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Omega Passes Torch | AEWeekly Review #91

Updated: 6 days ago

Welcome to the #AEWeekly review discussion where PWM contributors reflect on the highlights of the last week in AEW. The week runs Monday through Sunday covering the most recent Dynamite, Rampage, and Collision.

This week’s contributors are Joe [@GoodVsBadGuys] covering match of the week, Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering promos, Saul [@SaulKiloh] exploring a key story beat, Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week, and Gareth [@Gareth_EW] giving us the MVP of the week.

Match of the Week: Sergei.

Omega Passes Torch to MJF

In a first-time match between two of the very top guys in AEW only hinted at over the course of ten days, and only confirmed three days before on Dynamite, with the thin pretext of Kenny defending his record for longest-reign against MJF, we got a truly amazing match on a random Saturday night in front of a red-hot, but hardly record-setting, small-market casino crowd. This booking was criticized by many on the internet: as a bad business move, or as rushed storytelling….

But on the night, the two legends in the ring delivered a classic that was entirely self-aware of all the criticisms and answered and dismissed them in turn. One of the most-repeated was “why waste a match this big on Uncasville of all places? Why not save it for London or Chicago or Arthur Ashe?” And I think we saw an answer to that. Most AEW fans make their ticket-buying decision on faith, long before any matches are announced. Fans in Connecticut could easily wait for Grand Slam to come around and take the train into the city, but these fans didn’t do that. Because they knew that at the very least they would get an entertaining regular wrestling show. But, that there was also always the possibility of something truly extraordinary– that TK doesn’t always hold off great stuff for a big show.

That bet paid off for this New England crowd and they returned the favor with all the energy and fervor of an audience twice the size, going absolutely mad for this match-up starting from the initial face-off which prompted an appreciative “holy shit” chant. One of Omega’s most fondly remembered promo moments in AEW is when he asked Moxley: “what are you gonna do, chain wrestle me?” And a chain wrestling segment is exactly how this match starts, fittingly for babyface vs babyface.

Nigel McGuinness is a stand-out on commentary this night, with a number of excellent calls, starting early on with analysis of the two competitor’s styles, calling out Omega's style as an evolution of the NJPW Junior style, and Max as "big match" American style just as Max does the "step on opponent's back into Fargo strut" spot. This leads into another chain wrestling segment which is meant to climax with a double kip-up standoff, but Omega flubs his slightly… but this plays into the story of the match (the whole Old Lion, Young Lion thing) so well– could it have been (outside kayfabe) intentional?

This is followed with the "sportsmanship" handshake/ thumb-to-eye combo from Max… Kenny falling for it suggests he hasn't scouted Max as well as he could've… except: then Kenny crouching in pain sets Max up to get dumped to the outside and set up for Omega’s patented Terminator Dive. Could Kenny have taken the eye-poke (within kayfabe) intentionally to make MJF overconfident? But then MJF follows with a Fosbury Flop style over-the-top dive of his own, and without any of the hesitation and stalling he usually teases the crowd with before leaving his feet!

This is followed by ten minutes of back-and-forth action that I’m not going to detail, as tempted as I am, (I have the notes!) not because it isn’t great– action packed with great psychology, with Max working Kenny’s left arm, attempting to set up his Fujiwara finish, and Kenny setting up a table on the outside– but because it doesn’t lead into any points I wanted to make about the broader issues, and I don’t want to test y’alls patience too much.

After the two recover from a both-men-down double-count-out-tease situation, they do an exchange of offense on the apron, leading up to Omega hitting MJF with a snapdragon on the “hardest part of the ring,” which sets Max up to take the powerslam through the table. One of the objections to having this match on Saturday night was “on PPV there wouldn't be commercial breaks” and AEW clearly heard that concern and decided to address it. They promise us a commercial break of exactly 90 seconds and even put a timer on-screen to reassure us that time is legit. The competitors’ recovery from the table spot is one of very few slow spots in 30 minutes of breakneck-paced action, and it’s timed perfectly to fit the short break, leaving the (North American) viewers glued to the screen for the countdown to the return to action.

As we return from picture-in-picture, the competitors are just returning to the ring and we get a sequence of "punch drunk" strikes. As they build in energy, they build up to a rope-run sequence where Omega gets the advantage hitting the V-Trigger at even higher speed than usual, allowing Kenny to set up the One Winged Angel. But Max counters with a beautiful Poisonrana! But when he tries to capitalize, Kenny responds with a Poisonrana of his own! As both men struggle to their feet to avoid the double count out, the little-crowd-that-could break into an impassioned "Fight Forever" chant, (prompting Schiavone to shill the video game!)

Then Max hits a drop kick to Omega's left elbow returning to his Fujiwara game plan. They go back and forth with MJF trying to attack the left arm, and Kenny trying to protect it, leading to MJF hitting a pumphandle… man, I dunno what that even was. Schiavone thought it looked kinda like a Blue Thunder Bomb? Eh, kinda. Sure, let's call it a pumphandle thunderbomb, maybe. [I know nobody reads these after the fact, but: I have been reliably informed, (by Charlie of Wrestle Purists,) that this move is actually called the "Made in Japan," appropriately enough.] Schiavone points out that both men are pulling out moves we've never seen from them before, which leads McGuiness to a fantastic call: that we're seeing "state of the art pro wrestling.”

This leads to a great exchange that finishes with a quick piledriver by Kenny that Max needs to use a foot on the rope to avoid the “L,” and we get another 90-second breather, which they spend slowly getting back to their feet, and MJF rolls to the outside and the challenger stalks him out there and gets him up for a powerbomb to the railing JUST as we return from Picture-in-Picture. Kenny signals for a second one, but the ref insists they have to return to the ring. Omega continues the offensive drive leading to a series of V-Triggers and putting Max up for the OWA again when Callis comes out with screwdriver in hand– clearly he had intended to attack Kenny while his focus was on Max, but Omega's situational awareness was too strong!

This is such a perfectly self-aware segment– they knew that people expected, with a match that seemed tossed off like this one, that they might not want to "waste" a clean finish until they could build a "real" feud first. They knew those expectations and subverted them! Callis is ejected by the ref within seconds and other than interrupting a finisher that the champ may not have had a counter for this time, he had no appreciable effect on the outcome. With Callis gone, Kenny goes for the OWA again, but Max has had recovery time and is able to counter with a victory roll. They trade roll-ups until Max gets Kenny with his Heat Seeker piledriver and gets a close two.

The fans are absolutely wild for this action, breaking out into a "this is awesome" chant. Max tries for a Panama Sunrise but gets countered into a roll-up and almost gets pinned, but then hits Kenny with a quick sequence of a kick to the head to set up the Sunrise, this time it hits and he follows up with another Heat Seeker to finally get the three.

Since then, MJF has added “best Collision match” to his list of superlatives on Twitter, and when it comes to singles matches, Cagematch voters agree, with this match beating out Danielson vs Christian Cage from a couple weeks ago by almost a full point, (though if you include all sorts of matches, FTR’s marathon affair with BCG still just edges this one out.) The match was a masterclass in how to do a big match-up with little lead time, how to subvert expectations and address potential criticisms, and how to work a babyface vs babyface and young lion vs old lion match-up. It was a tossed off match on a random Saturday night in nowheresville, but it won’t be soon forgot.

Promo of the Week: Sergei.

Omega Passes Torch to MJF

After watching that amazing match-up to close out the week, it was time for me to think about my weekly question: who did the best mic work in AEW this week… and nothing was leaping out at me. Then I saw that there was a post-show promo on YouTube, and the preview pic was Max Friedman, exhausted in a corner, mic in hand, and I figured that my problem was solved, as the Devil hardly ever misses on the mic. And his promo was fine and very gracious, sure. But the awardee this week, surprising the heck out of me, was Omega.

A lot of guys who are top-tier in the ring get their mic work unfairly maligned. American Dragon is the perfect example– deeply underrated as a talker. But when it comes to the Best Bout Machine, the rap is… pretty fair. He has his points: he deeply gets the character he portrays, and he comes across as truly genuine, and that’s at least half the battle right there. But while the humble and self-effacing persona he embodies so well makes him very relatable as a character, it doesn’t lend itself to fiery verbiage.

But every once in a while he hits on a topic and situation that works with his strengths and that’s the Kenny we got Saturday night. The thesis statement of this speech is a dark one: “time is not our friend,” but he reassures us from the start that he is heading for a happy ending. His claim that he feels he may no longer live up to the nickname of “best bout machine” is so clearly given the lie by the match he’d just finished, and by last week’s with Fletcher, and yet this fits so perfectly with the torch-passing story being told in the booking of losing clean to the champ, in the wrestling, in the little slips and failures that we see and seem maybe intentional? and now also put into words, claiming that he is no longer sad to put down the “ball” as he now has someone to pass it on to in Friedman who can carry it even farther.

But then he goes on to the amazing turnaround to send the crowd home happy, pointing out that science (to help extend top athlete careers) keeps advancing and that he never gives up and intends to keep creating top moments and top matches as the years move forward. Omega’s always-mid “kiss kiss bang bang” catchphrase can’t spoil a positively masterful passing-the-torch speech capping off an even more masterful passing-the-torch match.

Moment of the Week: Peter.

Omega Passes Torch to MJF

[lol, jk! But, really! Peter is busy with his Observer Ballot articles (check them out!) this week, but says he would have chosen the same subject for his moment, so, the fact that we might be repeating ourselves and beating a dead horse was all the more reason to take the week off! But Omega and MJF are still the awardees for Moment of the Week!]

Story Beat of the Week: Saul.

In Your House: Mind Games

Do wrestlers just not believe in home security? Seems like a house invasion happens monthly. At least invest in some alarms people!

Psychological warfare is an underrated artform, one which Swerve Strickland seems to have mastered. Some of the best athletes of all time have used Sun Tzu level tactics to throw opponents off their game. Kevin Garnett. Larry Bird. Michael Jordan. But did any of them break into an opponent's home and cut a scathing promo on a rival's baby???

This is fitting with Swerve’s character who is willing to do anything to win, especially when he has a personal vendetta. However, somehow I don’t think the ‘Hangman’ will share Darby Allin’s level of forgiveness. Swerve can expect Page to release his anger, and will likely be looking to take advantage of him in his overly-emotional state.

Even Prince Nana thought this was too far! But I can respect this level of villainy (in fiction!!!!!) Except when he ripped up the painting. How dare you Swerve! Art is subjective and someone really poured their heart into that!!

This rivalry has really lived up to my expectations and is rising to a climactic point. I’m excited to see it conclude and see what's next for both men.

MVP of the Week: Gareth.

The MVP of AEW, MJF.

I say most weeks that there could be multiple options for MVP, but despite an amazing display from Kenny Omega, this week there is only one option. Maxwell Jacob Friedman.

Spoiler, when we do our end of year round-up it will be MJF who will be given the “MVP of the year” award, and it’s weeks like this which is why.

He was the centre of the show on Dynamite, dominating the first 30-minutes, just as any world champion should at some points in their reign. Platforming multiple talents in various different ways.

With Samoa Joe, Wardlow and Jay White all gunning for his world title, MJF truly feels like *THE MAN* to beat, and nothing solidifies that more than defeating a legitimate “greatest of all time” contender like Kenny Omega as he did in the main event of Collision. This is exactly how your world champion and face of your company should feel.

Friedman’s title reign hasn’t always been perfect, but there’s no doubt that the highlights are legitimate all-timer world title moments. The Iron Man match with Bryan Danielson, headlining Wembley with Adam Cole and now an incredible match with one of the “GOATs”.

And it’s not just what he’s done, it’s about what’s to come. The opponents I mentioned, the mystery around the masked attackers and even things as simple as “who will be MJF’s partners on Dynamite?”

MJF is “must-see” because he gives you something to anticipate and then he delivers on that anticipation. He's proving himself to be the best episodic wrestler in the history of the business and, to be honest, it isn’t remotely close.

He isn’t just the MVP of the week; Maxwell Jacob Friedman is the MVP of AEW and was undeniably crowned as such this past week.


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