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 Joe [@GoodVsBadGuys] covering match of the week, Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering promos, 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: Joe.
Komander Levels Up
My daughter Emmy just started preschool this week, which lets you know how young she is, which is why I have tried to shield her from seeing much of any wrestling in her short time. However, in the flashes she has come across and the glimpses she has seen, the wrestler that has left the greatest impression on her is …. Komander. Guess what? I totally get it. I have seen an ungodly amount of wrestling in my lifetime, and Komander consistently generates “oohs” “wow”s from me. Kommander reminds me of the spirit and style of the WCW Cruiserweight division during the height of the Monday Night Wars. His innovation, his creativity, and his athleticism are sights to behold. There is another wrestler that I feel that way about, and he happened to be sharing the ring with Komander this night, and that is Rey Fenix.
The AEW announce team did a good job of mentioning the fact that Komander looked up to Rey Fenix growing up, which gave me helpful background information to appreciate a few key moments in the match. First, when Komander tried to do a rope walk move, and it was avoided and countered by Fenix, it makes sense that if anyone would know what to predict and how to counter, it would be the trailblazer of rope walking (and running), Rey Fenix. Then, during a strike exchange, Rey Fenix kept challenging Komander to hit harder. Normally, when you see strike trading in NJPW, or even in the Big Lads division of WWE (Gunther, Drew, Sheamus), the purpose is to show who is tougher. However, during the Rey Fenix-Komander strike exchange, the purpose seemed to be that Rey Fenix was trying to motivate Komander to BECOME tougher. If there is a hole in Komander’s game right now, it could be that intensity and toughness, so this was very cool to see. Finally, when the match was over, Rey Fenix embraced Komander, and you could see that this seemed to be the opposite of a grudge match, this was a love match. Fenix fought to win, but he didn’t want to level Komander, he wanted to level him up.
Promo of the Week: Sergei.
Storytime with MJF
Maxwell Jacob Friedman is a generational talent. He tells us so every week, and every week I find myself agreeing all over again, because he gives me new reasons to believe it. Sometimes by doing something outrageously different and unique…. but more often by doing something simple extremely well—not reinventing the wheel, just convincing the viewer in that moment that all previous iterations of the wheel had been substandard. "Nice story, bro. Too bad mine's better."
This week, Maxwell gave us his rendition of the classic "long, hard road to stardom" promo. It's a simple formula: "I went up and down the roads and made sacrifices to get to this point, and winning this match will prove it was all worthwhile, so there's no WAY I'm letting anything stand in my way." You've probably heard a hundred versions of this, (one of them from Adam Cole moments before!) MJF even steals Adam's "storytime with…" catchphrase.
What makes Max's "wheel" extraordinary? First, is simply: excellence of execution! Maxwell is a virtuoso of the microphone and is proving week in and week out that this is every bit as true as a babyface as it had been as a heel. Everyone (including Friedman) who has done both seems to agree that portraying a babyface is harder, but (as surprising as it is to those, like me, who had loved to hate him,) MJF is proving to be every bit as much the prodigy in either role
And the second way Maxwell's wheel is exceptional is, well: lore. I've covered before in this space how the MJF character is a lot like Heath Ledger's Joker, in that he tells different "villain origin stories," different weeks, challenging the viewer to decide for themselves how much is true, and (even if true) how much is as genuinely formative as he is claiming. As a protagonist he is doing the same, but in a new way: claiming that everything he'd said before about his past was, even if technically true, always presented in a misleading and self-serving way but, as he's turned over a new leaf, this time we're getting the unvarnished truth.
And in fact, we get the same story we already knew about MJF, but with the kinds of details he would've glossed over before: that it took hard work and dogged persistence and luck of being in the right place at the right time, not just god-given talent. Instead of just telling us he IS a generational talent, he points out how we've watched him grow from an opening act to become a generational talent before our eyes. Pulling in the crowd to feel like one team with him, while using the same basic stories and catchphrases that he had previously used to cement himself as a villain, is Maxwell's latest amazing trick. I can't wait to see what he pulls out of his sleeve next!
Story Beat of the Week: Saul.
Jericho Rejects Callis
Damn. I’ve avoided talking about this story for a while, but this week there aren't many other options, especially since I don't want to just echo my praise for MJF and Adam Cole. So let’s discuss the Don Callis and Chris Jericho segment from this week’s Dynamite. I will warn you though, this will be pretty phoned in.
Jericho came out to accept Don Callis' offer to join his family. Callis, who had expected Chris to decline, had commissioned and set up a large oil painting of himself holding Jericho's decapitated head (extremely normal behaviour). They then got into a scuffle before Takeshita and Will Ospreay came to the ring to beat Jericho down.
Every time you get a Jericho in-ring segment, you can flip a coin. Half the time you’ll get gold, the other half you’ll get crap (it's probably more likely to be bad or mediocre recently, but just go with it). This one was more the latter.
The set-up for this segment seemed eerily similar to a legendary Jericho segment, the Festival of Friendship. This is obviously mostly because they both featured large paintings, but they also both involved a heel planning a gift for Jericho that showcased their intent to betray him. The Don Callis and Jericho segment lacked everything that made the Festival of Friendship special. The comedy fell flat and the audience wasn't invested in the outcome of the relationship.
This segment was done to set-up a Jericho/Ospreay match at All In. While I'm not particularly interested in this match, I'm confident they'll deliver an entertaining match on the night. However, it’s peculiar to have Will Ospreay and Saraya, the only two British wrestlers currently booked for All In, both playing heels.
I apologise for the negativity, but I was left uninspired by this week's TV. Before I conclude, I must express my main issue with this story overall, which is how it has affected Konosuke Takeshita.
Keen AEW Roundtable readers will remember my love for Takeshita and how complementary I had been of AEW’s booking of him. However, with Don Callis getting involved with Jericho, it seems like AEW lost focus on Takeshita’s push. Now, he's still in a match with BC Gold and the Golden Cowboys at All In, so it's not like he's been ignored. However, it feels like it’s been a long minute since Takeshita was drawing mega-heat from the crowd. Like many other wrestlers in AEW, he just got a bit lost in the shuffle. Maybe it's just me, but that's pretty damn disappointing.
Moment of the Week: Peter.
The words "who had.......in their (add year here) wrestling bingo”, let's be honest a cliche but I have to say "who had Sting appearing at an indy wrestling event in their 2023 wrestling bingo".
When Sting and Darby Allin turned up at AR Fox's WWA4 promotion where he trains future stars, a job he has done well when you look at his resume that includes Alex Kane, Alan Angels and I guess we have to include Austin Theory in that, it was one of those WTF moments that only modern day wrestling can produce.
A moment of revenge from Darby after AR and Swerve invaded the training school of the Wayne family and left Nick, the inheritor of his late father's school and in the ring where Darby Allin learnt his trade, left Darby’s protege a bloody mess would see Buddy Wayne’s star trainee (if you don't count Bryan Alvarez) interrupt AR's traditional address of the crowd at the start of the event he was hosting to set up the attack from Sting which saw the shocked and instinctive cheers from starstruck members of the crowd to boos from Fox's fellow Atlanta residents. While the boos were a moment that little Stingers like yours truly might fail to understand (The Main Event Mafia were babyfaces to me) it showed the dividing line between the pair who learnt their lessons in wrestling on the West Coast and those who are currently sitting under the learning tree in Atlanta taking tutorials from the newest member of the Mogul Embassy.
It shows the importance of mentors and how people when egregious crimes are committed to members of their second family will do anything to hurt those transgressors and how despite 99% of people knowing that Darby and Sting were right in their actions, those who look up to their teacher and mentor no matter how iconic the intruder, saw their "crime" as the most heinous crime in AEW in 2023. I have a gut feeling that the majority of those attending All In won't feel the same as those attending the WWA4 event last week.
MVP of the Week: Gareth.
(And Tony Khan, The Elite, Cody Rhodes and the AEW Fans).
I'll be very honest, it was hard to pick an MVP this week. For all the quality on the shows, nobody REALLY shone out significantly above the others.
But AEW did hit a seriously significant milestone. Officially selling the most tickets ever for a pro-wrestling event. AEW All In at Wembley Stadium will officially be the highest paid attendance in history.
And yes, I'm kind of giving myself the MVP of the week here because I'm one of the 80k+ who bought a ticket. But in all seriousness this landmark cannot be overstated.
People were talking about 50k as a Dreamland attendance figure. I knew AEW would clear that and predicted 60-70k. But to be the biggest show in history truly is fantastic.
So here's just a moment to appreciate those who make it happen. Anyone who's pushed AEW forward, be that as a talent, an employee or a viewer.
But a special thank you to Cody Rhodes and The Elite for taking Dave Meltzer's bet. For proving the appetite for an alternative was there. And to Tony Khan, for financing and overseeing that alternative. I can truly say I wouldn't still be engaging with wrestling if not for AEW, and I know I'm not alone.