Welcome to the #AEWeekly review discussion where PWM contributors reflect on the highlights of the last week in AEW.
This week’s contributors are Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering match and promo of the week, Gareth [@Gareth_EW] with move of the week and a key story beat, Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week and Trish [@TrishSpeirs48] giving us the weekly MVP.
Match of the Week: Sergei.
Darby Leads the Pack
Some weeks it is very easy to pick Match of the Week, because there is a match that you feel in your heart we'll still be talking about years from now, like Omega vs Vikingo or Danielson vs MJF in recent weeks. But most weeks there are many quite excellent matches and if one doesn't stand out as a clear MOTYC, it can be very tough to pick a favourite. Especially with a live Rampage and BotB night Friday more worth one's time than usual.
This week we had two tag-team title defence main-events that were both pretty excellent. We had three women's singles matches, two of which I thought were really dramatic and entertaining. We had HOOK's creditable first venture into a plunder match. And most of all we had a WCW-as-hell week, with three different matches that in a different promotion might have been promoted as "Cruiserweight" matches, featuring all of the speed, high flying, and technicality that you expect when talented smaller men are matched up.
With that wealth of good-if-maybe-not-all-timer wrestling to choose from, it's probably mostly bias going with one of the wrestlers I'm a huge mark for: Darby Allin, in a Rampage outing against Lee Moriarty.
As is often the case when Darby tests himself against guys who aren't giants, this match focused on both men's technical wrestling, with chain wrestling and creative counters, predicaments, and escapes aplenty by both men. Sting was only present in spirit, but he wasn't forgotten, with Darby using the King Kong fire-up and attempting the Scorpion Death Drop.
Moriarty's second, Big Bill made his presence felt on the outside, but didn't get so involved that it detracted from the feeling of a competition, and Darby giving Bill his comeuppance with one of his bullet-like planchas led directly into the finish, a crushing Coffin Drop to Moriarty's back.
Promo of the Week: Sergei.
A Taste of Babyface MJF
As everyone knows, Long Island is the place that Max Friedman calls "the most magical place in the world," AEW's own planet Lexor, (a more-apropos comic-book reference than Bizarro World, Google it!) where MJF is acclaimed as a hero and anyone who opposes him is booed mercilessly, regardless of how beloved they would normally be. What's interesting is how AEW handles this fact, neither going to the extreme of Max fighting the tide and trying to turn the fans against him, nor changing his character on a dime. Instead, Max portrays a guy who's still a jackass, but a little less abrasive when faced with an appreciative crowd, which gives us all a little glimpse of what might be if, someday (God forbid,) he should turn babyface.
Firstly, the man is a consummate showman. He opens with a song—the Tin-Pan-Alley standard "Pennies From Heaven," performed in a Louis Prima/Cab Calloway big-band style—similar to what we saw in the "Dinner Debonair" segment a couple years ago, but with the impressive difference of being performed on live television in front of an arena full of people who did NOT buy a ticket for big-band music, and yet were not turned off by the out-of-the-blue musical segment. In his sharp white tuxedo jacket, Friedman gives off a Rat-Pack-esque presence combining insufferable cheese with megawatts of charisma and undeniable talent.
Maxwell also showed off a sense of humour that's self aware of his own egotism in a similar way to his personal heroes like the Rock and Jericho as babyfaces. For example, he got laughs as well as starting a supportive chant when he started his speech with: "some might even say—you deserve it. Clap clap. Clap clap clap."
He also focused on the aspects of his personal story that are more relatable and underdog-like—rather than emphasizing the silver spoon, focusing on how he had been the weird ADD kid who couldn't focus in school and instead daydreamed of pro wrestling and was told by his teacher he'd never achieve his dreams. And he gives a heelish twist to the end to remind us of his true alignment, by making the moral of the story not "don't discourage the weirdo kid, you never know" but "don't be a stupid bitch!"
And finally, Friedman is always willing to show ass to make his partner in a feud look good, in this case by being too self-involved to see through Jack Perry's obvious disguise and sneak attack as an off-tempo cymbal player!
Story Beat of the Week: Gareth.
"Nobody Loves This Man"
Last week I speculated about "who will come to save Kenny Omega"? But as all great stories do, they threw me a curveball as Hangman came to confront the Blackpool Combat Club who then beat him down.
Bryan Danielson was shouting a lot of things on the mic, but two lines stood out. "Nobody's coming to save you" not only played on Hangman's long-term story arc of feeling alone. But it also displayed the confidence of the Blackpool Combat Club. Nobody will come and test them.
However, Bryan also said "nobody loves this man." A line that really cut deep, especially when nobody came out to save Adam Page. A line that Danielson knew he could say to hit Hangman deeper than anything else, and something he knew he could say as the BCC have put anyone who might help Hangman out of action. They probably weren't even in the arena.
Now, of course, if The Elite are to ever reunite properly with Hangman, there's one very important thing that has to happen. Kenny Omega has to show how much he means to him. Could this line be setting up a similar angle in the future? Hangman doesn't seem like the kind of guy who knows when to quit. But next time might Omega be the one to come and save Hangman? We can hope.
AEW know what they're doing with a line like this, they're planting a seed. Hangman has already shown his colours in saving Kenny Omega. Now it's time to see the favour returned and a potential re-union before any others enter the fray.
Moment of the Week: Peter.
Wrestling’s Coming Home
Any other week, I would have done a thousand words on Jay White signing and how it helps AEW in the power dynamic war with WWE but then Adam Cole said the words Wembley Stadium.
Tony Khan and his (add descriptive word) announcement has been used so often that it's become a meme but what was expected this week as TK's announcement by the fans east of the Atlantic Ocean to be a show in the United Kingdom turned out to be even wilder. On a scale of 1-10 on the F****** HELL! Richter scale this writer's f-bomb probably woke up the neighbours (PS Mick, if you're reading this can you keep an eye out on my house on the date of August 28th please?)
To emphasise to our American readers what a big deal this is, SummerSlam 1992 is still seen as a big deal in the UK. The 30th anniversary of the show last summer was celebrated on social media and saw a re-released special edition on DVD (yes, they are still a thing) and a lot of people were surprised that Cardiff and the Millennium Stadium won the rights to host the first UK main PPV/PLE in 30 years.
A lot of chatter amongst UK fans was that the logical step was Craven Cottage, the home of Fulham FC, a football team owned by the Khan family. It's location on the River Thames make it scenic and its cosiness even for a Premier League stadium is perfect for a wrestling event. So when the word Wembley was mentioned by Sean Ross Sapp as a location for the announcement that many were expecting of a UK show it was surprising but Wembley Arena was going to be a good option for AEW’s first UK show so when Adam Cole said the words Wembley Stadium, I was half expecting Tony Khan to correct him and for time to stand still in what was the most awkward in wrestling history but Wembley Stadium it actually is.
One of the reasons why a lot of people were stunned by the location of All In was that Tony Khan has been risk averse when it comes to entering markets for the first time. The first time Toronto held an AEW event it was at the smaller Coca Cola Arena. Some thought that the first time in Los Angeles should have been at the stadium in Carson that hosts the LA Galaxy so to hear Wembley Stadium was a shock. But Tony Khan must have belief that he can get 60,000+ at the stadium his family tried to buy a decade ago and is home to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Now three questions remain. First, can anyone get a hotel in London within 3 miles of the stadium (the Premier Inn at Wembley was 500 quid a night on All In weekend when I checked on Thursday morning), what does the schedule look like with All In and Out and the Grand Slam happening in a five week span and what will we see on All In night. We are probably doing a roundtable to discuss such matters later in the week and in my opinion at least Jamie Hayter has to have a big night. Don't be surprised if Jamie loses her title to one of the Outcasts and ends up winning the belt back in front of 50,000 fans in her home country.
Actually, while I'm typing this up. Could we have the go-home Dynamite in the Birmingham Resorts World Arena please Tony? It's only two hours away and it's nothing to do with the fact that I live a 10 minute drive from the arena.
Move of the Week: Gareth.
Riho Goes Close
Riho challenging Jamie Hayter for the AEW Women's World Championship was a blast. I was surprised to not see it taken down as match of the week, but such is the nature of subjective taste.
Riho is an exuberating, underdog babyface with bags of fire whilst Jamie Hayter is a hard-hitting, no-nonsense wrestler who is adored by the fans in her own right. This match was action-packed, but undoubtedly my favourite moment of the match was when Riho delivered running knees to the face of the champion.
This lead to an incredible near-fall, because as the referee's hand came down for the three count you couldn't see any movement in Hayter's shoulders. For a split second I thought "surely they're not doing a shock title change?" Of course, they weren't and Jamie got her leg onto the rope from a rather unusual angle.
For a match that felt like a pretty open-and-close case, they made me believe for a second. Such is the brilliance of Riho, drawing the audience into the match. And, indeed, the brilliance of Hayter who then took Riho's head off to retain her title.
MVP of the Week: Trish.
When Jay White exited New Japan in late February many commentators and insiders were still of the belief he was heading to WWE. Stamford's interest in the two time Heavyweight Champion had been no secret and it seemed the 30 year old New Zealander recognised the opportunities available there when he had been considering his options last winter. Then things changed.
The return of Vince McMahon caused a radical change in the wrestling landscape and opened the door for AEW to pick up a man who has headlined two Wrestle Kingdom shows and the G1 Supercard event in Madison Square Garden. Khan wasted no time in debuting him on Wednesday; King Switch offering the assist to former stablemate Juice Robinson to take out Ricky Starks.
His debut in AEW marks the end of a tumultuous couple of years for Jay which were hampered by covid up until June last year and then clap crowds thereafter. It has not been wasted time in his development though;- his time with New Japan Strong gave him the opportunity to lead and publicize a brand on American shores whilst his stay with Impact allowed him to adapt to US television production without being under the immediate pressure of live TV taping as he would in either of the two major US companies.
What is so exciting about the addition of the Switchblade to AEW is not only are they getting a talker (on the level of Jon Moxley, Eddie Kingston and MJF), they are also getting an "Elite" style storyteller who puts great detail into both his match layouts as well as everything else supporting those bouts. Here is another man who can readily step into any main event match and not be out of place in the build or in delivering matches on that scale.
It will likely not be too long after White disposes of Ricky Starks that he finds himself back within the upper echelon of a company once more. The 'Catalyst' has ready made programs available with Kenny Omega, Adam Cole, Jon Moxley and Hangman Adam Page. The last of these is particularly tantalising considering that White's humbling of Page during their US title program in 2018 was the origin point of the Anxious Millennial Cowboy character fans have built such a connection with over the last four years.
With the addition of Jay White, AEW have added to their main event core who will carry the company in the immediacy and throughout the next decade. After a year of disruption and negative press coverage, this is a massively popular acquisition just as instability is taking hold elsewhere.
Welcome to Jay-E-W, the Switchblade Era has now begun.