AEW Dynamite is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT
After things were so tragically derailed at the end of the year, it’s time for AEW to get things back on track and to hopefully start the New Year off with a bang! With a solid card, celebrity cameos, and a main event with Kenny Omega and Rey Fénix, do they bring enough bang for your buck, or is this a fireworks show that consisting of three sparklers and half a cherry bomb? Let’s find out!!
Young Bucks & SCU Vs. The Acclaimed & TH2 – Eight Man Tag Match
This definitely feels like a filler match which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but despite there being a baked in storyline here with all four teams in some sort of feud it’s mostly just to show off some cool moves and for Kazarian to cut a promo at the end. There are some fun spots here (mostly from The Bucks who clear the ring at least TWICE in this match) and I like that they’re foreshadowing SCU’s promo by having Daniels be the one on the receiving end of the heat segments, but it also means that none of it particularly stuck with me. Jack Evans has a really cool looking spin kick from the apron, There’s a BTE trigger with Nick Jackson and Kazarian, and Angélico is definitely someone who should get more of the spotlight (much like Kazarian), and eventually Matt Jackson and Christopher Daniels finish off Jack Evans with a Meltzer Driver. Short, sweet, and to the point; certainly a solid enough way to start off a show. It’s then time for Kazarian to grab the mic and confirms what was announced on Being The Elite. The next time he and Daniels lose a tag team match, SCU will dissolve and they will be a team any longer. I’m pretty sure Kurt Angle had a similar deal going on in 2010 that eventually went sideways, but it was at TNA and I’m pretty sure AEW can do a better job than them with this kind of story. If nothing else, it’s a chance for Daniels to get the spotlight again before he puts his career to an end.
The Return of Jon Moxley – THE REVENGE!!
Moxley lost the belt four weeks ago and hasn’t been seen since so people are definitely anticipating what has to say here. PERHAPS the plan was for him to skip off to New Japan for their big Wrestle Kingdom show, but either it wasn’t or the Brodie Lee thing knocked everything out of place. In any case, it’s time for his glorious return where he spends five minutes complaining on the mic about how it’s pointless to complain! Okay, that’s a bit glib on my part, but I do find it funny that a PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER would take two minutes coming to the ring just to start by saying that there’s no point in making a big deal about things. He’s willing to take his loss to Omega in stride, but what happens next is going to be nothing short of an Apocalyptic nightmare of The Cleaner and his new buddy Don Callis! Fenix has dibs on Omega tonight, but after that? Well we’ll just have to see! A solid promo from a guy who’s always great at giving promos, but there’s no indication of a direction here other than pointed squarely at Omega. Hopefully he has more to do than just chase him for the belt and can get into a few feuds along the way to make the journey as awesome as what is clearly going to be the destination.
We’re in the back where Dasha Gonzalez is interviewing Chuck and Orange about Trent’s condition. Unfortunately he did tear his pectoral so he’s going to be out for a few months which is pretty bad timing considering how long they’ve been building their feud with Miro and Kip. The show must go on however, and Miro crashes the interview to talk smack about Chuck being the second fiddle in his own team and offers to “take him under his wing” while Trent is getting fixed up. Chuck is an interesting dude with an offbeat persona (it’s no wonder Orange Cassidy gravitated to Best Friends) and I love how dismissive and annoyed he is at Miro throughout this interview. He even agrees to a match where the loser becomes the other’s Young Boy (more or less a servant in wrestling terms) until the Kip/Penelope wedding and he agrees to it just so Miro will go away. Good stuff, and I’m curious where this story will go as I’m fairly certain that Miro is gonna win that bout; making it all the more ballsy for Chuck to accept the stipulation without a moment’s hesitation.
Jake Hager Vs. Wardlow
They are accompanied to the ring by The Inner Circle
Gotta say, I was SO hyped for this match! Two giant lugs in the ring, one kind of a clumsy oaf, trying to lock up and smashing into each other for ten minutes? HECK YES! Seriously, I was hoping that Hager would slip on a banana peel and falls into Wardlow so hard it puts a hole in the ring, but even though that didn’t happen, I rather enjoyed what I saw here. It starts off with a lot of Big Man moves like pushes, squeezes, and takedowns, but it becomes clear that Wardlow is the better of the two. Seriously, Hager is COMPLETELY gassed and gasping for air right as the commercial break starts which is nothing short of what I expected from the big awkward doof! This probably isn’t intentional, but he defintley comes across as “the WWE guy” as in his deficiencies in the ring feel like what WWE covers up in the way that they book their matches, but for whatever reason I find it kind affable coming from Hager which makes it fun to watch; especially when he’s with a guy like Wardlow who seems to know how to carry him through this. Carrying by the way is a VERY appropriate word choice because right after the commercial he just start THROWING Hager across the ring like he’s a ninety pound job guy and Hager does a darn good job selling it! He does eventually make a comeback and even gets the first near fall of the match which is followed by an Ankle Lock. Wardlow manages to escape it with a sloppy looking kick, and soon after that Hager’s on the apron with Wardlow CHARGING at him like a freaking freight train; smashing into him so hard that Hager goes flying backwards into the barricade! Wardlow manages to drag him back into the ring lands a Senton from the top rope for a two count, but Hager reverses it into a Triangle Choke which Wardlow manages to get a rope break for before he taps. Then things get kind of weird as Hager, for whatever reason, tries the Triangle Choke again but does so after dragging Wardlow to the middle rope. I don’t know why he’s doing it up there instead of on the mat, but obviously Wardlow just… drops, which immediately breaks the hold and frees him up to land an F10 on Jake Hager to get the pin. I actually REALLY liked this match and thought they did a great job blowing off the feud here, but that ending kind of left a sour taste in my mouth. Not enough to ruin what we saw leading up to it, but it feels like someone had an idea for something that just didn’t pan out the way they thought it would.
We cut to Private Party in the back celebrating the New Year when none other than Snoop Dogg joins in with a bottle of… what is that, cranberry juice? In any case, Huckster Matt comes in with Private Party’s new contracts and asks them to sign which they seem hesitant to do; all the while Snoop Dogg is just standing there looking at them. I thought that he was going to drop some contact knowledge and point out where Matt is screwing them, but… nope. He’s just standing there as they hash out the final odds and ends of the contract. Okay then! I hope AEW and TNT got their money’s worth with that one!
TNT Title Match Weigh In – How Many Darbys Can Fit In A Brian Cage?
Darby Allin’s first title defense as TNT champ isn’t until next week, and I found it a bit funny when they threw up the graphic telling us he’s been champ for sixty days. I’m not sure why they’ve held off on it for so long, but Brian Cage is a VERY good opponent for him to face and a weigh in, as cheesy as it is, is the perfect way to get across the absurd size difference between them. Brian Cage? TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-TWO POUNDS! Darby Allin? A buck seventy. Darby has never been afraid to face competitors out of his league and few will be as clearly so than Cage, so hopefully it will lead to a darn good match and I’m honestly no sure who will win it. Darby’s got kind of a losing streak because he DOES take on guys much bigger and seasoned then him, and frankly I think Team Taz as a heel faction would get more out of holding the belt than Darby is currently getting from his reign. The segment was fine, but of course there has to be the threat of a brawl and of course Sting comes out to do nothing. I said when he first showed up that he could sit on the side of the ring reading a newspaper all day and AEW would still get their money, but this coming out to the snow thing is starting to get old as once again Team Taz scurries off to leave Sting and Darby in the ring to stare at each other. It was fun seeing Taz yell at the snow and the announcers are doing their best to try and sell this as an epic confrontation between two dueling wits, but I’m kind of over it at this point and I REALLY hope there’s some sort of payoff in the title match next week.
Jake Hager is upset and in the back trying to punch a hole in a metal door when MJF goes in to try and convince him that he’s a WINNER even if he lost this one match. He’s in the best faction at AEW, he’s never lost a match in his MMA career (I guess the No Contest when he hit a low blow doesn’t count), and he managed to stand up after getting into such a hellacious match with Wardlow! This actually ends up working as Hager lets him know that they’re cool much like when he and Santana & Ortiz had their moment a few weeks ago. I’m guessing that MJF’s ultimate plan is to get everyone on his side EXCEPT Sammy, and so when things go down between the two of them that most of The Inner Circle will back him up and turn their back on Sammy. I’m still unsure where Sammy’s gonna go after being tossed out by The Inner Circle (if Broken Matt Hardy was still a thing I could see them finally working together) but at least we’ve got the start of a roadmap on how we’re going to get there.
We get some footage from last night’s episode of Dark where Broide Jr. APPARENTLY came out to taunt Marko Stunt! For a kid, he’s got decent delivery and he IS almost as tall as Marko, but I don’t think we’re heading to a match between them. Instead, we cut to Alex Marvez who’s interviewing Jurassic Express in the back and are interrupted by FTR who make fun of Marko mercilessly. Marko, being a hot tempered little dude that he is, declares that Jurassic Express’s match next week against FTR will be HIM and Jungleboy; not Luchasaurus! After getting so thoroughly inside Hangman Adam Page’s head, it looks like FTR is continuing to use those skills to climb back up the rankings, and Marko’s always had a bit of an anger issue so this was a good way to set that up and I really hope that their match next week is going to tear the house down!
Cody Rhodes Vs. Matt Sydal
Cody is accompanied to the ring by Snoop Dogg
Honestly, AEW’s BEST celebrity get was when they got all those people to do that Manitoba Melee and Snoop Dogg’s contribution to this match was… awkward. He comes with Cody and they’ve got a decent remix of his entrance theme, but as soon as the match starts Snoop doesn’t seem sure what to do. He’s on the ramp the WHOLE time holding Arn’s laminated notes, and he just kinda… watches it. He’s a LITTLE into it as he reacts to stuff that is happening, but he’s not really doing enough to justify the camera being on him THE WHOLE TIME. As for the match itself? Its fine enough I suppose as Cody and Sydal are darn good wrestlers, but I just wasn’t feeling a whole lot here. Cody is sent over the ropes but manages to swing back over them which is an impressive display of upper body strength I couldn’t even CONCEIVE of having, but Sydal kicks him in the head as soon as he flips back over and I thought that was pretty funny. Cody accidently hits Serpentico while outside the ring which distracts him enough for Sydal to get the upper hand, but then he quickly puts Sydal into a Texas Clover Leaf. He doesn’t tap out and the match goes on for a while longer with Cody trying to get the Cross Rhodes but Sydal continually finding a way to wrangle out of it. Eventually though, Sydal lands a jumping knee strike which gets him close enough to Cody to lock in the Cross Rhodes and he lands two of them to get the pin. Serpentico and his tag team partner Luther rush the ring to start pounding on Cody. Matt Sydal fights off Luther and they hold Serpentico down so Snoop Doog can clamber onto the top rope and give the most cautious and safe looking splash you’ve ever seen. He lands on his feet before falling over onto Serpentico, and it looked so bad that it was actually kind of awesome! The match was fine, but I was kind of with Snoop Dogg on this; something worth looking at but nothing to get TOO invested in.
Hikaru Shida Vs. Abadon – AEW Women’s Title Match
I was getting a bad feeling about this match in the last few weeks of build-up, but I’ll be darned if this wasn’t my favorite women’s match in I don’t know how long! Abadon looks like a genuine superstar here as she’s not only a decent wrestler, but she’s got that sense of gravitas and commitment to the character that has defined other great monsters like Undertaker, Kane, and even guys like Abyss. You take note of her whenever she does a move, and they manage to do some VERY fun monster stuff here like when she drags Shida underneath the ring and comes back out with blood dripping out of her mouth! It’s VERY much the kind of match I want from Abadon and after the last confrontation I was sure AEW was trying to hedge their bets on delivering it! I WANT the goofy blood and nonsense and for what it’s worth it managed to deliver all that while still giving us a solid match, and frankly it helped Shida too! Outside of Nyla Rose matches, and even those have worked to diminishing returns, she never seems to be up against someone who genuinely challenges her. Even the Thunder Rosa matches didn’t have much of a spark to them for me as they didn’t have any history or bad blood to make the match feel like it MEANS something. Here, she’s not exactly fighting from underneath, but she’s having to fight someone in a way that she hasn’t had to before, and it definitely ends up taking a toll on her. There are a few issues to the match though, and the most glaring for me are the announces who WON’T SHUT UP AND JUST LET ABADON BE ABADON! I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to believe in the gimmick and yet they keep trying to explain her as if the makeup is some sort of lifestyle choice. Look, I know The Undertaker isn’t dead, I know that Kane isn’t his brother, and I know that The Fiend is just Bray Wyatt wearing a mask, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to play along with the characters and the gimmicks! I know that wrestling is staged and the finishes are pre-planned, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get into the matches! Just let Abadon be whatever it is she’s trying to be, and frankly let Kris Statlander be an alien! Who cares!? It’s more fun that way! The other issue didn’t bother me as much, but I though the match ended way too early and on a bit of squib. For all the menace they used to build up Abadon, she gets taken out by a Running Knee after a very breezy ten minute runtime; no doubt a devastating move in Shida’s move set, but one that we’ve seen people kick out of before and frankly Abadon should have kicked out of it TWICE. Perhaps there’s a bigger and better match between them in an upcoming PPV, but they should have at least given her a few more kick outs and she should have done the Undertaker sit up after getting pinned to show that it’s not over yet. I’ve always been interested in Abadon because of her unique look and this match cemented her as someone worth taking seriously in this division. If this is just the first step of a larger program or even a solid push then it does its job quite well and I hope to see more from her VERY soon!
Kenny Omega Vs. Rey Fénix – AEW World Title Match
Kenny is accompanied to the ring by Don Callis
Fénix has had a run of bad luck recently, but holy CRAP does he remind you why he’s such a big name in this business! This match between him and Omega is REALLY amazing and is hopefully a clue as to what we should expect from Omega’s run as champion because if EVERY title defense is like this then I NEVER want him to drop the belt! Lots of flips, dives, bumps, and both are selling it for all its worth; especially Kenny who has completely embraced his role as the cartoonish heel and flails his arms whenever he’s hit and stares in bewildered indignation whenever Fénix outmaneuvers him! The height that Fenix is getting on these Springboards is unreal and he really could be the AEW Champion given his skill level, but Omega is no slouch and manages to keep up with Fénix despite everything he throws at him. Perhaps my favorite spot and one that got an instant replay was when Fenix flipped over Kenny and landed a German Suplex as soon he lands, but even if that didn’t do it for you there’s a hundred other moves that will blow your mind! PERHAPS it goes a bit long as it’s a solid half hour of action and they DEFINITELY start taking their time to catch their breath during the commercial break, but it’s definitely better than cutting a match off too early like they did in the Women’s Title match. When we come back from commercial it starts to swing in Kenny’s direction as he gets the heat on Rey but can’t seem to keep him down long enough to get a three count even with the V-Trigger. Kenny then tries the One Winged Angel which I’m now wondering if it’s the MOST escaped move in all of wrestling because Fénix slides off his back and gives him a Hurricanrana that plants him on the mat. Despite Don Callis’s attempts to distract Fénix, he takes a significant advantage at this point and gets a VERY close two count on Kenny after a devastating pile driver. Fénix goes to the top rope for a Frog Splash, but Kenny gets the knees up and it knocks the wind out of Fénix so badly that spit flies out of his mouth and he’s lucky that that’s ALL he spat up! It’s basically over for Fénix at that point as Kenny lands a few moves before landing the One Winged Angel to get the pin and retain the title. That said, something VERY strange happened during the three count. For whatever reason, Fénix pumps his fist in the air; not in the way you’d do if you were kicking out, but he still got his shoulder up, right? Ref Aubrey counts the pin and Fénix doesn’t argue otherwise (neither do the announcers), but he so BLATANTLY and CLEARLY got his shoulder up doing whatever this fist pump thing was! Other than that, I think this was a darn near perfect match, and even if it was a bit long I wouldn’t have cut a single moment out of it. This could have easily been a PPV match, but they gave it away on TV and I am very thankful for it!
After the match, Don Callis grabs the mic and starts cutting a promo when he’s informed of some shenanigans going on in the back. It looks like Penta and Pac are (very unconvincingly) getting attacked by Eddie Kingston and his crew so I guess they’re joining up with Omega, and with no one to save Fénix, Omega goes to land another One Winged Angel on him. Then Jon Moxley comes running out of the back with a barb wire bat, and knocks Omega in the stomach which sends Don Callis running out of the ring and he tries to talk Moxley down before he does more damage. Thankfully for him and his meal ticket Omega, none other than Gallows and Anderson (former WWE talent, former members of the Bullet Club at New Japan, and now Impact Tag Team Champions) run out and destroy Moxley; leaving him to get a taste of his own medicine as Omega menaces him with the barb wire bat. A bunch of Jobbers try to hit the ring and make the save, but the three of them manage to fend them all off and Omega finally gets his shot at Moxley’s stomach with the barb wire bat. Matt and Nick Jackson run out to try and make peace, and while they do manage to stop Omega, Gallows, and Anderson from causing more destruction, the show ends on a rather ambiguous note as the two of them join the other three in giving the Too Sweet hand gesture which is a sign of The Bullet Club. Will they reform the group and tear AEW apart? I guess we’ll have to wait until next week to find out!!
This is a weird one because its equal parts AWESOME and AWKWARD. The Omega/Fénix, the Women’s Title Match, even the Hager/Wardlow match were all fun to watch and started AEW’s year off right. Then again, some of the promos didn’t exactly land for me, Snoop Dogg ended up being a distraction, and more than anything else the announcers seemed off their game today. Despite Jericho joining in which usually steps things up, there were a lot of awkward silences and jokes that didn’t land which distracted a little bit here and there and added to the slightly off atmosphere of the whole show. Still, there’s no way you can deny the main even was amazing and the angel after the match was pretty darn good as well! After things go rather dark for AEW, it’s definitely looking like a bright future is ahead of them. Let’s just cut a BIT back on the celebrity cameos and get the announce team all on the same page.