Welcome to the #AEWeekly review discussion where PWM contributors reflect on the highlights of the last week in AEW. The eligibility week ends with the most recent episode of Dynamite. so it covers last week's Rampage and then the most recent episodes of Collision and Dynamite.
This week’s contributors are Joe [@GoodVsBadGuys] covering match of the week, 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 MVP of the week.
Match of the Week: Joe.
House of Black vs FTR & Daniel Garcia
This week was a hard pick for me. There were a group of matches I had rated at the same tier (Hikaru Shida vs. Queen Aminata / Adam Page vs. JD Drake / Big Bill & Ricky Starks vs. Chris Jericho & Sammy Guevara / Brody King, Buddy Matthews & Malakai Black vs. Cash Wheeler, Daniel Garcia & Dax Harwood) and one just a hair below (Hook vs. Samoa Joe). So, I had to look at tie-breakers. Jericho being involved in one of the matches with all of the smog hanging in the air around his situation felt dirty, so I didn’t want to shower praise on that match (sorry to Sammy, Ricky, and Bill). Hangman has been great, but that feels less like news.
The highest-rated of those on Cagematch was Hook vs Samoa Joe (8.06), but for me, the bar is higher for Dynamite, Collision, and PPV main events, and I thought it was very good, but a few pieces / moves / moments away from being a truly great main event. However, it did help establish a younger star, which leads me to the next match, Shida vs Aminata.
Now, Shida vs. Aminata was respected, but wasn’t well-loved by Cagematch (6.91), but rarely any women’s matches are unless they are Japanese women’s matches. Like Samoa Joe with Hook, HIkaru Shida helped elevate Aminata while defeating her. What was different about the formula here, is that Aminata seemed to get in more offense than Shida. They also put a fresh spin on an overused trope of the “Let’s see who is tougher” strike trade sequence. This match showed me that Aminata not only has the in-ring ability, but also the personality to be a featured player in AEW, and in my opinion, a champion. The bit that was shared on twitter where she got two consecutive 2 counts and told the ref that it should count as 4 was clever. The show of emotion and appreciation with the hug between her and Shida after the match was touching. This match made me glad I watched Rampage, which is impressive in itself. Hook and Aminata were not the only featured rising stars paired with established vets in my match choices this week. We also have Daniel Garcia, who has risen, and fallen, and risen, and fallen, and turned his most recent fall of his losing streak in the Continental Classic, into what I think will be his longest lasting rise.
Garcia exploded onto the scene in AEW with 2.0 (Menard and Parker) mixing it up with CM Punk, Jon Moxley, Sting and Darby Allin, Eddie Kingston, and eventually Bryan Danielson. Then he toiled in the Jericho Appreciation Society. Now, he is seemingly emerging as his own act, in support of another established team, in FTR. Garcia’s in-ring moveset is very fitting of a heel, but his crowd-engagement instincts and what seems to be his real-life persona leaking through, seem to be much more fitting of a babyface, and he seems to be trying this out for the first time, and I think this is what is going to ultimately stick. Garcia showing fire when fighting outnumbered against the odds, as well as being the only man who was able to find 1-v-1 success against Brody King was a nice rub for him. Garcia and FTR fought with an urgency that would’ve made you think they were running out of TV time, but this match went for 25 minutes. That pace and intensity made this match stick out, as well as the way the babyfaces used their brains to eliminate Black and Buddy, and then isolate and overwhelm Big Brody King in a way that made him look very special in defeat. The 3-man Shatter Machine / Big Rig after the match was over was a special spot. Just like Hook and Queen Aminata, Daniel Garcia’s star rose in defeat.
Promo of the Week: Sergei.
Swerve has Nothing to Prove
Swerve knocks it out of the park on the mic every single time he gets the opportunity. The last time I gave him promo of the week honors was with his “Whose Spot” promo back in September kicking off his career-making feud with Adam Page. But he has been runner up just barely not making the cut with extreme regularity in the weeks since then, whether his sights were on the Hangman or the Continental Classic or the AEW World Championship. This week wasn’t necessarily the best of his promos in those weeks, so much as not having as strong of competition with Max on the shelf and Bryan, Mox, and Eddie in Japan, and Joe handling his business physically rather than verbally this week.
So Swerve’s backstage interview with Renee Paquette on Dynamite probably wasn’t the most memorable or noteworthy mic-work to be awarded AEWeekly promo of the week, but what it was was an excellent and effective performance. A phrase that Swerve uses twice over the course of the interview is that he has “eyes everywhere.” I think that one of the great appeals of Swerve’s mic approach is the contrast of the over-the-top super-villainy of word choices like that with the understated calmness of his tone, adding up to a sinister intimidation reminiscent of Jake Roberts.
Another great aspect of this promo is how he builds up his rival, Hangman. He points out Page’s great Championship run and impressive successful defenses, his decisive defeat of the interviewer’s top-guy husband, and moves on to recounting his recent victories. Then he truly starts laying on the hyperbole thick, claiming that if God came down from heaven to challenge mortals to a wrestling match, Hangman might be the man for the job. And yet… He couldn’t beat Swerve. Twice.
Beating a top competitor two matches in a row is an almost-impossible feat in pro wrestling and it makes total sense that Swerve would make a calling card of it. And even moreso, I love the logic that Swerve feels he has nothing to prove vis-a-vis Hangman and has no interest in risking his perfect record against him.
Story Beat of the Week: Saul.
Long Live The King
Perceptive readers may note that I have given Samoa Joe his fair share of plaudits recently. However, I think if I praised him every week for the rest of his championship reign, it wouldn’t be enough.
Last week, I pondered what we as wrestling fans wanted in a successful world title reign. One thing I think is key is championship matches that have the unquantifiable big match feeling, and by god, did Samoa Joe deliver that in his first defence against the up-and-comer HOOK.
If I was the kind of person to do resolutions for the new year, one would be to disconnect more. To analyse this match fairly, I’m just going to ignore the many pointless ‘controversies’ that surrounded this, and take it on its face. Honestly, either way, this match SLAPPED.
I think the most recent Dynamite was a step up in production, with improved camera shots, general flow and many other little details that made it a more watchable episode. Special shout-out to the HOOK-signal, which helped to give the main event that energy and showcased the considered effort to enhance the stock of the The Cold-Hearted Handsome Devil through presentation as well as giving him a big main event match.
HOOK came out swinging, but was quickly cut down. Joe hit Taz’s baby boy with a series of brutal moves, powerbombing him on the apron and plowing him through the announcers table, all while maintaining a commanding swagger.
Despite him controlling practically the entire match, HOOK definitely stayed in the match, kicking out of the Muscle-Buster quickly, almost trying to piss off Joe as he seems to a certain section of ‘fans’ (yes, I’ll start on that resolution next week). These little touches helped not only maintain but elevate HOOK’s stock. A surprising thing given the actual share of offence.
As Mufasa put it in the cash-grab remake of The Lion King, “While others search for what they can take, a true king searches for what he can give.” Joe delivered a great match in under 10 minutes, elevated a younger talent and made himself look amazing. True World Champ behaviour.
A fantastic first step of Joe’s Reign, and with Swerve and Hangman calling next, there’s even brighter horizons ahead. If I was to offer some fantasy booking, a triple threat at Revolution where the intense rivalry of Swerve and Page momentarily distracts them, allowing Joe to quickly strike and leave with the title seems in order. Because despite Hangman saying that he doesn’t think about Swerve at all (great reference Hangers), methinks the cowboy doth protest too much…
I can only hope that Joe’s reign isn’t too short, as he’s the king that we need and deserve.
Moment of the Week: Peter.
The first anniversary of the death of a loved one sucks. Trust me on that if you've never experienced a day like that. You might have to go to work but you can't help but think of the events 365 days previous, when you have time to think you can't help but think of the day you lose one of the most important people in your life. So to take a microphone and talk in front of people on the first anniversary of the death of his brother Jay, even if you're a natural at talking in front of people shows a bravery that I and the many who watched can never fathom. But you also have to remember that Mark gave that incredible eulogy at his brother's funeral, so maybe we shouldn't be surprised.
Nor should we be surprised that AEW and Tony Khan decided to replay the tribute video to Jay Briscoe that was shown for last year amongst the tributes to the younger Briscoe which was such a wonderful tribute to Jay. But there was one surprise that made a touching tribute to Jay so memorable and so beautiful.
That tragic day when we lost Jay, news about his daughters Jayleigh and Gracie would drop bit by bit about their survival and recouperation but as the news cycle keeps on turning the events of Jan 17th 2023 were yesterdays news. Yes, we would hear about the Briscoes in Observer HOF discussions, the anniversary of the Dog Collar Chain Match between The Briscoes and FTR stoked memories but we didn't hear anything about the Jayleigh and Gracie. A Google search about the pair (this particular moment I'm talking about aside) has seen the last news result about them being 22nd Feb last year.
When Mark started to speak about his nieces especially the oldest Gracie and the fear that she'd never walk again, you could have heard a pin drop in the arena, those in the crowd who had tried their best to be heard 30 seconds earlier, their voices were nowhere to be heard.
But when Mark said "HOWEVER" the roar of joy might have been the biggest of the night. The sight of Jay's three children coming onto the stage might have left a few in the arena with wetter eyes than they anticipated at the start of the evening. Taz said it best by saying "That's Awesome". The caption below also said it best by saying "Dem Boys will never be forgotten" because the spirit and determination of Jay has certainly been inherited by Gracie judging by her recovery. Seeing Mark with his nieces and nephew linked together in a hug showed that through the tragedy, togetherness will always prevail.
MVP of the Week: Gareth.
After laying down the law in his first promo as champion, Samoa Joe has now had his first title defence in a match against Hook. In a company which, during large parts of 2023 was criticised with losing its identity, this felt distinctly ‘AEW’.
The match reminded me a lot of Chris Jericho’s matches against Darby Allin in the early days of AEW. Where a bully-ish heel champion took on a young up-coming babyface who is innately so easy to root for in that setting.
Joe’s promo was a couple of weeks ago, but his statement carries true and is a massive part in contributing to what many people feel is a sort of resurrection of AEW’s identity.
We can look at Kenny Omega’s title reign also where he faced Jungle Boy, as well as Jericho’s match with Darby Allin. These both marked big moments for the challengers as we see some fighting spirit and the fans grow that little bit closer to the wrestler as a result.
The thing which is crucial to this is the champion’s humility outside of kayfabe. The willingness to give the young challenger something to help them to that next level.
For Darby Allin this was having his hands tied behind his back but still taking Jericho to what felt like the limit. For Jungle Boy it was a super competitive match with multiple near-falls against an all-timer. Now for Hook it was kicking out of Samoa Joe’s devastating finisher, the Muscle Buster, at one.
AEW is, seemingly by choice, bringing back this feeling of its identity in 2024 and Samoa Joe, despite never being part of that AEW, has been a huge part of that presentation thus far.