Updated: Mar 16
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 Joe [@GoodVsBadGuys] covering match of the week, Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering promo of the week, Gareth [@Gareth_EW] exploring a key story beat, Tim [@TimmayMan] writing move of the week, Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week, and Trish [@TrishSpeirs48] giving us the MVP.
Match of the Week - Joe
Bryan Danielson vs. Bandido
A sign of a special performer is that they can make traditional moves exciting. Bandido’s stalling hip-toss, stalling vertical suplex, and pop up face buster are all small tweaks on widely used moves that become GIF-worthy spectacles because of his execution. Even Bandido’s German Suplex is one of the most overused moves in wrestling today but it becomes exciting because of the way he starts it with that acrobatic slingshot opening sequence. Bret Hart was the excellence of execution but Bandido, at his young age for the world of wrestling, is a grapple guru. His best move being his moonsault fall-away power slam off the top rope, a move shared by fellow Cowboy-Themed grappler Hangman Adam Page. You can see this contrast between Bandido and Bryan with Bandido produced 3x as many grapples as Bryan even though he produced 20% less total offense.
What was impressive about this match was not just that Bandido hit all of these moves, but who he hit them on, and that is the multi-time WWE World Champion, multi-times WrestleMania main eventer, mainstream success, critical darling, first-ballot hall-of-farmer, and certified badass - the American Dragon Bryan Danielson. Bandido was able to land all of his moves and take Bryan to the limit, but the problem with that is for almost every wrestler on the planet, in order to take Bryan to his limit, you have to break your own, and that’s what happened to Bandido. Spent from pushing Bryan to the brink, he wasn’t able to avoid or evade Bryan’s final blow, the Flying Knee. The same move that put away John Cena put away Bandido. I like how decisively Bryan put Bandido away at the end with that Flying Knee. Bandido nearly won on multiple occasions and this match was tight all throughout up until that ending blow. After that knee, it looked like Bryan could’ve scored a 9 count pin. This was the right way to keep Bryan strong for his World Title challenge.
I gave this match 4.25⭐️ (8.5/10), because it was about as good as it could be without a feud or babyface vs heel dynamic or championship at stake. This match succeeded in maintaining Bryan’s momentum, elevating Bandido, and most importantly- entertaining the fans.
Something else that is interesting to note is that Bryan has been going on a World Tour of opponents. Defeating Canada’s Ethan Page, Japan’s Konosuke Takeshita, Mexico’s Bandido, Tony Nese and soon to be Brian Cage from the USA. I could easily see PAC coming up soon to represent England, and MJF somehow stirring the pot to make Bryan face his BCC stablemate Claudio, completing the American Dragon vs The World Tour.
Promo of the Week - Sergei
Takeshita Translates Himself
Last week I took a week off from promos and talked about the move of the week, talking about Konosuke Takeshita's thrilling top-turnbuckle lariat. Returning to my usual promo beat this week, I definitely was not expecting to be talking about Takeshita again, but… here we are.
Just the other week, the usual suspects of crabby old carnies was crapping on Takeshita's potential as a breakout star in American pro wrestling due to his shaky command of the English language. And I would be the last person to deny that vocal communication is a really important aspect to building great pro-wrestling stories. But on the flip side of that, SO much of what engages us as an audience in a wrestling promo is in the tone and timbre, the passion conveyed in the sound of the words. We've seen this in the past with the great Spanish-language promos from Pentagon Jr.
But once we've heard the fire and urgency of the tone of the words in the wrestler's native tongue, we also need some sense of the meaning as well. Possibly with some humour for contrast, as with Penta's manager Abrahantes prefacing his translations with the funny catchphrase "Penta says".
We got a great example of that on Dynamite with Renee Paquette's backstage interview with Takeshita. After a few stilted words in English, the subject moves to how he feels about the current World Champion and Konosuke goes into a rapid, eloquent, fiery, polysyllabic rant in Japanese. When Paquette asks what this means, he replies that it means that MJF is an asshole.
The translation being a very different length is a classic comedic gag with a long history, (here's the Trope page.) And the humour of the moment makes for an excellent contrast with the passion shown moments before. I think this is a bit that could get a lot of play and be an excellent running gag to get Takeshita over as a character and not just as an athlete. If I'm right, we may someday look back on this throwaway moment as a turning point in Takeshita's career!
Story Beat of the Week - Gareth
Saraya & Storm Turn
Last week I speculated about, and criticised the possibility of, a Hikaru Shida heel turn. Luckily AEW had a little more sense than to go with the fruit they have dangled over the last few weeks, and instead had Saraya and Toni Storm heel. Which I also suggested as a possibility.
I subjectively believe this is the better option and am glad that AEW have gone this direction. Saraya wasn't getting over and had come across as rather entitled. Be that intentional or not. However, there are two issues which many people seem to have.
Firstly, Hikaru Shida still looks like a bit of a dork. Last week she stood by passively as she was booked to make a half-decision. And this week she was once again passive as Saraya and Storm turned heel by attacking Willow Nightingale, before Ruby Soho came to make the save. So now Shida looks like a total idiot who is not only an afterthought, but a character seemingly incapable of making a decision.
The second issue comes for many people in that Saraya and Storm's motives don't seem well defined, and their heel turn felt weak and strange. To put it bluntly, it didn't land.
We'll have to see where this leads. Many fans are hoping for it to culminate in the first ever AEW women's Blood & Guts match. But really this feels more of a mess than it does a story. Things are just happening and despite there being a thin strand of logic linking them, they feel relatively random. But worse than that, too many of the wrestlers (characters) feel passive. And the worst thing to have in a story is a passive character.
The hope is there's some big plan to explain all of this. But given the history of AEW's booking in its women's division you have to say that is unlikely.
Moment of the Week - Peter
Bucks Pay Tribute to Jay
In a week where we mourned the loss of Jay Briscoe and with the news coming out via Dave Meltzer that Warner Bros Discovery had banned AEW from doing a Jay tribute show (the last week has proved that as seedy as wrestling has been in the last few decades, corporate politics might actually be worst) with so many in AEW having links with Jay in their careers, there was no way that we were not to have a homage to Jay on this night.
While Top Flight’s victory was a good way to build to what will be a fun defence of The Elite’s Trios belt against the Martins and AR Fox before The House of Black go for the belts at Revolution (I'm fantasy booking again aren't I) the moment to take from this match was when Nick kissed his tribute armband and went to the top rope. Normally when Nick Jackson points to the sky it’s to remind everyone that he can do a Macho Man impression. On this night, Nick Massie reached to the sky to honour his friend.
The tragic and shocking death of Jay Briscoe clearly has had an effect on Nick. You saw it on Wednesday night and reading Dave Meltzer’s wonderful obituary of Jay in this week’s Wrestling Observer, one of the best obits from wrestling’s greatest eulogy writer, it’s evident to see Nick’s heartbreak and sorrow but also his love for Jamin Pugh and the steps he had taken to redeem himself and the poor judgement he showed on twitter a decade ago with Nick not being the only one to talk about that subject.
While we will get to see A Celebration of Jay’s life on ROH’s YouTube in the non too distant future, WBD’s hypocrisy on their veto of AEW doing a tribute show for Jay on their network considering the media companies' reverence for JK Rowling and the Harry Potter franchise on TBS stinks but at least Nick got to have his moment in telling Jay he loved him in front of the wrestling world that is mourning the death of a great wrestler but more importantly, a great wife and dad. RIP Jay.
Move of the Week - Tim
Kushida Reverses Darby's Dive
Late in the TNT Title match Kushida found himself set up on a chair on the outside of the ring. Darby scaled the turnbuckle and looked to deliver a high risk piece of offense on the challenger. As Darby sailed through the air, Kushida tossed the chair aside and quickly applied an arm bar. This spot was quicker than a hiccup but it’s remarkable on a variety of levels.
Technically its execution was perfect. Kushida applied the arm bar so smoothly that had one blinked it would have resembled a magic trick. One moment Darby is air borne, and the next he’s flat on his back stuck in a submission. Storytelling within the match was well served by this spot as Kushida made a point to work on Darby’s arm both before and after this spot.
It can’t be understated how much Darby contributed to this spot. What Darby brings to his matches is quickness and the ability to sell/absorb damage. If we are able to remove Kushida from the frame, you have Darby leaping off the top turnbuckle and taking a flat back bump to the outside of the ring. Darby is a special talent and not many workers could manage such a spot.
Putting a match together can involve many different elements. Physicality, psychology, technical, dramatic, high risk, etc. It’s a special moment when so many aspects of pro-wrestling can be featured all in a single moment. It makes the whole match all the more memorable.
MVP of the Week - Trish
The tragic passing of Brodie Lee after a sudden illness was one of the worst moments in AEW's short history. A roster which had bonded during their Jacksonville tenure was overcome with grief. The tribute show to the Exalted One is one of the emotional pieces of television ever put together but also one of the most impressive.
Everything that happened over those months and that night said something else as well;- that AEW was different. No matter their disputes, these wrestlers were there for each other. This wasn't a company driven by individual demands, it was one where everyone wanted the best for each other. It was so noticeable that it convinced the likes of Bryan Danielson to sign when his WWE contract expired.
The last year for AEW has been tumultuous but this week proved that spirit was very much still there. The sudden death of Jay Briscoe was heart-breaking for fans as well as for a number of talents on the AEW roster. A Lot of AEW's original core was signed from Ring of Honor and had spent time with Jay and Mark over the years alongside battling them in the ring. Add to that the frustration of not being able to do more due to WBD restrictions and you wouldn't blame anyone for being overcome by the situation.
The response from the locker room and the management team can only be described as first class. A tribute show for that night was swiftly arranged with the likes of Caprice Coleman and Ian Riccaboni (as well as a host of other talent) flying in to play their part on a show they were previously not booked for. Every single person tried to do as much as possible for each other and for their fallen comrade.
For those who were booked on TV, their tributes were just as fitting. Former ROH World Champions Bryan Danielson and Bandido put on a classic display which would not have been out of place in their former promotion. Career rivals the Young Bucks, who had tried to bring in the Delaware team since AEW's very beginning, put over a young team of brothers in Top Flight. Jay Lethal and Sonjay Dutt took part in a comedy opener with Orange Cassidy to lift everyone's spirits and Adam Page was able to put things to one side in order to continue delivering some of the best character work of his career.
Everything on screen has been supported by everything off it as well. From the touching tributes on social media and this week's Observer to the donations to the family and offers of support; it's clear that the human heart of AEW is very much still there. AEW as a company and those leading it will do everything they can to look after the family of Jay Briscoe and find further ways to pay tribute to him as time progresses. This is AEW at its human best.