This week on Dynamite, the big excitement lay in Warhorse finally getting his match with Cody after much fan petitioning. Also, MJF was here to give a ‘state of the nation’ address, and could Jon Moxley and Darby Allin co-exist as a tag team?
Let’s head to the ring!
The Inner Circle vs. Best Friends, Orange Cassidy and Jurassic Express
I want to start on a positive note, I really do, but this match did nothing for me. It’s fair to say that, considering there were 10 men in the match, not a lot actually happened. Orange Cassidy started things off well, frustrating Jake Hager with his speed and his weak shin kicks, but from there the match just kind of…happened.
There was a nice spot where Marko Stunt leapt from Luchasarus onto the assembled competitors at ringside and strutted his stuff in celebration. Sammy Guevara looked sharp and showed no sign of ring rust. But Jungle Boy, Chuck Taylor, Proud and Powerful and even Jericho didn’t have that much to do. A shame, as there was a wealth of talent in the ring.
The end came when Sammy was on the top rope but was distracted by Matt Hardy’s entrance music. The gimmickless one appeared and pushed Sammy to the mat, allowing Luchasaurus to smash him with a chokeslam and a roundhouse kick for the win.
TNT Champion Cody vs. Warhorse
Now, THIS was more like it!
My favourite bit of Dynamite in recent weeks has been the TNT title open challenges. While you could argue there are people already on the AEW roster who are neglected and would benefit from the exposure, I genuinely admire that these matches give independent talent wider exposure at a difficult time for both the wrestling business and globally. I also enjoy the fact that these title matches are always made to feel like a big deal, and that independent talent appearing does mean the matches always feel fresh.
I didn’t know a lot about Warhorse before this match, but I was aware of, intrigued and bemused by the amount of Twitter messages Cody would be inundated with whenever he’d ask who he should wrestle next for the open challenge. So that was definitely a buzz for this encounter leading up to it.
Warhorse strikes me as an Ultimate Warrior that has been shrunk in the wash and has a love for 80’s metal (it might not sound like it, but that is a compliment, believe me!) Cody, as he had been putting across on Twitter, did not seem to be taking his opponent seriously. His facial expressions became more frustrated as the match progressed, as did those of his coach, Arn Anderson. This appears to be teasing Cody’s heel turn further, but we do appear to be in for a slow burn with this one.
The match itself was fun, and Warhorse came across well. The story being told was of an experienced wrestler underestimating his opponent and paying the price. Several times Warhorse had some neat counters to Cody’s holds, including the figure four. He turned Cody inside out with a huge clothesline coming out of a criss-cross sequence, and jarred Cody’s back with a double stomp from the top rope to the outside, leaving Cody writhing in pain.
Cody couldn’t help but tease Warhorse when he had the advantage, doing his press-ups bit to the frustration of Arn. Warhorse kept on fighting though, keeping Cody on the backfoot to the very end.
In the end, though, Warhorse jarred his leg when Cody avoided a leap from the top. Smelling blood, Cody applied the figure four for the tap out victory. Back foot or not, the veteran used his experience and came through to keep his title.
After the bell, Cody went to shake Warhorse’s hand but was pushed out of the way. Was Warhorse refusing to take the loss? No, he was pushing Cody to safety, as Silver and Reynolds entered the ring and attacked. Warhorse and Cody were taken down, and it looked likely that Arn would get a kicking, until…
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Matt Cardona, the former Zack Ryder! He cleared the ring and shook Cody’s hand, all the while looked much more pumped up than when we last saw him in WWE.
It was an interesting development…but is it wrong to admit that I was thinking more about Warhorse?
All Elite Debates and Contract Signings
Tony Schivone was trying to promote the next AEW pay-per-view, All Out, which is set for September 5th, when he was interrupted by The Inner Circle. They were not in a mood to play, having been embarrassed earlier in the night. I do have to question the storytelling wisdom, though, of what they had to say.
Chris Jericho announced that he and Orange Cassidy would have a rematch on Dynamite in two weeks, and they would have a debate on next week’s show. Fine, but as All Out is only a couple of weeks after that, why not save the rematch for Pay-Per-View? Unless they’re aiming for a deciding third matchup at All Out, then I can’t really see the reason for this.
Meanwhile, we got a clip from earlier in the day, where FTR was signing their AEW contracts (after wrestling there for a month?). But before they signed, they wanted someone with real tag team experience to look over the contract. And who should walk in but Arn Anderson! Looks like there might be some weight to those Four Horsemen rumours after all.
Adam Page walked in afterward and poured everyone a whiskey. The plot thickens…
AEW Tag Team Champions Hangman Page & Kenny Page vs. Evil Uno & Stu Grayson
The Dark Order came out for this one first, with Colt Cabana sitting in on commentary under the watchful eye of Mr. Brodie Lee. Anna Jay was also standing nearby, suggesting that she has indeed joined the Dark Order. Cabana was full of praise for the Order and Brodie Lee but claimed to be “just hanging out” when J.R. pressed him on whether he’d signed up to the cult.
Hangman Page was first out for his team and was taking a pasting from an attacking Grayson and Uno when Omega came out for his entrance. Instead of rushing to the ring to help his partner, Omega instead looked confused and took his time. Once in the ring, he proceeded to admonish Page, as if Hangman was responsible for starting the fight. This tension between the two cannot last much longer. I fully expect it to explode at All Out.
Still, the champions seemed to get back on to some kind of understanding and even slapped each other’s back after a synchronised chop spot that saw Grayson sandwiched between flying hands.
The two teams showed some good chemistry together, with some excellent double-team maneuvers from both sides. Omega looked crisp, and Page displayed the fire that will undoubtedly see him as AEW World Champion one day.
The Last Call sealed the victory for Omega and Page, but the action didn’t stop there. Brodie Lee sent Cabana and Jay to the back so that they wouldn’t see him berating Uno and Grayson. Brodie quickly turned his attention to Omega and Page, who had been joined by The Young Bucks. Soon, the ring was surrounded by several Dark Order minions. Thankfully for The Elite, FTR came out and battered the Order with the beer cooler and cleared the ring.
Is this a temporary truce between Omega and FTR?
Mystery Opponents and Deadly Draws
We got a couple of updates on the women’s division. The first saw Britt Baker announce she would give Big Swole a match if Swole could beat a wrestler of Baker’s choice. That’s fine in itself. We all know Baker and Swole are on a collision course for All Out.
We also got the rules for the Deadly Draw women’s tag tournament. Individual grapplers will draw a colour at random. Those two with matching colours will team together. The selection is random and impartial.
So, in other words, this is AEW’s version of Lethal Lottery, WCW’s own version of a random-partner, tag team tournament that features on three different Pay-Per-Views between 1991 and 1996. Whilst a good idea on paper, the booking was often poorly executed, with partners turning on each other more often than not.
It’s another nod to WCW from a company that has made a lot of them in their very short history. Do they need to reference the Atlanta promotion so much? If AEW can make a success of this, fair play to them. But I’m not filled with optimism.
AEW Women’s Champion Hikaru Shida vs. Diamante
There must have been something in the water at Daley’s Place. Another match that seemed a bit lethargic, to the point that even J.R. commented on it, at least there was some solid striking to be had, particularly from Shida, who has a strong striking game. One moment in particular, where Shida hit a running knee while Diamante was draped across the barrier outside, stood out. Otherwise, the action never got out of second gear. A shame, as I really rate the champ.
Shida took the pinfall victory in the end with a decisive running knee.
MJF: Your Candidate for AEW World Champion
If ever you wanted proof of both AEW’s inconsistent booking and that MJF is the best heel and promo man in the business, then watch this segment.
First, the good: MJF presented this as a presidential ‘state of the nation’ address, complete with kissing a fake baby at ringside, presidential lackeys accompanying him and signs proclaiming “MJF2020: We Deserve Better”.
A red carpet and podium were set up in the ring, and from there MJF laid out what was possibly one of the promos of the year so far. From calling the fans ‘marks’, to attacking AEW’s wrestling virtue-signaling of being an alternative, woke, land of opportunity, and from taking aim at Hulk Hogan for holding other talent back to suggesting Jon Moxley plagiarises Stone Cold Steve Austin, this was a tour-de-force. He just gets better and better on the mic. Now he just needs some real high-level matches to back it up with.
Which leads me to the bad thing about this segment. MJF challenging Moxley to a title bout at All Out would ordinarily have me jumping out of my chair in excitement. But it feels rushed as it has literally come out of nowhere. Moxley is in the middle of a feud with Brian Cage and Ricky Starks, which looked like it was leading to either a second confrontation with Cage or a match with current partner Darby Allin at All Out. Meanwhile, the last we saw of MJF was that he was feuding with Jungle Boy (which seems to have been swept quietly under the carpet).
This is symptomatic of a larger problem with AEW: inconsistent booking. In story-based wrestling, which AEW, for all its differences, still subscribes to, a big headline confrontation needs to be built. Audiences, even if they are invested in the characters, want the match to mean something. There has to be a build-up. It can be long-term (Sting/Hogan) or shorter (Rock/Austin at WrestleMania 17) but it has to be there.
It’s something that AEW still needs to learn.
Tornado Tag Match: AEW World Champion Jon Moxley & Darby Allin vs. Brian Cage & Ricky Starks
Jon Moxley made his entrance, but Darby Allin was nowhere to be seen. This didn’t seem to upset Cage and Starks, though. Starks cut an excellent promo backstage, and, as much as I love Darby Allin, Starks’ description of him as being a “wrestling crash test dummy” did make me laugh. Starks is really shining since he joined AEW, and as a fan from his time in the NWA, I’m really proud to see it.
Still, there was the question of where Darby was. Cage and Starks found out as soon as they walked out of the entranceway: Darby jumped off the top with a crazy coffin drop that sent the heels flying! Mox ran up the ramp, and the fight was on!
This was a really fun way to end what had been a bit of a flat episode of Dynamite. It was a spirited, energetic brawl that saw Ricky Starks hit some nice spots (a spear on the apron to Darby looked amazing). Meanwhile, Darby threw himself around with reckless abandon, and Cage and Moxley picked up where they left off previously. Darby and Mox actually worked well as a team; a nice moment saw Mox hold Cage in the set up for the Paradigm Shift, only for Allin to drop cage with a Coffin Drop. Cage himself hit a cool-looking slam/powerbomb combo on Allin and Mox simultaneously. For the short time they had, they really made it work. Sometimes less really is more.
The end came when Allin pulled out a skateboard from under the ring that had pins attached to the underside. He leapt from the top, driving the skateboard and therefore the pins straight into Starks’ back for the pinfall victory. The blood flowing angrily from Starks’ back looked nasty, worse than what Cody got last week.
Afterwards, Mox and Allin exchanged looks as Allin pointed at Mox’s title belt. And this was where the only downside to the match came in. Tony Schivone, as he has done in previous weeks, told the audience that he had just got word that Tony Khan had signed Mox and Allin for a world title bout next week on Dynamite!
Now, again, that would usually have me doing a little dance of happiness in front of my TV but the same problem arises as mentioned before. What was hinted at being Moxley’s next big feud after Cage, and what could have been a big Pay-Per-View main event, a star-making encounter for Darby, is just being given away on free TV. It’s another WCW trope – Goldberg beating Hogan for the title on Nitro was insanely exciting, but think how much bigger it could have been on Pay-Per-View. And when Mox wins next week (which he will, otherwise how will he defend against MJF?) then what does the company do with Darby? Put him against Starks and Cage? But why? It seemed obvious that Allin’s tagging with Mox would lead to a big title fight later in the future. It’s another example of AEW’s inconsistent booking and it’s something that needs to be addressed.
This was a bit of flat show that at least managed to shine at points with the appearance of Warhorse, MJF’s state of the nation address, and a really fun main event. That the talent is there is not in question. A larger problem appears to be the inconsistency of the booking outside of the Omega/Page/Bucks/FTR storyline, which kills the heat of any stories before they get the chance to really soar. It’s what makes Dynamite such a frustrating experience on occasion, but it’s to forget they’re only in their first year of weekly TV. Still, they’ll need to address it sooner rather than later. Forget WCW; focus on the future.