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A King Not Yet Crowned? | AEWeekly #112

Welcome to the #AEWeekly review discussion where PWM contributors reflect on the highlights of the last week in AEW. The eligibility week starts after last Wednesday’s Rampage, and ends with the latest Dynamite. Due to pre-emptions and rescheduling, this means the ONLY programs in this eligibility week are the social media exclusives and the most recent Dynamite.

This week’s contributors are Joe [@GoodVsBadGuys] covering match of the week, Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering best interview, Peter [@PeterEdge7] exploring a key story beat, Greyson [@GreysonNation] once again with the last-minute save, this time on moment of the week, Sam P. [@BigBadaBruce] with Throwback of the week, and Gareth [@Gareth_EW] giving us the MVP of the week.

 A page of links to prior installments may be found here: #AEWeekly

Matthew & Nicholas X Zay & Quen

"Exciting, competitive & dramatic..."

by Joe.

From a nuts & bolts execution-based grading system, I’d guess my match of the week comes in 3rd behind Swerve vs Takeshita and Ospreay vs Shibata, but what it had that both of those did not is the slightest bit of suspense for the outcome. Ospreay / Shibata have (non-AEW) history that Ospreay made feel important, but placing any money on Shibata to win would’ve felt downright irresponsible. Swerve vs Takeshita had some new heat & fresh beef to work with, but we knew who was winning that one before the bell rang as well. This doesn’t render those matches dull, but it certainly impacts any near falls. 

So, while Young Bucks vs Private Party was not as cleanly executed as those other 2 matches, it was worked with more urgency, efficiency, creativity, and suspense.

You got the feeling that both teams wanted to win the match, and they wanted to win quick. That quick pace made the match exciting and engaging, which seemed to pull in the live crowd more than most segments on the night. 

The quick pace created efficiency as the match only lasted 13 minutes,which is ideal for modern attention spans and for televised content.

The creativity of the match was a strongpoint, featuring the silly string over the barricade, and the falcon arrow off the barricade. In addition to new moves, we had Private Party stealing the Young Bucks’ moves in an attempt to steal another big win from them.

Sure, the closing stretch was sloppy, but I am a wrestling fan who doesn’t mind that as long as it doesn’t make things look overly choreographed. In this case, it did not look fake as much as sloppy, so I was cool with it. This match was not perfect but the positives far outweighed the negatives for me, and that’s why it was my match of the week.

Adam Copeland

"Hard-Earned Gravitas..."

by Sergei.

Sincerity! If you can fake that, you've got it made…

—George Burns

Authenticity, or its verisimilitude, is a common theme when I talk about what makes a pro-wrestling interview great. Often with many references to the King of (at least seeming) authenticity, Eddie Kingston. But this week I'd like to talk about a couple of other performers with VERY different spins on “sincerity”.

Darby Allin has had a very consistent character from day one in AEW, with obvious roots in his real life experiences and personality that one would be forgiven for assuming that there IS no “character” at all—that Sam Ratsch and Darby Allin are simply two names for one man. But if you caught Mr. Ratsch’s pre-tape—basically a PSA for his favorite charity—with his shredding hero Tony Hawk on Wednesday night, you may have noticed that we got to see a very different side of him. ICYMI:

Allin was wearing the usual Goth hobo monarch fit and the skull-revealing paint on the sinister side of his face, but there was something unaccustomed on his face, too—a bright smile!

This unfamiliarly smiling face went on to reveal—while standing next to a man who was doubtless a childhood hero to a skate-obsessed kid—that the injury-delayed summit attempt hadn't merely been a adrenaline-chasing vanity project, but a stunt with a purpose: to raise awareness and funds for skate icon Tony Hawk’s charity to build skate parks in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

I don't doubt that the angry and morbid young man we find hanging out in the rafters of arenas or in crumbling urban dystopias most Wednesdays is every bit as real as the enthusiastic fellow testifying this week to the positive impact access to skating had on his life. A big part of authenticity is in only subtracting, not adding, to create the self-portrait that fits the story you're telling. After all, Allin’s face paint is symbolically just as much about duality as death!

As refreshing and delightful as it was to see a different side to Darby, unless we later see that side of him challenging for titles and such, it's an aspect I question the canonicity of! But a little less than a week prior, recorded after the bloody Dynamite main event for social media release, we saw Adam Copeland’s take on authenticity—a gravitas that can only be earned through decades worth of scars and memories. ICYMI:

His face encrusted in his own blood, his quiet tone and thoughtful demeanor beautifully belies the violence of the ring war he's trying to capture in words:

Tonight was… was the kind of night that you dream of. When you first get into this—when you decide to dedicate your life to this—you dream of nights like this. You know: your hometown. Against a man that you've known for forty years …To get to have that kind of match… this war…. To hear that audience… to hear them sing my music to me… To have my family here, to have my buddies from grade school here, my buddies from college… It's one of those nights I'll take with me to the grave.

That hard-earned gravitas and meaningfulness is a perfect distillation of the value a veteran like Copeland brings to his promotion. Some sorts of authenticity maybe can't be faked?

Swerve Strickland

"One more shot at Big Platinum..."

by Peter

If you’re not trying to be Heavyweight Champion, then you’re in the wrong business

This is a line that Steve Austin said to Xavier Woods about a decade ago now. It’s a line that Stone Cold has frequently repeated on his podcast. It could be argued that the most important character in a wrestling promotion should be the World Title. Track and Field stars strive for an Olympic Gold Medal, Golfers look to win a major and to be honest, the one that means the most is the Green Jacket that represents The Masters and jockeys look to The Grand National as their Everest. In a company like AEW where the "Unique Selling Point" is being a sports-based promotion, the trophy that represents the pinnacle of achievement is the belt termed as “Big Platinum”.

Chances to fight for “Big Platinum” end up being sparse and the pool of wrestlers fighting for said opportunities is a tiny percentage of an ever growing roster.

A man who is on the roll of a lifetime, Swerve Strickland could have become the eighth man to become AEW World Champion but thanks to the tapout of Hangman Page, Swerve’s chance of glory wasn’t to be. But it could be argued that Swerve lost that match weeks before when he failed to beat Hangman in the No.1 Contenders Match for Revolution. With elements being out of his control, Swerve's heart ended up getting broken, but with a second chance on the horizon, now that Swerve earned sole No.1 Contender status owing to a victory over Konosuke Takeshita. He gets his second chance for glory but his first without any uncontrollable variables in his way. Dynasty will see Swerve Strickland 1 vs 1 against the Champ Samoa Joe and a lot of people feel that momentum is in Swerve’s favour and based on Wednesday night where on his second go, he won a No.1 Contender match, a second chance for Strickland to become champion could be taken. But it also needs to be taken because in AEW where chances to wrestle for gold are sparse, a third chance may be a long time coming if we don’t see a new champ at Dynasty.

Tony Hawk & Darby Allin

"Skate Heroes..."

by Greyson.

I have written extensively about the similarities and shared lessons between the authentic AEW culture and that of “action sports” like skateboarding, most recently in the feud between Darby Allin & Sting and the Young Bucks, highlighting how a skater like Darby is the ideal corrective against the EVPs corporatist attitudes. Given the relationship between Tony Hawk and Darby Allin, including a prior segment in 2020 and Darby letting Hawk have a moment with the TNT Championship belt in 2021 (leading this fan to create an #AllElite graphic for Hawk), I’ve hoped for a moment where Darby and Tony would walk out together to the ring to Superman by Goldfinger, but given the condition of Darby’s foot, that was not a possibility this week. What did happen though was just as great of a moment and even more meaningful than the pop the infamous Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater song would have had. Since Jay White injured Darby’s foot, Darby is not able to make his long-anticipated climb of Mount Everest and we expected him to take a significant amount of time off TV. 

However, Darby and Tony appeared on a video segment during Dynamite recorded from Hawk’s private vert ramp. Here Darby explained that his now-canceled Everest climb was going to be in support of Tony Hawk’s charity The Skatepark Project, an excellent cause that has helped fund almost 900 skateparks in underserved areas (a number that happens to also be the name of one of Tony’s most famous tricks). On a personal level, Allin, who wanted to become a pro skateboarder, shares that that he “would not be here without skateboarding” and Hawk explains that the skatepark was his “place of belonging and opportunity” and his goal is to “provide that same access to kids all over the world.” Skateparks not only provide a very in-demand form of recreation with 1 in 5 students being interested in skateboarding, even as team sport participation declines, they also help to build community connections among youth, provide a space for creative expression that is not constrained by the structures other activities may have (an ideal very aligned with AEW’s ethos of creative freedom), and even promote inclusion and understanding across racial, age, and gender lines. Though Darby did not skate in this segment for the obvious reasons, surprisingly (even to Tony) he was a part of Tony’s tricks on the vert ramp, giving a whole new meaning to the term “footplant,” with Tony handplanting off of Darby’s foot. (Also, shoutout to Excalibur who remarked that “only Darby Allin would let Tony Hawk plant off of his broken foot” immediately after the segment.) 

I hope Darby takes all the time he needs to recover… and maybe one day we will get Tony Hawk as the referee for a game of SKATE for the BTDO Championship!

Moxley X PAC

"And your NEW Number #1 Contender..."

by Sam P.

The ascension of ‘Swerve’ Strickland continued this week as he successfully defeated Konosuke Takeshita in a #1 contenders match to confirm his shot against AEW World Champion Samoa Joe at Dynasty. With his recent string of victories over ‘Hangman’ Adam Page as well, Strickland is primed to become the first black AEW World Champion and lead the company into the summer. Interestingly however, is how rare Swerve’s story has been, specifically, the winning of a singles match to be officially anointed as the #1 contender. In previous years, many title matches have come around due to a challenger winning a Battle Royal, stealing the title, or most often, building up to being ranked #1 contender due to the rankings, showing the long term storytelling in place for a wrestler.

In fact, there has only really been four major matches in AEW history that was officially meant to crown the #1 Contender, and two of those were Tournament Finals. In 2021, you had Bryan Danielson winning an Eliminator Tournament Final Match against Miro at Full Gear, culminating in a sixty minute classic between Danielson and the new AEW World Champion ‘Hangman’ Page. The previous year at the same event, you had Page this time losing an Eliminator Tournament Final himself, to Kenny Omega at Full Gear in a match that was the beginning of Act Two in the epic story between Omega and Page. There was a half-hearted #1 Contendership match in October 2019 that earned Darby Allin a title shot against Chris Jericho, but I’m reluctant to recommend due to his opponent being Jimmy Havoc. Otherwise, the only major match to be an official #1 Contender match, that wasn’t a tournament final or a draw (technically PAC and Orange Cassidy drew to face Kenny Omega at Double Or Nothing 2021 in a similar story to Page and Swerve’s recent Triple Threat match with Samoa Joe at Revolution 2023), is an often forgotten match from 2020.

Back on 22nd January 2021 episode of AEW Dynamite, Night Two of Bash At The Beach, on the same night that the aforementioned Page and Omega defeated SoCal Uncensored for the AEW Tag Team Titles to begin their future epic story, AEW Original PAC faced off against instant crowd favorite Jon Moxley for the opportunity to challenge Chris Jericho for the AEW World Title. A solid match overall with a hot audience, it’s especially interesting to see how strong the main event scene has become since then. At the time, Jericho was champion, Cody was unable to challenge for the title, Omega and Page were in the tag team division, it was almost likely that PAC and Moxley were the only two legitimate challengers to the AEW World Title. In comparison, even if you excluded all former AEW World Champions, current champion Samoa Joe, and Bryan Danielson (as he has admitted no interest), your current roster features the following who might become future AEW World Champions in the next four years: Adam Cole, Adam Copeland, Christian Cage, Claudio Castagnoli, Darby Allin, Eddie Kingston, Jay White, Kazuchika Okada, Konosuke Takeshita, Orange Cassidy, Ricky Starks, Swerve Strickland, and Will Ospreay. Considering eleven of those names weren’t even with AEW at the time Moxley and PAC fought, can you imagine the possible names in the next four years…

Swerve Strickland

"An Uncrowned King..."

by Gareth

Once again I’m spoiled for options for MVP. Will Ospreay had a brilliant match with Katsuyori Shibata on Dynamite, and either of those could have this award this week. However, Swerve Strickland rose above all this week in his main event with Konosuke Takeshita.

The test for Swerve was always going to be “can he maintain this hype?” He’s been super over with fans clamouring for him to win the world title for months now. But he continues to rise and to rise to every occasion.

Putting Swerve and Ospreay together in big matches on the same show was a bold move. Especially one week after Okada won a title. Many wrestlers would fail to stand out in these circumstances, but not Swerve. He displayed a brilliant babyface performance in the ring, fighting from underneath and slaying the beast that is Takeshita.

But we’ve seen this from Swerve before—he can deliver great matches, but so can many wrestlers. Where Strickland stands out is that he manages to put all the pieces together and carry himself with that certain intangible quality which people tend to describe as “star power”. Swerve just exudes it, and this week proved that more than any other.

Now Swerve Strickland is the number one contender again and likely wins the title at Dynasty in a few weeks. Meanwhile a clash down the line with Ospreay is starting to feel like a big time main event. Dare I suggest they go ‘All In’?

Swerve has ascended to be AEW’s main character in the absence of MJF and Hangman and despite the arrivals of Ospreay and Okada. Now it’s just time to crown him.


You can go to the LinkSearch tab to find a link to video of each segement that led to an award in #AEWeekly history and to the article where we talk about it...

Just use the drop-down menus to choose the date and category, and the tool will tell you who the awardee and writer were and give you links to the article and to a video.

You can also go to the TalentRank tab and use the drop-down menus to choose a range of time to get the rankings for who was the awardee most often in each category:


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