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Be My Valentine? | AEWeekly #106


Welcome to the #AEWeekly review discussion where PWM contributors reflect on the highlights of the last week in AEW. The eligibility week ends with the most recent episode of Dynamite. so it covers last week's Rampage and then the most recent episodes of Collision and Dynamite.


This week’s contributors are Joe [@GoodVsBadGuys] covering match of the week, Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering the most notable interview and the moment of the week, Saul [@SaulKiloh] exploring a key story beat, and Peter [@PeterEdge7] giving us the MVP of the week.


 A page of links to prior installments may be found here: #AEWeekly


Orange Cassidy & Matt Taven

"Valentine's Fun..."

by Joe.



Meltzer Rating: 4 stars.... CageMatch Rating: 7.87/10.... McCaffrey Rating: 4 stars / 8/10.


The Faction Feud here has been built decently well. The individual feud between Cassidy and Taven has been almost non-existent, and therefore, the rationale for a Texas Death Match was weak. Add to that the absence of any TV time spent focusing on the build-up to this particular match, and it was not set up to succeed. However, Orange Cassidy is The Man with the High Floor. 


The wrestlers played into their characters well here. Taven was able to come across as a chickenpoop heel even in a match without any rules. Cassidy doesn’t tend to “care” unless you mess with his title, his friends, or climate change (as we learned in the Jericho feud.) That’s why it was fitting for the character that Cassidy fired up against Taven immediately as opposed to his traditional simmer to sizzle to burn to spark trajectory. 


Not only did the wrestlers stay true to their characters, the factions stayed true to their characters. Whenever you put the Best Friends into a gimmick match (Parking Lot Brawl, Arcade Anarchy, Stadium Stampede, Texas Death Match), they over-deliver in a way that is clever. Here, in a hardcore match on Valentine’s Day, they made fun use of weapons wrapped in gift-form from friends, with tacks in place of chocolates, and Trent Seven using a giant candy heart like a stop sign or garbage can lid.


The clear babyface/heel dynamic is another ingredient that helps make a match “cook” even when it has been underprepared. The fans have no reason to like Taven and the UK, and every reason to root for the Best Friends and Orange Cassidy. As a fan, this makes your job easy, which then makes reactions easier to come by, and the atmosphere more fun to soak in.


Having a clearly established easily hateable heel also makes it feel less gross to root for gruesome spots like having a man’s body driven into tacks or onto steel, or both in the case of OC’s Beach Break. I talked about props in the match earlier (valentines, etc), but props to Matt Taven for that dive over the table through the table into the announce table, and for OC taking the elbow on the table that didn’t break (ouch) followed by the bump through the table when it finally broke (yay). From the sacrifices these performers put their bodies through, the heartwarming (Valentine’s strikes again) sacrifice made by Trent for OC taking Strong’s Knee, and the silly but smart spots sprinkled in, this match will be well worth a second watch for me some future Valentine’s Day.



Toni Storm

"The Timeless one brings her inimitable brand of hilarity to two very different formats..."

by Sergei.


Toni Storm has over the last few weeks settled into a certain role for me: perennial runner-up for interview of the week. Every week she pulls out something that is creative and unique, hilarious, delineates the character she is portraying, AND advances her story. There are two aspects that hold her back from winning every damn week: first is that most of her interviews are in the format that is most like an “easy mode”: a backstage stand-up pretape with an interviewer setting her up with questions and providing reactions. And the second is that she is SO good at making her point very concisely, it’s very difficult to compare her one-minute specials with the extended speeches that usually make the grade each week.


This week, I’m giving the duke to Toni for her combined efforts in two very different segments on Collision and on Dynamite, in quite different formats from her usual interview with Renee and from each other. And both are still quite brief, but… well, there’s two of them, so it adds up to a bit more, anyhow.


The first was on Collision, a breathless live post-match in-ring promo. ICYMI:


It was just a minute long, but demonstrated what a true microphone-warrior needs to show that they can handle in order to be trusted with that live mic: pushing past any live-performance foibles in a way that adds to the experience rather than detracting from it. In Toni’s case she starts by announcing that she has a new “film” to “debut” on Dynamite, but this prompts the A/V guys to start playing the “film reel’ sound effect, and Toni is not done with what she wanted to say and doesn’t want to talk over that white noise. Her reactioncalling for a “cut”perfectly fits the moment and her character, as well as succeeding in getting her past the technical problem in a situation where reshoots were not an option. On top of that, all of the little character choices: delivering her message lying flat on her back in the middle of the ring, all of her oddball faux-French pro-nun-ci-A-she-ONs, and the off-kilter crassness of her closing insult that her nemesis is “not so much as a wart on [her] bunghole” … all add up to an effective and delightful segment.


The second segment counting toward Toni’s status as Interview of the Week was the “film” on Wednesday that she had been announcing on Saturday. ICYMI:


In keeping with Storm’s Old-Hollywood gimmick, her previous “films” have been silent pictures, basically a new entrant in the role of Sammy Guevara’s “Subterranean Underground Blues” cards: something to hold the audience’s attention during Picture-in-Picture. But this latest one advanced into the era of “talkies”: featuring a voice-over by Storm over a pretape showing her getting some tattoo-work done. The monologue has some clever zingers: “I showed you My Ways”... “You suckled on my Teat of Talent.” But the real treat here is the premise itselfbringing to a fitting conclusion the saga of the matching tatTOOs. A couple weeks ago, Deonna Purazzo countered Toni Storm’s pretending not to remember her by pointing out the matching duck tattoos on each of their ankles. Certain bad-faith yahoos complained that they hadn’t gone into more detail about this implied backstory, seemingly not understanding that not every hint needs to pay off immediately. And this was clearly the payoff: Purazzo had implied a connection, and it was being strongly hinted that Storm was doing something at the tattoo shop to sever that connection: but what? Possibly a cover-up tattoo?


It reminded me of one of my earliest promos of the week, where Darby Allin spoke threats to Brody King while seemingly also writing a threat to his enemy on his hand with a tattoo gun. The implication in both cases of permanent consequences to the feud of the moment makes for powerful television. But in Darby’s case, I’m pretty sure it was actually just a Sharpie, while the tatTOO revealed in the last frame of “Wet Ink” seems quite real, and thematically perfect: the original duck was NOT covered, but left completely untouched, just now with a dagger seeming to pierce the creature from stem to stern. Thematically, Toni Storm isn’t erasing her pre-Timeless past, just recontextualizing it. Or as she says in her closing line: “when you can’t change the past, you kill it!”



Samoa Joe, Swerve Strickland and “Hangman” Adam Page

"Three Guys, Chatting S***..."

by Saul.


So I did consider writing about The Young Bucks this week, as I have loved their return so far and haven’t selected them previously due to other stories piquing my interest just a little bit more. However, anything I could write would pale in comparison to the recent in-depth piece by fellow contributor Greyson (link to article!!!)


Due to this, I’ve once again selected the AEW Championship picture. I rambled on about the fantastic story-beat last week, and despite wanting to give fair coverage to other stories, I’d be lying if I said that this wasn’t still the story I’m most invested in.


This week wasn’t as revelatory as last week. However, Adam Page made clear that he wasn't angry last week and any Dynamite recaps that said this were wrong. Given my supreme arrogance, I couldn’t help but take this as a direct shot at myself. Sorry cowboy, please don’t shoot me (although it does seem like you were and are still angry, just sayin’).


I have a tendency to maybe over-analyse in these story-beats. Given I study screenwriting and my interest in wrestling, this is probably inevitable. I also don’t think it’s a bad thing, as I believe taking the medium seriously is good. However, sometimes it’s not needed.


This weeks promo was good because it was three guys, chatting s***. With all the conflict set-up, and the three wrestlers involved all being great on the mic, sometimes all you need to do is put them in a ring and have them chat some s***.


Sometimes you don’t need to overcomplicate things. Give ‘em 10 minutes to boast, posture and talk some trash to their opponents, and the excitement for the match will only grow bigger.




John Moxley & Dax Harwood

"It's in his kiss..."

by Sergei.


As Saul points out above this was a week with a lot of great continuation of established storylines, which meant not a lot of big or shocking moments. But it was also Valentine's Week, and Dynamite fell right on Valentines day, so it definitely felt like love was in the air: from the DEEPLY homo-erotic hatred between Swerve and Hangman that left the third-wheel World Champ throwing his hands up in frustration, to the sweet self-sacrifice of Trent taking the knee from Roddy Strong meant for his friend, Orange Cassidy, to the more obvious holiday reference of using a heart-shaped box as a weapon.


But the most lovey-dovey Valentine's Day moment was between two men trying to knock one another's blocks off: Jon Moxley and Dax Harwood in an explosive and vicious opening bout. Seemingly possessed by the spirit of the day, Moxley (while trapping "Baby" Dax in the corner) plants one right on his lips. Not to be outdone, a few moments later, Dax grabs Moxley right in the middle of the ring and returns the favor.


I joke, but while this may have been inspired by the holiday that the show fell on, within story I don't actually believe that the characters of Jon Moxley or Dax Harwood were possessed by the spirit of St Valentine, nor finally releasing the gay urges they had been sublimating as violence. (I am genuinely less sure about Swerve and Hangman on that last score tho.)


Instead, within kayfabe, Jon Moxley was basically saying with his kiss: "I am super comfortable with my hetero-ness but you seem like a fragile macho guy who would be rattled by this. I mean, that moustache, come on!" While Dax's return kiss said, "no, I am not some toxic-masculine MAGA weirdo. I have gay friends, too! I am married. To a woman. Like you! That did not make me freak out, I'll prove it."


Don't get me wrong, it's not the MOST healthy, and there are less generous interpretations of the psychology of that segment. But at worst, it's a heck of an improvement over the bad old days of fans cheering GM Bischoff wrecking a gay wedding. And it was certainly a striking and memorable moment, even if nobody pulled off a Mission Impossible mask.




Matt Taven

"A Demonstration of Value..."

by Peter.


While the announcement of Orange Cassidy vs Matt Taven being under Texas Deathmatch rules didn’t quite prompt the “not another one” GIF/meme, after the two legendary TDM’s on PPV in 2023, throwing a Texas Death Match on Dynamite feels like 20 years ago when WWE would have a Steel Cage match on RAW and Smackdown once every two months. The ultimate blood feud match in All Elite Wrestling in a mid-card feud even if the International Title is second in the Men’s Titles Rankings behind the World Title, felt off, even if it was in Texas. (To be fair, if we had a Texas Death Match every time AEW turns up in the Lone Star state, we’d have a double-figures amount of Texas Death Matches.)


But it was Orange Cassidy, so you knew it was going to be a good watch, but in an industry where a good dance partner makes a great match, the man who has been Mr. Consistency in the last 18 months got his ultimate tango partner in Matt Taven this Dynamite previous.


Matt Taven to some people is the man synonymous with the fall of ROH. When the Elite left ROH to form AEW, the man that would hold Ring of Honor’s World Championship was not the guy fans wanted to be the champion, (even if in hindsight, compared to the other two in the Three-way Ladder World Title match at ROH/NJPW’s MSG show, Taven was absolutely the correct winner,) and it showed in the fall in attendance and ratings in 2019, something that the original Ring of Honor would never recover fromwith some help from the pandemic of course.


Whether that opinion was fair is a debate for another time, but it was a take that stuck with Taven ever since his run in the main event of ROH. In the position upon his entrance to AEW along with Mike Bennett of being just another guy in an expanding roster, the chances of being a main player in a big promotion were no more, no matter what stuffed animal he has on his person. 


But on this night, Matt Taven showed his value to AEW. In a bloody war which is expected in such a match, Taven put his body on the line on multiple occasions. From the topé suicida where he ate nothing but table, to an attempt at a frog splash where he went front first into thumbtacks, Matt gave it all. In his post-match interview with the dried blood still marking his face, he took aim at his haters and his doubters, those who questioned his spot, probably with 2019 in their minds, and rightly so because on this night Matt Taven showed that in an All-Elite world that features present and future Hall of Famers, players like Matt Taven can be valuable to the team.




 

You can go to the LinkSearch tab to find a link to video of each segement that led to an award in #AEWeekly history and to the article where we talk about it...

Just use the drop-down menus to choose the date and category, and the tool will tell you who the awardee and writer were and give you links to the article and to a video.


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