Showtime at the Forum | AEWeekly Review #51
Updated: Mar 16
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 move of the week, Gareth [@Gareth_EW] exploring a key story beat Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week, and Trish [@TrishSpeirs48] giving us the MVP and promo of the week.
Match of the Week: Joe.
Game 7: Death Triangle (C) vs The Elite
I have written about these two teams so much there is very little new left to say, which makes it the ideal time for it to be their final match. These two teams are the epitome of hybrid wrestling. Elite-level strikes, grapplers, and divers. The only thing missing from 5 out of 6 (Hello Mr. Bastard) of their games is mat-based submission-focused wrestling, which is not my cup of tea, so I don’t miss it.
In this final match, it could not have been more even. The incredibly rare exact 50/50 split of offense, with identical 14% strike-down rates, and each team hitting 30 total big moves. “Big” does not do these moves justice, as the dives and falls and impacts were intense and extreme, and I kept startling my 9-week-old-son because I could not contain my reactions to them.
This match was also even in terms of who was leading from minute to minute. The Elite, who ended up winning, had the lead to start the match, to end the match, and had 6 different total minutes with significant gaps in offense, whereas Death Triangle had 5 total minutes with significant leads.
By the end of this match, and the end of this series, Kenny Omega solidified himself as the Michael Jordan of pro wrestling, powering through his aches and pains to literally climb the ladder of success. That is no shade on the brothers Jackson, as The Elite solidified themselves as the best Trios team on the planet, and had many moments to shine both in this match and in this series. Death Triangle elevated themselves to most likely being the #2 team, where I would have personally ranked The United Empire (Will Ospreay, Mark Davis, Kyle Fletcher), and then The Bloodline. Rey Fenix also really shined throughout this series. Coming out of this, I would like to see PAC & Pentagon embrace heel roles in the Tag Team division or in singles competition, and see Rey Fenix make a run at MJF’s title on a special episode of Dynamite, after successfully vanquishing his former stable-mate PAC, and his brother Pentagon.
Something that should not be overlooked for the legacy of this series, is the average match time. 15 minutes and 12 seconds. To put that into context, I was just looking at a preview of Jay White vs Kazuchika Okada leading up to the match they just had at Wrestle Kingdom. In 2022, Jay’s average match time was 20 minutes and 4 seconds. Okada’s average match time was 23 minutes and 9 seconds. Both of those averages would mean that in AEW, on average, their matches would end in draws for going over the time limit. Looking at their Tokyo Dome matches, Jay’s average from his 5 matches in the Dome was 28 minutes and 24 seconds. Okada’s average from his 17 matches in the Dome was 26 minutes and 45 seconds. The point I am trying to make here is that time is precious and efficiency matters. You could watch 2 matches from this series for every 1 of those Jay White matches, and within that time you could watch 2 of these fresh classics, and they are packed with much more than even your “average” excellent match.
This breakdown of types of offense further cements these 6 stars as hybrid-hall-of-famers. They can do and will do just about everything (other than that submission stuff), to put on exciting and entertaining matches. Chris Jericho tried to tell fans they were lucky to be alive during the time of his existence, well I feel very lucky to be a wrestling fan during the peak’s of these 6 human’s careers. Another trios team with that kind of hybrid make-up is the House of Black, and here's hoping we see them pairing up against The Elite at Revolution, if not The United Empire.
Promo of the Week: Trish
For AEW, Adam Cole is a natural babyface. His catchy theme with built in audience participation spots, popular catchphrases alongside his size and move-set encourages audiences to cheer for him. To break into the very top tier in this promotion though you have to feel "real" and this was the transcendence i felt Adam made on Wednesday night.
After completing his signature entrance and his standard promo opening line he completely removed the bass from this voice. This was no longer the arrogant, brash heel that showed little effect to the losses he had took since his arrival in AEW; this was Adam Cole the man.
As he spoke of his battles with back to back concussions he held the audience's complete attention. He spoke of the darkness he endured, the impacts the injury had on him being able to carry out the most basic of everyday tasks and lastly, of the support he had received from the fanbase. It was a clearly emotional moment for him to talk about the last six months and even the most hard of heart would have been affected by his words.
There were some clever elements to this promo that helped it to achieve other things without feeling out of place. Cole made a point to emphasize AEW as the "best professional wrestling company in the world." It carries weight because of how long he was within the WWE system and helps to undo the perception damage done by the All Out press conference every time it is uttered with this amount of power and sincerity.
The other was how he was able to take these life altering experiences and the constant battle with his emotions and turn them into character conviction. The bad news was no longer about his health, it was for his future opponents. The crowd roared at the tempo change.
This was a beautiful change of pace for a character who had felt somewhat stagnant before his forced time away and illustrated that he does have that depth in his playbook that sets aside so many of AEW's top performers from everyone else in wrestling. Welcome back Adam Cole.
Story Beat of the Week: Gareth.
Last week, after Saraya announced Toni Storm would be her tag team partner to face Jamie Hayter and Britt Baker, the online AEW discussion centred around two things. The possibility of Mercedes Moné debuting or Hikaru Shida turning heel. In the end neither of these happened... sort of.
Hikaru Shida did slide her Kendo stick into a neutral area and then pulled a 'shocked' face when Baker used it against Shida's supposed 'friends'. Further fuelling this idea that Shida is on the cusp of a heel turn.
But a lot of people also felt this made Shida look even more stupid than she did last week when Saraya decided not to pick her. Because Shida didn't make a character decision here. It's a story beat, in that what she did will have consequences. But she didn't make an active decision, thus she is a passive character in her own heel turn.
Unless she isn't and this is just a dragged out heel turn. But it does just seem very strange. This is one where we'll have to "let it play out". The prospect of a heel Hikaru Shida is one which I, personally, think is a tantalising one. But AEW have done a really good job of making Shida look stupid these last two weeks. So let's hope the plan she has up her sleeve is more cunning than it appears.
Unless? Unless the plan is to turn Saraya heel, and Shida doing this will only act as motive for the former WWE-star's turn? We will have to wait and see.
Moment of the Week: Peter.
Let's be honest, without wanting to go all Helen Lovejoy on you guys, Hangman vs Moxley didn't have to escalate at the speed it did.
After the World Title match ended the way no-one wanted it to end, when Jon Moxley got the mic while Adam Page was being attended to, it was more Jonathan Good than Mox talking about wishing Page the best of luck and a full recovery and that he hoped that Hangman would be able to hold his child again. A couple of months later, Mox was being Mox and from there things escalated quickly.
Whether it was a case of toxic masculinity, pride overtaking sense or just wrestlers being wrestlers, what was an accident became a cause for revenge for Hangman and for Mox, his antagonistic behaviour in the weeks before the Showtime clash at the Forum was maybe a defence mechanism. A man so distraught in the minutes after that lariat was maybe in his boisterous attitude in the months afterwards telling himself that it wasn't his fault that Hangman was inches away from something bad happening and in doing so was telling the world that he was blameless for something that no-one was actually blaming him for. January 11th was a case of who blinks first and that man was Hangman Page but not in a way that is usual in pro wrestling.
In a fantastic match, it would be Page that hit the knockout blow with the Buckshot Lariat, a blow so good it knocked Mox loopy. But in a world where bravado, boldness and bombast is the norm, Page when he saw his foe fallen and struggling to get back up, those 3 b’s were nowhere to be seen. Page’s face full of concern for a man who suffered the same fate he did, who might have to suffer the agony that he did months before, events that Hangman was so open about last month.
The Hangman Page that we saw in the aftermath of the opening match of Dynamite was the new age superstar that AEW fans have fallen in love with, a man who while has moments of bravado, isn’t afraid to lose the poker face. We have all been Hangman Page during our lives but we have also been Jon Moxley too at some point which leads to the question, will Moxley concede defeat in this rivalry and turn his attention elsewhere? Of course not. Because pride is a hell of strength and it’s what makes this feud what it has been. The two individuals' vulnerabilities are what make them so compelling. It's their way of showing it that makes them so opposite and so compelling as individuals.
Texas Death Match at Revolution anyone?
Move of the Week: Sergei
Konosuke Takeshita is the guy right now, the one everybody says to keep an eye on, who’s bound to have a break-out year. He’s a guy that they say is still “looking for that signature win,” and yet: you couldn’t have traded him out for Action Andretti, because if he had been the one to upset Jericho, it wouldn’t have been surprising enough. He’s big, he’s young, he’s fast and agile, and he has state-of-the-art modern offense.
This week, we had Hangman and Moxley trying to murder each other with lariats in the opener, and guys like Fenix and the Jacksons who love showing off their skill and agility with impressive moves throwing caution to the wind in a huge main event. Standing out with a big, cool move in that exalted company is really something, and that’s what Takeshita did this week, with a top-turnbuckle lariat that has to be seen to be believed!
But one person saw that move and didn’t think “what amazing athleticism,” but instead “oh, great, another kid stealing my stuff, and I never get the credit!” And that man’s name is Joel Maximo of the tag team of the moment 20 years ago, the SAT:
In Joel’s defense, the SAT genuinely were amazing innovators, credited with developing the Spanish Fly and the Canadian Destroyer and later with training a lot of great talent on the New York scene including latter-day tag-team-offense innovators, EYFBO (aka Santana & Ortiz.) But there is no patent for wrestling moves, and if you want to know how popular it will make you to not be gracious about people “stealing” moves you invented, just ask KENTA.
But as much as Takeshita’s moveset seems state-of-the-art, he’s never claimed to be an innovator of offense, some modern-day Chris Kanyon. Takeshita is a man who legit wrote his college thesis on the history of the German suplex, and modeled his moveset over his entire career on the man who defeated him in his debut match when he was 17 years old, mystery man El Generico:
In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud divides great artists who go beyond the surface or idiomatic level of their art into two categories: those more involved with form, or with purpose. The first are the revolutionaries who shake up people's ideas of what their medium is capable of.
The second are the storytellers, who focus on developing and refining their capacity to use their medium to express their intended message.
Takeshita moves fast and wrestling is a deeply conservative medium overall, so it's easy to miscategorize him as a pioneer simply because many of the traditions he's building on and refining were innovations "only" two decades ago; innovations of pioneers like the Maximo Brothers, like CIMA, and especially like El Generico.
Takeshita definitely counts as a traditionalist, and a particularly respectful one. But in the manner almost unique to pro wrestling, Takeshita is not only an artist, but also a character within his own art; a character who, in spite of 10 years experience, is still looked on as a promising rookie in the context of the American wrestling scene. Will he need to shake things up and really bring something pioneering to reach that next level? Or can he do so without changing his "storyteller" core? In my view, either choice could lead to amazing viewing, and I can't wait to see!
MVP of the Week: Trish.
When AEW is at its best it is empowered by emotional stories which play off real life events and layered with an incredible amount of detail. Programs such as Hangman/the Elite and Jon Moxley/ Eddie Kingston have featured personal elements and have been built with the kind of depth we rarely see in American wrestling. They have also been the backbone to some of AEW's most successful business periods. Jon Moxley v Adam Page could be another one of those programs.
In the aftermath of All Out, Moxley has become determined to rebuild Adam Page. The man (who large parts of the locker room thought was unfairly targeted), was somewhat low on confidence and having to deal with many unsavoury crowd insults. What has happened since is some of the best work from both individuals during their AEW tenure. Moxley's promos before their first matchup- using many of the criticisms that had been aimed at Page, gave the Virginian the perfect setting for a response. His "Because I'm a Man'' promo got all his emotions out there within the realms of his character whilst reminding the audience just why they connected to Page in the first place.
It was a fantastic build for a short program solely aimed at course correcting what was once AEW's most popular babyface as well as one of its most successful homemade stars. What happened in Cincinnati was incredibly unfortunate but also served as inspiration for these men to move forward.
Their emotional range, as Peter has already so poetically written above, has set this program apart from anything else in AEW, and perhaps all of wrestling right now. These characters are three dimensional and convey deep convictions and beliefs rather than building up their rivalry through crowd popping insults. It is a mesh of different philosophies and approaches to wrestling that is having outstanding results.
Wednesday's match could have been an all out brawl with constant use of plunder and streams of blood; perhaps some even expected it to be. Rather, they chose to tell a complete story through the match. Page battled his injury and his fear with bursts of fire that seemed to surprise but also delight Mox. The offense was built around the lariat- the manoeuvre that put Page on the shelf, keeping up a high level of drama until the finish.
The level of detail was such that the ending (where Page delivered a lariat followed by the Buckshot), matched perfectly with the Hangman promo last week where he had exclaimed he had "two in the chamber" with Moxley's name on. It was "simple, brutal and effective."
This program has plenty remaining in the locker and that is an exciting prospect because it centres around two of the very best in the industry right now who are only pushing each other forward. Jon Moxley set out at the start to rebuild Adam Page. What he might not have expected is that they may end up building one of AEW's most outstanding stories by its conclusion to go alongside achieving his original goal.