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The Struggle | AEWeekly #111


Welcome to the #AEWeekly review discussion where PWM contributors reflect on the highlights of the last week in AEW. The eligibility week ends with the most recent Wednesday-night show, so it covers last week's Rampage and then the most recent episodes of Collision and Dynamite and, this week only, the special Wednesday night Rampage.


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, Sam P. [@BigBadaBruce] with Throwback of the week, and Gareth [@Gareth_EW] giving us the MVP of the week.


 A page of links to prior installments may be found here: #AEWeekly



Adam Copeland, Christian Cage


"I Quit!!!"


by Joe.



Cope vs Cage was the best match of the week because of the exciting moves, the memorable moments, and it expressed the personality of the villain & the hero.


First, let’s talk about these movez! We had the Edge-O-Matic (maybe it’s the Cope-O-Matic now?), where Copeland gripped Cage’s jaw and slammed his head down on top of the ladder that was perched as a bridge between the guardrail & the announce table. This was the first of many brutal moves that would be considered excessively cruel,  if we weren’t already aware of how despicable the man on the receiving end of them was. Then we had Cope lifting and tossing Cage onto the hinges of an upside down ladder. Taz seemed to think that it clipped Christian’s yambag, but to me it seemed more like the bread basket 🧺. Christian turned the tide by dodging Cope at the turnbuckle post, causing Cope to bust himself open and bleed. This left Cope dazed long enough for Cage to scale to the top turnbuckle, and hit a diving body press on Copeland through the table and smashing into the barricades. We also had some creative submission holds, fitting for an I Quit Match, such as Cope choking Cage with a hockey stick, and then a band. Cope planted Christian’s cronie Killswitch with an impaler DDT onto a steel chair covered in barbed wire. After a ladder, table, and chair had come into play, Copeland climbed a ladder, and with a page out of he & Christian’s past, leapt off the ladder, over the top rope, onto the Patriarchy. After all of those high spots, Copeland went low, repeatedly, with a barrage of ball busting Shattered Dreams kicks to Christian’s crotch, shattering any dreams of Christian adding any future members to the Patriarchy through his own bloodline. There was one more massive “move”, but I’ll save that for the moments.


Now, let’s discuss the moment-making-machine this match was. It started with a “Holy Shit” chant before the match even began, because that is how excited and invested and appreciative Toronto was to be booing their hometown heathen and cheering their hometown hero. Then, we had the penalty box fight, which brought creativity and levity to a blood feud that I appreciated, but I could understand detractors saying it didn’t fit the seriousness of the situation. Brawling through the crowd up to the concession stands where Cope drank a beer from a fan, giving flashbacks to the wild & free fun vibes from the Attitude Era. Many things about the Attitude Era are not actually better than what we have today, but those were touches I appreciated. Something that was a blend of the eras was Christian running and hiding in the women’s bathroom. Where once upon a time that would’ve been played for an opportunity to do something like catch a woman in a state of undress, it was instead just used to comically highlight Christian’s cowardice. More creativity and comedy came into play when Copeland chucked Christian into the hockey goal. These moments served as nice balances to the extreme exhibitions of violence peppered in throughout the rest of the match. Then we had the previously mentioned move of Copeland soaring over the Edge of the ladder and the ring onto the patriarchy, conjuring up feelings of awe & nostalgia simultaneously. Awestalgia, maybe? But, the big moment to cap the match off was Copeland unveiling Spike, and bashing Cage’s bollocks in with it. This move WAS disgusting, but you are able to forgive Copeland for it, because everything about Christian’s choices, actions, words, and behavior has been disgusting for quite some time now. Spike secured not only the record book victory for Copeland, but the TNT Championship, and a (possibly taint-ed) moral victory to close out their 6 month feud and 3 match series.


Lastly, let’s talk about how I was able to enjoy this match without feeling like an awful person, and that is because of the masterful character work in this feud, and in this match. It starts with Christian’s theme music hitting during the middle of the crowd’s sing-along to Copeland’s theme, which perfectly fits his buzzkilling character’s jealous motivations. Christian bailing out of the ring after avoiding Cope’s spear attempt, and his attempt and running and hiding in the women’s bathroom showing his cowardice. Copeland acknowledging the local, and his favorite, hockey team, while also drinking beer with fans showed he is down to earth. Copeland using the hockey goal showed a sense of humor. Christian relying on Mama Wayne’s interference and the Patriarch’s gang beatdown on Cope showed low character and cowardice. Daniel Garcia and Daddy Magic making the save showed off their courage & ethics. Having other babyfaces make the save for Copeland also solidifies his presentation as a babyface, something furthered by Copeland’s backstage champagne celebration with Best Friends & company further developed that presentation. All of this is to say that you could’ve turned on the TV without any background knowledge, and been able to understand and appreciate the story, not because it is shallow, but because it is clear.


To put a pin, or a spike in it, this was a TV main event that REEKED of AWESOMENESS.





Kyle O'Reilly


"The Struggle to Mend..."


by Sergei.


I had an embarrassment of riches to choose from for Best Interview this past week, but many of the best speeches had a common theme: the gratitude and mindfulness that comes with being blessed enough to struggle with a life-, career-, or quality-of-life-threatening injury and to struggle through to the other side to a better outcome. Whether it was Danielson talking about how he and Shibata had been at death's door, or Mercedes Mone talking about how she had almost lost everything to an ankle injury, it was a running theme. But I think the best interview on this theme was Kyle O'Reilly’s because it just felt the most real and honest. ICYMI:


Much like Danielson’s “time for me to go home” promo after losing the Iron Man match last year, O’Reilly’s promo doesn’t focus only on the impact of a disability on one’s career or following one’s passion, but also on the ability to lead a normal life and to be there the way you want to for your family. Kyle had been resigned to his last match before neck surgery being his last match ever, and was focused just on getting use of his arm back so that he could brush his teeth by himself and pick up his daughter. But then when he talked about the outpouring of support he got not only from colleagues, but also from fans, his emotions really came to the fore:

…the fact that one person, ANYONE in the world, wanted to see Kyle O’Reilly in the ring again, one person that gave a damn about me… that was enough motivation that I would ever need….

Kyle goes on to say what a great choice Bryan Keith was for his comeback match, because KOR needs to know if his body can still hold up to the demands of this, and he knows that Keith won’t go easy on him, because he’s “hungry like I was.” Keith wants to prove he belongs here, (as a rookie,) just like O’Reilly does, (after returning from injury,) and “who am I to say that he doesn’t?”


It’s a really moving and personal interview, and it would be tough to pick between this one and Danielson’s, except that KOR cheats, and cuts yet another really moving, personal, and this time also uplifting interview, post match!


In this interview, O’Reilly does an excellent job of contrasting his words with his effect: talking about how the match with Keith reminded him how much the pain of wrestling sucks, but all of his words are given the lie by the delight in his eyes, until he finally resolves the contradiction by saying he’s also reminded of “why he fell in love with this sport to begin with”. He goes on along those lines, closing by saying that he’s a really lucky guy. But then a hand comes into the frame. It’s important to note that for both of these interviews, Kyle has been sitting on the floor, leaned against the wall of some backstage corridor. Now someone has offered to give him a hand up to stand again. And it’s the Wrestler, Katsuyori Shibata! These are two men who have both seen some of the toughest times life can throw at someone—where their alliance might lead is something I’m eagerly anticipating!





Eddie Kingston


"Struggle Builds Character..."


by Saul


One of the lessons I was taught in my screenwriting class was this; put your main character in a tree and just throw rocks at them.


With wrestling being a long term, never-ending medium of storytelling, you gotta throw LOTS of rocks to keep them stories trucking.


Eddie Kingston lost the Continental Championship to Kazuchika Okada on Dynamite, ending his reign as the triple crown champion. It ain’t as devastating as it could be, he still holds the ROH World Title and the NJPW Strong Openweight Championship, but still. Considering the toll the Mad King went through in the C squared, and his goal of holding the triple crown to honour his wrestling heroes, it’s sure to stick in his craw,


It probably doesn’t help that Corporate Kazzy represents many things that are polar opposite to Kingston. The aforementioned corporateness. Polished wrestling style. The chosen one. One of the biggest free agents in AEW history, who won a title in a matter of weeks. A stark contrast to Kingston having to prove himself to even get signed and then clawing for every opportunity possible.


No-one in professional wrestling sells setbacks quite like Kingston. It’s a key reason for his ability to compel consistently. He’s just had a big rock thrown at him, I’m interested to see how he recovers.





Adam Copeland, Christian Cage


"A Long-Awaited Comeuppance..."


by Peter.


An I Quit Match is unique in the multitude of stipulation matches that we see in pro wrestling. It asks competitors to unleash depraved moments of violence to get his opponent to say those two words, five letters, I Quit. But history tells you that an I Quit Match can get its decisive result in a small range of ways. There’s the Magnum TA vs Tully Blanchard/Ric Flair vs Terry Funk way of ending the match in which an explosion of violence forces the “I Quit” (surely it’s not a coincidence that those two are the greatest I Quit Matches in wrestling history) There’s the Mankind/Rock way of ending the match by getting a submission by nefarious means, the Roman Reigns vs Jey Uso way of someone saying the words to save someone else and the John Cena/JBL way of ending such a match by having the heel say those two words to prevent the face hitting a “finish him” blow on him. 


In the Adam Copeland vs Christian Cage I Quit Match on this past Dynamite, we saw the latter of those four finishes be the decisive moment in Cope’s victory and while that finish was one of a couple of moments on this night that set the discourse for the day about AEW TV looking like WWE and it’s sports entertainment at times. My Moment of the Week came from something that happened a minute before.


With Cage having nowhere to go, handcuffed in the corner of the ring, Adam unleashed an explosion of violence with a simple kick to the dick (Schiavone’s saying Collision high pitched mid kick was a chef's kiss moment) but it wasn’t a simple kick, it was repeated eight more times with an ninth with Spike for good measure and while the I Quit from Christian might have prevented the ultimate detonation of savagery that some wanted, ten different tolls of the bell gave the Toronto fans the happy ending they wished for (yes you can make your own happy ending joke about a man who had been hit below the belt 10 times)





John Moxley, Eddie Kingston


"I...Quit…"


by Sam P.


In a week headlined by an excellent I Quit match that saw Christian Cage’s revitalizing TNT Title Reign end at the hands of Adam Copeland, it seems appropriate to find us rolling back to 2020, where we witnessed one of Jon Moxley’s best title defenses as AEW World Champion. AEW Full Gear had several title matches on the night, whether Hikaru Shida retaining her Women’s World Championship against former champion Nyla Rose, Darby Allin beginning his ascent into main event material by defeating Cody Rhodes for his first ever TNT Championship, and the first classic between The Young Bucks and FTR over the AEW Tag Team Championships. But the best story (even more than the clash between former tag team partners Kenny Omega and ‘Hangman’ Adam Page for the Number 1 Contendership) was over the AEW World Title.


The previous month, Jon Moxley successfully defended his AEW World Title against his close friend Eddie Kingston, making him pass out in a chokehold. However, Kingston refused to accept defeat, attacking Moxley weeks later proclaiming that he never tapped out. An I Quit match was announced between the two, a way to determine an unquestionable winner, and in a face-to-face a few days before, the two men got raw, Kingston proclaiming he would hand his mother that title to show why he never married or had a child, that he sold out because it was the only way he could take the title from Moxley. In response, Moxley admitted he had been proud to see his friend join AEW, that he’d promised Eddie’s mother to look after him, but Eddie is too loud and too weak to take that title.


The match itself was not just vicious and violent, but volatile and emotional, not just two best friends but a close friend in referee Bryce Remsburg forced to stand by and see his friends punish one another. With suplexes on the arena floor, a barbed wire baseball bat, chairs galore, all contributing to a bloodied Moxley, Kingston wrapped his hand in barbed wire and attempted to scar and maim the champion.


A Kingston Uranage onto the thumbtacks, and a pouring of rubbing alcohol over the open wounds, had Moxley in agony, but the champion refused to give up, eventually using the barbed wire himself in a vicious Bulldog Choke, an emotional Bryce begging Kingston to quit. Eventually, almost involuntarily, Eddie gritted out those two most hated words, I Quit.


This match may have ended in Eddie’s defeat, but it became the catalyst for the next few years, his reuniting with Jon at Revolution 2021, his turn into a fan favorite, his growth into a multi-time champion (including the ROH World Title), his victory in the Continental Classic, and his current position as a legitimate main eventer for AEW.


If however, you prefer your Throwback to be closer to the actual same date from years previous, then you have plenty of options, such as last year’s Kenny Omega vs El Hijo del Vikingo on the 22nd March edition of Dynamite, and you have 2022’s edition of 23rd March Dynamite where Dax Harwood challenged CM Punk and MJF cut a famous promo proclaiming to Wardlow that he owns him. Or even further back, in 2020, you have the first ever AEW Dynamite that featured in the empty arena area, which saw Cody Rhodes and The Elite open the show, the reveal of The Exalted One, the leader of the Dark Order, and the debut of Matt Hardy…






Tony Khan


"Tone the Booker, Can he fix it? YES, HE KHAN..."


by Gareth


This week I was really stuck for who to make MVP, so I have copped out, sort of, and given it to Tony Khan. For much of 2023 AEW caught a lot of criticism and the challenge coming into this year was could TK build on the momentum from the Continental Classic and “fix AEW?”

 

For much of 2023 the shows were, at best, good, usually standard and sometimes even actively bad. At least according to most balanced critics that I personally follow. There was still some amazing stuff throughout the year, but that stuff felt very much like the outlier in the company.

 

But so far in 2024 it now feels like when something is below par on a show, that is what feels like the outlier and Tony Khan deserves a lot of credit for that and this past week is a great example of it. For example, I couldn’t name an MVP. Not because nobody was worthy, but because there were too many options.

 

Firstly, Katsuyori Shibata had a brilliant match with Bryan Danielson on Collision. Something Khan just randomly dropped shortly before the show, simply because he could. That, for me, really highlighted the value of someone like Shibata. Because he’s one of those wrestlers you can just put in a match graphic and legitimately say “dream match” and know that 99% of the time he’ll deliver.

 

Which is exactly the feeling I got when Will Ospreay called out Shibata. However, I struggle to say Shibata deserves this MVP because Ospreay’s promo was SO FANTASTIC! It really put over ‘Billy GOAT’ as someone worth rooting for as he speaks about the differences between him and Bryan Danielson.

 

“There’s no way I can fit in Bryan Danielson’s shoes, do you know why Tony [Schiavone]? His shoes were too small for me, bruv!” A brilliant line which calls back to what Danielson said about Ospreay, that he couldn’t walk in his shoes, but also puts over how Will’s legacy in Japan dwarfs Bryan’s. Then finally, how it gets across his cheeky personality with the “bruv” which, I’m sure, will get insufferable at some point but until then it’ll remain great.

 

He wasn’t finished there however, because Ospreay then challenged Shibata to prove he can in fact walk in Danielson’s shoes. Another detail which shows how valuable Shibata is and how he’s used as a measuring stick between these two “best in the world” contenders.

 

Then Ospreay spoke about the differences between himself now, as a 30-year-old man, and when he last faced Shibata when he was 23. ‘The Aerial Assassin’ first speaks about how he now has many more responsibilities such as looking after a family and paying a mortgage. Things that any grown adult can relate to.

 

But then he mentions how he’s also now got “a point to prove”. A lovely way to add a motive to his character in this feud against Bryan Danielson, and match with Shibata. It’s not just a “lets see who’s better” contest. Ospreay WANTS to prove he’s the best. Of course then I could also give the MVP to Danielson. After all, you could only really do a feud like this with either him or Kenny Omega.

 

I could also give it to Christian Cage or Adam Copeland after their ‘I Quit’ match and ending their feud. Specifically Christian as his brilliant TNT title reign comes to an end. A very non-AEW championship run. But one that was well executed and brought something different to the company.

 

However, that wasn’t even the only title reign to end this past week as Eddie Kingston lost his Continental Championship title to Kazuchika Okada. Eddie’s performance was selfless as ever and whenever he has one of these performances, he’s an MVP candidate. Truthfully, he is the real unsung hero and an MVP of the company all-year round. His absence was truly felt in 2023.

 

Meanwhile, with Okada winning the title he did so in a manner that showed he would have zero problems adapting to North American TV wrestling, as many feared. His performance showed a wonderful ability to adapt to a different audience without sacrificing what brought him to the dance. All whilst showing off so many brilliant facial expressions during the match which enhanced it so much. This role suits him perfectly and a face-off with Pac was enough for everyone to salivate about what his title reign has to offer.

 

So, take your pick. Any of those deserve to be MVP, but for that reason I’m giving it to Tony Khan. No, AEW is not “back to its best” and truthfully might never be. AEW’s best was informed by a desire for an alternative. Now we just have the alternative: it will never feel quite as precious and amazing.

 

However, what TK is doing now is arguably more impressive. It’s certainly more difficult. To bounce back from a poor spell of form and deliver a great product on a consistent basis. Is “the feeling” back? Maybe, maybe not. As I say, a lot of that feeling was informed by a desire that no longer exists. But Tony Khan definitely deserves huge credit for “fixing” AEW.







 


You can go to the LinkSearch tab to find a link to video of each segement that led to an award in #AEWeekly history and to the article where we talk about it...

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