AEW FEUD TRACKER: Assessing and grading Samoa Joe-Swerve, FTR-Bucks, Bucks airing Punk-Perry footage, Hook-Jericho, Acclaimed-Bullet Club Gold, more

By Zach Barber, PWTorch contributor

Mercedes Moné


Before we get to the good stuff, a little housekeeping. First, the Brawl In footage aired on Dynamite last week. Needless to say, it was a controversial decision, one that was met with near widespread panning.

Look, while I didn’t personally have an issue with the airing of the footage, I’ve come to understand why it was so widely believed to be a bad idea. Dynamite simply wasn’t the proper venue for Tony Khan to respond to C.M. Punk (or for Will Ospreay to respond to Paul Levesque). That said I think some of the reactions have been overwrought to say the least.

Comparing the airing of the footage to the “Fingerpoke of Doom” or 2000 WCW is grossly hyperbolic. The “Fingerpoke of Doom” actively undermined the world title in that company and began a cycle of rapid title switching that progressively devalued the belt and continued until the doors closed. I defy anyone who made the comparison to WCW in 2000 to watch an episode of Nitro from that year and see if it remotely resembles last week’s Dynamite.

Nitro in 2000 was disorganized, seemed to be written as the show went on, barely featured any real wrestling, and seemed to be lacking in any real plan for anything beyond the next five minutes. Dynamite still felt like Dynamite. The show was still building to Dynasty. WCW 2000 has become synonymous with bad TV, but it’s so much more than that and comparisons to it for minor missteps like airing Brawl In goes to undermining real criticisms.

On a lighter note, congratulations to Jon Moxley! He defeated Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Windy City Riot on Friday night. He’ll make his return down to Dynamite tonight after about a month with his new gold in tow.

With the ugliness behind us, it’s time to get down to business. Sunday is Dynasty and it’s shaping up to be a very strong show. There’s likely to be a big title change as well as all-time classic match between the two best wrestlers in the world today. As presently constructed there’s really not a bad match on the card. The go-home Dynamite looks to be a return to form to the audience primed and ready for the big show in St. Louis. Both Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay will be in action. Swerve Strickland and Samoa Joe are both scheduled. After an unforced diversion, it feels like the focus is back where it needs to be, AEW moving forward into the future.

Samoa Joe vs. Swerve Strickland

Last week, Samoa Joe was scheduled to open the show against “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes when Swerve Strickland literally flew into the picture with a dropkick. The two engaged in a brawl that concluded with Swerve driving himself and Joe through a table. Joe would not be kept down long. His match with Dustin main evented. Joe dominated the majority of the match with Dustin getting one big passionate flurry near the end despite being a bloody mess. In the end, Joe blasted Dustin across the face with the title belt before pinning him.

Swerve pounced after the bell, attacking his PPV opponent and capping it off by punching him dead in the jaw with his chain. Swerve ended the show holding up Joe’s belt. It all comes down to this week now. Both men are scheduled to speak. Swerve needs to cut a strong promo to rally the fans behind him ahead of Sunday. As far as what happens at Dynasty, it’s Swerve’s time. It’s been building for months. It probably should’ve happened at Revolution, but it’s definitely time to pay it off now.

Grade: A+

Will Ospreay vs Bryan Danielson

Will Ospreay cut another fiery passionate promo making it clear that he can’t consider himself the best unless and until he beats the GOAT. Don Callis finally inserted himself into the situation after it was announced that Danielson and Claudio Castagnoli would be facing Kyle Fletcher and Powerhouse Hobbs on Collision. He made it clear that the goal was not to win but to hurt Danielson to “protect the golden goose.” The match was wild and out of control and a whole lot of fun.

Danielson escaped the match more or less unscathed only for Takeshita to sneak attack him and drop him head first on the ramp with a brainbuster. The question is how will Ospreay respond. I can’t imagine he’s going to be happy that Takeshita, under orders from Callis, tried to injure Danielson. As prideful as he is, Ospreay wants to beat a Danielson at full strength. Ospreay will be a little preoccupied though as he’s set to fight Claudio which should be excellent pro wrestling television.

Needless say Danielson vs. Ospreay should be an all-timer at Dynasty. The two best wrestlers in the world going at it will be special. I expect Ospreay to emerge victorious and earn Danielson’s respect in the process.

Grade: A+

Toni Storm vs. Thunder Rosa

Well, this one got a little bit messy over the last week. Storm and Rosa are still facing off at the PPV but that clear path for everything to move into is a little less clear.

In the first place, Mina Shirakawa, the current Stardom World Champion who is also Mariah May’s old partner, was inserted into the overarching story. Shirakawa saved Mariah after the latter was attacked by an enraged Anna Jay following their match. They then shared a glass of champagne and a kiss. Storm was booked in a match against Azumi on Collision that was pretty good. I just have no idea where this Stardom subplot is going or how it might affect the larger story going on.

Speaking of the larger story, Storm invited Rosa out for a champagne toast on Dynamite and immediately dispensed of any pretense by throwing bubbly in Rosa’s face, attacking her, and smearing her face paint. Deonna Purrazzo came out to help Rosa, but Rosa didn’t want the help. Rosa cut a promo on Collision that started off a little wonky but built into a fantastic crescendo. She smeared her own face paint and threatened to drag Toni to hell. Deonna cut a promo backstage, challenging Mariah May to a match on Dynamite. As of now, there’s no stipulation attached to the match, but I wonder Deonna ends up added to the Dynasty match if she wins. For that reason, it’s hard to make an official prediction. If it stays one-on-one, and it should, I believe Rosa will win. If it turns into a triple threat, that seems like a recipe for Toni to retain.

Grade: B+

Willow Nightingale vs. Julia Hart

Willow and Julia have been embroiled in a feud dating back to last fall when Julia defeated Kris Statlander for the TBS Title. On Sunday, Willow gets her shot at Julia’s title. Before we get there, though, the two women will be on opposite sides of a rare mixed tag match also featuring Adam Copeland and Brody King.

There’s also two wild cards in this situation – Kris Statlander and Mercedes Moné. We still have no idea what Trent Baretta said to Stat. There’s still a decent possibility Stat turns on Willow and costs her the match. Mercedes will obviously be watching as she faces the winner at Double or Nothing. I still think holding off her debut until then is a mistake. She had a sit-down interview with Alex Marvez last week and she sounded like Siri had possessed a human being and was speaking through her. This should be all the evidence necessary to prove Mercedes cannot survive on promos alone until Double or Nothing.

At the end of the interview, Mercedes was attacked under the cover of a blackout. That’s Julia’s MO so that would seem to be building up the rivalry between those two. Given the totality of all us, I believe Willow will be betrayed by her best friend leading to a rivalry between the two and setting up a Mercedes-Julia showdown at the end of May.

Grade: B+

Young Bucks vs. FTR

The two best teams in wrestling will meet in the finals of the tournament for the vacant AEW World Tag Team Titles. It’ll be only the fourth meeting between the two teams and, as announced on Collision, it will be a ladder match. Given that we’ve seen three excellent straight up tag matches between these two teams already it makes sense to add a stipulation to this one.

The Bucks used the Brawl In footage as an attempt explain away their loss at All In, claiming that FTR had used Punk’s violent outburst as a means of distracting them. E for effect, I suppose. Dax responded by preaching a Sermon on the Mat about pro wrestling, AEW, and the Bucks. It was great. The footage-reveal also served as means of setting up the return of the self-proclaimed “Scapegoat” Jack Perry as a member of the Elite.

Perry appears to have finished up his New Japan story with Shota Umino so I would guess his reemergence in AEW is imminent. It wouldn’t surprise me if he shows up at a critical moment on Sunday night to tip over a ladder and cost FTR the match. I think the Bucks should win and then there needs to be reinvestment in the tag division to build up some strong credible challengers for them. The reported signing of the Motor City Machine Guns would be a good first step in that direction.

Grade: B+

Pac vs. Kazuchika Okada

This has been a very simple feud. The Bastard returned last month from long layoff due to illness looking for trouble. Okada debuted and within three week was toting gold around in his gorgeous red Ferrari. Pac decided to pick a fight with Okada and the Rainmaker has only been too happy to oblige. Last week he laid Pac out with a vicious chairshot. Pac’s not one to stay down, though. Tonight on Dynamite he teams with Penta and Daniel Garcia to fight The Elite in what should be a great match. As far as Sunday goes, I don’t think there’s a chance that Okada loses, but the match should be excellent.

Grade: A

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

Brody King and Julia Hart blindsided Adam Copeland after a hard-fought match against Penta. Willow Nightingale made the save, setting up the aforementioned mixed tag. Expect Kingston, Briscoe, and the rest of HOB to make an appearance. This feels like a strange match on its face and I’ve said before that I’d prefer Copeland defend his title. That said, Copeland is finally finding an identity in AEW outside of feuding with Christian Cage. The presumed match between Copeland and Malakai Black should be good. As far as Sunday goes, I could see it going either way. It would make the most sense for HOB to get the win to set up the TNT title match

Grade: B+

Bullet Club Gold vs. The Acclaimed

I honestly have nothing new to add to the discussion of this feud. It’s not been good. It hasn’t helped either team. They need to make the match official so they can get it over with. Bullet Club Gold has to win and everyone just needs to move on.

Grade: C+

Trent Baretta vs. Orange Cassidy

Orange Cassidy was uncharacteristically intense in his match against Alex Reynolds on Rampage. Frankly, I think he should’ve been a little more intense and won the match faster. Nonetheless, the drama actually took place after the match and was wordless. Trent approached the ring menacingly but, just before he could enter the ring, Chuck Taylor entered from the crowd and got between them. Trent was visibly upset that Chuck seemed to be siding with OC and walked away. Meanwhile, Chuck got out of the ring without embracing OC thus confirming that he hasn’t made an actual decision yet. Who will Chuck side with? Who will Kris Statlander side with? All of these questions remain to be answered.

Grade: A

Hook vs. Chris Jericho

It’s not an official feud yet, but I don’t think we need Nostradamus to predict which way this thing is headed. Chris Jericho initially offered to take Hook under his wing and provide him mentorship. Hook was rightfully skeptical of Jericho given his past and it didn’t take Jericho long to prove Hook’s skepticism correct. Jericho attempted to dictate strategy to Hook and Katsuyori Shibata for their trios match against Shane Taylor Promotions. When things didn’t go his way, he prevented Hook from making the tag to Shibata and inadvertently cost them the match.

Jericho prevailed upon Taz to talk to his son on Jericho’s behalf and now Taz is scheduled to mediate a meeting between the two. I don’t see this ending well. Jericho realizes the crowd is not on his side and has smartly chosen to pivot back to being a heel. All I can hope for now is Hook sends Jericho back to Suplex City. I would be highly entertained watching Jericho getting dumped on his head repeatedly for ten minutes. Hook needs to plow through Jericho and move on to bigger and better things.

Grade: B

Ruby Soho/Angelo Parker vs. Saraya/Zak Knight

Zak Knight proved to be as much of a maniac in the ring as he has been outside of it. Cool Hand Ang was left a bloody, defeated man in the ring on Rampage. This was the first match that’s taken place within the context of this feud since February. FEBRUARY!. That’s insane. I’m glad this feud finally got back to the ring, but I’m left wondering what happens now. I assume Ruby Soho rejoins Ang and we end up with a mixed tag match, but honestly this feud is losing some steam to me. The biggest problem seems to be that Saraya isn’t interested in actually wrestling so Ruby is stuck in this program that mostly takes place backstage. It’s been two months now and Ruby hasn’t gotten her hands on Saraya yet. Let Ruby get her revenge and then move on. She deserves better than to be used to keep Saraya occupied.

Grade: B-

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