THANK GOD HE'S BACK... BUT WAS AEW BACK TO ITS BEST? | #AEWeekly Roundtable #7
Hello and welcome to the #AEWeekly Roundtable Discussion where ProWrestlingMusings contributors share their thoughts on the major talking points arising from the last week of AEW programming.
This weeks writers are Andy (@AndyDCollier), Joe (@GoodVsBadGuys), Anthony (@Anthonydownunda), Jae (@jaefinley13) and Vlad (@TheOneBuzzard).
1) Jon Moxley is officially back, cutting a promo on Dynamite and beating Ethan Page on Rampage! Thoughts?
[Anthony] I’m so happy, he looks like a million dollars. The air was different, and the silence was so amazing. He had the crowd in his hand. The promo hit so hard. It’s just so great to see him back and healthy – he only drinks blood now.
[Andy] I didn't realise how much Moxley had been missed until he opened his mouth. The guy is incredible and the fact that he is healthy is spectacular. The crowd love him, he draws ratings, and he generates buzz. It is better than a new addition to the roster and should drag AEW out of the lull the have been in.
[Jae] This was such a brilliant, authentic promo that there is little I can say that adds anything beyond what can be gained by watching it.
I will say this though; I think we are going to see Jon Moxley reach a new level in this next year and beyond. We have seen him do amazing things with the cloud hanging over him but never after he beat the shit out of the cloud. He is reborn, and that is not hyperbole. Excited to see what comes next — especially since it involves Bryan Danielson.
[Joe] I’m happy to see Mox looking healthy and reinvigorated. I’m interested to see from an in-ring standpoint if reverting to a smaller, slighter frame is going to lead to a stylistic change.
I’m excited for the story between him and Danielson, but most of all happy for his recovery, and appreciated his message about being proud of your scars. It reminds of something Raven once said about your scars being tattoos you get from life.
[Vlad] I’m extremely happy to see Moxley back in AEW. His comeback promo was as real as it gets, it was beautiful, something that can come only from the heart, not from a script. He also dropped and F bomb, so it was pretty much perfect.
He looks healthy and ready to be back in the ring, something that we saw against Ethan Page on Friday. It was a good match for his return, made to showcase Ethan, who has been getting some valuable wins, as much as Mox. A program with Danielson is exciting, makes it worth buying the PPV just for that one.
2) Leyla Hirsch appeared to turn heel on Dynamite, attacking Kris Statlander and Red Velvet backstage after weeks of tension. Does this development excite you? Where do you hope it leads?
[Anthony] This has been a very well told story so far. I’m excited to see Hirsch go heel. I hope this leads to her finally joining Team Taz, we all want it, and it would be a great fit.
[Andy] Anthony makes an excellent point about the Team Taz fit, but I'd also see an alliance with Marina Shafir being an interesting direction. I think most importantly, I would like to see another excellent wrestler getting airtime and being able to showcase a personality.
Statlander is the measuring stick for this division in my eyes, so it is an excellent feud to really kick-start her time in the company.
[Jae] I agree with both of my colleagues: Team Taz is a natural fit, and I think she would elevate the stable as much as it would elevate her. More than anyone in Team Taz, including Hook, she is the most akin to Taz the wrestler. I want to see her start tapping people out left and right. And a towel on the head during promos and entrances. Heck let’s get her some orange gear!
To me, Statlander (alongside Nyla Rose and Hikaru Shida) constitutes the foundation of the women’s division. I think this feud can elevate both women, and with it, the division.
[Joe] Perfect fit for Team Taz, where Taz can cover the current apparently lacking area in her game in the promo department. She has a unique look and style combination because of how small she is and how big she wrestles.
[Vlad] As Anthony said, I think this was a very well told story, based on Leyla not trusting that her partners can pull off the victory and finally snapping after a loss. I pretty much agree with everyone that she should join Team Taz, as her wrestling style fits perfect with the killer theme of the group.
Only negative thing about the segment was Leyla’s delivery on the promo, it feels forced and rehearsed, but the rest of her presentation is great. I like Andy’s idea of teaming her with Marina Shafir, as you can see that their styles of wrestling both complement each other as well as differ from the other women on the roster.
3) Well, well, well. Cody Rhodes cut another divisive promo. What did you make of it?
[Anthony] Beautiful Chaos is the best way to explain this, I think. The crowd was so into it because they started off booing him and ended up cheering him. I know people are going to be very divided about this but just listening to the crowd shows it hit. I think the best part was how many different threads it opened.
[Andy] Love him or love to hate him, Cody always gets people talking with his promos. He is the best placed one to have the not-so-subtle digs at NXT/WWE and he does a very good job of it. He also backs it up with high quality in ring work and the promise of seeing him against Sammy in a ladder match next week is exciting.
I have no doubt the contract thing is all designed to make his segments must see - and win or lose next week, people will tune in to hear what he has to say until a contract is signed (or not).
[Jae] This was four promos in one, two of them great, one of them not, and one of them bad. The “contrast with CM Punk” promo, which we’ve been waiting for, was great. Everything he said was true. Rhodes did walk the walk and, as much as anyone else, changed the wrestling world. This was great.
Also great was the flirtation about his contract being up. I think these could have been two standalone promos that would be considered among the best of Cody’s AEW work.
Less great was the Sammy-focused stuff. Sammy and Cody’s history goes back to the first episode of Dynamite, and there’s a lot of material there that was not mined in the build-up to their match. Instead of using insider terms (like “heel”), I would rather he use a proxy that works in kayfabe and signals the meta “Will he? Won't he? Or did he already?” conversation going on. He has done this plenty of times before.
[Joe] Like Jae is saying, Cody told the truth. He went on the indies and all over the world, elevating the visibility of the indies. The Bucks credit Cody with being the most gung-ho about running a 10,000-seat arena for All In. If you enjoy the existence of AEW, a lot of thanks goes to Cody Rhodes. He lost his way at points, talking about Jay Lethal’s finisher for example, but even when it wasn’t sharp it was captivating. I was paying attention, and it seemed like the crowd was too.
[Vlad] This promo by Cody was sure was something. It was all over the place and hit more bullet points than any promo I’ve ever heard. Whilst he was telling the truth, he had an air of cockiness in him that was fully unleashed when he started mentioning himself turning heel and referencing WWE. He showed glimpses of the ROH Cody that people loved to hate.
Then he got to Sammy Guevara, a bit too late in the promo and a bit too little to really matter. Something that I didn’t enjoy as he wasn’t putting the next match over as much as himself. The build-up to the match was weak, the build-up of Cody was great, which really gives me two possible endings for the match. Either Sammy wins or Cody goes over by fully turning heel.
4) Jade Cargill vs. Anna Jay became AEW’s first ever women’s main event to not feature Britt Baker on Rampage. What are your overall thoughts on AEW’s women’s division right now? And of course, what did you think about the match itself?
[Andy] The division is at its strongest stage yet. I have no doubt there are a couple of free agents lined up to improve it even further. For the first time, it feels like there are multiple issues at play - Baker/Hayter, Statlander/Hirsch, Deeb/Everyone, Rosa/Martinez and with a second title in the mix this is much needed.
I thought this was Jade's strongest match in AEW. If they can do the old ECW trick of highlight the strengths and hide the flaws, they could be on to a winner. Jade doesn't need 20-minute classics and whoever beats her is already going to be over instantly.
[Jae] Completely agree with Andy that this was Jade’s best match. I love her owning the “green” comments by wearing it and associating it with money. Anna Jay is as much of a prospect as Jade is. I think they have spent some real time plotting the future of the division, and we are starting to reap the benefits.
Thunder Rosa hinted at a couple of big free agent signings, and Deeb is working as an agent. The division’s potential has always been boundless, but now it truly seems like the powers that be believe it too.
[Joe] The division is getting deeper and deeper, and if this match was any indication, it has the depth to support two female singles belts on one brand, which is something that no other major company can say right now.
[Vlad] There is a lot to play for in the division right now. There are stories developing on every show, characters are being fleshed out more and we’re seeing actual stakes that matter week to week.
The title match was great, probably Jade’s best singles match to date, and Anna Jay was a fantastic opponent. The whole match was built around her trying to choke Jade out who sold the sleeper holds better every time which led to Anna locking in the Queen Slayer, showing the progression in this story.
I hope we can see more TBS title matches like this one, ten minutes of action to showcase both competitors. I also hope that we can see women from outside of AEW competing for it, as it was the case for the TNT title.
5) How did you feel about AEW overall this week? Is there anything in else you would like to spotlight?
[Anthony] Serena Deeb is the best and I’m enjoying her destroying everyone and I’m all in on the trip. Also, House of Black were amazing and I’m so excited about everything involving them vs. Pac & Penta.
[Andy] It looks like several contracts aren't being renewed and ultimately that will be positive for AEW. There is only a finite amount of roster space. With all due respect, is an Avalon or Stunt really needed? Janela and Brian Cage haven't been featured for a long time. If names like this are to be released, it should help to ease the concerns over the expanding roster.
[Jae] Maybe I am sentimental, but I hope PWInsider’s report is wrong, at least for Avalon, Stunt, and Janela. I think Peter Avalon is hilarious and worthy of being used as a lower-card comedy act. I also think Marko Stunt has something to offer. I am rooting for him to play a role in the eventual Christian Cage heel turn angle. And I am as much of a Joey Janela mark as anyone. He does not have bad matches. He has worked hard to get in “TV shape” and is a useful conduit between AEW and the independent scene that TK is not. Cage? Eh.
[Joe] I’d like to highlight Sting. He became a main eventer in the 1980s, he was the top babyface in WCW while wrestling was at its most popular ever in the 1990s. He brought visibility and credibility to TNA in the 2000s while still reinventing himself (Joker Sting is my favourite promo version). He was misused by WWE in the 2010s, and is now having a storybook finish to his career while diving off of stages through tables in the 2020s. This man has meaningfully contributed to pro wrestling in 5 different decades. Has anyone done that on this level before? Sting is a treasure, and I am cherishing every fun moment we are getting from him at this stage.
[Vlad] I think AEW did a great job this week with the small segments. The Anna/Jade promos were impactful, the HOOK squash match was perfect, Deeb vs Skye Blue was what it needed to be, the Brody King debut in ring was a great showcase and I especially loved how they protected Griff in that one.
Sting was also very impressive in the match with Acclaimed and I hope we get a tag title run for Sting and Darby, or at least a match with the Bucks. AEW has corrected a lot of the mistakes that bothered people in the last weeks, and it’s great that they listened, as the shows were more fluid even with the huge amount of stuff in both Rampage and Dynamite.