Hello and welcome to the #AEWeekly Roundtable Discussion where ProWrestlingMusings contributors share their thoughts on the major talking points arising from the last week of AEW programming.
1) Kyle O’Reilly is All Elite. What did you think about the way he debuted and what it will mean moving forward?
[Andy] I'm delighted to have been wrong on this one! Seeing O'Reilly and Cole standing together was a little jarring after the war they waged against each other in NXT this year but that was quickly forgotten about once I started thinking about the possibilities this brings us moving forward.
I think the safe bet is that reDRagon work with the Bucks for a short period before turning on them to set up an "Undisputed Era" and Elite feud - which was the stuff of fantasy booking this time last year. I think this could be dragged out until at least Double or Nothing. AEW have proven that they can tell long term stories so potentially this could go even longer - the dream trios match when Kenny returns will be electric.
[Brian] I got what I wanted for Christmas: Kyle O’Reilly in AEW! As childish as that sounds, it was definitely on my wish list. I suppose a run-in is probably better debut than literally coming out a box for the former ROH World Champion. The way he and Cole turned to face Best Friends could have been executed slightly better but that’s being nit-picky.
I’m ready for reDRagon vs The Young Bucks at Revolution in March and trust those involved to keep things simmering until the weeks before. With Fish already being outside The Elite proper, this further foments the divisive nature of AEW’s namesake stable. That being said, a month or so of friendly reunions and racking up wins will help establish O’Reilly to the uninitiated.
Andy, is it bad I didn’t think about Omega once during this segment and maybe the entire show? But you’re right, of course. There’s no bad combination of these six.
[Peter] Turns out the Bucks really have limited their social media presence because they were the only ones that didn’t see Kyle O’Reilly as Adam Cole’s present coming.
Looks like we’re getting reDRagon vs The Young Bucks down the line which will be an absolute treat. I would personally like to see the Bucks as heels in this deal as I’ve just loved their heel run in 2021.
With the Cole and Omega elements mixed in when Omega comes back later, as Brian said, any combination of the six is going to be great to watch. Kyle vs Kenny is going to be something for the ages in my humble opinion.
[Trish] It was somewhat of a beautiful irony that O’Reilly’s first action upon arriving in AEW was to cost Orange Cassidy, the man he was cruelly compared to for most of the summer as “cool Kyle”, the match with his former ally and foe Adam Cole. A singles match between the two as part of the escalating Chaos-Elite program before we progress to Bucks/ReDragon would be highly enjoyable.
For the longer-term O’Reilly’s signing and the return of his former team with Fish is a welcome addition for a tag division which has struggled in recent months and could really do with some fresh matchups.
[Jae] I think the length of this storyline depends on how long Omega is out for. There is no reason why this cannot be a real slow burn. That said, Matt Jackson’s facials indicated the burn might be quicker. We shall see.
One option, even if Omega is healing for much of 2022, is to have Hangman step in with the Bucks and continue their storyline. I love the heel Bucks, though, and this would mean a face turn. It will be fun!
[Joe] Kyle O’Reilly to AEW reforming the original Undisputed Era is an exciting move. It sets up the obvious UE vs The Elite feud everyone is talking about, but in the process of making it a slow burn storyline (like Jae was saying) to give Kenny Omega plenty of time to recover (and he might need a very long time based on injury reports) it could first lead us to a supergroup of The Elite/Undisputed Era vs Best Friends/CHAOS featuring Kazuchika Okada’s AEW debut.
I do like the idea of the Bucks being outnumbered & having to turn to either Hangman or even Cody for support in terms of the potential for deep, layered storytelling. Cody and Hangman becoming allies is the first step to one of my favourite story options for AEW in 2022. I’ll touch more on that later.
2) ‘Hangman’ Adam Page and Bryan Danielson will face off again in two weeks after their draw last week. How did you feel about their segment this week on Dynamite? With judges being announced to avoid another draw, which legends could you see appearing to score this re-match?
[Andy] I am finding it increasingly difficult to find flaws with anything Danielson is doing at the moment. He is a performer on another level to everyone else right now and he is bringing Hangman Page up to his level.
The announcement gives plenty of time to hype this for a viewership boost on the first TBS show and will clearly start the night given the time constraints. I don't think this will go the hour, perhaps around the 50-minute mark maybe even the 59-minute mark - it will be interesting to see how they make this different to their previous match given that they are only a few weeks apart.
For the judges - I think this would be a good space to utilise the old guard on the roster - Mark Henry, Paul Wight, Arn, Tully and Dustin have to be shouts, heck maybe even Sting. But perhaps they will go for some of the names that wrestled 60 mins in the olden days or respected wrestlers not under contract elsewhere. Is this a chance to test the waters with Flair? Is Steamboat available? How about Bret Hart - potentially linking to the Owen Hart tournament. Kurt Angle is another name available. Whilst there are some exciting possibilities, don't let that take away from the fact that this match will be an absolute classic.
[Brian] I would like all three to have no current alliances or allegiances within AEW. Put it another way, I think all three should be outsiders/legends from the past.
My first thought was Bret Hart, who unless I’m mistaken, hasn’t made any kind of appearance for the promotion since the original belt unveiling at Double or Nothing 2019. I think this is unlikely due to his renewed relationship with Vince, but it would be a great tie-in with The Owen.
Damnit, Andy! My second thought was Steamboat. For one, he’s the man I associate with time limits and WrestleWar 1989 remains one of my earliest wrestling memories. Look it up if you have the time. Secondly, even for just a throwaway line or moment, can we please have the American Dragon Bryan Danielson go face to face? The two have history as well as Ricky has officiated two Danielson matches, one in ECWA and one in ROH.
Lastly, Jushin Thunder Liger! Make it happen, AEW.
And for those wondering, and to save you the time, the only other time AEW has done this so far was Full Gear 2019 with Arn Anderson, Dean Malenko and The Great Muta when Cody challenged Jericho.
Just please don’t bring in Ric Flair; we don’t need the headache.
[Peter] With the match quite possibly being the first match on tbs in over two decades, it’s safe to say that sometime associated with WCW/JCP will be one of the three judges with the favourite being Ricky Steamboat with his link to the judges at ringside concept that was part of the 3rd match of the trilogy with Ric Flair. Personally, I would have had JR as a judge to celebrate his return after his treatment for skin cancer with Paul Wight or Mark Henry in the third seat. Or maybe Jason Hervey and Patty Mullen are available.
One thing I’d like to see with the judging stipulation is updates given on how the judges are scoring the match with the updates giving extra tension and making the later parts of the contest compelling viewing.
Speaking of the Steamboat/Flair trilogy, I see Hangman-Danielson II going the way of the second bout in that series (my favourite of that trilogy) with the fall coming in the final 10 minutes of the hour time-limit.
[Trish] Firstly, it was good to finally see our champion featured on Dynamite outside of last week’s match, it’s something which has been sorely lacking since the first Dynamite post Full Gear. Both men delivered in a strong exchange in which Hangman’s confidence built from feeling undeserving at the start to knowing he could beat the American Dragon by the end.
Whilst I originally thought they would put this match on the “Battle of the Belts” show in Charlotte after the success of “Fight for the Fallen” in the same venue I’m glad it is on the TBS debut and the focal point of the show. Their first encounter deserved a much higher rating (and probably aided in the increase of interest in this week’s show) to go with its critical acclaim and I believe the second one will be rightfully rewarded come January 5th.
Judges I could see going either of two paths- they could have names with some connection to Danielson in order to stack the deck further against the champion or, as Peter suggested, legends associated with previous wrestling content on TBS.
[Jae] Listed above are tremendous ideas. Steamboat would be beautiful. Steamboat, Crockett, and Bret Hart—why not?
[Joe] For the judges, I was thinking it would be interesting to make one or more of the judges someone who could have another run in them that you’re not totally expecting the way WCW used Terry Funk as a judge as a bridge to start a feud with Ric Flair at WrestleWar 1989. Here are the interesting story options for judges:
Jake Roberts: Hangman feuds with Lance Archer.
Sting: Danielson feuds with Darby.
Tully Blanchard: Hangman feuds with the Pinnacle.
Arn Anderson: Cody feuds with Danielson or Hangman.
Chris Jericho: could feud with either, has history with Hangman and a winning record against him beating him for the World Title.
Rob Van Dam: Probably fit enough to go for a special match if motivated.
Whoever they pick as their story option for the judges, I would also like to see Bret Hart and Ricky Steamboat in there.
3) Ruby Soho defeated Nyla Rose to progress to the TBS Championship tournament final. What did you make of the match and who do you see meeting Soho in the final?
[Andy] I've said from day one that this title was created for Ruby Soho and I'm sticking with my guns on that.
Ruby can have a great match with anyone - but when she is the physical underdog like she was with Nyla (and will be with Jade Cargill) she shines her brightest. I heard someone compare her to Darby Allin recently and I think that rings very true. Who doesn't love a scrappy underdog who fights from underneath and never gives up?
And if they mirror the TNT title with this one, is there a better woman on the roster (other than maybe Serena Deeb) to battle open challenges and force open the forbidden door for the Women? This should be Ruby's title and her time to properly shine on a national stage for the first time.
[Brian] I thought it lived up to expectations. The finish was unique, and I think Rose continues to make strides, which as the winningest woman on the roster is only a good thing. Ruby in the AEW ring is everything I want and need her to be. That comparison to Darby is rattling around in my brain and I think it’s quite fitting.
I will be genuinely shocked if Cargill doesn’t advance if for no other reason that you don’t end an undefeated streak in a Semi Final match. Sure, Cargill could get revenge by costing Rosa the inaugural championship match but that’s not AEW booking philosophy as I understand it.
[Peter] Honestly, it doesn’t matter who Ruby faces in the final because Ruby winning the tbs belt is a banker.
As for the match, the final minute was great but the rest of it, they just didn’t click. It happens sometimes in wrestling. Both are great and they’ll be more than fine.
[Trish] My thoughts on the match mostly echo Brian’s honestly. Ruby’s selling at the finish really made me wonder if she was genuinely hurt, putting across just how hard a task it was battling Nyla.
Like everyone else I can’t see beyond it being a Ruby-Jade final, but I’d love to be wrong just for the quality of match we’d get between Soho and Rosa alone.
[Jae] I think the final is going to be Ruby versus Rosa! Paralleling the finale of the battle royale, a technical masterpiece to launch Dynamite on TBS and the new championship. How Jade Cargill deals with her first defeat will add something to her character and allow her to continue dominating in 2022 but with a little more to her character. I would not be upset if she blames Mark Sterling for the loss and cuts him loose, then hires another Mark to help her: Henry.
[Joe] I gave the match a 2.5/5.0 on the GRAPPL app, where it’s currently averaging out at 2.83 after 97 ratings. It was very much okay, and that seems to be the consensus. Not that good, not that bad. I really like Ruby Soho’s vibe. she impressed on the mic in her feud with Britt Baker, her energy and her entrance are great, but her matches have been largely underwhelming. I’d like to see more impact & urgency & attack in her offense as a babyface here.
I see Jade Cargill meeting Ruby Soho in the final, and emerging victorious. On the way there, I could see Team DMD costing Thunder Rosa her match to keep extending that long-simmering feud between Rosa and Baker, as I see Rosa as the heir to Baker’s throne with that AEW Women’s Championship.
4) Cody Rhodes is the new TNT Champion after defeating Sammy Guevara clean on Rampage. What are your thoughts on this?
[Andy] Cody knows what he is doing. By not cheating his way to wins he is even more of a heel. Imagine him now beating popular stars in his open challenge - names from RoH, recently released WWE stars, dare I say it.... maybe even HOOK!
AEW could legitimately have one of the most hated wrestlers in the business without him needing to change a thing. When he loses the title, the reaction will be insane and will instantly make whoever gets the win a bigger star.
A quick note on Sammy from me. I've always found him to be a little underwhelming. In my eyes he is the least over of the four pillars, at times I don't think he deserves to be named as one. In this match, I thought he was fantastic and made me question my opinion of him. He is very talented in ring but the connection to the crowd tonight really elevated him. More of this please!
[Tim] My wife, who doesn’t follow wrestling news or backstage reports, only follows AEW for the Dark and BTE episodes. Her reaction to Cody winning was, “He’s got the belt again?”. Her disbelief was matched by her curiosity of the booking.
I honestly don’t know if this is building to a storyline or if we are witnessing a modern-day version of so many wrestling bookers/performers who believe they are the hottest commodity they have. I like to think that Cody is smart enough and self-aware of pro-wrestling history that this is all story-driven and being used to build up some future star.
I am glad that Sammy isn’t champ anymore as his run didn’t do anything for me (I miss Miro’s time with the belt).
[Brian] My gut reaction was not positive. Images of Jeff Jarrett and NWA-TNA filtered through my mind. I mean, how could Rhodes become a 3-time champion when there are no other 2-time champions across all divisions?! How can he win clean?! Go full heel already!... Then I calmed down. A little.
To use a phrase that’s becoming a bit overused, I’m going to trust the process and believe that there’s a plan and story in place that will hopefully help this all make sense in hindsight. And to be fair, for me, Cody’s definitive best extended time in AEW was as TNT Champion so if we can approach that again, I’m game.
[Peter] Unlike others on our team, I choose to take in Rampage spoilers and when I read them online on Thursday morning, I just burst out laughing for a reason.
Cody winning the TNT belt for reign number three is the most interesting thing Cody has done since the early part of the Malakai Black feud.
Folks, Cody knows what he’s doing, and so does TK. Cody been booed for months now and what happens, he beats one of the Four Pillars on Christmas Night with the Tiger Driver 98 (which gets heat with this Misawa fan) which is an obvious tease of the Pedigree for a title which has been identified as an upcomers title with Darby and Sammy’s reign. It’s not like he’s trying to quell the boos here.
Someone once told me that the point of professional wrestling was to lose and Cody losing the TNT Title to one of AEW’s emerging stars is going to be great television.
[Trish] I have no issue with Cody regaining the belt prior to the TBS debut, with his outside projects and Moxley, Omega and Jericho missing it makes sense for him to be a prominent part of the show for the first few months of the year at least and whether you like his current incarnation or not he always gets a strong reaction. What I’d like to talk about though is Sammy.
Since defeating Miro for the title his reign has been swallowed up by the ATT vs Inner Circle feud and mostly relegated to Rampage. I don’t feel like he’s been given an opportunity to develop as a champion or even the spotlight from a string of main events in the way Darby was as he came towards the end of his run.
Perhaps some of these falls on Sammy, at times his promo’s and his mannerisms still come across rather heelish, his Spanish God character hasn’t really developed over the past few years outside his vlog relationship with Fuego, but I can’t help but to feel disappointed either way.
[Jae] As happy as I am with Cody as TNT champ again, I am underwhelmed with Sammy’s reign and, more generally, with the decision to put the belt on him in the first place. Was this the plan? How did Sammy gain anything from this reign? How did the title belt, coming off a big boost from Miro’s reign, gain anything from this reign? I cannot answer these questions.
Would Cody defeating Miro for the belt have been better, especially given his similar tweener-ish posture? Maybe. But trust in TK! And Cody can defend his title every week with that same confused look on his face as far as I am concerned! He is one of my favourites. I still do not wholly understand what he is up to, but Cody is more self-aware than he gets credit for.
[Joe] I had a very rough Christmas day, and when the ref’s hand hit the mat a third time, and the bell rang, I smiled. I am a Cody Rhodes guy, and the more people hate on him unjustifiably, the more I want to support him to balance it all out.
For context, let me explain that I cheer for babyfaces, and I boo heels. Bryan Danielson is one of my all-time favourite wrestlers, but I’m not going to cheer for him when he’s being a condescending prick to babyface Hangman Adam Page.
Cody is not a heel. Read Amanda Huber’s Player’s Tribune story about Brodie Lee and see what kind of man he is. Watch any of these Community Outreach videos on social media where Cody is greeting these fans & giving them special experiences.
Aside from being a good guy, Cody is also not Triple H. Read Eddie Kingston’s Player’s Tribune story and see how open Cody was to letting Eddie get over on him. He didn’t let his ego get in the way, he wasn’t trying to undercut him as a King of the Indies like Triple H with CM Punk or someone who didn’t have the right look like Triple H with Taz.
Cody is out there losing matches to Malakai Black and Andrade, losing feuds & titles to MJF, Darby Allin, and Brodie Lee. Giving the spotlight to Peter Avalon, WARHORSE, Ricky Starks, and the aforementioned Eddie Kingston. This isn’t Triple H holding down RVD and Booker T. I have not seen anyone accurately and articulately express why Cody is a heel. However, that energy and fan reception is there, which allows for exciting opportunities.
I’m going to put over one of my favourite podcasts, The Alleged Wrestling podcast, where they tossed out the idea of Cody supporting his old Elite buddy Hangman in a feud. Hangman, being the grateful, honourable babyface that he is, urges Cody to drop the restriction and take a shot at the world title because he deserves it. Now, at that point, if Cody experiences a second chance at something forever lost, then finally makes a heelish move out of desperation against a beloved babyface who is betraying a long-time friend, you’ve got your reason, and a white-hot feud.
Imagine an honestly regretful Cody apologizing for it, but ultimately being corrupted by the thought of losing his title forever and hiding from hero Hangman behind his Nightmare Family army at that point.
5) How did you feel about AEW overall this week? Is there anything in else you would like to spotlight?
[Andy] There was a time a few months ago when I'd often want to skip through the women's matches to get to the main event of a show quicker. The characters were generic, and the matches may have been functional but lacked intensity.
However, they have gradually become bright lights on the show, something seems to have clicked. Both matches on this week's TV featured strong in ring action, heavily invested crowds and meaningful consequences. I was extremely impressed with the Statlander v Hirsch match, both could have a great 2022 especially with there being two titles to fight for now.
[Brian] Adam Cole quite literally replaced Kenny Omega – in the rankings that is. I have elaborated more in my weekly update, but Cole is now the slotted in at #2 in Men’s Singles, which is where Omega was each week until now since Full Gear despite not competing since dropping the belt to Page. This is clearly deliberate and will likely feed into the Fish/O’Reilly/Cole vs Bucks/Kenny dream Trios match I know I’m not alone in anticipating that.
[Trish] This week continued to setup several elements for the new year and the TBS move, with this past Dynamite’s card and next week’s having a strong trio's element, making it feel even more likely that we will finally see those belts in 2022. This was another week without a traditional tag match on either show though, and it is very much this division which I’d sorely like to see a rejuvenation of in the new year.
[Jae] This past week was a great microcosm of AEW at-large: Something for everyone, and everything is pretty good, great, or exceptional. As 2022 emerges, the most glaring problem is the same as it was as 2021 emerged: a women’s division that needs a few more hours of brainstorming and plot design each week. But I think there’s a good argument that we will not be able to say the same as 2023 emerges. The wheels are in motion, maybe, for a true division that is rich with compelling characters and in-depth storylines. I am more confident now than I was then.
[Joe] Feel great about AEW! With a roster this stacked, I can’t wait for their video game coming out next year, and I think they can sustain a Trios Title division.