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AE Weekly Roundtable #12

Welcome to the All Elite Weekly Roundtable for the week of the 2/23 Dynamite and 2/25 Rampage, both emanating from Connecticut.

1. MJF delivered a promo touching on a story he told on “From Undesirable to Undeniable” with Cody Rhodes. After the promo, CM Punk came out, and instead of responding on the mic, asked MJF if it was true and it was real, to which MJF said that it was. (A) What do you think was the purpose/goal of this promo? (B) Has it changed your rooting interest for the Dog Collar match at Revolution?

[Joe McCaffrey @GoodVsBadGuys] (A) I think the purpose was to make this feud between CM Punk and MJF more layered and nuanced, and it succeeded. Part of what made Volume 1 of their feud so great was its callback to 1980s wrestling. Crystal clear separation and alignment of who is the babyface and who is the heel. That line started to muddy last week when Punk’s major insult to MJF was that for MJF, meeting Punk was the biggest day of his life, and for Punk it was just Friday. This put fans in a situation where you can relate much more to MJF than you can to Punk. That continued this week with MJF’s origin story. Explaining how much that day did mean to him, and how much it hurt when Punk “left” him. As someone who was born on Long Island, has experienced lifelong struggles with Attention Deficit Disorder and looked up to my favorite wrestlers as masculine role model substitutes to fill in for my lack of a father figure, there is a lot that I can relate to with MJF. I got teased by football teammates as well, not for my religious beliefs, but for being overweight. (B) No, I am still rooting for CM Punk. Having a hard childhood does not excuse regifting the bullying (Making fun of people for being overweight, being poor, threatening physical abuse against women, slut-shaming “Methanie Pillman”, saying “it’s real sad the potato famine didn’t finish the job” about Ireland). From a kayfabe perspective, MJF has put a lot of vile hate out into the world, so karma is comin’ for him. His balance is out of whack right now and he has some serious hell to pay.

[Gareth @Gareth_EW] To answer the first question, it’s very similar to what I wrote on Twitter ( ).

This feud has kept fans guessing at every turn and this was just another example of that. I think the goal of this, from MJF’s perspective, is to lure Punk in. I anticipate something truly despicable next week to sell the match.

And as for my hype of the match, this got me so much more excited. Excited to see what happens next week and then for the Dog Collar match, which I simply cannot call!

[Peter @PeterEdge7] A) A point can be made that all promos should be an advert for the event that they are building to and MJF’s promo has made me count the days to next week’s Dynamite.

In the first 60 days of the year that has seen two contenders for promo of the year (Mox’s return promo and CM Punk’s “Will you be my Valentine?”) Maxwell’s promo on Wednesday eclipsed both. The small details are what makes this so good. MJF shrugging his shoulders and giving a self-deprecating smile when talking about being one of two Jewish kids to try out for the football team gave us a brief glimpse behind the wall that it seems he has built up since his childhood which he then gave us a long look at when he started to talk about his learning difficulties and his experiences of suffering anti-semitism.

When he moves to January 2014 and CM Punk’s departing wrestling, MJF begins to speak his truth just like Eddie Kingston did in November last year. MJF had his heartbroken when Punk left wrestling and in his head, him. Last night was a fantastic study in the creation of parasocial relationships in the world of social media and how unhealthy it is. As David Bixenspan pointed out on Twitter in the hours after that promo, MJF is the fans who started stalking CM Punk and went through his trash outside his home to try and figure out why he disappeared and Punk’s cameo was the chef’s kiss to the segment.. When he asked if MJF was telling the truth, he looked like a man who doesn’t trust that MJF is telling the truth judging by the closed fist as he shared the ring with Maxwell but also realizing that while he made the right decision for himself when he left wrestling, he might have caused a butterfly effect and actually set free a monster in MJF that AEW has been dealing with for almost three years.

This was one of the greatest segments in wrestling ever and achieved its goal. Yes, AEW already had my money for March 6th, it now has taken away my Monday because I’m staying up til 5am here in the UK instead of watching it the next morning.

B) I’m a CM Punk guy, what can I say

[Andy] (A) I'd echo what's already been said. This makes the feud more real, gives it more depth and builds up the MJF character too. I've heard it being referred to as his 'Super Villain origin story' and I feel that is an excellent analogy. With the exception of the Long Island show, MJF has always been booed out of the building with no redeemable qualities. All being well, MJF will have another 10 plus years in the company, adding more layers to his character is a great idea.

(B) No way. I hope Punk beats him to a bloody pulp!

[Trish @TrishSpeirs48] With a number of MJF’s past feuds they have fizzled out somewhat before reaching the PPV, this promo on Wednesday night ensured that his program with CM Punk wouldn’t go the same way.

For me, this felt like the first real emotion I could actually feel from their exchanges since November and fleshed out MJF as much more dimensional than most give his character credit for being. This has also reaffirmed that the battle is between Punk and MJF after a couple of months where their issues had been convoluted by the Wardlow involvement.

Whilst I think they will reaffirm the lines between them in regards of face and heel next week (perhaps using a throwback to CM Punk’s “I’m a Snake” ROH promo), it was still important to give this feud more depth and nuance in its final weeks. I won’t be rooting for either man in this one, just hoping they can tell a great story within the stipulation.

2. Hangman Adam Page ran out to the ring outnumbered 4-1 by the Young Bucks / ReDragon faction. Hangman cleaned house, single-handedly beating up the entire Undisputed Era (before receiving a fun assist from John Silver), before cutting a promo against Adam Cole. What were your thoughts on this segment?

[Joe McCaffrey @GoodVsBadGuys] This was the best character stuff from Hangman Adam Page since he won the AEW World Title. He looked brave, tough, and purposeful. Hangman, like the modern-day progressive Stone Cold I view him as, got payback for last week. Then, Hangman used Cole’s own shtick against him in a well-delivered “Storytime with Adam Page, Bay Bay”. This sense of humor added on to the courage is babyface gold. Now, this upcoming week, he is tagging with Silver & Reynolds. I think this might mean we are getting a dose of Fun Hangman, or “Funman” Adam Page, as fellow contributor Jae Finely coined it. Making Hangman look brave and fun is the right move heading into Orlando against Adam Cole flanked by his Undisputed Era brethren in their home territory. They are reminding the AEW audience why we fell in love with him. I was also heartened by seeing The Bucks clear out for Page, giving me some hope for a heartfelt reunion down the line.

[Gareth @Gareth_EW] Amazing! I love Hangman’s character as champion because he’s everything a babyface champion should be, but rarely is. I’ve found that a lot of people don’t understand it, it’s alien to them. But that just goes to show how AEW are changing the game with babyface champions in North America.

[Trish @TrishSpeirs48)] This was pretty much exactly what I wanted to see from Hangman in the last few months. They reaffirmed him as a smart babyface who picked a sensible time to attack those who ambushed him last week and gave him the time with the microphone in hand, where his character once again shone through.

For Page’s part in performing as the AEW World Champion, I’ve been consistently impressed with how he has responded to the pressure of being in the position he is in and will be happy to see him rewarded by being more strongly positioned on the show post the PPV. If for anything this match doesn’t feel as strong as others on the card it’s because Cole doesn’t feel at Hangman’s level at this point, which is a testament to how much progress he has made in recent years.

[Andy] I agree with all the comments above. Hangman came out swinging and showed great confidence, carrying himself as a champion. The Bucks not helping reDragon also sews the seeds for a potential reunion with Page down the line. This is how stories should be told in wrestling.

3. Chris Jericho and Eddie Kingston had a promo exchange. (A) What worked? (B) What didn’t? (C) Who are you rooting for? (D) Does the fact that Chris Jericho has a 1-0 record against the current babyface champion make him the likely winner?

[Joe McCaffrey @GoodVsBadGuys] (A) What worked was Eddie’s vibe. He feels like a real person. I can’t think of another wrestler that I’ve had a bigger turnaround on from my first impression to current appreciation than I have with Eddie Kingston. I see him as a top babyface, and so much of that is tied up in believability and relatability. Eddie feels authentic, and that makes his story resonate even more, and generates more sympathy, and makes me root for him harder. (B) What didn’t work is that it seemed like these guys had two separate promos that were just happening at the same time. Jericho seemed to have a plan, and it seemed like Eddie wasn’t invited to the meeting. Jericho had some solid bullet points that give this feud some good foundation to work with, but it didn’t seem synced up with what Eddie was doing. It’s like Jericho was cutting a WWE pre-tape and Eddie was cutting a shoot promo. Jericho’s lines about Eddie’s family were emotionally charged and worthy of a pay per view worthy fight, but that leads to my biggest issue with the promo. Eddie Kingston letting Jericho get away untouched after calling his uncle and father failures does not sit well with me. (C) I’m rooting hard for Eddie Kingston. (D) This Jericho heel turn, plus the fact that he has a 1-0 record against the current babyface champion Hangman Adam Page makes me think that Jericho is likely to win this match through underhanded means.

[Gareth @Gareth_EW] (A) Everything Eddie Kingston said worked, because he’s authentic. Some of what Jericho did worked also. (B) But some of it really didn’t. The use of insider terms is always cringe, but when it’s used to say that Eddie Kingston looks like a jobber or that Eddie Kignston “would become a great babyface” - that’s just insanely cringe.

(C) I’m rooting for Eddie Kingston, obviously. I really think you have to be a strange individual to root for this Jericho character. In previous weeks he’d done a good job at teasing a heel turn. This week he was mostly just cringing me out

(D) Eddie Kingston should win this. They’ve done the “Eddie can’t win the big match” story a LOT now. And with Mox or with Punk that was fine. It was fine for him to lose because they gave him something in defeat. I don’t see what rub Jericho could give Eddie at this stage. Not anything he didn’t get from Bryan, Mox or Punk, anyway. Eddie should win, this should be his ‘feel good’ moment on a big PPV after so many losses. And hopefully before too long he builds on it and wins a title.

[Trish @TrishSpeirs48] This felt like a promo of two halves for me, the first half felt a little too “insider” and a weaker version of Punk and MJF’s Thanksgiving week exchange, whilst the second half, as things became more personal, was much stronger. Eddie’s facial expressions had me breaking into laughter regularly and were a genuine highlight on what was, at times, a very serious show.

I’ll be rooting for Eddie in this one but I could well see Jericho picking up the win. AEW is short of top heels right now [{and with a Punk win at the PPV likely eliminating MJF from title contention for the foreseeable future) Jericho winning here before revisiting his past with Adam Page feels a more likely outcome. His mention of the Champion felt like it was for a reason. For Eddie, I hope it will be the impetus in realizing that something has to change in order for him to get that big victory in the future.

[Andy] Not going to lie, this didn't hit the mark for me. I was expecting more from Eddie, more shots about Jericho being selfish and losing his touch. With great promos from MJF and Hangman already in the bank, this perhaps could have waited for another time - even Rampage. The Eddie not winning the big one line implies that he will win this one. Jericho doesn't need the win. Kingston has come up short in big matches before and needs the win.

4. What did you think of the overall in-ring quality of this week’s Dynamite? On the previous episode of Dynamite, 4 of the matches received an average rating above 3 stars on the GRAPPL app. This week’s show featured only one (Danielson vs Garcia).

[Joe McCaffrey @GoodVsBadGuys] I was disappointed in the in-ring action this week on Dynamite. The only thing worth it’s time was Danielson vs Garcia, which is disappointing because I was looking forward to that Battle Royal, which I’ll cover in the next question. Even Danielson vs Garcia was not must-see TV for me, though. I’m not exactly sure what emotion I’m supposed to experience during Daniel Garcia matches. It seems like he’s a nice person in real life, so I’m happy for his success, but that style just doesn’t elicit any kind of meaningful response from me, which I’d chalk up as being a matter of taste rather than any deficit of skill. For example, I would take a Little Caesar’s pizza over a meal from a 5-star seafood restaurant because seafood just isn’t for me.

[Gareth @Gareth_EW] I don’t really remember much of it, to be honest. The battle royale was good. Well booked I thought. Penta & Pac vs Kings of the Black Throne was seriously disappointing. It’s already become a bit of a mess with that story.

Starks vs. 10 was very forgettable, as was a lot of Jade Cargill vs. The Bunny. But I did really like the closing stretch of that match. And the main event between Bryan Danielson and Daniel Garcia was great. But not much more.

[Peter] Unlike WWE whose main income comes from WWE Network/Peacock and their TV contracts, AEW’s PPV revenues are vital to their income and someone like Tony Khan, who is steeped is wrestling history has shown that he believes in the “talk them into the building” philosophy that dominated the mindset of territories like Memphis and Mid-South in their heyday. This week’s Dynamite was the perfect case study for that theory with Punk/MJF and Jericho/Kingston along with the progression in Page and Cole’s story. The great matches will come on March 6th.

[Trish @TrishSpeirs48] This was undoubtedly a poor week for in-ring action on Dynamite but this has become a regular occurrence before each PPV as they prioritize building for the PPV and I agree with Peter that this episode was very much successful in that. Whilst I’d love them to go back to more of a February 2020 build to a major show I’m comfortable with the format they use as current.

[Andy] It was a below-par week in the ring. AEW has set an enormously high bar. The Battle royal took many names who normally contribute to this off the table but the promo exchanges made the show a very entertaining watch overall.

5. Booking Question: In a promotion that has a year-long ranking system that is supposed to add importance to the day-to-day and week-to-week matches, AEW is running back-to-back battle royals to allow 2 teams to leapfrog the rankings and challenge Jurassic Express for the AEW World Tag Team Titles. How do you feel about this?

[Joe McCaffrey @GoodVsBadGuys] The booking is oddly lazy and lacking in logic by AEW’s standards. It is not rare for them to run one battle royal to circumvent their rankings systems, but to run two? Then, instead of having two separate pools of talent, they are just letting all of the losers from this week’s battle royal back into another battle royal the week after? Added to that, the clunkiness and lack of creativity in the eliminations in this week’s battle royal was disappointing. There were definite highlights: John Silver making a big run and getting thunderous (at least by this crowd’s standards) “Johnny Hungy” chants, the Santana vs Trent standoff that generated a buzz-cheer, the Chuckie T Hug-Save to his Best Friend Trent, the Orange Cassidy save. There were fun moments, just a lot of clunk in between, and a lack of creativity in the eliminations. This next battle royal should be fun from an action standpoint, but it seems objectively lazy from a storytelling and respect for the rankings/credibility standpoint.

[Gareth @Gareth_EW] No, I wouldn’t have booked it like that. It’s beyond lazy and from a logical standpoint it’s nonsensical.

[Peter] Is it obvious that Tony likes battle royales.

Looking at it dispassionately, AEW have used a battle royal to decide the No.1 Contender for the tag titles for the last two Revolutions so there is precedence but two battle royales in two consecutive weeks? Seriously? Also, the Casino Battle Royal felt like it went so long that you could have completed a full curling match in that time.

Also, presuming that the same teams that took part in the first battle royal take part in the Casino Royale, can someone please explain to me why the No.1 ranked team in the Official Rankings (The Acclaimed) and No.2 (Kings of The Black Throne) aren’t in the Battle Royales.

The FTR-Young Bucks interaction was swell though

[Trish @TrishSpeirs48] I can’t be anything but honest here, I absolutely hate this. With the company already doing a Diamond Ring Battle Royale which ends with two competitors left at the end I fail to see a reason why two would be needed for the tag (outside of it being used to purely advance the Young Bucks- ReDragon story). Even more frustrating it feels like the third PPV in a row where the tag championship match has had very little build.

The image which summed this up most for me was Jurassic Express simply leaving the stage after the match’s conclusion, with absolutely no direction whatsoever in the build to their own title match. I’ve been crying about the tag division for a while now, especially with it essentially relegated to Rampage, the events of this week have done nothing to change my current perception.

[Andy] I have nothing new to add - it's lazy booking with the goal to be to have the Bucks and ReDragon on the card but saving the big match for later. There is no reason for this to suddenly be a 3-way title match. None at all.

6. Is there anything else you would like to comment on from AEW this week?

[Gareth @Gareth_EW] There was a distinct lack of focus on the women’s division again this week. I really hope this doesn’t become a trend again, because AEW had done good work to improve things.

[Trish @TrishSpeirs48] Probably the most notable thing for me, and actually building on Gareth’s point, was Britt Baker and Thunder Rosa having their build for the PPV on Rampage. This match doesn’t feel anywhere near as big as I think most hoped it would, to the point I almost hope Baker retains so they can follow up with a stipulation match of some sort in San Antonio two weeks later.

[Andy] Buddy Murphy. What a signing he could be. A superb talent that has everything. But I did get fed up of the lights on, lights off in that segment. It really took the impact off it for me.


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