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: Sergei.
Mentor vs Mentee
Nick Wayne's first main event match against his mentor Darby Allin edged out the competition for me, this week, with its fast-paced, fun, hard-hitting action, and great dramatic moments. The first big beat of the match is a spot we see very rarely–because very few of Darby's opponents have the kayfabe-quickness to pull it off–avoiding Darby's suicide-speed tope and letting him crash and burn.
In the aftermath, the doctor pauses the match to check on Darby, which leads to a hilarious audience-participation bit where the crowd does a count-out countdown, tricking Darby into thinking he needs to roll in to stop the count, when actually the ref isn't counting but trying to wave the fans' chant off, because of the medical pause.
This leads to the first example of the competitors' relationship playing into the match: once the match resumes back in the ring, Nick is reluctant to press his advantage by working Darby's back with strikes, sticking to basic holds and pinning predicaments. Then we get an excellent chain-wrestling sequence with lots of near falls. And after that, an exchange of strikes to the chest that leads Darby to get on the mic and tell Nick he needs to hit him like he really wants this! This leads to a great fakeout, where Darby puts his hands behind his back asking for Nick's best shot and Nick rears back, but then instead of a chop, he goes for a vicious thrust kick which leads to a near fall.
After some more back and forth, they have an exchange on the apron which Nick gets the better of with a head scissors to the floor and then hits Darby with a big running somersault senton over the top rope.
Not long after, Darby has the advantage again, and Wayne is on his back in the middle of the ring. Darby starts to go for his Coffin Drop finisher, but can't bring himself to do something like that to someone he's known since he was a little kid. He climbs down and just goes for a cover. When Nick kicks out, it's clear that Darby is kicking himself for his moment of compassion. Then Nick almost sneaks one on Darby with Darby's own trapping finisher, the Last Supper.
Finally Darby decides to put an end to it in a brutal fashion, getting a referee stoppage when he gets Nick's arms trapped behind his back in a vicious stretch while kicking him in the head with Nick helpless to defend himself.
Great story, great action–awesome to see young Nick Wayne killing it in his first main event!
Promo of the Week: Sergei.
Tough call on promo this week–the Story Beat, Moment & MVP sections this week each spin out from something that happened in three different promo segments: Toni Storm's backstage interview by Renee Paquette, Ricky Starks's post-match pretape, and Swerve Strickland's confrontation with Hangman Page. All three show a great performer using fiery and smart use of a promo segment to advocate for their own value. Fundamentally, they're advocating for themselves to be better used. There are two big things that made Swerve's promo stand out for me from a crowded field.
First was the generousness of Swerve's promo. Within kayfabe, Strickland was accusing Page of being lazy and complacent and wasting the opportunities he had been afforded. But outside kayfabe, all of the fire and intensity and intelligence that Swerve brought to that promo had the effect of putting a spotlight on both himself and Hangman, who has been underutilized for months, and starting something that could be career-defining for both men.
Second was Swerve's effectiveness in engaging the emotions. Outside kayfabe, rationally, I am very hopeful for this program doing great things for both men. But within kayfabe, emotionally, I want Hangman to obliterate Strickland. The invading of Hangman's space delivering lines whispered right in his ear, and the blindside attack from Swerve's goon, Cage, just evoked a lizard-brain desire for vengeance. That's just amazing heel work, especially on the part of someone that on another mental level, you really want to like!
Story Beat of the Week: Saul.
A cosmic car crash. It produces a beautiful light show, a fireball of radiant reds and blazing blues. A collision that demands your attention.
Sound the damn alarm bells everyone, 'Hangman' Adam Page is actually entering a singles program. Praise be! Correct me if I'm wrong (actually don't, never challenge any of my opinions), but the millennial cowboy’s last singles storyline was over 6 months ago (the Jon Moxley feud, aka the most underrated rivalry in AEW history). Judging by this first segment, I believe that this storyline could reach similar heights.
Swerve Strickland and Adam Page is a pairing that I'd never thought of before, but one that made me excited instantaneously. Swerve ran down Page, saying he has gotten lazy, complacent and fat. Absolutely brutal. He was basically saying that Page had lost the eye of the tiger, and he was going to forcibly take his spot.
The promo was excellently delivered by Swerve, and was really effective as a heel trying to play mind games with his opponent. However, I think the content of the promo can also be viewed as meta-commentary on AEW's lacklustre booking of the Hangman over the past several months.
While I am overjoyed that Page is seemingly receiving a renewed on-screen focus, this program should be used to cement Swerve Strickland as a main event player in AEW. He has delivered with everything he's been handed and deserves to be treated like one of the hottest rising stars in the whole company. Swerve said in his promo that he would be the first black AEW World Champion, and I certainly hope that he wasn't telling lies.
What is a kilonova? It's what happens when two stars meet head-on. It creates a 'perfect explosion'.
(Shout out to The Washington Post article that explained all the space stuff.)
Moment of the Week: Peter.
In my time in choosing my Moment of the Week in this roundtable, I hope that my picks give off the impression that my tastes in wrestling can be varied. Going from the serious to the emotional to the funny. My picks when cataloged hopefully show the intention of AEW when founded that you find a smorgasbord when you turn the channel to TNT or TBS when the clock strikes 8 on a Saturday or Wednesday respectively (or 10 on a Friday night if you want to give Rampage some love)
Wrestling in its nature can be OTT. In my story telling about All In weekend, telling my friend that I was one of 81,000 people that cheered with joy when two people who have been friends for 6 weeks hugged at the end of the show would have helped with that feeling of our favourite thing being so OTT (I'm not even going to talk the react to my mentions about the scissoring that went on) But it's the over the top nature of our favourite thing that is the reason why wrestling is our favourite thing and in recent weeks, Toni Storm has been glorious in how over the top she has been
With each week, Toni has been looking and acting like a 1940's movie starlet whose downfall post-losing the Women's World Title has been in full view of the AEW faithful and whose antics would make Norma Desmond ask her if she's OK, it has been glorious for the viewer who likes being entertained. But it was on the latest episode of Dynamite when interviewed that Toni was at her wildest but maybe her most cerebral though.
When asked by Renee Pacquette about her participation in the 4-Way to decide Saraya's next challenger, Toni suddenly remembered her Outcasts stablemate's current role in her life. That Saraya was the holder of the belt she loved so dearly and after pointing out Renee's nosiness she said a phrase that we all should live by
"Chin Up, Tits Out and watch for the Shooooooooe"
If you can put Scissor Me on a shirt, surely you can put Toni's words of wisdom on one as well.
With those words in which she called her shot on Renee and excited the predictable throwing of the shoe in history, Toni is on the most entertaining run of her career in many eyes with her latest interview and her latest shoe throwing exploits ratcheting many views on social media, we are in the midst of the greatest performance of Toni Storm's career and with a friend who did her wrong at Wembley Stadium in her sights, Toni Storm after the last week is absolutely ready for her close up.
MVP of the Week: Gareth.
There’s a good variety of choices for MVP this week. As outlined in the article above there was a lot to like about AEW last week. But my MVP is Ricky Starks.
After losing to Bryan Danielson many worried that Starks would shrink in terms of his importance, like has often happened after a big match for him. However, after a great promo package on Dynamite, Ricky absolutely followed up on his new-found momentum.
Ricky Starks has been a highlight of Collision since the start and has been getting better and better as the weeks go by. But this week was his best for me, personally. He came out and used those previous failings as motivation.
“I have graduated from being hungry, to being greedy.” This is such a phenomenal line that outlines Starks’ frustrations and the difference between Ricky when he was a babyface vs. now that he’s a heel.
Starks is right where he needs to be as a character, and a win over Danielson, if that is indeed the direction, will do the world of good for Ricky, who has now proven that he’s absolutely ready to push on to the next level.