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 Joe [@GoodVsBadGuys] exploring match of the week, Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering promos, Gareth [@Gareth_EW] covering story beats, Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week, Dan [@WrestlingRhymes] reflecting on the best move and Trish [@TrishSpeirs48] giving us the MVP of the week.
Promo of the Week: Sergei.
Eddie Kingston Promises a Murder
Last week I weighed two promos for promo of the week: one a pretape promo that showed chops and told a story and clearly succeeded in what it set out to do. The other an in-ring promo that showed fiery passion and provoked a reaction from the crowd, but kind of a mixed reaction, and it isn’t yet clear if it will be looked back on as the start of a brilliant new chapter, or “where it all went wrong” for the character.
Same this week.
The first is Eddie Kingston, in a promo that was not included in the “Countdown” show, that at first was just circulating on social media, but was eventually played on the “Buy-In”. In it, Kingston, using a bottle of Jack as a prop, talks about how Jericho’s attacks have brought his old demons to the fore. He comes across as quite genuinely upset and frankly out of control. But in the last moment, he looks into the camera and suddenly changes his affect to amused and totally in-control.
The video as a whole gives the impression of a man who happens to be a brilliant actor who has made a calm and reasoned decision to murder a man and has bent his talents to establishing his insanity defence.
Without this promo, Eddie Kingston showing up with a gas can might have seemed out-of-nowhere, outlandish, narratively incoherent. But WITH the promo, the moment was a perfect narrative fulfilment.
The second is Max Friedman in a worked shoot that literally has the whole world talking. He was incredibly passionate and personal and provoked an amazing response from the crowd. Oddly, what is deeply personal to Max is inside-baseball Wrestling-Observer junk like minute-by-minutes.(ONE OF US ONE OF US)
But as important and undeniable as MJF’s promo is, if I had to pick one from last week, I’d have to quote the Top Gear lads and just say: “That’s brilliant… but I like this!”
Story Beat of the Week: Gareth.
MJF Fires off on Tony Khan
It's being reported, and is my personal opinion, that MJF's public issues and gripes with AEW are very real and not a work. But after reports that Tony Khan sat down with MJF to speak things over, I would be very surprised if the "big man" didn't give Maxwell what he wants. After all, AEW is billed as a meritocracy and TK does not strike me as someone foolish enough to let a talent on the verge of "walking out" loose with a live mic on TV.
However, that is what they want they want you to think and that is the story they're telling. Rather than just hush it up and move on, they're addressing the elephant in the room and are telling a story with it.
This is nothing revolutionary or new. Many people argue wrestling is at its best when it takes real life and builds from it. But it is still fascinating and potentially brilliant storytelling.
MJF was given a live mic to air his grievances and, in his usual fashion, Max starts berating the fans. Saying how their opinions aren't relevant or important, disregarding them as "marks", before moving onto his issues with AEW. Former WWE guys being brought in whilst he does the heavy lifting. Et cetera.
Many fans have said this could be the start of a face-turn for MJF. Others have compared this to CM Punk's "Pipebomb" promo where Punk aired grievances about John Cena, the WWE and Vince McMahon. However, there is a crucial difference between the two.
Punk aimed his promo at the machine, he even pitied John Cena in the promo and spoke of how removed Vince McMahon was from society. MJF meanwhile berated the fans, teased going to the "machine" (WWE) and, the "pipebomb moment" of Maxwell's promo was calling Tony Khan a "f*cking mark", the exact same thing he called all the fans. He's raging against the babyface promotion and relating the boss to the audience.
"You're no better than these people who know nothing," proclaims MJF (I'm paraphrasing) as he raves about how great he is.
This isn't MJF teasing a face turn and it's not a "pipebomb". This is MJF's next attempt at gaslighting the fans. But a great villain, and a great storyteller, will make the audience question things. The moral fabric of the world they live within, even. This is vital to MJF's character because, in his head, he has to be the victim.
Demanding he be freed from his contract days after being forced to free Wardlow from a contract is sweet, sweet karma. It's the perfect consequence for MJF's actions over recent months, and the perfect kick-starter for the next chapter in MJF's arc.
Moment of the Week: Peter.
The Devil Outwits the Angel
There were many moments from Anarchy in the Arena that could qualify for my Moment of the Week from the 180 turn from the Jericho Appreciation Society during the entrance to “Wild Thing” being the soundtrack for the first couple of minutes of the match to 2point0 hitting stereo splashes from the top of ladders to the exchanges between Jericho and both Danielson and Moxley.
But the horror fan in me absolutely adored the moment when Eddie Kingston doused in the result of a fire extinguisher being set off in his face with blood stuck in him (some of it probably not his) stumbled down the ramp like he had just succumbed to an encounter with a herd of zombies with a can of gasoline in his hand.
But it was more than any callback to a zombie movie. The promo which Sergei spoke about above, which is a “must watch” if you haven’t, served as a warning that he was going to do something bad to his enemy in Anarchy in the Arena… and when Eddie, with murderous intentions in his eyes, went down the ramp, you believed for a moment that something bad was going to happen. Tony Schiavone summarised everyone’s thoughts best by saying; “what the hell is wrong with that man?”
The angel in Eddie’s brain had lost out to the devil and he convinced Eddie to something that he would have ended up regretting had Bryan Danielson not intervened.
What Eddie does during Blood and Guts might end up being the main thread of the match in late June. A man who might be lost to the devil in his head that he has spent years trying to bat away might be his team's ace in the hole on 29 June. But at what cost to himself judging by the events of Sunday?
Move of the Week: Dan.
Some might say that it's a bold move to declare war on a deity. Considering the pure number of smitings the Gods faction have racked up over the centuries, I'd certainly think twice before taking any of them on.
Miro however is no normal man and is certainly better prepared than most to go into battle with the almighty. This week he showed that in terrifying fashion against poor old Johnny Elite.
In a short match full of moves sure to have had Miro's creator of choice trembling in their boots, it was the violent end of the contest that was most terrifying.
Rusev's Accolade always felt a tad underwhelming as an end to any match. Miro's Game Over is a totally different beast. And here beastly was indeed the word.
Seemingly channelling every ounce of fury that he had summoned in his pre-match promo, Miro stretched Johnny's spine as if it symbolised anything and everything that has been in his way in recent months. The final and brutal snap backwards brought about an immediate screaming finish, and would you bet against Miro getting his god to submit in a similar fashion?
The return of The Redeemer has been too long in coming for AEW. And Redemption appears to be coming for us all…divine or not.
Match of the Week: Joe.
Anarchy In The Arena
Why was Anarchy in the Arena so great? It was fresh, creative, exciting, scary, funny. It created consequences that moved stories forward.
Stadium Stampede’s first iteration was beloved and is still looked upon fondly. The sequel was good, but not great. Instead of watering down that concept, they created a new one.
They weren’t able to pre-tape and cut from scene to scene here. They had to construct a live action play featuring 10 leads where it didn’t feel like they were sitting around waiting for their turns.
The action had variety to it. There was an action movie vibe when they were brawling with “Wild Thing” playing in the background. There were scary moments with barbed wire and attempted arson. There were funny moments like music star egomaniac Chris Jericho being the one to pull the plug on the soundtrack, or mustard being used as a foreign object.
The things that happened during this match were based on character alignments and backstories, and the fallout from them is creating new consequences and possibilities.
To completely understand why Eddie Kingston wanted to burn Chris Jericho alive, you needed to watch this feud and Eddie’s most recent promo. To completely understand why Bryan Danielson already didn’t like Eddie Kingston before he poured gasoline on him, you would have needed to be watching the show. To completely understand why Jon Moxley, one of the most violent men in wrestling, wanted to play peacemaker, you need to understand his relationships with Eddie and Bryan.
Friendships and feuds matter in AEW, and this match is a great example of that. This led to Blood and Guts being announced for the end of June, with Eddie Kingston, Jon Moxley, and whoever their 3 partners end up being taking on the Jericho Appreciation Society.
Now, will Bryan Danielson still fight alongside Eddie Kingston? I think there’s reason to believe that he won’t, as a consequence of this match.
That leads to the last reason this was such a great viewing experience, the low expectations. There were people online complaining about Danielson getting wasted in a 10-man brawl. There seemed to be a feeling this would be a typical plunder match, with maybe some comic relief.
There was plunder, there was comedy, but there was so much more than that.
MVP of the Week: Trish.
With everything that has gone on at the top of the card in AEW and with newcomer after newcomer being given more focus, it is sometimes easy to forget who this promotion was built on. It's even more of a prominent thought at a time when AEW's identity feels like it is changing as it develops into its next phase as it moves from an upstart alternative to more of an established company.
Chris Jericho was AEW's first world champion, the well travelled veteran using the run to establish both the company and the Championship- gathering media coverage (yes, I still don't believe the belt was stolen), promoting brand new talent such as Darby Allin, Jungle Boy and Sammy Guevara to a TV audience and finishing his reign by executing an excellent story with Jon Moxley during AEW's best period of TV to date. His reign should be the sort of expectation for new Champion CM Punk as a baseline if AEW is going to continue to move forward.
With that completed Jericho hasn't just sat back and collected his money, he's worked to establish popular, younger wrestlers such as Orange Cassidy and MJF and reinvents himself whenever he feels it is necessary. His latest concoction, as "the wizard" has added a side of comedy to a serious feud, something that has regressed in AEW in general from those first couple of years and is a welcome reprieve on the show that has become far more serious in its nature over the past year.
Anarchy in the Arena was a highlight of the PPV, invoking the spirit of the original Stadium Stampede but in a much more brutal way and Wednesday's promo, setting up a hair Vs hair match with Ortiz in two weeks reminded people of his continued commitment to elevate others around him rather then just reinforcing his own name and prominence.
You may not agree with this assessment, you may believe that nothing could be bigger this week then the man operating a worked shoot which is spiking internet interest and I understand those points fully but for me I believe the jury is still out on that angle. How valuable that will be is dependent on if helps to keep the company moving forward, establishes MJF as a star and doesn't set back Wardlow's rise, a somewhat unfortunate side effect with the immediate overshadowing which occurred this week: especially with Friedman completely no selling the powerbombs he took on Sunday.
AEW finds itself at an interesting point: it's vision may have changed, but often it's still some of those original faces that feel like they are strengthening it and that is why Chris Jericho is my MVP of the week.