Going into this week’s AEW Dynamite show, there were a few big questions that needed answering, based on the build from the last few shows. First, as the highest profile match on the card, will the actual Moxley vs. PAC match justify giving away a pay-per-view main event quality bout for free on just the fourth week of Dynamite?
Second, who will advance to the finals of the tag team tournament? With the Young Bucks eliminated (via Private Party two weeks ago), can the four teams left capture the crowd enough to make us care who the first team to hold the belts are?
Also, now that we’re already four shows in (kind of hard to believe, to be honest), will AEW be able to continue their hot streak of consistent and well-paced shows? At what point will they experience the inevitable come-down and to what degree will that be?
Well, luckily for us, I think that all of these questions were sufficiently answered in this week’s show. Read on to get the skinny.
Main Event Shit
–AEW started this week’s show with a cold open, announcer Justin Roberts already in the ring with Private Party and the Lucha Brothers. The match, however, was anything but cold. This was the very definition of a hot opener. As I said a couple of weeks ago, a fast-paced match right out of the gates is a great way to start the show.
This was another textbook example of that. This was a spot-fest of the highest order, albeit not the cleanest match. Private Party is still incredibly green in spots, and they weren’t carried as well here as they were by the Young Bucks. That said, the Lucha Brothers are phenomenal in their own right, especially when it comes to creating offense that you just don’t see from anyone else. Private Party got their offense in, but they have a ways to go before they get the full buy-in from me. There were a couple of times when they undercut the suspense of the match by getting in too much offense before the hot tag (pretty much the cardinal sin of tag matches), and their selling in general leaves something to be desired. They’re learning in front of our eyes, though, so it’ll be exciting to watch their maturation.
In the end, it was the right decision to have the Lucha Brothers go over here, and, realistically, it would be the best thing for the tag team division to have them be the first tag champions. They are a well-seasoned heel team that will bring instant credibility to the titles.
–Although the lines between heel and babyface are as blurred as ever in today’s pro wrestling, it’s worth noting that the strongest and hottest programs will almost always still be between a classic good guy and the despised bad guy. Look no further than this beautifully built Cody/Jericho program. Jericho and his Inner Circle stable is operating as the classic obnoxious heel, and Cody couldn’t be more beloved by the fans. They were practically frothing at the idea of him chasing down Jericho on this week’s episode and giving him his due beating.
Initially, Cody was in the ring to deliver some sort of announcement. Who knows if we’ll ever find out what that was, as it all seemed to be a throwaway plot device to deliver the eventual brawl. That contrived deux ex machina aside, here’s why this segment, because of the little things was the best part of this week’s episode (and maybe of any episode of Dynamite thus far):
- It all starts with Jericho. For as hot as Cody is, this doesn’t work without Jericho being his classic ridiculous self. Right when Cody, in the middle of the ring with Tony Schiavone, begins to speak, he’s drowned out by airhorns used by members of the Inner Circle. It’s such a small thing, but it works perfectly to establish the brattiness of that group.
- Often times, when a group of heels begins to beat down or engage a babyface, no one comes out to help the good guy. Unfortunately, this does little to establish the good guy as a good guy. After all, a good guy should have friends willing to help him out, right? Well, here, Cody had plenty of people willing to back him up, with Dustin Rhodes, MJF, and DDP (!) all coming out to even things up against the Inner Circle. Here’s looking forward to an eventual 8-man tag between these guys.
- There’s an old storytelling adage called Chekhov’s Gun, based on advice from playwright Anton Chekhov. According to Chekhov, “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” There’s no word on whether or not he was a wrestling fan, but Chekhov would have been proud of this segment. As MJF entered the arena to come to Cody’s side, Jericho immediately quips, “Who wears a scarf?”
Well, as luck would have it, MJF does because eventually the two groups of wrestlers come face-to-face, separated only by the glass window of a door. Cody looks to MJF, and MJF hands over his scarf to Cody, who wraps it around his hand to punch through the freaking glass.
Just an amazing example of how little things add up to creative a genuine moment of storytelling. That’s how you do it, boys.
–The Jon Moxley/PAC match was exactly what I dreamed about for these two brawlers. These guys didn’t wrestle on Wednesday night. They beat the hell out of each other.
While I would understand some fans being upset about the time limit draw outcome of the match, I’m completely fine with it because it basically does two important things: 1) It doesn’t give away a clear winner to a big match for free, harkening back to my opening. Moxley still comes out looking like a million bucks, especially after he channels all of us and gives the referee a Paradigm Shift. And PAC didn’t lose so he maintains his stellar record. 2) As long as it’s not overdone, the television time limit becomes an important element of a show. If there is a time limit but it’s never used, does it really matter? No. It’s like threatening that you’re going to take a toy away from your kid. If you never do it, it’s an empty threat. If you make it matter, then it will.
Mid-Card Mixed Bag
–SCU beat The Dark Order in the other tag team semifinal that suffered from what came before it. This match had the unfortunate order of following the Private Party/Lucha Bros ridiculousness. As such, it took a loooong time for the crowd to get into this one, which is really no fault of these guys, who worked a perfectly fine match.
Really, for as much as I liked the hot opener, I wonder if the show overall might have been better off from a pacing perspective by starting with something else. If I were booking, I’d have opened with Kenny Omega vs. “Bad Boy” Joey Janela. Let’s be honest: That opening tag match was going to ignite the crowd no matter where it was on the show, so how does the show change if you put it later. These are the types of questions that I think AEW would be smart to consider. What if they open with Omega and Janela, giving the crowd a really good, electric match with both guys killing each other to get over? Then, maybe a promo from someone like Moxley (for god sakes, AEW, what does Mox have to do to get a microphone in front of his face). Follow that with a good, solid SCU win and then the PP/Lucha Bros match.
As it happened, there was basically an hour of wrestling-only segments (the Wardlow video notwithstanding), which is not necessarily a bad thing. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating for a promo-heavy WWE-style show. It’s just that, if I’m honest, I don’t remember the last time someone other than Cody or Jericho were really given the chance to talk and establish themselves as characters.
In previous weeks, Dynamite has done a stellar job of pacing the show. This week, they could have done better.
–Another goddamn Britt Baker match. Seriously. There are other females on your roster. She’s not even the champ. I get that it was her hometown and all, but please, for the love of god, give me a Riho video package. Or introduce another female star. This is getting ridiculous.
–Jim Ross needs to stop burying the product on live television. I’ve been as complimentary as anyone of the AEW announce team, but JR was downright ridiculous during the opening match of this show. He basically called both teams out as spot monkeys incapable of incorporating psychology into their match. He also couldn’t shut up about who the legal man was and guys wasting time covering their opponent. It’s a bad look. When JR wants to sell something, he’s great. When he goes into whiny old timer mode, he loses me. Luckily, he’s got Schiavone there to clean up after him by actually trying to explain things rather than bitch about them (There’s a good example of this here). This is not a JR that we’ve seen much of thus far, so I’m hopeful this won’t be a regular occurrence.
I also think that the announce team has, to this point, been too heavily relied upon to build characters. They’ve done a good job of it, but, again, give the fans some promos or videos explaining characters’ motivations rather than making the announcers do everything.
This week’s show, overall, was not as consistent as the three previous shows. If, however, the complaint is that a show put on two hours of solid to very good wrestling with no truly awful segments, then that seems like a pretty goddamn good let-down. Between the big matches and the Cody/Jericho angle, this was still a very entertaining show. In the future, I’d prefer they axe one match off the card and incorporate some character building. Yes, it’ll result in a little less in-ring time for some people, but, if built correctly through promos and video packages, those people will be more over when they do see ring action.
As always, feel free to let me know how right or wrong I am @JMitchellTGS on Twitter. Of course, if you just want to talk wrestling past or present, I’m down for that too. Regardless, see you back here next week, as we find out who and what is Getting Over.