Back in the glory days of WCW, the Halloween Havoc PPV was seen by those in the company as their biggest show (even if Starrcade was often treated as the bigger deal externally as the last big show of each year). Given how fascinated the execs of AEW are with old school WCW, I found myself wondering over the course of the last week if we’d be treated to some trickery on this week’s episode of Dynamite.
On the heels of last week’s uneven but ultimately acceptable outing, I had a few general concerns going into this Halloween episode.
- Earlier this week, it was announced that the Cody/Jericho title match for the Full Gear PPV would have a 60 minute time limit BUT that there would be a panel of three esteemed judges (to be named later) who would help decide the winner in the event of a time limit draw. First reaction? Not a big fan of this, but I’m also willing to see how it plays out. Note to the bookers: Please don’t make this go 60 minutes. Jericho will die.
Scheduled for this week’s show was a contract signing. How will this new stipulation be worked into that segment, and, more importantly, how will the live crowd respond?
- Is there going to be any forward momentum with the women’s division outside of Britt Baker? She’s been featured prominently on every show, yet isn’t the champion. The champ Riho hasn’t had a title match announced for Full Gear. Where is this division headed? Something needs to happen on this week’s show to clear things up.
- Who wins the first ever AEW tag titles? There’s a solid argument to be made for either team, so who does the AEW brass decide to strap up?
With those questions in mind, I headed into this week’s Dynamite optimistic. To put it plainly, this was a pretty damn strange show. Whether that was due to it being a semi-Halloween-themed episode or it was just coincidence, I don’t know. What I do know is that some of the weird shit I liked, and some, well, read on…
Main Event Shit
–Most of the best stuff on this show featured The Inner Circle in some form or fashion. Let’s start with the Jericho and Cody feud. The show opened with Cody and Dustin getting off a private jet, being greeted by Tony Schiavone and a limo on the tarmac.
Once in the limo, Cody and Tony, in reserved tones indicating the seriousness of the situation, discussed Cody’s career, his father, the match with Jericho, and the upcoming contract signing later on the show.
This is almost a direct riff on a video package from WCW Starrcade 1993, featuring Ric Flair and Mean Gene Okerlund. At Starrcade 93, Flair was going up against Vader for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
Vader had held the championship almost the entire year (outside of a week-long run by Sting). Flair added a stipulation where he said he’d retire if he lost, making the build-up to this match some pretty heavy stuff, ultimately resulting in one of Flair’s career-defining moments and his 11th world title.
While most fans probably don’t remember or care about this fairly obvious nod to the past, it’s a nice throwback that worked for me. It definitely wasn’t run-of-the-mill and may have even come off a little weird in spots. That said, if you’re gonna do it with anyone, Cody’s the guy.
With regards to the actual contract signing, everyone expected a good old fashioned brawl to erupt at some point. Jericho and Cody seemed to play nice, though, as only verbal barbs were lobbed around. Initially, I was a little disappointed, as I’m a sucker for some contract signing chicanery. However, the joke was on me, as Sammy Guevara showed up on the video board to reveal Jake Hager doing a number on Dustin Rhodes in the parking lot. In a nice homage to his Bellator fight last weekend, Hager kneed Dustin smack in the nuts.
Then, with Dustin writhing in pain, Hager smashed his arm in the door of the limo. In terms of ripping off old WCW spots, this is another good one, harkening back to Halloween Havoc 1991, when Arn Anderson and Larry Zbyszko jumped Barry Windham and…wait for it…Dustin Rhoades, ultimately slamming Windham’s hand in a car door. Check out this Dustin Rhodes post-attack promo for some sweet nostalgia:
Pretty awesome stuff.
–The rest of The Inner Circle, Santana and Ortiz, also made their presences felt with some thuggish heel tactics, as they destroyed tag team legends Robert Gibson and Ricky Morton, The Rock and Roll Express.
Gibson and Morton were there to show off the new tag belts, and Santana and Ortiz just destroyed them before they ever got the chance, going so far as to powerbomb Gibson through the stage.
In the former NWA-stronghold state of West Virginia, they might as well have murdered these legends in cold blood. This was a classic heel move that came off really great on tv.
Of course, The Young Bucks came out to check on the broken legends, but Santana and Ortiz were long gone. However, during the Bucks’ six-man match later (teaming with Kenny Omega), Santana and Ortiz attacked the Bucks post-match. This feud is simmering along nicely, and I for one can’t wait for a legitimate face-off between these two teams at Full Gear.
–Early on in the show, they aired a video package that gave us a look behind the scenes from last week’s episode. Specifically, Mox was shown being pissed the hell off after his draw with PAC. They showed Mox going into Tony Kahn’s office, and, although the door was closed, we could hear Tony explaining that he was making the Mox/Omega match at Full Gear “unsanctioned,” meaning that it wouldn’t count towards the vaunted win-loss record of either competitor. Mox was furious, seeing this development as Kahn protecting his boy Omega.
Then, later, in another piece of classic booking, Moxley interrupts the ridiculously gimmicked “Librarians” by giving Peter Avalon the Paradigm Shift. And finally we are treated to a Jon Moxley promo, which basically sells the hell out of his match with Omega better than anything has to this point in their program.
He says that AEW can shove their win/loss records up their ass, and that he’s going to beat Omega to within an inch of his life. This was a phenomenal segment that got Mox over big as an anti-authoritarian figure and all-around bad motherfucker. I hope someone gives him the mic every week.
Mid-Card Mixed Bag
–I begged at the top of this column for some added depth, both talent and storyline-wise, in the women’s division. There was at least a baby step towards that in this week’s show, as Hikaru Shida had a really good match with Shanna.
There were great near falls in this one, and Shida worked some pretty stiff shit into the match. Are they making Shida a player in the division with this win? It bears watching. She definitely stood out tonight.
–The Hangman Page/Sammy Guevara match was a solid opener to the show, especially given how over Page is in the Virginia’s (he went to Virginia Tech). While there was nothing that special in the match, I include it here because I popped when Page vowed to do “some real cowboy shit” to PAC at Full Gear (bonus points to JR for chiming in with “Well, there’s a shirt.”
–The Lucha Brothers vs SCU tag title match pretty much ruled. I thought the Lucha Bros would go over, but it did make sense for SCU to come out on top. The Lucha Brothers are going to be over no matter what. They don’t need the titles. The other part of this is that with Jericho as champ, you could make the argument that you don’t want to double up on heel champions, although the Lucha Bros are barely heels. I don’t exactly expect SCU to hold the titles for long, but I’m ok with the rest. The crowd seemed more stunned than excited. Side note: Rey Fenix is one of the most creative in-ring guys I’ve ever seen. His offense is incredible.
–I don’t want to shit on creative, interesting video packages, and, thankfully, I don’t have to because I don’t consider whatever that video was with Brandi to be either of those things. There were yellow flashing cat eyes, a summoning of Awesome Kong, and a meat cleaver. I don’t know, man. I just don’t know. There’s wrestling weird, and then there’s just weird.
–The Rick and Morty crossover during the Best Friends/Orange Cassidy match did nothing for me. I’ve never seen Rick and Morty, so I had no idea what the hell was going on. However, I am becoming a huge Orange Cassidy fan.
I’ve watched a lot of wrestling, but I’ve never seen a gimmick like his.
–There was a moment during the tag title final where Schiavone said something along the lines of, “Isn’t this great? Watching these young guys fly around and do crazy shit?” That’s why he’s great. He speaks for and like me, a lapsed wrestling fan, who after all these years came back and is seeing some pretty top notch athleticism. JR, on the other hand, is the guy who never left the arena, the old traditionalist grouch who, for whatever reason, consistently finds ways to shit on rules, performers, and concepts that he should be putting over. In the early weeks of Dynamite, the nostalgia was running strong, but I’m quite frankly over JR. He’s barely doing his job at this point.
The Final Bell
AEW tried a few curveballs this week, with the Cody limo ride, the Brandi whatever, the surprise SCU win. While there were more hits than misses, it’s jarring to see old school wrestling tactics (door slam on arm, attacking legends, bad ass anti-establishment guy) mixed with cartoon-type segments. Mostly, it worked, and I’m definitely more jazzed up for the PPV than I was before the show. In the end, I’ll call that a win.