Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (04-08-20)

AEWDYNAMITE

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

We’re back with another episode of House Show of the Dead, where our valiant heroes try to put on an indie wrestling program in the middle of our present day apocalypse!  Now I was pretty down on last week’s show for whatever reason and perhaps that’s more on me because I heard that a lot of people enjoyed it; especially with the return of the live crowd to make some noise.  Perhaps I was overly critical and just need to find the good in what they can put on instead of hoping for what they can’t.  Will this week be another success for the scrappy billionaire funded company, or will my skepticism from last week prove to be prophetic?  Let’s find out!!

The episode begins with a promo from Jake Roberts who starts rambling about how awesome Lance Archer is, comparing him to standing in front of a train or jumping out of a plane without a parachute, and he even takes shots at Marko Stunt for getting his ass kicked last week!  I’m still not sure if he WANTS Cody to face him or not.  I’m pretty sure he calls him an idiot for even entertaining the idea of facing Lance but the calls him a coward if he doesn’t!  Damned if you do I guess.  In any case, the first match has already started.  Wait, what!?

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Lance Archer Vs. A Jobber

Yeah, before we can even get properly started introducing the show, letting us know that Jericho is gonna be on commentary this week (yay!) and recapping Archer’s match from last week, he’s already beating the snot out of some dude who I THOUGHT was Brandon Cutler at first but is some guy named Alan Eagleson.  We’re what, four minutes in before Archer does that Blackout move and wins the match?  This match is so fast and so furious that Jericho and Tony Schiavone just wait for him to be done with his little squash match before running down the card!  It may not be the most EXCITING or ENGAGING match in the world, but I appreciate just how quickly they got in and out; starting the show off with a BANG instead of a twenty-minute slugfest like we saw last week.  It was a DECENT slugfest to be sure, but I tend to feel that brevity is key when setting up an opening match.

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Hikaru Shida Vs. Britt Baker

The problem I have with Shida is that she can feel a bit TOO flexible; that she can have an utterly dominating match followed immediately by one where she takes so much punishment, and while her win/loss record is pretty good, she doesn’t always come off as dominate as she should be.  I remember people complaining about The Elite doing that in the early months of AEW, particularly The Young Bucks putting over a lot of the tag teams, and I feel like Shida is in a similar position.  I don’t know, maybe it’s just that I’m still not seeing what’s so special with Baker even if she is a decent heel, but what I want from Shida is to be THE UNDISPUTED BEST, and it seems like they’re not willing to commit to that just yet so that she can make everyone else on the roster look good.  To that point though, Baker looks better here than I think she’s ever had; certainly in recent memory.  It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen Baker in a match, and frankly she wrestles better as a heel; acting super cocky and taking her time to gloat when she should be pressing her advantage.  There’s this bit where she does one of Billy Gunn’s move and then mocks him immediately afterwards which was a nice touch, and she does it all pretty cleanly.  I didn’t notice any botches at least, and frankly that puts her ahead of Statlander who almost can’t help but have a big botch in every one of her matches.  Anyway, the match stays pretty competitive throughout, and at one point Baker goes for the Mandible claw which is the deadliest (and most well protected) submission hold in the entire company.  Shida manages to avoid it which leads to a slugfest in the middle of the ring where they just start throwing punches back and forth over and over again but after a pretty rough kick from Shida the two of them fall to the ground and Baker even starts to bleed from the nose; badly from the looks of it.  It’s a time tested way of giving wrestlers a bit of credibility and gravitas, but they do something weird with it.  Baker goes to put in The Mandible Claw again, but the ref stops her.  APPARENTLY because of the blood on her hand she needs to wear a glove before putting it in Shida’s mouth.  Baker spends a good five seconds trying to put on the glove which gives Shida a chance to escape.  That… just came off as pretty awkward and it certainly didn’t make Shida look good who most likely would have tapped if Baker was allowed to just use her move.  At least they make up for it shortly later as Britt tries to force Shida to bite the rope so she can stomp on her head, but Shida reverses it and tosses her over the ropes.  In that instance it felt like she genuinely escaped from something instead of being saved by the ref.  After all that brutality, awkward moments, and buckets of blood, the match comes to an end when Shida finishes off Baker with a running knee strike and gets the pin.  The longer this match went on, the more I liked it.  I can’t say it was a FANTASTIC match as I still would prefer Shida to be running away with this division, but Baker is definitely getting better and this was a great showcase of her talent.

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After the match we get a video that was recorded earlier that day where Kenny Omega and Michael Nakazawa are doing a comedy skit in a trailer as they try to come up with a name for their tag team.  I guess Hangman Adam Page is stuck in quarantine or something, so Omega has to find whatever hole Nakazawa’s been hiding in since Pac kicked his ass like two months ago.  Now Nakazawa wants to name them The Best Friends which exasperates Omega, but Nakazawa is oddly determined about it so Kenny half-heartedly agrees to think about it.  Oh no.  Oh no he DIDN’T!  As soon as Omega says that, Orange Cassidy casually bursts out of the bathroom in the trailer and The Best Friends come in through the front door; all of whom are absolutely PISSED at the utter gall that these two have at trying to take their name!  In fact, they are SO mad that they agree to give up their name and let Kenny and Nakazawa have it if they can beat them in a tag team match!  Okay… I mean I’m pretty sure Omega couldn’t do anything about the name anyway, but that’s not how wrestlers resolve conflicts!  THEY SOLVE IT IN THE RING!!  Hey, at least they put in the extra effort to build up an otherwise straightforward match!

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After that skit, we get a rankings update from Excalibur that lets us know who’s ranked where in the three divisions; men’s, women’s, and tag.  I guess I’m fine with this as I’m sure some fans are REALLY into the rankings, but I’ve mentioned before that using ACTUAL stats to do the ranking doesn’t always match with what it FEELS like the rankings are; especially when you include Dark matches which I’ve been doing a poor job of keeping up with.  Yuka Sakazaki is ranked four, and as far as I can remember her only match was losing badly to Britt Baker.  That said, if they spend a mere five minutes a show updating us with these video packages it’ll probably start to make more sense for fans like me, so I say keep doing it; even after we return to regular full arena shows.

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They follow that up with another extended promo of Moxley and Hager’s feud which… I don’t know, again I’m sure that A LOT of people will like it and I’m glad that they will, but it’s not doing much for me.  I’m not a sports guy in general and this is the most sports-documentary thing they’ve done in AEW, but it’s done quite well so I’m not about to knock it or the show in general for spending time on this.

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Okay, NOW they might be pushing their luck as we get ANOTHER video package; this time about the TNT tournament and the Cody/Spears match happening in the main event.  Now I get it.  We’ve only got SO much footage to work with and they keep having trouble finding places to tape these empty arena shows, so they’ve got to pad the shows out with these video packages.  It’s fine, but I’d rather not have one BIG block of them like we’ve gotten here.

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Best Friends (Trent and Chuck Taylor) Vs. The Best Friends? (Kenny Omega and Michael Nakazawa)

Best Friends are accompanied to the ring by Orange Cassidy

I can’t remember exactly when it was, but there was a HUGE four team tag team match that AEW did a few months back that I thought was one of the most impressive matches I’d seen from them precisely BECAUSE it played out more like an impeccably timed comedy showpiece than a traditional wrestling match.  Now if that match was the equivalent of say Buster Keaton at his prime, this match is more like Spaceballs; REALLY good in its own way, but perhaps not as elegant and a lot cruder.  Of course if you’re at all familiar with the work of Michael “baby oil” Nakazawa, you’d come to expect this at AEW; lest we forget that his highest profile match so far was between him and a non-wrestler where they beat each other with video game controllers.  Unlike with THAT match though, this is being done by PROFESSIONALS so the ridiculous comedy bits work a lot better; what with Kenny getting to indulge his sillier side and The Best Friends being more than game for the goofy stuff that he and Nakazawa end up doing.  Early in the match Trent and Nakazawa start trading chops back and forth, but Trent has a clear advantage here so Nakazawa does the ONE thing he’s known for and it’s to use his baby oil!  He spreads it all over his chest, and all of a sudden Trent can’t land a chop!  HIS HAND JUST SLIDES RIGHT OFF OF HIM!  That was hilarious, and frankly I don’t care that the ref doesn’t do anything about the oil.  Sure it’s KIND of cheating, but this is basically a joke match anyway so it doesn’t bother me.    I like this one spot where Nakazawa has one of them on their back (I don’t remember which one) with their legs around the post, and normally someone would just smash their leg into the post to damage it.  Instead, Nakazawa grabs both legs and starts running as fast as he can; smooshing their groin right into the post!  Crotches by the way will be a HUGE part of this match and Nakazawa soon follows that up by putting Trent crotch first onto the top rope and then sliding him across it.  That said, if you think Nakazawa is NOTHING but a joke, think again because he’s clearly a great wrestler here and he even gives one HELLACIOUS spear to Trent about halfway through the match, so this isn’t some lazy nobody who’d rather flop around than learn to fight; he ENJOYS doing all this nonsense and he’s darn good at it!  But of course, we can’t have a Best Friends fight (especially one this wacky) without an Orange Cassidy spot!  The Best Friends have cleared the ring and Cassidy gets in the middle of it right as they’re about to do the hug.  Kenny and Nakazawa however pull them out right before they do it and you’ve never seen Cassidy so disappointed.  Kenny and Nakazawa jump in and try to hug him themselves, but Cassidy just blows them off in the coldest move in ALL of wrestling!  THEY ARE SO DISAPPOINTED THAT THEY DIDN’T GET TO HUG HIM!    Nakazawa is so pissed in fact that he starts to straight up cheat and starts spraying oil in people’s faces.  However, when he sprays it in Cassidy’s face it has no effect… BECAUSE HE’S WEARING SUNGLASSES!!  Seriously, if THE NAKAZAWA COMEDY HOUR doesn’t become a regular thing during these nightmarish times, I will be SEVERELY disappointed in AEW!  In any case, all good things must come to an end and we know it’s coming when Nakazawa goes for the jock strap claw thing.  Not my FAVORITE move, but The Best Friends sell it like nobody’s business when he smashes it into their faces.  However, The Best Friends manage to overcome the odds here and they eventually win the match with something that LOOKS like The Meltzer Driver that The Young Bucks do.  All is well however as they ALL hug it out after the match!  Nakazawa and Kenny get to hug Trent and Chuck who ALL get to hug Orange Cassidy!  Such a beautiful moment!  Now if you’re not a fan of utter nonsense, a complete disregard of the rules, or the fact that everyone in AEW barely bothers to tag, then you’ll probably be annoyed by this match.  For me though, this was one of the liveliest showings we’ve gotten from AEW since they were forced to do empty arena shows and it’s certainly the best thing since Matt Hardy and Chris Jericho’s confrontation a few weeks ago!  Sadly we probably won’t be getting a Jurassic Express match anytime soon considering how spotty the individual members’ appearances have been, so if our quota of wrestling silliness has to be fulfilled by Michael Nakazawa for the time being, I’m more than okay with that!

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That segmented is followed by a Brodie Lee Exaulted one segment where this time he talks down to a couple of creepers wearing goofy masks and wrinkled shirts for looking so bad, especially compared to the creeper standing next to them wearing a goofy mask and an IRONED shirt!  AND he’s wearing a tie on top of it!  Now THAT’S a creeper with class!

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We get another promo about the Moxley/Hager match, but who cares!  After that, Matt Hardy gets his own promo to talk smack on The Inner Circle much like Jericho did to The Elite last week.  The dude is having SO much fun with this as he’s full DOMASCUS in his delivery and is wearing his beautiful red clock… while filming in his garage; complete with riding mower.  I can’t possibly do it justice as Matt Hardy is clearly an expert at this kind of promo, and I loved that he went so far as to burn the shirt that Jericho gave Vanguard 1 last week which is surely fanning the flames of their bitter rivalry!  The only thing that felt like a bad note in all of this was when he questioned if Sammy the Spanish God could even speak Spanish.  That was a bad dig whether it’s true or not, but other than that this was so much fun and I’m loving this version of Matt Hardy.  I STILL need to get around to watching his YouTube videos…

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Brodie Lee Vs. A Jobber

You know what?  Maybe I’m being a bit unfair here about this new guy Lee Johnson.  I mean, he didn’t get a weeks-long buildup or a legend from the business singing his praises, but he at least got an entrance!  Maybe it won’t be yet another squash match!  Oh wait, never mind.  Johnson tries one kick that gets effortlessly deflected and is nothing more that Brodie’s plaything for another three minutes before getting bored and knocking him out with a discus lariat.  It definitely feels like we’re in a holding pattern with The Dark Order and I hope that we’ll get more of Evil Uno and Stu Grayson as soon as it’s safe to do so.

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Cody Vs. Shawn Spears – TNT Tournament Preliminary

Cody is accompanied to the ring by Brandi Rhodes

Right from the outside, Shawn doesn’t stand much of a chance as he’s clearly out classed by Cody in almost every way.  On top of that, he crowd thinks he’s a total punk, and he can’t even use a chair properly!  Instead of actually HITTING Cody with it, he just throws it into the ring which ref Aubrey tosses out like a minute later, so I guess that whole “chairman of AEW” thing is kind of a wash.  However, Cody perhaps gets a bit too cocky and goes for a Moonsault which Shawn rolls away from, and immediately punishes Cody with a pile driver that leads to a nearfall.  The failed Moonsault is a turning point as Cody can’t get his momentum back and Shawn finally has a shot; especially when he manages to suplex Cody right into one of the guardrails.  However, things take a weird turn when Cody starts to grab a table and the announcers can’t ignore the fact that ref Aubrey isn’t disqualifying him.  Then some dude in a pineapple shirt just grabs Shawn Spears and lets Cody take pot shots at him!  What the heck is going on!?  In something that we’re not supposed to take very seriously like the Best Friends match I’m fine with it, but this is supposed to be the start of a tournament that’s supposed to have some gravitas due to the new belt being on the line.  I’m guessing Cody isn’t going to be the first TNT champion, but if that’s the plan than this isn’t the best way to start off his journey.  Oh, and in case you were wondering about that table, Brandi is on the apron for the distraction and Cody almost hits her with a running strike.  Shawn takes this opportunity to toss Cody over the ropes and thus smashes right through the table!  It all comes full circle!  Anyway, Cody lands two Cross-Rhodes on Spears and goes for the pin, but somehow he ACTUALLY manages to kicks out of it which MIGHT be a first if I’m not mistaken.  I THINK MJF might have done that too, but I’m guessing it was with Wardlow’s help while Spears does it here in a clean(ish) match.  Despite this monumental feat however, Cody manages to put Spears in the Figure Four Lock which is what ultimately gives Cody the win.  Not in the way you’d expect though!  Now I’ve been told that Ric Flair would do this back in the old days, but I swear I’ve NEVER seen this before despite how often it’s teased.  Shawn Spears is in SO much pain that he doesn’t tap out; instead he stays on his back with his shoulders on the ground until the ref counts to three.  WHAT!?  A pinfall… from a submission hold… where the pressure is on the legs and not on ANY part of the body that would make it difficult to simply lift a shoulder or twist your torso!?  I mean I’ve seen them TEASE this kind of thing before, where the ref has to keep swiping their hand under a wrestler’s shoulder to see if it’s firmly on the mat or not, but you don’t ACTUALLY get the pinfall for that because it makes the person look like an absolute fool!

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While the ending of that last match was a pretty sour note to end on, I’d say that I enjoyed this episode MUCH more than last week’s.  I’m getting more used to the smaller set and I think they somehow managed to put even MORE people into the stands to make noise and help with the atmosphere, and the matches overall felt better suited to the format.  A few quick squash matches, the outright hilarious tag team match, even the Baker/Shida match that at least managed to go in some unexpected places!  The only one that fell flat for me was the ending of the Cody match, but like I said it’s something that Ric Flair used to do in his old matches so perhaps it wasn’t meant for newer wrestling fans like myself.  As long as the other matches in this TNT tournament run a bit smoother for me, I’m more than happy to say that things are looking up for AEW even during these uncertain times!  Just for how long though?  Well I guess we’ll have to see.  Maybe they’ll go to that island Dana White is buying and film there!

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