AEW Dynamite is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TBS
It’s a New Year for everyone and a new channel for AEW! None too soon, if you ask me! The show has never dipped so low as to compare it to WWE, but there were some rough patches in the latter half of 2021 that had me hoping that a fresh start will kick things back into gear and give us the kind of wrestling show that we want to see from AEW! Does the move to TBS reinvigorate the show, or is it just more of the same no matter where you find it? Let’s find out!!
Hangman Adam Page Vs. Bryan Danielson – AEW World Title Match
The last match felt a bit padded with the commercial breaks interrupting the ebb and flow of the action, but in the end, I think we got everything we needed to out of that match, so watching this one felt a little bit redundant. There really isn’t much of a status quo change or some new issue that they have to work through; it’s just a shorter version of what we saw last time. Now that’s not to say that the action isn’t great or that Danielson isn’t one of the best in-ring storytellers working today, but I didn’t find myself enjoying the sequel as much as I would have hoped. There still feels like there’s a bit of padding here as Danielson starts the fight by intentionally stalling to try and get Hangman frustrated. This goes on for a few minutes and is certainly a great way to start a match, but almost as soon as Hangman starts to fight back, he’s stymied by Danielson who tosses him arm first into the post, and so Danielson slows things down once again as he starts to work the arm over. Hangman gets a break from this after hitting Danielson with a Fall Away Slam, but Danielson regains control almost immediately when he drops Hangman into the ring steps, which is the point where the blood starts flowing and is another thing I’m ambivalent of. There’s a lot of blood in this match (Danielson gets opened ups as well) and there are a lot of head butts to make the most of it, and while I can appreciate blood and violence in certain contexts (the Street Fight on Rampage being a good example), it just felt really excessive here. I’ve been wary about Danielson wrestling for a while now, and seeing him with a crimson mask doing running Headbutts over and over again feels like taunting at this point. Aside from some slowness here and there and the worrisome violence, the action is as good as you’d expect. Danielson is keeping up a good fight and Hangman looks to be in trouble throughout, but every once in a while he’ll hit a big move that sets up a Buckshot Lariat. The first one is when Hangman catches Danielson mid-dive to hit a Deadeye on the floor. He tosses Danielson in and sets up on the apron when Danielson comes up with the most BRILLIANT strategy imaginable to avoid the Buckshot! He drops to the mat! I mean yeah, it sounds simple when you say it out loud, but very few people (including Kenny Omega) seem to realize that standing is the only way the move can work. Truly, Danielson is a master tactician in the ring! Hangman’s second attempt happens after a Moonsault to the floor, and while Danielson stays standing for this attempt, he manages to dodge it and hits his Running Knee Strike and gets a very close two count! Danielson remains firmly in control for a while here and even does that face stomp thing that he did to the Dark Order. Hangman fights his way out of it and lands a rather scary-looking Back Drop Driver that leaves Danielson dazed. Hangman goes to the apron, lines up his shot, and FINALLY hits the Buckshot Lariat which is enough to get the pin and win the match! Hangman retains his title, and in doing so delivers Bryan Danielson his first loss at AEW! I understand the reason behind having the last match be the longest match in AEW history, and I guess you need SOMETHING for the show’s big move to TBS, but it felt like a lot of the same stuff we saw last time, and the things they did add (i.e. the blood) didn’t make it feel any more important. Still, not a bad way to start the show and to start the TBS era of Dynamite!
MJF Vs. Captain Shawn Dean
I wonder if AEW plans on doing anything with Shawn Dean. I mean they have done some great stuff with guys who come off as jobbers when you first see them, such as Griff Garrison and Will Hobbs, but today is not his day as this is clearly set up to be a squash match to pad MJF’s numbers. Oh, wait! Right as the bell rings, CM Punk runs into the ring, and MJF bails! CM Punk then lifts up Shawn Dean and hits the GTS which forces Ref Aubrey to call for the bell; meaning that the match is ruled as a DQ in Dean’s favor. I’m sure he’ll be happy about that as soon as he’s conscious again! It may not be the most Baby Face move for CM Punk, but it is effective has he found a genuine way to tick off MJF by messing with his win/loss record. That’s been Punk’s problem the last few weeks; MJF just doesn’t care enough about beating CM Punk to actually get in the ring with him. By promising to ruin one of the few things he DOES care about, he’s now forcing MJF’s hand which he VERY much doesn’t appreciate and starts ranting at CM Punk about him being a loser who could never main event WrestleMania; even going so far as to threaten to go to the other brand himself. Of course, MJF has enough wherewithal to not agree to a match against Punk and instead sets one up next week between Punk and Wardlow, but hey! Punk is still one step closer to his goal which makes him one of the more effective Baby Faces so far. The only thing is that I don’t like the lousy technicality used where Punk attacked Dean and so MJF lost. I feel like no competent ref or official would be looking at that without understanding the context; especially since it’s such an obvious loophole to abuse. I might have gone so far as to have the ref count MJF out, but perhaps that would have undercut the betrayal MJF felt when he realized what Punk’s actions had done. Still, if anything was going to get me reinvested in their feud, this was it!
Chris Jericho is in the ring and talks about how happy he is to be back while also being really mad at 2.0 who took him out with a chair shot six weeks ago. 2.0’s music hits at that point and the two make their way to the ring to try and intimidate Jericho, but all that happens is that Jericho makes fun of Matt Lee’s square had. The witty rapport goes on for a while longer until Jericho grabs Floyd the Bat with 2.0 ready to pounce. Out of nowhere comes Daniel Garcia, and the three overwhelm Jericho for a brief moment before Proud N Powerful, as well as Eddie Kingston, run down to make the save. I still like 2.0 and Daniel Garcia as wrestlers, and while this angle feels rather basic, it should at least give us a few good matches!
Wardlow Vs. Antonio Zambrano
Wardlow is accompanied to the ring by Shawn Spears
To Zambrano’s credit, he is the least looking Jobber that Wardlow has gone up against, but that doesn’t do much for him as Spears gives him a C4 before the bell rings. Now the ref didn’t see it, but you’d think he’d have at least a few questions as to why one of the competitors is on the mat writhing in pain, but I guess he had more important things to worry about and just rang the bell so that Wardlow can do what he always does; smash his opponent with a bunch of Powerbombs before getting the pin to win the match. Hopefully this Spears/Wardlow tension comes to a head during his match against CM Punk on the next Dynamite, but if nothing else it’ll be nice to see Wardlow in a proper match for once. Squashes are fine and all, but I think they’ve done as much as they can with them in this angle.
Jade Cargill Vs. Ruby Soho – TBS Tournament Finals
Cargill is accompanied to the ring by Mark Sterling
Even if the TBS matches haven’t always been excellent, they’ve done a great job with the two monsters of the division; Jade Cargill and Nyla Rose. I really do wish that Rose was able to make it to the finals to have this fight with Jade, but Soho is a great wrestler and she does what she can in this match. She gets an early lead by fighting smart and not wasting time with small moves. Everything has to be either a big move with a lot of force behind it or specifically targeted at the legs to keep Cargill from standing up, but then Cargill is not to be taken lightly and a simple boot to the face turns the entire match around. All of this is good stuff, but there are a few moments throughout the match that either don’t work or weren’t well executed. Mercedes Martinez runs down to… I guess attack Soho, but she doesn’t do anything because Rosa comes up from behind and drags her into the stands for a brawl. It was really early in the match which meant it wasn’t going to be a deciding factor either way, so I’m not sure what the point of it was. On top of that, Jade could still use some work and her limitations are a bit too obvious. There’s a spot where she gets tossed into a turnbuckle and starts to act like she tweaked her knee? Some of her own moves didn’t look great either which is as good a segue as any to start talking about the finish of the match. Mark Sterling starts yelling at the ref and is ejected from the match, but this does distract Ruby long enough for Jade to lift her up for the Jaded. Ruby escapes into a Roll Up and hits the Future Kick for a two count. Trying to keep the momentum going, Soho puts Jade on the ropes and goes for an Arm Drag, but Jade catches her and puts her into position for an Avalanche Jaded… and WOW does it look sloppy! First of all, Soho isn’t in the right position as she has to stay planted on the ropes so that they don’t lose their balance. Jade then jumps off into a sitting position, but Soho can’t get her legs behind her in time so she just kind of lands awkwardly while Jade is on the ground holding her hips. Soho does her best to sell the move and it’s enough for Jade to get the pin to win the match; becoming the first TBS Champion. This wasn’t a bad match by any stretch, but it wasn’t the highlight of the tournament for me and I’m curious what Jade is going to do with the belt. Ruby is the more ring-competent of the two and so would be more likely to have great matches as champion, but AEW is invested in Jade so they want to give her a shot at the title, and we’ll just have to see how it goes.
We cut to a video of Jim Ross interviewing Serena Deeb where we learn that her villain origin story is that she thinks Shida won her matches due to flukes. Okay…well this IS wrestling and I guess that kind of pedantic insecurity can work for a bad guy, but I don’t know; I need a bit more justification than some nonsense about Shida’s wins not counting. They’re gonna have another match next week (what is this, the fifth one by now?), and frankly, this interview did not give us a new angle to get me excited to see them fight again.
Malakai Black Vs. Brian Pillman Jr
Pillman is accompanied to the ring by Julia Hart
Before we get to the match, I want to point out that Julia Hart is wearing an eye patch due to Malakai Black spitting mist in her face, and it looks very silly. Anyway, Pillman does a great job here of staying one step ahead of Malakai Black; Not exactly getting the lead, but never letting Black get close enough to utterly destroy him. See, unlike Griff Garrison who went in with a full head of steam, Pillman is much more measured and so he manages to hold his own even when he eats a Roundhouse Kick from Black that was fired off so fast that Pillman couldn’t even see it. Black tries to set him up for another, but Pillman powers through and starts fighting back; landing a Suplex for a two count. It’s starting to look like we may have a real fight on our hands, but then Pillman tries for a Springboard move and misses the rope. He ends up rolling right up to Malakai Black who hits him with a kick and gets the pin to win the match. Bit of an anti-climax, but it does make sense as Pillman is still relatively new while Malakai has years of experience. Black starts to menace both Pillman and Hart, so the Lucha Bros comes out to attack Black. The lights go out and… nothing happens. The Lucha Bros have hit the ring by that point, but now Black is on the ramp and he just leaves. Aside from the rather odd ending that doesn’t seem like it’s gonna go anywhere, I thought this was a fun little match with two guys that I really like to see in the ring; particularly Pillman who has a long way to go but definitely seems poised to be a big star!
The Lucha Bros Vs. Jurassic Express – AEW Tag Title Match
Lucha Bros are accompanied to the ring by Alex Abrahantes while Jurassic Express is accompanied by Christian Cage
I’ll start this by saying upfront that the match was good. It’s not the best match I’ve seen from any of them, and I think Luchasaurus’s hot tag is starting to feel way too formulaic, but this was a good showcase of both teams. That’s not what people are going to remember though. There is exactly one thing about this match that people were talking about and that was Rey Fenix’s HORRIFIC injury right at the end. Luchasaurus Choke Slams Rey from the apron to a table and Rey’s arm gets caught behind him; bending in COMPLETELY The wrong direction. From what I could tell, Luchasaurus didn’t do anything wrong here. He waited for Rey to get his balance before both of them jumped, and he hit him pretty solidly on the table. PERHAPS a few inches to the side would have kept his elbow on the table, but there’s really no way to predict this kind of thing, and I don’t think anyone in particular is to blame here. Thankfully it seems that Rey’s arm was merely dislocated (IN THE MOST BRUTALLY TERRIFYING WAY POSSIBLE) and that he didn’t actually break any bones. That’s great to hear, and hopefully there isn’t any serious ligament damage, but that was absolutely hard to watch and sucked the air out of the rest of the match. Pentagon and Jungle Boy are alone in the ring after that, and Jungle Boy tries going for the Kill Switch. His inexperience with the move shows as Penta just shoves him off, but Jungle Boy quickly retaliates with a Roll-Up that that is just enough to get the three count and win the match. That could have been the original ending of the match as we were right at the end of the show, but Penta was clearly aware of what happened as he runs to see Rey as soon as he’d pinned, so who even knows at this point? Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus are AEW’s new Tag Team Champions, but it’s the last thing on our mind as the episode comes to an end.
The Rey Fenix injury is going to overshadow a lot of this episode, but for what it’s worth I think it was a fun and exciting return to form for Dynamite. Not everything was great, but it didn’t feel like a total slog the way the New Year’s show did and the way that Dynamite can often feel given how many angles and storylines they try to run simultaneously. If they can keep it at about this level, then I think I will be satisfied; even if some of the matches can be a bit clunky.