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The Agony of Defeat | AEWeekly Review #31

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 promos, Gareth [@Gareth_EW] exploring a key story beat Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week, Dan [@WinsDANlosses] reflecting on the best move and Trish [@TrishSpeirs48] giving us the MVP of the week.

Special thanks to Dan for making the new section headers!

Death Triangle vs United Empire, by Joe

The best AEW match this week was Death Triangle vs United Empire. This match was like a great commercial not only for what the Trios Division could be, but for what All Elite Wrestling can be at it’s best. That is a global showcase of the World’s Best Wrestling (Tony Khan’s initial name for AEW). Featuring 6 wrestlers from 3 different continents, 3 different countries, and no one from the United States of America competing in the main event of the USA’s 2nd biggest promotion on their biggest weekly showcase.

This is a match that I would show to non-wrestling fans to try and convince them it was something worth checking out. It was a showcase of elite athleticism blended with high level creativity and showmanship. This was Olympic Gymnastics meets Cirque Du Soleil meets The Avengers. Unlike the Avengers, there was no chance to do a retake or add in special effects or call in a stuntman, these 6 superstars (without the capital “S” (™) ) put on a world-class showcase that would be hard to produce even if they were able to rehearse it 10 times beforehand.

I would easily watch this match again and it would easily bring me great joy and elicit my total engagement in a way that is truly special and rare and should be appreciated.

Ricky says: "Follow that? … Challenge accepted!" by Sergei

Punk vs Moxley started at the top of the second hour of Dynamite, and if you weren’t paying close attention to the scheduled segments and which we’d seen and which we hadn’t seen, it would be perfectly understandable to assume this would be the main event, perhaps a one-hour draw to lead to a rematch.

Instead, we got the quickest, most visceral destruction of a reigning champion ever, evocative of Brody Lee’s TNT Championship win, but even more brutal. And in mere minutes the match and fallout segment was over, and the show still had over 40 minutes of runtime left. And who was entrusted with following the unfollowable?

The next in-ring segment was a promo segment from Ricky Starks to further a midcard tag-team breakup feud. Sounds like a lamb sent out to die a death, but that’s not our Ricky.

From day one Ricky Starks has been the guy with a Rock-like vibe. He doesn’t want to be seen as a copycat, but the comparison has some merit, and that’s no bad thing: fantastic delivery and charisma. But the best part of his promo Wednesday night was some genuine-seeming emotion I can’t even imagine coming from the unflappable Dwayne.

He started off talking about how he thought it would be different between him and Hobbs, how Hobbs called every week to check up on him when he was recovering from a broken neck. How he had brought Hobbs up from obscurity and shared his spotlight with him.

But when he talked about his disbelief that someone he thought of as a friend could attack him in the neck, despite knowing what he went through to rehab that injury, the emotion that welled up in him seemed so genuine and visceral, he had a crowd–that might have checked out emotionally for the evening after the shock of the faux-main-event–right in the palm of his hand.

Ricky Starks’s skills on the microphone are something truly special, and go beyond being a Rock tribute act.

Jericho and Danielson are Tearing Garcia APART! by Gareth

I am spoiled for choice this week, but the promo segment that opened Dynamite really caught my eye as an example of AEW’s excellent long-term storytelling when it comes to establishing their younger talent.

Chris Jericho and Bryan Danielson vying for Daniel Garcia’s services may seem over-dramatic, and the use of the terms “wrestler” and “sports entertainer” could be seen as cringe-worthy in a different context. But here those words represent opposing ideologies which Danielson and Jericho hold dear. Opposing ideologies which Daniel Garcia must now choose between.

When Garcia came into AEW with 2point0, they looked to attack established names desperately trying to make a name for themselves. And when the opportunity to work with Chris Jericho arose, it is something which Garcia’s character would obviously leap at.

But now he’s got through all that. He has made a name for himself, he’s had the big matches with Jericho. Yet, as he said in the promo this week, those things didn’t feel as special to Garcia as sharing the ring, and having a certain style of match, with his idol Bryan Danielson.

The inner conflict of “am I a wrestler or a sports entertainer?” may seem silly on the surface. But if we dig a little deeper, this is a crisis of identity (one of the most classic stories). Does Garcia continue down the road that has brought him success thus far? Or, does he go down the road that his heart is truly set on?

That decision will define Daniel Garcia’s character for the foreseeable future.

Punk & Moxley: The Ecstasy of Victory and the Agony of Defeat, by Peter

Never has back to back camera shots told such varying stories. Jon Moxley is with his fellow Cleveland residents, celebrating what is the most glorious moment of his career. This wasn't a cash in of a briefcase, this wasn't a world title win with the looming presence of a pandemic that would change wrestling for the next 26 months and you can't use the interim after this win unlike after Forbidden Door. Jon Moxley won the World Title in the city he was born in, the city he came back to after living in Vegas for a period of time. It doesn't get better than this for a professional wrestler

Seconds later, we see CM Punk, he has just looked behind him, his arms round the shoulders of Doctor Sampson and his best friend Ace Steele, now an AEW coach. The camera is close up and Punk looks inconsolable and bewildered. It was over in minutes. It wasn't supposed to happen like that. Whatever he had planned for his first defence was thrown out of the window at the first stress of his ankle when he tried to kick Jon in the head. His ankle failed its first test. That ankle that was needlessly injured when in a moment of joy he fell short on his jump to the crowd the Dynamite after his World Title win at Double Or Nothing, an act of joy that defined the first couple of months of Punk's comeback to wrestling. 369 days after his and AEW’s first dance together, the honeymoon period was truly over. He got his ass whupped to quote JR. You're not supposed to lose your world title match in less than three minutes. That kind of thing only happens in MMA and boxing not in pro wrestling right?

Punk's face full of emotion, sorrow and confusion tells of a man who knew the answer to the question Taz posed "Did Punk come back too soon?" The fact he couldn't support his own weight, that he was being carried out by his friend of twenty years tells you that answer. The fact that CM Punk who had managed to divide the wrestling universe's opinion of him the week before now had to eat a massive plate of shit tells you that answer.

The saying wins and losses matter is something that gets brought up a lot since the formation of AEW and is a crutch some fans hold on to in their critiques and praise of today's wrestling output but on this night in two camera shots, the phrase wins and loses matter could not have had more weight. That win mattered for Jon Moxley, he no longer has the word Interim to his name. That loss mattered for CM Punk, he has to go back to the drawing board and he might need a new play if he is to be the man again.

Ospreay :KNEES UP! by Dan

Death Triangle against United Empire should not have been a hard sell for anyone. Six of the best wrestlers in the world going up against each other in a contest which seemingly had infinite promise. But whether you loved it or loathed it, that AEW Title match was an incredibly hard match to follow. The crowd were shell-shocked and I suspect many at home were in a similar state of bewilderment.

Fortunately, one of the men involved in this match was Will Ospreay…and Will Ospreay in 2022 is almost impossible to ignore. Pretty much every match he is involved in at the moment is a showreel of potential Moves of the Week, and this week on Dynamite was no different.

So which of the Ospreay cavalcade of impressiveness did I go for? Putting his knees up. Yes I know…but hear me out.

It’s something we see every week in wrestling. A competitor climbs to the top to hit their big move, launch into the abyss and come crashing down on their opponents raised legs to great agony. So how do you make something as cliche as this into something great? With impeccable timing and an opponent who trusts you implicitly.

PAC had certainly got the latter part of that memo because his attempted Black Arrow, itself an enormously impressive move, was not a half-arsed ‘flying nothing’. He executed the move as he does every single week, and if he’d connected, the match would have been as dead as a promise from Liz Truss.

But in the few seconds it took for PAC to sail through the air, Ospreay brought up his knees. Not randomly though. Not awkwardly. But expertly. He caught PAC absolutely perfectly as he landed, with the Geordie Bastard folding around Ospreay as if he’d melted. In the blink of an eye Ospreay had rolled PAC up for the pinfall, and I’d have been delighted if that had been the finish (mainly as this was before all the Kip Sabian nonsense).

It feels like the trios division is more important than the tag iteration right now, which is a bit of an issue in AEW. But if they can put on matches of this quality for the foreseeable future I’m more than prepared to, as the parlance goes, ‘let it play out’.

The Ace Jon Moxley, by Trish

I often choose not to make blanket statements, after all opinions and arguments always have another side, but I feel safe in making this one.

Jon Moxley is the ace of All Elite Wrestling.

The ace may not be the best paid or the most promoted, might not be the best in ring worker in the company but they are someone they can go back to each and every time when things get tough; allowing the company to stabilise and begin to build again and who they can be confident will deliver their own performance every single time.

Having already carried the company as Champion through the pandemic, 2022 asked perhaps even more of the Cincinnati native, with the 'summer of Punk' turned to dust 3 days after it had been meant to begin and a resurgent competition buoyed by one of AEW'S founding EVP's and a change at the very top of the company to contend with. Add to that an AEW environment experiencing personnel challenges and disruption to normal storytelling patterns through injuries and a NJPW crossover show and the challenge became even greater. Once more Moxley put AEW on his back.

The outstanding two minute promos to build up main events early on in the shows were brought back and he was quickly having great matches whilst elevating with the likes of Takeshita and Brody King or even to help welcome others to AEW television- as was the case with RUSH. His main event with the man who is NJPW's 'Ace', Hiroshi Tanahashi, was a business success and a reminder that there is more than one man who can draw on PPV in AEW.

Moxley's character work during this summer and his physicality during matchups have made him look dominant and was a reason that this week's Unification match demolition of CM Punk was able to work as it did. The Death Rider has not been escaping with wins during this reign, instead he's been able to remove some items that most babyfaces have, such as sympathy and self doubt. He didn't care that he'd cut open Konosuke Takeshita, instead he bit at the cut and attempted to open it up even further. He didn't care for the fighting spirit of Hiroshi Tanahashi or for the boos of 15,000 people who had collectively chosen to chant "Go Ace" at the culmination of their title match at Forbidden Door, rather, he rained elbows down continually to the neck of his opponent. The ferociousness of his actions have been the same throughout and this meant that the sight of a wounded Punk on Wednesday night wasn't something he'd care too much about.

CM Punk (who has bested every homemade star and had walked to the championship as though it was a Sunday stroll) wasn't going to be able to escape this one and he wasn't going to get the opportunity to either. Not did such actions make Jon Moxley a heel (yes, he was in his home state) because the audience understands that for him it is all about respect. Moxley, who felt disrespected by the interim title and disrespected by those who believed he was just a placeholder. The audience knows what drives him and responds to that.

It's also about the respect he shows others as well- to opponents who repricate he will illustrate his after the bouts have finished, in not burying them like is favourable right now to some of his compatriots and in his focus on building matchups up as much as he possibly can. These are values which he also shares with Hiroshi Tanahashi and it is fitting that his title reign will now be recognised with beginning from their matchup.

Amidst the chaos of this summer it is Jon Moxley who very much has been both the "heart and soul" of AEW as well as the "dollars and cents". He is the Ace of the company and represents everything a champion should be.


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