After a patchy episode of Dynamite last week, would the AEW crew be able to rebound with an exciting show? There was certainly promise: Darby Allin was set for a title shot against AEW Heavyweight Champion Jon Moxley, plus there was the in-ring debut of Matt Cardona and the Jericho-Orange Cassidy debate.
What went down? Let’s head to the ring and find out!
FTR & The Elite vs. The Dark Order
After last week’s messy, disappointing 10-man tag bout, the prospect of watching this week’s 12-man tag match did not fill me with optimism. So, I’m very happy to report that this was a great match and knocked spots off last week’s effort.
What made the difference here is that everyone got a little moment to shine – even if it was just a couple of moves, everyone got a spotlight moment. The match also benefitted from having structure and a story underpinning it – Dax Harwood hurting his leg and being carried out of the match by Cash Wheeler and, interestingly, Hangman Page, leading to a 6-on-3 encounter, with The Elite battling against the odds.
There were some great moments throughout. FTR had some crisp, hard-hitting offence; Page, Omega and FTR joined together to suplex three members of The Dark Order simultaneously; Brodie Lee destroyed Kenny with a massive kick to the face; and Evil Uno and Stu Grayson demonstrating some great double team offence throughout. I enjoyed Dax Harwood tapping his wrist like a watch in the background whilst The Bucks were on a double-teaming spree. Nice touch that adds to their rivalry.
Page eventually came back to the ring and unleashed a torrent of violence on The Dark Order. In temperament and attitude, he is a modern-day Magnum T.A., yet never less than contemporary – a great trick if you can pull it off, and Page can.
He couldn’t hit Brodie with the Buckshot, though. Brodie ducked and Page nearly cracked Omega with the move. Brodie retaliated with a big lariat of his own, turning Page inside out and putting him down for the pinfall.
Brodie stared Page out gleefully afterwards as The Elite tended to him. Brodie vs. Page at All Out?
Best Friends vs. Proud and Powerful
Trent and Chuck arrived in Trent’s mom’s car. More on that later.
This was a solid match that perhaps felt a little flat after the excitement of the previous bout, but was certainly in no way bad. There was less aerial offence than you might expect, as the focus was more on exciting double team action. It was still fast-paced, though, and it was good to see Proud and Powerful wrestle a tag match by themselves on Dynamite. They seem to have gotten a little lost in the shuffle since the arrival of FTR.
The end came when Chuck took out Santana, allowing Trent to roll up Ortiz for the pinfall victory. Santana and Ortiz were not best pleased…
Later, they expressed that dissatisfaction by smashing up Trent’s car with a sledgehammer and spray painting it. Trent and Chuck got the message and told the former LAX that if they wanted a rematch, all they had to do was ask. After all, it was easy enough to beat their asses the first time…
MJF Believes That AEW Deserves Better
We get a little tour of MJF’s campaign headquarters, where Maxwell rules under a climate of abuse and fear, berating one campaigner for having stuck a poster up a little crooked, and another for not smiling when she talks. The ‘polls’ are at 100% for MJF and -88% for Jon Moxley. As for if Darby Allin was to win tonight: “Oh, the 125 lbs. emo kid? Yeah, that would really suck to wrestle him for the title…”
Not MJF at his heat-machine best but he’s keeping the campaign running. I’ve been critical of the consistency of AEW’s storytelling, but if they’re committing to this, if done right, it can really prove MJF to be a main event player. He’s got the character and the gift of the gab – can he prove it in the ring?
The Blood Cannot Be Deleted
Meanwhile, Matt Hardy came out to talk about how he had tried to lead Sammy Guevara away from Jericho but that Sammy hadn’t listened; he attacked Matt instead. That’s why he attacked Sammy in return. And lo and behold, here’s Sammy from under the ring to attack Matt, right on cue. Actually, they had a cool little brawl but the real talking point was Sammy throwing a chair at Matt Hardy and cutting him open like a cantaloupe.
It’s been revealed since that while the chair-throwing spot was planned, he actually used the wrong chair, meaning Matt suffered a horrendous gash to the forehead. It looked to me like the chair was actually open when he threw it and it was the leg that caught Matt’s head. I will say that the crimson really brought some drama to proceedings. As did Sammy’s insane spinning dive (what do you even call that?) from the stage onto Matt at ringside on a table.
Business just picked up, you might say…
TNT Champion Cody & Matt Cardona vs. Alex Reynolds and John Silver
This was Cardona’s AEW in-ring debut and was a fun little match and a good introduction to Cardona for AEW fans who are not so familiar with his WWE work.
Having said that, it was Cody who was at the centre of a lot of the action – but he was taking a pounding instead of dominating all around him! Playing the Ricky-Morton-in-peril role (appropriate as the blonde member of the team), Cody was ground down by the Dark Order’s methodical, physical beat down, utilising wear down holds and physical poundings to lock in the advantage.
The pace increased significantly when Cardona tagged in, running wild over the Order boys. Cardona smiled from ear to ear and just looked reinvigorated by wrestling away from a WWE ring, which was nice to see. His presence seemed to invigorate Silver and Reynolds too, as they started laying down some nifty spinning kicks and a lovely double team sequence where Cardona bounced from one man to the other, taking in a forearm, kick, stunner, German suplex and rolling pinfall attempt.
Cardona would not be denied in his debut, though. Cody came into the ring and tried to hit Cross Rhodes on Silver, but Silver countered and suplexed himself and Cody out of the ring. That left Reynolds open for Cardona’s ‘Radio Silence’ (FKA ‘Rough Ryder’), which sealed the deal.
As Cody walked to the back after the match, Scorpio Sky appeared in the entranceway. He had appeared on Dark the previous night, proclaiming to be tired of waiting for his spot at the table. He made good on his words, tapping Cody’s TNT title and staring the champ out. Later, it was announced Cody will defend the title against Sky on next week’s Dynamite.
Scorpio Sky has been seriously misused by AEW in the last few months. A regular on Dark, I couldn’t tell you when he last appeared on Dynamite. Sky is a talent and a half and he proved with his match against Jericho previously that he does deserve an opportunity after the work he has put in over the years.
Will next week’s Dynamite be his moment?
The Great Debate
The Presidential campaign is clearly on the brain of the AEW bookers, what with MJF and now the debate between Chris Jericho and Orange Cassidy.
And who would be the surprise chairman that Jericho promised? None other than Eric Bischoff, making this twenty years since his last appearance on TNT! Eric has since said this was a one-off appearance and as such he was great, striking just the right tone for a chairman. He always was smarmy enough for TV presenting (and I mean that as a compliment!) Still, the appearance of ‘Easy E’ is further evidence of the WCW obsession AEW wears on its sleeve.
I’ve seen people criticise this segment online for being stupid, but it was clearly meant to be comedic until the end, and on those terms, I felt it worked very well. Jericho was on fire, running down Cassidy with gleeful abandon, while Cassidy chose to say nothing. So, when Cassidy actually spoke, reeling off facts about climate change after Jericho had dismissed the question, it was genuinely funny. Not for the fact that Cassidy was talking about climate change, but the absurdity that he would choose that moment to unexpectedly speak. Jericho’s face was a picture.
Cassidy would speak again, passionately this time, saying that this is the biggest match of both Jericho’s and Cassidy’s careers and that he will embarrass Jericho. Because imagine if Jericho, the man who’s done everything, lost to the man who has his hands in his pockets? It was actually quite the compelling promo and established what Jericho has to lose if he is defeated by Cassidy.
Bischoff, on the strength of that and the climate change response, had no choice but to give Cassidy the win. Jericho was livid, of course. So livid that his henchman Jake Hager threw Cassidy around like a rag doll in response. Jericho then nailed Cassidy with a killer ‘Judas Effect’ elbow that knocked Orange out for the count.
A successful debate, then, that really gave this feud the extra motivation that it needed (Jericho having much to lose by being defeated by Orange) – after all, there’s only so many orange juice soakings you can watch.
Big Swole vs. Reba
Last week, Britt Baker announced that Big Swole can have her match with Baker if she can beat a wrestler of Baker’s choosing.
The usual thing here is for the mystery opponent to be a real beast so as to be suitable insurance against the chooser having to wrestle their ultimate opponent. Instead, Baker chose…Reba?!? I quite liked that choice, actually. I assumed it was because the dastardly Baker couldn’t convince anyone else to do her bidding. One line from Tony or Baker to this effect would have done wonders, though.
Reba, to her own surprise, managed to get a little offence in, but made the mistake of going to the top rope and wobbling, so she had to go down a rope! The time delay led to Swole being able to semi-avoid Reba’s moonsault (Reba’s head still caught Swole’s side), and one quick spinning elbow later, and Swole had got her match with Baker.
Baker has been on great form as a heel lately. This match should be big fun when we get to All Out.
AEW World Champion Jon Moxley vs. Darby Allin
Earlier in the night, Moxley cut a great promo where he compared Darby to his younger self, saying that he was the same as Darby Allin: he would never listen to anyone and would gladly risk his body to fight. Darby is Mox’s favourite guy in AEW, and ironically Mox has become the man telling a younger wrestler to be careful. He tells Darby that when it’s time to stay down, then stay down: “I know you’re not going to listen though…because I wouldn’t”.
So, the story was set for our main event. And what a main event it was! Given a little bit more time and build-up, this would have been a great pay-per-view main event. The story was there: the older man seeing his younger self in the younger man and being conflicted by what he sees.
In any case, this was a great match. Darby came to the ring with a Moxley mask on and the word ‘champ’ written all over his body. Moxley, meanwhile, was slower in his entrance than his normal swaggering self, showing off how conflicted he felt about this match. Conflicted, that is until he ripped the mask off of his face. Allin slapped Mox, who retaliated with a fist so stiff I thought he’d knocked Allin out at first.
Allin managed to arm drag Mox out of the ring and followed up with a suicide dive. Mox amped the violence up, though, by throwing Allin off the stage, headfirst into a ring post! Jesus, that was a sickening bump. Saying that I had to rewind it and watch it again…
Mox locked in an STF but Allin gave Mox double fingers! From there, Allin threw himself at Mox with reckless abandon, hitting another suicide dive, a senton to the floor and a ‘Code Red’ to counter a ‘Paradigm Shift’.
Here is where AEW got its storytelling right. Tying back into MJF’s earlier dismissive comments about Allin, Wardlow came out to distract the ref, while MJF snuck into the ring and cracked Mox in the head with the title belt. The idea being to allow Allin to win so that MJF has an ‘easier’ challenge at All Out. See, that’s good storytelling. I’d like some more of that, AEW!
Allin, who was unaware of MJF’s involvement, then nailed the ‘Coffin Drop’ but Mox kicked out. And it was Mox who was stronger on the day, forcing Allin to yield after a rear-naked choke, a piledriver and an elevated Paradigm Shift. Mox cradled Allin afterwards, cementing the mentor feeling Mox has towards Allin. It will be interesting to see if Darby accepts or rejects this moving forward.
Tonight’s edition of Dynamite was a return to form after last week’s fell flat. The main event and storytelling between Mox, MJF and Darby Allin was exemplary. The debate between Jericho and Cassidy worked and was pretty fun. The opening 12-man tag was an exciting way to start and Matt Cardona looked strong in his debut match. Plus, Scorpio Sky bet on himself and was rewarded with a title match next week.
All in all, a thumbs up from me.
Join me next week for more AEW action!