Hello and welcome to the #AEWeekly Roundtable Discussion where ProWrestlingMusings contributors share their thoughts on the major talking points arising from the last week of AEW programming.
1: CM Punk escaped his match with Wardlow on Dynamite with a beating, and a win. What did you make of this match and how it furthered the stories?
[Anthony] This wasn’t a match but a brutal beating. Punk barely got any offence in and Wardlow would have won, but MJF cost him. This match was so well done and added to the Punk-MJF feud, and the slow Wardlow burn. He’s going to be champion one day.
[Joe] For me this match didn’t quite reach the level of “good”, but it wasn’t “bad”, and slightly better than “okay”, so I gave it a 2.75 on GRAPPL, where it is averaging EXACTLY 2.75 stars after 146 user ratings. So, it turns out I have aligned with consensus there.
To me, that is a disappointing result, as I’d want the first-time ever match between Punk and Wardlow to be a 3.5-star affair. It was hard to believe that Wardlow couldn’t power out of that small package.
However, the segment overall was better than the match. It moved the story of MJF vs Wardlow forward, with the crowd getting more into Wardlow’s teased attack on MJF than anything else in the entire episode of Dynamite.
For Wardlow’s eventual face turn to reach its full potential for me, he can’t just turn on MJF. He must express regret for participating in all of MJF’s dastardly deeds, and ideally even stick up for someone vulnerable.
Speaking of vulnerable, this segment also moved the story of Punk vs MJF forward, with Punk looking vulnerable and beatable – which will set the audience up to bite hard on near falls in either direction.
[Andy] On paper this was a match that neither man could afford to lose. Punk hadn’t been beaten and Wardlow is getting the Lesnar push. The booking of this was masterful, Wardlow looked dominant, and Punk looked like a clever veteran. The MJF and Wardlow heat simmering also added a great wrinkle to the match. It’s also novel to have Wardlow being the first hurdle rather than Spears as Punk works his way to MJF – sending the final boss first because he didn’t have confidence in the others perhaps?
[Trish] I echo a lot of Joe’s thoughts on the match, in that as much as it did help to move the story forward, it didn’t quite live up to the level of match which I expected going in. The Bret Hart inspired finish just didn’t connect with me and the whole thing has left me wanting to see Wardlow-MJF much more then Punk-MJF. Is that by design? Possibly.
At this point I’m not sure how much more can be left between Punk and MJF before there is a match; Revolution feels a long way away and Punk is already through most of the “labours” MJF has set for him. A Wardlow turn may be the bridge that allows the feud to reach the PPV, but they must ensure that he becomes more than a secondary character during that period, unlike what happened to the Inner Circle in the build to All Out.
[Craig] As the guy who hates interruptions and thinks that wrestling refs being unable to learn from their mistakes is a universe breaker, you’d think I would have hated this. However, I thought it was fantastic. Yes, it was pseudo-soapy theatre, but it was well-done and the continuation of the Wardlow-MJF dynamic was mouth-watering. You can do this level of ‘sports entertainment’, which is what this was but unlike the usual embodiment of that phrase this was actually good, but only about once a fortnight. In my opinion.
What I was more concerned about is this was the continuation of the lack of 15–20-minute banger to open Dynamite. This match was not that, it proceeded a promo opener and as the ‘opening’ match it also had an ad break interrupt it.
2: Lance Archer returned on Dynamite, threatened Dan Lambert before attacking AEW Champion ‘Hangman’ Adam Page. What are your thoughts on this segment and Archer as Hangman’s potential next opponent?
[Anthony] I love Archer, this is a very different type of beast for Hangman and a good change of program for him. That said I’d like to see Lance get some wins before the title match because the last time we saw him was in a losing match and if AEW want to keep their rankings relevant he needs to be in the top 5.
[Joe] I agree with Anthony. I like the style contrast not just from Hangman, but from Hangman’s last two opponents – Omega and Danielson. I also agree that Archer should rack up wins before getting an actual title shot. The records have just reset making this the best time to inject a “new” face and rocket them to the top.
Lance Archer is the perfect wrestler and character to go on a monster squash run. I would have him start by dominating an episode of either Dark: Elevation or Rampage, depending on how quick you want this to go, where he defeats multiple opponents per night, using different moves each time without using his finisher because his move-set is so deep.
This leads to him getting a match with a top-5 ranked babyface in Dante Martin. This can be more competitive, but Archer can win decisively with The Blackout. Now, you have a monster knocking at Page’s door who believes he can beat him “6 ways from Sunday”, leading to greater investment in possible finishes throughout the match.
[Andy] It is great to see Archer back after his scary injury. He is a fantastic worker and a great monster heel – but is he a serious threat to the title? Aside from winning the NJPW US title against Moxley, he has fallen short with all his AEW title matches and there is no reason to believe he will do anything else here. I imagine this is a TV feud rather than stretching all the way to Revolution – a solid main event for Beach Break.
[Trish] This one came somewhat of a surprise when looking at the options available, but I find it to be a rather welcome one. Hangman needs to be facing of opponents within this title reign and the addition of Dan Lambert adds heat for Archer, who hasn’t really settled as either a heel or face since his arrival in AEW. Like Andy, I see this as the “Beach Break” main event, where Page downing the monster is a good setup heading into his PPV programme.
[Craig] He looked a threatening threat. However, I need him to get a non-title match in order to protect the sanctity of the rankings. Otherwise, you are creating a situation where every Tom, Dick and Harry should be looking to lay out the champion every week.
Also, the idea that wrestlers should angrily put their title on the line to ‘get back’ at an attacker because they are so angry, they just don’t care is dumb and especially so with the magnitude of Hangman’s title journey. He should want to fight Archer, but title shot? No need. Getting the champion in-ring and a win under his belt is valuable enough.
3: Brody King debuted on Dynamite, joining the House of Black and destroying Penta and the Varsity Blondes. Are you excited by this? What are your hopes for the House of Black?
[Anthony] Very! This coming week we have House of Black vs Varsity Blondes, and I can’t wait to see Julia remove the eye patch and betray them to join the house of Black. I’m all in on this. Also adding Black and King to the tag division is just going to make it even more amazing.
[Joe] I am not that excited by this, but I’m happy for the real-life people involved to be getting prominent time on Dynamite. I saw Brody King wrestle for PROGRESS in Chicago back in 2018, and he is a big man that can go, with a unique look, that fits nicely with his partner Malakai Black. I don’t want Julia Hart to join the House of Black solely based off being misted, because I’m not crazy about that supernatural stuff.
But that’s the great thing about AEW is that it is a variety show, so it’s not all catered towards my taste. I’m happy for the people who are into this, I just hope it doesn’t spread to many other prominent parts of the show for a long time. My hopes for the House of Black are that it will eventually lead to a Dark Order vs House of Black story that culminates in Black vs Page for the title.
[Andy] Full disclosure, I’ve never seen a Brody King match. He looks like an absolute beast and with Malakai being so dangerous as a singles competitor they are going to be a formidable team. I’d love to see them against Darby and Sting somewhere down the line, but I just want to see a dominant, no-nonsense faction that destroy everything in their path for a little while first.
[Trish] Finally we have the next step in the building of the House of Black and King started off well here with the destruction of Penta and the Blondes. My main hope for the faction going forward is they are dominant, starting with destroying Garrison and Pillman this week.
Black’s matches have moved backwards sadly ever since the August 4th destruction of Cody, with opponents lasting far too long and a heavy reliance on supernatural elements. I hope this is the catalyst needed to move him forward after a disappointing few months.
[Craig] I’m not excited about this at all. I’m not familiar with Brody King so him linking up with Malakai Black does nothing for me. It is another clue that AEW may not be a high on Black as I am. After his wonderful destruction of Cody with the equally if not more wonderful presentation of his character, I saw him as a character that could trouble the main event scene. Everything since then hasn’t lived up to that starting point.
4: Adam Cole opened Dynamite with a promo before defeating Trent Baretta on Rampage. What did you make of Cole’s work this week? Will he be Hangman’s challenger for Revolution?
[Anthony] It was a good match, ruined by Jericho's commentary. I feel Trent is going to have a heel turn, the only question is will it come before the feud is done?
I really liked adding Britt to the super group. That said I'm about ready for this feud to end very soon. Unless they are going to have him loose a match, I think it’s unavoidable at this stage.
[Joe] On Dynamite, the heel vs heel Bucks vs ReDragon stuff that Cole is playing ringmaster for is a turn-off. I hate heel vs heel dynamics. It is what turned me off late-stage Black & Gold NXT. Wrestling works best with babyface vs heel built off ethical and character differences. That makes me want to tune out and find something else to invest my time in.
Done right, where the Bucks re-find their moral compass and express remorse, this could be a top storyline of the year. As currently developing, it’s a disappointment.
The match with Trent Baretta however was very good, because it gave me exciting action, in addition to a protagonist to support and an antagonist to oppose.
[Andy] Cole’s promo work is always great. Everything he does has a level of intrigue that few people manage. This is leading to Blood and Guts for me. Best Friends plus one (maybe a debuting Gargano or Keith Lee) with the match leading to an Undisputed Era turn on the Bucks. That would make it too soon for Hangman v Cole at Revolution in my mind, but Double or Nothing would be a great fit.
[Trish] Once more my thoughts echo Joe’s on this, in that I didn’t enjoy this segment at all, and I have no interest in a heel team tug of war over Adam Cole. This story is also at the complete expense of the Best Friends, who feel like they are here solely due to the Chaos connection and to introduce another new arrival in a 5 v 5 match.
I would rather Hangman-Cole was left aside at this time. The last thing I feel Hangman needs is to go straight back to being involved in heavy Elite drama and facing a babyface in heel clothing like Cole at the point where they are asking him to play a Tanahashi style character. It could do more harm than good.
[Craig] There’s something missing for me. There’s too much going on, I think. Cole’s booking is sprawling to the point of scatter-gun. It almost feels like there’s too much going on around him with his split loyalties. I’m concerned all that will carry on until after a Hangman match. Whereas I feel like all that needs to come to a head sooner rather than later.
5: How did you feel about AEW overall this week? Is there anything in else you would like to spotlight?
[Anthony] Garcia should have won the TNT title. AEW was good but there were some questionable choices. The main one is that the Dante/Hobbs match was a very similar match as the Punk/Wardlow match which preceded it, and it felt flat as a result.
[Joe] This was the first episode of Dynamite that I can remember where I texted my brother and one of my friends that Dynamite is a total skip, and you can just watch the videos posted on YouTube and social media without missing out.
Rampage was better, but I wouldn’t be surprised if many fans skipped it after investing 2 hours into that underwhelming Dynamite. I am optimistic about AEW on the big picture level, and I am planning on attending Dynamite on 2/2 here in Chicago. But after crushing it from the spring through the summer through to Full Gear, they have not delivered a start-to-finish banger must-see episode of story progression and in-ring-action since Winter Is Coming.
[Andy] This week was one of the most divisive I’ve known from AEW. Nothing majorly exciting but everything solid enough. One titbit that may have been missed was the Hardy/Andrade interaction. I’ve built up a story in my head where Andrade buys the HFO teams, leaving Matt free to have one last babyface run with Jeff. It will probably end up being nothing, but it seemed an odd little segment if there is no plan behind it.
[Trish] I expect this to change in future weeks, particularly in the run between Beach Break and Revolution, but I can’t help but feel like they are treading water at the moment and the show just feels somewhat imbalanced.
I’ve been trying to put my finger on it in recent weeks, whether it’s the addition of Rampage causing the change of pace or the lack of clean finishes, or several issues which are regularly pointed out. But these aren’t new and haven’t bothered me as much in the past. Right now, more than anything else, there is just a lack of energy around these shows and a lot of the featured programs, especially now Hangman-Danielson has run its course.
AEW regularly has rebuilding periods post PPV and have also had strong periods at the start of the last couple of years, I absolutely hope that we are heading towards one of the later now and that it returns to being something I cannot wait to watch.
[Craig] I liked most of the beginning of the show. But AEW is beginning to feel a little bit of a chore in recent weeks. It feels a little bit like content for content’s sake with the exception of some outstanding segments/matches.
The idea that the absence of Moxley and Omega needs to be reversed to fix this is misguided to me. There are so many wrestlers being unutilised. Deeb needs another dance partner now Shida has returned to Japan, the TNT Title needs to return to its former prominence; think Darby/Miro/Cody extended runs, and we need a return of the one multi-man offence-fest banger a week; this could have been a spot for the SuperKliq before the arrival of the Undisputed Era.