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WEMBLEY!! | AEWeekly Review #83

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, and this special week All In at Wembley!

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: Joe.

A prize more rare than platinum

For the second time in AEW’s history, they have scored huge with a babyface vs babyface championship match. Following in the footsteps of my personal favorite match of all time, The Young Bucks vs. Kenny Omega & Hangman Page for the World Tag Team Titles, Adam Cole vs. MJF for the World Title delivered a tense, emotional, creative, showdown, where the value came more from the “lights, camera” than the “action”.

Now, that isn’t to say that action was absent from this match. While it did not match the pace or athleticism of Bucks vs. Omega/Page, to compare it to a Roman Reigns Bloodline match would not be fair. There was a lot less slow-motion, a lot less one-sided action, and more urgency than in a Bloodline match. Now, sometimes that urgency wasn’t towards achieving the goal of becoming a champion, sometimes that urgency was in trying to weigh the priorities of morality and friendship vs. career goals and financial security. Some of that urgency was in the wrestling matches that Cole and MJF were having with their own demons, rather than reversal exchanges for signatures and finisher attempts.

Because of those ingredients, this match was constantly filled with suspense. It was believable that either wrestler could win. It was believable that either wrestler could betray the other. It was believable, but maybe unlikely, that this match could end with a hug instead of a heel turn. That last option is what the crowd wanted, as evidenced by the “Let’s go friendship chant!” at the beginning of the match. The crowd wasn’t rooting for Cole, and they weren’t rooting for MJF, they were rooting for Better Than You, Bay Bay.

At least, that was how it started, which is a very special but very difficult dynamic for a live crowd to work with in terms of chants, energy, and investment. So, the performers mixed it up. MJF started the animosity with an eye poke, giving Cole justification to be upset and play dirty right back. However, instead of capitalizing on the temporarily blinded Cole, MJF hammed it up to the crowd, and then apologized to Cole and extended his hand to help him up. This gave the crowd justification for not turning on MJF. They could excuse this level of naughtiness, as, after all, he’s “their scumbag”. Cole decided that he was going to set another boundary, a theme of their friendship courtship, and asserted himself with a thunderous slap to Max’s face. Now, a slap is legal in a title fight, an eye poke is not. Max cheated. Adam didn’t. AND YET, because of THE WAY that both performers executed these choices, it became clear that MJF was going to be the babyface in this contest and Cole was going to be the heel.

Based on entrances, you would have expected that the greater tension would be the fear of Max sinking back down to his Devilish deeds, and that was certainly a part of it, but the biggest tease was for Cole, being tempted by his own devil on the shoulder in the form of Roderick Strong, to revert back to his heelish history.

The moments that really got me were Cole’s concern after hitting the steel step brainbuster, and Max not being willing to hit the Tombstone on the table to Cole. Cognitively, and from a karma-centric point of view, I understand that MJF had sown whatever ends up being reaped, but I was sucked into sympathy for the devil. Due to that, I was left feeling not only satisfied, but actually happy to see MJF retain his title, and his best friend.

That outcome, that special feeling generated within me, is what made this match so special. In years to come, we will be able to revisit this match, and through just the pre-match video, the match, and the post-match, we will be able to fondly remember this entire Blockbuster Bromance.

Promo of the Week: Sergei.

Kingston's Kiss of Death

Eddie Kingston as a character is an enigma: how the hell is he both so utterly terrifying, but also so lovable and relatable? It's a mystery!

His total commitment to his character is something incredible, for one. Whenever Eddie Kingston is on screen, you never doubt that he means every word he says, no matter how outrageous. And when he went backstage at AEW Collision to look for the BCC, realized he wouldn't catch up with them and decided to send a message through the TV camera, he was at his most viscerally terrifying.

He writes off his turncoat former allies with terrifyingly sincere warnings to stay out of his way. The annoying little-shit rookie, Yuta, he promises to bury. But he saves the best for last: his "sweetheart," decades-long nemesis Claudio Castagnoli. For Claudio, he promises, not death, but disfigurement by fire. And he seals it with a kiss to the screen.

First off, this is straight-up supervillain shit: calling an enemy by a term of endearment, the dire threat, even the kiss. And yet, we still root for him, like an 80s slasher-movie monster/ protagonist–based on just being so much more interesting than the bland teens he chops to pieces.

A lot of people were saying "this is cinema" this week, but Eddie's delivery of "I'm gonna burn you. I'm gonna make sure you're scarred forever," seemed specifically film-inspired. At first I was thinking it might be inspired by the Joker, but then I realized I was actually thinking of another arch-nemesis, Moriarty: "I will burn you. I will burn the heart out of you."

However, Moriarty meant that as some sort of metaphor for destroying Sherlock's life and everything he cares about, not literally. Whereas, it's clear Kingston means a literal disfigurement, because death is too good for his enemy. In this sense, it's also reminiscent of the "to the pain" speech in The Princess Bride. But Westley is bluffing there, to hide that he's incapacitated. Anybody who has seen a zombie-like Eddie stagger to the ring with a gas can and deadly intent towards Jericho, knows that Kingston isn't bluffing about this… that he likely isn't capable of bluffing.

The number-one feud in AEW today revolves around love and friendship and hugging. I love that story, and I love the pioneering storytelling that's made those themes compelling in a pro-wrestling context. But it's good that there is still a place for old-fashioned righteous hate in our wrestling show!

Story Beat of the Week: Saul.

The Brochachos Hug it out in Wembley

All of the best professional wrestling matches involve the symbiosis of the technical and emotional narratives. When the storytelling of the match is displayed clearly and effectively through the physical moves each wrestler hits. This is what makes a medium that is nominally competitors pretending to fight each other into one of the most unique forms of entertainment in the world.

Regardless what your overall thoughts on the All In main event may have been, there's no denying that it involved various moments that expertly showcased and progressed the story playing out between Adam Cole and MJF. It was genuinely moving to see Max unable to inflict the devastating offence that seemed necessary to finish off Cole because he didn't want to injure his best friend. It was heart-breaking to see that Cole was absolutely willing to go past that line with little remorse, placing his desire to be the best and become world champion over anything else.

While the fake-out draw and restarting of the match may seem to some like over-convoluted booking, I think it was actually a genius way to showcase the development that MJF has gone through since the first time he faced Adam Cole. He was no longer content to accept the draw and slink away with his championship still in his grasp. He wanted to have a definitive winner.

Cole's morals were truly tested in the final stretch. Roderick Strong interfered and tried to help Cole cheat. He initially accepted the help, but when push came to shove, he rejected it and tried to win on his own terms. After MJF got the roll-up win, Cole seemed distressed by his choice, even throwing his ROH Tag Team Championship away in anger. MJF was extremely let down by this reaction, and went as far as throwing the world title at Cole and giving him the chance to fully dissolve the partnership. Cole threw the title away and the pair hugged it out, reaffirming their friendship and staying on the same page. For now at least.

MJF saying that he now thought of his friendship with Cole as more important than being the World Champion was astonishing to hear. His character before this partnership was so desperate to cling onto the title by any means necessary, as it was the thing that he believed validated him. It was proof that he was now better than all of the people who had wronged him. However, through his friendship with Cole, he's realised that those things were hollow. He still wants to be world champion to prove he is the best wrestler in the world, but he no longer needs it to validate his own self worth. All he needed was someone to truly believe in him, someone he could call a friend. The fact that this character progression feels fully natural and not out of place is a masterclass in professional wrestling storytelling.

There were many gripes going into All In, but one thing that I never saw grumbling about was MJF's place in the main event. The main takeaway from this event was establishing MJF as one of the singular top stars in professional wrestling today. There is no more discussion. Many monikers and nicknames in wrestling are extremely hyperbolic, but MJF's isn't. He truly is a generational talent.

Moment of the Week: Peter.


Is it fair to say that we, the wrestling fan, have been the black sheep in our friendship groups, that our fandom of the grapple game is the outlier of any shared interests with our friends?

My best mate and I share a love of MCU, Friends, and 90s pop music, but she doesn't get wrestling. I remember when talking to a girl I was crushing on last year and I mentioned that I write about wrestling, she said "that's fake right?" Unless you catch other strays in your fandom, it can be a lonely existence loving this beautiful thing called wrestling.

So after a day where I got lost in Acton, (the London bus network gets a minus-five stars from me!) I queued outside Wembley for an hour to get in, (British wrestling fans didn't get the memo on British queuing etiquette,) and that heart-in-mouth moment waiting for the light on the machine to go green so you can get in, going through the concourse and going up the stairs to see Wembley Stadium for the first time in its second incarnation after it's rebuild in 2008 and to see a wrestling ring in the middle, it was all worth it. 30 years of loving that thing that my friends at school grew out of, that thing that none of the friends that I have made in adulthood seem to "get," was worth it when I saw a wrestling ring in the middle of "Wembley Fucking Stadium" and with the knowledge that it was going to be filled up.

I stood there and made a noise which can best be described as a combo of disbelief and joy. I turned to a stranger next to me and jokingly apologised that I was going to mark out for the next 10 minutes to which he said: "don't worry, I'm doing the same".

It was a moment when you could take it all, and realize that others share your passion for the thing that you have invested your time in. It was a moment that you could say to your friends this thing I like is really cool and is in the big time, now.

MVP of the Week: Gareth.


After the biggest event in your company’s history, it would probably be considered a failure if one of your main-eventers weren’t considered the MVP of the week. But it just goes to show how good Samoa Joe was at All In: London that I seriously debated making him this week’s MVP. From the perspective of a live fan, he was absolutely unbelievable.

However, the MVP is of course MJF. For how he built this show with Adam Cole, for his hilarious Kangaroo kick, for his opening tag match with Cole against Aussie Open, for his incredible main event where he defeated his tag partner and for what he said in the media scrum after the show.

In every way imaginable Maxwell Jacob Friedman has become the MVP of AEW and ascended to the face of the company, turning babyface in the process.

Watching MJF live, in person, it really felt like I was watching an all-timer–a future Mount Rushmore wrestler–in front of my eyes. Yet this wasn’t even one of his best 5 matches in AEW, in my opinion.

From his storytelling to his promos, to his actual wrestling, to the way he carries himself and represents the company: this week proved to Tony Khan exactly why MJF is, across the board, his most valuable player.


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