Hello and welcome to the #AEWeekly Roundtable Discussion where ProWrestlingMusings contributors share their thoughts on the major talking points arising from the last week of AEW programming.
1: ‘Hangman’ Adam Page defeated Bryan Danielson to retain his AEW World Championship. What were your thoughts on this match and this feud as a whole?
[Andy] The match was incredible, better than their first I would say. A lot if that is due to so much being set up through that hour and the blood fit the tone of the bitter rivalry very well. The choice of judges was wise - no need to overshadow the performers in the ring with special guest appearances. The feud was excellent and somewhere down the line would be a great one to revisit. It was a simple story about who was better, Danielson showing his mean streak against the Dark Order and elevating the title by putting on two 5-star quality matches.
[Jae] I echo Andy’s sentiments. I was one of those people fantasy booking who the judges might be, but it was important not to overshadow the two in the ring. Having them at ringside plus going first made it seem possible that it could go the whole hour, which made Hangman’s win feel that much more REAL.
I cannot think of two matches which collectively told a better story than these two. I am sure they are out there, but that is beside the point: these were special matches, and this was a special story. As a result, the champion, the championship, and the challenger all look better. That’s the most you can ask for.
[Trish] Having been critical of how the Winter Is Coming match ended, especially with it being Page's first defence of the Championship, I'd like to rescind some of those thoughts here. This bout was a fitting crescendo to their feud with the Hangman able to survive all the separate offensive manoeuvres Danielson had used to defeat his opponents since arriving in AEW and then defeat the American Dragon comprehensively with the Buckshot after weeks of self-doubt and frustration.
It gave a legitimacy to Adam Page as champion, who should now carry full confidence in the aftermath and once more made the Championship feel like the most important thing on the show. An incredible, selfless display from Danielson and another performance from Page, under extreme pressure, which proves exactly why he has earned his current spot.
Adam Page is now the man who defeated Kenny Omega and Bryan Danielson in under 30 minutes and that should be his calling card going forward; just as Chris Jericho was able to use defeating the Rock and Stone Cold in the same night for the following two decades.
[Joe] I agree with Trish that the quality of this match made me feel better about the inconclusive finish of the first match. I liked seeing Page and Bryan learn from their mistakes, including when Bryan didn’t skin the cat because when he did it in the first match it placed him in a vulnerable position.
I liked seeing Bryan act like a heel by running away from Hangman at every opportunity early on, as well as either pandering to, or mocking, Jerry Lynn with the cradle piledriver.
I liked seeing Hangman diving like he was trying to hurt Bryan instead of just impress people athletically. Seeing the frequently insecure Hangman showing the confidence and presence to mock Bryan with jumping jacks while he was covered in blood was a moment, I’ll remember fondly for quite some time.
Page vs Danielson 1 was my match of the year for 2021, and Page vs Danielson 2 is currently the best match of 2022, with a chance to hold that distinction for the whole year, which is incredible output for a feud of just under 2 months.
2: Jade Cargill became the first ever TBS Champion after overcoming Ruby Soho in the tournament final. Do you think this is the right call? How do you envisage a Jade title reign?
[Andy] No. I think this is the wrong call and a great opportunity has been missed by having a workhorse holding the title. I thought the match was poor and I can't say that I've ever been impressed when Cargill has had anything other than a squash match. She has fantastic potential, but this is too soon for my liking.
A new championship like this needs to be established with a series of quality in ring matches. Jade can't provide that right now; I can see her having some Miro like wins (probably short matches to keep her looking good) but I have no idea who will end up taking the title off her.
[Jae] I agree with Andy’s assessment. I think that Ruby Soho or Thunder Rosa would have been fantastic first champions, while Jade continued to develop. Eventually, she will be ready for this type of role.
None of this is criticism of Jade. She is developing at a fast pace; so few wrestlers, if any, would be ready a year or two into their development for this responsibility. It is not fair to her.
I also wonder if the idea is to have the TBS belt defended in squash matches rather than the TNT workhorse style? Maybe they wanted to keep Jade undefeated without challenging for the world title, and the TBS title is their way of accomplishing that?
[Trish] Jae’s last thought is pretty much an echo of my beliefs in regards of the TBS Championship. Should they have changed plans with the additions they’ve made? Possibly, but I don’t think there was a realistic chance of them doing so.
The match itself, as others have mentioned, wasn’t great but I don’t expect Jade to have to defend in matches of this length very often so they should be able to protect her for at least the first part of her run.
[Joe] I think Jade Cargill is the right call to be the inaugural TBS Champion, and I think Jae is on the money saying that this could be a way to keep her logically away from the Women’s World Championship scene. I am fine with squash matches. I like efficient entertainment, but Jade needs some more impressive power moves.
3: Jurassic Express defeated the Lucha Bros to become the new AEW Tag Team Champions. Did this shock you? What do you make of the result and the match?
[Andy] There's a limit to the number of times they could have Jungle Boy challenging for a title and come up short so I can't say I was too surprised here. The Lucha Bros never really got going as champions despite being phenomenal in ring performers and winning the titles in the match of the year.
The match itself was every bit as good as it looked on paper, but the big win lost its shine with Rey's injury. How he escaped serious injury there is a miracle! Jurassic Express have been due this title win since day one, so I look forward to seeing them take the ball and run with it.
[Jae] I love long title reigns, so I would have preferred the Lucha Bros to keep the titles for a while longer. However, as Andy said, this reign never got going. It is baffling to me. The tag division is rich with teams. Why didn’t we get a real Lucha Bros vs. Proud and Powerful feud at the very least?
They have been holding back on Santana and Ortiz, and I cannot figure out why. They have EVERYTHING. That said, Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus are ready too, and I am hardly disappointed. But I can’t help but wonder if this would have meant more after a longer, better title reign.
[Trish] I’m not completely sure as to why, but I never felt this match reached the heights of their Rampage bout back in August, despite seeing much of the fast-paced action you’d expect to see between these teams.
The finish and the celebrations were a great moment for the boy and his dinosaur team, especially seeing Jungle Boy’s family so emotional at ringside, but was dampened by the injury to Rey Fenix.
My hope for Jurassic Express and their reign to come is that they can defend regularly across all programming. There are so many talented teams in AEW that there is once more no reason that this division should be an afterthought.
[Joe] The result did not shock me, as Jungle Boy has been with AEW since day one and is the only member of the pillars that had not won a championship (or 3x Dynamite Diamond ring in MJF’s case). He triumphed in story arc over Adam Cole and The Elite, so he seemed due, despite being just 24 years old.
In addition to having Jungle Boy now officially being featured as a face of the company, Luchasaurus is one of the faces of the company, which is great because he is one of the most unique selling points of AEW. My friends who will only watch wrestling with me or at my house are always the most into Orange Cassidy and Luchasaurus right off the bat.
The match itself was good enough that you need to see it, but not so good that you would want to put it on a list of favourites or revisit it, and I chalk that up to some clumsiness that disturbed the flow of the match. A babyface title win is always fun, but it’s less fun when it’s over another babyface, and less fun than that when someone as beloved as Rey Fenix has been badly injured.
4: What were your brief thoughts on AEW’s first ever TNT Special, Battle of the Belts? Do you like the idea of these specials?
[Andy] Battle of the Belts was a fine hour of AEW. Great matches, stories moving along and very little downtime. The issue is I can say that about Rampage most weeks.
These specials are a great idea. An extra hour of action with a specific theme. Unfortunately, with the TBS debut being so loaded this came at a poor time and suffered for not having a memorable moment. If the tag title match had been on this show instead, there would be something noteworthy to play on video packages next year. Whilst the matches were of a high quality, this show will be forgotten in a week or two.
The Interim TNT Title does nothing for me - especially if Cody beats Sammy when the two eventually meet. The best hope is that Sammy runs through several high calibre defences before then, use this as a chance for a do over of his lacklustre title.
[Joe] I agree with Andy that the timing of the special was not ideal in terms of having the card be noticeably less loaded than this week’s Dynamite. But I do actually think they came away with a moment for the video packages, with Dustin Rhodes hitting the Canadian Destroyer on Sammy Guevara off the ring apron through a table to the floor outside.
However, if you are going to ask people to tune into a brand new special, I think you need to have a PPV quality match. Something must-see and Battle of the Belts did not deliver a full match of that quality, even though they had that great moment from Sammy vs Dustin.
The next time they do one of these specials should be halfway between two quarterly PPVs, be loaded like a mini-PPV, have a unique set, and have the special be 2-3 hours. Potentially even have Rampage take a week off during those times because tuning in three separate times for one promotion in one week is a big ask in today’s media environment and should be reserved for the biggest events.
5: How did you feel about AEW overall this week? Is there anything in else you would like to spotlight?
[Andy] As a fan of his for over 20 years this pains me to say, but I think it needs to be said. Jericho has lost his lustre and his star is waning. He hasn't had a great in ring match for quite a while and his promos are getting dull. I really hope this programme with Kingston can light the fire in him again, but it might just be that his time as a draw is winding down.
[Jae] As I write this, I have not watched all of Rampage or BOTB yet. But, expanding on Andy’s point, the segment with Jericho on Dynamite was awkward. I want to see Eddie Kingston say all the things we are thinking about Jericho to his face, then pin him, and I want to see Santana and Ortiz leave the Inner Circle behind. Onward and upward. Hager can stick around as Jericho’s muscle and Sammy can linger as well as his protégé. But it’s time.
[Trish] A very busy week for AEW this week highlighted by an outstanding World Championship match that I somewhat wish they’d celebrated more. In fact, that’s my thought for the week, I’d like them to give these moments more time in general and focus on the emotions those wrestlers feel in such important moments to really push home their significance. With the addition of Rampage, Dynamite is nowhere near as high paced or time pressured so it would be a welcome addition.
[Joe] It’s hard to be negative about AEW in a week in which they kicked it off with a 5-star World Championship battle between two of their top stars, but I do agree with Trish that one of AEW’s biggest weaknesses is not allowing these big moments to feel like big moments because they move on too quickly. There was more time to breathe and absorb Kyle O’Reilly’s interference against Orange Cassidy than there was for Hangman vs Bryan.