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 Gareth [@Gareth_EW] with both match & move of the week, Trish [@TrishSpeirs48] writing moment of the week, Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering promo of the week, Sam [@Sir_Samuel] reflecting on the key story beat, Peter [@PeterEdge7] giving us the MVP.
Match of the Week: Gareth.
Swerve Strickland vs. Dustin Rhodes
Well, this is surely a first in AEWeekly history. Because AEW's match of the week ended in a disqualification? But I guess that's what happens when a company doesn't bastardise tropes in wrestling, and only uses them when it fits the story. More on that later.
The match started after a fiery from Dustin, as Swerve sent his heavy, Parker Boudreaux to attack 'The Natural' as he made his entrance. But Rhodes, with turnbuckle ready, takes Parker out with one hit of the metal object. As Dustin is making his entrance Jim Ross points out Dustin's experience. A 5-decade veteran with over 2,700 matches, and he would need that experience.
He would need it because Swerve started this match brilliantly, with a cerebral game plan to exterminate Rhodes, busting his opponent open early on. But Dustin showed heart, as he showed with two kick-outs.
First, after a House Call (jumping kick to the back of the head), Dustin kicked out of the cover at one, showing that fire from the promo. But then shortly after a Death Valley Driver on the apron, Dustin kicked out again, this time at two, but actually throwing Swerve off him as good ol' JR shouted "that's just guts! True grit to get the win!"
Dustin then made his comeback, even whilst stumbling around the ring almost unaware of where he is. Hitting a Cross-Rhodes before a Final Reckoning to get what would have presumably been the victory.
But then enters Parker Boudreaux who pulls Rhodes off Strickland, out of the ring and throws him into the ring-steps forcing Aubrey Edwards to ring the bell for a disqualification.
Now, this could easily scan as a young up-comer having to resort to a DQ against an old man. But the way this story has been positioned, Dustin is the veteran who refuses to say die and forces Swerve to go to the depths. Really hammering home that this isn't the loveable, charismatic guy we came to know in AEW throughout 2022. He's an evil, evil man entering the levels of MJF.
It's phenomenal character-based storytelling from both men. All coming before Keith Lee makes his heroic return ahead of what will presumably be a fantastic match for Revolution.
Promo of the Week: Sergei.
Evil Uno, I GUESS??
So, this week is widely acknowledged as an off-week for AEW. What "off week" means to people ranges from "this is a sign of serious underlying problems" to "jeez, after the past month of amazing shows, give 'em a break, nobody's perfect!" Being on the promo beat for the weekly Roundtable gives me a little bit of a different perspective: as great as the past few weeks have been, it's been a real struggle to pick someone who really seems worthy of "promo of the week," and this week even moreso.
AEW has some of the very best microphone-warriors in the pro wrestling world under their banner, ranging from guys who are currently highly featured like Moxley, Hangman, and Friedman, to others who have been de-emphasized or absent, like Miro, Kingston, and Punk. It's definitely got me wondering why more of these guys aren't positioned to succeed?
Moxley, Hangman, and Friedman all had words today, but nothing special, for them. Evil Uno had a part in the BCC/Hangman segment and then a pre-tape on Rampage setting up a match next Wednesday with Moxley that reminded us how much fun his dignified and pompous silliness could be. But we're REALLY scraping a barrel, here!
Tl;dr: Why aren't WE, the AEW fans, getting this Eddie Kingston? We could, anytime they want to give the man something to really work with!
Story Beat of the Week: Sam.
'Jungle Boy' Jack Perry’s Final Hurdle
The story beat I’ve chosen to highlight this week, the return of Christian Cage, is one that demonstrates AEW’s sometimes subtle long term characterisation and storytelling that will often go unremarked on.
For weeks now Jungle Boy Jack Perry has been talking about and motioning that he wants to win a singles title. He broke up his budding tag team with Hook to pursue this goal and he has since beaten both Bian Cage for a second time and Ryan Nameth. However, neither of those two are truly the kind of scalp that will earn Perry the right to pursue and win a singles championship. To get to that point in AEW a wrestler will typically pick up a big win before they challenge for the title, think Hangman Page pushing Mox off the ladder, Miro winning Arcade Anarchy, Wardlow beating MJF or Kenny Omega beating Hangman Page. This gives a sense of momentum heading into a title program so the win feels part of an overall progression upwards for the character.
Enter back into Jungle Boy’s life Christian Cage.
Cage not only has substantial unresolved history with Jack Perry but won the Impact & TNA Title off Kenny Omega on AEW television so is an established heavy hitter.
This will be a diversion off of Jungle Boy’s previously stated course to singles gold however setting that up before positions this final showdown with his most bitter rival as not only a match with immense personal stakes but implications for Perry’s long term goals and trajectory within AEW.
This kind of story beat is hardly ground breaking but is something that has not always been present over the last ten years in mainstream American pro wrestling. When it is plotted out shows the detail and thought put into many of the stories we see in AEW on a weekly basis.
Moment of the Week: Trish.
Often the moment of the week is something which was captivating; perhaps an item that moved a story forward in a positive fashion or had great energy. This week is none of those things.
The finish and aftermath of Dynamite's "triple threat" was one of worst things to happen on AEW television in quite some time. After ten minutes of paint by numbers action Saraya would insert herself into the match, breaking up the lockjaw and hitting Britt Baker with her finisher. She would then spray Toni Storm's behind so that Baker's face would be marked from the hip attack. Storm wouldn't get the pin though, being chucked out of the ring on top of her new associate by Ruby Soho, who would then roll up Baker for the win after far too much time had passed from the initial move.
The post match saw Soho stand in between Hayter and Saraya before motioning for the belt whilst attempting to display conflict with the full range of facial expressions you would expect to find on NXT.
For all the good in AEW at this point, this summed up its weaknesses. If someone can intervene at any time in a match why wouldn't they from the start? Why is Britt Baker, AEW's biggest homegrown women's star, made to look a complete loser? Why hasn't this story been abandoned after it played out to complete silence in numerous weeks leaving the World Champion as a bystander? Why didn't they run the more captivating option of Britt-Hayter?
This moment felt like pure WWE. It was nonsensical, no one came out of it looking any better then before they went in. Quite simply, It was a story from another time that shouldn't have played out on AEW television in 2023. I wish I could have picked something else but this was a glaring mishap on a pretty tepid show. They can do much better then this.
Move of the Week: Gareth.
When AEW announced a The Elite vs. Top Flight & AR Fox re-match on Rampage before the NBA All-Star Weekend, in a skit revolving around basketball, you just knew what was coming. A load of nonsense (brilliance) involving basketballs in the ring.
Now there is the obvious question of "was this technically legal in a wrestling match?" And the answer is probably no. But with both sides engaging in the peacocking, let's just say the ref decided to let it slide.
From using the basketball as a distraction to gain an advantage to throwing it into each other's crotches, both teams had a lot of fun with it. They added another dynamic and injected some fun into a match that was there to offer some light relief through comedy and high-flying action.
Just one of countless examples of The Elite doing something completely different. They will be truly missed if they are to leave the company.
MVP of the Week: Peter.
If you had said to me on the onset of our AEWeekly series that Jeff Jarrett would be the recipient of MVP of the week there would have been a bigger "huh" than when Jeff Jarrett showed up for the first time on AEW television, but this is what you get when Trish hands me the keys to her bit.
But Jarrett getting his due this week isn't because of a "meh" Dynamite, but due to the renaissance of Jarrett and also the way he held himself in the tragic circumstances thrown his way this week.
We can't talk about Jarrett's week without talking about his appearance on the Hey (EW) show on the AEW YouTube channel. If you are unaware of the show, Hey (EW) is a 10 to 15 minute show presented by RJ City in the style of the hit show Between Two Ferns and while some that have appeared completely get what their role is supposed to be, like William Regal (who had Ken Barlow and Deidre Rachid mentioned on an AEW media property in their AEW bingo card?) and Tazz. Some stay in character and it doesn't work, (Adam Cole,) and some just get it completely wrong, (yes, I'm looking at you Ruby Soho). Jeff's appearance is in the S Tier along with Regal and Tazz. Take 15 minutes out of your day to watch it, you won't regret it.
News broke on Valentine's Day that legendary promoter Jerry Jarrett, the man behind the glory days of Memphis Wrestling, the territory it could be argued did "sports entertainment" better than any promotion in American Wrestling history, had passed away. (I would recommend people watch the March 1, 1986 episode of CWA Wrestling or the montage video of the Jerry Lawler vs Tommy Rich feud to get an insight into Jerry's booking) Tributes flew in, moments of Jerry's creations were highlighted, and goodwill was given to the family of Jerry. For his son Jeff, the inevitable had happened. Losing a parent is always going to happen if you live long enough. You wish they were immortal but even in an industry where that word gets thrown about, the day comes when you are not. But while facing off with the inevitable, Jeff in amongst his mourning wanted to bring some normality to his world.
When Tony Khan in one of his regular appearances on Busted Open Radio announced as per Jeffs wishes that the Team Jarrett vs Acclaimed/Billy Gunn 6-man was still going ahead, it made sense. The Jarrett family and wrestling have been united since World War 2. Wrestling has been in Jeff's fabric since he was a child. His appearance in the 1/3/86 episode of Memphis Wrestling is key to the greatness of that show, and wrestling just 24 hours after the death of his father is just the done thing for a Jarrett, but when Jeff hit his traditional running attack on Anthony Bowens on the ropes and broke out his Fargo Strut taken from one of his dads contemporaries, it actually wasn't a tribute or homage, it was Jeff doing what he loves. On this night, Jeff wasn't looking for a standing ovation, Jarrett channelled the great heel that helped make his family a household name.
While Jeff would have surely got the love and empathy from his colleagues he deserved, he didn't want a second of that from the fans at attendance. He didn't want a standing ovation, a chant of sympathy, he even probably told Max Caster to call him a nepo baby. He wanted to be the Jeff Jarrett we've seen in the last few months. It's not just playing a role of pro wrestler, it's not even being a carny. It was a man playing a role and being valuable to the team.
I was tempted to call it courageous when I started writing this up but it's actually just a man just doing something he loves even in his darkest day and that is something to aspire to be.