John Muse is a longtime wrestling fan who has worked on the creative side of the wrestling business at the independent level. He has pitched ideas to major promotions and would have been on the creative team as a booker for the WCW Cruiserweight Division under Fusient Media.
I’ll confess. I love tournaments, especially round robins and NJPW’s annual G1 Climax.
They are a booker’s best friend when you want quality matches and stability in your product.
They can drive stories and generate excitement.
I’ve even run a couple at the indie level, written some for fun or articles, and I’ve pitched them to promotions.
There was a G1 Climax-style tournament in my pitch to get a WCW job offer. Yes, there would have been a Cruiserweight G1 Climax if WCW survived. Billy Kidman was the tentative winner, and AJ Styles was in consideration!
I’ve been waiting for AEW to run one of these long, and I expect AEW to hit a home run with the AEW Continental Classic. They have a roster built for this and you can be sure that Tony Khan has a list of things he’s wanted to do when the time was right.
I sat down last Wednesday and mapped my version of the AEW Continental Classic after Tony Khan announced the pools. I didn’t plan to make it an article, but here we are.
Before diving in, here are some important things to remember:
- Tournaments aren’t too hard to write. They’re much more challenging for real when you might have to deal with injuries/adjustments or constraints with talent, schedules, etc.
- I have no knowledge of what AEW has planned. AEW might want to use it to elevate someone like Swerve Strickland or Brody King. They might want to tell a story about BCC or Eddie Kingston.
- My approach is from a blank slate. I’m picking one possible story and running with it. If I knew their goals, it would be different.
- I’m keeping the first-week match schedule, and that’s it. The results and subsequent weeks are mine.
- The format will go week-to-week with results, highlights, some story points, and internal notes. At the end, there is a summary of parity and story.
My story: Eddie Kingston chases his dream…a Triple Crown.
AEW Continental Classic
- Swerve Strickland defeats Jay Lethal
- RUSH upsets Jay White
- Mark Briscoe upsets Jon Moxley
- Claudio Castagnoli defeats Daniel Garcia
- Eddie Kingston defeats Brody King
Story points: Upsets happen! We come out hot with a couple of upsets on Jon Moxley and Jay White, people who had big matches a few days earlier at Full Gear. Swerve still does the post-match promo bit in the back as we’ve seen, and we’re feeding a little into the babyface trajectory. Garcia ‘eats a pin’ and continues his identity problems.
Internal note: The message is simple here, and we set it immediately with upsets. Anything can happen—no outside shenanigans. Guys working heavy schedules could lose at any time.
(Tournament Block pics courtesy Chris Samsa: @TheChrisSamsa)
AEW Continental Classic
- Jon Moxley vs Swerve Strickland – Draw
- RUSH defeats Mark Briscoe
- Jay White defeats Jay Lethal
- Bryan Danielson vs Claudio Castagnoli – Draw
- Andrade El Idolo defeats Eddie Kingston
- Brody King defeats Daniel Garcia
Story points: Moxley is at risk of falling out of reach with the draw. He needs to win out. Swerve’s post-match hallway promo focuses on him standing toe to toe with another AEW mainstay in Moxley. RUSH is sitting in a good spot at 6 pts but has a significant obstacle in Swerve. The story for Danielson-Claudio is they both know each other so well that they fight to a stalemate. Danielson has a big week three coming with two matches to get him caught up. Andrade is given a nice moment here, beating Eddie. Garcia’s struggle continues.
Internal note: Sorry, there will be draws. Some are done to set story, position people, or save something for later. The Moxley-Swerve draw shows Swerve is on equal footing with another top name and for future considerations. The Danielson-Claudio draw is there for story to show equality but not problems within BCC. If the eventual plan is for dissension, seeds could be sown here, but that is a bigger-picture direction and beyond our purpose.
AEW Continental Classic
- Jon Moxley defeats Jay Lethal
- Swerve Strickland defeats RUSH
- Jay White defeats Mark Briscoe
- Bryan Danielson defeats Andrade El Idolo (Make-up for the missing first week)
- Eddie Kingston defeats Daniel Garcia
- Claudio Castagnoli defeats Andrade El Idolo
- Bryan Danielson defeats Brody King
Angle alert: Coming off the win on RUSH, Swerve Strickland is cutting a promo when Adam Page appears behind Swerve. Page breaks a cinder block on Swerve’s upper back/shoulder. Stretcher job for Swerve. Page gets taken away by security.
Story points: Both pools have several wrestlers in contention. Moxley has started his rise. Swerve’s status after Page’s attack could impact him in the Gold pool. Jay Lethal and Daniel Garcia are both sitting at zero and struggling. Garcia cuts another promo, admitting his fears that people were right. Jay Lethal is shown taking heat from Jeff Jarrett.
AEW Continental Classic
- Jay White defeats Swerve Strickland
- Jon Moxley defeats RUSH
- Mark Briscoe vs Jay Lethal – Draw
- Bryan Danielson vs Daniel Garcia – Draw
- Claudio Castagnoli defeats Eddie Kingston
- Andrade El Idolo defeats Brody King
Match spotlight – Bryan Danielson vs. Daniel Garcia: Garcia and Danielson are standing face to face for the bell. Like a gunshot, Danielson slaps Garcia across the face. Garcia drops to his ass, more out of shock than anything, and looks at Danielson. Danielson yells, “WAKE UP!!!” at him and motions for him to stand. The match would start with Danielson escaping things shaking his head no, and punishing Garcia for it. As the match goes on, Danielson nods a couple of times and smiles. They go to a draw. Danielson calls for a mic. He tells Garcia that he will continue to struggle until he accepts the truth…a truth that Danielson knows but means nothing if Garcia does not believe. That truth… “You, Daniel Garcia, are a wrestler!”
Match spotlight – Mark Briscoe vs. Jay Lethal: The story here is that Mark and Jay, who have a history, are out there, and there is no Jarrett crew to get involved or influence Jay. At the end of the match, Mark and Jay hug it out.
Story points: Moxley is back in reach. Jay White capitalizes on Swerve’s condition to take the lead in the Gold pool. Claudio cements his place in the Blue pool semi by defeating Eddie. Andrade scores an important win on Brody to keep him in reach.
AEW Continental Classic
Setting the table (Gold): Going into the final week, the Gold pool has both spots open with several people in striking distance, and there is potential for tiebreakers.
- Jay Lethal defeats RUSH
- Swerve Strickland defeats Mark Briscoe to secure a spot in the semis
- Jon Moxley defeats Jay White
Match spotlight – Jon Moxley defeats Jay White: With the earlier results, the last semi-spot is down to Jay White or Jon Moxley. Jay is at 9 and Moxley at 7. Before the match, Jay makes it clear that he is playing for a draw, and all the pressure is on Mox. Jay does what he can to stall, and we tease the draw until Moxley gets the win just after the 19-minute mark.
Story points (Gold): Swerve is still banged up but manages to advance. Jay Lethal played spoiler to stop RUSH.
Setting the table (Blue): Claudio is set for the semis. One spot remains with Danielson, Eddie, and Andrade in reach.
- Brody King upsets Claudio Castagnoli
- Daniel Garcia defeats Andrade El Idolo
- Eddie Kingston defeats Bryan Danielson
Match spotlight – Eddie Kingston defeats Bryan Danielson: With Andrade losing earlier, Eddie is in with a win, while Danielson is in with anything but a loss. This is a battle. Eddie draws blood early on Danielson’s eye, and Bryan is bleeding through the white gauze. Doctors check on Danielson at times with the threat that they might stop the match. Out of nowhere, Eddie backfists Bryan near the eye, and Danielson falls out of the ring to the floor. Doctors swoop in and stop the match to give Eddie the win and a spot in the semifinals against Claudio. With the ring of the bell, the BCC run to the ring to help Danielson. Claudio has a stare-down with Eddie.
Story points (Blue): Brody finishes strong against Claudio. Garcia responds to last week’s words from Danielson and beats Andrade El Idolo, avenging a loss on Collision in early November.
AEW Continental Classic
Jon Moxley vs. Swerve Strickland: Swerve makes a strong showing here with more babyface teases but falls short due to his injury. Has several face-to-face moments challenging Moxley to bring it.
Claudio Castagnoli vs. Eddie Kingston: Going in, Claudio vows he will make Eddie pay for what he did to Danielson and for taking the ROH title from him at AEW Grand Slam. Eddie bleeds as Claudio focuses on Eddie’s eye, but Eddie prevails.
AEW Continental Classic
Jon Moxley vs. Eddie Kingston: What more can you say here? We’ve got Eddie and Mox with a fucking Triple Crown on the line. I’m going to make this easy. Eddie and Mox do hot promos about putting their friendship aside and raising hell on Earth. World’s will end.
Turn them loose… Eddie wins his Triple Crown, and Moxley puts each belt on Eddie’s shoulders.
AEW Continental Classic – Gold
Jon Moxley (Pts: 10, Rec: 3-1-1)
Parity: Early draw with Swerve to help Swerve continue his elevation. Loss to Mark Briscoe gives some equity to spread across people with fewer points.
Story: A slow start with the upset loss and draw puts Moxley at a points disadvantage. After a must-win charge to get into the Semis, he wins over a banged-up Swerve in the semis. He watches Eddie bloody Bryan Danielson and beat Claudio, putting Moxley on a collision course with his close friend over the prize he knows means most to Eddie.
Swerve Strickland (Pts: 10, Rec: 3-1-1)
Parity: Early draw with Moxley and makes it to the semi-final.
Story: It’s a babyface trajectory for Swerve, and we will feed into that. An early draw with Moxley shows he is on equal footing. He’s positioned well after three weeks, but the attack by Page leaves him injured. Jay White capitalizes the following week, and then Swerve is questionable against Briscoe, who has shown the ability to upset a top guy. Swerve pulls it off and makes it to the semi-final despite being banged up. Still, he can’t overcome a healthier Moxley.
Jay White (Pts: 9, Rec: 3-2-0)
Parity: Just fell short. Win over Swerve Strickland, a finalist. Was in it until the end.
Story: Jay comes out with several breadcrumbs. He helps further Swerve’s babyface trajectory (BCG vs. Moguls), would be mad about Moxley beating him (BCG vs. BCC), and may blame RUSH (BCG vs. LFI)
RUSH (Pts: 6, Rec: 2-3-0)
Parity: RUSH holds wins over the two guys (Jay White and Mark Briscoe) who would beat the two finalists (Jon Moxley and Swerve Strickland).
Story: The main story is his win over Jay White. That initial stumble by Jay was a big reason Jay fell short. This could feed an LFI vs BCG issue.
Jay Lethal (Pts: 4, Rec: 1-3-1)
Parity: Jay won against RUSH, who had beaten Jay White. White holds a win over Swerve.
Story: The main story for Jay is in the draw against Mark Briscoe. It doesn’t have to be a draw. You could go either way, and maybe you don’t want a draw with two guys who aren’t a focus. Regardless, it’s good to show a draw can happen with anyone other than top matches. A pin is an option. If we go pin, Jay would win clean (Mark got that win on Mox), and Mark offers the handshake. This could be used to peel Jay away from Jarrett down the road, as it might be time.
Mark Briscoe (Pts: 4, Rec: 1-3-1)
Parity: Big win on Moxley. Something to use going forward out of this.
Story: Mark was in it until the final week. The Jon Moxley upset and making peace with Jay Lethal are the stories.
AEW Continental Classic – Blue
Claudio Castagnoli (Pts: 10, Rec: 3-1-1)
Parity: Loss to Brody, draw with Danielson, and an early victory over Eddie.
Story: Mostly cruises through the pool and is the second step in Eddie’s Triple Crown chase after seeing Eddie bloody Danielson.
Eddie Kingston (Pts: 9, Rec: 3-2-0)
Parity: Loss to Andrade and Claudio to feed into wins that people had over Andrade and Claudio.
Story: Eddie’s story is simple. All Japan, Triple Crown, getting back the belts that he gave up. He has to battle his way through the BCC to make that happen.
Bryan Danielson (Pts: 8, Rec: 2-1-2)
Parity: Loss to Eddie and a draw with Daniel Garcia.
Story: Danielson is there to serve a few stories. First, his overall health and injury. Each week is a question for him. Kazuchika Okada and Wrestle Kingdom looms, and Danielson’s tournament ends without him getting pinned. He is “clean” for Okada. Danielson also plays a crucial role in serving Daniel Garcia’s rehab story. Finally, he serves as the first step in Eddie’s Triple Crown chase.
Brody King (Pts: 6, Rec: 2-3-0)
Parity: Win over Claudio, a finalist.
Story: No main story out of this for Brody. The singles win can move him towards singles coming out of the tournament. Also could be used for future tie-ins to a BCC issue.
Andrade El Idolo (Pts: 6, Rec: 2-3-0)
Parity: Wins over Brody (who beat Claudio) and Eddie.
Story: Andrade was in a position to make it to the semi-finals but fell short. Andrade not making the finals could impact his situation with CJ Perry. Andrade questions the business relationship but CJ comes through by securing a future Triple Crown title shot against Eddie thanks to Andrade’s earlier win on Week 2.
Daniel Garcia (Pts: 4, Rec: 1-3-1)
Parity: Draw with Danielson and victory over Andrade (who beat Eddie).
Story: The road to ‘Wrestler’ is paid off here. He’s been eating pins and faces Danielson at his lowest. The draw with Danielson changes the game, but what Danielson tells him is the actual prize. His victory on Andrade shows he believes in himself as a wrestler. His slate is clean.
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