CM Punk Causes Chaos | AEWeekly Review #30
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 Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week, Dan [@WinsDANlosses] reflecting on the best move and Trish [@TrishSpeirs48] giving us the MVP of the week.
Match of the Week: Joe
Bryan Danielson vs Daniel Garcia: 2 out of 3 Falls
It was very fitting that AEW Dynamite presented by House of the Dragon featured this match with timekeeper Ricky The Dragon Steamboat, The American Dragon Bryan Danielson, and Daniel Garcia’s moveset which features a Dragon Sleeper and a Dragon Slayer. In fact, the name I had dreamed up for The BCC was The Dragon’s Den.
Bryan Danielson vs Daniel Garcia III was the best match of the bunch. It featured consisent motion, that was consistently moving towards an end goal. The match looked like a struggle and a fight rather than a cooperative showcase, which I also enjoy as a flavor but for this feud, these wrestlers, and this moment, it needed to be a fight. Both wrestlers came out of this match looking better, tougher, and smarter by the end of it than they did going into it. Garcia getting the first fall, and the second fall in a row in the feud, this time WITHOUT outside interference, followed by Bryan barely squeaking out a win in the second fall, legitimized Garcia. Bryan winning that match overall kept him strong.
The only major negative to this match was the slow-motion half-hearted appearance of Daniel Garcia’s Blackpool Combat Club 12-to-6 elbow strikes, which had the energy of Lance Storm’s much mocked limp and soft chair shot in ECW. Maybe that was by design? Maybe that was planting seeds that Daniel Garcia was truly wary of ending the career of a man he secretly still admires so much? You saw similar hesitation when it was time for Garcia to stomp Bryan’s head into the mat. If this was included by design, it fits into the post-match sequence where Garcia saved Bryan from Jericho’s attack, leading to the crowd chanting “Garcia! Garcia! Garcia!” and “You’re a WRESTLER!” at the self-proclaimed sports entertainer.
Other match highlights for me were Danielson’s spider german superplex to Garcia off the top rope, Danielsion’s tope suicida where he dove at an angle instead of straight on (just that little twist was refreshing), and my favorite moment in the match - Bryan Danielson’s meditation fire up! This was so great and a genius fit for his character that is a blend of a man who desires global peace and interpersonal violence. I hope that this is a permanent addition to his arsenal.
This match gave the fans a show, it gave closure to a 1-v-1 feud, elevated a younger talent without costing the veteran at all, and strengthened a pre-exisiting faction feud and storyline leading to a star v star match at the (arguably) biggest PPV of the year for AEW.
Promo of the Week: Sergei.
Punk’s Divisive Return
CM Punk may go down as the greatest promo of all time. I would certainly make the case that he is. One might expect his first promo back after ten weeks to be cause for celebration, rather than the divisive mixed reaction that this one has spurred.
I know that for many fans this was an exciting, controversy-spurring segment, and I can understand that. But for me, as a massive CM Punk fan, it was deeply disappointing. There were two very seperate parts to the promo, each with its own problems. I will take them on last first, because, of the two, the issues with the Moxley section were less... troubling.
Our friend, BackupHangman, says that the section of Punk's promo where he tosses insults at Jon Moxley (and a few at Eddie, because he can't help himself,) demonstrated Punk's greatness because he made one of the top wrestling talents in the world "look like a fucking SCRUB". I have two seperate issues with this take. First, it isn't your job in a promo to make your opponent look like a scrub. If you beat trash, what does that say about you? But another issue is just how cookie-cutter Punk's "burns" were. "The third best guy in his faction"? "Not the best 'John' I'll beat for the world title in Chicago"? I know that I grade Punk on a curve, because he is the best in the world on the microphone, but those are lame schoolyard taunts.
But I have FAR deeper issues with the second part of the promo. I don't have any inside information and I do not care if this was actually a work or a shoot. What I do care about is that as an audience, we were not presented with any clear kayfabe explanation of what Punk is getting at and why things played out the way they did, leading to breaking suspension of disbelief.
Punk starts by minimizing the very issue he's addressing, qualifying it as "not so important." And then he claims that he is putting up his title for an impromptu rematch at that very moment. Odd for a World Title match to be "not so important"? Then he calls for Hangman Page to come out for an immediate match for the title. He sits in his iconic criss-cross-applesauce style for a few silent moments, taps his microphone to make sure his challenge would've been heard and moves on. The fans boo, not really against Punk OR Hangman, but against the story itself, the fact that they've gotten the bait and switch. Punk then calls Hangman a coward, for not answering this challenge. Was he referring to the real person Adam Page? Who should have interrupted a segment he wasn't scheduled for and demand a match not planned for the show? Or the character of the Hangman? Is he supposed to be a coward now? Or is Punk supposed to be the guy who calls people cowards who aren't? Is Hangman (in kayfabe) not in the building? Is Punk supposed to know that? WE in the audience certainly don't know. It was a deeply incoherent piece of storytelling.
And then Punk caps it off with a "piece of advice" that he frames as something very important: "the apology must be as loud and as public as the disrespect." This is true and something I've said myself, regarding TK and Swole specifically. In real life, that's something to live by. And it makes sense for a fictional character to feel the same. But when you mix the two, it's not that simple. Back on May 25th, Hangman cut a promo that was perhaps too meta. That maybe didn't actually make sense for the characters and stories they were portraying. If so, that wasn't cool, and Punk maybe has his reasons to have an issue. But insisting that only an equally public apology is sufficient strongly implies that he already received a private apology. And, as much as a public apology for public disrespect is a good policy in general, however much what Page said May 25th arguably didn't make sense for the Hangman character to say about the Punk character, the Hangman character publicly apologizing for it would make far, far less sense.
And doing the same back to Hangman is incredibly unprofessional and has serious possibility of destroying both characters. I may hope that this is just a slow burn to a heel turn for Punk. But I feel that every reason to worry that he may be painting himself into the same corner Cody did. Wanting to portray a mostly face cool tweener, but unable to see how deeply unlikable he is actually being.
Story Beat of the Week: Gareth.
Daniel Garcia Steps Up
So much happened on this episode of Dynamite, that it’s hard to pick just one significant story beat. Kenny Omega returning, everything between Moxley and Punk (and Hangman). Hell, Austin and Colten Gunn even turned on daddy Billy.
But what I will focus on is Daniel Garcia, potentially, turning his back on Chris Jericho.
After defeating Bryan Danielson, who we later learned was Garcia’s idol growing up, ‘Red Death’ lost the 2-out-of-3 falls rematch 2-1, despite securing the first fall.
It was exactly what I would expect from one of those ‘Blackpool Combat Club initiation matches’ that Wheeler Yuta went through. And after the match Bryan offered his hand to Garcia, who went to shake it before Chris Jericho attacked Danielson. Garcia then stepped in and stopped Jericho, which ‘The Wizard’ did not take kindly to.
The obvious implication is that this will lead to Daniel Garcia joining BCC. However, I personally don’t think we necessarily need to have that. I think Garcia is more than ready to step out on his own. And if this is a step towards that then I am all for it.
Moment of the Week: Peter.
What makes the best, the best?
In football, Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson would win games and as a fan you wonder "how the hell did they win that?" The answer was that drive and resilience and never giving in was what made them champions.
On Dynamite this week, Bryan Danielson was in a spot of bother. Up against Daniel Garcia, who had Danielson's number after his breakout win two weeks earlier, Garcia went one fall up out wrestling his hero planting the American Dragon in a beautiful hammerlock Dragon Sleeper (hope you make this move of the Week Dan)
It wasn't just a physical blow to the multi-time world champ but a mental one too. Forced to lose a fall to a move called the Dragon sleeper must have been a wound to Bryan's pride. However Bryan was really hurting physically and Garcia was in control and in a position to win the 2 out of 3 Falls match 2-0, a rarity in wrestling. However Bryan Danielson with a roll up got his fall back showing resilience that the best of the best show.
In a world where fans want wins and losses to matter, those wins and losses are what separates the top guys from those who are not top guys, even those who are predicted to top the card in the future. Danielson showed the mettle and the fortitude that goes into being one of the best in the world.
While I'm comparing Bryan Danielson to Ferguson era Manchester United especially the 1998-99 team that won the Champions League final beating Bayern Munich after scoring twice in injury time to win 2-1, the question has to be asked, did Daniel Garcia "choke" on Wednesday night like Bayern Munich did that night and furthermore would Daniel Garcia have won 2-0 had he been a member of the Blackpool Combat Club? The question could also be asked, has being a member of the Jericho Appreciation Society made Daniel Garcia soft?
Maybe Daniel Garcia knows the answer, hence his disappointment at losing the match to Danielson and also his reaction to Jericho's attack on Danielson. A couple of weeks ago, we talked about the Blackpool Combat Club in Garcia potentially coming out during his breakout win against Danielson. It seems it had to take losing from a winning position for Daniel Garcia to contemplate where his future should lie.
Move of the Week: Dan.
Let’s be honest. Kenny Omega could have come out to the ring, picked his nose and walked off again and I still would have given it the Move of the Week. Such has been the thirst, the longing and the need for Kenneth’s return to AEW television that I think he would have needed to stomp a cat to death for me to not love it…and only then if it was a really really cute cat.
Of course, this being one of, if not the best wrestlers in the world today, Kenny didn’t give us the bare minimum. In fact he gave an absolute masterclass in how to return from a lengthy spell away, both in the spell-binding glimpses of the pre-injury Kenny Omega, and in the way he sold his general knackardness.
All of this culminated in the glorious, but deliberately diminished return of my personal favourite Kenny Omega move the V-Trigger. By this stage in the match Kenny had taken a lot of offence. His leg was going, his arm looked severely damaged and his back was giving even Matt Jackson’s a run for its money in dodginess. Hell we’d even seen Dragon Lee seemingly destroy Kenny (and a large part of the audience) with an insanely ferocious dive to a Cleaner who was perched on top of the barricade.
Understandably therefore Kenny was a bit mashed by the time he had Dragon Lee in place for that brutal knee. He bounced off the ropes to launch himself towards Lee, but whilst doing so grimaced and held his stomach to show the pain he was going through. Yet, despite this apparent hindrance, Omega still landed the V-Trigger with such accuracy and aggression that, even if it was for just a split-second, the old Kenny Omega was back.
For his fans it was a mixture of concern and relief. Anxiety and Catharsis. A hero returned, but not quite all of him just yet. And because he’s the greatest, Kenny Omega was able to convey all of this in just one manoeuvre.
Welcome back, Kenneth.
MVP of the Week: Trish.
There are times when moments literally feel like a breathe of fresh air, like a welcome change from what has come before them: those that have an almost healing feeling in their nature. This was how I felt to see Kenny Omega return this past Wednesday night. For the first time since November 13th, AEW'S best in ring storyteller was back on Dynamite and within minutes was able to display why it has felt like AEW has been missing something without his presence.
Welcomed back with the full Justin Roberts rundown, Omega emerged from the face tunnel- but with Don Callis and Michael Nakazawa alongside him. He greeted the Bucks and his opponents but did not go with full babyface tendancies as it would of been so easy to do on such an occasion. In so little time he displayed more depth then 85% of the other characters on the roster.
He didn't portray to be 100% either, something Don Callis avoided also to say on commentary, wrestling in a compression shirt and with a strapped shoulder. He sold so well in the early part of the match that many observers started to wonder if he wasn't fully cleared; a skill he shares with other in ring greats such as Bryan Danielson and Kazuchika Okada. This meant though, when he did change speed, things became electric. The tempo and atmosphere for the match changed instantly.
The moment that sticks in my mind the most are the series of Snapdragon suplexes. They start high and not as quick and end much lower and with the speed anyone watching Kenny would expect. An incredible sell on the last one from Dragon Lee really helps the effect.
Whilst Omega may have wrapped up the match with the 'One Winged Angel' he left so much out, such as failing to hit 'The Rise of the Terminator", that there will now be instant pops when they occur. It is by not giving everything on the first shot that Kenny creates so much intrigue. He blurs the lines in the right way, gets you emotionally invested in the story and just has an aura about him that is different to anyone else.
Sometimes in 2022 I wonder what the identity of AEW is, has the original concept been lost entirely? Is the heart gone from it and it generated into something else? Seeing Kenny Omega do so much in so little time on Wednesday night was a reminder that the heart is still there, it's still beating and how that indicates that he is still incredibly vital to this company in 2022.