AEW FEUD TRACKER: Assessing and grading Tag Team Tournament, Samoa Joe vs. Swerve, Danielson vs. Ospreay, Trent vs. Cassidy, Acclaimed vs. Bullet Club Gold

By Zach Barber, PWTorch contributor



First things first, I want to send my condolences to Tony Schiavone for the loss of his beloved dog, Bug. Speaking from personal experience losing a dog sucks. My heart goes out to him. With that said, oh boy this could be an all-time episode of Dynamite. Yes, there’s a world title Eliminator match chock full of sentimentality. Yes there’s a TNT title match that should be a blast. The main selling point of this show however is the result of one man opening Pandora’s box because of his inability to let things go. Unlike a “big announcement” or “huge announcement” the hype for this one is different as is the risk level. It’s got to deliver or there’s going to be egg AEW’s figurative face. To quote the classic Bush’s Baked Beans commercials, “roll that beautiful bean footage”!

Tag Team Title Tournament

Well did things ever take a sudden turn in this tournament on Saturday night. Last week on Dynamite, The Young Bucks beat Best Friends with a little help from an exposed turnbuckle. (More on the aftermath of that match later) FTR bested Top Flight after good match with a brutal top rope Shatter Machine. With that FTR/Bucks IV is officially set for Dynasty. Later in the show The Bucks and FTR were involved in a pull-apart brawl. Following the brawl, Tony Schiavone dropped the bomb- The Bucks are going to show backstage footage from All In and talk about it. Initially everyone assumed it was a troll job, that they were simply going to show something involving FTR. Within twenty minutes though, Fightful reported that it was legit. The actual footage of the CM Punk/Jack Perry fight was going to be aired on Dynamite and the internet exploded. It was later independently corroborated by the Wrestling Observer. AEW actually managed to steal the oxygen away from night one of WrestleMania.

The idea of this footage being aired on national TV is wild but let’s not forget why it’s happening. C.M. Punk went on Ariel Helwani’s show last week and chose to go into Brawl In (Phil’s Version). He could’ve opted to tell Ariel that he moved on and preferred not to talk about it. Instead, he decided to try and downplay conduct that resulted in him being fired. Well, there’s footage and video doesn’t lie. As longtime reporter David Bixenspan tweeted if AEW is airing this footage it has to be “incredibly unambiguous and damning”. Let’s remember it was bad enough that the universally respected Bryan Danielson agreed Punk had to go. Punk will likely look like a liar and a raving lunatic. I hope there are plans in place for Jack Perry though. He’s likely to be set up for big return as a member of the new version of the Elite (much to our editor-in-chief’s chagrin I’m sure).

As far as how this plays into the storyline with FTR, that’s a little more complicated. FTR are the babyfaces, but they can’t exactly defend Punk. Maybe the best thing is if they confront The Bucks without addressing it. They say they’re not worried about the past; they’re focused on the future at Dynasty. That way they avoid getting entangled in it. Whatever happens, this is sure to be intriguing.

Grade: B+

Samoa Joe vs. Swerve Strickland

It’s all official. The contract has been signed, in blood no less. Swerve Strickland gets his one-on-one title match against Samoa Joe. The contract signing itself was intense. Joe warned Swerve that he will scar him as though he’d been at a Diddy party too long. Swerve reminded Joe that he can be just as vicious as him. Things eventually got physical. Swerve attempted to choke with his chain but because there was a table between them he wasn’t able to get the proper leverage and Joe was able to headbutt himself free and get control of the chain. He wrapped it around his fist and punched Swerve in the head with it splitting him wide open. He caught him with a couple of rabbit punches to the back of the head for good measure. Joe exited the ring and headed up the ramp. A bloody Swerve recovered and because he’s a sociopath he laughed manically and then signed the contract in his own blood. Samoa Joe, not one to leave ass kickings half done, returned to the ring and put Swerve through the table with a uranage. How will Swerve respond to being left laying? How will he hard sell the importance of a win at Dynasty? These are the questions left to answer. In the meantime, Joe has a date with Dustin Rhodes. In a brilliantly done video package “The Natural” talked about being a kid when his dad, Dusty, came home with the NWA world title and being awed by the belt. He also talked about how, despite having a long successful career, the one thing that eluded him was the world title. He concluded by asking Samoa Joe for a chance. This was great promo work from an old pro. Maybe it’s because I’ve been a fan of Dustin’s since his WCW days but I find him to be the more natural promo of the Rhodes brothers. You just feel everything he’s saying. Joe was unsurprisingly unmoved by Dustin’s words. If anything he was offended. He granted Dustin an Eliminator match so that he could use him as an example for people not come knocking on his door. This should be a fun fight on Wednesday. I expect Swerve to be keeping his eye on it.

Grade: A+

Will Ospreay vs. Bryan Danielson

This has been a masterclass of big combat sports fight meets pro wrestling storytelling. Ospreay and Danielson each had a match with Shibata. Each match was different and each man won differently . This past week on Dynamite each man fought a larger opponent. Ospreay fought more defensively against Hobbs while Danielson absorbed Lance Archer’s beating and used his technical skills to break the larger man down before finishing him off with the Busiku Knee. On Collision each man had a pre-taped conversation with Renee Paquette. The laid back vibe was a nice change of pace from a typical promo. Both men stressed that this match is about testing themselves against the other and finding out who the better man is. Ospreay pointed out that even though it’s not his primary fighting style, he compete with Danielson’s technical prowess because he’s well-versed in it thanks to his time in Japan. All of this was great. Seeing the way they battle the same challenges in-ring almost feels novel, not a direction often taken in wrestling where dramatics often take precedence. Mixing that with promos about the craft of wrestling and different fighting styles is inspired. This story is the equivalent of Prince and Stevie Ray Vaughn at their imperial peaks in the 1980s promoting the upcoming release of a duet where they just take turns absolutely shredding on their guitars. Really good stuff and one of the best stories in wrestling right now.

Grade: A+

Toni Storm vs. Thunder Rosa

As of right now that’s the match for Dynasty. Not what I expected three weeks ago but here we are. The match with Mariah May was very good. Toni was on commentary being her usual witty self. It was a nice touch when she was rendered completely speechless by Rosa’s victory. Rosa and Storm have history. They were scheduled for a match at All Out 2021 when Rosa had to vacate the title due to her back injury. The match didn’t happen and Rosa wasn’t beaten for the title. The wild card in this situation is Deonna Purrazzo. She has a legit claim to a title shot given what happened at Revolution and she clearly had her eye on one. It was her selection of Rosa as her partner that landed Rosa in the position she’s currently in. That can’t sit well with Deonna and I full expect to hear from the Virtuosa. With this rivalry between Rosa and Deonna set up, this is the perfect time to get the title off Toni. There’s a readymade title program for Rosa and Toni and Mariah can move into the next act of their All About Eve story. As I’ve said before the only way this story works is if Mariah betrays Toni and leapfrogs her to get a title shot. With any luck that betrayal snaps Toni out of her Timeless persona. That’s down the road though. Right now the main thing is that Deonna isn’t forgotten for the next two weeks.

Grade: A-

Willow Nightingale vs. Julia Hart

So this one’s a little strange. Willow Nightingale will challenge Julia Hart for the TBS title at Dynasty. She cut a really good promo on stage with Renee. I like this promo for a couple of reasons. One of them is Willow’s bubbliness. The other was the way that she was able to incorporate her backstory with the city (Worcester, MA) into the promo. The acknowledgement of a wider wrestling world and the ability for a wrestler to bring their personal history into their promos and video packages is something I love about AEW. Something else I loved was the way this interview was shot. Willow (with Stokely and Statlander) was on the stage facing the entrance with the crowd behind her so that the home audience could see the crowd reacting. What I wasn’t a fan of was the use of Mercedes Moné. Mercedes sashayed out at the end of the promo, wished Willow luck, and told her that she will face the whoever is the TBS champion at Double or Nothing in May. The idea of Mercedes not wrestling until the end of next month is insane to me. She absolutely cannot get by on her talking alone. It’s her weakest attribute. She needs to get in the ring. I thought perhaps Serena Deeb would call her out for cutting the line when she’s not even ranked but Serena instead appears to be more interested in challenging Yuka Sakazaki in some tertiary feud. If Mercedes isn’t completely cleared to wrestle her debut should’ve been pushed back because her key selling point is what she does in-ring and the longer she’s just cutting promos the more likely she dilutes interest. On the upside there’s an issue between Julia and Mercedes too now so the Dynasty match still could go either way (More on that momentarily)

Grade: B

Trent Beretta vs. Orange Cassidy

It finally happened. Trent Beretta’s long simmering tension with Orange Cassidy finally boiled over after their loss to the Young Bucks. For the last few months we’ve seen Trent getting increasingly frustrated with OC only to calm himself down. This time he didn’t calm down. Instead of completing their post-match hug, Trent hit OC with a running knee. Chuck was left stunned in the ring. Trent’s mom Sue who accompanied Best Friends to ringside was also stunned. Trent capped off his turn by blatantly disrespecting his mother by walking right past her. In a promo posted to Twitter, Kris Statlander confronted Trent and went OFF. Trent whispered something in her ear which stopped her in her tracks. What did he say to her? Can Trent corrupt her? I think there’s a chance she costs Willow the match at Dynasty and she and Trent team up. Of course that would set up a Stat/Willow feud and a Mercedes/Julia title match. Digressing, this turn gives Trent a fresh coat of paint and OC something to sink his teeth into. A win-win all the way around.

Grade: A

Adam Copeland & Mark Briscoe & Eddie Kingston vs. House of Black

Copeland opened Dynamite with an AEW rah-rah promo. I appreciated the message and believe he’s a good messenger given his previous decades long tenure in WWE. I also fully believed that he would transition into talking about his Dynasty match but that never happened. Copeland didn’t address the Dynasty match until Collision in fact when attempted to get the jump on HOB following their trios match win. He quickly got overwhelmed but got help from Mark Briscoe and FTR. The Bucks joined the fray and in the end Copeland, Briscoe, and FTR stood tall. I continue to think this is a weird match for Copeland to be in at the PPV when he should be defending his title. That doesn’t mean the match won’t be fun but still. Speaking of title defenses, Copeland will defend his title against Penta on Dynamite. It’ll be interesting to see how the wily veteran deals with lucha style wrestling he’s not too familiar with. I assume that this trios match is leading to an eventual one-on-one between Copeland and Malakai Black as well but we shall see.

Grade: B+

Bullet Club Gold vs. The Acclaimed

This feud cannot end soon enough. Seriously. At this point it’s not doing anyone any good. On least week’s Dynamite Jay White lost to Billy Gunn by DQ. It was even worse than that though. He spent nearly the entire match getting dominated by and attempting to run away from Billy. I don’t have a problem with Billy Gunn. At age 60 he’s in better shape than I probably ever will be. He’s absurdly over as well. He also had reason to be furious with Jay White. All of that said, he shouldn’t have dominated the entire match. At some point White should’ve taken over and eventually pinned him clean. This was certainly not an occasion to pull out an extremely rare DQ. Bullet Club Gold got some heat back at the Supercard of Honor event Friday night but that’s not sufficient. They need to beat the Acclaimed, unify these sets of trios titles, and move on. There is so much potential in Jay White being underutilized right now. He and the Gunns need to move up to bigger and better things and the Acclaimed need to take some time off to refresh themselves and be missed.

Grade: C+

Pac vs. Okada

Pac returned from illness looking for trouble. He’s found it in the form of Kazuchika Okada. The Rainmaker arrived in AEW and almost immediately dethroned Eddie Kingston for the Continental title. Since then we’ve seen him show up in his beautiful red Ferrari and just this past week there was a video package putting him over strong with narration ostensibly written by the Bucks. Okada not wrestling every week makes him feel special and his too cool for school attitude befits the type of arrogant heel he’s supposed to be. The match isn’t official but that’s merely a technicality. The Bastard vs The Rainmaker should be another very good professional wrestling match for Dynasty.

Grade: A-

Ruby Soho & Angelo Parker vs Saraya & Zak Knight

After two months of back and forth and this feud is finally getting ro the ring. “Cool Hand” Angelo Parker is getting his match against Saraya’s maniac brother Zak Knight. Personally I don’t like Ang’s chances against someone as seemingly unstable and violent as Knight especially since Ruby has decided she be by his side for this match. It is possible however, that Ruby has a plan and that she does intend to make an appearance. If that’s the case, Ang might have a prayer. Either way I’m just glad we’re getting some in-ring action because this feud was starting to lose steam.

Grade: B-

RECOMMENDED NEXT: AEW DYNAMITE HITS & MISSES (4/3): Show-closing Joe beatdown of Swerve, Copeland’s unnecessary pep tally, Tag Titles, brutal Jay White treatment, Ospreay-Hobbs, more

OR CHECK THIS OUT AT PROWRESTLING.NET: Powell’s AEW Dynamite Hit List: Samoa Joe and Swerve Strickland contract signing, Young Bucks vs. Best Friends in an AEW Tag Title tourney match, Will Ospreay vs. Powerhouse Hobbs

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