This week’s Dynamite finds us on the heels of the Full Gear and dealing with the repercussions of several feuds evolving or ending. Before jumping into Dynamite, here’s my quick thoughts on how Full Gear played out:
–-The Young Bucks vs. Santana & Ortiz: A hell of a match to start the show. Santana & Ortiz go over, which barely matters because losing doesn’t hurt the Bucks no matter how much it happens. The end was the highlight, with The Rock and Roll Express cleaning house and 63 year old Ricky Morton doing dives.
—Hangman Page vs. PAC: This might have been the match of the PPV. A brutal, well-worked match with both guys looking great. I thought it was weird that PAC lost here, though.
—Shawn Spears vs. Joey Janela: I skipped over this match. I like Janela, but Spears is a change-the-channel-guy for me.
—SCU vs. Lucha Brothers vs. Private Party: This went about as well as it could have. I thought the match being a 3-way tag might hurt it, but everyone looked very strong. SCU retained.
—Riho vs. Emi Sakura: Another really good match and easily the best women’s match AEW has done. Riho gets the win after some fancy counter wrestling to end the match.
—Cody vs. Jericho: The way this match started, with its slow build, made it seem like it might go the full 60 minutes. Luckily, it didn’t. Instead, it was an old school match full of low-key spectacular moments that had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands for Cody near falls. In the end, the match ended with MFJ throwing in the towel on Cody’s behalf, then turning heel on Cody. Obviously, I love this finish, since I PREDICTED IT ALMOST PERFECTLY in last week’s column:
If we’re cooking up possible scenarios where Cody could lose, I can see his new best friend MJF throwing in a towel (or scarf, as the case may be) on Cody’s behalf, maybe causing an eventual rift where MJF turns on Cody for major heel heat.
In other words, I’m a genius. Now, they could have played this angle out for months, with MJF acting like he was just trying to help his best friend and Cody not knowing whether to trust him. The build to that would have been incredible. But, really, it worked out pretty damn well to just do it immediately too, as we’ll see in the rundown for Dynamite.
—Kenny Omega vs. Mox: This match was basically a Moxley indulgence. It’s something he wanted to do but would never be allowed to in WWE. Now, you could certainly make an argument that this was less of a match and more of an endless Carrot Top-style weapons show. There was barbed wire, mousetraps, thumbtacks, and sundry other items. Here’s my take, boring as it may be: I didn’t love this as a match, but in terms of crazy shit that wrestlers do, these weapons bumps are significantly less dangerous than some of the neck bumps that guys take.
Overall, I thought Full Gear was extremely good and worth the money, but not outstanding. Aside from the MJF turn, there were no real angles on this show. Three and a half hours of strictly in-ring stuff is a lot to ask for a crowd to sit through. I don’t think that companies should be scared to mix up the format of a PPV. It doesn’t have to be 100 matches in a row.
So, with Full Gear in the rearview, where does AEW go with this week’s Dynamite? Well, in all sorts of places, it turns out.
In my opinion, this installment of Dynamite was the most compelling and complete yet. Every single segment worked to establish a feud and/or build the characters in it. While some stuff was better than others, this week’s show was a lesson in maximizing the talent that you have on the roster. How did AEW deliver such a good show? Let’s break it down.
Main Event Shit
—Dynamite started simply enough, with Jon Moxley coming out for a match with Michael Nakazawa, who is a friend of Kenny Omega. In a sneaky good video package before the match, a doctor was shown telling Omega that he wasn’t cleared yet, while Omega’s injuries from the night before were examined. Mox, to Omega’s chagrin, was cleared, which further frustrates and mystifies Omega.
This does a great job of furthering Omega’s identity crisis storyline, while getting Mox over as a bad MFer (as if he needed any help in that regard). Then, Mox squashes Nakazawa in just a couple of minutes.
Mox is given a promo for the second week in a row (praise be), issuing a challenge to anyone on the roster man enough to step in the ring with him. He promises to “scorch the earth” in a promo that did exactly what it should have: Establish Mox as a believable bad ass and a major threat in the company but also not someone that the fans need to see competing for the title in order to be incredibly over.
–About halfway through the show, we get Jericho in the ring, cutting another excellent promo about his win over Cody. However, it was MJF who stole the show here, interrupting Jericho. MJF explained his actions at the PPV, calling Cody a liar, a fraud, and someone who doesn’t care about the fans.
If you’ve ever wanted to see what real heat for a heel looks like, cue up this segment because the fans absolutely fucking hate MJF during this promo.
This is old school, “spit on the bad guy because you actually believe that he’s a terrible person” heat. It was glorious. It works because MJF is truly a perfect heel and amazing at working a crowd with a microphone in his hand. His interplay with Jericho here was like watching two guys at the top of their game trade barbs.
There was tension between the two, but also an underlying sense of respect and fawning. For me, the best moment came when Jericho said, “It’s almost like your parents got horny watching me beat up Juventud Guerrera 25 years ago on WCW Saturday Night and then you popped out.”
They teased MJF joining the Inner Circle but ultimately came just short of pulling the trigger. Instead, Cody finally interrupted, only to be attacked by the debuting Wardlow. I was not going to be particularly happy if MJF ended up in the Inner Circle. The last thing that group needs is to become a bloated faction, a la the NWO when they started adding everyone on the roster. So when Wardlow showed up as the muscle to MJF’s mouth, I was relieved, and I think this pairing makes a ton of sense. Wardlow doesn’t look like the kind of guy that can cut a promo, so MJF can be his mouthpiece while he’s hiding like the sneaky heel he is behind Wardlow’s dominating physical presence. A really smart move to attach these two to each other. The segment ended with MJF and Wardlow hanging Cody with a tie.
I know that Cody really wanted to do a program with MJF, and it’s certainly off to an entertainingly hot start.
–Hangman and PAC continued their feud with another bruising match that had plenty of callbacks to their Full Gear bout.
These guys really work well together. Not sure what the plan is for each guy going forward, but PAC is ready for main event matches. Whether he gets that with Jericho is anyone’s guess, as they’re probably not keen on doing heel vs. heel right now. With Page, he’s been pretty damn solid thus far, but I don’t know what his next feud is gonna be. There’s not a natural one waiting, in my opinion, so I’m curious to see how they handle him. Also, PAC is so freaking ripped that he’s giving me serious body envy. The problem is that whoever you put in the ring with him is going to look like they have a layer of baby fat. He’s so unrealistically yoked that it’s almost unfair.
–The Young Bucks had a pretty awesome brawl with Santana and Ortiz that started backstage and ended with Matt Jackson getting slammed through the stage (just like Santana and Ortiz did to Ricky Morton).
Clearly, these two teams are going to be feuding for the foreseeable future, which is fine by me. Every segment with these four is super hot, and the eventual payoff is going to be money.
The best moment during the brawl happened when Nick Jackson got thrown through a door backstage, which turned out to be a bathroom. Why was this the best moment, you ask? Because Orange Cassidy was just chilling, leaning against the wall and never moving in his best cameo yet. When I say that this was AEW’s best show yet, it’s because of these moments where you’re building a feud, but also building the character of a wrestler who literally has nothing to do with this feud. He’s shown for maybe 10 seconds and yet it works to build him up, even if he couldn’t be doing less.
It’s just these brilliant little things that make me love this show.
–In the main event to the show, SCU took on Jericho and Sammy Guevara. I can admit when I’m wrong, and I was wrong about SCU. I thought they were fine but nothing special. I’m not completely ready to abandon that opinion yet, but AEW is building a star in Scorpio Sky. The way that they’ve booked him, from being the savior that takes over for the injured Christopher Daniels to putting the straps on him and Kazarian is just a magical piece of work.
This week, Scorpio Sky got in a ton of offense in a very good match AND they gave him the ultimate rub: He became the first man to pin Chris Jericho in AEW, as he caught Jericho in a small package to end this match.
This is masterful for a couple of reasons. It sets up a possible Dynamite main event between Jericho and Sky, where Sky could get even more exposure and star power just from being in the match but wouldn’t ultimately be hurt from a loss. As such, it raises the status of the whole team of SCU, making them seem like truly legitimate tag champs in a company with a ton of great tag teams.
After getting pinned, Jericho flipped out, tossing chairs and barricades.
Jericho is the best I’ve ever seen at throwing a hissy fit. This adds something new to the Jericho character that I look forward to seeing developed more in coming weeks.
Mid-Card Mixed Bag
–Even the so-so stuff this week served a legitimate purpose and was well executed. For example, I don’t particularly care about the Dark Order or the Jurassic Express, but their match was really pretty good. Jungle Boy is going to be really good in a couple of years, and the action was very fast paced. However, the whole match set up a post-match angle where Luchasaurus returned from injury to destroy the Dark Order.
It was clear that the point was to get over Luchasaurus as a monster, and it was Mission Accomplished. He looked like a future star here.
–While I am on the strong anti-Shawn Spears train, even his random triple threat match with Peter Avalon and Darby Allin did a great job in slotting guys in the hierarchy of AEW and building towards the future. Spears was basically removed from the match when Joey Janela came out. Those two brawled into the crowd, furthering their feud. Avalon is being booked tremendously as an 80s-style WWF heel that is probably never going to win a match but is great at comic relief and getting other guys over. That’s what happened here with Darby Allin, who hit Avalon with the Coffin Drop (still one of my favorite finishers) and then accepted Mox’s challenge.
That makes perfect sense with Allin’s character, and yet it was still an unexpected development. It felt perfectly right.
Next week, it’s on: Mox vs. Darby. Who isn’t excited about that? It’s gonna get weird, and I am here for it.
–I’ve been very hard on Brandi in her role as Awesome Kong whisperer, but I was pleasantly surprised by their segment after the Nyla Rose/Danny Jordan match. Allie, in what I think was her first appearance on Dynamite, was cutting a good promo on the ramp with Tony Schiavone, only to be interrupted and destroyed by Awesome Kong with Brandi at her side. Kong took out a freaking knife and cut off a chuck of Allie’s hair as a souvenir.
In contrast with the video packages that we’ve seen thus far with these two, this actually felt like something substantial. For the first time, I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops.
–This may be the only time this happens (and hopefully doesn’t jinx AEW), but I’m declaring nothing on this week’s show as jobber status. What can I say? It was a hell of a show.
The Final Bell
Realistically, it’s hard to imagine a better show coming off of Full Gear. I’ve been harping on Dynamite to have less matches and more character building, and this week’s show delivered in spades. It was an almost perfect balance that I hope they’re able to replicate.