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:
1) CM Punk’s debut, along with Adam Cole and Bryan Danielson’s arrivals, at All Out saw Dynamite beat RAW in the key 18-49 demo in a landmark moment in the wrestling industry. With Bryan eyeing up Omega, Cole joining The Elite and Punk moving into a feud with Team Taz, what do you make of the three game changer’s post-All Out direction? Where do you think things are headed?
[Tim] Bryan will face Omega, eventually. I like that AEW is acknowledging their ranking system while also painting Kenny as the cowardly heel. I’d like to see Bryan have some multi-man matches by teaming up with Jurassic Express or Christian before he gets into solo matches.
Cole debuted as a heel while he’s cheered loudly by the fans. Put him into a feud with Jungle Boy and really crank up his heel persona. hen have him move onto Adam Page when the Hangman returns.
While I’d like to see Punk vs. Hook, we need to hold off on Hook’s debut unit he can get that win. Have Punk vs Hobbs as a warm up. It’s going to be exciting no matter who the three face off with next.
[Peter] I think Tim has it right on the direction of AEW in-ring. Omega is going to try and get out of facing Bryan using the fact he isn’t in the top 5 in the rankings as his justification so it might lead to a tournament that sees Danielson win and face Omega at Full Gear.
Cole and Jungle Boy will be one great match and while Punk moving to Team Taz was something I didn’t see coming, when I heard Punk say “send Hook” I did do a jig of joy because the more Hook is on my screen, the happier I am.
[Huw] This is one of those instances where the term ‘game changers’ isn’t even remotely hyperbolic. These aren’t ripples, not tremors even, this is a seismic shift for the professional wrestling industry. This Wednesday, in particular, was a must-watch instalment of event television due to the excitement that this very question prompts: What next?
The possibilities are plenty and each of them ripe with pinch-me-am-I-dreaming prospects. It seems like a wise move to use CM Punk to once again shine a light on AEW’s homegrown younger talent, working off any potential ring-rust in the process as the program develops. Here’s hoping that Ricky Starks eventually ends up in the opposite corner to him either on or before Full Gear.
Tony Khan is usually merciful and restrained when it comes to rocket-strapping new signings, but I’m happy to see him make an exception for Bryan Danielson. Let’s make hay while the sun shines with this one. The 8-man tag which was teased in All Out’s post-match angle seems like a logical in-ring debut for The American Dragon, with Arthur Ashe being the logical venue to play host. From here, I think the big-money-match would be Danielson versus Omega at Full Gear. An obvious choice, yes, but that’s because it makes absolutely perfect sense.
Adam Cole’s story does not need to be rushed as time is on his side, though the feud with Jungle Boy which Tim proposed would be a sumptuous starting point.
2) Dynamite and Rampage covered a lot of the women’s division this week? A recap on the Battle Royale seemingly sets up Jade Cargill vs Nyla Rose as well as TayJay vs The Bunny & Penelope Ford. Ruby Soho defeated Jamie Hayter on Dynamite before pinning champion Britt Baker’s other ally, Rebel, on Rampage in a trio's match. How do you feel about AEW’s women’s division at present?
[Gareth] We are moving in the right direction again. It’s starting to feel like a proper division which it failed to do for a few months. Jamie Hayter and Ruby Soho are huge reasons for this and their influence on this division is going to be massive. However, I think we need to be reasoned in our praise. This is still bare-minimum stuff, really, and until it is consistent it doesn’t mean much. AEW have had good spells with the women’s division before, but it has always died out. We need consistency before we give praise. It is an improvement.
[Peter] As I said on the All Out Roundtable, the potential is there. You have a star in Britt Baker. You have great workers like Ruby Soho, Jamie Hayter, Riho, Thunder Rosa and Hikaru Shida. There are great characters like Abadon and Kris Statlander plus some younger talent that will be in the mix for the world title down the line with Jade Cargill and Anna Jay.
What they need is not only screen time but stories that the audience want to invest in. The Baker-Rosa rivalry is a perfect example of that and with Ruby Soho and Thunder Rosa chasing Britt Baker’s AEW World Women’s Championship being part of what looks to be a fascinating fall season for AEW, I’m optimistic for the women’s division. What the women’s division needs as well is more Abadon on television.
[Tim] This is probably the strongest the division has been since AEW’s inception. They may be setting up a foundation for women’s tag belts. There’s also the Baker/Rosa rematch that they are taking their time with building and I’d be fine with that being on a slow boil until the proper time.
3) Andrade, with the help of Chavo Guerrero, defeated Pac on Rampage, before attacking Chavo after the match. What did you make of this development? How will Andrade’s presentation change now? Where does Andrade vs Death Triangle go from here?
[Peter] The unceremonious sacking of Chavo feels like a way to bring Ric Flair in, which does lead to the question. Who has had more managers in 2021, Andrade or Fulham FC?
I think Friday was the end of the Andrade/Death Triangle feud with the Lucha Brothers concentrating on their reign as tag champs and Pac looking to making progress in the singles rankings and potential dream matches against the new signings.
If it was the end of this feud, what a way to end it. What a great match and Andrade looks like he has his in-ring mojo back after a slow start to his post-WWE career.
[Tim] It’s the best that Andrade has looked. While I'm not excited about the potential of a Ric Flair debut (please retire Ric) I am excited about seeing who PAC and Andrade move on. PAC should go after one of the new debuts while supporting his Death Triangle contemporaries. Andrade could go for gold and challenge Miro in a rare heel/heel match-up.
[Huw] Knowing how well AEW handle the heroes of yesteryear, I am 100% onboard the Ric Flair train (no, not THAT Ric Flair train). Andrade already has the jet-flying and limousine-riding down to a tee, so his presentation needn’t change too drastically if at all.
In the event Flair is indeed brought in to take on managerial duties, there could be a wonderful opportunity to have Andrade square off with Darby Allin while Sting and The Nature Boy wait in the wings. The story would write itself even without the added gravity of the two legends in the corner, given that Andrade’s penchant for lavish excess perfectly offsets Darby’s grungy aesthetic.
The only complication here is that Tully Blanchard and Shawn Spears seem to be sowing the seeds for a similarly structured program with Sting and Darby this week already. I’m sure Andrade can be kept suitably warm until that opportunity presents itself, though.
4) Who was your AEW stand-out performer of the week?
[Gareth] Powerhouse Hobbs. He’s about to get a career-changing feud as part of Team Taz with CM Punk and it is because of performances like his against Dante Martin. He comes across as a total monster who is in complete control.
[Tim] Lee Moriarty. He had a really good match against Janella on Dark, and then Tony Khan signs him to AEW. That’s a pretty good week for a young pro-wrestler. With Dark getting a studio home to develop young talent, I’m expecting to see more of Moriarty in the coming months.
[Peter] MJF. What a promo that was. I could go into a diatribe about heel work and how difficult it is for heels to achieve what they aim for in 2021 but MJF knows how to push the right buttons of pro wrestling fans at the moment and it is just masterful to see. I really want to see Brian Pillman Jr beat MJF in Queens on the 22nd but my guess is we won’t see that.
The seeds for the Wardlow/MJF split were also planted on Wednesday. The moment when Wardlow had his back turned contemplating whether he should help his boss when Pillman was punching him was great and I personally can’t wait for the next few months when MJF belittles Wardlow to the point when Wardlow can’t take it anymore and lays out Maxwell. It will be a beautiful moment.
5) What was your AEW match of the week?
[Peter] I’ve already given some love to Andrade and Pac for their match so I’ll make a mention for Joey Janela vs Lee Moriarty from Dark. Lee Moriarty has been tearing it up on the independents lately and while the love of Daniel Garcia has been 100% justified, Lee Moriarity becoming All Elite is a great move for the company just like Garcia’s and we will get some banging matches on a regular basis out of this signing.
[Tim] Dark Order: Civil War from Dark. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a crowd chant “Please don’t fight!” during a match before. Yet seeing Evil Uno and Alan “5” Angels in a matchup provoked just that response. I imagine that this is leading either to Anna Jay healing the rift, or Hangman returning, or maybe even “5” leaving the group. It’s a good storyline for AEW’s youtube show.
[Huw] I’m going to have to go for the glaringly obvious and pin my flag on Pac versus Andrade, not just for the bell-to-bell feast we were served either. Much like Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United this week, Andrade’s stellar performance on Rampage represents a sense of vindication. There were question marks over whether this beef-mode Andrade still had the tank or the explosiveness of his chicken and broccoli version, but such fears have now surely have been put to bed.
Pac deserves equal credit for tucking them in and reading a bed-time story, also. The inside-out hanging DDT onto the apron and the midair spinning splash which followed were exhilarating highlights of a 15-minute bout which would have been match of the week even without them. A showcase of two truly elite performers.
6) Is there anything else you’d like to mention from AEW this week?
[Peter] The focus is on the Arthur Ashe Stadium show on the 22nd September and having tried to justify my Amazon Prime subscription here in the UK by watching a lot of the US Open, I honestly cannot wait for this show now. That stadium is gorgeous and the atmosphere is going to be one of the most unique ones in not only AEW history but pro wrestling history and the card looks to be mega with Cody and Malakai II plus a potential main event involving members of The Elite vs the Alliance of Bryan Danielson, Christian and The Jurassic Express. Let the momentum of AEW carry on.
[Tim] This past week feels like a tune-up before the New York tour. I just feel that the next month is going to be very special. Dark gets a permanent studio home, Newark gets a show (after the pandemic denied them Blood & Guts), Arthur Ashe feels big, then it’s off to Rochester. Big things are happening and it’s all very exciting as a fan.
[Huw] I still haven’t come down since All Out. Jim Ross captured this feeling of euphoria and excitement so majestically when he mused “Oh, the days that lie ahead”. I wonder if the people of Florence knew they were living in such times of wonder during the Renaissance? Or did they just skulk around the streets thinking Da Vinci and Michaelangelo were pretty decent?