MOX VS PUNK | AEWeekly Review #29
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] exploring match of the week and story beats, Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering promos, 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.
Match of the Week: Gareth
Jon Moxley vs. ‘Lionheart’ Chris Jericho
I think everyone had a good level of expectations for this match. Mox is on a run that may just be the best of his career. He’s at his expressive and physical peak, whilst also showing the wisdom of a veteran. And Chris Jericho, whilst in the twilight of his career, is still not at the “you’ve still got it” stage of his career, because he never lost it.
But as much as there were relatively high expectations for this match, they smashed it out the park. The decision to use Jericho’s ‘Lionheart’ gimmick and lean into the technical and submission-based style, was a great one. This allowed Jericho to be the maniacal “wizard” without exposing his physical ageing.
Perhaps there were moments that Jericho was slowing down. I have heard that from people online, although I didn't notice it myself. Because, like the audience in the arena, I was too enthralled by the in-ring storytelling.
This was Moxley’s greatest test as champion and that was best epitomised by Jericho putting Moxley in ‘The Walls of Jericho’ for an entire commercial break. I feel sorry for American viewers because whilst they did get that in picture and picture, they didn’t get to hear just how invested the crowd were. How desperate they were for Mox to reach the ropes.
And this is a match where Mox only escaped. A fantastic babyface performance that one might expect more from a Darby Allin or a Jungle Boy. We rarely see Mox struggle quite this much. But that just put Jericho over all the more, despite him tapping out.
Masterful pro-wrestling. Jericho used every trick in the book, but Moxley’s trusty Bulldog Choke got the job done.
Story Beat of the Week: Gareth.
And then after the match, as chaos ensued with BCC and JAS brawling, we got the return of AEW Champion CM Punk, who closed the show by going face-to-face with interim champ Moxley.
This is an absolute dream feud for me and many AEW fans. Not just because both men are absolutely elite. But because there is so much meat on this bone in terms of story.
When Moxley walked out of WWE on his terms he went and did everything Punk spoke about in his pipebomb promo and various others. Mox went to New Japan, he went and became the big star on the indies, he strapped the revolution to his back.
And now that he’s built a new platform for wrestlers to thrive, now CM Punk returns to cash in. The Dynamite before ‘The First Dance’ where CM Punk was rumoured to, and did, return, Mox cut a promo talking about how everyone wants a piece of his pie.
And here we are, a year later and, despite teaming with each other earlier in the year, it’s Mox vs. Punk. Interim Champion vs. Champion. The best in the world vs. the “best in the world”.
Who knows exactly where they’ll take this story? Will Mox win? Will Punk? Will there be a heel turn? How much will they go for each other’s necks?
These are questions that will be answered over time. But what is guaranteed are some incredible promos, promo-battles and an amazing main event for All Out.
Moment of the Week: Peter.
It was really great to see CM Punk back on AEW TV on Wednesday. To see him full of fire going through JAS showed that Punk really was missed by not only me but by many others judging by the joyous reaction of the Target Arena crowd.
But it's the reaction of one person to Punk's return that gets my Moment of the Week.
Since Punk's enforced absence and Tony Khan's decision to introduce an Interim World Champion, it has been the Summer of Mox with Jon Moxley's run as interim World Champion helping make him the front runner for Wrestler of The Year but the word Interim has hung over him throughout and no matter how many times he says otherwise the record books will say that he is going to be the interim World Champion of AEW in the months of May, July and August and maybe deep down Mox knows it.
So, when Moxley realised he was in the same ring with CM Punk, he looked at his fellow Blackpool Combat Club teammates and motioned that "he had this". The man whose eyes Mox was staring at wasn't the man who he said yes to when Punk called him up when he needed someone to help him beat FTR to get one last shot at MJF. Mox was staring at the man he needed to beat to stop people putting Interim by his name and that annoyance at having the word Interim associated with him this summer came out not in an act of violence but a middle finger and a brush off that would get him booed.
How much of that was Punk being so beloved that anyone would have got booed for flipping off their guy is another debate but to think that 2022 Jon Moxley would be booed is insane but actually do you blame Jon for his actions? Mox needed to send a message to Punk that he is the champion and that he is currently the man and that middle finger and the brush off was to say that Punk is underneath him in the AEW landscape right now. How Punk reacts, we'll see.
The road to All Out starts and the journey with Punk and Mox with live mics in their hand is going to be so much fun.
Promo of the Week: Sergei.
Matt Jackson Pleads for Forgiveness
This was a fantastic week for telling stories in the ring. One of the best! On the mic? Not so much. Matt Jackson has excellent delivery on the mic, but he’s never going to have the commitment and verisimilitude to be on the level of a Kingston or Punk, to me. But this week he brought something that we don’t see every day in pro wrestling: genuine ambiguity.
There are many unusual aspects to pro wrestling storytelling, but one that really stands out is the frequency of alignment shifts. Stories are driven by conflict, and by the rooting interest of the audience in the parties of that conflict. Lots of stories have the occasional “baddy” have a change of heart. The structure of pro-wrestling requires hearts to change rather frequently for suspension of disbelief, but fans are accustomed to it. So, wrestlers generally play it very BROAD, to signal to the audience if an apology and change of heart is insincere. But on Wednesday, we got something meatier and more complex than the typical sinister wink behind the back of the protagonist.
Matt delivered an apology to Hangman that sounded genuine and heartfelt. If the intent of the story was for the Bucks to now be “good guys,” normally Hangman would accept, and team up with his former allies again. He rushed out to save them, after all!
But the timing is questionable. After all these months, the moment you apologize just happens to be the moment you need something from him?
But Page has a storyline justification for turning down the offer that isn’t necessarily “seeing through Matt’s duplicity”: loyalty to the friends who stood by him all along, the Dark Order. So, maybe everybody is a good guy here? I know that's how a lot of OG Bucks fans see things.
But there’s an old saying: judge a person by how they treat someone who can do nothing for them. Once Hangman was out of earshot, they treated Brandon with the same disrespect and dismissiveness as always. A clue to their genuine state of alignment, perhaps? But one with enough subtlety to allow for ambiguity and alternate interpretations.
Move of the Week: Dan.
I’m an absolute mark for moves being used to tell stories in wrestling…and if that makes me a bad person then so be it. Also, and it’s best not to go too deeply into the reasons behind this, I love ‘coffin stuff’. So you better believe that when those two things are flung together, it’s going to get the much coveted Move of the Week.
Darby Allin and Brody King have been doing their particularly violent dance since the Royal Rampage on 29th June, and for me it’s been a brilliant feud bubbling under the main event scene. Part of what has made it so compelling has been the continued use by the monster Brody King of his hanging choke-hold. He used it to eliminate Darby from the aforementioned Royal Rampage and then used it again to knock Allin unconscious before delivering a frightening Ganso Bomb three weeks ago at Fyter Fest (a former winner of the Move of the Week).
This week though at Quake by the Lake, the tables were turned. After various Sting and House of Black shenanigoats, Darby managed to switch the momentum in his favour by smacking big bloody Brody in the head with a chain. Understandably this caused the brute to sink down to the apron from where he had been precariously perched. Seizing his opportunity, Darby called-back to those previous choke-attacks by wrapping the chain around King’s throat whilst putting extreme leverage on his victim by using the bottom rope.
The giant tried to get to his feet but it was no use, and in a brilliant moment you saw the lights go out as Brody’s arms dropped to his side. Then, to cap it all off, King fell to the floor and into the awaiting coffin like a drunk Premier League footballer being ejected from a gaudy Mayfair club.
It was a glorious act of revenge to round off (hopefully) what has been a tremendously brutal mini-feud and a wonderful example of how you can book a smaller guy to beat the goliaths of AEW. Wardlow next for Darby…ooooh yes please.
MVP of the Week: Trish.
When Chris Jericho defeated Eddie Kingston in an overbooked, chaotic barbed wire deathmatch that was short of time the knives were back out for the 51 year old Canadian. Forgotten were his recent efforts to elevate Shota Umino in an incredible opener at Forbidden Door or him playing the perfect villain to overcome in the following Blood and Guts match. Even last week's main event effort with Wheeler Yuta didn't seem to change opinions of those who wondered why in 2022 he would even be in a big TV title match at all.
What these critics overlook though, is that in these situations, Jericho still feels big time and he can still create an aura around a match. In a match for a title which has felt at times inconsequential or downplayed in its value, he gave it everything he could to reverse that. The Lionheart gimmick not only gave him throwback offense but also helped him structure submissions into the match that kept the crowd behind his opponent but ensured that Jericho truly felt like a huge obstacle to overcome.
His most important mission was to make Jon Moxley look unstoppable, and despite providing most of the offense, he did exactly that. His sell of shock over Mox's kick out of the Judas Effect and then his ultimate submission whilst sporting a crimson mask were memorable and the ultimate platform for his opponent to use going into his unification match at All Out.
With a PPV title match not in his future, Jericho's path will likely be decided by how he reacts to this loss and his once trusty finisher finally not being enough. Will he look to take revenge on anyone close to Moxley or try to prove himself after this humbling? Will he reinvent himself once more?
Chris Jericho was the perfect man to put in this week's main event. This was a welcome call back to one of the best title programs in AEW history that has been built through excellent promo exchanges and created a real aura for its conclusion. It also ensured that none of their future main eventers had time sacrificed for a title which might not feature in the record books. It's a role he's perfect for in 2022 and one he was always going to deliver in.