AEW Dynamite is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Shahid Khan, and TNT
Welcome back to another week of TNA Impact! … Wait, that’s not right. Welcome back to WCW Thunder! Nope! Try again! Welcome back to… AEW? There we go! Seriously, trying to fight the WWE is like one of those rouge likes with perma-death where you have to start over with a brand new character from scratch. Thankfully this just might be our best specced character yet as AEW has kept on chugging with quality content and management seems to have a good head on its shoulders for what are reasonable expectations for the brand. Is this week’s episode another memorable and fun entry in the already venerated wrestling promotion? Let’s find out!!
Kenny Omega & Hangman Adam Page Vs. Private Party (Isiah Kassidy & Marq Quen)
The big in-ring story for AEW going into 2020 is where The Elite stand as the de facto Face faction and whether they will break their losing streak anytime soon, but the thing is I’m not as bothered by Kenny Omega’s losing streak as I am by his utter directionless at the moment. Where Cody has his one big storyline and a few other things simmering in the background that we’ll get to later, everything with Omega feels like it’s stuck in the background and it’s hard to really sink your teeth into his character when even he doesn’t seem to have a clear set of priorities. At least Kenny has those background things going on though. While stuff like his feud with Pac and whatever he has going on with John Moxley aren’t front and center, they’re at least THERE in some capacity. Adam Page really has nothing going on other than his own frustration at having nothing to do, so if nothing else putting him in matches with Omega has at least dragged him a bit forward as well. So how is the match this week? It’s pretty good, but a bit plodding. Kassidy is in that ring for a LONG time and is basically the whipping boy for the entire first half of the match as Omega and Page work him over to show how tough they are, but Quen at least makes a comeback and does a good job of keeping Page and Kenny from running away with it. There just wasn’t a whole lot to really excite me in this however, at least until the end when Page and Omega start working together and lay some SERIOUSLY painful combo attacks and Kassidy. That’s pretty late into the match though and I’ve always been of the opinion that an opening match should get in and out to pump up the audience. We do eventually get a spot where Kenny has Quen in a hold and Page tries his Buckshot Lariat where he once again accidently hits Kenny, but it’s like the third time we’ve seen it so it doesn’t mean a whole lot. The only thing that’s KIND of surprising is that Page (aside from the whole Lariat thing) is actually trying to be a good teammate as he protects Kenny at points and even breaks up a near fall to save the match. It seems to be done rather begrudgingly, but it at least shows that Page isn’t some One Dimensional Sourpuss who will screw over his own teammates for no reason. Kenny ends up winning the match by landing a One Winged Angel on Marq Quen for the pin, and afterwards we see Pac on the big screen doing some sort of submission on Michael Nakazawa (I’m guessing it’s the Brutalizer?) who then once again says that it’s Kenny’s fault and that he wants his rubber match. Ultimately this match and this angle felt like a holding pattern rather than an advancement of the storyline as we’re just repeating the angle from last week. Not bad, but not how I’d start things out.
Riho Vs. Kris Statlander – AEW Women’s Championship Match
So as it turns out, Statlander had some prior commitments last week which is why we got the four way title match instead, and you know, it’s kind of commendable that AEW was so accommodating and managed to put together something really cool as a placeholder. Perhaps it SHOULDN’T be commendable, but you know that WWE doesn’t budge on that kind of stuff; even for the people who AREN’T a part of the big angels or anywhere near the title picture. In hindsight, it was actually a stroke of brilliance the way the four way match ended up playing out as it acknowledged Shida and Baker who’ve actually worked for their title shots (less so Nyla Rose, but whatever) before Statlander started running roughshod over the division, AND it gave RIho a victory under her belt before the planned title fight! In addition to these two in the ring, Britt Baker and Hikaru Shida are sitting together in the stands glaring at Riho like a bunch of mean girls in a high school cafeteria, and Brandi Rhodes of the NIGHTMARE COLLECTIVE is on commentary. The best part of this is that she shuts down any questions about how weird it is for her to collect hair by asking why Excalibur wears a mask on commentary, and I found that to be a little bit funny. But anyway, onto the match! As should come as no surprise, it was great! Riho once again is playing the David to another Goliath, and Statlander is great at filling that role without coming off as another monster like Nyla Rose and Awesome Kong. Sort of the same way how Jungle Boy’s physique makes him look much smaller than he is, there’s something about Kris Statlander that makes her look SO much bigger and she uses that to her advantage without sacrificing technique and speed as is what happens with a lot of wrestlers relying on their size to win. That’s the stuff you could have assumed going in, but the thing about this match is that there is SO much more going on that is going to divide people right down the middle. I’m not going to do a blow by blow as it would take way too long to describe all the nuances, but basically the other members of The Nightmare Collective come to the ring to cause havoc; the group by the way consisting of Awesome Kong, that person who had her head shaved (I think her name is Mel?) and that dude we saw in one of the promos who is revealed to be some dude named Luther. Despite attacking her first, it SEEMS that they want Riho to win with their help which she outright rejects, but at some point Statlander has Riho on her shoulders and Kong grabs her legs; knocking her over, freeing Riho, and allowing her to roll up for the pin. Riho retains her title, but the win is sullied thanks to The Nightmare Collective sticking their nose in other people’s business. The other thing to note here is that after the match The Nightmare Collective star beating up the both of them, then Shida gets into the ring (but NOT Britt Baker which may be confirmation of her heel turn) to back them up and then Big Swole and Sonny Kiss join as well; finally driving off The Nightmare Collective. I’m not sure exactly how to feel about this match but I think I liked it overall. On the one hand, it IS pretty convoluted in that WCW or even TNA sort of way where the gimmicks, run ins, and dirty tricks overwhelm an otherwise good match, but on the other hand it does tell quite a bit story and the mixed emotions of everyone involved throughout are clearly expressed. Riho didn’t want to win this way but inadvertently got caught up in The Nightmare Collectives revenge plot. Statlander is upset, but does she blame Riho for it? The Nightmare Collective got what they wanted, even if it was ultimately a rather petty victory. If nothing else, this at least proved to me that The Nightmare Collective can work in some capacity but I hope they have more up their sleeves than being spoil sports for title matches.
Christopher Daniels Vs. Sammy Guevara
I think Daniels had a tag match on AEW Dark, but for me this is the match that has a lot riding on it as he’ll either redeem himself for his bad performance against Pentagón, or he cements himself as a guy who’s past his prime. So which is it? Well it’s still a bit uncertain how much of this is part of an original storyline and how much of this is to write around Daniels’s diminishing skills, but he still seems to be a solid competitor even if he comes off as no longer being one of the best out there. Sammy is in control for most of the match (mostly due to underhanded tactics) and Daniels is having to fight tooth and nail just to stay in this, so at least they made the issue entertaining to watch and Sammy is still the ABSOLUTE best at wrestling as a heel. Always smug, always chewing that gum, even a bit cruel at times just for the heck of it, he is his own worst enemy and frankly would have finished this match almost immediately if he took it the least bit seriously. Instead, Pentagón comes out to taunt Daniels and challenges him to do the Arabian Moonsault (the move he botched that started the questions about his capabilities) and Daniels takes the bait. He starts to do the move but Sammy catches him in the act with a bit hit to the face and gets the pin. That’s two pins in a row for Sammy by the way where he had to have someone else causes a distraction to get them, and also the second screw job finish in a row on this episode, so fighting dirty is definitely paying off; especially with the refs completely powerless to disqualify anyone! It was really egregious in the Women’s title match, but then to do it twice in a row seems like outright mockery and I wish the refs would assert themselves a bit more into the matches. Overall it was a solid enough match, but that’s not what made this so memorable! Sammy has finished celebrated and has left the ring with Daniels in the middle of it sour about his loss. Then, THE DARK ORDER COMES OUT TO RECRUIT CHRISTOPHER DANIELS!! YES! See, this EXACTLY what they need to do with The Dark Order to make them a genuine threat; make them a go to place for wrestlers who SHOULD be winners (especially if they’re over with the crowd) but can’t seem to catch a break! It’s an idea that feels in some ways relatable as the internet is FULL of communities of sad angry people who just want to cause damage to make themselves feel better and probably call themselves something only slightly less silly than THE DARK ORDER. Anyway, Daniels is offered a mask and a place in the order which he seems to seriously consider, but he eventually declines their offer; leading to a beat down by the creepers. As soon as they start to stomp him, SCU and The Bucks come out to make the save… AND THEY ACTUALLY DO IT!! The Creepers are repelled for the time being which was a bit surprising, but I guess we don’t want to make The Dark Order TOO powerful, at least not until they attract some higher level talent. For me, this was a REALLY good segment and exactly what I wanted out of this storyline, except that if it was me I would have had Daniels join them because The Dark Order could use a bit more power behind it, and this ending is once again putting a storyline in a holding pattern of sorts since The Dark Order is exactly where they were last week and at the end of 2019. Still, I really enjoyed the heck out of it and hope to see more from them soon!
Cody & Dustin Rhodes Vs. The Lucha Bros (Pentagón Jr & Fénix)
Cody & Dustin are accompanied to the ring by Arn Anderson
Cody is in a particularly odd spot right now as he can’t challenge for the belt again due to his loss at Full Gear, so unless they introduce another belt (THEY SHOULD DEFINITELY DO THAT BY THE WAY), he has to have some other goal in mind to keep the audience behind him. The MJF storyline will definitely do that for now as their feud has been electric with a lot of enthusiasm from the crowds, but it’s good to have something on the back burner which is what this match appears to be; keeping Cody in the public eye and hopefully build up his win record as part of The Elite’s push to BE elite in 2020. The Lucha Bros are not pushovers however and they CERTAINLY gave these two one hell of a fight! This was a GREAT match, I LOVE The Lucha Bros, but the biggest problem is that half of it was in that crappy picture in picture mode for the commercial, and it just kills the flow of what was easily the most exciting match of the night! Once we return and we manage to get some of the momentum back, Dustin takes control of the match and lays out both Fénix and Pentagón, but the effort was so great that Dustin collapses. Fenxi tries to grab a chair but good ol’ Arn takes it away from him once again proving his value as a coach I guess, and this gives Dustin enough wiggle room to give Cody the hot tag. He runs wild and does this impressive thing where he jumps on top of Fénix and grab Pentagón from the top rope to then throw him onto the mat. I actually don’t remember how the match ended, but I know a Canadian Destroyer happened NEAR the finish and that Cody and Dustin ultimately won. After the match, Tony Schiavone interviews Cody and Arn Anderson about MJF’s challenge. Arn basically tells hin to come back next week for an answer, so it seems like Cody is relying a lot on Arn’s council, both in the ring and out of it, and hopefully this will be explored further in upcoming weeks. Probably the best match on the show so far even if I can’t quite remember the finish, and all I ask is that AEW tries to do better about their commercial breaks because it was seriously a mood killer here!
Now MJF is CLEARLY not happy about what Anderson said, so he comes out as soon as The Rhodes brothers leave and calls Cody out for being a coward… somehow. He gives Cody until the count of ten to come out which of course he doesn’t, and instead DDP comes out to teach this whipper snapper a lesson. Well FIRST he has to soak up the adulation and play off of the crowd, but THEN he gets into it with MJF! DDP muses about the possibility of facing MJF in a match, but MJF is ready for it and calls in The Butcher, The Blade, and Bunny to back him up. DDP puts up a valiant effort and lands Diamond Cutters on both The Butcher and The Blade, but with Wardlow backing him up, MJF gets the upper hand. Before DDP can get broken in half, QT Marshall and Dustin come out to make the save (Cody doesn’t come out, presumably due to the No Hitting stipulation) which drives Wardlow and MJF away, at least for the time being. This was a GREAT segment because MJF is once again one of the best wrestlers on the mic and DDP was fun and charming as a foil for the smug little jerk to bounce off of. Not sure if I want to see DDP in a legitimate match, but this was fun all the same!
Jurassic Express (Luchasaurus, Jungle Boy, & Marko Stunt) Vs. The Best Friends (Trent & Chuck Taylor) & Orange Cassidy
See, now THIS is the match I’ve been waiting for! I also believe this is Cassidy’s first official match on television (he was in the Double or Nothing Royal Rumble and MAYBE was in a match on Dark?) so we are definitely in for a treat here! As much as some have decried guys like Marko Stunt and Orange Cassidy as being sideshows harming the dignity of the sport (my girlfriend doesn’t even watch wrestling and think’s Cassidy’s shtick is asinine), they’re still gotten super over with the audience as you can tell from just how loud they were throughout the match. First and foremost, they were REALLY playing off Marko’s small size in this and the crowd loved it! They wanted him to do well and whenever someone stops him in his tracks, they bring the house down with their angry boos! In fact, the crowd seemed to switch on a dime who they were rooting for. Luchasaurus got a HUGE pop when he entered the match and cleared house, but then when he went face to face against Orange Cassidy the crowd turned on him! Those fickle jerks, you SUPPORT your dinosaur through thick and thin! It was all the spots you’d expect from these gimmicky teams, including The Best Friends Hug, Orange Cassidy’s Pockets, and Marko Stunt… well, being Marko Stunt, and it all worked as the crowd was into it and I was certainly into it as well, but sadly the chaos did eventually have to come to an end when Jungle Boy manages to get a pin on Chuck Taylor. This match was SO good and everything I love about wrestling in one fifteen minute package! I loved it and I don’t care who knows it!!
John Moxley Promo – Will He Join The Inner Circle?
And of course, we couldn’t end this episode without answering this question that’s bene hanging over Jon Moxley since last year. Jericho and the Inner Circle are the first to come to the ring with Moxley following not far behind. The moment has come, the time is now, and everyone is on pins and needles. Will he join the Inner Circle!?
HE DOES!! Holy crap, he actually said yes!! He clarifies that he doesn’t want the money or the cars, but he’s joining them up anyway simply because they are the most dominant faction at AEW and what Moxley wants above all else is to dominate the rest of the locker room. I guess this is why they didn’t have Daniels join The Dark Order as they wanted to save the surprise Hell turn until the very end with this angle! They celebrate in the ring and Moxley even takes the car because… well why WOULDN’T you? It looks like the episode will end not on any sort of triumphant gesture of defiance, but with the bad guys in charge once again.
At the VERY last minute, Moxley says that he’s just kidding, smashes a bottle of Jericho’s head and GTFOs before the rest of the Inner Circle can kill him. He’s keeping the car though, just as an extra dig at them, and the episode ends with Moxley mockingly waving the keys at the camera while Jericho is still down in the middle of the ring. I wouldn’t be surprised if this bottle shot will lead to an injury storyline for Jericho since reports are that his match at Wrestle Kingdom did SOME sort of damage, but we’ll have to wait and see if that’s the plan going forward.
I may not have liked all the matches all the way through, especially the first one, but this is probably one of my favorite episodes so far in regards to storylines. AEW has spent an almost comical amount of energy building up its various evil factions and it feels like the effort is starting to pay off with The Nightmare Collective finally DOING something instead of just giving haircuts, and The Dark Order continues to improve with every appearance they make. It’s a bit over the top and overly complicated at times to be sure, but I’ve always been a fan of the operatic scope that many wrestling stories have and I appreciate this show not just taking a stab at that kind of story telling but managing to pull it off as well as they did here! There’s still work to be done, but we’re on the right path as far as I’m concerned!