AEW Dynamite is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Shahid Khan, and TNT
Fyter Fest may be over, but this company’s got ONE more week of near-PPV level content that they want to give us (especially on a week without a competing NXT special event) so now we’ve got Fight For The Fallen to raise money for COVID-19 relief in Florida! With John Moxley finally returning to the ring to face Brian Cage as well as a bunch of other well booked matches on the lineup, can this be the show that turns the ratings back into AEW favor while also making money for a good cause? Let’s find out!!
First and foremost, AEW got the message and has everyone at ringside wearing a mask. The announce team isn’t wearing any masks and neither is MJF and Wardlow for some reason (I hope their refusal to wear masks isn’t some sort of Heel flex because now is a REALLY bad time to be pulling that nonsense), but at least they’ve done SOMETHING about it. Also worth noting is that Taz is filling in for Tony Schiavone; not because he tested positive but because his test results haven’t come back yet so they aren’t taking any chances. It’s like AEW is ninety percent there with doing this the best way they can, but they just can’t take that extra step of making sure EVERYONE is covering; particularly the broadcasters who are still scrunched up together at a single table. In any case, we’re starting things off on a bang with the first match being Cody’s TNT Title defense, so let’s see how that goes.
Cody Vs. Sonny Kiss – TNT Title Championship
Cody is accompanied to the ring by Arn Anderson
It goes without saying that Sonny Kiss, who’s barely been on TV since Dynamite started almost a year ago, is far from the strongest opponent for Cody to be facing right now, but even if the match’s outcome is incredibly obvious (despite the protestations from commentary), I’m glad that he’s getting a chance at the spotlight. Sadly the match isn’t exactly what you’d hope it be, and it’s kind of serendipitous that Sonny and Joey are working together now because my feelings on this one are similar to the Omega/Joey match from a few months ago. Sonny is a great talent and he has such a magnetic personality that I think he has a very strong place in this company, but I’m not really feeling it when he’s up against a guy like Cody. Cody’s at the top of the pecking order and is a unique talent in a traditional style, so while I wouldn’t say that they SHOULDN’T have a match ever, trying to make it a competitive one and seeing Cody try to sell it as such strains credulity a bit; especially when Kiss’s offense looks kind of green. Sure, he’s got athleticism and flexibility, but his strikes need a bit more of a punch to them for Cody not to look foolish at taking the hits. He does a spinning kick that has less impact than if I tried to do it, and really the only place where his move set looks convincing are when he gets to show off his athleticism; your Hurricanranas, Scissor kicks, and even a solid but kinda stiff-looking 450 which gets him a two count. Cody is Cody, so it’s about what you’d expect from the guy with more teases of him going heel with just how brutal he is towards Sonny Kiss at points, and for me, it was a bit much when Cody for no reason rips off the turnbuckle. Even less convincing is how Sonny manages to reverse a move so that Cody flies into the exposed metal, but I’ll give him credit for somehow reversing a Cross Rhodes; that looked pretty good and was probably the highlight of the match! Cody does eventually win the match by landing a Cross Rhodes, though the major development coming out of this is that Cody only seemed to BARELY win the match which might spell doom for either his title run or his status as the top Babyface. He’s getting a lot meaner and more desperate in the ring which indicates an upcoming heel turn, but he also hugs Sonny at the end of the match which probably means we’re doing the long game with this. Not the best way to open the show as Sonny didn’t look great and Cody couldn’t do much to make it work, but it’s certainly a change of pace to start the show with a title match and I can only hope that the Cody storyline is truly developing towards something instead of just keeping us in suspense for months on end before pulling the plug on it.
FTR Vs. The Lucha Bros
This match was great, though it didn’t have quite the POP of some of the spots in last week’s match; opting to stay at a consistently high level all the way through. I’m still gonna give the edge of The Lucha Bros being the most exciting and beautiful to watch tag team at the company, but FTR has made the most of their time at AEW and continues to have great matches with whoever they face. Dax Hardwood in particular is a good sport here as he takes some rough hits and even starts to bleed from the chest at one point, but he gets his licks in too; especially when he cleans house with some good punches and takes The Lucha Bros to Suplex City. The ending is perhaps what people will be talking about the most where FTR pulls perhaps the DIRTIEST of moves against a luchador to win the match. Rey Fenix has the advantage with a series of good kicks, but out of nowhere, he rips off the mask of Rey Fenix who has to eat the pin to keep his face hidden. I legitimately gasped when that happened which is probably a good reaction for them to get out of me, and I’ll give them credit for finding an unexpected way to get the upper hand on their opponents, but that was a heel move of the highest order and I found the immediate aftermath to be kind of a letdown. I expected some boos, maybe even an announcer shaming them for their action (Excalibur only says that if this match was in Mexico it would have been a disqualification), but instead The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega come out to congratulate FTR like nothing truly despicable had just happened! What happens instead is an advancement of the Omega/FTR feud where Omega brings a cooler of beer as a peace offering and for his efforts gets beer poured on his head by the ungrateful FTR. It was a fantastic match to watch and I’d like to see more of these two teams tear it up in the ring, but I don’t like how they handled the finish. I’m hopeful that The Lucha Bros will get their revenge and their time to shine given what an awful thing happened to Rey Fenix (I could even see a justifiable face turn out of this), but we’ll have to see how it plays out.
Chris Jericho Lights The World On Fire – Who Does He Burn This Time!?
Chris Jericho is an absolute legend, and he manages to prove it constantly; whether it’s thru strong matches, hilarious segments like the Manitoba Melee, and promos as brilliantly executed as this one. As soon as he comes out with The Inner Circle, he starts taking shots at NXT which AEW has been hesitant to do up until this point outside of a one-off jab from Taz, but Jericho is without shame as he throws kerosene on an already inexplicably volatile subject in the wrestling fan community. Since the end of the Monday Night Wars in the nineties, fans have wanted some sort of competition between brands to take a side on and vociferously fight over, and with AEW and NXT going head to head on Wednesdays, ratings have become a HUGE point of discussion. It’s true that NXT has been on the upswing as they’ve beaten AEW for the past few weeks in ratings (wholly unprecedented since this “war” began), but Jericho speaks right to the camera and lets EVERYONE know that the raw number of viewers matters much less than numbers in the key demographics (eighteen for forty-nine years of age) which AEW still maintains a solid lead over NXT with. Wow. And of course he takes FULL credit for it because he’s a heel, but think of the nerve this guy has to get up in front of hundreds of thousands of people and declare his superiority on a statistic that he probably doesn’t have as much sway over as his in-ring character claims to on TV! That was a hell of a lot of fun to watch, but it gets even better from there as he agrees that his match against Orange Cassidy was great and that it did move the demo numbers, but he will NEVER have a rematch with him again no matter how many people ask him to, and this is not something that sits well with our very casual friend who comes out from the crowd just to stare at Jericho and give him a thumbs down. Jericho is not the least bit incensed as he’s the king of the world right now and continues on with his invectives against Orange Cassidy, but he stops laughing when a TORRENT of Orange Juice falls from the sky and douses the entire Inner Circle; shutting Jericho up in the process which is no easy feat for ANY beverage! The best part has to be Ortiz who is selling this like he’s been hit with a fire hose full of acid as he non-stop flops around the ring for no adequately explained reason other than it’s VERY amusing to watch; and to put the icing on this cake, when someone finally gives Jericho a towel… it’s got Orange Cassidy’s face on it. This was AMAZING! I haven’t laughed this hard at an AEW segment since… well, the LAST time Jericho and The Inner Circle did something amazing! I don’t even care if it leads to another match; this is the kind of big moment at a wrestling company that will live on for years to come! Their IT WAS ME AUSTIN, or the Fake Sting at War games; and I hope this plays like five or six times on whatever highlight reel AEW does for Jericho when he finally retires!
It’s worth noting that Jericho switches out for Taz on commentary for the rest of the show and periodically shouts I’M COVERED IN ORANGE JUICE just to remind us of his humiliation!
The Elite (The Young Bucks & Kenny Omega) Vs. Jurassic Express
Where the FTR/Lucha Bros match was great for being a serious-minded high flying spectacular, this one manages to be just as good but as a fun comedy match with some great moves throughout. Kenny Omega in particular does A LOT of selling for Marko Stunt of all people in this match, but for the most part, it’s The Elite doing what they can to put this team over. Unlike the opening match though, it doesn’t really feel like The Elite are slowing themselves down to try and make Jurassic Express look good (aside from MAYBE the overblown selling of Marko Stunt’s moves) as Jurassic Express is a great team in its own right. Jungle Boy in particular looks really good here as he manages to clean house against The Young Bucks with a Swinging DDT looking particularly devastating and the striking exchange between Luchasaurus and Kenny Omega was brutally fun to watch. The only part that felt a bit poorly time was a bit where Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus are supposed to throw Marko Stunt at Kenny Omega, and it takes just a bit too long for them to get the move going with Kenny having to stand there for a few seconds waiting for it. It probably isn’t as fantastic moves wise as the eight-man tag last week, but between this and the FTR/Lucha Bros match, I’ve got to give the edge to this one. I just find the wackiness of some of the set-piece moments overly endearing, and there is some genuine talent on display like when Mark Stunt manages to land a ridiculous Canadian Destroyer on Matt Jackson by jumping off of Luchasaurus shoulders! Similar to the other tag team match though, the part that people will be talking about the most is the ending which I’m also somewhat ambivalent about. It comes down to Marko Stunt and Kenny Omega in the ring. Luchasaurus, in a moment of selflessness that almost brought a tear to my eye, puts himself between Marko and a V-Trigger from Kenny, but the effort is for naught as Marko still eats a V-Trigger and eventually lands a One Winged Angel for the win. After the match is definitively over, Kenny just starts whaling on Marko Stunt out of the blue and has to be dragged off of Marko by The Young Bucks. Needless to say that Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy are pissed about this lack of sportsmanship, but Kenny seems to want to just blow it off which… I guess means we might be getting a heel turn from him as well? I heard some rumblings that SOMETHING was going to happen with Kenny soon, but I don’t know if I want him to be a bad guy. Once again, I’m… uncertain as to whether we’re going in the right direction but I’m cautiously optimistic.
We get a brief interview with Shida after the match, and props to AEW for finally giving her a chance to speak right into the microphone, but… yeah her English could use a bit of work. Actually, that’s a bit unfair. It’s not so much the language barrier as that never stopped Asuka from being a firebrand; I think she just needs to put in some more energy because the Shida we see in these segments isn’t quite lining up with the one we see in the ring.
Speaking of firebrands, we get a brief promo from Jon Moxley who probably doesn’t have much more substance to his speech than Shida did, but his energy and force of personality shine right thru and has got me pumped to finally see him face off with Brian Cage at the end of the show!
The Nightmare Sisters (Brandi Rhodes & Allie) Vs. MJ Jenkins & Kenzie Paige
Brandi is accompanied to the ring by Dustin Rhodes
This is basically a squash match in service of a storyline that I frankly have not been following. I checked and I’m still ALL the way back at the end of January as far as Dark episodes, so everything that happens on there is more or less a mystery for me for the time being. Then again, it’s not THAT hard to grasp what’s going on. With Cody defending his TNT title, everyone else in the nightmare family needs something to do so they’ve got Brandi and Allie teaming up because why not? Brandi does a decent looking Slingblade and Allie finishes it with an elbow of some sorts (it LOOKS like she’s setting up for the Cross Rhodes but instead just drops her opponent with her elbow) to get the pin; nothing much to write home about but not a bad match either.
Nyla Rose’s New Manager – Who Will It Be!?
Okay, so on the shortlist of people who could have been Rose’s manager, Vickie Gurrero was at the top of the list and sure enough, she comes out full of piss and vinegar; screaming her head off and calling out the entire women’s division. I’m sure there’s like a bajillion smartly written examinations of the Vickie Gurrero character and her long storied career, but I barely know anything about her time at WWE. Heck, I don’t even know if she wrestled much as I always assumed she was a manager; similar to the role Selina Vega fills in WWE at the moment. I took a minute to try and get an idea of her place in wrestling, and… wow. On the surface (and from the five or so YouTube clips I saw), it wasn’t great as she was more or less eating abusing from EVERYONE at all times; including big lovable stars like The Rock and John Cena. Then again, looking at some of her past tweets didn’t do a lot to sell me on her either, but then she’s far from the WORST person in wrestling on that front either. Let’s call this a wait and see moment as I have no doubt that AEW is going to treat her better than WWE did, but whether it works out in the long run remains to be seen.
Jon Moxley Vs. Brian Cage – AEW World Championship
Brian Cage is accompanied to the ring by Taz
Taz comes out and as per usual starts things off by spitting fire at Jon Moxley while starring directly at the camera; demanding him to come out to the ring which… I mean he was going to do that ANY WAY, wasn’t he? In any case, Jon Moxley comes out through the crowd like he always does which is a bit distressing because there are WAY more people there than I had realized (why the heck are all these people in the stands!?) and as soon as he steps in the ring the fight is on. Similar to the Lance Archer Vs. Cody match, it’s a classic Big Guy vs Smart Guy match where Moxley is at a distinct disadvantage in power and so has to come up with a different strategy to win the match. Unlike Cody who tried to work in some high flying maneuvers to use Lance’s size against him, Moxley’ plan is pretty straightforward as he tries to work Brian Cage’s left arm which had been rather badly injured in the past and only recovered fairly recently. The match also takes a rather long detour to ringside despite it not being billed as a Falls Count Anywhere match, but if the wrestlers are fine with it and the ref doesn’t feel like counting, than who am I to argue? Cage proves himself to be more than just a slab of well-sculpted meat here as he does a great job with the more brutal extreme style fighting that they do outside of the ring, and there’s a nice running thread here where Moxley keeps trying to set up Cage for devastating weapon spots but because Cage is so strong and such a great wrestler he’s able to outmaneuver Mox and makes HIM take the rough shots instead. Ultimately, it comes down to an endurance match rather than one of technical skill as Cage tries to essentially CRUSH Moxley while Mox tries to work the arm. Cage puts Moxley in a Torture Rack which I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen since Lex Luger in the nineties, and he even does an old school Cobra Clutch to try and get Moxley to tap. The fight goes on and on with the two of them tearing each other apart with submission holds, environmental hazard spots, strikes where Cage has the distinct advantage, and even BIG moves with each one of them doing a superplex onto the other. Moxley even manages to land a Paradigm shift on Cage and only gets a two count which means things are getting dire for the guy, and so ends up finagling the dude into an Arm Breaker. Cage doesn’t seem willing to give Moxley the satisfaction of a submission victory despite the damage it’s doing to his arm, and the two of them are right at the ropes which means that Taz is just inches away from this devastating display. Despite his clear disgust at what he’s about to do, Taz ends up throwing in the towel for Cage to protect the bicep. It’s perhaps the best ending we could have hoped for as Cage still looks pretty strong afterward which was my big concern going into this; especially with Taz building him up with that whole FTW belt thing from last week. Mox is still the champ and won clean, but Brian Cage has room to go from here instead of just hitting the ceiling and getting stuck with Dark matches like some of the other big heels at the company (*cough* Lance Archer *cough* Shawn Spears *cough*). Cage is not happy about the outcome of this match and so he grabs his FTW belt to smash Moxley in the face. He then goes to town on Moxley before the lights go out, and when they come back on, Darby Allin is on the top rope and smashes Cage in the face with his skateboard; putting an end to Cage’s tantrum and bringing this episode to a close in spectacular fashion! It’s great seeing Moxley again after all this time and he managed to have a solid main event with Brian Cage in the process. Perhaps not my favorite match of the night, but the ending worked for me and I was glad to see Darby Allin back, so we’ll call this one a winner!
This was one of the weirdest episodes I’ve seen of Dynamite, and I’m not sure exactly how I feel about it. Aside from the opening match and the women’s squash, the wrestling has been about as good as it’s ever been on this show with some phenomenal tag team action and a satisfying title defense in the main event… but I’m nervous about where we’re going with some of these storylines. Cody might be turning heel, Rey Fenix got his mask ripped off and no one seemed to care, and then Kenny Omega started pounding on a defenseless opponent. It seems like we’re going in some dark directions which COULD pay off in spectacular fashion, but I don’t know if I want any of that. It’s almost like the Faction problem that AE was butting up against at the end of last year where there were too many similar groups vying for attention and clout, only this time it looks to be heel turns and a darker image; not unlike how WCW changed entirely after the formation of the NWO. I think we’ve got enough bad guys for the time being with The Inner Circle, MJF, and The Dark Order (among others like The Butcher and The Blade, Lance Archer, and Shawn Spears), so if it was up to me I’d pump the breaks on a lot of what I’m seeing here, but it’s not my show and for what it’s worth AEW hasn’t made any TRULY terrible decisions on their storylines so far and I can only hope they aren’t going to start now.