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, Craig [@CraigPWMusings] 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.
Sammy Guevara is the AEW wrestler that Bryan Danielson has been trash talking for the longest time, and yet this was his first singles match with him almost 14 months into Bryan’s AEW run. However, even with that foundation of trash talk, this match started with very little heat from the audience. Maybe Bryan himself is to blame, having stated in a promo earlier in the night that he actually doesn’t have that much of a problem with him. Maybe Tony Khan is to blame for booking a never-ending (7+ months and counting) feud between the Jericho Appreciation Society and the Blackpool Combat Club. Maybe Sammy is to blame for his backstage actions taking him from “beat him up heat” to “go away heat” status. Whoever was to blame for the tepid reception, both wrestlers were able to craft a performance that overcame it.
Sammy started as the aggressor, hitting Bryan with a flying knee and then his double-jump double-springboard cutter off of the top rope, earning a long 2 count and nearly SQUASHING the sure-fire Hall-Of-Famer Bryan in the opening minute of the match. Bryan tried to rally with a German suplex attempt, but Sammy backflipped out of it and landed on his feet. Bryan pursued Sammy with a sprint attack, but Sammy leapfrogged over him. Bryan dashed after Sammy once again, but Sammy backflipped out of harm’s way. In the early going, Sammy Guevara was dominating on offense and defense, seeming to be more aggressive and athletic than Bryan.
That didn’t leave Bryan dejected and defeated, it lit a fire under his trucks, and he was able to capture Sammy in the Romero Special, where he punished a captured Guevara with intense strikes to the head, and didn’t have to get sent home for it because he waited until they were in the ring (take notes AEW locker room). After Sammy was released from the hold, he tried to regain his advantage with forearms, but Bryan countered them with his own HEAD. This wasn’t a super comfortable viewing experience for me, especially as I’m reading Bryan’s autobiography where he was discussing his fears over what the future effects of his concussions could be on his quality of life. However, Bryan’s job isn’t to make me comfortable, it’s to make me entertained, and make me care, and this match ended up achieving both of those goals.
Bryan continued his attack with a double underhook suplex into a submission, and a wrecking ball dropkick to the outside. Bryan went to follow up with a flying knee of his own from the apron to the floor, but Sammy had other ideas, and cut him off with a knee strike, laying Bryan out on the floor. What followed was my personal choice for move of the night, a MILE-HIGH ASAI moonsault from Guevara onto Danielson. Had this been a falls count anywhere match, Sammy very well might have won then and there. Luckily for Bryan, by the time he was rolled into the ring, he recovered enough to keep fighting. Sammy did not let up, however, and started using Bryan’s own moves against him. It started with the running corner dropkicks, then Bryan’s trademark “Yes Kicks”, always good for garnering an engaged “No!” from the fans. At this point, Sammy wasn’t just trying to beat Bryan, he was trying to disrespect him. Taking a page out of Eddie Kingston’s conflict resolution playbook, Bryan responded to Sammy’s disrespect with a slap to the face.
A slap was a good start, but it wasn’t enough. Bryan laid into Sammy with a thunderous chop and kick sequence in the corner, followed by a “vintage” Bryan comeback sequence complete with running backflip off of the turnbuckles and running vertical elbow strike. The “Spanish God” escaped the ring, but he couldn’t escape Bryan’s wrath, eating an elbow suicida from the “American Dragon”. Bryan hit his signature top rope dropkick, followed by his own Yes Kicks. After taking a brutal beating for what must’ve seemed like an eternity at this point, the “Spanish God” turned the tables with a Spanish Fly.
That bought Sammy time, but the win, and not even the advantage, as Bryan caught him in a top rope belly to back superplex, that is - until Sammy reversed it. Sammy landed on his feet, caught a running Danielson in a belly to belly suplex, and then hit Bryan with a shooting star, or rather he tried to, but Bryan countered it into the LaBell Lock, the move that beat Batista to win Bryan the Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship in the main event of WrestleMania. But here’s a sentence you’ll only hear once, Sammy Guevara succeeded where Batista failed, and escaped the hold. What would Sammy do with this extra lease on life? He hit Bryan with a SUPER Spanish Fly off the top rope! Was that enough to beat Bryan?
No! A desperate and dastardly Guevara resorted to biting the Blackpool Combat Club founder, but Bryan would strike back, with a POISONRANA, driving Sammy’s skull into the mat. Victory was near, we were heading towards the final countdown. Bryan hit Sammy with the Flying Knee that beat John Cena for the WWE Championship in the main event of SummerSlam, but Bryan wasn’t done yet. He grabbed hold of Sammy’s wrists, and “kicked his f’n head in”. At that point, Bryan could’ve almost surely covered Sammy for the 1-2-3, but now it was about more than a win, he wanted to make a statement. Bryan locked Sammy in a Triangle Choke, and once again punished him with strikes to the head, leaving the referee with no choice but to stop the match.
Was this booking decision for kayfabe ref stoppage one week after a very traumatic shoot ref stoppage in good taste? I think maybe not. Would this match have been just as good, if not possibly better, if Sammy just tapped out immediately? I think so. Was this match still awesome? I’m thinking it was even better than I realized watching it live. If I was Tony Khan, I would have to give very serious consideration to getting that AEW World Championship around Bryan’s waist by the time AEW arrives in his hometown of Seattle the first week of 2023.
It’s MJF. Because of course it is.
From his incredibly tongue in cheek portrayal of Jon Moxley to his emasculation of Stokely Hathaway, MJF is so incredibly charismatic that he is the most over person in the building whilst openly mocking and negging the crowd.
Just to underscore his magnetism he completely shutdown Renee Pacquette who is the fresh new thing in AEW at the moment in the most petulant and insulting of ways right to her face to a chorus of cheers.
He then moves into a fiery babyface promo full of background story to flesh out his character and remind you of the parts of his past he has worked into his onscreen presentation. The crowd are very into this, without any irony I would suggest. A preview of what’s to come in a couple years or so when this dynamic heel character has run it’s course.
Then came the best bit, the dramatic switching of intensity to slap the microphone out of an interrupting Stokely hand before dressing him down with icy, dangerous intensity.
MJF claims to be a ‘generational talent’ and I fully back that assertion up. He is a man of supreme talent. He manages to stand out in the ring by doing things a little bit differently whilst not looking out of place in the state or the art AEW standard.
Yet it is his acting chops that truly make him special. This is the kind of person that will have had a world of possibilities in front of him as he started his adult life, and not just the potential football scholarship that we have already heard of.
The world is MJF’s oyster, to use a well-worn phrase, and AEW are beyond lucky to have him.
The Firm turning on, and beating up, MJF to close out Dynamite was a shock. And like any good shock in a story should feel like it makes sense to the audience, whilst still taking us in an unexpected turn that leaves our minds racing with a thousand different possibilities. In doing that, this angle perfectly achieved those aims. Now there are countless options, but generally there are three main theories I have seen.
1) This is all a 'work' from MJF. Now, you might think "it's gone too far for this all to be part of a rouse from MJF". But the wonderful thing about MJF's character is that he's probably just about insane and sociopathic enough to inflict this pain onto himself in order to pull the wool over the eyes of his opponent.
2) This is part of an MJF face turn. Something many fans have been asking for, and something that many others don't want to see. But with the crowd reactions Maxwell gets weekly, arguably a smart thing to do. How long does this face run last? Who is to know? You do feel that the real money is still in MJF as a heel. But he is only 26-years-old, and has plenty of time.
3) The third and final, as well as potentially my favourite option, is a double turn at Full Gear in the MJF vs. Jon Moxley AEW World Championship match. Now, this makes sense from MJF's perspective as we've spoken about above. The lay of the land is set for MJF to turn babyface, if they so wish. The land is less sewn for a Jon Moxley heel turn, and that is something that might sound ridiculous. But then again, so does MJF as a babyface.
Let us deal with the logical side of this first. It seemed like MJF was set to face CM Punk at Full Gear before everything that went down after All Out. And it *seemed* like there was a flirtation with turning Punk heel in the lead-up to Full Gear. As there was a flirtation with turning Moxley heel around this time last year, before he took personal leave. So, if you go with the idea that a double turn was planned for MJF vs. Punk, and a heel turn was planned for Mox last year... then possibly they've taken those two situations which didn't happen and merged them now.
However, I must point out that is all complete speculation.
Now, how does that Moxley heel turn manifest from a story perspective? Who knows? But, with his best friend Eddie Kingston seemingly going crazy and friction amongst Blackpool Combat Club. Especially with MJF and William Regal speaking about short-cuts. Because if you go back to their previous meeting at All Out 2020, it was Jon Moxley who took a short-cut, using his banned move.
I would not be overly surprised to see this actually happen, although, I certainly wouldn't go predicted it either. Whatever does come of this attack on MJF what we can say is it's certainly a fascinating twist in the tale MJF is currently weaving.
It's not often that AEW do vignettes, to be honest I don't ever recall AEW doing one for returning stars. Jon Moxley's return was announced via social media and in the main Tony Khan has booked returns as a surprise as well as debuts (except that one that was the least surprising surprise in wrestling history but enough about that Chicago boy)
So it was a surprise when you saw what was a short montage of clips of Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks after the opening match of Dynamite. It's not the way AEW does business. The Elite were supposed to come back as a shock moment, presumably after a Death Triangle title defence, that's the way it's always been right in the AEW playbook?
What was even more surprising was what wasn't shown at the end. Every clip shown in the vignette saw members of the Elite even Don Callis disappear and this wasn't a blip.
We all know about the events of Brawl Out and while history looks like showing that Kenny, Matt and Nick are the cleared party you have to wonder if the Elite have gained any hard feelings in the process and maybe not because of what happened in Chicago.
AEW is a very different company to the one they helped start up in 2019 on New Year's Day in Tokyo. New faces emerged, some of them didn't work out at all. The women's division that Kenny was spearheading didn't manifest as he wished. Some of it due to unforeseen circumstances, some of it because of rigid thinking from business partners. The tag division, while the best in the world, still feels like it could have been bigger and the Bucks aren't the most popular team in the company and it happens to be their great nemesis. Fans aren't chanting F*** the Revival anymore are they?
Worse yet, the titles they campaigned for, they promised before the world shut down in March 2020, the tourney to crown its inaugural champions, held back until Kenny got healthy again, which they won clean in the middle of the ring, taken away with a snap of the fingers. Do the Elite feel that they have been left behind, disappeared into the ether because of events caused by the words of the shiny new toy of not just their boss but their founding partner?
It could cause some people to be upset and have chips on their shoulder and if the first vignette of many we presume tells us anything, those chips are plain to see.
It's been a while since there was a significant competition for Dynamite move of the week, but that was emphatically not the case on Thursday morning.
Whether it was Claudio Castagnoli's epic strength in giant swinging two people, Sammy Guevara's insanely towering back somersault to the outside, or the silky smooth Code Red from Riho, Dynamite provides as many great moves as a Dan dance exhibition.
But if you think I'm not going to give the prize to a 300lb+ plus man leapfrogging two people at the same time then you know as much about me as Liz Truss knows about economics.
Yes it was another incredible feat of athleticism from Lord Keith of Lee as he bounded over Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood as if they were chipmunks instead of two stacked wrestlers. Not just the height was impressive here though, as Lee also needed to open his legs dangerously wide to complete the manoeuvre…there was very much a high risk of some Taz Yambag Yahtzee if he got it wrong.
The great thing about this move though was that it wasn't just a bit of pointless aerobatics. Keith followed up the mighty leap with a smooth drop to the floor to yet again avoid Dax and Cash before hitting a superb-looking double cross-body to wipe out both FTR members.
A reminder, if one was needed, that Keith Lee is an incredible athlete who can do incredible things. That match with Swerve when it happens is going to be an absolute banger.
Jamie Hayter is a wrestler with momentum. The Southampton native has put in consistently strong performances since her return to AEW fourteen months ago and that only continued in this week's showing against Riho.
Hayter has found herself walking a tight rope somewhat; not too dissimilar to the line Wardlow took before the split with MJF back in the spring. Her in ring showings have put the crowd firmly in her corner, regardless of whether her actions are clean or not. In recent months they have even outweighed that of her more experienced babyface opponents; not even sparing the Women's or Interim Women's champions.
Perhaps the most impressive part of this is it hasn't waned when other stories have been pushed to the forefront. This is not an uncommon occurrence in AEW and has already led to them missing a shot this year in capitalising on Kris Statlander before she succumbed to injury. With the arrival of Saraya, it felt like this could be a further pushback to the story of unresolved tension between her and stablemate Britt Baker.
Hayter hasn't let this occurrence phase her though, ensuring she continues to stand out in multi women tags as well as her singles encounters. Rightfully, it will be Jamie that challenges for the Interim Women's Championship at Full Gear in what is likely to be one of the stronger matches that night and undoubtedly the women's match with the highest potential ceiling.
Interim Championships don't often change hands. When employed for long periods they can be somewhat of a crux on Championship matches in making them feel predictable whilst meaning less than bouts for the actual championship. It's also perhaps not ideal to deliver first titles in this format but wait until Thunder Rosa returns and you just might miss your shot.
Jamie Hayter is the chosen one in the eyes of the AEW fans. They are invested in her journey, the breakdown of her relationship with Baker (helped by her fantastic mannerisms in backstage segments) and excited by her strength based offense. It wouldn't be the worst idea to give everyone that moment and have her arrive at the top of the mountain come the end of November 19th.