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The Light that Remains | AEWeekly Review #81

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. The AEW news this week has been focused on rumors and indications of encroaching darkness, but AEWeekly by its nature will focus on the flashes of light that remain.


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


Match of the Week: Joe.

The Old F’N Show & The New F’N Jungle



RE-SPECT-ROB! Yes-I’m-Talkin-To-You!


One thing that made this match so great is that it built and developed an ongoing storyline, but it also worked as a piece of entertainment on its own in a vacuum.


You didn’t have to be an old-school ECW fan to get the idea that RVD was a grizzled, veteran worthy of respect, or a hardcore AEW fan to know that Jack Perry was a disrespectful, entitled, bitter, resentful rising star.


This match was a showcase of Old & New, where both came out of it better than they came into it, and the performers achieved more by doing less - in less time - than many of the bigger stars in AEW as of late. 


Rob Van Dam will be 53 years old this winter. He was born in 1970. Jack Perry just turned 26 this summer. He was born in 1997. When RVD was in his peak years in terms of in-ring acclaim and accomplishments, Jungle Boy was a Jungle Baby and a Jungle Toddler, too young for screen time. Now, he was sharing the silver screen with him. 


Rob impressed with his athleticism that belied his age, and his current “WALK!” (Whaddaya Say!?), showing he can still demand re-spect. Jack impressed by having the confidence and presence to let Rob shine in all of the big babyface moments, and even in a match without any rules, was able to come off as a cowardly cheater. That is impressive. In an era of AEW where blood is being used so commonly it doesn’t garner much reaction, it’s impressive to see disgust and engagement garnered with less overt means of physical destruction and scarring. 


Van Dam showed he has more left in the tank than you’d guess, and Perry showed more smarts than at any point in his career. Rob revealed he can still go, Jack revealed he can still grow. 



Promo of the Week: Sergei.

The Illustrious Toni Storm

I saw people (maybe a person?) in my feed claim that Ricky Starks had the promo of his life on Collision, but I'm really not seeing it. It really felt to me like he was grasping for a lifeline trying to provoke the boos he was expecting after having whipped an 80-year-old babyface legend with his own belt last week!


For me, the mic-work that stood out the most this week were the backstage interviews debuting Toni Storm's "Illustrious" new gimmick. Based on mannerisms and costume, she seems to be evoking a glamorous fading queen of Old Hollywood, like from Sunset Boulevard. On paper that sounds like the most forced and unfunny gimmick possible. Which just proves I don't know what I'm talking about, because in practice it is absolutely delightful and hilarious.


The character was introduced on Dynamite with an interview with Schiavone, where she claims she's not going to have a tantrum like they expect, then proceeds to have one. Then on Collision she has an interview with Dasha Gonzalez that I think was even funnier, saying that she doesn't know what Dasha "does around here" and then claiming that she's going to have security remove her, and coming to the perfect climax by throwing her shoe at her from offscreen.


One of my favorite bits (other than the shoe) she used in both interviews: telling the interviewer to "Shut! Up!" as though they had been monopolizing and talking over her rather than the other way round—a perfect comic bit of un-self-awareness.


In my view, Toni Storm is one talent AEW has with effortless star power, but she has had some difficulty channeling that into a heel character. Before now her heel turn has been comprised mostly of frowning a lot. It's great to see her moving on to a character that puts her charisma to better use, and stretches some comedy chops I hadn't known she had!


Story Beat of the Week: Saul.

Dodgeball: A True Bromance Story

I'm starting to think we should rename this section the weekly chronicles of Adam Cole and MJF. While I'm loving this story and have very much enjoyed analysing it in my recent entries, I do have a desire to discuss other stuff going on in the world of AEW. The other biggest story-beat this week was the Jericho Appreciation Society seemingly breaking up. I guess I could talk about that.....



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So this week, Adam Cole took MJF to a trampoline park. MJF was unenthused until Cole mentioned that they had dodgeball, which made Max perk up. MJF proceeded to hurl dodgeballs at every child in sight while throwing out insults like "you're adopted" and "sorry kid, I'm your dad." MJF may be the best babyface in professional wrestling history.


Cole was having the time of his life bouncing on the trampoline. As someone who used to incessantly ask to go to my friend's house just because he had a trampoline, I felt this. A 'mean girl' then approached the pair and called them nerds for hanging out at a trampoline park. You can't avoid gatekeeping anywhere, huh? Cole, who was initially rebuking Max for demolishing the children in dodgeball, then gave him his blessing to take her out. Interesting the punchlines to these segments are often Cole leaning into his dark side, isn't it?


Later on, the pair came out to the ring. While MJF mistakenly thought they were out to have a friendly promo battle (habits die hard), Cole actually wanted to challenge Aussie Open for the ROH tag titles at All In. A truly shocking match announcement and one that has garnered some criticism online. As someone with a ticket for All In, I think any criticism of this match can get in the bin. I can't wait to see this match and think there are many interesting things they can do with the pair fighting on the show twice.


Roderick Strong then came out to confront Cole, still wearing his little neck cast (don't let it be forgotten that this is because of one body slam, truly iconic). Before he was able to jump into his jealous spiel, MJF absolutely destroyed him in a way reminiscent of The Rock. This was an extremely interesting glimpse into MJF's potential as a babyface. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand during this promo, which he was obviously able to do as a heel, but it's truly impressive how well he's adapted to being a babyface. Strong then stumbled off in a huff and was comforted by The Kingdom.


Adam Cole then took issue with MJF, even shoving him and getting right in his face. The tensions were seemingly settled as Cole was very apologetic and the pair hugged it out. Cole then went after Strong, leaving MJF alone in the ring. This reminded us of the conflict that remains in this fun buddy duo. The foundation of this friendship is under constant threat, be that from outside parties or internal ambition. All In is almost upon us, a day which could make or break this duo.



Moment of the Week: Gareth.

“ALL IN!”

The announcement of FTR vs. Young Bucks 3 for All In was expected after FTR’s challenge to the Bucks last week. But the moment still felt surreal after everything that’s happened with, and since, “Brawl Out”. With the allegiances of both teams on opposite sides of the divide.

The Bucks raised Matt and Jeff Hardy to a reasonable match, not an easy feat in the year of 2023. After the match they summoned FTR who appeared and simply muttered the words “All In”.

Both teams had impressive performances this week with FTR really showing out in the Collision main event alongside CM Punk against House of Black.

FTR made Brody look like a MONSTER and, as Bruiser Brody was mentioned on commentary, that comparison felt apt. It wasn’t just the selling of moves, but how FTR, along with Punk, had to work together to break Brody down.

We’re used to seeing FTR wrestle as heels where their performances give the shine to the babyfaces. But here they were working as babyfaces giving the shine to a heel in Brody. The selfless nature of FTR’s wrestling is part of what makes them so great.


MVP of the Week: Gareth.

Dare I Say...?

MVP means “most valuable player”, and if you’re allowed to do whatever you like without consequences then surely you are the MVP? And for better or worse CM Punk has dominated much of the talking points around AEW in recent weeks.


But whilst Punk might be the face of Collision, there’s another name seeking to be the face of TNT who is juggling multiple feuds on all three AEW shows. I am talking about Darby Allin.


On Dynamite Darby called out the Mogul Embassy, challenging them to a match at All In alongside Sting. And as a result of this Darby wrestled Brian Cage, of the Mogul Embassy, on Rampage in a very good match.

Allin was then attacked by Luchasaurus after the match, which prompted him to return the favour on Collision and he cut an impassioned promo about what the TNT title means to him and how he’ll bring it back to its glory.

And honestly, this week convinced me that Darby deserves another run. He’s an MVP of this company all year round, but this week he really stood out.

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