Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (04-07-2021)

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

AEW has been knocking it out of the park in recent weeks with last week’s show being one of the best episodes they’ve done in some time!  Still, it’s going to be a rough week for AEW to win the night as NXT’s final show, which is ALSO one of their Takeover events, is stacked from top to bottom with PPV caliber matches.  Can AEW put on something to compete with NXT in their final head to head week before NXT moves to Tuesday nights, or are they gonna call this one a loss from the get go?  Let’s find out!!

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Hangman Adam Page Vs. Max Caster

Caster is accompanied to the ring by Anthony Bowens

A few days ago, Dave Meltzer made a very good examination of AEW’s booking and the flaws that have crept up the last year; mostly due to the inflating roster leading to stories that are much more thinly spread.  It was a good point and Dave made it well, but for me the bigger problem is Dark and Elevation and how they affect the ranking system.  As Max Castor entered the ring, a guy we haven’t seen in weeks and rarely if ever wins matches on Dynamite, is announced as the NUMBER THREE CONTENDER.  I checked the website after the show, and he is right below Jon Moxley and two spots above Cody Rhodes; something that simply DID NOT translate in this match as even the commentators kept referring to him as a rookie.  Dark and Elevation are GREAT for getting some of these new guys ring time and for putting on some fun matches that may not have worked on Wednesdays, but using matches on there for the TV rankings ends up being jarring for us who only keep up with Dynamite.  Perhaps wins and losses should only count if they’re on Dynamite, or maybe should book people on Dynamite BEFORE they’re in the top five.  In any case, Caster ends up proving the flaws in this system as he gets systematically destroyed by The Hangman with his only moments of dominance due to Anthony Bowens’ interference.  The match is fine I suppose as a one sided beat down, but I’m just not sold on Caster as a particularly interesting heel; either when he’s getting beat up or when he’s cheating his way to the top.  That said, it could be that the match itself is kind of booked blandly and even Hangman seems kind of boring in this.  There’s this overly convoluted spot where he puts Caster crotch first on the guard rail before SLOWLY getting up on the guard rail himself to do a jumping clothesline, and yet it’s PROBABLY the most interesting spot in the whole match?  I mean what else is there?  Caster working over Hangman’s arm?  Using a chain to get a cheap shot that only gets a two count?  It just never had much of a spark for me and by the time Hangman got the Buckshot Lariat I was ready for it to be over.  AEW almost always delivers on the opening match and while this wasn’t TERRIBLE, it just wasn’t up to their usual standards.

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After the match, Tony calls Death Triangle to the ring to announce that their title match against The Bucks will be next week, but before the trio can give their big speech they’re interrupted by Orange Cassidy’s music as he, The Best Friends, and Kris Statlander walk out to the ramp.  A man of few words, he lets the Titantron do the talking as we see clips of Death Triangle making his life miserable back in 2020 before Pac was off the show for several months; including that one spot where Fenix came out and nearly took Cassidy’s head off with a jump kick that STILL looks utterly terrifying even though we know Cassidy was okay.  Pac in particular is unimpressed with this display as he’s convinced they’re just trying to ride Death Triangles coat tails going into their title match, which… fair enough I suppose.  Trent doesn’t deny the discrepancy in their status as The Best Friends aren’t even ranked at the moment, but he does want Death Triangle to know that they are coming for them.  Maybe not this week, maybe not the next, but at some point they will be settling this score.  Hey, even if this does end up being a slow burn it’s at least a slow burn that I’m interested in seeing play out and frankly Death Triangle need as many excuses as possible to wrestle together.  A decent segment that certainly did its job, though I hope they have a plan for Kris Statlander other than to stand on the sidelines while everyone else has something to do in this storyline.

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The Inner Circle Is Back!  Reunited And It Feels So Good!!

For a while there it was teased that Sammy would go Baby Face while the rest of the Inner Circle remained Heels and would clash with him.  I always thought this was a bad idea given his in ring style (and his real life issues) and perhaps AEW thought so as well because now the ENTIRE Inner Circle is going Baby Face as they so aptly show in this segment.  I mean I don’t know how you’re gonna convince people that Jake Hager is a nice guy, but Jericho does all the talking here anyway so that’s a problem for another day.  The speech goes on for a bit too long.  I like Jericho, but I think his Heelish smack talking works more than his Good Guy snark and it’s kinda redundant as he doesn’t say anything we don’t already know.  MJF is a piece of trash that Jericho wanted to keep close at hand, but he never expected things to go down this way and he’s sorry for whoever got hurt in the process; an impressive feat considering that Jericho couldn’t even utter those words a year ago!  He goes on for a while longer making fun of MJF and The Pinnacle (as well as throwing shade at Jobbers like Peter Avalon and Michael Nakazawa) before getting to his point which is that The Inner Circle and The Pinnacle will meet in the ring on May fifth; not for a singles match, not for a tag team match, not even for a cage match, but for a Blood and Guts match!  Yes, the match that was put on indefinite hold since the start of the pandemic is being brought out next month!  I’m… not sure this is a great idea as the whole reason for them holding it off was to bring it back in front of a big crowd, and this either means that they gave up on that idea when we are SO CLOSE to getting crowds again, or they’re going to do something risky at the last minute and let A LOT more people into Daily’s Place for the show.  On top of that it feels WAY too soon considering this feud just started and a match like Blood and Guts should be the blow off to a months-long program.  I’m a bit skeptical about the direction and pace of all this, but I’m still very interested to see where all of this is going.

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Dasha is in the back interviewing Christian Cage who talks about how glad he is to be back in the ring and getting his blood pumping again, but of course he gets interrupted; this time by Taz who offers him a spot on his team.  Actually, with the imminent Brian Cage split, it’d be a pretty good idea if he went with Christian Cage!  I mean all the other old timers get a younger protégé, and while I never in a million years would have expected Cage to break off from Taz, I think he’d work well with Cage!  He’s not the workhorse that Frankie Kazarian is, but he can put on some great matches and always surprises you with his agility, so I say let’s do it!

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Jurassic Express Vs. Bear Country (Bear Bronson & Bear Boulder) – Godzilla Vs. Kong Match

In case you were wondering, there are no special stipulations for this match; they just took two animal themed tags teams and had them do a match after showing a trailer for the movie.  Fair enough I suppose as they did somethings similar with The Best Friends and Rick & Morty, and I remember that much being a lot of fun.  Still, Bear Country haven’t exactly proven themselves on Dynamite yet so they’re gonna have to pull out all the stops to make this work, and ultimately they just need more work.  After a strong start from Jungle Boy with some backup from Luchasaurus, there’s a pretty bad botch from Bear Country right before the commercial break.  Boulder has Jungle Boy in the Powerbomb position and Luchasaurus tries to give him a Cross Body from the middle rope; hoping that his momentum combined with Jungle Boy’s weight is enough to knock Boulder down.  It doesn’t and Luchasaurus bounces off the front of Boulder in an INCREDIBLY awkward heap.  I mean granted it makes Boulder look good that he was able to stand, but it’s clear by the way that Boulder held his arms out that he was supposed to CATCH Luchasaurus and not let him flop to the ground.  I mean look, I could forgive that as botches happen to even the best of wrestlers, but I’m watching Bear Country and I’m just not getting anything from them.  They don’t have the look to be intimidating big guys like AOP were, they don’t have the charm to be endearing big guys like Heavy Machinery were, and they don’t have the depth of talent to rely on that like FTR.  I mean I’m just looking at their faces and they don’t seem to have any expression while wrestling.  They barely play to the crowd, they don’t smirk when they get the advantage, they don’t even particularly grimace or do that much selling when they take shots!  It looks like they’re trying to remember what their next move is and in doing so don’t even seem to be THERE!  Thankfully Jurassic Express have enough charm to carry this and Bear Country are good at getting their but kicked by Luchasaurus during his hot tag.  Things start to escalate as everyone jumps into the ring and to Bear Country’s credit they do a DOUBLE CANNONBALL which I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen before, but even this wasn’t enough to put away the dinosaur as it only gets them a two count.  There’s another REALLY awkward spot here where Boulder has Bronson on his shoulders and I THINK the idea is that he’s going to drop him on Luchasaurus, but they hold there for like five seconds and you can see Luchasaurus and Boulder giving directions in the ring before Jungle Boy rushes in to drop kick Boulder’s knee.  Things happen for another minute or two before Luchasaurus has Bronson alone and lands a Choke Slam followed by a Mesozoic Moonsault to get the pin.  JR, as soon as the bell rings, says that the match was bowling shoe ugly which is a rather apt description.  I disagree with him however when he says that he still LOVED it as this was not a great showing for either team.  I’m gonna hold back from writing Bear Country off completely because it wasn’t the best night for Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy either (they look MISERABLE as Ref Turner lifts their hands in victory) but they are on thin ice after this.

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We get a video of QT Marshall introducing his new faction and reiterating once again how much he hates Cody.  Nick Comoroto and Aaron Solow don’t say much, but they let Anthony Ogogo give a big speech about how famous he is in the UK and what a great athlete he is.  I’ll say this, he’s definitely got the charisma to bet he mouth piece of this faction!  How he fares in the ring?  Well we’ll just have to wait and see, but I have hope for this new faction as it definitely FEELS like something different from everything else at AEW.  Kind of like the FTR gimmick about being consummate professionals, only with Ogogo it has a bit more of a shoot angle to it with him being a celebrity athlete in another sport.

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The next segment is… a little bit weird.  It’s Tony once again announcing Sting who gets interrupted almost immediately by Jake and Archer, but THIS time Sting finally grabs the mic to say something.   Instead of burying Archer though, he instead calls him a great main event guy and tells Roberts to get the lead out in pushing him for bigger matches.  After all, he’s his manager right?  With the verbal equivalent of a swift pat on the butt and a “go get ‘em, Tiger!”, Sting sends Archer on his way as he and Jake plan whatever comes next for them.  I certainly didn’t expect THAT to happen, but honestly it was perhaps the most interesting direction to take this as yet another feud just like the Team Taz one would have been a bit much so soon after that one ended.

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Darby Allin Vs. JD Drake – TNT Title Match

Darby is accompanied to the ring by Sting while Drake is accompanied by Cezar Bononi and Ryan Nemeth

I haven’t seen Drake in action before and my initial impression is Knockoff Eddie Kingston.  That may sound a bit dismissive, but honestly this is my favorite match on the show so far as Drake proves a decent foil for Darby.  He’s usually outsized in his matches so Darby selling endlessly for his opponent is nothing new, but Drake clearly finds this kid insufferable and it only adds to the drama as he’s doing everything he can to break this kid.  It actually reminds me a bit of Will Hobbs’ first match on Dynamite which was against Darby and the guy just rolled his eyes every time he stomped a fresh mud hole into this kid and he just kept coming back for more.  Drake isn’t as interesting a wrestler as Hobbs is, but he his moments to shine for sure.  There’s also some fun stuff going on outside the ring as Nemeth tries to get in Darby’s face early into the match and Sting simply chases him out of the stadium.  Well I say “chase”, but it’s the horror movie slasher kind of chase where he just walks slowly towards him (bat in tow) as Nemeth stumbles his way out of the stadium with a horrified expression on his face.  Not sure what Bononi is doing (did he get hit by Sting’s bat some point?), but for all intents and purposes Drake and Darby are alone in this match and just have a straight up brawl.  Drake shrugs off most of Darby’s moves and he makes sure that his comebacks are devastating with a leg drop from the top rope that practically knocks Darby out, and this REALLY cool spot on the outside where he somehow manages to throw him in such a way that he flies up, bounces off the ropes, and eats a forearm from Drake as he comes back down!  That was TEN times better than anything we saw from Bear Country and they could really learn a thing or two from Drake!  Darby isn’t doing great after that and even eats a Vader Bomb from Drake, but the kid is tenacious and manages to kick out at two.  As is the mistake of most wrestlers after their opponent kicks out at two, Drake goes for the desecrating high spot and misses a Moonsault from the top rope that allows Darby to get back up and mount a comeback.  The two start fighting on the top rope and Darby manages to land an Avalanche Code Red followed by a Coffin Drop to win the match and retain the title!  And of course because they swore revenge against him last week, Darby Allin is bum rushed by Hardy Family Office on the ramp but are soon pushed back by their OTHER rivals The Dark Order.  The post-match angle felt REALLY extraneous, but aside from that the whole match was a lot of fun and easily the highlight of the show so far!  I can only hope that Darby does open challenges like these every week the same way Cody did when was the TNT champ!

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Jericho is in the back giving an interview when MJF and The Pinnacle rush him and drag his butt to the ring for an unholy beat down as the crowd watches on in terror.  The Inner Circle WOULD have run out by now, but apparently The Pinnacle were able to lock them INSIDE of their own dressing room and they are frantically breaking down the door to try and make the save.  I don’t know how that works as doors usually are meant to lock people out instead of in, but regardless Jericho is all alone with no one to help him as The Pinnacle set up a table to toss him through.  Right as Wardlow has him set up for the Power Bomb, Mike Tyson (yes THAT Mike Tyson) rushes out and makes the save and punches the crap out of Shawn Spears right as The Inner Circle comes running in.  In case Tyson’s intentions are not clear, he picks up Jericho, stares at him for a bit, and then gives him a big ol’ hug right in the middle of the ring!  A bit of a swerve considering Tyson and Jericho were supposed to be feuding last year, but this goes to show just how much The Inner Circle have truly changed if Mike Tyson (truly a paragon of moral righteousness) thinks Jericho is a swell guy now!  Yeah alright, people like him on social media and he had that big PPV, so I guess he’s not in a position to be booked as a heel, and hopefully he actually DOES something this time unlike his last run at AEW.

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Tay Conti Vs. The Bunny

Conti is accompanied to the ring by The Dark Order while The Bunny is accompanied by Hardy Family Office

The match is okay I guess as its certainly better than the Bear Country match, but it unfortunately has to follow the Darby Allin match and a pretty significant story segment with a big celebrity and so this didn’t have much a chance to stand out.  Two things jumped out at me in this match; The Bunny is a pretty good wrestler, and she also tries WAY too hard to be a heel.  Her style reminds me a bit of the brat shtick that Liv Morgan was doing when she was part of the Riott Squad, but I think it would serve her better to cut back on the shouting and tongue wagging and have a more subdued sort of villainy.  The Butcher and the Blade present themselves as ruthless killers, so why not The Bunny?  In any case, The Bunny takes an early lead but keeps getting too cocky and gives Tay opportunities to escape.  A Spinning Back Breaker leads to the comeback for Tay, but it doesn’t take long for The Bunny to halt her in her tracks with a Thrust Kick and goes for her finisher but Tay fights out of it.  Hardy then tries to distract Tay from the apron but even with that she manages to land the Tay-K-O to… NOT get the pin!  Bunny kicks out at two and Tay gives one of the most over the top surprised faces I’ve seen in a while.  Now for whatever reason Shida has been outside the ring cheering on Tay which The Bunny hasn’t taken kindly to, so she attacks Shida and takes her kendo stick which she uses to attack Tay while Ref Aubrey is distracted by The Dark Order and Hardy Family Office brawling outside.  Before she can get to the top rope and dive on the dazed Tay however, Shida comes back and distracts her while Tay runs up to punch her in the face!   A Superplex from the middle rope followed by a D-D-Tay are enough to finally put the Bunny away and for Tay to win the match; a match that was… fine I guess.  Nothing particularly wrong with it, but in an episode of mediocre matches this didn’t exactly raise the bar.

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The Young Bucks & Jon Moxley Vs. The Good Brothers & Kenny Omega – Six Man Tag Match

Omega is accompanied to the ring by Don Callis

Doesn’t this seem like it should be a PPV match?  I mean sure, Dynamite has not been shy about giving us big matches on TV, but you’ve got the Kenny/Moxley feud AND the Bucks/Good Brothers feud all in one and without any real stakes involved.  There’s no stipulation, no belts on the line, and no indication that anything that happens in this match is going to affect things going forward, so while it’s a good group of wrestlers to be sure I’m just not feeling the WEIGHT of it going in.  It starts off well enough with The Bucks and Moxley get an early advantage, but eventually Gallows gets the heat on Moxley and he works him over for quite a Moxley fights his way to the corner and gives Nick Jackson the hot tag where he takes out Gallows and Anderson at the same time.  He chases Gallows outside to land one more kick to the face, but Anderson is ready when Jackson comes back to the ring and gives him a Spine Buster which forces both sides to get a tag.  Omega and Matt are now in the ring and Kenny is VERY hesitant to face him which proves to be for good reasons as Kenny can’t even defend himself against Jackson’s offense, but with Kenny on wobbly legs and in prime position for a Superkick… Matt just can’t do it.  Instead he confronts Omega who slaps him and they brawl for a bit before everyone else starts running in to a do move.  It ends with Matt and Omega alone in the ring once again but Kenny gets the jump on him with a series of Snap Dragon Suplexes, but before he can land the V-Trigger he gets clotheslined by Moxley who comes in out of nowhere and leaves as soon as he came in.  From there, they start to hammer home the point that The Bucks can end this without much effort, but Matt is simply not able to put Moxley away with a big move.  It gets to the point where him and Nick are setting up for the BTE Trigger… but Matt just can’t do it.  They set it up again after Moxley gives him a stern talking to… but he still can’t do it.  Moxley simply can’t take this anymore and tags himself in to lay into Moxley with A Paradigm Shift, another Paradigm Shift, and a Rear Naked Choke.  By the time Moxley starts setting up for the third Paradigm Shift, Matt just can’t take any more and he Superkicks Moxley in the face.  Nick Jackson, sticking with his brother, ALSO Superkicks Moxley which is enough to knock him out and forces Eddie Kingston to come out of the back on his bad leg to try and shout some sense into the two of them.  Instead he eats a Magic Killer from The Good Brothers on the ramp which can’t have done much to help with his recovery, and The Good Brothers drag Omega’s lifeless carcass on top of Moxley’s lifeless carcass which I guess is enough to count as a pin fall.  I’d figure the blatant interference by the illegal men would have nullified it, but what do I know.  In any case, The Good Brothers lift Moxley up and start telling The Bucks to give him a Superkick… and they do!  Despite their hesitancy at doing it to their opponent who’s been nothing but a jerk to them these last few months, they are eventually convinced to do it to their own teammate, and the episode comes to an end with the group hugging it out and The Bucks’ future a lot darker than we had expected going into this.

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AEW has been slipping in the ratings recently and I don’t think this episode is doing them any favors.  Sure the TNT title defense was great and there was certainly some shifts in the title picture at the end of the show, but almost nothing else did much more than fill the time and move pieces into play.  I don’t doubt that The Inner Circle and The Pinnacle will have some great matches, but Jericho working the mic for eight minutes straight felt a bit much and getting saved by a non-wrestler celebrity later on just felt like over seasoning the stew.  I like that Lance Archer getting in Sting’s face AGAIN had something of a twist to it this week, but it feels like a wasted opportunity as they could have just throw Archer in the ring and fight someone as a way to prove himself.  Then again, even when the show DID just shut up and wrestle it wasn’t all that great.  Max Caster is fine but he and Hangman didn’t do much in the opening, the Bear Country/Jurassic Express match was a complete mess, and the women’s match was pretty humdrum despite the division being at an all-time high in terms of match quality and prestige.  AEW is going to slip up every once in a while and this is definitely one of those weeks where it wasn’t just low by their standards but actively tedious to sit through and I can only hope that next week brings a bit more to the table.

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