The AEW Week In Review – 8/14/21

Welcome one and all to a new weekly feature here at TJRWrestling, the AEW Week in Review. For long-time visitors of the site, you’ll remember I’ve covered Impact Wrestling and NXT for the site, along with joining in on the NXT & AEW PPV Previews as of late. John Canton knew how much I’ve enjoyed AEW and asked if I had any interest in doing some weekly thoughts on what we saw on TV with Rampage starting this week, and I instantly jumped at the chance. Since fans have been welcomed back, man did we miss that, I think AEW has been on one of the most incredible hot streaks seen in at least the last decade.

What I plan on doing is just give my thoughts on what the best and worst of Dynamite & Rampage were, things you may have missed on social media or Dark/Elevation that may be worth going out of your way for, and also touching on the two big vlogs that The Elite & Sammy Guevara do on YouTube. Which as you’ll see later on, I feel is quite important to the overall product of AEW. With the formalities out of the way, let’s jump right in on AEW’s first week with two TNT programs airing.

Best Match: Heading into Wednesday night Dynamite, the big matches announced were Chris Jericho’s fourth labor of MJF, having to take on Wardlow with MJF at ringside being the main event for Dynamite, and Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D. defending her AEW Women’s Title against Red Velvet in her hometown of “Brittsburgh”, Pennsylvania. Despite both matches having a lot at stake, neither was the match of the week. Dynamite opened with a Trios Match between The Elite & The Sydal Brothers with Dante Martin of Top Flight. This match sure seemed like a throwaway on paper, nothing more than an enhancement match for The Elite. However, after 14 minutes of insanity, those six men made it virtually impossible for anyone to follow them, and one could argue that no one did follow it on Dynamite. As great as that match was though, unfortunately, it comes in second place to the Impact World Title Match between Christian Cage & Kenny Omega that opened up Rampage. Our fearless leader John Canton gave the edge to the Trios match, 4 stars to 3.75 stars. I totally understand that, but I’m giving the edge to the World Title match strictly due to the importance of everything surrounding it.

First and foremost, AEW protects its top stars very well, maybe even too well when you think about how little they have singles matches on TV. So when Kenny Omega loses, it’s a BIG deal, especially on free TV. That set the tone for what they want Rampage to be. I thought Omega selling the Killswitch off the chair made Christian look like a million bucks and the crowd popped for it like the big deal it was. One could question booking this match just weeks before they’re going to do it again at All Out for the AEW World Title, because I don’t think anyone will believe Omega will lose twice in that short of time. I wouldn’t argue with that thought, but this still puts Christian officially on the top level of AEW and there are far more positives coming out of this than there are negatives.

Best Moment: This one is a no-brainer. Fuego Del Sol is All Elite. I’ve been watching Fuego for years on the Indy scene here in Texas and even when he was just starting out, wearing gear that was a size too big for him, just being a guy on a card, he was always entertaining. He leaned into being a quirky luchador character, but he always had talent in the ring. So seeing his rise in AEW, mostly through Sammy Guevara’s vlog, has been a lot of fun. A character like Fuego is what makes pro wrestling at its very essence, fun. The guy was 1-39. He had no business being in the ring with Miro. However, you saw the signs in the crowd wanting Fuego signed. I went to the Fyter Fest Night Two Dynamite in Garland, Tx. That was a stacked card, but during any commercial break and all through the Dark & Elevation tapings, there were chants for Fuego. He makes fans feel good about themselves. So the moment of his best friend Sammy Guevara coming out and being able to hand him a contract with AEW, well it just doesn’t get any better than that. Not to mention what it says about Tony Khan’s mindset about working hard to get yourself over. We’re ten years from the fiasco that was Zack Ryder trying the same thing with WWE. Now, someone that was 1-39 with the company, was given a prominent spot on the debut episode of Rampage, when all eyes were on the company. I think that says a lot about AEW.

Critique of the Week: One of the criticisms of AEW is that the die-hard fans refuse to see anything negative of the company. I’ve been guilty of it a time or two as well. As a lifelong wrestling fan, and someone whose passion for the business was starting to take quite a dip, AEW came at the perfect time and absolutely is my favorite company in the world right now. I was vocal about what the ramifications of the botched Death Match finish would be between Jon Moxley & Kenny Omega, knowing it was going to be their biggest PPV audience. They managed to get past that though, but I say all that to say that I’m going to give you a fair assessment of AEW every week. If there’s something dumb or something I don’t agree with in a given week, I will mention it here.

I think in general, making Chris Jericho run this gauntlet in five straight weeks has really started to show Jericho’s age and not the best way to showcase the guy who legitimized AEW when it was created.

The biggest head scratcher for me this week was the Impact Tag Team Title match between Dark Order & The Good Brothers on Dynamite. When you look back at matches AEW has done for other promotions championships, the NWA Women’s Title, the IWGP US Title, even the match referenced earlier between Christian and Omega for the Impact World title. They all were made to feel like a big deal. When it came time for the first Impact Tag Team Titles to be defended on Dynamite, it was very much a throwaway match. It was only eight minutes, and in the segment right before the main event, which isn’t the ideal spot in pro wrestling. There wasn’t anything that felt important about this match, even though both parties have been involved in what I think is the best story in modern pro wrestling: Hangman Page vs. The Elite.

Looking Ahead: Next week for AEW could potentially be the biggest in the company’s history. First, on Dynamite, we have arguably four main event matches already announced. Jericho goes into his 5th labor of MJF, taking on the man himself finally. No Judas entrance theme and no Judas Effect finisher will be allowed, however. So does Jericho have any energy left to pull this off? Sammy Guevara takes on Shawn Spears in what’s been an on-again, off-again feud for 3 months. Sammy doesn’t wrestle many singles matches on Dynamite, to my point earlier in the column, plus this is in Houston, Texas which is Sammy’s hometown, so it’s a big deal. Then we have the AEW World Tag Team Championship match between The Young Bucks and Jurassic Express. I’m not sure if this will open or close the show, but you can bet this will be one hell of a match. If that wasn’t enough, for the first time in 20 years on TNT, Sting will be wrestling on Dynamite, teaming with Darby Allin against 2.0 in a Texas Tornado Match. That’s just insane to think about. On a personal note, I’m driving the four hours south to Houston to attend this show, and never in my wildest dreams did I expect to see the man I consider one of my heroes for 32 years now, Sting, wrestling live at the show I’m attending. Just crazy.

If that wasn’t enough, the moment everyone is waiting for, Rampage: The First Dance next Friday from the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. As Tony Khan has said repeatedly in interviews of late, “I think everyone knows what to expect”, as it pertains to this show. The AEW debut of CM Punk. It’s been a long, long 7.5 years since we’ve seen Punk in a ring. All the chants and all the questions of will he actually come back, finally come to an end in his hometown of Chicago. This should truly be something special. I do want to put it on record, if this is a troll job by AEW, I can’t imagine the backlash they will endure. They absolutely have to follow through on this, and I have no doubt that they will.

This Week in Vlogs: I’m going to wrap up every week by just touching on the BTE & Sammy Guevara vlogs that air on YouTube every Monday & Tuesday respectively. If you aren’t watching these shows, do yourself a favor and start watching them. If you don’t understand why the Fuego Del Sol moment was so moving and why the crowd loves him, then you need to watch Sammy’s vlog. If you’re not fully invested in “The Ballad of Hangman Page”, then you have to watch BTE to see how they further that story.

This week they had Hangman explain himself a little bit more to the Dark Order of why he wanted to do this alone. He didn’t leave them high and dry though, as he personally edited a new recruiting video for them to use to get people to Join Dark Order, and it was a video recapping the history of how Dark Order proved how much they were by Hangman’s side. It’s a great touch that clearly wasn’t shown on TV this week, but adds so many layers to what is already such a deep character. As I said earlier, I truly feel Hangman’s character arc has been the best story told in modern wrestling, and BTE has added tremendously to that.

These vlogs are just like anything else though, because there are hits and misses. Ryan Nemeth has been doing a weekly skit on BTE that is so out there that I’ve ended up fast-forwarding through it the last couple weeks. This week on Sammy’s vlog, they had a funeral for Fuego Del Sol, as last week it appeared someone had blown him up ala Vince McMahon in the limo. Very funny stuff, which led to QT Marshall admitting he blew Fuego up. Of course, Fuego is not dead because as Fuego says himself, Fuego is in his name. He’s actual fire. He can’t be blown up. It’s a good thing too, because that would’ve sucked to be dead just days before getting that AEW contract.

That’s it for this week, thank you all for checking this out. Be sure to hit me up on Twitter, @KTankZamora, and let me know what you think and what you want to see discussed in these weekly recaps. Until next time, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, but if you do, name it after me.