AEW FEUD TRACKER: Assessing and grading The Elite Hostile Takeover, Strickland vs. Christian, Copeland vs. House of Black, Willow vs. Mercedes, more

By Zach Barber, PWTorch contributor


Four pieces of housekeeping…

  • Jon Moxley successfully defended his IWGP World title against Shota Umino at NJPW Resurgence last Saturday. After the match he was attacked and then challenged to a match by Evil. Their match is scheduled for Dominion on June 9.
  • Eddie Kingston not only lost his New Japan Strong Championship, the last of his three titles, but he was injured in the match. It’s unclear as of now how serious the injury is.
  • “The Dynamite Kid” Tommy Billington, nephew of the original Dynamite Kid, made his North American televised wrestling debut on Collision last Saturday in a match against Dax Harwood. Billington looked good; clearly talent runs in the family. I don’t know that Tony Khan needs to rush and sign him. He would be perfect for a more focused and intentioned ROH, though.
  • According to Fightful, Wheeler Yuta remains sidelined with post-concussion symptoms. He’s been off TV for months now, so here’s wishing him the best and hoping that he can heal and return safely.

In the span of a week, Double or Nothing feels like a much stronger show. There’s a presumed grudge rematch and a barbed wire steel cage match all but added to the card. The cherry on the sundae is the return of Anarchy in the Arena, set up as the first salvo in the battle for the soul of AEW.

It feels like AEW is really picking up some steam, telling several very interesting stories and laying or continuing to build upon the groundwork for feuds that will explode over the summer and culminate at All In. I think AEW is in a good place when it needs to be the most.

The Elite Hostile Takeover

This was unquestionably a big week in the Elite Hostile Takeover angle. We saw the Elite continue to mess with Swerve (more on that momentarily). We saw them air a propaganda video on the Bucks calling them “visionary pioneers.” Jack Perry cut another strong promo, this one specifically directed at Kenny Omega.

This particular promo was originally released on Twitter following the attack on Kenny the week before, so I’m very glad they aired it on TV. All of this coupled with the recap videos that were aired really made this angle feel important and that was before Kenny’s promo.

Taped from his hospital bed, Kenny, who is due to have his diverticulitis surgery this week, exercised his EVP power and made an Anarchy in the Arena match between The Elite and AEW team composed of FTR and two partners. This announcement was effective because AEW did a good job not emphasizing Anarchy in the Arena as part of Double or Nothing, so personally I had forgotten it was an annual part of the show.

The show closed with The Elite for the third week in a row. This time Okada mocked Kenny and then Matthew cut a promo attempting to justify their actions over the last two weeks as doing what’s best for AEW. That’s when FTR came out and revealed their partners on Team AEW would be Eddie Kingston and Bryan Danielson. Things immediately devolved into a brawl to close the show.

On Collison, Danielson cut an impassioned promo about how much he loves AEW and what it represents following his match with Claudio Castagnoli against Top Flight. A video of the Elite reacting to the show closing brawl from Dynamite aired. Okada challenged Dax to a match, Jack Perry cut another really good promo (clearly his eight-month suspension paid off), and then Christopher Daniels, AEW’s head of talent relations in addition to being a part time wrestler, walked into the shot while the Jacksons were yammering on.

Matthew got in his face and chewed him out for breaking up the fight, accusing him of forgetting why he had his corporate job in the first place. Daniels reply can be summed it simply as “I am not the one.” He then cut a pre-taped promo announcing that the Bucks had told him to find a partner for a tag match. Daniels chose Matt Sydal.

I don’t think Daniels and Sydal, or Dax for that matter, have a snowball’s chance of winning their matches, but I’m definitely interested to see how it goes. Daniels should be motivated to bring to the Bucks and Dax vs. Okada should be great.

As far as Anarchy in the Arena goes, I fully expect the Elite to win this first salvo, likely thanks to a certain cowboy making his return. So far AEW has told this story very well with everybody delivering in their roles. Hopefully they can keep this going for the entire angle.

Grade: A

Swerve Strickland vs. Christian Cage

Anybody thinking Swerve was going soft got a rude awakening this week. On Dynamite he cut a really good promo on Christian, even managing to seamlessly tie in Kendrick Lamar ethering Drake in a song into it. Christian threatened to take something from him every week until Double or Nothing.

Swerve reminded Christian that he’d promised not come alone and from the crowd came the Mogul Embassy. In a move Stevie Wonder could’ve seen coming, Brian Cage and the Gates of Agony turned on Swerve and left him lying after driving him through the announce table.

The most important moment happened after the attack when Christian encountered The Bucks backstage and it was revealed that the Bucks had suggested Christian buy off the Mogul Embassy. Continuing to tie them to this story is key. It’s bigger than just Christian. It’s about the Bucks trying to stick it to Swerve.

On Collision, Swerve got his revenge in a big way. When his music hit, Brian Cage walked up the ramp to meet him leaving the Gates of Agony to get jumped from behind by Swerve. Swerve strung Bishop Kaun up from the ringpost with a chain and then, after throwing a cinderblock at his mid-section, hit a conchairto on Toa Liona using the steel steps and a chair. He then cut a promo backstage challenging Brian Cage – who did nothing to help Toa or Kaun – to a match.

Tonight on Dynamite, Swerve looks to complete the act of killing his creation. The question is how will Christian and/or The Bucks insert themselves into the match.

Grade: A

Toni Storm vs. Serena Deeb

Last week the duality of Toni Storm was on full display. For the previous couple weeks, Toni had been positioned as a babyface coming to the aid of and defending the honor of her understudy Mariah May. Last week, she was opposite Serena Deeb and was much more heelish.

Serena, far from the most charismatic speaker, had just struggled to hold the live crowd’s attention through a promo explaining the health issues that kept her out of action for 15 months. When Toni came out, the crowd came to life but Toni dismissed Serena’s health battle. That’s a straight up heel move.

It’s also befitting the role of Margo Channing (from “All About Eve”) that Toni’s taken on. Margo wasn’t always likeable, but she was beloved. Mariah is playing her role as the Eve Harrington of this storyline perfectly as well, being fawning and subservient to the big star.

That story has progressed well from Toni barely acknowledging Mariah’s existence to her being protective. The next step, by the way, is paranoia. Digressing, the problem is her title challengers end up feeling like afterthoughts within the larger story.

The match between Toni and Serena should be really good, but I don’t know that Serena is going to be helped by it.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention Mina Shirakawa who once again came to Mariah’s aid when Mariah was attacked after the match after beating Harley Cameron. (Toni was unable to after being knocked out by Serena.)

Mina feigned kissing Mariah again before pulling out two glasses of champagne. Clearly a Forbidden Door match is being built between Toni and Mina. This has to be played carefully, though. Mariah ultimately must remain neutral. She can’t turn heel until she actually betrays Toni. Just let Toni and Mina fight it out without turning on Mina.

Grade: A-

Willow Nightingale vs. Mercedes Moné

This feud got a much needed shot of adrenaline last week. Willow cut a strong fiery babyface promo backstage. She’s really stepped up her promo game of late. Mercedes cut her own backstage promos. She’s never going to wow anyone with her talking skills, but she was sufficiently arrogant, full of herself, and just generally unlikable. Letting her be a heel was the smartest decision that could’ve been made.

Tonight they meet in the ring for a contract signing. The idea of Mercedes with a live mic is disquieting, but I’m expecting some real physicality between the two. That’s what’s most important. It would be Mercedes’ first real physicality since her debut and would allay fears about her readiness for the PPV.

Mercedes’ in-ring skill is her calling card. It’s time she start showing that off. Also, keep an eye on Kris Statlander. It’ll be interesting to see what she does this week that leans toward the incoming heel turn.

Grade: B+

Adam Copeland vs. House of Black

Things took a dark turn this week with this feud. Copeland survived a brutal, violent fight with a bloody Brody King in the main event of last week’s Dynamite. He then survived a technical war with Kyle O’Reilly on Collision. In between, his mist-induced erratic behavior continued.

Following his match with O’Reilly, he challenged Malakai Black to a barbed wire steel cage match. That’s definitely not going to be for the squeamish. Malakai wanted to draw Copeland’s dark side out. Well, he’s got it now but he may live to regret it. Given Malakai’s reputation for not wanting to do jobs, the outcome of this one is a toss up which is nice.

Grade: A-

Will Ospreay vs. Roderick Strong

The Billy GOAT is back at last! After a strange two-week absence from Dynamite, Will Ospreay returned on Collision last Saturday night. He had good match with Lee Moriarty that he won with the Storm Breaker after feigning a Tiger Driver ’91. Roderick Strong, who had been on commentary, distracted Ospreay which allowed Shane Taylor to sneak attack Ospreay and knock him out. That caused Nigel McGuinness to almost drop an F-bomb on TV which was quite amusing.

Ospreay challenged Taylor to a match on this coming Saturday’s Collision which was accepted. Before then, though, Ospreay and Strong are set to go face-to-face on Dynamite. It’ll be good to have Ospreay back on Dynamite. I just hope they can make this match feel like more than an easy Ospreay win.

Grade: Incomplete

Orange Cassidy vs. Trent Baretta

These two former friends clashed in the opening match of Dynamite. They spent more time brawling in the crowd than they did in the ring. This, coupled with the fact that the only pinfall attempt of the entire match was OC pinning Trent after outsmarting with an exposed turnbuckle, made this match feel more like it was about settling the personal grudge than about winning which I think was the right way to go.

Things went off the rails after the match, though, when Trent attacked OC and piledrove him on the steel steps. Cassidy was almost immediately struggling to his feet with a chair hand, virtually no-selling the move. The other weird thing about this feud is Don Callis. There’s no logical reason OC should believe anything Callis has to say, and he should certainly see the double cross coming.

Given the roll-up finish and the post-match attack, I fully expect a rematch at the PPV probably with a stipulation like Last Man Standing. There are already two other stipulation matches already on the card. If they go the Last Man Standing route, both men are going to have work hard to make that match feel different from the barbed wire steel cage and Anarchy in the Arena.

Grade: B+

Deonna Purrazzo vs. Thunder Rosa

Each woman had a match on Collision/Rampage that they each won. Deonna vs. Lady Frost was particularly fun. Each woman cut a promo, Deonna backstage pre-match and Rosa straight to the camera after the match. After Deonna defeated Lady Frost, Rosa ran down to the ring which led Deonna to bail through the crowd. Simple and effective.

Grade: B+

Bullet Club Gold vs. Triangulo de la Muerte

New feud alert! A disheveled, dead-eyed, despondent Pac was being interviewed backstage about his recent loss to Okada and a potential reunion of Triangulo de la Muerte when Bullet Club Gold strolled through the shot. Jay White mocked Pac for losing to Okada and then the Gunns, with an equally mocking tone, said that Triangulo de la Muerte is dead.

White then defeated Rocky Romero. An attempted post-match attack on Rock drew Pac out to the ring. It seems pretty clear that we’re headed for a reunion of Triangulo de la Muerte now that Rey Fenix is healthy. A trios match between those two teams would be an awful lot of fun not mention a great match.

Grade: A

Hook vs. Chris Jericho

I have intentionally avoided talking about this feud because I prefer not to discuss Chris Jericho if I don’t have to. The last time I talked about him, I called him an ’80s hair metal rocker who can longer hit the high notes. I still believe that to be true. Despite this, Jericho has pushed ahead with his delusional heel “Learning Tree” gimmick complete with a new entrance song and a protégé in Big Bill. I suppose he deserves credit for trying even if this is one part of the show that I do not like.

Hook is due to return tonight. I imagine a rematch will be set up for Double or Nothing. I’d like to think Hook is just going to drop Jericho on his head 15 times, choke him out, and take the family title back home, but I don’t think this newest version of Jericho is going to be that short-lived even if someone should borrow the hook from Showtime at the Apollo and yank him off stage.

Grade: C+

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply