Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (03-18-20)

AEWDYNAMITE

AEW Dynamite is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Shahid Khan, and TNT

Welcome back to another week of AEW which will more than likely be the LAST one we get for a while!  I mean we’ll probably still have SOMETHING on Wednesday nights to fill that timeslot, but unlike WWE who’s got a performance center to keep the ship going with empty arena shows, AEW has no such facility to get them through this COVID19 outbreak and I doubt any arenas will be keen to letting them host another show; nor will the talent be all that jazzed about going to new states week after week in the middle of all this.  Personally I’d suggest TNT to just put on a mix of Dark and PPV matches for the new few weeks, but before we contemplate what the future holds for this company, let’s see what they’re putting on right now!

We begin the show in the middle of an empty arena with Cody under a spotlight in the middle of the ring.  He doesn’t dance around the obvious and gets right to the elephant in the room which is this virus that is affecting everyone and how we need to be aware of what we need to do to protect ourselves and others.  This segues from a pep talk to the audience at home to a direct message to both Adam Page and Matt Jackson; both of which have been bickering for the last few weeks and need to resolve their differences in light of these trying times and in the face of the upcoming Blood and Guts match between The Elite and The Inner Circle.  Matt, Page, and even Kenny Omega eventually come out and TRY to work on their difference with Matt Jackson going so far as to swallow his pride and asks Adam Page to stand with them, but Adam’s got some serious drinking to do, so he doesn’t give them an answer just yet.  Not exactly a surprise considering his behavior the last few weeks, and Kenny tries his best to lighten the mood by telling the crew to hit the lights, start the music, and fire off all that pyro they’ve got saved up to kick this show off right!  It was certainly an interesting segment and the empty arena did lend a lot of eerie gravitas to it all that made the realities of the day as well as the schism in The Elite all the more apparent.  Let’s hope that the matches find a way to work with the circumstances as well as this segment did.

Before that though, we HAVE to check on Tony Schiavone who’s interviewing MJF to find out what he’s even doing here.  It turns out that he’s not here to wrestle but is instead here to watch the undercard losers duke it out… as well as place some bets with Shawn Spears, but that’s on the hush hush!  Speaking of which, the setup is definitely unique and kind of ingenious given the circumstances.  I haven’t seen the WWE shows yet so I don’t know how they set things up in their empty arena, but here they had a very small audience mingling on the barricades made up of AEW talent like Sonny Kiss, Joey Janela, and even Jake the Snake Roberts with his new protégé Lance Archer; all hooting and hollering as much as possible to bring a bit of life to the show.  They also filmed the show at a very different angle as the primary camera is typically placed perpendicular to the ramp but they decided to move it to so that it’s facing both the ring AND the ramp.  I think it works for the most part as it covers up the fact that there is next to NOBODY there, and it’s certainly different from anything I’ve seen before on a wrestling show.  Anyway, onto the first match!

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The Lucha Bros (Pentagón Jr & Fénix) Vs. Best Friends (Chuck Taylor & Trent)

Orange Cassidy joins the announce team for this match

One of the other benefits of having an empty arena is that the sound carries THAT much louder.  Those kicks from Pentagón Jr?  WOOF!  The Lucha Bros are their usual spectacular selves in this match and The Best Friends are just fine as well.  Nothing much to comment on this match except for a few key spots.  Chuck and Trent go for the hug like they always do, but right before they’re about to embrace they think better of it and instead tap their elbows together.  Then they eat Super Kicks from the Lucha Bros.  See, now THAT’S funny!  Orange Cassidy barely says anything on commentary but he does eventually involve himself in the match; first by getting on top of the ramp which causes a distraction and then by diving onto The Lucha Bros with his hands in his pockets.  This genius maneuver proves to be insufficient however as The Lucha Bros still manage to snag the victory with this ridiculous looking pile driver thing.  Oh well.  They’ll get them next time!  Oh wait, that’s literally what’s going to happen?

Yeah, so after the match Schiavone interviews the clearly disappointed Orange Cassidy (he’s so perturbed at his buddies that he puts his sunglasses on the bridge of his nose to look over them in a condescending manner) but Chuck jumps in and challenges the Lucha Bros to a Street Fight in a parking lot on the next Dynamite, whenever the heck that’s supposed to be.  It was certainly a fun match that did quite a bit to keep the excitement up despite the lack of an audience!  Not the most memorable match in the world, but still quite an accomplishment given the circumstances.

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Penelope Ford Vs. Riho Vs. Kris Statlander Vs. Hikaru Shida – Fatal Four Way

Penelope Ford is accompanied to the ring by Kip Sabian

Kris Statlander has had a rough go of it lately as she seems poised to be a superstar but she just keeps getting into matches where she looks green or has a serious botch, and with the cameras being a lot more up close and personal as well as the lack of a big crowd reaction, there’s not a lot to hide her deficiencies.  That said, she does work better with REALLy talented wrestlers, so we’ll have to see how she does with the women here.  First things first, Kip tries to interfere almost immediately and both Statlander and Shida beat the crap out of him outside of the ring.  THAT looked pretty darn good!  Then Shida and Statlander have a pretty good exchange of moves!  Things are looking up for her, right?  Oh wait.  Penelope tries a Huricanrana onto Statlander from the top rope, and it looks BAD!  This is the kind of botch so bad that the announcers have to work over time to try and make SOME sense of it, but there’s just no salvaging it.  It wasn’t clear to me why or if it’s someone’s fault specifically, but Penelope just misses the move completely and ends up jumping OVER Statlander instead of getting her legs around her.  She gets close enough though that Statlander isn’t sure what to do and about half a beat too late she decides to try and sell the move and just front flips forward onto the mat for absolutely no reason.  That was pretty rough to look at, but thankfully it’s made up later in the match when Ford does some sort of flippy thing (it kind of looks like a Reverse Canadian Destroyer I guess?) which catches Statlander perfectly and she sells it just fine, so I’ll just chalk that one up to a simple mistake.  At the very least, those two don’t feel left out of the match entirely which is sadly how Riho came off here.  Shida did all the big moves, Statlander and Ford had the most chances to do stuff, and Riho was just kind of there which is disappointing considering how great her matches have been in the past.  The match eventually comes to an end when Shida lands a Falcon Arrow on Ford and follows up with a running knee strick which is just enough to land the pin and give her another win.  So yeah, it was a bit sloppy to be sure and Statlander still seems prone to botches, but I think she and Ford get an A for effort here and I’m enjoying Shida the more I see of her.

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Tony Schiavone interviews Colt Cabana after the match who’s behind the barrier with everyone else, and he proceeds to completely put over the entire women’s division (a pretty gracious move considering what we just saw) but he DOES take a few shots at Kip Sabian who’s within earshot and he doesn’t take it very kindly.  Cabana brushes him off like a total Jabroni, but perhaps we’re setting up a future feud since Kip’s one with Joey Janela seems to have fizzled out.
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We get ANOTHER Schiavone interview (I really hope he’s washing his hands considering how all over the place he is tonight) which was recorded earlier with Jon Moxley.  They’re in a parking lot… for some reason, and he reassures us that he’s going to kick some butt VERY soon and that the Inner Circle needs to watch their backs.  He keeps talking about Blood and Guts, so perhaps he’ll be joining The Elite as a surprise teammate?  I mean they COULD use another member since Nick Jackson is (in storyline) out of commission for a while.

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Jurassic Express (Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus) Vs. The Butcher and The Blade (Andy Williams & Braxton Sutter)

I really liked this match, but I’ll be onhest I wasn’t really following this one on a move by move basis.  I’ve kind of had that problem throughout this show which MAY have something to do with the way they’re filming it, but it was especially true in this match specifically.  And yet, despite that big glaring issue, I really did get into it!  It’s not like either team is doing radically different moves here, but there’s definitely more of a brawl feel to all of this that makes it seem more like a miasma of violence that still gets across the highs and lows of the match; the seething hatred at underhanded tactics, the explosive excitement of a hot tag, and the near falls that keep us on the edge of our seats.  Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy (sadly no Marko Stunt) are two of the most entertaining guys on this roster and The Butcher and The Blade have proven themselves to be solid workers, so I guess take that for what it’s worth on this very unusual show.  Towards the end when The Butcher and The Blade have the advantage, MJF who I guess is STILL paying them to show up here starts barking orders to them from the audience which ends up being a distraction that Luchasaurus takes full advantage of.  The Butcher is knocked out of the ring with Jungle Boy following right behind with a stomp, but unfortunately by the time we cut back to Luchasaurus he already has The Blade in the pin that ends the match so I’m not quite sure what he finish was.  Still, I had a good time with this one!

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The Exalted One Reveals Themselves – Who is Under the Hood!?

The Dark Order is perhaps the biggest success story for AEW right behind Adam Page’s big comeback and both Sammy Guevara and Darby Allin being the two biggest newcomers to the business.  A team that got booed out of the ring every time they showed up is now one of the most interesting factions in the company, and sure they are decidedly mid-carders through and through, but not everyone is going to be at the top of the food train and you need interesting characters like this to round out the roster.  Now the names being tossed around for who the EXALTED ONE will be include Matt Hardy who did a video with The Young Bucks about a week or so ago, Brodie Lee who is the former Luke Harper and is happily divorced from WWE, and even Raven who first made his mark all the way back at ECW and has been making cheeky cameos here and there on AEW.  Will it be one of them?  Will it be ALL of them!?  Well Stu Grayson and Evil Uno are coming out to tell us what’s what, and Uno seriously gives one heck of a promo; falling somewhere between a cult leader and Frank TJ Mackie from Magnolia.  He speaks directly to the audience at home with his menacing eyes and assures them of the Dark Order’s power as well as their capacity for GREATNESS, but sadly he’s interrupted in the middle of this by Christopher Daniels who tells him to shut the heck up and calls him out for wasting everyone’s time; ESPECIALLY Alex Reynolds and John Silver who are still total jobbers despite joining the Dark Order MONTHS ago.  THERE IS NO EXALTED ONE proclaims Christopher Daniels!  But then… the jumbotron starts talking which is probably not a good sign.  The video reveals that the exalted one is… BRODIE LEE!!  Dang!  I had my money on Matt Hardy, but Brodie Lee getting a BIG SHOWY role after being overlooked constantly at WWE is just what he needs, and I can’t wait to see where this ends up going!

After the video, we cut back to Christopher Daniels and Kazarian who are still staring at the screen with their back turned to Uno, Grayson… AND BRODIE LEE!?  That’s right!  The dude materialized during his own video package and proceeds to beat the crap out of Daniels while Stu and Uno gang up on Kazarian!  Really great stuff all around, and about as good as I’d have hoped for as far as this reveal and especially given the circumstances surrounding this taping!

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Okay, so after that there’s a promo with Jake Roberts that, I’ll be honest, I COMPLETELY missed.  I ASSUMED he threatened Cody while talking about how awesome Lance Archer is, but I can only speculate on that.  What I CAN say for certain though is that what happens next was REALLY WEIRD!  So we cut to a video package which is frankly more like a short film where Roberts and Archer are walking towards a wrestling ring in what I can only assume is the middle of Rob Zombie movie.  Lance gets into the ring and beats the holy hell out of twenty or so buff rednecks; all the while Jake Roberts is sitting in a nearby chair looking very content at the results.  Well it’s not THAT impressive considering it’s entirely staged; and not in the wrestling way but the bad action movie way!  Didn’t they have any clips of Archer they could have shown from his actual matches that Roberts could have narrated over, or would that have been TOO on the nose i.e. Paul Hayman and Brock Lesnar?

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The Elite (Adam Page, Matta Jackson, and Cody) Vs. The Inner Circle (Santana, Ortiz, and Jake Hager) – Six Man tag Team Match

The Inner Circle is accompanied by Sammy Guevara with Chris Jericho on commentary.  The Elite is accompanied by Arn Anderson and Kenny Omega

The big match we’ve been building up to between Revolution and the next PPV has been the Blood and Guts match between The Inner Circle and The Elite which is a War Games match in all but name.  Whether or not it’s actually going to HAPPEN anytime soon is still up I the air, but regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in they are moving ahead with this match that will determine who gets the man advantage!  This almost certainly means that The Inner Circle are going to win because the Babyfaces ALWAYS have to be at a disadvantage in a War Games match; otherwise you have the good guys outnumbering the heels and there’s nothing for them to overcome.  In any case, the match starts off rather poorly for The Elite as MJF starts heckling Cody relentlessly which proves to be so distracting that Cody drops his guard long enough for Santana and eventually Ortiz to work him over pretty badly.  Thankfully Cody eventually gets back to his corner where Matt Jackson gets his back, Cody does that thing I like to call the Kitty Cat Swipe (apparently it’s just an uppercut without a special name?), and Page follows up with a BIG BOOT that turns Ortiz inside out!  Page is still trying to act on his lonesome so he ends up eating a lot of damage out of pride but by this point he is WAY too over for that to last for long so he does manage to power through it and gets a nearfall on Santana.  Frankly everyone here ends up looking good; especially Jake Hager who gets more than one chance to wrestle Cody to the ground and almost knock him out with his holds.  The dude comes off as a REAL beast here and is the clear ace in the hole for The Inner Circle which is exactly what he SHOULD be and why it’s been disappointing that he hasn’t really lived up to that until now.  Things keep going on and on, there’s a fun spot where Cody throws Ortiz into MJF which causes Wardlow to choke Cody for a second before Arn hits him in the head with his clipboard, but eventually it comes down to Matt Jackson and Adam Page who FINALLY after all this time put their differences aside for just a moment to try and win the match together.  Sadly it isn’t meant to be as Page sets up for the Buckshot Lariat but Hager pulls him off the apron and he hits his head on it on the way down which looked REALLY nasty, and then Santana gets the surprise roll up on Jackson for the win.  The Inner Circle will get the man advantage at Blood and Guts.  It was kind of a predictable ending, but was still a fun match that didn’t really leave anyone looking bad; especially with a roll-up pin which is TECHNICALLY a clean win but not one that is usually taken as serious victory.

Jericho comes out of the commentary booth and is utterly beside himself as he addresses the paltry audience in attendance; affirming his awesomeness, his team’s awesomeness, and The Elite’s utter lack of awesomeness.  Heck, they don’t even have a full team considering that Nick Jackson is out (what, does Dustin not count as a member?) and it’s not like they can find someone to replace him on such short notice, right!?  Then… a drone flies into the middle of the ring, which means… something.  I honestly don’t know what that was about, but Matt Jackson lets Jericho and The Inner Circle know that he managed to find someone to replace his brother.  Someone… who owed him a favor.  And the surprise addition to The Elite, at least for the upcoming Blood and Guts match, is… MATT FREAKING HARDY!  We pan up to the top section of the arena which is surrounded by empty seats and total darkness, and standing right there with a maniacal look in his eyes is not just Matt Hardy, but Broken Matt Hardy with the wild hair and the repeated calls for DELETION as the episode comes to an end!  He is going to DELETE The Inner Circle and I am ALL HERE for it!

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I’ll be honest, and I’m not just being nice about this episode because of the unworkable circumstances that surrounded it; I genuinely enjoyed this episode WAY more than last week’s.  Sure there were a few snafus here and there, particularly with the women’s match, but the storylines that they advanced were the ones I cared the most about and they all had VERY satisfying endings!  Brodie Lee as The Exalted One?  MATT FREAKING HARD to close out the show!?  Holy crap, was THAT a fun surprise!  I don’t want AEW to try and do more of these with the present circumstances being what they are, but once things start to settle down and shows like this even with a PARTIAL audience is possible, I will be absolutely ecstatic to see what happens next and to see that Blood and Guts match!  We all have to do our part to defeat this virus so we can get more awesome wrestling!  I’M COUNTING ON ALL OF YOU TO DO YOUR PART!!

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