Last week, AEW put on their best Dynamite to date. The question going into this week was how they’d follow this up. With the next pay-per-view not yet on the horizon, where does the company go from here?
Based on the last two weeks, the answer is largely symbolic of AEW’s philosophy as a whole: Old school with a twist of modern day cool. That is exactly what Dynamite should be, in my opinion. And they’ve simply knocked it out of the park the last three weeks.
Because there is no PPV in the immediate future, we’re being treated to what amounts to mini-programs, operating separately but parallel to the bigger, long-term faction feuds. With that in mind, let’s get down to business.
Main Event Shit
–Before the days of monthly PPVs, companies went long stretches without major shows. To avoid the repetition that can come from having two guys feud for months and months at a time, they’d do mini-programs that might only take a couple of weeks but could certainly run a little longer if they were hot. Not only would they fill time, but, when done effectively, it’d enhance both the participants and the larger storyline. In many cases, it was a way to strap a rocket to one guy’s ass and push him to the moon by having him feud with the champ. Even if it only lasted a month, that guy could battle the champ, lose, and still retain the rub that he got from proving himself worthy of being in the same ring.
This is exactly the type of program we’re seeing with the Chris Jericho/Scorpio Sky feud. After Sky surprisingly pinned Jericho last week, the unlikely Jericho/Sky mini-program was set. From there, commence Star Building 101.
This week, we get another fantastic Jericho promo, where he says he’s sorry for destroying stuff last week. Well, actually, he has Jake Hager say the “sorry” part, since Jericho can’t bring himself to do that part of the apology. Eventually, Sky and SCU interrupt, running a classic reverse psychology bit on Jericho, resulting in Jericho granting him Sky a title shot next week.
Now, we know that Sky isn’t going to win the title next week on Dynamite, BUT the crowd is going to be goddamn hot for this match. The reaction is going to feel organic, but it’s actually going to be the result of a careful, simplistic, and fast build. Clearly, AEW has high hopes for Sky, and, as I said last week, a loss isn’t going to hurt him at this point.
Of course, this is all done with an homage to the old school, as I referenced earlier. Back in 1986, Ricky Morton and the Rock and Roll Express were on fire as a tag team. Morton ended up in a feud with Ric Flair, then NWA world heavyweight champ. Morton even pinned Flair in a six-man tag match at one point. Sound familiar?
Morton and Flair faced off at the 1986 Great American Bash in a steel cage match, and, although Flair retained the title, Flair gave Morton that championship-level rub. Jericho is doing the same thing here. And, here’s the best part: It all makes sense! The tag champ should be able to beat the singles champ in a tag match AND vice versa. It’s so simple that it’s hard to believe people screw up booking as badly as they do sometimes.
One last thing about Jericho and I’ll move on to the rest of this week’s show, but it simply must be said: Chris Jericho right now is like if 90s WCW Jericho would have gotten a title run. He’s ridiculously goofy, but still getting major heel heat. Most importantly, he’s taken seriously as a champ, which is no small task for an almost 50 year old in a young man’s promotion. Incredibly impressive mid-life crisis if you ask me.
–In a fun twist, one of the best show-opening singles matches that I’ve ever seen happened on this week’s Dynamite between two tag team wrestlers (and, yes, I know Rey Fenix does singles stuff, but I’m talking strictly AEW here). This match was balls to the wall, but that doesn’t mean it was devoid of psychology.
There was one spot in particular where Nick was in trouble and instinctively looked to the corner for is brother, who was obviously not there. It was something small, but there’s simply too many people calling these guys spot monkeys doing “flippy shit.” That is a ridiculously short-sighted view of what guys like the Bucks and Rey Fenix do. Fenix, in particular, could be a top guy tomorrow if AEW wanted him to be. He is simply as innovative in the ring as anyone that I’ve ever seen. In terms of show openers, this one banged, and, quite honestly, reminded me of the Dean Malenko vs. Rey Misterio Jr Cruiserweight title match back at Halloween Havoc 1996. That’s about as high of a compliment as I can give.
–The Moxley/ Darby Allin match is another interesting case study in how to pull off a short-build one week program that elevates both wrestlers. Mox is, for all intents and purposes, a babyface, issuing a challenge to the entire roster. Threatening to burn down a whole company is not traditional good guy shit. Certainly, another good guy isn’t supposed to answer the challenge, but that’s what Allin did last week. As a result, we get BMF Mox vs. the undersized, never-say-die, goth boy with no regard for his body. The result was, again, a match where the winner (Mox) is a foregone conclusion, but the means of getting to that end works to build up both guys.
The actual match between these two was so much fun.
Hell, it took 10 minutes or whatever before the bell ever rang because these two were brawling all over the arena. Plus, I finally got to hear JR call a match where a literal body bag was involved, so I can die a happy man.
Mid Card Mixed-Bag
–Britt Baker vs. Hikaru Shida was not my cup of tea, mostly because Britt Baker is bad at wrestling. Unfortunately, she’s finally getting over a little, as the crowd chanted “She’s a Dentist” throughout the match. That said, this is one instance when I felt that the rankings (#1 vs #2 in this case) helped the bout.
Count me as confused, though, when Shida went over. It’s not that I’m sad about Baker losing, but I was definitely surprised after the push they’d been giving her. Anyway, I guess it gives some unpredictability, which is not unwelcome.
–The 12 man Dynamite Dozen Battle Royal was something that had the potential to go completely off the rails, but actually ended up working for the most part. I’m admittedly not a huge battle royal fan. I think they’re usually bloated and don’t put wrestlers in a great position to show their best stuff.
In this one, there was entirely too much outside interference (Wardlow, Shawn Spears, Christopher Daniels), but there were also some truly great spots. The two best spots were Sonny Kiss twerking in front of Billy Gunn and the Billy Gunn and Orange Cassidy face-off.
Not coincidentally, both of these spots were interrupted by MJF. A battle royal is a perfect spot for someone like MJF because he can stop all of the spots that fans want to see (like the aforementioned ones), giving him huge heel heat with the crowd.
In the end, MJF does a cheap hiding spot, enabling him to be one of the final two, along with Adam Page. Those two will face off next week in Chicago. Seems likely that we get some Cody interference in that one.
–Luchasaurus destroyed the Librarian Peter Avalon in a squash. This is the kind of shit that I love. Luchasaurus is awesome. Avalon is a perfect jobber heel. Match made in heaven.
–This week’s Dark Order promo video is the best thing they’ve done on Dynamite. It was basically a scientology rip-off, which I quite honestly can’t believe hasn’t been done before in pro wrestling. I’d assume that this will result in some of the lesser dudes on the roster joining up with the Dark Order.
–One of my least favorite matches this week was the Private Party/Santana Ortiz bout, which is unfortunate because I really like both teams. This one might have suffered under the weight of my expectations. The match worked for a while, and there were some nice moments, like a very cool vertical suplex spot where Marq Quen was passed back and forth between Santana and Ortiz. However, I hated the finish. After a Nick Jackson run-in, Private Party hit Gin and Juice for the win.
There is no way that I would have had Santana and Ortiz lose here (and at all for the next few months). They should be built up in such a way that when they are finally beat (by the Bucks preferably) it truly means something. I get the idea of Nick costing them the match, but it felt cheap and doesn’t further the idea of Santana and Ortiz being unhinged and dangerous. Not a fan.
–Out of everything on the show, the women’s match came closest to Jobber Status, but even that had redeeming qualities. I’m trying not to go full blown AEW homer here, but I’m also not finding a ton to complain about with this string of shows.
The Final Bell
AEW is on a tear, and ratings continue to be strong for Dynamite, hovering around the 900,000 mark. While this week saw NXT beat Dynamite for the first time, it took half the main roster being on NXT to make that happen. Hopefully AEW doesn’t overreact. The booking taking place on Dynamite right now is top notch and will pay dividends down the road.
Next week we get Page vs. MJF, Pac vs, Omega, and Jericho vs. Sky. Should be a helluva show.