AEW FEUD TRACKER: Assessing and grading Joe-Strickland, Ospreay-Danielson, Cassidy-Trent, Hook-Jericho, Storm-Rosa, Willow-Julia, Bucks-FTR

By Zach Barber, PWTorch contributor


Unless you’ve been watching AEW on mute the last few weeks, you know the new motto is “where the best wrestle”. Boy did Dynasty ever prove that. Stellar in-ring work most of the night, capped off with one greatest matches I’ve ever seen and the crowning of new champion. AEW has the wind at their back after Sunday night. Now it’s just a matter of harnessing that momentum and really getting their slate of summer events starting with Double or Nothing, off on the right track.

Samoa Joe vs. Swerve Strickland

This match had the unenviable task of following both the Ospereay/Danielson classic and the tag team title ladder match. Instead of relying solely on great in-ring work this match was really built around ambiance and emotion. Swerve stepped out on stage dressed as Black Panther. There was something poignant about this Black man on the precipice of making history coming out the most iconic Black superhero of all time. The moment was made even more special when Prince Nana emerged and draped a robe over Swerve’s shoulders that had originally belonged to late former ROH world champion and Nana client Jimmy Rave.

Joe for his part was his typically unaffected badass self. The match itself was very good. Swerve ate a snap powerslam from Joe on the exposed concrete floor early. Joe then worked over Swerve’s ribs. Swerve in turn worked over Joe’s left arm. Swerve kicked out of a Muscle Buster; Joe kicked out of a Swerve Stomp. The damage done to Joe’s arm prevented him from being able to fully lock on the Coquina Clutch. The finish saw Swerve leap over Joe who was perched on the second rope, powerbomb him, and ascend the ropes again, pausing to soak in the moment before executing a second Swerve Stomp for the win. Raucous “Whose house, Swerve’s house” chants immediately broke out as Swerve became visibly emotional.

First of all, salute to Samoa Joe who brought a much-needed gravitas back to the world title simply by the way he carried it and himself. Joe’s no-nonsense demeanor made him credible and made the title feel important. AEW is Swerve’s house now. His rise in the last six months is a true, from scratch, AEW success story. He went from sociopathic heel to cool edgy babyface because like the late great Scott Hall, Swerve has an effortless coolness about him that just makes people gravitate towards him. That’s in addition to him being a fantastic worker in company full of them. Now the question turns to who his first challenger will be.

A returning Hangman Page is always a possibility. I think an unconventional idea that could work surprisingly well is if his Mogul Embassy cohort Brian Cage turns on him. Do it like Psycho Sid turned on Shawn Michaels the night after WrestleMania XI. Just have Cage brutally obliterate Swerve and Nana. The heat on him will be tremendous. Have him crush some enhancement talent for a couple weeks before Swerve returns to set up the Double or Nothing match.

Yes, Brian Cage has lost a lot but he’s a really good big man worker and Swerve needs a strong first win. Nobody’s going to be expecting him to lose his first title defense anyway. May as well set it up as more about him getting revenge. By expanding the focus beyond a title match it gives the audience something more to invest in.

Final Grade: A+

Will Ospreay vs. Bryan Danielson

Will Ospreay had a really good match with Claudio Castignoli last week on Dynamite that featured the most innovative counter to the giant swing I’ve ever seen. Bryan Danielson, on Collison 24hrs before Dynasty mind you, took part alongside Claudio in a wild Bunkhouse Brawl against Kyle Fletcher and Konosuke Takeshita. That match was violent and crazy. Danielson bled like a stuck pig. To no surprise Danielson picked up the win. He then cut a promo talking about how his heaven is in a ring bleeding in front of a crowd. Bryan Danielson is a madman. In other news, water is wet.

That brings us to Sunday night and easily one of greatest matches I’ve ever laid my eyes on and that’s covering the entire 25+ years of my fandom. I expected a fantastic match between the two best wrestlers on planet Earth but what I got was exceeded even those expectations. Both men were dialed in from the opening bell working an insane pace out the gate. Their two styles blended together seamlessly. Some particular highlights for me: an absolutely ridiculous tiger suplex from the top rope, Ospreay reversing a triangle choke with Styles Clash, and Danielson countering the Oz Cutter with a Busiku Knee.

One of my personal picadillos in a match is when someone has to obviously adjust the way they do a move so their opponent can counter it.  It ruins the idea of it being a counter if it doesn’t look like they’re really going for the move. Ospreay didn’t adjust a bit because Danielson is so good hit perfectly timed his Busiku Knee. It was brilliant. The finishing sequence was epic. Danielson and Ospreay stood in opposite corners loading up their respective finishing strikes and then they went for it with Ospreay winning the duel because of the way he torqued his body and devastated Bryan with a Hidden Blade. He followed it up with a Tiger Driver ’91.

Danielson, a man with a long history of feigning catastrophic injury, sold the move as though it did serious damage. Ospreay had his back to the scene so he was oblivious to all this when he loaded up and wiped out Bryan with a final Hidden Blade for the win. Bryan continued selling after the match and Ospreay was visibly distraught over possibly injuring a man he idolizes. Eventually Danielson was assisted to the trainer’s room by Ospreay and referee Bryce Remsburg, a moment captured in a Twitter exclusive video. At the post-show presser Ospreay announced his was retiring the Tiger Driver ’91.

Your mileage may vary on the finish. Danielson selling ruinous injury in the way he does is probably too much but he’s Bryan freaking Danielson. When you’re the GOAT, you can get away with some stuff. Ask Tom Brady. The match itself though is beyond superlatives. Music fans never got to see Prince and Stevie Ray Vaughan, arguably the two greatest guitarists of the last 40 years (maybe of all time) duel it out on stage because of Vaughan’s very untimely death but wrestling fans did get to see the two best in the world duel it out in-ring. Go out of your way to watch it if you haven’t seen it and if you have watch it again.

As far as what happens now, I’m not sure. The feud between The Don Callis Family and Blackpool Combat Club is ongoing. Powerhouse Hobbs will challenge Jon Moxley for the IWGP World Heavyweight Title. I don’t know if Ospreay’s concern for Danielson is going to cause further strife between him and his Family members but I expect him to quickly tire of the underhanded tactics and sneak attacks (he’s already disavowed the most recent one on Danielson) and finally come to blows. Perhaps Danielson offers him a spot in the BCC. He certainly fits that vibe a lot more being in the Callis Fam.

Final Grade: A++

Toni Storm vs. Thunder Rosa

Deonna Purrazzo defeated Mariah May with a sunset flip and was immediately double teamed by May and Toni Storm. That brought out Thunder Rosa who obliterated Luther on her way to the ring. While Deonna fought with Mariah, Rosa cleaned Toni’s clock and then smeared lipstick all over her face. Immediately following this segment Toni cut a promo that aired on Collision.

It was without question her best promo since she adopted this “Timeless” persona. She was still fully in her persona while being deadly serious about her disdain for Rosa. At Dynasty they give were just enough time to have a really good match. At one point they were just throwing bombs at each other. Deonna coming down and taking out Mariah helped make it seem possible that that Rosa might win. The match built to a great near fall near the end where Rosa kicked out of the Storm Zero.

In the end Storm kicked Rosa low and hit another Storm Zero for the win. Given the underhanded way both Deonna and now Rosa lost it certainly seems like they both have a claim to a rematch which means a triple threat is probably incoming. I don’t like triple threats but at least this one will have been built over the last four months. It means that Toni’s title reign is safe for another month though.

Grade: A-

Willow Nightingale vs. Julia Hart

Julia’s injured shoulder hampered the proceedings all week long. On Dynamite, Willow was taken out prior to the mixed tag so that Julia’s in-ring involvement would be limited. Of course Willow made the heroic babyface comeback at the end only for Julia to knock her out with Brody King’s chain and pick up the win. When it came time for the match I knew my prediction of Julia retaining was out the window when I saw Willow’s family at ringside. The match itself was a six minute sprint that saw Willow pick up the win and the TBS title. She was then confronted by Mercedes Moné.

This feels like a very messy situation. Mercedes as a babyface against uber-face Willow seems like a bad idea. Mercedes isn’t losing her first match which means Willow will be champion for barely a month which doesn’t seem right. The Willow/Mercedes match also renders any title defenses Willow has between now and then meaningless. Perhaps Kris Statlander is revealed as Mercedes’ mystery assailant and that leads to dissension between her and Willow and to the eventual turn in Vegas. At least Willow will have that to fall back on.

Grade: B

Hook vs. Chris Jericho

People have a lot of feelings about Chris Jericho these days. The Dynasty crowd certainly did and they made them known. The overwhelming feeling I get when I see Jericho these days is pity. I’m genuinely sad for him. He’s unquestionably a legend and he clearly wants to continue to contribute to the business but his body is betraying him. They say Father Time is undefeated and right now he’s doing a number on Jericho. His in-ring work has visibly declined over the last year. On top of that people are exhausted with him. The vague allegations last winter didn’t help either. It all adds up to a rough situation to watch.

They smartly pivoted to Jericho in the heel role opposite Hook because rejected the mentor relationship right away but people don’t want boo Jericho. They just want him to go away. Because of all these reasons the match with Hook wasn’t very good. Hook is growing as a worker but he cannot carry Jericho through a match. He struggled enough to safely execute his different suplexes on Jericho who could offer him no help. Hook was made to look strong, kicking out of two Judas Effects before Jericho stuck in the head with Floyd the bat after disingenuously apologizing. Now Jericho is FTW champion.

For the sake of Jericho’s legacy he needs to drop that title back to Hook ASAP, tonight even, before he does irreparable damage. Jericho fashions himself a rock star. Like an 80s hair metal band frontman with voice issues, Jericho can longer hit the high notes in-ring. He needs take some time away so that people can look back fondly on his hits instead of being forced to grimace at his struggles.

Grade: C-

Roderick Strong vs. Kyle O’Reilly

I have no idea why this match was on the Dynasty card. The feud is so unripe. O’Reilly didn’t even get to verbally respond before this thing hit the ring. Once the bell rang on Sunday though, the match was really good because both of these guys are good workers. Wardlow showed up but didn’t factor into the finish. Strong just beat KOR clean with End of Heartache. After the match Mike Bennett and Matt Taven rolled Adam Cole on to the stage in his wheelchair.

Cole then rose from the chair and walked to the ring. Glad to see Cole is back on his feet. Unfortunately the Undisputed Kingdom just isn’t working out. At this point they’re clinging to the International title and tag belts that belong in ROH. Tension is being teased between Wardlow and Cole in fashion very similar to Wardlow and MJF a couple years ago. The difference is this program is not nearly as over. Wardlow turning face and siding with Max makes no sense at this point. MJF and Cole can feud once both men are healthy but the group feels unnecessary at this point.

Grade: B-

Bullet Club Gold vs. The Acclaimed

Mercifully this feud reached its conclusion at Dynasty. Bullet Club Gold defeated The Acclaimed when Jay White got a little bit of justice by pinning Billy Gunn after a Blade Runner. The trios and world six-man titles have been unified which is a huge positive. Hopefully BCG can move on with their lives and get involved in a real trios feud until Darby gets back to confront Jay and take back his personal property, that Sting’s now desecrated baseball bat. As for the Acclaimed, the act has reached its shelf life. Max Caster’s raps are getting progressively worse. Billy Gunn for as much of a legend that he might be and as stupidly in shape that he is really serves little purpose at this point. I don’t need to see a break-up angle. Just send them off for a break and bring Bowens back as singles. He’s charismatic and talented enough to get over on his own.

Grade: B- (Only because BCG won)

Young Bucks vs. FTR

These two teams were on opposite sides of very good a trios match also featuring Kazuchicka Okada and PAC on Collision. The following night at Dynasty they had the unenviable task of following the Ospreay/Danielson match. Credit to all four men. They worked very hard and delivered a physical gritty ladder match. Dax bled like crazy. All four men took some insane bumps including Matthew eating a piledriver on a ladder and Cash putting himself through a table with a suicide dive.

The finish was the one everyone expected. Jack Perry, dressed in all black with a Sting mask, jumped the rail and tipped over the ladder with Dax on it. I loved the added detail of security escorting him out for trespassing. When he debuted in New Japan a few months ago he ripped up his AEW contract. I’m assuming that’s going to be part of the story going forward, that he wasn’t under contract but the Bucks brought him back and into the Elite with their EVP powers. The Bucks as heat-seeking obnoxious heels is perfect. They’re just annoying enough that everyone wants to see them get punched in the face.

Give them a year-long run and build up a team to take them down. I foresee a match between them and the incoming Motor City Machine Guns at All In in London which should be fantastic. Jack Perry, on the other hand is a conundrum. He’s clearly being positioned as heel as part of the Elite. Problem is he was greeted with cheers at Dynasty and the CM Punk situation frames him as a babyface, as the guy who got the toxic hothead out of the company. It’s going to take one hell of a promo from Perry and the Bucks to solidly reframe him as heel. I hope they’re up to the challenge.

Grade: A

Kazuchika Okada vs. Pac

Okada and Pac opened the PPV and put on an excellent match. They laid their shots in and did some really good in-storytelling with Okada seemingly trying to break every vertebra in Pac’s neck. Pac’s DDT sells are phenomenal. The match built to a crescendo with Pac attempting a second Black Arrow after the first one missed only to get foiled with knees to the face and a Rainmaker. Overall this match really allowed Okada to show what he’s capable of. The Rainmaker really shines in twenty-minute epics so if there were any viewers wondering what the fuss about Okada was they figured it out pretty quickly in this one.

When it comes to Okada’s heel work, I think he’s doing a very good job. He’s been unflappable, not reacting to crowds cheering and continuing to give off the air being above it all. During the match with Pac he expertly got the crowd to loudly boo him after he turned his iconic open arms zoom out spot into giving the middle finger. The crowds are getting on board with booing Okada and I think him being persistent and not getting frazzled by initially not the reaction he’s going for has been key. Right now, the Elite is the de-facto top faction in AEW and that feels right.

Grade: A+

Orange Cassidy vs. Trent Baretta

Orange Cassidy was being subjected to a post-match beatdown from Shane Taylor Promotions last week on Dynamite when Trent prevented Matt Sydal and Christopher Daniels from coming to his aid. On the Dynasty Zero Hour, Trent had a match with Sydal that ultimately served as backdrop to bring Chuck Taylor out to have Trent tell him he has until tonight to decide whose side he’s on. Chuck’s decision could go either way but realistically he’s probably going to choose Trent. OC is so over and so beloved that assaulting him should get the Best Friends tremendous heat.

Grade: A-

Ruby Soho/Angelo Parker vs. Saraya/Zak Knight

Congratulations to Ruby and Angelo! In a segment recorded in her home state of Indiana after Dynamite but aired on Rampage, Ruby announced that she and Angelo are having a baby. It certainly explains why it didn’t look like there was any progress being made towards a Ruby/Saraya match. That’s all water under the bridge now. Storylines are irrelevant. It’s all about Ruby, Angelo, and their impending bundle of joy. Blessings to the both of them.

Grade: N/A

RECOMMENDED NEXT: AEW COLLISION HITS & MISSES (4/20): Best episode in months set stage for Dynasty, Danielson-Ospreay hype, Bucks & Okada vs. FTR & Pac, Toni Storm promo, Gunns vs. Acclaimed, more

OR CHECK THIS OUT AT PROWRESTLING.NET: Powell’s AEW Dynasty Hit List: Samoa Joe vs. Swerve Strickland for the AEW World Championship, Will Ospreay vs. Bryan Danielson, FTR vs. Young Bucks in a ladder match for the AEW Tag Titles

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