I gushed over last week’s Dynamite episode and rightly so. The storytelling was top-notch, giving fans some wrestling meat to sink their teeth into. This week, the build towards Revolution, now just a couple of short weeks away, truly kicked into high gear.
If last week’s Dynamite was a great show, then I barely have an appropriate adjective to describe this week’s episode. At the risk of sounding completely hyperbolic, this was the best two hour episode of a wrestling show in recent memory.
I’m sure you’ll remember my complete dissatisfaction with how the winter finale of Dynamite played out. After that episode and the infamous show-ending Dark Order angle, I wrote this:
AEW has shown the ability to switch gears, book on the fly, and make changes as necessary. To book this big of a show ending angle only to end up with a dead crowd that can’t believe what they’re seeing (and not in a good way) is completely mind-boggling. This is some year 2000 WCW garbage here…If one day in the future, AEW ceases to exist and someone writes a “The Death of AEW” book, this week’s episode of Dynamite will make up the first chapter.
Simply put, that seems like a lifetime ago. What AEW has done since January 1st is kind of amazing. They have systematically dismantled nearly everything that was problematic about Dynamite, which the exception of the women’s division (and even that was somewhat remedied this week). This is not just “listening to what the fans want,” although it is certainly that. This is letting things develop organically. This is getting guys and stories over.
From top to bottom, this was simply a great episode of television. Not just a great episode of a wrestling show, but great television. Period. Read on for the full breakdown:
Main Event Shit
–When AEW Dynamite started, I would never have guessed that one of my favorite things on the show would be Kenny Omega/Hangman Page tag team matches. I was a huge Omega fan going in but was lukewarm on Page. It’s a testament to the way that AEW has built this tag team angle that I now mark out like a little kid whenever these guys show up. I’m still all in on Omega, and Hangman has finally become an incredibly fun and nuanced character that I care about. More than that, when these guys are in the ring together, I sort of forget that these are two accomplished singles wrestlers. Instead (and perhaps most impressively), they come off as a team that has been together for years.
In this week’s opening match, Omega and Page took on SCU in a rematch of the Jericho cruise match where Omega and Page won the titles. This match was maybe even better than the one on the ship, which was a legit 4 star+ match. The storyline in this one was that SCU had a strategy going in and pretty perfectly executed that strategy with tactics meant to outsmart the champs. Despite that, Page and Omega worked phenomenally together.
They are gelling as a team, and it’s a thing of beauty to watch.
In the end, Page and Omega hit their Buckshot Lariat/V-Trigger combo for the finish, although the story became that Kazarian grabbed the rope immediately after the three count, establishing SCU as a team thisclose to regaining their titles.
After the match, with SCU still in the ring, they were joined by the Dark Order, The Butcher and the Blade, TH2, and the Young Bucks. Things broke down into a brawl, foreshadowing the tag team battle royal that will happen on next week’s Dynamite. The winner of the battle royal will then earn a title shot against Omega and Page.
The Bucks cleaned house in this brawl, and it would certainly seem that they are building towards a Bucks win and match against their fellow Elite members at Revolution.
–JR did a sit-down interview with Santana in the middle of the ring in an empty arena. Last week, Santana was a revelation. His promo was intense and well-crafted. In this interview, he was subdued and detailed a story about being depressed and seemingly ready to end his life 10 years ago. In an interesting twist, Santana’s father began going blind when Santana was 14, so there’s some nice synchronicity to the eye-for-an-eye angle. In a matter of two weeks, Santana has gone from simply one of Jericho’s thugs to a man with a backstory and that, as a result, I now actually care about. That’s how you build a character and get someone over.
–Last week, we got an awesome Darby Allin flamethrower video. This week, we got another Allin video riffing on Sammy Guevara’s cue card gimmick. Allin tells Sammy that he’s coming for him and challenges him to a match at Revolution.
How can you build a match in a minute or less? Like this. As soon as Allin revealed the cue card challenging Sammy, the crowd popped even though they were only watching it on a video screen. That match is gonna be hot.
–After the Allin video, they transition nicely into Sammy taking on Dustin Rhodes. The crowd, which was on fire all night long, loved Dustin. From the jump, they were also all over Sammy’s ass, jeering at him every chance they got.
The match itself gave Dustin the opportunity to get his win back from Sammy, and the action was good enough. Really, the main purpose of this match was two-fold: 1) Give Dustin a big win in his hometown. 2) Build tension between Dustin and Hager.
My only problem with this match is that, moments after Allin challenged Sammy, Sammy took a fairly unnecessary loss. Sammy is probably over enough at this point that it won’t hurt his heat, but I still question the decision a little.
After getting the win, Dustin grabs the mic and calls for a departing Hager (or “Jericho’s bitch” as he refers to him) to turn around. Dustin asks Hager if he’s ever going to wrestle or if he’s just going to keep collecting a paycheck for doing nothing. This leads to a challenge for a match at Revolution. Everyone was predictably hot for this.
–In this week’s installment of “Britt Baker is suddenly awesome,” Baker has an interview on the ramp with Tony Schiavone.
Baker sounds and looks roughly 1 billion percent more comfortable in this role than she did just a few short weeks ago. She riffs on last week’s destruction of Yuka Sakazaki’s teeth last week, saying that it is her duty to improve other people’s teeth. In a masterclass in getting cheap heat, Baker insults the Texas crowd with a Whataburger dig and a horns down. Yes, these are easy insults, but they also work. This crowd was ready to tar and feather Baker. There was legitimate hatred seeping from the pores of Austin.
Up to this point, the AEW women’s division has been a mess. I don’t blame any of this on the inaugural champ, Riho. When she’s in the ring, she’s very good, and she plays better to the live crowd than the television audience. That said, her reign has been extremely unremarkable. The booking has been awful, and no one seems to know how to fix it. There’s been the initial Baker babyface push. Then some flirtation with Kris Statlander. There was the Nightmare Collective thing with Awesome Kong (which, in case you hadn’t heard, is officially over).
This week, we got what basically amounted to a reset of the women’s division. On the very first episode of Dynamite, Riho defeated Nyla Rose to become the first women’s champion. That match, I wrote at the time, was probably the best match of the show. This installment was perhaps even better. Every time it looked like Riho was out of it, she rebounded against the beast that is Nyla Rose. The near falls were out of this world, with the crowd on the edge of their seats for each false finish.
Eventually, Nyla delivered a Beast Bomb for the win in a truly excellent match. If we’re being honest, Nyla should have probably won the title from the start. She would have been the monster heel champ, and they could have had the babyface Riho or Statlander chase the title. Now, we have the heel Rose as the champ and a hot heel in Baker. Who is going to take the mantle as the babyface? I don’t know, but I sincerely hope they have someone in mind because this title change provides a legitimate opportunity to make the women’s division matter for the first time in AEW history.
–This week’s obligatory Jericho promo was again phenomenal. Jericho announces that he’s found an assassin to take on Moxley next week. That main is Jeff Cobb, which leads into a short video introduction of Cobb. I don’t know how many AEW viewers know about Cobb, but this is a fairly big deal. He is/was a star in Ring of Honor and New Japan ( and also a former olympic amateur wrestler) and will immediately be one of the biggest guys (in terms of size) on AEW’s roster. If there’s any complaints about the AEW roster, it’s that they don’t have enough hosses, big dudes that can flat out brawl. Cobb certainly fits that role. But more on Cobb in a minute.
–In a simply perfect match-up, we get the hated heel MJF against the classic babyface Jungle Boy. Brandi was also on commentary, playing Cody’s wife again rather than her NC character. She was too subdued, but still did a nice job of bagging on MJF.
We don’t often get to see MJF work an actual match. When we do, though, I always come away impressed. He’s not as flashy as a lot of guys working today, but he works a fairly old school type of match that I love.
Against Jungle Boy, there was basically no way that MJF was going to lose ahead of his match with Cody. Yet, to Jungle Boy’s complete credit, he had fans believing he could pull this one out. The booking of this match was really good. Obviously MJF had to win, so Wardlow gave him his Dynamite Diamond Ring, which led to a loaded MJF punch and Double Cross for the win.
If MJF and Jungle Boy are two of the future stars of AEW (and I think you could easily make that argument), then I think this company is going to be just fine going forward. Seriously, these guys are 22 and 23 years old. That’s crazy.
After the match, Wardlow destroyed Jungle Boy, building up some nice heat for the first steel cage match in AEW history next week in Atlanta against Cody.
–Our main event this week was the eye-for-an-eye match between Moxley and Santana. This was a solid main event match that effectively played up the wrestling half-blind angle. Ortiz got involved in a nice spot, spitting booze in Mox’s good eye, effectively blinding him. Moments later, though, with each guy struggling to see, Mox hit a Paradigm Shift for the win. After defeating yet another member of the Inner Circle, Mox got a pretty solid beatdown by Jericho’s faction.
Then, Jericho called to the back and the debuting Jeff Cobb made his way to the ring. He hit his Tour of the Islands finisher and stood with the rest of the Inner Circle as the show closed.
Cobb’s contract situation is still a little up in the air, but it appears as though he has not yet signed an AEW contract and is currently scheduled to just do this particular angle. That doesn’t mean the door is closed on an eventual signing, but he is not actually under contract yet, for what it’s worth.
The Final Bell
–This was a hell of show. If you’re looking to introduce someone to AEW (or, hell, even pro wrestling in general), you could do a lot worse than showing them this episode of Dynamite. A lot of that had to do with the hot Austin crowd that made everything feel hugely important.
For the entirety of this week’s episode, #AEWDynamite was the top trend on Twitter. The company is riding a wave of momentum that, honestly, can only be rivaled by their inaugural episode. I would not be surprised to see this week’s episode eclipse the 1 million viewer mark.
I already can’t wait for next week.