Updated: May 14
Hello and welcome to the AEW Roundtable from Pro Wrestling Musings. This week we had the pleasure of reviewing a tremendous episode of Dynamite which included a Bryan Danielson masterclass, another Rush fuelled hard hitter and a tantalising story beat for fans of The Elite.
Without further adieu...
Match of the Week: Bryan Danielson vs Daniel Garcia.
[Joe] Daniel Garcia has not been my cup of tea, but this is a match I’d be ordering a second helping of. He has never looked like a more credible threat, and delivered moves with more impact. Garcia often moves very quickly and fluidly, with moves that look like they probably would hurt in real life, but they lack that sizzle, spark, or oomph. That DDT on the concrete floor showcased Daniel Garcia’s character.
Garcia is a nasty dude, further evidenced by his 16 fouls compared to Bryan’s 2. He was taking far more shortcuts & had no ethical code holding him back. He bloodied Bryan, and he seemingly concussed him. A man he likely looks at as a hero, in a vulnerable spot, and he was willing to end his career to advance his own legacy. He didn’t just eke out a win either. He had 53% of the offense, the same amount of “Big Offense”, and kicked out of a finisher that put away John Cena. Garcia didn’t win fair, but he didn’t get lucky, either. He got nasty. This match was the transformation of Daniel Garcia from pesky aggressive little brother to a violent credible threat.
Promo of the Week: Jon Moxley Accepts Jericho’s Challenge
[Sergei] This is the third week in a row that an amazing, passionate promo by Ricky Starks has been just barely edged out by all-timer performances by some of the best ever on the mic. Ironic, too, as getting barely edged out in his last three big matches is exactly what led to Will Hobbs turning on him!
Moxley’s promo wasn’t anything crazy or outside the box; just Moxley being Moxley, passionately accepting the first big time challenge to his title, demanding the very best of Chris Jericho, and reminding everybody that there’s a damn good reason that this man is AEW’s very first two-time World Champion.
Story Beat of the Week: Hangman bumps into The Bucks.
[Craig] The Elite are the heart beat of AEW for me. I came to AEW fandom by following Cody, Kenny, Hangman and the Bucks from their exceptional exploits in New Japan and their expert story-telling via Being the Elite and leading to All In. Despite what Tony Khan may claim, All Elite Wrestling is obviously named to capitalise on The Elite's immense pre-AEW fandom. Fandom that landed Bullet Club shirts in Hot Topic and the biggest non-WWE US wrestling event since WCW, at the time.
Although AEW has moved beyond a product that needed to be named after The Elite and their biggest success, the heart of the company still resides in the epic drama between Hangman Adam Page, Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks. This week's crossing of paths for the first time since Adam Cole was challenging for the top belt was monumental because it immediately communicated that this was that epic drama being picked up once again.
So what's next? Do Page and the Bucks actually combine forces to become the inaugural AEW Trios Champions? Will Kenny return and ensure this doesn't happen? What will the story look like once the Undisputed Elite return next week?
I for one cannot wait to find out.
Moment of the Week: Daniel Garcia Arrives in the Main Event
[Peter] My Moment of the Week is in two parts, 4 days apart involving the self-proclaimed best technical sports entertainer today.
Let's go back 4 months ago when the Jericho Appreciation Society was formed and that moment when Daniel Garcia announced to the world that he was in fact a "sports entertainer", an announcement that invoked a reaction similar to Ralph Wiggum when Lisa told him that she didn't like him that way from those that wanted to see Garcia in a dream "Killers of AEW" faction that we imagined up when William Regal/Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley formed their alliance.
Since then though of course, the Blackpool Combat Club have been a frequent highlight of AEW TV and Daniel Garcia himself has evolved into a more polished all-rounder. thanks to his connection with Chris Jericho. But this past week we saw an evolution to Daniel Garcia that bodes for an interesting next few months.
In the Zero Hour pre-show before ROH Death Before Dishonor, in the promo video played to hype up the ROH Pure Title match between Wheeler Yuta and Daniel Garcia, you can't help but understand why Garcia choose to answer the call of Jericho when he formed the JAS when the former world champ needed to retool post his loss to Eddie Kingston.
Chris Jericho donating money to the Gofundme set up to aid Garcia after he broke his legs in a car accident in 2019 changed Daniel's life after his darkest hour. Instead of facing the medical bills put upon him that could have financially crippled him, Daniel could focus on his road back to full fitness so of course Garcia will appreciate Chris Jericho when asked by his saviour to join JAS but 4 days after Death Before Dishonor, a moment in his match against Bryan Danielson saw a slight dent in his loyalty to "The Wizard"
We all know Bryan Danielson's history with concussions and just recently he was on the shelf for 6 weeks with what was reported to be a concussion. On his comeback night, he was expected to beat Daniel Garcia in a competitive but decisive victory at the end and after a fast start, the prediction felt justified but then a missile dropkick went wrong and Bryan was feeling the effects of his past and then minutes later while trying to regain momentum, running the ropes, the American Dragon collapsed and for a brief moment, Daniel Garcia looked concerned. For a brief moment, that part of Daniel Garcia that deep down idolises Bryan Danielson as a teenager emerged but then the lessons learned under Jericho showed with a devastating DDT on the floor.
Garcia would pull off the upset thanks to shenanigans from JAS in what was his greatest win of his young career so far but his future may not look as certain as he thinks it is judging by the glancing moment where the Blackpool Combat Club in him wanted to come out.
Move of the Week: Daniel Garcia's Sharpshooter
[Dan] It’s a special moment when you feel like you’ve seen a wrestler take a real step towards being a superstar. It’s something we’ve seen impressively frequently in AEW with the likes of Hangman Page, Darby Allin, MJF and Sammy Guevara all having that one slither of time where it really felt like they were going to be huge.
This week on Dynamite it very much felt like that happened for Daniel Garcia in his instant classic with Bryan Danielson, and I think the finishing manoeuvre in this match will live long in the memory like that Wayne Rooney goal versus Arsenal or [INSERT AMERICAN EQUIVALENT FOR BOUNCY BALL OR HANDEGG].
The Red Death had already put in probably his best performance to date in AEW, obviously aided and abetted by arguably the best wrestler in the world in Danielson. Garcia had punished Danielson to the extent that we were all worried about his health, let alone his prospects in this contest, and had done so with a rich mixture of technical wizardry and bloody violence.
Nevertheless I personally didn’t feel as if the win was coming Dannyboy’s way. As we entered the home stretch it still felt as if this was going to be Danielson’s ‘welcome back from injury’ party rather than a celebration of Garcia’s future. Even when the mysterious arm of mystery…or Jake Hager as he’s more commonly known…interfered, I still felt Bryan was going to overcome the numbers game.
As Garcia put Danielson into that sharpshooter of his, a version of the move that our lord and saviour Bret Hart would be very proud of by the way, I just assumed a counter was coming. It had to didn’t it?
But then Garcia, egged on from commentary by the Wizard Chris Jericho, sat back into the hold…and suddenly everyone in the arena, and me at home, felt something shift. Garcia had the move in so tight, and so expertly, that now even the great Bryan Danielson looked done-for.
And done-for he was. Unable to move let alone reach the ropes, Danielson passed out. It wasn’t even a particularly prolonged wait for his demise either. Such was the nastiness of this hold that it sent Danielson to sleep in a relative jiffy.
The bell rang…Garcia stared coldly down the camera whilst a wrestling legend lay broken at his feet. It was a magnificent wrestling move to end a magnificent wrestling match. Welcome to the big time Daniel Garcia.
MVP of the Week: Bryan Danielson.
[Trish] In regards of the long term health of AEW; no one has been a more important signing since their TV debut than Bryan Danielson. He may not be a ridiculously high ratings draw (although he more then holds his own) or sell mountains of merchandise but he offers infinitely more value then anyone else because of his work ethic, his lack of ego and his drive to elevate and encourage those around him. His arrival has also been the most refreshing. Danielson has avoided simply replicating his WWE persona, creating a character who has an identity of its own whilst still being shaped by his history. It is dynamic in its nature, allowing him to tread the line between heel and face whilst still invoking the crowd reactions they are looking for within each rivalry he is part of.
What am I always most struck by though is his selflessness which has been demonstrated in a number of different ways- whether it be running training sessions alongside on-screen compatriot William Regal before tapings, the work he has put in to helping in the development of Jade Cargill, offering mental health advice to wrestlers in pressure situations or avoiding engineering segments into just highlighting himself when crowd responses would make it incredibly easy to do so. It is also in his execution where he raises the standard.
This week's match with Daniel Garcia was anticipated in the run-up as a way for Danielson to make a successful return against the stable that put him out of action, an easy victory to celebrate his return before moving on to other challenges. This false sense of security was played upon early on the match, where the electricity and speed of his motion energised the crowd but also established that he was a level above. They used his real life medical situation to even the playing field. When the finish came it was met by stunned silence, something last seen on this level in AEW exactly a year before with Page's defeat to the Elite at Fight For the Fallen. It was a powerful image, a shock to expectations and created the right kind of disappointment - where the audience is desperate to know how it will affect the character and how they will recover from it rather then looking for a business decision behind its occurrence.
Most of all though, it reinforces that in order to properly elevate someone you have to lose. You can elevate people whilst winning, current BCC stablemate Wheeler Yuta being the strongest recent example, but that will only get you so far. Whilst there were elements of protection, this was still a clean loss that will do more to establish Garcia than any other finish the match could have had. Some have critiqued it and said he is challenging his own star value but Danielson isn't losing every week, with this being only his third singles loss in the company. Indeed it is knowing how to and on what occasions it will have the greatest impact that make such occurrences the most meaningful.
Since his debut in AEW at last year's All Out PPV no one has elevated more talent or helped to increase their value than Bryan Danielson but it's also easy to think he could be doing even more. The world's best technical wrestler with the ability to evoke emotions others could only dream of could easily step in and hold any Championship in the company at a moment's notice and immediately raises the standard of the product whenever he is in screen. He feels untouchable in that position, in a similar way to how NJPW'S Hiroshi Tanahashi also operates in that role.
Bryan's recurring health issues are well documented and a worry to both fans and the man himself. It's the sort of concern that would force a lesser man to be pushing for glory with such an unknown over how much time he has left. The measure of Bryan Danielson is that he's chosen to focus on how he can develop others instead. It can be argued whether the American Dragon is the greatest wrestler of all time, he certainly has an outstanding case to make, but he might well be wrestling's greatest elevator.
Thank you for reading our weekly review of AEW. Follow us on Twitter @PWMusings and check back in next weekend for our next review of America's highest quality weekly wrestling show.