Blood, Guts and the Forbidden Door | #AEWeekly Review 23
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] exploring match of the week, Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering promos, Gareth [@Gareth_EW] covering story beats, Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week, Dan [@WrestlingRhymes] reflecting on the best move and Trish [@TrishSpeirs48] giving us the MVP of the week.
Match of the Week: Joe.
IWGP United States Championship: Orange Cassidy vs Will Ospreay (C).
Something that ROH/NJPW Global Wars from October 2017, AEW Rampage First Dance, AEW’s Thanksgiving Eve Dynamite in 2021, and AEWxNJPW Forbidden Door all have in common, is that I attended these shows with casual fans or non-fans, and these people left with the biggest lasting impressions coming from Will Ospreay and/or Orange Cassidy. Another thing all of those shows have in common is that Ospreay and Cassidy were not in the main event of any of those shows.
Jay White calls himself The Switchblade, but when it comes to in-ring ability, Will Ospreay is the Swiss Army Knife. He is an elite high-flyer (eliciting oohs & ahhs for his dives), an elite striker (hidden blade, a superkick that curls around his opponents shoulder & into their head, springboard flipping kicks & cutters, flying forearms), has bulked up to where he has a power arsenal (spinning pendulum backbreaker, powerbombs, stormbreaker), and even creates sports-entertainment style character-based moments like the hand in OC’s pocket into middle finger or playing into OC’s playing possum).
Speaking of character, few people in today’s wrestling game have characters that are easier to understand and connect to than Orange Cassidy. This character fits so well into a wrestling match, and is such a fun contrast to the typical strong style bravado you get in NJPW or AEW heavyweight scenes. What pushes it past the point of refreshing fun in the middle of the card to reaching out and grabbing hold of your attention and emotional investment is the fact that after Orange Cassidy establishes his character who seems like he doesn’t care, and you root for him showing that you care about him , he returns that favour by starting to care himself, and then he backs it up with high-end cruiserweight wrestling skills. It’s been seen and done before, but if he isn’t overused, it’s a ride you can enjoy over and over again.
When OC hit the Beach Break on Will Ospreay, I wasn’t convinced he would win, but I thought he could, and I really really wanted him to. That left me not just with a moment I can remember, but a moment I can still feel. Clearly I was not the only one, because if you heard the 13,000 fans in Detroit erupting for Orange Cassidy’s entrance, while being with AEW since day 1, Orange is riding a wave of momentum and support that feels freshly squeezed.
Promo of the Week: Sergei.
Eddie Kingston on Rampage
On Rampage, the true go-home show for a high-stakes joint PPV, but a show far fewer people watch late at night on Friday, microphone artist Eddie Kingston delivered a truly extraordinary promo, one I think fans will remember and call back to for years to come. He starts out with a laughably tepid sell of said PPV: “yes, everybody, love it, enjoy it… buy it!” Leaving “whatever” unsaid, but strongly implied. He literally (sarcastically) apologises to his boss and coworkers for not giving a shit about this show. Because his heart can only belong fully to one thing at a time, and at this time, that was Wednesday’s “Blood & Guts” match.
Once the commercial necessities are disposed of, Eddie gets right to the point, addressing his primary enemy of the moment, Chris Jericho: “I will never be satisfied until I taste your blood.” This has to be one of the most specific and graphic threats I have ever heard.
Eddie goes on to clarify that this desire is not motivated simply by (literal) bloodthirstiness, but by curiosity. He wants to know what a coward’s blood tastes like. He then moves on to the Shakespearean heart of this promo, that a coward dies a thousand deaths. Point being, no matter what Jericho and his goons have done to Eddie—from beating him up to burning his face—Eddie’s focus has only been on revenge, never on worrying for what they might do next. Whereas the heart of Eddie’s revenge on Jericho has always been not just on what he would eventually do to him, but also on making him wait in anticipation, paranoia, and terror for whatever it may be.
Then it finally becomes clear why this promo had to be on Rampage, specifically. Because one of the best parts of this promo are the moments after the promo, when they cut to the commentary desk, and Chris Jericho is a colour commentator on Rampage! While Excalibur natters on about Draft Kings, Chris Jericho proves Kingston right, looking all around him with an expression of fear and paranoia. It is absolutely hilarious, and strongly highlights what heel Jericho still brings to the table for those he feuds against.
Story Beat of the Week: Gareth.
Christian Tames Luchasaurus
Last week we saw Christian Cage mock Jungle Boy so much to the extent that Luchasaurus came out to shut him up. However, Cage managed to talk the dinosaur down and seemingly get in his head. And over that week we the audience can imagine how much more corrupting of the mind Christian has been doing.
This week we got the result of that, a darker, repackaged Luchasaurus who slots right into a new role as mid-card, monster heel.
This leaves room for various possibilities for when Jungle Boy returns from injury. Is this all a rouse from Luchasaurus, will be side with Jungle Boy to the shock of Cage? Or will Cage use Luchasaurus to stop Jungle Boy from getting to him?
And will that even work? I could see a world where AEW put off the Christian vs. Jungle Boy match by having Luchasaurus defeat his former tag-team partner, before JB gets his win back over the reptilian monster to eventually set up that match with Christian.
There's multiple ways they can use Luchasaurus as a plot device in this Christian-Jungle Boy feud, but then even beyond that you've got the potential of his career in his own right. It's exciting because until recently I wouldn't have thought it would work. But upon seeing the presentation this week - I really like the possibilities this could throw up.
Moment of the Week: Peter.
Claudio Clouds Eddie's Vision
We've all been there haven't we. We have all had moments when you do your best but it still isn't the result you want. Whether it's missing a target at work because an act of god puts a blockade on your road to the target or you fall in love with someone but it turns out that person is in love with your friend.
When circumstances out of your control means that the moment that you're convinced will make you happy doesn't materialise, you don't know what to think or do or even say. But imagine having that reaction in the glare of thousands of people. That moment happened to Eddie Kingston at Blood and Guts.
Eddie had Chris Jericho beat on top of the cage when he had him in the Stretch Plum. It may have not been the first time he had Jericho in the finisher popularised by Toshiaki Kawada, one of Eddie's inspirations but while Revolution was Eddie proving to himself that he could beat one of the greats in the history of wrestling one vs one in a fair fight, this time after the assault the Dynamite after that victory and the fireball attack shortly after, this time it was personal as hell and yet while Jericho was being stretched his B&G teammate Claudio Castagnoli was submitting Matt Menard in the cloverleaf next to him.
Eddie and his team had won but Eddie needed to win for the team. He had been given the responsibility of being the final guy in for his team. Eddie was the DH, the fifth penalty taker, the QB in the two minute drill and with the trust that he had been given by Jon Moxley and Lord Regal, Eddie wanted to hit it out of the park for his friend and someone he respects so greatly and that he wasn't the guy to hit the winning score, he in his own mind felt that he let the team down. But also he wanted to settle the demon in his head that Chris Jericho had set alight in the past two months and of all the guys that had prevented it had to be a demon from his past.
I won't get into the history of Eddie Kingston and Claudio in full detail. I've gone long enough already by my standards in AEWeekly but I would fully recommend Joseph Montecillo's Matter of Respect video essay about the Eddie/Claudio rivalry in CHIKARA. But as we have learnt in the past year about Eddie Kingston, side by side with his many strengths, he has a habit of not letting things go. The CM Punk feud comes to mind and while Eddie Kingston was proved right about Claudio when he insisted that the Swiss was not to be trusted when Claudio ended up joining CHIKARA's top heel group, more than a decade have passed since the pair last interacted in pro wrestling just like it did when Punk and Eddie collided and just like with CM Punk, Eddie has not let go of the past. But maybe he's right to do so. Eddie was right about Claudio before.
We've all been in Eddie's shoes at times in our past. The drive to succeed, to not let people down, to not let himself down and we've been at that moment that Eddie had on Wednesday when he was so close to getting that moment of glory for someone to prevent it even if it was in the right spirit on Claudio's end. But it had to be Claudio that denied Eddie. Of all the people, it had to be Claudio
Move of the Week: Dan.
'Swing Not-So-Low Chris Jericho'
I hope I’m not wide of the mark in saying that everybody knows wrestling is a work. If that is news to anyone then we need to have a serious talk…and it’ll probably include some harsh truths about Santa Claus as well. As a result of this knowledge however it is very rare that a move can truly terrify the audience. We know that most of the ‘big’ moves have been agreed in advance and the talent and professionalism of most wrestlers means we trust them to attack each other with minimal real-life danger.
In a match like Blood and Guts however that often goes out the window, and that was certainly the case this week on Dynamite. The amazing thing is that I’m not even talking about Sammy Guevara’s terrifying plummet from the roof of the cage onto a suspiciously large table, courtesy of Eddie Kingston. Or the various objects that Jon Moxley inserted into the faces of his opponent.
Instead the moment that had me squealing and clinging on to my chair like a scared child was when new AEW recruit Claudio Castagnoli subjected old man Chris Jericho to a giant swing…whilst perched perilously on top of the Blood and Guts cage.
Special praise to the camera-work here because the angle at which they showed this spine tingling moment really elevated the sense of danger. As Claudio swung the wizard around it really looked as if the gladiator were dangerously close to the edge of the cage. One slight slip from Claudio and Mr Jericho could have been flying into the crowd at a worrying rate of knots.
Fortunately this didn’t happen and Jericho survived to firebomb people another day. But for that brief moment where he was swinging around like a ragdoll even the normally un-ruffleable Jericho must have seen his life flash before his eyes. And it was awesome.
MVP of the Week: Trish.
This week is a controversial choice for a few reasons. Firstly, it is not a participant in Wednesday's Blood and Guts matchup; which matched standard War Games fare with Moxley-enthused hardcore elements alongside a death defying fall from Sammy Guevara. Indeed is it not Eddie Kingston;- whose stories with Chris Jericho and Claudio felt like the driving force in this match ahead of anything involving newly crowned champion Moxley and who is the emotional heartbeat in current AEW; a product which has veered somewhat away from those elements in recent months. Lastly, it isn't someone actually employed by AEW.
The reason, though, why it can't be anyone else is that I simply cannot get what happened on Sunday night out of my head.
Jon Moxley has had split crowds before in AEW, both Kenny Omega and Lance Archer have emitted such reactions in title matches. Before Sunday he'd been booed only once; in the Casino Ladder match against a returning Adam Page at the height of his rise and whilst himself displaying occasional heel tendencies in the lead up. This all changed on Sunday.
Hiroshi Tanahashi may have no knees, he may look slower in tag matches then he used to as the effects of his two decade long career catch up with him, but he has adapted his style to match his limitations in a way others are unable to and when called upon can still deliver at a higher level then alot of his younger counterparts. This is especially true in big matchups, and regardless of if there is a chance of an opponent or even if he is inserted into a main event due to other circumstances or injury. In recent years he has been New Japan's safety net for all of these situations.
Tanahashi can also still deliver an outstanding promo as well. His Countdown show effort was scathing on Moxley and made it very clear he wasn't just happy to be there in this matchup. All of this meant that the belief that he could win Sunday's main event didn't feel foolhardy.
What followed was one of the greatest babyface performances I've ever seen live. The 'Ace' worked with Moxley to recapture a crowd who had been deflated somewhat by the emergency ending to the IWGP 4 way and distracted by disturbance in the arena. It was a match Moxley looked in control of but was lifted everytime Tanahashi rallied.
As it drew towards its conclusion the crowd fed off Hiroshi's struggle, his emotions as visible to those in the 300 sections as it was to those sitting next to the ring. It galvanised them, they wanted to see him continue to fight: and perhaps most importantly, they wanted to see him win. As Moxley reigned down elbows to Tanahashi's neck the United Center showed its feeling as they jeered their own AEW man. And when the bulldog choke was applied the arena, five hours into the "Forbidden Door" presentation broke into some of its loudest chants of the night. A crowd that began 60/40 in the Cincinnati's native's favour was now, to a man, solely in the corner of Tanahashi.
Hiroshi Tanahashi proves that in an age where gimmick matches and death defying spots are often seen as the major way to generate crowd response that there is still nothing stronger
than the babyface struggle. Even at 45 he is still a cut above everyone else in making things matter. The Ace is not just a nickname, it embodies everything he is in 2022.