AEW Dynamite is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Shahid Khan, and TNT
We’re back with yet another episode of Vince McMahon’s giant pain in the butt! While last week’s episode left me a bit cold (possibly due to being sick at the time), I am still hopeful for what happens this week as we finally get the Jungle Boy match against Chris Jericho that they have been building up for weeks, and we can only hope the rest of the show is just as gret considering they are going off the air for two weeks; resuming on January first of next year. I consider this to be a phenomenally good decision because I frankly don’t NEED a Christmas Day show and forcing wrestlers to work over the holidays like that is utterly heartless and I still want to have at least SOME hope that a heavily moneyed wrestling promotion isn’t entirely evil! Is this a return to form for the series and the best way to end the first year of AEW? Let’s find out!!
The Luchas Bros (Fénix & Pentagón Jr) Vs. Hangman Adam Page & Kenny Omega
DANG! We’re not just starting off with a bang; we’re starting with a freaking CANNON as these are four of the biggest stars in the entire company and they’re coming out as the opening act! The first part of the match is a bit of a clown show with both teams peacocking at each other, but the crowd was SO into it as it basically devolves into elaborate call backs like Pentagón’s glove thing which I still don’t fully get as well as prideful stare downs where they give their best smoldering intensity for no discernable reason other than everyone involved REALLY wanting to show off. There is almost negative momentum here as no one is in any particular hurry to get the match going and I found it a LITTLE bit off-putting as I prefer matches to have some real flow and movement, but there’s genuine charm to watching the biggest hams in wrestling Kenny Omega and Pentagón Jr staring at each other for an almost uncomfortable amount of time; daring the other to be the first to break the tension. The match does eventually pick up, and while it’s never a barn burner to bring the house down, it’s fun and has a lot of really hard hits that the crowd continued to eat up. I particularly liked this one spot where Pentagón drags Kenny Omega out of the ring so that Fénix can follow up with a Suicide Dive. THAT shows some real teamwork that you just don’t get when you throw two randos together in a match like this! Now one of the things about last week’s tag match with Adam Page and Omega is that Page seemed to have some sort of resentment for Kenny that didn’t manifest into a full blown betrayal but definitely left things a bit more intense than they should have been considering they did get the victory. This match continues up on that as it ends in typical tragic face fashion where Adam Page “ACCIDENTALLY” lands a Buckshot Lariat on Kenny Omega which opens him up for Pentagón’s finisher and subsequent pin; and now we have to wonder just how intentional Adam Page’s little screw up there really was.
While Kenny and Page are… hashing that out, PAC comes up on the jumbotron and tells Kenny that he’s not happy about being ignored and is not responsible for what is about to transpire. We see him walk into a room where Michael Nakazawa (Kenny’s best friend apparently) is cluelessly listening to something on his headphones, and Pac slowly closes the door. Instantly, the Anime Athlete rushes to the back to try and make the save… and AEW has to then ruin it by having the rest of this angle occur while doing a picture in picture commercial. Look, I’m just not going to pay attention to what’s going on in a mini-screen in the corner of an obnoxious commercial, and I’d rather they didn’t keep trying to pull this crap. Maybe it’s a mandate from TNT to try and get people to stop skipping around with their DVRs, but it makes angles seem less important if they can be relegated to micro-vision. I THINK Nakazawa was kidnapped but then the Lucha Bros attack him for some reason? Who knows? Even with this though, it was a REALLY good match and leaves a lot for the rest of the show to live up to!
Cody Rhodes & Darby Allin Vs. The Butcher and The Blade (Andy Williams & Braxton Sutter)
The Butcher and The Blade are accompanied to the ring by The Bunny Allie
I feel like I might have been a bit too hard on Meat Carver and Cuttlery last week as a lot of people seemed to have liked their match, and perhaps my expectations were a bit too high at the time. With my expectations lowered and the inclusion of Darby Allin, perhaps this will be the match that I was hoping last week would be! If nothing else the crowd is still very hot as Cody gets the usual hero’s welcome, but then everyone gets a huge pop as soon as they come out as well. I’m glad they were having a good time because I… wasn’t quite feeling this one either. Again, my issue is that The Butcher and The Blade are just not doing much for me, but the saving grace here is that they got Darby Allin who is a STAR. He’s a guy who puts that little extra bit of personality and finesse into his movements so that you can’t possibly mistake him with someone else, and THAT’S what I think The Butcher and The Blade need! They do have Bunny who at least manages to interfere competently enough, but we’ve already got like eight guys doing that already; Jake Hager, Tully Blanchard, The Creepers, heck we just had Penelope Ford on last week who did WAY more than Allie did here, so what does she bring to the table that no one else does other than her silly makes? They just don’t feel as unique as their gimmick sets them up to be and the dissonance is making it hard for me to invest in their matches. Eventually Darby Allin takes out The Butcher with another one of those Coffin Drops from the apron which frees Cody up to finish off The Blade with this ridiculous move called The Cody Cutter which is basically a stunner but with Cody jumping off the ropes to get extra height on it. While I’m still not exactly sold on THE BUTCHER AND THE BLADE as anything more than yet another tag team in a cornucopia of such at this company, they did hold their own in a very good match with two of the best singles competitors in AEW so I’ll be optimistic for now and hope that things improve more and more for them as the weeks go by.
Awesome Kong Vs. A Jobber
Awesome Kong is accompanied to the ring by Brandi Rhodes
You read that right! Awesome Kong is FINALLY in her first match on AEW Dynamite! It only took what, TWELVE weeks for them to finally do something with her!? Now sure it’s a squash match which feels a bit anti- climactic, but I’m glad that they are establishing Kong as an unstoppable monster which is when Kia Stevens is at her best. She needs to be mean, intimidating, and unimaginably powerful, and they at least tried to get that across here which is more than what we’ve gotten from her in a LONG time!
After the match we get a fluffy little interview with Jungle Boy as he answers a few questions from JR about the upcoming match and what his dad must be thinking if he had been around for this. It’s still kind of hard to believe that Luke Perry is gone given how young he was and how it just seemed to come out of nowhere, and while I’m not a big fan of using other people’s deaths to add gravitas to a match, this is probably the one time it’ll be appropriate for Jungle Boy to do this, and if nothing else it gets the elephant in the room out of the way early in his career.
Jungle Boy Vs. Chris Jericho – Ten Minute Non-Title Match
Jungle Boy is accompanied to the ring by Luchasaurus & Marko Stunt while Jericho is accompanied by Jake Hager
I’m sure there’s no one more pleased by this fight than Bryan Alvarez from Wrestling Observer since he predicted this EXACT stipulation the moment Jungle Boy bucked up to Jericho two weeks ago, but it really is a brilliant way to start this feud and to give it a bit of legs; showing just how much forward thought the company has for its angles. Well… at least some of them. That Awesome Kong fight was fun, but it’ll take A LOT more than that to make whatever it is she and Brandi are doing seem the least bit interesting. With this though, AEW is working really hard against the conventional wisdom of mainstream American wrestling because unlike the big dog WWE, they only have a few PPVs a year as opposed to one every month, and so they basically have to recondition the audience to longer story lines than what they’re used to in WWE. We have an end goal of Jericho Vs. Jon Moxley at Revolution in February, but until then how are you going to keep the momentum going for both of them? Well you book smartly with great wrestlers like Jungle Boy! This could have easily been a blow off title match with Jungle Boy losing and they could have moved onto the next thing, but instead they’re pacing themselves with a stipulation match before jumping us straight to the main fight. It gives Jungle Boy a chance to finally show off on the big stage which he hasn’t really had a chance to do so far as the few times he has shown up on TV have been in either gimmick matches like Battle Royals or Tag Team matches which were good but didn’t give him a lot of focus. It also gives Jericho a chance to once again establish himself as not just a GREAT heel, but a DOMINATE heel as he manages to take down Jungle Boy with relative ease but doesn’t go for the pin so early in the match because he’s a cocky fool. It’s a match filled to the brim with pin falls, and while you never really believe that Jungle Boy has a chance of actually getting one over on Jericho even if this is a non-title match, every time Jericho puts Jungle Boy down and only gets a two count, you will breathe a sigh of relief! At one point Jericho throws Jungle Boy out the ring and starts distracting Ref Aubrey which Jake Hager uses as an opportunity to land a few blows on the poor guy; something that both Luchasaurus and Marko Stunt don’t take too kindly too. Luchasaurus holds his own but gets a bit overwhelmed, but that’s NOTHING compared to what happened to Marko Stunt who tries to jump on Hager and instead eats one of his fists on the way down. Stunt is straight up DEAD and when Aubrey kicks everyone out of ringside, Luchasaurus has to carry Stunt over his shoulder like a poorly folded rug. The match keeps going for a bit after that with a lot more intense moves and anxiety inducing near falls which all leads to the last minute and twenty seconds of the match when Jericho locks in the Lion Tamer submission hold; leaving Jungle Boy to either endure the remaining time n this hold or drag himself to the ropes to break it. The seconds seem to drag out longer and longer as Jungle Boy is stuck in this hold and I was DREADING that he can’t survive to the end of the match… BUT HE DOES!! He survives to the very end; proving Jericho wrong and that he CAN last ten minutes in the ring with Le Champion! Jericho, not one to take such disrespect lightly, bullies the time keeper into adding five minutes to the clock so he can continue to torture Jungle Boy, but he manages to break free and mounts his own offensive which is when Jericho just up and leaves. He got his five extra minutes, and he only used one of them. Jungle Boy eventually leaves, as would I if my opponent turned out to be a big crybaby, and Jericho comes back to the ring to start a promo about how Jungle Boy STILL can’t technically BEAT him, but that doesn’t matter because what’s REALLY important is the offer he made to Jon Moxley which is still on the table. This was such a great match! Everything I could have wanted from this first fight in what will hopefully be a month long feud, if not even longer! This was an absolutely AMAZING match and I need to see more of this feud play out which just goes to show how on top of things AEW are with the title picture and I can’t wait to see what happens next!
After the match we get a basic promo from SCU where they declare themselves to be the best of the best, but then something unexpected happens as Pentagón Jr comes in with his phone and shows a clip of Christopher Daniels completely botching a movie from their match two weeks ago. Now obviously this was a legitimate botch and what’s happening now is basically improvised from that, but I like what they’re doing with it which is insinuating that Christopher Daniels might have lost his edge which is a legitimate concern considering he’s as old as my dad, and I myself am not some spry young whippersnapper. I’m curious where they plan on going with this and I hope this isn’t just a one-time thing for the sake of filling time.
Kris Statlander Vs. Britt Baker
First thing I noticed about Kris Statlander is that she looks HUGE next to Britt Baker; not that Baker is particularly small in the women’s division, but Statlander standing next to her looks like one of those Futurama Amazons! Seriously, how long has Statlander been on TV? Two, MAYBE three weeks? Already she’s become one of the best talents in the women’s division and it’s no wonder that AEW has SO much confidence in her that she’s already in a match for a number one contender spot! Britt Baker as well who I’m not the biggest fan of even manages to look good in here as she holds her own with Statlander which makes this perhaps the best match she’s had on Dynamite, and I’m glad that she is so visibly improving considering how much they have invested in her already; albeit for a much more long term role it looks like. The match goes on for a bit with Statlander basically throwing Baker around until she just barley manages to get her on the ground. She comes within inches of putting her in the Lockjaw submission hold which is still being sold as perhaps the most deadly of all submission holds in AEW, but Statlander manages to overpower her, puts her on her shoulders, and finishes the match with a terrifying looking pile driver. Maybe this is another holdover from only knowing WWE up until this point, but I still think those moves are way too scary to do on such a whim. If you’re gonna do it, it has to be like a PPV worthy moment; you shouldn’t be risking your talent with what I understand to be a VERY risky move. Still a great match though and the fact that Statlander is gonna get a chance to fight Riho soon makes me that much more interested to see where her story goes from here.
After the match, Tony Schiavone tries to conduct an interview with Statlander but is interrupted by Brandi who once again offers her a chance to join her lousy hair cult; an offer that Statlander rightfully rejects which certainly cements her as a baby face. Brandi doesn’t take too kindly to this and hits Statlander with her shoe and it LOOKS like she legitimately poked her in the eye with the heel which could VERY easily be a work, but was still uncomfortable to watch as Statlander seemed to be in a lot of pain and had to get assistance to stand up.
Backstage we get a promo with Tully and Spears who are discussing the latter’s future as a possible tag team competitor and how they need to find the best guy for the job. Spears has definitely softened in the last few weeks so maybe we’ll get a face turn from him and a heel turn for Janela.
The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) Vs. SCU (Frankie Kazarian & Scorpio Sky) – Tag Team Title Match
I guess the reason the first tag match was so deliberately paced is because they knew it couldn’t match up to the fury and speed that these four guys bring to this match! There are so many great moves, so many tandem assaults, a ridiculous amount of pain, and lots of surprise hits out of nowhere! While watching this match against SCU, it became clear to me what The Young Bucks are and when they work best as the two of them are… glass cannons. Now if you don’t know what that means, basically it’s the idea that someone can have great attacks but is balanced out by meager defenses and I think that description tells us a lot about why The Bucks are so impressive to watch but also why they’ve lost so many of their matches. Aside from perhaps The Lucha Bros, they always have the more impressive move sets compared to their opponents, and very few of them work together like a well-oiled machine the way they do. However, a lot of other tag teams, like SCU for example, are much tougher and if The Bucks can’t put them away quickly, then the other team will come out on top simply from endurance. Now this isn’t always the case for them as last week they went the distance with Proud And Powerful in a brutal street fight, but that definitely feels like the psychology here as The Bucks come out of the gate dominating the match but eventually start to lose ground as more and more time pass until SCU manages to land ther SCU Later on Matt Jackson which is what leads to the pin fall. It was a really good match and I liked the way that it played out as this back and forth and how it favored the guys who played smarter instead of harder. It’s maybe not my FAVORITE match of the night, but certainly a good one to end the show on. OR IS IT!?
After the match, the Dark Order Creepers start to come out from the back and surround the ring; including Alex Reynolds and John Silver who we saw lose to Moxley last week and were in the Dark Order video as well. Evil Uno comes out with Stu Grayson and the two of them inform the audience that this is no audition, but is instead an initiation which I guess is Creeper Code to start curb stomping everyone in sight. SCU and The Young Bucks are overwhelmed immediately considering there’s at least ten of these masked lackeys, so Christopher Daniels comes out to try and make the save… but he gets swallowed up by the swarm. Kenny Omega is next to try and make the save… and he gets swallowed up by the storm as well. Dustin and Cody, same thing. The Creepers knock EVERYONE out of the ring except for the Young Bucks, and Evil Uno who is now in the ring as well starts to laugh manically and gives Silver and Alex their own masks as they have officially been initiated into the group with their heroic participation in the December Dark Order Massacre that will surely live on in wrestling history! Then Evil Uno shoves his hand into one of the Bucks’ mouths which was pretty gross, and I think he came out with a bit of blood on his hand which he holds up for his minions who seem rather pleased with the results here. The episode ends with all the members of the Dark Order shouting… Join Us I think? I forgot to write it down, but it was something menacing along those lines; I can assure you of that!
I enjoyed the heck out of this episode of the show and it feels like a genuine step forward from the last few weeks that saw a lot of the shortcomings of the show brought more and more into the spotlight. While I can still complain about things like The Butcher and The Blade feeling like extraneous and the whole Brandi thing being pointless, the fact that we got an EXCELLENT women’s match as well as the payoff to weeks of buildup for The Dark Order as well as everything else about this show that was great more than make up for those flaws and I’m glad they gave us such a strong show to end the year on. What does the future hold for AEW now that’s going into its second year? I have no idea, but I can’t wait to see what they come up with!