Welcome to the All Elite Weekly Roundtable for the week of the 2/9 Dynamite and 2/11 Rampage, both emanating from Atlantic City, New Jersey
1. The big debut was Keith Lee. Do you think it delivered on the huge hype that was built up since last week?
[Joe McCaffrey @GoodVsBadGuys] Keith Lee’s debut was not only satisfying, it was thrilling and heartwarming. The pop from the entrance was a star-level reaction. Then I found myself out of my seat standing up for the duration of the match. From that massive biel,
[photos from @kimberlasskick on Twitter]
to his slingshot crossbody, to the Ground Zero, to the post match catch of Quen’s hurricanrana into the double PowerBomb, it was non stop hits. Keith Lee in AEW has already put a smile on my face in less than 24 hours. That did not happen nearly enough in 3.5 years in WWE through no fault of his own.
I’m happy for wrestling fans, and I’m happy for Keith Lee.
[Andy @AndyDCollier] Yes. Having seen Keith Lee perform a few years ago at Fight Club Pro, I've always taken a big interest in his career. Keith Lee is an absolute star, his charisma is off the charts and his in-ring ability would rival that of any big man.
All AEW needs to do is to continue to let him be himself and they will have another main event level talent ready to go whenever they need him. For me, the hype was the right level. He was criminally underutilised in his last company and I can't wait to see what he can do when he is let off the leash.
[Trish @TrishSpeirs48] Whilst Keith Lee certainly didn't come through the "forbidden door", putting his initial debut back to back with Jay White's backstage appearance meant that all the hype for the episode felt justified. It was an effective 1-2 punch which likely helped to increase excitement for that initial reaction rather than appearing solely by himself.
Lee received a great reaction and benefited greatly in the match from being up against Isiah Kassidy, whose facial expressions as he bounced across the ring for the newcomer made his offense look even more impactful.
Debuting the Texas native into the TNT picture feels like the right environment for him to start within AEW and I could well see him being victorious in the upcoming ladder match at Revolution.
[Peter- @PeterEdge7] Yes and then some. They say first impressions are important and that biel (or is it an Uncle Phil Biel?) was one hell of a great first impression.
The commentary was perfect with Schiavone’s reactions and Excalibur laughing as he was commentating showed the match as one of the most fun squashes you’ll see for a while.
We have to give major kudos to Isiah Kassidy for the way he bumped for Lee and Matt Hardy too for his reactions to the mismatch and while Lee’s debut was the party we wanted it to be, the moment when Matt Hardy left through the crowd with the easter egg mention of “erratic behaviour” looks like a hint at another AEW signing to come.
2. CM Punk had to find a tag team partner other than Darby Allin or Sting to help him beat FTR to earn his rematch with MJF. (A) How did you feel about Moxley being the surprise? (B) What did you think of the match?
[photo from @kimberlasskick on Twitter]
[Joe McCaffrey @GoodVsBadGuys]
(A) If Moxley had come out during the Punk/Darby/Sting vs Pinnacle segment, I would have been happy. However, having the ability to dream and fantasy book, and watching Punk’s Twitter, I found myself rooting for Samoa Joe or Colt Cabana. Moxley is great, but it doesn’t have the nostalgia of Samoa Joe or the ultimate emotional payoff of Cabana. (B) The match was fun. The near falls were particularly excellent. Some of the timing and execution seemed a little sloppy, but it was still a good time.
[Andy @AndyDCollier] (A) Punk teaming with Mox is perfect. Think back to the promo just after Mox left when Punk offered his support and commended his bravery. Mox is paying that back by teaming with him. It also plays into the Danielson story - what does Punk offer that he doesn't? This works on multiple levels. (B) This was an example of what tag team wrestling should be. Four highly talented pros giving it their all. It was an excellent match with great stakes attached.
[Trish @TrishSpeirs48] Of all the ways I thought they would get to a CM Punk- MJF rematch this was definitely not one I had considered.
Moxley teaming with Punk, considering their interactions in the past, was a nice moment which helped to keep the energy of the show between the debuts and the title match and was also the best Moxley has looked since his return as he adapts to what must feel like a whole new body.
For me, this one went slightly too long but was great fun. I did wonder why they chose to go with this rather than developing the Moxley- Danielson story but perhaps we aren't heading for a singles match at the PPV after all.
[Peter- @PeterEdge7] A) In a case of perfect timing, with hints from Punk and Twitter salivating over potential wrestlers from Punk’s past being his partner (Is Samoa Joe actually in the country), the reveals of Jay White and Keith Lee would make everyone feel more than fine with Moxley being the partner. It was also a perfect callback from Punk’s past with how Mox came onto the national stage in the fall of 2012.
B) As for the match, damn it was good. The near falls were great and everyone performed tremendously with FTR showing why they are in the top five tag teams in the world. Obviously, the right team won with the rematch between Punk and MJF probably for Revolution
Also, who had CM Punk hitting a GTS on Tully Blanchard on TBS in their 2022 checklist.
3. Jay White debuted in a backstage video, never appearing in front of the crowd. It was later revealed Adam Cole called him in based on Bullet Club ties. The Bucks took issue with this because he’s a rival of Kenny Omega. (A) What are your thoughts on the way Jay White was debuted? (B) How do you feel about him joining the Super Kliq? (C) How do you feel about him joining AEW?
[Joe McCaffrey @GoodVsBadGuys]
(A) I would have debuted him in front of a crowd instead. I understand the swerve of expecting him to come out for the next match, but it wasn’t worth it. (B) He seems like an odd fit with the current crew, even with the Bullet Club connection. (C) Jay White is like RAndy @AndyDCollier Orton for me in that he seemed like a can’t miss future star, he did become a star, but he seemed to regress in terms of exciting in-ring performance when he reached that level. He was very fast-forwardable as a main eventer in NJPW overall. Hopefully, the shorter match times in AEW light a fire that returns him to his previous form.
[Andy @AndyDCollier] As someone who stopped watching New Japan before Jay White became a thing I'd consider myself somewhat of a novice on this question so bear with me. (A) With the Keith Lee debut moments later, I think this worked well. If he wasn't going to be involved in a match, why not do something a little different? (B) I trust the process. It depends on if it is a fleeting visit or if he is around for the long haul. I'm already expecting Era v Elite - perhaps this would become a 4 on 4 in some way? (C) I've heard good things so look forward to seeing what he brings to the table.
[Trish @TrishSpeirs48] Jay White has felt like the forgotten main eventer over the last year, with the momentum from the incredible post-Wrestle Kingdom promo squandered by a combination of Covid and poor booking, so I am incredibly happy to see him re-emerge on a more visible stage this week.
Whilst I understand the criticism of him not debuting in front of the full crowd or just before Keith Lee, it makes sense for me considering how cold New Japan is in America- making him somewhat of an unknown quantity to a huge part of the AEW fanbase.
Impact has given him experience on the workings of American TV that White can now adapt in AEW where he should excel within the promo heavy environment. With him holding wins over Omega, Moxley and Page there are plenty of story options available for the Switchblade.
[Peter Edge- @PeterEdge7] (A) Not that surprised considering that Jay has not stopped talking about AEW when at NJPW Strong live shows according to Bryan Alvarez.
(B) Has he joined SuperKliq? The beauty of the group is that it’s Adam Cole and The Young Bucks and their close relationship going back to PWG. I personally don’t think Jay is now a member. He’s a guy that Adam Cole called to get an advantage in the numbers game against Best Friends/Chaos which Jay with his Bullet Club hat on certainly has a vested interest in doing and let's be honest, it’s not the first time Adam has brought in people without letting Matt and Nick know. Speaking of which.
(C) While I’m not the enthusiast for Jay White that some people are, I’m looking forward to what happens next in the Elite/Superkliq/Paragon/Jay White dynamic especially when Kenny Omega comes back.
I just ask one thing. Please no House of Torture in AEW.
4. Hangman Adam Page defeated Lance Archer in a VERY BLOODY [warning: there is a photo to prove it below] deathmatch for the AEW World Title. After which, Adam Cole interrupted his celebration & grabbed his title. (A) What did you think of the match? (B) What did you think of the blood? (C) What do you think of this Adam from The Elite vs Adam from The Elite story?
[photo from @kimberlasskick on Twitter]
[Joe McCaffrey @GoodVsBadGuys]
(A) The match was awesome. I gave it a 4.25⭐️ rating on GRAPPL, where the average is 4.08⭐️ after 133 ratings, so I’m a little higher than average on it. It reminded me of a good main event from the Monday Night Wars. The steel steps chokeslam spot made me actually scared for Hangman, and then that finish was just super smart & cool & creative. (B) I really did not like the amount of blood in this one. If I wasn’t so invested as a Hangman fan it was near enough to make me stop watching. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable watching that with someone I was introducing to AEW even with the title of death match. (C) I like the potential for rich backstory with the Elite. I HATE them setting up Page vs Cole in Orlando because I’m a big believer in Hangman as a top babyface, and I don’t think he’s going to come off as one against Cole in the city where he was the crown prince of NXT.
[Andy @AndyDCollier] (A) This match exceeded my fairly middling expectations. Archer is a great performer who excels when given this kind of platform. Obviously, injury has derailed him but Archer should be an imposing figure in the upper card and he showed why again this week. Of course, he didn't do it alone and Hangman once again showed why he is the champion. People seem to sleep on him as he isn't plastered all over both shows every week and then are surprised when he performs to this level.
[Trish @TrishSpeirs48] Having to follow up multiple surprises as well as the pairing up of two of the company's biggest draws is an incredible amount of pressure to contend with, but once more Adam Page was able to deliver, this time alongside Lance Archer, a man criminally under-discussed throughout his career.
The match itself was immense, as Page's first furore into a hardcore main event included glass, barb wire and one of the scariest bumps I've seen in some time with the Blackout on the steel steps.
What took this from a standard deathmatch to something above it was the infusion of storytelling with Lambert removing the top rope meaning Hangman had to come up with another way to hit the Buckshot. This led to one of the most memorable spots of the year so far. It's another signature moment for the Champion, who doesn't get the credit for what he has had a heavy influence in creating over the past year.
In regards to Cole, I'm not quite as worried as Joe is about Orlando, in fact, I think they should play into it like Shawn Michaels in Canada. I also believe a combination of interference from those seconding Cole and Page's well-timed babyface comebacks and crowd-pleasing offense will see him through in a very Tanahashi manner.
It should be more of an emotional story for the cowboy to get his teeth into and hopefully see him get the TV time to match the incredible showings he's had in the ring as Champion so far.
[Peter- @PeterEdge7] Wow, just wow. The greatest Last Man Standing/Texas Death Match ever. The blood made this match what it was. Hangman’s face turning into a crimson mask gave the contest its drama as did the bumps he took including that gnarly bump on the ring steps from Archer’s Blackout finisher and the finish of the match was perfect. It showed that Page has learned a lot in the past two years. The old Hangman Page would have panicked when Dan Lambert cut the ropes down but Page crafted a win by using the equipment in and around the ring to beat Archer.