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 Craig [@CraigPWMusings] writing about match of the week, Trish [@TrishSpeirs48] giving us the weekly MVP and key story beat, Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering the best promo, Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week and Gareth [@Gareth_EW] covering move of the week.
Match of the Week by Craig
Young Bucks vs Aussie Open
The Young Bucks warned everyone that this was going to be a reminder, and after a long wait for a victory as a twosome, they put on a tremendous match and were victorious.
From a quick glance at the stats, you will see what an offence-rich match this was. Both teams in the high teens for strikedowns, the Bucks using 11 dives and Aussie Open hitting 15 high-impact grapples. So to get an idea of how compact and effective this match was, we are going to compare it with Aussie Open’s match with FTR.
(Click to enlarge)
You can really see how these teams laid on the high-impact moves; strikedowns, grapples and dives are comparatively high, whereas the match in New Japan utilised more simple strikes and submission time, as you’d expect in such a lengthy match.
This match also saw more in the way of showmanship, as both teams whipped up crowd response via taunts and fire-up spots as well as the physical in-ring exchanges. All this achieved in 16 minutes is a useful skill in itself.
The Bucks and Aussie Open sold for each other by absorbing their opponents biggest moves. The 54% Big Offence means that most of the offence in the match was Strikedowns, grapples or dives. This is unusually high as it’s usually within the 20-40% range.
This is emphasised clearly by the comparison above; both matches had similar rates of offence use across the match, but the Bucks match saw more heavy hitting stuff. All in all, the Bucks and Aussie Open ensured the losing team were memorable due to the jaw-dropping danger of their offence and the necessity for the winning team to go big in response.
Promo of the Week by Sergei.
MJF Opens Up Yet Another Layer
There was a tweet about MJF's promo on Wednesday that I've been thinking about since:
Of course a big challenge in text communication is figuring out the intended tone: I can't be sure if "WrestleCringe" means the word "loving" here sincerely or sarcastically, (although their handle gives me an idea which way to guess!) But either way, I think it raises an interesting point of comparison and/or contrast. With any great villain, their awful behavior raises a question to the audience which the narrative needs to address:
Like the Joker, MJF gives us many different answers to that question at different points in the narrativea, and the interesting hypothesis to test between the two is whether, (like the Joker,) those differing answers are incompatible with each other, and, if so, are the inconsistencies intentional and meant to reveal something about the character, (as with the Joker,) or are they only revealing plot holes and bad writing?
The first time the Joker in The Dark Knight tells someone how he got his scars, neither his diegetic auditor nor the audience on the other side of the screen has any strong reason to disbelieve him. He seems to be making a point based on a deeply personal anecdote from his past. (Something that MJF seems to do from time to time as well.) But the second time he tells the story, while the character he's speaking to still has no particular reason to disbelieve, as she wasn't present the first time, the audience now knows better than to take the Joker's words at face value. Specifically: because the two versions of the story are mutually exclusive. This is no error or plot hole, this is a reveal—letting the audience in on the fact that the Joker is someone who will make up an emotional story from whole cloth for no immediately obvious purpose.
The biggest difference between MJF's "origin stories" and the Joker's then are that, while they both tell stories that are very different from each other, Maxwell's stories aren't actually mutually exclusive. This week, he let us know that his fiancée dumped him (and, in a blurring of fiction and reality, this seems to be the case with the performer behind the character) and he believes he'll never have anything to make his life worth living beyond athletic accomplishment. Two weeks ago he claimed he once switched seats after an accident to avoid consequences, to illustrate how deep he's willing to sink to get the outcome he wants. On other occassions, he told anecdotes that revealed reasons for grudges with specific other characters: CM Punk and William Regal. And months ago, he told us about how as a kid he had dealt with anti-semitic bullying and feeling he'd never amount to anything due to his ADHD.
Since these stories don't contradict, there's no reason they can't all be true. Equally, there's no reason some couldn't be true, while others are exaggerated for effect, while others were invented to make a point. The only reason these stories from MJF's past would present a problem would be if they were redundant, or icoherent, and I don't believe that's the case. Each of these stories has moved the character of MJF in a new direction, revealing a new aspect of who he is. Some of those aspects are sympathetic while others are unsympathetic. But that isn't inconsistent or incoherent, that's realistic, complex character building.
While there are aspects of MJF's characterization that we might typically expect to see in a protagonist, it all adds up to a coherent portrait of a damaged individual who lashes out viciously at everyone around him. As PWM's own Greyson Peltier puts it:
Story Beat of the Week by Trish.
Evil Uno Confronts Moxley
When Evil Uno pushed himself in front of Adam Page to confront Jon Moxley last week a section of the viewership was aghast. "Why is this "jobber" confronting Mox?" "The Dark Order only bring Page down." The Dark Order was being disrespected by parts of the audience and this was reflected in story as well.
The Dark Order have been part of the Page-Moxley story since the Cowboy's return in November and perhaps even longer when looking back. They have supported Page through his journey to the AEW World Championship, even when he has refused their help or overlooked it in favour of others. At times, he has disresoected their abilities in the same way the audience has. This week that was brought to an end.
Evil Uno not only told Hangman to respect him by not coming out to the ring for his match with Mox but also that he was standing up for Dark Order. He told Page that he isn't Dark Order and that he therefore doesn't understand what the group has been through with each loss and betrayal. They are still his friends but they won't accept him being embarressed of them or isolating himself in the name of their protection.
There was some finality to this, the Dark Order who had begun trying to recruit Page in the fall of 2020 had finally given up the chase. The three men left are now fighting for themselves and Uno would do exactly that in Wednesday's main event.
Uno's valiant display against a vicious and vindictive Mox brought the crowd to their feet. His battle against a much more powerful foe displayed fearlessness and heart. He earned their respect on that night despite his defeat.
It was clear that he also earned Page's as well, who abided by his wishes and did not hit the ring until the match was over. Getting revenge on Moxley for what happened to his friend adds another emotional line to this conflict for Page leading into the PPV whilst also reminding him of how much support he does have from the people around him.
Moment of the Week: Peter.
MJF tells the world of his heartbreak.
Once again a MJF promo has set the conversation in the days after Dynamite and like promos in the past, MJF used events in his life as the template for a promo but unlike the tale of the road head and the car crash, MJF's tale truly struck to the the core of what makes Maxwell Jacob Freidman such a compelling character.
While Sergei will talk about the promo in its broader scope elsewhere in this roundtable, let's look at the moment when MJF basically revealed to the world that he is no longer engaged.
Part of the beauty that is MJF and his character is what drives him to be the person that he is. What made MJF so compelling in the feud with CM Punk were moments of schadenfreude for the fans when Punk got the upper hand on him that were moments of heartbreak for MJF based on events in his past.
MJF and his character is based on sliding doors moments. What if MJF had not suffered anti-Semitic abuse from his football teammates at school. What if CM Punk had not walked out of pro wrestling the night after the 2014 Royal Rumble and now what if his fiancée had not split up with MJF.
Was Naomi Rosenbloom the person that was supposed to save MJF? but now all alone with nothing but Triple B to keep him company, MJF gave everyone an insight into his frame of mind which is a dark place right now and with once again schadenfreude filling an AEW arena in a moment of heartbreak for MJ and just like every sliding door moment associated with MJF, the moment of his split from his fiancée and the fans reaction will be a source of an outpouring of spite from Maxwell and with all of the talk about how Bryan Danielson will use the hour to outshine MJF, there is a chance that MJF will use the hour to show the world how spiteful he really is.
Move of the Week: Gareth.
Claudio Slaps Yuta
Initially I was going to speak about Jon Moxley's bulldog choke on Evil Uno to end their bloody Dynamite main event. But my 'move of the week' is one actually exchanged between allies, not opponents.
When Claudio Castagnoli slapped Wheeler Yuta a few minutes into his match with Orange Cassidy, the former 'Swiss Superman' lit a fire in young Wheeler that saw him fight to the very end before Orange Cassidy extinguished it.
As much as this was just a slap to wake Yuta up, there's something going on with Blackpool Combat Club and this slap has an interesting place. I can't put my finger on exactly what's going on with the BCC. But at its core there's a question surrounding the identity of the group.
With William Regal's betrayal and exit from the company the BCC were left in a strange position. Yuta in particular seemed left without a mentor, but that's a role that Claudio has stepped into. Taking Yuta under his wing, more so than Moxley or Bryan Danielson.
Looking out for Yuta, not just in matches like this and giving Wheeler the motivation he needs. But also in standing up for him in the face of Danielson's rage. Something that might become rather significant if we are to see a split, or a change in attitude, amongst the Blackpool Combat Club.
MVP of the Week: Trish.
After last week's subdued Dynamite it was important this week's episode got off on the right foot. Who do you call when you need instant positivity, fun and crowd engagement? Well, it's hard to think of anyone better to turn to then Orange Cassidy.
Cassidy creates an instant uplift to the atmosphere, is effortlessly cool and is quietly one of the best storytellers on the roster. Wednesday night's opener with Wheeler Yuta was well paced with a great finishing sequence whilst being full of call backs to Yuta's time with the Best Friends before his breakaway to become part of the BCC last spring.
His standing as a babyface ensured they got the desired reaction to Yuta's heel leaning as well. Others may have been met with silence in such a situation. It was important to establish this early on in the night with what was to come in the main event as well as in the coming weeks.
Orange Cassidy is an invaluable resource, a character which is so vastly different from others around him whilst also being a fantastic in ring worker that never gets enough credit. He is quietly having one of the best title reigns globally without recieving much fanfare. Long may it continue as it is for the betterment of AEW as a whole.