There’s a pretty famous clip of Kevin Owens, back in his indie days as Kevin Steen and in the original “Kevin Steen Show,” where he tells a hilarious story about playing with his wrestling toys. I won’t spoil it for you, watch this until the end:
Well, I’m [redacted] years old, and the past couple of days instead of sleeping like I more and more desperately need, I’ve been staring at the ceiling wondering just how MJF is going to steal the AEW title tonight at AEW’s Grand Slam at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
It has to happen, doesn’t it? It’s too perfect. Bryan Danielson or Jon Moxley just winning the tournament is too clean. Too simple. And yet AEW has made its name on doing the simple, but doing the simple better than everyone. Mox-Danielson is going to be an absolute banger of a match. Their first one was, and ended with William Regal slapping both of them like he was a dad who came home from work to find his two sons fighting over the video game controller. It would be totally in the AEW mold to have these two put on an even better match than before, in front of 20,000 baying fans, and have Danielson win the title. AEW needs someone to carry the top of the division after the mishegas of the last few weeks who can pull the company past that and get it to refocus on what makes AEW special, i.e. the action between the ropes. There’s no one better than Danielson to do that, as all he’s done since he showed up just over a year ago is have classic match after classic match. It also would bring full circle perhaps his biggest moment, which was his match with Kenny Omega at the same venue exactly a year ago.
Or you could easily do that with Moxley for the third time. Wipe away the stupidity of this month, realize that Mox has been the centrifugal force of AEW ever since its inception, and basically reset once again with him at the top. That works, even though we all know he’d rather be on vacation for a bit. There is no bigger symbol of what AEW is supposed to be than Mox. Can’t go wrong there.
But…c’mon. It’s just too easy, isn’t it? At some point, AEW is going to pull some shenanigans on a grand scale. It has to be tonight, right?
The show is in New York, and technically Queens is Long Island. MJF appearances on Long Island have been built to be historic events. This is supposed to be a historic event, the largest show that’s on free TV. If 20K are going to shit a chicken over just a Moxley-Danielson championship match, imagine the reaction if MJF hijacks the title somehow. His reaction in Chicago was bigger than CM Punk’s. If he descends — well, given his current imagery, arises from the depths of hell at some point during the match — the building will come loose from the foundation. It’ll be the smirk that launched a thousand ships.
For the second year in a row, AEW’s Grand Slam show is a marker of where the company is. But it’s different from last year. They couldn’t have had any more momentum boogers falling out of their nose last year. They had just introduced Adam Cole and Danielson, Punk had his first match in seven years just a couple weeks prior, Ruby Soho had given the women’s division some actual juice for once (which has sadly since dissipated), and Grand Slam was stage to roll out Danielson-Omega in the ultimate “balls on the table” move from the company. Here was the kind of match that simply no one else could put on, and the 30-minute draw that ensued was just a furthering of that feeling. They just put this match that no one could ever conceive of happening before on cable television. AEW specialized in giving the fans what they wanted, and this was pumping them full of what they wanted until it was leaking out of their eyes. It was perhaps AEW’s pinnacle so far, a true marker in that they could put on that match in front of that crowd in that venue in only just two years of existence, with one of those years being pandemic-stricken.
This time around, it’s not so rosy. As it has been for a long while now, AEW is without a host of top stars, and there are some questions (though very light on doubt) as to how Tony Khan can handle rocky waters for the first time. Not everyone is happy, not everything is going to plan, and while AEW will always make its audience happy by, again, giving people what they want and putting on great matches, there is some curiosity to see how they come out of the last month or so. Grand Slam can lay to waste all the horseshit that has preceded it, a show on such a scale and of such weight that if done right — and AEW almost always gets the shows themselves right — it’ll leave the Punk silliness behind and start anew with fresh energy.
And it doesn’t even need a big story around the title to jumpstart that. The Acclaimed and Swerve In Our Glory are going to have their rematch, and an Acclaimed victory will cave the roof in, in much the same way an MJF heist will. Or a denial of The Acclaimed’s ascent will have the place boiling. A sneaky explosive moment could be Orange Cassidy topping PAC for the All-Atlantic title, giving OC his first gold in the company. But it feels like that needs a bigger runway to be the moment it needs to be.
No, it has to be MJF. A moment that leaves the wrestling world talking for days. Something that flips the spotlight back to AEW. But how? The “casino chip” that MJF essentially boosted during All Out has never been used as a cash-in at a moment’s notice, like the Money in The Bank briefcase. It’s always been used in a booked match in advance with build time. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be. No one’s said it can’t be. If anyone was going to use it as an end-around to the title, it’s MJF.
Does MJF run in during Mox-Danielson, waylay Mox (his promo last week was only directed at Mox and never mentioned Danielson), which sees Mox win by DQ and then immediately call for his match against a severely handicapped Mox? That’s the simplest path, and AEW likes the simplest patch executed perfectly.
Does he bring back The Firm to wreck everyone and just stroll in at the end? Does he join in at the start of the match? It can’t be the latter. This is MJF we’re talking about! It has to be devious, it has to be underhanded. But I can’t figure it out. It vexes me. What haven’t I thought of? Would MJF have his minions just flatten both Mox and Danielson, walk off with the belt and just declare himself champion? There are so many possibilities and yet none of them seem quite right.
This is the beauty of AEW. No matter the issues behind the curtain, they have infinite possibilities in front of it. From the simplest route to the most convoluted, fans are chomping at the bit to see what it will be. Which is the point of the business in the end, after all.