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AEW is Swerve's House! | AEWeekly Review #94

Welcome to the #AEWeekly review discussion where PWM contributors reflect on the highlights of the last week in AEW. The week runs Monday through Sunday covering the most recent Dynamite, Rampage, and Collision.

We are looking for a regular contributor for Match of the Week. Please reach out to @SergeiAlderman on Twitter if you are interested!

This week’s contributors are Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering match of the week, Greyson [@GreysonNation] covering promos, Saul [@SaulKiloh] exploring a key story beat, Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week, and Gareth [@Gareth_EW] giving us the MVP of the week.

Match of the Week: Sergei.

Swerve Triumphs in Texas Death

I feel like maybe I’m not the right person to sing the praises of this match. Even though it was unquestionably the best and most noteworthy match of this cycle, and had moments that will be on both men’s highlight reels for the rest of their careers. But there were some aspects that didn’t sit right with me: Hangman was motivated in this match to protect his family, but the crowd really wasn’t with him, and then on top of that he failed. All of that made the storytelling feel incoherent, like a broken Aesop.

And yet, what a statement victory for Swerve… and what iconic moments from each of them. The moment that I think everyone is talking about came early on in the match, setting the tone, when Adam Page slid under a bleeding Swerve to take his blood into his mouth to spew it in the air!

That feeling of vindictiveness permeated the affair, despite knowing that Hangman’s motive was to protect his family…

The first part of the match was all Hangman getting his revenge for Swerve invading his family's privacy and the implied threat to their safety, using duct tape to bind his arms and using a stapler to attach his son's art to his face like he would to his refrigerator at home. But the match turns around with a low blow from Swerve that allows Nana to cut off the tape. Although there would be moments later when Hangman seems close to victory, after Swerve shrugs off the stapler and even staples himself to prove he can take it, Hangman never again feels like he's in control.

There are several more massive spots– primarily Swerve throwing escalating viciousness at Hangman: a driver onto a cinder block, a piledriver into the barricade, a splash onto a back covered in broken glass. And yet, even as Hangman perseveres through it all, he gets very little crowd support: one “Cowboy Shit” chant at one point, versus “Whose House?” chants from beginning to end.

One aspect of the match that's pretty unpopular is the run-in by Brian Cage, but for me, this was one of the few feel-good moments of the match… once Hangman dispatches Cage, and the card up Nana's sleeve is revealed to not be an ace but a deuce, the Prince becomes desperate enough to interject himself personally, going after Page with a chairshot and immediately regretting it. Nana attempting to dance his way out of trouble was absolutely a delight, and the Deadshot on the Prince through the table was the most revenge Adam would end up getting.

When Swerve turns Page’s signature weapon against him, turning the Hangman into the Hanged Man, it's clear that the end is nigh. But the visceral relief Swerve shows at Adam Page staying down for ten perfectly sells what a grievous battle he's been through. This was Swerve's night, no doubt heading towards Swerve's run where he makes all of AEW Swerve's House. But it took the sacrifice of a Hangman to make that possible.

Promo of the Week: Greyson.

Fighting for the Soul of a Future Champion

Just as any opponent should before a big match, on the AEW Dynamite ahead of Full Gear, Adam Page refused to give Swerve Strickland what he wanted. Strickland wanted to be seen as stronger, tougher, badder, and more worthy of Page’s “spot” as a leader in AEW. Even Hangman often acts as the moral compass of AEW, with his Southern Baptist preacher-like approach while espousing progressive values, and he definitely plays that role in this conflict, he refrains from moral finger-wagging and doesn’t base his argument on how unsportsmanlike Swerve’s conduct is. Instead, Page adeptly determines Swerve’s core value system, and decides instead to attack what he actually cares about, his perception of strength and intimidation, by calling him a “coward,” reframing his actions as weakness. “You are not the man you say you are” is the essence of Hangman’s message. So many times when people claim the moral high ground on an issue, they will simply refer back to how atrocious the actions of the other party are, not knowing that the other party doesn’t care about those things and may even revel in being denounced for such. Those who make political arguments centered around the incivility of the other party would be wise to follow Hangman’s example and invalidate the strength and machismo their opponent seeks to convey, rather than just rant about how they threaten the legitimacy of an institution.

He called Swerve a “kid,” the same thing Jon Moxley once called him, leading Page to the legendary promo declaring “I am a man,” and the Narrative of Redemptive Combat therefrom created Hangman’s redemption arc in early 2023. Now going into the Texas Death Match at Full Gear in that same building, the former high school teacher Page seeks to teach Strickland a lesson using this approach, not to bring out his brutality (which is already more than apparent), but to make him into a leader worthy of the title of World Champion.

You can feel a genuine sense of care for Swerve underneath Hangman’s anger. This care is shown when he explains how Prince Nana is taking advantage of Swerve, using profits from Swerve on weed from a “high school kid,” and he adds the funny yet incisive line that he will steal Nana’s weed, which doubles to show that Hangman believes Nana to be a bad influence. Hangman appears to have wanted to see Swerve challenge for the championship, as per his prior Collision promo, but here he makes clear that his actions have foreclosed that possibility. Swerve’s only statement of purpose has been one of simply doing whatever it takes and hurting anyone you have to to get your “spot,” which Page cannot approve of. In a recent interview, Page stated that he thinks “wrestling is a very honorable thing” and “very sacred” and that the violence of Texas Death Matches are merely a way to handle “someone” who “needed to be dealt with.” Page’s title run cemented him as a distinctly Values-Based World Champion and Jon Moxley’s infamous post-Brawl Out promo as well as MJF’s personal growth post-championship, resulting in the longest ever title run, have made absolutely clear that the AEW World Championship should only be held by a true ambassador of the sport. MJF beat Kenny Omega for this record, who lost the championship to Page, as revenge for being a bad friend to him and as Kenny became increasingly arrogant through his title run. Thus the Championship is not merely earned by being the best fighter within the company, as Swerve wrongly believes, but by living a life worthy of wearing the belt. “It’s not just about what happens in this ring…it’s what happens when that red light turns off…those small, quiet moments when you think no one’s watching, that’s what makes a champion,” said Page in 2022 before his title match against CM Punk.

If Swerve becomes AEW World Champion, and he does not change his ways or achieve the type of growth Hangman is exhorting him to attain, it will certainly affect the trajectory of his title run. Then we will all remember the words Hangman spoke that Wednesday night.

Story Beat of the Week: Saul.


(Out of context spoilers for the Yakuza/Like a Dragon series ahead.)

If I can be honest for a second, there was never really another option for me to discuss this week (well actually, full honestly would be telling you that I briefly considered the Swerve/Hangman masterpiece, but my aniki have that covered). I get that some people may call me stupid for essentially selecting product placement/corporate sponsorship for my story-beat of the week. All I have to say is, “a real man ought to be a little stupid.”

Seriously though, I wrote my university dissertation on the Yakuza/Like A Dragon franchise, so this was pretty cool for me. Fans of the series will know that this isn’t the first time they’ve dipped into the wrestling world, with Okada, Tanahashi, Naito, Kojima, Toru Yano, and many more wrestlers having appeared in the games (basically as themselves).

Of course, this sponsorship seems heavily inspired by Kenny Omega who is a fan in the franchise, appearing as a support character in Like a Dragon: Ishin. Due to this, the match was able to match some of the fun and wacky energy that the franchise is famous for, while weaving in nice references to the series. This includes;

  • The good guys walking to the fight in suits much like the final chapter of Yakuza 4

  • Ibushi attacking people with a lead pipe while on a bicycle is clearly referencing Kuze’s infamous motorcycle assault in the sewers from Yakuza 0

  • Takeshita showing up in Goro Majima cosplay. Very cool!

  • Bicycle attacks! The go-to weapon whenever a group of thugs approach you on the streets of Kamurocho.

There were some crazy spots in this match! Hobbs powerslamming Tall Paul on a car, and Kyle Fletcher pile-driving Ibushi into a massive pile of chairs are the most notable. These reminded me of classic heat moves from the games. However, in the match they basically removed the wrestlers from proceedings, while they maybe would’ve taken off a third of a bosses health in the games.

To finish this section off, here’s a quick list of which Yakuza/Like a Dragon character each wrestler in this match is with zero explanation;

Kota Ibushi - The man formerly known as Kiryu Kazuma

Kenny Omega - Akira Nishikiyama

Paul Wight - Goh Hamazaki

Chris Jericho - Tatsuo Shinada

Powerhouse Hobbs - Ryuji Goda

Konosuke Takeshita - Takayuki Yagami

Kyle Fletcher - Fumiya Sugiura

Brain Cage - Gary Buster Holmes

Don Callis - Seishiro Munakata

I’ll finish with this final thought. In life and in wrestling, “ya gotta go balls out.”

(Sorry about this, we will resume with normal wrestling analysis next week.)

Moment of the Week: Peter.

Will Ospreay Is All Elite

In the regular series that is Tony Khans _________ Announcement, the latest episode came around at Full Gear.

After a tweet from TK where he talked about a new signing that the fans of AEW respect, the wondering of who it might be started. The fears that it would be Ronda Rousey abated when her appearance on ROH (is it a spoiler if no-one watches the show?) turned out to be a one-off and the hopes that it would be Mercedes Mone were dashed on the breaking news on Fightful Select that it was not going to be her. So there was only going to be one person that it could be that would save the announcement from being a wet fart of an announcement.

When Elevated (an underrated pick for being wrestling's best theme tune) came on, the reaction said it all. They knew that AEW had just made the best wrestler in the world All Elite. What was supposed to be the most interesting free agency in wrestling history was over before it even started.

The fiscal matters of the contract have been rumoured and will probably be confirmed at a later moment but those who know the inner workings of wrestling will know that the matters non-fiscal were always going to play to AEW’s advantage.

With his new family situation, asking Will to move full-time to Orlando was going to be a tough ask. The idea that WWE were going to make Will the star of NXT UK 2.0 was an interesting proposition because of its stupidity (Ari Emanuel laughing in Paul Levesque's face when he asks about starting up the NXT UK/Europe gig again is a good plotline for the remake of Entourage) but the one thing AEW had in its locker in these negotiations that WWE didn't was the ability to make Will happy by letting Ospreay be Ospreay in the ring.

Will prides himself on his ability to produce classics whenever he appears in the squared circle coupled with his interview skills which have improved to the point where Will is a genuine contender for Best on Interviews in the Observer Awards, something I thought I'd never I'd say in 2017 bruv, let's be honest, the "New York Territory" would not have let Will be Will had he gone to Titanland, something he can be in AEW and you could tell that Will was excited in not just his interview with Tony Schiavone but in the media scrum after Full Gear

AEW's USP has always been about producing the best wrestling from bell to bell and with fresh matches aplenty for Will, even with this "sports entertainment" kick that Tony is going through right now, (we need Bryan Danielson to break whatever Grima Wormtongue-esque spell Jimmy Jacobs has on TK right now,) Will's signing is great for AEW not just optics-wise in their battle with WWE but in establishing their claim that they are the best wrestling promotion in the world when it comes to action.

MVP of the Week: Gareth.

“Whose House?”

The most positive thing people were talking about coming out of Full Gear was about how great Swerve Strickland was and, for many people, why he should be the next world champion.

A brilliant Texas Death Match against 'Hangman' Adam Page, where Swerve got a statement victory, is just the cherry on the cake of an incredible few months for Stickland.

Shout-out to Hangman who is probably best suited to these personal feuds and perfectly suited to a "gatekeeper" role right now in AEW. I was tempted to make him the MVP, because his role in this feud and this match will be somewhat overlooked. But that aside, this is simply Swerve’s time.

If you'll allow me to steal a great point from @JoeHulbert over on "X". Swerve's demeanor after the match spoke volumes. There was a sense of satisfaction from Strickland. Not because of the victory but because he had just displayed exactly what he always knew he was.

A star-making performance and one that, frankly, AEW probably needs to capitalize on. This wasn't just a great victory over a former champion to prove Swerve is a great wrestler, destined for great things. It was a character defining moment.

Swerve entered Adam Page's house, the Texas Death Match, burned it down and hung the Hangman. Not only taking Hangman's spot but ascending to make himself THE top villain in AEW.


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