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The Blue League Delivers | AEWeekly Review #97

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.


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




Match of the Week: Sergei.

A Blue-League Tie


The competitors in the opening match and the main event on Saturday night were Claudio Castagnoli, Eddie Kingston, Bryan Danielson, and Andrade El Idolo. So it maybe should go without saying that these were a couple of great matches, in a technical sense. But there are a lot of great matches every week on AEW programming, in a technical senseespecially with the C2 running right now. The selection of these two matches in a rare tie for MOTW isn't even about any of that. In the immortal words of Jim McKay, it's about the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.


(I do say so myself, but…) I wrote an excellent piece a few days ago about the ins and outs of the Continental Classic, and one aspect I talked about that really makes this tournament stand out is the way that it adds stakes and urgency to every match. And for nobody had that urgency been cranked to the max more than it had for Eddie Kingston at the beginning of the night Saturday night. Eddie Kingston who had willingly chosen to gamble his life's work just to increase the prestige of his dream tournament, much like every entrant in the first J-Cup gambled their title for a chance to win 8. Eddie Kingston who had taken that gamble for even a low-odds shot at becoming AEW’s first Triple Crown holder, much like the All-Japan Triple Crown that his hero Toshiaka Kawada had once held. Eddie Kingston who had already lost his first two matches and whose gamble was hanging by a frayed thread. Eddie Kingston who had been grievously disrespected in loss by his prior opponent and had promised to pay that disrespect forward by “fuck[ing] up” his remaining three Blue League opponent’s, especially tonight’s opponent, Danielson ally AND career-spanning nemesis Claudio Castagnoli.


Eddie’s promise to “fuck up” Claudio tonight and let him put the blame on Bryan for his disrespect the previous week, strongly implied an expectation of a dominant, cathartic, mudhole-stomping sort of showing, but that was not what we were getting, with the Mad King being the one to take most of the beating and every near-three being for his life (in this tournament.) In the recent feud between Kingston and Castagnoli over the Ring of Honor Championship over the past year, when the Swiss Superman fended off Kingston’s first challenge with a surprise roll-up, Eddie asserted that a win like that proved nothing, and that neither man should be satisfied with less than a totally dominant win that genuinely proved them the better man on the night. When Eddie worked his way to a second challenge he got the kind of win he said that he needed, earned the title that meant so much to him, and exorcized some ghosts of self-doubt, so on that night maybe he was right that he needed to win in a dominant fashion. But in the context of this tournament, with everything he had ever earnedand was now gamblingon the line, a win is a win is a win.


So when eternal-underdog Eddie got the flash pin, it was anything but underwhelming or an anticlimax, earning a raucous ovation from the live crowd, and had me pumping my fist and literally exclaiming out loud from my own house, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one watching from home emotionally effected more than they are used to. Promising an ass-kicking and instead delivering a sneaky win from behind was (arguably) a fantastic head-fake by Eddie, and the match delivered to the audiencerather than cathartic revengean exultant moment of victory based instead on relief of suspense.


Meanwhile, the main event featured the greatest wrestler in the world, who had arrogantly forecasted a perfect tournament, mocking Kingston’s motto of humility in victory or defeat, and who had added insult to injury to his defeated opponents after each of his first two tournament wins, parading around an “Eddie is a Bum” sign, and spitting right on the fallen Garcia. So one might have expected a match with cathartic violence to vent the anger fans had built against Danielson over his recent behavior. But instead we got something very different.


Andrade destroyed Danielson in a performance that felt more like seeing an old man being mugged than any sort of righteous ass-kicking. And the really amazing thing to me, while watching Andrade rip off Danielson’s eyepatch and dissect his not-fully-healed orbital, is that the level of cruelty and viciousness on display would normally be reserved for establishing the irredeemable nastiness of some terrible villain or to give catharsis in some deeply personal blood feud, and this was none of that. It wasn’t a case of going beyond what is needed, violence for its own sake, it wasn’t technically sadistic, or even personal at all. Andrade was simply the first opponent in this tournament to genuinely respect the threat that Danielson posed and do exactly what was needed to defeat him. Danielson seemed to take this as the compliment it was, saying in a post-match interview that having an opponent target his orbital bone “made him feel alive.”


Choosing between these two amazing matches would have been impossible for me, for completely opposite reasons. The Kingston match was a brilliant work of building suspense to a climax of relief, while the Danielson match was a gut-wrenching display of visceral brutality. But it seems as though even-better may very well be yet to come in this amazing tournament!




Promo of the Week: Sergei.

The meditation’s not working anymore…


I was so tempted to give this to a big multi-way tie among all the C2 competitors this week for the amazing post-match interviews that every one of them has been putting out. But then when I was going through them all one more time, I came across one I had missed. The most obscure one, after Danielson’s other match of the week, his Rampage match. And if I missed it, likely many people missed it, so here it is. I highly recommend: watch it now!

The video starts with a single question from the interviewer: why had he spit on Daniel Garcia after their match? Note that this wasn’t the first outrageous bit of disrespect by Bryan towards an honorable, fallen opponent that one might have thought would have earned his respect: after beating his previous C2 opponent, he had pulled a sign saying “Eddie is a Bum” from a fan, paraded it around like a gladiator with a severed head and laid it over Kingston’s body, an act so offensive it had me agreeing with Nigel McGuinness in his Dragon hate!


Danielson’s response is one of the best lines ever, taking me entirely off my guard and changing my perspective completely: “Sometimes I do things and I don’t know why.” This completely puts his meditation into an entirely different frame of reference: instead of being a calm, wise hippy doing calm, wise hippy shit, we see the meditation as the practice of a violent, volatile man with urges toward toxic reactions that he doesn’t understand himself, using the best tool he knows to try to better understand and maybe control those urges.


In one sentence I’m already sold, but it only gets better. The Dragon goes on to explain how he realized that he still felt betrayed by Garcia from his actions costing him his challenge for the Ring of Honor championship a whole year prior. The anger and pain in his voice and face while he says “I get it. I get it!” and “I would have treated him like a son!” is so visceral and real, I can’t help but think “and this is WHILE meditating!”


At this point we are one minute in to a brief three-minute interview and we are already approaching all-timer status. But that’s when Danielson decides it’s time to ACTUALLY go hard. He points out how Garcia’s betrayal makes him worry about the little daughter he’s promised to retire for: what if by the time he gets home after this last year as a full-time wrestler, she no longer wants him there? Maybe not a realistic worry about an 8 year old, but eventually? Eventually, as a teenager or a young adult, little Birdie is going to say something like: “I don’t want you around, you aren’t helping me, I don’t appreciate you.”


This is enough to get anybody cloudy, but then he goes on to rightly point out that that doesn’t matter… A parent’s love isn’t about appreciation, or reciprocation. When our children say they don’t want us there, that doesn’t mean that they don’t need us there. The range of this monologue, from calmness to rage to heartbreak to pure love in only three minutes is truly something special and next level. I feel humbled by the prospect of coming up with the words to describe how great these words were. I am truly rooting for Danielson to fulfill his promise to his daughter and have one more amazing year and then follow through on going home to be there for his kids, but when he does, we wrestling fans will lose something truly and uniquely special.



Story Beat of the Week: Saul.

Don’t talk to my son ever again….. or I’ll whack you with a title belt


We just had a Christian vs Edge main event in 2023. Granted, it was actually Christian Cage vs Adam Copeland, but you get the idea. Wrestling can be pretty damn wild.


Even more wild is that the culmination of this match involved the mother of Christian’s adopted son delivering the decisive blow by knocking out Mr. Phoenix with a championship belt, and that was a logical and fun storybeat that didn’t ruin the match (for me at least)!


Perhaps Shayna Wayne is just a protective mother who doesn’t want her son to see anything “Rated-R”. Maybe she remembered that this is the same man, despite the altered nom de plume, that once commemorated a championship victory with a live sex celebration and she didn’t want her son to witness such depravity in his workplace…..


Or conceivably it was to do with Sexton Hardcastle delivering a con-chair-to to poor Nick a few week’s previous. I admit, that may be more likely, and if it’s the case, she is completely justified in her actions. It’s not the Attitude Era anymore, haven’t you heard of concussions Adam?!!!


I’m excited to see where this goes from here. The match really delivered, and Christian is sure to make an absolute meal of Shayna’s involvement. Christian Cage in particular has the Midas touch right now: Long live the Patriarchy! (Please don’t quote this out of context.)




Moment of the Week: Peter.

Hangman on the Road to a Black Hat?


It really speaks to the greatness of a Moment in a week that it was so interesting, so great, that it tops a Moment that you may have fallen in love:


[insert Shayna Wayne GIF here please, Sergei]

[Sorry, did you say "Wayne's World"?]


Shayna Wayne might be the most beautiful woman in wrestling history, guys! 


Sorry, back to what I want to talk about.


In losing to Swerve Strickland at Full Gear in that Texas Death Match, Hangman didn't do what he promised to do in his promo on Collision, 8 days shy of what was supposed to be Swerve's reckoning. Not only did Strickland not get buried 6 feet under, and not get his grave pissed on by members of the Page family, but Swerve is one of the in-running favorites in the Continental Classic, and he's becoming one of the most popular wrestlers in AEW, while Hangman was unable to fly to events because of medical advice. So much for being held responsible for your actions, no matter how much you tell yourself that you took the man who trespassed into your home's “soul.”


So the first chance he got to go back to work, Hangman got on a plane to Montreal and the first chance we got to see Hanger back on our screens, in a coincidence, we got to see Page and Renee Pacquette interact once again.


With permission from a fellow Elitist, here is her tweet regarding the relationship between Page and Pacquette:


From moments of penance and remorse, to the tension in their knowledge of the events that were going to happen in their interactions during his blood feud with her husband Jon Moxley, the relationship between Adam and Renee has been a window to the soul of Hangman, and on this night, the interaction between them told of a Hangman that doesn't give a s***.


Blatantly walking into the shot when Renee was just doing her job, his attitude spoke of a man who has watched the last couple of weeks of Dynamite and seen the fans who once cheered him on to his greatest achievement, stood by him when he was struggling to cope with the with his inner demons, and even on a weekend in which the events started 16 months previous by a comment from Page would lead to Chicago's favorite son being fired, the Chi-town natives still cheered Adam Page.


Yet, at WrestleDream, Adam Page was booed. Yes sure, he was in Swerve Strickland's home town that night but 28 days earlier, he was cheered in Chicago on the weekend CM Punk was fired from AEW. The unboo-able Adam Page got booed and 10 weeks laterin which time Strickland broke and entered into his house, caused an injury so severe in the Texas Death Match that Page couldn't enter C2, and caused him to not live up to his wordsand Hangman has now seen The House of Page turn into Swerve's House. Page by his reaction when Renee called him out for entering her shot on live TV, looked like a man with NFLTG (Google it people)


Wrestling has seen many a wrestler claim that they are not the one who had changed, but that it's the people in attendance who had: from Jerry Lawler in Memphis in 1989, to Bret Hart in 1997. It feels like Hangman may have set his feet on a path to follow those legends in that mindset. Whether he would be right or wrong is something to be debated later down the line, but based on an interaction with Renee, this shift in attitude from, not just an AEW original, but one of only two originals on the male side to never have turned to the dark side, might have Hangman on the edge of becoming a cowboy who wears a black hat.



MVP of the Week: Gareth.

Bryan Danielson… again.


When Bryan Danielson has the two best matches in a promotion’s week, as he did according to Cagematch votes, then it’s pretty hard to argue against his case for weekly MVP.

 

However, his case runs deeper than simply great matches and the reason he’s the MVP for the second week running is different from the reason for last week.

 

Last week I wrote about Danielson’s versatility as a performer in that he can be great on commentary, in a promo and in the ring. However, this week he really took that in-ring versatility to another level.

 

Firstly, in a great match with Daniel Garcia. The fourth in their series against each other which felt different to their previous three. Because whilst Danielson has played the dominant master in all of their previous meetings, this was the first time he overtly adopted the “heel role”.

 

Bryan delved into his “Dickhead Danielson” mode and wrestled Garcia with an arrogance and disrespect without needing to squash the up-and-comer. In short, my favourite wrestler, Bryan Danielson, made me hate him and root for “Red Death” Daniel Garcia with all my heart.

 

I was drawn into the drama of the match and even believed that Garcia could get the win at one point. Despite literally knowing the result beforehand having been spoiled.

 

The “next night” Danielson faced Andrade el Idolo and his role was reversed. Andrade exposed Bryan’s orbital bone injury and ‘The American Dragon’ had a truly fantastic babyface performance, fighting from underneath.

 

My disdain for Bryan against Garcia not only disappeared, but the feeling was flipped on its head against Andrade.

 

The Continental Classic has allowed Danielson to shine in various ways, proving that he is probably the most rounded pro-wrestler of his generation. Which is not news to us, we know this about Bryan. But he really does deserve his flowers, as we must appreciate him whilst we still have him.

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