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Sting Grapples Death | AEWeekly #107


Welcome to the #AEWeekly review discussion where PWM contributors reflect on the highlights of the last week in AEW. The eligibility week ends with the most recent episode of Dynamite. so it covers last week's Rampage and then the most recent episodes of Collision and Dynamite.


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


 A page of links to prior installments may be found here: #AEWeekly



Jeff Hardy & Sammy Guevara


"Sammy’s Dream Match Saves a Mostly Skippable In-Ring Week of AEW..."

by Joe.



The announcers put over the fact that a Jeff Hardy match was a dream match for Sammy Guevara. They highlighted the fact that Sammy styled his in-ring gear off of Jeff Hardy. Once again, a young babyface extended a gesture of respect, and once again was dismissed. Yet another instance of Jeff Hardy having the chance to be a mentor character like Sting, but instead of using his spotlight to light a flame and pass a torch, his bitterness is sparking a nastier fire that he’s using like a flamethrower. Jeff Hardy seems to be resenting the endless possibility and bright future he sees laid out in front of Darby Allin, Sammy Guevara, and even Swerve Strickland. 


The great part about this change in Jeff Hardy’s character is that he starts each match with a built in storyline to work inside of. I believe if you asked Jeff Hardy primarily identified as, he would say artist before wrestler, and so this opportunity to create something more than just a match is right up his alley. If you paired Hardy against Komander or Vikingo or Fenix or Orange Cassidy or Dante Martin or Darius Martin, you would know Hardy would enter that match trying to prove that he still has too much left to do to step aside and be a guide. (Let it be known that I would like to see all 6 of those matches!) It’s pretty perfect timing that this bitter veteran run from Jeff Hardy is happening concurrently as a much more graceful veteran character like Sting has been happy to share spotlight with younger wrestlers and give them their props. 


Anyway, now that we’ve explained the motivation, we can get into the machinations. Simple moves from Hardy like Irish Whips into the barricades had extra oomph because of the attitude they were delivered with. Sammy’s selling was a strong point, too. He really made Jeff Hardy’s clothesline off the apron look like a painful high impact move. After being disrespected and tossed around, Sammy struck back with an impressive diving stomp, driving Hardy’s spine into the hardest part of the ring. Hardy rallied back and delivered his poetry in motion attack off of the steel steps and into the steel guardrail. Then back in the ring, Hardy chucked a steel chair into the face of a seated Sammy. Hardy climbed the ladder, where Sammy met him for a challenge, but Hardy cut him off, and cuttered him to the ground, with a high altitude Twist of Fate. Sammy’s resilience meant the match didn’t end there, and he responded with a cutter of his own, a vaulting springboard cutter while Hardy had a steel chair wrapped around his neck! A very nasty yet very creative move, exactly the kind of thing that a clear-headed Jeff Hardy would be proud to have inspired. But that still wasn’t enough to put Hardy away. Instead of using a move only possibly inspired by Hardy’s style, Sammy hit Jeff with Hardy’s most iconic move, a diving swanton off the top of a ladder through a table! That had to be it for, Hardy, right? However, being a big Jeff Hardy fan, Sammy knew he needed one more move, so he went for a Shooting Star Press, but Hardy countered it with his knees! However, that block also caused Sammy’s knee to come down on Hardy’s face, and bust him open. A bloodied battered but not beaten Hardy went to finish Sammy off with another Twist of Fate, but Sammy twisted too, and reversed it into his GTH finisher, driving his knees into Hardy’s skull one last time, earning the 1-2-3, and a memorable victory. 




Darby Allin & Sting


"Two old men approaching the end look back..."

by Sergei.


Tag teams are often about contrast: a big guy and a little guy, an old guy and a young guy, an enthusiastic cheerleader and a gritty realist, a power wrestler and a daredevil high-flier. The Sting / Darby Allin duo was about ALL of those contrasts. But the other thing about a team is: it’s a team. And as they work together and train together and grow closer, those contrasts may start to fade as they rub off on each other, and we DEFINITELY have seen that with Darby and Sting. Little Darby has grown in self-assurance such that it isn't even surprising to see him use Sting’s King-Kong chest thumps. Sting seems to have no concept that HE is not the daredevil of the team. And as Sting’s career, and by extension, the Darby-Sting partnership, winds to its finale, it becomes the moment to speak of time and mortality and age.


Obviously, one of the major things to rub off between these two is Darby’s youthfulness. Believe it or not, Sting is 64 year old, an age when most people struggle to get up out of their easy chair, and he is a man who everyone believed had a career-ending injury over eight years ago, who came into AEW with everyone assuming he could no longer bump and would only be doing cinematics. Instead, Darby’s youthful, “why not?”, daredevil spirit seemed to have almost literally infected Sting, and instead of a stately nostalgia act, we got a man ready, willing, AND able to be an active, vital part of the show. The past three years may have been the greatest final run of a wrestling career ever.


But it didn’t all go one way—as much as Darby’s youthfulness infected Sting, The Icon’s mature perspective seems to have seeped into Allin. ICYMI, BEHOLD:



Sting opens this brilliant monologue ruminating on his mortality: “When you’re close to the end and you look back on life, it really puts everything into perspective.” OH WAIT, NO! That wasn’t Sting, Darby Allin says that! Like a veteran stage duo trading parts as an acting exercise, Darby seems to be stealing Sting’s lines here, but it strangely doesn’t even seem off. Darby has always been presented as morbidly obsessed with death, and with his risk-addict lifestyle may very well feel that he is always close to the end. And, of course, the partnership that has so defined his career thus far truly is near the end. Darby has always struggled to muster the gravitas to pull off the character that he portrays, but not this time. He is so completely in the zone of truly BE-ing “Darby Allin” and every word, pause, and gesture positively DRIPS gravitas.


He asks Sting for permission to show the Bucks something personal, then reaches off camera for a prop. It’s an old photo that looks like a print from a 35mm roll, because Sting is wearing his Wolfpac-style facepaint it’s clearly from about a quarter-century ago, an era when every drugstore offered film development. Sting is there with his sons, also wearing his paint, just a couple kids enjoying wrestling and idolizing their dad. When he asks the Bucks through the screen if they remember Sting’s kids and chuckles “of course you do,” it’s about as Liam-Neeson-in-Taken as a bleach-blond elfin Goth kid could possibly get. He goes on to imply a dire threat: they were about the age the Bucks’ kids are now! His close, that only family matters in the end, seems like a benign message, but it’s also the message of a movie mafioso.


Then Sting tags in with a strange, but breathtaking monologue building on Darby’s themes. He brings up the real-life passing of his father, but this isn’t one of those promos meant to milk real tragedy for pathos or inspiration. It’s just an example of the rough road he’s been treading, one that he puts on the same level with the fictional stuff like the attack on his kids. On the subject of his mortality and impending retirement he breaks his own train of thought, when claiming that he used to think he was invulnerable, he observes the obvious: that he sometimes still does, (referencing the crazy, daredevil stunts he still pulls off in his AARP-era.) He uses this to lead into his close: even though he knows he’s not invincible, he’s going to bring EVERYTHING he has left to Revolution, so “you bucks” (which sounds like the nastiest insult when Sting says it) will have the fight of their life.


Sting’s tone, pauses, and mannerisms in this speech were, to me, legitimately strange, even Shatner-ian. But that didn’t take away from, (in a way, even added to,) the mystique and gravitas of a segment I feel will be fondly remembered for a long time.




Matthew & Nicholas Jackson


"Do as we said then, not as we are doing now..."

by Greyson.


This was yet another week of the Young Bucks choosing not to live their philo-so-phies of “Change the World” and “Live. Love. Superkick.” Even in the ring, our EVPs failed to deliver a Superkick Party but rather gave a Superkick Fake-Out in their match against local competitors Jonny Lyons and Cappuccino Jones on Rampage.


During the Bucks absence, I spoke about others on the roster deciding to Be Elite and continue the AEW culture The Elite created, their ideas and mode of storytelling.  As a key catalyst of the #RestoreTheFeeling movement at the end of last year, Daniel Garcia is a key example of doing this, as are Sting and Darby Allin, all three of whom poured their hearts out on Dynamite. Garcia shared openly that a few months ago he felt he was at the “lowest point of (his) career,” losing his confidence, and “losing the feeling” in his own life. But he now proudly says “every single time I got down, y’all picked me back up,” thanking the fans for “helping (him) restore that feeling.” The ability to have moments like this, sharing who you really are, not acting as a mere caricature fighter, is a hallmark of AEW storytelling that can be seen across some of the best stories in AEW’s history. 


Now Matthew and Nicholas are physically present, but the spirit of their unique approach to the sport has been painted over by corporatist ideas, inauthentic leadership, and ostentatious seriousness, going from being the vanguards of pure emotional vulnerability, free expression, and having fun in pro wrestling, to micromanagement and handing out excessive fines left and right. Instead of doing what Garcia did and being honest about all the feelings inside of them, about their fear for the future of the movement they built, they channel that fear into misplaced anger towards their dedicated employees over every minor slight. 


AEW Tag Team Champions Darby Allin and Sting sought to extricate whatever may be left of the heart and soul of the Bucks in their very moving and powerful promo on Dynamite, Sting shared about the loss of his father, a man who “taught him right.” And Darby powerfully stated “…material objects we chase that [we] think define us, but in reality don’t mean a single thing… this is the only thing that matters in life in the end, is family.” 


To cap off the week, on Rampage, Matthew and Nicholas do the classic toxic boss thing and give a fake apology to Tony Schiavone who they’d brutally attacked the week prior, claiming incredulously it was an accident due to untied shoelaces along with a small apology gift. I’m sure many of us have had experiences where our bosses would deny increases in pay, added staffing, or other substantive changes, but try to show their “appreciation” with a pizza party or small gift. Schiavone’s experience of getting a $25 Amazon gift card while still being forced to pay a $1000 fine is perfectly emblematic of this. As many movements have asked others, with the contrast set forth here between their current conduct and the culture they said they sought to protect, Matthew & Nicholas Jackson will need to eventually ask themselves, “which side are you on?”  




Sting


"An Icon Grapples with Death..."

by Peter.


Family has always been a part of wrestling. Some of the greatest moments in wrestling history have seen family at ringside. Some of the greatest to lace boots have had family as part of their story. But for every wrestler that has had their father as part of their story, some have decided not to include theirs.


For 36 years, Steve Borden decided not to include his father in his story, through all the world title wins and historic moments. Steve Borden or Sting as we all know him didn't let us into his family life. Yet fate, tragedy, whatever you want to call it, played its hand.


Sting and Darby Allin spoke to the fans on Dynamite this past Wednesday. It was the second we've heard from Darby since one of the greatest moments of his career. It was the first time we’ve heard Sting since what might be the last great moment of his career. There was a reason for the discrepancy in the amount of times Darby and Sting have spoken since the night they won the tag team titles and then were bloodied and beaten straight afterwards by The Young Bucks two weeks previous. 


In all the talk of revenge and retribution from Sting that we were expecting came a moment of shock. When talking about family and how that is all that matters, we expected Sting to expand on Darby’s point about how Sting’s two sons were beaten and how that was for the first time in Sting’s time in wrestling that had happened, which he did at first until Steve Borden changed the subject.


It was at this moment that we learnt that Steve Borden’s father had passed away. In the world of breaking news and social media being a place to let the world know any developments in your life, to hear a man tell you that 7 days before that his father had died was a shock to the system. There was no news on wrestling sites to let the world know why Sting wasn’t on Dynamite the week before, no mention on Sting’s social media. We heard it from his own mouth. The pain as Sting talked about his father, it is a pain that is there when one of your parents passes away. That pain doesn’t go away quickly either, trust me on that.


To hear Sting talk about “time catching up with him” sounds more haunting now than when the thought of the clock counting down on his career started with the announcement of the Sting retirement tour 4 months ago. To hear a man talk about his father in the past tense when he had been present throughout his iconic career was heartbreaking, that with just three weeks left to go, Steve Borden’s father couldn’t make it to the end and to Greensboro.


But in all the talk of immortality and invincibility not being what you thought it was was the realisation that if Sting has anything left, he will use it and give the Bucks a fight. Revolution and the tag title match was always going to be emotional, but after watching Sting speak, I don’t think we can be prepared for just how emotional.





Daniel Garcia


"Restore the Feeling..."

by Gareth.


As AEW nears one of their biggest ever events, there is a nervous excitement amongst the AEW fanbase. On paper AEW Revolution this year has “greatest PPV of all time” potential, and that isn’t ridiculous to say. (Although I urge all wrestling fans to temper their expectations).

 

An industry defining moment in Sting’s last match against a rejuvenated Young Bucks. A huge triple threat match for the world title featuring the two hottest singles wrestlers in the company and a legendary champion who has traditionally excelled in multiman settings. The [presumably] final match in a grudge feud between a fan favourite and arguably the greatest wrestler of all time. A tantalising debut (as an “all elite'' wrestler) for arguably the best wrestler on the planet, against an equally exciting opponent. Not to mention the rumoured arrival of ‘The Rainmaker’.

 

Don’t worry, I won’t rattle through the entire preview for Revolution, but what I’ve mentioned already is “WrestleMania” worthy. If you apply all those things to the context of WWE and that, again, is not ridiculous to say. This SHOULD be an extremely special show. All capped off by being hosted in the legendary Greensboro Coliseum. The stage is set.

 

However, despite all of this, the most exciting thing on the card, for me personally, is the potential of Daniel Garcia defeating Christian Cage for the TNT Championship. I believe there’s a really good chance that AEW pull the trigger on Garcia who has remained over for a long time despite poor booking.

 

Now being that excited for this is very subjective. Garcia is someone I have backed to the hilt since day one. However, I don’t think I’m alone in that. Certainly not if you look at the crowd reaction during Garcia’s promo on Dynamite. An impassioned, and brilliant, babyface promo which shows just how well ‘Red Death’ has grown in terms of his character work.

 

Subjective feelings aside, I do think Garcia’s push is a huge part of AEW slowly restoring the feeling. It’s not the only thing, of course. But that feeling of following a “rising star” that AEW had in its early days with Jungle Boy, Darby Allin, MJF and Sammy Guevera is something that has been missing in the last couple years as those names either ascended to the next level or lost momentum.

 

The youth movement is vital to AEW’s “feeling”, and Daniel Garcia is almost single-handedly restoring that.





 

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