What's Brewing Between Sting and Darby Allin? | AEWeekly Review #49
Welcome to the #AEWeekly review discussion where PWM contributors reflect on the highlights of the last week in AEW. The week runs Friday to Friday covering Rampage and Dynamite.
This week’s contributors are Joe [@GoodVsBadGuys] covering match of the week, Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering promos, Gareth [@Gareth_EW] exploring a key story beat Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week, Dan [@WinsDANlosses] reflecting on the best move and Trish [@TrishSpeirs48] giving us the MVP of the week.
Match of the Week: Joe.
The Elite vs Death Triangle Best of 7 Series continues to clown on me for doubting that 7 straight matches could stay fresh and interesting to the point of being the best use of these 6 Elite talents. Now 6 matches in, thanks to the flexibility and variation of the rules in the back half of the series, we are getting fresh looks at this rivalry in fresh environments with new opportunities for unique moves and moments.
How many Asai Moonsaults off of folded up bleachers (PAC)? How many Somersault Senton Dives off of folded up bleachers through an opponent's face and chest, crushing them through a catering table? How many brainbusters onto a pallet / skid (Kenny Omega, credit to PAC for suffering that)? How many delayed Bridging German Suplexes onto a ramp have you seen (PAC, credit to Kenny for suffering that)? How many Tornillos off the top of an entrance tunnel (Fenix to everyone)?
The best sequence might have been Matt Jackson’s Northern Lights Suplex Series on the ramp being interrupted by his brother Nick making the save for him while catapulting off of and over him with a dive to take out Pentagon, before Matt finished by suplexing, bridging, and holding PAC and Fenix down for a pin count.
I’ve seen a lot of backstage brawls before, but not those exact sequences. This rivalry is not only keeping their series fresh, they are keeping genres fresh (No DQ, Falls Count Anywhere), and establishing a genre that has never held prominence or prestige in the USA (trios wrestling).
This match didn’t just have creativity, it had quantity! 5 finishers, 7 double team sequences, 8 dives, 16 weapon attacks, 19 grapples, 26 taunts, 32 strikedowns, and 42 reversals, With a strikedown rate from each team of about 20%, this was not a falls count anywhere match dominated by weak forearm smashes traded back and forth where competitors look like they’re on a cooperative stroll to the next spot, but rather forceful moves with intention that had consequence.
Looking at the flow of offence, you can see how well this match was structured, with the peaks in action coming at the beginning and the end, and constant trade-offs in terms of who had the advantage, and the overall offence being so nearly 50/50. This tells the tale of two teams that are tightly matched in talent.
Not only was the flow of offence constantly changing and evenly distributed between teams, it was happening consistently throughout the match.
Lastly, the pacing of this match was tremendous. Looking at these rate stats adjusted to per/Hour, you can get an idea of just how much power was packed into 17 minutes of match time, which all culminated with an awe-inspiring One-Winged Angel out of the stands through a table from Kenny Omega to Rey Fenix. Fenix took the fall, but he was arguably the standout star amongst stars in this match, particularly as it pertains to pacing.
There was a burst where Fenix became a one-man wrecking crew, and in FIFTEEN SECONDS, did a Martix back bend evasion from a Young Bucks double Superkick, kipped back up only to duck back down and avoid a Young Bucks double clothesline, got caught with a back body drop from Nick Jackson, which he reversed into a hurracanrana on Matt Jackson, somersaulted forward then leapt from the ground up to catch Nick with a cutter, then hit a sprinting, diving, torpedo tope con hilo through the middle ropes onto Kenny Omega and Michael Nakazawa. It would make sense that a frenzied flurry like that would take a lot out of someone, and Fenix ended up being the man to take the fall for his team after an awe-inspiring One-Winged Angel from Kenny Omega from the stands through a table! A fitting end to a fantastic fight. I can’t wait to see the Seventh Showdown.
Promo of the Week: Sergei.
There are a few guys in AEW who are genuinely gifted at telling stories with their words and with their voice. Each week, they're the ones I'm impatiently waiting to hear what they have to say, to assess if they really knocked it out of the park this week. Guys like Eddie Kingston… or Ricky Starks. Like Jon Moxley or the Hangman. And, of course, Max Friedman.
But there's one guy there who's been a legend on the mic, (and every other aspect of the game,) for decades, but so far since his return hasn't had a lot of chance to show that. Most times he's been on the mic it's been a simplistic victory lap of beloved catchphrases and enthusiastic hokum. I'm talking about the Man, the Icon, Sting.
The lore of the Stinger has been built over the decades on stories of uneasy alliances and betrayal. One of those frenemy relationships having been with Samoa Joe, one of the few men to ever make Sting tap out…
Darby Allin is a prickly and prideful young man who needs Sting to watch his back, but can't help but resent that need. But Sting has grown through decades of hard experience, from the guy who always gets blindsided by betrayal, to probably the most genre-savvy character in wrestling.
So when Darby Allin asks him a trick question "you don't even believe I can beat Samoa Joe, do you?" Sting sees it for the trap it is. Darby Allin doesn't need to hear Sting doubt him, because it's not about Sting. And he sure doesn't need to hear Sting reassure him, because he's going to need the chip on his shoulder to fight Samoa Joe, one of the toughest opponents either man has ever faced.
Sting builds from there to passionately exhort that it only matters what Darby Allin thinks. It's an inspiring example of a half-time speech. But even more so, it's a fantastic example of playing a character smart and logical, while still serving the story and making sense with established lore.
Story Beat of the Week: Gareth.
Building on what Sergei has written above about Darby Allin and Sting, this also poses an interesting question surrounding where the two wrestlers are headed.
They've spent a long time together now, and besides some really fun matches haven't actually done a whole lot. At least in terms of stories. But Sting recently spoke about how he's planning the end of his career and said "Well, I know Darby is going to be a part of it for sure."
This was not just a fantastic motivating promo from Sting. But perhaps the start of a new chapter in their story together? My hope and dream since they first got together was to see a tag team championship reign and a match against the Young Bucks, with a passing of the torch moment to see it out. But my "wants", or any fans "wants", are not important. What's important is that Sting gets the chance to end his career how he "wants".
So, as much as it'll be sad to see Sting retire. It does feel like from the things he's saying that it's very much in the works. And, if this promo was the next step in a story which will ultimately see Sting retire... then I think we have a lot to look forward to before he does hang up his boots.
These kind of character-based promos attract me much more than a "setting up the match" type promo. I really feel like we got an insight into their mentor-student relationship. And it really made me want to see Darby win.
I don't think Darby will beat Samoa Joe. But even then, the fallout might see a very interesting story take place.
Moment of the Week: Peter.
If you were to pinpoint the biggest strength of AEW, the argument could be easily made that promos make the top of that list and with so many fine executors of this art in All Elite Wrestling. What makes the Acclaimed stand out is their unique form of promo and on Dynamite they hit it out of the park yet again with their latest rap video.
The term snug is used in wrestling for someone who hits a bit harder than the requirement and on Wednesday to say that Max Caster worked snug on the team of Jeff Jarrett and Jay Lethal might be an understatement.
To quote Lloyd Grossman, let's look at the evidence:
Mentioning Global Force Gold (Google it guys).
Jeff Jarrett being a carny (Jeff is the last of a dying breed and that's a good thing).
Worst Jeff since Dahmer (Yikes).
Stealing money like you stole Kurt Angle’s wife (Again yikes) .
Never drawn a dime (Smashed a thousand guitars...)
But Jeff Jarrett was just the warm up act.
Let's talk about something that maybe we shouldn't talk about. Jay Lethal is not popular and when I say that I don't mean unpopular in "he's a heel and we're supposed to boo him". To some Jay shouldn't be in AEW for reasons that can be looked up on Google. Some feel Jay is an advertisement for what people feel is a bloated AEW roster and also the start of what people also feel has been the very meh ROH integration into AEW television. So when Max got spicy on Jay Lethal it was met by very favourable reviews
Were some of Max's barbs harsh? I'm guessing Max got the "champion during ROH's worst years" barb out there because we're not getting The Acclaimed vs The Kingdom anytime soon and to associate Jay Lethal with the horror show that was late 00s TNA is harsh considering Jay was one of the highlights of that era but yet the laughs and twitter reaction which might have been louder than usual with an Acclaimed video tells you a story.
Is Jay Lethal underrated or overrated? That's a minefield for another day but by unloading on Jeff Jarrett and Jay Lethal, playing to the gallery and into the fears of some fans that the arrival of Jarrett was harking back to those dark days of TNA. ( To be fair, having My World as Jarretts theme instead of his superior WCW theme which is public access music like the Hardyz music is really playing into that). The Acclaimed hit their best video yet and gave twitter something to talk about on Thursday morning.
Move of the Week: Dan.
Considering some of the absolutely insane action we’ve seen in the series so far, it’s surprising that The Elite vs Death Triangle hasn’t generated the move of the week every single time they’ve been on television. Perhaps it’s that these six ludicrously talented wrestlers have set their own bar so high that it now takes something mind-boggling for us to properly sit up and take notice.
That brings us to match number six in the best of seven affair, and a move that certainly came close to boggling my mind.
When you look back at what went before the finish to this match it’s frankly preposterous that anyone had any energy left to stand up, let alone to complete an intricate and dangerous conclusion. Hallway battles, tunnel tornillos and a down-hill Northern Lights suplex-a-thon only partly tell the tale of what each man went through during this leg of the war.
And yet with the last move of the match they topped it all.
It looked as if the match had come down to PAC against Matt Jackson, and the always incredible Geordie bastard had the Young Buck in his patented Brutaliser. Jackson fought against the submission but it looked grim for The Elite. Then as we went to split screen, we saw that Kenny Omega and Fenix were still duking it out somewhere in the arena.
Kenny placed his lucha-foe on his shoulders, looked down into the abyss and flew into a jumping One-Winged Angel onto some tables, decimating the furniture, himself and Fenix, but allowing the Cleaner to pick up the pin.
Obviously it goes without saying that the move itself was spectacular and would be worthy of Move of the Week in its own right. But the timing to pull off the move in a different part of the arena, whilst making sure they didn’t leave Jackson in the Brutaliser for too long was superb. It was a move that saw AEW again show how unique they can be by making the most of the ‘Falls Count Anywhere’ stipulation. Cleverly planned and expertly executed.
What on earth are these guys going to do to complete this series?!
MVP of the Week: Trish.
Ethan Page may never be AEW World Champion. On a roster crammed with long standing main eventers as well as some of the top prospects in the business, the 33 year old Canadian likely has far too much competition to reach such heights. However, that doesn't mean there isn't value to him.
For those who do reach the very top they need obstacles to overcome. Page doesn't play the crowd pleasing heel, he doesn't attempt to get himself over through a flashy entrance or a cool catchphrase, or indeed do anything to overshadow the babyface he is facing. In a time period where this is most prominent, it is massively refreshing.
His promo with Bryan Danielson last week was a great example of what he can do by solely using basic fundamentals. Sure, there isn't great depth to it or a deeper story like other builds, but he fully understands that his match is being used to build Danielson ahead of his MJF challenge and his job is to drive reactions accordingly. In that exchange and during the match this past Wednesday, Bryan Danielson received some of the best crowd reactions he has had in some time. The number one contender (many think is there to purely establish MJF's Championship reign) is starting to feel hot.
Asserting that this is the only areas that "All Ego" has excelled in is perhaps underselling him. Ethan is a more than capable in ring talent who can burst into power moves and knows how to build matches that climax with fantastic near falls in their final moments. He can also display a range of different emotions, an understated talent which was nicely illustrated this week by his frustration towards MJF's appearance in the skybox at the beginning of his match. It is definitely something I'd like to see more of in future.
At present, Ethan Page understands his role. He knows his best shot at moving upwards is to excel right now in ensuring others get the reactions that are desired. Wrestlers like him are a vital cog in building stars and momentum. Ironically, for a man christened "All Ego", it is remarkably egoless.