/10 on Cagematch this year. It sits alongside three matches from Japan; Omega/Ospreay, Kiyomiya/Kenoh and the wonderful AJPW tag featuring Aoyagi, Miyahara and the Nomura brothers. Meaning it has outdone matches like the Best of Seven final, Danielson/Bandido and even Moxley/Page.

So how did this ‘plunder match’ for a ‘secondary’ championship achieve that? The sheer creativity, danger and sacrifice brought to the ring by Darby would be my assertion. This one wasn’t a spot fest or an AEW all action match, it was actually rather measured. It saw a lot of Joe throwing Darby around with grapples or putting him to the mat with strikes. The big spots were measured and resonated.

Darby’s ability to give himself to his opponent and the end product is underscored by the sheer lack of reversals in this match. He took the offence, and a lot of it was jaw-dropping. Check out the momentum chart for more evidence of Darby highlighting his opponent’s strength and offence.

At the beginning of February, admittedly early, Darby is my AEW wrestler of the year thus far.

Promo of the Week: Sergei.

Jon Moxley makes some logical points on Road To

For me, the must-see AEW show, besides Dynamite, is the preview show Road To. Truth to tell, I just flip through Rampage most weeks. Road To is where we've seen some of the best promos ever in AEW. Like Eddie Kingston's dream of a snail on a razor blade….

Road To has been in a doldrums for a few weeks, but this past week was back to form with several promos ranging from good to amazing.

Comparing "good" with "amazing" may seem unduly harsh, but I think it's instructive for understanding what sets a GREAT promo apart from a well-delivered promo. (SPOILER: the answer is "logic"!)

Samoa Joe has one of the best voices for the delivery of threats ever in pro wrestling. He could give a blood-chilling, excellent, intimidating monologue in his sleep, and lately it seems like that might be exactly what he's been doing. His promo on Road To was about as intimidating a string of catchphrases and cliches as you can imagine. What was missing was the "why?" Joe claims that Darby Allin stole the TNT Championship from him, but what does that mean exactly? It sure didn't look like any kind of fluke or cheap win to me. Joe claims that Darby Allin isn't the kind of man who can usurp his crown, without explaining what kind of man he believes Darby IS. In fairness, it's possible his supporting arguments were cut for time from this pretape. In a chat with Wrestlezone:

…Joe makes his supporting arguments much clearer: he sees Allin's win as theft due to the skateboard attack before the bell and Sting's distracting presence at ringside, and doesn't see Allin as a real threat minus his plunder. But, as presented, Joe's promo is well-delivered but disjointed.

In stark contrast is Jon Moxley's promo building up his Dynamite rematch with Hangman Adam Page.

Moxley acknowledges that he didn't think Page had a chance to beat him in their previous bout and he'd been wrong, and when he says there's a big difference between him and Page, he takes the time to explain what that difference is: both men hit hard, but Moxley has more weapons than that. While Page is going to try to outdraw him again, Moxley has many more ways to beat him. I completely expected this point to lead to Moxley winning by something OTHER than a high-impact move taking Page down for the count and Hangman feeling cheated, and that's exactly what happened: a flash pin that I expect will lead to a Texas Death Match or Last Man Standing: something that takes more than three seconds to get that decisive win. But Moxley DID warn him!

There were a few other points I really liked about Moxley's promo. Emphasizing being a city person, and his connection to the mean streets of Ohio that gives him the twelfth-man advantage in Moxley country. And the point that he is a person who HATES losing more than he loves winning.

But the biggest point and point of distinction was the one thing Mox did that Joe did not: make a logical case for why he should go in confident of a win in a rematch with a competitor who had beaten him in their last encounter.

Story Beat of the Week: Sam.

Moxley Survives Hangman

I have never wanted a New Japan style blood soaked, sweet drenched, adrenaline high post match interview immediately after a match more than I did as tempers boiled over between Hangman Page and Jon Moxley on Dynamite this week. This feud that started with an admission of mutual respect has truly entered bad blood territory as these two men resolved to do nothing but hit each other in and dump each other on one another’s heads until one man could do it no longer only for Jon Moxley to break the unspoken code and roll Hangman up to get the pin fall win.

After the match was over Hangman clearly felt like he hadn’t truly been beaten, arguing with the referee, standing over Moxley and even giving Claudio Castagnoli a light push before trying to get back into it with Moxley. I’m not sure what is going on in his head but this is former high school teacher, anxious millennial cowboy, most wholesome man in wrestling Adam Page so the change in character is quite stark and I love how this feud is pushing his character. Where it ends up I’m not sure, I love how AEW have typically eschewed constant rematches but with the way this feud has developed surely we have to get a fourth and final before these two call it quits.

Moment of the Week: Peter.

Darby Allin is Crazy

When the announcement of Allin/Joe III was made and that the match would be No Holds Barred, the first reaction from many a fan was "oh no"

With the fear that Samoa Joe was going to fling Darby around the Nutter Arena like the monster in Cloverfield flung the head of the Statue of Liberty around New York City, Tony Schiavone's claim that this match would play into the hands of Darby was an opinion held by a minority.

As the match went on, the fears came to fruition with Darby's gnarly bump flip flopping over the stairs and guardrail, Joe throwing Darby over the staircase rail (at least Joe didn't do a missile dropkick down the stairs like in TNA all those years ago this time round) and throwing Darby over the top rope like Nick Jackson throws a 3-pointer. But in amongst Darby being thrown around, he would use his quickness to flummox Joe and cause him problems that the King of Television was struggling to solve until Allin gave himself time to think.

Grabbing a knife, Darby cut the ring apart, taking the canvas and padding away to expose the wooden boards that are the foundation of the squared circle. But in doing so he caused his own downfall, not because Joe would later hit his Muscle Buster on those boards to get the 1-2-3 to reclaim his TNT belt but because it gave Joe a chance to solve the problem that Darby asked. By spending so much time dismantling the ring, Joe regrouped, washed the powder and blood off his eyes and positioned himself to entice Darby to go for the high-risk move that had brought him to the heights he has hit in AEW. Like a tennis player playing to an opponent's failing backhand, Joe simply walked away changing the trajectory of the match and minutes later The King of Television added TNT silverware to his collection in the same arena Bret Hart won the 1993 King of the Ring.

One of the reasons Darby is so popular amongst the AEW fan base is his innovation of inflicting violence but with that comes a margin of error that ends up being so small that when it goes right it goes spectacularly right but when it goes wrong, it goes spectacularly wrong and it all went wrong for Darby on this night but that's why he's as popular as he is and the fans wouldn't have Darby any other way and as remarked above it helped lead to the Match of the Week and maybe the Match of the Year so far for All Elite Wrestling.

Move of the Week: Gareth.

Samoa Joe Busts Some Muscles

Darby Allin and Samoa Joe took their rivalry to another level in this match in an absolutely brutal match. One fleeting thought that came to my mind in this chaotic brawl was; "how on Earth are they going to justify a finish to this match?"

And then, of course, AEW went and did it. As Darby Allin exposed the boards of the ring, he cemented his own demise. After multiple brutal moves as Peter spoke about above, Samoa Joe hit a Muscle Buster on the wooden boards for the win.

The Muscle Buster is well established as one of the most brutal moves in wrestling as it is. Linked to various injuries, including to Joe himself. But to do it on the exposed wood was another level. Also, as Excalibur pointed out on commentary, this was only the second time the wood had been exposed in AEW history. The first being to end Moxley and Omega's incredible Lights Out match at Full Gear 2019.

Despite losing to Darby a matter of weeks ago, Joe had once again built himself into a monster who I genuinely can't see how anyone can beat him. That's how great he was, and it's great to see the Muscle Buster being utilised as the killer move it is once again.

MVP of the Week: Trish.

Samoa Joe

What a difference a year has made for Samoa Joe. The man cast aside by NXT as it underwent a direction change and released on January 6th 2022 looked like he was coming to the end of a career that had been successful but had promised so much more. Fast Forward to 2023 and things are (thankfully) vastly different.

On Wednesday night Joe delivered his finest match in years to close out an excellent mini series with Darby Allin. It made use of all of his best attributes- his brutality, power and sudden bursts of motion against his smaller, more agile opponent. Perhaps even more incredible was his commitment to use his body within the finale, with him taking much of the impact of the exposed wooden boards on the bout closing Muscle Buster then Allin did.

The 43 year old has a new lease of life in AEW and (alongside daredevil Darby) has revitalised the TNT Championship following a year of it trending towards irrelevance. His promo work since his heel turn has been excellent as well, placing him in the upper tier of performances across the company. His mixture of menace and believability ensure he stands out from the other heels on the roster.

Some are already looking at Samoa Joe's second TNT Championship reign to be transitional with the return of Wardlow; they envision that he will be used to rebuild the Wardog after his last reign lost momentum. This is a distinct possibility but I would definitely argue that, with everything Joe is bringing to the role right now, maybe there shouldn't be such a rush to remove his newly found gold from around his waist.


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