Welcome to the #AEWeekly review discussion where PWM contributors reflect on the highlights of the last week in AEW. The week runs Friday to Friday covering Rampage and Dynamite.
This week’s contributors are Gareth [@Gareth_EW] 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 Joe [@GoodVsBadGuys] giving us the MVP of the week.
Match of the Week: Gareth.
Four Pillars Four-way
The two co-main events at Double or Nothing were both fantastic in different ways. Really you could give ‘Match of the Week’ to The Elite vs. Blackpool Combat Club, but I’m giving it to the Four Pillars Four-way match.
The build to this match was inconsistent, at best. But one thing everyone knew is that the match would deliver, and arguably it did more than that.
It was fantastic on a technical basis, which was no surprise to anyone. However, one who really stood out was Sammy Guevara. His work had a real snap to it, something that will come in handy as he moves towards a face role again. Pretty much confirmed when he and Tay Melo announced they were expecting a baby to a huge pop pre-match.
In amongst some excellent combinations, technical wrestling and exhilarating high spots, there was still room for storytelling. Jack Perry had his moments between babyface fire and heel-ish tropes as the theories about his heel turn continue. Desperately making covers, teasing using the title belt to win. But ultimately not making that decision yet.
On top of that we had the finish which saw MJF pin Darby Allin with a headlock takeover, once again. This is something that’s been going on since Full Gear 2021 where MJF said he could, and then did, beat Darby with that basic manoeuvre.
This sets up Allin to beat MJF with that move down the line in a match finish which will feel very cathartic. This finish wasn’t that and could be criticised. Is Darby landing back-first on the title into a headlock takeover a believable finish? That’s the only criticism I’d have of the match.
MJF’s physical and verbal comedy are great in every match, but really shone in this match. These moments show how much he understands his role.
Besides that it was an absolute triumph and even managed to potentially reverse some of the damage done to the characters of Sammy and Perry in the build to this match.
Promo of the Week: Sergei.
Moxley Sells Anarchy
“Promo” is a funny piece of wrestling jargon, and as wrestling fans we’re so used to it we don’t even think of it that way. Outside the little, insular world of pro wrestling we might call it a monologue. Or in some cases, a little sketch. But in wrestling it’s called a promo for good reason: promos are fundamentally promotional! Their purpose is to sell you a ticket or a PPV or a streaming service. And the great wrestlers are GREAT salesmen! And Jon Moxley is a prime example.
With only minutes left of the last of prime-time air before his promotion’s quarterly PPV, he used that time to powerful effect making one last quick pitch to convince fans to part with hard-earned cash. And he used the oldest pitch in the book: There Will Be Blood. It will be crazy. You ain’t seen nothing yet. You can’t miss it. It’s the oldest pitch ‘cause it works, and it DID work. Salesmanship is an art, and Jon Moxley is an artist.
Story Beat of the Week: Saul.
Takeshita Picks a Side
Blackpool Combat Club vs The Elite delivered on its stipulation. It was anarchy incarnate. Piledrivers in pickup trucks. Exploding superkicks. Feet pierced by multiple thumbtacks. Each participant in the match was worn down and to the surprise of absolutely no-one, Moxley was bloodied up. The match really seemed like it may go either way. That was when Don Callis put his hand on the scale in an attempt to further screw over his former ally, Kenny Omega. This started with him handing Wheeler Yuta a screwdriver to use as a weapon, but escalated to more direct interference when Kenny was seconds away from victory. As Kenny leered over the man who betrayed him, Don's insurance policy and new protégé came out to his aid. Konosuke Takeshita delivered a knee to the face of the 'Best Bout Machine' which allowed Yuta to pick up the massive victory. Originally seeming unsure which side to take after getting caught up in this faction warfare, Takeshita declared his choice in the most impactful way possible. Darth Callis has found his new apprentice. After all, the dark side of the force is a pathway to the world championship.
It's important to note that in the post match celebration, Callis and Takeshita remained separate from the BCC. Bryan, Claudio, Yuta and Moxley raised each other's arms in victory but did not include the men who gave the major assist. This left some doubt as to whether Takeshita has joined the BCC or if he has a separate partnership with Callis and they wanted to further screw over Omega. Takeshita does seem like a natural addition to the BCC, but I would not put it past Callis to want to keep his new asset away from a faction considering how he felt about Omega and The Elite. Either way, this story-beat elevated Takeshita to a true main event position. Inserting himself into the hottest story in the company, with a new manager and a new attitude. He is coming for Omega's spot. Watch out AEW roster, there's a new ace in town.
Moment of the Week: Peter.
Return of the Stat
There were plenty of fantastic moments on Double or Nothing, but the most notable certainly seems to be the return of Kris Statlander from a long-term injury lay-off.
After a match against Taya Valkyrie, Jade Cargill’s legal counsel Mark Sterling claimed there was “nobody left” to beat after the TBS Champion secured her 60th win in a 60-0 record.
Cue Statlander’s music. “The Galaxy’s Greatest Alien” then walked down to the ring and challenged Jade to an impromptu match, which had been established as something Cargill will do to prove she’s the best. Stat beat Jade relatively quickly and became the second ever TBS Champion.
This was a fantastic moment, and everyone seems unanimous in being happy for Kris. But this wasn’t without its criticism, and I think there is valid criticism despite it being a great moment.
The first criticism comes with babyface Kris taking advantage of a weakened champion. Something traditionally a heel would do. This has been defended with “Stat was just being a smart babyface” and saying that it “protects Jade” in defeat.
I think there’s some merit to those defences. But equally they can be countered with “why does Jade need protecting?” You don’t build a 60-0 streak to protect someone when they eventually lose. Equally “why does Statlander have to be smart?” Can she not beat Jade in a fair fight?
Hopefully the latter is something we will see in a re-match. Which itself lends itself to “why not just have Stat return and build the match for a future date?”
Ultimately that is where I fall on this. I loved the moment and am happy for Kris. But I think it would have been better to just have Stat return and send a message to Jade. It’s a matter of opinions though. The main thing is Kris Statlander is back, had a great moment and now we have an exciting title reign to look forward to.
MVP of the Week: Joe.
Our International Champion
The man who doesn’t care, has an elite ability to make people care.
Orange Cassidy is the best champion in wrestling right now. He isn’t made special via artificial scarcity (wrestling infrequently) & he doesn’t get to fall back on people rooting for his opponents to win because of how beloved they are - or fans rooting for him to lose because of how disliked he is - which if you listen to most veteran wrestlers talk about, it’s easier to make people hate you than it is to make people like you, and many babyfaces only work well when they are chasing gold.
After 22 successful title defenses, Orange Cassidy defended his title against 20 other competitors, all at once. Now that is “kayfabe” impressive, but what is “shoot” impressive is how Orange Cassidy was able to engage and entertain that Las Vegas crowd. Based on the reactions to this opener, you would have thought AEW had a hot crowd, but for most of the next half dozen matches, it turned out that wasn’t the case. So what made it special? It was definitely an ensemble production and a team effort that made the match exciting, but the star performer was the one who made it matter, and that was Mr. Freshly Squeezed. He was able to make people emotionally invest in his success, and doubt the successful outcome—a great recipe for a babyface champion.
The match mattered because OC has made the Int’l title matter. The outcome was in doubt because he didn’t come out as number 21, as I was expecting he would with a well-earned championship advantage, but because he was out there fighting and defending for all 22 minutes from the opening bell.
The outcome for the match was also in question because of the punishment he has put his body through during this reign. He has suffered so much - or sold so skillfully, I believe he has - that I will actually feel relieved when he drops the title to someone and gets some well-deserved rest. But he won’t just be dropping a title at that point, he will be passing a torch. He lit the fuse on it, he sparked the flame, and this stick of Dynamite, it bears his name - and this all perfectly contrasts his limp fizz puff of entrance pyro. Speaking of limp fizz puff, the style that Cassidy won the match in was so authentically OC, and creative. Rather than going for the big knockout blow, which would have been satisfying, he kicked outside the box for an even better ending.
Just how good was this effort? It’s currently ranked in the Top 10 of all battle royals (not Royal Rumbles) in wrestling history on CageMatch.Net with a 7.20/10, and the best AEW battle royal in its short history (although the All In battle royal is leading it). It trails only one WWE battle royal in history, which with only 4 wrestlers hardly counts as a real battle royal - Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker vs. Vader from 1997.
Just how valuable is Cassidy right now? I think he could headline a PPV opposite MJF that would not only deliver in the ring, but also generate interest in the fanbase. A big part of value is cost/benefit, and I find it hard to believe that AEW is getting more bang for their buck out of many, if any, wrestlers than are from Orange Cassidy.