There’s no better feeling than waking up on Wednesday morning and knowing that you have an AEW Dynamite to look forward to that night. Unfortunately, the last few weeks, we’ve been missing that feeling, with Dynamite relegated to Saturdays, lending a disjointed feel to AEW’s weekly shows. Thankfully, AEW is back in its rightful slot, with Dynamite on Wednesday and Rampage on Friday this week.
And thus, the build to Full Gear (November 13th) heightens, leading us into what should be a great pay-per-view. We’ve got a bit of catching up to do in this week’s “Getting Over,” since I was out of commission last week. There’s plenty of meat on this pro wrestling bone, so let’s dive right in:
1. Bryan Danielson
Since joining AEW, Bryan Danielson has been nothing less than amazing in the ring. While this was generally expected to be the case, I think it’s worth pointing out how incredible this actually is. Danielson is 40 years old but looks in better shape than ever. I was reminded of this over the weekend, seeing a clip of a 23-year-old American Dragon wrestling Hiroshi Tanahashi. Very few would have predicted that those two would go on to be 1st ballot Hall of Famers, but it’s amazing that 17 years later, these two are still going strong and arguably better than ever.
After having a classic 30-minute draw with Kenny Omega, Danielson followed up with a banger against Nick Jackson. Most recently, he wrestled Minoru Suzuki on the Rampage Buy-In on October 15th in a match that I’d put at an easy 5 stars. Then, after a good match with Bobby Fish, Danielson and Dustin Rhodes put on a pro wrestling clinic in their first-round matchup in the AEW World Title Eliminator Tournament.
Much like the Young Bucks, who I’ll get to in a second, Danielson is seemingly incapable of having anything less than a great match. Moreover, he’s finishing guys off with different submissions almost every time out. I absolutely love the idea of Danielson being allowed to be the submission specialist/technical wizard that he is. In the long run, this idea will work even better, as fans won’t know when the finish is coming, creating intrigue in these moves that can sometimes be seen as lulls in a match.
Now, all we need is a submission-heavy match between Danielson and fellow technical wizard Zack Sabre, Jr. and all will be right in the world.
2. Loose Alliances
The end of last week’s Rampage was absolute fire. In the main event, we were treated to one of the best matches in AEW history and certainly one of the best matches in the short history of Rampage, as Pac and Andrade did battle in a rematch for the ages. This was a match that was both technically solid and outright insane, with almost every high spot making it look like these guys were trying to kill themselves.
Then, instantly after Pac picked up the victory, the lights went out and Malakai Black of all people was in the ring. Black sprays Pac in the face with the mist, and Andrade then goes to work on Pac. Black rolls out of the ring to grab a chair but is interrupted by a finger-Glock pointing Arn Anderson.
This allows Cody to hit the ring and receive his first babyface pop in forever, as he cleans house.
This angle played out the next night as well on Dynamite during Cody-Black 3. In the middle of the Cody/Black contest (which was very good, btw), Andrade came out doing his best Arn impersonation with the finger-Glock but was cut off by Pac as they brawled to the back.
The question here is why Black would help out Andrade and what the affiliation is there going forward. And affiliation is the right term, here I think. Not every pairing has to be a tag team or a faction or whatever. Sometimes, people can come together in the short term, help each other out, and move on. Is that what this is? It seems that way, but it’ll be interesting to see this play out. Do we get a four-way at Full Gear? Or is a tag team match looming on the horizon? Perhaps we trade opponents and get Andrade vs. Cody and Pac vs. Malakai Black, which would inevitably produce some incredible matches.
As a side note, I’ve now fully embraced the “let it play out” nature of this Cody storyline. I don’t know what’s a work, what’s not, what’s intentional, or what’s a play on the crowd’s reaction. And I’m starting to love it. Just a month ago, I was begging for a Cody heel turn. Now, I don’t know what I want. Or even what Cody is. Is he a narcissistic, delusional “hero”? Or is he the same character that he’s always been and it’s just the crowd that’s changed? Yes, he got a babyface pop on Friday, but it was replaced by boos on Saturday when he beat Malakai Black. Perhaps this was the plan all along. If you’re paying attention to Malakai, it sure seems like Cody’s whole persona and the subsequent reactions are all details that are part of a plan.
What that plan is is anyone’s guess at this point, but I am beginning to think that this is part of an incredible storyline and the fans are the ones getting played.
3. The Young Bucks
I’d like to take a moment and make sure that we all recognize how lucky we are to watch the Young Bucks in their prime. I’ve seen almost every tag team worth watching, from Kenta Kobashi & Mitsuharu Misawa to the Midnight Express to the Road Warriors to the Steiners to the Rock & Roll Express. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team as good as the Young Bucks. Jim Cornette and his minions may roll their eyes at this, but it’s true.
For every team I just listed, I can think of at least one match that would qualify as a stinker. When was the last time the Young Bucks had a match that was anything but great? Whether it’s a six-man or a straight tag match, the Bucks drop Easter Eggs and build off of previous matches like no one I’ve ever seen. They are innovative, they are technically sound, and they know wrestling, which is obvious if you’ve watched them for any length of time.
Take their six-man tag (with Adam Cole) against the Dark Order on the October 16th Dynamite.
This was on a Saturday and could have easily been a throwaway match, but the layout of the match (which almost certainly was put together by the Bucks) was perfect, ensuring everyone got over and things played out exactly as they should. It’s easy to watch their matches and overlook how good Nick and Matt Jackson are, but if you’re paying attention, you know exactly how good this team is. They can have a MOTY-level match almost any time they step in the ring. Whether it’s a PPV match against FTR, the Lucha Bros, or Kenny & Hangman, or a Dynamite opener against Private Party, they are going to tear the house down. Please appreciate these dudes while you can.
1. Men’s AEW World Championship Eliminator Tournament
When you have the most stacked talent roster in modern wrestling history and host a tournament to determine the next major challenger for the world title, the expectation is that the tournament will be appropriately stacked as well. Unfortunately, that’s not really the case for the most recent incarnation of AEW’s Eliminator Tournament.
I mean, I get it. Some of the top guys are involved in feuds that render them basically unable to participate in this tourney. MJF and Darby are doing their thing. Pac, Andrade, and Malakai Black are involved in their angle. But do we really need to go so far down the list as to include 10? Or even Hobbs? The point is, there is no mystery here. This bracket is like if WWE booked an AEW tournament. Every match is a foregone conclusion, ending with a Moxley/Danielson final. There’s some intrigue in that one to be sure, as I would lean towards Moxley ending up on top given his recent character work, but is Moxley really the one that’s going to hand Danielson his first loss in AEW? It seems to me that spot would be better reserved for someone else, someone like Adam Cole or Ricky Starks or MJF. So, yes, there’s intrigue in the finals, but that’s about it.
Why not put Miro in there? Why not Brian Cage? Or Wardlow? Guys can eat losses in a tournament, and it doesn’t really matter. Hell, New Japan books their world champion to lose multiple times in the G1 tournament and no one cares if the story is right.
The relative weakness of this bracket is highlighted even more when compared to the stacked TBS Women’s Championship Tournament.
Here, I like the 12 person format with the byes, something that could have easily been done with the men’s tourney. The match-ups are far more intriguing too, with strong first-round matches (hello, Shida vs. Serena Deeb) and intriguing semi-finals potential as well (Jade Cargill vs. Thunder Rosa?). While Ruby Soho is the odds-on favorite to win, the depth of this tourney is a testament to how well AEW has built up their women’s division.
2. The Build to Kenny Omega vs. Hangman
Is it just me or does it feel like the build to Kenny Omega vs. “Hangman” Adam Page at Full Gear has been, well, lacking? Page won the Casino Ladder Match, did an interview with Tony Schiavone, and had a segment with the Dark Order this week. Omega talked smack in a promo on Saturday’s Dynamite, but so far this doesn’t feel like the culmination of a multi-year feud.
It’s not exactly limping towards the finish line, but I need some face-to-face promos or a beatdown by the Elite to ramp up the tension. I wouldn’t do a six-man tag or anything, but some in-ring promos could help here. I haven’t forgotten the Hangman promo, which was an absolute masterclass in storytelling and showed off what he can do given the opportunity.
But that’s just a good beginning in my book. Let’s continue to play this out over the course of the next couple of weeks.
I’d also like a video package recapping the Hangman/Omega story. There’s a considerable amount of new viewers over the course of the last year or so that would probably benefit from a well-done video that hits on all the right notes of this rivalry. I want to see Hangman walk the line between doubt and inspiration, and I know the Elite can play foil to that if given the chance. I have no doubts we’ll get there, but the countdown to Full Gear is on. Business can pick up a little, in my opinion.
Let’s be honest: AEW has things rolling right now. The television shows have been top-notch the last couple of weeks, and, even better, Dynamite moves back to its regular time slot. Thank the lord. Not much to complain about, in other words. Enjoy it, wrestling fans.
Not doing a column last week meant I missed out on all the fun aftermath of the 10/15 Rampage vs SmackDown head-to-head battle. By now, I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you know the story: Vince McMahon decided to come at AEW, extending SmackDown by a commercial-free half-hour to coincide with the first half-hour of Rampage. To ensure a victory, he trotted out Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks and then a Roman Reigns/Brock Lesnar contract signing.
Tony Khan countered with his original booking for Rampage, which included a commercial-free CM Punk vs. Matt Sydal match, followed by Ruby Soho vs. The Bunny.
While I thought the key demo might be close, I still thought there was almost no way that AEW was going to beat WWE given the line-ups. And yet, AEW did just that. Here’s the numbers from the head-to-head half hour:
Total viewers: WWE 878,000, AEW 602,000
Total viewers 18-49: WWE 285,000 (0.22), AEW 328,000 (0.25)
Men 18-49: WWE 183,500; AEW 224,500
Women 18-49: WWE 101,500; AEW 103,500
Total viewers 18-34: WWE 89,000 (0.13); AEW 122,000 (0.17)
Men 18-34: WWE 53,500; AEW 69,000
Women 18-34: WWE 35,500; AEW 53,000
Total viewers 35-49: WWE 195,500; AEW 207,000
Men 35-49: WWE 130,000; AEW 155,500
Women 35-49: WWE 65,500; AEW 51,500
In all, here’s the main interesting takeaway for me: Back in the days of the Monday Night Wars, you could look at ratings and see where fans flipped back and forth between Raw and Nitro depending on who was on screen or what match was happening. Today, tribalism being what it is in society and wrestling, that doesn’t really happen. It didn’t happen with AEW and NXT, and it didn’t happen during this SmackDown/Rampage battle. The head-to-head battle didn’t really hurt the ratings of either show. There was no cannibalization of viewers. Each company has their fans and there’s not a ton of crossover.
This is not about AEW, so forgive me but sometimes things are just too easy. The thing about the pro wrestling business is that you can literally do anything you want. It’s the feature, not the bug. You can script out what happens. Couple that with instances where there’s real-life heat between wrestlers, and you have a recipe to print money. Such is the case with the current situation between WWE’s Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair.
In case you’re a wrestling fan that’s been living under a rock, the basic gist of things is that Charlotte was unhappy with the belt exchange planned for last week’s SmackDown (to be fair, it was an incredibly lame idea) and how the actual logistics of the exchange would make her look. This manifested itself into a legitimate beef between the two, eventually causing Charlotte to walk out and catch a flight to Orlando to be with her fiance, Andrade.
Now, if WWE was smart, they’d acknowledge the heat and build it into their storylines. Of course, since they didn’t come up with the idea and it happened organically, they’ll completely ignore it, even though it’s a major story online among journalists and fans. What they should do is sit Charlotte and Becky down and say, “OK, you two don’t have to like each other, but you’re going to work together and we’re going to make a lot of money off of this.”
Then, Charlotte posts something on social media, with her driving or flying to Raw, telling Becky that she’s coming for her and is going to beat her ass. Then, when Becky comes out on Raw for her segment, Charlotte jumps the guardrail, destroys her, takes her belt, and cuts a promo that blurs the line between work and shoot. This used to be commonplace during the Monday Night Wars and especially in ECW, as real-life situations got brought into the ring all the time. She could say that she’s done with this company. They’ve destroyed everything she cares about. They cut her fiance. They cut her father. They made her just hand over her belt. They are dead to her. And because of all that, she’s going to make Becky’s life a living hell until she gets her belt and leaves this godforsaken company with both belts.
Tell me that wouldn’t get fans buzzing like crazy. You build this out over the course of the next few months, culminating with a match at WrestleMania.
Sometimes, storylines just fall into your lap. When they do, it’s best not to fight them. Fans already hate Charlotte. Let her lean into that and because the heel that wants to destroy the company’s biggest female star and then leave everyone high and dry. Let Becky be the massive babyface the fans want her to be. Having her come back as a heel, even if it was her own idea, is one of the dumbest things I can possibly think of. Right that wrong and let this feud happen. Sometimes it’s just that easy.