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Show of the Year? | AEWeekly Review #74

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, as well as Sunday's Pay-per-View, Forbidden Door.

This week’s contributors are Gareth [@Gareth_EW] 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 Joe [@GoodVsBadGuys] giving us the MVP of the week.

Match of the Week: Gareth.

Match of the Year?

Despite an array of fantastic matches over the last week, there was only one choice for ‘match of the week’, considering it’s match of the year for myself and many others. I am, of course, talking about Kenny Omega vs. Will Ospreay at Forbidden Door.

After their ‘MOTY’ contender at Wrestle Kingdom, I really thought that debate was wrapped up early doors. Not just the match of the year, but one of the greatest of all time. They wouldn’t top that at Forbidden Door, I was sure of it. And then… they did.

The match felt like a proper grudge match as Will Ospreay entered with Kenny’s former mentor, Don Callis, in his corner. There was a lot of great comedy around Don’s fear of Omega, not to mention with Ospreay’s distain for Canadians. But that didn’t take away from the heat between the two.

Blood is a tool leaned upon probably a little too often in AEW, but it really felt significant in this match. Raising it from a technical and athletic classic we know these two athletes are capable of, making it a proper ‘big fight feel’.

But that didn’t take away from the exhilarating exchanges between the two. Some brutal V-triggers and strikes from both wrestlers in amongst some fast-paced exchanges, before they slowed the pace down and returned to these slower, more brutal exchanges.

Spots and kick-outs can often be a cheap tool to lean on, but in this match the high spots really felt earned and the kick-outs seriously informed the drama. Don returned from being kicked out to help Ospreay cheat to win, using the screwdriver before delivering a Stormbreaker. But somehow Kenny found his foot on the bottom rope as the arena exploded.

But the ‘moment of the match’ was surely after Ospreay hit Omega with a Kamigoye (Kota Ibushi’s finisher) and then the One Winged Angel (Kenny’s own move) before Omega kicked out at one. The sort of babyface fire you can’t buy. Simply a perfect moment.

A brutal Tiger Driver 91, that thankfully Kenny wasn’t badly hurt in, is surely the move of the match. A move that felt like it ended the match before Ospreay hit the Hidden Blade and Stormbreaker for the 1-2-3. Will had finally overcome his nemesis, as Omega lay broken in the ring.

I can’t do this match justice in this number of words, ultimately. But it really felt like this was the night we finally saw the Best Bout Machine in AEW. It really felt like this is the night Kenny Omega was elevated to AEW’s ultimate hero, the number one babyface the company has been looking for. And for me personally, this was the night Omega officially solidified himself as my greatest of all time.

Promo of the Week: Sergei.

The Cerebral Dragon

Bryan Danielson is a truly unique talent, because in a milieu where size, speed, technique, conditioning or courage are often touted as the most important virtues, he exemplifies someone who is at the top of his sport primarily by virtue of his intelligence. Commentators often compare wrestling to "human chess," but Danielson is one who legitimizes that phrase with the genuinely cerebral way that he portrays his character.

A perfect example of that was the interview footage of Danielson that was part of a promo package for Danielson vs Okada in the Countdown hype video:

It starts with him speaking very calmly about the mental benefits of hiking and of meditation. He says that "things come to you" when you hike and meditate, and what came to him was that he should challenge people believed to be the best, to settle all doubt or question.

When talking about his opponent, Danielson praises him, but very much in terms of similarities to himself: that Okada isn't rattled in the face of provocation, remaining cool and sticking to his gameplan. But to the question of whether Okada is ready, Danielson replies that Okada surely thinks so considering all of his high-profile fights, but the difference is those matches weren't with him… and the way he says that is infused with an understated confidence that comes across as accurate self-evaluation rather than ego.

He goes on to talk about the distinction between tactics and strategy, then ties it all back together by saying that when you hike and meditate you have time to think strategy, and that he suspects Okada doesn't think that deeply about it.

It's an amazing performance that compels with perfect calmness. And I think it's fitting that Danielson's victory relied on mind over matter, when he improvised a version of his dreaded LeBell Lock using a leg to creatively replace his in-real-life broken arm!

Story Beat of the Week: Saul.

A Conflicted King

Surprising no-one that is aware of how the man operates, Eddie Kingston returned to AEW to address one of his enemies. In this case, it was perhaps his number one nemesis, Claudio Castagnoli. The pair had a heated rivalry over the ROH World Championship and bad blood going back to their Chikara days. Kingston, determined to get his hands on Castagnoli, formed a tenuous alliance with The Elite to take on the Blackpool Combat Club at Forbidden Door. However, to get his hands on his arch-enemy, he would also have to fight against his brother, Jon Moxley.

As Eddie was about to announce the last member of his team for the match, a frustrated Moxley appeared through the crowd and confronted him. Moxley said that if Kingston teamed with The Elite, he would have to destroy him. Kingston retorted that Moxley had drawn the battle lines when he teamed up with Claudio. The pair had reached an impasse. No words could stop the oncoming storm. When it seemed that an understanding would not be reached, Moxley just shook his head and murmured "every time." This was only faintly picked up by the microphone, making it seem less like build for the match and more like he was feeling some real resentment towards his friend.

Wrestling is rarely subtle. Promo segments are usually two muscular opponents directly and loudly yelling their grievances to each other. I don't mean to diss this type of storytelling, as wrestling is live entertainment and broad performances are often the best way to ensure everyone can understand the story being told. However, in this case, this quieter moment effectively expressed the relationship between these two characters. The exasperated way Moxley delivered this line spoke to the long history the men share.

The unclear nature of what Moxley meant also makes it compelling. What did he mean? That Eddie Kingston always finds a way to destroy his personal relationships? That he always lets his emotions cloud his judgment? Some other third thing??? Whatever he meant, what is clear is that a large wedge of Swiss has fractured their relationship.

When the pair came face-to-face in the Forbidden Door match, they began taking out their frustration with each other through a long series of chops. While the action continued on around them, they just traded shots back and forth. For a moment, it seemed like they forgot there was a match going on. It just became two friends desperately trying to beat their understanding into each other. Kingston's emotions would eventually get the best of him, as deeper into the match he shoved Moxley away from an attack from the Young Bucks, taking the damage in his place. Moxley also seemed conflicted, as he hesitated when presented with the perfect chance to cheap shot Eddie. However, when it came down to the closing moments, Moxley made his decision. He laid Kingston out with a cutter, seeming to feel little remorse.

Nothing raises investment in a feud more than tangible emotional stakes. There are many storylines in wrestling that fail to connect because they feel like the only reason for the rivalry is filling up space on a rundown. This is never the case with Eddie Kingston. He never feels fake and is always genuine to himself. This is why the on-screen relationships he has conjure such emotion. I'm not sure what is next for the Mad King, all I do know is that it's guaranteed to be riveting.

Moment of the Week: Peter.

Kenny’s foot on the ropes

Without wanting to sound like one of those grifters that talks about how it was better in the old days, the art of the kickout/near-fall has been diminished in the last decade.

It's not a bad thing but the expectation that you're going to need to hit the finisher twice to win a match (with certain exemptions) does mean the impact of a near fall might of lessened in the last couple of decades. That wasn't the case at Forbidden Door and the Omega vs Ospreay: The Rematch.

When Ospreay hit Kenny with the screwdriver (I think we've established now that the best counter to the One Winged Angel is a DIY appliance) and hit a V-Trigger before his Stormbreaker finisher, a hell of a lot of people thought that was that.

The shock of Ospreay winning which went against what us armchairs bookers thought the story was heading to where Will finally gets to climb his Everest by beating Kenny at Wrestle Kingdom 2024 (to the point where I might have made a bet on Omega at odds of 2/1) coupled with the chance that this eagerly awaited match that was living up to the hype was going to have an end that was going to set off a discourse about clean finishes left thousands in the Scottisbank Arena in Toronto and those watching on PPV with a feeling of "not this way" and yet when Omega barely got his foot on the ropes, the pop was there to hear.

I watched Forbidden Door with my dad and that moment of Kenny getting the rope break got the same reaction from my father as everyone else. It was relief tinged with happiness that this banger was going to continue and while maybe Kenny proving that someone can kick out of the One Winged Angel might have got a louder reaction (and let's be honest, Kenny doing a Hulk up on a weekend where Punk told us he was able to do a leg drop was very funny) it was the moment that Kenny put his foot on the ropes that will live in my memory more.

MVP of the Week: Joe.

Thank You, Tony Khan

If this was a one-show week, my MVP for AEW would have to be Kenny Omega. The MVP for NJPW would be Kenny Omega. Heck, even the MVP of pro wrestling this week would be Kenny Omega. The risks he took to his health & well-being, and his selflessness to pass the torch and elevate Will Ospreay - another wrestler who puts his body through massive sacrifices for the enjoyment of the fans and the in-ring heir apparent to the best in the world crown, deserves a massive amount of praise.

However, this was not a one-show week, and even this one show would not have been possible with almost any other major executive in the history of professional wrestling other than Tony Khan. Similar to Kenny Omega’s selflessness in the ring, and willingness to give more than he takes, Tony Khan is willing to endure losses or make sacrifices that don’t seem “Best For Business”, “Brother”, as long as it is what is best for the fans. The most obvious example of this is Tony Khan shelling out the big bucks for “Final Countdown”, which according to Bryan Danielson, costs “a zillion dollars” to use. There is no way this decision would get approved in any version of a WWE boardroom, not with Vince in charge, not with Stephanie in charge, not even with the much beloved (as an executive) Triple H in charge. It’s hard to put a price on moments like Bryan’s entrance at Forbidden Door, not the “zillion” it cost, but what it generates in return. It is almost surely not a good decision in the profit/loss mindset, but Tony is willing to lose in some ways to win in others. 

Something else that does not get approved in a WWE boardroom is this whole Forbidden Door franchise, that in year 2, has been a huge critical success turned into a huge financial success. This show generated a larger gate than even Elimination Chamber, featuring hometown hero Sami Zayn, in the hottest WWE story in a quarter of a century. That doesn’t sound like something catering exclusively to a hardcore niche audience. WWE’s version of the Forbidden Door was allowing Kota Ibushi to compete in the Cruiserweight Classic. AEW’s version SHARES the name of the show with NJPW, shares the streaming of the show, features NJPW wrestlers prominently on AEW shows, SHARES credit, and hopefully will be continuing to SHARE talent, such as Eddie Kingston competing in the G1, and hopefully, crossovers at All In and Wrestle Kingdom.

One thing Tony Khan needs to get better at sharing is the burden and responsibility of leading this wrestling company. Over 2 weeks, Tony has launched AEW Collision, where they are filming ROH TV as well, been leading the go-home editions of Dynamite, Rampage, Collision, and AEWxNJPW Forbidden Door Zero Hour, while promoting their long-awaited new video game, and remaining present and engaged for the AEW Forbidden Door Media Scrum into the wee hours of Monday morning. I attended one of those Collisions, Dynamite and Rampage, and the ROH match tapings in Chicago. Tony Khan’s energy for the shows and appreciation for the fans was a 10 out of 10 both times. He’s nearly as jacked up announcing the ROH lucha 8-man-tag as he is announcing the first ever episode of Collision. I understand why backstage drama might be pushing some people to different pastures when contracts come up, and Tony has room to grow in managing locker rooms, but If this energy I have been witnessing is any indication of the energy he brings backstage, then I believe AEW will not have any trouble recruiting more talent to pull off more super shows for years, and maybe even decades to come. However, in order for AEW to last that long, Tony needs to share some of that burden, so we can keep sharing our love of this awesome company.


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