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Better Call Saul | AEWeekly Review #66

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 Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering best promo, Gareth [@Gareth_EW] reflecting on the best move, Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week, and Trish [@TrishSpeirs48] giving us the MVP of the week. And please join us in giving a warm welcome to our newest contributor, Saul [@SaulKiloh] covering match of the week and key story beat!

Match of the Week: Saul.

Orange Cassidy defends against the Challenge of Bandido

It has become a regular occurrence to hear Orange Cassidy's music at the beginning of Dynamite, especially in his run as International champion. This match was the 20th in his reign so far, which has helped to establish the International Championship as the true secondary title in the AEW men's division. To be fair, this has been helped by some dubious booking, to put it very charitably, of the TNT title. However, Cassidy's consistent work rate cannot be overstated. This is why when Bandido was announced as his next challenger, I was psyched.

This anticipation also came from excitement that Bandido was back on AEW programming. It has been months since we have seen him, which was audible in the crowd response to his entrance. Although, the crowd perked up when the match got started. There were some great moments of Cassidy imitating Bandido's acrobatic Lucha moves in his typical nonchalant manner. However, the highlight of the opening had to be Cassidy stopping Bandido's finger gun taunting by holstering them in his pockets. Pure genius.

The match then picked up in the second half as Bandido gained control of the match, hitting Cassidy with multiple impactful moves. A couple highlights include Bandido catching a Cassidy dive then forcibly dumping him on the barricade and a Superplex where he lifted Orange from the apron. More powerful moves and a few wearing submission holds had Orange Cassidy's reign in serious jeopardy.

The last act of the match featured Bandido continuing to dominate, but struggling to completely vanquish his opponent. Cassidy, realising that the match was not going his way, was trying to win the match by any means necessary and escape with his championship. The great work of the competitors in the match paid dividends as the crowd was super into every move near the end. This reached its apex with Bandido getting a near-fall off a picture perfect frog splash.

The finish came when Bandido, seemingly going for a pop-up uppercut, was caught with a Orange Punch from Cassidy, who was then able to hit the Beach Break to edge the victory. Orange Cassidy having to resort to using his injured hand to hit the Orange Punch showcases just how far Bandido pushed him in this match.

The men clearly gained respect for each other, as they shared a post match celebration, with Cassidy even giving Bandido a very uncooperative pair of sunglasses to wear. A great match that helped prove that Bandido deserves to be a real player in AEW, and that helped to further cement Orange Cassidy's current championship reign as one of the best title runs in the company's history.

Promo of the Week: Sergei.

Bryan explores the Darkness in his Heart

I may have mentioned that sometimes "Promo of the Week" for AEW is slim pickings, perhaps moreso lately. This week was no exception, and I had no idea what I was going to put here, until this brief video from the Blackpool Combat Club that AEW put up on social media was brought to my attention (thanks, @CraigPWMusings!)

The two best speakers in the group each take less than a minute and make their points Danielson tying in the reasoning of his moments-before heinous attack on Takeshita with a screwdriver and Moxley addressing Omega's challenge to a cage match where he can't use hit and run tactics. Though brief, these two statements are easily one and two in promos for the week. Moxley uses Takeshita's blood still on his knuckles as a gruesome prop. much like a promo I recognized as best a couple months ago (link.) But in spite of the similarities, the BCC has changed since then. Although the BCC of a couple months ago gloried in blood and violence, they did so with the joy of doing what they loved. Today, Moxley is more of a grisly connoisseur of haemoglobin, opining that Takeshita tastes of "amateur," the insult of choice of the BCC toward anybody who isn't truly "professional" like themselves.

But, as chilling as this was, Danielson outshone Moxley this time, with a brief, but disturbing, statement that clarified who he is now, why he is doing what he is doing, and how he is still fundamentally the same character as before when he was perceived as a protagonist. He starts with the old chestnut "Do you think I like doing things like this?" establishing the idea that he's been assaulting peoples' orbitals with a common household tool more out of regret than anger.

He goes on to say that he would prefer Takeshita to join his circle of love, emphasizing the love he has for each member of the faction. But there is no such thing as neutrality in what Danielson seems to see as a war for the soul and legacy of the field that he loves. He closes by asserting that by forcing his hand in this way, Takeshita had broken his heart, leaving unsaid what parts of the rising star's face he may have broken. Like Moxley's, Danielson's statement was also subtly chilling, but at the same time. seemed genuine and heartfelt.

Story Beat of the Week: Saul.

Takeshita in the Middle

Konosuke Takeshita and Kenny Omega teamed up in this week's Dynamite main event. Takeshita was wearing gear which had a colour scheme reminiscent of a certain 'Golden Star' (cheeky). The team, which Don Callis dubbed the "Golden Brothers" (very cheeky), proved to have instant tag chemistry as they took the action to Butcher and Blade.

However, a certain 'American Dragon' was unimpressed as he scrutinised from commentary. Bryan was channelling his inner Logan Roy, accusing The Elite of not being serious wrestlers. He continued to assert that Takeshita would be much better off under the tutelage of the cool sleeveless hoodie club. This had the same energy as Danielson being upset that Takeshita went to the prom with Kenny instead of him.

Danielson was evidently overcome by his emotions, as he grabbed a microphone immediately after Takeshita scored the decisive pin-fall. He proceeded to clearly express his anger and confusion at Takeshita's decision. Very emotionally healthy! His therapist would be impressed. However, this was just a distraction to attack Omega from behind. Less emotionally healthy! We'll discuss this bad behaviour in our next session. It's important to note that the BCC didn't attack Takeshita (at first), politely dumping him out the ring to focus the beatdown on the Best Bout Machine.

The Young Bucks then ran out to help even the odds. The Elite and the BCC started brawling with Takeshita stuck in the middle, much like a teenager not knowing what to do when their angry divorcing parents get into a spat. (Sorry, I'll leave my personal baggage out of the rest of the analysis). This indecisiveness would cost Takeshita, as Chekhov's screwdriver finally paid off as Moxley stabbed the Japanese prodigy multiple times. Extreme dad violence!

From this story-beat, we see that Don Callis is continuing to exert control over Omega's career. Forget about that mopey cowboy, you should tag with this guy I'm trying to recruit! Then, I can ride on his coattails like I have yours! One has to wonder how much longer Kenny will suffer this fool, especially when a certain New Japan defector re-enters his life. (No, not Jay White).

Takeshita's insertion into this feud has been used to further the ideological ideas fuelling this heated rivalry. Danielson's commentary made clear his issues with Takeshita's decision to align with The Elite are due to the negative impact he believes it could have on future generations of wrestlers. Everyone believes that Takeshita will be a future star, therefore he will be influential to the style of wrestling used by the future generations that he will inspire. In Danielson's mind, this makes this decision more significant than losing out on one exciting prospect. It is an ongoing conflict to ensure that his wrestling methodology is unsurpassed and that future generations are influenced by the Blackpool Combat Club and not The Elite.

Lastly, we should consider how Takeshita feels about being used as a prop in this rivalry. He scored a big main event win, but he took a maiming in the aftermath. After Takeshita helped prevent a beatdown from the BCC last week, The Elite was unable to repay the favour. This could certainly cause Takeshita to reconsider his Elite allegiance. Let's not forget, it is a Blackpool Combat Club ritual to get bloodied up before joining, even if they have ramped up the brutality since breaking bad. Whether he decides to join either of the groups, or gets sick of this faction nonsense and forges his own path, the future looks bright for Konosuke Takeshita in AEW.

Moment of the Week: Peter.

A Strong Surprise

The Cilla Black song “Life Is Full of Surprises” is one that probably doesn’t hit with people in the wrestling industry. From the Fightful Select Patreon account to Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer USP of breaking news making them the money they have, you get the feeling that proper surprises are few and far between in wrestling nowadays (by the way, this isn’t a criticism of Sapp and Meltzer, they are justified in their breaking news of returns/debuts) and while the news of Wembley Stadium being the host of the UK’s first AEW show cause many to be surprised it was the mammoth host stadium announced that was the surprise not the announcement of AEW finally coming to the UK thanks to people like Bryan Alvarez guesstimating correctly that the announcement was the UK show and fans adding 2+2 and getting the answer of four on this occasion.

So on a week when we heard from Tony Khan that the Owen Hart Cup would be returning which of course set up the discourse of whether or not that announcement was underwhelming (had Roderick Strong not turned up, you would have read 600 words of me wondering aloud on if Mr Bean playing Chariots of Fire would have made the Owen Opening Ceremony awesome) we got a surprise that really did surprise.

Adam Cole, while being outnumbered by JAS could not be saved by Orange Cassidy or Bandido and I’m guessing his new best friend Keith Lee wasn’t in Florida so with no-one to be the hero, hearing Killswitch Engage’s “End of Heartache” caused a collective “what is this?” The words. “Roderick Strong,” that hit the big screen, answered that question.

It wasn’t the biggest secret in wrestling that Roderick Strong wanted out of WWE and its Orlando branch. The last remaining member of NXT’s greatest ever faction had spent his time in 2.0 and then Not 2.0 in the Diamond Mine storyline while his Undisputed buddies have had mixed fortunes in All Elite Wrestling from Bobby Fish being rubbish (Where’s the lie?) Kyle O’Reilly being injury hit and Adam Cole headlining PPV’s and then suffering catastrophic injuries which saw him spend a long time on the shelf but with WWE not in the mood to release talent unless it means they can tell investors that they hit record profits, Roderick looks like he was stuck in NXT until his contract ended.

Turns out his contract ended 6 months ago but with secret negotiations, timings being perfect and an event being close to Strong’s home in Florida. The surprise that wasn’t advertised truly did surprise. A bunch of suplexes, backbreakers and a reunion hug later and all felt right in Undisputed World.

Move of the Week: Gareth.

The Famous Scissoring

Usually with move of the week I want to cover something meaningful or a true feat of athletic genius. There's always an abundance of great moves on AEW shows, but that means it's hard for something to truly stand out. Darby Allin and Sammy Guevara sure had a lot of great moves in their match but nothing that really captured the essence of what I'd want from move of the week.

Truly speaking nothing on this week's programming truly stood out, but Billy Gunn doing the scissoring before hitting his Famouser signature move stood out for two reasons.

Firstly, how is this still over? In wrestling there's this idea that every act that's ever over will have "their thing". For Steve Austin it's "What?" or "Austin 3:16 says..." For The Rock it was "If you smell" or a variety of other catchphrases. Some things stick, but most get tired very quickly. So, how is this scissoring still over? I don't know, I truly have no answer, but I love it.

Secondly, I got the feeling watching this that Tony Khan is lining up The Acclaimed & Billy Gunn as a trio who could perhaps win the Trios Championships from the House of Black. Whether that's coming soon or not, who knows? But with the 'Scissor Daddy' and The Acclaimed currently not involved in anything serious, that seems like a sensible route to go.

MVP of the Week: Trish.

Orange brings the Fun

When you are a challenger brand to a much more established name your focus should always be on what you can do differently. As a company becomes bigger this can often get lost in the sea of new attention and a wish to convert the other audience into your own. Lose too much of your original identity and you become nothing more than an imitator.

Orange Cassidy sums up so many of AEW's original overtures whilst also being incredibly successful in a business sense. He can be trusted with the most important spot on the show (the opening quarter) from a ratings perspective as well as to deliver in-ring. The way he and Bandido set the tone of this week's show helped Dynamite to feel immediately different from the sub par episode the week before.

OC is a fantastic wrestler who can vary his style to match each opponent, is a great seller of offense and has built a strong relationship with the crowd. Even as AEW's live fan base changes, there is no such thing as an IC defence with a quiet crowd. His character resonates with both children and adults, and matches his offense throughout each matchup.

The biggest thing about Cassidy in this aspect is that he is fun. The first phase of AEW carried with it a sort of comedic charm that has become somewhat lost as the company has grown and the roster developed, but with "Freshly Squeezed" it is still there. The fact he can incorporate all this into his storytelling is testament to the wrestler and to his dedication to the role; no wonder he has the respect of prominent figures such as Hiroshi Tanahashi.

With his 20th defence now come and gone, we could now be in the twilight of Orange Cassidy's International Championship reign. It truly has been the highlight of AEW programming in recent months and a reminder of what the company can be at its best and most unique.


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