Welcome to the #AEWeekly review discussion where PWM contributors reflect on the highlights of the last week in AEW. The week runs Monday through Sunday covering the most recent Dynamite, Rampage, and Collision.
This week’s contributors are Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering match of the week, Gareth [@Gareth_EW] covering promos, Saul [@SaulKiloh] exploring a key story beat, Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week, and Joe [@GoodVsBadGuys] giving us the MVP of the week.
Match of the Week: Sergei.
Blind Eliminator Tag Wrestling and Dancing Final
I wrote two damn paragraphs about how Blood & Guts was the match of the week—about how it's a misleadingly named match that's really more about strategy and team cohesion than the blood or bravery—and the whole time a devil on my shoulder was whispering "that's not the match you really wanna talk about, and that's not the match you'll still be thinking about in a year, is it?" Blood & Guts was great at what it was—a pivotal chapter in the BCC vs Elite story and a brutality spectacle to build a special show around. But the Blind Eliminator tournament final was an absolute masterclass in using every aspect of a match—not just bell-to-bell, but: entrances, pre-match shenanigans, aftermaths—to further stories non-verbally and manipulate the emotions of the crowd to get the reaction you want.
It starts with Garcia and Guevara's entrance. They fistbump and seem on the same page, but commentary mentions some miscommunications on the road to the finals. But then Chris Jericho's "Judas" hits and it becomes very clear that if there is one thing they are united on, it's being equally sick of Jericho's shit. Jericho cuts his music "denying" the Boston crowd their sing-along, but when the crowd "defies" him by finishing the tune a capella, Jericho gloats, as they had played into his hands, defying him on one level, but showing their love on another.
Then MJF's music hits to an approving roar that would have been shocking for Friedman to get a few weeks ago. Max comes out in his and Cole's new matching gear and calls for Cole's entrance with a gesture he'd been using since they first got foisted on one another, but instead it seems to be MJF's theme again. Max is confused for a moment, but transitions into delighted shock when he realizes that this was the surprise Adam had mentioned: a mash-up of their two entrance themes to use as a team theme! This thrills Max so much that he grabs up Adam in a spinning hug like a long-lost love. This calls back to their previous entrances where MJF had gone for a hug but Cole had shut him down and limited it to a fist bump, claiming boundaries. But Adam's real objection was to Maxwell's transparent manipulativeness, but this time his partner's genuine sincerity can't be denied, so any objection is overridden.
Once MJF and Garcia are facing off as if ready to start the match, come the "shenanigans" everyone has been talking about, for good or bad. Daniel Garcia—as part of proving that he is not a "wrestler" but a "sports entertainer," along with switching from plain black trunks to flashy leather pants—has added to his act a little dance intended to rub his opponents' and the audience's faces in his commitment to the "sports entertainer" way, but which ironically has gotten over huge, getting big pops from the crowd whenever he throws it out there. As zebra Bryce Remsburg is about to signal for the bell, Daniel grabs his hand to delay him and taunt Maxwell with the dance before the match begins. But not to be outdone MJF also stops Bryce's signal and taunts Garcia with his own dance. This goes back and forth until MJF asks of the crowd "DO YOU PEOPLE WANT TO SEE A DANCE OFF?" Belying the reputation of the AEW audience to be "serious" fans uninterested in silly shenanigans, this evokes a massive cheer, and chants of "Dance! Off!"
Seemingly the master of every aspect of his trade, Friedman hops down to the soundboard and flips a switch that starts some generic disco instrumental playing. Garcia and Guevara gamely show their moves in a silly and fun synchronized dance, which FOR SOME REASON ends with Garcia's head peeking out between Guevara's crossed legs. This is followed by Renaissance Man MJF showing off yet another of his crazy talents, disco dancing with confidence and flair while his partner looks on jaw agape. Then Cole proves the statistical fact that of four random guys ALL of them can't possibly be decent dancers, showing off some Carlton-level bad dancing. (Or to look at it another way: not trying to one-up his partner!)
Max tries to cut Adam's embarrassment short and Garcia and Guevara take advantage of the momentary distraction to attack. After a brief heat sequence, as soon as Cole/MJF take control, they immediately try to pull off the double clothesline they've been promising, and it keeps going wrong! First with a double Spanish Fly from Guevara, then with a chopblock from behind from Garcia, leading to a Texas Cloverleaf.
Once Cole gets the rope break, Garcia charges at him and Cole flips him out of the ring to join Guevara on the floor, leading to one of the most entertaining segments in the match. Adam encourages Maxwell to hit them with a dive, which MJF fights through his long- established disdain of aerial moves to go along with his partner. His look of surprise and accomplishment when it works out is a delight, and if the fans had had any reservations they are 100% behind Max now.
This leads directly into FINALLY hitting the long-promised double clothesline for the win. Jericho meets his unsuccessful proteges coming up the ramp to give some condescending "encouragement" but Garcia and Guevara show they remain united in defeat by giving their (former?) mentor the cold shoulder.
Meanwhile World Title Belt drama that Saul discusses in more detail below is going on in the ring. But, the important thing is the unlikely partners do "hug it out" as the crowd recommends. It seems inevitable still that one will betray the other, but the performances of their surprising friendship are so credible, it will still be heart wrenching no matter who or when! And while it was "comedy sketches" that laid the foundation for that story, it was masterful nonverbal in-ring performances that truly cemented the fans' buy-in of this unlikely relationship.
Promo of the Week: Gareth.
Ricky Starks Explodes
After entering to an obnoxious amount of pyro, Ricky Starks himself exploded in a promo that hinted towards CM Punk before the man himself appeared and a tag-team main event was set up.
But what I want to focus on is Ricky Starks’ solo promo before Punk’s emergence here. Because this is the exact form of Ricky Starks that we need.
This is how he got over in the first place and, frankly, he’d lost that bite during his run as a babyface. Don’t get me wrong, he had a good run as a babyface, but there was always this feeling that he could be something more.
A braggadocious, money-flaunting heel is nothing new. From Ric Flair to MJF, hell even Starks’ friend ‘Dashing’ Cody Rhodes. But Ricky brings such a fresh feeling to this type of character. A slight subtlety which just works so well.
Things like asking “what’s in my bag?” A hint to what’s in the bag that CM Punk has been carrying around. Something Ricky now feels entitled to. But yet also just an excuse to show off his new Louis Vuitton bag. He uses a similar tactic when stating “and if anyone else was in my shoes, which is Prada by the way, they would have done the exact same thing.”
It's not genius, but it just suits Ricky so well. “Don’t talk to me about what’s right and wrong, talk to me about how sexy I am.” And right here we see the reason for Starks’ shift in attitude without having to stoop to the boring “why did I do it?”
It’s clear we’ve got a character where his ego is out of control after finally achieving something big in AEW. And it’s quite nice, I think, that instead of just having this be a babyface moment of victory, AEW is subverting that expectation and are telling the story of Ricky Starks getting carried away with that success. A true betrayal of the fans without needing to stoop to the typical tropes.
A heel turn so subtle you could be fooled into thinking there’s no character logic to it.
Story Beat of the Week: Saul.
Glance at Gold causes Doubt in Duo
Due to the long spiel I wrote about it last week, I was determined to not write about the ongoing odyssey of "Better Than You Baybay". However, it feels wrong to select anything else as the story-beat of the weak because the tale of MJF and Adam Cole is easily the most interesting tale currently being spun in AEW.
While I am hurt that they didn't take any of my date suggestions, I still respect the choice of bonding over food. I liked that Adam chose this to help Max overcome his fears, those being spicy food and poor people. This was a nice progression of their relationship, as Cole was actually putting in an effort and considering his partner. I also find it weirdly interesting that MJF doesn't like spicy food. As his character is often hiding behind schtick, this wrinkle was very humanising. I will say that this was the least good of their backstage bonding segments, however I still really liked it (sorry Craig).
However, any disappointment was quickly washed away by the sport entertainment masterclass of the dance-off. I must preface this by mentioning that I was watching Dynamite live in the UK (so I was very weary) and had just demolished a pull tub of Ben & Jerry's (so I was high off sugar), but this is the most I have ever laughed while watching a wrestling segment (anyone who had a problem with this due to the World Champion being involved or because it was a tournament final should read my section last week to understand my feelings on this, I don't want to repeat myself too much).
The match was equally joyous, as the crowd erupted for MJF doing a dive to the outside and cheered with pure euphoria when the pair finally hit the double clothesline to win the match. While the result was never really in doubt, the work done in the match to get the crowd popping so huge over rather ordinary moves was nothing short of masterful.
This positive moment was marred a bit by some post-match events. The referee passed Cole the AEW World Championship so he could give it to MJF. However, Cole's championship desires took over for a second and he seemed to enjoy holding the world championship, which his new best bud happened to see. They got in a quick tiff before seemingly making up and hugging it out. However, the expression on Max's face after the hug looked like someone who was remembering why he was so wary of letting anyone get truly close to him.
The duo will face FTR for the Tag Team Championships on this week's Collision and I can't help but wonder if this post match tension will come into play. Before this storyline began, I was strongly against Adam Cole being the next AEW World Champion. However, I can now envisage this duo becoming tag champs and true best friends, but Cole's ambition causes him to eventually betray Max, taking the championship in a double turn for the ages. The idea is exciting to me, but it is only one of many possible roads. Only time will tell what the fate of the team will be.
Moment of the Week: Peter.
Mox shows true leadership
The point of history is to learn from it. It's to see what mistakes you have made and never to do them again. It's to see what went right and try to repeat. It's also to make sure what happened to you never happens to the ones you love.
Blood and Guts did exactly what it said on the tin. It was bloody. The creativity of the violence showed the sickness in the head of many in the cage and guts were shown by everyone in the match. It also brought an end to the months long war between the two most prominent factions in AEW and their philosophies and with Blackpool Combat Club probably unlikely to release a vlog show on YouTube any time soon, it was always going to be The Elite that had to move into their rivals jurisdiction and through luck from PAC being a bastard, the Elite took advantage of the numbers game that unfolded to take control of the match.
But The Elite needed to make a statement to win their first Blood and Guts, the match they were supposed to make a statement to the wrestling world but couldn't because of the world shutting down in March 2020 and with Wheeler Yuta all alone and Hangman Page yet again with a chain in his hand learnt from history and attempted to extract the submission from Yuta by wrapping a chain around his neck and pulling back with all his might.
But with Yuta desperate to prove he is worthy of the company he keeps with, he wasn't going to give up. It had to come from his mentor, his leader with memories from Revolution playing out in front of him to submit on his behalf.
By submitting for Wheeler Yuta, Jon Moxley showed the leadership traits that good leaders of factions need to show, the fatherly side of him which he has needed to show outside the AEW arena. He saved Wheeler for another day. Mox saw that Kenny, Hangman and the Bucks had proved him and Bryan Danielson wrong and that they could show the barbarity needed to succeed against the BCC and with nowhere left to go, he “tapped” for his teammate, showing that despite the culture of wrestling telling the viewer that there is shame in submissions, there actually isn't when there is nowhere to go.
Whether Yuta and Claudio agree might make for interesting viewing down the line but on this night Jon Moxley took lessons from his past matches in AEW and showed leadership skills to the AEW audience
MVP of the Week: Joe.
Nick Jackson Shows Guts
Nick Jackson is AEW’s MVP this week because of his performance in Blood and Guts which showed off his creativity and guts.
Nick Jackson was creative with his offense during Blood and Guts. Nick used the environment to his advantage. Instead of entering through the ropes, where he would’ve been cornered and pummeled by the BCC, he took to the air with a dropkick taking out team captain Jon Moxley. The Blood and Guts match uses more ropes than a usual match, and the AEW ropes are actually cables that are stiffer and stronger than WWE ropes. Nick used these stiff cables by Stunnering PAC’s throat into them. B & G has more rings, a woefully underused feature. Nick clotheslined PAC into another ring, before jumping back into the other ring to X-Factor Claudio, then he flipped back into the other ring with PAC where he planted him with a Diamond Cutter. B & G has more opponents than a typical tag match, so Nick hit the Meltzer driver flip into Matt Jackson’s Tombstone piledriver and Hangman Adam Page’s Deadeye at the same time.
Nick also showed off his guts during Blood and Guts. During his hot tag, Nick took on Moxley, Claudio, and PAC head on, 1 on 3. But Guts isn’t just about courage, it’s about toughness and perseverance. Nick took some intense and impactful offense, but lived to stand tall on the winning team by the end. Nick took a stabbing to the head from Wheeler Yuta, a brainbuster through a steel chair from Yuta, he was press slammed into the wall of the steel cage and down into the hardest part of the ring, then finally took a massive diving foot stomp - through a table - AND into the hardest parts of the rings - from the ROOF of the steel cage from PAC.