Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (05-20-20)

AEWDYNAMITE

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

It seems like yesterday and also a million years ago that we were watching Jon Moxley win the title at Revolution; belt raised, the crowd cheering, and all was right with the world.  Now we’re just days away from Double or Nothing and things have certainly changed since then, but AEW has been doing their absolute best to put on good shows and get us pumped for the card this weekend.  Is this go-home show the capstone to weeks of goodwill and excellent content that will make Double or Nothing a big hit for the company?  Let’s find out!!

The episode begins with The Inner Circle arriving at the stadium in a limo which SOUNDS extravagant, but I’m guessing there aren’t a lot of people chopping at the bit right now to rent one of those (you know, what with the WORLDWIDE PANDEMIC and everything), so they probably got a good deal on it.  Still; there’s nothing quite like watching Jericho in sunglasses and a branded bandana climb out of one of those with a bat named Floyd in his right hand.  This is also probably a good time to correct something I said last week.  I thought that when Jericho announced the Stadium Stampede match that it was going to be the main event of this episode and not a part of Double or Nothing.  They’ve since made it VERY clear that that is not the case, but if the Inner Circle isn’t fighting The Elite tonight, then what do they have up their sleeves instead!?  ANYWAY!  On to the first match!

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Jon Moxley Vs. Ten The Creeper

Before the match begins, Brodie Lee comes out with Ten The Creeper along with Alex Reynold and John Silver who we haven’t seen in quite a while and are carrying the title belt that Lee stole from Moxley as well as a few other Creepers for good measure.  It’s clear that despite Ten being the one who’s actually going to fight, this is still all about Brodie Lee and John Moxley so the fight itself is almost immaterial to what happens before and after it.  Brodie gives a pep talk to Ten The Creeper and the AEW locker room, and despite a few hiccups in his delivery (he seems to stumble a bit here and there on his word choice), he does a lot of great work here to build up The Dark Order and his match at Double or Nothing.  My favorite part was when Brodie Lee admits that he HAS to win his match at the PPV, not for his own sake but for the sake of his followers; to prove to them that The Dark Order isn’t a joke and that they shouldn’t regret their decision to join.  I’m glad that he’s getting to the point where he’s talking about more than just himself as it’s a bit difficult to understand why ANYONE would become a Creeper if it didn’t benefit them at all and if the leader was a one-dimensional jerk bag.  Sufficiently pepped for the task at hand, Ten The Creeper is left in the ring while the rest of The Dark Order leaves him to his task of softening up Jon Moxley for the match on Saturday.  Still seems a bit optimistic considering that Moxley makes short work of the guy as soon as he gets in the ring!  Oh sure, Ten gets a couple of moves in including a decent looking Rip Cord, but it doesn’t take long for Moxley to land a Paradigm Shift which leaves Ten The Creeper more winded than if he’d been blasted in the stomach with a bowling ball.  Moxley easily picks up another win but he’s not done yet!  In perhaps his biggest heel move since he became champion, Moxley puts Ten The Creeper’s arm in a chair and gives Brodie Lee ten seconds to come out and give the belt back or else his precious follower is going to pay the consequences.  Now unfortunately this doesn’t go where I had hoped it would.  What happens is that Brodie Lee gest on the big screen, calls Moxley a jerk, and then leaves the building with the belt; leaving Moxley to do exactly what he promised to in the middle of the ring without even the slightest bit of resistance from The Exalted One.  To me, this would have been a really good opportunity for Brodie Lee to show that he ACTUALLY cares about his men by having his Creepers try to stop Moxley, or even for him to outsmart Moxley in some way by threatening to destroy the belt which might have made Moxley decide NOT to break Ten The Creeper’s arm.  Instead, he’s still being written as rather one-note and is yet another sign that The Dark Order needs a guy like Evil Uno who can thread the role a bit better and would certainly be a huge asset to Brodie Lee’s development of this character.  I’m sure the match will be fine on the PPV and it’s clear they’re working with what they have since MJF was taken out of the picture for so long (I’m guessing that he was in line for a title shot next), but there are still ways to make this even better than it already is.

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Marko Stunt Vs. JMF

MJF is accompanied to the ring by Wardlow

Speaking of MJF, his match against Jungle Boy has been booked rather well despite how little time they’ve had to do it, and this match is just the icing on the cake.  It’s a very straightforward and overtly comedic Bully Match where MJF spends most of the time humiliating Mark and getting heat from the crowd.  I perhaps could have done without MJF forcing Marko’s finger up his own nose and then into his mouth, but MJF does a great job of building towards Marko’s eventual comeback with cheap shots and obnoxious laughter, and Mark definitely holds his own when the time comes.  Still, MJF is just way too big and way too powerful for Marko to overcome and he eventually taps when MJF locks in his Salt of the Earth submission hold.  MJF absolutely takes this opportunity to gloat as much as possible which is always fun, and Wardlow eventually gives him the diamond ring to give Marko Stunt one last cheap shot.  As soon as he does, Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus fly out from the back (it probably would have been prudent for them to come out as soon as the bell rang, but whatever) and the two of them manage to chase off MJF and Wardlow; setting up the PPV match and even setting up an eventual fight between the bodyguard and the dinosaur.  It was a really fun little match!  Not a lot of meat on its bones as far as wrestling technique, but it tells a great story and seeing MJF being a jerk will always get a thumbs up from me!

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Jake Roberts and Arn Anderson – The Coaches Meet Face To Face

One of the things that I’ve heard people complain about in regards to this feud is that Cody hasn’t had much to say about Lance Archer; especially since he beat up his brother and with Jake doing strange snake things to his wife.  Now he DID beat the crap out of them at the start of the last show and actions DO speak louder than words, but Cody is so good at talking that you want to polish off this feud with a great segment like when he accepted MJF’s stipulations for their grudge match at Revolution.  Sadly we don’t get that and instead we have Arn and Jake sitting across from each other at a very long table taking potshots at one another and hashing out a history that frankly, I just don’t know.  I’ll be honest; not only have I never seen a Jake Roberts match, I hadn’t even HEARD of An Anderson until he started to coach Cody, so the bickering here was a tad over my head.  Not only that, they have some weird talking points through this, particularly when they bring up Mike Tyson who will be giving the belt to the winner at Double or Nothing, but the delivery from both of them is REALLY good and it feels like it’s off the cuff which makes it all the more impressive to see.  Arn eventually takes a crack at Roberts for doing DDP Yoga (um… burn?) and he explodes at him by slowly knocking over the table.  Three refs then run down as fast as they can before Arn and Jake can slowly amble to each other, and they make sure NEITHER ONE OF THEM has to throw a punch or take one because I’m pretty sure that either doing either would end very well.  I still would have preferred to see Cody tonight, but this was still a decent segment.

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We get a video promo from Darby Allin that actually might be his best one yet!  It’s all moody in black and white and with no dialogue, but where some of them can feel a bit much this one finds a neat little metaphor to work with that builds up the Double or Nothing Ladder Match that he’ll be a part of.  The scene intercuts between Darby playing poker with people wearing masks of the other ladder match competitors and Darby climbing up a ladder.  Once Darby goes all-in on his fellow card players, he reaches the top of the ladder and sets himself on fire; no screams, no attempts to stop drop and roll, just grim determination as he stares into the camera as if to dare his fellow competitors to blink!  THAT was pretty darn cool!

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If that wasn’t enough awesomeness, we then get a promo from Pac who we haven’t seen in WEEKS, and I’m just ecstatic to hear his delightful accent once again.  He’s not quite as good as Darby at making videos, but his script and delivery more than makes up for it as he calls out Orange Cassidy and assures him that he doesn’t stand a chance against fellow Death Triangle member Rey Fenix.  Oh yeah!  That was a thing that happened right before the world ended, wasn’t it?

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Orange Cassidy Vs. Rey Fenix

Cassidy decides to come out along which Fenix tries to take advantage of with ANOTHER devastating kick out of nowhere, but Cassidy is ready for it this time and easily dodges it before casually ambling down to the ring and waiting for Fenix to follow suit.  The match only gets better from there as Orange Cassidy quickly takes control of the match while having his hands in his pockets.   As unbelievable as it is to believe that ANYONE could outwrestle Rey Fenix, let alone someone with his hands tied, it’s only SLIGHTLY so due to just how brilliant both men are in the ring.  Rey does a great job of selling Cassidy’s offense while also making it looks like he’s mere inches away from taking his head off with his own devastating attacks!  The match stays very close with both of them throwing out some awesome moves, such as Cassidy’s Superman Punch and an epic Leg Drop from Rey Fenix, but the turning point in the match is when Kip Sabian for seemingly no reason other than to be a troll walks out from the back with a ladder in hand and set it up on the ramp just outside the ring.  He’s not interfering of course!  He just sits on top and watches the action below like an even tackier dressed tennis referee, and while it doesn’t seem to have been his intent to help either one of them specifically, Rey manages to take advantage of this distraction and lands a low blow on Cassidy before rolling him up for the pin.  At this point, the place just explodes!  Kazarian and Scorpio Sky come out to knock Sabian off the ladder, Jimmy Havoc runs in to help his tag team partner and Colt Cabana runs out to get a piece of the action!  Eventually though, when everyone else is pretty gassed from the brawl, The Best Friends come out and throw Orange Cassidy onto the crowd below; leaving him the one standing tall despite losing the match.  This was a great match that frankly could have been a show-stealer on the PPV if given enough time, but even if it felt like it was cut a bit short the ensuing brawl that sets up the ladder match was still great to watch and did a solid job of making it feel like it’ll be something important rather than a time killer on the PPV.

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Hikaru Shida & Kris Statlander Vs. Britt Baker& Nyla Rose

See, this is what happens when your women’s division is as carefully managed as the men’s.  Isn’t this almost EXACTLY the same match from last week only with one new person and the heels/faces spelled out rather than simply implied?  I understand that all four of them have their own thing going on at Double or Nothing, and it’s good that they have TWO matches on the PPV card instead of just one, but despite only being about fifteen percent of the show each week, these women’s matches feel way more tired than the other eighty-five percent of the show.  If we ignore how overexposed all these competitors are at this point and just focus on the match, I guess it was fine.  There were some really nice spots here and there like when Nyla spears Statlander halfway across the ring and when Statlander put Nyla on her shoulders and slammed her into the mat, but there were also a few not so great kicks from Statlander that missed by a country mile.  There’s also a decent dynamic here where Statlander and Shida work together pretty well while Nyla is pretty much bullying Baker throughout the match, but then the storyline falls way to what seems to have been a genuine injury on Baker which is REALLY not good only a few days out from the big PPV match.  I believe the spot which she got hurt in was when she was down in the corner as Statlander and Shida picked up Nyla, and two of them threw her right on top of Baker.  She worked another minute or so with Statlander before being dragged to the corner by Rose and eventually being escorted out by a doctor.  Thankfully the match comes to an end not long after that as Shida tries to take Nyla Rose on by herself but Nyla instead lands a Beast Bomb on her for the pin which I guess sets up that Nyla does indeed have the raw power necessary to stop Shida in her tracks.  After the match, Nyla gets a table out from under the ring and puts Shida on it.  She goes up to the middle rope but is stopped by Statlander which gives Shida just enough time to run up the rope and Superplex Rose right through the table, so once again the face may have lost the match but stands tall in the end.  This was not a good match and it’s just getting harder and harder to defend this division when the quality of the matches and the skill of the competitors is this uneven.

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Jon Moxley gives an interview about escalation which is a pretty roundabout way of saying that he’s going to kick Brodie Lee’s behind, but Moxley certainly finds a way to make it compelling.

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After that, we get to see Shawn Spears’s latest gimmick which is… being a newscaster?  Yeah, they’ve got no idea what to do with this guy, do they?  They made all these graphics and put him in a suit just to call out Dustin Rhodes to try and get himself a match on the PPV and it just feels SO desperate which I don’t think is the intent!  He comes off like a total loser looking to punch outside his weight class by being a pest, and unless you’ve got HUGE amounts of charisma (The Miz has definitely pulled off stuff like this in the past) it just doesn’t do anything to make me interested in the match.  The match by the way gets booked moments later, so I guess being an annoying punk gets you what you want in this business.

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Matt Hardy Vs. Sammy Guevara

Now in case the storytelling here was just too darn subtle; Matt Hardy ran Sammy over with a golf cart and now he’s pissed.  Needless to say that this is one of the more straightforward storylines on the show this week and the fact that The Inner Circle destroyed Hardy’s drone last week only makes the conflict more heated between them.  Sammy is still undoubtedly one of the best wrestlers working today and I’m still impressed with Matt Hardy’s skills in the ring.  The guy takes quite a bit of punishment from Sammy despite having to do whatever a Stadium Stampede match is in just a few days’ time, and when he does take the advantage he pulls it off convincingly.  He’s not some old-timer trying to relive his glory on the backs of the younger talent; it’s a genuinely well-crafted and competitive match between two great workers.  Matt Hard eventually gets the win with a Twist of Fate, but he’s not done with Sammy just yet and is taking a page out of Moxley’s book.  He grabs a chair from outside the ring and is about to bash Sammy over the head with it, but Jericho takes a page out of Brodie Lee’s book and takes over the big screen to show he and the other members of The Inner Circle beating the crap out of Kenny Omega.  Matt Hardy runs as fast as he can to try and help but thankfully The Young Bucks pop up from out of nowhere and start cleaning house with a couple of chairs!  Things begin to even out again, but before The Inner Circle can start feeling too proud of themselves, Adam Page storms in and lands a Buckshot Lariat on Jake Hager which is the hint they need to back off until Saturday.  The Elite stand strong (well at least most of them since Page walks off once there are no more people to punch), and the show ends them doing their poses and promising more to come on the Double or Nothing PPV!

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As a go-home show, there was definitely some room for improvement.  The women’s match was a mess and something they’ll most certainly be regretting if Baker isn’t back in action before Saturday, and the lack of Cody on the show felt like either a really bad attempt to subvert expectations or mitigating circumstances that we are not privy to.  Heck, even the match that’s there to advertise the main event wasn’t all THAT great as Moxley barely broke a sweat and Brodie Lee still hasn’t fleshed out his character enough, but despite all that, we had some REALLY fun matches and even that fantastic Darby Allin video that kept my spirits up through most of the show.  Double or Nothing is going to be a big test for AEW, and we can only hope they are up to the task of putting on a great PPV caliber show with the limited resources that they have.

 

 

 

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