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DID the World End? | AEWeekly #100

Welcome to the #AEWeekly review discussion where PWM contributors reflect on the highlights of the last week in AEW. The week runs Monday through Sunday covering the most recent Dynamite, Rampage, and Collision.

This week’s contributors are Joe [@GoodVsBadGuys] covering match of the week, Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering promos, Saul [@SaulKiloh] exploring a key story beat, Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week, and Gareth [@Gareth_EW] giving us the MVP of the week.

Match of the Week: Joe.

Blue Boss Battle

In a stacked week that included a pay-per-view on Saturday, Wednesday Dynamite’s Blue League knockout match of Eddie Kingston vs Bryan Danielson stood out as the highest quality bout of the bunch.

This entire Continental Classic run from Bryan Danielson—including his post-match interviews, (which should have been more heavily featured on TV)—has helped to further solidify his standing as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. Wrestling highlights from Bryan in this match included his apron DDT, his running-flying knee off the apron, his Regal Plex, his Powerbomb-Reversal Hurricanrana, and the Busaiku Knee.

Outside of his moves, Bryan’s selling was elite, and his character work was, too. Bryan leaned into the heel role, which paired perfectly with the overwhelming crowd support for Eddie—which I would have liked to have seen Eddie lean more into and acknowledge during the hottest moments of support. When Bryan spit at Eddie, and showered him with verbal abuse, he gave the fans a reason, not only to rally behind Eddie, but also to rally against himself!

Highlights from Eddie’s wrestling in the match were the Saito Suplex he hit early on, the suicide dive, the exploder suplex, and his elite chops. Eddie gets more out of less with his moveset, like an 80s/90s main-event wrestler, but he has expanded his repertoire enough to spice up near falls and closing sequences.

Speaking of sequences, there are two I want to highlight. First, when Bryan was playing the part of the bully, verbally abusing Eddie with talk of being a bum and spitting in Eddie’s face, Eddie showed elite fire that powered him up to be able to hit that exploder suplex and change the momentum. Secondly, that finishing sequence was so good and so satisfying, that when it ended, I screamed “YES!”—a chant made famous in its use for supporting Bryan Danielson, but in this case an uncontrollable exclamation of support for his adversary, one that happened to frighten my wife and daughter! The way Eddie inspires engagement, and elicits emotion is another thing that makes him elite, and is what helped to make this not only match of the week, but one of the best matches of the year.

Promo of the Week: Sergei.

Kingston's Flaw

Many people believe that Eddie Kingston is the greatest promo in the world. At his best, he is probably MY favorite promo, anyhow. His voice is amazing, he's a master of dynamics, his word choice and imagery are superb—but way ahead of all of all that, his sincerity, credibility, and raw passion are second to none.

But whether you collate based on the calendar year that just ended, or the whole near-two-year period we've been doing this whole AEWeekly thing, Kingston is tied for fourth with the Hangman in the number of “promos of the week” awarded through AEWeekly #99 last week—with Moxley, Dragon, and Friedman ranking ahead of the two. Other than a couple of fill-ins, I have been the one picking best promo of the week this whole time, so if, (at his best,) Eddie Kingston is my favorite interview in the world, why wouldn't I award him weekly honors more often?

Some of that can be marked down to circumstances: Eddie has spent some time injured, or on loan to NJPW, or toiling in ROH, or embroiled in feuds I didn't consider engaging enough to give him material to really sink his teeth into on the mic. But the biggest reason is that, as an interview, Eddie Kingston has a fatal flaw that frequently undermines his own work.

It's a trait that he shares with another great performer over at the “other place” who portrays a somewhat similar character: Kevin Steen/ Owens. Both men tend to claim that they aren't interested in talking and they just want to fight, (despite the fact both men are actually brilliant speakers.) Eddie often cuts himself off from his own eloquence in an effort to be true to this aspect of his characterization. He also tends to break immersion by pointing out the “wires” of the suspension of disbelief in his monomania to keep it “real.”

We get a tiny bit of that in the first few seconds of the Kingston promo that I feel demands recognition this week, with Eddie calling out by name the “trying to be invisible” behind-camera interviewer. But then he gets on a roll, with his eloquence animated by his deep passion for—his lifelong love affair with—his vocation and calling of pro wrestling, and we get to see the high end of what Kingston is capable of on the microphone when he doesn't get in his own way.

He starts out by adding context to what makes his win earlier that night in the Blue League Knockout match “more than just a win.” That beating Danielson is beating someone he's reluctant to admit he wants to be, not in being arrogant or judgemental, but in the sense of being universally respected in their (common) field. And it means beating someone he's never been able to beat before, thus laying to rest one of his (many) demons. Which leads into explaining how beating one man he's never beaten before builds his confidence for his upcoming task to beat another man he's never beaten before in the person of “the brother he chose,” Jon Moxley.

Then he goes into how Danielson calling him a bum is something that he's “taken in”—how he's turned that insult around into a positive and embraced it—and goes on to more fully explain why he did that and what he means by calling himself “King of the Bums”: that that makes him the King of “the people who have been beaten down… but never stop.”

Then he goes on to explain why they never stop, and I think it's important to note that there are a LOT of distinct directions he could have taken that. He could have said something like “life is the only game in town, so you have to keep getting up when you get knocked down, because he's considered the alternative deeply,” or something along those lines. But this monologue isn't about that—it's about passion, and about vocation. So instead, Kingston says that the “bums” that he reps for never stop “because they're passionate about what they do in their life.”

And for Eddie Kingston that passion is for professional wrestling, a passion that started in his childhood and overarches everything else in his life, even his spouse, because he credits pro wrestling with literally saving him from an early, violent death. He claims that he was watching a NOAH VHS when his friends were out on the street getting shot at, and that he'd have become a crime statistic if not for pro wrestling. Left unsaid is—whether or not it really literally saved his life—pro wrestling clearly gave him something worth living for.

It's kind of a two-edged sword for Kingston. It may be that it's that genuine reality of the roots of Eddie's passion for his trade of pro wrestling that makes it so hard for him to ignore or look past little bits of hokum that the audience would otherwise be happy to squint and suspend disbelief over. But it's that same legitimate emotion that stokes Kingston’s fire and, in  perfect-storm conditions, works him up to the point he forgets he's not supposed to like all that “yak yak yak” stuff.

Describing in writing the rest of Kingston's monologue is pointless, as it's not about the words, it's about the crack in Eddie's voice as he waxes rhapsodically about what an honor it will be Saturday night to show the world with his brother Moxley the savage beauty of the sport that he loves. Just go listen.

Story Beat of the Week: Saul.

The Devil Reveals Himself

Whenever I see a big heel turn, I do what I imagine every wrestling fan does. I start to imagine what they’ll say in their justification promo. It can sink or swim a turn, as it’s the first showcase of a new character—or a massive attitude adjustment at least. Anyway, here are some lines I expect to see in Adam Cole’s “justification promo”.

“Who’s ready for Story Time with THE DEVIL, Bay Bay?” [MASSIVE HEAT]

“You think you’re a hero max? Unlike you, I have multiple friends who would back me up. What does it say about you Max, that no-one is willing to stand by your side?”

“I did care about you Max. But then you EMBARRASSED ME, in the biggest wrestling match of all-time! You took away the thing I wanted the most, the AEW World Championship. And then you try to pretend to be my friend? I’m not buying it.”

“You should know from experience, that the greatest trick THE DEVIL ever pulled was convincing you he didn’t exist.”

“Cause here’s this deal Max, I’m better than you, bay bay!” [CUE MUSIC]

(Wrestlers, I am available to write your promos for the low price of £700 per minute of promo. I assure you that my knowledge of cliches and references is up to snuff.)

Yes, I liked the reveal. I know some people were hoping it wasn’t CHUGS under the mask. I know some people were just tired of the story altogether. Maybe it’s just the Scooby-Doo fan in me, but I enjoyed this mask unveiling.

Back in the earlier days of this story, when the tag team was starting and before the story went a bit off the boil, this was the direction I advocated for. It had the highest dramatic potential and it ended with the wrestlers being the alignments I thought best suited them at the time. Despite the story cooling down and a wobbly road, I still think they arrived at the right conclusion.

Anyone else being THE DEVIL wouldn’t have worked for me brother (except maybe Wardlow, but ummmmmm, no thank you). The personal nature of the attacks and using MJF’s personal iconography against him lent towards this being someone with a personal vendetta beyond just the world title. Besides that, the reveal is more dramatically impactful when paired with a turn and a betrayal.

Another choice would’ve screamed like a surprise for the sake of a surprise. The most obvious choice is often the correct one. One could ask why do a ‘whodunit’ if the candidate was going to be the most obvious option, and that would be a fair question. This direction allowed the usually savvy character of MJF be completely fooled, as the mask allowed him to ignore the possibility of his new best friend being behind his torment. This would be an interesting character flaw to explore in the newly face MJF.

The why is just as important as the who in a mystery. Again, this is why the justification promo is key. (Also why they shouldn’t have dragged the ‘who’ part of the mystery for so long, which is why I think this reveal was underwhelming for some people.)

This could be an opportunity to re-frame the face character of MJF. While I believe it was the correct direction to go, it’s fair to say that it hasn’t been jiving with everyone so far. If he has to go out for surgery like the reports suggest, this could be a good time to iron out those wrinkles.

What does the future hold for Cole and friends? This group formed to oppose MJF. What do they do if MJF is on the shelf for a prolonged period? Will they stay together after their feud with MJF is complete? Guess we’ll have to see what the new year holds for us.

(Also—shout out to the new king of television and AEW. Samoa Joe is the world champ: I have hope for 2024.)

[Ed Correction: Kyle Fletcher is evidently the current King of Television]

Moment of the Week: Peter.

Diem Horribilis

On a night when AEW put on a PPV called World's End, when the day of December 30th was over, Tony Khan probably wished he had gone to the Winchester, had a cold pint, and waited for it all to blow over. Our “moment” for this week is stretched out to that whole day, when one thing after another seemed to go wrong for AEW.

Talking about the first bombshell of the day is difficult. While "working theories" have been presented on social media, in Discord channels, and in group chats, like in many cases of allegations of inappropriate inter-gender conduct we have no eyewitnesses and (at least) two stories—separate versions of the same events—which haven't even been told, and may well never be told. If Chris Jericho engaged in conduct that harmed Kylie Rae, being booed during the 8-man tag at World's End should be the least of his problems, and—while the path to that reaction from the natives of Long Island started with a wrestling journalist from Chicago, (with allegiances to a certain wrestler from Chicago,) injecting himself into an argument on X (formerly known as Twitter) between the Demo God and a lawyer who has represented that wrestler from Chicago, with undisprovable mentions of NDA's mixed in, and maybe breaking every bit of journalism ethics known to man—a heart emoji and a couple of likes on Twitter/X from Kylie Rae first thing Saturday morning set in motion the events that dominated the day.

Cue arguing, people fact finding, and people yelling on social media. Also cue that sinking feeling we all felt during the days of Speaking Out.  

As I write this on a Sunday night, we don't know what is next in this situation but—while 2023 hasn't been an Annus Horribilis for AEW like some people would like you to believe, (they had 70,000 plus at a show this year!)—the second-to-last day of this year was a horrible day.....  which got worse at 5 PM EST.

News started to come through that Andrade El Idolo was set to leave AEW and that World's End would be his last day with the company. While stories of loopholes and clauses may or may not come out in the reporting, and it remains to be seen whether this will turn out to be a good or bad thing for both All Elite and WWE should he make the move, we're all expecting it will make for an interesting debate. But in a business where optics matter, a man who was booked strongly in AEW in the last few weeks in the C2 making an immediate jump to the rivals constitutes a W for one company and an L for the other, no matter how quickly The Idol's WWE run may end up as wrecked as the talent show of the same name was last year.

It's the type of Moment that might make a certain someone pay up someone's “Mone” demands! (Did I just spoil next week's Moment of the Week?)

Of course, with AEW being AEW, the chaos didn't stop there. A late change happened in the Swerve Strickland/Keith Lee match—a match which seems to have as much chance of happening as Khabib vs Tony Ferguson at this rate—with rumours circling as to why. (Apparently Hikaru Shida saying "That doesn't work for me brother" on Hey (EW) has rubbed off on others.) Then during the show, we got a briefcase cash in: a WWE trope making its debut on AEW and, (while I personally liked the actual angle and booking of Christian reclaiming his TNT belt using his hold over KillSwitch to do so,) now those who have been critical of the Sports-Entertainmentification of AEW would have extra bullets to fire. And while I also enjoyed the final 10 minutes of the PPV, (I'll defend the end of Joe/MJF to the end,) the Devil reveal was always going to feel anticlimactic to some—such is the way of whodunits.

All in all, the penultimate day of 2023 was a day to forget for AEW—some of it out of the control of the company, some of it directly because of the flaws in the direction of AEW in the last year—and as the calendar turned to 2024, and to the fifth anniversary of Hangman Page showing his Elite buddies what was on his phone, memories of that first, hope-filled day might be needed, for those who can still evoke them, to restore the feeling.

MVP of the Week: Gareth.

Crowning the 'King of the Bums'

Great match, great promo, great match, great promo. That was Eddie Kingston's week in AEW to see out 2023—a year of dreams for 'The Mad King.’

Reading it like that, you might be thinking this wasn't the greatest week in his professional career, because it's what he's been doing all along.

Eddie is very much used to having a great match here, cutting a great promo there. What he did in this past week really wasn't very different. He's stayed true to himself, and his promo after winning the Continental Classic displays this perfectly.

What has changed, however, is how the industry treats Kingston. After a dream year for Eddie where he wrestled in Japan and won a Japanese championship, (a dream of his,) competed in a G1 tournament, (another dream,) and won the ROH World Championship against career nemesis Claudio Castagnoli, (yet another dream,) you'd think it couldn't get any better.

But then came the Continental Classic. If you're reading this, you watched AEW’s round-robin tournament—you already watched Kingston’s matches against Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley. You know the story of his journey through the tournament, his risks, setbacks, struggles, and triumphs. And you know how it was the crowning moment of Eddie Kingston’s career—the realization of a childhood dream.

You may, however, not have seen Eddie's backstage promo after winning. A promo where he takes the light out of a crew member's hands and talks about how he'll celebrate—it's typical Eddie Kingston.

He didn't do anything overly special, (by his high standards,) this week. Two great matches, yes, and without discrediting them, as they were brilliant, we see great matches regularly, both in AEW and from Eddie Kingston.

What makes it so special this week is that Eddie was rewarded for his consistency and his great work, and he was rewarded for being himself. He didn't have to change or create some otherworldly character in order to get his flowers.

This week he was crowned 'King of the Bums' and it was perfect. That is why Eddie Kingston is so vital to AEW and why he feels to me like the MVP of the company overall… not just this week.


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