Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (01-19-2022)

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

We’re back with another week of AEW action that everyone else saw a while ago, and while I’ve said I will catch up for a while now, I can feel it this time!  This weekend I will be nice and caught up, but for now let’s take a look at this episode of Dynamite, starting with…

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The Return of Jon Moxley – Ready to Kick Butt and Drink Blood!

Jon Moxley has been out for several months now to deal with some serious issues, and in that time he missed a lot of big moments at AEW.  Hangman Adam Page winning the title, Bryan Danielson’s turn to the dark side, even his buddy, Eddie Kingston, facing off against CM Punk!  Thankfully he seems to be in a much better place now and is more than ready to make up for lost time, though even this happy occasion is not without its sourpusses as some dude starts heckling Moxley from the crowd.  Not missing a beat, Moxley tells him to go F**k himself and has the dude ejected which the crowd went wild for.  He’s still one of the top draws at this company and is an expert at being an unscripted force of nature (he even threatens to drink his opponents’ blood) and I’m curious to see what he does next!

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Speaking of bloodsuckers, MJF is in the back with Wardlow to wish him a happy birthday and to even apologize for losing his cool last week.  It’s a rare genuine moment from the twerp… that is immediately undercut when he docks Wardlow’s pay because he put his hands on him last week.  Ah, that’s the capitalist vampire I know; and like any awful boss, he promises to get him back up to his usual pay if he just works hard enough to earn it!  At this point, the only way for Wardlow’s face turn to not be the most obvious thing imaginable is if they swerve us by NOT turning him face.

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Orange Cassidy & Kris Statlander Vs. Adam Cole Vs. Britt Baker – Mixed Tag Match

It’s been a while since we’ve seen one of these on AEW, right?  The last one I can think of is the Shaq/Cargill match against Cody/Red Velvet, and we still haven’t seen Shaq since then!  Thankfully no one disappears into the ether over the course of this match which turns out to be a fantastic opener!  We get some fun shtick early on that takes advantage of the draconian Mixed Tag Rules (men fight men and women fight women), and Cassidy even manages to do the Lousy Kicks on Baker before getting his foot stomped.  The action stays pretty solid for the majority of the match, though Statlander does have one awkward-looking Vertical Suplex.  She probably just didn’t lift her exactly right, but she looked like she was struggling to keep Baker upright, and fortunately, the spot is saved by Orange Cassidy casually tipping them both over.  That’s pretty much the tone of the whole match; good action with an occasional bit of sloppiness here and there that’s more than compensated by the sheer amount of fun it is to see the goofier moves (Statlander hits a Pendulum Moonsault from the apron while Cassidy just falls over onto Adam Cole), and how exciting it is once they get into the more serious action as we head into the finish.  Baker and Cole manage to hit a Pittsburgh Sunrise and a Panama Sunrise respectively, and with Cole being the legal man, he covers Cassidy to try and get the pin.  Cassidy kicks out at two which is not what the Heels were expecting, and so with Statlander in a crumpled heap, Baker helps Cole to set up a table on the outside that they will assuredly be able to put Cassidy through.  All this setup has allowed Cassidy to recover however and he and Cole start running the ropes until Cassidy accidentlly bumps into Baker who flies off the apron and smashes through the table!  Cole is absolutely FUMING at this and hits Cassidy with a Low Blow before knocking his head off with the Boom Knee Strike.  He screams at the ref to get back in the ring as he had been trying to check on Baker, and he counts the pin to win the match for Adam Cole and the recently tabled Britt Baker.  What works about this ending in contrast with any number of screw job drama finishes is that the drama serves a purpose other than to merely distract someone to get rolled up.  It’s there to heighten the match instead of ending it immediately, and something like this should fire someone up and get them to reach levels of brutality they didn’t think they had before, and it creates an extra layer to the feud as Cole is now angry at Cassidy for hurting his girlfriend!  The only thing that I would change about it is that I think this could have easily been the main event instead of the opener as it sets a really high bar for the rest of the show.

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We cut to the back where Jericho and Proud N Powerful are being interviewed, but it gets derailed immediately as Proud N Powerful are upset that they haven’t been the tag team champions yet and start blaming Jericho for holding them back.  I doubt we’re seeing a genuine fracture of the Inner Circle, but having Proud N Powerful go to Eddie Kingston’s side in this feud would be an interesting development; especially if we get a match where they fight the other three members of the Inner Circle.

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We also cut to Cole who has made his way to the back as well and cuts a fiery promo against Orange Cassidy for daring to hurt his wife!  He will destroy Cassidy at Beach Break in a Lights Out match to settle this once and for all!  The last time we had one of those was between Baker and Rosa which was a definite boon for Baker’s career; not that Adam Cole needs much of a push at this point, but it should be an interesting match regardless!

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CM Punk Vs. Shawn Spears

Look, I never expected Shawn Spears to have a chance against CM Punk, but this is the kind of junk that Spears agreed to that nearly killed his career at AEW.  It may not be Tully Blanchard underwear bad, but Punk putting him away with a single GTS within seconds of the match starting is not what I’d call a good sign for this guy’s trajectory.  I don’t know, maybe I was kidding myself that things wouldn’t end exactly this way, but they bothered to give Spears a squash match and some time on the mic, and I don’t see why we couldn’t have given him at least five minutes here!  Of course Punk calls out MJF after the match is over and they ALMOST get into a fight, but MJF is still not ready to take him on and I’m sure he’ll find someone else for Punk to destroy next week.

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Billy Gunn is in the back and is accosting Christian Cage to work out a title shot for the Gunn Club.  I guess that means he’s the manager for Jurassic Express?  Even then, shouldn’t Bill be going to Tony Khan if he wants to set up a match?  Either way, Cage brushes him off and ends up getting a beat down from the Gunn boys who are still fantastically hateable and I’d certainly like to see them in a title match!

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The Return of Cody Rhodes – So do we Boo or Cheer?

Cody Rhodes comes out with the TNT title and takes his time setting up a ladder in the middle of the ring while his music is blaring through the speakers.  Once he’s done, he begins to cut a promo about CM Punk’s Pipe Bomb and how it started a revolution in wrestling, but the crowd is still just booing him out of the building and it’s getting to be obnoxious.  It’s not much better to hear the crowd boo Cody while he’s trying to get a point across as it was to hear that one dude heckle Jon Moxley, but eventually, Cody turns it around by claiming that he is just as if not MORE responsible for changing this business.  The forbidden door, the rise of New Japan, AEW, he was front and center for all of it!  He then reasserts the TNT title as equal to the World Title, though he fully admits that the perception says otherwise.  This is where the ladder comes in as he challenges Sammy to a match at Beach Break as he slowly climbs the steps; making clear his intentions to make it a Ladder Match for the title!  Cody can stumble sometimes with some weird storylines here and there, but there are few as good at authentic promos as him, and the fact that he was to quell the loud boos by the end of this is a testament to his immense talent!

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Now let’s contrast that promo with what happens next.  Tony is in the back with Jade Cargill and Anna Jay to announce a match at Beach Break.  The two snipe at each other, as do their associates (John Silver and Mark Sterling), and that’s about all the buildup we get for a title match.  Maybe Jade and Anna don’t have the mic skills to pull it off, but I really wish that the women’s division got more in-ring promos; especially when you compare this to what we just saw with Cody fanning the flames of his feud with Sammy.

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The Varsity Blondes Vs. The House of Black (Malakai Black & Brodie King)

I really like the Varsity Blondes and I understand what they were doing with this match, but it feels like the same kind of misstep that we got in the Shawn Spears match.  The House of Black have a decent lead and are bullying Griff Garrison, but the guy makes it to the corner to get the hot tag to Pillman Jr… only for him to hem and haw for a ludicrous amount of time about doing the springboard move.  I get that he’s a bit gun shy after the last one failed in his match against Black, but instead of just DOING SOMETHING ELSE, he paces on the apron before dropping down to the floor to have a time out.  Sure enough, Brodie King comes barreling through him and Garrison while he’s trying to get himself together, and he and Black hit the Dante’s Inferno to pin Pillman Jr and win the match.  What should have been a crisis moment for the Baby Faces and a grand introduction for Brodie King ended up doing neither any good.  The Baby Faces look like total geeks in this match and Brodie King doesn’t even get a chance to impress us!  He looked fine for what he was asked to do here, but this is my first match for the guy and it didn’t exactly sell him as an unstoppable threat when all he did was pick on some dweebs.  Thankfully it’s there to set up something pretty amazing which as Pac takes over the big screen to call out Malakai Black with a sinister and esoteric video message!  Honestly the Varsity Blondes should be past such predictable Baby Face buffoonery, but at least we’re gonna get a Pac match out of it.

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Lance Archer Vs. Frankie Kazarian

Archer is accompanied to the ring by Dan Lambert

Oh hey!  Remember when Kazarian was the Elite Hunter and had a really cool storyline going on that was cut short and he just disappeared from television for a few months?  Well, he’s back to get his butt kicked by Lance Archer, but Kazarian is a guy who is not going to waste any opportunity he has and he makes the most of this glorified squash match.  If there’s one thing I want to mention here, it’s Lance Archer’s new haircut.  Dud anyone else see what happened to Hawk in season 4 of Cobra Kai?  Yeah, Archer looks like he got a similar treatment and at least for me, it undercuts his menace a bit.  Other than that, there’s not much to talk about here.  It goes on longer than I expected, mostly due to a commercial break in the middle of it, and Kazarian manages a Missile Drop Kick followed by a Springboard Leg Drop for a one count.  Kazarian tries to press the advantage, but Archer catches him into a Choke Slam and that’s all she wrote as he hits the Hell-A-Coaster and then hits the Blackout Slam to get the pin and win the match.  Tony Schiavone gets in the ring to interview Dan Lambert and he calls Hangman a Fake Cowboy again before Archer grabs the mic and threatens to destroy Hangman as badly as he’s about to destroy Kazarian.  He sets up a chair on the ramp and goes to lift up Kazarian for a Choke Slam onto it when Hangman Adam Page comes out to confront Lance Archer face-to-face.  The Fake Cowboy SLAPS him across the chops and the two start trading blows while also teasing a few spots for their upcoming match.  Hangman tries for a Buckshot Lariat, but Archer manages to stop him dead in his tracks by clasping his meaty paw around his throat!  Undeterred, Hangman shoves him off and hits with multiple elbows until Archer sails out of the ring and to the floor; forcing Lambert to pull Archer away so he can save his strength for the REAL match.  This was fine I guess and everyone involved is a consummate professional, but I never like to see Kazarian being underutilized like this.  It’s kind of like the Shawn Spears thing where you know this guy can be more than what he’s given, but I suppose it’s better to be around to help set up big matches than to be nowhere at all.

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Serena Deeb Vs. Skye Blue

I’m still unsure if Skye Blue is going to be a THING or not, but having her be a jobber for Serena Deeb isn’t the best of signs.  Deeb gets an early lead and hits a Guillotine on Skye through the ropes.  She follows up with a Swinging Neckbreaker and a Detox, but she doesn’t go for the pin!  Instead, she starts bashing her left knee into the mat before putting her in the Serenity Lock to which Skye taps immediately.  This was just filler to keep the Deeb/Shida feud warm, but you know what?  At least wasn’t the Shawn Spears squash match!

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Hardy announces that he has sold fifty-one percent of HFO to Andrade, and now they will be called AHFO.  Given that Andrade has been associated with Chavo, Vickie, The Pinnacle, Malakai Black, and now HFO, it seems like AEW is just unable to figure out what they want to do with the guy despite him being such an immense talent.  I hope this latest matchup sticks, but honestly, he was probably better off with Black and fighting against Pac than with whatever they planned with HFO.

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Sting & Darby Allin Vs. The Acclaimed

Credit where it’s due, Caster’s rap was actually pretty good this time.  He usually comes off as smug and insufferable in his verses, but he actually had some good lines this time.  Of course, that goodwill got drained pretty much immediately when Caster attacks Sting during the entrance and Bowens knocks Darby off the turnbuckle.  The Acclaimed proceed to attack Darby with a chair and wrap it around his head before throwing him into the post; none of which ends up mattering to the ref because this is all pre-match.  I’ve never been a fan of attacking guys before the bell rings, mostly because the officials don’t react in a way that they should.  Maybe if you assault someone before a sanctioned match that you AT LEAST get suspended, but no.  Instead, Sting decides to take them on by himself in a handicap match and Ref Remsburg throws up his arms and lets the bell ring.  Sting holds his own for a while, but Bowens pulls off a turnbuckle pad and dodges a Stinger Splash that sends the Icon face-first into the steel. And the Acclaimed get the heat during the commercial.  Sting manages to fight back with a double clothesline and he does look like a superstar when he puts Caster in a Scorpion Death Lock and stands there unfazed after taking a shot from Bowens.  Sting eventually is forced to break the hold when a strong kick from Bowens sends him outside of the ring, and he eats a shot from the Boombox because of course Remsberg wasn’t looking.  With Sting dazed, Caster and Bowens drag him to the ring steps and are about to do something painful when Darby flies in out of NOWHERE and takes them out!  Sting rolls into the ring and tags in Darby who hits a Coffin Drop on the two of them and then a Code Red on Caster for a two count.  Darby switches things up by trying to knock Caster out with a Hanging Guillotine, but he manages to make it over to the corner to tag Bowens who gets a few moves in before Caster hits the Mic Drop.  Bowens goes for the pin, but it’s broken up by Sting who sends both of the Heels outside the ring.  To put the final nail in Caster’s coffin, Sting makes his way up the stage and leaps off of it into Max Caster and the Time Keeper’s table which I can only hope broke his fall before he broke any bones.  With Caster out of the way, Darby hits a Stunner and Coffin Drop on Bowens to get the pin and win the match.  The Baby Faces celebrate their victory for a pretty long while so perhaps this episode was short by a minute, and eventually, the episode comes to an end with the Baby Faces standing tall.

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This was definitely a mixed bag of an episode with some genuinely great heights like the Mixed Tag Match and the Cody promo, but a lot of the decisions here seemed very wrong-headed to me.  Even if the action was good, I couldn’t get behind the story they were trying to tell in a lot of these matches, and the use of some of the talent like Shawn Spears, Kazarian, and the Varsity Blondes didn’t exactly sit well with me.  I’m sure that these things won’t bother most people and the action was solid all the way through, but for me, it ended up falling a little bit short.

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