Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (12-29-2021) – New Year’s Smash

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

Let me tell you all a bit of how this whole process works; a small peek behind the curtain if you will.  What I usually do is watch an episode of Dynamite with a blank word document open and write down what I see or things that I find interesting before going back and organizing it into a coherent recap of events.  This means that the part you’re reading at the front of the recap, this piece here, is usually done towards the end of the process as I try to find an appropriate bridge between the events of last week’s show and what we get here.  So why am I talking about this now?  Well, I had most of this piece finished and ready to go when the freaking Snow Miser vomited up eight inches of snow in my area and my power was out for almost four days, so while this recap of a show from 2021 is about as timely as a Holiday card that got lost in the mail, I’m gonna post this for completion’s sake while keeping things nice and quick for the next few recaps as I try to catch up before the heat death of the universe!  So without further ado, on with the show!!

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The Return of JR – All Hail The Hat!!

JR’s fight with skin cancer was definitely a weight that hung over AEW for the last few weeks, but what better way to end the year than with the triumphant return of wrestling’s greatest commentator!?  We all wish him the best of health and happiness, and I’m sure he’s glad to be back doing what he loves!

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Jurassic Express, Lucha Bros, and Christian Cage  Vs. FTR, Private Party, and Matt Hardy – Ten-Man Tag Match

Lucha Bros are accompanied to the ring by Alex Abrahantes while FTR are accompanied by Tully Blanchard

I had a bad feeling about this when they first announced it, and for the most part, I was vindicated as the match is pretty bland outside of a few key moments here and there.  It’s not like anyone is doing anything wrong here, but there’s no fire here as it feels like what a lot of these overstuffed matches turn into; spot fests without much of a story and only the prospect of cool moves to keep us invested.  The first spark of life for me was when Quen hits a Hurricanrana on Jungle Boy that sends him flying into Matt Hardy for a Side Effect which is the start of the heat segment.  Matt Hardy may not be as fast or athletic as the younger guys, but he still carries a lot of charisma and the crowd really seemed into it when he finally got a chance to hit his big move, but it’s still not great that it took ten minutes for them to do something that perked my interest. Once the heat segment is over, we get some good stuff with The Lucha Bros and Private Party, but it’s all a mess as I can’t follow the tags anymore, and the story only comes into it once Luchasaurus finally gets the hot tag.  He kicks some serious butt for a bit until Penta blind tags himself in to the surprise and consternation of Luchasaurus, and the chaos only intensifies as everyone runs in to hit a move; eventually leaving Penta and Dax alone in the ring.  Penta starts setting up for the Fear Factor, which is odd since it’s a Spiked Pile Drive and Rey is nowhere to be seen, but then Christian Cage tags himself in.  The two argue for a bit until Cash runs in and throws Penta out before he and Dax hit the Big rig on Cage to get the three count and win the match.  Everything about this felt perfunctory and just there to show these guys in front of a crowd.  Even the parts of it that advanced the story felt token and lazy with Cage IMMEDIATELY eating a fatal move the moment he gets in which of course was prompted by Penta just standing there setting up for a move that Rey was there to finish.  I guess it serves the purpose of getting the Baby Faces mad at each other, but there had to have been more interesting ways to go about that.

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Proud N Powerful & Eddie Kingston Vs. 2.0 & Daniel Garcia – Trios Tag Match

If ten people in the ring ended up being too many for an exhilarating story arc to play out in the ring, then surely reducing the participants by forty percent would mean a greater chance for interesting character moments, right?  Well, it would have helped if they didn’t give us the exact same match again, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.  The action remains solid with all six guys putting on a good show, and it helps that these six guys are slightly less overexposed than everyone in the last match, but it just feels like a match going through the motions.  The Baby Faces get a strong lead with Kingston chomping at the bit to bum rush the Heels at every moment while Santana and Ortiz do most of the work.  Speaking of whom, weren’t they supposed to get a match against the Lucha Bros at some point!?  I’ve been waiting to see that since the Lucha Bros won the title and frankly it’d be WAY more interesting to see than yet another FTR match or even Jurassic Express match!  In any case, they control most of this match and Ortiz gives the Heels only a modest length Heat segment so that Kingston can get the hot tag and run wild for a bit.  Now with the Faces dominating so much of this match, you do expect something to go wrong at some point that will lead to the finish, right?  Maybe one of the Heels hits a big move, maybe one of the Faces tries for a top rope move and ends up botching it, or maybe they’ll just roll up Santana and get the pin immediately.  Wait, what!?  I mean sure, Matt Lee got the knees up on a Standing Moonsault (not top rope, middle rope, or even bottom rope; just a backflip on the mat!) and he also grabbed the trunks during the pin, but the finish still feels completely anticlimactic and makes the Baby Faces look like chumps!  It’s at this point that we see what this whole match was for, and much like the first one, it’s a collection of moves to distract us until they get to the end and move the story forward a bit.  At least with this one though, the place we’re moving the story to is pretty interesting as the Heels proceed to stomp on the Baby Faces (do wrestlers lose all their power when they lose a match; even if they were COMPLETELY dominant leading up to it?) and none other than Chris Jericho runs out with Floyd the Bat to chase the heels away!  I guess his tour with Fozzy is over for the time being, and he’s back to bring the Inner Circle back together; though not without some friction from Eddie Kingston whose hot-headed bravado gets the best of him as he bucks up to Chris Jericho despite the guy saving his butt.  I’m glad that Jericho is back, but this is now the second match of the night that just did nothing for me, and I can only hope things improve from here.

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MJF is in the back with Shawn Spears and Wardlow where he rags on CM Punk again and says that he’s TOTALLY over this feud they have.  Fair enough I suppose, but then we take a hard right turn onto Foreboding Boulevard as MJF starts giving a pep talk to Wardlow and instructs him to win a bunch more matches so he can qualify for an upcoming Ladder Match that will ensure a shot at the TNT Title.  See, he wants Wardlow to win the belt because, according to his contract that Mark Sterling walks into frame to helpfully explain, anything that Wardlow wins is to be forfeited to MJF.  Yes, they are threatening to redo the Finger Poke of Doom which is I GUESS an idea, and if Wardlow really is turning on MJF, then I can’t imagine a better time for him to do it, but that’s a pretty grim specter to call upon and I’m not sure that referencing another infamous screw-job after two lackluster matches is setting the right tone for this show.

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Wardlow Vs. Colin Delaney

Warlow is accompanied to the ring by Shawn Spears

Okay, now this is just not fair anymore!  Colin Delaney is one of the most jobber-looking jobbers I’ve ever seen and is barely taller than Ref Remsberg!  Can we at least have Wardlow fight someone in his own weight class!?  Delaney gets a waist lock that goes nowhere before eating a Clothesline that turns him inside out, and Wardlow begins his Powerbomb Bonanza!  Spears, of course, looks pissy about this for reasons I still cannot fathom, but as soon as Wardlow gets the pin he hits Colin in the back with his chair so all’s well that ends well I suppose.  Even if the Wardlow Job-A-Thon is starting to feel a LITTLE long in the tooth, it at least still feels fresher than what we got in the last two matches, and they kept it nice and quick so that it didn’t overstay its welcome.

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The Young Bucks and New Undisputed Era (New-Disputed Era if you will) are in the back, but there’s tension between the new guy Kyle O’Reilly and the Bucks.  Cole is basically playing peace-maker between his two friend groups who aren’t exactly jiving, and this seems to be particularly annoying to Kyle who doesn’t think Cole should split himself like this and is better of committing himself to reforming the New-Disputed Era!  I’d definitely be interested in a Bucks/Era feud if that’s the direction we’re going in, but I don’t think AEW is gonna break up this group just yet; at least not until they can justify a PPV match for it.

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Dan Lambert is ranting in the ring with Men of the Year backing him up, and I’m right back to being annoyed with him; especially when he starts laying in sexist jokes on Brandi Rhodes.  Not one to take an insult lying down, Brandi comes out with a mic and starts spitting barbs back at him; calling him a half-assed Paul Heyman.  They go back and forth for a bit with material that is one step above Yo’ Mama jokes, and it gets so heated that Lambert and Brandi are about to have a match right there in the ring.  Of course they can’t do that on television, so Dustin comes in to break it up before eating a right hook from Ethan Page.  The Heels leave with smug looks on their face as Brandi checks on Dustin, so… I guess Scorpio Sky is getting a TNT title match soon?  On another show, I might have been alright with this, but this episode has done a lot of beating around the bush to get to the point of something, and having an in-ring segment where the champ doesn’t even show up makes it feel like a tangent more than anything else.

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Thunder Rosa Vs. Jade Cargill – TBS Tournament Semi-Finals

Cargill is accompanied to the ring by Mark Sterling

We’re halfway through this show and we FINALLY have a match (that isn’t a one-minute squash) that I can get behind! First and foremost, it feels like there’s an actual strategy here and some push and pull dynamics between the two wrestlers; Rosa starts by immediately going for the legs which is the first thing you should do anytime you fight an opponent bigger than you!  Make it hard for them to stand and you can completely deflate their offense!  Of course, Jade isn’t about to let Rosa do this without a fight, and even Mark Sterling gets in on the action by putting himself between the two after Cargill rolls out of the ring.  He eats a Senton from Rosa that leaves him flat on the floor, but he did what he needed to and Jade manages to grab Rosa in the confusion.  She throws her into the barricade and keeps the pressure high as they brawl outside the ring, but, Rosa keeps focused and manages to hit a Dragon Screw into the ropes that does some damage to Cargill’s knee.  There is one awkward spot where I THINK Rosa botches a flying elbow as she goes up to the middle rope but kind of just stumbles off it before hitting an elbow after she lands.  Thankfully Cargill follows up with a very good-looking Pump Kick and we head into the commercial with Cargill back in control.  The match continues on like this for a while longer with Cargill trying to crush Rosa while Rosa tries to make it harder for Cargill to do said crushing (a Torture Rack has to be cut short as Cargill’s leg gives out), and things really start to look bad once Rosa hooks her into a Figure Four Leg Lock.  Cargill gets to the ropes to break it up, but Sterling sees the writing on the wall and starts arguing with the ref while Rosa attempts to lock the move in again.  Cargill manages to kick her away and she goes flying into the corner… WHERE A MASKED WRESTLER BASHES ROSA WITH A WALKIE-TALKIE!  Rosa is out at this point, so Jade picks her up, hits the Jaded, and gets the pin to win the match.  Rosa is certainly not happy about this so she tackles Jade, but the mysterious woman comes in and the two overwhelm Rosa.  The masked woman reveals herself to be… Mercedes Martinez!  Okay… I know she was another one of the NXT people that WWE got rid of, but unlike guys like Adam Cole I just don’t know much about her other than recognizing the name.  Thankfully, someone I DO recognize shows up as Ruby Soho comes out from the back with a pipe and the Heels go running; a preview of the TBS Tournament Finals which will now be between Soho and Cargill.  Without a doubt, this is the best match on the show so far as it felt like something important was happening and the wrestlers were fighting like they wanted to win.  I can’t say I love the finish because it’s the third screw-job of the night and I never like a tournament to have too much cheating in it, but I’ll definitely give all that a pass considering how much more engaging it was than anything else I’ve seen so far!

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We get a bunch of promos before the main event, but none of them tell us anything we didn’t already know.  CM Punk comes out and praises JR and Brodie Lee which was nice, but then he gets back to calling MJF an internet troll.  We then get the Sammy Guevara bit with the cue card where he promises to beat Cody Rhodes to regain his title, and apparently the Shida/Deeb thing isn’t over as Shida tells her to shut up about the turnbuckle spot.  The most interesting was probably the Brian Pillman Jr promo where he calls out Malakai Black for being a big jerk.  The lights go out, Malakai Black appears, and he points a finger at Pillman before slinking back into the shadows once again! 

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Best Friends & Orange Cassidy Vs. Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, and Kyle O’Reilly – Six-Man Tag Match

As much of a sourpuss as I’ve been for most of this show, I can’t deny that there is at least SOME intrigue to be found in seeing the New-Disputed Era fight together for the first time since they were at NXT, and it turns out to be a pretty good match!  It starts with Kyle O’Reilly (who has the most to prove here) holding his own against Chuck and Trent who definitely have the size advantage, but can’t do much against Kyle’s fantastic kicks!  Trent manages to fare better though and the two end up going back to their corners so that Fish and Cassidy can tag; the latter of whom is a lot more steamed than I’ve seen him in a while!  So much so that he lands some very aggressive Lousy Kicks on Fish before trying to roll him up.  It’s looking good for Cassidy, but of course, the one thing that the Heels have over the Faces is a willingness to cheat, and so Cole bashes Cassidy over the head while the ref isn’t looking.  With Cassidy on the mat, Cole tags himself in to try and finish what he started, but the Best Friends are not to be underestimated as Cassidy escapes and throws Cole into their corner where the Faces proceed to smash him!  Trent and Chuck land a series of corner splashes followed by a slow whip from Cassidy, and the Faces knock the two Heels off the apron as well!  They go for the Hug as they are wont to do, but the Heels are no slouches either and recover quickly to break it up.  It’s now Cole and Chuck in the ring, but the Heels manage to sneak a few shots in at Chuck’s leg which leaves him vulnerable as we head into the commercial.  The Heels get the heat for a while, but we return right as Trent gets the hot tag and the match goes into overdrive with lots of big moves from the Baby Faces as they fight off the Heels back to back with zero regard to the rules!  I probably should harp on that point a bit harder in this match considering how blatant it is even by AEW standards, but this manages to find the right balance between chaos and story so that the wonton acts of violence feel like they are moving us towards something instead of just violence for its own sake.  The visible exhaustion on everyone’s face, even when they are the ones in control of the match, is what I want to see when matches go this far into all-out mayhem as everyone tries to muster up the energy for just ONE MORE big move to try and put their opponent away!  A Tilt-A-Whirl Backbreaker from Fish followed by a Knee Drop from O’Reilly gets a two count on Trent, and he manages to make it back to his corner with an impressive stomp to Fish.  Cassidy tags in and runs wild as well, but he eats this REALLY cool DDT Suplex combo from Kyle and Fish that gets them yet another two count.  The Best Friends eventually run in and drag the Heels out of the ring to give Cassidy some breathing room and they manage to get the upper hand; ending with Trent throwing Cole into the ring.  A recovered Cassidy hits a Diving DDT on Cole for a two count, and the Best Friends follow up by hitting Stuffed Pile Drivers on Cole with Cassidy hitting the Beach Break right after.  This would have been a three count, but Fish and Kyle have recovered and break up the pin, and it’s down to Cassidy and Kyle who fighting just as hard to simply stand up as they are to beat their opponent!  If the match wasn’t chaotic enough, we have Brandon Cutler running out from the back to try and attack Best Friends, but then he falls down immediately because he’s a stooge.  Oh, but there’s a twist because he’s an EFFECTIVE stooge and it was all just a distraction as The Bucks come in with Super Kicks while the ref is looking after Cutler!  Chuck is the legal man so Kyle and Fish hit him with a Chasing the Dragon (a Vertical Suplex from Kyle while Fish lands a kick to the opponent’s back) and Kyle gets the pin to win the match.  And so the TNT era ends, as does the year 2021, with the bad guys winning every single match on the show!  It’s honestly kind of perfect in a really depressing way…

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This is the final episode of Dynamite before moving to TBS, and frankly, it does a great job of showing why things need to be shaken up.  I can’t exactly fault the wrestlers or the matches themselves for my lack of engagement, and while I’ll gladly give big thumbs up to the TBS Tournament match and the Main Event, the fact is that most of this show just felt stale and lacking in imagination.  Even the matches I did like didn’t have decent finishes to them with this being a clean sweep of screw-job Heel victors; possibly excluding the Wardlow squash match, but if you ask me, Colin got pretty screwed in that matchup!  It’s all the same wrestlers we see each week, it’s all the same angles we’ve seen before, and if it was up to me I’d take this opportunity to start injecting more talent into the main show.  One match with up and coming guys on Dark would probably have held my interest more than the first thirty minutes of wrestling on this show which had sixteen different but overexposed wrestlers on it, but I guess wrestling always runs on a slow burn as most people are probably not analyzing every aspect of it every week.  We’ve got one more show on TNT before the big move so hopefully, Rampage can once again pick up Dynamite’s slack.

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