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 promos, Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering match of the week, 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: Sergei.
Moxley vs Ishii: Struggle thru Sport
Choosing a match to talk about this week was no easy task, there were three different matches that had me smiling from bell to bell, and that was just Dynamite! But in the end I had to go with the most visceral affair of the week, and, to me, that was Jon Moxley looking to get his own back after being pinned by Ishii at Forbidden Door.
This match was a thrill to many fans, but left others cold, and I think I know why. Recently, Chris Hero’s brief summary of the basic themes of different styles of pro wrestling made the Twitter rounds again, and I think so much can be learned from this perspective: that different pro-wrestling traditions have differing fundamental themes driving the engine of story.
In American wrestling, the fundamental drivers are (usually) good and evil, righteous indignation, hatred, revenge. Whereas in the Japanese style, the deepest motives are pride, spirit, and proving oneself. And when an American match leans into a more Japanese style, it can be confusing to an audience with different expectations: why is it so important to Moxley that Ishii pinned him, that seems petty? Why do they just stand there and wait for the chop, that seems dumb? But a match like this is so much more about proving one’s grit and spirit and mettle, than about winning and losing or ANY lesser concern!
When the two men come to a stalemate from exchanging chops and then each ducking a kick, the crowd reacts with applause, just like they would a stalemate of technical skill or agility, but in this case it is endurance and sheer bloody-mindedness that the fans are applauding. Another example of this is when Ishii backs Moxley across the ring while taking everything he can dish out, then knocking him to the ground with one shot.
The spots of Jon busting himself open with headbutts were awesome, but the moments that REALLY made this match the thrill that it was were the traded kick-outs at 1! Odd and unlikely by the normal logic of a pro wrestling match, but in this context it showed each man's blazing pride and fighting spirit. And then after rising to superhuman heights on spirit alone, both collapsing in exhaustion shows the human limits that spirit struggles against!
Promo of the Week: Gareth.
Turning the Page
There’s been a variety of interesting and entertaining promos this past week. From Jungle Boy’s first mic-segment as a heel on Dynamite to Bullet Club Gold’s hilarious promo on Collision. But I have to give this award to Ethan Page who really stepped up and, hopefully, started a new chapter in his AEW career on Saturday night.
It all started when MJF beat a local talent with ease and proceeded to call out any wrestler from Hamilton for an AEW World Championship match. Which gave Page the chance to come down to the ring and, just as the champ was about to tell Ethan he isn’t “on the level of the devil” – Page batted the mic away.
The Hamilton-native then proceeded to cut a really fired up promo where he gave some context about how his father immigrated to Canada and worked himself up from the bottom into a good position.
Page says he learned this attitude of hard work from his old man, and stated that “I’m not you, I’m not a bare-minimum-bitch.” Effectively turning babyface on the spot after months in relative limbo.
They proceeded to have a match which MJF won after Ethan Page sold like a true babyface. And it really made me think “these are the moments you watch AEW for.” A perfect opportunity to mix a hometown pop with a real turn in the character of a wrestler.
And on this evidence AEW have a great new babyface on their hands. A journeyman, a likable guy by all accounts. Let's see how this plays out, but for me personally this is the most I’ve ever been invested in “All Ego”.
Story Beat of the Week: Saul.
Joe May Kill You
The main event of Collision was between two icons of Ring of Honor. Roderick Strong faced off against Samoa Joe in a quarter-final match in the Owen tournament. While Roddy talked a big game about winning the whole shebang, it was surely in the back of his mind that he had never defeated the Samoan Submission Machine in a 1-on-1 match.
History repeated itself in this match. Joe brutalised his opponent with a bombardment of power moves. Strong gutted it out and managed to cobble together a few moments of hope, but Samoan Joseph cut him off before he was able to build any real momentum. As soon as the Coquina Clutch was applied, it was over. Samoa Joe raised his arms in victory and glared daggers at his semi-final opponent, CM Punk.
The "uncrowned" AEW World Champion joined Nigel McGuinness and Kevin Kelly at the booth to watch the match. I've been reliably informed that even on commentary, no-one can touch CM Punk. He maintained his cool demeanour and stated that he would love to face either man next week. However, when he looked at a victorious Joe and Strong's lifeless body, it seemed that a brief glance of trepidation appeared on his face. Much like Roddy, Punk had never beaten Samoa Joe 1-on-1. Was he getting a glimpse at his future fate?
At many points in the match, Joe stared down Punk to send him a message. However, it seemed that after his victory, he wasn't fully satisfied that his message was made. This led him to attack the already worn-out Strong, delivering a powerful slam onto a steel chair. This one move was apparently brutal enough to cause the Hot Rod to need a stretcher. (Now, you could say that this was extremely severe for a single slam and that it made Strong look like a total chump. However, my head canon is that he landed awkwardly on his neck and they were just taking precaution. Okay cool? Cool).
While CM Punk was checking on Roddy, Adam Cole rushed down to the ring to see the condition of his friend firsthand. This was an interesting pair to be sharing the ring together. One man who feels he is the true AEW World Champion as he was never defeated to lose the title. The other who was one second away from getting a championship match and knows in his mind that he can beat MJF. If Roddy wasn't hurt, it seems likely that they would have some words to hash out who was truly deserving of the next shot at the championship.
However, Punk has a more immediate concern. He will face his old nemesis once again, nearly two decades after their acclaimed rivalry in ROH. What once was a feud between hungry up-and-comers trying to prove their worth has become a matchup between two men who have built up unmatched legacies in professional wrestling. As we saw from the first Collision main event, there is still magic in this pairing all these years later and next week's match is sure to add another memorable chapter to their fabled story.
Moment of the Week: Peter.
The Crazy Old Man called Sting
I remember just before my teens scouring Power Slam Magazine (yes I'm that old) and seeing write ups on ECW and people being stunned that Terry Funk at the age of 53 was using moonsaults as part of his moveset, that he was taking part in barbed wire matches. Fast forward 26 years and the man who was part of wrestling's biggest storyline in 1997, Sting, now at 63 is out-crazying the OG of middle aged and crazy.
After the dumpster fire that was the Forbidden Door 6-man between LI Sting and Le Suzuki Gods, there were fears that the tag between Sting and Darby vs Jericho and Guevara would not be good. In the end, it was fine. But the fears would transmit to a particular moment in the match when with Sammy Guevara on top of two tables, Sting thought it would be a good idea to climb to the top of a ladder with only one motive in mind.
Turns out the icon would literally fall short of his target. Why he did fall short can be debated on other platforms than this one. The impact of the fall told with Sting admitting he would need stitches afterwards and while many a concerned citizen talked about Sting and if he should be doing this current "Crazy Old Man" stint of his Hall of Fame career and yes, this little Stinger might have experienced an anxiety attack when he was on top of the ladder, if you look back at the 2007-2019 version of Sting it explains why the 2020-2023 variant of the man called Sting is so unlike any other version of the icon.
With his WWE run being not good for many reason such as Vince McMahon's complex about WCW being the top company in US wrestling in 1996 and 1997 to 2015 Seth Rollins being a bad worker (yes, I said that) and his TNA/Impact being good in parts and not so good in others (Sting being a heel is a no-no and Joker Sting was just weird) the allure of Sting was not what it was in even the final years of WCW and it's what makes the two and a bit years of Stings time in All Elite Wrestling so beautiful. From the one of 3 best cinematic wrestling matches ever to his embracing of Orange Cassidy all to the soundtrack of Tony Schiavone being joyous to the presence of Sting and his willingness to adapt to the modern day wrestling fans taste in wrestling amongst Sting playing his greatest hits, even with the odd misfire like the biggest dumpster fire of 2023 so far, this past Dynamite showed that the man called Sting in the right environment may not be rolling back the years but actually rewriting the book of the icon.
MVP of the Week: Joe.
The Irreplaceable Icon
“One shouldn’t gamble with what is irreplaceable and precious” - Naomi Klein. For a brand like All Elite Wrestling that very much caters to the much talked and tweeted about 18-49 demo, it would seem like a gamble to put a 64-year-old in the main event of their flagship show, but it isn’t. It is crazy that isn’t risky, but Sting has proven over the last 3 years that he is a SAFE BET to deliver. Now, the moves that Sting performs are often very risky, like his dive off of the ladder through the table onto Sammy Guevara, and they are risks that simultaneously excite and scare me. They excite me because we’ve never seen someone hold onto their youth this way in wrestling, and that is straight up inspiring. They scare me because if Sting hurts himself, there is not a person on this planet who is both willing and able to fill his boots. Sting is AEW’s Most Valuable Player of the week because of how irreplaceable he is.
While he has had his (unfortunate) heel runs, as Peter alluded to, Sting is part of a very rare group of wrestlers who have been able to maintain their popularity and credibility without spending much time playing the villain. Not everyone enjoys pro wrestling as a masculine soap opera comic book morality play, but I do, and the character of Sting is one to be proud of.
While he is not a flawless man behind the scenes, and has shared personal regrets about his personal life during the Monday Night Wars, Sting is a rare icon of that era with no ties to domestic abuse, sexual harassment or assault, or racism. First of all, that is very sad. Second of all, thank you Sting. I’ve had to retire too many t-shirts already.
While many performers who reach that Hall of Fame level do so in part by playing politics or protecting their spot, Sting has not been known to be selfish like that. Sting helped the nWo get over in the 90s, and he helped Darby Allin establish himself in the 20s. Those are just the blue chip projects, Sting was also willing to do programs with Vampiro and Abyss to try and elevate other dark heroes and anti-heroes to that strata shared by himself and The Undertaker.
While Sting is one of the most popular and recognizable pro wrestlers in the history of the Earth, he is also one of the most skilled in this art form at reinventing who he is. I can’t think of any performer who has had a late stage career revival in quite this way. That last piece, the ability to keep growing and changing is what is maybe the most special thing about Sting. He is someone who simultaneously invokes nostalgia for what we used to like about him, and then excitement for what he is going to do, say, or become next. All of these qualities make AEW Dynamite’s 64-year-old main event player the most Irreplaceable Icon in pro wrestling today.