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 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 match and MVP of the week.
Match of the Week: Gareth.
The Next Generation
Since the return of Dante Martin, the call from fans for Top Flight and Action Andretti to win trios’ gold has only become louder and louder.
After carrying The Hardy’s to a good TV match in the year of 2023, they’ve now had a career defining performance against the luchador contingent of Komander, Penta El Zero M and El Hijo Del Vikingo.
A performance that had Chris Jericho audibly ‘marking out’ on commentary—a man who was once part of an industry-changing cruiserweight division in WCW. A performance that puts Dante and Darius Martin—along with Andretti—front-and-centre as part of the “next generation” of high-flyers.
The genre of “high-flying” wrestling has various forms. It’s best known, and most influential, talents have traditionally come from Mexico, as one half of this match proves. Penta is a well-travelled legend who was one of various wrestlers who pioneered the use of extreme violence in the genre. Vikingo is one of the stars in the lucha libre world right now, whilst Komander is a rising star in his own right.
After the 90s generation of cruiserweights, largely inspired by the Mexican luchadores as well as the Japanese “juniors” such as Jushin Thunder Liger and a handful of Americans and Canadians such as Owen Hart and Chris Jericho, the genre of “high-flying” wrestling was officially mainstream.
However, this style thrives off of feeling futuristic, exciting and groundbreaking. So, it had to continuously evolve as we saw with TNA’s X-division in the 2000s and various junior divisions in Japan during the 2010s as well as the American indies and, of course, the luchadores in Mexico.
Then into the 2020s and with the emergence of AEW we saw Darby Allin ‘evolve’ alongside the likes of Rey Fenix who had both continued to evolve the genre in their own ways. Darby went down a more extreme and violent route. Meanwhile Fenix pushed the bounds of athletic possibilities as per his lucha roots.
Which brings us to the present day where we have surely reached the limits of athleticism with Rey Fenix. How do you evolve beyond that?
You simply create new mind-boggling moves. Whilst athleticism may have limits, imagination does not, and the creativity on display amongst these six men is off the charts.
All of them have their own “thing”. From Komander’s rope walk and dive to Vikingo’s table spot to Dante Martin’s wide array of unique springboard attacks.
However, in this match these guys didn’t even need to rely on “playing the hits” (Penta’s customary Canadian Destroyer aside). It wasn’t even pure flying action, there was even some room for some more hard-hitting action as well as a chop battle. This “genre” is now borrowing from others to make the matches feel, not only otherworldly, but also violent and dramatic.
Naturally you had so much flying action—action I could not do justice to by writing about it—but it wasn’t just the same succession of moves we’ve seen every week in one promotion or another for the last 25 years now. They’re really leading the way in evolving this genre.
Many have questioned what to do with AEW’s trios division but I, and many others, think it’s obvious. Put the titles on Top Flight & Action Andretti and find them opponents who they can continue to push this genre forward with—be that AEW talent, or wrestlers from other companies.
The match itself was great, which is why it’s AEW’s highest rated match (per Cagematch) since Swerve Strickland vs. Adam Page at Full Gear, and their highest rated TV match since MJF vs. Kenny Omega.
But I cannot do it justice in words, which is why I’ve focused on the significance of this match within the historical context of the genre. Just go and watch it if you haven’t already.
Promo of the Week: Sergei.
Your One Wild and Precious Life
Since the start of this Continental Classic tournament, Bryan Danielson has been making me feel like a broken record: saying how he is a genuinely special talent, how much we're going to miss him when he's gone, blase-blase. But this week, after Danielson’s interview from the trainers’ room after his war with Brody King, there is really nothing I can do besides say it all over again.
Danielson starts out seeming chagrined—Dr. Samson had just given him a browbeating for his disregard for his own health and well-being, and he says that he “knows what's coming”—could he mean an impromptu retirement due to injury, rather than the planned one in a few months?—no, he means that when he returns to his locker room, his wife will also lay into him, and when he gets home the next day his daughter will cry. And his wife will ask him: “why?”
His answer was something I had to Google, as it didn't sound like something he just came up with on the spot, and it wasn't: “Tell me: What will you do with your one wild and precious life?” This is the last line of the poem titled “the Summer Day,” by the acclaimed poet, Mary Oliver.
It sounds like an inspiring sentiment, and it is—but it's also a fatalistic one. It's immediately preceded in the poem by: “Tell me: what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?” And Danielson's mind is, in fact, dwelling on the impermanence of everything.
His run at the Continental Classic is almost over, and his career is winding down also. Even if it weren't already announced, he would feel it, the dying of the light…. But—he says quietly, but fervently—“the end is not yet.” And—as Danielson passionately whispers about expecting Castagnoli not to go easy on him, and to go after his injured eye, not in spite of being friends, but because of it, because of their shared values—we're all reminded of just what we, as wrestling fans, will all be missing once that inevitable end of an era arrives.
Story Beat of the Week: Saul.
I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’, No Sir, No Dancin’ Today
Daniel Garcia. The man with two identities. Two personae. Two faces.
On one hand you have the masterful technical wrestler who was personally sought after by Bryan Danielson, as he saw something of himself in DG. On the other hand, you have the budding sports entertainer that does a silly dance (this may sound mocking, but if I’m honest, the dance pops me every time). Despite the (merciful) dissolution of the JAS, this discordance has remained, leaving the man with an infamous twitter game in purgatory.
It’s costing him dearly in the C². This tournament is where the big boys play, and so far, Daniel Garcia has proven to be but a wee lad. Too harsh? Perhaps. He’s certainly shown massive amounts of pluck. However, it’s in those clutch moments where legends are born. Michael Jordan wouldn’t be the GOAT if he missed that game-winner against the Jazz or let the flu affect his groove. Based on his results, Garcia is an abject failure.
He knows it too. While he may have been dancing defiantly in the moments leading to his defeat against Eddie, his post-match promo painted a much more glum picture. He seemed at a loss. This definitely wasn’t a man that was about to boogie on the dance floor. Maybe his dual identities can no longer co-exist? What path does his future hold….
There’s obviously a practical reason for Garcia to take these losses. In a tournament this stacked, you need people to be at the bottom of the pile. Just look at Lethal and Briscoe in the other group. However, this is a great way to weave narrative through results. By reigniting this rather dormant storyline, these losses no longer exist as a burial (for lack of a better term) but as great character fuel which will force Garcia to finally look in the mirror and see if he likes who looks back.
It’s easy to forget that this story was molten hot. To continue the sports analogies, AEW drove the football 99 yards, then threw an interception in the endzone. However, through some solid booking and exemplary performances, they’ve managed to rejuvenate it. Let’s just hope that they don’t fumble the ball this time….
Moment of the Week: Peter.
Daniel Garcia is Sorry
First off, I need to talk about how jealous I am of the head of our #AEWeekly team, Sergei.
Even taking aside the fact that a week after I published the critically acclaimed series about the Observer Hall of Fame (Meltzer qt'ing the piece with praise counts as critically acclaimed!) Sergei wrote the Learning Tree series, eclipsing anything I've written for the site, Sergei's role as the writer of Best Promo for the roundtable has seen him able to digest the series of post-match interviews that AEW have put out on their social media channels that has helped The Continental Classic really hit its stride in the last fortnight.
Seeing each man that has entered the tournament and their emotions fluctuate with every 3 or 0 that is entered by their name on the Group stage tables has helped the viewer see each wrestler’s story being told as the weeks unfold and none more so than Daniel Garcia.
Having a family member more or less ask you why you're rubbish can make a great man feel small, but also having the choices of the past year thrust into his face at his lowest ebb.
So when Daniel, so resigned to his fate after his loss to Eddie Kingston mathematically eliminated him from contention from progression to the knockout stages of the C², couldn't even summon any anger, even trying to justify himself to his niece's text about why he loses so much, more or less saying "that's competition," the decision Daniel made last year comes into his presence.
Daddy Magic along with his tag partner Cool Hand Angelo has been Daniel's biggest advocate since Garcia entered the AEW-verse, and was part of the reasoning for his decision to join the Jericho Appreciation Society. Loyalty superseded anything else—debts Daniel felt he needed to pay, not just to 2point0, but also to Jericho, a man who donated money into a gofundme for Garcia post an awful car wreck, lead to him declaring himself as a sports entertainer.
Chants from fans telling him that he was in fact a wrestler have been ignored. Even one of Daniel's heroes couldn't convince him of that—and what does he have to show for it? A goose egg next to his name in AEW's most prestigious tournament of the year.
As Matt Menard came onto the screen, he wasted no time admonishing his "son" for the lack of spirit he was showing in the previous minute and then came a Moment that characterised Garcia and his mindset right now.
As Matt was in full flow, Daniel felt the need to defend himself at long last. An interruption can be seen as rude, disrespectful, or a sign that the argument you had started has had the desired effect. Matt didn't take offence to Daniel's interruption, yet Daniel apologised almost as soon as he interrupted his mentor. The quietly spoken "I'm sorry" said more for Daniel than the resignation and the justification. Saying "I'm sorry" the way Garcia said I'm sorry showed that with his loyalty, Daniel has also shown submission to his elders.
The brashness when Daniel told the world that he was a sports entertainer has been replaced with a lack of confidence that has devoured DG. With two words, it's apparent that Daniel Garcia might need to listen to those who tell him that he is, in fact, a wrestler.
MVP of the Week: Gareth.
Swerve Is Undeniable
When AEW first began, Cody Rhodes ran this series on their YouTube channel called ‘Undesirable to Undeniable’—a series which looked at those who had been overlooked in the wrestling world who were now being given a chance to shine in AEW.
Now, if anyone defines that in 2023, it has been Swerve Strickland. After being cast aside by WWE despite a popular run in NXT, Swerve arrived in AEW and quickly became a tag champion.
However, since then it’s not always been sunny for Swerve. He’s taken losses in most of his high profile matches in AEW. However, he’s been given the opportunity to shine, and he’s taken it.
After a match with Hiroshi Tanahashi, which wasn’t particularly great due to Tana’s physical decline, the talk was all about Swerve’s brilliant individual performance.
As he went into an International Championship match with Orange Cassidy, he had people saying they would be angry if OC, one of the most beloved figures in AEW, retained.
At Wembley his entrance stole the show, but his ego didn’t get in the way as it was Strickland who took the loss. This humility cannot be understated in his rise either. Whilst other wrestlers prefer to sit at home, Swerve earns good faith from fans, his boss and peers alike as he shows up, and shows out, every week.
After All In, it was time for Strickland’s push, which is when the feud with ‘Hangman’ began, and since then it’s only been up.
According to Cagematch’s fan-voted rating system, Swerve has AEW’s highest rated singles match ever against Adam Page at Full Gear 2023 and the fifth highest rated tag match with Keith Lee against The Acclaimed at All Out 2022.
Swerve Strickland is a top guy, at least in the eyes of the fans, and the reception that broke out at the beginning of his match with Jon Moxley this week proved that—the kind of “big match feel” reaction that only happens when two genuinely top talents are about to lock up.
He proved AEW’s mission statement that the company can be an alternative and a place for that “undesirable” talent to thrive and prove themselves “undeniable”.