AEW Dynamite is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Shahid Khan, and TNT
Welcome back to another episode of CHRIS Jericho! See what I did there? Jericho is a post-apocalyptic TV show, and… you know what, never mind. Now if you haven’t heard, due to the current circumstances AEW has finally caved and is basically suspending their story lines to do a TNT Tournament that’ll start next week. That’s right, AEW officially has a fighting tournament filler arc and I’m sure Kenny Omega is just tickled pink at the idea if it wasn’t for… well everything else around it. Before we get to that however, we still have this week’s show to get through, though I doubt we’ll be advancing storylines too much since we still have no idea when things can get up and running again. Let’s see what they came up with!
The first thing they announce right at the start is the brackets for the opening round of the TNT tournament which are as follows.
Shawn Spears Vs Cody
Sammy Guevara Vs. Darby Allin
Kip Sabian Vs. Dustin Rhodes
Lance Archer Vs. Colt Cabana
Not a bad lineup I guess, and the finals will be held at Double or Nothing (assuming that show is still on) which certainly gives us something to look forward to and makes this feel a bit more than just a time killer. Now the big question each week is what they’ve had to change to compensate for whatever regulations and best practices are in place to minimize the COVID-19 risk. This is perhaps the most radical change yet and frankly I’m not sure how much I liked it as they’ve decided that instead of having the ENTIRE arena on display that they’d basically cut it down to a space barely larger than a school gym. The entrance is VERY close to the ring, they put up big screens on the sides that say AEW only a few feet from the barricade, and they even have a roof above them! The space may be smaller BUT the tradeoff is that they got a FEW more people to fill out the area between the barricade and the giant screens. It’s not as crowded as it was on the first one of these (I’d estimate no more than twenty people total including those in the ring and the necessary crew) but we’ve got people cheering again which is definitely an improvement. However, there is one BIG drawback this time around which is the noise of the ring itself as we are hearing a lot of rumbling and crashing throughout the matches. I’m guessing it’s the acoustics of the new space and they’re working with what they have, but the audible rumble is pretty distracting and drowns out a decent amount of the shouting from those in the stands. I’m still all for the initial setup if that’s feasible and frankly I’m not sure why it WOULDN’T be considering they have a decent amount of people here tonight, but I think we’ll be sticking with this format for a while as I’m pretty sure all of this is pre-recorded (no matter what that LIVE tag says in the top left corner) and they recorded a heck of a lot more than just this episode. Anyway, on to the first match!
Kenny Omega Vs. Trent
Trent is accompanied to the ring by Chuck Taylor and Orange Cassidy
Kenny Omega is definitely the superstar here so I wouldn’t get your hopes up about Trent getting a surprise win, but it doesn’t exactly feel like a one sided bout either as Trent is DEFINITELY the workhorse of the group. They have a decently competitive match to start with, and Kenny even comes close to getting a hug from Orange Cassidy before Chuck drags him away, but it isn’t all THAT interesting until about halfway through when Trent decides to start playing a bit dirty. He starts to work over Omega’s recently injured hand for all its worth which actually ends up backfiring on him as Kenny doesn’t get hurt as much as he gets PISSED, and turnabout is fair play in these situations so Kenny starts smashing him into as many things as possible outside the ring. He shoves him into the barricades, he throws him into a pole, he even lands a German Suplex on the guy out on the ramp which looked absolutely devastating and must have SUCKED for Trent. Eventually it comes down to both of them trying to beat the clock as they only have five minutes left to pull off their most devastating moves to get the pin. Counters after counters! V-Triggers! Whatever that rope running flip that that Trent does! They keep throwing whatever they can at each other and yet with just two minutes left to go neither of them are ready to give up the ghost! There was a brief botch at this point when Kenny goes to the top rope and Trent is SUPPOSED to climb up there to meet him. He slips on his way up there and so Kenny has to wait a beat longer than he was supposed to, but Trent makes it up a moment later and things go just fine from there. Well… not for Kenny who has to eat this devastating throw across the ring, but at least things flow smoothly from there! One minute to go and Kenny is still dazed from Trent throwing him off the top rope, but at the last second he manages to land a One Winged Angel for the pin with mere seconds left on the clock! It was a solid enough match if a bit too long; not just for an opening match but for one in this kind of environment.
After the match we get a video package of Matt Hardy and Jericho’s confrontation from last week which I STILL say is the best segment they’ve ever done and I don’t know if they’ll ever be able to top something like this; especially until they have a chance to run full shows again!
Hikaru Shida Vs. A Jobber
Following the Jake Hager formula from last week, we get a video promo of Shida being awesome before getting to a match with her against someone I’ve never heard of. Anna Jayy? Yeah, no idea. At least it’s not the all out squash match that Jake Hager got last week as Anna Jayy does a decent job of holding her her own here, but Shida is in control for this entire match; winning with what I believe was a Falcon Arrow. The match overall managed to be pretty good but unlike the Jake match there wasn’t much of an angel afterwards. Nyla Rose didn’t come out to lay her out or anything like that; instead she kind of bickers with Britt Baker who’s watching behind the barrier and that’s it. It was certainly a better match than Hager’s, but it didn’t have as good an ending.
Speaking of what happened last week, Tony and Cody recap the John Moxley/Jake Hager feud which has some clips from last week’s show, and that might have been a mistake. I don’t know what the circumstances are that made the set what it is this week, but even if the arena is empty it still looks better to wrestle there than in this shoebox they have now. There’s also an extended video package with interviews, mood music, and video clips both from AEW and Bellator, and it’s frankly pretty great! It’s clear that they want to stretch out whatever footage they’ve managed to shoot so far, but when the filler is this good I’m not gonna complain. At the end of it we get confirmation that these two will have a NO HOLDS BARRED match in two weeks. What’s a NO HOLDS BARRED match? I have no idea, but I’m sure it’s gonna be something to see!
At this point Colt Cabana subs in for Cody on commentary and stays in the box for the rest of the night; a switch over that’s quite fortuitously timed because the next match is…
Lance Archer Vs. Marko Stunt
WHAT!? Holy crap, that’s… an interesting choice! Not even Jungleboy or Luchasaurus; freaking MARKO STUNT!? You know what? Let the little guy win! That’ll be the greatest swerve in all of wrestling history, and frankly what does Lance Archer get by annihilating that dude? Well I guess that’s a bit unfair. Even when all you have to do is DESTROY a guy, you can still do it with style and I think he and Stunt have a decent report for how short the match is. Lance Archer comes off like a legitimate threat in the vein of Pac. Someone who KNOWS how good he is but also not foolish enough to let it get to his head, so while he gives Marko room to breathe here and there, he never loses control the match. Marko eventually does get a brief rally where he lands a few kicks on the guy, but when Lance shoulder checks him so hard he flies under the ring, it’s clearly the end. He picks him up and slams him SO hard into the mat that whole place shake, and then he does something called a Blackout that leaves Marko little more than a tenacious smear on the ground. Colt Cabana, despite witnessing such a brutal beat down, is not particularly impressed and relishes that challenge Archer will bring in their match next week.
We get another goofy segment with Brodie Lee and The Dark Order. Brodie Lee is at the head of an office table with creepers on either side in full costume (masks included) and folding their hands politely while listening to his pep talk. He pulls one dude up and has him lead the group in a chant which doesn’t have enough enthusiasm for Brodie Lee’s taste and so he throws a glass against the wall. Another creeper deigns to yawn in the middle of the meeting and singles him out for humiliation and abuse! As much as I do like Brodie Lee as THE EXALTED ONE, I can’t help but lament the change in direction here. Sure it’s fun, but Uno was doing a REALLY good job of putting The Dark Order over as a somewhat sincere group for misfits and these segments are kind of undoing that work. I get that Lee and PLENTY of other people are not happy with Vince McMahon and are enjoying just how much piss he’s taking out of him, but I’d cut back on it JUST a bit and get Uno in these segments too if possible.
The Dark Order (#8 and #9) Vs. The Natural Nightmares (QT Marshall and Dustin Rhodes)
The Natural Nightmares are accompanied by Brandi Rhodes
Okay, now THAT’S funny! I love the idea of minions being identified only by number (21 and 24 from The Venture Bros certainly comes to mind), and it’s the kind of goofy thing I REALLY wanted to see form The Dark Order. I actually loved this match! It’s not the most impressive spectacle move wise or anything like that, but the fact that these two professional wrestlers are literally fighting off nameless minions just slays me and I love to watch it! It also doesn’t wear out its welcome as The Natural Nightmares land some sort of double team move on one of the creepers and gets the win about six minutes into the match. Now once again, we’re dealing with limitations that make it hard to criticize certain things about the production, but I do wish that The Dark Order in this match would have used their numbers advantage and anonymity to give this a bit more of an edge. I REALLY wish that a creeper (or several!) was under the ring and were just switching out behind the refs back throughout the match, but they have plenty of time to do that gimmick. After the match, Brodie Lee comes out and stares down Dustin before turning his ire to the #8 and #9 in the ring. He Power Bombs one of them to send a message and leaves just as swiftly as he came. Let’s hope we see him in a truly competitive match soon enough!
Chris Jericho Vs. Vanguard 1 – PART 2!!
We get a video message from Chris Jericho who’s chilling in his hot tub, drinking his bubbly, and talking some mad smack on The Inner Circle and Matt Hardy. While he’s rambling, Vanguard 1 (Matt Hardy’s drone) starts creeping in and hovers right above his head. Jericho once again talks to the drone and tries to apologize to him (he still can’t say the word “sorry”) while also offering him an Inner Circle T-Shirt. Vanguard 1 is STILL not taking the bait. Jericho is even MORE pissed this time and, I KID YOU NOT, releases the hounds. HOLY CRAP! This feud between Matt Hardy and Chris Jericho is THE BEST THING they’ve ever thought of, and seeing just how much Jericho is into it fills my heart with endless glee!
We get another video package; this time with Matt and Nick Jackson. It’s fine. They talk about… stuff… and things… I guess. I don’t know, I was kind of checking out at this point. Probably doesn’t bode well for the main event.
Cody and Dabry Allin Vs. Shawn Spears and Sammy Guevara
Yeah, I just couldn’t get into this match and I barely paid attention to it so forgive me if I’m missing a lot of key details here. I remember that Sammy tries that creepy shtick with Brandi that’s starting to feel a bit old (if I’m not LOVING everything Sammy is doing, then something is clearly wrong), and there was this one goofy spot where they start gambling with each other over how long they can hold vertical suplexes on Darby (Tony Schiavone is MORTIFIED by this), but other than that I’m drawing a bit of blank until the ending. Darby rallies pretty hard with a few impressive dives, there’s a bit where Cody gets thrown over the gate and a whole bunch of heels start to curb stomp him, and then we get to the end where Sammy brings Shawn a chair to bash Cody over the head with, clearly calling back to the event from Fyter Fest, but Darby Allin takes the chair before Shawn can do anything dreadful with it. This turns out to be a trap however as Sammy takes the chair back which distracts Darby just long enough for Shawn to get the surprise rollup for the win; THE MOST DEVASTATING MOVE IN ALL OF WRESTLING!! Darby is so upset about this loss that he decks Cody in the face before leaving and we end he episode with him nursing his jaw and feeling less than stellar about what just occurred. Same here, buddy.
These are difficult times we are living in and AEW has been doing a great job of rolling with the punches, but with this episode I feel like they’ve finally started to show the strain. The smaller set isn’t doing it for me, the matches just kind of rambled on, and while some of the promos were good, particularly the Moxley/Hager feud and Jericho RELEASING THE HOUNDS, some of them felt a bit underwhelming. I’m still hopeful that this TNT tournament they’re setting up will have enough spark and energy to it to keep things fresh for a bit longer, but while last week still felt like a noteworthy episode in AEW’s history this is one that feels much less vital and easily skipped.