Welcome to the weekly AEW Roundtable, where Pro Wrestling Musings' contributors share their thoughts on the biggest talking points arising from Dynamite, Rampage and beyond in the world of All Elite Wrestling. Please note writer's views are their own.
This week's contributors are:
-With thanks to Scott Lesh for photography.
1) CM Punk is All Elite. Your thoughts on his debut and promo on AEW Rampage?
[Sergei] This was pure magic! I’ve been wracking my brain to think of another moment in pro wrestling that was comparable for me. Opening with Punk was the exact right call: by 10 PM ET, anticipation was at maximum. It felt like a moment that the whole world was experiencing together.
Punk crowd-surfing and hugging fans set the tone. Punk’s troubles in the past were addressed but not dwelled on. Punk’s legendary communication prowess was totally redirected from expressing resentment or asserting his place in a pantheon, to expressing love, belonging, and gratitude. In his first words he corrected himself from “I” to “we” and that was apropos, because I didn’t feel like I was watching a wrestler cut a promo, so much as a roaring beast comprised of 1 Punk and over 15,000 rapt wrestling fans. Magic.
[Tahnee] It was really just perfect from first second to last. So good to see CM Punk looking healthy and happy, and his unbridled joy was contagious. He seemed so genuinely happy and overwhelmed to be greeted like he was in his hometown, and I’m glad he’s passionate about wrestling again.
His promo was really good- classic Punk- and I loved his references to his past, as well as him putting over both Britt and Darby in it. This could’ve been disappointing because of the sheer pressure put on this moment, but AEW delivered.
[Shreyas] Honestly, an all-time great wrestling moment. Might just be my personal preference, but I think this was the greatest debut in wrestling history. It was perfect and couldn’t possibly have been handled any better. And I don’t think it would be possible to pull it off with a person who isn’t Punk, or a city that isn’t Chicago. An all-time great who is beloved, one we never thought we’d see again, joining the underdog promotion in his hometown, it was simply a perfect storm.
A moment that is going to stay with us for the rest of our lives. Punk is as genuine as they come and the moment was just that, genuine. Just 20 minutes of sheer love and passion, shared by the man who loves wrestling again, 15,000 people who got to experience it with him, and the millions that watched it worldwide. It teared me up and I still can’t stop thinking about it.
[Christian] Everything about this moment was just perfection. The crowd chanting leading to the build-up, the music hitting and the place erupting to what I consider the pop of the century. Punk looking genuinely happy to be back, the promo, the ice cream bars. It’s like the stars aligned perfectly and gave us a full-on historic moment in wrestling history.
This moment affected me on a personal level. I was always a CM Punk fan and around 2016 I completely lost hope of seeing Punk return to the ring, but a miracle happened and it left me the happiest I’ve ever been relating to wrestling. I was legitimately crying tears of joy, and screaming at the top of my lungs. Only AEW could make such an emotional, impactful, and historic moment like this one, which makes me grateful every single day that AEW exists and is giving wrestling fans new and exciting content every week.
2) The Labours of Jericho came to an end as Chris Jericho tapped out to MJF in Dynamite’s main event. How did you feel about this match and this storyline as a whole?
[Tahnee] I liked the stipulation. It kept things fresh and interesting. I’m very glad that MJF won, and tapped out Jericho, and hopefully that’ll cool down the Pinnacle vs Inner Circle feud.
[Sergei] Oh, yeah, that “No Judas” stipulation! Not allowing Jericho his entrance theme, and the fans singing his song a capella, was a really effective way to make a moment and show Chris Jericho’s connection with the fans!
[Anthony] I hope this is the end of it. I knew that Jericho was losing simply because the last time he had a grand entrance he lost to Mox. MJF winning was the right move and it will be very interesting to see what he does next.
[Gareth] I think it’s fair to say that the Labours of Jericho disappointed slightly on most people's expectations. But that doesn’t mean it was bad. The only match I don’t think worked well was the Wardlow match, for reasons expressed last week.
Jericho vs MJF was a strong, story-focused match. MJF continues to be one of the best heels. It’s just a shame that after a year of story, it doesn’t feel like a particularly big deal.
[Christian] It was the right call having MJF go over here. I loved this match from its storytelling alone, and allowing the audience to have an extreme connection to Jericho which ultimately made the 5th Labor look like it had more on the line. I loved the Labors of Jericho but really thought they could’ve gone all out with some of the choices for the labors. After Nick Gage and The Juice, I was thinking they would get someone from another part of Jericho’s career, such as a guy he feuded with in ECW or The Attitude Era, but hey, it was still an excellent story nonetheless.
3) After The Young Bucks retained their AEW Tag Team Championships on Dynamite, it was announced that there would be a tournament to decide who The Bucks would face at All Out. Jurassic Express defeated Private Party on Rampage, with the winner of Lucha Bros and Varsity Blondes this Wednesday facing them in the final. What were your feelings on these matches and who wins the tournament?
[Gareth] I had previously said that Lucha Bros and Young Bucks had perfected their matches together. We’ve had so many with so much variety of match types. However, that was before the Bucks turned heel and a steel cage was involved. So, I’m hoping it’s them, two years after they last faced each other at All Out 2019.
If that is the case, Young Bucks would have defeated everyone worthy of a title shot in this tag division. All except one. The team I want as the next champs. Santana & Ortiz, who hopefully win at Arthur Ashe, in their hometown of New York.
[Anthony] I think the story of Jurassic Express getting a shot in a cage is very strong. They were just recently robbed, and this could see them get the fair shot. That said I can also see Lucha Bros getting the win too because, as we said on the Podcast, the two teams couldn’t have a bad match even if they tried. That said I think the Young Bucks will retain so the story with Lucha Bros and Andrade could be featured too.
[Shreyas] I want the Lucha Bros to win the tournament simply because I want to see what Rey Fenix can do inside a cage. Also there’s a built in story there with the early-AEW Bucks vs Lucha Bros matches, and with a different combination of a Lucha Brother and a friend taking on and losing to the Bucks this year (Rey and PAC, PAC and Penta, Penta and Eddie). It would be cool to see the original tag combination take on the Bucks in a place they can’t escape from.
[Christian] At first, I thought this could go either way, but now I’m starting to lean more into the Lucha Bros winning the tournament (and even winning the tag titles). Considering the chemistry both teams have with each other it’s for sure to be an excellent match, and the cage will be a fun stipulation to both teams who are known for their crazy spots and high-flying antics.
4) Jon Moxley cut a promo on Dynamite where he addressed various names, talking about how now after Mox carried the company through the pandemic, everyone wants to come and have a go. Many people online have speculated that this was an indirect message to CM Punk as well as potentially hinting at a heel turn. What are your thoughts on this, as well as Moxley’s match with Daniel Garcia on Rampage?
[Anthony] Mox said you have more of a chance of getting me pregnant as you do submit me, this was great. A lot of people have begun to think there might be a heel turn down the line. The match with him and Garcia was quick and violet, Garcia got a lot more in then a lot of people thought which is great to see. What Mox does at All Out is honestly anyone’s guess at this stage.
[Gareth] It definitely felt like an indirect promo aimed at CM Punk. The story is set for those two. Moxley went and did everything that Punk outlined in the Pipebomb. Now Punk arrives after Moxley carried the company on his back through a pandemic to take the glory. The motive for Mox to turn heel on Punk is there, and with Dynamite in Moxley’s hometown the week after All Out in Punk’s hometown, that doesn’t feel like an accident. That feels like your Arthur Ashe main event.
Even if it isn’t a heel turn, Mox is above the simplicity of heel/face dynamics in wrestling. He’s a nuanced character. He does what he wants, and he won’t ever get consistently booed. So, call it what you want. But a darker, more violent Mox is here, and he is clearly willing to fight any-and-
5) Who was your AEW stand-out performer of the week?
[Gareth] 2.0 and Daniel Garcia. They attacked Mox and Kingston on Dynamite which showed some real agency from those characters, which I don’t think AEW does anywhere near enough. When wrestlers want something, they should go out and get it. Especially heels. 2.0 then had a great opening match with Darby and Sting, before Daniel Garcia had a great, mini banger in the Rampage main event.
[Sergei] CM Punk and 15,316 members of his cult of personality.
[Anthony] The fans at Rampage, it was a special moment and that’s because of them and the energy they gave for it.
[Shreyas] The people who were distributing ice-cream bars to 15,000+ people. Must’ve been a very hectic job.
[Christian] Overall, I would give this honour to Sammy Guevara. He had a great week and made quite an impact, going with tons of momentum and possibly a rank up in the future.
6) Which match stood out in AEW this week?
[Gareth] I assume others will pick the matches that were probably slightly better. But Sammy Guevara vs Shawn Spears was a belter! Really fun, action-packed fight between two characters with a real grudge between them.
With the setting of Guevara’s hometown and his new fiancé at ringside, it was perfect for Spears to heel it up. I think Spears does his best work in matches like these, against smaller quicker opponents and this might just be his best showing in AEW to date.
The right result for this matchup, but I would like to see Spears get some more wins. He’s been more active since The Pinnacle formed, but he doesn’t feel like he’s on the level that he should be yet. The moment a babyface wins the TNT title, Spears should be lying in wait.
[Sergei] I’m struggling to muster up any enthusiasm for events that occurred in the B.P. times (Before Punk). But I must admit, the tornado tag Dynamite opener was a ton of fun! Absolutely any other week, I would have called out Sting as my stand-out performer. It is becoming increasingly apparent that he is some form of immortal. (My guess is the Highlander kind?) The speed with which he popped up to no-sell that table spot was extraordinary. Perhaps he will fight Punk?
[Christian] The 5th Labor of Jericho was an excellent conclusion of a match. The storytelling, the height, the drama, everything about the match was very fun and extremely entertaining.
7) Is there anything else you’d like to mention from AEW?
[Sergei] Did I mention that CM Punk came out? To the strains of “Cult of Personality” and the invocations of his name by 15,000 Chicagoans? IN 2021??? And cut a promo, at least as great as his ever were? And then took off his hoodie and immediately crashed ShopAEW and ProWrestlingTees? And then GAVE EVERYBODY ICE CREAM BARS as a thank you for waiting seven years for him? Yeah, I think that covers it.
[Christian] AEW is just unstoppable now. They are heading into a big PPV and a big stadium show, having excellent ratings, have a roster for the ages, and are getting more and more casuals into watching it now that CM Punk has arrived and is giving lapsed fans another chance in this lovely business. Just one small thing I want to see, AEW Archives on a streaming service, then it will be perfect.