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HARD RESET | AEWeekly #101

Updated: Jan 14

Welcome to the #AEWeekly review discussion where PWM contributors reflect on the highlights of the last week in AEW. For various reasons, our team has decided to change the weekly publication date from Wednesday a few hours before Dynamite, to Saturday, a few hours before Collision. Due to the transition, for this week only, the eligibility period will cover a week and a half, from last week's Dynamite, to this week's Dynamite, and the episodes of Rampage and Collision between the two from last weekend.


This week’s contributors are Joe [@GoodVsBadGuys] covering match of the week AND MVP, (thanks, Joe!) Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering promos, Saul [@SaulKiloh] exploring a key story beat, and Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week.




Match of the Week: Joe.

Sting & Darby vs Callis Family in Tornado Tag

No one has more consistently fun matches than Sting and Darby Allin. 36 years ago, Sting was the prototypical babyface. From then until now, he has reinvented himself multiple times to arrive at a fused version of his WCW energy, his TNA promo and character skills, and his AEW legendary gravitas. In 2024, Darby Allin is not the prototypical babyface; he's creating a new prototype. Rather than reinventing himself, I could see Darby's arc as the struggle to stay true to himself amidst outside pressures. That would require integrity, which seems to be a major bonding trait and characteristic shared between the two of them.


Another trait they share is their willingness to sacrifice their bodies and risk their futures to entertain their fans. Darby's Coffin Drop splash to the entranceway was nearly disastrous, and Sting's Scorpion Death Drop off of the stage through two tables seemed like it WAS disastrous. However, this match also showed great examples of the resilience of this team, as they kept coming back from every big bump, and every intense impact. After the back of Sting's head hit the floor from the great height of that stage, he was miraculously able to rally his body to roll over for the cover, and the victory, maintaining his perfect record in AEW!




Promo of the Week: Sergei.

Timeless Toni Reaches Renee’s Breaking Point

This edition of #AEWeekly covers two episodes of Dynamite due to the switch in weekly publication day from Wednesday to Saturday. Those two episodes each featured a hilarious backstage interview with our Timeless World champion… with interviewer Renee Pacquette, butler Luther, and (in the second one) hanger-on Mariah May perfectly backing up her inimitable Mid-Atlantic insanity with spot-on reactions.


I definitely have a bit of a bias toward the dramatic when it comes to these promo-of-the-week awards: I love my emotional men with their anger and their sadness and their neuroses. But a laundry list of famous actors have said that comedy is harder than drama, and it’s easy to see why: a dramatic scene is generally mainly grounded in reality, whereas comedy needs to be incongruous in some way, so you have the challenge of incorporating that without taking the audience out of the moment. In my view, this is where Toni Storm succeeds where many performers, particularly in pro wrestling, have failed.


Famed acting coach Stella Adler said: “Acting is Reacting,” but that’s an aspect that the spoken-word performers of pro wrestling, not being actors, quite, generally skirt around… by focusing a lot of their work, and almost invariably their best work, on long soliloquies delivered alone on the screen. But these “Timeless” interviews are essentially three-to-four-person comedy sketches where the grounded nature of Renee’s reactions, (and to some extent, those of the other two,) as well the consistency of the outlandishness of Toni’s actions and reactions, helps to keep the audience immersed in the scene, regardless of how far outside normalcy they venture.


One type of reaction that can sink an improv, (or partly-improv,) comedy sketch is “breaking”: ie, breaking character and genuinely cracking up at the hilarity of one of the other performers. But that’s because many comedy sketches revolve around a character in a ludicrous situation that that character would not find funny in that moment. The character Toni Storm does not consider herself to be amusing and her sycophants should be doing their best to hide any amusement they may feel. But if Renee Paquette, on the other hand, genuinely can’t contain her laughter at Ms. Storm’s ridiculousness, that does NOT impede immersion and is more a feature than a bug… and that’s exactly what happened on the most recent Dynamite when Renee brought up the latest debuting talent who had called Storm out and she interjected: “Wendy Richter???” provoking a startled and (I believe) genuine giggle from the seasoned interviewer which only enhanced the immersion, as well as the comedy, of the scene, while also highlighting the fact that Toni Storm performing this “Timeless” character is, in fact, A Hoot.





Story Beat of the Week: Saul.

A Statement of Intent

Last week, I yammered on about ‘justification promos’ like a parent does about their newborn child. “Yeah, that picture is realllllllly interesting.” So, how did I feel about Cole’s explanation?




…………………




Let’s talk about Samoa Joe. 


Unlike me, he’s entered 2024 at his zenith. He’s the new AEW World Champion, Twisted Metal was renewed for a second season, he’s starring as King Shark in ‘Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League’ and he rolled up to this week’s Dynamite in a stylish suit. 


Basically, it’s all coming up Joe.


As we enter the Year of the Dragon, Joe explained his champion protocol and stated that he will burn any worthy contender that tries to take his gold. 


What do we want in a World Title reign? 


Swerve Strickland and Adam Page interrupted the champ to place themselves in the championship picture. HOOK also made his presence known with his HOOK signal. 


Joe set out the vision for his reign. To kick ass and take names. Contenders that the fans want to see main event and a return to a more sports-based presentation has many people hopeful for this championship run.


All this talk has made me think about what the mission statement is for this weekly section?


This is Story Beat of the Week


Visceral online discourse has turned storytelling into a mangled piece of the wrestling culture war, as eggs debate which company that sells them a product does so in the ‘correct’ way.


I don’t say this to diminish the artform. I care about wrestling and I care about storytelling and I care about how the two intersect. I wouldn’t have spent over half a year writing weekly pieces about it otherwise.


I mention this to make my mission statement clear. That is to analyse stories in wrestling openly and honestly. 


In a medium that necessitates the performers enduring physical punishment to pull off even the simplest of moves, treating it with a lack of respect is something I refuse to do. However, caring about the form necessitates setting standards. 


I will praise what’s working and criticise what doesn’t. Sometimes you’ll agree with me and other times you’ll be wrong (this is some light humour, never let seriousness stop a bit of silliness, a lesson that wrestling taught me). 


I’ll just be a man, writing about stories, trying to make sense of it all.




Moment of the Week: Peter.

A Sting in the Tail

Opinions are like faces. Everyone has one and everyone thinks theirs is the best.


The main difference with both is that you can actually change your opinion (well, unless you have enough money to get cosmetic surgery) and I will admit that I have changed course on what is the main selling point of the next AEW PPV, Revolution.


When it was announced that Revolution will feature the final dance of Sting's career, my first reaction was Sting has to win his retirement match. On a night which will be a celebration of Sting, a celebration that will garner one of the biggest houses in AEW's existence so far, Sting and his protégé Darby Allin should stand tall as we wave goodbye to the icon. For me personally, having already booked the day after off so I can watch the PPV, the idea of such a farewell for one of my favorites of all time might get as emotional as I did when I watched the final episode of The West Wing (yes, I cried when Matt Santos said "no, thank you Mr President'')


AEW has been at its best when they go away from convention and the convention when it comes to retirement matches is the retiree loses. It's a tradition that has served lots of people well in wrestling history even when it feels inexplicable at times (Liger being pinned by Taguchi on Liger's retirement weekend is still one of the biggest "excuse me?" moments in my fandom) but a company that is maybe at its peak when it goes away from tradition would be best served on this night to not go with tradition and give Sting his happy ending. 


Well, that was my opinion until I heard two words


SUPERKICK PARTY!!!!!!


Let's be honest, there is a section of the wrestling fandom that hate Matt and Nick Jackson. The reasons for that, that's a whole other thing to get into. I love the Young Bucks but the split between The Young Bucks Camp and other camps is obvious to see when you go on social media outlets. Just look at the reaction of some when it became apparent who was going to be opposite Sting at Revolution.


When the Young Bucks came out and interrupted the celebration of Sting's final contest in the building where he shocked the world at Winter Is Coming 2020. You didn't need an IQ of 140 to know what was happening. It'll be The Young Bucks vs Sting and Darby Allin at Revolution in Greensboro and Matt and Nick should, actually scrub that, they HAVE to win.


The philosophy of pro wrestling has always been happy ending vs heat. You've seen it play out in The Monday Night War, the battle for American Wrestling  in the 80's and even in the third big American Wrestling skirmish. AEW, while being a company has used heat in their booking a little more than their usual amount lately have seen themselves as the company that has been the company that has actually been putting smiles on peoples faces. That makes the idea of The Young Bucks producing the ultimate unhappy ending too good to say no to.


What better way for a team that looks like they are embracing fully the qualities that needle a percentage of the wrestling fanbase, than to fully establish their new direction by being the wrestling version of the deer hunter that shot Bambi. What better way to restore the feeling than to give people that feeling of hurt and a pair of villains we hope eventually get their comeuppance. Because sometimes a chief villain needs that one act that breaks everyone's hearts.





MVP of the Week: Joe.

Goth Army Knife

Darby lifted the quality of Dynamite with a WrestleKingdom quality match against Takeshita, THEN anchored the opening of Collision with a NWA-esque resilient babyface vs dirty heels tag match that fits the throwback flavor of Collision, then was a closer of one of the most well-received Dynamites in ages, risking his future career and sacrificing his present well-being at all 3 stops.


There aren’t many wrestlers that can seamlessly transition from singles to team and back again. There aren’t many wrestlers who can go from opening shows with a spark to closing shows with a statement and stealing shows in the mid-card, overdelivering when their feuds and builds are undercooked. There are 2 guys on the AEW roster that fit that build, Orange Cassidy and Darby Allin. This week (+), however, it was Darby who was tasked with these asks, and he crushed it.


You might think AEW’s Swiss Army Knife would be Claudio, but that honor goes to Darby: The Goth Army Knife!


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