Did they finally fix this fucking promotion? Maybe…
After finally seeming to catch some traction early in the year, AEW Dynamite has been shaky in quality ever since the COVID shows started. There’s tons of tiny complaints I could make but the biggest one is around how much time they tend to waste on a 2 hour show. I’m not sure there’s been a single episode where I couldn’t have just lopped off 30-60 minutes of it and made it more watchable. The fact that all of these shows were pretaped makes that issue even more unforgivable. Last night may have not been the best wrestling night (although it was totally solid for a weekday show), but it was jam packed with relevant and high quality bits from top to bottom.
FTR (Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler) w/ Tully Blanchard v. Private Party (Isiah Kassidy & Marq Quen)
It’s been awhile since FTR was in NXT, so it’s easy to forget that they truly are one of the top tag teams in the world. Every time they hop in there, they are just a step ahead of everyone else on putting together a match. There were a few times when you could tell Private Party was getting carried a bit but this was a well booked match with some very smart spots. Pulling the bit where Dax couldn’t get a pin because the man he was pinning wasn’t legal was a thing you need every party in the ring, including Aubrey to absolutely nail and they killed it. They also had another smart rules spot where Dax tagged in from the outside to make Aubrey go argue Cash out of the ring. This kind of shit is gold to me because it respects the fiction of competition. This is the kind of stuff people like Cornette are actually mad about being gone.
The entire Tully/Spears thing, which has dragged on forever to almost no returns, is finally starting to pay off big time. Spears himself is quietly transforming into a brawl-heavy style on Dark that’s resulted in much better work for him lately. I’m actually kinda excited to see where this is going now.
MJF/Mark Sterling Promo
Fuck, this MJF stuff has worn so thin but this was a great segment.
Mark Sterling is perfect because he takes all Max’s go away heat and channels it into something better. More Sterling doing all the annoying shit and Max doing the funny stuff, it plays to both their strengths. MJF has god-level comedic timing but him doing 1980 Memphis heel shit is so boring to me, more “horse professor” and “daddy, can we play a game of catch?”
Earlier in the episode, Mox cut a scathing Randy Orton style promo as well.
This is the correct amount of time for this to get. Two hot promo segments, no drawn out bullshit like the speeches and what not. Perfect. I won’t say I’m into this match but I’m not annoyed by it like I was at the end of the last show.
Jurassic Express (Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus) w/ Marko Stunt & The Natural Nightmares (Dustin Rhodes & QT Marshall) v. The Butcher and The Blade & The Lucha Brothers (Rey Fenix and Pentagon Jr.)
This was just a solid match with some fun spots, can’t really expect much more from an 8 way weekday match. Andy Williams is aesthetically my favorite guy in AEW right now, he just looks like a monster. The end spot was the money here where Penta raged out and wouldn’t let The Blade complete the spike piledriver, which ended up costing their team the victory.
Then as the heels began to squabble and fight, this happened:
Kingston with a faction is instant money, Kingston with this faction is unstoppable. B&B has been on fire lately and putting them under the guidance of one of the smartest guys in the room is absolute genius. Eventually PAC will be back with this squad too and we’re looking at a bunch of potential belt guys.
Britt Baker Promo w/Rebel, Penelope Ford, & Kip Sabian
Britt Baker is having an all time run on getting over while doing zero action. Rebel is just gold every week in these bits.
Making the women’s division important is not just about them having two matches every week, it’s about stuff like this where they truly feel integrated into the AEW universe and storylines.
Orange Cassidy “In-ring Interview”
One of the things that’s grated me the most is the amount of time they’ve given the continuation of the Cassidy/Jericho feud when the 2nd match was honestly not that good. But damned if they didn’t pull me right back in with this.
This is exactly what we needed, some dumb, low-stakes bullshit with high upside. Notice there’s a continued theme throughout all of this article with AEW saving many bad angles from oblivion. There’s nothing that makes me happier as a fan than to see people pull off ideas which initially seem bad. The only way they screw this up now is by making the match more than 12 minutes.
The Elite (Kenny Omega, Nick Jackson, & Matt Jackson) v. The Dark Order (Alex “3” Reynolds, John “4” Silver, & Alan “5” Angels)
Angels still needs some work but I do like his style, which feels unique in AEW. Silver and Reynolds continue to impress. Otherwise it was a fairly standard Elite match. Kenny continued his apparent vicious downward spiral by attempting to murder Angels after the match with a chair but was prevented from doing so by the Jacksons. Even Kenneth is crawling back into relevancy in this company.
Kenneth is starting to feel dangerous again for the first time in AEW, and not in a fun way. I cannot begin to express how bad AEW needs him to bring that side back out. It was the right move not to set him as the ace immediately and bury lesser known talent, but now it’s time for him to be that guy.
FTR w/ Tully Blanchard Interview
Darby Allin v Will Hobbs
Hobbs is quite a physical specimen and is one of the trainee-Dark guys that’s been showing some real potential. It seems like this was a nice reward in giving him some TV time. It was booked smartly enough, Allin excels in making his shit work even though he’s a smol bean. Hobbs got some shit in, looks like with the right work he could be a big deal.
The star here was Ricky Starks, dressed up in Allin’s facepaint. He would have gotten a deafening pop from this bit if they had crowds. Starks is one of those guys that’s been on the periphery of a lot of places and has probably been the backup pick a lot of times, just never really getting a chance to excel. NWA provided that and he’s on a rocket ship now baby.
Sammy Guevara gets destroyed during the break by Matt Hardy
Thunder Rosa Promo
This is the joint. You don’t have a program for Shida so at least give her a big match. Great work.
Women’s Tag Tournament Finals – Diamante & Ivelisse v The Nightmare Sisters (Allie & Brandi Rhodes) w/ QT Marshall & Dustin Rhodes
This match was totally fine given that it had Brandi Rhodes in it. Probably the best one of the small tournament. Allie has looked so much sharper since returning. She did an interview recently where she admitted that her disappearance and short transition into managing was related to anxiety and lack of confidence as a performer. Seems like this has happened a lot with AEW between Kylie, Sonny, Allie, and a few others. Maybe it’s the same elsewhere and AEW personnel just feel more open about talking about it. Whatever the case it looks like her confidence is restored and she looks great now.
Diamante and Ivelisse threw away the flowers they were given, which was a cute touch. I assume both of them are on deals now. Diamante is good and you’ll at least get solid work out of Ivelisse, even if you never can really do anything with her.
TNT Title Match: Cody (c) w/ Arn Anderson v Mr. Brodie Lee
I think like everyone I’ve succumbed to Cody fatigue but man, he really did make this new title do some work. Most of his title matches were great and provided some shine for some folks who hadn’t gotten a lot of spotlight yet. I also was getting to the point where I hoped I wasn’t going to see him for 3 months. Brodie squashed the shit out of him, which was the right move. Both Archer and Brodie had to, by booking necessity, lose their first big singles matches and you had to at least make up for one of them right now.
OH MY GOD LOOK AT ANNA JAY’S GEAR, HUUUUUNK
If you count Anna Jay choking out Brandi at the end, then that makes 4 women’s segments on a Dynamite. Unprecedented. Their bits were worked in naturally, not just a “here’s the ladies now.” Let’s just count the wins in this ep that AEW has struggled with lately:
- Max/Mox bits were strong and not tiring
- Women got some time and more importantly were actually integrated into the narrative
- Tully’s forever quest is finally going somewhere
- Omega is starting to garner interest finally
- New potential stars in Kingston and Starks
- Cassidy/Jericho was mostly saved from the blahs
- Cody doesn’t have the belt anymore so he doesn’t have to be on every week
- Dark Order is finally over, Beaver Boys look great, and SSB is near their all-time peak in terms of work
Overall Rating: A-
Not the best Dynamite but the first time I’ve felt optimistic about this company long term since the COVID shows started. If they can hit this quality week after week, Dynamite will become the top wrestling show in the US in the next year or two and I can stop saying “AEW will be dope as hell if they can ever get out of their own way.”