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) Bryan Danielson vs. ‘Hangman’ Adam Page for the AEW Championship went to a 60-minute time-limit draw. What are your thoughts on the match, the result and how we move forward from here?
[Brian] The match was a wonderful display of athletic prowess and storytelling for the serious fan. Everything seemed well thought out and purposeful from start to finish with in-match call backs that rewarded the portion of the audience that pays attention. The result is a successful title defence but, of course, not a victory, for Hangman. I think this proves that he is on Danielson’s level but not yet above it despite beating Omega in less time than the American Dragon had in the ring with Kenny.
A re-match feels inevitable, and I certainly don’t want to wait 10 more weeks until Revolution so one of the themed shows (Holiday Bash, New Year’s Smash) will have to do because Battle of the Belts is still earmarked as a one-hour show and will likely feature at least two matches.
It’s not difficult to get there for either side. Page still has doubts and wants/needs to prove himself worthy of being the champion. Danielson didn’t lose and can continue to crow on. Maybe take on Grayson, Reynolds and Vance while he’s at it to complete the Dark Order box set; we’ll save the showdown with Negative One a few more years.
[Andy] Well, this has been a controversial topic - way to start with an easy question! I had a feeling it was going this way when it was starting the show, it seemed to be the only logical reason for it. I didn't grow up with time limit draws in wrestling being a thing, but I have to say it adds an element of realism. Perhaps not being used to seeing them is a reason for the resentment towards the result. What I don't think anyone can dispute is the amazing conditioning of both men and how amazing the story they told over the hour was. I've no idea what comes next but I think Hangman is viewed on a new level now so I would say the match was a complete success.
[Vlad] Danielson vs Hangman was an awesome match, that is clear with everyone. It was one of the best Dynamite matches and it showed that Adam belongs in the same ring as some of the best in the world, it had the crowd on their feet the whole way, bell-to-bell it was incredible.
The controversial part comes from the result, as a draw didn’t give us a clear winner, even though Page was crawling to cover Bryan after a Buckshot Lariat. I’m on the side that thinks that the draw was a good result, as first it established the possibility that title matches can go to 60 minutes and second, it gives us, probably, a rematch and an interesting storyline, as Adam Page isn’t the only AEW champion to go Broadway with The American Dragon.
Kenny Omega, whenever he comes back, may still have a rematch against Adam for the title. I think he will try to disrupt the feud between Hangman and Danielson by inserting himself, like a certain Dragon is known to do, in the title program to create a 3-way match.
It’s certainly a possibility, although it’s a bit of a stretch, but I think it proves that the draw created a lot of directions this can go, not just the simple rematch with a stipulation.
[Joe] I am not a fan of long matches. I prefer my matches to stay under 30 minutes. I prefer efficient storytelling, and a match is not necessarily better just because it’s longer. If it’s going to be twice as long, it should have twice as much packed into it. With that being said, I loved this match. We already knew that Bryan was a cardio king, but now we know that Hangman has an elite gas tank as well.
In addition to the stamina, it also showcased Hangman’s toughness and & athleticism. While I loved this match, I did not love the finish. The two small changes to this match to make it perfect for me would be having Hangman go for a cover after the top rope back super-plex into discus clothesline spot, and I’d have Hangman actually pin Bryan in the final minute.
At that point, by nature of needing the entire time limit to beat Hangman, Bryan would have proved himself worthy of this rematch they want to do, and even if the loss pushed him down the rankings, he could work his way back up by completing the Dark Order box set like Brian suggested. That would give Hangman extra edge and motivation and we could see a sprint out of the gates in the rematch.
[Peter] I loved this match especially the last twenty minutes. I get the criticism of this match especially the finish. If you haven’t grown up with time-limit draws, the finish was like being hit by a cold fish, but a draw can be a beautiful thing when done right and not too often.
The Hangman story has always been about the word “eventually” from his avenging of the Brian Cage loss at Double Or Nothing to his win at Full Gear and Page is going to need a second go at beating Danielson in the ring.
As for the actual match, I enjoyed the limb work with the emphasis on Page’s arm being very good with Page having that big lariat in him after a couple of hits that didn’t come off. Watching it back the second time round, Page looked gassed 30 minutes in but credit to Hangman, he held in there with Danielson and put in a world class performance fit for a world champion.
I expect a rematch at either Battle of The Belts or the first Dynamite on TBS with a no time-limit stipulation in there to find a winner second time round but for the pair to go less than an hour this time round with Page eventually getting the win.
2) Hikaru Shida overcame Serena Deeb settling their “grudge” match. Was this a sufficient pay-off to their feud?
[Brian] Not entirely. Shida remains the standard bearer for AEW women as the longest-reigning champion in company history so defeating her should and does mean a lot. I was naïve to hope that, with rumours of Shida returning to Japan for at least a short while, that Deeb may emerge victorious and use this as a springboard to move her up the card. Alas, it was not to be and so we’re pretty much back where we started with Shida perhaps a little angrier and Deeb a little grittier.
Incidentally, I see the announcement of a Women’s Division Owen Hart Cup Tournament as providing Deeb with a kind of path to redemption; a chance to re-tool, re-focus and work her way back into the rankings.
[Andy] One thing that AEW don't do often enough is make non title women's feuds feel like a big deal. Thunder Rosa and Baker obviously did it, but I wouldn't say any other non title feud has been given the chance to succeed. By putting this match on a big card rather than a regular week or Rampage, it felt like it was important. Deeb and Shida are very talented and have plenty of chemistry together. Being super critical, with this being the blow off match it could have done with a bit more time, but it is hard to fault the bell to bell action.
[Vlad] This didn’t really feel like a pay-off to a story that started really good. The match was good, we knew that the 2 women can put on a great match, but I don’t think this was enough. Like Andy said, they put this match on a big card and it felt more important, but the match was damaged by a tired crowd, although they managed to bring them on their side by the end, it really wasn’t enough.
I would’ve liked for this to be a submission match or a 2-out-of-3 falls as to feel like a feud ending or at least to raise the stakes by making it a No. 1 contenders match, but we got what we got and who knows, maybe it’s not the end of the feud, maybe there’s more to it.
[Joe] I think this match started perfectly. When there is a feud that isn’t built around a title but instead on bad feelings, it should start with aggression and strikes instead of caution and holds. Shida seemed angry and out for revenge.
Deeb is an excellent elite level wrestler, and she is very good at being a nasty heel, but she needs to turn the dial up on being cowardly when faced with the consequences of her actions in situations like this to get next level as a character in my opinion.
This would have been a sufficient pay off to the feud if the finishing sequence itself was different. Deeb looked like she propelled her own self into the turnbuckle, and I think feuds should end with moves instead of roll ups, but Shida selling the leg at the end was a nice touch.
I gave this match 3.75 stars, because I think it was really good, but not so good you’d feel the need to definitely revisit it someday, and both wrestlers involved are more than capable of that. The fact that Shida went over in this feud makes me think we’ll have a heel TBS champion for Shida to challenge.
3) MJF defeated Dante Martin to complete his “three-peat" of Dynamite Diamond Ring victories. What did you make of the match and how it played into Dante’s feud with Team Taz?
[Brian] It was the necessary result that was almost never in doubt. The ring, MJF’s unofficial championship, came after a match that showed why Maxwell is a present-day main eventer and Dante is not. The fact that it was a victory via submission and the post-match angle brought about a significant tonal shift tells us what we need to know about the prospects of any imminent Singles push for Martin, which I actually think is a good thing for Angel Dorado. Once Darius returns from injury, a proper feud with Team Taz can likely commence.
[Andy] I honestly have very little to say about this one. It was very predictable and the match quality was lacking as MJF obviously got injured early on. Not saying that predictability is a bad thing, but other than the post match announcement, there was nothing of great interest here for me.
[Vlad] I think this was mostly a given. Dante and MJF put on a good match and Dante’s agility continues to amaze me, but putting the ring on him wouldn’t have been a good idea, at least they gave him an out as Ricky Starks cost Dante the match. I think he’s probably heading into a match with him as the feud continues between Dante and Team Taz. I think the money match here is Dante vs HOOK as it showcases the clear future of AEW.
[Joe] As for the match, it was very good, showcasing Dante’s immense RAW talent, but that rawness was also evident with a couple of missteps in terms of execution. Dante’s ceiling is so high, and he reminds me of early days Will Ospreay from the beginning of PROGRESS wrestling’s run. This match peaked with the 4 dives to 4 sides of the ring seuqence. I agree with Vlad that this should feature a match between Dante and Hook, and I agree with Brian that the best scenario includes a return of his brother from injury leading to a heated trios match of Starks, Hobbs, Hook vs Lio Rush and Top Flight.
4) Brody King was heavily teased by Malakai Black in a vignette on Dynamite with Cassidy Haynes reporting that he had signed with AEW. Kyle O’Reilly has also been heavily rumoured with debuting next week after Adam Cole teased a “present.” What do you make of this?
[Brian] Malakai has been set adrift by the iceberg that is Cody Rhodes so he needed a friend to right his ship. One too many nautical metaphors? Either way, who better than Brody King?
Admittedly, I am not the most well-versed on the man but I like what I’ve seen from him on his own and what I’ve glimpsed of him with Black at PWG. Simply put, it works. It's time to build up the House of Black and start wreaking havoc.
Making a hard left turn, and as strange as it may sound to say aloud, Kyle O’Reilly was already at the top of my present AEW Christmas list before he was rumoured to be presented as a present. You follow? His “What’s in the Box?” Twitter tease has all but solidified in my mind that the former ROH Champion is soon to be All Elite and we will all be better for it.
[Andy] I'm going to come across as negative here! I've never watched a Brody King match but have heard good things about him. I'm getting slightly concerned about the bloated roster size now. I get that talent is being cycled in and out, allowing them to rest and not take part in meaningless matches. On the other hand though, it makes some talent feel under utilised when they disappear for a few months. I'm didn't see it as a Kyle O'Reilly tease. I figure after Rampage that the present is Cole beating Cassidy. A debut like that would be best served on the first TBS show to drove ratings there.
[Vlad] I think Brody King is one of the best picks AEW can get from ROH. I’ve seen probably most of his PWG matches (go find the one with Darby Allin if you’re here) and the man can work both as a big powerful guy and as an athletic heavyweight. His character and presentation feel perfect for AEW and for a partnership with Malakai Black. To say the least, I’m very excited if he’s revealed to be Black’s disciple.
On the topic of Kyle O’Reilly, I completely agree Brian that he’s going to be Adam Cole’s present for the Bucks. He’s going to be in a box, in the ring and Adam is going to reveal him and be super excited. The interesting part is where his alignment is going to be. As he can be in the Elite, he can team with Fish against the Bucks, maybe some sort of Undisputed Era reunion, who knows? I don’t really think the Young Bucks will be thrilled with this gift.
[Peter] Honestly, when I saw that Cassidy Haynes report, my first reaction was “huh”. But thinking about it, it’s a great fit with Malakai’s story in AEW. The House of Black with potential members coming from the black mist has the opportunity to give life to Malakai’s character after cooling off post Cody-Malakai III and Brody King with a potential name change would be a great first member for the House.
As for Kyle, if he is coming in and siding with Cole and Fish, I’m looking forward to the dynamic between ReDRagon and the Bucks. Are the Bucks going to be jealous of their buddy having his mates from NXT by his side?, and with Omega coming back down the line, the Elite/Undisputed Era story could be one of the best stories in AEW in the first half of 2022.
5) How did you feel about AEW overall this week? Is there anything in else you would like to spotlight?
[Brian] The lack of big reveal in the final moments “Winter is Coming”, even after the epic sixty-minute Broadway showing of Page and Danielson, did immediately leave me with a lack of fulfilment. However, foregoing a surprise debut this year is wise for the long-term health of the promotion and helps avoid the never-ending, even if/when it is only self-imposed, attempt to constantly try and outdo oneself. I understand why Khan & Co. didn't end the show like that and I’m still eager to see what happens next.
I’ll close this out by saying I’m glad we finally know when Riho is getting her title match against Britt Baker.
[Vlad] I think AEW’s biggest problem this week was the structuring of matches. The crowd was dead after Hangman vs Danielson and I think the 8-man tag party match with The Elite on Rampage would’ve worked as a way to get people invested in the show after a 60-minute classic.
Daniel Garcia getting a big win on Rampage was good, as I think he needed one after constantly losing to big stars, but I’m not a fan of the gang wars that happened after the match.
[Peter] Considering the week was dominated by Hangman vs Danielson and it delivered for me, a thumbs up from me.
It’s pretty obvious from the West Coast getting Dynamite from 5-8 which is hurting the ratings a bit to the usual Full Gear comedown that is now a trend, AEW is in third gear till the new year with Danielson’s reign of terror on The Dark Order and Punk-MJF's verbal wars keeping the show fascinating in this time. When Dynamite goes on TBS, I expect AEW to hit the throttle and if the rumoured signings hit, AEW is going to be a lot of fun in the early months of 2022.
[Joe] This week in AEW on Dynamite we got a match of the year contender in Page vs Bryan, a very good feud culminator despite the weak finishing sequence for Shida vs Deeb, and MJF continued to generate heat while also giving the rub to Dante Martin and Wardlow’s eventual babyface turn on the Pinnacle was teased. We are also got the announcement of a huge trios fight between MJFTR vs the 3-generation babyface all star team of Darby, Punk, Sting next week.
Props to CM Punk for wearing a pro-choice shirt in Texas and props to AEW for allowing it. Then on Rampage, we got an excellent match that is must-see between Best Friends & the Superkliq that featured an excellent sequence between Orange Cassidy & Nick Jackson, but gave the biggest shine to the returning Trent Barretta and Tay Conti got over a new finisher.
Sammy Guevara got a big babyface pop his story with Cody and his feud with Men of the Year forward at the same time. I could see Men of the Year costing Sammy and Cody getting residual heat from it without actually turning heel yet.
Finally, the show ended with a big win for another young star in Daniel Garcia at the end of a very fun 10-man match where the crowd was reacting to Eddie Kingston like he is already a main event star.
For what It's worth, I also see a big future in Santana in a singles run. But before all that, he needs to win a tag title with Ortiz. Before Proud and Powerful get a shot, though, it seems like Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus will be the next ones to challenge Lucha Bros.
An amazing week for AEW in terms of matches and story-building and star-building.