An Avalanche Starts with a Single Pebble | AEWeekly Review #46
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 promos, Gareth [@Gareth_EW] exploring a key story beat and move of the week, Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week and Trish [@TrishSpeirs48] giving us the MVP of the week.
Match of the Week: Joe.
Why this match Worked:
Engagement: Even though there was a lot of action in this match (more on that later), the wrestlers left space in the layout for the fans to voice their opinions and start their chants. This might sound like a silly detail, but it’s like remembering to include the soundtrack or score for a movie. “Oh Scissor Me Daddy” is the best new chant of 2022 in my book. Leaving space for that and non-combat moments like The Acclaimed coming together with Daddy Ass to Scissor really added to the “this belongs in a 2022 time vault” feel of this match.
Story: This is a match that was built around mutual respect and shared ambitions for greatness and gold, rather than personal issues and animosity. These are the Top 2 Tag Teams in the world right now (sorry, Pro Wrestling Illustrated - The Usos are part of the best Faction of 2022, they are not the best current team), so it was more of a SuperBowl showdown than a grudge match. However, FTR have been waiting a LOOOOOOONG time for this championship match, and waiting isn’t fun. It can make you antsy or irritable. That seemed to happen to Dax and Cash, and it showed up in the stats here, with FTR committing 4 “Fouls” compared to 0 from The Acclaimed. FTR’s frustration led to shortcuts, and their tempers got the best of them. That slip-up led to a step-up in the match chemistry, as letting FTR play heels while The Acclaimed played babyfaces led to a more engaging experience for the fans. Cash’s temper getting the best of him, cost FTR the match and the AEW Tag Team Championships. Cash likely could’ve pinned Max Caster after the clothesline series followed by the Powerbomb, but he kept going back for more and, while distracted by his frustration, got caught in a quick “slip on the banana peel” style pin from Caster. Cash himself admitted as much, tweeting that there was “no excuse” and the responsibility for the loss was “on” him.
Action: There was plenty of “Big Offense” in this match (Strikedowns, Grapples, and Dives), with 64 of those moves registering in a match that was just under 17 minutes. That averages out to nearly 4 big moves per minute, or a big move every 15 seconds. Not so much that you couldn’t absorb what was happening, but so much that you couldn’t get bored with what was happening.
Tag Team Action: There were 14 tags made in the match, meaning that they kept the personnel selection in the match fresh and allowed for double team moves, of which there were 7. The tag moves are a must-have for me because they distinguish the genre. That was to be expected in this match, because these are actual tag teams. They are not two singles wrestlers put together. They have coordinated gear, shared entrances, and believably strong personal bonds. These are teams that feel like they fight for each other as much as they fight for titles.
FTR vs. The Acclaimed was great. A special match and special moment in time for both of these teams.
Promo of the Week: Sergei.
Have you ever watched a match that made you say "are they legit mad at each other?" Cause they're beating the shit out of each other. Or do they both just love working stiff and made an agreement behind the scenes to just go for it, no hard feelings?
That's how I felt about the duelling promos between AEW's new World Champion and the challenger next week for his title AND ring, Ricky Starks. Going first, and being higher on the pecking order of the two, in a vacuum, Maxwell's promo could easily have come across as going too far-- as a burial. But Starks turned that narrative completely upside down, after silently taking everything Max had to say, giving back every bit as good as he had gotten and then some!
First, he immediately made the crowd forget the derisive comparison to the Rock and diminutive nickname "Pebble" by delighting the crowd with the crude and chantable new nickname for the Champ: "Maxipad." During his litany of low insults toward Max's shoes, haircut, scarf, etc, he threw in a truly wounding dig: what's MJF supposed to do when he runs out of low-hanging fruit?
Ricky also makes an excellent point about their similarities and differences: they both had been hated antagonists who the fans suddenly and unexpectedly got behind, but when it happened with Ricky, he ran with it, while Maxwell couldn't take the pressure of being a fan favorite.
MJF's response, rather than a verbal rejoinder, was a kick in the junk. On one level that may seem like a smart head-fake heel move, but on another, makes Maxwell look like he had no comeback, which really helped to put over Ricky's skills as a psychological threat on the mic.
Story Beat of the Week: Gareth.
I've purposefully steered away from talking about William Regal's turn on Jon Moxley because it was clear this was something forced on AEW by Regal's desire to return to WWE than it was a story beat that had been plotted for months.
But it worked! It was much better than the possible interference of The Firm, in my opinion. And it served as a nice way to write Regal off AEW. The ultimate villain turning on those he'd become so loved alongside, before being turned on by the new ultimate villain. Or should I say 'The Devil'? That's a perfect exit for Regal's character.
But the interesting question to me is; where does this leave Blackpool Combat Club? With tensions between Bryan Danielson and Wheeler Yuta, Jon Moxley's love for fighting and Claudio Castagnoli's neutrality amongst the group there is an interesting dynamic that could be explored. Should they break up, or go through struggles and remain together. That common link between them of William Regal is now gone. So what happens?
Well, as I say, there's existing tension between Yuta and Danielson. And, after Bryan defended Regal in the face of Moxley's rage, there may be tension with Mox and Danielson also. Again, Claudio appears to take the neutral stance. But should he lose to Chris Jericho at ROH Final Battle he will be forced to join the Jericho Appreciation Society. So he could be out soon.
The future of Blackpool Combat Club is unclear. If I had to hazard a guess I would expect a split to come soon. But perhaps there is hope that they remain together. With Moxley's words after Regal's final goodbye being, "all I know is that the three men [Mox, Claudio and Yuta] live and breathe professional wrestling."
Moment of the Week: Peter.
After MJF went very snug in his verbal assault on Ricky Starks, the moment Starks got the mic for his retort it could have gone very wrong for Absolute.
MJF since his return to AEW has had more than pockets of support and while the fans in Austin weren't favourable to MJF over Ricky who has always seen support in the state of Texas, when Maxwell called his opponent at Winter Is Coming “The Pebble” Pebble chants broke out from some of the AEW faithful but Ricky knocked it out of the park when given his chance and while Sergei will go into the nuts and bolts of how good the promo was, what I want to look at is what happened after Ricky stopped talking.
MJF once again took a shortcut kicking Ricky low and you'd have been forgiven for thinking that was that. MJF more often than not ends up with the upper hand when embroiled in confrontation on Dynamite but when Ricky came back with a spear literally knocking the shoes off MJF, standing tall, holding Triple B high, for one moment Ricky Starks looked like the man.
Ricky Starks isn't the first wrestler to hone his style of talking in the shape of “The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment” (we can all agree Ricky is miles better than LA Knight, right) but every time he shares a ring with one of the main event stars of AEW he has looked at home and while the smart money is on Maxwell to retain his title, you get the feeling that this will not be the only dance Ricky Starks will have with the main event scene at AEW and for all the talk of Four Pillars (certainly good timing in WON HOF season) you have to feel that Ricky Starks could be the Jun Akiyama of the AEW’s Kings of the future.
Move of the Week: Gareth.
Since returning to AEW Samoa Joe has often pulled out an old trick. Simply walking to the side when his opponent tries to execute an aerial move. This is a great crowd popper and works every time. But as a TV viewer it has, for me personally, become a little too common and therefore stale.
But in his match against Darby Allin, Joe pulled out this trick again and it worked an absolute treat. Because it wasn't the same old generic cross-body attempt from the top rope. It was Darby's signature tope suicida dive through the middle of the bottom two ropes. Which looks brutal and devastating for Darby when he connects with his opponent, not to mention when he misses and crashes into the barrier and floor. Which is exactly what happened when Joe simply walked to the side near the beginning of their match.
This was the combination of two signature moves clashing and working in Joe's favour and it just brought such a frightening feel to the match. Despite simply walking to the side, it made Joe look like a monster, and it really sold the desperation of Darby's offence.
This was a cool moment. Brutal, exciting and dangerous. But they didn't just leave the move there and continue. This was also a turning point in the entire match. It was this fatal mistake from Darby, and a nonchalant stroll from Joe, which shifted the match in the favour of the TNT champion.
So it wasn't just an awe-inspiring moment that happened and then faded. It completely sold the story, and the action, of the rest of the match. A truly genius moment from the two men.
MVP of the Week: Trish.
To label yourself as "absolute" in the world of pro wrestling takes two things;- supreme confidence and the ability to back up your statement with your in ring and promo work. It is an industry where comparisons are made constantly and moves often inherited, making it sometimes difficult to break the moulds created by those that come before you and be something entirely yourself.
Ricky Starks is a wrestler who has always had such confidence in his own talents; he holds a form of self belief that has allowed him to progress upwards in recent years from the Texas independants to AEW (via the NWA). This past Wednesday, it drove him to seize upon another moment in his quest to reach the very top.
Given the chance to go toe to toe on the microphone with World Heavyweight Champion MJF, he was not eaten up in the same way compatriots like Wardlow, Jungle Boy, Sammy Guevarra and Darby Allin have been in such exchanges. Instead, he gave the man from Long Island a taste of his own medicine.
Starks unloaded on Friedman, mixing in character insults with insider lines delivered with a pacing and cadence much different from those around him. His adopted hometown crowd were energised by his babyface fire as he took what felt like a cold matchup before Wednesday night and made it feel important. This promo made those who may have perhaps underestimated Starks in recent months sit up and take notice.
It had another pretty important achievement as well. Since his All Out return, MJF has been regularly cheered by AEW audiences as a result of pushing back against the company. This real life element brought to the screen had made him to be perceived as the "good guy" and the company as the opposite. It even led to him being cheered over Jon Moxley;- the man who picked up alot of the pieces in the aftermath of those events back in May. By using this material, Starks has helped to course correct this notion and drive the audience to the desired set of reactions for each character.
At 'Winter is Coming' this Wednesday Ricky Starks gets another opportunity; this time to show that he can deliver in a big match spot after succeeding in the build. It is a chance to prove he can make the jump to the upper echelon in AEW alongside the more established names and ahead of some of those who were labelled "pillars" at the start. In a company which is not always great at follow up, he needs to give them every reason to ensure he is not downcycled in the aftermath.