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Hangman Divides the Fans | AEWeekly Review 18

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 Joe [@GoodVsBadGuys] exploring match of the week, Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering promos, Gareth [@Gareth_EW] covering story beats, Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week, Dan [@WrestlingRhymes] reflecting on the best move and Trish [@TrishSpeirs48] giving us the MVP of the week.

Match of the Week: Joe.

Sports Entertainment & Pro Wrestling Tie!

So there are 2 answers for this based on the 2 categories of this art and entertainment form that we love. The best sports entertainment match was Wardlow vs Shawn Spears. This had storyline progression of overcoming unfairly stacked odds, good guy Wardlow vs bad guys Spears and MJF, over the top theatrics and larger than life power with Wardlow breaking the handcuffs, the cinematic shot of Wardlow rising behind Spears and eventually screaming atop the structure like King Kong, and to send the fans home happy, Wardlow must pose (on top of Spears’ conquered carcass). So that was the best sports entertainment match of the week to appease the Jericho Appreciation Society.

Then, for our Blackpool Combat Club pro wrestling camp, the best match was the X-Division style 3-way between Jungle Boy Jack Perry, Absolute Ricky Starks, and Swerve Strickland. This match had flying, striking, grappling, submissions, and thanks in large part due to Ricky Starks - it still showcased character and personality. It moved quickly, it hit hard, it invented memorable moments and sequences. It made everyone involved look good. If what you enjoy in your pro wrestling is elite athleticism mixed with creativity, then this would be the match of the night for you.

What’s great about AEW is they are able to offer both of these flavours in the same show without either feeling out of place, which is not something WWE or ROH could often say.

Promo of the Week: Sergei.

Hangman has Tea, Declines to Spill

My favourite promo this past week was probably Shawn Spears claiming to be the abused child of a mob knee-breaker. It was wacky, it was well-delivered, it made me think about the possibility of a push for Spears, which is one hell of a stretch.

I knew exactly how it was meant to make me feel, and it succeeded in doing so. Not so with Hangman. His promo left me wondering what he was getting at, and why he would tease some revelations about why he felt so negatively toward CM Punk, but then leave them unsaid.

But since Dynamite, it’s Hangman’s promo that I’ve still been thinking about and talking about. At this point, it’s kind of Schrödinger's promo: if whatever he was hinting at is paid off with a thrilling twist, the promo will be looked back on as the brilliant seed of a great storyline. If it is inexplicably dropped, it will become a punchline, like “who raised the briefcase?” Either way, it was definitely the most thought-provoking promo of the week, and for me that makes it “promo of the week” this time.

Story Beat of the Week: Gareth.

Hangman and Punk Have the Audience in the Palm of their Hands…

(I think).

Like Sergei, I am unsure of whether this Hangman promo will be paid off with the stroke of genius it needs. There’s potential for this feud, which likely doesn’t totally end this Sunday, to be an all-timer. And there’s potential that they’ve totally missed the mark.

But one thing I keep seeing in regards to the promo is that “Hangman held back”. He did not. His issues with Punk are there to see clear as day in the promo, “your hatred, your pettiness, your cowardice.” He just didn't sit on a stage and go on a tirade about them.

He told you his issues with Punk and we have seen evidence of Punk’s pettiness and hatred in his feuds with MJF and Eddie Kingston.

Hangman said it all in one sentence. “It’s exactly what you would do.” That sums everything up, for me. That is the heart of the conflict: CM Punk is everything Hangman dislikes.

Punk responds by effectively telling Hangman the kayfabe version of what people are saying online. That Hangman is “speaking in circles and it’s a big riddle”. But he can’t say it whilst looking Hangman in the eye, he looks to the floor. Like a coward.

Punk then looks Hangman in the eye to belittle his achievements and take credit for them before, in an attempt to get Hangman to snap, telling him to shake his hand. When Hangman doesn’t snap, Punk pushes Hangman which is when Hangman responds with a punch.

This is exactly what Punk tried, and failed, to do with Eddie Kingston. And it’s exactly what Eddie Kingston did to Punk - when Punk snapped and headbutted Eddie.

Hangman said it all and what he said was justified. But they’ve told this story in such a manner that people are responding with exactly what CM Punk told Hangman in the promo. They don't necessarily want you on Hangman's side right now.

CM Punk is a bully and AEW fans have, largely, been lapped up like a bunch of impressionable children.

However, come Sunday, when Hangman gets the better of Punk, like any bully he will snap. The only question I have is in what matter he snaps. Is it an immediate thing during or directly after the match? Or is it more of a gradual thing?

“In short, these two have the audience in the palm of their hand and are about to execute something special.” That is what I wrote about this feud a few weeks ago. I maintain that. But my natural pessimism makes me worry that they’ve gone too far with working the fans and the story misses as a result.

Alas, these are two storytelling geniuses. I have been given no reason to doubt them yet, so I won’t.

Moment of the Week: Peter.

Wardlow on Top of the World

For the third week in a row, a moment from the Wardlow/MJF feud is my Moment of The Week.

Did logic go completely out of the window at times during the match? Yes (Can someone explain why MJF after being so biased throughout the match just did not count three even when Wardlow kicked out of the C4) but after the chair shot and the shot of Wardlow rising from the mat behind Shawn Spears and security guards lining up to be punched like it was Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2000, when Wardlow was standing on top of the cage, a shot we will be seeing for years to come on the Dynamite open, the logic gaps in the match was all worth it.

At that moment Wardlow looked like the future of All Elite Wrestling, the man that can represent the company in the years to come, the man who will defend All Elite Wrestling from all-comers. At that moment he looked on top of the world.

Move of the Week: Dan.

Triple-Threat Exchange

Three-way matches (triple-threat for any WWE viewers who have stumbled across this article) are notoriously hard to navigate. Engineered spots that aim to highlight all three wrestlers often feel deeply contrived, and even worse often collapse like a Tory MP at a 'working lunch'.

That's why when three wrestlers get one of these spots right, it deserves to be highlighted and praised to the moon and beyond.

Enter Swerve Strickland, Jungle Boy and Ricky Starks.

This particular series of manoeuvres started with Swerve hoisting JB up for a standing suplex, holding him in position seemingly effortlessly. This was wonderfully interrupted however by Ricky Starks who, rather than waiting around like an Edge wannabe, spotted his opportunity from his prone position on the mat and speared Swerve into the middle of next week. Mentioning the now weird and dull Rated-R superstar, I think Ricky executes the spear considerably more impressively.

As Swerve crumbled, Jungle Boy landed balletically on his feet and launched a super-kick into Starks' beautiful mush, only to be scooped up in a picture-perfect Falcon Arrow by Ricky as he went back for seconds.

This all happened in under 10 seconds and yet superbly highlighted the bountiful wrestling skills of all three men. It didn't feel choreographed and it didn't feel forced. It was just beautiful

MVP of the Week: Trish.

The Chair Man

When the Pinnacle was formed on the Dynamite post-Revolution 2021, some people questioned why Shawn Spears was even in the group. Had he done anything of distinction since his loss to Cody a year and a half prior? Was he any more than someone MJF played at gambling with at ringside during the early pandemic episodes? Perhaps he was there to be the pin-eater like the lowest man in a New Japan faction? What he has ended up being though is vital- especially in the rise of Wardlow.

With MJF often tied up with CM Punk between November and March it was often left to Spears to get the most out of the Wardlow squashes and as dissension grew between the former Bodyguard and the 'Salt of the Earth' he has gone from mediator to aggressor. This program has also provided numerous examples of his versatility, from giving MJF a comedic counterpoint to play off straight, to the other extreme of delivering chilling, serious promos (no more so than on this week's 'Road To' episode, which was at an entirely different level from his steel-cage opponent).

His performance in Wednesday's steel cage match, and especially his facial reactions, were key to driving the reactions from the crowd for the bigger man and could not have done more to provide a better setup for Sunday's match.

It's not always easy playing a mainly supporting role and knowing it's unlikely you'll ever become a leading man; especially in wrestling where near enough everyone dreams of making it to the very top, but Spears has found his groove. He has found value in his own way and hopefully helped to elevate another towards the very top. The Chairman might not be flashy but he is effective.


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