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The Coin Finally Dropped | #AEWeekly Review 22

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] exploring match of the week, Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering promos, Gareth [@Gareth_EW] covering story beats and move of the week, Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week and Trish [@TrishSpeirs48] giving us the MVP of the week.

Match of the Week: Joe.

CHAOS (Orange Cassidy, Trent, and Rocky Romero) vs The United Empire (Will Ospreay, Mark Davis, Kyle Fletcher).

The best match on Dynamite for me, and the top-rated match on GRAPPL, was this energetic, hard-hitting trios match, that still showcased character. The war between Blackpool Combat Club and Jericho Appreciation Society is supposed to be pro wrestling vs Sports Entertainment. This match was not a battle of the two but a hybrid of them. Big moves got big pops but so did small gestures. It was good to see that absence has made the heart grow fonder with fans in regards to Orange Cassidy’s character, and I think some time away has refreshed his act, even though the act itself has not changed. He’s an easy character to understand and react to, and I’m sure will be a favourite of my casual fan friends that I’m attending Forbidden Door with. What is also impressive is that we’ve now seen Cassidy and Ospreay in a match together, but it doesn’t feel like it spoiled their match at FD, rather heightened anticipation for it. That’s not an easy feat.

Speaking of Forbidden Door, I’d love to see Aussie Open find their way onto this card, maybe against Santana & Ortiz? It would be a shame to have them here, and not use them, after the show they have been putting on for AEW audiences the past couple of weeks.

Story Beat of the Week: Gareth.

Coin Drop...

There isn't much of a story to this and for many people they were disappointed that this was the way Kazuchika Okada debuted in AEW. But fantasy is just that, fantasy. Reality is never as good.

And if Forbidden Door is for anything, it's about delivering moments you wondered if you would ever see. Okada in AEW is one of those moments and the fact it's actually happened is somewhat surreal.

The story building to the four-way match at Forbidden Door between Jay White, Adam Cole, Adam Page and Kazuchika Okada is fairly thrown together. But the relief I felt when the coin dropped and Okada walked out made me forget all of that in an instant.

Thinking about it from a story perspective, it is poetic that Kenny Omega's biggest rival in New Japan came out to help his biggest rival in AEW. And for them to be in the same match at the show that Kenny Omega is missing does leave a lot of room for speculation of how that could effect things moving forward.

From a character perspective an audience member could easily envision Omega at home seething as the guy who "replaced" him in New Japan, the guy who "replaced" him in the Super Elite, his greatest rival in New Japan and his greatest rival in AEW all clash in a match. If there were ever a time for Kenny Omega to return, Sunday would be perfect. But, with his injuries, I won't get my hopes up.

Move of the Week: Gareth.

High Fly Flow.

Hiroshi Tanahashi made his in-ring AEW debut and whilst a lot of the match was very average by his lofty standards, there was something truly special about seeing the High Fly Flow in AEW.

It gave me a feeling of happiness inside, and that feeling was as good an advert for Forbidden Door as any. To a New Japan, anyway. Hopefully the AEW fans who don't follow NJPW got something from this also. And if not, hopefully they educate themselves on how significant that was as a moment.

MVP of the Week: Trish.

Aussie Open.

Whilst production in independent wrestling has improved massively over the last decade, there is still a huge difference between operating in such an environment and performing on a live cable broadcast. It's a different style of wrestling where time cues are important, there is much more direction in the action and you have to look the part as well. Some experienced wrestlers can struggle with this; so if you are able to succeed in such an environment at the first attempt then you are already achieving far beyond expectations.

Aussie Open have built a lot of their promising young career out of making the most out of the opportunities presented to them, including most notably, putting on an impressive display opposite G.O.D at NJPW's 'Royal Quest' event in London back in September 2020. It was most likely that match on the bigger stage that led to them being added to the United Empire once Mark Davis had recovered from an injury that had put him out for 16 months and they were able to take advantage of a reduction in Covid related travel restrictions.

This team though is vastly improved from that of September 2020- in both look and in ring. Fletcher (who has bulked up in a similar way to stable leader Ospreay) has an even more expanded move set to compliment his mobility and Davis still makes use of his strength matchups; even with his more refined look.

Aussie Open came into AEW having generated significant buzz from their recent RevPro match with countrymen VeloCities at 'Epic Encounter' and they brought that form straight onto television with them. They played key roles in two six man tags with Ospreay; the later this week where they had to work hard to win over the crowd outside of the Orange Cassidy spots (which they played their part perfectly in). Their timing and positioning was never an issue, with them helping to ensure it was Cassidy and Ospreay who were showcased but also doing enough in order to create additional interest in themselves as well.

First impressions are important, Aussie Open may have made some of the strongest of anyone previously unknown to the AEW audience during this Forbidden Door build.

Moment of the Week: Peter.

Like predicted in this very Roundtable last week, Christian Cage did indeed hold a grudge for that moment when Jungle Boy eliminated him to win the Casino Battle Royal last year. He also in part blamed the fans (you can take some guys of WWE but you can't take the WWE out of some guys) with his social media critique being very apt for a heel to make. But in the midst of him telling Luchasaurus he was like a son to him, a cameraman catching a child joining in a "shut the f*** up chant, a Marko Stunt reference and that gorgeous turtleneck sweater, the most memorable moment of the segment was Cage mentioning Jungle Boy's father, the late Luke Perry.

It took us 1,124 days for a heel to get heat by mentioning the death of the Beverly Hills 90210 star and it wasn't the heavy betting favourite MJF that got the heavy heat moment in but one of the most experienced and maybe old school members of the All Elite roster.

It's probably apt that in a feud that relies on an old-school booking mentality that mentions of Luke Perry's passing have been made already but its a moment that shows a reflection on the attitudes of wrestling fans in 2022.

Maybe it's my 30+ years as a wrestling fan and maybe that my first ever memory of watching wrestling when I was 6 years old being Macho Man Randy Savage being bitten by a cobra has probably turned me into an unemotive robot but I was fine with the cheap heat moment from Christian on this week's Dynamite. But there were many that were not.

Words like icky, low class and totally unnecessary have been bandied about in the 48 hours since the interview in reference to Christian's "your dad's dead lol" moment. Are those people that hated that moment wrong? No. Am I wrong for not being bothered by it? No, I don't think I am. Is it a sign that a fan base that probably would have let that comment slide a generation ago don't want something like this on their weekly television programme? It very much looks like it and that is definitely not a bad thing. Despite the word snowflake being used by anti cancel-culture campaigners in the last few years, the term snowflake is the last thing to be labelled on those who didn't like that moment.

In a business where heat is seen as a way to get the punters into the arenas, the line has seen to be crossed like when Randy Orton said that Eddie Guerrero was in hell and when weekly skits were aired on WWE television showing Tim White attempting to commit suicide and judging by the reaction of social media, fans seem to be moving on from this mindset and rejecting it.

Calls for a realistic sports based product to be the future of wrestling have been prevalent for the past decade with websites like the one you are reading this Roundtable on leading the pro-debate on those calls and while Christian's comments were a call-back to those days where the art of pissing people off was the way to draw money and indeed in the moments after, the fans popped big when Luchasaurus put his hands round Jungle Boy's betrayers neck, the playbook of getting people to watch pro wrestling might need some refining judging by the reactions from wrestling fans online and that isn't a bad thing if wrestling is to evolve and get more popular.

P.S Christian's promo was so much better than Bryan Danielson’s by the way.

Promo of the Week: Sergei.

Christian (but not for good reasons).

For a lot of folks, the best promo of the week was clearly Christian Cage explaining his betrayal of Jungle Boy. I don't agree, and I’d like to try to explain why not.

Christian Cage is a fantastic old-school heel. One of the fundamental jobs of a heel is to get boos and one of the mainstay strategies for old-school heels to get that heat is stalling. Fans love physical, athletic action, and they love strong, heated words. One easy way to piss fans off and get them booing is to waste their time by doing or saying nothing much. Too easy.

That was the route Cage took Wednesday night in the first part of his promo, meandering and repeatedly interrupting his own thoughts. Schiavone, bless his heart, tried to bring the segment back to Earth, by attempting to segue from a Cage side-track about social media to the viral video of Cage rudely confronting Perry’s Mom and sister after Dynamite went off the air the previous week. But Cage couldn’t allow that because he hadn’t yet made his point: that he had only attached himself to Jungle Boy to make some easy money to make up for what Jungle Boy had cost him when he had eliminated him from the battle royal a year ago.

This reminded me of a Norm MacDonald joke, testing our patience with a meandering set-up leading to an eye-rolling payoff as a kind of performance art.

Now that his point had finally been made, you would think it would’ve been time to say something deeply rude to draw the interruption, but first Cage had one last ill-advised digression. Evidently, when Friedman questioned whether vets like Cage were really worth paying more than himself, he took that personal.

Taking time out from your promo against Jungle Boy to put down MJF, why this is bad, let me count the ways:

  1. You were already wasting our time cutting a promo on Jungle Boy, considering you are on the go-home for an important supercard neither of you are booked on, much less taking time out from that to aim shots at a fellow heel you have no expectation of actually feuding with.

  2. Your big case for why you are worth being paid more than Friedman was that you have been in matches people actually remember, (resting on your TLC laurels again,) but people don’t remember the TLC matches for anything you did, they remember them for Jeff. Your strong suit has always been more on the mic than in the ring, BUT…

  3. You brought up, out of the blue, the greatest heel talker in the business today, and you just couldn’t stand up to the comparison!

After all that, Cage finally said something that’s gotten some criticism, using Luke Perry’s death for some cheap heat. In my view, yes: a little cheap and edgy, but not as cheap as using boredom and frustration for heat!

I don’t often waste this much digital ink on something I didn’t like, but in my view Cage’s promo was a special kind of superficially effective, but fundamentally counterproductive. But I genuinely apologize to those who enjoyed it. It’s all opinions and personal taste and I hope I didn’t bring you down.

If I were to choose the promo I enjoyed most this week, Danielson did an excellent and entertaining job trying to sell us a pig in a poke. But I’ve put ten times as much thought into Cage’s promo, so as much as I felt it was bad, it was fascinatingly bad. I have to concede that it’s the promo of the week!


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