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Dynamite #200 Hits Fans' Joy Button | AEWeekly Review #80

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 Gareth [@Gareth_EW] covering match of the week and MVP, Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering promos, Saul [@SaulKiloh] exploring a key story beat, and Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week.

Match of the Week: Gareth.

Parking Lot Brawl

AEW’s 200th episode of Dynamite was full of call-backs to the earlier days of the show, from presentation choices to booking decisions on the night. But the announcement of a Parking Lot Brawl for Rampage really brought back a taste of that pandemic-era Dynamite.

It can be easy to get lost in nostalgia when calling back to such a distinctive, iconic match. But the Blackpool Combat Club and Best Friends really managed that well here.

The action was brutal, as expected, with lots of unique attacks utilising their surroundings. Jon Moxley and Trent Baretta were both busted open almost immediately, as a fork came into play.

The BCC looked for ways to isolate their opponents. Locking them in cars or, later in the match, introducing a third man in Wheeler Yuta. Chuck Taylor was undecided on whether to attack his former protégé, thus allowing the BCC to exploit a numbers game.

This sparked Orange Cassidy to arrive on top of Trent’s mothers minivan. A call-back to the original match. However, this time Sue’s contribution to the match was much less jovial. Threatened and forced to flee by Claudio Castagnoli was enough for Baretta, despite being battered, to react with pure emotion.

The BCC exploited this emotion, smashing up Sue’s car, winning the match by curb-stomping Trent’s head through the windshield.

This wasn’t as groundbreaking or thrilling as the first Parking Lot Brawl, but it was a very nice sequel. A lovely way to pay tribute to a classic match from AEW’s past whilst using the match-type to do something new and different.

The BCC continue to try to destroy the things AEW fans hold dear, yet in a twisted irony that’s exactly what makes them so appealing as a viewer.

Promo of the Week: Sergei.

Mic Genius MJF is Beyond "Heat"

It's not news: MJF is a generational talent. He tells us so regularly, though he didn't use the phrase on Wednesday. In his tender years, Max Friedman is already one of the greatest ever on the microphone. But on AEW Dynamite, Max showed something new, not just to his own repertoire, but a level of genuineness and vulnerability that I really think is something new to pro wrestling as a whole!

It starts at the entrance ramp: Max has shown lots of different emotions on his face over the couple of years we've known him, but he's never before looked nervous to the point of terror just to talk to the people. I don't know if it's genuine or if it's fantastic acting, and at some point it ceases to matter. And the reason quickly becomes clear: as much as he's always protested that he isn't playing a character and we've been getting the "real MJF" he has always before this been protected by the armor-plated MJF character, but this time he is out here to introduce the real Max to the people, and it terrifies him.

We've been through this before: MJF has told us before about his mental health struggles, about his struggles with academics and with antisemitic bullying. He told us the exact same story of the bullying incident with the quarters whipped at him, all to lower CM Punk's guard and reinforce his own villainy. So how is this time different? Back then, MJF said that “the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was to convince us that he doesn’t exist,” but that doesn’t apply this time around. Max tells us that he appreciates our “Sympathy for the Devil” and admits that he is still a scumbag, but he is our scumbag now!

When Max says that being a villain is easy, but trusting people and being vulnerable is hard, on one level this seems like just meta-commentary on storytelling: it’s widely acknowledged in pro wrestling that the heel role is the easier one to pull off. But on another level, this feels like an irrevocable commitment for Max. By admitting that he is imperfect but trying to be better, he has recast any possible future “villainy” the plot may require not as self-aware Machiavellian maneuvering, but as a relapse in his recovery— “hurt people hurt people.”

Then Maxwell calls out the man who made it all possible, the other half of “the Bromance of the Summer.” This was not just a clever turn of phrase, but an accurate assessment—the Cole / Friedman relationship genuinely used a number of Romance tropes, specifically Teen RomComs of the “Popular Kid Dates Nerd” subgenre where the plot is driven by ulterior motives and suspicions. But in this case, the Bromance subverts that trope with communication, when both men admitted that they had originally intended to betray the other, and when Cole showed his back to Friedman and told him to do whatever he felt he had to when Max was at his lowest after feeling he had cost them the Tag Titles.

Then Max makes an announcement that just a few weeks ago would have been a massive anti-climax: that the main event and first-announced match for the Biggest Event in Wrestling History will be a heatless respect rematch between two guys who are a level below the biggest stars in the promotion. But, based on storytelling alchemy, now this exact prospect has fans elated, and this promo ends on a note of pure love and joy which opens up new vistas for what is possible in the context of pro wrestling storytelling. Maybe the struggle to live up to one's commitments to be a better person tomorrow than yesterday can be just as dramatic or more than any burning thirst for revenge?

Story Beat of the Week: Saul.

Adam Cole & MJF: Choose Your Own Adventure!

What a lovely week of AEW television! There were many things I could talk about, but I feel compelled to, once again, choose Adam Cole and MJF. It's the hottest story in wrestling and this week we got the announcement that they’ll be facing off in the main event of All In. This angle inspired more discussion than any other in the contributors group chat (at least as long as I have been in it). Since Sergei has already given a comprehensive breakdown of the promo segment itself, I thought I would break the format a bit and take a look at the possible directions the story could take in the future.

Adam Cole turns on MJF

Early on in their relationship, it was shown that Cole was able to outsmart MJF. This is notable because it's rare in MJF feuds. He's usually a step ahead but the valiant babyfaces are able to fight through it anyway. As Cole has been a conniving heel for much of his past, he was aware of how MJF would operate.

Adam Cole has been clear about his desire to be AEW World Champion since his debut. He restated this upon his return from injury, which is why he went after MJF in the first place. Now they have become friends, which could complicate things. What will win out, his love for his new friend or his championship ambitions? We’ve seen a more grateful Adam Cole since his return, his time on the shelf having changed his perspective on life. However, will this change of thinking stick? Now he's aware of how quickly his career could be taken away, what if he becomes desperate to win the ultimate prize before fate rears its ugly head, friendship be damned?

This direction has great dramatic potential as it delivers the most amount of change in the characters. This would mean that this storyline would've caused alignment changes in both MJF and Adam Cole. There’re some people who are tired of Cole as a heel and I can certainly understand this position, however I think the kind of heat this would generate for him would make him one of the most hated villains in wrestling, which would make for captivating television. It also cements MJF as a face, which is definitely the most interesting direction for his character.

MJF turns on Adam Cole

I mean, the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing you that he doesn’t exist. MJF is still calling himself the devil. Even with his fully babyface promo, he mentioned multiple times that he was still a scumbag. He seemed insistent that Adam Cole sign the contract for their championship match quickly, and even the audience that was fully behind MJF were chanting that Cole should read it first. So, even with all his talk of trying to improve for the better, can we really trust him to not betray Cole?

For MJF to reaffirm his position as a heel, he would have to betray Cole specifically. Anything else wouldn’t suffice. As we saw in the tag title match against FTR, he was cheating but was still unanimously cheered. So if this were the direction, it would have to be portrayed as if this was a long con to screw over Adam Cole and keep hold of his championship.

This is by far the worst option. This would feel like pulling the rug out from under the audience, which could generate a lot of heat, but would be less interesting in the long term because it would just revert everything back to the status quo.

I think a more interesting take on this direction could be if MJF "turned" on Cole, but instead of it being a heel turn, it's portrayed as a tragic mistake caused by insecurity that is done to draw sympathy, similar to Adam Page "betraying" the Young Bucks. If they wanted MJF to turn on Cole, this would be the most interesting way to do it, as there is far more depth to it and MJF is talented enough to get across the complex character layers.

They stay buds!

Why split them up at all? The fans love them and they have made for fantastic TV every time they are on-screen. I've written in the past about how in wrestling, friendships always seem destined to end. A lot of the discussion in the group chat was about who would turn on who. What if they completely subverted the trope and kept the pair as buddies for the long-term?

Maybe they could team up to fight The Kingdom? Maybe they could become tag team champions? Maybe they could go their own way while remaining friends and sometimes helping each other out? At heart, I'm a big softie, so while I'm intrigued by the high drama a betrayal could cause, I also like the idea of a heart-warming story about friendship surviving and conquering over all the potential pitfalls.

Final Thoughts

Obviously, there is more nuance in the directions this story could take than my word count allows me to delve into. However, the fact that so many people, including myself, are so interested in the way this angle will develop is testament to how effectively it's being told. So while I'm very excited to see how it plays out, it's also important to appreciate it in the moment. Wrestling stories this hot don't happen often, so let's buckle up and enjoy the ride, it's sure to be a fun one.

Moment of the Week: Peter.

All In Build Ramps Up

That day when so many tickets got sold on the first pre-sale day only feels like yesterday and as quick as a Young Buck hot tag "Wrestling's biggest Ever Event" is only a couple of weeks away.

Two things have been on the forefront of most of those attending: "Jesus, hotel prices in London are insane" and "are they going to announce matches?". Twitter being twitter (I'm not calling it X!) people who had tickets started panicking. Some feared it was going to be a House Rules show on steroids, some joked it was going to be a Mystery Vortex show; when Fightful announced that Jericho and Ospreay was in the thoughts of those booking this event, many an eye was rolled. There was something weird in the air. This is one of the biggest events in wrestling history and hardly a peep on AEW television. It needed Brandon Thurston from Wrestlenomics to tell the fans in the States how they can watch this show. CM Punk mentioning the All In show on Collision in that very weird promo a couple of weeks back felt like it was off the script. I'm not gonna lie, I was slightly more excited for the Rev Pro show than for All In this time last week. So when matches started to get announced, relief more than anything started to envelop the International AEW fanbase.

While Sergei, who I think might be the only one of our current crew on the roundtable who isn't going (tbf, he does live in the USA so let's give him that) brilliantly puts the MJF promo over, we need to talk about the announcement of the match itself.

First off, MJF being the scumbag that we are all falling for and hoping doesn't break our hearts, had to do the "I'm not giving you a match...." shtick, trolls always gonna troll. But when Maxwell announced that his friend was going to get THE match, he put over in a paragraph how big this occasion is.

When FTR heard The Young Bucks announce that they were returning to 2 vs 2 action, they saw the occasion in front of them and made the challenge for FTR/Bucks III, and the excitement levels for All In rose quickly. AEW's hottest story of the summer has its latest story beat in the same stadium that patch of land that Geoff Hurst scored a hat-trick in the World Cup Final, where Ricky Villa danced through the Man City defence and where the real 1992 Sports Personality of the Year, Davey Boy Smith won the IC Title and one of the most noted tag rivalries in the modern generation gets it's rubber tie in front of a record breaking crowd. The matches fit the occasion and the occasion fits the crowd and that’s what those who bought tickets and spent money on hotels have craved and what makes the announcements so fascinating is the uncertainty of what will happen on August 27th.

FTR/Bucks III is a pick' em. Any of those two teams holding the tag belts on the flight back from Heathrow makes sense but it's also the unpredicted of who has the most fans in Wembley that is intriguing. Both teams stand for something that they and their fan base truly believe in that stance. The Venn diagram of FTR and Bucks fanbases does not have a big number in the middle. The two philosophies can't be more different but the magic they will produce based on their previous contests will go down as another Magic Wembley Moment.

And as for the Battle of Better Than You BayBay, how it ends no-one knows, the unpredictability of this moment is in not just who wins the match but how the summer’s best bromance looks after the main event.

As the number of sleeps until All In count down, the fears that Tony Khan and the fans were on different wavelengths have been calmed and with more yet to come (Stadium Stampede between the BCC and Best Friends anyone?) All In might just live up to the hype after all. Now we just hope the UK’s most unpredictable element, the weather, plays ball.

MVP of the Week: Gareth.

New Women's World Champ Hikaru Shida

The “Pandemic Champion” was a title given to Hikaru Shida not just because she held the AEW Women’s World Championship, but because she truly carried the women’s division through its darkest hour.

Shida gave many wrestlers their best matches and was the introductory opponent for various others. Delivering fantastic matches even without the help of the crowd.

She was the safe pair of hands needed when the fans weren’t there, so it was lovely to see her winning the world title for the second time in front of a packed house in Dynamite’s main event. A really feel-good moment.

Truthfully, she’s been criminally underutilised since the pandemic, despite continuing to have great matches when given the chance. And it’s very likely that she’s being used more as a transitional champion to set something up for Wembley rather than as the pillar of the division that she was during 2020 and early 2021.

But regardless it was a great match capped off with a lovely moment. Shida stealing the show may be more of a rarity these days, but it never gets old.

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