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] covering match of the week, Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering promos and MVP, Saul [@SaulKiloh] exploring a key story beat, and Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week.
Match of the Week: Gareth.
Orange Cassidy ‘Swerves’ Strickland
‘Match of the Week’ feels like a cheat code in recent months. [Insert Orange Cassidy title reign match], write a few paragraphs on how much of a babyface genius OC is. But it’s true and these old, classic tricks keep being great.
At this point in his all-timer title reign Cassidy is selling every body part. He’s been beaten down so bad in every match but keeps finding ways out of matches. His desperation was heightened in this match, highlighted by two beautiful diving DDTs, and when Swerve reversed a third it was obvious just how desperate OC is getting.
Strickland played his role brilliantly here. Beating the champion down and deconstructing him limb from limb. When he hit his House Call kick followed by the Swerve Stomp, I think everyone thought it was done. But somehow Orange Cassidy kicked out, truly one of the best near-falls of the year.
Pinning combinations are then exchanged with the heel Strickland grabbing Cassidy’s tights. Orange reverses the pin, rolling Swerve up and swerving him by grabbing the tights back to get the 1, 2, 3. A traditional heel move, but turnabout is fair play.
OC retains in probably the most desperate fashion thus far. He’s got to be close to dropping the title now, many thought it’d happen here. But a post-match beatdown perhaps suggests that Strickland’s business with Cassidy isn’t over.
Promo of the Week: Sergei.
Danielson Vows "No Rain"
Sometimes a promo pushes the boundaries of what a promo can be, and that can be a good thing or a bad thing. But other times, a great promo simply does a simple job very, VERY well. And that's exactly what Bryan Danielson does and why he's underrated on the mic, and his pretaped video challenge to Kazuchika Okada was a perfect example of this.
As simple, effective premises for a story go, the story Danielson told is one of the simplest and best: "they say you're the best, and I hear you want to fight me, so let's put all doubt to rest." The setting in which Danielson delivered his message—on a hike through a barren, desert landscape—is one that he's used in the past, because it suggests many things about his character: his love of nature, his dedication to tough training, but also his Spartan attitude and philosophy of living. But in this case, it also fit in perfectly with one of the best snappy bits of wordplay to close a promo that I've heard in quite a while… Danielson plays off of Okada's well known nickname and finisher name "the Rainmaker" to assert that wrestling him will be like the desert "and there ain't gonna be no rain"!!!
Story Beat of the Week: Saul.
A New Challenger Approaches
Many television shows work from a formula. Take for example the myriad of police procedurals shows. The cops become aware of a crime, investigate said crime and after weeding out the red herrings, bring the guilty party to justice before the credits roll. Other than giving people a false impression of how effective the police are, I don't have a problem with shows like this. Using a familiar story structure doesn't impede having fun character interactions, satisfying narrative progression or the exploration of interesting themes. However, if these things are left lacking, then the formula can start to wear thin.
MJF came out to the ring in the middle of Dynamite, as he was contractually obligated to. He began his usual spiel about how he's so dominant that no other wrestler in AEW can compare. Fans who are familiar with MJF storylines were likely expecting his next championship contender to gate-crash and declare their intentions to rid the devil of his title. Some people had prophesied that it would be someone from New Japan to set up a match for Forbidden Door. However, having read Sergei's analysis of MJF's silent promo from a few weeks ago and how that segment deviated from the original plan, I wasn't surprised when it was Adam Cole who interrupted proceedings.
The segment seemed to split opinion. People were either hot or cold. Not me though. I was much like a Coca-Cola can left on the living room table overnight. Extremely tepid. MJF aped many of the internet trolls' opinions that are often thrown at The Chugs. Adam Cole commented about Max's fiancée leaving him and that no-one respected the champion. All completely fine stuff. However, I was left wondering what the unique angle for this feud is. The CM Punk rivalry covered MJF facing off against a former idol. Danielson already made a meal out of MJF's relationship woe. The four pillars storyline, much maligned as it was, effectively covered the locker room not respecting Max. So I'll ask again, why this feud? What are the new narrative elements?
I don't mean to sound too gloomy, or to suggest that I don't like the way MJF's storylines have been structured. I like that there is a clear design about who the next opponent will be and that they are given a lot of promo time to develop the story. However, the four pillars storyline lost a lot of its lustre by the time it reached Double or Nothing, so I think MJF and AEW should beware how they proceed.
A championship eliminator match was announced between MJF and Cole for next week's Dynamite. How this match plays out should shine light on how this feud will go. Will Cole win and have a TV main event title match? Or will Max find a way to weasel out, leaving Cole to work his way back into the title picture for All Out? I wouldn't mind seeing MJF have some more short programs between PPVs. I think it would help AEW programming stay more fresh and would also get the most out of MJF's championship reign. Either way, I'm hopeful they can stick the landing after this rather bumpy beginning.
Moment of the Week: Peter.
The Biggest Ever Forbidden Door?
To paint a picture for you guys of last Sunday morning, me and my dad were watching Dominion and after the IWGP Title match we both looked at each other and dad said "the wrong man won" but enough about SANADA vs Yota Tsuji, I'm actually here to talk about what happened half an hour earlier.
After the Never 6-man Title match (more on that match in my June in Star Ratings column in 3 weeks) Jon Moxley took the mic and talked about training with the best wrestler in the world. It was this point that that gut feeling rose up in me and many others.
The living embodiment of the "It's Happening" GIF was occurring in living rooms of New Japan World subscribers during lunchtimes in the UK and in the early morning in the States. As much as I like Wheeler Yuta, it was obvious that Mox wasn't talking about the young boy of the Blackpool Combat Club.
Even if you could barely make out what the man was saying over the annoy system bring relayed over the television, you knew who the man was walking across the Arizona desert hiking over the boulders.
But if you hadn't put 2+2 together and got the answer 4 yet, the reveal of Bryan Danielson as the man who was calling out Kazuchika Okada told you that one of the big dream matches that we are yet to see was going to happen. The Yes chants that dominated the sound inside the Osaka Jo Hall was the sound of a fan base that knows how good Bryan Danielson is, whether it was from his time as ROH World Champion, being the face of the Yes Revolution in WWE or his run in what looks like the autumn of his career. The fact that Eddie Kingston got the pop he did when he was revealed as being a G1 participant tells you that AEW's content on NJPW World in Japan is being taken in by the streaming service's subscribers tells you that fans west of the Pacific Ocean are looking forward to the dream matches that will dominate Forbidden Door. The reaction of those in Jo Hall tell you that it isn't just wrestling nerds in the western world that are being catered to like those bad faith merchants are trying to brainwash some into believing. Wrestling nerds from Japan are also being catered to and that's just fine.
In a discourse where people who think they know it all lecture people about what is needed for the casuals, Forbidden Door is for us wrestling nerds. Those who have followed Bryan Danielson from the night he burst onto the scene in the 2001 King of the Indies to wowing the masses in that Ironman Match vs MJF and Kazuchika Okada from his torrid stint in Impact Wrestling to his current run channeling his inner Jumbo Tsuruta, Danielson vs Okada is a match for those that have fantasy booked nights like Forbidden Door, who have gone on TEW and Journey of Wrestling. This is a match for the fan that is die hard into the industry of pro wrestling and no one can take that away from them.
This is the dream match of all dream matches and the announcement was a moment to cherish for fans like me and many others.
MVP of the Week: Sergei.
In the last couple months, Orange Cassidy has indisputably been the MVP overall, with MVP of the Week three times, when nobody else got it more than once, tied with Darby for most match of the week appearances at 3, and well ahead of anybody else for most total appearances as winner in any category. In wrestling, it generally holds true that it takes two to tango, but for most of that time, the Freshly Squeezed One hasn’t been in a feud with anybody, particularly, other than human frailty, seeming to pick up a new challenger and immediately dispatch them in spite of continuously accruing wear and tear. But since Double or Nothing, an antagonist has arisen who seems like he might stick around a while, and the perfect guy to be a villainous counterpart for Orange: Swerve Strickland.
Like Orange, Swerve is the charismatic leader of his own faction, has an exciting and dynamic moveset, and is known for getting in his opponents' heads. But at the same time, Swerve is able to keep the fans booing, even while performing fun and impactful moves. And Swerve has a hypnotic and menacing way with words, and is convincing each time he says that this is his time for a big win, even though that hasn't happened for him yet, in singles. So a lot of us were convinced Swerve was the man who would finally take the gold away from Orange. When it didn't work out that way, one might argue this was a misstep and we won't believe in Swerve next time without a lot of rebuilding, and yet that's what we said last time he had a big loss, (against Darby a few weeks ago).
Swerve isn't done with Orange yet, with his whole faction taking on a loose alliance of his last few feuds, a match that could lead to an extension of hostilities with OC and another shot at his gold, or to a transition back to feuding with Darby or Keith Lee. But either way, Swerve remains one of the most important story building blocks of the AEW world, and my choice for MVP this week.