Updated: Oct 17
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] covering match of the week, Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering promos, Gareth [@Gareth_EW] exploring a key story beat and move of the week, Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week and Trish [@TrishSpeirs48] giving us the MVP of the week.
PAC (C) vs Orange Cassidy.
In PAC’s recent heel turn, he has shown more personality, and was able to garner one of the match’s biggest reactions not from a flip or a dive but mocking Orange’s low-energy series of kicks spot. PAC has also brought about a change in Orange’s personality, turning him into the aggressor. PAC’s cheating and abuse of Orange’s friends inspired the fire that was normally reserved for the ends of matches. These personality moments are what made revisiting this feud worthwhile.
These two have a lot of history in AEW, featuring Orange Cassidy’s first PPV match and true breakout moment at Revolution 2020, and Orange Cassidy’s first and only World Title shot and PPV main event at Double Or Nothing 2021 (in a 3-way with Kenny Omega). These two have maybe too much history recently. Orange Cassidy’s last 3 matches have all been against PAC (the first one being a Trios match).
The problem with going to the well too often with a pairing is the wrestlers end up using all of the tools in the toolbox, and there is nothing new to offer. Simply doing basically the same great match again is not worth anyone’s time in an era where it is easy to just re-watch that match on demand. In this case, luckily these wrestlers have extensive and impressive movesets, and their history allows them to believably reverse or counter all of these moves. However, if you face anyone that often that quickly, you’ll need to get extra creative, and in their last 2 matches they had to resort to an actual tool from a toolbox, a hammer. The use of the hammer led to a very flat finish at Grand Slam, but they nailed the finish this time by hammering home the point that Orange Cassidy is on PAC’s level athletically, and above his level ethically. Orange had the chance to take the easy road to riches by using PAC’s hammer against him, but he took the higher road to glory and won the All-Atlantic Championship fair and square.8
This title win gave AEW fans another much-appreciated feel good moment during a period in the company’s history where there is still a cloud of sadness hanging over it from the Punk-Elite catastrophe. This victory was the biggest crowning moment in Orange Cassidy’s career, and a satisfying end to this rivalry. (Or it would have been, but now they are facing each other again this week on Dynamite).
There was a lot to choose from for promos this week. On Dynamite, Max Friedman cut an amazing storytelling promo where he effectively straddled the tweener fence: not turning face, but deepening the complexity of a character who had been a one-dimensional villain, such that it wouldn’t be incoherent when the fans sometimes root for him. While in a YouTube exclusive from after the show finished taping, Shawn Spears tugged the heartstrings with words of family and home.
But really there was only one choice: Hangman Page cutting the promo of his life.
It started out in earnest babyface mode, with Page talking about his admiration of Jon Moxley, and how gratified he was by kind words of Mox’s last week.
Then it took a turn that at first seemed petulant, as he seemed to over-react to the faint praise of Moxley calling him a “nice kid” and insisting Moxley speak on that. Moxley doubled down, saying that Hangman had lost his edge in the past year.
Page responded with a frank enumeration of his failures and losses over the past year: lost the world title; failed to win the trios title with his friends, who seem to be disappearing one by one. Or all at once in the case of his “old friends”, a reference to taboo subjects that earned a gasp from the audience…
This is when Page turns up the heat, angrily listing the ways he’s not the same, such as “angry,” “anxious,” and “the medicine is not working”, then listing the reasons he is a man and not a kid and doesn’t need Moxley’s condescension, culminating in the fact that he keeps coming back from being bashed in the face, viscerally illustrating his point with the old Ric-Flair trick of punching himself in the face till he bleeds for the sheer drama of it all.
Then he swears on his own blood as he wipes it on Moxley’s shirt to take the World title from him regardless of his hometown’s disappointment while the crowd chants for a third man for merely sitting and watching from above like a popcorn-crunching gargoyle voyeur: A perfect dramatic tableau to make an audience wonder what’s next.
There were various story beats over this week which got people talking. Hangman's promo was a great character moment. As was MJF's backstage promo.
But instead, I will talk about the controversial story beat from Dynamite. I'm talking about Daniel Garcia choosing to side with Chris Jericho over Bryan Danielson.
A lot of people were frustrated with this, seeing it as a pointless story of Garcia going on a journey of self-discovery, just to revert to the same thing as what he was doing before. People are also annoyed because many wanted to see Garcia teaming with Danielson and joining the Blackpool Combat Club.
Now, I wrote a thread on Twitter the day after the show, where I spoke about people's issues. So I won't bother dismissing those now (partially also because who knows if those critiques will prove to be right in time?)
Instead I just want to examine the question of "why did Garcia make this choice?"
And here's the thing, although Garcia looked very comfortable come Rampage. I don't think this crisis of identity is finished. I think all in good time Garcia will still split from the Jericho Appreciation Society and, when AEW are ready to pull the trigger, he will defeat Chris Jericho before going his own way.
Rather than this being a regression in his character. I think it is actually a continuation of his inner conflict. After Garcia helped Jericho cheat to win, he did not look happy. He didn't even look sad. It almost looked like he was simply empty. It didn't look like he wanted to be either Chris Jericho or Bryan Danielson, to me.
And perhaps that is what this conflict is actually all about? It's not sports entertainer vs. pro wrestler. It's Daniel Garcia wanting to be himself, but not feeling able to be. But one day he will, and will break out on his own.
Or maybe I'm just reading too much into this. But I don't think I am. Garcia's nuanced acting was too purposeful for this to just be a coincidence. And if that isn't the plan, then Garcia's split-second decision doesn't make much sense.
Let me cast your mind back to the first AEW show Double or Nothing in 2019 and the Casino Battle Royale.
Among the Diamonds that were the second lot of five to enter the match was a hooded figure that revealed himself to be Shawn Spears who got a BIG pop. Shawn in his previous place of work as Tye Dillinger and his "Perfect Ten" had got over to the point where his entrance at in the Royal Rumble at Number Ten was a yearly tradition akin to everyone not wanting Roman Reigns to win the match but when the other 364 days of the year would see Tye/Shawn underutilised to the point that fans wondered what if Shawn would get to the heights they felt he deserved to reach.
So when Shawn appeared at DoN this was supposed to be it, the beginning of the run Shawn deserved. He would be involved in AEW's first shocking moment in its history with his chair shot to Cody Rhodes at Fyter Fest and his feud with the EVP was a main attraction of All Out 2019 but by the time All Out 2020 it felt like Shawn was the just the "good hand" that Cody said Spears which were comments that were the catalyst for Shawn's turn in June 2019.
While the last year saw Shawn be very entertaining in his role as MJF's stooge, when he left our screens after the cage match against Wardlow on the go-home Dynamite before Double or Nothing 2022, fans weren't exactly pining for his return like they are for Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks. Even his return on Dynamite left a feeling of "OK" but for 4 minutes in front of his fellow Canadians after Rampage, Shawn spoke and was the most relatable man in wrestling today when he poured his heart out about the last two months
To explain why this speech/moment meant so much to me, like Shawn I lost my mother in the past few months, four weekends ago to be exacting in my case and like Shawn acknowledged when he spoke about his last days with his mother, some people don't get to say goodbye properly. While Shawn talked about what would have been one of his worst moments, he would also get to talk about the fact that he will become a father (there's a reason why The IInspiration haven't been on Impact for a few months) and used this opportunity to tell Dax Harwood that if he was half as good at being a dad as his friend was he was going to be OK.
This speech from Shawn in a week where Hangman Page talked about his mental health and his struggles and in a year where Dax talked about the inspiration his daughter gave him show that in 2022 it's OK to talk about being vulnerable, it's OK to go through bad times. In a world where life will throw obstacles at you, there is also light at the end of the tunnel whether it be titles or new life that you have created. People deserve their happy ending and in his professional life, amongst the many I root for in AEW, I am rooting for Shawn Spears to get to the pinnacle.
Coming into Jungle Boy vs. Luchasaurus I was a little worried that the match wouldn't deliver on the story elements and instead perhaps be a bit of a gentleman's 3 star with a few spots.
That is not what we got. Beyond simply playing out the inevitable David vs. Goliath story in the fight, with various fun and creative spots and moves to convey that. These two also managed to link this back to teh root of their feud. A friendship which has been torn apart.
Throughout the match Luchasaurus manhandles his former friend with Jungle Boy finding inventive, and effective ways, out of the dinosaur's brutish strength. However, when Jungle Boy goes for the "Killswitch", Christian Cage's finisher, Luchasaurus once again breaks out of it. Lifting Jungle Boy on his shoulders as Excalibur says "we've seen this a time or two." Referring to how the two would used to walk to the ring as a tag team, with Jungle Boy on the shoulders of Luchasaurus.
From here it looks like Luchasaurus is going to deliver a decisive blow. But Jungle Boy once again reverses it, this time into a brutal reverse hurricanrana which then allows JB to hit the Killswitch and get the win.
A beautifully poetic way to put that nail in the coffin, quite literally, to the friendship before using his former mentor's move to defeat Christian's "Right Hand of Destruction".
After months of sitting in silence, having his character and his personal integrity publicly attacked by one of the biggest stars in the business, this week was finally the week where Hangman Adam Page got to talk.
He didn't take to the media to talk down his previous opponent or the company, he didn't feed his side of the story to whichever reporter wanted to listen, nor did he didn't choose to tweet out his frustrations or reduce his on screen efforts in a sign of his unhappiness. Instead, he channeled all of his emotions, the experiences that he went through in AEW this year into his character; helping him to deliver his best promo this year and to light up his short program with Jon Moxley with real passion.
The "kid" who had done "nothing in this business" told the audience (as well as Moxley) what he had achieved as a wrestler in AEW but also what he had gone through in his life outside. He didn't shy away from the events of the last year- choosing instead to tackle them head on and build them into his story. Page has often put his outside vulnerabilities into his character performance but never had it felt more real then it did in this moment.
The story of Adam Page as a wrestler (rather than of his character) often feels to me like that of a man who succeeds in spite of the challenges thrown at him. He may never receive the promotion or mainstream attention of his more vocal peers or be credited for his successes but his ability to connect with people at a much deeper level will mean he will always have a substantial level of support; no matter where he is placed on the card. To be able to convey the daily battles that much of an entire generation is facing in the midst of a wrestling promo is special; to be able to do it in such a spellbinding way amidst so much pressure and unwarranted criticism is so much more valuable than many realise.
Whilst the focus of the promotion (and even somewhat in this story) may be on MJF; don't be too surprised if the real "bidding war of 2024" turns out to be for the Anxious Millennial Cowboy. At 31 he is one of the world's best in-ring performers, a storyteller who can convey substantial depth through his expressions alone and a man who can deliver promos like this which sell a match far beyond a traditional build. The next eighteen months before that date aren't critical for Hangman Adam Page, but if he continues to deliver in moments like this he definitely won't be doing himself any harm.