top of page

Best Bout Machine Is Back, Baby! | AEWeekly Review #61

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

Welcome to the #AEWeekly review discussion where PWM contributors reflect on the highlights of the last week in AEW. The week we are predominantly focusing on AEW Revolution, as well as the week leading up to it.

This week’s contributors are Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering match and move of the week, Gareth [@Gareth_EW] covering promos and a key story beat, Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week and Trish [@TrishSpeirs48] giving us the weekly MVP.

Match of the Week: Sergei.

Omega vs Vikingo: A Concentrated Classic

The Dynamite main event this week feels like more than just the Match of the Week. However, I hesitate to call it Match of the Month in a month that also included possibly the greatest Iron Man ever. Let’s call it a second early Match of the Year contender in less than two weeks. Let’s call that AEW hitting all cylinders.

It seems like a mismatch, comparing this amazing but relatively brief match to a modern classic almost exactly four times its duration. After all, most other five-star rated matches have at least three more minutes to play with and are more typically almost twice as long. And yet, the comparison feels right, in terms of the dramatic arc and the emotional journey each match takes us on. It’s as though Kenny set out to prove how little he needed to create a legitimate mat classic: no more story than “Dream Match delayed due to surgery,” no more audience familiarity with his opponent than “I hear this kid’s good,” no more build than a bare announcement a week before, and about half the typical airtime for such an attempt. Oh, and lest I forget: no blood and one (1) prop!

The more obvious Danielson match to compare this to is his match with Bandido. Both feature a technical master who the fans don’t dislike, but they’re more excited by the brash, new, underdog luchador. Looking at the per-hour stats above, you can see that the opponent in the technical master role in each match is also the superior in strikes, not only with many times more knockdown strikes, but even a higher rate of simple strikes than the smaller, faster man. But looking down at the rest of the stats it’s easy to see the big difference between the two luchadores: while Vikingo’s focus is breathtaking aerialism, Bandido shows off his impressive core strength and llave submission skills.

But, to me, what really sets the two matches apart is dramatic structure. Both have a heat segment, rising action, and falling action, but the Bandido match is appreciably an episode of a wider story. While the Iron Man match is a honking, blood-soaked phone-book of a novel, the Vikingo match is a tight, taut novella—a perfect, self-contained story in miniature.

Rather than starting with a feeling-out process, this match starts with an underdog flurry. The match stats are bell-to-bell, so Vikingo’s already-impressive rate of dives and early blue line of control understate the situation. From the moment of first contact to the opening bell, Vikingo hits continuous offense for over 40 seconds: a surprise tope, followed by a somersault plancha, a springboard shotgun dropkick, and a Superman punch.

After the bell, Vikingo’s flurry continues for about 100 seconds with more thrilling and inventive aerial offense: including a top-turnbuckle implosion-rana, a Shooting-Star press from apron to floor, and an Outside-in Second-rope Springboard 450° Splash. Then an exchange of strikes leads to a switch of control with a backbreaker by Omega.

This leads into an extended heat sequence during the Picture-In-Picture, with Omega torturing Vikingo’s back and going for several covers over the next five minutes. About halfway through this, Omega sets out the story’s Chekov Gun, setting up a folding table at ringside.

When Vikingo finally interrupts this onslaught, it leads to seven minutes of rising action: back-and-forth struggle with more Vikingo control than not leading inexorably to the table-smashing climax. The table is first teased early on with Kenny attempting to set up the snap dragon on the apron and Vikingo desperately wriggling free. The rising action features several breath-taking moves by Vikingo, including reversing an Awesome Bomb into a top-buckle Frankensteiner.

But make no mistake, it isn’t all Vikingo. It felt rather like a PvP fighting game where you have all the neat combos, but your opponent has one unstoppable move he keeps spamming. For Kenny, this wasn’t the One Winged Angel or the Snapdragon, it was the V-Trigger, which Omega hits Vikingo with four times over the course of five minutes in the latter part of the match, to devastating effect.

Finally Vikingo hits the Swan Dive Poisonrana to set up the climax of the match—the “high spot” in the original sense of the term. I discuss the 630° in more detail in “Move of the Week” below.

After racing the referee’s count out, they have a “punching-on-knees” segment—along with the Poisonrana, another reason this match brings the Iron Man incongruously to my mind. This leads to Omega’s third V-Trigger, and a reversal that leads to Vikingo’s last gasp of hope—a Sunset Flip Powerbomb which he attempted to follow up with another 630° splash, this time from the top turnbuckle that led to an empty pool and his ultimate downfall: one last V-Trigger and the climactic One-Winged Angel.

Promo of the Week: Gareth. Garcia Lays a Challenge

After Adam Cole announced his in-ring return he begun teasing the idea of facing one of AEW's great "technicians". Some speculated this may be a red herring, but in fact it wasn't as Daniel Garcia challenged Cole on this week's Dynamite.

Baggy leather jacket slinging off his shoulder, Garcia walked down to the ring to put Cole "in his place". Something that Garcia actually made his name in AEW doing. When he came into the company he would regularly go after the big names to try and make a name for himself.

When Daniel got to the ring he rattled off the things he's achieved since Cole got injured. Beating Brody King, Ricky Starks and the great Bryan Danielson as well as main eventing more AEW programming than anyone in this period. This was a nice way of dressing up the fact that Garcia has taken a fair few losses and playing a supporting role in to Chris Jericho.

This was far from promo of the year. Hell, the content of the promo was quite weak at times. This is ultimately a fairly empty challenge with little real motive from Garcia to likely setting up a loss against Adam Cole.

But Garcia's passionate delivery, hyping himself up, conveyed a strong motive to knock off a name like Adam Cole and continue building on the impressive resume of wins he's already picked up.

This passion was peaked when Garcia stumbles, referring to himself as a "pro wrestl... SPORTS ENTERTAINER!" In the short term catching some heat from the fans, but for the long term keeping that thread alive that deep down Daniel Garcia is a pro-wrestler.

Garcia capped off his part by saying he's the lifeblood of AEW and "if that's what I am, what makes you so special?" A perfect transition for Adam Cole to remind the fans exactly what makes him special.

Because ultimately this all exists to serve Adam Cole, and Garcia, as an expert in 'knowing his role', understands that. But that doesn't mean we need to overlook his contributions either. It's all about maximising the chances you're given, and Garcia certainly did that here.

Story Beat of the Week: Gareth.

A Heinous Attack on “Innocent” Don

At the end of a fantastic episode of Dynamite the question we were left with was; how will Kenny respond to 'Hangman' Adam Page?

Don Callis taking a dive and accusing Hangman of laying him out gives Kenny Omega a choice. Will he realise the fool that Don has taken him for? Or will he side with Callis against Hangman?

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the Young Bucks will side with Page. After their long-awaited reunion it just doesn't make sense to do The Elite vs. Hangman again. And then him going to the hospital with them whilst Kenny remained in the arena give an obvious motive for the Bucks to trust Hangman.

And then there's the elephant in the room. This is a filmed television show. The characters in the world know this. So, if there's a misunderstanding they can merely watch back the footage and see Callis' manipulation for what it is.

This may well be exactly what happens as we see a split between Kenny and Don which can be part of the way to get to the much anticipated Kenny Omega vs. Konosuke Takeshita match. A match we know Kenny is desperate to have, and with Callis courting Takeshita in recent weeks there is certainly potential for this.

However, there is another possibility. The idea of a "Dramatic Dream Team" of Takeshita, Omega and Kenny's former 'Golden Lover', Kota Ibushi. Three men who made their name in the Japanese DDT (Dramatic Dream Team) promotion. With the idea being to do that trio vs. the trio of Hangman and The Young Bucks.

If that second option were to be the direction then the split won't come between Kenny and Don, but rather be between Omega and the Bucks. In which case a potential plot hole of "why doesn't Kenny just watch the footage?" would appear and need addressing.

Who knows what Kenny will choose to do? Both directions look like a lot of fun, but the potential plot hole of option B suggests that option A may be the direction we're getting.

Moment of the Week: Peter.

Making a First Impression

In a week where bad faith actors wanted to lecture the fans about the need to introduce wrestlers to the "casual fan" who obviously has no access to Google or YouTube, the man who needed an introduction to the masses according to the likes of Raj Giri and co introduced himself to Kenny Omega by hitting a tope on the IWGP US Champ before he hit the ring during his entrance (I've missed the Justin Roberts introduction, BTW)

In the kayfabe world of wrestling, it was a moment that showed that El Hijo Del Vikingo had a great game plan. Hit the man who was only having his third 1 vs 1 match in 16 months early and hard. It's hard to hit a high gear when you've been hit early. But in a world where all fans were not familiar with Vikingo, they knew all about the AAA Mega Champion before the final bell rang.

The camera shot was beautiful, you could see Vikingo readying himself to fly and would take on Omega with two dives starting off yet another Meltzer 5-star classic with a bang and while the dragon rana to the outside, the springboard Poisonrana and the 630° splash through the table caught the eye, in a world where first impressions mean a lot, to those who were encountering El Hijo Del Vikingo for the first time, the second-generation wrestler made even the most "casual" of "casual" fans sit up and take notice.

Move of the Week: Sergei.

Making the Incredible seem Effortless

I don't have a ton to say about what makes this move exceptional that Trevor Dane didn’t already say in the hours after the show:

Except to say that this is a move that would be exceptional on almost ANY show, in almost any match. Except for this one, where the 630° does stand out, but only by a nose. Because Hijo del Vikingo kept raising the bar throughout this relatively brief match—first with the thrilling opening plancha before the bell that was Peter's Moment of the week, then with the top-turnbuckle implosion-rana, the apron-to-floor Shooting Star, the Outside-in Second-rope Springboard 450°, the Awesome-Bomb-counter into the Frankensteiner, to the amazing springboard Poisonrana, before climaxing with that 630°! Not only does the 630° beat out those other other amazing moves by a hair, the structure of the match (as I discuss in the “Match of the Week” section above) builds to the move, as the dramatic high spot, which makes it stick in one’s mind.

And also to say something about virtuosity, itself: pulling off cool moves is a virtue, making it look easy is a virtue, but they are not cardinal virtues. Difficulty level is not the most important aspect of art, in general, and especially when it comes to professional wrestling, being an art form that portrays struggle. This’ll make me sound like one of those old heads, but being the wunderkind with all the cool moves can be very seductive and empty, if you fail to use them in a way that engages the audience’s emotions.

For many years, I felt this way about AJ Styles, (with the exception of that one extraordinary cage match with Abyss)—that he was flash without substance, until, in latter days, (as the old heads like to say,) he “put it all together.” I have only the one match to go on, and one where he is paired with one of the greatest storytellers in the ring today, however—while the moves in this match, (and especially our move of the week,) definitely proves that Vikingo is the Master of Maneuvers of the moment—I believe that the storytelling in this match, including the way they built to the crescendo of the 630°, hints that he may already, in his tender years, be a better, more subtle, storyteller than the cool-moves guys of twenty years ago.

MVP of the Week: Trish.

The Best Wrestler in the World?

Kenny Omega is the best professional wrestler in the world. There might be others having more matches or given more high profile spots, but no one can create the energy of a big Omega match or the numbers to match.

One of the secrets to Omega's ability to create magic is his adaptability. Want him to wrestle tags? He will give you arguably two of the best tags in history, (one of which is still AEW's greatest match). Want him to establish the trios division? He will help by playing his part in the strongest "Best of 7" series of all time. Need him to wrestle longer, story filled epics or a high-paced television main event? He has got you covered.

It should come as no surprise; after all, he and Shingo Takagi were the first men globally to adapt to the challenges of the pandemic environment. Adaptability is only one part though;- his ability to weave story within a match (as well as ongoing lines outside of the immediate environment) and his selflessness are the other things that set him apart. All of these elements were present during this week's episode of Dynamite and especially during his match with El Hijo del Vikingo.

In this bout, Omega played more of a ground based aggressor, fueled by the frustration of earlier events involving Hangman, Callis and the Bucks. He was never the heel but toed the line just enough that the crowd were more than willing to get behind the young luchador in his first AEW appearance. Omega gave him everything he could as well; allowing Vikingo to show off all of his spectacular offense whilst never straying too far from the story. El Hijo del Vikingo put on an incredible performance, but it does not reach the same level or create the same impact if he is in there with anyone else.

The build to Wednesday's matchup, including the show-long story and hype videos, are the sort of promotion that "The Best Bout Machine" should have received upon his return from injury last August. It is no more than what is deserved for a man who has delivered AEW's top three rating driving storylines in company history as well two of the most successful TV main events before this night. It may have surprised some, but it shouldn't be too startling that this match is arguably the most successful main event of the TBS era as well.

The "Elite" in All Elite Wrestling isn't just about including the name of the faction which committed first to the company; it is a recognition of what makes them such a viable alternative. Kenny Omega is a unique selling point, an enigma that illustrates that this company is a level above all overs in what they can deliver in the ring and through the depth of its storytelling.

In 2023, it is perhaps time to finally build All Elite Wrestling around the man many expected to be the centrepiece at the outset.


bottom of page