Hello and welcome to the All Elite Weekly (#AEWeekly) Roundtable for the week of the 2/2 Dynamite and 2/4 Rampage, both emanating from the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois
This week we will be hearing from 3 of our panelists.
Joe McCaffrey: @GoodVsBadGuys on Twitter
Jae Finley: @JaeFinley13 on Twitter with a great Team Taz header / banner
Andy Collier: @AndyDCollier on Twitter
I think we can all agree that CM Punk vs MJF was good. Why was it good?
[Joe @GoodVsBadGuys] CM Punk versus MJFs was great because it had a clear babyface that the crowd was all the way behind and a clear heel that the crowd was all the way against. When you have that level of emotional investment in a fight with one outcome you want so badly and one outcome you would hate to see, that is a recipe for “total escape” level of engagement. A simple punch is satisfying when you’ve bought in that hard, and that was where it started. That sequence of Punk giving the see-saw punches to MJF would have fit in a comedy match with Orange Cassidy, but it was glee-inducing to laugh at MJF getting simultaneously embarrassed and pummeled. At this point in the night, the live crowd had seen a springboard moonsault from Dante Martin, dives from Moxley & Yuta & Penta & PAC, but they were popping for Punk’s scoop slams on MJF & begging for more. The way the offense slowly leveled up was well executed. The scoop slam moved to the hardest part of the ring. Then came the dives to the floor and springboard moves. A poisonrana that elicited a “You Still Got It!” Chant from a crowd that has seen Punk live several times since September, because this signaled the fact that he was now all the way back. Then, the Pepsi F’N Plunge.
In addition to the clear character & rooting interest alignment, and the escalation of the action, the selling was so good. CM Punk made it seem like the fans were the ones powering up his comebacks in a way that harkened back to 80s & 90s babyfaces. Not only accepting & inviting the crowd support, but at times acting like he needed our help to get fired up, is pro wrestling perfection for me. Punk made it feel like we mattered, and that made me care even more.
The match restart angle is something I’ve seen divided opinions about, but it worked perfectly for fans in the arena. In a long match like that, it was a signal for us to catch a second wind.
The live atmosphere for this match is something I’ve only previously experienced before at WrestleMania 30 in Bryan’s matches with Triple H + Orton & Batista. This was something special, and I’m grateful I didn’t miss it.
[Jae Finley @JaeFinley13] This match was the apex of many things. Of course, it was the climax (for now) of the storyline between MJF and Punk. But it was also the apex of Punk’s return to pro wrestling. For the past five months, Punk has been telling an often-subtle story: the one-time best in the world trying to prove he still is; the once-king trying to show he is the future-king too. During the match, he showed that he still was the best, but then MJF took that from him. In addition to being a climax, this was also a new beginning to a new chapter in their rivalry and in their individual stories. Where does MJF go from here? Where does Punk go from here? Compelling answers await. This was as good as episodic television wrestling gets.
[Andy @AndyDCollier] Why was it good? Because it called back to so many of the promos laid down before the match. Punk couldn't put MJF away early despite being in control, MJF ran away and the Wardlow tease was well worked. I didn't catch the ring being passed over until the replay - great production. The false finish added to the drama too, I won't lie...I bought it!
However, despite the 5 star rating this will no doubt get - why did the match restart? Punk was illegally choked out. Either a disqualification or a rematch on another day would have been more sensible - perhaps this will feed into the inevitable rematch.
Bryan Danielson wants Jon Moxley to be the co-captains of a new faction that would mentor promising young talent in AEW, and seek to eliminate or demote outside-the-box colorful characters like Orange Cassidy, Danhausen, and Luchasaurus.
( A ) Do you want Moxley to join him?
( B ) If so, who should be in this group, and what should it be called?
( C ) Who should win this war? (the Colorful Characters or the Grumpy Grapplers)
[Joe @GoodVsBadGuys] ( A ) From a kayfabe standpoint? No. I like cheering for Moxley, and seeing the goodwill he is being received with has been heartwarming. From a business and story standpoint? Probably yes. It creates the potential for a lot of exciting feuds and matches. Once the Inner Circle implodes there will be even more room for a new faction. It seems like Moxley was primed for a heel turn heading into Full Gear so this could put his creative dreams back on track. This could eventually lead to Eddie Kingston getting cemented as a main event babyface. Eddie had heat with Bryan and hates Daniel Garcia. If Moxley aligns with them & turns heel, this sets up for a potential heartbreaking Blood & Guts match.
( B ) Daniel Garcia makes sense because he seems like Bryan’s cup of tea, and his in-ring style is pure heel, no high spots or fun moments. If Moxley says no, then Miro would be a great fit with Bryan as co-captain. I can just picture the training vignettes of them being brutal taskmasters with their pupils. For a name? The Dragon’s Den?
( C ) The babyfaces must prevail. This is fiction. Heels win too often in real life.
[Jae Finley @JaeFinley13] (A) I think Moxley is better as the lone wolf. His refusal to start this group with Danielson can start a great feud between them, and then we can get the Dragon’s Den (nice name, Joe) during and afterwards. (B) It’s interesting that Danielson mentioned three people by name, and I cannot help but think it was on purpose. I think Daniel Garcia joins, but Wheeler Yuta and/or Lee Moriarty will decline, setting up feuds between the Den and Best Friends, and between the Den and Sydal/Moriarty/Top Flight. As for who else, I suppose 2.0 is right there, but they don't quite fit the mold. What about Trent? They have been hinting at a heel turn for him and turning on Yuta plays into this all very nicely. But we need some young guns. What about Bear Country? JD Drake?
A - Yes. It won't happen but a guy can dream.
B - I'd love for it to be someone not on the roster or not heavily featured. Anthony Greene would be a top choice for that spot. But I'd it's one of the three he has mentioned, I'd love it to be Garcia. He could play a major part in the future of this company and his recent BOLA win shows how talented he is. I'm awful with names so will tag onto the Den idea!
C - Long term I would imagine there is a turn coming so the babyfaces would need to win.
What do you think was the goal of the Brandi Rhodes vs Dan Lambert segment? Do you think it achieved that goal?
[Joe @GoodVsBadGuys] I think the goal was to get over Paige Van Zant. I think it got over Brandi as a heel. I would not have had Brandi come out and trash Chicago to open her promo if the desired goal wasn’t to get Brandi more over as a heel. Speaking as a fan in the audience, I was ready to get on-side with Brandi before she crapped on my town. Then she seemed to get rattled by some of that heat that she invited. Unfortunate series of events. I think Brandi’s execution on the mic is normally very good, but the gameplan here was really odd.
[Jae Finley @JaeFinley13] This was bad. I do not understand the concept here. I do not understand the execution here. Everyone here was a heel, including whoever conceived of and greenlighted this in the back. I boo everyone.
[Andy @AndyDCollier] I honestly can't believe the negative reaction this segment has got. The goal was clearly to give me an opportunity to get a drink and a cheese toastie. It absolutely met that purpose and I even got a toilet break in too. Thank you Brandi!
What did you think of the payoff to the story of PAC being blinded by Malakai Black?
[Joe @GoodVsBadGuys] I think this payoff might have worked better in a singles match, but it was still cool. I will give it praise for the fact that it employed continuity and consequences, things that reward you for consistent viewing and paying attention.
[Jae Finley @JaeFinley13] It was exactly the same as Moxley with Jericho a couple years ago, but it was fine. I do not think it was focused on too much. Surely the Kings of the Black Throne are destined for the tag team titles. But I do think Death Triangle–as a group, and as individuals–needs more of a long-term plan.
[Andy @AndyDCollier] I was hoping for PAC to go full DareDevil and wrestle the whole match or even for weeks with the blindfold. I still don't think the story is done, PAC and Black at Revolution would be a fitting end to the story, with PAC being able to get the win. Every member of Death Triangle could be a singles champion, their quality and connection with the crowd is undeniable - imagine PAC as TNT champion!
For the 2/9 Dynamite from Atlantic City: (A) Who do you think is debuting through the “Forbidden Door”? (B) Who do you WANT it to be?
[Jae Finley @JaeFinley13] (A) Keith Lee. I think TK misused the term “forbidden door” and caused all sorts of confusion. (B) Mustafa Ali.
A - It has to be Keith Lee or Jeff Hardy in reality surely. Both are more or less locks to sign and would be great assets for the company.
B - But...the comments he made about the 'open for business' company are interesting. Could it be Ali? Could TK and his lawyers have found a way to challenge the seemingly awful 'Independent Contractor model? It seems unlikely but would be Earth shattering if true.
[Joe @GoodVsBadGuys] (A) Keith Lee (B) Keith Lee, but I would also be thrilled if, like Andy suggested, Ali was able to show up in a way that not only would be AEW adding an asset of a person and a wrestler, but making a change to a seemingly very one-sided employer / independent contractor dynamic WWE currently has with their wrestlers. However, it would be odd for them to bring in Ali one week after they were in his hometown of Chicago. That’s a similar reason I don’t think it will be Johnny Gargano, when they were just in Cleveland so recently.
Is there anything else you would like to highlight from Dynamite or Rampage this week?
[Joe @GoodVsBadGuys] Make some time to check out Thunder Rosa vs Mercedes Martinez on Rampage this week. I recently saw them wrestle at an independent show and walked away from that underwhelmed, and therefore was pleasantly surprised when they put on an exciting fight. I’m looking forward to Thunder Rosa eventually getting a title shot against Britt Baker and taking her rightful place atop the AEW Women’s Division. Also, we’ll get more into it in next week’s issue, but I didn’t love the timing of Adam Cole’s announcement and what it does for his feud with Archer as well as what it could mean for Adam Page (being set up to face Adam Cole in Orlando where he will be received as a hometown hero).
[Andy @AndyDCollier] I'd like to take a moment to question why Ricky Starks isn't utilized more. The guy is a star. In the ring, on the mic, he has it all. I don't recall the last time he wrestled on Dynamite and that is a crying shame.